• Published 30th Mar 2013
  • 1,874 Views, 16 Comments

Memory - Toraka



My name is Princess Twilight Sparkle. I'm one of Equestria's corulers. Everything is fine for me, right? (Not Twilestia)

  • ...
4
 16
 1,874

Protocol

Six twenty in the morning. The servants come to wake me as the sun rises, as usual.

Six forty in the morning. The servants come for the fifth time, as usual. They ask if I would like to do my morning rituals in bed, I decline and actually get up at last. I am Princess Twilight Sparkle and I am a princess fresh out of bed. In order to change at least one of those facts, I head to my bathroom, a small spa by others' standards, surrounded by a bulk of ponies eager to take every step of work away from me. I send them all away, except one, and take a shower.

If I wanted to, I could have my coat scrubbed in imported soap while four ponies each would care for my horn and wings. In the days of my introduction, I watched Princess Celestia undergo the full procedure once. Needless to say, that was the only time I witnessed it. It's fancy, yes, and perhaps my refusal is insulting those who would perform it - I'm nearly certain that that is the reason why she has it done daily - but why should I ask for any more than is necessary? At core, I'm still just a pony. I eat, sleep, and love like any other, what would make me special? A normal shower is perfectly sufficient and also prevents me from forgetting me of that fact. Principem pro populo, you could say. If I'm supposed to ultimately be their humble servant, then why should I exploit them like it were the other way around?

Of course, what my favorite underling does with my hooves once I'm finished doesn't count. Nothing which feels that good should be denied to anypony, even a princess swearing to empty humility. When she reaches my back legs, I ask how much her work would cost the average pony. She doesn't respond.

Point seven o'clock. Thus refreshed, I make my way towards having breakfast together with the other princesses. I suppose it's more dinner than breakfast for Luna, but it's the thought that counts. I arrive at the door just simultaneously with Princess Celestia, who gives me the usual comment about my habit of going naked while not in public. Of course, I do enjoy my regalia, I reply, they are in fact very beautiful. However, I cannot make myself see the point in wearing them around areas where anypony who is not a member of royalty or one of its employees would die from spear wounds long before getting a glance of me.

She gives me a playful shove and we head inside, to a table well-equipped to feed twenty standing in a room that has only four chairs. No matter how many months pass, it still feels weird to sit at the same table as the princesses and be expected to behave as if among equals. Perhaps I am now. At least Cadance is here to ease my secret nervosity. I focus entirely on her, maybe a little too much. Memories of earlier times flood my mind, to the point that I miss a question coming from Celestia and have to be brought back into reality by a not so gentle nudge coming from Cadance.

I mumble some excuse about the sun which falls in through the wide windows lining the wall, causing the ever so considerate Celestia to magically push a small cloud into its way. I appreciate her effort, though that is dampened quickly when she asks for the true reason why I drifted off.

I could deny everything, hide behind lies and excuses. Not that that'd last long, of course. I've learned years ago that she will not accept secrets to be held for the worse of all. Thus, I jump to honesty right away and say that I was lost in memories of the past. A dead past, of course, images from a life most of which I've long since transcended for the better.

She seems to accept it, at least on the outside. Inside, I know she's hellbent on finding my grief, whether I want to admit to it or not. Do I actually have any? I want to be open at least with myself and give a clear no, but something deep inside of me tells me I'd be lying.

Seven thirty-four. Court will open soon, I have to get dressed at last. When I arrive in my room, there is already another lot of ponies whom I don't remember at all waiting for me. The one whom I'd be truly glad to see is missing, though it's plain silly to expect her to be here. They have to spawn somewhere in the catacombs, how else could there be so many just to serve the princesses alone? They insist on another makeover, my mane has moved a single inch out of its perfect position and my outmost plumes are slightly ruffled. I doubt that anypony would notice, much less openly doubt their princess, but she has to be immaculate at all times, so says protocol. I know what'll be one of the first things I'll change once I'm - oh wait. Hm. I suppose I'll have to let them do their work for now.

Eight o'clock. I am Princess Twilight Sparkle and I am on the duty of the court today. It is a simple task, but by no means easy. I sit on the royal throne, looking authoritative even though I myself should be intimidated by whoever is on it in my stead, ponies come forward one by one, ask their queries, and I take their requests and advice. In theory, anyhow. All too often, I submit their suggestions to deeper analysis and reconcile them later with my advisors. In simpler words, I deny them. Why does it have to be that my job could be done just as well by a voice recording, without all of the overdrawn protocols, guards, and decorations?

I try not to think about that and do my best to provide them with any assistance I can which the state will not. It's the least I should do for them, but the best I can. Moments after the doors open, there is already a mass of ponies lined up waiting for an audience. My duty is grim, but necessary.

Nopony would ever admit it, but court wears you down the longer you lead it. It is not a question of whether it'll happen, but only when. It usually happens after the first few dozen of hopeful propositions you turn down, especially those which sound humble enough to be possible until either the financial manager or the royal time schedule disillusion you. Eventually, you stop seeing ponies before you and they're replaced with their ideas. You start wishing you didn't have to represent the entirety of Equestria, that you could shatter those bonds and fulfill their wishes, maybe even walk out at their side.

But you can't. Equestria needs to have a face, a stoic, calculating, ordered one. So it takes yours, but it doesn't contend with that. Over time, it'll claim it as its own, twist it, consume it, until you are left with nothing for yourself. I snap out of my contemplation upon hearing a name which I recognise from my past. Appleloosa is experiencing a rapid growth in buffalo population and the town requests that its infrastructure be expanded in order to match that development. My heart jumps in ecstasy. It is a reasonable idea, and the credit required for it will pay back soon enough. For once, nopony will argue on it. I promise to have the required provisions cared for, trying to mask the joy that I feel myself when I'm allowed to fulfill a wish for once instead of breaking their hopes.

Of course, while I was able to save one pony's world, I set up for smashing those of a hundred more who watch her leave with silent envy in their eyes. They come in all sorts and shapes, sometimes from across the empire, well knowing that only one in a hundred of them will not have to mask her disappointment when leaving. By whose cruelty is it that turning them down must be the rule instead of the exception? Soon, the flow returns back to normal, as if there had never been an acceptance in the first place. The minutes whizz by as ponies do and I fall back into the rhythm of seeing not ponies but ideas to be kindly refused. My name is Princess Twilight Sparkle and I am a victim of the machine I'm supposed to help others navigate.

Eventually, the guards stop letting in new ponies and send those still waiting away. There are other duties which I must attend, they say, for the better of the people. I wonder if they themselves know that such a duty would lie right outside of those doors, not in pointless farces with some random ambassadors. But I am the princess, so I must do what is best for the empire, regardless of what would do it good.

Five past one. The ambassadors arrive just in time and I am to welcome them in the dining room. That's not the same as the one I was in this morning, of course. Albeit that the polished wood and banners which line the walls make them look exactly interchangeable, none must know that the latter one even exists. The only difference I can make out lies in the number of seats available and in that mine is at the top of the table this time.

With the princesses, it had been awkward, but coming together with the ambassadors is plain ridiculous. Our empires are long since in peace, everything that could be discussed is already said and done. Our shared meal is only a message to confirm that to the public, as well as an asset for a hungry princess. In a rational world, I could rise and walk out again. The same effect would be had just from my brief presence. But I cannot. I'm stuck here, carrying out empty manners over a gesture so symbolised it has lost its true meaning ages ago.

I'm just a mare who has had more luck than others, nothing more. Yet I am expected to incarnate Equestria in grace and function at all times. As I chew another tiny piece of food, my eyes wander over the guests. They look almost like normal ponies. In all likelihood, they have friends, love, perhaps even a family, exactly alike to me. If that's how it runs with their species, anyhow. With those beings, they certainly wouldn't behave as they do here. They'd chatter and laugh, actually eat and drink, break rules and taboos. Why can't they do it here, too? Why can't we behave like the equals we are? Heck, I'm smaller, younger, and in probably every other way inferior to them, yet they bow to me because I'm the one with both of the body parts. My name is Princess Twilight Sparkle and I am a subject among rulers.

Seven past two. I finished discussing things whose outcome is already widely known with the ambassadors and set to return to court. That is, before I can enter the throne room, a guard stops me, saying that Cadance is taking over for me and that Celestia awaits me in the gardens. Obviously, I'm secretly happy to be off from duty prematurely for once, but perhaps what is coming for me instead is even worse. Perhaps. Do I have to fear Celestia forcing me to come to terms with my secrets if I don't know whether there even are any? I am suddenly reminded of a great book I once read, concerning the unknown unknown. Maybe I should make a dash for the library in the name of research. Unfortunately, we know each other well enough that I know she'd come looking for me there first.

I quietly curse my own predictability and make my way towards the gardens, moving through staff passages and hidden corridors to conceal myself from the unworthy eyes of the public. A light breeze welcomes me as I step out into the open. The sun is still high, dispensing its blessed warmth to any below that wish to receive it, be those plants or ponies. Any type of vegetation is blooming in its full glory. A bit of birdsong is the only thing to disrupt the isolated quiet. It is quite an lovely day outside. What luck that I could leave the castle for once and actually enjoy it. I only have to follow two turns until I spot my white - well, mentor doesn't cut it any more. I suppose friend is the best word now, as rude as it may feel.

As I join her side, she is inspecting one of the castle's loti. They're amongst the rarest flowers in Equestria, yet there is a sizeable patch growing in front of us. Looking at it, I can't decide if it's a symbol for solely Canterlot's glory or if it also reflects its decadency. When she asks me for my view on exactly that question, I hastily answer the former, but she seems to share my division on the matter. She motions for us to start walking. I have to admit, I always adored the gardens, though I didn't expect her to know about it. Perhaps it is just a big coincidence. Who would know.

After a few minutes of silence, she does what I've been dreading and begins to talk. At first it is only a narration of older days, of how often she or one of my other teachers would come to my chambers only to find me having snuck off again to go here. So I haven't been as stealthy as I thought. Disappointing, especially since I thought the weeks that the filly me spent to perfect teleportation had met their payoff there. She wonders aloud where those times have gone.

Moved on past, I reply, to make room for a brighter future. After all, we must all learn to accept the changes that life gives us, and it certainly hasn't been bad on me, has it?

We branch left into the statue exposition. That, says she, is the question she meant to give me. So much has changed in my life recently, and I wasn't even asked. She wants to know if, given the choice, I would've gone any different at any point.

I slip off my tiara and set it onto one of the nearby statues. Somehow, it looks better on that than it does on me. Go differently, I repeat, mostly to myself. Turn down all of this. Continue a life that is barely still held within my memory. No, I respond, surprising both of us. While it may not be all that I made it out to be, life as a princess is nevertheless something that I couldn't turn down. It is my rightful place, I deserve it. Equestria deserves having me as its princess. No, that is not the problem. I take the tiara back, though I slip it into the folds of my dress instead, and turn to look directly at Princess Celestia. No, the problem is that it is I who inhabits this place. Just that much time ago, I was just a regular unicorn. Maybe I was specially gifted, but ultimately, I was young, naive, foolish, and barely anything has changed since then. I push lightly into the side of her mighty chest to urge moving again, hoping she doesn't take it as offence. As the irony of the situation reaches me, I chuckle lightly and explain that I can barely even reach half of her in size. Where does this place me considering wisdom? But regardless, I am expected to be a coruler of all of Equestria. Yet, there is no point in arguing about my competence here. I must grow to the difficulties as simply backing out of it isn't an option.

So I fear to not be up to the challenge imposed upon me. She has an almost infuriating talent to finish thoughts which I don't dare speak out loud. A very reasonable fear, she admits, but perhaps unnecessary. We pass the garden's only empty statue socket. After all, I don't have a very high rate of failure, regardless of what may be imposed upon me. The results speak for themselves. She joins me on my last point though, there is no way out of being a princess. That is, unless I really wanted to. It should be my choice, not that of some imagined destiny.

Her words force me to think for a moment, longer than I'd expected. No, I finally reply. It may all have come as a surprise for me, but I wouldn't want to have it another way. It is my duty and wish to serve Equestria and her inhabitants and this is how I can do it best.

So be it, she says, and walks away. I could follow, but it seems that she means to end the conversation here and I wholeheartedly agree with that. Before being out of range however, she reminds me of how empty my schedule has become through this little talk and tells me to enjoy it. She might as well have told me to breathe, I would've resisted equally as much.

As soon as she leaves sight, I dash off on another path towards the castle. I've got things to do, ponies to meet, and most importantly a letter to send.


Half past five. I reappear in my personal chambers. A lilac rose, exactly the kind which may or may not grow in the castle's gardens, which I wear in my mane serves as the only indication of where I've been to the small battalion of servants whom I find upon my return. Maybe my coat is another hint, being as soaked with sun and, according to their reactions, also dirt as it is. I could hardly care. They would insist on giving me another makeover either way, so why bother? In fact, this time, I'll even allow them to do everything they get paid to do. Except for the horn polishing, of course. Nobody needs that. I toss all of my remaining clothing aside, knowing that it'll be taken away before touching the ground. I keep the flower, though. My hooves scream out from exercise that they haven't seen in too long as I lie down to give them full access to my body. My name is Twilight Sparkle and I am a princess.

Point six in the evening, give or take three minutes. I arrive back at the secret, so to speak, dining room. Through some twist of fate, not one of us has to attend another farce, so we get to come together again. When I step through the door, the sun is on its last dying glimmers before the horizon, as is Celestia's spell that keeps it there. With this, another day in the castle ends, at least for us. I don't want to imagine the servants' life, though Celestia assured me there are plenty of shifts to allow them rest despite the continuous service that we receive.

Something is different now. All of a sudden, it doesn't any more feel like Cadance is the only pony with whom to talk I am even remotely worthy. But perhaps that's just an effect of how tired we all are after yet another royal day. All except Luna, who happily munches on her croissant being full of energy for the new night. Sometimes, I could envy her for her ability to just sleep through the day. Nopony would openly admit that, of course, save for Celestia. Perhaps my opinion was betrayed by me inhaling sweet wine right after her remark about said ability. It certainly would explain the scorning looks that Cadance gave me while helping me cough everything out again. However, I refuse to admit guilt when I know almost for fact that she secretly agrees.

Aside from my lungs' attempt at murdering me, however, it does turn into quite a nice dinner. According to Cadance's reports, there wasn't much that I missed during the second shift as traffic wasn't the fastest. Apparently, she even got to fulfill two wishes, which is an unusually high number even for busy days. I'm probably not interested in one, she says, as it concerns planting slightly more trees in a city I've never heard of somewhere in the empire. The second, however, makes up for everything. She says that somepony came forth to request a royal visit to Ponyville and, as if by fate, my schedule has plenty of space soon. Granted, it's still a wait of three days, but it is nevertheless harder than ever to keep up the cold, stoic behaviour that lesser ponies would expect of us.

My face is cracked by a genuine smile that is seen there far too rarely nowadays. It feels like a lifetime since I've last been there and met all of my friends together. It is a life that I've left for too long, but I finally understand why I had to do it. Naturally, I am not making any illusions, I won't be coming back as anything less than a princess. But perhaps it is time to whip out the old illusion spells again, just for a few hours. Enough to live the old life, to prevent it from fading out of my memory.

Seven o'clock. All things come to an end, even here. As quickly as royally acceptable, I excuse myself to my chambers, claiming private studies. It's not even all that much of a lie if you think about it. Luna looks like she has something else for me with which to further use up my time, but a white hoof on her shoulder silences her desires before she even begins. Normally, I wouldn't be so rude as to leave after only an hour of animated discussion, but I have other plans, plans that don't involve any of them.

I arrive to find my bedroom in darkness, illuminated only by the moonlight that falls in through the balcony door. I switch on the lights and flop backwards onto the bed, hearing my joints and spine crack from royal disuse. Worming my way to the pillow is always an adventure in its own right due to the bed's pure size, but I eventually manage to do it. When I fetch out the first of many books which I intend to read in the following days, something - or rather the lack of something - suddenly gets through to me. I am alone, for the first time in an eternity. Yes, there was this afternoon, but it only counts if ponies actually know where I am, when they choose to leave me. It is a tingly feeling, to know that there is no duty to fulfill, no etiquette to uphold, only a mare and her favorite literature, that is to say any kind of it.

That is, until an energetic knock disrupts my peace yet again. However, I'd hardly call it a turn for the worse once I realise that it is a knock on glass, not wood. A special mare has arrived, half past seven, as requested. I open the door to let Rainbow Dash inside, but that doesn't seem to be her intention. Thus, I come join her outside. The night is fresh, but not cold. A small chorus of birds provides as soothing an atmosphere in sound as the endless sea of stars, together with the moon, do in light. There are nearly no clouds in sight, meaning clear sight both up into the sky and down to the ground, where the moon's gentle glow provides just enough to see the path ahead.

I ask Dash about her plans, or at least intend to. Before I can finish my sentence, she interrupts me by clogging my lips with hers. There is simply no replacement for the resulting fireworks within my stomach. I can't exactly say that I'd ever have to wait long for them, but any wait for that sort of thing is too long. No matter what happens, I can take comfort in knowing that Rainbow will always be there for me, not allowing the life I once lived to escape my memory for as long as I live. There is no need for words, so there shall not be any tonight. She leads in taking flight and I follow. I am Twilight Sparkle and I am free.