• 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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Like a Game of Chess

Chapter Two: Like a Game of Chess

Celestia took another sip of tea and carefully eyed Twilight over the cup. The young unicorn hadn’t spoken a word in almost half an hour and still had yet to so much as touch the tea in front of her. Celestia gently set the cup down and fixated her student with a concerned stare.

“Bit for your thoughts?” The Princess asked. Twilight shook her head and remained silent. Celestia let out a sigh. “Come now, Twilight. This isn’t like you. I know you’ve got something going on in that head of yours.”

“I just don’t understand it all,” Twilight said, finally breaking her silence. “None of this makes any sense. Why would the Black Hoof come back now, after nine hundred years of doing nothing, just to kill me and my friends? It doesn’t add up.”

“It’s because you and your friends are the only ones who can wield the Elements of Harmony,” Celestia explained. Twilight raised an eyebrow at her. “The Elements are… well, I don’t know if ‘picky’ would be the right word to describe them since they aren’t exactly sentient. Their power can only be used if the ones using them had a strong enough connection to the six Elements.

“My sister and I found them during Discord’s reign, and as you know, we used their powers to trap him forever. The second time they were used, I was forced to use them against Nightmare Moon when I banished her into lunar exile. After that, the Elements refused to respond to me.” Celestia gave her student a small smile. “But I knew that someday, Nightmare Moon would return and the only way to stop her would be with the Elements of Harmony. So to keep them safe, I built Canterlot and moved away from the palace in the Everfree Forest because I knew that once the palace was abandoned, nopony would ever have reason to venture that far into the forest ever again. And so, I left the Elements of Harmony behind for the day, or night I should say, when they were needed again.

“As time went on, I began to watch closely for anypony that might represent any of the Elements. But I grew hopeless as time grew shorter. Then, I received a vision.” She chuckled at the look Twilight was giving her. “Yes, a vision. My sister and I had always received visions of the past and occasionally of the future, but they were always hazy to us and never clear on most details. This vision, however, was exceptionally clear. It showed me a young unicorn filly that was going to take an entrance exam for placement in my School for Gifted Unicorns. She was very gifted with magic in the vision and for the first time in centuries, I believed I had found somepony who represented one of the Elements.

“So, I decided to put this filly to the test. As fate would have it, the Queen of the Dragons had come to me just weeks before, and presented me with a small dragon egg. The poor, unborn dragon’s parents had been killed in a devastating avalanche back in Draconia and without its mother to hatch the egg, the poor thing would die. That egg was the key. I worked an enchantment into its shell so that only a safe spell that could hatch the dragon without harming the creature would open it and I had it presented to the filly as her entrance exam.”

Twilight’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates and her mouth hung slack. Celestia simply smiled back at her and took another sip of her tea.

“That… that was…” Twilight was stumbling over her own words as she processed what the Princess had just shared. “You knew about me from a vision?” Celestia nodded.

“And I found out about your friends in the same way,” she explained. “I had visions of each one of them every night for the next five nights after I made you my personal student. But I didn’t believe them until I had a vision of what would happen on the day Nightmare Moon returned.”

Another moment of silence overtook them as Celestia waited for her most faithful student to respond. When the unicorn sitting across from her remained silent, she continued. “Do you understand yet? These visions were clear to me because of my former connection to the Elements. They showed me the six ponies that represented them the best and pointed me in the direction of the one who would unite them together with the magic of friendship, you.”

“The Elements now only respond to you six, as all of you are the first ponies to truly represent the spirits of the Elements in over a thousand years. If something were to happen to all of you…” Celestia let her words hang.

“That’s why the Black Hoof is after us?” Twilight asked in a barely audible whisper that would make Fluttershy sound loud. Celestia nodded.

“Without a doubt,” she said as she finished off the last of her tea. “If they were to successfully eliminate the six of you, there is the possibility that it could destroy the Elements of Harmony as well, given how closely tied to the Elements you and your friends are.”

“What good will that do anypony?” Twilight asked, hanging her head slightly. “How does violence solve anything?”

“It doesn’t,” Celestia answered. “Violence begets violence. That’s why I strive so hard to maintain peace not only among my subjects, but among the other nations around Equestria. One war will lead to another, and to another, and to another. One of the best examples of this would be the legends of an ancient race of that once ruled over this world of ours. They were an incredibly violent species and though they preached about peace, they knew nothing of it. They would kill each other over the pettiest reasons and they waged many terrible wars against themselves with weapons of unfathomable destruction until one day, they finally destroyed themselves.”

“That sounds like a terrible story,” Twilight pointed out.

Celestia nodded in agreement. “But it isn’t without its lesson, Twilight. It teaches us that violence will only lead to our own destruction, just as it did with that ancient race.”

“Is it true though?” Twilight asked. “About the ancient race, I mean. Did they really exist?”

“Who knows?” Celestia replied. “I’ve never found any evidence to their existence aside from the legend itself, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. If they ever existed, it was long before my sister and I came into being.”

Silence once more fell between the two of them. Though Celestia didn’t show it, it made her slightly uncomfortable. Ever since she had met Twilight, there had hardly been a moment when the two of them were together that was spent in silence, with the exception of the times when Twilight was completely focused on her studies. A small voice in the back of her mind wondered if Luna had been right, and that she shouldn’t have shared the information about the Black Hoof with Twilight.

“So, what do we do now?” Twilight finally asked after a couple of minutes.

“Now, we wait,” Celestia replied. A look of shock appeared on her student’s face.

“Wait?!” She cried out. “But they’re trying to-” Celestia held up a golden hoof to silence Twilight before she could continue.

“Yes, Twilight, we wait,” she explained. “Think of it like a game of chess. By sending the picture, the Black Hoof has made the first move and now they’re waiting to see how we’ll retaliate. So we’re going to wait for them to make the next move.”
“I don’t think that’s how chess is played, Princess,” Twilight pointed out.

“I know,” Celestia said. “But to defeat an enemy that thrives on using underhoofed tactics, you need to use underhoofed tactics of your own. So, we’re going to trick the Black Hoof into thinking that we aren’t taking them seriously.”

“How are we going to do that?” Twilight asked. “I can’t think of any way to pull it off, especially since they probably know that I came here to see you today. They’ll put two and two together.” Celestia smirked confidently back at Twilight.

“And that’s where we have the upper hoof,” she said. “When you leave here today, you will return to Ponyville and continue going about your day-to-day business as though nothing was wrong. You will still write to me when you learn a lesson about friendship and you will pretend none of this happened today.

“But I’m not sending you back without protection.” Twilight’s ears perked up and she gave her teacher a perplexed stare. “When I first received the message from the Black Hoof over a week ago, I immediately began making the necessary preparations to ensure that you and your friends would be protected by trustworthy ponies. Most of them have been in Ponyville for quite some time now and they’ve promised to protect the six of you with their lives if necessary.”

Twilight swallowed a nervous lump in her throat, silently hoping the entire situation wouldn’t have to come to that. “Do I know any of these ponies?” She asked the Princess.

“Perhaps,” Celestia replied. “I would be surprised if you hadn’t seen at least one of them before. As I said, they’re all living in Ponyville. Well, almost all of them.”

Twilight waited, expecting the Princess to elaborate further, but instead was met with silence. Twilight cleared her throat and asked another of the many questions burning in the back of her mind. “Do I get to meet any of them?”

Celestia fixed her with a stare and Twilight fell silent. The stare wasn’t intimidating or angry; in fact, the Princess’ expression was unreadable for a moment before she broke into a small smile. She opened her mouth to speak but was immediately cut off as one of her unicorn guards strode up and whispered urgently in her ear. Celestia’s smile vanished, replaced with a frown that clearly displayed her annoyance.

“Can’t they wait?” She asked back. “I’m in the middle of a very important meeting with my star student.” The guard shook his head and Celestia let out an irritated sigh. “Very well. Inform his lordship that I will meet with him shortly.” The guard bowed to the Princess and quickly exited the room.

“I’m so sorry about this, Twilight,” Celestia said, giving the lavender coated unicorn the most apologetic look she could to convey how sorry she really was. “Lord Steelbeak has never had much patience, and I wouldn’t want to anger the Altai Dominion further by denying their leader an audience. Things are already tense enough with them as it is.”
“I understand, Princess,” Twilight said, doing her best to hide her unease at the prospect of having to leave Celestia’s presence so soon especially now that she was aware of the fact that a group of assassins were after her and her friends. She realized quickly that the Princess had easily seen through her.

“Don’t you worry, Twilight Sparkle. I will do everything in my power to put an end to the Black Hoof, once and for all,” Celestia vowed. She bowed slightly to Twilight, startling the young unicorn. “Try not to worry too much. My guards will escort you back to Ponyville and there you will be protected by the ponies I have charged with keeping you and your friends safe from those assassins.” And with that, Celestia rose to her feet and turned to leave with Twilight following suit. A pair of pegasus guards, both with dazzlingly white coats beneath the golden armor they wore, strode forward to flank Twilight on both sides.

“Make sure she makes it back to Ponyville safely, sergeant,” the Princess said sternly to the guard on Twilight’s left. Twilight winced slightly as she saw the look Celestia gave the guard. It was a threat as much as it was an order as the look on her face clearly added ‘Or else.’ The guard saluted and gave a verbal confirmation.

“Until next time, my faithful student,” Celestia said. She gave Twilight a sad, half smile and slowly made her way out of the room as Twilight was ushered out through a side door and into a spiral staircase leading to the courtyard.

Unbeknownst to Twilight, Princess Celestia threw one last look over her shoulder at the disappearing form of her student before stepping into the room beyond where her sister, Princess Luna stood waiting.

“You lied to her.”

Celestia winced at Luna’s words. They were cold as ice and her tone was nothing but accusatory.

“I just didn’t tell her everything.”

“You don’t deny it?”

“Why would I? I didn’t have a choice.”

“There is always a choice, big sister. You could’ve told her the whole truth. A partial truth is still a lie.”

“What was I supposed to do?” Celestia asked quietly, tears she had been fighting back for days finally began to well up in her eyes out of guilt. “Was I supposed to tell her that she is the real target, just so the Black Hoof can get to me? Tell her that her friends are only targeted because she’s their goal?”

“No. If I had been in your position, I would’ve done the same,” Luna admitted. Her tone had dropped to the soft, comforting level of a mother soothing her heartbroken child. She stepped forward and gently nuzzled her older sisters’ cheek. “But that doesn’t mean it was right.”

Despite the situation, despite the stress she was under now, Celestia found herself almost unable to suppress an urge to laugh. “And here I thought I was the big sister…”

-BS-

Twilight stared in dull shock at the two pegasus guards that had been assigned to take her back to Ponyville. Their pristine white coats were ruined by the twin rivers of crimson running down their necks, staining their coats red. Their eyes were opened and staring lifelessly across the courtyard.

The young unicorn’s heart pounded painfully against her chest as she found herself unable to move, frozen as much by fear as she was by the cold, razor sharp edge of the blade that was being pressed against her throat. She couldn’t see the other pony clearly, only the faint, blue glimmer of his horn that matched the aura supporting the knife in midair and the black cloak that concealed any defining features on him. She could feel his breath, hot and moist behind her ear as he leaned in closer to her.

“Tell me, Twilight Sparkle, do you fear death?”

-BS-

Author's Note: Yes, the beginning is slow and incredibly short. But future chapters are planned to be much, much longer. I just can't resist a good cliffhanger.