• Published 30th Aug 2012
  • 6,736 Views, 156 Comments

Guiding Light - archonix



Calamity befalls the royalty of Equestria and, in lieu of plans that took decades to create and moments to ruin, control of the cosmos is bequeathed to the only pony Celestia had time to empower.

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Interlude

Interlude

Dinky woke with a gasp and looked around. Her neck hurt. In fact everything seemed to hurt and she couldn't tell why, but her neck hurt the most, on the inside, like when she'd been playing the shouty shouty game with her friends. Only worse. She crawled around under the sheets until she found the way out and looked around again.

"Mommy?"

"Hey there little Dink."

"Sparkler!" Dinky shuffled around again and back up to her sister, who had been resting her head on the edge of her mattress. "I think I had a nightmare."

"It's okay now, you're awake," Sparkler replied. She looked beat. Really tired. Dinky crawled over to her and gave her the biggest hug she could manage and was rewarded with a light pat on her back.

"I wanted to tell mommy about it, but she's not here."

"She's—"

"Sparkler, I wanna go home, this place is scary."

Sparkler sighed and put her foreleg over Dinky's back. "I know, little Dink, but we can't go home right now. We need to be here for mommy, okay?"

"Is mommy sick?" Before Sparkler could answer, the door cracked open and a familiar face leaned in. Dinky gasped and leaped to her hooves. "Twilight!"

Dinky made to move toward Twilight but Sparkler suddenly grabbed her with both forelegs. She looked up at her sister. Sparkler's face was scary.

"Get out."

Twilight flinched. "Sparkler—"

"Get out!"

Sparkler's horn glowed and the door slammed against Twilight's side. She grunted and grit her teeth but refused to back away. With a loud cry Dinky grabbed the door in her own magic before Sparkler could do anything to it again.

"Sparkler stop, that's Twilight! She's my friend!"

"She's the reason mom got stuck here," Sparkler growled. She strained for a few seconds as Dinky opened the door wide and then gave up, panting for breath.

"Twilight made mommy sick? But... b-b-but that..." Dinky turned to Twilight, tears filling her eyes. How could that be true? It wasn't fair! "You hurt mommy?"

Twilight was crying too, she was really crying. She couldn't have done anything bad, she was a friend. Dinky sniffed and trotted to the end of the bed to get closer to Twilight and noticed she'd brushed her mane down over her face like the time her mommy had been shouting at that meanie who'd said he wanted to be their daddy and stayed with them that one time. Twilight looked like she'd been crying a lot already.

"Dinky, your mommy isn't sick. She's... she's doing some very important work and she's had to be by herself for a while—"

"You lying bitch!"

"What do you want from me, Sparkler! At least you still have her!"

"You—"

"No! You had your piece," Twilight yelled back, and for a moment a hoof strayed to her face. She stamped it on the floor. "The mare that was practically my mother for half my life disappeared into thin air this morning and I didn't even get to say goodbye! I wasn't there for her, now I have to live with the consequences of that for the rest of my life!"

Panting, shivering, Twilight looked down at Dinky, then back at Sparkler. She turned as a guard loped down the corridor toward her. He stopped short, peering at Twilight's face, before stepping into the room.

"The Princess just woke, Lady Sparkler, ma'am. She asked for you."

Sparkler shot a final angry glare at Twilight as she forced her way out past the guard. She paused a moment to look at Dinky, then tossed her head and galloped off, leaving the filly very confused and more than a little scared. Why hadn't she been asked for as well? Dinky crawled back to the top of the bed and curled up against the pillow, never taking her eyes from Twilight.

"Miss Twilight, are you gonna teach me magic again?"

"If your mother allows it," she replied, before turning to the guard. "Please return to your duties, sergeant. I'll look after Lady Dinky."

"Ma'am."

The guard departed, leaving Twilight and Dinky alone. They stared at each other for a few minutes and Dinky could feel something moving between them, something about her magic, but she wasn't sure what. A moment later Twilight smiled.

"You're getting very strong."

"I practised everything you showed me," Dinky replied proudly. She stretched out her forelegs and tried to hide a yawn. "I think I'm stronger than Sparkler now."

"I noticed." Twilight walked to the bed and sat down as close to Dinky as she could manage. She tilted her head and smiled. "Do you know what happened to your mother, Dinky?"

"Sparkler thinks you did something to her but you wouldn't. You're nice."

"She's just worried about you." Twilight's eyes focussed on her. She was still smiling but now she seemed really sad a well. "Dinky, I know a lot of things are scary right now. I want you to be brave, okay?"

"Mommy always says I'm brave!" Dinky snuggled into her blankets and wrapped her forelegs together to make a sort of pillow. She took a breath. "Did the scary mare get her?"

"The what?"

"The scary mare. She's got a big horn and big wings and she looks really pretty but she's so... She looks like mommy, b-but she's not..." Dinky choked and swallowed. Twilight looked as scared as she felt now. "S-She's not mommy but she's got her cutie mark. She tried to chase me in my dream but I got away!"

"Oh, Dinky... your mom wasn't taken by a scary mare."

Twilight was sad again. Dinky wriggled toward her and put her forelegs around Twilight's neck. "It's okay Twilight, she won't be able to get you either. You're way stronger than mommy, or me, or even the Princess!"

Dinky yawned again. All this talking had made her really tired. It felt like it had been night-time for ages already. Twilight patted her back and then gently lifted her back under the covers.

"Time you went back to sleep," she said with another gentle smile. Dinky didn't bother trying to argue.

* * *

Sparkler stormed through the corridors of Canterlot castle without heed for the staff and functionaries in her way. She'd already memorised the route between her guest room and the royal apartments. Now she walked it almost automatically, barging past maids and hoofcolts without even a sideways glance.

The nerve of that mare, daring to spin that stupid foal's story about the Princess being some sort of adoptive mother for her! As if that made any difference! She still had her real parents, she wasn't faced with the possibility of losing the only stable thing in her life. She was just a bitter old nag who couldn't stop meddling. Why couldn't she leave them alone?

The guards at her mother's new home wisely kicked open the doors and stood back when they saw her approaching. She glared at them anyway, on principle, and trotted through to her mother's chambers without another thought.

Within the opulent reception, she slowed. Candles burned on every fixture and a bright fire roared in the hearth, but the room was empty. Sparkler lost her bearing then. She'd expected her mom to be right there. Moving with more caution, Sparkler made her way across the room to the far doors.

Another corridor waited beyond, one wall lined with enormous windows that would normally catch the sun almost all day long, but currently opened up onto the broad night-lit vista of Canterlot and the southern reaches. She ignored the view and the small doors on the other side of the corridor, and walked to the end, to another, much larger door that stood ajar. Light poured from it, warm and inviting. Its hinges creaked loudly as she nosed at the door and opened it a fraction.

"Sparkler?"

Her mother sounded as if she'd just woken up after a particularly heavy night out. Not that she ever went out, something Sparkler had occasionally complained about in her more private moments. It would have been nice to spend some time with just the two of them occasionally... She put the thought aside and pushed the door open.

It was a bedroom. An enormous bedroom, far more richly appointed than the study at the other end of the hall. Shelves lined the walls, filled with more books than she'd ever seen outside a library, fighting for space the knick-knacks and trinkets collected over a lifetime longer than she could possibly hope to comprehend. A desk sat under one of the broad south-facing windows. A round bed the size of their entire living room dominated the rest of the space space, smothered in pillows and thick blankets, beneath which her mother lay sprawled on one side. The once-pegasus turned bleary eyes to her daughter and smiled.

"Mom!" Sparkler trotted forward, tossing her head with relief at the sight of her mother. She nuzzled at her mother's new, oversized head, feeling oddly comforted by the sight. "I was scared you wouldn't wake up."

"I know, sweetie, I know." Her mother struggled into a more presentable position and stretched out a hoof to Sparkler's shoulder. "I was scared too, but it's all right now."

"When Dinky started crying, I—"

"Is she okay? Is..." The alicorn who was her mother looked into Sparkler's eyes. Something inside her seemed to wilt. She lowered her head and took a breath. "She's still scared of me."

"It's Twilight's fault," Sparkler growled.

"Sparkler, it's not. She's just as hurt by this as we are."

"But—"

"No buts!" Her mother snuggled around on her bed and rested her chin on a pillow to better look at Sparkler. The newly-minted alicorn's eyes were still the same, Sparkler realised. Still so pretty, even if right now they were giving her the look. "She needs help just like we do."

"I hate her."

"Sparkler, she's the closest thing I have to a friend in this place and she's the only one that can help me learn to live with all this..." She waved a hoof at the room in general. "I need her. We all need her."

"Mom..."

"Please? If not for me, then at least for Dinky."

"I—mom, you—I don't..." She bowed her head. There was no way she could argue with her mother, not without breaking both their hearts. Even over this. "Fine, I'll try. But she—"

"Ah! No buts, remember?"

Sparkler's ears fell back against her head. "Fine."

A hoof moved to stroke her and her mother smiled that loving smile she'd always had. Sparkler soon found herself relaxing under the repetitive motion, and just as soon felt her eyelids starting to droop.

"Mom, can... can I say here? Just for a bit?"

"Sure, sweetie, but aren't you a bit old to snuggle with your momma?" She moved aside and pulled back the covers for Sparkler. "Not that I'm going to stop you."

Sparkler crawled into the bed next to her mother and snuggled up against her broad body. She noticed the difference in size straight away. Alongside the towering form of her mother she felt as small as a filly. With a gentle sigh she stretched out under the comfort of long, slender forelegs. A wing folded over her, covering her entire body like a feathery duvet.

"Mom?"

"Mmhm?"

"I love you."

"I love you too," her mother replied, as Sparkler drifted off to sleep. "Both of you."

* * *

She waited until her daughter was asleep and gently eased herself from the bed. The darkness of the windows said it was night but she was no longer sure of the time; it could have been morning by now, for all she knew. The sun...

It had moved. Her mind had moved it, but now it was gone from her again, lost somewhere on the other side of the world. She dreaded to think what was happening out there. Could it be worse than here? Perhaps... in her mind's eye she saw fields baking in eternal sunlight, cracked and dry lake-beds and rivers filled with nothing but sun-scorched stone. The Princess shook her head and snorted her frustration. Her imagination was far too vivid.

She closed her eyes, willing herself to that place again, the dark place, where she'd seen her guiding light. It wasn't magic. She was quite sure of that, knowing a little of how magic felt from Sparkler and Dinky and Twilight. It was something deeper. More personal. She could see... life. Had Celestia been able to see this all the time?

Her light appeared in the distance, quiescent, hovering in the way she'd already come to associate with light sleep. Another was with it, larger, oh so powerful and so familiar, but it wasn't hers. She moved as close as she dared and watched the familiar spangles of bright life for a while, until the larger seemed to notice her presence.

Of the sun there was no sign. She had chased her light to it last time, but that had left her little one terrified and screaming. She couldn't do that again. Not again. For a while she searched, moving this way and that through the darkness, but she couldn't find the sun anywhere. Eventually she withdrew into herself and opened her eyes.

Towering windows reflected the brightly lit room behind her. She could see Sparkler snoozing fitfully in her bed, and her own face staring back from the darkness. The fact that it was hers was still obvious. She closed her eyes, one after the other, watching carefully as the world spun into focus each time.

After some thought she poked at her mane, guiding a tress of her forelock to fall across the bridge of her muzzle until her twisted eye was hidden. She looked at herself again; her reflection stared back at her through a single golden circlet, looking so much like the eclipse she'd seen a year after Princess Luna had returned. That day the sun had hidden behind the moon, only to crown it with a golden wreath of flame. It had been the first eclipse for over a thousand years, and the most beautiful thing she'd seen for some time.

Turning from the window, she crawled back onto the bed and snuggled down into the sheets. Sparkler mumbled under her breath as a broad wing wrapped over her body again. A gentle nuzzle to the back of Sparkler's neck brought calm and peace, and the Princess watched her adoptive daughter fall into a deep, restful sleep.