• Published 20th Jan 2012
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Broken Silence - Shadow Horizons



Twilight finds herself the unwilling target of a small group of ponies mere weeks before the resigning of the peace treaty between nations.

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An Urgent Meeting with the Princess

Chapter One: An Urgent Meeting with the Princess

It didn’t matter that she had walked through the Great Doors into Canterlot Castle countless times over the past few years. It didn’t matter that the warm glow of the eternal fires burning in their braziers that reflected off of the black and white checkered flooring and golden accents of the massive foyer were a familiar and usually welcoming sight. All that mattered to Twilight Sparkle at the moment was the curiosity she had about the Princess’ request to meet her at the castle in private.

Questions swirled around in the mind of the purple-coated unicorn like a mental melting pot, but all of them boiled down to the question of why Princess Celestia wanted to meet with only her and not the rest of her friends. The past several times Twilight had been called by the Princess to Canterlot, her friends had been summoned along with her. So, why was this meeting different?

As she strode across the foyer, Twilight’s lavender eyes automatically focused on the stained glass mural at the top of the wide staircase that dominated the back-half of the hall. Unlike the other stained glass scenes taken from Equestria’s history that could be found throughout the castle, this particular scene was one of the most iconic amongst all circles of ponydom. The image Elements of Harmony, in their former state, shone brightly as the midday sun beamed through the glass. To their left was the image of a white alicorn with a pink mane, flying in circles around the Elements in tandem with the image of her sister, a dark blue alicorn with a mane colored like the night sky.

Standing underneath the motif was the sun princess of Equestria and Twilight’s mentor, Princess Celestia. Everything about the Princess practically screamed royalty, from her brilliant alabaster coat, to her magnificent, multi-hued mane that seemed to flow on its own in a non-existent breeze. Princess Celestia didn’t immediately notice Twilight enter though the massive doorway. Her full and undivided attention was on the conversation she was having with a thick-furred being that was only slightly smaller than her.

Twilight’s heart seemed to come to a sudden halt mid-beat and she found herself frozen in place as Celestia’s conversation partner took notice of the new arrival and turned to face her, giving Twilight a clear view of what it was, an Arcwolf. The one now staring at her was powerfully built. He had a slender, yet-muscular body, clearly designed for speed and strength that was easily visible despite the thick amount of well groomed white-fur that coated his body.

Among the various breeds of canines in existence, the Arcwolves were amongst the most, if not the most, intelligent of all. They mostly kept to themselves, living in small townships in the frigid arctic country of Vinterall and were rarely seen outside of their homeland, which only raised further questions in the back of Twilight’s mind.

The purple-coated unicorn remained in place as the Arcwolf turned back to Celestia and thanked her for her time before turning away to walk towards the exit. Twilight remained still, frozen with fear as the Arcwolf flashed a grin in her direction, displaying his shockingly pristine, and razor sharp teeth designed for tearing into flesh. A chill ran down the young unicorn’s spine. She must’ve visibly shivered, because the Arcwolf let out a bark of laughter.

“Ease yourself, young one,” he said in a deep, soothing voice. “I’ve no desire to taste the flesh of my dear friend’s subjects.” He bowed his head slightly towards her in a gesture of what Twilight assumed was respect. “I am Arctos, Alpha of the Arcwolves. If I’m not mistaken you are Twilight Sparkle, are you not?” Twilight nodded slowly, still slightly nervous. She had never exactly felt comfortable around carnivores. She blamed it on their teeth. “I’m truly honored to make your acquaintance. Your Princess speaks most highly of you in her letters.”

Twilight was taken aback. “She- she writes about me?” She inquired. The Arcwolf let out another barking laugh.

“Of course she does!” He grinned toothily back at her. “And with good reason. She’s very proud of you.” The unicorn felt her face flush slightly as Arctos continued on to say “I do wish I had more time to speak with you and hear your account of some of the tales Celestia has written to me about, but I’ve been away far too long and must return to my home. Farewell, Miss Sparkle.” Giving her another courteous bow, the Arcwolf strode out the foyer and into the blinding sun outside.

Twilight watched as he left, temporarily mesmerized by the way the sun shone against his white coat, creating an effect similar to how snow looked in the early light of day after falling. But she wasn’t here to have a prolonged chat with Arctos, Alpha of the Arcwolves. She took a deep breath and turned back to face her mentor, who was smiling softly down at her. A small twinge of unease raced through her as she looked up at the Princess. Celestia’s wings were folded against her side rather than flared out proudly, a truly rare sight. Twilight honestly could not recall the last time she hadn’t seen the Princess’ wings fully extended. And there was something else behind that warm smile. Sadness, perhaps?

“Thank you for coming on such short notice, Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia said as Twilight began to ascend the stairs.

“Of course, Princess,” the young unicorn replied. “If you don’t mind me asking, why did you only want to see me?”

The Princess was silent for a moment longer than necessary, as she stared down at Twilight, who felt her stomach twist into a knot. Something was clearly, very wrong. “Please, come with me.” Celestia turned and led her most faithful student up the smaller flight of stairs to her right and into the Hall of Histories. Here, depicted in over a hundred stained glass windows, were several of the most famous scenes of ponydom’s history.

Twilight immediately recognized several scenes. The very first window depicted the founding of Equestria when the three pony tribes finally set aside their differences and unified under the banner of friendship. Almost immediately after that scene was the legendary battle between Starswirl the Bearded and the great dragon, Legorath. Another displayed Nightmare Moon being banished to the heavenly body she had once had dominion over.

Celestia stopped shortly after passing the image of Nightmare Moon’s banishment and stared up at the window in front of her. Twilight stopped as well, giving her mentor a quizzical look as she did so. Celestia’s gaze remained on the window for several uncomfortably long moments. Displayed in the glass were the images of several different races gathered in a circle around a diamond shaped object. The image of Celestia was at the top of the diamond. To her left and right were the images of a griffon and an Arcwolf, respectively. Below the Arcwolf were the images of a pair of deer, the mysterious race of magic users from the great forests of Calavan that lay just past Equestria’s easternmost border. Opposite of the deer was a Ram, to represent the sagely race that resided in the unnamed mountainous region to the southwest of Equestria. Celestia finally broke her gaze away from the window and turned her head towards her student, giving her a soft smile.

“Do you remember the first time I brought you here?” She asked.

Twilight nodded in response, a small, reminiscent smile spreading across her face. “How could I ever forget? It was my first time ever getting close to the castle and I got to come inside!”

Celestia let out a small chuckle. “Yes, I remember. You were so excited and full of so many questions. I even had a hard time keeping up with you.” She turned her head to look back up at the window. “This was the only window in this entire hall you asked me about. You had never heard of the Sunrise Accord before, and so I explained it to you.”

“That’s right,” Twilight said, the mental image of herself as a young filly eagerly asking her new mentor about the window briefly flashed through her mind. “You told me that the Sunrise Accord was put into place by you and the leaders of the nations that surround Equestria to maintain peace and prevent another war like the Nightmare War from happening ever again.”

“Your memory is as good as ever,” Celestia commented proudly. Twilight’s cheeks flushed briefly at the compliment. “Those were almost the exact words I said to you that day.” The Princess’ smile slipped and she hung her head slightly, a simple display of emotional weakness that the young unicorn standing next to her had never seen before.

“Princess…?” The knot in Twilight’s stomach only got tighter. There was no doubt about it now, something was terribly wrong. Even when Discord had been set free, Celestia had only shown signs of irritation with the spirit of Disharmony and Chaos. Now, she looked sad and worried.

“Forgive me, Twilight,” Celestia said. “I haven’t been feeling quite like myself lately.” She drew in a deep, calming breath and quickly regained her composure. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m bringing up the first time I brought you to the castle.” Twilight nodded in response and Celestia couldn’t help but notice the look of confusion on the unicorn’s face. “When I told you about the Sunrise Accord, I only told you what any history book you read about it would say. I didn’t tell you one of the driving factors that allowed so many different races to put aside their…” she paused for a moment, trying to find the right word to use. “...disapproval of one another for the sake of peace.”

Celestia turned away from the image of the first signing of the Accord and briskly trotted down the hall with Twilight following her closely. The Princess led them to a small door, hidden behind a curtain at the end of the hall, just a ways past the two windows that depicted Twilight and her five closest friends defeating Nightmare Moon and Discord with the Elements of Harmony. The sun princess turned and stared down at her most faithful student.

“In this room is the window that tells a story even I do not wish to remember,” Celestia explained. Twilight picked up on the subtle hints of strain and emotional pain in her voice as she spoke. A soft yellow light surrounded the Princess’ horn as she used her magic to activate some hidden mechanism behind the door. A series of loud clicks shortly followed and ended with a dull thud before the door slowly opened inward of its own accord.

The sudden rush of fresh air from outside swirled through the room that had been locked for an unknown number of years. Thick amounts of dust were thrown into the air and even outside of the room in a small cloud. Twilight let out several painful coughs as she accidentally inhaled some of the dust. She looked up at the princess, still feeling confused at the entire situation. Celestia seemed to be unaffected by the dust, but she no longer wore a smile. Her face was grim and her mouth was pulled into a taught line as she stepped into the room. Six magical fires blazed to life along the edges of the room, activated by a permanent spell.

The room was, for the most part, empty, and yet the space felt cramped. A small stone platform that was about as tall as Twilight stood in the center of the room with a pale blue crystal resting in its center that glowed with a faint internal light. Directly above the crystal, floating in midair and held in place by magic, was a stained glass window. Twilight stared up at the window, her studious curiosity beginning to take hold.

The window, unlike the others in the hall beyond the room, made particular use of the colors red and black. It displayed the truly horrifying images of five ponies wearing black cloaks murdering others with blades and magic. The blood of their victims ran down the glass, pooling together and leaving a large, red section that took up most of the window. The only reprieve from red in the lower half of the image was a yellow circle that contained the image of a weeping Celestia.

“I have spent almost my entire life pursuing peace,” Celestia said softly. “When Discord ruled over Equestria with his madness, my sister and I rose up against him to bring about harmony. When Nightmare Moon reared her head, I banished her to protect my subjects. But when these ponies appeared…” She gestured with a hoof at the black cloaked ponies on the window. “I was powerless.”

“Who were they?” Twilight asked. “I’ve read quite a lot of Equestria’s history and even a little of the history before Equestria, but I’ve never seen something so… awful.” Celestia looked down at her student sadly.

“You won’t find them in any history book,” she explained. “But you might find mention of them in a conspiracy novel or two.” She turned back towards the window and sighed. “It wasn’t too long after I had banished Nightmare Moon that these ponies appeared. I’ll be honest with you Twilight Sparkle, I had always had Luna there to help rule before. But, with her gone I was finding it hard to rule by myself. I had never had to raise both the sun and moon before and I had to master it while doing my best to stop Equestria from collapsing in on itself or being torn apart by its neighbors.

“I managed, though. Somehow, I managed it all. I struggled for years but when it was all said and done, Equestria was as strong as ever. The last of Nightmare Moon’s loyalists were locked away and I was beginning to meet with the leaders of our neighboring nations so that we could achieve peace and harmony between us all. And that’s when they emerged.

“They called themselves the Black Hoof, a group of ponies who opposed not only my rule, but the rule of anypony. They were under the impression that ponies didn’t need rulers and that we didn’t need to make peace with any other race. Unicorns, like you, were able to move the sun and moon on their own before my sister and I came along. So the Black Hoof claimed that the other races should be thankful to us, otherwise, we could take away the sun and moon and plunge the other nations into darkness so they would never think to oppose us.

“Naturally, I was immediately opposed to their views and I refused to listen to them. So they decided to take matters into their own hooves. They became assassins and began attacking important political figures. In a few short years, many good lives were lost. Not just ponies were the victims. The chief of the griffins was one of the first non-equines to go. A small pack of Arcwolves and an entire clan of deer soon became victims as well.

“The other leaders and I met in secret shortly after that. We all agreed to work together to stamp out the menace of the Black Hoof before the masses as a whole began to learn of their existence and panic set in. That was how the Sunrise Accord truly came to be. We agreed to peace, but only after we eliminated the assassins. So we hunted them down until we had caught and punished them all. It took us fifty years because they kept moving around and recruiting new members, but we did it. Once the last of them was taken care of, we made the Sunrise Accord official, and agreed to have it resigned every fifty years to maintain the agreement.” Celestia turned to look down at her most faithful student. The purple-coated unicorn had visible paled.

“How, um, how did you punish them?” Twilight asked, hesitantly. She almost didn’t want to hear the answer.

“Murder in cold blood is one of the worst crimes a pony can commit,” Celestia explained. “It deserves only the harshest of punishments. I trapped them and prolonged their lives so they’ll be forced to suffer with their punishments forever alone.”

The Princess’ words triggered a part of Twilight’s memory. Words she had heard spoken in the Hall of History not too long ago quickly flowed through her mind. ‘It’s quite lonely being encased in stone. But you wouldn’t know that, would you, because I don’t turn ponies into stone.’ Twilight let out an audible gulp, but Celestia didn’t seem to notice.

“Forgive me for being so forward, Princess, but what does any of this have to do with me?” The young mare asked. “And why did you only want to meet with me and not with the rest of my friends?”

“It has everything to do with you, Twilight, and your friends too,” Celestia replied after a minute or two of silence. “But what I intend to speak with you about needs to be kept an absolute secret from anypony. Luna even tried to discourage me from sharing it with you, but you are my most faithful student, and even though part of me sides with my younger sister, I cannot bring myself to hide it from you.” Celestia gave her student a sad half-smile.

“As I’m sure you know, I’ve been meeting with the leaders of our neighboring nations for the past few weeks now,” the Princess continued as she led Twilight out of the small room and relocked the door. “For the most part, they all agree that Luna needs to sign the Sunrise Accord, as well as you and your friends.”

Twilight’s mouth dropped open slightly in shock at the idea. The prospect of being able to be a part of an important historical event was truly astounding, but it also raised questions within her mind. “Why us?” She asked, tilting her head slightly to the side. “I can understand Princess Luna, but why me and my friends? We’re not all that important, are we?”

“Of course you are,” Celestia said with a smile. Once again, Twilight managed to catch a glimpse of sadness hiding behind the Princess’ eyes before it vanished. “You and your friends are, for all intents and purposes, the Elements of Harmony. You have been since the six of you defeated Nightmare Moon and gave me back my sister. The other leaders agree that the Elements should have the opportunity to sign the Accord as well.”

“But that doesn’t explain why you asked me to come alone,” Twilight noted, “or why Princess Luna didn’t want you to share that wit-” her voice trailed off as she realized the Princess was slowly shaking her head.

“That’s not what Luna wanted to keep a secret from you,” Celestia said. She motioned with a tilt of her head towards the door to the room they had just left. “I didn’t show you that window as just a history lesson. It was a warning about what the Black Hoof is capable of.”

“A warning?”

“Yes. A warning.” Celestia fixated a gravely serious expression on her face and looked back at Twilight. “What Luna didn’t want me to share with you, was that we believe the Black Hoof has returned. Not the same group I trapped years ago, but a group of assassins nonetheless.” She lifted her left wing slightly as her horn glowed with a soft yellow light. A photograph floated out from underneath her alabaster feathers and hung in midair between the Twilight and Celestia. “They sent us this.”

Twilight gave a gasp. It was a picture of her and her five closest friends, Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Rainbow Dash all gathered for a group photo outside of the library in Ponyville. It hadn’t even been a day after they had defeated Nightmare Moon and at Pinkie’s suggestion, they had all agreed that taking a picture together to celebrate their newfound friendship was a fantastic idea. To Twilight’s previous knowledge, only seven copies of the photograph existed. One for each of her friends, and one she had sent to the Princess to show how happy she was to finally have friends. But in this photograph Celestia was showing her, a black horseshoe had been drawn over the faces of her and her friends.

“What in Equestria?” Twilight asked out loud, taking a step back from the photo. “I don’t understand.”

“This was how the Black Hoof announced themselves when they first appeared,” Celestia explained, her tone unreadable.

“You don’t… you don’t think we’re the Black Hoof, do you?” Twilight asked nervously.

Celestia shook her head. “Of course not, my little pony,” she reassured the young mare, who breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s not it at all.” Twilight breathed a sigh of relief.

“Then what does it mean?”

“I’m sorry, Twilight. But it means that the Black Hoof has chosen you and your friends as their first targets in over nine-hundred years.”