• Published 8th Sep 2012
  • 2,670 Views, 343 Comments

Starlit Knights - BlackRoseRaven



Darkness has come to Equestria, and the world is threatened with destruction. Can Luna stop it?

  • ...
6
 343
 2,670

Puzzle Pieces, Falling Down

Chapter Fifteen: Puzzle Pieces, Falling Down
~BlackRoseRaven

Luna trembled as she sat silently at the edge of a cliff, tears leaking down her face as she stared up at the full moon, breath harshly rolling in and out of her chest as electricity sparked through her starry mane… and then Scrivener Blooms hauled himself up beside her, breathing hard as he mumbled: “You fly fast.”

“Scrivy…” Luna closed her eyes tightly, turning her head away for a moment… and then, as his hoof brushed silently against her back, she turned around and dropped herself against him, shoving her face against his neck as she embraced him fiercely, Canterlot Castle almost glowing in the distance as she whispered: “This feels like an awful trick, a terrible joke… with but a sounded name, my mind… these thoughts, memories, things I cannot describe that dance and twist throughout it…”

“I know… I can see it too, remember?” Scrivener hugged her tightly back, pushing his face into her mane, feeling it humming silently against his features as they clung to each other for comfort, their bodies pressing together as he murmured: “Celestia… always knows something, doesn’t she?”

“Aye, finally, thou understands.” Luna laughed weakly, leaning back and staring up at the shimmering stars as she whispered: “But why? I have many questions for her, and wonder how long she has known, when she bore these torments, why she never told me before… and know that no matter what she answers, I will likely still wish to beat her senseless for… for all this nonsense!”

Luna rose a hoof and punched the ground, gritting her teeth before flashes of memory sparked through her mind again, of dances, of clouds, of things she couldn’t put into words as she cursed and dropped her head against the male’s neck again… and then she shuddered and murmured: “Brynhild… and a face. A scarred face, rough, with a single eye… it almost makes me think of thee.”

She laughed weakly, glancing at Scrivener, and he smiled faintly back at her, the two studying each other silently before Luna shivered a little and shook her head. “It changes nothing, yet changes everything… and what if Ignominious knows? What if the Ekleíp knew? Oh, foul Fate… did Celestia, Sleipnir and I truly fall from the ranks of some higher plane? Are we not… what we always thought we were? Am I even a pony, or just a shattered remnant of some flaxen entity that was cursed and broken long ago…”

“You are you, Luna… you are you.” Scrivener Blooms said firmly, leaning back so he could look into her eyes, reaching his hooves up to rest them quietly on her shoulders. “You are who you’ve always been, this is just… this is just another layer, that’s all. These memories… they are strange and wild and don’t make much sense, but you are you. You’re my wife, and my soulmate, and I know you’re scared and I can feel how this hurts you, but… we’re going to push forwards through this together, okay?”

He met her eyes quietly, and Luna smiled faintly at him as she nodded slowly, closing her eyes and taking a shuddering breath before she straightened a bit, then smiled when Scrivener brushed away one trail of tears, and quietly licked up the other, making her laugh a little. “Now come on. We can take our time walking back to Canterlot so you can compose yourself, and then kick down Celestia’s door and demand answers from her, just like you’ve always wanted.”

“Aye, that at least will be fun.” Luna muttered, lowering her head forwards and grimacing a little… then she nodded once before straightening, and the two began to slowly walk back towards the castle in slow pace with one another, the winged unicorn feeling her heart and mind both beginning to settle even as she felt strangely, acutely aware of every nerve, every fiber of her body, of the thud of her heart and the rasp of her breath as her eyes flicked back and forth before she gritted her teeth, then glanced sharply at Scrivener Blooms and asked in a frustrated voice: “Are thou sure this is so… so… truly, thou art maddening!”

Scrivy only gave her a smile in return, however, and Luna blushed a bit as she dropped her head embarrassedly forwards, mumbling: “I… apologize, Scrivy, my emotions are all out of order and I wish to lash out at something. Violently. And, perhaps I am jealous of thy ability to even now take everything in stride, compartmentalizing and sorting, grouchy at the idea of change but adapting all the same. It annoys me that… that thou cares so deeply about me, thou does not care from whence I may have came, it changes not thy opinion of me that I am no longer aware of who I really am…”

“But I know who you are… Luna or… Brynhild…” He stopped, glancing at her hesitantly, but the winged unicorn only nodded quickly when the name didn’t stir up any shock of emotion or memory this time. “You’re still you. You wouldn’t be such a pain in the flank if you were suddenly different.”

“Thou art insufferable. Even now, thou makes light of everything! And yet… strangely, it comforts me.” Luna grumbled a bit, looking moodily down as Scrivy smiled a little at her before he stopped to reach out and touch the black pearl hanging from around the female’s neck, and she blushed a little at a surge of thought and imagery that spilled through her mind… not xenomorphic memories, but a mix of thoughts romantic and cherished. “If only thou were half the poet in reality thou art in thy mind, thy words could actually be useful for something. Apart from making me feel… silly.”

“You are silly.” Scrivener said softly, and Luna looked at him for a moment, then she nodded and laughed a bit, glancing down with a bit of a blush before shaking her head briskly and turning to stride onwards through grass and dust, both of them looking silently up towards Canterlot Castle: for Luna, a sharp, short, violent flight to a lonely perch… for Scrivy, a long, ragged run that had forced him to twist the long way around up the curved and jagged cliffs. “Luna…”

“Cease, Scrivener Blooms, I am… feeling better. Worry not for me, but the surprise of it… ‘twas jarring. ‘Twas made worse to know that… Celestia has known this for some time, and that I have been perhaps laughed at for the Horses of Heaven above know how long by otherworldly entities, smug with their knowledge of the truth as I unknowingly lied to everyone I have ever met.” Luna stopped, shaking her head in slow disgust. “Not to mention the news of Sleipnir and so much else that has happened… the memories, the… loss of sense of self for that moment, it dug deep.”

She stopped, and they fell silent as they strode onwards… but in their minds now, they shared scattered images and whispered thoughts. Luna didn’t know what these fragments that now sat in her mind like splinters meant, these glimpses of a buried past… but they were enough to disturb her. Glinting armor and metal, smoke and fire, blood… and dancing. Dances, and mingling, and the aged face with a single-eye, someone who had desired her and she had refuted… a sense of a leader she had admired, then betrayed… or was it been betrayed by?

And in these memories, there were glimpses of figures she didn’t recognize in body, but she heard Sleipnir’s fearless laughter, and Celestia’s brutal strategy and rule. They had known each other, respected each other… but they had not been siblings, even if there had been… closeness. They were not bound by blood, and it made Luna ache in her heart, in a way she didn’t want to admit she felt… but all the same, she could feel Scrivener’s empathetic reassurances that they had been her family. They would always be her family… and she knew he was right. She knew that he understood, for more reasons than their connection… and she smiled a little as she closed her eyes, letting him soothe her. She was wild and chaotic and mischievous, he was calm and structured and sarcastic, and they twined together like… “Scrivener, I require a metaphor for us.”

Scrivener glanced at her mildly, thinking for a few moments, and then he said plainly: “Fire and magnesium.”

Luna looked at him blankly, and Scrivy shrugged, saying mildly: “Well, by yourself, you’re a pain. You like to make trouble, you have a bad habit of burning your way through things, but without motive or fuel you tend to go in crazed circles beating up every poor sap you come across. And me, well. By myself, I’m common, bitter, and I pretty much just sit around on my butt with no real objectives. But when you combine us together, you get this spectacularly-burning light that can make beautiful fireworks… or a piercing flare that will cut through any darkness and burn its way through any barrier.”

For a few moments, the winged unicorn only stared at him… and then a smile quirked her mouth as she looked ahead towards Canterlot, and she said quietly: “I enjoy this metaphor, Scrivener Blooms. Although thou should know by now there’s more to me than smoke and flame.”

“Yes, there’s lightning and your hooves, too.” Scrivener replied mildly, and Luna checked him firmly, knocking him stumbling as she laughed and shook her head.

They took their time, letting the last of the anxieties begin to fade out as they walked back to Canterlot at an easy pace, Luna’s mind strengthening and settling as they headed for the lowered bridge and open gates. The Pegasus Guards greeted them apprehensively, but when Luna only smiled and bowed her head politely, they seemed to relax a little and let them pass without incident into the dimmed interior of the castle: by now, they had moved into the early, darker-than-night hours of the morning, when even the moon above seemed to be suffocated by the shadows and Pales were said to roam freer through the world.

Luna took the lead, and Scrivener was glad to follow beside her, feeling her determination rising, admiring her bravery for deciding to face this head on… but that only made Luna toss him an amused look, saying quietly: “Perhaps ‘tis not courage, though, but rather curiosity… and that may well end badly for all concerned.”

Scrivener had only given her an entertained look in return as they had made their way through the silent corridors. After minutes that seemed longer than the near-hour they had taken to wend their way through the fields to Canterlot, they reached Celestia’s quarters… and although the golden double doors didn’t open for them as readily this time, with a flick of her horn, Luna threw them wide and the two strode down the hall together… before both halted and readied themselves as reality in front of them flickered.

A moment later, a green door formed in front of them, as Luna gritted her teeth… but when it swung open, it revealed Discombobulation standing on the other side, the Draconequus surveying them curiously. Scrivener Blooms relaxed slightly, even as Luna continued to look at him suspiciously as the door that had appeared melted into the floor and vanished, leaving him standing calmly in the center of the hall, and then he leaned slowly forwards, looking thoughtfully at the winged unicorn as he said musingly: “Perhaps you are not as strong as we anticipated. Or maybe this is a sign you’re even stronger. Either way, I have to ask you to be kind, and rewind. Twilight Sparkle is in no mood for visitors. Celestia is in even worse shape… I cannot grasp why such a powerful creature would pass so much of herself on to a dedicated apprentice who already has so much power herself… it seems neither intelligent nor passionate. It seems farcical and stupid, like when you spend five or six hundred pages loving a certain windmill-obsessed character before he’s killed in a fit of authorial spite.”

“Oh look, Scrivener Blooms, either he has read one of thy stories or there is another author as callous as thou art.” Luna said mildly over her shoulder, and then she suddenly snapped her head forwards as her horn glowed, and Discombobulation was blown backwards down the hall in a burst of lightning, the Draconequus wincing as he skidded almost all the way to the end of the long, carpeted corridor before laying with his limbs splayed.

He coughed, a bit of smoke floating up from his jaws before he slowly sat up and rubbed at his singed front, looking dumbly down the hallway at Luna as the winged unicorn pawed the ground with her hoof and lowered her head, saying shortly: “Would thou like to test my temper further? Never, ever try and keep me separated from Twilight Sparkle… nor even from my sister. And speak not thy poison to mine ears, Bob of Ginnungagap, or I shall be forced to show thee in detail how I work in less-subtle fashions than words.”

The Draconequus grumbled under its breath as it slowly picked itself up, breathing hard and rubbing at its features… and then it shook itself firmly, smoke puffing off its body and vanishing quickly as the burns and singes healed before he strode slowly back down the hall towards them. For a moment, he and Luna only looked at each other, standing a few feet away, the creature lowering its head on its snaking neck so it was at eye-level with her… and then it sighed slowly and stepped to the side, grasping the handle of the door to Celestia’s bedroom.

It stopped, talons tickling against the wood for a moment before it glanced towards them, saying quietly: “Ponies are meddlesome. And even as confusion, I find them confusing, which means I must strive to understand them even as I enjoy not being able to predict what happens next. It’s like listening to a symphony orchestra while watching the silly teenagers butchered in the woods by a machete or an axe or some drooling monster that’s all teeth and claws: no matter how great or small the amount of gore, you can’t deny there’s something innately soothing about it all.”

“Thou art a strange, strange creature, Bob. Come, Scrivy, I fear if thou art left alone with this beast indescribable conversations shall occur and I shall be dreaming of thine wretched imaginings for a week.” Luna muttered, and then she gave the Draconequus a brief nod when it pulled the door open for her, the two ponies stepping into the room before Discombobulation shoved it closed behind them.

Celestia was still laying on the bedding, silent and quiet, and Luna shivered a bit as she looked at her, strange memories flickering through her mind again before she looked towards Twilight… and then she staggered to a halt as Scrivener turned his gaze sharply in the direction Luna looked, as the female murmured: “I believe… Celestia has pushed further and delved into deeper magic than I had expected…”

Twilight Sparkle stirred on the bed… and then her violet eyes slowly fluttered open, before she smiled warmly at the sight of the two ponies, not seeming to realize anything was different as she grimaced and pulled herself towards the edge of the bed, murmuring: “So… it wasn’t just a dream… I… are you two alright? And Celestia…”

“Originally my intent was to come here and either demand answers or simply beat her until the world made sense again, but… I see that… instead, we should take a moment to regard thee instead, and… speak with thee.” Luna said softly, and Scrivener nodded slowly and whistled a bit, which made the dark sapphire pony snort in amusement. “Well, at least thou aren’t jealous.”

“What? I don’t understand.” Twilight frowned a bit, tilting her head, her horn gleaming quietly… and then she glanced up at this after a moment, blinking in surprise as she realized this had lengthened as she tilted her head back and forth. “Is that all?”

As she spoke, she half-turned… and large, strong wings fluttered gently at the sides of her body. Twilight frowned as she looked over her shoulder at these, studying them curiously as she slowly spread one, the vibrant violet feathers that matched her coat covering the main body of the wings but the lower pinions raven-black… and then her features slowly paled as she realized it was actually her own wing, her jaw working stupidly as her eyes blinked before she reared back and staggered in a circle, babbling: “What? No, that’s impossible! I can’t be, I mean… I… what’s going on? Luna!”

“Shush and calm thyself, Twilight Sparkle.” Luna said firmly, stepping forwards and reaching up to catch Twilight by the hooves before she could circle again, bringing her to a grinding halt as she breathed hard and stared over her shoulder, then almost pleadingly at the fellow winged unicorn, the female smiling a bit… and Twilight wincing and rearing back when she realized she was as tall as the dark-sapphire equine. “Thou has been given a gift, forget that not. Come, calm thyself, we shall take this in slow stride.”

Twilight nodded slowly, breathing hard and looking back at herself… and Luna smiled faintly as her own eyes traced backwards, silently studying the emblem upon Twilight’s haunch, which was now surrounded by a circular pattern of red runes… and the violet pony shook her head rapidly, lowering her head and muttering: “This… I can… I can barely believe this is possible. I… look at me, I mean… Scrivy, you changed from Luna, I know, but that was different, Luna mixed your souls and you just got bigger and me, why did I-”

“Because you are special… because while Luna and Scrivener mixed themselves together, I did not mix… I simply gave.” Celestia said tiredly from the circular cushion she rested on… and all eyes turned to her, Twilight trembling a little as she carefully slipped away from Luna to stride quickly over to the ivory equine… and Celestia smiled faintly, her eyes opening, then closing as she breathed slowly and lifted herself slightly, shaking her head with a quiet grimace. “I don’t remember laying down here. But I don’t remember much after… beginning the process. Sharing memories as I linked us for the process… a gift of power in return for…”

She shook her head silently, and Twilight looked down at her, trembling, before Celestia rose her head with a tired smile: “Immortality? There is no such thing as true immortality… age withers us all, sooner or later. We all must die and fade, by violence or… exhaustion of life. But you will live as long as Luna and Scrivener Blooms, and this makes me glad. You will not be alone… and I have amplified your powers, your magic, given you my blood, my strength, my innate talents. But for everything, there is a price… there must be a trade. No gift in this world is without something in return, for even gratitude is a price to pay.

“I took a little of your own strength, your own talent. It may sound strange… but there are things you can do that I cannot, and it is this we must discuss.” Celestia gritted her teeth as she slowly began to force herself upwards to a sitting position… but then Luna stepped forwards and silently rested a hoof on her shoulder, looking down at her quietly.

“Nay, sister, rest. Thou art weakened. And think not that any of us are fooled by thy words… the only reason thou would be in such a wretched state is if thou tried to cheat thyself, and took too little in return for giving too much. ‘Twas foolish, sister… thou could have died.” Luna said quietly, and then she offered a faint smile, whispering: “And then who would I have to undermine or lash out at? Wretched creature, thou would have left me without answers I crave, and worse, at the helm of a kingdom thou hast only just been named Queen of.”

Celestia laughed faintly at this… and then Twilight leaned down and tightly hugged the ivory equine, closing her eyes, burying her face against the white strands of her mane as the Queen of Equestria straightened slightly with a surprised blink, Twilight shuddering against her as she whispered: “You shouldn’t’ve done this… you gave me too much. Please, Celestia, take it back, I… I’m not ready, and you look so… weak. I… I need you still. You’re my teacher… you’re my… my friend.”

The weathered female smiled faintly at this, looking down and closing her eyes as a tenderness spread over her features that softened her fatigue… and then she murmured quietly: “We are rarely ready for the tasks we are given and the powers we receive, always forced to grow up too fast to grow into them… but… you are, Twilight Sparkle. You are… and you are not my student any longer. You are my equal… and my greater.”

Twilight slowly drew back, swallowing thickly… and then Celestia shook her head, glancing silently towards Luna. “I know I do not have to ask, but… guide her. Take care of her. You make a more fitting mentor for her than me.”

Luna laughed quietly, shaking her head and glancing towards Twilight Sparkle as the newly-winged unicorn straightened a bit and stepped back, trembling a little as she looked down, almost looking ashamed of herself. “Nay, sister… Twilight is better than us both, but all the same, I shall take good care of her and guard her well on our journey. That, I promise thee, if only because thou seems to need the reassurance.”

Celestia nodded slowly, raising her head and seeming to regain a bit of her strength as Scrivener stepped up beside Twilight and quietly rested a hoof on her shoulder, the violet pony silently, automatically leaning towards him as Celestia’s eyes slowly roved over the three… and then she said quietly: “Then the time has come. Twilight knows the beginning… you have lived the middle… and now I shall tell you the end of the sordid tale, Luna… or… Brynhild, as your memories seem to be settling.”

“Alien memories… not of this life, of a past… they are like scattered puzzle pieces, though, making no sense to me without knowledge of what I should be looking for. Now tell me, sister… what does thou know? How did thou discover this?” Luna asked quietly, then she sat quietly back on the floor, her eyes locking with Celestia’s as she murmured: “Is this… why we are special?”

“Yes… we are not… reincarnations of past selves, so to speak, but that is not to say we were not reborn. How and why, I do not know… I have only pieced together so much, been able to… stand… so much at a time.” Celestia said quietly, then she looked up and gently spoke a name: “Freya.”

Luna frowned… then gritted her teeth as she caught memories in her mind, sounds, battle, bloodshed, and over it all, a voice shouting orders and strategy, among the mightiest of the mighty who reigned in Asgard, among… “Valkyries. Sister, thou art saying… we were once Valkyries, of Asgard, the fabled elite guard of the Aesir. But how could this be possible? We have seen so much… enough to know gods may exist, but also enough to take every story about such entities with more than a grain of salt… art thou saying-”

“In time.” Celestia said quietly, holding up a hoof and looking patiently at her sister, and Luna nodded hesitantly even as she gave a frustrated sigh. For a moment, there was silence… and then Celestia murmured another name: “Thor.”

Luna heard Sleipnir’s laughter… and this easily overrode the flash of memories that followed, of steel and lightning as she leaned forwards, but before she could even voice the question, Celestia preempted her with the answer: “A god best known for lightning, but to say that was all Thor had at his disposal would be like saying that Odin was merely a god with a spear. And who knows what transformations we would have undergone on our fall from the skies? On becoming… what we have become?”

She stopped, then sighed and murmured quietly: “I know it seems impossible, little sister. I know what I speak sounds like delusional madness… but compared to some of the things I have done while sane, I would rather believe in this than begin to believe again that I could cleanse all of Equestria with violence and civil war.”

“Thou art Freya, Sleipnir was Thor, I am Brynhild… that is what thou believes.” Luna said slowly, as memories flickered through her mind again, strange images of sitting at a table, raising goblets and mugs with a roar… and then Luna closed her eyes and shook her head quickly as Scrivener gazed over at her and Twilight looked apprehensively at the ivory winged unicorn. “Celestia, thou art utterly, completely insane. I would say this with more the conviction but… the memories such names awaken when spoken to me such… yet tales of Thor, at least, are commonplace. Why have I never felt these memories surge upwards before?”

“Because you had to hear your name, spoken by another from that realm, to begin unsealing those vaults of memory…” Celestia closed her eyes, lowering her head forwards as she whispered: “Just as I believe only because while scrying after my discovery of what had happened to Sleipnir… I heard him yell for me, by every name I have been given. Celestia, Sol, Aya, and Freya… it was as if he knew I was watching. It was as if he was trying to warn me… because sister, whatever is at the root of this darkness is something that seeks to destroy us. Something that knows our secrets… something that knows more about us than we do about ourselves.”

Luna looked down quietly, closing her eyes as a shiver raced through her body, shaking her head mutely. For a moment, Celestia only looked at her, and then she finally gave a small smile, saying quietly: “I have something to give back to you, something I took from you a long time ago. I don’t know why I did… I don’t know why I threw it in the vaults, and never bothered to give it back. Maybe I was afraid of what would happen… maybe I was jealous… maybe the… strange happiness of having a little sister just made me forget.”

She fell quiet, then glanced to the side, her horn glowing faintly and dragging a drawer in the side of the bed open before a polished, short-handled object floated out of it… then it clicked before the telescopic handle quickly extended outwards into a full spear, and Luna leaned backwards in surprise as Celestia simply let the weapon drop, watching attentively…

And Luna stepped forwards on instinct, her horn glowing and the spear lighting up as bright as day as it spun in a rapid, controlled windmill around the winged unicorn, her body swaying with the movement as naturally as if she had used the weapon all her life as a soft gasp escaped her, hearing cheers and shouts and sounds of battle as something inside her surged upwards before she grinned as the spear dropped flat across her shoulders, her eyes glowing faintly as she leaned back… then blinked once before shaking her head briskly as Twilight and Scrivener both stared, but Celestia only smiled faintly. “As I thought.”

Luna blushed a bit, flicking her horn downwards… and immediately, the telescopic spear collapsed and floated to the side, hovering silently next to her as she looked awkwardly at it before she murmured: “I know not if I should be furious, exhilarated, or thankful, or some mad combination of the three at once.”

“Well, we’re all mad here.” said a mild voice, and Twilight winced as Scrivener and Luna looked up in surprise to see Discombobulation sitting calmly on the ceiling, his legs and upper limbs crossed as he gazed down at them meditatively. Celestia, however, seemed too tired to be bothered much either way by the presence of the creature, barely giving it a glance even as the creature’s long neck twisted around so it could look down at her thoughtfully. “Again, ponies confuse me… fighting so hard to refute what their senses tell them are real, even when they spend every day surrounded by magic and mayhem. Now let me ask you this, why is a raven like a writing desk, Scrivener Blooms?”

Luna sighed at this, giving a flat look to the creature before she enunciated slowly and firmly: “Because both can be crushed to fine powder beneath my hooves.”

Discombobulation slowly leaned away from the winged unicorn at this, features calm but body flinching… but before he could either escape or further test his luck, Twilight Sparkle looked up and asked quietly: “What is it that you know? You even made it sound earlier like you knew something about this… is that why Discord linked you, specifically?”

“Discord rarely did anything specific, Twilight Sparkle. I do not know why he chose me. We could ask him but the dead rarely give good or welcome answers.” Discombobulation replied dryly, and then he sighed a bit when Twilight glared at him, and the Draconequus dropped from the ceiling, half-flipping lazily as he gradually sank through the air until hoof and paw landed next to Celestia.

He sniffed and turned around, rubbing his talons against his chest as he said distastefully: “You know that you will not be in control forever, Twilight Sparkle. Once you were the student, and now you are the master… but you are not the one who will bring balance to the forces in Equestria.”

“I swear I know what you’re talking about, and most of it seems to be pop culture references, making me wonder what exactly you did in Ginnungagap all day long.” Scrivener Blooms said flatly, even as the other ponies only frowned at Discombobulation. The Draconequus frowned at him distastefully, but Scrivy only looked grouchily back before Twilight cleared her throat loudly and gave the tall creature a pointed look.

The Draconequus rolled his eyes, and then he calmly crossed his arms as he responded in a dry voice: “Very well, Twilight Sparkle… like I explained before, Ginnungagap happens to be a grand wastebasket of creation. The necropolis of ideas, the death-and-birthplace of the intangible, the stinking, fetid ooze which devours the old and vomits up the new. Darwinism in a way that Darwin never could have envisioned, and don’t worry if you don’t recognize the name, everybody else will.”

He smiled almost charmingly as he spread his arms and bowed forwards slightly… but when the others only glared at him, he crossed his forelimbs moodily again and shook his head. “Fine, be that way. But intangible as ideas and secrets are… spoken too often, they too may slip down into our primordial dump, and the residents of our dark cellar all-too-eagerly gather up gossip to share with one another. Between bursts of creation, rampaging destruction, and moments of chaos so perfect that for a single, solitary second, the entire dimension becomes bathed in light and order beautiful enough to root us all to the spot before we cheer and dance when our little universe of garbage shatters like so much cheap glass… we are terrible, terrible gossips. There’s little else to do, after all, but sit with our fellows – or stand, or swim, or whatever else we feel like at the time – and gossip like schoolchildren.

“Have you ever heard the saying that three people may keep a secret, if two are dead? Well, that’s a bald lie, and not merely because he who said it was bald and is now balder in his own death. No, it is because we all sweat our secrets… we all breathe our secrets… we all think our secrets so loudly we may as well scream them at one another.” Discombobulation snorted at this, brushing a hand absently back through his dark Mohawk of a mane. “Look at Twilight Sparkle, secretly proud and delighted for herself in the dark regions of her soul, the place all ponies have and fail to admit exists… which just makes it grow all the worse for it.”

“Discombobulation!” Twilight winced, flushing a bit as she looked back and forth… but Scrivener and Luna both only shrugged, and Celestia offered a kind smile even as the violet pony flushed and glanced down awkwardly, murmuring: “Sorry… I… he is right, but honestly, I-”

“Oh, cease, explain not.” Luna said kindly, and without looking, she thrusted the collapsed but still-dangerous spear towards the Draconequus, who quickly rose his hands with a wince and reared his head back as the deadly tip of the spear almost brushed his muzzle. “And thou, Bob, must learn better manners. Otherwise, thou may end up with this weapon up thy nose and buried into whatever rodent runs the spinning wheel that sits in place of thy mind.”

Discombobulation grumbled, but then nodded and slowly reached his talon up to push the tip of the spear gingerly away. “Pardon me for being less than pleased about being forced to serve as a thrall to a pony who probably isn’t intelligent enough to run a shrimp factory. In short, though, there is an entity that exists that also believes this to be your past… and while not all the residents of Ginnungagap believe you and your siblings are beings built from shards fallen from Asgard, we have always regarded you with interest… mostly, because to us, it’s like watching a soap opera that began when Celestia first fell to Midgard and promises to end only after whatever lurks in the darkness either destroys you all or is destroyed itself.”

Twilight glared at him at this, and then she said flatly: “Thank you, Discombobulation, now please go away. I’ll call you if I need you.”

“Finally, a request I can honor in full. Excuse me while I kiss the sky, in that case.” Discombobulation gave a short, mocking little bow, making an exaggerated rolling motion with his hands before he stepped backwards as reality behind him swept aside like a curtain. He quickly slipped backwards into the glowing void, then pointed at Luna and said mildly: “Scrivener Blooms. Don’t forget that the path to Paradise goes first through Purgatory and the Inferno… and that’s only if you manage to find the path through the mountains and the forest in the first place.”

Luna frowned at this, but Discombobulation only gave a cryptic smile and a little wave, and Scrivy sighed and shook his head distastefully as reality slid back into place over the Draconequus and the air sparked before settling, leaving no sign that the creature had even been there in the first place. “You do understand how creepy it is that he refers to you as me and me as you, right?”

“Nay, I see nothing wrong with it, ‘tis true, after all… thou art I, and I art thee. The same blood runs in our veins.” Luna smiled after a moment at him, swinging the collapsed spear lightly at the male, and both he and Twilight Sparkle winced back as Celestia only sighed and shook her head slowly. Then the sapphire winged unicorn slowly turned back towards Celestia, asking quietly: “Have thee anything else to add, sister? I do not know… what thou hoped to give me by sharing this knowledge with me in the first place, if I am to speak honestly… I only feel more confused now, and fear that our enemies may have better use for it than I do…”

“And that is why I have armed you with this information in the first place, sister.” Celestia replied softly, then she grimaced as she slowly began to stand as flickers passed through her white locks, before they shone faintly… and then once more became ephemeral, a rainbow of color spilling quietly through her hair. “Now the enemy does not have the element of surprise should they try to use this information to confuse you… now, you have been given a chance to know where you began, who you are. And working together… we may piece together our past, and perhaps in the core of our memories, discover how we fell to this world, if we truly did fall… and if my instincts are right, if the fact that we seem so blatantly targeted is not merely coincidence… then perhaps in our past, we may find the identity of whatever fuels these awful shadows that spill up from Helheim itself.”

Luna nodded slowly… and then she blushed a bit as Celestia stepped forwards and kissed her forehead in soft blessing, murmuring quietly: “All I know for sure is that I love you, little sister, and will no longer hide anything from you. That you are and always will be my sister, for our bonds are deeper than flesh and blood, tied to the spirit and the soul, not the body. I will atone and amend what I have done wrong… and I have faith that you, Scrivener Blooms, and Twilight Sparkle can stop this darkness before it becomes too great, before it flows over our beautiful land. I will be putting all resources at your disposal, and I wish for you to know that I have already assembled a platoon of Pegasus Knights who will be glad to travel with your caravan, and who have sworn to obey your every order. They will not slow you down, are ready for the hard march to North Neigh… and with them, I offer all the equipment of the vaults of Canterlot, from the ancient artifacts to the most majestic weapons and armor locked therein.”

“Thou hast my thanks… my sister…” Luna lowered her head, blushing a bit and smiling awkwardly as the telescopic spear quietly spun beside her in a nervous gesture, the winged unicorn barely seeming aware of what she was doing as Twilight Sparkle looked up at Celestia with both worry and gratitude. “But… while I know it would be foolhardy to decline thy offer of soldiers if they are indeed well-trained and loyal… I shall take only minimal equipment from Canterlot. It is not the gear that concerns me, but the merits of my soldiers themselves… and as it is, our supply wagons are heavily loaded. I would not wish to further slow our caravan with equipment we may not use and which would detract from the defenses of Canterlot.”

“Canterlot is well-defended, Luna, I am here…” Celestia said quietly, before she sighed a little when Luna gave her an imploring look. “Very well… then perhaps we can compromise. I shall… have a wagon readied in the morning, loaded with some additional supplies. Tents, rations, etcetera… it will at least give you more room to better divide what you have to carry. I shall also have messengers sent to the settlements en route…both to tell them to clear the way for your approach, as well as to have them prepare supplies that will need to be replenished. An army marches on its stomach, sister, do not forget that what applies to us… all of us now, Twilight Sparkle… does not apply to others.”

Luna nodded with a grimace, twirling the telescopic spear absently at her side again before she glanced towards this and blushed, quickly putting it down on the ground beside her… and then she looked up as Twilight laughed a little and gazed nervously up at Celestia. “I… you’re okay, though, right? And I mean… well… I guess, Scrivy, you’re going to have to help me adjust to this. You’ve… gone through this kind of thing, haven’t you?”

“Something similar, I suppose, but… we’ll all be there to help you adjust, Twilight.” Scrivener said softly, glancing over at the unicorn before his eyes roved to Celestia, and he added quietly: “And I hope you didn’t hurt yourself too much, Celestia. When even Luna’s worried enough about you to forego an opportunity to harass you, I know it has to be serious… and we need you around. You’re Queen of Equestria, like Luna said… we can’t have Luna or Twilight taking up your crown quite yet, when we’ve got a job of our own in the north.”

“Don’t worry about me, Scrivener Blooms… I deserve worse pains for what I’ve done in my life.” She hesitated, then looked towards Twilight Sparkle, saying quietly: “Perhaps one day, Twilight… you and Scrivener… will do me a favor and record the experiences I have had in life. The experiences I once sought to hide from all of Equestria… but only now, do I realize would be better served in being shown to the world. I have always feared the power of stories and well-chosen words, from watching how my own woven webs were so easily able to influence an entire country when coupled with a few majestic shows of power and privilege, but… I understand now that the unpleasant truths are perhaps the ones with the most to teach us.”

“All the years lived in happiness are nothing but a waste, while a few weeks lived in pain are worth more than all the gemstones in Equestria.” Scrivener smiled slightly despite himself, then he glanced towards Twilight and added mildly: “I didn’t write that. I know it sounds like I probably did, but I didn’t.”

“Writers are a sick breed. Poets are even worse.” Luna remarked dryly, and she shook her head slowly before smiling a little up at Celestia as the others shared a small laugh. “I admire that though, sister, and… thank you. But if that is all…”

“No, I have one last question to ask.” Celestia said softly, and Luna frowned a bit, tilting her head curiously as the ivory equine gazed over her sister, asking in a tactful voice: “How is Nightmare Moon reacting to this information?”

Luna frowned a bit at this question, then she slowly closed her eyes and dropped her head forwards… and for a moment, silence spiraled out, even as Scrivener frowned as well and looked with surprise towards Luna… before the winged unicorn rose her head and said in a slow voice: “There is no fury… no frustration… no disbelief. There is no surprise, but there is a thrum… is it excitement? She is me, and I am her, but she is the deeper me, the darker me… and she… sees truth in thy words, which scares me. And, what scares me more… is that she seems to be wending her way through my subconscious, through mine memories sealed… and I fear what she will find there, Celestia.”

She stopped, then laughed a little, glancing to the side before looking back at her, asking hesitantly: “Do I… call thee Celestia? Or shall I refer to thee as Queen Freya now? ‘Twould that not be a great joke to say in front of the Royal Courts, though…”

“I can’t speak for you, Luna… but even if I’m right, even if in the past, I was Freya… I am not now. Any more than I am Aya the Sun-Cursed… now I am Celestia.” The ivory equine smiled a little at this, saying quietly: “It took me seventeen hundred years, sister, but finally… I can say with confidence who I am, and look back at who I was without fearing for what others will think of me. I have changed… for once I’m not saying those words only to try and impress others, or gain their confidence. I have settled into my role now, and I know it is as guide… not leader. Even this title of Queen… it is a strong word, a strong title… because I must be a strong figurehead. But that does not make me any better than the lowest earth pony… and I will always remember this. I will always remember… that a pony’s worth is determined by their actions and their choices, not entitled to them from fortune’s favor at birth.”

“Another speech. Thou really are feeling better.” Luna said softly, and then she stepped forwards, and the two siblings embraced as she murmured: “Then thou art my big sister Celestia, and I am thy little sister, Luna, as it has been for the last millennia and a half. Or perhaps ‘tis better to say, for the five hundred years before thou sealed me away in the moon.”

“Oh, Luna.” Celestia said tiredly, shaking her head slowly even as Luna smiled up at her, and then the ivory equine drew her eyes towards Scrivener Blooms and Twilight Sparkle, asking quietly: “And what about you, my friends… is there anything more I can do for either of you? Do not hesitate to ask… if it is in my power, know that I shall be honored to give you what I can. I have asked much of you all, after all… it is only right that I offer something in return.”

“Celestia, you’ve already given me so much… how could I ask for more?” Twilight laughed a little as she gazed awkwardly up at her, then looked apprehensively over her shoulder for a moment, slowly stretching her new wings out before they settled silently against her sides as she murmured softly: “You’ve given me… much more than I deserve.”

“Even the most altruistic gifts often have selfish motives, Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia said kindly, leaning down with a faint smile. “I enjoy seeing you happy. I enjoy knowing that you will protect our country. I am… content to pass on these abilities to you… and to see you excel, because one day you will succeed me… because you are everything… I wish I could have been.”

This made Twilight blush and glance down embarrassedly, and then Celestia straightened and looked quietly over to Scrivener Blooms, murmuring softly: “And you, my old Court Poet, don’t tell me there’s nothing I can do for you… or perhaps I only envy your ability to be content with what you have. Your disdain for material possessions apart from a few small luxuries make it difficult for me to give you a proper gift, for all the wealth I possess. What makes it even more confusing is when sister tries to help me, which usually ends in mockery and some awful prank.”

She paused meditatively, then nodded slowly to herself as Scrivener only shuffled a little on the spot before she smiled, stretching one of her wings out… and a moment later, her horn glowed, and a large pinion feather was pulled free, twisting quietly once in the air before gleaming as the bottom of the feather sharpened into a tip. This floated over to the male, and he smiled in surprise, reaching up to hesitantly catch it on his hoof as Celestia said quietly: “Perhaps small tokens, made with meaning, are the best in this case.”

“Thou art trying to make me jealous again, Celestia. Truly, it seems as thou wants me to pummel thee.” Luna said flatly, glancing across at her sister… but the ivory equine only gave a smile, and the sapphire winged unicorn smiled despite herself after a moment, bowing her head as Scrivener did the same. “But we appreciate it, all the same. When Scrivener Blooms is happy, I am happy.”

“Thank you… sister.” Scrivy said quietly, glancing up at Celestia with a small smile, and Celestia gazed warmly back down, nodding approvingly before the male carefully tucked the quill behind one ear, and he hesitated for a moment before asking quietly: “And is there anything we can do for you?”

“You are already doing too much as it is.” She paused, then glanced over the three, saying softly: “But perhaps you can fulfill one small request for me, all three of you… join me for a small meal, and share conversation with me. Normal, natural conversation… I have not had ponies to sit with me as friends for a long time now, and I… would dearly enjoy just sitting and talking for a little while. Forgetting, for a few moments, all the violence and bloodshed and the darkness and corruption outside… and just relaxing, in the few moments of peace.”

She smiled a little, and Luna laughed quietly and shook her head, replying in a faintly-entertained voice: “The very thing that thou would always chastise Sleipnir and I for. Well, finally, it has taken thee countless years but thou art finally loosening thy saddle. Scrivener Blooms, Twilight Sparkle… what say thee both? I myself could use pretending for a little while my greatest concern is that my coffee will be not bold enough for my tastes.”

“I… I think for once I agree.” Twilight said quietly, glancing over her shoulder again at her new wings… and then she looked ahead to the others and nodded with a blush. “As long as later, you and Celestia and even Scrivy can help me… get used to this.”

“Always.” Luna said softly, and then she smiled at her sister, and the two fell into step with one another as Twilight Sparkle and Scrivener Blooms exchanged smiles and followed towards the door, all too glad to take a moment of sanctuary amidst the pall of darkness.