• Published 16th Sep 2012
  • 808 Views, 4 Comments

The Sun Never Sets on Friendship - Broccoli

In the heart of power, Twilight's abilities are put to the test after she's given an unusual request

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Part Two

Twilight Sparkle had never felt as small as she did today. She was standing in front of a window in Celestia’s study, examining the crown on her reflection’s head while the sun was rising in the horizon. The crown was similar to the one Celestia used to wear. She knew that only the ruling princess of Equestria was allowed to wear it. Twilight was allowed to wear it, but she looked ridiculous nonetheless. She felt like a toddler, who had gone through an adult’s belongings, found a crown and put it on to try to look like something she dreamt about growing up to be. Two days ago the crown had been placed on her head, and everything since had seemed unnatural. She had been presented to Celestia’s staff, which consisted of a lot of tall ponies. She could not remember their names, yet she was supposed to be their leader now. They were talking about organizing a party and a ceremony. It was the first time in a very long time that Equestria had had a shift in the throne. It was Twilight’s first act as monarch to cancel that event. She made it clear to the staff members that she was only going to be a temporary replacement until Celestia was no longer missing. After that she had a meeting with the guards: a larger group of even taller ponies. Twilight’s company in Ponyville had been ponies with roughly the same height as her. In Canterlot there were a lot of tall ponies. It was going to be hard to make them look up to Twilight when they naturally were looking down at her.
If only Celestia would return soon. A rescue team had been assembled, but they had no idea where to search. Twilight sighed. She could not bear the thought of this being a long-lasting thing. She had always counted on Celestia to be on her side, but now Twilight looked so very alone and so very small in the window. As she stared into her own eyes, she whispered: “What have I gotten myself into?”
Out in the hall a bespectacled pony, whom Twilight had met the night she was crowned, greeted her. His name was Randy and had been Celestia’s main assistant. He was always carrying a scroll around, which he was now reading to Twilight. It was her schedule for today. Twilight was thankful for Randy. He was a big help to her. He was smart and seemed to know everyone in Canterlot.
“I would like to schedule a meeting with the Royal Guards later today.” Twilight interrupted Randy’s recitation of her to-do list.
“You can’t. You don’t have time today. A meeting has to be announced at least two days in advance so that we can work it in the schedule.”
“What do you mean? There was plenty of time yesterday for unannounced meetings.”
“I know yesterday was a bit hectic. But it could have gone worse. Still, there are a lot of ponies wondering why you haven’t held some kind of event introduction yourself as the new monarch.”
“Our main priority is to find Celestia. Which is why I need to speak with the guards.”
“We can’t postpone your royal duties any longer. The Canterlot Games have already delayed a lot of the princess’s chores. It’s an important day today. Ponies have come far and wide to have an audition with the ruling princess and we can’t postpone that any longer.”
“Yes we can. We will have to postpone the auditions until the princess returns.”
“You can’t do that.”
Twilight was confused. “What are you talking about? Isn’t this a public audition? Where regular ponies from all over Equestria present a case to the monarch who then has to make a decision based on the case and the law? I have heard of lots of ponies who have had their cases postponed for various reasons.”
“You’ll have to hear about the cases before you can postpone them. You can’t just postpone the auditions before hearing about the case, but you can postpone the cases individually.”
“So you’re saying that I’ll have to sit on the throne and hear about a bunch of ponies’ problems for no good reason while Celestia is still missing?”
“That’s the law, I’m sorry.”
“It is ridicules. Anyway, I have something else I want you to do.”
“And that is?”
“Because I’m not introducing myself publicly, I want you to spread the word that Equestria does have a leader, me, and that the government is doing everything it can to seek out Celestia who will be put back on the throne as soon as she is recovered. There must be a rumor going on that she wasn’t appearing at the closing ceremony. A lot of ponies might be wondering what’s going on.”
“Already taken care of.”
“Really? That was fast. So do all of Equestria know that they have a new leader?”
“Well, not Equestria. Canterlot is aware of the change.”
Randy was walking fast, and Twilight had to run a little to catch up. “I’m the ruler of all of Equestria. All of Equestria should know about the change.”
“My professional opinion is that we keep Celestia’s disappearance at a low profile for now. There is no reason to upset too many ponies.”
“Canterlot is not the only place that needs a ruler.”
Randy was giggling, looking down at Twilight through his gold framed glasses. “You are so young, Twilight.”
Twilight frowned. She didn’t say anything. She knew that she would have to trust Randy’s judgments. He was Celestia’s assistant, after all, and had way more experience than Twilight.
A meeting with the workers of Canterlot Castle was held. It was not a long one. The things that were discussed were simple and tedious, almost pointless. Twilight had no idea what effort it took to make Canterlot look the way it did. There were at least fifty gardeners, even more kitchen workers, and other ponies, who despite their jobs tried to appear as formal as the royal ponies based on their attitude. Twilight’s obligation was to organize their work for the week, but she had Randy to do that for her. The discussion naturally landed on the absence of Celestia. The ponies looked worried, but Randy reassured them that Celestia would be back with them soon and that everything was going to go back to normal. His soothing voice and confident manner even made Twilight optimistic, even though she knew that it was only a play for the gallery. However, she wished that she had the courage to say those things instead of Randy. An old kitchen pony raised her hoof and asked: “What about the sun?” Her voice was quiet, yet demanding. The other ponies looked at Randy with interest, but it was Twilight who managed to answer.
“Princess Celestia told me that she had used a spell that makes the sun and the moon rise by themselves prior to the Canterlot Games. Although, I don’t know how long the spell will last …”
After the meeting Randy was walking close to Twilight, whispering: “I didn’t know Celestia told you she used a spell.”
“I didn’t remember …”
“Never mind. In the future I would like to know everything the princess told you.”
The time came much too quickly when Twilight had to attend the public audition. She hadn't have time to prepare, but Randy was once again by her side. Twilight was sitting in the awfully big throne in the most royal position she could manage. “I know this is an extraordinary situation. When the ponies present their case, simply postpone it and say ‘next’. I understand that you’re not capable of making a fair judgment because of your lack of experience.”
Twilight was thankful that Randy was so comforting, but she felt like he was talking down to her. Sometimes he could be very blunt.
The first pony walked through the double-doors. It was a pink mare with a blue mane, who looked very confused when she saw Twilight in the seat. Twilight glared at Randy for a second and introduced herself as Celestia’s substitute, not mentioning the fact that no one had any idea where Celestia was.
The pink pony bowed and began a speech which sounded like something she had been preparing for in weeks: “Your highness. I represent the ponies of the small village Ponystad, and I’m very pleased and thankful that you’ll take your time to hear and try to solve our problem. There is a bit of confusion as to who will inherit the vast land that was owned by the late pony Blackmane. He didn’t have any known family members and he never wrote a will. The mayor thinks it should be a public area, but other ponies argue that it would benefit the whole community if the land was to be split between the farms surrounding it. Some of the ponies of Ponystad claim to be in family with the Blackmane, but no pony has any evidence regarding their statement. Who should inherit the land? Please help us solve this dilemma quickly. I fear it’s tearing our small town apart. Ponies who were friends before are now enemies. There is a constant feeling of mistrust and uncertainty everywhere in our village. Help us simply ponies to come to an agreement. Thank you.” The pony bowed once more.
Twilight hesitated. All she wanted to do was to help this innocent pink pony, but the dilemma was as a big of a conundrum to her as it probably was to the ponies of Ponystad. What did the law say in this kind of situation? Did it say anything? A public space would be the fairest solution, but why not use the land and split it? In that case, should the farms get evenly enough land or how would that work? What about those ponies who claim to be related to Blackmane? She glanced at Randy and sighed quietly. “Case postponed. Next case.”
The pink pony looked surprised and whispered: “But …” Twilight didn’t want to look at her.
One of the two guards by the doors spoke. “The princess has made up her mind. Please leave the Throne Hall.”
The pony left reluctantly and in came another pony. Once again Twilight heard a dilemma to which she could only reply: “Case postponed. Next case.” As the ponies came and went, Twilight made an effort to look interested, but she was tired and didn’t hear half of what the ponies was saying. “Case postponed. Next case.” It became a mantra to her. The visiting ponies would have figured out by now that they would all get their cases postponed, yet they kept on coming. One pony addressed the fact that Twilight intentionally postponed every case without thinking of a solution, which resulted in the pony being led to the exit by a guard. However, the pony was right. Twilight was not only a bad leader within the castle anymore; now everybody would know how terrible a princess she was.
Crushed and tired Twilight called in the last pony. She didn’t take any notice of the pony at first until he presented his problem: He had a disagreement with one of his neighbors who claimed she owned half of the pony’s property through some distance ancestors. The mayor of the town couldn’t solve the problem, so they went to Canterlot for an audition with the princess. Although, the neighbor didn’t want to attend an audition, yet still claimed the property. At that moment, Twilight lit up. “If this neighbor of yours doesn’t want to solve the disagreement by appearing in Canterlot, the property can’t rightfully be hers.” She paused and added, “It says so in the law.” A few days ago Twilight had begun to read the biggest book she had ever seen, which was entitled “Equestrian Law”. In it, it said that a problem between two direct oppositions has to be represented by both sides or else there cannot be made any changes suggested by any of the oppositions. “If your neighbor decides to visit Canterlot with you, we can discuss the problem. As of now, the property belongs to you.”
The pony was smiling and thanking Twilight. To her surprise Randy was grinning. “Good call,” he said. Twilight was relived. Though she knew she hadn’t made a groundbreaking decree – actually she hadn't make any change at all – she did make some kind of royal judgment. It filled her with excitement and a rush of joy. She almost wanted to do it again.

How Celestia ever could have handled this job while still staying in contact with Twilight and probably many other ponies, Twilight couldn’t imagine. At the end of the day, she was so tired that she was walking dizzily while getting ready for bed. It had been the busiest day of her life. She hadn’t even have time to notice that the sun had gone down. Since Celestia’s disappearance, Twilight had been looking a lot at the sun. Her eyes were fixed on the horizon, where the sun hopefully was going to rise tomorrow.
“What are you doing by the window?”
She gasped, turned around and faced Shining Armor. She hadn’t heard her brother entering the room. “What are you doing here? What do you want?”
“Wow. What a way to greet your staff. That’s not very majestically.”
“I’m sorry. I’m very tired.” Twilight was walking to her bed secretly hoping that her brother would leave her alone.
Shining Armor looked around the room. “Where is Spike by the way?”
“I don’t know.”
“How long has it been since you have talked to your friends? They are still in the castle, just so you know.”
“Will you get off my back? If you don’t have anything important to tell me, you should just leave. I have to get up early tomorrow. I have a very important job, if you haven’t noticed.”
“I have noticed. That is why I wanted to speak with you. I heard about your auditions.”
“So?” Twilight was pretending not to care.
“Randy told me it went well. For a newbie.” There was a pause until her brother continued. “Though, somepony might find it odd that a princess would postpone almost all of the cases presented to her. Like she was planning to postpone the whole thing from the start. Like she wasn’t prepared for the job.”
“It’s because I’m not prepared for the job, okay? Isn’t that obvious? I know it, you know it, Randy knows. Soon, all of Equestria knows. I’m no ruler. I’m not a princess…”
“Then why is there a princess’ crown on your head?”
Twilight looked up. She had forgotten that she was still wearing it. She used her levitation magic to remove the crown.
“Look, I don’t think Equestria actually knows that you are the ruler, so how could they think you are a bad princess?”
“It was Randy’s idea.”
“To keep a low profile on the fact that Celestia is missing. It would upset too many ponies, he says.”
“And what do you think about that?”
Twilight closed her eyes and frowned. “I think it’s an awful idea! We need to find Celestia before the time runs out. I have tried explaining it to Randy, but he will not listen. I think he’s more interested in making Canterlot look good than to do the hard work and find Celestia as quickly as possible.” Twilight sighed and tried to calm herself down. “But he was Celestia’s assistant. He knows best. He has the experience that I don’t.”
“But is he the ruler of the country?”
“No, but why isn’t he? I might seriously consider giving up my position to Randy. He knows how all of this – how Canterlot works.”
“He does. But Randy is a technocrat. He can determine how well the country is doing by looking at a budget. His vision stops at the walls of Canterlot. He is not a leader.”
“But neither am I.”
“Listen.” Shining Armor walked closer to Twilight. “Celestia chose you. Not Randy. She believed in you.”
“You don’t understand why Celestia chose me.” Twilight was getting anxious. She hated that she had to discuss these things with her brother. “It was all political. She believed that I someday would grow up to be a good leader. The idea of appointing me as the successor now was to allow my reputation to spread so that a shift in throne would be less painful. It was all in order to relieve the ponies, who were uncomfortable with Luna as successor.”
“Hey.” Her brother was walking even closer to Twilight, holding one hoof under her chin. “If Celestia had even slightly doubted your abilities to rule the country from this point in your life, she would never have asked you to be her successor. She is the most careful pony I know regarding the safety and well-being of Equestria. Changing the monarchy was a serious decision for her to make, and I hope you can take responsibility for your decision about signing the agreement. Can you?”
Twilight nodded.
“Then don’t talk about giving your position away. Celestia wouldn’t want that. And I know you wouldn’t want Randy in control anyway.”
Twilight was snorting. She looked up in her brother’s eyes and smiled. Suddenly her face grew dark. “What do you think happened to her?” She felt like a child asking this.
“I don’t know,” answered her brother. But then he was grinning. “Do you remember the time I tried to remove a splinter from your hoof when you were six?”
Twilight frowned. “Yeah … You were practicing your magic and instead of getting it out, you pressed it even further in.”
Shining Armor was laughing. “It was serious, though. The doctors considered the possibility of amputation a part of your leg because of the infection. But do you know why you weren’t scared that time?”
“Because I was young, innocent and didn’t know about fear?”
“No. Because I was there, supporting you and comforting you.”
Twilight didn’t know what to say. When her brother left, she wished that she didn’t have to sleep alone.

In the east tower of Canterlot Castle the strategy room was located. The room was fairly empty. It only contained a table on which a detailed map of Canterlot was carved in the wood. A giant map of all Equestria was tapestried on the entire wall opposite the door. Twilight’s face was red. She was in a heated debate with the present ponies. “As long as we don’t do something, we are never going to find her.”
“We are doing something, Miss Sparkle. We have an excellent rescue team looking for her every hour of the day. From the moment the sun comes up, ‘till it goes down in the evening.” A unicorn was representing a branch of the Royal Guards, which Twilight couldn’t remember. Shining Armor was there as well as a few other guards. Randy was present, of course. They were a small group of ponies, yet they were responsible for the security of the nation.
“We are not doing enough. Pretending like nothing is wrong is not going to bring Celestia back.” Twilight had never felt so angry before.
Randy was stepping towards Twilight. He was probably twice as tall as her. “This is not the time to experiment with some childish plan. Rest assured that we are handling the situation in the most proper manner thinkable. It is a delicate balance of not having too many guards away from the castle and still providing a reasonable search unite to recover Celestia.”
“A reasonable search unite? Is that what you call it? It has been a week already, and they haven’t found anything. It’s no use having a small group of ponies looking for her. We either do it properly or we don’t do it at all. But you would like that, wouldn’t you, Randy? If it was up to you, all of Canterlot’s guards would only have to protect the city. I think that all you care about is that the royal tea party that is Canterlot Castle doesn’t lose any of its prestige by admitting that we have a serious problem …”
“Enough!” Randy was yelling so loud that the silence that followed felt thick and endless in comparison. “I will not have my authority threaded by a school-pony.”
“What about my authority? I am the ruler of Equestria.”
Randy couldn’t argue against that. All he could do was scowl. The other ponies were observing the situation with interest. “Look. You got to understand that expanding the search unite with that many guards is insane. Canterlot has never been that low in number of guards in hundreds of years, if what you’re suggesting becomes a reality. If a crisis emerges...”
“A crisis?” Now it was Twilight’s turn to raise her voice. “The most powerful pony in Equestria is missing. The only known pony in the country, who has the ability to control the sun, is missing. If we’re not in a crisis already, then I don’t know what you’d call it.” Randy opened his mouth, but Twilight cut him off. “This is not a discussion anymore. This is an order. I want every forest, every cave, every village thoroughly searched for any signs of the princess. I want every pegasus guard and half the unicorn guards searching for Celestia. The pegasi are excellent for scouting vast areas from above and the unicorns can search at night and in caves and dark forests with their magic. Make sure to spread the word. Make everypony take one – no, two hours each day out of their schedule to look for Celestia in their surrounding areas. Say it’s the ruling princess’ order. “
“You can’t be serious.”
“We need to find Celestia as quickly as possible. Time is running out. That is the hard truth we must face. As your princess I’m ordering to do as I say.” Twilight was talking to the guards. Adrenaline was rushing through her body and she felt accomplished, proud and very powerful knowing that these ponies had to do whatever she told them. The thought didn’t make her more humble as it probably should have. If anything it made her more confident. It provided a feeling of achievement like getting a good grade, only a thousand times better.
“I hope you realize what you’re doing,” Randy said.

It was a terrific and beautiful sight that the ponies of Canterlot met when they looked up in the sky that evening. The pegasus guards were flying away from the castle in formation. When they were a few hundred meters away, they split up and flew in their own direction away from each other. Like rings in a pond. They would have to spread the word about Celestia’s disappearance to all corners of Equestria and notify them that the current ruler had ordered the ponies to look for Celestia. There was nothing else Twilight could do now except waiting. Randy hadn’t said anything to Twilight after the meeting, and she was happy with that. She was wearing a sense of victory. A victory not only over Randy, but over herself. Over the part of herself that told her that she was too green to ever make an independent decision.
She had allowed herself to take the night off and was going to use the opportunity to speak with her friends again. She missed them and was looking forward to seeing them. It had been so long. The sun was setting, and her reflection in the window was orange. She could see her friends entering the room behind her.
“Every time I look at the sunset, I get really nervous. And scared. But when it rises in the morning I’m filled with hope. I know Celestia is still out there and that she isn’t … that she is alive. I have always taken the movement of the sun and the moon for granted. You never know how much you care for something – or someone – until you lose it.”
Twilight didn’t get a response from her friends. She turned away from the window and looked at them. They were all there. All of her six pony friends and Spike. They hadn’t left Canterlot, even though they probably had a lot of things to take care of in Ponyville. Twilight knew that they were still here because they wanted to give their support. But when she looked at them, none of her friends made eye contact. Some were looking down at the floor; others were panning across the room. She wasn’t greeted with a single smile.
“Are you okay?” Twilight asked carefully.
“Um. Yeah. We’re fine. Thank you.” Applejack didn’t lie often, but when she did, it was very noticeable.
“Come on. Tell me. What is with you?” When Twilight walked towards them, they slowly backed a few inches away from her while lowering their heads. Twilight had observed this movement before, and she knew that it was the same movement they made when they were in company with Celestia. Her Ponyville friends weren’t used to be near the princess like Twilight was. “You don’t need to act like that. It’s just me. Twilight.” She was getting a bit irritated. “How is the new Daring Doo-book, Rainbow? Is it any good?”
“Oh, yeah. It’s quite recommendable,” Rainbow Dash mumbled.
“Quite recommendable?” Twilight frowned. “Fluttershy, I haven’t spoken to you for a while. How was the Canterlot Games? What did you see?”
Fluttershy hid beneath her hair and said “It was fine,” in a paper-thin voice. She hadn’t been this shy around Twilight since the first time they met.
This was not what Twilight had expecting at all. “You can all stop acting so strange. I haven’t changed just because I’m a princess.”
To Twilight’s surprise Spike said: “We know. It’s just that … we are not used to see you with that crown on your head.”
Twilight could fell her blood staring to boil, but then she got an idea. She placed her princess crown on Spike’s head using her magic. If the crown was too big for Twilight’s head, it was ridiculously large for Spike. It rested on his nose, covering his eyes. She laughed, but the only reaction she got from her friends was slight grins. Except for Pinkie Pie who was laughing hysterically. Twilight scowled while examining the ponies before her. “Why can’t you talk to me because I’m a princess? What is wrong with you? Are you afraid that I’m going to call the guards if you say something I don’t like?”
“No, Twilight, it’s not that …” Rarity was starting to talk, but Twilight interrupted her.
“Then what is it? Tell me.”
“We are mighty proud of you becoming a princess and all …” Applejack was talking to the carpet while Twilight glanced at her. “But it’s just really hard for us, now that you’re … this.”
That did it. The last drop of Twilight’s patience had been evaporated by her growing anger. “You have had it hard? Do you know what I’ve been up to the last week? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve been trying to run a country. Do you know how hard that is? Of course you don’t! You have no clue how to run a country. And neither do I! Which only makes it that much harder. And how could I know anything about it? I wasn’t prepared for this kind of task. Celestia didn’t warn me. She didn’t teach me. She just trusted me. Believed in me. What can I do with that? Nothing! She just vanishes and leaves me with all the trouble.”
“It’s alright, Twilight. We are here for you,” Rarity said.
“It’s not alright. Your support is as empty as Celestia’s trust. There is no way you can make this job easier for me.”
“Come on Twilight … We are sorry. We are still your friends.” It was an uncharacteristic statement from Rainbow Dash, but Twilight only turned away from her friends and faced the chimney.
“You should be heading back to Ponyville, where you belong. You’re of no use here.”
“We are not leaving,” Rarity said.
Twilight sighed. “I know you all have things to do in Ponyville. Rarity, You don’t have a replacement for the boutique. Applebuck season is just around the corner, Applejack. You need to go home and prepare. The weather patrol can’t handle things without you, Rainbow Dash. It is fall soon, and they need all the wing power they can get to summon a storm strong enough to knock off all the leaves on the trees. Fluttershy, you animals depend on you. All of your friends are in Ponyville, Pinkie. You must be bored to death here. And Spike, I need someone to run the library. Why don’t we all take care of our own business? Just go, I’ll be fine.”
Rarity was talking again. “But you’re obviously not fine. We can see that.”
“Why won’t you understand? I don’t need you. Go home and leave me alone.” Twilight sat on the floor, waiting for her friends to leave. The fire was warming her head uncomfortably, but she didn’t want to move.
There was a dense silence until Applejack said: “Come on, y’all. We better get going.”
“What?” Rarity and Rainbow Dash erupted at the same time.
“We ain’t gonna convince her. Give her some time to cool down.”
“But we can’t go back to Ponyville now,” Rarity said.
“We have to. We can come back at another time.”
Twilight could hear her friends leaving her room. When she turned around she saw Rainbow Dash, wings flapping and front legs crossed. She was frowning. “Leave, Rainbow. I can do fine on my own.” Rainbow didn’t leave. “I’m your princess. You have to do as I say,” Twilight said jokingly, but Rainbow just stared at her. Eventually she turned around and flew slowly out the door.

The next morning Twilight woke up in a cold bed. The weather had gotten colder the last couple of days and the effect could even be felt in the princess’ bedroom. She had had trouble sleeping that night, and her head was aching. But she had to get up early. As always she had a tight schedule. The first part of her daily routine was to look out the window and confirm that the sun was there.
As always she met Randy in the hall. Apparently the only private room you have as a princess is your bedroom. Randy looked as sullen as Twilight felt. They walked in silence, but thankfully a guard soon broke the tension by rushing towards them. Twilight was nearly going to reprimand him for running in the royal chambers, but something in his expression changed her mind. “Urgent news from the scouts, your majesty …”
“It can wait until the meeting,” Randy said even though the guard was addressing Twilight.
Twilight’s heart skipped a beat. Maybe they had found Celestia. “What is it?”
“A group of UFNPs is coming this way. We fear they may be attempting to attack the city.” UFNP stood for Unauthorized Flying Non-Pony.
“Who are they?” Randy asked.
“Dragons, your majesty. There are over a hundred of them at least. They have been spotted just beyond the mountains at dawn.”
“The mountains? You mean … The Canterlot Mountains?” Twilight got dizzy. An enemy was attacking the city. And she was in charge. Why? Why did this happen now? Of all the worst possible times this could happen, it had to be right when Celestia wasn’t there. “Why hasn’t this been reported earlier?”
“We have had a shortage of scouts lately. It means we can’t give information to the castle as quickly.”
Suddenly a realization was igniting within Twilight. The truth was choking her and she couldn’t speak. The hall wouldn’t stop spinning. Randy had a similar look of realization in his eyes, only he didn’t look as terrified. Scouts had been one of the top on Twilight’s list over which guards was going to expand the search unite. Now the shortage of guards had directly endangered Canterlot. The fact that enemies were attacking Canterlot now was no coincident either. They had probably heard that Celestia was missing because of Twilight’s order to spread the word. A group of dragons would never have dared to attack Canterlot directly if Celestia was in charge. Now that she was gone, they took their change and were going to strike. Twilight felt embarrassed. She wanted to leave the city forever. She wanted to leave Equestria. A mistake like this would never be forgiving in a lifetime. She felt smaller than ever.
Randy was already analyzing the situation. “Even though the dragons are fairly close by, they have to choose between flying through the mist of the mountains, which is extra dense in the morning, or in the clouds above them. I think they are going with the latter, but in either case they have to slow down to avoid flying into the mountains themselves. Still, we need to hurry. We have to gather the remaining guards and think of a strategy…”
“I’m resigning,” Twilight said. She didn’t want to look the other two ponies in the eyes. Her own eyes were filling with tears, and admitting that she was crying would erase the last smidgen of pride she had left. She would be known throughout the history of Equestria as the worst princess ever, whose childish attempt to locate her teacher bought Canterlot in danger … assuming that Canterlot wouldn’t be totally annihilated after this day. “You were right. It was foolish of me to make that many guards leave Canterlot. I’m sorry. I’m stepping down from the throne. You can take over, Randy.”
There was a pause. When Randy started speaking again, his voice sounded differently. It was more deterministic than Twilight had ever heard. “You can’t quit now. Your people need you. It’s unacceptable for you to step down now, since you’ve bought us into this mess.”
“I don’t care about pride. That ship has sailed. We both know that you’ll make a much better leader than me. And Equestria needs a good leader now more than ever.”
“Even so…” Randy put a hoof under Twilight’s chin and she looked into Randy’s eyes. “I have no idea why Celestia choose you to be her successor. To me you don’t seem to be a princess in the slightest. You act like you know a lot, but that only proves how delusional you are. Nevertheless, I know that Celestia made you her successor for a very special reason. She believes there is something within you, and that means that I do too. She believes you contain something powerful. We need to get that out. And there is no better time than right now. Trust me, I have been dreaming about being the ruler since I was a foul, but let’s not speculate which meaningless title belongs to who. So, what do you say?” Randy’s blue eyes were somewhat reassuring. “Let’s forget about our positions for a moment and work together, shall we?”
Twilight was blinking rapidly. She was still fighting back the tears.
“It would be a lot easier, if you weren’t so stubborn,” Randy said.
“I’m stubborn?” Twilight frowned. “Who has repeatedly been ignoring direct orders from me?”
“It’s hard to follow orders from somepony, who looks like she’s about to enter middle school.”
The two ponies looked angrily at each other. Then Randy smiled. Twilight smiled as well. It felt like ages since she had used those muscles. “Let’s round up the guards,” Twilight said.
The guard was ordered to call all of the guards to an emergency meeting with Twilight and Randy in the Entrance Hall. Randy and Twilight were trotting there now. “What is really strange about this is that dragons historically haven’t attacked ponies. They usually don’t care about us and they tend to stay away from us, much like we like to be separate from the dragons. Ponies and dragons don’t know a lot about each other, and they have never minded each other’s businesses. So why are they attacking us now? At least, I believe it is an attack. The migration is not this time of year and dragons don’t travel in large groups other than that. What do we have that the dragons want? Hmm … Dragons eat gems. They’re lots of gems to be found in the mountain on which Canterlot is build. Not to mention the treasure chambers in the castle, of course. But do dragons know we have those chambers? It’s odd. They must not be working alone. Who else do we know that like gems?”
Twilight was thinking. “The Diamond Dogs?”
“It’s possible. The Dogs do have a grudge against Canterlot and ponies in general. They are not too bright either. That might explain why they are travelling through the morning mist. They didn’t realize that we have scout beyond those mountains, so they are probably expecting to launch a surprise attack once they exit the mist. But the road is ruff and it gives us more time than if they had been travelling through open land.”
“Are there really that many gems in Canterlot? To suffice more than one hundred dragons and the Diamond Dogs?”
“The Dogs may have been exaggerating in order to get the dragons to join their mission. But that is to no one’s advantage.”
Twilight thought about the option of summering the Elements of Harmony. However, the carriers of the Elements were on their way to Ponyville, and there was no way to contact them and get them back to Canterlot in time for the attack. Plus she might bring her friends in danger. If everything were to go completely wrong, Twilight decided that she somehow would have to bring the Elements to Ponyville and stop the dragons and the Dogs before they could destroy Canterlot completely. It was a sketchy plan, but it was the only one she had.
“How do we protect the city? I can ask my brother to perform his protection spell.”
Randy was considering the possibility. “Perhaps. But I have another idea. Remember, Shining Armor’s spell does not only keep physical objects and living beings away, but also magic. That means we can’t attack the dragons once the shield is up, and the dragons would probably break it within seconds anyway. I’m thinking we do something else. The dragons’ eyesight is not very good. We can tell the guards to shoot concentrated light beams at them in order for the dragons to be disoriented and crash. Any other spell the guards know is mostly ineffective against dragons.”
“That’s a good plan.” Twilight nodded approvingly, wondering why Randy knew so much about dragons. She had noticed that Spike had trouble reading. Was that because his eyesight was not as good as hers?
When the princess and her assistance reached the Entrance Hall they already had a plan, which Randy explained to the guards. Twilight was baffled over the number of guards. She knew that she had ordered many guards to leave Canterlot, but now that a more substantial crisis than Celestia’s disappearance was circling above their heads, the lack of guards was a frighteningly present obstacle. Canterlot would be easy to overtake. Twilight was afraid that the royal guards would judge her, and she hid herself from their looks in a very non-princess-like manner while Randy did the talking.
Then a lot of things happened. The city needed to be evacuated and the citizens notified. Twilight could only imagine the horror that the ponies of Canterlot soon would experience. The combatting guards would be positioned on the walls surrounding the city and in Canterlot’s crowd jewel: the castle. The guards were rushing but knew what they were doing and where they were going. Randy had to inform the other ponies in the government and lead them down to the emergency bunker beneath the castle. Twilight was about to follow the group of combaters, but got hold back by two guards.
“We need to protect you, your majesty.”
“But…” Twilight was going to demand them to step aside, but she saw her brother in the corner of her eye. “Shining Armor!” He turned around. “I need to go with you.”
Her brother was looking at Twilight with the same kind of seriousness as he did the night Twilight was crowned. “You can’t. You are the most important pony in the city. You need the best protection.”
Twilight moved away from the two guards, who were standing awfully close to her. “It’s not fair. I have to protect the city. My city.” She lowered her head. “It was me, who brought it in trouble in the first place.”
“I know, but …” Shining Armor signed. “That doesn’t change the fact that you’re the one that needs the most protection. And you’re not qualified to fight.”
Twilight ignored the last sentence. “The dragons and the Dogs probably don’t even know I’m a princess.”
“They might receive that information somehow. And we can’t just gamble on the possibility that they don’t know. Trust me, sis. My special talent is defending. Listen to me.” Twilight didn’t seem satisfied so Shining Armor continued. “When the ruler of the country falls by the hands of the enemy, the guards know that the battle is lost. It’s like chess. The pawns will have to be played out first while the other pieces protect the king. The dragons will go after you if they get the change. And I won’t imagine what they will do if they catch you …”
“So I’m the king? Who is the queen, then?”
Shining Armor turned around before saying: “A chess-player can’t rely on the queen alone.”

Twilight wished that she had some windows and that she wasn’t below ground-level. Then she would be able to see out on the battlefield. She couldn’t hear anything. She was expecting the battle to rage somewhere outside, but instead there was only silence, which was somehow worse. The dark room she was in was containing only one door, which was locked. A few hours had passed since it was unlocked. Twilight was sweating. The room was claustrophobic. When she first heard about the dragons, she imagined herself on the battlefield, fighting for her country. Now she was locked in a room, which didn’t seem that unfamiliar with a dungeon, only hoping that the door wouldn’t burst open followed by a Diamond Dog or a dragon staring at her. She was trapped with her thoughts and the two guards, who didn’t say anything. She couldn’t figure out if it was a part of their job not to talk, or if they had that royal averseness towards Twilight that she was getting sick of. “You know, I really need to be out there. To fight for Equestria and all that.” No response. Twilight gave up. She wanted to leave. Technically she could escape. The castle wasn’t swirling with guards like usual so she could make it outside without being seen. She knew what Shining Armor would say, though, if he saw her. She gave that up too. With nothing else to do she started thinking of Celestia. Would she ever see her again? Maybe she should write a letter, or perhaps engrave something. The castle might be burned before noon. What would she say to Celestia? First of all, she would definitely apologize. For being an awful princess and for not living up to Celestia’s expectation. Then, she would tell her that she missed her. Twilight was sobbing quietly. God, she missed Celestia so much. She had never talked to anyone about exactly how much she was craving for Celestia to come back and fix everything like she always did.
She wished Celestia was there to support Twilight, to reassure her. To tell her that everything was fine and that Twilight had done a good job. Neither of those things was going to come true, though. Twilight had let Celestia down. She had been angry with Celestia, because she had disappeared, but now she realized it wasn’t Celestia’s fault that Twilight was such a dreadful ruler. It was Twilight who had signed the paper. It was Twilight who had been leading the country.
Into a disaster.
Even if Celestia would come back and even if the dragons and Dogs were defeated, Twilight would always be a failure. That thought was enough to make something within Twilight snap. Suddenly she no longer cared whether Celestia would return. She no longer cared what dangers were lurking outside, and she no longer cared, what her brother thought. She knew what to do. It was about time she lived up to her promise to Celestia. It was about time she acted on her own.
Twilight began walking towards the door. The two guards looked at each other. “Your highness, where are you going?”
“I need some fresh air.”
Twilight teleported out the room. It took her a few second to locate the way to the surface, but eventually she spotted the staircase. The two guards had teleported as well and were just behind her. Twilight ran up the stairs, but when the guards were closing in she had to teleport once more. She always got a headache when she teleported great distances, but this time she didn’t notice it. Twilight knew that two or three guards would be guarding the entrance to the castle, so she didn’t want to escape that way. She was standing on the balcony outside the Throne Hall, overlooking the entire city. When she looked up at the sky she could do nothing else but gasp. As wide as her vision would allow it, Twilight saw dozens upon dozens of what appeared to be giant black bats, flapping their wings. They were like dark stars on the white morning sky. More and more black dots were materializing in the background, where the dragons were exiting the mist from the mountains. The unicorn guards were already firing laser beams from the walls and from the towers of the castle. They needed to fire the beams directly into the dragons’ eyes to make it work. Unfortunately, even though there were plenty of dragons, it was a difficult task, since they would have to hit a very small target. If the pegasus guards were here, they could have created a tornado or a hurricane, making it tough for the dragons to fly. Twilight was responsible for each black dot on the sky, and this sadistic portrait of her poor leadership was an awful thing to observe, but she didn’t regret coming here. She had decided that she didn’t want to be remembered as a timid, childish ruler.
The dragons had bad vision. They needed to come close in order for them to spot Twilight. She waited. The city was remarkably empty. There was always some activity going on, but today nobody could be seen in the streets of Canterlot. All of the citizens were probably huddling together inside their houses, likely feeling as isolated and scared as Twilight did right now. A laser beam hit a dragon and it fell. Another beam hit one more dragon, who crashed into a companion. However, there were still many dragons to go, and they kept coming closer. The guards would never succeed. Twilight squinted and saw a silhouetted figure on top of a dragon. The Dogs were actually riding on the dragons’ backs. The heist would not be cheap for the Dogs.
After a few minutes Twilight prepared herself. Shining Armor was going to put up his protection spell once the dragons were too close to the city, which meant that Twilight would have to run within the gap between the dragons being close enough to see her, but not so close that her brother would perform his spell.
Without further consideration, Twilight teleported to the ground. Maybe it was because she had teleported too much that day that she didn’t came as far as she wanted to. She was standing just outside the castle. A guard in front of the entrance yelled. “Princess! What are you doing here?”
Twilight ran.
The guards were faster than her, but she had a head start. Twilight was running through the inner-city of Canterlot. Pass the shops that now stood empty. She spotted the bookstore where she had bought her first book. She saw the ally where Shining Armor and she had hid from some guards that her brother had irritated. She ran faster and faster. She had never been running so fast in her life and she was out of breath, yet she still kept going. She could see light within the houses and that gave her an idea. Whilst running she concentrated. Her horn was glowing. Sweat was pouring down her face, her lungs were on fire. She wanted to scream because of the pain, but she succeeded. The crown on Twilight’s head was glowing in a bright purple light. It was like a small sparkling purple star on the top of her head. She hoped the dragons could see it. Rushing through the main street, the guards were following Twilight. They had caught up to her, but they did not stop her. Doors were opening and ponies stuck their heads out their houses. Some of the ponies joined the gallop. They were running just behind their princess whose crown illuminated the streets of Canterlot. The dragons were close now, but not unaware of the development. Twilight was approaching the drawbridge that led the only way out of Canterlot. Because of the circumstances, the bridge was up. “Lower the bridge!” Twilight’s lungs didn’t have the capacity to shout loud enough for anyone to hear her. She didn’t think. She aimed her horn and shot a straight, powerful beam of energy at the wall above the drawbridge where the bridge’s chains were located. Surrounded by a cloud of dust, pieces of the wall fell into the water and onto the bridge. The bridge was falling and landed with a bump on the other side of the moat that could not be seen because of the dust. Without having time to be impressed by herself, Twilight was galloping out of Canterlot. She didn’t stop running. The road was turning right and led to the train station, but Twilight ran straight ahead. The dragons were very close now. She could hear their wings flapping. Some of them were roaring. When she felt she was far enough away from Canterlot, Twilight stopped. She was surprised over the group of ponies who had been following her. Not only the guards, but regular unicorns, earth ponies and pegasi alike were stamping on the ground, grunting at the continuingly growing group of dragons that were circling just above them. The Diamond Dogs sat on the dragon’s backs with nothing else than a single robe around the dragons’ necks. The dragons were breathing fire, but the ponies didn’t move. The citizens of Canterlot were trying to protect their city – and their princess it seemed as a handful of the regular ponies were clustering around Twilight.
Twilight smiled and could fell herself grow more powerful. “Get out of here! This city represents the heart of everypony in Equestria! It is not yours to take!” She shouted with all her might. A dragon saw this as an invitation to attack, and Twilight shot another beam of light at it.
Then something extraordinary started happening. Just above the group of ponies, where Twilight had shot her magic, a spark of light appeared. It expanded and grew bigger and brighter. The dragon hesitated and its eyes were as fixating on the light as the ponies were. Incredible warmth was emerging from the light. It was unpleasant to look directly at it. Bigger and bigger it grew until it was larger than the dragon. It was like a second sun had appeared just above their heads. Slowly Twilight’s eyes began adjusting to the brightness. She could see a silhouette with the small sun. It looked like a pegasus pony. It familiar featured wings were definitely noticeable and it had the body of a pony. However, its wings and body were larger than those of a normal pony. The light from the sun got a bit dimmer before the sun exploded in a cloud of light. All you could see was brightness. Then gradually the light died out. Twilight’s eyes now had to adjust to there being no bright light at all, and when that happened she understood why all the ponies around her were cheering. Twilight was looking at her mentor, who was flapping her wings above the crowd with a small smile on the face. The dragons were fleeing fast. They escaped quicker than they had arrived. The crown that had been on Twilight’s head minutes before was now resting on Celestia’s head.

Even though the time had barely passed eleven o’clock, there was party in the streets of Canterlot. The horror of the morning’s event had just now really been realized by the citizens and after that quickly came the relived that Canterlot had not been harmed. The only two ponies who did not participate were Twilight and Celestia. Twilight had a lot of memories connected to the Throne Hall, and they were hard to forget seeing as the murals on the walls always reminded her of the past. Today a new mural had appeared. It pictured Celestia surrounded by beams of light and a background of a light yellow color while small dragons were flying off at the edges of the mural. Celestia had literally fought off an entire hoard of dragons and Diamond Dogs simply by her present. Hopefully future generations would focus on this event and not Twilight’s bad leadership, which was the catalyst of the attack.
Celestia was looking out the window like the day of the opening ceremony of the Canterlot Games, where Twilight had received the most dilemmatic question of her life. “It’s nice with a vacation now and again,” Celestia said.
Twilight sat on the floor. Her head was spinning with confusion. “Where did you go?”
“I decided it was about time I visited my sister. We had a lot of things to discuss.”
Twilight didn’t say anything. She was just sitting on the floor, staring at nothing.
Celestia turned towards her. “Come on. I bet you’re interested in something else than my traveling arrangements.”
“I don’t understand. Why did you do this?”
Celestia grinned. “You already know the answer to that.”
“No, why did you do this?” Twilight got up. “I understand that you wanted to teach me a lesson, but why would you do this to me? Not only did you put me through so must misery, you also put Equestria in danger.”
“I believe it was you, who put Equestria in danger, Twilight.”
“When a princess leaves her position, she can expect reaction from her enemies.”
“And you learned that the hard way. Besides, I never fully left Equestria.”
Twilight scowled suspiciously. “You just said you were with your sister.”
“I was. But I had an information source in Canterlot.”
“Who? Randy?”
“No. Shining Armor has kept me updated ever since you took over the throne.”
She didn’t want to believe it. This entire time Twilight’s own brother knew where Celestia was, and he had even made contact with her. “So, not only you, but my brother lied to me.”
“I know it’s hard for you to take in right now. But it was necessary. I needed to know how things were going in the castle. That way I managed to step in at the right time to safe Canterlot.”
“But that doesn’t make sense.” Twilight was thinking. “I was with Shining Armor after the report came in about the dragons until he was out in the battlefield. How did he have time to write you a letter after he learned about the attack?” Twilight looked at Celestia. “You knew there was going to be an attack beforehand, didn’t you?”
Celestia nodded. “Your decision about sending more than half the unicorn guards and all the pegasus guards to find me was more than enough reason for me to schedule an early return to Canterlot.”
“You were gone. None of us had any idea where you were. And we needed to find you fast.”
“There is no doubt that your loyalty towards me is strong, Twilight, but Canterlot was ridiculously outnumbered in the battle against the dragons.”
“You control the sun and the moon. We needed you back.”
“Luna can control the moon. My absence would only result in a very long nighttime. Not something to risk the lives of your citizens over.”
Twilight was silence. The conversation reminded her of an evaluation over a bad test she had done. Something she had normally only experienced in her nightmares. But the conditions surrounding this test felt nothing like schoolwork. She was angry with her teacher. Not because she accused her of not preparing her to pass the test, but because she had to take a test like this in the first place. She knew now that she wasn’t ready to be the ruler, and Celestia must have known as well. “You’re treating this whole situation like it is some kind of exam and then expect me to participate. You and Shining Armor both. You’re lying to me because of some greater purpose. But what purpose? To train me to become the ruler? Well, I think we both know that I would make a terrible monarch. I’m not some child whose future you or my brother can just decide.”
Twilight tried her fullest not to shout. She only showed a minimum sign of emotions, even though she was bursting with them on the inside. She didn’t want to seem like a child after she had just say that she wasn’t one.
“I’ve never tried to decide your future, Twilight,” Celestia said with an emotionless face. “Need I remind you that it was you who signed the form that made you my successor in this very room?”
“I know, but …” Twilight turned away. She would have to be honest if she wanted Celestia to be as well. “I only did it because you believed I could do it.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
“But it’s still your fault!” Twilight could no longer control herself. “You said that nothing was going to happen to you, that you were going to prepare me, so that I maybe someday in the future would be able to take over the throne.”
“And you just assumed that nothing was going to happen to me?”
“But …” Twilight was fighting back the tears. “Did you believe I could do it?”
Celestia signed. “It doesn’t matter what I believe or believed. When you are the ruling princess, there is nopony who is above you. There is nopony, whom you can turn to when facing difficulties. Everypony thinks that you have all the answers, but the truth is that nopony is perfect. You just have to seem perfect in order to ease your subjects, while you’re the only one who is fully aware of the fact that the country is fragile, and you are the only one standing in the way of war. Once you know that, there is nopony who can provide comfort. Not even your friends. Or your teacher. They cannot support you. The only thing you can do is believe in yourself and somehow cling on to that. It is your only support. You are your only support.”
Twilight was stunned. She stared at Celestia who had the same royal look on her face as always, but her words didn’t match her expression. She never realized that her teacher had a fragile side, and Twilight wondered why she had gone to the moon. To try and reunite Luna with the throne in Equestria? Because Celestia was lonely? Twilight felt bad for having shouted at her.
"The days leader up to the Canterlot Games, you were unable to visit me. Do you know why?"
"Yes. You were writing the contract that would make me your successor."
"No, that contract had been written long before that. The Council had given their approval. But I was stil debatting with myself whether I should ask you to be my successor or not. I never doubted that you would say yes. I just hoped that you would say yes for the right reasons."
“What reasons?”
“Do you know why ponies choose to become rulers? Some do it to satisfy their own need for power. Others because of pride. But the purest form of leadership is obligation. The ponies who don’t want to be leaders, ironically, make the best leaders. The ones who only see it as a duty and a sacrifice cannot be corrupted or mad with power. You need to hate the job to be good at it. You said yes because of obligation. But not as an obligation towards your country or the ponies in it. You did it to please me. That is why I wanted to show you what it's like being the ruler without having me around. Without doing the job because I tell you to, but because you tell yourself that you must do it. I hope you understand what I mean. All this leads us to the unanswered question.” Twilight knew what Celestia was going to say. “Do you still want to be my successor?”
Twilight did not need time to think. “No. I don’t want to. You and I both know what a terrible princess I was.”
“I don’t think you were a terrible princess.”
Twilight was confused. “You said it was my fault that Canterlot was attacked.”
“I also said that nopony is perfect.”
“But the citizens… they must hate me.”
“Why would they? You tried to sacrifice yourself in order to protect the city. It was a deed that didn’t go unnoticed. Didn’t you see the numbers of ponies who followed their princess as she attempted to lure the dragons away from the city? It is obvious that they trust you, which is far more important than making the correct judgment.”
“Even so, I still don’t want to be your successor.”
Celestia nodded. “Very well. Just remember that there is always a place for you in the castle if you’re interested. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to lie down. The atmosphere on the moon is very different from the one in Equestria. The change in pressure can be very exhausting.” Celestia was walking towards the door behind the throne.
“Wait a minute.” There was something that had been bugging Twilight ever since Celestia had returned. “There is something I don’t understand.”
Celestia turned her head towards Twilight. “Yes?”
“Well, it’s really the whole thing I don’t understand. I mean, why would you be interested in teaching me about being the monarch in the first place? Although, it’s not so much the fact that you’d teach me about it that I don’t understand. It’s the way you taught me. Why all the secrets and deceptions? Never mind, I understand that. What I don’t understand is … well, you have lived for more than a thousand years and I don’t expect to live that long. Then it’s not even slightly possible that I’m going to outlive you. So why waste so much time in trying to make me a good ruler when you’re going to rule the country anyway, even after I’m not here? Why would you risk so much? I mean, no matter what you say, you pretty much put all of Equestria in danger to teach me a lesson – an important on, though. But not really a necessary one, seeing as you’ll go back to be the ruling princess now. Do you see my point? Why did you arrange this rehearsal for a play that is not likely to be performed? The only logical explanation I can think of is that it’s not unlikely that I one day will have to rule the country, but we both know that it is pretty unlikely, since you’ll always be here to rule Equestria. Right?”
Twilight had been talking without taking time to breathe, and she was panting. Celestia just looked at her with the same emotionless expression as before. “I’m very tired, Twilight.” She opened the door with her magic.
“Princess Celestia … wait.” Twilight was astonished over the princess’ reaction. Her teacher was about to leave the room. “You do see my point, right?” Celestia didn’t answer. “Right?”
The door closed.
Twilight was left in the Throne Hall, confused as always.

Author's Note:

Do you write "The End" at the end? It's pretty obvious that the story is over, but what if people are expecting more if I don't tell them that this is the end?

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