• Published 24th Feb 2013
  • 2,150 Views, 41 Comments

The Game of Six - shallow15

A thousand years ago, Celestia was challenged by an ancient entity for the fate of her domain. She won, but at a terrible cost. Now, the Game begins again...

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A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” fanfiction
by Erin Mills

“My Little Pony” ©2013 Hasbro/DHX Media

Night fell over Canterlot, the moon rising full and bright and the stars twinkling in a myriad of colors, all arranged by Princess Luna in celebration of the new princess who had been crowned earlier that day. Fireworks shot over the city, eliciting excited “oohs” and “aahs” from the ponies assembled in the streets. The Coronation Festival was still in full swing, and everypony from Canterlot to the new princess's hometown of Ponyville was still celebrating.

Well, almost every pony. On the balcony of the astronomy tower, Princess Celestia, co-ruler of Equestria, rested on a large cushion and gazed at the stars. From there she could also look down into the gardens and see the newly ascended princess, Twilight Sparkle, and her friends, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, enjoying the festivities.

Pinkie Pie was engaged in a cider drinking contest with Rainbow Dash and Shining Armor. Rarity was hobnobbing with Fancy Pants, one of her best clients. Applejack, normally not one to assume the limelight, was not only on stage with the orchestra but was even calling a square dance. Even more surprising, the normally stuffy and reserved unicorns that frequently attended palace social occasions were enthusiastically following the instructions the farm pony called out, and those who may have gotten a step or two off-beat were still laughing at their own clumsiness.

In the middle of the dance floor, Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle danced with a couple of handsome stallions. Fluttershy seemed to have lost her normal social awkwardness as she felt the rhythm, bowing and weaving without a care in the world. Twilight Sparkle flailed her new wings and her legs, nearly knocking her dance partner off his hooves, as she followed Applejack's instructions.

“Now, promenade down the floor, we've only got a little more. Take a spin in two-by-two and bow to your partner, cause you're through!” Applejack finished with a large grin. The assembled ponies on the dance floor and on the sidelines applauded and cheered.

Applejack doffed her hat and took a bow before gesturing to the orchestra. Her main accompanists, a gray cellist and a yellow violinist, both took a bow which was followed by the rest of the orchestra. Applejack said a brief word of thanks to the conductor, who took one of her hooves and kissed it, causing the farmer to blush. She gave a grin and made her way off the stage and towards the refreshment table, where Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were still applauding.

Celestia smiled and let out a small sigh of contentment. Yes, things were going to change now that Twilight Sparkle was a princess. She was certain her faithful student would have questions needing answers soon enough.

Tonight, however, she thought, let there be merriment and frivolity. The new princess has come, and with her, a new dawn in Equestria.

Celestia heard a rush of displaced air and looked up as her sister, Princess Luna, landed softly on the balcony. Luna's face wore an expression Celestia rarely saw: contentment. The Lunar Princess walked over to where her sister sat, and using her magic, brought a cushion from the tower's main room for herself.

“I know you want me to say it,” Luna said, once she had made herself comfortable. Celestia assumed an expression of innocence.

“I have no idea what you are talking about, Luna,” she replied. Luna quirked an eyebrow.

“Do not play the innocent with me, dear sister,” she began. “You know full well what I am referring to.”

“Not at all,” Celestia said, keeping her face perfectly straight. She levitated a glass of wine that sat on a small table between the sisters, taking a sip.

Luna sighed in exasperation, realizing she was going to have to say it anyway. “You were right. Twilight Sparkle was ready for this. I should have had more faith in you.”

Celestia smiled at her sister. “You were right in your reservations, Luna, and your reasoning was sound. It's only natural that you would worry about how the change would affect her, but after her success in the Crystal Empire, and the entire group's success in reforming Discord—”

“That remains to be seen, sister dear,” Luna reminded.

“If Discord did not have it in him to control himself, we'd be drowning in a flood of chocolate milk by now,” Celestia replied. “I'm certain that, wherever he is, he's behaving... or as much as he can behave, anyway.”

Luna let out a small laugh through her nose, pleased that her sister had made the concession.

“In any event,” Luna said, “she and her friends are sure to bring great things to our land.”

Luna levitated the wine bottle and poured a glass for herself. She raised the glass towards her sister. “To Princess Twilight Sparkle, may her reign never be tarnished by sorrow!”

Celestia raised her own glass and the two clinked in a toast. “Here, here!”

The two sisters finished their wine and sat in silence. After moment, Luna noticed, despite the satisfied expression on her sister's face, there was still tension in Celestia's posture. She puzzled over her sister's contradictory body language until a memory surfaced regarding the time of year. Luna's eyes widened as the logic behind many of her sister's orders and plans made over the last year became clear to her.

“It's almost time again, isn't it?” she asked. “That's why you wanted her ascension to happen so quickly.”

Celestia sighed, and gave her sister another smile, this one tinged with sadness. “Yes, it's time again. I wanted to be sure I had everything in place before they arrived.”

“Will you tell her?”

“I honestly don't know,” Celestia answered. “I want to be sure it will actually happen before I break the news to her.”

“When will it happen?”

“I'm not sure. They haven't arrived yet. I keep half-hoping that he's forgotten about us.”

“Not likely,” Luna said. “Not after the last time he was here.”

The two sisters fell back into silence, each remembering the outcome. The same outcome that led to Luna's millennium-long banishment. Luna swallowed, remembering how she felt the Nightmare take over her mind, knowing that her own will and feelings on the matter were irrelevant. She let out a sharp breath as Celestia leaned over and nuzzled her.

“I won't let him do anything like that again,” Celestia said. “Not to you, and not to Twilight.”

Luna smiled and relaxed, returning the nuzzle. “You shall triumph, Tia. You always do.”

Celestia said nothing, but Luna felt the muscles in her sister's neck tense up again. She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a knock on the observatory tower door. The two princesses separated and looked back at the door to the main room. Celestia got to her feet and walked back into the main room towards the door. Luna followed behind her.

Celestia opened the door to find a gray pegasus with a blond mane and tail standing at attention. The pegasus had a messenger bag slung around her neck. Her gold eyes were crossed, but she smiled brightly and spoke clearly. Celestia recognized her as one of the mail ponies from Ponyville. The princess believed her name was Ditzy Doo.

“Princess Celestia? Excuse me, Your Highness, but there's a package for you.”

“A package? This late at night?” Luna asked, her voice wary.

Ditzy Doo nodded. “Actually it came to Ponyville this morning, but since it was addressed to you, I rushed it up here, but then the coronation was going on, so I didn't really get a chance to deliver it until now. Sorry about the delay.”

“No trouble at all,” Celestia said, taking the small package from the pegasus. “Thank you very much, and, please, stay for the rest of the celebration. Do you need a place to stay?”

“Oh no, Princess, that's okay. I need to get back home. My Muffin is waiting for me. But if I could use your balcony?”

The princesses smiled and stood aside, allowing the mail mare to trot out to the deck and take off into the sky. They turned their gazes on the small box that had been delivered. Celestia took the box out to the observation deck and placed it on the table. She used her magic to unwrap the shipping paper and lift the lid of the box, praying that it wouldn't be what she expected.

Celestia cursed under her breath as she and Luna stared down at the two ebony six-sided dice nestled in foam inside the box. The dice Celestia had expected to arrive any day now had finally come.

“You don't have to roll them now,” Luna said quickly. “You could wait until the morning... or next week.”

Celestia shook her head, not taking her eyes off the dice. “No. Better to get it over with now. If we're lucky, we won't have to deal with this again until next year.”

“Three rolls, correct?” Luna asked. “Three rolls of the dice, and all we have to do is hope the total is not thirteen.”

Luna flexed her own magic and took the dice from her sister. The ebony cubes were decorated with white pips, from one to six on each side of each die. Logically, it would be impossible for anypony to roll any number higher than a total of twelve. Both sisters knew, however, that logic had nothing to do with this particular ceremony.

Celestia sighed, placed the dice on the table, then picked them up with her hooves. The dice would not roll properly if magic was used. She held the dice loosely between her hooves and shook them, listening to the cubes rattle against each other. She let them fly and both sisters breathed a sigh of relief at the three and the two that stared up at them from the table.

“Two more,” Celestia breathed. She picked up the dice, held them between her hooves, shook, then took a deep breath before letting them go. The first die bounced a couple of times and came up six. The second tumbled across the table, then began spinning on one corner. The princesses' eyes widened and they both held their breath as they waited for the die to come to a halt. Finally the spinning slowed and the die clattered to a halt near the edge of the table.

It came up seven. Six plus seven. Thirteen.

“No,” Luna whispered. She looked up at her sister in alarm. Celestia hadn't moved, continuing to stare at the dice on the table. Luna took a step closer.

“Tia? What shall I do?” she asked, quietly. Celestia's head snapped up, her expression hard. Luna knew that look. It was the look her sister got when moving into problem-solving mode.

“We have thirteen days to prepare,” Celestia said quietly. “In the morning, send a message to Twilight Sparkle that we need to see her as soon as possible. In the meantime, send messages to our runners that they need to locate Discord, wherever he is. He may be useful."

Luna nodded. “It shall be done. Anything else?”

Celestia shook her head. “I'll make additional plans after I talk to Twilight. But ultimately, it will all come down to him.”

Luna nodded, then moved forward to nuzzle her sister. “It shall be all right. You were victorious against him before, you shall be again.”

Celestia looked at her sister with sad eyes. “The cost of victory wasn't worth it, and you know what the stories say about those he challenges again after being defeated once. He expects a better match the next time. I fear he won't go so easy on me this time.”

“This time, we shall be ready for him, him and his damned challenge,” Luna said harshly. “We will not be tricked by him again.”

Celestia gave her sister a small smile, which Luna returned.

“Good,” Luna said. “A smile is what I like to see. I shall dispatch the runners.”

Luna took to the air and flew between the towers, heading for the barracks of the Royal Guard. Celestia watched her sister fly into the distance. Her smile faded as she looked back down at the dice. She picked them up and rolled them once more. It didn't surprise her in the slightest when they came up thirteen again.

“Very well,” she said quietly. “Let us play the game once again.”