• Published 12th Jan 2012
  • 2,766 Views, 35 Comments

Silent Knight - Brony 2-Ma-Ro



Interdimensional Travelers, Equicidal Robots, Whistling. Your typical Wednsday in Ponyville

  • ...
5
 35
 2,766

Chapter 1: Luna's Night Show

Chapter 1: Luna's Night Show

by: Brony 2-Ma-Ro

“Alright, let's get started. Scrolls?”

“Check.”

“Quill?”

“Check.”

“Ink?”

“Check.”

Twilight Sparkle nodded silently. So far, so good. She scraped the pencil once more, keeping the point sharp, she glanced up as spike held up the corresponding items from the list. Once again putting pencil to parchment, she spoke. "Camera?”

“Check.”

“Blanket?”

“Check.”

“Picnic-basket?”

“Check.”

“Food.”

*Burp.*

Twilight gave the young dragon a sidelong look.

“Uhhhh… mostly check.”

“Spike…”

“Okay, okay, I’ll make another sandwich. Sheesh!” Twilight’s purple assistant grumbled, shuffling into the kitchen off the main room. “It was gonna be mine anyway.”

Twilight Sparkle called after him, a note of concern in her voice. “You’re not getting grabby again, are you?”

Before the door had even closed, Spike came trundling back in with a veritable mountain of turquoise-and-topaz-sandwiches. Twilight could only give him a bemused look as he shoved the pile into the basket. "You already had those made, didn't you?"

“Mmmaaaaaybe,”

“Uh-huh," Twilight glanced once more at the list. "Oh, don’t forget the telescope!”

Spike snapped his claws. “Right, got it. Meet you outside!”

“Thanks,” said Twilight. After adjusting the straps of her saddlebag once more, she picked up the basket. Giving the door a light tap, walked out into Ponyville's central square. The sun was only just beginning to set, but she could already see some stars peeking out from the east. Luna must be really excited, she thought. She’s usually able to keep them in check.

Despite the fact that the day was nearing its end, Ponyville was surprisingly busy. All through the town square, ponies were moving back and forth, closing market stalls, pulling wagons. There was still at least another hour till it began, but the tension in the air was palpable. She glanced behind her, the basket in her mouth swinging against her shoulder.

“Shpike! You almosht ready?”

“I’m coming!” Spike came trotting out the door, a large blue book under one arm, tripod beneath the other, with the telescope carefully balanced between his paws. Carefully maneuvering the delicate piece of equipment, he used his tail to pull the door shut. Twilight smiled. Spike kept denying it, but he’d grown nearly six inches in the past twelve months. She set down the basket.

“Wow, Spike. Last year, you could barely reach the handle with your tail. Now you’re working it like an expert.” She shifted, allowing Spike better access to the telescope’s harness along her left flank. As he worked the straps, he swelled with pride.

“Yeah, well, it’s all how you shift your spine.” He looked up at her with a sudden hopefulness. “Do you think Rarity will notice?” He clambered onto her back. While he had grown somewhat in length, his weight hadn’t changed all that much.

Twilight looked at him over her shoulder, a spark glinting in her eyes. “Actually, she’s the one who pointed it out to me.”

This wasn’t a complete lie. Rarity, the resident fashion designer and seamstress, had actually called on Twilight to ask that she bring Spike over for a new measuring, as the tuxedo she’d made him for the Grand Galloping Gala was too short on the arms and legs. Regardless, the words had the expected effect on Spike: A lovesick sigh, followed by his slumping weight as he swooned romantically.

Twilight groaned. “Alright, prince charming. You’re not THAT heavy, but I’m still carrying the supplies. Either you walk, or I’m ditching the sandwiches.”

There was an immediate scurry as Spike plopped down next to her, a cute pout upon his mouth. Twilight relented. “Don’t worry, after the show, when everyone’s eaten, you can ride home. Promise.” Making final adjustments on her saddlebags, she noticed the book he'd set in the second one. It took only a moment to recognize the blue-bound spine. "Spike? Is that the..."

"The Astronomical Astronomer's Almanac to all things Astronomy? Yeah, I figured you might need that." Spike put on his proudest grin, which rapidly degenerated to a blush under the confounded look his sister was giving him. "Uh... I kinda memorized it after the incident with Owloysius. I mean it meant a lot to you and I was a pretty big jerk and you didn't get a chance to use it then so I thought I could try making it up to you but it was only second edition so I tried looking around to see if there were any places that-"

His ramble was abruptly cut off by the tight vice of a hug only an older sister can give. Not loosening her grip, Twilight spoke gently into his ear. "Spike, your are the sweetest. I promise to make it up to you."

As they separated, Twilight couldn't help but notice a look of concern on the dragon's face. “What is it?”

“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just remembering when Luna came to the Nightmare Night celebration last year.” They began to make their way across the square. “You think she’ll be okay?”

Twilight nodded. “I know what you mean. But so long as she doesn’t use her Royal Canterlot Voice too much, I think we’ll be pretty good. Everypony warmed up to her pretty quick after Nightmare Night.” She gave him a gentle nudge. “And, the next one is only a few days away. What are you going as this time?”

Spike thought it over. “Hmmmm… Probably a dragon.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Weren’t you that last year?”

“No, I was a dinosaur. Totally different!”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Right. Big, scaly, toothy reptile-esque costume. Completely different.”

Spike laughed “And I thought you were the smart one! Dragons aren’t cold blooded.”

Twilight joined in. “Haha! Still, no reason you couldn’t be both.”

Spike raised an eyebrow. “Howya figure?”

Twilight chuckled. “You could be dressed as a dinosaur in a dragon costume!”

“Oh, very funny!” He gave her a friendly shove, minding the telescope. They both snickered. “One thing’s for sure, though.”

Twilight cocked her head to one side. “What’s that?”

Spike covered his mouth to keep from laughing. “I won’t be going as a clown.”

Both librarian and assistant fell into hysterics, remembering the mayor’s costume from the previous year. As if the rainbow wig, bowtie and nose weren’t enough, she’d tried to be scary as well. They were both still in giggling fits as Sweet Apple Acres came into view over the hill, and Twilight was wiping tears from her eyes by the time they arrived at the entrance to the property. By now the sun had almost set, the last rays shining through the Apple Family emblem, carved through the wooden plaque hanging on the overgrown arch. Applejack was waiting for them at the covered gateway, a long line of ponies moving past as she greeted them. Looking up, she saw Twilight and Spike coming along the path.

“Howdy yal-Owoof! Watchit, Mac!” She glared after Big Macintosh pulling a cart full of cheering foals. She gave him a fierce glare.

"Sorry Sis," came the sheepish reply. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Bell, and Scootaloo were all perched on the back, waving their hooves at the ponies lagging behind. Applejack rolled her eyes.

“Hmph! Sometimes, Ah think his hooves are gettin too big for his horseshoes.” She turned back to Twilight, dropping her voice to a whisper. “So, ya really think this’ll work?”

Twilight looked to the sky, begging for patience. “Not you too! Yes, I’m certain tonight will be great. Luna’s much better, now that she’s not so concerned about Nightmare Night. I've even exchange letters with her through Celestia every-so-often. She’s nervous, but I think this should be great for everypony.”

“What’ll be great for everypony?” Several boings later, a pink mare with an even pinker basket of cupcakes (which were also pink) landed next to Twilight, giving her a questioning look.

“Pinkie, didn’t you get my invitation?”

“Uh-huh!”

There was a moment’s pause. Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Aaaand, did you read it?”

“Yup! It said be here before sundown today, and bring snacks.”

Twilight sighed. “Pinky, tonight is going to be Luna’s first attempt to really open up to all of Equestria. The Night Show will be seen everywhere. We’re just setting up here because there’s a nice clear view of the sky in the orchard. That’s why the Apple family was kind enough to lend it to all of Ponyville for tonight.”

Applejack nodded in agreement. “Yup! Harvest’s over, all the apples been bucked, so there’s no need to worry ‘bout any no good apple-swipers.” She glanced at Spike, doing his best to look innocuous as he snagged a pair of apples from a nearby barrel. She smiled knowingly. “Well, most of them, anyhow.”

“So that’s why we came all the way here?” Rainbow Dash flew directly over them, ruffling their manes with a gust of air, and nearly blowing Applejack’s hat right off her head. “I thought we were here so the show’d be less boring by comparison to your dumb ol’ orchard...”

She promptly stopped herself mid-sentance. Applejack gave her a barely-contained glare. "You wanna finish that sentance, pardner?"

Rainbow Dash raised both front hooves up in submission. “Sorry! That sounded a lot funnier in my head." She looked twiddled her forehooves nervously. "Luna's great, and I love it here too!"

"That's what Ah thought you were gonna say," Applejack deftly flicked Rainbow's wing with her tail, causing the pegasus to quickly correct herself. The two glared at one-another, but it rapidly devolved to snickering when they couldn't hold it any longer.

"Anyway, sorry about that," said Rainbow, stifling a yawn. "I was just annoyed I had to zip over here after my nap.”

“Good heavens! A nap? At six-thirty in the afternoon?” Rarity came along the path, her sun-parasol perched on her back. “Honestly, Rainbow, I don’t know how you aren’t up all night!” She gave the hovering pegasus a disapproving glare. “I hardly think it can be healthy.”

“It’s easy!” Dash landed on the grass next to them. “I just sleep at night too!”

“Oh, good. I think that sleeping is very important.”

Twilight jumped. Fluttershy had been standing almost directly next to her. She hadn’t even heard the yellow pegasus approach. Actually, everyone jumped. Fluttershy immediately dipped her head, dropping her voice even lower.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Too loud?”

Chuckling, Applejack put a friendly hoof around Fluttershy’s shoulders. “Not tah worry, sugarcube. You’re just fine.”

The tension broken, the six friends, minus Applejack, who was finishing up greetings, entered the orchard. Rows upon rows of apple trees stood, already harvested. Ponies had set up a veritable patchwork of blankets over the landscape. Twilight furrowed her brow.

“Uh-oh. I hope we can find a spot. Maybe we should have left earlier?”

“Way ahead of you.” Dash pointed to the tallest hill in the orchard, with only one tree at its top. At its base, just bordering the roots, a deep blue blanket had been spread out. “Came here early to set up. Found the perfect spot.”

Rarity beamed at the her. “My dear Rainbow, how thoughtful!”

The blue mare sheepishly rubbed the back of her head with a hoof. “Nnnnnot exactly…”

She looked around at the odd stares the others were giving her.

“Well, where do you think I took my nap?”

---

“Who wants CUPCAKES?!”

Twilight laughed. “Sorry Pinkie, but if I eat anything else, I’ll probably explode.”

“I won’t!” Spike swiped the pastry from Pinkie’s outstretched hoof, eliciting a chuckle from Twilight.

The six friends and Spike were all situated at the top of the hill. Twilight had joined her blanket with Rainbow’s and Applejack’s. Everypony had pooled all the supplies they had brought, creating a simple picnic dinner. Altogether, they had Twilight’s sandwiches, Applejack's apples (and applefritters, apple tarts, and an apple pie), plus some spring rolls that Fluttershy had made, and Pinkie’s cupcakes for desert. Rainbow had brought a few carrots, and Rarity, somewhat embarrassed, explained that she didn’t quite have the “knack” for cooking. (Twilight guessed, however, that this was code for "Sweetie Belle used up all the groceries trying to cook.")

Regardless, everypony was in high spirits as they watched the sun dissappeear over the horizon, bringing night rapidly in its wake. Twilight had set up her telescope, allowing her friends (as well as some neighboring ponies) to view the stars and moon close up.

“This is wicked cool!” Dash called from her vantage behind the viewfinder. "Pulling pranks with this is fine and all, but this takes the cake!"

“It’s true, darling. I had no idea that stars looked even better up close!”

All but Rainbow were lying on their backs, watching the night sky. All around her, other ponies had set up their own blankets. Families on a night out, young lovers on dates—Twilight thought she even saw an elderly couple under a tree some ways back towards the entrance. Young foals cavorted around, often having to be reined in by flustered parents. Now that the hour was getting late, the hubbub and chatting had quieted down. Crickets could be heard, calling crii... crii... crii... to the silence. Frogs called to one another, their conversation little inhibited by the night. Twilight sighed peacefully, looking up at the stars. Tonight’s sky was absolutely serene, Twilight thought, and the show hadn’t even started! This was going to be good.

Still munching on the cupcake, Spike watched the sky as well, eyes flicking back and forth impatiently for any sign of something new or different. “So, Twilight," he said, swallowing a mouthfull of cupcake. "When is the show supposed to start? Will the Princesses make an announcement, or something?”

Twilight smiled. “No, Spike. They’re back at Canterlot, making the preparations. Luna will orchestrate everything from the castle.”

Spike tossed the remaining cupcake into his mouth. “Okay, fine, but that still doesn’t answer when…”

There was a sudden hush, as everypony in the orchard looked up.

One by one, shooting stars had begun zipping across the sky. Random at first, all moving southeast, but then they began to occur more frequently, and with distinct patterns appearing as some began shifting direction. No star lasted for more than a second or two, but with several stars strung together in sequence, it appeared to be a single star zigzagging across the sky. Twilight marveled at Princess Luna’s ingenuity.

“Well Ah’ll be plum puddin. That there’s what I call a show.” Applejack's voice was barely above a whisper.

“This is so much better than fireworks. They’re not loud at all.” Fluttershy’s quiet voice was no less distinct against the silence of the night.

Twilight looked around her. She was surrounded by the best friends a mare could have. When she had first come here to Ponyville, she couldn’t have cared less about making friends, more concerned about stopping Nightmare Moon from returning. Now, here she was, sitting in a field with the best mares in the world, watching a dazzling performance put on by the very pony they had set out to stop… Twilight wondered. Her time here in Ponyville had flown by, yet it seemed as if she had been here her whole life. She felt spike nuzzle warmly against her side.

A hushed chorus of “Ooohhs” and “Aaahs” sounded across the fields, as the dancing streaks of light were joined by colorful curtains of neon red and green, rippling silently across the sky.

“Good heavens,” exclaimed Rarity. “What on earth are those?”

Twilight whispered out of the side of her mouth. “It’s called the Aurora Borealis. I’ve never seen them around here, though. They usually appear farther north. Actually, they’re better known as the ‘Northern Lights.’”

Dash was still working the telescope. “But what causes them? Magic?”

Twilight cocked her head to one side. “I'm not actually sure, but I do know it actually has something to do with the sun.”

Pinkie Pie turned to Twilight, an incredulous look on her pink features. “The sun!?” Everypony nearby shushed her. In as loud a whisper as she could manage, she said, “What does the sun have to do with night?”

Twilight shrugged. “From what Princess Celestia has told me, the sun creates something called solar radiation, which then deflects off the earth's electromagnetic field. The when the two interact, the result is exactly what you see here."

"So..." Rainbow said after a moment. "Magic?"

Twilight sighed, though unable to contain a chuckle. "Magic."

She looked up again, as some of the shooting stars crisscrossed with the aurora, causing it to dance and sway like a curtain caught in a draft. More sounds of appreciation emanated from across the orchard. Fluttershy leaned over, so as not to disturb anyone with talking.

“Everypony looks so happy. I’m glad Luna decided to do this, and I think it’s really nice of Celestia to help her little sister with this amazing show.”

“Why thank you, Fluttershy.”

All present turned at the voice. Fluttershy gave a small “meep,” nearly fainting on the spot. Just within the shadow of the tree, Princess Luna lay comfortably at its base, her ethereal mans swaying some nonexistent breeze. Before anyone could bow, Luna held up a hoof gave them all a heartwarming smile.

“Please, no need to prostrate thyselves. Er... bow, that is.” She fiddled with the words. "I merely wished for a better view, to see if my work has held up to my expectations."

Twilight, still shaken by the surprise appearance, looked around. It seemed that nopony but themselves had noticed the Princess’ arrival. Looking back, she saw Luna, Luna examining one of Pinkie's cupcakes with intense interest. She glanced up.

"May I?"

All present laughed softly, as, for perhaps the first time in her life, Pinkie Pie was left speechless. She dumbly proffered the cupcake in question to the Princess of the Night, who gratefully accepted.

The silent show above was reaching a stunning finale. The aurora borealis was coalescing into the recognizable shape of the crest of Equestria; the two alicorn sisters, circling the sun and moon. The pattern overlapped the real moon itself, adding an edge of mysticism. Stars highlighted each sister; golden orange for Celestia, and a light, shimmering blue for Luna.

Just as the pattern began to dissipate, Twilight noticed an odd glow along the ground. Turning to look, she saw a single, magenta star, soaring above the treetops of the Everfree. As the star traveled, there was a sudden flash, as a cavalcade of comets zipped around, illuminating the area even more, and the aurora flared brighter than ever, adding a fitting exclamation point to the end of the performance.

Twilight only saw some of this. While other ponies watched the rest of the show, her eyes were fixed upon the odd-comet-out. Its trajectory set it behind the audience, so she only saw it when turning her head. Gracefully, it glided over the forest, traveling slower than any star before.

And then it stopped.

Twilight rubbed her eyes in confusion. Shooting stars didn’t stop! Yet there it was, hanging in the sky. Twilight was in awe at how Luna must have arranged this. This couldn’t have been anything less than phenomenal! Sitting there, gleaming in the night sky, slowly drifting… down?

There was no mistaking it. The star was no longer crossing the sky, but plummeting to earth at a frighteningly steep angle. Stifling her panic, she took a surreptitious glance at her friends. All around her, ponies were staring at the finale of stars and the aurora. Behind her, however, she saw Luna fixated upon the falling speck.

Her face bore no expression, Before Twilight could look away, or so much as conjure up some excuse, the Princess of the night gave her head a very small, very slight shake.

Not now, it said. Please, do not ask now.

Twilight looked back at the star. It was nearing the horizon. She expected it to vanish behind the mountain range, but it persisted, traveling between her and the massive mounds of stone in the distance. Twilight shuddered, realizing just how close the mystery…thing, was. About half-way between the peak of the tallest mountain and the ground, it suddenly leveled out, traveling almost parallel to the ground. Then, it finally vanished behind the tree line of the Everfree Forest. A moment later, there was a slight flash.

Then, nothing.

---

The show was over. Everypony was chatting about the spectacular show, but not one person mentioned the mystery star. She glanced back at the Princesses. They were both getting up, stretching their limbs. Celestia gave her student and her friends a warm smile.

“I am afraid we must be off before we’re noticed. Heaven knows, it’d be frightfully awkward being caught in an apple orchard in the dead of night.”

Applejack gave a quick nod, resisting the urge to bow. “Thank you kindly for visiting our humble abode, yer Highness.” She turned to Luna. “And thank you for that dazzling hum-dinger of a performance.”

Luna blushed beneath her midnight-blue coat, smiling with pride.

“Yeah, that was totally awesome!”

“Simply divine, darling!”

“I can’t WAIT to see what you’re gonna do next time! Ooh ooh! Maybe a… no, that’s not it… what’s the word…?”

Save Spike, who had drifted off to dreamland about halfway through the show, Twilight’s friends all bid their farewells. Twilight did the same, embracing both Princesses. As she broke away from Luna, she heard her whisper softly in her ear.

“Later.”

Twilight didn’t know if she meant that as farewell, or if she was proposing to explain the star, but she smiled anyway. Her horn softly glowing, Luna closed her eyes, using her powers of the night to silently send herself and her sister away without any fuss. Despite the cool night air, Applejack wiped the sweat from her brow.

“Whoo! Ah’m telling you, Twilight, that teacher of yours is one heckuva gal!”

Twilight gave her friend her best impression of a sultry look. Applejack blushed, giving Twilight a friendly hit to the shoulder with a front hoof. “You know what I mean, smartypony.”

Shoving her concern down as deep down as it would go, Twilight smiled. “She sure is something. So, did everypony have fun?”

Spike gave a raucous snore. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie both bit their lips to keep from laughing. Rarity spoke up. “It was fantastic, darling. I must say that Princess Luna has really outdone herself.” She looked around. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of her doing it next year?”

“Maybe,” said Rainbow Dash. “I’m just wondering what that shooting star was all about.”

Twilight stiffened. “Which shooting star?”

Rainbow Dash gave her a look. “Gee, I dunno… Which one do you think I’m talking about, egghead?”

There was a long pause, broken only by the snores of the slumbering Spike.

Fluttershy looked over at Dash. “So, you saw it too? I thought it might be my imagination.”

Rainbow shook her head. “No way! I had that thing clear in my sights with this!” She gave the telescope a gentle swat, spinning it on its axis. “There’s no way that thing was a star, or meteor, or anything!”

Pinkie nodded. “And whatever that pinkish glowy thing was, it landed right in the Everfree Forest!”

“Sure did. Ah saw it too.” Applejack looked around. Then, a slow smile played across her face. “So, who’s comin with?”

Rainbow Dash was by her side in a second. “Count me in! Pinkie?”

The pink party pony bounced up and down in agreement, drawing stares from other ponies leaving the orchard. “Absitively, posolutely! Rarity?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” the white unicorn answered. “Though I do wish I’d brought some proper traveling attire. What about you, Twilight?”

The lavender librarian nodded ascent. “I’m definitely coming. Who knows?”

They all turned to Fluttershy. The yellow pegasus was pawing the ground nervously. “Well, um, you see, I guess, well…”

Twilight caught on. “Actually, Fluttershy, do you think you could do me a favor?”

Fluttershy looked up.

“Spike needs to get home, and it’s well past his bedtime. Do you think you could please take him back to the library for me?”

Fluttershy leaped up in relief. “Oh yes! I’d be happy to. Poor Spikey, he must be so tired. I’ll put him right to bed.”
As carefully as a mother cat with her kitten, Fluttershy took one of Spikes spines in her mouth, near the base of his neck. He snuffled in his sleep, curling into a ball on Fluttershy’s back, and began gnawing on the spade of his tale.

Applejack chuckled. “He may have grown summat, but he sure is the darn cutest little mite Ah’ve ever laid eyes on.”

Fluttershy nodded, speaking to Twilight. “Don’t you worry, I’ll have him straight home in no time.”

The shy pony spread her wings, taking off with delicate precision. Twilight looked around, suddenly realizing that much of their supplies, and her telescope, still needed packing.

“Oh dear, I don’t think it’d be a good idea to take food with us into a monster-infested forest. Should we meet later, after we get all our stuff home?”

Applejack shook her head. “Naw, Ah’ll have one of the farm hooves keep an eye on it. It should all be here for y’all when we get back.” She turned to the group, her cocky smile returned.

“Now, then: Who’s up fer some adventure?”

---

As always, the Everfree Forest was dark, scary, and, as Twilight had pointed out, monster-infested.

The difference now, however, was that it was absolutely silent. No wind, no crickets, no frogs; no nighttime noises at all.

Somehow, Twilight felt that this just made it all the more foreboding.

Next to her, Rarity shivered. All the ponies were keeping an eye out for anything that might view them as a potential meal. Twilight’s horn glowed faintly as she used a simple claivoyance spell; a complex illusion, which allowed the user to see the life force of those around her. Other than the odd rodent or bird, which glowed a faint pink, and her friends, ranging from gold-red to deep blue, there was nothing of note within her line of sight.

“Jeez! I feel like I’m walking through a graveyard,” Rainbow Dash said, her hushed voice barely audible to the others.

“Oh don’t even say that!” Rarity shivered again, sweeping her head quickly back and forth.

Twilight was gazing at the sky. “Let’s see… Whatever that thing was, it crossed Alnilam of Orion’s belt about… half an hour ago. And from the zenith and latitude from Sweet Apple Acres, that should put it…” she counted under her breath, swinging her head a little ways to the right. “…about that direction.”

Applejack looked in the direction that Twilight had indicated, concern written all over her features. “You sure it was that way? Looked further east to me.”

They reached a clearing in the trees. All five of them stopped dead in their tracks. Twilight swallowed, hard. Directly in front of them, a large swathe had been cut through the forest. Starting with only the tops of the trees some distance to their right, and progressing to ground level just in front of them, it appeared as if a massive flaming blade had swept downward, cutting through the trees and scarring the earth. Entire trees had been knocked over, torn through, or simply weren’t there anymore. Charred and blackened, they lay on the forest floor, smoke still rising from the smoldering detritus. There was neither fire nor embers to speak of, but as Twilight passed her hoof near one of the pieces of charcoal, she immediately withdrew from the heat. To their left was a progressively deepening trench of scorched earth, about fifty-feet across at its widest from what they could see. The entire area was covered in a mix of smoke and mist, limiting their vision, and causing Twilight to cough. Her eyes remained fixed on the carnage, the path of destruction left by whatever that thing had been.

“Yes, Applejack. I’m pretty certain we’re close.

Beyond the mist, and at what she presumed to be the far end of the trench, lights were moving about, and she could faintly make out ponies’ voices. Rainbow Dash squinted, trying to see past the blanket of moisture and ash. “What the hay is anypony doing out here?”

Twilight looked back at the wrecked trees. “Probably the same as us: searching for whatever caused all… this.”

“But who would be out at such a dreadful hour?”

There was a sudden commotion, and several lights winked on and off. Panicked voices sounded through the mist.

“Did you see that?”

“Where’d he go?”

“Someone get in the air and track it!”

“What in the name of…. WHAT ARE THOSE?!”

The friends froze in terror as something shifted in the undergrowth, moving too quickly to be seen. According to Twilight's spell, whatever it was, it was fast, and was only within range of her spell long enough for her to know it was there. Then, it was gone.

But that was only half the terror.

Twilight was immediately overcome by a dull pain, rooted at the base of her horn. A trio of red, glowing lights had materialized in front of the group. The three red, glaring orbs seemed to stare at them with burning malice. They were arranged in the shape of an inverted obtuse triangle, but bright as they were, it was difficult to see them properly. A harsh white light bathed all of them, flitting and flickering. Through the ache in her skull, Twilight's spell made one thing perfectly clear.

Whatever this thing was, it wasn’t alive.

Then, as suddenly as it had come, it left. Taking the headache with it, the red lights shot skyward in unison accompanied by a strange, moaning whir, and a powerful gust of wind that nearly knocked Twilight off her hooves. Still dazzled, she did her best to regain her bearings with her eyes screwed shut. A commanding, male voice called from the side.

“Halt! Stay where you are! By order of Princess Celestia, you will not move.”

Twilight complied, and could tell from the lack of movement around her that her friends had as well. Opening her eyes, she finally got a good view of her captors.

The Canterlot Royal Guard!

About a dozen of the gold-armored ponies surrounded them, all wielding spears. All of which were pointed at them.

“What’s going on here?”

Celestia, the Princess of the Sun herself, stepped into the light of the moon.

The leader answered her with a bow. “Your highness, we caught these five lurking in the shadows. One of those… things flew right from where they’re standing!”

The Princess looked at Twilight and her friends. Not with anger, but with disappointment, perhaps even sadness.

Somehow, this only hurt Twilight more.

“Captain Tip, have your men stand down. These are the Elements of Harmony.”

Before the Captain had even begun to give the hasty countermand, half the spears had already been lowered. Captain Spear Tip, one of Celestia’s finest commanders, immediately made apologies both to the Princess, and to them. Twilight knew him as a friend of her brother, Shining Armor, and she had little doubt he would have an awkward tale to tell him when he returned from his honeymoon. Celestia, however, seemed too preoccupied to pay much attention.

“Thank you, Captain. Please leave us, for a moment.”

Captain Tip hesitated. “Your majesty…?”

“Now, Captain.”

The guard blanched visibly. “Yes of course!" He turned to the assembled guards. "Back to the site! Quick-march!”

The Royal Guard made their way back the way they had come. Now only Celestia remained. She stared at the five, her face remaining as trained and expressionless as any ruler’s should when in the presence of their subjects. Twilight self-consciously pawed the ground. When Celestia spoke, it was with slow, measured steps. As if to ensure that she let nothing slip.

“Applejack. Pinkamina Pie. Rarity. Rainbow Dash. Twilight Sparkle. Why did you come here tonight?”

Dash was the first to speak up. “We saw that thing in the forest!”

“That… ‘Thing?’”

“That weird pinkish purpley thing that fell out of the sky. We all saw it and thought it would be cool… to… come… see… it…” Pinkie’s voice faltered, and then died under the stern glare of the Princess.

Twilight stepped forward. “We just wanted to know what it could be, your Majesty. As the Elements of Harmony, it was our duty to find out if it was a threat to Ponyville. Or even Equestria!”

Celestia’s voice remained level. “It is not your duty to act as protectors.”

Surprisingly, Twilight felt a small surge of rebellion welling in her chest. She quelled it. Mostly. “With all due respect, your Highness, it kind of is. It would be irresponsible of us not to come.”

Princess Celestia gave them all a very long, very hard look. Then, resigning to the fact that their curiosity wasn’t going to up and leave, she sighed heavily. Staring at the ground, she spoke, barely above a whisper. “Twilight. Do you trust me?”

Twilight was taken aback by the question. “Of course I trust you, I—”

The Princess raised her eyes to Twilight's, pleading. “Then please. Please. Forget what you saw tonight. I know you have a lot of questions, but I cannot answer them. Not now…”

The five friends were dumbstruck. None of them had ever seen Celestia in this state. Now it was Rarity who spoke up. “But, your majesty-“

“…please.”

After a long, hushed silence, Twilight stepped forwards, placing a gentle hoof on her mentor’s cheek. “I promise.” She looked back at her friends. “We all do.” Her friends nodded in consent. Twilight turned back to Celestia. “But YOU have to promise that you’ll tell us. Not now, not tomorrow, but you can’t keep this secret forever. Even with Luna’s show, I’m certain there’s more than a few ponies who saw that thing. And they’re going to have the same questions we do.”

Celestia touched Twilight’s hoof with her own, a small smile creeping across her sad features. “It’s a deal, Twilight Sparkle.”

She stood up to her full height, but her features remained soft. “I can have one of the guards escort you out, if you wish.”

Applejack shook her head.

“That won’t be necessary. Uh, your Majesty,” she hastened.

Celestia smiled. “Very well. You have a pleasant evening, and a good night.”

With that, she turned, and made her sedate way back where the thing must have landed. Twilight wasn’t certain, but it seemed that Celestia was making absolutely sure they weren’t going to follow her.

Left alone amongst the scorched trees, the five friends looked at one another. Confusion was written all over each and every pony’s face.

“Sooo, we goin’ or what,” said Rainbow Dash.

Applejack gave her a look. “Of course we’re leaving.”

“No, I meant are we going to see what that thing was.”

“Rainbow,” Twilight admonished, “We promised we wouldn’t.”

“No, you promised. I never said anything.” The multi-chromatic mare spread her wings with intent to fly, but Rarity put her hoof down. Directly on Rainbows tail. There was a “Whoof!” as the air rushed from Rainbow’s lungs when she hit the ground. The pegasus glared at the fashionista. "Rarity! It's bad enough Applejack does that!"

“I’m sorry Rainbow, but we simply can’t break this promise. The Princess said she’d tell us when we needed to know.”

“But I-“

Pinkie glared at her with her big blue eyes. “Do you remember what I say, Rainbow? ‘Breaking a promise…’”

“‘… is the fastest way to lose a friend. Forever!’ I know, I know.” Rainbow gave a dejected sigh, getting to her feet.

“But she doesn’t have to know if we-“

“Rainbow!”

She winced at the onslaught of rebuttals.

“All right! Jeez!” she said, wiggling a hoof in her ear.

---

The walk back to the Apple family property was decidedly subdued. On the way, they swung by Fluttershy’s house to say goodnight. The yellow pegasus assured Twilight that Spike was back at the library, safe and sound, if a little grumpy at having missed the ending of the show.

At the orchard, everyone gathered their things, which, as Applejack had promised, were right where they’d left them. They said goodbye to the orange cowfilly, then made their way to town.

Next, Rainbow Dash, retired to her cloud-house.

Then Rarity, returned to her boutique.

And finally Pinkie Pie, who gave a rather subdued farewell to Twilight, as she made her way back to Sugarcube Corner.

She wasn’t even bouncing.

That left Twilight to make her way to the library, alone with her thoughts.

What was that thing in the sky? What about the lights that had ‘stared’ at her and her friends? What was it the guards had been chasing after?

And why was Princess Celestia so concerned about keeping it a secret?

She let out a sigh. At this point, the most she could do was read up on astronomical phenomenon; perhaps there was something obvious she had overlooked in her studies.

Twilight Sparkle, Librarian of Ponyville, and the Element of Magic…

…completely powerless against the unknown.

She gave her head a swift shake. The Princess knew what she was doing, and she had promised to tell her when the time was right. She would trust her judgment.

Maybe some late night book shelving will help clear my head, she thought, opening the door to the still lit library.

As if in response to her inner voice, she found the library a veritable mess. Perhaps a fourth of the books were off their shelves, piled onto the various tables. Twilight heard a munching noise from behind one of the piles. Though irritated, she couldn’t help but laugh at her assistant’s panache for midnight snacks. Actually, she supposed it was similar to her own liking for re-shelving.

She set the picnicking supplies down by the door, then made her way to the pile.
“Spike, it’s late. You really should be in…”

She came full circle around the pile of books.

“…bed?”

The figure sitting behind the books, reading from one and munching on an apple… was definitely NOT Spike.

It wasn’t even a pony...

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!