Princess Celestia sat in a meeting. And would have been bored to tears if she didn't have so many centuries of experience in dealing with such situations. She had reached a decision in the first ten minutes, but had to let the mare keep talking just in case she said something actually important.
Then she felt it. It almost went unnoticed, but she had been expecting it and knew what to look for. A presence that had been muffled and hidden from her, had an unmistakable flare. She already knew it was in the city. Now her next search would actually be worth the time and effort.
It was only through so many years of practice that she managed to hide her excitement for the rest of the day. She finished her list of meetings and appointments before quickly eating her dinner. She retired to her private quarters with orders that she was not to be disturbed. After sitting down in front of her balcony doors, her magic reached out across the city to find what she was looking for.
A white pegasus mare with a pink mane and tail, suddenly appeared in an ally just outside the castle gates. She checked herself over before looking around the area to see if anypony was watching her. Satisfied that she was alone, she took off into the air and flew low over the roof tops.
It was a short trip to Canterlot General Hospital in the lower district. Being in Canterlot in Equestria meant that it was still top of the line with some of the best equipment and practices the world had to offer. The receptionist didn't even glance at her as she passed by. Even in the hallways, everypony ignored her as she made her way to the nursery. The nurse monitoring the newborn foals, only gave a glance at what must have been a family member who just got off work or into the city. It only took a moment for the mare to find who she was looking for. A motherly smile graced her lips. "Twilight." She left the hospital just as quietly and disappeared into the night.
Two days after getting the family home from the hospital was the start of the weekend. They were settling into the living room and thinking about lunch when there was a knock at the door. A moment latter, Night Light answered the door to find a white pegasus mare with a pink mane and tail standing there. "Hello?"
"Hello." She smiled at him. "You must be Night Light. May I come in?"
He noticed the royal guard badge hanging from her neck but missed the serial number being a stylized 0 with eight wavy points coming off of it. "Is something wrong?"
"Not at all. But I do have some important information that I think we should keep quiet about for now." She took a quick look around, as if checking to see if anypony was listening to them.
He hesitated for a moment before stepping back to let her in.
"Thank you." She stepped inside and his magic closed the door behind her. "Sorry about the deception but like I said, it would be best if nopony knows that I'm here or why."
"Deception?" Then he watched as a powerful illusion melted away to reveal a much larger mare. He gasped and dropped to a bow. "Your Highness!"
"None of that." She motioned with a hoof for him to get back up. "That's not what I'm here for."
"Honey?" A mare called out from the other room. "What's going on?"
Princess Celestia looked at the nervous stallion. "If you would lead the way, please." She held out a leg and pointed towards the entrance to the living room.
"O-Of course." It only took him a few steps, and even fewer for the princess, to get into the room. "Can I get you something to drink, or... anything?"
"No, thank you." She shook her head. "I'm afraid I can't stay long today."
"Princess Celestia!" Twilight Velvet started to get up, but a raised hoof and gentle push of magic from the princess kept her seated.
"Please, don't get up. You have a little one to take care of." She sat down in the middle of the room, facing the mare, while the stallion stood next to the rocking chair his wife was sitting in.
She settled back into her seat and bowed her head. "To what do we owe such and honor?"
Her smile had never left her face, but it seemed to get a little brighter. "Well it's not everyday that another alicorn is born." She glanced down at the bundle the mare was holding in her forelegs. From where she was, she could just see the tip of a tiny horn poking out.
The two parents were stunned for a moment before looking at their newborn foal. They started to get nervous. Velvet swallowed before looking the princess in the eye. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, Your Highness. But we're just unicorns here."
The answer they got was a bit of laughter. "Trust me when I say that I know my own kind." She held out her forelegs. "May I?"
With a bit of careful shuffling around and stabilizing magic, the foal was passed over and the princess held the tiny pony against her chest with a foreleg. A large, golden shod hoof, on the end of a white coated leg, reached out to the bundle. A tiny blue hoof, on the end of a white coated leg, reached up to it in turn.
"Hello, Shining Armor. My name is Celestia. We're going to have a long time to get to know each other. I hope we can be friends."
The colt went from looking at the giant, shiny hoof, to staring at the huge eyes looking down at him. The two alicorns just looked into each other's eyes for a minute. He turned to look at his mother. "Baa." And stuck a hoof in his mouth.
Twilight Velvet slowly rocked back and forth in her chair. A week ago, Princess Celestia had shown up at their front door looking for a newborn alicorn. She looked down at the tiny colt sleeping in her forelegs. The princess had been adamant that her foal was actually an immature alicorn. She had checked him over a dozen times since but couldn't find anything to suggest that he was anything but a unicorn. It was supposed to take decades before he would get stronger and grow wings.
The princess didn't stay long after meeting him but promised to return soon, once she could get more free time. Although she insisted that they don't do anything special for her, it wouldn't be right to have the ruler of Equestria sitting on the bare floor or in a chair that was too small. At the moment, Night Light was out getting a large floor cushion and some imported tea.
There was a knock at the door and Twilight got up to answer it while still carefully holding onto her baby. She opened the door and imminently recognized the pegasus mare standing there. "Princess!" She bowed and shuffled back to let her in. This time, the white and pink pegasus was followed by a pink and purple pegasus.
"I told you, you don't need to do that. Especially when you are taking care of a foal." The door closed behind them and the illusions fell from the two mares.
Casual visits from Princess Celestia were shocking enough. And while Celestia was THE princess of Equestria, there was no denying that Princess Cadance was also a very important pony. Seeing both princesses of Equestria in her house when she wasn't ready for them was the final straw and Twilight's mind froze up. She didn't start thinking clearly again until she felt herself being sat down in her rocking chair, Shining Armor still held in her foreleg.
Something pink next to her head startled her and she flinched away before identifying it as Princess Cadance leaning over her shoulder. "Oh he is adorable!" She smiled down at him as he yawned and stretched. "Can I hold him? Please."
"Hu?" Her mind was still working it's way up to full speed. "Oh, of course." She watched as the younger princess took her foal and sat down on the floor. Causing her to wince a little at the indignity she was subjecting them to by not being prepared. "Would you two like some tea? And I think a tray of brownies should be cooled down and ready by now."
Celestia nodded to her. "If you don't mind. That would be delightful. Thank you." She followed Twilight into the kitchen. "Is your husband not home?"
"He's out doing some shopping." She ran around the room, getting stuff ready. "I'm sorry but all we have is some local variety." A box was held up and the Princess pulled two packets out. "We'll make sure to have some fancier stuff for you next time." On her next time around the room she was suddenly stopped by a large hoof on her withers.
Celestia gently patted her back. "Calm down. Relax." She lowered her head so they were eye level. "I didn't come here for you to wait on me like a nervous new servant at the castle. I came here for a casual visit with a fellow alicorn and his family. Ponies that I hope I can call friends. You don't need to do anything special for me. Most ponies forget that I'm older then the modern conveniences they think I can't live without. Like indoor plumbing." She giggled at the look of shock and realization on the smaller mare's face. She let go and looked at the kettle, channeling a fire spell into it. "And honestly, I prefer earth pony grown blends over the fancy imports I get gifted."
By the time the kettle was whistling, she had calmed down and could carry on normally. Three cups with hot water and tea bags were levitated into the living room. Cream, sugar and spoons followed them while a tray of fresh baked brownies and a sharp knife came last. "Sorry I'm a bit of a mess. It's just been so much to take in."
Celestia took her cup and sat down on the floor next to the chair while watching the other two alicorns get to know each other. "It's quite alright. Take the time you need to adjust. And while I might not always be available, I'll do what I can to help."
Although uncomfortable at taking a chair while two royal guests were on the floor, she got the impression that it was expected of her and settled in. "I keep thinking about how you want to keep this quiet and my biggest worry is that somepony will try to hurt him for what he is."
Celestia started laughing. It was the kind of laugh that came from hearing something ridiculous. "I can assure you that's not something you need to worry about."
Twilight blushed in embarrassment as her ears folded back. "You're right, of course. It's silly to think about such things with how peaceful Equestria is. After all, when was the last time somepony tried to assassinate you?"
"Some pony?" She tapped her chin with a hoof as she thought about it. "Almost twenty-five years ago I believe."
The look on her face turned to one of confusion as what she was told, slowly sunk in. "Wait. What?"
Celestia nodded as she looked off into the distance. "Good with a bow. Not so good at escaping. Got me in the heart and lungs but couldn't make it to the gate when she tried to run."
She now looked afraid of what she was hearing and focused her attention on the princess. "I never heard about this! How are you so calm about it? How did you survive that?"
"Well it's not like anything bad happened." She finally noticed the distress the other mare was in. "Now that I think about it, I suppose I should have mentioned this the first time I was here." She started cutting up the brownies. "Most creatures forget that 'immortal' doesn't just mean a long life."
"What else does it mean?"
Celestia glanced at her. She turned her attention back to the knife and used a bit of magic to clean the blade. She looked at the other mare and held up the knife. A flick of magic sent it flying across the room and Twilight gasped in horror as she watched it hit it's mark.
Cadance looked up from Shining and then down at her side and found a handle sticking out. She frowned at Celestia. "What was that for?"
She smiled back. "Just a demonstration to help alleviate some fears."
She rolled her eyes and turned back to the colt she was holding. "This is why you have to be careful when she's feeling playful or mischievous. She doesn't like to see her ponies upset, but she does have some crazy ideas for pranks." She booped him on the nose and he giggled at having the new pony pay attention to him.
She pulled the knife out, wiped most of the blood off on her coat and then held it there. She concentrated for a moment and the blood started flowing back into the cut before it closed up. A clean knife was set on the coffee table and a patch of her coat that was cut short was the only evidence that anything had happened.
Celestia tapped Twilight on the shoulder to get her attention. "I don't think your heart could take a demonstration but I can assure you that things would have been about the same if it had been him."
"I- That-" She looked at the other two and pointed a hoof at where the knife had been. She took a moment to think about what she saw and tried to imagine pulling a knife out of her baby while he ignored it. She slowly turned back to Princess Celestia. "Are you sure?"
She finished a sip of tea and nodded. "The blade would do more damage to his smaller body, and a lack of familiarity means it would take him longer to recover. By the time we leave here however, nopony would believe it had ever happened."
She settled into her chair and quietly sipped her tea while her overworked mind tried to process this latest bit of information. A faint whiff of odor made her vaguely aware of Princess Cadance leaving the room with Shining for a few minutes. Sipping from an empty cup finally broke her trance. "If he can't get hurt, then why do you want to keep quiet about him?"
"Aside from the excessive amount of, no doubt unwanted, attention that it would draw to your family?" Celestia frowned at the floor. "As you may have noticed, or at least will soon enough, we can have a... an odd way of perceiving the world and interacting with those around us.
Twilight glanced at Princess Cadance. "Like stabbing each other for fun?"
"Exactly." She nodded to the mare with a small smile before frowning at the floor again. "My own foalhood was... unique. Cadance was born with her pegasus aspect and next was unicorn. The time she could spend blending in with others was cut short." She looked at Shining Armor and saw the other two alicorns laying on the floor, playing some sort of simple game. "I believe that if your's have the opportunity to live as close to a normal life as possible, for as long as possible, it will give them a better understanding of what life is like for the average pony." She looked at Twilight. "They will have a closer connection to their future subjects. And they will be all the better for it."
She nodded in agreement. "I think understand, Princess. They... " She frowned in confusion. "They?" She turned to look directly at the Princess.
"Oh, yes!" She set her teacup down. "I don't know how many you planed to have, but don't be surprised if you have another soon enough."
She blinked at the princess, looked over at her foal, and turned back. "Another alicorn?"
Celestia nodded. She spent a moment looking at the distressed mare. "I'm sorry for telling you so much all at once. I've just been so excited that I didn't stop to think that you might need more time to take everything in." Twilight responded by half nodding half rocking in her chair. "Lets talk about something else to help get your mind off of this. So tell me, what kind of hobbies do you have?"
A disguised Princess Celestia and Princess Cadance were taking a leisurely flight back to the castle.
Celestia glanced to the side. "So did you two have fun?"
Cadance nodded and smiled. "He is such a little cutie. And so aware of what's going on. I swear there were a few times he wanted to go protect his mother but couldn't figure out what was wrong."
"It's good to hear that he already has the desire to protect others."
"Should we..." Cadance looked back at where they had came from. "Should we have told her what happens to half of us?"
"No." Celestia's look hardened as the happiness from a moment ago faded. "I've already overwhelmed her too much with everything that I've told her. They don't need to know about that anytime soon." They flew onward in silence for a moment. "And if the plan works, it won't be an issue anyway."
Cadance's mood had also fallen. "It didn't work for Crystal."
"That may be true, but I refuse to believe that half of our kind are destined to turn evil." She flew in front of Cadance and put a hoof on her shoulder. "We need to keep trying. We will find a way around it. And we may yet get our sisters back."
She grabbed the hoof on her shoulder. "I hope you're right auntie Tia."
She nodded and turned around. "Now come on, it's almost lunch. Those brownies were good but I could really go for some cake."
Princess Celestia sat in her throne as she went over some paperwork. Twilight was off to the side with Smarty Pants, studying her books. Spike was behind her, playing with some toys.
Celestia's ear twitched. "Hmm. Sounds like another mouse."
The few guards around the room glanced at her but didn't move.
Gnarl froze. He didn't even breath. It had been surprisingly easy to get this far, but if it was him that the princess had heard, then he couldn't rely on stealth anymore. He would have to strike fast and hope that the wounds and poison did their work quickly. Part of him worried about what would happen without the sun princess, but there were too many bits on the table. And killing a child who might turn into a grand mage? Again, there were a lot of bits involved.
With a plan of action in mind, the griffin prepared to strike. He jumped into the air with a crossbow in each hand. He fired one bolt at the princess and watched it hit it's mark. He fired the other at the filly but trusted his skill and concentrated on the princess. He let go of the crossbows and grabbed a dagger. Something closed around his neck and he jerked to a painful stop. He lost his dagger but the princess had grabbed it out of the air before it hit the ground and she held it just out of reach.
Celestia took her time organizing her papers before setting them down. The assassin was levitated in front of her and she looked at him with a cold stare. "Is there something I can help you with?"
He gave up struggling in vain. "It doesn't matter now. The poison will finish you off."
She cocked an eyebrow and just stared at him for a moment. The dagger floated up in between them. He knew there was a chance he wouldn't survive the job. He just wasn't expecting to be stabbed with his own weapon. Instead she used the tip of the blade to stir her tea, before setting it down next to the spoon she had used earlier. He could only watch in shock as she took a drink and stopped to think about the taste. "Not very strong. Couldn't you have used something with a little more kick?"
"Umm." Anything else he was going to say was cut off by the screams that filled the room.
Celestia leaned back in surprise as she watched the griffin spasm while arcs of electricity danced across his fur and feathers. She looked down to see a very angry Twilight Sparkle with a stream of electricity coming off of her horn.
The energy cut out and soon the assassin was down to just small twitches. Celestia turned him to face Twilight. "You wrecked my book! Apologize." She continued to glare at him while holding up her damaged book to show where the crossbow bolt had hit it.
His recovering mind was left dumbfounded. She had been between him and the book. There was no way it could have done that without passing through her first. And yet he clearly somehow missed such a close and easy shot, while hitting something that should have been behind cover. "I... You... No..." Again, anything else was cut off by more screams of pain.
Upon hearing his refusal, she once again lit the bad griffin up like a light bulb. He would pay for his crimes against books.
Celestia waited until his twitching had slowed down enough that he could pay attention to the world around him. "She's just going to keep doing that until you apologize."
He looked down at the angry filly. "I'm... s-sorry about your b-b-b... book."
She frowned at him for a second longer before turning away. "Now I can't finish studying. And I'm going to get in trouble when I return it."
Celestia smiled at her. "I'll deal with returning the book, Twilight. You won't get in trouble for this."
Spike was too young to really know what was going on around him, but he did understand some things. Right now he understood that his mommy was very angry at the new creature. He also understood that the big one his mommy liked was also upset with the new creature. And lastly, he instinctively understood how his kind dealt with such things.
Celestia heard a noise and shifted her gaze. She had just enough time to put a quick shield around the assassin. For the third time, the throne room was filled with screams. Unlike the screams of pain from before, this time it was the screams terror that would be expected from a flammable creature that was surrounded by fire. The shield saved him from being incinerated but couldn't stop all of the heat from the magically augmented fire. He was lightly cooked in his own skin as sweat boiled away. She quickly levitated him away and dropped him at the doors. "Lets get him out of here before anything else happens."
It only took a moment for the guards to put cuffs around his legs and a strap around his wings. "Come on, get up." He was prodded with the butt of a spear. It took some groaning and a bit of time to get his claws and paws under him and start moving. "Big bad assassin reduced to this by a couple children." The guard gave a humorless laugh as the group of them escorted him out of the throne room and to the dungeon.
Celestia closed the doors and looked to Twilight. "I think we should have some lessons on proportional response." Twilight tilted her head to the side. "I'm not upset with you, he was a bad griffon, but your reason for what you did is not acceptable."
"But he wrecked my book!" She held up the damaged book to show her.
"I know. But that's not a good reason to electrocute somecreature." She looked up as the doors opened. "It looks like the investigation team is here." She teleported the bolt out of her chest and left it next to the dagger. "Gather your things Twilight. We'll go get some ice cream while they work."
"ICE CREAM!" She quickly gathered up her and Spikes stuff into her saddle bags before levitating him onto her back.
He smiled and grabbed onto her neck. He understood that word.