Twilight's Nightmare

by Nightsclaw

First published

Twilight in her most desperate of moments, issues a cry for help. She was not expecting the Nightmare to be her saviour.

Twilight did her duty. She saved everypony she could, except herself. Now trapped by an evil cult, in more pain than she has even been in before, and dying on a sacrificial altar, she calls for help. The Nightmare answers.

Will Twilight become the next evil to threaten the world or will the Nightmare simply be glad to have some freedom? One thing is for certain, Twilight's life will never be the same again.

The Editors
Cander (CH 1-Current)
Yutah123 (CH 8-9)

Now with an excellent reading by StraightToThePointStudio (Currently only up to CH 21)

And we even have art!
[Warning Spoilers] Twilight's Nightmare Art

CH 1 Upon an Altar of Blood

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If there were one sensation that defined her existence today, Twilight would have said it was pain. To her, It seemed agony was all there ever would be. She could almost not remember what it was like to be free of this suffering. Intellectually she knew that could not be true, but that's how it felt.

She no longer screamed or struggled, her throat was too raw, breath too hard-fought and limbs too weak.

There was one bright fact she could take pride in, that she could try and take comfort in. Yesterday she insured her friends were safe; the ponies of Manehattan were safe. What could have been the most extensive loss of life in recent history prevented. Not a bad final achievement? she thought to herself.

The danger had been a powerful dark magic spell, it was going to end all life within a few miles of the city. It had taken almost all of her considerable arcane might to hold back the destructive dark magic. It felt like hours, her horn burned as she battled the tainted spellcraft. Thank Celestia I held out long enough to let everypony escape. She thought, considering the pain she felt then would feel like a spa visit today.

Thinking back to how she had arrived here, she had to admit her attackers had a good plan. It was a perfectly timed ambush and they expertly executed it. All it had taken was one forced teleportation spell. She was exhausted and just about to make her escape. Distracted and unaware she could do nothing to resist it. Today for all anypony knows I died a hero in an explosion, bravely giving my life, saving everypony.

Oh, how hard it was to try to stay positive or at least accept things. She knew that if she was asked yesterday she would have said that being here was a price she would have paid willingly, to save the others.

She was trapped, completely restrained with no options for escape. Her hope was rapidly fading, her attackers had covered all their bases. Her horn had been removed, her limbs immobilised by the rune encrusted silver rods piercing them. As an almost redundant addition the runes were suppressing her earth pony strength.

Adding insult to injury at least ninety per cent of the runes restraining her was based on a research paper she published two years ago. A moment of wry humour flitted through her mind. At least I can say I do excellent work, they better have accredited me for this. She thought.

Her ever-faithful mind and enhanced Alicorn senses perceived, logged and noted everything. She hardly cared about the dim rough-hewn stone room, and the altar she lay upon, nor the lighting caused by the menacing red radiance from her pooling blood. Her mind noted another sound; her automatic count moved up by one, thirty-five thousand and seventeen drips of her blood since Sombra's servants had left her alone.

Oh, how she wished the pain would stop, to pass out, to go mad or literally anything to bring her relief, but no her new royal body was too robust for that. She was still awake, and fully aware of how bucked she was. In all honesty, she was surprised she was still sane, likely some alicorn mental resilience.

Another drip, thirty-five thousand and eighteen her mind noted

Her ever diligent mind had a full listing in its cold, clinical detail hungry manner of every cut, every break and every degradation inflicted upon her body. She could almost see a little crazed version of herself with a quill eagerly scratching away, recording every detail — each entry dated, time-stamped and even with little diagrams.

Legs broken in four places each, one hoof removed.

Wings dislocated, about half the feathers from one removed.

Torso opened up so her captors could take various samples, six ribs broke, one removed.

The last insult to her body, her horn removed from and stabbed deep into her chest.

If not for their final act, she would eventually have been fine, eventually healed despite everything. They broke her horn off and used it to pierce her heart exploiting one of the few true weaknesses of an alicorn, their own divine horn. They had taken the focus of her special talent, her very destiny and using it as the tool of her demise.

Her heart was still valiantly trying to pump blood around her failing body, each beat just a little weaker. Her innate magic denying her a quick release allowing it to function despite the damage. They said it would take her days to finally die; she sincerely hoped they had overestimated that.

Drip. Another drop of blood fell. Thirty-five thousand and nineteen. her count continued. How many drops of blood would fall in a day, how would you calibrate something that could be so variable to keep accurate time? No, it did not matter. She thought.

I did all the right things; I did my duty as a Princess and kept everypony safe.

Being here now, this is the price I paid? She thought as a filly like voice in the corner of her mind kept asking. why can't I be saved, why is nopony here to rescue me? Why must the suffering always be mine?

Drip. Thirty-five thousand and twenty.

More tears rolled from her eyes; she could hear them drip from her muzzle into her blood below, each making a subtly different sound to other fluid dripping. At least my count will still be accurate. Her mind filled with thoughts of home, family, friends, the Princesses, Celestia.

Oh, how she wished the Princess would come and save her. On how she wished to be wrapped up in those perfect white wings to be soothed and find this is nothing more than a nightmare, a horrible, terrible nightmare but nothing else.

In her mind, she started on one final friendship report, one last letter she would never get Spike to send. Dear Princess Celestia. was as far as she got before another drop fell.

Thirty-five thousand and twenty-one. her mind reported. Her body shook as weak sobs wracked her body.

"Please somepony help me," faintly escaped her lips.

"I am here my Little Star," an almost familiar voice said in a loving tone.

To say Twilight was surprised was an understatement till she remembered. Audio hallucinations could be a sign that I am closer to death.

Something almost like magic brushed against her senses; somehow, she knew this voice of kindness was offering to take her pain away. "Let me help," the voice said as smooth as the softest silk.

Twilight let her eyes fall closed, accepting this gift of help. As darkness closed in, she felt her pain fading like a bad dream; soft feathers enveloped her in an achingly familiar embrace.

After so long, merely the lack of pain was the sweetest of ecstasy. Twilight's slow breath brought her the scents of the crisp night air, feathers, and the warm scent of an equine body.

"There, there you are safe now," her saviour gently stroked her mane with a hoof.

Shifting slightly she found herself free and no longer restricted by pain or evil metal spikes. Twilight reached out with both forelegs and her wings, returning the embrace. Tears of joy now tracing new tracks in her coat. She melted into the sensations of the hug, pressing against the reassuring feel of her saviour's hoof.

Twilight blubbered out her thanks and relief not caring if this was real, a delusion or simply Faust come to claim her soul.

The Spirit waited for something to happen, as always she was aware of everything Twilight experienced. Even if she viewed it in a detached, somewhat removed way. The suffering her host was going through was not what she would wish inflicted upon her worst foes. Even with Twilight being her enemy, she respected her. Yes she might kill her or torment her a bit to prove her dominance, but this unnecessary torture was going too far.

If it were not for the seal preventing her from acting, she would have spared Twilight this suffering and torn apart those foul followers of Somber with relish. Trapped since the Elements had stripped her from Luna, suppressed under the might of Twilight's magic. There was nothing she could do but watch.

She had spent a long time just watching, she had nothing else to do. Given everything she'd seen from her prison in Twilights mind, she had learned much. The Spirit was still unsure of a lot of things, the truth of her existence being the largest issue. Who am I? The original, a fragment, a copy? She wondered again. She did not know the answer, and most of the time she did not care. She was here; she was herself that is all that mattered.

One thing she did not understand, she remembered from Luna that both her previous host and Celeista should know that she was here. It was one of the burdens of using the Elements to contain spirits. So why did they never tell Twilight? No matter, Twilight served as an adequate jailer too strong to be escaped from, too pure to call out for a devil’s bargain. At least this prison has been far more interesting than the moon. Will I be free when Twilight dies? Will I be trapped in her corpse or will this be the end of me?

Well, I should find out in a week or two.. She thought bitterly.

"Please somepony help me," her host spoke in an almost inaudible whimper.

It was a cry. It was weak. It was desperate and contained the sweetest words the Spirit had heard for centuries. It was an open request for assistance, and with her host's magic so weak one she could answer. She could feel her host fading from the blood loss if she was ever going to get a perfect chance; this would be it.

She felt almost giddy, nearly breaking out in laughter before schooling her thoughts and voice. Free, free I will soon be free. What words to use, what to say.

Trying her best to use a tone her hated sister had long ago mastered, she answered. "I am here my little star." Her happiness aiding her attempt to sound truly loving.

The Spirit reached out with a tendril of her power, an open offer for Twilight to accept or rebuff as she wished. No force, no compulsion, it was carefully crafted with nothing that might awaken any suspicion. "Let me help," she almost purred. She was so close it was almost unbearable.

She could feel her host closing her eyes yielding, willingly accepting her, welcoming her in. Everything is perfect. The Spirit thought.

It was foal's play to pull Twilights mind away from the pain. It wanted so much to flee into a simple mindscape, one of a larger Alicorn lovingly holding her, stroking her mane and humming a soft, soothing tune.

The surge of gratitude and relief flooding the Spirit mind from her host was almost overwhelming. So this is what it feels like to take a genuinely willing host. The Spirit thought smiling.

As much as she loathed to admit it, she knew she had gained more respect for Twilight. After watching her adventures and may even have some small amount of affection towards her. She split off a small portion of her mind to keep Twilight company; it was the least she could do for such a good host, she could be this kind at least out of respect.

Turning the rest of her being outward to her host's body, to her body and its senses, the seal that once held her resisting her no more than a warm summer breeze now she had the permission of her host.

It was time to escape.

CH 2 Meeting her Little Star

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Pain, glorious pain. After so long of feeling nothing, even this pain was bliss. She wanted to stretch and flex her body, but that would be most unwise injured as she was. The bright light was something she could do without though.

Slowly she started taking stock of her situation, but her host's intellect beat her to it. Ah, the analytical mind of my host is so useful. She thought as almost automatically the facts about the situation were sorted, ordered and assessed. Twilight was a truly willing host, not fighting her, not resisting and now even helping her. I could get used to this.

A checklist popped up in her mental space. Held in the hooves of a little unicorn Twilight. Is my host insane, or am I? She thought before discarding the idea. Like it mattered.

#1 Keep Friends safe.
#2 Stop blood loss.
#3 Restore magic.
#4 Remove the spikes pinning her form to the altar.
#5 Restore mobility.
#6 Repair any remaining damage.
#7 Deal with the twelve cultists.
#8 Escape the Lost Temple of the hidden path.
#9 Write a report to Princess Celestia.

The Spirit looked at the proud and happy seeming unicorn, her smile at being helpful beaming. The Spirit returned the happy expression; she could not help it, this little foal of a unicorn was cute and seemed so utterly devoted to her.

Thirty-five thousand and twenty-seven. Her host's mind informed her. The little unicorn joyfully trotted off to update a count on another scroll that appeared. Oh, the blood dripping, my host's mind is still counting them, that could get annoying. She thought.

She looked at the unicorn she was imagining. If this little foal is going to be my mental assistant, I will have to name her. She considered for a long moment.

"I shall call you Little Star" The Spirit spoke.

Star did a little happy dance, "Yes Princess Nightmare," joy radiating from Star's tone.

Each item on the provided list had many facts and recommendations linked to them, most of them Nightmare would ignore. She had better options, she planned on using her abilities. Most of the spells Twilight was recommending were unnecessary and would not work without a horn.

Protect her friends? That was not one she was expecting but should have. She was feeling generous, she was free and her host was willing after all, doing little things like this would help keep her host happy Twilight's mind was far too useful to give up as a resource if such simple things could keep it allied.

Stopping the blood loss, simple, in fact, items two through six could be efficiently dealt with at the same time.

Deal with the cultists, oh she would deal with them alright. They had damaged her host, and even with this opportunity they had given her, she would show them no mercy. Any that wanted to become like Sombra would be a rival at best and a dangerous foe at worse. So she would gladly deal with them.

Escape the Temple; The fact Twilight managed to work out where she was in the world by noting the scents in the air, the types of stone the cave was made of, some of the markings on the walls and many other small almost unnoticeable details cross-referenced with her extensive collection of knowledge, most impressive.

Nightmare almost rejected number nine send a report to Celestia out of hand before considering it would be one way to buy more time before she was discovered, she would think about it.

Looking around as best as she could oh, that was cruel of them one of the spikes pinning her body to the altar was Twilight's horn. Well, piercing through the chest is not where that needs to be, at least it is still in contact.

The horn melted in the shadow made mist before creeping over her form back to its proper place slowly solidifying once more.

A gasp escaped Nightmare, magic, unicorn magic and all the sensations of the Arcane that came with it flooded back. The world felt alive like she was blind and now had her sight restored. A new layer of depth to reality revelled, almost as if everything had another dimension. She could feel Twilight smiling in her mind. Twilight's special talent was back.

Star clapped her hooves together, "that was amazing, Princess."

Nightmare smirked she could get used to being called Princess, Queen would be better, but Princess would do, Star was just so adorable... why was that even a point she was considering?

"And that was just the start" Nightmare Spoke with pride her body rippled dissolving into a cloud of miasma leaving the enchanted silver rods behind.

Star watched with rapped attention, a new scroll hastily written upon.

Nightmare felt herself relax, as lovely as any physical sensation felt being free from the pain she was glad to be rid of it. She must have spent a few minutes just resting as an almost formless cloud.

Reforming her body, she decided to still look like Twilight, just a little bit taller with a bit more muscle mass and of course, whole and healed.

Nightmare closed her eyes and stretched like a cat, relishing the play of her muscles under her coat; this was nice. For a bookworm, you kept your body quite fit my host.

Opening her eyes and taking her first step, her hoof splashed in her host's blood. Looking down at its red glow and feeling with her arcane senses, she could tell the sheer amount of magic here was extreme. No way was she leaving this here for her captors to use.

Her horn lit with one of Luna's disintegration spells. The sensation of forming the raw power of an Alicorn even weaken and depleted was a delight to feel.

"Princess, Princess." Star bounced up and down, splashing in the blood seemingly without care waving a new scroll.

"Yes, my little Star?" Nightmare spoke, letting the light of her horn fade and trying not to seem annoyed by the interruption.

Star held the imaginary scroll, so it was easy to read. Upon it was a complicated spell, a new spell, a spell that this fragment of Twilight had just invented in the last few moments.

Nightmare's jaw fell open, and she slowly blinked, a brand new spell based on Nightmares shadow magic the filly had just watched, amazing.

Truth be told As old and powerful as the Nightmare was she was a little intimidated by the sheer intelligence and speed of Twilights mind, even comfortably ignoring the world in a mindscape Little Star the small portion of Twilight still paying attention to real-world was still tracking, analysing, committing everything to Twilights perfect memory and had just invented a new spell.

If this is what a mere fraction of Twilight's mind could do her aversion to showing off was a crime against the world itself.

Nightmare closed her mouth smiling, Star's joy was infectious.

Reaching out with a wing Nightmare pulled Star into a hug. Yes Nightmare knew this was just another form of manipulation, to keep both Star and Twilight content but so far the results were more than worth the effort, and yes she could not deny it, being looked up to and having willing physical contact, even this simple hug, were both pleasant side effects.

Studying the scroll Nightmare smirked, oh this was excellent. If she were reading the spell right, the spell would be able to reclaim much of the power from the blood and shape the rest into solid, useful forms to take with her.

How did Twilight know of a blood blade spell let alone worked out how to cross it with a hybrid spell mixing parts of Nightmares miasma form, a magic redirecting shield and a vampiric healing spell?

What was her sister teaching Twilight? Or did she learn that spell from one of the many times she snuck into forbidden parts of the archives? Given she could not remember watching Twilight learn it, it must have happened before her return from the moon: my, my what a dark past you must have had Twilight.

Star nuzzled Nightmare. "Did I do well, Princess?"

"Yes, yes you most certainly did my Little Star." Nightmare returned the nuzzle.

It would take some time to get to grips with the spell, but until then she would permit the warm hug to continue.

Nightmare blinked as she looked down at the unicorn filly under her wing, she smiled. Under her wing, Star's warmth pressing against her coat. Wait for a minute how am I hugging Star in the real world? How did she have blood on her hooves if she was just a mental projection? Nightmare thought in alarm.

Twilight is insane, and now her insanities can manifest because of my abilities That cold thought rampaged throughout Nightmares mind. A slight shudder ran down her spine. Star looked up at her, and Nightmare just smiled reassuringly.

Oh, what do I have to worry about my Little Star is loyal and wholly devoted to her Princess, to me. A small bit of glee entered Nightmare's smile. This has to be like when I created the Shadowbolts to try and tempt Rainbow. Well, this is most interesting.

"As soon as we have cleaned up here we can both go home my Little Star."

CH 3 Twilight's Unexpected Library

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Twilight yawned. She felt calm, peaceful, rested and content with remembered sensations of wings lovingly wrapped around her, and a heartfelt lullaby. The lullaby was in an ancient dialect she studied back for fun during her first year in Ponyville, her mind offered. Nope, random trivia later, sleep now. She snuggled with her surprisingly book-shaped pillow, happily returning to her sleep.

Sunlight shone in her eyes, Nope, no reason to wake up everything is perfect. She shifted a wing over her head to block the light, much better.

Her movements disturbing the air brought the familiar scent of her fresh ink and books, both ancient tomes and freshly printed modern works only added to how relaxed she was feeling. It felt like home. It felt safe.

Thirty-five thousand and twenty-seven.

Twilight blinked, Thirty-five thousand and twenty-seven? What was that about? Her confusion did more to awaken her than the sunlight ever could.

Glancing around it was clear she had fallen asleep hitting the books once again. Noting her so-called pillow was most certainly a book She chuckled softly "At least Spike did not catch me this time."

She hoped she did not have ink on her face again. Rarity would never let it go if I had to ask for more of her fashion emergency strength coat shampoo.

She stretched, expecting to feel stiffness in her back and neck. Finding none, she smiled, Clearly, another superpower granted by being an Alicorn. She thought.

Now what to have for breakfast, and where is my daily checklist? She ruffled her wings, then settling them back as she looked around, adding a mirror to her search objectives.

Twilight froze, she stared at her work covered desk, the desk in her bedroom, her room in the Golden Oaks Library, the same Golden Oaks Library which now was long destroyed.

"Time travel? Alternate universe? Illusion? A dream?" she mumbled, her mane fraying slightly.

Possibility after possibility rushed through her mind, each with a list of tests she could try to prove or disprove them.

"Spike, Spike!" she called out, trying and failing to hide the panic in her voice.

She waited, there was no response, no little dragon shouting back, no banging of things being dropped or the sound of claws scampering on the wooden floors, not even a quiet request for five more minutes. All her senses told her she was alone.

Where is Spike? What is going on? She had to know, and she wanted to know right this instant. Her mind dragged her attention to the books and scrolls on the desk, maybe this would give her some clues. The puzzle they made up giving her something to focus on.

With her panic put aside now calmly waiting its turn, she looked at the first open book reading its title, 'Red Hooves study on Vampony magic.'

"Oh Celestia, what is this doing here? I thought I put that back years ago, and I was only interested in it because of the silly book series named after me. If they find I have it, I will be sent back to magical..." Twilight stopped herself and inhaled a deep calming breath falling back to Cadance's breathing trick.

"Breathe in, Breathe out, everything is going to be just fine." Now somewhat calmed she looked back to the rest of the texts. Her mind adding the new panic to the orderly queue behind the last one.

"Ok Twilight, no need to panic, no deadline here so no way to be tardy at all, your even a princess now, so you're allowed any books you want even that one." With one more deep breath, she focused back to the desk.

Shining Armour's speciality shield spell caught her attention next "BBBFF, when did you publish a book?" She picked up the book idly flicking through it as she kept on with her investigation. He did forget to tell her about the wedding so it is not beyond plausibility he would have betrayed her in this fashion, but for her to not have found it in the catalogue of spellbooks she browsed, hungrily seeking anything new, doubtful.

She hugged the white tome with her brother's cutie mark on its cover close. She could almost believe it was a treasured gift, a memento from him.

Next advanced spell mechanics books one through ten. Nothing to worry about there, standard reference materials for any halfway competent spell work or a bit of light reading.

A scroll detailing Nightmare Moon's miasma body transmutation, written in Twilights own horn writing no less. Oh, this spell could be so much fun, I could get Rainbow back for all those pranks, all in good spirits naturally, but how and why do I have it?

Lighting her horn, she lifted the scroll scrutinising every detail. Other than the fact she did not remember writing it, she was confident it was her work. "So time travel, memory problems or another world." Twilight tapped her hoof on her chin.

Am I Luna's student in this world and Celestia’s now back from her banishment in the sun for wanting eternal day? She wondered. A quick glance at her bookshelf disproved that idea, right there where it should be on the third shelf was her Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns yearbook.

All the advance spell mechanic books rose in her magic, revealing more scrolls concealed beneath them. The books floated off, filing themselves away on the bookshelf next to her desk as she examined the new scrolls.

The top one just had a running count on 'Thirty-five thousand and twenty-seven' There is that number again; what is it counting? Something dug at her memories. She should know this. Her body trembled, she was afraid to remember, but why?

Tightening her grip on her brother's book and wishing it could really be him, another item was expertly slid into the deal with later queue in her mind.

Putting it aside, she looked at the next one. It looked like some type of violent crime report. Now, why would I have this, am I investigating a crime? Being a princess, I do have legal powers so it might make sense.

The victim was clearly depicted as being an Alicorn. Even without looking at the name on the report that limited who it could be.

The first things she spotted was the horn was crossed off. She gulped, Nope, not going to try to imagine what my life would be like without magic. With an effort of will, panic number three took its place in the line.

There was an arrow going from the horn over to the heart on the diagram. The note said the victim's own horn was used to impale her heart. Attempted murder of a princess no less, flames momentarily flashed through her mane.

Read the facts; you can not do anything without information. Twilight used her reason to add the fiery anger to the back of the panic queue.

Mental images of each of the other princesses dead flooded her mind. She buried and locked them in a mental box labelled do not open, threw away the key then banished the box to the furthest depths of her mind where her nightmares lived and left a posted note with a polite request for Luna to destroy it.

Each leg had four fractures marked; the front right one had its hoof crossed off. Each limb had its fractures in the exact same locations. That is not something that could happen in an accident, is it?

Both wings noted as being dislocated, half the feathers from the left one marked off.

The incisions marked on the torso were horrifying to imagine, six ribs marked as broken and a seventh marked as removed. Who would do this to a pony? These wounds were not an attack they were too clean. This had to be surgery or torture.

She checked the notes, and each organ had a small sample removed. Add to that a hoof for earthpony magic, feathers for pegasus magic and likely a scraping from the horn for unicorn magic. Was somepony studying Alicorns? May be trying to find out how to become one?

Twilight's stomach twisted with disgust as a few motes of flame flickered from her mane.

Whoever did this was a professional and likely would have a medical qualification, it would be listed even if it was rescinded. If they were the sort of pony that would do this, she hoped it had been rescinded. Twilight could not stop her mind trying to work out if it would be possible to empower somepony with what was taken from the victim.

Arcane arrays, magic items, zebra potions and forbidden spell craft danced in her mind's eye, rearranged, altering and becoming something new.

She sat perfectly still, seemed to not even breathe for minutes on end then suddenly all the strength left her limbs. Ice had replaced her blood in her veins, being an Alicorn, if it happened to be correct, she would survive, but she was reasonably sure that's just how she felt, and her blood was healthy blood at this time. A ritual could be constructed. It could be done, it was possible, not reliable but it had more than a thirty percent chance of working without additional reagents.

This fact barged its way to the front of the panic line and impatiently tapped its hoof waiting for Twilight to freak out. Her traitorous mind helped, offering up the fact that the younger the Alicorn the donations came from, the higher the chances of success.

It was not left waiting for long. Looking back at the report, the victim's name slowly wrote itself in dripping red blood. Princess Twilight Sparkle, it cruelly displayed in beautiful flowing script.

It was me, and it happened to me. Twilight commenced hyperventilating as per panic response doctrine. Everything else she was delaying dealing with also jumped in, flooding her mind, striping her of rational thought, the golden oaks starting to fade from her senses.

"You are nothing but the rarest of spell components to me, Princess," a deep gravelly stallion's voice said with cruel amusement. "You shall not escape me," it roared.

"No, no, no, no, no!" Twilight screamed. She had to do something, her body tensed and magic surged to life. Flames and bursts of arcane power consumed her body.

It was dark, she could not move, everything hurt, she could not feel her magic. A migraine starting where her horn used to be, making thinking almost impossible.

Twilight watched helplessly, screams escaping her as sharp blades danced with precise movements of telekinesis dipping and diving as they cut into her flesh. Even with the agonising pain, a part of Twilight's mind marvelled at the skill displayed. Rarity being the only pony she had ever encountered with better control.

In the corner of her eye, she could see a little lavender filly, dutifully recording every cut the blades made on a scroll.

A dark-coated stallion imperiously leaned over her restrained form, pulling her attention away from the filly. His evil eyes showed only glee clearly visible in the dark as they glowed green and leaked toxic purple miasma, just like King Sombra.

"You are nothing but the rarest of spell components to me my formerly beautiful Princess," his deep gravelly stallion's voice said with cruel amusement.

A swarm of surgical blades rushed towards her face. His laughter almost drowned out her screams, almost.

Her world shattered as flames consumed everything.

CH 4 Blood Magic

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The frustrations of twisting her mind to grasp this wonderful spell were finally over. It was vexing, her host made this all look so easy. She sighed. It had taken long enough, but at last, she held the spell complete in her mind.

Actually casting it would take all her focus. She peeked in on Twilight and found her to be sleeping peacefully. Good, she would need her full abilities here.

With a mental summons, she brought her fragment back into her whole. For a moment, her mind spiralled, two chains of events trying to make a single narrative in her memories. The lullaby she used to sing to a lonely Luna persisted as the confusion of her two parts fusing faded.

The memories of comforting Twilight gave her an idea. It would be.. it would prove useful to sing to her Little Star. It would help keep Star happy, reinforcing the Nightmare's claim on Twilight. Yes, yes, that would be most effective, she would do so when they next sought rest.

Every little positive association or pleasant memory she could give Little Star would each affect her host bit by bit, compounding upon each other, infecting Twilight with trust and affection towards the Nightmare.

If the Nightmare could get Twilight to care for her, genuinely care for her, she would be safe from even the hated Elements of Harmony. After all, they have no hold over what is already in harmony.

She wanted to throw her head back and laugh but now was not the time for that, she had much to do before she could see the shocked look on her hated sisters face. Oh, this was going to be glorious.

The Nightmare offered Star an approving smile, before she picked her Little Star up in her forehooves, nuzzled her and placed her down at a safe distance.

Now she only had to cast the most complex spell work she could remember trying. Banishing the happy ancient tune from her mind before it altered the spell, she set to work. This was going to be hard.

Her horn lit, then overcharging with a secondary aura of shadows roiling from it. The very air thrummed with power and shadows, stretching towards this Darklight as if reaching for the now blazing horn.

The Nightmares head hurt, and it felt like her horn had a toothache. Five-dimensional arcane equations were most certainly not to her liking, not at all. Grinding her teeth, she kept at it, she would not be deterred, she would not fail.

Her host's gathered spilt blood swirled, symbols and shapes began forming under its surface. First, a single sizeable Arcane circle rose, tightly packed with interwoven glowing magic runes. Next six more within it, rapidly followed by thirty-six tiny ones formed orbiting the others in an intricate pattern some teleporting between positions others even seeming to be in multiple locations at once.

Visually the whole work was stunning to behold, each part moving in its clockwork dance. To a unicorn's senses, it seemed to sing with the sweetest music a beautiful sirens song of near perfection.

She drew in a ragged breath. Since when was she breathing hard? The now fully constructed spellwork was bearing most of its own magical weight now allowing her to dim her horn. That felt nice, the pain almost instantly fading away.

The runes flared brightly, Nightmare wanted to shield her eyes with her wing, but now was not the time to show weakness, she could stand against the sun, so this was nothing.

Proudly and with a stately stride, she advanced into the magic array. Small arcs of static played over her coat, leaving her mane more than a little frazzled.

Each of the small circles pulsed and leapt at her. She flinched, battle instincts only barely restrained as she remembered this was meant to happen. Raising a shield or knocking the circles away with a burst of force would have destroyed all her work and likely caused an explosion.

With a pinching sensation and a burning chill, the spell circles fused with her coat. Each acting as an anchor for what would happen next, reducing the amount of energy that would be lost in the transfer.

Ethereal chains reached out from the anchors plunging into the blood connecting the Nightmare’s senses directly with a vast pool of magic. The chains flexed once before pulling, reeling in and dragging the blood along.

What extraordinary power, Nightmare closed her eyes relishing the sensation. Yes, yes, Celestia, you might still have a claim to more raw power but compared to my host, you are most wasteful with your spellcraft.

Blood crawled towards her, flowing up her hooves then legs slowly climbing higher. It felt slick, it felt warm as it caressed every part of her it touched. It crackled with magic, it was infused with life, leaving her invigorated.

If felt good, very good, maybe a little too good. Ok, now she knew why blood magic was banned. This was far too sensual and could quickly become addictive to a natural-born corporeal being. If a spa trip was even a pale reflection of this, then that was unquestionably going to be a luxury she indulged in when she got back to civilization.

Being Twilight's power, there was no struggle, no conflict, the power simply settled refilling her wellspring.

She could feel the last layer of the spell activate collecting the little wasted power. It reached out shaping and forging the blood solidifying it, altering its very material properties. The familiar weight of armour forming on her body. Something shaped itself along the length of her wings and horn, likely wing blades and a helm.

She would deny it if anypony asked, but the feeling of armour enclosing her again made her feel safe, like a foal holding its favoured blanket. She scoffed at herself, at least armour is useful. Liking being safe in armour is not a weakness.

"Only thirteen point two percent loss of magical energy from the conversion process, point eight per cent better than predicted", Stars overly enthusiastic voice snapped Nightmare back to reality.

Nightmare opened her eyes finding Star sat like an eager puppy with ears perked up and alert looking at her with admiration, a quill writing once more on a scroll.

Remembering her plan Nightmare reached out with a now armoured hoof to softly caress Star's cheek. "Thank you my Little Star, this would not have been possible without you."

Star blushed and seemed stuck between trying to hide behind her scroll and puffing out her chest with pride.

Nightmare looked over herself, the blood red metal. The armour fit her perfectly, it's colour might not be what she preferred, and it might not make her look as terror-inducing as her old set, but she could get used to it.

She could feel the faint tingling of magic tickling her horn in a timing set by her heartbeat. She focused closer, the armour had a self-repair enchantment, and it was tied to her earth pony magic significantly increasing its durability.

The second most potent armour she had ever worn, crafted not by months of hard labour and mind braking enchantment work. No, it was conjured with a single spell.

The Nightmare flicked her wings out testing the wing blades, Not a weapon she had ever used but they looked the part. The edges looking razor-sharp they almost seemed to whisper to her, pleading to have their thirst sated with just a little blood.

"Come, we shall leave this place." Nightmare turned for the exit. gesturing with a wing for Star to follow before neatly folding her wings to her sides and trotting forward.

The rapid clacking of Star's cantering hooves on the cold stone floor let Nightmare know there was no danger of leaving her behind, even with her longer gait.

If it were not for Star providing directions, Nightmare would have been stuck in the Tartarus forsaken temple till the end of time. The whole place was a confusing mess and somehow without a single bit of detectable magic, was completely warded from both divination and teleportation spells without the right key.

From the lecture, Star had happily provided given temple's age the key would most likely be a stone ring about hoof size. It was hard to seem attentive and offer praise at the right time. Star appeared to be taking this as merely a merry little sightseeing adventure so she must have succeeded.

Nightmare was not worried about being ambushed with her host's sensitive horn and sharp hearing, nopony would get close without her noticing. Even if they did, she was armed, armoured, and her host was an Alicorn, what could they do?

The last thing they needed was to give up any advantage of stealth. A one way sound barrier was a simple solution that prevented anypony else from hearing Star's pleasant conversation and endless observations about the temple and its history.

She went through a thousand years on the moon just fine, she could deal with a few hours long history lesson.

The journey to the entrance chamber proved to be uneventful. Star had likely filled a few hundred scrolls with notes and diagrams.

Using a wing to indicate Star should stay back, the Nightmare approached the open archway leading to the massive entrance chamber. She was careful not to show herself to any within as she listened.

As if waiting for that exact moment a deep male voice called out, "No point hiding, we know you are there Alicorn".

A chill travelled down her spine, the small spike of fear clearly from her host. Willpower alone preventing any outside signs. She knew that voice, her host knew that voice. He would pay and pay dearly.

Clearly, she had underestimated her foes, they apparently had very capable concealing magics likely aided by the temple itself. She would not underestimate them again.

Still warded by the sound barrier she stomped one hoof down. The powerful impact was only audible to herself and Star. Extending her senses through the stone with her earth pony magic, she felt out for those in the entrance chamber.

Thirty-six hooves pressed down on the rock. All of them weighing about what she would expect for unicorn stallions. So she would have to deal with magic and lots of it.

Nightmare stepped into the chamber deliberately concealing Star from view with her body. Letting the sound barrier drop, she flared her wings, displaying the razor edge of her wing blades.

Her eyes quickly swept the entrance chamber. It was large, about the size of the throne room back in Luna's home in the Everfree. The unicorns, whos were identities concealed by black robes, were forming a semi-circle around the archway. They were a good four seconds away at full gallop spaced further enough apart from each other that if she charged one, the rest could quickly scatter then surround her.

The central cultist took a step toward her, "Blood magic dear Twilight, Celestia would be so disappointed with you, she might even send you back to magical kindergarten," He sneered.

This foe had clearly researched his prey knowing enough to try and provoke a hasty reaction from Twilight with his words. Such a shame for him that Twilight was resting.

"I'm the element of magic. All magic bends to my will. Do you truly think one such as you can stand against me?"she purred with menace.

She leant forward threateningly, her horn lit as she changed her stance to one more common to a meat-eating predator. She only just preventing her pupils from becoming her favoured draconic slits.

"I do," the stallion let out a cruel bark of laughter, "You are nothing but the rarest of spell components to me, Princess."

Nightmare flicked her eyes to the exit "And you are worth less than the dust on my hooves, I shall be leaving now."

Nightmare let a lance of ebony fire lose from her horn smiling with glee as the roaring energy slammed into the arrogant stallion.

The fury from her spell cleared, she blinked in disbelief. He was still standing, not having even moved to defend himself. His robes were burned though, but his flesh seemed unharmed. That's impossible. He had no shields, no wards, no armour. What? How?

One of the other cultists violently exploded into a cloud of ash. The others not even flinching. So this wannabe Sombra is using mental domination and harm redirection. No matter, he only has so many sacrificial minions.

Nightmare lit her horn three layers of glows surrounding it multiple spells forming in her mind preparing to cast all of them simultaneously. She would have fun with this.

His eyes flashed virulent green, coils of miasma rolling from them as he roared out, "You shall not escape me!"

Twilight's fear blossomed at that sight, starting to resist, starting to thrash against the Nightmares control. Quickly she tore a piece of her essence off throwing it into the mindscape with orders to calm Twilight now, she needed Twilight calm, right now.

The spells in her mind fell apart, small arks of power sparking from her horn. The now undirected energy as dangerous to her as her foes. She could not fight with the current distraction. She had to play for time and wait for Twilight to settle. She tried to focus on a complex shield spell, but Twilight kept disrupting her concentration.

"No not now," she growled, her voice laced with rage.

A swarm of surgical blades flashed into existence then rushed towards Nightmare's face propelled by the dark stallion's magic. Moments later blasts of force lanced out from the other cultist's horns all converging with deadly intent.

Nightmare's horn sizzled with power as she forced all the strength she was holding back under control and into a simple telekinetic shield.

"No, no, no, no, no!" Twilight screamed in Nightmares mind, the full forced royal voice hitting like one of Applejack's bucks to the face.

Twilight's terror-filled panic rapidly overwhelmed Nightmare's thoughts. The magic she was channelling breaking free from any control. Nightmare felt her body hit the ground hard, her heart felt like it would explode from her chest. Her world shattered as flames consumed it, and darkness claimed her.

CH 5 The fantastic adventures of the Princess and her Little Star

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Star happily trotted along next to the Princess, keeping up despite her shorter limbs. She felt good, she felt great, she felt better than she ever had in her whole life. The Princess was proud of her, praised her spell work and even hugged her.

Now she was taking her on an adventure in this unexplored historical site. It was all she could do not to prance around in sheer joy. How could one day get any better? In fact, a superior day was likely a scientific and magical impossibility.

The only thing that could make it better would be to find out she was secretly the princess's daughter and she would grow up into an Alicorn, able to stay by the Princess's side till the end of time.

Oh, what she could learn if she had all that time. She blinked once, the implications of not having that time to share with the Princess trying to contaminate her good mood. All the stuff she would not get to learn because she did not have that time. All the time that she would not be able to be with her Princess. A single tear threatened to fall from her eyes, she sniffled quietly.

"One" A monotone defeated sounding mare's voice said.

Star found herself scratching the number on a scroll levitating next to her. It had many sections, steps taken, tiles walked on, loose stones in the temple and many, many more.

How did she not notice she had been writing all this?
She nearly stumbled, what did she have a subconscious compulsion to count everything? The heading she wrote the number one under was tears. Strangely it was next to it was hugs with The Nightmare which was at two.

The Princess's ears swivelled to Star as if sensing Star's falling mood, then after a moment, she turned her long graceful neck looking back to her, still with that special smile that let her know how proud the Princess was of her.

Star felt a surge of happiness welling up inside of her. So what if she seemed addicted to counting. Everything was perfect, that one smile, that one look that was all she needed, all she wanted.

So she was not immortal, her time was limited. Such facts could do nothing to get her down today. She would just have to make sure to keep giving the Princess reasons to be proud of her, to have more reasons to keep smiling at her like that.

She would give her many, many such reasons and would record each one with joy. Nodding, her self-set goal firmly in mind, she would prove herself to her Princess every chance she could get.

She started a detailed explanation of the temple. She would demonstrate how good of a student she was. That way the Princess would need no other students for as long as Star lived.

Oh, she almost forgot that they were meant to be cleaning this place. One after another she conjured some feather dusters, dustpans and brooms. Each she wrapped a Come-To-Life spell around, setting them free to do their work.

She was so looking forward to going home with the Princess and wanted no delays. Where was home for the Princess? Was it a castle or a palace? Would she get her own room? Would it be big? Would she have a personal library? Oh, her own library just the thought of all those books, each of them hers.

Oh, she could use the same spell she used to get the cleaning done to help take notes, that way, she could record everything and continue her lecture to the Princess at the same time. Multitasking yay!

It took assigning three self animated scrolls to the counting voice to let Star put it out of her mind and stop wanting to pause everything to immediately record the numbers it reported.

Smiling, everything else being taken care of, she turned all of her conscious attention to the Princess. The counting becoming nothing more than a relaxing background sound. It reminded her of her favourite sound, that of pages turning in a library.

Star had a goofy smile, an outside observer could be forgiven for thinking she was intoxicated with happiness. She was surrounded by a swarm of flying self-writing scrolls, her own invention she was now proudly calling S-Five, being short for Star's Super Self-Scribing Scrolls.

She was wrong, the day could get better, she passed a surprise test. She did not even know it was coming, but she passed it with flying colours, not that she could fly, what was up with that saying anyway? The test was a little scary, but she would never disappoint the Princess.

The test was to efficiently find the way out. She had used the carvings on the walls for clues to guide them to the main entrance. She had set about studying them, with the help of her counting voice, she found the pattern in the artwork and followed the clues.

Now here they were, her test completed. The way out just past the next chamber. She felt a bit like Daring-Do on an adventure. If she was, did that mean there would be traps? No, maybe she was not Daring-Do traps did not sound like they would be pleasant to encounter. They could get in the way of her studying these ancient carvings.

The Princess's stride changed, going from stately to a cat-like prowl. Star's eyes snapped to the Princess, alert ears up and rotating, seeking, listening. What did the Princess notice, she looked like she was getting ready for action. This was so exciting and so scary, but the Princess was here, she would be safe, she would be brave.

Star, her eyes glued on the Princess, watched as she stealthily approached the entrance archways leading to the final chamber. Ok, maybe this is more like Daring-Do now.

With a wave of her wing, the Princess indicated for Star to wait where she was and stay quiet. Ok, she could do this. Star sat on her haunches, waiting like a good student.

The swarm of her S-fives were not conducive to being unnoticed so with an Arcane twist of the fifth dimension she opened a new dimensional pocket. She magically labelled it S-Five Aviary and commanded all of them inside.

Once her flock of scrolls were safe, and out of sight, she closed the entrance to their aviary, the small ripple of fifth-dimensional magic as it closed had echoes in it, and the echoes contained labels, labels done in the same way she had just used, even written in her own short-hoof encoding.

She blinked, confused for a moment before rapidly examining the labels and the arcane texture of the echos before they faded. It was clear she had multiple pockets linked to her.

The Daring-Do fan supplies label immediately jumped to her attention, she opened it hungrily looking inside. A childlike grin on her face Star pulled out a pith helmet modified for a unicorn. Spinning it with a flourish, she popped it on her head.

Now she was ready, let the adventure commence. She raised her hoof and almost cheered before she caught herself. Stealth mission, stealth mission, silly Star, you almost blew it there.

"No point hiding, we know you are there Alicorn", a male villain's voice called out from the chamber up ahead.

The Princesses, ears fell for a moment. Oh no, Oh no, her playing around must have let the bad guys know they were here. The Princess would be so disappointed in her.

She had to fix this somehow, what to do, what to do? Suddenly she remembered reading the Notice-Me-Not spell in a book that also had the Want-it Need-it spell.

Rapidly she cast the Notice-Me-Not spell. Stupid, stupid she should have cast it before hoof she knew they were meant to be being stealthy.

A loud impact sound, Star jumped in fright almost hitting the ceiling before falling back down. Eyes wide she saw the Princess had just slammed her hoof down on the stone cracking it.

Some sort of non-kinetic ripple raced through the ground, it tickled her hooves she desperately held in her laugh. What was that?

Princess Nightmare, the brave and powerful made her entrance confronting the villain, her wings flared dramatically. Oh, this was just like the books.

Star's panic dissipated, excitement simply barging it aside, burning it away with its intensity. Two quick pulses of magic later, she had a short-ranged scrying spell giving her a front-row seat and a scroll ready to record the epicness for the ages.

She titled the scroll The fantastic adventures of the Princess and her Little Star. 'The best Princess Nightmare bravely confronted the bad guy of meanness' she wrote.

With awe, Star watched the Princess calmly look around the room, the nine black-robed, clearly evil, villains were standing in a semi-circle around the entrance to the chamber. The one in the middle took a step forward.

"This must be where the bad guy does a monologue," Star quietly mumbled to herself. Quill perched, ready to record everything.

"Blood magic dear Twilight, Celestia would be so disappointed with you, she might even send you back to magical kindergarten," He sneered.

Anger flared in Star, not only was her spell work being criticised he was threatening the Princess with that. Star shuddered, how could anypony be so wicked?

"Hey that spell was perfect, no need to go send the Princess the magical kindergarten" Star shouted slightly squeaky and enraged.

Star froze, panicked, she had interfered, she was meant to stay hidden. It took her a few very long feeling seconds heart pounding in her chest, her body too frozen to realise that nopony heard her, that they could not.

That Notice-Me-Not spell worked exceptionally, she would have to remember it next time she tried to sneak cookies out of the palace kitchen.

She let out a now calm breath and considered what she had heard. The Princess had another name, Twilight, that was a beautiful name. Was it Twilight Nightmare or Nightmare Twilight? She was not sure which sounded better. Star smiled, she had learnt something new about the Princess.

"I'm the element of magic. All magic bends to my will. Do you truly think one such as you can stand against me?" Princess Twilight Nightmare purred with menace.

Another new thing, then she paused, the counting voice did not increase its count on things known about Princess Nightmare? Did she already know it? Was it untrue?

The action continuing snapped Star out of her mental ramblings. She faithfully recorded every detail, every expression and even started some sketches five quills now dancing in her magical grip.

The Princess leaned forward intimidatingly, her horn lit with enough magic that it sent a tremor through Star's horn even so far back. If she did not know the Princess was the hero here, Star would say she would make a scary villain wrapped in her blood-red armour.

"I do," the stallion let out a cruel bark of laughter, "You are nothing but the rarest of spell components to me, Princess."

The Princess flicked her eyes to the exit, "And you are worth less than the dust on my hooves, I shall be leaving now."

Star focused her magical senses trying to learn every detail of the spell that the powerful Princess Nightmare Twilight was about to cast.

Visually from the scrying spell, it was a thick spiralling lance of compressed ebony fire launched from the Princess's horn. A moment later, the Arcane pulse ripped through her horn. Star screamed and fell to the ground.

"Arrrgh, ouch, ouch, ouch", Star held her eyes closed rubbing her horn. Trying to work out how she was tasting colours and hearing the cold of the stone floor she was laying on.

"Eight," The counting voice duly reported how many seconds she had not been paying attention to the scrying spell.

"No not now." Her Princess growled filled with rage and panic.

That sounded bad, Star shook her head, trying to set right her senses before taking the voices hint and looking back through the scrying spell.

The Princess, her Princess, was on fire, she was burning, crumbled to the ground curled up in pain.

The counting voice seemed to have stopped counting everything except the horror happening to her Princess.

"Twelve," kinetic blasts dispersed by armour
"Three," direct hits from kinetic blasts.
"Eighteen," cuts from metal blades.
"Two," seconds of the Princess's flesh and very wellspring burning.

"No, no, no, no," Star screamed in horror. This could not be happening.

"Thirty-four," seconds until the Princess's wellspring is empty.

"No!" Star bellowed determined. The Princess could not die, she would not allow it.

Her mind quickly fell back to panic, what could she do, she was no hero. Her mind flicked back to the warmth she had felt under the Princess's wing, that proud smile. No, she would not disappoint the Princess.

"Thirty-three," the monotoned voice of the counter almost seemed to have the slightest hint of urgency.

Shunting fear and hesitation aside she shifted her mind, this was just a test, only a problem to be solved.

Step one assess the situation.
*Her Princess incapacitated and on fire.
*Five Villains firing force blasts at the Princess.
*One Villain, the speaker using telekinetically controlled blades to attack.
*The Princess is on Fire!

She needed a plan, a course of action, what should she do. A thought flashed across her mind as if delivered from somewhere else. One of the labels for the pocket was labeled emergency plans and spells. This was the worst emergency possible.


No time to waste, Stars horn emitted a crude violent pulse of magic a crude firth dimensional rip and the pocket was torn open scattering its contents, hundreds of scrolls and books fell to the ground around her.

Looking around, how was she going to find what she needed. She would need to come up with a spell to find the spells she needed to save the Princess.


Dread filled Star, she did not have time, what should she do. She could feel her body starting to hyperventilate. It was not meant to happen this way.

"Thirty," the counter spoke in an almost soft tone coming from directly in front of Star.

Star looked up, a grey unicorn mare was in front of her. Six scrolls levitating in a white aura. The counter holding them before Star as if in offering.

The mare, the counter had no expression on her face and a glowing gold collar that was burning her with golden energy. The collar seemed to be trying to counter the telekinesis holding the scrolls.

"Twenty-nine," the mare before her spoke, voice quavering with pain yet none of it showing on the mare's face.

Star lit her horn and reached out accepting the scrolls. When their magic touched flashes of meaningless images, emotions, scents, sounds, desires and despair flooded Star.

"Stop," Star said.

Just like that, all of the images stopped, leaving behind a fully formed spell construct in Stars mind. It was more complicated than her spell work from earlier today. It was the most complex spell she had ever encountered. She had never seen it before, yet it seemed like she had always known it.

"Twenty-eight," a single tear started to fall from the grey mare's face.

She had no time, she had to act now. Driving her power into her horn, she flash cast the spell the mare had given her.

The world shattered, breaking into six identical pieces. A moment later she broke as well, almost as if in sympathy.

Who was she? No, who were they? Where were they and what was going on?

Six of her spent what felt like a full minute trying to work out what had just happened to themselves. Each of them knew what the other was thinking, that each of them seemed to be experiencing time slower and that this spell would not last more than a single minute of standard time.

"Twenty-seven," Grey said, tiredly turning to pick up all the scattered plans.

Three objectives burned like a nova bright in their minds.

#1 Stop the Princess's wellspring meltdown.
#2 Protect the Princess.
#3 Escape to safety

Star One noticed and disregarded the fact that Grey seemed to be moving at full speed, so was likely a spell effect or a delusion.

Star Two focused on using a speed reading spell to start learning the content of the scrolls.

Star Three, got impatient with Star Two and cast a knowledge eating spell. Literally forcing the combined knowledge from the now crumbling scrolls into all of their minds.

Star One was outraged with any destruction of knowledge even if it was a scroll and not a book.

Star Two promised to rewrite the scrolls.

Star four pointed out that they should get on with this.

Star Five started galloping their shared body through the archway and into the entrance chamber.

Star Six confirmed the Notice-Me-Not spell was still in effect, so they had the element of surprise.


Star's Two through Six prepared their spells ready to cast them as soon as needed.

Star One lit their horn with Red Hooves Blood Drain and charged at the Princess lowering her horn.

The clatter of their hooves seemed deafening on the stone floor. Their heart was pounding, forcing blood and much-needed oxygen to where it was needed.

None of them wanted to watch, but Star One had to, so they all had no choice but to observe as their attack lined up with the Princess. Their horn plunged between armour plates and into their Princess's still burning flesh.

As soon as her horn drew blood Star One activated the Blood-Drain spell, pulling with all her might on the depth of Twilight's wellspring.

Two noted there was no resistance, Three was happy that the only way that could be true is if the Princess trusted Star to save her.

They smiled despite the fact their mane was on fire and blood was running down their horn staining her coat.

Burning magic ripped from the wound and orbited Stars horn. She had pulled out the burning magic so violently that it could not ignite the Princess's remaining power.

Objective One complete, the Princess is no longer dying from wellspring meltdown.

"Ha, and you said spells like that could never be used for good..." One started to say before releasing they did not know who they were referencing.

Six dryly pointed out that the creepy stallions now knew something was happening and that mystery could wait.

Two grabbed the burning magic and spun it into a delayed teleporting 'trap' spell, setting the trigger to be when they were outside of the teleportation dampening effect. Leaving burning arcane circle on the ground around the Princess.

Three moved their body in front of the Princess casting Twilights lab safety spell version three. An orb of energy enveloped Star and the Princess, complex purple runes and geometric symbols dancing over its surface.

The heat rapidly draining from within the orb back to perfect room temperature, the now mundane flames the Princess was burning with, died, snuffed out.

"What!" the mean sounding stallion with the glowing green eyes shouted.

The mean stallion pointed his hoof at Star. Star One gulped with the shared body. The other cultists charged their horns and a barrage of kinetic blasts shot towards Star.

Four let fly her prepared spell, Shining Armour's Magic redirecting shield. Placing it as their outer layer of defence and setting it to feed the redirected magic into the lab safety spell, reinforcing it.

The magical bolts hit the shield, sizzling as their magic collapsed, the motes of energy sparkling into the lab safety spell.

One wanted to huddle down and hide, this was all too scary, happening too fast. The magical assault continued.

"You are mine!" Green eyes roared.

A cloud of dozens of sharp metal blades levitated around him before swarming towards the Princess.

He can't see us, Six considered. He thinks the Princess is doing this. This Notice-Me-Not spell is the best.

Star Three thought about the spell she had cast. Lab safety spell version three had been updated to deal with food fights and ponies throwing things at the caster. In addition to protecting from a whole host of magical and mundane hazards, any projectile would be returned to its sender. The spell being overcharged meant it would return them with far more force, oh no.

Three's surprise forced their eyes wide open, their ears falling flat. She forced their head to look away from Green Eyes. She did not want to see what was about to happen.

The cloud of top-grade surgical blades, each engraved with a Canterlot manufacturers mark, spun around the circumference of the lab safety spell. They were greatly accelerated before they zipped off. The air cracked with a series of booms as they each broke the sound barrier.

Star's ears reported nothing but ringing and thankfully nothing to do with the aftermath of the returned projectiles.

Star One was doing her best to distract them all from what could have happened by considering how to improve the sonic protection to make a version four of the lab safety spell.

Objective two, protect the Princess complete.

Six lunged at the Princess, wrapping her in a hug. Noting but ignoring the sizzling sound and scent of burning hair caused by touching the still hot armour plates.

Two took note that the safety spell could not drain the heat from the armour itself.

Five cast her spell. Luna's Hammer. A war spell made for shattering fortifications with kinetic impact. Violently picking both of them up with raw magical force and hurling them out of the temple.

Twilight's Princess blessed safety spell protecting them both from g-force and the titanic impact of the spell as they rocketed towards the night sky, leaving a trail for fire in the wake of the burning teleportation trap being dragged along with them.

With their accelerated perception the Star's got to see the stonework of the temple flash below them, then the mountain face the temple was built in to and then open air.

The world was spectacular from up here One noted, the silver moonlight reflecting off a winding river far, far below.

Two wanted to be able to fly and not just fall with style.

Three thought this was all far too terrifying and wanted to go home.

Four was mentally writing a checklist of how to care for the Princess's wounds.

Six was too busy with her spell to worry about what the rest were on about.

"Three," Grey weakly spoke.

Somehow Star knew what Grey was counting whenever she counted, she always had. Strange. She was counting down the time until they were going to teleport.

Six charged her spell, the forbidden spell Doom-of-Mages. It was magic destroying bomb on a half-second time delay. It would disrupt all magic within a mile and remove any chance of anypony being able to track their teleport.


One wondered where they were teleporting to.

Two did not know, she had set up the spell precisely as written on the scroll.

Three started to panic.

"Home and one," Grey replied to their thought.

Objective three escape to safety, complete.

The still-burning Alicon magic exploded, lighting the night sky for miles around, its booming retort even reaching the distant peaks of Canterlot before echoing back.

CH 6 Interrupted Night Court

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Canterlot Times; Special Edition
Princess Twilight Dead!

Yesterday the Princess valiantly sacrificed herself, securing the safety of everypony within the Manehatten area. She valiantly contained a blast that could have destroyed the whole city, to merely a single building. Nopony has so far claimed responsibility for the Dark magic used. Investigators will have to wait for at least a moon to begin seeking evidence, claiming intense magic fluctuations as the reason for the delay.

It is expected to be at least two moons before any of the residents are allowed to return to the city (see page 45 for the economic ramifications). The Royal Mages citing health concerns due to long term exposure to Magic Flux (see page twelve for advice from our health expert).

Twilight died as she lived, giving her all for this great Equestria. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family. Long may she be remembered as a true hero of Harmony. (see page five for information of our campaign to get a monument built for the late Princess Twilight Sparkle at the site of her death)

With this disturbing news, the Elements of Harmony our greatest defence lay broken. (see page nine for our defence expert’s assessment of the military situation and how it will change relationships with both the Griffons and Dragons)

"Eager little vultures," Luna muttered darkly from her throne, throwing the paper to one of her aids.

"We shall not allow this tripe to be published. Our fellow Princess's fate has yet to be determined."

The Nightguard who had delivered the paper to her spoke, "My Sovereign, I am afraid it is too late."

Luna narrowed her eyes, "Explain."

"Sovereign, they rushed it, wanting to be the first to break the story. By now it will be already distributed and on sale even at this hour."

"So the first news Twilight's friends will hear..."

"Yes, my Sovereign," he said head lowering in submission.

"Unacceptable, gather her friends and family. We shall explain the truth of the situation ourselves."

The Nightguard bowed, took one step back and then faded into the shadows.

"Send in the next petitioner," Luna declared in the Royal Canterlot Voice.

The grand doors to the throne room swung open, admitting the new group of dejected-looking ponies. Refugees, she had been dealing with them all night. Some demanded to be able to return home right now, other demanding bits but most simply wanted hope. By the look of this family, they were the latter. The little foal held a homemade Twilight Sparkle plushie and seemed to be doing her best not to cry.

As pleased as she was to have hundreds of ponies wanting to seek her counsel, she wished it could have been because of a pleasant situation.

Luna offered a reassuring smile even remembering not to use the RCV "We offer greetings, what brings you before the Princess of the Night?"

Luna was fuming, fighting to contain her power; she did not need to do any damage to the throne room. She had just literally thrown a petty noble out of the Throne room. He had the gall to demand the refugees were removed from Canterlot immediately because they were interfering with a party the selfish foal was hosting.

A cheer came up from the remaining petitioners shocking her. Luna's rage broke in an instant replaced with a deeply felt feeling of contentment. She smiled warmly at the ponies in line and offering a bow of her head to them. "Next," she said not even using the RCV.

A thunderous boom rattled the windows. Luna's whole body felt the magic pulse that went with it. All the unicorns in the room flinched.

Holding up her hoof stilling everypony, she closed her eyes, examining the mystic texture of the magic. Pain, terror, rage, desperation, determination and love. All of that mixed with the unique deep burning fire that could only be caused by somepony burning out their wellspring. Luna was well aware of that sensation. It had been the cost of her Element-granted freedom from the Nightmare.

She personally knew all the ponies that could cast magic of this magnitude. She knew all except one of them had been safely at peace dreaming in her realm.

"Twilight?" escaped Luna's lips as a fearful whisper before commandingly bellowing out, "Night court is now suspended indefinitely, Nightguards on me."

Without hesitation, in a flurry of membraned wings and bursts of teleportation, a dozen Nightguards exploded from the shadows. Each landed in well-practised formation around their Sovereign. With no regard for the panic her sudden departure would cause, Luna gathered her magic. The shadows seemed to deepen in the room as the stars in her mane glowed all the brighter. Barely a moment later shadows erupted from her mane gathering around her guards, a flash of magic and the sound of displaced air, they were gone.

CH 7 Discoveries at the Temple

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The Darkmage certainly had better days, but he was still alive despite the pain. He would carry on, little surprises like this would not hold him from his destiny. Finally, after what felt like hours, he had cut his way out of his refuge. He sheltered himself beneath a dome of stone he had managed to drag from the floor in the last moments before the falling ceiling would have crushed him.

He had no idea what that attack spell was, too much had happened in just a few seconds. Whatever happened, it slammed him into the wall shattering it. It's horrid sound alone would have broken his bones and rendered him out cold. If not for the sacrifice of his remaining servants, he would have been dead.

He dragged himself out of the hole staggering to his hooves. "It has been a long time since I have felt pain, well played, Twilight."

He looked around; most of the entrance chamber was nothing but shattered rubble and piles of debris. Gone were the mage lights, now it was lit only by unearthly purple and red flickering fire cast light from outside. He could feel the flames with his horn, and he could hear its need to consume him singing with magic. He had made Twilight very angry at him if her magic left that type of residue.

A flame scorched crater was the only sign of where Twilight lay as she launched her attack, any hint as to what spell she used was destroyed by whatever made it.

This was not how things were meant to happen. He had her at his mercy, completely restrained, horn removed. She was helpless and yet somehow she had healed herself and found the spare time to craft a full set of blood armour. Then calm as can be, she walked up and challenged him, and she won.

Clearly, his information on Alicorns had some gaps, large gaps. More of Celestia's information suppression he supposed. Leaving enough to let him think he was fully prepared. To find out Alicorns can cast magic without a bucking horn. Were screams and pleas nothing more than superb acting skills. Did Alicorns even truly feel pain? Was she just biding her time? If so, why? He would need to gather everything that survived and find a new place. He did not want to be here when Twilight returned.

A massive wave of magic stung his horn, and a loud thundering crack came from outside. It felt like teleportation but that loud, it must have been both long-ranged and heavily laden. He checked for the chain around his neck, yes he was still wearing the Temple's keystone. His horn rippled with magic and he faded from view. He hoped the anti-detection properties of the Temple were still functional.

Six of Luna's Nightguards rushed in and in moments secured the room. Despite their armour, they were as silent as ghosts. His heart skipped a beat. If he had not hidden as soon as he felt that teleport, they would have found him.

Outside he could hear the sound of many armoured hoofs drawing closer and what sounded like Princess Luna and Prince Shining Armour talking.

"See those flames, how they move and how it still burns even upon the bare rock?" Luna asked. Her forced calm tone making it clear she was suppressing a lot of anger.

"Yes, it seems a bit like dragon fire. Do you know what it is? Is Twilight safe?" Shining responded crisp and solid sounding.

Another group of six Nightguards silently rush in and past the first hardly even disturbing the air, heading further into the temple.

"Yes, I know what it is," Luna spoke solemnly as they both trotted into the chamber surrounded by six Crystalguards.

Shining looked straight at her waiting for the rest of the answer. Luna simply let out a detection pulse from her horn. The Darkmage held his breath. The magic pulse washed over him without reacting, he was safe. He settled in, breathing as silently as possible, he got the feeling he would be stuck here for a long time.

Luna looked at the guards "Leave us."

The guards hesitated until Shining nodded his approval. The guard moved outside earshot, setting up the perimeter. The Nightguards were already gone, the Dark Mage had not noticed them leave.

"Soul Fire, the fatal result of setting somepony's wellspring on fire. With these streaks of crimson, it was caused by blood magic. With this much power, it will burn for many years. There are only too possibilities that can explain this and given Twilight was most certainly no twisted warlock practising blood magic... I fear our dearest of Twilight is dead."

"..." Shinning's hesitation spoke volumes.

"Shining," Luna's now forceful voice called out.

"She... Twilly knew blood magic."

Luna stomped a hoof stone shattering, the room shaking and rock dust falling from the ceiling. Her eyes were terrifying to behold, becoming glowing draconic slits for a moment. The Crystalguards snapping their head round to her. "Explain, now!" she forcefully said.

"She knew blood magic, but the memories were sealed away by Celestia," Shining admitted fearfully, waving the guards off with a hoof.

The reasons for Twilight difference in behaviour now apparent to the Darkmage, something he had done had broken the mental seal. Instead of weakening her, he had empowered her and left her with that much reason to hate him. Clearly, it was time for a new appearance, yet another chore to even get back to where he was only hours ago.

"How?" Luna's response was cold, flat and dangerous.

Shining lifted a hoof to take a step back before slowly putting it back down. "A spellbook was hidden in her tower. The book was under a powerful illusion. So nopony knew it was there. When Twilight found it she thought it was left there by Celestia as a test so... she learned the full contents of the book in a week."

"Pray tell us which tome she found."

"Red Hooves Blood Magic, I think."

Luna lowered, her body tensing up, wings half flared showing her agitation. The Dark Mage eyes widened, even he had not had a chance to study from that most coveted of books. He could only get hold of a single damaged scroll that had allegedly been copied from it.

"I must ask, what sort of monstrous deeds did my sister cause to be forgotten for her student?"


"None?" Luna questioned.

"She invented a new spell and demonstrated it to Celestia."

"And what did this spell do?" Luna bit back impatiently.

"It would act like two cups of coffee and a meal. One simple spell and then back to studying. It’s the reason she keeps falling asleep studying, part of her expects that spell's effect despite the seal."

Luna's body relaxed dramatically. She laughed, "Of course dear sweet Twilight, you learn some of the most dangerous war magic and craft yourself something entirely peaceful with it."

That level of control with blood magic, by Tartarus, the bucking Princess of Friendship is a master blood mage. If it were not for whatever caused her to collapse during their conversation, things would have gone very differently. Was her seal only partially broken and she had a relapse of some sort? That's just too good to be true. This changes everything. She could be an ally, scape-goat or at least a distraction. He would wait to see how she now acted, free from her mental seal, before settling on anything more about her. If he decided to let her keep her life, he would have to be careful, they would be sharing eternity after all.

"So Princess, why do you fear Twilight is dead?" Shining grimly said.

"Answer me this first, is there perhaps anything else, bizarre, magical or forbidden secrets about Twilight I should know?"

Shining nodded, Luna slowly rubbed her hoof under her horn. "Please, do go on."

"I don't know much, but a year or so later Celestia had to put another seal on her. A teacher at her school was unhappy that she’d hatched spike's egg. That test was meant to check how somepony reacted to failing. So to fix that he found a book of a spell that only an Alicorn could cast."

"She successfully cast the spell, yes?" Luna interrupted, hoof still against her head.

Shining nodded "Yes, and she was not the only one."


Shining shrugged "You would have to ask your sister, I believe it was only one other though."

"Anything else you remember about the incident?"

"When we next saw her, she seemed withdrawn, colder, like some of the light had been taken out of her. Her work suffered, she was still brilliant but just not quite as much as she was before. There was a reason she needed friendship lessons."

"Tia," Luna sighed before carrying on, "If that book is the one I think it is, it will have no bearing here."

Shining waited, clearly impatient to learn about the possible fate of his sister.

Luna continued sadly, "With the utter destruction outside, the only way I can fathom her being alive is if she overcharged another creatures wellspring with her magic, ignited it and used them as a bomb. Do you think your sister is the type of pony to do that?"

The Darkmage knew Twilight was alive, if she planned to do something as self-destructive as detonating her wellspring she would have done it in the temple to make sure he was dead, not outside. Somehow, whatever level of destruction Luna was talking about, it must have been part of her escape, likely to prevent her being tracked. A little extreme but who knew what this new Twilight would do.

Shining shook his head, ears falling as he lowered his gaze "No." He took a deep breath then raised his gaze with determination. "She will have found another way. It would not be the first time she had done the impossible."

Luna offered Shining a weak smile, "I truly hope you are right," she said.

An unarmed group of ponies carrying boxes of equipment entered, ending Luna and Shining's revealing conversation. They started checking the chamber in detail. Clearly, they were some of the investigators.

Luna lit her horn using a narrow beam to carve a stone chalice, then careful by hoof used it to scoop up some of Twilights Soul Fire. Its red and purple flames seemed to calm as she moved back towards Shining.

Luna's eyes flicked down to the now much calmer flames she held, "Yet more proof this is your sister's fire." She presented the chalice to him, "to keep your hope alight Prince Shining Armor."

He needed to rethink his plans taking into account everything he learnt today. It seems he would not be getting an Alicorn sacrifice anytime soon. He would have to make do with multiple weaker ones, the displaced Manehatten ponies should do.

"Princess," one of the investigators called out.

Both Luna and Shining looked up and headed towards the pony. The brown unicorn in a lab coat pointed a hoof at the Darkmage's stone dome.

"Somepony cut their way out of there less than an hour ago, we have a clear magical signature. It is from a male unicorn with natural affinities for dark, earth and an unnatural blood aspect."

Luna growled "If not for sister dearest delaying us, we would have been here in time to prevent the filth's escape."

Quick to change the subject Shining asked. "Unnatural blood aspect?"

The Darkmage bit his tongue, how could they get that much? He would need to see what new forensic spell they had developed recently. They now had a lot of information about him and would be able to identify him with a detailed affinities scan. He put his hoof on the keystone and hoped their new spells could not breach its concealment.

The investigator nodded, "Yes, some spells, items or training methods can cause somepony to develop unnatural aspects. They are the same as natural ones other than how they are acquired and sometimes being a bit unstable. Our current theory is that Twilight was captured, broke free somehow, then engaged in a battle of spells here." He gestured around the chamber. "Then as she was leaving..."

"Her wellspring detonated," Luna solemnly added.

He nodded, "We have at least five ponies dead under the rocks here and here. Need to dig them out to be sure."

Luna looked to Shining, "Shining you and your guards help secure the ruin, I will search from the sky. Let us see if we can catch ourselves a runaway. Use extreme caution, if he is the one that caused Twilight's wellspring to detonate he could do it to others. Disable him as soon as you see him, in any way you feel necessary."

Shining saluted out of habit before heading off, his emotions now hidden by duty. Luna looked around as if she suspected somepony might be watching her, then walked toward the exit.

"You had better hope Shining finds you first," Luna growled softly as her walk turned to more of a prowl, her mane rippling violently.

The Darkmage smiled to himself. He would wait for his chance, then head to the secret tunnel. He still had his samples from Twilight, and now he knew so much more. The day was not so bad after all, even if they now had his magical scent.

CH 8 Book Forts and Stuffed Toys

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Cocooned in the loving wings of somepony larger, Twilight felt safe. Here, neither burning fire nor stinging blades could reach her. The now-familiar scents of the crisp night air, clean feathers and the unique smell of an Alicorn reached her instead. She knew it was not Celestia, no, it was better. It was her saviour.

She could feel her saviour’s body moving with slow steady breaths. Twilight’s own breathing peacefully settled into the same rhythm.

She remembered the truth now. The injury report was hers, the pain had been real at one point. Her mind had been trying to protect itself, to hide from the pain. All it had accomplished was to cause a larger panic attack later.

Lazily, she considered her situation. Was she even alive anymore? The horn of an Alicorn could be used to kill one, so was this the last fleeting moments of a dying mind? If so, at least it was nice, thought Twilight as she nuzzled the larger Alicorn.

"You have nothing to fear now, my Little Star, you are safe," her saviour said, and Twilight knew it to be true, and the rest simply did not matter.

The larger Alicorn leant closer, placing a motherly kiss below her horn. Her saviour's enchanting voice started singing the Lullaby again. Twilight snuggled contently and let herself fall into a blissful sleep.

Awareness returned to Twilight, the soothing tune of the Lullaby greeting her first. Yet there were no words this time, just music played by an enthralling mix of woodwind and string instruments. Twilight lay there trying to deny she was awake, only finally giving in because she started humming along.

Slowly she let her humming end and took a deep breath. The smell of blood, burnt hair and an overtaxed horn assaulted her nose. Her heart rate spiked as her body got ready to flee. Panic started to rear its ugly head. Her eyes tried and failed to open. Despite the adrenaline now in her blood, she felt too weak to even open her eyes. The panic deepened. Was she too injured to even be able to feel pain?

“You are safe," her saviour seemed to whisper in her ear.

Yes, she was safe, those few words breaking the feedback loop of panic. She let the music help her be calm. Reciting the Lullaby in her head with as much dedication as she would a new spell formula, her heart rate returned to normal.

With every breath, she could feel her strength slowly returning. After a few minutes, she determined that it would be an hour before she could stand and twice that before she could use her horn for anything. The sensation of her wellspring – something normally overwhelming enough to give nearby unicorns hornache – was down to a tiny slowly building ember.

With nothing better to do, she let her mind wander. While she hoped that all the pain had been a nightmare, she was fairly certain that it was real. Was it part of a test? Another trial to prepare her for the hardships of being an immortal? If it was, she would forgive Celestia if only she could see her friends again.

Her mind skipped. If she was thinking that this was another trial, then what were the other ones and why could she not remember them? Did she pass? And why would she need to forgive Celestia? She felt scared, a sinking feeling creeping into her thoughts. Her mind was hiding something else.

As if in response to her worry, something shifted under her wing. Twilight managed to just crack a single eye open, but all she could see for the moment before it closed was blurs of lavender and white.

Obviously vision was still out, so she focused on her sense of touch. She was pressed against something warm, something under her wing. She could feel she had both her legs and wings wrapped around It. Something that seemed to expand and contract in a predictable pattern, most likely breathing.

It, no, they felt soft, with the familiar textures of a soft coat and feathers. Their build felt female, so the likely conclusion was that she was snuggled up with either Rainbow or Fluttershy. No, she was larger now, so the only pony that would feel so large against her would be another Alicorn, and she was a similar size to her so perhaps it was Cadance?

Whoever this mystery Alicorn was, the scents of burnt hair and blood were clearly coming from them. Ok, so whoever they were, they were likely hurt. She had to do something. She forced her eyes open, the blurs taking far longer than they should have to resolve.

Looking at who was under her wing, it seemed that she was curled protectively around a heavy bandaged clone of herself. Examining her copy, who she decided to label Sparkle-Two for now, she had clearly been gravely injured. Her body was horribly burnt. The horn was blackened with cracks running along its length, clearly from channelling too much power. Strangely her mane was undamaged, indicating the mane was in either an ethereal or elemental state when the burns on the rest of Sparkle-two’s body were inflicted.

“A changeling?” Twilight wondered out loud, her voice slurring.

Overall, Sparkle-two looked fitter, and, disregarding the injuries, in a better state of health. Standing a little taller and looking stronger. Like Twilight herself could look if she had taken Rainbow up on that physical training.

She pushed the barest portion of her magic to her horn. There was an unhappy sounding fizzle. “Ouch.” She would have to wait longer to make use of her spells.

Twilight raised her head slowly, peering round, taking in her surroundings. She was in a book fort, the biggest book fort in the history of book forts. The walls were made from spell books on defensive magic and shields, even her BBBFF’s one.

Scattered around her lay a large collection of open medical books, both magical and mundane. They were open to sections on burns, lacerations, horn inflicted stab wounds, magic fatigue, and horn fractures.

Sparkle-Two shifted, revealing she was cradling something in her forelegs. It was a pony plushie, a life-sized one of a unicorn foal, a foal that looked very much like Twilight wearing a burnt looking pith helm with a stethoscope around its neck. The cutie mark was only missing the smaller stars. Did ponies make stuffed toys of her, and were they in enough demand for them to be faked?

Twilight looked at the button eyes of the plushie and it was if it looked right back at her. She could not turn her eyes away, something about it was just so familiar. Something she had lost.

“Little Star?” that beautiful voice said softly from outside the fort.

“Umm... what, hello?” Twilight quietly responded, not wanting to wake Sparkle-Two.

“Good, you’re awake. Would you care to join me for some tea served with some answers?”

“Tea sounds lovely, thank you, but I don’t think I can get out on my own.”

A blue equine head raised up over the wall, looking down into the fort. It had a long horn, with a long flowing ethereal silver mane and graced with the most beautiful smile Twilight had ever seen. Her saviour’s bright laughter brought a smile to Twilight’s muzzle, there was no way it could not.

“It seems a little too small for me to come in,” her saviour said with a mirthful smile.

The larger Alicorn lit her horn, silver magic carefully lifting Twilight over the wall of books. She also wrapped the copy in a night-black blanket before turning her attention back to Twilight, levitating her in front of her.

“Thank you for saving me, Princess.”

“I am no Princess. My name is Sweet Dreams, and you are welcome, my Little Star.”

Sweet Dreams floated her closer and nuzzled her. Twilight felt herself smile upon hearing that name. Like when Celestia use to call her ’Her Faithful Student’. Why would she be calling her Little Star? Twilight glanced at her cutie mark. Is that why she calls me Little Star? Why does it make me feel so happy?

“My... my name's Twilight.”

“I know, but I think Little Star sounds cute.”

Twilight blushed, and Dreams softly laughed. “I will stop if that is what you wish.”

“I don’t know,” Twilight mumbled.

Dreams stretched a wing around Twilight and pulled her into a hug. Twilight's world was all warmth and feathers once more. She let out a content sigh and rested her head on Dreams' chest once again.

“Am I dead?” Twilight asked, voice calm despite the subject.

Taken aback by the sudden change of topic, Dreams answered, “No more than you have been since your Trial of Thorns.”

“Trial of Thorns?”

Dreams tilted her head, looking down at Twilight, eyes intense. “You truly don't remember?”

“No…“ Twilight shuddered. “why do I feel so scared of something I can’t even remember?”

“We are going to get some tea before we speak another word about such things”, Dream picked up Shining Armor’s spellbook and offered it to Twilight.

Twilight gripped the book and held it tightly to her chest, looking at the cutie mark on the cover with need. Dreams held her, softly singing her ancient Lullaby. Twilight let Dreams’ scent, warmth and the song wash over her.

Leaving the storeroom that held the book fort, Twilight could see that she was in a huge tree. It was similar to her old home, but about ten times the size. With multiple levels and so many books, she could not stop herself from drooling.

Still held in the silver glow of Dreams’ magic, she was levitated along as Dreams jumped the railing and glided down to the ground floor.

Landing on her hind legs, Dreams spun around with forehooves raised and wings spread. “Welcome to the Grand Golden Oaks Library!” she happily declared.

“It's huge,” Twilight whispered, “so many new books!”

Dreams let out her beautiful laugh again and moved the both of them to a reading nook, soft cushions and a tea set already laid out.

Twilight looked around eagerly. The ground floor had relatively few bookshelves. Instead, most of the wall space was taken up with doorways. Sweet Dreams followed Twilight's gaze, explaining what she was looking at.

The first things to catch her attention were five doors, each with one of her friends' cutie marks on them. Oh, how she missed them.

“There you have the sections dedicated to your close friends, the other Elements of Harmony. A part of them will always be with you here.”

Two doorways were almost overflowing with Celestia’s magic. Radiating power and clearly with strong Solar, Astral and Fire affinities. One doorway was missing its door and instead was barricaded with crisscrossing golden chains with razor edges. The chains were stained with blood in places, some old while some others were still wet. The second looked like a cell door and blocked the way down into the basement.

“Celestia's seals. It contains some of the answers you seek. We will talk about her work here once you have some background as to what is going on.”

Right next to each other, almost touching, were two doorways. One with Luna’s mark, the other with Nightmare Moon's symbol atop Twilights own mark. Twilight stared at the combined mark.

The last doorway was too small for adults to go through. The mark on it was like Twilight's but missing the surrounding starts, just like the plushie Sparkle-Two held.

Dreams set Twilight down and took her own cushion. As she started to serve the tea, Twilight asked a question.

“Where are we?”

A soft laugh came in reply. “This is your Grand Golden Oaks Library, your mental bastion.”

“So am I dreaming?”

“It's more than that. Being an immortal Alicorn, your mind is larger than those of mortals. It becomes its own plane of existence. Like your pockets, you carry things in it. Your mind is a space that needs its own protections.”

“That's amazing.” Twilight’s eyes lit up with wonder.

“I have so many questions, so many experiments. Can I bring others here? What would happen if…” Dream’s hoof against Twight’s muzzle ending the potentially endless stream of questions.

“There are other things we need to discuss first.”

“Like the Trial of Thorns?”

“Yes, see that seal?” Dreams asked, a wing guiding Twilight's gaze. “That is where things are kept when Celestia decides you should no longer know of them.”

“She would never… she’s Princess Celestia, she…”

“Grey, if you would?” Dream called out.

From the other side of the seal movement could be seen. Twilight stared as a greyscale version of herself as a unicorn came into view. Grey's face was completely blank, frozen in its non expression. Her eyes, though, they seethed – they were filled with years of contempt and bitterness.

Upon Grey's neck was a barbed golden collar. Twilight immediately recognized the spellwork, it was more of Celestia’s.

Grey reached through the chains, holding out a scroll, ignoring the cuts and scrapes, depositing even more blood upon them. Twilight was still focused on Grey. She looked so similar to when Discord had twisted her mind.

Dreams floated the scroll to herself. “This is your memory of the Trial.”

Twilight looked at the scroll. “My memory? Like the last scroll, the one from when I lost my horn?”

Dreams nodded somberly. “Yes, it seems that you have learnt to place things you don’t want to remember on the other side of Celestia's seal”


Dreams offered the scroll to Twilight. “Would you like to see it, or shall I just tell you what happened?”

“If… I think you can just tell me for now, I can always look at it myself later,” Twilight said.

Putting the scroll aside, Dreams continued. “The short of it is that Celestia decided you needed your full immortal powers available if you were to take on your role in her plan.”

“That doesn't sound so bad…”

“It is the how and the why that makes all the difference, my Little Star,” Dreams said.

Fear and comfort warred in Twilight's mind. “Go on.”

“The how is that after all the ritual preparations, she drove a sword through you, piercing your heart” – anger flared in Dreams’ eyes – “looking down at you impassively, holding you still as you begged and apologised for whatever you did wrong, pleading for your life, for forgiveness.”

Twilight felt like she could not breath, this had to be a lie, it could be nothing else. Or at least, that's what she thought until she met Dreams’ eyes. Those tearful, caring eyes full of anger for what had been inflicted upon Twilight.

“Wh...why... why would she do that… how… how could she do that to me...” Twilight asked.

“She wished for you to be immortal. She had a use for a piece on her chessboard as powerful as you. The younger you were when she performed the rite, the higher the chances of you surviving. That is the one kindness she did you in this, improving your odds of survival.”

Twilight put a hoof to her chest and slowly breathed in and out a few times, calming her nerves. I need facts, freakout later.

Dreams continued “Celestia had to know if she needed to train a replacement, if her meddling with your mind had left you, somehow incomplete—”

“Incomplete?” Twilight interrupted.

“I will start at the very beginning of this sad affair.” Dream's horn flashed and a little stuffed toy version of Twilight appeared in the air.

“Once, there was a little filly who was good at magic, so good in fact that the Sun Princess took her on as her own.”
Another flash and a toy Celestia was added, the toy Twilight made to bounce around happily.

“For a time, everything was perfect, until one day the filly found a book.” A small red book appeared next to the toy Twilight.

“It had been hidden in the filly's room with powerful magics, but they were no match for her magic and the determination that drove it. Now why would this been hidden here? the filly thought. It must be a test, a secret test, a secret test from the Sun Princess just for her.

“The filly studied like she had never studied before, and mastered every spell, no matter how strange they seemed: 'The Princess must have a reason for her to learn these spells,' she told herself. She studied and studied and eventually she was done.

“She rushed to show the Princess, expecting nothing but praise.” Toy Twilight bounced around offering the book up to Celestia. Celestia’s Mane went ablaze and the book burst into flames.

“Scorn and burns was what she received, but that was not all. She knew too much now, and something had to be done.” Toy Celestia raised a hoof to Twilight’s ear and pulled the red book from it. The book was wrapped with golden chains before being returned.

“Golden chains locked the red book, closing it forevermore”. The toys moved around each other, seeming to dance. “Once again things were good for a time.”

“The filly had never felt the bite of failure, the pain of being unable to complete a task the Princess had set for her. No mere mortal should be so successful, the Sun Princess decided, so a test would be performed, one so hard that it was said only an Alicorn could pass.” A book, this time golden, appeared before the Twilight.

“And like last time the filly studied. She would do anything for her Princess even if it seemed impossible,” Twilight rose into the air, glowing. In a flash of light it was gone, and in its place six new toys appeared."

Each toy bobbed forward in turn, making their introductions. First, a toy of Grey in robes with a staff, looking tall, noble, and important. “Grey the Lady Mage, holder of ambition, keen of mind and seeker most efficient.”

Next a white mare with fire for her mane and tail, draconic eyes, and fangs. “Nova the Passionate, passion and power incarnate as befitting her name.”

Then, a Midnight blue mare with spiky black mane, wearing a gothic black dress. “Rule Breaker the rebel, the undoubtable, the achiever of the impossible.”

It was followed by a tall dark purple mare with a supermodel figure. “Dancer the Sensual, the show off, the performer.”

Fifth, a filly Alicorn Twilight with a sun cutie mark. “Sunchaser the Dreamer, ever wanting to be like her Princess.”

Last, a small filly Twilight with a happy smile. “Star the Child, innocent and fun-loving.”

“They rushed to show the Princess, once again expecting nothing but praise.” The group pranced around, each in their own unique way. They circled Celestia, whose mane went ablaze once more and a blade of flame appeared.

“Blade and Fire was what they received, but that was not all. For she had become too much now and something had to be done. 'I will set things right,' declared the Sun Princess as she culled what she deemed unnecessary.”

The blade rose, the blade fell. One by one the toys were cut apart.

“The Sun Princess was disappointed with the filly, but something could still be saved, something could still be used.” Celestia sorted through to pieces of the six toys and with golden thread started sewing together a single filly.

“Distracted by her work, the Sun Princess did not notice two had survived.”

Grey, mostly intact, lay still as Celestia pulled off the left foreleg, the last piece needed to complete her new toy.
Nova lay broken, stuffing falling out, ignored.

“Sunchaser's wings she kept in case she had need of them, the rest swept aside.”

A box of gold appread, the lid open as all the stuffing and toy parts which remained were swept in with a golden glow. Nova growled, looking out from the box as the lid, styled to look like the door to the basement, closed.

“The patchwork filly was now nearly finished, needing only one final touch to make the Sun Princess happy. She made sure the filly would never be such a disappointment again.” The golden tome was pulled from behind the filly's ear. Celestia opened it adding a picture of the six broken toys.

“As golden chains started to seal the second book, Grey took her chance, casting a simple spell, but a spell on which rested her only hope.”

The little and now three-legged toy Grey flashed and disappeared, an image of her reappearing on the cover of the book just as it was hidden back behind the patchwork filly’s ear.

“And then for a time everything was good again, though it was built on lies.” Dreams ended her tale, lowering her head. A flash, and only the patchwork filly remained, now with Sunchaser’s wings.

Twilight knew they were just simple stuffed toys, and yet, if this was her past, could it be true? She had to know. Using a hoof to part her coat, she looked on in horror at the neat, glowing, golden stitches holding her left foreleg to her body. She looked back at her wings, and there was gold thread on them, too. She trembled.

“I’m… I’m –” Twilight grabbed the patchwork filly with flickering magic “– me.”

Twilight jumped at the unexpected hoof on her shoulder, her eyes following up the limb to find Dreams’ loving face. Wings and legs closed around her as Dreams hugged her tightly.

“You are safe here, my Little Star,” Dreams said.

“I know,” Twilight said as she returned the hug, “and thank you, Sweet Dreams.”

Twilight started to hum the lullaby. Dreams nuzzled her and started to sing, though the song seemed just a little bit darker than before. Twilight wanted answers, and she would get them, but for now she wanted to feel cared for. Protected and safe under Dreams’ wings, she did.

CH 9 Nightmare's Reluctant Bedrest

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Nightmare tore her way through the comforting darkness, only to find pain and dizzying motions. To her the world was spinning, yet her horn was telling her it was turning inside out. Her earth pony sense was telling her down was above her and her pegasus senses were telling her she was falling, and yet she could clearly feel she was laying.

She tried to move, to open her eyes, to do anything, but nothing physical worked, nothing would respond. Anger flared. She would not be defeated. She was strong, she was powerful. She lit her horn, the crack and sizzle from her horn drowned out by the agonised scream Nightmare released.

The sound of the scream echoed repeatedly, hammering her head into submission. Everything hurt.

Slowly, she managed to pull herself together. I am strong, I am powerful, she reminded herself again. She could stand against the sun itself. She would get through this, she was in control of her body, she would heal. She just needed to wait.

The sound of galloping hooves approached, of laboured breathing. Then the sound of hooves sliding on a smooth floor, a crash of metal, and glass shattering.

“No, no, no, maybe? No, that one's broken too.” Star seemed to be panicking. “Yes” she shouted.

It sounded like Star had moved closer to her, and the world shift slightly. It felt like she was on a bed and... did Star just climb up on it, too?

Something pricked her flesh, though her senses were still too jumbled to tell where. Her leg? Her body? Who knew. Did she even still have them? No matter. If not, they would grow back.

“There, Princess, that will help with the pain,” Star said.

A wonderful cold numbness started to seep through her flesh. Oh she could resist the drug, stop the drug's effects and halt its spread, but the cold was too nice.

Her world started to fade again, but before it did, she felt something. What was that? A bandage? No, it was warm... is... is Star hugging her?

The sound of a page being turned reached her. “Talk reassuringly to patient,” Star muttered under her breath. “Everything's going to be ok, Princess, we're home. We got away from the bad ponies and…”

Nightmare did not hear what Star was going to say next. The anaesthetic was dragging her into the darkness, but she did not care about that, nor did she care about the smile on her face. Before she slipped away into blissful unconsciousness, a single thought ran through her mind. Somepony cares about me...

Nightmare did not like this, it was humiliating. She was bed-bound, yes, even with an Alicorn for a host. If she just had enough magic she could just discorporate herself and reform, uninjured. Sadly, it was not a possibility – whatever had happened after Twilight’s panic had left their wellspring severely damaged.

Her Little Star was out acquiring food and other supplies. She hoped she was safe, not that she could do anything to keep her asset safe anyway. She snorted. Is it worse to be powerless, she thought, than to be imprisoned?

Laying there on her huge bed, bandages and strong-smelling herbal medicines generously covering her burns, she had little to do. At least the room she was in was interesting: the play of light and shadow upon the crystal wall were quite appealing with the flickering mage light. So, this place is unimportant enough to risk the light failing?

As nearly everything was made of crystal Nightmare figured she was either in Twilight's castle or the Crystal Empire. Where else could one see such opulence? She did not recognise the area, so wherever it was, Twilight had likely never been here, or it had changed since she last was.

She tried again to get into contact with the fragment tending to Twilight. Still no answer, no response. She could feel its presence close to Twilight, so she knew it was still there. Nightmare closed her eyes, shifting her perceptions to her mental space. She was embraced by peaceful darkness and calm music.

Seeking about, she felt they were both close but just out of reach. Am I still too weak even for this? Nightmare thought about herself with scorn.

So long as it kept Twilight happy then everything would be fine. That was the one directive it was given upon its creation that should be its inescapable purpose. She idly wondered what they would be like and if they would try and contest control of the body from her just to try and keep Twilight happy. No, it was probably keeping Twilight with pleasant dreams of her friends.

Opening her eyes and starting to breathe again, she lamented to herself that breathing with this much injuries hurt, but it was a torment she had to endure. Her host did not need to breathe, but for every painful breath she avoided, it was a little less magic dedicated to restoring her wellspring. If only Star had more of that Alchemy she had used before, but alas, there was nothing more to be had.

Upon taking the body she had agreed to deal with the cult and had yet to do so. She already felt a strong urge to get up and go after them, even in her weakened state. She did not, however: She had already had to be put back in bed by her Little Star once today for foalishly believing she could simply use willpower to fight past this body's complaints.

She had not broken her agreement, so her control was still strengthened by it. Deal with the cult and protect her friends. She would deal with them, but just maybe next week.

Spent a thousand years on the moon, and a week of bedrest somehow seems worse. Nightmare let out a snort. She closed her eyes and willed herself to sleep.

“Princess, Princess, wake up, it's time for dinner,” Star said.

Nightmare snapped awake, disorientated. No dreams? It feels like I was locked out. My fragment's doing? Luna's? Nightmare contemplated about the unexpected happening. Remembering what Star said, she opened her eyes to see Star’s wide smile and a tray of steaming food leaving before her.

“Ah, My Little Star,” said Nightmare, smiling. She sniffed the air, her smile widening. “Whatever feast you have prepared smells most divine.”

Star clapped her hooves together with glee. “I found the recipe in cookbook upstairs, only took two attempts to get it right.” Star clambered up on the bed before starting to feed her, levitating a spoon laden with food.

So I have to be fed like a foal. How demeaning. At least nopony else will ever find out. She had borne worse, she would bear this. Gracefully accepting her food, she started to eat. Then the taste hit her, making Nightmare close her eyes and let out a content moan. Oh, by Tartarus this is good.

“Good?” Star asked.

Nightmare could only nod, and for a time gone were her plans of taking over the world or hunting down cultists. All that existed was her Little Star and this most wonderful of foods, apple and cinnamon porridge most fine.

If moving did not hurt so much, she would have just plunged her muzzle in the bowl and devoured the whole thing at once, the bowl included.

After finishing her food, it was not long before she was asleep again.

Nightmare let out a dry chuckle as she turned the page of a two day old copy of The Canterlot Times. So apparently her host was dead. That might make things more difficult. Coming back from the dead would raise more questions than simply having been missing for a time.

Should she write a letter to Celestia? It is what Twilight would do, but what would it gain her? Only a small increase in her control over Twilight. It would be a risk, a large risk. She knew with her injuries, it would be weeks if not months before she was up to facing another Alicorn in battle.

Despite this, remaining hidden for too long would also be risky, and she was rather looking forward to her spa trip. Twilight and her friends looked like they enjoyed it, and she wanted to find out if it felt as good as the blood magic. Was it better or worse, similar or unique?

Whenever she did go, she would have to play the part, have to pretend to be Twilight. Applejack would be the most difficult to trick, with the rest of Twilight's friends having little quirks that could be turned against them. It was just her luck, however, that the earth pony’s Element granted her a sense of truth, so no lies could be said. The only way forward was to control the conversation carefully. She felt Twilight stir within her, a deep longing for her friends blooming as well.

She looked up at her Little Star sleeping peacefully beside her. Nightmare smiled fondly.

How would she explain her, though? The pragmatic thing would be to remove her from the equation. Yet, looking at her, she could not even consider going through with it. Her little Star was too useful, valuable for influencing Twilight, too capable, Nightmare tried to justify, she looks up to me, she cares for me, not for my host but me...

Just the thought of any harm befalling her Little Star roused a cold rage in her heart. She would hate herself if she killed her Star. She never had anything she hated herself for other than being sent to the moon.

Her Little Star had cared for her, treated her injuries, even somehow rescued her and brought her to this safe haven. No, she would not be like her traitorous sister. Her little Star was faithful to her, was loyal to her. Just because so precious few had ever given her loyalty did not mean she should not return it when it was, she told herself. Something that felt very much like approval drifted up from Twilight.

"You are making this old mare soft, My Little Star," Nightmare said.

Discarding the old newspaper, she nuzzled her and set about joining her in sleep. Thoughts of how to explain Twilight's new daughter to the world was the last thing on her mind before sleep claimed her. Who would the papers claim to be the father? Nightmare ruminated, letting out a chuckle. Oh, how sweet, innocent Twilight would react to all the theories.

Nightmare awoke, disconcerted from what seemed to be a recurring problem. My third night and still no dreams. Nothing but darkness, and then the waking world again.What was wrong with her?

Deciding to leave it be for now, she stretched. There was still some pain, but whatever cream applied to her burns made them manageable. She felt she could get up, but it would be unwise, and there was no need at the moment. Give it a day or two at most and she would be mobile again.

A note explaining that Star had gone shopping sat atop today's newspaper. Remembering that her horn was wrapped in a strange leaf and the strict instructions from Star to not even think about casting magic for at least another day, Nightmare she reached out for the paper with her hoof.

The Canterlot Times

Princess Luna Still Unavailable, Mysteries Abound

Night Court is still suspended after the incident in which Princess Luna stormed out three nights ago. The Nightguard have been noticeably lacking in the capital, leaving many a citizen to wonder what they are doing.

That's when whatever happened to me happened, Nightmare realized. When she had asked Star to tell her what happened, all Nightmare could get from Star before she got too emotional was that she had been on fire, curled up on the ground, under fire from dark spells, and after that, Star had rescued her from the 'bad ponies,' getting them both outside the temple before teleporting away. If whoever her prey was could do this much damage to her wellspring, then they were not to be underestimated.

Having sorted out her thoughts, Nightmare continued reading.

Possible Dragon Attack?

Coming hot on the hooves of the tragic loss of Princess Twilight is another attack on our peaceful land. Now, in addition to the chaos wrought by the horrendous attack on Manehattan by parties unknown, it seems the citizens of Equestria have to deal with their forests being destroyed and their mountains being turned into volcanoes.

Is this a prelude to war? It has been confirmed that the mountain was set ablaze with purple and red magical fire, destroying the entrance to a historic pre-Celestia Temple. A question raised by many is if this has anything to do with Princess Luna teleporting out of the throne room with a squad of her Nightguard that night? Our magical expert says the flames have been enchanted and will burn for at least one hundred years. (See page twenty for the implications of an ever-burning flame on firewood and oil prices.)

Nightmare blinked and read that once again. Purple fire? Was that purple fire the same magenta shade as Twilight’s magic? And as for a pre-Celestia Temple, the Temple of the Hidden Path would certainly qualify. What happened? Ever burning fire... no it could not be. Nightmare's mind flicked to memories of her time with Luna.

Gleefully swooping down like an angel of death, she grabbed up her victim, sinking her fangs into their neck to send a spike of dark magic through their blood and into their wellspring. She laughed menacingly as she teleported the pony into a large group of his friends. A building-sized explosion of yellow flames erupted as her pony-turned-bomb did his final duty to the Queen of the Night. That was not all, however, and the dark magic she wove into it leapt from flames as black serpents, biting into the other ponies, spreading the doom. More and more ponies exploded, consumed by soul fire. From Nightmare Moon's view in the sky it looked like fireworks, a celebration in her honour. Just like she always deserved. She smiled, and thus the Badlands were scorched into being from the pyre of a thousand souls.

Nightmare shook her head, clearing the flashback. Twilight’s soul fire? But how are we still alive? Once lit, there should be no way, nay, there is no way to survive. Something inside her felt sickened at that level of destruction. Was it her feeling, or was it Twilight's? Nightmare spent a long moment trying to figure out and falling to determine whose feelings that were. Finally, she simply said, “They were our enemies, they deserved their fate.”

Almost as if in reply, the memories of her escape assaulted her, the all-consuming flames dragging her in. The Nightmare closed her eyes, forcing the soothing darkness in her mental space to smother the phantom of pain. “As you wish, Twilight, no incinerating armies with soul fire,” and like that the flames were gone. Another binding agreement forged.

“We are not making friends with your former captors, though,” Nightmare added. A faint sense of what felt like agreement floated up from her host's mind.

Reaching out, Nightmare tried to reconnect with either her fragment or Twilight. Nothing again, but she could feel they were also recovering and they were closer, but she could not join them or even see what they were doing in Twilight's mental space.

She took a moment to fidget, trying to find a more comfortable position. Trying to forget the flames, she turned back to the paper.

Princess Luna Prepares for War

Princess Luna, ever the militant of the Royal Sisters, has commissioned a new set of war plate. Our sources report she has been seen carrying a weapon thought to have perished to time. Her hammer, Starfall, assumed to be lost for over one thousand years. This mighty weapon of legends is said to be able to strike down even the eldest of dragons with a single blow. Is Her Highness the protector the everypony needs in this dark time, or is she risking provoking a military build up from the other nations?. (See page fifthteen for the expected reactions from the other Nations)

Nightmare slowly shook her head, wondering in slight disbelief how Luna had convinced her sister to allow this. So, is she intending on knocking down Canterlot? I wonder what would be left should somepony make her jump and drop Starfall. Would the mountain still be standing? She knew more than a few valleys, gorges, and lakes were still on the map from where she had fumbled that seige breaking war hammer, said to be made from dead stars.

Princess Celestia Injured

Our sources in the Royal Court have confirmed seeing Princess Celestia with blood on her coat and a broken jaw. What foe was our great princess fighting when she received these injuries, this writer wonders. Regardless, It is expected the Princess will make a full recovery as no changes to Day Court have been announced.

Nightmare grinned. Celestia being hurt was always a good thing. A moment after, she paused her thoughts, expecting outrage from her host. The uncertainty she received instead was surprising, good, but surprising. Her fragment must be doing a better job than she thought. Nightmare’s fang-filled grin would have scared off lesser ponies in that moment. She only wished she could see what was going on in there.

Housing Drive for Manehattan Ponies

The respectable Noble Guide, an up and coming business pony, is set to speak before the Royal Court today to continue their campaign to aid the Ponties of Manehattan. “Canterlot is the shining star of Equestria, and we will show that we all stand for the ideals of Harmony,” he declared to a gathering of Nobles. His other efforts include setting up housing for the displaced ponies, and he is calling for either donations or action to help those affected.

She placed the paper on the nightstand. Dull, another pony trying to look good. This is likely some sort of trap either for the ponies of Manhattan or the crown treasury. Nightmare snorted in her mind.

Nightmare looked around for something else to pass the time with. It felt like Star had been gone a long time, though with no clock and no connection to the moon, she had no way of telling.

Should she be worried yet? No, she had faith that she would come back to her. Faith in somepony else? All it took was nearly dying and being nursed to health by them. She chuckled at the thought.

Something flickered to her left, and she snapped her head around to try to see it, only just remembering not to light her horn. For a moment she could have sworn she had seen Twilight, uninjured and clean. She blinked. She was just looking at the reflective crystal wall of her room.

Was she hallucinating, or was Twilight learning to see out of her dreamscape? She did so herself when seducing Luna to the darkness all those years ago, and Twilight was the Element of Magic so it was not impossible.

“Princess…” Star said, breaking Nightmare’s worried train of thoughts about Twilight.

Nightmare looked to see her walking into the room, ears low, hunched slightly, stride hesitant. She looked exhausted and her coat was a mess, her mane even had twigs and cake in it. What now?

Nightmare opened her wing in invitation, Star desperately accepting the comforting embrace. Using the hug to conceal the fact from Star, Nightmare discreetly searched the room for any flickers or images in any of the room's many reflections before turning her full attention on Star.

“My Little Star, what troubles you so?” Nightmare only had to try a little to make her tone sound loving and concerned. Perhaps, I did not have to try at all. A most surprising change, even if it was... welcome.

After Nightmare pondered on the new development, Star spoke. “Well…”

CH 10 Little Star goes Shopping

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Just like the past two days, she was on another mission; this one, a not so epic tale, of retail and walking. Star was still wearing her trusty helm. She had enchanted it with some defensive runes in a ring around the rim. She had used some powdered gemstones to make the ink for the runes. Strangely she found the gems in the kitchen.

Star felt the helm looked cool. Like if Daring-Do had accepted the help of the enchantress instead of sneaking away on her own.

Next, she wanted to work on a cloak. She was going to enchant it for comfort, stealth, and as armour. She was thinking of adding a come to life spell to allow it to help defend her.

She would be ready if the bad ponies came back, they would not hurt the Princess again.

Star blinked at the wall she had almost walked in to. She was still finding it strange to be just one pony in her own head.

Sixty-five, times you thought that today, Grey added helpfully.

Ok, she was almost alone. Trying to think of too much at the same time just left her distracted now. Even only a single minute under that spell and she had already gotten used to it. Use to letting one of the others handle things like not walking into walls.

Maybe she could modify that spell to have only two of her. If successful, she should be able to use it for longer. Maybe she could make it even simpler and use parts of it as a base. If she mixed it with a few detection spells and part of her come to life spell she would have a Not-Walk-Into-Walls spell.

The Princess would be so proud of her, yet another new spell. She pranced in joy thinking what sort of ink to use to write the final version of the spell in.

“Ouch.” she looked down at the hole she had just twisted her hoof in. Yet another danger to have her walking spell look out for. If she wanted to get through this shopping adventure without harm, she would have to pay attention.

Ponyville was a strange place but it had a nice atmosphere. Something about it seemed familiar, like she had been here before. That pink earthpony was still running around looking for somepony. She kept saying something about a new pony that she just knew was here but could not find. She had been at it for days, Star hoped the poor mare was getting enough rest.

She felt safe with nopony being able to see her, so she kept the Notice-Me-Not spell going. Not as safe as when she was with her Princess, but she had to be brave.

Floating a few items from a nearby market stall to her saddlebags and counting out the right number of coins, she paid for what she was taking. She was not a bad pony, and she didn’t want to be, so she was swapping items for bits of the correct value.

She was no thief, she told herself, she was paying even if they never saw her, so everything was ok. It was also legal as there was no intent to commit a crime, right? She even left them a full list of everything she took so they would know what to restock. It was always good to stay organised.

Checking the skies, she wondered if she would see that rainbow maned pegasus doing stunts again. It was interesting to watch that yesterday. It was the sort of performance ponies would pay to see.

On to the next stop.

She left Barnyards Bargains with a happy spring in her step. That was the last stop for the day.

Her full saddlebags felt heavy on her back. It would have been so much easier just to put the shopping in an extra-dimensional space. She could not risk it, fifth and six-dimensional magic could be noticed by some pony, so no teleporting either.

She looked at her checklist double checking she had everything.

Return medical books to hospital, check.
Buy Newspaper, check.
Buy Food, check.
Buy medical supplies, check.
Buy more paper, check.
Buy more quills, check.

Time to head back home. She would have liked to have talked to some of the other ponies or played some games with the foals around town. However, with all the bad ponies that might still be out there, she could not take the risk — not with the Princess still injured.

Well, at least it was a nice day, the sun warm on her coat and the smell of fresh apple pie. Singing a song to a happy tune she contentedly headed back.

Held in her magic, the apple pie danced through the air with a bag of carrots. She could almost taste that Sweet Apple Acres pie, and she just knew the Princess would like it.

“Hello there, little one,” a warm motherly voice spoke.

“Hello,” Star replied automatically.

Star froze looking round. Yes, the pretty looking white mare with a long pink mane was looking right at her. Star quickly looked behind her to see if there were somepony else there and found nopony.

“You can see me?” Star said hiding the apple pie behind herself.

The mare nodded “yes I can, impressive spell work for one so young, who’s your teacher?”

Grey’s voice cut in Zero, the number of times it has been safe to trust her.

Grey did not like them, did not trust them, was she a bad guy like the ones from the temple? Star thought.

Star’s horn was already lit, carefully she started forming spell patterns hidden in its glow. She was ready to slam them into something useful at a moments notice.

One, time the mare has studied your horn.

She could not help a slight narrowing of her eyes; this mare with the most pleasant of smiles scared her. Something about her seemed powerful. Focusing all of her attention on her she could feel her horn itch, a tickling sensation in her hooves, and an electric chill down her spine.

“Are you all right?” said the mare.

“I should not talk to strangers,” Star said, taking half a step back.

“My name Sunny Days, is your’s Twilight?”

Star tried to hide any reaction, judged by the change in Sunny’s eyes she knew she failed.

This was a test, just a test, keep calm, assess the situation. Need a plan, need a plan. Star thought.

“But you know her?” Sunny said interrupting Star’s thoughts.

Star just knew she was giving things away, and somehow this Sunny Days was getting answers out of her. Is she reading my mind?

One, Two, Four. Eight… Star started doubling in her mind to distract the potential mind reader.

She wanted to run, wanted to flee, but would not achieve anything. She was smaller, so she would be slower than Sunny. She could drop her Notice-Me-Not spell and flee into a crowd for help. No, she could not do that if Sunny was like the other bad ponies, ponies would get hurt.

So three options, talk, try and leave peacefully, or teleport. Talking does not deny the other two, so talk first. Star reasoned.

“Hi, Princess!” a cheery voice exclaimed from behind Star.

Star jumped, spinning around to see the threat. A pink pony, with a fluffy mane, it looked like it was made like cotton candy and this close she could tell it smelled just like it too. The pink mare had a pleased, almost insanely happy smile on her face.

“Good morning, Pinky,” Sunny said.

“Have you seen the new pony? I’ve been looking for days, but they are really, really, really good at hide and seek,” Pink said.

“Sorry, I’m not very good at hide and seek,” Sunny said.

“No? too bad, oh have a cupcake and another one for your imaginary friend.” Pinky pulled two cupcakes out of her mane, the first she offered to Sunny, the second somehow appeared in Star’s mouth.

What? Star, panicked, tried to dislodge the cupcakes and then the taste hit. Oh, this is good Star thought. She started chewing. Well, that was distracting, tasty, but distracting.

“Bye, got to go find the new pony and prep a happy your still alive party,” Pinky said before leaning closer to Star and whispering “Don’t let them tell you your not real just because you’re in a story.”

Pinky Pie winked before she bounced off, cleary defying gravity at points.

“What?” Star said. Her mind needed more than a few moments to catch up.

She must be a wingless pegasus. But what’s with that weird sound every time she bounces? Sonic magic-based movement from and earthpony or wingless pegasus? My horn was lit. Why did I not cast any protective magic when she forced that delicious cupcake on me? Star’s mind raced seeking an explanation.

She was still tracking the Pink mare, she blinked and then Pinky was gone. How? She can teleport as well? What is she, a disguised alicorn? Star looked on in bemusement.

Sunny hid a soft giggle behind her hoof “Pinky makes wonderful cupcakes, does she not?”

Star turned back to face her and slowly nodded, finishing her treat, “Yes but who… what is she?”

Sunny laughed; it was a beautiful laugh. The sunlight seemed a little brighter, a little warmer. Emotional magic? Star thought.

“It’s just Pinky being Pinky, or that’s what my Faithful Student would say.” Sunny carefully watched Star as if waiting for a reaction.

Star was becoming less worried, but more confused. That cupcake really was the best thing she had ever eaten. She thought Pinky Pie worked in the building that looked like it was made of cake, she would have to get some treats from there another day, the Princess had to have some of them. Stop thinking about cupcakes you can get them later. she thought.

“So you’re a teacher? What do you teach?” Star said

“Oh, a little bit of this, a little bit of that but mostly magic and history.”

She felt like she knew this mare, she could almost remember sitting in a room listening to her perfect voice. Star could feel herself being pulled in two directions, and the first part wanted to move closer to Sunny Days, settle next to her and keep talking. Just like old times, her mind added.

Star fortified her resolve. No I can not trust my emotions here. Only my knowledge, Grey has helped me save the Princess so I will trust Grey. Grey seems to hate and distrust Sunny; therefore, Sunny is a bad pony even if she does not look like one, even if part of me is contemplating how nice it would be to hug her right now.

She needed to leave, and she needed to leave right now. Option three then. she decided.

Star let the partial spell forms in her horn collapse discarding any not needed for her teleportation bending the rest to fit. It was sloppy, it was rushed, and it was all she had time for now. Most damning of all, it would only be a B-minus at best. She shuddered at the thought of a bad grade.

Flashing into existence next to Sugar Cube Corner, she let out a deep breath. Why am I here? Oh no, I was thinking of cupcakes again. Star lamented.

She had to get back to the Princess, she had to warn her, but she could not lead this bad pony to her. Not with her still unable to use magic. She would have to be careful.

One by one she crafted basic spell arrays around her horn each spinning and dancing together. They formed an intricate pattern of runes along her horn’s length. It was the most sensitive magic detection spell she knew.

She started walking to Sugar Cube Corner. Sunny Days had a very unique feel about her. With this spell, she would sense if she got close.

There was something there, something adding a faint vibration to her horn. She sensed a note of magic too low to be noticed without a high gain, triple-layer, self-sorting, excluding filter.

Was she in the area of effect of a spell? A force? Was this always here? She had never checked. Was she paranoid? She turned down a shadowed alleyway needing to be out of sight. The feeling stopped. Star blinked. Strange magic stops when out of direct sunlight after talking to a peculiar mare named Sunny Days? Sunlight based scrying?

Three, seconds until she has you. Grey added.

Only Grey’s familiar voice stopped her from just bolting back out into the light at full gallop. Right need somewhere dark, somewhere it will be hard to track me. Star thought. She looked up at the Everfree Forest. “Perfect.”


Her horn flashed with Twilight's Lab-Safety spell. Then she poured all the power she could in a single second into her horn, preparing a teleportation spell. She added every safety she could think of, setting it to target any area of unstable magic in the forest.


Star closed her eyes and released the spell, trying not to think about all the dangers she had read about blind teleportation.

A bright flash of light forced its way past Star’s closed eyes, and she raised a hoof to shield them. A few seconds later, the light faded to a more manageable level. She could feel the steam rising from her horn.

She opened her eyes, finding she was in a perfect spherical space, it was lit by the glowing wards of the Lab-Safety spell. The walls of her prison seemed to be made of condensed and burnt wood, looking at the wards around her, the heat protection ones were glowing.

She had blind teleported into a solid object and survived, pulling an S-Five out of its storage she set about recording everything. A reliable way to teleport things into other solid things could be useful. A plan came to her; she could revolutionize doughnut-making for starters.

Four, minutes of air left. Grey informed her.

“Thank you,” Star responded.

She counted the seconds for two minutes giving her horn time to cool after the abuse she had put it through. She considered her options for a few more seconds. She would only need a small hole to let air in. A simple, aggressive cleaning spell would do. It was really a disintegration spell with built-in safeties, which Star easily removed. Her new destructive spell would be the only tool she would need. Lighting her horn and forming the spell, she carefully tightened the focus down to a narrow beam. Star released the spell, a single crack of energy and everything within four horn lengths along that beam instantly became nothing but dust. Now for a second hole so the air could flow. Another crack of energy and she felt the air around her start to become fresher.

A little bit of dull green-tinted light and fresh earthly scented air came in. Star knew that she could not return until the sun had set. She could not risk being picked up by that scrying spell again. So she had hours to do something with. She would have more than enough time to read her guide to the Everfree Forest book.

Looking around her, she had magically condensed Everfree wood around her. It was a material nopony else had ever worked with. She started cutting samples and trying to think if she could make any adventuring gear out of it. Maybe I could even make myself a pet? She considered.

“And that’s what happened. I made sure I was not being followed by the bad pony.” Star sat there being groomed by her Princess, a small pile of twigs, leaves and other detritus off to one side.

“So brave my clever, Little Star.” The Princess pulled her into a powerful hug and started to stroke her mane. It almost seems like the Princess never wanted to let her go again.

She seems a little sad. I know, deploy Plan Apple Pie. With a simple twist of magic, the still oven warm Sweet Apple Acres apple pie popped into existence on the table.

“Look what we have for dessert, Princess,” Star said with cheery pride.

Her Princess smiled warmly down at her.

CH 11 Sunny Days

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Princess Celestia, the regal, all-knowing, all-powerful ruler of the Sun, sat in her throne, or at least her body did. Her mind was elsewhere, only occasionally paying attention. Her Mask was handling the annoying nobles, following the rules it was given, acting the picture-perfect ruler. Celestia had at least an hour before they would even get to the point, so she would use her time more productively.

Within her mental-space, a sunlit garden, Celestia sat on a cushion trying to relax. The warm scents of her favourite flowers mixing perfectly with both her tea and cake. The sound of a gentle stream and wind chimes added to the peaceful atmosphere. She sat before two tables, a white marble pillar off to one side and a glass display case to the other.

“And she said, ‘if we have to banish Twilight, thou too will find thyself upon the moon!’” Celestia continued to Philomena her pet phoenix, who nodded along in all the right places.

Celestia took another bite from her cake, her jaw still twinging. Why did you have to strike me with such force, Luna? she thought. Even here, despite it being long healed, the blow’s aftermath could still be felt. Yes, she had insisted that she not go alone to investigate the magical pulse. Even having gone so far as to use her own raw magical force to overpower and redirect Luna’s first teleport.

Celestia chased the cake with a sip of tea, looking up from her cup to the mare she was sharing tea with. A mare that looked almost like her; If it was not for the burning mane and slit eyes. Daybreaker, her war-mind sat opposite, enjoying her own tea seemingly relaxed despite the golden barbed collar chaining her to a marble pillar in the centre of the garden.

“She would not be so disobedient if you would just let me break her,” Daybreaker said, a fanged smile on her muzzle.

Celestia levelled a cold stare. Mentally cursing Starlight's meddling that seemed to add a little spice to her war-minds personality. “We love our sister, and you would do well to remember that.” Celesta’s words caused the collar to glow brightly.

Daybreaker grit her teeth, bowing her head “Yes, your Radiance.”

Celestia’s gaze shifted, becoming warm and welcoming. “There, is that not better?” she smiled benevolently, “The sooner you give up on the Daybreaker persona, the sooner we can go back to normal.”

Still with head lowered, “I will behave your Radiance, Please allow me to remain as I am.”

Celestia glanced over to the stone archway at the far side of the garden. Within it, the throne room could be seen. Her Mask was still sitting there with perfect attentive smile number four, listening to that brain dead waste of space. Frustration flickered on her face for a moment.

“I’m the one that’s meant to want to set everything on fire,” Daybraker said.

“You know this is not what I intended for the nobility,” Celestia responded.

Daybraker gave Celestia a pointed look. “Then fix it, you have the power, you have the weight of law and even just cause for half of them if your agents can be trusted.”

“Equestria can not tolerate the scale of disruption that would cause, not now at least.”

With a hoof, Daybraker lifted the Twilight piece from the game board on the second table. “And so it comes back to your missing faithful student.” She turned it to face Celestia, “Will I be required to be your sword again?”

Celestia’s wings slumped, “I hope that will not be necessary, I have faith that she will be at least…” Her voice hitched, “salvageable.”

She genuinely cared for Twilight and feared for what state she would find her in. She knew Twilight was still too fragile, not used to the pain or sacrifices that might be required of her. Unprepared for the true torments that could be inflicted upon one that could not die. If only I had merely another hundred years to prepare everything.

Daybreakers muzzle twitched, but it was clear to Celestia, she dare not laugh. “And if the Nightmare is free or Twilight’s Seals are broken?”

Dread and pre-emptive regret bit at Celestia's heart at the thought of what might be required. “Then you will do what I command and nothing more.” her voice was cold as the void.

“Yes, your Radiance.”

Celestia’s eyes shimmered with liquid as she turned her gaze to look at the display case. Row upon row of game pieces, each perfectly caved by her own hoof into the likeness of her friends, foes and favoured tools.

Her golden magic embraced the little figure of a yellow unicorn with a two-toned mane and sun based cutie mark. Drawing it closer, she held it before her face.

Daybreaker draped a wing over Celestia’s back “Our duty, our ponies come first… everything else is secondary.”

Celestia nodded and closed her eyes as she leant into Daybreaker’s warmth. She could do nothing to change the past, only trot forward, keep placing one hoof after another upon the endless path.

“As always, we will do what we must. When you need it, my strength is here for you,” Daybreaker said, nuzzling Celestia.

Seeking comfort in the embrace of my tool of war now, Celestia thought almost laughing. She would need to spend more time investigating how much her war-mind had changed after being exposed to Luna’s chaotic domain.

A Flash of gold dragged her away from her introspection, a report appeared on the table. Celestia glanced up at the archway. Raven had just passed her some paperwork and her Mask thought it worthy enough to spend the not-insignificant amount of magic to send physical objects here.

A flick of her horn and both the Sunset and Twilight figures were placed on the game board. She slowly walked towards the table as Daybreaker returned to her tea.

Celestia looked down at the report, minor theft. The only reason such a trivial report would get sent here was the fact it came from Ponyville. She leafed through them, every item held in her golden magic. Over the past two days, items had been stolen and replaced with their exact value in bits. The thing that marked the report as urgent was the additional information from her agents. Pinky Pie had been searching for a new pony and had been unable to find them.

Her golden magic pulled one of the pieces of evidence, a neatly written receipt, something about it was familiar, she narrowed her eyes at the horn writing. It could not be.

With an effort of will and a lit horn, she reached out to the physical world. A bright flash and a set of drawers from her private chambers were dragged into her mental space.

Taking a deep breath to help recover from the exertion, she opened a drawer. She pulled out some of Twilight's old school projects and placed it next to the evidence, her eyes flit back and forth between the two. This horn writing was almost identical to Twilights before she was sealed. It was full of little hints of joy and eagerness, something that was missing from her later writings.

A soft smile crossed her muzzle. It was just like Twilight to pay for the things she was stealing. She shook her head; Twilight still had more than a few lessons she needed to learn.

She would be taking a trip to Ponyville.

Flying through the air was always a liberating feeling. Celestia could not keep a grin from her muzzle; she was going to find Twilight and everything was going to be alright. If it was not for the fact that she was only concealed by an invisibility spell, she might have let out a happy shout.

Currently, as far as anypony could tell she was still in the throne room holding court. It had taken a lot of promised treats to get Philomena to stay there to act as an anchor for the illusion spell. She could feel her Mask directing the fake the same way it would control her body when she retreated from it.

Daybreaker interrupted her. Do you know what you will do?

“I will find her of course,” Celestia answered out loud.

It is strange how she has not contacted anypony, not her friends, not even you? Daybreaker’s thoughts responded. Celestia could feel Daybreaker’s suspicions. She was always thinking of possible threats, dangers, and how to end them as efficiently, as permanently as possible.

Celestia kept herself below sonic rainboom speeds despite the sudden need to already be there.

Arriving just out of sight of the town, she transformed herself. The old magic wrapped around her, diminishing her form to that of an ordinary unicorn white of coat and pink of mane.

To Celestia the world suddenly seemed enormous, the once almost toyed sized world replaced with a full-sized one. Nodding to herself, she cantered into the town, she would have her answers, she would find her Faithful Student.

Ponyville had changed over the years yet somehow kept the small-town atmosphere from its founding by the Apple family, despite now having Twilight’s Castle. Her ponies going about their lives. If only she could come out and just watch more often. She took a breath of air, full of the smells of the town with none of the refinements of the rarefied scents of Canterlot. Places like this just seem more honest, more real.

Making her way towards the centre of town she could see two of the Elements, Applejack at the market selling her family’s apples. Rainbow Dash sleeping on a cloud.

This town, placed right next to the monster-infested Everfree, is almost defenceless, Daybreaker cut in.

You know why this is, Celestia responded.

Are you intending on using it to test another then?

All six of the elements were strengthened here, it has proved a useful place to forge friendships and temper heros.

Celestia trotted around the town, exchanging greetings, listing to the conversations in the background. After such a long life, she did not even need to think about small talk. Even without her Mask’s aid, it was still as automatic as breathing.

For each pony she encountered, she could see dozens of their ancestors in her mind's eye. She still had a full list detailing all the bloodlines and their traits stored in her mental garden. Part of her mind puzzled over who she would pair with who to breed the most powerful ponies.

At least she had gotten Cadence to agree to that if all things were equal in parental love, then the pairing that would provide the strongest foals would be promoted. In only a few generations, she could have most of the ancient warrior lines back and ready for service.

Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of speculation about Twilight, mostly discussion about if she was really dead or not. It was times like this that she really disliked the laws she passed that allowed the press to have the freedom to print such lies.

She asked about the stolen items and found out more things had gone missing today. Her mind simply absorbed the information she was given, noted who had said it and moved on. It seemed the disappearing items were starting to become an attraction, a puzzle. A small cash prize was available if somepony could figure out how it was being done. Celestia kept her magical sense alert seeking this so-called undetectable thief.

Being out here amongst her ponies under her warming sun felt like a holiday. Even with everything that had happened, merely being away from the court was a welcome breath of fresh air.

She used her horn for levitation to hide that she was scanning all the ponies she could. None of the locals had any signs of any mental manipulation or external control. Thankfully she found no traces of dark magic.

Celestia exchanged a few bits for a sandwich before trotting off to the next merchant on her list. Celestia noticed she was nodding her head to an ancient turn that passed through her mind.

The world around her faded, being replaced by her recollections of a simpler time. Glancing to the side, she looked at a beautiful field of flowers, a foal Luna running through them calling for her sister to come and play.

She could feel the soft smile cross her muzzle as her voice traded polite greetings with whomever she was talking to. She had lost so much over the years, but she had gained many treasured memories. She had to be careful not to lose herself in them too often.

She had her sister back, she would find and save Twilight. Celestia let herself enjoy the song echoing in her mind from the past, a song she would probably never hear in reality ever again.

Celestia… you are not just remembering that song. Daybreakers thoughts were impatient.

The daydream broke, rapidly she refocused her attention, ears swiveling, locking onto the source of the song. It was real, somepony was singing one of her mother’s songs. A song that no pony except herself and Luna had any chance of knowing. Anger, confusion, joy and even hope clashed within her. Mother? A part of her mind whispered. No, the voice is wrong.

Looking around, she could see nopony singing, nopony where the sound was coming from. She had to find them, she had to know how they knew that song.

There, Celestia could feel Daybreker direct her eyes, focusing a bit of her Alicon magic, enhancing them.

A small lavender unicorn filly, the spitting image of Twilight from all those years ago was happily trotting along singing the song, concealed by a very restricted spell. A particular Notice-Me-Not spell and only one pony has seen then book it was in in the past two hundred years.

'Twilight' she wanted to call out, but Daybreaker kept her muzzle closed letting her reconsider.

Celestia just stood there for a moment tracking the filly with her eyes. She had almost forgotten to breathe. That song and now a filly Twilight, it took her experienced mind whole seconds to come to terms with it and decide what to do.

Twilight was wearing a stained slightly burnt helmet and overloaded saddlebags. Levitating a pie and a bag of carrots next to herself, dancing in a happy patten in the air, held in the familiar magenta aura.

Her hooves moved her body closer before she knew what was happening. She had found Twilight, the little inconsistency about age seemingly inconsequential.

Look at her mark Daybreaker seemed to growl in her mind.

Celestia paused and did so, her war-mind was always more observant than herself, she had crafted her that way after all. It took but a moment to see the smaller stars were missing but other than that she was seeing the joyful little filly from all those years ago. The possible implications of Twilight’s mark being different and what it could mean for the Elements of Harmony she discarded for now.

“Hello there, little one,” Celestia said, moving up to the filly and stopping at a polite distance.

“Hello,” the filly responded before seeming to freeze. She quickly looked behind herself then back at Celestia. “You can see me?”

The filly slowly moved the apple pie behind her as if to protect it from Celestia. She could feel a giggle wanting to escape, Twilight was protecting a pie from her, it was not even a cake.

Celestia nodded, “Yes I can, impressive spell work for one so young, who’s your teacher?”

Something flickered in the filly’s eyes, a hint of worry mixed with suspicion and calculation.

Be Careful, Daybraker added, drawing her attention to the many partial spell patterns hiding in the glow of the filly's horn. A casting method only customarily used by duelists or assassins.

She could feel Daybreaker readying herself. Considering if spells would even be needed or if a simple strike to the horn, empowered by earthpony strength, would be enough to end the threat.

The ever so slight narrowing of the filly’s eyes let Celestia know that her observation had not gone unnoticed. Impressive observational skills.

The filly shivered for a moment. Can she sense what Daybreaker is planning? Celestia thought.

“Are you all right?” She asked, lowering herself and softening her voice.

“I should not talk to strangers,” The filly said, taking half a step back.

“My name is Sunny Days. Is your’s Twilight?”

The filly did an excellent job hiding her reaction. Still, you don’t get through thousands of years of politics without getting very, very good at reading ponies. Every slight movement, each flick of the eyes, change in breathing all analysed with her lifetime’s worth of experience. The filly clearly was not called Twilight, but she knew her and knew her well.

“But you know her?” Celestia said, trying to sound calm, she could feel hope building in her chest.

Celestia studied the filly’s reaction. The slight change in posture, movement of her ears, tightening of expression. Seemingly focusing her senses on Celestia and less on possible escape routes, an added edge of fear but not for herself. She is very protective of Twilight and is not grieving. Celestia thought.

So Twilight lives, how do we find her now? Daybreaker thought to her.

They both looked at each other, neither saying or doing anything, the long moment stretched. Celestia blinked, and suddenly there was a Pink Pony behind the filly. It took only a moment for Celestia to recognize Pinky Pie.

“Hi, Princess!” Pinky said bouncing with her usually joy.

The filly jumped, spinning around as if expecting an attack. Celestia got ready to shield Pinky in case the filly let any spells fly.

“Good morning, Pinky,” Celestia said, letting none of her preparations modify her friendly tone.

“Have you seen the new pony? I’ve been looking for days, but they are really, really, really good at hide and seek,” Pinky said

“Sorry I’m not very good at hide and seek,” Celestia said, looking straight at the filly, Pinky did not seem to notice.

“No? Too bad, oh have a cupcake and another one for your imaginary friend.” Pinky pulled two cupcakes out of her mane, the first was offered to Celestia which she accepted in her golden magic. The cupcake giving her a non-threatening reason to have her horn lit.

Pinky forced the second cupcake into the filly’s mouth. She seemed to panic for a moment then started to chew the cupcake, a slight smile forming. Celestia took a dainty bite of her own, yes it was a good cupcake.

“Bye, got to go find the new pony and prep a happy you’re still alive party,” Pinky said.

Pinky leaned closer to the filly and whispered too quietly for Celestia to make out what was said over the sounds of the town.

Pinky Pie winked before she bounced off with her usual disregard for the rules of reality. Thank you, Pinky. Celestia thought with gratitude.

“What?” The filly said after finishing her cupcake, seeming somewhat dazed.

Celestia hid a soft giggle behind her hoof “Pinky makes wonderful cupcakes does she not?”

The filly turned back to face her and slowly nodded, finishing her treat, “Yes but who… what is she?”

Celestia could not help but laugh, “It’s just Pinky being Pinky, or that’s what my Faithful Student would say.”

“So you’re a teacher? What do you teach?”

“Oh, a little bit of this, a little bit of that but mostly magic and history.”

She could see the filly’s body language softening, the fear fading. It almost seemed like she would move closer, a little fidget that Twilight used to do before moving to hug or nuzzle her.

Celestia warmly smiled, it was almost like she was in the past, talking to her faithful student. Was it possible her seal broke, and she was reverted to the age when it was first applied? Has she forgotten her name?

Celestia subtly shifted her own body hinting to the filly’s instincts that a hug would be accepted, that she would be safe, protected.

Daybreaker took over her magic flash casting a self fortification spell. A blinding flash and wave of magic assaulted her senses, leaving her unable to perceive anything for a fraction of a second. When she could see again, the filly was gone.

Her War-Mind was unhappy but sounded respectful in her mind. She formed the partial spell patterns into a teleport and somehow shaped the remaining fragments into a disorientation pulse. If we were an average unicorn, we would be laying on the ground now defenceless for a least a minute.

“She is every bit as impressive as Twilight was, if not more so at that age,” Celestia said.

Reaching out with her connection to the sun, Celestia looked down from that lofty vantage point. Finding her target took no time at all. Anything her sunlight touched, she could detect. The filly was outside Pinky’s home. Celestia trotted that way.

With her scrying she noted the filly constructing an extraordinarily complicated but low powered spell. It looked like one of Twilight’s creations, one of the spells she invented for her lab work.

So she is either Twilight or was taught by her. Daybreaker added

Why do you think that? Celestia responded. Despite agreeing, she wanted to know her War-Mind’s reasoning.

Who else would use such a complicated spell where a simple awareness enhancer would be superior to avoid us?

Moving to cut off the filly’s trip, she kept watching via her scrying. The filly had just ducked into an alley out of direct sunlight. Did she somehow sense the scrying? Celestia increased her pace just in case.

She could feel the eyes of her ponies on her, one does not gallop around without reason. At least with it being Ponyville, only a few ponies reacted with anything other than mild curiosity.

Jumping over a pony that suddenly stepped out into her path, she got to the alleyway. Celestia rounded the corner with haste.

Boom, crackle, zap. A massive flash of light and a scorching ripple of spatial distortion. She could feel arcs of magic dancing across her body. The magic felt wild and undirected, concentrating on her horn’s sensitivity to the arcane, she focused.

It was a powerful teleport effect, with no set destination merely a set of conditions on what sort of locations the caster could arrive at. It would take only a few more moments to decipher the set exit conditions.

A burst of unique, powerful pegasus magic and the sound of wings let her know that Rainbow Dash had arrived. The pegasus magic scrambling the lingering traces of unicorn magic, denying any chance of tracking the teleport.

“Twilight?” Rainbows Dash’s harsh voice called out before looking at the disguised Celestia.

Celestia shook her head and looked up at Rainbow. She stomped her hooves a few times to rid herself of the now sparking lingering magic. Celestia could feel Daybreaker’s anger at the chance to follow the potential Twilight being lost.

“I’m afraid we both seemed to have just missed her,” Celestia said, keeping her frustration from her tone.

“Who are you, you’re not Twilight,” Rainbow said, pointing a hoof at her.

Celestia bowed her head “Sunny Days, it is nice to meet you, Miss Rainbow Dash, holder of the Element of Loyalty.”

Dash looked around the alleyway “That was Twilight’s Magic, what happened? Why are you looking for Twilight” She demanded, poking Celestia in the chest taking on an aggressive pose.

“I work for Princess Celestia, and I have been asked to try and find her.”

Rainbow narrowed her eyes, suspiciously, “Prove it.”

Rainbow turns up just in time to interfere, something is not right here. Daybreaker added.

Celestia lit her horn, pulling a scroll out of her mental garden, wrapping it with an anti-changeling and illusion spell. She offered it to Rainbow as her mind directed her solar scrying in an ever-widening search patten.

Rainbow snatched the scroll from the air breaking the seal “Blah, Blah, Blah. Royal stuff, hereby granted that, more Blah” She looked up “So you're an investigator working Princess Celestia?”

Celestia nodded, noting that the spells on the scroll did nothing, so she was probably dealing with the real Rainbow.

“So where is Twilight?” Rainbow demanded.

That is the question, she thought. She would have to tell the Elements something. What would be the best move to make?

“First tell me what brought you here?”

Rainbow waved her hoof around. “I saw you galloping like mad then a flash of Twi’s magic.”

Interesting nopony else could see her magic. Did she drop her spell to attract loyalty’s attention? Celestia wondered.

Our prey is cunning, Daybreaker purred.

They either have some control of loyalty or know her very well. Celestia responded.

Is the foal a player or merely a piece?

The latter, I suspect…

Rainbow’s blue foreleg waved in front of Celestia’s muzzle. “Hello, anypony in there?”

Yes, loyalty is very impatient, Celestia thought.

“Yes sorry, Miss Dash, I was considering how best to answer you. For now, know that it is believed Twilight has been hiding here in Ponyville.”

“What! If she here then where is she, why hasn’t she come back to us?”

“We do not know...” Celestia said before being cut off.

“How can you not know…” Rainbow said her hoof pressing into Celestia’s chest.

A slight flexing of her Alicorn power was all it took to give Rainbow pause and lend Celestia’s words an edge of command. “Miss Dash could you gather the rest of the Bearers in the Map-room an hour after sunset please.”

“Sure… we’ll be there, and you better have answers.” Rainbow’s exiting shockwave added even more disruption to the magic.

Celestia closed her eyes as she let out a tired sigh. Today is going to be a long day.

CH 12 Connections and Consequences

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The sound of Grey's quills endlessly scribing and the rustle of scrolls moving, filled Twilight with nostalgia. A sad smile crossed her face. All of that time from before she truly knew what friendship was. All of that time, when all she wanted was to be left alone, free to read in peace.

Now that she had it, all she wanted was the distractions to come back. Rainbow crashing through the window. Pinkie and her surprise parties. If only I could walk out the front door and see my friends. She wishfully thought.

She glanced up, looking for Dreams. She craved being enclosed in those perfect wings once more. But no, she was not back yet. She had left to prepare a bath for her. She had to admit that just the thought of it seemed divine.

Her mind thought back to the many spa trips she shared with the girls. Was this what it would be like in a few hundred years? Her, all alone, missing her friends, her family? No, I will not believe that is Harmony’s Plan for me.

Setting aside her dark contemplations, Twilight slowly looked around the Grand Golden Oaks Library, taking it all in. Her Library was perfect, full of more books than she could count, every detail as if It was made just for her. She let out a quiet laugh. A whole plane of existence, just for me.

She ran a hoof over the floor, listening to the sound and feeling the texture of the wood. Everything felt real, not a single detectable fault. What is Cadance's Bastion like? And why did nopony tell me that I had one? How many more surprises am I going to find now that I’m an Alicorn? She mused, face twisting to a frown.

Looking at the doors, her friends, the parts that Celestia locked away and the others. The small door with just the Star she guessed was something to do with the original Twilight. Her attention focused on the last two. Why would she have a wing of her library dedicated to Luna? If what Dreams said was true, that would mean she has a connection with Luna.

Her eyes travelled back to her friend's doors. Could she use these connections to send messages? Could she scry on her friends and check how they were doing? Could she use her magic and bring them here? “A group hug would be perfect right about now,” Twilight said to nopony.

Her eyes fixed on the most troubling door and narrowed. The symbol of her mark covered by that of the Nightmare. What does it mean? Was I ever taken over by the Nightmare? Is that one of the memories that Celestia hid from me?

After her bath, she would have a lot of reading to do, and when her magic recovered, it would be time to experiment. Just the thought of all she could learn sent a shiver of anticipation through her.

Sudden motion behind the seal caught her eye, it looked like there was a little more fresh blood on the chains. She looked over at Grey. She was not much of a conversationalist apparently being unable to talk.

Twilight glanced at the blood. Feeling sorry for myself achieves nothing. She berated herself. It took no time to decide to help, and only moments to form a plan of action.

Briefly pausing at the implications of what she was going to attempt, she shrugged. It was her mind, she could do what she wished. No form filling required beforehoof.

She carefully checked her body, muscle by muscle. Slowly stretching, twisting, rotating herself, she concluded she was good for limited activities. She dragged herself to her hooves. Still weak but moving, she smiled.

Seeking out and finding some wood that was not part of the tree itself, she concluded a small table was her best option. She lit her horn and set to work.

She would be using simple low powered spells she honestly never thought she would use again. Or am I using them for the first time? Twilight thought as her eyes flicked to the patchwork toy.

What would her parents think, what would Shining think? Her eyes fixed on the white book. Are my parents my grandparents? She was going to have to have a lot of long talks with a lot of ponies. Celestia would know but did she dare confront her?

A week ago the thought that under some definitions, ‘Celestia was her mother’ would have filled her heart with joy. Now she just felt betrayed and scared. What will the Princess do if she finds out I know, let alone the fact that I practically gave my body away?

Twilight shook her head, getting back to her self appointed task. She would have enough time to work the rest out later.

She cut, shaped and remade it into a wooden tunnel. It was about large enough for books to be passed through. Any larger and she doubted she could make this work. She might be an Alicorn, but she doubted she was in the same league as Celestia, yet. So she would just have to be smart about it.

Now if I mix this strengthening array with parts of this shield sapping spell, reconfigure it to work vs Seals. Now to specialise it against Solar, Astral and Fire aspected magic.

“Thank you, Starlight.” Who knew our weekly magic duels would prove useful here.

Aiming her horn at her new creation, Twilight fired a thin beam of magic. It was an ingenious modification of a surface cleaning spell to turn it into a disintegration beam. When did I come up with this? She briefly pondered.

With long practiced aim and control, she danced the beam over the wooden surface, etching arcane runes in intricate patterns. Smiling as she worked, Twilight began to hum Dreams’ lullaby. The tune and working towards an objective did wonders to lift her mood.

“And done.” With a flourish Twilight set her creation spinning in her magical aura.

She walked to Grey's seal, her newly constructed gift held in her magic. Grey looked up at her, the quills falling still in the air for a moment. Twilight met her intense eyes and tried not to be overwhelmed by the bitterness she saw within, she smiled in greeting."

This is for you, you should not have to hurt yourself just for helping me." Twilight moved the wood towards the chains with her magenta magic.

Grey pointed to her horn with a hoof and shook her head. Twilight stopped, eyes wide. Grey’s foreleg was made of wood, it was painted to match her coat colour perfectly. At this range, there was no mistaking it for anything other than a prosthetic.

Twilight looked at her own foreleg, her stolen foreleg. She could feel her body start to tremble. No, I will not break down, I have a job to do. She demanded of herself. Deliberately taking a breath and recalling Dreams' Lullaby, she stilled her body.

Twilight looked back up "So no magic touching the seal?"

Grey nodded, so she set to work without her magic. Taking the wooden tunnel in her front hooves Twilight reared up, using her wings for balance, she moved closer. Twilight started to force it between the chains, twisting it this way and that. The runes glowed taking in the golden energy but only barely loosened the chains. It felt like she was pushing Tom without the benefit of her earthpony might.

Her limbs burned, her back legs were really not happy about supporting so much of her weight, let alone pushing something through the seal. Her efforts were spreading the chains apart by just the smallest margin. She would do this. She had stood against every challenge put in front of her, this would not stop her.

A growled curse escaped her as she pushed harder. Something twisted inside of her, power rushing into her straining muscles invigorating them. The magically reinforced wood creaked under the increased grip. She used all her might, She could feel the floor crack under her rear hooves.

The tunnel suddenly slipped forward, and the sharp blades on the chains bit into her flesh. She hissed in pain but pressed on, it was so close, just a little more, and she would be done.

Grey reached into the seal, fresh cuts causing her blood to mix with Twilights. Grey grabbed the chains, prying them apart if only a little. With a final lurch, it was done.

No longer needed, the strange power reinforcing her faded. Twilight slumped dropping tiredly back to all fours.

She dearly hopped the fresh blood deposits were the last either of them would have to pay. Her eyes glanced at the multiple cuts on her forelegs, it was still fascinating to watch her flesh perfectly knit itself back together. If only it would clean the blood from my coat too.

The passageway now in place, Grey took a step back and nodded. She raised a hoof, tracing the shape of a smile over her expressionless face. Twilight’s answering smile was radiant as warmth filled her chest. She was helping ponies again. She half expected her mark to glow, signifying another job well done, another mission complete.

The sound of hooves clapping behind her caught her attention. Twilight, startled, quickly looked, only to be caught up in a surprise hug by Dreams’ warm wings.

"Oh, my little Star" Dream said, nuzzling her, a beautiful, joyful smile on her muzzle.

Twilight blushed, the hug was nice. It added to the growing warmth inside of her. Everything was better with Dreams’ wings around her.

Grey waved before heading back to her task, some of the bitterness in her eyes missing. Dreams did a double-take. "So that is what she looks like when she is happy?"

Twilight laughed, for this moment at least, she was happy. She pressed against Dreams’ body, returning the embrace.

"Bath’s ready, it's a bit of a walk to get there so..." Dreams smiled mischievously as her silver aura lifted Twilight.


"The water will be cold by the time we get there if I let you walk". Dreams placed Twilight on her back, legs hanging down either side of her body.

"I'm not a foal."

"Your hurt, every pony needs help when they are recovering and you little Miss Element of Magic are no different.” Dreams said, sticking out her tongue.

Seeing Dreams act like a foal was just too much, Twilight laughed.

"Much better."

Dreams cantered off, heading to the stairs. Feeling the motion of Dreams Muscles under her was a different experience than simply being carried in her magic, it was pleasant.

Twilight regarded the door with Nightmare’s mark atop her own. Shaking her head, she spoke, “Dreams, is there any way we can help Nova? She is down there, isn’t she?” Twilight pointed a hoof at the floor.

A growl came from below. Nova can hear me? Twilight thought.

Dream not seeming to have noticed the growl answered “No… I don't think so not unless you can defeat Celestia’s seal.”

“What about cutting through the floor?”

Dreams shook her head, “No, that would just hurt you and damage your wellspring, as long as that door is there, there is no other way down to the basement.”

“Knock three times if you can hear me,” Twilight said

Dreams stopped walking and gave Twilight a puzzled look. “Who are you…”




Dream jumped before looking down puzzled.

“Nova, do you remember the old Telegram code?” Twilight said.

A pattern of knocks followed.

“Yes, we have communication!” Twilight cheered. If it were not for Dreams’ wings holding her, Twilight would have jumped off her ride, performing a happy dance right then and there; or fallen flat on her face given how weak she was feeling.

“Well, Miss Nova, Twilight here is going to have a bath. You can talk all you want later,” Dreams said.

Another series of knocks and a hungry growl came from below. Twilight blushed, her face felt like it was on fire, but she could not take her eyes off Dreams, not with Nova’s suggestions.

Dreams started moving again. Twilight now more aware of Dreams’ attractive body and how the muscles felt moving beneath her. Why did you have to point out just how perfect she looks. She thought as she relaxed against Dreams’ warmth. The fatigue from helping Grey dragging her eyes closed.

If this is my prison, at least it has more company than the moon. She thought as she let herself start to fall asleep to Dreams warmth and comforting scent once more. She noticed Dreams’ magic lifting something from the floor as they passed Rainbow’s door it looked like a screwed up bit of paper, but Twilight did not care. I can clean the library later. She thought as rest claimed her.

Twilight was clean, relaxed and feeling worlds better. The warm scented water and Dreams’ talented hooves had managed to work some life back into her body, removing all traces of blood from her coat. She would not be doing the Running of the Leaves any time soon, but she could freely move about. She just didn't want to at the moment.

She let out a contented hum as she examined her bathroom, it was huge. The bath itself was fed by a heated waterfall and was large enough for at least ten fully grown Alicorns. Truth be told, it was more a pool than a bath. Other than the wood and natural stone decor that fitted the library so well, it would happily fit in Canterlot Palace.

Rarity would love this place. Twilight thought, her mind lazily beginning to construct a spell to bring her here.

She looked over to Dreams who was lounging next to her. Dreams stretched out and smiled softly at Twilight.

“So you are back with us?” Dreams said with a cheeky smile.

“Too comfy to words.” Twilight lowered herself in the water relishing its warmth.

“But it's time for a learn something,” Dreams teased.

Twilight’s ears immediately were erect, turning to focus on Dreams.

Dreams lifted her hoof from the bath, an orb of water seemingly stuck to it. “There are a lot of things you have not been told about Alicorns my Little Star.”

Twilight eyes fixed on the orb, it was clearly not unicorn magic. She leaned closer to her, horn lighting with a few analytical spells. Her eyes going wide as the results started to come in. Something was blocking her magical scan. No, not blocking it was causing it to bend around the orb.

“Boop,” Dreams said, placing the orb on against the end of Twilight’s muzzle.

Twilight scrunched her muzzle and pulled her head back looking at the ripples going through the water. “Is this just some effect b...”

Dreams laughed.“So are you ready for your lesson?”

Lesson? Just like that Twilight's ears were upright and alert.“Here, now?”

Dreams nodded, “Yes the water will be useful.” She tossed the orb into the air catching it with the other hoof.

“I can’t take notes here,” Twilight said, her eyes tracking the orb as her mind frantically tried to come to some conclusion on how this was possible.

Twilight once more found her nose meeting with the water orb again. She could feel it, there was some sort of boundary around the water. It was magic of some type, but not unicorn, pegasus or earthpony. Something about it felt familiar, but where had she encountered anything like this?

“There are at least five types of ponies that make up an Alicorn….”

Then Twilight remembered the magic felt similar to what she had experienced in the Crystal Empire. Her eyes were wide, and her hunger for knowledge apparent. She leaned in close, almost muzzle to muzzle to Dreams. “So I’m part Thestral and Crystal Pony?”

“That’s right My Little Star,” Dreams said. her only reaction a small smile.

Twilight grinned. the praise felt intoxicating on its own. More so than Dream’s lovely scent. Focus, Twilight, focus. There was learning to be done. She would save thinking how sexy Dreams looked or the fact they were so close they were almost kissing for later.

She pulled back sitting up on her haunches, looking every part the attentive student. “So what features do Alicorns have from these two?”

Dream raised the orb of water. “This is Crystalpony magic. Think of it as an improvement of the grip field all ponies project from their hooves, just much more versatile. Crystalponies have it flowing over their bodies, acting as armour. To harm them, you need to first shatter this protection, and as you have seen from the water orb, it can be hard to get through it with magic. With practice, it can be used to cut solid matter and even catch spells.”

Dreams pushed the orb of water towards Twilight. “Try and lift it with a single hoof.”

Twilight reached out with a hoof placing it against the orb. She could feel the cooling sensation of the Crystal-Magic, her grip seemed to just slide off it, just like the scanning spell had.

Twilight narrowed her eyes, she could feel this magic so she could interact with it. Placing her hoof firmly against the orb she reached for and pulled on this Crystal-Magic.

The orb imploded, water splashing everywhere. Twilight blinked and looked sheepish.

“Not what I was expecting, but amazing progress My Little Star.”

“But I failed…”

“Look at your hoof.” Dream nodded to the hoof.

Twilight’s hoof and lower leg were covered in shimmering magenta crystal. She flexed her leg; everything moved correctly. “Wow.”

“Once you have your Crystal-Armour in place it takes no effort, no concentration to maintain it, for a Crystalpony it regenerates on its own, for us Alicorns we have to deliberately reform it.”

“So the individual tribes have advantages over Alicorns?” Twilight said frowning at her hoof shaking it.

“More like they have a head start with their own abilities and given they only have one....”

“They can spend more time to master it.” Twilight placed her front hooves together and pulled on the Crystal-Armour. The crystals dissolved into light flowing over the other hoof before reforming. “How do I get rid of this?”

“Hold out your hoof,” Dreams instructed.

Twilight complied and waited expectantly. A blur of motion and a substantial impact smashed into her hoof. The sound of shattering glass and the shards falling into the water.

She was expecting pain, she was expecting something. The only thing she had felt was the impact, and her hoof being knocked back. Twilight looked up, seeing that Dreams had clearly struck her. She blinked unsure what to say.

“Until you have it mastered you will probably have to smash it to be rid of it.”

“Oh, that's a bit wasteful.”

“And so is teleporting everywhere you could easily walk.”

“I will have you know I save at least four hours a week by reducing travel time using short-range teleportation.”

“If you value your time over stockpiling your magic reserves then yes it is better.”

“Is that why Celestia is so powerful? She just keeps saving her magic, year after year, hardly using any of it?”

Dreams nodded. “Yes, the more magic you try to force yourself to hold, the slower it will recover. On the other hoof constantly using your power will strengthen your magic and allow you to recover faster.”

“But it still pales against an Alicorn who has been hoarding their magic for hundreds of years?” Twilight asked.

Dreams nodded. “Shall we move on with the lesson?”

“So, Thestrals?” Twilight asked.

“Yes, Thestrals, you should be able to freely swap between pegasus and thestral features. How do you think Luna can still have fangs or have her eyes change when she is angry?”

“Show me.”

Dreams did, the shift happened slowly her ears gained tufts, her eyes became slited. Twilight bit her lip, she liked what she saw. This silver maned beauty of the night was not a Nightmare. She was a dark temptress in full glory.

Desperate to hide her reaction, Twilight grabbed Dreams by the shoulders and shouted, “Teach Me!” She blinked before continuing in a bashful whisper, “Please.”

Only taken back briefly, Dreams responded, “Of course, My Little Star.”

“The Thestral magic is best left until you get a taste for it.” Dream put on a warm smile. “Your homework for this subject is to take the first step on your own. All you need to do is to channel a little of your Alicorn power through your eyes. Then try to force yourself to see in the dark. When things seem to brighten, you have succeeded and are ready to learn more.”

Twilight raised her hoof as if in class. “How do I deliberately channel my Alicorn power?” Twilight’s eyes sparkling with interest. New magic and homework, things just kept getting better and better.

Dream frowned. “Yet another thing that she kept from you.” She smiled at Twilight with pride. “Then you are truly amazing to be as powerful as you are without knowing that.” She paused, taking on a thoughtful look. “What can you tell me about Alicorn Power?”

“Not much.” Twilight shrugged currently too focused on the lesson and her sexy teacher to even consider Celestia withholding yet more things from her. “Only that it is the core contributor to what makes Alicorns Immortal.”

“True but it is so much more than that. Alicorn magic in the purest form does almost nothing other than making one seem impressive. Its true strength comes from combining with other types of magic. It arguments and strengthens whatever it is mixed with.”

“So If I channel it into my horn when casting spells it will amplify them,” Twilight said, settling back comfortably in the bath. Not being able to take notes was a pain but the sheer luxury was more than making up for it.

Dreams nodded, “Ever since your ascension all your spells have been infused with just a trace of Alicorn power. That little bit was enough to at least double their potency.”

Twilight thought back to helping Grey, she closed her eyes and sent her senses inwards seeking the core of the power that lent her strength. It was one of the first meditations Celestia had taught her.

Her wellspring was still depleted and out of balance, but it was steadily healing. It took moments to find the three types of magic she was used to.

Her unicorn magic blazing like a magenta star. Her earthpony and pegasus magic were almost lost against its brilliance.

Looking around, she searched for something more. She found a few faint whispers of at least three other magics but nothing matching what she was looking for just a vast sea of empty space.

The space between! She realised, all the space in her wellspring was no longer an empty void like when she was just a unicorn. No, now it was all full with the faint previously ignored glow of her Alicorn Magic. It was binding all the different types of magic together, allowing them to coexist without destructively interfering with each other.

She reached out to it, pulling just the smallest amount into herself, spreading it out throughout her body, her wings, her horn, her hooves.

Twilight opened her eyes and was greeted by Dreams' pleased smile. Twilight’s body felt alive and powerful. She stretched, she could tell that she was still weakened. Yet she felt physically stronger than she had since the time she had the combined magic of all the other Alicorns within her.

“Just like that, My Little Star.” Dreams pulled her into a hug.

Twilight leaned into the hug hiding her blush from Dreams. Having the Alicorn power infusing her whole body was not just strengthening her muscles; it was amplifying her sense of touch, Dreams coat against her, the warmth radiating from her just felt lovely.

She could stay like this forever; regrettably, Dreams pulled back from the hug to continue the lesson.

“Out of all the magic, Alicorn magic is the most affected by emotion, it will twist the magic, altering it to fit the intent you hold in your heart. Other ponies that you are near may be emotionally affected when you use Alicorn magic depending on how you feel. Normally awed or terrified, but other responses can be crafted.”

“If you hold too much anger or hate towards a pony, you will not be able to heal or protect them unless you forgo using any Alicorn magic. In fact, if your hate is enough, you might even harm them with the attempt.” Dreams warned.

Worry crossed Twilight face, she certainly did not want to harm anypony by accident, let alone when she was trying to help them. A few moments when she was angry or frustrated with her friends crossed her mind. Might she hurt them by mistake if she felt like that again? Despite the relaxing environment, panic started to build in her chest.

A wave of water crashed into Twilight. She spluttered, getting the bathwater out of her nose and mouth. “What did you do that for?”

“It broke your chain of thought, right?”

Twilight considered then nodded “Thank you,” she said halfheartedly.

“You have nothing to worry about. All you need to do is channel the Alicorn power away from your horn when you cast, and it will act like normal unicorn magic.”

“So, back to what I have mastered.” Twilight nodded, feeling much calmer now. She had options and knew how to avoid the problem.

“Now this next lesson is rather pleasant, but you can not share it with anypony but another Alicorn.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow.

“To an Alicorn, this is as basic and important as preening. To a normal pony, this would be painful even possibly lethal. Come lay down and spread your wings,” Dreams said, guiding Twilight into the shallows of the bath.

“Now, as an Alicorn, you have all the internal ley lines of the other tribes. Unlike the other tribes having the wrong energy flowing through them is not harmful.”

“So I could channel Earthpony magic through my horn?”

“Yes, it is a standard technique in Alicorn horn fencing. Now pay attention as I am the only one you can practice on, and I would rather not feel too much pain today.”

Dreams held a hoof up, Twilight could feel the magic beginning. She focused on it as the air rippled. Letting her senses shift to see the magic, it seemed like green nature aspected magic danced with blue wind magic. All of it held together with the silver glow of Dreams’ Alicorn magic.

“The mix should be half and half. By matching part of it to the leyline to be affected, you force it open. The opposing energy can then cleanse the leylines of any residue.”

“Residue?” Twilight asked in confusion.

“Unless an Alicorn has total control and focus, a little of all the types of magic flow in every leyline. This causes a residue to build up. This leads to a lack of sensitivity and fine control. With you formerly being a unicorn and a powerful one at that, all your ley lines are going to have huge amounts of unicorn magic residue. Ideally, this should be done weekly for perfect health.”

Why did Celestia or Luna not tell me any of this? Twilight thought with anger. Keeping secrets was one thing risking my health is another.

“None of those dark thoughts now, My Star.” Dream’s hooves descended upon Twilight wings.

The mixed energy forcing into her leylines. Twilight gasped, her wings went numb yet flared with sensation. She trembled, trying to figure out what she was feeling. Pain, pleasure, touch or heat? It was like every sense was just shouting, leaving nothing but an incomprehensible noise.

Slowly it calmed and in its wake came clarity, she could feel every feather, every slight movement of the air around her. Twilight let out a satisfied moan as Dreams' expertly continued to work on her wings. She could feel her pegasus magic flowing so much better. Buck me, weekly? Who would not want this daily? She thought.

On a whim she twitched a primary, forcing pegasus magic though it. The feather crackled with lightning. Yes. She had never been able to get that to work. Who knew it was due to a common Alicorn health problem. I'm going to give Rainbow a run for her bits when I get back.

Dream applied more pressure, Twilights back arched. All thoughts of racing a pony she might know, fell out of her mind. This was divine, for once in her life, she was tempted to ask for that little extra that would turn this from the best massage ever to something more. She just knew that if she made that request Dreams would not deny her. No, I have things to learn, this is still a lesson.

Dreams moved from one leyline to the next changing the mix of magic needed for each one. Twilight committed each instruction to memory, how much magic to use, each observation and each bit of advice. The only surprise was that her unicorn ley lines were mostly clear due to how overpowered that aspect of herself was in comparison to the others.

By the time it was over, Twilight was utterly helpless and almost purring. She was oblivious to the world around her. As Twilight’s senses and mind recovered, she found herself laying beside Dreams who was enjoying a cup of tea.

“Welcome back,” Dreams said.

“That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever felt,” Twilight said, her eyes slowly focusing on Dreams.

“So do you remember the lesson?” Dream asked as she lay down, spreading her own wings.

Twilight let her eyes roam, admiring Dreams body, she was perfect. Her every feature crafted to appeal. Ever since Nova's comment earlier, she was finding it hard not to just reach out and touch her. She moved atop Dreams to get better access to the wings of the larger Alicorn.

She pressed her hooves against Dreams flight muscles, letting a mix of earthpony and pegasus magic force its way into Dreams leylines. Dreams hissed and flinched slightly. Guilt flared in Twilight, she quickly readjusted her field. Dreams slight moan let her know she had both the mix and power right.

Was Dream the Nightmare? Did it make any difference? She called for help and was answered. Twilight remembered the power reaching out for her, the offer, and her acceptance. If there were a court that dealt with evil possessing spirits, it would be a pretty open and shut case. Her current situation was infinitely better than being on the Altar bleeding, slowly dying.

“Dreams,” Twilight said.

“Hmm,” Dream answer was fogged with pleasure.

“Why are you so good to me?”

Looking up over her shoulder Dreams answered “It makes me happy, and I love how cute you can be,” her eyes had a strange expression for a moment, “Especially when you blush.”

Dream tensed her body in all the right places, her wings spread showing off her magnificent plumage, horn tilted just so to catch the light and now looking straight into Twilight’s eyes.

Twilight blushed, breathing hard. Nova’s contented purring vibrated in Twilights chest. She was straddling the back of the most beautiful mare she had ever seen, and with that one look, she felt wanted, she felt desired.

If Dreams was the Nightmare, Twilight was not expecting being seduced by the darkness to be so literal. She felt like she was a character from one of Rarity's books.

“My Precious Star, is this what you want,” Dreams husky voice sent a tingle down Twilights spine her wing suddenly extending. She could feel the pose her body was taking, a mix of unicorn and pegasus courtship displays. Horn presented and wings spread. A small part of her mind was telling her how ridiculous she must look.

“Yes,” She almost whimpered “No.. maybe” Twilight whined.

Dreams ended her display, reaching up, slowly twisting and rolling on to her back so she could place a hoof on Twilights cheek. “Then we wait, My Little Star.”

"And if I don't want too?" Twilight purred. Where did that come from? She leant down pinning the larger Alicorn and running her horn against Dreams’ neck, channelling just a trickle of power,

Dreams closed hey eyes accepting her advances, letting out a small moan of pleasure. “Oh, by the Stars.”

What am I doing? This is not like me. Twilight thought. Then it clicked. I have just opened up a connection with a part of myself? Former self? Mother? Ahh, this is so confusing. That part is known for her passion, and I am definitely feeling passionate right now.

She could feel the fire building in her chest, and for the first time, it was not from rage. If she could not control herself, control Nova, she knew exactly what she would be doing over the next few hours. She had read many books on the subject, especially the one on Alicorns that Cadence gave her as a gift after her ascension. She even had a checklist prepared just in case, even if it was filed in the will-never-need section.

Is this what drives other ponies to physical relationships? Is this part of what I have been missing? Twilight thought impressed with herself that she could still think so clearly.

With Nova pushing her, the fact she had zero experience was not the crippling hindrance, she used to think it was. She wanted this, she needed this, she would have this. Twilight's mane and tail flickered, now waving, shifting to warm flames.

A push with her unicorn aura here, a press of a hoof infused with earthpony and pegasus magic there. Dreams turned to putty in her hooves.

What she was doing excited her, the fact that she had no control terrified her like nothing else. "Nova, stop it," Twilight commanded. Nothing happened. As her ability to think started to fade, that shrinking part of her panicked “Please…” she begged almost sobbing.

All at once, her breath calmed, and her heart slowed. The want, the desire, the need was still there but distant as if waiting. The fire in her chest cooled as her mane returned to normal. Taking a deep breath, Twilight looked up to see a now concerned-looking Dreams.

"Are… are you ok my Little Star?" Dreams said still breathing heavily. In moments, gone was the demeanour of the seductive mare, she was back to being the concerned mother. Even if she was struggling to get her wings under control.

The familiar comfort started to replace most of the heated desires Nova had gifted her.

"Of course I am ok, I am fine,” She babbled. “I just want to talk to my friend and ask what to do about the most beautiful mare I have ever seen coming on to me, oh and the fact she lives in my mind, not forgetting I have never really been interested in anything like this before. Nothing strange here at all, nope not at all!" Twilight laughed nervously.

“You think I'm beautiful?” Dream smiled.

Twilight blushed. “Very.”

“And the only reason you stopped was that Nova was influencing you?”

Twilight absently nodded, it was all she could do, pinned by Dreams’ intense stare.

“Then we had better see about getting in contact with your friends, my Precious Star. If there is a single chance in Tartarus, you want to continue what you started. Then I will help you move both the Sun and Moon to make it happen.”

Twilight looked into Dreams eyes they seemed to be slightly slitted, they blazed with determination and hope.

The nightmare tried to bring eternal night because she was lonely and you just offered somepony that could be her a chance at a relationship. What have I just unleashed? Twilight thought to herself. She did not know if she should feel terrified or exhilarated. Nova’s rumbles let her know precisely what an unleashed Dreams could do to her. She let her eyes fall closed as she trembled with anticipation, she was definitely exhilarated.

A powerful force wrapped around her. “Eep,” Twilight’s eyes shot open. She was enveloped in Dreams’ silver aura and was moving, being dragged through the air at speed.

Dreams stepped out of the water, a burst of force and heat magic and they were both dry, if a little fluffy looking. With that done, Dreams galloped off, Twilight trailing behind her levitating.

“Watch out for that wall!” Twilight shrieked covering her face with her forelegs.

They got back to the main chamber of the library without Twight hitting any walls, but it was a near thing with Dreams’ haste.

“Ok, here are your links to your friends,” Dreams said pointing with a wing as the marked doors. “If we are lucky it should be as simple as going in to be able to talk to your friends.”

Twilight needed romantic advice, and with no way to contact Cadence, Rarity was the best pony for the job. So she carefully pushed open the door to Rarity’s wing and entered.

It was still part of the tree, but everything was decorated in Rarity’s impeccable style. The vast wing extended as far as the eye could see, branching off into fine restaurants, workrooms and Celestia knows what else. Bolts of fabric, dresses and other articles of clothing shared space between the books with fine jewels and pictures of everypony her friend knew.

Twilight let her eyes linger on a group photo of her and all her friends. She missed them all dearly.

A flash of motion caught her attention. She turned seeing an open book sat upon a beautiful gem-encrusted lectern as a self animate quill wrote.

Twilight moved up to the open book reading the words as the lavender quill scratched across the page. One of my feathers she noted.

Rarity spoke, “Are you quite sure we need to hurry this much darling?” All this rushing is just murdering my mane.

“It’s about Twilight, she is here in Ponyville,” Rainbow said.

All concern about fashion left Rarity’s mind. “Twilight,” She whispered almost not daring to believe what she had just heard.

I’m home? Or at least my body is...Wait just a minute, that book is recording what is happening right now from Rarity’s point of view, even her thoughts. Twilight smiled; she had contact with her friends after a fashion, but it was such a breach of trust. Would they be happier knowing or not knowing their entire lives were being recorded here?

Twilight scanned the books she could see around the wing. Some were instructional books, at least two on spells, hundreds on fashion and gem cutting. All of her skills recorded for the ages. She thought with awe.

Most of the books were like the journal currently being written. A quick mental calculation based on the writing speed, apparent page count and the number of journals. This stretches back to at least our defeat of Nightmare Moon. I can see what Dreams meant by part of my friends would always be with me.

Pulling one of her own feathers, she created a quill of her own. Charging it with magic, she wrote in the current journal.

Rarity can you hear me, is this message getting through to you?

“It is almost like she is already with us, I just can not wait until this is all over and we can relax in the spa together.” Rarity said, a smile forming on her face. Somehow she just knew Twilight was alright.

Rarity galloped off towards the castle full of more hope than she had been in days. If not for the fact it would have been unladylike she could have giggled at the stunned look on Rainbows face at her abrupt change of pace.

So some effect but not enough for direct communication. Twilight tapped a hoof against her chin. So my options are to check Luna’s wing for dream walking or Nightmares for ‘other’ options. She looked back through the open door at where Dreams was still waiting in the main library. The Dream Realm is Luna’s domain, and I don’t know if I can risk letting her know yet. So only one choice left. She made her decision.

“My Dream.” Twilight smiled. She could definitely get used to addressing Dreams this way. “Thank you for being here for me.” She said as she approached Dreams.

“You are welcome, My Star.” Dreams bowed her head respectfully.

Twilight moved closer, wrapping her wings around Dreams. She placed a hoof against Dreams’ cheek with care. “I am about to investigate Nightmare’s wing… Will I find anything about you there?”

Dreams froze, she stopped even breathing. And there is my answer. Twilight thought.

“Yes,” Dreams’ voice was weak and trembled as she lowered her head.

“Please explain,” she said, keeping her voice soft as she held Dreams in the hug, her hoof still resting on Dreams’ cheek guiding her eyes to her own.

Dreams took a long breath. “As you know, the Elements of Harmony can not destroy anything. They can only imprison. You were her jailer My Star. She was trapped unable to do anything but watch you as your adventures continued.”

Twilight just calmly took everything and watched. She could feel Nova pacing below, waiting unsure if desire or vengeance would be called upon.

Dreams continued, “At first she was bitter, angry, she raged, she even managed to slightly weaken Celestia’s seals but could do nothing to those placed by Harmony itself.” Dreams smiled fondly. “So she watched you learning everything she could about you. In the end, she even came to respect you in her own way. You have been teaching the Nightmare Friendship lessons for years.”

Wait a minute, me teaching The Nightmare friendship lessons?Twilight’s mind almost skipped.

“Do you know what she has done since being free?”

“Yes, she has been protecting a foal. She rescued you from your captivity battling the cultist that hurt you. She even agreed to your terms to protect your friends.”

“Sweet Dreams, are you the Nightmare?”

“It doesn't matter. You made me a part of your self. Bound me to your library and gave me a new purpose. Thank you. My Little Star.”

Dreams leaned closer whispering into Twilight’s ear. “A purpose I like very, very much my Little Star. Let me thank you.”

Dreams hooves pressed into her flight muscles forcing earth magic into them. Electrified feather stroked her wings tips the two energies exploding into sensations where they met.

Twilight’s gasp blended into a long moan. Her eyes closing as her back arched. No, I have to stay focused. It was hard. “Please... please stop.”

Dreams paused, still on top of her. “As you wish My Star.”

“Please answer me, are you the Nightmare.”

“Not anymore, I don't think. I was once a part of her, like how Nova and Grey were a part of the original Twilight Sparkle.” Dream tensed, “I am her gift to you,” Dreams visibly tried to relax taking a calming breath. “This place and your desires shaped me. Allowed me to feel so much. To be so much more than before.” Dreams leaned in nuzzling her.

“I have been here with you My Star while the Nightmare is out there baring your pain, fighting your battles, protecting your friends.”

“Why?” Twilight managed to ask.

“Do you think she liked being a monster? Being used just to empower somepony? You set her free and only asked her to protect your friends as payment.”

Nightmare Moon was being used? By who? How? Why? Twilight’s mind swam with questions.

She is currently in bed recovering from terrible wounds, and she is still trying to look after a young filly.”

Twilight's mind jumped to Sparkle-Two. “My copy, the burns, the damaged horn and the stuffed toy.”


“Can I see her?”

“Of course” Dreams’ smile was so nice. “I know just the book you need.”

“Thank you...” Twilight was silenced as Dreams kissed her. Warmth spread from the kiss, and she could feel flames dancing in her mane.

The floor shook with the force of Nova’s pleased rumble. She blinked looking around, Dreams was gone now, heading to the Nightmare wing.

Dreams had kissed her. How did she feel about that? It felt nice, very nice. Her body clearly liked it.

She turned to watch Dreams casually trot away. She has such a beautiful flank, lovely warm wings and an elegant horn. She thought back to all those hugs. Not even considering what she could do with her ‘health’ treatments.

Was it all a trick? She had already freely given her body to the Nightmare after nearly being tortured to death. So did it matter? Her friends would be protected. She could sense the agreement there like an active spell, giving the Nightmare power over her. It felt like a chain upon her neck, almost unbreakable so long as the Nightmare kept her word.

She needed advice, but she could not talk to her friends. She glanced around the room, there were two ponies she could ask. Her siblings, parents, donors?

Twilight checked to see if Dreams was still in Nightmare’s wing. On seeing it was clear she spoke. “Do you two trust her?” Twilight looked at Grey and then down towards Nova.

Grey started writing on a fresh scroll as Nova tapped her response. The scroll was passed through the tunnel she had created earlier today.

She looked down at where she could feel Nova below. “So you like her and want to give her a chance.” Twilight then used her aura to bring the scroll before her and read.

#1 At this time, our goals align.
#2 The longer she is separated from the Nightmare, the more a part of this realm she becomes and hence yours.
#3 She is a useful instructor for you.
#4 Nova likes her.

#1 She was likely sent here to pacify you.
#2 You are attracted to her. This is a distraction.
#3 Nova likes her.

Nova liking her is a pro and a con? Twilight thought. “So more pros than cons, that sounds like we at least tentatively agree to trust her?”

Grey nodded stiffly, then headed back to her endless writing. Nova simply tapped ‘yes’.

“Everything since me getting these wings just keeps getting crazier.” Twilight lamented, trotting over to the reading nook they used before.

The tea service was still there, with barely a thought she tasked her magic with cleaning it and starting to prepare a new pot and three cups.

The patchwork toy was still there, she lifted it in her aura, meeting it’s gaze contemplating everything she had learnt over the past few days.

The rapid clopping of hooves on the wooden floor brought her back to reality. Dreams cantered towards her, a book dripping shadows following in silver aura.

“Why did you hide who you were, My Dream?” Twilight asked.

Dreams stopped approaching “I thought you would hate me if you found out.”

“Instead, you risked losing my trust forever.”

Dreams seemed to shrink under Twilight cold gaze. “Here, with you, for the first time, I had a friend.”

“We were both taken advantage of by Celestia, both hurt by those we trusted. We were both made to be tools.” Dream paused, fighting against her hesitation. “Even if you hate me now, thank you for the chance to be more than a tool. Thank you for my freedom.”

The book was lowered to the floor beside Twilight and Dreams turned, walking away. Twilight tilted her head and considered Dreams. She did not want to give up her only physical contact with another pony. As each of Dreams’ hooves sounded on the floor telegraphing her retreat, Twilight thought about every interaction she had with her.

“Sweet Dreams,” Twilight voice rang with command.

Dreams froze, looking over her shoulder. “Yes, Twilight?”

“I have had enough secrets for a lifetime. Can I trust there will be no more between us?”

A nod was the response a light of hope starting to shine in Dreams’ eyes.

I have no idea how Pinkie will enforce this here but, Twilight thought before speaking. “Will you Pinkie promise?”

“Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye,” Dreams said, going through the motions.

“FOREVER!” echoed in from Pinkie’s wing.

Both mares looked at the door for a moment. “Now that that’s out of the way.” Twilight patted the cushion next to her. “Tea?” she asked.

“That would be nice thank you.” Dream slowly trotted over and settled herself down.

Twilight’s aura floated the third cup over to Grey, placing it in the tunnel. “So, My Dream, Friends?” She said, offering her hoof. Discord, Starlight and now at least part of the Nightmare, who next?

Dream pulled Twilight into a bone-crushing hug. “Yes, My Star, Yes.”

Twilight used a bit of Alicorn magic to reinforce her earthpony durability and smiled. Dreams’ body pressed against her, their coats meshing. She relaxed relishing the sensation of Dreams’ warmth and enveloping wings.

Nova offered a suggestion, it only took Twilight a moment to decide. This time the kiss was different. It was deeper, more intense. This time Twilight started it, and Dreams returned it. Harmless flames spread from Twilight’s mane and tail, enveloping both mares.

The unique sound a wooden hoof performing a facehoof could be heard.

CH 13 Luna's Suspicions

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Luna paced in her chambers. “What are you up to now, sister?” Something clearly had happened, she would not leave an illusion to manage court unless it was necessary, despite how much she might want to.

The nobles always managed to sneak things past her sister’s Mask when it was unsupervised. One day of this will take years to fix, Tia. She thought darkly.

She lit her horn, reaching out with her magic. It took but a moment for the spell to complete. No, her sister was not in the city.

The one advantage from her banishment was she felt like she could be far more liberal with casting her magic. Without the colossal store of magic she was used to, she could restore her magic to full in days instead of years for only a small fraction of it.

It currently only took an hours rest to recover the magic used for not sleeping for a week. Despite the fact she was weaker than before her time on the moon, she felt young, powerful and very much alive. The citywide detection spell would only take minutes to recover from.

This ‘advantage’ let her do far more to help her ponies, and have more than enough left to have her fun. Unlike her sister, where every expenditure of magic had to be weighed against how long it would take to recover and how much it would delay increasing the total stockpile.

Each hour the illusion was active would take her sister at least a week to recover from. That her sister was spending her magic so comparatively freely now had Luna worried.

Luna only just sensed the slightest presence in the room with her. Three of them each bearing a hint of her power. A smile crossed her muzzle. They are getting better. Luna thought with satisfaction.

She turned to regard them, each of them perfect in her eyes, each a creature of her night.

“Sovereign.” Her three Nightguard captains saluted.

Luna turned first to her Nightchosen-Unicorn. “Report,” Luna commanded.

“Yes, my Sovereign. There are traces of Alicorn tier Invisibility magic following a route from the Solar Princesses' breakroom to the third-floor balcony. It is believed she left via her own wing power. She limited her speed, so no magic traces could be followed to her destination.”

Next, Luna turned to look at the Nightchosen-Threstral. “Report,”

“Yes, my Sovereign. We questioned all the Ponies that interacted with her until the point we can confirm the illusion was placed. The only thing of note is there was a special delivery from the Solar agents. The Solar Princess immediately teleported the report away and called a break only two minutes later. As we are not allowed to question the Solar Agents directly, we investigated the method that the report got to the Palace. We are confident the report came from Ponyville.”

Luna turned her eyes to a too-large shadow in the corner, where she could sense her Nightchosen-Earthpony hid. “We have a detachment in place?” She asked expectantly.

“Yes, my Sovereign, they are in place. Watching with enchanted spy glasses from long-range to avoid detection.”

“Good, keep me informed,” Luna said, dismissing them all with a wave of her hoof.

“Sovereign,” They spoke as one. There was a teleport flash, the motion of wings and a shift in the shadows. Luna was alone once again.

“I shall make more of you, my children.” Luna smiled, she most certainly liked being able to spend her magic more freely. It just took a small fraction of her Alicorn magic to allow her to mix Threstral traits in the other tribes. The rite was elaborate and forever tied the blessed ponies to her. For her Threstrals, she added a bit more Alicorn magic empowering what they already had.

Just being able to feel them at the edge of her mind somewhat made up for how lonely it was in her mental bastion. Her only attempt to get around the seal Celestia had placed on her, had produced the Tantabus. It was more of a pet than an eternal companion, useful but not what she longed for. At least I still have the dreams to tend to.

“Tia, what are you doing?” Luna was tempted to go to Ponyville. If she did, her sister would detect her, and there would be questions. Better to let my Nightchosen be my eyes.

She was too worried to shapeshift and go out seeking a tempting stallion or mare to pass the time with. She let out a frustrated growl.

Shining Armour and Cadance are here for their protection… Hmm, perhaps I can do something productive and have some sport as well. She thought.

It took a moment to recast the detection spell with the new targets. It was simplicity itself to channel her Therstal magic and step into and becoming one with the shadows.

Looking out from the shadows, Luna observed Shining Armour and Cadance enjoying a simple lunch. As she would not be interrupting anything too personal Luna emerged from the shadows.

Immediately a powerful dome shield sprang into existence around the married couple. Shinings sword was drawn before Cadance jumped to her hooves startled.

The light it radiated nearly blinding to her shadow-adapted eyes, closing them for a moment. She let them shift back to the disagreeable, day-adapted ones. Luna dipped her head. “My compliments on your reflexes Prince Consort.”

Shining bowed his head in response, returning his blade to its sheath.

“Aunty, don’t scare us like that. You had me thinking we were under attack.”

“That was the point, dear Niece. If this were an attack, if not for your consort you would be mine for the taking,” Luna said, advancing licking her lips.

Cadance backed up, her wings spread ready to take flight. “Aunty Luna…”

Shining coughed politely. “Princess Luna, any news on my sister?”

Luna looked to Shining. “Not yet, there are leads that my Nightguards are looking in to… Celestia is off Stars knows where. So I can only assume she is chasing her own leads,” she said. And telling me nothing, again. Luna did not add out loud.

“If this is not about Twilight, why are you here, Aunty?” Cadance asked, her composure now restored.

“One Alicorn is missing, possibly worse.” Luna gazed hardened, looking straight at Cadance. “And by how you reacted to my arrival, you would be an easy target.”

Shining’s only reaction was his eyes narrowing slightly. Cadance, on the other hoof, looked like she might cry.

Luna started to circle the Princess of Love. “I intend to train you. Shining Armour will not always be by your side, dear Cadance.”

“I will not leave her side until we know things are safe.” Shining declared. Misunderstanding what Luna meant. The sadness in Cadance’s eyes let Luna know she took it to mean that he was a mortal.

“I know my sister neglected some important things in Twilight’s training and yet she sent her into battle. How much more did she miss in training her diplomat?” Luna said.

Luna directed her thoughts to Cadance’s mind. Have you at least been through your trial?

“So we should start with basic defence and what options you have as an Alicorn,” Luna said out loud.

Cadance discreetly nodded so Shining would not notice. She responded mentally. The Trial of the Path or that’s how Aunty Celestia explained it afterwards.

“I am sure Shining could train me,” Cadance answered Luna’s spoken question.

Luna raised an eyebrow. Mentally she messaged. Indeed? Well, you must have the luck of the Stars, few survive without preparation. Aloud she said, “He is not an Alicorn, else he would be Tia’s Prince,” She ended teasingly.

As Shining shifted, uncomfortably, the mental conversation continued.

I think she was going to leave it until Shining passed… Cadance responded with sadness in her eyes.

Does he know? Luna’s eyes flicked to Shining.

Cadance shook her head so slightly it was imperceptible to anypony without enhanced senses. It was one of Queen Chrysalis assassins. Celestia covered it all up and told me to tell nopony, not even Shining.

Did you know Twilight has been though her Trial as well?

No, I was unaware, she never told me.

She had terrible nightmares about it and was scared of my sister for a time.

Shining interrupted them. “So if this is happening, how is it being done? I will not have you beating my wife bloody like you do your guards.”

He is so cute. Luna sent, cutting off the mental connection. “My training works and those that pass are far stronger for it.” She said to Shining.

“I will be fine,” Cadance responded before Shining could say anything.

Luna directed her full attention to Shining, channelling a little Alicorn power. “If you wish to be useful, see if you can get any information from the Solarguard about where my sister is and her objectives.”

“If there might be a lead about Twily then you can bet they will tell me.” He said before heading out the room.

“Did you have to influence him like that Aunty?”

“It was more efficient. This way, he gets to feel useful, instead of crying every time I make you bleed.”

Cadance gulped. “Is there no way I can talk you out of this?”

“Yes, but I know you would not agree.” Luna’s eyes became slited and full of lust.

A stunning bolt hit Luna between the eyes. She blinked a few times, clearing her vision.

“No, bad Aunty,” Cadance said a rolled newspaper held in her aura.

Luna laughed a massive grin on her face. “Top marks on the speed of that flash-cast stun spell, only just a passing grade on its power.” her expression returned to neutral. “You need a better weapon than a newspaper. I will find you one.” The smile returned. “You do know we are not actually related, right?” She did not even blink when the improvised paper weapon smashed into her muzzle.

Yes, this was the right choice, this is going to be so much fun.

The shadows in the room leapt towards the two mares as Luna teleported them to her selected training field.

Luna circled Cadance watching the most recent gashes in her flank close. “Doing something immediately is always better than doing the perfect thing a moment too late,” she instructed.

It had taken hours to get to the stage where Cadance would reliably notice attacks from her sides or her rear. Strangely she had no trouble detecting attacks from above or below. She let her eyes drift to the blood coating the stone floor of the windowless chamber as she considered her student's abilities.

Cadance was an acceptable combatant if it was not for two unforgivable flaws. The first was she would not fully commit to an attack with intent to harm, the second, she did not deal well with the unexpected. Against a conventional attack, she could see coming, she could nail it with a stun bolt or raise a shield in the blink of an eye. She excelled at flash-casting low-powered spells.

“Twilight would have blasted me or teleported away. You stopped to think.” Luna complained.

“For Star’s sake, you are an Alicorn. If something unexpected jumps out at you just strike it. Or jump aside if you feel like checking to see if it is truly a threat before committing to an attack.”

“Are you ready to try attacking me, dear Cadance?” Luna asked

Cadance nodded, her horn lit and wings spread.

“You know the one rule, yes?”

“No striking with my horn.”

“Good, then when you are ready,”

She leapt with such force the stone cratered under her hooves. With a mighty flap of her wings, Cadance claimed her rightful place in the air. A deliberate shock wave of air magic concealed everything in a cloud of powdered stone.

Luna left a copy standing where she was as she retreated into the shadow to watch.

A rapid onslaught of stun bolts flew from Cadance’s horn. Darts of crystal formed along her feathers during the upstroke of her wings only to be sent flying at Luna’s copy on the overpowered downstroke. She rolled in the air, evading an expected counter-attack. She raised a bubble shield around her self hovering in place, waiting for the dust to settle.

The stone floor was shattered and singed, ten’s of meter-long crystal darts pierced halfway into the ground. Luna’s copy was standing there unimpressed.

Luna stomped her hooves in approval. “Now that was more like it,” Luna said with relish.

Cadance looked at her. “Celestia taught me never to use things like that, and you make it sound like a good thing.”

“I can understand her teaching you restraint. But to leave you vulnerable, it is almost as if she was leaving you weak just so she could test Twilight.” Luna looked at the broken ground, considering if that could be true. “No matter, you have got to be able to do better than that. Now continue.”

After receiving more than a few painful cuts for hesitating, Cadance acted immediately. Her horn flared with a second corona, she reached out pressing her hooves against her shield.

Interesting. Luna thought.

Cadance’s shield turned to solid crystal and fell from the air. Arks of energy danced over its surface, reaching out finding the darts.

What is this? Luna tried to puzzle out what was going on.

Each dart exploded into a fine powder, scattering to fill the room. Then there was a bright flash.

Luna woke up, that was odd, she did not remember going to sleep. She reached out to her moon. Four seconds. She thought. She had been unaware of her surrounds for four seconds.

Slowly her senses started to make sense of things. She was splayed out on the ground as if dropped there. Her ears were bleeding, her body was restoring itself from both heat and a considerable impact. Her eyes were still healing, so she could not see. So she reached out to a nearby shadow and scryed from it.

Something pressed against her neck, looking from the shadow she could see a blade of crystal in Cadance’s aura resting against her neck.

She could still not hear, but she could speak. “Well done Cadance, well done.” She smiled as she directed more of her Alicorn magic to heal her sense of hearing first.

“... alright?” She only caught the end of what Cadance said.

“How did you make that explosion with so little magic?” Luna asked with sincere interest.

“A trick I picked up from foal sitting Twilight.”

“What sort of foal sitting has to deal with things like that?” Luna was incredulous.

Cadance laughed, removing the blade from Luna’s neck now the training seemed over. “It was from her reading and experiments. Apparently, anything rendered into a fine powder can be made to explode. It is a common risk with storing flour, and I can use it to my advantage with magically charged crystals.”

Luna got her hooves under her and stood, blinking her newly healed eyes. “It seems I may have underestimated you.” Luna offered a shallow bow to Cadance. “My apologies.”

Cadance pulled Luna into a hug. “I know you did this because you care, and it has been useful.”

Luna returned the hug. “You could use a bath.”

“We both could.”

“Are you offering something?”


“Give it a few hundred years...”

“In your dreams.”

“Now that's an idea,”

“You would not.”

“No, I take my duty seriously. I would only do such a thing with your expressed consent,” Luna said somberly before her tone shifted to playful. “But it is fun to tease you.”

Luna Teleported them both to the Royal baths.

When Shining Armour caught up to them, they were both relaxing, happily chatting. Cadance styling both their manes and tails.

“Did you discover anything Prince Consort?”

“Only that Celestia has sent a lot of messages to her agents.”

“So nothing of any real note, as far as my guards have seen she has been going around Ponyville talking to ponies. Other than one case of her galloping like her tail was on fire, nothing else happened.”

“Do you think she saw a chicken?” Cadance asked giggling.

“Perhaps that would explain her reaction,” Luna said.

“So we know nothing, and you two have been relaxing all day?”

Cadance’s gaze darkened but before she could speak, Luna did. “Yes, there is nothing like sparring with blade and magic followed by a nice relaxing bath,”

“It is good to see you are gentler on my wife than your guards.”

Luna laughed loud and hard. “Tis your wife, who is the brutal one.”

Shining’s unimpressed expression did not seem to believe her. “Whatever you say, Princess.”

Luna looked between the pair. “Would you two be willing to, out of your own concerns for Twilight’s friends, be willing to pay them a visit, and see what you find in Ponyville?”

“That sounds like a plan,” Cadance said, smiling.

“If Twilight is there, we will find her,” Shining promised.

“By arranging this when my sister is away, she can not deny you,” Luna smiled.

“We will head out before sunrise tomorrow,” Cadance decreed.

“We should pack then and get an early night,” Shining said.

They both said their farewells and left. Luna barely noticed, she had a lot to think about. Will this move of mine help Twilight?

“Tia, what is it with you and leaving our younger kin underprepared?” She spoke into the silent room.

Dear sister, why did you not want me teaching either of them? It only took a few hours to drastically improve Cadence's skills. The things I could have done with years to hone Twilight?

She closed her eyes once again, trying to find Twilight in the Dream Realm. Where are you hiding?

CH 14 Difficult Conversations

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Nightmare was resting, half asleep next to her Little Star.

Hello, Nightmare. A sweet voice entered her mind.

Where have you been? Nightmare responded.

Keeping Twilight company. Her fragment answered, letting out a happy giggle. It seemed out of place coming from her fragment. Twilight’s Friends are gathering in the map room. It continued.

How did you find that out my Fragment?

My name is Sweet Dreams now, and I did not, Twilight did.

Interesting, I assume this means you are not returning to me? Nightmare asked cautiously.

No, I am my own mare now. Dream’s asserted.

Nightmare let her mental tone darken. Very well, you do know what will happen if you cross me?

Are you going to harm Twilight? Dream’s snapped in response.

Why would I? Nightmare asked in mild puzzlement.

Then we are good. Dreams’ said before sounding like she was purring. Mmm, keep doing that…

Keep doing what? Nightmare asked, annoyed.

Sorry, Twilight is distracting me again. Dreams said unabashed.


Dreams giggled again. You don't know what you are missing… Twilight has a request. She would like to see her friends.

Does she know who I am? Nightmare could feel an edge of trepidation enter her mind.

She figured it out, kind of hard not to when there is a whole wing in here dedicated to you.

Unexpected. Nightmare stated.

Play nice with her, she has access to all your spells, all your knowledge in here. Dreams’ teasing response carried and undercurrent of warning.

Nightmare paled, that was not something she wanted to deal with. So finally, I find the disadvantage of a willing host.

Whimsically, with a mental voice laced with seductive charm, Dreams commented. Oh, I don’t know Night, she is very grateful to you.

Your doing?

Oh, yes, and you're welcome. Dream’s answered happily before her voice became dark and threatening. Just remember, Twilight is mine, you do anything to hurt her and you won't live to regret it.

“Don't make fragments in haste, when in distress or when drunk.” Nightmare muttered to herself aloud. It was one of Celestia’s lessons that she failed to drum into Luna hard enough. Three simple rules and she broke two of them in creating Sweet Dreams. She would have to live with the consequences.

Nightmare took a steadying breath before reaching for Twilight. All three mares found themselves standing on an obsidian floor under a cloudy sky. Dreams standing taller than the other two

“Nightmare,” Twilight said with far more warmth than Nightmare was expecting.

“Twilight,” She responded civilly. After all, there was no point in antagonising her host. “Do I have your word that you will not try and take control of our body?”

Twilight reached up to her neck the image of an ebon collar briefly flickering into existence.“I Twilight Sparkle...” Twilight corrected herself. “I who think of myself as Twilight Sparkle do hereby pledge not to attempt to regain control of this body today so long as Nightmare does not harm anypony other than in self-defence.”

Nightmare tilted her head. “Strange wording... but I accept. I will not deny you the chance to see your friends,” She could feel her control strengthen, there would be no way Twilight would be able even to attempt to take control today.

The collar, visible once more, was joined by shackles attached to her legs. Despite this, Twilight smiled. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome, my host.” Nightmare responded civilly.

“I have a name, you know.” Twilight snarked.

“One that I have to get used to using.” Nightmare said in a calm tone.

Next to Nightmare’s physical body, Little Star yawned and rolled over, still sound asleep. Nightmare shifted some of her attention to the outside world. She smiled warmly and draped a wing over her.

“Who is your friend?” Twilight gestured with her horn at the ground.

Nightmare refocused to the mindscape. Following Twilight’s gaze, she saw that visible under the floor was the real world. “She is my Little Star,” Nightmare said with affection.

Twilight blushed as Dreams fell over laughing. Nightmare was just glad they were in her mental space and could not wake her Little Star no matter how loud they were.

“Something I should know about?” Nightmare asked with a raised eyebrow.

“That is what she has been calling me,” Twilight said, looking at Dreams.

“This is hilarious, you call your daughter what I call my lover,” Dreams said through her laughter.

“What! Daughter?” Both Twilight and Nightmare said simultaneously.

“When an Alicorn and a Nightmare get together, magic happens, and a new pony is made… What else would you call her?”

“But…” Twilight stammered

“You… no… I don’t think I mind that,” Nightmare said, her physical body leaning down to nuzzle Star.

Twilight smiled warmly as she looked at Nightmare. “You really do care for her, don't you?”

“Yes… she looked up to me. She wanted to be in my company. I was her Princess, and she was just overjoyed just being with me.” Nightmare hoped her voice did not sound as bashful as she felt in that instance.

“The fact she is just so adorable does not hurt, does it?” Dreams added.

Nightmare nodded. “That too, she saved us, you know?”

“Really?” Dreams said, turning her attention to the little unicorn.

Nightmare smiled with pride. “Yes, when I was battling with the dark mages who had us captive , something happened that rendered me helpless. My brave Little Star defended us and managed to teleport us halfway across Equestria.”

“She definitely takes after her mother and father.” Dreams said.

“Who is who?” Twilight asked.

“Well, the Nightmare did enter you, so I guess that means she is the Father,” Dreams laughed.

“Shall we agree that both of us are her mothers?” Nightmare asked.

Twilight nodded. “I don't want to have to add gender issues to all the other identity issues I am dealing with right now, thank you very much.”

“You know she has a wing in Twilight’s Bastion.” Dreams stated.

“I first figured she was merely part of your insanity manifested with my powers.” Nightmare said nodding to Twilight.

“Is it possible another one of my… family survived?” Twilight asked, looking at Dreams.

Dreams shook her head, “I’m sorry, no not in the way you are hoping.” Dream moved to Twilight, pulling her into a hug, “It will be ok, my Star.”

Twilight leant against Dreams and closed her eyes. “Even though I never met her, it still hurts just knowing what my life cost her.”

“She lives on in your kind heart and sense of wonder.” Dreams said comfortingly.

Nightmare watched, unsure what to make of the exchange. As far as she knew all of Twilight’s family was currently safe. Some in Canterlot, the rest in the Empire.

“You know, Rarity is going to be so mad at us… you did not even take me on a date, and here we are with a filly.” Twilight said, laughing.

“You can’t have her.” Dreams pulled Twilight close and stuck her tongue out at Nightmare.

Twilight’s eyes seem to flicker with flames. “What, can I not have my own harem of sexy mares?”

Nightmare felt her cheeks warm just a little. She cleared her throat. “Shall we be going and see our friends now?” Nightmare shifted most of her attention to the real world and tucked Little Star in under a blanket. She placed a motherly kiss below her horn before heading out.

Nightmare placed her hoof on the wall and mentaly asked the Crystal Tree to take her to just outside the map room. Doing this still felt odd. She could tell that the only reason the Tree was helping, was that Star had asked it to. The Tree seemed to be buzzing with a mix of hope and fear, both firmly directed at herself.

No flash, not even a sense of motion, they had just moved location in less than a blink of an eye. Since when has my Castle been able to do that? Twilight’s thoughts asked.

How would I know? With things like this, I would assume since it was first created. Nightmare responded.

Nightmare knew that Twilight’s friends were on the other side of the doors, and with Celestia in town, she would need to talk to them as soon as possible. She needed them on her side if her plans had any chance of working.

Taking a deep breath, she placed her hooves on the doors and pushed them open. All of the Elements were there sat around the table, each killing time in their own way.

“Girls,” Nightmare said, letting Twilight’s relief into her tone. She could feel her host’s joy radiating from the mindscape.

Five pairs of eyes turned to face her. Their relief and happiness were so powerful it was almost a physical force.

“Twilight!” Pinkie called moments before colliding with her like a meteor.

Nightmare crashed into the ground groaning. Just when I thought I might be free of pain. “Hi Pinkie… next time can you avoid my burns please.”

“Why have you been hiding from us Twi?” Rainbow demanded while hovering above her.

“Hiding? If only.” Nightmare laughed. “This is the first day I have been able to walk enough to come and find you.”

“Oh my.” Fluttershy rushed over, pushing the other two aside. Flitting from one bandaged wound to another checking each as her concern grow.

Nightmare slowly pulled herself to her hooves. She pointed at each wound one by one. “Magical fire, surgical blades, stabbed by a unicorn's horn and finally overtaxed my own horn.”

Rainbow seemed impressed, like she was trying to imagine what epic adventure they were from. Rarity looked appalled, most likely from how unladylike Nightmare’s appearance was. Applejack was just watching. Probably looking for any lies I might tell. Nightmare thought. Pinkie was just happy, and Fluttershy held nothing but tender care in her teary eyes.

So far, so good. Nightmare thought before speaking. “Don’t worry, girls I will be fine, only a few more days to fully heal.” She smiled. “The important thing is that I’m back.”

“You know what this calls for?” Pinkie said, bouncing happily.

“A par…”

A flash of golden light interrupted the conversation. Suddenly Celestia was standing there in all her glory but none of her regalia. She was only wearing saddlebags and a sheathed blade. She looked around the room, and her eyes fixed on Nightmare.

“Twilight?” Celestia's voice was full of hope.

This is too soon. Nightmare worried. This was not a meeting she wanted now. She was in no shape for it, and if Celestia even got a hint that she was not Twilight, then she was done for. “Prin… Celestia.”

“I am so glad to see you safe, if unfortunately not unharmed,” Celestia said as her horn lit as she lifted a scroll from her saddlebags.

Something drew her attention to Celestia’s horn. There a wrongness with how it was glowing. It was subtle, but it was there. A spike of alarmed recognition came from Twilight.

No, no, not again. Twilight’s thought of panic drowning under her building anger. Possible countermeasures flooded Nightmares mind. Twilight reached into their wellspring, clearly going to cast something.

Nightmare mentaly reached for chains binding her. Trust her. Dream's whispered in her mind. Nightmare hesitated, that was all the time Twilight needed.

Shimmering magenta Cyrstal manifested over Nightmare's body. She could feel Twilight's plan, now no spell could reach her until the armour was compromised.

Twilight's rage was burning within her. She was furious and if she had control of the body likely would have attacked Celestia. Probably with her own hooves with how mindless the betrayal driven anger felt. That would not have ended well, not in their current state. Calm yourself Twilight. Nightmare thought.

She could sense Dreams taking action, lovingly holding Twilight whispering sweet nothings trying to calm her. A slight pang of jealousy floated through Nightmare’s mind before she banished it.

She did not know exactly what Celestia was going to do. The fact that at least half of the countermeasures Twilight offered were to stop mental domination and memory removal spells gave her a pretty good idea.

Nopony had done anything in the time Nightmare was thinking. Celestia seemed unsure; she was on the backhoof. If I give her a chance to plan, she will have the advantage. Nightmare decided to be bold.

"You will not use more Mind magic on me," She bellowed with the Royal Canterlot Voice, flaring her wings and jutting her chest out aggressively.

The force knocked everypony except Celestia back. Everypony was stunned, nopony, not even Celestia had expected her outburst.

"What in tarnation are you talking about, sugercube?" Applejack broke the stunned silence looking at Nightmare.

Nightmare tried to work out what to say, thankfully Twilight’s various countermeasures provided all the information she needed. Pointing at Celestia's horn, she growled. "So Celestia, why are at least half the spell forms in your horn to do with mind control and memory alterations?"

Rarity’s eyes widened, clearly, she was the only one that truly understood the implications of the concealed spell work. The mention of mind control was more than enough to provoke the others.

"What the hay?" Rainbow blurted out. "We just get Twilight back, and you're going to zap her in the brain?"

“Don’t be silly that’s Dizz’s trick, you need your own Princess.” Pinkie unhelpfully added.

Twilight’s mental presence faded replaced with the sound of multiple quills frantically writing. What is she doing now? Nightmare thought.

I think she is trying to send a message to her friends. Doing what she can to get them on our side. Dreams answered.

One by one the elements bearers took their places beside Nightmare, ready to protect their ‘friend’ from Celestia.

For a moment, Celestia's mask slipped before returning to the warm, caring smile. "One of the possibilities I was worried about was that Twilight was affected by dark magic. I was only ready in case somepony had compelled her to attack us, or worse."

"She ain't lying Twilight," Applejack said.

"Forgive me for being a little on edge, with everything that happened; it is hard even to be sure any of this is real." Nightmare returned to a neutral stance.

"Err… Twilight if you don’t mind telling us. What did you mean by more mind magic?" Fluttershy's voice was so quiet but caught everyone's attention.

Nightmare nervously looked to Celestia. "I am not sure I should tell you, I don't think you want to know," she said to Twilight's friends. Nightmare was frantically trying to work out what to say. Twilight would be no help, she was still off in her own world, writing to her friends.

“Honesty is the best policy. You know that, Twilight.” Applejack said, placing her hoof on Nightmares shoulder. In a soft whisper, she continued to Nightmare alone. “We are here for you.”

Oh, please allow me. Dreams requested, her mental voice dripping with venom.

With no better option at hoof Nightmare mentally took a step back to let Dreams have control for a time. You better know what you are doing.

Dream’s nodded to Applejack in thanks. “Girls, you never met the original Twilight, she died long before I came to Ponyville.”

Every set of eyes were now solidly fixed on Dreams. Celestia seemed to have frozen, even her mane stilled.

What? Nightmare thought.

Later. Dreams responded.

Dream pointed a hoof at Celestia. “You murdered Twilight's children and used the remains to craft your own patchwork filly. Your own perfect tool just to save your sister.”

Horrified looks now spread around four of the bearers faces. Rainbow’s was shifting to anger, the gears slowly turning behind her eyes as she was trying to work out who to aim it at.

“Children.” Escaped Fluttershy's lips in a horrified whimper.

On hearing Fluttershy, Rainbow turned her gaze on Celestia.

Nightmare felt her hoof slam into the crystal floor as Dreams advanced a single step towards Celestia. “What did you think would happen when I found my Library? What did you think would happen when I had a chance to see the aftermath of your magic, of what you did to the original Twilight?”

Not pausing to let Celestia get a word in, she continued her verbal assault. “Those chains are sharp, they hurt, but you would not know that, would you? You are the only Alicorn that is free of them, right?” Motes of flames danced along her mane as her eyes glared at Celestia, daring her to deny it.

“It was the only way to save Twilight…”

“Save her? Save her! She was already gone! All you did was kill her children to make a copy,” Dreams screamed, trembling as arks of rage-filled lightning danced over her feathers.

Nightmare noted the others were rooted in place; clearly, the shock of what they had just found out and the Alicorn magic flooding the room was getting to them.

“They all would have died in days!” Celestia shouted back. “It was the only way to save anything, to save anypony, to save you from that disaster.” She ended in a solemn whisper, tears shimmering in her eyes.

“How can I trust you are even telling the truth?” Dream asked. “YOU, MESSED, WITH, MY, MIND!” She advanced one step with each word. Her thundering hoof falls cracking the floor.

Nightmare did not know who was more stunned, herself, Celestia or Twilight’s friends. She could see the pain in Celestia’s eyes, a deep hurt that would take a long time to heal. Good. She thought to herself.

The two Alicorns now stood still, looking at each other.

“Is that how you feel, my…” Celestia started.

“Don’t you dare!” Dreams snapped back.

“Twilight…” Celestia pleaded.

Dreams cut her off with another stomp of her hoof. “You say being a Princess requires making the hard choices, you’re right. The thing you have to remember is that each choice has consequences. I am yet to make my mind up what they should be for you.”

A shocked expression flashed in Celestia’s eyes, “What…”

“Don’t worry ‘Princess’.” She said the title as if it was a curse. “I will still play my part. I will protect Equestria, my ponies, and my friends.” Dreams turned her back on Celestia, letting all of her displays of power fade. She walked away limping, the strain of Twilights injured body catching up with all the activity. “Please leave.” Dream finished in a weak dejected tone.

Celestia mouth hug open, she was stunned into inaction. A moment later and in a flash of magic, she was gone.

Dreams slumped to the ground crying. Twilight friends broke free from their shock and rushed her. Within moments, she was the centre of a pony pile, enjoying the warmth of a group hug.

That was masterful, well played Sweet Dreams. Nightmare thought.

That was not just a performance. It was the truth. Dreams responded bitterly. Please let Twilight feel this.

As you wish. Nightmare pulled on Twilight’s chain dragging her away from whatever she was doing, Placing her in partial control of her body. For the duration of this hug, I release you from today’s agreement.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Twilight thought at Nightmare.

Tears of joy fell from her eyes.“I love you all,” Twilight spoke from her own mouth for the first time in days as she returned the hug.

In Nightmare’s mindscape, Dreams draped a wing over her. Thank you.

CH 15 Family Reunion 

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Cadance stood proudly atop her cloud fort. Shining Armor, her handsome Alicorn husband, beside her. Multiple rolled up newspapers floating in her aura, as crystal razors lined her feathers.

Searching the sky, her eyes narrowed on her targets. Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon were in a high-speed dive, eyes fixed on her Shiney.

Daybreaker wielded her husband's favoured snack, Nightmare a limited edition O&O book. Both were clad in stockings and sexy lingerie.

Cadance screamed in wordless defiance. She launched wave after wave of her paper missiles at them, each exploding into broken pink hearts.

“Awaken Now,” Luna’s impressive voice shattered the sky, blowing everypony but her away.

Cadance eyes snapped open, the moonlit ceiling of her room in Canterlot Palace greeted her. The sound of Shining’s breathing comforted her as she snuggled against him. After her dream, she was feeling extremely protective of him.

“You would look so dashing with wings.” She whispered to the night air. She fought against the images of him dying, frail and old, held in her forever-young hooves.

A single tear fell and splashed on his ear. It twitched. She closed her eyes slowly breathing in his scent. I will always remember you my Shiney. She silently pledged.

She remembered the dream and how Luna’s words had ended it. Was it real or just my tired imagination? She finally remembered to extend her mystical senses. The cool traces of Luna’s magic clung to her, she had clearly used her domain to force her to awaken fully alert. Whatever was happening, it was important.

A powerful hoof knocked on the door before it was pushed open. A pair of Luna’s Nightguard stood at attention saluting. They did not even wait, this is bad. Cadance worried.

“The Sovereign sends her regards, a chariot is ready for your immediate departure to Ponyville.” The unicorn said, offering a scroll.

“Honey,” Shining asked tiredly but clearly alert.

Cadance took the scroll in her aura and snapped it open and started reading.

Subject Twilight Sparkle,
Confirmed Location Castle of Friendship.
High levels of Active Alicorn magic detected...

She stopped reading and looked back to see Shining’s horn lit, likely he was ready to cast a shield spell at a moments notice. My faithful protector. She thought fondly.

“We are going to Ponyville, now,” she said commandingly.

Shining responded with long honed training, lifting everything he might need in his aura and headed for the door. Bags, armour and weapons finding their place on him as a brush tamed his mane.

Cadance trotted after him, a flash from her horn taking care of her appearance and snagged her overnight bag with her wing on the way past.

“Lead on,” she instructed the two Nightguards.

The group headed off at a decent canter. The Nightguard doing something that dulled the sound of their multiple hoofs falls. Glancing at her hooves, it looked like she had shoes made of shadows wrapped around them. Aunty, you are pulling out all the stops here, what is wrong. She thought.

Turning down a passageway, a Nightguard up ahead waved them back, directing them to go another way.

“Cady, I don’t like this…” Shining said quietly.

“You trust Aunty Luna, right?”

“Yes… still, something feels wrong here.”

A massive pulse of Celestia’s magic rippled through the building. Cadance barely had time to screw her eyes closed with the pain before Shining’s shield formed around the small group, providing instant relief from the Solar Alicorn’s overbearing magic.

“Celestia,” Cadance said.

“The Sovereign will tend to the Solar Princess,” One of the Nightguards said, pointing with a hoof down a servant's passageway. “Go now.”

Twilight or Celestia, the choice warred in her mind. Who should she go to? She could feel the hurt radiating from Celestia from here. Cadance’s eyes flicked the other way considering. Shining's magic lifted her as he galloped off, taking full advantage of the muffling spell on his hooves.

Aunty, please be alright. She thought as the choice was taken out of her hooves.

The flight was rushed, it was uncertain if the Wonderbolts could have gotten them here faster. There was no opportunity to read the rest of the scroll, it would have simply blown away if she had even made the attempt.

Cadance lit her horn, fixing both her own and Shining's windswept manes as she started to canter hopefully towards Twilight. She reached out with her unique sense and found the line that connected her to Twilight and followed it, taking wing to go faster. Celestia was not the only one in distress this night.

She could hear Shining’s hooves hammering into the ground as he started to gallop after her.

Cadance alighted just before the entrance. Her horn lit, magic reaching for the door. The magic reflected as if the door was a mirror. Her horn tingled, making her sneeze. She looked at the door in confusion as Shining came up beside her. “What sort of ward makes somepony sneeze?” she asked.

“One using a prank spell as a base. It is a harmless way to keep people out, and let them know you want them to stay out.”

Cadance’s horn lit again. There was the pop of displaced air and a ripple of magic. “Wait.” Twilight’s instantly familiar voice called from the other side of the door.

Cadance’s heart soared, Twilight was alive, she was here. Shining leaned closer. “She probably has it set so if you try again, you get a meaner prank.”

A complex spell array flashed into existence over the door. It twisted and faded out of existence. A very familiar magenta aura covered the doors as they swung open.

Twilight was revealed before them, her horn blindingly bright. Her body glittered as she was covered from horn to hoof with magenta crystals. Twilight’s eyes shed tears as she saw them, they sparkled in the light as they traced down her crystal-covered face.

Twilight's horn dimmed to a comfortable light level and Cadance got her first good look at Twilight. Is she taller?

Under her Crystal armour, Twilight was a mess both physically and emotionally. The wounds on her flesh seemed nothing in comparison with those on her heart. Seeing bandages under magenta crystal was a bit surreal.

“Shinny, Cadance… I… I…” Twilight looked down, unable to continue.

“Twily,” Shining said, the happiness at the sight of his sister warring with his shock at seeing her state,

“Did.. did she send you?” Twilight asked her expression hardening in an instant.

“No, we are here because you are LSBFF,” Shining said, offering a smile.

Twilight visibly relaxed, she took a few steps back, each making a clink of her crystal hooves on the crystal floor. Gesturing for them to come in with a flick of her wing. She froze a sudden look of stunned realisation crossed her face, her ears flicked.

Twilight turned her smiling gaze to her old foal sitter, then launched into their traditional greeting. “Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake. Clap your hooves, and do a little shake.” Cadance only hesitated a moment before joining in.

Twilight swayed on her hooves giggling. Cadance smiled warmly and pulled her into a hug. Twilight leaned heavily into the hug, closing her eyes.

She sensed something was wrong with her sister in law, even without deliberately using her powers. Twilight’s heart was too full and confused. It was flooded with powerful emotions. They ran across the whole range, from intense love to vengeful hatred. The two extremes holding a thin sheet of happiness above a pit of despair. Twilight what has happened to you? She thought.

Cadance let her vision shift to see the connections between ponies, she needed more information. She had to do what she could to mend Twilight’s wounds.

The lines reaching off to her close friends were healthy. She could see how Twilight gripped them, holding on to them for dear life as if she feared she would lose them. Some sort of energy was travelling from her to her friends. It was only causing the connections to grow and shine brighter, so whatever it was, it was not harmful. Maybe something to do with the Elements? Cadance thought.

Four new connections caught her attention, they seemed to turn around and link back to Twilight herself. It made no sense. One bloomed with young romantic love, two with something like family love and the last might become a friendship given time.

She moved on, the links to almost everypony else were normal, there were a few new ones but nothing really unexpected. There was one that held family love that she did not recognise.

Luna’s and her own were faded a little with the slight fraying near Twilight’s end, signifying a lack of trust. That hurt Cadance, but it was minor enough to be easily fixed with a few conversations.

The last two were dark lines, she was almost afraid to look at them. The first she had no idea who it was linked to. From Twilight’s side, it was a jagged mess of terror, hatred and murderous intent. Who would Twilight want to kill? The only thing coming from the other end was mild interest and a sense of respect.

Fearfully she looked at the last one. The line dripped horrid purples and toxic greens. Secrets and betrayal. She thought with fear. It transitioned from the bright love tempered with sadness from the distant end, to almost black twisted by hate. Arcs of lightning danced upon it, indicating powerful rage from Twilight’s end. Cadance could swear she could see a book fort guarding it, with little paper ponies building siege weapons.

She dropped her sight, she could not stand to look at it any longer. It twisted her guts with nausea. That line connected to Aunty Celestia. It took every diplomatic lesson and her many years of experience to prevent letting out a shocked gasp. Oh, Twilight, what did she do to you? Why Luna rushed them here was starting to make a terrifying amount of sense.

“BBBFF, How much do you know about what Ce… Princess Celestia did to me when I was living in the Palace?” Twilight asked voice wavering, her body tensing almost as if she was expecting an attack.

“What do you mean?” Shining Said.

Cadance’s ears flicked towards him. Was that a hint of guilt? She turned her eyes to him. “Shining… what do you know?”

“Twilight!” Rainbow’s voice barged in only moments before the mare herself did. A forceful wave of wind followed her. “Twi, don’t just disappear like that. We only just got you back.”

Twilight rubbed the back of her neck. “I had to disable the wards before anypony got hurt…”

“Twilly,” Shining said in a light tone of reproach.

“I was worried, Cel… The Princess might come back...”

“Twi got into one Hay of a shouting match with Celestia. Oh, hi, you two.” Rainbow interrupted.

Twilight’s eyes narrowed darkly for a moment. “Rainbow, head back to the Girls and let them know everything is alright, please.” She smiled fondly. “I have a few words for my BBBFF and old foal sitter here. I will be back with the snacks soon.”

A faint wash of Alicorn magic brushed against Cadance’s senses as Twilight had spoken. She is using that? Cadance thought.

Rainbow saluted playfully and zipped off with all her typical disregard for her wingpower. Cadance sighed. Now three ponies have windswept mains I need to fix.

Twilight regretfully pulled free from the hug and made her way towards the kitchen. She flicked her wing gesturing for them to follow. “So, Shiney, Cadance, care to answer?”

They both moved to follow her, “When you were younger,” Shining said before hesitating.

Cadance brushed a wing against him, her feathers parting his coat. “Go on,” She said.

“You learnt some very dangerous dark magic… Celestia had to seal it away for your safety.”

“Is that what she told you?” Twilight’s voice sounded dead.

Cadance could feel the connections with herself and Shining strengthening, as the one to Celestia darkened even more. She used an old trick repositioning her wings, hiding the shudder that passed through them.

Cadance’s heart fell, there as no doubt in Twilight’s words or expression. Something terrible had happened.

Shining nodded in response. “Twilily? Did something else happen?”

Twilight simply nodded. “I will tell you in a bit. I don’t feel like saying any of this more times than I need to, and my friends deserve to know as well.”

The door to the kitchen came into sight. Twilight’s horn lit and the sound of things moving around could be heard within.

Twilight opened the door and led them inside. She did not even pay any attention to the amazing display of magic she was performing. She simply made her way to the table where her aura was placing sandwiches, hot chocolate, tea and biscuits.

Cadance paused in amazement. Despite her current state, Twilight was wielding her magic in a perfect dance of coordination. She was doing it with no apparent effort nor paying any attention to it whatsoever. Aunty Luna was right, I am so far behind her… Cadance thought.

Twilight looked at Cadance searchingly, “Come, we have a lot to talk about, and I need to check on my daughter.” Twilight headed further into her home, leaving Cadance and Shining stunned. “Are you coming?” She asked.

“You have a foal?” Cadance asked

“Yes, she is, my Little Star,” Twilight smiled fondly. Cadance did not need her powers to tell there was real love there.

Twilight’s horn flashed, Cadance felt the annoying twisting in her gut and shiver in her horn whenever anypony cast higher dimensional spells around her. She glanced back to the table, finding it empty. She must have stored all the food, and she did it in a single cast. Cadance was starting to feel more than a little underpowered compared to her sister in law.

“How old is she?” Cadance asked.

“A few days or years, it is a bit hard to tell,” Twilight said.

“What?” Shining cut in.

“Magic,” Twilight answered.

“That's not an answer you would normally be happy with,” He replied.

She twitched her wings in a shrug. “It had something to do with the Elements of Harmony.”

“The elements can give you foals,” Shining said in confusion.

“Yes, if you ask nicely, and it promotes Harmony.” Twilight giggled. “Wait here, I will be back in a moment with her.” Twilight trotted off round a corner.

Cadance lowered her voice. “What do you think?”

Shining thought for a moment. “I don’t think Twily’s lying to us… If her mane were going crazy, I would have been worried about another lesson zero incident.”

“... Do you know of anypony your sister hates?” Cadance hesitantly asked

“Tirek, ponies that return books late and those that spoil the ending of books. Why?” He said trying to lighten the mood.

Cadance took a calming breath before stating. “There is somepony out there she hates enough to kill.”

“... is it Celestia?” Shining said in growing horror.

“No, thank all the Stars,” Cadance let out a long breath. “There is a lot of dark feelings, but it is not quite that bad.”

A young fillies voice interrupted them “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

Twilight laughed from round the corner. “Now there are two ponies I want you to meet.” The odd clinks of her crystal-covered hooves drawing closer.

“Are they nice ponies?” The filly asked.

“Yes, they are two of the nicest ponies,” Twilight said. Cadance could hear the warm smile in Twilight’s voice.

“You know I would never want you to meet any more bad ponies.” Twilight continued before stepping around the corner with a small lavender filly standing on her back. The filly looked just like Twilight did when Cadance had started to foalsit her. She was wearing a fire damaged Daring-Do helmet with spell runes around the rim.

“Hi, my name is Little Star!” The filly called out waving a hoof.

Cadance smiled, she could not hide the joy foals brought to her just by being near. “Nice to meet you, Star, I’m your Aunty Cadance.” She pointed to Shining with a wing. “And this is your Uncle Shining.”

“Where are your wings?” Star asked, looking at Shining, eyes full of innocent curiosity.

Looking to one side, Cadance tried to hide the sadness in her eyes. By the way that Twilight’s ears tracked her, she must have failed.

“Sorry, I’m just a unicorn,” Shining said, rubbing his neck.

“That’s ok, I’m sure Mommy can fix that.”

Shining laughed and reached over patting Star on the head affectionately.

Cadance met Twilight's gaze. “Can you?” she silently mouthed.

Twilight tilted her head and looked thoughtfully at her brother. Then moved closer as she guided the group of them towards the next destination. “Possibly,” she whispered in Cadance’s ear.

Cadance’s horn shivered, and in a burst of light, Star was standing on her back. “What you talking about?” Star looked up at both of them, eyes full of wonder.

“Wings,” Twilight said.

“Oh, ok,” Star said.

“Twilight, can I ask why you have that crystal covering you?” Shining asked.

Twilight stiffened for a moment. “I needed it for protection… and the only way I know to get rid of it is to smash it.”

Cadance blinked. “Oh.”

“It’s been a very long week, and it takes a lot of effort to break it. I will do something about it later,”

“It looks pretty,” Star said. A scroll and quill popped into existence and she started sketching her mother.

The rest of the walk was full of Star sketching everyone as she teleported from pony to pony.

“Girls, I have somepony to introduce you to,” Twilight called out, as the group walked into the map room.

“Don’t be silly we already know your brother and Princess Cadance, we were at the wedding… Unless this is another fake Cadance, or is it a fake Shining now or a Fake Twilight? Is Twilight a fake?.” Pinkie's ramble was cut off as with a flash of magenta light a sandwich materialised in her mouth.

A moment later the rest of the snacks appeared, divided evenly amongst all the ponies in the room.

“Hi, Pinkie, thanks for the cupcake,” Star said, smiling. Drawing the Bearer’s attention to her.

“Twilight, since when is there a mini-you?” Asked Rainbow.

“May I introduce my daughter, Little Star,” Twilight’s aura wrapped around Star pulling her close as she nuzzled her. She turned Star to face the room.

Star waved happily “They are all good ponies, right?” she asked in a stage whisper.

“Yes, they may be a bit strange, but I like them anyway.” Twilight grinned.

“Is that a Daring-Do helmet?” Rainbow asked flapping closer to have a look.

“Yep, had it when I went on my first adventure with Mommy. We had to clean up and escape the Temple of the Hidden Path.”

“You took your foal on an adventure?” Applejack sounded angry.

“More ‘Adventure’ found us AJ.”

“Why is it burnt, what's with the strange marks?” Rainbow said, pointing at the runes.

“Oh, it got burnt when I saved Mommy from the Bad Ponies…. So as soon as I could, I added some protections to it. I need to be ready in case the Bad Ponies try and hurt Mommy again.” Star was grinning happily.

AJ was giving Twilight a very stern look. Cadance could see that words would be spoken and it was probably better if little ears were not around to hear them. “Rainbow can you show Star here Twilight’s collection of Daring-Do books?”

That got both of their attention. “Race you there, kid.” Rainbow said, “Three, two, one, go.” She dashed off at a languid speed for her.

“Bye everypony.” Star waved before just disappearing.

Cadance noticed the only one not seeming worried was Twilight herself.

Twilight closed her eyes for a moment and then nodded. “She has just gone to the library.” Twilight then trotted over to her throne and sat a little stiffly.

“You have some explaining to do,” Applejack said.

“That is what we are all here for,” Twilight replied.

“First why the buck was that little one in danger?” Applejack exclaimed.

“Because that is where she showed up…” A clamour of voices cut Twilight off.

“Enough!” Twilight’s horn glowed, and suddenly only Twilight’s voice could be heard. “Now I am going to talk, and you are all going to listen… I don’t want to tell you any of this, but you have a right to know.”

Twilight took a deep breath. “Now please, let me speak, there will be time for questions at the end.” Twilight released her spell.

There were nods and murmured agreements around the room.

“There is no easy way for me to say this…” Twilight looked at Shining with tears falling from her eyes. “The Twilight that was sent to Ponyville was not the same Twilight as from before attending Celestia’s School.”

By the mild reactions of Twilight's friends, they clearly knew about this already. Rarity was looking unhappy, Fluttershy was hiding behind her mane and Pinkie was staying still, too still for her. Applejack on the other hoof was watching Twilight, studying every word she said.

“Twily?” Shining’s voice was weak.

“The Twilight you got back after the magic was sealed away was not the original. The Princess… she created a tool, her perfect tool to save her sister.” Twilight looked down, unable to meet his gaze.

Shining slumped, guilt and grief warring for his heart. To Cadance, it seemed like he felt some of the blame was his. “The Alicorn only spell,” He whispered so quietly that only she could hear him.

Cadance could remember a time when Twilight had changed. When she had withdrawn into herself and her studies. A time when Celestia had forbidden her using her sight so she could learn how to interact with ponies regularly.

Twilight glanced back at her wings. “Even these wings were part of her grand plan,” She said, flaring her wings.

Twilight’s eyes met hers. Cadance could feel concern, sympathy and the desperate hope that she was not another victim.

“Simply put, the original died, and the Princess made a replacement… I’m so sorry.” Tears started to roll down Twilight’s face.

“This has got to be a joke, a bad dream. Luna if you're there, this is not funny,” Shining said to himself.

Only something this terrible could have changed the connection between Celestia and Twilight so drastically. Add to that Applejack, the Element of Honesty, was not pointing out any lies. Cadance just looked into Twilight’s hard eyes. “It's true.” She whispered.

“... Princess Celestia even said so…” Fluttershy voice was frail and hollow sounding.

With a mighty flap, she was next to Twilight, pulling her into a hug, wrapping her wings around her sister in law. “Oh, Twilight,” Cadance said, nuzzling her.

Twilight closed her eyes and rested against Cadance. “It means so much to me you don’t hate me,” she whispered trembling.

“I could never hate you,” Cadance answered, matching her volume.

Twilight sniffled then nodded. Still leaning against her sister, she returned her gaze to her brother. She opened her wing in an invitation.

“Family is important… even if its a mite strange,” Applejack said, encouraging Shining. He looked to Cadance, before slowly approaching and joining the hug.

“You can tell Luna all of this if you like,” Twilight softly said into Cadance’s ear, using the hug as cover. “I can feel her magic on you, she woke you and sent you here, yes?”

“We were going to be arriving in the morning, she woke me and told us to get here as soon as possible.” Cadance admitted.

“Then please give her my thanks. It has been wonderful to see both of you.” Twilight said with a warm smile.

“One of the many things I have been learning since…” she paused. “Shining, how much do you know about Alicorns?”

Cadance subtly shook her head. Twilight looked to her then back to Shining. “I got a chance to look at the spellwork the Princess left in here.” She pointed at her head with a hoof. “It answered a lot of questions for me.”

“How can you be so calm about this?” Shining asked.

“I’m not," She let out a bitter laugh. "I’m just so very tired, it feels like it has been years since Manehatten.” Twilight gave a weak laugh

“You should have heard her shouting match with the Princess,” Pinkie happily added, suddenly being a part of the hug.

Cadance noticed Twilight just seemed to enjoy the extra contact. Shining jumped back in fear and maintained a safe distance away from the pink pony.

“So, now how did you get a filly Twilight,” Applejack asked.

“Alicorn magic, the Elements of Harmony and me. Somehow the end result was my daughter.”

“But how?” Applejack insisted.

“I can conjure permanent objects from nothing but raw magic. If you know everything about a living creature, the same should be possible.” Twilight stated.

With her voice dripping with disbelief Applejack exclaimed. “Are you saying you can just light your horn and make a pony!?”

“You remember what happened with the Elements of Harmony when a certain Twilight Sparkle exploded.” Twilight said, oddly sounding a little like Trixie.

“Yeah, you were fine sugercube, all a miss-understanding.” Applejack said.

“More than fine, you got wings, you became a princess,” Rarity said.

“It was scary, we all thought we killed you,” Fluttershy meekly added.

“I really did explode, my entire body was destroyed and turned in to magic.” Twilight said.

“Buts that's just how teleporting works silly.” Pinkie jumped up.

“No, it… hmm” Twilight stopped.

“But you can’t just teleport and become an Alicorn, that would just be silly, it would need to be an extra special teleport.” Pinkie continued.

Twilight was now just staring at Pinkie. Deep in thought. "Forty-five percent," she said before teleporting away in a flash of magic.

"Can an Alicorn become and a double Alicorn? Do they get four wings, eight legs and two horns?" Pinkie asked.

Twilight had returned with Star and Rainbow just in time that nopony sent out a search party. Many a pleasant conversation were had. The gathering slowly changed to a party. Pinkie for once not using her party cannon, yet she still got everything set up in a remarkably short time. It was officially the pre-party for both Twilight's Glad-You-Are-Alive party and Star's Welcome-to-Ponyville party.

Star rendered everypony's likeness in ink, sending the completed ones away in a flash of magic. Cadance had happily accepted a drawing of herself and Twilight hugging, as a gift to Aunty Cadance.

Rarity stepped out for a moment and came back with everything she needed to make Star a few items of clothing. Star even managed to get her to make a Bat-mare style cape. Somehow it matched the Daring-Do helm.

Rainbow flew around the room with Star doing stunts and telling the tale of when she teamed up with Daring-Do. Cadance had never seen a filly with eyes that wide before.

Star got Fluttershy talking in great detail about the animals from the Everfree. Star seemed to be very interested in timberwolves and everything about how animals made of wood were possible.

Applejack even came around, demonstrated a few rope tricks which Star tried and failed to copy.

Cadance watched the ponies around her and smiled, the connections between them were strengthening, and everypony was slowly forming ones with Little Star. For a time, everything was good, Pinkie used her talent to fight off negativity and put smiles on everypony's faces. But nothing lasts forever, time passed and one by one the ponies found places to sleep. The late-night even catching up with the energetic Pinkie.

Finally, Cadance looked at Twilight, the only other pony awake. She was softly stroking her daughter’s mane using her wing as a feather blanket. Despite everything, that look of contentment gave Cadance hope.

Twilight looked up at her as she got up, lifting Star in her aura. She moved up next to her and slowly wrapped her in a one-winged hug. “Do you know how to tend to an Alicorns leylines?” she asked softly.

Cadance looked confused but returned the embrace. “With the normal healing spells for the type of leyline, right?”

Twilight quietly sighed. “What is your bastion like?

“You mean in the Empire?”

“So they kept things from you as well,” Twilight said, smiling sadly. “I expected as much.”

Twilight pulled away from the hug and slowly headed out the room, humming a lovely tune to her daughter.

Cadance listened to the tune until it faded from her hearing. She found herself humming the tune, trying to work out what words belonged with it. She lifted Shining in her hooves as if he were as light as a newborn foal. She took wing, making her way to the room Twilight typically saved for them.

Cadance was lying awake next to Shining in one of the guest rooms of Twilight’s home. Her mind was full of questions. Those two questions Twilight had asked her during their last hug before bed still consuming her thoughts. What did they mean? Why did she ask them? Her biggest fear was finding out she was not who she thought she was. She feared she might just be a tool created by some pony, just like Twilight.

Aunties, what are you hiding from me?

Her horn lit with a three-hour sleep spell, she released it, and the bliss of dreamless sleep chased away her fears.

CH 16 Nightmare's Family

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Nightmare smiled, enjoying the sensation of Dreams’ wing holding her. Luna. She thought nostalgically. She looked down through the obsidian floor’s reflection of the physical world. Twilight was still in the embrace of her friends.

Nightmare almost found herself giggling from the emotional bleed over. Is this what being drunk is like? She wondered.

“So spill,” Rainbow said

Twilight nodded. “I think it is best if I start from the beginning.”

“I reckon that's the best place to start any tale,” Applejack commented.

“First I need you to Pinkie promise not to tell anypony else.”

“I understand wanting to keep this… horrid affair out of the newspapers, darling.” Rarity said.

“I’m worried what the Princess will do to anypony that knows.” Twilight explained.

Fluttershy paled and buried herself in the hug hiding from the outside world.

“Nah, we can handle anything,” Rainbow said full of bravado.

“I know what she did to me, that she could even bring herself to terrifies me. Do you know how much power she has? I do, I held it, felt it, used it.”

“And you were, Awesome!” Rainbow spread her wings and would have taken flight if Twilight had released her from the hug. “Zap, boom, pow…”

Twilight’s aura closed Rainbows mouth. “That is not the point, the point is the only reason I am even willing to risk telling you girls is that we are the Elements of Harmony.”

“Silly, we already know that, if that's the surprise you have for us it’s not very surprising.” Pinkie said.

Twilight facehooved, letting out a happy laugh. “What am I going to do with you, Pinkie?”

“Take me to a party?” Pinkie asked, hopefully.

“Ok, later,” Twilight added.

“Okey Dokey Lokey” Pinkie said putting party supplies back into her mane.

That is still maddening. Nightmare mentally spoke.

Just Pinkie, being, Pinkie. Twilight responded.

We do have a wing dedicated to her… Dreams’ offered.

NO! Both Twilight and Nightmare thought forcefully. Twilight stiffened in the physical world.

Dreams’ giggled in the mental space. Wrapping Nightmare in a twin winged hug. Ah your no fun Nighty.

“You ok, sugarcube?” Applejack asked.

“Yes… just remembering when I tried to understand Pinkie’s Pinkie-Sense,” Twilight said nodding once. “The reason I am willing to tell you is that the Princess can not do anything to you. Not without destroying, or at least damaging the Elements.”

“So… we’re safe?” Fluttershy asked, her single visible eye full of fear.

“Yes, will you promise me, Girls, please?” Twilight asked.

They all went through the motions and said the silly yet potent words.

“Thank you,” Twilight said before starting the story. “I was… No, sorry. The original Twilight was given a spell to learn.”

“That sounds part of the course for you.” Rarity said.

Twilight nodded. “Yes, but I don’t think I was meant to be able to cast the spell.”

“Please, you not being able to cast a spell.” Rainbow laughed.

“Well, you’re right. She did cast the spell.” Twilight said eyes starting to shimmer with tears again.

“Whatsit do, Whatsit do?” Pinkie was vibrating, making everypony's teeth shake in their heads.

Twilight lit her horn. A translucent image of a young unicorn Twilight formed floating in the air. Thank you, Trixie. Twilight thought as she cast the Illusion spell as she started her tale.

In the mental space, Nightmare looked up at Dreams studying her colours and mane style closely. She shrugged, turning back to the tale.

“Twilight Sparkle, cast a spell she should not have been able to. Failing to fail yet again.” She paused. “Where is Spike?” Twilight asked with worry.

“Nothing to worry about, he is with your folks.” Applejack said.

Twilight smiled thankfully before continuing. “Yet again, she failed at failing.” The image’s horn flared and disappeared. In its place, six new ponies floated.

She pointed at each. “Grey the Mage, Nova the Passionate, Rule Breaker the Rebel, Dancer the Sensual, Sunchaser the Dreamer, and the Innocent Child.

I think I tell it better, but her illusions are better than my toys, Dreams pondered.

Nightmare joined Twilight’s friends in studying the images. Each seemed drawn to a different one. Fluttershy gazed tenderly at the Child. Rainbow seemed impressed with Rule Breaker. Rarity nearly fainted at the sight of Dancer’s beauty. She’s probably dressing her in her mind. Nightmare thought with amusement. Applejack gazed with distrust at Grey.

Finally, Pinkie was waving her hoof through Nova’s burning mane. “Hay, Twilight, your mane does that too!” She said.

That's not all you get from her. Dreams’ teased Twilight. Nightmare smiled more, enjoying the friendly banter.

Twilight blushed slightly. “Where do you think I get it from?”

Twilight’s blush deepened. Hush you. She mentally responded. Putting a hoof to her chest and performing Cadance’s breathing exercise, she forced her blush away.

“So, Twilight became six ponies?” Applejack asked doubtfully.

Twilight nodded. “Unfortunately for them… They were not who the Princess needed.” A few motes of flames danced over her mane as she sobbed. Nightmare could feel grief and rage leaking from Twilight.

It will be alright. Dreams thought to Twilight as she nudged Nightmare.

We are both here for you, my host. Nightmare added. Dreams nodded thankfully at her.

With her friends around her and the mental words of encouragement, Twilight regained her composure.

Pinkie used her tongue, devouring a marshmallow. A marshmallow she had somehow toasted on Twilight’s mane, with nopony noticing. That mare. Nightmare thought with exasperation.

Twilight, unfazed by Pinkie after years of exposure, just continued. “The Princess needed, Twilight… Or at least somepony that could be the Element of Magic. She needed a pony able to cast all the possible affinities magic can have.”

Twilight’s face darkened, her expression hardened. “All of Twilight’s children were different, they all had their own aspects. The only way the Princess could get what she needed was if she turned six ponies into one.”

“So she just cast a spell and put them all together into one pony?” Fluttershy asked, hopefully.

A shake of her head was Twilight’s response. “I’m afraid not, Fluttershy.”

“What you said to Princess Celesta earlier?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes, Twilight’s children were… they were the donors of the essence used to make me.”

“Your wellspring” Rarity gasped.


“Anypony care to tell us what this magic stuff means?” Rainbow asked.

“Twilight is saying her very soul is made from six other ponies.” Rarity answered.

“Are you some sort of Nightmare Night monster now?” Pinkie asked happily.

“I hope not.” Twilight said morosely.

“Not to say I don’t believe you,” Rarity started “but do you have any evidence? Without it, it will just be your word against Celestia’s.”

Twilight’s gaze fell. “None I can show anypony.”

Rarity gathered herself, adjusting her mane, “Darling, even if you did, do you know what this getting out would do? I don’t mean to us, I mean the country, the world.”

Twilight looked up with interest.

“War,” Rarity simply said. “Princess Celestia is an icon, she is the bright light that guides the nation and the strength that shields us from outside forces.”

“So I just have to accept it and move on?” Twilight said calmly, but the sparks of flame on her mane told a different story.

Rarity shook her head, “No, darling, of course not…”

Twilight sighed “I have to think of my ponies.” Twilight nodded to herself. “If it was for the defence of the nation, then what she did to me… the original Twilight and her … What she did could have been perfectly legal. If she filed the right paperwork.”

Twilight slumped, the others hugged her tightly.

You know I was not expecting this hug to last so long. Nightmare commented.

Thank you for letting me have this. Twilight responded.

Twilight enjoyed the hug for a time before directing her thoughts to Nightmare. You know, now that we are a family we rea...?

Family? Nightmare interjected.

We have a daughter, and I want to help raise her too… if you will let me.

Family… Nightmare’s mind flicked back to all the interactions she had watched from Twilight's point of view over the years.

Twilight’s head shot up. Who turned the wards on? She thought in a panic.

I did. Dreams’ responded Incase The Princess came back, even added a surprise that will only trigger for Alicorns.

“Cadance!” Twilight teleported.

The hug ended, a frantic Twilight was once more bound by the chains of her Pact. Nightmare suddenly regained full control of the body. After being dragged from her mindscape, it took Nightmare a moment for her senses to catch up. She was standing before the main doors. Her horn could pick up Alicorn enhanced unicorn magic from the other side of it.

Please get her to stop, tell her to wait, don’t let Cadance get hurt. Twilight pleaded.

“Wait.” Nightmare called out. Explain, quickly, She thought.

Dreams took my harmless ward and added something to it that would only affect Alicorns, and it might kill Cadance. Please don't let that happen. Her host begged.

How do I suspend the wards?

Twilight pushed every detail about the wards into Nightmare’s mind. Helpful notes colour coded, possible improvements, everything. Nightmare’s eyes crossed, she spent a few seconds finding what she needed.

Nightmare lit her horn, it glowed with a powerful luminescence as she reached out and twisted the wards deactivating them. Turning off the wards like that… it must seem like I am welcoming them. She thought.

Making her best attempt at salvaging the situation she opened the doors with her aura.

There before her stood her host’s brother and sister-in-law. He was in partial armour and had two swords, she was dressed as if for a light shopping trip. Cadance was an Alicorn, so was not to be taken lightly.

Nightmare started to greet them. “Shinny, Cadance… I… I…” A massive wave of emotion hit her, Nightmare’s gaze fell under its weight. Love, happiness, joy, gratitude, and so many happy memories.

“Twilly,” Shining said.

Nightmare mentally pushed Twilight away, lifting her gaze and glaring at Shining. “Did.. did she send you?”

“No, we are here because you are my LSBFF,” Shining replied, smiling.

The torrent of emotion from Twilight was calming. Nightmare stepped back from the door and welcomed her host’s family in with a motion of her wing. Family. She thought, the image of her Little Star filling her mind.

We have to do the greeting, or she will think we are changelings. Twilight interrupted, sending the instructions on how to do it.

Nightmare froze. You want me to do what? No, you can do it. Nightmare mentally stepped back for a moment.

Nightmare could feel the smile on her face. As the strangest greeting to be found under the stars began.
“Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake. Clap your hooves, and do a little shake.”

Control snapped back to Nightmare. Twilights emotions once more, making her feel giddy. She giggled and almost fell. She swayed once before ending up in a hug. The feeling of wings around her, she could almost imagine it was like so long ago. She felt her eyes close, her own feelings mixing with Twilights.

Slowly coming to her senses Nightmare formed a plan. She had the Elements on her side. Having these two on her side would be useful. She thought about her Little Star, who happened to have a second mother. It would also save Twilight a lot of pain.

What do you call him Twilight? Nightmare asked.

BBBFF it means Big Brother Best Friends Forever. So that means you need to protect him too. Twilight answered.

“BBBFF, How much do you know about what Ce… Princess Celestia did to me when I was living in the Palace?” Nightmare asked, trying to hide the fact she was ready for battle. Given the state of her body, she should not have even tried.

“What do you mean?” Shining said.

Cadance’s ears flicked towards Shining. “Shining… what do you know?”

“Twilight!” Rainbow grabbed Nightmares attention. She was approaching so fast Nightmare almost tired to catch her in her aura to stop her crashing. “Twi, don’t just disappear like that. We only just got you back.”

Why was I here again? Oh, the wards. Nightmare thought before saying. “I had to disable the wards before anypony got hurt…”

“Twily,” Shining said a light tone of reproach.

He did warn me to be careful with what I put in wards, Twilight commented.

“I was worried, Cel… The Princess might come back...” Nightmare said, watching for their reactions.

“Twi got into one Hay of a shouting match with Celestia. Oh, hi, you two.” Rainbow interrupted.

Rainbow was a distraction she did not need, and if this turned into a fight, having her out of the way would keep her safe. Nightmare channelled some Alicron power into her voice and the surrounding area. Using it to add a slight compulsion instead of her typical use of inspiring terror. “Rainbow, head back to the Girls and let them know everything is alright, please.” She smiled fondly. “I have a few words for my BBBFF and old foal sitter here. I will be back with the snacks soon.”

Rainbow saluted and did what she was told to. I really need to get some more practice flying.

To make what she said true, she would have to get some snacks. She stepped away from the warm embrace, she could feel Twilights regret that the hug was over. Nightmare sort of missed it too.

Nightmare started walking, a simple gesture commanding her host’s relatives to follow. “So, Shiney, Cadance, care to answer?”

They both followed. “When you were younger,” Shining said before hesitating.

Cadance brushed a wing against him, her feathers parting his coat. “Go on,” She said.

Nightmare watched Cadance’s wing settle back into place, she definitely had beautiful wings. She wanted to feel them around her again.

“You learnt some very dangerous dark magic… Celestia had to seal it away for your safety.”

Celestia calls murdering foals, sealing away dark magic. Nightmare's thoughts boiled in rage. She could not force the image of her hated Sister, killing her Little Star out of her head.

“Is that what she told you?” She said in a voice devoid of all emotion.

In the mental space, Dreams wrapped Nightmare in her wings and Twilight shared happy memories about Shining and Cadance.

Shining nodded. “Twily Did something else happen?”

“I will tell you in a bit. I don’t feel like saying any of this more than I need to, and my friends deserve to know as well.” Nightmare said.

The door to the kitchen came into sight. I’ll get the food. Twilight thought as she seemed to walk past Nightmare in the mental space. She felt her horn light and a large number of things being controlled by her aura in the next room.

The amazed look on Cadance’s face was more than worth the risk of letting Twilight control her magic. Being honest with herself, she was impressed as well, just better at not showing it.

Cadance is the Princess of love, right? Dreams’ asked.

That's right. Twilight responded.

Then what better to get her on our side that to show her that we love. Tell her about Star. Dreams concluded.

Trust me, she loves foals, she was my foalsitter after all. Twilight added.

Nightmare looked into Cadance’s eyes looking for any hints of deceptions. Finding none she spoke. “Come, we have a lot to talk about, and I need to check on my daughter.”

Both Cadance and Shining seemed frozen like statues for a long moment. She could hear Dreams laughing and rolling on the floor in the mental space. “Are you coming?” She asked.

Shaking free from her daze, Cadance asked, “You have a foal?”

“Yes, she is, my Little Star,” Nightmare said, feeling the warmth and happy thoughts inside her.

Oh, nearly forgot the food. Twilight thought before taking control of their horn. A single flash and all the food disappeared.

“How old is she?” Cadance asked.

“A few days or years, it is a bit hard to tell.”

“What?” Shining cut in.

“Magic,” Nightmare answered.

“That's not an answer you would normally be happy with,” He replied.

She twitched her wings in a shrug. “It had something to do with the Elements of Harmony.”

“The elements can give you foals,” Shining said in confusion.

Nightmare paused, really thinking about everything. If Twilight had not defeated me, had she not used the Elements and commanded them with the intent to saving ponies, instead of punishing me… You Tartarus damned rocks, you planned this. Her mind flicked back to her Little Star. And now I can’t even hate you for it.

“Yes, if you ask nicely, and it promotes Harmony.” Nightmare giggled, she could not help herself, that whole situation was insane.

You need to go get Star now. Dreams mentally prodded her to get her moving.

“Wait here, I will be back in a moment with her,” Nightmare said, holding back further giggles.

Once round the corner, she placed a hoof on the wall. The tree felt happy, and a little amused. Laugh it up, can you take me to my daughter, please. She thought to it.

Again the transition was instant. There before sleeping soundly was her daughter, her Little Star. She was both the greatest gift ever given to her and the best trap imaginable. “Stupid rocks,” She mumbled with no real venom.

She reached out with a hoof, stroking Star’s mane. She smiled, lighting her horn, a simple spell, and an old spell. One of Luna’s first that she had truly invented on her own. Leaning down, she tapped her horn to Star’s, letting the spell take effect.

Star stretched and immediately opened her eyes. “Princess!” She said defeating Nightmare with the most powerful of attacks, sparkling eyes and a hug.

Nightmare folded her wings around her. “My brave Little Star, that is the last time you will need to use my Title.”

Star tilted her head in confusion, worry just starting to creep into her eyes.

Nightmare’s smile stretched wide. “I have found the most wondrous of information.” The joy in Nightmare’s tone stripped the fear from Star.

“You have?” Star said. Nightmare could see all sorts of ideas dancing behind Star’s eyes as she tried to guess what it could be.

“Yes, my Daughter.”

Star froze, She was completely motionless for two full seconds. Nightmare began to worry mentally reaching for, and receiving a medical scanning spell.

In a flash of light Star teleported from the hug, an endless stream of “Yes, yes, yes.” emitting from her as she danced, pranced and teleported around Nightmare.

So that is what that looks like. Twilight observed.

So Cute! Dreams added.

“Come, we have some of our family to meet.” Nightmare caught Star in her aura.

“Mummy, will I grow wings like you one day?”

The horrid thought of being without her Little Star invaded the happiness of Nightmare’s mind. “Yes, even if I have to give them to you myself.” She pledged.

We all will help. Dreams sent. Nightmare smiled

“Come on, they are waiting for us.” Nightmare reached out with a hoof and asked the Tree to take them back, the Tree happily did so.

“I have more family! Best. Day. Ever,” Star said before continuing hopping around in joy. “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

More satisfying than eternal night? Twilight asked.

Nightmare did not answer; instead she turned her attention to her Little Star. She could not help but laugh “Now there are two ponies I want you to meet,” she said, starting to walk back to Shining and Cadance. She lifted Star again and placed her upon her back.

“Are they nice ponies?” Star asked

She did not even have to think about her answer. “Yes, they are two of the nicest ponies. You know I would never want you to meet any more bad ponies.”

She rounded the corner and for the first time, allowed other ponies to see her daughter.

“Hi, my name’s Little Star!” Star said, waving with almost enough effort to make her fall from Nightmare’s back.

Nightmare shifted her wings so Star could not fall.

A joyous smile claimed domain over Cadance’s face. “Nice to meet you, Star, I’m your Aunty Cadance.” She pointed to Shining with a wing. “And this is your Uncle Shining.”

“Where are your wings?” Star asked, looking at Shining, eyes full of innocent curiosity.

Twilight pulled Nightmares gaze to Cadance, who looked saddened. She is going to lose him. Nightmare thought.

“Sorry, I’m just a unicorn,” Shining said, rubbing his neck.

“That’s ok, I’m sure Mommy can fix that.”

Shining laughed and reached over patting Star on the head affectionately.

Cadance met Nightmare’s gaze. “Can you?” she silently mouthed.

Nightmare tilted her head and looked thoughtfully at Twilight’s brother. Twilight would lose him too. She thought. Getting the group moving, she leaned in close to Cadance’s ear. “Possibly” she whispered so quietly only an Alicorn could hear it.

In a burst of dazzling light Star Teleported from Nightmare’s to Cadance’s back. “What you talking about?” Star looked up at both of them eyes full of wonder.

“Wings,” Nightmare said.

“Oh, ok,” Star said.

“Twilight, can I ask why you have that crystal covering you?” Shining asked.

Nightmare stiffened for a moment, hating the fact she did not know how to even create the Armour, let alone remove it. “I needed it for protection… and the only way I know to get rid of it, is to smash it.”

Cadance blinked. “Oh.”

“It’s been a very long week, and it takes a lot of effort to break it. I will do something about it later,”

“It looks pretty,” Star said. A scroll and quill popped into existence and she started sketching her mother.

The rest of the walk was full of happier things, and Star sketching everyone as she teleported from pony to pony.

As they were returning to the map room, Twilight asked if she could do the talking. Nightmare agreed, it was one of her best options for defeating Applejack’s abilities.

“Girls, I have somepony to introduce you to,” Twilight called out as the group walked into the map room.

“Don’t be silly we already know your brother and Princess Cadance, we were at the wedding… Unless this is another fake Cadance, or is it a fake Shining now or a Fake Twilight? Is Twilight a fake?”

That was getting a little too close to the truth for Nightmares liking. She teleported one of the sandwiches into Pinkies mouth to Silence her. That was one of Rainbow’s Twilight complained.

Twilight rapidly used her magic to sort out the rest of the food before Nightmare could mess things up anymore. Dreams laughed like a mad mare again.

“Hi, Pinkie, thanks for the cupcake,” Star said, smiling. Drawing the Bearer’s attention to her.

“Twilight, since when is there a mini-you?” Asked Rainbow.

“May I introduce my daughter, Little Star,” Twilight’s aura wrapped around Star pulling her close as she nuzzled her then turning her to face the room. Nightmare could feel Twilight's happiness. Her first time holding our filly. Nightmare thought.

Star waved happily “They are all good ponies, right?” she asked in a stage whisper.

“Yes, they may be a bit strange, but I like them anyway.” Twilight grinned.

“Is that a Daring-Do helmet?” Rainbow asked flapping closer to have a look.

“Yep, had it when I went on my first adventure with Mommy. We had to clean up and escape the Temple of the Hidden Path.”

“You took your foal on an adventure?” Applejack sounded angry.

“More ’Adventure’ found us AJ.”

“Why is it burnt, what's with the strange marks?” Rainbow said, pointing at the runes.

“Oh, it got burnt when I saved Mommy from the Bad Ponies…. So as soon as I could, I added some protections to it, I need to be ready in case the Bad Ponies try and hurt Mommy again.” Star was grinning happily.

Nightmare was proud of her Little Star, she had done so much for such a young filly. She couldn't even imagine what she would achieve when she was older.

AJ was giving Twilight a very stern look. Cadance acted. “Rainbow can you show Star here Twilight’s collection of Daring-Do books?”

Her Star on her own, with that risk-taking pony? No, what if something happens to her.

The sound of a scroll being unrolled came from the mental space. She held off eight dark magic-wielding warlocks and teleported us home on her own. I would be more worried about Rainbow. Dreams stated.

“Race you their kid.” Rainbow said, “Three, two, one, go.” She dashed off at a languid speed for her.

“Bye everypony.” Star waved before just disappearing.

Nightmare felt Twilight close their eyes for a moment, then nodded. “She has just gone to the library.” Twilight then trotted over to her throne and sat a little stiffly. How have you been putting up with the pain? She thought to Nightmare.

You should have felt it the first day I woke up, It was worse than being on that Altar.

“You have some explaining to do,” Applejack said, interrupting the mental conversation.

“That is what we are all here for,” Twilight replied.

“First, why was that little one in danger?”

“Because that is where she showed up…” Too many ponies tried to speak at once, it was annoying.

“Enough!” Nightmare shouted using Twilight’s horn to cast a silencing spell. “Now I am going to talk, and you are all going to listen… I don’t want to tell you any of this, but you have a right to know.”

Nightmare let Twilight continue. She took a deep breath before doing so. “Now please, let me speak, there will be time for questions at the end.” Twilight released her spell.

There were nods and murmured agreements around the room.

“There is no easy way for me to say this…” Twilight looked at Shining tears falling from her eyes. “The Twilight that was sent to Ponyville was not the same Twilight as from before attending Celestia’s School.”

Nightmare watched Applejack, she was unhappy and seemed to be studying Twilight. What have you noticed? Nightmare thought.

“Twily?” Shining’s voice was weak.

“The Twilight you got back after the magic was sealed away was not the original. The Princess… she created a tool, her perfect tool to save her sister.” Twilight looked down, unable to meet his gaze.

Shining slumped, Twilight did not notice, but looking in the floor of the mental space Nightmare and Dreams did.
Nightmare could not hear what he said, but she could read his lips “The Alicorn only spell,”

Nightmare met Dreams gaze, Dream nodded and retreated to wherever she had been hiding Twilight most of the week.

Twilight glanced back at her wings. “Even these wings were part of her grand plan,” She said, flaring her wings. She looked up, meeting Cadance’s gaze. “Simply put, the original died, and the Princess made a replacement… I’m so sorry.” Twilight started crying again.

“This has got to be a joke, a bad dream. Luna if you're there, this is not funny,” Shining said.

I’ll give you bad dreams if you're not there to support her you dumb stallion!

Cadance just looked into Twilights for a long time. “It's true.” She whispered.

“... Princess Celestia even said so…” Fluttershy's voice was frail and hollow sounding.

Cadance did a wing assisted leap, that was almost a textbook perfect combat move before pulling Twilight into a loving hug. Nightmare shared the sensations of those perfect wings wrapping around them.

“Oh, Twilight,” Cadance said, nuzzling her.

Twilight closed their eyes and rested against Cadance. “It means so much to me you don’t hate me,” she whispered trembling.

“I could never hate you,” Cadance answered, matching her volume.

Nightmare enjoyed the contact, it felt so similar to being with Luna, too similar. She extended some of the senses Twilight was not currently using. There it was, right next to her, two of Luna’s spells, the first one the same she had used on Star to wake her up. The second a stealthy little recording spell. Well Played dear Luna.

Twilight sniffled then nodded to Cadance, and still leaning against her sister-in-law she returned her gaze to her brother, a wing held open. Shining moved in and joined the hug.

He would look handsome with wings… Nightmare thought.

No, you will not think of him like that, he is our brother!

Sorry, I forgot. Nightmare responded abashed.

“You can tell Luna all of this if you like,” Nightmare leaned closer to Cadance and whispered into her ear, using the hug as cover. “I can feel her magic on you, she woke you and sent you here, yes?”

What? She did? Twilight asked.

“We were going to arrive in the morning, she woke me and told us to get here as soon as possible,” Cadance said.

“Then please give her my thanks. It has been wonderful to see both of you.” Nightmare answered.

Twilight took control of the conversation. “One of the many things I have been learning since…” she paused.

Nightmare could feel Twilight working something out. Shiney was the Captain of Celestia’s Royal guard, maybe he knows something. Twilight thought, before asking out loud. “Shining, how much do you know about Alicorns?”

Cadance subtly shook her head. Twilight looked to her then back to Shining. “I got a chance to look at the spellwork the Princess left in here.” She pointed at her head with a hoof. “It answered a lot of questions for me.”

“How can you be so calm about this?” Shining asked.

“I’m not, I’m just so very tired, it feels like it has been years since Manehatten.” Twilight gave a weak laugh

“You should have heard her shouting match with the Princess,” Pinkie happily added, suddenly being a part of the hug.

It is almost as if this world is just a dream to her. Nightmare mused.

Twilight continued to enjoy the hug even as Shining jumped away from the unexpected pony.

“So, now how did you get a filly, Twilight,” Applejack asked.

Nightmare took over. “Alicorn magic, the Elements of Harmony and me. Somehow the end result was my daughter.”

Hay! Twilight sent.

This has to be done right, and you will swamp them with details. Nightmare responded.

“But how?” Applejack asked.

“I can conjure permanent objects from nothing but raw magic. If you know everything about a living creature, the same should be possible.”

With her voice dripping with disbelief Applejack exclaimed. “Are you saying you can just light your horn and make a pony.”

“You remember what happened with the Elements of harmony when a certain Twilight Sparkle exploded?” Nightmare said, being very careful with her words so there was not lie for the Element of Honesty to detect.

“Yeah, you were fine sugercube, all a misunderstanding.” Applejack said.

“More than fine, you got wings, you became a princess.” Rarity said.

“It was scary, we all thought we killed you,” Fluttershy meekly added.

Nightmare provided the words and asked Twilight to answer. “I really did explode, my entire body was destroyed and turned in to magic.”

I’m not a puppet. Twilight huffed.

No, but we needed to be honest to dear AJ, yes? Nightmare reasoned.

“Buts that's just how teleporting works silly.” Pinkie jumped up.

“No, it… hmm” Twilight stopped.

Nightmare’s Mind became full with numbers, calculations, whole libraries of information washed away her thoughts. She panicked, it felt like she was drowning. She could do nothing, she was trapped, she screamed, but nopony heard her as she was buried under the sea of knowledge. Everything was fading even her own thoughts. In the end, Twilight frantic mumbles were the only thing left in existence.

Nightmare came to her senses shivering in fear, held tight under a warm wing. She was laying on something soft, she felt comfortable. The familiar words of the lullaby she sang to Luna all those years ago, supported by music that matched it perfectly, yet she had never heard before.

She could feel her body relax, Dreams was the one singing, and by the scent, she was under one of her wings as well.

“Wake up sleepy head.” Dreams teased tickling her nose with a wingtip.

“What happened?” Nightmare asked slowly opening her eyes taking in her situation. She was in what looked like Twilight’s bed from the Golden Oaks Library only larger, clearly now made for at least two Alicorns.

“Twilights went mad scientist again.” Dreams tiredly said.

“Again?” Nightmare quired.

“Yes.” Dreams nodded.


Dreams sighed “She has a lead on making Alicorns, but I need your help before she does something irreversible.”

“What is she doing?” Nightmare could not keep an edge of concern from her voice.

“Currently not much, she is trying to smash her Crystal Armour and failing at it due to our injuries.” Dreams said.

Nightmare’s eyes narrowed. “Why is she doing it, and what do you need of me?”

“She is planning on cutting herself open to get the needed magical reagents. I need you to drag her here so I can distract her until she calms down. Then you need to get out there and get back to her friends before they worry too much.” Dreams instructed.

Nightmare reached out gripping the chains that represented their pact. She pulled. Twilight appeared mane frazzled, a manic look in her eyes. Both magically and emotionally unstable.

Before she could even notice the change in her surroundings, Dreams pinned Twilight to the bed and kissed the insane mare.

The insane mare just stopped, her eyes slowly returned to normal. Something vibrated the room from below as a few traces of flames danced along Twilight's mane.

“Thank you.” Dreams said, pushing Nightmare out of bed.

Nightmare snapped back to awareness in control of the body again. She was holding an anvil in her aura. By the look of it, she was about to smash it into her crystal-covered leg. She set it down beside her and slowly scanned the room she was in.

She was in Twilight’s Lab. Complex spell equations and theories in seven different languages covered ten’s of blackboards, hundreds of scrolls, the walls, and even the ceiling.

“How long have I been…” Nightmare started.

Nine hundred and sixteen seconds. An unfamiliar monotone female voice answered her.

She looked around the room for a second time noting the surgical equipment and sample preservation devices. For yet another time, Nightmare was scared of Twilight.

Nightmare put a hoof to her chest and tried Cadance’s breathing trick. “I need to see my daughter,” she said, trotting out of the lab.

It had not taken long to find her Little Star and Rainbow. Getting them to come back to the map room was easy once Rainbow had pointed out Pinkie was probably already making it a party. Rainbow was right, when they got there, the party was almost set up.

It was strange being alone with her own thoughts again. Whatever that veil Dreams used to keep Nightmare out was back in effect. Nightmare went through the motions at the party, acting as Twilight would have. She had seen it enough over the years to copy it.

Only two things mattered to her. The most important thing being that her Little Star was having a good time. The other was how long until Luna’s recording spell ended.

Time passed, and one by one, the ponies left to find places to sleep.

Nightmare sat, letting Star sleep under a wing. She felt content, peaceful, it was strange. She let her hoof stroke Star’s mane, wondering what the future would bring.

Finally, the last of Luna’s magic faded, she could speak to Cadance freely. She looked up to see Cadance looking at her. Nightmare carefully stood, lovingly lifting Star in her aura. She added just a little magic to help Star stay asleep. Sleep well. Nightmare thought.

She slowly approached Cadance and wrapped a wing around her. “Do you know how to tend to an Alicorns leylines?” Nightmare asked, planting her first seed.

Cadance looked confused but returned the embrace. “With the normal healing spells for the type of leyline, right?”

Nightmare sighed, she was enjoying the warmth, but it seemed her hated sister was at it again.

“What is your Bastion like?” Nightmare asked.

“You mean in the Empire?”

“So they kept things from you as well,” Nightmare said smiling sadly. “I expected as much.”

Nightmare pulled away from the hug and slowly made her way from the room, humming to her daughter.

Sister, what are you doing? If I wanted to, I could take her for my own. What advantage can you possibly gain by leaving her so vulnerable? She remembered how cold she had felt during her imprisonment on the moon. Do you even know what family is?

She glanced around, making sure they were alone then asked the Tree to take them to their room.

CH 17 Tears of the Sun

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Celestia sat in her mental garden, looking at her game board. This was a bad situation, Twilight was not her foe, but could no longer be counted to be the unwavering ally she was just a week ago. Here, where nopony could see her, she had let her tears fall, their trails still visible on her coat.

The whole of Twilight’s rant kept going through her mind. Those last two words stuck like daggers to her heart. ‘Please leave.’ Her tone had just been so heartbroken. Twilight was no monster; she was just a hurt filly whose world had been shattered.

She had gone out hoping to rescue her Twilight, ready to heal her, and fearing she would have to end her. The one thing Celestia was not prepared for was a sane but angry Twilight, That now might hate her for all eternity.

“She was not meant to find out for at least ten more years. How could this happen?” Celestia slumped, resting her head on the table, a few game pieces fell and rolled to the grass. Years of preparation wasted. She lamented the loss of the journey of discovery she had planned for her former student.

“Even with everything that happened, she is still an overachiever,” Daybreaker said pushing Twilight’s game piece towards her.

“How do I keep failing my students?”

“You did not; she is strong; she is willing to stand up to you. She is ready and able to defend her ponies. She is almost everything you wanted.” Daybreaker said, her gaze challenging Celestia to disagree.

Celestia looked at the figure of Twilight, recalling every cut she used to shape it, every stroke of the brush as she painted it. Her creation was perfect, lifelike in detail, a true masterpiece.

The smallest tilt of her head and the figure shifted, Celestia's eyes now seeing the mare she knew so well. The Garden faded as her mind drifted into the past. She thought back to every lesson and each kind word, all the hints subtly placed and the delicately crafted situations. Everything deliberately done to encourage her to grow. Twilight was her masterpiece, and she was nearly perfect.

Daybreaker's voice shattered the image. “You still need to find out about the blood magic and how she survived.”

“It can wait," Celestia said her tone flat. She wanted nothing more than to return to her memories. A small lavender filly nestled under a wing, listening with rapt attention to the latest lesson. The joy that lit up in Twilight's eyes when she spoke just three words. My faithful student.

“Are you sure?” Daybreaker was insistent.

Celestia sighed. “No… I will ask Luna to find out, or perhaps Cadance will have more luck.” Celestia sat up back into her noble bearing and restored the position of everything on her grand game board.

“Remember, nopony taught her how to manifest Crystal Armour, and she displayed vast improvement in control of her Alicorn power compared to when you last saw her. Not to mention that young filly, now we know she is not Twilight.”

Leaving my Mask behind to deal with things in Canterlot had been a mistake, She thought. She knew It left her acting far too emotional.

She would find what answers she could, a goal in mind, she acted. With a wave of her hoof, a stone arch rose from the ground. Within its span, last night’s meeting replayed. Celestia leaned closer, watching them even from a more detached perspective, rather than merely remembering it.

Celestia watched as her past self appeared from her teleport.

Past Celestia stood by the external entrance to the Map Room in Twilight’s home. Her eyes found Twilight and widened with hope. Twilight was covered in bandages, her horn was blackened and had freshly healed cracks in it. For an Alicorn to be this injured for this long spoke of extraordinary violence being inflicted upon them.

“Twilight?” Her past self’s voice was full of hope.

Twilight body tensed slightly, her ears flicked and eyes widen in panic for a moment. “Prin… Celestia.”

“I am so glad to see you safe, if unfortunately not unharmed,” Past Celestia said her horn lit with all the spells she feared she might need reaching for a scroll as cover.

Twilight’s eyes tightened slightly, glancing at past Celestia’s horn for only a moment timed between blinks.

“Her observational skills have vastly improved,” Daybreak commented.

Crystal Armour flashed into place effectively warding Twilight from any spells the other Elements would survive being in the same room as.

Everypony just stood still in a mix of shock and surprise. Past Celestia was unsure what to do, that Armour had just denied most of her available options that would leave the building standing. Past Celestia’s face changed; she was just about to speak.

Twilight acted first. "You will not use more Mind magic on me," She bellowed in the RCV, flaring her wings and jutting her chest out aggressively.

The voice was amplified with Alicorn power and air aspected magic. It pushed the other ponies back, if it was done by volume alone, everypony would have been bleeding from their ears.

“A perfect defensive move and then denying you a chance to explain yourself. She was in control of the situation even then.” Daybreaker said.

“With what she feared I might do, it was an expected response.”

“Too well-timed if you ask me, she was trying to keep you off balance, she was wearing away at your position and setting up for what she would reveal later.”

“How certain are you?”

“Not as much as I would want to be to take action… but be aware it is a very real possibility.”

"What in tarnation are you talking about, sugercube?" Applejack was the first to speak.

"So Celestia, why are at least half the spell forms in your horn to do with mind control and memory alterations?"

Rarity’s eyes widened as soon as spell forms were mentioned. The others only reacted when mind control came up.

"What the hay?" Rainbow blurted out. "We just get Twilight back, and you're going to zap her in the brain?"

“Don’t be silly that’s Dizz’s trick, you need your own Princess.” Pinkie said.

“Comparing us to Discord, how unflattering,” Daybreaker spat.

“Keep your comments relevant, please.”

The Elements lined up in front of Twilight, clearly in a protective line. Even Fluttershy terrified as she was, stood strong.

Past Celestia put on concerned smile number six and spoke. "One of the possibilities I was worried about was that Twilight was affected by dark magic. I was only ready in case somepony had compelled her to attack us, or worse"

Applejack watched Celestia very carefully before turning to Twilight "She ain't lying Twilight,"

"Forgive me for being a little on edge, with everything that happened, it is hard even to be sure any of this is real." Twilight returned to a neutral stance, but the motion was slowed by more than her injured body.

“She was still expecting to have to fight you then, look at how she is holding her barrel.” Daybreaker pointed with her hoof. “And the line of the muscles in her back left leg.”

“She was ready to drop and roll to the side, placing the table between us.”

Daybreaker Nodded.

“Why did you not tell me at the time?”

Daybreaker shrugged. “I did not notice; I was on guard for what magic she might use. At the time, I was not expecting a purely physical defence. That is not something your 'Faithful' Student has been trained in.”


"Err… Twilight if you don’t mind telling us. What did you mean by more mind magic?" Fluttershy's voice was so quiet but firm. It was clear this was a point she was not going to back down from. Her eyes were just a bit more intense than normal.

Twilight nervously looked to Celestia. Her body-language cycled through a mix of fear, panic, calculation and possibly regret. "I am not sure I should tell you, I don't think you want to know," Twilight said, looking back to her friends, hesitation on her face.

“Honesty is the best policy, you know that Twilight.” Applejack said, placing her hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. In a soft whisper meant only to be heard by Twilight, she added, “We are here for you.”

Twilight nodded to Applejack in thanks. Something changed in her eyes, Twilight’s resolve hardened and her body straightened “Girls, you never met the original Twilight, she died long before I came to Ponyville.”

“If Applejack had not said that, we could have had a quiet conversation and dealt with this peacefully,” Celestia said, voice full of regret.

“I am not so sure; I believe she was playing Applejack, leading her to say something like that. She was setting up her verbal attack on you, framing it perfectly so her friends would side with her, no questions asked.”

“Are you always so untrusting?” Celestia asked.

Daybreaker smiled proudly. “It was one of the tasks you made me for, so you could always look for the good in each pony.”

Twilight pointed her hoof at past Celestia. The motion so forceful, it seemed like she was commanding an attack. “You murdered Twilight's children and used the remains to craft your own patchwork filly. Your own perfect tool, just to save your sister.”

The Elements all reacted with horror, Rainbow's masked with righteous anger.

“Children.” Fluttershy whimpered and by the looks of it almost fainted.

Rainbows eyes shifting to hate as they aimed at past Celestia, her body tensing readying for violence, wind aspected magic gathering along the edges of her wings.

“You are going to have to watch out for that one; she is a hothead.” Daybreaker commented.

Celestia looked to her Warmind. “Like you?”

Daybreaker let her fangs show. “Yes, and if she were not a potential foe at this time, I would go back to trying to get you to bed her.”

“She is mortal.” Celestia protected.

A sneer crosser Daybreaker’s muzzle. “So? You always liked the fast flyers, and you don't see that stopping Luna.”

“She loves loosely, but I can not.” Celesita did her best to displace none of her regret.

“Then let me, you can just enjoy the experience.” Daybreaker said a hint of lust flavouring her words.

“No.” Celestia’s response was as cold as the frozen north.

“Fine, we will just wait for the perfect Alicorn stallion to ask for your hoof in marriage then,” Daybreaker said before mumbling. “It is not like Alicron stallions are uncommon or anything.”

Celestia turned her attention back to the memory.

Twilight advanced her hoof slamming into the floor; the sound boomed loudly around the room. “What did you think would happen when I found my Library? What did you think would happen when I had a chance to see the aftermath of your magic, of what you did to the original Twilight?”

Twilight glared at past Celestia hints of flame in her eyes as actual fire flowed along her mane.“Those chains are sharp, they hurt, but you would not know that, would you? You are the only Alicorn that is free of them, right?”

“It was the only way to save Twilight…”

Celestia winced at her weak response, if she was not so off-balance, she might have been able to control the situation. But her own words had set Twilight off instead.

“Save her? Save her! She was already gone! All you did was kill her children to make a copy,” Twilight screamed, Her trembling arks of rage-filled lightning danced over her feathers only one act away from throwing a powerful blast at past Celestia.

“Ancient pegasus lighting shaping now? I know Twilight reads a lot but is this not getting just a bit suspicious, your Radiance? Daybreaker asked with a touch of scorn.

“I will admit I did not see the slight twist of her wings then,” Celestia said. “But when she became an Alicorn she read every book she could get her hooves on that had anything to do with the abilities of the three tribes.”

“That still leaves the question of the Armour.” Daybreaker said reinforcing her suspicion.

Celestia considered the facts for a moment. “She could have read about it in the Empire.”

“We need to purge that Library of any restricted books.” Daybreaker decreed.

“Hard to arrange.” Celestia mused.

Daybreak shrugged her wings. “Then task Luna and her Nightguards with it. They are most suited to the work.”

Celestia nodded.

“They all would have died in days!” Past Celestia shouted back. “It was the only way to save anything, to save anypony, to save you from that disaster.” she ended in a solemn whisper, tears shimmering in her eyes but refusing to fall.

Celestia looked expression falling. “I should not have raised my voice… that was my last chance to keep her.”

“How can I trust you are even telling the truth?” Twilight asked. “You, messed, with, my, mind!” She advanced one step with each word; her thundering hoof falls cracking the floor.

Twilight and past Celestia stood looking into each other's eyes as if they were the only two in the room. With Twilight radiating Alicorn power, it may as well have been true for nopony else was capable of acting.

“Is that how you feel, my…”

“Don’t you dare!”


Twilight stomped her hoof a ripple of earthpony magic rippling out from it. “You say being a Princess requires making the hard choices, you are right. The thing you have to remember is that each choice has consequences. I am yet to make my mind up what they should be for you.”


“Don’t worry ‘Princess’,” Twilight said with venom.

Celestia could see the hate in those eyes, a wave of blazing anger visible just for a moment before Twilight got control of herself once more. She went on in a more normal tone. “I will still play my part. I will protect Equestria, my ponies, and my friends.”

“Duty first, despite how she might feel about you. You should be proud of her; you raised her well,” Daybraker said.

Twilight turned her back on past Celestia, letting all of her displays of power fade. She walked away limping, the strain on Twilights injured body now showing, she looked like a Breezy could push her over now.

“Please leave.” The tone was dejected, heartbroken, betrayed.

Celestia ended the memory, fresh tears falling from her eyes. Those final two words were jagged in her heart.

“The petitioner you wish to see is here, your Radiance.” Her Mask's voice was as flat and emotionless as always in this mental space.

Celestia looked away from the frozen memory, noting that she was pressed against Daybreaker sheltering under her wing.

“Go, you have work to do,” Daybreaker said using a wingtip to wipe the remaining tears from her eyes.

Celestia nodded, it only took a single thought, and she was in her throne room, back in control of her body. Her Mask directing her body language and regulating her tone of voice to precisely what she intended.

Once more she was Princess Celestia, the majestic ruler of the sun. The Princess spoke, her voice clear and pure, carrying the warmth and confidence that had guided ponies for millennia. “Noble Guide, you may approach. The Solar Throne is ready to hear your petition.”

Standing before her was a handsome, well-dressed unicorn stallion. His black mane matched his brown coat. His mark was a map with trails marked on it.

She listened to him speak, taking in his long-winded words. The petition Noble Guide had was a pleasant surprise, and hence, she was looking for the trick. His request was utterly selfless. It was a plan to build a semi-permanent settlement for the Manehatten ponies and later maintain for possible future need. Adding to her doubt was the fact this was just what her ponies needed right now.

His breathing was calm; his expression spoke of sincerity. Celestia studied him intently, every gesture, every motion of his body, the flicks of his ears and change in his gaze. There was nothing to give her any reason to doubt him. This is too good to be true. Daybreaker commented Celestia agreed.

As the conversation continued, she extended her Alicorn senses taking in everything about him. She could feel his wellspring, examining his very soul. It was pure, free of both dark and blood magic. He was strongly earth aspected, and unfortunately his life was fading. He had at most three years left. Does he know? Is he seeking to leave a legacy? She wondered with a hint of sadness.

You have to be sure. Daybreaker instructed.

Gazing deeper into his very being with her mystic vision, Celestia looked into his mind. Compared to an immortal's, his mind was a simple thing. His mind felt neat, tidy, organised. It would be easy to reach in and alter it to her whim.

She examined his intent; it was simple and bright. He wanted to help the ponies for two reasons. The first because it was the right thing to do. Celestia instructed her Mask to let a little more eagerness show. The second reason was not unexpected but was what kept so many of her ponies from being great. Noble Guide wanted the influence such an achievement would grant him. Such a shame, you are nearly the pony I need on my council. She thought.

Celestia knew she could change him, but she would not. He was doing the right thing, for, mostly, the right reason. She had no justification for meddling.

Out of grim curiosity, she peaked for one more fact. No, he did not know that he is dying. She would not tell him, somethings it was better for her ponies not to know. Perhaps I will name a charity after him, it could encourage others to follow his example. She thought.

She let her Mask smile, she would approve his petition. Now all she had to do was wait the hours for him to finish talking.

With hope restored that at least some of her nobles had value, she was feeling a little better. Her emotions had calmed, the familiar traditions of the court bringing her some measure of peace. Still, it was dull, and she had more important things to focus on.

Twilight, what am I going to do with you. Celestia thought as she retreated back to her garden, leaving her Mask to be the Princess once more.

CH 18 Little Star’s morning in Ponyville 

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Trotting through her mother’s castle, Star made her way to the kitchen. Assuming this was real and not just the best dream ever, she had a mission. She pinched her self with her magic, it still hurt.

‘Sixteen’ times you have checked to see if you are dreaming. Grey added.

A part of her still could not believe it, she was her Princess’ daughter, she was going to get wings. Making everything just that much better she had an Aunt and Uncle. Last night was so much fun, the games, all the new ponies. Her face was starting to ache due to how much she had been smiling.

She ran a hoof along the crystal walls, the contact making her feel safe, protected despite being nearly on her own. Her mother was still asleep, as were all the good ponies she had met last night.

Focusing her attention on the incomplete group picture of all of them floating in her aura as she trotted on paying no attention to where she was going. Grey’s familiar voice counting down the steps until the next turning ensuring she could not get lost. Allowing her to keep most of her attention on the lines she inked on to the paper. Her mother seemed so happy with them, she was making sure it would be her best work. Her mother deserved a gift for being the best.

Yes, she could have just asked the spirit in the tree to take her straight there, but she did not want to wake her up in case she was also sleeping in. What would a Crystal Tree spirit want for a gift? Star wondered.

‘Zero.’ Grey announced as Star arrived in the kitchen. Her magic reached out for the tools needed to complete her mission.

‘Eight’ ponies that would appreciate having breakfast ready when they awaken. Grey’s familiar monotone voice informed her.

“Aunty, Uncle and Mummy’s friends,” Star said, applying hoof to face. “It would be mean to only cook for Mummy.”

Grey provided a numbered count of how many ponies would want what dish for breakfast.

“We make a great team, Grey,” Star said setting to work, her aura enveloping most the cookware in the kitchen.

Prancing around, she danced with the many things she was manipulating with her magic. She relished the freedom and joy that wielding her magic gave her. It was nice being able to use it when she did not have Bad Ponies to deal with.

She playfully laughed as the white glow of Grey’s aura took control of a few things, the items moving to block and chase hers. The dance rapidly becoming a game of magical tag. Items darted and weaved about, colour coded auras making it clear their allegiance. A few things got broken, smashed or dented, but it was nothing simple spells could not fix.

Breakfast took much longer to prepare than intended.

After the epic battle of the flying plates, Star had completed another mission, along with the needed clean up. She smiled, pulling some pieces of super-condensed Everfree wild heartwood from her extra-dimensional storage.

She lay everything out on the table, each chunk equally spaced. Two scrolls appeared next to them, her plans for her first pets. She lit her horn with the same modified cleaning spell use used to make an air hole in the great tree the wood had come from.

She diligently set to work, marking, measuring and cutting the pieces into the required shapes. It took time and focus. Oh, no. She thought as one disintegration beam cut too deep, rendering part of the tabletop to dust.

‘Five’ seconds until Cadance arrives. Grey’s helpfully informed Star.

“Thank you,” Star said. Her horn glowed as she twisted space, a slight clink and a plate of fresh pancakes and a cup of tea appeared. With a hoof, she pushed one of her scrolls over the mar in the table. I can fix it later.

Star was really getting to like the fact that you did not have to include the fourth dimension in extradimensional spaces. So no time would pass for anything within it. I am so going to fill one with Ice-Cream! She thought.

Perfectly in time with Grey’s countdown to zero, Star spoke, ambushing Cadance with her greeting. “Good morning Aunty Cadance,” Star said happily, lifting the prepared breakfast in her magenta aura. “Hungry?”

Cadance wings twitched, an instant later a warm smile graced her muzzle. “Good morning Little Star,” she said. She inhaled, eyes looking at the offered food in appreciation. “Oh, why thank you. Did you make them yourself.”

Star nodded. “Yep.”

“Where is yours? Little fillies need to eat to grow up big and strong,” Cadance said, moving over to the table and taking a seat.

“Right here,” Star said, moving aside her work with her aura. A twist of magic and Star’s food took its place on the table.

Cadance flinched slightly, placing a hoof to her horn.

Star looked at her in concern, her mind thinking about the medical books she read when tending to her mother. “Do you need a doctor?”

With a wave of her hoof and a smile, Cadance reassured Star. “It’s nothing, I’m still not as used to this thing as I could be.” She pointed at the Everfree wood as she started to eat her breakfast. “This is really good, thank you. What are you working on?”

“I’m making myself some pets,” Star said with pride.

“Making pets?” Cadance asked.

“Yes... well more like clever golems, but I’m calling them my pets.” She pointed at the Scrolls in turn. “That one is going to be Owlowiscious, and that one is going to be Spike.”

Cadance picked up both scrolls in her blue aura. “So Owlowiscious the owl and Spike, the dog?”

Little Star nodded. “Yep.”

Cadance looked thoughtful for a moment. “You might want to rename Spike, It might get a little confusing when Spike, the dragon your mother hatched, comes back.”

“Mummy lays eggs? Does that mean I will lay eggs too?” Star’s expression was a mix of confusion and worry.

Cadance’s laugh was soft and reassuring. “No, no, she just helped him hatch with her magic.”

“Does that make him like my brother?” Star asked with hopeful eyes. More family? She thought, wondering how many family members she had yet to meet,

“You will have to ask your mother,” Cadance dodged the question.

Star made a note on a scroll. “So is Thorn, all right for a name?”

‘Twenty-one’ seconds until your mother arrives. Grey informed Star.

Cadance nodded. “That should avoid confusion at least.”

Star started clearing another place on the table. “Mummy will be here soon.”

Cadance watched her, something about the look in her eyes made Star worry. What have I done wrong? She thought with panic.

Cadance expression changed in an instant, suddenly all warm concern and love. “Sorry,” she said in a soothing tone.” She pointed to her horn. “Not the best with this thing, I was trying to work out what spell your mother used to message you.”

“Oh, I have some… something that counts things for me, it let me know when she will be here. In, five, four, three, two, one.” Star teleported disappearing in a burst of light, appearing hugging a now started looking and still crystal-covered mother standing in the doorway.

“Good morning my Little Star,” her mother said, wrapping her in loving wings.

“I made everypony breakfast,” Star said, multiple flashes from her horn and both of them were sat at the table, her mother’s plate of Hay burgers in place.

Her mother smiled, hungry eyes fixing on the food as she licked her lips.

“Hay burgers for breakfast?” Cadance asked.

Star nodded, her mother did not seem to notice. Her mother’s eyes were fixed upon her prey.

“Twilight?” Cadance’s voice now held a little concern.

Twilight lowered her head and with a savage bite started to devour the food. Magenta aura and hooves held it in place, preventing any from escaping as the red sauce covered her muzzle.

Cadance laughed and nearly fell from her seat, Star joined in laughing. Mummys such a messy eater. She thought.

Pulling another scroll into the physical world with her magic, she started sketching, she would remember this forever.

Cadance leaned in close. “Never get between your mother and a hay burger.”

Star nodded in response. It really did look dangerous. Note to self, do not transmute anything or anypony I care about into a hay burger. She thought, just to be sure she also noted it down on a scroll.

Cadance let out a small laugh upon seeing what Star had written. “Twilight?” She tried again.

Twilight blinked and slowly looked around, confused. Her tongue and aura cleaned her muzzle, still leaving red splotches on her coat and in her mane. “Good morning, Cadance,” she said, sounding much more composed and respectable than her appearance would indicate.

Cadance horn lit and a plane of reflective crystal appeared before Twilight. “You missed a bit,” she said, trying her best not to laugh. She made no sound, but the shaking of her chest gave her away.

“They were… I just had to have them,” Twilight said, sounding sheepish.

“Well at least with that armour it will be easy to wash off,” Cadance said.

“About that, I would like your help to get rid of it.” Twilight said.

“But it looks pretty,” Star complained.

“Yes, it does have its charms,” Twilight said, looking at her body. “But as with all things, it has its downsides. It is tough to take a proper bath if the water can’t get to your coat.”

“Oh,” Star said.

“What do you need me to do?” Cadance asked.

Star smiled as her mother looked at her. Twilight smiled back as if to say everything will be alright before turning to Cadance.

“I require your aid in smashing this protection. I could ask Applejack, but I doubt she would agree to use enough force. After all, she is not familiar with how durable we Alicorns are.”

‘Zero’ percent chance of any lasting harm. Grey reassured Star before she could worry.

Cadance nodded.

“Will you be alright on your own for a little bit, my Little Star?” Her mother asked.

“Yes, Mummy, I can keep working on my pets.” Star pointed with her horn to the neatly laid out pieces of wood and scrolls.

“Very impressive, I look forward to seeing them once your work is complete,” Twilight said before pulling Star into a loving wing hug.

“See you soon,” Cadance said, hugging her after Twilight finished.

“Bye,” Star said, waving a hoof turning back to her pets, some assembly still required.

Both Alicorns made their way from the room. “About what you said last night…” Was the last Star heard of them before they got out of earshot.

Quickly she lifted the scrolls and cast a mending spell on the table.

‘One’ time you have gotten away with that. Star smiled at Grey’s words. Even with her mother off with Cadance, everything would be fine.

Finishing cutting the pieces did not take long, with all the rune work pre-planned she burned them into the surface with happy abandon.

Grey’s counting of every cut, every mark, how many times she had used each rune. All the numbers were just the normal background sounds of her life now. It was nice being able to tell the difference between the important numbers and the background numbers.

Picking up a single golden fork and a silver spoon she levitated them in the air, a simple shield spell forming around them. A ring of heat-reflecting wards appeared on the inside.

The glow around her horn changed from a steady light to a roiling magenta flame. Leaning forward, she pressed her horn against the shield, willing the flames to pass through it. The flames dripping through the magical barrier, reforming into an orb in the centre. One by one, the runes ringing the inner surface of the shield lit up, reflecting the heat and slightly amplifying the temperature.

“All components cut, check. Runes carved, check. Metal inlays, pending, still waiting on the metal to liquify. Create blood gems, I can do that instead of just waiting.”

Hopping up, she headed over to the kitchen side, grabbing a large bowl and the sharpest knife she could find. A small flash of magic and she and her tools were back at the table.

The knife hung in the air held in her aura. She only needed a little blood, but it was the most important component in crafting her golem cores. I could cast a numbing spell… Star thought before shaking her head. No that might contaminate the blood.

She placed two hoof sized diamonds in the bowl and held her lower-leg over it. Star trembled, the knife looked sharp, she knew this would hurt.

Blood magic can be used for good, and I’ll show you! The forceful thought pushed through her mind. Like the words she had spoken when saving her mother, she did not know where they came from. She only knew it strengthened her resolve.

The blade came down, and in a precise surgical strike, pain flared. Her body loyally reporting it had just been damaged. She closed her eyes, letting out a quiet whimper. Her body shook, but her foreleg held perfectly still.

Reaching into her wellspring, she grabbed a hoof full of her magic and directed it into her blood. Focusing internally the pain lessened.

A red glow breached her closed eyelids, slowly she opened them looking into the bowl. The two gems drank hungrily of the pooling blood, taking on an inner red radiance.

Despite the stinging pain, she smiled. There, not so bad. She thought.

The dripping blood slowed and stopped. Star blinked glancing at her foreleg. Her eyes widened as the wound finished closing. Well, that’s useful. She thought happily before looking at the bowl only being half full. Great now I have to do that again.

Gritting her teeth, she let the blade cut into her flesh, this time with no hesitation. The sounds of dripping blood seemed very familiar, almost soothing like Grey’s counting. The urge to count each drop herself and record it on a scroll nagged at the back of her mind. She ignored it, instead watching the wound and how it healed before her eyes. In less than a minute it was as if it was never there and she had a few sketches of her wound in various states of healing.

Star thought back to saving her mother, looking over her body, she could see no indications of where she had pressed against the searing hot armour. Her coat looked intact. Is this because of who my Mummy is? She thought.

‘Ninety-two’ seconds until you have company. Grey let her know, somehow she knew that meant all the other guests were turning up soon.

Star looked at the bowl, the gems were glowing a brilliant red now. She trusted Cadance and maybe Rarity to not mess with her work. The thought of what Pinkie Pie might do... Better safe than sorry. She thought, sending all the components, the now molten metal, the freshly created blood gems, and even the bowl and knife she used into her pocket.

Another flash of magic and food started appearing on the table, each one with a little note saying who it was for. She looked at her somewhat messy appearance. I need to make sure I’m all clean. No blood or any traces of the epic battle of the flying plates are to be left. She thought.

Quietly, so as not to wake her if she was asleep. Star asked the Tree Spirit to take her back to her room. Luckily the Tree was awake.

Not that long later, Star returned and was almost at the kitchen.

“Pinkie!” Rainbows annoyed voice made Star stop.

“Yes?” Pinkie answered, by the sound of it, she was bouncing around the room. The strange sound she made still making Star’s eyes twitch at the impossibility of it.

“Darling, I think what Rainbow is trying to express, is that somepony clearly went to the trouble of preparing a personalised meal plan for each of us…”

“And you ate all of it,” Rainbow grumbled.

“But it looked so tasty.”

All that work for nothing. Star’s heart fell.

‘One’ time Princess Cadance has enjoyed your cooking. Grey interjected into Star’s gloomy thoughts.

‘One’ time your mother looked silly, eating your hay burgers. Grey continued, Star laughed remembering it.

“Ok, so not a complete waste of time.”

Uncle Shiny leaned around the corner. “Hey good morning...” He was cut off by Star’s Teleport hug.

“Morning Uncle Sleepy Shiny,” She said.

Shining smiled and ruffled her mane as he returned the hug. “Not everypony has your youthful energy, do you know where Aunty Cadance is.”

Star struggled playfully. “She’s helping Mummy stop being all shiny.”

Pink filled her vision. “Don’t be silly, he’s Shiny, your Mummy’s all Sparkly.”

Star jumped before recovering. Her eyes narrowed as she stomped her little hoof. “And you’re a meany pants who ate everyponies’ food.”

“But it was so tasty.” Pinkie pleaded with puppy eyes and a quivering lip.

Star’s expression shifted to thoughtful. “Are you a foal that somepony used an age spell on?” She asked, entirely serious.

Rainbows laughter exploded from inside the kitchen.

“Pinkie’s just Pinkie, Sugercube.” Applejack said, coming round the corner.

‘Four’ seconds until your mother comes around the corner.

Forewarned by Grey, Star looked down the corridor. “Mummy!” she said before launching into another Teleport hug.

Twilight laughed and wrapped both wings around her. “So, how have you been my Little Star,” she asked, leaning down and nuzzling her.

Star had to admit the hugs felt much warmer with the pretty crystal gone. “Fine… I got a lot of work done on my pets. The only bad thing was that Pinkie ate all the food I made for everypony else.”

Fluttershy looked to Star with interest at the mention of pets.

“That mare…” Twilight growled almost inaudibly.

“Then we shall just have to eat out, my treat,” Cadance spoke from slightly behind Twilight.

Walking outside without the Notice-Me-Not spell made Star want to hide. She did not, she would be brave. Mummy is right here and so is Aunty Cadance. She thought taking comfort in the Alicorns looking after her. She teleported, sheltering on her mother’s back.

Uncle Shiny seemed like he would try to protect me, but like me, he is only a unicorn.

Star waved and smiled at everypony, showing that she was nice. But not many were paying attention to her. Nearly all eyes were on Twilight. It seemed like everypony in town wanted to personally greet her mother. They were all glad to see her, all overjoyed she was still alive. Mummy is the best, who would not be happy she is alive? She thought, trying not to think about the Bad Ponies.

As their progress was slow, Star teleported away. Her goal, to do some of the food shopping for the next few days.

Arriving in the shop in a burst of magic, she set straight to work. Lifting her intended purchases in her aura. “Hello, nice day. Can I have these, please?” The merchant jumped at her sudden appearance and just looked at her, stunned. “OK… Here are the bits, thank you, bye.” She said, and then in another burst of light was gone.

This is so much easier when I don’t need to hide. She thought. Putting her new purchases in her pocket. Blinking back to the group, she caught the end of a conversation.

“Just how powerful is she?” Shining asked.

“About twice as powerful as I was, before these,” Her mother waved her wings, then glanced to Star smiling.

Her mother’s friends were giving her a strange look, she was unsure whether to feel proud or hide. Another teleport and Star was back on her mother’s back.

“Definitely part of the family then,” Shining said, with a goofy grin.

“And what can you do that’s that awesome then?” Rainbow asked with a wink.

“Not much, just put a shield over all of Canterlot for days,” Shining answered.

“Unless a Cha…” Pinkie started.

“We don’t want to spoil breakfast, now do we, darling?” Rarity interrupted.

Cadance gave a grateful nod to Rarity. Pinkie looked at Rarity with deadly seriousness. “This is brunch, silly.”

Rainbow groaned. “Maybe for you,” she muttered.

As the group approached and their destination became clear to the ponies around them, a commotion started up ahead. Star watched as the restaurant’s staff fussed and ran around like mad. They clearly had not expected such a group to descend upon their establishment. Two princesses, maybe three if she counted as one. A prince, the Elements of Harmony, whatever they were.

All the staff directed them to their seats while three new ponies joined them, Applejacks and Raritys sisters, Applebloom and Sweetie Bell respectively. The last new pony was Scootaloo, she seemed to be Rainbow’s almost-sister.

The younger ponies were all to be seated together. Star Teleported to claim the seat that also put her beside her mother before anypony else could.

“You can teleport?” Sweetie asked.

Star nodded, “It’s easy.”

“Can you teach me?” Sweetie enthused.

Star looked at her, “Do you know what your magic is aspected with?”

Sweetie’s face looked blank. “What?”

“To be able to teleport, you need to be able to cast Astral Aspected magic.” Star helpfully explained.

“Oh, can I?” Sweetie still sounded confused.

Little Star straightened her pose and got ready to start a magic lesson, she got as far as opening her mother before she was cut off.

“Enough magic talk, why do you look like a smaller Twilight?” Scootaloo declared.

“She’s my Mummy,” Star said, sitting taller with pride.

“You sure your not some sort of clone here to take her place?” Scootaloo leaned in, only to be pushed back by Sweetie Bell’s aura.

“I don’t think…” Star started.

“So Twilight’s your mother… whos your father?” Sweetie Bell chimed in.

“Father…” Star said thinking. Who is my father? She did not know, Star’s expression started to turn sad, her eyes began to shimmer slightly.

“How did you get your cutiemark?” Applebloom asked quickly changing the subject.

Star looked at her flank. “I have always had it.” She shrugged, still sounding a little hollow.

“How is that fair,” Scootaloo mumbled. Star thought she sounded very much like Rainbow.

“So you don't got a cutiemark story?” Applebloom asked.

Star shook her head, “No.”

Applebloom piped up with excitement. “Do you know what it means? Us three started the Cutie Mark Crusaders to discover our marks. Now that we have them, we going round helping ponies find theirs.”

“Or help ponies that are in need of advice about what their Mark means.” Sweetie added.

“Can you help me?” Star’s voice was small. She had no father, did not know how she got her mark. It felt like there was a hollow deep inside of her, empty and yearning to be filled.

“Sure can,” Applebloom said,

“So What’re you good at?” Scootaloo asked.

“Magic?” Star asked hesitantly, she could feel something building in her wellspring. “My special talent is magic,” Star said with pride, pushing her chest out. She grinned as the fact slid home in her mind. Unbidden words came to her. “My name is Little Star, and my special talent is Magic. I’m going to prove there is no such thing as bad magic.”

A strange ripple of magic emanated from both Cadance and her mother. It was odd, she did not feel it in her horn, it was like her entire body vibrated. Star looked up from her food, now ignoring the banter between the other ponies. Did I cause that? No, it came from them. She thought.

Cadance eyes were wide and looking straight at Twilight. Quickly she schooled her expression back to normal.

“Welcome to a little of the truth,” Twilight said so quietly no pony else seemed to react. Her mother’s lips seemed to not move.

“You really wanted to?” Cadance asked. Now Star was paying attention she could sense the air magic being used to make the sound. It was almost entirely concealed by the strengths of their wellsprings.

Twilight nodded the slightest amount.

Cadance looked at Star with just the smallest motion of her eyes. “You can hear us?” she said for only the three of them to hear.

Star copied her mother’s stealth nod. This is just like being in a spy comic. She thought. It only took her moments to work out how to duplicate their method of talking. “What was that spell?” she asked nearly silently.

Cadance raised an eyebrow, it was enough to get Shining’s attention.

Her mother gave her that special proud smile Star loved seeing so much, draping a wing around her in a one wing hug. “Something I will teach you once you have your wings, my Little Star.”

A new spell! Star’s mind exclaimed. It was not just any new spell, it was a super-secret Alicorn spell.

Speaking again at normal volume, her mother asked. “So have you been making new friends?”

Star looked at the three ponies she had been talking to. “Maybe?” She said to her mother. “Would you like to be friends?” She asked the Crusaders.

A mix of loud positive responses blended together. Star smiled. I have more friends. Star thought. “Can we go play?” She asked.

“Do you have your helmet?” Her mother asked.

In a flash of magic said item was upon her head.

“That’s cool, not as cool as Rainbow Dash, but still cool,” Scootaloo said.

Twilight looked around her friends, Star watched the responses of the older ponies.

“Be careful, and make sure you are all home before dark,” Rarity said.

Star nodded “Will do, Bye, everypony,” She said with cheer. She lit her horn and in a flash of magic, Star and her three new friends were gone.

Star lost the rest of the day spending time with her new friends. She was told teleporting was cheating when playing tag. Apparently so was using shields or turning invisible. Star was really going to have to teach Sweetie more spells so they could play Magic tag.

She found out how much fun could be had with creative uses of the Come-To-Life spell. Unfortunately she also found out how hard it was to get things back under control when you follow the CMC’s suggestions on what instructions to give them. Now she had added a new scroll to her collection containing a long list of things not to do with that spell. First on the list is anything the CMC suggests will be fun.

Her last lesson was how hard it was to wash tree-sap out of your coat. That was not a fun lesson.

On her way home, she very carefully avoided the crowd petitioning the mayor to ban her favourite spell within Ponyville.

She smiled at the ink drawing she hand created of all for of them smiling in a group hug, everypony’s names signed along the bottom.

Today was a great day. She thought, her aura opening the door to the Crystal Tree Castle.

CH 19 Alicorn Lessons

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Waking from her three hours, spell enforced, sleep Cadance was wide awake. The familiar restless feeling drove her to seek the skies. Nuzzling her still soundly asleep Shining, she quietly left the room. Lifting part of her weight with her pegasus magic leaving her hooves nearly silent. She was only going for an early morning flight, it would not do to wake anypony else up.

Silently she made her way to the kitchen on her way out.

Sudden motion startled her; Luna’s lesson crashed back in her mind. Her body tensed, ready to leap away and lash out if her attacker followed.

“Good morning Aunty Cadance,” Star said happily, a plate of pancakes in a magenta aura. “Hungry?”

Cadance restrained herself, the only sign that she almost reacted to a little foal as if she was an assassin, was the twitch of her wings.

She smiled warmly. She made me breakfast, how adorable. “Good morning, Little Star.” She breathed in the scent of the food, it was good, almost as good as Celestia’s. “Oh, why thank you. Did you make them yourself.”

Star nodded. “Yep.” Cadance could almost taste the joy coming off of Star. If the pancakes had been horrible lumps of charcoal, she would have eaten them and said they were the nicest ever, just to keep her happy.

“Where is yours? Little fillies need to eat to grow up big and strong,” Cadance said, moving over to the table and taking a seat.

“Right here,” Star said, moving aside her work with her aura.

A painful shiver when through her horn. Placing a hoof to it, she hoped to ease the sensation.

“Do you need a doctor?” Star said, her heart radiating concern. Star is so earnest I don’t even need to use my senses, she's practically yelling her emotions at me.

Waving her hoof and putting on her best smiles, Cadance answered. “It’s nothing, I’m still not as used to this thing as I could be.”

The strange bits of wood and complicated looking scrolls caught her attention. “This is really good, thank you. What are you working on?” She said, indicating the items with her hoof.

“I’m making myself some pets,” Star said with pride.

How do you make pets? She thought, mentally shrugging she just asked. “Making pets?”

“Yes... well more like clever golems, but I’m calling them my pets.” She pointed at the Scrolls in turn. “That one is going to be Owlicious, and that one is going to be Spike.”

Cadance picked up both scrolls in her blue aura. She very carefully did not smile at the mark cut into the table under one of them. She knew something was up when everything else on the table was perfectly lined up, apart from one scroll.

“So Owlicious the owl and Spike, the dog?” Cadance could not help but know the name choice. “You might want to rename Spike, It might get a little confusing when Spike, the dragon your mother hatched, comes back.”

Cadance carefully placed the scrolls back exactly where she had found them. This can be our little secret. She thought with amusement.

“Mummy lays eggs? Does that mean I will lay eggs too?” Star’s expression was a mix of confusion and worry.

Cadance’s laugh was soft and reassuring. “No, no, she just helped him hatch with her magic.”

“Does that make him like my brother?” Star asked with hopeful eyes.

Cadance could feel the yearning, Star very much wanted her to say yes. “You will have to ask your mother,” she said, making a note to bring the subject up with Twilight later.

Star made a note on a scroll. “So is Thorn, all right for a name?”

Nodding Cadance answered. “That should avoid confusion at least.”

Star’s magic set to work clearing more space on the table. “Mummy will be here soon.”

The way she said it, the sudden cheer and certainty. It was as if somepony had just told her. Extending and focusing her senses Cadance could detect nopony else nearby. Was it some sort of spell? She considered.

A wave of panic came from Star, Cadance looked to Star smiling tenderly. “Sorry,” she said in a soothing tone.” She pointed to her horn. “Not the best with this thing, I was trying to work out what spell your mother used to message you.”

“Oh, I have some… something that counts things for me, it let me know when she will be here. In, five, four, three, two, one.” Star teleported disappearing in a burst of light, appearing and hugging a now startled looking and still crystal-covered Twilight.

She was going to say somepony. Cadance was sure of it, she felt Star’s concern when she changed her words but did not have time to tell who she was concerned for.

“Good morning, my Little Star,” Twilight said, wrapping her in loving wings.

Oh, they are just so adorable, I wish I had a camera. Cadance mentally squeed.

“I made everypony breakfast,” Star said, multiple flashes from her horn and both of them were sat at the table, her mother’s plate of Hayburgers in place.

Cadance did her best to hide the discomfort that shot through her horn. What am I going to do? Both of them love their teleports and pockets spells so much. She was really getting annoyed with this problem, it seemed to get worse every year.

“Hayburgers for breakfast?” Cadance asked, looking to Star in slight judgment.

Star nodded, without the slightest hint of doubt at the choice.

Looking to Twilight for a comment, she paused. Twilight’s eyes were fixed upon the hayburgers as if she was a predator, and they were her prey. For a moment, it seemed like her eyes were slightly slitted.

“Twilight?” Cadance’s voice now held a little concern.

Twilight lowered her head and with a savage bite started to devour the food with feral savagery.

The sight of bits of food going flying only to be pulled back buy Twilight's aura, and the red sauce splattering her muzzle was too much. Cadance laughed, having to flap her wings to avoid falling from the chair.

Seeing Star start drawing on a scroll recording Twilight ‘the mighty slayer of Hayburgers’ nearly set her off again. Holding her composure, she leaned over to Star. “Never get between your mother and a hayburger,” Cadance said in her best mock warning tone.

Star nodded, writing on a scroll ‘Note to self, do not transmute anything or anypony I care about into a hayburger.’ Cadance let out a small laugh.

Now that the beast was fed, she tried again. “Twilight?”

Twilight blinked and slowly looked around, confused. Her tongue and aura cleaned her muzzle, still leaving red splotches on her coat and in her mane. “Good morning, Cadance,” she said, sounding much more composed and respectable than her appearance would indicate.

Cadance horn lit and a plane of reflective crystal appeared before Twilight. “You missed a bit,” she said, trying her best not to laugh.

“They were… I just had to have them,” Twilight said, sounding sheepish.

“Well at least with that armour it will be easy to wash off,” Cadance said.

“About that, I would like your help to get rid of it.”

“But it looks pretty,” Star complained, radiating regret.

“Yes, it does have its charms,” Twilight said, looking at her body. “But as with all things, it has its downsides. It is tough to take a proper bath if the water can’t get to your coat.”

“Oh,” Star said.

“What do you need me to do?” Cadance asked.

Star smiled as her mother looked at her. Twilight smiled back as if to say everything will be alright before turning to Cadance.

“I require your aid in smashing this protection. I could ask Applejack, but I doubt she would agree to use enough force. After all, she is not familiar with how durable we Alicorns are.”

Cadance nodded, she knew she was stronger than Applejack, so anticipated no problems.

“Will you be alright on your own for a little bit, my Little Star?” Twilight asked, looking lovingly at Star.

“Yes, Mummy, I can keep working on my pets.” Star pointed with her horn to the neatly laid out pieces of wood and scrolls.

“Very impressive, I look forward to seeing them once your work is complete,” Twilight said before pulling Star into a loving wing hug.

“See you soon,” Cadance said, stealing a hug, If she could eat love, she would not need to eat for the rest of her life from that one hug. Star hugged with everything she had, both physically and emotionally.

“Bye,” Star said, waving a hoof, turning back to her pets, some assembly still required.

The pair of Alicorns made their way out of the kitchen. Cadance waited until they were out of earshot before speaking. “About what you said last night, I want to know what you were talking about.”

Twilight looked over her shoulder at Cadance. “Has your aunty, given you a talk about needing to go through a trial?”

Cadance nodded. “She said I was not to speak to anypony about it, she was very insistent.”

“As you are here, I can assume you were… successful. Might I ask what trial?” Twilight asked. Something about Twilight’s tone was off, a little too cold for her Sister-in-Law.

“Trial of the Path, she called it.”

Twilight turned to face her. “Indeed? She left your survival to pure chance,” Twilight said anger flaring as her eyes narrowed dangerously. Letting her eyes close and placing a hoof on her chest, she performed the breathing exercises Cadance remembered teaching her.

Calmer, Twilight continued. “I was not expecting her to take such a risk with her niece. Well, you at least you have the luck of the Stars with you, few survive without preparation.”

“Celestia did not put it quite that way, she said it was the gateway between being a mortal and an immortal Alicorn.”

“She let you… if it was not for…” a snarl left Twilight muzzle. “She left you in a position you could have died. Well… if she is not going to look after you, I will.” Her eyes lit with determination.

“Have you been through your Trial?” Cadance asked

“Trial of the Thorn,” she answered, pointing a hoof at her chest. “The loving princess of the sun drove a sword through right here.”

Cadance winced, hearing her domain taken in vain like that hurt. Luna said you were scared of Celestia, I just wish you hadn’t replaced that fear with hatred.

Magenta aura parted Twilight’s coat showing a neat scar. “She even left me with a permanent reminder.” Twilight turned to continue on their journey. “Come, there are things you shall learn,” Twilight commanded in a tone that brock no disagreement. To Cadance’s well-trained ears, it sounded like Twilight was trying her best to sound like Luna.

Cadance watched her go for a moment before following. She even has Luna’s imperious stride down. Has she changed her role model to Luna now?

She followed Twilight keeping her silence for a few minutes, the sound of their hooves on the Crystal floor the only thing for company. Looking around, she did not recognise this part of the castle.

Recalling the connection she had seen between Celestia and Twilight, Cadance knew that Celestia loved Twilight. What would bring you to do these things to your almost-daughter, Aunty? She thought.

“Twilight?” Cadance asked, hoping she was not about to anger Twilight further.

“You have questions,” Twilight stated not even looking back. “Ask them.”

That is not how Twilight normally speaks. She thought as she asked her question. “Why is the trial necessary?”

Twilight let out a long sigh. “If I am to teach you, I will not start with half-truths.” Her horn lit, a sound blocking barrier flashing into existence around them both. “One only truly becomes an Alicorn after passing a trial, beforehoof you are merely a potential alicorn. The longer your Alicornhood is held in potential, the more dangerous it is, and the more likely you are to fail your trial.”

A tight feeling rose in Cadance’s chest. “What happens if you fail?”

“Another thing dear Celesta would never have told you, but I will. For us, Alicorns, there is no afterlife waiting for us. We have either eternal life or true oblivion. Does that answer your question?”

Cadance nodded, falling back on her training. She did not want to show the dark lonely places her mind was trying to go. “So if Shining died, I would never be able to join him.”

Twilight paused thoughtfully for a moment. “Unless you are foalish enough to try to break into the afterlife.”

“You can just go there?” Cadance was stunned.

“Tartarus has a door, does it not?” Twilight stopped turning to face a section of wall. “Anyway, we are here.”

Cadance did not know what to think about that revelation. Instead, she looked at the wall, as far as she could tell, it was a wall. Extending her senses, it still felt like every other wall in Twilight’s Castle. She looked at Twilight and raised an eyebrow.

“If somepony is looking for secrets in my castle, what sort of concealment do you think they will be looking for?”

“... they would be expecting magic.”

“Yes,” Twilight said, before striking the wall with a hoof in a complex pattern.

A strange alien sound, a mix between an alien chirp and one of the sounds she once heard Pinkie Pie make. With a hiss of escaping air and a bizarre mix of humming and whining, part of the wall pivoted, revealing a secret passageway.

Twilight entered, flicking a wing for Cadance to follow. The room on the other side seemed unexpectedly normal, looking back at the door, there appeared to be some sort of device attached to it.

“What is it?” Cadance asked.

“An electric motor, microphone and simple computer form Sunset’s world.”

“Something nopony would expect or know how to deal with unless they had been through the mirror.” Cadance said nodding.

Twilight pressed a button, and the door slid closed. “The room is soundproofed, and the whole castle is warded against hostile detection magic, so nothing to give this place away.”

“Twilight, what do you use this room for?” Cadance asked, her mind thinking of darker reasons somepony might need a room like this.

“So far… hiding heartwarming gifts.”

Cadance let a small smile show. Even with all this hate in you, you are still … the Twilight I have known for years if not the one I foal sat from the beginning.

Twilight took up a firm stance. “If you would.” She nodded at her self.

“The armour, yes. How hard do you want me to hit it?” Cadance asked a little uncomfortably.

“As hard as you can.”

“You’re sure?” Cadance asked sounding doubtful.

“I tried hitting it with an anvil for half an hour this morning, not even a chip.”

“Oh, all right then.” Cadance walked over to Twilight, flexing and loosening up. “Sorry if this hurts.” She span, bunching up, preparing to buck with all her might. She could feel the earthpony magic rushing to her muscles, it felt exhilarating. Cadance grinned, she rarely got the chance to test herself like this.

The shockwave caused by the titanic impact burst her eardrums. She looked over her shoulder, Twilight was sliding down the far wall, a trail of shattered crystals lining the path she had taken through the air. Her grin faded as she galloped over to her sister.

“Twilight, Twilight, are you all right?” She knew she was speaking even if she could not hear it.

Twilight’s bleary eyes blinked and slowly focused on her. She nodded, slowly getting to her hooves. Cadance pulled her into a hug, wrapping her in her wings.

Twilight melted into the hug, relaxing. Cadance heard the content sigh. Good my hearing is recovering. She thought. She sniffed. “Twilight, you really need a bath.”

Twilight looked at herself and investigated, her muzzle twisted in disgust. She pulled away from the hug. “Do you mind waiting a bit?”

“No need,” Cadance said with a grin. I know a spell Twilight doesn’t. It was a small thought but made her feel ridiculously proud to be able to do even a single piece of magic Twilight could not. Cadance’s horn flashed twice in quick succession. Her personal grooming spell leaving both of them brushed, cleaned, smelling of roses and looking their royal best.

Cadance laughed with glee, the look of amazement on Twilight’s face was just priceless. “What do you think of my invention?”

“... You do realise how complicated that spell was, how many things need to be taken into account to make that work?” It seemed like Twilight was in a mild bit of shock.

“Also long as you know how to do each step of the task with your own hooves, getting magic to do it is a snap.” Cadance smiled.

“An ascended earthpony would be terrifying.”

“Or a pegasus raised in an earthpony village?” Cadance said with a knowing look.

Twilight smiled, a tilt of the head conceding the point. “Or that yes, so shall we begin with your lesson?”

“I’m more than a little curious about what we will be learning.”

“The first thing is how to defend your mind, right now I could take control of your body, and there is nothing you could do about it,” Twilight declared as she started pacing the room.

Cadance’s eyes widened in horror, memories of Shining Armour being controlled by the Changelings coming to her. She pushed her past aside and carefully studied Twilight’s connection to her, deliberately paying no attention to any other. If she saw Celestia’s again, she would probably break down right in front of Twilight.

Twilight's connection to her was strong, healthy. Her love pure, the lack of trust more than healed. Cadance smiled. Strangely there was also a second connection, thinner, more recent that also connected to her. It was a mix of pity, duty, respect and laced with desire. This new link danced with bursts of protective anger.

What is this? She thought. Ponies don’t have two connections with one pony. Nor do they have connections with themselves. She pondered, remembering what she had seen last time. The only thing she could be sure of is that Twilight had no intent to hurt her, she loved her and wanted to protect her. For Cadance, that was more than enough to trust her.

Twilight stopped turning to face her and nodded grimly. “I have no idea why Celestia left you defenceless like this. But I will fix that.” Something in Twilight’s gaze seemed older, the look of centuries adding weight to her words.

“Ok, what do we do?” Cadance did not like how small her voice sounded, something about that gaze made her feel like a foal.

Twilight spoke a few words in a strange language, each word seemed to resonate within her. Cadance looked questioningly at her. Something about the way they sounded, that was the language Twilight’s song was meant to be sung in, she just knew it.

“Learn those words and learn them well.”

Cadance nodded, rolling the words in her mouth. Despite never hearing them before, they felt familiar. The language was just comfortable and easy to speak. Like she had spoken it all her life, even if she only knew these few words.

“If somepony gets you to enter a magical contract or other mystically enforced agreement. This will hold both parties to the spirit of the agreement. It is called the Incantation-of-Good-Faith. Adding it before your agree modifies the agreement. If the other party is trying to trick or deceive you… the Incantation strikes at them.” Twilight laughed. “With how much of a sense of humour the reprisal can show, I would almost credit Discord with creating the Incantation.”

“It only works on magical contracts? I can’t use it on mundane ones?” Cadance asked, hopefully.

Twilight smiled “No… but I imagine it would not be hard for you to start replacing mundane ones with magical ones for the more important agreements?”

“I don’t know how to forge pacts… I think that’s what it’s called.”

“How many gaps… No not important.” Twilight stepped close to her and lit her horn.

“I am going to state my intent to train you, to take you as my apprentice. That I will never lie to you during a lesson and that everything that I cause to happen to you during your lessons I do for your benefit. Also, there is a small note that neither of us will go to war with each other without formally ending this arrangement. This will allow me to show you how to protect your mind, but for as long as you are my apprentice, it will allow me past said defences. I will not use this to harm you other than as needed for your training.”

Cadance paled, this was all sounding very serious. The second connection was burning with intensity but not a single hit of dishonesty. She nodded. “What do I need to do?”

“Once I finished speaking, invoke the Incantation and touch your horn to mine.”

“That’s all?”

Twilight nodded. “That’s all.” She flared her wings and took a regal pose. She began speaking in the enchanting language, every word sounded unique. Just imagining that song was nearly bring a tear to Cadance's eye, she could almost hear the song.

The words paused, Twilight presented her horn.

I trust you, Twilight. Cadance thought as she spoke the Incantation then lowered her horn, crossing it with Twilights.

The world went white.

Cadance awoke, she was warm, comfortable. The familiar softness of her bed beneath her, the sensations of her sheets surrounding her.

“Shiny, how did we get back?” she asked, reaching out to where he would typically be. He was not there, his side of the bed was cold. She snapped to alertness, looking around.

I was about to learn something from Twilight… how did I get here? She worried as she looked around her room. Everything was where it should be. Motion in a reflection caught her attention. In the reflection, she could see servants tending to her room, one even freshening the sheets.

Glancing around the room, no she was alone. And yet in the reflection, two servants were still working. What is going on?

There was a knocking at her door. “Come in,” she said.

The door lit with a pleasantly familiar magenta aura as it swung open. Twilight stepped in, smiling happily.

“What happened, why are we in the Empire?” Cadance asked.

Twilight advanced into the room, taking a seat. “Cadance, in a very real way, you are the Empire.”

What? She thought before responding. “You don’t mean that in the same way ponies say Celestia is Equestria, do you?”

“No, I do not,” Twilight answered, with a slight shake of her head. “We Alicorns are as much above other ponies mentally as we are physically and magically.” She gestured around the room. “This is your Mental Bastion, in your case, it just happens to be linked to the physical world.”

“So… we are in my mind, and somehow the Empire is one of my mind’s defences? That is what you are saying, right?”

“Yes, and now that you have been here, your mind is fortified by it. Even Luna will not be able to visit your dreams unless you allow it.”

Cadance pointed at the servants in the reflection. “And that is really happening right now?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes, do you want to go and talk to them?”

“No, not yet at least. What is your Mental Bastion?”

Twilight smirked. “Would you be surprised if I told you it was a library in a tree?”

Cadance laughed. “You always prefered the Golden Oaks over your castle.”

“In another lesson, I will see about showing you around, but not today.”

“So if we are meant to be so much smarter than other ponies, why can’t I wrap my head around the advanced mathematics you like so much?” Cadance asked in confusion.

Twilight shook her head with a chuckle. “Being an Alicorn does not make us more intelligent… we merely have more space in our minds. Our minds and wellsprings are… their own plane of reality.”

“So like the pockets you and Star are so fond of?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“So, what are we meant to do with all this space?”

“Whatever you want… but with this being tied to the physical empire, you have some unique opportunities. Twilight looked around the room. “I would imagine any changes you make to the crystal walls here will be mirrored.”

Cadance looked at the wall, “And how would I go about changing it?”

“To begin, simply place your hoof against it, let your senses extend into it and Will it to change.”

Cadance gracefully extracted herself from the bed and walked over to the wall beside Twilight. “So, physically, I’m still in Ponyville?” She asked.

“Our bodies are safe, and yes, they are still in Ponyville.”

Turning her attention back to the wall, Cadance located the part she was seeking. Always wanted some artwork here. She thought, placing her hoof over the section.

A thrum of power danced under her hoof. Just like magic lessons, know your intent, visualise your intent, manifest your intent. She mentally recited as she closed her eyes.

Taking a calm breath, she cleared her mind of everything. The troubles of the last week fading into unimportance. Another breath and she formed a single image in her mind's eye. The image of Shining and her marks held together by beautiful roses clarified in her mind. She pushed the image into the wall, just as if it were a spell.

The power in the wall rippled, a moment later, so did its surface. Keeping her eyes closed, Cadance held the image steady. She had long ago learnt you never interrupt a spell partway through unless you knew how to do so safely.

She could feel the texture change and parts moving under her hoof. Slowly the power faded, the motion stopped. The wall felt solid under her hoof again. Ten slow breaths later she opened her eyes.

Before her was the image, perfectly shaped in the crystal. Even the colours were right.

“Huzzah, a splendid showing,” Twilight said from beside her pulling her into a hug.

Cadance returned the hug, looking between the new work of art and Twilight. Even though she was no longer touching it, the power in the wall, its heartbeat-like thrum still brushed against her senses.

Expanding her senses slowly, every part of the building reported back. “I can still feel it,” Cadance said, marvelling at the sensation.

We stand ready, your Majesty. A chorus of voices stated in her mind. Her mystical sense identifying the sources. All around the building, where guards were usually stationed, parts of her Crystal had intent, they had voices.

Calling on her recent practice at mental communication with Luna, she reached out to the two outside her room. Please come in. She sent.

The door was pushed open, Twilight turned, assuming a battle stance, shielding her with a wing. Two of her Crystal guards in ancient armour even for the empire stepped into the room coming to attention.

“Cadance, did you just create them?”

“No, they were already here,” Cadance said to Twilight before turning to the guards. “Please, identify yourselves.”

“We are the Eternal Guard, your Majesty,” they both said as one.

“How many of them do you have?” Twilight asked.

“One hundred in the building,” Cadance answered before closing her eyes. Extending her senses past the building out into the empire itself. Each part of the city responded, every guard reporting in as her senses brushed over them. “Nine-hundred more round the rest of the city.”

“Well… congratulations on having the most secure mind of any Alicorn in recorded history,” Twilight said with more than a little awe. “One thousand guardian fragments… who are you?” Twilight’s gaze turned to Cadance with a hint of fear to them.

Cadance laughed softly. “I’m Cadance, your old foal sitter remember.” She shrugged. “Or Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, if your feeling formal,” she said, not finding it odd at all that she had so many guards at her mental beck and call.

Twilight visibly calmed herself using the breathing exercises she taught her. “Well…” She straightened and took on Luna’s noble baring again. “There are more lessons for today, but first a question. How are your illusions?”

“Not very good, I can just about change the colour or taste of things.” Cadance admitted.

“And your Thestral magic?”

Cadance looked at Twilight blankly.

“Alicorns are made up of all types of ponies,” Twilight explained.

“Oh, I know that, aren't thestrals just nocturnal pegasi?”

“No…” She snarled before continuing normally. “Most of Luna’s favourite tricks are thestral magic.”

“The shadow walking? I always wondered how she did that without using her horn,” Cadance said, studying Twilight carefully.

That flair of anger brought her attention back to Twilight’s connections with her. The main heartline to her had hardly reacted to anything, only the warmth of being near to a loved one, nothing else. On the other hoof, the second one had been the one reacting to everything.

Twilight took a moment to collect herself. “It was also how she made her Nightmare Moon appearance.”

“So I could grow fangs and make my wings bat-like?” she asked.

“With ease.”

“Can you?”

Twilight looked at her intently. “Promise you will remain calm? I am not confident in my ability to protect myself from your guards should you feel threatened.”

“I can still feel it is you Twilight, the heart is my Domain, and you are still in there,” Cadance said, placing a hoof on Twilight's chest. A small spike of worry rippled along the secondary link. Cadance kept her expression the same, hiding the doubt starting to creep in.

Twilight nodded, and in a moment, her eyes were cat-like, her wings had membranes and her ears tufted. She smiled, licking her new fangs. “So what do you think?” Twilight said proudly doing a little spin.

Twilight's body was a bit more athletic, a bit more adjusted to physical activity. Something about the way she was moving made Cadance think of a predator. Twilight was comfortable, like she had worn that form for years.

“In ancient times, it was normal to be like this during night time, switching back when the sun rose,” Twilight explained.

Still, she could feel that sense of fear coming from her. What are you hiding?. Putting that thought aside Cadance giggled, giving Twilight a knowing look. “I imagine you could have your choice of Thestral stallions or mares looking like that.”

The worry Cadance could sense faded, replaced by embarrassment and a little lust. Well, that's better than fearing me. She thought as she wrapped her wings around Twilight. “Now if you need any advice…” She teased.

Twilight melted into the embrace. “You’re almost as bad as Tia.”

Cadance praised her long years of being a diplomat. Twilight would never call Celestia, Tia. You only just learnt to not call her Princess all the time… am I even talking to Twilight now? She could feel her guards ready to defend her if necessary. If there was ever going to be a safe time to ask this.

With a mental command, she summoned another ten guards to wait outside of the room.“Twilight?”

Twilight looked to her still enjoying the hug. “Yes, Cadance.”

“You said you would never lie to me during lessons.” Cadance said cautiously.

“That was our Pact, yes.” Twilight answered, a hit of warryness entering her tone.

“Who are you?”

Twilight Stiffened. “I knew you had me when you mentioned your domain…” She pulled back from their hug and sat before her no longer even trying to use Twilight’s mannerisms.

“So…” Cadance said expectantly.

“I am one of Twilight’s Protectors and the second parent of Little Star,” not Twilight said smiling. “You may call me Night if you wish.”

She did not miss her not saying what her name was, only what to call her. But the so-called Night was not lying to her. Night’s love for Star was real, nopony could fake their heartlines. And for some reason you are dedicated to protecting me. Cadance thought, before asking. “Where is Twilight now?”

“She is still in Ponyville, currently resting… do you want to end our agreement?” Night asked her wings drooping a little.

Cadance spent a long few seconds thinking. “Why do you want to teach me?”

“You are important to Twilight and Little Star likes you.” A warm smile crossed Night’s face. “That would be more than enough for me to aid you; however I can.” Night’s expression hardened. “The fact that Celestia left you uneducated and defenceless demands I do so.”

“Do you love her?”

“I… respect her, and I think we may be friends, perhaps more in time?”

“And yet you had a foal with her?” Cadance kept her indignation out of her voice as best as she could.

Night laughed. “Blame the Elements of Harmony, it was not something either of us chose. And yet neither of us are unhappy with how things have turned out.”

“Can I speak to her?”

“Yes, we can see if she is awake when we get back to Ponyville.”

“Can you wake her now?”

Night shook her head. “Not from here, shall we continue the lessons?”

This was not a situation she was expecting to deal with. If it was not for the fact that she had just found out she had a thousand guards living in her mind, she would have rejected Night Immediately. Cadance nodded. She would learn what she could and make up her mind what to do about Night later.

“Given your mind has a unique vulnerability. The first thing is going to be how to project your self from in here, to out there.” She pointed to the reflection, where the two servants were studying the new work of art.

“What vulnerability?”

“An army or a powerful mage could level the Empire, destroying your mind, consigning you to oblivion.” Night said with deadly seriousness.

“So what's first Teacher,” Cadance answered, trying her best not to think about that situation.

Cadance was not a fast study, it had taken what felt like hours to master this so-called simple spell. Night was patient with her but was not the best teacher. That if nothing else nailed home the fact this was not Twilight.

They had waited for the servants to leave before making an attempt to avoid startling them.

know your intent, visualise your intent, manifest your intent. She thought as she advanced to the reflective wall. Closing her eyes and visualising walking through a doorway, she kept going.

Heat, touch and hearing faded, only an impression of motion let her know she was still moving forward. It could have been a second or a year, time had no meaning in this in-between state. It felt as if a Teleport had been slowed to a crawl, but with none of the discomfort in her horn.

Her senses stepped into the physical world first, for a moment, she was there without a body. Crystal rose up from the floor, wrapping around her, giving her a body. Even out here, the Crystal felt like a part of her, she was not being entombed by cold matter. No, It was no different than wrapping her wing around herself on a cold day.

She stood there, an Alicorn made of Crystal, like something out of legends. She could feel her Eternal Guard waiting, and with an effort of will, she could pull them into this world. The rotation of the Crystal Heart in the distance altered, matching time with her own heart. She could feel each pulse of energy as it protected the land, the love pouring into it, into her from her subjects.

Cadance took a breath, and it seemed like the Empire breathed with her. I’m home. She thought. Relief like she had rarely felt rushed through her. Glancing at her crystal self, she decided she wanted a better look. She trotted over to her full-length mirror.

Looking at her reflection, she marvelled, she knew she was beautiful before hoof, now she looked the part of a Goddess. She flared her wings, doing her best Celestia impression. If I had looked like this when I arrived, I would have had no doubt that I am meant to be the Crystal Princess. She thought.

A swirl of darkness caught her attention. Twilight’s normal body formed itself form inky shadows as Night stepped through the reflection. Cadance looked down at her realising how much taller she was than Twilight now.

Night’s eyes widened with recognition and immediately spread her wings and performed an elaborate bow, muzzle to the ground. Cadance mentally sighed. The fear was back, Night felt truly threatened.

“Night?” Cadance said using a hoof to raise her gaze.

“Empress,” Night responded her tone respectful.

“It’s just me, Cadance, remember?” Cadance said, lifting Night form her bow and offering a warm smile.

“You, look just like she did, before Sombra shattered her.” Night spoke weakly.

Cadance looked at herself, considering. Yes, I do look like some of the images in the archive. “What does this mean?” She asked.

“You might be the Empress or one of her fragments returned. You could have inherited the Empress’ Bastion and power through blood or by her soul possessing you. The final possibility is…darker. Somepony stole the Empress’ Bastion, killing her and later gave it to you.”

“You can steal somepony’s soul?” Cadance loudly asked in alarm.

“Yes, but I never heard of anypony being able to do it to an Alicorn.” Night answered.

Cadance performed her own breath technique, letting it calm her. “Which do you think is most likely?”

“As the guards obey you, I would say the first two are the most likely. My expectation of Celestia leads me to suspect that Sombra stole the Bastion and She somehow bestowed it upon you. I believe that arranging your ascension is the sort of thing she would do, I know she arranged Twilights.”

She wished Applejack was here to know for certain what words were the truth. Who am I? She thought mirroring Night’s earlier question.

The sound of the door moving caused her ears to flick in that direction. One of her Enteral Guard formed, crystals growing from the floor in the shape of a pony.

Three stunned ponies stood looking into the room. Two crystal pony servants and Sunburst the unicorn. The two servants immediately dropped into a bow.

“Princess Twilight, why am I seeing the Crystal Empress here?” Sunburst asked, checking his glasses.

Night immediately played the part of Twilight again. “That’s Cadance, we were just trying a long-distance communication spell, and given Cadance's blood relation to the Empress, this is how she showed up. It seems to use pre-set forms for the projections that the Crystal remembers.”

“Astounding,” Sunburst said, moving closer to study them.

Cadance could feel her guard ready to act, with an effort of will she returned them to the other side. Thank you for your vigilance, he is a trusted friend, so at this time it is not needed. She sent to them.

“Ponyfeathers, I guess I can’t manage to project Shiny here as well,” Night covered.

Cadance watched, Night let Sunburst do most of the talking, most the theorising, only adding a few words here and there to keep him going. He did not notice Twilight’s lack of input, the added praise and just a little Alicorn power blinding him to any errors in her performance.

Cadance went to talk to the servants, leaving Night to her acting. “You may rise,” she said.

It would be so easy for an Alicorn to become a tyrant. She thought. With my domain and Alicorn persuasion what could I not get somepony to do?

She knew she could strengthen and repair heartlines, could she destroy them? Could she create fake ones? If I became evil, could I just make everypony love me? The only ponies that could even notice would be other Alicorns. I even have an army I can summon with a thought.

Luna could control everypony's dreams, Twilight might be able to control all the world’s magic. Apparently, Celestia is willing and able to replace ponies with tools to fit her plans. Cadance thought and for the first time, was terrified of what she could do.

She did not want to deal with this, she wanted to see her daughter.

Her room was gone, replaced by Flurryheart’s. Now before her sleeping was her daughter. She had no idea how she got here, but right now, that did not matter.

She gently lifted Flurry and nuzzled her, replacing her daughter's blankets with her own wings. For a long moment, nothing else mattered. I can see how a foal can change somepony Nightmare. She thought, almost certain in Night’s real identity.

Flurry heart yawned and opened her eyes. She smiled a giggled immediately recognizing her mother despite the different form. Flurry adorably screwed up her little face and In a flash of magic she was gone. Laughing with wild abandon the little Alicorn was darting around the room with her wings, horn lit a swarm of toys surrounding her.

Flurry’s youthful energy could not last long, Cadance smiled lovingly at her daughter and gave chase.

Sometime later after Flurry had tried herself out completely playing with her. Cadance watched her daughter sleep and was wondering what to do. She loved every moment she had with her Flurry Heart but there were things she had to learn.

Almost as if summoned, Night’s form stepped from the shadows. She looked around the room before focusing on Cadance and Flurry. A warm smile crossed her muzzle. Placing two scrolls to the side, Night bowed and left without a single word.

Lifting the scrolls in her aura, she opened them. More magic theory to learn. Looking to her sleeping daughter, she made sure she was tucked in bed with her cuddly toy placed just so.

I’ll be able to learn these faster with her help. Extending her senses and locating Night proved easy. Everything within the empire was as simple to detect as Flurry here in the room with her.

Quietly she left the room to find Night.

To avoid causing too much of a situation, they both had returned to the other side. Cadance was now back to her normal size no longer made of Crystal. Night resumed her thestral traits and was reclining next to her helping her learn the theory on the scrolls. It was hard to feel worried about Night, the mildly frustrated teacher, even if she might really be Nightmare Moon.

The last two scrolls did not take too long to learn with help. The first was how to enter and leave her Bastion at will. Apparently, unless she chose otherwise, now that she was fully bonded with it, she would return here anytime she slept. Once you understood the concept, it was a simple as deciding what side of the bed to get out of.

The last one was how to create Fragments. The whole concept terrified her, separating a part of your soul and setting it free was daunting. Even with the knowledge that my soul will rapidly heal. I’m not sure if I will ever be brave enough to use this apparently ‘natural’ Alicorn ability. She thought.

Once Night had checked and double-checked that she had memorised everything on the scrolls, she spoke. “Now for the final lesson for today.” Night paused for dramatic effect. “Here and now we are not the real Night and Cadance. They are off still in Ponyville.”

“What do you mean.” Cadance rose to her hooves. A thread of panic entered her mind. Then who am I? She thought

“I mean that neither of us are really the ponies we feel that we are. We are part of their souls broken off and given a purpose. In this case, act just like them.”

“Do you mean…when this spell ends... I’m... that we are both about to die?

“If for one instant I thought this was the end for us, I would hold you in my hooves and kiss you,” Night said advancing on her. The movement was just like Luna's. “I would tell you that the only reason I am not trying to court you is that you are bound to Shining Armor.”

Cadance just stared at her. Is this some sort of joke?

“But we are not ending… we are simply returning home. So I don’t get my kiss.” Night smiled playfully and winked.

Night pulled her closer and into a hug. “There is nothing to worry about, this is just part of what it means to be an Alicorn.”

Cadance let herself return the hug, a little too confused to react. We might die, and you’re telling me that should trust that you not kissing me is a reason to believe it will all be fine?

Night nipped her ear with a fang. “Pay attention.”

Cadance pressed a hoof to it, she glared at Night. “What did…” She started but was cut off by Night’s hoof.

“If you don’t learn to create Fragments deliberately, you end up doing it accidentally. In a few years you would start hearing answers to your idle wonderings or when you talk to yourself, a different you will answer. Luna knows well how that can turn out.”

Is she talking about how Nightmare Moon came to be? That can happen to any of us? Cadance thought.

“Remember to be careful. Know why you are making a Fragment. If you can avoid it, do not make fragments in haste, when in distress or when intoxicated.”

“Like any spellcraft,” Cadance said, still with an undertone of fear.

Night stroked along her mane, humming that ancient tune almost as if Cadance was her foal. She could feel her panic fading, the words of the song, words she had never heard starting to come to her mind. She let her eyes close. This is nice.

Night stopped humming and just like that, the words faded like mist under sunlight. Cadance opened her eyes looking into Night’s, she wanted to hear more.

Regrettably the lesson and not the song continued. “When you create a Fragment either give them a role or a name. If they are needed for a task or will have responsibility, hold that firmly in your mind as you create them.”

Night looked apologetic. “If you do not, then they will be you. This can cause confusion unless you are deliberately trying to be in two places at once. Your guards are the first type, they have but a role. They are just that, guards, loyal, obedient, with little will of their own. If you give them a name, they will be as real as you or me.”

“So they will be my children?”

“Or your sisters, friends or companions. It all depends on how different you make them.”

“And we are nameless?”

“Yes, we feel and act just like the whole. For all purposes, we are them, just in a different place.”

“But I only have one body.”

“Yes but there are ways around that, magical mirrors and the projection magic you learnt today.” She paused, looking thoughtful. “If a Fragment claims a name, let them and welcome your new companion. Do not try to force them to forsake it. It would be cruel and will come back to bite you later,” Night said in warning.

“So the nameless and the ones with only a duty can grow into a named?”

Night nodded “Your homework is to create a Fragment, this will stop you going insane and prevent any accidental creations.”

“You’re giving me homework?”

“Now, the lesson is over… If you still think we are going to die I would be happy to make your ‘final’ moments very pleasurable,” Night said in a husky voice leaning closer. Twilight had grown from an adorable foal to a beautiful mare. This close and like this, she could see all the advantages Alicorns had over normal ponies.

Night’s hot breath on her ear, wingtips and hooves were almost straying into intimacy but not quite. Waring feelings danced in Cadance’s mind, anger, fear, embarrassment even to her shame at least a little interest.

Cadance braced her hooves to push Night away. "Stop that you..."

The world disappeared in a flash of white.

Cadance blinked, her eyes went wide, there were ponies around her talking. The emotions collided first, everything that both Cadances had felt hit her all at once, leaving a confusing mess. So many contradictory feelings that for a few seconds any reaction was impossible.

Who am I, where am I, what am I. She thought before the two chains of events played out in detail. I took everypony out for food because Pinkie ate all of the lovely breakfasts Star prepared

The Crystal Empire is my soul, I might be the Empress reborn or worse, and I can split myself into pieces as if it was nothing. I played with my daughter.

Everypony is happy. Twilight is alive.

Night is a Bad Teacher.

She froze remembering. Twilight is romantically interested in me? No that’s not right… the desire was in that second connection… It clicked in her mind. One of Twilight’s fragments is romantically interested in me… that fragment was Night, she had a name, so she was a real as anypony else.

Wait Night acts like Luna, could she be Nightmare moon?

She looked straight into Twilight’s eyes, No, into Night’s eyes. She could see the difference now. She could see which connection looked out from those eyes plain as day. Night’s final offer went through her mind then she remembered the confusion that hit when her Fragment returned.How much of that was just to blunt my fear, to stop me bolting to the skies as soon as I got back? She wondered.

“Welcome to a little of the truth,” Twilight said using a little air magic to create the sound.

“You really wanted to?” Cadance asked.

Twilight nodded the slightest amount.

A spike of interest from the side caught Cadance’s attention. Star seemed to be paying attention to them. It is almost like she can hear us. “You can hear us?” Still so quiet only an Alicorn had a hope of hearing.

Star nodded her head fractionally and spoke in the same way. “What was that spell?”

Cadance raised an eyebrow, she could feel Star’s excitement. Shining put his hoof on hers. “Everything alright, love?” He said.

She turned her full attention to him. “Everythings fine, I was just thinking how nice this get together is. We should do this more often, you know.” She could see by his expression he knew something was up.

With a flick of an ear and a glance around, she silently messaged him ‘Later when we are alone’. He nodded and went back to his food and the pleasant conversation.

Looking back at Night, she found her hugging Star. The love Night had for that little filly was the main reason she was risking trusting her. Just looking at the two of them, she couldn't help but smile widely. I miss Flurry again. She thought, her smile fading slightly. No wait I can visit her any time I want now. The smile returned in full.

“So have you been making new friends?” Night asked Star.

Star looked to the CMC. “Maybe?” She said to her mother. “Would you like to be friends?” She asked the Crusaders.

A mix of loud positive responses blended together. Star smiled. “Can we go play?”

Cadance had heard how destructive the CMC had been, she was dreading what they could get up to with a foal twice as powerful as Twilight was before becoming an Alicorn. Do I need to ready the guard, the fire service, the hospital? She thought as worse cases went through her mind.

“Do you have your helmet?” Night asked, clearly happy.

Cadance closed her eyes for a moment, holding her expression still as the expected discomfort of that type of magic played along her horn.

“That’s cool, not as cool as Rainbow Dash, but still cool,” Scootaloo said.

Night looked around the table, looking for any objections or comments. “Be careful, and make sure you are all home before dark,” Rarity added.

Star nodded “Will do, bye everypony,” She said with cheer. She lit her horn, and in a flash of magic, Star and the CMC were gone.

Cadance hissed in pain, placing a hoof to her horn. Concerned looks focused on her from around the table, Shining pulled her into a loving hug.

“Sorry everypony, I’m OK, I just really don’t get on with teleportation magic.” She said, waving a hoof to show she was fine as she leaned against her Shiny. Her mind drifted to what they could do together if he had wings.

Near silently, Night spoke to her. “You need to get the Leylines in your horn cleaned, ask Luna when you get back to help with getting rid of the magical residue in your horn.”

“Can’t you help?” Cadance respond in kind

“I don’t trust myself to keep my hooves off you, but if you want…” Night answered, even in the almost silent words, the desire and invitation were there.

“I will ask her tonight,” Cadance replied, nuzzling Shining clearly saying she was his and only his.

“Get a room,” Rainbow interrupted their silent conversation.

Cadance looked around, Rarity was watching, eyes wide at the romance, Fluttershy was blushing, Applejack seemed board. Night was looking at her smiling teasingly. Where's Pinkie? She thought, before noticing Pinkie was hugging her and Shining.

Shining politely coughed and evicted Pinkie from the hug.

Night laughed. “So shall we help Pinkie prepare for the party we all know she is going to be preparing for my Little Star?

The group finished up their food and Pinkie dragged everypony along with her sugar fueled energy.

CH 20 Party

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Twilight’s body ached all over in such a delicious way. Each breath was filled with her lover’s scent, and Dreams' wonderful soft wings enclosed her as strong hooves held her. Most of last night was a blur, but the little she could remember was very pleasant indeed. The low rumble of Nova’s purr in her chest let her know she agreed.

She let out a contented sigh as she snuggled back against Dreams' chest.

“Twilight,” Dreams’ perfect voice whispered in her ear.

“Mmm,” Twilight answered as best as she could.

“My love, we have company.”

“That’s nice,” Twilight managed to murmur.

“It’s time to get up.”

“Too comfy,” She answered, wrapping her forelegs around Dreams’ ensuring her big spoon could not escape.

A single feather trailed warningly closer to one of Twilight ticklish spots. “This is your last warning my, Love.”

Twilight’s horn lit, a magenta aura pinned the feather in place. Having safely defeated the threat, she let the warmth around her start to lull her back to sleep.

The world exploded in silver light and horrible, terrible, annoying cold. Twilight's eyes shot open as she flailed around in the bath of cold water she had just been teleported in to.

“I did warn you, my Love.” Dream teased.

Twilight fixed her with a glare, ignoring her shivering body she lit her horn. Multiple globs of the cold water rose around her.

After the first Alicorn tier water fight in recorded history, the two sisters clearly made sure no records survived of theirs, Twilight and Dreams bathed properly, restoring the damage caused to their coats and manes by their long night together.

The pair of them galloped along the wooden corridor towards the central section of Twilight’s Library. Twilight was trying to catch the longer-legged Dreams.

“Who is it?” Twilight demanded.

“Not telling.” Dreams shot back

“Tell me!” Twilight called out, not being able to hide the playfulness in her voice.

“Never!” Dreams replied, playing along. She dodged Twilight’s tackle, putting on a burst of speed, she emerged into the central section and dived over the fifth-floor railing.

Twilight followed without a second thought. Scanning, seeking her target, but she found somepony else. Down below on the ground floor, A familiar pink Alicorn caught her eyes. “Cadance!” Twilight yelled, falling three levels before she remembered she should be using her wings for something.

Cadance looked up just in time to receive a high impact hug. Reacting fast, she wrapped her hooves around Twilight and spun her around her shedding momentum as she rotated on her back hooves.

“Twilight,” Cadance’s voice was full of relief. “You’re alright.”

“How are you here?” Twilight asked, a huge grin plastered across her face.

“That would be my doing,” Night answered from a cushion off to the side. Twilight looked over to her, taking in the new threstral like appearance.

I am so going to Nightmare Night like that this year. She thought.

“The ruler of the Crystal Empire requested an audience with you… I facilitated it.” Night said formally.

Dreams landed next to Twilight, and Cadance gave them an interested look. Twilight lifted Dreams in her aura and pulled her closer.

“Cadance, I’d like to introduce you to Sweet Dreams marefriend,” Twilight said the last word so quiet it was only audible to Alicorns.

“It is nice to meet you face to face, Princess,” Dreams said bowing.

Cadance nodded, allowing Dreams to rise. “I can see there is real love here.” Cadance smiled. “I fear it is a little late to ask what your intentions are towards my sister-in-law,” She said with a knowing look.

Twilight's cheeks almost glowed with how red they were. “Cadance,” Twilight objected.

“Did you at least find my book useful?”

Twilight huddled under her wings, but it did nothing to block out Cadance’s pleased laugh.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed off, it is perfectly natural and I’m pleased for you,” Cadance said as Twilight revealed herself from under her wings. “Sweet Dreams, I must ask who and what you are?”

Dreams looked to Night, the two sharing some type of non-verbal communication. Night nodded.

“I was a Fragment of Night here.” She nodded towards her creator. “Twilight took me in and accepted me, granting me freedom and allowing me to choose a name.”

Cadance’s eyes widened slightly, and Twilight did not know why. Why is choosing a name such a big deal? She thought.

“I am hers and she is mine, nothing you can say or do will change that. I will do everything in my power to keep her happy and to keep her safe.” Dreams stated.

Twilight left her current hug and embraced Dreams. “Love you too, my Dream,” Twilight said, her tone causing an excited shiver to dance along Dreams wings.

A series of knocks came from below, Cadance looked puzzled.

“I am not telling her that,” Twilight said to the floor.

Cadance raised her gaze to Twilight. “So you have more company here?”

“Oh, where are my manners, yes, I will introduce you to them.” Twilight pointed to the golden reinforced basement door. “Locked behind that seal is Nova. She is one of the surviving daughters of the original Twilight.”

“It is nice to meet you, Nova,” Cadance said,

There were another series of knocks. “No, I am still not telling her anything like that” Twilight said rebuffing Nova’s lewd comment.

Twilight flew over to the golden chains making up Grey’s Seal. Dreams moved up beside Cadance. “Nova is passionate and more than a little single-minded, she is a Fragment of the original Twilight, trapped down there by Celestia since my Twilight's creation.”

Twilight not eager to wait just teleported Cadance over to her. “And here is Grey, Grey meet Cadance, Cadance meet Grey,” Twilight said. “She can’t speak thanks to… to what happened, but she can write.”

Grey, with her expressionless face, looked to Cadance and nodded. Grey’s ash white aura lifted a scroll and passed it through the wooded tunnel. Twilight lifted it in her aura and pasted it to Cadance, unable not to read the open scroll as it when past.

One time I have welcomed you here.

Cadance bowed her head to Grey. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Grey.”

“You already know Night somehow and I introduced ever pony else. So that’s all of us in the happy little family here.” Twilight giggled. She could feel darker thoughts wanting to take her. No Cadance is here. I will be happy.

Dream wrapped Twilight in a hug and softly started humming that calming Lullaby. Twilight relaxed, pressing her face into Dreams chest doing her best to hide her tears from Cadance.

Cadance’s hoof on her shoulder added to the comfort.

“Night would you mind preparing some tea? Dreams asked.

“I remember how before you say anything.” Night said trotting off.

“The kitchens over that way,” Dreams helpfully added with only the minimum amount of giggles.

Dreams returned to her humming. To Twilight the world felt safe, it felt right. She let the words of the Lullaby play through her mind, acting as a soothing balm to her pain.

Cadance joined in her only voice, enhancing the performance. Twilight lifted her head enough to see Cadance eyes closed now singing along. Tears now traced down her face as a rapturous smile graced her muzzle.

The clink of teacups being set down broke the spell, the moment shattered. Cadance opened her eyes looking around like a lost and fearful foal. “What… what is that song?” She asked, getting her voice and apparently her emotions back under control.

“Tea is served.” Night said gesturing to cushions set around a low table.

The gathered ponies settled down with their tea, Twilight floating a cup over to Grey, who nodded before getting back to her endless scribing.

“Does it matter? It is old, and it is one of the most beautiful songs I know.” Dreams answered Cadance.

“It seems... I almost feel like I remember it.”

Twilight looked to her once foalsitter with interest. “You know it?”

“I feel I should…”

“Shall we get to why you are here, my student.” Night said.

“Wait, Student?” Twilight exclaimed.

“Yes… it appears Aunty left some important information out about being an Alicorn.” Cadance admitted.

“You mean she left you defenceless and set you up as a spare body in case her sister’s one was destroyed in an attempt to save her.” Night almost growled.

Twilight’s mane caught ablaze as she stood. “She what!” Roared out in the full Canterlot voice. Only a quick shield spell from Cadance saving everypony’s drinks.

“You don’t know that,” Dreams said, pulling Twilight back down and wrapping a wing around her.

“Why else would she possibly not teach her niece about her Bastion? What other possible reason makes sense.” Night bit back.

“Ladies.” Cadance interrupted. “We will sit and have our tea like civilised ponies. Now there are many things I need to talk about with my Aunties, but that is for another time.” She looked at Twilight who by now only had a few sparks of fire dancing in her mane. “Twilight, what happened to you after Manehatten?”

Twilight paled. “It is not pretty, are you sure you want to know?”

Cadance nodded. “I have to know, both as a Princess and as your Sister.”

“Dreams do you know where that scroll went?” Twilight asked.

Dreams looked up at Grey who had already floated a familiar-looking medical report over. Twilight took it and offered it to Cadance.

“The whole attack was a trap, I don’t know if it was for me or just for any Alicorn that responded.” Twilight said.

Cadance’s expression became horrified as she looked over the report.

Twilight continued. “To them, I was to be only ritual components and finally, a sacrifice.”

“How did you survive?” Cadance asked.

“I had help.” Twilight looked warmly at Night and them lovingly at Dreams.

“My Little Star even protected us and teleported us home.” Night added.

Cadance looked at the three of them before asking. “Do you know who was responsible?”

“Our opponent is a male unicorn warlock of formidable power, they were a master of mental domination and harm redirection magic.” Night spoke.

Twilight could see Cadance haunted by her memories. “Cadance?” Twilight softly asked, resting a wing over her.

Cadance’s eyes snapped to Twilight's, a smile slide into place. She is still bothered by the wedding. Twilight thought.

“Harm redirection? Is that like a reflective shield?” Cadance asked.

Night shook her head. “No, it is far more effective and ruthless. Any harm you inflict upon him is passed on to one of his thralls.”

“So to stop him?” Cadance asked.

“You may need to kill many enslaved victims.” Night stated coldly.

Cadance blanched at that and desperately asked. “Can we free them?”

“With his level of skill… unlikely, any attempts would kill them as surely as just attacking the Warlock himself.” Night said unbothered about what might be necessary.

“What if we sent him to another world, one where he would have no magic?” Twilight asked.

“You mean the mirror?” Dreams said.

Twilight nodded.

“That could work.” Night smiled showing her fangs. “We would need to check one of his thralls and see if the enchantment on them has any effect if they lose contact with him.”

“So you have a plan to deal with him?” Cadance asked.

“The start of one,” Twilight said. “We will need to set an anchor rune with a movement redirector right in front of the mirror.” A grin crept on to her muzzle.

“Then one Teleport trap and he is ours.” Night purred, licking her fangs.

“Turnabout is fair play.” Dreams smiled.

“We would have to warn Sunset,” Twilight said.

“And have somepony there ready to deal with him.” Night added darkly.

Twilight smiled nodding, then calmly took a sip from her tea.

“Do you know about the flames burning around the Temple of the Hidden Path?” Cadance asked, giving Twilight a strange look.

Twilight shook her head and look around her strange family.

“Soulfire.” Night stated coldly.

A tapping sound came from the direction of Grey. Her white aura was tapping a scroll against the inside of the wooden tunnel.

Cadance took the offered scroll in her blue aura and opened it. Her eyes widened in horror as she read it.

Ten-point three seconds of wellspring meltdown before the burning section was removed and used to power a long-ranged Teleport.

Twilight shivered clinging to Dreams. “I thought the flames were just a Nightmare.”

“No, they were quite real.” Night said with a grimace. “And painful.”

“Do you know anything more than that?” Cadance asked softly.

Night shook her head. “Little Star was the only witness and even talking about it is too painful for her.” She looked at Cadance in challenge.

Cadance held up her hooves. “I’m not going to question a filly about something that traumatic.”

“When Starlight gets back from her trip with Trixie, we can get her to help on a past viewing spell,” Twilight said.

“There is Zecora’s potion…” Night mentioned.

“No thank you, that would be a bit too… intense.” Twilight said in no uncertain terms.

“So now all that unpleasantness is out of the way are you ready to attend your daughter’s party?” Candace asked, smiling.

Twilight glanced at Night, who nodded. Looking back to Cadance, she spoke. “I would love to.”

Twilight blinked her eyes, not the eyes of her mental self in her Library. No, she was in control of her body again. She was in her bed in her castle.

Thank you for this, Night. Twilight thought.

You are welcome, but you have your Sister-in-Law’s blackmail to thank for this. Night responded.

She is blackmailing you? Twilight thought in alarm.

Cadance knows who I am, her domain lets her tell us apart. She insisted that I leave you in control for this event as a show of good faith.

In other words, you do what she says, or she tells Celestia?


Do you trust her?

Given what Celestia did not tell her… I trust she will keep our secret. Add the fact she can sense our emotions; she knows something of our intent and want to protect her.


Twilight rolled out of bed and stood, stretching like a cat. Trotting out of her room, she met up with Cadance and Shining coming out of the guest room.

Cadance looked into her eyes, it felt like she was looking right through her. “Everything alright Cadance?” Twilight asked.

Smiling and nodding Cadance’s expression softened. “Yes, I’m just glad you are back with us, Twilight.” With a wing, she pulled twilight in close beside her and started them walking to where the party would be held.

“We all are,” Shining added.

“Now I’m going to need you both to be ready with shield spells.”

“Whatever for?” Asked Cadance.

“Pinkie is running a surprise party. There is a chance my daughter” Twilight paused smiling. Still, the thought of having her own little filly made her happy. All the things I am going to teach you, all the fun things we are going to do.

“A chance of what?” Shining interrupted her thoughts.

“The last few surprises she had were not good ones,” Twilight said giving Cadance a look.

“Well now's the time to start making good memories,” Shining said.

Twilight nodded. “Yes, but she might overreact, I don’t want Pinkie being hit with a panicked force blast that could level this building.

“She would do that?” Cadance asked doubtfully.

“I don’t think so, but why take unnecessary risks. With all of us ready, we should catch anything she might accidentally do before anypony can get hurt.”

A mental ping announced to Twilight that somepony was at the door. A quick scrying spell and she knew it was not Little Star. “What are two Nightguards doing at my door?” She asked Cadance.

Cadance shrugged her wings.

“Well, it would be rude to keep them waiting.” Twilight lit her horn.

Wait, move away from her before Teleporting. Night told her.


Her horn reacts badly to higher dimensional magic.

Leyline residue?


Twilight trotted off, rounding the corner before she released her spell.

A moment later she arrived at the main doors to her castle. With the simplest effort of her aura, she pulled open the door. She kept her aura around the door, it gave her a good reason to have her horn lit in case this was trouble.

“Hello,” She said in seeming good cheer,

Both bowed respectfully. “Princess Twilight, the Sovereign of the Night requests your presence immediately in Canterlot.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And did Luna say why?”

They gave no answer. “Well you can tell her no, It is my daughters welcome to Ponyville party, so unless the world is ending, I am staying here.”

Twilight slammed closed the door. What am I doing? She thought. Night’s longing to see Luna again seeped into her awareness. Twilight had an idea that might be able to tell her if she could trust Luna.

A moment later, she opened the door again. “On second thought, extend her my invitation to this event. Inform her that if she could arrange for my mother, father and Spike to attend as well, I would take it as a personal favour.”

“Your message will be relayed, your Highness.”

Twilight smiled. “Have a pleasant trip.”

The sound of a pony’s breath next to her, where moments ago there was not one, did not startle her. “Yes, Pinkie, I did invite Luna to the party.” The scent of candyfloss confirming the identity before she even spoke.

“You’re good…” Pinkie said.

Twilight shrugged. “You smell like candy floss, a bit hard to miss. So are we all set for the party?”


Pinkie got everypony ready, Star was just outside the door. Twilight, Cadance and Shining got ready just in case. Stars magic opened the door.

“Surprise!” A mass of voices called out.

Star sat smiling at everypony, not a hint of shock, panic or even surprise on her face. “Hi, everypony,” she said, waving a hoof.

Pinkie fell over sideways. “You weren’t surprised?”

Star shook her head, “Sorry Pinkie, you do still host the best parties,” she said before launching into a teleport hug, arriving and embracing Twilight.


Twilight returned the hug, nuzzling Star. It was cute just watching her, it is so much more so in pony. She thought.

“How was your day?”

“We had lots of fun… even if I’m not letting them help with my spells again…”

Twilight laughed softly remembering all the chaos the CMC caused over her years in Ponyville. Wait a moment where has Discord been? She thought glancing around and looking for Fluttershy. There she is hiding in the corner.

“My Little Star,” Twilight said, trying her best not to think of all the time’s Dreams called her that. “I need to go talk to Fluttershy for a moment do you want to go and keep your friends company?” She said, pointing with a wingtip to where the CMC were just entering the party.

After Star happily teleport tackled her friends, Twilight teleported herself to Fluttershy.

“Fluttershy have you…”


“Sorry, it is just me Fluttershy, no need to worry.”

She would if she knew we were all in here too. Night thought.

Fluttershy visibly calmed down. “Oh, Twilight.”

“Do you know where Discord is?”

“Umm, he is out of town… he said something was going on that he was not allowed to interfere with.”

“Did he say what?”

“Well… he said even telling us that would be interfering.”

So he’s no help, as usual. She thought her mind going back to his ‘help’ with his Plunder vines.

Keeping her voice pleasant, she went on. “So when did he head off?”

“Err.. well about a day before Manehatten was… attacked.”

He knew … somehow he knew. Twilight thought, starting to feel betrayed.

The question is, is it the attempted murder of you or the attempted ascension that he can not interfere with? Dreams added in her mind

Twilight’s anger faded. That did sound like something the Celestia might use her seals on him to enforce. Make sure that he could not interfere with anypony becoming an Alicorn. So I am right, that Warlock wants to become an Alicorn. And because of that prevented Discord form even attempting to save me. If he could, he would save me from that, right.

Are you sure? Night mentally asked.

Nodding, Twilight answered. He may sometimes be annoying but… I don’t think he would want any of us to die. Not enough chaos that way.

And if he knew you would survive? Night asked.

Twilight hummed thoughtfully. Discord the once evil overlord of chaos and Discord her chaotic friend, competing in her mind as she tried to work out which one she was dealing with here. Both she and Discord were immortal. What are a few days of suffering to one of us?

The party went on around her, everypony wanting to meet Little Star, congratulating Twilight on having such a lovely young daughter. A few begging her to keep Star away from the CMC.

Twilight smiled, the CMC would have none of that and dragged Star off to play with the other younger ponies. With an effort of will, Twilight made sure all the protection and fail-safe spells were in place on her books, her labs and everything else she cared about. She was confident any problem the CMC caused she could at least clean up after no harm done or lasting consequences in the end.

She let herself relax, she was here, she was with her friends, her ponies were all around her. “It’s a nice feeling, isn't it?” Cadance asked, walking up beside her, aura offering her a drink.

“What is?” Twilight asked, looking to Cadance as she accepted the drink. It was colourful and fizzed. One of Pinkie’s creations. She thought as she took a sip of the fruity concoction.

“Having ponies that care about you,” Cadance answered, placing a wing over Twilight back.

“Yes… yes, it is,” Twilight said, nuzzling Cadance.

She felt Cadance stiffen beside her, a moment later, her horn sensed a powerful teleport from just outside her castle.

“I guess that must be Luna,” Twilight said, trying not to let her hopes or fears get the better of her.

They both made their way to the main doors. “If you want, when the party's over, I can help you with your horn,” Twilight said.

“Twilight, if it is you doing it, I will trust you. But I will see what Luna’s answer is first. It might tell us something about what Celestia has been hiding.”

Twilight nodded as the door spell pinged her mind. A quick scrying spell later and Twilight hesitated. “She actually brought them.” Twilight’s walk became a gallop as she raced to the door, aura nearly ripping it off its hinges in her haste to open it.

“Mum, Dad, Spike!” Twilight cried out, her aura pulling the three to her as she embraced them. A few tears falling from her eyes. Her heart completely ignoring any annoying facts about her not being the real Twilight at that moment.

“I see my contribution to this event is appreciated.” The ignored Luna said with a smile.

Twilight nodded her thanks to Luna and gestured her inside with a wing. Luna nodded back and headed off into the party, taking Cadance with her.

The three trapped in Twilight’s powerful hug all spoke at once.

“Air would be nice.” Her father struggled out.

“I was so worried,” Spike said.

“What’s this I hear about a little filly,” Her mother asked in a fake stern tone.

Twilight remembering her Earthpony strength loosened her hold. “I missed you.” She said.

“Shall we go in, instead of staying out here.” Her father asked, ever the sensible one.

Twilight nodded. “There is somepony very important for you to meet.” Her aura levitating spike to her back and a wing around each of her parents Twilight headed into the party, not paying attention as Dreams reached out with her magic and closed the door behind them,

“Little Star,” Twilight called out.

A moment later, Star appeared in a burst of magenta light. “Yes, Mummy?” She asked clearly curious about who the new ponies were.

“Dear Celestia, she can already teleport,” Her father said under his breath. That did not hide it from Twilight’s or Star’s hearing.

“It’s easy, can you? Do you want me to try and teach you too?” Star rambled on.

Who is she… It’s Sweetie Belle. Twilight thought. Dreading what the CMC with ready access to teleportation could do.

“Little Star,” Twilight spoke.

Star looked attentively up at her.

“I would like you to meet your grandparents, Night Light and Twilight Velvet.”

Star teleported to each, hugging them in turn. “Hi, Granny Velvet and Grandad Light.”

“And this…” Twilight Started using her wing to point at Spike.

“Hi, I’m Spike. Twilight’s Number One Assistant.”

“Hi, my name is Little Star. You’re the dragon Mummy hatched. Nopony would tell me, does that mean your my brother or not?” Star said, tilting her head with interest.

“Err…” Spike said.

Is he my child? No, he’s older than I am. Twilight thought almost giggling at the fact that Spike was older than she was. Maybe he is my brother? Am I even old enough to drink this? She thought, glancing at the Drink she had been enjoying.

Let him decide. Dreams answered.

“Well that all depends on if he wants to be,” Twilight said before looking to Spike a loving smile on her face. “Do you want a little sister?”

Spike looked uncertain.

Star teleported, joining Spike on Twilight's back. “No need to pick right now let’s go play.” With another flash of magenta, both the filly and the dragon were gone.

“She’s energetic.” Her father said.

Twilight nodded.

“She’ll go far, now how do you have a filly, where have you been hiding her all of these years miss? And where is my soon to be son-in-law?” Her mother said with a little too much eagerness.

“It is not that simple, Mum,” Twilight replied.

“Of course it is dear unless you’re ashamed of them.”

“I’m not, that’s not… Oh, look Shining and Cadance.” Twilight said copying her daughters favourite trick and teleporting all three of them over to the couple.

‘Help’ Twilight mouthed to Cadance.

Cadance subtly nodded and got Shining talking to the parents with the currently most dreaded question in Equestria buying her at least some time to think.

You have to tell them something. Dreams sent.

Well, I can’t tell them the Elements gave me a foal with Nightmare moon as the father. That I just happened to carry her around with me in my wellspring until I nearly got sacrificed. Twilight thought panicking.

We both agreed to be mothers. Night chipped in.

Cadance’s wing slid around her in a comforting hug. “Thank you, what do I tell them?” Twilight asked in their silent speech.

“You can’t tell them anything about Alicorns, so…” Cadance replied in the same.

“I know, I know, Celestia would just imprison them for the rest of their lives if I told them, right?” Twilight said to Cadance before answering her own question. “No, she would just alter their minds so they would not remember, that’s more her style.” She finished in a darker tone.

Cadance tightened the hug. “Everything is going to be alright.” She said, nuzzling her. Before heading back to Twilight's parents to suggest some topics of conversation should be saved for later and when in private.

Twilight nodded to her sister-in-law in gratitude, sitting on her haunches and just taking in the party around her. Friends, family, voices in my head. What more do I need? She thought with a smile.

What am I going to do without you girls? Twilight thought as she contemplated the endless march of time. How long do I have to work out how to save you… and will you even want to be saved?

Just take a few breaths and calm yourself, my love. Dreams sent.

A few deep breaths to clear her mind, and she smiled. This is Star’s party, I can’t be sad here. She thought, moving into the crowd to interact with the ponies. Turned out there was more than a few she did not know. I few of them seemed like reporters, but Pinkie let them in so they must be ok.

There were laughs, hugs and tears. She heard how only hours after Manehatten she had been reported dead by the Canterlot Times. How they praised her sacrifice and saying she represented all the ideals of Harmony. It would be so easy to just close her eyes and listen to the sounds of the ponies around her and pretend the last week did not happen.

Taking a moment to herself, she retreated to an out of the way spot. She let her eyes close, only paying attention to her remaining senses. Even now they amazed her, she could feel the vibrations through the floor, like ripples on a pond. The air danced around her, letting her sense every breath, every wing beat. Even with the music, focused like this, she could hear all the conversations in the room.

As normal Pinkie was everywhere, offering food and drinks, running games and keeping the party going.

Applejack was there whenever anypony needed a solid base to fall back to, or a few words of honest advice.

Rainbow was showing off and trying to hold the attention of that one reporter over there. Is she trying to keep them away from Star and me? Thank you, Rainbow. Twilight thought.

Fluttershy was hiding behind that pillar, talking to some of her animal friends.

Rarity had found some ponies that sounded like they were from Canterlot, it seemed like they were here to get into Twilight's good books for political gain.

She focused in on her family using the little things she remembered about them to filter out everypony else. Star was playing with the CMC talking about how many ponies they could make glow.

Spike was off to one side, watching her with concern as he ate gems. With a pulse to her horn, she teleported a box from the kitchen full of them to him. She waved and smiled at him without even opening her eyes.

Shining and Cadance were snuggled in the corner over there.

Her parents were at the food table that way, murmuring about her and how to ask her about what happened. They had been warned by Luna to be careful as she had been through a challenging time. Twilight looked up, opening her eyes.

She made her way over to her mother and father. Night channelled a little of her Alicorn power. Using just enough to help the crowd part around her instead of drawing her into their conversations.

Without saying anything, she pulled them both into another hug and just held them. The dark thought that she was stealing the original Twilight's place making her feel guilty for the ‘stolen’ contact. What can I tell them? What should I tell them?

They seemed to understand that she just needed to feel them close, needed the reassurance they were there. She did not know how long she had just been holding her parents, with her mother stroking her mane before they were interrupted.

“Twilight, why are we glowing?” Shining asked waving a faintly glowing hoof before her eyes.

Twilight looked to him, yes Shining was glowing, so were her parents. A moment later, she noticed she was glowing as well only far brighter.

Letting her sight shift to the magical, she examined the effect. Then she entered lecture mode. “It’s just a lineage spell, this one dates back to before Luna’s banishment. You can tell what relation somepony is to the target by how they glow. Looking at this I guess somepony cast it on Star. You know they banned this version in Canterlot, made it too hard to disown unwanted foals.”

“Mummy, Mummy, I found another Mummy!” Star’s joyful voice called out in a good reproduction of the Canterlot Voice.

The room fell completely silent, everypony turning to see what the commotion was about. Twilight turned, seeking Star. She was currently at the other side of the room forelegs wrapped around Luna’s neck. The same Luna, who was glowing bright just like Twilight. Ponyfeathers. She thought, as Luna’s dumbstruck eyes met her own.

CH 21 Unexpected Invitations 

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Luna’s hooves echoed throughout the long hall, the only light the soft luminance of the stars. Her eyes traced the features depicted in every painting she passed. All of them had been friends, family or trusted vassals. A warm smile graced her face. Her mind drifted to all her loved ones she would see again. “Once the last star shines it’s last, we will meet again in the endless fields,” she spoke.

She knew what was ahead, but she kept up her steady advance. She had to remember what she had lost, what her sister was capable of.

Luna looked up, facing the ten body lengths of barren warped stone. A part of the cost of her corruption, she had learnt something terrible. So terrible it had driven her to madness. Luna did not know what sort of evil sorcery or foul incantation it was. She only knew that even after the Elements of Harmony restored her sanity, her sister still had to burn the knowledge away. It was the only way to prevent her from falling to the madness once more.

The heat of the lingering solar magic burnt her hooves as she stepped on. The smoke rising from her hooves was no concern to her. Her eyes were on the walls, where she knew a painting should hang. Instead, there were shadows, hints of what might have been. Enough to know she had lost over a hundred treasured friends.

She would never regain the memories she had lost to her sister’s mental blade. All those she had cared enough for that she painted their likeness here, lost to her. When I see you again, please forgive me. She prayed to the departed souls. She had long ago pledged to never forget any worthy of finding their likeness here. Her actions all those moons ago had led to that promise being broken.

Leaving the burning desert carved into her hall of memories, Luna moved to more recent images. The first Twilight and her friends. Little Pipsqueak and some of the foals that helped her find herself once more. Each of her Nightguard had their place here, as all such, willing to offer their lives for her, should. There were others and some blank places waiting for those she would add later.

She left the hall, that endlessly grew with each year of her life. Luna inhaled the fresh night air, looking down from her tower. The obsidian plains below held the stars and her moon under their surface. The dark sky above lit by the orbs of the world's dreams, the colour depicting the type of dream.

She hopped up, balancing on the narrow railing, perched, wings spread, enjoying the wild feel of the air. Reaching a hoof into her own shadow, she removed a bright blue ball with stars on it. Shaking her head with an amused smile, she threw it as far as her Alicorn strength would allow. “Fetch,” she commanded.

The Tantabus exploded from her shadow chasing after her ball.

In her darkened room, Luna looked up from her reclined position on her bed. Her Nightchosen before her having just finished reporting Twilight’s reaction. That Twilight had refused the summons was only to be expected, it was a test to see how she would react. That she did not attack the Nightguards reflected well on her recovering mental state.

The counter invitation on the other hoof was something unpredicted. She smiled. It is far more enjoyable when the unexpected happens. Even if we… I must rise earlier than I would wish. She thought, considering the interruption to her planned training for her Tantabus.

Catlike, she slunk out of bed, her animate mane reaching and ringing a bell summoning her body servants. With a flick of her wing, she dismissed her Nightchosen back to their duties.

She did not even need to say a word as her two thestral servants stepped from the shadows and followed her into the bathing room. She did not need a bath, but she should look her best. A Princess always looks their best. She thought bitterly, wishing she could have thrown one or two of her modern instructors off the Canterhorn. I could even have the Tantabus ‘fetch’ them before they hit the ground. She thought with a fanged smile.

Mentally she instructed the Tantabus to relay the required deployments for her visit. A particularly bright set of Stars from her mane slipped into her shadow and faded from the room.

Luna slipped into the water, letting her eyes fall closed as she was cleaned.

Luna seeped out of the shadows into her sister’s richly appointed office. Placing a golden tome dramatically on the desk as she sat down opposite her sister.

“Good day Luna.”

Luna looked at the book before her. “So, she, as a unicorn, performed a six-way split?

Celestia tilted her head as if to say ‘how do you know’? Luna's response of a slight grin saying ‘I have my ways and I'm not telling’.

“She performed beyond even what I can do in a single casting. She became six fully realised fragments, each fully independent. To make things worse, each even had their unique cutie mark.” Celestia said before she looked down with regretful eyes at the tome. “It is always fatal when cast by a mortal, and there is no way to undo it. No way exists for a shattered mortal soul to be put back together.”

Luna could see that her sister’s attention was fading, memories began to veil reality from her. Luna’s hoof knocked upon the desk, Celestia’s eyes refocused. Good she is not hiding behind her mask, she must have it doing paperwork again. Luna thought.

“Are you sure she could not have survived long enough to be useful? Perhaps until she ascended? That would have allowed her to recover. Luna challenged.

“No… it was the worse case. They were each interacting with each other, growing, tearing her mind apart. The damage to her wellspring kept increasing. She, they had days to live at most, minutes at worst.” Celestia’s eyes hardened with resolve, daring Luna to disagree. “I had to do something immediately.”

“Then I would have come to the same conclusion.” Luna nodded gravely.

Celestia looked relieved as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her wings. The first hints of a sad smile teased the edge of her muzzle.

“Though if the Elements of Harmony were not at stake, I would have chosen a different solution.”

“And in that less dire case what would you have done?” Celestia asked.

“I would have picked the most suitable of Twilight’s creations and left them the body,” Luna answered.

“And the other five?”

“I would have invited them to my Bastion of course...”

“That would only give them a few years…”

“Yes, but I would have made sure they were full, happy years. When their time came, my farewell gift to them would be the sweetest of dreams as an escort to their final fate.”

“You could do that while ruling the nation single-hoofed and preparing for the return of a powerful foe?”

“Don't mince your words, sister mine. You mean my return. If I had to, I would have made a fragment to tend to them.”

“You always were too free with creating them.”

“And you always too…”

“We are straying from the point. What should be done about Twilight,” Celestia interrupted.

“I am already doing what I can, sister. From the dreams of her friends, I know she is hurting, and I believe I know why. Once she understands what that sacrifice bought Equestria, you may be surprised how quickly she stops hating you.”

“For once, I think it is you who are being too optimistic.”

“Perhaps. Sister a question if you will. Did you not think she would pay the price willingly? If you, her mentor, her Princess had told her that her sacrifice would save Equestria, could she even have refused?” Luna’s eyes locked on to her sister’s. “I have looked into her dreams. She fears not that she might need to give her life, nay she fears for those she would leave behind. She regrets she may not be able to say goodbye.”

“She is a better pony than either of us,” Celestia said.

Luna nodded. “By how our charges judge such things, yes.” Luna picked up the book with her hoof. “Do you know how her teacher got this book?”

Celestia shook her head. “No, I thought it was long secured in the restricted section.”

“Do you even know why they took such drastic action just because they disliked her?”

“It did seem out of character, but there was no trace of mind magic and he… decided to escape my judgement in a rather permanent fashion.”

“Hmm… Did it ever occur to you that this might have been my doing?" Luna said depositing the book within the ethereal depths of her shadow.

“You were banished to the moon.”

“And yet I still had access to dreams, I could even influence those marked by my night. His was a moon on a scroll, yes?”

“Are you saying you caused… ” Celestia said, the temperature in the room increasing.

“No. I have no way of remembering, now do I?” Luna glared at her sister. “What I am saying is I could have. All it would have taken is for me to enter his dreams and show him just the right things. Whisper just the right words. And he would have done it.”

Luna saw the name on Celestia’s lips ‘Sunset’. Good, maybe she will learn to show a little more compassion to her tools. She thought. She considered what she knew of the Sunset situation. Perhaps sister is right suspecting me of that too.

“As for acquiring the book, all it would have taken is one of my thestrals and the smallest blessing of my power.” Luna placed her hooves on the desk and loomed towards her sister ending muzzle to muzzle. “What would you have done without the Element of Magic? Could you have even faced me in open battle, knowing it would only hasten Discords escape?”

As Celestia’s mouth started to open to respond, Luna sat back speaking first. “It would have been such a simple plan with no risk to me at all,” she said, waving a hoof nonchalantly.

“Do you think you did?” Celestia’s voice was a frail whisper.

“Do I think I did it? I don't know.” Luna smiled “But it does sound like one of mine. Everypony gets what they want, and it destroys them.” She could feel the need to smile, but she held it back.

Her sister just looked at her. Luna could almost see the game pieces being moved behind those ancient eyes.

“The teacher got to run that silly little test. Twilight’s wish for a new way to impress you, granted. And finally the icing on the cake, you got the proof that Twilight was the most powerful unicorn ever. You had found the one fated to be the Alicorn of Magic.” Luna let her power darken the room for just an eye blink. “Everypony got what they wanted, but only I won,” she said letting a hint of a purr into her last three words.

Luna thought better of showing her fangs that would be pushing just that little bit too far. Celestia was shaking with both fear and anger it seemed.

Celestia waved a hoof for Luna to depart from her presence. “I have duties that require my attention.” Luna could see the muscles in her sister’s neck strain as she fought back a harsher response.

Luna smoothly rose and turned to leave. “Even though thou hast taken far more than a thousand years from me, I will still help thee in this. Because despite myself, I still love thee sister.”

Even without looking back, Luna knew her sister's anger had just evaporated. Sleep well sister mine, for once, I have a party to go to. They even told me the perfect gift to bring. She thought. A smile crossed her muzzle. And this gift will do more to mend my friend's heart than you ever could.

Getting Twilight's parents and Spike to attend had only taken one word, ‘Twilight’.

It always did her mood a world of good being around her ponies, those with marks dedicated to her night, to know that Twilight came from such a line. Luna sincerely hoped she had not been responsible for her first incarnations death.

"So why is the first thing we hear about Twilight being back is this invitation?" Spike asked as Night Light and Twilight Velvet rushed around making ready to depart.

There was only one answer that could not be questioned. "Pinkie Pie I assume" it was not a lie. Luna had made a choice to only send Shining and Cadance because of the chance of conflict breaking out. Especially if Celestia had returned last night. If it were not for the invitation, she would have left it to Twilight to reach out to her family.

Once everypony was ready, Luna spoke to them. “Be mindful with your daughter, she has endured much. Her flesh may have mended, but her spirit still has a longer journey. It would be most unwise to press her.”

A single teleport had taken all of them to just outside Twilight's home. The joys of an unburdened wellspring. That would have set sister dearest back more than a month, and that is not even an hour's worth for me. Luna thought with relish.

Luna took her first step towards the door. A surge of magic rippled ahead of her, a magenta aura almost ripping the doors from their mountings.

“Mum, Dad, Spike!” Twilight cried out, her aura pulling the three to her as she embraced them. A few tears falling from her eyes.

“I see my contribution to this event is appreciated,” Luna said, smiling. Her heart warmed, knowing how much this meant to her friend.

Twilight nodded, gratitude clear in her shimmering eyes. A flick of her wing granted Luna permission to enter. Luna nodded back accepting, advancing into the crowd.

Walk with me. She mentally sent to Cadance, who moments later followed. Both of them were more than practised enough to navigate the crowds. Meeting and greeting as needed, small talk escaping their lips as easily as air. As far as anypony else would be able to tell there would be no hint of their mental conversation. Only two Alicorns gracing this party.

Aunty… do you know what Celestia did to Twilight? Cadance sent.

I do.

How could she?

It was six doomed minds or all life that required the light of the sun to survive. How could she not?

Cadance halted walking and looked at her.

Luna continued. The crown is never an easy burden, you will find your own challenges. I hope they are kinder to you than my sister’s were to her.

Cadance took a steady breath. She left a bucking mess.

Luna nodded. And cleaning said mess falls to us.

She hurt Twilight, a lot. The ponies that care for her are the only thing keeping her from doing something rash.

Then it is good you are here. Have you learnt anything about Manehatten?

Yes… it was a trap. Cadance’s gaze hardened, Luna could feel the extra power in her hoof falls, the Earthpony magic pulsing through the ground. She was… just look. Cadance sent, offering to let Luna look deeper into her mind.

Luna accepted, gently peering into Cadance’s mind seeking what she was recalling. She noticed the thickness and new potency to Cadance’s mental defences but formed no words in her mind not wanting her to overhear.

A scroll read in a wooden room. All of the details were on the scroll, so that was what Cadance wanted to show her. As Luna read anger built within her, outraged filled her mind. This was no mere attack, they butchered her like a Griffon cuts their meat. Luna thought with enough force to make Cadance recoil. When I get my hooves on them…

Calm down, Aunty. Cadance intruded, poking her with a wingtip.

Luna could feel the flares of Alicorn power coming from both Cadance and herself. Impressive and quick thinking, counteracting my emanation with your own. She took a deep breath to calm her emotions, covering them with the cool of her night. Twilight is made of stronger stuff than I thought if she could go through all of that and still write that report.

Cadance’s wings repositioned, clearly hiding a shudder. Luna removed some of the ice from her mental tone. Are you faring well?

Other than residue build up in my horn, I am fine Aunty.

I was wondering how you were dealing with that now that you are in the Empire.

Would you be able to help?

Of course, should you not seek my sister's aid as normal?

… She has never done anything about it.

It was Luna’s turn to pause. She told me she was taking care of it… Is this another thing she did not teach her Diplomat?

Cadance nodded. I only just found out that’s why my horn hurts when ponies teleport near me.

Luna wrapped a wing over Cadance’s back. Then once we are done here, I will tend to you, and I challenge you not to enjoy it.

Excuse me, Aunty, I think Twilight is going to need me. Cadance looked over to her sister-in-law. Twilight's eyes fixed on Cadance. Cadance headed over towards Shining Armor. Twilight’s horn lit as it gathered power.

Luna nodded and moved to where the younger ponies were playing. She felt the pulse of magic as Twilight teleported herself and her parents right next to Cadance.

Using her magic, Luna enhanced the games Pinkie had set up. Animating parts, adding illusions and drawing on her memories of the dreams of the young ones to make sure they had a good time.

Twilight’s daughter seemed to be avoiding Luna. Little Star played with the CMC and Spike as they moved freely but never got close enough for conversation. Each time they neared Star would direct them to a different attraction or just teleport them away.

Twilight will introduce us later. Luna thought as she returned to playing with the foals, they were such bright sparks of joy. To be unaware of how harsh the world can be, treasure it while you can.

After some time Luna settled enjoying the simple but exceedingly good food offerings, complemented by whatever it was she was drinking. Taking Celestia’s lessons to heart, she let time wash past her, appreciating every moment but lingering on none of them. Perhaps I will base some dreams on this party. She mused.

Time passed, only her connection to the moon letting her know how long. Without it, she would have had no idea if it had been an hour or a year.

Unexpectedly she started glowing, she tensed, power rushing to her horn. She noticed it was the familiar glow of her lineage spell that washed over her. The intense glow indicating she was the target’s parent or child. Luna starred in bemusement at her glowing foreleg. This is impossible. She thought. There is no pony alive that the spell could be cast on to make me glow like this.

A filly bursting from a teleport and wrapping their hooves around Luna’s neck was either the least dangerous assassin or Twilight's daughter. If it were an attack, she would have been defeated. Her only reaction was her hoof moving to help support Star’s weight a full second after the impact.

“Mummy, Mummy, I found another Mummy!” Star’s joyful voice was powerful enough to push Luna’s mane back.

Luna could feel all the eyes in the room as they turned on her. The long years of her life allowed her to keep her poise, but they could do nothing to hide the shock she felt.

Looking to where her senses told her Twilight was, she met the mares dumbstruck eyes. For a long moment, both mares just stood there.

Star lit her horn and in a flash of magenta light, Twilight was teleported right in front of Luna, Star’s aura pulling her closer so the little filly could hug both of them.

The smaller Alicorn was still frozen, her only reaction being tiny twitches and flicks of her ears.

“Twilight?” Luna asked in a calm voice. There was no response from the mare. Is she in shock? Luna wondered.

“I have two Princesses as Mummies!” Star cheered, a foreleg hugging each of them. Pinkie cheered in response, jumping up and down in the crowd.

Luna sat, taking the weight of Star with her wing, allowing the enforced hug to be less precarious for the energetic filly. There was no hint of the hesitation or the fear that had caused Star to avoid her. Every feature of the adorable little foal spoke only of how overjoyed she was.

In whisper-speak Luna questioned the lavender Alicorn. “Twilight Sparkle, perchance was there a dalliance We were unaware of? Not that we would have refused such a boon to one of our saviours such as thyself…” She said. Luna thought back to her outings, taking other forms to escape the chains of her duty for a time. If Twilight did the same is it possible we ‘encountered’ each other and simply did not realise?

Luna’s words broke through Twilight’s shock. She blushed as her eyes met Luna’s. There was a desire in her gaze that she seemed desperate to hide. Many different things were flashing behind her eyes, unlike Celestia's carefully moving game pieces, this seemed more like Twilight was having an argument with herself.

“What’s a dalliance?” Star responded. How did a unicorn hear that? Luna thought.

Twilight’s blush became volcanic as a few motes of fire danced along her mane. She teleported a dictionary to Star. “Luna… do you happen to know how reliable that spell is? I looked at the spell work, and it seems fairly competent.”

“Completely, but I am more interested in who cast my spell upon you Little Star?” Luna inquired.

“Sweetie Belle said it brought good luck to entire families.” Star started meekly before her smile returned. “It worked!”

“So,” Twilight said.

Cadance would you be so kind as to bring Sweetie Belle here. Luna’s mental communication carried an edge of command.

“Yes, we seem to both be the parents of this adorable little foal,” Luna said, smiling warmly at Star. A foal, me with a foal. She could hardly believe it. She ran every single check she could think of to prove she was not in a dream. Even retreating into her Bastion for a moment.

Twilight’s horn was lit, her stance was fearful. Her wings ready to take flight and unless Luna was mistaken, she had her horn prepared to cast a teleport. “So… umm… Princess Luna… what,” she said.

“We will talk soon,” Luna said, turning to face the approaching ponies. Cadance led Rarity, and the requested Sweetie Belle. The glowing Alicorns and Luna’s now official bearing had cleared plenty of open space around them for the three ponies to join them.

In the background, Pinkie was darting around changing the party banners, she was getting some of the other ponies to help. Sister is going to be jealous of me, Luna thought with humour as she read one congratulating her on finding out she had a filly. It still amazed her how Pinky could be ready for any sort of event with zero notice.

“Princess Luna,” Rarity said, bowing.

Luna nodded, “You are here acting as young Sweetie Belle's guardian?

“Yes, your highness.”

“Be at ease, she has done nothing wrong, I simply have a few questions.” Luna keeping her best friendly smile, turned to Sweetie Belle. “I have not seen that spell for a very long time, might I ask how you learnt it and why you cast it on your friend?” Luna said, nodding towards Little Star, still held by her wing.

“The nice stallion gave me this,” Sweetie said, her aura lifting a rune encrusted gem from her mane. “He said it was a good luck spell and to cast it on Star as his gift for the party.”

A magenta aura snatched the gem from Sweetie. “A spell gem.” Twilight declared. Star teleported to Twilight, examining the gem was just as much an interest to her as her mother. Luna kept her smile at that part off her face.

“I read about these…” Star impossibly responded yet again in Whisper-speak. Mother and daughter kept talking back and forth about magic theory, unheard by any but the Alicorns.

“Can you point out the stallion?” Luna asked.

In the corner of her vision, Luna notice Cadance looking distracted, she was concentrating on something.

Sweetie looked around before shaking her head. “He's not here.”

“Are you able to describe him?”

Sweetie paused, then her expression became confused. “He was just sort of... normal looking.”

“He must have been using an I'm-Not-Important spell,” Star spoke up, looking up from the scroll she was writing on.

Nopony here has any negative intent towards Star or Twilight. There are two ponies over in the corner that don’t trust you. But that is the worse here, I can’t sense any threat here. Cadance mentally reported.

Luna looked into her shadow, bundled everything she had just found out into a dream spell and gave it to her Pet. The weight of the Tantabus left her shadow, darting off unseen to relay the short dream to her guards outside.

“My clever, Little Star,” Twilight said her aura pulling Star into a hug. The two lavender mares turned their attention back to the gem. Twilight spoke in whisper-speak. “Do you see these marks here, and here? That means this was made by modern tools. Six percent less efficient when it comes to using the Gem, but takes less than a quarter of the time to create.”

Except for Pinkie, Twilight's friends and family moved closer, the shock of the reveal now long faded.

“You know when you said it was not that simple, I was expecting one of your non-pony friends… Not... Not Princess Luna,” Twilight Velvet said to Twilight.

“Hehe,” Twilight tried to laugh. “Well…”

Luna raised a single imperious eyebrow looking at Velvet.

“Not that that's a problem you Highness,” Velvet said bowing hastily. “It, it just is unexpected.”

Night Light pressed against Velvet’s side clearly lending support even if he had no words to add.

“Are you really the… other parent of Twilight's filly here?” Applejack asked.

“Unless this is a dream or Discord is playing a rather cruel joke on us, yes,” Luna answered, smiling as she turned her eyes to Star again. “But just to be sure.” Luna lit her horn, dispelling the original spell and recasting it herself. After receiving the same results, she nodded.

Star’s aura enveloped her whole family. Luna had to fight back her combat training as multiple ponies were thrown at her. They only slowed at the last second ending in a pony pile of a hug centred on Little Star.

The sounds of minor complaint and discomfort of the mortal ponies could be heard as Twilight giggled. “You need to be a little more careful when doing that to non-Alicorns.”

“Sorry everypony,” Star said.

Everypony extracted themselves from the pony pile settling into more comfortable positions. Star claiming a place between Luna and Twilight.

“How I have a daughter is the pertinent question, Twilight.”

Cadance cast a sound barrier around the group, Luna nodded her thanks.

“Well... “ Twilight took a calming breath. “You remember when we…” Twilight's jaw twitched. “You remember when you returned from the moon?”

“Luna do you know how foals wellsprings are formed?” Cadance asked.

“It is from the meeting of the parent’s wellspring during an act of intimacy,” Luna answered.

“Well… apparently zapping somepony with a Harmony Rainbow counts too,” Twilight cut in.

Luna could feel a wide grin spread across her face. “So this is Harmony blessed? Am I truly forgiven for my transgressions?” She looked with awe at Star.

“Mummy Luna,” Star called out pouncing her muzzle.

Cadance giggled.

“You’re not angry? Twilight asked.

“Angry, angry, how could we be angry?” Luna asked. “What is vexing me is where you have been hiding this adorable one?”

Star giggled as Luna used her aura to tickled her.

“Have you heard of MSFS?” Cadance asked.

Luna shook her head. What is it with ponies these days and their acronyms.

“Magically Suppressed Foal Syndrome,” Cadance explained.

Twilight paled. “Do you mean if I… If I did not…” She stopped speaking, looking at Star. She leaned closer, wrapping Star in a hug pressing against Luna in the process.

Twilight’s shaking and horrified expression spoke volumes of how serious this could be. Luna shifted her wing, concealing her friends destress from the other ponies in the room. Twilight leant into the embrace, still focused entirely on Star.

Cadance placed a gentle hoof on Twilight's back before contacting Luna mentally. It is when a mother’s wellspring is too strong for the foal to separate from and grow their own body. Without the right medical magic, the foals soul ends up being… consumed by the mother. I had to take a potion to avoid it.

Luna's concealing wing pulled Twilight into a hug. Just the thought of being the death of one’s own foal even before they were born was most unpleasant.

“Luna, as the Princess of Love I ask you for your intentions towards Little Star,” Cadance said, assuming her official visage.

Luna nuzzled Star. “If she accepts, I will gladly take on my role as her mother and officially recognise her as my daughter.”

Cadance nodded, turning to Twilight.

“You know my answer, as complicated as this all is. She is our daughter.” Twilight said, looking at Luna. Her eyes rapidly cycling through emotions.

“This means I will have to inform Celestia…” Cadance said.

“Do you have to?” Twilight asked pleadingly.

“She is the eldest Princess, and because of who we are. This is a matter of state.” Luna regretfully said.

“Wait a minute, just need to check something,” Twilight said, lighting her horn.

A sizeable legal tome flew into the room forcing ponies to dodge aside as it raced over to Twilight and snapped open. Twilight eyes rapidly danced from page to page. The book slammed closed with an echoing boom.

With a few strands of her mane popping up, she called out. “Spike! Spike!” Noticing the sound bubble, she pushed her head through it and tried again. “Spike! Spike! I need you to send a message to Princess Celestia right now!”

Spike came running, gem dust still on his muzzle. He had a scroll all ready in claw, prepared to take a letter. Twilight's aura pulled him into the bubble. “Ready,” he said one part eager two parts worried.

Twilight dictated “Celestia, I am borrowing all the legal books from the restricted section of the archive. No need to be alarmed.” The sound of Spikes quill seeming overly loud within the spell.

“PS. Also proving why you need to update your wards. If you want to know where they need improvement, see my ward improvements report version six, page twenty-three and go from there.”

Spike finished the last word. “Send it,” Twilight commanded.

Spike exhaled his green flames burning the scroll and sending it on it’s way to Celestia.

Twilight stepped back from the hug, gaining a bit of distance before her horn lit. Multiple spell arrays forming in the air rotating around her horn. Twilight started muttering numbers and complicated equations, eyes moving rapidly as if she was reading something in front of her.

Star teleported onto Luna’s back and started taking notes, watching her mother’s feat of spellcraft.

This was clearly a higher dimensional spell, an extremely complex one at that. Luna dared not do anything to interrupt Twilight, the amount of power was extreme for anypony other than an Alicorn.

The spell stopped making sense to her after the seventh dimension arrays were added. Luna looked Cadance and mentally sent. Leave, this will not be comfortable with your condition.

Cadance dropped the sound spell and reached for Star with her aura. “But I want to stay here…” Star whined but did not struggle as she was placed on Cadance’s back.

“We can watch from over there,” Cadance said, moving away to the far side of the room.

“Ponies, it would be wise to give Twilight Sparkle adequate space,” Luna spoke in the Royal Canterlot Voice.

It seemed the ponies of Ponyville remembered the ‘lesson-zero’ event. Some galloped, most simply trotted to the exit, making their way to safety. Only her family and friends did not retreat.

Twilight cast her spell, all the arrays collapsed down to a single point, and in a crack, her horn went out.

“Fifty-nine, fifty-eight…” She counted down the minute, second by second.

The countdown cleared all but the bravest ponies from the room. Pinkie’s shouting before running out of the room “It's going to do something!” might have helped.

As the count neared its end, the sound of Twilight’s voice and Star’s quills were the only sounds. Precisely on time with the flash of a teleport and the accompanying pop of displaced air. A large number of old tomes teleported in, forming walls of books around Twilight.

Twilight’s aura lifted all the books, forming them into a ring around her in the air. Each book opening to the first page as they started to rotate around her, each advanced one page per rotation.

Scrolls teleported in around her as a dozen quills set to work taking notes.


“Yes, Luna?” Twilight responded without looking from her work.

“How did you get these books here?”

“Celestia only uses wards rated to protect against spells using up to the sixth dimension. So that is all normal teleportation and extra-dimensional storage spells. What I did was constructed a virtual eleven-dimensional spell by combining two high order spells.”

Luna’s eyes widened at hearing Twilight casually describing impossible spellcraft as if it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“Now when my spell came in to contract with the ward, the first six dimensions were caught by the ward. That part of the spell then collapses in such a way to leave a breach just large enough. Thus leaving the way clear for my fifth-dimensional target discriminating teleportation spell that was tagging along.”

Twilight smiled with pride. “All it takes is a few advanced mathematical transformations applied to hybrid Translocation spell theory. She had better take my reports seriously now, and she said no pony could do it. Ha.”

“So you used numbers, to breach my Sisters strongest wards?”

“Yes, naturally it would be impossible for anypony to brute force their way through Celestia’s ward.”

“Might I ask what you are looking for?”

“Hmm? Oh, I am just looking into if we have any other options other than us getting married, me being executed or exiled.” Twilight said before mumbling. “Don’t want to give Celestia a legal reason to kill me after all.”

“Married?” Luna blinked. Me married? To Twilight? For the first time Luna looked at Twilight, really looked at her. Taking in her developing Alicorn body. We are already friends… and she is appealing. Then, her muttered words registered. She thinks my sister wants to kill her? Luna thought in alarm.

Twilight nodded and floated her pages of notes over to Luna. Luna ended her musing and accepted the notes in her aura. They were very thorough, even going into lengthy detail about the legalities of Alicorn Fragments and who was responsible for their actions. Everything to do with what the law says should happen to two unwed Princesses with a foal.

“Is Celestia a Bad Pony?” Star asked from the back of the approaching Cadance.

All eyes were now on Star, One by one, the books were placed back on the ground, and Twilight's horn dimmed.

Twilight’s eyes darkened, Cadance’s wing draped reassuringly over her back.

“My sister is not a Bad Pony as you put it… She has merely made some mistakes.”

Twilight growled, her mane rippling with hot flames. Cadance’s wing recoiled, fortunately unburnt. Twilight’s friends backed off but only seemed concerned. Shining fell back, first to his guard training, standing ready, his horn lit. Velvet and Nightlight jumped back nearly falling over, fearful of the sudden outburst. Star sat calmly drawing and taking notes.

“Mis…” Twilight started, Cadance cutting her off with a gentle hoof.

“Twilight,” Cadance said reassuringly placing a hoof on her shoulder.

Twilight took a deep breath letting the flames die. “Sorry…” She said sheepishly, looking to her worried parents.

“Some of your anger is justified, but If you are to hate my Sister, hate her for the truth and not your fears,” Luna said to Twilight. Turning to the others, she continued. “We Alicorns will return shortly, we have things to discuss that are not for mortal ears.”

Cadance nuzzled Shining and moved up to Luna, offering Twilight’s parents a reassuring smile. Cadance’s wing poked Luna. “No need to be so dramatic Aunty, the three of us just need to have a little chat in private.”

Luna nodded, “We entrust our daughter’s care to you until our return.”

“Star can you look after my friends?” Twilight asked, leaning closer to her child, she whispered. “I would feel much safer if you were here to protect them.”

Star nodded seriously accepting her mission. A flash of magic and a helm and cape appeared on Star, both laced with an impressive amount of defensive magic. “The Bad ponies won’t get them,” she declared.

Twilight smiled proudly at her. “I have faith in you my Little Star.” She then looked up at Luna and nodded,

With how powerful and well equipped Star seemed, that faith was well placed. In a fair fight, she could likely take four of my Nightguard if she knows even a single offensive spell. Luna thought.

Cadance kissed Shining before leading the two other Alicorns out of the room.

Cadance led them to a dull section of wall in the middle of nowhere. “Twilight if you would.”

“How…Oh, ok.” Twilight said before knocking on the wall in an intricate pattern. The wall rotated, revealing a secret room. Twilight trotted in, teleporting a blanket over some wrapped boxes.

Once all the ponies where inside Twilight closed the door.

“Twilight, this was the catalyst of thy forbears end,” Luna said, extracting the Golden tome from her shadow and using her prehensile mane to offer it to Twilight.

Hesitantly taking it into her aura Twilight drew it closer. She opened it and began to read.

Cadance simply observed the two of them. By how her gaze was slightly unfocused, she was using her gift to see into the heart of ponies.

“Why did she test me with this spell?” Twilight was clearly forcing her voice to be calm, it came across as icy. Twilight was far easier to read, not having Cadance’s years of diplomatic training. So sister left different gaps in your training.

“She did not…”

Twilight glared at Luna.

“Peace, peace dear, Twilight. Listen, and you shall learn the truth,” Luna said, laying down, her shadow formed into cushions.

“One of your instructors at my sister's school hated you. Did you know you were meant to fail to hatch Spike’s egg? It was meant to be an impossible task, one by which the teachers could assess your reaction.”

“And this was given to me as an impossible test?”

“Yes, he was insistent that unless you underwent such an ordeal, you had no place being in the school. That nopony that had not been tested such should be trusted with magic at all.”

“Where is he?” Twilight growled, her eyes blazing with power.

“Unfortunately he is long departed from this life.”

“Then how did you find this out? Did Celestia tell you?” Twilight asked, doubt evident.

“Some, but I confirmed it with my Nightguard, they were here spying and waiting on my return,” Luna said, she could see Twilight’s keen mind taking in all the implications.

Twilight summoned cushions for both her and Cadance from a pocket. Cadance winced.

“Sorry,” Twilight said, laying down as she closed the book. Cadance setting down next to her ready to provide any needed comfort.

“The spell has no function to recombine the soul of the caster. It relies on the fact that Alicorn souls can take care of it on their own.”

Twilight flicked back and forth between a few pages. “In fact, if it were not for the communication links this spell would have instantly killed us, Me?” Twilight shook her head. “There really was no way... no way.” Twilight trailed off looking at the text.

“No dear Twilight this book, This tome of ancient knowledge was a poisoned chalice. It was the perfect tool to assassinate the Element of Magic.”

Twilight glared at the book, opening it to the first page she began writing.

This spell is a trap, casting it will kill any mortal caster when it ends. Any copies of this spell must have this warning. By order of HRH Princess Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight smiled, offering the book back to Luna.

Cadance draped a wing over Twilight. “That was very responsible of you, Twilight.”

“My sister is to blame for the seals and her many manipulations. But as for your first incarnation’s death, her only crime is negligence. She should have noticed what you were learning and stopped you in the weeks it would have taken you to learn.

“Luna. I could cast this now. Maybe a few moments to make sure I have a few things triple checked.”


“Yes and by all accounts my… the original had a superior grasp of magic…”

Luna was amazed. “I could not learn that spell even with a whole year of study.”

“Well, it's not very well written. I could write it up using half the space, making it three times as easy to learn.” Twilight’s aura pulled the book back to her. Scrolls and quills appeared as Twilight set to work. The task before her doing more to calm Twilight that any of Luna's words.

Twilight began humming a hauntingly familiar tune. Both her head and quill bobbed in time, Cadance joined in adding the words.

Luna felt a few tears form in her eyes, it took a few long breaths for her to calm herself and let herself enjoy her most treasured memory. The feel of her mother’s loving embrace, of nightmares being chased away by the words of the Lullaby.

Minutes later, Twilight looked up, offering the improved spell diagram and instructions. Her warning in larger letters at the top of the first page.

The complex and incomprehensible arcane mess had been transformed into clear, concise instructions. It will still take time to learn, but it is now possible. Luna thought. “This is truly the same spell?” Luna asked.

Twilight nodded with pride.

You know that song. Cadance mentally stated, keen eyes looking deep into Luna’s own.

Yes… my mother used to sing it. Luna responded.

The sound of Twilight’s hoof travelling circles on the crystal floor announced her uncertainty. “So, Luna? What do we do now?” She asked.

“If you both wish to acknowledge Star… then there will be another Canterlot wedding,” Cadance said.

Twilight looked at Luna, again things were moving behind those eyes.

“I am not averse to the idea,” Luna said. “Do you all agree?” she said, leaning closer to Twilight.

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked, leaning away from her.

“I can tell when my sister is conferring with her fragments, and you are far less adept at concealing such things.”

Twilight sat still for a good ten seconds, eyes unfocused not paying any attention to the outside world. “Four are in agreement, one is abstaining.”

“You know what will be expected on our wedding night?” Luna let her eyes trail over Twilight's form, a hungry look in her eyes now. A daughter and an immortal bride, all for the low cost of one thousand years on the moon and knowing the pain of my victims… a bargain. She thought as she teased Twilight.

“I look forward to it.” Twilight purred, as she leaned in gently biting Luna’s ear with a fang. “We don’t have to wait…”

Twilight’s invitation was as tantalising as it was unexpected. Luna’s wings fought to open as an enticing warmth entered her flesh where Twilight’s mane brushed against her neck.

“Yes you do,” Cadance interjected, pushing the two apart with her wings.

Warm flames were rippling along Twilight's mane.

“What did I say about letting Twilight stay in charge?” Cadance said sternly.

As the flames died, Twilight blushed. “I was… Nova was… just suggesting things,” Twilight said doing her best to keep her eyes away from Luna.

Luna glanced to Cadance before looking to Twilight. “How far have your lessons dealing with fragments progressed?”

“Lessons? Celestia has been actively keeping us from learning about our abilities,” Twilight said using a wing to include Cadance.

“You have five fragments, how?” Luna asked.

“Two... Two survived…Nova and Grey. Then there is myself, Celestia’s creation and...” Twilight started before being cut off.

“I would like to invite all of you into my Bastion,” Cadance stated.

“That is a strange request niece,” Luna said eyes narrowing.

“It is the only place this meeting can happen,” she responded.

“Do we have to do this?” Twilight asked meekly.

“You two may be getting married, I think she deserves to know,” Cadance said.

“Luna… will you Pinkie Promise not to tell Celestia anything you find out?” There was genuine fear in Twilights quavering tone.

Luna looked to Cadance who nodded she should comply. “As you wish Twilight.” Luna huffed then performed the motions and the words.

Cadance presented her lit horn, Twilight touched her horn to it just before Luna followed suit.

Luna opened the eyes of her mental construct, finding herself resting on a large silken bed, the warm bodies of multiple ponies around her. She spent a long moment just enjoying it. Raising her head and looking around it appeared they were in Cadance’s chambers all of then spilled messily on her bed.

There was Twilight, Twilight with thestral like features, Cadance, a Crystal Pegasus and an unknown beautiful blue-coated silver maned Alicorn the same size as her.

The bat-winged Twilight spoke. “You can decide where we enter with that spell, we did not all need to turn up in your bed.”

“Are you saying that this is not a dream come true for you, Night?” The enchanting voice of the silver maned Alicorn teased, looking to Cadance and then Luna.

Night extracted herself from the pony pile.

“Do you have any fragments you want to bring Aunty?” Cadance asked.

Well, that explains things Luna thought. “None that would be appropriate,” she said regretting her only fragment was the Tantarbus.

“So introductions?” Cadance said.

“First an explanation,” Twilight corrected, rolling to face Luna. “Luna… you know that the Elements of Harmony like healing and redeeming ponies?”

“Yes, I am very aware of that Twilight, and you will always have my thanks for it.”

Twilight took a deep breath and with Cadance’s approving look, and the silver maned Alicorn’s wing hug, she found the strength to keep going. “I have had Nightmare Moon under my care since the girls and I freed you from her.”

My freedom burdened you with that? Luna thought with regret.

Twilight gestured with a hoof to Night. “Might I introduce you to the former Nightmare.”

In a flurry of motion, Luna rolled out of bed lighting her horn, every fibre of her body thrumming with power as she readied for battle.

The blue mare moved to shield Night with an outstretched wing. “You get to be redeemed, Discord and even ender of the world several times over Starlight, gets to be redeemed with just a slap on the hoof. What right do you have to deny Night?” She said, voice full of righteous indignation, her own horn lit with silver energy.

“Please don’t fight. The Tree of Harmony set the whole thing up. Getting me to teach Nightmare Moon the value of friendship over all these years and even our foal.” Twilight said, smiling. “Night is the only reason I am even alive now, she rescued both myself and our daughter.”

Our daughter. Luna thought, she owed her newly discovered daughter’s life to this monster?

Twilight slowly rose from the bed, taking place between the two battle-ready Alicorns. Now with a clear view, Luna could see in this mental space, Twilight’s form was different. Each body part seemed to not quite match the others. Golden threads of Celestia’s power held her together, like a repaired cloth doll.

One tug on that power and before her ascension Twilight would have died, even now it would cripple her. Why, sister? Did you fear Twilight that much? Luna thought.

“Are you two going to behave or do I need to get the guard involved?” The Crystal Pegasus asked, moving up and hovering next to Twilight.

The silver maned mare let the light fade from her horn. “Nice to meet you Lulu, I was looking forward to this encounter.” She said sadly. “The name I have claimed is Sweet Dreams, and I was a fragment of Night. Now I am bonded with Twilight.”

Looking to Cadance, who was still upon the bed looking calm, Luna let her horn dim. Stretching and assuming a neutral stance she spoke. “I offer my thanks for saving Twilight and my Da...”

“Our Daughter.” Night corrected.

“All of Twilight’s guests care for Little Star. Aunty you are going to have to accept them all if you want Twilight and Star to be a part of your life.” Cadance spoke.

“Legally an Alicorn and their hosted fragments are one individual,” Twilight said quietly.

Luna sat on her haunches. Accept the Nightmare? Marry the Nightmare? She thought with disbelief.

Dreams moved closer. “Lulu you wanted love, admiration, to be valued. Do you know how much of that can be found in the gaze of just one little foal?”

Night trotted up beside Dreams. “Having nothing but Twilight’s life to watch for years, gave me a lot more to think about than our time on the moon, plotting revenge,” Night said.

Twilight walked in front of Luna. “Do you trust me?” She asked softly.

Luna nodded “With my life.”

Twilight smiled, “Then trust me, the Nightmare is only a threat to those who would harm our loved ones. Night and Dreams are my sword and shield.”

Twilight moved in, wrapping her wings around Luna as best as her smaller size would allow. “We are all going to be family,” she said, nuzzling her.

“Well I have a letter to write,” Cadance said.

“Oh to be able to see Tia’s reaction when she reads about this.” Dreams laughed.

Luna's face twitched, she couldn't help herself, she joined in.

CH 22 Hidden Preparation

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The well-dressed Noble Guide sat in the meeting room. Before him, on the table, he had several thousand pages of plans for construction, relation and supply. The Sun Princess had requested the late meeting with him because she wanted this situation resolved as soon as possible.

Despite that, Celestia was late. Celestia was never late unless the world was ending or there was an invasion. He thankfully remained in his drug enforced calm, as his mind worked the puzzle. He had not set anything in motion, so he had two theories. The first that it was another banished foe returning. The second that Twilight the master blood mage was making her move.

This meeting had to go well, he had no way to move forward until he had all the necessary official paperwork. Why did I not leave some of my slaves to watch Twilight? He berated himself again. All of his current sufferings could be traced back to his overconfidence.

He sat there waiting, letting his mind drift back over the last week trying to spot if he had done anything that could have given him away.

Smoky incense drifted in the air of the dimly lit room, two braziers burning with a green flame tainting all the colours in the room. The robed Darkmage slowly entered the room, on guard for any trickery. It had taken a lot of bits and burning two of his contacts to even get this meeting. This had to go right, or his destiny would be set back years.

Before him the tall, elegant unicorn mare he was here to meet lounged on silk pillows, each as black as her coat. With a motion of her head, she tossed her vibrant, almost toxic green mane aside. She turned her gaze upon the Darkmage, it was not the gaze of a pony, her eyes held hunger, the desires of a hunter. She was considering whether he would be her meal this night.

She leaned forward. “So… what do you want, little pony?” Her sensuous voice dripped with the most alluring honey.

He could feel the magic brushing against his mind. I am not here to be seduced by vermin. He thought, reinforcing his mind. It was trivial to call on his dark magic letting the mind magic run into a solid wall of hate. He reinforced his defences with determination and guarded it with his guile.

A nasty smile graced his muzzle. “I am here to trade, not to become one of your puppets, Changeling.”

“My, you are well-informed, for a pony,” She said, all hints of the seductress banished.

The Darkmage tipped his head respectfully.

“I ask again, what do you want?” The Changeling enquired tone now all business.

He trotted into the room, sitting down uninvited on a pillow opposite her. “I require three things. First is to acquire the identity of a certain pony for my self. Second the use of some of your trinkets to suppress only blood and dark aspected magic. And third, I require your vaunted skills of persuasion to encourage some ponies in need of homes to move where I want them too.

“Is that all?” She snorted. “And what do you think you have to offer me, that can possibly be worth all that, pony?”

He retrieved a vial of thick red liquid from his robe and held it out on a hoof. Her gaze narrowed on it. “And what is it you have there?” She asked.

It was hard to keep the grin from his muzzle. He could see the way her eyes tracked it hungrily. “Fresh Alicorn blood from one, Twilight Sparkle.” He hated trading away some of his irreplaceable resources, but he had more than enough.

“Assuming it is authentic, as impressive as it is. You still need more.”

“If you come through, I will provide you with a sample from her ovaries,” He answered with a feral grin of his own. “All perfectly preserved like the blood, in magical stasis.”

The temptation was evident in her eyes. He knew he was playing with fire, offering such a boon to the Queen’s Changelings was a risk. He would have to deal with a more powerful brood once he had claimed his rightful place.

Her horn lit with green magic and a matching aura took hold of the vial. “If this is a trick you will not leave here alive.”

“I know, don’t take me for a foal.”

She pulled the stopper out, lifting the vial to her lips and letting a single drop fall upon her extended tongue. Her eyes closed as she seemed to be savouring the vital fluid as if it were a fine wine. Her now glowing eyes snapped open fixing on him. “So who do you want to be?” She purred.

The new Noble Guide looked around his home, his estate. His long quest had often denied him the creature comforts from his past. He washed the painkillers down with the rest of his glass of wine. He would have to take them every day until his ascension. A small price to pay. He thought.

Guide stretched, he was still not used to all the subtle differences in his new body. He reached out with his aura gripping yet another page full of information from the stack. When the changelings promise to get everything a pony knows, they really do mean everything.

Page by page, he was learning all he could about the original Noble Guide. He was not a bad pony, his only mistake was being in a useful position. One that would serve the new Noble Guide much better.

He settled back into the plush fabric of his seat and let his eyes look out over the beautiful towers of Canterlot. It made a nice change from the dusty temples and ancient ruins he had called his home for the past decades.

Holding up a single sheet of paper and examining his new contacts. Yes, the right words to these foals and I will have them eating from my hoof.

Standing, he got to his hooves. A slight wince was the only outside display of how painful his hooves still felt. What I would not give to have an Astral aspect. Lucky buckers have no idea what it is like for those of us who can never teleport.

At least his objective was only a few rooms away. Forcing himself to walk normally, assuming a regal gate like the noble he was. He had letters to write and servants to enslave.

“Canterlot is the shining star of Equestria, and we will show that we all stand for the ideals of Harmony,” Noble said, ending his speech to some of the more worthwhile nobles in the city.

A few promised bits was all it had taken to get some useless noble to give up his slot to talk to Celestia tomorrow.

He glanced up at the reporter for the Canterlot Times, still writing away in their notebook. Yes, they would be quite useful.

“Good day to you,” Guide tipped his head respectfully to the pegasus. This would be so much simpler if I could use my dark magic, but that could be detected. He lamented.

“And to you as well Noble Guide.” He offered his hoof to shake. “The names Headline.”

Guide accepted the shake. “If my meeting with Princess Celestia goes well tomorrow, I will have quite the story for you.” He could see the bits flashing in the reporter's eyes. “Would you want an exclusive interview, no fee required?”

“I’m no foal born yesterday, what's the catch.”

“No pulling any wool over your eyes I see. Good, you will do.” Guide smiled. “I plan on helping the displaced Manehatten ponies. Now I could pay for advertising to get the news out, or I could offer you a free exclusive and get the information out at no cost to me. The way I see it, this is to both of our advantages, and serves a good cause.” He said. Just not the one I’m telling you. He added in the privacy of his own mind.

Noble Guide stared at the bathroom mirror, he was still not used to his reflection. His well-groomed black mane matched his impeccable brown coat. His eyes were drawn to his new mark, his every sense screaming at him that something was wrong. The new mark was a map with trails marked on it. It was not so different than the scroll he used to have, and yet just the sight of it twisted his insides.

Dragging his gaze to his own eyes, he focused. All of his immediate preparations were complete. In only an hour, he would be standing before the immortal solar goddess. It had been many years since he had seen her let alone been in her direct presence. He shuddered, even with as far as he had come he was still only an insect before her. You have a plan, her overconfidence will be her undoing. He thought, trying to calm himself. “I outsmarted her once… I can do it again,” he said with more confidence than he felt.

His aura lifted the small metal box, a scalpel and a vile of dark liquid. Opening the box revealed three items. The first two small pieces of the shattered Queen’s throne, each with glowing Changeling writing on it. These would each block a single aspect of magic, one blood, the other dark. Lifting them by hoof he placed them to the side.

The last item, the most important one. A single gem, so dark it made even the deepest night seem bright. His eyes gazed into the seemingly endless abyss within. When he had first found the gem, it had a small amount of Luna’s dark power from before her banishment.

The power within this magical diary had not lasted long. He had to make use of it to escape Canterlot after his error in judgment all those years ago. But after that one taste of power, after how naturally he wielded it he knew what his destiny was to be.

Of more importance was the knowledge it held, that Alicorns were not born they were made. That one fact had changed his life, setting his course towards his destiny. That was not all it held but merely the most vital. In addition, it held images, incomplete plans, and partial memories of the Alicorn of the Night.

Even empty of power, the information still remained. He had managed to start his path, acquiring spells and artefacts that Nightmare Moon and her servants had hid away as insurance against her defeat.

When he ended up in conflict with another warlock, a powerful mind mage, he found the true power of the Dark Gem. The warlocks spell should have enslaved him. Instead, it did nothing. His opponent started babbling, but the words were familiar. His attacker saw Luna’s memories. So long as the Dark Gen was in contact with somepony, any mind magic would be drawn to the gem, and the caster would be unaware.

So for his plan he had emptied the Gem of Luna’s memories, replacing them with a fake mind. It had taken hours but bit by bit he fabricated what one would expect to find in the original Noble Guide’s mind. He had invaded, broken and twisted enough minds over the years to know the sorts of details and imperfections needed to make it believable.

His aura expertly manipulated the surgical blade, parting his flesh as intended. A trivial effort of his blood magic, preventing even a single drop spilling. Lifting the Dark Gem, he pushed it into the wound. His face twisted and teeth ground together. Even through his daily doses of painkillers, it still hurt.

As he adjusted its position so nopony would be able to notice it hidden under his coat, he felt something. A quiet whisper in his mind, following it he found the content of the Gem, like an extension to his mind’s eye. Testing it, he cast a compulsion spell upon himself.

In the Gem, he saw the spell swirl in and assume control of the fake mind. He knew what the spell wanted him to do, but it had no hold upon him. He smiled. Is this the real purpose of the gem? He had always wondered how Luna had raised a rebellion against Celestia the master of mind magic in secret. Now he knew, she had created the perfect counter to mind reading.

His gaze turned to the two Changeling artifacts, his smile dropped. This is going to be painful. He thought as he set to work implanting them as well.

The Princess sat upon her throne, unchanged and ever beautiful. Her ancient eyes seeming kind, caring and wise. He knew better, he knew from Luna’s memories that everything the public saw about Celestia was an act, a lie. Ponies were just game pieces to her, she was playing a board game called Equestria, trying to get a high score for public approval.

He felt weak and defenceless with his two most potent magics sealed away. The fact that he was not already arrested or incinerated meant that the Changeling artifacts were doing their jobs. He was thankful the potion he had acquired from the black market was working as advertised. Despite everything, he felt no fear. He knew that for the next few hours, he would be incapable of such.

The Goddess looked at him and spoke “Noble Guide, you may approach. The Solar Throne is ready to hear your petition.” Her voice clear and pure, carrying the warmth and confidence that had guided ponies for millennia.

He moved forward and bowed, performing all the required court etiquette. They both had a script, and he stuck to his. He began, launching into his prepared pitch to construct a new settlement to house the ponies of Manehatten and after, to maintain it for future need.

It was not too long before he felt it, a powerful but restrained force. Inside the Gem, it looked like a golden light illuminated a narrow arc. He kept on with his speech, it was the only option he had. The Nightmare’s trick will either work, or I will die here and now. He thought, marvelling and how calm the drug made him.

Celestia probed deeper and deeper. Yet she played her part in the conversation and not once did her horn light. Within the Gem the searching light had become tendrils reaching around, picking up sections of the fake mind before carefully returning them where they had come from. It gave him the impression of an octopus reading books in a library.

Celestia’s smile seemed to become warmer, more eager as the mental probe retreated. She was giving all the signs that she would agree. Now all that needed to be done was going through the rest of the performance.

A few donations of spell gems to the Canterlot Times had been all that was needed to get full access to all their secret files. He had given them nothing truly forbidden just a few things the law was less than happy about being available. Noble did not know what they would do with them, nor did he care.

He now had more than enough potential blackmail material should the need arise. Folders of information spread upon his desk. He had so many choices, he had always known Canterlot had a darker side. I would be doing Celestia a favour if I killed half of them. He thought.

This was going to be hard, all of his first choices were too caught up in useful schemes. He did not want to interfere with any of them. They would disrupt Celestia’s rule far more by being allowed to continue unhindered.

Maybe I’m doing this all wrong. He thought as he looked towards the files on the Elements of Harmony. Maybe if I can get some ponies doing what I need out of the goodness of their hearts. He smiled as plans began to form.

The sound of approaching metal clad hooves snapped Noble back to the present. Ever since he had implanted the gem his mind had felt sharper, the memories more like reliving the moment instead of mere recollection.

The hoofsteps came closer. He would recognise Celestia's stately rhythm anywhere. He knew she could move silently but chose not to to avoid panicking her little ponies.

The white mare herself entered the meeting room, her expression changing from the stock gentle smile to a genuinely pleased one. “Good evening Noble Guide,” her perfect voice greeted him.

Noble rose and bowed respectfully. It was never hard to be respectful to an Alicorn, he just had to not fight what his body was conditioned to do.

Even in this friendly encounter, every action, every word was just a dance of formality. The small talk, the tea and the polite commentary as they went through the paperwork laboriously, page by page. When he took over, he was definitely going to eliminate most of the paperwork.

Three servings of tea, two plates of biscuits and an hour lost to the evils of paperwork later, a trail of smoke entered the room, forming into a scroll with a flash of green flame. Celestia’s golden magic caught it before it could even start to fall.

Arriving like that it must have been sent by Twilight’s pet dragon. He thought.

Celestia opened it and began to read. He could not see what was written, only that it was a very long letter and was in Cadence’s decorative script.

“My apologies for the interruption,” Celestia calmly spoke, her magic intensified and the scroll popped out of existence.

The Princess’s eyes glanced at the remaining paperwork. Lifting it all in her aura, she began to rapidly flick through it.

Inside the Gem, Noble could see Celestia’s power rifling through the constructed memories. It reached in and made glowing copies of all the instances of him working on the documents currently before her.

Somehow she made even this frantic completion of paperwork seem calm and graceful. Pages flashed by, a few being pulled out where comments, corrections or signatures were needed.

She is just pretending to read it. He realised, she pulled the information from his mind and is now only acting.

“Yes, this all seems in order,” she said nodding firmly. “You have my thanks and the thanks of Equestria for the dedication you have shown in this task.”

“Thank you, Princess,” he said, bowing his head accepting the compliment.

Her aura pulled an expensive sheet of the finest paper from a drawer and in gold, she began writing. A few seconds later and a flash of her magic and the paper now had a glowing mark upon it.

She floated the paper to him before speaking in a formal tone. “Noble Guide, We appoint you to oversee the well being of the Manehatten ponies.”

“I am honoured, your Majesty,” he said bowing.

She nodded, showing her too-perfect smile. “Now I am afraid that I have other matters that needed addressing, have a pleasant evening,” she said, teleporting from the room in a flash of gold.

Noble stared at what he now held. The paper baring Celestia's seal was not quite a blank check, but it was close enough. If he was careful, he could do everything he intended. He smiled as he left the room a bounce in his step. Thank you, Cadance. He thought with glee.

CH 23.1 Summons

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Celestia lit her horn, an image of Twilight Castle in her mind. It was shortly followed by the spell array needed to teleport there.

Come now, Celestia. Do you want me to have to block your magic as per rule two-hundred and four? Daybreaker’s mental voice interrupted her.

She let her horn dim, making sure her Mask had full control of her expression as she made her way from her room.

Celestia considered Daybreaker’s warning, she was right yet again. As much as wanted to teleport directly to Ponyville but she dared not, she knew there were spies from other nations about. They would each take careful note of every spell she cast. With how free she had been lately, it would not do to give the impression she was no longer able to rain judgement upon any nation that sought war with her ponies.

The words of Cadence’s letter kept playing through her mind as she walked through the halls of her home. A powerful warlock as bad as it was was still nothing she had not dealt with before. Twilight having a foal, that was a little unexpected, but she could cope with that. The fact that she had had that foal with Luna… That is what truly rocked her world. How? When? She thought.

If not for Twilight’s current disposition towards her, this would be joyous news. Luna finding happiness in the hooves of her Faithful Student could have worked perfectly in another twenty to thirty years. Now with everything it risked causing a divide with her sister when the nation was under threat.

With her long legs, it did not take overly long to reach her destination. Her guards, well trained and efficient, were ready. Even without announcing her intent a team of Pegasus were standing ready by her chariot.

She nodded once to them, stepping about. “Ponyville,” she commanded.

Just like that, they were in the air, heading towards Twilights home, answering the summons from three other Princesses.

The flight had been as smooth as she could have wished. With a slight tip of her head, Celestia left her guards at the chariot. Turning up with an armed escort would not aid the peaceful image she wished to portray here.

Approaching her destination, she could see the many wards dancing over the surface of the Crystal Castle. If Daybreaker would let her, she could overpower them, but she would try knocking first.

With a metal-clad hoof she rapped on the large door three times. A moment later, from the other side of the door she heard distinct pop sound of air displaced by a teleport. Tellingly she did not feel the ripple of magic caused by such. Her estimation of the wards went up a notch.

“Who are you?” A familiar filly’s voice spoke. It only took Celestia a faction of a second to remember it was not the voice of the young Twilight from her memories but rather who she now knew to be the daughter of Twilight and Luna.

Celestia could not honestly remember the last time anypony had to ask her that. Before she could answer the voice spoke again. “Are you a Bad Pony?”

“I am Princess Celestia, do you think I am a Bad Pony?”

There was a long pause and then she finally answered. “Yes.” The voice held such certainty, such resolve it almost seemed like a judge handing down a sentence.

It was only her Mask that kept the look of shock from Celestia’s face. “And what makes you say that?” She enquired.

There was another long pause before the door lit with a light blue aura, revealing Cadence standing just inside. No sign of the young filly.

“Aunty, so glad you could make it,” Cadence greeted her in a friendly tone, but her body language was guarded, her posture slightly tense as if she was ready for the unexpected to happen.

Celestia nodded her head as she moved forward to enter. “I’m glad to see you again. I hope that Twilight is open to speak more. I am terribly sorry about how our last meeting ended. I sincerely hope I can have a chance to talk things out with her, and her friends.” She was being diplomatic but keeping a good deal of sorrow in her voice so as to get Cadence to feel at ease.

This time her Mask would help her rather than being absent. If she had it with her last time the conversation might have gone much more in her favour and not have alienated Twilight nearly as much.

“Luna has given you a chance, please don’t waste it,” Cadence warned.

Crossing the threshold she sensed Twilight’s masterfully constructed mental wards really drove home the severity of the damage she did to her relationship with her former student. It would take a year or two of energy to break through these wards. Daybreaker intoned, ever assessing the tactical situation.

This is not going to become a battle. Celestia responded.

“I won’t. I promise. Cadence, I care about her deeply, you know that. I know how she feels from the last time and I can tell that she is on edge and being protective even now considering the mental wards I am feeling. I don’t blame her at all for that. She has every right to be defensive with what she has been through. I only want to help her.” She let her genuine sorrow through in her voice this time.

Cadence looked back, her gaze lingering on Celestia’s own for a moment. Her eyes were slightly out of focus that in that particular way that meant she was assessing her own domain. Cadence was looking at her very heart, her bear emotions. Something her Mask could do nothing to veil from her. Despite their difference in power, this talent of Cadence’s always left Celestia feeling a little vulnerable, her layers of control, the shield of her Mask stripped away.

Cadence led Celestia through the castle, passing a room set up for a party. The banners congratulating Twilight and Luna on their little filly. The pair of Alicorns moved through the next room, the elements with the exception of Twilight sat in the room looking at Celestia as she approached.

Even though she was not wanting to look inside their minds, merely having the option removed was feeding Daybreaker’s paranoia.

Rainbow’s eyes were hard and judging tacking Celestia’s own as she passed. Rainbow’s powerful body was tensed as her wings silvered, radiating power, ready to leap into action at a moments notice. Celesta could feel Daybreaker plotting defensive options should Rainbow attack. Don’t hurt them. Celestia commanded.

Don’t worry they will live even if they are foolish enough to attack us. Daybreaker responded with concealed scorn. They would have to do something truly dire for your rules to force me to end them.

Fluttershy’s ears were down and she was hiding behind her mane. She looked sad and would not meet Celestia’s eyes, the kind animal caretaker feared her. It was not the first time she had been feared but still made her heart sink.

Rarity looked impeccable as usual, even in harsh situations she looked her best. She offered a polite bow, clearly withholding judgment and not willing to offer any disrespect at this time.

Applejack’s stern and dependable gaze held mild reproach as it looked out from under her favoured hat. Her firm stance was defensive, her ears attentive. She was clearly assessing Celestia but was reserving judgment for now.

Pinkie smiled and waved like nothing was wrong. That in its own way was disturbing.

As she left the room she could hear them start to talk, Celestia ignored them turning her attention to the reason she was here. Luna and Twilight sat side by side, watching Celestia as she entered the room. Luna’s gaze was welcoming but Twilight’s was wary. Cadence directed Celestia to take a seat as she walked around the table and sat down next to Twilight.

A magenta aura closed the door behind Celestia as Cadence’s horn lit blue warding the room from eavesdroppers.

The three other Princesses of Equestria sat offering a unified front. Luna sat there proud and noble-looking as if presiding over her court. Her closer wing to Twilight twitched, the subtle motion signalling her desire to wrap it around Twilight. Her breathing was relaxed and for a moment Celestia could see a faint smile. ‘It will be alright sister’ it spoke with their many years of shared experience.

Cadence’s perfect poise gave away the intensity of her emotions. She had none of the natural grace and serenity she normally projected. Every gesture precisely controlled. It was not as effective as Celestia’s Mask but was close.

Twilight’s eyes were hard, small sparks of flames kept appearing within them before being banished. Even with her horn dim and no active spells she was radiating power. In an instant, Twilight would be ready to turn this into a battle. The Crystal beneath her showed signs of cracking with the force she was pressing her hooves into it in an effort to maintain her regal posture.

“Thank you for answering our summons so swiftly, Celestia,” Twilight said, an almost inaudible growl accompanying the name.

“I could do nothing less for my peers, especially for you Twilight.”

Twilight twitched, her ears laying back for a moment. Cadence placed a hoof upon the youngest Alicorns shoulder.

“Thank you, Aunty,” she said, smiling warmly. “I take it you read the whole report?”

Celestia nodded before looking to her sister and former student. “Congratulations and I wish you all the happiness you can find together.”

Luna bowed her head, accepting the comment. Twilight nodded at least pretending she thought Celestia meant what she said.

“Thank you,” Twilight said in something like her normal voice but by the tensing of her jaw muscles and along the line of her neck spoke volumes of how hard she was finding it to stay civil.

Celestia cast her mind back to the explanation from the scroll Cadence had sent if it were not for the seriousness of the rest of the information on the report she would have thought it was part of the endless prank war between her and her sister.

Cadence and Luna shared a look, clearly conversing somehow. It can’t be mental communication, maybe some pre-arranged code? She thought, noting Twilight’s wards were still up.

“About the investigation?” Cadence asked.

“I approve your use of time magic to investigate your attack.”

Twilight nodded, “May I have that in writing?”

Celesta summoned the scroll she had written after reading of their plans and floated it over to Twilight in her golden aura. The distrust such a request represented still stung even if it was not unexpected.

Twilight accepted it with her aura, rapidly glance over it before setting it down before her. She tilted her head and flicked her ear.

“And sister about our daughter?” Luna said, placing her wing over Twilight’s withers possessively.

Twilight tensed as a quick hungry look that flashed in her eyes made it clear she was more than happy with the contact. Banishing the lust in her eyes, Twilight focused on Celestia. “Do we have your support in this?”

Celestia was honestly glad that she had one thing she did not have to worry about. With Luna and Twilight pairing off, neither of them would have to again feel the sting of losing a mortal consort. Her eyes turned to Cadence, she truly did fear for what she would become when Shining Armour shed his mortal coil. “Of course, it will be a hard battle to get this past some of the Nobles but I will stand beside you on this.” Celestia smiled warmly at her sister and Twilight.

Twilight looked at Cadence, who nodded. At that Twilight’s body relaxed and she let herself lean into Luna’s side.

“So you are not disappointed, sister?” Luna said, eyes looking into Celestia’s own, teasing evident in her familiar expression, as she started nibbling Twilight’s ear. Twilight let her eyes roll closed pressing closer against Luna. She seemed to have completely forgotten that she was not alone in the room with her new fiancé. A few ripples of fire danced along Twilights mane, doing nothing to harm Luna or damage the surroundings.

“Disappointed no, surprised yes. Also, I would appreciate it if you kept your… activities to yourselves.”
Is she is trying to make me jealous? Celestia wondered. At least it is settling Twilight’s anger.

Cadence flicked her wing slapping both mares across the horn with one motion. The pair recoiled both turning on Cadence. “Not until you are married,” she reprimanded them, a slight smirk on her lips.

Luna grinned, Twilight rubbed her horn and grumbled.

“Do you have any court-approved evidence?” Celestia asked.

“My Lineage spell,” Luna answered.

“As reliable as it is, you know it has been banned in Canterlot,” Celestia said regretfully.

The tilt of Luna’s head and the tightening of her eyes let Celestia know that her sister would be changing that law as soon as she could.

“I am not letting some court mage beholden to the highest paying noble take blood samples,” Twilight said threateningly.

“We need somepony the Nobles will accept, and that we can trust,” Cadence said.

“Find somepony you can trust, I will deal with the approval process,” Celestia offered. It would be easy enough.

Luna moved her head one way then the other, her eyes grateful but concerned. Her sister was torn between being thankful for the support and doubtful about what she would do to provide the offered assistance.

Celestia let her sister see a slight change in her expression. ‘It will be alright’ it said.

Cadence’s aura started pulling over a tea service from the side of the room. Soon the scent of the heavenly brew started to float upon the air.

“Sister, this investigation will take my self and Twilight away from our normal duty,” Luna said. “Even Cadence will have to return to the Empire before long. Will you be able to cope with the increased duties this will force upon you, Sister?”

“I have coped with it before,” Celestia answered, glad that Luna did not react badly to the indirect reference to her banishment.

Cadence smiled, the glint in her eyes that she failed to hide, marked her as little too knowing. “I can stay and help, I trust the ponies I have left in charge.”

What does she know? What has she learned? Again Celestia felt the temptation and current inability to just look into her niece’s mind. Have I let myself get too reliant on that ability?

If you have an advantage, you would be foalish not to use it. Daybreaker counselled.

Cadence took on a playful menacing aspect. “And if you think I’m leaving before the wedding?”

Celestia smiled, “Who would dare keep the Alicorn of love from this wedding?”

A short time later Celestia left the meeting room, mind full of all the things she would need to set in motion. That did not go too badly she thought turning to leave

Applejack blocked her path “We need to talk Princess.”

CH 23.2 A Friendly Talk

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Applejack sat there, the whole situation was unlike anything she had to deal with before. This Twilight, her Twilight, the Twilight all of them have spent all these years living with, was not the original. Her eyes tracked Princess Celestia as Cadence led her into the meeting room.

In a way, she was a copy, same as the mirror clones but made with Celestia’s magic. If Celestia had not admitted it right in front of her, Applejack would not have believed it. But she was also not lying about saying it was the only way to save Twilight.

There was a lot of pain between the two princesses that much was clear.

As soon as the door closed on the meeting room, Rainbow Dash rushed to the door, pressing her ear to it. She threw her hooves up in annoyance. “They’re using that sound bubble again.”

“Oh bubbles, I like bubbles,” Pinkie said.

Giving Pinkie a sideways glance, Rainbow Dash shakes her head. “Anyway, I really don’t like how this is going,” she said with frustration, “I mean seriously. Who does that to someone? Slicing and dicing their soul? I know I wouldn’t want that done to me.”

Applejack looking slightly miffed at the outburst, “Now hold up a gosh darn minute, Celestia already told us it was to save her life. She didn’t know any other way to save her.”

“Be that as it may darling, do we really know that to be true?” Rarity said, her face showing she didn’t want her friends fighting.

Applejack nods her head “I do know she at least believes it to be true. I can’t say one way or another whether there were other options though. I don’t know anything really about what’s possible with your guy’s horns.”

Rainbow seemed taken aback for a moment. “So, you really believe that it was an emergency surgery?”

Fluttershy spoke up. “ I know if I were in her position, I wouldn’t have wanted one of my animals to die. I would do surgery if possible to save them.”

Rainbow’s agitation faded for a moment. “Yeah, ok, I’ll give you that, but we aren't talking about stitching somepony back up after they get a cut. She went and basically created a Frankenmare soul out of the children of the original Twilight. That just doesn’t feel right. I mean you don’t go and kill five other foals to save one. You don’t even do that if six foals are dying.”

Fluttershy “Actually there are organ transplants, we kind of do.”

A slight look of horror on Rainbow’s face “Ok, I didn’t know that. That’s kind of freaky.”

Applejack raised her voice slightly. “Alright listen guys. If she didn’t do what she did, then we would not have Twilight at all. That much I do know. Now what we do have is at least the Twilight we do know. The only thing we can really do is be there for her.”

“It’s too bad old Twilight never got to come to any of our parties but isn’t the new Twilight still our friend?” Pinkie said, doing her best to look on the bright side even now.

“Of course Twilight is still our Friend,” Rainbow stated wings flaring.

“Darlings, where would the world be without Twilight? Nightmare Moon, Discord, Starlight and Tirek. Just think of the mess they would have made of things?” Rarity said in her most serious tone.

“You think she did the right thing?” Rainbow accused.

“What do you think any of us could have done against them without Twilight, without the Elements.”

Rainbow bristled, “We could have taken them.”

Applejack thought back to all their adventures, all the times they had saved Equestria. All the times Twilight had led them, guided them, helped them. She remembered all the trouble her stubborn streak caused before Twilight got her to accept help. When Twilight had brought them back to their senses after Discord had messed with their minds. The world needed Twilight. She thought.

Applejack looked at Rainbow. “You’d give a might good try… but do you really think you could win Sugercube?” She could see her friend wanting to say yes, but the lessons she had learned caused her to hold her tongue.

Rainbow looked down, the look on her face admitting defeat.

“Even I don’t remember the ‘original’ Twilight. I was too young when it happened. I think Shining Armor would remember though.” Spike pipped up. “That being said, I don’t think it’s really the question you guys are getting at.”

Fluttershy pipped up, “Spike is right. It isn’t ‘is she our friend’ it’s how do we feel about what happened to her and how does that change what we feel about Celestia? I think that maybe what Celestia did was needed. But what she didn’t do is where she was in grave error.” She sees the look of confusion on her friend’s faces and continues, “She didn’t tell Twilight and she should have. Had she known then, she wouldn’t be mad at Celestia for messing with her mind now.”

Several glances among the gathered friends showed that they were considering her words and it took all of five seconds for them to agree. Nodding Applejack said, “Then if we are going to help heal the rift between them, then we need to get Celestia to see that she was in error and want to make right by her.”

Seeing no disagreement from the others, she continued. “Thing is, with as old as she is, she might be just a tad resistant to change. Not that I don’t have my own experience with that. I’m sure she thinks she is well justified in her actions and honestly, she might be, even if it doesn’t sit right with us emotionally. But talks need to be had or the rift will not heal. What do guys say? Have a sit down with our Solar Princess?”

Rainbow, looking excited at the prospect of settling things, “Yeah that sounds good. We can just ambush her on her way out.”

“Really Rainbow? We wouldn’t be pouncing on her. Just insisting that we sit down and talk.” Said Rarity.

Sometime later, Applejack sat calmly waiting. There were things she could do on the farm, but being here for Twilight was more important. The conversation was over and now each of her friends were killing time in their own way.

Rainbow was a ball of restless worry, constantly in motion.

Rarity was sketching new designs, taking a glance, Applejack could see some of them were for Little Star.

Pinkie Pie kept running off and returning. Last time she came back with a tray of snacks this time she now had a board game set up. As always, her friend was so random.

Fluttershy just lay still, her mane concealing her thoughts from the rest of the world.

The hum of a magical aura announced that finally, the doors to the meeting room opened. Applejack looked to them, noticing in the corner of her eyes how Rainbow was now hovering, her endless flying back and forth paused.

Cadence left the room first, smiling. She nodded warmly to Applejack and the rest of the Elements before turning down a hall heading deeper into the Castle.

Less than a minute later, Celestia left the room turned towards the elements and made her way towards the exit.

Rainbow looked into the room where Twilight sat snuggled under Luna’s wing. Applejack could see Twilight eyes tracking Celestia for a moment before her magenta aura closed the door blocking Rainbows attempt to enter who grumbled in annoyance.

Applejack got to her hooves and blocked Celestia’s path “We need to talk Princess,” she said in a firm tone.

“Certainly, about Twilight I assume?” Celestia’s tone was calm and friendly as she moved to gracefully settle down near the rest of the elements.

In a blur Rainbow as muzzle to muzzle with Celestia. “Why the hay did you do that to Twilight?”

Rarity’s reproachful glance gave Rainbow enough of a pause to allow the Princess to answer.

Celestia took a breath, “As much as it saddens me, it was truly the only viable way to save any of her from what was very likely an almost successful assassination.”

Rainbow almost dropped from the air, almost.

Applejack could feel the eyes of her friends upon her. She nodded, confirming that there were no lies hidden there. Only viable, what other options were there? She thought still with some suspicion. Remembering that Twilight had accused Celestia of creating her as a tool.

“Who would try and assassinate a little filly,” Fluttershy asked. Looks of horror flashing across the Elements' faces.

Celestia’s calming voice answered, “There are many threats to Equestria that would have prefered if the Elements of Harmony were never restored.”

“Only viable option? That implies there were other ways. What other ways were there?” Asked Applejack

“Few that would barely have had a chance of saving anything of who Twilight was. I used the one that let me save most of who Twilight was. The pieces that she was rendered in to would have disintegrated in days at most, seconds at worst.” She paused a sadness crossing her features. “And it was the only way that would have protected Equestria.”

Again Applejack knew that Celesta was speaking the truth. Rarity seemed to grimly accept its necessity. Pinkie's mane deflated slightly at seeing Celestia sad. Fluttershy was surprisingly calm.

“Fine! Why the buck didn’t you tell her? If you had then she wouldn’t be an emotional wreck right now and sitting in that room hating you.” Rainbow Dash almost yelled.

“Now calm down a bit Sugercube, let her talk.” Applejack admonished.

“Thank you Applejack,” Celestia said, bowing her head in thanks before continuing in a sombre tone. “I had planned to. After she had a chance of living as close to a normal life as possible. I wanted to let her live without that hanging over her head at least for a while. I had things set in motion for her to find out in about ten years.”

“Ten years from now? You should have told five years ago.” Rainbow said more incensed now than she was before.

“To what end? For her to know she wasn’t completely whole? To know that she is a prime target for assassination, having her constantly worrying about that? You saw how she was when she thought she was behind on friendship reports. Can you imagine what she would have been like if she had potential assassinations to look out for? How could she have been expected to make friends if she was always fearing for her life like that?” Said Celestia.

Rainbow just looked at her with narrowed eyes for a moment. “She was an alicorn five years ago. She wouldn’t have been nearly as vulnerable as when she was a unicorn. Besides she would have gotten over that with our help. We were already her friends. All that’s beside the point anyway.”

“How is all that besides the point? Am I missing something here?” Questioned Celestia.

“Apparently you are.” The frustration on Rainbow Dash’s face still showing. “It doesn’t matter what reasons you had to not tell her. By your own laws on life-saving procedures, she had the RIGHT to know. That isn’t something a doctor can withhold from a patient.”

Rainbow pressed closer to Clesistia “It was something done to her without her consent. Yeah, it saved her life, but by your own law that you put in place, you were obligated to tell her. I can understand waiting until she’s knowledgeable enough to understand, but you can’t say that as an alicorn she didn’t know enough to understand.”

Celestia held up her hoof pausing Rainbow, who folded her forelegs impatiently. “Twilight’s family were told, everything they were allowed to know by law. That Twilight was in a magical incident and I had to save her life. That she had learned forbidden magic and the knowledge had to be sealed away. If the seals failed, by the laws she would have to have been imprisoned or banished, two things I did not want to happen to Twilight.”

“Ok, fine, that validates not telling her while she was a unicorn. All those restrictions vanished when she became an alicorn though. The day she ascended you were still legally, and at least in my opinion, morally obligated to tell her. And had you she wouldn’t be in there still hating you for what you did to her.” Rainbow said, looking around and noting that all her friends were nodding in agreement with her sentiment.

“And that’s why I was going to tell her when she had settled into her new role. I honestly believed she would have been happier in the long run without that knowledge had recent events not happened.” Celestia stated with honest regret.

“That being said, I understand your point about the legal side and your point that if I had, she wouldn’t be in the emotional state she is now.” Celestia said and she lowered her head. “So how do we proceed from here? I would sincerely appreciate any help in making things right with Twilight.”

“I reckon you should write a friendship report,” Applejack answered with a friendly smirk on her face.

CH 23.3 Little Star's Vigil

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Little Star vigilantly watched the pony Grey did not like, through her scrying spell. Finally, Celestia left the meeting room.

Star let out a relieved sigh as she let her prepared spells fade from her horn. She had been ready to teleport in and rescue her parents at the first sign of trouble. A small wisp of steam rose from her now cooling horn.

The scrying spell split into two, one staying still focused on the meeting room, as the other followed Celestia.

Star pulled another of her S-Five from its aviary tasking it to record everything that could be seen from the second window. She watched Celestia talk to her mother’s friends as the lines of texts filled the self animate scrolls.

The sounds of her parents’ voices drew her attention to the first window, still keeping half an eye on Celestia, she observed.

Twilight slumped and took a long calming breath. Clearly, she was glad Celestia was gone. “So, do you think we can trust her?”

“My sister?” Luna looked thoughtful, then her expression darkened. “For the most part, I know she cares for you, Twilight and she always does what she thinks is right… It is her judgement that I worry about.”

Twilight hesitated. “Do you think what she did to me… was the right thing to do?”

Luna tightened her wing around Twilight. “For Equestria yes…” She answered solemnly. “Fate had marked you as too important. If you were anypony else, if you were not the Element of Magic, there would have been options. If this were not true, I would hold my sister to account for the cruelty of her actions.”

What did she do? Star thought. The more she was finding out about Celestia, the less she liked her.

“Unlike my sister, I would have at least informed them what was happening, given them some time to find their peace and listened to any last requests they had. They would have known that their sacrifice would be saving Equestria. I would have honoured them for it, not simply resolved the situation as swiftly as possible.” Luna said as she wrapped Twilight up in her wings offering comfort.

“I won’t just stand by on these things either. You are my friend, I will be here for you in friendship and more if that is what you desire,” said Luna lightly nibbling a bit on Twilight’s other ear.

“Luna… as pleasant as this is,” Twilight said, looking to the wings wrapped around her. “We haven’t even been on a date yet and you’re already nibbling on my ear in front of your sister.”

Star stared in confusion at Luna. Eww why would she want to eat an ear? she quickly checked to see if Twilight ears were there. Thankfully they both were intact and attentive. Star thought back to her own regeneration, a horrible image of Luna eating Twilight’s ears repeatedly as they regrew, entering her mind.

Zero times has that or will that ever happen. Grey’s mental voice reassured her.

“Well, you did not object,” Luna said, smiling.

Twilight froze as a blush spread over her face, as fire danced along her mane. “Are we not moving a little too quick?” She stammered out.

“Are we?” Luna whispered into Twilight's ear.

“Would you have any interest in me, if not for Star?”

“Twilight, you have been my closest friend since that first Nightmare Night, you freed me…” Luna’s eyes darkened slightly for a moment looking off into the distance. Returning her eyes to Twilight, she continued. “The only reason I have not considered you before is I thought you were to be Celestia’s.”

“Celestia? Me?” Twilight pulled away and stared at Luna. “How could? Waah? She was my Teacher!”

“In two or three hundred years, do you think that would matter?”

Twilight paused, her expression changing to thoughtful. “Why though, I’m nopony special?”

“Being too modest is a vice of its own, you are attractive, powerful and most definitely one of the most intelligent ponies I’ve ever known,” Luna said, leaning closer. “Even without being an Alicorn, you are a very desirable mare.”

“Until recently nopony has ever been interested in me, and… thanks to how Celestia made me, I have only been able to... appreciate such things for a few days.”

“That does explain why all your suitors from the past years, proved unsuccessful in claiming your hoof.”

“What suitors? The only thing remotely similar that I remember was one stallion who kissed me as a dare and I wasn’t interested… I was so surprised I accidentally blasted him through a hedge.” She paused for a moment. “I think he was an orange pegasus. Though on recollection, I do remember his friends falling over laughing.”

“That would have been most amusing to see.” Luna grinned “Normally pegasi only fly via their own powers.”

Luna looked at Twilight as if she was a Hayburger. Star readied her magic again, she knew how dangerous Twilight was when she had a look like that. She would be ready to save Twilight if needed.

Instead of trying to eat Twilight, Luna spoke. “But I am gladdened things turned out this way, this way I get you.”

“Ok that explains the attraction, I guess, but why are you willing to go from no romantic interest to agreeing to be married in less than twenty-four hours?” Inquired Twilight

“Our daughter, we will have her recognised before the court. The only way that can happen is for us to be wed. Unless you wish to relinquish your ties to her?” Luna asked, tone implying the expected answer was no.

Star was horrified, she got ready to teleport into the room to plead her case to keep both her parents.

“Of course not,” Twilight growled, eyes narrowing at Luna. “She is our daughter,” she declared.

Star let her half-formed spell fade, this whole situation was confusing. Grown-ups make no sense. She thought. She flicked her eyes back to the other window for a moment, Celestia was talking and everypony was still alive.

Star wanted to do some more work on making her pets but dared not until the big white pony had left the building.

Luna smiled. “So are you still willing to marry me?”

Motion form the other window caught Star’s attention.

“I reckon you should write a friendship report.” Applejack said with a friendly smirk on her face.

“That is an enlightened idea, thank you. I am afraid I must take my leave and return to Canterlot.” Celestia said, bowing her head to mother’s friends before making her way towards the entrance of the Castle. Finally, Celestia made it to the main doors and left the building. Star let that scrying spell drop, not wanting to risk it being detected.

Grey started counting the seconds since Celestia’s departure. As the numbers increased, Star felt safer, the danger was gone, her family was safe.

Star looked back to the first window to find her two mothers kissing, Twilight’s mane on fire. Before Star could form the array for the Twilight’s Lab-Safety Spell version three, Grey interrupted. Zero, dangerous fires in that room.

“Oh my.” Rarity's voice came from behind Star. Looking back she could see Rarity was holding a hoof to her for mouth watching through the scrying window.

Twilight pulled back just a little staring into Luna’s eyes. “Does that answer your question?”

“Hi Rarity,” Star said, turning back to the window.

Rarity moved closer, taking an interest in the S-fives, her eyes rapidly scanning the words upon them.

“You are going to very much enjoy our honeymoon,” Luna purred. “And it will be a whole moon.”

Twilight shivered with anticipation, her mane burning brightly. Her body tensed ready to pounce on Luna. Suddenly she slapped herself, the sound echoing. The flames died as she shook her head.

Rarity audibly winced at the impact. “What are you doing Little Star?”

“Watching my Mummys to keep them safe. I have to make sure Mummy Luna does not eat Mummy Twilight like a Hayburger.”

For some reason Rarity blushed quite profusely. “Are you ok?” Star asked.

“You don't know what you just said,” Rarity said in a poor imitation of her mother's silent speech.

“I do know exactly what I just said,” Star said, holding up a scroll that had the whole conversation between her and Rarity recorded. “See” she added as that was also faithfully inked onto the scroll.

Rarity blanched for some reason, it seemed like she was not expecting an answer. Why did she ask a question if she was not ready for the answer? Star thought. Grown-ups are just strange, very strange.

“It’s not the literal words or textbook definitions I’m talking about, sometimes words have more meaning. The phrase you said could be taking in a very... adult fashion.”

“Adults are confusing,” Star commented.

“Spying on ponies is often considered rude.”

“Ok,” Star said unconcerned.

“You know this could be considered spying on them?”

Star turned to look at Rarity. “I’m not spying. I am protecting them.”

“Using a scrying spell is spying on them. If you were protecting them, you would be in the same room.”

Star thought for a moment and started to light her horn with a spell.

“Wait,” Rarity pleaded.

Star paused her casting. Five seconds until Applejack arrives. Grey’s mental voice informed her. “Ok,” she said to Rarity, mentally counting down.

“Hi Applejack,” Star said, waving with a hoof.

Rarity turned to look at Applejack, looking a little guilty, being strange yet again. Applejack looked around, her eyes looking between the scrying window and Rarity.

“Rarity are you spying on two Princesses, there's laws against that you know?” Applejack said.

“I was most certainly not spying.” Rarity said, flushing slightly.

“Then would you kindly explain?”

Rarity looked at Little Star who answered. “I was keeping watch to make sure Celestia did not hurt them, Now I’m making sure Mummy Luna does not eat Mummy Twilight.”

For a moment Applejack was stunned, her cheeks slightly reddening before it faded. “Right, you need to learn the meaning of privacy. Stop that spell right now and come with me.” Applejack said with a voice honed from years of being a big sister.

“But…” Star started.

“They aren't going to hurt each other Sugarcube, now come along,” Applejack said now almost dragging Star along.

CH 24 Temporal Investigations

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Starlight slowly noticed she was aware, she was floating in a star-filled void. I was with Trixie, doing something… she thought as her mind tried to piece things together.

The fact that she was floating without the aid of magic and that there was the blue Alicorn of Dreams standing, waiting patiently in front of her provided her all the information she needed. “So I’m dreaming.”

“An astute observation, you came to that realisation with more alacrity than most,” Luna praised.

“No offence Princess, but why are you here?” Starlight asked “Not that its a problem you are,” she added sheepishly to the one being that had total power here.

“We have need of your services, you will make yourself ready for my arrival shortly,” Luna stated in a respectful but firm tone.

No request, this was a command from the Princess of the Night. She did not want to see what would happen if she said no. Starlight nodded. “Yes, Princess.”

“Then awaken and make your preparations.” Luna’s horn flashed.

Starlight opened her eyes, revealing the inside of Trixie’s wagon. She was wide awake no hit of sleepiness remaining. Luna’s command was clear in her mind as if she had used some magic to ensure it would be remembered.

She did her best in the small wagon to gather what stuff she could think might be useful when she had no idea what she would be needed to do. As her services were needed, it would involve magic. There were other powerful unicorns out there so it would likely be something she was good at. This task is going to involve Time, Mind Control or Cutiemark manipulation. She thought sure of herself. There was simply no other reasons she would be needed.

She felt worried, not that she could not help. No, she was worried what danger was out in Equestria using one of those three. She began to gather up her stuff, doing her best to be quiet.

Half waking up and clearly wanting the noise to stop, Trixie nearly turned Starlight into a teacup. Instead, because of her quick reflexes, she managed to reflect the spell. Unfortunately, now one of Starlight’s books paid the price and was now a teacup instead.

“Trixie!” Starlight called out.

“Who dares awaken the Great and Powerful Trixie from her slumbers.”

Before she could answer, a pulse of teleportation magic announced Luna’s arrival. It was so powerful Trixie fell out of bed holding her horn. Starlight, being used to Twilight popping in and out of existence, had built up more than enough tolerance to ignore it.

Poking her head out of the wagon, Starlight was taken aback by what she saw. Luna was not alone. Two Alicorn Princesses alighted in front of Starlight both equipped for war. Luna in a suit of night-black mail with multiple daggers secured from her flanks. Twilight in blood-red plate her wings lined with wicked-looking blades.

Six armoured Thestrals from the Nightguard added to the sinking feeling building in Starlight’s gut. They rapidly took positions, securing the clearing the wagon was in.

“Starlight are you ready to depart?” Luna asked clearly expecting a positive answer.

“You can not leave Trixie here on her own,” The blue mare said, poking her head out of her wagon.

Twilight tilted her head, seemingly looking straight through Trixie. “She did acquire the Alicorn Amulet, she might be able to provide some insight.”

“Then we shall bring her and make use of her ill-gotten expertise.” Luna decreed.

Trixie blanched, releasing a slight squeak. Starlight noticed Trixie’s stage persona about to rear its head, quickly she used her aura to hold the blue mare’s muzzle closed. “We will be ready in just a moment, Princess,” She said respectfully. She used a mix of her aura and teleportation to gather everything both of them would need.

Trixie added her magic show supplies to her outfit with her own aura as she whispered to Starlight, “I was just going to say ‘The great and not quite as powerful Trixie is at your service.’ There was no need to muzzle my muzzle.”

“Sorry, couldn’t take the chance,” Starlight apologized.

Luna and Twilight approached. When Luna lit her horn, Starlight wanted to raise a shield just to ward off the force of the Alicorns magic.

The Nightguard landing in a tight circle around them, the world darkened as the shadows closed in. The stars in Luna’s mane blazed bright as the rest of it sucked in the light.

The teleport felt like falling into an endless abyss.

Bursting from the darkness Starlight found herself and Trixie high in the air suspended in Luna’s aura. After so much of practice, it only took moments to wrap herself in her own magic. As soon as her magic was in place the Night Princess’ aura faded from her.

Looking around she could see below them for miles was a sea of crimsoned-streaked magenta flames, hypnotically dancing. If it was not for the trees and mountains in the distance, Starlight would have thought she had arrived in another plane.

Her best friend Trixie had her eyes tightly closed. That was the strangest teleport ever, but it was not that bad. Starlight thought. “Is the brave and fearless Trixie going to open her eyes?” She asked teasingly.

As soon as Trixie opened her eyes and could take in their current high altitude situation, she screamed and flailed about. The screams were cut off as Twilight’s magic wrapped her in a silence bubble.

“Is this?” Twilight asked.

Luna nodded. Twilight looked around and pointed to a point in space. “This would be the centre of the blast.”

“So much… at least it’s only this bad.” Twilight said.

Luna turned her gaze on Starlight. “We require to see what happened here six days ago during the fourth hour of our dominion.”

Starlight glanced to Twilight, unsure. Her friend nodded then waved her hoof at the fire below. “I was attacked here… this is the result. We need to…”

“You were attacked?!” Starlight asked in disbelief. The sheer scale of the fires below looked like it would not have been out of place in the aftermath of Twilight’s fight with Tirek.

Starlight looked to Trixie, who had calmed down now and instead of panicking was now looking a little indigent. “Can you let Trixie speak, please?”

Twilight considered Trixie for a moment and then let the sound bubble drop.

“The transportation left a lot to be desired,” Trixie murmured to herself.

Starlight noticed one of Twilight’s ears flick towards her friend, had she heard that? There was no response other than that, so she set about her task.

Turning her attention to the area of space indicated, Starlight first cast a whole host of detection, sense enhancement, recording and analysis spells. Twilight might have an encyclopedic knowledge of nearly everything magical. Still others like Starlight were smart enough to have options to get around that hurdle in other ways.

As each layer of magic built upon the last, the world became brighter and clearer. Some of the spells, mostly Twilight’s, added labels over things in her vision. Starlight’s own just imparted the knowledge straight into her mind. One of the many advantages of being good at mind magic she had found that did not count as being evil if you used it.

Her preparation done, she moved onto the limited time spell Twilight had asked her to invent. I can only view the past, no chance of interaction, no chance of seeing the future. All perfectly safe on the timeline, no chance of ending the world or deleting important friendships again. She reassured herself.

A weak shield spell formed around the group, it’s internal surface looking like a rippling mirror. As its surface begin to calm, the time in the outside world seemed to race, the six days requested rolling back, the sky flickering between night and day several times a minute.

Twilight was unbothered, she had helped with the spell if only on the safety features. Luna was actually looking impressed. Trixie’s jaw just hung open, at least this high up a bug was not going to fly in.

In all that time, the fire did not change, it was still burning in the present as much as it was when it had first formed. As time kept reversing, the flames all seemed to leap into the air, converging upon the point in the sky Twilight had indicated.

The flames unexploded in to a complex set of spell runes etched in the sky in the magenta fire roatinging about an unconscious looking Twilight in her current armour looking horribly burnt, a bleeding wound on her neck and horn cracked and blackened.

Trixie gasped, Starlight did not want to meet Luna’s eyes, if looks could kill, the mountain up ahead would be a smoking creator.

Starlight examined the past Twilight carefully, she was under the effect of at least two defensives spells, both complex and linked together, probably reinforcing each other.

“We need to follow her back to the temple, Starlight if you would continue our journey into the past,” Luna said.
While Starlight would like more time to study the spells Twilight of the past was under the effect of, she was not going to keep an angry princess waiting.

They followed Twilight’s flight back to the temple concealed in the side of the mountain. During the trip Starlight ran some numbers, at the speed Twilight was traveling, unpowered by spell or wings, she failed to see how Twilight was not just a bloody smear flying through the air. The amount of force needed to have thrown her almost a mile in a rising ark from the Temple was just mind-boggling. Sure Starlight could blast somepony with that much of an impact, however it would take somewhere between ten and twenty percent of her available magic.

As they approached, her detection spells picked up the ultrasonic chatter between the Nightguard. They were each watching an assigned direction, reporting everything to each other. They seemed to be focused on looking for anypony in the area instead of the main attraction.

With no need to be in the air anymore, the group was walking as they entered the temple. The entrance chamber of the temple was a mess, one side of the room was in the process of uncollapsing, as past Twilight sailed back in, ending up laying on the floor curled up.

Crossing the threshold over half of Starlight’s detection spells stopped reporting anything useful. So this place is magically concealed. She thought.

As the ancient stone lifted and slotted back into place, a series of projectiles flew towards Twilight, revealing their target. A tall robed stallion with evil glowing smoky eyes.

A crackle of uncontrolled magic lept from Twilight’s horn disrupting the time viewing spell. Her body had frozen, her eyes widening. It seemed like she was going to start hyperventilating, a classic Twilight panic attack was incoming.

Starlight took a few steps towards Twilight, moving with the intent to comfort her friend. Her horn ready to contain any more errant discharges of magic.

Twilight’s eyes closed and she inhaled a deep breath before opening her eyes once more. The calm but dangerous look now within them, sent a shiver along Starlight’s spine, halting her movement towards her.

She caught Luna pausing to look to Twilight. Starlight turned away from the Princesses, she did not want to look into those eyes any more than she had to. She began investigating the room, preparing to recast her time viewing spell.

The slightest ripple of magic brushed Starlight’s horn, a moment later the listening spell she had up, so she could listen to the thestrals, unexpectedly translated it to speech.

“Twilight has returned to the Golden Oaks.”


“Yes, now shall we be about this Lulu? I am pact sworn to deal with our foes and my blades are not the only things that are eager for their blood.”

Starlight felt her expression freeze, she was so very glad she was not looking at either of them. Pacts? She managed to only cry out in her mind. Pacts were meant to be unbreakable magical contracts. The only reasons she had not studied them is they needed both parties to agree… mind control did not have such a limitation, so that was where she had focused. There has to be a perfectly good reason Twilight is calling Luna, Lulu and that she has a pact to ‘deal’ with her foes.

Shaking her head and closing her eyes, Starlight recreated the time spell and let the images start flowing backwards again.

“Starlight hold it here please,” Luna asked, trotting up to the now frozen image of the stallion, avoiding the volley of projectiles, just moments from hitting him.

“Sister informed me he was dead,” Luna snarled, as she circled him. Her eyes shifting to glowing draconic slits for a few heartbeats. “Meet the face of your assassin.” Luna pointed her hoof at the stallion. “This cur is the one that gave you that spellbook.”

Spellbook? Assassin? Starlight thought, she was just confused but thought better of asking any questions now.

Luna looked into her shadow. “Take a good look”. A pair of eyes opened within the shadow.

Trixie was now pressing against Starlight’s side, taking comfort from her being there and incidentally sheltering from Luna behind her.

Luna continued talking to the creature in her shadow. “Now inform the rest of our guard who their prey is.” The eyes vanished, something about Luna’s mane altered, but Starlight would be hard-pressed to say what.

“Start from two minutes ago and let events play forward,” Twilight commanded in a tone that sounded very much like Luna. Starlight had no choice but to comply.

Past Twilight stepped into the chamber, a sound barrier dripping from her like a shed coat, she flared her wings, displaying the razor edges of her wing blades. It was an intimidating display, Starlight could imagine the sensation of those hungry looking blades parting her flesh, she shuddered.

Past Twilight’s eyes quickly swept the chamber, with the look of a professional soldier. This was Twilight the warrior princess, not Twilight the book-loving Princess of Friendship. Starlight considered how different her own encounter would have gone if she had met this version instead of the one that brought her into the light of friendship. I’m not sure I would have survived that encounter.

The hunger for violence that sparked in past Twilight’s eyes terrified Starlight. A Nightmare Twilight was not something anypony needed. Without the Elements, could she even be stopped?

Past Twilight calmly assessed the robed unicorns arranged in a semicircle around her and seemed to find them wanting. Starlight got the impression Twilight then thought she outnumbered them one to nine.

The central figure advanced towards Twilight and spoke in a contempt laced sneer, "Blood magic dear Twilight, Celestia would be so disappointed with you, she might even send you back to magical kindergarten."

Starlight looked questionably at Present Twilight who spoke up. “Yes I know many forbidden spells and being a Princess, I am allowed to use them if the situation warrants it.”

Starlight was unsure whether she should be impressed by Twilight's newfound practicality or annoyed at the hypocrisy.

Past Twilight responded, her voice a menacing purr, "I'm the element of magic. All magic bends to my will. Do you truly think one such as you can stand against me?" She leaned forward threateningly. Her horn lit as she changed her stance. It was clear she was in charge here and that she had no doubt she would prevail.

"I do," the stallion let out a cruel bark of laughter, "You are nothing but the rarest of spell components to me, Princess."

Starlight could feel Trixie trembling beside her, she put a foreleg over her in a clumsy attempt at a hug. Clumsy or not it proved effective.

Twilight flicked her eyes to the exit. "And you are worth less than the dust on my hooves, I shall be leaving now."

A spell Starlight had never seen before lept from Twilight’s horn, a lance of ebony fire. To see her smiling with glee when throwing around what was most definitely a lethal spell was a shock. Somehow the target was unharmed, the only effect was some damage to his robe.

A look of disbelief crossed past Twilight’s face a moment before a different robed pony detonated leaving a cloud of ash behind. That shocked expression faded replaced with a thoughtful one and then a hungry grin. Twilight’s horn lit with three layers of glows.

The lead cultist's eyes flashed virulent green, coils of miasma rolling from them as he roared out. "You shall not escape me!"

Twilight’s spell casting faltered, small arks of power sparking from her horn, lashing dangerously about, scorching her coat. With a pained expression Twilight nearly managed to force the energy in to forming a shield spell, nearly.

"No not now,'' she growled her voice laced with rage.

A swarm of surgical blades flashed into existence then rushed towards Twilight’s face propelled by the dark stallion's magic. Moments later blasts of force lanced out from the other cultist's horns all converging with deadly intent.

Twilight just managed to force the magic into the worst example of a shield Starlight had ever seen before. The attacks started hitting. Her body crumpled to the floor, she started to burn from within. She curled up, shaking in pain, unable to act.

After a few seconds of her not even doing anything to protect herself, even with attack after attack landing. The attacks slowed and then stopped, but the flames kept building. The robed cultist closed in a bit, the lead one seems a little puzzled, like he was thinking things went too well.

He slowly started to approach the downed Twilight. Suddenly, burning blood erupted from her neck as it began to circle in the air, spiralling down and forming into the burning runes that had detonated outside.

"What!" was the only response the robed leader had as he took a step back, his confusion shifting to rage. He pointed his hoof at Twilight and the attack resumed.

A protection spell of some sort enclosed her, made up of complex purple runes and geometric symbols dancing around with clockwork precision. Rapidly followed by a second one, a pale, weak-looking shield with tendrils of magic reaching back and slotting into sections of the first spell.

The magic bolts struck first, shattering into fragments and being channelled through to the first spell, their energy being stolen to reinforce the inner protection that just glowed all the brighter.

The swarm of metal blades arrived next, passing through the outer protective layer as if it was not there. Upon reaching the second layer they veered off, circling Twilight, rapidly gaining speed. Multiple shock waves as each projectile made a good attempt at being faster than Rainbow dash.

Starlight slowed down the replay, so she could see what happened next.

Each shard of metal was reinforced with their own forcefield, as they headed straight back to the one who had thrown them. The shock waves as they passed through the air was enough to shake the room. The impact slammed the leader into the wall, shattering it and many of the surrounding supports.

The damage was just too much for the temple to remain whole, the ceiling began to cave in.

A huge blast of magic catapulted Twilight straight out of the temple shattering the stone around her and causing yet more damage to the structure.

Luna walked up to a pile of rubble and fixed her gaze upon it. ”Make the next hour pass in a few minutes,” Luna commanded. Starlight did so, letting her eyes look to the point Luna was looking at.

A hole burst in the rubble, Starlight slowed the replay to normal speed. Somepony was using crude magic to cut or shape their way out. It was the assassin again, his robe was tattered enough that part of his cutie mark could be seen. An open scroll it looked like.

The assassin staggered to his hooves, looking around. "It has been a long time since I have felt pain, well played Twilight." He spoke is his deep sinister voice.

The stallion's head snapped up as he looked towards the exit. Lifting his hoof to a stone ring hanging from his neck, he faded from not only vision but from all of Starlight’s senses.

Luna stomped a hoof in annoyance and looked to the entrance to watch a past version of herself, Shining Armour and multiple guards, both Night and Crystal, enter. “You can end your spell now,” Luna said calmly.

Trixie seemed to mutter to herself, “Is that the ... shop ... in?” Starlight looked at her complying with Luna’s request.

Twilight suddenly rounded on Trixie and spoke in a dangerous tone. “Where do you know that artefact from?”

“Eep,” A trembling Trixie seemed to try to hide from the world under her hat and cape.

Luna approached trailing a wing along Twilight armoured back, Starlight could not work out if the gesture was in reproach or affection, most likely it was a mix of the two. “Trixie, you have nothing to fear.” Luna almost whispered.

Trixie stilled and looked up, her fear replaced with mere wariness.

“Would you kindly tell us how you know about that Keystone?” Luna asked.

“Keystone? If you mean that rock that was around Big bad and nasty’s neck, then it was on sale where Trixie made her worst purchase.”

Starlight looked at her in disbelief You can just buy soul-sucking evil artefacts that amplify magic?!

“Once we are done here we are going to be paying them a visit.” Starlight heard in stereo as Luna and Twilight spoke at once.

That’s not creepy at all. Starlight sarcastically thought.

Twilight turned and started walking further into the temple. “Come, there is one more place where the time spell is needed.”

Starlight coxed Trixie into coming as she followed, Luna took up the rear.

The path was long and confusing, with many turns and even a few secret passageways, but Twilight did not hesitate even once. The walls of the temple were highly decorated with carvings depicting something old. It was hard to appreciate the historical value of the place when being marched between two of the most powerful beings in Equestria. Especially when at least one of them seemed to be in a bad mood.

At last they entered their destination, a room with, at its centre, an altar with four silver spikes embedded in it. They were spaced just right to be one per limb if a pony happened to be laying on it. Even with just horn light, the stains on its surface were more than enough to speak of its dark purpose.

Luna followed stepping down into the room leaving Trixie looking in from the doorway.

“Is that...” Starlight started to ask.

“Welcome to the least comfortable accommodations I have ever experienced,” Twilight said with angry sarcasm.

“You want…” Starlight, sounding horrified, began.

“You don't need to look, we just need your spellcraft,” Luna added, voice reassuring but expression cold.

“Seven days, two hours and thirty-six minutes ago is where you need to begin.” Twilight’s voice spoke in a haunted whisper.

Starlight lit her horn, she could hear Trixie’s hoof-falls as she retreated around the corner and a quiet “I’ll be over here.” Clearly she was not wanting to see more horror today.

Twilight’s screams snapped Starlight’s gaze up. She immediately regretted her actions. The scene before her was horrifying, there was no way a pony could live through what she was seeing let alone still be screaming and trying to struggle free from their bonds.

The Robed Assassin was directing a swarm of surgical blades and extracting parts of the Twilight on the altar. Without a second thought, Starlight cast the most powerful anti-nausea spell she knew, the fact that she would have dry-mouth for next week was not even considered. At least she would be well hydrated.

Dragging her eyes away from the scene and pressing her ears flat to her head to try and drown out the sound, she looked to the two Alicorns in the room. Twilight just seems to be cold and Luna did not seem to have any reaction. The powerful fluctuations of magic told a different story, being near them for more than a few hours like this could cause long term health problems.

Backing out as far as she could and still maintain the time spell, she cast a sound blocking wall over the doorway, trapping the horrid sounds inside the room. Trixie's whimpering made her glad she did not just suppress her own hearing.

Reaching out with her aura, she pulled Trixie into a hug. Both of them needed the contact now and would likely need Luna’s help tonight.

CH 25 Attack of the Paperwork

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It was not often that the Royal Guard Intelligence Services had all senior members attend the same meeting. It was unheard of for said meeting to happen in the throne room. It was unbelievable that said meeting was happening instead of the first half of day court.

Paper Pusher was extremely pleased that he was not anywhere near the front row. He was hoping his pale grey coat would do a passible job of blending in with the white of the throne room and his burgundy mane might possibly be mistaken for part of a banner or the red carpet.

Unlike many ponies here, Paper Pusher was only a glorified organiser, and he knew it. Ensuring the right paperwork got to where it was needed was part of his talent. The only reason he even had his job as he was one of the few with high enough security clearance even to see the paperwork he managed, let alone read it.

Princesses Celestia spoke in level tones with her usual calm and loving way, but somehow it did nothing to lessen the sense of dread he felt. Everypony in the room knew that she was not happy.

Apparently, a major threat that RGIS had confirmed dead over a decade ago had been found alive and well. Said threat also happened to be the one responsible for the near-disaster at Manehattan and an attempt on Princess Twilight’s life.

I wonder how many of us will be getting early retirements, He thought as he cast his eyes around his colleagues. Some were upset that they had disappointed the Princess; others were annoyed they were being held accountable for their predecessors' errors.

At least the room was still normal temperature. If the stories of how heated the Princess could get when she got annoyed with one of her previous students, that only recently got removed from a pony of interest list, were true, then he imagined it could get quite toasty in here.

In his mind’s eye, he could see the mountain of paperwork that would need to be gone through growing. The Princess was going on about how no stone could be left unturned and that every assumption, every conclusion for the past ten years needed to be re-examined in light of the Warlocks continued freedom.

No pony managed to catch even the slightest hint that Manehatten would be attacked, so presently nowhere was safe.

One bit of good news was the extra bits being allocated to RGIS, but they would need it. The Princess seemed to want field agents everywhere in Equestria at once. Currently, there were not even enough agents to do a quarter of that.

For an immortal being, she is rather impatient. He thought in the safety of his distant position.

Celestia’s gaze stopped on him, and he froze. It was like she was looking right through him. At that very moment, if he could have sunk through the floor, he would have. Her gaze moved on with nopony else seemingly any the wiser about his almost death by heart-attack.

Paper Pusher took a quick shower before making his way through the sea of panicked RGIS ponies. On his way to his office, almost everypony he passed dumped more and more files and folders on him. His mind was trying to work out how he could possibly sort all this paperwork and have it done by first thing last week.

Blue unicorn, number six, argued with green earthpony number four. White pegasus nine and yellow pegasus three, who had a commendation for valour in combat, both hovered nearby as they talked about the odds of it turning into a fight.

Paper Pusher knew it would not go that far because pink unicorn seven was on holiday this week. So he continued on his way.

He was not even halfway to his destination, and both his horn and his back were aching. Just the thought of the stairs was causing his legs to consider going on strike.

He paused, considering. There was only one mare who could process this much paperwork and get answers quickly. One of the few ponies of which he could remember their names without checking his files. He turned and changed direction. He was glad that her office was not up any stairs form where he was.

The unassuming door hid one of the strangest mares in all of RGIS. Being what appeared to be a hybrid of a pegasus and some large winged ancient pony or maybe a roc? But whatever her ancestry, she was very good at her job.

He knocked on the door and pushed it open, checking on her desk to see if the anti-Discord doughnuts were still in place. It even confused him, but for some reason, whenever they were missing or had changed into a different type of food, it meant Discord was somewhere in the building.

His safety from another immortal being confirmed, he called out into the office. “Candice, I think you might need to cancel your vacation for the next few years.” The first of several pony-sized stacks of paperwork floating into the room behind him.

Every time he looked at her, his mind paused. She did not fit in any of his mental boxes. He just did not know how to file her away. He could not help but take in every detail about her as if it was the first time he saw her. Today the first thing to catch his attention was her well-toned wing muscles and how they connected to her abnormally large wings. She had them spread slightly with the near fluorescent white glow of her magic around the first wing bones near her body.

Every time he saw her use magic, he did a double-take, checking to see if there was a horn on her head. Today’s check revealed that yet again, said horn was still missing. He actually still had money on her either being a secret love child of Celestia or part of some cancelled programme to make Alicorns that went wrong.

If it was not for the unicorn supremacists and the scorn that they levelled at hybrid ponies, her white coat and wings with silver tipping around her hooves, feathers and ears, would be the envy of many mares in Canterlot.

Her lemon-yellow mane and tail were styled long but naturally. Just a couple of hair clips holding it all in place, it could have been taken from a fashion model he thought. The fact she had tail feathers visible near the base of her tail would make ponies think she was some sort of primitive pony. One that hailed back from when flight magic wasn’t yet strong enough to stabilize flight without them.

He’s had to lose more than one request from the nobles who wanted her removed for being a poorly transmuted spy or other such rubbish. The most ridiculous one was that she was an alien from another world. If she were, she would have come through that mirror nopony was meant to know about, and that was far too well guarded for that.

Her fluorescent white glow of magic held several boards and various other pieces of equipment one would find in a classroom. As he entered, the floating items settled into place, ready for the next assignment.

Looking over her shoulder at him, Candice replied with humour evident in her voice, “It can’t be that bad. Let me see what you got there, Paper.” The look of amusement fell from her face as soon as she spotted the stack of paper that was as tall as she was. “Um, That’s going to take a couple of days at least.” She turned fully around and folded her wings across her back, the tips crossing just above her tail.

He did his best to smile, but he was fairly sure it came across as a sympathetic grimace. “That's just the index, the rest is still outside,” He said nodding with his horn through the open door.

“Well, bring the rest in. Let's see what we're in for.” She said with determination.

He nodded and set to work, bringing in the stacks one at a time. He was certain there were at least one and a half more stacks than when he set them down outside. He arranged the stacks in order. By the time he was done, it seemed like the room was being held up more by the paper than the stone.

Using his magic he added labels to each pile, commenting about them as he did so. “Here we have all of the financial records for the faculty at Celestia’s school for gifted unicorns. Next, we have all the applicants for said school and everything known about them up to this point. That stack is the basic reports for every dark magic incident RGIS have dealt with in the last ten years. The next few stacks each go back a decade at a time.”

He paused, looking unhappily at the last stacks marked with the Princess’s seal. He hated when things were not filed correctly. “And the rest of them are unsorted files that have been sent down from the palace that could be of some use… apparently.”

He saw her looking at each pile and chalk floated to one of the boards and started writing as he spoke. Notes about the contents of each stack being scribed onto the blackboard. “Thank you, Paper. I’m going to need some special accommodations for this one. How long do I have to filter all this?” she asked him.

He pulled out a note from one of the stacks. “Princess Celestia wants it completed by this time last week, and Princess Luna will be expecting a report from you in less than a week if you can manage it.”

He saw her take one more look around the stacks of paper. “Realistically I could have a report ready in a month or two. If they want this in a week, I’m going to need a small warehouse and a weeks supply of Stimulant Potions from Luna. Good thing I have temporal acceleration spells for this. This is going to burn me out, and I will have to take a day off just to sleep after. Then I will be able to deliver the report.”

He mentally paused as she called Princess Luna, just Luna. Should I bet on her being Luna’s child? Or is she just that distracted? He thought.

“I think we have some of the super-strength coffee that was confiscated from the Element of Laughter, in secure-storage,” He jokingly offered. Turning to leave, he paused for a moment. “Should I grab some zebra potions as well?”

“I’m not sure I could survive whatever Pinkie Pie has managed to concoct this time,” Candice replied, a look of seriousness showing that she wasn’t kidding. “Last thing I want is a caffeine-induced heart attack.”

“Well, at least it is not explosive like the batch before last.”

“I thought she was making charges for her party cannon that time. Was I mistaken?” Candice questioned.

“No, she just seems to be getting better at trying to get around the nationwide ban on her having caffeine,” He intoned.

“I also shouldn’t be risking the Zebra Potions. I need Alicorn level safety guarantees for this.”

He scribbled the requested items on a piece of paper, had her sign it. “If they have not sent the Quartermaster out on a mission and assuming Princess Luna approves, you should have it in a few hours.”

“Thank you Paper Pusher. I hope the rest of your day goes better than it has so far.” Candice said as he exited. Strangely she could always be counted on to treat him with respect. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind that she doesn’t fit in one of my mental boxes, or maybe she just needs her own. He pondered as yet another pony unloaded more urgent paperwork on him.

CH 26 Solar, meet Lunar: Investigation

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Moonstone Striker could appreciate the scent of salt on the air and the distant sounds of the waves. He closed his thestral like eyes letting his keen tufted ears take in the sounds.

Opening his eyes, he let his horn darken as shadows wrapped around it. As different as it was from what it used to be, it was very useful for stealth missions. The shadow magic settled around his eyes. To him, solid matter seemed to be nothing but a light mist, only living things and magic seemed unaltered. Looking through the wall to see his current targets were a trio of ponies, one of each of the ‘accepted’ tribes. There were clumsily going about making ready to leave.

He settled in to wait, he had nothing to do until they left as he was currently on his own. He could not even share a joke with his fellow Nightguard as every single member was on mission. A full quarter were tasked with guarding Twilight, Little Star and the Elements of Harmony.

Sitting in the shadows, his dark coat blending in, he watched life in the city carry on around him with nopony any the wiser about his presence. He considered his position and how he became what he was today. Before he entered Luna’s service, he was a nopony, a life of crime and petty violence would have been his only impact on the world.

Celestia would only have looked at him disapprovingly. Luna saw who and what he was and told him he could be of use, despite his flaws, he could still help make Equestria a better place. He smiled at the memory, exposing his fangs.

She extended her hoof to many criminals and undesirables, pointing out nopony is perfect, that ponies make mistakes but they only define you if you let them. Some she pardoned, others she even granted entirely new identities.

He knew that serving the Sovereign was very much like being in a cult. Most of her servants revered her. Celestia came across as a distant and stern but loving teacher or foster parent. Luna deeply cared for each of her servants, she raged when one was hurt and when in private, beamed with approval with each achievement.

Almost a full third of Luna’s servants were made up of ponies whose lives she had saved, either from monster attacks or suicide.

Almost all of Luna’s interactions with her vassals were far more personal than anything Celestia shared with anypony, with perhaps the exception of her student Twilight.

It was absurd the amount of attacks on Twilight they had to prevent. All of them just because of the jealousy Celestia’s affection had invoked in some of the entitled nobility of Canterlot.

Most of the Nightguard loved Luna in one way or another. She was their mentor, their Sovereign, their healer, their confidant. She tended to the dreams of each of them every night. Well, at least when the dreams weren't turned in to some of the most Nightmarish training imaginable.

He had lost count of all the horrible and terrible ways he had been injured or killed in the dream training. As much as they should have terrified him. The few times it had been too much, Luna had held him like she held any that needed such comfort. Softly she whispered to him ‘it was just a dream’ letting her magic sooth the worst of his trauma until it was gone. With the lessons learnt, his skills shaped, the memories of the event softened.

No members of the Nightguard, or any of Luna’s favoured, had PTSD for long no matter what happened to them. Luna was much more involved with tending to the spirits and minds of those who had pledged themselves to her than the general public. The Nightguard knew they could have no secrets from their Sovereign. Luna saw every want, every desire, every twisted fantasy and she never judged any of them from any of it. Only one’s actions deserved either praises or retribution.

He pitied the Solarguard for all the red tape they had to go through. In the Nightguard everything was by Luna’s command, the rule book was basically don’t do bad things to good ponies, save Equestria and do what Luna says.

Finally the individuals he was waiting for stepped out into the street. Something about the way they were moving was wrong. It was as if they wanted to go somewhere else but their hooves would not let them. As the cult he was hunting was said to use mind control, this could be a strong lead.

Slipping from one shadow to the next it was foals play to tail them while remaining undetected. He really loved the thestral magic Luna had blessed him with. If the Noble council knew that Luna was using her magic to effectively create hybrid ponies, they would throw a fit. He almost wanted to tell them just to see how they would react. The one Hybrid in RGIS even got a motion from the nobles to close the whole department down, not that Celestia even allowed it to end up on the docket.

As he followed them, it was clear to see Vanhoover was a mess with all the Solarguard in it. Even when they were trying to be unobtrusive, the stallions in their golden armour were visible almost everywhere. They were too blind to see how much suffering they were causing. By keeping ponies that looked undesirable or slightly shifty from going about their normal everyday life, even getting food became difficult for some. Just because a pony had the misfortune to be poor or get involved in a few minor crimes did not mean they were a bad pony. But that is what the holier than thou Celestia worshiping Solarguard thought. He had only ever seen a couple of Solarguard even stand up for the Nightguard when they were being trashed talked. The Hybrid from RGIS was one of them. I wonder if Sovereign Luna would consider acquiring her for the Nightguard.

Just in the first day of his investigation, he had seen three low paid workers lose their jobs because they were late as the Solars had held them up at checkpoints. He made a mental note to try and get somepony to check up on them to make sure they would be all right. He would mention what was happening to Luna next time he slept.

His targets stopped at a coffee shop and placing the same large order as they did yesterday. Getting more than enough for twenty ponies before continuing on. Unlike yesterday, they stopped at a hayburger, collecting another larger order to go. As both places had the orders ready to go, they must of prearranged it. With the additional food, it would mean there would be more ponies.

Despite the fact these ponies were clearly minded controlled, the Solarguard just let them pass. Yet another example of how useless they were, how could they not see what was wrong with these ponies? Do they train them in anything other than looking impressive and standing still? He thought.

Unfortunately the magic on their armour stopped him seeing who he was dealing with, only those equipped with solar armour could really see the identities of the ponies under the uniform enchantment. Even his enspelled eyes could not see past that effect.

None of the guards used any names in the time he had to listen, so he would only be able to say when and where he saw them when he reported this, and he would report this.

His targets moved on, heading into an apartment building, the building had a pair of bulky looking earthponies standing guard. Given there did not seem to be anything special about the building, the guards looked out of place. Are these foals trying to get caught?

With his vision, he scoped out the places and looked for ways to sneak in unnoticed, there were some forty ponies in the building, a flash of gold in his vision caught his attention. Focusing on it, one of the ponies in the building seemed to be on the floor in a small room. By the awkward position they were in, it seemed they were tied up.

The flash of gold appeared again from within that pony, it was a hidden marker used to identify undercover Solar agents. Well that makes things more interesting, how did that foal get themselves caught?

He wondered how many bragging rights the Nightguard would get from pulling this agent out of the fire they had landed themselves in.

A simple shadow step into the small cupboard was all it took to get inside. He then slid out into the room. Switching his eyesight to a spell that let him see perfectly in the dark, he looked over her in more detail. She was indeed tied up and in a rather uncomfortable position. With no light in the small space, he could not tell what her colours were but he could make every detail of her form.

Loosing her bonds, he at least got the idiot in a more comfortable position. His attempts to wake her up however were not fruitful. After a moment of consideration, he wondered if this was some sort of sting or operation in progress. I should really check before I rescue her.

He placed his horn to her forehead and cast a spell that the Sovereign has taught him personally. He was meant to use to for mission briefings and passing reports between Nightguard but here it could be used to find out how and why she was here.

The spell completed and the waking world faded as he pressed the question into her mind, Why are you here?

Revealing Light, RGIS agent number seven was in a bad mood. Normally a lack of possible leads was the one thing that slowed investigations. Paper Pusher had his hybrid marefriend cooped up in an office with all the files RGIS had ever produced. Now with all of the paperwork coming out of that sealed office, the problem was reversed. There were too many leads, far too many leads, and Celestia wanted them all investigated, right now.

Unfortunately, with all the possible things that might be out there, some bright spark scrambled the guard. This forced all the rats underground, in some cases literally. It was almost as if the nobles were doing everything they could to make life hard for the agents. With all the Solarguards, dressed in their enchanted golden armour, being all over the place, the bad guys and most of RGIS’s informants had gone to ground. You think they would learn that plate armour is not discrete.

Even the ponies selling slightly dodgy magazines had closed up shop and headed out of town.

After being stopped by yet another guard patrol, the RGIS agent had her paperwork checked, twice. She was told to get a new photo as she looked much older than in the photo on her ID. The only reason she looked older is that she had lines under her eyes due to the stress.

Finally, she managed to get back to the hideout, one that fortunately was not on any books or by now it would have had a dozen Solarguards using it as a garrison.

She slipped into the secret room in the back, letting out a long-suffering sigh as she took in the work waiting for her. The stack of places she was meant to investigate before the end of the day, was at least as thick as her hoof. But the job had to be done. It would not have been sent to her otherwise.

Each of them should take weeks of careful infiltration and making connections before even attempting to enter them. With the pressure from on high though, shortcuts had to be taken.

After she read and memorized each location, she burnt the paper, leaving nothing but ash. She added it to the fireplace, making it look like it had been used.

With the information on the dozen places, she thought she could investigate firmly in her mind, she checked her appearance. Looking into the mirror, she could see her disguise, her coat expertly dyed to a pale blue, her mane a lovely purple. Her cutie mark was altered to now appear as a bush with blue berries on it instead of its normal Ray of Light piercing a gloomy sky.

If she had time, she could assume a different identity for each place, today, unfortunately, she would be burning this identity. There would be no way to hide checking out so many shady places in a single day.

She looked around what had been her home for the past few months, she had enjoyed some of it, she had at least a few ponies who thought she was their friend.

She, like many agents, was jealous of agent Sweetie Drops. The Agent who had gotten to stay in the same place for years on end, becoming friends with almost everypony in the town the Element of Magic lived in. How much of that was planned? She thought. Did she put herself in a position to be known to the Element of Magic just to make it harder for anypony else to force her to move on?

Looking at a single photo with her soon to be former friends, she began collecting the rest of the photos, the memories and the small keepsakes slipping the most-precious into a bag. “The life of an agent is never dull.” She said to that one photo, tucking it in her mane on its own.

The illusion on her horn faded for a moment as she used a shrinking spell so all her keepsakes would fit in a small pouch that she then secured in her mane.

Finally ready, she headed out of her room and into the main area of the affordable apartment building. This is going to be the last Blue Berry sees of this place. She lamented for what she was about to lose.

The building still had a receptionist. She offered her thanks and a smile to him. Placing a bag of coins on the desk, she left a tip knowing this would be the last time she talked to the chess master that she had past time with on occasion. Everypony has something to hide. She thought back to how embarrassed he was about his skill at the game and how he would be most upset if she told anypony about his ability.

He had, unknowingly for him, been playing chess by post with the Princess of the Sun for the last ten years and had never known who he was playing. She had figured this out when she had seen notes on the game on the Princess’s desk.

Turned out that the Princess played many such games, seemingly picking one pony to play per settlement. Some she communicated with via the papers, some by letters that did not look anything like her horn writing. One or two had apparently even managed to work out who their opponent was and approached Celestia about the game.

She often wondered if it was some sort of test. It was rumoured that at least one of the analysts back in Canterlot was recruited for playing well. Was it possible that was the reason they let a hybrid pony into the RGIS? Despite the fact that there was no way for them to follow the uniform regulations?

Would the receptionist get a letter one day, inviting him to play her in Canterlot? He would die of shock. She thought, having to hide her laugh.

Blue Berry waved just before she let herself out of the door to the outside world.

The first set of places on the list proved to be nothing, they were the sort of place where terrible things could have happened. But with the work of RGIS, things were kept down to just slightly naughty. These places were empty like the owners had likely taken some effort in hiding themselves.

The next place she had to look into was a large ally. Seeing the state of the building, she remembered her mother wanting her to have a more normal career. Normal careers did not offer much cause to go out and look for hidden things. How was she going to go on adventures or do something that actually worked towards keeping Equestria safe if she did that?

Turning a corner, she saw in the peripheral vision, a large earthpony with a mark of a skull under an iron hoof, guarding the door. What sort of pony has a mark like that? she thought.

The agent moved on, showing no sign she wished to linger. Deliberately ignoring the concealed guard as if she did not see the powerful crossbow hidden behind a bin but still in easy reach. A weapon that was most definitely not for self-defense. This place is better defended than I thought it was. But why? She thought.

She moved on, having to take a long walk to prevent whatever other guards the place might have taking her unaware. She would have to come back later and try to observe form stealth before taking any action. She thought she would find herself quite allergic to crossbow bolts.

The salt air did a lot to conceal any other scents in the air. If she was not trotting on her own in the bad part of town, she could have called it a relaxing outing.

“This was so much easier when…” She started to say to her self.

The sound of hooves behind her cut her words off.

“What's a pretty thing like you doing here?” said the large earthpony from before, apparently he had followed her.

She smiled and slowly walked towards him. “The question is, do you have enough bits to find out?” She asked, letting a seductive purr enter her voice.

He paused for a moment, his body language eased. He clearly no longer saw her as a threat. Good, that will make this easier. She thought.

He moved closer “I have more than enough for you…” He started leaning close.

She mirrored the movement, drawing closer as if to kiss him. She wrapped a leg around him, pulling them closer. A flash cast, point-blank, overpowered, knockout spell sizzled through the air singeing his coat. He staggered back, dazed but still standing.

Sweeping his legs out from under him, she slammed a hoof into the side of his head followed up by another pair of knockout spells. To Tartarus with earthpony toughness. She thought panting. It had only been seconds but her heart was pounding. She was an actual spy, an investigator, not some sort of comic book secret agent. Things were not meant to go this way.

She used her magic to cast a binding spell, holding all four of his legs together and dragged him to a large dumpster in an alleyway. Looking at the dumpster for a moment she gave up and just dragged him behind it, there was no way she was going to get such a large pony up and over into the dumpster.

To buy some more time she gagged and blindfolded him. She hoped the rest of the low-lives here would not do more than rob him but she did not have time to take him in.

She wrapped an invisibility spell around herself, slipping soft padded shoes from her saddlebags, she put them on. The sound of muffled hooves on the pavement as she galloped back, were quite enough to blend into the background sounds of the city.

On a time limit, she used a lock pick spell to break in and began to search the building the thug had guarded. The other defenders outside on the other side of the building paid her no attention as they continued the conversation about hoofball.

Fortunately her special talent was finding hidden things as well as apparently hiding things. So she was good at locating things hidden away in secret compartments, finding secret passageways, and hiding places. Though how anypony thought they could hide all the counterfeit magic items under a floorboard was another question. All it would take would be somepony with a horn to get close to find them.

She gathered up all the stuff she could into her dimensional pocket. It was now full of stolen food, tools, weapons, bundles of many things she had no idea what they were. Some of it would be returned to their owners the rest would end up in the evidence lockup. So likely would be taken by The Night Princess and logged as yet more ‘disappearances’ form the evidence storage.

The last items she found gave her pause, they were a collection of magical writings, just looking at them made her shiver. Despite all of her training, finding magical texts scribed in blood upon the flayed skin of a pony was not something most could just ignore.

She was not an expert at this sort of magic but she could recognize that they were bad news. By how complicated they were and how large the spell array would need to be, this was probably another attack like the one in Manehatten.

A slight ripple of magic passed over her, she tensed moving into a hiding place, despite the fact she was invisible. Her talent at finding hiding places also served her well locating places to hide herself.

“Where is Skull Crusher?” A voice downstairs called out.

Agent Seven carefully and slowly made her way to the window, it was a bit of a drop but it would be her most reliable form of escape.

She could hear hooves moving around downstairs, if her ears were not lying to her, one of them was moving closer to the stairs.

She lit her horn and using her aura, slowly started to open the window. That pulse of magic brushed over her again. She did not recognize the spell, but you didn’t have to be a ‘Twilight Sparkle’ to work out when you had been spotted by magic.

Buck subtly. She thought, lunging the few steps, diving at the still closed window. A kinetic blast launched from her horn, shattering it, sending glass flying into the night air shortly followed by a wingless pony.

As the ground rushed towards her, she thought back to her training, she prepared a large kinetic blast and let it become fuzzy around the edges.

She could hear the ponies inside the building galloping about and shouting. They were heading into the room she had just left. Unless they had any with wings, all she needed to do was get to the next street and she would be safe.

The deliberately faulty kinetic blast spell released from her horn, impacting the ground and splashing back in a dispersed wave of force.

She twisted her body and started to line her hooves up to take off at a gallop upon landing, hoping she got the power in her spell right. She hated the physical part of her training.

The unknown magic pulse happened again, but this time it seemed to settle on her, her limbs started to feel heavy, her heart felt tight, like no matter how hard it beat, it could not pump enough blood.

She tried to fight the spell with her own magic. Trying to force her body to move, it felt like she was going to tear something inside with each attempt. Before she had time to get desperate enough to see if she would tear herself apart by trying too hard, she hit her spell.

Impacting the softened spell felt like falling into jelly, if it was made from warm air and yet still slowed you. Sinking through it, now completely unable to move, she was very glad it was magic and not the dessert. Drowning in jelly would have been very embarrassing.

She settled laying on her side in a very awkward pose. She could not even move her tail to preserve her modesty from the ponies she could hear walking up behind her. She wanted to run, wanted to strike out with her magic, but she could not even breath.

The world started to darken before the familiar sound of a stun bolt ripping through the air let her know what sped her descent into the dark of unconsciousness.

Striker blinked, pulling back from the agent before him. He had not expected the vision to be that intense. He placed a hoof over his heart, he could still feel the ache of the blood magic constricting the agent’s blood flow. He only wanted to know if rescuing her would interfere with her mission. Having felt everything she had been though from the first pony point of view, he now knew.

The spells she had in her pocket were far more important than dealing with the ponies here. He had no way to get to them without her consent, So rescue mission it is then. Time to play the dashing hero and hope she does not buck me in the face while trying to escape my rescue attempt.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he made ready to shadow step out of there. It was always so much harder with a passenger. He did not want to have to use the extra reserve of magic his Sovereign had blessed him with. That was for a true emergency, this was just an inconvenience.

Letting his power build, he wrapped his limbs around the agent. Closing his eyes, he felt the world fall out from under him as they both fell into the shadow leaving the room, and the cultists, far behind.

His body was still trembling from the lack of magic. He had used a lot to get here. He was hidden in a broken clock tower. All the mechanisms about made the place look like a comic book villain’s lair.

He had wrapped the agent in a blanket and sat as far away from her as he could, waiting. He would need to sleep to inform his Sovereign about what had happened, but knowing his luck if he did that she would wake up and either flee or attack him.

His aura reached out, pulling a mango from the box next to him. Ever since his change, these things had been a little too moreish. His fangs bit into its juicy flesh. He much preferred using his fangs on fruits instead of ponies. It was a little too personal. Using his hoof to fight was one thing, but his mouth… he guessed he would get used to it, he had seen how effective thestral fangs could be in a fight many times before.

He watched his solar guest, eating mango after mango, glad for being a unicorn. With the amount of energy a pony could burn using spells, it gave him all the justified opportunities he could possibly want to eat the fruit.

Slowly the Solar agent began to stir, a groan escaped her lips.

“Welcome back to the land of the free, Light,” he said, hoping his opening would put her at ease.

She slowly looked around. He could see the edge of fear on her but it was tempered by her training. She had already clocked the two exits to the room and the small pile of his weapons and armour in the corner. Good, I’d hoped she would see them. He thought knowing it would lend credibility to his being a Nightguard. Not that she should fail to notice his Nightchosen traits.

“How do you know that name, Night Lover?” She asked, her eyes staring at him.

Flicking his ears in annoyance, he glared at her with his slitted eyes. “So this is the thanks I get for saving you?”

“I…” She started before he cut her off.

“What I need is to get a look at those magic notes you took from my targets. I know you hid them in your pocket and I can’t continue my investigation without them.”

“How can I trust you’re not in bed with the Cultists?”

“Oh for Luna’s sake, we are not some Nightmare Moon cult.” He said anger flaring. At least not anymore. He added in the privacy of his own mind. “Look do you want to save this city or let it go up in flames, incase you have not noticed, Twilight Sparkle is not here and unless we find out where they are going to do that… whatever they are going to do, we might need to update the map of Equestria.”

She took a calming breath, he could see her trying to get a read on him. Most ponies found it harder to read the emotions and honesty of Thestrals. He wondered how much of that had carried over to him.

“Fine,” she said, snatching up one of his mangos from the box with her aura. “So, who are you?”

He tracked the stolen fruit with his eyes, it took more effort than he wanted to admit, to not use a stun bolt on her to save his treat. He grabbed another from the box and took a bite out of it before the temptation became too great.

Offering a casual salute with his hoof, he answered. “Striker.”

She nodded, her body language settling into a well practised professional manor. So she is going to be no fun, but at least if she stays civil, we should be able to work together.

“So how do you know my name?”

“You do know Celeista put tags on her Agents don't you?” He asked, hoping she would not ask if these tags had names on them.

The look of confusion that crossed her face told him he was safe, she clearly didn't know about them.

“Look, to make sure the Nightguard does not… inconvenience any of your’s that are under cover, she made sure all of you are marked. It's one of the things we have to check for before we doing anything too permanent.”

Her ears lowered fractionally. So she is another one that does not like what we do. He thought.

“So the spell?” He asked.

She lit her horn and the pieces of cured pony skin were placed on the floor. She seemed to cringe away from them, muzzle wrinkled in disgust.

Striker walked over and took a good look at them. “So, what do you know about these things?” He pointed with a hoof at the spells.

“Not much, I did not get much time to study them before… before my little enforced nap,” She said, getting to her hooves and walking over, turning her eyes to the spell text, holding her face as if it was a mask. “I know you would need at least a small warehouse to fit this outer ring of runes in.” She pointed to a section.

He followed where she was directing his attention to. He lamented his lack of education, sure he knew the spells he could cast very well. Luna had even praised him on his mastery of two of them. Yet when it came to magical theory, he had next to none. He eyes caught an imperfection on the surface of the pony leather the writing was on. He lit his horn, letting his magic improve his already sharp eyes, the impression of words becoming clear.

Three-One-Nine East ST. Remember to bring the stuff, everything could be ready in ten days.

He grinned, showing his fangs, the foals had written a note resting atop the spell texts and left an address.

“What?” She asked with annoyance, glaring at his grinning face.

“I know where they are going,” He answered, hiding his fangs but keeping his grin.

“How could you possibly get that from this spell?”

“They leaned on it when they wrote down the address.”

She blinked, he saw her hoof start to lift, he just knew she almost facehooved. “So… I got captured by a bunch of amateurs.”

“They are evil cultists that worship Sombra, not agents. Expect crazy magic and a definite lack of common sense.”

She nodded slowly. “So what do you want to do now?”

“I'm glad you asked, we are going to take a peek and see what we can see.”

“Just the two of us?” She asked in disbelief.

He tilted his head and looked at her, “You want to go on your own?”

“No… we need backup to deal with something like this.” She insisted.

“Once we have a look and see how far they have gotten, we will know how much and what sort of reinforcements we need.”

She still looked doubtful, “What makes you think we can even do this?”

“Getting places unnoticed is what the Nightguard is best at…”

“They managed to find me when I was invisible.” She interrupted.

“So… I need to worry about some sort of magical detection?” He asked already knowing the answer from her memories.

“Yes, it was a pulse of energy I did not recognize, they used it somehow to paralyze me.”

Striker nodded, “Thanks, that will be useful, did you notice what sort of range it has?”

She shook her head. “I was not close enough to tell how far it went.”

He headed over and started putting on his armour. “So, you coming?”

CH 27 Portents

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It had taken a week for Luna to become frustrated enough to turn to her most powerful but least reliable method of divining information. She floated in the air of her Bastion over a dozen dream orbs. She had pulled them into her Bastion to utilize an ability none of the ponies would ever know they had. Each of the souls she viewed all shared the ability, a sensitivity to the winds of Fate that sometimes could be felt in the dream realm.

It was always vexing that as soon as somepony found out they had this ability, they lost it. Until Luna had discovered her own ability, her mumbling in her sleep had been used many times to predict the future. She paused for a moment and considered if Little Star could have inherited this ability. Would it be wrong or right to try and keep her in the dark to maintain such an ability should it manifest?

With a wave of her hoof, all but one of the orbs formed into a pattern as threads of Luna’s magic formed a web between them, creating a dreamcatcher, her Dream Augury.

Luna examined the white orb of the last mare. She was an interesting mare, one of the few hybrid ponies that survived past early foal hood. Her talent was finding patterns in seemingly chaotic things and using that to solve all kinds of puzzles. An ability she was recruited for, being put to use supporting Celestia's agents.

From what her guard had seen, this mare had sometimes displayed some springingly good instincts. She was probably slowly becoming aware of her ability. Luna wondered how long it would be until she became certain enough in it for it to stop working. She hated to think how many adventures, oracles and prophets died because their ‘luck’ ran out.

This Candice practised both unicorn and pegasus magic, having two separate wellsprings. Perhaps it was to do with her twin’s soul that fused with her in the womb. She had two complete sets of ley lines that did not touch but spiralled around each other. She could have been deliberately created, but as she had no traces of Alicorn magic, that was highly unlikely. Unless it was Discord’s doing… which could explain his interest in her. But if that was true, she fell a long way from the chaos tree.

Discord had taken delight in pulling pranks and otherwise causing trouble for her. Although the mare seemed rather resilient and just took it in stride, even managing to prank him back. The end result was, she kept doughnuts in her desk specifically for Discord now. Given her talent was essentially finding order in chaos, it made sense, she was a natural foe to Discord. If it were not for his reform, he would likely have killed her or worse. His interest was why Luna was always so wary about including her as part of the Dream Augury.

She rolled the orb across her hoof and then on a whim added it to the Augury. The webs embraced it, lighting up as it activated.

In a flash of motion, a shrieking face of a skeletal mare clad in golden crystal with eyes of magenta flame burning with anguish-fueled rage rushed towards Luna.

Despite the spike of fear rushing through her veins, Luna was too experienced to freeze. Her defences solidly snapped into place in an instant. Only to see the image fade before it even reached her. Oh, how she hoped this was just another one of Discords so-called ‘jump scares’.

She spent a long moment centering herself before moving on to her next task. It would not do to contaminate her gifts.

Luna kissed each orb as she placed them back into the sky of her Bastion, returning them to the Dream Realm blessed with the sweetest of dreams for their unknown services.

As she placed Candice's, she caught a glimpse of the dream. Well desiring a princess is not uncommon, but both myself and Twilight? She is ambitious. She thought with an amused grin. At least she has good taste.

“Well, if that’s the dream she wants,” Luna said, letting her magic adjust the dream, blessing the imaginary Luna and Twilight with some of her many years of experience.

Looking to her Bastions sky, smile fading, her eyes turned to slits as she scanned the sky once again seeking the dream of her Twilight’s assassin.

Many hours later, Luna had abandoned her search in the Dream Realm. Now she was taking tea with Cadance who sat across from her. Luna was using magic to ignore her body's need to sleep. It would slow the rate she recovered her power, but that was not much of a disadvantage at the moment.

“So you still can’t find him?” Cadance asked

Luna shook her head. “I fear he knows of my talents and is somehow concealing himself.”

“What are you going to do Aunty?”

“This hunt is not over. I have my Nightguard hunting for him. He will be found." She declared.

"What are you going to do when you find him?"

"You would not wish to know," Luna said, in a flat cold voice.

Cadance covered her discomfort by drinking from her cup and changing the subject. “How are things with Twilight?” she asked, changing the subject.

“They are … Interesting."

Cadance raised an eyebrow "That is your answer?"

"Tiz true."

The pink Alicorn’s playful glare encouraged Luna to continue.

"We have talked, I think she is planning something, but she won't tell me and has expressly forbidden me to try and find out."

Cadance looked thoughtful. "So she is taking this seriously," said humming for a moment before continuing. "Even if what she arranges falls flat, try to appreciate it."

"I imagine she will prevail at her self appointed task. She does have my former companion for help. She will know my preferences better than any other." Luna said, trying to hide the small amount of uneasiness she felt whenever she thought of Night being one of Twilight's companions.

"You can trust them," Cadance said, placing a comforting hoof against Luna’s.

"You are sure?"

"It is my talent and my domain. I know love and I can see into their hearts."

"Mayhaps it is just me being jealous, my bastion has been such a lonely place since my return," Luna mused.

"So maybe you should visit their's or invite them into yours."

Luna nodded. It was a very personal request, but given they were going to be married... It was an appealing idea, but she was still a little concerned about how Twilight, Night and Dreams would react.

Cadance interrupted her contemplations. “Any thoughts of what you will do to try and woo Twilight? And I don't just mean nibble her ear till she melts against you.”

“I can do much more than that,” Luna said, teasingly.

A rolled-up newspaper lifted in Cadance’s aura before she continued as if she was not threatening the Night Princess with rolled up paper. "I have no doubt that if you want this to last, you need to tend to the emotional side first before you go any further with the physical side. Now I know you would be happy with a purely physical relationship, but once Twilight gets over the newness of this side of her, she will want more."

Luna did her best to think and avoid laughing. Cadance’s weapon was just so silly. Luna knew Twilight cared deeply for all her friends but had not been able to see into her dreams since her carnal side had awakened. This was likely because she did not know how to allow others past her Bastions defences.

“What would you advise me to do?”

“Find things that Twilight enjoys and always remember to be yourself. You can’t…” Cadance paused for a moment before giving Luna a serious look. “You should not build relationships of any type with lies, wearing a mask or playing a role, trying to be somepony else would only backfire.”

“Niece, I am more than confident in myself, I need no such deception.”

“Remember Twilight is your equal and not one of your ponies, and you should do fine.” Cadance cautioned.

“Now I do believe I promised to tend to your leylines.”

Cadance shifted nervously. “And you challenged me not to enjoy it.”

With a wave of her wing, Luna directed some shadows to billow out, forming into luxurious cushions. “Lay yourself down and spread your wings, I promise I won’t do anything you would not approve of right now.”

Cadance carefully walked over and settled down, spreading her wings as requested. “What should I expect?”

Luna moved over, keeping her usual teasing nature incheck. This was just a simple task, as mundane as every day ablution. As much satisfaction as she could gain by teaching Cadance how much pleasure could be had, she would not.

Luna reached out with a single primary, charging it with a mix of earthpony and pegasus magic. Cadance followed the feather with her eyes, clearly having sensed the magic being used.

“Aunty, before I forget, you have to teach me to make these,” she said, snuggling down into the comfortable cushions.

“Of course,” Luna said, letting the charged feather trace along the main ley line in Cadance’s wing. Luna watched the muscles in her back tense and then relax as a content hum escaped from her niece’s lips.

“Oh that is pleasant, but I have had better massages and far better preening, this is not…”

Luna reached out with her other wing and placed a single feather on Cadance's beautiful horn. “Brace yourself.” she cautioned.

“Why?” Cadance asked.

Luna knew exactly what she was doing, Cadance’s horn had an immense amount of built-up crystal magic residue, this would take a lot of power. She slowly moved atop Cadance, pinning her in place.


“Be at ease, I just need to be able to hold you still and counter any magic you may release when your horn is cleared.”

Cadance took a calming breath, Luna could see the trust in her niece’s eyes. The benefit of being able to know the hearts of anypony, she could have utter faith she had nothing to fear from her.

Looming over Cadance and placing her own horn against her niece’s, she began.

The Nightguard’s training in stoic composure was put to the test when Cadance reacted. Luna knew what she would be seeing in some of their dreams when they slept.

An hour later, Luna looked at the sprawled out form of Cadance. She was still purring, wings trembling at every slight breeze and small sparks falling from her horn. Noting the convulsions had stopped she used her shadow magic to wrap Cadance in a blanket, tucking her in.

Having the attractive form of the pink Alicorn laying like that was more than a little distracting. If it were not for the hunt for the missing teacher and the fact she was soon to be married to Twilight, she would have been very tempted to use her own wing instead of the blanket. A few words, a few gentle ministrations with her fangs and Luna knew she could make Cadance at least consider upgraded from Shining Armor, at least for a whole second.

Luna turned back to her painting that she had been working on to pass the time, it was a life-painting of Cadance, in her current state, captured in exquisite detail. She could have used magic to simply conjure the image, but she much preferred to work with wing, hoof, mouth and mane. It just felt more tangible somehow.

The Tantabus slunk in, stepping out from her shadow. “No luck?” Luna asked.

Luna’s creation seemed to curl in on itself. Luna put down her brush and reached out, stroking the Tanatbu’s mane reassuringly. “It will be alright,” she said in a warm tone, not letting her anger or disappointment enter it. The Tantabus would think at least some of them were directed towards her.

“Show me the report.”

The Tantabus stepped closer, placing her horn to Luna’s. The collected intelligence gathered by her Nightguard in Fillydelphia flowed into her mind. Many less important problems were located but nothing that would be dealt with this moon and maybe not even the next one.

“Good girl,” Luna said affectionately, again stroking the Tantabus’s mane. “Now go and check in with our family in Cloudsdale.” Luna continued sending the mental image both the location and the Nightguard assigned there.

The Tantabus nodded and took a single step back, then slipped back into Luna’s shadow.

Luna sighed. She wanted to smash something or more accurately somepony, somepony she could not currently locate. She glanced towards Cadance then after one moment copied her breathing technique. What do you know? She thought as she felt some of the stress leave her.

She turned back to her painting, considering, “Now… how to finish the painting… do I make it a work of art or a prank?”

“Don’t you dare…” Cadance slurred, still drunk on all the sensations she was feeling.

“Or what?” Luna teased.

Cadance spent a vast amount of effort to get her next words out carefully, “I, will, tell, Twilight.”

Luna expression fell. “You win.”

Cadance snuggled into the shadowy fabric that wrapped around her, seeming to fall back into a slumber.

Sometime later, her most recent work of art finished, Luna felt somepony move through the shadows in her wing of the castle. A slight effort of will and she could see the pony in question. Candice was approaching with far more haste than expected, an unfortunate amount of paperwork levitating in her aura. Luna considered it might have been wise to at least indicate she did not need to carry it, as her Nightguard had already acquired a copy. Alas, she was not one of her own, she was one of Celestia’s, so a certain amount of theatrics was expected.

Candice glanced around as if looking for door guards, then advanced to the door lifting a hoof to knock.
More decisive than most. Luna thought, using her magic to open the door just before the hoof would have connected.

Luna knew she was playing up the theatrics but such things were both expected and fun. The only thing in the now dark room the mare would be able to see would be Luna’s glowing eyes.

Candice almost did not falter, recovering from the unexpected with reactions quick enough that most ponies would not have noticed there was a pause at all. She walked into the room calm and professional but seeming to be concealing something.

Luna why is there a mare in here that has feelings for you? And why am I stuck behind a wall of shadows? Cadance mentally sent to Luna.

She is one of Celestia’s tools that had been looking over all the RGIS files for me.

Letting the glow of her eyes fade, she snuffed the light coming from Candice’s magic. Luna closed the door and blanketed the room in total darkness so that her guest would not be able to see anything at all.

That's not the bit I am interested in… wait I know her, she is the one I was considering pushing towards Twilight before I found out how uninterested your future wife was in having any relationship at all.

Luna raised her eyebrow. Verily? So if it were not for my sister’s meddling, my Twilight would be with this mare? she sent to Cadance, making sure to keep her wondering about Candice’s oracular ability to herself.

Candice kept walking into the darkness like she still knew exactly where she was going. The twitch of her ears giving away how she was navigating. Luna deepened the darkness absorbing all the sounds leaving the space completely silent. Candice, despite the silence, advanced to almost the proper place before her desk to report. She deposited the stack of paperwork on the ground next to her.

Luna observed her guest watching for a reaction. Most ponies did not last long in total silence, not even being able to hear their own breath or heartbeat.

Candice’s body relaxed, a content smile slightly forming on her muzzle. Luna blinked, that had not been a reaction she had ever seen before from any but sleep-deprived thestrals.

Why are you playing with her? Cadance asked.

You thought she would be worthy of Twilight. We will find out. Luna responded.

Luna… Cadance warned.

If I break her, I will fix her.

Candice waited a few seconds before her professional stance returned. “Lieutenant Candice, reporting as ordered your highness,” she said, still unable to hear the sound of her own voice.

Luna spent a moment considering before grinning. She leaned over her desk, getting into position, closing her eyes. Her magic dragging Candice through the shadows, depositing her victim right in front of her, almost muzzle to muzzle.

Candice’s wings snapped partially open catching the slight breeze, her legs dropping down just enough to cushion her landing.

Suddenly she snapped open her glowing slit eyes, casting just enough light that Candice would be able to see the outline of Luna’s muzzle. Luna was mildly annoyed at the lack of surprise on her victims face, instead was the stoic look of somepony taking a test.

Luna used her magic to pull the desk aside and circled Candice, trailing a single feather along her back. Luna could see the muscles fighting each other as Candice forced her wings to remain still. She altered the darkness to allow their voices to be audible to each other.

Hmm, for once your victim seems to be enjoying your performance as much as you are. But that’s no excuse not to be careful with her. Cadance added.

Pressing her muzzle next to Candice’s ear, Luna whispered. “Would you mind if I happened to steal you?”

Candice quietly but confidently replied, “Whatever way you happen to need me, I would not be opposed.” Curiosity evident in her voice.

“That's a rather open-ended offer,” Luna said, her voice a mix of sensuous and dangerous.

A slight smirk on Candice’s muzzle told Luna she could take that however she desires. Though the light shiver of desire did not go unnoticed.

“You are a bold little one,” Luna said, letting a hungry grin with just a hint of fangs be visible. She trailed a wing over Candice’s back and wings again.

Be careful, you are toying with her heart. Cadance warned.

I am aware, I know very well what her dreams are.

Candice looked straight at Luna, “Nopony ever got anywhere by being timid. Well, with the exception of Fluttershy.” Then she straightened up being professional again.

Luna moved closer, almost pressing her side against Candice, bending her neck and placing her muzzle almost close enough for a kiss. “Why are you even with the Solarguard?” she purred. Trying to break her professional mask was proving to be entertaining in its own way.

Luna observed as Candice inhaled a slow breath, taking in Luna’s scent. “I’m only in the Solarguard because the Nightguard wasn’t an option at the time. Had the Nightguard approached me, I probably would have said yes.”

Luna silenced the sudden ultra-high-pitched chattering of the concealed Nightguards in attendance with a slight flick of her wing.

“What a strange one you are,” Luna said, embracing Candice with her wing fully, still looking into her eyes. She saw a genuine smile appear on Candice’s face. “You are wasted on my sister,” Luna said, guiding her further into the darkened room.

Candice let herself be led easily, seeming to be quite comfortable with the way things were going. “The regulations and bureaucracy waste a lot of ponies. At least I can still do some good, so I haven’t been completely wasted, outside of a couple of times,” she replied.

“Would you appreciate the opportunity to be able to do more?” Luna asked seriously, not showing her eagerness but letting a touch of seduction into her voice.

You’re not allowed to poach your sisters Solarguard. You know that right? Cadance mentally admonished Luna.

My sister owes me a boon, so yes, I can actually.

Candice looked up at Luna, “I would appreciate that opportunity quite a bit. I take it you can get me released from my Solar Oath?” she asked with hope in her eyes.

“Tis but a triviality.” Luna casually intoned.

Candice smiled at that, then asked, “Am I correct in thinking there would be a test to make sure I qualify first, and training after that?”

Luna looked down upon Candice, “What makes you think there is only going to be one?” she said with an amused glint in her eye.

“Fair point, the only thing I can promise you at this juncture is that I will perform at my best,” Candice replied back.

“I have no doubt you will if you want to avoid scars.” Luna said with a pleasant smile.

A hint of playfulness entering her voice, Candice replied, “Would you prefer me without scars?”

“Scars well earned tell a story, scars from training can teach lessons, but scars from stupidity are just a mark that the stars decided to let you live,” Luna said, considering the many scars she would have if not for her regeneration.

“That is the absolute truth, I have a quite a few of each but I managed to reduce them down to just hairline ones.”

Luna let her eyes wander over Candice’s body, selecting the largest scar, she trailed a feather along it from her left shoulder all the way to her tail. “Pray tell, which is this?”

Candice seemed to fondly recall, “That was from grabbing a foal out from under a falling cart. I was fourteen at the time. I got slashed by the corner of the cart as I slid out from under it. That was muscle damage, skin laceration and several ribs broken.”

Luna stroked along the scar again thoughtfully, wondering how it was healed. “Then there is a pony out there that has a lot to thank you for, are you still in contact with them?” She asked with curiosity.

Looking saddened, Candice spoke, “No, I’m not. He died a few years after I saved him. His father is in prison due to fatal negligence. Lets just say, that wasn’t the only cart that had fallen at his warehouse.”

Luna paused, she never liked hearing of foals perishing. Mortal ponies had such a short span in this life that cutting it any shorter was a tragedy. “You have my sympathies,” Luna said, all hints of games and tests gone, replaced with a solemn tone.

Candice nodded and gave the colt a moment of silence. After, she said, “I was affected by it. Some of my first investigation leads where into criminal negligence cases. The end result was that the laws were tightened up and enforcement rose. At least some good came from it.”

Luna retracted some of the shadows in the room, revealing some cushions in a comfortable corner. Removing her wing from Candice, she gracefully settled down. “So do you have any thing you wish to know? This is the last chance you will have to decline my offer,” she said, extending her wing, inviting Candice to make herself comfortable.

Candice laid down facing Luna. “I know that yourself and Twilight are together. You seemed to be making subtle invites for me to pursue. I have the desire to do so, but the last thing I want to do is come between either of you and your happiness. I fear what might happen if I did follow my desire. Would I cause a rift between you and Twilight?” The first hint of worry showing on her face.

That was not the question Luna was expecting. Flicking her eyes in the direction where Cadance was hidden, she could see her expression. She was one part smug because she was right, two parts concerned about what might happen next.

Luna turned her gaze back to Candice. “With your dreams and how I have been… encouraging you, that was not what I expected you to ask. You have a level head and a heart that is willing to listen to reason,” she said, leaning in closer.

Candice tilted her head in curiosity, gesturing for Luna to continue,

“So if there were no consequences, what would your intentions be towards my Twilight?”

With a calm surety, Candice replied. “To see that she is happy, that is all I want for her. I hope that I can add to her happiness, and yours. If I could accomplish that, then I would be thrilled. If I couldn’t, then I would still desire that happiness for both of you.”

Is she being honest? Luna asked despite the fact she was almost certain it was true.

You are going to have another of your pet Nightguards besotted with you. Yes she is being honest, even you can’t be that dense. Her heart is too selfless to risk hurting another when trying to claim what she wants. Cadance lightly admonished.

“Are you sure you want to be one of mine and not one of Cadance’s?” Luna asked teasingly.


Candice showed a slight smile at the question. “Honestly I would prefer to be both yours and Twilight’s, but I don’t know if that is an option. I would even be there for Little Star in that perfect case.”

“Naturally, with the marriage our guards would become different units in the same force. As Twilight has no guards of her own that means my Nightguard will be responsible and beholden to both of us.”

Candice’s head lifts a bit at this, her hope rising just a bit more. “I would pledge myself to both of you without hesitation. I could only hope that Twilight accepts.”

“Oh I think she will, but you may end up playing test subject in her lab with your unique nature.”

“I would welcome it actually. I love learning about how the world, and even my own body, work. It was one of the ideas I had for a date. To ask if she wanted to discover new things about magic with me.” Excitement and desire coming into Candice’s voice once more.

“I think at least intellectually she will enjoy your company,” Luna said resting her head on her hooves. “You might make for a guard that she would be willing to keep around. She would relish all the conversation and experiments you two could get up to.” Luna shrugged her wings. “Only time will tell if she will have any interest in you beyond that. Can you accept that? Being so close to somepony you want and always being denied?”

“Yes I can, I have been prepared for the possibility of that for years. If all I can achieve is a genuine friendship with her, then that would be enough for me. If all I can get is the position as a guard, then I can let those feelings go. If she did show interest would I be free to return it?”

“I would only ask that you don't accept her advances if her mane is on fire. Let her cool down and check again.”

Should you really be sharing all this? Cadance mental interjected.

If in the highly unlikely event Candice proves to be untrustworthy, she will wish she did not live to regret it. So where is the problem? Luna responded, she could feel Cadance recoil from the deadly cold mental tone used.

Candice slightly cocked her head. “I’ll promise to follow your advice on that, though it is confusing to me. Is that because of an Alicorn trait?”

Luna looked at her thoughtfully. “She has an affinity for fire that sometimes leads to her passion or anger getting the better of her.”

“I see. I hope I can figure out how to calm her down quickly then. Any advice?” Candice implored.

“That is something I have still been discovering. So far the best I have discovered is reasoning with her before it consumes her.”

Any trepidation Candice felt seemed to melt off of her. “That should be a good start then. I’m good at reasoning.”

How long are you going to keep me trapped here? Cadance inquired.

You could just teleport. Luna said, a little bemused.

There was a long moment before Luna felt the ripple of a departing Alicorn teleporting. Celestia still had so much to answer for, Luna had not even considered Cadance would feel trapped. She had to restrain a smirk when she noticed Cadance had taken the cushions that Luna had created.

Candice flicked her head in that direction for a moment before looking back to Luna, no apparent concern on her face.

Luna pulled Candice’s file from her shadow, the one that clearly said ‘do not remove from RGIS headquarters’ on it. Slowly she paged thought it.

Candice let out a small chuckle and a smirk. “Feel free to ask about anything you like. I would be happy to answer.”

“Why are you so at ease in my presence? No bowing, no groveling, no fearing I would end you for even a perceived insult? It is almost as if you think I am a normal pony.” Luna asked, raising an eyebrow.

A slightly louder chuckle escapes from Candice at the question. “Sorry. It’s because I trust you, and you are a normal pony. I can elaborate if you like.” With a gesture of her hoof Luna indicated for Candice to continue. “You still have the same needs that regular ponies do. You still feel stress and can make mistakes. I would also think that you would appreciate a pony who can talk to you as who you are and not what you are. At least in a relaxed atmosphere anyway.”

“You do realize that I could have you arrested for disrespecting the crown?” Luna interrupted in a stern voice, her eyes sparkling with mischief.

“I do. But I don’t think that you really see my words as being disrespectful,” Candice smoothly replied.

“I don’t?” Luna asked teasingly. She knew those of her guards that could hear this were likely taking bets on how Candice would react.

“If you were the type to be honestly disrespected by that, I don’t think you would be ‘encouraging’ me. By the way, what exactly did you mean by that?” Candice inquired.

Luna smiled, stretching luxuriously. “You have me there,” she said, solidifying a feather from the shadows behind Candice, she dragged it seductively along the same path her own primary had traced. “An example of said encouragement.” She moved the ebony feather to tap Candice’s nose.

Looking at the feather for a moment, Candice turned her gaze to Luna, “I see. So is the information about ‘clearing’ your ley lines actually correct? I thought it might just be my own imagination.”

Luna assessed the mare before her, wondering if this was her foresight or some insight gained from the pleasant dream she had granted her. “So you dream about doing that to me, to a crowned Princess?” She said keeping her tone a neutral pleasant, trying to give no indications as to how interested she was in the idea. A team of mortal ponies working together could not match a single Alicorn, no matter how hard they tried to perfect their coordination. Candice was proving to be more and more enticing. How has my sister not claimed this one as one of her personal servants?

Candice nodded, “If the dream is accurate then it wouldn’t have the normal reaction but rather a quite sensual one. That and it’s health-related for Alicorns. Though if the instruction I got was real, then I could only attend to your pegasus and unicorn lay lines.”

Luna mentaly cursed as her wings involuntarily rose above her back, slightly spreading in invitation. Having already been discovered, she swept one wing in front of her, offering it to Candice, “Care to offer a demonstration?” Luna asked teasingly, taking back control of the conversation.

Candice just nodded as she rose. Luna could feel the pegasus magic charging in her feathers and the unicorn power sitting right behind it. Relaxing into the sensation of the opposing magic running through her wings, she let out a thoughtful hum, “Are you sure you don't want to become one of my body servants instead of a Nightgaurd?”

At the same time, Luna noticed Candice casting a spell, it only took a moment to tell it was not an attack and was focused on Candice herself. Shortly after Luna started feeling, seemingly well trained, hooves massaging her back and wing muscles. She is pretty good at this for a mortal. Mentaly shrugging, she let out a small contented sound.

Candice continued her ministrations to Luna’s wings then proceeding to her horn. “I could do both, if that is your wish,” she said softly, but mostly professionally, into Luna’s ear. ”Nightguard would still be my preferred primary role, however.”

Luna let out a fake sigh. “Then, as sentence for your most horrid of actions, for this assault upon my being, it seems I will have no choice but to conscript you.”

A surge of power spread through Luna’s ley lines as she could feel Candice exert herself. Luna arched, a pleased sigh exiting her, taking a deliberate effort keeping even the hint of a moan from joining it. This exotic hybrid had more power than her official record suggested, and Luna was thankful she was not concealing any of it now.

This is not how she had expected this encounter to have gone, but Luna was not complaining. She did not expect Candice to have gained anything usable from the dream she had given her.

Luna turned her eyes to Candice, seeing a look of calm satisfaction upon her face. Showing her fangs, Luna suddenly moved. Rolling over and pining Candice against the cushion with her larger size, she spoke in a menacing tone. “So you still haven’t stated why you are willing to trust me.” Moving her muzzle closer, almost brushing her neck with them as she spoke. “Expound, please.”

Candice’s fetlocks came to a rest on the base of Luna’s forelegs. Luna could feel her little pony’s heart start to beat faster, though no sign of fear presented itself. Candice’s wings lightly brushed her side but didn't move to hold her.

Luna enjoyed the warmth of the mare beneath her, taking in her unique scent, the clean airy scent of a pegasus mixing with the tingle of unicorn magic combining to make something wholly her own.

Candice spoke into Luna’s ear, “Well I’ve read what you have done since your return. Personal time to recover and gain your strength back, but everything you’ve done since has been in the interests of the populace. You’ve even gone out and helped many ponies directly. A third, maybe half your Nightguard I think are ponies you saved from destruction. Not by other guards helping either, with the way they seem to revere you, I would say you saved them personally.” Candice’s mind seeming to restrain her body’s obvious cravings.

Luna licked her fangs, grinning as Candice’s eyes glanced at them. “You are rather well informed… Have you been spying on me?” Luna asked with a tilt of her head, spreading her wings impressively showing off a little bit. “Found yourself unable to keep your eyes off your Princess?” She continued before playfully nipping at Candice’s throat.

With a brief hitch in her voice, “At the moment, no,” Candice stated, as Luna took up the whole of her vision, “But I was not spying at all actually. These are connections I made while doing my job in RGIS. The information was just not relevant to any of my reports, so it never made it into any of them.” Candice said, letting the facts speak for themselves.

Ah so my sister had been spying on me then. Luna thought, knowing if something interesting entered Candice’s mind, Celestia could simply take a quick look to find it. Using her staff’s nature to discover what she wanted, instead of leaving a paper trail. Classic Celestia.

“Are you disappointed I have yet to save you?” Luna asked, her voice dangerous with just a hint of a purr and lifted her head to look Candice straight in the eye.

Candice slumps a bit, her voice sounding slightly distraught, “It has never been my desire to get your attention that way. I am more worried that I might have to save you and Twilight,” she said, seeming to be really wishing she was wrong about something.

“Not even sworn in and already you take your duties so seriously,” Luna said jovially, but her mind darkened with the results of the Augury.

Candice seemed to have missed the tone in Luna’s voice. A tear appearing in each of her eyes as she remembered something. “I love you both. I don’t want to lose…” she choked. Holding Luna around her neck, several seconds pass with Candice having her eyes closed, tears appearing at the edges.

Love? She does not want to lose us? What Vision has she seen? Luna thought, looking at the distraught mare before her. She used a wingtip to gently wipe the tears away. Luna looked at Candice’s eyes as she opened them, with her own full of concern. Luna’s fear that something terrible was waiting in the future was hidden safely behind the walls of her Bastion.

Candice looked into Luna’s eyes with sorrow in her own. “I’m sorry, I keep having this dream where Twilight is attacked by this massive energy blast. You get hit too and you’re both left as nothing but skeletons.”

Luna froze, even her breath ceasing. Her expression became cold and impassive. It took an effort of will for Luna to keep her magic in check. She needed to not damage the one under her. The image of that screaming crystal-covered skeleton with eyes burning with Twilight’s magic, lept towards her.

“I just hope it isn’t like the others I have that keep coming true. I so hope this is just a nightmare… Are you alright?” Candice asked with sudden concern upon her face.

“Yes, We are well, We thank you for your concern,” Luna stated, rising, poise now that of a sitting Princess and not the playful teasing mare she had been earlier. She could feel herself hiding behind the old way.

Candice used her wings to sit up. As she sat in front of Luna she placed her hoof upon Luna’s own, despite her own sorrow, she still offered comfort and succor.

At a sudden motion from the far side of the room, Luna’s head snapped up as she leapt to her hooves in a moment, Candice’s hoof retreating. Her senses confirmed it was one of her Chosen a moment before her power would have lashed out.

The Nightchosen Moonstone Striker burst from the shadows and moved up, ignoring the fact that Candice was in the room. “They’re about to strike Vanhoover.” He said, sounding out of breath. Luna could feel he had depleted the extra power she had given him. As he was here and not in Vanhoover, he likely used it to transport himself halfway across Equestria.

Candice’s previous sorrows seemed instantly forgotten. Duty seemed to call her to attention.

“Where?” Was Luna’s one-word response. Her voice seemed to shake the very room itself.

Striker presented his horn to Luna. Placing her horn against his, she used her magic to view the report he had prepared. Striker swayed on his hooves for a moment as he had fallen asleep for a split instant. The images of Vanhoover, the feel of dark magic and the exact location Striker recommended for her arrival, all appeared in her mind.

Luna turned hard eyes upon her newest aspirant Nightguard. “Candice, you’re with me.”

Candice nodded and rapidly moved to her side, all thoughts about the prior conversation apparently gone from her mind.

Luna walked towards a wall, it melted into shadows, falling away revealing an armoury. Luna flicked a wing to racks of weapons and armour. “Take what you wish.” She said as she moved to her own personal section.

Scanning the room in just a second, Candice’s eyes land for a moment on a set of well crafted wingblades. “I’m good with just myself. Most of the supply I don’t know how to use and the ones I do, would just slow me down.” Her voice quick with haste.

Luna nodded once to Candice before she stomped her hoof, the sound echoing round the room, a dozen Nightguard came rushing in. They were not her most experienced, but they were all she had left in the Castle as the rest were out hunting.

They only needed one glance at her to know something was happening. Without a word, they all rapidly gathered weapons and armour. A few of them glanced at the unexpected mare here, not one of them made even a single comment.

Luna shifted her body to shadows and reformed herself inside her armour, teleporting the armour stand out of the way. Her aura grabbed a dozen blades and slipped them into their sheaths on her flanks. With her hoof she opened a large enchanted chest. Her flowing mane reached in picking up her beloved hammer, Starfall.

She spun the weapon once, testing its weight. Its silver form radiating faint light. The motion dragging everything and everypony other than Luna a few steps out of position.

The Nightguard quickly recovered, moving into position close to Luna, Candice’s eyes widened a bit, fixing on Starfall for a moment and then moved to Luna’s side.

Luna glanced around the group once, depositing Starfall within her shadow to avoid complications with it suddenly arriving in Vanhoover.

For one moment she thought about contacting Twilight. With the vision, she decided to do everything she could to keep Twilight away from danger.

Flaring her power, Luna enfolded the room in darkness, tearing space open, she teleported the group to Vanhoover.

CH 28.1 The Dark Disciple

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Dark Disciple was having a good day overall, at least until he realised that the prisoner was gone. That was twenty minutes ago. The door ahead of him to the warehouse was thrown open in his aura. The ponies that he was puppeteering has already relayed the message to rush the Dark Magic bomb. He at least wasn’t disappointed when he came in view of the silver circle and saw it nearing functional completion.

Looking it over he saw it wasn’t perfect, it was nowhere close, but it was good enough to hold what they had or at least would be in about another half hour. “You, get all the puppets on lookout. We could have company from the Royal Guard at any moment. We probably have a few hours, but we can’t take any chances.” He could feel the need to inflict all the pain and suffering he could to any that served Celestia.

He headed over to the circle and spent the next half hour helping get the silver liquified and poured into the carved channels. As they completed their task, he sent a magic pulse through the circle to test its integrity. Barely solid enough to function, but it will have to do. We don’t have time to fix the imperfections. He thought while motioning the rest to gather around.

They had about one hundred and fifty ponies bound by compulsion spells who were forced to do things around the city. Another fifty ponies were being directly puppeted by the cultists that were adding their power to the five unicorns that were about to channel energy into the circle.

This wasn’t the easiest thing to do either. Channelling another's power while controlling your own and maintaining a mental spell form for this was going to be taxing on his mind. Fortunately, it didn’t matter in the long run because their sacrifice would provide more energy to Sombra. They didn’t need to survive this.

“Everypony in position?” Disciple asked as the rest were arrayed around the circle. Each unicorn at equal distance around the circle. One pegasus and one earthpony behind each of them, adding their own energy. They all nodded. “Then let's get this started. Lord Sombra, we make this sacrifice to you so that you may return to your rightful place.”

The power started flowing as the dark magic miasma seeped from their eyes. The green glow providing a bit more illumination to the silver circle.

An hour later, things seemed to be going well. No royal guards had shown up, the power was still flowing, one of the puppets was still going around passing around the now cold hayburgers.

Suddenly a powerful wave of magic washed over them. Everypony flinched, their magic momentarily fizzling. The channelling instantly ceased. “What the hay!?” Disciple exclaimed as he felt out for what just happened. A dark presence was outside somewhere. He could feel the menacing power and anger pouring from an Alicorn. It was only a moment before he realised it could only be Princess Luna. “Get back to channelling! NOW!” he ordered.

It seemed as if every shadow held sharp-clawed, hungry monsters, each one just waiting for somepony to look away before striking. Disciple hoped this was just some sort of fear effect, even if it was not, his course was set.

They all rushed back to it. Pouring as much energy as they could, as fast as they could. The flow rate didn’t matter now. The forcing of too much mana was going to damage their horns, but they didn’t care. They were out of time. They started sacrificing life force just to get more power into it. The puppets started taking defensive positions around the warehouse.

The fear of the shadows dissipated. Apparently, it was just a calling card of some kind, inviting ponies to surrender. He glanced at the gathered magic, his mind working out the quickest way to detonate it should they try and undo all his work.

An explosion rocked the warehouse, his senses recoiled. There was debris flying inside like a part of the exterior wall had detonated. Trying to get his bearings after the flash and trying to see through the dust, he winced as a painful vibration danced along his horn cutting off his magic. What in Tartarus was that? He looked at the circle and saw that the magic had been disrupted. Most of the energy they spent the last hour pumping into it was lost. In the middle stood a white mare with golden mane and tail. Alicorn like wings spread and glowing with power.

The magical disruption faded, releasing his magic. KILL The one word pounded into his mind and forced him to act. A small library of spells flashed through his mind before he grabbed one and started to cast it. A part of his brain noted that one of the pegasus cultists was injured and out cold.

He rushed to complete his spell, but she was faster. Right as he was about to cast, a part of the circle was enveloped in her white aura. It crackled with static and then exploded, destroying a not-insignificant portion of it. It would take a couple of hours to fix the damage. The force of the blast buffeted him knocking him to the side a bit, by the time he was able to try for his spell again, his target was gone.

Looking around, he saw all the puppets suddenly fall to the floor, their strings cut, the direct mind control broken as the maintained connections were disrupted. Making things worse, there was now a massive magical flux sitting right in the middle of the circle. Nopony would be able to reliably cast magic in that area until it was cleansed. How had this mare disappeared so fast?

He felt one of his companions reach out with a blood detection spell, noting the good idea, he went one better. He started casting a blood hold spell, keeping the power week until he found his prey. A couple of flashes of movement in the shadows and two more of the cultists were down.


With a sadistic grin and an effort of will he started to use her blood to crush her heart. As soon as he felt like he had a grip though his spell just failed. A faint echo of that disrupting tone rippling out from where she was.

The attacker was visible though for a moment before she suddenly flash cast something and then she was gone again from view. The others were firing kinetic bolts at her to reveal her location in the shadows, even though none of them seemed to be able to hit her.

Who is she? Is she some sort of wanna-be Batmare?

One of the other unicorns was charging a particularly nasty dark spell meant to detonate anypony that didn’t have dark magic in them. No sooner than he started charging it though, the white mare seemed to just appear in front of the caster. She smacked him in the horn with her hoof, causing the spell to short out and his fellow cultist was unconscious. So she isn’t going for kills. She is weak. Fast but weak. He thought, determination and hope filling his heart at a weakness found.

As soon as his fellow unicorn’s horn was hit, another was casting the blood hold spell on her. He decided to double down on the attack and used the mind puppet spell as well. He couldn’t feel any mental shielding when the spell contacted her. And she’s done for. Now we just have the Princess of the Night to deal with. Wait, how is she resisting? He saw unformed magic flood his target as the mind spell was overpowered with what looked like a foal casting technique. She was simply throwing a lot of magic at a problem and hoping it would achieve something. Unfortunately, it worked. Even if she had a lot of power, she will have to be weak after that.

That chaotic ripple of magic emanated from her again. He grit his teeth at the remembered pain. Great she’s doing that magic flux thing again. He thought, his anger building.

The mare reared up on her hind legs, keeping the flux field up and nullifying the dark tentacles of magic that were about to grab her. Buck me, seriously? How many tricks does this mare have!? The rest cancelled their castings as their pegasus and earthpony cultists advanced on her.

He saw them lunge and in a blur of movement, two of the earthponies were down. One was feather slashed in the eyes and the other was laying on the ground, unconscious. The third one that had advanced was currently sailing through the air towards the warehouse door. Despite her expert martial arts, she had finally made a mistake. She had let her attention narrow to just the melee.

Seeing an opportunity, his servants wasted no time at all in telekinetically bringing the ceiling down on her. As the ceiling fell, one of the pegasi got caught in the debris and was down. A flash of white and the other was out cold at the same time the debris landed on the floor where that blasted white mare was supposed to be.

What’s almost as infuriating as her fighting is the fact that she hasn’t said a single word. Disciple saw there was him and three of his fellow unicorns... make that two of his fellow unicorns still standing. Once again she was suddenly just there and smacked a nearly fully charged spell out of his fellow casters horn, again. Now she seemed to be moving at regular speed though. Looks like she is finally out of energy. Whatever she is using to create the flux though is still going. I can’t cast anything while in this. He decided to leave the flux zone as quickly as his legs could carry him. When he looked back, one of the remaining two cultists was down, and the white mare was in melee with the other one. Frustration and anger flared in him. This mare had dismantled the entire operation. He couldn’t let this stand. She must die.

KILL The command is his mind roared like the Royal Canterlot Voice. One final spell filling the whole of his mind. He wanted to grin, he wanted to laugh, but there was no time. His blood magic turned inwards, charging his body with explosive power. His unicorn magic transmuting his bones, hardening them and breaking them in jagged sections to add more shrapnel to the blast. He felt his body beginning to swell as the power sought to escape, and his blood formed into blades rending his insides. The pain was indescribable, but it did not matter, she would die. “DIE!” He used his last moment of existence to roar at her. The sound more carried by his magic than merely the air.


CH 28.2 Candice's 'Interview'

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Luna’s office disappeared, the feeling of falling was present again as Luna had shadow stepped them from her office, all the way to Vanhoover. Candice managed to not spread her wings this time, but they still wanted to fight the feeling of falling. Though she did extend her hooves a bit, ready for the coming landing.

The shadows billowed away, revealing the skyline of Vanhoover and the rooftop they landed on. The scent of the salt air suddenly hitting her nostrils.

The sudden presence of an angered Alicorn was never a good thing. The sky darkened and storm clouds gathered. That one slip of Luna’s would cause hours of work of the local weather patrol. Though only ten minutes flat if they got the help of Rainbow Dash.

The dozen Nightguard slipped into the nearby shadows, waiting for commands, unnoticed by any passing ponies. A gasp escaped from a blue mare dressed in padded armour and equipped with some of the gadgets Solaragents got to play with. The agent's eyes widened and she dropped into a bow.

Despite the disguise and dye job Candice recognised the mare, it was Revealing Light, one of the better agents from the RGIS. Candice remembered she was sent to investigate this area as a result of one of the connections she found that included signs of Dark Magic.

“Princess,” Light said respectfully.

“Told ya we would have enough backup,” Striker said smugly.

“Rise, there is no time for such things,” Luna said, not taking her eyes from the building opposite.

As she rose Light’s eyes fixed on Candice, her expression clearly asking ‘what the buck are you doing here?’

Candice rolled her eyes in the direction of Luna with the implication of ‘she brought me.’

Luna looked to Candice, her expression calm despite the roiling magic that could be sensed within her. “We wish this resolved,” she said with an edge of challenge in her eyes.

Candice saw the challenge and nodded. This can be stopped by her in a moment. She wants to see if I can do it and how I will do it. Challenge accepted. She put a little distance between herself and Luna. Noting Revealing Light looking at her with shocked concern, Candice gave her a reassuring smile.

Striker dropped a leg over Light’s back. “It will be fine, sit back and watch the show.”

A few Nightguard made themselves visible enough to show their anticipation with eager, fanged grins.

Candice closed her eyes and focused inwards, calming and ordering her thoughts, pushing her emotions and feelings aside. She could feel the world becoming nothing but cold equations. She stopped short, leaving just her drive to succeed, concern for the innocent and passion for a job well done intact. This wasn’t a spell at all, just a technique meant to keep her focused and to push aside all distractions.

A moment later she opened her eyes. Seventy thaums of unicorn magic, seventy thaums of pegasus magic. I can convert pegasus to unicorn at a rate of five thaums per second. Ok, let’s see what we got here. Candice started casting magic around her. The energy formed into a floating spell circle with four glowing orbs in a tetrahedron orbiting around it. She could see the signatures of every magic source within a block of her location. Immediately, she saw that the warehouse before her was warded, the energy signatures inside were severely muted. She adjusted it to sense only dark magic and tuned the sensitivity to account for the wards. She was grateful to her supervisor for getting her a copy of that spell despite it being above her rank.

Drawing Starfall from her shadow, Luna rested it carefully upon the roof, only cracking it a little. ”See if you can stop it before I’m forced to.”

Candice nodded in acceptance of the challenge. The look on her face was that of calm determination.

At the sight of that weapon of mass destruction in hammer form and the threat of its use, Lights eyes went so wide they seemed like they would soon eclipse her head.

In the warehouse, Candice saw at least sixty-five sources. Only fifteen actually had dark magic in use, the rest were affected by the dark magic. Hmm. Non-lethal is priority. There are innocents in there. She also saw a massive buildup of dark magic in the middle. That’s my first target.

Candice dropped the sensor spell and started forming a lance-like shield in front of her, about four ponies in length. Two cylinder-shaped shields appeared under her wings, the centers glowing. In a flash she was gone, a hole now suddenly visible in the wall of the warehouse. She landed right in the middle of the spell circle. The impact wasn’t even felt as the shields absorbed the energy of the collision. Their job done, she let the shields dissipate.

One for the magic sensor, three for the shield, one for the rockets. Down five, down three for flight. Total sixty-five, sixty-seven. She started the transfer of pegasus magic, converting it to unicorn magic between her wellsprings.

Not wasting any time, Candice activated her Resonance Flux ability. Two different and discordant resonances radiated from her wings. The disruption effect on the circle and the fifteen surrounding cultists was immediate as the whole spell form collapsed. So did the mind-control spells they had on the other fifty ponies around the warehouse. The fifty started to fall, their minds now in a comatose state since the control was removed. Down ten, compensated by pegasus magic, minus five. Total still sixty and sixty-two.

Seeing the circle, she lit her aura upon a section of it. The spell being cast was classified as a disintegration spell. Actually, it was a safety ward against electricity, but without any limiters on it. This caused all the electricity in the area of the ward immediately got pushed out of the little zone. Still, it had shocked her the first time she used it when it destroyed what it was used on.

A static charge released from the area and all that was left was elemental dust exploding out of it as it expanded to several hundred times its initial volume. Still, it was only a cloud of gas and dust, so it only pushed the cultists a little bit.

Down another two, mental alacrity, another one, temporal dilation, another two. Down five and three for flight. Current total fifty-five, fifty-nine, she mentally counted off as she cast the relevant spells.

Time seemed to slow down around her. It was actually accelerated for her, but to her, the appearance was still the same. Her mind now operating at twice its normal speed, allowing her to pay attention to twice as much at a time.

The temporal acceleration was one order of magnitude of acceleration, its effects compounding with her mental spell. Her body seemed to move at half speed, but everything else was moving at one-twentieth normal speed to her new perceptions. Using such magic in combat was far more intense than using them to process paperwork.

With a powerful flap of her oversized wings, she shot straight up and into the shadows. Time to choose my targets. Let's start with the physical ones. One already went down from my entrance. Fourteen left to go. She chose a couple of ponies that were powering up the unicorns for the ritual. They never even saw her coming. Striking as fast as she was, they were easy targets. Not even reacting before her hooves precisely slammed into them, rendering her foes unconscious. Twelve opponents left.

The cultists didn’t waver for long. The unicorns started shooting stunning bolts or maybe kinetic bolts at her. She did not have time to check. They were dodged as she came in for the next target.

She suddenly felt like some kind of magic was grabbing her blood, weighing her down. Her very lifeblood being used as a tool to harm her. To her accelerated perceptions, it was slowly taking hold of her blood and spreading, the pain starting to set in. The others were not moving either. Some kind of blood hold spell. Very well. she lit off her Resonance Flux again, destroying the Blood Hold spell, but her own spells failed as well. Down another ten, pegasus magic compensation of five. Total, fifty, fifty-four.

Time suddenly accelerated back to normal for her. In the time that it took her to move out of her own flux zone and Flash Cast her accelerations, the cultists had advanced towards her. She saw her opponents slow again as time bent to her will. Down another two, but another five back from the transfer. Still another six back out for the mental and temporal accelerations. Current total forty-seven, forty-nine. In smooth, practiced movements, she connected their skulls with a push, quickly taking down two of the pegasi that were near her. Ten opponents left.

She noticed one of the unicorns actually charging a spell. Can’t let that happen. No charging the circle for you. If that’s what you’re doing. Her position suddenly changed as she cast a flash step spell and landed right in front of the unicorn that was charging the spell. Down three but compensated. Total, forty-nine, forty-four. Her hoof smacked him in the base of the horn, intentionally using only enough force to disrupt the spell. Sparks of magic danced along his horn and feedback blew back into his brain. Fortunately for him, he was instantly knocked out by his own magic, saving him the intense pain of such a backlash.. Down four. Total forty-five, forty-four. Nine opponents left.

This time they tried casting the blood hold spell again, but another spell hit her in the head at the same time. She felt the second spell rapidly encroaching upon her mind, trying to control her body. Alarm raced through her as she forced magic against the threat, reinforcing it with her intent and willpower, hoping it would be enough. Without any mental wards, it was not easy to fight this off. About a quarter of her total remaining magic coursed through her body as she sent raw magic through herself. It was just barely in time. Too close.

She flew evasively for a moment and put the earthponies and pegasi between her and the unicorns. She also noted several dark tentacles reaching for her. Nope, minus another ten, transferring pegasus magic again. Total, unknown. She thought as she activated the Flux again, this time keeping it up and strong enough to reach about four or five pony lengths away from her. The dark tentacles that were reaching for her disintegrated as they reached the flux zone around her. The unicorns saved their energy and let the others approach since they were already in the way.

Three earthpony cultists advanced. One pegasus stayed in the air just above them, seeming to be waiting for an opening. The other flew off and looked like she was going to start grabbing things to throw.

Without her acceleration spells, her foes would be more of a threat. Candice reared up into a two-legged stance. Her wings were spread out behind her for balance. Her form showing her to be ready for hoof to hoof combat.

The central earthpony advanced in, quickly moving to strike with a full-powered buck. Candice sidestepped the buck and he landed on his belly from being denied a target. As she sidestepped the first one, she wing slashed the eyes of the second earthpony. He wasn’t unconscious, but the pain in his eyes was not going to be ignored. Finishing the movement, she dropped her rear hoof on the back of the first one’s head. The strike to his temple rendering him knocked out. Seven opponents left

The third one used the distraction to land a forehoof punch to her ribs. He landed a solid blow and he obviously expected her to crumple, the shock setting in when he realised he didn’t have his earthpony strength. Her toned athletic body being able to absorb the painful blow and still stay in the fight. Even unenhanced, she would still feel that in the morning.

His eyes were filled with rage as he wildly flailed at her, but this time she grabbed his forehoof and slung him around, using his own momentum to send him flying into the door. The impact knocking him out now that he didn’t have his magical toughness to aid him. Another twenty thaums on the flux at ten each, total still unknown. Six opponents left.

She heard a crack above her and immediately flapped her wings to assist in getting out from under the attack. She took stock of herself as she flew out. I’m now at twelve thaums of unicorn and nineteen thaums of pegasus magic. I’ve expended fifty-eight thaums of total magic since the time of the mental attack. That means eighteen and ten were spent defending from it. That was a huge amount of her wellspring spent. She noted that her ribs were bruised as well where the earthpony managed to hit her.

After taking the mental moment to assess herself, she looked up as she was still moving away from the now ‘slowly’ falling ceiling. Candice saw the pony that was getting ready to throw stuff, suddenly get smashed by the ceiling. Ponyfeathers, I’m not going to be able to save her. A bit of sorrow at the loss. She hated seeing anycreature die. Looking to the side of the debris she saw the other pegasus floating there, though successfully dodging the falling structure. She cast another flash step spell and took advantage of his distraction, so he was out cold before he felt anything. Another three thaums off my wellspring, compensating. Total, twelve, nineteen. Four opponents left, all unicorns.

Seeing another one start charging a spell, she cast another flash step, and her hoof met horn. The buildup was considerably higher this time as the spell didn’t just fall apart but rather detonated right on her hoof. She felt the shockwave travel up her foreleg. It numbed her for a moment as she was knocked back. A quick inspection revealed that her hoof, despite being singed by uncontrolled magic, was still operational. She would be in pain the following day if she didn’t get it healed. Down two and another three from flight. Total, fourteen, fourteen. Three opponents left.

She advanced quickly to the other three and dropped her spells in favor of her Resonance flux again. Down another ten, pegasus transfer compensating. Total, twelve, eleven. This shut the three casters down as they flinched. The world returned to normal speed, but the trade was more than worth it. She was fit, nimble and well trained, they were typical unicorn cultists who’s only skills would be their spell casting.

Wasting no time, she swung her hoof. She struck one upside the temple before he could recover from flinching at the Flux she was emitting. Two opponents left.

The second one unexpectedly proved a bit more adept. He matched her rear hoofed stance and started towards her. It actually took effort for a bit to defend herself. This unicorn eschewed defense in favor of high speed offense. The swings came in with rapid ferocity. Her blocks and dodges proving just as fast. The one on one combat only lasted about two and a half seconds though.

Her opponent slammed into her, propelled by some sort of blast originating from behind him. The pair fell to the ground entangled. Sharp spikes of pain erupted from her barrel as something pierced her flesh. Warm liquid poured over her, matting her coat as the rich coppery scent of blood filled her nose. Her Resonance Flux dropping. That took another ten, five back from pegasus again. Total, seven, six.

Looking at her now dying foe, she could see long spikes of bones running right through him and pressing into her own body. It was a good thing she tended to keep her current opponents between herself and other potential combatants.

It was the only thing that saved her life from the blast. The practice paid off as the other unicorn who had gone outside her Flux Area had suddenly blown up. The explosion leaving the area he was in, a gory mess of what resembled instant chunky salsa. The ground was pierced by spears of bone and blades of blood. The amount of liquid scattered around Candice, let her know that her Flux defence had reduced the blades that had been heading towards her, to harmless liquid.

Candice did not have the medical skills or spells to save his life, but she did have something that might keep him from dying until a medic arrived. Using her Aura, she pressed against his whole body, carefully preventing any more blood from escaping him, it was only a stopgap. Still, it was the best she could do with her limited remaining power.

Her ‘ever-so-grateful’ patient tilted his head and tried to impale her with his horn in the most ineffective attack she had ever seen. Each attempt he made was just exacerbating his wounds. He passed out shortly after. Zero opponents left. Two thaums of unicorn magic remaining, one thaum of pegasus magic remaining. That was close.

It was then she noticed that all the walls were suddenly lined with shadows, each door and window blocked. She had felt no magic, sensed nothing before it had just appeared. That alone marked it as either Luna’s or Discord’s work, and this was not Discord’s style.

Luna strode out of the shadows, advancing towards her. Inky lines of darkness trailing off her, flowing and pooling about the room. She spared one glance for the wounded cultist. That was enough to cause a Nightguard carrying pouches of medical supplies to begin tending to him. Candice dropped her aura from him so the medic could do his job. One thaum remaining in each.

Candice noted her injuries and decided to ignore them for the moment. She looked at Princess Luna, sat up straight and saluted with her still stinging hoof. “Mission accomplished, I think.” She then placed her hoof back on the ground sitting in the attention stance.

She let go of her battle meditation, she noticed she was breathing rather heavily from the whole ordeal. Her body’s exhaustion and pain suddenly made themselves acutely known. With the shield of the battle meditation’s detachment gone she felt the emotional impact of the ponies deaths hit her. The sadness that she wasn’t able to save all of them there. She rallied her pragmatism and insisted that every single one that was still alive wouldn’t have been had Princess Luna had to act.

More Nightguard appeared, perched around the edge of the room and one gobsmacked Revealing Light was semi-dragged into the room by Striker.

“What in Celestia’s name is she?” Light whispered to Strike.

Much to Light’s discomfort, Luna answered. “The same as she has always been, just no longer bound by my sister’s chains.” She smiled, showing just a hint of fangs. Light, fortunately, only trembled for a moment under Luna’s attention.

The Princess of the Night, in her full armoured glory, stopped right in front of Candice. For a long moment, Luna gazed at her, it was as intense as the desire was earlier, but this was something else. “What do you think?” Luna asked, looking around the gathered Nightguard.

Striker answered, “Can we keep her?”

This looks positive so far. Candice noted in her head.

A Nightchosen Earthpony stepped out of the shadows next to Stiker making Light jump. “Will you remember to feed this one?”

Candice smirked. She used nearly all her remaining willpower not to fall over laughing. Only her hard breathing hiding her humor. Finally, a group of ponies that don’t take every single thing with utmost seriousness. I could get used to this. Although she still sat in the attentive position.

Luna leaned in closer to Candice, her fanged smile looking equal parts pleased and hungry. “Then I think we shall claim her,” She seemed to purr with menace. Candice just smiled.

“She can not be serious, are you bucking kidding me? You used this as some sort of test?”
She then froze, noticing she just had a go at the Princess of the Night in a room full of her guard all on her own.

All the Nightguards eyes fixed on Light. Striker faced hooved.

Candice looked at Revealing Light. Tilting her head slightly and indicating she had no issue with this whatsoever, she stated, “One that I passed by the way. I would say Princess Luna has a pretty good grasp of my abilities. Wouldn’t you? Besides, it turned out far better for them this way than it would have if Princess Luna had to intervene. Her power would have just killed them all. I’m personally very grateful she gave me this chance. Many innocent lives were saved this way.”

Luna stroked a feather along Candice’s back, a slight tingle of magic running along her spine. Her coat darkened as she blended in with the Nightguard’s normal colours. She forced herself not to react, despite the pleasing sensation, still keeping her eyes on Light.

“Yes, of course, saving ponies is the right thing to do,“ Light stammered slightly, looking to Candice with concern for her well being. By how Light’s eyes were roving over Candice’s body, she was clearly worried by the many wounds still seeping blood. She bowed to Luna. “My apologies, Princess.” She finished dropping back to formality.

Luna waved her hoof as if there was nothing to apologize for. “Run along now little pony, fetch my sister’s guard to secure the site, we will be taking the prisoners ourselves.”

Striker led Light out of the building.

Once Light was out of the building, Candice dropped down to her belly. The exhaustion finally getting to the point that it could no longer be hidden or fought.

Luna looked down, assessing her. Her eyes cold for a moment. “I see no dire injury… Yet I believe I shall aid you… you have a much more dire challenge to face now.” She lifted Candice in her cyan aura as her mane reached for the open wounds.

Facing Celestia or being accepted into your Nightguard? Candice thought to herself, even her own internal voice sounding fatigued.

Candice could feel her blood being gripped again, this time instead of slowing or trying to harm her, it dragged any contaminants from the wounds. Next, it gripped the flesh, pulling the wounds closed then shifted. She could feel a complex transmutation effect as a line of blood altered, becoming a strip of blood-red substitute flesh sealing the wounds.

A warmth started in her chest and slowly, the mild lightheadedness from lack of energy faded. “There, now you might survive their revelry.”

Ah, that answers my question. The Nightguard. Side note: That magic would be so illegal if she wasn’t a princess. Candice mused in her mind.

A voice that was not hers, but sounded so similar, responded in her mind. You can say that again.

I’m going to pass out now, Insight. Thank you for the lessons. They really helped. Candice then let herself embrace unconsciousness.

The last thing she saw before the comforting embrace of sleep claimed her was Luna’s eyes narrowing for a moment at Candice before she smiled evilly. Her Nightguard then promptly dragging Candice into the shadows.

CH 28.3 Broken Minds

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Celestia looked into her teacup, seeing if she could divine the future from within its liquid surface. The spoon continued to slowly stir it. It was already perfectly mixed, but the repetitive action and the sound of the liquid moving was soothing to her.

That teacup was one point of order, one point of stability in her currently chaotic and untrustworthy world. Some of the ponies she had trusted the most, had failed her. That failure had caused her faithful student to be tortured, to discover things she was not meant to know yet and nearly turned her from the correct path forever.

She thought about her sister’s intervention and Cadance’s help to bring her relationship with Twilight at least towards neutral again. At least she managed to appease the rest of the Elements of Harmony.

Her drink was falling below normal drinking temperature. The barest amount of magic trailed along her horn. She pointed her magic at her goal and just gave it her intent. No spells, no arrays, no rules. In essence Celestia, Princess of the Sun, was attempting to cast magic in the same way as a foal might. Her tea began bubbling as the now boiling liquid roiled and scalding steam rose from the teacup.

She had not meant to heat it that much, but at least the result of her magic was within acceptable limits. Celestia inhaled the steam enjoying its scent, before downing the tea. She enjoyed its mild warmth as the boiling liquid slid down her throat. She lamented the lack of control that holding so much magic caused her. Turn a whole city to glass? Easy. Warm her tea without exploding the cup? Now that was a challenge. One she had passed today.

She idly considered how many teacups had been sacrificed to help keep her magic skills sharp. Granted, with the advent of Trixie’s newfound passion, that problem was less of an issue.

After Chrysalis, she wanted more options that did not involve killing everypony in Canterlot she even had a passing dislike of.

You know it would only make the nation better. Daybreaker casually added to her musing.

Leaving her body unattended Celestia slipped her attention back to her Garden. Daybreaker was sat at the table next to the pristine visage of her Mask. It was like Celestia herself, but unadorned, her coat seemed somehow a purer white and mane just that little neater.

Both of her fragments were busy going through paperwork. The Mask, the political ones; Daybreaker, the military and threat reports.

Without even looking up, her Mask’s pale golden aura set to producing tea for Celestia.

“Come to join us?” Daybreaker asked scornfully as she set aside yet another sheet of paper, a few licks of flames browning its edges.

“It is often more pleasant to speak face to face,” Celestia replied with a smile.

Her Mask did not respond, it had not been given a task or directly addressed, so why would it.

“Then, by all means, take a seat and make yourself at home, your Radiance,” Daybreaker said in a sarcastic welcome.

As vexing as her Warmind was, Celestia found herself starting to enjoy their banter more and more every passing day. Yes, she was annoying and provocative, but she made her think. She challenged her mind and was the nearest thing to an equal she had a chance to deal with. Twilight and Cadance were both too young and her sister… Dear Luna was still too much of a risk. As much as Celestia loved her sister, she was still the one that was most likely to fall to a rogue fragment becoming a monster that would have to be stopped.

Celestia moved over to them, taking her place at the table, accepting the teacup. Her eyes lingered on it, it was so much like the one she had been drinking from out in the physical world. One thing that still amazed her, even after all these long years, was how real everything was in her Garden. If she did not keep in mind that it was only a mental construct, it would be so easy to simply walk through a gap in the wall and never return to her endless toil.

She sighed and took a sip from her tea. It was perfect as always, “Thank you,” Celestia said to her Mask.

“You are most welcome, your Radiance.” Her Mask responded in her own perfect voice. The response rang hollow, it was too perfect, fake. It was nothing but the rigid automaton Celestia herself had crafted.

Celestia let her eyes linger on her Mask, who had no response. Anypony else would have done something, felt something, reacted in some way but not her tool, not her perfect Mask.

“You thinking of granting her a name?” Daybreaker asked, a low purr in her voice.

Celestia looked to her Warmind seeing that she had not even looked up from the paper she was reading.

“Perhaps…” Celestia answered, thinking of all the pros and cons of such a thing. She hummed thoughtfully and took another sip of her all-too-perfect beverage. “Perhaps. I will think upon it.”

Daybraker’s eyes snapped up to the stone arch. Celestia’s eyes followed, seeing her own body pushing Luna away. Her sister was now sailing to the far side of the room at an impressive velocity.

“What happened?” Celestia demanded, rapidly retaking control of her body again.

Luna licked your ear. Daybreaker answered in a humour laced voice.

“Luna!” Celestia spoke aloud in an unimpressed voice.

“Sister,” Luna responded regaining per poise after being thrown across the room. She settled her wings neatly and looked pleased with herself, despite her forced movement.

Celestia flicked her damp feeling ear, letting her increasing body heat steam the moisture off from her.

“One of you should at least pay some attention to the physical world,” Luna scolded her with a playful grin.

Celestia sighed, settling down behind her desk, looking at the teacup that had smashed upon the floor. She had not even placed it down on the table before entering her Garden. When Daybreaker defended her from the most humiliating of ‘attacks’ her sister had inflicted upon her, her Warmind had no regard for a mere teacup.

Lifting the pieces from the carpeted floor, she concentrated on fitting the pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Luna reached into her shadow with a hoof and pulled a heavily bandaged unicorn out, dropping him on the carpeted floor with a dull thud. His horn was wrapped in a suppressor ring, and he was clearly under the effect of one of Luna’s powerful sleep spells.

“Sister… why have you just dropped that pony on my floor?” Celestia asked.

“A gift, sister.”

Celestia raised an irritated eyebrow.

“This is one of the ponies that had been… mentally altered and used to try and repeat the Manehatten incident, this time targeting Vanhoover.”

Celestia felt her eyes narrow and the room started to heat. She pulled her Mask from its paperwork, commanding it to assume its normal duty. As it began managing her reactions she felt her body and magic calm.

Luna smirked, obviously noticing what Celestia had done. “Hiding behind her again?” Luna asked, walking over and considering the various cushions around the room. After a moment, she rejected all of them and conjured her own from the shadows.

“Merely a precaution, not all of us can be as free with our powers as you, dear sister.”

Luna tilted her head, disregarding the point as she settled down. “You have nothing to fear, I made sure the situation was dealt with.”

“Why did you not inform me at the time?” Celestia could feel that her face was calm and her eyes adjusted to display only a polite query. Instead, of the angry annoyance, she really felt.

“There is no need to hide behind your Mask with me, sister. I did not inform you as there was no time and little you could have done anyway.” Luna waved a hoof airily. “Once the situation was dealt with, there seemed no need for haste, so I waited until you were free.”

Celestia nodded calmly. What her sister was saying made sense. Celestia sat down next to her desk and used her aura to bring over a tea service. She added the perfect amount of leaves to the pot, with a well-practised spell, she set the tea to brewing.

With the small amount of her attention, she peered into the Stallion’s mind. It was a wasteland, pillars of darkness held foul spells. A central altar to Sombra, and whispering voices dreaming violence against any that would serve the Sun Tyrant.

Such amateurish work. Celestia thought is disdain before her mind turned to remorse. They left nothing of him. She would need to find out who he was from others.

In less than a blink of the eyes, she turned her gaze back to the pieces of the broken teacup. “Thank you for keeping our ponies safe.” Celestia was very glad her Mask replaced the word ‘my’ with ‘our’.

“You know that is not something I need thanks for sister.”

“I know, but that does not make it unappreciated to receive it?”

Celestia noticed a soft smile on Luna’s muzzle. “True,” Luna responded. “As you bring up thanks, I wish to claim that boon you owe me.”

With her golden magic, she floated a single bit next to the fragments of the teacup. “And what would you wish of me sister?” Celestia said using a flash of magic, rendering the golden coin molten.

“Tiz a minor matter, I wish for you to release one of your lesser servants from their Oath.”

If Luna said it was minor, it would not be. If she said lesser servants, that would only be true in their official rank. Currently, she dared not do anything to alienate either Luna or Twilight. Her mind flicked through all the ponies she thought her sister could mean and none were truly vital.

Celesta nodded “As you wish, so it be done, sister. Whom must I cast aside?” She said as her magic teased the liquid gold into a crazed pattern, forming a mesh in the shape of the broken teacup. One by one, she placed the fragments into their places, using the gold instead of glue or a simple repair spell.

Luna’s magic flared and tendrils of darkness lifted a slightly startled looking Candice from a shadow, placing her upon the lush carpet.

Not knowing how Luna’s guest would react to, what at first glance, might seem like a dead body on the floor, Celestia simply hid the Stallion. She cast a perfect invisibility spell before Candice had a chance to see him. Celestia could not put it past her sister to try and start a rumour that she randomly killed ponies as a joke not caring about the damage such a thing could do Equestria as a whole.

If she was lucky, Luna would only claim it was her divine ‘wind’ instead of anything more sinister. Daybreaker sniggered at the thought of all the nobles fleeing the court just because Luna placed a whoopie cushion on the throne again.

After a moment, Candice seemed to take in the room rapidly. Quickly she assumed a position of attention. For the briefest of moments, her eyes focused on the teacup. Her eyebrows started to lift but they were held in place by years of professionalism.

Luna moved behind Candice and rested her head atop hers. Candice relaxed against Luna, seeming completely at ease with Luna’s irreverent attitude.

“So, can I have her?” Luna asked hungrily.

A pleased look crossed Candice’s face. The want and willingness to accept her sister plain as day.

“It appears you have already claimed her,” Celestia stated, her voice calm thanks to her Mask. Keeping her reproach from seeing the light of day. Candice was a useful tool, the RGIS would be diminished without her.

Luna’s eyes met her sisters across the distance, clearly saying ‘look what I get that you don’t’. Luna wrapped her wings around Candice from behind and whispered seductively in her ear. “It seems I get to keep you.”

Celestia wanted to snort or at least flick her wing in annoyance, yet her Mask prevented her from doing either. The sparkle in Luna’s eyes meant she had somehow noticed something anyhow.

Candice seemed to revel in the feathery embrace. She subtly leaned back and increased the contact and rubbed her head against Luna.

Candice’s mind was full of blank open acceptance, mixed with a slight haze of anticipation and curiosity held under a mask of professionalism. She had a touch of confusion at the situation, but was playing along out of trust for Luna.

She could tell that Candice was loyal to Equestria, proud of what she had done in her service. She just wanted to do more and held a desire for Luna… Desires that Celestia hastily averted her mental gaze from. Despite that, she could feel Daybreaker peering in with interest.

Looking a little deeper, she could see that she also had desires for Twilight. The fact that one of her main goals was to make both of them happy spoke to the purity of her love for both of them. She would need to get Cadance to investigate the mare.

You are letting Luna have all the fun. Daybreaker mentally said, pulling the memories of Candice cleaning Luna’s pegasus ley lines. Celestia could feel a not-so-small amount of envy building, not that Luna had partners, no it was because she could not afford to have her ley lines purged. She had to be able to contain her immense amount of power, and that was part of the sacrifice for being able to do so.

“You always did have a taste for the unique,” Celestia said before shifting her eyes to Candice. “Just take care not to get bored of her too quickly.”

Candice's mind was curious about what Celestia meant. Still, she was full of confidence that Luna would not get bored, and if even if she did, she knew she could let go without any hard feelings. She had no fear of being dropped like a toy but hoped it did not happen. She wanted her feelings for Luna to be requited.

Luna’s wings blocked Celestia’s view of Candice. “That’s enough of that, dear Sister.”

“As you wish… Lieutenant Candice, do you wish to forsake your Oath?” Celestia said her voice still warm and calm.

“I wouldn’t be forsaking my Oath to serve Equestria. I would just be changing the parameters in which I fulfill it. That would require being released from my current one so that it can be subsequently taken again with new parameters.”

Celestia nodded once, letting Candice see a hint of respect. “So be it.”

She flicked her eyes to Luna for a moment. Celestia was annoyed at her sister taking Candice. Still, she could respect Candice’s integrity, if not her taste in desiring her sister.

Luna lowered her wings allowing Celestia to do what was required. Celestia could see that her sister was ready to raise them again in an instant if she tried anything.

Revoking the Oath was easy, it was a little harder not to slay the pony in the process. She made very sure she could do so in plenty of time for Cadance and Shining Armor’s wedding. Wrapping the small piece of her own power concealed within Candice with her will and separating it from her prior guard’s wellspring, she pulled upon it.

A small mote of golden magic emerged from Candice and darted around Luna’s wings, then returned to Celestia. Candice was tracking the orb with interest as it moved. Celestia noticed the muscles in her jaw twitch as she inhaled a shallow breath and could see that Candice wanted to ask something but had held her tongue.

“You are free to walk your own path again, may you choose wisely,” Celestia said, solemnly.

Candice bowed her head. “Thank you, Princess Celestia. I honestly feel I am choosing the right path. Whether or not the path is wise, might only be a matter of perspective.”

Celestia gave Luna a meaningful look.

Luna said in a formal tone, “Candice, please take care of your affairs. Perform any tasks you deem necessary to reduce the disruption of your departure from RGIS.”

Luna then leaned closer, speaking directly into Candice’s ear. “Make sure to update your will and be ready an hour before moonrise,” Luna said, using a sadistic whisper.

Candice nodded and immediately started towards the door. Her eyes lighting up with interest.

Celestia very nearly directed her Mask to let her eyes roll. She never liked the games Luna enjoyed playing with her toys. It seemed Candice might actually enjoy some of them instead of ending up dying of terror.

As soon as the door was closed, Celestia warded it against sound. “Do you even know who he was?” Celestia asked, looking at the stallion again, letting the invisibly fade from him.

Luna reached into her mane and passed Celestia a file. Celestia shook her head at the words along the top of it. ‘RGIS document do not remove from the main office’ Luna never cared for, or followed any rules.

For a moment, Celestia considered how nice it would be to just throw all the laws off the top of the mountain and simply rule with an iron hoof. Force the stupid, short-sighted ponies to do what was best for them. If it were not for her Mask, she would have sighed. No, she could not, would not, do that. They needed at least their illusion of choice, the feeling that their lives truly mattered to the universe, even though so few of them actually did.

Again, she considered the amount of happiness the average pony had, just because of the things they did not know. The things that Celestia deliberately kept them from ever finding out.

“Goodday Sister, if you find you need more, the rest of the prisoners are in the dungeon,” Luna said.

Celesta nodded to her sister. “Thank you, and thank you again for helping with Twilight.”

Luna just met her eyes and faded into the shadows. “One of these days I will teach her how to use doors,” Celestia sighed.

She might not be able to restore the stallion before her, but she could give a little filly and colt their father back, give a mare her husband back. A warm smile crossed her muzzle, she could do that much at least.

She would need to summon his family and use their memories of him to recreate a mind. Since Daybreaker had not raised an issue, it was well within her allowable magic budget for the week. Even with everything bad going on, she could still make her ponies lives better.

She regarded the now whole teacup, the veins of gold running through it, somehow making the whole thing just seem that little bit more beautiful. The scars of metal adding character, telling a story.

She added the cup to her normal tea service wondering who, if anypony, would dare to comment on it, even if they did not, they would wonder. She would get to enjoy the crazy ideas they came up with even if they never voiced them.

Upon a scroll, she noted all the spells and orders Dark Acolyte had. Once done, she flared her magic, deleting him from existence. She left an empty mind, a perfect blank canvas for her to ply her skills, recreating the beloved father.

CH 28.4 Noble's 'Delight'

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Noble Guide was paradoxically both in a good and a bad mood.

The good news was the most capable analyst in the RGIS was now out. She apparently now was little more than a plaything for Luna.

The bad news was the nobles he was trying to manipulate had dragged him along to their impromptu celebration of getting that abomination out of Celestia’s Solarguard.

At least he managed to direct them to somewhere where there would not be ponies to tell tales about him being here. With his contacts with the papers, he could control any rumours that the press tried to capitalise on.

He was playing with the idea about if he should try and sabotage the approval process for the wedding between Twilight and Luna or if he should help them.

If he hindered them, then he could turn public opinion against them and cause lots of minor hassles for all of the princesses to deal with. Yet if he helped them, he could get them both out of his way for at least a month, and that could be a golden opportunity.

If there were a way he could make it seem like Celestia was delaying things, he would. He had heard about the shouting match that happened in Ponyville even if none of the papers dared to publish anything about it. It only took one printing press being reduced to slag to convince the rest of the press to not go anywhere near that story.

Twilight was still an unknown. She had not done anything to demonstrate the full extent of her blood magic. If he could not turn her against Celestia then it would be safer to keep a master of forbidden magic as far away as possible during the final moments of his plan.

Blueblood said something dumb. Of course he did. That snivelling brat of a noble only thought he had power. The only thing he had was a now nearly pointless title hoofed down to him because he happened to be a direct relative of Princess Platinum. Oh, how he wished he could clean up some of the nobility. But alas their corruption and distraction were far too useful to his plans.

Another noble raised his glass to Noble Guide. He idly clinked it as the said nobel mentioned satisfaction in getting the hybrid out, but lamented that he didn’t manage to get the demand to have her wings removed through.

He would have rather studied her. Sure her wings may have been removed in the process, but it would have been for the benefit of knowledge, not just the mutilation for the sake of humiliating the poor mare.

He could not fathom why Celestia kept these useless ponies around, let alone in power, it must be some sort of trick, some kind of trap for the worst sorts. The only alternative was that she was simply lazy, and you would not have total control of a country for over a thousand years by being lazy.

They are ruled by an Alicorn, the most perfect of Hybrids. Yet they seem to have no problem conveniently forgetting that fact when wanting to torment all hybrids as the least of the lesser ponies. He could only imagine what the nobility would think or do if she managed to get to a position of actual power over them. Probably assassination attempts or even open rebellion. Maybe I should arrange it for the distraction. I’ll need to keep an eye out for the opportunity.

One of the other nobility was sucking up to Blueblood. It was almost sickening. This Jet Set and his wife Upper Crust were two of the main ponies that were so against any power for anypony that wasn’t a unicorn. They at least had the sense to not let their beliefs be known to the public. If I succeed in my plans, then you two are going to be some of the first ones to go. Consideration of that helped him make up his mind about whether to help Twilight and Luna. It would be too much of an advantage to have her out of the picture for the month. The fact that it would help him identify what nobles to discard after he took power was also a benefit.

After a few hours of letting this ‘celebration’ ramble on Noble Guide excused himself. He needed to plan more. He said his lines just as he would if he were an actor on stage, then excused himself back to his home.

CH 28.5 The Difficulties in Becoming a Nightguard

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Candice was abuzz with excitement and curiosity. A new future was before her. She had spent twenty-two years doing the same thing, being restricted by her superiors, disregarded and insulted behind her back. Going from that to the seemingly much more accepting Nightguard felt like it would be an exhilarating change of pace. It certainly had been so far.

Her dreams of Luna and Twilight crossed her mind, joining the memory of the reality of being pinned under the larger mare as her neck was being nibbled with fangs. So many possibilities, both professional and not so professional.

Solarguards opened the doors. The pair of them seemed to glare at her from under the anonymity of their armour’s enchantments.

Leaving the castle she stepped out into the sun, the air felt a little colder, the sunlight warming her a little less. Inside her chest there was the feeling that something was missing. Something she never knew she had was gone forever.

Candice let her thoughts wander about what she was feeling for a minute. “That’s an awfully subtle form of manipulation.” Candice noted, her first data point about Celestia’s manipulations being revealed. “I wonder if I would have been able to even have that moment of doubt before the Oath was removed.” Mental note to ask Luna about the manipulations.

Candice looked at her ID, its security magic stating in bold red letters revoked with a small version of Celestia’s mark as the authority. This sort of thing normally only happens before a pony was sentenced for treason. It was odd knowing she was only the second pony in recorded history that had been released from the Solar Oath. She was unsure how to feel about all the attention this would bring her. Maybe ask Shining Armor about that.

She made her way from the main castle to the RGIS offices. Two guards blocked her path, both of their identities were concealed. One a unicorn stallion, the second a pegasus mare.

“Hey guys I'm transferring over to Nightguard, I have been released from my oath. I have orders to facilitate my transfer of duties and need to turn in my equipment.” Candice stated while pointing to her saddlebags.

Being stopped by the security she had walked by without issue for all those years, felt odd but was not unexpected.

She could see the look of betrayal on the face of one of them.

“You are not authorised to be here, leave.” The other spoke in a fierce unyielding tone. Reaching out to take the saddlebags from her with his aura.

Her Null-field disrupted his aura. “I need to get a visitors badge. The counter to do that is just inside. Are you seriously going to obstruct me from going to a publically accessible section of the building?” She said in annoyance before glancing at her her saddlebags. “That has personal property and classified documents that you don’t have the security clearance to even look at. Try that again, and I will arrest you for theft of RGIS property.” She promised.

The pegasus guard interjected in a calm tone of voice “Sorry Candice you no longer have the authority to do that, you are currently just a … civilian.”

“A civilian that still has the right to go to that counter over there,” Candice stated, pointing her hoof at the clearly visible Visitor’s Queue. “Additionally until I turn in my ID card to the CO actually I do have the authority. Check regulation twenty-three point five, paragraph F.”

The guard cut her off. “That's a loophole and you know it. Nopony will listen to a traitorous abomination like you. You have no business being here, hoof over the official stuff and leave.”

“I’ll grant you that it’s a loophole. But it’s still a valid part of the Solarguard regulations. Also as per the regs, I can’t hand you classified documents that you lack the security clearance for. If you look at my ID, you will see my security clearance is still perfectly valid. Now let me in to get my visitors badge and let me do my job.” Candice said with growing frustration.

“It's a travesty that you were allowed in the guard at all, let alone Canterlot, the world would be a better place if you died at birth like your kind is meant to.”

The second guard gasped, taking half a step back. She clearly had not expected anything so vulgar.

Paper Pusher approached from behind, heading toward the entrance, waiting patiently behind Candice as if in a que. Using his magic to write a few things down on a piece of paper.

Once done he handed the new official orders to the stallion. “Report to room three-two-four and await further instructions,” Paper Pusher said calmly.

The stallion glared at Second Lieutenant Pusher for a long moment before aggressively saluting and turning, stomping off. Compared to a slightly ticked off Alicorn, it seemed like nothing more than a foal having a temper tantrum.

Paper Pusher had a resigned look on his muzzle as he lead her into the building and went through all the steps of getting her a visitor's badge. The bigot wasn’t even going to her let get the proper ID and had been blocking her from entering the visitor’s lounge.

Candice looked at Paper Pusher, “Thank you for that. I thought that, considering I had official business in RGIS still, that it wouldn’t be an issue. I appreciate your help.”

“You are welcome, least that I could do after all you've done for us.” He paused his stride for a moment before changing directions and gesturing her to follow him. Trotting right along with him, Candice followed.

The inside of The RGIS headquarters felt slightly unfamiliar. The wards did not like her here even with the issued visitor’s badge hanging around her neck. The turns and corridors all seemed like they were in the wrong place. It felt like she was lead downstairs when she knew she was going upstairs. The magic that protected the building clearly designed to stop anypony not meant to be here from finding their way around.

“I hope things go well for you. Keep being the good guy here at RGIS. Honestly, they would lose half their efficiency if they didn’t have you. Though do let me know if you ever feel like you want to join the Nightguard. I can pass on the recommendation to Princess Luna for you.” Candice said with a playful smirk.

“If even ten percent of the reports on what they go through is accurate, I don’t think I would want to be a Nightguard. But thank you for the vote of confidence.” He said warily.

Giving him a warm smile, “Just so you know Paper, I didn’t miss your interest in me.” Her voice sounding slightly consoling but still quite warm. “If I had any interest in stallions, I would have asked you out years ago. Though I do thank you for your professionalism the whole time.”

Paper Pusher opened his mouth to say something and then stopped. “This is the part where I say thank you, isn’t it?” His expression was a mix of confusion and regret.

“Yes, if you want to stay professional. If you think of me as an actual friend, then feel free to say what’s on your mind.” Candice said in what she hoped was an encouraging tone.

He paused and then opened the door to a storeroom. A door that seemed a moment ago to be a staircase leading up. Paper Pusher lit his horn, his aura pulling something from within. It was a single metal box.

“I do not know what to make of you.” He said before contemplating for a moment. “You are an interesting mare that achieves things in fascinating ways. Now I think you might need a little mental help for wanting to join the Nightguard.” He lifted the box in his aura and offered it to Candice. “I hope you do well and don’t regret it. Twenty-six percent of ponies that are accepted into the Nightguard by Princess Luna do not survive their first week under her.”

Candice smirked at his unknown innuendo there, “Sorry your words brought to my mind a very different mental image than what you intended.” Accepting the box, she took a look in it. As she opened the lid, the contents were revealed. It was full of official requests to RGIS, the top one being a demand that she was removed from her position for being an Alien from another world.

She froze for a fraction of a second as an image of a nightmare creature flashed through her mind. A terrifying black carapaced monster with its long bladed tail hovering menacingly above its smooth black head.

She caught herself before she visibly reacted and carried on with the conversation. “If these are all like this, then this should provide several hours of amusement. Thank you, Paper.” She then set the box in her bags and gave him a friendly hug.

After a long moment, he returned the embrace clumsily. “You will be missed, and not just by me,” he said, patting her on the back.

A bit of wry humour crossed her face, “I know, I just won’t be missed by certain Guards and Nobility. Fortunately, I don’t need to worry about their petty attitudes any longer, thanks to you, I didn’t have to arrest one today.”

Paper Pusher nodded, leading her to where she needed to be. “You know as well as I do that his family would have gotten him off without even a warning on his official record.”

“Oh I know, but it still would have been humiliating for him. In more ways than one.” Candice said with confidence.

After finishing the official transfer of duties with her prior Commanding Officer, Candice went to the office of her old supervisor and knocked on the door.

Candice could feel a simple detection spell each out from the room, it was Revealing Light’s magic. The door to the office opened.

The office was neat and organized with everything in easy reach of a hoof, clearly set up for its non-unicorn resident. Candice could see both her prior supervisor, Steadfast Vigil, and Light inside. It appeared they were having a meeting.

Light’s coat was no longer dyed but now was a brilliant white with a stunning silver mane and eyes. She was beautiful and perfectly presented despite her adventures last night. Steadfast was a pony that would have been considered handsome anywhere other than Canterlot, with a balanced mix of rugged toughness and refined lines. His amber coat was not as well-groomed as it normally was, it would definitely fail inspection. Clearly, the stress of the current situation must have been getting to him.

Her supervisor was the only Earthpony command rank officer in the RGIS. He had only gotten his chance because the nobles were too busy bickering. They were fighting over which of their candidates should get his post and RGIS managed to disregard all of them. So he was the only one left metaphorically standing.

“Speak of the Draconequus,“ Steadfast said, looking to Candice with a hint of regret in his eyes. He motioned her inside, reaching for a set of papers.

“You are really going through with this?” Light asked, her tone edged with mild accusation.

After closing the door, she took a seat in front of his desk. “Yes. I’m being inducted with my new Oath tonight. Feel free to ask any questions. I’m sure you have plenty.” Candice replied with genuine pride in her voice.

Steadfast let out a long-suffering sigh. “More than I am allowed to ask.”

Light turned to Steadfast and pointed her hoof at Candice. Exasperation and righteous indignation apparent all over her. “Princess Luna threw her into a combat situation all on her own, into a warehouse of fifty-plus dark magic users. You do not do that with somepony so valuable. We are not going to let this stand are we?”

Candice looked at her with her head slightly cocked. “Awe, you care about me,” she said in a flattered tone, a smirk on her face.

“More would care about you if you were not so sarcastic.” Light shot back. “But seriously we are going to miss you here. This is literally the worst time you could have picked to take a fancy for the Night.”

“Those that didn’t care about me were those that wanted me out of here because I didn’t fit their little definition of what constitutes being a pony.” She said with a hint of venom in her voice. “Sorry, you didn’t deserve that. I just had to deal with one of the guards that wouldn’t let me in to finish my job here. Paper Pusher has him sitting in a room somewhere waiting for further instructions or something. As for my ‘Fancy for the Night’...”

Light interrupted “I know enough about wings to know that Princess Luna was not just being friendly or casting a spell.”

Steadfast continued sorting some paperwork. It seemed he was simply watching and waiting. It looked like he dared not interrupt what might be turning into an argument between two mares, both of whom were very adept at combat.

“You got me there. Yes I have feelings for Princess Luna. Do you think she would put me into a situation that she didn’t have under control if I failed my test?” Care and appreciation evident in her voice.

Deliberately sounding calm Light answered. “The situation, she was ready to level the whole block at a minimum. You did see Starfall, didn't you?”

“More than see, I felt the mass of that thing from several hoof lengths away. But she didn’t need to use it. I passed the test. I saved possibly a hundred or so lives. Sixty at minimum.”

Anger flared on Light’s face for a moment before she schooled it into calm professionalism. “I’m not saying you did not do well, you performed unbelievably well. I’m just saying the Nightguard take too many risks. They are too reckless and have little regard for rules, due process or the lives of the ponies that get in their way.”

“I could have done so much more than just point out leads that others couldn’t see if I was allowed out on the field. Politics and petty bigotry kept me locked up behind a desk. You saw what I can actually do. Where do you think I should have been?” Candice left off with her voice still caring but just a hint of frustration showing through. Her wing swinging out to offer a hug as an olive branch if Light wished it.

“You want…” Light started.

Steadfast politely coughed. “I think we are getting off-topic.”

Light turned to Steadfast, standing almost at attention clearly taking his words as a rebuke.

Steadfast nodded his head towards Candice, doing his best not to roll his eyes.

Taking the hint, Light accepted the offered hug. "Please, just don't get yourself killed."

“I’ll do my best not to. Princess Luna has already hinted at training to help with that as well. Thank you for actually being concerned. So few around here actually are.” Candice said with warmth. Light’s hug was a bit firmer and a lot warmer than she had expected. Maybe a friend there that I didn’t realise was there?

After a few moments longer than normal for just a polite hug, Light seemed to notice where they were and pulled back. Candice brushed Light’s shoulder as she retracted her wings now that Light was finished with the hug.

“Now normally this would be where we process your paperwork… but apparently, your file has been misplaced. So I have had to draw up a fresh set.” Steadfast slid a personnel file over.

Light’s eyes went wide at what she saw on the medical summary sheet, she pointed as the letters ‘C/C’ marked on the sheet. “I thought you were rated as a grade E mage?”

“Oh, that’s just what had to be on the paperwork because of politics. We had to knock it down so RGIS wouldn’t lose funding.” Candice said.

“Blueblood and his cronies would not accept Candice being rated higher than a noble, especially any noble in the military like Lieutenant Wild Flash out there.” Steadfast clarified.

“Is this just because she is a hybrid?” Light asked.

“Well, Celestia has been trying to crack down on tribalism, but unfortunately hybrids are not covered by those regs yet.” Steadfast sighed. “If I had her listed at her true rating, we would have lost half our budget, and there would have been a witch hunt for the ‘dangerous creature’ that had too much power.” He looked apologetically to Candice. “There was even talk of taking her wings for even the small amount of power the old papers said she had.”

Light winced.

Candice looked at Steadfast, her face taking on a cast of dark seriousness, “Excuse me? Explain, please.”

Steadfast shook his head “I will not tell you who started it, but it was shut down, unfortunately, before it reached Princess Celestia's desk.”

“How is that unfortunate?” Candice inquired.

Light laughed. “Do you know what she would have done to them? Can you imagine it, a foal of a noble trying to dictate what should be done to Princess Celestia? And for something like that.” She looked to steadfast “Incineration, thrown off the mountain or given to Princess Luna?”

“No official comment, but I think being added to her statue garden,” Steadfast said.

“Ok so what was in this little demand and how far up the chain did it get before it was crushed under the hoof of common sense?” Candice asked with a bit of humor now in her voice.

He paused for a moment. “One of the nobles with half a brain managed to talk the others into retracting it, so legally it got nowhere, but all the higher-ups here knew about it.”

“So it’s unfortunate because the Noble in question didn’t get to the point of Celestia committing defenestration upon them?” Candice smirked.

“She would probably bill them for the broken window too,” Light added trying not to laugh.

Steadfast shrugged. “Knowing our luck, they would have enough money to pay a pegasus to catch them before they hit the ground.” He turned his gaze back to the paperwork “So shall we get this done? You are only the second pony in living memory to be cut loose like this. At least without being tried for treason. You are not going to be happy with all the extra forms that are required due to that slight difference.”

“There’s only a ‘slight’ difference between transferring from Solar to Lunar and being tried for treason?” Candice asked with a cocked eyebrow.

“Nightmare Moon was the only other Alicorn one could transfer too when the forms were created,” Steadfast answered.

“You do realise that according to the law, the fact that the paperwork hasn’t been updated is a personal insult to Princess Luna, right?” Candice pointed out.

Steadfast got the first bundle of paperwork out, it was old and archaic, its printing date was over nine-hundred years ago. He looked from the paperwork to Candice. “It’s not intentional, you know that. If you can get Princess Luna to weigh in on our next budget meeting so we can afford to replace it, be my guest. Until then we are stuck with these.” He pointed to the first pile of papers. “Magically Unalterable Forms are rather expensive and require class B unicorns to make to the required standard.”

“I’ll bring it up to her as soon as I can,” Candice stated as she grabbed the first stack. She was starting to get used to pony-sized stacks of paperwork.

A couple hours later and well and truly tired of paperwork, Candice stepped out of the RGIS building. Even with the challenge of them being written in old ponish, it became mind-numbing. She made her way past the guards and away from the RGIS building.

Looking at where the now harsh sun was in the sky, she had four hours left until her fate would be decided. She was grateful for her eye protection spell, meant for stopping her being blinded by dazzle spells, or just the flash from powerful ones. The minor personal enchantment spell also did a great job of acting as sunglasses, it cost her so little magic she tended to leave it on all the time.

Depositing her final pay in the Royal Bank of Canterlot, Candice decided to check her account balance for the first time in over a decade. She never really had a need to since she lived in the officer’s apartments in the Guard base and lived with minimal expenses. Eighty percent of her pay never got spent, so she never needed to worry about it.

Seeing an account balance that could buy a nice sized house near the noble section of Canterlot was rather a shock. The interest that was gathering in her savings was also compounding it. Needless to say, her twenty-three years of living very frugally had unexpectedly paid off. Well if she died, then she wasn’t going to need any money, so she headed to a legal firm to do up her will.

The legal firm was nice. They took about forty bits to do the will and updated it. She simply put it to where if she died, the money in her account got split evenly among the Elements of Harmony. She figured it would be a nice little surprise for them if something happened to her.

With only an hour left of her time as a free mare, Candice spent her time in the Menagerie, amongst its well-tended garden with the sounds of the animals adding to the calming atmosphere.

Laying in the cool air under the sun, running her mental alacrity spell, she analyzed her past. She was trying to work out how much of an impact the Solar Oath had on her, trying to validate herself. How much of her life was her own, how much had she been manipulated?

The light level changed, only her spell gave her the chance to lift her wings and catch the pouncing creature and roll with it.

The magic felt like Luna’s, the creature seemed to be made of a piece of the night sky, torn free and shaped into the form of a powerful unicorn mare with flowing mane and tail.

Once they rolled to a stop, Candice hugged the creation. For a moment the creation seemed puzzled, but then it nuzzled Candice affectionately.

Candice was confused for a moment that this was not Luna. The creature had none of Luna’s desire or seductiveness. It seemed just like a playful animal or maybe a foal.

Fascinating. Spell? Construct? Something else? Insight commented.

Candice replied in her mind, Well, this is different, this is not Luna propper. Is she being playful with her spellcraft or testing me? Or this is something else? Not much to do than go with the flow in this case.

Candice started to play with the creature. The pony-sized chunk of night sky seemed to like affection and a little roughhousing.

After a little bit though it seemed to get bored and disappeared. When it returned, it had a blue ball.

Picking it up in her aura Candice looked at the animated construct, “Fetch?”

The apparently positive reaction was enough. Candice wrapped the ball in a spell meant to keep its momentum going in a straight line. The effect was it got a few extra seconds of flight time for a farther throw.

The darkness took off and a few moments later came back with the ball.

After about the fifth time, the creature didn’t come back with a ball, but rather with a pony.

It wasn’t just anypony either. It was Prince Blueblood. “Unhoof me this instant!” He demanded.

Wrong useless object there. Insight said to Candice.

The ball was not useless. Candice almost lost her composure but managed to stifle the laugh. “That is not the ball. That’s a pony. You should put it back where you got it.” Candice didn’t overlook the fact that the ball was impaled on the tip of his horn.

The startled Blueblood heard this affront to his being but only had time to inhale before being put to sleep. The creature put her horn to Blueblood’s head and with a flare of shadow magic, the memories of the event floated from him like bubbles on the wind, The creature proceeded to chase after them, popping them and having a whale of a time.

Candice watched with a bit of amusement but still noted to herself to bring up the ethics of the creatures mind magic use with Luna later.

Once the last one was soundly defeated, it approached Blueblood. Using its horn to create two orbs filled with swirling images. One of Blueblood as an Alicorn sitting on the throne, ruling all Equestria with the rest of the Princesses’ thrones on the level below his vaunted station. The other him being a crippled earthpony on the street being mocked, kicked and attacked by everypony else who all happened to be Alicorns, most of them looking like either Rarity or Twilight.

The Nightcreature looked between the two orbs then looked at Candice, seeming to be offering to let her make the choice.

Candice considered both for a moment then picked the one with Blueblood as an Alicorn. He might be a waste of a pony, but even he didn’t deserve the nightmare of dealing with the tribalism that she had to.

Placing the orb against Blueblood’s head, it was absorbed, and Blueblood’s sleep began to be rather restful.

The creature grabbed Blueblood and hauled him back off to wherever she got him from.

Candice felt the magic of the creature as it worked on Blueblood. She noticed that the creature made of Night seemed to have its own wellspring. It wasn’t as sophisticated as Luna’s, but it did bear a similar feel.

Hm. So not a spell effect. A creation of some kind. Insight commented.

Indeed. Another thing I will have to ask Luna about. Candice replied.

The creature suddenly seemed distracted. After a moment it pounced on Candice, and she found herself being dragged into the shadows. Sleep very quickly claimed her as she went.

Candice could feel her heart pounding as her body shivered, deep ragged breaths escaped her. Tight metal bound her limbs and held her suspended in the air. Everything was rendered in total darkness, the thumping of her pulse in her ears and her now slowing breath were the only sounds.

Good thing we trust Luna, I wouldn’t want you in this position if we didn’t. Insight commented.

How had she got here, what was she doing before she got here? Slowly the memories of the day filtered back into her mind.

One by one pairs of glowing slit eyes opened, surrounding her. By the apparent height and shape of them, she surmised they were some of Luna’s Nightguard. Their eyes casting enough light to reveal Luna standing less than a body length away from her.

This was not the Luna she had seen before. This Luna was more thestral than pegasus. Fangs graced her mouth and intense draconic eyes stared at Candice.

Oh, Luna’s theatrics, ok. She thought, her body calming more, all hints of fear gone. “Oh, this looks like fun,” She said with a great deal of enthusiasm.

The only response from the Nightguard was a small amount of bits changing hooves. “Oh, are you betting on me now?”

The deadly looking Princess of the Night in all her Nightmare like glory rolled her eyes. An edge of disappointment showing as her wings slumped slightly. “Thou knows we had a most frightful speech waiting for thee?” Luna lamented.

Candice looked genuinely sorry for spoiling Luna’s fun. “Sorry, you can still go through it. I promise to roleplay along with it.”

The surrounding Nightguard were wise enough not to say anything. Still the twinkle in their eyes spoke enough about their amusement.

“Well, now that the mood has been broken,” Luna casts a mock angry look to the Nightguard who had pocketed the bits. “Shall we begin?” Luna asked.

The look on Candice’s face seemed to hint that she thought this situation was rather appealing in a way. She looked down at her body being on display for Luna. Looking back at Luna, a look of desire was not able to be hidden.

“Know that as Twilight is to be wed to me, anything you swear here may well bind you to her in time,” Luna said in a serious tone. A hint of a smile flickered on her muzzle for a moment. “I trust that won't be a problem?” She asked.

“That would be the opposite of a problem for me,” Candice said.

Luna licked her fangs for a moment letting her eyes rove over Candice's body, there was an edge of melancholy to the gaze, like this might be the last time she saw her.

Whispering, hoping Luna could hear her, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for you.”

Luna’s expression froze, becoming as if ice, completely expressionless for a moment. “So be it,” Her voice whispered from beside Candice’s ear.

Luna circled Candice, slowly prowling like a hungry predator. Luna spoke, her tone somehow resonating with power, each word perfectly pronounced with deadly seriousness. “Do you offer me your obedience? Will you pledge your obedience to the Night, to your sovereign, to me?”

“Yes,” was Candice’s only reply.

“Your magic is a treasure that I may require, do you pledge it to my service?”

“Affirmative,” Candice intoned.

Luna moved closer, her ethereal tail trailing along one of Candice’s wings and the Night Princess inhaled deeply showing her fangs. “I may have need to let your blood be spilt. Do you offer it, will you pledge it to be mine to spend as I will?”

“Definitely,” Candice answered.

Luna was so close that Candice should have been able to feel her body heat. Instead, a cool chill seemed to be rolling off her. The temperature of the room dropped as the darkness in the room seemed to become even deeper.

The flowing mane and tail began to twist around both Candice and the chains. Frost starting from the points of contact. One by one the links began to shatter, fragments of metal scattering as Luna started to support Candice’s shivering body.

“Do you pledge your life to me?” Luna purred seductively.

“I do,” Candice answered with her heart.

Luna completed her circle around Candice, her mane and tail now holding the whole of Candice’s weight without issue. She leaned in muzzle to muzzle, eyes narrowed and glowing intently. Luna’s magic thrummed as she began to nuzzle Candice’s neck, forcing her head back.

Candice could feel her heart race, Luna’s teeth were tracing along her neck. The steely power of the Alicons body was holding her in place as feathers caressed her. Candice’s heart pounded as she watched her heated breath fog upon contact with the frigid air.

It started first as a light nibble, the fangs scratching her flesh before they found their desired point. Four pricks of pain bloomed as the Night Princess closed her mouth.

A moment later, something more intimate, something deeper inside her felt like it was bitten. Suddenly she could feel the immense power of Luna’s wellspring pressing against her, no flesh or space separating them. Luna’s hunger, her desire, burned bright within it. Candice’s own wellspring seemed to reach out towards Luna, not just letting her take what she will but offering more energy to her.

Candice’s magic flared in response, her world became bliss.

Candice found herself fully awake and aware, all her senses under her own control. The haze of pleasure lifted. The excitement of what had just been happening was suddenly gone. She was left calm, if a little confused.

She had no idea how she got here. She found herself on her own in a long dark stone hallway.

The towering form of Luna in her therstal aspect advanced out of the darkness, eyes hard but expression kind.
“Walk with me?” She quietly asked, turning and beckoning with a wing.

Candice looked upon her with a bit of wonder and a smile of gratitude. For the first time, she felt as if someone truly accepted her. She moved smoothly to follow Luna, after taking a moment to recover due to the jarring switch off of all the sensations.

Somehow, Luna seemed more graceful than before, but here she was not sensual, she was a solemn goddess freely radiating her power. Her mane billowing out into the distance, blending with the surrounds. Almost as if the entire world is made up of her.

Candice had a smile of appreciation upon seeing that. She felt honoured. It was clear that very few ponies ever got a chance to see Luna like this. Candice still felt physical desires for Luna, but for now, they were put to the side, buried under a sense of gratitude and awe. Just being here, she felt accepted, she was being welcomed by somepony she loved. It was the first time she had ever felt like this before, it was wonderful.

As they walked, the walls began to be lined with paintings, each one of a Nightguard standing proud. Each with a little hint that betrayed their personality. Whoever painted these must have known them very well indeed to capture these little traits, immortalizing them in paint. It was only slight, but she could see Luna’s eyes trace along some of the images, but not a single hint of emotion crossed her features.

As they drew closer, the paintings changed, shifting. Some ageing, showing a pony on their deathbed. Most shifted to show horrifically wounded ponies, some little more than gore stains. The paintings continued to change one by one as they walked on. First ten, then a hundred, finally after more than a thousand, the corridor ended.

“Prior Nightguards?” Candice quietly said as she noted the implications of the paintings. Their fate reminded her of the vision of Twilight and Luna being attacked, the memories of the skeletal remains still haunting her far more than what she saw here.

“Yes,” Luna said quietly.

Candice took it in. Looking at the history, looking to see what Luna saw in them as much as she was capable. Trying to take the time to understand Luna’s gift of letting her be here. Showing what respect she could for Luna.

In the place where the last painting should go sat a full-length mirror. Within it Candice could see her body arched in pleasure, glowing with her magic, Luna wrapped around her as her fangs sunk deep in her neck.

“Why am I glowing?” Candice asked in a whisper to herself.

Luna did not respond as she moved to block the mirror, her mane lifting three items from the shadows. A chalice filled with what appeared to be the night sky made liquid, the second an ornate knife and the last a simple red ribbon.

“You have already pledged yourself to me, yet I give you one final chance to change your fate. So few of my servants die of old age, most perish in terrible ways against worse foes. Dying alone. All I can promise you is that I will not spend your life frivolously, and it will be spent to keep Equestria safe.”

Luna looked to the ribbon. “All you must do is select your path and step through the mirror. Take the ribbon, and your last moments will be the most pleasurable ones you have experienced, but you will not live to see the sunrise.” She looked to the blade. “Take up the blade and touching the mirror will be your last memory.” Luna looked towards the cup with a hint of a smile. “Or you may Drink of the Night and walk forward into my service.”

The smile faded, and Luna looked at Candice with cold emotionless eyes. “Whichever you pick, I will have your strength, your sacrifice will help protect Equestria. None will think less of you if you wish to seek your fate now instead of standing between our charges and the nightmares that are out there.”

“You have one hour to make your choice.” Luna decreed.

Candice made her choice without a single bit of doubt or hesitation. Looking around at the choices available to her, Candice looked at Luna standing in front of her. “I have been presented with three options before me, but when I look at them, I see four choices. What if I just choose you?”

Luna’s eyes narrowed, not a single other reaction was visible as she asked. “Are you sure?”

“You accepted me wholly as I am. You are the first that I can recall ever doing so. I return to you the same. I accept you for all that you are, for who you are. I do so without reservation. I love you. There is no more to the truth than that.” Candice stated with her heart open for Luna to see.

The smile that crossed Luna’s fanged mouth was truly feral, the look in her eyes was delighted. She let her eyes flick to the offered items, one by one, letting them dissolve into the shadows, the chalice last. She advanced and loomed over Candice.

Seeing Luna like this with the desire she had, brought back the feelings of when Luna started her ministrations upon her neck. The desire beginning to make itself known once more. She stayed still for a time, her confidence in her choice unshaken even if she didn’t know where this would lead. All she could do was give her heart to Luna and trust in what she would do with it.

Luna’s power flared around her, the world becoming nothing but Luna and darkness. Luna lowered her head with her eyes now glowing like two silver moons staring straight into Candice’s own. “Then you, my dear Candice, are MINE.” With a sudden motion, Candice found herself in the same position as she could see herself in the mirror. Luna’s fangs savagely sunk into her neck as powerful wings wrapped around her.

Like last time, there was mild pain and pleasure. Unexpectedly, with a twist of her head, Luna ripped her head back, leaving a large open wound. Instead of blood pouring out, the freezing darkness forced its way in.

Despite the pain, Candice opened herself, yielding, willing every bit of her to Luna. Giving her magic, her body or at least whatever she counted as having at the moment.

Luna plucked a single star from her mane. Lifting it with her aura, she pressed it against Candice’s heart. The mass of it was burning so intense she couldn't tell if it was hot or cold as it seared her coat. Luna’s hooves pulled her into a kiss. Candice got the copper taste of her own blood from Luna’s lips. The kiss was returned as Candice pulled herself fully into the embrace, her own wings wrapping around Luna.

Luna seemed to relish the contact, deepening the kiss. One leg lovingly wrapping around her barrel as the other pressed against the star. With slow inexplicable force, Luna pushed the small burning speck as it melted its way into Candice’s chest.

Candice resisted screaming with all her might, the few whimpers that tried to escape were engulfed by the kiss. The kiss that she was clinging to as if it were a lifeline.

The pain within Candice built. She could feel her magic wildly fluctuating, new sensations blossoming within her. Candice, being one of the few mortal ponies with more than one wellspring, was uniquely informed. She could feel another one, a third wellspring being created within her. She could feel part of Luna, part of her love’s magic, become one with herself. A tiny piece of Luna would forever be a part of her.

Luna pulled back from the kiss, Candice’s mouth following for a short distance, love and want clear in both their eyes. She breathed in deeply, some of the darkness swirling into Luna’s open mouth. Pressing forward and bringing Candice to the ground, she resumed the kiss, the irresistible force denying any chance of resistance, not that Candice even tried.

She felt a liquid slide down her throat, she could feel its terrible painful cold, it tasted like nothing she could describe but left all her senses tingling. As it settled within her, the cold sensation became pleasant instead of painful, like something had changed within her. Like how the warmth of the sun was pleasant to her when under Celestia, now it would seem the cold of the night would be her home.

The silver markings on her wings, hooves and now tufted ear tips flared with energy and glowed brightly with moonlight.

All the pain she had felt, faded, her new wellspring settling down, the wonderful liquid smoothing her injures. Luna’s hooves, wings and magic began to explore Candice’s now Nightchosen body. Catching a glimpse through the mirror, she could see the changes slowly appearing on her real body.

Her new eyes pried the darkness allowing her to see the Nightguard watching in apparent awe, though Striker was now holding a lot of bits.

Luna did not give her much time to watch as she did her best to make sure this would be her best night ever.

Candice didn’t have any objections as the mirror was promptly forgotten. Her magic suffused her body once more.

Candice slowly woke up, wrapped in wings and hooves from behind. Her now sharper hearing could hear the heartbeat and breath of the pony holding her. Her body felt great, she felt alive, she felt powerful. Her body could remember the pleasure from the night before. Their clean, light, perfumed scents indicated they had both been cleaned.

It did not take much for her to work out that she was in bed with Luna. Her sovereign, her love, was deeply asleep and her mane seemed almost flat, like the etherealness of it has nearly been lost. The room was dark but to her now slit eyes it was as bright as day. Her bodies new senses and what was happening hit her, the darkness of the room was now rich with new colours, the shadows had as many unique shades as there were stars in the sky.

Candice started a small experiment. She gathered her magic and tried sending it to Luna. She was hoping it would help her recover a little bit faster. She felt Luna accept the power, a smile crossed her lips and then everything suddenly faded to darkness.

The last thing she heard before falling into unconsciousness was Insight’s voice, That doesn’t seem like it was a good idea.

CH 29.1 A Walk in the Everfree

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The last week had gone well. Twilight never would have thought that sharing her body would actually have so many advantages. She comfortably settled into bed, putting the finishing touches on the spell she would need as Night was eating breakfast and looking after Spike. Ever since Cadance blackmailed Night and the revelation with Luna, her relationship with the ex-nightmare had been changing. Now it felt to Twilight as if it was more of a partnership.

Finishing the spell, she closed the books she was working with and let her aura send them on their way back to their homes in the well-filed library. She blew on the ink of the new scroll helping it dry.

Twilight stretched, enjoying the supple feeling of moving her Alicorn physique. She cast her eyes to the sleeping form of Dreams beside her and smiled. She was not quite sure what her relationship with her would be called officially, but she knew she liked it. Leaning over she nuzzled the mare, her first marefriend, lovingly.

She was very grateful for Night letting her hide here when she accompanied Luna to see what could be found at the Temple of the Hidden Path, it helped a lot. It had taken hours in Dreams’ loving embrace for her to finally calm down after only seeing the entrance.

A small part of her wanted to giggle, another part, one that resonated with Nova, let out a gentle purr. Twilight felt wonderful.

An ever so small seed of doubt annoyingly flitted across her mind. Did she love Dreams? She thought so, but she was so new to all of this, how could she be sure? Nova being able to overpower her emotions and even thoughts made everything all the more complex.

Twilight breathed in Dreams’ scent enjoying how much at peace that one simple thing could make her feel. The worries about how and why she loved her marefreind fading away. She thought back to when she first met Dreams, it felt so long ago, but in fact it was less than two weeks. Her entire life, her goals, even her knowledge of who she was had all changed drastically in just that short time.

Twilight kissed Dreams who started slightly, returning the kiss. “You’re insatiable,” Dreams lightheartedly complained, blinking the sleep from her perfect eyes.

Twilight smirked. “You know you love it.” The confidence that Nova lent her was almost as intoxicating as the thoughts of what she could do to Dreams. She let her hooves start to wonder, exploring the body that had become so familiar to her. Twilight knew that Celestia would be extremely disappointed in her student for letting her self-control go like this. After all, she had chosen to deliberately craft her tool completely without such desires.

Dreams’ silver aura held her still, stopping Twilight’s advances. “My Star… as much as I would very much want you to continue, there are things you have to do today.”

Twilight smiled sheepishly, considered a few things she might say, then just sighed. Dreams did have a point after all.

“Now you trot off and set your plan in motion, I can’t wait to see how Luna will react.” Dreams said with a smile.

“One more kiss?” Twilight asked, trailing her wingtip suggestively along Dreams’ body.

Something changed in her marefriend's eyes. “Buck it.” Dreams said in defeat as she rolled over pinning Twilight to the bed and needfully wrapping perfect wings around her, pulling her into a passionate kiss.

An hour later than intended, Twilight left her bedroom in the Golden Oaks, a deep feeling of contentment filling her from the tip of her horn to the end of her tail. Despite everything, she was happy. It was a marvel how easy she had found it to at least mostly move past what had happened to her.

Nearly dying on an altar just did not seem like that big of a deal currently. Was she in denial? Probably. Did she care at the moment? No.

She navigated her way to the central section. Somehow she always knew which way to turn. It did make a kind of sense. All of this was her mind after all. She could not keep a grin off her face at the memory of being carried in Dreams’ aura and almost rammed headfirst into some of the walls.

Twilight let a hoof trail across the wooden wall at one such location as she passed it, this place, her library, felt like her true home. She would bring the girls here. Perhaps they could have a sleepover.

Looking over the railing down into the central section, she decided to teleport instead of using her wings or taking the stairs. Her body just felt too relaxed to put the needed effort in.

Blinking into existence in the center of the ground floor, she trotted over to the newest doorway. “Morning, Grey,” she said, waving a wing in greeting. Opening the rich dark wood door as she passed through it, ending up on what Twilight had decided to call her doorstep.

Her hoof falls sounded harsher as she stepped from the homely wood of her library to the obsidian plane with the stormy sky. Like last time she was here, the real physical world was visible below in what should have been the reflection within the floor. She idly considered if this was Night’s mental space or just how the interface with her physical body looked because Night was currently the true master of it.

She would need to do more study to find out. Shaking her head and putting that aside for now, she got Night’s attention. “Morning, Night.” She said, watching her body now cleaning the dishes with Spike happily running off, holding a claw full of gems.

“Good morning, Twilight.” Night responded, directing some of her attention to the mental space, her preferred Bat-Winged Twilight form manifesting next to Twilight. “You’re late,” She said with a knowing smile.

Twilight tried to fight off a blush but was fairly sure she failed. “Sorry,” she said out of politeness but did not really feel it.

Night looked at her with a jealous edge to her expression.

“Hey, don’t be like that,” Twilight said, pulling Night into a hug with her aura.

The surprised Night froze for a moment. Then relaxed against Twilight, returning the embrace with her membraned wings. Twilight could feel Nova rumbling with interest, but she mentally pushed those thoughts away. She had things to do today and she was not in that sort of relationship with Night. At least not yet. Am I even considering this? She thought in disbelief.

To try and distract herself, she started a detailed mental list on the pros and cons of hugging a pony with thestral wings. She failed, the whole implications of being an Alicorn, having fragments and Luna, taking over her line of thought.

She knew what the law said about fragments and the host counting as one individual legally. So that meant they were all marrying Luna. Twilight was not sure how she felt about that. Each fragment, each of her newly discovered family and friends, were their own ponies. Even if they had the mild disadvantage of not having their own bodies.

How can Alicorns have normal relationships? When you can’t be sure who is looking out from their eyes? Is this why Celestia did not tell Cadance?

Thinking about it, Twilight could say she did not have her own body at the moment, as Night had the contractual claim to it. Twilight lifted a hoof and rubbed along her neck where she knew Night’s bindings were on her, even if she could not see it currently. At the moment it felt light, she was only really bound to not act against Night.

Night’s manifestation faded into shadows, all of her attention now back in the physical world. “I know you are there, watching,” Night spoke to a particularly deep shadow.

“We are arranging a surprise for Luna, a pleasant surprise. I would ask you and your kin to hold this secret. You may tell Luna that her betrothed is preparing a surprise for her if you must, but pass on my request that she do nothing to investigate it or I will be upset.”

“As you wish Princess.” A whisper-quiet voice came from the shadow.

How long have you known they were there? Twilight mentally asked.

They have been there since Luna accepted Star as her own.

Oh, Twilight answered, thinking she needed to pay more attention.

Night looked into the reflective surface of the ceiling. To Twilight to looked like Night was looking straight into her eyes out of the image in the obsidian floor of the mindscape.

"As this is your plan, you should play your part in arranging it." Night said.

Tendrils of shadow gently grabbed Twilight. She found herself feeling conflicted. She was holding back a mix of panic about what she feared they could do and a surge of excitement from Nova about what she hoped they could be used for.

She wondered if she could invent a spell that would conjure cold water over Nova. There would be plenty of times when it would be either inappropriate or undesirable to be driven by Nova’s whims. She had apparently managed to throw things behind Grey’s seal when she did not want to remember them, how much harder could it be to throw cold water past Nova’s seal?

The tendrils pulled her through the floor. The sensation of a cool and viscous liquid pressing into her coat as she sank, made her shudder.

A moment later, she was sharing the flesh of her body with Night. She lifted her physical hoof in front of her face. She knew Night could stop her at any point she wished. She was just borrowing the body, but the level of trust Night was showing her brought a bright smile to their face.

She trotted in place for a moment, noting the small differences between her mental body and her physical one, Here she was a little taller and felt stronger. For the first time since the temple, she actually took the time to really look over her form.

She stretched, studying each muscle, marvelling at how much healthier she looked compared to her mental self.

Twilight was moving her own body again. She could feel Night with her, sharing all of her senses, stopping her from walking into things whenever she was distracted. Honestly, she was finding it hard to remember how she coped by herself inside her own head.

Twilight headed to the front door of her home, or second home, her Library felt more like a home than the crystal castle ever did. She lit her horn and opened the door stepping out into the sunlit morning.

Ponyville seemed normal. It was strange, after everything that had happened, for it to be unchanged. She knew it was silly, but that was how she felt. It felt wrong that the world has just continued on despite all the terrible things that had happened to her.

Stop being so melodramatic, Night berated Twilight.

ok, ok, Twilight replied hastily.

She began walking, noticing the many eyes on her, Nova stirred inside her with a low pleased rumble. Twilight let her eyes sweep over the ponies watching her. She could feel her stride lengthening, her body change position as she almost floated along the ground, her wings slightly spread, horn held high.

Twilight thought about how she was moving and wanted to blush, but Night would not let her.

You are a beautiful mare, others can see that. Why hide it? Night chided affectionately.

Because Nova is browsing the ponies of Ponyville like Pinkie in a candy store. Twilight embarrassingly whined.

Twilight could feel her face pull into a smile as a faint laugh escaped her. Is that such a bad thing? Night asked.

Twilight let her eyes sweep over the crowd, most were just happy to see her out and about, so she waved and smiled at them. Some though, some had a look of desire, a look of hunger, which her little display was feeding. She caught herself before she smiled invitingly at them. It did feel nice to be wanted, but between Dreams and Luna, she was unsure if she should even be looking at other ponies.

The slightly annoyed feeling bubbling up from Nova was all the evidence Twilight needed to know Nova disagreed. Twilight bristled. You won't be happy until you get a chance at everypony, will you? Twilight thought at Nova.

Relax, my Host, Night commanded.

Twilight felt the concern and worry start to lift from her. She let herself smile back to some of the ponies that showed interest in her. Not enough to invite anything just enough to show she appreciated their interest in her. Once or twice, she might have given the impression that she might be interested later, but she was unsure.

She felt a giggle wanting to escape her. She felt so out of place, but it was nice to be wanted, to be desired. Night what did you do to me?

Simply told you to relax. Night said playfully.

That does not work. Twilight half-heartedly protested, she was finding it hard to be annoyed.

Very well, I am using my emotions to influence you, like how you can send your emotions to me, I can send mine to you. In this case, I am sending you a sense of calm to help you think straight and enjoy yourself more.

How could you do that to me? Twilight demanded, trying to feel outraged and failing.

Easily, you've been doing it to me since we entered our pact. You almost drowned me last time when you went science mad. So, turnabout is fair play, and this is even for your own good.

Twilight huffed and was surprised to notice Night had let it carry over to their body. A few ponies gave her a strange look. She looked sheepish and waved off their concerns.

Twilight felt her head snap around, focusing on a black coated elegant unicorn mare with a vibrant green mane. She had no choice but to take in her appearance as Night let their eyes wander over the mare.

Oh don't tell me you are starting to act like Nova. Twilight said indignantly.

No, but there is something about her, I can almost feel her desire for us, and there is something familiar about her.

Twilight would have face hoofed if Night had not walked them over to the mare. The mare’s eyes widened for a moment before a pleasant and welcome smile shaped itself on her beautiful face.

“Not many ponies have gazes intense enough I can feel it from the other side of the street, somepony would think you’re interested in me.” Night playfully said ending with a hint of seduction.

The mare’s smile grew, “Well, I’m Emerald Shade, and it is my pleasure to meet you, Princess.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “And it can be yours if you want.”

Your kidding, right? Twilight commented. Adding an invisible sound barrier so she did not have to worry too much about what other ponies might think.

“And if I do want?” Night purred. Twilight could feel her being amused with Twilight’s exasperation.

“I'm staying in room twelve in the inn.”

Night leaned closer, inhaling her scent. “Then I might see you later,” She whispered before moving away from Emerald, letting her tail caress along her flank.

Did you have to do that? Twilight asked.

No, but I wanted to. Night responded.

Are you actually going to take her up on her offer?

Shall we move along with your plan? Night dodged the question.

After you answer my question. Twilight replied. She most certainly wasn't going to let Night off that easily.

Night let out a happy little laugh. I think I might.

Just the thought of what her friends would think filed her heart with dread. You can’t, what will the ponies think?

Night shrugged their wings, Then I will ensure she stays silent.

Twilight panicked thinking of Night taking advantage of, and then killing the poor mare.

Don't be such a foal, I was merely going to get her to promise not to reveal anything and be discreet about my arrival.

Oh. Was Twilight’s only response, she felt a little silly for overreacting and a little bad for judging Night so harshly.

Now shall we be about it? We are burning the damnable daylight.

If she was going to complete her plan, she was going to need Starlight’s help. Given how it went last time, Twilight wasn't sure how that would go.

Starlight was still staying in Trixie's wagon. Was she avoiding the castle or just keeping Trixie company?

Twilight wanted to stop but Night kept her stride elegant and with a slight sexy sway to her flanks. With an effort of will, Twilight exerted control and stopped the sway. That was more than enough for her. She made her way toward where Trixie had her wagon parked.

A familiar pop of displaced air and suddenly Little Star was standing on her back hugging her neck. “Mummy, Mummy can I go and play with my friends?”

Just like that, any bad feelings Twilight had for Night were gone, she could feel Night's affection for Little Star.

“So long as you promise to only cast spells that you have mastered the counters for,” Twilight said. “And no inventing spells for the CMC.” Night added with their shared voice.

Star looked a little disappointed for a moment but then nodded. A scroll emerged from one of Star's pockets, and she noted down the new safety rules when dealing with the CMC. Star banished the scroll then smiled nuzzling Twilight.

“Now go and have fun.” Night said.

Twilight did not get the chance to add anything before Star vanished in a flash of magic.

You know I think she likes to teleport more than you do. Night playfully jabbed.

Twilight thought for a moment. You might be right. She decided to start counting Star’s and her own teleports just to check.

As the pair of them, sharing the body, got to where Trixie had parked her wagon, Twilight felt something. A hum of magic echoed in Twilight’s horn, it only took a moment to deduce that Starlight or possibly Trixie has set up a detection spell geared to detect Alicorns.

Well, that seems welcoming. Night commented dryly.

A ripple of Starlight’s magic and then the mare herself was standing in front of Twilight.

“Good morning, Starlight,” Twilight said in a friendly tone, she could only imagine what she must think of her now. By what she had been told, Starlight had the misfortune to see some of what had happened to her on the altar.

“Morning, how are you today?” Starlight asked, an edge of concern in her voice as if she was expecting Twilight to not be ok.

Twilight smiled, “I’m fine, thank you.” She did here best not to worry that she was feeling fine. She was fairly sure that feeling fine, after everything she had been through, was listed in one of her psychology books as being a very bad thing. With a mental shrug, she threw that idea away. She had things to do.

Starlight looked doubtful. Twilight could still see a slight haunted edge to her friend’s eyes. Dreams had told her that Starlight had the misfortune to have seen a little of what happened to Twilight on the Altar.

“Are you sure you’re alright? No offence but after what you went through you really shouldn't be,” Starlight pressed.

Twilight pulled Starlight into a hug with a foreleg. “Despite everything, I have never been better.”

Twilight had to do her best not to giggle at the disbelieving look that crossed Starlight's face. “Really, I have a daughter, I am probably getting married to Luna, all my friends are safe, I saved all the ponies in Manehatten. Yes, what I went through was horrible, but in the end, it was just pain.”

Starlight just stared at Twilight, not even blinking for long seconds.

I think you broke her. Night observed.

“...just pain... Just pain, I only saw it and what I saw still haunts me. I’m not sure I’m ok after that, how can you possibly be? Trixie only heard it, and she has been having nightmares every night. Princess Luna has been working overtime on just us two, and you are bucking telling me you’re fine?” The concern and worry finally bubbling forth from Starlight as she let it out was comforting even if it was vexing trying to work out how to calm her friend down.

Do you think she will explode, faint or attack us if we just say yes? Night thought to Twilight her mental tone highly amused.

Twilight just ignored Night and hugged Starlight tighter. “I’m an Alicorn, we are kinda made to deal with things like that and just bounce back. I will be fine, I’m more worried about you and Trixie.” she pulled back and offered Starlight a warm smile.

“It will be fine,” Night said.

Twilight could feel her channeling some of her Alicorn magic as she spoke. Starlight seemed to calm down, her tense muscles loosening and she allowed herself to warmly return Twilight’s hug.

Mind control? Really? Twilight mentally almost shouted at Night.

You know it is not. It’s simply the influence Alicorns have over normal ponies. You have been doing it to all of Ponyville every day since your ascension. In fact, thanks to me, you are doing it less than normal.

I never do that intentionally, and that felt different than just seeming impressive or terrifying.

So your friend is now calm, get on with it.

Twilight took a breath, grateful that at least Nova was behaving. Perhaps it was just a rule that she had to have one fragment misbehaving at any given time. She would need to get more data to check.

“Starlight if you are feeling up for it, I have a favour to ask.” Twilight softly said.

“Hmm” Starlight cooed leaning into the hug.

What did you do? Twilight asked patiently.

Nothing you don't know of, I am guessing she just had not been sleeping properly with her marefriend waking up with nightmares all the time.

She does not have a marefriend.

Really? Those two are too close to be anything else.

“Starlight? Trixie is...” Trixie’s voice called out from inside the wagon. A moment later, the blue mare’s head poked out of the wagon. “Why are you hugging Starlight?” She asked, leaving the wagon and approaching.

“The Great and Powerful Trixie is most disappointed with you simply teleporting away.” Trixie directed at Starlight. Upon getting no response, she poked her with a hoof.

“Morning, Trixie,” Twilight said, offering a smile.

“Trixie demands to know what the hay did you do to her?” Trixie demanded.

“She was just freaking out, I helped her calm down… I was not expecting it to be so effective.” Night offered in her defence.

Twilight could feel Night stirring their Alicorn power, likely considering how to use it to solve the problem Trixie was going to be.

You will never learn if you just keep relying on that. Twilight berated Night. Now try and use what you have learned, from watching me, to solve this problem with words alone. Twilight instructed Night. She knew she should feel a little guilty about using Trixie as a lesson like this, but… it was Trixie, and as much as she disliked the fact, that made it easier not to be.

Fine… I will give you your sport. Night mentally huffed.

“The Grouchy and Annoyed Trixie demands to know what you are going to do to fix it, or is she going to be forced to turn you into a teacup?”

Twilight sensed Night forming a mental projection in their doorstep just to fall over laughing.

Night did her best to smile warmly and hide her annoyance at the mare. “Starlight will be fine, the only reason she is having this reaction is due to how tired she is.”

Night channelled some unicorn magic but not through her horn. Twilight wanted to shudder and giggle at the same time. The familiar energy infusing her body in a way she had never felt before. The power took shape. Twilight guessed it was a strange version of a Transmutation ward, to stop Trixie from turning them into a teacup.

Trixie raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

Twilight locked down their Alicorn magic, yes she knew that Night could override it, but it made her point.

“What do you want me to do, or are you jealous that she is hugging me?” Night snarked.

Trixie stuttered for a moment. Twilight wanted to facehoof, that was not how you deescalate a situation.

With her aura, Night pulled Trixie over, forcing her to join in the hug. “There, is that not better?” Night asked

“Whher...?” Starlight blearily asked as she tiredly nuzzled against Trixie.

Night carefully stepped back from the hug, letting the currently clingy feeling Starlight, embrace Trixie. There, solved. Night mentally stated to Twilight.

That's not what I meant. Twilight’s mental voice was exasperated.

Night let their body smile happily at the two mares. Is there a problem? Starlight seems comfortable, and we are not currently a teacup.

After a moment of enjoying the surprise hug, Trixie blushed and pulled away. Starlight was slowly recovering. Trixie checked to see if she was alright. She was watching Twilight warily.

After coming to her senses, Starlight spoke. “Twilight you told me I should not use mind magic on my friends.”

“I did not…” Night started. Seeing the disbelieving look on Starlight and Trixie’s faces, she raised a hoof in placation. Very well, I will tell you a secret, but you have to Pinkie Promise not to tell another soul.”

Starlight looked doubtful but complied, Trixie needed a bit more encouragement form Starlight.

“It was not mind control, it was simply part of what it means to be an Alicorn.”

“What do you mean?” Trixie demanded.

Night sighed. “Alicorns are literally made to rule ponies. Because of this, it’s hard for me not to influence the ponies around me, my words are more convincing, my ideas sound like they are wiser than they might be. If an Alicorn shows up on a battlefield, all their allies are inspired and their foes quake in fear.”

“So are you saying just being an Alicorn means you have some sort of mind control aura?” Trixie asked

“Not mind control more like … an inspiring presence?” Night explained.

“So, what happened to me?” Starlight asked.

“I just commented you should relax…. Unfortunately, you relaxed a little too much.”

“How can you do this to the ponies you call your friends?” Starlight questioned with reproach evident in her voice.

“Look, do you think being an Alicorn comes with an instruction manual? It’s been happening since these things turned up,” Night said, flaring her wings. “Unfortunately, Celestia did nothing to tell her ‘Faithful Student’ anything about this.”

The whole thing seemed surreal to Twilight, Night was aggressively trying to be reasonable, it was strange, but at least she was not trying to compel her friends.

“That’s still mind control, but considering you lack practice, I forgive you.” Starlight said. It pleased Twilight that her student had come so far.

“Thank you. Unfortunately, I can’t really turn it off yet,” Night said.

“Trixie expects some sort of reimbursement for this violation of her being,” The showmare said, looking at Twilight.

Twilight had a sinking feeling in her stomach, Night was feeling like she had a wonderful idea, a slight hint of glee radiating from her.

Twilight felt Night quickly break off a fragment and dispatch it on a mission to the library.

What are you doing? Twilight asked suspiciously.

“I know how I can repay you.” Night used her horn to create a flash that looked like a teleportation effect as a book was hoofed up by the fragment from her shadow. “Here,” Night said, offering the book to Trixie.

You can’t I haven't finished reading that one yet… and it’s illegal for ponies to know some of those spells. Twilight frantically responded.

Trixie’s awed look made Twilight almost want to cry. It was a first edition book, a compilation of all illusions spells known five hundred years ago, including more than a few that were illegal for ponies to know. She was going to read that later today if she had a chance.

Night made a thoughtful noise. “There are a few spells I can’t let you learn in there… unless you want to join the guard.”

So Sparks, which ones are illegal?

Twilight’s aura snatched the book back, she felt a hint of glee for a moment at having the book back in her hooves.

This one. Twilight thought about the page containing the first of the forbidden spells.

Night reached to tear the page out.

No! Twilight cried out in her mind, panic and rage building. A few motes of fire forming on their body's mane.

Ok, ok calm down that was a joke. Night mentally placated, her own concern obvious to Twilight.

Twilight’s mental tone was full of annoyance. You are nowhere near as funny as you think you are!

Sorry if I am a little low on experience on being funny, I thought sharing jokes were what friends and family were meant to do. Night replied.

Leave the poor innocent books out of it. Twilight threatened.

Twilight realised she was stroking the book lovingly. Looking up, she noticed the strange looks both Starlight and Trixie were giving her.

“Do you think she's lost it again?” Trixie whispered to Starlight, but to Twilight’s Alicorn senses, she might as well have shouted it.

Twilight quickly lit her horn conjuring blank pages out of nothing but raw magic itself. She was too rattled to concentrate enough to open one of her pockets, so she just threw power at the problem. Using a copying spell to move the legal parts of the book to the fresh pages, she then bound them all together with a cover the colour of Trixie’s coat. She even used a quick burst from the ‘cleaning spell turned disintegration spell’ to etch in an image of Trixie's Cutiemark on the cover.

“There you go, am I forgiven now?” Twilight said, spinning the new book and presenting it with a flourish.

“Trixie will admit, it’s a start,” Trixie said not able to hide the smile and look of hunger she directed at the new tome.

Starlight bumped Trixie and whispered, “Don't push your luck with the Alicorn who admitted to having unconscious mind control whose mane was on fire a moment ago.”

Twilight did her best to not smile and pretended she did not hear the whispered comment.

There was a long, painful silence which Starlight broke. “So what did you need my help with?”

“Cooking, or more precisely finding a recipe,” Twilight said.

“Twilight, you’re the one with the library, why do you need Starlight to find a recipe?” Trixie asked.

“Well… the recipe is... “ Twilight began, “Kinda lost in time.”

“WHAT!” Both Trixie and Starlight shouted.

Twilight felt at ease walking through the Everfree forest, she was an Alicorn. She had enough power to destroy the whole forest, nothing in it could be a threat to her, as long as she saw it coming. With Night here as well, Twilight did not have a worry in the world.

It had taken only a few minutes to explain that there would be no danger, no evil altars and nothing objectionable to Starlight. Trying to leave Trixie behind took ten minutes before Night just gave up on the idea and brought her along as well.

A book floated in front of her as she trotted along. Many years doing so around Canterlot have given her a seventh sense for avoiding objects when reading. Well, ok, it was a navigation spell, but she kept that little secret to herself.

Twilight glanced over to the two other ponies with her. Starlight was cautious but fine, she was powerful and knew it. She could use her magic to overcome almost anything. Add being able to teleport almost as well as Twilight herself, and anything she could not defeat she could flee with no issue.

Trixie on the other hoof was paranoid at every little sound, every motion of the trees a possible threat. Trixie was no coward, at least when she was not facing an Ursa. Her horn radiated a hint of power, she was clearly keeping it ready having her magic available at a moment's notice. She had it just below the level where it would start to glow.

Twilight could not help but notice the few times Night used their eyes to observe Trixie. She seemed to have an appreciation of the more physical unicorn. Clearly pulling her wagon all across Equestria had done something to her body that Night appreciated. After consideration, Twilight found herself possibly agreeing with the assessment.

Do you think she would be capable of doing veiled casting? Night asked with interest.

Twilight almost missed a step. Shaking her head and extending her magical sense towards Trixie, she examined her ley lines.

Trixie had weak earthpony ley lines as well as the expected unicorn one, all connected to a powerful wellspring. She’s a hybrid?

Could you not tell by how developed her legs are? Night asked.

A quiet rumble from Nova added her approval. Twilight would have to really set some time aside to work on the ‘apply cold water to Nova’ spell soon. She did her best to ignore Nova. She must have put a lot of work into strengthening her unicorn ley line.

She noticed her companions were looking at her again. Twilight wondered how long it would be before they tried to get her into a padded cell.

Night was laughing in her mind again. You are staring at them and haven't said anything for the past ten seconds.

Twilight smiled. “Sorry, I was just thinking,” she said aloud.

Trixie pressed closer to Starlight. Twilight could see the concern for, and fear of, her in their eyes. It hurt a little bit to see it, but she could understand it.

Night turned from them and started walking again. You can ogle your mini-Dreams later. Night thought at her. Gesturing with an elegant flick of the wing, for them to follow.

A low growl and the sound of rustling leaves caught Twilight's attention, she felt her ears twitch, rotating to locate the threat.

Night took full control of their body, her hooves taking a fiercer stance as she turned to face the sound, horn alight.

Starlight's eyes widened for a second, a moment later she lit her horn, teleporting herself and Trixie to the other side of Twilight.

The glowing eyes of multiple timberwolves crept in to view, Twilight felt a spike of worry even as Night relaxed her body language.

Three powerful kinetic bolts tore from Twilight’s horn. Night’s aim was perfect. The ‘low’ powered siege spells slammed into the wolves, sending them flying. Their forms smashing through multiple trees as their bodies came to pieces with the forces imparted upon them.

Twilight could feel Night’s grin. This was all just a game to her. The dust cleared to a large swath of destruction and a few scattered remains of the timberwolves.

“Good reflexes, Starlight,” Night praised the unicorn, looking over her shoulder.

Trixie lifted a hoof and pointed, Night followed the hoof seeing the broken fragments of the timberwolves, as well as the fragments of the trees from the destruction she caused, drag themselves across the ground. They reassembled into one creature. A huge timberwolf Alpha was coming to play.

Night clapped their hooves together in glee. “Perhaps you might prove to be a challenge.”

Would you at least TRY to pretend to be me? Twilight’s mental voice practically shouted at Night.

“Are we sure we want to be in this forest with the crazy mare?” Trixie whispered again.

“We can’t just leave her here on her own, not in this state.” Starlight returned the whisper.

Can’t a mare go monster hunting anymore? Night thought loudly.

I hunt books, Twilight commented with pride.

It's made from wood, we could turn it into a book. Night playfully insisted.

Night was too slow to stop the earthpony strength enhanced face hoof that Twilight delivered to herself.

Owch Night mentally exclaimed.

The timberwolf roared.

Night glared at the wolf and bellowed back in the full Royal Canterlot Voice, “YOU STAY OUT OF THIS!” The wolf was knocked back several body lengths.

“...the buck?” With the ringing in her ears, Twilight could not tell if it was Starlight or Trixie that said that, but she agreed.

Now do you know a spell to turn that thing into a book, or do I get to do things the old fashioned way?

Why would I have a spell to turn a creature into a book?

Well, at one point, you preferred books over ponies, so it could have been an elegant solution.

Twilight felt Starlight’s magic surge, a moment later and she was somewhere else.

“We’re safe!” Trixie exclaimed, now hugging Starlight.

“Twilight…” Starlight started in a calm tone. “What was that all about?”

Night focused on Starlight, Twilight kept her jaw closed. Night taking the hint, only ranted at her, Do you know how hard it is to find a sparring partner as an Alicorn? I was hoping for at least a small challenge there, but noooooo, somepony had to teleport us away instead of just watching the show.

Twilight felt very much put on the spot as Night seemed to take a mental step back. “A lot has changed since I went through was you saw and what you heard. I know I'm in denial, but I'm dealing with it in the only way I know how. A chance to vent like that would have been useful. As an Alicorn, if I don't find a way to get rid of my darker feelings, they might act on their own.”

“After all, just look what happened to Luna some thousand years ago.” Night added for Twilight.

Trixie gulped. Starlight took a few steps towards Twilight. “If you need anything…”

“Thank you.” Twilight sighed, “I think I am going to be a little bit out of sorts until the individual that attacked me is either in Tartarus or Celestia’s garden.”

“Aren't you going to try and reform them?” Starlight enquired.

Twilight growled, Nova’s influence breaking though before she could catch it as flames billowed from her mane. The pair of mares backoff from the wave of heat. Terror appeared on Trixie’s face as Starlight started preparing spells.

Night grabbed her mental collar and dragged her from the body, dumping her back in the mental doorstep.

“Sorry,” Night said in a tone that was anything but, as the flames died.

Twilight just lay on the obsidian floor in the mindscape breathing heavily.

“Sorry,” Night said again in a much kinder tone,

“Trixie thinks it would best if she went back to town now.”

Night’s attention fell to Twilight, Are you calm enough to grant that?

Twilight lit her horn in the mindscape, reaching down into the reflection and enveloped Trixie in her magic. One flash of magenta light, and the showmare was gone.

An expression of fear crossed Starlight’s face. She quickly cast a few scanning spells, looking more and more at ease with each one.

“Do you doubt my ability to teleport a single pony back to Ponyville from here?” Night spoke.

“Your ability no, but I didn’t see your horn light up.”

oops Twilight thought, pressing herself though the floor, once more moving to shared the body with Night. As there was no objection or resistance, she figured it was alright.

“It’s something I’m practicing, called veiled casting. Once I get it down, I might be able to teach you.” Night said.

“I see. I would like to learn that when you figure it out. I’m still worried about you, but you seem to at least be able to get yourself under control. If you ever need anything, though…”

“Thank you. So about that time viewing spell?” Twilight asked eagerly.

Starlight nodded

Night grinned, picking up Starlight with her hooves and flying off. “To the kitchen!”

CH 29.2 Visions of Historical Confections

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Starlight was being carried in Twilight’s hooves as if she weighed nothing. It was hard not to feel like a toy being carried by the Alicorn. She could feel the powerful muscles moving with each wingbeat. The whole time not a single expression of effort crossed Twilight’s face. She was grinning happily, darting playfully around in the air.

Rounding a corner and tucking her wings, Twilight let them fall through a hole in the ceiling. As gravity took hold, Starlight could feel a small amount of panic build, a teleport spell came to mind. Only her trust for Twilight meant she did not cast it immediately.

Suddenly Twilight spread her wings, one powerful flap was all that was needed to arrest their fall. As thick dust scattered around the room, Twilight’s rear hooves set down on the broken tiled floor with a faint click.

Slowly the dust settled, revealing their surroundings. The ruined kitchen had most definitely seen better days. Starlight could not even imagine what it would have looked like in its prime. Currently, it was only barely identifiable as a kitchen. The large fireplaces and work surfaces were covered with debris from the ceiling and overgrown with plants from the Everfree trying to reclaim the building with its wild nature.

Some of the happiness faded from Twilight as she looked around. Starlight could feel the slump to her teacher's body as she carefully set her down on her own four hooves.

Starlight could not figure out why the sight of the ruined kitchen caused her friend to fall into such a state of melancholy. Twilight walked over to a high shelf and looked mournfully at the remains of a shattered jar on the floor. With her aura, she picked up the pieces, slowly fitting them together, rotating what Starlight could see was now taking the form of a cookie jar.

What is going on with you? Starlight wondered to herself. Was that a tear in Twilight’s eye?

With a flash of magenta magic, the cookie jar was whole once more. A hint of a smile played across Twilight’s face as she started to place the jar atop the highest shelf. She paused seemed to nod to herself and teleported the jar away.

Starlight took a single step towards Twilight, whose head snapped around, for a moment eyes with an alien intensity looked out from her friend’s face. Twilight blinked in confusion, it seemed as if she had forgotten Starlight was there.

“Twilight?” Starlight asked, careful not to take another step. Something in Starlight just knew that doing anything to startle the mare would end badly.

The strange look in Twilight’s eyes faded, another blink and it seemed Twilight had returned, her friend, her teacher, smiled back at her. The feeling of danger receded, being replaced by the warmth of her friend’s kind eyes.

“Yes? Are you ready?” Twilight asked eagerly.

Starlight nodded, she would have to be careful for now. She needed to find out what was wrong with Twilight. The Elements of Harmony were keeping secrets ever since Twilight returned to Ponyville. She had no clue what it was, no one did. Something had happened while she was away. There were rumours of a falling out between Twilight and Celestia. Add to that how strange Twilight was acting today, plus the events from the temple that she was doing her best not to think about.

Starlight knew she needed to talk to somepony but who? Princess Luna? Princess Celestia? Spike?

“Equestria to Starlight?” Twilight’s soft voice asked.

Starlight looked back at her mentor. “Sorry, I got lost in thought there for a moment. The spell, right. How far did you want to look back?”

“One thousand, one hundred and twenty-two years, four moons and six days,” Twilight said tapping a hoof to her chin. “Less three hours.”

“You want to look back how far?” Starlight asked in disbelief, not only at the amount of time but how exact Twilight’s target was.

Twilight smiled. “I just need you to cast the spell, I will be providing most of the power.”

“Still, that's a lot of magic… are you sure you’re up for that?”

“Yes,” Twilight stated confidently.

Starlight looked a little unconvinced. “We are not skipping any of the safeties.”

“Of course not, too much good has happened to take that risk,” Twilight concurred, “Now please cast the spell.”

“Why are we doing this again?” Starlight asked.

“We are finding the recipe for... some of Luna’s favourite foods that have been lost to time,” Twilight said. Starlight could not help but wonder what her friend almost said.

“So definitely no torture, screaming, monsters or things that will require Lunas help for the next month?”

Twilight advanced upon her, moving closer, a little too close for comfort, with the slightly strange look in her eyes. “This is just preparing for a celebration. The time we're looking into will have nothing untoward to be seen.” Twilight said, pressing against her as she started massaging Starlight’s back and shoulders, “Now just take a breath and calm down.”

On one hoof she had no idea where Twilight had gotten so good at massages, if she were at the spa, she would happily relax against Twilight. Given they were in the middle of the Castle of the Two Sisters deep in the Everfree and Twilight seemed as stable as one of Pinkie Pie’s towers of cakes… she was more guarded.

Starlight nodded, still a little worried as she started to cast her spell. Twilight moved closer, still placing her hooves on Starlights shoulders as she slowly lowered her horn to touch both of theirs together.

Starlight felt small, Twilight was physically bigger than her, something that she never really noticed in everyday life. Now she was looming over her. The knowledge of how physically strong she was almost made her tremble. The power radiating from Twilight’s wellspring was more than enough to daze a lesser pony.

“Just concentrate on the spell,” Twilight said, her tone soft and calming. Starlight could feel the fear fading, so what if Twilight was acting strange, she was still her friend. The edge of worry retreated, leaving Starlight feeling safe, she had nothing to worry about in the forest. Twilight was here to protect her.

Starlight let her eyes close for a moment, all the complexity of the spell sorting and ordering themselves in her mind. It was second nature to her to adjust all the needed variables. Over a thousand years? She almost wanted to laugh. Twilight said she had enough power, and it was not like her to be wrong about the math.

She pushed power into her horn as she started the spell. She had nowhere near enough magic to reach that far back. A blazing magenta light illuminated the room as Twilight lit her horn, pouring power into the spell.

There is so much. Starlight's eyes went wider and wider. And itch, tickling, a warm sensual caress, she could not quite pin down the sensation running through her horn. She almost wanted to giggle or moan with the sensation, but she could not quite figure out which to do.

Twilight slowly pulled her head back, leaving a sun-bright line of magic connecting their horns. A cocky knowing grin sat on her muzzle. As the draw of the spell increased, Twilight did not even react as more and more power flowed in from the Alicorn.

Starlight may not of had the same head for numbers as Twilight did, but she knew when she was feeling so much power that numbers ceased to matter. Once again she was grateful she ‘battled’ the Princess of Friendship, and not the Armoured Alicorn she knew could casually throw death spells around that had escorted her to the temple.

Despite the calming presence of Twilight, the increasingly intoxicating feeling of the unlimited power bending to her will, caused a fearful shudder to shock Starlight’s body. If anything went even slightly wrong, she knew she would be dead, completely desegregated before she knew what had happened.

A single wing wrapped around her in a reassuring embrace. Starlight leaned into it, using the physical contact to ground herself in the moment.

Pushing aside her fear, Starlight turned her attention to the room around her. The damage of centuries was restored in a few heartbeats. The sheer amount of power being channelled through Starlight’s horn should have had her rolling on the floor in pain or have blown her head clean off, but neither happened.

It took a few moments to realise most of the power was not flowing directly through her horn’s ley line. Instead, it was perfectly mirroring the patterns it was making so closely that any adjustments Starlight made were instantly copied by Twilight's spell work.

If Twilight had said what she was going to try, or how much power she would be using, Starlight would have refused outright. She was glad she did not. Just seeing this magic was giving her so many new ideas she might be able to use.

Starlight turned her attention away from the arcane and focused on her mundane senses. The world of the past sat there. If it was not for the safety on the spells, she could reach out and touch it.

Ponies rushed around, preparing for some sort of feast. A little of the food seemed familiar, but for most of the dishes, she had almost no idea what they were. Twilight trotted over and reached out to snatch a star shape confection from the side, her hoof passing right through it. Twilight growled, before shaking her head.

Twilight sat on her haunches looking around, fondly casting her eyes over the ponies. It almost seemed as if she knew them. A dozen scrolls burst into the air around her, each picking a pony and following them with text appearing upon them. Starlight glanced at one. It was recording everything that pony was doing, even sketches were drawing themselves. As more text was written, the scrolls kept getting longer and longer.

Twilight looked to the doorway and let out a thoughtful hum. “Stay here,” Twilight said in a gentle voice, but the edge of command was firm. Starlight felt her bodies unwillingness to move despite her mind's desire to follow and find out what her teacher was up to.

A pulse of magic reinforced the time spell. Perhaps Twilight was just moving further afield? Another pulse and one of the magical safeties was carefully parted. Panic rushed through Starlight, she had to do something but channelling this much power left her paralysed. She could not stop the spell without Twilight dialling back her magic. The best result would be an explosion. Did she plan this?

A blue aura enveloped the past’s cookie jar and floated it over to the window. A young teenage Princess Luna had a huge victorious grin as she stole a hoof full of ill-gotten cookies before stealthily returning the jar to the top shelf.

The main cook smiled, flicking her eyes towards the window. The rest of the staff did their best to keep their laughter silent as the Alicorn of the Night snuck away, ‘apparently’ unnoticed. “She is going to spoil her dinner again,” one of them said.

A heavy pulse of magic made Starlight’s eyes cross, it took a few seconds before she could see anything again. She sensed the safeties of the viewing spell were back in place.

Twilight came trotting in with a book, a few trays of plants and a box suspended in her magenta aura. The proud look on her face falling slightly when she caught sight of Starlight’s unhappy scowl.

“Twilight…did you deliberately bypass the safeties?”

Twilight hung her head a bit. A bit of shame showing on her face. “Yes, I did…”

Starlight’s expression hardened as she levelled her gaze at Twilight, “I’m not so mad about the fact that you did it, considering the closed-loop nature of what I detected. I’m more mad about the fact that YOU spent three years convincing me that the safeties were critical so we COULDN’T affect the past, THEN you go and exploit that to CHANGE THE PAST ANYWAY!” She yelled.

“Nothing was changed.” Twilight retorted and an edge of a growl to her voice before taking a long calming breath. She continued, her voice sad and almost a whisper. “I needed ingredients that went extinct several hundred years ago. The recipe was lost. I didn’t take anything from the past, though. I just duplicated what was there. The seeds that I have are taken from a jar that was still here in the present, but the seeds had turned to dust. There is nothing missing to change anything.”

“You say you’re alright after what happened to you on that damnable altar, but the more I see of how you’re acting, the more I see that you are in fact NOT alright. You need help! If not from me, then get help from somepony. Please.” Starlight finished her rant quietly, tears starting to well up in her eyes.

A few waring expressions battled across Twilight’s face. Irritation winning for a moment before sadness claimed the day. “I will do what you ask, I will arrange a meeting with Luna and Cadance.”

“Why not Celestia?” Starlight asked.

A single mote of flame danced along Twilight mane before it faded. “Haven’t you heard?” She said, voice sounding hollow

“No,” Starlight felt her gut sink, for a moment, Twilight felt dangerous again.

“The reason I’m not alright isn’t because of the altar, It’s because of what Celestia did to me.”

As Twilight continued to explain, Starlight listened with growing horror. She had used mind control, used forbidden magic, but not for anything like that. She enslaved ponies, but she did not cut up ponies souls. To hear that Twilight was on the verge of forgiving Celestia was almost unbelievable. Most of what happened was the Warlock’s fault, the same pony who assassinated the original Twilight with a book. If it was not for how terrible the whole situation was, she would laugh at the idea of the Princess of Books being killed by one, but none of this was a laughing matter.

If she came across the Warlock, she would have words with him. Starlight was fairly sure Twilight world forgive her for how much forbidden magic she would use with those words. It would be for a good cause though.

At the end of her tale, Twilight seemed dead and listless. All the energy had fled from the powerful Alicorn, now she was a pony Starlight could defeat. Even the power flowing to Starlight’s horn weakened, causing the world of the past around them to lose most of its colour.

Starlight collected herself, “I can’t bring myself to even imagine what that was like for you. I can’t even wrap my mind around that. But that doesn’t matter to me. You are my friend and I’m going to be here for you.” She said as she pulled Twilight into a hug. Twilight let her eyes close, wrapping her wings around Starlight. Starlight’s ribs creaked. She bit her lip as she was about to protest, but a few drops of warm liquid falling onto her back, stilled her complaints.

Motion and a Trixie like hat caught her attention. Looking over Twilight’s shoulder, Starlight saw a young-looking Starswirl the-not-yet-bearded poke his head into the kitchen and look around. Starlight took this as a sign to end her spell. Twilight effortlessly reduced the power in turn with her until they were once again looking at the ruins of the present.

Starlight stroked Twilight’s mane reassuringly. It felt odd to be the reassuring one. She would be talking to Princess Luna at the next available opportunity, assuming she could still breath after this Alicorn grade hug.

CH 29.3 Rainbow Challenger

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Rainbow Dash was having a good day, at least until Trixi had appeared back in the center of Ponyville in a flash of Twilight’s magic. The showmare looked shaken, her knees were trembling as she checked her hat and cape.

Rainbow sighed and grumbled for a moment before slipping from her napping-cloud and zipping down to the ground.

Trixie jumped almost out of her cape. Rainbow had to struggle to keep her laughter to herself.

“Hay Trixie, where did you come from, I just saw Twi’s magic bring you here, where’s she at?” Rainbow asked cheerfully.

“The Great and Powerful Trixie can report that mare is insane.”

“Yeah, she sometimes goes a little crazy. Anything new?”

“Does she normally attack timberwolves for fun and clap her hooves happily when a larger one shows up?”

“Huh, yeah, that’s new.”

“We got to safety via teleport and then Twilight teleported Trixie back here. That’s the last I saw. To be honest, Trixie doesn’t know where I got teleported from in there.”

“So she’s in the Everfree?” Rainbow questioned.

“Where else do you think timberwolves would be around here?”

“Thanks.” Rainbow nodded and flew off, her departure sending Trixie’s hat flying off.

It did not take her long to do a quick flight over of the Everfree. Three long scars could be seen from above, each over a hundred ponies long. The howls of timberwolves and the cries of the forest creatures could be heard, but there was no sign of Twilight. Fortunately, there was no blood or drag marks, nothing to make her think anything permanent had happened to the egghead.

Rainbow knew a lot had happened to Twilight, a lot of bad stuff. The injuries that covered her body when she returned to Ponyville were no laughing matter. It was amazing how she was already healed and moving around. Any normal pony would be in the hospital for at least half a year with the wounds she saw. The shouting match with the Princess was another crazy thing. Now going out looking for trouble in the Everfree? This was not normal. Maybe she should have spent the time to fetch Fluttershy for this, but there was no time.

Doing another quick fly-by over the forest, there was still no sign. “Where are you, Egghead?”

An hour or so later she saw Twilight happily trotting through the forest with Starlight following her. It didn’t look like anything was wrong. Watching carefully, she studied her movements, Twilight was moving well. Every hoof placed just so as she kept a level and efficient gate through the uneven forest terrain. “What sort of book teaches that?” Rainbow said.

Twilight looked straight up at her. She heard that? Rainbow thought with disbelief. Nah, she must have seen me.

Just to test, she looked away and said. “Starswirl is the worst mage.”

Her world became filled will magenta light and then she was wet, wet and cold. Somehow she was in the Ponyville fountain. “Ok, she could hear me. How the buck could she hear me?”

“Maybe because you’re shouting?” Berry Punch said.

Rainbow pulled herself out of the water. A quick shake and a flick of her wings and most of the water was gone. A quick spin in the air would be enough to get rid of the rest. She quickly glanced over her feathers, they all seemed mostly in order. She would need a careful preening to make sure she was in top-notch condition, but for daily flying this was fine.

She headed back over to the Everfree forest. She knew roughly where Twilight was, and as she was walking with Starlight, they could not have gotten too far.

Drawing closer, she saw a hoof full of trees go sailing into the air, a blast of Twilight’s magenta magic erupting from the area. She grabbed a cloud and moved closer to keep an eye on Twilight. She could see Starlight still walking next to Twilight, looking concerned as she glanced at the destruction. A line, three ponies wide and fifty ponies long had been carved through the forest.

Whatever Twilight was using would be very good at carving roads and other things that earthponies needed. The question is when did she start using such things on creatures in the Everfree Forest? Fluttershy is going to throw a fit over this.

Moving her cloud perch closer, she decided to test Twilight’s hearing again. “Since when did your hearing get so good?”

“Since I ascended.” A smooth voice replied from the cloud right next to Rainbow.

Rainbow spun, wings ready for action turning to face a grinning Twilight. She paused, not fully entering her combat stance. “Twilight?” She asked.

“Rainbow?” Twilight questioned back in a teasing way. “Who else do you think I would be?”

“Why are you blowing up parts of the forest? They're not Filming a Mac Neigh original down there.”

Twilight looked down at the forest, and she shrugged her wings, “I did not fancy a timberwolf trying to rip my leg off as a snack.”

Rainbow felt her stomach twist at hearing a pony talk so freely about being eaten by a predator. What else was wrong with her? She bullied through the sick feeling at that mental image with pure bravado.

“So did you need anything? And sorry for teleporting you away earlier… you just said something bad about Starswirl. The only reason that is not a crime is because Celestia will not let me add that law for ten more years. So get anything bad you have to say about him off your chest in the next nine or so years.

Rainbow looked at Twilight. “Yeah right, even I know about free speech, you’re kidding.”

Twilight smiled warmly “Yes, I'm kidding, I see those books are doing you good.”

Starlight floated into view, surrounded by her own aura. Unicorns flying without earning their wings was still cheating in Rainbow’s book. “How long were you going to leave me down there on my own?” Starlight asked.

Twilight waved a hoof dismissing the issue. “I was still watching you, and even without me, your own abilities are enough to deal with anything in the forest.”

“Even a hydra?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“She could probably kill it in a spell or two,” Twilight calmly added.

Rainbow could see her own shocked expression mirrored on Starlight’s face as they both turned to face Twilight.

“What? Is there something on my face?” Twilight asked.

“Twilight, since when are you so violent?” Rainbow asked. She could see the question was one Starlight wanted answered too.

Twilight sighed and lay down on the cloud. “Do you know how many dangers are in the forest? I am just teaching them that ponies are not food.“

Rainbow looked unimpressed. “You know Fluttershy isn’t going to be happy, right?”

“Are you going to tell her?” Twilight narrowed her eyes, staring straight into Rainbows own.

Starlight took a few steps back, even raising a light shield spell, watching Twilight fearfully.

Completely unbothered by Twilight's attention, Rainbow responded. “You kinda blew up part of the forest, she will find out.”

The glare was gone, and Twilight smiled warmly again, “Don't change Dash, Don’t change.” She said darting in and pulling Rainbow into an affectionate hug.

Hugs were good, better than blowing up parts of the forest or worse, parts of Ponyville. Rainbow wrapped her wing around the Alicorn, it was a little awkward due to the size difference, but like she was going to let a little thing like that get in her way.

Twilight nuzzled Rainbow and used her Aura to pull Starlight into the hug. “Thanks for caring you two.”

Rainbow could see the look of panic as Twilight effortlessly brushed aside Starlight's magical defences as if they were not there. It was only a moment, but she was sure that Starlight was truly worried about what Twilight might do to her.

“I will never harm any of you,” Twilight said, moving her nuzzling to Starlight. Starlight melted into the embrace, all worry just lifting from her like early morning fog under a mid-day sun.

Rainbow glanced at Starlight without turning her head. That speed of changing emotions was more Pinkie’s thing. Compared to all the crazy stuff that had been happening, and Twilight redecorating large tracts of the forest, this simple hug was preferable. Even if it was a little too heavy on the feels for Rainbow’s liking.

Twilight sighed. “I have a lot I need to do if I want to get everything ready by the end of the week, are you two… No, I will just teleport you, it will be safer.”

“Wait…” Starlight stated before magenta magic enveloped both her and Rainbow. Ponyville appeared around them.

“Well, at least she didn’t dump us in the fountain.” Rainbow huffed, she did not like being ditched by her friend. Taking to the air and rapidly taking position hovering right in front of Starlight, she began her questioning. “So Starlight what gives, why were you out in the Everfree with Twi and why is she acting all gritty action hero towards the timberwolves?”

Starlight looked around, drawing Rainbow's attention to the crowd that was starting to pay attention. “Right, not here, I get it,” Rainbow said, grabbing Starlight and flying off with her.

Starlight slumped. “You know I can fly on my own.”

“Oh, yeah.” Rainbow let go.

A small “epp” escaped Starlight before her magic caught her. The gaze Starlight levelled her way was not enough to stop a chuckle.

Rainbow glanced around, making sure the airspace was clear and nopony would be in earshot. Well, other than Twilight with her freakishly good hearing that she seemed to have now. But she was not here, so they were safe. “So spill,” Rainbow demanded, crossing her forelegs, hovering close to Starlight.

Starlight was the most comfortable non-winged pony in the air she had ever encountered, she folded her forelimbs as well looking unimpressed at Rainbow. “Look, I know you have been hiding things from me about what is going on with Twilight, but I don't care. She is hurting and needs help. You and the rest of the girls need to be there for her. I'm not sure the others will be able to cope with what I know, but I think you are strong enough to.”

Rainbow’s wings almost missed a beat, she was not expecting anything so serious.

“You know she was captured, yes?”

Rainbow nodded, “Or something like that.”

“So you know what happened to her?”

“Yeah she broke out and saved herself, she somehow got a daughter in the mix, and now she is marrying Luna.” Rainbow shrugged, none of it made much sense to her, but hay, as long as they were happy.

“... So you don't know what was done to her while she was captured?”

“Just get to the point!” Rainbow’s voice was angry, this was sounding bad, she did not like this, her legendarily short patience was long exhausted.

Starlight gulped. “She was pinned to an altar with metal spikes as… as parts of her was cut away. Rainbow, she was tortured for hours. There was no way a normal pony could survive what happened, let alone going around seeming normal now,” she said before taking a breath, trying to hide the fact that her body was trembling.

The first thing Rainbow knew about the fact that she had stopped hovering was Starlight's magic grabbing her. This was bad, her friend was hurting, hurting so bad and she didn’t notice, worse she was not there to stop it, to save her. It felt like a deep pit had formed in Rainbow's core.

“Now she is on a hair-trigger. If she sees any threat to anything she cares about, and she is ready to throw around lethal spells. The sort of things that can level half of Ponyville if she misses.”

Starlight’s words snapped Rainbow's attention back, pushing with her flight magic she broke Starlight’s hold on her, regaining control of her own flight. Anger, hate, self-loathing, all warred in Rainbow for second place. First place among her feelings was firmly her concern for Twilight.

Resolve hardened, she would be there for Twilight and nothing would stop her. After what she had learned, she would make sure that Twilight would never be alone again. For Twilight's benefit and everypony else's safety, she did not want Pinkie Pie popping up with a surprise invite and being smited by a jumpy Alicorn.

Twilight had flown back into town about an hour later. Rainbow had to admire her form. She had gotten far better at flying since last time. Did she have a new teacher? Those wing movements seemed to come from a different style of training. Some were old techniques proven to be a little inefficient, so were no longer used. Maybe Luna was teaching her out of date stuff from a thousand years ago.

She had flown straight to a large clear area and started working some sort of glowy magic. Nothing was exploding so Rainbow thought it was a good thing. She thought about going down to talk to Twilight, but she seemed to be concentrating hard. Instead, she settled down on a cloud to watch and be there should Twilight need her.

After half an hour, Mayor Mare approached, seeming pensive. A short conversation and a large bag of bits sent her galloping away in a hurry.

Rainbow wanted to nap but she would not, she had to keep watch over her friend.

Twilight continued doing boring magic stuff.

A flash of light from below woke Rainbow, “Buck!” She cursed herself. She was meant to stay awake. The cloud had just proved too comfortable.

Twilight was now prowling? moving? dancing? It took a moment, but Rainbow recognised Twilight was practising some sort of martial art, but not one she had seen before.

She would do a move apparently perfectly, and then a moment later do it wrong, sloppy, slow. With one spinning lunge she even fell over. It just made no sense, how do you go from professionally trained to rank amateur in one moment and then back again.

Twilight stood flicking her wing, the feathers vibrating with arcs of electricity. She flicked her wings forward and then the electricity violently discharged all around her, singeing her feathers. The energy escaping into the air, dissipating and making her mane stand on end. She jumped back and ended up on her rump in a very unflattering display of clumsiness.

Twilight sighed, it seemed like she was halfway between laughing and annoyance. She shook her head slowly in disapproval. She gracefully retook her hooves, standing tall and powerful, her mane and tail straightened themselves. Her aura enveloped her wings straightening each feather one by one, a few being discarded for being too damaged. A small shudder went through Twilight's body. Clearly, she was still not used to restraining the reaction preening could bring.

Twilight expertly took that predatory fighting stance, all grace and potential for rapid motion. Each wing flexed and curled slightly, the feathers shaking as energy built in her wings and travelled down each feather. Bright arcs of intense lightning played over the wing, forming a sheath of energy around them.

She took a single calm breath before surging into action. Twilight leapt into the air, the force of her pushing off the ground leaving two hoof-shaped craters. She slashed forwards with both wings, the electricity leaping from them like a pair of coiled serpents striking. With a massive crackling boom, the bolts of searingly bright lightning crashed into the ground.

An explosion sent small bits of debris and clouds of dust rising. As the dust began to clear, Rainbow could see Twilight looking at a scorched cross mark in the middle of a crater on the ground.

“That was awesome, since when did you become a bad flank Twi?” Rainbow called down from above. Before she knew what she was doing, Rainbow was already there, barely noticing the ripples in the air she caused as she drew nearer. It must have been some of Twilight’s magic doing something.

Twilight smirked as she looked up at Rainbow. She raised a wing and twitched a single feather causing lightning to ripple over it. “You mean this?” Her friend asked teasingly.

“Yeh, that.” Rainbow flew down to get a closer look.

“Oh, so you are not interested in this then?” Twilight said, flicking her wing out and causing a bolt of lightning to leap from her wing and slam into the magical wards. Magenta runes erupted in the air, highlighting the large dome both mares were within.

“Buck yeah.” Rainbow was now hovering muzzle to muzzle with the smirking Alicorn.

“I’ll tell you what,” Twilight purred. “You beat me and I will teach you, I beat you, and you do whatever I tell you for an hour. Interested?”

Rainbow could not deny she was interested, very interested. What she could do in her shows with a trick like that was enough to almost make her drool, let alone how useful it could be in a fight. She let her eyes meet Twilight’s own. “What's that challenge?”

Twilight’s horn lit, Two weapon racks appearing. Wingblades, hoof blades, swords, daggers, darts, lances and many more. “A duel.”

“What the hay, I don’t want to hurt you Twi.” Rainbow protested.

Twilight laughed and pulled a blade from the rack. She smiled as she ran it across her foreleg, instead of a wound a stripe of red colour stained her coat. “See, perfectly safe, they are training weapons. So think you can win in a first to ten marks, duel?”

Rainbow smirked. “Of course, any rules?”

“No going outside the dome, only strike with the training weapons.”

“No magic.” Rainbow insisted.

“Naturally, this is a pegasus duel, I will be only using my pegasus abilities to keep it fair.” A small pouch popped into existence, from within it Twilight extracted a horn ring and four bangles. She placed the bangles on, one on each leg. As each one snapped shut, Twilight’s body seemed to sag slightly, her grace failing, almost as if she weighed more. “That takes care of my Earthpony strength.” Finally, she levitated the ring over her horn, she shuddered, closing her eyes as she let the ring slide down her horn. She flinched as if struck.

Rainbow was next to her, wrapping her friend in a concerned hug. Twilight took a deep shuddering breath before calming and leaning her head on Rainbows shoulder. “Thank you,” She whispered. After a few seconds Twilight pulled back, once more a confident smirk on her face. “Now we are even, I am in essence just a pegasus now.”

“Sure you don't need a head start?” Rainbow stated, with a smirk of her own.

“Oh, I like your spirit, let’s see if it lasts.” Twilight purred, beginning to circle Rainbow.

Rainbow just stared, this sensual side of Twilight was new, not something she had ever seen before. She could see that the grace that came from being far stronger than she should be, was gone, but she still moved well. She seemed dangerous, attractive and the sort of pony that should be in the Wonderbolts.

Rainbow let her eyes trace over Twilight's form, noting each muscle. She was fit and well-toned. When had she had the time to do that much exercise, and why they hay did she not get Rainbow involved? “So how do we do this?”

Twilight flicked a wing at one of the racks. “Pick your weapons, as many as you like, and then we go to opposite ends of the arena.”

Rainbow nodded, doing so. Twilight went over to inspect her choices. The wingblades looked cool but could interfere with her flight. After a long, for her, consideration of three seconds, she made her choice. Spiked shoes for all four hooves. She had martial arts training, this way she could use it fold out swords attached to her forelegs for a bit of reach and a lance for a powerful opener.

She flexed and stretched under the weight of it, she could easily fly with it, but it would change her aerodynamics.

As she strapped on her equipment, she looked over her shoulder at Twilight. Rainbow froze, her friend was already equipped and licking her lips as she looked at Rainbow hungrily. Her eyes were intense, and she could see desire as Twilight’s eyes trailed over her body.

Rainbow looked away from Twilight’s eyes and focused on the equipment she had chosen. Wingblades were clearly her primary weapon, a good choice assuming she knew how to use them. Tucked stealthily in between some of her feathers, five darts were nestled in each wing. Sneaky Egghead. Hoof blades were on her front hooves and a helm with a long-bladed horn concealing her own rounded out her armament.

“You ready, my little Dashie?” Twilight purred.

“I’m always ready, now cut out trying to mess with me and let’s get on with this, I got lightning wings to learn today.”

Twilight let out an amused, happy laugh. “This is going to be fun.” She flared her wings and leapt into the air taking flight. Unlike last time when she was training, her take-off only stirred the dust from the ground, no new craters at all.

Rainbow watched Twilight for a moment. She was circling like a bird of prey, moving lazily but ready to act at a moments notice. She was starting to understand why a pony like Starlight could be scared by this change in Twilight. Rainbow was made of sterner stuff that though.

It took no effort at all to burst into the air, claiming the height advantage over Twilight.

Twilight smirked and beckoned with her hoof, Rainbow could almost hear her say ‘come get me if you think you can’.

Rainbow Dash could not help but grin. This sort of competition she only ever shared with Applejack. Never once did she think she would be in the air, decked out with toy weapons, reenacting a duel from ancient pegasus history, let alone with Twilight. “I hope your ready, Egghead,” she called out.

Rainbow had a lance, so she was going to try it out. Forcing all of the power she could out of her wings, she rushed towards Twilight, leading with the lance.

Twilight's eyes widened, clearly not expecting the speed, she managed to touch the lance with one of her hoofblades, the weapon leaving sparks but doing nothing to save Twilight. The lance impacted just a little left from where she was aiming, sending Twilight spiralling away with the magnitude of the impact, a glowing red circle appearing at the point of contact. But thankfully, no injury.

“That’s one-nill to the best mare here,” Rainbow taunted as Twilight finally managed to get her flight levelled out halfway to the ground.

Twilight's face split with a feral grin. “Is that the best you can do?”

“You want better, I’ll show you better,” Rainbow shouted back, diving at Twilight, leading with the lance again. Descending, her attack was faster. It took her an instant to notice Twilight was no longer there. A moment later she collided with a small flock of darts, multiple small red marks blossoming on her coat. Looking around, she saw Twilight falling back-first towards the ground offering a mock salute with her hoof blade. That sneaky Egghead, must have left them in her wake, hiding them with her own body.

“Four-one to me, Rainbow Crash,” Twilight mocked with a playful grin. Rainbow had not seen her friend looking this happy in years, it was amazing. She felt almost guilty now that she was inevitably going to win, despite this mild set back.

The moment Rainbow was waiting for happened. Twilight spread her wings rolling over and starting to regain her control. Rainbow spun in the air throwing the lance, aiming to catch her opponent in the back in the brief instant she was looking away. The Wonderbolt herself powered down towards the ground, her hooves bracing, ready for the impact.

Rainbow heard the lance hit moments before she impacted the ground, channelling her power to soak the impact. She pushed off the ground, looking up and seeking her friend. She saw Twilight had fallen for it, she was now looking up in the direction the attack had come from, not below from where Rainbow was now approaching. Twilight may be smart, but she was nowhere close to Rainbow's speed.

Left hoof, right hoof and a spin kick with her rear legs, sent Twilight hurtling off to the side. She rolled in the air, barely getting her hooves under her before she hit the ground.

“And the crowd goes wild,” Rainbow called out, doing a victory lap of the arena. “Five-four to me Twi, what you gonna do?”

Twilight dusted herself off and watched Rainbow from the ground for a moment. She deliberately spent the time to move two darts from her left wing to her right. For a moment it looked like she was going to say on the ground, but as Rainbow was winning that would be like admitting defeat.

Twilight started galloping, circling around the circumference of the dome, after half a lap she started to fly, spiralling up. She was clearly using the dome wall to protect her flank. Her eyes stayed focused on Rainbow.

Rainbow quickly glanced at the lance, if she went to reclaim it, she would be giving the height advantage to Twilight. She did not need it. Movement flashed in her peripheral vision, Rainbow dipped her wing and rolled under a dart. Twilight had used her momentary distraction to try and bring them to a draw.

The two mares circled, both focused entirely on the other. Twilight seemed to be already tiring, most of her stamina must come from her currently suppressed earthpony magic. Rainbow would have to insist that next time they trained, Twilight put those bits of metal on.

Twilight rushed forward taking a straight line at Rainbow, without the major speed advantage Rainbow had, it was a losing plan. So Rainbow knew Twilight must have a trick. Rainbow spent a fraction of a second actually thinking, Twilight had been outsmarting her, now normally she would dodge up to gain the height advantage. Twilight would know that.

At the last moment Rainbow forced herself down with her wings flicking her leg and snapping one of the blades straight, she held it out, the vibrations running through her leg letting her know she had struck true.

Twilight had thrown two darts, one high, one to the left where she guessed Rainbow would have evaded to. Her growl of frustration turned into a happy laugh as she rolled in the air, throwing the rest of the darts at Rainbow with a flick of her wings.

A burst of wing power moved Rainbow down and away from the darts, the force of her wings scattering them to the edges of the arena.

She could see Twilight’s eyes glance to the darts and then she tapped her own horn as if just remembering she couldn't use her magic to call them back to her. Shaking her head, she focused back on Rainbow.

It was clear even hovering in place as Twilight was doing, was taking a toll on her now. Her breaths were ragged, she was panting and her coat was starting to shine with sweat due to her exertions. Despite that, she still had that grin on her face.

Rainbow was wondering if she was thinking of a book or if Twilight had a sudden liking for ancient sports. Seeing how much her friend was struggling, she decided to end this quickly.

She watched Twilight’s eyes waiting for her to blink. In a burst of prismatic colour, she launched herself at Twilight. Rolling in the air she lined up a double hoofed buck, arresting her momentum by giving it all to Twilight. Two red hoof prints marked Twilight as she was propelled towards the dome wall, Rainbow could see the pained expressions as she pushed her wings as hard as she could to try and stop herself in time.

The dome flashed red leaving another red mark upon Twilight. One more point and Rainbow would win.

Twilight spent nearly twenty seconds getting herself back under control and heading back towards the arena. The twinges wracking her body with each beat of her wings made Rainbow feel just a bit guilty. The now tried and goofy grin doing a lot to keep Rainbow form rushing over to check if her friend was alright.

I could just hover here for a few minutes and she would crash all on her own. Rainbow thought, looking at the exhausted mare that was her opponent. She could barely move her wings right and yet, she was still eager to continue.

Rainbow, slowly for her, flew towards Twilight, she deliberately gave Twilight a whole second to react, wanting to know what she would do. Rainbow launched forward with a powerful flap of her wings. Swinging one of the blades, she started to roll in the air as she brought a rear hoof in to kick.

The blade struck Twilight’s bladed helm. Who uses their head to block? She thought as her blade slipped off the helm, Twilight’s wingblade pushing it aside, allowing the horn of the helmet to crash into Rainbows gut.

It was simple reflex from her training to slam her hoof into Twilight’s barrel, scoring the final point. The dome changed colour, now displaying an image of Rainbow’s Cutiemark for all the world to see.

Twilight started falling from the air, Rainbow grabbed her. “That was fun,” Twilight said, hugging Rainbow.

Rainbow hovered there looking at Twilight, she never thought she would see her looking so utterly content at losing something. “Twilight… are you alright?”

“I’m great,” She answered nuzzling Rainbow, “We are so doing that again.”

“Maybe after you have a rest, you did good though,” Rainbow said, tallying her score. “Ten to five, not bad. You’re half as good as I am.”

“You’re certainly good,” Twilight said with a hungry look in her eyes.

For a moment, Rainbow nearly dropped Twilight in surprise, “Are you coming on to me?”

“Would you mind if I said yes?”

“Err, I got things I need to do…”

Twilight slumped. “Fine… Can you please at least take me to the ground and help me get this horn ring off?”

Rainbow quickly flew to the ground. Twilight was meant to be getting married to Luna, if it was not for that…well. She was very definitely going to be taking a cold shower when she got home.

After shakily getting to her hooves, Twilight presented her horn. If her wings were in a different position, Rainbow would think it was another attempt at, whatever the egghead was doing. Did somepony file some of Rarity’s books in non-fiction?

Reaching out with a wing, Rainbow grabbed the ring and lifted it from Twilight’s horn. Twilight shuddered and almost moaned as arcs of magenta energy sparked from the tip of her horn. She shook for a moment then opened her eyes, lighting her horn the four bangles teleported away.

Twilight took a single long, calming breath, just like that she seemed as fresh as she was before the start, She stood tall, her magic preening her feathers and cleaning her coat. Somehow her mane and tail just straightened themselves as if each strand just knew where it should be and placed itself there.

Being an Alicorn is cheating. Rainbow thought.

“Ah,” Twilight let out a happy little sigh, stretching seductively more than what was appropriate. A princess should not do that with their wings, especially not with that sexy smirk.

Rainbow Dash turned to leave. The sound of crackling energy gave her pause.

“So are you no longer interested in learning?” Twilight’s satisfied tone implying she knew she had just caught Rainbow.

Rainbow let her eyes narrow, oh she wanted to learn alright. But she feared what this Twilight would do. Was all her strange behaviour purely because of what had happened to her? Yes, what Starlight said happened to her was terrible, but she could swear this Twilight was practically another mare.

Rainbow turned back round to fully face Twilight. “So where do we start?”

Twilight smiled and sauntered over, again almost gliding over the ground, her earthpony strength seemingly making gravity and her own weight nothing more than a mere suggestion. Princesses should not sway there flanks like that. She spread her wings, each feather surrounded with a corona of electricity. With a flick of her horn, the dome became opaque, blocking out the view of the outside world.

The only illumination was the blue arcs of energy. Twilight leaned closer. “What you are about to learn is an ancient secret that had long been hidden by Celestia, you can teach nopony else how to do this without the direct permission of a princess.“

“Sure, sure I deal with stuff like that all the time at the Wonderbolts,” Rainbow said, trying to sound bored. She was trying to keep her eyes off the Alicorn before her and how good that lightning made her wings look. Fortunately, she had a trick, she started thinking of all the cool things she could do with that power, and her mind was away and gone off in a land of stuns and cool battles.

“Good, now shall we get started?”

“Yes!” Rainbow practically shouted.

CH 29.4 Hidden in Ponyville

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Elytron the changeling, currently calling herself Emerald Shade, was still in a daze. Twilight was interested in her, she had felt the desire, the lust. She had even given her room number to the Alicorn.

This was turning into the best-case scenario, one that was so unlikely she had not really prepared for it. She let her eyes linger on the purple Alicorn as she walked away. There was very definitely a sexy sway to her motions for the first few strides.

She slowly inhaled, trying to calm herself. The Alicorn’s emotions had hit her like a tidal wave. She knew that Alicorns were more powerful and she could not wait till later, assuming Twilight showed up. A single taste of her desire was almost like a drug. Her entire being craved more.

There had been a hint of something holding Twilight back that tasted like exasperation. By her actions, if she was having second thoughts, she had firmly pushed them aside. A lazy smile drifted onto Elytron’s face. After tonight, assuming there was a tonight, Twilight would be unable to have a single doubt about needing Elytron in her life.

Looking to the rest of the ponies, compared to Twilight, they now all seemed grey and lifeless. The only exception being Twilight’s daughter teleporting around gathering up the walking disasters known as the Crusaders.

Turning back to the pony food in front of her, she ate it with all appearance of enjoyment. She had been in Ponyville since the new Noble Guide made his bargain with the changelings. Too much was going on here and the Queen needed to know everything so she would not make another mistake, like the Canterlot Wedding.

The primary and secondary missions were right out. No changeling could teleport as frequently as Little Star and keep up their disguise, no matter how much love they were feeding on. So there was no way to take her place.

Twilight was another problem, noling could replace her knowledge, let alone her power. If the rumour of a heated exchange between Twilight and Celestia were true, there was no way any changeling could step into that role without knowing far more. With Chrysalis’ restrictions in place since her getting spotted as Cadance, the risk was just too great to be allowed. In a way, she was grateful, she did not want to have to stand up against an enraged Celestia.

Now with her goals not seemingly achievable, Twilight had just fallen right into her hooves. She bit her lip with enough force to feel pain. This was no dream. The question was, how should she take advantage of this.

Well, however it went, at least she would not be going hungry for a while.

A few hours later she was talking to Rarity about dresses, that mare could talk endlessly about the annoying garments. Given Elytron’s elegant appearance, there was almost no way to avoid at least having to model some. So taking advantage of it, she purchased some more… interesting garments for tonight should Twilight visit her.

Rarity’s knowing look promised she would be asking for details at some point in the future. Depending on how things went, Rarity might be getting more than she bargained for. If she could annoy her back or make her blush brightly, the amusement alone would be worth it. She wondered what Rarity would think if she knew whose benefit Elytron was getting her special order for.

Apparently, her friend Fluttershy was feeling lonely. One of her friends missed some sort of weekly tea again. By the sounds of it, she had been mostly staying at home, waiting on his return. If she could find out who it was that would prove an ideal opening for a love collector.

A wave of excitement flooded in from outside. She headed to the window of the boutique to look at what was going on. She noticed a moment later that Rarity had joined her.

Most of the ponies outside were looking to the skies. Twilight and Rainbow Dash were attacking each other with weapons. In a blur of motion, there was an exchange of blows.

“Oh’ my,” Rarity exclaimed with a deep pool of concern and worry rolling off her, twisting Elytron’s insides as if she felt nervous.

Elytron studied the two combatants, shifting her eyes just ever so slightly to magnify what she was seeing. Twilight was circling back, a goofy grin plastered on her face. Instead of wounds, there were faintly glowing red marks on her body. Some sort of training weapons, this sort of thing was yet another out of character action for Twilight. Is there a rival hive out there that has already replaced her? She thought for a moment before shaking her head, there was no way for a changeling to afford to radiate that much emotion for more than a moment.

“I’m sorry, Emerald, I have to get going, right now,” Rarity said as she used her magic to almost instantly close up her shop.

Elytron reached out and placed a hoof on Rarity’s shoulder. “No need. See those red glows? Those are marks from training weapons. The only way they could hurt themselves with them if they tried to eat one and choked on it.”

“How can you be sure?” Rarity asked with dubious acceptance. Concern wafting from her held in check by her more rational mind.

Elytron smiled, casting a pane of magic into the air and enhancing it to magnify what was viewed through it. “Just look at Twilight, she is grinning, unless she is Nightmare Moon she would not be grinning about cutting into her friend with wingblades, right?”

A pulse of alarmed panic erupted from the white mare. “Just look at what the poor dear has done to her mane,” Rarity said as she rushed off, leaving the medical supplies behind and grabbing tools much more suited for a fashion emergency.

Elytron shook her head and started packing her purchases and new dress into her saddlebags, leaving the agreed-upon price on the counter.

Elytron made her way back on to the streets of Ponyville. The small town was abuzz with chatter. Someponies were going on about the battle between the two mares and what it could possibly mean. The dome they had been fighting in was now completely opaque, allowing nopony the chance to look inside. That did not stop all sorts of crazy rumours though, form one killing the other to them being romantic partners.

The Pink Terror bounced happily by, getting party supplies. That likely meant she at least thought whatever was happening was a good thing. Elytron shuddered, she remembered her welcome to Ponyville party. The pink mare was more than a little overbearing. Her sugar-fueled high-intensity happiness was something that took time to become accustomed to.

The leader of the town, which for some reason that made no sense, was a common earthpony and not Twilight. No matter how much she learnt about ponies, it made no sense why they’d have one of their worker class in a leadership role. Yes, they were a little low on leader class ponies, only having four and a still-developing spare.

Walking past a pegasus stallion, she could feel a particular brand of anticipation. She felt greed and pleasure that she had taken to mean a reporter just had a scoop, and there would be an interesting headline in the morning. The attention focusing on the town could be … problematic. She considered just killing or having a drone replace the pony. No, that would prove unwise, as nice as it would be to have a pony they could afford to drain dry.

Elytron thought about how wonderful it would feel to drain the Purple Princess to a husk. She felt her mouth water and the endless hollow within her quake with need. That was something she would never be allowed more than a fleeting taste of. Twilight’s energy would be the Queen’s to consume in the end, and not a lowly infiltrator. No matter how good she was.

Resolving that she would enjoy whatever morsel of emotions she could get from Twilight, she considered how best to get the mare to feel stronger about her.

The store in front of her had a new sign informing passersby that it would be closed for a day next week by royal decree. Looking around, it seemed like every store that Mayor Mare visited was putting up a similar sign.

Moving a little closer to see the small print revealed nothing more only that it was all happening due to Twilight’s orders.

Up ahead the Mayor was dragging some construction ponies with her, pointing her hoof at some areas and gesturing wildly.

To one side, an azure showmare was threatening loudly to turn anypony that tired to move her wagon with being turned into a teacup. If the Princess wanted her home moved, she could come and ask her herself.

At this rate, half the town would be doing stuff under orders from Twilight. What was she planning?

The taste of the emotions from the town shifted to a mix between excitement and worry, the blend being different from pony to pony. She passed a store, from within she felt a mild imitation of her hunger. It was likely one of their money-grabbing ponies. The closest thing to a predator that existed in their weak species.

At least she managed to go about relatively unnoticed. She took advantage of it to do a little bit of spying. A glance at paperwork here, a stolen item there. Twilight’s distraction allowing her to achieve over half of her objectives of opportunity.

As she moved on, she overheard a conversation between two random ponies, they were so bland compared to Twilight; they were almost part of the background.

“I can't believe Twilight is throwing her weight around like this!” The first said.

“It is about time she had been a princess for years,” The second answered.

“She can't just do this!”

“She can, and are you seriously going to say no to her bits?”

Elytron shook her head and hurried back to the inn. After what felt like a very long day trying to blend in and seem interested in all this madness, she finally got to retreat to her room. A polite wave to the receptionist and she was at last alone. No matter how long she spent with ponies, they still did not make sense.

Elytron was laying in bed, it was late, but she could not sleep. Just the thought that Twilight might be arriving had her buzzing. If it were not for her disguised form’s lack of wings, it would have been very literal.

She was dressed in the white lace of her special purchase and had her eyes closed, resting as best as she could. The long socks were surprisingly comfortable and would feel nice used on a soft-skinned pony.

She suddenly sensed Twilight being inside her room, even though she had no idea how she got there. Opening her eyes, she looked up to see the Alicron’s hungry eyes devouring her body. The mare’s body was screaming her need, her lust. The fact that Twilight had picked her was almost unbelievable.

“Do you agree that you will not inform a soul of anything that happens between us? That anything you gain from me, or from knowing me, is your’s and your’s alone, you will never sell or give it away?” Twilight intoned.

“Of course.” The response came easily to Elytron. She would promise anything for the feast she was about to receive. It was not as if she would have to keep it anyway.

The burst of happiness coming from Twilight when she heard those words might have been suspicious if not for what happened next.

It was a long night, and not much sleep was had.

They were lying there, Twilight was calm, relieved and relaxed in the bed, absently trailing her feather tips along Elytron’s flanks.

She was no longer a bundle of repressed need and desire. Instead, a wave of quiet peace and contentment blanketed Elytron’s emotional perceptions. Even this peaceful moment was a feast too Elytron. It seemed Twilight screamed even her most gentle of emotions.

“You know, it is so tiring pretending to be something you are not. The urge to let one’s mane down and just revel in what you were made for.” Twilight let out a long sigh, “but no, if their Princess of Friendship was seen acting like that, there would be talk. The nobles would take action, and the rest of the Elements would be all judgemental. It would be so nice to be able to show my true colours, but alas the time for such things are lost to history.”

If she only had words to go on, Elytron would not have been able to work out if Twilight had a secret side to her or if this was just some abstract way of letting her know that she was screwed.

With the sense of wistful longing coming from Twilight, there was no way she was not being honest. “Why are you telling me all this?” Elytron asked.

“Because I know I can trust you not to tell anypony.” Twilight smiled softly. “Not being able to just be myself has been more stressful than I expected it to be.”

“Then, who are you?”

Twilight laughed. “I know who I was. Who I am .. is more problematic.”

“I understand, even if I can't exactly empathize. Going from a unicorn librarian to an Alicorn Princess. About the only things that did not change was your gender and colouration.” Elytron said, making sure to sound genuine.

“Quite.” Twilight's short responses did not display the slight annoyance she felt at Elytron’s answer. That did not stop it from being obvious to the Changeling’s emotional sense.

Rather than say anything else, Twilight used her magic to somehow acquire a bottle of wine and two glasses. There was no arcane vibration indicating a teleport or dimensional pocket being used.

Twilight poured wine for both of them, adding a small portion of silver liquid form a vile to her own.

At Elytron’s obvious interest, Twilight smiled with a teasing look. “I could let you try some, but you would lose the next week.”

“What is it?”

“A spirit infused with moonlight. A little trick I learnt from Luna. You may very well be the first mortal to see any in more than a thousand years.” Twilight said with a fond smile on her face, all hints of annoyance gone from Twilight’s emotional glow. “You still want to try some, don't you?” She asked, her smile taking on an amused cast.

“Is it safe?”

“Yes, the hangover is best described as the most vivid of dreams. The magic-infused within ensure you have no chance of dying of thirst or hunger until you awaken.”

What the hive’s alchemists could do with a sample of such a potent spirit. There was no way she could refuse this opportunity. Even if it proved an odd experience, at least she knew changelings could not be poisoned. Her mind made up, she answered. “Please.”

Twilight gave Elytron a long look before levitating a single drop of her own mixed drink and adding it to Elytron’s glass.

“That should see you able to walk tomorrow with few side effects. Other than what the wine causes.” Twilight cautioned.

A single sip was a far as she got before the world started to faded into stars and deepest night.

“Like the view?” A seductive purr came for a wickedly fanged face as slitted eyes seemed to pierce her soul.

Elytron shifted, her addled mind just managed to wave a single red flag. The sensation of her carapace pressing against something warm. The carapace she was meant to keep hidden at all times. She managed to just drag her eyes open to survey the spinning room she was in. Monsters and colours danced inside the walls, and the ceiling was wanting to eat her, but that was not important.

Closing her eyes and focusing on her emotional sense, Twilight was calm, at peace and sleeping. Elytron let out a relieved sigh, slowly shifting her form, keeping the flames of her change from contacting Twilight as best as she could.

Twilight’s wing pulled her close, the still sleeping Alicorn nuzzled her and began gently nipping at her with surprisingly sharp teeth.

The weight of something huge pushed down on her senses and sleep claimed her once more.

A shock to two of Elytron’s senses ripped through the veil of sleep. Her horn reported the pulse of a powerful teleport arriving. Her emotional senses noting a bright sense of joy and worry, with the worry winning by a large margin.

“Mummy, Mummy the moon is late, the moon is late.” A young fillies voice shattered the last hope of continuing her peaceful sleep.

Something stirred in the bed behind her, it was Twilight, her idle embrace still pining Elytron like a soft vice.

“My Little Star.” Twilight’s loving voice spoke. She was completely unabashed, the scent and appearance that would give away their activities didn’t even register to Twilight’s concern.

“The moon is late, is Mummy Luna going to be alright?”

Cold anger and determination filled the room from Twilight’s emotions. A moment later it seemed another pony was in the room, confusion and then, a huge burst of fear, protective love and hate suddenly shot through Twilight. To Elytron’s senses, it was like a double shot of coffee and being thrown into a winter’s lake.

Burning rage jumped in, drowning every over emotion in the room. Elytron wanted to hiss and growl as it started to resonate in her.

Searing pain snapped her mind clear as flames erupted from Twilight’s mane, charring the bed. She screamed as the flames started to burn into her coat. Twilight turned rapidly to Elytron, the flames dying in an instant as the second two sets of emotions disappeared almost as quick. She carefully released her hold, sparing a moment to inspect her wounds.

The young filly’s horn glowed, and the pain instantly vanished, a cooling sensation rolling over the wound. Elytron let her eyes fall closed as her body relaxed.

“Thank you, My Little Star. Go back and guard the castle,” Twilight commanded in a firm tone. “Emerald, I am sorry for hurting you, come to the castle later, and I will make things right.”

Twilight got up gracefully and stood. A single feather traced tenderly over her, avoiding the burns.

Elytron cracked open her eyes, Twilight was now standing, wearing blood-red armour and wingblades. Little Star was standing on the bed.

“Solar magic on the moon…” Twilight’s eyes narrowed dangerously as her horn lit. The Princess disappeared in a huge burst of magic.

Elytron recoiled and almost fell off the bed. The emotions, the magic it was all just too much for her senses. When the numbing and cooling spells wore off, she knew she could add intense pain to the mix too.

“Bye, Mummy’s friend,” Little Star said, teleporting away herself, thankfully with barely a ripple compared to Twilight's departure.

Elytron lay back down in the bed. Last night, the pulse of emotion was making her feel dizzy, the little bit of the love she absorbed was lovely, the rest though, made her feel ill. “Alicorns are a difficult and dangerous meal.”

She let her eyes close and reached out with her mind to the hive.

Speak. The mental voice of her mother the Queen answered the connection.

Two forces warred within her, the queen’s instruction and something else, something new. Elytron tried to answer, tried to inform her Queen about everything that happened. Not a single word formed, no images were sent. If felt like a weight had settled upon her neck, the more she tried to let her Queen know her report, the more she found that she couldn’t say anything, the more she tried, the more her mind shut down.

Useless Drone. Pain lanced through Elytron’s body as the physical rebuck caused her to convulse, the mental connection was violently closed, adding a migraine to her woes.

“What the buck is wrong with me?” Elytron said with dawning horror, “What did she do to me?”

CH 29.5 Problems with Being Tardy

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Celestia was perturbed, Luna was late. Given her sisters growing relationship with her former student, and all the effort her sister was putting into tracking down those who had attacked Twilight, she was no longer meeting at their usual place to tend to their celestial duties.

Celestia glanced at the hourglass watching the grains of sand slip from top to bottom. It was such an ingenious invention to tell time. She watched each grain fall one by one. She let her eyes close, listening to the sounds they made rubbing against each other and scraping against the glass.

She sighed, her Mask did not stop her, so there was likely nopony around to see her display of discontentment. It was time, if she left it any longer, ponies would notice and start to panic or think Luna was once more Nightmare Moon and was going to try and bring eternal night.

She would have to deal with the moon herself. Her golden magic reached out, the moon seemed to struggle. The freezing chill of its magic recoiling from the blazing warmth of Celestia’s. Please, the sooner this is done, the sooner I can see how Luna fairs. She thought.

There was a moment of what felt like indecision from the moon. A moment later it solemnly let itself be lowered. Celestia could feel the moon’s dislike for her, it seemed to loathe the touch of her magic, but for Luna’s sake, it relented.

Thank you. She mentally sent to the Moon truly glad she did not need to spend the magic to wrestle the moon into submission.

Raising the Sun to its place was simple, the burning orb of light was eager to do her bidding. The warm rays of its light racing over the land. Celestia let her senses ride with the line of dawn, her view sweeping over all of Equestria and beyond.

She felt her body let out a relieved sigh, she could happily spend all day warming her body in the rays of her Sun, scrying about as her whims took her. There was an outdoor musical concert scheduled in Trottingham latter she could watch, or maybe she might follow the family of phoenixes flying over there.

She idly wondered if she should make sure her next student got a phoenix egg, not a dragon’s. Phoenixes never got as large as dragons and so were much easier to keep in the palace. She noticed a group of fillies playing at a lake. Celestia smiled, it was very early for them to be up, but she spent a little of her power to make the sunlight a little warmer, a little more comfortable for them.

Daybreaker’s not-so-polite mental shove snapped her attention back to her body. Blinking once, she focused on the view from her balcony.

Your sister. Daybreaker cooly sated.

“Yes…” Celestia sighed, yet again, it was just going to be one of those days.

Celestia began her stately stride, long practice at it, meaning her Mask did not even need to adjust a single motion of her body. Stepping into the more public areas of the palace, she could feel her Mask take a grip of her facial features. She must have been frowning, last time her ponies saw her doing that, it caused panic buying of food and a run on the banks.

She wanted to stomp her hoof and snort in anger. Daybreaker’s laugh did not help her mood one single bit. You chose this path, your radiance.

It is what my ponies needed.

Daybreaker scoffed. And what do you need?

Nothing, my duty sustains me. Celestia could feel her Mask exerting more control, stopping her body from slumping and keeping her from dragging her hooves.

Admit it you are jealous of your sister, you know exactly what she has done with that hybrid she claimed.

Be that as it may, I can not let it affect me or my duties.

One of these days, you will find you have sacrificed everything and the ponies will just demand more.

Celestia ignored Daybreaker’s last comment, shifting her attention to browsing the minds of the ponies around her. Taking in their reactions to her, their idle thoughts, and seeking anything they knew about the current situation with Luna and Twilight.

There was lots of rummers, ideas and crazy theories. A few thought Twilight was manipulating Luna, using her situation as her saviour to seduce her. Others thought that Luna had used her dream magic or some sort of mind control to snare the asexual bookish mare.

Most were just happy for them, that thought managed to creep the barest of honest smiles past her Mask. She idly wondered what story that one slip of her expression would be spun into by tomorrow.

As she drew nearer to Luna’s section of the palace, she began getting more useful information. Luna’s guards were standing at attention and physically looking the respectful military force, their minds were anything but. Their minds were on last night's events, one Moonstone Striker earned a big payday from his bets as Luna had elevated Candice to one of her blessed.

Celestia would have missed a step if not for her Mask smoothing her gate. The Nightguard knew Luna was currently in bed with her newest Nightchosen. Anger flared in her, her sister had caused her to worry and have to raise the Moon because she wanted yet more carnal pleasure? Outrageous, she was even getting married to her Twilight.

Daybreaker chuckled.

Tell me what do you find so amusing ‘Warmind’. Celestia’s veiled threat to strip Daybreaker’s personality did not go unnoticed.

My apologies, your radiance. Daybreaker apologised sincerely. I was merely amused that your sister’s nature can still cause such reactions in you. How long have you known her? Do you truly expect her to change?

Celestia made her way to the doors to Luna’s room, a simple sound barrier was another part of the week’s magic budget spent, but it was necessary. Lifting her hoof Celestia pounded on the door, only it’s magical reinforcements keeping it from shattering or being ripped from its hinges and thrown into the room.

Luna growled from within. Disorganised hoof falls, some cursing in ancient languages and an uneven gate let Celestia know her sister was alive.

“Sister, Whys does thou waken us at such an hour?”

Celestia sighed, “Luna, you overslept and forgot to lower the moon, I had to do your duty for you.”

“Then you have my thanks, dear sister if that is all I shall return to my slumbers.”

Twilight ruptured into existence from a teleport, bristling with weapons and magic.

Celestia’s Mask kept her from flinching. Twilight had just managed to smash all her wards in the area. The alarms from the spells and the potent magical flux the younger Alicorn’s entrance had caused was almost an attack on its own.

Daybreaker watched from behind Celestia’s eyes noting every spell, every defence. Time and time again, her Warmind raised the threat level and appropriate amount of magic needed to neutralize Twilight as a threat. Daybreaker settled on three options if this turned into a lethal fight, and only one of them would leave the city standing.

Celestia could feel Daybreaker’s appreciation of Twilight raise, carefully regarding her stance, how each part of her body was held. Her Warmind liked what she saw and liked it, unfortunately, a little too much for Celestia’s taste.

“What have you done to Luna?” Twilight demanded, power causing the words to resonate, shaking the world. Twilight's eyes were glaring and glowing white.

Be careful, she holds most of the advantages right now. Daybreaker purred, complementing Twilight.

“Luna would you come out here and tell Twilight you simply overslept,” Celestia spoke calmly, only her face and head moving at all.

“Why? I am so enjoying her coming to my rescue. Mayhaps if I callout for help and claimed to be imprisoned she would burst in and save me?” Luna asked as teasingly as a tired voice could sound.

Daybreak laughed in her mind, sensing the imminent conflict fade into non-existence. One way your sister is superior to you, is her sense of humour.

That was not funny. Celestia responded.

Yes it was, and It almost perfectly defused the situation, just look at your faithful student now Daybreaker commanded.

Just like that the displays of her former student’s tremendous arcane might evaporated. There armed mare now looked like they were playing with their parent’s toys. Twilight looked a bit sheepish, regarded her armour and weapons. “Err, sorry, Princess.” She let out a fake laugh. “I seem to have overreacted.”

Celestia let herself smile warmly, “Quite, now shall we all have some tea before the day starts?”

Luna shadow stepped out of the room. She looked a mess, her mane almost completely flat. A large part of her magic having been depleted. Celestia could feel it regenerating, in two days and six hours she would be fully recovered from blessing her new Nightchosen.

Twilight’s desperate embrace of her sister would have definitely been lethal to anypony that was not an Alicorn.

CH 29.6 Family is Strange

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Candice found herself slowly waking up feeling groggy and slightly pained, she was tucked into Luna’s bed and was currently alone. She looked around seeing if there was a note, orders or anything else.

Welcome to the land of the living, again. Insight commented to her.

“What happened? I was waking up then suddenly I’m waking up again.” Candice inquired.

What happened was you decided to exuberantly fulfil part of your new oath and tried to give some of your magic to an exhausted Luna. She in turn, siphoned the rest from your wellspring and knocked you right back out. Try not to do that again, at least not when she’s asleep. Insight implored.

“I see. Well I hope that it was worth it. How well did you enjoy the whole event?” Candice asked.

I got to watch you change while you were mentally absent for a few hours. Though I could still feel our emotions, so I know things went well. I don’t know exactly what happened to you, that’s new for me by the way. Just that Luna managed to turn you on like you were a light gem, physically and metaphorically. Then you were gone for almost four hours with emotions of love and passion, and when you got back, you were passed out. Oh and the fact that you grew thestral features, that happened just a little bit after you started glowing. That’s a sensitivity effect by the way. Most just use it on the horn or something to incite a pleasurable reaction. Just so you know. Insight explained.

Candice pondered that for a little bit, “I see.” She then remembered what occurred last night. Her face blanched as she recalled what happened after the ritual. “Oh no, I got lost in all that was going on. I need to talk to Luna. I can’t let this harm Twilight...” She felt panic starting to overwhelm her normally logical mind. Deliberately taking a mental step back, she recollected herself. “Wait. I asked her about that. Insight? Why did I just freak out like that?”

Because our fear of hurting either of them is so extreme, it counts as a phobia. Insight intoned.

“I need to talk to Luna about that, and about you.” Candice determined.

Upon looking around something caught her eyes, a bowl of fruit with a mango sitting on top. She noticed that she didn’t have her usual strong aversion to the thought of a mango. The first and only time she had eaten one, she almost died from it as her throat started to close up. Fortunately, she had the wherewithal to hold her throat open with her magic until the symptoms passed. It was a decidedly not comfortable experience as she realised that if she didn’t have her magic, she would have suffocated to death.

Pulling her complaining body out of bed, she walked over to the mango in question. She didn’t feel the expected nausea at the thought of it anymore at least, so she moved in to sniff it. “Nope. Still smells the same, I’m not chancing that.” Instead, she grabbed one of the apples in the bowl.

She felt for the fangs that she was expecting to be there now. The sharp little things were not the supper long “vampony” fangs that one would see in the art of some books. Rather they were short little things that her lips could still cover easily even while talking. Though they were still sharp enough to cut into a fruit with ease. The apple didn’t stand a chance.

As she ate, she could feel a little of her strength returning.

Seeing herself in the mirror, she checked out the new changes. In the dark, her slit eyes still seemed to be normal just with the very top and bottom having a slight hint of a point, much like a cat’s eye in a darker room when the eye was fully open. Her ears being tufted in a bright silver was new. She had a silver sheen over the tips before, but now it was like she had metal silver ear-caps on, except that if you looked close enough, you could see it was fur. The same applied to all the tips of her feathers and it looked like she was wearing silver shoes now. There used to be just a hint of silver in her actual hooves, now they really did look like they were made from solid metal once you pulled a bit of fur up to see them.

“Who, pray tell, is Insight?” Luna softly whispered into Candice’s ear, suddenly seeming to just be there in the reflection, a few motes of shadow lifting from her coat.

Looking to the left, she saw Luna’s eyes peering into her own. The curiosity being evident. “She, I’m not sure how to describe her. She’s me but not me at the same time? She has the same emotions as myself, but sometimes they differ a little. She's at the same time my teacher and yet she feels like family. She talks to me, but other times I just get messages from her in my dreams. The more time goes by, the more she seems able to talk. To be honest, it’s one puzzle I have never been able to figure out. If I had to narrow it down to one word, I think I would call her either friend, or sister. I apologize for not telling you this before. I literally didn’t have a chance since our conversation from before the ‘interview’ and Insight doesn’t like others knowing about her. Yourself, Twilight and Little Star are the only ones I have been given the ok to tell that she even exists.” Candice explained.

“How did you sneak this past my sister?” Luna asked, stroking Candice’s throat with a wingtip.

Candice’s reaction seemed rather positive at the touch. “I don’t think she shows up to mental scans… Insight, how did you manage to stealth past Princess Celestia?”

She isn’t as good as she thinks she is. Insight replied with a rather irreverent attitude.

“Quote, ‘She isn’t as good as she thinks she is.’ Exactly what that means, I’m not sure. Insight doesn’t often explain herself, though I’m not sure why she distrusts Princess Celestia so much,” Candice said.

Luna’s eyes narrowed. Hello Insight. Luna’s voice sounded in Candice’s head.

Candice could tell that the shock she was feeling was mostly from Insight, but a little was from her as well.

Luna? Insight said in a shocked whisper. Her emotions quickly running from shock to desperate hope. You can hear me? Oh, please tell me you can hear me.

I can. I do wonder, however, what are you? I can tell you are not one of the normal maladies of the mind. Luna sent to Candice’s mind.

Candice gave a mental impression for Insight to go ahead as she was curious as well.

I’m not completely sure what I am now. I get the impression that I’m Candice’s twin from before our bodies fuzed in our mother's womb, but I’m not sure of even that. I mostly got that idea from what the doctors said likely happened when they looked at her wellsprings. I think I was the unicorn and she was the pegasus. I believe something saved us, though I don’t know what. It feels like it’s the same thing that gives me knowledge seemingly at random though. Candice, would you please grant me access to your wellspring? I would like a cast a spell. It’s not harmful, but if Luna can talk to you like this, then she can receive the invitation. Luna, I promise this isn’t harmful. It will help us communicate better. Insight said with a tone of hope.

Candice, do you trust her in this? Luna inquired of her Nightchosen hybrid.

I can feel her emotions. She wouldn’t be able to intend you harm any more than I could. Candice said, her own hope adding to the emotional mix.

Luna simply nodded, then Candice opened her unicorn wellspring for Insight to access.

A moment later both Candice and Luna got a mental knock of sorts with an implied request to join in the spell.

Candice saw the room vanish, and a forest clearing under the moonlit sky suddenly appeared. She could still feel the stone of the room she was sitting in however. The feeling of the night air was present but not quite as substantial as if she were actually there. The spell reported that this was mental imagery and they had not actually gone anywhere. Luna appeared but a second later. The look in her eyes seeming to indicate she got the same report from the spell. The smallest of smiles crossed Luna’s face as she took in these surroundings.

From the edge of the clearing, a unicorn that looked just like what Candice would have if she was born with a horn, stepped out toward them both. Fear but also hope brimming in her eyes. Insight closed her eyes and Candice could feel the emotion of resolve come forth from her. Insight walked up carefully to Luna and in the last few steps swung her forelegs into a hug. Insight’s eyes streaming tears of joy. “I never thought I would get the chance to even talk to you,” she half sobbed.

Luna just wrapped Insight up in a hug. Insight for her part just melted into it.

Luna looked at Candice and seemed to be reading her. Candice was feeling Insight’s emotions, after all. A brief moment later Luna reached out a wing and brought Candice into the hug as well.

Insight went in to kiss Luna on the cheek. Luna quickly glanced at Candice as she as she met the kiss with one of her own.

Candice just leaned into the embrace, she couldn’t stand between Insight and what she desired, not after an entire lifetime of not even having her own body.

Candice could feel Insight’s resolve of intent. She could tell that for Insight, if this was a one-time thing, the only shot she got, she was going to take it.

Candice put a hoof around Insight, “I’m sorry Insight, I didn’t know you were not there. If I had known I would have asked Luna to bring you and explained everything to her.”

“Don’t worry about that, the only thing I missed was the visual and even that I can still get from your memories. I got everything else I would have if I were there besides possible conversation with Luna. Honestly, it’s my own fault for keeping quiet so much.” Insight said with simple acceptance in her voice. Apologies obviously not needed here.

Candice just nodded, appreciating the explanation.

“So what are we going to do with you?” Luna asked Insight in a caring tone of voice.

“Fall in love and marry us?” Insight said in an innocent and playful but hopeful tone.

“I can give you the dream, but for you now you will have to get in line,” Luna said with a light and playful grin.

“Twilight’s at the front of that line,” Candice replies.

“I wouldn’t mind being in that line too,” Insight replied, feeling a bit playful.

Luna hummed thoughtfully then her horn lit in the mindscape and various spells washed over both Candice and Insight. It seemed as if most the spells were analytical or scanning spells of some sort, but others were complete unknowns.

A moment later, the mindscape flickered then reordered itself. The details becoming richer and more realistic, scents, minor differences in textures and all the small things that most illusionists leave out, now perfectly in place.

“That feels a lot nicer,” Candice noted.

“Nicer? This is way better than what I was able to make,” Insight stated as she hugged Luna for all her little unicorn body could manage. The feelings bring a renewed joy to Insight.

“Then we shall see to it that you can keep this,” Luna said before turning to Candice. “Would you prefer a spell brand or simply a piece of jewelry?”

Candice knew what spell brands were. Both had their advantages. Jewelry was more robust but could be stolen or lost. Spell branding, as well as being currently illegal, could fail if the brand was cut during combat. “How small could the spell brand be? Could it fit inside my ear or something similar?” Candice asked.

She could see Insight trying to hug Luna so hard she was trying to become one with her. Fortunately, Alicorns were more than a match for a unicorn’s strength. Luna probably just took what would be a combat grapple to others as merely being affectionate.

“I will just have to be careful which one to bite then,” Luna teased.

Candice wiggled her ears a little, bouncing the tufts a bit. Luna’s head darted forward like a viper as she snagged one between her teeth and nibbled its tip suggestively. Insight took this as a cue to return the favor to Luna as she somewhat ineffectually tried to grab the much taller Luna’s ear.

Candice noticed Insight’s lack of practice with a body didn’t help her either as she instead fell into Luna’s wing. Luna laughed softly “So my little pony, what do you want to happen this instant?”

Candice just smirked as Insight didn’t answer so much as just became as seductive a little ball of adorableness as she could.

After Insight being nothing but a disembodied voice for so long, she was not going to deny her anything. Though she was tempted to join in, she would not. She still needed to figure out what her relationship with Insight truly was. Until that was nailed down, she wouldn’t be joining her in any physical intimacy.

Candice was ripped away from the mindscape as a stinging pain erupted in her ear. Her hoof moved toward her ear, hitting Luna in the face and causing the pain to spike, a warm liquid down running down her ear.

It took her a moment for her mind to realized what had just occurred. “I’m so sorry, Luna. I wasn’t expecting that so soon. I didn’t actually hurt you, did I?” she said with genuine worry on her face.

Luna laughed, “You shall have to try harder than that to slay me.” Luna’s blood magic reached out, pulling the blood from Candice’s coat and staunching the wound.

“If I were to seriously have a chance of slaying you, it would be with a well-timed joke. I’m certain I wouldn’t stand a chance against you in battle,” Candice said with humor in her voice.

“Hmm,” Luna looked thoughtful “Poison joke as a tool for assassination… at least some of the inconveniences it causes could be considered extreme disadvantages should one have to defend themselves.”

“I don’t even really want to know what Poison joke would do to me. Probably turn me into a stallion or something.” Candice quipped. Her wings were struggling to try and reach the sky as she was fighting the natural reactions to feeling Insight getting what she wanted.

“Having trouble?” Luna asked teasingly extending her wing towards Candice's.

“Yes.” was Candice’s one-word response.

Luna let her wing fall, “Is it really too much of a burden? I can offer you a peaceful rest, a duty to be done or a similar distraction. I myself have things I must attend to, my sister will not let me tarry after being late with the Moon this morning.”

“If nothing else it’s an exercise in self-control. How long do you have before you have to get going? I was hoping to ask some questions at some point. There is also the matter of the phobia I just found out about before you showed up asking who Insight was.” Candice said, hoping she would get a chance to have that discussion with Luna.

“I should be able to exorcise any you may have from you, it will not be pleasant, but it is something I am well practised at,” Luna said simply.

“The phobia in question is that both Insight and I have this fear of hurting either you or Twilight. Not just physically but emotionally. I nearly freaked out earlier at the thought of what you and I did after you accepted me possibly hurting Twilight. Then I remembered that I had asked you about that. You had managed to assuage my fears since I was so distracted, but after the fact, it came back. I had to force the fear out.” Candice laid it all out.

“You have nothing to fear. Do you intent to betray us? Do you intend to attack anypony I care for? And do you intend to endanger Equestria? If not, then you have nothing to fear. No matter how your attempt to seduce Twilight goes.”

“You said before that if she had flames in her mane, that you would ask me to step back and let her reconsider. That came across as permission with some safety advice. Am I reading that correctly? I don’t want to misinterpret what you said.” Candice asked with just a hint of worry but still just seeking clarification.

“Yes, that is right, though if you did let her have her way with you in that state, I would not mind, but know that it would be her passion ruling her and not her mind. I don’t think she would care, but she might be embarrassed over it.” Luna ended with a playful smirk.

“I see. Thank you. I don’t think that it will be an issue then at this point. I’ll let you know if that winds up being inaccurate though.” Candice stated, her worry seemed to be assuaged.

“Now if that is all?” Luna said turning to leave letting both her wing and tail trail along Candice’s back suggestively as if by accident.

Candice lost lost her battle of self control against her wings as they suddenly got their chance to display their full glory.

“One last thing?” Candice asked, pointedly ignoring the fact that she just lost the battle with her wings.

Luna looked over her shoulder, by the way she licked her lips, if she did not have somewhere to be, Candice would be sharing Insight's fate.

Candice reached up and gave her sovereign a goodbye kiss. That is what she would call it, despite her body trying to turn it into more.

Luna briefly returned the kiss before ending it and nipping at the end of Candice’s muzzle with her fangs. Luna walked into the shadow behind the door as if it were a tunnel, fading from view in its depths.

A voice came from the far side of the room. “You lucky mare,” Striker said, now leaning on the wall in a shadowy corner, seeming to gratefully take in her display.

After taking a moment to insist to her wings who was actually in control, Candice turned to Striker, “Hey there, Striker. Nice to see you, Captain.” Candice looked to her compatriot with a smile on her face.

“Anything you want to get done before the party?” He asked with a hint of intrigue, walking from the wall over to her.

Her body glowed for a moment in her telekinesis as all traces of dirt and foreign contaminants were pulled off and headed to the bathroom disposal. “That should be it there. Just needed to clean up. Had breakfast already. You are welcome to the mango if you like. I’m still allergic to them.”

“Show off,” He said playfully checking her in the shoulder. His horn darkening with shadows as the mango was lifted in his aura “You poor thing,” He almost whispered before devouring the fruit.

“The apples and oranges put up a brave fight, but they ultimately didn’t stand a chance. I just needed back up against the insurmountable defenses of the mango. I’m glad you came.”

He laughed and shook his head. “How did you not get fired or imprisoned while working for the stuck up Solars?”

“I kept my mouth shut most of the time. That and I wasn’t interested in Princess Celestia like I am with her sister and Twilight.”

“You and about half of us, I hope you are not the type to get jealous,” He said, leading her out of the room.

“I just want her to be happy. I’m not the jealous type. So how much did you win betting on me?” Candice inquired.

He shrugged “After having to pay for all the drinks last night at your first party that you skipped, maybe a few thousand bits.”

“Ah, well I’m looking forward to the ‘after’ party. Shall we?” Candice trotted alongside him.

He grinned, “Sure,” He said leading her off.

CH 29.7 A Royal Dinner

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Luna was still searching her emotions, her life had changed. In a way, she had never been happier. She had Twilight, and now the fate decreed Candice. The one thing that warmed her heart the most was Little Star, her daughter. She smiled.

Luna tilted her hoof, looking critically at the other side of the Bit she had been given. The visions… that burning skeletal Twilight. She feared that the only reason things were going well, was fate giving her a brief respite. The peace and comfort she had now would not last. Fate knew something terrible was going to happen later, the present was just an advanced apology for the next round of torment.

A tender nuzzle broke Luna from her thoughts as Twilight pressed against her side as if to check if she was still here. Luna wrapped her wing around Twilight and unashamedly trapped Twilight’s ear with her teeth and started nibbling.

Twilight crooned softly, “Luna…” She weakly complained

“Come now, I have to reward my brave saviour.” Luna trailed a hoof down Twilight’s back. She could feel Twilights resolve crack as Twilight pressed against the motion letting her eyes close.

Celestia politely coughed. Luna looked up around the table meeting her sister’s eyes, a twinkle in her own saying ‘what?’ in a most unbelievable act of innocence.

“It is so nice to be able to sit down like this again, Twilight,” Celestia said, her eyes fixing on Twilight, who paid not the single, smallest, bit of attention.

Tia had spent time gathering the ponies that would soon be arriving. The least Luna could do was make sure Twilight could pay some attention. “Twilight, Celestia’s watching,” Luna whispered into her betrothed’s ear.

Twilight suddenly sat straight up, pulling herself from Luna’s embrace, doing her best to seem unflustered and completely unfazed. The adorable blush and the slight tenting of her wings speaking of her desire to hide behind them, proved she had utterly failed.

Luna was feeling hopeful, so far, nothing had gone wrong. Twilight adorably coming to her rescue and threatening Tia, had put her in a much more forgiving mood than she would have otherwise been in.

“Yes, Celestia?” Twilight asked. It was good to see the anger and hate were not the first things that jumped out. Twilight must have been coming to terms with what happened faster than she thought.

Celestia finished a sip of her tea before responding. “How have things been at Ponyville?” She asked with an interested look on her face. Luna could clearly see that her sister’s Mask was in play, but at least she seemed to be giving this meeting her full attention.

“Things have been… interesting.” Twilight began her expression a mix of uncertainty, embarrassment and fond remembrance. Luna smirked, Twilight could be so adorable when she was like this.

“Oh?” Celestia inquired.

“You know… just the normal things.” Twilight quietly trailed off.

Letting Twilight and her Sister do their dance of spending a lot of words to say next to nothing, she turned to her own refreshment. Luna took a deep drink from her beverage of choice. Coffee was currently Luna’s best friend, and she might have just considered marrying its inventor if they were still alive. With her magic so depleted, she dared not just ignore her fatigue.

She had not intended to make Candice one of her chosen, but when she picked her… the words she said. She was a silly old mare at times. Thankfully her sister had taken care of the moon for her, avoiding more rumours of Nightmare Moon’s return.

She laughed in the privacy of her own mind, Nightmare Moon was back, and soon Luna would be married to her as well. Luna looked back to Twilight, not able to hide her smile.

She shifted a wing to wrap around her Twilight, who looked up at Luna, the conversation with Celestia pausing.

Luna glanced at her sister and started with a warm voice, “It is good to hear you two getting on so well again… but be warned I am not letting you have her back,” she finished teasingly.

“Twilight is her own mare and has long completed her training, she is capable of making her own decisions. That being said, I do believe you have both made your intentions clear.”

"Thank you, " Twilight said a little stiffly. It was odd to see Twilight not falling all over herself at the slightest praise from Celestia.

“I hope you two both find happiness with each other,” Celestia said.

“Why thank you, Sister," Luna said before grinning at her. "So when are we going to find you a partner? Soon you will be the only unmarried adult Alicorn.” Luna teased affectionately.

“Perhaps next century,” Celestia said carefully.

“At this rate Flurry Heart maybe married before you, Tia,” Luna jested.

Celestia nodded. “That seems likely," she stated as simple fact.

“That's horrible,” Twilight said, speaking up.

“Why?” Celestia leaned forward, looking with interest to see her reaction.

The hesitation made it clear that Twilight’s first few answers were aborted before even a single syllable was spoken. “Don’t you get lonely?”

“It is what our ponies need of me, and besides, I am content enough with my duties.” Celestia’s Mask said perfectly sincerely.

Luna snorted, she could have stopped herself but chose not to. “I can’t believe you can still tell yourself that lie.”

Twilight glanced back and forth between the two sisters. Stuck between surprise and concern, Luna could see a small edge of satisfaction for the briefest of moments when Celestia was not looking at Twilight. Most likely Night’s influence, or at least she hoped it was.

Celestia’s eyes hardened.“If someone took their duties more seriously, perhaps I might have the chance to let my mane down.”

“I am more than dedicated to my duties, I simply know how to enjoy myself as well.” Luna shot back.

“Like this morning?” Celestia challenged. Luna could see the slightest hint of victory in her sister’s eyes.

Luna raised hoof and lowered it again “That was a somewhat unique situation and still had to do with my duties.”

“Duties?” Celestia cocked her head with a raised eyebrow.

After a moment’s pause to consider, Luna answered. “Yes… I was preparing for Twilight’s safety, and it was… more draining than I expected.”

Twilight leaned in and nuzzled Luna again, “You don't need to worry about me so much, certainly not so much that you oversleep and miss raising ‘your’ moon.”

Luna looked down and was met by Twilight’s lips kissing her. She happily leaned into it to taste and savour her betrothed’s lips and the hint of the sweet tea she had been drinking. A soft hum of contentment escaped Twilight as she let her eyes close.

Celestia looked as if she was calmly watching, but Luna knew better. She held up a hoof, indicating that her sister should wait.

The faint hum of magic caused Luna’s ears to twitch towards the doorway. Out of the corner of her eyes, Luna could see Cadance’s blue aura. The doors swung open, letting said Princess and her husband into the room.

A soft giggle escaped the Pink Princess. “I can see I’m not needed here.”

Twilight jumped back again, a cute blush warming her cheeks. If it was not for Luna’s wing, Twilight would have fallen off of her chair.

“Cadance!” Twilight called out, her extra volume half from excitement at seeing her old foal sitter and a half from her embarrassment.

“Sunshine…” Cadance started.

Twilight teleported from her seat and proceeded to do a very appealing little dance, shaking her flanks. Luna wondered if Twilight knew exactly what she was showing off to the rest of the room. There should be no way Cadance was unaware.

“Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!” The two younger Alicorns-finished their little greeting and Twilight almost tackled both her Brother and Sister In-law.

“Twily, Air.” Fought its way out of Shining Armor.

Naturally, Cadance could take a proper embrace. Luna let her eyes wander over Twilight. She was so looking forward to what fun could be had with another pony that could survive her full affections.

A rather sheepish looking Twilight released her brother, quickly checking him for injuries.

“Since when did you get so strong?” Shining Armor said, rubbing his neck, which would likely be bruised in the morning.

“You know, part Earthpony and been doing some working out with Rainbow,” Twilight said.

The fact that Luna was not aware of it was interesting. She would need to check with her Nightguard later and see why she was not informed. Luna let her eyes rake over Twilight for a moment, her mind covetously imagining how Twilight might look after years of physical training.

“Yeah, well at least I don’t have to worry about Cadance taking lessons with a Wonderbolt and becoming super strong,” Shining said with a hint of relief.

Cadance met Luna’s and Celestia’s eyes, she did not like the necessity of keeping secrets, like how powerful Alicorns really were.

You could just tell him the truth. Luna projected her thoughts to Cadance while showing a warm smile. It will bring you both peace of mind.

Cadance looked to Celestia, who slowly shook her head. Again it was Celestia in charge, but the waking world and the Day were hers. Luna would need a better reason than not liking something to defy her on this.

Twilight used her wings to pull the two members of her family towards the table. “It has been an exciting few days, and I am starving.”

Luna wondered if the Element of Honesty would think that was a lie as Alicorns could not starve. Or if they had enough flexibility to know that Twilight was just saying she was hungry and was not yet fully used to being an immortal Alicorn.

It is so nice to see Twilight without that dark line of directed towards Celestia, I don't think I have even seen a pony go from near murderous to a hopeful neutral ever, let alone this quickly,

What can I say, I do good work… but most of it is due to Twilight’s nature. Once the facts were given to her, it was not too difficult to encourage her. In fact, my little… oversleeping vastly improved the situation.

How so?

Luna gathered a small bit of her power and waited for Cadance to take her seat, then granted her a brief half-second daydream. She let her see Twilight turning up decked out for war to rescue Luna and the conversation that happened after.

That was very well done, Aunty. I'm not sure you could have handled that better in terms of restoring their relationship. Oh, and why were you late? I hear it was something to do with a pretty little mare you stole from your sister, Luna could just imagine Cadance with a too-wide happy grin and intense eyes.

Luna could see the slight change in Cadance's eyes that she still had not learnt to conceal. She was using her talent to view her domain. Cutting off any comments her niece might have had, she spoke first. Yes, Candice proved to be infatuated with myself… it may have turned out to not be entirely one-sided. Luna schooled her mental voice to sound neutral. She did not want to give Cadance any more information that she could gather by viewing her heartlines. She still did not know what Fate had planned and did not want to burden her niece with such dark thoughts, nor alter things without consideration.

Candance snorted. Now that's an understatement.

“Cadance?” Shining Armor said, dragging Cadance away from the mental conversation just as Luna had hoped.

“Yes, honey?” Cadance asked innocently.

“Everything alright there?” Shining Armor said, taking his seat next to his wife.

Cadance nodded and moved in, giving Shining Armor a quick kiss. Luna's eyes went to Twilight. She wanted a kiss too. Twilight offered no resistance and Luna enjoyed it very much. Twilight’s wing tips started straying a little further than was acceptable at the dinner table. A few small motes of flames rising from her mane.

Cadance was glaring at Luna.

Luna almost shifted her body so Shining Armor could not see what was happening. As much as she wished for Twilight to continue, she spoke up in whisper-speak. “Twilight… we have company.”

The flames vanished, and she looked mortified, more so as her brother looked to her.

“So Twilly how are you two getting along?” Shining asked with a bit of concern at his sister's expression.

Twilight for her part “Well, I think… I have not exactly done anything like this before.”

“You've not read a book on this?” Shining Armor inquired.

“Well… I have, but I’m was not rescued by, nor had to fight my way to Luna, so they are proving less than useful.” Twilight said, still a touch sheepish.

“You have nothing to be ashamed off,” Luna said, trailing a feather along Twilight’s back. Her expressions shifted, warring between shame and excitement. Did she enjoy exhibitionism? After a moment of consideration, she tested. By the fact that Twilight had to flash cast an illusion spell to hide her reaction, the answer seemed to be yes.

Luna, do you have no shame? Cadance shouted into her mind as she distracted the pink mare’s husband.


Luna almost hissed in pain as Cadance’s grooming spell ripped over her body and removed any evidence of what had just happened. The spellwork was much kinder to Twilight.

Celestia subtly spread her pegasus magic around the room and moved all the revealing scent away from Shining Armor.

Cadance was still glaring at Luna, so another distraction was needed, and this would further her plans for after dinner.

Shining Armor was just turning to ask Cadance a question. Likely ‘what was going on’, when Luna struck. “So when were you going to tell Twilight that you had her bother in your harem?”

Twilight and Shining Armor both froze in disbelief. Twilight recovered first, despite her previous distraction. Looking to her brother, her face looked relieved at his growing confusion.

“Haha, very funny, Luna,” Twilight said.

Luna leaned towards Twilight “Who said I am joking? Check the Registration Documents for the Solar Oath.”

“I think I would have noticed something like that.” Shining Armor contested.

“Seriously sweetie, I thought you would have noticed something like that too,” Cadance said, pulling him into a hug. “At least she never actually made use of that part of the Solar Oath.”

“Whahhh?” Was Shining Armor’s most eloquent of responses.

Twilight looked at Cadance “You knew?”

“Yes, I took a look that the contract, it is right there in the small print,” Cadance stated rather simply.

“What small print?” Twilight asked.

“Have you looked at it since your accession?” Cadance inquired.

“No...” Twilight trailed off.

“Then look again in the decorative border at the bottom,” Cadance said.

“What sort of ponyfeathers is that?” Shining Armor managed to pull himself from his daze. “It is illegal to hide legal text like that.”

Twilight help up her hoof, “Unless it is written backwards in old ponish.”

“What sort of law is that?” Disbelief was clear in Shining Armor’s voice.

“A very old one, I found it when I was looking into mine and Luna’s… situation,” Twilight added.

“Sounds like the sort of law Discord would have come up with,” Shining Armor lightly lamented.

“He did inspire it, but no… it is one of many of mine and my sister’s jokes that ended up being enshrined in the legal code,” Luna added.

Celestia interjected, “Though it does actually serve a useful legal defence. It is there so that the Nobility can’t try to force me or any other princess to marry one of them, provided said princesses also uses the legal language.”

“More importantly, it also lets us shield ponies under our wings. Any whom would interfere, unwelcomed, with one of our harem members can be punished for treason at the princess's discretion," Cadance added.

“Though I am honestly surprised sister let such a fine specimen as you go,” Luna said, looking a Shining.

“So if I’m understanding this correctly, if I don’t have a guard or subsequently a harem, I could be somehow forced to marry a noble? How does that work?” Twilight asked.

“Lots and lots of nagging and whining,” Luna said, her disdain for the nobility plain on her face.

“We managed to get it so that we get to pick our potential partners from harems. So unless a noble is willing to become our property, they will never marry one of us,” Celestia added.

“So is that why I was made Cadance’s guard?” Shining Armor asked.

“Yes, for your protection and to mean that you were mine.” Cadance purred softly onto Shining’s ear.

“Though one wonders about your plan to induct Twilight into your guard, if she failed to ascend,” Luna questioned.

“Wait, you were interested in Twilight?” Shining Armor asked with surprise.

“How could somepony not be interested in such a wonderful mare?” Cadance asked her husband.

Luna could see by her eyes that Celestia was conversing with her fragments again.

Shining Armor looked back at his wife, “Are you saying you’re interested in my sister?” He teased.

Cadance blushed a little bit but still said with confidence, “Yes, but only if you didn’t want me.” She parried.

And yet you rejected me? Luna sent to Cadance.

Of course, you’re too old for me. Besides I was already dating Shining. Cadance responded.

Shining Armor just hugged his wife and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

Twilight spoke up, “Too late now for either of you, anyway.” She then reached up and kissed Luna while wrapping a wing around her.

The food was brought in. Well trained wait staff populated the table in an impressive spread, given no dimensional pockets or teleportation were used to achieve it. She could appreciate the skills of Celestia’s staff, but almost all of it seemed bland to Luna.

One of the staff stood out to Luna. She dreamed of being a singer one day or finding love when approached by a noble as she sang in the flower garden, going about her duties.

The servants left as rapidly as they arrived, they were almost like a reversed plague of locusts, leaving plentiful food wherever they passed.

“So how are things?” Cadance said looking between Twilight and Celestia.

Celestia looked to Twilight and with a yielding nod, offered to let Twilight answer.

“Better… Somewhat at least. It has just been a lot to come to terms with.” Twilight offered a mostly sincere smile to Celestia. “I… what we had is lost.”

Celestia's expression fell, The Mask was still in control of her sister’s expression, so even that was still a manipulation.

Twilight’s smile warmed. “But I am willing to see what can be built on a new foundation of truth.”

Celestia returned the smile. The glimmer of hope and relief in her eyes were completely honest as far as Luna could see, “Thank you, Twilight.” She extended her hoof to Twilight who after a moment, accepted it.

Luna did not even need to ask what Cadance was seeing, her smile revealed everything she needed to know.

Now that the main point of the meeting seemed to have at least been achieved amicably, Celestia motioned for everypony to enjoy the meal.

Luna smiled. Twilight was demolishing the food. There was not a single item she had not sampled. Even the things she always shied away from. Like the fish-based pegasus dishes, the mineral-based earthpony delicacies or the single thestral addition to the meal, an inoffensive looking pastry whose contents were made from a little blood and meat. Even some crystal berries made an appearance in the form of a pie.

Shining Armor just watched in apparent horror as his sister was on the verge of becoming a natural disaster. The playful glare Twilight shot back, made him laugh.

Candance hid a giggle with her hoof. “Careful Twilight, you might end up as big as Celestia if you keep eating like that.”

Twilight looked a little sheepish, and Celestia offered her niece an unamused look.

“As the youth of today say ‘Oh lighten up Tia’,” Luna half laughed.

Celestia snorted and crossed her forelegs, looking a few thousand years younger. Luna chuckled and threw one of the marshmallows from the crystal berry pie at her. Celestia just stared at the incoming projectile seeming to disbelieve its existence. The impact leaving a small purple mark on Celestia's formally pristine coat.

Something flashed in Celestia’s eyes. Luna readied her defences as her sisters Warmind readied its weapons, about a quarter of the remaining dishes on the table.

Twilight grabbed a hoof full of her favourites and raised a shield around herself. Shining Armour followed suit just in time, as the first barrage began.

Luna could hear Cadance laughing as she sheltered in her husband's protection.

The battle was fierce, and no food-based projectile was left unutilised.

The servants arrived with the deserts and rapidly began cleaning the room. They would not meet anyponie’s eyes. Cadance had done double duty with her grooming spell, leaving both sisters with their normal impeccable appearance.

Luna was returning her sister’s glare and grin both. Neither would admit the other had won, so this most ridiculous of stare-offs was still ongoing.

“I’ll just have to eat all the cake,” Twilight interjected giving Luna a wink.

“Thou would not darest,” Celestia shouted, looking to Twilight before blushing, if only a fraction of a shade and only for the blink of an eye.

Luna would have to reward Twilight, for it had been a long time since she had seen her sister lose her composure like that. By the Stars, she had needed this release, this moment of fun.

“Huzza,” Luna called out, “Victory is mine.”

“But the cake is not,” Celestia stuck her tongue out, the whole cake suspended in her golden aura.

The meal was over, and everypony else made their way from the room. Luna gestured for Twilight to wait. Once the doors had closed, Luna was alone with Twilight.

Luna reached her wing around Twilight, “So did any of Celestia’s guard happen to strike your fancy?”

Luna could tell Twilight was divided. Probably between the temptation and the perceived impropriety.

“We are being hosted by my sister. You would be more than welcome to partake of one if you liked.” Luna added to the temptation side of the conversation as she started preening Twilight’s wings.

Twilight responded to the ministrations, “Why can I not just partake of you?” looking into Luna’s eyes with obvious desire.

Luna pulled back just slightly, “Ah ah, Cadance would not approve until after our wedding.”

“And me partaking of a guard wouldn’t be disapproved of?” Twilight pointed out the obvious.

“No, it would simply be using one of your privileges of being royalty. Speaking of advantages of being royalty, I have a present for you.” Luna purred into Twilight’s ear.

Luna reached out with her senses, locating her intended gift. Her shadow magic reaching out to embrace her target.

A pool of shadow poured into the area just in front of Luna and Twilight. From it rose Luna’s most recent Nightchosen. Her exotically beautiful body suggestively wrapped up in ribbons of shadow.

Twilight’s eyes devoured the pony before her. They seemed to be taking in the sight of Candice’s body and lingered on her bound up, but still obviously magnificent wings.

Twilight’s muscles tensed, wanting to lunge at her gift. Flames danced in her mane, and only Luna's raw strength held the young Alicorn in place.

Candice looked down at the binding wrapping her up. She seemed to relax as she saw their reason for being. She then looked up to see Twilight being held and preened by Luna.

“I offer you your first guard.” Luna said whispering into Twilight's ear, “And we all know that a princess’s guards are part of her harem.” Luna looked to Candice, her eyes telling her gift, ‘I‘ve done my part, it’s your turn now.’

Candice only took a moment to gather herself and look at Twilight. “Oh hello, Twilight. I thought I might be meeting you soon, but this is not how I thought it would occur.” Candice was obviously surprised. Luna could sense Candice try to reach out and modify the bindings. She could see that she wasn’t trying to dispel them but rather simply modify them. Luna reached out and helped her Nightchosen, knowing that she was still too new to having thestral magic to accomplish the task. The bindings loosened themselves a bit, allowing her to move around. The ends of the ribbons now floating around in the breeze.

The door to the dining room suddenly opened with unreasonable force. Blueblood’s voice called into the room as he strode in. “Aunty, I must speak with you immediately…” Looking at the sight before him, he stopped in his tracks. “What is going on here?” He demanded.

Twilight’s eyes fixated on the intruder, a low growl emanating from her.

Luna cut in, “This intrusion is most unwelcome.” Her strength being the only thing currently restraining Twilight.

Blueblood nodded and as he turned to leave, he uttered, “At least you’re finally putting those hybrids in their place. They all deserve to be tied up and tried for treason against nature.”

Twilight’s power surged, her horn lighting. Blueblood vanished in a flash of magenta light. The doors closed as quickly as they had been opened, and a pulse of magic sealed the room from both sound and invasion.

Luna just wondered at this point where Twilight had teleported him to.

Candice, for her part, looked back to Twilight and Luna. Her face showing an obvious distaste for Blueblood’s Tribalism. Her mood was obviously negatively affected by the interruption.

Twilight took some time to do her breathing technique and calm herself down. She muttered to herself, “At least I didn‘t kill him.”

“And what pray tell did you do to him?” Luna asked.

“I dropped him in the fountain at the center of the garden maze. It was either that or off the side of the Canterhorn.” Twilight stated. She was obviously very put off by the interruption from the would-be royal.

Luna pulled both of them into a hug. “I hope that the interruption didn’t take too much away from my gift. Why don’t you ask my most recently converted chosen about her qualifications,” she suggested.

Twilight looked at Candice as Luna released them from the hug. Her eyes seemed to pass over Candice as if reminding herself what she saw the first time. After a moment Luna saw the light flicker of flames appear on her mane again.

Candice seemed to at least appreciate the appraising look from Twilight. Her mood returning from it’s previously dampened state.

Twilight walked forward, looking at every inch of her ‘gift’ once more. "Are you really a guard?" she asked in a seductive tone.

The appreciative smile on Candice’s face told Luna that things were back on the track she desired.

Candice looked to Twilight, "Nightguard or Nightchosen if you prefer. Also much more. I can list my qualifications if you like. Even give you demonstrations of anything you chose."

"Anything?" Her mane burned a bit brighter.

"Ranging from magic experiments in your lab to cleansing most of your ley lines. Discussing magic theory to combat training. Or if you have any suggestions, I will at least try to fulfill them." Candice said in a tone of playfulness. There was just enough seriousness for Twilight to know she wasn't joking about any of that though Luna noted that physical intimacy wasn’t on the list. That was fine, though. Luna knew that Candice did not want to rush things and take advantage of the situation.

Twilight’s wings betrayed her at the mention of ley line cleaning. She turned to Luna and said, "You know just what to get a mare." All of the options seemed to have interested her.

"What would you like to start with?" Candice asked.

Twilight seemed rather tempted, but then she backed off and forced herself under control, "First things first, we need to get you equipped, introduce you to ponies and make sure my wards don't kill you. "

"Fair enough. In the interest of full disclosure, my qualifications are not the only reason I was chosen as a gift for you. To be completely honest, I have feelings for both you and your betrothed. I believe some of those feelings are returned by her, but she is well aware that they extend to you as well." Candice admitted. Seemed she didn’t want to give Twilight the wrong impression here.

Twilight looked at Candice for a moment, seeming to consider her words. "How do you have feelings for us already?"

Luna observed patiently as Candice went over everything she had before. Her dreams, her feelings that came from them, how her desire to not hurt either of them qualified as being a phobia. Her openness at least seemed to be appreciated by Twilight. Candice seemed as comfortable with Twilight as she was with herself.

One thing that caught Luna's attention was Candice lamenting a little bit about choosing the wrong dream when she was given the choice before she became a Nightguard.

She even disclosed Insight's existence. That resulted in Twilight going and spending some time in the Mind Scape that Luna bound to Candice for them. Eventually, she came back to physical reality.

Twilight thought for a moment after hearing everything. "Thank you, Candice", moving closer to Candice, she whispered, "Let's see if you two can earn the same feelings from me." The desire for Candice, and Insight as well, to accept the challenge was clear in Twilight's eyes. That didn't stop her from blushing at her own words though.

Whispering back into Twilight's ear, Candice offered, "I had a date idea if you're interested. You and I heading to the clouds with food, notebook and your telescope. Dinner and the stars as the moon rises. Desert being relaxing together with a book in front of a fireplace. Maybe even compare notes on ideas for experiments during it all. There's also nothing to be embarrassed about my Passionately Pedagogical Perfectly Pretty Precious Purple Pony Princess."

“You’re hired,” Twilight said, her voice laced with more than one type of lust.

By Twilight's reaction, Luna had set this up well. Candice had just ticked every box that all of Twilight’s fragment’s had added to their checklists of wants. By how Twilight’s wings kept twitching, at least part of her was thinking of having her ley lines cleaned. Luna thought it was even odds if Candice would be trapped in a lab or the bedroom by the end of the week.

“Now run along and take your gift with you,” Luna said, with a tender smile.

Twilight looked hungrily at Luna, clearly wanting to take her with as well. “Just wait until our wedding night,” Luna soothed.

Twilight claimed one more passionate kiss before lighting her horn and teleporting both herself and her ‘gift’ away. Luna licked her lips, relishing the taste of the kiss and the tingle of her soon to be lover’s magic’s tender touch.

Luna mildly scolded herself, she had meant to reclaim the power from the shadow silk bindings she had dressed Candice in. Oh well, it would only mean she would need a few more cups of coffee, and she did like coffee.

CH 29.8 Suddenly Blueblood

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Noble Guide reclined in the waiting room. In less than an hour, there would be another meeting of the Noble Council. Having these events this late did nothing to hide their existence from Celestia’s gaze. Still, it made some of the other nobles believe it did.

The door slammed open, and a drenched Blueblood stomped into the room. His mane was dripping water on the finely crafted carpet. There would be a story about this. He rotated his ears to listen in.

A haughty noble he had not bothered to learn the name of yet, spoke first. “Blueblood, why are you all wet?” His tone was quite an interesting mix of distaste and real curiosity.

A tall stallion walked in after the Prince, very carefully avoiding the wet patches on the carpet. “He wound up in the Garden Fountain. Though who teleported him there, I’m not sure. The magic looked like it might have been Princess Twilight’s.”

“Yes, it was her. I’m not sure why she did it though.” Blueblood responded bitterly.

“Well, what happened just before she tossed you out?” The curious one asked.

“I had gone to the Dining Hall to talk to Aunty Celestia. I found Princess Twilight and Princess Luna there with one of those hybrids tied up. By the look on their faces, they were quite angry at her. It looked like they were going to send her to Tartarus or something.”

Blueblood now had an audience. Everypony was giving him their full attention. He stood a little taller and continued despite his bedraggled state. “Princess Luna said that the interruption was unwelcome and since Aunty Celestia wasn’t there, I just nodded and turned around to head out. I even complimented them on finally doing something about the abominations of nature. It was at that point that I found myself right above the fountain.”

Half the audience is looking at Blueblood with interest. The other half seemed to be trying to contain themselves until one of them utterly failed to do so. The rest wound up joining in shortly after. Noble himself even had a quiet chuckle despite how much it pained him.

A yellow coated mare with three money signs as her mark was doing her best to hide a smirk. “Bluey dear, you don’t know about Luna and her most recent guard, do you?” She said in a playful tone.

“What would that have to do with it, Upper Crust, and why are you laughing?” Blueblood demanded.

“Bluey. That hybrid you saw wasn’t on trial or anything. She’s Princess Luna’s newest chosen. Tell me was she tied up with shadows?” Upper Crust asked in a sweet tone.

Blueblood looked at Upper Crust with suspicion but nodded.

“And was said pony the same one that got released from RGIS?” She asked, her anticipation was growing.

Amazingly, Blueblood did not notice the trap he was galloping into. He gave another nod, “I think so.”

“Sweety, Luna was just taking advantage of her guard’s status in her harem. She was their toy. If they banished her to anywhere, it would have been one of their bedrooms, not Tartarus. How are you so naive?” Upper Crust’s smile would have worked better on a wolf.

This caused the rest of the audience to burst out laughing even harder. For once, he found himself in agreement with a room full of nobles. It was quite unsettling.

Noble Guide had to give Blueblood his dues, he did not freeze. Instead, he launched straight into his tirade.


Noble Guide just grinned. Blueblood was proving to be that perfect mix of arrogance, entitlement, stupidity and just enough competence that nopony could get rid of him. He would make the perfect scapegoat. As he had brought at least a little amusement to Noble’s day, Blueblood would even get the chance to have some fun in his upcoming role.

He had a few letters to write, but Blueblood would have a ‘gift’ by morning.

CH 30 Welcome to Ponyville

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One moment they were in Canterlot, having been given to Twilight by Luna, next they were within the crystal halls of the Castle of Friendship. Her vision was still a little blurry from the flash of Twilight’s magic.

Twilight's teleport left her body tingling, a few motes of flames flickered over her coat for a moment before fading. It was as if Twilight seemed to be interested in examining her. The energy left her feeling awake, alive and aroused. She could feel all the various things that Twilight wanted to do to her. From drag her to the lab, to pounce her right here. That amount of emotional bleed over was almost unheard of. The fact was, she did not think Twilight's teleportation spell was meant to do that.

Well, that was rather unexpected. You alright there, Candice? Insight asked.

Yes, I’m alright. To be honest, I think this went way better than what we were planning. Blueball notwithstanding. Luna managed to get things back on track rather easily at least. Really, no complaints here. Candice replied.

With everything that Candice was feeling during this impromptu sharing of desires, Candice figured she should start with what she was honestly interested in. “So, was the teleport spell supposed to give me a sense of your desires?” She asked with simple curiosity.

Twilight’s mouth opened but then stopped. It seemed that Candice’s question took a moment to register. Tapping her chin with a hoof, “Well, as you are my guard, then you should know a few things about Alicorns and their magic. An Alicorn’s magic is highly affected by their emotions and desires. For example, if you were Blueblood, you would be more than a little bit charred or in an embarrassing position right now.”

“I see, well I will count myself fortunate that I felt what I did. Though that leads me to the next question. What would you like to start with? I know my preferences and will answer with them if asked.” Candice waved a hoof airily.

Twilight launched a bolt of magic at Candice. She saw from Twilight's face that it wasn’t an attack. It rippled through her and then erupted from her body and into the Castle. The pulse left her again feeling a bit tingly but far less than the teleport. Looks like you’re keyed to the castle now. Probably. Insight commented.

Candice looked to Twilight after a moment. She seemed a bit more controlled than she was in Canterlot. “I take it that was you doing the wards and the like, first?”

“Yes, now, should I put the Castle on lockdown, you won’t be violently evicted,” Twilight explained rather matter of factly. It seemed like she was trying to behave more professionally.

“Good to know. Wouldn’t do to have your guard ejected from her post,” Candice said with a bit of humour in her voice. “So, what’s next on the checklist?”

Twilight’s demeanour shifted as she moved towards Candice in a sultry fashion for a couple of steps. Deliberately, she stopped and shook her head. The motes of flame that had appeared in her mane flickered out. “Not now, later,” she mumbled to herself, annoyed. She looked to Candice and said, “First things first, we should probably defuse the Pinkie Party that she likely already has set up for you.”

Candice nodded. “I figured that would happen in a few days. She’s getting that good at knowing when new ponies are arriving?”

Twilight nodded. ”She is the best at what she does,” she said with a fond smile.

“And what she does is pretty nice. So is there anything I should know about that at this point? Any signs to look out for if she is suddenly nearby?” Candice inquired.

Twilight just shrugged. “If you find some then please let me know. The only reason I know that the party is going on right now is that there is a large portion of Ponyville’s population in the dining hall right now. Either that or the town is attacking, and nopony has told me yet.”

Candice just smiled. “Well, it looks like it’s party time again for the second time in as many days. Doubt this will be anything like the Nightguard’s party though.”

Twilight glanced over her shoulder, “No, there won’t be anywhere near as much physicality or cider.” Twilight said with a hint of regret.

I wonder if Twilight has been adopting some of Luna's preferences. Insight commented.

It would appear so. Candice replied.

Candice moved near Twilight as she was trotting with her and gave her an affectionate shoulder bump. “That’s ok, there's always room for the ‘after-party’.”

Twilight nearly missed a step, “We could always skip the party,” she said in a huskier tone of voice. A teleport spell was starting to charge on her horn.

“As nice as that would be, I think that what you’re implying would be rushing things. It also wouldn’t be fair to those that took time to be here,” Candice pointed out.

“Well if that’s the case then you need to put your outfit away. Wouldn’t do to show up to one of Pinkie’s parties looking like that.” Twilight said.

“Ah, yeah.” Candice used her magic to take off the suggestive attire and put them in her own dimensional pocket. A slight look of embarrassment was on her face.

“That’s better. Though I did like that.” Twilight smiled. Her eyes seemed to already be missing the decorations from Candice's body.

She then pointed down a hall with her wing. “If you go that way then I’ll meet you there.” She twisted her spell and then released it and was gone in the now familiar flash of magic.

Changing the destination of a teleportation spell array without having to restart the spell…Well some of the professors at the CSGU are wrong. Insight observed, impressed.

Candice proceeded down the said hall. She felt like it seemed as if the castle was watching her. Somehow it seemed to convey a vague sense of anticipation, though Candice wasn’t at all sure how it managed to do that. She stopped for a moment and placed her hoof and wing on the wall to see if she could feel any more detail.

That’s strange, it feels like nostalgia, almost like… home? I don’t really understand it. Insight said.

Candice tried to see if the communication was two-way. She tried sending an intention of protecting and helping those here, as well as her feelings about her situation.

A sense of welcome. It’s saying we shouldn’t keep the ponies waiting...


Candice flash cast an overcharged temporal acceleration spell. She suddenly found herself in the dining hall. How she had suddenly gotten here, she wasn’t sure. She had felt no magic or movement. I’m going to have to remember that. I wonder if it can be repeated. She thought to herself and Insight.

Possibly. I’m a least a little familiar with how the communication felt now. Insight replied.

In the brief moment it took to communicate that, she saw the ponies around her moving in extreme slow motion. Not seeing any actual threats here, she saw Pinkie behind her starting to spring up near the door. Candice took a mental moment to try and feel for the Pink Pony’s magic. She felt what she usually did from earthponies, but she did notice just a slight touch of what felt like Discord’s abilities. The signature was certainly unique.

Candice let the acceleration spell drop. It was going to take her about eight minutes to regenerate that.

Pinkie asked, “So were you surprised?” In her typical enthusiasm that just went to show why she was banned from having caffeine.

Candice just smiled and nodded, then drew the Pink One into a hug. “Thank you for all the effort Pinkie. I was not expecting this so soon. Yes, you did surprise me.” She let her go and turned to the rest of the crowd then waved to the crowd.

Pinkie suddenly hugged her back for a moment. She felt her bones creak, the force of it though was enough to make Candice check herself with a med scan spell to make sure she was alright. When she was released, Pinkie still had the widest smile you could fit on a pony. Candice smiled back. She got the feeling she couldn't give Pinkie any better of a present than that.

She saw Twilight at the far side of the room watching. Her eyes were focused on Candice with an intensity of curiosity that Candice hadn’t seen in her yet. This spoke more of ‘we are going to talk’ than it did of ‘I want you in my lab’ so she was probably safe.

Candice made her way through the room of ponies. Refreshments were placed strategically around the room, and she got to meet a good majority of the ponies of Ponyville. Seemed that Twilight getting a guard was a big deal here and managed to make Candice stand out. Looked like using anonymity around here to do her job wasn’t really going to be a viable option at this point. Time to gain a reputation instead. Not a bad way to start at least. Insight added to Candice’s considerations.

She noticed that the banner that said ‘Welcome to Ponyville Candice’ was oddly formed and hung. It looked like there was much more to the banner than what was currently there.

It didn’t take Candice long to spot the rest of the Elements. They were mostly gathered near Twilight.

Applejack looked like she was just kicking back and having a good time chatting with Twilight.

Rainbow had a mug of cider and was hovering above the crowd while she looked at Candice with a look of curiosity.

Fluttershy was to the side of Twilight, but it didn’t seem like she was the wallflower Candice had first met during those few picnics with Discord. She seemed more comfortable now. There seemed to be something a little odd about her features. Candice spent an extra moment watching her. Was that a hint of fangs?

Rarity was graceful in both word and action, but when she saw Candice looking at her, she had a slight blush to her cheeks. I wonder what that’s about. Insight stated.

Feels like it might have had something to do with the odd banner. Pinkie’s proclivity of knowing more than she should might have told her something about us and our relationship with Twilight. I could see Rarity going and taking that down at least. Candice replied as she continued to greet ponies and slowly make her way to where Twilight was.

Candice floated over a mug of cider for herself from one of the refreshment stands. A few of the more observant ponies noted the glow around her wings.

Twilight watched her approach with interest. Her eyes seemed to have a depth to them as if viewing things with more experience than her years would suggest. It appeared the mare was in a far different mood than she was only a minute ago.

Candice eventually got to the six heroes of Equestria, though it took more than twenty minutes. On the way, many hooves were shaken, and greetings exchanged. Everypony here was ready to welcome her at the drop of a hat. Not a single one was bothered the slightest about who or what she was. That might change if Spoiled Rich was here, at least if the reports on her attitude are accurate. Insight added.

Twilight spoke up as Candice reached her and her friends. “Girls, I would like to introduce you to Candice. She Is my first guard.” Twilight said with a friendly smile. “Candice, these are my friends. Applejack,” she started as she gestured to each one.

“Howdy,” the apple farmer said as she tipped her hat.

“Rarity,” Twilight continued.

“Welcome, darling.” Rarity said with a regal and calm demeanour that completely belied her earlier blush.

“Fluttershy,” Twilight said.

“Hello,” the pegasus said with just barely enough volume to be heard normally. Being that close, she could feel there was a hint of thestral power radiating from her. It was not much, and if her own thestral wellspring was much stronger, she might not be able to feel it as her own would drown it out, at least once it fully settled in anyway.

“Hey there, Fluttershy. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. How are things going?” Candice asked while remembering that it had been about six months since the last time she had a picnic with her and Discord.

“I’m just terribly worried about Discord, have you seen him?” The shy mare asked.

“I’m sorry, I haven’t seen him since a bit before the Manehattan attack. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you though. Even if it’s just hanging out and being a friend.” Candice offered.

Fluttershy nodded at the offer. She seemed to genuinely appreciate it.

“Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said.

“Hay there. I didn’t know you knew Fluttershy already.” She waved the hoof that wasn’t holding at least her second mug of cider.

“Yeah, I've had a few picnics with Discord and Flutters. I just wish Discord didn’t have this habit of not being around anytime his help would actually be useful.” Candice replied.

Looks like Twilight shares our feelings on Discord. Insight pointed out, drawing Candice’s attention to the purple mare’s expression. It vanished before Twilight introduced the next pony.

“And you already met Pinkie,” Twilight said, her tone light, displaying nothing of whatever dark thoughts had crossed her mind moments ago.

Pinkie Pie just smiled. She seemed to be content, already considering Candice a friend. How did Pinkie Pie not wind up as the Princess of Friendship? Insight joked.

“This here is my Number One Assistant and little brother, Spike.”

“Yo,” he said, waving a claw as he continued munching on gems.

Candice noticed Spike looking at her eyes with confusion. “Is something concerning you?”

“How do you hold your iris’s open like that? Does it not hurt?” Spike asked.

“No, I use a vision protection spell that I can control. It’s like turning your lens into a set of sunglasses.” Candice turned down the effect, and her eyes returned to their now-normal slit appearance. “I don’t usually go around like this because it freaks most ponies out. It’s also quickly become a sign of comfort for me.”

“Pish posh dear. Nopony will judge you for having such unique eyes. In fact, I know just the perfect ensemble to compliment them and your beautiful markings.” Rarity said.

“Unfortunately I have a few cases of ponies doing exactly that, happening on my first day with slit eyes. I apologise, but my experience doesn’t agree with your sentiment.” Candice looked apologetic for reality not meeting the romantic desires of the fashionista.

“Well, you ain't going to find folk treating you like that here.” Applejack barged into the conversation.

“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash added. “Wait, are you a Pegasus, Thestral, or Unicorn?”

“Yes?” Candice replied. “I was born a pegasus-unicorn hybrid, The thestral part is a gift from Luna when she made me her fourth chosen.”

Rarity fanned herself at that declaration. Rainbow Dash managed to look thoughtful for a moment.

A flash of magenta magic came from behind her, and suddenly there was a weight on Candice’s back. The weight spoke in an eager filly’s voice, “Mummy Luna gave you another wellspring?” The young Twilight-looking filly lit her horn and cast a hugely complex scanning spell. Multiple spell arrays dancing over and around her horn.

“Yes, it was after I passed her tests and then became one of her Nightchosen. It was just tonight that I was ‘given’ to your Mother Twilight. One of my duties is to protect that which they care about.” Candice said to Little Star. Her voice carried a tone of pride.

Fluttershy was half hiding behind her mane. Candice noticed a slight smile of encouragement. She did already know about Candice’s feelings toward Luna and Twilight from their conversations during their picnics.

Rarity was stunned for a few seconds before she managed to recover. The look of inspiration dawning on her face. While it wasn’t out loud, Rarity did mouth the word ‘Idea’.

“That means she is a good pony that you should listen to, and protect her if it comes to that,” Twilight said to her daughter.

Protect me? Candice was curious. Was it just a way to keep Little Star near her, or was that the truth? It was possible considering the strength of the wellspring Candice could feel from the little ball of magic that was masquerading as a filly.

Little Star held up her hoof. “Is that because she is a Nightchosen or that she was given to you?” Little Star asked Twilight.

“Both on their own would mark one as a good pony, together just means she’s even more so,” Twilight told her daughter.

“So you’re special to both my Mummys?” Little Star asked with the innocence of youth.

“I’m certainly hoping to earn that station,” Candice said while she gave Little Star a light nuzzle.

Little Star hugged Candice’s neck “Then make sure to keep Mummy Twilight well-fed with Hayburgers, so she does not eat Mummy Luna.”

Twilight had a slight blush. Rarity looked askance. Applejack looked judgmentally at Little star. ”You are too young for this sort of talk.”

Little Star looked unhappily at Applejack. “Why?”

Applejack clearly wanted to facehoof but did not.

“How about you go and play with your friends,” Twilight added.

Little Star looked at her mother for a long moment. Lighting her horn, suddenly another filly turned up next to her precariously on Candice’s back.

“Mummy, can you help Scootaloo fly? She only has earthpony magic, and if Mummy Luna can help Candice, can you help my friend?” Little Star asked excitedly.

“Earthpony magic?” Scootaloo blurted out while she hopped off of Candice. “But I have wings, and I can walk on clouds. How does that make any sense?”

Little Star looked to her friend and assumed a sitting lecture position, raising a single hoof she began. “That's because you have a permanent cloud walking enchantment.”

“What about me pushing the scooter?” The orange filly exclaimed.

“That is using earthpony strength,” Little Star added.

“So, it's not my fault I can't fly?” The realisation was starting to hit her as tears started welling up in her eyes.

Twilight’s eyes suddenly seemed to be dragged to Fluttershy. After a moment, her eyes widened. “Ooh.”

“Of course I will help.” Twilight lifted both fillies in her aura and pulled them into a hug. She looked happy as she nuzzled both of them. Having a pony to help seemed to flip a switch in Twilight, she was full of energy and alive. Add to that the proud smile she had for her daughter, and it seemed she might not sleep for a year.

Candice could see there was a hint of Twilight’s immense power shifting within her as a thoughtful look crossed her face. “Maybe you should ask her guardians first, Twilight?”

Twilight looked up and nodded once. “That sounds like a good idea.”

Little Star’s horn lit and two rather surprised mares were suddenly standing before Twilight.

“What did we talk about teleporting ponies without their permission unless it is an emergency?” Twilight whispered without moving her face at all. It was almost inaudible to Candice's spell augmented hearing.

Little Star ducked her head “But I thought this was an emergency, my friend Scootaloo can’t fly.” She responded just as quietly.

Twilight kissed Little Star just below the horn. “If there is no danger of harm and waiting won't cause an issue, it is safer just to ask fist.”

Twilight looked up to the two mares. “Do you know of Scootaloo’s condition?” She started before putting a privacy spell around them.

Candice got to see how Twilight’s privacy spell made every word said, seem like math formulas if you tried to read lips. Revealing Light would hate that version of the spell. Candice thought.

Insight pondered for a moment, She’d probably try to figure out if the formulas actually could be translated back into words if you took time to decrypt them.

With the party dying down, Pinkie burst into action using her talents to get ponies having fun.

A Scootaloo shaped blur rushed past and slammed into Rainbow Dash.

The filly spoke so fast that it would have taken a time dilation spell to clearly make out what was being said, but the words fly, lesson, weekend, yay, please, fly, teach, excited and flying and such were able to be picked out of the word soup.

With a new reason to celebrate the party was renewed. After that, the party took off with games and activities. The foals were having fun, and many of the adults were sitting around talking.

Candice found herself looking at Twilight with a mix of pride and love. Her determination to help Scootaloo was just another thing about Twilight that she discovered she found so appealing.

After a moment, Twilight met her eyes. She seemed shocked for a brief moment, then pleased and finally shifted to being embarrassed. “It was nothing,” she said, sheepishly looking away.

Moving to Twilight, Candice still had that look on her face. "Well looks like your daughter beat me to one of the things I was going to ask you about.”

Twilight tilted her head with interest. "You were?"

"I had planned to ask if you would consider helping Hybrids and the magically damaged by opening up your guard to them." Candice nodded her head towards the overexcited filly that was assaulting Rainbow Dash with words.

Twilight could not help but let a happy grin return to her features.

Candice continued. "By the looks of it though, you have all the drive you need to already. The look I saw on your face when you realised you could help Scootaloo was priceless and heartwarming."

Twilight moved closer and whispered, “You are a good pony.” A look of appreciation was upon her face as she stole a quick kiss.

Candice saw a quick movement of light pink in the corner of the room. As she looked over, she saw that Fluttershy had a perfect view of the kiss. Fluttershy, for her part, just had a quiet smile on her face that looked more encouraging than anything else.

Twilight followed Candice’s gaze and saw Fluttershy looking at her with the same smile. She then gave Fluttershy a look that Candice didn’t quite catch, but her wings seemed to move invitingly.

Candice saw Fluttershy blush rather brightly, but after a moment she nodded her head in a short and rapid nod. Did Twilight just do what I think she just did? Insight asked.

I think so, but I’m honestly not sure. I only saw her wing movement. Candice replied.

Twilight materialized a note of some kind in front of Fluttershy. As she read it, her blush intensified. Suddenly she hid the note and went back to one of the animals that were visiting the party. Looking around, Candice noticed a rather curious look on Rarity’s face as she was looking in Fluttershy's direction.

Quietly, Candice asked Twilight, “What was that about?”

Twilight turned back to Candice with a smirk on her face. A copy of the note was suddenly floating in front of her.

As I just found out earlier tonight, a princess is allowed a harem. Are you interested?

Candice was a little surprised but in a good way. She looked back up at Twilight with a smile that said she liked the idea. “I hadn’t even thought about that being an option you would want to consider. Looks like I really need to drop any preconceptions I had about you.”

Twilight replied, “I have been picking up a thing or two from Luna,” she said with a knowing smirk.

Candice noticed Twilight put an illusion spell up. The only thing Candice could deduce was that it was focused on her mane and tail. Well, that looks promising. I have to say this was a VERY unexpected turn of events. Insight said to Candice, who just mentally nodded back.

Twilight whispered to Candice, “I’m going to get some refreshments. I’ll be right back.”

Twilight wandered off for a bit and came back with some refreshments in her aura, and two other ponies in tow. The illusion on her mane and tail were now gone. “Candice, I'd like to introduce you to another friend of mine, Starlight, and her friend, Trixie. Starlight, Trixie, this is Candice. She’s my new guard, Luna gifted her to me from her Nightguard.”

Spending a moment to study Twilight, Candice could see that, like when dealing with the elements, Twilight was acting a little. She was holding something back, acting more like her file said she should be.

Twilight effortlessly distributed the drinks, Rainbow zipped by and greedily guzzled half the new cider without a second thought. “Thanks, Twi,” she said as she headed off to go talk to Scootaloo.

Twilight rolled her eyes and had a good-natured smile at her friend's antics. For a moment, her eyes hungrily followed the mare’s flight. She rapidly shook her head and looked away. Candice noticed a single mote of flame being smothered by Twilight’s magic.

Rarity discreetly glanced to Rainbow then back to Twilight as if observing pieces of a puzzle.

Candice slightly shook her head at the speedy cyan blur before turning her attention back to Starlight and Trixie. “So, how are you two doing?”

After finding out about Celestia’s manipulations, it was hard not to be a little wary of a mare that was listed as an expert mentalist with a somewhat checkered past.

Starlight paused slightly, giving Trixie the opportunity to go first.

With a flick of her mane, the showmare spoke first. “The Great and Powerful Trixie and her friend Starlight are doing well.”

“Welcome to Ponyville,” a smiling Starlight said, holding her hoof out in greeting. Something about the smile seemed forced.

Candice took her hoof and returned the gesture. Your wariness of her is showing Candice. Might want to check that. Insight interjected.

Candice took a moment to consider that. Mentally she went over the fact that Starlight had reformed and deserved the benefit of the doubt. Because of the fact that Starlight had used mind control on the elements, that was proving hard to give, despite her best efforts.

Starlight looked past Candice. Raising an eyebrow, Candice looked around, following her gaze. Twilight was off to one side, whispering to Fluttershy.

Starlight moved a little closer, raising an invisible privacy spell around them. “If you're Twilight’s guard there is something you need to know.” Starlight said in a whisper.

Candice's wings twitched just slightly. She prepared to use her disruption at a moments notice if she felt mind magic.

Starlight continued hesitantly, her eyes full of concern. “Twilight has been through a lot… she is currently on a hair-trigger. Anything so much as looks at her or one she cares about funny… well, a single timberwolf was spread over a few acres of forest… alright, it would be more accurate to call that area a crater now.”

Candice considered her words for a moment, but after having felt the power of Luna, what Starlight described wasn’t that off from her expectations at this point. "Yup, sounds like the Alicorn of Magic to me."

Starlight just shook her head. “She was never like this before, she was always so careful. She never used to throw around, what I can only guess are war-spells, against things that can easily be driven off.”

“You didn’t happen to use any mind magic on her, did you?” Candice asked with straightforward honesty.

Starlight recoiled as if struck. “Of course not, what sort of pony do you think I am…”

Candice raised her eyebrow at her. She felt it should be obvious considering the things Starlight had done.

“Fine. Just look after her or else you will have to answer to me.” Starlight said in anger.

“I’m far more worried about answering to myself, then Luna if I fail in that. You are not my concern. What you are, however, is Twilight’s friend, and that means something to me. I think you may have misinterpreted my question as a judgement against you. That is not the case. I was asking to see if you had tried mind magic to help soothe her trauma.”

Starlight considered for a moment. Sighing slightly she answered in a much calmer voice. “I could come up with a spell to do it, but no, I did not. Luna is the mind healer, I assume she is helping her?”

Candice kindly looked into Starlight’s eyes, “I honestly don’t know if she is or not. I intend to be here for her in any way she needs, though.” Candice glanced towards Twilight, a fond expression on her muzzle. “You don’t have anything to worry about as far as her safety with me.”

“So long as you keep her safe we won't have a problem,” Starlight interjected.

Candice nodded and continued. “Also, I don’t feel I’m in any place to judge you. I know what you did, but you have, as far as I can tell, redeemed yourself. In addition, Twilight trusts you. You’re a counsellor at her School of Friendship. Your anger at my question seemed disproportionate to my inquiry. Would you like to start over? I am hoping to be friends here.” Candice said, holding out her hoof.

“Alright,” Starlight said bumping hooves with Candice. “Just maybe not so much of the accusing ponies of mind control, especially near Twilight, she might cast first, ask questions later, currently.”

“Understood. I know there is still a lot I need to learn to catch up here. Twilight should be briefing me soon. For the moment though, I think your friend Trixie is getting bored.” Candice said as she looked over at the azure showmare.

“I should get back to her before she starts turning everything into teacups again.” Starlight dropped the privacy spell and took off to be with her friend.

Candice chuckled a bit at that. Her worries about Starlight were soundly defeated with Starlight’s reaction to the accusation. “At least the price of teacups has dropped in recent months.” Candice joked.

Hours later, the party-goers had all gone, Rarity had snuck out with a bundle of cloth that was likely the rest of the banner, bundled up in her magic. Candice was still slightly curious what the rest of it had said.

There seemed to be something on Twilight’s mind as Twilight led them deeper into the castle. The sound of their hooves on the crystal being higher-pitched, was so different than the marble she was used to in Canterlot.

“So how did you like your arrival at the party? Can you figure out how it was done?” Twilight asked, smiling.

“It was unexpected. Insight seems to be able to talk with the castle. I can communicate my emotions and intentions it seems. We got a 'you shouldn't make the ponies wait' kind of message from it. Then we were just there. I'm thinking the castle did it. If the castle happens to be its own protected pocket dimension, then it might just be able to decide where anything is on the inside.”

“So it seems the castle likes you,” Twilight said with a curious glint in her eyes,

“Seems that way. Insight says she gets a feeling of 'home' here.” Candice agreed.

Twilight cast her eyes to the ceiling.

“Strange that my apartment never once felt how I would imagine home would feel,” Candice said.

“I was going to keep her anyway.” Twilight almost yelled to the ceiling before continuing under her breath so quiet only Candice’s enhanced hearing let her catch it. “Stupid rocks.”

Candice once again raised an eyebrow, this time at the stupid rocks comment, Twilight noticed she had been heard.

Some of the good mood from the party fled Twilight. “It seems you are another pony given to me by the Tree of Harmony.”

Candice pondered for a brief moment, “I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand.”

Twilight laughed, it seemed off, perhaps a little manic.

“How would I be connected to the Tree of Harmony?” Candice continued.

“That the tree-given-castle talks to you is enough of a clue. It only talks to myself and my Little Star, and now you. The tree likes playing with ponies.”

“Oh, I didn't know that.”

“Luna was sentenced to one thousand years on the moon, just so that I would use the elements on her, thereby getting myself pregnant with my daughter...” Twilight said, cutting herself off with a brief shudder.

“Something tells me I'll get a full briefing at some point,” Candice said with an undertone of worry. She moved nearer to Twilight, at least as they walked, offering comfort with proximity.

Twilight took a long breath. “For now, all you need to know is it likes manipulating ponies just like Celestia does.”

Candice raised her eyebrow yet again, there was a lot of things causing that to happen today.

“And the most frustrating thing is that I can't be angry at it.” Twilight stomped her hoof, sending a few chips of crystals into the air. “I love my Little Star. I get Luna, I get everything I ever wanted…” Twilight trailed off into a disturbing mix of hysterical laughter and sobbing.

Something inside Twilight’s gaze was broken, again she was almost a different mare. But that did not matter, her love was hurting.

Candice might not understand what Twilight was going through, but that didn’t matter. She would be there for her. She wrapped her love in a tight embrace with her hooves and wings.

As soon as Candice’s wings wrapped around her, Twilight calmed and melted into the hug.

“Hey, I know I don't yet understand what you've been through. Maybe I can help when I do. Until then, I'm here for you at least.” Candice whispered into Twilight’s ear.

Twilight did not say or do anything for a few long minutes. Slowly life seemed to come back to her. Twilight tenderly nuzzled Candice, ending in a single gentle kiss. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“Any time. I don't care if I'm asleep, you need somepony to just hold you, I'm here. You need to vent about anything at all, I'm here. You just want to know your loved, I'm here.” Candice quietly stated as she looked into Twilight’s eyes.

A sincere smile and another nuzzle displayed how happy Twilight was at that sentiment.

“I can make decent pancakes too if those suit your fancy,” Candice said, trying to lift Twilight’s mood even further.

Twilight’s ears pricked up at the mention of pancakes, Candice knew what she was doing in the morning.

“Oh, I'm keeping you,” Twilight almost purred.

“I'm ok with this,” Candice said with humour, but also honesty in her voice.

Twilight looked thoughtfully at her. Candice showed a smile full of love, yet with no expectations.

Twilight asked, “How do you know when you are in love? I’m new to all of this.” Her face showed her clear curiosity.

Candice smiled a bit more, “For me, love is wanting another to be happy, even if it means not getting what I want. If you asked me to leave you because that would make you happy, then I would do so. I would be heartbroken, but I would do it because I knew you would be happier that way. I’ll be here for you in whatever way you need me, whichever way you want me. All you have to do is ask.”

A heartbeat later, Twilight’s mane was engulfed in flames. The flames did not burn. Rather they made Candice skin tingle in the most pleasant of ways. Twilight flexed her body seductively, invitingly. "Show me how much you love me, then?" For a moment, it almost seemed as if Twilight surprised herself by saying that. "Sorry." She closed her eyes, and the flames slowly died down and extinguished over a few minutes.

Candice still held her as Twilight brought herself under control. "Does this help? Knowing that I won't take advantage of you for my own pleasure?"

Twilight relaxed against Candice. "Even if you thought you were taking advantage, it would be me taking advantage of you, but thank you."

Candice stroked Twilight’s mane with her wing, "You can't take advantage of me. All I ask is that you tell me when you're calm, that it's what you want and that it will make you happy. You do that, and I will be yours in any way you want me."

The flames burst back into existence, each point that they touched on Candice felt like they were kissing her. The very fire driving Twilight started to stir desire in Candice. Twilight nuzzled into Candice’s neck before asking "Any way I want?"

"Yes, any way you want, just as long as you can tell me that it's what you want, when you are calm, and without the fire in your mane. Whether that's alongside you in the lab or making love in your room. Just as long as it's your rational side telling me that, and not your passions driving you." Candice said while still holding Twilight.

The flames vanished, leaving Twilight looking dazed.

Candice cocked her head to the side. "Are you alright?"

"I think you just talked my passion into letting me have a clear head for this choice," Twilight said in a puzzled tone before letting out a short heartfelt laugh. It was like a huge weight was lifted from her. “Alright, I can agree to those terms.”

“Fancy spending some time in the lab, seeing what exactly Luna did to you?” Twilight asked, a twinkle in her eyes.

A nod and a light kiss on the nose was all the communication Candice needed to show her approval of the suggestion.

They headed deeper into the castle, reaching one of Twilight’s secondary Labs. On the way, they passed the heavily warded doors to the main lab. It seemed even an Alicorn would have trouble breaking in.

As soon as the doors to the smaller lab closed, securing their places, Candice asked, “Question, would you be able to cast a thoughts-to-voice spell and hook it up to Insight so she can contribute without having to go through me?”

“Sorry, no mind spells will work in the castle,” anger flashed in Twilight eyes for a moment.

“Ah, let me guess, Celestia?” Candice reasoned with her own voice showing a hint of wariness.

“Yes…” Twilight said, letting out a long drawn out breath, she schooled her voice and body language again. “What has Luna told you?”

“Not just what she told me, but also what I have seen for myself. Luna said her sister is rather free with her use of mind-reading. Also, the Solar Oath is magically reinforced with an effect that isn’t noticed as it settles in over a great length of time. Several decisions of mine during my twenty-two years in RGIS were skewed in Celestia’s favour because of that magic influencing my mind. I wouldn’t have been perturbed by it if it was known that it would be part of the Oath. No, it was hidden until she pulled it from my wellspring. I suspect that there is far more to it than that however. The only thing I am certain of is the day I left the Solarguard is the day my trust in Celestia started to dwindle.” Candice finished her statement. Her body language showed that she wished it wasn’t true but couldn’t escape the facts.

“Well, let's just say what she did to me was worse. She did not just read my mind. No, she made it.” Twilight said.

As Twilight continued to explain, Candice listened with rapt attention. She was not happy that her fears of Celestia were actually being confirmed. As Twilight went on, Candice’s anger grew. When Twilight told her that it was to save Equestria, Candice’s anger faltered. It was still there, but she could see why Celestia did it. She very much disagreed with the method though. Candice still had anger for how it was approached. The lack of explanation, or even being given a choice in the matter, incensed her.

The fact that it was the Warlock’s fault did dampen the feelings towards Celestia a bit though. Candice didn’t miss the fact that Twilight was being vague about the Temple of the Hidden Path.

When Twilight shuddered, Candice just moved in and hugged her. No words, just being there. Again the touch of feathers calmed her. Before too long had passed, Twilight moved things towards the reason they were here, research.

With Candice being a willing test subject, she and Twilight had started running every sort of test and scanning spell either of them could think of on Candice's body. After that, they moved on to pouring over notes about magic and science.

Twilight watched with interest as Candice cast her unique spellcraft. Each of her spells was made up of lots of smaller ones, chained together in ways that would require a doctorate degree in magic to start to understand. There was a net gain in efficiency but a considerable increase in complexity. They were also weaker against disruption, counterspells and magical flux.

As time moved on, they continued to explore the qualities of magic and delve into the mysteries of the universe. Honestly, Candice was having the time of her life. She was really starting to wonder if it was possible for things to get any better.

After a few hours, Twilight mumbled, “No, I’m not going to turn her into a book.”

Candice perked her ears in Twilight’s direction. “While I would very much appreciate not being turned into a book, I would have no problem with you reading me like one.”

Twilight looked hungrily at Candice.

Candice looked her levelly in the eyes, “Twilight if this is what you want, you just need to say so. You know my one condition.”

“There is definitely a part of me that wants this, wants you,” Twilight said as she pressed against Candice. Twilight trailed kisses along Candice's neck. Candice held her as she looked for flames. Her own desire starting to seriously spike.

“You claimed to be able to tend ley lines, I will have at least that tonight,” Twilight purred.

“As you wish,” Candice said as she gave Twilight a kiss in return.

Twilight lit her horn and let her magic flow into Candice, allowing her to feel her desire. The energy was shaped and one crack of magic later, they were both falling onto Twilights large bed in a tangle of hooves and wings, the kiss still unbroken.

As they slowed down enough to untangle themselves, Candice moved to lead Twilight to lay down with her wings spread.

A wash of white magic coated Twilight as every foreign contaminant was pleasantly removed from her body and sent to the waste bin.

After that, she cast a spell to highlight the nervous system so she could see where Twilight was tense. She concentrated on those areas with a not-unskilled but not-quite-professional level of hoof massage.

Twilight closed her eyes and let out a pleased coo. The tension in her body started melting away.

After about half an hour, Candice moved onto preening Twilight’s wings. Her movement being far more tender and caring. She paid extra attention to the feathers that provoked the stronger reactions.

Twilight twitched delightfully, too comfortable to do anything other than coo softly and obey every request for her to adjust her wings.

Her impression of a spa pony done, she moved to the one thing no normal spa pony could ever do. Leaning down and whispering in Twilight’s ear, she asked, “I don’t have a whole lot of practice cleaning ley lines, but I know I’m at least decent at it. Luna I’m sure is far better. How long has it been since you have had your ley lines cleaned?”

“It feels like it has been ages.”

“Would you like me to do that for you?” Candice asked with a bit of teasing, still leaning near Twilight’s ear, a slight nuzzle emphasizing the offer.

Twilight groaned, “You have no idea.”

Candice started slow, using her regeneration rate, which allowed her to keep up her ministrations for as long as she wished. Eventually, she moved to use more and more of her own wellspring.

Twilight called out with some volume. Candice turned her hearing enhancement to protection, “I reversed my hearing spell from enhancement to protection. If you wish to call out like that, I would just suggest soundproofing the room.”

Shadow magic enveloped the room.

“I see Luna has been teaching you some tricks,” Candice stated with happy appreciation in her voice.

After a while of tending to her ley lines, Candice finished with nine hours of stored energy, plus most of her remaining wellsprings, bursting through Twilight’s ley lines. Candice was very glad she had asked Twilight to soundproof the room and that she had turned her own spell to hearing protection.

Twilight just lay there for several minutes, happily purring and just practically being a puddle.

Twilight seemed to slowly regain the ability for rational thought. Page by page, a book started to form. There was a lot of magic going into this, and it seemed rather wasteful to Candice. As the binding came into existence and tightened down on the book, the custom cover was completed as the title came into view, ‘How to Clean an Alicorn’s Ley Lines’.

Candice’s eyes widened at the sight of the book. While being able to create matter from magic was common for Alicorns, she knew that having that book almost counted as treason.

“Thank you, I’ll make sure to keep this one hidden,” Candice stated her appreciation.

Twilight managed up muster the effort to offer a curious look.

“Knowing this information is legally treason. Did you not know that?” Candice replied.

Twilight shook her head. Twilight’s magic opened the tome and wrote a pardon for Candice in her elegant hornwritting on the front of the book.

Candice put the book in her pocket space, “Thank you. It would appear that we have the same idea of what makes a good gift my fellow bibliophile. I have a gift planned for you as well, but it will take me a bit to complete it,” Candice finished.

Twilight’s aura gently squeezed Candice in a hug. After a moment the magic rippled with small motes of Twilight’s flames. "Oh, I can think of another gift you could give." The look in Twilight's eyes did not seem to be her own. Being looked at as if she were an object, no matter how desired, wasn’t where Candice wanted this to go. She wanted a real relationship, not to just be a toy.

“You know what you need to do to get that.” Candice looked at her levelly.

Twilight growled, "Who are you dictate to me?” The magic holding Candice gripped tighter, a hunger in Twilight's eyes now literally burning.

Candice pulsed her disruption effect. It took a lot of her remaining magic, but Twilight’s magic fizzled out, “Someone who isn't going to let you back out of what you agreed to before.” The look on her face was one of disappointment.

Candice could see there was something warring in Twilight's gaze, but the flames did not seem to want to let go.

“How badly did Celestia hurt you? Or was it what happened to you after Manehatten? Or both?” Candice asked with honest worry in her eyes.

Twilight laughed hysterically for a moment, the lust dying, her expression flicking to murderous anger. The flames in her mane ignited her bed as a wave of intense heat rolled off of the mare.

Flapping her wings once, Candice flew back and away from Twilight. She now sat on the other side of the room, her face showing quite a bit of concern. She looked at her hooves and noticed the singed fur of her fetlocks, there were light burns under the fur as well.

Twilight looked up and saw Candice sitting near the door. She looked down at Candice’s hooves and saw the damage to the fur. A look of guilt appeared on Twilight’s face as the flames extinguished. Twilight's more normal appearance returned.

Candice looked at Twilight, “You’re seriously unstable and apparently explosive. I can’t enter into any kind of relationship with you if you’re like this. I’ll head back to Luna if that is what’s needed.” Candice started to turn towards the door.

“I'm sorry,” Twilight's voice was as weak as a foal. “A part of me still hates