Celestia was broken.
All her life she had been the ultimate status symbol, the symbol of strength and imperfection, but the reality of the matter was the polar opposite. She was not just a princess, but a mare, a mare that for the first time had found true happiness and could honestly say nothing could ruin it. However, Marephy is a bitter mare who seeks to destroy such things, and had recently claimed her latest victim.
Her own sun, the same source of pure power, light, and warmth that provided for everypony had now left her in its’ shadow. She felt not its’ warmth, nor could relish its’ life-giving light, for she was all alone and trapped in the worst nightmare imaginable. Her beloved Bean, her Prince, her husband, the father of the little bundle or bundles of joy in her womb, was gone. Even for the 1000 years without her sister, she never had felt such pain and grief. She knew, deep down, that eventually Bean would have to cross over to greener pastures but never thought it would be so soon.
“Sister,” Luna said, her calm voice snapping Celestia out of her inner focus, “You are late to raise the sun again Tia, our subjects are starting to get worried about your mental state and ability to rule. You sure that you don't want Twilight to come and relieve you? She’s going to have to anyway after you give birth, and this will be good practice for her.”
“I'm fine Lulu, really,” Celestia huffed, using the one lie she loved to use since the incident with Tirek. Getting out of bed with a huff, she made her way over to the balcony and reached out to her star. It answered, just like it had ever since the first time she raised it, but ever since the incident it might as well have been a solid block of lead. “Just can't believe everything that has happened to me in such a short period of time.”
“Change is different, and nopony likes sudden change,” Luna’s tone was firm, leveling in a way that Celestia knew what experience she was speaking of, “They like being in control of the situation, of their life, and me and you are no different. We are ageless sister, that is a burden we will carry until something gets lucky enough to kill us, but we must reflect on the good and learn from the bad.”
“I'm not arguing that point,” Celestia was on the verge of another breakdown, she could feel it coming, and knew where she needed to be for when it finally broke through. Heading down the hall and towards the medical ward, the keepers gave a bow of respect before continuing on with their daily tasks. “In fact, you sounded a bit like me when you said that. I just hope everything turns out for the best, Bean's well being is my top priority right now.”
“Which is why I suggested Twilight come and take your place for the time being,” Luna said, putting a wing over Celestia's back as the stopped in front of a particular room, “You have to understand, no longer can you be Princess Celestia all the time, you now have to start balancing you into your daily life. To Bean, you are Celly the wife, and to your foal or foals you will be Mommy. I have been in your hooves Tia, remember that, so I know what you're going through.”
“I will think about it,” Celestia whispered, nuzzling Luna’s neck before cracking a small smirk, “Twilight really takes after her ancestor doesn't she?”
“In more ways than one Tia, and if you let her rule the day it will give me a chance to get to know her better.“ Luna's playful chuckle was cut short, her demeanor shifting back serious, “But like I said, you need to take a step back and look at the new situation that life has given you. I'm here for you Tia, you don't have to go through this alone. Me, Bean, Twilight and her friends, Cadance, and Shining all will do what we need to for you to have a smooth transition. Now, go to him To, for I need to head to the Land of Nod for my daily slumber. Goodnight sister.”
Luna departed, leaving Celestia alone in front of the imposing door. She thought about Luna’s speech, and saw the reasoning being the night alicorn’s thinking due to the roles being reversed all those sols ago. Luna's pregnancy was slightly rough, and that Celestia realized that was the first time she had to do a solo rule, which helped after the banishment.
A sharp breath and a mental prayer later, Celestia held up her head, steeled her will, and entered the room. The room was like you would expect in most hospital ICUs, with a pure sanitized environment courtesy of a continuous cleaning spell. The patient in the bed, however, is what made this room different than the rest.
“Just in time Princess,” Dr. Horsenpeffer said, looking up at the worried mare, “I was about to bring him out the coma, he has been in it long enough that he should wake up. Most of his injuries have healed to within durable parameters, but he still must take things slow for a full recovery.”
“Thank you so much,” Celestia said, her eyes cutting to the heavily bandaged Bean wrapped in a cover burrito, “On another note, I need to see you for an appointment, I believe that I may possibly be pregnant.”
In all the years Marinade Horsenpeffer had 'Doctor’ in front of her name, she had told countless mares that news, to mixed reactions. Some were overjoyed, some demanded DNA tests, a few didn't want them, but almost all were terrified. Celestia was different, she looked excited at the prospect, but the fact it was Princess Celestia who was pregnant still shook her core.
“That is wonderful news!” Horsenpeffer exclaimed, moving into full physician mode, “Come by my office in a little bit and I will run the full array of non invasive tests. Can you imagine it, little Beans running around the castle?”
“I can't wait,” Celestia giggled, deep down feeling another source of warmth spread through her in happiness, “Poor guards will have to catch them, I imagine they will be like Mexicolt jumping beans while exploring the grounds.”
“Yeah,” Horsenpeffer chuckled before lowering the coma spell, “Now we watch his heart rate for the next five minutes to see if it rises.”
Celestia's breath hitched, the five minutes seeming like five lifetimes to her. Every tick of the clock reverberated in her ear, like the dull sound of a church bell echoing over a flower filled valley. Slowly, but surely, the beeps on the heart monitor began to quicken and Celestia was bursting at the seems as her husband opened his eyes.
“Hey dear,” Bean said, groaning as a sharp pain pierced through him as he tried to shift, “Hope you aren't too mad about the chaos I caused with my plan.”
“I certainly am not, my buddy Bean,” An all-too-familiar voice said as Discord appeared out the flower pot, yelping at the sanitation spell, “The amount of chaos you caused was enough to-”
“Discord, I'm giving you ten seconds to get out of my sight before I order you to be executed for treason against the crown,” Bean’s tone was fierce, making even Discord flinch as Celestia stood speechless. “You are nothing more than a sly, weaseling traitor like one who thinks you can substitute sweetener for sugar. I would rather face Tirek again then see you right now.”
“I-I see…” Discord said, lowering into a bow before heading towards the door. “As you wish, Your Highness.”
“Wow Bean, I didn't think you had that in you,” Celestia said, stunned that her husband could be so authoritative, “Guess fighting Tirek made you see that you could be a leader?”
“I had no choice love, it was a stupid plan but I made it work,” Bean’s body relaxed as Celestia caressed him, enjoying the feeling of her wing holding him like a dawn blanket, “How long do you think it will take for me to pay off the window replacement?”
“Nonsense my dear Bean, that window can be replaced but you can't.” Celestia said, leaning in and whispering in his ear, “If you had died, that would have left me as a widowed mother, and despite how long I've been a princess that would have broke me.”
“M-mother?!” Bean exclaimed a cold sweat broke out at the wording used, “You mean…”
“Yes my Beloved, I believe that I'm pregnant and have been waiting for the chance to tell you.” Celestia giggled, running kisses down Bean's next that made his eyes flutter, “You have pollinated my flower patch quite well after all.”
“W-well I am your husband, that's kinda part of the job description,” Bean chuckled, not letting his nervousness nor his mental breakdown show, “I honestly can't wait for them to be born.”
“Neither can I,” Celestia said, resting her head on top of Bean's only for her to bolt upright when the nurse came in with some food. It wasn't much, just some soup broth and crackers, but just a glance showed that whoever was helping Chef Beet had added extra salt without approval. “Excuse me, but why is there extra salt in Bean's broth? Everypony in the kitchen knows just how much he distastes it.”
“It was Chef Beet who added it Your Highness,” The nurse, Redheart, said as she laid the tray by the bed, “But it was at my request. He just came out of a coma, and had lost a lot of body fluid by the time he was found, so this was done to help his body reestablish the proper metabolism.”
“As long as it will get me out of this bed, I'm sure I can tolerate it for a short period of time,” Bean gave Redheart a smile, the mare dipping in her head into a small bow, “Just tell Chef Beet to warn me about what my next meal is going to be, salt can help taste in small does, but in large quantities it drowns the flavors out. Luckily, broth is one thing that diffuses it, so it shouldn't be too difficult.”
“I will give him the message right away Your Highness,” Redheart said as she left, not seeing the suspicious look on Celestia's face at Bean's statement.
“You sure you can handle it Bean?” Celestia asked, her eyebrow raised as she fed Bean the broth, a bitter look forming on his muzzle at each spoonful, “I remember the lecture you gave Shining Armor on our picnic, and one thing I have learned from you is how to see salt quantities.”
“I'll be fine my love,” Bean said, a small yawn escaping his lips after the last spoonful, “Do you mind snuggling me while I sleep?”
“Not at all my Beloved,” Celestia flashed a warm, false smile as the stallion moved in closer under her wing, soon falling asleep. Once the snoring was heard, Celestia began to weep. “Rest well changeling… cause I got a surprise for you in the morning.”
Inside the stallion’s mind, things were no better.
“Oh crap! Oh crap! Oh crap! She knows I'm not really Bean,” Bob thought, his mental freak out spiraling out of control to the point he couldn't sleep, “On top of that she is pregnant?! This is WAYYYY above my paygrade and not part of the job description. She is going to squash me, I just know it, and by the First Mother if I somehow escape what my Queen would do to me…”
“You ok my dear?” Celestia’ voice broke through Bob’s mental storm, causing him to snap his eyes up at the alicorn, “You seem to be having trouble sleeping, something on your mind that you want to discuss?”
Buck… “Oh nothing my little Celly Bean,” The false Bean said, nuzzling Celestia's neck, “Just had a bad dream involving being drowned in a sea of salt.”
“I suppose that would be very unpleasant, but come now, I have a surprise for you.” Using her gentle, magic touch, Celestia lifted Bob onto her back and headed out the door with a preset destination in mind, “It is almost time for me to raise the sun, and thought you would want to accompany me like you just love to do.”
“Um, Celly, do you think I'm ready to do that?” Bob was desperate, clinging to a hope that was quickly escaping him, “I'm no alicorn, so I can't heal as fast as you or Luna can.”
“You will be fine Bean, don't you trust your wife?” Celestia's tone was edged, Bob realizing it was a trick question as the took to the skies with him resting between her wings., “Or is there something else you want to tell me, my sun is very peculiar as to who’s magics are allowed to blend in with mine and touch it, and severely punishes those who aren't.”
The jig is up, abort mission! “Ok, ok you got me!” Bob flailed, dropping his disguise as Celestia landed on her favorite cloud, snagging the undisguised and quivering changeling off her back and holding him in front of her by her magic grip, “Please don't squish me, I was just doing as my Queen assigned me to do.”
“Squish you?” Celestia raised an eyebrow then looked from Bob, to the ground, then back to Bob, “You realize from this height you would make one messy splat for the grounds crew to clean if I bind your wings right?”
“Please don't, I have a wife and foals,” Bob pleaded, but much to his dismay Celestia's face and emotions remained neutral, “I will tell you anything you want, besides I pay my taxes and do you really want that mess on your hooves?”
“Wouldn't be the first civilian I had to kill for treason,” Celestia said, making Bob whimper in fear, “But, I can ask you anything you say?”
“Yes!” Bob’s mood brightened, hoping he would somehow get the claim that he survived a one on one encounter with an angry Princess Celestia, “Where my family is, the exact layout of my hive, the size of my Queen’s-”
“Is he alive?...”
Bob’s mind froze, missed a circuit, then rebooted at the question before he got what she meant. ”Your husband is alive, and if all goes well he should make a full recovery from his injuries, the same injuries that I had in disguise.”
“Let me guess, Chrysalis is draining his love for me?” Celestia was not in a mood for games, and she damn sure was going to get that point across come Tartarus or high water. “Speak the truth, or you will have roughly fifty seconds before you hit the ground.”
“His love for you is rich, but it is also slightly tainted,” Bob said, Celestia's muzzle becoming quizzical, “As for her actual plan, me nor my brothers and sisters know, only she does and is refusing to tell. Your husband is not like Shining Armor, he is smarter and more aware, so she is being more cautious than back during that invasion.”
“Because the fish to fry is bigger no doubt,” Celestia said, Bob nodding in agreement, “You say his love for me is tainted, in what way is it?”
“Worry, doubt, and second guessing.” Bob said, knowing his only chance at freedom was to tell the truth like he had pleaded, “You have to understand, I have been shadowing Bean since shortly after your wedding, monitoring his every move and how he acts. I'm not surprised you saw through the disguise due to the salt in that soup, which made my tongue burn, but you wanted this conversation to be done alone didn't you.”
“Correct,” Celestia said, her short answer being a cue for the impostor to continue, “So why does he have such feelings? I believe I do a pretty good job taking care of him and trying to groom him into a proper ruler. “
“You just said the very reason why Celestia,” Bob didn't bother addressing titles, this was a conversation he had many times before, this was between two married individuals with him helping the other, “You have no idea how many talks he has had to himself when he thought he was alone, unaware I was an extra lavender plant or painting nearby, scolding himself for not being up to your standards.”
“You have to understand Celestia, he is an Earth Pony, bound to you by Fate, and is still dealing with the culture adjustment that comes with it. He feels powerless and useless, that every choice he makes is hurting Equestria, not helping it, and a conversation he had with Blueblood recently only dimmed the flame more. Tell me, did you fully debrief him on your recent diplomatic talks or have him run around doing busy work?”
Celestia took a step back, blindsided by the logic the changeling in front of her was giving, and caused her to replay the events in her mind. “I-I suppose what I had him doing could be considered busy work, but I was just following the instructions I was given.”
“Just as I was doing the same by impersonating Bean,” Bob said, carefully putting a hoof on Celestia's wither, an overwhelming amount of grief coming off her like a tsunami, “He is alive, and in good hooves, but once you rescue him don't be surprised if he is way more affectionate and clingy towards you, it is a side effect of my Queen’s mind control. Getting back on point, he felt as if you were pushing him away.”
“You have ruled Equestria with both your sister and by yourself, and now with Bean. As a princess, I can understand compromise to get diplomacy done, but as a wife you should have stood your ground. Your allies have to realize, when they come to you with something, they are also coming to him for it for he is your equal.”
“You raise some valid points,” Celestia said, conceding that she had some things to rethink, “But tell me, how’s it that you know so much about pony culture?”
“My role as an infiltrator has carried me to many different places, and serve many different roles,” Bob said, changing into a familiar looking pegasus with a white coat and blond mane and tail as he leaned back on the cloud, “I blend, I adapt, I collect, and I return when I am told to. My hive doesn't have a hivemind like many ponies think we do, we are loyal to our Queen, but also have a degree of independence. It just so happens that on one job I did a pegasus mare fell hard for me, and the love I got off her was pure sugar to my body.”
“So you used her just for food then?” Celestia asked, teleporting in some tea as she finished raising the sun before a panicked crowd stormed the castle, “Or did you love her back?”
“At first, it was just a means of a free meal,” Bob said, the mare form he currently was using shivering at the sweet taste of the hot Jasmine tea. “Nice tea, but over time I found myself actually loving her back. Got married, got three beautiful foals, and own a respectable pub chain that is based here in Canterlot.”
“Burlap Bob’s Pubaria and Hayfry Parlor?” Celestia asked, nearly spitting out her tea when Bob nodded, “You have some of the best food in town, and is one of my guilty pleasures to sneak of in disguise just to eat there when I am in the mood.”
“Something tells me that you will be having more of those moods,” Bob giggled, Celestia blushing as she looked off the cloud and in the general direction of the aforementioned restaurant, “And speaking of cravings, if you let me go back home to my family, not only will you make my kids very happy, but I'll also throw in one free meal in my pub per week for each of the castle staff, and free meals every single day for the royal family."
“Throw in Corporal Quillpoint and Wysteria and you got a deal,” Celestia grinned, shaking Bob’s hoof when it was offered, “You know, you wouldn't make a half-bad pony.”
“Half-bad is correct, because other than my family I don't believe in the magic of friendship, my relationship just happened.” Bob said, changing into a copy of Rainbow Dash and stretching his hooves out, “My wife knows what I am, my fillies know they have some changeling DNA, but they understand I have to do these kinds of things and still love and support me. My other hivemates think of ponies as nothing but food and an enemy. Well, except Thorax, he actually believes in friendships, can't tell you how many times my Queen has waxed him as a rebel oddball.”
“Oh really?” Now Celestia was intrigued, laying down beside the faux pegasus as the real Rainbow zoomed by, so distracted that she got stuck in a cumulus cloud. “What does this… Thorax believe?”
“Everyling, and everyone, can get along in harmony.” Bob’s answer was the truth, Celestia could see that, but it still shocked her nonetheless, “That we don't need to steal, we can ask and still get what we need. The whole hive laughs at his ideals because they are so against changeling culture; it is a pipe dream that sounds too good to be true, but there is one point all of us agree on.”
“Celestia, you raise the sun everyday. In doing so, you give light, warmth, and life to every living thing. Whether it is your ponies, your allies, or even cows and other animals they all have to thank you. For the same token, everybuggy including my Queen has to thank you, for it is the same sun that gives your subjects a way to live that also gives us a way to live. We all share the same planet, the same air, the same ground, and same space; it doesn't matter what we are it's who we are. He envisions a future with no hostility or war, yet…”
“It is impossible for such to happen, as long as one’s greed is put over the good of helping others…” Celestia finished the statement without hesitation, it just felt like it fit, “What you call an oddball, is actually quite wise. I wouldn't mind having a nice chat with him over some tea and cake, if such could be arranged that is.”
“Certainly, if I can get him out the hive for more than five minutes,” Bob chirped, his mood improving from seeing Derpy plow into the same cloud Rainbow was stuck in, “My Queen has been keeping him close as of late, hoping to change his stances on those subjects.”
“I promise that I won't burn the hive down,” Celestia said, sighing before she looked towards her sun, “Although, I can't say the same about what she will do.”
“She?” Bob asked, tilting his head in confusion before recoiling in realization, “Wait, you mean to tell me you are going to let Daybreaker loose?”
“I have no choice in the matter,” Celestia said, looking Bob dead in the face, “I have to do what I must to rescue my husband. Granted, if what you say is true, then I will have to thank Chrysalis for keeping him alive but she must still face judgement for not bringing him to me. Now, I suggest you get to your family before fire rains down from the sky.”
Bob gave Celestia a long, pleading look before spreading his wings in a bow. “As you wish Your Highness, just keep what told you in mind.”
“I will,” Celestia replied, and in a golden flash of her magic she was gone.
The source of life for all of Eques, the ball of fire and magic that patiently follows Celestia's guidance, but also a prison to the most dangerous threat to the planet it provides life to. It was surprised to find Celestia in front of it, but it would never harm her.
“Why are you here Mistress?” The Sun asked, speaking through the leylines of magic that pulsed through its coronasphere, the plasma on the surface churning in turn. “I still have many revolutions left in my life, so what brings you to me?”
Celestia sighed, as much as she hated being called 'mistress’, she knew there was no talking that habit out. “I am here to see your prisoner, I have a job that requires her services.”
“Celestia…” If the Sun had eyes, they would be bulging at the request. “I swore to keep her in my core, away from those you protect, what is so drastic that is making you resort to this?”
“It is between me, her, and an enemy of mine that took something close to me,” Celestia said, landing on the surface of liquid fire, her shoes heating up but no harm being done. “You are free to listen as I explain, but it will only be done when I see her face to face, am I clear?”
“Of course Mistress,” The Sun replied, the surface directly beneath Celestia cooling into a sunspot and allowing the alicorn to venture deeper. “I will not ask again.”
“Good,” with a Curt nod, Celestia entered the sunspot. All around her, temperatures and pressures that would instantly kill most ponies steadily increased, but it didn't harm her. Once she reached the core, she gazed upon the prison cell, the occupant already sneering.
“Well what do we have here,” Daybreaker said, a mock grin forming on her face. “Miss perfect coming to gloat about how she is able to take the sun to her liking?”
“Not at all, in fact I need your assistance.” Celestia could tell she had pierced her counterpart’s shield, the fiery slits widening into slim ovals. “You see, I-”
Celestia was cut off by the cold, blood chilling laugh that Daybreaker called her own, the evil alicorn rolling in her cell.
“You need my help?” Daybreaker said, catching her breath. “What has spiraled out of control to the point you need me to bring about the true power that your magic possesses?”
“An enemy of mine has some point close to me, and I want him back.” Celestia said, instantly regretting her word choice by the fact Daybreaker was wiggling her eyebrows. “Now, I do not want her or her subjects dead, but I do want them to be scared straight.”
“You are never fun Celly,” Daybreaker clearly wasn't interested, and deep down the princess knew she was going to have to strike a deal. “I could melt anything I please, but unlike your sister, you are resolute in keeping me in chains. Tell me, why is one stallion so important to you when there are many more in Equestria? Perhaps I should refuse, because being free without my full power still makes me feel like a caged animal.”
“Because I'm pregnant, and the one who needs rescuing is my husband,” Celestia blurted, catching Daybreaker off guard. “If you go full power it will likely kill my daughter, and all if I am having more than one.”
“That explains my lithium craving…” Daybreaker muttered, looking Celestia in the eyes. “And kinda figured that it was only a matter of time, do you have any idea how instable your little sessions made the sun? I had to use the faint traces of my magic that I am allowed just to keep the core stable.”
“Whoops,” Celestia was embarrassed, a light pink crossing her cheeks at just how close she had come to destroying all life on the planet. In hindsight, she thought about how ironic it was that being that close to extinction had brought new life forward. “Hadn't realized that I got so carried away.”
“Honestly Celly?” Daybreaker’s deadpan was so strong diamond would break first. “You were a virgin, and every time I wanted to indulge in those kinds of acts you beat me like a whipped traitor.”
“If you do exactly as I instruct, I will let you be free the next two months, until my second trimester starts “ Celestia put a wing around her stomach, looking at it lovingly. “And in that time, you can have as much bean dip as you please.”
A fiery gleam lit in Daybreaker's eyes. “Bean dip, you say? Now you're speaking my language. How do you know that I will return in time hmm? You have no reason to trust me.”
“I don't trust you,” Celestia walked over to the cage, putting her horn on the complex magical lock. “But I do know that if you stayed in control fully, you would have to be the one to deliver at the end of the pregnancy.”
Daybreaker's pupils shrunk, her flaming mane and tail briefly flickering as she gulped. “You have my word as the Solis Numen.”
“I thought you would see it my way…” Celestia said, a smirk forming as Daybreaker's chains were undone.
Far over the frigid peaks of the Smoky Mountains, and far below the dark, deep caves of the Diamond Dogs, lay Chrysalis’ hive. The queen herself, seeing that the real Baked Bean was fast asleep, closed her eyes to focus on her ancient meditating technique.
Something felt very wrong. Being the powerful Changeling Queen that she was, she could feel the ebb and flow of the natural magic of Eques. In this moment, she felt a powerful shift, one that made her feel something she had not experienced in many moons.
Pure, raw fear.
It was a fear that she normally felt coming from her prey, but now she was experiencing it herself. Perhaps, in a brief moment of compassion for the useless ponies, she felt afraid for not only her children but also every being that stood in Princess Celestia's path. However, she knew it was not Celestia who would becoming, but Daybreaker.
And the sun burned hotter.