Time Enough For Three

by Valtyra

First published

Twilight finds herself wanting to know more about Celestia and Luna. So she ends up time travelling!

Princess Twilight, for all of her knowledge, didn't particularly know that much about Celestia or Luna's past. In an attempt to figure out more about her peers she digs up the infamous time travel spell. Jumping at the chance to gather first-hoof about the only other immortal ponies she dives head first into the past!

Finding that she has stumbled into helping the Princesses on a mighty quest she isn't hesitant to lend a helping hoof but her resolve is quickly tested when not all is what it seems and the past, and present, of Equestria is put at stake!

Follow Twilight, and the would-be Princesses, across the world as they track down dangerous artefacts, delve into dilapidated dungeons and avoid disaster in a race against time itself!

I'm thankful to Dusk Melody for reading through and helping me realise the direction I wanted the story to go in.

Spelling, grammar and general thoughts have been provided by TheGreatEater

The source of the image used is: Magnaluna - Eye contact

Thanks for featuring! <3 Love you peeps!

Arc 1: Chapter 1

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Twilight looked up from the legislation she contemplated vaporizing and rubbed the bridge of her muzzle. There wasn’t that much for her to attend to on account of the Princesses having divided the workload of running the country between themselves, but Celestia had offloaded some document signing to the young Alicorn to keep her busy, much to her mild annoyance, considering that most of the paperwork and letters were sent from nobility trying to butter her up.

She imagined that this was what it was like for Celestia and had begun to take notes on how to deal with it more smoothly. Still, even Twilight could only handle so much paperwork before she began to lose the will to live.

Twilight pushed her chair away from her desk and stepped away, using a flick of magic to snuff out the candle that sat beside her and glanced around her room to see a mess of scattered research papers, books and cork boards which held numerous pictures of artefacts that have, or could, endanger Equestria. Her desk was practically overflowing with legislations and predominantly demands from nobles —miraculously all which were ‘of utmost importance’ and needed ‘urgent signing’. Curiously, some of said papers had found their way onto the unused side of her bed.

Ever since a brand new stone statue was added to the royal vault, Twilight had been spending more time in Canterlot. She still went back and forth between the capital and her castle, but being a Princess meant needing to look like she was ‘invested in the Equestrian triarchy’, as Celestia would often say.

Walking out, she took one last glance around the room just in case she had forgotten anything, and locked the door. It wouldn’t do if any nosy pony found her research.

Moving from Ponyville to Canterlot really hadn’t changed the mare’s proclivity to staying up till ridiculous hours of the early morning and this was just one of those occasions, as she could count how many ponies were up and about, in her section of the castle, on her hooves.

Twilight quickly made her way through the empty halls towards the outdoor gardens. She wanted a breath of fresh air to take her mind away from all the bureaucracy and nobles which were trying their best to ram their muzzles up her tail-hole. The mare really didn’t know why they were trying to get on her ‘good side’, it wasn’t as if she held any political power yet.

Letting out a relaxed sigh at the feeling of soft grass beneath her hooves, she walked over to one of her favourite benches which overlooked the valley where Ponyville sat. With each hooffall, Twilight could feel the weight of the entire day melt off her withers and leaving her at peace once she laid down on the stone bench.

Laying there, she gazed up towards the heavens, marvelling at the sight of a brand new night sky; star formations which had never existed before in the history of Equis.

“I see you’re still up again, Twilight,” Luna stated, raising an eyebrow at the younger mare.

With a startled yelp, Twilight flicked her attention to the mistress of the moon, a frown on her face. “How do you keep doing that?” she asked with a huff.

Luna smiled down at her as her hoof covered her giggle. “My apologies. I really didn't mean to startle you quite so much. Would you mind some quiet company?”

“I would love some,” Twilight said, scooting over to the side. “Though don’t you have night court now?”

Luna shook her head as she sat down next to Twilight, her wing unfurling to cover the mare.

“One would think so, but as usual it did not gain any attendees,” she replied, giving a roll of her eyes at the end. “Even after I’ve been back for so long, they still do not care.”

“They just need some time to warm up to you. Night court is still held relatively late, compared to a regular sleeping schedule, you know,” Twilight said with a reassuring smile, gently nuzzling Luna’s shoulder.

Luna glanced at Twilight for a second, before she sighed. “I know that, Twilight, but it doesn’t make it sting any less,” she said, slightly annoyed. “It doesn’t seem like it has changed much since my banishment.”

“Sorry,” Twilight whispered, resting her head on her forelegs.

Twilight snuggled closer to Luna as a cold breeze blew over them.

“Hey, Luna? What was it like growing up?”

Luna’s ears perked up. “It was... adequate, for the time. Why do you ask?”

“Oh. Well, I’ve been studying pre-Equestrian artefacts and creatures and I realised that I don’t really know anything about you or your sister other than what’s been I could find in the palace archives. I tried to ask your sister, but she seemed distracted and didn’t really help.”
She had tried asking Celestia about her early years on three separate occasions, each attempt ending with Celestia spontaneously remembering something important that needed her full attention.

Luna eyed the younger Alicorn for a second, then shrugged. “As I said, it was adequate. Pre-Equestria was a harsh place, compared to now, but some aspects were worth it.”

“Like what?”

“My sister and I had travelled far and wide and met all sorts of ponies. It was a delightful experience,” Luna explained, smiling. “‘Tis a shame that we can’t do that anymore.”

Twilight’s eyes lit up at hearing this, salivating at the prospect of new knowledge.

“What sort of things did you see?” she began. “What sort of creatures were around before Discord? How old were you when you started?”

Luna blinked at the fast-fire questions Twilight was shooting off and squeezed the mare with her wing, receiving a squeak and a light blush in return.

“Twilight, please. It was a long time ago, even for me,” she said, Twilight mentally taking notes to write down later. “I’m sure that I would have trouble sufficiently describing where we travelled to.”

She then let out an airy chuckle and ruffled Twilight’s mane. “Honestly, I doubt you’d get much more out of my sister either. Even Alicorns forget stuff that happened eons ago. What I can say is that I visited places which aren’t on the map anymore.”

Twilight couldn’t help but find herself pouting ever so slightly, even if her annoyance was betrayed by the light flush coating her cheeks.

“I hate how you can do that,” she mumbled.

“Do what, dear Twilight?” Luna asked with an air of innocence.

“Make me pout,” Twilight huffed while Luna laughed.

The pair lost track of time as they talked about various small topics now and again. It wasn’t until the first few rays of light inched over the horizon and colored the castle towers in shades of fiery orange and red that Twilight had to concede and head off to bed, but not before using all of her willpower to leave the warmth and comfort of Luna’s wing.

Having coaxed herself back to her chambers, Twilight laid still in bed, staring up at the ceiling and letting out a groan at her inability to simply ‘switch off’. This was her curse; the fact that she couldn’t stop once she had an idea.

She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, her magic grabbing a mug of dark roast from her bedside table which she downed in a large swig, grimacing at the bitter taste of cold coffee going down. Slowly, caffeinated energy flowed through her as she made for her stairs, the mug placed back on the table.

Climbing up to the second floor of her suite, Twilight materialized a stack of scrolls from her private collection onto her desk. Finding the one she wanted, she pushed the rest aside, careful not to damage the parchment, then unfurled the scroll on the now clear surface, the golden cursive script at the top reading Momento del Tempo.

“If the Princesses can’t remember,” she muttered with new vigor, pulling up a fresh scroll and dipping a quill in her inkwell. “Then I will go there and find out myself.”

Levitating over a fresh, unmarred scroll, Twilight hummed in thought. Could she really do what she wanted? Was it even a good idea?

Tapping her quill against the inkwell, she wondered what sort of rules that she would need. Plenty of time had passed since Starlight had tried to destroy the world, but the Princess had never truly forgotten how close she had come to losing.

“No stopping established events,” she said to herself, as if convincing herself that it could be a good idea. “Can’t go changing the past. Anything that happened must still happen. No exceptions. But... no pony knows what happened, other than the Princesses...” Twilight crossed out the line and started fresh. “Once everything is done, the universe must go back to the same state as when I left it. There.”

Satisfied, she moved on to the next bullet point.

“As far as I know, the only Alicorns were Celestia and Luna- keep my wings hidden,” Twilight whispered over the sound of her quill scribbling. “I can go without using my wings for a little bit anyway.”

Looking out of the window that overlooked the slumbering city, Twilight wondered about what she would need to bring.

"No modern medicine," she began, listing off what would slow her down if she wound up in a thought spot. Twilight was resourceful, sure, but even she wouldn't survive very long by herself in unfamiliar territory. "Alright, I guess I'll have to pack a travel bag. But nothing that would give away where I'm from."

Twilight couldn't stop her thoughts from drifting back to Celestia and Luna. There were plenty of depictions of the princesses dating back centuries, but none that show them when they had just turned one hundred.

She knew Celestia was at least two thousand years old, but no pony knew exactly and honestly, they were probably too scared to ask at this point. But, if this was to work, Twilight would not only need to ask, but ask in a way that would not raise any suspicion.

Twilight knew for a fact that Celestia would probably try and stop her from carrying this expedition out, citing various magical theories about time travel to state why it was a bad idea. Bad things happened to those who mess with Wild Magic. Unfortunately for Celestia, Twilight was now a fully-fledged princess and she wasn't scared of anything!

’Celestia was still pretty scary when someone wakes her up after the Summer Festival.’

She shook her head and placed her quill down, cleaning it so it didn't scratch the parchment.

The situation did raise an interesting thought. If she was going to the past to, hopefully, spend time with the princesses, why haven't either of them mentioned, or remembered it.

She had three theories. Either she won't go back, in which case they wouldn't have ever met her; she did go back and disguised herself enough for them not to remember her; or Luna was honest and they really didn't remember her.

"I hate time travel," she grumbled with an aggravated huff, making towards the door and using her magic to scoop her up saddlebag.

The Princess's focus was on collecting the equipment she'd need to survive in a less advanced society. Just by virtue of society advancing to the point that living to see the next day was a given, she had taken everything she knew for granted and could scarcely imagine what a world would be like without the luxuries of the modern age. Maybe something out of her fantasy novels perhaps?

Trotting through the halls with her former mentor's sun slowly rising to brighten a new day, Twilight made sure to keep a close eye around her for any would be Alicorns messing her plans, giving respectful nods of acknowledgment to the guards that saluted her as she walked past.

Rounding the corner, Twilight pushed the door to the infirmary open and peeked inside with a smile forming on her face.

"Clean Break!" Twilight called, trotting towards the castle’s resident physician. "It's good to see you!"

Clean Break was a unicorn stallion with a smaller stature than most, only as tall as her withers, but easily as old as Twilight's father. Aside from a few grey hairs, his brown mane was brushed to the side. A well-maintained doctor coat blocked what Twilight knew was a stethoscope and clipboard cutie mark.

His ears perked up upon hearing Twilight's voice and he turned around to reveal his trademark smile.

"Princess Twilight!" he replied, moving in to meet her. "I don't have you scheduled down for, oh let's see," he paused to rifle through his paper, "another six weeks?"

"I'm actually looking for some advice and I was wondering if you could help?"

"I'll try my best to answer anything you ask, Princess,” he replied, tilting his head.

Twilight sat down on one of the chairs next to the patient bed. Levitating her saddlebag off her back, and onto the floor in front of her, she opened the bag and gave the doctor a sheepish look. "What do you know of old Equestrian medicine?"

Twilight felt terrible about having to lie to Clean, but she knew the stallion wouldn't help her if she told him the truth. Still, he did leave with one side of her saddlebag filled with supplies that could last her a couple of weeks, if necessary.

The good doctor had scrounged up plenty of gauze, bandages, antibiotics, a few scalpels and even some painkillers for the young Princess, alongside a reference book detailing the synthesizing of said painkillers . As far as he knew, Twilight was preparing a thesis on the evolution of the medical society over the ages.

With one thing checked from her me tail checklist, Twilight was starting to gain a little pep in her trot. Next thing she imagined she'd need would be currency!

The modern bit had first been minted a few years after Luna’s banishment. Unfortunately for her, there were barely any left in circulation after such a long time. But if there were any left, they'd be in the Royal vault.

Turning her focus there, she trotted through the halls, like normal, until she turned a corner and bumped into somepony. Falling onto her rump with a grunt, Twilight opened her eyes and squeaked.

"Oh, Twilight. Sorry about that," Celestia said, holding out a hoof for the mare with a motherly smile that promised everything was going to be okay. "Somewhere to be so early?"

"Uh, I was actually doing some," she froze for a split second, her brain coming up with an excuse, "research. Into money."


"Yeah! It's really useful in everyday life, and I don’t know much about it."

Celestia's brow raised at that. "Anything specific?"

Twilight's eyes widened and she shook her head, taking a sidestep around the mare and slowly backing away.

"It's a super niche topic that you'd find really boring. More boring than those tea parties the nobles keep inviting you to," Twilight added.

"Well, alright. But I imagine you'll have plenty of time to study old age currency soon," Celestia said over her shoulder, as she began to wander off, leaving Twilight staring at her.

Once Twilight was sure Celestia was gone, she relaxed her posture and placed a hoof on her chest before taking a deep breath. She held it for a few seconds then released, just like Cadence had taught her..

Heart rate back under control, she continued on her way to the Vault, glancing back every now and then. She surmised that if Celestia wasn't stopping her, then either she didn't know, or didn't care. Either way she didn't look angry, which was good enough for Twilight.

Twilight nodded to the two stallions standing guard outside of the practically impenetrable Royal Vault. The Vault was carved into the side of the mountain half a hoof thick, and lined with magic nullifying crystals mined from the Badlands to stop ponies from just teleporting in and out.

The door itself was rather unassuming, a circular metal frame with a slot for an alicorn's horn. Not even a seal for the frame could be seen when the door was closed.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight moved closer and bowed down. She leaned forwards, slid her horn into the hole and winced as she felt the magically enchanted tumblers activate with a number of clicks.

Once inside, she focused her magic, allowing the tumblers to assess her. Within seconds, she felt a hum as the door resonated with her magical signature.

With a heavy clunk, the door opened to reveal shelves upon shelves that seemed to go on ad infinitum, each level filled with crates of varying sizes. Each crate had a number burned into the side, as well as the date when it was stored.

The pair of guards fell in line with the Princess as the Vault door closed behind her, leaving chills down Twilight’s back.

Twilight had heard many a pony wonder what was inside the Vault, and while it was a closely guarded secret of what exactly was in each crate, it wasn't a secret that most of what got stored never saw the light of day again.

It had taken the Princess a whole ten minutes of walking to find the region of the Vault that contained the date she needed. Using her magic to pry open a box nearest to her she tilted her head at seeing a lone toaster sitting at the bottom of the crate.

She took another look at the date, then back at the toaster.

'I’ll personally see to it that whichever archivist put this here gets fired,' she thought, placing the top back on and forcing herself to not go down that path.

It took another minute of searching, and four more open crates, to find one filled with old Equestrian bits. Scooping one out with her magic, Twilight held up the thin nickel coin and slowly mumbled the Olde Equestrian writing that ran around the edge of the coin.

'In the tribes we trust. Let none stand against.'

The bits seemed in a slightly used condition, but usable, nonetheless. Opening her bag, Twilight took out what seemed felt was reasonable without coming off as rich.

'I could pretend to be a trader from a far-off land. It might explain some of the exotic items I’m carrying,' she reasoned, closing her bag then glancing at the guards. "Time to head back."

The two guards nodded and fell back to their spots on either side of her as they made for the exit.

It didn't take them long to reach it and Twilight gave her thanks as she left, checking another task off on her mental checklist.

"Alright," she mumbled to herself, once again lost in thought. "Now for clothes."

At this point, Twilight was a little weirded out at how easy it had been to collect things. Usually for an adventure like this, some calamity would befall her, but it had been exceedingly calm. For once, she could blame it on all of the adventure books she had read.

"Clothes," she muttered, "where can I find clo- Rarity."

With a crack of magic and flash of purple light, Twilight was gone, leaving a scent of burning ozone in her wake.

The mare felt as if her body was being pulled in every direction at once as reality warped around her, depositing her in the middle of Ponyville. Twilight pulled herself off the ground and began the short trek over to Carousel Boutique as she dusted herself off.

The town of Ponyville was relatively quiet this time in the morning, but the few ponies that were out and about bowed to the Princess as she passed by, receiving still rather awkward waves and smiles.

'I guess I have plenty of time,' she thought, rolling her eyes at her own pun.

Finding a soft patch of grass to sit down on, Twilight pulled off her saddlebag and watched the ponies go about their daily rituals. She could see Pinkie bounce around, moving from house to house delivering orders for hungry ponies.

A smile adorned her face as she laid down under the shade of an oak tree. All at once, Twilight’s exhaustion made itself known with a loud yawn. . Closing her eyes, she could feel herself drift off and barely a minute later, she was asleep.

Twilight was awoken by the sound of a soft thump next to her ear. A quick peek reassured her that it was Rainbow Dash landing next to her and kicking up a cloud of loose dirt..
"Oh, come on!" Rainbow huffed, flapping her wings to waft the dirt cloud away.

Twilight pulled her head off her hooves and smirked when Rainbow had settled down. The mare hadn't changed much since Twilight's coronation. Instead of her old tomboyish style, her hair was longer and shaggier, with a curl or two, which she hid expertly, but anyone looking close could see them.

"Look who dropped by," Twilight laughed, as Rainbow gasped and jumped in fright.

"I thought you were asleep!" Dash squeaked, now facing Twilight. "But I should be asking you that. You do have a bed in the castle, right? Or did they throw it out after you kept sleeping in your laboratory?"

"No, they didn't," Twilight replied, shaking her head. "I was just passing by on my way to Rarity's and found myself a little tired."

"Late night studying again?"

Nodding, Twilight shrugged. "How could you guess."

Dash shrugged her withers and gestured to Twilight's saddlebag. "What'cha got in there?" she asked, trying to pick it up and letting out a grunt as she struggled to lift the bag off the ground. "What the hay do you even have here?!"

Twilight smiled as she watched, a hint of playfulness emerging. "Oh, you know. Just some loose change. I'd have expected a Wonderbolt to be able to lift it."

Using a hoof to pick up the saddlebag, Twilight rose off the ground and placed it on her back, grinning.

"Stupid Alicorn strength," Dash grumbled with a small pout.

Twilight chuckled to herself and fluffed up her wings. "Coming?" she asked, Gesturing to the town.

Dash shrugged. "Sure."

With that, the pair began their walk, with Dash hovering beside Twilight.

"I like the new mane. How did Rarity finally convince you?"

Rainbow's cheeks flushed slightly at Twilight's question and she looked away. "We, uh, dateandstuff," she mumbled.

"Sorry, I couldn't quite catch that?"

"We're dating, alright!"

Twilight blinked at the answer.

"Wait, you and Rarity? I can't say I saw that coming," she said, a wide smile forming. "I'm happy for you both!"

"I-It's embarrassing, okay."

Twilight frowned ever so slightly. "Dating Rarity is embarrassing?"

Dash's eyes shot open. "No, of course not!" she retorted, shaking her head. "It's just," Dash sighed and lowered herself to the ground, "it's embarrassing that I'm dating at all."

"Why?" Twi asked bluntly as she slowed to a stop. "I wouldn’t have thought that the great Rainbow Dash would be embarrassed by ‘mushy feelings’ ".

Twilight struck a pose, her wings flared as she tried a, poor, imitation of Dash's voice. "I'm Rainbow Dash! Wonderbolt extraordinaire! Fastest flier in all of Equestria!"

Dash rolled her eyes as she let out a 'blugh' at the imitation. "That was awful," she said, nudging her friend.

"I can do a sonic rainboom and clear the skies in ten seconds flat!" Twilight teased..

Ducking to dodge a hoof, Twilight let out a snort and a laugh as Dash tried to tackle her. She jumped off to the side and began to gallop into town, Rainbow Dash on her tail.

"Get back here, nerd!"

Screeching to a halt outside of Rarity's boutique, Twilight used her magic to turn the handle and move inside, ringing a bell that signaled a customer.

“Be right there,” Rarity said from around the corner.

Dash swooped in, passing Twilight to see her marefriend first, a wide smile on her face.

"Rarity! Guess who I found," Dash said, turning the corner and disappearing from view.

"Dashie!" Rarity replied, sounding much happier than a few seconds ago.

Twilight rolled her eyes, then trotted around the corner. She saw Rarity nuzzling Dash affectionately, the latter slightly squirming from the attention.

"Looks like you two are having fun."

Letting out a gasp, Rarity rushed up to Twilight and hugged her. "Darling! It's been a while!"

"It's good to see you too, Rarity," Twilight said, hugging her back.

"This is a pleasant surprise, but why are you here?" she asked, pulling back. "There's not another invasion is there? It won't do to push back even more commissions. "

Twilight shook her head as Rarity pulled her over to the couch. "No, nothing of the sort. It's been extremely quiet. Besides, all the girls would get a formal summons to Canterlot if that happened."

"Oh. I hope you'll excuse my jumping to that. But those sorts of things do happen quite often when you’re involved."

"It's fine, really," Twi replied, waving a hoof. 'I'm actually here to have some clothes made."

Rarity's eyes sparkled. "My dear, tell me more!" she ordered, magically pulling a measuring tape over. "A dress? Casual clothes? Maybe something a little more...intimate?"

The Princess shook her head. "I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint. I'm actually studying old Equestria and I've just made it to fashion." She ignored Rarity’s look of disappointment. "I know it's short notice, but I was hoping to show off some authentic designs."

Rarity's mood shot right back up. "So you came to me to create old Equestrian fashion to show off to Canterlot."

"Of course. Where else would I go?"

Twilight watched as Rarity began to think of ideas.

Sighing, Twilight waved her hoof in front of Rarity's eyes, snapping her out of it. "Rarity. They have to be old Equestrian. That means no frills, no fancy techniques, and no jewels!"

Gazing up at Twilight, Rarity grew more and more despondent upon hearing the rules. "But, but-"

"And they have to fit my old unicorn size. I assume you still have my measurements?"

Despite her personal qualms on the theme, Rarity nodded.

"Great. I know it’s not the Grand Galloping Gala, but it would really mean a lot to me."

Twilight didn't want to lie, but it was the easiest way of diverting the risk of worrying her friends, even though she would be gone for barely a nanosecond, from their perspective.

"Oh don’t be ridiculous, darling. It may not be avant-garde, but it’s still for a friend. When and how many do you need? I can start work straight away."

Twilight rubbed her chin in thought. "Well, ideally I need something that could be used in winter and one for summer. Then a couple of replacements in case anything is torn."

"That shouldn't take me too long to create. Though it sounds like you want them to be function than form?"

The Princess nodded. "They're old Equestrian garments. Everything was harsher back then, and ponies made due with what they had," she said, her voice having taken a more lecturing tone.

It was Dash's turn to speak up as she moved closer to Rarity and wrapped a wing around her. "Sorry, Twi, but it might have to take a little longer than usual," she said, turning to Rarity. "Don't you remember? We have our date night tomorrow."

Rarity gasped. "I got so wrapped up. Sorry, Dashie," she replied, nuzzling Rainbow.

"I guess I can get started on one tonight, if you can get the books to me quickly? I would think the summer outfit. From what I remember, the outfits weren't quite as elaborate as some ponies would imagine."

Twilight nodded. "That's alright, Rarity. Do what you can. You and Dash are more important," she replied, grinning. "What have you got planned, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Dash promised to take me to the opera in Manehattan; so romantic, " she sighed, leaning against her marefriend and fluttering her lashes.

Giggling at Dash's awkwardness, Twi asked, "How long have you two been dating? Also, how come no pony told me?"

The pair stiffened and averted their gaze.

"Well, you were so busy in Canterlot after your coronation that we didn't want to bother you," Dash replied, rubbing her neck.

Rarity continued for her. "We spent some time together that night. One week later, she invited me on a dinner date, and it spiraled from there. She was so cute the first time we kissed."

Twilight did her best to hold a straight face as Dash's cheeks were set ablaze. "I- I can still refund the tickets!"

The mare placed a hoof on her chest in her best ‘I-am-offended’ look. "You would do such a thing?! Maybe I won't make that new flying suit you want!"

Dash looked away, a playful huff leaving her. "It's a good thing I'd never actually resort to such under-hoofed tactics."

Rarity rolled her eyes and nuzzled Dash's neck.

"Thanks, Rare. I owe you a big one, but I should really get going. Plenty to plan!"

Reappearing in her room, the mare took a few seconds to reorient herself and place her bag down. Looking out the window showed it was just past midday; plenty of time to go about collecting the items needed to create a stable portal into the past.

Twilight looked around at her massive collection of books, eyes drifting critically over the spines for all the ones that Rarity could use for reference, and teleported a small stack over to the boutique.

Quickly, she levitated a box of chalk over from her blackboard and began to draw out a ritual circle on the floor, having dragged her tables to the edges of the room. Her chalk ran over the smooth wood effortlessly and she drew a triquetra that span across several hooves.

Levitating the scroll from her desk over, she unfurled and copied the contents down, making sure not to disturb the symbols. She did add a few additional symbols, so that anyone looking in the room wouldn’t notice the exit portal, as well as one of her own design that would not allow anypony except herself to pass through.

Nodding in satisfaction, Twilight rolled the scroll up and placed it on the table.

Gazing down at her work, Twilight couldn't help but grin. Not a single mark out of place; her best work yet. She would, however, need one additional item if she was to activate the portal; a living relic that exist before the jump in time, and continues to exist unto the present. Anything non-living would cause the ritual to fail. Fortunately for Twilight, there were two princesses in the castle that fit the description.

A hair from one of the Princesses. Either would do, but Twilight guessed she'd have better luck from Luna as she imagined she would be asleep, giving Twilight a chance to slip in and out undisturbed.

Nodding in acceptance of her plan, Twilight left the room and travelled towards Luna's wing of the palace, whistling a jovial tune.

Nearing Luna's chamber, she saw two ponies guarding the entrance and slipped behind a nearby pillar. She wondered if she could silently teleport directly into the room, but realised the flash would no doubt wake the Princess up and alert the guards. After mulling it over, Twilight realised that with the midday sun out, the Princess would most likely have her curtains closed.

Grinning at her idea, she closed her eyes and felt the pull of her short-range teleport. With an instant, she was standing outside on Luna's balcony, the wind rushing past and knocking her off balance. Thinking fast, Twilight expanded her wings stabilise, and moved close to the balcony door, nudging it open with a silent creak.

Luna’s bedchambers were rather spartan. The floor tiles were crafted from smooth obsidian slates, upon which sat several rugs of varying sizes from animals which Twilight couldn't identify. Inevitably, the domed design of the room pushed the eye upward towards the ceiling, where lay a dizzying depiction of the night sky; stars and constellations swirling in orbit as if stolen from space by the mare that designed them. Pushed up against the wall opposite to the balcony doors, Princess Luna was sleeping soundly. Off to the right, there was a long oak writing desk, as well as a fireplace stacked with logs.

Wincing as her hoof rapped against the obsidian black tile of Luna's bedroom with a harsh thud, Twilight looked over to the Princess to see if she had woken up. Thankfully for her, Luna was a heavy sleeper—a handy trait if one was traveling between dreams.

Chastising herself for not being more careful, Twilight cast a silencing spell and moved inside. Once over to the bed, Twilight froze, finding Luna to be mesmerising.

The low light seemed to enhance the Princess's natural beauty, bringing out the stars and galaxies in her mane, and letting Twilight see another, calmer side of the mare.

Closing her eyes, Twilight shook her head upon feeling the beginnings of a blush form on her cheeks.

'Calm yourself, Twilight. It’s just Luna,' she mentally chastised herself, looking away from the sleeping form.

With ease, she reached out with her magic into Luna's ethereal mane and gripped the middle of it with two individual auras of magic.

Pulling in opposite directions, she snapped part of it off and gently drifted it over to herself before moving back towards the balcony, the ethereal material solidifying into a dark blue lock of hair. Making sure to keep the silencing spell active, Twilight inched her way back towards the balcony, closing the door behind her with a soft click.

Finally, outside, Twilight let out the breath she had been holding and charged her horn. With a ’snap’ she was gone, teleported away into her room! Levitating Luna’s ethereal strand of hair over to the center of the pentagram, the chalk lines began to glow a soft azure.

She let go of the hair, letting it hover in the center and began to chant, her mind focusing on the point in time she would be travelling back to.

Astra, mistra, caltro

Astra, baltra, castra

Astra, chrono, crista!

Her horn flared with a blinding purple light as she leaned forward and pressed her tip against the suspended strand of ethereal mane. In a split second, Twilight was pushed back as a blast of magical energy was released, knocking over desks and vaporising some scrolls closest to it.

Hovering in front of her, half a meter off the ground, was a tear in the fabric of reality, showing an image of grassy plains, with a towering mountain spread out into the distance.

Twilight rubbed her eyes and reached out to push a hoof through. She could feel the warm sunlight cover her hoof and shivered, her room suddenly feeling chilly.

She pulled her hoof back through, noting a soft ripple cascading over the surface and began to take notes on the other side. She noted that the other side didn’t particularly seem dangerous, but she had come to understand that looks can be deceiving.

Twilight paced back and forth inside Rarity’s boutique, waiting for the clothes to be finished. Of course, she felt impatient, what with the ‘time portal’ sitting in her chambers back in Canterlot. She had given very strict orders for several guards to stand outside and stop anyone that might want to be a little nosy.

The sound of Rarity working hard could be heard from behind her door, leading Twilight to worry that it wouldn't actually disguise her. Though, she surmised, anything would be better than nothing, especially if she was to go with the identity of a trader.

And yet, she stopped, frozen in place for a second as her brain reminded her that she could have made a glaring error.

Twilight frowned, lost in thought. She would need a name that she could quickly recognise and respond to; an alias so that the Princesses wouldn’t draw a connection between past Twilight and present Twilighta name similar enough to her own but not similar enough for the Princesses to remember.

Of course, the mare had several ideas almost instantly, many of which were owned by ponies she knew, but none that really stood out as something that she could use. But suddenly, a name called to her: Moon Light.

Yes, it encompassed everything she loved. Luna’s Moon and Celestia’s light. She knew it was a bit clichéd, but she doubted that anypony back then would really notice anything wrong.

With a ’click’, Rarity’s door swung open with a practically glowing mare bouncing out. Rarity seemed more like a sugar-rushed Pinkie Pie than her normal self and Twilight turned to her with a hint of worry. At least, until the clothing she had asked Rarity to craft floated out afterwards.

Every part was made out of materials that would wouldn’t look out of place in some sort of fantasy movie, but Twilight knew that Rarity wouldn’t embellish the final product without her blessing, and thus only made Twilight’s excitement grow.

“Darling, I outdo myself every time I try something new!” Rarity laughed, levitating the garment over to Twilight.

Circling the clothing, Twilight gave it a critical eye, causing Rarity to sweat under the pressure. The piece itself was well made, as expected. Layers of leather covered up and wrapped around the midsection, with a thin layer of cotton acting as additional padding from the elements.giving protection as well as warmth due to being interlaced with thin cotton to protect from the elements.

The leather extended forwards to cover the chest and front legs, ending at just above the fetlocks.

“This is,” Twilight whispered, before turning to Rarity, “incredible!”

Rarity found herself beaming with pride.

“I- I’m so happy you think so. Once I saw how intricate parts of the clothing were, I put my other orders on hold.”

Twilight smiled as she wrapped her magic around the clothing and took it from her friend. "I can’t express how grateful I am for this. I’ll make it up to you, promise.”

Rarity shook her head, cheeks darkening. “Stop it, Twilight,” she replied, waving her hoof. “You know I don’t charge friends. .”

Twilight went to retort, but Rarity cut her off. “Don’t you dare. Now, get out of here alright,” she ordered, shaking her head. “You have research to do!"

Twilight sat on the edge of her bed; the old-equestrian clothes laid out behind her as she looked into the mirror she had dragged over from the corner of her chambers. With a sigh, she stood up and glanced to each of her wings. As much as she loved them, she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep them when she went back if she wanted any chance at blending in.

Closing her eyes, she pushed her magic into her horn, ready to cast her spell. She felt a little anxious about this, though, and took another quick glance at her wings, before casting her spell.

With a groan of discomfort, Twilight dropped to her knees and gasped in pain. Her wings shrunk down and faded from view until there was nothing to indicate that she had been an Alicorn at all!

Twilight pulled herself up off the floor with a grunt of exertion. The room spun, but she kept it up and was quickly on her hooves. She felt the effects of magical exhaustion but fought herself not to pass out once more; she had things to do and it wouldn’t last long anyway.

Nearing her bed, she picked up the first piece of her costume, her silk undervest. Sliding it on, she buttoned it up slowly, taking pleasure in the fact that it fit so well.

Her hoof slid across the cotton shirt and pulled it on, then her leather padding which held everything down tightly against her body. Looking into the mirror, she could see bags under her eyes had formed and her mane was out of place, causing her to groan.

She ran her hoof down her outfit and took a few experimental breaths in and out, making sure that everything would move correctly and cracked a smile as she smoothed her mane back. With a grunt, she struck a pose strikingly similar to something Daring Do would make, grinning to herself in the mirror.

“Wow,” the mare mumbled, finding herself looking like she had just jumped out of a fantasy novel, what with leather wrapped up around her neck and half-way down her forelegs.

She took another, slower, deep breath and pulled herself out of her bedroom. Walking up to the portal, she levitated her saddlebag over and placed it onto her back, finding solace in its weight.

With one last check to see if she had missed anything, and one last look around her room, Twilight nodded then stepped into the portal, feeling the liquid surface resist her for but a moment, before splitting open and depositing her on the other side!

Arc 1: Chapter 2

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With a yelp, Twilight found herself falling face-first onto the dirt on the other side of the portal. In her haste to travel through the portal, she realised, in that split second, that she hadn’t studied how far up the spell would have placed it. Hitting the ground with a heavy thump, Twilight let out a muffled groan and pulled her face from the dirt.

Thankfully it was only a couple of hooves off the ground, but it was more than enough, coupled with her magical exhaustion to worsen her already sour mood. Still, she didn’t know the area around her and for all she knew, there could be predators prowling about ready to munch her down. Thus, with an amount of effort that nearly rivalled her assault on Tirek, she pushed off the ground to stand wobbly on her hooves.

Around her, like before were grassy plains. Various foliage was scattered about, providing refuge for smaller animals, but it was mostly open space. ’Perfect. Nowhere to hide if things go bad, she thought to herself, scanning the mountain range. ’It sure looks like Equestria.’

Turning around, Twilight found herself overlooking a sharp drop into a massively deep canyon with an intact overhang. Without much in the way of light, she had to rely on her Alicorn sight to provide her any details. She could just about see what looked to thick, jungle-like foliage as well as a simple settlement nestled within the canyon, on the far side as well as several moving light sources climbing up the canyon’s side.

“Okay, maybe it’s not Equestria,” she mumbled, tapping her chin in thought. ”Maybe Cervidas?”

Humming, she looked up upon feeling the magic of the portal quiver and collapse upon itself, leaving her standing there alone and suddenly feeling very exposed.

There wasn’t much for Twilight to do out in the open. She knew that banditry and faction warfare was a common thing this far back and didn’t particularly feel it would be a good thing to get caught up in a fight with the wrong lord.

Glancing around for an idea of where to do, she spotted a well-worn trail and made towards it, hoping that it would lead her to the Princesses sooner than later. The spell did open at this spot after all and it would have closed and reopened if both sisters had left the general area.

Now that she had a chance to wander, her mind was racing with thoughts, many of which pertained to what she would do once she found the pair of young Princesses. Despite her having travelled back thousands of years, Celestia and Luna were still many times older than herself. Would they trust her?

Why didn’t she think of this before she came through? Twilight didn’t have an answer. She was so caught up in if she could, she didn’t stop to think if she should and now, she was growing a little nervous.

’What if they hate me?’ a thought rang out in her mind, causing her to wince as if it had struck her. Of course, the more rational part of her knew the Princesses, despite being so young compared to their present selves, would still be full of grace and care. It was only natural, right? They’re the Princesses.

Finally, Twilight’s hooves touched down on the worn away dirt road that branched off opposite to where she stood. Taking a long glance in both directions, she was frozen to the spot, indecision etched on her face.

Unfortunately for her, there weren’t any distinguishing features that really sold one way over the other. To her left ran next to the drop into the Canyon and towards that settlement. To her right was an unknown, only showing itself to push further into the plains and away from the only civilisation that she knew existed in the immediate vicinity.

Shaking her head quickly, she took a deep breath, letting it simmer then releasing and turned to her left. The decision had already been chosen once she realised that without somewhere to sleep, she’d be a sitting duck for any bandits or ponies that would want to do unmentionable things to her.

Walking along the path, Twilight glanced about, her paranoia keeping her alert for any signs of life. There were plenty of chirps, growls and yips, but nothing that she thought were directed specifically at her. All in all, it was rather peaceful. Stressful; but peaceful.

At least it was, until a piercing scream sliced through the silence. Twilight’s ears swivelled around, trying to find the source, helped along by another, this one moving closer!

Pushing herself out of her shock, she galloped forwards, the trees and bushes growing thicker this far down the path. Just as she was about to burst through some thick bushes, she found herself colliding with a pure white coat and toppling onto her side with a grunt of pain.

With adrenaline pumping, Twilight forced herself up onto her hooves and spun around, horn aimed at the pony, but froze upon seeing Celestia laying there. The mare herself looked to have lost her ethereal glow; pink mane and cream coat matted and scruffy. Twilight’s eyes roamed the Princess’s body and her blood ran cold.

Lodged deep within Celestia’s side was an arrow-shaft.

Scrambling forwards, she came to a stop once another pony, clad hoof to hoof in leather, lept out of the bushes and pointed their horn at Twilight. A single sword holster was attached to his side.

“Do you wish to die? This is our prisoner,” he growled, narrowing their eyes as their horn glowed a soft lime green.

Twilight was sure that the pony was a stallion, from the voice and took a single step back as to not anger him. She noted a crossbow hovering behind them, aimed towards her, arrow cocked and ready to fire.

“Easy now,” she began, taking a careful step around the stallion, keeping her distance.

“Begon, whorse!”

Twilight wasn’t prepared to leave the Princess there, especially not with this bandit. Narrowing her eyes, she charged her horn and brought up a lavender shield in front of her, just in time to shatter an incoming arrow into splinters.

The bandit, seeing this, dropped his crossbow and fired a blast of magical energy at Twilight, who leapt to the side, leaving a scorched patch of grass in her place. “Wrong move!” he yelled, firing off a volley of blasts which either impacted Twilight’s shield harmlessly or ricocheted off into the bushes, before bringing his own translucent shield up.

“Leave the Princess and go,” she growled, taking a step forward, tears forming, “please.”

“Princess? Are you deranged?!” he shouted while rushing at Twilight, a sword sliding out his holster. Once inside the shield, his sword swiped at her leg, cutting her flesh and causing her to tumble over with a cry.

Twilight scrambled and laid next to the Princess, before leaning up and letting out a huff of annoyance. Blood leaked down her leg onto the dirt but did little to deter her once she saw the murderous gaze.

“Fine, I warned you,” she stated, rising, then falling to a knee.

Twilight pointed her horn at the stallion and focused her magic into a projectile which launched out of the tip, shattering through his magical shield and colliding with his horn. As soon as her magic impacted, his horn cracked and tore apart, scattering his keratin into the bushes around them.

The pony froze solid as his mana began to drip down his face, a look of horror beginning to etch underneath. “Wha-“ he muttered, before seeing the liquid drip onto the dirt. Instantly, he began screaming and galloped off down the dirt path.

Twilight stared at where the pony was just standing, her own shock evident as her heart thumped in her chest. Her insides churned as she felt the crunch of unicorn horn underhoof, her guilt growing into a hurricane that threatened to overtake her.

Until she heard Celestia’s wheeze of pain.

Twirling round to face the mare, Twilight’s thoughts instantly washed away at the sight of her. Now that she had a closer look, she could see that Celestia had plenty of cuts and bruises littered over her body, with several that looked like whip marks along her back.

Her horn contained minute cracks, as if caused manually to stop a unicorn, or alicorn, from using their magic without tremendous pain, along with many of Celestia’s primary feathers having been plucked.

“Princess,” Twilight whispered, letting out a choked sob. “Who would do this to you.”

With no time to spare, she pulled her saddleback, that had fallen off her during the duel, over and opened the side that contained her medical supplies. Seeing as the arrow was the biggest issue, she started there.

Pulling down several dozen leaves, Twilight placed them on the ground, after using a sanitation spell, then laid out her equipment. The area wasn’t as clean as she wanted, but it would have to do in the meantime; Celestia’s natural healing would be able to take care of the rest.

With a hint of trepidation, Twilight began to use her magic to cut Celestia’s fur off, around the impact site, hating herself for tarring the beautiful coat. After, she pulled out a bottle of pure alcohol and laid her aura over Celestia’s body to keep her still, poured it over the wound.

Twilight decided to ignore Celestia’s shaking and held her down. Slowly, the mare stopped, allowing Twilight to lift a scalpel up, placing it against the solar mare’s flesh, ready to cut the arrow out.

“I’m sorry, Princess.”

Twilight sat back and placed the bandage down with a sigh of relief. She had spent the last half an hour making sure her Princess wouldn’t bleed out, but finally she had closed her up successfully.

Glancing about, she could see the beginnings of light inching over the horizon, along with the guilt that she had pushed back to save her Princess. She didn’t need to shatter his horn; she only needed to knock him out.

Twilight reached up and ran her soft hoof along her spiral horn and shivered in disgust at the thought of some pony doing it to her. Even her enemies back home were given a second chance, as shown with Sunset and Starlight.

Letting out a quivering, tired sigh, Twilight looked down at her own leg and found that her Alicorn healing was still in effect; a tiny reprieve from what she had gone through. Yet, it did little to quell the rising restlessness that threatened to overpower her.

She didn’t know why Celestia was attacked, let alone why Luna wasn’t with her. ’The spell should have put me in the vicinity of Luna,’ she thought, looking around as she stood up. Once she had made sure no pony had come back, she wandered around the lightly forested area for any clues, being careful not to crunch any more horn underhoof.

Pushing through the bushes that Celestia had fallen through, Twilight found herself in a roughly circular clearing. There was a trail of blood running from one end to the other, as well as several arrows embedded in the ground every so often.

The mare wanted to investigate further, to find out where Celestia had come from, but her instincts and rational thought held her back from wandering too far from the wounded mare. There will be time later. As such, she pulled back through and lit her horn up to easily lift Celestia’s lithe form further into the forest, just in case any pony came back to ambush them.

Finding a suitable area, Twilight tenderly placed Celestia down, having padded the area with leaves from the bushes, then went about placing several magical runes around the area to alert her if any pony neared. She then wandered around and collected several twigs and kindling to construct a fire, which bathed the pair in a warm glow.

Unable to stop herself yawning, the mare laid down next to the fire and rested her eyes, for only a moment- at least until she was startled awake by Celestia holding her down, one hoof against her neck.

“Where is my sister?!” the Alicorn practically snarled, her ruined wings having flared high above her while she pressed down on Twilight.

Letting out a choked cough, Twilight held onto the hoof and stared up at the mare as a tiny whimper leaving her. “Lu-“

Celestia narrowed her eyes, her anger growing. “Do not speak her name!” she shouted, flaring her horn and throwing Twilight across the area, before screaming out as pain burned through the nerves in her horn.

Twilight rolled across the dirt and spun herself with help from a pulse of magic, throwing a plume of dirt up in front of her. Facing where she saw Celestia last, she slid to a stop and flared her horn, fearing the Princess would actually hurt her!

Within a second, Celestia shot through the dirt cloud like a bullet and collided with a sudden lavender shield. Bouncing back, startled, she stood there with a mixture of emotions crossing her face. Eventually it settled back on anger.

“Pri-“ Twilight started, catching herself. “Celestia, stop!” she continued, receiving a jolt of pain as Celestia’s hoof hit her shield. “Think about it! Why would I sleep near you if I did anything!” she pleaded, having had to back up slowly from another hit.

Even with as much magical ability she owned, she could see cracks forming.

“Lies! You are keeping her from us!” she shouted once again. “We just wish to live in peace.”

With a cracked sob, Celestia’s hooves hit the floor as she stumbled back, energy leaving her broken body. Heavy coughs racked the Princess and she fell to her knees, causing Twilight to rush forwards, dispersing her shield.

“Celestia!” she gasped, holding onto the Princess with her hooves, even against the weak protests. “Stop it, you’ll hurt yourself more.”

Twilight could see that most of her cuts had already begun to fade away, since the biggest wound had healed.

“Come on, let’s get you back to the fire.”

Using her magic, Twilight helped Celestia back over, ignoring her piercing gaze. It was obvious the Princess didn’t buy her excuse, but it wasn’t her concern if she didn’t believe it or not; Twilight was going to help her.

Settling the Princess down at the fire, Twilight wandered around the other side and let out a sigh. She lowered herself and stared across at her. She was at a loss as to where to start; she had never seen the Princess so vulnerable. Even when her magic was drained, Celestia still looked unhurt.

Glancing around, Twilight thought she should just jump right into it. “What happened to you?”

Celestia looked away from the mare. “filth like you. That’s what happened,” she spat, looking at Twilight like one would look at a sewage.

That look caused Twilight to wince, as if struck. She had never seen the Princess use that before and it was breaking her heart.

“Celestia, I’m not with them. Don’t you remember? The one attacking you was a stallion,” Twilight said, trying to reason. “I, uh, ran him off.”

Celestia frowned and looked down, trying to remember. It was slow, but the realisation hit her. “You,” she mumbled, glancing back towards Twilight, “you truly saved us?”

“I did,” Twilight replied, nodding and pushing the image of the bandit out of her mind.


Twilight was taken aback by that, causing her to frown. “What?”

“Why did you save us? Do you wish for gold; trinkets perhaps?” Celestia asked. “You are out of luck. We do not have anything.”

Twilight shook her head, seemingly hurt by those questions. “Of course not! I couldn’t stand by after I saw you. No pony deserves that.”

The alicorn stared at Twilight and let out an airy laugh. Quickly though, her eyes narrowed. “How have you come across our name?”

Twilight’s own eyes widened, and she looked away. ’I’m a trader,’ she thought; mouth parroting after; ’I had heard of a pink maned Alicorn.’

Celestia’s stare eased off Twilight, who sighed in relief. “I see.”

With a grunt, she stood up and moved over to Twilight’s side of the fire. In response, Twilight rose to meet her. “What is your name?” Celestia asked, staring into Twilight’s eyes.

“Moon Light,” Twilight replied, unable to hold her gaze and looking down.

“Well, Moon Light,” Celestia began, taking a knee to bow in front of her. “We cannot begin to thank you for saving us.”

Twilight’s eyes shot open as she watched her Princess bow! “It’s okay, really! I did what anypony would have done!”

Celestia snorted. “Neigh, no pony would have dared. But you are not any old pony,” she said, staring up at her. “Perhaps you could help me?”

“Luna,” Twilight replied.

“Indeed,” the Alicorn rose up and looked up to the sky. “We were taken to their camp. My sister was recaptured as we tried to escape.”

Tears formed in Celestia’s eyes and Twilight took a step forward and gently took her hoof, causing Celestia to tense up. “Of course, I’ll help, Celestia. We’ll get her back.”

The pair had quickly extinguished the fire and begun their trek towards the bandit’s camp, keeping near to the path to not lose their heading. Twilight didn’t know what to think now. She didn’t know how long it had been since she stepped through the portal; a couple of hours? More?

It wasn’t so much draining as it was scary for the mare. Here she was, in the past with her Princess, about to rescue her sister from bandits!

Celestia slowed as the light forest around them thinned even more into grassland. Off in the distance, the pair could see a mining outpost built into the side of a mountain with a thin trail of smoke drifting away from it.

“Is that the place?” Twilight asked, turning to Celestia and receiving a sombre nod. “Alright,” she said, turning back and scanning the landscape, then pointed at a copse of trees. “We can make it to those trees over there and rest for an hour or two.”

Pushing on forwards, they began their long trot towards the copse of trees that set the midpoint. Twilight, only now, was beginning to regret having Rarity make her the outfit, what with her being covered in leather on a warm summer day.

Still, it was too late for the former Alicorn and despite the heat, she couldn’t help but feel rather ‘hero-like’. She had saved a Princess from a dangerous thug! ’Dear me, what would Rarity think,’ she thought, giggling softly and garnering attention from Celestia.

“What do you find amusing?” she asked, confused.

Twilight looked over and chuckled. “Nothing. Just remembering a friend from home.”

“Oh? Pray tell.”

“Her name’s Rarity. She’s a fashion designer. The best I’ve seen actually,” Twilight answered, smiling warmly. “She actually crafted this for me.”

She gestured to the leather clothing she wore and received a nod in return.

“We see. She must certainly be highly regarded with this quality,” Celestia said, eyes roaming over Twilight’s body, then settling on her empty sword holsters. “You do not carry swords?”

“Oh, no. I don’t really like swords all that much. My magic is good enough,” Twilight replied, shaking her head as she chuckled.

“Somepony that relies only on magic. You are interesting, Moon Light.”

Twilight returned with a sheepish smile and continued towards the copse of trees.

It wasn’t long after that the two of them reached their hiding spot. The group of trees were just enough cover for them to hide and rest. During the wait, Twilight began to look through her inventory of medical supplies, keeping a little distance from the solar mare, as well as hiding the more modern medicine. She took stock and found that she hadn’t used too much of her sutures, but she was slightly lacking in alcohol. Still, she reasoned it wouldn’t do to fret too much and packed her saddlebag back up.

Returning to Celestia in the middle of the copse, she sat down and levitated a stick over.

“Alright, I’m going to need a plan if I am to get your sister out. What can you tell me about their camp?” Twilight asked, passing the stick over. “Draw what you remember.”

Celestia took the stick in her hoof and began to draw the camp. “Tis a mining camp, so they have walls made from heavy lumber, with a swing-gate out front. Several ponies keep watch across the walls, as well as some inside, guarding the mine.”

“Guarding the mine?”

Celestia nodded. “Tis where they are keeping my sister and several other ponies. We had to mine for our food,” she said, looking away as she composed herself. “My sister,” she paused. “Luna is stubborn. They were not kind to her.”

Twilight just wanted to scoop the mare up and comfort her, but this Celestia didn’t know her. Hell, Twilight wouldn’t even be brave enough to do it to the Celestia in the present. Yet, this one wasn’t the solar triarch. Compared to what she would become, she was barely a filly.

“I’ll get her back, okay?” she said, reaching over and placing a hoof over Celestia’s.

“We thank you. You are so kind, and I do not even know you,” Celestia replied, cracking a smile.

Twilight felt the beginnings of a flush make its way onto her cheeks and she pulled back. Clearing her throat, Twilight gestured to the map that Celestia was drawing. “How did you get out?”

The Alicorn marked the spot that she escaped from in the dirt. “Here. There is a small opening just below the furnace. You should fit, I did.”

Twilight had left Celestia back in the copse, not wanting her to get hurt; she couldn’t cast magic after all. She had waited, strangely enough, until twilight before making her way out towards the mining camp.

As she expected, the camp quickly lit torches all around the perimeter to deter any would be thieves that might be stupid enough to attack the camp. Of course, this only made the ponies on the walls easier for her to spot.

The camp itself was relatively large, with Twilight estimating three tents inside, along with the forge and storage. The inside was obscured by the heavy log wall that ran all around the camp itself, fortifying the mine.

Three ponies along the top wall. One unicorn, two Pegasi,’ Twilight quickly noted, rushing out past one of the trees and up to the wooden wall of the camp. Sneaking around the wall, she spotted the opening and could feel the heat radiating from within, even standing a few meters back.

Now that she was feeling the heat, the mare was having second thoughts. ’There doesn’t seem that many ponies up top,’ she thought, stepping back.

The silence of the camp was broken as the crack of Twilight’s teleportation snapped through the air. With a flash, Twilight was on top of the wall and could now see that there were several more ponies that Celestia had mentioned there would be; all of which were now staring at her in shock.

The camp was almost as she imagined it would be. Three tents, two of which could only hold storage, were set up near the entrance, along with the forge that had been constructed near the mine entrance.

All in all, the camp was well supplied, and as it turned out, well bodied. Her eyes scanned the area and picked out six ponies in total; two pegasus, three unicorns, and one earth pony.

It only took an instant for the nearest pony, a pegasus, to scream in anger at the trespassing unicorn!

The bandit pushed off the ground, using his wings to hover several hooves in the air and aimed his leg mounted crossbow at Twilight, taking a quick shot.

Shocked, Twilight flared her horn, causing her lavender shield to blast to life, splintering the shot mere inches from her face as a unicorn, on the other side of the camp, fired a bolt of electricity at her. The bolt ricocheted off her shield and hit a pile of logs meant for the forge, exploding wood shards across the camp and setting fire to the nearest tent.

As if by magic, the rest of the group leapt into action!

The pegasus growled as it swooped down, slow enough to pass harmlessly through the shield, and bucked Twilight off the wall. She fell between one storage tents and the forge, her back hitting the hard gravel with a thud.

Her eyes widened upon seeing the Pegasus come careening down and she activated her shield to cover herself just in time. The pegasus collided with the shield, causing mind-splitting pain to run down her horn.

Crying out from the combined barrel and horn pain, Twilight’s fired a pulse of magic into the Pegasus, blasting him back and against the palisade, knocking him out cold, just as she rolled to the side to dodge a titanic maul that slammed down into the dirt, being wielded by a hulking earth pony covered head to hoof in heavy plate armour.


Forcing herself to her hooves, Twilight had to brace herself with a shoulder as the Earth pony charged into her, knocking her off her hooves and throwing her back against the same palisade, causing her to cry out.

Spotting a glint out of the corner of her eye, Twilight winced in pain and brought a small section of her shield up to stop a trio of arrows that the other Pegasus fired at her, but only caught two. The third clipped her across the shoulder as she jumped away, barely dodging the same earth pony’s buck that shattered the palisade’s wood to bits, as well as another crossbow bolt embedding itself into the wall with a ’twang’.

Rolling across the dirt and into the middle of the camp, Twilight expended more magic than she should have to teleport away from a multitude of magical blasts, which threw chunks of dirt about the area.

With another flash, she was back up on the wall and started to fire bolts of magic down towards the remaining pegasus. While several were dodged, one smacked him in the chest then threw him back against the palisade to knock him out.


Twilight hissed in pain as the crackle of magical lightning snapped across the camp and burnt across her flank, right through the middle of her cutie-mark. Across from her stood a gaunt unicorn, the tip of her horn smoking. She stared at Twilight then fired another whip of lightning, barely missing as it scorched the walkway behind her.

Turning, Twilight broke out in a gallop towards the unicorn, dodging a swooping pegasus carrying twin swords and flared her horn, teleporting behind the spell-caster that was further down the allure.

The unicorn was ready for this and turned around, anticipating the attack. His horn arced with lightning that snapped directly onto Twilight’s chest, sizzling her fur and causing her to tense up as the electricity flowed through her nerves.

The smell of her burning fur assaulted the air as the unicorn stopped, horror on her face.

Twilight took a step forward, pain coursing through her mind, almost blinding her as she screamed and spun, bucking the unicorn over the edge of the parapet.


Swooping over her, the pegasus sliced Twilight across the back with their sword, shredding through the leather, cotton and silk to tear into her flesh. Dropping to a knee, she growled up at the flier, ready to fire upon the attacker.

Suddenly, she felt the wood under her hooves crack and bend, throwing her off the wall as it exploded in a shower of splinters and magical force which peppered her coat with cuts.

Twilight flew through the air, then hit the ground with a heavy ’thump’ and coughed, blood staining her lips. She could see she was just behind one of the tents, hidden from view.

Rising up, she didn’t notice the Earth pony spin around and buck her through the storage tent next to her. She tore through the other side, having crashed through a box and skidded across the mud, a whimper leaving her bloodied and cracked lips.

Pushing herself up, Twilight slipped and fell into back into the mud, covering her front and matting her mane against her body. Feeling the blood pool in her mouth, she spat it out and rose up to her hooves, her broken body instinctively jumping away from the maul that hit the ground where she had been.

Off to the side, a unicorn galloped around the side of the torn tent, causing Twilight to glance over. Not expecting the intruder to still be standing, the unicorn frantically tried to cast their spell, leaving Twilight an opening to fire off several weakened blasts of magic. Most hit the dirt around them, but one landed squarely on their chest, causing them to rethink and gallop away.

She cried out again, barely dodging the maul that the earth pony heaved at her and limped out into the open. She came under fire from the other remaining unicorn once again and summoned her cracked shield, taking hit after hit, only for the maul to smash her back leg. She could feel the bone shattering as she was bucked once again, throwing her across the camp and against the palisade.

Blinding pain erupted across her entire body, forcing her to see a blinding white. She couldn’t think straight as every part of her hurt. Twilight just wanted to sleep; to dream of the Princesses and go home, but she couldn’t. Not until Luna had been reunited with Celestia.

Opening her eyes slowly, she felt the world slow down to a crawl. Pulling herself out of the dent she was lodged in, her horn glowed, and she brought her magic down on the pegasus that was dive-bombing her with his outstretched swords. She saw the intent to kill her etched on his face and she was reminded of how easy it was to shatter the unicorn’s horn before.

The bandit’s face contorted into a mixture of shock and pain as Twilight’s magic forced him to the ground, crumpling his body under the force of an Alicorn’s true strength.


Twilight began to limp away from the wall, making her way towards the entrance to the mine, eager for this to be over, yet she spotted the remaining Unicorn rushing around the tent. They stared at each other for a second, before the bandit charged her horn and fired off a volley of blasts, several of which cracked against Twilight’s shoulder, which she braced for, burning her skin.

Twilight’s aura reached out and took a hold of the bandit’s horn, squeezing until it cracked. The unicorn began to beg and whimper, snapping Twilight back to reality. With a flick of her magic, Twilight threw the unicorn off and heard the soft beats of her hooves as she galloped away.


She could hear the pounding of the armoured pony through the blood in her ears and the shaking of the ground through her cracked hooves. It didn’t take long before she saw the titan with her bloodshot eyes.

A form of gleaming iron and rippling muscles. The pony stood at least a head taller than her yet hesitated when moving toward her. With a heave of its leg, the giant rammed the side of its maul into the ground, but Twilight jumped away, her magic tearing a piece of its leg armour off.

She circled the beast, keeping as far back as her weakened magic would allow and poked, looking for a weak spot. She couldn’t simply blast it, the magic would bounce harmlessly off its metal hide, nor could she levitate it up anymore, having exhausted herself with the pegasus and unicorn.

Twilight was working off instinct now; her survival instinct. The rational part of her brain had switched off, saving her from the pain that had threatened to drown her in the sweet release of death. Yet, she was loyal to the Princesses, no matter what time zone she was in and her broken body simply refused to die, even as it was practically falling apart.

Another slam and another piece of the titan was exposed. She poked his flesh with a magical blast and received a roar of pain; but it just wasn’t enough. Her body was fading, adrenalin was running out and she needed to save Luna. The timeline couldn't be changed.

Twilight missed a critical dodge and was rewarded with a slice down her front leg from one of the mauls corners, which chipped her bone. Blood poured out of her wound and she could feel herself grow colder, even as her body was desperately trying to heal itself now that her adrenaline had worn off.

Closing her eyes, she summoned every last ounce of magic she had stored, her fur standing on end as magic crackled along her flesh and horn. Twilight’s horn connected itself with the Earth Pony’s unarmoured leg by way of a purple lightning bolt and vaporized the pony inside the suit, the pony inside screaming. The remaining glowing plates dropped to the ground, the air around them shimmering with heat as they slowly began to cool.


Twilight stood there; her eyes wide as feeling began to return to her cold body. Even for an Alicorn, her body was working overtime to make sure she stays alive and as much of a blessing it was, it was beyond painful. Never had she been this badly hurt, a papercut here or there which cleared up in here minutes, but this was excruciating.

Tears dripped down her muzzle, mixing with blood, before falling into the churned-up mud below her. The mare forced one leg in front of the other, moving away from the luminous plates and towards the entrance to the mine.

The wet splat of the mare’s hooves and the crackling of the tents as they burned were the only sounds left in the camp, but Twilight didn’t notice. Her thoughts had turned inwards quickly, her guilt rising once again. How easy was it for her to crush that pegasus against the mud, to crack that Unicorn’s horn, to erase that Earth pony.

She stopped just outside of the mine, looking down to see her blood begin to pool around her hoof. ’Am I a bad pony? she asked herself. She didn’t expect an answer, but the silence still hurt.

Majority of ponies are nice and friendly in the present. There’s no bandits or slavery; so why did she find it so easy to strike them down. They were ponies too, right? Twilight saw the pain in the Pegasus’s face and the horror on the Unicorn’s and she found a new pain emanating from her chest.

Limping into the cave, the first thing she noticed was the whispers of ponies deep within. Lifting a torch off a table nearby, she lit it using a sconce on the wall and pushed ahead into the cave.

The frigid air bit against the Unicorn’s bloodied coat as she moved ever deeper into the mine and she found herself tensing up as the light from the torch . Several rotting boards were nailed into the floor at points to stop ponies from slipping up, helping her to navigate.

The mine came to a stop in front of her and turned to the right, opening into a central cavern which housed various sized cages strewn about, as well as several pillars that looked to be bearing the weight of the ceiling. Twilight could see a group of ponies huddled up on the far side, Princess Luna standing tall in front of them, defiant in the face of a perceived threat.

The sight of the Princess standing there brought a tiny smile to Twilight’s face. ’Celestia did say she was stubborn.’

Suddenly Twilight began to cough and sputter, finding herself hold her stomach, and causing Luna to jump. “W-Who is there?! Show yourself!” she ordered, voice quivering as she stomped her shackled hoof.

She used a hoof to pull herself up the wall and stumble out, eliciting a gasp or horror from the ponies. Luna simply stared at the stumbling form moving towards her, unable to conceive of what had happened to the Unicorn.

The ponies rushed out of the mine and were greeted with the sight of the carnage which Twilight had wrought. By now, only one tent was left partially standing, with the others reduced to smouldering ash along with the unconscious bodies of the bandits strewn about. The Unicorn which Twilight had let go wasn’t anywhere to be seen and thus she assumed that she had run off.

Leaning against Luna, for support, Twilight saw the entrance begin to slide open and Celestia poked her head through. The Alicorn gasped as she saw the scene, then rushed inside upon seeing her sister, Twilight’s saddlebags on her back. Galloping up, Celestia pulled Luna into a tight hug, peppering her face with kisses.

Twilight was knocked slightly back by this and returned the gesture with a mild look of annoyance; one of which she thought she had earned the right to do so. Standing there, she quickly let out a whimper of pain as Celestia tarnished her pure coat with mud and blood upon scooping her up into a painful, if not completely welcome hug.

Celestia felt like heaven to Twilight now and fell limp against her. She couldn’t help herself and nuzzled into the crook of her neck, whimpering as the guilt began to rise once again. This was met with comforting ‘coos’ and ‘shh’ as Celestia wrapped her wings around her, eyes flicking over to her sister, a mixture of concern and suspicion evident.

The other rescued ponies begun to gather the unconscious bandits and tied them all together, making sure that the Unicorn was blindfolded and by herself. The rest were stripped down and left under the allure, so they didn’t freeze to death.

One of the ponies rushed up to the trio and alerted them that they were to gather the guards from the village in the canyon, then galloped off.

With that, Celestia gently pulled Twilight up onto her back and entered the still standing tent. The inside was outfitted with bedrolls and sleeping gear for several of the bandits, with a smashed box sitting off to the side where Twilight had crashed through.

The pair of Alicorns placed Twilight down onto the bedroll and found that she was out like a light as soon as her head touched the soft pillow. The pair then began to carefully strip the mare down to nothing, taking care to not agitate her wounds.

The more clothing which they removed, the more they were confused, and the more questions appeared that needed to be answered. Questions such as: why this Unicorn had the healing rate comparable to their own, or how she managed to take out every pony in the camp.

Covering up Twilight, the two Alicorns laid down near her, nuzzling each other as they waited for guards from the local village to return.

Arc 1: Chapter 3

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Twilight’s eyes fluttered open as a soft warmth radiated over her body, rousing her from the darkness of sleep. The blurry image of her former mentor quickly came into focus and she gasped, jumping off Princess Celestia’s lap.

“Princess! I’m so sorry; I don’t know what came over me!” Twilight reacted, looking shocked.

The Princess brought a bare hoof up to cover her mouth as she giggled. “It’s perfectly fine, Twilight. I simply saw you and wondered if you would like some quiet company?”

Pressing a hoof to her chest, Twilight took a deep breath and held it, calming herself. She looked around, trying to remember where she was. Wasn’t she in the mining camp?

She was standing in Canterlot Castle’s botanical gardens. A great greenhouse that spanned at least two hoofball fields and was home to several hundred species of fauna and flora, many of which Twilight had personally studied.

The area they were in was heavily filled with flora of all sorts. Hanging vines, carnivorous fly traps, sticky creepers and other oddities only found in the gardens.

Twilight’s eyes widened at the sheer amount of nature and turned back to the Princess, a grin on her face. She could feel her cheeks warm at the sight of the mare sitting there, without any regalia. Was her chest always so fluffy?

“I would love for your company, Princess!”

“Please, Twilight. How long have you known me?” Celestia replied, that playful smile appearing across her lips. “Call me ‘Tia.”

Twilight swallowed out of nervousness. “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. That’s for your sister,” she stammered.

“And for my friends,” Celestia said, before tilting her head, which caused Twilight’s heart to jump a beat. “Are you not my friend?”

Twilight was having a tough time keeping her cheeks from exploding into color. “Of course, I am!” she replied, stepping forward, almost hurt by those words. She then bit her bottom lip and mumbled, “I would love your company, ‘Tia.”

Celestia’s face lit up upon hearing that and slid off the stone bench. “Perfect. What were you doing in here anyway?” she asked, looking around.

Not knowing what to say, Twilight frowned and brought a hoof up to rub her chin in thought. “I-“ she began, looking up to the taller Princess. “I can’t remember.”

Raising a brow down to the Unicorn, Celestia chuckled and used a wing to pull her close as she began to walk.

“Well, we can just make something up, can’t we?”

Twilight simply replied with a nod as she pressed her cheek against Celestia, nuzzling her. A warm flush had made its home on her face, but she didn’t seem to mind.

The pair wandered along the outer edge of the gardens, simply taking in the sights that it had to offer. It was a clear and sunny day, despite the fog that had rolled in. Something which Celestia had assured was nothing to worry about.

As the pair walked, Celestia glanced down at Twilight and asked, “What have you and your friends been up to lately? Anything fun? A new adventure perhaps?”

Twilight paused for a second, before being buffeted by Celestia’s wing and pulled along. Quickly resuming the walk, she shook her head. “Oh, no. Not much has been happening. Rarity is making some quite strange clothes, Pinkie is, uh, I’m never really sure what Pinkie is doing, but I’m sure it’s something sticky,” she explained, hearing a soft laugh from Celestia. “Rainb- oh yeah! Rainbow and Rarity are dating now! I’d never have thought that those two would be together- Not that it isn’t great, of course.”

Twilight let out a sheepish chuckle as she looked away.

“Twilight? Something the matter?"

Looking up at her. “Have you ever dated?”

Celestia let out a twinkling giggle. “Of course not, Twilight. A Princess must remain pure if they are to rule a country.”

“But doesn’t it get lonely? I know I would be.”

Celestia shook her head. “Of course not. A Princess never gets lonely.”

Twilight hesitated, finding something off about the Princess’s reply. “Are you okay?” she asked, taking a step back, easily brushing past the mare’s feathers. “I’m sorry if I sai-“ She cut herself off with a scream as she looked on in horror.

Sticking out of the side of Celestia’s bloodstained barrel was an arrow.

“Twilight please, some of these plants need peace and quiet,” Celestia chided, turning back to run a hoof over a creeping vine and letting it wrap around it.

Springing forward, Twilight reached out and felt the arrow, despite the Princess’s calm exterior and found it gushing blood, soaking her hooves. She stepped back and found it hard to breath; the gardens spinning as she grew lightheaded.

“’Tia,” she whimpered, the world fading to darkness.

Twilight jerked awake, finding herself sitting across from Celestia from within the Princess’s personal tearoom. She pulled herself up from the table and rubbed her eyes, looking around.

“Pri- ‘Tia,” she started, catching herself. “Weren’t we just in the gardens?”

Celestia looked amused. “Oh goodness, on a day like this?” she asked, gesturing to the near hurricane that was raging outside of the windows. Though, even with the storm, there was no sound coming from it, leaving the tearoom in silence.

There was something worrying Twilight, but she didn’t know what it was. It was like an itch in her brain telling her that something was wrong.

Looking down, she saw the steaming tea that she had left to cool sitting there.

“Go ahead, it’s your favorite,” Celestia stated, using her magic to stir her own cup, before continuing. “So, Twilight. Do you have anypony you have your eye on?”

The mare’s eyes shot open and she kept her gaze firmly on the cup before her. “What?! No, of course not!” she spluttered, looking horrified that the Princess would even ask her, a common unicorn that.

“Oh? Why ever not? Somepony as talented as you could find any stallion,” the Princess said, yet raised a brow once she didn’t see Twilight react. “Or mare.” Twilight’s cheeks betrayed her, causing Celestia to smirk.

“Nopony would want somepony like me,” she muttered, ears flopping back.

“Don’t be a silly pony, Twilight. You’d be able to pick anypony you want. Why, you rival even my sister’s beauty!”

Twilight’s eyes flicked up to the Princess in disbelief and saw the warm smile that threatened to take her breath away.

"Even you?" she whispered, not even realizing she asked it.

Celestia's ear flicked from the question and a playful smirk appeared on her face.

"You know the answer to that, Twilight. All you have to do is ask her." Celestia stated as her body changed in an instant. In her place sat a smaller, pink maned version of her.

Twilight took a double take. 'Did the Princess always look like that?

"Moon Light, what is wrong?" Celestia asked, looking worried. "Are thine wounds painful again?" she asked, eyes flicking over Twilight's legs.

Twilight followed her eyes and saw that her legs had numerous cuts peppering all the way down, ending with a pair of torn hooves. "Princess, what's going on?!" she whimpered, as the world around her melted, leaving her tumbling into the abyss.

This time, Twilight's eyes opened slowly and deliberately. She could feel pains and aches flare up across her entire body, which had become a regular occurrence, but nothing that would stop her from moving about.

Blinking to clear her sight, she found she was staring right at a bare stone wall which the bed she was currently laying in was pushed up against. Letting out a groan, Twilight shuffled and rolled over to see that she was in a rather bare bedroom.

The only other thing in the room was the table sat next to her, upon which was a wooden mug and her saddlebag, as well as a metal tub for washing in. A soft morning light illuminated the room from a circular window that sat near the sloped ceiling.

A circular plate holding a daisy and daffodil sandwich was laid next to her saddlebags, which Twilight hastily scooped up to munch down, forcing away her hunger pains.

Her eyes went wide as she realized that the sisters could have rummaged through her saddlebag, having left the sides open.

Levitating it over, she opened both sides and sighed in relief to see that nothing had been tampered with. At least, nothing she could notice. Leaning back against the cold wall, Twilight's mind raced for something she could say that would make sense.

Obviously, her trader story wouldn't work anymore, that much was clear, but what would be used instead? The Princesses never mentioned any other Alicorn, so she knew not to change that.

"Perhaps I could bend the truth?" she mumbled, looking her legs over and finding that they had mostly healed. "That's it! I'm immortal. I'll just say I can't die!"

Grinning at her quick thinking, Twilight's thoughts were brought back to her own surroundings and she was quite aware that her clothing had been taken off her. This normally wouldn't have bothered her, but Rarity had made it for her.

Sliding back down, Twilight curled up under the itchy bedding and ran a hoof up and down her leg, feeling where the maul had sliced her open. There was barely a dent.

This was all a new experience for her, after all. Twilight had fought many battles, but none of her villains seemed to have really given it their all, always underestimating her and her friends until the last moment where they'd get slammed by the elements.

Was she lucky? The mare didn't know, but what she did know was that if the Princesses in this time period could be taken hostage in a mine, then they needed her.

With a bust of newfound pride and accomplishment, Twilight threw the covers off with her magic and slid off the bed. As soon as her back hoof hit the wooden floor, it crumpled under her weight

She tumbled down with a heavy 'thump' and let out a huff of annoyance. Clearly, she wasn’t healed enough.

Using the bed to hold herself up, she leaned her weight on the three working legs and hobbled towards the door on the far wall, eager to learn where she was.

Using her magic, she pushed the door open just a crack to see if she could hear any voices. She pushed her face between the door and the frame, eager to look outside, but cried out as the door was suddenly surrounded by an azure glow and was pulled open.

Stumbling back and landing on her rump, Twilight watched as Luna turned the corner, then stopped, surprise on her face. That surprise quickly settled into concern as she entered through the portal and into the room proper.

“We did not expect you to awaken so soon, Moon Light,” she said, gently lifting the mare and placing her back into bed. “You are still healing and must save your strength.”

Luna trotted over to the bed and slid the covers back over Twilight to make sure she was tucked in.

Twilight struggled and placed a hoof on Luna’s chest, pressing against her floof. “Luna, stop. I’m okay, really.”

Luna’s face flicked between several emotions but stepped back. “Fine,” she stammered, looking anywhere but Twilight. Her face settled on concern. “Please be careful. We would not wish for you to hurt yourself.”

Twilight scrunched her muzzle and let out a sigh. “Fine, I’ll stay put.”

Luna instantly grinned and clopped her hooves on the floor. “You have put me at ease,” she said, showing relief. “My sister will likely be coming to find us; she has been most clingy as of late. While I am happy she is showing her love, she keeps me up at night with her snoring.”

Twilight couldn’t help but giggle as she looked the mare over. Luna’s coat was at least several shades brighter than her older version with her mane being made of the darkest onyx. Her wings ended with their tips fading into a light silver. The most interesting feature, to her, was that Luna seemed to be the same height as Celestia.

She could barely look away as the mare entered the room, eyes glued to Twilight. The look on her face was one of calm, one that Twilight had seen oh so many times before.

It was a look that caused her to grow nervous.

Walking up to the bed, Celestia sat next to her sister and took a deep breath. “Moon Light,” she began, glancing to her sister. “I am eternally grateful. You saved my sister. Yet we require you to answer our questions.”

Twilight looked away from the celestial mare and squirmed in the bed. “Of course, Celestia. I’ll try to answer anything I can.” Even now, Twilight was trying to come up with ideas. Her initial idea was a good base, but if the Princesses asked her anything more rigorous, it would throw her for a loop.

“We do not know how you fought those ponies,” she started, looking over to Luna. “nor how you are still alive. Pray tell, who, or what are you?”

She glanced between the two sisters, her mouth was beginning to open, but she caught herself. Was is a promising idea to go down this route? It wasn’t as if she couldn’t simply teleport away. But no, these were the Princesses and she doubted she would be able to look her Celestia in the eye knowing what she did.

With a deep breath, Twilight replied with: “I’m immortal.”

Both sisters sat there, unblinking, for the longest time until Celestia broke the silence. “Truly?” Her voice was barely containing her emotions. “You are,” she paused, glancing to Luna, “like us?”

Nodding, Twilight pulled the covers off herself and gestured to all of herself. “That’s why I came to find you two. There’s nopony else that could understand. I wish it was under different circumstances.”

Luna was the first to move forwards, ignoring Celestia’s gaze and taking hold of Twilight’s own. “We do, Moon. We never thought we would find somepony else like us.” Unable to hold herself back, she jumped up on the bed and nuzzled Twilight’s cheek, causing the mare to blush wildly.

“Luna!” she laughed, barely holding the mare back. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Celestia look on with a growing smile. “You must be wanting to move about. Come, we will show you around the village.”

Twilight followed the pair out of the room and into a similar looking hallway. Doors were placed every so often down one side, along with a thick rug that ran the length of the hall. At the far end was a set of stairs that descended.

Twilight could hear chatter coming from below, which grew in intensity as the three of them neared.

“We brought you to the village’s inn, once those filth were dealt with,” Celestia started, “You were asleep for several days from magical and physical exhaustion.”

‘That explains the healing’ Twilight thought, descending the creaky stairs. Turning at the bottom, Twilight was taken aback by the scene in front of her.

It was as if one of her adventure novels had come to life. The room was filled with ponies chattering, yelling, fighting or laughing.

Next to them, spanning the wall, sat a bar with, who Twilight presumed to be the owner, worked to serve the ponies their drinks. Plenty of rickety tables were scattered about the inn. Along the far wall, with several ponies gathered, was a large fireplace that lit the room up with warmth.

As soon as the trio entered the room, eyes were drawn to them. Most of the ponies smiled and waved, some even cheered, drumming their hooves against the tables in celebration.

Twilight looked around and found the ponies not looking at the sisters, but at her, and she gave a sheepish wave which only caused them to cheer harder.

Celestia wrapped a wing around Twilight and pulled her forward towards a curiously empty table near the fire. As they wandered through the room, Twilight was patted and thanked for her intervention in saving the ponies from bandits, which caused her to pop a blush at the praise.

Making it to the table and sitting down, she looked about the room to find that the other ponies had quickly returned to their previous activities, leaving her and the sisters alone.

“You are strange, Moon Light,” Luna said, tilting her head. “You jump into a fight but are embarrassed from praise. I have not met anypony like you before.”

Twilight brought her eyes down to the table and ran a hoof along its surface. “I don’t like fighting, but hearing that you were a slave, I couldn’t-“ She flicked her eyes back up to Luna, her anger and guilt rising. “I couldn’t let them do that to- to one of us!”

Luna blinked and a soft redness appeared over her cheeks at the sincerity of those words. “You are strong with your words, Moon. We admire that.”

Meanwhile, Celestia had flagged down a bar pony and ordered a few drinks, which had just been placed at the table. “Ah, tis a fine drink. I believe you will enjoy this, Moon. Do you have this where you are from?” She asked, levitating the drink over to Twilight.

Blowing the frosted top off the mug, Twilight saw the bubbling concoction and replied with a shake of her head. “No- at least I don’t think so. I was never one for drinking.”

Celestia placed her drink down, looking worried. “You do not drink? How do you calm down after a long day?”

“Well, uh, I mostly read,” she answered, smiling. “I had a whole library back home!”

Luna tilted her head. “You enjoy reading?” she gasped, “So do I!” She clopped her hooves against the table and grinned, causing the other mares to levitate their drinks off the table in case she spilled them.

“Luna, calm yourself!” Celestia asked, gently nudging her sister, only to receive a nudge back, which quickly devolved into a scuffle on the floor.

“She enjoys reading, ‘Tia!” Luna whined, rolling about and hoofing Celestia.

“Yes, I heard!” Celestia groaned, pinning the struggling mare down. With a glance back towards Twilight she chuckled. “My apologies. My sister gets emotional.”

Twilight stared at the two, her cheeks starting to burn from the compromising position that the sisters were in. Celestia had Luna pinned down, legs being held above her head as they rested against each other.

“Uh, oh, it’s quite alright,” she mumbled, averting her eyes. “So, uh. Do you own any books? Is this your village?”

Celestia gave a strange look down at Luna, before climbing off her and returning to her seat. Luna did the same after, shooting Celestia a glare, then turned her attention back to Twilight, her smile quickly returning.

“Our village? Neigh. We have rested here several times during our travels. We know the village elder well now, and,” Celestia explained, gesturing around, “we have seen many of these ponies grow up.”

“We love them!” Luna shouted, snorting a little as she laughed.

“So, where is this village? I was told you were here, but no pony knew the name of the village.”

“Trottington,” Celestia answered. “You must have travelled far to find us?”

“You have no idea, Celestia,” Twi replied, chuckling.

Yet, her mind had started to crank once again. ‘Trottington?’ she thought, trying to remember why it sounded so familiar. ‘That’s it! Trottington was renamed Trottingham several hundred years ago, or rather it would be in the future!’

The pair looked to each other in confusion while Twilight sat there in thought.

She broke out of her head and glanced at the pair, giving a sheepish giggle. “Sorry. I tend to overthink things.”

“Tis quite alright, Moon. Now, drink up, for we are to take you to the elder. He wishes to thank you.”

“Oh, uh, sure,” Twilight said, pulling the drink closer. ‘When in pone’ she thought to herself as she pressed the drink to her lips and began to gulp the still-bubbling liquid down.

Halfway through, a flood of warmth emanated through her, making her feel all tingly, but she continued and slammed the drink down.

“Huzzah!” Luna celebrated, clopping her hooves on the table once more, grinning as she watched Twilight hold a hoof to her own chest to stop herself from spewing it back up.

It hadn’t taken the sisters long to finish their own drinks and pull Twilight out of the inn. The village was much like many of the ruins that Twilight had visited on her adventures, only this one was more alive than the others she had seen.

Majority of the buildings were built out of the same bare rock that the inn was, as well as their roof being a covering of hay or some other plant material. Along the perimeter of the village was a wooden palisade, almost identical to the one at the mining camp, only several meters taller, with guard posts attached every so often.

Luna held a wing around Twilight and led her towards the largest building in the village.

The village Elder’s home was covered in vines and plants, giving it an even more rustic feel than the rest of the village. It was clear that these ponies were downtrodden and barely surviving, at least Twilight thought, seeing the state of some of the fields through the open entrance.

She had to remind herself that it wasn’t her place to change the past, even if her being here was altering things very minutely. Suddenly, she felt like a headache was going to hit her and decided to stop that line of thought.

‘Bucking time travel.’

Trotting into the Elder’s home, the scent of bubbling Sulphur and ground peppers reached her muzzle.

The inside of the home wasn’t as spartan as she had come to expect. Moving through the entrance, she was greeted with a long hallway that seemed to run the length of the home, with two doors on the left and two on the right. The door furthest on the right was kept open to let a thick green smoke billow out and up through an open window at the end of the hallway, which provided light.

On the walls were several masks as well as crudely drawn pictures on slate which depicted two, black and white, foals circling each other.

“Wait here,” Celestia told Twilight, pulling her out of her focus, then moved further inside, ducking under the smoke to enter the room. She returned several moments later with an old Pegasus stallion.

He looked quite unremarkable, save for the wrinkles peppering his face and the lack of one of his forelegs. The stallion had brown fur along with a steel grey mane. His cutie-mark was of a scroll with a quill writing down on it.

His eyes met with Twilight’s and he raised a brow, confused, before turning back to Celestia. She leaned down and he whispered into her ear, causing her to giggle and gently nudge him in the shoulder with a hoof.

“Indeed, this is the travelling mare that saved us, Book.”

The stallion once again looked over to Twilight and hesitantly hobbled over to stand in front of her. He began to use a wing to turn her head to and fro, casting a suspicious eye over her.

Twilight, on the other hoof, froze up, not knowing what to do. But thankfully it didn’t take him long to let out a short huff and turn back. “Neigh. She is not strong enough to help.”

Both Princesses did a double take and stepped forwards. “Book. You have seen her body when we arrived. She told us that she is one of us!”

Book froze halfway through the door. “Truly? This mare is one of you?”


Book turned his head back to Twilight and gestured with his head. “Follow.”

The bookish mare did as she was told and walked into the smoky room, making sure not to breath any in. As soon as she was inside, the stallion turned to face her. He held a dagger in his wing that flicked out to slice Twilight across the shoulder, eliciting a cry of pain from her.

“What the buck!” she cursed, taking a step back and lighting her horn.

“Truly remarkable!” Book gasped, his eyes watching as her cut knitted itself back together slowly. It was still many times slower than the celestial sisters, but she didn’t feel any pain from it.

Dropping the dagger on the table, he flicked his gaze up to meet hers. “Apologies. I had to make sure. These two have a habit of exaggeration,” he stated, frowning at the pair, who quickly moved out of eyeshot.

Twilight rubbed her cut and followed his eyes out into the hallway. “I know that all too well,” she muttered, grumbling. ‘I really hope being attacked out of nowhere is not going to be a running theme in the past’

Book glanced to Twilight as he asked, “You have sisters?”

“Oh, no. I just know two ponies that act very much like them. Nothing would be the same without them.”

Book kept his eyes on Twilight for a couple of seconds, thinking, then smiled.

“Those two have requested that you accompany them on their journey. I am here to tell you the details, for I am sure that they would not be truthful with you.” He let that sink in, before continuing. “They have found their special talents, as I am are sure that you are aware, but they are unable to command their celestial bodies.”

Twilight frowned and stepped forward.

“Their respective bodies are being controlled by another. I do not know who, but they must take back control. They would not dare tell anypony here, but they grow weaker.”

Twilight felt her pulse quicken and she took another look at the empty doorway. “From not being connected,” she mumbled. “It would make sense; sun and moon giving would give them their immortality. How do we get them back?”

Book sighed. “With their help, I have created a ritual to return control to them. But without knowing who stole the sun or moon, we cannot cast it.”

“So, we have to find the villain and stop them?” she asked casually, smirking.

“Uh, I would think so,” he said, confused. “But we have no idea where to find the being,” he continued, nearing her. “But we do know a pony in Stonewall that can help you. Her name is Sunset Swirl. She is employed at the imperial college. Tell them that Book Mark sent you.”

Twilight nodded as she etched the name to memory. “Do they know how to get to Stonewall? I don’t.”

Book copied the nod. “Of course. They are over one hundred years old. They’ve been all over the place,” he said, as if it was common knowledge.

Now that the trio had a destination in mind, they had returned to the inn to grab Twilight’s saddlebag. During which she had found her clothing laying on her bed and a very giddy Luna pushing her to wear it.

Sliding into the clothing, she found that it still fit her rather lithe frame and stretched, feeling the fabric give a tiny bit more than normal. Her sword holsters were gone, replaced with twin plates along her sides to provide her with a little bit more protection. Several more iron plates were melded with the outfit to provide some defence, most notably around her chest as well as her front legs, which were not almost completely covered down to her fetlocks.

Twilight turned around and found the pair of sisters sitting just outside of the room, watching her.

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked, seeing their smiling expressions. “Does it not fit somewhere?”

Luna quickly grinned and shook her head. “It looks perfect!” she squeaked, giggling like a little filly and rushing off down the stairs, leaving Twilight to her confusion.

“Do not mind her, Moon. She stayed up to repair thine clothing and takes great pride in it. You look rather dashing, as you should do, if you are to be our escort.”

Twilight felt her cheeks flush crimson at the compliment and scuffed the floor with her hoof.

“But we think that a warrior such as yourself needs to tie thine mane up,” she continued, moving inside the room and using her magic to take hold of Twilight’s mane.

The warm aura pulled it up and wrapped it around itself until there was a soft bun at the back of her head, in addition to some strands of hair framing around her face. Her usual bangs were left, which were parted by her lavender horn.

Twilight’s face was simply crimson as she let this happen, unable to do anything but stand there. “Thank you,” she whispered, eyes moving up to connect with Celestia’s.

The solar mare was the first to break the gaze and turn away. “Make sure you have everything. We will only be stop at nightfall,” she ordered, turning the corner.

Twilight could just barely see a light tint to her cheeks.

Gathering her saddlebag, she placed it on her back and trotted out, meeting the sisters near the door to the inn. Quickly, the trio left the inn and made their way to the entrance of the village. Various ponies stopped and waved to them, some even offering small prayers for their safe journey.

Twilight took in as much as she could, finding every little detail worthy of study. From the different ponies, to the architecture of the buildings, to the various crops that were planted around, it was all so different than what she was used to.

Exiting out of the village, the sisters stopped and turned around, giving a small bow and a muttering of a prayer.

“You should not worry, sister. We will return soon,” Celestia said, pulling Luna in close and giving her a reassuring nuzzle.

“I know, but it still hurts, ‘Tia.”

Twilight spoke up. “I’m sure they’ll miss you, but as long as you come back, that wait will have been worth it for them. They adored you both, Luna.”

The mare looked at Twilight and cracked a smile. “They’re our little ponies, Moon. Even if it takes a thousand years, we will always return to them.”

Twilight blinked, not ready to hear that. “I, uh, great!” she said, her lips curving into a forced smile. “Let’s go, though. Wouldn’t want to be caught outside at night, would we?”

Twilight’s tone caused the sisters to glance at each other, as she watched her trot away, confused. The pair split up and followed Twilight, who had begun to trot down the road, away from the village.

Several meters around the village, as well as the path, had been deforested for safety, but further away, the jungle was left pure and untamed. The sisters quickly caught up with Twilight and flanked the mare as they neared the cliffside path.

Twilight slowed and gazed up, finding the construction to be rather limited, at best.

“Have either of you teleported before?” she asked, receiving shakes of their heads. “Well, uh, take a deep breath, okay?”

The sisters shared a look of worry, then nodded.

Twilight closed her eyes and lit her horn. The glow brightened until it rivalled that of the sun and with a snap of magic and a burst of light, they were at the top of the cliff.

Celestia pushed away from Twilight and lurched forwards to her knees to empty her stomach onto the grass. Luna fared slightly better and only looked a little green as she let out a groan while holding her stomach.

“You are the most remarkable mare, but,” she paused to dry heave from the sound of Celestia’s chunks splatting onto the grass, “do not do that ever again!”

Twilight gave a sheepish chuckle and rubbed the back of her neck. “Sorry. I forgot how it feels for first timers.”

Celestia, glancing back at Twilight glared. “You could have warned us!” she spat, then turned back and vomited once again.

The mare winced once again and took a step forward. “It will pass shortly. The digestive system isn’t particularly designed for atomisation. Always best to teleport on an empty stomach,” she stated, giving a nod.

Luna stared at the mare, confusion on her face. “You say the strangest things, Moon. But we would like you to train me in this ‘teleport’?” she asked, moving closer, a smile forming. “Would you tutor us?”

Twilight’s eyes widened as she heard that. Here she was, being asked by Luna herself to tutor her! She didn’t hear of a time when either Princess were tutored by any pony other than Star Swirl and even he didn’t know much about the Princesses past.

“Yes,” she replied, almost unconsciously as she stared into those cyan eyes.

Luna gasped and squealed, jumping about in happiness. She suddenly pulled Twilight towards her with her magic and wrapped her up with a leg, cuddling her. “Huzzah! You will not be disappointed!”

Celestia pushed away from her pile and stumbled over. “Are you done? We have a long journey and I would rather rest somewhere that no pony can see us,” she said, gesturing to the lack of trees on this side of the canyon.

“Oh, right,” Twilight said, giggling while she pushed away from Luna, who was now pouting. “I guess you should lead the way then, Ma’am. If I am simply a humble escort?” she teased, bowing.

The Solar mare chuckled and rolled her eyes. “You are funny, Moon. I like that,” she stated, honestly, walking past. “You will be enjoyable company on the journey.”

Twilight smiled and pulled herself up, before trotting back in line with the Princesses, feeling a little better.

The area on this side of the canyon was more in the way of savanna, than grasslands, and held little in the way of trees for shade. This made Twilight’s job quite a lot easier as she was now constantly looking around. She didn’t know just how far this Stonewall would be, but Twilight would keep them safe!

The group of ponies had been wandering for several hours, of which had been generally small talk. While Twilight wasn’t really that experienced, especially not with her two idols, she tried her best and slowly but surely, they were nearing a river surrounded by a small forest.

“Moon, do you know any stories from your home?” Luna asked, hopping around and nuzzling up against her. “I wish to know about your homeland. It must be divine if you hail from there!”

Twilight couldn’t help but chuckle, her mind turning to the stories that she knew. ‘Most of them would spoil their own future, but maybe I could embellish one of my own?’ Twilight wondered, nodding as she chose to tell of her own friends.

“Alright, so, back home we have the legend of the five ponies,” she began, glancing between the pair. “These ponies represented the very ideals that everypony was taught to strive towards: Generosity, Loyalty, Kindness, Laughter and Honesty.”

As Twilight continued, she found her smile widening at the thought of her friends. They wouldn’t even get to know where she had been, or what she had done. ‘For the best,’ she thought, shaking her head.

“All of them were amazing ponies on their own, but together, they were unstoppable. Even when disasters and evil attacked their home, they banded together to overcome, using each of their ideals to pull together. Yet, none of them were soldiers.

Generosity was a simple, yet elegant seamstress.

Loyalty was the best weather pony and, dare I say it, the fastest flier anypony knew.”

Twilight giggled, imagining her friend puffing her chest up in pride.

“Kindness looked after the forests animals. She feared her own shadow at times but stood up to a fully-grown dragon to save her friends!

Laughter could make anypony smile, even if her methods were a little unorthodox at times.

Honesty was the most hard-working pony anypony could know and she told it like she saw it.”

Just as she finished that, the group had arrived at the start of the forest and Twilight felt like the dark path ahead stretched into eternity. A warm hoof laid on her shoulder and Twilight looked over to see Celestia smiling.

With a nod, the three walked into the forest and Twilight continued with her story, trying to keep upbeat.

“As I said, the group were unstoppable, but in the end, it took a full-scale siege of their homeland’s castle to stop them. They were cast out of their homeland, reduced to looking for allies in far off lands under the sea.

Strange magic transformed them into underwater hippogriffs, but-“ she paused for a second, “but they received no help!”

Luna gasped, causing Celestia to giggle.

“Surely, they found help somewhere, right?” Luna asked. “Or does your homeland enjoy sad legends?”

Twilight shook her head. “No, they did find help. In the form of a cat and a group of sky-pirates! A vicious battle took place in their castle, of which a horrible villain called the Storm-King had taken the palace over, draining the ruler’s magic for himself!”

While Twilight had been telling the story, Luna had rushed over to Celestia’s side and was wrapped up in a white fluffy wing, despite having a grin on her face.

“Finally, the five ponies were in front of the Storm-King, their rulers having been drained! They battled for days, until the Storm-King fell. His lieutenant risking her life to turn against him. The ponies welcomed her as a friend.”

With the end, Twilight sighed and turned to see the pair having stopped and were looking at her with concern. Confused, she moved over and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“You are crying, Moon,” Celestia said, to which Twilight rubbed her hoof over her face.

“Oh, uh,” she coughed, turning around as she rubbed her face with her leg. “I don’t know what came over me. I don’t do that normally.”

“Moon?” Luna asked, pulling away from Celestia and placing a wing on Twilight’s back. “Are you alright?”

“It’s, uh, close to my heart,” Twilight chuckled, shrugging. “It’s been a while since I’ve been home,” she lied, feeling Luna give a nuzzle to her shoulder and a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry too much. Let’s just get to Stonewall, okay?”

Arc 1: Chapter 4

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It wasn't until several hours later that the last vestiges of light had snaked their way over the horizon and bathed the landscape in an ethereal glow.

Finding herself tired, Twilight suggested that they find some place to rest and wait until dawn. Agreeing with her, the group turned off the path and venture deeper into the forest, just in case any pony snuck up on them.

Passing through the underbrush, Twilight kept a watchful eye around them for any creatures brave enough to jump out at them. Now that she knew what her body could handle, she knew how much she could really push herself.

Several minutes passed and the group found a tiny clearing, in which all three of them could fit. While it was a little snug, none of them were against cuddling under the starlight.

The two sisters set about using their magic to break branches and clear a space for a fire on one side, before creating a thick pile of leaves for them to lie on.

Twilight wandered further from camp and began to carve runes in trees around the area, creating a perimeter alarm system in case they were discovered, or attacked.

She returned after a little while to find the two sisters cuddling up and enjoying the warmth of the fire. She couldn't help but stand there, admiring them.

'They're so beautiful,' she thought, before shaking her head and tapping her horn to give herself a jolt of pain. 'Don't be so silly,’ she chided herself, knowing where her thought process was going. 'Not every mare wants me.'

Entering the camp proper, she smiled and asked, "Enjoying yourselves?"

"Very much!" Luna replied, spreading a wing out to capture some warmth. "It should only take less than a day to reach Stonewall. As long as we are not accosted."

Celestia nodded and lifted a wing while looking over to Twilight. "Are you cold?" she asked, keeping a neutral expression.

Twilight could swear it dropped a few degrees, very quickly, as she nodded. "Yes, please," she replied, moving a little quicker than she should have to squirm under that wing. 'Yes please? She must think I'm such an idiot.'

Celestia's face now held a warm smile as she pulled Twilight close then nuzzled Luna. "Would you enjoy a story of our own?" she asked, turning to Twilight. "Tis only fair?"

The mare's eyes widened, and she nodded. "I would love that," Twilight replied, eyes sparkling with wonder.

That was when Luna spoke up. "Oh! Tell her about Grognar the Brave!" she asked, frowning in thought, before leaning in. "Actually, I wish to hear about when Sunset fought off a Dragon!"

Celestia chuckled and nuzzled Luna back down. "Sister, we shall let our Moon Light decide."

Twilight held back her squeal of excitement, as she didn't want them to think she was too strange. Looking away, she tryied to decide which story she wanted. 'Grognar sounds interesting, if only because it sounds like a legend, but I would get to hear about the mare we're going to meet.'

She looked back and asked, "Can you tell me about Sunset?"

"Of course, our Moon." Celestia squirmed slightly to get more comfortable, before starting. "Like most stories, it wasn't much past Sunset's thirteenth birthday. She had been given the day off from guard duty and had been spending it at the tavern, drinking the day away.

" You see, in her home village, any pony without a cutie-mark would be drafted into the guard as reserves. It was a harsh time for every pony, but they made do.

" So, several hours had passed by and she was stumbling home, when suddenly a piercing shriek froze every pony in place and the flapping of wings could be heard in the distance!"

Luna squeaked and hid her face against Celestia's chest, while Twilight listened intently.

"It wasn't long until the fully-grown dragon had arrived. The impact knocked over trees and threw back ponies with its gust of wind! It was a great lumbering beast crafted from the darkest obsidian, with teeth of sharpest steel!

"With a great rage, it began to tear her friend's home's asunder and butcher any pony brave enough to get close. The guard was scattered and broken from the beast's onslaught."

"What did she do?" Twilight asked, scooting a little closer.

Hugging the Unicorn tight with her wing, Celestia continued. "Sunset charged it head first."

"Straight on? Wasn't she scared?"

"Of course, she was. She was more scared than any pony there, but she had to save her friends and village," Celestia said. "She reached the beast's underbelly as a Pegasus attacked it and threw everything she had at the beast’s soft stomach. The other guards in the village claimed the blast rivalled even my own sun's light. Seeing what she can do, I believe them."

Twilight looked astonished. "Wow, a fully-grown dragon? That's an incredible amount of magic."

"Indeed. She's now a researcher at the college. Luna and I go every so often to let her teach us the new spells she develops. I've found they're a little too complex for most ponies."

Finishing, Celestia turned to see Luna laid against her, head curved at an odd angle and drooling. Scrunching her muzzle, she slowly moved the mare around next to her and covered her in some leaves to keep her warm, in case the fire died.

Turning to Twilight, she saw the mare still wide awake, her head laid on her own hooves. "Still awake, we see."

Twilight nodded slowly. "I wasn't much of a sleeper before. Too much work to do."

"Oh? Pray tell, what sort?" Celestia asked, laying her head on her hooves and listening.

"Oh, you know. This and that. I worked as a librarian for a bit," she explained, receiving a confused look. "Oh, it's some pony that takes care of a communal collection of books. Any pony can come in and read."

It was Celestia's turn to stare at her wide eyed. "I’ve have never heard of such a thing. Most ponies like us don't have books, let alone are able to read." She turned to Luna once more and kissed her on the head. "We were lucky to have been taught by the elder."

Twilight could understand why barely any pony had books in this time, but it was a natural reaction for her to feel angry that they didn't. 'Calm down, Twilight,' she told herself. 'Can't change anything, remember.'

An awkward silence grew over the camp, before the pair started to talk over each other.

"Oh, you go."

"Neigh, we wish to hear you."

Flapping her mouth, Twilight felt a blush form as she asked, "Where, uh, have you been in your travels?"

She was feeling silly even asking such a mundane question to the future Princess!

Raising a brow, Celestia tilted her head, thinking. "We have been to plenty of places in our lives. We rested under the silver spires of Mount Hammertooth, travelled the great plains of Trypton to the west and even saw the free markets of Mareland," she stated, smirking. "We have been lucky to have lived this long!"

Twilight didn't know where those places were, but to her, the Princess could have been talking gibberish. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the positively glowing mare.

"Uh, those definitely sound like places," Twilight mumbled in response.

Celestia let out a small laugh. "Indeed, they are. But we do not know how long we have left. We weaken, even now. The mistress of time catches up to every pony, even immortals."

Twilight averted her eyes and looked down to her hooves. "Somehow, I think you'll make it through this, Celestia," she said, closing her eyes. "I feel like you have a lot more to give."

The solar mare held a hoof to her mouth to stop from laughing. "Are you an oracle now, little moon? What makes you so sure we do not simply waste away as we lose our sun and moon?"

Twilight winced, even hearing that as a possibility stung. "I," she said, hesitating. "I'll make sure that doesn't happen!"

Celestia was caught off guard by the finality of Twilight's tone. "We, uh, appreciate the focus you have, Moon," she replied, tearing her eyes away.

'Is that a blush?' Twilight asked herself, forcing herself to try and not stare. "Of course. As your escort, it's my job to keep you alive," she said, inadvertently imitating her brother’s stern attitude.

Celestia couldn't help but giggle at the mare. "You are very determined, I will grant you. I shall trust you with our survival then, for I do not believe there is any pony more suited."

Twilight smiled and laid back down, a soft yawn escaping her. "I think it's time to get some rest. My runes will wake us if anything attacks."

"You are prepared for anything, little Moon," Celestia muttered, laying her head down and closing her eyes.

Sleep soon overtook the pair as a frigid chill swept over them, knocking out the fire.

Once morning drifted by, the trio returned to their trek. With the sun beginning its ascent and the group in good spirits, it only took them several hours to reach the town of Stonewall, many of which were spent with Twilight explaining the intricacies of teleporting.

Rising over the crest of the last hill, Twilight gasped as she finally laid eyes on the town. Laid precariously across a massive gorge, the town connected both sides by simply covering the gorge up. Much like Trottington, the town had a perimeter wall, though this was made from heavy slabs of granite which were polished to a shine.

Towers of grey rock pierced the more mundane buildings, overlooking the town and surrounding forest.

Twilight was shocked at the sheer feat of engineering this would have taken, especially for the ponies of this time and turned to Celestia. "The town is," she muttered, taking in the sight. "Incredible."

"You will lay your eyes on more magnificent sights than this, if you are truly helping us, Moon," she laughed, walking ahead, her rear seemingly catching Twilight’s eyes.

Twilight's eyes slid away from the town and stuck firmly on the mare. 'I don't think that's possible'

Luna raised a brow, seeing Twilight stand there and nudged her. "Are you there?" she asked, giggling. "Keep your eyes averted. Lest they burn!"

Luna trotted off to walk next to her sister and glanced back, a playful smirk appearing on her face which caused Twilight to look away, horrified that she had been caught!

Catching up slowly, Twilight stayed a little behind, so she had time for her embarrassment to fade.

As they made their way towards the down, the forest suddenly opened into great fields of wheat, berries and livestock that covered most of the land around. The path was well-worn from hoof traffic and every so often the group would have to move aside to let a cart through which carried bags of grain.

"Tis harvest season," Celestia said, turning back to explain to Twilight. "We should enjoy our time here."

Nodding, Twilight returned her focus on their vicinity. She assumed there would be more ponies here due to the harvest and would need to do her best to keep her focus up.

The path they travelled on wound around several farms, gently settling parallel to the gorge itself, allowing Twilight access to take a nosy look in. Along the mossy walls, sat hundreds small holes dug into the rock itself, with perches attached to the outside for Pegasus to roost on.

Various Pegasus were coming and going, transporting goods or simply their children back and forth between the town and their homes. The sight alone caused Twilight to stare, fascinated with the ingenuity.

Quick enough though, the three of them passed through the gatehouse and entered the town proper.

Twilight had to stick close to the other two in case she was swept up in the sea of ponies that made up the main street of the town.

Celestia glanced to the mare who was being bustled to and fro, then wrapped a wing over her, keeping her from being pushed away. “Keep close, Moon. It will be a struggle with this harvest!” she said, chuckling.

“Are they all here for that?! There’s more here than-“ Twilight realised what she was going to say, “than back home.”

“Indeed, they are. The harvest brings ponies from all over. There’s even a market which I’m sure Luna would love to see.”

Luna nodded, looking happy that Celestia had remembered. “Of course. The market has all the best food! Last year, we had something called a cream puff. It was delicious!”

The bustling street completely different from the wide, open city of Canterlot that Twilight was used to. The buildings seemed to have been placed at random around one central road that span across the gorge, with a main plaza in the middle. Numerous dark alleyways shot off the main street, some of which had stairs which led down, under the city.

All in all, it felt more like Klugetown to her, which only helped to fuel her paranoia of having some feline try and sell her again. Still, she did find the architecture fascinating. Each building tried to have a uniform building style, yet were constructed in varying combinations of wood, stone and thatch.

The deeper they travelled into the town, the denser that the building became, until they suddenly stopped, and Twilight was met with a large, flat plaza in the middle of town. Hundreds of tents were set up around a central fountain, each one containing exotic and rare items which Twilight had never seen or heard of before.

Most of the crowds had thinned out, with each pony moving aside to gather around the stalls and tents to spend their money.

‘I wonder why there’s no record of this town?’ Twilight wondered, sniffing the air. A sweet aroma filled the air and Twilight looked around for the source, her stomach grumbling. “Hey, we should probably get something to eat. I haven’t eaten since I woke up in Trottington.”

Luna gasped and rushed around to Twilight’s side. “Celestia and I had some food just before we left the Trottington, but I can take you,” she remarked, glancing to Celestia while Twilight did, and gesturing to Twilight with a frown.

With a sigh, Celestia shrugged and ruffled her wings in agitation. “Fine. I’ll see you at the college then. Luna knows the way,” she muttered, beginning to walk off.

“Oh, uh, sure,” Twilight said, confused. “I’ll save you something, alright?”

The solar mare glanced back and nodded. “I’d like that, thank you, Moon.”

With that, Luna giggled and pulled Twilight over by a hoof. They made their way through the stalls, Twilight glancing over their wares and debating whether to buy anything. As they neared the source of that sweet scent, Luna brushed up against Twilight and grinned.

“So, how are you finding our homeland? Other than being brutally wounded, of course?” Luna asked, chuckling into a hoof. “Do you have anything like this in yours?”

Twilight thought for a second, then nodded. “There’s plenty. But this is different,” she answered, grinning.

“Oh? Pray tell?”

Twilight slowed, then leaned to whisper into Luna’s ear, her cheeks darkening as she did so, “Well, they don’t have you two there.”

Luna’s eyes widened and she found it hard to keep a wide smile off her face. She covered her face with a leg and giggled. “Careful, Moon. Any pony would think you’re enjoying this.”

With a roll of her eyes, Twilight waved a hoof and said, “Oh please. I might not be as old as you two, but I’m sure allowed to tease a mare or two.”

“Indeed. But tease too much and you might find yourself in trouble,” Luna purred, trotting off towards the now empty sweet booth and brushing her tail over Twilight’s neck, leaving her a flustered mess.

“Coming?” she called, glancing back with a quizzical eye. “You wanted food, remember!”

Twilight blinked and glanced down as she began the trek over to the booth, feeling her heart threaten to burst out of her chest and her face burning. ‘Was- was she hitting on me? Would I even know if she was? By Ce- Luna I need to get out more.’

Glancing up as to not bump into the mare, she looked up and saw that the booth was filled with pastries of all kinds. Many of which Pinkie had herself baked at one time or another. The stallion inside the booth wandered over after closing his stone-fire oven and smiled, greeting them. The stallion had light orange fur along with an aqua coloured mane.

With a light smile working on her face now, she didn’t seem to mind the slight flush that stayed on her cheeks while picking out what to buy for her and Luna.

“So, uh, what would you like?” she asked, glancing to the mare, then back at the pastries to pick her own food.

Luna let out a long hum as she looked over what remained of the food that wasn’t sold and pointed towards a deep red tart off to the side. “How much for that?” she asked, licking her lips.

Turning back to see which one she had picked out, the stallion walked around and lifted the platter, showing it to Luna. “La Tarte aux pralines, tis a delicious choice, my lady,” he said, placing it in front of her on the booth. “We travel around to gather the ingredients for this. Only five were made this time.”

“How much is it?” Twilight asked, tearing her eyes from Luna’s face to look at the sales pony.

“Fifteen bits,” he answered. “The ingredients are divine; I can assure you.”

Luna looked from Twilight to the sales pony and shook her head. “It’s, uh, okay. We didn’t bring that much. What’s cheaper?” she asked, picking out a simple éclair.

Twilight paid for her own creamy éclair, thanking the pony and caught up with Luna, who had begun to wander off towards some of the more jewellery-oriented tents. Wandering around for several minutes, Twilight subtly eyed a few of the horn decorations; ones which would compliment each of the three’s colour schemes and quickly paid for them. She wrapped, then stashed them inside of her saddlebag and exited the tent.

Seeing that Luna was out of the way, Twilight quickly made her way back to the pastry seller. Levitating some bits out of her pack, she bought the tart. She resisted the urge to take a bite out of it then wrapped the pastry up, before gently going to find Luna, the tart levitating beside her.

“Luna!” Twilight called, walking off and through the crowd of ponies, trying to hide her excitement. “I have a surprise!”

With a gasp, Luna could be seen zooming up above the crowed. She spotted Twilight and quickly making it back to her side, landing beside her with a soft ‘pomf’. She looked at the wrapped item in confusion. “What did you buy?” she asked, moving to the other side, where Twilight levitated it away.

“Oh no you don’t,” Twilight teased, giggling. She looked around and used her magic to gently pull Luna over to an empty bench by the fountain. “Alright, sit and close your eyes,” she ordered, to which she received a huff.

But Luna did as she was told and closed her eyes, confusion etched onto her face. “Moon, what is this?” she asked, letting out a huff. “I would rather not be too lo-“ Luna cut herself off as the wrapping on the tart was torn off and the smell wafted hit her nose.

“You can open them,” Twilight said, unable to hide her grin.

Once she opened her eyes, Luna gasped, seeing the delectable treat hovering in front of her. “Moon,” she muttered softly, looking shocked. “I don’t- Why did you- What?”

Giggling, Twilight placed it down between them and shrugged. “Because you looked like you wanted it. Plus, just because I’m helping you to not die, doesn’t mean I can’t do nice things.”

Luna nibbled her bottom lip, then smiled. She couldn’t help but brush her mane behind her ear and scoot closer. “Are we to share it?” she asked, licking her lips.

Twilight could feel the fur on the back of her neck stand on end and her mouth dry up. “If you would like?” she mumbled, chest thumping hard. ‘Don’t buck this up,’ she warned herself as she used her magic to slide up the tart into small quarts. Separating a quart, Twilight levitated it onto Luna’s hoof. ’I can’t believe I’m doing this.’

Wasting no time, the mare levitated her piece to her mouth and took a bite. Instantly, she closed her eyes and let out a squeal of happiness, her wings fluttering. "It's delicious!" she quietly moaned, her mane drifting back in front of her face.

Twilight let out a soft giggle and bit down on her own piece. Twilight closed her own eyes, finding the sweet nutty flavour burst throughout her mouth. Her smile grew as she savoured the flavour, opening her eyes and watching Luna continue to munch hers down. 'Ah buck. I've fallen for her, haven't I?' she asked herself, finding it suddenly warmer.

Luna's eyes fluttered open to see Twilight staring at her. "What's wrong?" she asked, giggling and tilting her head."

Twilight quickly shook her head. "No, I- uh," she stammered, looking down at the rest of the tart. "We should probably get back. Wouldn't want Celestia to wait for too long, do we."

Luna blinked, then reluctantly nodded. "I guess you're right. She is rather impatient at times."

The pair quickly left the market behind and crossed into the town once again. Nearing the main street, that led to the other side of the gorge, Luna turned off and guided Twilight through the gates of the imperial college.

The building, from what Twilight could see, was the largest building in the town and was partially attached to the other side of the gorge to stop it from crumbling down from the sheer weight.

The building itself was made out of granite, with the roof made out of slate. Several lecture halls could be seen through the floor to ceiling windows on the front. The main entrance, atop a small set of stairs, was flanked by two marble columns.

Walking in the entrance, the light natural light faded slightly and was replaced with a softer light from glowing gems embedded in the ceiling.

The more that she stayed in the past, the more Twilight found herself baffled by the technology this place had.

She was knocked out of her amazement by a Pegasus mare rushing up to meet them. The grey mare adjusted her uniform and smiled.

"You must be Luna and Moon Light. Please come with me. Sunset does not like to be kept waiting!" she ordered, before turning gesturing to follow. "It's been hectic. Sunset has every pony rushing around to gather materials."

Twilight blinked as she and Luna trotted behind the mare. "What for?" she asked, unsure if she should be confused or concerned.

"She says it's her biggest ritual ever!" the mare laughed, having flared her wings for dramatic effect. "She always says that though."

She led them through the college, dodging past students and staff alike, until they reached a staircase and descended, all the while Twilight having a smile on her face.

Luna gave a quizzical eye to the mare.

"Nothing, just remembering a place from my homeland," she answered, having taken in as much as she could on the way.

The staircase kept going for a couple of minutes until it levelled out in front of a thick, iron, double door.

Twilight frowned and leaned in, her horn lighting up, upon seeing dozens of tiny runes etched on the surface.

"Hey, hey!" the mare warned, using a wing to push Twilight back. "No magic until we're inside okay? This door is extremely delicate."

Nodding quickly, she moved back beside Luna and gave a sheepish smile. "Sorry."

Ignoring that, the Pegasus used her wings to stabilise herself and rise up into two legs. She pressed a hoof high up the door, then another on another random rune.

With a hum, the cracks started to glow a bright bubble-gum pink, just before the door began to creak open, bathing the three of them in a warm light.

"Ah, you've made it, finally."

Twilight blinked and shook her head to clear the stars and was greeted with a sight that practically made her squeal with delight!

Past the door was a room filled with alchemical and magical equipment. Scrolls hung off nearly every desk and equations covered every whiteboard.

Twilight rushed in and nearly fainted from the sheer giddiness she was feeling! "This is amazing!" she cried, rushing up to Celestia, not noticing that the mare from before was gone, nor the bubble-gum pink mare staring at her.

Luna wandered in behind the wide-eyed Twilight and passed her. She sat next to her sister and cuddled up to her, nodding as Celestia whispered into her ear.

"Some of this stuff is new, even to me!"

Looking back to Twilight, Celestia placed a hoof on the mare's shoulder and sighed. "Moon Light, I'd like you to meet Sunset Swirl," she said, gesturing to the mare sitting upon a slightly raised platform in front of her. She had a silky smooth deep blue mane, in addition to her pink fur. Her cutie mark was of a twinkling pentagram.

Twilight looked over and giggled. "Sorry, I didn't see you there. I've heard you can help us?"

Gazing down, Sunset took a second to assess Twilight before nodding. "I shall definitely try. These two are family and I shall repay them for their kindness," she replied, stepping off the platform. "Celestia tells me that you are like them? Undying?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it quite like that, but I am."

"Undying, immortal, same thing," Sunset mumbled, her magical aura pulling a map over from a nearby table. "Celestia has filled me in on what happened and has helped me to design a ritual that will help you find what you need."

"What we ne-" Twilight asked, realising what was happening. "Do we need some hard to reach magical artefacts that will help us in reversing the spell and or defeating the evil pony?"

Sunset stared at Twilight in shock. "Yes. Yes, you do. How did you know?" she asked, giving a look to Celestia.

"Uh," Twilight started. "My homeland has lots of stories like that. They're pretty common at this point."

Sunset slowly nodded. "I see. In any case, my research indicated that the only way the 'bad pony' could be controlling the sun and moon and stop them from rejuvenating Luna and Celestia would be though an impossibly complex series of spells."

She waved her hoof for the three to move away and levitated chalk over to herself. "Needless to say, anything that complex would be vulnerable to, let's say, magical outbursts."

Sunset completed the outer circle and began in the inner pentagram. "Of course, no pony alive would be able to produce enough energy to bypass the spell matrix barrier of such a collection of spells."

She continued and sketched the three outer circles. "That's why you need the artefacts."

Glancing up to Twilight, she smirked. "And this will tell you where they are."

Finishing the runes inside the circles, Sunset moved back beside twilight and placed the chalk down, then levitated the map into the middle.

"Moon, if you would help me?" she asked, placing her horn down against the chalk and letting her magic flow into the runes.

Twilight did the same, closing her eyes and feeling the warmth of her magic flow out and fill the runes with magic instantly.

Sunset pulled back, staring at the mare, then to Celestia.

Leaning back up, Twilight smiled and stretched her neck, eager to see where their first destination was. She glanced between Celestia and Sunset, asking, "Is something the matter?"

Celestia shook her head, a warm smile appearing. "Of course not. I'm just a little worried for where we will have to go."

"I'm sure that no matter where it is, we'll be fine," Twilight said, nodding.

Sunset rolled her eyes. "If you are done trying to woo her, Moon, please can you activate that circle while I do this one."

Twilight did as she was asked, her face blossoming crimson as she did so. She moved around and placed her horn on the turns, using her magic to activate the pentagram.

The chalk outline lit up and from each circle appeared a beam of light. Each beam hit the map in a separate location and Sunset let out a disappointed sigh.

"What? What's wrong?" Twilight asked, looking to her.

Sunset moved over to the map, being careful not to smudge any of the chalk and placed a hoof down pointing to the first location.

"This one is the Crown of Ruin. Said to give the wearer enhanced magical abilities at the cost of their mind."

"That's rather ominous. Where do we find it?"

"On the head of the Mad Gryphon King, Titas," Sunset answered, sighing.

Celestia shook her head. "It's too dangerous. He's mad for a reason. We're barely able to hold peace with the gryphons. They're not going to let us just wander in their capitol."

"Well, you're not going to like where the other is," Sunset mumbled, moving her hoof to the west.

"Where?" Luna asked, hesitating. "Where do we have to travel to?"

Sunset looked down at the map and sighed. "The Orb of Séance is just off the Cape of Tears. In Heliopolis."

Celestia moved her eyes down to Luna and nuzzled her. "We can do it, Lulu," she whispered. "It's only half way round the world."

Luna rolled her eyes and laughed. "I'm sure with Moon, nothing can stop us; just like the ponies in her story!"

Twilight moved over to the map and pointed to the third and final beam that was off in the top left corner. "What's that one?" she asked. "I don't recognise the place."

"The final one is the Amber Horn-Ring. I theorised it's what is helping whoever set up the spell stabilise the matrix and stop it neutralising itself."

Twilight stared at Sunset and felt her blood drain. "Amber horn-ring?" she asked, feeling her voice quiver.

"Indeed. When worn it helps a unicorn to weave more intricate spells but takes so much more power. No wonder why they took the sun and moon first," Sunset explained, shaking her head in disgust. "What are they doing there though?"

Rushing out of the circle, Sunset levitated various leather-bound tomes off the bookcases and flicked through them frantically.

"Here!" she called, moving over the three as she started to read. "Eden. Not much is known, aside from an old, rather ominous tale. Nothing that has gone there has ever come back."

Twilight was only half listening as her mind had started to race with thoughts. Was Luna lying to me in the garden? She seemed almost amused by my question. How could she simply forget that this happened to her and Celestia?!

There was so much more that she would need to work out if she was to get any answers, least of all from the future versions of the ponies currently looking at her concerned. She’d have to go back to the present soon, if only to do some research into this King Titas.

"Moon Light?" Luna asked, sitting next to her. "It's going to be a long time until you see your homeland again. Are you sure you want to come with us?" she continued, almost not wanting to ask that. "We can continue by ourselves, if you need to go back?"

Twilight frowned and shook her head. "I said I'd keep you two safe, didn't I? I'm not going anywhere!" Twilight stomped her hoof on the marble floor and grinned. "And as cliché as it sounds, I will follow you to the end of the world!"

Arc 1: Chapter 5

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Luna, Celestia and Sunset stared at Twilight after her declaration, leaving the mare feeling rather self conscious now and afraid she had said something wrong.

"I mean, It's not like I'm going to leave you two to die, am I?" she stated, shrugging. "I would never live with myself if I did that; eternity is a long time."

Luna walked over, ignoring the pulsing chalk lines and pulled a hoof up to gently brush over Twilight's cheek. "Neither of us have met any pony so willing to risk themselves for another." She pulled back as Celestia joined them and turned to watch her sister.

Celestia sat down and let out a despondent sigh while taking a look at the map. "Luna is right. You are no ordinary mare, and I am not talking about being immortal. There's something different about you." She turned it over to show Twilight, pointing at the corner of the map. "Do you know how far Eden is?" she asked, receiving a shake of Twilight's head in response. "It's halfway across the world, Moon. It's a long way to travel and we are not even sure we will survive before reaching there."

Twilight turned her gaze away, not wanting to hear this. "You have my answer, Celestia. You won't get rid of me just because it might take a long time, or that we might die!"

Celestia let out her own huff of annoyance. “Moon, why are you- ugh! Why are you so kind to us?!” Stomping her hoof, she brushed past Twilight and exited the room.

Luna looked between Twilight and her sister, before sighing. “She’s right, Moon. We barely know you and you’re willing to go to the ends of the world for us. Why are you so invested in this?”

Twilight turned to face Luna and shrugged, giving her a deadpan look. “Oh, other than the whole, bad guy has control over the sun and moon part? Besides, it’s not like you won’t have the time to get to know me, right?”

Luna returned the look with a chuckle and nodded. “I- I guess that isn’t something we really considered. It was happening to us and that’s how it always has been. We were the only immortals until you turned up. But I concede that this affects everypony.”

Sunset moved over and coughed into her hoof. “As much as I’m enjoying this, perhaps it would be best if we decide how you would be finding these artefacts? None of them will be particularly easy to obtain. Titas will no doubt be wearing it and the Gryphons are notoriously dangerous.”

“That is true,” Luna began, nodding, “they don’t use any magic, but their numbers and sheer strength is something we lack. Not to mention their King is unstable, at best.”

Luna adopted a thoughtful look as she gazed down at the floor. “Even three of us cannot fight the Gryphon’s head on.”

“So, what? We sneak in and steal it?” Twilight asked, glancing between the pair. “From what I know of the Gryphons, their hearing is superb.”

“They do have amazing hearing, but they cannot stand high frequency notes. It doesn’t stop them, but it is painful. We used it in several skirmishes to high success,” Sunset added, looking proud of herself. “Though, I would assume the King’s personal guards would be trained against it.”

Twilight nodded. “That is a point, anything we can use to gain an advantage we should use. I’d rather not kill anything else.”

“I doubted you had any choice with those ponies, Moon. You were barely holding on when you found me.”

“I- I know. But it doesn’t mean I would want to actively go around and kill. It’s not right,” Twilight retorted, looking away. “It doesn’t mean I won’t defend myself.”

Quickly enough, the discussion ebbed away and Twilight excused herself to find Celestia. She exited and climbed the stairs back into the college. Their meeting had taken the better half of an hour and had left the college slightly more empty than Twilight would have expected for this time of the day.

Stepping up onto the smooth marble floor, she began to wander about the college to get the general layout. Every step brought back memories of her time at Celestia’s school. The smell of the hall, the ponies rushing to-and-fro to find their next classes and the professors teaching.

Stopping outside of an open door, Twilight leaned around and found one such professor teaching a class. She stood there, listening in to the lecture until a hoof poked her shoulder.

Turning around to see Celestia standing there, she went to talk, but the mare held up a hoof to stop her.

“Don’t. Let me speak, Moon.”

Twilight nodded, closing her mouth.

The burning sunset filtered through the floor-to-ceiling windows and painted Celestia’s features, helping them stand out against the suddenly drab and lifeless hallway. She wanted so bad to just leap at her and tell her everything, to admit her wrongdoings. Yet, thankfully, her fear of rejection, of failure held her back.

“Moon, Luna and I have watched so many ponies grow up and fade away. While it’s true that we don’t know you,” Celestia stated, giving a sincere smile, “ and I can’t speak for Luna, but I trust that she has the same thoughts as I do.”

It was clear that Celestia was simply rambling at this point, so she just decided to let her, mainly to allow herself some more time to gaze upon her image.

“I was being pig-headed before. I had to watch so many of my friends, and family, pass into their next life while I had to stay here. I foolishly thought that you would to, disregarding the obvious.” Celestia closed her eyes and steadied herself by placing a hoof on her chest, breathing in. “I would be happy if you came with us to Eden.”

Twilight’s smile grew as she leaned in and wrapped Celestia up in a hug, holding her tight. “I would have followed you anyway, you silly pony.”

Celestia’s cheeks darkened at those words, just before she wrapped her own legs around Twilight, holding her.

The pair pulled away a few seconds later due to the sound of a mare screaming in the entrance hall. Together, they leapt to their hooves and rushed over to find a pony galloping away from the entrance, horror etched on her face.

Twilight was just about to ask what happened as the front doors shattered open, causing her to cover her face.

Celestia moved forward so she could see outside at whatever had blown the doors open, before Twilight galloped over and barrelled her over. A second snap of electricity blasted its way over the top of the pair, hitting one of the windows and exploding, sending debris scattering across the floor.

Celestia whimpered as Twilight rose up once again to see five unicorns strolling up the steps of the college. Each pony was covered almost head to hoof in leather armour, along with numerous different weapons attached to their bodies. In addition, they were all wearing fitted masks that looked like they were burnt on. The front of the masks bore a symbol reminiscent of Star Swirl’s time-travel spell.

“Moon Light. You will give yourself over to us!” the pony at the head of the group ordered. “We will spare this town if you come freely.”

Twilight glanced down at Celestia, before her horn lit up. She used her magic to slide the mare across the floor and over to the stairs. “Get the others and run!” she shouted, turning back to the group. The sound of Celestia rushing off to find her sister and sunset echoed throughout the quiet entrance hall.

“Who are you?” she queried, holding her head high as she watched the group spread out in a semi-circle in front of her. There was no doubt now that they wouldn’t let her go without a fight.

Twilight tensed up upon hearing another scream from a different part of the college, then narrowed her eyes. With a flash of her horn, she shot out a pulse of magic towards the lead unicorn which burned against his cheat, before rolling to the side and dodging a spear that embedded itself in the marble.

Landing on her side, Twilight brought up her magical shield and rose to her hooves. After a second or two of barrage from the unicorns, they let up, only to levitate their weapons off of their backs and charge.

With a gasp, Twilight leaped back, only gaining a graze as a claymore smashed down in front of her, cracking the tile. Several crossbow bolts whizzed past her face, cutting her cheek before she landed.

She let out a cry and brought a lance of magic down upon the closest pony, throwing them straight to the ground and knocking them out cold. Her eyes went wide when white-hot pain shot through her flank and she turned back to see a spear sticking out of her. Blood leaked down her back leg as the spear twisted to try and keep her in place.

“Give it up, Miss Light. We have more than enough to subdue you.”

Twilight let out a quiet groan and with a blinding flash of light and a boom she was gone.

A second later, a flash was seen above them and she let out a cry and brought her hoof down on the lead pony’s head from above, throwing him down into the tiles face first!

Spinning around, she clenched her magic around the nearest cultist and blasted them out of the room, shattering the window in the process.

Hitting the ground, she stumbled from the wound on her flank, but growled as she summoned her shield once again, several lances of magic searing across it’s front, crackling the air around her.

Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight could see her wards and Sunset rush into the hall and stare at her in shock. Sunset used her magic to hold the Princesses back, as Twilight shouted, “Run! I’ll hold them off!”

Just then, one of the cultists pounced at her with a dagger in their magic, a snarl leaving their mouth. Twilight found herself caught off guard due to the Princesses and felt the dagger plunge deep within her chest.

Screaming out in pain, she threw the pony across the room with a crack of her leg, then took hold of the dagger and slid it out of her. A gush of blood sprayed out of her and she felt lightheaded, but she knew this wasn’t enough to put her down. It hurt like hell, but it was a small inconvenience next to what they would no doubt do to her.

Finding herself cornered by the cultists, she held her hoof against the wound, forcing pain to shoot through her. Smiling over to Celestia, Twilight clenched her eyes shut and lit her horn up. With a blinding flash, the three other ponies were gone, having been teleported outside the town walls. Seeing them disappear, Twilight sighed, then yelped as a cultist rushed her with a net.

She jumped away, eyeing an opening in the attack and spun around, bucking the pony into a nearby pillar. She didn’t want to think about if she had actually done any real damage to the pony, she just wanted to get away and regroup.

Seeing their comrade hit the pillar caused the other cultists to hesitate, then back off as Twilight took a step forward towards them. They would have turned-tale and run if not for the addition of another set of cultists that were dragging students from down the other hallway.

Seeing the additional ponies, Twilight was the one to hesitate, especially with the students in the way. Just then, Twilight felt a hammer hit into her side, throwing her against the wall with a ’thump’.

Shaking the stars out of her eyes, Twilight’s magic caught the head of the hammer, as it crashed down on her head. It suddenly stopped mere inches away from her horn, before crashing through the roof of the College at supersonic speeds.

Rising up, Twilight gripped the pony in her magic and threw them out of the College entranceway.

“Bucking get out of here!” she shouted at the terrified students, who had huddled in the corner of the room. “Now!” The ponies took the message and galloped away, leaving Twilight alone.

With a hiss, she felt a dagger slice through her leg when a pony jumped at her, splattering her blood across the floor.

She coalesced her magic above the pony and smashed it down upon their back, before leaping away and crashing to the ground.

Now without any pony around, Twilight was sure she could finally get herself out of the college. With a whip-crack and a burst of light, the mare vanished, leaving the cultists to lick their wounds.

It was mere nanoseconds later when Twilight, now alone, popped back into existence. Her head was still pounding and, despite the cuts and sore muscles, she was healing up quickly. 'Who the buck were they?!’ she thought, stumbling through a dark, dingy, Stonewall alley. She moved further back into the darkness as her eyes snapped onto a group of cultists that passed by.

The mare's body had layers of grime; sweat mixed with blood. Her mane was stuck fast to her neck and face, and she could feel her armour growing heavy while she leaned up against the wall.

"I need to think," she whispered, clenching her eyes shut. She could feel her hearing start to ring from the hit she took. "I can't think with all this ringing."

With a crack of her hoof, she hit the wall in frustration. Her eyes flicked around to focus on anything that would keep her mind busy. She couldn't think about what had happened back at the college. "I need to go back," she muttered, ears flicking in agitation as she stared at the wall.

The wind picked up, swirling leaves past her while the wall began to fade away, leaving the image of her room in Canterlot behind.

Looking back out into the street for a split second, Twilight stepped into the portal and felt the tell-tale pull of time travel hit her.

Her consciousness felt as if Discord had stretched it like taffy, forced it through several compressors and then deposited it harshly back into her head.

Stumbling out of the other side, Twilight's hoof shot to her stomach and she galloped away from the chalk lines as the need to empty her stomach grew. Making it as far away as she could, Twilight slumped down against the side of her bookcase and vomited up the contents from her and Luna's little outing; which was to say, not much.

While she didn't feel better per se, she did feel some relief in knowing she was back home, even if it wasn't with the two sisters. 'They'll be there when I go back, she told herself, shaking her head and wincing at a headache that still thumped through her from the hit she took earlier.

Twilight quickly took a look around, making sure everything was just as she had left it, then stumbled over to the stairs and descended, eager to have a hot bath and clean her blood covered clothes.

She didn't even want to imagine how Rarity would act once she saw the alterations, let alone the damage. She was sure that her friend would have an absolute fit at the state and Twilight wouldn't have an explanation.

How could she. It had been barely a few hours since she had received it from the mare and it was already ruined. Could she tell her what had happened? Surely Rarity would understand? Not about the intricacies of time-travel, of course; Twilight was a prodigy and even she could barely understand it, but about her falling for the sisters.

It would definitely help her to have somepony to confide in. She could just ask her not to say anything to the Princesses, on the infinitely small chance that they asked. Though, if either of them asked, it would most likely be Princess Luna.

At this, Twilight froze just outside of her bedroom, finding the whole situation to be exceedingly worrisome, at least for her. She actually went back in time, expecting to spend time with the Princesses and get to know them a little more. Maybe she was insane like many believed.

Standing in front of her mirror, Twilight could barely look at herself. Only now did see the whole extent of what happened in the fight at the college.

One of the armour plates on her leg had been ripped off, revealing her lavender fur beneath, which had been promptly covered in blood. Several parts of her armour had been slashed and even more was burnt off her. There wasn't really much to save.

"Good thing I can rest for a few days then," she commented, grumbling at her state.

It took a second, but Twilight guessed the armour wasn't really worth saving and used her magic to tear herself out of it. As soon as she was free, it was as if a weight had been lifted off her back, not to mention the remaining metal plates.

Inhaling deep, she bent down and stretched, happy to feel the cool air against her fluffy chest and back. Yet, there was one thing that Twilight was now dreading; the transformation back into her Alicorn form. The last time had left her panting and sweating and this time she knew would be no different. Still, she couldn't go out without her wings. That would be a dead giveaway for the Princesses and she couldn't really blame Discord.

Tossing her clothing on the bed, Twilight lowered her stance and cast the spell. A purple swirl began to encompass her body, focusing around her back as her wings began to force themselves out of her. Wafts of magical energy struck at the ground around her as her magic took a full hold in her body, beginning to change her back.

Several minutes of pain later and Twilight still managed to be standing, albeit shakily. Her chest heaved from her laboured breathing and a pool of bloody sweat had pooled under each leg. Yet, she was an Alicorn again and would be to finally be able to take a rest from almost dying every day; at least if no villains attacked Equestria.

Crashing out of her room, hitting against the wall and a bookshelf, she crossed into the bathroom and turned on her bath's faucet, allowing it to fill up with warm, clear water. Levitating a bottle of bubble bath, the mare allowed herself to crack a smile, while she poured, seeing the bubbles fill the tub.

By the end of her cleaning, Twilight had to empty the bath several times to clear away off the dirt, blood and matted fur that stuck to her body.

She now stood in front of her mirror once again, now seeing a completely different mare standing back. Instead of the tired and irritable unicorn, there was a regal, if a bit damp, alicorn.

Exiting her Chambers, Twilight found herself falling back into the same rhythm as before, and felt a smile grow on her face. She enjoyed the calmness which the castle provided, as well as the security of having the guards about. Not that she'd really need the guards, no pony would dare attack Canterlot anymore and if they did, there were three princesses to defend it.

Greeting the guards, royals and other ponies along her walk, she made her way towards the city, eager to be around other ponies that she knew would be up and enjoying Luna's night.

It wasn't a long walk, made even shorter by the Princess's excitement for being back, and she found a few of the regular guards posted around the castle were replaced with those she didn't know; yet, they knew her.

Her thoughts didn't immediately go full 'Twilight', as her friends had called it, but they were flicking back and forth to look for an explanation. 'They're just ill and needed replacements... all of them,' she theorised, not really believing herself.

Twilight, needing to figure out if what she had done was real or not, galloped through the halls of Canterlot Castle. She screeched to a halt in front of the nearest guard station, that was hers, and practically burst through the reinforced door!

Several of the guards levitated spears over towards the intruder, even though many of them were in temporary bunks, lounging about. As soon as they focused and saw it was Twilight, they lowered their spears and pulled themselves into formation.

“Princess!” they all shouted, holding a hoof over Twilight’s cutie-mark emblazoned chest armour.

One of the nearer Pegasus guards pulled away from the line-up and walked over to Twilight, who was glancing around at each of them. “Princess, we didn’t know you would be coming around. Is there anything you require?”

The guards had been briefed on Twilight’s quick shifting moods and did their best to stay calm while their Princess trotted about, inspecting them. Even though Twilight had ignored her question, the guard stood off to the side expectantly, watching the young Princess.

“Where are they?!” she asked, moving back and forth in front of the guards, who were growing slightly nervous.

“Where is who, Princess?” the guard asked, looking concerned. “We can try and find whomever you’re looking for?”

“No- nononono!” Twilight whimpered, her breathing quickening. “Silver Lance? Steel Hoof? Where are they?!”

Confused, the guard shook her head. “I’m sorry Princess. We don’t have anypony assigned to this regiment named Silver Lance or Steel Hoof. Would you like me to check with the others?”

Flicking her attention over to the Pegasus, Twilight rushed up to her, causing the guard to squeak and back up against the wall. “Are you sure?” she asked, her ears flicking back and forth.

The guard glanced between the door and Twilight, before asking, “Maybe it’s best if I go and get Celestia...”

“No!” Twilight shouted, causing the guard to cover her head and cower. “No- No Celestia, no Luna, they can’t know!” she muttered, quickly scrambling out of the door, leaving the worried guards behind.

She didn't have all the facts. She couldn't know, and that angered her, but she could take an educated guess. 'I- I erased them.' she thought, her blood freezing. She thought back to her talk with Zecora when she fought Starlight and stopped in the middle of the hallway.

'I'm just a foal playing with magic!' she screamed in her own head, feeling her anger rise. The only pony she could direct it was at herself. She messed up and removed ponies from her timeline.

She was the villain.

Moving once more, the ponies out and about kept their distance to the normally quite sociable Princess. Her mane and tail snapped and crashed around her like a storm.

Anypony brave enough would find themselves growing light headed from the aura that radiated around her, forcing them back as their instincts took hold.

Twilight wandered down the main street of Canterlot, glancing around at all of the ponies which could have never been born. Did she change any of these? There certainly seemed like there were more than usual, but she wasn't sure.

Her mood was soured and she really didn't feel like this was a good idea anymore. The more she looked around at her ponies, the more her anger grew. None of them knew what she had just done. In a fraction of a fraction of a nanosecond, their reality had changed.

It wasn't long until she had enough and chose to teleport away in a flash of light, fearing that her mood would hurt somepony more than she already had.

Reappearing back into reality, Twilight glanced about the place her spell had spat her out. She had chosen at random and was now looking across a grassy clearing in the middle of what seemed to be the Everfree Forest.

A fierce wind blew across the clearing and with it, Twilight felt her anger slip through her hooves. She stomped the ground and bucked, splintering a tree behind her as she let out a scream of frustration!

She had never felt this much anger and it should have scared her- but it didn't. In fact, Twilight could feel every ounce of her immense magical prowess flow through her, taking her breath away.

It was intoxicating, the lure to use that power. She could simply go back and fix a mistake here, an error there and everything would be back to normal, right?

Charging her horn and lancing a beam of energy into the forest, slicing several trees in half as they crashed onto the forest floor, Twilight growled and ground her teeth. She had so much power, but she felt so powerless against the whims of the universe.

If it was Starlight all over again, she would know what to do; it was a tangible threat that she could go against. It was infinitesimally harder against her own self control.

Closing her eyes, she let out a choked sob and fell to her knees, wings splayed out around her. The aura that she had put out was gone now, leaving a filly pretending to be a princess.

Yet, as she could just about feel her tears fall, Twilight felt the air freeze in place and a harsh silence befall the clearing.

Opening her eyes, she scanned around her, before finding, possibly, the one being she hated more than herself.

She saw his serpentine body slither and contort in a geometric impossibility as he descended from the sky, leaving behind a trail of light. His arms were open, in an invitation to hug, with his regular expression of smugness on his face.

"What do you want, Discord?" Twilight asked, rising up and moving back. "I'm in no mood for your chaos!"

"Oh, but my dear Princess," he began touching down on the ground. "You don't need me for such things. I can already see your mind is perfectly chaotic."

She stated daggers at the draconequus, yet it meant nothing to the Spirit of Chaos. He took a step forward, then fell through the suddenly liquified floor under him. Twilight gasped as he popped his head out of her flowing mane.

"Won't you buck off!" she shouted, ruffling a hoof through her mane, not finding him there.

"Now why would I do that when I have my favourite bookworm right here?" Discord purred, reappearing beside her and slithering around her barrel. Raising a brow, he leaned in and sniffed. "Is that, lavender I can smell? Good taste in shampoo, Twilight!" he chuckled, holding up a sign with 'ten out of ten'.

Leaning in again and ignoring Twilight's hoof by phasing around it, he sniffed. "Is that time-travel I smell? You naughty mare!"

Twilight froze up, her legs trembling.

Quickly unravelling himself from around her, he hovered before her and pouted. "And you didn't ask your favourite draconequus to join you?"

"I, uh, don't know what you mean!" She replied, turning and trotting off through the grass.

With a snap, Twilight's hooves slowly began to take root in the soil, anchoring her to the spot. She looked down in horror she found her hooves and the bottom half of her legs had become tree trunks. Grunting, Twilight only managed to tire herself out while she tried to uproot, even while she felt her roots dig further down.

"Discord! Change me back!" she ordered, glaring at him.

"No," he hissed, flying over and staring her down, anger flashing across his face.

To Twilight's credit, she did last a good two seconds before her gaze shot to the floor, instinctual terror filling her from the apparent sight of an angry Discord. Compared to his power, she was still but a foal.

"You're gonna plant yourself there and listen!" he stated, pulling away and landing on the ground. Crossing his arms, the spirit sighed. "Do you want to know why I consider you and I friends?" he asked, not receiving a reply. "It's because, other than Fluttershy being your friend, I know that you don't buck around. You don't lie, or have any secret agenda. So don't hurt my feelings by lying directly to my face!"

Twilight could only glance back up to see Discord simply standing there. No chaos erupting, no big 'I told you so', just him looking annoyed with his arms crossed.

Opening her mouth, the mare closed it and lowered her head. "You're right; I'm sorry," she grumbled.

"Hm? What was that? I couldn't quite catch that."

"I'm sorry," she huffed, a little louder.

"No, once more?"

"I'm sorry alright!" she cried, clenching her eyes shut to keep herself from sobbing. "I seriously bucked up."

"I know. I felt the change."

Twilight looked at him in shock. "What? How?!"

With a flick of his hand, he zipped his fingers across his mouth, causing his mouth to actually zip shut. "Trade secret, Twinkly. Business would be ruined," he said, his voice echoing throughout the clearing.

Twilight groaned. "How do I put it right?! I erased countless lives!"

"No, you replaced countless lives, Twilight, there's a difference. Plus, they're only replaced for you and I. Everypony, the Princesses included, don't know any better."

Frowning, she remembered that the ponies were all friendly with her. "But that doesn't make it right! I changed history. I did exactly what I stopped Starlight from doing! I'm a monster," she whimpered, head hung low.

Discord rolled his eyes and moved closer. A grimace appeared in his face as he moved a hand out and softly stroked Twilight's head, a 'shh' leaving his lips as her mane began to melt into taffy as he ran his claw through it. "Don't be such a silly pony."

Feeling her own mane stretch and contort forced her to grimace. "Discord."

"Ugh! Fine!" he groaned, clicking his fingers, then drifting away from her as her mane snapped back and morphed back into hair and the bark around her hooves crumbled apart, freeing her.

He twirled and spin in the air, humming. "You're not a monster, Twilight," he stated, rolling his eyes around and around. "Even you make mistakes! Yes, I know. The great Alicorn of Friendship making a mistake! Preposterous!"

Staring up at the spirit, Twilight sighed. "You didn't say how I put it right."

"You can't."

"What? But what about those I ki- replaced? They were never born!"

"I mean you could, if you want to risk what happened with Starlight," he said, shrugging and summoning up a couch to flop down on. "I really don't mind. I had fun with the Princesses in that time-line."

Twilight could only look confused as she stood there, going through her memories of her adventure with the Princesses. "Should I tell them?"

Turning over to Twilight, Discord let out a 'hmm' and shrugged. "You're the expert on reforming and second chances. Should you?" He brought his hands up to his face and stared over at her, worried. "Do you think they'll send you back to magic kindergarten for your blatant misuse of time travel?!"

Twilight took a step back from that outburst, mind racing. "Well, maybe- I mean- I don't know!" she whimpered, finding herself hyperventilating.

Plopping herself down on her rump, she placed a hoof on her chest and clenched her eyes shut, trying to hold a breath to try and calm herself, to no avail.

She grew light-headed as it became harder to breath, until she felt a talon press softly against her forehead and the warm sensation of chaotic energy wash over her body.

Opening her eyes, Twilight saw Discord gaze down at her in disappointment. The expression stung, especially coming from the one being that had tried to make her life hell in the past.

She didn't even need to say a word as Discord smirked down at her. "Don't worry your pointy head. I just calmed you down a little. You're so much cuter when you're not panicking," he chuckled. "Don't tell Fluttershy that though," he finished, before adding, "No really, don't."

Twilight couldn't help but crack a smile. He may be the embodiment of chaos and her antithesis, but he was still her friend, even if he showed it in a strange way.

"Thank you, Discord."

"Look, Sparky. I could snap my claws and make Celestia and Luna think they're annoying little geese. That's the power beings like us hold.”

Twilight could only look on, unsure of where it was going.

"Even I make mistakes sometimes. You're new to this whole schtick," he continued, gesturing at her. "Mistakes are allowed, especially time travel mistakes."

Twilight sighed, before looking worried. “How do I not make them? What if I make one too big to fix?!”

Discord shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never made one that big. As for not making them, you’re gonna have to learn that the hard way. But think of it like this. If the world hasn’t ended yet...” He let that settle as he smirked.

Something ‘clicked’ in Twilight’s head and she gazed up at him. “If the world hasn’t ended right now, that means it can’t ever end due to me going back. The time with Starlight was an isolated event due to the map containing us in a time loop until I fixed it. Discord, you’re a genius!”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that fa- argh!” he groaned, being pulled down and hugged by the purple pony princess. “If you must, purple horse.”

Giggling, Twilight pulled herself back and chewed on her bottom lip as Discord floated back up and began to spin around in circles. "If I tell you something, will you promise you won't tell anything else?" she tried her best to keep a neutral tone, but a few nervous quivers could be heard.

Discord stopped spinning and slowed as he spat out his tail. "You have my word, Princess Sparky!" he announced, saluting.

Taking that as a 'yes', Twilight chewed on her bottom lip as she felt her cheeks darken at the thought of the Princesses. "I, uh," she mumbled, her nerves showing. "I've fallen for the Princesses!"

Discord, stared at her for a few seconds, then smirked.

"Discord!" Twilight whined, stomping a hoof. "I'll, uh, stonify you!"

"I can't help it. You look so damn adorable when you're flustered like that," he declared, chuckling and floating down to her side to nudge her. "I'm no Cadence, but perhaps you should, I don't know, tell them? I see the way they look at you, or give you hugs that last a couple of seconds too long."

"Wait, what? Don't be silly," she stammered, fighting back another embarrassing blush. Even though he was most assuredly lying, Twilight felt herself grow giddy at the prospect of her Princesses actually doing so and let a smile appear on her face.

"Though, both Princesses? Isn't that a little greedy?" he asked, disappearing and reappearing on his couch. "I didn't know you were into that sorta thing?!"

"It's not like that!" she huffed, glaring at him once again. "I just-" she turned away and began to tell him of what she had gone through with her time travel. "They're just so amazing. How could I not! I already kinda crushed on them, before this, but now," she admitted, trailing off.

Discord, to his credit, laid there listening to the Purple Pony Princess, idly eating grapes. Once she had finished, he threw the grapes behind the couch, which resulted in an explosion, then ran his fingers over his goatee in thought.

"So, you've fallen for four Princesses. I gotta admit, I respect the hustle," he laughed, grinning at her. "Equestria's very own antisocial bookworm getting frisky with two pairs of Princesses, it warms my heart."

Twilight narrowed her eyes and blasted a beam of magic at him, which bent around the draconequus's form.

"Now now, Twilight," Discord warned. He let out a 'tsk' and stretched his limbs out, until they popped off and kept going, floating away. "If you want my advice, and let's be honest, why wouldn't you; You would do well to think on this. There's a saying; using time travel for your own ends and your own ends unravel."

She couldn't think of anything to say, only giving a nod of her head.

"Maybe talk to your friends. That's what you do, right? When you're stuck with a problem?" he asked, rolling his eyes. "I wouldn't know as I'm never invited to many get togethers."

"Oh? I didn't know you wanted to join us. You can come to our bi-monthly sleepovers!"

Discord's eyes widened. "Actually, no. I'd rather be back in stone."

"Oh, but you'd love it! We could even braid your goatee and paint your claws!" she laughed, watching him quickly build a pillbox to hide in.

Twilight paced back and forth, inside of her castle’s throne room while she waited for her friends to arrive. The talk with Discord settled her nerves, for the most part, but she still felt the guilt from her prior actions and had spent the rest of the day, as well as the next day learning the replacement pony’ names. She was prepared to admit to what she had done to the other Princesses at some point and thus, filed it away for when it would be more appropriate.

The door latch opening caught her attention and she spun around to see Spike enter the room, reading a book. He had quickly blossomed into a handsome teenage drake, of which caused many a mare to swoon around Ponyville. A loving smile worked its way onto her face, remembering the pudgy baby she had helped raise.

The young drake looked up from his book and smiled. “Oh, Twilight. I didn’t realise you would be here,” he chirped, walking over to her. Quickly, he leaned in and wrapped his arms around her neck, hugging the Princess tight.

“It’s good to see you as well, Spike. How have you been?” she sighed, enjoying the hug and finding her nerves settling even more. Pulling back, she flicked her eyes over to the book cover to see that it was an old Daring-Do book. “Haven’t you read that one already?”

“I’ve, uh, been well enough. We talked the other day, remember?” he queried, raising a brow. At the other question, he flipped the book over. “I dug it out of my old room. It’s a classic!”

Twilight giggled. “I guess I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve got the girls coming over soon for some,” she began, pausing for a second to think of the right words, “help with mare problems.”

Spike held his hands up and chuckled. “Well, I’m sure I’ll be no help there then. I’ll be in my room as I have stuff to pack anyway,” he stated, beginning to make his way back over to the doors. “Tell Rarity I said hi, alright?”

“Of course, casanova,” she teased, waving a hoof as she watched him leave the room, door closing behind him.

Several more minutes passed before the first of her friends trickled into the throne room and took their places. Twilight had told them it was a friendship emergency; something she wasn’t particularly proud of, but she felt like she would go crazy if she spend another minute in Canterlot Castle with the objects of her frustration.

The first to arrive was Pinkie Pie, bouncing onto her throne with her usual enthusiasm.

“Commander Pinkie Pie, reporting for duty, ma’am!” she giggled, saluting Twilight. “Where are we dropping? Toasty Trench?”

Twilight couldn’t help but smile at her friend’s antics and returned the salute. “Commander, We will hold until the other commanders have arrived.”

Pinkie nodded, sliding down the crystal throne as she sat patiently. She kept glancing over to Twilight, a grin on her face. “Sooooo, Twilight,” Pinkie began, tapping her hoof against the map’s edge. “Been up to anything exciting recently?”

Twilight’s eyes widened for a quick second, then she forced a smile. “I, uh, that’s actually why everypony is coming over.”

“Ooh, fun! I can’t wait to hear all the juicy gossip!”

Fluttershy and Applejack were the next ponies to enter the throne room, side by side, chatting away about something, which gradually faded as they took their seats. As usual, Fluttershy was her usual timid self, but had arrived wearing an apple necklace, along with a light flush plastered across her cheeks.

Twilight glanced across to Applejack and found the pair exchanging looks, which filled her with happiness.

Quickly though, the doors opened once again and in walked the final pair of Element Bearers, Rarity and Rainbow Dash. Of course, the pair were as close as could be, their tails wrapped around each other as they giggled under their breaths.

Seeing Twilight and the others, they broke apart and took their seats after nuzzling each other.

Now that all of her friends were seated, Twilight took one last look around at them and smiled. “I want to thank you all for coming at such short notice,” she thanked, looking down at the map. “But, I have to admit that Equestria doesn’t have a friendship problem.”

Everypony else, other than Pinkie looked around, confused.

Applejack was the first to speak up and asked, “So, you called us here for nothin'? As much as I love seein' you all, I’m sure that everypony has stuff they need to do.”

“Applejack’s right, darling. I need to start on your clothes for the Fashion show.”

Seeing that her friends would no doubt be a little annoyed at being called here for apparently no reason, she held up a hoof. “I, uh, kinda misspoke. Equestria doesn’t have a friendship problem; I do. Specifically, the romantic kind.” Twilight winced, expecting some sort of harsh backlash at such an inappropriate use of her powers and for her friends to storm off, never to talk to her. Instead she received several looks of disbelief, as well as a large grin from Pinkie.

“Wait, really?” Dash asked, jumping up and zooming over to her. She wrapped a hoof over the Princess’s neck and grinned, squeezing. “I knew me and Rarity would wash off on you, nerd,” she teased, “So, who is it? One of the guards? A maid?!”

Twilight sighed then returned Dash’s emphasis with a groan. “Rarity and I, Dash. Not me and Rarity,” she corrected, giving a deadpan look to her friend and receiving an eye roll.

“Well, it’s about time, Twilight. Can’t say I’m not interested now. It isn’t everyday that a Princess gets with somepony,” Applejack spoke up, chuckling.

“Oh, Applejack. Isn’t it so romantic! Twilight finally finding somepony to call their own!” Fluttershy sighed, fluttering her wings. “Maybe it’s somepony we know!”

Rarity and Pinkie were silent, throughout, waiting for Twilight to explain her problem. Pinkie, despite her giddiness, held back for Twilight’s sake, not wanting to overshoot the mark like normal.

“Girls!” Twilight called out, giggling when everypony quieted down. “It’s kind of complicated,” she trailed off. Over the next few minutes, she explained what had happened the day previous, leaving out a few of the more ‘gory’ details for Fluttershy. “So, uh, that’s about it. I kinda fell for both sets of Princesses,” she mumbled, giving a sheepish smile.

No pony in the room said a word as they tried to process what their friend had told them. All of their expressions changed from confused, to worried, to happy, to horrified and finally to concerned again at the end.

Rarity coughed into a hoof, gaining everypony’s attention. “Now, Twilight. I don’t know much about time-travel, apart from what you tried to teach me after that unpleasantness with Starlight. And despite the utterly fantastic attempt, I don’t remember much. But from what I remember, you described it as something no pony should ever do, even under the most dire circumstances.”

Twilight winced, hearing that. “I did say that, didn’t I,” she muttered, looking down. “I- I just wasn’t thinking!”

“Putting aside the time-travel for a moment, you know you’re going to have to choose one of the pairs, right?” Applejack asked, causing Twilight to wince again. Another thing she didn’t want to think about.

“That’s assuming that they choose Twilight,” Pinkie added, looking between her friends, receiving shocked faces in return. “What? Love goes both ways.”

Twilight closed her eyes and shook her head. “Pinkie’s right. I’m putting my feelings ahead of theirs by assuming they would even want me in the first place. After all, it was only a couple of days that I got to know them.”

Fluttershy, who was being characteristically quiet decided it was the best time to speak up. “From what you said, you can just go back anytime you want, right? Why not spend some time with the Princesses here?”

“I would, but I just- I mean-,” Twilight began, looking down once again and finding herself with a blush growing over her cheeks. “I just get so flustered around Celestia. Luna not so much, but I still get tingles whenever I look at her.”

Fluttershy let out an ‘aw’ upon hearing that, whilst Dash fake-gagged next to Rarity. “Twilight’s got it bad,” she laughed, before a kiss from Rarity onto her cheek caused her cheeks to explode red.

“Now now, dear. No teasing,” Rarity whispered into Dash’s ear.

Dash looked about to argue that, but let out a huff. “I guess...”

“Look, Twilight. You’ll probably know what I’ll say about this. Lying to the past Princesses ain’t right. The longer it goes on, the less chance you’ll have with either. I’m just a simple farmer, but even I know that the Princesses won’t forget that in a hurry.”

“But, what if they hate me? Luna said neither of them really remember that far back, but how would they forget something like that? And if they didn’t, would they hate me now?”

The other ponies in the room tensed up, preparing for one of Twilight’s meltdowns by thinking of things to take her mind off the problem.

Applejack held her hooves up. “Woah there, Twi. Hold it,” she ordered, chuckling as the others visibly relaxed. “There’s nothing to suggest they hate you, is there?”

“Well, no-”

“Exactly. So, stop being a silly pony and go and tell them!” Applejack ordered, shaking her head, while everypony else nodded.

“I’m with AJ on this one, hun. You would feel so much better about yourself if you just explained the situation to them. Even if they remember it today, I doubt they’d hold it against you,” Rarity agreed. “It wouldn’t do well to keep it bottled up. Especially from the description of the spell you used to hide yourself.

With a sigh, Twilight leaned back in her chair and nodded. “I- I guess I’ll have to tell them. I can’t say I’m from the future though; Even I have to have some standards with paradoxes and all that,” she joked, doing her best to hide the guilt that came along with it. “Thank you, girls. I’ll have to think about it some more, and Fluttershy, I think I’ll do as you suggested. I’ll tell Celestia how I feel and ask for a date.”

Arc 1: Chapter 6

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Twilight now had a plan, and plans were good for the studious mare. She knew what to do; woo Princess Celestia. The mare knew that it would take a lot of work and dedication and that’s why she had spent the last few hours pacing around her chambers with a scroll and a quill levitated next to her in her magic.

See, Twilight was gifted in multiple fields of study, magic, science, friendship, but she had neglected one part of her studies which many ponies, especially her former foal sitter, would argue was more important: Love.

Love, to her was an incalculable equation that refused to spill its secrets, no matter how hard she tried to crack its code. It made less sense than her friend’s Pinkie Sense, yet it was everywhere.

Twilight could look outside of her window and spot numerous couples sharing their love for each other in plain view. Yet, no matter how much she observed and put in the time, she never understood it. Until now.

As she paced around her chambers, entering and leaving the various rooms in her quest to find some peace to the everlasting beating of her heart, she felt as if she had been in another fight. Her heart was racing, her hooves grew sweaty and she could feel a lump in her throat at the mere thought of asking the Princess, either Princess, out on a date.

Of course, the mare could only blame herself. As soon as she arrived back, she had begun to craft a list that she would use to build the perfect date for the Princess.

Holding the scroll in front of her, Twilight hesitated as her quill’s tip pressed against the paper, staining the pristine surface. She didn’t actually know what the Princess liked. Sure, Celestia enjoyed cake, but that’s really the extent that Twilight knew about her. Despite all of their time as a student and teacher, she hadn’t learned a single thing that wasn’t already public.

Twilight nodded to herself and smirked with self-determination. All of her years of study would be put to good use; she would learn all that she could about the Princess.

Drawing a checkbox with her quill, she wrote down next to it: Ask Pri Celestia out.

Twilight blew gently on the ink to help it dry, before scrolling it up and placing down on a nearby table. She didn’t really need the scroll, it was more symbolic for herself. Plus, she really just enjoyed making lists.

Taking a deep breath as she trotted over to the door, she thought about the best way to go about doing this. Going all 'stealth mode' in the castle would be rather difficult; partly on account of all of the guards, as well Celestia having meetings most of the time.

Suddenly the realization hit her; she was a Princess as well. She could just ask Celestia for some more training in her Princess duties. That way, she would be able to spend time with her former mentor and actually get some work done.

Exiting her chambers with a renewed vigour, Twilight wandered around the castle, deliberately taking the long way around and even bypassing through the gardens to miss the guard station. After several minutes, she ended up outside of the solar mare's chambers, worry etched onto her face.

Twilight could feel herself growing more and more reluctant to knock, even while her hoof was raised and ready. Though, she didn't need to wait for long to decide as Princess Celestia's doors opened by themselves, the handles being held within her golden magical aura.

Twilight's eyes widened and she jumped to the side, only to press up against the wall to try and hide from the mare. She bit down on a hoof to stop herself from breathing too loud as the first few inches of Celestia's horn could be seen passing through the threshold of her chambers and into the brightly lit hallway.

Quickly though, Celestia had exited and turned, unfortunately for Twilight, down the same hallway and nearly launched herself several hooves into the air at the sight of her former student up against the wall. The paper's in Celestia's magical aura burst into the air and scattered across the hallway while Celestia herself fell back onto her rump, looking horrified at the grown mare that spooked her.

Twilight had simply been spooked from watching the normally graceful mare of the sun fall back. Her ears folded back in regret and she set about gathering up the papers into a small bundle next to the Princess.

"I'm so sorry, Princess!"

Celestia pulled herself to her hooves and picked up her papers in her magic. While she didn't scowl or even give Twilight an angry look, she was visibly tense.

"Twilight, what brings you to my door?" she asked, ruffling her wings.

Despite the scare, she actually leaned down and nuzzled the young Princess, albeit with slightly less affection than the Twilight would like.

"I wanted to ask if you would teach me how to attend to more duties. I want to get more involved!" Twilight asked, before rubbing a leg and glancing away, a mix of nerves and worry evident. The affection only helped to increase her worry, not mitigate it.

"More duties?" Celestia pondered, tapping a hoof on the marble floor. "I guess it couldn't hurt to give you more responsibility. Luna could use the break."

Turning back to Celestia, Twilight grinned. "You won't regret it! I'll make you proud!" she squeaked, taking a step forwards.

She wanted so badly to just tear off the Princess's chest-plate and nuzzle deep against her fluffy coat. She wanted to feel those strong legs wrapped around her body. But most of all, she wanted to learn everything there was about the Princess.

Celestia let out a twinkling giggle and placed her hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "Twilight, you couldn't make me any prouder," she stated, her warm smile causing Twilight's thoughts to become fuzzy. "Would you like to sit in with me for day court?"

Even with her cheeks having burst to life, Twilight's eyes widened. "Sit in with you?" she began, her eyes sparkling as she gazed up at her Princess. "Yes! I would love to!"

"I'm happy you're so enthusiastic, Twilight. I doubt you will be by the time our time is up," Celestia chuckled, using a wing to motion for Twilight to follow.

While they slowly made their way over to the throne room, Twilight quickly realized that the Princess was leading her past one of the Guard stations and gestured to the bright and sunny day. Maybe the Princess wouldn't notice anything strange?

"Can we take the long way around?" she asked, looking up at the mare. "It's such a nice day, after all."

Celestia slowly nodded then turned around to find a door that would lead outside to the gardens. She took one last glance back at the guard station, before leaving with Twilight.

Twilight felt so much better outside and let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding. Even if Discord had told her that no pony had actively died, it didn't sit right with her that she had gone back and changed the past. What if it didn't stop with some castle guards she knew? What if it had been one of her friends that she had changed?

Would the Cutie-Map prevent another apocalypse-level event? Twilight doubted that. It only helped last time when Starlight had used the map as a catalyst. This time, Twilight was on her own and anything she changed would most likely be permanent. That terrified her.

Suddenly, the mare was broken out of her thoughts by a gentle feather brushing down her neck and across her back. Looking over to Celestia, Twilight could see the mare looking down at her, worry on her face.

"Is everything okay, Twilight?" Celestia asked, placing a hoof to Twilight's soft chest. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"

Twilight nodded. "Of course, Princess. I've just had a lot on my mind lately, that's all," she replied, hoping Celestia bought it. She really didn't want to worry the Princess more than she was, considering her already immense workload.

Celestia stared down at Twilight for a second longer, before nodding. "If you're sure." The mare quickly resumed her pace through the gardens with Twilight beside her.

Twilight wasn't sure, but she thought she could see Celestia's wings droop slightly.

The walk to the throne room was beginning to weigh heavily on Twilight's withers, considering that she could feel that something was different with the Princess. Instead of Celestia asking her questions about her day or about what her friends had been up to, she had kept quiet, forcing Twilight to wonder if she had actually hurt the mare by not answering her question. Did she expect her to tell her everything there and then?

Stopping in front of the grand chamber, Twilight watched as a series of ponies were lined up outside of the doors, each waiting patiently to have their chance in front of the Princess of the sun. There were ponies from all walks of life; nobles, Gryphons, Kirin, farmers.

Trotting into the throne room, Celestia's horn lit up and the doors closed, locking behind them, leaving them alone. Slowing to a stop in front of the dais, Celestia turned around smiled warmly down at Twilight. "It's been a long while since I've stepped back and allowed another to hold my court," she admitted, watching Twilight's eyes widen, "but, I think today would be an excellent chance to see you in action, Princess."

Twilight shook her head, taking a step back. "Oh, no. I couldn't possibly! I haven't even studied Equestrian law yet!" she gasped, biting her lip as her wings fluttered anxiously.

Celestia held her golden hoof to her mouth and let out a soft laugh. "How do you think I learned. Sometimes it's not about the law; it's about doing what's right. Citizens come here to voice their concerns with our rule. One of the most important parts of being a ruler is listening."

Twilight still looked quite a bit worried but had felt her anxiousness drift away once Celestia had started talking. Though, she was only half listening, having been distracted by the obvious beauty that the Princess held, she nodded having caught the general teaching.

"Of course, Princess, listen to them," she muttered, averting her eyes once Celestia's own stole a glance.

Celestia raised her brow but said nothing as her magic flowed over her regalia. With a click, her chest-piece slowly drifting off her and coming to rest beside the throne. The mare let out a soft sigh and rolled her neck while she stepped out of her hoof-shoes, before floating them over to join her chest-piece.

"That's much better," she purred, closing her eyes and fluttering her wings as a more relaxed smile appeared on her face.

Twilight stared at the mare, unsure of what to do. She had never seen Celestia do such a thing. In her own chambers, maybe, but never in the throne room.

"Princess..." Twilight mumbled, letting it drift.

Celestia's eyes slowly opened and drifted down to stare at Twilight. "I don't get many chances to take them off, so I like to savour the feeling. You'll understand in a few hundred years."

She turned and made her way up the dais, before laying down beside the throne. "Are we ready to begin day court, Princess?" she asked, a playful grin having appeared, causing Twilight to feel her cheeks heat up.

"Uh," Twilight replied, coughing into a hoof awkwardly. "Yes, yes. I suppose so."

With a short walk up, she sat down on the, surprisingly warm, solar throne and lit up her horn to pull the doors open. Six guards wandered in, then froze at the sight of the Princess laying down with Twilight sitting on her throne.

A quick nod from Celestia relaxed them and they took up their places on either side of the room, spaced out so they could protect both Princesses. Once in place, the nearest guard to the door raised their spear then thumped it down on the tiles, before stating, "The Princess will see you now!"

It only took a couple of seconds for a Gryphon to nervously wander into the throne room, claws clicking loudly on the floor. His front half was a light aqua, while his back half was a darker blue, mixing between his fur in the middle. The Gryphon constantly looked around at the guards as he walked forwards, before staring up at the Princess. Upon seeing which Princess was residing on the throne, he let out a muffled gasp and bowed.

Twilight smiled down at him, before leaning forwards and getting comfortable. she didn't know who should greet first, so she simply did her best to follow what Celestia usually did.


"Princess!" he shouted, causing the guards around him to tense up. Twilight blinked and leaned back, her heart quickening, while Celestia turned to gaze up at Twilight, a smirk on her face.

Placing a talon over his chest, he continued. "Sir Grizzletooth, my younger brother, has tarred my honour and must be punished!"

Staring down at the Gryphon while he stated his intent, Twilight quickly turned to Celestia, a pained look on her face. It was clear she didn't know what to do. "Princess," Twilight hissed, her voice quiet.

Celestia responded with a quick shake of her head, then turned back to the Gryphon, who was now waiting impatiently.

Twilight winced as she sat back and turned her attention back to the Gryphon, opening her mouth to question him.


"How dare you!" another light blue Gryphon hollered from the door, before stomping in towards the first. "This is all your fault!"

Twilight clamped her mouth shut, then gasped as the gryphons reared up, clearly about to attack each other. Her horn flared and caught the pair in her magic, pulling them apart.

"Now, will one of you tell me what this is about?" Twilight asked, rising off the throne and walking down the dais to stand in front of the pair of floating Gryphons. She glanced over the second Gryphon to enter and continued, "You must be Sir Grizzletooth?"

"Yes, Princess," he replied, placing a talon across his chest. "Let me apologize for my actions. They were rather uncouth, yet my little brother has driven me to do such terrible acts."

That drew a growl from the other Gryphon and Twilight glanced over to him, causing him to look away.

"What's your name?"

"Grizzletalon, your majesty," he replied, mimicking the bow of his brother. "I did not think that my little brother would follow me here and act so heinously in front of two Princesses!" he commented, narrowing his eyes over to Grizzletooth.

With a sigh, Twilight lowered the pair to the floor. "If I let you go, you won't attack each other again, will you?" she asked, moving her eyes between them and receiving shakes of their head. "Good."

Her magic aura faded from around the pair, letting them move freely once again. It was clear that they wanted nothing more than to pounce, but a frown from Celestia, which Twilight didn't notice, made sure to keep them in place.

"Now, tell me what this is all about."

Grizzletooth was the first to talk. "Grizzletalon has been flying around town telling everyone that I'm the younger brother, when everyone knows that I'm older than him!"

"Why you- Everyone knows that I'm older!"

Twilight blinked and raised a brow at them. "You're fighting over whether one of you is older?" she asked, unable to believe it. Celestia had to put up with this for a thousand years?! "Why does it mean so much to you two?"

"It's not about who is older; it's about who believes is older!" Grizzletalon retorted, flaring his wings. "The older brother inherits our father's company. Our father has become ill, so this traitor swooped in to try and take it away from me."

"As is my right! I am older, after all," Grizzletooth said, a smug grin on his face as Grizzletalon growled over to him.

Twilight went to speak, but stopped herself, before tapping her chin in thought. "Do you love your father?" she openly asked, giving them a disappointed look.

The two Gryphons glanced at each other, then to Twilight. "Of course," they both replied, looking shocked she would even ask such a thing.

"So, do you think he'd want you two fighting like this?" she continued, closing her eyes. "His two children attacking each other; I wouldn't think so."

The pair grimaced, then looked away from the Princess, wings lowering by their sides.


"Call me Twilight, please," she interrupted, placing a hoof on Grizzletooth's shoulder.

He returned the gesture with a forced smile. "Twilight," he whispered, glancing to his brother. "While it won't do to let my brother have the company, I will not let our father spend his last days hearing us fight."

Grizzletalon sighed and shook his head. "We should at least wait until he passes over before squabbling like cubs."

The pair closed in, reached out and shook each other's talons with a firm grip.

Grizzletooth turned to Twilight and bowed, being matched by his brother quickly after. "Thank you, Pri- Twilight. We shall let father die with dignity, before continuing," he stated, then he turned and walked out.

Grizzletalon quickly rushed out after him, leaving the throne room. Twilight stared at the pair in disbelief, not sure if that was a joke.

Returning to the throne, she looked over to Celestia and asked, "What the buck just happened?!"

Celestia smirked for a second, then burst out laughing, not expecting Twilight to use such language. "Your words hold weight now, Twilight. Every pony and everything will look to you for guidance. Not every problem can be neatly solved with friendship, but," she paused, "you can always try."

For Twilight, it was several hours of absolute confusion. She had gotten to see a side of Equestria that had been rather hidden from her and she was beginning to think it was for a good reason. She had only finished one day and was already wanting to give up her title; she couldn't imagine how Celestia felt.

Walking out of the throne room, Twilight could see a noticeable pep in Celestia's hooves as they left the area and turned towards the dining hall. Rolling her eyes, she asked, "I can see you're happy about not dealing with them, for once?"

Celestia shot a look back at the mare, her regalia levitating behind her. "I haven't had a proper day off in forever, Twilight. Chances to relax don't come by very often."

Slowing, Twilight looked out of the window, seeing Celestia's sun inching its way down towards the horizon. She stared out thoughtfully, then turned to the Princess. "I know that I'll need training but let me take a couple days of court from you and Luna," she asked, trotting back up to the mare that had stopped to watch her.

"That's a lot of work, Twilight. Are you sure you can do that?" Celestia asked, placing a bare hoof on her shoulder, causing the smaller mare to shiver, then up to her cheek.

Leaning into the hoof, Twilight closed her eyes and nodded. "I do, Princess. If it'll help you."

Celestia held a rather neutral expression as she held her hoof there, until her lips curled into her loving smile. "Then it shall be. You will have to convince my sister," she told, before giggling. "Though, something tells me it won't be too hard; night court isn't exactly as lively."

Twilight opened her eyes to see Celestia glancing back at her, having moved away. Her smile faltered slightly, only now noticing the subtle cold of the hallway without the Princesses touch. There had only been a hoof-full of times where the Princess had acted so intimate, but Twilight wanted more. She wanted an eternity filled with them.

Rushing up to fall in line with the Princess, Twilight looked up and asked, "Will we see Luna tonight?"

Celestia replied with a shrug. "I'm not sure. Maybe it's best if you go and rouse her from her sleep?"

Twilight's eyes widened. "Wait, me? I- I couldn't possibly go and wake her!"

"Why not? She's comfortable around you," Celestia retorted, playfully smiling down at her. "Besides, I'm sure she'd love the surprise."

After a little calming exercises, Twilight was directed to go and wake the Lunar Princess. Now, she found herself standing outside of Luna's chambers and staring at the intricately designed oaken door. It was a strange feeling, considering that the only time she had been in the room she had used the wrong entrance. Still, the stares of Luna's pair of guards didn't help her nerves much as she used her magic to softly push one of the doors open and inch her way in.

Peeking her head through into the darkened room, she found the Princess lying in her bed. The soft rising and falling of her silk covers the only indication that she was asleep.

Moving further inside and pulling the door closed, Twilight resisted the urge to call out her name, instead deciding to savour the moment. She didn't get many chances to gaze upon Luna, let alone her sleeping. As usual, Twilight was awestruck and felt her heartbeat quicken from simply look at the mare.

Luna herself was laying on her side facing Twilight, her wings having fallen limp sometime during her sleep. The Princess's covers had been partially kicked off her, showing off her top half and impressive wingspan that draped across the bed.

Twilight had to look away, for fear of finding herself thinking impure thoughts, but she couldn't help but notice just how soft and fluffy Luna's chest looked from above. Stopping just next to the bed, she sat down and leaned in, having unconsciously held a breath as she gently rocked the mare. Twilight hoped that she wouldn't spook her, like she had done with Celestia.

It only took a second or so before Luna's eyes fluttered open and gazed upon Twilight sitting next to her bed. She didn't jump, nor yelp, but she did look rather confused.

"Twilight, why are you in my chambers?"

Pulling her hoof back, Twilight moving one back to rub her neck awkwardly. "The Princess sent me to wake you, plus..." she answered, a sheepish smile appearing, "I kind of want to ask you something."

Luna seemed to perk up somewhat at hearing that. "Oh? Pray tell. What do you wish to ask?" she herself asked, leaning up, her full attention on the mare now.

Twilight could swear that she saw Luna's eyes twinkle, which only helped to improve her already happy mood. "Well, your sister allowed me to host day court and I was wondering, because I'm taking some of her days now, to let her have some time off, I was wondering if you'd allow me to take some of your night courts, just so you could have some days off?"

While Luna listened, her ears slowly inched down and the lustre from her eyes faded upon realizing what Twilight was asking. "Oh," was her only reply.

Twilight simply sat there, worried that she might have offended the Princess by asking to, basically, steal some of her days in night court. "I don't have to, of course! I know I'd need a pony to train me, most likely you," she rambled. "But I doubt you'd even have time, what wi-"

She was cut off with a tender hoof pressing against her lips, then felt her face heat up from realizing it was Luna's own.

"Twilight, stop," she commanded. "I do not mind spending time to train you in our night court. But it will be long, gruelling hours with little sleep."

The mare felt her entire body warm up from those words and her mind simply could only hear the double meaning.

Leaning forwards, Luna whispered into Twilight's ear, her warm breath washing over the frozen mare's cheek. "We'll be in close contact all night long as I show you how it all works."

Twilight didn't know if she was in Elysium or Tartarus from the way she was feeling. Luna was acting just like she was back in the past and it was causing her head to grow fuzzy.

"I-" she squeaked, "I don't mind."

"I'm glad to hear you say that," Luna cooed, climbing off of the bed and walking past the mare, her tail brushing across Twilight's neck. "I'm sure my sister is waiting, Twilight- wouldn't want to keep her waiting, do you?" she asked, pulling the door open, then turning back to the frozen mare with a smug grin.

Twilight felt light headed but still, mostly instinctively, did as the Princess insinuated and walked over to the door. She was unable to look at the Princess, in fear of her face giving her away. She passed through the door then further past the knowing looks of the guards as she and Luna began their march to the dining hall.

Luna kept close to the young Princess as they walked, her grin turning into a warm smile.

"So, Twilight," she began, brushing the tips of her feathers along Twilight's withers. "Been up to anything fun lately?"

To her credit, Twilight only flushed half as much as before when she felt those wingtips touch her. Flicking her eyes up to the Princess, Twilight shook her head. "Not really," she stammered, inwardly wincing at the lie.

"Oh?" Luna pondered, "a shame." With a shrug of her withers, Luna hummed. "I'm sure that, in time, you'll find something fun to do."

It wasn't long before the pair had arrived at the dining hall. The walk had left Twilight free to mull over the Princess's incessant teasing and if it meant anything more than she was letting on. Sure, Luna was known to tease, but nothing like that. Heat entered her cheeks simply thinking about it.

Entering the hall let them see that Celestia had already sat down, but instead of her normal seat, she instead sat off to the side of the head of the table, leaving it empty. Looking up, the mare smiled and rose off the seat to wander over, meeting the pair halfway.

"Sister, it is good to see you. I see Twilight managed to rouse you. Lesser ponies would have failed," she teased, leaning in to nuzzle her sister.

Luna returned the affection, before rolling her eyes. "I don't mind getting roused by such a mare," she chuckled, brushing past the surprised Alicorn and taking a seat opposite Celestia's.

Twilight looked between them, then to the table. She could guess where she had been chosen to sit and did so, sighing as she realized it was between the two sisters. There was no getting around it, this was no doubt going to be rather awkward for her.

Celestia sat back down. "I do hope it wasn't too early for you," she asked, using her magic to idly shift the cutlery to match on both sides.

Luna shook her head, then levitated her glass of water over to her lips. "Not at all, sister. The call of the moon would have woken me."

Twilight turned to Luna, eager to move the topic. "I hosted day court! It was," she paused, "fun, I guess. I didn't expect so many petty questions though."

Celestia couldn't help but nod in agreement.

"I could not imagine dealing with incessant pestering all night," Luna said, placing her glass down. "While 'Tia receives many times more citizens than me, our requests are more often than not security related."

"Security?" Twilight asked, tilting her head. "What do you mean?"

"She means that our citizens sometimes have problems with the local fauna, especially out near The Wilds and the Forsaken Forest. Ponies can come and ask her for help removing pests," Celestia explained, just as a waiter entered to take their orders.

"Does that mean, by taking over some night courts, I'd have to help deal with them as well?"

Luna nodded. "Indeed, Twilight," she replied, giggling. "But I shall train you in the proper ways of dealing with such things. Plus, we have a whole bat-tallion of soldiers to help you."

Celestia let out a groan and rolled her eyes. "As much as that hurt, Luna is right. You are a remarkable mare and a capable combatant, but even you will need training."

Twilight couldn't help but smile from the praise, then quickly frowned from the idea of what the Princesses meant. "What sort of things? What's worse than what I've already faced?" she asked.

"Everything you have dealt with has held back in some way. Even Cozy, Tirek and Chrysalis didn't try and destroy you with their entire being. The creatures that dwell on the edge of my night have no such qualms. We're lucky that most are mere beasts, and those that are not cannot live in my sister's light."

Twilight listened to Luna's explanation, her smile turning into worry. "I didn't know," she muttered, glancing between the Princesses.

"Not many do, Twilight. We aim to keep it that way," Celestia stated. "That's partly why Luna deals with that side of the country. While I don't like admitting it, Luna is a capable fighter than I am and has no issue with dealing with such matters."

Luna beamed as soon as Celestia said that, then turned to Twilight. She let out a soft giggle and reached over, taking the mare's hoof in her own. "I can't wait to train you. We have a very rigorous training process!"

Celestia's brow raised slightly from seeing Luna hold Twilight's hoof but said nothing as the food began to filter in, easing a hard rumble from the Solar mare's stomach and causing the other two to giggle.

Twilight found the crossover to be rather pleasant. The awkwardness which she thought would occur was absent during their dinner and breakfast, allowing her to relax around the pair.

Unfortunately, Luna had to retreat for night court and to filter through the multitude of paperwork which she had been neglecting. With she quickly nuzzled her sister, then pulled Twilight into a hug, brushing her muzzle through the mare's mane, before squeezing her.

"We're going to have lots of fun!" she chirped, letting the frazzled mare stumble back, shocked that Luna would do such a thing, let alone in front of Celestia.

"I, uh, hope so too..." she mumbled, looking over to Celestia for guidance, but finding her fighting back a laugh.

With a grin, Luna cantered off down the hall and back to her room, as Twilight watched, her heart skipping at seeing how happy the lunar mare had become.

"It's a rare sight, isn't it?" Celestia asked, wrapping a wing around Twilight's withers. "You should wake her up more often."

Twilight's gaze shot up in shock. "I didn't do anything! She's just happy she gets to kill me with her training."

"Kill you? Twilight, you're an alicorn," Celestia laughed, rubbing her back. "I don't doubt she'd try though."


Celestia's smile widened and she leaned down. "Come walk with me," she whispered into Twilight's ear, causing the mare to heat and squirm.

Celestia was quick to pull away, leaving the younger alicorn without her source of warmth. Not even a second later, Twilight's hooves clacked across the floor to get back under that wing, which Celestia happily returned to its rightful place atop Twilight's back.

The sun had set, and the moon was inching its way up past the horizon to fill the sky with uncountable galaxies and nebula that seemed to burst to life under Twilight's gaze.

Celestia led Twilight around and towards her Chambers, keeping a soft grip on the mare's withers as she periodically looked down to see what the mare was thinking.

Twilight kept her eyes focused on the night sky through the windows they passed, managing to find more and more complexity to Luna's sky the more she stared.

Unfortunately, she was pulled out of her focus by Celestia brushing a feather across her cheek. "Twilight, we're here."

Blinking and taking a look around, Twilight found that they had stopped outside of Celestia's chambers, the doors opening slowly under her golden aura.


"I wish to spend some time with my friend, if you'll oblige an old mare?"

Twilight nodded and stepped inside with the Princess.

Celestia's Chambers were warm and homely. Cushions dotted the floor, mainly focused around the lightly crackling fireplace and the writing desk that was filled with reports and papers. A thick rug stretched across the entirety of the floor, perfect for Twilight's hooves after an entire day of walking on marble.

Celestia's bed sat on one side of the room, looking rather imposing, along with her dresser and some ornate wardrobes.

As Twilight made her way in, she realised the air had a slight hint of lavender, the same as her shampoo, and tried her best to hide the growing blush on her face.

Celestia, in the meantime, had closed the door and took a deep inhale, before placing her regalia down on a nearby manikin. She made her way over to the fire and placed another log on, letting it blossom and fill the room with a light warmth.

Twilight couldn't take her eyes off of the mare as the shadows danced over her bare frame. She walked over, digging her hooves into the rug, not having realised how sore they actually were, and finding a cushion to levitate over. She placed the cushion down next to Celestia's own and plonked herself down on top of it.

Celestia soon joined her, then loosely wrapped a wing around Twilight once more, an investigative look on her face.

"Twilight?" she asked, almost hesitantly, "What happened with the guards the other day?"

Instantly, Twilight tensed up.

"The guards reported you were looking for two stallions?"

Twilight wanted to move away but knew that would cause Celestia to become ever more concerned than she already was. She knew that she was considered 'kooky' to most of the ponies in the castle, hell, even Equestria, but the Princesses didn't see her that way.

"I," she whispered, "I thought I knew them from somewhere. Turns out I didn't."

Celestia leaned down and brush her muzzle against the back of Twilight's head, causing her to sigh.

"Can you help me with a problem, Princess?" Twilight asked, deciding it would be better to get Celestia to focus on something else, even if it could backfire.

Pulling back, Celestia raised a brow. "I can surely try, but I'm not sure how much use I'll be. You've been solving all my problems for a while now."

Shaking her head, Twilight pulled away and stood up. Her wings were restless by her sides and it was obvious something concerned her.

"How," she began, sighing. "How do I ask some pony out?"

Celestia was taken aback by such a question and sat up.

Twilight quickly added on, turning around to face Celestia, "I can never get the words out."

Blinking, the Princess stretched her back for a second, then nodded.

"Perhaps you need to work yourself up to it. Tell me about the pony?"

Twilight blushed and rubbed her hoof across the rug as she looked away.

"Ponies," she corrected, flushing crimson.

Celestia took a second and felt her own cheeks darken, although considerably less than Twilight's. "I see. Well, tell me about them. What do you like about them?"

Twilight was dreading this. She'd have to try and make it sound like some pony else, but then it wouldn't be the embodiment of warmth and radiance sitting in front of her.

"Okay," she stammered, rubbing her front leg nervously. "Every time I see them happy, it makes my heart race and my head go fuzzy."

Twilight turned and began to pace back and forth.

"Every time they smile at me, I can't help but feel like I'm the luckiest mare alive, yet I'm not, as I don't get to be held in their legs. I'm so close, but I may as well be on the moon for all it matters."

Twilight had moved over and stared at the moon, letting its light wash over her. It wasn't warm, like the sun, but it felt safe, perhaps more comforting.

Celestia watched as Twilight stood there, staring up at the moon, her own wings rustling anxiously at her sides.

"They don't even know it, but I would do anything to keep them safe; I already have."

With a sigh, Twilight sat down and closed her eyes, prompting Celestia to rise up and began to slowly walk over.

"I know I'd never be good enough for either of them. I'm just Twilight."

Celestia stood behind Twilight, before sitting down. Her legs wrapped around the mare's barrel and pulled her back against her own, forcing Twilight to let out a squeak.

"You're not just Twilight. You're the saviour of Equestria and the most courageous pony I know," she stated, giving no room. "All you have to do is ask: Would you like to go on a date with me."

Looking down, she took in the Princess's praise, not noticing a sly grin on the mare's face. She finally pulled up and stepped away, instantly regretting it as the warmth left her. Turning around, she nodded, a determined look in her face.

"Okay," she sighed, nodding once more to psych herself up. Twilight could feel herself beginning to sweat and her heartrate spike as she stared deep in her former mentor's eyes. "Celestia, would you like to go on a date with me?"

Arc 1: Chapter 7

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Celestia's smile widened upon hearing those words. She kept staring deep within her former student's eyes bringing her hoof up to brush it along Twilight's cheek. The mare leaned into the touch and closed her eyes while letting out a quivering sigh. The Princess's voice was full of warmth as she replied.

"Of course, I will, Twilight. I thought you’d never ask."

The younger Princess leapt forward and buried her face into Celestia's soft chest, her legs coming up to hold herself tight to the solar mare. Celestia's warmth tingled across her body, taking hold deep within her core, and making her want to never let go.

Twilight never expected to get this far, in all honesty. She expected to be rejected and simply slink off, tail between her legs to try and forget this ever happened. She didn't know what she would have preferred now; what with the expectations that were only now hitting her.

'I'm actually going to date Celestia!'

Yet, her nerves all fell away the moment Celestia's leg wrapped around her, holding her tight. She could feel the Alicorn's heartbeat, smell her natural scent, and suddenly everything felt right. There were no nerves, no overthinking anything; just two ponies that liked each other.

"Twilight?" Celestia whispered, pulling away way too early for Twilight's liking.

"Yes?" she replied, chewing on her bottom lip. She knew she was acting like a school filly with her first crush, but she didn't care. This was her moment.

"Would you like to, maybe, stay here tonight?"

That was the very first time that she had seen her Princess actually uncertain. Even when facing insurmountable odds, she commanded an aura of authority, but now, she looked remarkably mortal. Twilight could see the worry overtaking Celestia's face, which quickly faded as soon as Twilight nodded.

"I think I’d like that, Princess."

It was as if a total change overcame the Princess. Her magic closed the curtains, smothered the fire and pulled back the covers on her bed. She pulled herself up and paced around, making sure that the door was locked one more time, then gestured to the bed.

"I must warn you," she started, glancing around as if anypony could find out the darkest secret she has. "I kind of snore a little..."

Twilight stared at the mare for a second before letting out a giggle, that turned into a loud laugh. "Is that it?!" she laughed, holding a hoof over her mouth upon seeing Celestia's worried expression. "Sorry, sorry. I just didn't expect that."

"Twilight, please. It's not something I'm proud of," Celestia whispered, still glancing about. The unbreakable Celestia worried about something as small as snoring.

Calming herself down, Twilight held a hoof to her chest and smiled. "I'm sorry," she began, rising up. "Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me."

Celestia's smile returned, only briefly though as she closed the gap once more to nuzzle against Twilight's neck. "Come now, Twilight. It's getting late and I would like to enjoy our first night with you."

Those words. Those indescribably addictive words. Twilight, in that second, knew she had made the right choice in asking Celestia out. She knew there wasn't any double meaning tagged along with them; they were exactly as Celestia said them.

The Princess pulled away after nuzzling a little deeper and audibly inhaling Twilight's scent, then made her way over to the bed and climbing on. In a matter of seconds, Twilight had teleported onto the bed and knew exactly where her place would be. Without any shadow of a doubt, she'd be the small spoon.

Golden magic pulled the covers up and over them as Twilight nudged her way into Celestia's legs, taking her rightful place. With a chuckle, strong legs wrapped around Twilight once again, causing her to shiver with delight as she was pulled back against Celestia's body, warmth flooding her being.

Within a second, Celestia's chamber was plunged into darkness.

Without anything to focus on, Twilight's attention shifted to Celestia's muzzle that was nuzzling deep into her mane, those hooves that seemed insistent on tingling across her body and her growing heartbeat that quickened with every passing second.

"Calm yourself, Twilight. We're just cuddling," Celestia whispered, one of her hooves pressing over Twilight's heart.

"I," she began, breathing deeply and hoping her voice wouldn't crack. "I know..."

The Princess hummed as she levitated Twilight around to face her. "Twilight. This is simply nothing more than enjoying each other's presence. It's been so long since I've had the pleasure of sharing my bed with any pony..."

Twilight stared at Celestia as she trailed off. Even in the dim light of her chamber, she could see the slight redness that betrayed Celestia's normally calm and collected exterior.

"I know, Pri- Celestia," Twilight started, letting out a sigh. "It's just, I've never shared a bed with somepony that I, you know, like. It feels like I'm dreaming, and I never want to wake up."

The Princess's warm, loving smile returned, and she leaned down and kissed her nose, giggling. "Be careful, Twilight, you're making this old mare feel very young again," she joked, her smile turning into a playful grin.

Twilight leaned in and slid against Celestia, cuddling up to her as she happily sighed. "I think I'll take that risk."

It wasn’t long before Twilight felt herself falling asleep, a true happiness flowing through her very being.

It had been several minutes since Twilight had woke up, still in Celestia's room. Unfortunately for her, the Princess had left for Day Court and left her all alone on the empty bed. Laying there, she pulled in a pillow and hugged it tight against herself, muzzle buried deep as she inhaled the Princess's scent, a deep blush adorned over her face.

She rolled around the bed, letting out a long-winded squeal of happiness once it actually sunk in for a second, better time: Celestia said yes.

A part of her did note that she was lying, by omission, but that was quickly pushed away as Twilight levitated the covers back over herself once again, eager to keep herself warm.

Unfortunately for Twilight, her mind just wouldn't settle down, forcing her to remember that she had left the younger Princesses back at the town and her portal was still active in her own room. She knew that she would have to go back in time again and even if she wouldn't technically have gone anywhere, at least from everypony else's perspective, it still left a bad taste in her mouth.

Letting out a groan, Twilight pulled the covers off of herself and slid out of the bed. It was going to be a long day for her, and it was better to force herself into action; she didn’t want Celestia to come back and see how lazy she could actually be.

The first thing on the menu would be to head down to Ponyville and gather her friends so that she would tell them about her training.

Touching down just outside of Ponyville after the short flight, Twilight furled her wings and looked about for at least one of her friends. Standing on top of a nearby hill, she could see the entire town and it was the epitome of calm that Twilight had come to expect, at least when she wasn’t the one to break it.

Something quickly caught her eye; a pink blur that raced around the streets. Twilight watched as it sped from one of her friend’s houses to the next, even Rainbow Dash’s, with ease. Suddenly it dawned on her that only one pony could really do that: Pinkie Pie.

Her eyes widened when she watched the pink blur race straight at her and one raised magical shield later, Pinkie was sat on the ground, staring up at the Princess, her snoot having been thoroughly booped against it.

"I knew you would come back, Twilight!" Pinkie squeaked, bouncing back up onto her hooves as if nothing had happened. "My tail was a-twitching and my ear flip-flopped around two, no," she paused, frowning deeply in thought, "three times!"

Twilight could only stand there and smile at her friend, even as the feeling of wanting to research her Pinkie Sense bubbled up from deep within.

"It's lovely to see you too, Pinkie. I somehow, assume you know why I'm here?" she asked, preparing herself.

"Yuppers!" Pinkie chirped, nodded.

She turned, gestured for Twilight to follow, then began to bounce down the road. "My right hoof tingled and my right rump ringled! Wait, is that even a word?" Shaking her head, she chortled and shrugged. "Oh well, it is now!"

Sighing, Twilight nodded along. "Pinkie..."

"Oh, right! Your going away party!"

Twilight's eyes widened. "I already asked for no parties, Pinkie. I just wanted something quiet with just the girls and Spike."

Pinkie pouted and began walking normally. "Okay, Princess meanie-pants," she muttered, hair beginning to deflate. "No party it is."

Letting out a groan, Twilight said, "Fine!" Receiving a squeal of happiness, she caught Pinkie in a magical aura and narrowed her eyes. '"It can be a party, but just the girls and Spike."

"Okie-dokie-lokie!" Pinkie replied, saluting her right through the aura.

Letting the mare go, Twilight sighed and followed Pinkie into town and towards Sugarcube Corner.

Twilight felt like she had been transported all the way back to the first day that she had arrived in Ponyville. A light breeze past through the town as well as a rainbow trail that landed in a plume of dust, revealing that Rainbow Dash had landed.

"It's about time you showed up, slowpoke!" Dash teased, grinning while she moved to meet Twilight.

Twilight rolled her eyes and leaned in to nuzzle her friend affectionately. "A Princess arrives no sooner or later than is needed," she stated, smirking. "Besides, where would the fun be in turning up on time."

"Oh? So, the egghead can learn after all!"

"I picked up a thing or two," she giggled, beginning to enter Sugarcube Corner.

As expected with Pinkie, she had cleared out the bottom floor of the bakery and set up a delicious array of foods that seemed almost too perfect for six ponies and a dragon. Off to the side sat Applejack and Fluttershy, holding hooves as they whispered to each other, sharing a special moment.

The rest of the bakery wasn't particularly changed, only a fresh coat of paint and a brand-new wooden floor signified the passage of time.

Twilight wandered up to Pinkie, who was setting out some drinks and gently placed her hoof on the mare's shoulder. "Hey, Pinkie," she whispered, letting the mare finish.

"What's up, Twi-Twi?" she replied, eyes wide.

"Thank you," Twilight said, leaning in and hugging her. "I don't say it enough but thank you."

Pinkie, for once, seemed taken aback. "Twilight," she mumbled after Twilight pulled back. "Stop, you'll make me blush," she giggled, waving a hoof. "You don't have to say that. Having you here is thanks en-"

"No, Pinkie. I mean it," Twilight interrupted, lowering her voice. "I'm going away for a while with Luna and I," she sighed, "I realised that I don't thank you enough."

Pinkie scuffed her hoof on the wooden floorboards, before hugging the Princess. After a second, she pulled back and composed herself. "Alright, enough serious stuff! Time for a party!" she shouted, bouncing around Twilight and over to Applejack and Fluttershy.

"Where's Rar-" Twilight began, getting interrupted by Rarity trotting in. "Oh, there she is."

"Good morning, darlings!" Rarity sang, looking wide awake and cheerful. She quickly moved to Dash's side and kissed her on the cheek. "So, Pinkie. What's the occasion?"

"You didn't tell them?" Twilight asked, looking over to Pinkie.

"Well, I didn't want to upset them!" she answered, bouncing upstairs and fetching several cushions for her friends to sit on.

Twilight let out a sigh and rubbed her temple, feeling a headache begin to form. She knew Pinkie had her friend's best interests at heart, but this was now more painful than it had to be.

By now the rest of her friends had sat down in a small pile, each one waiting for Twilight to begin when the door opened, and Spike walked in.

"Spike!" Twilight called out, smiling warmly as she climbed to her hooves and rushed over to give him a hug.

"It's good to see you too, Twilight," he laughed, hugging her back. "How's my fave librarian?"

"Oh, you know, surviving," she giggled, waving a hoof. "I'm glad you could make it, there's some things which you need to know."

"I wouldn't miss this for anything, but Pinkie wouldn't tell me what it's about."

"Yeah, she wouldn't tell any of us!" Dash called out.

Twilight held Spike's claw in her magic and led him over to his own cushion next to her own. "Get comfy, this will probably take a bit," she warned, receiving a worried look back. "It's not world ending," she assured, before pausing, "well, in theory anyway."

Spike glanced around at the other five ponies, only to see them glance away. "What happened, Twi?" he asked, placing a claw on her hoof.

With a deep breath, Twilight began to recount the adventure she had been on so far, once again sparing the details for Fluttershy. She might not have stated what happened, but the look in her eyes conveyed everything to Spike. When she had finished, Spike slid his cushion around and wrapped his arms around the mare, holding her tight.

"Why?" he whispered, claws dragging along her neck, his voice wavering.

Twilight chuckled and nuzzled him back, a loving smile on her face. "You know why; I'm a silly pony."

Pulling back, Spike frowned and shook his head. "Even for you, Twilight. You nearly died, Twice!"

"I kn-"

"What if you didn't come back? We wouldn't have known; the Princesses wouldn't have known!"

Twilight looked down as the room became deathly silent. She could feel her stomach churn with guilt for inadvertently putting Spike and her friends through all of this. The other ponies in the room wouldn't have thought to call her out on her stupidity as much as Spike; something she knew she sorely needed. “I’m sorry. I wasn't thinking. You know how I get."

"Yeah, I do know," he grumbled, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes. "But, at least you're back. Thank you for telling me, finally."

Wincing at that blow, the Princess finally looked up to see Spike's hardened expression change into a rather forced smile.

"I doubt that's the reason every pony is called here, right?" he asked, unable to look at the Princess.

"Nope!" Pinkie giggled, breaking the awkwardness. "This is Twilight's going away party!"

Twilight groaned and levitated a cup of Cuke over to herself to take a long sip while every pony's eyes flicked onto her. "Pinkie's right," she said, looking around.

The effect was immediate. A barrage of questions was fired at her from every pony and dragon in the room, causing her to roll her eyes. Slamming her hoof down, she shouted, "One at a time!" Every pony went silent, looking shocked that Twilight would do such a thing.

"Thank you," she sighed, rubbing her temple. She'd most definitely get a migraine now. "Dash, ask your question."

Dash frowned at her friend, clearly worried but hiding it behind a layer of annoyance. "What do you mean going away party? You're not going back in time again, are you?"

Twilight shook her head. "No, not yet. I will have to go back at some point as I'm a double agent now." Upon seeing Dash's, and most of the pony's confused looks, she tapped her chin in thought. "Alright, think of it like this. Every pony here experiences the flow of time linearly as you’re all single agents."

"I guess," Dash replied. "So, you don't experience it like us?"

"I do, but in two different places. I experience time here, as well as in the past. Although, not simultaneously as that would drive me mad. Whichever time-zone I'm not currently in, doesn’t flow forwards for me. It's complicated, but if I go back now, you wouldn't even notice that I'd have left."

"I think I get it. It means that you can go back anytime you want?"

"In simpler terms, yes."

Dash fell back, let out a groan and let her wings splay out. "Couldn't you have just said that!"

Rarity giggled and rubbed Rainbow's stomach. "If she did that, you'd never learn anything," she teased, grinning.

"So, if you're not goin’ back in time, where are you goin’?" Applejack asked, holding a leg around Fluttershy. "an' if Pinkie's holdin' a party, how long are you going for?"

Twilight turned to her friend, wings ruffling uncomfortably. "So, uh, I asked Celestia for more responsibility as a Princess and she agreed to let me take over Day Court a few times a week to help her out."

"Wow, that's good, right? You won't be too busy?"

"Oh, of course not. I was left doing overflow paperwork that the Princesses couldn't get to in time! I was an underpaid clerk rather than a Princess," Twilight laughed. "I don't know how Celestia did it on her own for a thousand years. I was drained after my first day!"

"I'm sure she got used to it after a while," Fluttershy finally spoke up.

"Yeah. I'm sure she had some sort of system to make it easy for herself. Though, she seemed to rather enjoy my suffering."

A small pause left the room silent as Twilight relaxed once again.

"Did you ask her out?" Fluttershy asked, peeking out from under her mane, her eyes sparkling.

"Well..." Twilight began, trailing off for dramatic effect. "I did!"

Fluttershy gasped and let out a squee as she held onto Applejack. "How was it? Where did you do it? What was her answer?!" she bombarded, a wide grin on her face. The mare turned to Applejack and sighed, leaning against her. "So romantic!"

Twilight processed what her friend had just asked, then chuckled and ran a hoof through her own mane, playing with it nervously

"Well," she mumbled, looking around at her friends. "She said yes."

The effect was immediate at everyone in the room gasped and looked around, grins appearing.

"Then we, uh," Twilight continued, her cheeks darkening as she tried to think of how to word it. "We cuddled, in bed."

"How was it?" Dash asked, sliding her wing around Rarity.

Twilight giggled and covered her face with a hoof. "She's warm..."

"Aw!" Fluttershy bit her lip and nuzzled up to Applejack. "Where are you going for the date?" she asked, fluttering her wings with happiness.

"I, uh, don't really know. Celestia's always been so caring, yet so distant," Twilight replied, sighing. "Maybe she'd like to be taken out? A dinner?"

The rest of the group took a second to think, each one looking rather unsure.

Spike place a claw on Twilight's shoulder and smiled reassuringly. "You know how you felt when you were freaking out about being seen as a Princess and not as you?" he asked, to which Twilight nodded. "She looks like that when she thinks no pony’s watching. I think she doesn't really want to be seen as a Princess."

Twilight listened, realisation dawning on her. "Spike, you're a genius!" she gasped, leaning in and nuzzling close, receiving a laugh in return. "I can take her out to a movie and disguise us for the night. It'll only last until we sleep, but she'll be seen as a regular pony!"

Rarity grinned and nodded. "I know of a perfect projector theatre in Manehatten, darling. It'll be divine for you two!" she said. "I believe that they just set up a brand-new projection screen downtown."

"I think she'd love that! I know that she hasn't had a day off in decades at least. Even her social events are planned."

"That must be horrible," Pinkie mumbled, a frown on her face. "Not having a day off in so long. I'm sure she'll absolutely love you for taking her out and treating her right!"

The rest of the group nodded.

"Anyway, that was a tangent," Twilight giggled. "You'll have to send me the name of the theatre when you get the chance, Rarity."

The mare nodded. "Of course."

"Now, as for why I'm leaving," she said, sighing. "I also asked Luna if I could take some of her Night Courts per week. She said I could, but it came with a catch."

"Are you going on a date with her as well?!" Pinkie asked, vibrating with excitement as she prepared to pull the tab on a party popper.

Twilight, Rarity and Dash winced away at the perceived pop, but found Pinkie holding it steady.

"No! I haven't even asked her out yet," Twilight replied. "The catch was that I need to be trained for it.

"The Night Court is run differently to Celestia's Day Court. While the Day Court deals with our citizens questions and needs, the Night Court deals with their security... Mainly from, well, creatures that attack Equestria."

"Like monsters and stuff?" Applejack asked, tilting her head in confusion.

"And stuff, yes. The Elements can't be everywhere, so Luna oversees a number of guards who are specifically trained to deal with creatures on the frontier, like Ursas, Hydras and Manticores."

"Is that what you're training to do? Fight animals?" Fluttershy spoke up, a conflicted look on her face.

Twilight looked down. "Yes, but thanks to you, I know that the creatures only attack because of a reason. I wouldn't want to hurt any, but ponies could get hurt if I don't. It'll be a last resort, I promise."

"Really?" she whispered, holding onto Applejack.

"Really, Fluttershy. No hurting them unless there's really no other way."

"I gotta admit. I've always wondered what you'd look like all, you know, toned," Dash chuckled, gesturing to her, despite the tiny blush forming.

"Dash!" Rarity gasped.

"What? It's not like you haven't either. I've seen those sketches you keep locked away!"

"Wait, what?" Twilight muttered, flicking her eyes between a laughing Dash and a furiously blushing Rarity.

"I don't keep them locked away. They are reference material!" she hissed, turning to Twilight. "Reference material. That's all it is."

Nodding slowly, Twilight fought to keep her own cheeks from warming up, before looking at the others. "You'll all visit me, right?"

"Of course, we will," Pinkie assured, placing a hoof on Twilight's, before giggling and popping the party popper. “Now let’s party!”

Several hours and many party games later, Twilight stood on the first floor balcony, looking out at the sleepy town. The sun was close to drifting below the horizon, bathing the world in a fiery twilight.

The sound of the door lock unlatching alerted Twilight to somepony joining her and she glanced back, only to see Starlight exiting out.

"Hey, Twi," the mare greeted, giving a tired smile. "Sorry I couldn't make it earlier. I was up last night working and only just woke up."

Twilight pulled away from the side and moved over to her friend as Starlight continued, "The girls filled me in."

"Oh, uh," Twilight muttered, grimacing at the inevitable chastising that Starlight would give her.

"Are there any side effects?" Starlight asked, looking Twilight over. "Any temporal distortions appearing? Gaps in memory?"

"Wait, aren't you going to shout at me for doing something so reckless?"

"What? Oh," Star muttered, shaking her head. "Well, yeah. What you did was the most stupid thing I think you've ever done!" she chided, watching Twilight's avoid her gaze. "But," she continued, a smile appearing, "we should at least document it. No pony, that we know of, has gone that far back, let alone interacted with established events."

Twilight pulled away and shook her head, leaning on the side of the balcony. "I, I guess so. I've been a little busy since I arrived back."

Sighing, Twilight let her wings droop down as she stared at the setting sun.

"Twilight?" Starlight wearily asked, standing beside her. "I know that look. I used to use it a lot, remember."

"Last time, the map stopped any changes to the timeline from actually occurring," Twilight stated, turning to look at Starlight, leaving it hanging.

It didn't take long before Starlight looked down, conflict evident. "Dear Celestia," she whispered, pulling away from her friend.

"Starlight! I didn't mean to... I-" Twilight said, sighing and moving off the balcony once more.

"What changed?"

"J-Just some guards. At least, that's all I thi-."

"Just some guards?" Starlight interrupted, turning back to face her. "How could you say that?! Did you forget what you said to me? How if even one friendship dies..."

"The result could be disastrous," Twilight replied, closing her eyes and lowering her head in shame. "I didn't know, or I was too focused on what I wanted and didn't care."

"I suspect a bit of everything."

Twilight winced at those words, finding her guilt flare up. "How do I stop it from happening again? What if it's some pony I know? What if it's you?!" she asked, looking scared.

"Twilight! Calm down and take a breath!" Starlight ordered, shaking the mare. "Let's think about this. You always come back to the same time you left, right?"

Twilight nodded, her mane slightly frazzled as she tried to control her breathing.

"I'm sure that Starswirl had thought about this very thing. I'll try and see if he'll come visit and help me weave a ritual or something to see what changes were made. Unfortunately what has been done cannot be fixed without further damage to the timeline, but I'm sure further damage could be mitigated somehow."

With a deep sigh, Twilight finally worked up the courage to look back to Starlight. "Thank you," she whispered, feeling like she had failed her friend.

"I'm only doing it because you're an amazing friend, Twilight. But, you are going to have to take me with you at some point!"

Twilight's eyes widened as she shook her head.

"I'm joking!" Starlight laughed, slapping Twilight's shoulder with a hoof. "If we can't even laugh about world ending time-travel with a friend, who can we joke about it with!"

Twilight let out a groan and rubbed the bridge of her muzzle.

"Anyway, don't you have a hot date with Celestia to prepare for?" Star asked, grinning, before nudging Twilight towards the door that led back into Sugarcube Corner.

"Yes- ah, fine! I'll just say bye to the girls, then head back."

The next day, Twilight rubbed her tired eyes and stepped out into the evening breeze of Canterlot Palace’s garden, flaring her wings. The soft wind blew through her feathers, eliciting a sigh from the Princess as she made her way over to the edge that overlooked the valley, and Ponyville, below. Gazing down, Twilight couldn’t help but smile as she watched the train wind around the mountain before it sped off towards Ponyville, travelling through the nearly endless fields.

Her eyes kept on the train for a few more seconds as it passed behind some trees, then flicked up towards Celestia’s setting sun. It wouldn’t be long now before Day Court finished and she could see her Princess.

Closing her eyes, Twilight focused on the wind racing through her primaries and felt her pre-date nerves fade away. She had done the hard part of asking Celestia out. Hell, they had even cuddled, then snuggled in bed.

Since arriving back from Pinkie’s ‘going away party’ the night before, Twilight had made sure to find a private room in the castle, in her own section, to perform a long-range teleport spell. Of course, she had set it to a couple of blocks away from the projection theatre that she and Celestia would have their date, using a strand of her own hair as a catalyst. No sneaking around this time.

Of course, she had woven in a disguise spell alongside the teleport to allow Celestia some peace from being a Princess, even if it was for one night. She wasn’t sure what disguise it would create for them, but she knew they wouldn’t be an Alicorn, just due to the nature of the spell.

But no matter how hard she tried to calm down, she couldn’t find peace. Be it from worrying about Celestia’s reaction to the date location, to whether Celestia would even like the Projector Theatre. Hell, Twilight’s mind flooded with images of Celestia rejecting her from realising she was boring!

Closing her wings, Twilight let out a groan and leaned against the railing, her wings drooping down to touch the grass.

“You shouldn’t slouch, it’s bad for your back,” an angelic voice spoke from behind the mare, causing her to open her eyes and quickly turn back.

“Celestia!” she gasped, spinning and running up to the Alicorn which was just exiting the castle. “I’m so glad you made it! I was so worried that you had been caught up by some annoying noble, or an emergency came up!”

Celestia giggled and raised a hoof to brush along Twilight’s cheek but paused once she realised her golden horse-boot was still on. Sliding it off, caressed her Twilight’s cheek, giving her a loving smile. “Discord himself wouldn’t be able to keep me from you, Twilight.”

Twilight felt her heart flutter from hearing ‘Tia say those divine words; her smile widening even more.

“I, uh,” she muttered, before holding a hoof to her chest and taking a slow, deep breath. “Celestia, I’m taking you on a date!” she announced, her expression turning determined.

The mare blinked, before raising a brow. It didn’t take long until a playful smirk appeared. “Oh? Pray tell, where would you believe you are taking me, my dear sparkle?” she asked, leaning down.

Inhaling quickly to keep her quivering voice under control, Twilight grinned. “There’s a lovely Projection Theatre in Manehatten that I’m taking you to.”

The mare knew that this sort of thing worked well enough in books, mostly those which Rarity had accidently left in her bedroom for her to find. But converting it from the page to real life was more stressful than even Twilight would like to admit.

Celestia kept her eyes on Twilight as she leaned back up, her playful smirk still there. “It’s not often I see such a forceful side from you...” she trailed off, thinking. “It’s very attractive, my Sparkle,” Celestia purred, biting her bottom lip.

The effect was immediately apparent, as Twilight’s cheeks turned crimson and her gaze dropped to the floor, unsure what to say. Her heart thumped loudly in her chest and she barely controlled her wings as they fluffed up.

Seemingly happy with herself, Celestia moved over and wrapped a wing around the spluttering mare and pulled her back inside the castle and towards her chambers.

“So, how are we getting there? A chariot to Manehattan would take hours,” ‘Tia asked, glancing down to make sure Twilight hadn’t passed out from sheer embarrassment.

Slowly, Twilight’s higher brain-functions returned, and she could actually think once again. She couldn’t believe Celestia had said those things, yet part of her was slightly happy she did. Celestia was still a mare, even if she was over two thousand years old. She knew she’d need to brace herself for more.

“Um,” she began, licking her lips. “I set up a teleport ritual in a spare room on my third of the castle.” Looking up, she smiled and finished with, “there’s also something extra I added to it, for you.”

Celestia returned that with a quizzical look but nodded anyway. “Always prepared I see. I should have expected that from you. Please, lead the way.”

Twilight giggled and led Celestia through the castle, stealing glances up at the taller mare every so often. Every time she looked at the Princess, her heart felt like it would leap out of her chest at the sheer thought of spending eternity with the Princess.

Ending up outside of the door, she gripped the handle with her magic and pushed the door open, revealing a complex web-like chalk outline laid out across the smooth floor. In the centre of the chalk outline, suspended several hooves off the floor, was a single glowing strand of Twilight’s hair. Around the outside of the outline, instead of the regular three rune-filled circles, Twilight had drawn an additional three, signifying an extra spell to be cast when activated.

Celestia entered the empty room slowly, her eyes scanning over the runes and the intricate web of chalk. Stopping just in front of the chalk, she realised what each set of runes were and turned back to Twilight quickly, her smile widening.

“This is...”

“I thought you would like an actual night off,” Twilight said, moving forwards to brush up along Celestia’s side, sighing. “No pony will know it’s us. We can just go on a date, like everypony else.”

Celestia’s smile faded as she stared down at the mare, in thought. Twilight slowly began to worry that she had said something wrong, her ears folding down. Just as she was going to take a step back, Celestia leaned down and nuzzled her, sighing.

“My Sparkle...” she whispered, brushing her muzzle through Twilight’s mane, inhaling her scent. “This is so thoughtful.”

Twilight chewed her bottom lip, giggled, then closed her eyes. “No ponies bowing or grovelling. Just us two having a date.”

“That sounds divine, Twilight,” Celestia cooed, rubbing a hoof across the mare’s chest. Quickly, she levitated her regalia off and placed it off to the side of the ritual chalk, before reluctantly pulled away, yet keeping her hoof rubbing through the mare’s chest fluff.

Twilight charged her horn then placed it against the chalk, allowing her magic to flow in, activating the spell and tearing a hole through space-time. The tear widened enough for the pair to pass through, showing the darkened streets of Manehattan on the other side.

Celestia pulled away from Twilight and neared the portal. It was quiet, but the sound of the hustle and bustle of the city could be heard from within.

“You have done an amazing job with this, Twilight,” Celestia praised, her eyes evaluating the runes. “I’m impressed.”

Twilight’s eyes widened at the sheer praise, before she waved a hoof. “Shall we go? I don’t think the theatre would wait for either of us.” she mumbled, blushing.

Nodding, Celestia pressed a hoof to the portal and watched as her slender, white limb sparkled and shrunk down, a pink hoof on the other side. Taking a breath, she pushed through the tear and turned around to look over at Twilight, but found nothing but a brick wall, the portal not visible.

Twilight, on the other hoof, stood there staring at Celestia’s new, pink, pegasus form. Her mane, and tail, had lost their ethereal nature with her mane cascading around her neck in long, silver curls. Her entire body was covered in a finely brushed coat of pink fur, with irregular blots of white appearing across her flank and rump. Her cutie-mark had stayed the same, with the addition of sunglasses across the front.

She quickly passed through, causing Celestia to let out a soft gasp when the mare appeared out of nowhere.

Twilight blinked away the stars forming in her eyes and noticed the horn still attached to her forehead, before breathing a sigh. She examined her own body and found that her fur had been dyed a light orange, reminding her of Applejack. Her mane, and tail, had shortened, more akin to Rainbow Dash, but only keeping the purple colouring, and losing the pink streak. Turning back to her flank, the starburst had been replaced with a crescent moon, light filtering out from around the edges.

‘Of course, why would it be anything else,’ Twilight inwardly groaned, before turning her attention to Celestia. “Uh, you look good,” she said, rubbing her neck with a hoof.

Celestia stretched her wings out and sighed. “It’s been such a long time since I was this size. It’s refreshing!”

“Well, it’ll only last until we sleep, so savour it for tonight,” Twilight advised, giggling and brushing up against the Princess. “We should go though. Wouldn’t want anypony to find two mares in an alley,” she joked, making her way to the entrance, then glancing back, a smirk on her face. “The theatre is only a block away.”

Celestia rushed to catch up to Twilight, then gasped as she found herself looking around at the incredible structures, her eyes sparkling.

“I would have thought you’d have come to Manehatten before?” Twilight asked, raising a brow at the mare’s expression, then gently used her magic to pull Celestia in her direction.

“I have, at its founding,” Celestia answered, sighing. “It’s grown so much. How long have I wasted simply sitting on that throne?”

“It’s not a waste when you’re keeping, you know, the entire country running.”

“I know. But I don’t get to experience it.”

“You’re experiencing it now,” Twilight laughed, nudging the princess. “I have a lot of hair to keep doing this spell. Anytime you want a day off, we can hop anywhere you want.”

Celestia opened her wing and pulled Twilight close against her as they slid around the ponies, being squeezed together now and again, until they popped out in front of the theatre.

Looking at the time, Twilight grinned and pulled Celestia up to the ticket booth. “Two tickets for Mare in Manehatten, please!” She asked, her horn lighting up and summoning several bits onto the counter.

The Stallion within glanced over with a tired expression, then pressed down on a ticket machine next to him and tore off two. He passed it through the booth’s slot, then raised a brow at Celestia’s wide-eyed amazement. “Theatre two, it’s about to start,” he mumbled, kicking his legs up and opened his magazine.

Twilight decided to ignore the stallion and pull Celestia into the building, giggling as she kept gazing about. “I would have expected you to have seen a projection or two?” she asked, looking around for theatre two.

“They brought one to the castle to let me watch something or other, so I never really had the same experience as any normal pony,” Celestia explained, her attention back on Twilight. “What’s this one about?”

“Oh, it’s about a mare that travels to Manehatten to find work, only to fall in love with a wealthy stallion. It’s a romantic comedy!” Twilight said, grinning as she held herself against Celestia. “I haven’t seen it though, only reviews in the papers.”

The pair quickly found the correct screening and entered the darkened room. The movie had been out for at least a month by this point, so only a couple of other pairs of ponies joined them in the room.

Twilight led Celestia up the shallow stairs and found a pair of seats which were almost dead centre and sat down, before Twilight snuggled up tight against her mare’s side.

Almost instantly, Celestia’s wing wrapped around the younger Alicorn and held her, before she nuzzled deep against Twilight’s neck, humming. “Twi-“ she whispered, her hoof moving over onto Twilight’s own.

“Hm?” Twilight replied, using her magic to brush Celestia’s mane back.

Celestia stopped for a second, pulling away. “Just enjoying myself,” she giggled, a light flush appearing across her cheeks. “It’s been so long since that I had forgotten what being properly wanted felt like.”

Twilight stared into Celestia’s eyes as the projector behind them started up, painting the wall in front of them. The title screen appeared, flickering in and out of focus until ‘Mare in Manehatten’ flickered on.

“How long?” Twilight whispered, her hoof brushing along Celestia’s cheek. As much as it hurt, she already knew the answer. Yet, she needed to hear it from the mare herself.

“I-“ Celestia began, averting her eyes downwards. “Two thousand years.”

Twilight didn’t know what to say. The Princess had taken no others for so, so long that she couldn’t imagine what the mare was feeling.

Finally moving her eyes back up, Celestia chuckled and leaned in, to kiss Twilight on her nose. “Then you come along and reignite this old mare’s sun,” she giggled, earning a ‘shh’ from another pair across the room.

The two of them giggled and turned to the movie, Twilight leaning against the older Princess while the movie played, and Celestia nuzzling her throughout and barely paying attention to the movie.

Every so often, Twilight giggled when she felt Celestia nipping, or licking affectionately at her neck. “Ah- stop,” she playfully whispered, cheeks practically lighting up at the feeling.

“I want to remember every inch of you, my dear light,” Celestia purred, eyes roaming the mare’s body.

Twilight wasn’t sure if she had misheard the Princess, but quickly forgot when a hoof rubbed across her chest and Celestia’s lips kissed her neck.

“Shall we get out of here?” Twilight asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

With that, the pair pulled themselves away from the seats and stumbled out of the theatre, their manners having faded, being replaced with their thoughts of just being alone together.

Walking through the bustling streets of Manehatten, Twilight subtly led Celestia over towards the park in the centre of the city. Entering, they laid down under a cherry blossom, Twilight gazing up into the night’s sky as Celestia doted on her with nips and kisses.

“What’s on your mind, my sparkle?” Celestia whispered as a gentle wind blew over them and forced the blossoms scatter around them.

Twilight held her gaze at the moon and let out a low sigh. “I don’t want to leave you for so long.”

Celestia pulled away, folded her wings against her back, then moved around to stand in front of Twilight. That smile that could melt any frozen heart spread across her face as she reached out and caressed a cheek.

“Seven months is nothing, my moon.”

Twilight’s eyes widened, her heart thumped harder than ever and tears threatened to fall down her cheeks. Bringing a shaking hoof up to hold Celestia’s own, Twilight kissed the mare’s bare hoof and clenched her eyes shut.

“H-“ she choked up, lip quivering. “How long have you known?”

“Since the very first day I saw you at your exam.”

“I’m so sor-“

“Don’t, Twilight,” Celestia sighed, leaning in and holding the mare against her chest, letting her cling tight. “Don’t you dare say sorry for helping us.”

“But you were alone. I just left…”

Celestia leaned Twilight back, seeing the fur on her face matted with tears. “And yet you came back, my moon.”

Closing her eyes, Twilight took a deep breath, questions forming too fast for the mare too keep up with. “’Tia,” she whispered, opening her eyes and staring deep into the mare’s. “What happened back then? You and Luna have your celestial bodies, so surely we won?”

The Princess winced and looked away, breaking contact. “Luna and I cannot say. It would make you do things differently when you go back again.”

Twilight blinked, then pulled back, deep in thought. “But we do win, or nothing would be here,” she muttered, her frown deepening. “But there must be some reason I don’t stay with you back then. It’s not like I wouldn’t be able to, right?”

“Twilight,” Celestia asked, placing a hoof on her back, “please. I can’t say anything, or it won’t happen.”

“Why? Why can’t you share something?!”

“Because you told me not to!” Celestia huffed, stomping the ground. “The past- uh, future you. She said that it had taken her a long time to get things just right.”

“Me?” Twilight muttered, looking on in disbelief. “What does she, or I mean?” she groaned, stomping her hooves against the grass. “I hate working out time-travel!”

The smile returned to Celestia’s face upon seeing her adorable marefriend. “Look, Twilight. You’ll have to go back after your training,” she stated, moving next to her. “Luna doesn’t know that you’ve gone back that first time. She just thinks you’re still researching some artefacts.”

Twilight’s eyes widened once again as she realised that she had kind of forgotten about Luna during the whole excitement. Glancing at Celestia, her cheeks darkened considerably as she asked, “Do, uh, I, you know…?”

Raising a brow, the Princess returned the question with a look that suggested to finish.

The younger Alicorn inwardly groaned and continued. “Do I,” she mumbled, sighing. “Woo you two?”

Celestia giggled and rolled her eyes. “Oh my, Twilight. I didn’t imagine you’d be thinking of that so early,” she teased, winking, causing Twilight to squeak in embarrassment. “But, yes, eventually. Did you ever wonder why Luna teased you so? She took the time without you so much harder than I did.”

Twilight thought she couldn’t feel any worse than she did, but that definitely didn’t help. “I’ll have to make it up to her sometime.”

“You best do,” Celestia agreed, nodding. “and no, she won’t tell you anything either, even if you begged.”

Letting out a playful groan, Twilight shook her head. “Alright. I guess I’ll take the long way around and figure it out the hard way.” Turning back to Celestia, her smile began to reappear as her horn glowed softly and the disguises began to flake off their bodies, joining the cherry blossoms fluttering around them.


“I don’t care if they see, ‘Tia,” she interrupted, taking a step closer. “You’ve waited for so long. Let me make it up to you.”

Twilight leaned up as she caressed Celestia’s cheek with her hoof. Within a second, Twilight was pressing her lips upon Celestia’s, eyes fluttering closed while she melted against the larger mare.

She could feel Celestia’s heart thumping wildly, warmth flowing off of her and knew that she wanted to spend the rest of eternity with her love, willing to give up anything for even a chance.

Arc 1: Chapter 8

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Even waking up in Celestia's embrace couldn't quell the sheer pain that she had chosen to self-inflict upon herself by taking up Luna's training with the guards. Even though she knew it was for the best, and that it would help her rule more effectively, it still couldn't make it hurt any less.

Squirming around to face her mare, Twilight squeaked upon finding Celestia already wide awake.

"Good morning, my light," she purred, leaning in and kissing the younger Princess.

Twilight could only tense up for a split second before melting into the affection and letting it consume her. Every atom of her being wanted her to say 'buck it' to the training and simply stay with Celestia, but she wouldn't be able to look at Luna the same way if she did.

Pulling back, she fluttered her eyes open while brushing her hooves across her Princess's chest in an attempt to coax another.

"I still can't believe this is happening," she whispered, scared that if she spoke any louder, she would wake up.

Celestia's hooves brushed up and across Twilight's back, then between her wings, causing her to gasp and squirm.

"I don't want you to go," Celestia admitted. "My sister is lucky to spend so much time with you."

Twilight giggled and nuzzled under her mare's chin to gently kiss at her neck.

"She may be lucky, but I'll be the one in pain," she mumbled as Celestia gasped and let out a purr.

"It'll be just like those cheesy romance novels where I wait for my mare until she returns, again" the Princess joked, running a hoof through Twilight's tangled mane.

"Maybe that's what I wanted," Twilight cooed, nipping the Princess's sensitive skin. "My mare waiting at home for the brave soldier?"

It was Celestia's turn to laugh as she rolled her eyes. "I remember taking care of my brave soldier," she giggled,

The younger mare huffed, then climbed on top of the Princess. "Well, you know what I remember?"

"Hm, remind me," the Princess giggled, gazing up as her hooves slid up Twilight's legs.

The mare leaned down and whispered in Celestia's ear, "I remember you're quite ticklish."

The Princess's eyes shot open when Twilight's magic began to press into her sides and just below her wings, hitting all of her sensitive spots.

Celestia gasped, and squirmed, yet was held fast by Twilight's magic as she let out a whimper, her face red as she held back tears. "Light- Ah! Stop, please!" she cried, hooves hitting the bed as she tried to fight against the magically powerful mare.

Twilight eventually relented, her magic pulling back for a second before washing over Celestia's body, holding her in a lavender aura.

"Will you visit?" she asked, nuzzling her.

Catching her breath, Celestia stared up at Twilight as a look of shock appeared on her face. "Of course, I'll come and visit my marefriend."

It was Twilight's turn for her face to burst beet red upon hearing that. "Mare- Marefriend!" she gasped, only to quickly press forwards and kiss her mare passionately, a hoof caressing along her cheek.

The pair had quickly forgotten the time and by the time they had left the hotel to be picked up by the Royal Guard, they were at least an hour late for the airship's departure.

Fortunately for them, they were Princesses and that meant that they had a certain amount of leeway in regard to timing, despite Twilight's insistence that Luna would not let her go.

By the time they had arrived back at Canterlot, Twilight's anxiety was only quelled by numerous nuzzles and kisses from the Solar mare herself.

Their destination was the Royal Airship Hangar; somewhere Twilight had been only sparingly, with one tour when she ascended to Princess, and a filly's adventure many years ago.

This time though, she was there to say goodbye to her marefriend for several months. This, no doubt, tarred the area's reputation for her and she would want nothing more than to disband the Royal Air Force if she could spend more time in Celestia's embrace.

The hanger itself was built around the other half of the mountain, with the Royal Guard having hollowed out several hundred meters of pure marble to construct the hanger and required facilities.

The hanger's surface was completely flat, having been sanded and ground down to a near shine from constant use. The ceiling was carved into a half-dome, with several struts that jutted out into the near instant drop off the mountainside.

There were several airships docked, each one adorned in either silver or gold materials, having been assigned to the Solar or Lunar divisions of the Air Force. Many of the airships themselves were bustling with activity as hundreds of ponies sped back and forth carrying cargo into the ships to get ready for departure to various locations around Equestria.

Being pulled out of her fantasy by Celestia, Twilight braced herself as the chariot touched down and slowed to a crawl and finally stopped just off to the side of a smaller airships.

Looking it over, she saw the name and sighed, imagining it to be a silly joke by the universe. HMS Moonlight

Celestia climbed out of the chariot and thanked the guards which pulled it, before helping Twilight off with hoof. "As much as it will pain me, it's only for seven months, my light. No time at all for us, I assure you."

"Maybe for you, but that's still a lot of time for me," Twilight grumbled. She turned to the guards and added, "Thank you," before turning back and following Celestia over to the ship.

As they neared, Luna's voice slowly started to grow clear, and it was also clear that she wasn't using her 'indoor voice'.

"Get those boxes inside! This airship must be spotless for the Princess!" she hollered, gesturing to a stack of boxes left out on the side of the deck.

The pair climbed up the plank and onto the deck and glanced to each other upon seeing that Luna's back was turned towards them.

"Do not dally! Twilight wouldn't!" she shouted, stomping a hoof as she glared around at some of the ponies rushing about.

"I see you are enjoying your duties, sister," Celestia shouted a little too loud for Twilight's taste.

Luna let out a yelp and spun around, her wings flared up threateningly while her face was painted a cute shade of red, at least until she spotted Twilight.

"Good morning,” she replied, glancing between the pair. "I did not think you would be here so soon."

Looking outside to the noon sun, Twilight giggled and rushed up to Luna, giving her a hug, to which the Princess patted her back.

"We would have been here earlier, but we got, uh, caught up."

"In sheets, no doubt," Luna replied, looking at Celestia.

Twilight sputtered awkwardly while Celestia frowned.

"Keep that up and you'll hurt the mare," Celestia warned, placing a hoof on Twilight's withers and guiding her back to her side.

Luna rolled her eyes, before addressing Twilight. “I have much prepared for you, Twilight,” she said, her tone neutral. “Say your goodbyes.”

Twilight glanced to Celestia, then back at Luna, a little unsure at how she was acting. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I'd like you to meet the guards who will be protecting you while you attend Night Court. You will have plenty of time to get to know them but doing so before we take off will help."

Twilight blinked, then nodded with a smile. "I'm always happy to meet new ponies, you should know that by now.”

Twilight couldn't help but find her mood ever so slightly improving with the news that she was going to make some new friends; friends which would be with her throughout her training.

"I did not forget. But you must keep a secret, Twilight," Luna warned. "They do not know they will be guarding you after their training. Bat-ponies have only ever guarded me during the night, so you will have to earn their trust first."

Wide eyed, Twilight nodded once again. "I'll certainly try!"

"Great. Now come. The recruits grow restless."

"This is where we must part," Celestia said, earning a concerned look from Twilight. "Favourites cannot be shown in the guard, even from Luna and I; as soon as you go down those stairs, you are a recruit."

Twilight neared her marefriend as her horn lit up. An ethereal platform appeared below her hooves and began to lift her up until she was face to face with Celestia.

"If I won't see you for months, then I'll leave you with something to remember," she purred, then leaned in and pressed their lips together.

Twilight's eyes closed as she felt Celestia's warm, soft lips press against her own; the thumping in her chest growing in rhythm.

She didn't even care that Luna, nor the other ponies moving boxes were watching. All she wanted was Celestia.

Pulling away, Twilight smiled and pecked the silent Celestia on the nose, before lowering herself.

"I'll write often, okay!" Twilight giggled, grinning up at her.

Celestia's cheeks were beet red as she stared down at Twilight, unable to form the right words. But it took several seconds, and she mumbled, "Wow."

"There'll be plenty when I get back," Twilight said, holding her hoof. "But for now, I'll have to leave you with that."

Sighing, Luna gently placed a wing on Twilight's back and led her across the deck and down into the bowels of the airship, leaving Celestia. Twilight gave one last glance back and winked at the solar mare, before descending.

Twilight glanced up at Luna in the cramped, lamp-lit corridor. She bit her lip, then whispered, "Thank you for letting me take some of your work, Luna. "

"Do not thank me, Twilight," Luna replied, staring down at the worried mare. "You can heal faster and fight harder than our little ponies, but that doesn't mean you can't be taken out of a fight, or worse, killed."

"I, uh- I know," Twilight mumbled, looking away as they finally reached the bottom of the stairs.

Luna raised her brow, before lighting her horn and taking hold of the door handle in front of them.

"Despite us having advantages, there's plenty out there that we're exceedingly weak against."

Leaning down, she laid a hoof on Twilight's shoulder.

"I plan on beating that weakness out of you."

Twilight was now thoroughly worried.

Swinging open the door next to them, Luna leaned back up and wandered through. The next room expanded outwards, revealing the hollowed-out shell of the ship.

Several cots were laid out across the sides of the dark and dingy expanse, along with bolted-down chests for personal storage. Scattered around the cots were several bat ponies, either in two's or by themselves.

The instant Luna entered the room, the ponies shot up from what they were doing and stood in front of their cots, leaving the final one, closest to the door, empty.

The bat-ponies weren't as colourful as their regular cousins; their coats mainly focusing on shades of browns and grey, no doubt to blend in with Luna's night. Their wings, instead of light feathers that could be individually manipulated and tilted to feel the flow of mana in the air, held a thin strip of flesh, reminding Twilight of stretched leather.

Overall, Twilight wanted to know more, but had to remind herself that they were still soldiers and held herself back, just in time for Luna to start talking.

"Twilight, stand at attention," she ordered, glancing down and gesturing to the empty cot.

Twilight nodded and stood over in front of the cot, copying the other ponies. She kept her attention on Luna and did her best to ignore the stares from the other recruits.

Luna turned away and walked the length of the cabin, then back again, her eyes scanning over each pony. Once she arrived back in front of Twilight, she began to talk.

"Welcome, recruits! I am so glad that you have decided to accept my offer and begin advanced training." Closing her eyes, she wandered back up and down the cabin, continuing.

"I have chosen each of you as I saw potential in you. Not all of you will make it through this training, of that, I promise. This is an intensive seven-month course that will break you down and then build you up into ponies capable enough to defend my ponies!"

The ponies stood taller, eager to please their princess and prove their worth. As such, Twilight did the same, eager to prove to Luna that she was worthy of her love.

"You might be wondering why Princess Sparkle is on this ship?" Luna asked, looking around at the various occupants with a grin. "It turns out the Princess isn't the smartest mare in Equestria after all!" she joked, earning a chuckle from the other ponies and a pout from Twilight.

Turning back, Luna made her way over to Twilight and stood there, bearing down at her with that intimidating aura.

"Twilight thinks that Chrysalis, Cozy and Tirek are the worst this world has to offer!" she announced, just as the ship rumbled and lifted off the ground.

The bat ponies didn't seem affected by such movement, but Twilight's legs quivered, and her wings splayed out to try and keep her steady.

"While Twilight can scuffle and shoot magic, she can't fight, not properly."

Luna backed away, allowing Twilight a chance to breathe. She would never admit it, but Twilight found this side of Luna, the focused side, attractive.

"She has had no formal Guard training!" Luna announced, walking back up the cabin. "But I can promise that she is stronger than you."

One of the bat-ponies opposite Twilight snorted, looking her over.

Luna's eyes shot over to the stallion, then closed in on him. "Something to say, private?" she asked, her voice containing a hint of playfulness.

"Ma'am. She looks like a good breeze will break her. I don't want to look after her if she gets mud on her fetlocks."

Twilight looked appalled that he would say such a thing, but kept her mouth shut.

"Very well, Private. You're her partner for any and all duo exercises. I trust this won't be an issue. " Luna said.

She moved to the front of the cabin and took one last look around at Twilight's recruits. Turning to Twilight, she glared down at her. "Hope you enjoy yourself, Private Sparkle."

At that, Luna left the room, leaving Twilight alone with a cabin full of bat-ponies who were all staring at her, and one very annoyed stallion.

"Hi," she mumbled, sheepishly waving a hoof. "It's nice to meet you."

Half an hour later and Twilight was laid on her cot, a frown having formed upon her brow as she thought about what sort of training she would have to do.

’From the way that Luna described it, she would most likely have me fighting whatever comes out of the forest. It wasn’t as if there were any bandits to fight.’

With a sigh, she looked around the room and found that most of the ponies had reformed their small groups, leaving the Princess alone in the corner of the room. Deciding that she would rather not be bored for the whole twelve-hour ride, and actually prove she was the Princess of Friendship, she jumped off her cot and walked over to the nearest group, consisting of three stallions and two mares.

As usual with most of the Bat Ponies, their coats, manes and tails were rather bland with varying shades of brown of dark blue, matching the Alicorn that some of them would inevitably guard.

Nearing the other recruits, Twilight smiled and waved. “Hey there,” she greeted, flicking her eyes around to the ponies who were now looking at her with a confused look.

“Can we help you?” one of the mares asked, giving Twilight the stink-eye.

“Oh, uh, I was just wondering if you would like, you know… be friends?” Twilight asked, beginning to grow nervous at the looks she was receiving.

“Friends,” one of the scoffed, looking her up and down, “with you?”

“Yes?” she whispered, wincing at the scoff.

The ponies rolled their eyes and turned back to each other, ignoring the Princess.

Twilight wasn’t sure what to think. Luna said that she’d need to gain their trust, but she didn’t expect to simply be treated this way. Moving away, she scanned the room to find any pony who didn’t look like they would ignore her.

Across the room stood a pair of ponies who seemed just as awkward as herself. The pair were, what most bat ponies would describe as, rather plain for their race. Well, as plain as a pair of nocturnal, leather-winged ponies could be. From a casual observer, one would assume they were clones. But, at a closer glance it was clear that the two of them had subtle differences that showed that they were, in fact, two different ponies. Both had a dark brown coat, as well as a green, and black, mane and tail. Their eyes were, strangely enough, a light blue, which was not normal for bat-ponies.

Walking over, Twilight gave her warmest smile and waved with her wing. “Hey there!” she greeted, really hoping that these two wouldn’t scoff at her.

“Oh, hello,” one of them, who Twilight guessed was a stallion, replied. He bowed ever so slightly, looking unsure as he looked to the other pony.

“Night, stop it,” the other pony said, which turned out to be a mare. She turned to Twilight and raised a brow. “We only bow to Princess Luna.”

Twilight blinked and let out a soft chuckle. “Is… is that why every pony is acting so hostile to me?” she asked, glancing around. “I’m not looking for bows or to be treated as a Princess here. I’m a private, just like you,” she said, reaching out with a hoof. “I’m Twilight Sparkle, nice to meet you!”

The mare moved her gaze down at the hoof for the longest time, until she reached out and hesitantly shook it. “Terminal Velocity,” she muttered, letting go. She reached back and pulled the stallion forward. “This is my brother, Night Sentry.”

The stallion smiled and quickly took Twilight’s hoof, shaking it eagerly. “It’s nice to meet you, Twilight,” he began, letting out a small laugh. “Don’t mind the other ponies, they’re just a little on edge. They’ve never been so close to Princess Luna before.”

“I guess that makes sense. I’ve never seen her like that before,” Twilight mumbled, finding her cheeks warming up. “Will she,” she cleared her throat, “be like that the whole time?”

“Most likely. I’ve heard that she had several ponies die the last time she trained her Night Guard!”

“Night. You know full well that no pony died,” Terminal stated, smiling at the end. “They’re too dedicated to the Princess to die anyway.”

“I’m sure Twilight would know,” Night said, looking over to her along with his sister.

“Me? Well…” Twilight began, rubbing the back of her neck. “Oh, she’d never let one of her ponies get hurt!” Twilight shared, grinning. “I bet if some pony did get hurt, she’d probably look after them, possibly even cuddle with them until I got better…”

The pair of ponies stared at the Princess with amused looks.

“Uh-huh. Well, I doubt that you’d be cuddling up with the Princess anytime soon,” Terminal said, shaking her head. “I know for a fact that when we arrive, we get to choose our partners. There’s three to a team and well… you can join ours.”

“Really? You’re my first bat-pony friends!” Twilight laughed, clip-clipping her hooves on the floor.

Night smiled warmly as he leaned against his sister, who simply wrapped a leathery wing over his back. “Anyway, there’s three in a team,” he stated, placing a hoof on his sister’s chest. “Terminal is good at flying fast, as per her name,” he explained, moving his hoof to his own chest. “I’m stronger. Though, obviously not as strong as you, Twilight.”

“Well, I’ve learned that I’m not been able to use my strength very effectively. So, if I didn’t have my magic, or healing, I would be useless.”

“Healing?” Terminal asked, confused.

“Alicorns have enhanced healing. We can still feel pain though,” Twilight replied, looking around. Lighting her horn, she magically cut into her hoof, dribbling blood onto the floor, until her flesh healed up almost instantly. “See?”

“Wow!” Night gasped, taking Twilight’s hoof and looking it over. “That’s awesome!”

Terminal rubbed her chin. “I guess you’re our defence. It’s hard to fight two flying ponies with an Alicorn in your face.”

Twilight rolled her eyes and giggled. “Yeah, it is.”

The airship touched down at their destination after only nine hours of flight due to good winds. After circling, the airship had landed in front of the gates to the Guard Training camp.

The camp itself was quite spacious, managing to hold several brick and wood buildings, as well as a large, flat, training space. A thick, steel fence had been erected around the perimeter of the camp to keep the ponies inside safe from any predators that would no doubt be willing to munch on them.

The door opened to the airship's cabin and in strolled Princess Luna, her eyes critically scanning every pony in the room before talking. "We have arrived at Camp McColten. Those who have brought belongings, gather them up quickly and head topside."

With a subtle narrowing of her eyes, Luna left the cabin, leaving the door open.

Twilight climbed down from her cot, feeling slightly put off from the fact Luna didn't really acknowledge her, but shook her head, realising that she was only acting needy.

Taking a deep breath, she waited by the door for Night and Terminal, before heading topside.

The Princess was standing off to the side of the deck as a small group of Pegasi and Bat ponies swooped overhead, looking for any threats to their Princess.

The recruits lined up in a row behind Luna, with Twilight and the pair falling in line near to the end. While each of them stood there with their chests puffed out, trying to impress the Princess of the Night, Luna was gazing out into the forest, a smirk on her face.

Turning around, Luna inspected the ponies which had pledged themselves to her, as well as Twilight, with a piercing glare, before beginning to walk up and down the line.

"When you walk off this ship, you belong to me!" she stated, putting emphasis while she passed Twilight, making the younger Princess's cheeks flush. Turning around, Luna walked down to the other end. "Now. I saw that most of you had already formed groups. You will stay in these groups for the entirety of your training. These ponies will be your friends and you should rely on them for support."

Returning to the side of the ship, she continued, while a well-groomed stallion, with a pure black mane, and tail trotted up the boarding plank; a tight sash around his front with Luna's insignia.

"Stealth will take you down to the barracks. I recommend that you share bunks close to your group."

Giving Luna a low bow, the pony then turned to the recruits. "Follow," he ordered, walking back down the boarding plank.

It didn't take Twilight long to get into the rhythm of waking up at dinner and going to sleep at sunrise; The long nights reading, and stargazing, felt like it was simply preparation for her training. The main thing that Twilight was having trouble with was the training itself.

One week had passed and her entire body ached, from the tip of her horn to the bottom of her tail. She didn't even know her tail could ache, but Luna had managed it, even giving Twilight extra training sessions. Yet, she had another day of training, and her group were ordered to go out and fetch a flag which one of the other groups had placed, only armed with a map of the local area and a compass. The group had given a set of clues to help them find the flag, but nothing more.

Trudging along the underbrush, Twilight had to basically force herself through, nettles and vines gripping and scratching at her body. "Come on!" she growled, finding her tail caught in a knot around a particularly twisted vine.

The sun had long since passed below the horizon, providing no defence from the various, nocturnal and very hungry creatures who called the forest home. While not as foreboding as the Everfree Forest, which felt more alien, what with its unmovable and often chaotic weather, the Forsaken Forest still brought a cold shiver to Twilight as she quickly flicked her eyes about, trying to find her group.

"N- Night?" she called out in a hushed tone, only to cry out and as the stallion popped up next to her.

"Yeah?" he asked, grinning. "You alright?" he asked, glancing back at her tail, which was still tangled up. "Here," he giggled, reaching over and snapping the vine.

"Thank you," she muttered, finding her breath and pulling her frayed tail around herself to inspect the damage. "It's such a pain without my magic."

"I doubt the Princess would have done it to annoy you," he replied, glancing up at the magic inhibitor around Twilight's horn. "I'm sure you won't always have your magic when you protect the Princess."

Twilight froze for a second, before realising that he was probably talking about her being a recruit. "Oh," she laughed, nodding. "Yeah, I guess so. Though, Luna can protect herself perfectly fine."

Frowning for a second upon hearing Twilight talk about the Princess with her title, he shrugged. "I guess so. But it's our job to make sure it doesn't come to that!" he said, looking proud. Glancing up, Night pulled back and tensed.

Suddenly, Terminal hit the ground between the pair, dousing the pair in mud and dirt. "Come on, slowpokes," she groaned, though less so than normal. "I would love to get back to camp before morning. It's a night off tomorrow and some of the recruits managed to get some alcohol sent in!"

"Oh? I thought Luna said that wasn't allowed?" Twilight wondered, tilting her head.

"Please. Who do you think authorised it?"

"Wait, really?!"

"Yup! She said it would be good for moral or something. What with some of the groups doing less than stellar during their first week," Terminal explained, giggling. "Now come on. Let's find this flag and go back. Even we would freeze our rump off during the night."

Twilight giggled at that and nodded. "Do you have any idea of which way to go, oh glorious leader?" she quipped, fluttering her wings for warmth.


"What was the clue?" Night asked, nudging his sister. "Or have you forgotten already?"

"I know it!" she growled, frowning at him. "I just, uh... a refresher might be good."

Twilight sighed and scanned around them, looking for anything that might want to eat them. With a satisfied nod, she turned back to the pair. "We'll find the flag at the longest night, where the earth hugs the moon."

"What the buck does that even mean?!" Terminal groaned.

Twilight tapped her chin, looking down into the mud in thought. "Well," she muttered, looking back up. "I would suspect that 'where the earth hugs the moon' would imply somewhere high."

"Oh," Terminal mumbled, rubbing her leg as she looked away in embarrassment.

"It's okay, sis. I know that thinking is hard for you," Night teased, patting her head and jumping back to evade a swipe of a hoof.

Ignoring the bickering siblings, Twilight flared her wings and shot up into the sky to survey the local area. Circling, she took in the local area and found herself admiring the strange beauty of the forest. To her, it seemed like the forest simply expanded forever, ever flowing over the landscape and swallowing the world whole. Various spires of rock pierced through the canopy to dominate the skyline, but one stood out among the rest, with a curved, horseshoe tip, that wrapped around into itself.

Twilight's eyes widened and she dove back down, hitting the ground and grinning. "Found it!" she giggled, rolling her eyes. "The other group really didn't try hard, apparently."

"Oh, perfect! I'm freezing my rump off," Terminal groaned. "Please, lead the way."

"Alright, come on," Twilight nodded, shaking her head at the pony. "You'll have to get used to it eventually, Terminal."

"I'll get used to it when Princess Luna retires," she chattered.

"I thought bat ponies were like Pegasi?"

"Mostly," Night interjected. "But Termy here is an exception," he teased, grinning. "She's always been a hard-rump."

"Careful," she grumbled, glaring daggers at him.

Giggling, Twilight flapped her wings and took off towards the sky with the pair following soon after. The Princess took a second to appreciate Luna's masterpiece, before looping over herself and slowing to a flow glide towards the spire.

She couldn't help but calm at the feeling of the air flowing through her feathers. It was as if the weight of the world simply melted away and she didn't have the responsibility of saving two Princesses from certain doom.

Despite the fact that both of them were alive, which reassured her that she would succeed, Twilight still felt like she could screw up at any second, as she had learned with those guards. Nothing was guaranteed when time was involved.

'I really hope Starlight gets something fixed up,' she thought, worry filling her.

The flight over to the spire only took a few minutes. The group landed on a semi-circular rocky outcrop, which led into a darkened cave. The sides of the outcrop had been cleanly sheared off, with a several hundred hoof fall on all sides, leading to the forest below.

Twilight frowned and raised a wing. "Wait," she whispered, glancing back to them both. Remembering her lesson on wing gestures, Twilight lowered herself to the ground and flicked her feathers, signalling for them to split up and circle around either side of the outcrop.

Creeping up to the mouth of the cave, Twilight narrowed her eyes, her wings twitching in agitation. Something about this was too easy; it smelled of a trap.

Raising her wing again to stop the others, she moved forwards, rocks and dirt crunching underhoof as she entered the mouth of the cave.

Night and Terminal waited, watching as Twilight disappeared from view, only to come flying out of the cave and scraping across the ground, coming to a stop just before the edge of the forest.

"Ugh," Twilight coughed, then raised her head to watch as a giant, scar-covered serpent slithered out the cave after her.

Rising to her hooves, she let out a huff and rolled her wings. "I knew it was too easy," she grunted, feeling a mild discomfort along her left side.

Night backed up, shock evident in his face. The serpent easily towered over him. "Twilight! What do we do?!" he cried, quivering in fear as it turned to look at him.

Terminal cried out as she galloped towards the beast, using her wings to propel her forward, before turning and thrusting her back legs out to buck at the serpent’s thick hide, denting it!

With a hiss, the beast turned, pulled back and snapped at the mare. Unfortunately for it, she was fast enough and flapped her wings to get out of range as its jaws came down with a crash.

"Bucking hell!" she yelped, flapping chaotically as she circled and lowered herself down next to her brother. "You alright?"

Night nodded, swallowing nervously. "Y-Yeah,” he stuttered, “just a little surprised."

Twilight watched as the snake slithered around to face the three ponies. Her eyes were drawn to its face, where one of its eyes were glazed over, with a scar running across it.

"It's eyes!" she shouted, flaring her wings and launching into the air. "It's blind in its right eye!"

Swooping down, the mare hit the snake across its head with a hoof, finding it as hard as rock and wincing as a jolt of pain blasted up her leg.

The siblings charged its front, keeping to the snake's blind side as Twilight distracted it from above. At the very last second, they turned and bucked the snake’s belly, shattering its scales.

With a hiss, the snake brought its tail around to hit the pair with the force of a chariot, throwing them against the rock wall.

The pair fell down in a heap, with only Night shakily rising up. He whimpered as he turned to face the beast, putting himself between his unconscious sister and it, flaring his wings with a growl.

The beat pulled back and lunged at the pony with its fangs outstretched. Twilight cried out as she shot across the outcrop and directly into the side of the snake's head with her horn.

Twilight's horn struck the snake and pierced its iron hide, sinking deep into its flesh as it was pushed aside, kissing Night Sentry.

The snake crashed headfirst into the rock wall and thrashed about, its body slamming into the ground to remove Twilight from its head!

Twilight felt herself impact against the ground once, twice, then a third time until her horn came loose, and she was thrown deep into the cave.

The snake snarled and hissed as it tumbled over the edge, falling into the forest below. Just as it hit the canopy, its body burst into glittering stars and floated up into the night sky to re-join the others.

Coughing, Twilight limped out of the cave and over to Night. Her right wing was dislocated, hanging limply by her side, her face held a long cut, just above her left eye and her horn contained a large fracture running along it's spiral, up to the tip.

"How is she?" she asked, lowering herself to the cold dirt to check the mare out, concern evident on her face as she scanned the unconscious Terminal.

"She will be fine, Private," Luna stated, appearing in a flash of light off to the side of the outcrop. Walking over, she smiled down at the ponies, giving Twilight a warmer smile.

"Princess!" Night gasped, bowing.

Glancing back, Twilight pulled herself to her hooves and bowed, a smile appearing on her face, until she felt Luna's magic stop her.

"You are in no state to bow," Luna said, staring down at her. Quickly passing both ponies, she pressed her horn to Terminal's forehead and the mare disappeared in a flash of light. "She'll be treated back at camp."

Twilight looked around, then asked, "Princess, were you watching?"

"Of course, I was. This was a test after all," Luna replied, glancing between them. "One which you were not supposed to pass. Though, it's also one you're not supposed to tackle. Every other group had the intelligence to run away, but we both know that you don’t really think all the time; isn't that right, Twilight?"

The mare in question looked down, confused. She already feel her forehead, and horn, healing, even as they talked.

Luna continued, turning to Night. "I must speak to Twilight privately. I will send you back to the camp. Please get checked over by the medics."

"Yes, ma'am!" he saluted, flashing away and leaving only Twilight and Luna.

Looking up at Luna, Twilight rolled her withers and winced. "It doesn't get easier, does it?" she asked.

Luna moved to Twilight's side and took her wing in her magic. "Of course, it doesn't. When you go back to Canterlot and take over missions, you can't simply throw yourself in harm’s way. You will have guards and ponies that care for you!" Luna chided, twisting her magic and popping Twilight's wing back into its socket.

Twilight cried out in pain, then glared back at Luna. "Could have warned me!" she hissed, flicking her tail against the Princess.

Rolling her eyes, Luna moved back over. "And you could have not hurt yourself so much.”

It only took a second for Twilight to look away, her cheeks warming. "Giant snake?" she muttered, scuffing the ground with her hoof. "It's a bit strange this high up in the freezing cold."

"It works," Luna replied, shrugging. "No pony thinks logically when facing death. Surely you have noticed? Our little ponies aren't exactly predators. They're more likely to freeze than run or attack.

"That needs to be trained out of them. For some unknown reason, my sister doesn't train her guards in this way. It's a miracle that Equestria stood for a thousand years without me."

"Well, there's not many that can stand against her, at least without some magical artefact that can improve their power tenfold, or Tirek, or Chrysalis, or..." Twilight trailed off, grimacing.

"Or Nightmare Moon?" Luna said, raising a brow down at Twilight while she circled her. That same predatory gaze appeared across her face once again, causing the fur on the back of Twilight's neck to stand up.

"Yes, her."

"Our sister worries for our subjects. She worries she might hurt them if she were to unleash her true power. It leads to indecision, which leads to ponies getting hurt."

"I," Twilight started, not feeling comfortable. She changed the subject, rolling her aching wing. "You said no group passed, right?"

"I said no group tackled the challenge, which was the true criteria. But, all of you showed exceptional bravery," Luna said, wandering over to the edge. "For that, all of your group may ask one thing of me, each. Depending on it, I may or may not allow it."

Twilight blinked, not expecting that. "Oh, uh," she stammered, not sure what to reply with.

"You may save it, if you wish. But please use it before your training is up. It would be wasted otherwise."

"I'll think on what I'll want, Princess," Twilight replied, bowing.

"So be it, Private Sparkle."

By the end of month three, the weight that Twilight had gained from working as a librarian had gone. Despite most Unicorns, and some Earth ponies, having some sort of barrel weight as a side effect of their mostly sedentary lifestyle, it was never truly noticeable unless one were to specifically go looking for it.

Yet, as the month was beginning to close, Twilight felt better than ever. She had more energy to actually train with and, if she were to be honest, she felt more attractive and confident.

It still wouldn't be enough for her to simply take Luna as her own, as she'd blush horribly whenever Luna would order about, but it was enough for her to eagerly await that day where she would let herself into Luna's tent, push the mare up against her table and take her.

Twilight squirmed in her bunk, a hot flush rising to her cheeks as she imagined it, just like she had done for the past seventy days.

The recruits were all bunked together in a single floored building built off to the side of the camp. The interior was a spacious, but simple design of semi-spaced bunk beds, each with a chest and locker for personal belongings.

Twilight squirmed deeper into her covers, held them tight and chewed on her lip as she held back a giggle.

'Stop it, Twilight. You're acting like a schoolfilly' she warned. 'Some of them already think you're weird.'

Glancing around the bright room, Twilight finally stopped and rolled over onto her back. She couldn't help but think of Luna, she was only across the camp, but she may as well have been on the other side of the cosmos.

It wasn't as if she didn't want to sweep her off her hooves, but she was just so intimidating and intense. Not that Twilight minded, it only made Luna so much more alluring; a side to the prankster sister that she had never seen before.

It wasn't long until Twilight had fallen asleep, the previous night's training had tired her out, like normal, but her thoughts had kept her away from her dreams for at least a few hours.

It felt like one second Twilight closed her eyes with the room bright and cheerful, and the next she was opening them to a dark and dreary night.

Thankfully, for Twilight and the rest of the recruits, Luna had allowed them one night off to relax, considering it was halfway through their training. Unfortunately for Twilight, it had been drilled into her that she should now rise when the moon did.

As such, she stumbled out of the barracks, rubbing her eyes and letting out a soft yawn from the four hours of sleep she had managed. She blamed her continued existence on being an Alicorn. Any lesser pony would probably have died from four months of low quality, low quantity sleep.

Looking around the camp, Twilight made her way towards where the other ponies in her squad would normally socialise when not training.

Walking over, Twilight could see that Night Sentry and Terminal Velocity, were sitting there chatting. Taking a seat, Twilight gave then a tired, but cheery smile.

"Oh, Twilight. We didn't know when you'd be awake," Terminal began, giggling as she spoke, "you always look so tired, so we didn't want to wake you."

"Thanks, you two. I appreciate that..." she sighed, rubbing her eyes again as she stretched her wings out, her feathers fluttering slightly.

Frowning, Twilight unfurled her left wing and leaned down, using her muzzle to nudge each feather until she found the one that wasn't sitting right. It only took ten seconds, but Twilight's annoyance was reaching bursting point. Once the feather was found, she used her magic to slide one of her primaries out of her wing.

As soon as it came free, Twilight melted in relief, much to the amusement of the ponies sitting opposite her.

"You okay, Twi?" Night asked, a smirk on his face. "Do you need a minute to yourself?"

Twilight blinked and looked over, unsure what he meant, until her gave her a deadpan look. Quickly it became clear and she frowned at him. "The feather was at an angle!" she huffed, rolling her eyes, then shaking her head. "Stallions."

Laughing, Terminal reached down and grabbed a sticker less bottle of what looked to be cider from beside her, then passed it to Twilight.

"What's this?" she asked, looking down at it warily, as if it would get her in trouble.

"Cider, what do you think it is?" Night replied, grinning.

"Oh, I don't know, paint thinner?" Twilight mumbled, unscrewing the cap and sniffing the liquid. With a gag, she turned away. "What the buck!"

The pair were once more laughing, gaining the attention of a few ponies here and there. "I think it's time the Princess of Friendship let's her mane down!"

"Oh no. I don't think so," she disagreed, shaking her head and going to stand up.

A chorus of disappointment echoed through the camp and Twilight looked about to see all fourteen of the remaining ponies standing there, waiting for her to drink.

Looking around, Twilight let out a groan. "If I do this, you'll have to look after me. I'm a lightweight."

"Don't worry about it!" one of the bat ponies shouted, eliciting a laugh from every pony else, except the Princess.

"Fine!" she huffed, rolling her eyes and bringing the bottle up to her lips.

As soon as the liquid touched her lips, every cell in her body cried out for her to stop, but the Princess was stubborn, much more so than many would know.

She opened her lips and allowed, what she imagined to be, the paint-thinner into her mouth. Her tongue burnt and her eyes watered, but that faded quickly; most likely due to those cells actually dying.

Every pony watched on, unable to look away as the two-hundred- and twenty-pound Princess chugged the whole bottle.

Pulling the bottle away from her lips with a pop, Twilight inhaled quickly and held her stomach, groaning.

"What the buck was that?!"

"Uh," Night began, finding the other bat ponies around him had scattered, leaving him to deal with her. "Pure ethanol..."

Twilight's eyes shot open. "Are you trying to kill me?!" she cried, rising to her hooves, only to fall forwards onto her face with a thump.

Pushing herself to her hooves, she could already begin to feel the ethanol circulating through her system, her vision beginning to shake and double.

Night winced and jumped off of the bench, only to move over and hold Twilight up. “I’m sorry- I didn’t expect you to actually drink it all!”

“I… I’ll be okay,” Twilight grumbled.

Her wings drooped low as she found it harder to think. While she would be okay- her alicorn physiology filtering it out after a good night- the mare’s head was spinning.

“If you’re sure, Twi…” Night mumbled, gently moving her over to the bench and sitting her down.

“I,” she paused, feeling herself grow lightheaded. “On second thought, I’ll need to lay down.”

Rolling her eyes, Terminal pushed off her bench and took hold of Twilight. “I’ll take her, Night,” she said, beginning the walk towards the infirmary.

Once they were out of sight, Terminal shook her head and glared at Twilight. “That was stupid, you know. It’s a good thing you can heal,” she hissed, letting Twilight lean on her.

“It’s not that bad!” Twilight replied, her speech growing slurred. Her wings had already drooped and were dragging through the dirt; if she noticed, Twilight didn’t move to change it.

Terminal gave Twilight a deadpan look and slid out from her side and simply watched at Twilight slumped to the ground, letting out a pained groan. “Not that bad, huh?” she asked, sighing.


“At least tell me why you drank the whole bottle? That’s definitely not like you, Twi,” she asked, worry evident as she picked Twilight up with a hoof, then slid under her to heave the Princess on her back. “Don’t vomit on me, or I’ll leave you in the forest.”

Twilight couldn’t think right as she wrapped her legs around Terminal’s neck, holding on tight; as if she would fall to her death. Nuzzling into the mare’s mane, she closed her eyes and felt a little better.

“I,” she mumbled, her hooves quivering. “I love the Princess.”

Even with Twilight’s mumbling, Terminal could hear her clear as day and slowed to a crawl just outside of the infirmary. “Does she know?” she asked, looking around and only finding a few ponies wandering towards the centre of the camp, easily out of earshot.


“You should tell her,” she continued, her tone uncharacteristically soft. “I would have thought you would have already, considering the looks the pair of you give each other.”

Twilight slumped off the side and hit the dirt with a heavy thump, before picking herself up. The headache was worsened, but she could already feel the worst effects start to ebb away.

“I can’t,” Twilight whispered, looking around. “I mean, I want to, but it’s just- ugh!” she huffed, kicking the dirt.

“Look, Twilight. It’s easy. You go up to her, use that gift that you’ve obviously been saving for this and ask for a kiss,” Terminal stated, as if it was obvious. “Easy. Though, I’d probably suggest that you keep it a secret from the other Privates. Jealousy is a nasty thing.”

Twilight chewed her bottom lip, still tipsy enough to figure it was a good idea to simply burst into Luna’s room and kiss her. She found her heart fluttering at the thought and nodded. “N-Now?”

“No, later,” Terminal huffed, rolling her eyes, “of course now. Gosh, for a mare that’s supposed to be smart, you don’t know a lot about the Princess.”

Pouting, Twilight grumbled, then squeaked as Terminal wrapped a leg around her neck. “It’s obvious that the Princess wants a strong pony to claim her!” she laughed, grinning.

Twilight frowned at the mare, then slipped out of her grip, her cheeks burning. “Alright, I get it… I’m going.”

Turning towards the Command Centre, Twilight broke away from the laughing Terminal and stumbled her way over towards the mare that she wanted more than anything.

Nearing the Command Centre, she slowed and glanced around to find any pony which might watch her. With a relieved sigh, she snuck up to the door and used her magic to turn the handle slowly, but found it locked tight.

With a huff, she frowned in thought and just as she was about to cast a teleport spell, Luna wandered up behind her.

“May I help you, Private Sparkle?” she asked, staring down at her.

Twilight yelped and spun around to face the Princess, her eyes wide with shock and her chest heaving. “L-Luna!”


“I- uh,” she squeaked, biting her lip. Swallowing her nerves, Twilight peeled herself from the door and rubbed her leg anxiously. “I know what I want!” she stated, slightly a little too loud. She wasn’t quite as sober as she would have liked.

Raising her brow, Luna hummed and took a step forward towards the young Princess and leaned down. “Oh? Pray tell. What do you wish from me, Private?”

“I want,” she began, finding herself drawn to those cyan orbs. “I want you to kiss me,” she ordered, forcefully. Despite the fact her cheeks were a healthy shade of red and her wings were rustling by her sides, she kept her stare; though it was starting to waver.

Luna blinked and pulled herself back up, her quizzical gaze turning into a slight frown. Closing her eyes, Luna’s horn glowed a bright white before the world disappeared in a flash of light!

The two of them reappeared with a whip-crack, on top of a nearby hill that overlooked the camp, set with a single tree growing behind them. A gentle breeze flowed past them, filling the air with the hint of lilacs.

Twilight shook her head to remove the stars, then squeaked when she found Luna watching her once again.

“You wanted to kiss me, didn’t you?” she asked, no hint of amusement. “What makes you think I’d give you such a reward?”

Twilight stared at her for a few seconds, then rubbed her neck. “Because I know you want to as well. Otherwise you wouldn’t have teased me so much.”

“Maybe I did that because you’re so easy to embarrass?”

’This is it. No turning back now,’ Twilight thought, giggling. “Any other pony mayhap, but I know the real reason,” she snickered as she began to circle the Princess.

“Pray tell! I wish to hear this,” deadpanned Luna, following the mare with her eyes, uncertainty beginning to ooze through. “I assure you that my sister has filled your he-“

“I’m sorry,” Twilight apologized, having stopped in front of the Princess.

“For what?” Luna asked, narrowing her eyes.

“For forcing you to wait for your Moonlight.”

Twilight saw a mixture of emotions run through Luna; confusion, anger, surprise, then relief.

“My Moonlight?” Luna asked, tentatively nearing Twilight and reaching out with her hoof. Just before the cold touch of Luna’s horse-boot met her cheek, Luna’s magic flicked it away.

Upon feeling Luna’s touch, Twilight leaned into it and closed her eyes. She brought her hoof up and held it there as she smiled. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, kissing the flat of Luna’s hoof. “I’m sorry.”

Luna bit her lip and whimpered, beginning to break down as tears began to appear in her eyes. “When?” she sniffled, “When did you go back?”

Finding herself begin to crack, Twilight opened her eyes but held tight onto Luna’s grip. “The day after I asked you about growing up,” she answered, looking down and sighing. “I didn’t know how to broach the subject with you or your sister.”

Luna tore her hoof away and took a step back. “You took this long to tell me,” she snorted, turning away. “But what hurts more is that you told my sister, then took her on a date!” she spat.

Twilight winced and took a step back. “It wasn’t like that, I didn’t-“

“Like what, Twilight? Like you so obviously favor my sister more than me?!” she snapped, turning back to the mare and narrowing her eyes. “I waited for you!”

“I kno-“

“No, you don’t!” scoffed Luna, stomping the ground and flaring her wings. “One thousand years without you!” Letting out a choked sob, Luna averted her gaze and continued, her anger building. “You said you’d be back!”

Twilight backed off as Luna focused on her once more, then found her rump hit the tree behind her. Pulling herself back against the tree, she looked away and closed her eyes, then let out a cry as Luna’s hooves collided with the tree around her.

Quivering with fear, Twilight felt Luna’s touch. Hesitantly opening her eyes, she saw Luna’s muzzle pressed against her neck; the Princess’s hooves having trapped her against the tree.

Gazing down at the sobbing Princess, Twilight brought her hooves down and pulled the tiara off of her head, then threw it on the ground, before leaning down and kissing her head. “I’m sorry,” she cooed, brushing her Princess’s mane gently.

“My own Moonlight left me,” Luna sighed, rubbing herself against the matted, damp fur. “You were the first pony I saw when I came back. But you didn’t know me. I was forced to wait even longer for you.”

Pulling away, she backed off then turned around. “I love you, Twilight Sparkle, but you hurt me."

Twilight’s eyes widened at those words. “Luna…” she gasped, rushing around to the Princess’s front. Seeing Luna’s tear streaked face, Twilight could feel her heart breaking, thus she simply decided to lay it all out.

“You’re completely right, Luna. I bucked up,” she admitted, looking down. “I had idolized your sister for so long that I didn’t even think about how it would affect you.” Sitting down, she dragged her hoof across the grass, unable to look at the Princess. “For months I had been neglecting your feelings because I was too lovestruck to see how I hurt you.”

Luna stared down at Twilight, a hint of anger still evident, but most of it had simply melted away into annoyance. “You cut me deeply, Twilight,” she sighed, rubbing her tears away with her leg. “I’m not angry about you taking my sister on a date, I’m happy for that. What I’m angry about is that you didn’t tell me that you had gone back."

"I don't have any excuse. It was careless of me and I got too caught up in my own fantasies."

"I have to think. Go back to camp and leave me with my thoughts," Luna ordered, tearing her gaze away from the mare and up to her own moon.

Twilight sighed, feeling dejected, but nodded. "Of course, Princess."

Just as Twilight flared her horn to teleport, she closed her eyes and said, "I love you too, Luna."

Appearing back in the barracks, Twilight rushed over to her bed and began to cry into her pillow, her hooves hitting the mattress over and over.

The barracks were only sparsely populated, what with the majority of the recruits out in training, leaving Twilight, Terminal, who was laying up on her hunk above Twilight's, and a few other ponies off on the other side of the room.

Terminal peeked over the edge of her bed and upon only seeing Twilight's tail, jumped off. She saw Twilight crying and grimaced.

"Hey, Twi..." she muttered, sitting on the edge of the bed and gently stroking her mane. "Didn't go well, I take it?"

Twilight didn't reply at first, only continuing to sob into her pillow, until she pulled herself up and latched onto Terminal, pulling her over and hugging her.

"L-Luna hates me!" she cried, her body being wracked with sobs. "I ruined it with her!"

Terminal tensed up, but let the mare tire herself out upon her. "I'm sure it will be alright eventually. What exactly happened?" she asked, hesitantly.

Twilight recounted her interaction with Luna, not caring if the mare knew about her time-travel tirades, leaving out the part where she'd take over Night Court. At the end, she burst back into tears and hid her face in the crook of Terminal's neck, much to the pony's annoyance.

Sighing, Terminal pulled the Alicorn away from herself and stared her dead in the eyes. "It sounds like the Princess didn't reject you, Twilight," she explained, rolling her eyes. "Are these the first ponies you've dated?"

A quick, embarrassed, nod was all she needed to know.

"Of course, it is..." she mumbled under her breath. "Look, while we practically worship the Princess, at the end of the night, she's still a mare; one that you hurt. It will take her some time to forgive you, but if what you said was true, she loves you, she just doesn't like you very much right now."

Twilight sniffled and frowned in thought. "Can you teach me?" she asked, perking up a little.

"Wait, what?"

"Teach me!" Twilight repeated, grinning. "You said it yourself, the Princess is a mare. Teach me how to keep a mare happy!"

Terminal ran a hoof down her face and groaned. "Why did I get put with the idiot..."

Twilight groaned as she rolled out of bed, the break of evening having woken her up several minutes before every pony else. She arched her back, felt her spine 'pop in several places and let out a low purr with a relaxed smile.

Opening up her wings, she began preening, having grown jealous of the bat ponies for not having to preen each evening.

Still, her thoughts drifted back to Luna, just like it did each evening and morning. Even after two months, the Princess still seemed to be annoyed at her and Twilight was starting to believe that she had lost the Princess for good.

Even worse was that Luna, the evening after their fight, had started to steadily raise Twilight's training routine, pushing her harder and harder while including her group in several dangerous training exercises.

Twilight, finding herself the only one awake, took the opportunity to sneak into the bathroom and use the shower. Coming back out, she dried herself and sat on the edge of her bed, staring into nothing as she simply let herself relax and count down the seconds until her eternity was up.

After a short while, she sighed and pushed off the bed, walking over to the door. Exiting, she covered her eyes and made her way toward the mess hall to find something to eat. Quickly entering, Twilight found Night sitting at a table, alone, eating his breakfast.

Walking over, the stallion smiled and wiped his mouth with a napkin. "Good evening, Twilight. You're up early?"

"Yeah, I had a hard time sleeping," she replied, sitting down opposite him. "It's always like this before visiting day."

"Same. I have my father coming up," Night sighed, shrugging.

"You don't seem very happy about it?"

"I am... mostly. He's just very expectant. Like I can't impress him, you know?" Night shook his head. "Terminal was always the one that took charge. I can just fly well."

"Night; you know that's not true," Twilight said, frowning. "I really shouldn't have to tell you this, but you're a great soldier. If your Father can't see that, then it's his loss."

Night smiled as he looked down at his plate. "Thanks, Twilight. I doubt he'll change any time soon. Even knowing I'm in a group with a Princess won't really help much."

"Some ponies are just stubborn like that," she shrugged. "I'm sure he loves you though."

"I guess," mumbled Night, before looking over to her. "Who have you got visiting this time?"

"Oh, Princess Celestia is coming up, so that should be fun," Twilight answered, rolling her eyes. "I'll prepare for another one hundred laps in the morning," she grumbled.

"Hey, at least she isn't making you do any more wing-lifts, right? Those are hard, even for the Wonderbolts!"

"I guess. I just-" she started, letting out a dejected sigh. "It's been two months and she still won't even talk to me in private.”

“I guess ‘taking some time’ means a lot longer for some pony as long lived as her, or you someday?”

Twilight froze, leaned over the table and buried her face within her forelegs to groan. “I’m so stupid!”

“No, you’re not; you’re in love,” Night giggled, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, I should really iron my suit. I’m sure that’s one thing that Father would scoff at, if left unchecked.” Rising up, he rushed over to the rubbish bin and dumped the rest of his food, before returning and placing a hoof on her shoulder. “It’ll be okay, Twilight. I doubt any pony could stay mad at you forever!” Hearing a muffled grunt from the Princess, Night left Twilight alone to her thoughts, as well as a rumbling stomach.

“Fine, fine…” Twilight grumbled, pulling herself up and collecting some food.

After roughly an hour, she wandered out of the Mess Hall upon hearing the engine of an approaching airship. Flaring her wings, she shot off into the sky to try and get a better look at the ship. It seemed that the majority of the camp had the same idea and had joined her in showing the occupants of the airship a warm welcome.

Stood upon the upper deck of the airship, looking out upon the camp as they circled, was a selection of ponies, among which stood Princess Celestia, as well as Shining Armour standing next to her.

Twilight gasped and fluttered over to the clearing where the airship would land and folded her wings up as she neared the descending ship. “Shining?!” she called out, hearing him call back.

“Twily?” Shining shouted back, leaning over the railing.

Once the ship had fully landed and the boarding plank had been lowered, Shining rushed down and towards his sister, his golden armour clattering about him. Meeting Twilight, he pulled her into a tight hug and squeezed the Alicorn.

Twilight let out a grunt and squeezed back. “Celestia didn’t say you were coming.”

Pulling away and gently nuzzling Twilight’s cheek, he nodded. “I was in Canterlot for diplomatic relations and the Princess told me what you’re up to here. Why didn’t you tell any pony?”

Twilight rubbed her leg and shrugged. “It must have slipped my mind,” she mumbled, feeling déjà vu. “Sorry.”

Sighing, Shining shook his head and glanced back to see Celestia making her way down the ramp. “Honestly, I guess I deserved payback for not telling you about the wedding,” he laughed. “I’m impressed that you would do this, squirt. Takes a lot to train with the Night Guard, even I wouldn’t do it.”

“That’s because you don’t have wings, remember?” she pointed out, poking his side with magic while giggling.

“How have you been, Twilight?” Celestia asked, now standing beside Shining and smiling down at Twilight. “Luna sends me reports every so often, but they’re so clinical. It’s unlike her.”

Twilight averted her eyes, which caused the other two to glance at each other. “I’ve been well enough. She tends to keep me training most of the time, but it’s been tougher lately as she keeps my magic inhibitor on a low setting making my magic more muted; I have to actually push myself to keep up.”

Watching the other ponies wander around and meet up with their families, Celestia placed a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder and gestured to the camp. “Shall we find somewhere to talk?” Looking towards Shining, she continued, “If you would give us a minute, Shining Armour. I’m sure my sister would love to talk training regiments with you.”

Shining nodded. “Sure. I’ll be in the Command Centre if you need me. Don’t take too long,” he said, giving Twilight a hug and trotting off into the camp.

Once out of earshot, Celestia turned back to Twilight and asked, “What happened with Luna?” While she listened, the mare used a wing to guide Twilight towards the outskirts of the camp, slowly wandering around where no pony would follow.

“I, uh-“

“Our Moon. She’s my sister. I know when something is bothering her, especially through paperwork.”

“I told her, about when I went back. She was angry and has been pushing me harder and harder since,” Twilight explained, kicking the dirt. “I… I didn’t think of what our date would do to her, especially since she was showing me signs that I was too dense to see.”

“If you haven’t noticed, Luna is much more emotional than I am,” Celestia mentioned, laughing. “It isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it makes her a better warrior than I could ever be. Unfortunately, she doesn’t like ponies helping her and would simply rather bottle it up.”

“What do I do?” Twilight asked, staring up at her. “It’s been two months since I told her.”

“Time, for us, is different than for a mortal being, Twilight,” Celestia said, stopping and keeping her wing resting on Twilight’s back. “They only last a short time in this realm then pass on. We don’t have that release. Each day is the rest of our lives and that forces us to think long term. Luna is probably thinking long term still and you’re thinking like a mortal. You’ll have to talk to her again and force her to think.”

“That’s… really bleak, ‘Tia,” Twilight shuddered, looking uncomfortable. “Do you think about it often?”

“About what?”


“All the time. Two thousand years felt like forever but turned to dust in a blink of an eye. I didn’t even notice until you brought my sister back. It’s bleak, but I have you and Luna to brighten it.” Celestia leaned down, nuzzled Twilight, then pressed their lips together, kissing her.

Twilight relaxed and pressed back for a few seconds, enjoying herself until she pulled away. “Alright. I’ll go talk to her,” she sighed. “But for now, I lost weight!”

“I can see that,” Celestia giggled, brushing her hoof along Twilight’s leg, then moving it up to her barrel, “and you’ve grown a few inches,” she purred, nuzzling her cheek.

After a session of light snuggling, Twilight and Celestia had made their way over to the Command Centre. There were plenty of looks, especially with Celestia’s wing wrapped tight around Twilight’s barrel, but if they bothered the pair, they didn’t show it.

Standing outside the centre, Twilight looked up at the other Alicorn with a nervous look. “I’ll have to spend some time with Shining Armour after this, but can we meet up after?” she asked, wrapping a leg around Celestia’s. “I’ve missed you.”

“Of course, Twilight, I would love that,” Celestia said, nodding as she leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Now go and make up with Luna. I’ll spend some time exploring the forest.”

With a sigh, Twilight nodded and let go of the mare. Trotting into the Command Centre, she made sure to close the door behind her and looked around the, brightly lit, map room which she found herself in.

A central desk upon which sat stacks of documents, as well as a map of the area, several locations marked. A door off to the side lead into Luna’s office, in which Shining could be heard talking with Luna.

Nearing the door, Twilight hesitated as she reached out with her magic, then took a deep breath and knocked on the door. A deep onyx glow appeared around the handle and the door opened, to reveal the pair. Luna sat in a high-top chair, while Shining stood off to the side, a worried expression across his face.

Luna’s office was dimly lit, to be expected, with only a candle flickering off to the side of the desk that the Alicorn was sat behind. Stacks of papers and records were scattered around, along with several mugs of cold, half-drunk coffee.

“Private Sparkle,” Luna muttered, using her magic to tidy her desk quickly, earning a look from Shining. “May I ask what brings you here?”

Moving inside the office, Twilight could feel the darkness start to encroach on her, and without Luna’s smile, it wasn’t as comforting as it should be. Looking from her brother to Luna, she cleared her throat.

“I, uh, wan- would like to speak to you, in private, Princess,” she asked, finding her brother looking rather confused at her behaviour.

“Denied, Sparkle. Leave,” Luna stated, gesturing to the door.

Twilight stood there, not having expected that at all, her mouth flapping.

Shining turned to Luna, shock evident. “Princess?”

“Yes, Prince Armour?” she replied, glancing over to him. “Something the matter?”

“I’m sorry, BBBFF,” Twilight muttered. As Shining turned to question her, he was flashed away, on top of the nearby hill.

Luna rose up out of the chair, her wings flared high above her as she glared at Twilight. “Sparkle, what are you doing?” she asked, keeping herself calm.

Using her magic to slam the door closed, Twilight let out a huff and stomped her hoof. “Luna, I’m not leaving until you hear me out!”

Luna stood there, staring at her, a raised brow indicating any reaction to her words.

Taking a breath, Twilight stood up straight and met Luna’s stare. “I love you, Luna,” she began, her voice quivering. “You said you had to ‘think about it’- that was two months ago!” she stressed, closing her eyes and letting her head droop low. “I said I was sorry. I can’t take any more punishment from you.”

“Punishment?” Luna blinked, unsure. “What punishment?”

Twilight wasn’t expecting this reaction and stood there awkwardly. “You, uh- you’ve been giving me more and more training to do since you wanted some time to think about it…” she trailed off, her wings ruffling nervously.

“That wasn’t Punishment, Twilight. That was regular Alicorn training. You would spend years training and not get anywhere with the other pony’s regime,” Luna explained, shaking her head in slight amusement. “And yes, you are right, I needed time to think and process what happened. My sister and I had been talking for some time on other matters relating to the past, which helped me realize that I had been greedy,” she explained, closing in on Twilight, her frown changing into a smile. “I had waited for you, but Celestia didn’t have the luxury of lunacy to keep her from remembering.”

Twilight felt the urge to take a step back as Luna finally stood directly in front of her. Suddenly, Luna’s hoof brushed through her mane, putting her at ease. “Lu-“

“Please, let me,” she interrupted, closing her eyes and inhaling Twilight’s scent; a mixture of sweat and lavender fur-wash. “Yes, you hurt me and no, you didn’t think… but neither did I. I shouldn’t have grown so angry over my sister getting to hold you before me. I was acting like a spoiled filly and for that, Moonlight, I apologize.”

With Luna finished, Twilight stood there, unsure of what to reply with, but she did know how she felt. Without saying a word, she leaned in and hugged Luna, nuzzling up and down her neck, taking in her warmth and feeling two thick, feathery wings wrap around herself, blocking out the world.

“My moonlight,” Luna whispered, kissing Twilight’s mane and sighing happily. “My sister will be so happy…”

Arc 1: Chapter 9

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Twilight stepped out from below deck as the HMS Moonlight touched down in Canterlot's Royal Airship Hangar, the sound of ponies rushing back and forth across the deck catching her attention.

As the airship settled upon the struts holding it in place, everypony above deck did their part to rig the ship up, close the sails and slid the boarding plank down.

Walking over to the edge of the ship, Twilight looked out upon the relatively empty hangar with a calm smile, knowing that Celestia would most likely still be in Day Court.

Luna wandered up behind the Princess and stood at the edge next to her. Leaning over, she rested her head against Twilight's shoulder and sighed.

"I'm glad we arrived home a week early. 'Tia will love this surprise," Luna sighed, nuzzling against Twilight's neck.

"I'm sure she will, my love. It's been too long since we've seen her," Twilight agreed, leaning into the affection as the boarding plank finally clattered down, allowing them to disembark.

"We should go," she suggested, smiling as Luna leaned up and kissed her.

Pressing back into it, Twilight closed her eyes and rubbed her hoof along Luna's neck, holding the Princess tight.

Luna's hoof ran along Twilight's barrel, feeling the taut muscles underneath as she let out a soft hum of pleasure.

Unfortunately, both Alicorn's needed to breath and pulled away, opening their eyes. Twilight held a warm smile on her face upon seeing Luna gaze at her lovingly.

"Let's go, Luna," she whispered, pulling away and walking over to the boarding plank.

Disembarking, Twilight turned back towards Luna and noticed several of the bat ponies standing on the edge of the ship watching them.

With a quick smile and a wave, to which they replied with a salute, Twilight stepped in line with Luna and began to make her way towards the tunnels connecting the hangars with Canterlot proper.

Several minutes of walking down rather drab tunnels, and hallways, later and the Princesses had arrived inside their Palace. Twilight took a long, deep breath and let out a happy sigh.

"It's so good to be back!" she laughed, clip-clopping her hooves against the floor.

"I'm sure every pony will enjoy having us back, my moon."

"Princess Luna, Princess Twilight!" a voice shouted, gasping. "It's so good to see you back!"

The pair looked over to see one of the maids bowing, her wings splayed out across the floor. Glancing to Luna, Twilight neared the pegasus and used her magic to raise her up so she could see her face.

"What's your name?" she asked, looking over the mare's wings.

"Soft Touch, your majesty!" she stammered, eyes trailing over Twilight as she fought to keep a blush off her face.

Luna smirked, but said nothing as she moved over to stand next to Twilight.

"Well, Soft Touch, would you mind finding a spare room for Luna and I?" Twilight asked, her own warm smile appearing. "We'll be in the Throne Room when you find one."

"Yes, Princess, at once!" she squeaked, galloping off down the hall and finally turning.

Twilight kept her eyes on the mare until she disappeared, the turned to Luna. "Did I frighten her?" she asked, looking rather worried.

Luna chuckled and shook her head. "She definitely wasn't frightened," she answered, beginning to walk off towards the Throne Room.

"Wait, what do you mean?" Twilight asked, confused.

"Twilight," Luna giggled, rolling her eyes. "I can't believe I have to tell you this."

"Tell me what?"

"You're attractive," Luna stated, grinning. "Well, you were before you left, without a doubt. But now, you toned up and gained a few inches of height. Every pony will swoon as you pass by."

Twilight rolled her eyes in disbelief, then giggled. "If you say so, Luna."

Luna shook her head upon hearing Twilight's words, but simply followed the mare, nearing the Throne Room.

Twilight couldn't help but smile upon seeing Celestia sitting atop her throne at the other end of the room, her heart fluttering with the thought of being in Celestia's legs.

Arriving just as a pony was leaving Day Court, the pair decided to slip inside at the last second, mumbling apologies to the citizens waiting.

Twilight watched as Celestia held a clipboard in her aura, a quill levitating in and out to write down upon it. Standing there in front of the dais, she waited patiently for her Princess to greet her.

It only took a couple of seconds, but to Twilight it felt like a couple of hours! Her wings fluffed at her sides while she felt her heart beat faster and her anxiety flare up just from the wait of a few seconds.

Placing her clipboard down, Celestia looked over and froze. Her eyes widened upon seeing Twilight and Luna standing there in her Day Court.

In an uncharacteristic burst of speed, Celestia had rushed down the dias and snatched Twilight up and cuddled her tight, peppering the mare's face with licks and kisses.

"My moon, I have missed you so!" she cooed, before looking over to Luna and pulling her in with a wing, only to dote on her sister as well. "I would have met you if I had known! Somepony told me next week..."

Luna giggled and cuddled close to her larger sister's frame, basking in the warmth. "We thought you'd enjoy the surprise!"

Twilight nodded and did the same as Luna and cuddled close, her own wing having extended to wrap around Luna.

"Something tells me she enjoyed it, Luna," she chirped, grinning.

"Of course, I love it! You've made my century!" Celestia giggled, then leaned down and kissed Twilight for a few seconds, leaving the younger Princess wanting for breath.

Celestia turned to Luna and nuzzled her affectionately, not wanting to let her feel left out. “Lulu,” she whispered, gently licking the Alicorn’s cheek and causing Luna to giggle.

Pulling away, Celestia looked over to the guard nearest to the door. “I will be ending Day Court early. Please set up room and board for any who have travelled from outside of the city.”

The guard saluted and bowed, before trotting outside. A few seconds later, a loud collection of groans filled the hallway.

Giggling, Celestia rolled her eyes. “They’ll be fine once they come back tomorrow.”

Just then, Soft Touch hesitantly entered the Throne Room and walked over to the trio. “Uh, Princess Sparkle,” she whispered, chewing on her bottom lip as she kept her gaze firmly on the ground, only flicking up to see if the mare was listening. “The room you asked for is ready.”

“Oh, perfect!” Twilight grinned, gesturing for the pair to follow. “Thank you, Soft Touch,” she stated, smiling down at the mare, who flushed crimson. “Please,” she said, gesturing for her to lead them.

The other Princesses followed Twilight and Soft out of the Throne Room; Luna’s gaze holding on the mare from behind. It didn’t take long until they had arrived at the readied room, a small selection of snacks being left out for them.

Soft had selected a room with a balcony, for which the door was currently open, gently blowing the curtains about as Celestia’s sun filtered in from outside. The room was spacious, decorated with a large coffee-table in the centre of the room, around which was placed a plush, red couch and three lounge chairs. The rest of the room contained several dressers and paintings of the Princesses hung up.

Walking in, Soft Touch turned to Twilight and bowed. “I shall take my leave,” she stuttered, waiting for the Princesses to move past her before rushing out.

Twilight went to speak, but a hoof holding her shoulder stopped her. She glanced over and found Luna shaking her head.

“She’s embarrassed,” Luna began. “It’s best to simply leave her.”

Hesitantly nodded, Twilight turned back and used her magic to close the door. Turning back, she watched Celestia lay down on the couch, with Luna taking a seat next to it.

While Luna quickly snatched up some crumbly biscuits, Celestia’s eyes were firmly on the one thing she wanted more than anything; Twilight. A calm silence filled the room as Twilight began to make her way around the table and over to the open balcony door.

She stopped just inside, sat down and closed her eyes as the cool breeze washed over her. A warm smile spread across her face when Celestia’s sun warmed her. She heard the sound of hoofbeats, then relaxed upon the feeling of soft and silky feathers encompassing her. She let out a throaty purr as Celestia brushed up behind her, hooves sliding down to cuddle her barrel up against Twilight’s back.

“What is on your mind, our moon?” Celestia asked, her voice low as she whispered into Twilight’s ear, causing it to flick back and forth.

“The usual, ‘Tia,” Twilight replied, opening her eyes. “I have to go back, and when I do…” she trailed off, heaving Luna walk over to join them.

“You will have to woo us all over again,” Luna chuckled, sitting besides the pair and smirking. “We remember it fondly.”

“Luna,” Celestia warned, eyes flicking over to her sister.

“I know, ‘Tia. I can still tease though,” she murmured, flicking her tail and looking away. “Either way, I look forward to it.”

Twilight stared over to Luna for a second, taking in the Alicorn’s features. No matter how often she saw her, Twilight never found her want fading. Lighting her horn, Twilight’s magic affectionately caressed Luna’s cheek, before turning her head to look at her.

“Kiss me, Luna,” Twilight ordered, leaning her head up as she puffed out her chest, showing off her taut, steel fibres underneath.

Luna closed the gap and pressed her face against her marefriend’s chest, nuzzling away as she hummed. “My light,” she purred, pulling her face up to gaze deep into those luscious, violet eyes. Quick as a flash, Luna leaned in and kissed her mare, while stroking her cheek with a bare hoof.

Celestia, on the other hoof, was content with cuddling up behind Twilight her legs wrapped around her barrel while she nuzzled deep into her mane. “An eternity with you is not enough…” she sighed.

Eventually, the pair had to pull away, leaving Twilight breathing heavily and rather red-faced. “I don’t really want to go back now, knowing I won’t get any of that,” she joked, rubbing her leg.

“It will be hard, but I’m sure you’ll manage it,” Celestia giggled, nibbling at the mare’s ear playfully. “Besides, I can tell you one thing about our past selves.”

“What’s that?” Twilight asked, her attention fully on Celestia.

“Both of us really enjoyed your new body.”

Fluttering her wings to slow, she touched down just outside of her old castle then furled her wings, holding them tight to her sides.

The first pony she would have to see would be Starlight, and with any luck, Starswirl. This would be quite the reunion, as Starswirl hadn't seen Twilight since her coronation, deciding instead to see the world.

Making her way around to the front of the castle, Twilight's magic wrapped around the handle and pushed the door aside, allowing her to walk straight in.

She didn't feel as if it was really her castle anymore. Partly because she never actually lived in it, preferring to share Canterlot Palace with the Princesses, and partly because Starlight was the one that had actually lived here now.

Smiling as she wandered the recursive halls, Twilight made for the one place that she would most likely find Starlight; the Laboratory.

Reaching a long set of spiral staircases, Twilight began to climb down roughly twenty hooves, her horn the only illumination as it glowed bright.

The deeper she climbed down, the colder it became, until she reached the bottom of the shaft and stood in front of a thick, steel, blast door which held a set of nine indents at eye level.

With a grin, she looked it over and pressed her horn against several of the indents, lighting them up. A couple seconds of silence, then the door let out a hiss and slid to the side, revealing an adequately furnished study, lined with bookcases.

In the centre stood a dais, with a chalk pentagram already etched out, around the outside were several circled pre-filled with runes. Stretching out from the dias were lines connecting the pentagram to three others, each filled out.

The rest of the room was quite spartan, with a few tables and chairs, along with chalkboards and recording orbs set about.

In front one of the chalkboards sat Starlight, her back facing the door and obviously lost in thought as she had not turned around to greet Twilight.

Smirking, Twilight snuck up on the mare, making sure to stay quiet until she wrapped her lavender wings around Starlight face, causing the poor mare to yelp and tense up.

"Guess who," Twilight asked, laughing.

"Twilight! You're back early!" Star gasped, turning around. Suddenly, her eyes widened upon actually seeing Twilight. "I, uh..." she mumbled, eyes trailing over her body.

The Princess, to her credit, didn't notice. "I missed you, Star," she sighed, pulling her wings back against her sides.

Starlight shook her head and smiled. "I missed you too, Twilight," she replied, leaning in and hugging her. "I'm sorry I didn't get out to see you."

"It's okay. I only saw a few ponies. Obviously Pinkie came up, and so did Dash, but I was more focused on not dying than anything else," she joked, grinning. "Reading all the time really didn't help my fitness."

Starlight giggled and shrugged. "You seem to always look pretty fit whenever you save the world."

Twilight waved a hoof. "Oh please. I was always sweaty and out of breath. Thankfully Luna toughened me up!" she laughed, puffing out her chest. "I can now run from the castle down to Canterlot without dying!"

Rolling her eyes, Starlight moved around the mare, her eyes roaming Twilight body. "I can definitely see that," she agreed, watching as the firm muscles rippled under that lilac fur.

"Anyway, uh, what have you been up to? Seven months is a long time," Twilight asked, gesturing around. "I hope you haven't sequestered yourself down here all the time?"

"Oh, no. I've actually spent a lot of time with the girls," Starlight answered, levitating some of the books off the floor and back on the shelves. "Pinkie's been helping me learn to paint."

"Paint? I didn't know you painted, or that Pinkie had the patience."

"It's a new hobby. I found that I had, as you say, 'sequestered' myself away while. I tried to figure out our little time-travel trouble," Starlight explained, giggling at her alliteration. "So, I started to leave the castle and make some more friends, not just the girls."

Twilight's smile couldn't help but grow as she listened, a warmth spreading through her. Starlight didn't need her.

"I kinda, maybe, found a marefriend as well," she muttered, turning away and playing with some papers.

"A marefriend?" Twilight asked, smirking. “Who?"

Starlight flushed as she placed the papers down, her hooves shaking slightly. “Trixie,” she mumbled, just loud enough for Twilight to hear.

She walked over and wrapped the mare up, cuddling her. "My Starlight, all grown up!" she laughed, even as Starlight groaned.

"She's cute and treats me right. What more can I ask for.”

Twilight nodded and rubbed a leg, awkwardness filling the room. Turning around to face the pentagrams covering the floor, she asked, "I assume you created something for our problem? These are massive... How much magic does it need?"

Starlight sat next to Twilight; her turn to puff out her chest with pride. "At least fourteen guard unicorns, per pentagram. Celestia was kind enough to garrison a squad for testing."

"You didn't-"

"Of course not. She'd flip if she knew what I was doing here, and by extension what you did," Starlight explained, looking over with a reassuring smile. "This ritual bends the very fabric of time to my will, Twilight. Celestia doesn't scare me," she joked, letting out a mock mad scientist laugh.

Calming down, she simply grinned and nudged the Princess. "I just told a few white lies here and there. Plus, Ponyville kind of needed the stallions. There's really not that many here, if you hadn't noticed."

Twilight turned back to the pentagrams with an amused chuckle. "What does it do?" she asked, trying to read some of the runes and finding that not even she could understand some of them. "Are those... New runes?"

"Yup! Starswirl helped with that. We didn't have any that could handle the amount of magic that would be needed, so we had to formulate our own," Starlight began, closing her eyes. "That took about three months, but once we were done, the runes could adequately process what we needed."

Twilight listened intently; her ears perked up. Twilight knew Starlight was smart, but this was on a whole new level. Blinking, she asked, "Speaking of Starswirl, where is he?"

"Oh, yeah. He helped here and there, but eventually he demanded to know what this was for. But, if I wasn't going to tell Princess Celestia, I sure wouldn't tell him. So, he left. A shame actually, he was nearly as good as me."

The Princess's face showed several different emotions, until it settled on one: regret. "I'm sorry you had to lie, twice," she muttered, leaning over to nuzzle her friend.

Starlight closed her eyes and leaned into the affection. "It's not like I'd tell them, is it. I think it would probably give the poor stallion a heart-attack."

With a sigh, Twilight nodded when she pulled away. "I suppose you're right. Still, it doesn't feel right that I've made you lie. Once this is all over, I'll come clean. They deserve to know."

Once again, a silence filled the room until Starlight spoke up. "You’re not going to ask what it does?"

"Oh, right. What did you slave away for half a year to create?" Twilight asked, raising a brow. She found Starlight adorable when she was excited about showing something off.

"So, we theorised that it might be possible to 'shift' a pony out of time. That way, they are unaffected by what occurs in the past due to-"


"Something like that," she mumbled, rubbing a leg. "So, while we couldn't enchant a whole pony permanently, due to some weird interaction with the ambient magic in the air, we could enchant a bracelet to provide a small aura to the pony."

"That's incredible," Twilight praised, receiving an eye roll in return. "No, I'm serious, Starlight."

"Twilight, I appreciate it, but we don't even know if they work and I hope we never find out if they do. All readings point to the pony being ‘out of phase’ with the universe, but we don’t know if it’s the fact that it contains enough magic to light up a continent, or if it actually works-“

"Put one on and don't take it off-"


"Please, Starlight."

With a sigh, Starlight shook her head and wandered over to the nearby bookshelf. With a flick of her horn, a thick tome levitated off the top shelf and opened up, revealing its hollowed-out insides as well as three bracelets.

"These are all I was willing to make, so far," she explained as the three, plain, silver bracelets hovered in front of her.

While looking extremely plain, Twilight could feel the air fizzle and pop with the magical potential that was contained within. It was on par with the fully powered Bewitching Bell.

One of the bracelets levitated down and snapped around Starlight leg, the latch fusing shut and sealing itself around her.

Twilight hesitantly reached out and ran her hoof over the smooth, polished silver, finding the latch to have faded until it was smooth all the way around. Circling the bracelet, etched onto its surface, was a stylised image of a snake that, once the bracelet was fused shut, was eating its own tail.

Her smile returned and quickly wrapped Starlight up in her legs, followed by her wings! "Thank you so much," she whispered, holding her tighter.

"What for?" Starlight grunted, being squeezed.

"For putting up with a silly Princess."

Starlight rolled her eyes, then nuzzled up and down Twilight’s neck, letting out a giggle. “Oh please, Twilight,” she began, pulling away. “I’ve had a lot of practice.”

Looking down at her bracelet, she nodded to herself and then slid her gaze back up to Twilight. “Let’s go and see the Princesses. I think it’s time you go back, right?”

Twilight furled her wings and winced. “Yeah. I had planned to go back as soon as I arrived back. There’s no sense in pushing back the inevitable. With you being here, I’m a little less worried that I’ll buck everything up.”

Starlight held a hoof up to her lips and giggled, trying to hold back laughter at Twilight’s foul language. “Well, I’ll certainly try my best, Twilight,” she replied, waving a hoof dismissively. “Come on. I’d really like to get these on the Princesses quickly. It actually makes me feel calmer, though I’m sure it’s just a placebo.”

As soon as she and Starlight had arrived back in Canterlot, they had made for her private chambers. It wasn’t a long trek from the palace entrance, but Twilight wanted to take in the mighty architecture of her home one last time, before it would be replaced with fire and the screaming ponies of Stonewall.

Using her magic to push open her door, Twilight held it open for Starlight and entered after. Walking in, she looked up to the second level and saw that the Princesses were standing there, their backs turned and looking out of the window.

Twilight and Starlight glanced at each other for a second, then ascended the stairs, a worried look on their faces.

“Princesses?” Starlight asked, before noticing the tear in space-time that was suspended in the middle of Twilight’s chalk pentagram and going wide-eyed.

“Starlight, it’s lovely to see you,” Celestia said, radiating warmth. “It’s a shame that we haven’t seen more of you lately. How have you been?” She asked as Twilight wandered over to Luna, a loving grin on her face, then kissed her.

“Oh, I’ve been well. Thank you, Princess,” Starlight replied, fiddling with the bracelet as her eyes drifted back down to the runes written on the floor.

Luna, on the other hoof, was more interested in Twilight. “My moon. It’s been torture without you here. ‘Tia simply won’t stop worrying,” she groaned, flicking her eyes over to her sister. “She knows what happens, but still refuses to listen to reason. Please talk some sense into her.”

Twilight nodded, an amused smile on her face. She brushed past Luna and nuzzled up Celestia’s side, planting several kisses up her neck. “My Princess. You’re so tense… you know everything that happens. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Celestia sighed, her body visibly relaxing under Twilight’s touch. “I- I know, Twilight,” she mumbled, causing the mare to hesitate and lean back. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“’Tia,” Luna warned.

The Solar Alicorn’s attention flicked to Starlight, who was hurriedly trying to keep herself occupied by reading the runes, her ruby cheeks highlighting just how much she had listened to.

“Starlight, would you mind?” Celestia asked, giving the mare her usual maternal smile.

In return, Starlight bowed. “Of course, Princess. I’ll be outside if you need me.”

Celestia made sure that Starlight was out of the room before lighting her horn and shooting a wave of magic out, covering every inch of Twilight’s chambers with a shimmering glow.

“Good…” she sighed, shooting Luna an apologetic look, to which her sister simply rolled her eyes. Looking back over to Twilight, who was slightly more on-edge than normal, she closed her eyes. “Twilight, there’s something you should know about Luna and I.”

Luna simply turned around and stared out of the window, gazing down at the valley below while an annoyed frown appeared on her face.

“Celestia, Luna, what’s going on?” Twilight asked, finding herself growing worried. “Did something happen? I can sta-“

“No, our moon,” Celesta interrupted, holding up a hoof to brush along Twilight’s cheek. While her hoof was covered in gold, the gesture was still rewarded with a slightly less frazzled Twilight. “It’s not something happening now… at least, not yet,” she said, glancing at Luna, who closed her eyes and raised her muzzle.

With a deep breath, she continued. “It may not be a surprise, but you were not our first lover.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t have assumed. You had at least one hundred years to find somepony,” Twilight nodded, noticing the tenseness that was simply oozing off of Luna.

“Yes, and we did find somepony-“

The sound of Luna’s huff rang out as she turned around. She frowned at Celestia, who winced and averted her gaze, then turned to Twilight. Unable to hold her annoyance upon settling her eyes on her love, she began, “What my sister is really trying to say is that we had plenty of ‘lovers’, but we did not love anypony, at least not in the same way we love you.”

She let out another huff to try and calm herself, then turned to Celestia, her annoyance fading. “We found that when our lovers died, there was nopony else to ease the grief. We didn’t know what to do, so we simply swore off physical contact with all others.”

Celestia let out an airy laugh. “Remember how long that lasted, Lulu?” she asked, her cheeks tinting crimson.

“How could I forget,” Luna answered, a warm smile appearing on her face as she scooted closer to her sister. “I-“ she said, hesitating. It took a second to Celestia’s smile to cause Luna to falter. “Fine.”

Celestia leaned over and nuzzled her sister’s cheek, gently giving her a lick. “You know she’ll find out eventually anyway, right? It wasn’t as if we specifically hid it,” she whispered, idly sliding their spiral horns together.

“I guess. But it feels like we’re breaking her rule.”

Twilight’s eyes darted between the pair, growing ever more confused as time went on. “Hid what? What’s going on?!”

The two sisters rested against each other, then turned to Twilight. Luna’s face held a bashful smile, which she hid by pressing her face against Celestia’s shoulder. Celestia simply chuckled and raised a hoof to brush at Luna’s mane, eliciting a small hum from her.

“Luna and I were lovers,” Celestia stated, her tone neutral. Though, a hint of worry could be seen.

“Wait, what?!” Twilight gasped, taking a step back, confused. “You two were…”

She didn’t know what to think. On one hoof, she could understand the reasoning; but on the other, she couldn’t see them doing that sort of thing. It only took a second of imagining the pair, in bed, for her cheeks to darken and for her to look away.

’Damnit Twilight!’ she chastised herself, hoping the Princesses didn’t see that.

“Our moon,” Luna cooed, pulling away from Celestia and taking a step towards Twilight. “We had buried our past lovers and the thought of spending our immortality simply watching our ponies turn to dust was too much to bear. Ironic isn’t it.”

Twilight couldn’t find herself disagreeing, at least not really. Celestia’s logic was sound, considering that everypony in the room was immortal. Even worse, at some point, she’d experience that with her friends. It was only natural to find comfort in the one pony she knew wouldn’t leave her.

“From what you said,” she mumbled, scuffing the floor with a hoof, “I assume you were still together when you met me?”

“Yes. Luna and I were still lovers when we met you. We didn’t want ponies to know, let alone somepony we had just met- even if you were immortal like us- It wouldn’t have been right.”

Twilight opened her mouth to speak, then paused, realising something. “Were you… together, after I would inevitably leave?”

The pair glanced at each other, then back at Twilight. “Yes,” Luna replied, nodding. “We were up until I had my lapse in judgement.”

“But we haven’t, since you brought her back to me, if you’re worried about that,” Celestia hastily added, showing some fear. “I didn’t think it would be a good idea, considering.”

“Considering?” Twilight asked, her ears flipping back. She looked back down to the wooden floor, clearly in thought.

Luna took another step forward and tenderly took hold of Twilight’s chin, pulling it up to look into her eyes. “Considering she was the one to send me away, Twilight.” She glanced back at her sister, receiving an anxious smile. “ We had been talking during these long seven months and we’ve watched you grow into the perfect mare we remember; you rekindled something we thought lost.”

“I want us all to be together, Twilight. It’s been called many things throughout time, but modern ponies call it a herd.”

Twilight’s eyes widened upon hearing that. Somewhere, deep down, she knew Luna would suggest that the moment they revealed their secret. It wasn’t as if the two Princesses would just throw her away. Despite this, she still didn’t know what to say- but she didn’t need words.

After several seconds, of which both sisters were growing increasingly nervous, Twilight’s horn lit up and dragged Celestia over, causing her to let out a gasp, her golden horse-boots scraping along the wooden floor.

Twilight brought her hooves up, using her wings to balance herself, and gently pressed one against each of the Princess’s chest. “I’m not as experienced, nor have I gone through what either of you have… but I love you; both of you.

“It hurts to know that you two waited so long for me- but knowing that you had each other soothes that pain. So, Luna, Celestia,” she said, watching the two share a look. “We can be a herd.”

The effect was immediate. Celestia leaned in and wrapped the pair up in her fluffy wings, holding both of her ponies close to her chest. She closed her eyes as tears began to silently roll down her cheeks, the Solar mare trying her best not to make a sound.

Their hug lasted for the better part of a minute, simply holding each other and letting their emotions out. While Twilight could feel her heart fluttering at their touch, the mare was still nervous about the future, their future.

She didn't want to make a mistake, say something wrong or hurt either Princess. She loved them both, but was it the same amount?

Finally pulling away, Twilight reached up and brushed away Celestia's remaining tears with her hoof.

"This isn't the time for tears," she giggled, fluttering her wings.

Luna held into Twilight tight, her front legs wrapped around the mare's right leg. She affectionately nuzzled her love's ear, nibbling it a little before she whispered.

"None before you knew of this, our moon. We hope none after will."

"You have no idea how honoured I am, Luna, Celestia. I..." she mumbled, biting her lip and hesitating, her eyes flicking between the sisters. "I've never been in one before.'

Celestia giggled, placed her hoof on Twilight's shoulder and gave her a reassuring squeeze.

"There's nothing to worry about. We both love you and nothing you could ever do can change that."

"I..." Twilight started, biting her lip. After a second of thought, she nodded and let her wings droop down, thoughts crashing around her head. "I'll try my best."

Luna shook her head while she pulled away, a warm smile appearing on her face. "You don't have to be perfect. This isn't some test."

With a sigh, Celestia stepped back and ruffled her wings, then gestured to the door. "I'm sure you have a lot to think about, Twilight. Thankfully you'll have a lot of time to grow accustomed to such things. But for now, I think it's time for Starlight to come in. She's been waiting an awfully long time."

With a pulse emanating from Celestia's horn, the spell that was plastered across the entirety of Twilight's Chambers began to fade away.

"There we go," Celestia sighed. "It's nearly time."

Twilight rubbed her leg and nodded. "Yeah. I mean, I could just stay with you two, right? Is there a rush?"

The sisters shared a look.

"If this was a normal excursion into the past, no. But dark forces gather, Twilight," Celestia explained, then began to walk over to the tailing that overlooked the door to the hallway. "Forces that are stronger than you have ever faced. Time may have stopped for you, but they know no such limits."

"Sister, you can't tell her these things!" Luna warned, looking annoyed. "It will only hurt the timeline."

"To Tartarus with the timeline! I will not stand by as she gallops headlong into something she doesn't know about!" Celestia replied, stomping a hoof.

She turned her attention to Twilight, her annoyance fading. "Your training was essential for your growth as an Alicorn, but enjoying time with us is not."


"No buts, Twilight. Your future self was quite adamant about it; you’ve got to go back in..." Celestia closed her eyes for a few seconds, before continuing, "four minutes and fifty seve- six seconds."

"That's really specific. Why then?" Twilight asked, leaning into Luna's kiss on her cheek.

"I am unsure. You wouldn't tell me,' Celestia replied, shrugging. "Either way, you must go back," She gestured to the door. "Go and collect Starlight. We believe she wishes to see you off, however brief it may be."

Nodding, Twilight managed to pull herself away from Luna and walk over to the door. Even behind the wood, she could hear Starlight pacing back and forth, obviously worried.

Her magic swung open the door with a. Flick of her horn and peeked outside. "You can come in now, Starlight."

The mare let out a startled yelp and nodded, walking through the open door and back into Twilight's room.

Twilight leaned in and gently stopped the mare with a hoof. "Don't worry. We just had some personal things to discuss," she explained, nuzzling her. "Give them the bracelets."

Starlight nodded once more, then hesitantly made her way up the stairs and back onto the second level. "Princess Celestia," she said, bowing. "I..."

Starlight glanced behind her to Twilight, who simply smiled and gestured to keep going.

"I haven't been completely truthful. Those guards you sent down to Ponyville weren't for some study on gender imbalance."

Celestia raised a brow, but stayed quiet to let the mare continue.

"I needed their magical energy to-" she sighed. "To create these." With a flash, Two more bracelets appeared next to her.

"Pray tell, dear Starlight. What are they?" Luna asked, studying them intently.

"When I heard that Twilight had gone back in time, I wanted to help... In my own way."

Starlight turned and walked over to the window. "I wasn't given a chance to make it up to her, to everypony before. They- Twilight forgave me too quickly. It didn't feel like I had earned it."

Ignoring Twilight as she neared, Starlight continued.

"But when she went back, I could at least protect the two of you. Twilight is unaffected by any ripples in time due to her having cast the spell, but you are not. We may be standing here now, this is one of an infinite combinations of realities. Even me saying this will change what happens when Twilight goes back."

"Starlight, the very act of us standing here proves that she succeeds," Celestia retorted, shaking her head. "I should know, we were there."

Sighing, the Princesses slid up beside Starlight and wrapped her wings over her back.

"Starlight. You're one of Twilight's best friends and it's natural that you would be worried," Celestia began, letting Luna continue.

"We trust you and if you wish for us to wear them, we will. But I can promise you that things will turn out fine."

"Please," Starlight muttered, levitating the bracelets onto the sister' legs. The bracelets enlarged to fit on, then fused shut.

Celestia held her own up and pressed her horn against the surface, before jerking away with a wince. "So much magic," she hissed, rubbing her horn.

"I used up those Stallion, multiple times. You're now safe from any ripple effect," Starlight said, her gaze drifting to Twilight, who simply mouthed: 'thank you'.

Luna hummed and turned walked over to the portal. Her horn lit up for a second. "I believe it's time, our moon," she said, looking over to Twilight. "If I remember correctly, you had just teleported us out of the town. We were quite upset; Celestia was sobbing uncontrollably for our new escort."

"I did not!" she protested, letting out a huff and a stomp of her hoof. "I was merely worried about, uh, my new friend. It's not often we get attacked in a town like that!"

Luna giggled and rushed over to Twilight, hiding behind her. "Escort! Protect me!" she joked, pointing at her sister.

Celestia rolled her eyes and gestured to the portal with her wing. "Twilight, it's time. No deception, okay?" she asked, wrapping a wing around her, before pulling the mare into a tight hug. "Be careful, our moon," Celestia whispered, nuzzling her ear, then pulling away.

Starlight took a step over and hugged Twilight as Celestia released her. "I know you'll be in and out before we notice... But I'll still miss you. I don't know what you get up to, but at least have a little fun. You are travelling with two cute mares, after all."

Twilight laughed and savoured the hug, finding herself beginning to grow nervous. "I'll try my best, Starlight and I'll try and be back soon... At least for me," she giggled, nuzzling the mare.

"Twilight," Luna began, placing a hoof on her shoulder. "Please."

Twilight pulled away and quickly covered her eyes with her hoof at a sudden, quick burst of light.

Luna levitated a brand new saddlebag, stuffed with various items, such as bits, bandages and food. "You will need this."

After a quick nuzzle, Luna placed it on her mare's back and grinned. "You're going to make us the luckiest pair, Moonlight."

Blushing slightly, Twilight leaned up and kissed Luna, then Celestia. Pulling back, she sighed. "Alright. Time to do this..."

She turned to face the portal and took a hesitant step forward, then another, before looking back at the Princesses. "See you in a sec."

By now, that sensation of being spaghettified and then strained through a cosmic blender was becoming rather familiar to the mare and before long, she was plopped out on the other side of the portal.

Stumbling back into the alley, Twilight let out a choked cough and held herself against the stone wall, trying to keep herself from vomiting like last time. Looking around, she remembered that the town was being attacked by some sort of cult- or at least they looked like it to her.

Taking a few moments to compose herself, she pushed herself over to the entrance of they alley and peeked her head out to glance around for any ponies. Seemingly the streets had, luckily, been deserted.

Stepping back, Twilight looked up into the sky and narrowed her eyes, unsure of what she was seeing. Using her magic to pull her saddlebag around, she dug through and pulled out a spyglass. Placing her saddlebag back onto her back, she extended the spyglass and scanned the sky for what she saw.

“Gryphons?” Twilight mumbled, closing the spyglass and tapping her hoof on the cobble.

Stowing the spyglass, Twilight backed up into the alley and closed her eyes. It was a long while, but she could remember the general area to which she had sent the Princesses and Sunset. Charging her horn, she felt the air fizzle with static and with a ’crack’ of magic, she was gone.

Unfortunately for a family of squirrels, their day was about to get ruined. just as Twilight’s first ’crack’ reached their ears, did another hit the dirt next to their tree, causing them to scatter as the magic arced off of the mare and blew the bark off the tree.

Stretching her neck, Twilight scanned her surroundings and found them relatively tame. She had appeared within a thicket, of which she was thankful, due to hiding her teleport- not that she’d expect them to know that yet, especially if the Princesses didn’t.

Now came the hard part for the mare; finding the Princesses. She knew they were around this area, but didn’t know exactly, considering that she was being attacked at the time. Pushing her way out of the thicket and through some nettles, Twilight saw that she had managed to teleport them well outside of Stonewall and even past the fields which lay just outside.

It seemed that they were on the opposite side that they had entered on as well, which was lucky, as she doubted that they would need to go back to Trottington anytime soon, especially with those Gryphons flying above.

Keeping to the tree line, Twilight closed her eyes and charged her horn, letting out a low-yield magical pulse. The pulse itself would only be detectable by Unicorns, and Alicorns, and the familiar magical aura would allow the group to find her. Unfortunately, it had a rather small area of effect, which she could increase at the cost of being detectable by other races.

Wandering through the forest, she made sure to keep her pace slow enough that the group could catch up to her as she periodically sent pulses out for them to pick up. Sure enough, barely five minutes later, the group stumbled through some bushes.

The Princesses gasped and rushed up to Twilight, hugging her tight.

“Moonlight! I thought we had lost you; you silly mare!” Celestia whispered, nuzzling through her mane.

Luna simply kept quiet, holding onto Twilight tight.

Sunset stood there; her eyes locked onto Twilight’s wings. Her magic aura appeared around the Princess’ shoulders and pulled them away, before she pointed to the new appendages.

The pair gasped and took a step back, unsure what to think.

“How did-“ Luna began, her eyes glued to Twilight’s wings, just the same as her sister. It wasn’t until Luna looked over Twilight’s body that she realised that the mare was actually taller than her as well as looking stronger. “What happened?!”

Twilight sat down and opened up her wings to show off her wingspan. Even though she had prepared herself for this, she still felt like it was too soon, but now it was too late. “I was always an Alicorn, like you two.”

“That- That’s…” Celestia stammered, her eyes wide as she looked on in shock. “You were an Alicorn the whole time?!”

Twilight winced at the shouting, then looked up at the sky to try and spot any Gryphons. “I know it’s a lot to ta-“

“A lot?! How could you not tell us!” she yelled, gesturing to the outstretched wings. There was a mix of anger and confusion, of which her sister emulated, but to a lesser degree.

“I- I was going to- I mean, I am!” Twilight huffed, closing her eyes. “When do you suppose the best time would be to tell you? A strange pony helps you in your time of need and just so happens to be an Alicorn? It looks pretty shady, doesn’t it?”

Just as the Princesses were about to retort, Sunset stepped forwards and ran her magic up Twilight’s wing, twitching and wiggling her feathers, causing Twilight to gasp and shudder. “Incredible,” she mumbled. “I’ve not had another Alicorn to study… especially one so,” her eyes ran across Twilight’s body, “well maintained. Tell me, how did you craft such an illusion spell? It looked so realistic!”

Taking her eyes off of the Princesses, she looks down at Sunset. “It wasn’t an illusion spell. It’s a spell designed take away the external traits of an Alicorn. My ma-“ she paused, “my teacher taught it to me when I ascended.”

Looking back at the Princesses, she sighed and furled her wings back to her sides. “Luna, Celestia,” she began, glancing between them. “I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you before now, but I was afraid of what might happen if you knew. Now, I know that is a risk that won’t happen.”

Luna turned to Celestia and gave her a look, before she focused on Twilight. “Moonlight, I’m grateful that you have allowed us to know… but know this, there should be no secrets between us if we are to continue.”

“My sister is right,” Celestia added, smiling over to her. “If I cannot trust you, I cannot travel with you, even if you are another one of us.”

“I understand and I will not keep secrets from either of you,” Twilight replied, pressing a hoof to her chest and bowing. Rising up, she smiled down at Sunset. “That include you as well, Sunset. If you are to travel with us?”

“Of course! I will need to make plenty of notes detailing everything about you!” she gasped, nodding quickly. “We’ll have to travel to Springwallow. It’s on the border, just before the Gryphon Badlands. We’ll be able to gather supplies and find transport over the border.”

“Great,” Twilight nodded, standing up and giggling. “I hope you don’t mind being smaller than me now,” she teased, smirking over to the Princesses, “my little ponies.”

Arc 1: Chapter 10

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Despite that rocky re-introduction, the group had fallen into relative silence, with only the sounds of their hoofbeats to keep them company. Twilight, for the most part, had been able to keep her emotions in check. She was so unbelievably happy to see the two younger Princesses that she was worried that her heart would burst.

Yet, her emotions were not reciprocated like that of the older, wiser Princesses. They were rebuked and met with suspicion and anger, causing a swirl of negative thoughts to surface inside her. Twilight knew they were baseless, but they still stung and removing them would take a hell of a lot more work than it took to gain them.

Not that Twilight really cared a whole lot; she still had her Princesses back in the present, if all went well.

Looking out across the rocky landscape, she frowned ever so slightly to show her displeasure at fate. Nopony but the other Princesses would have even noticed it. How many times had she really tempted the fickle mare? Too many times by her own count. No, if she was going to see them again, she would take fate into her own hooves.

This also pushed a familiar thought into her head, one which consistently provided a migraine each time: If she was here and they had succeeded, was she simply going through the motions and her own free will was simply an illusion, akin to a book that had already been written? Was she doing this because she had done so in the past?

Ruffling her wings, she glanced back at the sisters and her frown fading upon seeing them talking to each other. They were obviously trying to keep it secret, considering even Twilight couldn’t hear them, but it was nice to see the pair so close and with Celestia’s revelation that closeness took on a whole new meaning for the Alicorn.

With a tense sigh, she rolled her neck to turn her attention to Sunset, who seemed to be in her own little world, judging from the way that she had spent much of the walk muttering runic equations.

“Are you okay?” Twilight asked, slowing down so that Sunset was next to her. “I must apologize for my prior dishonesty. I was convinced that admitting such a thing wouldn’t be beneficial to any pony.”

Sunset blinked as she was pulled out of her own head and gazed up at the Alicorn. “Oh, it’s quite alright, Moonlight” she replied, her tail flicking a little. “Though, it was quite the surprise. I am a lucky mare to have met you when I did.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Twilight remarked, shaking her head. “Those ponies were looking for me for some reason. I inadvertently brought them to the town and possibly destroyed valuable research.”

“It’s just research, Moonlight. It can be remade. What’s important is that you three are safe.”

Twilight looked unsure of what to say but settled with glancing back at the sisters. “I should speak with them, shouldn’t I?” she asked, turning back to the front and grimacing at the thought of seeing them angry at her again.

Sunset hummed, then nodded. “If you still want them as friends, yes- yes you should. It’ll be a long walk to Springwallow anyway. Plenty of time to discuss our plan once we arrive.”

With a tenuous sigh, Twilight slowed and fell in line beside the sisters.

Seeing their escort pull back to walk with them, they hushed up. “You’ve been quiet for a while there, Moonlight,” Luna asked, showing her concern. “Head in the clouds?”

In that instant, her awkwardness was gone. A low groan left the Princess as she looked over to Luna, who was grinning and rolled her eyes. “I’m not even that much taller than you, Moon Butt,” she huffed, before a slight smile appeared to show she wasn’t really that annoyed at the tease.

Luna smirked while Celestia was left stunned by Twilight’s attitude shift. Her eye travelled across Twilight’s body, appraising the changes that she had revealed barely half a day prior. “I still can’t believe that you’re actually one of us,” she exclaimed, her eyes lingering on the mare’s strong wings. “We didn’t think anypony else could have existed. But I guess the world is massive and we are but two ponies.”

“From what you said, you had only spent most of your lives travelling in this area,” Twilight added. “The world may be massive- no, the world is massive, but I’m sure it holds secrets that are only for our eyes.”

“Other Alicorns, I hope,” Luna spoke up as she moved to Twilight’s other side. “If you were out there, then maybe there’s others?”

Twilight quickly glanced away, her brain shooting off warnings. "Maybe-" she replied, "Maybe we'll find some on our travels."

"That would be great. 'Tia and I were so pleased to meet another immortal. How did you ascend?" Luna asked, brushing up against Twilight's side.

Despite Luna's optimism, Celestia didn't show the same glee. She was looking out across the horizon in front of them, her ears flicking every so often to indicate that she was still listening, if only slightly.

Twilight felt as if she had broken all of the trust that Celestia had shown her in the college and that hurt. It cut deeper than any dagger and made her wish that she had never come back. Unfortunately, she had a job to do, whether the sister's wanted her or not.

Switching her gaze back down to Luna, Twilight tried to put on her best smile for the mare. She knew that lying to her wouldn't be the best way to start this new chapter in their relationship, but she couldn't simply tell her the truth.

"I kind of helped my teacher with a spell that went wrong. I didn't know it, but I think she had planned for me to ascend, but it's hard to tell with her sometimes."

Luna giggled and glanced over to Sunset, who had begun to mutter to herself. "I know the feeling."

Several hours of walking later and the group had decided that it would be best to settle down for the night, just as Luna's moon peeked out from under the horizon. One by one, the night sky was filled with bright stars and Twilight couldn't help but marvel at the sight. None of the constellations were the same and she felt grateful to have seen Luna's early work. Slowly, as the night deepened and Twilight was honoured with nebulae slicing across the sky.

Having found their own cosy clearing, they had taken to camouflaging the area from any bandits which might have been taking advantage of Stonewall's defencelessness. Quickly building up the foliage around them, the ponies had bundled up to help Sunset survive through the night. While they were resistant to the cold; she was not.

Twilight was in the middle of the bundle, her wings outstretched to cover Sunset up in fluffy warmth while Celestia snuggled up beside Sunset on the other side. Luna had quickly found her way to the other side of Twilight and was happy as can be under her own blanket.

"Warm enough for you?" Twilight asked, looking down at Sunset.

"Oh, yes. Your wings insulate quite well. Not to mention they’re soft."

"You never said mine were soft," Celestia mumbled, rolling her eyes.

"Well, you never asked."

Twilight giggled and rested her head on her forelegs, feeling rather tired from the fact that she had essentially been awake for two whole days. "Let's get some rest. It's going to be a long day of walking tomorrow," she yawned, then turned to look at Luna. "It's a lovely night."

"Oh, thank you," she stammered, looking away. "I made it just before we lost control."

Twilight watched Luna's reaction for a second, then closed her eyes.

It didn't take long for her to fall asleep, but it took even less time for her to wake up again when Celestia's sunlight filtered through the canopy and struck her directly on the face. Letting out a groan, Twilight opened her eyes and instantly clenched them shut, feeling her eyes water from the eyeful of light.

Bringing a wing up, she covered her face and opened her eyes once again. Looking around at the ponies, she saw Sunset had cuddled up tightly to her side for warmth, with Celestia having trapped her with her body. Luna, on the other side, was sleeping silently, a subtle smile adorned on her face.

For the first time since arriving back, she felt calm. There wasn't any lying to the Princesses, there wasn't any strange cult trying to kill or capture her, there was just calm.

Unfortunately for her, that calm would have to end and they would need to start on their journey once again. Using her wings, she gently rocked Celestia awake, allowing the small peace that they had obtained to talk to her. "Celestia?"

"Hm, what?" the mare mumbled, slowly opening her eyes. "Moon?"

"Yeah, uh-" Twilight began, taking the wing away and wrapping it securely around Sunset. "I thought we should talk a little. About yesterday, I mean."

"What about it?"

"I know I apologized already, but I didn't want to break your trust. I just didn't know how you'd react and not every pony I've interacted with have been as nice to me as you have."

Blinking, Celestia looked down at the ground and sighed. "I still trust you. It's just a lot to take in. Honestly, I should have seen it from the beginning. No pony is just immortal."

"Yeah, that would have been obvious under different circumstances I guess," Twilight said, shrugging.

Celestia smiled and nodded. "I'm glad I met you, Moon. Not just for saving us, but for coming along." She nodded her head towards Luna. "I think Luna needed something to believe in."

Twilight turned to look at Luna, then back at Celestia. "I said it at the College, but I'll keep you two safe, no matter what. If that means traveling across the world and knocking some sense into whoever stole your sun, I will."

"Well, we better get to it. It's nearly noon," Celestia giggled, rising up from the ground and stretching out.

Watching Celestia only spurred Twilight on. Unfortunately for the ponies cuddled up to her, that meant a quick dose of cold when her wings furled up.

"Come on you two!" Twilight giggled, rocking the pair with her hood when they stood up. "We should get going."

"Another five minutes, 'Tia," Luna grumbled, then let out a huff as her eyes opened. "Fine..."

Sunset shivered at the lack of wing and kept close to Twilight in hopes that some warmth would transfer. "What time is it?" she asked, looking around at the Alicorns.

"Just about noon. How far is it to Springwallow?" Celestia asked, rolling her wing around her sockets.

Sunset frowned in thought. "At our current pace, we should arrive in the morning. That's assuming we walk through the night?"

"How long would it take if we fly?" Twilight asked, unfurling her wing and wrapping it around Sunset.

The mare smiled gratefully and let out a hum. "I guess we'd get there faster... maybe about late evening if we fly. You would have to carry me, of course."

"That goes without saying," Twilight replied, rubbing the mare to warm her up. "I should be strong enough to hold you. If not, I could always just cast a cloud-walking spell on you and push the cloud."

"You- you can do that?!" Sunset gasped, looking up at Twilight in awe.

"Would you like to learn it?"

"Yes please!"

Twilight chuckled, then blasted off into the sky to collect a sufficiently large cloud for the Unicorn to test the spell on. As the group began to walk once again, Twilight recited the cloud-walking spell to Sunset as she carried it between her outstretched wings.

"Alright, make sure that you firmly flow your magic through you. Don't miss a single part of you, or the spell will collapse," Twilight explained.

"I... It's a bit hard without actually looking at the spell itself, Moon," Sunset grunted as her horn glowed bright and a bead of sweat trickled down her brow from the exertion. "Nearly there, I think!"

"Good, keep going. You'll feel a tingle pass over you if you did it right!"

With a pop, Sunset's glow travelled down her body, covering her with a skintight, transparent layer, which quickly faded from view.

She inspected her legs and spin around to check her body and jumped with joy, laughing. "It actually works!" she gasped, looking up to Twilight, before she settled down quickly, a flush appearing in her face. Upon seeing Twilight's warm smile, she cleared her throat and shrugged. "Would you kindly pass me that cloud."

Giggling, Twilight did as she was asked and let go, so it floated back, only for Sunset to stop it with her hoof.

"Looks like it worked," Luna said, smiling.

"How long does it last for?" Celestia asked. "Will it last until we get to Springwallow?"

Twilight shook her head. "The spell, when cast by a unicorn only lasts about half a day. But you can renew it while we're flying."

"Okay," Sunset nodded, hesitantly pressing down on the cloud and watching it spring back up after. "This is unreal. It's too soft!" Climbing up, she felt the cloud tilt under her weight and lowered herself onto it. "But it's not very stable, is it?"

"Pegasi quickly get used to it. Plus, they're lighter than unicorns," Twilight replied. "Remember to hold on though. We'll probably be flying quite fast."

Sunset nodded once again and made sure to tighten her grip on the water vapour. "Done. Let's go. I wouldn't want to be out here at night again."

Twilight quickly scooped up the cloud and began to rise up into the sky with the help of her powerful thrusts. The princesses followed behind, making sure that they would be ready in case the unicorn accidentally fell off.

"Follow the trail for now. We'll eventually come to a crossroads, take a right when we do!" Sunset shouted over the sound of the wind. "The city's built in an impact crater on the side of a mountain. You'll know when you see it!"

The group pushed on throughout the day, only stopping for a quick rest and a water break. But after several more hours, Sunset suggested that they land and travel into the city by hoof.

Settling down, Sunset jumped off her cloud and stretched. "Alright, so we're nearly there. The city will be just over those few hills," she explained.

"Why can't we fly in?" Twilight asked, looking around.

"One main problem," Sunset began as she started to walk towards the hills. " that Gryphon's have been especially hostile so the guards will fire at anything that flies by, be it Pegasi or otherwise."

"Oh, that sounds bad," she mumbled, not enjoying the project of having to wade through a war to get to their goal.

Cresting the hill, Twilight laid eyes on Springwallow. The city itself was built inside an Asteroid impact crater which had hit the side of the mountain. That normally wouldn't be so strange, considering Canterlot, but the asteroid was still embedded at the center of the city, pulsing gently with a warm orange glow that seemed to radiate warmth.

Most of the built-up areas were directly around the rock, with at least half of it covered up by noble houses that spread upwards rather than outwards. The majority of the rock was covered in scaffolding and metallic cables that covered the city in a spider-web.

Nearing the base of the mountain, Twilight spotted a tall archway carved out of the side, with soldiers and barricades set up to cover the entrance. Plenty of Pegasi soldiers were patrolling around above the group, keeping a close eye on them.

Thirty paces off, one of the Earth Pony stallions, clad in a gleaming iron armour, raised their sword and shouted, their voice rough and gravelly, "Halt! Identity yourselves!"

Twilight stepped forward and deftly lowered herself into a respectful bow. "My name is Moonlight and my travelling companions are Celestia, Luna and Sunset Swirl!" she called back.

"State your business!" he ordered, just as several Pegasi dropped from the sky to surround the ponies, their spears pointed at them.

Seeing the spears, Twilight took a step back. "We require shelter. Stonewall was attacked and our home was destroyed!"

Upon hearing that, murmurs began to spread around the soldiers and the Pegasi looked at each other, unsure of what to do.

The soldier sighed. "Come on through," he ordered and the Pegasi scattered, returning to their previous patrols.

The ponies neared the grand entrance, each of them, barring Sunset, were taking in the sight of the intricately carved archway with glee.

As they passed by the first set of barricades, the Solder rushed up to them, a grim expression on his face. "My apologies," he said, a trim expression on his face. "We received word that the town was attacked and rallied the fortifications. Are there any other survivors?"

Twilight shook her head. "Not sure, sir. I would presume there will be, but they will take much longer than we did to get here."

A sigh left the Pony's mouth, but he took a deep breath and relaxed. "At least you four made it," he said, gesturing to all of them. "Sorry, I'm not entirely familiar with what you three are."

"Oh, we're Alicorns," Luna chimed in, fluttering her wings.

"Alicorns? Hm, that's new," he muttered, eyeing them up. "Either way, you're free to enter the city, but don't make any trouble, okay? The last thing the guard need is more trouble on their watch."

"We'll try our best, sir..." Celestia trailed off.

"Oh, how rude of me. My name is Silver Tongue. Captain Silver Tongue," he replied, scooping up Celestia's hoof and placing a single, delicate, kiss on it.

"Charmed," she giggled, pulling away. "Thank you, Silver."

Twilight and Luna frowned at Celestia for a second, then glanced at each other, realising what they were doing and looked away.

"You said you were looking for shelter, right? There's plenty of inns scattered about. Though, they will be a bit pricey, on account of the Gryphons."

"What have they done now?" Sunset asked, venom oozing from her words.

"Same old. They launch predictable raiding parties on us. But lately they've been stepping it up with new weapons. We've been losing a lot of good Ponies to them."

Twilight glanced from Silver to Sunset and saw the pair of them holding the same long stare at the ground. Filing it away for later, she cleared her throat.

"I think it's high time we enter the city," she suggested, grinning. "I can't wait to see that crystal from up close. The magical resonance must be insanely high!"

With a giggle, the rest of them followed twilight into the city, leaving Silver to watch them, until he too was forced back to work.

Walking through the other side of the archway, the four ponies found themselves on the edge of the city; a great mishmash of shanty-towns having crashed together.

Around them, the buildings were several levels high and only seemed to rise higher and higher the closer to the centre they were built.

The majority of the buildings were constructed out of stone, but some of the lower buildings were built out of iron and steel, with various sheets having been bolted together for walls.

The group wandered through the packed streets, looking for an Inn to stay at for the night.

Twilight couldn't help but be amazed at the sheer ingenuity of these ponies. Each city seemed more and more strange. Though, knowing that these places like this wouldn't be here in the future left a bitter taste in her mouth.

Yet, just as the day was fading, the whole city lit up in the glow of the crystal.

Raising a hoof to cover her eyes, Twilight lowered it slowly after a second to find the glow not as overbearing as she thought it would have been.

Celestia and Luna gasped, then brushed up against Twilight in awe. "It's beautiful," Celestia whispered. "I feel like a fool for not leaving Trottington. If there's sights like this out here."

"At least you're here now. Who knows, maybe we'd get to see a lot more after we finish?"

"That would be nice, wouldn't it? I don't think I'd enjoy staying in one place after leaving."

"Oh, I don't know. I'm sure the right motivation would come along."

Celestia stated at a Twilight for a few seconds, then looked back at the Crystal. "We really need somewhere to sleep. Unless you wish to be a vagrant."

Sunset pushed through the middle of them. "Let's find one then! Then you two can get a room," she joked, winking and causing the two ponies awkwardly look away, rubbing their legs almost identically.

"Celestia and Moon sitt-" Luna sang, but a quick, white, wing to the face forced her to stop.

Twilight giggled, then followed Sunset up the street, ignoring the frowns at having blocked other ponies.

Thankfully for Twilight, being slightly taller than every pony else was a huge help as she quickly found an inn off to the side: The Prancing Pony.

Opening the door, the ruckus of laughter, banter and playfulness filled the air, helping Twilight’s mood improve. The combined scents of fresh cooking and the warmth of a fire spurred the tired Alicorn in and embraced her.

The inn itself was, predictably, packed. Most of the occupants were ponies, but a few goats and even a changeling or two sat around, simply soaking up the atmosphere and socializing. Moving through the patrons, Twilight did her best to not knock into anyone and stumbled over to the bar, which was covered by an old stallion with a grizzled orange coat and grey mane.

"What can I get you lovely mares?" he asked, giving the three Alicorn's a curious gaze.

"How much for some rooms?" Twilight asked, levitating her saddlebag in front of her. "Three, to be exact.

"Three?" Celestia asked.

"Of course. I'm sure you and Luna would want to relax," Twilight replied, only to have the pair shrug. "I doubt anything will happen anyway."

"W-What do you mean, happen?" Luna asked, glancing between her sister and Twilight.

"I doubt anyone will," she said, lowering her voice to a whisper as she leaned in. "You know, attack us again."

Luna blinked and nodded. "Oh, yeah- I knew that," she mumbled, her cheeks turning rosy.

"Three rooms?" the stallion asked, giving her an annoyed look. "Thirty bits."

Sunset grimaced at the amount.

"Oh, right, sorry. Here you go," Twilight said, passing the money over.

"Here are the keys," he grunted, passing over three sets of keys. "You'll find your rooms at the top of the stairs, third, fourth and five rooms. Don't make too much noise," he warned, looking at the sisters.

"They won't; thank you," Twilight said, smiling as she pushed the shocked sisters towards a free table, Sunset close behind. "Just ignore it, okay," she whispered.

"The insolence of that stallion," Celestia huffed.

"Are you alright, sister?" Luna asked, taking a seat and frowning over to Celestia.

Celestia opened her mouth, then closed it, before nodding. "Of course, Luna. I didn't expect such a remark is all."

Twilight tapped her hoof on the table and looked around once everypony was seated. "Alright. We're in Springwallow. Now what?"

"We have to get across the border, which will be harder than it sounds. With King Titas increasing patrols, it'll be impossible without somepony already on the other side," Sunset explained, stretching her neck.

Twilight sighed. "Okay, let's assume we get over the border, how far is the capital?"

"I would guess at roughly a few weeks travel, by air; a month by hoof. Most of the Gryphons don't share their king's enthusiasm for the war and I doubt that you'd have much trouble actually getting to the capital."

"What's the Gryphon kingdom like?" Twilight asked, leaning forwards to listen.

"It's mixed," Sunset started, thinking of the right words. "Most of them are soldiers or farmers. A rather militaristic nation, but surprisingly welcoming if shown respect."

"That makes sense, I guess," Twilight muttered, chuckling to herself.

"What's funny?" Celestia asked, smiling.

"Oh, nothing really. Just remembering a Gryphon I know."

That really caught the two sister's attention. "Oh? Pray tell?"

Twilight scooted the stool closer and took a breath. "His name is Gallus and he enrolled at a small school I knew. He had accomplished so much even before I left and I hope he'll be still be around once this is over," she wondered, trailing off before looking over to Sunset. "What happens when we get the crown?"

Sunset froze for a second. "Well, uh... the crown bonds to the wearer and slowly crumbles their sanity," she explained, tapping the table. "It's never been forcefully removed from someone, as far as I've read. Best case, the King would slowly regain his sanity. Worse case-" she paused, frowning. "Worst case is a huge magical backlash, either frying his brain or outright killing him."

Twilight grimaced at the prospect. "It's never easy with magical artefacts, is it?"

"Not in the least," Sunset chuckled, rubbing her hoof along the table's grooves. "But, I think it's time for bed, don't you?" she asked, looking at everypony. "We'll have a long day tomorrow."

Finding an unexpected yawn escape her, Twilight nodded. "I agree."

The two sisters pulled away and followed Twilight up the stairs and across the hallway that overlooked the main room. Standing outside of their rooms, Luna rushed across to Twilight and wrapped her legs around her neck, hugging her.

"I didn't show it earlier, but I'm glad you're okay, Moon," she whispered, gently kissing her cheek. "Don't scare me like that again."

Celestia stood there, watching the two, before sighing and entering their room.

"I can't promise I won't do something completely dumb in the future," Twilight replied, blushing a little. "But I'll try my best. I keep my promises."

Glancing back to see her sister missing, Luna nuzzled against Twilight's neck and squeezed her, before rushing over to her door. "Good night, our Moon," she said, giggling and closing her door.

Twilight's attention then switched to the smirking Sunset that was simply standing outside the door on the other side of Luna's room. Opening her door, she entered without a word, leaving Twilight alone in the hall.

Entering her own room, Twilight lowered herself onto the bed and let out a long sigh. She spread her wings and began to preen her ruffled feathers. Her mouth pulled and tugged them back in place while the tensions that she had felt since sitting down with the rest of her group melted off her back.

As she laid there, her ear twitched and it soon became apparent that she could hear talking coming from the next room. While quiet, it was unmistakably the two sisters locked in a discussion.

Sliding off her bed, Twilight did her best to not make a noise and levitate a glass against the wall to get a better listen.

“Luna, I’m telling you that the mare is hiding something,” Celestia began, just as a hoofstomp could be heard. “She teleports us away, then turns up as an Alicorn. Doesn’t that strike you as strange?”

Luna let out a snort. “Think about it, Sister. Why would she hide anything else? What would she gain from doing such a thing?”

“Well, us for starters,” Celestia pointed out. “We don’t know anything about her. We just trusted her because she saved us. For all we know, she could be the one to have stolen the sun and moon from us!”

A quiet overcame the next room for several seconds, then their bed creaked.

“’Tia, do you trust me?” Luna asked.

“Of course.”

“Then trust me that I trust her. She’s-” there was a small pause. “I feel that she’s genuine in her cause. If she wanted to hurt us, she would have had plenty of chances, even with Sunset there.”

Pulling away from the wall, Twilight placed the glass down and frowned, a pit opening up in her stomach. She didn’t realise Celestia felt that negatively against her.

Tip-hoofing her way over to the bed, she slid under the covers and curled up, her wings wrapping around herself to allow for another layer of protection from the outside world. She knew there wasn’t much chance of completing this quest, let alone wooing the Princesses, if they didn’t even know her.

Twilight was suddenly woken up by an impatient banging against her door. Letting out a groan, she glanced out of the window, as she climbed out of bed, and judged it to be early in the morning. Wandering over to the door, she reached out with her magic and inched it open, only to see Sunset standing there with an apologetic smile.

“May I come in?” she asked, looked up and down the hallway.

Twilight opened the door slightly to allow the mare in, then shut it afterwards. “Why’re you up at such an hour?” she asked, peeking out into the hall, before closing the door and sliding the latch shut.

“I needed to talk to you,” Sunset replied as she wandered over to the window to peek out into the street below.

“Oh? Should I get the others?”

“No- I mean… this is something that I need to say.”

Twilight made her way back over to her bed and laid down, confused. “You’re getting me a little worried here.”

Glancing back at Twilight, Sunset sighed then closed the curtains and used her magic to light the candle sat on the desk.

“Thank you,” she began, turning properly to face Twilight. “For giving Celestia and Luna hope. They might have understated how much they had truly given up on getting their sun and moon back.”

She moved over and sat in front of Twilight.

“Without their celestial bodies, they won’t last another five years. Their lifespan has already far exceeded any other ponies and they’re living on borrowed time.”

Twilight looked down in shock from hearing just how long they had left. “I will get them to Eden, Sunset, and we’ll stop whatever is happening there,” she stated.

“I know you will. But we’ll need to secure passage into the Badlands first if we want to have any chance of getting that crown.”

“Well, how do you suppose we do that?” Twilight asked, raising a brow. “Unless you know of some shady underground ponies.”

“Well…” Sunset said, tapping her hoof on the ground as she looked away.

“Wait, seriously?”

“I didn’t really want to bring it up around the others, but sometimes my experiments require a few ingredients, or specimens, which may or may not be contraband. So yeah, I know a few ponies here and there. They’re nice ponies… most of the time.”

Stepping outside into the cold of the night, Twilight glanced over to Sunset, then scanned the empty street.

“Follow me,” Sunset ordered, gesturing down the street towards the centre of the city. “We should be quick. The city guards don’t take kindly to ponies being out early.”

Nodding, Twilight followed behind Sunset, making sure to keep an eye on their surroundings. Turning a corner, Twilight kept close as they entered and travelled down a dark alley, slowly descending into what she assumed to be the sewers.

The sound of rushing water overwhelmed the mare at first, causing her to flick her ears down and her muzzle scrunched up at the smell. It didn’t take long for Twilight’s eyes to adjust to the dimly lit sewers which were occasionally lit up by the glow of the crystal lights from aboveground.

Two stone walkways ran parallel to the waterway, allowing the mares to traverse deeper into the city. At various points, the pair switched to the other side when the walkway had crumbled away or looked too weak to support their weight.

“What sort of experiments did you do?” Twilight asked, spreading her wings to help keep her balance as they crossed over once more.

“I,” Sunset began, pausing for a second as she slowed. “I was doing applications of thaumaturgy on living tissue. I had been studying Celestia and Luna for so long and after seeing their healing abilities, I wanted to replicate them.”

“That’s… understandable.”

Sunset stopped and turned to her, a surprised look on her face. “I wasn’t expecting that reaction, to be honest.”

“Let’s just say that I have some experience with spells that I shouldn’t be using,” Twilight said, smiling. “Though, I assume that the college weren’t so understanding?”

Sunset shook her head. “No, they threatened to revoke my license if I continued.”

“Well, I guess that’s fortunate for us,” Twilight laughed, gesturing forwards. “Shall we? I wouldn’t want the others to wake up and for us to not be there.”

With a strained smile, Sunset continued on with Twilight close behind.

A few minutes more and the pair arrived at an unassuming iron door with a covered window. Sunset knocked three times, waited a second, then knocked two more times and then backed up next to Twilight.

Glancing at Twilight, Sunset mumbled, “Let me do the talking.”

After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, the window slid across with a scrape and two aqua-coloured eyes stared out towards the pair.

“Sunset?” a gruff, gravelly voice growled out. “I thought the boss told you to never come back?!”

Sunset winced. “Well yeah- But I need Ruin’s help. Tell him I’ll do what he wants this time,” she pleaded, hanging her head low. “He’ll know what it means.”

The stallion on the other side of the door stared at her. “You’re lucky I like you…” he grunted. “Don’t move.”

Sunset grumbled to herself for a little bit, then stopped as the door opened up to reveal a rather portly stallion with a light blue mane, and tail, with a darker green streak running through the center, and green coat.

"I'll take you to the boss. Don't try anything," he growled, moving aside and letting the two mares pass by.

Sunset and Twilight moved through and down a narrow, damp hallway which led into a rough, open cavern filled to the brim with crates. Crystal lights had been fitted around the room, as well as cables which had been run through holes in the ceiling, that allowed a small amount of orange glow to fill the room.

Slowing slightly, Twilight let out a yelp as she felt the stallion push her forwards. "Keep moving," he said, moving past the Alicorn.

"He's right. We should really try to stay on his good side- well, what little he has left for me," Sunset whispered over to Twilight.

Nodding, Twilight sped up and followed behind the stallion as he led her through the cave.

"Did something happen?" Twilight asked, glancing to Sunset, concern evident.

With a sigh, Sunset nodded. "I may- may have declined a proposal from Ruin," she explained, grimacing. "It wasn't pretty. I was younger and too focused on my work."

"Oh. So what he wants to do..."

Sunset grimaced. "Looks like like it," she agreed, shrugging. "Anything for my friends."

The pair turned the corner and entered an even larger, circular cavern that was dimly lit. Unlike the previous cavern, the floors and most of the walls had been smoothed down with lit sconces placed at even intervals around the room. The center of the room was taken up by a grand, circular table that was covered with gold, weapons and playing cards.

Off to the side sat weapon and armor racks, as well as bookshelves lined, sparsely, with tomes. Further than those were a set of closed double doors.

Several chairs surrounded the table, upon which sat two ponies; a yellow Pegasus mare and a black, Unicorn stallion. The mare glanced over with a cocky grin and flicked her black mane back while the yellow maned unicorn simply watched. The stallion escorting them wandered back, leaving them alone with the two new ponies.

"Oh looky here," the Pegasus laughed, throwing her cards on the table, much to the Unicorn's annoyance, at least until he looked over as well. "Look who's come grovelling back. I knew you'd want Ruin."

Sunset rolled her eyes as she neared the table, annoyance evident on her face. "Oh buck off, Cloak. It's been a long few days, alright."

"Someone's grouchy," she teased as she left her chair and moved past Sunset. Upon seeing Twilight, she froze for a second, then raised a brow. "What are you then? Some sort of Pegacorn?"

Twilight blinked, then shook her head. "I'm an Alicorn."

Cloak rolled her eyes. "Whatever. I'll go and get Ruin. Don't touch my stuff," she warned, giving a cursory glance to Sunset as she wandered off to doorway a the side of the room.

The Unicorn leaned back and brought his back legs up onto the table, then stared over at Twilight. "Maybe your friend could stay here with us?" he asked, smirking as his eyes passed over Twilight's body.

"No," Sunset replied, glaring at him.

"I'm sure we could find something she's... suited for."

"Dagger," Sunset warned.

"Oh please. That's not really my thing anyway," Dagger mumbled, shrugging. "Besides, Ruin would... well, ruin me," he laughed, shaking his head. "Besides, why are you back?"

Sunset sighed and sat down in Cloak's chair. "Stonewall was attacked. We barely made it out and I," she began, smiling over to Twilight. "I need to arrange passage for three ponies."

Dagger whistled at that and looked between the Sunset and Twilight. "Wait, passage? Where? We can only get ponies out of the badlands not in."

Sunset stared at him until it clicked.

"You know he'll never agree to that," Dagger continued, looking shocked. "Getting out is hard enough; getting in is suicide."

"We have to," Twilight spoke up, having walked over beside Sunset. She placed a hoof on the back of the chair and let herself relax. "I heard that the Gryphon's are aggressive with the city? It is due to their king?"

Dagger scoffed. "What isn't due to their king?!" he began, shaking his head with indignation. "He raises their taxes, causing revolts. Then when he squashes their revolts, he finds out he has no food left and declares war on us, the Elks and the Yaks. This whole war is a mess and each month it becomes harder to ponies out of their territory."

Twilight certainly didn't expect that out of a pony like him and tapped her hoof on the chair. "You're a good pony, Dagger."

"Me? Nah. It's just hard to get paid nowadays," he grumbled, looking away.

The double doors opened and Cloak skipped out. "Oi, Sunny. Out of the chair," she ordered, quickly falling back into it as soon as it was free.

Walking out behind her was Ruin, a hulking pony ever so slightly larger than Bic Mac. His brown fur was littered with small scars here and there, most notably around his legs, though one ran across his milky, right eye. His jet black hair was smoothed back, and combed, while his tail was impeccably brushed and curled at the end to not rub against the ground.

Upon seeing Sunset, Ruin's lips curled into a smile and he quickened his pace.

"Sunset!" he greeted with a low, rumbling voice. "I didn't expect you back."

"Honestly," she mumbled, rubbing a leg anxiously. "Neither did I."

Ruin lost his smile and frowned. "Then why are you here?" he asked.

A deep silence filled the room.

"My-" Twilight paused, catching herself', "friends and I require passage into Gryphon Territory."

Arc 1: Chapter 11

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Ruin's full attention was now on Twilight and he stepped forwards, to which she rose to her full size, just barely passing eye to eye with him.

"Who are you?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Moonlight," Twilight replied, ruffling her feathers and pushing her adrenaline down. "We're trying to get to the Gryphon capital."


Twilight glanced over to Sunset, for but a moment, then back to Ruin. "We need the crown that's on Titas's head."

Ruin stared at the Alicorn, then snorted and laughed. He held his stomach as the deep, rumbling laugh echoed throughout the cave.

"Why are you laughing? I'm serious!" Twilight huffed.

Ruin finally let up after a few more seconds of full belly laughter. "That was the most idiotic thing I've heard in quite some time," he chuckled, smirking. Seeing Twilight was serious, he shook his head. "Look, getting across the Badlands is suicidal in and of itself, but to think you can just waltz into Gryphonhold an-"

"We won't waltz in. I know it'll no doubt be filled to the brim with Gryphons loyal to the mad King. I don't care about them. My goal is the crown and I will get it," Twilight declared, wings rustling on her sides as she stood tall. "I'm doing this for the two most important ponies I know. Without it, they will die and that cannot happen."

Ruin held her gaze and his expression slowly changed from amused to knowing, then to acceptance.

"It's also been a long time since I've seen resolve like that," he sighed, shaking his head before turning to Sunset. "Have you changed your mind about what I asked for?"

The mare winced, but nodded. "Yeah," she muttered, ears folding back.

"Then Cloak and Dagger will take you across. Don't expect them to save you if anything happens. I refuse to lose another pony to those damn tunnels."

The ponies sat the table let out a groan, pulled themselves away and wandered out the cave.

"Make sure you're ready to go tomorrow morn. If you're late, it's called off. Sunset will stay here and keep me company either way."

Twilight looked between the two and raised a brow. "What exactly will she do with you?" she asked, confused.

Sunset cleared her throat. "Last time I was here, Ruin wanted me to, uh..."

"I asked for her to carry my foal," Ruin explained, calmly.

"What?! You can't be serious?" Twilight shouted, taking a step back. "This must be a sick joke!"

Sunset shook her head. "It's real, Moonlight. This is the only way that you'll be getting across the Badlands. Nopony else knows the tunnels. Even you will die if you try and go across the surface. The Gryphons will cut you to pieces."

"There's got to be some other way. What about your research? This is barbaric..." Twilight growled, narrowing her eyes at Ruin.

The stallion shrugged. "Take it or leave it, Moonlight," he muttered, smirking.

Twilight's anger had quickly bubbled over and she was merely holding on for Sunset's sake.

"Moonlight, please!" Sunset pleaded, rushing over once she saw Twilight's horn light up. Placing her hooves to Twilight's chest, she sighed. "This is my choice. You know what happens if you don't get the crown."

Twilight stared down at the mare as the glow from her horn dissipated. "It's sick," she whispered, closing her eyes.

"Yes, but if it means saving my friends- your marefriends- I'd gladly do it again..."

"What?" Twilight asked, shooting her eyes open. "We're not-"

"I've seen the way they look at you, Moon. Luna wears her emotions on her coat. Celestia is guarded from her past, but I can see the way she looks at you."

"If... if you are so sure about this... I'll have to tell you why they're so important to me," Twilight said, glancing to Ruin. "Can you give us a moment alone?" she asked. "Please?"

Ruin shrugged. "Fine. Cloak and Dagger will give you the location once you're finished. You won't see me again," he explained, walking out and closing the double doors with a 'thump'.

Twilight gently led Sunset over to the table and sat her down. "I... I haven't been entirely honest with everypony."

"If this is about you being an Alicorn?"

"No," Twilight replied, shaking her head. "It's... with who I am." Moving away, Twilight closed her eyes. "My name's not Moonlight. It's Twilight Sparkle."

"Wait, what? You've been lying about your name? What else?" Sunset asked, looking more confused than angry.

"I'm from Equestria... but two thousand years in the future," she revealed, turning around. "I'm the Princess of Friendship there."

"Princess of- wait, did you say two thousand?! Do you think I was born yesterday?" Sunset scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Making stuff up to get out lying," she huffed, narrowing her eyes at Twilight.

Sighing, the Alicorn lit her horn up and filled the room with images of Celestia and Luna, from her timezone. "These are the Celestia and Luna from my time," she said, looking around the room with a loving smile. "They rule with me."

Looking back at Sunset, she dispelled the images, leaving the mare speechless as she sat there, trying to comprehend what she saw.

"They're why I'm doing this. They're why I'm going across the world for them... They're why I'm prepared to die doing this."

"Dear Elysium, you're telling the truth," Sunset choked, staring at the Alicorn, who only nodded with a calm smile on her face. "Why are you telling me this? You could have just went on... I could tell them!"

"Because, you deserve to know what you're helping with. It's not just to save the sister's lives, it's to save everything that they build and every single pony that comes with it," Twilight replied, moving closer and sitting down in front of Sunset. "You won't tell them for the same reason you won't tell them about your deal."

"Because they can't know..." Sunset whispered, staring into Twilight's eyes. "What's it like, in your time?"

Twilight couldn't help but let out a small chuckle at the question. "It's magical, Sunset. Equestria is at peace. You'd love Canterlot!"

Her horn lit up once again and she projected her memories onto the wall, showing Sunset Canterlot in all it's splendor, before switching to Celestia raising the summer sun, the moment burning itself into Sunset's mind.

Sunset didn't dare blink at she watched those memories. "Can you take me?" she asked, looking over to Twilight with pleading eyes. "Surely you can take more than one pony back?"

Twilight pulled back and looked away. "You know I can't, Sunset. If I take you out, it could affect any amount of the infinite variables that flow through time."

Sunset blinked and winced. "I understand," she mumbled, her ears folding back. "The sisters come first; I get that."

Twilight sighed and shook her head. "If they die, Equestria- Let's just say that there won't be an Equestria to go back to."

Sunset simply nodded and pulled herself out of her chair. "Fine, let's go... we'll need our sleep, Twilight," she hissed, walking past Twilight.

Twilight flopped back down onto her bed and let out a soft groan. She couldn't believe that Sunset would actually agree to do that. While she knew that the mare would most likely be treated adequately, it still didn't help with her growing guilt. Another pony she knew had to suffer because of her actions.

She glanced out the window, saw the early morning sun filter through and groaned. She'd need to patch things up with Celestia if the sister's late night talk was anything to go by. Perhaps she could take her shopping or something and simply hang out, alone?

Only a couple of hours later, Twilight heard a soft knock on her door and looked up from her notebook. She winced at the bright light from outside and slid off her bed, stretched and felt several 'clicks' come from her back, which caused her to let out a happy sigh.

Walking over to the door, she opened it with her magic and smiled upon seeing Celestia standing there alone. Though, an awkward silence began to fill the air.



"No, you go," they both muttered, looking down.

Twilight sighed and decide to start. "Please, come in," she asked, moving aside for Celestia.

Celestia wandered in and stood in the center of the room, her wings ruffling hesitantly.

"I'm sorry," Twilight stated, standing in front of her. "This is me being honest. I'm sorry for not telling you about this," she continued, gesturing to herself. "I've only been an Alicorn for a few years, Celestia. I don't know anything yet and I just... I guess I wanted the two of you to think of me as how everypony back home sees me. Not as somepony with these wings, but just as a mare."

Celestia stood there, listening intently. By the time Twilight had finished, Celestia was looking down at her hooves, conflict evident on her face. "A few years? But you're so..." she cleared her throat and rubbed her leg.

"I went on a training course that helped. That unicorn you met, that's what I actually looked like... I read, a lot," Twilight chuckled. "It lasted seven months, but it's worth it."

Celestia giggled and rolled her eyes. "You still looked lovely as a Unicorn."

"Thanks, but I prefer the whole unkillable aspect and, well, wings." As if to prove her point, she unfurled and flapped a little. Totally not to show off her impressive wingspan.

"I forgive you, Moonlight. But I need to know I can trust you. I don't know anything about you."

Furling her wings back to her sides, Twilight nodded. "I know. How about this. We go, just us two, to gather some supplies and you can ask anything you want. I'll even answer honestly."

Celestia suddenly had a wide smile. "That sounds rather agreeable. Let's go!" she ordered, causing Twilight to roll her eyes.

"Alright, but we'll have to tell the others."

Twilight and Celestia had quickly told Sunset and Luna that they were going out to gather supplies, to which Luna pouted, but didn't protest.

After gathering her saddleback, Twilight met Celestia downstairs and left the Inn.

The streets didn't seem quite as full as the day before, which allowed the pair a little bit of room to wander while taking in the sights.

"How do the buildings not crumble?" Celestia asked, her eyes wide at the towering structures of steel and rock.

"I'm not sure, but it's certainly impressive," Twilight replied. "I've only seen one city that comes close to this. This is... It doesn't have the same sort of charm. "

Celestia's ears perked up upon hearing that. "Oh? Back in your homeland? What's was called?"

Twilight felt a cold wave wash over her, but she knew that this would be coming, especially with Celestia being able to ask anything she wanted.

Looking around, Twilight gestured to a bench and sat down on one side, with Celestia joining her on the other as ponies passed by.

"I said I'd answer honestly, so... I'm not from another country. I'm from Equestria.”

Celestia nodded slowly as she narrowed her eyes, then simply replied with, "I see."

"I was stupid and made something up on the spot. All of those stories- They're of my friends."

"Why were you not in the stories you told?"


"Honestly, please."

Gazing down at the wood under her, Twilight shrugged. "Honestly? I don't think I deserve friends like them. They're the best and they deserve so much more than just the friendship I have with them. I did nothing but fret over insignificant things, go psycho at the drop of a hat and they'd always find a way to calm me down. Even after everything we've been through, I still don't know if I'll ever live up to what they think I am."

"That sounds like normal friendships to me?" Celestia giggled, tilting her head. "Luna does that for me. My last, uh... somepony special did that for me as well. It comes with being friends."

Twilight paused for a second, then nodded. "I know that... but it doesn't do much to remove how I feel about it."

"I'm sure they'd go through it all again in a heartbeat, Moon, if they're as amazing as you made them out to be."

"So would I."

Looking around at the slowly increasing crowds of ponies, Celestia sighed. "I'll miss places like this."

"What do you mean? Surely we'll come back after?" Twilight asked, tilting her head. "We'll succeed. I'd bet on it."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Well, look at us. All of us have something worth fighting for. You and Luna have each other."

"And you, Moonlight; what do you have?" Celestia asked, a smirk appearing on her face.

"M-Me?" Twilight stammered. "Oh, not much," she added, shrugging. "Just two mares that are possibly the only Alicorns in the world and can understand what I'm going through."

Celestia's cheeks darkened and she brushed her mane back with a hoof. "Well, I guess that's a good enough answer as any."

Despite the hustle and bustle of ponies walking by, an awkward silence settled over the pair. Deciding to banish it, Twilight stood up and stretched her wings.

"Shall we go for something to eat?" she asked, jumping off of the bench. "I'm sure there's something worthwhile in this city."

"I think that would be lovely. Please, lead the way," Celestia nodded.

As Twilight, and Celestia, wandered through the crowds, she couldn't help but look over at the mare every so often while keeping an eye out for somewhere to eat or possibly a stall with supplies for their trip.

"Celestia?" Twilight asked after a short while. Receiving a hum, she continued, slightly nervous. "What do you plan on doing after all this is done?"

Celestia raised a curious brow, but shrugged. "Well, assuming we're not dead, or enslaved, I would want foals."

'She wants foals?! Does she still want them in the future?' Twilight thought, her heart rate spiking. "O-Oh? Looking to settle down somewhere?"

With a giggle, Celestia nodded. "Something like that," she replied, smiling wide, though that faltered quickly as she spoke again. "My stallion couldn't give me any before he left for Elysium and I guess my body has been begging me for them for many years."

"Tell me about him?" Twilight asked, her wing unfurling to fold over Celestia's back.

The older Alicorn moved closer to Twilight and let out a tired sigh. "I met him in Stonewall," she began, her smile returning as she reminisced. "It was a small community with a few bridges at the time. Father had gone to war at the time and mother..." she trailed off, her eyes looking old and tired.

"I met Feather Rush at the only Inn in the village. Of course, I was twenty at the time, practically still a filly and so I fell for his good looks and charm."

Celestia chuckled and shook her head. "I was such a stammering mess back then. It didn't help that Luna would tease me about it day and night.

"He worked as the only weather pony for the village, so we'd get to lounge about and enjoy each other most of the time. Being a weather pony meant he was exempt from being drafted, but a lot of our friends weren't."

Twilight spotted a rather cozy looking cafe and led Celestia over to it. Entering, she found a table and sat down, allowing the Alicorn to lean on her as she wrapped Twilight's leg with her own.

"Elysium knows he tried his best to give me foals and for a while we hoped, but after a while I guess we just lost that hope and stopped trying.

"As much as I love him, I regret meeting him that day."

Twilight ran her muzzle through the Alicorn's mane, kissing the top of her head. She didn't know what to say. Even here Celestia had gone through so much more than her. She was still a little filly compared to her.

"He could have been with a pony who would have given him a family. He never said it -he was too kind- but I could see it in his eyes, at the end," she whispered, finding herself choking upon the words and turning to hold close against Twilight.

"Hey... shh," Twilight cooed, wrapping her legs around her and rubbing her back. "I'll admit that I don't know much about love, but I very much doubt that he regretted even a second of being with you.

"If he did, he wouldn't have spent his life with you, Celestia."

Celestia pulled back just enough to wipe her tears away. "What am I doing; acting like such a foal. You were supposed to be honest with me, not this," she half-heartedly chuckled, staring down at the cushion they were sitting on.

"It's not healthy to bottle it up, believe me," Twilight mumbled, brushing a few strands of Celestia's mane back. "You can always talk to me, 'Tia, about anything."

Celestia's lips curled into a weak smile upon hearing her nickname and nodded. "I know, our Moon," she replied, looking off and thinking.

Twilight, despite the mood having been buried six hooves under, kept her smile. Excusing herself for a second, she went off and bought them lunch.

After filling themselves up, the pair lazily wandered around and bought the supplied that they needed, storing what they could in Twilight's saddlebag and then buying a second for Celestia.

All in all, it had basically cut Twilight's amount of bits down by fifty percent by the end. While the weight won't be missed, knowing that she might have to be frugal with her money wasn't a good feeling.

Returning back to the Inn, Twilight and Celestia found Sunset and Luna sitting at one of the tables, drinking. Wandering over, Twilight kept her eyes off of Sunset, still finding her to be cold.

"Did you get everything? You were gone a while," Luna asked, nuzzling Twilight then smiling over to her sister.

"We did, sister," Celestia replied, giving her a quick glare. "We should be all set."

Twilight levitated her saddlebag off and sat down, her own thoughts flooding her head upon seeing a tired Sunset.

'Would it really be so wrong to save her? She is just one pony... Would this have happened if I weren't here?' she thought, examining the mare.

Sunset's mane and tail were frazzled and had lost some of their lustre from the previous night. Her eyes had lost their sparkle and she didn't hold herself as high as she had done earlier.

Twilight turned back to the sisters to find them leaning against each other. She could now see the closeness that only lovers held and it warmed her heart to know that even after she would leave back to her own time, they would still have each other.

'Sunset deserves something like that, surely? A family... A life outside of this city and somepony that actually loves her?'

Twilight knew she had already made up her mind as soon as she saw the changed mare. It was as if all of Sunset's hope had been stripped away.

In that moment, Twilight hated herself for taking that away from her.

"So," Luna spoke up, breaking Twilight from her thoughts. "How do we find a way across the Badlands?"

"I found a way, but it'll be dangerous," Sunset replied, tapping her hoof on the table. "I found some ponies willing to take us. They'll meet you three there at eleven pm."

"Us three? What about you?" Celestia asked, confused.

"I'll have to meet them before to make sure they'll still help us. Don't worry, I'll be there."

Celestia didn't seem to like it, but nodded. "As long as you're sure."

Twilight quietly levitated one half of the heavy, wooden hatch to the cellar open and peered inside. A soft, orange glow illuminated the bottom of the stone stairs, but not a sound could be heard. She turned to the sisters who were keeping an eye out at the end of the alleyway.

"It looks clear," she whisper-shouted, opening the other half of the hatch open to let Luna trot down first, then Celestia. Taking up the rear, she headed down and used her magic to close the hatch behind her, barely a tap sounding out.

The stairs led down to a damp, rather humid tunnel that instantly turned left and ever so slightly downwards. Moss and fungi lined the dirt walls, and a lamp hung from an embedded nail every so often, providing dim light.

"Not as glamorous as you thought it would be, Luna?" Twilight teased, seeing Luna sneer at the mushrooms growing out of the dirt.

"I don't mind the pain, or the constant attacks... but I can't stand mushrooms," she replied, sticking her tongue out and gagging.

Twilight chuckled, moving past the mare and bumping her with her flank. "We should get going, the others will leave otherwise."

The trio trotted through the tunnel, which gradually steepened, before leveling out. As they neared the exit, which was signified with a steel gate, the sound of rushing water could be heard from beyond. Stopping in front of the gate, Twilight tried to open it with her magic, but fount it stuck fast.

From the other side, Cloak slipped into view, a grin on his face. "Oh, it's just you three. It's about time you showed up; Dagger was getting impatient."

Stepping forward, he pulled out a key from one of his pockets and unlocked the gate, pulling it open quickly.

"Come on, we don't want to wait down here for too long. There's worse things than Gryphons within these tunnels."

Twilight moved through and gasped, seeing the tunnel properly. She didn't know how far they had descended, but the ceiling was at least four times as tall as she was. In front of her was a rushing river that entered from one of the many smaller tunnels that looked to be hoof dug by something large, and exited down another, descending deeper into the darkness. The tunnels themselves were lit up by bio-luminescent green goo-sacks that stuck fast to the walls and dripped down onto the rock beneath.

Following Cloak through the tunnels eventually led to Sunset and Dagger standing next to another steel gate, this one looking thicker than the previous. Laid around the gate were sandbags and defensive cover, most of which looked to be unused.

"Tw-" Sunset called out, catching her mistake and going wide-eyed. "Twoo long have we been waiting here, right Dagger?" she laughed, awkwardly.

"I'm really glad you'll be staying with us," Dagger muttered, rolling her eyes. "Are you three ready? We have to dodge Gryphon patrols for the next two days and I'd rather get started sooner rather than later."

"Can you give us a moment to say goodbye, at least?" Luna asked, glaring at the mare.

"Fine, fine. You have five minutes, then we have to go," Dagger allowed, trotting off to talk to Cloak.

"Sunset," Twilight greeted, smiling. "How are you? I hope they haven't hurt you?"

"Of course not. Ruin can be gentle," she began, shivering. "When he wants to be, at least. But, I've been treated well."

"Sunset, whatever do you mean? Treated well?" Celestia asked, glancing between her and Twilight. "Is there something we should know?"

Twilight stole a glance with Sunset, before they both nodded.

"Ruin wasn't just doing it out of the kindness of his own heart, 'Tia. He wanted something," Sunset started to explain, sitting down. "Me, specifically."

Celestia still looked confused. "What do you mean, he wanted you?"

"He wanted," she tried to answer, but looked down in shame.

"He wanted her to have his foals," Twilight answered for her. "Naturally, she would have to stay here."

Luna seethed with anger. "How dare he. Does he not know who you are?!"

"Luna, calm yourself," Twilight asked, placing a hoof on the mare's shoulder.

"How can you say that, our Moon? Surely you jest? Our Sunset is being forced into... ugh, it's horrible!"

"I know!" Sunset shouted, rising up and stomping a hoof, silencing a shocked Luna. "Don't you think we know that? But what else could I do? He's the only one in the city that can get us- you- across the Badlands without being sliced apart."

"But surely there's another way?" Celestia asked, wrapping a wing around the shaking mare. "Couldn't we simply fly around the Badlands?"

"Would you waste a month traveling for something that could take two days?" Sunset whispered, then slowly brought her eyes up to look at the Alicorn. "I know you, neither of you can waste that time anymore."

Celestia nodded solemnly. "You are right, like usual. We don't have that sort of time. But it's horrible... you shouldn't go through with this just for us!"

"Who says it's just for you two, Celestia," Sunset asked, frowning. "Do you think whoever stole your immortality will stop at that? If they can just attack Stonewall, who's to say they won't attack here, or Elysium forbid, Prismhold.

"So no, it's not just for you. It's for them," she said, pointing towards Cloak and Dagger as her eyes watered. "It's for Moonlight, and everything else alive on this planet. So, if I must stay here and bare Ruins foals, so be it. But don't you dare say it's only for you two!"

The two sisters were stunned and Celestia averted her eyes, unable to form a reply.

Luna began to wipe at her own tears, a choked sob leaving her throat. "We'll be back for you," she cried, rushing forwards to wrap the mare up in her warm, midnight wings. "On my honour, this I promise, Sunset."

Sunset leaned into the hug, nuzzling against Luna and wrapping her legs around to tighten it. "I know, Luna," she replied, finding her voice breaking up.

Luna was hesitant to break the hug, but Celestia eventually coerced her off the mare.

"I would ask why you didn't tell us, but I think that's self evident," Celestia said, forcing an awkward laugh. "I assume Moonlight knew?"

Sunset winced, then nodded. "She did. I took her to see Ruin after you went to bed, on the first night we arrived. She tried to convince me as well. But she agreed it was the only way."

Twilight couldn't bare to look at either of the sisters, her ears folding back. "I hate it as much as you do, but Sunset's right."

"I," Luna began, sniffling. "We will miss you greatly, Sunset."

"Don't be silly, Luna. I'm sure you'll meet hundreds of great beings on your way. You are traveling across the world after all."

Luna's lip wobbled and she burst out crying. Celestia wrapped her wings around the mare as she buried her face in her sister's chest to sob. Twilight moved over to Sunset and used a wing to cover her. "Come with me for a minute. It's important," she ordered, looking over at Cloak and Dagger, who seemed bored.

"What is it?" Sunset asked, being led by Twilight's wing. "I won't change my mind on this, if that's what you're-"

"Stop and listen," Twilight hissed, forcing her to go silent. "I... I've thought about what you asked, when we spoke about-," she glanced back at the sisters. "-where I'm from."

"Y-You did?" Sunset asked, perking up tremendously.

"Of course I did. I can't just leave you here to grow old and die while I get to go back to my Princesses."

"I can't believe it..." Sunset gasped, wrapping her legs around Twilight and holding her tight.

"I'll be back for you, I promise. But knowing time-travel, I'll appear as soon as I'm out of detection range of the spell," Twilight chuckled, kissing the top of Sunsets head.

"I can't believe this," Sunset whispered, her chest thumping. She held Twilight tighter as the Alicorn smiled down at her. "Though, you'll have to explain why you weren't here to those two."

The sisters had separated and were standing there, waiting for Twilight and Sunset to finish, Celestia's wing wrapped tight around Luna's back.

The lunar mare had stopped crying, but an occasional sniffle could be heard. "We should go, before I change my mind!"

Twilight released Sunset and caressed her cheek. "I guess I'll see you soon," Twilight cooed, winking.

Turning to the sisters, she walked back and nodded. "We should, indeed. I hate goodbyes."

Sunset wiped her own damp fur, then nodded. "Of course. Please be safe!"

"You know we can't promise that," Twilight replied, giving her own, fake, half hearted smile while Cloak and Dagger walked over.

"Are you fillies done?" Cloak asked, tapping her hoof. Hearing no reply, she smiled. "Good. Dagger, open the door."

The stallion nodded and neared the steel gate. Pulling out a black, slender key, he inserted it into the lock and turned it until a loud 'click' sounded out. Gripping the gate, he pulled and it swung open ever so slowly.

"Alright, go through. It's enchanted to close after a minute and lock for three days," he explained, gesturing to the inky blackness that was the tunnel below.

Twilight gazed into the darkness and felt herself grow just a little nervous. Images of facing King Sombra's leftover dark magic echoing in her head.

Celestia brushed a wing down the mare's back and tried her best to smile while walking into the tunnel with Luna. "Quickly now, Moonlight."

Glancing back one last time to Sunset, she saw the mare wave her off, a warm smile on her face.

Taking a deep breath, she placed one hoof in front of the other and entered the tunnel, ignoring the feeling of dread welling up within her.

Twilight was sure that the tunnels they were traversing stretched in for eternity. The group had walked for several hours and she still wasn't sure how Cloak was able to find his way through.

Each time they reached a junction - a central cavern with numerous tunnels branching off - he'd close his eyes. His ears perked up and he'd pick a tunnel to go down, even if it made no logical sense.

"Do you think he actually knows his way around in here?" Luna whispered, leaning over to Twilight. "Or will he leave us here?"

"I don't know, Lu. I don't think he's that stupid," Twilight replied, brushing up against her side.

Pressing on, they reached another junction and Cloak, once again, stood still with his eyes closed. After a few seconds, they shot open and he turned to the group. "Hide!" he hissed, jumping behind a rocky outcrop.

The others did the same, each finding their own holes to hide in, just as an earsplitting 'crack' echoed through the cave. The ceiling shattered and fell in where they had been standing with light spilling in from above. Twilight peeked out from her hole to see Six Gryphons, four Pegasi, and three Unicorns float down from the surface.

"Spread out and find them!" A tall, well armoured, red Pegasus commanded. He held a confident smirk just below his white mask with Starswirl's time-travel spell etched onto it. "Mistress wants them alive!"

Twilight's eyes widened as she looked over to the sisters to check whether they had seen it too. Receiving nods, she glanced back out and counted three Gryphons and two Pegasi, each of which were covered in metal plate armour. She really didn't want to have to fight again, but all hell would break lose if they let one of them get back to the Gryphons.

Staring over at Cloak, she smiled and mouthed: 'Be ready to run'.

Cloak looked at her like she was crazy, then grumbled under her breath as she ruffled her wings, preparing to bolt it.

The sisters glanced between the pair, confused, until they saw Twilight's horn light up. Realization hit them and their own horns lit up, first to levitate their saddlebags off, then to charge their own spells.

The closest Gryphon stalked closer to Twilight's hiding spot, sniffing the air. His Plate armour clanked together as he lowered himself and wiggled his rear as he prepared to pounce. What he didn't expect was for Twilight's head to pop up and for her to smile.

"Hello. I understand you're here for me?" She asked, grinning as two seperate bolts of magic impacted his armour, throwing him sideways. "Hm, I guess you're not," she muttered watching the Gryphon skid along the floor and roll through some debris, unconscious.

The other Gryphons eyes shot over towards her and she felt the instinctual feeling of dread from being targeted by a predator.

Narrowing her eyes, she pushed herself up out of the hole, galloped forwards towards the Gryphons and flared her horn, a hexagonal shield floating in front of her.

Cloak took off down one of the tunnels as the fighting started, eager to not die, while the sisters stayed in their holes and continued to fire bolts of magic towards the Gryphons, trying to distract them for Twilight.

"Why can't you leave us alone?!" Twilight shouted as she fired a spear of magic at a nearby Gryphon, clipping them through the wing and sending them to the ground screaming as blood gushed out of the wound. As the summoned up swords, spears and warhammers, she felt the rush of battle and finally understood why Luna relished in such a thing; to be the one controlling the chaos of war.

She brought her warhammer down on a Pegasus mare's leg, snapping the bone with a sickening 'crunch', then grunted as the three Unicorns launched salvo after salvo of stun blasts at her, which fizzled across her body with a hiss and forced her back.

"B-Buck," Twilight cried, raising a wing to protect her head.

The blasts pushed her back to just in front of the Alicorn sisters and she felt both of their cooling touch of magic gently spread across her body so she didn't fall back into their hole.

"Moonlight!" Celestia gasped, growling as the ground around her heated up. She jumped out of her hole, a shield appearing in front of her to protect her Twilight. "Moonlight, are you okay?" she asked, placing a hoof on the mare's neck.

Despite the sizzling ground around her hooves, Twilight only felt the warmth of her mentor's care. "O-Of course, 'Tia. I can't handle stun spells very well," she replied, clearing her throat from embarrassment after. "I'm getting rather tired of being hurt."

"So am I, our Moon," Luna added, jumping out and joining them. "Shall we finish this?"

"Yes, let's."

"Yes, launch immediately," the Pegasus commanded, his hoof raised to his ear. "Yes, on my coordinates. They shall all burn." With a grin, he flared his wings and took off out of the hole in the sky, with the other ponies and Gryphons staring up at him in horror.

Soon enough, those that could fly were rushing out of the hole, and those that couldn't were either galloping down one of the many tunnels or trying to crawl away, sobbing hysterically.

Twilight stepped forwards out of the shield and found the pony which she had crippled. Picking her up in her magic, she narrowed her eyes. "What did he do?!" she asked, growing.

The pony whimpered, trying to get away, despite the pain and magic holding her in place. "He called in a bombardment... if you want to live, you should run," she replied, terror in her eyes as she stared up at the open hole.

"Uh, girls... get close," Twilight ordered, feeling them press up against her. Closing her eyes, she summoned a dome around them, the magic burning into the rock and dirt as she strengthened it. Her eyes shot open when Celestia and Luna pressed their tips to Twilight's own, adding their own magic into the mix.

"We're here for you, Moonlight," Luna whispered, staring into her eyes.

It was only a second later that the first shell hit their shield, falling from the sky with a piercing roar of a dragon. The shell exploded, changing the air around them into the surface of the sun. The four ponies covered their eyes from the blinding white light, with Twilight screaming out in pain.

"Moonlight!" Celestia gasped, holding onto her tight as she tried her best to keep the mare conscious.

Falling to her knees, Celestia kept hold of Twilight and felt a second impact explode directly next to the shield. A wave of blistering heat washed over her coat, scaring even her. She wrapped her wings around her Moon, shielding her from the worst of it. "Moon... hold on," she whispered, her fear catching up with her.

The pegasus let out a scream and instinctively neared the three, to which Luna pulled her in and held her close to her barrel. Yet, when another shell impacted the shield, the ground beneath them gave way and crumbled down into darkness.

Twilight's eyes fluttered open slowly and the first thing she felt was a dull ache that ran throughout her entire body. It wasn't painful, but it was enough to shock her fully awake. The second thing she felt was the rush of cold river-water that splashed against her back legs. With a groan, she pushed herself off the gravel and noticed the sisters had been laying beside her, unconscious.

Her own wing dangled down against the floor, dislocated. Most of her mane had been scorched and she had, once again, lost her saddlebag.

Closing the gap she leaned down and gently nuzzled Celestia's cheek.

"Celestia, you have to get up. We have to plan," she grunted. Not seeing the mare move, she brought her magic down on the mare's rump, spanking her, which seemed to work as she sprung up, kicking dirt and gravel about.

"I'm up!" Celestia sputtered, getting up. She kept one leg off the ground and winced. A dark purple bruise covered the majority of her leg and the skin was poking out at an odd angle.

Letting out a hiss of pain, she glared at Twilight, before asking, "Where are we?"

"I don't know, but there's no Gryphons here yet," Twilight answered, leaning down to nuzzle Luna awake.

The Lunar mare was roused easier than her sister and smiled up at Twilight. "Our Moon, what happened?" she asked, pushing herself up and out of the river.

"We must have been swept away by an underground river and ended up here," Twilight theorised, gesturing to the waterfall that was spraying out of a cave on the side of the mountain. "I don't really remember much after the first explosion."

"Neither do I. What was it that hit us?"

"Must have been Dragon Shells," Twilight muttered, as she climbed onto a nearby boulder to get a better vantage point to see the valley they were in.

"Dragon Shells?" Luna asked, confused. "What are they?"

"They're created by capturing a dragon and tearing out its magic. It's a disgusting and barbaric process," she explained. "But, I suppose it would be effective for anypony looking to capture an Alicorn."

"I don't suppose we could have walked it off if they couldn't get us?" Celestia asked, limping over.

"Not at all," Twilight replied, grimacing. "Once any part of a living body touches dragonfire, the fire will consume it and burn until submerged in water, or they die. I assume you can see why it would be bad for us."

"We'd burn for a very long time..."

Luna moved over and let her sister lean against her. "How did the Gryphons capture a dragon? I thought that was impossible?"

"Not all of them are massive and feral. Most of them are young and vulnerable-" Twilight replied, thinking of Spike when she hatched him. "-especially if they just hatched."

With a sigh, she scanned the area around them as her magic levitated her wing back into position. Fortunately for her, the wing was only dislocated and not broken. A 'pop' and a muffled grunt of pain later, she held it folded against her side.

The group had found themselves washed up on the shore of a river at the bottom of a valley. Tall pine trees covered most of the picturesque snow-peaked mountain-sides.

"Alright," she hissed, gesturing with a hoof down river. "Despite our condition, it's still best to head downstream. I don't know much about Gryphons, but I'm sure something would have been built near the river."

Turning to Celestia, she jumped from the boulder and trotted over. "Here," she muttered, turning around and lowering herself. "Get on."

"You have got to be joking?" Celestia asked with an incredulous look.

"No I'm not. You can barely walk and I'm the biggest one here," Twilight replied, glancing back, all hint of humor faded away. "Now, I won't tell you again."

Celestia blinked for a second, then looked away out of embarrassment. "I'm over one hundred years old, Moonlight. I won't be carried like some fo- eep!"

Twilight's horn lit up and her aura covered Celestia, before depositing the Alicorn onto her new seat. "I told you I wouldn't ask again."

Celestia didn't protest this time, only wrapping her unbroken leg around Twilight's neck and holding on as her cheeks darkened considerably.

"Aw, I wanted to ride Moonlight," Luna pouted. "I guess this is good enough though," she continued, giggling as she nuzzled her cheek.

"Don't squirm, okay? You're still heavy," Twilight teased, causing Celestia to narrow her eyes. "I'm joking! If we can't joke now, when can we, right?"

Celestia simply let out a huff and looked away.

With a sigh, Twilight began to trek down the riverbank with Luna by her side, hoping that they'd find some sort of civilization quickly.

Barely twenty minutes later, the valley opened up to reveal a pristine, sparkling lake surrounded by fields upon fields of wheat, barley and various colors of flowers all covering the lightly cresting hills that spread out for miles. Not a single ripple seemed to spread across the surface of the lake, as the three passed by, only further adding to the calm that had suddenly overtaken them.

Passing over the hill, they spotted a single farmstead nestled just off a dense forest. A wooden, gated, fence encompassed the building, and barn.

Nearing the gate, Twilight frowned at the sign that they couldn't read, but they would have to take the chance at seeing if these Gryphon's were friendly.

"Are we going in?" Luna asked, looking around. "I'd rather not get in a fight again."

"We'll just ask if we can sleep in the barn for tonight. I doubt it will take longer than that for us to heal. Besides, you have me to protect you."

Arc 1: Chapter 12

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The farmhouse seemed to have been built relatively recently, judging from the fresh coat of red paint that gave the structure a rather stunning shine. It was strikingly similar to Applejack's home, aside from having an unpainted wooden roof. From the gate to the porch was smoothed out with plenty of rocks, stopping anypony from gathering mud on their hooves or withers.

Beside the path stood a closed storage shed, along with several plows and a wooden grain silo that was leaning off to one side, the wood having been cracked along one leg. The other side held a small patch of tilled dirt with several roses having poked their way out. Further along stood the barn, with the sun setting behind it and basking the world in ethereal twilight.

"Okay, I'll go up and see if they're hostile or not. If you see fire or hear screams, you run. Don't come for me, okay?" Twilight ordered, looking between the sisters for confirmation that they understood.

Unfortunately for her, they frowned back at her.

"I cannot let you do that, our Moon. I am the least hurt, so I will go up and see," Luna scoffed, shaking her head. "Besides, you must look after our 'Tia."

"Don't I get a say in this?" Celestia asked as she squirmed and slid off Twilight's back.

"No," both Twilight and Luna answered, before turning to look at each other with a smile.

Celestia only rolled her eyes and huffed as she leaned against Luna.

"Fine," Luna said, sighing. "You go and look. I'll look after my sister."


Twilight unlatched the gate with her magic and passed through, then walked down the path towards the home. She could see the upstairs curtains move and moved more cautiously, knowing that she was now being watched. Her wings twitched on her back as she took her first step up onto the porch, then across the deck to stand in front of the door.

With a knock, she waited and took a glance around at the quick nice looking porch. A number of weighted cushions and couches were laid out, as well as a small table in the center. Upon the table sat a vase with a bunch of roses inside; no doubt clipped from the garden.

The sound of claws on wood came from inside the house and after an eternity, the inside door opened to reveal a weathered, white and brown Gryphon. The outside door was pushed open with a claw and Twilight took a cautious step back. She could see numerous scars which ran around the Gryphon's front legs and chest, while a deep scar cut across his left eye, leaving it cloudy.

"Who are you?" he asked, standing tall, even as movement could be heard from inside the house. He jostled his wings, fluffing up the feathers in case of a fight. "Why are you here?"

"My name is Moonlight, sir," Twilight began, giving a respectable bow. "My," she paused, catching herself, "friends and I have traveled through the Badlands and we were wondering if we would be allowed to stay, just for the night, in your barn?"

The old Gryphon blinked and raised a brow upon listening. "The Badlands you say? Nothing has gotten through there, let alone a mere pony..." he stated, a mixture of respect and suspicion oozing into his voice. "You come from Springwallow, eh?"

"Yes, sir. We were ambushed while moving through the tunnels and woke up along the river."

The Gryphon was about to speak when a quieter, feminine, voice spoke up behind him. "Father? Can I see the pony?"

Out from under the Gryphon's legs squirmed a younger Gryphon, who's eyes widened considerably once it saw Twilight.

"Grace, go back inside and let me handle this," he said, using a claw to slide her back under his legs as she whined. Moving his attention back to Twilight, he took an appraisal and grunted. "Fine, you can stay in the barn. But if I hear anything untoward, you'll be out of here."

Twilight didn't exactly know what he meant, but nodded anyway, grateful. "Thank you! We really appreciate this," she thanked, releasing a sigh of relief. "I'll just go and collect them."

"Hun?" another feminine voice sounded out, this one more mature sounding. "Who are you talking to?"

Another Gryphon wandered out and brushed up against the male, causing him to huff and roll his eyes.

"Oh, a pony. Hello there, I'm Gabriella!" she said, holding out a claw towards Twilight with a smile. "I hope my husband hasn't been giving you a hard time?"

"Oh, no. Not at all. He's been really generous by letting me and my friends stay in your barn for the night!" Twilight replied, placing her hoof in Gabriella's to shake.

"In the barn?" Gabriella mumbled, turning her eyes onto her husband, who was looking anywhere but her. "George, how could you! We have a guest room just for this purpose..."

"B-But they're ponies, Gabby... they'll get up to all sorts of weird stuff," he tried explaining, but a frown from Gabriella stopped him dead.

"I don't care if they rut in the living room, we don't deny someone in need, okay?"

"Yes dear," he mumbled, wings sagging in defeat.

"Good," Gabriella spoke, nodding in satisfaction. She turned to the shocked Twilight and smiled. "We have a guest room for you to stay in tonight. Please, gather your friends and I'll show you to it."

Twilight simply nodded, unsure as to how to process what she had just witnessed. 'Wait, did she just say rut?!' she asked herself, thoroughly confused.

After gathering the sisters, the three were allowed into the house, with George keeping his distance and Grace peeking out from behind his legs with a barely contained grin.

The stairs were the first thing that was noticeable, along with the hallway down the side. There was a door on either side, one leading into the living room and one leading into the dining room. Further along, the hallway lead to the kitchen which spanned the entire back half of the home. Most of the walls were practically covered in drawings of flowers or various animals. The spots that weren't, held small framed pictures, drawn with crayon.

"So this is our humble home. It's not much to look at, I know," Gabriella gestured around. "I'll show you to your room," she said, climbing the stairs. "We'll be having dinner in an hour or so. You're free to join us... though I'm not sure what you ponies eat, so it might not suit your tastes."

Celestia chuckled while following, being held up by Luna. "Don't worry too much. Ponies eat greens, but us three can eat practically anything if need be."

The three reached the landing and turned left. The hallway held two doors, one on each side. Gabriella opened one and gestured inside to the guest bedroom. Inside was bare, like most of the house, but it did have a large bed and a table with a candle sitting on it.

Twilight stopped just inside the door and glanced to Gabriella with an appreciative smile. "Thank you, really. I don't know what we would have done if you hadn't done this for us."

The Gryphon looked surprised, but held a claw to her own chest and shook her head, a ghost of a smile on her face. "What sort of mother would I be if I didn't teach my girl to help others. Now, rest and do whatever you ponies do and I'll call you for dinner."

With that, Gabriella walked off, leaving the three alone.

Twilight closed the door and levitated her saddlebag over to the table. Sparking the candle to life, she closed the curtains and smiled over to the others. "Well, that went better than expected."

"Indeed. I guess fate smiles upon us once again, eh, sister?" Luna laughed, nuzzling Celestia.

"Yes, surely we must be blessed," Celestia groaned, slowly moving her tender leg.

"Oh, let me check that out," Twilight said, trotting over with the candle. She knelt down and gently held the mare's leg in her hoof, inspecting the damage. "Well... it looks like it's healing quickly. The healing effect must be physiological and not magical in nature. From what I can see, you'll be perfect, again, in the morning."

"Not soon enough, I would say," Celestia sighed, resting her head on her good leg. "We were extremely lucky, Moon. Another blast and we would be dead, or worse."

Twilight suddenly found the grains of wood on the floor very interesting. "I know," she mumbled, letting out her own tired sigh. "At least we can rest for the night before moving on. The Gryphons here seem nice, but I have my suspicions that they think we'll do something lewd."

"Oh? How so?" Luna asked, scooting over and brushing up against her sister.

With a chuckle, Twilight pulled away and moved the saddlebag back onto the table. "Well, for starters, the husband seems to think that we'll, uh," Twilight trailed off, looking away and clearing her throat.

"He thinks we'll what?" Celestia asked, her curiosity having peaked.

"He- he thinks we'll rut, or something..."

A silence filled the room as both of the sisters stared at Twilight in shock, then turned to each other, before bursting out in laughter.

"W-What?! Why would he think that?" Celestia asked, scooting slightly away from Luna.

"Yeah, that's preposterous... we would not do such a thing..." Luna agreed, noticing her sister's movement.

Twilight saw the slightly hurt expression on Luna's face, but bit her tongue. Shrugging, she wandered back over and climbed onto the bed. "Who knows what the mad King spouts. At least his wife is more calm about the whole thing. I doubt they get many visitors out here, especially ponies."

Still giggling slightly, Celestia rolled her eyes. "Let's hope they're not sympathetic to the King. I would expect them to ask us what we're doing or where we're going."

"I wouldn't wish to lie to them, especially since they were so kind as to house us," Luna mumbled.

"True. I guess we should tell them, but only if they ask," Twilight agreed, nodding.

Just then, a soft knock at the door stole their attention away from each other. "Uh, hello?" a quiet voice called out. "M-Mother says it's time for dinner."

Celestia rose up off the bed and hobbled over to the door, opening it slowly to peek out. With a smile, she pulled the door open further and let the others see Grace standing there, her curious expression having changed into a one of hesitation upon seeing the three ponies looking her way.

"Hi there," Celestia cooed, giggling. "Lead the way."

Grace nodded and scampered over to the stairs and descended, looking back every few steps to make sure the ponies were following her.

Twilight slid up against Celestia and helped her, her wing wrapped tightly around the mare. "Let's enjoy this, okay? I'm sure we won't get another hot meal for a long time," she said, looking to the sisters.

"Too right. I doubt we'll be welcomed with hugs and nuzzles," Luna chuckled, descending after them.

Walking into the dining room, the ponies found a circular, wooden table set with fine cutlery and bowls. A bottle of red wine sat in the center, alongside several crystal glasses and three ladles. Six chairs sat around the table and the ponies filtered in, with them sitting on one side, while the Gryphons sat on the other.

Gabriella walked out of the kitchen with an iron pot, the handle firmly held within her beak. Nearing the table, George reached down and lifted , placing it beside the wine.

Twilight sniffed the air and let out a soft hum, trying to think of what food they were being served while the sisters looked at each other with an uneasy expression.

While they could technically eat almost anything, the taste didn't change, and with them still being ponies, most things tasted as if they were just wrong for them to eat.

"May I ask what that is?" Luna asked, gesturing to the covered iron pot. "It's hard to pinpoint what the smell is..."

"Oh, my lovely wife has pulled out all the stops today," George began, causing a soft giggle to be heard from the kitchen. "It's chicken soup."

The sisters sat back in their chair and nodded, while Twilight leaned forwards with an inquisitive look.

"I've never had that before," she said, smiling as she inhaled.

Glancing at the ponies on either side of her, she rolled her eyes. "It'll be just as nutritious as anything else, you should know this. If the taste really doesn't appeal, I have a spell to help."

Grace gazed over the table towards Twilight and asked, "You can do magic?!"

"Of course! My special talent is magic. I know all sorts of fun spells!"

This only caused Grace to jump up and down on her seat. "Like what?"

George cast a tentative glance towards Twilight, then his daughter. "Grace," he warned, raising a brow and causing her to settle, while still smiling up at Twilight.

Gabriella came back out from the kitchen and sat down beside George. She gestured to the pot. "Please, guests have first pick at the food."

Levitating one of the ladles up and pulling the pot's cover off, Twilight filled her bowl with the creamy chicken soup, then provided Luna with the ladle. Sitting back, she gazed down into the steaming bowl with a mix of curiosity and hunger.

The soup itself held a good amount of vegetables, chicken and several spices, and Twilight was impressed. She didn't know a whole lot about Gryphon cooking, but if it tastes half as good as it looked, then she'd have no problems enjoying herself; though the lack of food was a big motivation.

Brushing her mane back, she picked up her spoon and waited for everyone else to have filled their bowls before scooping up some soup and bringing it to her lips. Opening her mouth, she slurped up the food and closed her eyes as the taste hit her tongue.

It wasn't like what any of the ponies were expecting. A burst of flavor flooded her mouth as various flavours of spice could be tasted. Looking down, she quickly scooped another and smiled.

"This is really good!" she exclaimed, slight surprise on her face.

"Oh, please. It's just something I cobbled together," Gabriella giggled, waving a claw. "But thank you. It's not often we get to enjoy chicken... the king forbids us to use up our own stocks."

"Yet, you do anyway?" Luna asked, tilting her head.

"The King doesn't own us," George grumbled. "Plus, one chicken won't be missed; especially for guests."

"Sounds like it's pretty bad here?" Celestia added, eating her soup.

"Here, no," Gabriella mumbled. "The farmers near to the towns and cities have it worse. But they can't go anywhere else. Who would take in a Gryphon? The King has alienated us from all other countries."

Placing her spoon down, Twilight sighed, gaining the Gryphon's attention.

"Have you been to the capital lately?" she asked, staring over the table at George, who stiffened up.


Twilight looked to the sisters and received nods. "We're after the King's crown and we need passage, or information on how to get into the city," she simply explained, having grown serious.

George and Gabby stared at Twilight in shock, until George asked, "You're either as mad as he is, or suicidal. Which is it?"

"Take your pick. In the end, it won't matter when we have the crown," Twilight replied, taking a breath. "As long as he wears that crown, you'll continue to be oppressed and at war."

"And for you? Why do you need it?" Gabby asked, now curious. "To go to such lengths as to cross the Badlands."

Twilight looked down at her soup, then closed her eyes. She felt the soft touch of the sister's hooves on her shoulders and opened her eyes to see the pair smiling.

"We're dying," Celestia simply stated, turning to the Gryphons. "The crown is one of three artifacts which we need."

"Oh," Gabby whispered. "I-I'm sorry..."

"Don't be. We have made peace with it, but it shall not be our fate," Luna said, holding a hoof up. "We shall not be dissuaded by a literal army and private guards. We are Alicorns," she growled, trying to reassure herself more than the others.

Despite that, it did put a smile on Twilight's face. "As I asked, any information will be helpful for us to get in," she asked, turning from Luna to face George.

George tapped a claw against the table as he shared a look with his wife. Upon seeing her nod, he said, "Fine. I can rustle up some grain and wine to take to the castle as tribute. You three can hide within the bags. Once we get in, you break out and go on your way. I've been taking our tributes in for quite some time, so the guards know me. I would doubt they would do a thorough inspection, especially for grain and wine barrels."

"Wait, really? It's that easy?" Celestia asked, surprised.

"I don't know about ponies, but Gryphons trust those that they know. I don't like breaking that trust, but if it means removing the King..."

"It's the same for us," Twilight replied, nodding.

"I'd think that without the King in power, and no war, our countries would be good allies," Celestia added, before finishing her soup.

"Indeed. It's a shame it's come to this," Luna agreed, shaking her head with a sigh. "But tomorrow, we change it. Then we can move on with gathering the Orb."

"Another artifact?" George asked.

"Yes. We have found it to be located in Heliopolis."

"I am unfamiliar with that place."

"Most are. It is across the other side of the planet."

"T-The other side?!" Gabby choked, looking shocked.

"I'm afraid so," Twilight sighed, a hint of resolve forcing its way to the surface. "I feel like the King is only the start of our problems. Things very rarely go right when trying to save lo-" she caught herself and let out a huff. "When saving others."

The sisters gave a curious glance at Twilight, but let it go for now.

George, for the first time, smiled and crossed his arms. "I can't speak for what you're going through, but I can attest for plans never going right, no matter how detailed they are. Sometimes the best course of action is to just leap headlong into action and see it through. What will happen cannot be predicted, so the only thing is to hope for the best outcome."

Twilight stared at him, then nodded slowly. "I... I think I get what you mean. I should trust that things will work out, no matter how bleak."

Laying back on the bed, Twilight's mind ran over what George had been talking about as well as the lies which she had been keeping from the others. She knew it was wrong, but surely it was for their own benefit, right? If they knew they would become Princesses, lead a country and even meet her in the future, then surely it would all change; there would be no Equestria as she knew it.

'The Princesses didn't seem to indicate that I had told them this before, even going so far as to call me Moon,' she thought, a puzzled look appearing on her face. Turning over to face away from the door, she let out a huff. 'Perhaps I didn't tell them my real name, but I did tell them about the time travel. They could confirm that, at least.'

Hearing the hoofsteps of the sisters coming up the stairs, Twilight steeled her nerves and ruffled her wings with slight agitation. 'Celestia told me that she can't tell me stuff, so all of this must have happened already, which does give more merit to the theory that this is on repeat. So, if I tell them now, this is how it's supposed to be, but if I don't...'

The mare held her head in her hooves and let out a groan, rolling back and forth on the bed just as the two sisters entered the bedroom. "Buck!"

"Language!" Celestia chided, limping over with a frown as Luna closed the door. "What's got you all annoyed?"

Twilight stopped and rolled over to face the two, an embarrassed look on her face.

"She must be thinking of who will be sleeping on the floor," Luna joked, wiggling her eyebrows towards her sister.

"Behave, Lu," Celestia giggled, waving a hoof. "No pony will sleep on the floor. The bed is big enough for the three of us. Besides, we'll need our rest for tomorrow."

Twilight opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it and climbed off the bed. "Lay down, I need to talk to you two about something," she ordered, brushing past them and beginning to pace back and forth to try and gather her thoughts.

Sliding onto the bed, the two Alicorns laid there, watching Twilight as she mumbled to herself, showing a side that they hadn't seen before: pure uncertainty.

After an extended silence, Luna cleared her throat. "Moonlight, what is the matter?"

Twilight's eyes flicked to hers and she tapped her hoof against the wood. After a second, she sighed heavily and nodded, closing her eyes. "Celestia, you asked me to be honest, right?"

"Y-Yes, I did," the mare said, unsure.

"Well, I'm going to be honest with you both. You deserve to know some stuff... but I cannot share everything with you. There will be some questions I can't, or won't, answer. Do you understand?"

The sisters glanced to each other, then back at Twilight with a nod, a slight tinge of fear apparent on both of their faces.

"Good. Good," Twilight muttered, stretching her wings and cracking her neck. "So, uh. This might sound impossible, or downright silly, but... I'm being one hundred percent truthful. I'm from the future."

The ponies laid there, blinking at the news, until it actually hit them. Celestia laid there, her eyes widening in shock and disbelief. Luna frowned towards Twilight, before rising up and trotting over.

She raised a hoof and slapped Twilight across the cheek.

"I deserve th-" Twilight hissed, before being slapped again. "Stop hitting me!" she whimpered, backing away from Luna, who kept striking her with her hoof.

Backed Twilight into a corner, Luna snorted and narrowed her eyes. "How could you lie to us about something like this?!" she growled, flaring her wings and causing Twilight to wince and cover herself with her own.

"Lu..." Celestia mumbled, despite the anger in her own chest.

"Don't 'Lu' me, sister. I doubt this mare can even spell the word truth!" Luna spat, her hoof crashing down in front of Twilight, who kept herself as small as possible.

Twilight felt she deserved all of this, and more, despite the fact that Luna didn't seem to be putting her entire weight behind the hits.

"That's enough, Luna!" Celestia hissed, climbing off the bed and flaring her own wings. "Let Moonlight explain herself before we choose whether to hurt her."

Luna didn't seem to like the idea, but relented and backed off. "Fine, but I shall not be responsible for my actions if she does not explain sufficiently."

"Moonlight," Celestia said, gazing down upon the mare and holding her shaking hoof out. Upon Twilight taking hold of the sizzling hoof, she pulled her up onto her hooves.

"O-Of course..." Twilight whispered, rubbing her leg. "I'm from Equestria, two thousand years in the future." Hearing Luna scoff, she continued. "I'm one of the Princesses that rule the country. Specifically the Princess of Friendship."

"Of Friendship? Bah," Luna mumbled, shaking her head as she scowled at Twilight.

"It's not as glamorous as the Princess of the Sun, or Moon..." Twilight replied, a half-smile returning when she saw the Celestia's eyes widen.

"Are you saying...?" Celestia whispered, confused.

"Indeed, Princess. Let me prove it?"

Celestia nodded, allowing Twilight to flare her horn and press it to her own.

Within an instant, Celestia was alone within an inky void that stretched out into infinity around her. Nary a sound except her own breathing could be heard as she floated.

Though, as the seconds ticked by, tiny pricks of light appeared to her, buzzing about like fireflies and slowly coalescing into Twilight's form.

"My apologies for the Theatrics. I've still not mastered dream magic," Twilight said, sitting down on her rump as the their orientation snapped into a fixed position.

Flicking her eyes around, Celestia swallowed nervously. "You put me to sleep?" she stuttered.

"It is the easiest way to show you proof," Twilight replied. "Besides, it's one thing to see memories. It's another to be inside them."

Closing her eyes, Twilight's horn glowed and the darkness was literally swept away in a great gust of wind. In its place sat Manehatten at night. The pair of them were sat just off to the side of the cherry blossom tree in the middle of Central Park.

The sound of ponies chatting away, laughing and shouting could be heard behind them, in the city, but looking around the world grew out of focus and distorted, as if not fully formed.

"Don't focus too much on the visuals," Twilight mumbled, running her leg awkwardly. "Anything that I couldn't immediately sense won't be in focus for us."

Despite some of the city being out of focus, Celestia still gasped and marveled at the sheer size of the buildings. Great skyscrapers of glass and steel that pierced the heavens.

"Where is this?! This can't be Equestria, can it?"

"This is Manehatten. One of several cities that span the south east coast," she explained. "Equestria changed in two thousand years, 'Tia. More than I'm able to tell you."

She looked away and closed her eyes. "I see so much of what you two will become."

"And just what do we become, Moonlight?" Celestia asked, standing up and pacing around. "I'm not a Princess, or whatever version of me you know in the future. I'm just-"

Her voice quivered, causing Twilight to open her eyes and gaze over. "I'm scared, Moon. What if we get to Eden and it doesn't work. No more Equestria, no more Princesses!"

"Of course it wi-"

"Don't give me that! You know that for a fact?"


"Do you?!"

Twilight stared at her, then looked down and sighed. "No. I don't. Every sign points to us being successful, but it's not one hundred percent guaranteed."

Celestia, out of the corner of her eye, noticed two ponies walk up to the cherry blossom tree.

Within an instant she was next to them, with Twilight on the other side.

"They're us. I had just taken you out on a small date," Twilight explained as the past and future selves stared up at the moon. "And this is where you say..."

"... Our Moon."

She nodded and smiled over at Celestia, then back at the memory. "Still as radiant as ever..."

Celestia herself simply gawked at her future, larger self. "I get so... Bulky," she muttered, tilting her head to examine parts of her. "I guess there's no shortage of food in the future."

Twilight giggled as she walked around the memory pair who had begun to smooch. "Everypony is fed and happy, because of you and Luna. You two bring stability in a world of chaos. Don't forget that."

Celestia stared down at the pair making out as her cheeks flushed a healthy red. She looked back over at Twilight and frowned. "Be that as it may, I- we are not the Princesses you know. They have had two millennia of practice and knowledge!"

"I'm not saying you are, Celestia. I'm simply showing you what you can be," Twilight stated, moving closer and taking the mare by her shoulders. "It's up to you if you want to light the way for your little ponies."

"And Luna?"


"Is she by my side throughout everything?"

Twilight hesitated, then nodded. "She's always yours."

The Alicorn's eyes gazed deep into Twilight's own, searching for some meaning from those words.

With a chuckle, Twilight shrugged and let go of Celestia. "Both of you tell me in the future. I don't mind, considering," she explained, gesturing to themselves rolling about on the grass.

With a flash, the spell ended and Celestia stumbled back, staring at Twilight.

Luna wrapped her wings around her sister and held her. "Is it true, 'Tia?" she whispered, hesitant.

Celestia glanced at Luna, smiled and nodded while nuzzling her. "Yes," she whispered, flushing slightly.

"It will be, or was..." Twilight replied, sighing. "They're my memories, but your future. Time is fickle, I don't know if telling you this will change it, but here we are..."

"You're actually telling the truth," Luna muttered, pulling up and closing in on her

"I'm sorry for keeping everything from you. I didn't want time to mess up... but I think we're past that already. Those ponies with the masks have the symbol of... well, it would be spoilers, but let's just say they shouldn't have that symbol for another thousand years."

"Be that as it may, I would suspect events are not playing out as expected?"

"No, but the main problem is that you two wouldn't tell me anything about what happens, so I'm in the dark as to what happens just as much as you," Twilight replied, stretching her neck. "The good news is that because we talk in the future, things go well for you two."

"Not for you?"

"I make it to the end, but past that I don't know. I'll choose to believe that everything works out fine."

"Of course. I doubt it would do you well to dwell on things outside of your control," Luna said, before climbing on the bed as well. "May I ask, why did you come back?"

Twilight let out an awkward chuckle and averted her eyes. "It's a stupid reason, really."

"Moonlight, I'm sure it isn't."

"I came back to learn more about my marefriends," Twilight quickly answered, her cheeks flushing.

Celestia let out a quiet, "aww", then noticed Luna stare at Twilight in shock.

"You- us... Wait, marefriends?!"

Twilight let out a quiet chuckle. "Yeah... we're marefriends, in the future, that is."

"Just you and 'Tia?" Luna asked, showing her worry.

"And you, Lulu," Twilight giggled, closing the gap and shrugging. "I fell in love with both of you," she admitted, looking away with a smile. "Some might say I was selfish, or too indecisive, but I knew you two for a long time before I even thought of making my move and I couldn't have been more happy."

The sisters stared up at her with wide, misty, eyes then together, they rose up and pressed their lips against both of Twilight's cheeks, causing her to squeak.

"Don't misunderstand, Moon," Luna started, gazing into Twilight's eyes after using a hoof to force her attention over to her. "I'm still angry that you didn't tell us. But," she whispered, sighing. "I understand why you did it."

"I concur with my sister," Celestia said, using her own hoof to do the same. "That trust we had is broken. But, you did tell us without any prompting and I'm sure Luna is just as grateful for that. This information will take some time to process though."

"Of course... I'm sorry for dropping this on you just before we go tomorrow," Twilight said, nodding. "I just didn't want to hold onto this before anything happened. I'm going into uncharted territory here. While the outcome for you two indicates that we'll be fine, I have no idea what would happen up until the end. I could lose a wing, lose my magic, tortured... so many variables... not to mention the issue of if I'm wrong about how this plays out!"

Twilight backed up and turned around, her breathing starting to pick up. "What happens if I'm wrong and this isn't playing out like it should. If time is malleable, all my friends might be gone, Equestria could be gone, or worse, it could be a dead wasteland again!"

The sisters glanced to each other and lit their horns, freezing Twilight in place with their magic.

"Our Moon, calm yourself," Luna ordered. "I will not sit by while our future marefriend frets like this," she grumbled, narrowing her eyes.

Twilight blinked, closed her eyes and took a slow, deep breath.

"Good. Now, we'll let you down, then we'll get into bed and cuddle under the blankets while we try not to worry about tomorrow," Celestia said, smiling over to Luna. "Does that sound good?"

Upon seeing Twilight sheepishly nod, the sisters relinquished control of Twilight's body, letting her move. She trotted over to the bed, pulled the covers back waited for the pair to climb in. Luna slid under the covers first, a wide grin on her face, then Twilight, who pressed up against the dark mare. Celestia cuddled up against Twilight's side and softly sighed when the covers were draped back over them.

Twilight squirmed for a few seconds to find a comfortable position, then quickly opened her wings, only to pull the two in, cuddling them up. "Much better," she whispered, nuzzling into the pillow. "Much more comfortable."

Arc 1: Chapter 13

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Twilight's consciousness slowly re-emerged from the blessed sleep that she had managed to find and she found herself wrapped up in feathery wings and warm softness that made it increasingly hard to move.

With effort that would rival her battle with Tirek, the mare's eyes fluttered open, only to find herself staring at the bumpy ceiling. She blinked and glanced around for buy a second to find the objects of her love snuggled against her, wings wrapped around her and their heads nuzzled up against the crook of her collar. Judging from their calm looks, they were still deep asleep.

She couldn't help but smile at the pair of ruffled and knotted manes, finding them a stark contrast to their ethereal versions of their future selves. Glancing between the two, she realised that this might be their last little bit of calm for quite a while. The thought was partially sobering, considering the battle they had gone through not long ago.

"Love you two..." Twi whispered, leaning as far as she could without disturbing them and pressing a kiss to the tips of their horns. "I have a lot to make up for."

Even now, in this delicate moment, Twilight felt the pang of guilt rear its ugly head and tried her best to push it down, to erase it, but she only succeeded in fortifying it inside herself.

Leaning back against her pillow, she laid there and gazed up at the ceiling. Her still sleepy mind raced over everything they had done and why she had even lied in the first place.

Each time it had been so the timeline didn't change the future, but her very own actions did that. She couldn't say she had the high ground when she had replaced entire ponies' lives. Nopony had even noticed. Would she have even noticed if she teleported to her destination.

Would she even care for a few ponies changing in a few centuries? She knew she wasn't like the Princesses; she loved those ponies she knew more than anything, but could she love every pony under her rule?

'I don't deserve either of them...' she thought, clenching her eyes shut. 'Even after so long, they still cared for me.'

Suddenly, a light groan pulled her out of her mood and Luna's shifting forced her eyes to flutter open once more.

Luna's own were now gazing up at Twilight's with a twinkle of happiness. Her smile had returned and she nuzzled against Twilight's chest her hoof running over that taut stomach while sighing.

"Moon," she whispered, having noticed that her sister was still asleep. "You are rather comfortable to sleep upon."

Twilight's own smile began to grow at the words, despite the deep self-loathing that was bubbling up inside her. "I'm glad you think so. It took a lot of work to get this way."

"It must have," Luna mumbled, feeling her warm pillow up. "My sister might not have noticed it... But you returned to the future in Stonewall, didn't you?"

Twilight nodded. "I did. I had to think and the city wasn't the best place to do it."

Luna simply stared at Twilight, watching her while she slowed her hoof. After a few seconds, she asked, "You saw us as well?"

Twilight hesitated, but nodded in response. "I did. You were actually the one that trained me," she said, a smile appearing. "It was harsh, but it helped me develop as an Alicorn. Without it, I doubt I'd have even stoped one of those shells."

"I can't imagine myself doing something like that... it sounds more like my sister."

Twilight brushed her magic along Luna's cheek. "You give yourself too little credit. The things you'll go on to do. My regret is that I won't be around to see them."

Luna closed her eyes and rested her head on Twilight's chest. "I still can't believe you're actually from the future," she sighed, glancing over to her sister. "What did you show her?"

"I showed her exactly what she needed to see. How things turn out... and," Twilight paused.


Twilight swallowed nervously. "And the ending of our date."

Luna blinked and raised a brow. "Pray tell, my dear moon?" Luna began, a playful smirk growing. "What sort of excitement did you provide my sister?"

"We, uh..." She mumbled, trying to think of the right way to describe what they did. "I took her to what is essentially a play, then we spent some time within the local grove."

"By some time you mean...?"

"You know what I mean," Twilight mumbled, finding her cheeks flushing darker and darker by the second.

Luna's grinned and chewed on her lip. "I do," she giggled, snuggling closer. With a sigh she continued, asking, "And my dear Moon. What do you do to woo us?"

Twilight once again swallowed nervously, though this time was more out of fear than anything else. "Well..." she muttered, averting her eyes. "My wooing was slightly non-traditional."

Luna gave a confused look and gently pushed herself up into a sitting position to stare into Twilight's eyes. "What do you mean, non-traditional?" she asked, rather hesitantly.

Twilight bit her lip replied rather sheepishly, "We kinda, maybe, had a fight and waited a few months to make up..."

Luna blinked, the raised a brow. "I see," she said, glancing to her sister. "So my sister is taken to a play, then frolics through a beautiful grove, and I am wooed by us having a... fight?"

Twilight's eyes widened and she shook her head, trying to be careful to not wake Celestia. "Well, when you put it like that," she replied, wincing. "I, uh, didn't tell you that I had come back and I was still unused to everything that being an Alicorn would entail and there were a few mistakes on both of our sides," she explained, sighing. "We did beat up giant monsters together though, if that counts as a date?"

Luna listened intently, unsure of how to take the news, but nodded. "I guess I shouldn't be too annoyed. It's not like it was actually me. Besides, fighting giant monsters might make for a fun date. 'Tia was always more of a romantic after all... I don't care as long as I have fun."

"Oh, we had fun alright..." Twilight sighed, staring off at the wall with a dopey smile.

"I bet we did, my moon," Luna giggled, leaning in and kissing her cheek. "Though, we really should get up and clean ourselves. As happy as I am to sleep in a bundle with the two most important mare's in the world, it does leave us rather hot and sweaty."

"Not always a bad thing," Twilight mumbled, pouting. She ignored Luna eye-roll and gently rocked Celestia awake. "'Tia, it's time to get up. We need to get clean."

The solar mare let out childish groan and snuggled deeper against Twilight. "Mmmno!" she moaned, rubbing her face against the mare's side. "It's too early!"

Twilight chuckled in response and opened her wing to let the cold air wash over Celestia, causing her to yelp and shoot her eyes open.

"Ah! Moon!" she gasped, before narrowing her eyes at Twilight. "How dare you... I was having the perfect dream... You and Luna were there and we were enjoying a nice cuddle. Nopony around to interrupt it."

Luna simply provided her sister with a deadpan gaze. "Oh behave, sister. We have to rise nonetheless, if only to help George set the wagon correctly. It must be horrible to get anything done without unicorns or magic."

"Earth ponies make do," Twilight interjected, using her own magic to gently lift the sisters off of her and next to the bed, before climbing off herself. "Either way, let's get clean and ready, okay?"

With more effort than what should have been needed, Twilight and Luna had dragged Celestia down to the nearby lake to get some much needed cleaning. It was no surprise that the trio had no idea exactly how they looked but they had suspected that they weren't the noble Princesses which Twilight had made them out to be.

The sun had just started to rise upon the horizon, blasting the surrounding mountains with fiery bronze light and scorching the sky a bright red and yellow. The air itself was awash with the smell of lilac, Juniper berries and a slight hint of dew.

Stepping down to the waterfront, being the first to test the sparkling waters, Twilight tentatively dipped her hoof in and hummed in delight at the temperature.

"At least it's not super cold," she announced, sliding the rest of her body in as the lukewarm water rushed in around her feathers. "Mmm, I've needed this," she groaned, stopping once the water had risen up to her neck.

Luna laughed and followed Twilight into the water with Celestia close behind. Once every pony was in, Twilight rolled her neck and felt several pops ring out.

"Ah," she sighed. "A chance to relax before I inevitably rend time asunder," she mumbled, a hint of playfulness oozing through, despite her morbid words.

"Don't be so silly, Twilight," Celestia chided, shaking her head. "Have faith that everything will go as it should."

Celestia drifted a leg over and ran her hoof up and down Twilight's neck. "But enough of this. We shall speak of more pleasant topics."

"Indeed, let's," Luna agreed, leaning in and pressing her lips to Twilight's own, slowly deepening the kiss after a few seconds, despite the shocked response from both of the other mares.

Celestia could only stand there and watch as the pair kissed, then began to make out. A warm flush crossed her face, but she didn't look away and she became immensely thankful they were in neck deep water.

Luna pulled away from the stunned Twilight and smirked. "How did I compare to myself?" she asked, having leaned in to whisper in Twilight's ear.

Twilight stood there gaping like a fish as she slowly rebooted. "Uh..."

Luna glanced over at her sister with a raised brow and a smug smirk. "Still got it," she said, pulling away.

"We're here to get clean, not become even dirtier, Lulu. We can have our fun after we've saved the world, okay?" Celestia groaned, closing the gap between the three of them. "Moonlight, my dear, perhaps you could rub my back?" she asked while tilting her head slightly and fluttering her lashes.

"Now who's having fun," Luna mumbled, pouting.

"Oh hush. It's not as if she won't scrub you as well," Celestia chided, then let out a sigh.

Twilight blinked and sheepishly nodded. "Uh, sure," she agreed, wading around so she was standing behind Celestia then levitated one of the sponges from the shore over. Pressing the sponge to the mare's back, she began to scrub up and down, cleaning the solar mare.

Celestia closed her eyes and smiled while humming a low gently melody that barely grazed Twilight's ears yet set her heart aflutter.

Luna levitated her own sponge over and began to gently scrub Celestia's breast, causing the mare to open her eyes and smile lovingly at her sister. "Did you think I could let Moonlight have all the fun, dear sister?"

Celestia closed her eyes once again and allowed the pair to scrub and clean her. "I don't deserve you two," she whispered.

"If anyone doesn't deserve this, it's me, 'Tia," Twilight mumbled, bringing the sponge up Celestia's neck. "Having the two most beautiful mares in the world here."

"Moon," Luna started, sighing. "Let's move past this. It hurt us, but we still have a long way to go. We have yet to collect one artifact let alone even start on our journey towards Eden."

"I know, but-"

"I do not wish to hear of it any longer," Luna interrupted, huffing and glaring at Twilight. "As far as I am concerned, you saved my life and we are even," she continued, her tone softening. "I cannot speak for my sister, but I am sure she would simply wish to move onto more pleasant topics, especially since she actually saw the future."

Twilight went to open her mouth, but closed it quickly after she saw the look that Luna gave her. "Okay," she mumbled. "I won't bring it up again," she finished, receiving a smile from Luna.

"It wasn't so much the future as a possible future me," Celestia corrected, chuckling before her eyes widened. "Moonlight, do I really become that large?"

Humming, Twilight nodded. "Well, yeah. Alicorns grow and shrink over time as we gain and lose power," she explained. "I fell in love with your personality though. Being the little spoon was just a benefit," she teased, winking.

Luna chuckled, while Celestia shook her head and smiled, her cheeks flushing slightly

"I guess I'm the little spoon now," Celestia laughed, leaning in and nuzzling Twilight's cheek.

The trio returned to the house to find George packing barrels and sacks of grain onto the back of his worn down cart. Nearing, Twilight could see that the cart had a rather bulky underside that she assumed had been hastily nailed on during the night.

"Ah, I see you three are cleaned up. Good. Good," George said, having heaved the final sack of grain. "There's a storm rolling in from the Badlands that will help us get into the city. No Gryphon wants to look over soggy grain."

"Soggy? Won't you have a tarp?" Luna asked.

"We will for most of the trip, so the water doesn't weigh us down but once we get near to the city, I'll release it. If the grain is waterlogged, the guards have to haul it off the cart. They're less likely to notice you three, if they even do their jobs. Most will simply wave us through... I hope."

"That's encouraging," Twilight mumbled, glancing to Celestia for a second before looking back. "Alright. I assume we'll be underneath?"

"Oh, yeah. Here," George started, rushing about the cart and pulling out a camouflaged clip on both sides of the undercarriage. "I got to work after we had dinner. It'll probably be a little snug. Slide in and try it out!"

Celestia neared the cart and leaned down to gaze inside the darkened cabin. The inside didn't look especially roomy but it contained several air holes that slanted down so the three of them didn't get wet. The floor of the undercarriage was ever so slightly padded so they didn't hurt themselves. Slowly, she lowered herself and slowly wiggled herself into the cabin letting out numerous grunts until she was fully in.

"You won't be in there all trip. Besides, one of you can help me pull," George added, looking over at Twilight who simply sighed, then shared a hesitant look with Luna, but nodded nonetheless.

Despite the annoyance that she'd have no doubt get wet during the storm, she placed a hoof on her chest and bowed ever so. "Thank you, George. I know you're risking so much for us and I can't express how much I appreciate it."

"I'm only doing my part as a sane Gryphon. The king must be stopped," he replied, puffing up his own chest with pride. "War has gone on for far too long."

"Uh, everyone?"

Everyone looked down at where Celestia had climbed into the cabin and found her back legs wiggling back around and wings flapping aimlessly.

"I think I'm stuck..."

Slowly the cart slowed to a crawl, then stopped as the first inkling of a proper downpour began to make itself known. The gentle pitter-patter of rain began to multiply and George, Luna and Celestia jumped off the cart and into the thick sludge at the side of the path. Twilight let out a groan as she threw off the harness and wandered around the side, her front legs splattered with mud, then used her magic to tug on one of the hidden bolts holding the back panel closed. Predictably, the panel swung down against the path to allow the three occupants inside the coffin-like space.

"The bright side is that we're all together," Twilight said awkwardly.

Luna was the first to climb in, with Celestia, then Twilight settling down last. The space was far more cramped than it looked and the three kept wincing as their horns scraped along the wooden roof.

"It won't be for very long. Possibly one or two hours at most," George said, trying to reassure the three ponies. "There's some eye holes for you to see out of." He went to close the panel but stopped and leaned back down. "I doubt I have to remind you, but don't make any noise."

Twilight nodded as best she could. "Of course. We'll be as quiet as possible."

George closed the panel up then locked it before wandering around and uncovering the grain. He pulled the tarp off and threw it into the bushes before heaving himself into the harness. It took him a few minutes to make sure he was connected properly then set off towards the Capital as quick as he could.

As the cart trundled along the muddy path, Twilight gazed out of the eye hole to try and see anything interesting. There wasn't specifically anything outstanding for them to see during their trip from the farm, so she felt a little starved for information.

Once the cart eventually exited the tree line, she let out a gasp. As far as she could see were rice paddies that covered half of the valley and stretched across untold amounts of land. Twilight didn't know exactly what she was expecting, but the capital wasn't like anything she had seen before. Where the valley began to near, it grew exceedingly deep and bolted onto the sides of the valley walls sat thousands of buildings of all shapes and sizes.

The buildings on both sides were connected with various walkways made of wood or stone, or were connected with tunnels carved into the side of the rock face itself to allow passage. A small number of larger bridges connected both sides of the valley to allow traffic and carts across.

Everywhere Twilight focused on was covered with colorful plants. The Gryphons adorned their buildings with wall-creepers which bloomed into vibrant purples and yellows, while off the bridges hung various vines that attracted wildlife into the city.

The trail which the cart was on began to slowly dip down and into the valley where Twilight's view was obstructed by the growing foliage. With a huff, she turned away from the hole and found Celestia watching her with a warm smile.


"Oh, nothing. Just enjoying the view," Celestia replied, keeping her smile. "What did you see?" she asked, opening her wing up when Luna snuggled up against her.

"It's so remarkable... I haven't seen a Gryphon city so beautiful!"

"Are they not in your time?"

Twilight shook her head. "Oh, they're nice I guess. Not like what's out there though," she started. "So much green, so many flowers! If I didn't know better, I could have mistaken it for a Kirin village."

"Kirin?" Celestia asked, tilting her head. "They sound familiar."

Twilight bit her lip, realising what she had said. "They're the same as us, really, just a little hotheaded at times," she replied, before turning back to the hole. "It's not what I thought it would be though. Though, considering that most of the pegasi had their roosts within the gorge back at Stonewall, it's not that surprising."

"Will it be a problem for us? Other than not being a Gryphon, that is?" Luna asked, peeking over Celestia's back.

"No. My magic is fine. We'll be able to sneak about using a low level photon refraction field... uh, otherwise known as an invisibility spell," Twilight explained, having turned back to smile towards Luna. "It's a hard spell to keep up, even for an Alicorn, but it'll be better than a sword through the chest."

Turning back once again, Twilight found the cart entering the shade of the canyon, having angled down to enter. The cart itself had begun to tremor and jostle about, with Luna having turned green from the constant rocking from the suddenly cobbled path.

"Hold it in for a little bit, I think we're coming up on the first set of checkpoints," Twilight hissed, giving the younger sister a sympathetic smile.

Barely twenty seconds later, the cart began to slow to a stop and Twilight could spot three guards on her side, each of which carrying short-swords along with intricately cut plate-mail. They took several long, tedious minutes checking the cart and the water-logged grain before scoffing.

"You call this a haul?" Twilight heard one of them ask, before throwing a barrel lid onto the cart. "This wouldn't even get ten bits in the market."

"It's all I could bring. The tarp was blown off during the storm and there wasn't enough time to go back for more before the market opens," George replied, letting out a huff while the soldiers wandered around the cart.

"Fine. Keep going. I'm not going to be responsible for writing up why I stored a tonne of soiled grain in our inventory," the guard said, quickly letting out a sharp grunt. "Just keep your head low, old-timer. The king's been acting even stranger than before."

The guard paused for a second, then continued. "He just ordered more troops to be stationed in the city, so you might get stopped a few times."

It wasn't long until the cart trundled deeper into the city and Twilight's vision was swallowed up by the buildings closing in around them. From the outside, it seemed as if the city was simply buildings clamped onto the side of the valley, but whole streets were carved into the sides and dug in as tunnels wound around, connecting various areas together.

Twilight's eyes flicked to and fro, the mare trying to absorb as much information as she could before their relative rest would come to an end. Merchant stalls which were unlucky enough to be outside while the downpour started had just finished packing up and moved inside some of the larger tunnels to set back up. Despite the rain, everyone's spirits didn't seem to dampen and they moved with a swiftness that would have made Twilight envious if she didn't have magic.

"I certainly wasn't expecting this..." Luna said, her face pressed up against the side to gaze out. "Are you sure your spell can hold up?" she asked, glancing over to Twilight with a slightly worried expression. "I doubt they'd be as merciful as back in the badlands."

Twilight nodded. "No, I suppose they wouldn't be. But you shouldn't worry. The invisibility spell is robust enough as long as we stick to dark areas. It doesn't render us completely invisible though, it bends the majority of light around us, so we'll tend to ripple if there's too much."

"Darkened areas and sneaking about..." Celestia mumbled. "What fun."

Twilight turned her attention to Celestia. "Well, look at it this way. Once we get that crown we can quickly leave," she said, leaning against her side and wincing as her horn scraped the roof. "I'll teleport us out and we can continue on our way."

"Speaking on which," Luna interjected. "Where do we go after?"

Twilight opened her mouth to speak, but realised she didn't know. Closing her mouth, she looked down at the hastily made floor and sighed. "I don't know," she replied, feeling a lump in her throat. "We need to go after the Orb of Séance."

The compartment quietened, but Celestia broke it by saying, "That's across the ocean to the west. Though, we have to actually reach the ocean first. We can go to Thatchholm, they have a bustling port and I'm sure that we'll be able to find someone crazy enough to take us closer."

Twilight nodded while looking over to Luna. "I think that's a good plan for now. Once we get the crown, point me in the direction and I can teleport us out of the castle, assuming there's no interferance... which knowing how it's going so far is probably bound to happen."

Celestia chuckled softly. "Don't be so pessimistic, my moon."

"I wouldn't be if things went the way they're supposed to. The antagonist is supposed to show up eventually and do something to stop us getting this crown and we're suppossed to fight back through some means and save the world," Twilight replied, letting out a huff and grumbling to herself after.

The two sisters shared a look, then turned their attention back to Twilight. "This isn't a book, Twilight... what makes you so sure it's supposed to be that way?"

Twilight rested her head on her forelegs and closed her eyes. "It's happened before."


"In the future. Some bad people make themselves known and my friends and I stop them. It's happened like that every time and I'm starting to think that's just how it's going to be," she stated, opening an eye to look up at them, then sighing. "Though... I've never had you two there with me. Maybe I'm just being silly."

Not long after, the cart begins to slow to a crawl then stop entirely. The outside light fading from existance as the stormclouds overhead blot out the sun and the crashing thunder echoed throughout the various cavers and mined out streets.

George unhitched himself from the harness and rushed around to the back. He wandered off for a second, a loud clamp slamming down, before he came back to unhook the compartment. "Come on, quickly!" he hissed while waving his claw for the ponies to crawl out.

Luna was first, then Celestia and finally Twilight, to climb out of the compartment, each of them stretching and popping their backs. "Ugh," Celestia grunted, flaring her wings to make sure they weren't too badly ruffled.

The three of them had emerged inside of a large grain cellar, filled to the brim with crates, barrels and sacks. The floor was of traditional cobble and the entrance was locked tight with a clamp.

"That door will hold for quite a while, but it's not meant to be locked, so you'll have to be quick," George said, gesturing to it, then to another doorway that stood at the top of a set of stairs behind them. "If you go up there, you'll find the servants entrance to the castle."

Upon seeing Twilight confusion, he shook his head. "Don't worry. The servants are the least likely to rat you out. It's well known that they're treated the worst in the castle."

"And what of the king?" Luna asked, moving closer and finally standing tall beside Twilight. "Are we to assume that he's highly guarded?"

"Of course. The guard was right; there were many more soldiers inside the city. Something spooked him hard. I've never seen that many outside the castle..."

"No matter. We shall find a way through," Celestia said, speaking up as she made her way towards the stairs. "But we should go. I'd hate to waste time," she continued, taking a few steps up.

Luna and Twilight nodded. "Yes, of course," Twilight mumbled, trying to think of the best way to go about their plan, then turning back to George. "Thank you. You have no idea how much you have helped us," she said, bridging the gap and wrapping her wings around him in a hug.

"I, uh, no worries," he chuckled. "Go, now, before a patrol comes by," he said, motioning them towards the stairs.

With the three of them having rushed up the stairs, they found themselves within a maze of Servant corridors that ran around the more secure areas of the castle. The majority of the construction was crafted out of bland granite, but was furnished with various paintings, crude or otherwise, which were dotted about here and there. Every so often there would be a lit sconce to light the way while also signalling a branching corridor.

"Alright, left or right?" Luna asked, glancing to Twilight.

The mare hummed and tapped her hoof on the stone floor. "I'm not sure... I can send out a pulse of magic to get a small layout of the castle, but it'll set off any magical items..." she replied, looking to the others. "It's a gamble."

"It might be one we have to take," Luna said, nodding.

"I must agree. We can't find the crown if we're lost and he'll be alerted at some point anyway," Celestia added.

"Okay, give me a few seconds," Twilight asked, trotting a few hooves away and bracing herself.

Her horn began to glow a soft violet, which increased in intensity as arcs of magic fizzled along the surface, until it flashed bright and an invisible buffer filled the corridor and expanded to fill every inch of the castle.

Twilgiht relaxed and opened her eyes. "He's above us. I would suspect in his own chambers. If nothing goes wrong, there'll be twenty six guards between us and him," she explained, having turned around. "Let me prepare the invisibility spell and we can start."

The sisters nodded and Luna moved closer to Celestia to lean on her. "This won't be easy, will it?" she asked, nuzzling against her neck.

"No, Lulu. It won't be. But we'll get through it, like we always do, as long as we have each other."

Twilight's horn suddenly touched against Celestia's own and the older sister tensed up while the alicorn magic flowed between them and down deep into her body. She could feel the effect it had on their physiology and brought up a hoof, only to see it begin to fade away and grow transluscent.

Arc 1: Chapter 14

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It didn't take Twilight long to cast the spell two more times, once on Luna and finally on herself. Yet, by the time she had finished, she was rubbing her aching horn.

"Doesn't look like I'll be doing much for a while," she groaned, wincing.

The effects of the spell were quite clear from the fact that each of them could only really see each other with a vague lavender glow, helping them to not step on each others hooves.

The trio quickly made their way down the corridor, only pausing as they neared the heavy wooden door which separated the corridor they were in from the main entrance hall. The door itself was ajar, allowing them to see into the well furnished hall.

The area was littered with expensive tapestry, blooming flowers and various pieces of art hanging around the numerous pillars which pierced up to the ceiling.

Twilight placed a hoof against the wood and gently pushed it open some more so they could pass. Peeking out, she spotted only a couple of guards posted at the bottom of the stairs which wound around to the first floor on either side of the hall.

Opposite to the stairs sat the grand entrance: two monolithic slabs of stone which acted at the front doors. Each stone door intricately carved to show the rule of each king which came before.

Walking out, Twilight gestured for the others to follow but made sure to keep to the shadows so their Shimmer was less noticeable.

She closed her eyes and retraced her way through the mental map of the castle, remembering the route to the King's Chambers.

'First floor then head east, head up a spiral staircase, head west and then past the barracks.'

Opening her eyes, she found her first obstacle: the two guards.

Looking around, she noticed the shadow of the first floor landing overlapped with the stairs just enough so they could most likely pass.

Yet, she didn't move.

'Have to get the guards to move,' she thought, looking for something to use as a distraction.

Spotting part of a white flower-vase on the first floor, Twilight backed off slightly further out of sight and lit her horn up. While she may have been invisible, her magic wasn't. Her magical aura surrounded the vase and she focused, shattering the vase with a sharp crack and sending dirt and one very unhappy plant, across the hall.

"Hey, Greg. Go check that out," the Gryphon furthest from Twilight ordered, receiving a groan from the other.

"I bet it's nothing, like usual," Greg grumbled, turning and climbing the stairs, leaving enough room for the trio to move past.

They stuck close to the railing, deep enough into the shadows to not shimmer too much and eventually made it up to the first floor landing where several doors awaited them on their left.

The hallways were decorated mostly the same as the other floors, but held various banners and coats of arms along the walls, along with flower pots to brighten up the normally drab grey walls.

Twilight turned to give a once over of the sisters, finding the pair sneaking around and carefully moving up behind her.

'Shouldn't take too long to get to his chambers, she thought, turning back to the doors.

Making her way over to the third door on their left, she pressed the tip of her horn against the scratched iron of the handle and allowed her magic to flow.

Her magic flooded through the metal and pulled the latch up, cushioning it as to muffle its noise while she slowly pulled the door open.

Peeking inside, the trio saw a darkened, narrow, corridor with a stone staircase situated at the end. The floor was covered in a thin, rough, mat and an unlit sconce was attached at the end of the hall just before the spiral staircase.

Stepping inside, Twilight waited until the others were in before closing the door and letting out a sigh.

"This might be slow going if we are to avoid a fight," she said, turning and walking down the corridor.

"I can go and cause a distraction so it'll be easier for you once you meet the King," Luna said, slowing to a stop. "I don't expect then to be able to find me if I am invisible, so it would make a perfect opening for you two to go by."

Celestia shook her head. "No, sister. I can't allow you to risk yourself like that. What if they get catch you?" Stepping closer, she paused when she saw Luna take a step back.

"'Tia, surely I'm old enough to choose whether I want to help the ones I love?"

"It's not about age, Lulu. We can't help you if you get in trouble," Celestia argued, placing a hoof on Luna's shoulder as her voice gently quivered. "I'm sure that we'll be able to handle any amount of guards if we stick together..."

Luna pursed her lips for a second and shook her head. "Sister, we couldn't handle some bandits without our Moon. What hope would we have against the king with his guards," Luna stated as a matter of fact as she took that step closer and leaned against the hoof. "At least if I make a distraction it will help you two sneak by. Surely you remember who won all those hide and seek games out on father's farm?"

"I remember winning some..." Celestia retorted, then looked away, mostly annoyed that Luna was right.

Quickly, Luna leaned in and nuzzled up along Celestia's neck, gently leaving soft kisses while her wings unfurled and wrapped around the solar mare in a tight hug.

After a few tentative seconds, the pair broke off and Luna turned to Twilight. "And you, my moon."

Leaning in towards Twilight, Luna brought her hoof up and caressed her cheek, before pressing her lips against the mare's own.

Twilight felt herself shudder at the touch and the fur on the back of her neck stood on edge while she leaned in to get a single second more. She wanted nothing more than to be done with this whole adventure so she could spend quality time with the sisters, yet reality for her was often disappointing.

Pulling back, Luna let out a happy sigh and began to make her way over to the staircase. "I will go ahead and try to pull as many guards as possible."

Twilight was still frozen for a second, but she quickly shook herself out of it, and glanced toward Celestia for a second, then back to Luna, she replied. "There are several service passages which run throughout the castle, so use them to get around. The guards will have a tough time using them due to their armour."

Luna stepped up the stairs a little and looked back before continuing on. "I'll meet you at George's cart after."

"Please be careful, sister."

Stepping into the third floor hallway, Twilight slowed then moved out of the way for Celestia to move past before turning to her.

"Luna will be perfectly fine, 'Tia. You know how hardy we are. Plus, I'd assume the King would rather interrogate her rather than just kill her..." she said, realising how bleak she sounded. "Uh, I just meant that she's grown up and can handle herself. A few guards won't slow her down."

"I know. I sometimes forget that we're not little fillies anymore. Even after all we've been through it's hard," Celestia said, awkwardly brushing the mat-covered floor with her hoof.

If Twilight could actually see more detail than an ethereal outline of the mare, she'd find Celestia with rosy cheeks and a sheepish smile.

"That's not always a bad thing," Twilight muttered, shrugging. "Sometimes it's nice to remember the old times."

The hallway branched forwards and to their left, before turning towards each other to form a square room in the center.

The majority of the floor was dedicated to the barracks, allowing the hallways to run along the exterior of the Palace, which included plenty of windows to the outside showing the raging thunderstorm.

Soft, red and purple mats ran along the floor, softening the stone floor for those without hooves as well as brightening the depressing stone hallways.

"The king has his personal Chambers just past the barracks. If we're careful we'll be able to make it through here without much of a problem," Twilight explained, keeping her voice low. She didn't know if any soldiers had started patrolling inside yet.

"We go down this hallway and take a left before moving down some stairs and we're there," she finished, before sighing. "Well, there is a little problem," she muttered, rubbing the back of her neck.

"What sort of problem?" Celestia asked, sounding unamused.

"There's a couple of guards who were standing outside of his chambers when I sent the pulse. They're probably still there."

"Oh, is that it?" Celestia replied, letting out a quiet groan. "I assume we can't go past them?"

"Not without alerting them we're there. There's a balcony, but we'd need to go out in this weather and the spell would fade away too quickly to help us get past any sentries. "

"That's," Celestia paused for a second to think of what to add. "Less helpful than I imagined. Still, we'll have to knock them out and hope the others don't hear it," she suggested.

"That could work. You taught me a few numbing spells," Twilight agreed, nodding.

Once Twilight was sure that the conversation was over, she began to make her way down the hallway towards the stairs. She constantly made sure that she didn't stop in front of any of the windows; even with the thunderstorm, there was enough light to cause her invisibility to shimmer and shine, and the risk of getting caught was not something they wished to risk this late into the infiltration.

'I really hope the king is still in his chambers,' Twilight thought, feeling worried that the king might have moved since her first scan.

Her worry exploded once the door to her left slammed open and a contingent of guards rushed out, causing the pair to press themselves up against the wall so as to not get trampled by the iron-clad troops. Twilight made sure to keep both of them pressed up for a good minute or so afterwards with her magic, her heart thumping within her chest, while she made sure no other guard would suddenly pop up.

She peeled herself away from the wall, her hooves practically shaking from how quickly everything played out and how easily they could have been caught. Of course, Twilight was confident that they could have escaped considering the pair of them had magic on their side but the wasn't willing to take that risk within an enclosed space, especially with how sharp the Gryphon soldiers kept their claws.

The pair rushed down the long, winding hallways, the mats muffling their hooves, and eventually made it to their destination. Standing in front of them was the first set of heavy wooden double-doors to the King's Chambers.

"Alright, behind these are a second set of doors which acts as a buffer. With any luck the Gryphons should be gone... But I wouldn't count on it," Twilight explained. "So, how do you want to do this?"

Celestia placed a hoof on the door, then glanced at Twilight. "I can act as bait," she said matter-of-factly.

"I don't-"

"It's okay, Moon," Celestia interrupted, pulling away from the door and sighing. "I trust that you will be able to do this. I can distract them and when they chase me, go in and take the crown. We can meet up at the cart afterwards, okay?"

After a couple of seconds, Twilight nodded and dispelled the invisibility around Celestia. "I... If you get into trouble," she began, biting her lip to stop herself from stopping the mare.

"I'll be okay, Moon. Trust me like I've trusted you," Celestia said, leaning in and kissing Twilight on the cheek. "We'll see each other soon enough," she whispered, nuzzling her gently before pulling away and forcing open the doors with her magic.

The doors creaked open to reveal a pair of Gryphons, each one suited in black platemail. They each held an arm-blade, along with a buckler strapped to their opposite forearm.

The soldiers reacted to the door opening by tensing up and taking a step forward. "Submit and you will not be harmed!" one of them stated, extending their blade and moving closer.

"Sorry boys, if you want me you'll have to catch me," she teased, winking then rushing off down the hall while letting out a laugh.

One of the guards grunted in frustration. He pulled out a horn and blew into it, releasing a low, heavy rumble which echoed throughout the castle.

The other guard shot forwards and crashed past the door, throwing it open as he chased the Alicorn down the hallway.

Shaking her head at Celestia's sheer audacity, she hesitantly inched her way in and discarded her own Invisibility. Using her magic, she pulled the doors behind her shut and used one of the banners attached to the wall to clamp the doors shut.

"Alright, let's actually get the first piece of the puzzle..." Twilight muttered to herself as she turned back towards the delicately carved oaken double-doors which stood between her and her goal.

Taking the handles in her magic, she twisted the metal and heard the click as the latch slid up. The doors swung open with little effort only to reveal the King's empty bed-chambers.

An unkempt king-sized bed lay pushed up against the side of the room, surrounded by a separate lounger and side table, upon which sat rotting fruit.

Various pieces of furniture were strewn about and knocked over, which held claw-marks or, in the case of the mirror, shattered completely.

Trotting into the circular room, Twilight's gaze flicked around to try and find anywhere the King could have been hiding but she found nowhere.

Her eyes were drawn towards the lone, midnight black feather which sat upon the vanity dresser, along with a lock of nebulous mane.

Moving closer, Twilight levitated it up, inhaled its scent and quickly clenched her eyes shut. She could feel her anger welling up inside of her and she didn't want to do anything rash.

Flaring her horn, she shot a pulse of magic out to scan the castle once again, this time looking for the Alicorn sisters and Titas himself.

She found Luna and Titas on the Palace roof, along with Celestia being shepherded towards them by the numerous soldiers chasing her. Knowing she had to do something now, Twilight galloped towards the door and tore the banner off to allow it to open, only to freeze upon seeing several guards waiting for her outside in the hallway.

"Surrender and you will-"

"Yeah, I've heard it before," Twilight growled as she flared her wings and charged.

After a few well placed bucks, Twilight splintered through the flimsy iron door and staggered to a halt upon the tiled rooftop. Her mane whipped around her as the thunderstorm lit up the world around her as the rain stung against her cut and bloodied coat. Bolts of lightning snapped down on the numerous iron spires which dotted the rooftop she now found herself upon, letting out harsh cracks which caused her to wince.

Several cuts were laid across her body, many deep enough to have chipped bone and cut organs, but to her they may well have been papercuts once her eyes locked with the unconscious bodies of the sisters.

Her eyes were solely on the King himself that teetered on the edge of the Palace roof, the two sisters bound up tight in thick rope, their bodies being held just off the edge; several hundred feet of nothing but air under them.

The king himself held himself taller than the soldiers she had just fought. His muscles rippling as he tensed up and his burnt autumn plumage fluffier, despite the weather. His eyes held a glint of glee upon seeing Twilight and he brought his other claw up to rub the rainwater across his face with as much of a manic grin that a Gryphon could pull off.

Thankfully for the mare, she couldn't see any armour upon the King, which she attributed to arrogance, but he looked strong enough to tear her apart given the chance. Twilight froze to the spot upon seeing the same rune as the cultists use on his right cheek, still scabbing over.

"Not one more step!" the king shouted, glancing between Twilight and the sisters. "I knew you'd come for me; it was foretold!" he cackled. "But I was smart, I let you get this far. I don't need any disgusting pony to order me about!" he spat, his face scrunching up in disgust. "Especially on how to kill you!"

Twilight gritted her teeth and tensed her torn and aching muscles, forcing herself to stay put. Even so, her mind was busy formulating her chances to save the pair.

"This is between you and me, Titas! Let them go and we can-"

"We can what? Talk?" he laughed, causing the Alicorns to rock back and forth. "No. You won't lie to me like you did yourself, Sparkle!"

"I was told that you would try to talk your way out of this; you always talk but not today, not this time!"

"How do you kno-"

"I've been told everything," Titas continued, his eyes wide as they stared up at the storm raging around them with glee. "I was shown your sins and how you have- no, will bathe in the blood of whole worlds. It was foretold."

Titas grunted and heaved the sister' unconscious bodies to the side, where they slid across the ground and hit the railing, coming to a stop.

Twilight felt a flood of relief at the sight of the sisters not dangling over the edge, but that suddenly faded once Titas lunged at her!

Within an instant he bridged the rooftop and swiped his claws towards her neck, eager to tear her apart, bloodlust in his eyes and a snarl upon his face!

"Stupid fo- agh!" Titas growled, hitting the ground and tumbling end over end, coming to a stop on the rain-slick tiles. Pushing himself up and snapping his gaze at Twilight, he growled once again, yet didn't charge.

The mare slowly circled around the king, keeping her distance while the crown on his head began to glow a dark yellow. Her eyes widened quickly once she saw his claws become enveloped with a yellow mist which quickly started to eat away at the ceramic tiles, reducing them to an almost sludge-like state after but a couple of seconds.

"Foolish mare," Titas laughed, his snarl growing into a manic grin. "I gave up everything for this power. You will not take what is mine!" he cried, lowering himself and firing himself at the mare.

With barely an inch between them, Twilight pushed off and jumped to the side, her horn firing several bolts of magic at the King, which impacted against his back leg and burnt away his fur to leave bare flesh.

'Can't let him touch me,' Twilight thought, jumping away from another swipe, of which she could feel her own fur disintegrate from around her left leg.

"Can't run forever, filly!" Titas laughed, flaring his wings and leaping up thirty foot into the air with one powerful thrust. "You'll be nothing but blood and ash!"

Opening his legs wide, the crown glowed once again, forcing a thunderbolt to arc over and strike his claw. Thunder sizzled across his flesh, bridging across into his other arm which he pointed towards Twilight.

"Die!" he screamed, launching the bolt of white lightning at the mare.

The lightning blasted out of his claw and through the air, causing Twilight's fur to stand on end and for the smell of ozone to fill her muzzle.

"Fuck!" she muttered, forcing herself to bubble herself in a hastily made shield, using raw mana to fuel it rather than a carefully constructed spell. She clenched her eyes shut as the lightning collided with her shield and arced across the surface before grounding itself.

Twilight tore up several feet of tiles from the collision, having been forced back, and gritted her teeth from the pain her horn was coursing through her head, a low whimper leaving her as the lightning just seemed to continue on forever. Then suddenly, as quickly as it hit, the attack ended, leaving her a tired, panting mess.

"My turn," she growled, opening her eyes and staring at the still hovering King. Dispelling her shield, she flared her wings and shot off the ground, throwing the remains of the tiles away as she launched herself at the Gryphon.

Twilight collided with the King, causing him to let out a grunt and she quickly pushed off of him, gaining a few feet of height, before pulling her hoof back and striking him in the chest, throwing him down to the roof where he broke straight through and into the palace below.

Swooping down into the hole, Twilight came to a stop to see the dining room in shambles. Gryphon's who had been eating were strewn about, many of which were horrified to see their King laying there in the splintered remains of the dining table. The soldiers on duty quickly shook themselves out of their shock and took up arms against Twilight.

She glanced about, counting three on her left, one with a sword and two with spears, and two on her right, both with swords. 'This isn't good, she thought as one of the spear-guards took a lunge at her, forcing her to lower herself and tilt, the point barely grazing past the soft flesh of her radius.

Rolling away, she grunted as a sword came down to cut her across her side. Twilight responded in kind by thrusting her hoof up and knocking the soldier away to crash through one of the unbroken chairs. With a grunt, Twilight pulled herself to her hooves, just as another spear was shoved towards her face from the closest Gryphon on her left.

Wrapping her magic around the shaft, the Gryphon suddenly found his spear to simply freeze in place until he was struck with a non-lethal pulse of energy which threw him across the room where he tumbled end over end.

"Submit to the King!" One of the soldiers ordered while the rest of the soldiers took a step towards the mare, forcing her to take a step back.

The pile of rubble in the center of the room shifted and the King pushed himself free. Dust and splinters fell from his bruised body and he turned around to narrow his eyes at Twilight. "You really think I would fall so easily?" he laughed, knocking a chair aside and striding towards the mare.

The guards parted to let their king through and quickly moved two on either side of Twilight to pincer her against the wall. She glanced between them, judging her will to survive against her morals of not wanting to kill again; images of the bandits flashing through her mind.

"I don't want to hurt any of you," she growled, tensing up and lighting her horn while getting ready to pounce.

Titas turned to one of the closest soldiers. "Get the ponies on the roof. I want them to watch," he ordered, receiving a nod as the soldier rushed out of the room.

"Your friends will get to watch you beg for death once I'm done here," he continued as the jewels in his crown lit up a sickly green. The soldiers around him glanced in worry as one by one they began to cough and collapse, their very skin and feathers decomposing around their ruler.

Twilight erected a shield around herself, just in time, as a wave of black and purple miasma blasted towards her, pushing the shield and her back against the wall. Her ears pinned down from the abyssal wailing which filled the room.

Titas himself inched closer, his own movements contorting unnaturally with each step. His eyes had darkened and a green slime cascaded down his cheeks and dripped onto the marble floor, each drop sizzling.

"My rule is eternal," he groaned. "You and your kind have no place in this world!"

With that, he suddenly shot against the shield and began to claw and smash himself against it in a mad attempt to kill Twilight.

Twilight winced back at the impact and stared at him in horror as cracks began to form despite her best to keep the shield maintained.

With a scream, she pumped her magic into the shield and forced it outwards against the flow of miasma. Shattering, it exploded out and threw the king across the dining room as the miasma stopped.

He tumbled across the ground then slowed as his claw dug into the solid marble. With a tsk, he rose up and tilted his head. "Poor pony. Scared pony. Dead pony."

Flaring her wings, Twilight kicked off the wall and flapped to close the gap, then collided with the king. She kicked and punched against his tough hide, her diamond hard hooves crunching bone while his claws cut through her flesh, leaving ribbons across her chest and side.

The pair fell apart, the impromptu skylight illuminated between them. The thunderstorm was still raging above them, cascading water down into the dining room.

"Give me that crown, Titas. You can't win," Twilight huffed, one of her hooves pressed against her sliced breast.

One of her eyes had swollen shut and the cut upon her cheek had begun to bleed once again, dripping down onto the floor.

Titas grunted and dragged one of his back legs behind him as he took a step closer, each step letting Twilight hear the grind of bone upon bone.

"I am sustained. My subjects will give their lives so I may live!" he announced, his wings opening up as the crown lit up once again, almost blinding Twilight and causing her to shield her eyes with a hoof.

"Dear Celestia..." Twilight muttered, feeling the sheer pressure that the crown was producing.

She was buffeted back as a wave of miasma hit her, sizzling against her coat, but managed to stop herself from falling over.

She held a wing up to shield herself from the second wave and charged her horn up.

'Don't miss,' she thought, praying to Celestia, Luna and whoever else might listen. Time seemed to slow as she collected every last drop of mana in her body and flowed it into her luminous horn, the sheer volume starting to burn her flesh around its base.

Her wing was struck with the second wave of miasma and Twilight let out a sharp cry of pain, but forced herself through it. Pulling her wing away, she saw the King floating within the light of the thunderstorm and unleashed the pure Alicorn energy from her horn.

The air around her horn sparked and ignited as a shockwave rippled outwards, shattering the solid stone flooring in front of her. With a crack-boom, Twilight's magic lanced through Titas' eye, through his head and carried on through the castle, leaving a hoof-sized hole up into the sky, where the clouds disintegrated around it.

Titas crumpled to the floor in an unmoving heap, the crown tumbling off his head and rolling across the floor to where it stopped in front of the panting mare.

Twilight went to reach for the crown, but found her wing burning hot for one second, then freezing cold the next. Moving her attention to her wing, her eyes shot open when she found her feathers crumbling to dust and her flesh starting to slough off her bone.

Stopping herself from vomiting, she panicked, her eyes locking onto the dried and shriveled Gryphons strewn around the room. Each step she took felt harder and harder as her wing grew lighter and lighter with each dribble of decomposed flesh which splattered into the ground.

Her mind was reeling at the thought of what she would have to do, but she stopped just short of a sword and shakily levitated it in front of herself. She could see her own sweat covered and blood-stained self reflected back at her as it passed around to her side.

Crying out in pain, she unfurled it best she could and moved the sword up, before bracing herself and forcing the sword to be brought down upon her still healthy bone.

Her wing and sword clattered to the ground and Twilight let out an agonising scream, her eyes clenched shut. She moved a few steps away from the pooling blood and fell to her knees.

It only took a moment for what she had done to hit her, but she kept her eyes shut, even as the sound of hooves filled her ringing ears.

"Sister, in he- By the goddess!" Luna cried, standing frozen in the doorway as she surveyed the carnage... until her eyes settled upon Twilight. "My Moon!" she screamed, galloping over and wrapping the mare up in her wings, her eyes staring at Twilight's wing across from them, then down at the oozing stump and the many, many cuts and gashes across Twilight's body.

Celestia made it to the dining room, and much like her sister froze up at the sight of the room, then made her way in. "Moon, are you..." she began, her voice low as she saw the sword, then wing, then bundled up Twilight in Luna's embrace. Her heart fell at the sight and she lowered herself next to them to tenderly take Twilight's hoof in her own.

"Moon, we need to leave. The city guards are closing in on the Palace," Celestia stated, tearing her gaze away from the shivering Twilight to look up at the Luna.

Luna brushed her hoof through Twilight's matted mane while she stared down at her, nothing but love and concern in her eyes. "She is right, my love," she began, glancing to Celestia then back to Twilight. "We must leave if we are to escape the city."

Twilight squeezed Celestia's hoof and grunted out in pain while she pulled herself up onto wobbly hooves, then was steadied by Luna and levitated onto Celestia's back.

"Hold on, Moon. I'll try and be as smooth as I can."

"The crown," Twilight coughed, weakly gesturing towards where it had tumbled.

Luna levitated the crown over and held it tight, making sure Twilight knew. "I won't lose it; let's go."

Arc 2: Chapter 1

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Once again, Celestia found herself harshly yanked from her rest by the sound of crashing waves which collided with the side of the ship. Letting out a low, tired groan, she opened her eyes and looked around in the darkness which had overtaken the hold while she had been asleep.

Thankfully the stars and nebulae within her sister's mane were like her own personal beacon which guided her back to the warmth which she so desperately desired. She quickly took advantage of it by pushing herself off the cold deck to stumble over to her sister.

"You should get some sleep, 'Tia," Luna mumbled, her ears flicking as she finally indicated that she was awake.

The mare sat with her back to Celestia and levitated a damp washcloth across Twilight's unconscious body. She occasionally wrung it out into a nearby bucket and returned to what she was doing.

"I- I'll be okay. I can keep you company,” Celestia replied with a discreet yawn. She tried to hide the tired edge in her tone, but found herself slipping.

"You stayed up for the last few days," Luna said, turning to the approaching mare and smiling. "You need your rest."

Celestia decided to ignore that and slide up beside her sister before gently leaning against her. "I assume she still hasn't reacted to anything?" she asked, reaching down and brushing along Twilight's shoulder. "It's been three weeks and nothing," she finished with a sigh.

Luna rested her head on top of Celestia's and gave her a soft nuzzle. "She'll come back to us," she whispered while she continued to clean the mare. "Until then, we'll go where we have to."

"Cervidas,” Celestia whispered.

Luna rubbed the cloth down until she reached the stump where Twilight's wing had been, then paused. It hurt her every time she had to look at it; a physical reminder of what Twilight had given up to help them. But she needed to clean her and proceeded to tenderly run the cloth over the wound.

A sudden, but gentle nudge and Luna once again turned to Celestia.

"She'll pull through this, Lulu. She still had to take us on a date, remember?"

Luna blinked and she found herself with a slight smile appearing on her face. It was her first in quite a while.

"I spoke to the captain and she says we should reach Eternity in a few more days," Luna said, reaching a hoof up and caressing Celestia's cheek. "It's one step closer to peace."

Celestia leaned into the hoof, closed her eyes and sighed. Despite the damp, cramped and oppressive hold they were stuck in, the warmth of that hoof practically reignited her spirits.

"My love," she whispered, bringing her own hoof up to hold on top of Luna's own.

The pair continued to sit in blissful silence until Celestia managed to inch her way back to sleep and her head came to rest against Luna's shoulder.

Luna paused for a second upon hearing her sister let out a soft snore then gently levitated her over to their bundle of blankets. Laying Celestia down, she leaned in and kissed her cheek, finding the sight of Celestia mumbling in her sleep simply adorable, before covering her up and tucking her in. "Sleep well, my future Princess," Luna whispered before returning back to Twilight's side, a renewed pep in her step.

"My apologies, my Moon..." Luna whispered, brushing some of Twilight's stray hairs away from her face then going back to cleaning her.

Celestia let out a soft grunt as she suddenly awoke to the sound of the creaking ship. During the night, she had rolled over and was now laying across the damp, cold deck. Pushing herself up and onto her hooves, the mare looked around and saw her sister being cradled by Twilight, the mare's hooves gently brushing across that nebulae mane.

Her eyes widened upon the sight and rushed over, eager to wrap the mare in her wings and dote on her but Twilight glanced up from the sleeping mare and shook her head, before holding her hoof in front of her mouth.

"Shh, she's sleeping," Twilight explained, her voice hushed before her attention returned back to Luna.

Celestia nodded and carefully made her way over. "How long have you been awake?" she asked, her eyes watering as she ran her shaking hoof down Twilight's leg. She did her best to keep her composure, but the sudden sight had startled her and she found her heart thumping.

"Only a couple of minutes," Twilight replied, moving her eyes back over to Celestia with a tired smile, then glancing back down to Luna.

Celestia sighed, then bashfully rubbed the back of her neck. "I've been thinking a little during the last few weeks. I-" she paused and smiled. "I like you- a lot, but I want to know you- Like the future me knows you."

Twilight blinked, then her smile widened as she understood. "I would like that. For both of you," she said, unable to remove her smile now. "and yes, I kinda fell into your lives. If I hadn't of turned up-"

"We would be dead, my Moon," Luna interjected, beaming up at Twilight who quickly glanced down at her with a wide smile. "You came into our lives and brightened our day and night. I also wish to know you as we will," she added, pulling herself up into a kneeling position next to Twilight and bringing her hoof up to brush over her cheek. "You will take us on dates and you will woo us properly."

Twilight gazed into Luna's eyes and nodded, finding herself leaning into the hoof. Her skin tingled delightfully against the hard keratin of that hoof and she couldn't help but let out a soft, happy sigh of relief. "I doubt they'd be the most conventional dates, considering."

"That doesn't matter," Celestia said, looking between the two. "If you haven't noticed, we're not exactly conventional," she motioned, gesturing to each of them and laughing. "As long as it doesn't involve sneaking, or fighting, then I'm happy."

The three of them let the hold sit in relative silence for what felt the longest time, with Celestia nuzzling up to Twilight's other side and rubbing her hoof through what was left of her breast floof and Luna on her other side and simply holding Twilight’s leg.

Yet the silence had to be broken and Twilight spoke up. "We should go topside. This hold is getting horribly depressing, even with you two here."

Celestia looked over to Luna then nodded. "Sure. Getting out will be quite a nice change. Being stuck down here has been a- let's just say it's been an experience."

Twilight raised a brow. "I'm sure it has. Thank you- both of you, for looking after me," she said, looking between the pair and feeling tears well up. "You two are the best."

Luna was the first to push her head out from under the heavy trapdoor and peek out across the waterlogged deck.

The Alicorns had managed to charter a rather small transport vessel, and while that meant a relatively spacious hold and lack of questions on the captain's part it also meant lack of defensive options if the navy decided to stop by and check them.

Pulling herself out of the hold and raising the trapdoor with her magic, Luna looked about and found the familiar sight of the high-seas for miles around them.

Unfortunately for the trio, the above deck was remarkably similar to the below deck, with the obvious exception of no roof and miles of rough seas around them. Damp, darkened flooring covered the whole of the floor and various barrels were tied down here and there along with the single mast of the ship.

One end of the ship was held for the captain's quarters and above that, reachable with some stairs on either side of the deck was a second level complete with the ship's wheel. Beside the captain's door were some stairs leading down into the crew quarters, of which several of the Gryphons were hard at work in the deck.

Plenty of the Gryphons cast a wary eye towards the three Ponies as they ascended from below deck, but continued working.

"Here," Celestia said, reaching a hoof down for Twilight, then pulled her up with a grunt. "At least it's not raining."

"Yeah, that's what would make this worse," Twilight groaned, sticking her tongue out.

"Oh har har," Celestia said, rolling her eyes.

"Just teasing. It would be nice to be wet and not having it be my own sweat for once."

"You know-" Luna started to say, but a lavender hoof pressing against her lips stopped her, while Celestia let out a barely concealed laugh.

"Grow up, you two. There'll be time for that soon enough," Twilight stated, then turned and walked towards the bow of the ship, smiling towards any Gryphon who looked her way.

The other two stayed back for a second, watching the mare, then Celestia spoke up, "I'll go and inform the captain."

"Good idea," Luna replied in a mumble, her attention locked on Twilight, watching the lavender mare sit at the bow and gaze out across the ocean as her mane was blown back.


"Hm? Oh, of course," Luna actually replied, turning to smile at Celestia. "Sorry. Make sure we're still on course. The captain was a little worried about the town's defenses as it's a port town. Tell her she can drop us off near the town and we'll walk in."

Celestia leaned in and nuzzled against Luna's cheek, receiving a soft hum in reply. "As you wish, sister. Our Moon is delicate now, so be gentle."

"Aren't I always?" Luna replied, raising a skeptical brow at Celestia's statement. "I shall not treat her like pottery, sister. She deserves more than being handled like a foal."

"I'm not saying-" Celestia said, then sighed in slight frustration. She her hoof on Luna's own and added, "You know what I mean."

"I do, my love," Luna said, smiling. "I shall be as tender as I have always been."

"I'm glad to hear it," Celestia whispered, kissing her, then pulling away and trotting off towards the captain's quarters.

Luna turned back to Twilight who was watching the pair, her expression neutral. Smiling, she made her way over and sat down next to Twilight.

"It's funny, you know," Twilight spoke up after a few minutes of listening to the waves. "It's been quite a while since I've been able to just sit and think."

Luna was hesitant to speak up, but forced out, "What are you thinking about?"

"I've time travelled before. Not as far back as this, of course," Twilight said, waving her hoof and turning to Luna. “One pony, Starlight, was trying to hurt me," she continued. Her words held no anger or malice but simply pure matter-of-fact.
"There was no true fighting, and truthfully I think she was pulling her punches,” she said, chuckling. “I saw so many different versions of my home, each one worse than the last- until it was a scorched wasteland."

Twilight then leaned against the side and gazed down into the rushing ocean, her wing rustling anxiously by her side.

Luna slid her hoof across and wrapped it around Twilight's own, holding it tight to receive a soft smile.

"I'm constantly feeling that the next step I make will simply break the future. What if any one of these Gryphons would have gone on to have a child and two thousand years later whole swafts of Gryphons are gone because they didn't have sex as they’re here and not at home?"

"Moon," Luna whispered, pulling the mare into a hug and holding her tight. "Listen to me. I don't know how this all works but you can't think like that. You'll burn yourself out before we can even get to Eden."

"I can't help it," Twilight stammered, looking around at the Gryphons over Luna’s shoulder.

"Okay," Luna said, pulling back and moving her hooves up to move Twilight's gaze onto her. "Keep looking at me then. What do you see happening with me?"


"No," Luna interrupted, giving her a stern look. "I know things must be hard, but you cannot let yourself think like this; I won't allow it!"

The mare's eyes trailed down to Twilight's hooves and stayed there as she continued. "You have done remarkable things. Things I didn't even know were possible and yet you did them regardless of whether you would change time or not. I don't want to make light of everything, but we're already past that point."

Twilight opened her mouth, but froze upon trying to think of what to say, her mind blank.

"You are the single most incredible pony I've ever met, barring my sister," Luna said, finishing with a slight laugh. "But I fear you would succumb to your own mind if given the chance."

"I may have been told something like that from my friends," Twilight mumbled, now slightly embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Luna. I shouldn't be making you carry this after what you've just been through."

Luna leaned in and brushed Twilight's cheek with her own, before nipping her neck playfully. "Don't be so silly, Moon," she teased, brushing her feathers across the mare's muzzle to cause Twilight to flush. With a smug tone, she finished with, "This is what partners do. They burden each other so that when one needs help the other can provide it."

"I know, Luna," Twilight said, turning with the mare. "I don't really enjoy feeling like I rely on you two so much. This is my fault after all." She left the moment hanging for but a moment and gazed out across the sea. "But fine. If I must, then I'll lean on you two," she laughed, gesturing to her side.

Luna frowned and shook her head. "That's really not funny," she said, rubbing her forehead with her hoof.

"Aw, don't be so mean to her, Lulu," Celestia said, sliding up next to Luna with a smirk.

Twilight rolled her eyes and shrugged. "Hey, I didn't choose this life, okay? It chose me."

"Either way, the captain is happy that you're awake. She would have been disappointed to have the kingslayer die on her ship. Her words, not mine," Celestia said, rubbing the back of her neck. "We were lucky that we managed to find sympathetic Gryphons in that port."

Moving over to Twilight, Celestia brushed her hoof through her mane. "I think we can finally relax. At least for a little bit until we get to shore."

"Oh, speaking of which. How long until we make it to Heliopolis?" Twilight asked.

Celestia blinked and chewed her lip as the sisters shared a look. "Oh, right. Uh, we're not really going there just yet."

"Why not? I'm not up to date on my world geography, but it should just be west, right?" Twilight stated, looking confused, before sighing. "Well, if we're not going to Heliopolis, where are we going?"

The sisters let the moment settle for a few seconds and then Luna replied with, "Cervidas." She held up a hoof and shook her head. "There's a perfectly good reason though," she continued, stopping Twilight. "We spoke to a few people in Thatcholm and they all said that the continent is off limits. The Deer had placed some sort of warding obelisks around it."

"Warding obelisks?" Twilight muttered, frowning. "I didn't hear of any in the future," she said, rolling her eyes. "Which makes sense if we need to get past them. The Queen is the most likely to know how to remove them; there is a Queen on the throne, right?"

"Indeed. Queen Ylyndar is in charge. Apparently they have been quiet, but friendly with the port we're sailing to," Celestia said, nodding. "We did what we thought was best."

"Of course. It would have wasted precious time if we had gone straight for Heliopolis. Maybe we won't be attacked by random cultists?" Twilight finished with a chuckle.

"That would be nice, for once," Luna replied, shaking her head. "Though, somethin tells me that if they were able to follow and find us in Stonewall, then the badlands, then they'll find us anywhere. We should be more careful."

Starlight watched as Twilight stepped through the shimmering surface of her portal and faded away into nothingness as one second slipped into the next.

While she knew that she should feel apprehensive about the whole situation, considering the extremely experimental time-altering devices affixed to their legs, she just couldn't bring herself to feel anything but utter excitement.

"Ahh!" she gasped, causing the Princesses to jump in fright. "I can't believe I got to witness that!"

"Starlight," Luna sighed, moving over and placing a hoof on her withers."While I appreciate your excitement for Twilight going off into danger, I must ask what you hoped to accomplish."

Starlight gazed up at the Alicorn with a sheepish grin, her heart still thumping. "I apologise, Princess. I forgot either of you were here..." she replied, before her eyes widened. "I mean, uh, this moment was monumental!"

"And why is that?" Celestia asked, stepping forwards, intrigued.

"Because, Princess," Starlight said, holding up her hoof with the bracelet, then gesturing to the portal. "From what Twilight and I have experienced with time-travel, she should have appeared instantly."

"Should I assume that it's bad that she hasn't?" Luna asked, flicking her eyes from Starlight to the portal, her brow raised with concern.

"Honestly, I'm not sure-"

"You're not sure?!" Luna shouted, pushing Starlight back slightly from the force of her voice. "What do you mean?"

"I'm sure she'll tell you, sister, if you let her finish," Celestia interjected, placing her hoof on Luna's shoulder then turning to Starlight. "As you were, Starlight."

"Thank you, Princess," Starlight stammered, averting her eyes from a suddenly scary looking Alicorn.

Turning, she began to pace back and forth in front of the portal, the soft buzz of the ambient mana relaxing her slightly.

"Well... There's a few theories I believe I could think of, from the top of my head. One is that Twilight is dead and our timezone has started to move forward in time," she began to explain, receiving a growl from Luna. With a gulp, she shook her head. "Of course, I believe this to be highly unlikely, unless your younger selves had suddenly managed to fix the timeline alone."

"The second?" Celestia asked, looking more worried than upset.

"The second is that the bracelets have somehow forced our timezone to continue without Twilight here. This could be possible, but it would take something many many times more powerful than these to do it."

Glimmer stopped suddenly and turned her attention to the portal. "I just have to check something," she mumbled as her horn began to glow. Closing her eyes and pressing her horn against the surface, she quickly pulled away and looked over to the sisters.

"I know what's happened," she stated, rushing past the Princesses and hastily levitating some paper and a quill over to the desk, then drawing a straight line. "Twilight's gone back in time to meet you two," she continued, drawing an x under the start of the line. "I based these bracelets off of the spell which she had used, spell components and all."

Luna brushed her hoof over her mane. "I hope this won't be a common occurrence?" she asked, glancing to her sister who simply shook her head.

Starlight gasped and spun around with a wide, almost manic grin. "This is unprecedented!" she laughed, clip-clopping in place. "The bracelets and the spell, which the portal uses, are connected. Twilight won't come through that portal until she decides to come through in real time."

"Is time moving normally, or just us?" Celestia asked, her ears flicking at the sound of ponies laughing from outside the room. "I'm not an expert on this, but I can still hear my ponies going about their day."

"That's the thing," Starlight laughed, her eyes wide as she began to scribble down equations and runes around the line and shove it in the Alicorn's faces. "This, right here!" she groaned, her excitement eating her up. "The portal and all three of us are moving forward in time at exactly the same rate as Twilight is in the past! At one second a second!"

Luna took a step back from Starlight with a concerned expression as Celestia wrapped a wing around her and held her tight.

"Oh, don't worry, Princesses. We should be well protected from any paradoxes or accidental erasure which Twilight might induce into the fabric of spacetime."

"That's not entirely what I'm worried about, Starlight."

Starlight blinked and flicked between the two sisters, unsure. "Oh, uh, I apologise. This is a completely new field of research and these have far exceeded my expectations. I let my excitement get the better of me," she laughed, rubbing the back of her neck.

"It's alright, Miss Glimmer. What do you suppose we do now?" Celestia asked. "If we're moving through time normally, do we continue with our lives without Twilight?" she asked, her normal glow fading at the thought of spending any amount of time away from Twilight.

"Until time changes around us, yes. We can only really wait for her return," Starlight explained, glancing between the pair and brushing the wooden floor with a hoof.

Arc 2: Chapter 2

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Twilight had spent the better half of the early morning out on the bow of the ship. She had been gazing across the calm, West-Cervidae crossing, the warm summer wind blowing through her mane, which allowed her to spend some of her alone time relaxed, however little she had.

Despite spending the night with her two loves, she could barely sleep. Thoughts flowing through her head along with the slight fear of having another cult member turn up kept her anxiety at an all-time high. She wanted nothing more than to stay below deck with the others, but she couldn't let them know how much this entire nightmare of an adventure was actually getting to her.

Leaning against the side of the ship, she brushed her hoof against the wood and let out a soft hum as her thoughts turned back to her friends in Ponyville. She wondered what they had been up to before she had gone through that portal; she left that timezone fast enough to make someone looking in to think she didn't give them any thought.

She wondered if she had even been a good friend to them lately. Considering only a couple of them even came up to see her, despite having been given a chance. She’d go and visit them, wouldn’t she?

While it was true that the mare had been rather vacant, even before her training with Luna, she still made as much effort as she could to hang out with her friends. It had only been a few years since that fateful battle with Chrysalis, Tirek and Cozy, after all.

Giving up, Twilight shook her head and sat her rump down on the deck. She hated when her mood would fluctuate, leaving her depressed one moment, then ecstatic the next and this time hopping wasn’t doing her any favours. Was it too much to ask for a quiet life?

“You doing okay, Kingslayer?” the captain asked, walking over. “You’re not looking so happy to be out of the Kingdoms.”

Glancing behind her, Twilight raised a brow at the Gryphon for a moment, before turning her whole body. “It’s complicated,” she replied, only now noticing the several scars which criss-crossed across the Captain’s burnt ombre fur. The front of the captain held feathers which started off dark red then transitioned into a deep purple near their tips, along with her plumage containing highlights of a reddish-yellow.

“Complicated my rump,” the Captain spat, moving forward a step and holding a mottled claw out. “The name’s Grenda. It’s an honour to finally meet you,” she said, ruffling her wings excitedly.

Twilight nodded slowly and reached out to take her claw in a shake. “Same. Thank you for allowing us on your ship. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted to put you, nor your crew, in danger,” she added, pulling back and tapping her hoof on the floor.

“Oh pish posh,” Grenda quickly said, waving her claw back and forth. “Any other patriotic Gryphon would have done the same. We love our kingdom, not the tyrant in charge. It’s sad that anyone had to die, but it’s finally over. Our kingdom can finally heal and stop the senseless war.”

Twilight winced at the words, but nodded nonetheless. “I agree. He didn’t really leave me any choice.”

The relative silence of the ocean waves was allowed to settle for a few seconds as Twilight felt increasingly awkward, what with Grenda’s looking over her.

“So,” Grenda suddenly said, causing Twilight to tense up, “about your complicated problem?”

“I- I’m fine. I’ve been through a lot in the past few... well, for a long time now. I just need some time to process it all,” Twilight explained, closing her eyes and sighing. She paused for a second then opened them back up and asked, “Can I ask you something?”

Grenda blinked and nodded slowly. “Of course,” she said, a softness entering her words.

“Have, uh, you ever killed anyone?”

The Gryphon was taken aback by the question and found herself seeing the mare in a slightly different light.

“I-” Grenda said, carefully selecting her words. “Yes, I have.” The Gryphon tapped a claw on the deck. “Before I bought this ship, I was in the military. My platoon was out on patrol when we were attacked by ponies who had snuck through the badlands.”

“Does the feeling ever go away?”

Looking over and into Twilight’s eyes, she knew what the mare meant and shook her head. “No. It gets easier; Easier to cope with. But it’ll always hurt, even just a little.”

Turning and leaning on the railing, Twilight felt her eyes water. “I was just trying to do the right thing and everything I do makes it worse for someone else,” she muttered, her voice quivering.

Without a word, Grenda closed the gap and wrapped an arm around the mare, knowing that she didn’t need reassurances.

Celestia closed her eyes and enjoyed the warm breeze which fluttered through her primaries. Looking out across her Equestria, she watched as a new dawn arose and spread its warmth across the land. One by one, sparkling lights appeared throughout the various villages which dotted the landscape. To her, it was as if drops of her sister's night had splashed down to dot the landscape with stars.

The garden around her was far too peaceful for her tastes, finding herself almost losing the battle to stay awake. Unfortunately for her, she still had a whole day ahead of paperwork and ruling which she couldn't afford to delegate.

She knew that her sister would be there any moment and they would share the usual crossover period.

With what relative silence there still was this early in the morning, Celestia could hear the changing of the guards which took place just down the hall. She had warded Twilight's room with several layers and made sure it was guarded in case there was any activity.

Celestia's ear flicked upon hearing the tapping of hooves and glanced back at her sister. "Good morning, Lulu," she said, her lips curling into a smile. "I thought you had forgotten?"

"I wouldn't dare, sister," Luna replied, sliding up beside the mare with a smirk. "There were a few recruits which had been wondering what was in Twilight's room. I had to reprimand them for being nosy."

Celestia raised a brow at the wording, then asked, "I hope you weren't too hard on them?"

"Neigh. I was... lenient," Luna said, shaking her head and sticking her tongue out at the sour taste. "I had them run laps around the training field and gave them tomorrow off."

Sighing, Celestia shook her head. "I assume there's been no word from the portal?"

Luna copied the action with a shake of her head. "Sadly nothing. We did recharge the wards last night, so they will hold for now."

Celestia nodded and turned to her sister, smiling. "Thank you. Now, would you like to join me, dear sister?" she asked, unfurling a wing in invitation.

"I would very much like that," Luna replied, her own smile widening while she moved closer and made herself comfortable under that warmth. "How was your sleep? Pleasant, I hope?"

Celestia leaned her head on Luna's shoulder. "Oh, very much so. You do a lovely jo-"

Her words were interrupted by the fizz-crackling of magic coalescing into a pony sized, silver orb behind them. The grass slowly began to brown and die around the orb, leaving a pentagonal burn mark, along with various runic symbols around the edges.

The sisters turned and jumped up, their magic erecting a translucent shield around the orb, blocking it in.

"Sister?" Luna asked, glancing at her. As her magic kept pumping energy into the shield which she could feel was quickly failing against the onslaught of mana induced discharges.

Each discharge whipped from the orb and against the shield, cracking it with each hit and leaving it vulnerable, even with the amount of mana used to repair it.

"Steady, Luna," Celestia said, feeling the air charge with mana and suddenly discharge the entire spell, blowing the shield out and sending a sensory overload down their horns. The discharge fried the dead grass under the orb, throwing dust and dirt up to obscure the scene.

The pair let out a cry of pain and held their heads with a hoof as a blinding stab burnt through them.

"What the buck was that?!" Luna coughed, leaning against Celestia for support. "Guards!" she called, quickly finding several Pegasi and Thestrals in front of them. "Where were you before?" she asked, slightly annoyed.

"Apologies, your highness," Night Sentry replied, standing on guard directly in front of her. "We assumed you would have it under control."

As the dust and smoke settled, everyone could see a bubblegum-pink mare laying on her side in the blackened dirt, her deep blue mane curled and slightly fried.

The two sisters moved past their guards and gazed down at the unconscious mare with shock and disbelief. Neither could understand how this mare could be here, then it slowly dawned on them.

"Our Moon," Luna muttered, pulling her eyes away from the mare to glance over at her sister with tears welling up. "She saved her."

With a sniffle, she turned and nuzzled herself against Celestia, who wrapped a wing around her once again, a warm smile on her face.

"Guards," Celestia spoke. "Get our private doctors and a room ready, we have a dear guest staying with us."

Twilight's eyes scanned the port town in the distance and found her ear flicking at the sound of someone walking up behind her.

She turned her head slightly and looked back to find Celestia wandering up to her right side. "Good morning," she greeted, feeling ever so slightly warmer.

"And to you, Moon. I was worried when I woke up and you were gone," Celestia said while leaning in to nuzzle her. "I must admit, standing here and feeling the wind is rather peaceful. It's a shame we cannot stay like this for longer."

"All good things," Twilight said, shrugging.

"All good things what?" Celestia asked, turning to Twilight.

"Oh, darn. You don't have that saying yet, uh," Twilight muttered, wincing. "All good things must come to an end."

Celestia turned back to the port which was coming into view and frowned. "I can't say I like that saying very much," she said, shaking her head. "As my first royal decree, that saying will not be used!" she joked, grinning over at Twilight who rolled her eyes and nudged her.

"Honestly-" Twilight said, tapping her hoof on the railing, "I like it. If things didn't fade and stayed good forever, things would lose their meaning. It forces us to make new things."

"And what of us?" Celestia asked, her grin morphing into a more neutral look. "Are we to become stale after enough time?"

Twilight opened her mouth and froze upon finding herself wondering the same. "I- I don't know. I was kind of hoping that I could just ignore it for the most part but I doubt I'd ever be that lucky," she replied, sighing. "But enough about sad stuff. I was thinking about what Luna said the other day and I wanted to ask you something which I don't think I've ever asked you two before."

Celestia was taken aback for a moment, then nodded as a smile appeared on her face. "Oh, sure. What did you want to know?" she asked, turning and lounging against the railing with a leg.

Twilight rubbed the back of her neck and looked down into the water as she grew awkward. "Well- I'd like to know when your birthday is," she asked, finding her cheeks warming slightly as she avoided the other's gaze.

"You never asked the future me that?"

"Not really. If I did, it was when I was younger and honestly I don't remember that much from then, it was kind of a blur, what with me moving into the castle and learning so much. We never celebrated any birthday for you, so I don't think anyone else really knew either," Twilight responded, frowning in thought as she tried to think back.

"Wait, I never celebrated a birthday?" Celestia asked, slightly shocked but mostly disappointed. "Did I at least take time off? I couldn't have been working all the time? You know I hate working unless I have to, right?"

Twilight grimaced and shrugged. "I mean, you do kinda run the country. There's officers and dignitaries who help, but you're basically half of the government alongside Luna."

Celestia let out a groan. "I thought being a Princess would be fun."

"It is, just not all the time. Most of your time is spent talking to various diplomats or trying to coordinate the running of the government in response to everything that happens each year," Twilight explained, sliding up against Celestia and cuddling up to her. "I had to almost force you to take some time off for our date."

"Now I find that hard to believe," Celestia said, then let out a soft giggle. "I guess I could have cooled off throughout the centuries, but being tied down to one place just seems... mundane."

Twilight shrugged and leaned in to nuzzle Celestia's neck while humming. "Well there's plenty of reasons, actually being a beacon of light for our ponies is a big one."

Celestia closed her eyes upon feeling the soft fur of her mare against herself. Her lips curled and she sighed happily. "How far in the future did you say you're from, my moon~" she asked, cracking open an eye. "Two thousand years, right?"

Twilight nodded. "Yeah. It's a surprise how much is the same and what has changed throughout the years. There's cities now which I've never heard of," she said, scanning across the horizon. "Stonewall isn't there in my time, which is a shame as it's a lovely place."

"Indeed it is. I wonder if I'll try to save any of it," Celestia asked, humming. "It's so weird talking about myself. Just knowing that there's a version of me that isn't me, but someone I'll turn into is strange," she closed her eyes as the ship slowed and turned towards the shore, the wind blowing through their manes. "It gives me a headache to even think that far ahead. I could barely look after Luna and myself."

Twilight kept quiet as she listened to the solar mare, her eyes unable to break away. Her attention was hanging on every syllable and her heart thumped within her breast harder with every word. Yet, once Celestia fluttered her eyes back open and turned to look at her with that smile which caused her knees to shake, Twilight found herself glancing back to the sea, her awkwardness manifesting.

"Are you okay, Moon?" Celestia asked, tilting her head and brushing some of her own mane back. "I sure hope I'm not acting too foolish?" she continued, finishing up with, "Our birthdays are on the twelth of canter. Not long to go," she sang.

Twilight shook her head, her cheeks warming. "No, of course not," she replied. "I'll remember that for when I go back next."

"You know, you'll have to show me the future at some point," Celestia stated, her smile turning into a grin. "You teased me hard with that magical dream."

"You know I ca-"

"Ah ah ah!" Celestia interrupted, taking her hoof with her own. "Just one little look? It's not as if I'll remember for two thousand years!"

Twilight rolled her eyes, but kept her hoof in Celestia's possession, for now. "Well... I guess I could show you a little bit... but you obviously can't see your future self, or Luna's, okay?"

She knew Celestia would probably have let it go if she sternly said no, but she kinda did want to let Celestia see what the future held, if only to give me some hope that everything would be alright.

Celestia nodded, now beaming. "Ah! Thank you, Moon!" she laughed, pouncing forward and wrapping her legs around the larger alicorn to hug her tight.

Twilight, for the most part, was just happy to have Celestia holding her and felt her own smile widen. "I'll think about where I'll take you and Luna."

"Luna can come as well?"

"Of course," Twilight replied, nodding. "I kinda, may have learned my lesson of not having Luna involved as much as she deserves. Now, she'll be given the choice when it comes to us three as a trio."

While she still felt there was a huge amount to make up for with the future version of Luna, Twilight could at least start out right with this younger version and despite it leaving a slightly sour taste in her mouth, she couldn't simply take one sister and not the other.

Even mere seconds after, she was imagining where she could take them. Of course, she'd have to get them disguises as they were the two most recognisable ponies in the world, at least in her time, and no one would believe they were simply lookalikes.

'I could take them to Ponyville? she quickly wondered, glancing out to sea. Take them to a nice restaurant and then a walk around the park?

"Equiis to Moon?" Celestia asked, gently knocking on her head and giggling. "You awake?"

"Huh? Oh, sorry. Was just thinking," Twilight replied, rubbing her cheek sheepishly. "It looks as if we should get ready to disembark," she said, gesturing to the shore. "I'll go and tell the captain. Can you wake Luna up?"

Celestia nodded. "Sure. I'm sure she'll be happy to get off this boat and into dry land, I know I am," she said, leaning in to kiss Twilight, lingering for a moment, then pulling away with a smile. Quickly, she brushed past the mare and made her way towards the wooden hatch which led down into the hold. "Lulu! Get up. We're getting ready to leave!"

Twilight watched the mare descend down and out of view, a happy smile on her face. "Definitely worth it."

It had only taken another hour or so for the ship to near the shore and set anchor a fair bit away, just in case. While the trio really only had the crown to carry, they had spent the time watching as everyone else rushed about like normal.

One they were ready to depart, the captain left her cabin to meet them, a pair of saddlebags on her back.

Smiling, she reached back and passed them over to the sisters. "It would be rather unfair of me to let you go without some supplies. There's food and water, as well as some clothing if things get extra cold," she explained, placing a claw on Twilight's shoulder and squeezing a little.

"Thank you, Captain," Twilight said, looking between the others then back to the captain. "We appreciate the help."

"Think nothing of it. We'll anchor here for a day or so if you get in trouble," Grenda laughed, "then head back to the kingdoms. Be careful in Cervidas. The deer keep to themselves, but they're not pacifists of any sort."

"I'm sure something will happen, but we'll be fine," Luna spoke up, her smile forming.

Celestia nodded. "My sister is right. There has been a growing occurrence of finding trouble in new places."

"Well, best watch yourselves. I've never been in Eternity Crossing myself, but there's rumors that circulate that it's not a good place to stay for too long," Grenada said, giving a worried look. "Make your plans and leave for Cervidas quickly. It should only take you a couple of days to reach the border by hoof. The ponies here have pushed the deer back quite a bit."

Celestia nodded. "Thank you, Captain. You have been more than kind."

"It's quite alright. I only apologise for having no rowboats." Grenada replied, shrugging. "We don't usually go this far and especially not across an ocean."

"Alright," Twilight said as she hummed. Turning to face the sisters, she tapped her chin for a second, thinking. "Oh, I know how we can get to the shore!" she gasped, then grinned.

Luna and Celestia turned to each other with a worried look, then back to Twilight.

"Do we want to know?" Luna asked, a grimace working its way onto her face.

The trio stumbled out of a rather prickly Mulberry Bush with spiky seeds sticking to their coats. The teleport, as Twilight had suspected, would be the quickest and relatively the most painless way to travel.

Even though her horn ached, Twilight's attention was elsewhere in her body. Dropping to her knees, she began to whimper as if what was left of her wing was burning.

"Gah!" she cried, looking her stump over. "M-My wing must be," she said, grunting and widening her eyes in disbelief. "Buck that hurts!"

"Moon!" Luna gasped, rushing over and kneeling next to her. "What's wrong?!"

"My wing must have reacted with the magic," Twilight replied, panting as her body became slick with sweat. "I just have been t-tainted..."

Celestia pulled Twilight closer and laid a magical aura over Twilight's wound, causing her to let out a cry of pain and squirm, her eyes watering.

"Sister?!" Luna asked, horrified she'd do that.

"We needed to know if it was just hers or all magic that hurt her, Lulu."

Luna averted her gaze and sighed while nodding. "Our Light. What do you need us to do?" she asked Twilight, worried, then placed a hoof on her chest.

Twilight gritted her teeth while the pain began to subside. First to a dull ache, then gone altogether. "I just need some quiet. I can't use, nor have any magic cast on me," she muttered, leaning against Celestia and rubbing her cheek against her. "This isn't good at all. One good hit and I'm out of a fight."

"We'll need to test what magic you can use," Celestia suggested, glancing between the two. "Maybe not all magic will react with it? It's not exactly a typical wound."

"While I agree, I would rather not subject myself to that pain again so soon," Twilight said, grunting as she pushed herself to her hooves. "Besides, I'm all sweaty now and I just want to lay down in bed."

It didn't take long for the trio to push through the tree-line and come across the port town of Eternity. The town itself was built around the titanic ruins of the Eternity Bridge, a titanic construction of iron and stone which, at one time, spanned the entirety of Eternity's Crossing.

The town was surrounded by a thick wall of glistening, white granite, with one main gatehouse, as well as several towers keeping watch. Pegasi scouts could be seen swooping around between towers as the group neared the town and a contingent of guards appeared atop the gatehouse, staring down at the three.

The three slowed to a stop a few steps from the edge of the gatehouse bridge and waited for the guards to either talk, or open the portcullis. It didn't take long for them to see a Unicorn peer down at them after pushing through the soldiers.

The brown-coated stallion raised a brow at the group, then turned to talk to a soldier by his side. After a couple of seconds, he turned back to look down at Twilight and shout: "What are you? Pony or Deer?"

Twilight glanced back at Luna, then Celestia, to gauge their reactions, then turned her attention back to the pony. "We are pony!" she shouted back while tapping her hoof on the dirt as she grew impatient.

"Patience, Moon," Celestia said, despite her own wings ruffling. "Keep yourself calm and we shall be let in. Grenda said these ponies have driven the Deer back quite a ways, so they are no doubt skittish. We're not common, remember?"

"I- I know."

"Where did you come from? Our scouts report there are no other pony settlements on this continent!" The soldier asked as several soldiers cocked their bows towards the group.

Luna blinked at the display and turned to Celestia. "'Tia," she hissed. "Are you so sure they'll let us in?!"

"I, uh-" Celestia stammered, now looking a little bit more worried. "Moon, what should we do?"

"We are travelers!" Twilight replied, staring up at the soldier. "We traveled up from Camelu and through the Emberbrace Mountains!" she answered fully and hoped that those places were known in this timezone. "We're tired, hurt and wish for a warm bed!"

The stallion turned and talked to the pony by his side, then seemingly gave a look of shock and turned around. He was gone for a good minute before returning and leaning on the stone. "You may come inside. The Bridal and Horseshoe has good ale and warm beds if you have coin. Just follow the main road and you won't miss it!"

The sisters glanced at each other as the portcullis creaked and slowly rose, allowing the group inside. That sudden turnaround didn't inspire much confidence, but they didn't let it show, even while they could hear the troops move from one side of the gatehouse to the other as they passed through.

"Easy girls," Twilight said, looking around at the entrance to the town. "Like 'Tia said, they're just skittish."

Entering into the town proper, the group passed various ponies who gave them a wide berth, their eyes following them with a distinct untrustworthy glint. The main road led directly through the town and down to the docks, only branching off every so often with smaller, unpaved paths which led to homes and smaller districts.

Many of the buildings kept to the same general pony design of having a stone bottom half with a thatch roof. Those lucky enough to have a first floor generally built out a balcony which hung over the main road.

Every so often where balconies on both sides of the road lined up, banners and tarps were hung across to keep the sun from heating the cobble too much.

While the town wasn't as packed as Springwallow, there were a sizable amount of ponies milling about the stalls--at least until the group passed by.

"Over there!" Celestia said, gesturing to the tavern off of the main road.

"Finally," Twilight groaned while she practically dragged her hooves alone. "I just want to lay down."

"While that sounds delightful, I think all of us need a bath first," Luna pointed out, scrunching her muzzle up. "I'm so glad no one had brought it up before we bathed in that lake."

Twilight looked over at Luna and asked, "Check if that bag had money in it."

Nodding, Luna levitated the bag off of her back and rummaged through it, before shaking her head. "None in mine. 'Tia?"

Celestia levitated several coins out. "I'm not sure how much these will get here, but something tells me very little."

"Buck..." Twilight mumbled, showing her frustration.

"We should ask anyway. I'm sure we could haggle," Celestia suggested, then replaced the saddlebag onto her back. "It's not like we have anything to lose, right?"

Luna nodded, then turned back to Twilight. "I'm sure we'll be fine. It's not as if we haven't been in worse situations," she said, giggling. "While this isn't the best, at least we have each other."

Twilight tapped her hoof on the cobble and nodded quickly. "I guess so," she muttered, biting her lip. "I'm sorry, you two. Let's go in and see what we can do about this. If things get really bad, I can go back to the future and find something to help us out here."

"Indeed. I'm sure our future selves wouldn't mind sending you back here with a few jewels or," Luna gasped, grinning at Celestia in her excitement. "Even a necklace or two... I saw some in Stonewall which were to die for..."

Twilight chuckled and rolled her eyes. "I'll see what I can do," she replied, turning and entering the tavern. "For now, let's book that room."

Arc 2: Chapter 3

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Pushing open the door revealed a spacious main hall that housed several tables in the center, as well as a multitude of small booths across the left wall. A crackling fireplace sat off to the right, warming the few ponies who were enjoying the relative silence of the inn. The inn's bar stood at the end of the hall, stacked full of alcohol in all sorts of colored bottles, next to which a set of stairs led up onto the upper level.

The windows which looked out into the main street were closed with wooden shutters, allowing the fireplace to gently light the hall in its soft glow that masked some of the ponies sitting further away.

Taking it slow, the trio moved inside and closed the door as they took in the atmosphere of the inn.

"Okay," Twilight said, turning to the others. "I'll go up and ask about a room and try to haggle the price down. I really shouldn't, but I know a few spells which can help."

Luna looked a little unsure but nodded. "If you think it's the best thing. We can find a table to sit at and figure out what we should do."

Nodding, Twilight turned and trotted around the tables. As she did so, she noticed eyes staring at her lack of a wing. Instinctively, Twilight kept her distance from them and quickened her steps towards the bar.

A rather stout and plump looking unicorn stallion stood behind the counter, a mug and a washcloth levitating beside him in his magic. Seeing Twilight near the bar, he stopped his cleaning and placed the mug down before properly focusing on the mare.

"Haven't seen you around here before," he said, catching Twilight slightly off guard with a heavy Manehatten accent.

Catching herself, she shook her head. "We," she said, gesturing to the sisters who had found a table and were glancing at her, "just arrived in town and were wondering how much a room for the night is."

The barkeep looked over to the sisters, then back to Twilight, with a raised brow. "You related or something?" he asked, slightly confused.

Twilight blinked, then realized what he meant. "Or something," she replied, staring at him with a neutral expression.

"Fair enough. A single room is one gold a night. Food is three silver extra."

Twilight looked surprised at how cheap it seemed but wasn't one to complain. "Perfect," she muttered while levitating two gold coins onto the counter. "Two days then, just in case."

"Just in case? You planning on leaving?"

"Oh, yeah. Not for long though," she answered, smiling. "It's a lovely town."

"Glad to hear it," the barkeep replied, placing a key down on the bar and pointing over to some stairs which led up to the second level. "You're in room four."

"Thank you," Twilight said, levitating the key into her pack and turning, but was stopped when she heard the stallion cough. Turning back, she saw him eyeing up the other Alicorns.

"If you're heading out of town, towards the deer, I'd suggest finding a guide. It can be dangerous around these parts if you're lost."

"Would you know where we could find one?"

Glancing around, the barkeep taped on the wood then nodded. "There's some deer which have been allowed to stay in the slums, near to the southern entrance."

Twilight's horn lit up and another gold piece levitated out of her saddlebag and onto the counter. "Thanks," she muttered, turning and walking back over to the laughing sisters.

"What's so funny?" she asked, raising a brow at them and placing her bag onto the table.

"Oh, nothing really," Celestia replied, stifling a chuckle. "It's just that we noticed that your tail twitches every time you use your magic."

Twilight glanced between the pair, then sat herself down. "You could have just said you wanted to look at my rump," she muttered, the hint of a smile appearing.

Celestia turned to Luna and frowned. "See, I told you that she wouldn't mind!" she huffed, causing her sister to pout.

"It's better when the pony doesn't know!" Luna retorted, frowning over at her sister.

Celestia rolled her eyes and looked over to Twilight, who was sitting there smiling at the pair. "I assume you managed to procure a room?"

"Indeed," Twilight replied, levitating the key out. "It was only one gold, so I reserved it for two nights. The barkeep also mentioned that we could find some deer to guide us to the border near the southern entrance."

With that, Luna nodded and tapped her hoof on the table. "Perfect! We can get situated and make sure that we restock. Grenda gave us enough to last a few days, mostly to get here in case something happened but we'll really have to get sorted, especially since we have to go out in the wilderness again."

"Luna is right. We'll be completely unprepared and I refuse to be caught unawares like before," Celestia added, trying not to look over at Twilight's stub.

"It's okay, 'Tia," Twilight began, scrunching her face up slightly as a few stallions wandered into the building. "I've learned from my mistakes. I won't be so reckless anymore."

Luna and Celestia glanced over to each other for a second, then to Twilight. They didn't look reassured.

Celestia and Luna placed their bags in the room and met Twilight outside, who was quietly studying the locals. Most of the ponies looked tired already, despite it barely moving past midday, and Twilight couldn't help but tap her hoof in anticipation.

The door squeaked open and the sisters made their way outside. Scanning the scene, they found very much the same situation and hummed.

"Is it just me or did everyone eat a lemon?" Luna asked, receiving a nudge from her sister.

"Hush you. I'm sure there's a good reason why everyone looks so... dour," Celestia mumbled, tapping her hoof on the worn cobble and smiling subtly over to Luna.

"Yeah, because everything is apparently worse in the past," Twilight grumbled, looking back at them with a shake of her head and finding the pair staring at her with deadpan looks. "Oh, right, sorry."

"It's fine, Moon," Luna replied, moving closer and brushing against her. "It's not been the best since you came back, but I have a feeling that it'll get better. Just you wait and see," she giggled, leaning in and kissing Twilight's cheek.

Celestia nodded. "Luna's right. Things will only get better from here, but first, we should find those deer to take us to the border."

"Yeah," Twilight sighed, a smile appearing. "One thing at a time and we'll get through all of the artifacts in no time at all. Pun intended, of course," she said, giggling.

The sister rolled her eyes as they all set off into the town to try and find the deer which would lead them to the border region. While not overly sprawling, Eternity was packed together more than Twilight was used to, leading to then getting hung up on the twists and turns which slowed them down.

"The barkeep said they were on this side of town, " Twilight mumbled, mostly to herself as the group squeezed through a crowd. "Aha!" she excitedly exclaimed, grinning back to the sisters who were brushing her matted coats down.

The pair looked over to Twilight who was gesturing to a run-down slum where several Deer could be found milling about, with plenty more inside, no doubt.

Many of the deer were tall and slender, with a pair of flared horns on their heads making them seem taller than they actually were. Their coats were rather muted compared to the ponies, but a few deer had some splotches of bright colors, most notably blues, and reds, but were confined to their flanks and legs.

"I'm thinking that we split up and ask around. What do you two think?" Twilight asked, finding the pair grimace over at the slums. "Oh, girls," she huffed, stomping the now mud-covered cobble and splashing it up her breast.

With a sigh, she looked down at her breast, then back over to the sisters. "It won't be too bad. If anything goes wrong, unload a bunch of magic into the air and I'll be able to see it and make our way back here, okay?"

Celestia seemed unimpressed but shrugged. "Fine, but you know I don't want to leave you. You know bad things happen when I leave your side!"

"Celestia's right, Moon. It is rather strange and I don't want something to happen to you while we're off somewhere else."

"Relax you two," Twilight said, gazing over with an exasperated look. "I'll be fine. Yes, things do tend to explode when I'm alone but I'd like to think I've gotten better at it. So, just relax and find someone to take us out of here, okay?"

The sisters glanced at each other, then back at Twilight. "As you wish."

Celestia and Luna wandered around the slums, catching the eye of everyone around them. Most of the deer kept their distance, but a few did stay close and watch, distrust in their eyes.

"I don't think they like us," Luna whispered over to her sister, a hint of hesitation on her face.

"What makes you say that?" a rather low, but unmistakably female voice asked from behind them.

Turning around, the sisters found themselves face to face with seven ponies, each of which were equipped with padded leather armor. While none of them held weapons, several were unicorns that held themselves at attention with their horns ready and fizzling.

In the center stood a brown-coated mare that was a hoof taller than the sisters. The first thing the sisters noticed were the twin, fractal horns that sat on her head. They looked similar to the deer around them, who had begun to pack their belongings and move away from the scene but split several times to curve over the mare's head, not unlike a helmet.

She smirked, glancing between the pair with a single pale green eye, the other covered by her mane that cascaded down her face. "So, you are the pair I've been ordered to capture," she said, letting out a small chuckle. "I was told you two were bigger?"

The sisters glanced at each other, quickly feeling their adrenaline spike, then turned to the unknown ponies. "Who are you?" Celestia questioned, her wings ruffling up to get ready for a flight.

"I wouldn't bother flying out. My stallions have placed a barrier around this dreadful place," the mare said, levitating a pebble out of the mud and launching it up where it suddenly and explosively shattered against a translucent barrier. "I would rather not take you to my employer in a body bag."

"Who are you?" Celestia asked again, lowering herself for a fight.

The mare raised a brow, not at Celestia but at Luna who was more passive; tensing up when she looked over. "Tempered Steel. My employer would like to see you. I've been told it is..." she began, pausing to think of the right word, "important."

Luna took a quick look at the stallions behind Steel and then to Celestia. "'Tia..." she said, before nuzzling against her neck. "Stop."

It took a few seconds, but Celestia pulled herself up and tore her gaze from the others. "Luna, what are you doing?" she asked, slightly confused.

"I'm tired of fighting. I don't want anyone to get hurt anymore and we don't have the means of healing our Moon."

"Speaking of which, where is your third?" Tempered asked, interrupting. "She won't be harmed. You have my word," she added, staring them down.

"We don't know," Luna replied, venom dripping from her words. "We split up."

"Fine," Steel huffed, "It's not a big place, we'll find her. You three," she continued, turning to the three stallions on her left which consisted of two unicorns and an earth pony. "Go out and find her." She turned to the other three and gestured to the sisters. "Put inhibitors on them and take them to the boss. I'll stay here and make sure the mare doesn't get away," she stated, looking around with an annoyed huff.

Twilight made her way along the slums’ muddy path, occasionally kicking a loose stone while quickly scanning the area. The majority of the deer were simply loitering or talking to one another outside their makeshift homes.

The air felt tense as Twilight passed families, many of whom sent their children inside and those that didn't, kept them within leg distance.

"What do you want, pony?" a buck asked from behind her, causing Twilight to turn around.

Three bucks stood there, glaring over at Twilight as she looked them over. The center buck, also the tallest, had a darkened coat with a short, off white mane that did nothing to hide his horns.

The bucks either side of him both had muted brown coats, one with a mane of dark grey and the other black.

"We asked you a question, mare!" the center deer spat as he took a step forward.

Twilight watched him as he stood there, already rather agitated. "I have come to find someone to take my friends and me to the border," she replied, calm and collected on the outside, but felt ever so tired. "Is there something you need?"

The deer looked between themselves, slightly confused, then back to Twilight. "You must be a little slow. Ponies don't come into our part of town," he stated as he flicked his tail, irritated.

Twilight took a deep breath. "Unfortunately I doubt anyone else in this backward little town will be able to take us to the border," she hissed. "If you couldn't tell, one of my wings is missing and I haven't been able to stop the burning pain since this morning and I'm getting a little irritated by the fact that everywhere we go someone is trying to kill us, kidnap us or assault us!" she shouted while her eye twitched.

The deer stood there, eyes wide at the pony. "I... okay, I guess," he mumbled, looking around. "Just, uh, don't worry about it," he added, backing off with the others and glancing back after a few seconds with worry.

Twilight herself looked around to find most of the deer were staring at her from within their homes, all worried about her outburst. "I'm sorry," she stammered, shrinking a little from the attention.

"Well, I certainly didn't expect that. Bet it felt good to let it all out? " Tempered asked, coming around the corner with a smirk. "You know, you make it so easy to do my job that I should be thanking you. Without that outburst, I would have wandered around this cesspit for a few minutes longer."

"Who are you?" Twilight asked, frowning over at her.

"I just said a few things and you're already frowning so quickly! That's not a good sign you know," Tempered teased, shrugging when Twilight glared at her. "Oh fine. I'm Tempered Steel. My employer wants to see you."

Sighing, Twilight had to consciously stop frowning, something which she knew was a bad sign, and stood up straighter. "Your employer? Who might that be?" she asked, moving slightly closer.

"The fine Mayor of this town, Checkered Past," Tempered replied as the three ponies she ordered to find Twilight stepped out behind the mare. "Ah, you took your time!"

Twilight looked back to find the three moving closer. "And I suppose they're here in case I say no?"

"Well, nobody really says no to Checkered," Tempered said, leaning up against a corner of a hovel. "But by all means, go ahead. Win or lose, this will be a pleasure to watch."

Twilight turned around to see the three ponies move on up the path to block her from passing. They spread out to cover the whole path, then inched forwards towards her.

The light grey unicorn narrowed his eyes and lowered himself down as his horn crackled with arcs of electricity.

Twilight, seeing the energy dropped and dashed to the side, off-balance by the loss of her wing. She tried to dodge but quickly found herself face first in the mud. Thankfully she was quick enough as a pulse of energy bolted out towards the mare, impacting the ground where she had stood and kicked up a plume of mud and dirt.

As dirt scattered around, the nearest earth pony took his chances and made for Twilight, deciding that tackling her would be the best choice, considering she was already in the ground.

With a grunt, Twilight felt the stallion hit into her with the force of a freighter and she was rolled onto her back. The stallion landed on top of her and proceeded to grab at her wing, trying to pin her.

With a grunt, Twilight pulled a hoof back and began to punch the stallion in the ribs using all of her strength while the other earth pony circled the pair.

Meanwhile, Tempered stood there, watching with interest and a slight smile on her face as the earth pony struggled to pin the lone mare. "Why don't you all go in at once!" she called out, rolling her eyes after.

Twilight clenched her eyes shut and with an almighty cry teleported herself out from the grip of the earth pony and across the road. She deposited herself in a home several buildings away, leaving three perplexed ponies and one very surprised mare.

The inside of the home was rather spartan. A single homemade rug sat on across the floor, a table and chairs pushed up to the side of the hovel as well as a firepit and a couple of beds spaced out.

As soon as she regained her bearings, Twilight fell to her knees and began to whimper, her stump feeling as if scorching coals had been rubbed into the wound. "D-Dear Celestia!" she groaned.

Rising and stumbling over to the window, she peeked outside to see the ponies looking around for her. With a hiss she reached up and used her hoof to pull the curtains closed, knowing any magic could give her away.

"Damn it, Twilight. Shouldn't have split up. It was a stupid idea from a stupid mare!" she muttered, scrunching her muzzle up in annoyance. "If that mare's after me, then they must have taken the others. I just need to find the mayor and sort this out," she continued, smoothing her mane down and brushing some of it back.

Celestia grunted as the rope that was spun around her body was tightened just a little more. "Ugh, I feel like you've never tied a mare up before," she groaned, having glanced back at one of the many nameless stallions which Checkered Past employed.

"Leave him, sister. I'm sure he doesn't get much practice," Luna giggled, smirking over to her.

With a roll of his eyes, he tightened the rope before backing away as Checkered skipped into the ballroom.

The large, rectangular room is a far contrast to the town which Checkered's manor overlooks. Paintings of all sorts sit on the walls all imported from various countries. A grand piano stationed in the corner, as well a trio of chandeliers that illuminated the room. The floor looked like one solid piece of smoothed marble, along with an array of tables sat just behind the ponies for guests to relax on.

"What's got you all excited?" Luna asked, following him as he made his way over and poured himself some bubbling concoction into a crystal glass.

"Oh, nothing much. Just the fact that you have made my employer so very happy and that means that they're holding their end of the bargain," Checkered replied, swishing the glass under his muzzle before inhaling the fumes. "Mmm, sanctified Mollygrass." Sighing, he wandered over as a henchpony pulled a chair up in front of the sisters for him to sit down on. "Would you two like to know what's going to happen to you?" he asked, a smile plastered on his face.

Celestia raised her brow. "Oh? I get the feeling that you're going to tell us anyway, right?"

"Sister," Luna hissed, a hint of worry on her face.

"Why yes, I'm going to tell you everything," Checked laughed, leaning in to brush a strand of Luna's mane away from her face.

"Don't you dare!" Celestia growled, struggling against her bonds as Luna leaned away.

Pulling away, Checkered leaned back on his chair and sipped from his glass. "First, I'll be moving you from here into a more secure area. Then strap you down. My employer wants you to feel every bit of pain you caused them," he explained, beginning to smirk. "I have a pair of very talented unicorns who will keep you awake, even as my best ponies work on you. You will not get the satisfaction of even a single second away from the unending pain.

My employer has explained to me exactly how your bodies work and I'll take great satisfaction in seeing it in action."

All throughout, Checkered's eyes widened with glee, causing Luna to grimace and try to lean back. Celestia tried her best to flare her magic, only for her to cry out in pain once again as the fur and skin around the base of her horn fizzled with uncontrolled magical buildup.

"Sister, stop," Luna pleaded, "Our moon will come for us..."

Checkered reached out and grabbed Luna's face to turn her towards him. "Ah yes. Let's talk about Twilight, shall we," he said, his glee fading. "I was told of her from my employer-"

"And just who is this-" Celestia interrupted, before Checkered reacted.

With a crack, Checkered took his glass and smashed it against Celestia's face, slicing deep into her flesh. She let out a shriek of pain and slumped forwards, blood dripping down onto her lap.

Panting, he sat back down in his chair, brushed his mane back, and let out a sigh. "I don't like interruptions... it ruins the moment," he said over the whimpers of the alicorn.

"Okay, where were we... ah yes," he continued, turning to Luna. "When Twilight gets here, I'll make sure to have several of my best ponies waiting for her. I've been assured that she'll come right here and give herself right over to me."

"Twilight isn't that stupid!" Luna hissed, now struggling. "We’re going to kill you when we get free!"

"Struggle all you like, my dear," Checkered laughed, pulling away. "Your precious mare won't ever find- ah, there she is."

Checkered looked over to the double doors and smiled as Twilight was dragged in; a magical inhibitor ring was firmly lodged over her horn. A pair of stallions levitated the mare by her hooves, allowing a small gash across her side to drip blood across the marble until she was dumped unceremoniously in front of the sisters.

"Moon!" they gasped, thrashing against their bonds to try and get to her.

"We found her trying to break in, sir," one of the guards explained. "We had to rough her up a little to actually capture her."

Checkered chuckled and waved the guard away. "That's fine. That won't matter for what I have planned for her."

"Don't you dare!" Luna hissed, managing to pull a leg out and swipe it at Checkered, who hastily pulled back.

The guards rushed over, struck her across the face before forcing her leg back in and tightening the rope enough to make it hard for her to breathe.

"We'll kill you," Luna choked, turning to Celestia who was staring down at Twilight, in shock at the amount of blood pooling around her body.

"Don't worry about her, she'll be dead in a minute," Checkered stated, pulling his chair over and sitting back down. "You ever get the feeling that we're all moving towards our fate? Like, I had planned for everything... But someone came along and nudged it off course," he muttered, tapping his hoof on the floor while looking off to the side.

"I was told this was how it was meant to go. Except you," he grumbled, leaning down to address Twilight, "Were meant to be here earlier with Tempered. Speaking of, where is she?"

"Were not sure, sir. She did return back from the slums earlier though," one of the guards answered.

Frowning, Checkered looked back down at Twilight who was slowly growing paler and paler. "Probably annoyed with herself that she couldn't capture you. She prides herself on doing a good job. It's a noble sentiment for someone who's impure."

"Mo- Twilight, please!" Celestia pleaded, letting herself lean over and let out a soft sob. "You can't die here!"

"Our moon. Everything you worked so hard for," Luna stammered, sniffling.

Checkered's lips curled into a smug grin as he gestured for the guards to take hold of the chairs. "Bring them with me. We're going to Bone Setter's lab," he ordered, rising up and walking towards the exit. Stopping short of the doors, he turned around towards Twilight and smirked. "Leave the mare for later. We can let Bone have her for her experiments once she’s done with these two."

“Tell me everything you heard!” Tempered growled, slamming a crimson coated, blue maned stallion up against the wall. Her magical aura tightened around his neck. “What do you know about this Twilight!”

The stallion winced as the mare’s magic began to close in around him. “Okay, Okay!” he coughed, looking away and clutching at her hoof which pressed against his chest. “I was on duty outside the mayor’s office last week and I heard some strange buzzing,” he said, feeling her magic ease off. “No pony was with me, so I decided to listen in. I had been standing there for a few hours and I was bored!”

Rolling her eyes, Tempered backed off but held the stallion against the wall with her magic. “Okay. What was so strange about it?”

“Well, it didn’t last long, maybe ten seconds or so. Once it stopped I heard another voice, a mare’s.”

“Are you sure the mare didn’t enter before that?”

“I’m certain! No pony entered or left while I was on duty,” the stallion answered, still looking worried, but slowly realizing that he wasn’t going to get hurt.

“What did they talk about?” Tempered asked, more intrigued than anything now. “I assume Twilight’s name came up?”

“Yeah,” he answered, nodding. “It was strange. They talked about where the mare would be as well as those other two being needed for something. All that construction out past the orchard is for some kind of holding cell.”

Tempered’s magic faded and the stallion slumped to the ground, a light cough leaving him. “Go. If you tell anyone I’ll find out,” she said, narrowing her eyes.

“Of course!” The stallion rushed off down the hallway, leaving Tempered Steel alone with her thoughts.

How could they know where that mare would be if she hadn’t arrived in town yet? Tempered wondered, tapping her hoof on the floor. “There’s something they’re not telling me,” she mumbled, moving down the hall towards Checkered’s office.

Turning the corner, she saw two guards standing outside of the office, which only raised Tempered’s suspicions. Stepping out from behind the corner, she moved up and went to open the door, but was stopped when a pair of swords swung out and clattered in front of her.

“Checkered has issued that no one is to enter his office until he returns,” the mare on the left stated, glancing over towards Tempered.

“Checkered just ordered me to collect some important documents,” she lied, moving her attention over to the mare.

While a head shorter than her, the guard appeared to be in peak shape. Her light green coat standing out against the tan-painted walls.

Staring at her, Tempered felt her pulse quicken as she could practically feel the other guard’s eyes bore into the back of her head, and the tension rise.

“Mint, let her in. I’d rather not go and get the all-clear from the boss,” the other guard, an aqua-coated stallion, said.

Mint looked Tempered up and down, before pulling her sword back. “Fine,” she muttered, shaking her head. “Lazy prick...”

Tempered pushed the door open with her magic and entered the office. As soon as the door closed, she let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding and brushed her mane back. Normally she would be up for a fight, but she’d rather not start one in the middle of the mansion, where other guards could join in.

Looking around, she began to walk over towards a thick, heavy oak desk that sat at the back center of the room. The left-hand wall was lined with several bookcases that were practically overfilled with tomes and books of all sorts that threatened to cascade onto the floor.

The right-hand side was one long floor to ceiling window that overlooked the generous apple orchard which ran along the outer palisade of the town, barely visible under the cloud-covered sky.

Steel made her way around the desk, of which was covered almost completely with parchment and scrolls. She took a few minutes to rummage through the pile, then let out a huff and hit the desk with her hoof.

Her brow shot up upon hearing the tell-tale sound of a metallic lock from under the desk.

"What have we here?" Steel muttered, lowering herself down. Almost instantly, she rolled her eyes when she spotted a 'secret' compartment attached to the underside of the desk.

Flaring her horn, the mare grunted and snapped the entire lock straight off the compartment, then levitated the drawer out, dumping its contents upon the desk.

"Right, what secrets are you keeping?" she said, frowning.

Picking up a worn, leather-bound journal in her mafic, she opened it to the newest entry and scanned the page, finding an only chicken-scratch copy of Starswirl's Hourglass.

Shaking her head, she flipped the page back and smirked when she found the times and dates of his meetings. "Gotcha," she said, chuckling.

"Talked about Twilight and the... Princesses arriving?" she mumbled, reading through the entries. "Copied down designers for a laboratory? The heck is tha- hold on..." she stopped herself instantly as soon as her eyes scanned the word 'torture' underlined.

The mare felt a cold chill down her spine and closed the book. "That snake," she growled, beginning to grow angry and betrayed.

With a huff, she stormed over to the door and left, needing to have a few words with Checkered.



Twilight's vision suddenly burst into clarity as her eyes shot open. It was something she wished wouldn't happen as much as it did due to it also bringing a head-splitting amount of pain to go along with it. Letting out a long and deep groan, Twilight used a herculean amount of energy and pulled herself up off the smooth marble floor.

The guards, Checkered Past and the sisters were gone, leaving the room decidedly colder, if not for the throbbing that pulsed through Twilight's head reminding her of her screw-up.

"Stupid Twilight..." she grunted, hitting her hoof against the marble and scowling. Rising up, Twilight slowly reoriented herself as the room spun a little. "I fucked it up again."

"I wouldn't be so sure," Tempered Steel muttered from behind.

Twilight flared her wing out in surprise. "You!" she groaned, slowly backing off.

Tempered was sitting casually at the nearest table, a glass of whiskey levitating next to her along with Twilight's inhibitor ring. "Yes, me," she replied. Staring over at Twilight. "I'm actually curious about you, Twilight," she said, gesturing towards the Alicorn. "Checkered was always scheming with this town. Always had something up his sleeve; a backup plan in case things go wrong," she added, pausing for a second to take a sip. "Except when you came along. He knew exactly what to do and how to do it. It got me curious. So I asked around and some of the guards heard him talk about you three."

Hearing this caused Twilight to frown in slight confusion. "Talk about me?" she asked, hesitantly pulling herself up and steadying herself as her head exploded with pain.

"Oh, don't worry. I'm not here to fight," Tempered said, holding her hooves up then gesturing to the seat opposite to her at the table. "Please, sit. Checkered is one for theatrics anyway. We'll have plenty of time before he does anything with the others."

Twilight did indeed inch around, pull the chair out and sit. She was still rather cautious, but the tone of the situation was rather surprising to her. "Okay," she muttered, "go on?"

"So it's no surprise that Checkered is a bad pony," Tempered said sarcastically, gesturing to a scar, that ran down the right side of her face from the bottom of her ear to her cheek, which was normally covered by her mane. "What I didn't think is that he'd be involved in torture." Placing the glass down, she opened her mouth to speak but paused, then sighed. "Some guards heard him describe you and your friends exactly before you even arrived in town. So, I did a little snooping. Hoping he'd actually be stupid enough to record everything."

Twilight's brow raised as Steel's lips curled.

"I was right. He wrote down some orders he was given. I don't know who with, as the name is in some kind of foreign script but he was told stuff about you three, like when you'd arrive and what to do with the others. I don't know what you did, but it said he was ordered to kill you then torture the others..."

Twilight's eyes widened as she moved her gaze down to the drink for a second then back to Tempered's eyes. "Can you copy down the name of who contacted him?" she asked, a cold wave washing over her.

"I can try, but I doubt it'll be perfect," Steel replied, rising up and wandering over to one of the side tables to take a quill and inkpot. Pulling a napkin over, she began to repeat what she had seen causing Twilight to move out of her seat and around to Steel's side.

Twilight frowned. "Sun Dial... I don't recognize the name," she muttered, trying to think back through anyone who might still have a grudge with her, let alone anyone in this time period.

"Wait, you can read that?" Steel asked, suddenly confused.

"Oh, yeah. It's the standard language from where I'm from."

"Uh, okay. Well, either way, we should probably try to save your friends. I doubt they'd want to be tortured," Steel suggested, gesturing to the exit and rolling her eyes.

"Wait, why are you helping us? The last time we met you tried to kill me."

Steel pulled herself away from the table and took a breath. "Because, believe it or not, torture isn't what I signed up for. I had nothing when I joined Checkered's employment except my dignity and even that's been stolen from me with what he's doing now. I refuse to let another pony treat me like a fool and get away with it."

Twilight tilted her head slightly and a small smile appeared on her face. "Should I assume you know where he is?"

Tempered nodded. "Of course. I," she paused turning and walking towards the exit with Twilight following, "had free reign of this place and I made sure to learn its layout. It's only a matter of time until a pony like Checkered Past is ousted."

Sliding up beside Steel, Twilight looked her over, then asked. "I'm surprised I've never heard of you."

"Out here at the edge of the world?," Steel chuckled, giving her an incredulous look. "Only ponies get famous nowadays," she continued, gesturing to her fractal horns with her eyes, "Impure only get recognized for bad reasons."

Twilight scrunched her muzzle up slightly and looked away. "I don't like that word," she muttered quietly to herself. "I'm sorry for throwing magic at you last time," she said, glancing over for a second then letting out a soft chuckle. "You know, you're pretty good at fighting."

Turning to Twilight, Steel smiled a little. "Thanks. I needed to learn to survive. Cervidas is a pretty brutal place."

"Yeah, I heard that the deer can be," Twilight replied, giving her a sympathetic look.

"The deer's intolerance is a symptom. There's something wrong with this continent," Steel said, shaking her head and turning a corner to begin down another corridor that ended with a pair of glass double doors which opened out into the gardens. "Never mind that. It's more pressing that we find your friends."

A pair of guards stood on the other side of the doors, one on each side and looking away from the hallway.

"We, uh, should slow down!" Twilight squeaked, watching as Tempered quickened her pace, her eyes flicking between the mare and the door. "S-Stop!"

The pair galloped down the hallway and as they neared the end, Twilight began to slow. Despite this, Tempered turned her shoulder and leaned forward to smash through the double doors. With a loud crash, she fell on her side and rolled, before pulling herself up and flaring her horn towards the pair of stunned guards standing on the other side.

The pair clutched their head and with a thud, they fell to the ground, snoring away.

"Where did you learn that?!" Twilight gasped, tip-hoofing over the shards of glass, then the guards, her eyes wide.

Taking a breath to calm herself, Steel looked around. "Deer magic is infinitely more sensitive than pony magic. It's like a knife compared to a hammer," she huffed, then turned to Twilight with a smirk, only to receive a roll of the eyes. "They'll have a headache, but it's better than dying."

"True, but you could have told me what you were doing," Twilight mumbled, walking past her with a frown.

Watching Twilight slowly made her way towards the gardens, Steel called out, "Twilight. It's this way!" causing the mare to turn around. "Might need to know where we're going," she chuckled, pointing down the opposite path.

"Lead the way," Twilight mumbled, gesturing down the path. She might not particularly like this mare, after their tussle, but if she'd help, then she'd learn to trust her.

As the pair continued on down towards where the sisters were kept, the gardens opened up into the start of an apple orchard with the wall of Eternity slowly creeping up ahead of them. With the sunset, the only light was from Twilight and Tempered's horns which illuminated a fair distance but didn't help when the shadows decided to jump between the trees.

"Giggle at the ghosties," Twilight whispered to herself as she imagined Pinkie and the rest of her friends that very first time. By Celestia I'll have to make it up to them. I've been exactly like I was back then, cold and uncaring...

Sighing, Twilight turned to Tempered and asked, "How long have you been here?"

Glancing quickly at Twilight, Tempered rolled her eyes. "A good ten years or so. I was dropped off as a foal and I guess my parents saw me as a symbol of bad luck or something. Spent a few years in that cesspit of a slum; that's when Checkered found me," Tempered replied, keeping an eye out for anyone foolish enough to try and attack them in the middle of the open.

"And in all that time you didn't know he was torturing others?" Twilight asked, unconvinced.

"You can either believe my side of things or not, it doesn't change anything. He's the mayor and if he wanted problems sorted, they were. I didn't get too deep into it and he never forced me to do anything like that," Steel muttered, slowing slightly. "Look, if someone is helping you. The least you could do is not be a bitch about it," she huffed, shaking her head as she wandered past.

Twilight stood there for a few seconds, surprised by the honesty and bluntness of the mare, but quickly made up ground and was once again walking next to her. "Yeah, I have been kind of a bitch lately, sorry."

Tempered took a side-eye glance at Twilight and sighed. "Whatever. Let's just go."

The pair make it to what looks to be a concrete bunker dug into the side of a hill. The front of the bunker inched itself out of the earth and was equipped with state of the art security, as well as retinal scanners. The front sliding door held a tiny hole for Twilight to peek through, only to see hazmat suits hanging up inside of a decontamination room.

"This is where your friends are being held. I would wager my gold that Checkered is down there as well. He makes sure almost everything is to his liking, I could assume that includes, well, you know," Tempered said, hitting the door with her hoof. "Though, last time I was here it wasn't so strange looking," she added, looking rather confused by the cameras and scanners.

Twilight, on the other hand, was more confused as to why a concrete bunker was here in this timezone. There was no realistic way that these ponies could have this level of technology without her hearing about it in the future, which meant... Turning to Tempered, Twilight asked, "Did you see how many meetings this 'Sun Dial' had with Checkered?"

Tearing her eyes from the flashy monitor, Tempered thought back. "Uh, yeah... there were quite a lot. Not a lot was written down though. Just some orders. Wait, you think this is from their meetings?"

"I'm not sure, but I'm willing to guess so. There's no way a mayor is able to build something like this without help, especially here," Twilight stated, tapping her hoof on the dirt path. "First thing's first," she groaned, waving a hoof for Tempered to back away. "I need to get inside."

"The door is several inches thick. No one could bust that thing down!"

Twilight looked over with a smirk. "Who says I'm going to bust it down?" she said, moving around to the side of the bunker and pressing her horn against the concrete. The concrete began to shimmer as a portal appeared showcasing the same area, but a few hours later. "Be right back!" she shouted, jumping in and leaving a shocked Tempered standing there, unwilling to move.

Twilight pushed herself out of the other side and scanned the surroundings. As she expected, Tempered wasn't there and the Manor was under guard lockdown. She wasn't entirely sure if she had gone on to kill Checkered, but the thought sent a shiver up her spine. That had to be a good sign, right?

Taking a peek around the corner, she found the door to the bunker unlocked and open. While there was no power, there was a straight shot directly in.

"Alright, Twilight," she muttered as she entered the facility.

She couldn't help but feel her coat stand up from the deathly silence, or from the pitch-black hallway that inclined ever so slightly downwards into the earth.

As she suspected, this layout and architecture were modern, at least military-grade, and would have been hard to make, even with her own resources, let alone this far back.

'Going to have to look up this Sun Dial when I get back,' she thought, noting it down mentally for later as she continued to move further into the base.

Twilight knew she'd have to go back and open the door for herself, but she wanted to see the future for herself.

Swallowing her nerves, the mare brightened her horn and fired out a mote of sunlight down the corridor which bounced off of the slanted wall and continued down a path to the right.

Moving up to the corner, she peeked around and saw the corridor full of frost and scorch marks, along with blood splatters, and long gouges were taken out of the walls.

There was no doubt that whatever they did wasn't good, even if it was necessary. At the end of the corridor sat what appeared to be the two, semi-melted halves of the bulkhead that separated the corridor from where Checkered kept the sisters.

Hesitantly moving up and stepping over the door, she moved in and found Checkered laying on one of the beds, pale and unmoving. The surrounding tiles covered in deep crimson blood, even those under her hooves were slick.

"What the fuck did we do..." she whispered to herself, her heart thumping heavily in her chest at the prospect that anyone of them could have done such a thing.

Taking a step back, she turned and made for the exit. Just inside of the decontamination room, she pressed her horn to the inner wall and formed a portal. With a snap-crack, the connection was made and the other side showed what she had seen earlier, what with several hazmat suits hanging up inside the lit room.

Stepping back through, she noticed Tempered standing there, glancing back and forth from where she had been to where she was. With a grunt, she gripped the inner lever with her magic and forced the door open with a sharp hiss.

Swinging open, Tempered stood there, her eyes wide as she stared at Twilight. "But- you were..."

"I'll explain later, come on. We have to go before something horrible happens!" Twilight urged, causing Tempered to snap out of her confusion and rush past into the bunker. With the door unlocked, Twilight left it open and rushed in, following Tempered down and up to the door separating them from the sisters.

"Can you do what you did before for this door?" Tempered asked, looking all over, still rather confused.

"Unfortunately not. If I do it, there'll no doubt be ponies in there. This will need something different," Twilight hummed, tapping her chin. "Right, that’ll drain me for a bit, so keep an eye out and get ready once the door comes apart."

"Right. Wait, did you say apart?!" Tempered asked, before quickly squeaking at the cracking magic being condensed into a single stream to burn through the inch thick metal. "What the fuck?!" she grunted, moving back and keeping an eye on the entrance.

It wasn't long before Twilight managed to burn through a quarter before Tempered turned back and shouted. "We have company!" she alerted as three guards rushed in, each carrying short swords in their magic and equipped with plate armor.

"Why did I have to make him buy new armor," Steel groaned, pulling back a few steps and flaring her horn in preparation.

The mare waited until one of the ponies crossed the corner and sprung thrust herself forwards as she unleashed a blast of magic. The pony was thrown against the wall and slumped down as a sickening crunch echoed through the corridor.

The other two ponies yelped and looked at their friend, before turning their attention to Tempered, who was now out in the open.

"Uh, hey guys," she said, jumping back as the pair arced their swords, barely a hair's breadth from slicing into her.

She landed and begun charging her magic once again, her horns cracking with energy.

Twilight could hear the swords slicing through the air as well as Tempered jumping around, even over the sparks from her horn. "Hurry up, Steel!" she ordered, gradually making her way down the door. "Nearly there!"

Luna's eyes fluttered open slowly, revealing the inside of the observation room. A thick glass window separated her and her sister from Checkered. A flick of her ear told her that a couple of ponies were standing behind the long examination tables they were clamped to.

"Should I be afraid?" Luna asked, staring over at Checkered. "My beloved will save us."

Checkered let out a snort. "Your 'beloved' is being fed to some pigs, my dear. Besides, she'd never get into this facility," he continued, waving a nearby mare to wander over.

The light-blue coated scientist placed down a tray of tools, in between the sisters, which she carried in her magical aura and glanced between them. "To get accurate test results, you'll be kept awake," she stated, gesturing to the two unicorns behind the mares to take a step closer.

Their horns lit up, causing a faint magical aura to envelop the Alicorn' heads. At this point, Celestia shot awake with a cry of pain and thrashed about against her bonds.

"Easy now, Celestia. That table was made for you. You won't get out of it, so don't bother!" Checkered said, rolling her hoof.

"First we'll start the incision here," the mare stated, levitating a scalpel off the tray and gently pressing it against Luna's check, just beneath her neck. "Then we'll open her up down to here," she continued, moving the scalpel down to just above Luna's navel.

"Why are you telling us this?!" Celestia hissed, still trying to break out.

Glancing over to the Celestia, the scientist smiled. "It helps me relax. I've never thought I'd ever work on the Princesses!" she explained, sighing blissfully. "I can't wait to see you regrow your internal organs."

Celestia stared at the mare in part horror and part confusion. "B-But we're not..."

"Oh, you're not. But you will be. You two were so pretty at Twili-"

"Bone Setter, shut up and do your job!" Checkered shouted, causing the mare to squeak.

"Of course, Checkered!" she replied, sighing. "Nothing personal, Princesses..." she muttered, just as the bulkhead began to crackle and spark.

"What the-" Checkered muttered, moving over to a panel on the wall and tapping it. A view from a camera outside the door showed him Twilight burning down the door next to him while Tempered cracked one of his stallion's heads against a pipe.

"That scum!" he screamed, cracking the screen with a hoof. "Well, it looks like your mare-friend somehow survived and my best employee is helping her. Who'd have thought it!" he shouted, cracking the screen again.

"Sir, there isn't another way out," Bone said, glancing to the two ponies behind the Princesses, then over to Checkered. "This facility shouldn't be able to be accessed by anyone else than us."

"Well, how did they get in!" Checkered growled, moving around the glass and gripping Bone's neck with a hoof. "Now, open them up before they get through the door!" he threatened, throwing the quivering mare to the ground with a sneer.

"Yes, sir..." Bone panted, looking up and over to him, then back to the guards who were starting to look a little uneasy from all the screams echoing in from the corridor. The scalpel levitated off the metal and inched its way over to Luna, where it brushed up and over her stomach. It tickled over her breast and neck before it flicked Luna's magic inhibitor off her horn.

Bone gave her a half-hearted smile and slid up against the glass as the ring hit the floor and rolled over towards Checkered's hoof.

The guard’s eyes widened upon seeing the ring flick off and began to flare their horns up to stun and knock Luna out. Yet, the Alicorn's own horn crackled, then fired out a bolt of lightning, striking her guard in the chest and chaining to the other.

The lightning coursed through their flesh, cooking them from the inside out and before long they dropped to the ground, two smoking corpses.

"Bone, what have you done!" Checkered screamed, reaching over to grab the ring to put back in the Alicorn, but stumbling over his hooves.

A metallic screech echoed through the room as the steel around the Sisters tore off, freeing them.

Celestia slid her ring off and crushed it under her magic into a fine powder before moving over to Checkered and knocking him out with a single strike. His body hit the grates like a wet sack of potatoes.

Luna knelt down and held a hoof out to Bone Setter, who took it hesitantly. She pulled her up and smiled. "Thank you. That took courage," she said, placing a hoof on her shoulder.

"I... I didn't want to do it, ma'am," Bone started, looking down and away. "He said he'd leave me in this town, in this time, if I didn't."

At that moment, the exit let out a creak, then a thump as Twilight kicked the two halves of the bulkhead in with a heavy scrape.

Arc 2: Chapter 4

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Twilight quickly pounced into the room and flared her horn in case anyone decided to put themselves between her and her loves. Seeing the pair, then the unconscious body of Checkered, she let out a reassured sigh and rushed over.

"Did they do anything to you?" she asked, moving around Celestia, then Luna to check for any wounds. "I swear to you if they did-?!"

Celestia placed a comforting hoof on Twilight's shoulder as Luna made her way over. "We're unharmed, our moon; all thanks to Bone Setter," she said, gesturing to the pony that was unsuccessfully hiding behind her shadow now.

Twilight raised a brow at the aqua-coated mare and walked over. She wasn't sure, but she could swear she had seen the mare before. "Thank you for risking yourself," she said, reaching down with her hoof.

"You're not angry that I-" Bone squeaked, imagining Twilight being angry at her for working with Checkered. "I nearly..."

Lowering herself down, Twilight shook her head. "You didn't though. That's what matters."

"I shouldn't even be here, Princess," Bone stated as she slowly began to unfurl herself from her frightened state.

"Wait, you know I'm a Princess?"

"Of course! I watched your coronation," Bone said, nodding as a smile appeared. "But, uh, anyway, I was contacted by Checkered and asked to work for him. Next thing I knew, I'm here. I arrived a few weeks ago."

"Don't worry; I can take you home," Twilight replied as she placed a reassuring hoof on Bone's shoulder.

Luna turned to Celestia, nuzzled into her neck, then held herself close as she breathed in her scent to try and mask the already entrenched smell of burnt hair.

Tempered finally wandered in and took a glance around, before grimacing at the smell of burnt flesh. "Great! I'm going to be smelling this for a week!" she groaned, nearing the nuzzling Princesses.

Stopping, she opened her mouth for a second, then winced. "I guess I'm sorry for almost getting you two dissected," she said, unsure.

Celestia stared at her for a good few seconds, then shrugged. "Fine. You helped our Moon with saving us. You're forgiven," she said, holding out her hoof, to which Tempered shook.

Luna, on the other hand, was looking over Tempered's horns. "Are you half deer?" she asked, garnering Tempered's attention.

"Yes, I am. Why?"

"Well, we were looking for a guide to take us to the border. Would you be able to?" Luna asked, turning to Twilight while she moved back over with Bone, her smile growing warmer.

Tempered looked down at the metal floor with a frown. She wasn't entirely sure if trusting these ponies would help her, despite what they had gone through. "Why do you need to go there?" she asked, glancing between the three ponies, then Bone who she narrowed her eyes slightly, causing her to inch behind Twilight.

The three shared a look, then Twilight nodded. "We need to see the Queen," she answered, hoping that Tempered knew how to get there at the very least. "We can explain later, okay? First, we'll need to get out of the town."

Tempered gestured to Checkered's body, a worried look in her eyes."We can't just leave him here, he'll surely come after us- after me- for doing this!"

"Well, we're not going to kill him if that's what you mean," Celestia said, giving Tempered a shocked look.

"Moon, can you take him back with you when you take Bone?" Luna asked, looking over to Twilight. "Surely we could get better information out of him there?"

"What do you mean by that?" Tempered asked, glancing between them.

Thinking about it for a second, Twilight tapped her chin. "That could work," she replied, nodding. "Fine. Can you two carry him while we get out of here?"

"Wait, carry him? What are you talking about?!" Tempered huffed, stomping her hoof. "Explain what is going on!"

Twilight winced and glanced at the door. "Look, I can't explain it all right here right now but Bone and I are from the future. I'm taking her back as soon as we get out of here and I'll have to take Checkered back as well to get some information out of him."

Tempered stared at the mare, the corners of her lips curling slightly until she saw the completely serious expressions of the others. "Wait... You're serious?" she asked, her face quickly passing through several expressions until settling on slightly amused. "Do I even want to ask how far forward you two are from?"

"Two thousand years," Bone answered as she peeked out from behind the Alicorn.

Tempered closed her eyes and nodded, still in slight disbelief. "I'll be asking a lot of questions later but for now, we should go."

Twilight stared at the mansion from atop a nearby hill. Her mind racing now that it had a moment to calm down.

Once again they had been attacked. While the attacker didn't know the whole story, it didn't make Twilight feel much better about the whole situation.

'Clearly this Sun Dial can travel in time. Even if they can't themselves, they can communicate with those in the past,' Twilight thought, her eyes watching the guards as they rushed to and fro in panic.

The group had made quite an easy escape, what with the facility only being partially guarded in the first place, as well as it being the middle of the night.

The rest of the group was setting up a small camp so they could rest and regain their bearings. Each of them gathering up leaves to keep warm as well as tying up Checkered Past to keep him from galloping off.

Twilight's ears flicked when she heard someone move up next to her and she turned her head to see who it was.

Luna stood there, a soft but tired smile on her face as she brushed some of her mane from her face sheepishly. "Want some company?" she asked, a little unsure.

"For you, always," Twilight replied, her smile returning. Once Luna laid down next to her, she leaned over and rested against the lunar mare. "Do you want to see the future?"

Luna's eyes widened, but she kept silent for a few seconds after the question was asked, unsure of how to answer. "Uh, well yes," she finally replied. "This soon though?"

"I have to take him," Twilight said, gesturing to Checkered who was still out cold, "and Bone Setter back. May as well take you two on that date I promised. Besides, we'll have to grab some more supplies anyway. I doubt we'll survive foraging for food."

Luna nodded. "Indeed," she concurred, looking back at the rest of the group. "We can't keep going like this, Moon. Even we have limits. I fear the next time we have to face something, we won't be so lucky."

Twilight felt herself shrink at those words and shifted her attention down at the dirt. She knew that Luna was right and the best thing for them would be to have a small break.

"Don't worry, Luna. I'll try to keep you two from getting hurt," she chuckled, bringing her eyes up in time to find Luna leaning in and locking lips with her.

Twilight's eyes fluttered closed as she leaned into the kiss, her cheeks flushing a deep crimson as pleasure filled her. Time slowed into eternity and Twilight couldn't help but let out a soft whine when Luna pulled away.

"Acting all tough," Luna teased, "then blushing like a filly."

Twilight's eyes opened to see Luna smiling wide, if a bit bashful. "Why now?" she asked, unable to keep her own smile off her face.

Her heart fluttered and her body vibrated with joy that it was almost painful for her to have to stay still but the presence of the alicorn of the moon made it all worth it for her.

Luna sighed and placed a hoof over Twilight's hoof. "When I saw you on the floor, bleeding out, I felt like a piece of me was ripped away," Luna answered, gazing into Twilight's eyes. "When you came back to rescue us- I was whole again. Be ours, Moon."

Twilight inched in and brushed her cheek against Luna's, gently nuzzling her while letting out a soft mewl. "Always and forever yours, Lulu.”

Luna shivered from the affection she was being shown. “I’ll hold you to that, my moon.”

There was an eternal pause where Luna and Twilight were the only ponies in the whole world and everything revolved around them. All of Twilight’s senses were tingling and she never wanted this feeling to end; the feeling of knowing that someone wanted her so deeply that it would stay with them millennia later.

Then Bone wandered over.

“Hey, you two,” the mare said, awkwardly standing off to the side. “I don’t want to alarm you, but there’s a lot of commotion in the town,” she continued, pointing over to the lit-up port town.

“We should get ready,” Twilight said, pulling back, then rising up. She looked down at Luna with a soft smile and asked, “Get your sister and tell her what’s going to happen,” then turned to Bone after Luna nodded, kissed her, then rushed off towards the makeshift camp. “I’ll be taking you and Checkered back to our present. We’re in no shape to deal with an entire town of guards. Besides, I think all of us could use a break.”

Bone blinked, then it finally registered. “Oh, perfect!” she squeaked, smiling wide. “I can’t wait to have proper plumbing.”

With a chuckle, Twilight brushed past Bone with a smirk. “Alright, you can help me with these runes.”

“What runes?” Bone asked, confused.

“Well, not the runes specifically, but I’ve used up most of my magic on the way. Alicorn healing has a way of draining magic,” she explained, finding a clear patch of grass a little ways off from the makeshift camp. Circling the area, she stopped and dragged her hoof over the dirt before looking over to Bone. “I’ll need you to supply the magic.”

Bone stared at Twilight with an unsure expression. “Uh, I don’t know if I can do that,” she said, questionably. “I’ve only been good at healing magic.”

Twilight let out a soft chuckle. “Don’t be so silly, Bone,” she teased, walking over to her and placing a hoof on her shoulder. “Of course you can do it. Everypony has a well of magic inside of them just waiting to come out. You just use yours more precisely than most. Now,” Twilight said, pulling Bone over to a spot. "Stand here."

With a grin, Twilight rushed about, her glowing horn burning a several meter circle into the dirt, then a smaller inner circle. The area between was filled with glowing runes floating just above the surface.

Bone watched as the mare galloped around, adding runes of various sizes, as well as several cascading layers of glowing iridescent runes.

"Princess?" she asked, now looking worried at the sheer complexity of the spell.

"What's up?" Twilight replied, having gotten caught up in her own spell-casting symphony which only she could hear.

All the various components slotted together to form one grand machine which only she knew the workings of. It tingled her fur to see the big picture and paint it onto the canvas of the world.

"Uh, it's looking mighty complicated," Bone remarked, rubbing her leg nervously. "Why is it so big? The one they forced me through was smaller than this."

Twilight placed the last few little touches to her masterpiece and stepped back. She looked over to Bone and tapped her chin in thought.

"Well, I can only imagine they recast the spell for each pony that went through. Incredibly inefficient, not to mention slow," she muttered, rolling her eyes and circling her spell. "But this... It's this size because we'll be transporting everyone at once. It's more efficient, but I can only lock onto my entry point in the castle."

Bone stared at the Princess with awe. Simply looking at the multi-layered spell caused her horn to tingle." I, uh... If you say so, Princess."

Twilight sighed and moved around to stand next to Bone. "Please, call me Twilight," she asked, "considering we're friends."

"What? But we only just met," Bone said, confused.

"So? You saved my-" Twilight paused, then shrugged as she realized it wouldn't really matter if Bone knew. "You saved my mare friends. That means we're friends in my book."

Bone stared at the Princess as a series of emotions flicked across her face. "Oh," she said, stammering. "Thank you, ma'am," she continued, lowering her head to bow.

Twilight's eyes widened and she gently lifted Bone's head back up with her magic. "Hey now, there's no need for that," she chuckled softly, shaking her head. "You don't bow to your other friends, do you?"

"Well, no-"

"Good, then no need to do it for me. Now, shall we take you home?" Twilight asked, smiling warmly down at the mare.

It was at that time that the others made themselves known, mostly from Checkered Past groaning and thrashing about while he was dragged in Celestia's magic.

"He wouldn't keep quiet, so I used some leaves to gag him," she muttered, looking rather unamused; at least until she saw the spell. "Wow."

Luna had a similar reaction, with her eyes widened. "Moon, you just keep surprising me," she said, walking over and nuzzling hard against her, receiving a giggle in response.

Tempered simply stared at the multi-layered spell in shock. She simply had no idea that pony magic could be used in such a way and it blew her mind. "I- uh, what is it?" she asked, almost afraid to near it.

Seeing this, Twilight smiled and walked over to stand near her. "I did say I'm from the future," she began. "This is a ritual spell to take us all there at once. It's perfectly safe, I assure you. There are several runes that keep it locked until the right time," she explained, gesturing to a couple of runes floating idly around the outside.

Tempered was still in shock, unable to process it all. "You," she mumbled, turning to look at Twilight now. "You really are, aren't you?" she asked, receiving a nod. "That's... wow. What's it like?"

Twilight's lips curled. "It's amazing. My country is run by," she said, looking over to the sisters, "two brilliant mares. I also help out a little here and there. As much as I'd like to show you, it would cost too much magic to bring you along."

Tempered blinked then looked around. "Wait, you can't leave me out here alone. I'm wanted now," she said, frowning.

Twilight shook her head and held up a hoof. "Trust me, we'll be back a mere second after we leave. I promise."

While Tempered didn't look happy, she didn't particularly want to fight about it. "Fine," she said, scuffing the dirt with her hoof.

Twilight opened her mouth to continue but simply watched as Tempered wandered over to a shaded patch and lay down to watch them.

She was broken out of her moment when Checkered thrashed about again and managed to remove the gag out of his mouth. "Sun Dial will get you, Twilight Sparkle! Your wives- Mmpf!" he shouted, before being forcefully gagged by Luna.

Twilight stared at the stallion, before shaking her head. "Probably a slip of the tongue," she thought, trying not to think too hard on his words. "Alright, everyone ready?" she asked, glancing around.

Once she received a varying degree of nods, and worried looks, she grinned. "Everyone, move into the spell radius and Bone," she ordered, turning to the mare, "place your horn on the burn mark and simply let your magic flow. It only needs a jump start."

Bone did as she was told and hesitantly lowered her head down so her horn was brushing along the scorched dirt. It only took a second but she felt a flow latch on and try to pull her magic as it flowed around the circuit. Despite wanting to hold onto it, she let the floodgates open and the circuit simply ate her magic up, pulling more and more out through her horn.

As magic was pumped into the spell, the runes began to glow brighter and brighter as they circled around them until the light engulfed the group and with a heavy crack, they vanished.

There wasn't much for Celestia to be happy about. One of her marefriends had left and wouldn't be back for what she imagined to be quite some time, she still had to run the country when all she wanted to do was to cuddle with Luna and enjoy some Projector stories. Yet, one piece of happiness had dropped into her life and it was laying in the bed in front of the Princess.

Celestia had spent the last couple of days by Sunset's bedside, making sure she got the best care that Equestria could provide, especially for this timezone.

She knew that this would be a huge culture shock for the poor mare and so, had outfitted a quiet wing of the castle with anything and everything the royal designers could find from her timezone to make the transition as easy as possible.

Brushing Sunset's hoof with her own, Celestia's ears twitch and perk up at the sound of a groan leaving the mare's lips.

"Sunset?!" Celestia gasped, panicking for a second before rushing over to the door and peeking outside. "Get the doctor, now!"

Before the guards could salute, she had already shut it and rushed back over. "Sunset, how are you feeling?" she asked, looking worried.

Sunset's eyes would open slowly, painfully, as her vision blurred but eventually focused. The first thing she'd see would be the intricately designed ceiling and chandelier before she turned towards the voice she recognized.

"Celestia?" she coughed, blinking the blurriness away only to see a much larger mare she had known. "W-What is going on?"

"You're okay," Celestia said smiling. "Moon saved you, right?" she asked, half worried that something else might have happened. "You're in the future."

"I remember," Sunset began as she groaned and pushed herself up slightly. "Moon said she would come back after you three were gone. Not even a few minutes after I was given to Ruin and she appeared as if she had just wandered back!"

Celestia couldn't help but smile as she imagined Twilight walking in and looking lost, much like her first few days at the castle. "It's been so long since we last saw you," Celestia muttered, beginning to tear up. "I've missed you so much, Sun!"

With a squeak, Sunset found herself being pounced by a crying Princess and hidden as she nuzzled and kissed her cheek. "Celestia! You're bigger than before! Easy there," she grunted, pushing her back a little then sighing and smiling up at her. "I'm so glad I'm back with my favorite students."

It didn't take long for the doctors to look Sunset over, of which the mare was a bit skeptical of them, but kept quiet due to Celestia's fussing. Though, once the doctors gave her a clean bill of health, Sunset took the first few hesitant steps out of bed in her brand new timezone.

She slid off the soft mattress and took a few steps away from the safety of the bed and towards Celestia, a grimace on her face the whole time.

"I feel like a foal!" she groaned, stretching her legs and huffing.

"Good! You were just transported two thousand years. At least spend a little bit getting acclimatized!" Celestia retorted, rolling her eyes. "Besides, we can't have you in bed all the time when you could be seeing everything that modern Equestria has to offer!"

"Moon Light showed me a little before you left. It's nothing like what she saved me from," Sunset said, smiling and walking over. She still felt stiff, but that would no doubt wear off quickly. "So we better get started, shouldn't we?"

Celestia stated down at her and smiled back. "Of course. Lulu will be joining us for lunch, as is customary."

"And Moon Light?"

"She, uh, went back. We haven't heard anything, but from what I remember, it shouldn't be super long between visits."

"I see. Well, I would have preferred to thank her, but I guess that will have to wait. It would be lovely to see how science and magic have been improved!" Sunset giggled, wandering towards the door with a happy Celestia trailing behind.

"Would you like me to guide you?" Celestia asked, rather unsure.

"Nonsense. A little wandering isn't a bad thing," Sunset replied, turning to look at her. "You may be stupidly older than me but I never stopped being your teacher," she finished, giggling a little and nudging the Princess.

Opening the door with her magic, Sunset strode out and glanced down one way then the other. "So, it's been a few hours for me, consciously at least. Tell me what happened since you left in those tunnels," she asked, turning to see Celestia easily keeping pace with her as they made their way down the bright hall.

As expected from the royal castle, the floors were covered in fine carpets, along with lavish tapestries and various busts of ponies throughout history. Alongside those, Celestia had placed pictures and artifacts unearthed dated to the same era as Sunset to help her feel more at ease.

Celestia looked down at the mare and curled her lips into a slight smile. "Oh, nothing much. Rather uneventful really," she replied, looking over to the window and out towards her country.

"Wait, really?" Sunset asked, turning back with a confused stare.

The Princess stopped suddenly and looked down, a smirk on her face. "No. Of course, everything went wrong but we were three mare's in our prime and thus we dealt with it."

Sunset, for the first time, glanced over to the window. Her jaw dropped at the sheer sight that stretched out before her. Towns and villages dotted the landscape, separated by a sea of green.

"Like it?" Celestia asked, wrapping her wing around Sunset while she moved closer to the window.

"You did all this?" Sunset asked, looking up at the Princess who was staring down with a proud and loving smile.

"Luna and I did all this."

"I kind of forgot I took a shortcut here," Sunset chuckled, leaning into Celestia and nuzzling her chest fluff.

The tender display way cut short by Sunset's stomach angrily rumbling, causing her to pull away and flush.

"Oh my," Celestia teased. "I could feel that. We better get some food inside you," she said, rising up and gently leading Sunset with her wing.

"I would like that!"

While traveling the halls, the mare made sure to stick close to the Princess all while peeking about to see anything new. It didn't take long for her to get distracted by the various fashion of some wandering noble, or the guards' uniforms, causing Celestia to keep pulling her away lest she starved.

The pair arrived at the royal dining hall in this wing of the castle. Two heavy, oak doors swung open under Celestia's aura, revealing a modestly sized room.

Marble flooring, with the sister' emblem, sat beneath a long, wooden dining table surrounded by numerous vacant chairs.

Celestial banners sat interspersed with Lunar banners around the edge of the ceiling, along with two, floor-to-ceiling, windows at the far end, allowing sunlight to cascade in.

"So, here we are," Celestia huffed, glancing down at Sunset, "finally."

Sunset sheepishly smiled. "Everything's new and shiny, I can't help it!" she replied, brushing her mane back behind her ear.

"Well, I'll have some tomes brought around so you can catch up. Think of it as some light reading," Celestia said, walking into the room.

At the far end of the table sat Luna with her back to the door. She was bobbing her head to some music playing out of a tape machine attached to a pair of headphones.

Celestia tilted her head, then closed the gap. Each step she took, her smile morphed into a sly grin until she snuck up and pulled the headphones off Luna's head!

"Ah!" Luna yelped, turning to face the would-be intruder, only to press her muzzle up against Celestia's, who kissed her.

"Mm," Celestia hummed, then pulled back and walked around to the other side of the table to sit down. "Good afternoon, Lulu," she giggled. "I pray your morning was uneventful?"

Luna blinked and felt her cheeks darken. "Indeed," she replied, nodding. "Until you arrived, of course."

"Of course," Celestia repeated, then gestured with her hoof to the head of the table. "Please, Sunset, sit."

Luna's eyes widened and she turned in her seat to see the mare standing there awkwardly. "Oh, Sunset!" Luna gasped, jumping out of her chair and galloping over. She scooped the mare up in a hug and sighed. "A thousand apologies for not being there while you awoke! I was called away and sister dearest didn't want to deal with it."

Celestia sheepishly shrugged as she watched the pair, then rolled her eyes. "Someone had to be there and you deal with all that stuff, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah," Luna mumbled, smiling down at Sunset after she let her go. "You look... I've missed you," she said, tearing up then quickly scooping the mare up again.

"Woah, hey, Luna!" Sunset gasped. Eventually, the hug subsided and she tightened her own hug. "I wasn't sure if I'd ever see you again, Luna. I'm glad I have."

Luna let the mare go and gestured to the seat. "Please sit. Food will be here soon," she said, moving back to her own seat.

"Oh, head of the table? Okay..." Sunset said to herself as she climbed into the chair. She looked from one princess to the other, each of which watching her. "Uh, so.."

"Yes, sorry!" Luna sighed, staring down at the table. "Sorry, I forgot. It's just been so long."

"I'm sure," Sunset replied, running her hooves across the edge of the table. "So, uh, anything exciting while I was away? Other than your adventure with Moon Light?"

The sisters looked over at each other, then winced. Celestia took up the reign first. "Uh, yeah. a few things," she replied, trailing off at the end.

"There was a few more end of the world scenarios, but they were... handled," Luna continued on, sharing a look with her sister.

"It's nothing we can't work past. Family and all that," Celestia finished, tapping her hoof awkwardly on the table.

Sunset was starting to imagine this would be a long first lunch back.

Sunset closed the door to her chambers and let out a tired sigh. Even though the lunch was just over an hour, she already had the sense that the sisters were tip-toeing around some topics which they'd rather she not know.

What topics? She didn't know, but she could find out from the mountainous pillars of books stacked high around her room.

Levitating the nearest book off a stack, Sunset scanned the cover. "Crop maintenance and you," she read, confused. "At least the language hasn't changed that much."

Moving over to another stack, she ran her eyes down each of the spines before humming and quickly sliding one of the books out; 'Everything about Princess Twilight Sparkle'.

Sunset climbed up into her bed and patted the sheets down as she got comfortable. The book levitated in front of her while she laid down, then opened the book to start reading.

A couple of hours after Sunset had settled down for the night, she let out an 'eep' and dropped her book when her room shook from a heavy thump, and a magical pressure wave emanated out from the other side of the castle.

With a tingling horn, the mare rose up from the bed and stumbled over to the door. She pulled it open only to see guards rushing up and down the hall, clearly unsure as to what was happening.

It was barely a second after that light had engulfed the group that they let out a sharp gasp and hit the hardwood floor of Twilight's chambers. Once again, books lined the walls from floor to ceiling, signifying that they had arrived back in the present.

Twilight and the sisters were the first to rise up. "Is everyone okay?" she asked, finding the portal right where she had left it, yet neither of the Princesseses was there, nor was Starlight.

Bone sat on her rump and stared around at the multitude of books, barely able to believe that she was actually back in her time. "I'm-" she mumbled to herself, tears beginning to pool in her eyes, before she turned to Twilight, "I can never repay you!" With that, she rushed over and tackle-hugged the mare.

Twilight let out a chuckle and wrapped a leg around her. "No need for that. It's my job to look out for my little ponies."

Looking over the group, she smiled warmly then said, "Well, I won't lie; I'm glad it worked." With a chuckle, she rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "It's a mashup of several spells which are, admittedly, a bit volatile at the best of times."

Letting go of Bone, she gestured to her original portal sitting behind the group; a crackling, straining, tear in the fabric of reality. The other side showed the alleyway in which she had entered, back in Stonewall. "That's the original. It's a more stable version, but it can only lock onto roughly your location in the timeline, Luna."

"Where does it connect to currently?" Luna asked, turning from the portal towards Twilight. "Or when?"

"That's Stonewall, minutes before I told you I'm an Alicorn," Twilight said. "Speaking of, your future selves should have been standing right here."

"I thought meeting ourselves would have been bad?" Celestia asked, looking concerned.

"Well, yes," Twilight answered, wincing. "It's a smaller concern than them not being here, " she added, her expression dropping. Twilight's anxiety now grew and she pressed a hoof to her chest. "I... uh, have to check something," she announced, glancing between the three, then Checkered, who had a look of glee on his face. "I'll be right back, promise!"

With that, Twilight rushed haphazardly down the stairs, over to her double doors and slammed them open, only to find the Princesses screeching to a halt in front of her with looks of shock and relief plastered on their faces.


"Our Moon!"

"Princesses," Twilight sniffled, jumping at the pair and being enveloped tight in their wings. "You weren't in my room... I thought I had done something to erase you!" she whimpered, receiving a squeeze in return.

"Don't be silly," Celestia whispered, pulling back to show Twilight her silver bracelet. "We have these, remember."

Arc 2: Chapter 5

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Celestia held onto Twilight as tight as she could, almost forgetting her sister was right next to her. She didn't want the mare to leave once again; it hurt each time she imagined that scenario. Gently letting go, she pulled back and stared down at the frazzled, mud covered, sweaty mare with confusion- then horror as her eyes drifted over to Twilight's wing, or lack thereof.

"This-" she choked, causing Luna to lean back and see the limb. "I didn't realize this was when that happened."

Luna winced at the sight, feeling her own wings ache at the thought of losing one of them. "We're glad that you're back, that's the important thing, right sister?"

"Of course, Luna," Celestia replied, placing a hoof on Luna's withers. "If I remember correctly, ourselves are currently waiting through those doors?" she asked, gesturing to Twilight's chambers.

Twilight, through all this, was simply happy for the affection, then remembered the others were waiting and grew guilty at galloping out to find the future versions of the mares she was with. "Uh, yeah," she replied, backing off and ruffling her wing anxiously. "This wasn't exactly the meeting I'd have hoped for, but it will have to do," she said, turning and walking towards her chambers.

The sisters happily followed, glancing at each other now and again, before settling with warm smiles. The pair had simply missed their Twilight too much to really focus on anything else, including each other. Before the pair wandered through the portal into the room, Celestia unfurled her wing and covered Luna with her fluffy appendage.

"I love you, Lulu."

"I love you more, 'Tia," Luna replied, ignoring the warm fuzzies appearing in her chest.

Twilight passed through and smiled wide at the group of ponies who had decided to descend her stairs and wait at the bottom. With a sharp inhale and a self-assured nod, she began. "I don't know what happened, but everything is alright. Your future selves," she began, turning to the sisters, "are right here."

At that moment, the sisters entered and quickly locked eyes with themselves. Their younger selves froze as their eyes widened upon seeing themselves so much taller, slender and more regal. Celestia was the first to inch forward and, much to everyone's surprise, closed in on Luna.

"Sister?" she asked as the older versions lowered themselves down. She gently placed a hoof upon Luna's chest, then leaned in and nuzzled up to her. "You smell the same," Celestia whispered, causing Luna to flush crimson, much to the older Celestia's delight.

The younger Luna hesitantly moved over to Celestia. She didn't particularly know what to say, so she only did the one thing that popped into her head; nuzzle under her sister's wing and snuggle up to her. It didn't take long for her to let out a sigh and look rather content.

All the while, Bone sat there, looking confused at what was going on, but knew better than to question it. So, she simply made sure that Checkered was still tied up and couldn't get away. "Princ- Twilight, what should we do with him?" she asked, magically tapping the mare on the shoulder.

Turning, Twilight groaned and picked up the stallion with her magic. "We'll give him to the guards to keep in the dungeon," she stated, exiting the room with the pony levitating beside her.

Reentering a couple of minutes later, Twilight smiled over to Bone as she neared. "Okay. Now that we're all acquainted, should we see about getting you back home?" she suggested, getting the other Princess's attention.

"Oh, Bone!" Luna gasped, looking a little sheepish. "My apologies. I didn't realize you were there."

"Don't worry, your majesty!"

"Nonsense. Guards!" Luna called, causing a pair of golden-clad stallions to enter. They did their best not to look at the younger versions of their Princesses and focus on Luna's orders. "Escort Bone setter to the maids and tell them to drop everything and get a room ready for her. She will need somewhere to stay while we make sure she is adequately protected."

"Yes, ma'am!" they both replied, bowing for a second. They raised their heads and waited patiently for Bone to follow.

Bone couldn't help but feel her bottom lip quiver as she bowed as deep as possible. "Thank you!" she squeaked, sniffling. "I'll assist with whatever you need as well. Checkered wasn't as secretive as he likes to think he was."

"That would be most appreciative, Bone," Luna said. "I do hope you will be available for dinner. It would be a shame to not miss tonight's celebration."

Twilight watched her mares with a smile, then asked, "Celebration?" as she hugged Bone, who was escorted out and down the hall.

Luna nodded and felt the younger Celestia nestle down on her back. "Indeed. I would have imagined you'd know why? Sunset came back to us."

Almost as if the mention of the mare caused her to appear, Sunset tapped on the door with a grin. "I was wondering when you would turn up again," she laughed, seeing the younger sister's pull away and gallop over. The mare's eyes fluttered closed at the feeling having her two students embrace her once again and she squeezed back.

Twilight walked over, causing the sisters to grin and move aside for Sunset to meet her. "Sunse-"

"Your wing?!" Sunset interrupted with a cry. "I told you to stay safe!"

"and I said I couldn't promise that," Twilight muttered, looking off to the side. "I lost it getting the first artifact. I didn't know the crown would give the king Necromantic magic."

Sunset stared at Twilight, then shook her head with a tired sigh. She was still angry at what had happened to the mare, but wasn't going to shout; no doubt Twilight had gone through enough. "I'm-" she choked up. "I'm just happy you came back."

"So am I. It hasn't been long but it feels like an eternity since we just relaxed," Twilight said, looking around at everyone, to which they nodded. "Celestia," she asked, then chuckled, "Uh, older Celestia; Princess? Do you think the gardens could be closed for the afternoon?"

"I don't see why not," the Princess replied, smiling and rising up. "But first, I want you to get your wing checked out. I forgot how bad it looked," she winced, moving over and leaning down to nuzzle a little more forcefully than usual.

Twilight nodded and leaned into the affection, a content look appearing on her face as she closed her eyes.

"It just dawned on me," past Celestia said to Luna. "This is really weird seeing what I'm going to do in the future."

Luna rolled her eyes. "Savour it. These memories will last forever, my cutie," she cooed, leaning in to nuzzle and kiss her cheek.

Younger Celestia giggled and said, "You know I'm two thousand years your junior? Kind of scandalous if you ask me."

Luna giggled and levitated herself over to cuddle. "That's alright. I can always cuddle myself instead."

Her past self squeaked and squirmed. "Ah, this is so confusing!"

Young Celestia blinked. "Hey! I didn't say I didn't want it," she huffed, jumping over and forming a dog pile.

Twilight and the others glanced over and smiled at the scene. A mixture of relief and calm flowing over them.

"So, garden picnic?" Sunset asked. "I have yet to really try any foods and some time out in your sun would be nice."

"That sounds lovely, Sunset. I'll get that all arranged while you," Celestia said as she turned to Twilight, "go and get checked up. I suspect that wing isn't the only injury you've suffered back then. Ask for a Doctor Note Pad. He's lovely."

Twilight sheepishly rubbed the back of her neck. "Fine... But only because I miss having proper balance," she lied, shrugging. "I'll see you in a bit. Love you."

Celestia slid her hoof out of her metallic horse-shoes and brushed across Twilight's cheek as a deep frown appeared on her face. "My love. It pains Luna and I to see you this way."

Twilight took a step back and looked confused, even as Luna wandered over and next to her sister. "There's nothing wrong, girls," she said, shrugging. "I'll get my wing checked out and meet you at the picnic."

"As you wish, our Moon," Luna replied, leaning against her sister. "Remember that we have been through it... we don't wish to see it again."

Nodding, Twilight leaned in and nuzzled the pair affectionately before pulling away and trotting down the hall towards the castle's infirmary, leaving them outside her room.

She couldn't help but let out a sigh once she moved out of earshot and glanced to her missing wing. "I'm such a stupid pony," she grumbled, fighting back tears.

It was the first time in quite a while that she had been able to actually think about what had been happening to her and it was starting to get under her skin. Thoughts of what-ifs and maybes raced across her mind while she wandered the halls trying to take her time with getting to the doctor.

Twilight would never ignore the sister's plea to go see about her wing, she loved them too much to do so, but she could string it out a little.

Slowly, she wandered around the castle, taking the long way around while she enjoyed Celestia's long, summer evenings where the sun would dip low against the horizon, setting the sky aflame.

Stopping, she moved over to one of the windows and felt a smile work its way into her face as she looked out over Equestria. Turning, she nodded to a pair of maids which were making their way back to the kitchen and pushing a cart with various teas and cutlery sat upon it.

Just as she turned back to the picturesque view, she let out a whimper when a teaspoon clattered to the floor.

"Oh darn it," one of the maids groaned, levitating it back on and continuing on their way.

Twilight leaned against the windowsill, her heart thumped within her breast, her eyes clenched tight as flashes of Titas raced across her vision. "Not again," she whimpered, jumping at the feeling of some pony gently pressing their hoof against her shoulder.

Cracking open her eyes, she saw Bone standing there, a worried look on her face. "Princess? Are you okay?" she asked, pulling her hoof back.

"Yeah. I, uh- I'm fine," Twilight replied, glancing around and standing up straight. "I hope the guards found you a suitable room?"

Bone nodded and sheepishly rubbed her leg. "Oh yes. They've been super helpful. I just found myself rather restless. I came out for a walk and found you."

"I see," Twilight said, looking the mare over. "Well, I'm sure you'll be called for dinner at some point," she stated, smiling a little more. "For now, please wander to your heart's content. The flower garden on the other side of the castle is lovely in the evening."

"Oh!" Bone gasped, smiling wide. "I read that there's luminous flowers growing there that Princess Luna planted. If you'll excuse me, Princess," she said, bowing.

"Have fun, Bone," Twilight replied, watching her leave and then quickly closing her eyes and leaning against the windowsill again, her lip quivering as her anger rose up within her. "Stupid, stupid mare," Twilight grunted, knocking her head with her hoof.

Twilight stayed like that for several minutes, simply watching the sun slowly descend behind the horizon, with a tired expression on her face. At least until she jumped at yet someone else nudging her on her shoulder. "Ah- oh... it's just you," she muttered, giving Discord a glare. "What do you want?"

Hovering next to her, Discord grinned and spun upside down to stare at her. "Oh my," he laughed. "Is someone in a bad mood? I know what will cheer you up!"

"No, Discord. I really can't be dealing with this at the moment," Twilight groaned, pushing off the windowsill to start walking down the hall and causing Discord to blink and pause. "If you're here to give me another lecture, then don't. I've got thi-"

"Under control? Uh-huh, Looks like it," he huffed, floating over next to her and hovering beside, then gestured to her missing wing. He frowned and floated around to stop in front of her. He touched down, his grin having faded to a simple smile and asked, "Look. I give you a hard time because you can take it, okay? But if you ever need to talk, I'm always available to listen."

Twilight stared up at the draconequus for a second, then shook her head and brushed past him. "I'm fine, Discord. I'm getting my wing checked now," she replied, her ears folding back as she felt a cold chill wash over her, causing her to pause and take a deep breath. "I-I'm fine."

Discord watched as she wandered past him and crossed his arms while tapping his paw. "I don't need to believe you, Sparkle. It's plain to see," he said, beginning to move closer.

"What is?" she asked, turning and glaring at him. "The fact that something horrible always happens to us wherever we go? Or maybe it's that this 'Sun Dial' is a time traveller as well and could turn up at any time to do... I don't know what!" she shouted as her horn grew progressively brighter. "Hell, it might be the feeling that I have which tells me things are only going to get worse?! I've already given up one body part, why not all of me?"

Discord gazed down at the mare for a second as she stood there, her eyes inching down to look away while she panted her anger away. With a soft sigh, he knelt down and wrapped his arms around Twilight, pulling her in and giving her a tight hug. She squirmed and struggled in his grip- even with her Alicorn strength- but couldn’t break away.

“Let go of me, Discord!” she growled, struggling as she tired herself out. “Please...” she mumbled, her ears folding back.

“Shh. It’s okay, Sparkle,” Discord whispered, gently running his paw through her mane which caused her to jerk against him.

Twilight couldn’t help but let out a soft whimper as she went slack.

Discord slowly unwrapped his arms around the mare and brushed some hair away from her face. “Twilight,” he began, smiling. “I’m your friend. I learned from you that friends help each other.”

The mare looked off to the side, then took a deep breath when she felt her lip quivering again. "Discord," she said, looking up to him with a ghost of a smile. "I... I think I just need to lay down and actually rest. You know how I get when I'm tired."

With a chuckle, she gently patted his chest and took a step back. "Thank you. I- it's lovely to know you were actually listening to those friendship lectures."


"Uh-uh-uh!" Twilight interrupted. "I'll be fine in the morning. Promise. Besides, the younger versions of 'Tia and Lulu are outside right now. Surely you'd not want to miss a chance to see them?" she asked, raising a brow.

Discord stared down at Twilight for a second in the hopes that she'd relent but when it became clear that she wouldn't, he gave up and nodded. "Fine, you win this one, Sparkle," he sighed, rising up to his full height. "Young versions you say?" he mumbled, stroking his goatee. "So. Many. Ideas. Gotta go!" he laughed, clicking his fingers and poofing away, leaving Twilight standing there alone.

Twilight waited, in case Discord reappeared, then let out the breath she was holding. She placed a hoof on her breast and took a deep breath to calm herself. "Twilight Sparkle, you are perfectly fine," she said, hoping it was true.

Twilight didn't wait around after Discord left to make it to the infirmary. Entering the main area, she took a look around and saw several beds lined up on the right side of the room, each with a curtain divider between them, as well as a bedside table.

The room itself was sparsely decorated with white-wash walls, a couple of windows built into the left side of the room and cupboards installed between them.

A couple of nurses were wandering around to either clean up, make beds or care for the few soldiers which hurt themselves training.

One of the nurses, a lime-green stallion with a dark blue mane and a stethoscope for a cutie-mark, glanced over and saw Twilight enter. His eyes widened and he rushed over before bowing.

"Princess, what bring- dear Celestia!" he gasped upon seeing her missing wing.

"Please, Twilight is fine," Twilight replied, falling back into routine with her ponies and holding a hoof up to stop him. "I have come to see if Doctor Note Pad is free. I've been told he is quite good?" she asked, finding the pony's eyes linger on her wing.

"I, uh, can check if he's free," the nurse replied, looking worried. "Please take a bed," he said, gesturing to one of the free beds.

Twilight strolled over and climbed onto the nearest bed, laying down and looking around at the rather lethargic infirmary. She took some solace in the fact that she was the only pony to need it and waited patiently for whomever this doctor was.

After a brief moment the nurse returned, still rather unsteady around the Princess. "Princess, the doctor will see you now," he said, gesturing to a door at the end of the room.

The door opened up into a wide hallway which held several doors; two on the left and three on the right. Each of which were more private rooms.

There was one door at the end of the hall which stood out; red mahogany with silver, flowery, etchings around the outside. The windows were tinted and the plaque itself read: 'Dr. Note Pad'.

Twilight's eyes flicked around to the unremarkable hallway, her eyes unable to really catch in anything to take her mind off the fact that she doubted this Note Pad was anything other than a therapist.

They really tricked me to a therapist, She mentally scoffed, her hoof-steps slowing slightly. The fur on the back of her neck bristled when the ostentatious handle turned slowly - too slowly - and the door creaked open.

Stepping out to meet her was a young unicorn stallion. His coat was a pale Amber and his brown mane was windswept back.

Twilight assumed the smile was simply courtesy as he sized her up - his eyes holding on her stump for a second too long.

"Welcome, Princess," Note greeted, bowing ever so slightly. To annoy her, Twilight would assume.

"Hello, Doctor," Twilight replied, trying to at least look amicable. "My apologies, but there seems to have been a misunderstanding as I was sent here under the impression that you would be somepony who could examine my, well, this," she finished, gesturing to her side.

Note raised a brow and paused, as if examining the Princess's explanation. "Is that so?" he muttered. "I can definitely look into booking you a physiotherapy session if you would like to step inside?" he asked, stepping aside for her.

Twilight hesitated as she looked inside the well-decorated office. A plush red carpet covered the floor which travelled up to eggshell painted walls with a brown trim.

Several bookshelves were placed around, filled to the brim with not only psychological tomes but books for all ages. Off to the side sat a brown faux leather couch, a glass coffee table in the middle, and placed opposite a matching Chaise and a chair.

The other side of the room was his desk, covered in books and paperwork, showing that she had interrupted him in the middle of work. Note Pad's degrees hung on the wall behind the desk, alongside several pictures of ponies.

"I won't bite, Princess. Promise," he joked, gesturing for her to enter with a warm smile.

Twilight only hesitated for a second this time, but finally inched forwards. She made sure to avert her eyes as she passed the stallion, even as her wing's feathers ruffled anxiously.

Twilight winced at the click of the door closing and turned to see Note levitating a notepad over to him as he made his way over to the couch.

"Please, Princess," he continued, gesturing to the chair and the Chaise. "Pick whichever you're more comfortable with," he said, moving around to the couch and laying down.

"I'm not here for a session," she said, watching him closely.

Looking over, the doctor nodded slowly. "When was the last time you had a session, Princess?" he asked, giving a sympathetic smile at her frown. "It was the way you examined my office. I have plenty of ponies who do the same."

Twilight glanced away and let out a soft huff. "Years," she replied and shook her head.

"Why did you wait so long for a follow up?" he asked, levitating his notepad over onto the table. "No notes. Just a nice chat."

She sighed and wandered over to the Chaise to lay down. She sighed with relief and simply melted. "I kind of had other stuff to deal with," she replied. "There were a lot of problems to fix."

"What do you mean?"

"I-" Twilight paused for a second as she looked around the room, trying to focus on a single aspect. "You know, friendship problems. Pri- Celestia told me to make friends, so I did. Therapy gets put on the shelf when I'm attacked every year."

Note nodded then hummed. “I can understand that. But you’re no longer attacked now, are you?”

“Well, not exactly,” Twilight replied, looking back to her missing wing.

Note let that simmer for a minute before getting more comfortable. “Can you tell me how that happened? I would have thought it would be big news; a princess losing a wing?”

“It’s... complicated.”

“Complicated is good. Means we can break it down into manageable chunks.”

Twilight closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath. She resisted the urge to clam up and reopened her eyes. There was a slight quiver in her voice as she began to recount her journey to this point...

Watching Twilight trot down the hallway, Celestia couldn't help but find a pit had opened up in her stomach from the act that she had just committed. She knew what Twilight would go through, after all she had gone through it with her, but she wasn't sure lying was the right thing to do.

"Lulu," she asked, turning to her sister, who was sitting next to her, her eyes following Twilight and a warm smile upon her lips. Receiving a simple hum, she asked, "Are you sure this was the right thing to do?"

As Twilight turned the corner, Luna tore her eyes away. "Sister," Luna muttered with a sigh. "Our moon will need some help with what is to come and that can only come from herself."

"I... I know," Celestia whispered, feeling that pit weigh her down. "Are you so sure that doing it now is the best time? We didn't do it until we came back later; the last time round I mean."

Properly turning to her sister, Luna placed a hoof on her shoulder and gave her the best reassuring smile she could. "We... This is our time round," she said while turning her attention to the pair of younger Princesses who were looking over Twilight's bookcases. "They'll get to choose what to do next loop. I have to hope that this will help her this time."

Celestia turned to the younger pair and nodded. She was still unsure but took a deep breath. "Fine. Since everyone will be back for a little bit, perhaps we could have Cadance and Shining over?" she asked as Luna looked over with a shake of her head. . "Oh, probably not until Twilight gets a new wing I guess."

"Yeah. I feel that's for the best. Though, Cadance might be fun to have over... We could, and I quote, have a girls night," Luna added, looking rather proud of her use of modern language.

Celestia hummed and nodded. "A girls night. I guess Cadance would take the news a lot better than Shining, that's for sure. She always did have a higher tolerance for Twilight's mishaps," she said, chuckling.

"What about us?"

"What about us?"

Luna blinked then rolled her eyes while her tail flicked against Celestia's cutie-mark. "You know."

"Oh... Oh! Uh, I guess Cadance will notice it as soon as she arrives."

"Pretty hard to hide it when you're sneaking out of my Chambers in the morning. I don't know why you don't teleport. Or maybe it's because you want to be caught?"

Celestia's cheeks erupted into a crimson bloom and she rose up to begin walking back into Twilight's Chambers. "I have no idea what you're in about, my love," she replied, smirking as her tail brushed over Luna's cheek. "Now, should we look after ourselves?"

Luna's eyes flicked between Celestia then the pair inside of the room and she nodded. "Uh, yeah. Probably for the best," she replied, moving up and entering the room with her sister, a pleasant smile forming while she looked Celestia over.

"Alright!" Celestia said, smiling wide. "While we can't show you around Canterlot, for obvious reasons, we can take you over to the outer gardens."

The pair of alicorns giggled as they heard that and haphazardly forced a few books back onto the shelf; not knowing that Twilight felt a shiver from the heinous crime against literature- then rushed over.

Sunset winced at the display and followed them over, a smile returning over she leaned against younger Celsstia.

"Sure! Though, wouldn't your guards find it strange?" Young Luna asked, looking confused.

"Well, yeah, but they're trained enough to know not to interfere in our affairs. Plus, strange sorta happens a lot in Equestria nowadays," Celestia answered with a chuckle. "Come on. We'll have to send a letter to Starlight as well. She'd want to know that Twilight's back," she continued as the group left Twilight's Chambers and began to walk down the hall.

Luna nodded. "I can send one of my scouts to fly there. It will be faster," she said while her horn lit up. With a sharp burst of magic, she sent the instructions off. "Done. I'm sure Starlight will be with us for dinner tonight."

"With any luck, yes. It will be nice to see her again. She's been rather secretive lately."

"Who's Starlight?" young Celestia asked, sliding between the pair of older alicorns and smiling up at them while they walked. "It's not like I'm going to remember everything for thousands of years. I'd trust myself."

"It's true. She barely remembered what she had for breakfast," Young Luna agreed, causing Sunset to giggle.

Young Celestia rolled her eyes. "Look, this 'trip' is going to be really boring if we don't get to know anything. I want to see what our country will be like, what we get up to after we gather these artefacts and how we spend our time with Moon!" she announced, rising up to strike a pose, to which everyone simply stopped and stared.

"I was like that?" Celestia mumbled, causing Luna to laugh.

"Tell me about it; I smiled too much," Luna added, grimacing.

Young Celestia dropped back down to her hooves and shared a confused look with her sister. "Ew... We actually became old."



"What? It's true," young Celestia teased, brushing past the Princesses with a smirk. "I want to know everything though!"

Arc 2: Chapter 6

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It hadn't taken the group long to make it to the other side of the castle, beside the throne room and down a few flights of stairs then out into the gardens. As was expected, the sun was inching its way across the sky, nearing its way towards its destination of Luna's bosom. For this time of year the gardens were in full bloom; lilies, roses, and various varieties of exotic plants brought over from the tropics and even down from Cervidas as tribute from the current Queen.

After a bit of a green touch from Luna as well as the castle's finest gardeners, the flowers had taken and blossomed greatly, showering the garden with a myriad of colors and scents. Unfortunately for the many ponies who enjoyed wandering around the gardens, the area had been closed off by order of the guards to allow the new 'additions' to the crown enter freely.

And for the pair of out-of-time ponies, it was the first chance that it actually hit them that they had jumped thousands of years into their future.

"This is..." Celestia whispered under her breath while inching forwards and pressing her worn-down hoof onto the plush grass, her fur tingling from just how lovingly taken care of this garden was.

"Wow," Luna added, looking around at the flowers, her eyes widening at the sheer diversity. "I had no idea there were this many flowers in the world!"

The pair of grown-up Princesses stood in the doorway and grinned while they watched themselves. They let the younger versions of themselves move away before following them over then gently using their magic to guide them towards a polka-dot blanket which had been set up for them by the maids.

Upon the blanket sat a small basket filled with all sorts of foods which ranged from pastries to sandwiches and plenty of sweets, as well as a large pitcher of lemonade.

Princess Celestia gestured to the blanket while passing them. "Please, sit. We can't tell you about everything that happens during our lives," she said, glancing to her sister then back to the younger mares who had laid down against each other, "but I'm sure we can find something exciting. Maybe it could even help."

"Sister," Luna warned as she stared at her with a knowing look.

Celestia's eyes showed conflict but she ultimately relented, however much it hurt to do. "I know, Luna," she replied, causing the young mares to look worried.

Sunset sat down next to Luna before snuggling into her side, to which the mare accepted wholeheartedly.

"So. Where to start..." Celestia wondered, tapping her chin. "Ah yes. The temple of Shakolua. Remember that one, Lu?"

"How could I forget," Luna replied with more of a monotone groan as her gaze shifted over to her sister from the others. Her wings ruffled in slight irritation at the mere name.

"Aw, sis," Celestia giggled then turned to the mares. "Shakolua's temple was in the middle of Heliopolis. The natives called it the lightning temple and let's just say it was rather shocking for all involved!"

The rest of the group groaned at the terrible pun, while Luna simply rolled her eyes and wrapped a wing around Sunset to hug her tight.

Young Celestia blinked and asked, "Wait, if it's in Heliopolis, that means that we visit it. You're telling us what happens?"

"Well, I did say it could help you," Celestia replied, nodding. "Plus, maybe this time Luna wouldn't get so annoyed at us," she added, looking over to the mare who was now glaring at her.

"You didn't warn me about half of the traps!"

"I'm sorry that I didn't know about them when you walked by."

"I watched you inspect them," Luna huffed and shook her head. After a sigh, she looked over to herself. "You'll find that our sister has an ironic ability to overlook even the most obvious things."

Sunset chuckled and smirked over to Celestia. "Sorry, 'Tia but she's right."

Celestia's eyes widened at the 'insults' and let out her own huff before pouting. "It's not like you did much better when we met Queen Ylyndar, Luna."

The younger sisters glanced at each other with a worried expression until younger Luna leaned over and whispered to her sister, "Do we bicker like that?"

"I don't think so... I don't think I'd be able to stay annoyed at you," past Celestia stated with a hum to finish it off. "Kinda strange to see... But also romantic."


"Well, yeah. After thousands of years we're still together even if we bicker some."

"I- yeah, it kinda is," past Luna mumbled, her lips curling into a smile as she scooted closer and nuzzled into her sister's neck, her cheeks warming up.

"I couldn't imagine a world without you, Lulu," young Celestia whispered, causing the Princesses to look over, both of their faces showing regret.

"Well, this turned awkward..." Sunset muttered after a good few seconds, then levitated the basket over. "I'm hungry. It has been a long day after all."

Celestia nodded. "Indeed. Pass around a few sandwiches. We could all do with some." After some were passed, she continued with her story. "So, there we were, inside the temple. Dark, and damp. We had just finished hiking several miles and were taking a little rest by the entrance.

Now, you have to realise that just because the followers of a god were gone, doesn't mean the god is."

The younger sisters did a double-take.

"Wait, an actual god is in there?!" Past Celestia gasped.

"Indeed. There's plenty of gods and spirits which are real," Luna answered as she reached over and pulled a donut out of the basket. She sat back and found her cheeks darken horribly when the sound of her farting filled the gardens.

Everypony stared at her, then towards the levitating whoopee-cushion in her aura.

"Looks like here's the most annoying one now," Luna groaned, throwing the cushion over her shoulder and causing the object to spontaneously combust; a low whine of a squeak leaving it over the course of a few, long seconds.

"Aw, you wound me so, moonbutt!" Discord whimpered as space itself bent around him and he appeared off to the side. Exaggerated tears of chocolate milk sprayed from his eyes while he settled down on his rear, his expression changing to one of glee. "How're my two- no three... Wait, are you mares multiplying?" he asked, pulling off an arm and letting another of him grow from it next to him.

"Discord, behave," Celestia asked, causing him to chuckle. "We have guests."

"Oh Celly, remember that it doesn't count if it's with yourself."

"What? What does that even mean?"

"Sister, I believe he's talking about mas-"

"Yes, thank you, Luna," Celestia huffed, closing her eyes in irritation. "Discord, not now. This isn't the best time."

"Oh? Would you like me to return after Twilight's inevitable meltdown and release of her world-ending alter-ego?"

"Twilight doesn't have..."

"Oh Celestia Everyone has an alter-ego," Discord teased before turning to the two younger sisters who looked ready to run. "Oh, I don't believe we've met yet, this time," he said as he and his clone took the two sister's hooves and shook them. "We're going to have such a fun time together."

"Discord," Celestia growled, her mane flicking around harder.

"What do you mean?" Past Luna asked. She was still weary, but such a being piqued her curiosity. "What are you? What spirit, I mean?"

"Wait, I've read about you!" Sunset spoke up, her eyes widening. "I had some books moved to my room earlier. You're the Spirit of Chaos," she stated while taking a step back.

"Well, I would prefer God, but spirit works fine I suppose." Quickly, he grabbed his clone and pulled it into himself, reabsorbing it with a wet 'schlick', causing everyone to shudder.

"What do you mean about Twilight?" Younger Celestia asked, looking up at him with a little determination at finding out what was wrong with her mare friend. "What alter-ego?"

Discord turned and grinned down at the mare. "Well, you see. I had a run-in with Twilight down the hall. She seemed awfully jumpy; probably on account of the horribly trauma that happened with the king that has gone untreated."

He pulled away and knelt down, only looking tense once the topic turned to Twilight. "Believe it or not, I think of her as a friend. She is a good pony; better than you two by a long shot," he muttered, making eye-contact with the Princesses who averted their own. "I look out for mine and she's been through too much to be messed around before... nevermind that."

"What? Before what?" Sunset asked, confused, while the Princesses shared a worried look between themselves.

"Spoilers, darling."

"I don't understand," young Luna exclaimed, looking around at the others. "What is happening to my Moon! Tell me!"

Discord blinked and leaned back. "I- That didn't happen..." he muttered, genuinely surprised. Quickly enough, a smile appeared on his face. "So be it. If you wish to know, let me show you."

With a flash and a click of his claws a flat-screen TV appeared on the other side of the blanket where everyone could see it. With a burst of static it showed Twilight laying in Note Pad's office on top of his chaise.

"You know, Twilight. It seems that, to an observer looking in, you're enjoying this a little," Note said, tilting his head. "I don't mean to be rude, of course. Going through that would be traumatic for anyone but the way that you went into detail with the bunker tells me that you remember that more vividly than the other parts."

Twilight blinked and quickly shook her head with a look of worry on her face. "No! Of course not," she replied, her worry morphing into confusion as she tore her gaze downward to the carpet. "I... no. I didn't want this; any of it! I just wanted to know more about the pair that I- I love them."

A warm smile appeared on the doctor's face. "I don't doubt that, not for a single second. You're showing me the lengths which you'd go to keep them safe, however much it puts you in danger. But, Twilight," he said, stopping. "From the way you've explained it, you let the mares you love get captured, even when you're hurt, only to go rescue them."

"That's- what? No," she shook her head once again. "I don't enjoy this," she continued, now frowning at him. By now, Twilight had started to get a little agitated by his questioning and pulled herself off the chaise, only to glare down at him. "Look. I'm the one risking my life. I just want this all over so things can go back to normal! Why does this always happen to me?!"

Note Pad's eyes widened as he watched the mare stand up. Quickly, he pushed himself against the back of the couch while hiding his panic. "Twilight, please, calm yourself," he asked, eyes flicking from her eyes up to her glowing, crackling horn from which he could feel the heat on his own face.

Twilight huffed, before following his gaze and seeing her horn. "I..." she squeaked, stuffing her magic deep down. "I'm sorry," she whispered, lighting her horn up and with a crack-pop, she was gone- leaving only a slightly charred carpet, the smell of ozone and a worried doctor behind.

The next thing Twilight felt was the white-hot stab of pain as it tore up from her stump to her neck and then an almighty thump as she impacted the dirt beside her Ponyville Castle, throwing up a cascade of debris and flowers.

In her haste, she had teleported herself several hundred feet off the ground and at a speed which Dash would be envious of.

Dazed and confused, the mare let out a groan while rolling onto her knees then whimpered as shooting pains raced up her side accompanied by the acrid smell of burnt flesh. Turning her head, she saw her stump sizzling, the raw flesh smouldering as if someone had hollowed it out and stuffed coal embers inside.

"Fuck," she whimpered, weakly pulling herself to her hooves. Looking down the small crater she had left in the flowerbed. She couldn't help but close her eyes and let out a long sigh.

"Twilight?" a soft feminine voice asked behind her.

Surprised, Twilight spun around and saw Fluttershy standing there with a basket of flowers scattered around her hooves. "Fluttershy!"

Fluttershy's eyes had instantly snapped to her friend's lack of wing and she rushed over. "What happened?!" she asked, barely even able to bring herself to examine it due to the smell. Even pulling back, she was having a hard time keeping her eyes on one specific spot on the mare.

Her eyes kept flicking from the rough, un-kept hooves to the patch of blood along her side to the missing wing and finally to her matted and dirty mane.

"Twilight..." Fluttershy whimpered, causing the mare to avert her gaze away. She knew from experience with her animals that trying to force it would just make her clam up so she tried a different tactic. "Come with me," she said, reaching out a hoof.

Twilight was hesitant. She hadn't planned for any of the others to see her like this but she knew that fate had to deal her another bad draw. Yet... this was Fluttershy and Twilight doubted she would tell anyone else if she asked so she reached out and took her hoof.

"I don't want anyone else to know," Twilight asked, now finding the dirt extremely enticing. "It's too... please," she pleaded, her eyes flicking up to meet Fluttershy's own.

Fluttershy nodded. "Of course, Twilight. I know a few back streets that lead back to the other edge of town. No one will see us," she explained, picking up her basket in her mouth until Twilight levitated it for her. "Oh, thank you."

Twilight really didn't know what she should say and it was getting harder by the second but she knew what she felt. "I've missed you, 'Shy," she spoke up as the pair passed into a darkened alleyway.

To Fluttershy, Twilight's voice held less of its usual enthusiasm and she looked over only to see Twilight's tired expression on her face. It was as if the weight of the world was on her back and threatened to crush her.

"I missed you too, Twilight. We all wish we could see more of you," she replied, smiling over and taking a chance to brush her wing against Twilight's. There was a moment when Fluttershy thought that the mare wouldn't reciprocate but, soon enough, Twilight gently brushed back, their feathers fluttering together.

"So do I. I'm not sure what I'll do once this is all over," Twilight said, moving around a dumpster and looking over to her friend. "I just-" she paused, quickly looking away.

She was starting to think that Note Pad wasn't so wrong after all. She honestly didn't know what scared her more; the fact that she enjoyed the danger or that the fact that she wasn't fazed by the sheer possibility she could die.

"Twilight?" Fluttershy asked, placing a tender hoof on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Looking over, Twilight saw a worried Fluttershy and she nodded her head. "Uh, yeah. Sorry. Got lost in my thoughts."

"We should get going. We wouldn't want to get caught in the market rush."

It didn't take the pair long to make it through the various alleyways that spanned Ponyville to reach the edge of town and Fluttershy's home.

As usual, the mare had plenty of different animals lounging around, along with a plethora of plants that only an earth pony could have coerced into taking the soil; namely Applejack.

"I see AJ has been helping spruce up the place," Twilight said, looking around at a few saplings poking out the ground. "Apple trees, I assume?"

"Oh, yes!" Fluttershy replied, nodding. "She's been here quite a bit lately... I think she misses me when she's at work."

With a giggle, Fluttershy sprung up to her door and entered. She then gestured for Twilight, who had slowed down to take in the scene around her. Her hardened, almost defensive posture seemed weakened slightly as if the simple act of being home softened her.

She padded along, slowly making her way down the path while her wing twitched as her eyes flicked to and fro. It was almost second nature to look out for enemies now and she couldn't help but let out a deep sigh when she reached the door.

"Thank you, Fluttershy," Twilight said then pulled the surprised mare into a hug.

She has so many conflicting emotions churning inside of herself but she wasn't sure if she was ready to let them out, least of all to one of her best friends. Yet, she needed to relieve some of the pressure and spending some time with Fluttershy could do just that.

"Oh... No problem," Fluttershy replied, having tensed up due to the unexpected hug, but quickly wrapped a leg around the Alicorn and hugged her back with a surprisingly strong grip.

Pulling away, Twilight entered and let Fluttershy close the door before placing the basket down. She wasn't surprised to see that the mare's home had not changed much despite Discord having lived there and wandered over to the couch which sat in the center of the room.

In front of that stood her coffee table with several fashion magazines scattered over it and a few mugs.

Fluttershy squeaked and rushed over. "Let me clear up a little," she mumbled, moving the magazines and placing them on top of a bookcase that she had stuffed under the stairs. She then quickly took the mugs out to the kitchen which was just behind the couch and left them in the sink.

"There we go," Fluttershy remarked, seemingly a little bashful.

"Yup," Twilight said, standing next to the couch as a layer of awkwardness fell over them.

She was beginning to hate that she was feeling so out of touch with her friends that even small things were getting awkward.

"So, uh, what did you want to do?" she asked while Fluttershy moved around.

"Oh, well... We can't really do anything with you looking like that, can we?"

"What- what do you mean?" Twilight asked, looking over herself then back at her friend. She didn't know what was wrong with her look but Fluttershy's expression caused her to take a second look.

It was at this point that her body actually settled in. Not only were her legs covered in dirt and grime but she had blood over her hooves and down her side. Her hair was knotted, tangled and had flakes of blood and glass still trapped. Neither of them knew how any pony could have let her go anywhere like that.

"I... I'm a mess..." Twilight whispered, her gaze dropping to the floor. "I should go- this was a mista-"

"Don't you dare!" Fluttershy commanded, stepping in front of her with a frown. "Twilight, I don't know what happened when you went back but I won't let you go around looking like that! What sort of a friend would I be!"


"No buts! I don't care if you're a Princess- you're my friend first and that means I will take care of you," Fluttershy said, giving a huff and taking a step forward to gently brush her own hoof across Twilight's cheek. "Even when you don't take care of yourself."

Twilight closed her eyes and leaned into the affection when she felt her eyes watering up. Everything still felt so raw, as if it happened mere seconds ago, and she was beginning to choke up.

"What friend would I be if I let you go when you needed someone the most."

That was the stone that burst Twilight's dam and she suddenly let out a choked whimper. She quickly pressed forward and let herself melt against Fluttershy who simply wrapped her legs around the larger mare.

"Hey, shh..." Fluttershy whispered, brushing her mane and holding her tight for a few minutes to let her get it all out of her system. "It's okay."

Twilight couldn't help but feel like she had several tonnes lifted off her back and slumped down, her wing laying lumpy by her side. "Flutter..." she sniffled, her tears dripping down her cheeks.

Fluttershy only tightened her hooves at her name and gently leaned down to nuzzle her friend. "Don't worry, Twi. I won't tell anyone..."

After a few minutes, Twilight softly pulled herself away and kept her eyes on the floor. "Thank you," she whispered. The fur around her eyes were horribly matted and moist, and she wiped it with her leg, sniffling.

Fluttershy reached forward and pulled Twilight's leg away from her face. "Come with me. I'll get you cleaned up," she ordered, that smile never leaving her face.

Twilight quickly shook her head. "N-No... I need to get back to the cast-"

"Not like that you're not! The Princesses should be ashamed for letting you out like this!" Fluttershy huffed, rushing around Twilight and pushing her towards the stairs.

Twilight winced at the treatment but quickly groaned and began walking towards the stairs of her own free will. "Fine... If it'll make you happy."

Fluttershy grinned and nodded. "Yup! I just want you to... you know, look nice, Twilight. You're back and, well," she said, brushing her hoof across her wooden floor, "you have to look nice for your mares!"

The alicorn was rather taken aback by the sudden change as well as the sentiment behind those words. "I haven't felt like I've wanted to be like that, for anyone, in a long while" Twilight revealed, now feeling guilty.

It only took a second, but she brought her eyes over to meet Fluttershy's own. She knew what she should do. Not only for herself, but for the sisters who were waiting for her back at the castle.

"Can you, uh... help me look nice? I don't know how."

Fluttershy's smile widened and she rapidly nodded. "Of course!" she giggled, rushing over and pushing the Princess up the stairs. "Go gogogogo!"

Twilight was ushered into Fluttershy's bathroom where a large tub was waiting. She trotted around and quickly turned the faucets on to let it slowly fill up while pouring indifferent coloured liquids.

Twilight looked a little concerned at the amount of chemicals but kept quiet for Fluttershy knew best in these matters.

"Okay, so while the bath is filling up," Fluttershy said, looking over to Twilight. "We can clip and buffer your hooves and fetlocks!"

Twilight blinked and looked down at her hooves confused. "Clip?" she asked, worried.

"Uh-huh! I've heard from Rarity that it's what all the fancy ponies are doing now... You know, all short. Haven't you seen anyone do it?"

"Oh, uh... I don't think so. I never paid attention to other pony's hooves."

Fluttershy let out a hum as she stared down at Twilight's hooves. "I guess we can leave that," she muttered, tapping her chin. "Your hooves need a good buffering... I mean, if you want?"

Twilight was surprised it took her friend this long to add that to the end of a sentence, though she didn't mention it and simply nodded. "Of course. I've only had it done a few times, mostly when we came back from outside Ponyville from a friendship mission"

"Oh, if I'd have known that I could have joined you..."

"Sorry," Twilight said, giving a sigh. "I could bring you up to the spa in Canterlot sometime? I think I'd need it after everything..."

Fluttershy's ears perked up while she wandered over to a cabinet and pulled out a hoof-held buffer. "Oh, that would be lovely! I've never been but I've heard it's to die for," she replied, doing her best Rarity impression. "Hold out your hoof?"

Twilight did as she was told and felt the rough buffer scrape along the cracked and chipped surface of her hoof to smooth it out. She turned to the bath and smiled as the pleasant scent of Strawberries wafted up.

"So, you and Applejack," Twilight said, closing her eyes. She felt her friend freeze for a second, then continue.

"Yeah?" Fluttershy asked, glancing up.

"I didn't expect it. It's cute."

"She's... warm and makes me feel good when I look at her."

Twilight couldn't help but smile at those words. The fact that her friends had their own special some-ponies made her almost giddy. "I know the feeling. There was that rumour about you and Dash?"

"Dash is nice and makes me feel good as well but she's too rough and fast. I wanted someone more-"


Fluttershy blinked then smiled and nodded. "Yeah. Applejack is stable and knows when to slow down," she said, pulling away as she finished Twilight's hooves. "What about you and the Princesses?"

Twilight looked slightly surprised at the question then asked, "What do you mean?"

"It must be lovely being with the two ponies you've loved for so long."


Twilight's thoughts, despite their best efforts, were pulled back to the Princesses- all four of them. She felt that weight in her stomach and knew what it was but she honestly, truly, didn't want to face it... but she had to. I'm a horrible marefriend and I don't deserve any of them, she thought. I've been enjoying all of this. All the death and pain.

Her eyes shifted off Fluttershy as that realization settled in and she had to use all her willpower to hold back a sigh.

Twilight's pause caused Fluttershy to tilt her head, then shake it. "Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't be prying!"

"No, it's okay. I was just thinking," Twilight replied. "I've been thinking a lot today," she said as her magic turned off the faucet. "and honestly, I don't think I'm a good pony anymore."

Fluttershy frowned and shook her head. "What? Of course you are!" she said, moving forwards and placing her hoof on Twilight's breast. "Why would you say that?"

"Fluttershy, I've k-" Twilight began but cut herself off. "I've done some horrible things."

With that, she used her magic to pull Fluttershy's hoof off of her and turn away.

The pegasus stared at her friend, chest thumping quicker as each second passed by, then rubbed her own leg, unsure what to say. "I can't understand if you don't tell me. I want to help," she said, seeing Twilight's conflicted expression. "Okay... How about we just get you clean?"

Twilight's eyes flicked back to her friend then the water and she nodded.

"Great. I can't wait to see the mare under that dirt!"

Twilight haphazardly climbed into the regular-sized-pony bath and did her best to lower herself down while Fluttershy moved around and pulled a sponge off a hook beside her.

"I can do it," Twilight stated, beginning to pull the sponge over with her magic, but finding resistance from the mare.

"Twilight, please. It's not like I haven't done this before," Fluttershy retorted, giving a tiny huff. "Besides, you're hurt."

Twilight pouted ever so but relented and let the mare begin to scrub at her matted and dirty fur. It didn't take long for her to feel a difference as Fluttershy slowly worked her way around her body- the water darkening as dirt and blood was scrubbed from her.

Yet as Fluttershy neared Twilight's missing wing she paused, not knowing what to do with the smouldering appendage.

Twilight glanced back, her cheeks slightly rosier than normal. "Everything okay?" she asked, before seeing Fluttershy looking unnerved.

"Does it hurt?"

Twilight wasn't expecting a question like that and glanced away.

"Twilight. Does it hurt?" Fluttershy asked, her expression shifting to one of pain.

"All the time," the Alicorn croaked, closing her eyes.

Flashes of pain rippled through her and she could feel that dark magic hitting her wing, corrupting then sloughing her flesh off into the water below. She could feel the cold marble and the steel blade tear through her muscle and shatter her bone.

Her body shivered, the warmth freezing her veins and she forced open her bloodshot eyes. Her body felt as if it went twelve rounds with Tirek and she could feel her cheeks were damp and matted. Her muscles ached and she could feel a headache forming, but the gently rubbing of Fluttershy kept her grounded.

"It... It looks like embers," Fluttershy remarked, slowing her cleaning to gaze into it. She shivered and tore her eyes away after a few seconds, her wings visibly tightening against her side. "I can't imagine... how?'

Twilight winced and in that second, all of the horror and confusion within those first few seconds of finding her wing rotting flooded back.

Her heart felt heavy in her chest and ever so slowly climbed out of the bath without a word. Her horn flared and with a soft purple evaporated the water from her coat, leaving her fluffy.

The mare let out a groan as she wandered over to Fluttershy's bedroom, which the bathroom was attached to and smiled as the familiar scent of sunflower and daffodil hit her.

The room was light and airy, the sunlight filtering through the trees at just the right angle to sparkle through the glass and scatter across the peach bed sheets.

Twilight enjoyed the stillness that seemed to impose itself at that moment and remembered the various sleepovers that she and her friends had over the years; Rarity and Applejack fussing over each other, Rainbow pouting as Fluttershy styled her mane and herself play-fighting with Pinkie over some silly game they wanted to play next.

She doubted that would ever happen again now.

Fluttershy slowly inched her way around and climbed up into the bed. "Oh, uh, you can lay on my bed if you want?"


Twilight did so and laid down. She let her one wing stretch across the covers and soak up the warmth of the sunlight while she tried to figure out how to word what she needed to say.

It was a solid minute before she inched her eyes up to meet with Fluttershy, who by now was feeling increasingly awkward.

"When I went back," she began, feeling her words slowly start to form. "we had to collect three items; artifacts really. They would cancel out a spell which was stealing the Princess' power."

Twilight slowly recounted the story to Fluttershy and averting her gaze when she finally reached the section which explained her wing. She felt plenty of emotions flare up inside of her, but the strongest was shame.

"I... thought I could be the hero; I wanted to be, so I sent them off. Then they were captured. I could have kept them close, but I chose... "

Twilight closed her eyes and felt her lip quiver. She could feel herself break down and didn't want to burden her friend any more.

"Twilight, it's okay," Fluttershy said, placing her hoof on top of Twilight's own. "You don't have to go through this alone."

Twilight's tearful eyes slid up to meet Fluttershy's once more and she scooted over beside the mare to cuddle into her.

She nuzzled the mare's neck with a deep breath, enjoying her calming scent. With a sigh, she continued.

"The worst part is that I'm enjoying it. I did the same thing again. They told me it was a bad idea to split up but I had to know better."

Fluttershy wrapped a wing around Twilight and held her as tight as she could while returning her affections. She didn't know what to say and felt it would probably make things worse if she even tried.

The pair of them jumped at the sound of a knock at the door!

Fluttershy gasped and pulled away to jump off the bed. "Oh horse-apples!" she muttered, giving Twilight a worried look. "I was going to the castle to drop off some rare flowers for Starlight. That's probably her!"

"Fluttershy? You home?"

The voice confirmed her suspicion and she winced. "I'm so sorry! I didn't realise she'd want them that badly."

Twilight sighed and simply smiled over to the pegasus. "It's okay. It would only be a matter of time until she found out I was back anyway. I'll need to talk to her," she replied, climbing off the bed and passing by the fretting mare.

She slowly wandered down the stairs, her muscles aching even after her rest and trotted over to the door. She wasn't sure if this was the best idea, considering the last time she came back from the past and how Starlight chewed her out but she knew that keeping it a secret would only make things worse.

Twilight's aura wrapped itself around the door's handle and she turned while taking a deep breath to steady her nerves. She could see Fluttershy standing off to the side from the corner of her vision, so she's have at least another of her friends for reassurance.

"Here goes nothing..." she muttered, swinging the door open.

Arc 2: Chapter 7

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Twilight took a deep, almost laborious breath as the door squeaked open. Her attention flicked to the hinges, a hint of annoyance flared from the fact that Fluttershy still hadn't oiled her door but she was quickly torn away by Starlight staring at her.

Starlight displayed her obvious surprise at seeing Twilight standing on the other side, then her eyes shifted over to that lack of wing. Her surprise morphed into horror when her brain caught up with what she was seeing.

"Twilight?" she stammered, swallowing her growing panic, at least momentarily, before taking a step forward. "What-"

Twilight's horn fizzled out and she interrupted Starlight. "I cut it off," she stated as a matter of fact. "It was necrotizing."

Starlight was taken aback and kept opening her mouth to speak. "I..."

Twilight sighed and stepped aside. "Please come in, Starlight," she asked, her expression neutral. There was no hint of the worry that was festering before, leaving Fluttershy to look worried from the stairs. "I'll explain."

Starlight stared at the mare for a second, before closing her mouth and stepping inside without a word. She saw Fluttershy, smiled slightly then moved over to the couch to wait for Twilight who had closed the door and almost seemed to drift along behind her.

Twilight passed her and climbed onto the undersized chair opposite, throwing the cushion onto the couch to make room for herself. "It's been quite a while, for me," she said, receiving a silent response. "We got the first Artifact."


"I killed the king," Twilight added quickly, causing Fluttershy to gasp off to the side. "He took my wing with him though," she continued, all emotion seemingly drained from her.

Starlight watched Twilight's gaze drift to the floor. "I'm sure you had to do what you did, Twi," she replied, really not knowing what else to say.


It felt like an eternity before Starlight spoke up, her eyes shifting over to Fluttershy who was inching her way upstairs silently. "What's the pla-" she was interrupted by one of the cottage's stairs creaking loudly, causing Twilight to wince, tense up and start to hyperventilate; Her horn instantly bursting to life with an ethereal glow.

Starlight closed her eyes then turned to Fluttershy, "Fluttershy. I'm going to need to ask for a big favour."

The mare's gaze shifted between Twilight and Starlight, then the nodded. "Of course, anything..."

A few minutes later, Starlight shifted down and under the soft covers of Fluttershy's bed with Twilight next to her. She settled down and a smile and proceeded to pull the covers over them both, causing Twilight to look a bit worried.

"Do you have something to tell me, Starlight?" Twilight asked quietly, squinting as the other mare lit her horn up.

"No," she replied, a deadpan expression on her face. "We're in a secure place. Nothing said in here escapes, okay? I won't tell a soul."

"I don't know..."

Starlight shook her head, causing the shadows to dance around. "Do you trust me, Twilight? If it'll be easier," she said, causing her horn to pulse. "A anti-scrying spell. Now no one will actually hear us, okay?" she smiled and reached out to gently brush Twilight's hoof with her own. "We don't even have to talk if you don't want to. We can just lay here and relax."

It took a second for Twilight to reply. "I would like that," she stammered, small tears starting to form in her eyes. She inched closer and buried her face against Starlight's chest, holding her while she shook.

Starlight brushed the mare's mane with her hoof and let out comforting 'shh' and whispering that it will be alright.

The pair laid there, Twilight enjoying the warmth that came from being held, even by the smaller pony. Yet, she knew that she was simply stalling and her problems wouldn't magically fade away.

"I'm not the same mare that left," Twilight whispered, nuzzling into her. "I was trying so hard to save what we have here that I forgot to save myself..." she continued, pulling away and staring into Starlight's eyes. "I'm broken."


"I'm enjoying all of this fighting and action. We keep getting attacked and it would be so easy to get it to stop, but I like being the hero... It reminds me of when things were black and white..." Twilight's voice slowly drained of emotion, like before as she stared off into the shadows.

Starlight tightened her hold on her friend's hoof while listening to her. Simply hearing that was bringing up clear red flags, but she wasn't a psychologist and she knew she'd make it worse by trying to help... But she could redirect the mare.

"Tell me about your wing, Twi," she asked, her eyes shifting over to the orange, glowing, stump. "You could have gotten a new one fitted as soon as you came back... Why didn't you?

Twilight hummed and shifted slightly, clearly uncomfortable about the subject. "I don't know," she muttered, pausing for several seconds. "I guess I don't want to forget what I did." Her voice had changed to barely a whisper and it was clear to Starlight that it was something she was having a hard time talking about.

Starlight nodded and gently rubbed Twilight's leg. "Twilight... You silly pony," Starlight muttered, moving her hoof up to gently brush her cheek, leaving a confused mare. "The very fact you're punishing yourself clearly means you would never forget. You're one of the kindest ponies I know... I would be horrified if it didn't affect you.

I remember when Cozy, Tirek and Chrysalis were turned to stone; you were a blubbering mess. If you had to do what you did, it means there was no other way."


"No buts, Twilight," Starlight interrupted with a more forceful tone, her hoof moving to Twilight's breast. "I don't care if the whole of time is unravelling. It's time to take care of yourself for once. I expect you to get your wing looked at, then have a nice, long spa session followed by talking to someone professional."

Twilight looked unsure, but after a stern look from Starlight, nodded. "Yes, ma'am..."

Starlight let out a small giggle and rolled her eyes. "Wasn't so hard now, was it?"

"I nearly blew up at the last therapist I talked to earlier," Twilight muttered, now looking ashamed. "He made me realise all this."

"Well, I think an apology is in order, don't you, Princess?" Starlight stated, raising a brow.

"I-I'll see him when I go back..."

Starlight's lips curled into a smile. "That's more like it."

Twilight chuckled. "You always know what to say... Why don't you be my advisor?"

Starlight was taken aback for a second. "But... Isn't there one appointed to you?" she asked, unsure.

"Oh, Paper Pusher? He quit. Said something about me being too anxiety driven and detail oriented," Twilight answered, letting out a groan. "But that's perfect since I can hire you. I can trust what you say since we fought to the death!"

Starlight winced at the reminder of that old memory.

"Ah, sorry," Twilight said, reaching over and taking her hoof. "What I mean is that you aren't scared to tell me what I do wrong. Plus, it seems that you have a better moral center than I do."

Starlight's uncertainty wa still there. She knew it wasn't the worst idea and she could actually help the mare in a more direct way once this was all over. "Okay, I'll do it."

"Wait, really?"

"Well... Why not? I'll continue my research at the castle while advising you when all this has concluded. Plus, the extra bits would be useful for reagents."

"O-Okay then. You're hired Ms. Glimmer!" Twilight said, her smile widening as she laughed.

"Why, thank you, your majesty!" Starlight replied in a snooty canterlot voice. "It'll be an honor!"