When Twilight received an invitation for a “special meeting” with Celestia, she had expected paperwork, some tea and biscuits, maybe a passionate cuddling session if all went well. Instead, she found herself standing before the throne, thoroughly uncuddled, with the horrendous odor of lemon-scented cologne filling her nose. She never thought standing next to Prince Blueblood could be a form of torture.
“And that’s the gist of it,” Celestia said, either oblivious to the stench or able to smile despite it. “Luna and I have been running ourselves ragged ruling over all twenty-four hours in the day. So from this moment on, Twilight, you are the Princess of Dusk, and Blueblood, you are the Prince of Dawn. Congratulations!”
Next to Twilight, Prince Blueblood snorted. “I don’t see why I should have to share any part of the day with her.”
“I agree,” Twilight said. “I appreciate the thought, Princess, but I’m fine with Blueblood having both parts. Do we have to work together?”
Celestia nodded. “It’s a hard job, so he’ll need the help. Besides, Twilight, you’re always saying you want more responsibility. And Blueblood, you need to fulfill your court-mandated community service hours.”
“I believe my existence is service enough,” Blueblood said, turning up his nose. “Nevertheless, I accept the position with pride. I shall be the greatest monarch the dawn has ever seen! Ponies shall look on my works and despair!”
“What does this job actually entail?” Twilight asked.
“Just the usual royal matters,” Celestia said. “Giving speeches, passing laws, looking beautiful—”
“Reigning supreme over all of time and space?” Blueblood asked.
“Of course,” Celestia said.
A toothy grin spread over Blueblood’s face. “Sounds lovely.”
Twilight grimaced. “What he said.”
“Of course, you’ll have to share your supremacy,” Celestia said. “You each only have part of the day, after all. But I’m more than confident that you’ll make it work.”
With that, Celestia wished the two luck and dismissed them. The new rulers trotted out of the throne room. Once they rounded a corner, Twilight spun around.
“Listen,” she said. “I don’t know how this ‘Princess of Dusk’ thing works, but if it’s what Celestia wants, then I’ll go along with it. I know we’re not good friends. But can we agree to make nice?” She put out her hoof.
Blueblood didn’t hesitate to return the gesture. "Of course, my dear Twilight,” he said, bowing. “For the good of my country, we'll put our differences aside. No matter how frumpy and morally deficient I find your manecut.”
Twilight withdrew her now lemon-scented hoof. “Right.”
Later that day, as dusk stretched across the sky, Twilight trudged through Ponyville with three squirming foals clinging to her back. The news of Twilight’s promotion leaked to the press like poison into the water supply, and now the entire town had gone into New Princess Frenzy Mode. And just like when she became the Princess of Friendship, everypony wanted to take advantage.
“Please?” Scootaloo asked, standing on Twilight’s neck. “Like, please please? I swear, I’ll let you ride my scooter. I’ll let you ride it twice, even!”
“For the sixty-third time,” Twilight said, ignoring Scootaloo’s drooping face, “it doesn’t matter what kind of princess I am. I can’t make it illegal for fillies to be sent to bed without dessert.”
“What if we bribe you?” Apple Bloom asked. “I’ve got three bits and an apple fritter stashed under my bed!”
“No,” Twilight said.
Sweetie Belle scratched her chin. “What if we blackmail you?”
Twilight faltered, recalling last night’s steamy bookshelf reorganization session —but put on her poker face. “No.”
Sweetie hung her head. “Drat.”
The Crusaders didn’t stop chittering, even as Twilight trotted into the foyer of her castle. In the center of the room, Twilight lit her horn and scraped them off her back.
“Speaking of bedtimes,” she said, “shouldn’t you three be getting home? It’s almost totally dark out, and I don’t think I have any dessert here for you.”
“What kind of princess doesn’t have dessert?” Apple Bloom asked.
“No dessert, can’t pass bedtime laws,” Scootaloo listed off. She shot Twilight a narrow-eyed glare. “Are you sure you’re really a princess?”
“She’s just another ineffective, mainstream capitalist neoliberal figurehead,” Sweetie said.
Everypony stared. “Do you even know what any of that means?” Twilight asked.
“Nope,” Sweetie said.
“But it sounded smart,” said Scootaloo, “so it must be true!”
“I bet Blueblood would give us ice cream,” Apple Bloom said. “What with all that money he’s got.”
“I’m sure he would!” Twilight said, forcing a smile. “And you can go bother—go ask him in the morning. For now, why don’t you head home—”
A sharp snapping sound echoed through the room. The fillies all looked away, above Twilight's head, and screamed.
Screaming? Is my smile really that creepy? Twilight thought, wincing.
She looked up and noticed the foyer’s massive crystal chandelier freefalling towards them.
Twilight shot a concussive blast at the fillies, launching them halfway across the room. She looked up again just in time for the entire weight of the chandelier to crash down on top of her.
Plumes of dust erupted through the air, punctuated by the Crusaders’ shrieks. Pinned beneath one ton of broken crystal, all Twilight saw was darkness, and her limbs throbbed in agony.
Darn it, Twilight thought, face smooshed into the floor. I knew I should have taken Rarity up on that offer for yoga class. I’m gonna feel this in the morning...
“Twilight!” came Spike’s voice, somewhere in the distance.
“Give me a second,” Twilight mumbled, spitting out a few chunks of rubble. She closed her eyes and wrapped her magic around the smashed chandelier, then hefted it a few inches into the air, giving herself just enough space to wriggle out from under it.
The Crusaders looked on with slack jaws as Twilight stood up straight, completely unscathed. “Is everyone alright?” she asked, rolling her neck around with a few tiny popping sounds.
Scootaloo’s face went pale. Sweetie Belle just fainted.
“What in tarnation was that?” Apple Bloom cried. She and Spike sprinted up to Twilight.
“I’m not sure,” said Twilight, looking back at the destroyed light fixture. “Spike, when was the last time you tightened the chandelier’s chains?”
Spike blinked. “Never?”
“You should be dead!” Apple Bloom said. “That big thing shoulda squished you like a pancake!”
“Benefits of being immortal, I suppose,” Twilight said, preening her wings.
Apple Bloom frowned. “Imma-what?”
“Immortal. It means I can’t die,” Twilight explained.
“Not even if you eat broccoli?” Scootaloo asked, rushing up to stand next to Apple Bloom. When Twilight nodded, stars filled Scootaloo’s eyes. “Can you make me immortal? I wanna jump into a volcano and swim in the lava. Please?”
Twilight glowered down at her. “No.”
“Please please? I’ll let you ride my—”
Twilight picked all the fillies up and shoved them outside, then slammed the door closed.
Squinting hard at the bundles of broken chain gathered on her lab table, Twilight held out a hoof and made a beckoning motion. “Spike, pass me the welding torch, would you?” she asked. When she got no response, she turned around and said again, “Spike?”
A few paces behind her stood Spike, forehead glossed with sweat, staring at the torch on Twilight’s workbench. He had one claw stretched towards it but frozen in place, as if he’d been visited by a cockatrice.
Twilight watched for a few moments more. “Everything okay over there?”
Spike jumped back. “Yeah!” he said, wearing a too-wide smile. “I’m just being careful! Just in case we’re, y’know... cursed.”
Twilight scoffed. “Cursed?”
“Think about it,” said Spike. “First the chandelier falls. Then, I go to get a snack, but I end up tripping and spilling my sapphires all over the floor. You can’t explain that!”
“I’m pretty sure I can,” Twilight said. She went back to squinting at the chains. “I don’t know about you tripping, but these supports must have been on the verge of breaking for weeks.”
As she spoke, she did her best to keep the chains out of Spike’s sight. In truth, she wasn’t sure what had felled the chandelier; the steel chains had no rust or denting. In fact, it looked like they had been sliced right through, as if with magic.
“There’s no curse,” she said, using her magic to grab the torch herself. “You’re working yourself up over nothing. And the sooner I get this fixed up, the sooner I can start figuring out just what the heck a ‘Princess of Dusk’ actually does.”
Spike watched the torch with frown as it floated through the air. “Alright,” he said, taking a seat on the far side of the room. “If you say so. But if that thing blows up, I’m not putting out the fires.”
Twilight offered him an assured smile before pulling on her welding mask. All she needed was to close up the tiny cuts in the chain, which would take no more than a few minutes of work. She pointed the nozzle away from her and pulled the trigger—but nothing came out. Frowning, she pulled it again and again and again, until—
—until it worked, and a tiny jet of blue flame hissed out of the nozzle. She cast Spike a smirk. “See? No fiery explosions, no curse, nothing.”
Spike stopped hiding his face in his claws and let out a relieved sigh.
Smiling, Twilight turned back to the chains. However, before she could get to welding, the torch’s flame sputtered out. “Oh,” she said, giving the tool a small shake. “The gas tank must be empty. No wonder it wouldn’t turn on.” She put the torch down and trotted over to a nearby closet, where she kept her replacement tanks.
When she opened the closet, a massive alligator popped out and swallowed her whole. Spike let out a high-pitched yelp, while Twilight just gazed into the darkness of the alligator’s stomach.
Twilight tried to take a calming breath—but the putrid smell set her brain on fire. “Spike,” she called. “Send a letter to Fluttershy.”
Fluttershy soon arrived and, through methods that nopony involved would ever willingly speak of again, extracted Twilight from the alligator’s stomach. “Oh, you poor thing,” Fluttershy said to the now-leashed creature as they headed downstairs. “Being locked up in that dusty old closet must have been so uncomfortable!”
“Uncomfortable,” Twilight muttered, her coat shiny with alligator goo. “How unfortunate.”
“Twilight, I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but... you need to take better care of your pets,” Fluttershy said as they reached the foyer. “I hope this isn’t a symptom of your new responsibilities getting to your head. Maybe Spike doesn’t mind when you trap him in closets—I, um, don’t know what you do in your private time—”
“He’s not our pet,” Spike said. He kept his nose pinched tight as he walked alongside Twilight. “He just showed up in the closet.” He threw a glower at Twilight. “Because we’re cursed.”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “We’re not cursed! This, the chandelier falling on me—they’re all coincidences.”
“That doesn’t sound like a coincidence to me,” Fluttershy said. She glanced around a few times before leaning into Twilight and whispering, “It sounds like somepony might have a hit out on you.”
“A hit?” Twilight snorted. “Fluttershy, that’s ridiculous. I’m a scholar, not a mobster. Who in the world would possibly want me dead—”
“Tirek, Chrysalis,” Spike listed, “Sombra, the Dazzlings, that mare who sells popcorn in Canterlot Park...”
“—aside from the people who want me dead!”
“Princesses are common assassination targets,” Fluttershy said. She led the alligator to the door. “Really, I don’t mean to worry you. But if I were you, I’d lay low for a while. Take it from somepony who knows.”
She left without another word. Spike and Twilight exchanged a glance.
“I think she’s right,” Spike finally said in a shaky voice. “Maybe we should lay low. Things are getting dangerous around here.”
“Spike, I’ll be fine. I’m immortal.”
“I’m not!” Spike said. “What if that gator came after me, too? Not all reptiles are friends, you know!” He twiddled his claws. “I bet Sunset Shimmer would let us stay with her for a while until the heat dies down.”
“There’s no heat!” Twilight groaned. She raised a brow at Spike. “And didn’t you get into a fight with the other Spike the last time we visited?”
“That wasn’t my fault!” Spike said, stomping his foot. “He tried to sniff my butt!”
“And you tried to hump Rarity’s leg.”
Spike went silent—then blushed horrendously. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”
It took a while for Twilight to doze off that night. After all, sleeping with Spike’s snoring in her ears—and nose—wasn’t an easy task. Curled up like a cat, Spike snoozed beside her. He’d refused to sleep in his room, lest his bed be turned to cucumbers while he slept. Spike hated cucumbers.
In any case, she had a lot on her mind. She didn’t believe Spike and Fluttershy’s conspiracy theories, of course not, but... what if somepony did have it out for her? She was smart, talented, relatively cute when one considered Ponyville’s average standard of beauty. What reason would anypony have to kill her?
Then again, her approval ratings had been dipping lately. A few weeks back, she closed up a loophole that let ponies pay their taxes in imaginary “friendship dollars,” which earned her a few angry letters. And just the other day, she put regulations on how often ponies could assemble into impromptu musical numbers. That nearly started a riot—a riot filled with lovely singing and dancing, sure, but catchy lyrics didn’t make pitchforks any less sharp.
When she finally did fall asleep, she dreamt of ruling over a nicer kingdom. A kingdom where ponies appreciated their relatively cute princess, and alligators didn’t hide in her closet.
However, eventually she woke up with an annoying tingle in her bladder. For a moment she buried her head into the mattress, wondering if she could just ignore it and go back to Dreamland, but soon forced herself to get up. Eyes sagging, brain working at half-speed, Twilight dragged herself out of her bedroom and down the hall to the bathroom.
She didn’t even bother to turn on the light as she made her way to the toilet, hopped up onto the seat, and sat down.
And down. And down.
Twilight flailed her hooves in every direction. “Spike!” she screeched, her rump submerged in the freezing toilet water. “Help!”
Minutes later, Twilight was back in her bed, a towel wrapped around her butt. She gazed at the ceiling with a thousand-yard stare, the memory of the toilet’s chilly embrace seared into her mind.
“Who?” Twilight asked, cowering into her sheets. “Who would leave the toilet seat up? Who could possibly be so evil?”
Spike fiddled with his claws, refusing to look at Twilight. “I bet it was the assassin,” he said. “Definitely.”
“I didn’t believe you before, but now...” Twilight glanced at her still-damp rear. “Somepony trying to kill me might be the only explanation for this disaster.”
“Can we move into Sunset’s house now?” Spike asked.
“Maybe,” said Twilight, climbing out of bed. “But first things first: I want to warn Blueblood. Hopefully he’ll still be awake; he might be a pain, but he’s a mortal pain. And I bet that he’s got a lot of chandeliers in his house.”
The next morning, when Twilight dragged herself out of her room, eyes baggy, wings dragging, she didn’t even bother to check the hallway for tripwire guillotines, or spring-loaded flamethrowers. She just wanted breakfast. She also wanted to take a shower, but she’d decided to put off entering the bathroom for as long as possible.
Yawning, Twilight trotted into her kitchen—and paused when she found a mug of coffee and a steaming bowl of porridge waiting on the table. Twilight looked over the meal with a salivating glance. She hadn’t even noticed Spike leave to make breakfast; what a sneaky dragon! Marveling at how wonderful her favorite little chef/assistant/personal post office could be, she took her seat at the table.
Twilight inhaled the scent of her meal—and wrinkled her nose when she picked up a hint of lemon wafting from the porridge. The horrendous odor of Blueblood’s cologne had ruined the fruit for her, and she wanted to keep his weird letter far out of her mind.
Then again, it is dawn right about now, she thought, shoveling the sweet mush into her mouth. Maybe his first decree was to make all of Equestria smell just like him...
She stopped as a bitter, almond-like taste washed over her tongue. Swallowing what food she had left in her mouth, Twilight took a moment to ponder the familiar taste; she thought back to her years as an expert scientist. She remembered constantly searching for new materials to work with, conducting vigorous, vigorous experiments on any chemical she could find.
“Spike,” she called, “why did you put cyanide in my porridge?”
“Aha!” Prince Blueblood cried, jumping out from under the sink. “You've fallen into my trap!”
“What trap?” Twilight asked. She glanced at her porridge. “Wait—did you seriously try to poison me? You’re the assassin?”
“Try to poison you? I’ve succeeded!” Blueblood said. “In mere moments, your breathing will cease, leaving moi as the ruler of both dawn and dusk! No longer will I have to share my throne—soon, eternal power over one-twelfth of the day shall be mine!”
The monarchs stared at one another.
Blueblood’s grin stayed static. “You may begin dying now, you know.”
“Blueblood, I’m immortal.”
“Yes, I know you’re immoral. I’ve seen your mane."
Another moment of silence.
Twilight threw Blueblood out the window.
“I’m sorry about what happened,” said Celestia, pouring tea for Twilight. “I really didn’t expect this sort of thing out of Blueblood. I always saw him as an arsenic kind of pony.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Twilight said. “Sometimes you just want a relaxing night, and you end up surviving four assassination attempts. It happens.”
“In any case, I’ve handled it. Now Blueblood knows the cost of treason.” Celestia looked into the night sky. “He’s been sent to the moon.”
“Wait, I misspoke,” Celestia said. “His room. He’s been sent to his room.”
“But fear not! I’ve already chosen his replacement,” Celestia said. She pointed to the doorway. “Behold!”
The doors to Celestia’s chambers swung wide open, letting in a blast of light. Twilight squinted to make out the lithe silhouette standing in the threshold.
“Cadance!” Twilight said, sprinting forward to meet her sister-in-law. The two embraced. “You’re the new Princess of Dawn?”
“That’s right!” said Cadance. “Auntie Celestia asked me to help you out after Blueblood got caught. I’m so excited to work with you!” She looked over Twilight’s shoulder to the tea party Celestia had arranged. “But first, why don’t we have a drink?”
The two hugged once more before Twilight let go, and allowed Cadance to walk into the room.
But Twilight froze when she noticed the object just barely peeking out from behind Cadance’s wing: a tiny bottle labeled “Cyanide.”