• Published 28th Mar 2013
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The Code's Apprentice - Lapis-Lazuli and Stitch



For a thousand years, the Code of Harmony has ruled Equestria, and the Code of Dissonance has sabotaged its works at every turn. Now the war for control over the land will come to a head, and one unicorn's decision may decide the fate of all.

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Chapter 28 - The Judgement

~~~~~Aboard the H.M.S. Hurricane - The next day~~~~~

Shining Armor stretched out his limbs as he trotted quickly around the empty exterior deck. The early morning sun shimmered just over the horizon, and warmed the cloud fortress up little by little. Shiny sighed in satisfaction as he came up to the edge of the deck and leaned over the railing there, peering down below him.

Ponyville was still a complete mess, though now that the guard and the First Air Wing had pitched in, things were getting under control. The ponies of the town were already up and about, applying the various repairs needed to make their homes livable once again. The guard were mostly working on damage assessment and helping to dig out some of the many buildings that had collapsed. So far, there were no verified casualties but there were a fair number of locals still missing.

Shiny sighed a little. Poor Ponyville. You just can’t seem to catch a break, can you? Her thought, resting his head on wooden railing. "Maybe this time we'll figure out how to actually protect this damn town." he murmured, thinking about all of the dozen or so projects that had already been suggested to do just that. Projects that ranged from the practical, like building a city wall and watch towers - to the impractical, like turning Ponyville into some kind of ancient fortress.

Shiny continued to stare down, watching the various local pony’s scurry about like bugs. And then someone addressed him, in a voice he hadn't expected to hear. "Hey brother, can you spare a bit?" Shiny narrowed his eyes a little, but did not turn around to face the voice. "C'mon. Help a pony out eh?" the voice continued, affecting an excellent whine.

Moments later, the familiar black unicorn plopped his hooves up onto the railing and craned his head in front of Shining's "You mad?" Asked King Sombra, his eyes practically glowing that unhealthy green color. "I mean, you won. You ought to be celebrating." An unshod hoof waved across the sky airily.

Shining Armor sighed and growled. "What do you want?" So much for his wonderful morning. Sombra was smiling, but there was something... off about him. More than the usual insanity, crystal fetish and annoying know-it-all nature.

Sombra smiled coyly. "I thought you might appreciate another little talk. You seemed to enjoy our last one." The shadow unicorn leaned against the railing and smirked downwards. "Quite a nasty mess Celestia's caused. She always did have a flair for the dramatic."

Shining wanted to smack him. Instead, he took a deep breath and spoke calmly. "Get to the point, Sombra - before I call the guards to throw you off this boat. Or before I do it myself." He kept his anger in check, but he wasn't going to make it easy on the black bastard.

Sombra laughed softly. "Very well. I suppose after all you've done for me, you deserve that much." His horn lit with shadowy energy, and a scroll was flicked towards Shining Armor - who caught it with his own deft magic. Sombra grinned at Shining armor, pointing his hoof at the scroll "A token of my appreciation. My old kingdom is lost to me now, so I see no reason not to be a little charitable."

Shining armor raised an eyebrow, and tucked the scroll under his arm, returning his impatient glare. Sombra smirked at him and kept speaking, "Additionally, I have come to give you a warning." Sombra's gaze sobered up, and his smile vanished. "You have far greater threats stalking you now than either I or my wife. Chrysalis and I will be withdrawing from the field for a time, so that you might be able to focus all of your attention upon it."

Shining Armor stared at him, the tightly wrapped scroll still hovering in the air. "What the buck are you talking about?" Shining snapped, turning away from the railing with lightning speed. "What threats?"

Sombra shook his head and began to turn away as he spoke. "Last night, some creature infiltrated this very vessel, impersonated one of your most powerful combat unicorns, and nearly killed all of us. Might I humbly recommend that you start there. " Sombra began to trot towards the corner, pausing before calling back. "Oh yes. You may also inform my Apprentice that I have left her a homework assignment. I expect her to complete it with dispatch."

Shining's eyes narrowed, and without so much as a warning he charged towards Sombra as the black unicorn turned the corner. "Come back here, you sonofa-!" Shining careened around the deck, and there was no sign of his foe. Shining Armor snarled and nearly took out the railing with his hooves in anger, before practically tearing open the scroll's seal and examining the words on it.

By order of King Sombra, the First - Crystal Prince and ruler of the glorious Crystal Empire,

I hereby recognize Queen Mi Amore Cadenza as the rightful heir, and therefore rightful ruler of the Crystal Empire. In so doing, I now place the great secret of my supposedly tiny nation's power at her hooves.

Many believe that my kingdom is naught more than a frozen wasteland, save for a tiny patch of land made livable by ancient and powerful magic. This is a falsehood. The means to turn vast quantities of the northern territories into arable land resides in my throne room.

Cunningly hidden within my vault - which will now reveal itself to the new Ruler of my kingdom, is a spell within a book. When cast whilst sitting upon my throne, the magic imbued within that throne will expand a thousand fold, driving away the blizzards that engulf the northern territories. This will likely set free countless smaller communities of the Crystal Ponies from the magic that once held me captive.

In addition to this gift, I hereby bequeath all books and documents within that vault to my Apprentice, The Nightmare Queen Twilight Sparkle. In the hopes that they will illuminate her as they long ago illuminated me.

Finally, I bequeath all remaining gold within that vault to those that follow the True Path. To be used for the reconstruction of our citadels, our churches, and our economic might.

All remaining items and objects may be dispersed - or not - at the Queens pleasure. I wish both her, and her remarkable husband a long life and happy reign. And I thank them both, ever so deeply for finally ensuring that the former Tyrant of the Sun pays for her crimes.

By my hoof, and Seal,

Prince Sombra of Crystalia

~~~~~~~

Princess Luna slipped out of the silent royal quarters, shutting the door discreetly behind her and then sighed gustily. By the moon, she is going to be a hoof full if that's her usual libido. She very quietly chuckled. She quickly trotted down the hallways, thanking the ancestors that she was still capable of pushing her body past it's normal desire for sleep.

Luna remembered the outline of this place well, and quickly moved through its mostly empty passageways. The ship itself was resting, or already deployed to the ground to aid in the recovery below. That meant there would be little to stand in her way, should anypony have the nerve.

Surely enough, nopony did. Not even the guards standing outside of the cells dare to stop her. Luna flung the door open with a brazen use of her magic, and slammed it shut behind her in the same manner. Celestia was lying in the hastily assembled bedding in one of the cells, curled up and facing the wall. The cell door was open, as it seemed no one had the courage to lock up Celestia of all creatures.

Luna was not going to be polite. There was a time for politeness, and a time to use the Royal Canterlot Voice. "Celestia Solaris, what in the name of the deep dark do you think you are doing!?" The voice shook the room and rattled all of the bars. A stack of neatly organized parchment notes fell ingloriously off of a desk and scattered all over the floor.

Predictably, Celestia did not budge an inch. She did speak though, "Sleeping." said the former solar monarch in a very unconvincing voice. "Go away, Lulu." Celestia softly spoke, the sound of tears clear in her voice.

Luna wrangled in her temper, and sighed. Ever since I bonded with Twilight, I've been getting more and more emotional. How she draws on so much dissonance without being a basket case, I wish I knew. It had to be that connection with Harmony. It was likely stabilizing Twilight without her even realizing it. I wish she could lend me some of that serenity. Luna grumbled, stalking into the cell. "Celestia, you will stop acting like a foal and talk to me. Or else I shall begin to serenade thee with the Grumpy-boots song." Luna's face turned into a wicked smile. "Thou dost remember Ms. Grumpy Boots, yes?"

Celestia's head turned around, eyes red from crying too much. "You wouldn't." Celestia said in a flat, disbelieving tone. Luna grinned like a fiend, displaying all of her teeth to her sister, and Celestia sighed. "Of course you would." Celestia stood up in a most-dignified manner, which Luna actually smirked at, and then turned around. Celestia settled back down onto her bedding, and regarded Luna with airy serenity.

Which Luna wouldn't have bought with a clipped bit. Luna herself lit up her own horn and dragged over a few cushions from some of the other cells, laying herself down in a clear mockery of Celestia's primness. Now more comfortable, Luna began to speak again. "I had thought we were agreed that you would not engage in this foolishness any longer. Cadence will need you, as much as Twilight will need me." Luna's voice rang with conviction and surety of purpose.

Celestia actually smiled a little. "Is that why you've been keeping her from realizing you two happen to be related?" Luna stared at her, and Celestia actually chuckled. "Luna, I'm not blind. You've been draining her extreme emotions every time she flies into a panic. You have also been influencing her thoughts to keep her focused."

Luna blinked a little bit and then blushed a bright red. "I have meant no harm, Sister. Though I must point out we do not know how related we are..." Celestia was actually laughing at her. "What?" exclaimed Luna. "We hath no idea whom mother... had us with. We never have!"

Celestia only smirked and gave her a wry look. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, Lulu." Celestia shook her head slightly as Luna sputtered in indignant rage. Celestia's voice cut through it, "I'm not going to say you're not doing us all a favor, sister. Right now, that poor filly needs every bit of love and reassurance she can get. I am saying that the longer you hide things from her, the worse they secrets will become." Celestia's eyes shut tight around tears. "I can attest to that."

Luna blew out her cheeks. "Very well, we shall discuss it soon. Now quit changing the subject! Why do you persist with this... " Luna threw up her hooves in frustration "This foolish martyrdom? You say Twilight needs love, and assurance and you presume to deny her the one pony that has been her greatest source of it?" Luna glared daggers at Celestia, and Celestia winced away. "And how didst thou feel when we were imprisoned upon the moon? At least then, there was the hope for our return! You would throw your life away - and for what?" Luna smacked her hoof into the floor, Celestia persistently not looking at her. "You have committed grievous crimes. Fine. If it pleases you, I shall pass sentence upon thee."

Celestia blinked, and turned her head back curiously to face Luna. Luna nodded. "You once passed judgment upon me, sister. If you truly believe yourself guilty, it behooves me to stand in that place for thee." Luna gently tossed her mane and glared at Celestia. "Will you accept my judgment, dear sister?"

~~~~~~~~

"Shiny, stop worrying." Insisted Princes- Queen Cadence, Shining Armor reminded himself as his wife brushed out her magically enhanced mane. "By the moon, Shiny. I expected Sombra to waltz in hours ago." She smirked a little at the surprise on his face. "It's in his nature, Shining Armor. He has to have the last word. As for the scroll, there. " She flicked a hoof at it. "We shall deal with that later. I won’t be able to return to the Empire for a while anyway."

Shining nodded slowly, then frowned. "Why not?" He queried, head tilted to one side. "I mean, aside from getting a few legal issues settled - the Equestrian Government mostly runs itself."

Cadence sighed softly, setting down the brush. "Shiny. I love you dearly, but sometimes you really need to learn how to think." Shining stared at her, and Cadence smacked him over the head with her brush. "Twilight, Shiny. Have you even processed what this all means to her?"

Shiny shook his head a little, and Cadence turned around on her chair. "Shining Armor, Twilight is an Alicorn now. Full ascension, not some half-measures. Her lifespan just went from a century or two to a complete unknown. She's had everything she's ever known in life upended. We certainly can't just send her back to the Ponyville library!"

Shining was putting the pieces together now. "Oh, Buck." he gently swore into the air. "Um... Yeah, I can see how that might be bad." Shining's voice was actually straining a little now.

Cadence rolled her eyes. "Bad? That's putting it mildly. We ought to be worshiping at Luna's hooves that so far Twilight's only been thinking about what's right in front of her. We're going to have enough on our plate when Twilight realizes she's going to outlive practically everypony she knows." Cadence hopped off her stool and trotted over towards the door, snatching up the royal crown with her magic on the way. "Twilight is going to need us all on hoof, Shiny. Because if we're not careful, It's going to be Nightmare Moon all over again."

~~~~~~~

Spitfire couldn't believe she'd gotten woken up for this. More importantly, she couldn't believe this was actually happening. "What." Was about all she could say to the tableau before her. In fact, she'd been saying it ever since the message came up about ten minutes ago.

The scene was like something out of a bad novel. Celestia had gotten shackles and chains from... somewhere. Luna was awfully cagey about that detail. Celestia had then shackled both sets of her hooves, and sat herself upon some bizarre stone chair that seemed designed for somepony to be shackled to, as well. Luna was also pretty quiet on where THAT had come from.

Luna in the meantime, had scrounged up some old set of battle armor that made her look like a conquering general, looming over her helpless prisoner. That prisoner happening to be her sister, and Luna looking like she was enjoying this whole scene far too much. All of that was weird, but Spitfire could do weird.

When she was told WHY Celestia was bound up like this, that was where Spitfire's mind started to break. Apparently, Luna had come down here without one whit of authorization, and bullied Celestia into accepting her as Judge, Jury and Sentence giver. Now, that was problematic all on its own, except now Celestia was insisting this be done in as legal a manner as was possible. Worst of all, Celestia was citing portions of Equestrian Law so ancient that Spitfire half suspected she was making them up.

So Spitfire found herself in the apparently very awkward position of 'witness to the accused', despite the fact that she was the only pony other than Luna or Celestia in the room. After Luna had read off the charges Spitfire had gone over yesterday in the most bombastic kind of voice, Luna had kindly informed Spitfire that she was here to bear witness to Celestia's 'confession'.

Spitfire began to wonder what the hell all of this was about. Then her mind finally ticked over, and picked up on all the thousand little details - this was supposedly how Celestia had sentenced, and then banished Nightmare Moon some one thousand years ago. Granted, there had been a lot of other ponies present for that particular event, but the shackles and the like were familiar enough at least. Just that was enough to send a cold sweat down Spitfire's back, wondering exactly what Luna had in mind.

Luna smirked at her, then back at her sister, brandishing a silver clad hoof at her sister. "Now, since thy guilt is beyond question, we shall sentence thee to an appropriate punishment!" Celestia had lifted her head high, determination and acceptance written in every line of her being. Luna, in the meantime - just looked like she was having a grand old time. "Thy punishment will be thus!"

Luna's horn suddenly lit up with painfully bright cerulean magic, and the chains binding Celestia's hooves began to glow silver, then slowly into gold. Spitfire stared. She isn't. She can't Banish her to the sun!!! Luna's smile was vicious and a massive bolt of magic suddenly struck Celestia clear in the chest, and exploded in a massive wave of bright white light.

Spitfire threw up her hooves, but all she could feel was warmth and love emanating off of the magic. There was no cold judgment there, but gentle reproach. Her hooves came down slowly, and she stared at the sight in front of her, as Luna began to speak.

Celestia looked... like a unicorn. In fact, she bore a striking resemblance to young Twilight Sparkle. She still possessed a creamy white coat, and those striking violet eyes - and the pink mane too. But her wings had vanished, and she had been reduced in size to that of a normal, young unicorn. She also looked utterly baffled.

Luna's wings flared out, her eyes sparkling with mischief. "Thy punishment will be thus. Your magic has been restricted, and much of your Alicorn power sealed away. Your wings, I have carefully transformed to become unusable to you." Her eyes twinkled. "You shall have the look of an ordinary unicorn. You will be powerful of course, but no more so than Twilight Sparkle was."

Celestia stared at her for a moment, a much younger and brighter voice coming out of her lips - first in a very cute squeak of surprise, then in words. "But... Lulu, why must I be made to look like this? It is ridiculous!" If Celestia had been free, she might have stomped her hoof.

Luna grinned a little, wiggling her hoof in reproach. “For all of your long life my dear sister, you have lived apart from the Ponies you loved so dearly. You watched them from afar, you ruled with wisdom and fairness, but you never were one of them. You loved them, Sister - but you did not understand them. You did not understand how they lived their lives, or how it should have affected the judgments you made about them. It is from these faults that nearly all of your crimes were born."

Celestia nodded slowly, Spitfire just said "What." Again, and Spitfire's mind desperately tried to wrap itself around what had just happened and was failing miserably. Luna however, was in fine form and kept speaking in a serious, stern tone of voice. "Therefore, you shall perform a valuable service to the local community you harmed, while also working to repair these faults. To do this, I have decided upon a... unique assignment for you. It is appropriate I think, that since you robbed this town of its librarian and mage-protector, you shall take her place under the name of Tia Sunbeam." Luna smiled sweetly.

Celestia began to nod again, much quicker this time. "Yes, I can see how that might help repay some of the debt I owe these ponies." She blinked. "But that is not all you are sending me there for, is it, Lulu?" Celestia's voice was a little wary, as though she was beginning to catch on to her sister’s game.

Luna could not help but let out a bold, soft laugh. "Of course not. After all, you could become a hermit as Twilight was not so long ago. You must go out amongst your ponies, and learn their ways. If you ever wish to truly repay Equestria, it shall be thy second duty to make some friends." Celestia's jaw dropped completely, and her eyes stared accusingly at Luna. Luna simply grinned at her. "You will go out into the world, and learn to be a part of it, and in so doing come to understand your follies."

Spitfire's mind suddenly got it. It was... Brilliant, really. Luna was going to give Celestia no choice but to get over herself for the good of everypony. Luna kept speaking, and Spitfires amusement and approval began to grow. "You shall have regular communications with Twilight Sparkle. Considering that it is quite patently obvious that it is you who now requires a refresher course in the Magic of Friendship. Furthermore, you shall study and live at the center of a newly changing society, and will have to help deal with the crisis' that will arise because of those changes. In so doing, you will slowly repay the debt you owe to all the citizens of Ponyville, and to Equestria as a whole." Luna's eyes danced merrily. "When I am personally satisfied that you have learned thy lesson, You shall be allowed to return to Canterlot to serve out the rest of your sentence... which you will learn about at that time."

Celestia sputtered out. "You... You..." She glared, taking a deep breath. "This is not what I had in mind when I agreed to this, Lulu! This is hardly punishment!" Celestia smacked her hooves into the chair.

Celestia stared down at her much changed form, and swallowed a little, looking very lost. Luna smiled gently. "Tia. You wished for me to judge you fairly. Judgment is not about punishment Tia. Judgment is about justice. What I am sending you to do will not be easy. You have never lived a life as a true commoner." Luna's eye twinkled. "I believe a little hard work will be good for you, and your character too."

Celestia stared at her, whispering softly. "But... My debt... " Celestia asked helplessly, biting at her lower lip. Luna gently lifted Celestia's head with a hoof and nodded gently.

Luna spoke in a soft intense voice. "You wished to repay the debt you owe to those you have hurt?" Celestia nodded gently, and Luna continued to speak "Then this is what you must do. Love your daughter. Learn from your ponies. Find happiness and peace in your soul. Repent your ill deeds not through sacrifice, but through action. Give back to them, as they have so often given to you. "

Luna gently touched her sister's cheek. "I am giving you a way to learn from your mistakes. A way to repent and reflect upon what brought you here. I could do no less for you, sister. Without you, I never would have known Twilight Sparkle. And I never might have found peace within my own soul." Luna tapped her hoof firmly on the stone chair, the shackles falling off of Celestia's hooves.

Luna's voice rang out in triumph. "This court is Adjourned."