• Published 9th Feb 2013
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The Next Level Of Your Studies - cleversuggestion

Twilight Sparkle gets a letter from Celestia that sets her on a quest for knowledge which will transform her more deeply and completely than she ever imagined was possible.

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10. Luna's New Home

CE 1215, second dusk after Luna’s Return

Sensory data immediately snapped into place as her conscious mind rebooted. The sun was at (π/2, 5π/3), the moon had just become visible from the surface, and from triangulation of various signals she was confident she was in Canterlot. From visual inspection she was in a comfortable bed in a marble room with dim light emanating from magical sconces set low on the walls. Two vespertilian guards stood watch, their slow minds still processing that her eyes had opened as she continued her tactical assessment. She had not intended to sleep so long, but examining the report from her last body diagnostic revealed why her pons had delayed awakening her consciousness so long. 30 hours of rest, though it had helped, was incomplete. Her muscles were still stiff and her magical reserves, though no longer nearly depleted, were still within the yellow zone. Nevertheless, she could get up, work, and assess the situation. She had drained the fatigue from most of her mind, but a filesystem report was waiting, with several implications flagged red. It seemed her mental organization had been almost totally shuffled, and she still felt out of place in herself.

The guards finally noticed that she had awoken and sprang into action, kneeling before their princess. Reassured by their familiar presence, she ratcheted down her thinking speed to one closer to theirs. A lesser pony would have asked questions like “what time is it?” or “where am I?”, but Luna could simply sense the answer to both. Instead, she ordered, “REPORT.”

“Mistress,” one guard barked, “The captain wished to be informed as soon as you awoke.”

“GO,” she said, turning her attention to the other guard. “INFORM.”

The first guard swiftly departed, and the remaining guard hesitated. “The plan failed,” he said sadly. “We were able to take the governor of every city hostage, but were expected. Each one was unguarded and came quietly.”

Rapid hoofsteps in the hall cut off his report; the captain must have been close. He saluted and Luna inclined her head slightly as Captain Fellwing entered the room, almost breathless. “My princess,” he said softly, and bowed. Not bothering to look, he dismissed the guard with a hoof. “I’ll finish your report.”

The door shut behind the guard with a soft click, and Fellwing paused. “I want to take full respon-”

Luna sighed, and Fellwing immediately fell silent, well-trained to avoid her displeasure. “You did what you could,” she said softly, dropping her Canterlot voice. Now that I’m finally in Canterlot, she thought, bemused. “How many did we lose?”

Fellwing stood taller. “None. We were afraid about you for some time, but I was sure you’d pull through.”

Luna smiled. “The worst is behind us, then.”

Fellwing scratched his cheek with the claw on his wing, which he did whenever he was agitated. “Your majesty,” he began, then faltered, looking down at his hooves. Luna had never seen him this anxious before. “I have no idea what to do. Our invasion was welcomed, our every plan foiled and now we are stationed at the very heart of our enemy's-”

“Celestia is not our enemy,” Luna said automatically. Her internal verifier balked: how did she know that? Why did she believe it? Why believe it so strongly to say it without reflection first?

Fellwing looked surprised, but bowed. “As you say, my princess.”

Reasons appeared; not nearly as strong as she wanted them to be, and clearly invented for justification rather than driving her decision. As little as she trusted them, sharing them might calm Fellwing. “Twice I have tried her strength,” Luna said, “and twice I have lost. I see no wisdom in trying a third time.”

Fellwing nodded slowly. “It certainly seems Celestia expects you to work together, now. We have the tower to ourselves.” He paused.

“You worry it is a prison,” she said, watching his face closely. He nodded grimly.

She looked around the room, recognizing the architecture. It was larger, but had the same feel as her bedchamber in the palace they had shared. “I think not. I wouldn’t put a balcony on a prison for winged occupants.”

Fellwing gestured. “Have you tried its door yet?” She chuckled and he smiled.

“I’m sure you’ve had time to explore. Show me around the tower, tell me what you’ve done with it.” She leapt out of bed, carefully expending just enough energy to look as though she weren’t tired, but not enough to tire her again. It seemed to reassure Fellwing, but only served to worry her; she had correctly judged that there were few such stunts left in her before she slept again.

“There’s also one of Celestia’s servants waiting in the garden nearby. She has something to discuss with you.”

Luna immediately went on alert. “What?”

“The servant mentioned a banquet, and a...” Fellwing stumbled over the unfamiliar phrase, “a photo shoot?” Luna immediately went on high alert.

Luna was led to Celestia’s chambers. The new palace was so much larger than their old one had been; instead of two towers mirroring each other, there was a tangled mess of spires rising up above the mountain, some thin, others wide; massive meeting halls and secluded nooks. Celestia’s tower was neither the largest nor the smallest nor the tallest, but Luna did notice its central position in the sprawling castle. Even after dusk, the place swarmed with servants and guards, all giving Luna a respectfully wide berth as they hurried about their tasks. Then they were at the alabaster doors, which immediately swung open to admit her, the guards and her guide staying outside.

Celestia was inside, levitating a scroll before her face as she lay on a large, red bed. She set down the scroll as Luna entered, smiling at her gently. Luna bowed to Celestia as the door shut behind her, marshalling her energy.

“You wished to speak with me, big sister?” She kept her tone level, her worry hidden.

“Yes, little sister. I worried for you.”

“I could sleep off the worst of it.” Luna looked around the room, studying the architecture and decorations. It was all new; no hints remained of Celestia’s chambers a thousand years ago. She had not had a good handle on Celestia then, and even what little she had seemed to have slipped away.

Celestia nodded. “I’ve planned a banquet to announce our co-rule tomorrow night. The most important ponies in Equestria will be there; the Line, the ministers, the best of Canterlot’s high society, and the governors.” Luna was not sure if there had been an emphasis on that last word, or if she had just imagined it. “I hope you’ll be well enough to attend.”

Luna nodded, surprised. “I will be well, but... co-rule?”

Celestia looked at her, gaze unreadable. “Do you feel up to it?”

“Yes.” Even if it were not true, Luna did not see a benefit to answering no.

Celestia looked at the scroll, and Luna relaxed slightly as soon as Celestia’s gaze left her. “I also scheduled for you to meet with Photo Finish.”

“This is the... photo shoot?” Luna asked.

Celestia looked at her again, and her eyes softened. “I’m sorry, sister. I forgot the terminology was modern. I should have called it a photography session. Think of it as a portrait, painted very quickly.”

"Photograph? So they found a way to make light write itself, then."

There was the barest hint of a pause before Celestia said “Something like that.” Luna was not sure what to make of it, and filed it away for reexamination.

"There's a whole nation outside of Canterlot, eager to see their new princess. This'll allow you to be on the front page of every newspaper in every home in Equestria, without leaving your chambers."

Luna relaxed. "That does sound rather convenient."

"And don't worry," Celestia began, immediately causing Luna to worry. "I'll have one of my most capable ponies ensuring the story and the photos and spun positively."

"So when would this photo session be?"

"Tonight," Celestia said lightly. "Though you can reschedule it if you like; they'll understand, and the guests to the banquet would no doubt appreciate the exclusivity of seeing you first."

Luna grimaced. “It will be trouble enough preparing for the banquet that quickly, and I doubt it would be as efficient to reschedule that. Let us push back the photo session by a week.”

“Very well.” Celestia nodded, her serene warmth unperturbed. Luna wondered what she meant by it. What would Celestia conclude about her health from that? Had she tipped her hand too far? Had the invitation to do it tonight been a test, and if so, had she failed it? She kept her face placid, her worries churning silently and invisibly inside her.

They sat in silence for a few seconds, and then Celestia looked back at the scroll. “I should let you rest,” Celestia said. Was it a dismissal, or sympathy? Either way, Luna was not about to contradict her, and stood up. Celestia looked at her again, and smiled. “Good night, my sister.”

“Good night,” she responded, smiling to match Celestia.