I am my own OC

by KittyrinnAiko

First published

It started out as a blatant self insert and then morphed into something more.

An MLP FIM fan fiction writer and super mega nerd who while in her Autumn years wakes up in the ruins of the Castle of the Two Sisters and finds that she is a filly named Kitsumi Nova. The very character she'd created just for fun. Her first obstacle will be to find her way to civilization.

From there the story becomes a slice of life where our former human must live out the life of a pony who is also a young alicorn. And if that's not enough, she is Nightmare Moon's daughter and fears what will happen if she presents herself at court. Will she be reunited with Princess Luna and reconciled with Princess Celestia? Will she go back to earth when the opportunity arises, and who wants Sunset Shimmer dead? OK, there's a long list for that last one.

Yes, this did start out as a blatant self insert. Originally I started it as an exercise in the first-person narrative and really had no intention to publish it. Ever. After a while, the main character morphed into someone older than myself and a bit more accomplished. Reasons for doing this is because, well, let's face it, I'm a deeply private individual and prefer to have that layer of insulation. There is also the issue where many of my life experiences simply don't fit the character I wished to portray.

The story itself is loosely based on my other Kitsumi Nova stories and is its own independent story in its own dimension within the Kitsumi Nova Multiverse. It also predates the Mustang sisters Nova and Summer. There will be comedy, and there will be poignant moments sure to tug at the heartstrings.

The story itself has seen several major rewrites and was even abandoned for a while.

Contains mild swearing and a few f-bombs
There will be one chapter in which the more squeamish may wish to skip over containing borderline gore and outright nightmare fuel. Granted that the more jaded readers probably won't even blink an eye.

Chapter 1: Why can't I remember last night?

View Online

It’d been another hard night of sleeping on a lumpy bed, old aches, and pains keeping me awake till the wee hours of the morning. When sleep finally did come it was restless. I snuggled into a feathery down and fur comforter to stave off the morning chill, the sound of birds calling me from my slumber, the smell of earth and decay assailing my olfactory senses. It’s still dark so I’ve no desire to actually get up.

My first thoughts, I’d left the window open and the cats must have done something nasty in the vicinity of my bed. That or the dog has rolled in something. And that’s when it hit me… I don’t have a downy comforter or a dog for that matter. As for the fur... I have got an old fur stole I picked up at a rummage sale. Something I'd planned on adding to a Renascence outfit and second-hand doesn't support the fur industry. I never could get the smell out of it though. Did I for whatever strange reason get up in the middle of the night, and drag that thing into my bed? Clutching at the fur as best I may in my present groggy condition I found myself experiencing the most bizarre sensation. Not only could I not properly grasp it, but it seemed to be a tail. My tail by the sensation I was getting every time I tugged on it. It was definitely connected. And a most interesting sensation at that being it tugged my nether regions in interesting ways.

Well, that’s unique.

I slowly opened my eyes to discover I was now looking down a snout? Muzzle? Black on top. What the absolute fuck? Black fur, at least on the top of the muzzle, and white feathery appendages in which I’ve snuggled into. Are those wings?

Either this is the most amazing lucid dream I’ve ever had, or I’ve gone crazy.

Best not to panic.

No reason I can’t enjoy crazy. I mean, what’s the point of insanity if I can’t enjoy myself?

Never mind that my heart is racing, it’s not going to do me any good to panic. Sure I’m on the floor now, but should I panic I could find myself waking up in a hospital… or worse.

Maybe this is the worse?

My best defense is my advanced age. How is that you might ask? Easy, the older people get the fewer fucks they have left to give.

Looking at my arm… arm? It’s a horse leg!? Oh … Kay. A very little horse leg, but still a horse leg. A pony? Aaaaaaaaaa? I may have more fucks left than I realized.

“Shit!” I’m a pony?!

Pony leg, silver shoes, black fur from the knee down, switching to white above the knee. My hair hung down mostly white with a shock of purple and another of vermilion mixed with vermilion red. And attached to my white rump was a tail with purple and vermilion feathering out of which grew a very fox-like white tail with a black tip. That was different. Overall I was white. I’d even a crescent moon cutie mark with two stars. I know that cutie mark. It’s my original character’s cutie mark. A crescent moon in deep purple, and two stars rendered in that sort of pinkish violet shade. A small one directly under the overhang of the tilted crescent, and a large one a short way down from the tip of the overhang that was a smaller version of Twilight’s big star.

You’ve got to be kidding me?!

Or is that foaling? No, that just sounds wrong somehow. Bad pun or no I’m fairly sure I’m a foal. A little impossibly cute foal. Damn straight I’m impossibly cute, why would I be anything but? Never mind the canines that don’t belong on a pony, I just know I’m cute.

Taking a quick assessment of my present apparent self I can only come to one inescapable conclusion. I am my own original character. And I’m a filly. My original character, as redesigned for My Little Pony. I’d been a latecomer to the fandom, and writing little stories was just something to keep my mind active. But actually turning into a filly was proving quite a shock. Especially now that the fandom was winding down with the ending of the show.

Where am I?

‘And now I’m doubly fucked,’ I say to myself as I look around. I survey my surroundings, the crumbled down walls, the collapsed ceiling, rotten tapestries, and the thrones dedicated to the sun and the moon leave me but one inescapable conclusion. I’m curled up in the audience hall of the palace of the two sisters. At night no less. Which just happens to be in the Everfree if I remember correctly. At least my OC has good night vision, as I’d sure hate to be a regular pony – filly out in an old ruin in the Everfree at night. Granted that in the show at least the old castle the palace was part of what seemed to be an oasis of calm free from the hazards of the forest. I can only hope that holds true in my new apparent reality. Is this, is any of this even real?

Either I’m crazy, or I’m actually here. Part of me is freaking out, part of me is squeeing with delight. It’s both a fantasy come true and a nightmare from which I can not wake up from. But what should I do? I can't help but wonder if maybe I should just try going back to sleep? On the other hand, make that hoof, inaction may not be the best idea in the world.

Might just be a good idea to get out of here. Even if I’m to assume this is all in my head, I still think I should probably get up. I’ll know soon enough if I’ve gone crazy. If I have I’m bound to run into some solid object I can’t see like my bedroom wall.

That’s when it strikes me that I can’t remember what I’d been doing the night before?

Not like I haven’t been there before.🍸

At the same time, I’ve memories of a life in Equestria knocking at the door so to speak. I lived here once upon a time, or so my mind is trying to tell me. Here, and possibly even Canterlot? “Well, best see if I can figure out how to be a horse,” I say as I start maneuvering to see if I can get up. Sitting up was the easy part. After all, sitting up is easy. Raising to stand on my hooves makes me feel like a newborn foal. I swear I’m not much bigger and every bit as wobbly as I struggle to figure out these newly modified appendages. No doubt I'm not much bigger than a foal and right about now I find myself longing for the herd.

My long luxurious locks of hair aren't helping either as I hobble about.

It feels like I’m standing on my fingertips, and if I remember my anatomy correctly, I am. The idea that I’m flipping the world off with all four limbs elicits a little smile.

I hobble around on my legs to try to get the feeling of them, though the wings, white with silver to black tips… having an extra set of limbs I don’t quite know what to do with isn’t making it any easier, and nearly distracted me from the fact that I already have my cutie mark. Not like it does me any good if I’ve no idea how to actually do anything as a pony.

I can’t help but wonder if this is the fate of all Bronies, and what was it, pegasisters? To be reborn as a pony, and to find ourselves out in the Everfree where we will likely be eaten before finding our way back to some semblance of civilization?

Only those capable of surviving the trek may live in this world.

The pendant? The one my OC got from Luna, I think to myself, and sure enough, I’m wearing my moon pendant. The pendant was exactly as I imagined it would be, one small blue gem and one large green stone that seemed to be pulsing with its own magic. “Moonie? Moonie, if you are there I need help?” I say as I tap the pendant with my right hoof. Selena?

Nothing.

“Figures.” Well, I should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy. Then again, I did have to go through quite a lot in my ‘fan fiction’ to unlock Moonie my ever-lovable Nightmare Moon companion NPC. Things are different now so there’s no way of knowing if the Nightmare Moon simulation spell even exists.

I decide to continue walking around and soon find myself climbing the steps that eventually lead up to the library and the chamber of the elements beyond. One nice thing is that the movements of all six of my limbs are coming to me intuitively. It’s like my brain already knows what to do, I just have to remind myself.

Everything being much as I remembered and/or imagined doesn’t really help. No Twilight Sparkle in the library to rescue me either.

I pull out a book and find that oddly enough I can actually read it. Well, most of it. The fact I can read also strongly suggests that this is not a dream. Some of it even makes sense. Placing the book back, I decided it might be best to start out for Ponyville. Assuming I can even find it.

Had there been anyone around they’d have seen a little black and white pegasus foal wandering about an old castle in the dark. She emerged once again from the study, and after hesitating a few times spread her wings and glided down the stairs. On landing successfully she pranced, and then on a whim chased her tail until she fell down and rolled over with all four hooves in the air. She rolled back over, got up, and chased her tail in the other direction till she fell over again. After that, she decided to try flapping her wings to see if she might actually be able to fly. Her attempts were less than perfect.

It was hunger that prompted her to stop stalling.

Chapter 2: Over the river and through the woods.

View Online

If this had been a video game I’d have starved by now. I look at the rope bridge over the chasm that kept most of the larger creatures away from the palace. Before me, my path leads to a rickety old rope bridge that could easily be a thousand years old and on the other side a very dark foreboding forest. Surely they would have had a better bridge considering the size of the building it led to. No, but judging by the cobblestone there had been a much larger bridge here at one time. Behind me, the old castle was only mildly more inviting in the dark, and when I looked back I could swear I saw a purplish mist looming about one of the upper towers. Slowly I make my way out onto the bridge keeping as close to the edge as I can. One board at a time I slowly inch my way across trying not to look into the gaping chasm below. Not that looking would have made any difference. Down below me, all I could see was pitch black. Inch by inch, hoof by hoof, wingspan by wingspan until I’d finally crossed. I breathed a sigh of relief and trotted down what remained of the now broken road. Here and there I’d be forced to go around trees, brush, or gaps. At times the road would simply be gone, and I’d have to do my best to pick it up again. At other times there’d be deep gullies that I’d be forced to fly over. Each short flight would tax my underdeveloped flight muscles, and I’d just barely make it to the other side.

Did I mention hiding?

Lots of hiding.

Every squirrel, bird, and bunny rabbit was a potential ring wraith. Or in this case a Timber Wolf. Of the two I think a ring wraith was far more likely to pass me by what with not having The One Ring on me. Did they really have giant pony eating piles of forest debris? Then again, a little pony like me would scarcely be a snack for a real flesh and blood wolf. I for one had no desire to find out the hard way and even went so far as to dig holes to bury my bodily waste so as to not be tracked. Reliving oneself while afraid that something might suddenly lunge out of the undergrowth to eat me isn’t fun. As such, it took me the better part of the night before I found any semblance of civilization.

Did I miss my human family? Hell yes! It’s just that survival kind of comes first. That, and for all I knew I’d died in the human world.

Apple orchards. Apple trees filled with bright red apples. Nor could I resist climbing up into a tree and helping myself. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d manage it with hooves, and yet I somehow managed to just shimmy up that tree. I could feel my hooves gripping, and once I had it down, it was the strangest sensation.

And it was there, while happily munching away that I was sprung upon by the horror of the woods.

“Oy, quit eat’n our apples!” Shouted a foal under the tree.

So startled was I that I found myself in another tree in the blink of an eye.

And promptly fell out of said tree.

Thunk!

“Ow,” I complained as I reached up to rub my head. A smile formed on discovering I’d a small unicorn horn. I really was my own original character.

“How’d you do that?!” asked a yellow filly with a red mane and tail, of which her hair was tied with an impossibly large red ribbon. She looks to be about the same age. No, younger, and I’m fairly sure that in a contest of cute I’d probably lose. Granted that my mane and tail was full of sticks and briers. She had no cutie mark yet. More likely a couple of years younger than myself. After all, she’s an earth pony. If we were the same age she’d be bigger than me more than likely. She seemed terribly familiar too, like...

“Apple Bloom, I might has't bethought thee w're a timb'r wolf.” I admit.

“Ya, well quit eating our apples.”She commanded while giving me a dirty look.

“I’m s'rry, but I haven't hadst a thing to consume all day. Er Night. Any chance I couldst haply doth some ch'res, and earneth myself a biteth to consume?”

“Hang on one moment, do you mean you’ve had nothing to eat?” She said in her odd accent that sounded remarkably like a southern twang. Granted my own accent while coming to me quite naturally was making me wonder if perchance I’d been spending too much time at Renascence fairs. Granted the lump on my head could be the culprit as well. And I don’t mean the horn.

“Might has't f'rag'd a dram on the way in.”

“On your way in?” She’s struggling to understand that which is spewing forth from my mouth. I’m struggling to figure out why am I talking like that?

“From the forest.” I really needed to reign in my old ponish. Old what? Truly I have gone mad. Not sure I care anymore though. I mean, I’m talking to an actual pony. Hell, I’m talking to Apple Bloom, the Apple Bloom. I resist the urge to squee.

“No way you were out in the Everfree.”

“Afraid I wast. W'rst parteth is I’ve neigh idea how I did get out th're.”

“No fooling?”

“Wish that I was.” I offered as I got up.

“You sure you aren’t one of the creatures from the forest? Can’t rightly say I’ve ever seen a pony with teeth like yours, and you’ve a funny way of talking.”

“My name’s Kitsumi Nova. Just Nova tis enough.” I offer, deciding to go with that simplified version of my original character’s name. I run my tongue over my teeth. No, not horse teeth, but then Apple Bloom doesn't exactly have what I’d call horse teeth either. More of an interesting combo. Her teeth seem to be more like a human minus the canines. Mine had canines, and a few other jagged teeth followed by molars in the back for grinding. Best to do what I can to talk a little less like a Rennie. “I’ve a name, that proves I’m not some vicious creature out to eat apples. I’ve even a cutie mark. All I want is something to eat and to go home.

“If I knew where home was, or even if I have a home.”

“I suspect I’ll get my cutie mark in apple farming. Ain't got it yet, but I will, any day now. Names Apple Bloom. - You seriously don’t know where your home is?” She’s hanging on the fact I have a cutie mark and she doesn’t and hasn’t realized that I already know who she is.

“I’m a little disoriented. Found my way by following an old cobbled road. Friends?” I ask with my right hoof extended. I know who that little filly is and it also gave me a good indication of when I was provided this reality lined up with the show at all.

“Sure, why not.” Apple Bloom offered. “So how did you get from one tree to ta-other like that?”

“Not rightly sure myself, but it might have something to do with this horn sticking out of my forehead.” I offered with a smile, and a hoof held up. I had to brush my mane aside for her to see my horn.

“Well, I’ll be.” Apple Bloom said quietly. “You’re an alicorn?”

“No, just a pegasus with a horn in my head unless Princess Celestia says otherwise,” I offer, with a wink and my hoof still extended in greeting. “Although ponies like me do tend to be rather rare, as is my understanding.” My hoof is still out. Finally, Apple Bloom gets the hint, comes over, and gives me a hoof bump. “Now we are friends and I can’t eat you.”

Apple Bloom gives me the funniest look, I start laughing, and then she joins in.

“Come on then, I’ll show ya to the house.” Apple Bloom offered to direct me through the trees.

“Civilization, at last,” I say as I follow after her. “So what were you doing out in the orchard so late at night?”

“Apple Bloom! Where in tar-nation ‘ave you been!?” Shouted Granny Smith as we enter the barnyard. The yard is full of ponies who look to be getting ready for a search party. That or a lynch mob what with the torches. “There’s timber wolves that’av been seen nosing about. Not to mention Nightmare Moon! - who’s that?”

Everything Granny says I take with a grain of salt. I mean, if the show is any indication, granny thinks there are see ponies in the well. I resist the urge to say 'sho be do' while throwing my voice."

“Her name’s Nova. I found her out in the apple orchards.” Apple Bloom offered. “She’s lost, and doesn’t know how to get home.”

I suppose that was true enough, and yet if I was indeed Nova, I was not lost. Not really. My home was the place I’d just come from, but it was in ruins. As for other potential homes, the castle of harmony did not yet exist. Nightmare Moon… If that is indeed what's going on, that meant Twilight was likely out rescuing Princess Celestia and hopefully defeating Nightmare Moon. It also meant I missed the main six on my way in as they were on their way out. As for whether or not I could go to Canterlot once things settled down, I doubted that Princess Celestia would even know me. I couldn't even be sure how I fit into the timeline if at all. One thing I had to come to grips with is that if I am from the future, then whatever I do now, is meant to happen. If I was indeed present during the fight between mother, and… mother… I’m thinking of Luna as my mother. The fight between Muma and Aunt Tia. Could Luna be my mom in this timeline?

I looked up at the adults who looked back at me discussing what they were to do.

“Will the militia be around to drive off the timberwolves?” I asked.

“Honey, we are the militia.” Offered a peach-colored mare with a bright orange curly mane. Her cutie mark is a mason jar of peach preserves. I know that cutie mark. Hang on, hadn’t she vanished? That meant events in this world weren’t following the same timeline. That or Granny is full of it concerning Nightmare Moon because the perfect pare vanished long before the return of Nightmare Moon.

“Oh,” I replied. “But surely you’re not going to go chasing after Timberwolves, not when, not when you've a lost filly to tend to?”

Sure enough, I am a mess, and well beyond the stuff in my mane and tail. My white coat looked more like a mud coat than white. Granny was certainly giving me the once or twice over as well.

“I’m sure Granny Smith can get you cleaned up.”

To their surprise, I intentionally put the peach mare between myself and Granny. I’d a good idea who that mare was and I wasn’t too keen on her going after timberwolves. And for that matter, I don’t think Granny was too keen on me. I pressed in tight and gave Pear Butter my best sad puppy dog look.

“You sure that their filly ain’t a timber wolf in disguise?” Granny grumbled. “Maybe it’s a timber wolf pup. Might be best ta just chuck it back into the forest.”

Pear Butter let out a sigh while giving Granny a pained look. “Come on then. My name's Pear Butter. Let's see if we can get you cleaned up.”

A short time later, outback in an oversize washtub I soon learned what it was to be a dog getting a cold bath. No wonder they ran at the very mention of the word bath. The worst part was that I was so dirty I had to get out of the tub, so the water could be dumped and refilled three times. At least that’s what I thought before they started picking my mane and tail clean. Heck, they could have started out by dumping me in the pig wallow and I’d have come out cleaner than I started.

“This is no way to treat a princess,” I muttered after the third rinse.

“I thought you said you weren’t a princess?” Apple Bloom asked with a smile. Probably glad it wasn’t her getting a cold bath.

“I said I wasn’t an alicorn unless Princess Celestia said otherwise,” I corrected. “Just a pegasus with a horn. Otherwise, I can still be a princess, can’t I?” Even if I was a deposed princess I was still a princess as far as I was concerned.

My own reasoning made me laugh. Princess indeed.

“Like that little horn of yours has any power.” Miss Lofty added. She was a pale yellow pegasus mare with a seafoam mane who’d joined Pear Butter to help clean me up.

“Saw her teleport.” Apple Bloom offered.

“Well, it was a panic teleport,” I admit. “No idea how I did it.”

“Can you levitate anything?” Pear Butter asked.

“Not really, no.” I offer. “Truth is, I hadn’t even tried. I’d no idea how to do it, and whatever powers I might have had are presently on the fritz.” The teleport had been a fluke, undoubtedly linked to my cutie mark.

“Kind of looks like she’s a false alicorn.” Miss Lofty remarked. I hazard to cast a glance at her. I could hear it in her tone, and the concerned look on her face spoke volumes.

I’d been dumped. Likely had a memory charm used on me on the unlikely event I might actually make it out of the forest alive.

Telling her my mother is Nightmare moon wasn’t going to help.

And then the sun came up and you’d think they hadn’t seen it in weeks. I had to think about it, the amount of time it took me to get through the forest. It had seemed like a really long time. It had felt like it took all night and all day except it'd been dark the whole time. I'd find out later that I really had arrived during the Summer Sun celebration on the return of Nightmare Moon and that Granny hadn't been full of horse on that point. And now I couldn't help but wonder if they'd be looking for me, or if any pony would even know to look. Something told me that the latter was probably what I could expect. There was no way anyone in Canterlot could know to come looking for me. Probably just as well as there was no telling what sort of reception I'd get.

Chapter 3: First morning in Ponyville

View Online

I soon found myself hoisted up out of the bath, and brought up onto the porch where several towels were ready to dry me. Pear Butter and Miss Lofty proved too slow in applying said towels though. Without giving it a second thought, I did my best impersonation of a dog shaking off water. A few moments later I was a dry little fluff ball thanks in part to the unconscious use of magic.

“Well, that’s a fine howdy-you-do.” Pear Butter said a moment later.

“Now that I can see her, I think it’d be fair to say something’s not quite right here.” Lofty commented.

“Other than the fact that she just transferred all that water to us?” Apple Bloom protested.

“Sorry,” I replied.

“Pear Butter, a word with you.” Lofty prompted and then lead Pear Butter some distance away from me. She watched my ears twitch, zero in on them, and then chose to move a little further away. Like that was going to make much of a difference. Those extra-large multi-directional acoustic radars were a damn sight better than human ears and probably better than ordinary pony ears.

“So what’s the big deal?” Pear Butter asked once they’d settled on what they thought was a good safe distance.

“She’s got a cutie mark for magic.”

“What?”

“Look at her. That’s not the sort of cutie mark one sees on pegasi.”

“Oh my.” Pear Butter’s jaw dropped. “You aren’t seriously suggesting she’s an actual Alicorn, are you?”

“She can definitely use magic, even if she’s doing it subconsciously. And don’t ask me how. Her horn hardly lights up when she does it.”

The two found themselves at a bit of an impasse in considering what to do with me. I would need to be reported to the authorities, but they weren’t too sure if doing so was the right thing. I might very well be a young Alicorn, though when it came to it only Princess Celestia knew for sure what a young Alicorn even looked like. I also had a rather predatory look about me. I was harmless enough, but how would the guards treat me when taking into consideration how xenophobic some ponies could be. How would Princess Celestia treat me if all I was to her was the Nightmare's daughter?

And then there were the silver horseshoes. They hadn’t really looked at them at first, but they couldn't help but note the fine craftsmanship on closer inspection.

When Bright Mac was brought in badly maimed by a Timber wolf, I was quickly forgotten.

Have I changed history as I know it?’ I thought to myself as Bright Mac was being bandaged up. No, this timeline was different, and yet I may well have just saved Pear Butter. Several of Bright Mac’s wounds were deep enough they had to be stitched. I didn’t see much more as I was herded upstairs with Apple Bloom. Once we were upstairs I asked Apple Bloom for something to tie up my mane. She not only agreed but even went so far as to braid it, if for no other reason than to distract herself.

When things quieted downstairs I was the first to dare to venture downstairs to find out what was going on. What I found was Lofty, of all ponies, and no one else.

“Miss Lofty?” I asked. “Is he going to be alright?”

“I can’t say.” Lofty replied. “They’ve taken him to the clinic in town.” She looked me over. “Come here, let's see what we can do with those wings of yours.”

“Um...” Apple Bloom said as she ventured downstairs.

“Every pony has gone into town.”Lofty offered with a half-smile.

“Oh.” Apple Bloom replied sounding defeated. “Is...?” She wanted to say it, but just couldn't.

“We don’t know.” Lofty offered. “They took him into town.”

Lofty quietly set about preening my wings and Apple Bloom decided to just sit and wait.

“You know, you never did tell me what you were doing out in the orchard in the dark?” I prompt.

“I was protecting the apples from sneak thieves.”

“And did you catch any?” Lofty asked with a tone of voice that made it clear she had no business being out there.

“Yes.” I offered. “She caught me.”

Granny Smith returned later that afternoon. There were chores to be done. Big Mac, Apple Bloom, and I were pressed into service, and Apple Jack had yet to return.

“Miss Nova.” Granny Smith said as she ambled up to me later that afternoon. “Under the circumstances, we aren’t going to be able to look after you. You do understand don’t you?”

My stomach growled. Aside from the apples from the trees and some grass I’d nibbled on earlier, I’d had nothing to eat.

“I understand,” I replied dropping my head.

“And you’ve had nothing to eat, come on inside.” Granny offered. “All that work, and on an empty stomach to boot.

And don’t fret as to what’s to become of you, Lofty is going to take you in for a few days.”

My prospects looking up, I managed a smile. I was after all, not but a filly dependent on the goodwill of others.

:applejackunsure:

Thank you for the food.” I offered momentarily before digging into my offerings. I was indeed famished. There was no meat, but there were eggs and other dairy products available. Did I mention that I was famished?

“Poor thing was famished.” Lofty commented as she too partook in the smorgasbord that had been laid out on the table. Apple Bloom and Big Mac ate, but worry about their father was taking much of their appetite.

🥗

It was a quiet meal, and when every pony had finished, I thanked Granny Smith for her hospitality and left with Lofty.

“I’m going to assume you aren’t up to flying?” Lofty asked as we walked down the lane that headed into town.

I laughed, and then said, “Are you kidding, I’d be lucky to get off the ground!”

“Kidding? As in baby goats?”

“Um, no. As in joking.” I replied embarrassed by my slip.

“Oh. Alright.” Lofty offered. “Kids can be kind of funny.”

“Kid as derived from old Norse ponish kith as in kith and kin,” I say as I think out loud. “Or in this case the old ponish kid as into hoax or josh originating from a slang term to make a foal or goat out of some pony.”

“Ah, makes sense now.” Lofty offered. “It’s a bit like you are bilingual and the two languages are so similar you’re getting them all mixed together.”

“Ya, something like that,” I reply with a smile. She doesn’t know the half of it.

:trollestia:

Thus it was that the two had funny little smiles as they entered the outskirts of Ponyville.


“Probably a good thing I’ve got you to escort me,” I said quietly to Lofty. Plenty of ponies have been giving me the stink eye. The town itself had the look of a quint old-timey town with lots of gingerbread and thatched roofs. It had a very welcoming feel to the architecture, not so much among the ponies. Granted that the Nightmare Moon incident probably wasn’t helping.

I’d forgotten just how xenophobic the residents of Ponyville had been at the beginning of the show.

“You’re a little different, but not all that much. They’ll get accustomed to you soon enough.”

We continued on until we arrived at the local guard station.

“Just to be legal, I need to report that we found you.”

“I expected as much,” I reply as I follow her in.

“Hello, I’m Guard Deskclerk, how can I help you?” The guard at the front desk asked. He was by all outward appearance, an alabaster unicorn, but then again, if this world worked the same way as the show, I wouldn't know his true colors until he removed the uniform. He was also the only one there at the moment, and he was also rather scrawny for a guard. He kind of reminded me of Barney Fife from that old TV LandTM show. Any time all heck broke loose the other guards made sure he stayed in the station house.

“I’ve come by to report a found foal.” Lofty informed him.

“Have you now? And what does this foal look like?”

“Um, like me.” I offer.

“Hey, don’t be a smart cookie, no pony like’s a smart cookie.”

I suppress a comment about Smart Cookie likely having lots of friends.

“She’s the found foal,” Lofty offered. “She wondered onto the Apple farm a little past noon today. About an hour before the Timber wolf attack.”

“Oh, young miss, you didn’t lose your family did you?” Barney, I mean, Deskclerk asked.

“She says she was out in the Everfree. Woke up out there, and doesn’t remember anything about her family.”

“You sure she’s not a runaway?”

“She appears to be a false alicorn, so I suppose we can’t rule that out. I’d imagine she just wants a loving home, and it’s entirely possible she got the same treatment that many other false Alicorns get.” Lofty replied with a cold edge to her voice.

“False Alicorn? I’ll have you know that Princess Celestia requires that all pegasi born with horns be registered.” Deskclerk replied. “Let me just fill out the appropriate paperwork, the Alicorn registration, the found filly flier, and we’ll find out soon enough who she is.”

“Kitzumi Nova Moon. House of Athelas.” I offered. “I know who I am, I just, well, let's just say I’m a little disoriented.”

“What was your last known place of residence?”

“I woke up this morning in the Palace of the Two sisters.” I offer. “And from there I made my way to the Apple Farm, and then here.”

“Palace of the two sisters...” Deskclerk repeated as he wrote it down. Stopped and looked at me.

“I missed all the excitement.”

“I think she means the Castle of the Two Sisters.” Lofty offered.

“Oh no, it’s not a castle.” I corrected, “It’s a palace. There used to be a fortified citadel around it. The main building is about all that’s recognizable now.”

“You know… that’s rather specific.” Deskclerk pointed out. “And to be out there today of all days.”

“Aaaah, that’s where I woke up this morning. Or last night. I’m not sure?” I offered. “There’s no battlements on the building, ergo not a castle.”

“She’s got a point.” Lofty offered. “Several.”

“Alrighty then,” Deskclerk replied. “Name: Kitzumi Nova Moon, family name: Athelas, last known place of domicile: The Palace of the Two Sisters, filly, age… do you know your age?”

“Not really,” I replied looking rather sheepish. “I’ll go with one-thousand and eleven or thereabouts.”

“Don’t be a smart cookie. Let’s see, you’ve got a cutie mark so that places her age somewhere between ten or twelve.”

“Estimated age eleven then.” Lofty offered.

“Works for me,” Deskclerk replied. “Where will she be staying?”

“Not going to lock me up till some pony wants to claim me?” I ask.

“I do that and I have to take care of you.” He replied. “And to be honest, little filly, pegasi foals with horns don’t often get claimed.”

“Now is that a nice thing to be telling her?” Lofty protested.

“It’s the truth, and something tells me she already knows that.”

“He is kind of right.” I offered. “I’d hate to think that ponies would abandon their own foals for being different, but then I don’t seriously expect anyone to come to fetch me.”

“Do you remember anything about your family?” He prompted.

“It’s possible my mother’s name is Luna.” I offer. Luna wasn’t that uncommon of a name, I hoped and telling them I was a Sparkle could easily end in disaster. Still, though, I wouldn't mind having Twilight and Shining Armor as siblings. “I might be related to the Velvet family.” I offered.

“She’ll be staying with me for the time being.” Lofty offered. “I sort of volunteered, and with Bright Mac in the hospital, the Apple’s weren’t going to be able to look after her.”

“Well, that should cover it then. Just be sure to take her to school, and some pony will be in touch soon enough.” Deskclerk offered. “Shame about Bright Mac. Sure wish they’d give us more trained guards.”

“Maybe this is the incident that’ll finally put a torch under the flanks of the bean counters in Canterlot.” Lofty offered. “Come on Nova Moon.”

“Just Nova is fine,” I say as I file out the door after her.

It’s getting late. I marvel at the speed of the sun going down, casting the world in darkness, a moment later the moon rose up along with my mane.

I sure hope no pony noticed that.

I breathe a sigh of relief a moment later when my mane dropped back down to normal.

We arrived a short time later at a small cottage in a col de sac of equally small cottages. Lofty opened the door, no lock apparently, must be nice, and was accosted moments later by a manila colored earth pony with two-tone orange mane and tail. Specifically, it was her lips she went for first.

“I was so worried about you!” Kiss, kiss, kiss.

“Holiday!? Mum!”

I decide to just go inside, and work on my wings while I wait for the two mares to finish greeting each other.

“I was getting so worried.” Holiday stated once she’d calmed down a little. “Why are you so late? I heard there was a timber wolf attack! And Nightmare Moon! Can you believe it, Nightmare Moon was real!”

“I brought some work home with me.” Lofty offered.

“You were foal sitting… you didn’t bring Apple Bloom home did you?”

“No, no, different filly. Where’d she go?”

“I’m inside,” I call. “Maybe it might help if you could impart some preening tips?” I was presently flat on my back with my wings spread out. I’d been reaching around trying to find my preen gland when I lost balance, and over I went.

“Who or what is that?”

“Nova Moon. Wondered out of the Everfree. Says she was in the palace of the two sisters.” Lofty offered. “Seems to have missed all the excitement.”

“Castle, it’s a castle.” Holiday countered.

“She’s been there. No battlements, not a castle.” Lofty countered and then went inside. I’d been on my back watching them through the doorway the whole time. “Come on, right yourself, and let's see what we can do with those wings.”

“She’s got some long wings on her. She’ll be a real heart breaker when she gets older.” Holiday commented as she followed, closing the door on the way in. The fact that she’s not too worried about the fact that I was out at the old palace suggests to me that going out there must be some right of passage for the locals.

I turned back over and decided to see if I could find that preen gland. I kind of knew more or less where it was supposed to be, the trouble was reaching the base of my tail without tipping over. And there I go again. Thump. My ears go back at the sound of suppressed laughter.

“You know at your age you should already have a handle on that.” Lofty offers as she sits down next to me. “Sit up again, and I’ll help you out.”

Having Lofty preen my feathers for me felt good and oddly familiar. I couldn't help but wonder if I was losing myself to this character I created, or if my whole life as a human had been nothing more than a dream?


That night I slept on the sofa and dreamed of life as a pony princess.

It all came crashing down when Luna and Celestia fought.

Chapter 4: an Ill jest for Celestia and Nova's first day of school.

View Online

Princess Celestia woke with a start. It had been a long time since she’d had that specific dream. Banishing Nightmare moon wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part was a little black and white filly determined that they stop fighting. She’d placed herself right between the two at that critical moment, Luna coming to her senses just in time to make a desperate attempt to push the filly out of the path of the light of the elements.

When it was all over they were both gone.

Luna was back now, but no filly.

Celestia sat on the edge of her bed looking up at the moon beyond the open curtains. There’d been no sign of that little filly when the fight was over. Nor was there any sign of her once the smoke had cleared, and the rubble searched. Luna’s private household staff had fled, taking harmony knows who with them. Ponies had been hurt. Ponies had died. Later she would learn that the whole episode had been orchestrated by certain nobles who only saw Princess Luna’s removal as the key to more power. They paid dearly and Celestia nearly lost control to Day Breaker.

Luna had been innocent. Or at least relatively so. Celestia had been suspicious that Luna had been slowly slipping to the dark side for some time. How long she could not know, but the confrontation did not need to happen.

It had been Celestia herself who pushed Luna over the edge.

“Following Luna’s banishment, the nobles used that as an excuse to commit acts of ‘reprisal’ on any pony who’d been one of Luna’s supporters. Luna’s supporters had been among the more liberal of the nobles as well. Their absence from court led to the rollbacks of many reforms. Reforms Celestia herself had wanted.

It would take many generations to undo the damage.

“Your highness? Is there anything I can do?” Asked one of the night guards.

“So, have you come at last to enact your vengeance?” Celestia asked in a deadpan tone.

“I had thought about it, but then who’d raise the sun in the morning.”

Celestia pursed her lips. To be perfectly honest she’d no idea who this pony was having relied on her staff to make sure they weren’t hiring assassins. The guard was new, and yet her voice was like a long-forgotten memory.

“A night guard with a sense of humor. Not often I run into that.”

“Dare I ask, what has you up at such an early hour?”

“A dream.”

“A nightmare?”

“A very old nightmare. One where I must relive the horrible night where I hurt my dear sister and lost her to the shadow known as Nightmare Moon. I lost my sister, her household, and all who supported her because I allowed myself to be manipulated.”

“If you could undo that night, would you?”

“I would,” Celestia replied in a soft tone. “Luna is home, she’s finally home, and yet my heart is heavy. So many innocents had to suffer because I couldn't see that I was being manipulated.”

“And if one of Princess Luna’s Shadowbolts were to present herself to you, would you take her back even though she contemplated killing you?”

“One of Princess Luna’s Shadowbolts...” A shiver ran down Celestia’s spine. The guard hadn’t been adding to her morbid joke.

Unification had not been easy, and Luna’s Shadowbolts were perhaps the finest special operations unit ever formed.

“But that was a long time ago.” Celestia prompted. “How then could some pony who lived so long ago present themselves to me now?”

“By getting caught in the beam created by the harmony stones in an attempt to pull a headstrong filly to safety. Oh, and your security sucks.” The guard offered. She then walked around to Princess Celestia, removed her helmet, and bowed before her. “I have nothing left but my duty to the crown. Will you take me back?”

Celestia looked at the grey pegasus as a feeling of horror swept over her.

“Lieutenant Alice Mouse.” The guard offered.

“But… but...” Celestia stammered. Alice looked up at her, and recognition set in like a hoof to the gut. “Alice? - But how? I thought you dead… or fled a thousand years ago?”

“No Princess. As I said, I got caught in the beam from the harmony stones. Found myself in the ruins of the old palace about six months back, and have been wandering about Equestria since then. I’ve been doing odd jobs to get by.”

“Alice,” Celestia said softly as tears welled up in her eyes. She dropped down to the floor and embraced the young mare. “Of course I’ll have you back. In fact, I’ve got a mind to put you in charge of the night shift...

“Hang on if you came back early?”

“Your Highness?” Alice asked.

“Luna is home, but what of the young charge you sought to save from her own foolishness?”

“Oh no,” Alice said quietly, and then in a more upbeat tone added, “She’s a resourceful filly. We can send pegasi guards to check on a daily basis but should she be out on her own, I dare say that one will find a way to land on her hooves.”

:rainbowdetermined2:

You feeling like breakfast?” Lofty asked me.

Ya, I guess,” I replied. I really didn’t want to get up, but Lofty insisted that I was plenty old enough to go to school, but too young to get a job.

I thought I was supposed to be nocturnal,” I say as I sit at the breakfast table. Sitting at a table as a pony just seems wrong to me. Maybe if it was a kotatsu table it would make more sense, but this was a standard western style table with chairs.

That was some nightmare you had last night.” Holiday offered. “Might help to talk about it?”

I let a sigh slip, and then began, “My mom and my aunt were fighting. Let's just say it got pretty intense.” If half of what last night’s dreams were to be believed, it was a strong indication that in this world, Luna was my mother. Still, though, I needed to be careful.

And your mother’s name was Luna wasn’t it?” Lofty asked as she presented me with a bowl of hot oatmeal in cream.

Ya.”

Any idea where she might be?” Holiday asked.

Incarcerated?” I say. Well, I couldn't very well say she’s Princess Luna now could I? Who’d believe it?

I quietly ate my mush while wondering if I might mooch some eggs off the Apples? Then again, that might not be appropriate considering the circumstances. Maybe they needed a helping hoof after school? Having a scoop of cooked apple added to my gruel helped. Well, it was only breakfast. I’d worry about diversifying my diet later.

I’d better get going or I’ll miss my commuter train into Canterlot.” Holiday offered as she put a light blue scarf on. She gave Lofty a kiss and threw a pair of saddlebags over her withers. “I’ll make some inquiries during lunch if I get the time. Bye, see you tonight.” She gave lofty another kiss, gave me a pat on the head, and was out the door a moment later.

What does she do in Canterlot?” I ask.

She works at a travel agency.”

Travel agency?” I ask. I have to remind myself that the images of Canterlot that are in my head are probably a little out of date.”

Sure. Lots of wealthy ponies live in Canterlot, and they like to travel. Now hurry up, and eat.”

One of my unusual traits had been my ears. While Lofty was combing out the knots in my mane she’d commented on how my ears had black fur on the back but were white with pink skin in front. This had lead to me making faces in the mirror in an attempt to maneuver my ears so I could see the back of them. Lofty laughed and commented that I was acting as though I’d never seen myself in a mirror before. But then, I don’t remember my past. Not really per se. I mean I do, bits, and pieces as they come into focus, but it just doesn’t feel like me. What I seemed to remember of this world was a jumble of bits and pieces, and that was mixed up with things that were yet to come. And yet, all this was brand new for me. Granted I wasn’t entirely convinced I was really here but figured it’d be best to just roll with it.

However. Knowing that ponies didn’t normally have both wings and a horn I’d done my best to style my page boy mane cut to hide my nubbin of a horn.

A short time later my mane and tail were groomed, my wings preened, lunch packed in an old saddle bag along with pencils and paper, and we were out the door.

I didn’t want unnecessary attention. And yet I always seemed to attract the worst kind. Sure I was doing my best to hide the horn, but when we got stopped on the way to the school it wasn’t my horn, but my legs.

Why is that filly wearing stockings? She is much too young for such things!” Demanded a matronly mare with blond fur and a wild red mane that was all over the place. She also had an obscene amount of makeup on.

Mrs Baker, that’s fur. She’s a paint.” Lofty offered. “It grows that way on her. She’s just a little different. She was born that way.”

Mrs baker didn’t believe her and started going on about things being sinful.

Well, I can fly in a pinch, and Tammy is only an earth pony…

I took a few steps back, stretched my wings out a couple of times, readied for a takeoff, crouched down, and pictured myself doing the Neo super-powered take off. Feeling a tingling sensation in my horn, wings, and legs brought a huge grin to my face.

Boom!

Boo-ya!” I shouted as I soared upwards. I had magic!

Oh crap?!

I had magic.

I could feel myself stalling out. A moment later I was stationary hundreds of feet in the air, or is that horns based on the average horn length of a unicorn? I wondered momentarily what the metric conversion was as I slowly pitched backward, or if they might use Celestia’s horn length and if that was even practical if it was continually growing, but decided I just didn’t have time for such things as I watched the village below sidle into view. At least I knew the answer to the meaning of life and everything was forty-two.

Quickly, I twisted my body around the rest of the way to aim downwards. OK, I was maybe two hundred feet up. Higher would actually be better because it would give me more time to recover. I spread my wings as I began to descend, angled to pull myself out of the dive, and a moment later I was skimming over housetops with Lofty hot on my tail.

I see what has to be the schoolhouse, a little red one-room school, with a bell tower. Yep, that’s got to be it. I angle up to gain altitude, but I’m going way too fast. All I’m doing is gliding and barely in control at that.

Wow, that was some take off!” Lofty called as she came up alongside.

Lofty?”

Yes dear?”

I think I’m going a little too fast, and can’t remember how to land.” To be more precise I didn’t know how to slow myself down without stalling out.

Not a problem, maneuver onto my back, and I’ll do everything for you.”

So I maneuvered to her back, straddled her, but kept my wings out coming in like an X-wing Starfighter shifting to biplane configuration. I copied her movements just like how I used to do it with mom, and at the last moment, I let myself glide off, and come in for a perfect three-point superhero landing with my wings reaching for the sky.

The local pegasi foals were not impressed.

Was it the assist?

Hi Nova. Um, nice landing.” Apple Bloom offered as she approached.

Hey, Apple Bloom, you know this FA?” Asked a grey pegasus with a silver mane.

My horn was showing. Oh well, it was worth it to get away from that mare.

Ya, she helped out on the farm yesterday… after my pa got tore up.”

Is he doing any better today?” I ask as I stand up proper like.

Don’t know. Mom’s been gone all night.” Apple Bloom offered.

Apple Bloom, unless I come to collect Nova after school I want you to take her to the farm with you,” Lofty said as she stepped up.

Foal sitting again?” Apple Bloom asked.

Well I was asked to foal sit for the hired hooves while the harvest was being brought in, and no one’s said otherwise as of yet.” Lofty offered. “Nova, go in, introduce yourself, and no more takeoffs like that. Leastwise not without an adult pegasus who can catch you when you lose control.”

Yes mam,” I replied. There is just a hint of annoyance in my tone. Not that she wasn't right.“I’ll see you after school.”

Bye Nova,” Lofty said giving my head a pat.

Bye Miss Lofty, and thank you,” I replied and got a smile back in return. She turned away from me and trotted off presumably headed for the Apple farm.

That there was a fancy landing.” Offered Scootaloo as she approached. The fact that Scootaloo wasn’t presently staying with Lofty and Holiday suggested her wayward parents are home.

A privilege to meet you, I’m sure.” I offer while giving a curtsy.

Hey, Sweetie Belle, come meet the new filly,” Scootaloo called.

Miss Belle,” I say with a polite curtsy doing my best not to squee at the marshmallow filly. I also can't help but notice that Sweetie Belle seems to be at least a couple of years younger than Applebloom with Scootaloo somewhere between.

You wouldn't happen to be from Canterlot?” Sweetie Belle asked.

I… well...” I say not sure what I should say.

Sweetie, she doesn’t remember her past.” Apple Bloom interjected.

Oh,” Sweetie began, followed by switching gears, “Is that a unicorn horn?”

You got me, I’m a baby alicorn. I’m over a thousand years old.” I replied in a deadpan tone. Telling the truth when you know no one is going to believe it is always fun. At least I think it’s the truth.

Sweetie just stood there staring at me. Apple Bloom is giving me a calculated look.

I thought you said?” Apple Bloom asked.

To be officially declared an alicorn, Princess Celestia has to recognize me as such, would she not?” I counter just as the school mare starts ringing a handbell to get everyone to come in. Our school mare in this case was a donkey named Matilda. Our school mare was a Jenny. Handbell… well she’s got it in her mouth so I guess that makes it a mouth bell.

Well hello there, and are you joining us today?” Matilda asked.

Yes Mam. My Name is Nova Moon.” I replied respectfully. “I’ll be here for the foreseeable future.”

I’m applying to attend Celestia’s school for gifted unicorns,” Sweetie announced as she walked past.

Well, that’s good to know,” I say as I follow her into the school. “Perhaps I’ll apply as well.”

Oh please, we all know that’s a false horn.” Diamond Tiara countered.

I wouldn't be too sure about that,” Apple Bloom cautioned.

"Like a blank flank your age would know anything," Diamond countered.

Diamond has her cutie mark already and she is specifically calling out Apple Bloom for not having her cutie mark at her age. Something to file away for later I imagine.

Seats every pony,” Matilda ordered as she followed us in. “Miss Nova, there are some empty seats in the back.

Thank you,” I say as I head for an empty seat.

Miss Matilda introduced me, took role, and then asked for every pony to hand in their take-home assignments. Handing out new assignments took a while due to the schoolhouse being a mixture of grade levels.

I sat quietly. I didn’t as yet have anything to do. Spotting a history book I wanted to look at, I held out my hoof visualizing myself doing the Jedi thing, I could feel my horn tingling, a soft blue glow enveloped the book, it slowly levitated, and began drifting towards me.

Nova, you can do magic?” Ms Matilda asked.

My concentration interrupted the book hit the floor with a loud slam!

Well… maybe kinda sorta,” I replied sheepishly. “Was that magic I was doing?” OK, I knew it wasn’t the Force, but then again maybe Equestrian magic was kind of like the force. “I’m sorry, I didn’t have anything to do yet, and thought maybe I’d look at the history book.”

I was going to get you a workbook in just a moment. What grade level are you at?” Matilda asked.

Grade level. Oh, gods above. Let's see, six years of primary school, then middle school, then high school, then college, then Officer Training…

She probably doesn’t remember.” Apple Bloom offered. “Wasn’t that right, Nova?”

Ah, yes, my memories are kind of scrambled,” I replied. “I thought maybe the history book might help fill in some gaps.”

Well, I tell you what. Let's have you start with some easy stuff.” Matilda offered and brought me a workbook. “Let me know if you need any help.”

I flipped open the workbook easy enough and then went to get one of my pencils from my saddlebag.

How in heaven and John Cena’s name was I going to get that slippery thing out of my bag? What was that, how’d I eat breakfast? Like a dog. Or fox if you like. I stuck my snoot into the bowl. Lofty and Holiday didn’t seem to think that was an issue. Granted they did somehow manage to get their tableware to stick to the bottom of their hooves…

I had to concentrate on the item I wanted. I couldn't just grope around hoping to find what I wanted. Which is what I generally did. Heck, I was a grandmother. I had a bottomless purse. I’d find all manner of things in there. Nothing like finding forgotten candy when your stuck sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.

Success!

And I dropped it.

Four times before getting it out of the bag.

Three more times to get it up off the floor.

The lead was broken.

Here, let me.” Offered an alabaster earth filly with a red curly mane next to me. She took the pencil to a sharpener and then brought it back along with something for me to put on my hoof.

What’s that?”

Put it on your hoof. It holds the pencil for you.”

Thank you. What’s your name?”

My name’s Twist.”

Thanks Twist,” I replied as I slipped on the grip.

I then set to the workbook. It was easy enough. Read a section, answer the questions. Using the grip wasn’t quite the same as writing with a hand, but then it was far better than I had done with hands crippled by arthritis.

Oh sweet Celestia,” Matilda said a short time later as she looked over my work.

Is something wrong?” I ask.

Only that you've written a number of your answers in old Ponish.”

And that’s a bad thing I gather.”

Afraid so. Relatively speaking that is. Afraid Old Ponish was never one of my better subjects. Never thought I’d need to know it.” She then looked over to Sweetie. “Miss Sweetie, you want to go to Celestia’s school for gifted unicorns, let's see if you can straighten Nova out.”

Sweetie huffed but knew there was no way she could get out of helping me. Little did I know, I was considered handicapped because of that horn. Technically I was, but not because I was a pegasus who’d been unlucky enough to have been born with a horn, but because I was still feeling the effects of a thousand years in limbo. Assuming I’d been in limbo. I was still fairly sure I’d lived as a human, but then as a human, I had hands and no magic to speak of. And now I had magic but no hands. If only I could have landed in an anthro version of Equestria.

Sweetie pulled up a chair next to mine, and we slowly proceeded to fix my Ponish.

Who are you?” Sweetie asked during the lunch break. It was a much-needed break, but a daisy sandwich and a bottle of apple juice left something to desire.

Still hungry,” I replied.

I said who, not what!” Sweetie protested.

Even exasperated, Sweetie was just way too cute.

You're fluent in old ponish, and struggling with modern ponish. Explain?” Sweetie demanded.

I wish I could give you a satisfactory answer, but I can’t,” I protested.

Sweetie, something tells me the whole thousand-year-old baby alicorn might be closer to the truth than anything else she’s told us.” Apple Bloom offered.

Oh don’t be silly. She’s no older than we are.” Sweetie countered.

Suit yourself then,” I reply with a smirk.

Muffin?” offered a grey unicorn with a blond mane and tail.

Thank you, good genteel mare,” I reply as I accept the offering of muffin goodness.

My name's Dinky Hooves. How do you do?”

A little less hungry, thanks to you.”

So what was that landing you did?” Dinky asked.

Why that’s in case I’ve got to take off again really fast,” I bluff.

Looked to me more like you screwed up your landing,” Scootaloo commented.

Alright fine, I’m a little rusty… still learning really,” I offer.

At least she can fly.” Diamond Tiara quipped. Silver Spoon was right at her side.

Hey, I’m just not ready yet, OK?” Scootaloo protested.

Don’t feel too bad,” Ditsy offered. “I heard false alicorns couldn't even fly.”

And how’s that supposed to help?” Scootaloo asked.

Would you believe I did a bottle rocket take off?” I asked, hoping to break the tension that was building.

No way?!” Said the grey pegasus with a dark grey mane. “Names Rumble. - Show us.”

That’s specifically what Miss Lofty told me not to do. At least not without a proficient flier who can catch me when I stall out and lose control,” I replied sheepishly. “Which I did.”

Then why’d you do it in the first place?” Apple Bloom asked.

To get away from a crazy mare who was going on about the coloration of the fur on my legs being sinful,” I explained.

Say no names, I know exactly who you are talking about.” Sweetie offered.

It was right about then that Ms Matilda came out and rang the bell for us to all come back in. I filed in with everyone and took my seat, only instead of doing my workbook it was time for the group lesson starting with geography. A good deal of which was brand new even if I was familiar with the basic form of the kingdom. But then again all I knew was a map that might as well be a tourist map. Spelling and grammar were giving me conniptions because I kept falling back into old ponish. And no, I don’t know why I’m doing that. After that came math. Math at least proved easy for me. If anything, I was likely far in advance of everyone there.

Miss Nova...” Matilda called as I was about to follow Apple Bloom out the door.

Yes, mam?” I was surprised when she hoofed over a small book.

It’s a primer on magic.” Matilda offered. “I thought you might like to read it.” She said with a smile. “You know, ponies like you aren’t supposed to be able to do magic, and even though I can’t teach you any, I thought you might like to read this book. Maybe prove the neigh-sayers wrong. And you might try asking our new librarian at the library for tips. Her name's Twilight Sparkle.”

Thank you. I will treasure it.” I replied and then I took hold of the book in my mouth and placed it in my bag. “Hey, Apple Bloom, wait up!”

Well, hurry it up. I’ve chores to get to.” Apple Bloom called as she went out the door. A moment later we were joined by Scootaloo and Sweetie.

What did she give you anyway?” Apple Bloom asked a few minutes later as we trotted down the lane to the Apple Farm.

A magic primer,” I say with my excitement barely contained.

Do you think you’ll be able to do magic?”Sweetie asked.

I know I will. It’s just a matter of how much. - So what do you think, should I apply for Celestia’s school?”

What about coming to the young fliers camp?” Rumble asked as he dropped down next to us.

When is that?” I ask.

It’s coming up at the end of Summer.” he offered. “Right before the fall semester.”

What about Celestia’s school?” I ask.

Even if you do get in, you won’t be able to start till Septembmare.” Apple Bloom offered.

Well then I’ll just have to attend both,” I say as a flight of Palace pegasi goes soaring overhead. At the time I had no way of knowing that they were looking for me.

Apple Bloom stopped to watch them go by. Rumble and I stop as well.

Sure would have been nice if they’d been here yesterday.” Apple Bloom said softly.

Well they were kind of busy. What with all the excitement.” Sweetie offered as she and Scootaloo stopped to watch as well. “Rarity is a bearer of an element of harmony now.”

Applejack got one too,” Apple Bloom offered proudly.

Oh, and Rainbow Dash too,” Scootaloo announced.

So, do you know who else got one?” I asked.

Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Miss Sparkle.” Sweetie offered. “Speaking of which, that’s a rather interesting stone in your pendant.”

Just something my mom gave me a long time ago.” I offered. “It’s supposed to be enchanted to keep me safe. I made it out of the Everfree so I guess that means it still works.”

Chapter 5: Life in Ponyville

View Online

When we arrived at the farm, minus Rumble who suddenly remembered something he needed to do, we were greeted with a lot of activity.

Who are all these ponies?” I asked.

Why that thar is preg near half the Apple family come from all over Equestria ta help out.” Applejack informed me.

Thee apples sure doth pulleth togeth'r in a crisis.” I said with a smile.

And there you go again.” Apple Bloom teased while her sister gave me a funny look.

Behold, thee gaze upon thy hillbilly talketh and I’ll gaze mine own fusty ponish.”

Ye wana try that one more time-eth?” Apple Bloom asked looking confused.

It’s been a long day,” I say letting my head droop.

The day ain’t half done, and if you want victuals, you’ll be doing some chores.”

Oh is that Nova?” Called a mare.

Yes mam,” I replied.

You need to get on inside. Ms Lofty and Mayor Mare are waiting on you.”

I’ll be right in, thank you,” I say, and hurry on along wondering if this meant I’d be getting out of work. There was that book I wanted to get into after all. “See you later Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, Sweetie.”

Will I?” Apple Bloom asked.

Short of being whisked away by palace guards,” I call back.

Ha, ha, very funny.”



Inside I found Lofty talking to a tan Earth pony with two-tone pink mane and tail. “Hi, Lofty.”

Ah, dear, there you are. This is Ponyville Mayer, Meir Mare. Tell us how your day was?”

Hello Mayer Mare.” I offered, with a polite curtsy. No idea why I keep doing that, but for some reason, I thought it appropriate at this juncture. “It’s been a long day. I keep writing everything in old ponish.”

Oh dear.” Mayer Mare replied.

We were just discussing your future.” Lofty offered.

In the eyes of the law you are considered to be a special needs pony.” Mayer Mare began.

How exactly am I special needs?” I ask feeling just a little defensive. “Look, whatev'r it wast yond hath happened to me may has't me a dram behind the curveth, but I’m hardly special needeth.”

Oh dear.” Mayer Mare said.

She just does that when she’s frustrated or flustered.” Apple Bloom called from outside.

Of course it being a hot day, the doors and windows were open to let the airflow through the house. Not to mention flies and everything else. And yes, there were chickens in the bread pan picking out dough. Winona, Applejack's little brown and white border collie decided to come in to have a look at me and I called out to Granny, "Granny, does your dog bite?"

"Not my dog, you'll have to ask Applejack," Granny called back.

I let out a sigh. Winona seemed to be satisfied that I was alright to be there, turned, and walked back in the direction of chickens. I sure hope Winona doesn't do something I'm going to get blamed for. I decided to turn my attention back to the two mares waiting for me to say something. “I’m really not special needs. Just a little mixed up and underpowered.”

Well the thing is, even if you aren’t going to need help in the future, you are definitely at a disadvantage now.” Lofty offered. “Come. Sit.”

I slowly walked over to sit in a chair across from the sofa they are sitting on.

Because you are at a disadvantage, the Crown has decreed that ponies such as yourself be provided with an allowance to cover basic expenses. Administered by a guardian, and you get a scholarship to go to the school of your choice.”

Really?” I ask with a hint of excitement. I’d wondered how I’d pay for any of the things I wanted to do.

Did you have something in mind?” Mayer Mare asked.

I wanted to go to flight camp, and I want to apply to Celestia’s school for gifted unicorns.”

Dear, Miss Nova, normally you’d only be able to go to one School.” Mayer Mare offered. “Are you sure there isn’t something else you’d like to do that might be...” Here it comes. “..more attainable for some pony with your condition?”

I stretched my wings out.

She can fly. Quite well, but needs training so she doesn’t hurt herself.” Lofty offered.

Do, or do not,” I say softly as I held out my right hoof in the direction of the sofa. I close my eyes. “There is no try.” I concentrate. It’s not like I actually have to lift the thing. All I have to do is impress on Mayer Mare that I do have the ability to do magic.

I feel the tingling in my horn, my leg. I feel the stress of lifting. I slowly open my eyes to see… yes!

Before me are two very astonished mares sitting on a sofa that is levitating up off the floor some three horns distance in a pale blue aura.

And then my magic conked out with a big thump as the sofa returned to the floor accompanied by the sound of barking and frantic chickens.

What was that!” Granny asked as she stuck her head in the door. Lofty’s wings had shot out as well.

It’s alright, I just dropped the sofa,” I called.

Well what were ya picking up the sofa fer anyway?!” Granny asked.

Sorry, I won’t do it again,” I call to her. I had to smile. She just took me at my word and didn’t question what I just told her and seemed oblivious to the dog that was chasing chickens in the house. Trust me, I was sorely tempted to join in.

Lofty and Mayer Mare are just sitting there with their jaws hanging slack while oblivious to the dog chasing chickens in the back.

See that ya don’t,” Granny replied and went back to wherever she was headed in the first place.

OK … Alright… Ponies like you aren’t supposed to be able to do that.” Mayer Mare said once she’d regained her composure. “There’s still the problem of the funds only paying for one school. One vocation that is. Normally a pegasus would attend flight camp and move on to a vocational position from there. Pretty much the same for Celestia’s school. There is also an application process. First, we put in the request for an application. The request for an application must be accompanied by statements explaining why we think you would benefit from attending Princess Celestia's school. If they like what we have to say they will send out the official application and provide you a list of dates and times that you can come in to be evaluated. It's recommended that you go on the first day and be prepared to spend several days in Canterlot as evaluations are first come first serve. If they like what they see you can expect to receive confirmation either on-site or in the mail. On-site is usually best.”

Well then, we’ll just have to go see Princess Celestia.” Lofty offered.

Celestia. I wasn’t sure if I was really ready for that. Even if it meant the possibility of being reunited with Luna. Then again, would mom even recognize me?

Mom… there I go again thinking of Luna as my mom. Maybe I shouldn't fight it.

Ya, I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.” That was going to be an interesting get-together and as I can hear Granny yelling at Apple Bloom I decide it's time I went out to help. “Say, why don’t I go help, Apple Bloom. That and if I don’t I’ll likely never hear the end of it.”

“No doubt about it,” Lofty offered. “That filly is an alicorn. She just doesn't have a handle on her abilities yet.”

“So what are we supposed to do?” Mayer Mare asked.

“We get her an audience with Princess Celestia.”

“In that case, I’d better go get a request off to Canterlot on the next train.”

"Mayer Mare trotted on back to town hall while I found Apple Bloom out in the orchard, and was bound and determined to learn apple bucking. Even though neither of us proved very good at it. Still, though, I had managed to keep up with Apple Bloom. As for Granny, Granny seemed to think the only reason Apple Bloom didn't have her cutie mark was that she wasn't applying herself enough. Never once taking into account that maybe Apple Bloom might need to find her cutie mark somewhere else. As for me, hell, I was worse than useless as far as Granny was concerned. I kind of got the feeling she thought that any pony, not an earth pony, was lacking in some way.

When Lofty and I returned home that evening, Holiday gave us the news that I was unregistered. Which is exactly what I expected. The news only helped to solidify that what was in my head was indeed correct as far as I knew. As for getting an audience with Princess Celestia, we’d been informed that we had been scheduled for next week, only to have the appointment time pushed back several times. Each delay coming a day or two before the time. Meanwhile, my flying was getting better thanks in part to tips from Rumble and I had memorized my magic primer within the first week. After that, the library had become a favored hang out. Twilight was there too, and always ready to answer questions. As to whether or not I was in any way related to Twilight, there just didn’t seem to be a connection other than the page boy bangs and identical stripes in our hair. That familial look was hard to ignore so Twilight made some inquiries of her family, but for whatever reason just didn’t clue into the idea that she should probably inform Princess Celestia about the young alicorn living in Ponyville. Granted that it was entirely possible she just dismissed me like so many others had and hadn't realized that false alicorns weren't supposed to be proficient in much of anything.

At least Bright Mac was doing better and would soon be out of the hospital. His improvements also brought about improvements in Granny's overall mood as well though she still had a tendency to make snarky little comments.

From there on life in Ponyville just went on like it always did. Though the townsfolk did like to brag up their new librarian. Which unfortunately lead to a bit of a confrontation when The Great and Powerful Trixie came to town.

Aw come on!” I shouted as I jump up onto Trixie’s stage. “She’s offering to do a traveling stage show. She’s not here to challenge any pony.” I protest in Trixie’s defense, and then as a side to Trixie, “Come on, haven't you ever worked a tough audience before?”

Not like this, no,” Trixie admitted.

Oh, I know, what if you did some tricks with a horn suppressor on?”

A horn suppressor?” Twilight asked. “I’m pretty sure that’s not how magic works.”

As a matter of fact Trixie does have a horn suppressor,” Trixie announced, ducked into her wagon, and reemerged a few moments later. “Well, Miss Princess Celestia's pet, care to verify that this is indeed a real horn suppressor?”

Where’d you get that?” Twilight asked perplexed. The guard didn't exactly give out horn suppressors.

The good sheriff of Dodge City was kind enough to present Trixie with a horn suppressor. Wonderful town, a shame Trixie’s new itinerary won’t allow her to go back there…. For a very long time. Now, place the ring on Trixie’s horn…” Twilight obliged and was quite stunned when Trixie proceeded to do a number of tricks.

It’s a trick, it has to be.” Twilight protested.

Care to try it?” Trixie asked.

A few moments later, urged on by the crowd, Twilight is now fumbling with the three-ring trick with a horn suppressor on. Granted that the trick is slight of hoof having nothing to do with any actual magic.

Nice tip there,” Trixie whispered to me as Twilight dropped the rings for the third time.

I wonder how long it’s going to take her to figure out what kind of magic uses neither horn nor wings?” I offered just loud enough for the ponies up front to hear. Eyes begin to widen in surprise and delight at the realization that a unicorn has been using Earth pony magic to do a magic show.

"To be true, it's all in the hooves," Trixie offered with a smug grin. Excellent tactile manipulation with the hooves was after all a trait of Earth Pony magic.

Wait what?” Twilight protested as she turned to look back at Trixie. And then pandemonium ensued moments after Snips and Snails announced that they lured an Ursa Major into town so Trixie can demonstrate how great and powerful she is.

That’s an Ursa Minor!” Trixie protested. Her years at Celestia’s school for gifted unicorns hadn’t been completely wasted. “I don’t know anything about baby Ursas!”

I’ve got this!” Twilight announced.

Not with that horn suppressor on you don’t!” I called. “Where’s Fluttershy, we need a lullaby!”

Chapter 6: The road to Canterlot

View Online

Miss Nova!” Sweetie called as she trotted on up to me. Apple Bloom was with her as well. School had just let out, and I was about to go to the courthouse to see if my scheduled appointment to petition Princess Celestia was still on. The harvest was winding down, so they wouldn't be needing me out at the farm either. Which was just as well as I'd become weary of Granny's snarky little comments. Not that she wasn't a loving pony, she just had a tendency to say things without thinking about what she was actually saying.

Hi Sweetie, hi Bloom.”

Did you get your date yet for testing?” Sweetie asked. "I've already got my application and test dates."

I’m to go see Princess Celestia tomorrow. If they don’t change it again. "I've got my test date same as you, but it won't do me any good if I can't afford to go.”

A pony would think they’d set a date and stick with it.” Apple Bloom offered. “You nervous?”

Yes. Very.” I replied. “And not for the reasons you’re thinking. The thing is...”

There’s a good chance you won’t be coming back. Isn’t there?” Sweetie offered. “You’re just like Princess Cadenza, and Princess Celestia will likely take you in herself.”

I suppose there is that possibility,” I replied with a sheepish grin. “Maybe that’s why she’s interested in ponies like me.”

Well then...” Sweetie began as she fished a parcel out of her bag. “I made you a little something. It can either be a going to see Princess Celestia present or a going-away present.”

Thank you,” I say as I take hold of it with my magic.

Go on open it.” Sweetie Belle prompted as Dinky joined us.

So is tomorrow the day?” Scootaloo asked as she approached us.

I was just on my way to the courthouse to find out. If it is, this may be the last time I see every pony together.”

Well, go on, and open up the present.” Sweetie prompted.

I gave her a smile, and slowly ripped the paper off the parcel. Well, I had to build the suspense even though I’d a good idea that it was more than likely a clothing item.

Please let it not be socks,” I say in a teasing tone.

Oh hush you.” Sweetie chastised.

Ooo velvet,” I say as the plush material is revealed to the light. The sun revealed the true color to be a deep midnight blue. I slowly unfolded it to discover that she’d made me a hooded traveling cloak with a silver border accented with crescent moons and stars with my cutie mark embroidered on both sides, with a silver lining inside. I put it on and then hugged Sweetie.

Rarity helped,” Sweetie offered.

Thank you. You’re the best.” I say as I release her. “I predict that someday you will become a world-renowned fashion designer.”

Darling, of course, I will, how could I not?” Sweetie protested while mimicking her sister.

You’ll get in Celestia’s school. Both you and who knows, maybe we’ll see Scootaloo there too. Wouldn't that be something? And I bet you’ll even get your cutie marks at the same time.” I offered.

I know we will.” Apple Bloom replied with a hopeful tone. “The cutie marks that is. “No way I’m getting in any school in Canterlot. Short of teaching potions when I’m older.” She lowered her voice conspiratorially, I’m taking lessons from a Zebracan Witchdoctor who lives on the edge of the Ever free.”

🏵

The next morning, saddlebags on my back, and my new cloak on, I am both surprised and delighted to find the whole school, and quite a few of the Ponyville residents there to see me off. Holiday and Lofty were going too, and equally surprised. Granted that Holiday was simply on her way to work. In a few short weeks, I’d gone from the stranger who wandered into town, to the home town filly about to strike out on an adventure. OK, they weren’t all there to see me off. There were quite a few, who like Holiday, had no issue with taking the hour and a half long train ride to commute to work. For many, it was a simple matter of economics. Most of the ponies getting on the train were low wage earners and simply could not afford to live comfortably anywhere closer.

I gave and received farewell hugs, and boarded the train. Holiday, Lofty, and I found ourselves a bench which we shared in an open passenger coach. The benches were meant for no more than two, but I was little, and commuter class was crowded. Sitting snug between the two mares was fine by me. Even if it did bind up my wings a bit.

Hey, what’s a pretty little unicorn like you doing sitting with those old nags?” Asked a white unicorn colt who’d wandered down the aisle. He was a few years older than me, blond mane, and had the look of someone who thought they were better than everyone.

Slumming. What’s your excuse for riding coach?” I replied with a sarcastic air. Lofty and Holiday were staring daggers at him. “You can afford to ride better than coach, can’t you?”

We’re her nannies.” Lofty offered with a smirk. Neither Lofty nor Holiday were anywhere near what I’d call old. But then I did have something of a warped perspective. I was also pretty sure that if this colt knew I had wings he’d be looking down at me worse than he was Lofty and Holiday.

Hang on, is that a moon amulet?” He asked.

Mmm, yes. Why?”

Those are illegal, give it here!”

Now see here!” Holiday protested as the colt attempted to snatch away my amulet with his magic.

Wrong move butty.

The light went out, the car went dark… the sun was up, but the car went dark anyway. It was like we’d rolled into a big black cloud.

Thunder shook the coach.

Ha ha ha Mwa ha ha ha!!!”

Fiendish laughter filled the coach.

Moonie?” I whispered with delight as I clutched at my pendant.

I am Nightmare Moon!” Echoed the words of the Night Mare.

A mist formed in the isle and turned into none other than the Night Mare herself.

And I am here to punish a naughty colt!!!

The colt in question took one look, peed himself, and passed out.

Lightweight,” Moonie replied and vanished.

Everything was back as it was prior to the brat showing up.

The coach was deathly quiet for a moment, the moment broken by my laughter.

What just happened?” Holiday asked.

Anti theft spell!” I called out and went right back to laughing.

Anti theft spell?” Some pony nearby echoed softly and then started laughing himself. Our laughter leads to more laughter, and soon the whole car was laughing.

Here now, what’s all this then?” Called the conductor as he entered the car.

Sorry, you had to be here,” I replied.

"And who is this on the floor?" the conductor demanded.

"No idea came in her being all unreasonable," offered one of the other passengers.

"Threw a temper tantrum, and held his breath till he passed out," Offered another. To my surprise, everyone in the coach went along with it. The Conductor let out a sigh, and then went to get a porter, they returned a few moments later and the as of yet unnamed colt was removed, our tickets checked, and the trip continued on without any more rude interruptions unless I counted the porter who had to clean up after that colt.

First time on a train?” Lofty asked.

I guess I’d have to say yes. But then I’m thinking no, I think I’ve been on a train before, just not this one.” I replied. At least it’s the first time to Canterlot by train.

So, ah, you care to explain what happened?” Holiday asked.

Mom put an anti-theft spell on my pendant in case any pony ever tried to take it from me.” I offer.

Then you know who your mother is after all.” Lofty replied.

I’d had a number of lucid dreams in the past week where Luna came to me to teach me how to dream walk. At first, I thought they were just that. Dreams. After I heard other foals talking about nightmares they’d had, and how a dark mare of the night would come and drive the monsters away. I started to realize that they weren’t dreams and that Luna had access to the dream realm. The only problem was that her astral form never made any indication that she knew who I was.

It’s complicated,” I said quietly. “If we get to meet with Princess Celestia I may be able to explain better.”

Complicated.” Holiday said softly as I looked out the window.

The train soon left the valley floor of the Avalon river which flowed down out of the lonely mountain known as the Canterhorn. Higher and higher we climbed until Canterlot and the Celestial falls came into view. There before us climbed the towers of Canterlot and the ascending rings of the city. And then the train curved around behind a mountain, and we would not see the city again until the very last stretch of the line.

Far over the misty mountains cold,” I whispered. I knew that Canterlot city was but the tip of the iceberg of former Unicorn glory. I knew of the mines delved deep inside the mountain, and of the crystal caverns. As we approached the walls I could see banners and pennants flying on the wind.

Splendour was the city of Canterlot. Far greater than any memory or imagining of mine or artist.

Kind of takes your breath away doesn’t it?” Lofty offered.

It brings to mind tales of a similar lonely mountain rich in gold, and adorned in splendor. Such was the wealth and decadence of those who lived in the place that it attracted a great wyrm. A dragon of monstrous proportions who drove the inhabitants away and kept the wealth for its own hoard.” I offer as we slowly rolled into Canterlot terminal. “But then they didn’t have Princess Celestia.”

So what became of the dragon?” Lofty asked.

The children of the former inhabitants returned and killed the dragon to reclaim their ancestral home. But the wealth didn’t last long. Within a few generations, they’d squandered it all. But that was just a story.”

The train came to a stop, followed shortly by deboarding. Those in our car filed out slowly as they contemplated everything they’d seen and heard on the way. I stepped down from our coach and marveled at the splendor.

A pony could fit the entire palace of the sisters in this place,” I said in awe. My reverie is broken by the sound of a familiar colt insisting he’d seen Nightmare Moon. No pony was going to back him up, and it ended up making him look crazy. “Come on, let's get out of here,” I say on hearing some pony calling him young Lord Prince Blueblood. I pull my hood over my head. The train trip has left me weary. Perhaps it’s the inactivity of sitting so long crammed between two ponies.

I’ll see the two of you later?” Holiday asked.

I’ll be sure to swing by one way or the other.” Lofty offered and gave her a kiss before we split up. Holiday had to go to work. Holiday didn’t really have that far to go as she worked in a travel center not too far from the station where the business she worked at was located. As for Lofty and myself, we had several flights of stairs to climb to get to a tram that would take us to the top ring and the seat of government where Celestia’s castle was located. It was also expensive. But worth it.

From the tram station we’d but a short way to go.

Reason for visiting Canterlot Castle?” A unicorn guard asked us a short time later at the main gates.

I’m here to petition Princess Celestia,” I answer as I pull my hood down.

Sure you are.” He said dryly.

But I am. It’s about an issue I have with a scholarship restriction.”

It’s the scholarship for a certain type of disadvantaged pony.” Lofty offered as she showed him her copy of the paperwork for the audience. It’s been nearly three moons since we filed the petition.

What? Oh, alright.” The guard replied. “I apologize. For a moment I thought you were one of them black and whites who keep showing up ever since that rumor started.”

Rumor?” I ask.

There is a rumor that Princess Celestia was hoping to find a certain black and white filly, and ever since then we’ve been getting ponies bringing us black and white fillies claiming they found the one she’s looking for.”

Nova, you don’t suppose…?” Lofty asked.

We did all the appropriate paperwork. If it was me she was looking for she’d have known where to look.” My tone hints at annoyance, anger, and hurt. Far as I knew she should have known I was in Ponyville, and just didn’t bother. Short of the petition, or the paperwork registering me never making it to her desk. The other option was that Luna didn’t remember me and Princess Celestia didn’t want to open old wounds.

And why would she be looking for you?” The guard asked suspiciously.

No idea,” I replied while shrugging my wings under my cloak.

Ahhh...” One of the pegasus guards said and walked over. “So, um, what’s under the cloak?” He asked.

Aren’t I a little young for you to be hitting on me?” I teas.

Oh right, disadvantaged pony,” the unicorn guard said as a light flicked on in his head. A big smile formed on the face of the pegasus.

Hang on, where’d you get the pendant?” The gate captain asked on spotting my pendant.

My mother gave it to me,” I replied. It even had my cutie mark. “Is there a problem? I already had some colt on the train try to tell me it was illegal.”

It’s not illegal, it’s just that they are a restricted item.” He said while lighting up his horn. A moment later he’d taken a step back thanks to a flash of static electricity. “Sweet Celestia it’s legit!?”

I let out a sigh.

Nova, is there something you should be telling me?” Lofty asked.

It’s not something I should discuss here at the gate.” I offer.

No, no, of course not.” The gate captain confirmed. He then leaned over to the unicorn guard and whispered, “Notify command that we have a possible pinnacle in progress.”

What?” I ask as I give him a confused look. Suddenly all the guards at the station snap to attention. “Mmmm kay.”

If you could just direct us to where we need to go?” Lofty asked as I hear the word ‘pinnacle’ being repeated.

Yes, of course, someone will be along shortly.” The gate captain offered.

Seems a lot of fuss over a scholarship request.” Lofty pointed out. “What’s a pinnacle anyway?”

An architectural spire, a peak, summit, at the top of one’s profession, apex, crest, head, crown...” I let my words trail off the last coming out as almost a whisper.

Oh,” Lofty replied and said no more.

Two more unicorn guards showed up and offered to escort us. Being I saw no other alternative beyond turning around and making a dash for it, Lofty and I did as requested. The guards directed us past several cues and checkpoints along the way. Past several government buildings, and up a long narrow walkway and through another gated wall. This time the gate passed through a small chamber that required a ninety-degree turn through another gate. Once inside we found ourselves inside a large court, or bailey, with an enormous keep at the far end and several large buildings with stained glass windows framing the open area. Everything looked very grand indeed.

Wow, it’s almost as fancy as the rail terminal.” I teas. I’m delighted to see a hint of a smile from our escorts.

Our escorts take us inside the keep to a reception desk where there is a young mare, maybe a little older than Lofty waiting at a desk. She is grey with a purple and white striped mane and tail. I know my pony form always looked a lot like a cross between Twilight Velvet and Twilight Sparkle, heck I designed her that way what with the page boy cut, and Twilight Sparkle's colored stripes in mane and tail. Granted that Nightlight Sparkle looked more like Luna, there was still a considerable family resemblance between Luna, the Sparkles, the Velvets, and myself. I wondered if the Velvet line was also related to Luna. After all, I did have a brother. I should probably say had. I had a brother. Hell I didn’t just lose my mother, and brother, I lost everyone back on Earth I called friend or family. Not to mention all my books and precious mementos. I try not to think about it. If I let myself think about it I’ll be overwhelmed.

Can I help you?” Twilight Velvet asked as the guards did a double-take between us. “And for that matter, should I know you?”

Distant cousins I’d suspect,” I said with a smile. “Kitsumi Nova Moon here to petition Princess Celestia.”

Alright, I’ll just walk your paperwork into Princess Celestia. There is a waiting area right through there where you can wait.”

Thank you,” I reply, and Lofty echoed me. We then walked over to the doorway that had been pointed out to us, entered, and found a place to sit. Though to be honest I was afraid to sit down considering how nice the furniture was. I’d no doubt everything was likely as old as I was.

Chapter 7: I wasn't ready!

View Online

Mrs Sparkle located the file for Nova and entered into the grand audience hall where a number of applicants and senators were already gathered. Each in turn waiting their turn to argue for something they wanted. She went forward and waited a few paces behind the pony that was in the dock. The 'hot seat' it was sometimes called even though there was no seat.

“That’ll be all thank you, I will take your petition into consideration. Thank you.” Princess Celestia said in a tone of voice that came very close to I wish you would just buck off already. The pony in the dock, their ears now flat, backed up, bowed, turned, and went to sit in an open seat.

“Velvet, have you something?”

“Yes, your highness. A petition by one Kitsumi Nova Moon...” Velvet looked over the file. “She wishes to go to flight camp and apply to your school for gifted unicorns. Apparently, she’s on a special needs scholarship, but it doesn’t allow her to pursue both avenues of education.”

“She’s an ambitious little filly, wants to fly and learn to cast magic?” teased a wit in the court.

“She was brought up straight away by the guard ahead of her assigned group.” Velvet informed her.

“What...” Celestia’s interest had been piqued. “Commander Steadyhoof, what’s going on?”

“I’m to understand the filly in question has both horn and wings and is sporting a genuine royal herald's medallion of the Night Court. A moon medallion to be exact. The Captain of the gate thought it best to declare a possible pinnacle alert, and she was brought straight here.”

“Nova, did you say?” Celestia asked.

“Yes, your highness,” Velvet offered, took a glance at the paperwork, “..daughter of one Luna Moon. The family name is Athelas.” Claiming the name Athelas was certainly new. "I believe she's the same filly Twilight wrote me about."

“Mostly white with some black?”

“Yes, Ma’am. Another black and white. She isn't claiming to be anyone, and it seems that all she wants is her scholarship.”

Celestia’s eyes grew wide, “Where is she?”

“Waiting in the alcove across from the reception desk.” Velvet informed her.

🎠

Hi, what’s your name?” asked a pink young mare at the door. I looked up to see both wings and a horn. This just had to be Cadance. She had a big smile for me.

Cadance?” I know her, of course, I know her, but do I know her from the show, or … how do I know her outside the show? That shouldn't even be possible? Age-wise she could be an elder sister or even old enough to be my own mother. This being post return of Nightmare Moon she's likely in her early twenties.

Funny, that’s my name too.”

Oh, no, sorry, my name is Nova. I just recognized you, that’s all. Want to be friends?” Recognized her. – I’d swear we were foal hood friends. The same age even. Just what exactly is going on here? Why is she so much older than I am now? Who am I kidding, she's been here longer.

Yes,” Cadance said and trotted into the room. “I’d love to be your friend.”

I got up from my seat, met her halfway, and then she froze.

Funny, you kind of remind me of a little pegasus I knew a long long time ago.” Cadence offered.

I can still remember how that music used to make me smile,” I replied in song while extending my wings out from under my cloak to show her. Meanwhile my mind is filling in holes again. Yes I do know her.

What?” Her eyes grew wide. “I know you, I’m sure. I don’t understand?”

I don’t either. - But how? I mean I’d heard there was a Princess Cadenza here, but you, that is the Cadenza I knew vanished with the Crystal Empire? And I’d say it’s a safe bet that I was that filly you remember. My mom got in a big fight with Aunt Tia, I got in the line of fire, and found myself transported hundreds of years into the future. Maybe it was something similar with you?” My mind was rapidly putting broken pieces together to form a seemingly impossible story. And no, I’m not about to tell her about my human life.

Then I guess you just might be my old playmate.” Cadance offered but had nothing more she could say so decided to let a hug do the talking for her.

You two know each other?” Lofty asked.

Apparently. I think we are cousins.” I offer as I slowly break from the hug. “She’s Princess Amore’s daughter, and if I’d have known she was the same pony I’d have tried to see her long before now.”

My emotions are on edge. Good god, they are on edge. I feel like I could come unglued at...

Celestia.

Princess Bucking Celestia just walked into the bucking room!

Right about now is when all the tabloid headlines speculating on Princess Luna's present state go flooding through my mind. Half the articles had Luna under house arrest while others suggested that the reason she hasn't been seen is because she'd been added to a garden. They didn't actually say in what state mom had been added only that she was now part of the garden. Others were saying that she was still Nightmare Moon and had to be locked away while others claimed that sources within the Castle said that she wasn't in her right mind. My rational mind knew that supermarket newspapers were not the most reliable source of news, the trouble was that my rational mind had decided to take a leave of absence at that precise moment.

My mind snapped. It just snapped. Pretty sure the pupils of my eyes just went down to pinpricks because I’ve got tunnel vision big time. Hell, the last time I saw her she was bent on the destruction of my whole family. At least that's what it looked like to the eyes of a foal who could not comprehend what was going on.

I was prepared to face her in the court where there would be witnesses, but having her walk in on me like this before I’ve got a chance to steal my nerves. I’m not ready for this! Why is she even here?

Images of the fight between Celestia and Luna are flashing through my mind, and I find myself doing the one thing any self-respecting fox would do in the presence of their betters. I collapse to the floor, cry, and grovel as I’m hit with a full-blown panic attack. I’m probably babbling too. A moment later Cadance is by my side covering me with her wing. Lofty lays down by my other side in an effort to reassure me that everything is going to be alright.

Princess Celestia, please, you’re scaring her.” Cadance pleads.

“Well, that certainly could have gone better.” Offered a white unicorn pony with a dark brown mane and tail.

“Raven, I don’t want to hear it,” Celestia replied softly. She is presently in her tea room with a pot of tea. Court has been recessed for the rest of the morning. Her mane and tail are uncharacteristically droopy.

“So, you know that filly?”

“Yes.”

“And when was the last time she saw you?”

“I was banishing her mother to the moon.”

“You don’t mean to say she’s Nightmare Moon’s daughter?”

“Luna, her name is Luna.” Celestia corrected sharply. “And it was my fault. It was all my fault. I’d been conned into thinking my sister was plotting against me.”

“Was she?”

“She was out of control,” Celestia said defensively. “She definitely had leanings towards the dark side… and no, not unless you count planning a surprise party. Is it any wonder why she has secluded herself in her rooms?” Her tone had gone soft. “I was inexperienced in the ways of politics and back door intrigue. There was a plot, but it wasn’t being orchestrated by my sister. In the end, I was the one who pushed her over the edge.”

“Perhaps if you could explain this to Miss Nova?”

“How am I to explain it to her if she turns into a quivering mess every time...”

“Stop!” Raven glared at Celestia. “She was obviously prepared to face you, but on her terms.”

“I blew it didn’t I?”

“You did indeed.”

“Princess Celestia?” Cadance inquired from the doorway.

“Cadence, come in. And haven't I told you to call me Aunt Celestia?”

“Why didn’t you tell me Princess Amore was my mother?” Cadence asked as she slowly entered.

“Cadance?” Celestia asked.

“Nova and I were friends when we were very small. I remember her. She remembers me. Why is she so afraid of you?”

“I’m sorry.” Princess Celestia replied. “I suppose it’s time for that discussion.” She placed her tea down. “How is Nova?”

“She says she’s sorry, and that she just wasn’t ready.” Cadance offered. “Other than that, she is resting in my room. Ms Lofty is with her.”

“The thing is, her mother is my sister.”

“You mean Princess Luna?”

“Princess Luna, though I don’t know if you remembered her or not.”

“I remember Nova, but I only remembered her after I saw her. Princess Luna… She’s not the mare I remember.”

“Luna had all her power stripped from her by the elements and was reduced to the age of a filly. I never told you about your mother because I didn’t think you needed to know about a pony that is long gone.” Celestia offered.

“What happened to me?”

“You’ve read up on King Sombra, haven't you?”

“I have.”

“Sombra wasn’t always a bad pony, but he was obsessed with becoming an alicorn. Obsessed with immortality. How you came to end up in that little village you’d been living in I can only speculate. I don’t even know by what process you became an alicorn. And it appears Nova became an alicorn as well.”

“I can’t quite be certain, but I think she’s always had a horn.” Cadence offered. “Just a really little one no pony ever paid attention to. I always had a little horn as well. It just got bigger when I overpowered Prismia, and then I found myself on the ascension plane where you found me.”

“I see,” Celestia replied as though she had an epiphany.

“What of Nova? What caused her horn to grow?”

“Nova got caught in the crossfire between myself and my sister. I’m unaware if she’s fully ascended or not.”

“I didn’t even know you had a sister until you brought Princess Luna home. - So much of my past is nothing more than little snippets of information that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without the proper context.”

“I was so determined to punish my sister that I no longer cared who got caught in the crossfire. Nova got caught in the spell that sent Luna to the moon.” Celestia said as she looked down at her teacup. “That’s why Nova had a panic attack when I walked in on her unannounced. The last time she saw me I wasn’t being a very nice pony.”

“Hang on, if Nova is back? Were there others involved?”

“She was on the periphery. Luna was dead center. Luna even tried to use her magic to push Nova clear. Even under the full sway of Nightmare Moon, her last act was an attempt to keep her foal safe. I have had nightmares about that night ever since. And yes, there were others. Our new captain of the Night watch is one of Luna’s Shadowbolts.”

“Oh,” Cadance said quietly.

“Hang on, Kibitz?” Celestia called.

“Yes, your majesty?” Asked a light alabaster unicorn in a dark green foot colt’s uniform who’d been standing by in the hall.

“Kibitz, go and see to it that Commander Mouse is informed that Princess Nova Moon is on the premises and could use a familiar face who she trusts.”

“Ma’am?”

“Go on. She’ll not likely bite at the sound of this news.” Celestia pressed.

“Y-yes mam,” Kibitz replied, turned, and hurried out again.

“Who is this Commander anyway? I hear she’s been running the guard ragged. Is she really a Shadowbolt?” Cadance asked.

“She came within hooves of assassinating me,” Celestia replied, her mood now lifted. Raven just rolled her eyes.

“What? So you reward her by putting her in charge of the night wing?”

“She’s a genuine Shadowbolt, not one of the fakes we keep having issues with, but the real thing. The best of the best.” Celestia began. “She had been caught in the beam from the elements of harmony as well. Stole into my chambers in the middle of the night with thoughts of doing me harm when she realized she couldn't do it.”

“Are you saying that once she had the opportunity, she didn’t have the will to commit murder?” Cadance was horrified at the thought that any pony would even contemplate such an act.

“I’d have to say it was more along the lines of coming to the realization that any harm done to me would affect all of Equestria. Whatever her opinion of me and my actions may have been, she has a duty to protect the innocents of Equestria.”

“Oh. - Aunt Celestia?”

“Yes?”

“Let's put aside the fact that Nova is going to have trust issues. Don’t you think you should maybe tell Luna about Nova?”

Celestia let out a long-drawn-out sigh.

“And possibly praise her once in a while?”

“But I do?”

“Not that I’ve seen. Any time I’ve been there when she’s accomplished something it’s like you expected her to accomplish her task.”

“Well, I do expect her to accomplish her tasks. About the only thing she seems incapable of accomplishing is making friends.”

“Any time she is not otherwise buried in a book the only ponies around her are royal court staff or stuck up nobles who just want to use her as a stepping stone. It’s Sunset all over again. And don’t think I don’t get my fair share of nobles and ladder climbers with wealthy families who just want to use me to bolster their own standing. I’d like to say I have friends, I do try, but I can’t really say I have true friends. Not like I had back … back home. If this horn on my head were to suddenly evaporate, and you dismissed me from the castle, I’m fairly sure the vast majority would drop me like a hot rock covered in spiders.”

“I’m sorry. I guess I never realized how difficult it must be for you.” Celestia offered in a consolatory tone. “And your right, I should tell Luna … it’s just, I’m not so sure she will even remember Nova.”

Chapter 8: A rocky reunion , a mini Woona, and did you say chicken?

View Online

I suppose I’ll have to reschedule and try again,” I say softly from Cadance’s bed. I’m laying on my back with my hoofs to the ceiling. “Lofty? You’ve been mighty quiet.”

Princess Celestia apologized to you. - I’m trying to understand.”

Let's just say that if I am not a genuine bonafide alicorn, I’m pretty darn close.” I let my legs go limp as I turn my head to look at her with my hind legs straight out and my front in the bunny paws position.

But how?” She can’t resist the smile from the upside-down filly. Namely me.

Princess Celestia is my aunt. I’m her sister’s daughter. I am Nightmare Moon’s daughter.”

I didn’t even know she had any actual family. I mean outside of the Platinum bloodline, though I’ve often wondered if the claims that family makes have any validity.”

I couldn't rightly say. I mean there are some really big gaps in my memories of, well the time before I found myself in the present. If she is related by blood it likely happened after mom and I got banished.”

You remember the crystal empire.”

I do. I was maybe six or seven when the Crystal Empire vanished taking my best friend with it.” I offer. “I’d completely forgotten. It’s like something I made up. Writing by the seat of my pants making it up as I go sort of stuff.” I get up, and have a look about the room, and then out the window. “I’m guessing we are on the third or fourth floor above the ground floor?”

You spooked pretty bad.”

I just wasn’t ready. The last time I saw her she and my mom were in a knock-down fight.” I go to the bedroom door, open it slowly to discover a small sitting room. There are two doors in addition to the bedroom door. I walk out picking one at random and discover a hallway. There are a pair of guards on watch at the end of the hall.

I decide to close the door and check the other. Cadence has her very own privy and vanity. What, no bath? In my memories of the place, this would likely have been a guard room or government office. But that was back before any of the numerous buildings that had been erected in the past thousand plus years. Back then it was the keep, the first surrounding wall, and a small village. Looking in at the toilet is also all it takes to realize that I'm overdue...

I get the feeling your getting antsy.” Lofty offered a short time later after I'd freshened up.

I feel like a cat in a new home,” I reply. “I’m familiar with the keep from the outside, well sort of, but there are buildings that weren’t there and the inside is all brand new. - I’m also going to have an issue with my scholarship if I don’t buck up and face my aunt.”

Nova?”

What?”

Language.”

Lan… oh! Sorry, that used to mean build up the courage.”

Oh, alright, but you’re going to need to be careful of what you say.”

Ponies used to live a lot rougher,” I offer as I head back to the door that opens into the hall. “And let's keep in mind I have to make a conscious effort to use the modern dialect.”

Where are you going?” Lofty asks as I head out into the hall.

Well, unless some pony stops me, I thought we might go downstairs and try again?”

I don’t think it works that way?” She says as she follows me.

We didn’t even get our hearing. I need to screw up my courage, and face my aunt.”

We continued down the hallway passing several opulent chambers, and came to stop at a large tea room where a unicorn maid and hoof colt stood by outside the room. Hoof colt: pony version of a footman. Inside we found Cadance and Princess Celestia having tea, along with a unicorn pony who appeared to be a secretary whom I wasn’t familiar with just standing by.

Um, hello.” I offered nervously.

Won’t you please join us?” Celestia asked as kindly as she could.

I slowly walked in and sat in a chair that would place Cadance between myself and Celestia. Lofty sat in a chair opposite of myself so that she ended up right next to Celestia. Every last one of us seemed nervous.

Celestia let out a heartfelt sigh. “Nova, what happened between your mother and me was the biggest mistake of my life.”

All I could do was smile and nod. My memories from before were telling me that Celestia had always been a little distant.

Would you like some tea?”

Yes please,” I replied, and Lofty indicated she’d like some too. A moment later the maid and the foot colt came in and prepped us both some black tea.

Reminds me of the tea that came from Mistmane’s family plantation,” I commented after taking a sip. It truly doesn't feel like it's been that long for me. My hooves are shaking so I decide I'd better set the tea down.

It does taste a bit like the tea they grew. It’s been such a long time for me.” Celestia replied. “The tea of the Mountain Mist clan is hard to come by these days.”

It’s difficult for me to comprehend,” I say as I reflect on my memories. It seems like it was just the other day. - Aunt Tia," I'd always called her Aunt Tia though I feel like I'm taking a huge risk. Mom called her Tia when it was just family and she seemed to like the little bit of informality, that taste of family that you just can't get from anyone. Granted that back then we seldom had servants hovering nearby. "What of my scholarship request? I’m kind of running out of time.”

Consider your educational needs funded.” Offered the unicorn secretary who'd been standing by.

Thank you, mam...” I give her an inquisitive look and slowly pick up my cup again. I breathe in the aroma and allow the scent of the tea to calm my nerves. She seems rather young to be the Secretary to the Princess.

Raven. Raven Inkwell. I’m actually fairly new here.”

Really?” I ask, my spirits lifting. Keeping young people around her may be an indication of a desire to be surrounded by people with fresh ideas who aren't mired in tradition.

Auntie Celestia!” called a voice from somewhere in the keep.

A cold shiver ran down my spine and I quickly put my cup down. I know that voice. I cast a glance at my aunt to discover a rather pained look on her face. I’m fairly sure my ears went flat and my nervousness is coming back.

Auntie!?” Called the voice of an adult stallion.

I look in horror as the same colt from the train strides into the room accompanied by a pony that absolutely has to be Prince Blueblood. He has all the airs of someone convinced they have the authority of God almighty backing them up as well.

Auntie?” I say a gasp. “Please tell me I’m not related to him?”

You!” Exclaims the colt on spotting me. He points a hoof at me. “Auntie, arrest her! She’s in league with the cultists! She even summoned Nightmare Moon on the train!”

Summoned Nightmare Moon?” Celestia asked. “Now Prince, what have you been told about exaggerations?”

Ant Tia, as much as I hate to defend this villtr colt, there’s an anti-theft spell that mom put on my amulet that creates a projection of herself in armor. He attempted to take my amulet without due process or warrant.” Prince junior is too incensed to say anything at this point, and Prince Blueblood senior isn't quite sure what to make of me and has likely decided to wait and see. I'm betting that neither knows that villtr means foolish.

Wait, what? Seriously?” Celestia asked as a devilish smile formed on her face.

I remove the amulet and pass it over to her. “Try not to mess with it too much,” I say while holding back a grin. After all, wasn’t it Celestia that brought out my playful NPC's better qualities? No sooner did she take it than Moonie appeared behind her and stuck her holographic tong in Celestia’s ear. Somehow or another the spittle was real enough.

Gaaaaa!” Celestia cried.

Prince and his son both fainted, and the staff turned white as sheets.

I bust up laughing. Mom and my aunt loved to prank each other and the prank has got me feeling a lot better.

Ha! She got you!” I exclaim delightedly but sober up just as fast. “Aunt Tia? Are you alright?” Celestia was not alright.

I should have known there would be a prank loaded into it.” Celestia offered with tears streaming down her face.

She’s alright, isn’t she?” I asked. “I’m not going to ask to see her, only...”

She’s well. The elements stripped her of her magic and reduced her to a filly a little younger than Cadance. The thing is, I think it affected her memory as well. I don’t think she remembers you.” Celestia offered as the holographic alicorn dropped its ears and attempted to console Celestia by nuzzling her. She was perplexed to find she had no solidity and then attempted to correct.

I felt faint. “My memories have been a bit jumbled," I'd offered but stop as the pull on my magic became more than I could manage, "Moonie, Moonie no, I can’t support that much energy right now.” I knew immediately what was going on, and understood why she hadn’t shown at the palace of the two sisters. Both of us had been all but stripped of magical energy by the elements of harmony. Moonie looked at me, frowned, and then vanished. I also couldn't help but wonder if Luna’s mind was as mixed up as my own?

I took a deep breath, and let it out. No wonder I’d been so drained after getting off the train.

Nova?” Lofty asked.

Nova?” Cadence echoed.

She’s drawing her magic from me. Probably set up that way to keep me more manageable.” I offered. “Looks like I’m going to need a nap.”

Why don’t I help you to my room.” Cadence offered.

Let me see if I can fix that?” Celestia offered. “And if the staff can take care of Prince Blueblood and son?”

Perhaps I better handle that?” Raven offered. “And I suspect those two...” she indicated the maid and the foot colt, “..are in need of a break as well.”

I imagine at the time she programmed this I’d have found it highly annoying.” Celestia offered as a smile slowly crept onto her face. After that Lofty and Cadance walked me to Cadanc's bedroom.

:trollestia:

I barely made it before passing out.

I awoke sometime later to find a plush toy-sized Moonie looking down on me from her perch on top of my wing with the amulet in her mouth.

I gave her an experimental poke. I don’t know how but she was solid and she wasn’t draining me.

Unable to resist the cuteness of the mini Woona I grabbed her in my forelegs and gave her a hug.

By the sound of that squee I’d say you discovered the mini Woona,” offered a voice I knew, but never thought I’d ever hear again. “What’s the matter, Discord get your tongue?”

Lieutenant Mouse?” I ask while looking for her, and sure enough there she was. She was just sitting there on a chair with the biggest of smiles on her face. Alice Mouse had been like a second mother to me as mom trusted no pony else to keep an eye on me when she couldn't.

In the horse flesh.”

But how?”

Same way you got here. I just arrived sooner.”

I got up leaving the Woona to fend for herself and tackled Miss Alice. How I even knew her I could not know, but I did, and I didn’t care.

The chair is smashed in the process.

You know that was an antique?”

Can’t be, it’s not even as old as I am.” I offer with a big grin. She just laughs.

So are you hungry?” Alice says from her new place on the floor.

Now that she mentioned it… “Yes, starved.” I grab my cloak and put it on along with the amulet.

Have they been feeding you right?” Her question is understandable, but by the glint in her eye, I’m wondering if she might be up to something.

It’s kind of difficult to get a proper diet out of ponies who are primarily vegetarian.” I offer. “Lofty at least enjoys the occasional fish, and understands that I might need a little extra being I'm a growing filly with wings.”

Well I know just the place to get you something I know you’ll love.”

Um… really?”

I know a place run by a griffon by the name of Gustave le Grand.”

A griffon? Here in Canterlot?” From somewhere deep down there is a cold horror at the thought. Back in the old days, griffins were never to be trusted around a foal.

Seems the new and improved Equestria has griffins running around side by side with ponies. Took me a bit to get used to the idea considering they used to eat ponies.”

I shudder at the idea.

They may not serve pony, but they do serve fried chicken.”

Chicken!” I exclaim, my apprehension abandoned, and begin pronking about the room in excitement. “Chic-ken. Chic-ken. Chic-ken.”

Alright now, calm down before you hit the ceiling.” And it was an extra high ceiling.

Oh, what about Lofty?” I ask as I cease my bouncing.

Lofty has already gone home for the day.”

Home?” My heart skips a beat. Might have been nice if I’d had some say in this.

Don’t worry, she’ll be back in the morning. Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping an eye on you in the evenings. Something I’m sure the night watch will be thrilled to hear.”

How’s that?”

Because I won't be riding their flanks all night.”

Oh. Um, just so you know, my hours kind of got flipped.”

Well then let's go get you that chicken before it gets any later, shall we?”

Chicken! Yay!” Ya, I’d completely abandoned myself to the character. Oh who am I kidding, my human self wasn’t exactly a vegetarian either. Not that I would ever eat any form of horse. I’d studied a certain amount of military history, and horses were so valuable to the successes of what would become the modern army that to eat a horse was considered akin to cannibalism. I’d read variations of that same line so many times it sort of became ingrained into my subconscious. Why in the old west a man’s best friend was his horse, and you don’t eat your friends. Chickens, I had no issues with eating their tasty goodness. “Come on Moonie, we are going to get us some chicken.”

Chapter 9: One Vision

View Online

You’re going out?” Celestia asked. Moonie was presently riding on my back, and the amulet hanging from my neck once more.

Yes, to eat.” Alice offered. “A late luncheon, and perhaps she’ll get an opportunity to see Princess Luna tonight?”

Yes, of course, but the royal court kitchens are the best in Equestria.” Celestia protested.

Are they? How often do you eat outside the palace? Of those times who was doing the cooking?” Alice asked. “You’ve got the same group of cooks following you around wherever you go. But never mind that. Nova has similar dietary needs as a griffin. I’m half bat-pony, and the kitchens don’t exactly cater to our needs. Hers and mine. I’m also going to take a couple of the griffin recruits along with us.”

Griffin recruits?” Celestia asked.

Didn’t you get my memo?” Alice asked. “Being we are on friendly terms with griffins these days I thought I’d experiment with adding griffins to the guards. The day watch commander signed off on it being they’d be the one to train them. There’s only a dozen right now. Let me tell you that recruiting griffins is difficult.”

A diversified military is a strong military.” I offer. “But if we are on friendly terms why is it so hard to get recruits?”

I set up some stringent requirements, and griffin society just isn’t the pinnacle of culture it once was.” Alice offered.

After I banished Luna, there were members of the Griffin confederated kingdoms who got it into their heads that pony was the new it dish.” Celestia offered. “I might have taken out a lot of pent up rage on them.”

So you solar flared them into the stone age then?” I asked. Celestia hung her head.

And that’s not a denial. I shudder to think what she must have done?

Any griffin community suspected of murdering ponies was annihilated,” Celestia said softly. “Their entire economy collapsed and never fully recovered.”

I won’t hold what you did to them against you.” I offer. “I really can’t say I wouldn't do something similar under circumstances like that. Assuming it was in my power to do it.” I was pretty sure that if a nation was kidnapping and eating the citizens of the country I lived in as a human, we’d probably bomb them into the stone age. Bomb them, torch them with copious quantities of napalm, and flood their country with Kardashians. Public service, am I right?

And I’m guessing if you had tried to send aid afterward they’d just eat the aid workers,” Alice suggested.

I wanted to send aid to rebuild, but no pony would go,” Celestia replied.

Ya, can’t blame them.” I offer. “That twood be like sending me fried chickens.”

Come on you fox filly, let's go get you some chicken.” Alice prompted.

You two have fun.” Celestia offered and gave me a pat on the head.

I couldn't help but notice that she was looking much wearier than she had earlier.

Aunt Tia, before we go, would you be willing to tell me what’s wrong, or has it just been a long day?”

It’s alright. Nothing you need to worry about.”

:scootangel:

Sunset Shimmer?” I ask. Sure it was a shot in the dark but the look on her face tells me I hit pay dirt.

How do you know about Sunset Shimmer?” Celestia asked.

When I was trapped in limbo I saw visions. Even saw myself living another life in an alien world. I saw Sunset Shimmer going through one of Starswirl’s mirrors.” Celestia just looked at me with a stunned expression. “Move that mirror someplace where it’s secure. Where no creature can gain access to it, and make sure there is a guard outside. In fact, I’d even go so far as to suggest putting a spell on it so that should she decide to come have a peek she won’t be able to duck back into it. You should never have shown her that thing.”

I knew she was too young, but… how do you know so much, how could you? Did Luna show you the mirrors?”

Like I said I had a vision while I was in limbo.” I offered. “No, mom would never have shown me something like that. She knew full well I would have taken it to be a challenge I needed to pass to please her. And I can tell you that there is a very strong possibility that Starswirl put a spell on that mirror specifically to bait creatures to go into it. I seem to recall that he or Clover the Clever used one of those mirrors to trap the sirens and dump all manner of dangerous magical artifacts in it. Might even be a good idea to send a team in to fetch Sunset the next time it opens and then find a way to undo what Starswirl’s spell did to her.”

I see,” Celestia said quietly. She is as reserved as ever. “I’ll take your words into consideration. - Now, hadn’t you best get going?”

Yes, let's get going.” Alice prompted. “Princess, I don’t expect we’ll be too late.”

I can’t just leave. I turn back to face Celestia. Sure she banished my mother, myself, Lieutenant Mouse, and destroyed our home in the process, but then again with power like what she has, the consequences of mistakes are just amplified.

Nova?” Celestia asked.

A hug before I go?”

Come here.” She said with a smile.

God works in mysterious ways.” I whisper as I hug her.

Pardon?” Celestia asks as I break away. “I hear music. Oh no!”

One mare. One goal. One mission.” I say in a sing-song way as I head for the door while prancing to the beat. And then I started singing on my way out the door, “One heart one soul just one solution...”

Oh no, Stop that.” Alice protests as I go into Queen’s ‘One Vision’. By the time we’ve arrived at the barracks for the griffins, I’ve got half the castle singing. The griffins look annoyed till I say the last two words of the song. The ponies just give me a baffled look and go back to whatever it was they had been doing.

Fried chicken?” One of the griffins asked while tilting their head. “You were singing about fried chicken?”

Want to go?” Alice asked. “Just two though.”

Only two?”

As a reward for your outstanding performance I’ll be taking Galena and Glenda,” Alice informed them. Galena was a tiger and hawk combo, and Glenda looked a lot like a snow leopard Osprey combo. If she and I were to stand next to each other we’d just sort of blend together. “The rest of you, keep up the good work, and next time I’ll take every griffin.”

So what’s the special occasion?” Galena was just a little suspicious.

This here is Princess Kitsumi Nova,” Alice informed them. “She is Princess Celestia’s niece. And thanks to whoever her father was...”

So you don’t know either?” I ask.

Sorry kit, not a clue. - As I was saying… This is Princess Nova, and she’s not like most other ponies.”

She’s a fox type isn’t she?” Offered one of the male recruits. “My father told me about them. They’ll strip the feathers off a griffin, and deep fry em in seconds.”

He might have been exaggerating.” I offer. “Um, depending on the number of tails.” I couldn’t be sure if fox ponies followed the same rules as kitsune, but there was no reason they wouldn't. “I’ve only the one tail so I’m relatively harmless. Not really interested in eating creatures capable of asking me not to.”

Good thing chickens are dumb as rocks then.” Glenda offered with a smile.

Hey, Firegem, better watch yer back, or that little filly will have you in the batter.” Someone teased followed by good-natured laughter.

Come on, let's go.” Alice prompted, followed by the four of us headed back towards the gate of the keep.

The guards snapped to attention. I wondered if it was because they’d heard I was Princess Celestia’s actual niece, or if they were afraid of the Lieutenant?

We’re just going out for a bit to get the little princess here something they don’t have in the castle.” Alice offered as we went by.

So is it true, is she a goddess of some sort?” One of the guards asked.

I’d say I’m on the same level as Princess Cadenza.” I offer. “Still need to learn how to control the magic I’ve got. I’ll let you know when I’ve figured it out.” Considering who my mother was… I give them a toothy smile as I walk past. Wonder if I can control weather and lightning just by willing it to happen?

We continued on past the last of the tour groups and government buildings. A few ponies eyeball the mini Moonie on my back.

How well can you fly?” Alice asks me as we make our way out the front gates.

Well enough, I guess. I’ve been flying to school and back to build up stamina… just don’t ask me to do anything fancy. I tend to get going… Um… you know the reason I have the cloak on is so no pony sees my wings.” That last part came out as a hoarse whisper. Horse whisper…

What’s with the face hoof?” Glenda asked. “Oh right, I get it.”

She probably doesn’t. How am I to explain the difference between a horse whisper and a hoarse whisper? Does that make me a horse whisperer and will all that whispering make me a little hoarse?

Alright then,” Alice replied. “The tram it is.”

We got off the tram about halfway and took a streetcar from there. After the streetcar had traveled a few blocks we got off and walked down another road, and then down a long winding set of stairs through hanging gardens. Granted there are potted plants all over the city.

The alley we went down made me a bit apprehensive, until Alice stopped to knock on a door.

A speakeasy?” I asked as a sliding window opened in the door. Oh, sweet ambrosia… the smell of cooked meat had a hold of my snoot.

What’s with the filly?” asked a rough voice inside.

Chicken, I smell fried chicken,” I say excitedly as I flutter heavenward.

She’s a special kind of pony,” Alice tells who or whatever it is that’s behind the door, takes hold of one of my legs, and pulls me back down. “Come on, you know me, and I’ll vouch for the griffins. It’s not like you are serving anything illegal in there.”

The window shut, there was the sound of bolts shifting, and then the door opened.

Well, you know how some ponies can be.” Offered a dragon as he opened the door outward. Of course, he’s a typical adolescent to an adult Equestrian dragon who stands on his hind legs. I imagine they don’t start walking on all fours until they are well past middle age. I know the show did have some that walked on all four legs, but those were the really big dragons. Now I’m curious as to what age they start walking on their hind legs, and how big do they have to get before they drop back down to all four again?

Well you don’t have to worry about the night guard.” Alice offered. “Not unless I find out you've been serving sentient creatures.”

How’s… hang on?” the dragon asked.

She’s in charge of the Night Wing,” Galena informed him as we entered.

Chicken, chicken, chicken...” I chanted.

Alrighty then.” the dragon said as he closed the door behind us.

Nuqneh. Glad hospitality laj,” I say in broken Klingon as I walk past him.

Qua’be’,” he replied with a surprised look on his face.

A large grin, bigger than the one I already had, formed on my face. Dragons speak Klingon. And yes, I am a mega nerd.

Inside it looked about the same as any ordinary restaurant back home save the presence of griffins, dragons, and a peppering of ponies. We were shortly greeted by a griffin who was light gray on top, dark gray on the bottom like a puma gull mix.

Ah Miss Alice Mouse, I see you've brought friends.”

Gustave le Grand, I have at that.” Alice offered. “I’ve a very special friend who wants to try your famous fried chicken.”

Ah, I see… I see a filly.” He sounded a bit skeptical.

Fox pony.” I offered and gave him a toothy grin.

Oh, well then, I guess it’s alright then,” Gustave replied. He then showed us to a table and left us with some menus.

Oh hey, chicken sampler,” I said delightedly.

Good evening, my name is Vermouth, and I’ll be your waiter tonight.

I want the chicken sampler,” I say with a big smile. Vermouth looks at me and then smiled.

We don’t get many ponies like you?” Vermouth offers. “One chicken sampler.”

I’ll have the sauteed Titan beetles and side of stewed mangoes,” Alice says. “And some mango cider.”

Oh, can I have the mango cider?” I ask.

That’s a hard cider dear.” Vermouth cautioned.

She means she can’t serve it to you because you are under age,” Alice informed me.

I’m over a thousand years old.” I counter. I love mango cider.

While that might be technically true, you’ve got the physical maturity of a little filly. I’m not dragging your drunk flank back and explaining how you got that way to your Aunt.” Alice said countering my counter.

Alright, you got me there.”

I’ll have the ham,” Galena said.

Ham… ooo, bacon! I’ll have a side of bacon with my chicken. Hang on, pigs…? I’m a little unsure. I mean pigs are fairly intelligent, but bacon. Mmmm bacon.”

Pigs aren’t really all that smart, don’t talk, can’t do rudimentary tasks so the government says we can eat them.” Vermouth offered.

Oh good, I’d sure hate to have to give up bacon.”

The waitress smiles at my answer. A short time later we’ve made our orders, and have to wait now.

You want an activity kit while we wait?” Alice asks.

Do they have those?” I ask. I don’t really need it, I’m just curious.

No, not really. Normally underage ponies aren’t allowed in here, but you being a meat-eating type, your an exception.” Alice explained.

Ah, probably think it might be traumatizing.” I look around to see a number of ponies casting glances at me.

Fortunately I don’t have too much longer to wait. Vermouth brings out our orders, oh the wonderful aroma. The delightful taste. I dive in washing it down with a little milk now and then while trying not to think of where the milk came from. What with my relative age I wouldn't even be a yearling yet back on earth and likely still nursing. Probably just as well I’m not. That would just be weird given I’ve got the mind of a human adult – mostly.

And how is your meal?” Guastave asks as he comes up to our table.

Pure ambrosia,” I say. “I can’t say when I’ve had a meal this good. You really know your stuff.”

Why thank… you. ??”

Between the sight of my wings protruding from my cloak – there is a horn on my head after all, and the ruckus at the door, poor Guastave’s mind went into momentary shutdown. He comes to his wits right about the time the local guard precinct comes rushing in.

This is a raid!” One of the guards ponies shouts.

Oh for Harmony’s sakes,” Alice mutters with a hoof to her face.

I’ll just be taking that as evidence of contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” a unicorn guard says attempting to snatch up my plate. I counter with my own magic, wrapping my front hooves around the plate while growling, and displaying both teeth and wings. A person pony would think he’d get the hint?

Something tells me you’ll lose a hoof if you get too close,” Galena suggested with a smile of sorts. It was kind of hard to tell with a beak.

Sargent, who authorized this raid?” Alice asked.

And you are?” the Sargent in the group asked.

Commander Alice Mouse, Commandant of Her Majesty's night wing.”

Commander? You got promoted.” I say momentarily forgetting my tug of war. My plate starts to slowly move away from me. “Put it back!”

Gentle ponies, she’s an exception.” Alice pointed out. Her tone was less than kind. “She eats meat!”

Ou-baka-tari!” rang out my battle cry.

🐔

I’m not really sure what came over me, but I would soon find Alice trying to pull me off the unicorn who was trying to take my chicken, and a short time later I was sitting on the floor of a demolished restaurant while Princess Celestia was glowering at me.

Nova, I’m to understand you teleported into the air and dove down on one of my guards attacking him as though you were not but a vicious animal thus causing general panic and mayhem?” Celestia asked. “While Moonie flew around in circles cackling.”

I guess?” I said with my head down, and ears drooping.

You guess?” Celestia echoed. “Did you really teleport?”

I think it has something to do with my cutie mark, but I don’t really have any control over it.”

I see, but you do have control over your actions do you not?” Celestia pressed.

Your majesty, things may have been a little on the rough side for her growing up.” Alice offered. Celestia gave Alice and me a surprised and even pained look. “Don’t get me wrong, even when she was at her worst, Nova’s mother loved her dearly and would suffer her no harm. It’s just that she might have encouraged aggressive behavior. As is, Nova was also, strangely enough, keeping with Griffin culture. Taking meat that is not freely given is a serious insult. Further, when a male takes from a female and she allows it, it signifies she’s his property. At least that’s the way it was in, well, our time. If she hadn’t gone after him, the griffins may well have seen that as consent to being his.” Several nearby griffins nodded their heads indicating they fully agreed with what Alice had just said and even approved of my actions.

Fine, let's just go home, and we’ll sort all this out tomorrow.”

Chapter 10: Promise of a new day.

View Online

When Galena and Glenda returned to their barracks all the other griffins wanted to know how their meal went.

“It was a hoot!” Galena exclaimed. “We got raided by the downtown guard, and the little princess attacked a unicorn guard when he tried to take her food from her! Let me tell you, she wasn’t having any of it. And then he ran around in circles yelling 'get it off - get it off'.” The two hen-gryphs couldn't help but laugh at the memory.

“It was absolute pandemonium,” Glenda replied with a big grin. “Panicked ponies everywhere, and Commander Mouse after her like a frantic hen. I would never have pegged her for the type. All hard as iron when it comes to how she commands and soft as a downy chick when it comes to foals.”

While Galena and Glenda beguiled their squadmates with every hilarious detail Celestia sat in her office wondering what she was going to do with Nova. Thoughts that would be quickly shoved out of her mind at the news that Sunset Shimmer had been seen in the restricted section of the castle’s private library. Sunset had come back.

And then it hit her. Nova knew this was going to happen.

Princess Celestia rose to her hooves, set her crown and peytral aside, kicked off her silver shoes, and began the long trek to the library. It wasn’t far in actual distance, but Celestia was weary.

“See to it that the room with the mirror is sealed,” Celestia ordered as she passed Commander Mouse.

“Yes, mam,” Alice replied, and sought out the Night Watch's most talented unicorns. Sunset may be no older than Cadence, but Alice Mouse had seen clearly just how talented Sunset Shimmer was when she’d looked into the matter of Princess Celestia’s former prize student. She’d seen the signs as well. Commander Mouse had even gone so far as to inform the captains of the watch that she considered Sunset to be the greatest present threat to the stability of Equestria. The most disconcerting part was the fact that Nova seemed to know what was about to happen before it did. Along the way she mentioned it to her subordinates who all agreed that since no pony knew what Nova’s powers were, taking her warnings more seriously in the future might be a good idea.

And while all this was going on, Cadance quietly preened Nova’s plumage to get her to calm down. The lockdown that was to follow would also cost Nova the opportunity to see Luna.

“Sunset,” Celestia said softly as she quietly stepped into the restricted section of the library. Sunset had been pouring over a history of Canterlot and had been so engrossed that she’d been completely unaware of Celestia’s approach sure she was that no pony was aware of her return. Nor did she show any signs of aging which now placed her in the age category of being younger than Cadance. At least physically.

“Pr-princess?” Sunset asked. She’d been startled but turned slowly to see that horrible disappointed yet hopeful look.

“Please don’t go. Not again,” Celestia begged. “I will tell you what I can, but you have to promise me you won’t go near that mirror ever again.” Celestia offered. She was desperately trying to keep calm. Celestia was angry, upset, and overjoyed at the same time. Sunset was back, but there was that warning from Nova. A filly who’d never met Sunset Shimmer, but somehow knew about Sunset and the mirrors. Celestia chastised herself for having shown Sunset the mirror in the first place and failing to heed the warnings of others. After all, it was Starswirl himself who’d forbade Princess Celestia from ever having anything to do with the mirrors. Sunset was Luna all over again in regards to the behavior of the individual and Celestia’s inability to see what was going on right under her muzzle.

“I know what the mirror is now.” Sunset offered, desperate to grasp at the straws of her defense to justify herself. “It’s the key to becoming an alicorn. Isn’t it? It has to be, I just can’t seem to figure it out.”

“No sunset. It’s not.” Celestia offered. “All it is is a gateway to another world. A world with no magic. You’ve been there, surely you must realize this having been there?”

“But I saw myself in the mirror… powerful… I was an alicorn.”

“You are already powerful, my little sun.” Celestia offered. “And what you saw was what you wanted to see. That mirror was created by Starswirl and he put an enchantment on it in addition to creating the portal. If I had understood the nature of the enchantment I would have locked that thing away where no pony could get at it. You want to be an alicorn too much so the enchantment lured you in.” Celestia slowly approached Sunset and wrapped a wing around her. “Come on, it’s been a long day, and it’s past time we were in bed. I couldn't go after you when the portal closed. Please, come home.”

🛏

When I woke up I knew something was wrong. My internal clock was telling me it was morning. My gut was telling me it was time for breakfast. My eyes were telling me it was still night.

Nova, it’s not time to get up yet,” Cadance muttered as I climbed out of the shared bed.

It’s past time. Something is wrong.” I say as I gaze into the darkness.

It can’t be.” Cadance protests. She lights up her horn to take a look at her wind up timepiece. Her growing dread is palpable, and together we venture out into the corridor.

The guards are missing.

Cadance, do you know where the mirror is? The one Sunset was so obsessed with?”

Why do you want to know where that is?”

Because it’s a portal and I’ve got a horrible feeling that Sunset came back last night, went back through, and that Princess Celestia went after her.”

Oh Celestia.” She was quiet for a moment. “But if they are gone, what can we do?”

I guess we won’t know until we get there,” I say.

Alright, I think I know where it is.”

It didn’t take long before we started passing confused staff and guards who were at a complete loss as to what was going on or how to fix it.

Princess, do you know what’s going on?” Asked a guard of Cadance.

No, but we are going to find out,” I say before Cadence can say anything.

It… it’s going to be alright.” Cadence offered as we went past.

What do we do if…?” Cadance whispered as we continued down the corridor.

We find a talented unicorn with a sun cutie mark, that’s what we do.” I whispered back. Sunset was the only viable candidate who could replace Celestia that I knew of.

You can’t possibly mean?” Cadence asked.

Look, my affinity links me with the moon so it’s possible I might be able to raise and lower the moon once I know-how. Granted that Mother will probably take up her role again. But for a pony to do the same with, you know, they need that affinity.”

How do you even know that?”

It’s in the introduction to magic affinities. It’s all been kind of academic, and let us hope it stays academic.”

I sure hope she’s alright.”

🚪

What we found did not bolster our hopes. When we found the room the mirror was in, what we found was several of the guard captains and commanders milling about at a complete loss. Alice was sitting in front of the mirror crying. There was no sign of Celestia. Several of the guards turn to Cadence and start asking her what to do.

It’s not her affinity,” I say as I walk past them to the mirror.

It’s closed,” Alice informed me.

I place my right hoof up to the glass, it’s solid, and yet I can feel a slight trickle. “I refuse to accept that,” I say as I push my magic into the gate. My cutie mark isn’t just a moon and two stars it’s an open gate. “Cadence, what’s your strongest unlocking and or opening spell?”

You’re not trying to open it are you?” Cadence asks coming over to me.

It’s what my cutie mark is telling me,” I say as I force my will onto the gate. “I am the bird that calls in the night,” I say softly. “I am the light before the open of day. I am the song sung by angry colts. I am change. I am hope. I am the promise of a new day.” I feel the mirror give. I close my eyes as a swirling mist begins to form on the surface of the mirror.

All I can give you is my love.” Cadence offers as she places a hoof on the mirror.

The surface tension gives way and I think of those immortal words er I enter the portal, 'I shall return'. I take a step and say, “I will bring back the sun for I am the Herald of the Dawn.” Brave words from a little filly.

I find myself falling through the vortex a moment later. I feel Cadance’s love guiding me. I feel myself falling, my eyes are blinded by the morning sun, I roll as I hit the hard pavement. A moment later I find myself sitting behind a concrete pedestal with a rampant horse on top. It looks like a stallion, but there’s nothing between the legs. Now, why am I even looking there? I chastise myself as I get up. The building in front of me is an ornate brick two-story structure in the shape of an ‘E’ that’s had the forward extensions cut short.

Mam, are you alright?” asked a voice that sent shivers up my spine. I take a quick look at myself, I’m old again. I look up to see a teenage Luna.

I’m good,” I reply. “Thank you,” I say as I get up. It’s been a while since I last stood on two legs. It feels strange. “I’m looking for two people. A fiery redhead, and a young woman who’s likely a dead ringer for your sister.”

How?” Luna asks.

You’ve seen them?”

They are in the office.”

Your name’s Luna isn’t it?” I ask as I walk towards the front entrance. Luna follows me. “Come, help steady an old woman,” I say, and Luna comes up and takes me by the hand.

What’s your name?”

Nova Arthol,” I say giving her my married name. “I knew your grandmother.” That last bit was an out and out lie, but she’ll never know. All grandmothers know each other.

Luna opens the door for me, we go inside and make our way to the office. There’s a police officer interviewing who I’m fairly sure is Celestia. She doesn’t look happy. Considering she just threw all of Equestria under the bus to chase after Sunset she’s got plenty of reason to. The officer turns to greet me, and turns white as a sheet. He’s my son Johnathan.

I hear you have one of my employees and one of our special needs students,” I say as I give him a rather guilty looking smile. “Celestia, I gather Sunset is being difficult again.”

Celestia turns to look at me. She doesn’t have a clue who I am. Her eyes zero in on the purple and vermilion stripes in my white hair. My hair is the only part of me that is recognizable to her. Her expression opens up in surprise. “I did warn you this might happen.” I go over to her, give her a hug, and whisper in her ear, “I forced the portal open, and Cadance has her hoof in the door.”

You?” Celestia says, her breath all but gone. “Nova?”

I’ll explain later,” I whisper back. I turn to the stricken officer. “Can I see Sunset?”

Aaaah… yes, of course,” he replied. “She’s in the office. Principle Zacherle's office.”

Thank you, Johnathan,” I say as I head for the principal’s office. Now he’s even further discombobulated. I can’t help but smile as I lightly knock on the door.

I hear the voice of an older woman say come in. I slowly open the door to find a woman about my age with short blond hair. “Hi, I’m sunset’s primary care worker. I know she may not seem it, but she’s special needs. I came to bring her home.” I see a scared little girl sitting in a chair. She looks like she is middle school age and this is a high school. “I’m to understand she’s been a bit of a problem. She’s brilliant but lacks in social understanding. She’s been diagnosed as having Asperger syndrome. She’s hi functioning so it’s not easy to spot right away. She likes to run off and insert herself into different schools.”

That would actually explain so much.” Mrs Zacherle offers. “Poor thing came in her claiming she was running from a mad mare.”

I get down on the floor in front of Sunset. “Hi, any chance you are ready to go home?” She looks at me. She doesn’t know me. “Everyone is worried about you. Won’t you please come home?”

Why?” Sunset asked. “Why should I?”

And where have you been living I wonder? A group home perhaps? The streets? An orphanage? Is it any better than your home? Did you think Celestia actually meant to throw you out? Not a day has gone by that she doesn’t regret the words she said to you.” I reply while keeping my volume low. Bingo, I think as she looks up at me. Sunset has likely been in a group home, but for all I know she has been living on the streets by the looks of her disheveled clothing. “Listen, when we get back I’ll tell you all about Alicorns. And no, staying here isn’t going to get you any answers that weren’t already right in front of you.”

You know about...” Sunset began but stopped.

More than Celestia does,” I add with a smile and a wink. And then I add in a hushed voice, “This is where Starswirl dumped monsters he couldn't defeat. The image you saw on the mirror was just a lure he built-in. The mirror is a trap he devised and if Princess Celestia had understood the true nature of that mirror I doubt she would have shown it to you. As such the spell has its hooks in deep and you have to fight it.”

I should have listened,” Sunset said dropping her gaze to the floor. There is also a hint of defiant anger. “It’s too late now. I’m not her student anymore.”

It’s never too late so long as there is hope. We will talk to her, and work things out. She’s just as much to blame for what happened,” I say still keeping my volume low so that our audience doesn’t hear. “Come with me and I’ll prove it. We’ll set everything right.”

Princess Celestia will take me back?” Sunset asked looking back at me.

She followed after you this time and went and got herself locked out. She’s jeopardized all of Equestria for your sake. Not to worry, I jammed the door open, but we need to hurry. Cadance is holding it open, but I don’t know how long she can manage it. If we don’t go back all Equestria will suffer and no pony is leaving without you.” I offered with a touch of urgency. Her face brightened with that same urgency.

What are we doing sitting on our plots then?” Sunset asked and got up. She hurried out to the outer office and took Celestia by the hand, Celestia’s steps unsteady.

Well I guess that means I’d better get going, and thank you,” I say with a big smile as I stand up and follow after Sunset.

I, um, need your information,” Johnathan says as we head for the door.

Walk with me,” I say as Celestia and Sunset go out the door. I follow, and so does he.

My name is Nova,” I say as we pass through the entry hall.

Nova. Funny, my mom’s name was Nova.”

Was. I now know his mom is gone. I have no way of knowing if this is my world or not. My people didn’t come in pastel colors, but I have no way of knowing if that isn’t something carried over from Equestria in the form of extra color receptors in my eyes.

Arthol,” I say as I push the door open.

Same,” he says breathlessly.

I watch as Sunset slips into the portal. Celestia looks back at me before slipping in herself. Officer Arthol isn’t looking at them. I slowly walk over to the statue.

You remind me of my mom.”

Hug?”

He smiles, and nods. I lean in and embrace him.

Part of me wants to stay,” I whisper. I break away from him. “Johnathan, take care of yourself and know that I love you.” He looks stricken.

Mom?”

I have to go. - One thing before I go. There is a high chance that there is something dangerous in an old forgotten shrine behind the school. It may look like an abandoned garden, but there is an object that needs to be found and kept safe. A stone with carvings.” I step into the portal leaving him behind to ponder what just happened. If the memory stone is there I hope he finds it and keeps it out of the hands of those who would abuse it. Moments later I’m tumbling into the room with the mirror. I feel Alice catch me. Cadence backs away from the portal, and the opening I’d made collapses. I started balling my eyes out. Why did he have to be there? Why?!

But then again it might not have been so easy to get away from anyone else.

Nova?” Celestia asks. She’s very confused.

That was my son!” I wail.

What!?” Celestia gasped. Sunset looks back at me with a look of concern and horror all mixed together.

You weren't in limbo the whole time, were you?” Alice asked as she strokes my mane.

No. I wasn’t.”

That look he was giving you?” Celestia asked with concern in her voice.

No, I wasn’t in limbo. Not the entire time at any rate.” I offered. "When Nightmare Moon took my mother and I foolishly charged in, I found myself being born into that other world. I soon forgot about Equestria, grew up, school, marriage, career, babies, they grew up…” I couldn't go on as I began to sob once more.

I’m, I’m sorry I put you through that,” Sunset said quietly. It didn’t make much sense to her that I’d be an old woman there and a young filly here. Still, though, she was now younger than Cadence when she'd been the elder, she is older than my present self which has placed her somewhere between Cadance and me in physical age. And yet the portal had turned her into a little girl on the other side where I’d been an old woman. Granted that I as likely regressed just a bit, but what's a couple of years when you are old? And like myself, her present physical age hadn’t deviated from the moment of her initial entry into the mirror. As for what I’d just told every pony I had at least filed in enough information for Sunset and everyone else gathered to come to a reasonable conclusion that I’d lived in that world, had family, and for whatever reason had been brought back to this world. “I, that is, you want to be my friend?” I ask Sunset. I doubt either one of us knew where that came from.

I looked up at her with a big smile while blinking the tears from my eyes. I break from Alice, go over to her, and give her a big hug. “And that my friend is the first step to becoming an alicorn. Friends.” She looks back at me in surprise. “I know it’s not easy, and it’s not fair, but to become an alicorn you will need the support of true friends.”

But if I have true friends and become an alicorn...” Sunset began but left off what was on her mind.

You will become immortal, but they won’t. And it hurts something awful to leave behind those we love.” I tell her just as an adolescent phoenix swooped in and landed on Sunset chirping happily. “You can’t force it either. No more than you can force a cutie mark. If it is meant to happen it will happen in its own good sweet time.”

How come you didn’t stay behind with your son? How is it you even have a son in another world?” Sunset asked me and gave the phoenix a nuzzle.

I seem to be dead in that world. I have ponies here that I care about too, and coming back from the dead is kind of hard to explain in a world with no magic. Not to mention that I’d be on borrowed time even if I had stayed. I don’t really know by what mechanism I ended up in another dimension or why the world in the mirror seems to be the same world, all I can say is it probably had something to do with being hit by the beam from the elements of harmony and a telekinetic push from my mom in an attempt to push me clear of the blast. I lived a whole life in that other world, and I don’t have a clue by what mechanism I came back. Suddenly I’m home, a filly again, and it’s a thousand years later, and my home in ruins without a soul around to help a filly who’s forgotten how to horse.” I explain as best I can. “I kind of feel sorry for him right now too.”

Because you couldn't stay?” Celestia asked.

No, because no one’s going to believe a word of it.” Alice offered. A smile formed on my face, and I start laughing. A sort of quiet laugh one experiences with the relief of pent up emotions. “Nova, are you going to be alright?”

I think so. I’ll be OK. - Now. - Aunt Tia, I think your a little late on raising the sun.” I inform her momentarily after regaining my composure.

Oh crap!” Celestia exclaims and rushes out of the room past the gathered guards.

And now I have to write my report explaining what happened and why we need competent spellcasters on the night shift before I can go to bed,” Alice complains, messes up my mane, and follows Celestia out the door.

Any pony want breakfast?” I ask as I break from Sunset. Sunset and Cadance both agree to join me and a moment later we are out the door as though it was just another ordinary morning.

Chapter 11: Breakfast in the staff dining hall.

View Online

This is Philomena. She and I bonded some time back,” Sunset offered to explain the phoenix as they exited the mirror room. “And yes, Breakfast sounds nice.” She looks up at the bird with fondness.

I’m starving.” Cadance states. “But let's get you cleaned up somewhere along the way. You look a mess. You both look a mess.”

I bet we can get something from the staff dining hall.” Sunset offers. Phil chirps in agreement. Sunset nuzzles her again with Phil perfectly happy to return the affection.

If they aren’t too freaked out about the late sunrise that is,” I add with a smile as the three of us walk out into the hall. The remaining guards close up the room behind us, some follow us out, a couple of the guards remain on station. Nor is any pony going to talk about what transpired there. Confidentiality is understood.

Cadance,” I say a moment later as we walk down the hall.

Yes?”

Congratulations.”

For what?”

We just changed the course of history.”

I suppose we did.” Cadence replied with a smile.

:trollestia:

I think I need to be careful about what I tell Celestia. If I hadn’t brought up Sunset and the mirror the staff might not have been watching for Sunset and Celestia might not have followed Sunset through. Granted I didn’t have the whole story concerning what had happened last night or that Sunset had intended to come back for more information. But come back she had. For all I knew, there’d been a mad dash for the mirror what with Sunset’s pig-headed stubbornness being made worse by the spell I just assumed Starswirl had placed on the mirror. How much of what was in my head was from the show, how much was speculation, and how much was the Kitsune’s ability to see snippets of the future I couldn't be sure. What I’d hoped for was for Celestia to move the mirror to a safer location and fix it so no one could gain entry to the portal or be barred from re-entry once they’d emerged from it. Which left me to wonder if that had truly been a fixed point in time? How many times had Sunset come back from that other world? How many times did she come back to spy on the goings-on in Canterlot only to be drawn back into the mirror? After all, her theft of Twilight’s crown in the series was hardly a spur of the moment decision.

After a short walk and a stop off at a toilet with a washroom, we soon found ourselves in the staff dining area where we got in line with a bunch of very confused and stressed out ponies. The food wasn’t bad though. They had eggs, and pancakes, muffins, and fried potatoes. Fruit and granola seemed to be popular as well. Every pony was so shaken up that not a one noticed the alicorns and a phoenix in their midst.

Luna was there, and sure enough, she didn’t look much older than Cadance both of who could have passed for their late teens. She was about the same height and looked nothing like the Night Mare at this point, or the adult alicorn pictured in the cartoon series. Her coat was a light grayish-blue and her mane a very light azure blue. Sunset’s apparent age was somewhere in-between Cadance and myself with myself being the youngest in the group.

Mind if we join you?” I ask before sitting down. As was feared there is no recognition when she looked at me, but she is fine with our sitting with her. Luna had obtained a staff pass for her own wing, and aside from the staff assigned to her, no pony seemed to realize she was anything more than her pass suggested thanks to a cloak hiding her wings. I sit down with a smile plastered to my face hoping that somehow she’ll recognize me. That and it’s probably a good thing I’d been warned or I might have been making a big scene right about now.

The staff begins to take notice when Celestia came in search of us.

What are you doing here?” Celestia asked as she walked up to us. Outside the sun was now shining. Luna flinched even though Celestia’s tone could hardly be considered scolding. It’s at this moment I realize how subdued Luna is being.

She means us.” I offered a reassuring wink to Luna and then turned to Princess Celestia. “We thought it’d be easier on the staff.”

Celestia gave each of us a hug lingering on Luna a bit longer and then went to Sunset where she lingered longest while Phil trilled happily.

Princess Celestia, why did you risk so much for me?” Sunset asked. The room grew quiet. Every pony knew something must have happened for Celestia to be so late raising the sun and Sunset hadn’t been seen in years only to reemerge no older than when she vanished.

Sunset, about Summer Mystique.” Celestia began. Summer Mystique was a pegasus that had unhindered access to Princess Celestia. Her cutie mark was literally Celestia’s with a fancy dress mask added to the sun.

My mom?” Sunset asked.

I am Summer Mystique,” Celestia informed her. Sunset wasn’t the only one in the room to drop their tableware. Not to mention a few cups, plates, and serving trays. “I’m sorry. I wanted to protect you. I thought I could trust the ponies... I know now what a horrible mistake that was.”

I could sense Luna stiffening and placed a hoof on hers while giving her a glance, a smile on my face.

My foster parents?” Sunset asked. “Did they know?”

No, but you can be sure I’ve had words with them for the way they treated you.”

And they will likely have a heart attack when they find out whose daughter they were abusing.” I offered with a smile. Sunset on the other hand – hoof, hadn’t quite decided if she should be mad at Celestia or not. Once she’d made up her mind she wrapped her hooves around Celestia.

They’ll have a heart attack when they find out the filly they surrendered to an orphanage who they no longer wanted to be tied down to was in fact my own. Not to mention they had continued accepting an allowance meant for Sunset’s care.” Celestia stated. “So, what am I to tell the nobles to explain why sunrise was so late?”

Tell them the truth, your daughter got caught in an enchanted mirror, you attempted to get her out last night, got stuck yourself, and you are taking safeguards to see to it that nothing like that ever happens again.” I offer.

And if they want to know who her father is?” Celestia asked.

Tell them it was a drunken night of revelry and you’ve no idea who he is.” I teas. More dishes can be heard hitting the floor. Celestia looks at me and starts laughing followed by Luna joining in all be it subdued.

You have definitely got your mother’s sense of humor,” Celestia replied once she’d suppressed her laughter. “I’m rather tempted to do it. The alternative is telling him, and I fear the news might kill him.”

Luna looks at me and then drops her head to stares at her plate.

Something tells me he’s going to find out.” Sunset offered dryly. “Hang on… special needs?” Sunset protests while giving me a dirty look.

Where’s my Woona?” I ask looking around wondering where she’s been. The Woona materialized standing on the table, I grab her and quickly hold her between me and Sunset. “It was a quick and easy way to explain your behavior and why we were there to collect you.” I hastily explain.

No fair, that’s so cute!” Sunset protested while looking at the Woona. “I want one.”

Woona?” Luna says softly while looking at the elaborate spell projection that is so much like herself.

I’ll have to see if I can duplicate the spell.” Celestia offered. “The thing is, my sister was a little unhinged when she created that.”

Unhinged my flank,” Luna muttered.

You think she might have been a little unhinged when she created me?” I ask. Aunt Tia was taken aback a bit until she saw the smile on my face. Luna on the other hoof froze up and looked at me with new eyes. I know now that everything she’s been through has taken a considerable toll on her.

Your mother wanted the kind of love a sibling couldn't provide and found that love in the form of a very unusual stallion.” Celestia offered quietly. “I wish now that I’d never been duped into interfering. There is just so much I wish I could undo. I was so naive to the lengths those who call themselves nobles will go to.”

You don’t know who he was do you?” I ask.

No, I’m afraid not. Not that I don’t have my suspicions.” Celestia replied. “He’d be long gone now though.”

Not necessarily.” I counter. “What I know concerning the legends of such beings is that there is a remote chance he might still be alive.”

But he’d have to be over a thousand years old?” Celestia protested. “No ordinary pony could live so long.”

I doubt he was an ordinary pony, or if he was, he likely died in bed.” I give Celesta a wink, and Luna let loose an unbidden snort. Celestia looks back at me with a look of horror that shifts to a smile. “There are legends that speak of a race of sentient foxes powerful in the ways of magic who are capable of taking on the form of other living beings. Such as a stallion for example. The more magic they have the longer their potential life expectancy. One that exceeds a thousand years can become what is called a Tenko, an immortal kitsune. Some take longer not becoming a Tenko until well after three thousand years. Such Kitsune can live well beyond a thousand years. They are often linked with fertility and bounty. - And I am no ordinary pony. And not just because of the wings and horn.” To prove my statement I hold up my free hoof turned upwards, and somehow I manage a small blue flame of foxfire from the frog of my hoof.

Celestia just looked at me for the longest time, at Luna, and then turned to look at Sunset as I let the foxfire go out. I couldn't help but wonder how many times Celestia had used a disguise to satisfy her needs as a mare. Physically she was a young mare after all. In all that time, how many foals had she produced? Alicorns simply weren’t known for having foals. Assuming Celestia just wasn’t hiding them all. I mean, in a thousand years a mare could produce a lot of foals. Granted that Cadance was destined to produce a foal, but then again she was practically a fertility deity herself. As for Luna, she was still looking at me with that look of half recognition. Somewhere deep down she still knew who I was but it just wasn’t clicking.

Lofty's adventure, part one.

View Online

And now let's set the clock back to the day before. For Lofty, seeing Nightmare Moon twice in one day was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Even knowing it was just a projection and that the real Night Mare had been defeated. Nova fainting was scary and having Princess Celestia hire her on the spot as a Nanny over a cup of tea had created for quite the morning. How many ponies could say they’d had tea with Princess Celestia?

How many ponies were the legal guardians of Princess Celestia’s actual niece?

Lofty couldn't help but smile as she trotted up to the front gates on her way out. Of course, Princess Celestia had hired her, it was the fastest way to circumnavigate the fact that Lofty was Nova’s legal guardian. She’d been given a pass that hung from her neck that would get her in the castle, along with a pass for the trams and the train.

“Thank you for taking such good care of us.” Lofty offered as she approached the guards.

“I see you’ve been given a pass that places you in a fairly privileged position.” The gate captain observed. “Does that mean we were right?” They knew that Princess Celestia had canceled the morning session of court but little more.

“I thought there was a good possibility she might be the real thing. As in an actual alicorn.” Lofty offered with a big smile. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think she’d be an actual relative of the Princess. And we’re not just talking a hanger-on claiming to be a relative, but an actual princess from the old times. At least now I know why she was so allusive in explaining who she was. She was certainly in no hurry to announce herself, and probably would have been perfectly happy to get her scholarship and return to Ponyville. Neither one of us even knew any pony was looking for her.”

“You don’t say? Wow.” The captain replied with a big smile.

“Anyway, the morning has proven taxing on her, and she’s taking a nap now. Afraid she’d been rather apprehensive about how that first meeting was going to go, and the stress kind of got to her.” Lofty offered. “And I’ll be back for lunch and then again in the morning. Princess Celestia has asked me to be her Nanny. Though I imagine that was the quickest way to get around the fact that I’m presently one of the filly’s legal guardians.”

“Well, that’s clever.” He replied.

“Ya, I figured it out as I was approaching the gate,” Lofty replied and had to laugh. “Not that I’m complaining. - And now I should probably go inform her other guardian.”

“Ya, you go do that.” He offered with a big smile. “Here’s hoping they don’t have a heart attack when they find out.”

“Oh don’t I know it.” Lofty replied, and couldn't help but laugh as she continued out the gate.

“Wonder what it’s like to have a billion-bit filly on your hooves and not even know it?” One of the other guards commented as they watched her go.

“You think she really didn’t know?” asked another.

“Judging by this morning, not a clue. That and I get the feeling that filly only came here because she hit a roadblock in meeting her educational needs. After all, false alicorns are typically only proficient in one area. And there are precious few of them so I doubt the issue of one needing training in both flying and magic ever came up.”

“I doubt the full impact has hit Ms Lofty yet.” The captain commented.





Lofty continued on to the tram station and found herself being redirected to the ‘fast’ lane to get on the tram.

On entering the travel agency that Holiday worked in Lofty was nearly bowled over by the ponies eager to sell her a vacation package.

“I’m sorry, I’m just here to see Miss Holiday.” Lofty offered while feeling a bit overwhelmed.

“Miss Holiday, how is it you never told us you were working with a VIP from the inner Royal Court of the castle?” Called a bulky sky blue unicorn with a mane the color of silver.

“Hang on, what?” Holiday’s voice could be heard back in her office. “Mr Rightdeal, I don’t know anyone from the palace?”

“Yes you do, we are her guardians.” Lofty called.

“Lofty?” Holiday called and ventured out a moment later. “Why are you wearing an Inner Royal Court pass? OK, who’d you steal that from?”

“Our little Nova is the real deal.” Lofty announced.

“She’s what?” Holiday asked. “The real what?”

“She’s Princess Celestia’s niece, and she’s over a thousand years old.” Lofty announced.

“Say what? The What? Nova? A thousand what?” Holiday seemed to be broken.

“Let's see, where to Start… Nova is an Alicorn Princess, Princess Cadenza is her cousin, and they both go way back to the days of the Crystal Empire which was apparently a real place. Though I doubt any pony outside of a select few even know that.”

“You didn’t sign her over did you?” Holiday asked.

“Actually no. Princess Celestia never even asked for anything like that. Princess Celestia did ask me to let Nova stay with her for the time being, and made me a Royal Nanny. There is also an issue with her mother having lost her memories of Nova.”

“Wow,” Rightdeal said softly. “Mother?”

“Princess Luna is her mother. I imagine there’ll be a press release sooner or later. Oh, and we’ve been invited to lunch with Princess Celestia.” Lofty added.

“We have?!” Rightdeal exclaimed excitedly.

“Um, no, sorry, just Holiday and myself.” Lofty offered apologetically.

Rightdeal deflated, and then laughed. “Well of course not all of us, that would be silly.”

“But I can’t go to lunch with the princess. I’m not dressed for lunch with the Princess!”

“Well then go buy yourself a new outfit. In fact, take the rest of the day off. Take all the time off you want.” Rightdeal offered.

“But I couldn't.” Holiday protested.

“Of course you can, and when you are getting that new outfit don’t forget to mention who you are and where you work.” Rightdeal pressed.

“He’s got you there,” Lofty said with a smile. “It’s not just an opportunity to meet the Princess, it’s an opportunity to create a buzz around your company name.”

“Right you are,” Rightdeal replied. “Also if it ever got out that you had an invite to see Princess Celestia, and people thought you couldn't go because you had to work… oh no that would never do. You are going whether you want to or not.”

“Well, since you put it that way.” Holiday replied and found herself being whisked out of the agency a moment later.

Holiday and Lofty found their way to the fashion district where they found something decent they could afford and hurried to Canterlot castle.

“Ah, your back.” The guard at the gate said on their approach.

“Princess Celestia had invited the two of us to lunch.” Lofty offered. “Ms Raven should have all the details.”

“Ah, Ms Lofty.” The gate captain offered coming out from the guard shack. OK, it was anything but a shack, that’s just what they are called. “Ms Raven had two invites dropped off for you.”

“Thank you,” Lofty said as she accepted the invites. The invites stated that the luncheon was in the main part of the castle where the keep was located. Luncheon? Now Lofty was nervous. Meeting with Princess Celestia informally was one thing, but a formal luncheon was moving a bit fast for her tastes.

Lofty and Holiday walked the lanes between the buildings, up the narrow road to the keep, through the ninety-degree passage through two gates, and on into the large bailey. Never once getting anything more than a cursory look-see before being told they may continue. Though there was an audible ping each time.

At the doors to the keep there was a number of nobles and well to do who were slowly making their way in. Lofty and Holiday filed in behind them. The ponies ahead of them looked them over and then ignored them.

“Ah, Ms Lofty, good you could make it,” offered the butler at the door. The well to do cast another glance.

“Come to get a scholarship for a lost filly, suddenly find myself invited to lunch by Princess Celestia.” Lofty offered with an awkward smile.

“Princess Celestia has been known to do that,” the butler offered, and then in a conspiratorial whisper added, “..it keeps the gentry on their guard.”

“Ms Lofty, so good you were able to make it back,” Cadence called as she made her way through the gathering. At the moment it was hors d'oeuvres in the hall.

“Princess Cadance.” Lofty said on greeting her. Ponies around them began whispering and were further dismayed when the two hugged like they’d been old friends.

“Princess Cadenza.” Holiday said with a polite curtsy.

“Call me Cadance.” Cadance offered and then gave Holiday a hug.

“So how’s Nova?” Lofty asked.

“Still out like a light.” Cadance offered.

“Oh my, what happened?” Holiday asked.

“Our little friend from this morning. The tall dark one.” Lofty explained. “The spell was draining magic from Nova.”

“Oh, dear.” Holiday said in response.

“Not to worry, Princess Celestia corrected that little issue, and shrunk the simulation down to the size of a plush toy.” Cadance offered. “I could take you up to see her if you’d like.”

“That’s quite alright. I don’t want to wake her if she’s sleeping.” Lofty offered.

“Are you sure?” Cadance asked.

“That’s alright. Perhaps after lunch.” Holiday offered. “Besides, she can get kind of nippy when she’s overtired.”

“Nippy… that’s good to know. Being she’s in my bed.” Cadance said sounding hesitant.

“Don’t let her worry you, she only did that once.” Lofty countered. “If she’s being stubborn about waking up a little roast fish will get a reaction every time.”

“Ah, I’ve seen her mother do that.” Offered a voice from a mare they hadn’t met yet.

“Pardon?” Lofty asked as she sought out the voice. The pony was a Gray in a night watch uniform, an officer. How could she… “Ah, you must be Commander Mouse?”

“In the horse flesh. Feel free to call me Alice.”

“Hi, I’m Holiday,” Holiday offered while holding up a hoof.

“Lofty, we are Nova’s guardians, at least for the time being.”

“It’s good to meet you.” Alice offered, giving each a hoof bump.

“And you knew her mother?” Holiday asked not having fully connected that Princess Luna who’d been freed from Nightmare Moon was in fact Nova’s mother. She was just a little confused given what Lofty had told her.

“I’m to understand Lt Mouse, pardon, Commander Mouse, is here under similar circumstances as Nova.” Cadance offered.

“Ya, I’m like a thousand-year-old Lieutenant and I’m not even an alicorn.” Alice offered with a smirk on her face. "Being bumped up to Commander and put in charge of the Night Guards came as quite a shock."

“Oh, alright.” Holiday replied. “Lofty told me a little about what had happened.”

“Ladies, it’s not often we get such pretty faces at these soirees.” Offered a dashing young unicorn stallion with white fur and a blue mane and tail. “My name’s Fancy Pants.” He turned and gestured towards a tall white unicorn with a pink mane and tail who looked like she could be a model and probably was. She was otherwise engaged in talking to some older mares. “That’s my date, I’ll introduce you to her later if we get the chance. I’m an entrepreneur and philanthropist. - So tell me, what is it you do?”

“I, um, I’m in travels.” Holiday offered sheepishly. Sure it was an opportunity to get some name recognition for the agency she worked at, but she just couldn't do it.

“I’m the nanny to a young alicorn,” Lofty offered with a smirk. “And I make quilts.”

“Splendid. I’d love to see some of your quilts, do you sell them?”

“I kind of mostly just give them away to friends and family.” Lofty offered her normal smile back. “I do put one up for sale now and then at a local shop in Ponyville where we live. Every little bit helps. We’re not exactly what you’d think of as wealthy.”

“You’re not going to ask about the young alicorn?” Holiday asked. Why is he interested in quilts of all things she pondered?

“Well I can see that Princess Cadance knows Ms Lofty, so I’m going to assume she’s not spinning a yarn so to speak, and I thought I’d get to know the pony who has been given such a rare position of responsibility.”

“Oh.” Holiday replied.

“Her name’s Nova. She just sort of dropped into my lap so to speak.” Lofty supplied. “I foal sit, and when Miss Nova came wandering into town I was there and available.”

Just then a chime rang and a servant announced that lunch was served.

“Well, I’ll let you get to lunch.” Alice offered.

“Not coming into lunch?” Lofty asked.

“Oh no. I work nights. If I don’t get a little more sleep the night guards will hate me more than they already do.” Alice offered. “I’ll give them a bit of a break tonight. I’m going to check in on Nova later. She’ll probably be starving when she wakes up. - Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon then. I might see you in the morning then.” Lofty replied, and then followed Fancy Pants into the dining room.

“Does that mean she came down just to meet us?” Holiday asked as she followed along.

“Sure looks that way.” Lofty replied. “I noticed her teeth were similar to Nova’s teeth. I wonder if that is common to nocturnal ponies?”

“I wouldn't know, we only know the one. I’ve often wondered why pegasi don’t have more specialized teeth in the first place? You know, for catching fish?”

“Maybe we simply lost those teeth as being no longer necessary.” Lofty offered as they went to find their seats. “That or a recessive trait, that and ponies are a really mixed bag these days.”

Princess Celestia had also joined the gathering shortly before going in and made sure to migrate over to Lofty.

“Lofty, I’m so glad you were able to make it on such short notice,” Celestia said in greeting. “And this must be Ms Holiday?”

“Yes, Princess.” Lofty offered while making a polite curtsy. “She’s my special some-pony.”

“Well good for you.” Celestia offered.

“Princess Celestia, are you going to take Nova away from us? I, that is we, have kind of grown fond of her. Despite her little quirks.” Holiday asked while making a rather nervous attempt at a curtsy.

“I actually think it’ll be a good idea if you remain her guardians.” Celestia offered. “I’ll look after her while she’s here learning how to control her magic, and she can go back to you for breaks, or just whenever things get to be too much for her. How does that sound?”

“I’d like that very much.” Holiday offered.

“And we’ll also get you a pass so you can come up and visit while your here.” Celestia offered. “Now, let us all find our seats.”

“Princess, does this mean you’ve taken on a new student?” One of the nobles asked momentarily after sitting down.

“In a way, I have,” Celestia confirmed.

“Oh, I was so hoping my grand filly would be your next,” offered an old mare.

“I’m sure she’s a very capable filly.” Celestia offered as ponies began to eat. “But I have exciting news. These two young mares that have joined us have reunited me with my very own niece. The very student of whom we were talking about just now. A young alicorn who had been caught up in the fight between myself and nightmare moon.”

“Nightmare Moon? Princess, there’s a rumor...”

“Just a rumor, I’m sure.” Celestia offered.

“A colt attempted to confiscate a medallion worn by my charge on the train this morning, and in so doing set off a rather alarming anti-theft spell.” Lofty offered. Celestia’s expression was unreadable, but Lofty decided to forge on. She simply did not like the idea that ponies might get the wrong end of the stick if she could set them right. “Just a harmless illusion. I imagine it’ll be a blast on Nightmare Night.”

“Is that what happened?” Asked another mare. She was a pearl white unicorn mare with a violet-colored mane. “Lady Glory Rose, I’m the colt’s mother.”

“Oh, I’m so terribly sorry to hear that.” Lofty offered in condolence. Glory cast a glare her way.

“Yes, and then that same spell was set off here in the palace.” Prince Blueblood announced. “A most distasteful experience.”

“I’m so sorry, Prince Blueblood, I’m afraid that was my fault.” Celestia offered with a smile. “I’m afraid you’d walked in on a meeting right about the time I set the thing off by accident.” Celestia had a wistful look on her face. It’d been a while since she’d been pranked by her sister. In fact, in the short time since Luna’s return, there’d not been one single prank attempt.“But not to worry, I’ve taken measures to render it a little less scary.” Celestia could only wonder what her sister was going to think of the new size. And for that matter, she was curious as to why the spell had been draining magic directly from Nova instead of using the ambient magic that was readily available? Had her sister done that intentionally, and if so why? Was it to keep Nova’s magic at a manageable level as Nova had suggested?

“Could this young alicorn be the rumored black and white pony you were looking for?” Fancy Pants asked.

“She is indeed,” Celestia replied with a smile. “After so many years her father’s name has escaped me though I seem to recall a rather dashing young stallion who was white with a silver mane and a great prince in his lands. I shall have to do some research to see if I might find some record of him.

“And now you all get to know before any pony else.” Celestia offered with a big smile.

“A new alicorn in addition to the return of your sister. What will she be the princess of?” Asked one of the old biddies.

“She is a dear friend of mine from way back when I was very little. I’d nearly forgotten her.” Cadance offered. “She’s a bit different as I’m sure you’ll see when you get to meet her. As to what she will be the princess of, I haven't really pinned down my role yet.”

“And she’s helped to confirm my suspicions concerning Princess Cadenza.” Celestia offered. “I now know Cadance’s full story, so to speak. Her mother had been the princess of the Crystal Empire prior to the coup de’etat orchestrated by the pony now remembered in history and legend as King Sombra. I believe that she was attempting to escape the empire and was at the periphery of the spell he cast that caused the city to vanish. Sombra was obsessed with power, and it was his own obsession that led to his downfall.”

That last could easily have been a caution to those gathered. Princess Celestia told them that long ago alicorns weren’t such a rare thing. It was the birth of an alicorn that was rare and near impossible to recognize them as such until they’d come into their maturity. Short of some event that would bring out their full potential early on that maturity seldom happened during the life of the parent. Granted that the full truth was Celestia really didn’t know how a new alicorn was created. Nor was she going to tell them that what she’d just said was speculation on her part mixed with a little white lie. But if she could get these stuck up nobles to cherish their disabled foals via a little white lie then so be it. Unintentional consequences be damned. This bit of news drifted to talk of false alicorns and how many families considered such foals an embarrassment.

“We all thought Nova was a false alicorn.” Lofty offered. “I can only wonder where she’d be now if we had treated her like an embarrassment?”

“Hear hear.” Fancy Pants offered with a big smile on his face.

From there the conversation over lunch drifted to small talk, and when lunch had finished Lofty and Holiday went upstairs to check in on Nova. She was still fast asleep and likely wouldn't have woken up to the sound of elephants rampaging through the room. Holiday went back to her place of work to regale them of her adventure, and Lofty took the train home to Ponyville. It proved to be a very lonely ride indeed. Not that first class wasn’t worth it, she just hadn’t seriously thought Nova might not be coming back with her.

Lofty's adventure, part two. Ponyville and back.

View Online

“Welcome back, Ms Lofty, how was your trip?” Station Manager asked on spotting her getting off the train. “Hang on, where’s your little princess?”

“She’s going to be staying with her Aunt for a while.”

“You found a relative? Tell me who so I can go give her a piece of my mind.”

“Princess Celestia.” Lofty says with a big grin. “Her Aunt is Princess Celestia.”

“You want to try explaining that?” Their head tilted and their expression had gone from stern to data does not compute, please reenter data?

“Well, as it turns out, Nova is the real thing. She is Princess Luna’s foal. She got caught in some kind of powerful enchantment during the fight with Nightmare Moon and is well, over a thousand years old thanks to being trapped in limbo all that time.”

“You don’t say?!” Their eyes had gone wide in astonishment, though the news was still playing havoc on every belief they thought to be true.

“Well, she’s still a filly, and it explains what she was doing way out in the Everfree on the same night Nightmare Moon escaped her imprisonment. Her reasons for being so closed-lipped about it all is she as likely reasoned no one would believe it and fear of how she might be received if they did,” Lofty offered. “And now I need to go tell the Apples we are not going to be available to help out for a while.”

“How’s that?”

“I get to be Nova’s Nanny.” Lofty informed him.

“But what about her mother?”

“From what I am to understand, Princess Luna has been reduced to that of a foal herself, doesn’t remember much from before, and quite likely isn’t fit to look after a foal. Part of why Holiday and I have been retained as Nova’s official nannies. The other reason is that we are still Nova’s legal guardians and Princess Celestia wants it to stay that way uncontested. Subsequently, I’m to look after her during the day while she is in Canterlot, so be sure to reserve me a first-class accommodation in the morning.” She then walked away with a big grin on her face.

By the time she had reached the Apple farm, Lofty had stopped several times along to way to have similar conversations.

“Oh, hey Lofty, where’s Nova?” Bright Mac called as she approached. He was sitting on the porch, there was a prosthetic brace attached to his right back leg that took most of the weight off his leg when in use, and he was under orders to take it easy. The damage had been severe enough that he’d never have full use of it again and the doctors were saying his bucking days were over. Lofty wasn't sure if that was just trees or if it included the other meaning and wasn't going to ask.

“She’s going to be staying with Princess Celestia for a spell.” Lofty offered with a big smile. “And all her educational needs are going to be taken care of as well.”

“That sounds like wonderful news, though I can’t but feel we are losing her. Can I take it that she is an alicorn after all?”

“She is indeed. Turns out the reason she was out in the Everfree isn’t that she got dumped out there, it’s because she was involved in the fight between Princess Celestia and Nightmare Moon.”

“Aaaa, you want to run that by me again a little slower.”

“Nova is Princess Celestia’s niece. Her mother is Celestia’s sister Luna. Luna was possessed by a pony of shadows. Nova didn’t understand what was going on, tried to stop the fight, and got caught in the crossfire resulting in her ending up in limbo for a thousand years. When she said she was one thousand years old she probably wasn’t far off the mark. Though how she could know still alludes me unless she was somehow aware of what had happened to her.” Lofty shuddered at the idea.

“Wow.”

“Granted this is where we start getting into the area of subjective versus objective. She might be over a thousand years old by her birth date, but she’s still just a filly.”

“Eee-yup.” Bright Mac replied slowly. He wasn’t quite speechless yet. After all, it was plain to see that Nova was a filly. The idea that she was more than a false alicorn had also played on every pony’s mind as well. Being over a thousand years in actual age had not been calculated into the equation and Bright Mac’s mind was presently trying to play catch up.

“Anyway, Princess Celestia made me the official Nanny.” Lofty informed him. “She wants me to be there for Nova for the foreseeable future. That also means I won’t be around to help out.”

“Oh.” Bright Mac said sounding a bit disappointed. “Well, it’s not like I can’t keep an eye on Apple Bloom.”

“How’s that?” Pear Butter asked as she poked her head out the door.

“Hi Pear. I came by to let you know I won’t be available for a while.”

“What? But why?”

“Because Nova needs someone she knows to look after her in the day time while she’s in Canterlot.”

“Why can’t you do that here?”

“Because Princess Celestia wants Princess Nova to stay with her for a while.”

“Why didn’t you say no?”

“I can’t tell Princess Celestia no.”

“No, I suppose not.” Pear Butter replied with a hoof to her forehead. “Hang on, did you say Princess Nova?”

“Eyup.” Bright Mac replied.

“She’s a bonafide princess?” Pear Butter asked.

“Who’s a bonafide princess?” Granny Smith asked as she came around the corner of the house.

“Miss Nova.” Lofty offered. “And Princess Celestia made me a Royal Nanny. I’m to look after Nova during the day till she’s settled in. After that, I can’t really say other than Nova will be allowed to come back to Ponyville for breaks. - Princess Celestia is Nova’s Aunt. Her actual Aunt. Once Nova got over her initial trepidation and past her freak out she actually started calling Princess Celestia Aunt Tia.”

“And, and, and Princess Celestia allowed it?” Granny asked. She was stupefied. "Why I'd have given her what for. Disrespecting Princess Celestia like that. Give a pony wings en a horn and suddenly they start to putting on airs."

“Granny, they are family. You wouldn't expect Applejack to call you Mrs Smith would you.” Lofty asked.

“Mrs Smith? Land sakes no. Kind of sounds downright strange too.” Granny replied. “Like one of them their pulp fiction characters, like the wife of that pony who travels around in the blue box, or that company that sells freezer pies.” Granny shuddered at the idea of freezer pies. “Are they really family? I still can't cotton some pony not being respectful and getting away with it.”

“Nova got mixed up in the fight with Nightmare Moon. Princess Luna is her mother, though no pony knows if Princess Luna will even remember her. The Night Mare kind of did a number on Princess Luna.” Lofty informed them. “Seems Nova got caught up in the periphery of the magic that banished Nightmare Moon, and she wasn’t the only one. There's a lieutenant who'd got caught up in the banishment as well.” Lofty decided to leave off the part about Alice Mouse having been a Shadowbolt. "Nova, being a bonafide princess, is allowed certain liberties behind closed doors."

“Well if that don’t beat all,” Granny said kind of quiet like.

“I don’t think she really understood what was going on either.” Lofty offered. “One moment she’s right in the middle of the fight...”

“Right in the middle?” Pear Butter asked.

“From what they’ve admitted to.” Lofty replied. “..next moment, Nova was waking up in the ruins of what used to be her home. She didn’t want to say anything because she was afraid no one would believe a word of it. A little frightened about being found out too and what might happen.”

"Darn straight," Granny proclaimed. "Them night ponies rebelled again Princess Celestia."

"And Princess Celestia has forgiven everything, nor should you be holding a grudge against ponies who've never done a bad thing to you. Whenever she has been out here at the acres she has worked hard.

“Got that right.” Bright Mac offered. “And if you weren’t wearing that fancy bobble I’d think you were just trying to pull one over on us apple farmers.”

“Now Mac, you know I’d never do something like that. And if I was I’d be sure to let you off the hook once you’d bit down good and hard.”

“Well, can you help out for the rest of the afternoon till the youngster's get back? Mayhap just take a load off for a spell?” Bright Mack asked.

“Sure I can. Part of why I came out here. Might be a spell before I get to keep an eye on Apple Bloom or any of the other foals that get dropped off by hired hooves for you. And I can tell you about my day.”

“Well let me finish up what I was doing, and we’ll all sit a spell and have a listen,” Granny announced and ambled off at a quick trot. As she went she could be heard muttering about ponies not respecting their elders, running off on adventures, and not being where they are supposed to.

“And I’ve a mind to exercise my rights as a landed Baron just to make sure Princess Nova is being treated properly,” Bright Mac offered once granny was well out of earshot.

“You’re a Baron?!” Lofty exclaimed.

“E-yup,” Bright Mac offered with a twinkle in his eye. "It's a land grant from Princess Celestia, and that comes with a title. Just don't say anything about it in front of Granny. It just doesn't fit with her world view."

:ajsmug:

The next morning Lofty and Holiday got up at the sound of the chime on the mechanical timepiece and then stopped to stare into the darkness.

Lofty, you don’t suppose the clock is broken?” Holiday asked as she looked about. By rights, the sun should already have been up. Lofty got out of bed, felt her way to the bedroom door, groped around till she found the matches, and used a match to light an oil lamp that hung over the stove. It was a lamp on a counterbalance that made it possible to pull it down, and then push it back up once it had been lit.

“Clock out here says it’s six.” Lofty called.

“We didn’t just end the world by taking Nova to Canterlot, did we?”

“You know, I can’t believe you’d even say that. She’s a good pony and you know it.”

“Yes I know, I’m sorry. It’s just really strange Princess Celestia not raising the sun yet. It should be up already.” Holiday said as she ventured out. “Something’s just not right.”

“I’m going to Canterlot.” Lofty announced.

“What? Now?”

“Yes now. If anything’s happened to Nova I’ll never forgive myself for leaving her behind.”

“Well don’t go on an empty stomach, and don’t forget your passes, you’ll not get far without them.”

“Right, my passes...” Lofty said as she trotted back into the bedroom. “Where are they?”

“You put them on the dresser last night.”

“Found them.”

Lofty emerged from the bedroom a moment later, made herself a dandelion sandwich, and rushed out into the darkness while eating it. There were other ponies venturing forth but only so far as to gaze up into the heavens.

In the town square, a newspaper colt was selling papers with the headlines, Nightmare Moon sighted in Canterlot! “Read all about it!” shouted the paper colt who then shouted out the headline again.

“It wasn’t Nightmare Moon, just an illusion that looked like her!” Lofty shouted as she passed by. At least she sure hoped that was all it was.

She’d finished her sandwich well before she got to the station. And on arriving she found the train standing in the station.

“Which train is this? I need to get to Canterlot.” Lofty said as she approached the station master.

“It’s the sunrise express to Canterlot.”

“The sunrise express? Why’s it still here?”

“The sun hasn’t risen yet.”

“D’oh!”

Lofty turned to see a yellow balding stallion in a white shirt.

“Well is it going to get started any time soon?” Lofty asked the Station Master.

“Yes of course.”

“When?”

“Just as soon as the sun comes up.”

“And when do you suppose that’s going to be?” Lofty had to remind herself that her hoofs hurt when they hit her face.

“Don’t rightly know, the sunrise has never been this late.”

“Did it ever occur to you to use a mechanical time peace to set the schedule?”

“We did.”

“And?”

“Well getting one for each station and synchronizing them is a lot of time and expense. Hardly worth it when the sun comes up at the same time every morning.”

“Ow.” Lofty’s hoof had hit her face again. “Fine, I’ll just fly. I’ll probably get there a whole lot faster that way.”

“You sure about that. Seems to me, flying in the dark might be a wee bit dangerous.” The station master cautioned.

“Better than standing here hitting myself in the face.” Lofty muttered as she trotted away.

“Does seem a silly thing to do.” The station manager said mostly to himself now.

Lofty went down to the far end of the platform, unfolded her wings, broke into a run, leapt off the end, and beat her wings as hard as she could to gain as much altitude as she could as quickly as she could. Most of the landscape would be difficult to make out with the exception of the moonlight reflecting off the river and the outline of Mount Canterhorn looming up in the night sky. Lofty was confident that once she was close enough, the light of the city would be enough to guide her in. Once she was satisfied that she was at a safe altitude the routine was flap flap glide, flap flap glide, shallow dive to gain speed, use the speed to gain more altitude, pump her wings at the peek of the climb for a little more, and then it was back to flap flap glide. She figured she could do it in about an hour give or take. Likely a little over. Flying to Canterlot from Ponyville in the morning was grueling. Not so much because of having to be in the air for an hour, Lofty could hang on updrafts for hours, but because of the climb.

An updraft right about now would be a blessing. It was early morning before the sun was up. That meant the winds on the mountain were traveling down the mountain. And the winds over the land would be flowing down the valley to the sea. No, this was going to be an uphill climb all the way. Oh, what she wouldn't give to know Nova’s bottle rocket trick. Granted that she’d never gained more than three hundred horns altitude on subsequent attempts, she was getting the hang of it. Her real difficulty came in the form of maintaining control once she stalled out.

After what seemed like the longest hour of flight ever, the lights of Canterlot came into view.

Seeing fires in the lower quarter chilled her to the bone.

What could possibly be going on?

Then again, the lower quarter was where some of the poorest of Canterlot’s inhabitants lived. Here could be found squalid conditions in tenement housing that were often well overcapacity.

As Lofty flew over what she could see was signs of the Canterlot Guard attempting to quell civil unrest while the fire brigade frantically battled the flames.

Lofty was so glad she lived in Ponyville right now. Even if her wings were killing her.

Lofty glided up to the front gates, landed, and then the sun went up.

“Seriously?” Lofty asked no one in particular as she gazed out over the east and the rising sun.

Smiles broke out on the faces of the guards. Those at the gate didn’t know what was going on but due to the late sunrise the entire guard force was presently at full strength with both night and day shift standing watch. Or in the case of the lower quarter, busting heads.

Lofty took in a deep breath, let it out slowly, and approached the gate.

The gate was closed save for a small door in the gate.

“Sorry mam, we are on high alert,” offered a night guard. This was followed by a familiar ping, and to her surprise, her pass glowed with a golden light as though a shaft of sunlight had hit it.

She looked at it momentarily wondering if it had been doing that all along, and she simply hadn’t noticed.

“Um, that pass gives her direct access to Princess Celestia. She can come in.” Offered the captain from the day before.

“Princess Celestia? It’s Princess Nova I’m worried about. I just flew in from Ponyville, made the climb against the night breeze, and believe you me my wings feel like they’re made of lead right now.”

“Princess Nova?”

“Didn’t pay attention to the briefing? We gained another princess yesterday.” One of the other Night Guards pointed out. “The new princess is the reason Commander Mouse went easy on us last night.”

“Alright, well and good, but we are on high alert.”

Just as he was saying alert, a bugle could be heard ringing out clear in the crisp morning air.

“There you go, that’s the recall.”

Another bugle call sounded.

“Officer’s call.” The captain offered. “Ms Lofty here counts as an officer of the Princess.”

“I do?” Lofty asked.

“That bugle call was for all officers to gather at the Armory. You might as well come with me, and then maybe we’ll find out what’s going on.”

“There’s unrest in the lower quarter.” Lofty offered as she fell in with the Captain and entered through the small door. Another tune was played on a bugle as they were walking away.

“So I’ve heard. Things’ll settle down soon enough. - And that’s the signal to dismiss the night shift.”

“You know I never got your name.” Lofty pointed out.

“Silverspice Morgan. My grandfather was a Naval Captain, but I chose the Royal Guard. I’m actually just a lieutenant. I’m in charge of the main gate during the day shift so I get to be called Gate Captain. Rather pretentious if you ask me, and confusing. Lieutenants can be gate captains and squad leaders, captains who are in charge of companies, commanders who are in charge of divisions, above which is the Captain of the Royal guard. Who is an actual Captain and equivalent to a colonel in the Army. Yes, there’s an army which includes an air corps as well.”

“So how am I an officer of the Princess? I’m just a nanny.”

“You look after those who are underage and in the care of the Princess and report directly to her. Part of the family, but not part of the family. Any pony below the rank of lieutenant has to do what you tell them too. It gets iffy above that.”

“Great. I’m in the Ponyville Militia. Technically all the residents of Ponyville are if they are of age and of sound body. I get an exemption when I’m already engaged in taking care of a foal. My primary duty is to the welfare of my charge. This often creates a situation where the mother is responding to a call while I’m left taking care of the little ones. In one of the more recent timber wolf attacks I was already looking after Miss Apple Bloom and her mother, Pear Butter, was going to go but Nova maneuvered the situation to make sure she stayed behind as well. For whatever reason, she did not want Pear Butter leaving the farm that day. I can only wonder what might have happened if she had gone. Bright Mac, her husband, was savagely attacked by a timber wolf.”

“Interesting. Only now you’ll be a protected pony to be kept safe. You won’t be doing any more Militia stuff unless it’s a command position. Well, let’s see if they are going to tell us what happened.” Silverspice offered as he opened the door to a large building in the lower campus.

“Gate Captain, that better not be your mare friend.” chastised a Sargent at the front desk as the two entered the large building.

“She’s the new Nanny.”

“I’m a little more than a nanny, I’m one of Princess Nova’s guardians.” Lofty offered.

“Ah, well I guess there’s no harm. The briefing will start just as soon as every pony is gathered.” The Sargent replied with a smile.

“So do you know what’s going on?” Silverspice asked.

“Right now your guess is as good as mine.”

“Well, it’s driving me nuts that I can’t just go straight up there to see for myself that Nova is alright.” Lofty pointed out.

“The Night watch didn’t want to let her in at all.”

“Sounds like something we are going to have to iron out.” The Sargent offered. “I’ll mention it to the Captain of the Guard. A pony would think that as a guardian of a princess she’d get equal consideration.”

“Seems reasonable to me.” Silverspice concurred. He and Lofty then went down a short hall that led into a large auditorium. A number of officers had already gathered, and weapons could be seen in racks along the walls along with training mats.

Lofty stood straight and ridged at the call to attention.

“At Ease.” Called another voice. Lofty and the others gathered relaxed and trained their eyes and ears on the ponies upfront. “Last night we screwed up big time.”

Lofty guessed the pony talking was the Captain of the Guard.

“We need to keep in mind that to protect Princess Celestia and Equestria – we must also protect the Princess from her own Faust dammed stupid stunts. Last night Princess Celestia went into that enchanted mirror to go chase after Sunset Shimmer. Yes, that’s right, Sunset Shimmer. The very filly that Shadowbolt was trying to warn us could be a potential threat. Well, Commander Mouse was right and we should have taken her warnings more seriously. Many of us saw the new Princess as a threat. Heck, she attacked a city guard last night. And saved our flanks this morning.” He let that sink in. “Princess Nova with the aid of Princess Cadenza opened that mirror when no pony else had a clue what to do. Princess Nova went into the mirror, and retrieved both Princess Celestia and Sunset Shimmer at great risk to herself.” He paused for a moment. “New rule. Princess Nova gets to have all the fried chicken she wants and may Celestia have mercy on any creature dumb enough to try to take it away from her.” This announcement led to general good-hearted laughter. “In other news Commander Mouse is actually a rather sweet loving mare under that rough exterior. I think of all of us she was possibly the most upset when we thought we’d lost Princess Celestia.”

He paused as the Sargent at the front desk rushed in and proceeded up to the front. He beckoned, the captain leaned down from the platform he was standing on, the two had a quick conversation, and then the captain stood up strait again followed by a very slow face hoof. And then he started laughing.

“No wonder Princess Celestia puts up with so much crap out of that filly!” The Captain said to the assembled officers once he’d regained some semblance of his composure.

“Seriously?!” One of the officers who’d heard asked.

“That’s the word from the guards keeping an eye on Princess Celestia.” The Sargent offered. “They are in the staff cafeteria up in the inner castle as we speak. Everyone present heard it so it’s not going to stay secret for long.”

“Come on, share.” One of the others prompted.

“Word is that Sunset Shimmer is Princess Celestia’s daughter.” The Captain of the Guard announced.

“I’m to understand they are discussing how to announce it to the public.” The Sargent announced. “To include an explanation of a drunken night of revelry as suggested by our newest princess.”

“That’s my Nova.” Lofty commented dryly.

“Who’s that?” the Captain of the Guard asked.

“That’s Lady Lofty, Princess Nova’s guardian.” The Sargent informed him.

“Lady?” Lofty repeated quietly.

The Captain of the guard looked at her and smiled. “The guardian of a princess is equal to the princess.”

“Seriously?” Lofty replied with an odd twisted smile. “I don’t think she has any actual authority though.”

“Fair enough, fair enough.” The Captain replied. Every pony was in good cheer at this point.

“She flew up from Ponyville to check on the welfare of her charge only to have the night shift bar her entry,” Silverspice informed him.

“I imagine that hasn’t been an issue in a very long time.” The Captain offered. “It didn’t come up with Princess Cadenza because Princess Celestia took custody in the absence of any legal guardian.” He paused a moment. “Now listen up. Tell your guards regarding what happened last night, that Princess Celestia got stuck in an enchanted mirror, and that the two junior princesses were able to retrieve her this morning. Further, Lady Lofty is not to be barred access short of an active assassin on the grounds unless Princess Celestia says otherwise. That is all.”

“What about Sunset Shimmer?” Asked one of the other officers.

“Sunset Shimmer is back and seems to be in Her Highness’s good graces once again. Until Princess Celestia makes some kind of official announcement we’re just going to wing it as best we can. One last thing to mention, I’m to understand that Commander Shining Armor successfully put down this morning’s unrest by using Beanie Baby toys. Apparently, those things will make a pony think twice when fired from a party cannon.” The Captain offered. “Now, can some pony see that Lady Lofty gets upstairs without getting lost?”

Chapter 14: Morning Exploration of Canterlot Keep

View Online

I was on my third helping when Lofty came to join us. She’d loaded up a tray of food for herself. She made a polite bow, asked if it was alright if she joined us, and Celestia welcomed her warmly.

So, I hear you got stuck in a mirror last night?” Lofty asked.

It was my fault.” Shimmer offered apologetically.

Don’t beat yourself up too much.” I offer. “If I hadn’t already known what that thing was I might have been dumb enough to venture in myself. That is, without having a way out.”

You do tend towards being overly curious.” Lofty pointed out.

That’s because I want to know everything there is to know about this new world I’ve found myself in.” I offer. “I died. Be it figuratively or literally is unimportant. The world I knew is gone. Every being, creature, and pony I knew is … well every pony except Cadance, Alice Mouse, and Aunt Tia are gone.” I look at Luna. “Mom might show up yet. Part of me still clings to the notion that this is all a dream. Reason dictates to me that I must accept this new world and put the past behind me.

You have no idea how difficult it was for me to return from that mirror,” I add after a moment's pause my hoof still in Luna’s. Luna doesn’t seem to have made the full connection beyond I was some pony important to her.

Why, what was in that mirror?” Lofty asked.

It’s a trap, just a trap.” I offer. Celestia looks at me with a slight frown. She doesn’t say anything because in a way that’s exactly what that mirror is. Starswirl the Bearded had even gone so far as to create a spell that would cause overly ambitious ponies to see it as a gateway to everything they ever wanted. Sunset appearing to not have aged a day since she’d vanished only helped cement the idea that it was a form of limbo inside the mirror in the minds of those listening in.

I think I’ll take your advice and lock that thing away where no one can gain access to it.” Celestia offered. I think she was on her fifth stack of pancakes too. “Question though, how did you open it after it closed?”

Intuition I guess.” I offer. “Maybe once I know what I’m doing I might like to study that mirror.”

The words you used didn’t sound like any spell I’ve ever heard.” Cadance offered. Cadance had kept pace with me as far as how much she’d eaten. The staff had also started bringing us what we wanted rather than have us go get it ourselves. I think it was their pride after all.

I think that the primary meaning behind my cutie mark could have something to do with teleportation or travel from one place to another.” I offer. “So I just assumed if I poured my magic into it I could open it.”

What you said was ‘I am the bird that calls in the night. I am the light before the open of the day. I am the song sung by angry colts. I am change. I am hope. I am the promise of a new day.’ and before going into it you said ‘I shall return. And I will bring back the sun for I am the herald of the dawn’.” Cadance reported.

Did I?” I laugh nervously. “It was mostly bravado on my part.” And there is probably a Royal Archivist in the room jotting down everything we say.

The herald of the dawn who wears the emblem of the night.” Celestia mused. “Makes an odd sort of sense though. Can’t herald the dawn during the day.”

I suppose the magic I was using could have been Kitsune magic inherited from my father, or perhaps it was the magic of hope combined with the magic of love.” I give Cadance a warm smile.

The magic of love and the magic of hope.” Celestia mused between bites. “A very powerful combination. Powerful and potentially dangerous.”

I’m a very dangerous pony,” I teas.

Which reminds me,” Celestia stated casting me a glare. “There’s a guard you owe an apology to.”

I’ll apologize to him if he apologizes to me first,” I stated, and then shoved a forkful of pancake in my mouth. All the magic I’d used had made me hungry.

How much have you eaten anyway?” Lofty asked as she looked at the pile of plates. I give her a pained look. “Finish what you have in your mouth.” She thought about it for a moment, “And what’s this about you attacking a city guard and why would the Captain of the Royal Guard say you are now allowed all the chicken you want? - He also seems to think I’ve got a title now for that matter. It’s been a very confusing morning.”

She’s an omnivore, she loves fried chicken, Commander Mouse took her to a restaurant where she could get fried chicken, and a well-meaning but slightly overzealous guard tried to take said chicken away from her last night,” Celestia informed her.

Sunset nearly choked on her breakfast.

Does that have anything to do with the riots in the lower quarter?” Lofty asked.

Doubt it. That generally happens anytime I oversleep. And I suspect certain foals of the nobles are responsible. They like to get the poor riled up, and then go home to do absolutely nothing to bring about the change they are advocating for.” Celestia replied. “As for the title...” She had to think about it for a moment or two. “Ah, I think I know. When my sister and I first arrived in Equestria we were deemed to be underage.”

Was that right after you turned Discord into stone?” I ask.

I guess that wasn’t exactly ancient history to you?” Celestia asked me.

No, not really.” I offer her. Never mind the fact that I presently had a pretty good idea of every shenanigan and ill deed he had planned for the future. Which was just about every bad thing that was likely to happen in the coming future unless I could find a way to stop him. Fortunately, I had a little time on my hooves. “My understanding of him is that everything is a game to him. If you meet his challenge he will just find a new and tougher challenge, and it will never end. And consider that a prophecy.” Celestia gave me a pained look.

Anyway, getting back to the title thing, yes. There is an ancient law that bestows a title on the pony who is the legal guardian of a young alicorn princess. What that means is that the moment Judge Justice P Coltrane signed that document you and Miss Holiday became nobles.”

Seriously?” Lofty asked.

It’s near impossible to undo,” Celestia added. “Fortunately it is limited by the authority of the Prince or princess in question.”

Well, it was you or the Apples.” I offer to Lofty with a smirk. “If Bright Mac hadn’t have gone chasing off after timberwolves they might have taken me in.”

Lord Bright Macintosh and Lady Pear Butter. Kind of has a nice ring to it.” Lofty offered with just a bit of pomp.

Somehow I think Granny would have a fit. She’s much to salt of the earth. She doesn’t want nuth’n that she didn’t earn with her own sweat.” I offer while doing a bit of an imitation of her accent. “I would even go so far as to bet that if she were to find a pot of gold buried in the ground she’d bury it right back up again cuz she didn’t earn it.”

Bright Mac tells me he’s actually a landed Baron. Never would have guessed it in a million years. What about me?” Lofty asked with a big smile. She wasn’t going to say it, but she probably agreed with my assessment.

I see you as the practical sort who isn’t going to much care one way or the other save for when it comes to doing the right thing. You know who you are, and your not likely to change any time soon.” I offer. “Kind of what I like best about you. I mean, look at you, you’re having breakfast with Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Princess Cadenza, chatting away like old friends, and it’s not overwhelming you.”

Maybe it was having you under-hoof.” Lofty suggested with a big smile. “Luna?”

Hi.” Luna offered.

Princess Celestia!” Called a pony entering the dining facility.

It was Raven.

Princess Celestia,” Raven said one more time as she came through the dining hall. “I’m so sorry I’m late, they wouldn't let me in. The schedule is completely shot.”

Any chance she’s an older sister?” Sunset asked.

She’s Inkwell’s daughter,” Celestia informed her.

Ah, she does look a lot like Professor Inkwell.” Cadence commented.

What are you talking about? What about the schedule?” Raven protested.

Raven, I have told you that I’ll provide you with an apartment on the grounds.” Celestia quipped. “But never mind, for now, scrap today's schedule, and set up a press briefing. Best tell every pony what happened, or at least the basics of what happened before the rumor mill gets hold of it. And then I’m going to take the rest of the day off.”

The rest of the day off?” Raven protested.

I’ve been up all night. Even I need some sleep.” Celestia informed her.

Celestia then looked at me, then Cadance, and then Sunset. “Any chance the three of you are ready for a press meeting?”

Luna shook her head.

If you want me to look all princessy, all I have is my cloak and pendant.” I offered.

All she brought was an overnight bag,” Cadance informed Celestia. “And her silver shoes look like she’s been bucking trees.”

Never should have told her about bucking trees. “My shoes look fine.”

Oh my,” Celestia teased. “The royal silversmiths will have a fit. Those shoes are over a thousand years old.”

I know she abuses her shoes, but they can’t be actual silver, they never show any sign of wear other than getting a little sap and muck on them.” Lofty offered in my defense.

Nova, show me one of your shoes,” Celestia requested. Well, ordered was more like it.

Feeling a bit nervous I held out the closest front hoof.

True silver.” Celestia pronounced. “Adamantine. Dear Luna, you spared no expense on these. Pity, I could have used the money elsewhere. At least at the time. - They’re priceless.”

Ah what?” Lofty said nearly in a state of shock. “She’s been doing farm work in shoes that are priceless?!”

They’re indestructible. Her whole body would shatter before these would take any damage.” Celestia provided.

I pull my hoof back and take a closer look. Indeed they are unmarred. “I’m probably going to miss these when I outgrow them.”

I imagine you will,” Celestia said then turned to Raven. “Raven, press conference. And see to it you have a room in the castle.”

Yes, Princess Celestia.” Raven squeaked out, spun around, and was out the door moments later.

Speaking of rooms...” I said in a sort of leading way.

You have a room.” Princess Celestia offered. “Though I should warn you that it’s on the tour route.”

Tour route?” I ask with a touch of concern flavored with annoyance. “Mom’s tower is on a tour route? Any chance you can get it off the tour route?”

Yes, please,” Luna pleaded. “Aired and cleaned too.”

I closed it up, along with the adjoining wing, for close to nine hundred years. The historians were pestering me to open it.” Celestia offered while giving Luna a smile.

And all my toys are in a museum I suppose,” I said sounding dejected. Ya, sure, it was another lifetime ago, another me. But then again it was me. All the little things that tied me to this world. I also couldn't help but wonder where Luna had been staying and what condition her things were in. Not that any of her outfits would fit her present self.

But then again, after a thousand plus years I probably didn’t dare touch anything. Still though, who wants their precious mementos filed away in a museum while they’re still alive. Not that I haven't had moments like that. How many times had I visited a museum to see something under glass that I’d had in my youth? It was bad enough finding things in antique shops.

Everything in your room was preserved with magic before it ever went into your room,” Luna informed me.

All I ever let them do is catalog everything, and make drawings.” Celestia offered and then did a double-take on Luna.

Muma?” I say looking at Luna. “Does that mean you figured out who I am? Did you remember?” I could see tears in her eyes.

She nodded her head and wrapped her front legs around me bringing up her wings giving me a hug. Moments later we were both crying, followed by Luna saying how sorry she was for everything she’d done.

Please, you don’t have to be sorry for everything.” I plead. “I mean if you hadn’t have misbehaved I would never have been born.” I could feel Luna give me a halfhearted punch.

When did you become so snarky?” Luna whispered.

I take after my mom? Ow!” Now I’m crying and laughing at the same time.

Any chance housekeeping has kept my room clean? I mean, can I move back in today?” I ask after regaining my composure.

I’m sure they can get you some fresh linens.” Celestia offered. “Why don’t you two trot on up there and have a look around. Sunset, why don’t you show her the way?”

I can have my old rooms back?” Luna asked telling me she’d likely been in a guest room.

I can show you the way.” Sunset offered.

Let me see if I can find it on my own first.” I protest as I separate from my mom and we get up. “Surely things haven't changed so much that I’ll get lost.” I start to make an attempt at cleaning up my own dishes only to have the staff swoop in and take everything. A moment later I’m headed upstairs, Moonie on my back, Luna at my side with Sunset, Philomena, Cadance, and Lofty following behind me.

Sunset rushed back, gave Princess Celestia a hug while Phil circled the pair, and then trotted after us with Phil flying along beside in a sort of up and down pattern.

💠

Miss, you can’t go that way, it’s blocked.” Offered a guard standing outside an ornate entrance to the tower. “No one goes through this way, I don’t know if even Princess Celestia can open that door.”

Then why are you standing here and which way do the tours come?” I asked.

They get in through a back door.” Cadance offered.

Moonie, can you open that door?” Luna asked with a sly grin.

One moment.” Offered the tiniest alicorn. She flew up into the air from my back, straight at the door, and vanished.

A moment later a tumbler could be heard moving inside the door followed by the massive doors cracking open, and swinging outward.

Seems I have the key.” I offered followed by Luna giving me a hug.

Good thing too because I can’t remember what the spell was,” Luna informed us.

And here I was about to gloat because I knew my way better.” Sunset offered just as Moonie came bounding out.

Kind of makes sense to go in the front door when coming home.” I offer as I step in.

Beyond the door was a large rotunda richly carpeted with reds and burgundies. The supporting pillars were massive trunks stained alabaster and inlaid with amber holding up a lofted ceiling. A chair rail stretched about the walls of the room that had been given the same treatment. Each door had been given the same treatment as well as a richly adorned frame that circled along the top of the walls to border the ceiling. Above the chair rail was a magnificent mural of Equestria at night with ponies looking up into the night sky that stretched all the way around the room, and the ceiling had been painted to depict the heavens with every constellation in perfect detail. The room’s furnishings were framed in gold and upholstered with silk in shades of cobalt blue and a silvery blue with some cabinets in richly stained burl wood and a large liqueur cabinet trimmed in black lacquer that framed some rather idealistic scenes of what some artist imagined life on the moon might look like. Here too were a number of large windows looking out over Canterlot and the entire place is lit up with seven large crystal lanterns designed to look as though they are hanging from the branches of the trees.

It is far more breathtaking than I could remember or imagine and seeing Philomena flitting about the room only helps to enhance the experience.

Save for the stanchions, red velvet cords, and floor mats in the middle of the room creating a corridor in and out through a large set of double glass doors leading to the East wing. It is all quite breathtaking.

It was also party central. Oh, the parties this place had seen. Funny I should remember that.

Wow,” Lofty said softly. “But there’s no bed?”

I didn’t actually sleep in the tower.” Luna offered. Her announcement garnering some odd looks from the guards. Sure it was one thing to be told such and such but to have the real pony, who hardly looked old enough to be any pony’s mom, right there was quite another.

All the bedrooms are in the East Wing,” Sunset informed her. “Princess… that is mom, has the West wing.”

Her rooms used to be a lot simpler, more Spartan.” I offer.

Spartan?” Sunset asked.

The sort of place a military officer would live in.” Luna supplied. “I was the one who always wanted to impress. The irony is that my excesses back then are considered acceptable behavior, even expected, of a national leader these days. I knew what I was doing. Even if I am a little befuddled yet.”

You and me both I guess.” I offered.

It’s a bit musty. Are you sure you want to stay here?” Cadance asked. “I don’t mind sharing a bed.”

There’s room in the guest quarters I’m in, she can stay with me.” Luna offered, getting me all choked up again.

Are you alright?” Cadance asked me.

I let my mind wander for a bit. I had a brother.” I should be more careful about letting my mind wander. “Moonie, can you open some windows? Not too much, just enough to let some fresh air in.”

Nova?” Luna asked quietly. She doesn’t have to say it, but I know she wants to know if I know what became of my brother.

Can do,” Moonie replies and flies over to the closest window.

I don’t know what became of him. It’s just you me and Miss Alice so far.” I turn around and poke my head out the door. “We are going to leave the door open to let the air circulate.”

There are three guards out there now. They look back at me with an expression that indicates that they are at something of a loss.

You had a brother?” Cadance asks as I turn back around.

I seem to recall that you were betrothed to him,” I say as I trot by. “Walking in here with the place looking much as it did when we left to go to the palace in the forest and knowing that the only family member I have left is Mom, Princess Celestia, and yourself, kind of makes the place feel empty.”

My offer still stands.” Luna insisted.

I think I’d like that,” I replied.

Don’t look at me, I live in a dorm.” Sunset quipped.

Something tells me you’re about to get moved and all the snobs who snubbed you are about to get really friendly like,” I say with a smile as I undo a velvet cord and let it drop. The others think about what I just said, laugh, and follow after me. Going through the large double door into the East wing we are greeted by an army of servants cleaning the place. They stop and bow.

No, no, keep going. Now’s not the time for formalities.” I say with an embarrassed smile. We do return the bow though. Back when I was here last, servants weren’t quite so formal and had no compunction in regards to boxing my ears.

Before me is a long common room that looks out onto the roof of the old audience hall built in the center portion of the keep. Patios have been added along with a couple of hoof bridges to either side over the peak of the roof. The whole structure makes up the North end of the old castle. The room itself looks much like the room we just left. To my right is a staircase going up to another level, just past that a small kitchenette slash tea room, followed by another set of double doors into Luna’s chambers. Along the wall are a number of portraits. I trot on up to a floor to ceiling painting of Luna with two foals. One is undeniably myself, the other a dark colt who looks a great deal like a young Night Light Sparkle. My coloration is a bit on the dark grey side and some leopard spots are visible. All-natural camouflage for a cub but there were hints of how I’d turn out. There’s no cutie mark as of yet in this painting.

You were so cute as a baby.” Luna offered. “And I’d no idea you’d turn out so pretty.”

That’s definitely you,” Lofty says as she comes up. The painting is practically life-size.

Why are her markings so different?” Sunset asked.

When she was really little she was all grey with leopard spots,” Luna informed her. “I figure it has something to do with who her father was. Natural camouflage, a throwback from when young had to be hidden from predators.”

I can hear whispering and barely contained squeees coming from the staff resulting in my ears doing gymnastics. I can’t resist stretching up to all but nose boop my own portrait. The level of squee intensifies. I’m cute and I know it.

Nova!” Cadance called. She was looking at a painting of two fillies in outlandishly cute outfits. A sort of Gothic Lolita style – we’d been dressed up like dolls. Yes, we. My spots are gone in that one and I’m starting to show a lot of white. “Could this be us?”

I deny ever having anything to do with that,” I state flatly as I give a wistful look to my brother now long gone. “Not willingly at any rate.”

So is it?” Sunset asked. “I mean the resemblance?”

Sure is.” Luna offered. “And she had to be scolded for nipping at the maids trying to dress her.”

All right, yes,” I say as I give her a dirty look. A big smile forms on her face while the others laugh.

I’d often wondered about this painting,” Cadance said as she looked at it. “Can’t say I remember posing for it though.”

Shame you can’t remember. You loved getting dressed up in those outfits.” Luna says as I trot over to Cadance. We can see inside Luna’s apartment. It’s furnished pretty much the same as everything else so far save for a large canopy bed with heavy curtains and more heavy curtains on the windows.

I never much cared for the doll look,” I comment. “Took entirely too long to get dressed, it required help, and I wasn’t allowed to do anything.” I can remember being a very active filly. Heck, the only thing that got me to sleep at night in Ponyville was spending the afternoon apple bucking. And I was moderately good at it too, which annoyed Apple Bloom to no end. My method was to climb up into the tree and buck a branch at a time, which only helped to annoy Applejack. Apple bucking was supposed to be done at the trunk! Sorry, no. No matter how well refined my Earth magic was, I am just too little to buck a whole tree at once.

But I digress.

We continued on past Luna’s apartment to her private library that was done up in richly stained wood panels, trim, and wrought iron lifts on tracks. The lifts were far more practical than ladders, and each aisle had its own dedicated lift. Not that a unicorn or alicorn couldn't simply use magic, one wanted to know which book they were grabbing hold of. That and I seemed to recall climbing the stacks when I was little.

And then we came to my room. Of course, there was a velvet rope in front of the doorway. There were velvet ropes blocking everything off. I smiled as I looked up at my cutie mark emblazoned on a shield above the door. The rope was down so I walked in and then stopped to just have a look around. Here the walls were covered in hand-painted fabric to resemble a forest. The curtains had gilded banisters and emerald draperies, and the ceiling was a beautiful fresco depicting pegasi foals playing among the clouds. Both the wall covering and the draperies had little stress areas where it looked like they’d been climbed. The setting was daylight as well save for little spotlights hidden in the ceiling that matched the constellations. I actually had no idea how they worked short of magic. My other option was a light source being passed through crystals and reflective tubing. The main light was a large chandelier that looked suspiciously like it had been redesigned to keep a certain filly away from the actual light sources.

Come on, keep moving.” Sunset prompted.

Not like that door can’t fit all of us.” I point out the large double doors as I look at the large four-poster bed. The curtains aren’t heavy like Luna’s, but they are made of good strong cloth. The posts are quite substantial, and the canopy is reinforced with linen webbing that stretches out from each post.

Explain to me why that other bedroom is so dark, but this one is so bright?” Cadance asked.

I can’t sleep with any light coming in.” Luna offered. “Nova was just the opposite. I distinctly remembered she’d sleep in any old sunbeam with her belly to the sky. Not that she didn’t have her favorite spots.”

I loved sleeping in the sun. The early morning sun would stream in through the window and warm my bed for me. The only way to keep me in my room was to make it look like a warm sunny day. It also transforms at night so the entire setting turns to nighttime. There were lights in the ceiling. If they still work.” I offered.

I think there was a part of me that resented your desire to sleep in the sun, but you always loved the night,” Luna said softly.

Lights?” Asked a stallion out in the hall.

I turned to see a tan unicorn with a dark blue blazer on. His mane is a dark chocolate brown cut short.

I wonder if Equestria has an equivalent to chocolate?

Princess Cadenza, what brings you here?” He asks. Not sure if he’s pointedly ignoring Sunset, Luna, and myself or not? Judging by his agitation he’s not happy about what the cleaning staff is doing. He was likely of the mind that they had to ask his permission to do anything, and he never gave permission short of being countermanded by Princess Celestia herself.

Mr Heritage, Princess Nova was thinking about moving back into her old room,” Cadance informed him.

Princess Nova...” he said rather slow like.

Hello,” I say as I turn to face him. “I think my mom might like her old rooms back as well.”

Aaaa… who are you?”

Princess Nova,” I say. My ears are starting to angle back. I know the type. To him, this whole place is a museum, and nothing is to be touched.

Ever.

Never mind that it is also someone’s home.

His eye is twitching.

Lofty steps between us.

And who are you?” I could hear him ask.

Lofty.” Her voice gives away no hint of what she’s thinking. “I’m her guardian. “It’s her room, and Princess Celestia has already approved…”

We’ll just see about that,” he says in a cold angered tone, and walks off in a huff.

Well that could have gone better,” I say as I peek around Lofty to watch him go. “Just wait till he finds out we opened the front door.”

He’ll have an absolute fit no doubt,” Luna predicted.

The front door is open?” A maid asks.

Nova has the key so to speak.” Lofty offered.

But there’s no keyhole in that door?” asked another maid followed by one of the maids walking down the corridor to have a look.

It’s open,” came the announcement followed by the entire staff going to have a look.

A pony would think they’d never seen an open door before?” I say as I watch them go into the other room to marvel at the spectacle.

I think there’s supposed to be some legend that says the doors will only open for the princess of the night.” Shimmer offered just about the time Moonie came trotting up to us.

Mission accomplished.” Moonie proclaimed.

Well there’s your princess of the night for you,” I say sounding just a touch sarcastic. The five of us couldn't resist a few chuckles at the expense of a very confused mini Moon.

I decided to put Mr Heritage behind me and go explore my room to see what might still be there. The first thing was the top of the canopy…

I can’t believe my eyes.

Under a thick blanket of dust is a whole bunch of toys.

Toys!” I shout and… hang on if I disturb that…

Toys!” Moonie shouts and dust goes flying everywhere as a result of her cannonballing onto the canopy. Philomena joins her in a frolicsome dust bath.

My wing flapping isn’t helping.

Evacuate!” I shout as I streak for the entrance soon to be followed by everyone else.

Somehow we manage to get the doors closed before the cloud of dust gets to us. At least I think we did.

OK now, headcount, everyone here?” Lofty asked.

What was that all about anyway?” Sunset asked.

No pony ever cleans the top of the canopy.” Lofty offered.

Cadance?” I ask. No Cadance. No Philomena. No Moonie. There is a knock on the door. I open the door and Cadance bursts out. She’s covered in dust and in the throws of a coughing fit.

I get a glimpse of Moonie and Philomena bouncing on the canopy making things worse. Luna takes one look and starts laughing.

I cut my losses and close the door.

Looks like I won’t be moving in there for a while yet,” I say with a sheepish smile.

I doubt you’d want to anyway.” Luna offered. “Everything is all musty, and is going to need more than a new set of linens.”

Cadence just gives me a dirty look as she continues to cough.

It wasn’t me, it was Moonie.” I plead.

Was it – cough – Moonie that – cough – closed the – cough – door before I could – cough – get out of there!”

I’d swear there was dust coming out of her every time she coughed.

Might have been my fault.” Lofty offered and Luna started laughing.

I am so glad you came back for me,” Sunset said with a barely suppressed grin. “I wouldn't have missed seeing that for the world!” And then she lost it. The laughter just bubbled up out of her so hard that she dropped to her plot and rolled over laughing.

It was all I could do not to join her and Luna, and I suspect Lofty was having a hard time keeping a straight face as well.

And then Cadance’s scowl cracked.

Chapter 15: The Press Briefing.

View Online

Princess Cadance?” Velvet asked as she approached. By this time several of the maids had returned and weren’t quite sure what to make of the four of us. Cadance was covered in dust, and we were all laughing. “What’s going on?”

I’m sorry,” I say as I do my best to regain my composure. “My little Moonie sploded the top of the canopy and Cadance got cought in the fallout.”

Moonie? Sploded?” Velvet asked confused.

Philomena helped. There was about a hoof thick layer of dust on top of the canopy.” I explain. “Moonie come here.”

The little mini Nightmare Moon popped out of the door and landed on my back followed by Philomena teleporting into the room and flying about in circles chirruping happily.

Mrs Sparkle, Moonie,” I say in way of introduction. “She’s a very sophisticated bit of spell work. And no one has cleaned the dust off the top of my bed since before I last slept in it over a thousand years ago by the looks of it.”

Sploded?!” One of the maids gasped.

Dust everywhere,” I announced.

Let's just hope there aren’t any other dust-covered canopies for those two.” Lofty offered.

Moonie, no more bouncing on dust-covered canopies,” I order.

And that goes for you too, you silly Philly.” Sunset scolded Philomena. She’d a big smile on her face though.

I am curious, why is it we never saw her before coming to Canterlot?” Lofty asked.

Right off hoof I’d say she was broken. That and she was powered from my magic and I just didn’t have enough magic for her to power up,” I offered. “Aside from the apparent bodyguard feature, and built-in prank subroutine, we’d never have gotten the front door open without her.”

Ah, makes sense,” Lofty said. “Mrs Sparkle, is there something we can do for you?”

We are almost ready for the briefing, and Princess Celestia is waiting.”

Great,” Cadance said as the cold realization that she was likely going to appear before the press covered in dust.

Just picture the fit Mr Heritage is going to have when he sees that room.” Sunset offered as she got up off the floor.

It was all I could do not to start laughing again as I headed for the front door.

Perhaps Princess Celestia knows a good cleaning spell?” Lofty suggested hoping to reassure Cadance as the others followed after me.

Hang on, where’s every pony going?” Velvet asked.

To use the front door,” Sunset replied with a big smile.

That little monster of mine is the key to the front door,” I inform her as the five of us make our way through the room.

Hang on, Mrs Sparkle…” I direct her eyes to the painting of Luna, myself, and my brother. “The colt in the picture, does he remind you of anyone?”

If you must ask he reminds me of my husband.” Twilight Velvet offered. “I spotted the resemblance some time ago, why? It’s not like you’ve… you’re doing it again, aren’t you?”

Just a hunch, but I think it’d do Mom and myself a lot of good if we knew what had become of the colt in the painting.” Luna looked back and forth at us.

You know, you two kind of look-alike too.” Luna offered while looking at Mrs Sparkle and myself. “You don’t suppose their families are descended from Nachtlicht?”

You think?” Velvet asked astonished.

Not like it’s not a possibility, though, I'd think such speculation might best be kept quiet,” I offered, and then prompt the exodus out the front door as Mrs Sparkle nodded her agreement.

From there it was down a corridor that looked out over Canterlot, down a hall, and then down several flights of grand staircases that ended at the far end of the entry hall. On our left the old Audience hall and the small chamber we first waited in, and on our right, arched passages into a new Grand Audience Hall with large stained glass windows the hall having been built out from the keep on top of a massive outcropping of rock.

The far end of the entryway was loaded with ponies streaming into the Grand Audience hall and security was tight.

I couldn't resist peeking into the grand hall. The place looked like it was nearly at capacity already. Some ponies saw me and looked on curiously. I decide to back out and see if we can’t find Princess Celestia.

Princess Nova?” Velvet called. “There you are. Come on, we need to get every pony a little more presentable.”

I take a glance back at the growing crowd. The ponies closest to the door are whispering excitedly now. Well, the cat, or in this case, the alicorn, was about to be let out of the bag. I dutifully follow along with Velvet, the others joining us as she takes us back behind the grand staircase via a large door to another hallway that leads to a number of rooms of various sizes. We ducked into what looked like a large dining hall, presumably for state functions.

Cadance, whatever has become of you?” Celestia asked stunned.

It was kind of partly my fault.” I offer. “Though technically it’s because the housekeepers are kind of two dimensional in their cleaning methods.” Princess Celestia was giving me a strained look. “There was a thick layer of dust on top of the canopy of my old bed, and when I went up to see if there was anything up there Moonie decided to do a cannonball dive into the dust. Philomena joined her and chaos ensued.”

So how is it you and the others aren’t covered in dust?” Princess Celestia asked.

We made a dash for it and accidentally locked her in when we closed the doors to prevent the cloud of dust from spreading beyond the room.” Lofty offered. “Well, I can’t let her take all the blame. I’m the one who closed the door.”

I was pretty sure that was my doing, but then again there are two doors, and she was probably helping.

I see.” Princess Celestia replied. “Nova, was there anything up there besides dust?”

A bunch of my toys.”

Princess Celestia’s frown quickly changed to a smile. “You don’t say. Now, why do you think they are up there of all places?”

Why do you think that canopy has such heavy reinforcements, or have you forgotten how I used to climb the walls and get into everything?” No, when it came right down to it, I’d say she barely even knew I existed. Princess Celestia was far too wrapped up in being the Ruler of Equestria. Never mind that she was supposed to be a co-ruler.

Nova’s energy levels were the original reason for my double.” Luna offered. “She was always a hoof full. It was never supposed to drain her though.”

Celestia’s smile faded with the realization of just how much she had neglected her sister.

Cadance, come here, and I’ll use a spell to clean you up a bit,” Celestia said in beckoning Cadance over to her.

Ya, between Luna and myself we’d hit a nerve.

Suddenly Cadance was a floof ball. A clean floof ball but a floof ball none the less.

She’s so fluffy!” I shout, bounce over, and give her a hug.

Floof!

And now I’m a floof ball. Celestia just face-hoofed. “Fox goes floof!” I shout and begin pronking about the room.

You two look silly,” Sunset said with a grin.

I stop my pronking and look at her with an evil predatory look.

You will be assimilated,” I inform her as a big grin forms on my face.

Resistance is futile,” Cadance adds as she starts stalking Sunset.

Sunset, turns to run, a look of horror on her face, only to find I’ve teleported to cut off her avenue of escape.

I think I know how I’m doing that now.

:trollestia:

Princess Celestia walked into the Grand Hall, the chatter quiets till there is not but the gentle murmur of the breathing of all those gathered. Four floofy fillies follow her shyly.

Ms Holiday was somewhere in the back. A smile spread across her face at the sight of the fillies. She’d only come to inquire about Lofty and Nova, but as soon as she’d shown the special identification she’d been given right after yesterday’s lunch, they let her right in.

Now here she was, at the back of a capacity crowd of Canterlot’s elites and members of the press as she waited to hear Princess Celestia's reason for this morning’s late sunrise.

“Mares and Gentle colts. Lords and Ladies.” Celestia said moments after taking center stage. “I’ve no doubt you are all wondering why sunrise was so late.”

A number of ponies nodded, but few said anything loud enough for her to hear.

For a brief moment Celestia contemplated telling them she’d slept in, or forgot to set her alarm. “My daughter was trapped in an enchanted mirror some time ago and last night I attempted to retrieve her only to get trapped myself,” Celestia announced all in one breath. Granted that it was an abridged version, but that was the gist of it. Sunset gave her a curious look on realizing Celestia had left off where she’d come back and Celestia had chased her back through the mirror only to be trapped once more. Of course, the implications were that Nova was correct, the mirror truly was a trap, and the three days available every thirty moons was just so the maker would have a little time to explore.

Those assembled all repeated the word daughter in a sort of hushed whisper. Granted the trapped part was bad, but she had obviously been freed sometime this morning. Celestia had a daughter. Celestia had been despoiled and the daughter had nearly been the ruin of all Equestria.

“The two ponies who were able to effect a rescue were my nieces Princess Cadenza and Princess Nova.” The announcement of yet another princess, a princess that the majority of the ponies gathered knew nothing about, had the effect of scratching a record over a loudspeaker. Quite a few ponies did a double-take, some did triple takes, and a few even did the fabled quadruple take. Which was actually fairly subdued when compared to the time Celestia had introduced Cadance and ponies actually did the quintuple take. Granted they still had it in their heads that Celestia herself made a pony an alicorn, and weren’t quite sure if getting a pony out of a trap warranted such an honor even if it was Celestia. After all, if a filly could do it surely an adult could do it better.

“First let me introduce, make that reintroduce to you my daughter Sunset Shimmer,” Celestia announced. Sunset stepped forward and curtsied to the polite clapping of hooves. She had a huge smile on her face and when she looked up to Celestia she was beaming. This despite getting floofified earlier. For any pony who didn’t know her, she was absolutely the most adorable unicorn filly ever. For those who did know her, they decided to wait and see if her behavior got better or worse. The worst part is it meant some stallion had despoiled their Princess. Nor was it likely to matter that she’d been a willing partner. As for the other princesses, they didn’t count and were just pretenders.

“Of course you all know Princess Cadenza.” Celestia continued. “Princess Nova somehow managed to open the trap of the mirror, and Princess Cadenza managed to hold it open while Princess Nova went in at great risk to herself to bring Sunset and myself out again. - And for those who’ve heard a rumor that I was looking for a certain filly, she’s the filly I was looking for having gotten word that she might have been freed from an enchantment that kept her in a state of limbo.” No pony needed to know about anything else at this point. “Nova, would you like to introduce yourself?”

Nova stepped forward, curtsied, spread her wings, lit up her horn, and …

Pap! Pap!

Suddenly Nova was high in the air over the royal platform Celestia and the others were standing on. With wings spread wide, she drifted back down ever so gently. As her silver shoes touched down she folded up her wings about halfway and bowed.

“I’m going to assume you figured out how to control that teleport of yours,” Celestia said with a big smile.

The gathered ponies just sat there dumbfounded.

“So, um what’s she do?” Asked a reporter who’d managed to make it to the front.

“Here it comes,” Luna whispered. “Have a care what you say.”

“Inspire.” Nova offered with a smile and a wink. “Don’t ask anything more of me just yet, I’m only a little over a thousand years old.”

On hearing Nova’s quip Holiday found herself stricken with a case of the giggles. “Only a little over a thousand years old she says.”

At this point members of the press and a number of nobles alike all started asking questions. To be honest it was a bit like a feeding frenzy of sharks.

Holiday didn’t like the look on Nova’s face as questions came one on top of another. Quite a few were traps of their own, and very mean spirited. She got up and made her way back out to the entry hall.

“Hi, Nova looks like she’s getting really fidgety, I think all this may be too much for her.” Holiday said of the guards. “I mean Princess Nova. I’m Miss Holiday.”

“She’s alright, you can let her through,” one of the guards say.

“Mm, thank you,” Holiday replied and made her way past the checkpoint into the hall where she spotted Lofty at the far end anxiously watching.

“Lofty?” Holiday called softly as she made her way down the hall. “Lofty?” Lofty was concentrating on Nova. Her ears twitched a couple of times as Holiday called until she finally registered that some pony was calling her.

“Holiday?”

“Lofty, I think she’s had enough,” Holiday called as she approached.

“You think so too.” Lofty confirmed.

“Her ears have gone all the way down and back and she’s pressing up to Princess Luna. She’s scared.”

“Luna doesn’t look much better. I’m getting them out of there.” Lofty stated and marched right out to where Nova was. She dropped down next to her, cupped her wing over Nova, scooped her to her side, stood back up, motioned for Luna to follow, and walked out again with Luna hot on her heels. Nova’s legs vanished up into Lofty’s wing as they went.

By this time Cadance was beginning to have had enough as well. As if it wasn’t bad enough the last time she had to get up in front of a group of ponies like this. She was also worried about Nova, so she turned, looked up to Princess Celestia who smiled reassuringly, and then followed after Lofty and Luna.

Sunset sidestepped a little closer to Celestia until she had pressed up against her as she was unwilling to retreat. To her delight and relief, she found herself being scooped up in the same manner as Nova had been. The sound of all the ponies talking at once was being muffled by Celestia’s wing. Sunset pulled up her legs, snuggled in, and as it had been a long time since she’d had any sleep, she slowly drifted off heedless of the incessant chatter in the room.

“No! I’m not telling you who the father is, and if I do tell you it will be after I’ve talked with him.” Celestia scolded her tone now quite harsh. “Yes, in retrospect I should have sent some pony else, and no, no pony else had been able to open the trap once we were inside. It has something to do with the fillies harmonizing their unique powers. No, I did not make Nova an alicorn. She became an alicorn over a thousand years ago when she involved herself in the fight between myself and Nightmare Moon. Nightmare Moon took her mother, who is my sister Luna. Yes I know Luna doesn’t look like she’s old enough, she regressed in age when we freed her from the Night Mare.”

Chapter 16: The return to Ponyville

View Online

I just couldn't understand? A pony would think they’d be happy about another alicorn. A pony would think they’d be happy that I saved Princess Celestia from her own foolishness. But the idea that she’d produced a foal had enraged quite a few. Granted that Sunset didn’t exactly have the best reputation among those who were in any way connected to the palace, but still...

I tried to field as many questions as I could, no I don’t know how I opened the mirror, I just did. Sometimes things do work like that. I did not know that Starswirl the Bearded had created the mirror but that was my assumption. Ya, no, trying to explain how I knew just wasn’t going to work other than falling back on I was born over a thousand years ago. I could even go so far as to say I’d seen some of his original notes and knew what he intended for a certain mirror. As far as who my mother was I just pointed out Princess Luna and tried to explain that she used to be physically older and that she had regressed in age. Luna had also confirmed that I was indeed her daughter. The unfortunate assumption of the ignorant was that Princess Luna had been an out of control filly who’d gotten herself knocked up while underage. Some even wanted charges pressed against the stallion. Never mind that all that happened over a thousand years ago.

Celestia had tried her best, but by the time Lofty decided to scoop me up under her wing I was so glad I was still little enough for her to do that. I kind of got the feeling Luna wished that some pony could have swooped her up too.

At that moment Luna was more of an older sister than a mom. I had a new mom, two in fact, and a new life to live. Still, though, Luna would always be my first mom.

🏘

Sure is good to be back in Ponyville,” I said as I stepped off the train with the same old saddlebags on my back that I’d started with. And I still have the cloak Rarity gave me. I also brought souvenirs from the Castle gift shop, per request by a number of my friends here in Ponyville, and some of my favorite toys I’d spirited away which I intended to leave at Lofty’s. Make that home. Luna followed right behind me, a moderate-sized trunk in her magic. Canterlot just didn’t feel like home to me, nor to Luna and she was eager to getaway.

So why did I have to come with you?” Sunset asked as she followed.

To get us out of the castle and away from Canterlot.” Cadance offered as she too stepped off the train. Philomena had stayed behind as she’d been far too interested in all the activity to go with us.

And you’re probably wondering about my room. It did get cleaned up. We even decided to have a sleepover between the three of us. Luna had turned us down, but let us know her door would be open. Which just happened to be right down the hall from Cadance’s room. Our sleepover didn’t stay in my room very long though. Sure I had fresh linen, the dust all cleaned up, but the bed cover had a musty smell to it that simply hadn’t come out during cleaning, and horror of all horrors – there were mice living in the old mattress. There was no way of knowing how long they’d been there, but the smell that sifted up made me think they’d been there for many generations. How I knew there were mice is my good ears and some sort of six sense I seemed to have. I could hear the little squeakers down inside the mattress and my mind was sketching out their approximate locations. Picture me doing fox springs on the bed while the others tried to sleep. That is I'd jump up and strike down with my front hooves while the rest of me was in the air, and then Cadance and Sunset would bounce from the impact. My toys were alright though thanks to preservation spells, but much of the clothing I’d left behind was unwearable even with preservation spells. Everything had a musty odor that proved difficult to get out. It didn’t take long for us to give up, and evacuate to Luna’s new room where we were warmly welcomed with an ‘I told you so’.

Our report on the condition of the room had Mr Heritage fit to be tied. First, he didn’t want any pony touching the rooms at all, but then it was looking like all that degradation had happened on his watch. What’s more, is my room wasn’t the only room in desperate need. As for his ‘We’ll just see about that’ if he had words with Princess Celestia she never said. Granted that his changed attitude towards me for the better was a good indication that some pony had words with him.

So here we are in Ponyville to get us out from under hoof for a few days while a major renovation and restoration happens. I’d made it clear that everything had to look exactly the same and that certain ‘special’ features had to be retained as well. I had to point out a number of special features that they’d been completely unaware of as well to include a private vault that I wasn’t about to give them access to. Not even Princess Celestia had known about it though Luna had mixed feelings about me telling any pony. Everything that needed replacement was to be duplicated with the originals going into museum collections. I was happy, and the preservation people were happy. Granted that there were outfits that would need resizing, and a few that just struck me as, you know, I never liked that outfit in the first place… so in the end not everything got a duplicate made.

Oh, and there was one more issue, Sunset had left her copy of the diary that she and Celestia shared in the other dimension. Johnathan had kept everything Sunset had left behind, fudged his report, got in trouble for failing to get the address for Sunset, Celestia, and myself, found the memory stone, erased the whole incident from the memory of his supervisor, and wrote it all down in Sunset’s diary. I chose not to tell him about the ‘Time do-ma-dinky’ or any of the other magical items known or suspected to have been dumped in that dimension by Starswirl simply because I had no idea where to look. He also promised to never use the stone again. I did warn him about the Dazzlings and when he checked he’d been able to trace them by their MO. Celestia was keeping her diary and was going to forward messages to me as I’d no desire to have it.

I also had to ask if he saw people in pastel colors. The fact that he was bewildered by what I’d asked had given me a strong indication that the pastel colors was just a pony thing. No idea if I’d ever really figure it out though.

And now the fun part. I hadn’t actually died, per se… Assuming I had actually been in his world and had been his mother. I’d developed a bone growth high up on my forehead, and nothing would get rid of it. That is from what Johnathan had written in the book. Yes, I was growing a unicorn horn. It seems I’d opted for an experimental treatment where some sort of energy beam was supposed to remove the growth. A feedback loop overloaded the system, bright lights, lots of sparks, and lots of smoke. When the smoke cleared all that was left of me was a scorch mark where I’d been. OK, so maybe I didn’t actually die per se… As soon as I woke up in Equestria I was back to being a foal and all my old suppressed memories started coming back a chunk at a time. I'd gone full circle. Johnathan had also revealed that I'd been a foundling. In short, when I was caught between the magic of the elements of harmony and Princess Luna's magic in an attempt to push me free I'd been pushed right through the veil between worlds where I was found as a baby girl. It was presumed that I'd been abandoned and was soon adopted out to a loving family.

As for everything that had been in the show, I can only wonder how much of what was in the show was going to hold up in the future. And for that matter were there others like me or were people somehow peering into another world without even realizing it? I wanted to ask Alice Mouse what her experience was like, but at the same time, I didn't want to open any old wounds.

As for Johnathan, I’d asked him not to contact us unless it was really important and did let him know to be alert for anything that just doesn’t fit. The whole it just doesn’t fit is kind of hard to explain, but for a veteran in law enforcement, it basically meant anything out of the ordinary or out of place. I had a new life to live and I had – we had to let go of the past. I couldn't just pop over any time I wanted to say hi. I couldn't call on the phone, send a text, or e-mail him or anyone else on the other side. Kind of wish I could, but I can’t. Knowing they were getting on with their lives is what was important for me now. Trying to hang on to those old connections when we were so far apart just didn’t seem healthy to me. I can only wonder how the Elizabethans, Victorians, and the multitude of early explorers managed it when they were away from friends and family with no contact for years at a time. I was dead in that world, and it was probably best I stay dead. And not just because my family would have to give all the money back for my untimely disintegration, but for the safety of both worlds.

🌠

Are you done monologuing?” Sunset asked.

Please tell me I didn’t just say all that out loud?” I asked with my ears flat.

No, but we can see it in your face.” Lofty informed me. “That and you’re standing in the way. Move.”

Sorry!” I say and trot away from the train.

It’s alright.” Luna offered. “Not like I haven’t done my fair share. I barely know my own sister who is now more like a mother and my own daughter might as well be my little sister.”

I lean over and give her a hug with my wing. I am also reminded that her accent is no worse than my own, and the whole talking to people with the ‘Canterlot’ voice just wasn’t a thing. Granted that part of the reason I wanted her to come with us was that I feared that she was broken inside and it was going to take a bit of loving care to bring that sparkle back to her eyes.

A few moments later the seven of us are, yes seven, Lofty, Luna, Sunset, Cadance, myself, and two pegasi guards Brightwing and Silvereagle are on our way to our next stop.

Brightwing is teal with a rainbow main and tail while Silvereagle is silver with a two-tone blue mane and tail. They had on minimal armor so their true colors were showing through. They are also both contenders for the Wonderbolts as well and volunteered to, well let's face it, foal sit. It’s Ponyville. What can possibly happen in Ponyville? I see you rolling your eyes at me. Princess Celestia did send more so I convinced her that we’d be better served if the Guard were to do patrols on the edge of the Everfree and or be pr-positioned at strategic locations in Ponyville where their presence wouldn't be too obtrusive. There wasn’t the budget, but then again there was a need for training, and that had already been budgeted. Where they did their training was generally at the discretion of the local command structure. Redirecting units to the Everfree or Ponyville for ‘training’ turned out to be a win-win for every pony, and Celestia still wanted the occasional patrol out to the old palace as well. Just in case some other lost pony showed up.

You're doing it again.” Sunset teased.

Well it’s not like I’m standing in the middle of the way?!” And I nearly walked into a light post.

Lofty, so good of you to meet us at the station, I knew you wouldn't let us down.” A peach-colored pegasus mare with blond colored mane and tail was suddenly shoving a suitcase at Lofty who had no choice but to take hold of it. Meanwhile, a dark tan, or perhaps earth brown earth pony with purplish hair was loading luggage onto the train. His outfit reminded me a little too much of the Crocodile Hunter.

We’ve got a wonderful opportunity, knew you’d understand.” He offered, and before we knew what had happened they were on the train, and the train was rolling out of the station.

What just happened?” Sunset asked.

Snap!” Lofty called after him. “I can’t take care of Scootaloo! I thought Holiday said no!?” It was already too late. “I can’t take care of four princesses and a Scootaloo too!” Poor Scootaloo was standing there looking dejected.

Lady Lofty, if you like we can wire ahead and have them brought back under guard?” Silvereagle offered while I went to reassure Scootaloo.

Do it,” I say in a stern tone.

Nova?” Lofty asked possibly wondering why my tone had changed so suddenly.

Horn lump,” I said taking the moment to check, much to Scootaloo’s horror. “They are abandoning her so far as I can see.”

How did you know about the horn?” Scootaloo asked in a hushed tone.

Just a hunch,” I reply. Though at the moment I’ve no way of knowing if she’s a false alicorn doomed to be land-bound forever or a baby alicorn like myself. Either way, it’s going to be a long time before we know one way or the other.

But they wouldn't, would they?” Lofty asked. From her tone, she’d been aware of the horn lump and now all the times they’d simply left Scootaloo behind started to make sense. “They are good ponies. They’re … extremely irresponsible.”

Who would rather go off on an adventure than live up to their responsibilities to take care of a foal that will be special needs it would seem,” Cadance stated firmly. “Send that wire.”

But?” Lofty protested softly. After all, they were family. Scootaloo just looked on with wide eyes.

I had to live as an orphan, and no foal should be without their parent at such a young age.” Cadence stated firmly.

And I concur,” Sunset added.

As do I. Such behavior is reprehensible.” Luna offered. She went over the Scootaloo and me, and whispered to Scootaloo, “Nova started out as a button head. You’re maybe a year younger?”

Who?” Scootaloo asked looking at Luna.

My mom,” I whispered. “Age reversal spell. No idea how long it’ll last. And yes, the combo package runs in the family.”

Our escort would be sending the wire a moment later. With the four of us in accord, it was the equivalent of a lawful order from three alicorn princesses and one the daughter of Princess Celestia herself. The circumstances also made it rather suspicious which gave our escort more than enough encouragement to do as we asked. They were of course authorized to ignore our orders depending on what it was we wanted. After all, we were fillies, and sometimes fillies can want what we shouldn't have.

I’m sorry Lofty, but considering they just dumped Scootaloo on you at the train station kind of suggests they’d been waiting for us to come back so they could pull that dump and dash on you.”

I’ll have to admit that did look bad.” Lofty replied as her shoulders slumped and her head drooped. I’d a fairly good idea they’ve pulled similar stunts before.

The wire was sent,” Silvereagle announced. “It’ll be a bit before they get brought back though.”

Nova, can you get a cart for all the luggage?” Lofty asked. Both Sunset and Cadance had brought along enough luggage to make Rarity proud.

Scootaloo, any chance your mother left you anything at the house?” Lofty asked.

Doubt it.” Scootaloo offered.

I suppose we might check first then just in case, otherwise some pony will need to run by the exchange.” Lofty offered. “Always best to have your own mother’s milk.”

Mother’s milk?” I asked perplexed.

Well of course, what kind of milk did you think I was giving you?”

Cow milk?” I ask hopefully.

Oh don’t be silly. Cow milk is for calves and making cheese. Not growing fillies.” Sunset chastised. “Are you alright?” And then she started laughing as the realization hit her. “Oh my gosh!”

OK, mare’s milk is used for making things like yogourt and something akin to cottage cheese back on earth if memory serves me right. It’s not like it’s weird or something it’s just the social norm here. Apparently I haven't been fully weaned yet… It’s just the whole I could be drinking the neighbor's breast milk and didn’t even know it. OK, I’m just not going to think about it, and I was probably better off not knowing. I see Big Mac, he’s got a cart and is just finishing dropping off a delivery of apples.

Hey! Big Mac, can you help us out!” I call and rush off to where he is.

“Must be some weird thing from that other world,” Cadance whispered to Sunset.

“Ya, that place was kind of strange. I mean, every creature there was wearing clothes that completely covered them.” Sunset whispered back. “And no fur save for some halfway decent manes on some of the mares. And no tails to speak of. No tails, no wings, no horns. Total lack of species diversity too. Nothing but humans. Humans. Humans as far as the eye can see.” Sunset had leaned up against Cadance with one front leg over her withers while she gestured dramatically with the other front.

“Wow.”

“What’s gotten into her?” Lofty asked Sunset and Cadance, not having heard their conversation.

“Oh, it’s probably just a princess thing.” Cadance offered with a big smile as Sunset dropped back to all fours. “I’m thinking she had no idea where the milk on the table came from and thought she was all grown up.”

Lofty didn’t know about the time Nova spent in the other world, and the two really didn’t think it was their place to tell her. Nova talked Big Mac into helping with the luggage and they were soon on their way.

“She’s just not the same filly anymore.” Luna lamented. “She’s just so much more grown-up, and I guess she’s having trouble remembering too.” Nova had done her best to tell Luna about her time in the human world. In a way, Luna was glad Nova hadn’t been stuck in limbo while her captor rampaged on the moon as she had been. Luna had been aware of it and at times her despair had nearly been her undoing. She was also unsure when the Nightmare had first latched onto her, and suspected Sombra may have had something to do with it. She’d also had a lengthy conversation with her sister where Celestia had apologized to her, the two ending up weeping in each other's embrace. Going to Ponyville with Nova had been Celestia’s idea as well as both thought it would be a good idea for Luna to get away from Canterlot for a while.

Hey, Big Mac says he can help us out.” I offered as I trotted back over to our little ensemble. A short time later we’ve loaded everything up and are on our way once more.

So, Big Mac, are all the summer apples in now?” Lofty asked.

Um, yup.” Big Mac offered bashfully. When he’d agreed to help he’d no idea he’d end up surrounded by cute princesses.

Fall harvest coming on?” Lofty asked.

Eee-yup.” Big Mac replied sounding a little more confidant.

A stallion of few words, just my type.” Sunset teased.

📯Welcome to Ponyville! :pinkiehappy:🎉

I clutched at my chest as the pink menace pronked away.

Chapter 17: Getting things squared away.

View Online

Nothing.” Lofty said looking in the cold storage cabinet when we’d gotten to Scootaloo’s home. The cold storage cabinet was a rather ingenious device in which cloud material was stuffed into a lining that was further insulated from the outside room. Imagine a refrigerator that doesn’t need electricity, coolant, and has no moving parts. All it ever needed was some fresh cloud stuffed into the lining every now and then, and the application of magic, heck it was magic, to begin with, and it only needed to be refreshed once or twice a year.

Lofty closed up the cabinet. “We’ve some milk at our house. Come on then, I’ll just have to get more later.”

Yes Miss Lofty,” I replied. “Scootaloo, you want to join our slumber party? I mean it’s that, or stay here by yourself.”

She’ll be joining.” Lofty interjected before Scootaloo could say yay or neigh. “Come on Scootaloo, get your school assignments, along with anything else you want, and let's get going.”

🛌

Nova, your bed looks kind of small for all of us?” Sunset pointed out shortly after arriving home. In deed I was staying in a small bed intended only for the occasional overnight of a single occupant.

Not to worry, there’s a new bed being delivered.” Lofty offered. “And we can, I guess the old bed can be pushed to one side? Can we fit both I wonder and still have room to get at the wardrobe? I mean, there are five of you now.”

Good thing I’m not adult-sized right now,” Luna commented.

What about Silvereagle and Brightwing?” I ask?

Don’t worry about us.” Brightwing offered. “We’ll be staying in the local barracks, and someone locally will cover the night shift.”

There’s a barracks?” I ask. It was news to me.

My understanding is there are some rooms in the basement of the Courthouse that are sometimes used by visiting guard.” Lofty offered. “All the local guard post has is a cell for locking up the town drunk. And they had to hire a pony to be the town drunk. - Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run a quick errand and don’t go anywhere until after the bed is delivered. Be back in a bit.”

I watch Lofty go and then find a place to sit. Silvereagle and Brightwing find a place to sit.

So aaaa…?” Sunset said sounding like she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted as Scootaloo dropped down next to me. I can't quite wonder if it's because she's accustomed to my presence now? That and I am technically her cousin now.

Might just as well put your luggage in the corner.” I offer. Cadance moves her luggage and comes over to sit on the other side of me.

She’s such a little cutie,” Cadance said in a soft voice in reference to Scootaloo.

Ah, she and I are practically the same age,” I reply.

"I know, "Cadance replied with a smile that suggested she was up to something."

"What's she talking about?" Scootaloo asked while giving Cadance a wary glance.

"Something tells me you don't want to know," I offered.

And I’m bored,” Sunset announced.

I suppose I could stay here if you wanted to go explore the town there’s no reason you couldn't,” I suggested.

One of us will have to go with you.” Silvereagle pointed out.

I don’t see why you both can’t go?” I asked Silvereagle. “I mean, this is Ponyville. Nothing ever happens here. Outside of the occasional monster wandering in from the Everfree.”

Seriously?” Sunset asked.

She’s just pulling your tail.” Cadance offered.

From what I hear, she might not be.” Bright wing offered. “To be true I think it has something to do with the proximity of the Everfree. Troublemakers who go in there thinking they can set up a hideout don’t often come out again. That leaves the community itself, and Ponyville is kind of self-policing.”

She’s not pulling your tail, we really do have monsters wandering in from the Everfree,” Scootaloo informed them. “Listen, I kind of need to do my homework, might as well do it now.” Scootaloo offered.

We were warned that the locals don’t take kindly to scofflaws and ne’er-do-wells.” Silvereagle offered.

Or outsiders.” I offered. “Took a while for the residents to get used to me. Cadance, take my cloak. Not so much that you won’t stand out, but so that the ponies who know me will know we are friends.”

Even so, one of us needs to stay here with you,” Brightwing informed me. “What with the delivery of a new bed expected.”

Suit yourself then,” I replied. “Not like anything is going to happen. So who’ll it be?” Who gets to stay behind and be board out of your mind?”

It doesn’t bother you to just sit there?” Sunset asked.

There is something to be said for quiet contemplation.” I offer.

I’ll stay.” Brightwing offered.

You sure you want to stay?” Silvereagle asked.

Sure,” Brightwing replied with a smile. “You go, and then it’ll be my turn the next time.”

Oh that’s the way of it,” Silvereagle replied with a smirk. “Alright then, princesses, shall we go?”

Might want to stick to ‘Miss’ and ‘Fillies’ while in town,” I suggest as Cadance gets up to retrieve my cloak. “Might help avoid calling unnecessary attention.”

That actually might be a good idea,” Cadance added as she put on my cloak. It's entirely too small and looks more like a cape on her. “I haven't really gotten used to being called ‘Princess’, ‘your highness’, and I can’t stand Ma’am,” she offered while using a spell to enlarge the cloak to fit.

The titles are kind of new to me as well.” Sunset offered. Sunset had gone from Princess Celestia’s personal student to a foundling with no history, and then suddenly being elevated to a filly with an actual title. When going to Ponyville came up, getting away from all the smarmy ponies who had suddenly gone from intense dislike to her best friends didn’t sound like such a bad idea. Not to mention the fact that all the ponies she had terrorized were all several years older now. She’d definitely wanted to go to Ponyville along with the second chance it represented. As far as how ponies had been treating her, as a student, it was only a matter of time until she either graduated or got expelled. Being Celestia’s daughter meant she was not only here to stay but would always have access to Princess Celestia.

Mom?” I ask. “Will you be going, or staying?”

I’d kind of like to stay if that’s alright. Maybe we can catch up?”

Alright.” I offer.

Mom?” Scootaloo asked sounding really confused.

Scootaloo, this is Princess Luna. She’s my Mother. She only looks young because of what the Elements of Harmony did to her when they freed her from the Night Mare.”

Oh…” Scootaloo offered. “You know what, this is just my summer assignments, I’ve got plenty of time, why don’t I show the others around town?”

You sure you can put off your school assignment?” Luna asked.

It’s already halfway done, and I was thinking maybe you two might not want anyone around? I mean so you can talk more freely.” Scootaloo offered.

Come on Scootaloo.” Sunset prompted. “I doubt they haven't already had plenty of opportunities. It’s just that after being separated for a thousand years, they are kind of inseparable.”

We lost a great deal to the Night Mare.” Luna offered. “We lost a great deal.”


The house got really quiet once Sunset, Cadance, Scootaloo, and Silvereagle had left. Quite was good. It was boring but good. Oh, what I wouldn't give for an Internet connection right now. Well, that and some way to access it. It was times like this where I’d start thinking about my old lives. Both in the human world and before. As for Luna, she just seemed happy just being here with me. “Mom, soon as the beds are squared away, let's go visit Twilight.”

Chapter 18: Waiting on a new bed.

View Online

“Alright, who are you and where did you get that cloak?!” Demanded Rarity of Cadance as the trio were walking along the main street. They’d been window shopping, and the sudden rude accusation caused Cadance to backpedal a couple of steps.

“Mam, have you no manners?” Silvereagle scolded, her face dropping down to Rarity’s level. The guard was considerably larger than Rarity despite her being a pegasus.

“My cousin Nova lent it to me.” Cadance offered in her defense.

“Your cousin, a likely-emf?!” Rarity was about to say a likely story just as Applejack came over to her and stuffed a hoof in Rarity’s mouth.

“Please forgive her. - My name’s Applejack, and the mouthy marshmallow is Rarity.”

“Mouthy marshmallow!” Rarity protested on extricating Applejack's hoof.

“Rarity, I’ll bet you a bit's worth of doughnuts that, that there, is Princess Cadance,” AJ whispered.

“We’re trying to keep a low profile.” Sunset cautioned.

“Prin-prin-princess?” Rarity stuttered.

“Will you get a grip?” AJ admonished. “We’ve got a princess living right here in Ponyville.”

“That was before I knew she was the real thing.” Rarity protested.

“Is she always like this?” Sunset asked.

“Why no, sometimes she’s even worse.” AJ offered.

“Hey!” Rarity protested. Cadance, Sunset, and Silvereagle couldn't help but smile.

“So, where’s Miss Nova?” AJ asked.

“It’s Princess.” Rarity corrected.

“Low profile.” Silvereagle cautioned. “That and the princesses prefer the more casual greeting during informal encounters.”

“Nova is back at the house waiting for a new bed to be delivered,” Scootaloo informed them. “Her mom is with her too.”

“Oh, Alright. Mom?” Rarity asked.

“Princess Luna,” Sunset said softly.

“Do you think we could go by the cottage to say hello?” Rarity asked.

“I don’t see why not?” Sunset suggested. “Just keep in mind that Luna is a little delicate. The thing is, the Night Mare cost her, well, her entire world so to speak.”


I am furious with those two,” Lofty said shortly after returning to the house. “I went back to their house to have another look. Snap Shutter and Mane Allgood didn’t leave anything behind and by the looks of things they didn’t plan on coming back for quite a while. If ever.”

What makes you say that?” I asked. This much I’d kind of expected. I mean, Scootaloo’s parents never being around was canon, But, I also had to admit that I was looking down the barrel of an alternate timeline. This meant that pretty much anything goes past this point and it was starting to worry me.

Their house is up for rent. The land agent came by shortly after we left.”

What?!” I protest. Granted that it did kind of make sense in a way. Putting the house up for rent and making sure the property was managed by a land agent made sure they’d still have their home when they returned.

Wow,” Brightwing said quietly.

They are the most irresponsible ponies I know.” Lofty grumbled.

What they did at the station really did have the feel of having been planned,” I say.

Do you think maybe they might have been planning on never coming back?” Brightwing asked.

Oh they will come back,” Lofty offered. “They’ve taken off like this before. Soon as they run out of money they come back and ask for their jobs back. Only then they didn’t have Scootaloo.”

I will have to say that given the place is up for rent it suggests they do plan to return. Eventually. Where do they work anyway?” I ask.

Canterlot Institute of Natural History,” Lofty informed us. “They are quite brilliant. And completely lacking in common sense. I honestly wouldn't put it past Snap to let a cragadile loose in the schoolhouse just to show off.”

Well then, having our fellow guard ponies drag them back here might just be the wake-up call they need.” Brightwing offered.

I imagine they’ll be furious, and I hope Holiday isn’t too mad. Snap is her brother after all.” Lofty predicted.

Ether way, Ms Holiday has her job, and we need to be back in Canterlot by the end of the week. And if Miss Holiday is upset you can just tell her you got outvoted, and pulling a stunt like that in front of members of the guard was just dumb,” I reminded her. “And then Cadance and I will be going to Flight Camp in Cloudsdale, and you wanted to be there.”

And if I’m to take this Nanny position seriously I need to be there… It also means I’m going to have to drag Scootaloo along with us regardless of whether or not she can fly yet.”

Mom, is there a spell that can compensate for Scootaloo’s low wing magic?”

If there is, I don’t know about it short of blasting her with the elements.” Luna offered. “You couldn't fly either.”

I could barely fly as is when I found myself back in the palace,” I replied. “I wouldn't be a bit surprised if I was making my way along the old road as best I could while the Nightmare was off doing the whole I’m a villain act.” Luna couldn't help but cringe at the thought. After all, it would never have occurred to her or the nightmare that any pony might have been pulled along with her when she’d been sent to limbo. Canon had it that she’d been sent to the moon, but I had my doubts.

Can we come in?” Rarity asked from the door. Applejack was with her.

Waa!” I exclaimed. I’d even jumped a bit. I’d been far too deep in thought.

I thought I told you not to startle her.” Applejack scolded.

It’s not like I was trying to, and it’s Luna we didn’t want to startle.” Rarity protested. She then bowed all the way to the floor, “Your majesties.”

Will you stop that!?” AJ protested.

Yes, seriously, that sort of thing went out of style with polyester. - So how’s everyone – pony doing?” I asked.

We’re doing great.” Rarity offered as she righted herself. She’d a bit of a blush on her face as well. “Darling, you know, you and Princess Luna look more like siblings than mother and daughter.”

Ya, mom is a sweetie.” I offer. “Just like your little sister.”

Darling, I’ll have you know Sweetie Belle can get into just as much trouble as you seem to be capable of.” Rarity corrected. “In fact, Sweetie is grounded at the moment.”

As strange as it may sound, I’m glad Nova still has her spark.” Luna offered with a smile. “She has always been so full of life and energy, and I have her to credit for pulling me out of the pit of despair I’d fallen into.”

So have the delivery ponies shown up yet?” Cadance asked from the door as she entered. The others were with her plus she’d picked up a rather handsome guard pony.

Commander Armor?” I ask.

I’m in charge of the local training detail.” Shining Armor offered.

Does Twilight know you are in town?” I asked. The blank look on his face suggested he hadn’t informed her he was in town. “I’m taking that as a no. She does live here in Ponyville now you know.”

Honestly,” Cadance said with a smile.

So when’s the date?” I asked.

Date?” Cadance asked back.

When are you two getting married?”

Shinning suddenly turned red as a beet.

I bet a honeymoon on an airship would be fun,” I suggested. “Does Equestria have airships?”

I’d love to design the wedding dress.”Rarity offered up with a gleam. Our two guards smiled at my questions but then frowned.

I thought airships were a new invention?” Lofty asked.

They are. More of her clairvoyance I’d imagine.” Brightwing offered. “I’m thinking Miss Nova hasn’t seen one or she wouldn't be asking if Equestria has airships.”

Clair who?” AJ asked.

She predicts the future from time to time.” Cadance explained as she sat down next to me.” Like she’s asking about my honeymoon plans before Shining has even popped the question.

Like you haven't already planned everything out no less than a dozen times?” Rarity teased as she sat down on the other side of me.

She predicted that Celestia would get tangled up with that enchanted mirror going after Sunset Shimmer” Cadance offered. “Before they’d even met.”

I did not predict that Aunt Tia would go and get herself stuck in the thing only that Sunset would come back. And telling Princess Celestia seems to have been a mistake. We’d have all been better off if I’d just told the watch commanders and with any luck they’d have taken me seriously and made sure Sunset wouldn't be able to duck back into the thing,” I offered. “And predicting you two doesn’t require clairvoyance.”

Are you saying she wasn’t supposed to go after me?” Sunset asked as she came in and sat down, the others following.

Your fate as I saw it was to get stuck in that mirror. Once there the world of the mirror would grant you several paths each worse than the next as your choices brought you more and more misery. I saw your life in ruins. The lives of everyone around you in turmoil. I saw your broken battered body lying in the street as the snow slowly covered you. That or going downriver, take your pick.” I took a deep breath, and let it out slowly while focusing on Scootaloo as she enters the front door. Maybe I was laying it on too thick, maybe I wasn’t. Of all the fanfictions on the net, the vast majority all had cast Sunset as coming to a miserable pitiful end at one point or another after a fairly short life of misery all brought on by her own irredeemable attitude. Few gave her a break one way or another and even when they did they still portrayed her as an irredeemable bitch. The reality that it all might have come true made me shudder. My gaze went back to Sunset, “I could not – would not let that happen. Sunset, I’d hoped that she’d move it somewhere safe and then set a spell that would prevent reentry. At least that way we’d have another thirty moons for you to come to your senses.” Granted there was at least one path where she would have been happy, but it was unclear as to whether or not she’d ever come home again. Far as I was concerned, the present outcome was far better than the canon outcome where her fake friends betray her, and she has to go through a gauntlet of misery before those same fake friends finally start supporting her. And that only because the architects of the Anon-a-Miss finally decided to confess.

As Celestia is my witness, I’m never doing something that stupid again,” Sunset stated. “The time I spent there was the most humbling and miserable experience in my life. Ya, I came back, I’d actually done it a couple of times before. No pony paid me any attention then, and I’d swear that every time I went back I’d gotten younger again.”

A knock came at the door. “Excuse me. Is this the Lofty Holiday residence?”

Yes, it is. I’m Lofty. Is that the new bed?”

Yes Mam.” One of the delivery ponies replied.

Oh good. The old one is right this way.” Lofty offered as she directed them to my room. Or I should say the guest room I used while I was here once I’d been convinced to give up the sofa. “I want to see if we can’t fit them both into the same room?”

I might know an expansion charm.” Luna offered. “You know, make the room bigger on the inside.”

Do you think you are up to it?” I asked.

Well, if I’m not then nothing will happen.” She explained.

Well then, give it a go.” Lofty offered.

Just don’t let Twilight see it.” Rarity teased.

You mean Twilight who hasn’t realized the library is bigger on the inside?” Scootaloo asked.

That’s because there are books to distract her.” AJ offered as Luna got up and went to the doorway of the room. Her horn lit up for a few moments and then nothing.

Mom?” I ask.

It’s a conditional charm. We won’t know until they bring in the new bed.” Luna offered.

Could you use a hoof?” AJ asked as they came in. They were earth ponies the same as her and likely didn’t need help.

That’s alright Miss Apple, we’ve got it.” One of the movers replied as they walked past.

It’s hard to ignore the stares.

Don’t let it get to you.” Rarity whispered. She saw it too. “The three of you have been in all the papers.”

Any chance they got one of me going after the guard?” I ask. The poor stallion was extremely nervous the second time we met. There were bald patches along his mane where I’d pulled it out by the roots.

Did you seriously start a riot?” Scootaloo asked coming back over to us.

Maybe,” I replied sheepishly and Scootaloo giggled at the notion.

What?” Rarity asked as we watched the movers go back and forth, they gave us the odd curious glance from time to time as they went about their job.

Commander of the Night Wing took me to a restaurant that served meat.” I began.

Meat?” Rarity was horrified. AJ looked a little surprised herself.

I’ve fox pony ancestry, I need a little meat on a regular basis to stay healthy,” I explained. “Anyway, some pony at the restaurant called the guard, and we got raided. Things went downhill when they tried to take my dinner so they could use it as evidence.”

I suppose that explains why Granny acts so suspicious of you.” AJ offered.

I’m not going to help myself to no pony’s chickens without permission.”

Well, can’t say you didn’t do a right good job collecting eggs,” AJ mused with a sort of suspicious smile. “How’d you get them to produce so many eggs?”

Well… I might have insinuated that any hens that couldn't meet the quota would be given other opportunities to contribute.” I gave her a wink.

Why you no good…” AJ was accusing but there was a smile on her face and she was holding back laughter.

Once the bed was set up we were delighted to discover that the new bed fit all five of us plus Scootaloo. “Well, we should probably get going,” AJ offered after regaining her composure over how Nova had been leaning on the hens to lay more eggs.

I’d kind of like to get out for a bit myself,” I offer. “Anyone else?” Cadance, Luna, and Sunset all agreed that they’d like to get out and see more of the town.

Count me out, I need a break, and then it’ll be time I start fixing dinner,” Lofty replied. “But you fillies have fun.”

Brightwing, Silvereagle?” I ask. “And something tells me Commander Armor will be coming as well.”

I suppose we need to escort you.” Brightwing mused.

On the one hoof, it is Ponyville and nothing is likely to happen to us, but on the other hoof, you are supposed to kind of keep an eye on us,” I prompted.

Alright, I guess at least one of us should. Might as well be me.” Brightwing replied as she got up from her chair.

Maybe we should both go? Ms Lofty?” Silvereagle asked.

If I’m not safe in my own home in a community where no pony has any locks we have a problem.” Lofty replied.

Alright then. We’ll be back when we are back. In time for dinner at the latest,” Silvereagle said and a moment later we were out the door.

Chapter 19: Nightmare Moon

View Online

:twilightsheepish:Advisory: The following contains Pinkie bashing and non sequitur behavior from Moonie the Toy Wonder. :pinkiegasp:

Ponyville was in some respects a wonderful place. The sight of a group of fillies and young mares being chaperoned by two Guards mares and a Guard Commander gathered nothing more than the occasional curious glance or smile as we passed by. And for that matter, if any pony noticed that the wings to horn ratio per pony were off by just a little, by the time they did their double-take we’d be further down the road.

We meandered through town stopping here and there where we eventually ended up at Sugar Cube Corner.

Why are we going here?” Sunset asked.

To see if Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom are there.” I offered.

Welcome to Sugar Cube Corner,” Pinkie called as we entered.

Any pony else want to get something while we are here?” I asked.

Now, Miss, we will be having dinner when we get back.” Brightwing admonished.

And you should know by now that Caddie and I are bottomless pits,” I replied with a smirk, followed by ducking when Cadance tried to nip my ear.

Brightwing, we do eat a lot. It comes with the territory.” Luna offered.

Hey now there’ll be no tomfoolery in here.” Mrs Cake chastised.

Yes mam.” Cadance and I chimed and then curtsied with one hoof to our chins.

Nova… Princess. Princess Cadenza!?” Mrs Cake blurted out. Past that point, nothing that came out of her mouth made any sense what so ever. Granted it had taken her a while just to get accustomed to me as an artificial alicorn with pointy teeth.

Chiffon, are you alright?” Mr Cake asked as he came out from the back.

Hi,” I say as a way of greeting.

Well hello Miss Nova. Or should I be calling you Princess now?” Mr Cake asked.

We’re trying to keep a low profile, so Miss is fine,” I replied. “I actually prefer it, I mean, unless it’s a more formal setting where others might frown on it.”

I understand entirely.” Mr Cake offered sympathetically. The Bouffant family who’d set them up with the shop was a high-placed noble family and when Hondo Flanks Magnum, a stallion hailing from a fairly suburban middle-class family and good friend of Mr Cake had wanted to marry Cookie Crumbles Bouffant, it had caused quite the scandal. It had also required a bit of adjustment on Mr and Mrs Cake’s part to adjust to the reality that their good friend Cookie was in fact nobility. As for Rarity, she’d been so snooty as a little filly the family had decided not to tell her that she was part of the nobility until she’d calmed down. Something I’d find out about later. In short, she’d been the diamond Tiara of her age group.

So, how about introducing me to every pony?” Mr Cake asked.

I’d barely gotten started when Pinkie shouted, “Nightmare Moon!” and dashed out the door. Granted I should have seen it coming. Pinkie had frozen from the moment she’d spotted Princess Luna. Her mind going a mile a minute had finally come to the conclusion that promised the most chaos. Never mind the drive-by welcome to Ponyville she'd done earlier. Pinkie worked on impulse and right now all she saw was the pony that Princess Celestia had taken with her after the elements had taken all Nightmare Moon's magic.

Moonie?” I asked looking about only to see one little Nightmare plush materialize on my back. Moonie just gave a shrug. Luna was looking a little confused and hurt. “This is my little Nightmare,” I offer while pointing out Moonie, and then encourage Luna to come forward. “This is my mom, Princess Luna. She’d been possessed by the Nightmare and is in truth nothing like that creature. She is warm, loving, smart, courageous, understanding, patient as a saint, and the best mom a filly could ever want.” I gave her a big hug and we nuzzled momentarily.

A saint?” Mrs Cake asked.

Luna took hold of my muzzle, pulled up my top lips, and announced, “I nursed this little monster.”

Mom!” I protested. Our guards were doubled over in laughter, and Mrs cake looked like she was having a hard time computing what she’d just learned.

These teeth were like needles when she was a baby,” Luna added.

Mom!” I protest again.

Oh my!” Mrs Cake said as a smile formed on her lips.

Mom, let go. I’ll bit you, you know I will,” I warn because mom still has a hold of me. Luna let go, and then gave me a hug that I welcomed by leaning into her.

Shiny, by any chance do teeth like that run in your family?” Cadance asked Shining Armor. “Show me your teeth!”

Cadance, wait!” Shining protested as Cadance forced his mouth open to inspect his teeth. The next few words out of his mouth were entirely unintelligible.

Why does a unicorn have teeth befitting a pegasus?” Cadance protested. Earth and Unicorn ponies typically had no canines and often sported a gap in the teeth. Pegasi on the other hoof had well-developed canines that were there to make catching fish easier. Granted that all ponies had the potential to have canines, horses had canines, it’s just that in the groups that didn’t actively hunt the canines had been all but lost.

Shining Armor’s unintelligible protests just caused every pony else in the room to just bust up laughing.

That’s Princes Cadance and her colt friend Commander Shining Armor,” Sunset offered between fits of laughter.

It’s not like that!” Cadance protested.

Then why are you so worried about what sort of choppers he has?” Sunset pointed out.

Alright fine,” Cadance protested.

We are supposed to be keeping a low profile so it doesn’t look like fraternization or something.” Shining Armor protested.

Oh, sorry,” Cadance said and finally let go of his muzzle.

And our Golden cutie is Sunset Shimmer,” I offer once I’d managed to stop laughing.

Princess Luna, I get the feeling Nova was quite the hoof full,” Mrs Cake offered with a smile.

She was very energetic,” Luna offered. Her smile faded just a bit. “I, lost so many of my precious memories of her when she was a baby to the nightmare. Such a fate, I would not wish on my worst foes.”

This time it was me giving her a hug. “We will just make lots of new memories.”

So from there we went back around doing intros and added that Scootaloo was staying with us because Lofty and Holiday were going to be looking after her for a while. Nor was it necessary to mention that Scootaloo’s parents had taken off again. And then it was on to ordering.

Cup cakes and muffins while not being the healthiest thing for me was something I could safely eat. I found out really fast that most standard hay-based foods were things I needed to avoid. As in way too much roughage and I doubted I was getting any nutritional benefits out of the stuff. Sure I could eat the accursed ingredient that seemed to be in all equestrian meals, but no hay fries, or hay burgers. Grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, tubers except for potatoes which are toxic to horses. Sweet potatoes or dandelion root on the other hoof were good. And then there was a wide variety of flowers and other edibles. Alliums, chives, clover, leeks, garlic, nasturtiums, marigolds, pansies, calendula, anise, hyssop, honeysuckle, scarlet runner beans, borage, bee balm, chamomile, and to my surprise daylilies could be eaten. True lilies can not. There was also mint, and squash both blossom and fruit. I was also rather surprised to find that Equestrian daises could be eaten. Back in the human world, the seemingly harmless things are rather toxic to a horse, but only mildly so to a canine. Maple leaves if picked young and candied could be eaten, but the older they got the more toxicity they contained with the dry leaves being the worst. I also knew to stay away from fern. I asked Lofty about it, and she confirmed that it was extremely toxic. I also wasn’t likely to see any black walnut furniture or stain. Something about the sap of the wood was extremely toxic to ponies, and great care had to be taken to harvest the nuts which surprisingly enough were edible. Because of the difficulty of harvesting, black walnuts were a prized delicacy. Furniture made from black walnut was extremely pricey due to the need for protective clothing and a respirator. Once sealed up it was safe. But plain old fashioned hay just seemed to give me the world’s worst gas. Let's face it, ripping the mother of all farts in school was no way to endure me with my fellow students. Nor was Diamond Tiara happy to find out her tiara had in fact been plastic. How did we find out? It warped when exposed to my fart of doom.

When it came right down to it, my diet wasn’t really suffering all that much. If anything I was getting a wider variety. Just no tomatoes in the pasta or on the pizza. No, I wasn’t suffering. Not that I could say as much for ponies around me any time I’d been getting too much roughage.

And then we were happily munching on cupcakes and muffins a short time later as we stepped out the door.

Or at least that’s what we thought. No sooner had we stepped out the door when we found ourselves being challenged by the Elements of Harmony.

See, right there, Nightmare Moon, just like I told you!” Pinkie shouted.

Twilie, what are you doing!?” Shining Armor asked in protest.

B-B-B-F-F?” Twilight asked sounding confused.

It’s Nightmare Moon!” Pinkie shouted while pointing at Luna and bouncing up and down.

That’s my mother!” I shout back. My hackles are up and I find myself being gently scooped up by Luna as I shout out, “Leave my mom alone. Hasn’t she suffered enough!?”

Luna, I think Nova can take care of herself,” Sunset offered.

I’m not protecting her, I’m stopping her from hurting some pony,” Luna offered as our guards moved out in front of us. “I just wish ponies would quit looking at me and calling me Nightmare Moon. That wasn’t me, I’m not her and I never was.”

She is too, she’s Nightmare Moon!” Pinkie insisted. “Come on Twilight, make with the rainbow laser!”

Pinkie, stop!” Twilight called as she broke formation and started moving in Pinkie’s direction. Applejack and Rarity were looking mighty confused, and a bit put out to boot.

But, but, but…” Pinkie protested.

Sugar cube, ah think you need to let it go,” Applejack cautioned. “You can't go around accusing Princess Luna of being Nightmare moon when she ain’t.”

And then Moonie bounced out into the space between the two groups.

Aw, come on Pinkie, Princess Luna isn’t Nightmare Moon anymore,” Dash said adding her protest as she watched the mini Moon trot up to Dash. “Any more than that toy is.”

I am Nightmare Moon!” Moonie declared.

What?” Luna asked.

I blame your sister,” Nova offered.

And I can fly circles around you!” Moonie shouted at Dash in her foal like voice.

I’d like to see you try!” Dash shouted back. Dash’s expression went from annoyance to surprise as Moonie took off and proceeded to fly a holding pattern around her. “Now cut that out!”

Not like you weren’t asking for it.” Applejack remarked with just a touch of snark just as Moonie landed on Dash.

Pink fluffy unicorns dancing on Rainbow,” Moonie sang out as she trotted in place.

Will you get off of me!” Dash protested. “No, wait, strike that, move over to the left a bit… oh ya, that’s the spot.”

What? What is that?” Twilight asked as she watched the antics of the mini Nightmare.

I am Nightmare Moon!” Moonie called out as she launched into the air.

Applejack let out a start and then added, “No, yer not. Yer not tall enough.”

Aye, so I’ve heard,” Moonie offered as she flew back and forth in front of the element bearers.

Is it a fight?”Bonbon asked as she joined the growing crowd.

It must be a fashionable fight,” Lyra offered. “It’s drawn the finest of ponies.”

Daughters of Equestria!” Moonie shouted. “I am Nightmare Moon!”

Nightmare Moon is seven celestials tall!” I call out playing along.

Yes, I’ve heard,” Moonie replied. “She enslaves bat ponies by the thousands, and if she was here, she’d defeat Princess Celestia with fireballs from her eyes and bolts of lightning from her arse.”

The lightning only works on Wednesdays though,” Luna quipped causing me and quite a few in the crowd who were well familiar with a local restaurant's Taco Tuesday special to bust up laughing.

I am Nightmare Moon!” Moonie shouted again.

No, your not, yer Moonie the Toy Wonder,” I shout.

Hey, that hurts. I’m more than just a toy. Not like you can get in the front door without me,” Moonie declared gliding over to glare at me.

She’s got you there,” Luna offered.

Alright, alright, I’m sorry. You are far more than a toy. You are a companion, a source of inspiration, the key to the front door, and a downright decent security protocol who is behaving way beyond the parameters of her programming.”

You better believe it,” Moonie boasted. I wasn’t too sure if she’d been paying attention to what I’d said or if behaving outside her parameters is what she was boasting of. She turned back to the other ponies who’d gathered around.,“And before me, I see a mob of Equestrians, gathered here to persecute one innocent pony who’s gone through enough to last a thousand lifetimes all on the word of one overly excitable pony who never once thought about how her impetuous actions might cause more harm than good.” She glared at Pinkie.

I will have to admit that watching what was essentially a glorified toy telling off grown ponies was interesting.

And you, what’s your excuse?” Moonie had turned on Applejack. “Are thou not the element of Honesty, strength, and sincerity?”

I’m sorry bout Pinkie.” AJ offered. “It’s all the articles in the newspapers they sell in the supermarket.”

Great, just great. We’re tabloid fodd'r and ev'ry pony is all w'rk'd up because I consume meat. Is that it? Griffins consume meat too, and how many griffins cometh calling just so those gents can stealeth chicken?”

Nova, you might want to calm down, you’re talking old ponish,” Cadance cautioned. “And you seem to forget that this was about Luna.”

I knoweth, I knoweth, the mare just very much did get und'r mine own skin. I've got a mind to taketh a nip out of her.” I say and let out a sigh. “Blasted tabloids, not like I don’t hear the palace staff whispering behind my own back.”

And I was asking you what your excuse was,” Moonie pressed Applejack. “Not Pinkie! Did not one fiber of your being call out and say whoa Nelly, this ain’t right? Were you not conversing with Princess Luna only a short while ago?”

What exactly is going on with Moonie, anyway?” Sunset asked.

Don’t ask me, ask yer mom, she fiddled around with the spell,” I offered.

Must have added a tell 'em what I really think subroutine,” Luna whispered.

I’m sorry,” Applejack said taking a step back. “Yer right, I should have put my hoof down. But aye didn’t. I failed as a barer of… Say what?”

With honesty must come the strength to call out that which is not right and the sincerity to recognize thine own faults,” Moonie scolded and then turned to Rarity.

And where was your generosity, your honor?” Moonie inquired of Rarity. “False accusations are as out of fashioned as the gabled hood.”

Oh dear Celestia, not the gabled hood!! I’m so sorry!” Rarity wails, and then falls back to land on her fainting sofa. The sofa had been drug out there by Sweetie Belle in anticipation of just such a need.

And then it was Fluttershy’s turn. Moonie said nothing. Instead of a lecture, Moonie landed in front of Fluttershy, sat on her haunches, dropped her ears, and looked up at Fluttershy with the most soulful eyes one could imagine. Fluttershy was devastated.

Moonie got up and turned back to Pinkie slowly walking over with her head down like she was stalking her.

Element of what? What element were you supposed to represent?” Moonie asked sounding more like a school teacher calling out a bully.

Laughter,” Pinkie offered sheepishly.

Laughter? Ha! Ha! Ha! There’s your bucking laughter,” Moonie scolded. “Laughter is fleeting, and it hurts when gained at the expense of another. But that never bothered you, now did it?! Let's just point at dear sweet little Luna and call her Nightmare Moon because it’s bucking funny!!! That’s it isn’t it? Or are you so shallow that you can’t see just how insensitive you’re being!? Her family was devastated! She is lucky enough to have been reunited with her own daughter, who I might add also suffered at the hooves of the nightmare, and you want to blast her presumably right back to the moon regardless of her innocence right in front of her own filly!!! Not to mention that said filly and every pony else standing by her would go with her!” The silence that followed was deafening. Not even the birds dared to utter a peep. “Pinkamena Diane Pie.” Moonie’s voice wasn’t anywhere near as loud as it was a moment ago, and yet it still hit like thunder. “It is not the element of laughter it is the element of hope. When you set out with your friends to rescue Princess Celestia, it wasn’t laughter that you gave them, it was hope. Sure, you used laughter, but laughter alone gains nothing. And today you did not impart hope. Not this day, for on this day you tried to take it away to satisfy your own selfish impulses. Please, do not take the hope from my Luna.”

Um, Moonie, are you done?” I asked. I was really beginning to feel like this had gone far enough even if Pinkie did deserve a little comeuppance. Granted that if this prevented a Nightmare Night incident like in the show it was probably worth it.

Just one thing more,” Moonie offered. “Pinkamena Diane Pie, if you are unable to live up to the responsibility of being an element bearer you will lose your element.”

Now hang on?” Twilight protested.

Friendship report, from all of you in triplicate!” Moonie shouted as she turned on Twilight causing Twilight to back step a few paces.

It was at that moment that I spotted a star that had appeared between the points of the crescent on Moonie’s flank.”Mom, I think Moonie’s been hacked.”

Hacked? She looks fine to me? How could she possibly have been hacked upon, she’s an apparition given form.”

A star has been added to her cutie mark.” I offer. I also have to remind myself that hacked in this world does not have the same meaning it had in my previous world.

As for Twilight, once she’d stopped her retreat, she just stood there dumbfounded. Moonie turned, evaporated into so much mist, and returned to my pendant on which the stones inlaid were shining brighter than ever.

Mrs Cake walked out to Pinkie. “Pinkie, when you are done with that report, we are having a talk.” Pinkie’s mane seemed to deflate

Those stones?” Twilight said softly as she approached. She shook her head for a moment and turned to Luna. “Princess Luna, I’m so sorry. I just can’t understand what got into Pinkie. I feel just horrible about this.” She cast a glance back at my pendant.

Yes, Twilight, they are Harmony stones,” Luna offered. “And no, I can’t really account for her little guardian’s behavior.” That didn’t help Twilight. “I originally made her right around the time the Nightmare was worming its way into my soul. Granted I’d been unaware of it at the time, but I remember being bound and determined to provide her with a protector.” Luna paused for a moment. “I can’t help but think the Nightmare had tried to subvert it as there had been a dangerous flaw introduced that caused it to draw too much manna from her. Celestia has since fixed it.” She paused a moment. “At the moment I can’t say which of us was responsible for that tirade, but I do want to be friends with everyone.” Luna had chosen not to mention the cutie mark.

The crowd started to break up and we all start moving down the road in one loose group.

I’m mighty sorry about all this,” Applejack offered. “Take a deep breath, let it out. I know how aggravating Pinkie can be sometimes. She means well, she just don’t think.”

If it had come to it, I’d have done anything to keep from losing my mom again,” I offered.

Trust me, I know. I came mighty close to losing my maw,” AJ offered. “And granny, always going on about how my ma should have been with Bright Mack when he got hurt. And how I should have been there with em instead of out gallivanting.” Applejack shut up right quick-like on realizing she’d just let slip something that was supposed to stay in the family. Granted that Nova had already heard plenty of the like from the old mare.

I’m floored by what I just heard. Cadance and Twilight had even been in the middle of ‘Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake’ only to come to a screeching halt at Applejack’s admission of how her Granny had been behaving. “You were saving Equestria. You saved my mom! And if your mom had been with Bright Mac, if you had been there...”

Don’t cha think I know it!? Nova?” AJ asks as she and the others stop.

Miss… Princess Nova, you might want to calm down.” Silvereagle cautioned as a mist began swirling about my hooves.

Now Princess, take a breath and calm down.” Brightwing cautioned.

Oh my Celestia,” AJ said softly. “You latched onto my ma that day because you didn’t want her going.”

Both going after timber wolves together just seemed wrong.” I offered as I try to calm myself down. “It’s not like I really needed her specifically, I just didn’t want her to go. It just seemed wrong and I’d a horrible feeling if I let her go I’d never see her again.” Well, that and granny wasn’t being very welcoming. Mom had stepped up to me and placed a wing over me to get me to calm down. “And Granny aught to be grateful Bright Mac is alive.”

The show never did say what had become of the perfect pair, and I found those two trees that were spiraled together. Bright Mac and Pear Butter had planted them and were actively shaping them. Granted that in this world things were happening differently but it still looked like I changed the course of events simply by being here.

Applejack, what do you think the odds are that your ma would have dived in to try to protect your pa?” I ask. “My being there on that day, at that time can’t be a coincidence.”

For a time no one says a thing.

She’d have dove right in,” AJ said quietly. “And I’d have likely followed.”

From what I knew, the ponies who’d been there saved Bright Mac by baiting the timber wolf, and getting it to go after them. From what I know of those monsters, I imagined Timber Wolves to be a bit like dogs ruined by humans who spoiled them and encouraged them to chase after things. The hunt wasn’t important, just the thrill of the chase. Timber Wolves were nothing more than bio-machines with one reason for existing and that was to kill. Once that was done they moved on to the next hunt. No different than the family dog that gets let out to run and then runs livestock to death. A hunter who hunts not out of necessity but for sport.

I shuddered involuntarily and started walking again the mist fading as I went. The others followed moments after. From there we continued on, no pony saying much of anything until we reached the library tree, and even then talk was light.

Luna asked to borrow Spike to send a message to Celestia, and then our group separated right after Luna sent her letter, Twilight and the element bearers stayed to write what was going to be a difficult friendship report, and our group continuing with our walk about town.

Chapter 20: The seventh Element.

View Online

By the time dinner time rolled around all seemed forgotten. And then I found myself face to face with a glass of milk.

You’re not going to have an issue because you know it’s not your mama's milk, are you?” Lofty asked as she watched me. And now the others are watching.

I knew it wasn’t my mom’s,” I reply. “I just hadn’t realized I was taking milk from some other foal.” That wasn’t quite right, but then I just gave myself the best argument as to why I had to drink that milk. “But they, they had the milk to give, didn’t they.” I offered to amend what I’d said. Letting it go to waste because of some stupid human hang-up over something so basic and pure as mother’s milk… Hell, I’d been drinking cow boob juice all my life and that never once bothered me. I took hold of the glass with both hooves with a little magic assist and took a sip. It was that same wonderful farm fresh extra rich with all the good stuff I’d come to expect of Equestrian milk. Cow’s milk was for calves. The worst part is that I knew why I had this hang up. Not just because humans sexualized everything, but because formula manufacturers had run an advertising campaign that all but demonized mothers milk. They’d even gone so far as to convince medical professionals that their evaporated milk and chemicals were better than the real thing which in turn contributed greatly to the notion that the only reason for breast was to attract a mate. It would take decades for organizations like WHO, the World Health Organization, to even begin to reverse the trend. I, as a foal, had no more business drinking cow milk than I did as a baby human. Maybe as a predator, I wasn’t so limited. Face it, cats were happy with any kind of milk regardless of whether or not it was good for them. But when it came to optimal health, mare’s milk was for foals like me. And as far as I knew it was all completely anonymous. I took another sip and vowed to leave my past hangups behind me.

I think Apple Bloom’s ma...” Scootaloo began.

Scootaloo, if your about to tell me that Pear Butter donates milk, I don’t want to know.” I snapped. “Not that that would be so bad, but if I were to find out it was Mrs Baker, who gives me a hard time about having black stalkings, I doubt very much I’d ever be able to touch another glass of milk again.”

OK, I can see that,” Lofty offered, and then bust up laughing.

You know, I think I can too,” Holiday added. “I’d likely have the same reaction to Mrs Rich, what with her lording over every pony else. She’d likely say something like I should be grateful for the bounty of her bosom.”

Just the thought of it was enough to make milk squirt out of my nose, and we all bust up laughing.

I think I’m over my hang up now. Mom’s looking a little downcast so I lean into her. After all, it’s not that hard to guess what’s going through her mind. Though to be honest, if she was lactating that would be even more awkward so I’m kind of glad she’s not. I was just glad that I wasn't expected to drink from a bottle.

After dinner it was storytime, and I soon found myself cast as the storyteller. And of course, Sunset and Scootaloo wanted to know all about what it was like growing up in the old castle out in the Everfree. Of course, they’d never been there. That was for the older ponies.

Well, for starters the building that’s out there isn’t a castle, it’s a palace. Back before Nightmare Moon took my mom from me and I found myself out in the middle of a wilderness in an abandoned building it was a sparkling palace and the pride of the citadel that surrounded it. There was a sizable city out there. Seven walls surrounded the inner court from the outermost to the inner sanctum where the Palace of the Alicorn sisters lived. We also traveled to Canterlot, and to the Crystal empire quite frequently.”

You mean it was real?” Scootaloo asked with astonishment.

As real as Cadance is.” Lofty offered from her chair. She and Scootaloo were sharing a chair and we’d yet to hear if Snap and Mane were on their way back. Ms Holiday was none too happy about the situation either. “When those two saw each other in Canterlot it was like watching two sisters who’d been separated.,” Lofty explained in regards to Cadance and myself.

We knew each other. Just the sight of her face was enough to rekindle old memories I’d all but forgotten.” Cadance explained. “And then it was like a piece of me had been returned.”

From there it became Cadance’s turn to tell about herself. Except, there weren’t too many memories of the Chrystal Empire. She could remember going to Canterlot, and the Everfree, but the Empire was still mostly a blank.

Later that night we all piled into the big bed, Luna and I at one end, Sunset, Cadance, and Scootaloo at the other. Not like we didn’t end up in a pony pile. And the talk just naturally seemed to drift towards who we liked.

Who do I like?” I asked. “Well, I suppose Rumble is kind of cute.” I offered.

Just how is it you can say that without being embarrassed?” Scootaloo asked. She could tell I was being honest.

What’s to be embarrassed about? Why do p-ponies have to make such a big deal out of it? I can’t help but wonder how many relationships never happen because of teasing.” I protest only to find Luna stretching a wing over me to give me a hug. “Cadance what about you, who do you like? Captain Armor seems sweet and he definitely likes you.”

Shining? Alright, I’ll admit it if he’ll just ask.” Cadance stated. “Before Shining there was a colt named Buck Withers. The more I got to know him the less I liked him.”

Buck? Ya, no, he just wants another trophy. Might be fun to hang around with, but definitely not herd material.” Sunset offered. “I’m just assuming he hadn't improved from when he was trying to ingratiate himself on me.”

Herd material she says!” Scootaloo exclaimed and started laughing.

Oh sure, laugh now, but when you get older you just may change your mind.” Cadance teased.

Just think about how close you are with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle.” I offered.

Apple’s don’t herd that way.” Scootaloo protested.

Apple’s?” I ask realizing she hadn’t ruled out Sweetie.

Careful, lest you jinx it.” Cadance cautions.

Why do I have the odd feeling the two of you can both see glimpses of the future?” Sunset asked.

Not the future as such.” Cadance offered. “When I use my magic I can see red lines of energy stretching out in a type of web connecting ponies to each other. The hue of the red tells me just how close they are apt to get and what kind of relationship it’ll be.”

That sounds rather alarming,” Scootaloo whispered.

Enishi,” I said softly. “In Neighpon it’s called Enishi. The red lines of fate. They guide our destinies, our relationships, and bind us to those who are and or will be important in our lives. I’ve found I can see them too, but not so much as in how they connect to myself. These lines can be easily broken if an individual’s fate is tampered with.”

So do we have a connection?” Sunset asked.

Well of course we do,” I replied with a big smile. “We are all connected. Granted I can see all connections, and not just love lines. I can also catch little glimpses of possible future events.” Nor was I just blowing smoke as I’d discovered that looking through the blue flame of foxfire really did work.

Cadance lit up her horn and studied us for a moment.

I couldn't resist a little magic of my own and held up my right hoof. “May the Shin guide my light,” I say quietly followed by, “Yu, rei, chu, meiyo, gi, jin, makoto.”

What is that. Is that a spell of some kind?” Cadance asked.

What did you see?” I ask. I’m still studying the others. Cadance, well, no surprises there other than I’ve got a hunch the wedding will resolve with less stress. Scootaloo, however, for her there seemed to be a big change coming her way.

I saw your auras envelop each of you,” Cadance offered.“Luna’s was a mix of vermilion, orange, and blue, yours is blue and green. Sunset’s aura is much the same as her hair of yellow and red. Scootaloo’s is vermilion

Green? Well, that was news to me.” I reply as I drop my foxfire. “My magic is light blue.”

Curious, I wonder why?” Cadance admitted.

Mine is usually yellow unless I push it, then it will turn red.” Sunset offered.

The words I used evoke one of the seven virtues of Bushido and I asked for the guidance of the divine spirits if you like. The best way for me to explain it in a frame of reference you will readily recognize is that the virtues loosely correlate with the elements of harmony.” I explain.

So what’s my color?” Cadance asked.

Pink. A nice soft pink. Just like you.” I told her and gave her a nuzzle.

I’m going to sleep now,” Sunset announced. “I’ve seen enough.”

Are we all connected?” Scootaloo asked

Of course we are,” I replied. “Some tighter than others.”

Nova, your aura leans towards green because you have the green Harmony Stone.” Luna explained “I can’t help but wonder why Celestia never remarked on it? She’d always insist on being the one to hold it. Somewhere along the line I’d taken it from her and incorporated it into the amulet, thus hiding it in plain sight. I'd cast an enchantment over it to make it appear to be the same sort of stone as the small light blue stone. In a roundabout way, it ensured that neither of us would ever have all seven stones.”

Seven, there were seven stones?” Sunset asked. “Twilight and the others only have six?”

That’s because Nova still has the seventh. And the fact that she was transported from the past to the present with it still intact indicates that she is now the rightful bearer. That small blue stone in the position of the small star for your cutie mark is one your father gave me to pass on to you. Oddly enough it has properties similar to a harmony stone as well. Nova's father called it a Hōjo-no-Tama.”

What does it represent, I wonder?” Cadance asked.

The green stone is courage, empathy, willpower, uncommon valor,” Luna offered.

Ah… what?” I asked. I’m flabbergasted. Not only do I have a harmony stone I've got a Hōjo, a wish-fulfilling stone used by Kitsune.

Even as a little filly you were not afraid to jump right into the middle of the fight between your aunt and the Nightmare that had taken control of me. That or you were just being a complete idiot.”

Mo...om!” I protest.

That cutie mark on Moonie when she was for lack of a better word, rampaging, that was my mom’s cutie mark. She and my father were the first to use the elements after the tree of harmony grew and I can’t help but wonder if some small part of her is in some way responsible for that dressing down of Twilight and the other element bearers. Some small part of her is still in that stone.”

Chapter 21: Be not ungrateful

View Online

Warning, the following chapter may not be fit for all readers.
While the chapter does not contain outright gore, it does contain material that is graphic in nature and may be considered downright Nightmare feed. I'm Scrooging Granny Smith in this.

Granny Smith woke with a start to the sound of animals and ponies alike calling in fright out in the orchards. “What in Tar-nation is all that ruckus!?” Granny grumbled as she got up and opened the window to have a look. Granny had been in a right funk ever since the night of the timberwolf attack and hadn't exactly been a very loving Granny. Still though, despite a number of mean spirited things that had come unbidden from her mouth, she still cared. Out in the compound between house and barn ponies were rushing about bringing in wounded ponies.

Granny pulled away from the window and rushed downstairs to find Applejack and Big Mac looking out on the scene. “Get back to yer rooms, pronto!” Granny ordered and rushed outside.

“What’s happening?!” Granny called as she tried to get the attention of frightened ponies.

“Wolf. Huge!” Shouted Mr Greenhoves coming up to her. He was an old friend of hers, a brown earth pony whose mane and tail were sporting their fair share of gray in the auburn. “Timber wolf, only I hesitate to call it that. It’s like something out of a nightmare. Bright Macintosh and Pear Butter went with axes to help the militia drive it off.”

“Bright Mac, but he can barely walk?!” Granny exclaimed and ran in the direction the ponies were fleeing from.

The apple groves seemed extra creepy that night. Granny shook off a shudder. It was dark. Far darker than it normally should be. Her path lit only by the occasional abandoned torch as she ran down through the row, passing tree after tree, the sound of ponies screaming in terror leading her on.

There was no moon that night.

Why was there no moon?

Granny was running, running, running through the darkness, heavy with dread. Her familiar apple trees twisted, uncaring, mocking, barren, and not a pony in sight.

Only the sound of terror, and the forgotten torches to guide her on.

She crested a hill and there it was, huge and foreboding, the shape of a wolf, a pony clenched in its massive jaw like Winona holding a rag toy. The worst part is that it wasn’t just animated litter from the forest. It was made not just of branches but of bone, covered in spots with torn hide, and the stench – oh the stench, and… it seemed enveloped in a shadow that no light could penetrate save just in spots where it’s form was revealed. Its eyes shown as though made of burning coals, and when its gaze fell upon Granny her legs gave way. The beast then shook the pony and cast its carcass to come crashing down right in front of Granny.

“I… I’m sorry Granny. - I’m sorry. - I tried – to save him,” Pear Butter gasped while her empty eyes gazed at Granny, her body horribly twisted.

“No, no, no...” Granny whimpered. “No!”

🛏

Granny woke with a start. It had been a dream. A horrible dream. She threw off her covers, sprang to her hooves, and rushed to Bright Mack and Pear Butter’s bedroom only to find a well-made bed and a picture of the perfect pair over the bed draped in black fabric.

“No, no, it didn't happen that way it didn’t!” Granny exclaimed in desperation and ran to check all the bedrooms.

No pony was there, not even little Apple bloom. Applejack and Apple Bloom’s bedding was stripped away and sheets covering the desk and dressers like no one was expected to be using the room for a very long time.

When Granny got downstairs there was no one about, and only the signs of habitation that of a funeral gathering having taken place perhaps the night before.

“Bright Mac! Bright Mac!” Granny called as she ran outside. “Pear Butter! Applejack!”

“Granny?!” Big Mac called as he rushed out of the barn. “Granny.” He ran to her, the odor of the early morning chores heavy on him. “It’s going to be alright. We’ll...”

“Where’s your Ma and Pa?” Granny pleaded.

“Granny, they got et. Don cha remember?” Big Mac said softly. “Maybe you should go have a lay-down.”

“I’m not laying down!” Granny protested. “Where’s yer sister?!”

“You sent her away. To stay with kin in Manehattan. Apple Bloom is with Miss Lofty wait-en to see if anyone el' adopt her.”

“Apple Bloom? With that chicken eater?!”

“Granny, what are you talking about. Lofty and Holiday are good ponies.”

“The chicken eater, that false alicorn, that daughter of Nightmare Moon, Miss Nova… Big Mac?” Big Mac turned to ash before her eyes and vanished on the morning breeze. The day grew dark as clouds from the Everfree billowed overhead.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” Boomed a voice that sounded like the creaking of a great tree.

Granny turned to see the beast in all its horror. The bone, the flesh, and rotting branches where there was no bone. Inside its torso the remains of recognizable ponies. Bright Mac, Pear Butter, Big Mac, Applejack, and Bloom who'd been swallowed whole. Bloom's hollow eyes looked out at Granny and then she spoke in a raspy tone, "we did what you wanted, we followed Bright Mac, just like you kept telling us we should."

“Didn’t you want Pear Butter to die? Didn't you want them all to die, to follow one after the other into the jaws of death? ” The beast said in a low guttural growl as it slowly walked up to her.

Black fluid dripped from its massive jaw, and wherever it fell the ground cracked and turned ashen as though parched by a great fire. Its eyes of flame ever searching zeroing in on Granny and looking right through to her soul.

“You had them both. They were alive, but you weren’t happy with that. You’d much rather that pear lover run headlong into her doom,” it stated as it came ever closer, blotting out the very sun till only nightmare and shadow remained. Not even the farm was left. Just a bare open plane where the carcasses of trees thrust empty branches upward into a moonless night. Even the stars began to dim and vanish until only the seeking eyes of flame were left.

“You could not be grateful for what you had. You showed your family only bitterness when you should have showed them gratitude. Even the feud between the Apples and the Pears was your doing. You vile miserable ungrateful…”

In a flash it was all gone, replaced by an endless plane of mist where pastel bubbles floated here and there.

Among the bubbles stood a black and white filly with both wings and a horn. A moment later Nightmare Moon herself joined her.

“..old nag,” the filly said softly.

“Remindeth us ne’r to ang'r thee mine own daught'r.”

“Can’t sayeth the mare didn’t have it coming.”

“Nay, we imagineth not.”

“I doth desire I haven't ov'r done it and hath killed h'r in the admonition.”

“Seems a foalish timeth to bethink of that now?”

"I didn't even get to have sea ponies drag her into the well."

"And kill her off for sure my little one. Dreams are not to be toyed with for a reason. So why?

"I wanted her to have a vision of what she'd been asking, and it wasn't just what Applejack had said. Every time I was around her, one moment she'd be acting all nice, and then she's making snide little comments that sets everyone around her on edge.

"Let us hope that you haven't done something you will regret."

Chapter 22: Chatting over Breakfast

View Online

I awoke the next morning, perhaps feeling a bit guilty about sending Granny a nightmare, and hoping I hadn’t accidentally killed her. It wasn't a nice thing to do, but having been old myself I knew how easy it was to become a crotchety old person. The cure was to get the individual to realize what they were doing and saying.

The others have yet to wake. I beckoned my little moon to me. “Moonie, do me a favor and go check on Granny Smith, and report back quick as a wink how she fairs.” Moonie nodded and blinked out of sight. Her cutie mark is back to being a crescent moon on its own.

Scootaloo is crying in her sleep so I decide to wake her up.

Scootaloo? Are you alright” Cadance asked from her place in the pony pile. No idea how long she’s been awake.

Ya,” Scootaloo replied as I gingerly climb out of the pile and the bed.

Scootaloo, things will get better,” Cadance offered assuredly.

Indeed they will,” I add. “I saw something when I was looking through the foxfire.

There seems to be a strong connection between you two.” Cadance offered. “Could that be it?”

Her future is clouded.” I offer. “I don’t see her experiencing any kind of magical surge like you and I experienced.” I pause a moment. “That doesn’t mean she won’t catch up with us. But more importantly, I saw some pony important to Scootaloo will come back into her life.”

What about Sunset, do you think she’ll catch up with us?”

Well, considering who her mother is, she kind of already has. Magic wise she’s ahead of us. Lucky enough to be born a unicorn, unlucky enough not to be born a pegasus with a button horn.”

Sunset raised her head up and looked at me. “Seriously? Are you seriously saying I’m a wingless alicorn? And how is that any better?”

About all you need to do is tack on a pair of functional wings. Trouble is, the only spell I’m aware of that has the potential doesn’t work,” I offer.

You mean Star Swirl’s unfinished spell?” Sunset asked.

You’ve seen it?” I ask. “That things dangerous.”

I don’t doubt that,” Sunset offered. “I got a good enough look at the spell, that I kind of have to wonder about Starswirl. Especially now that I realized how arrogant I was being. A lot of his stuff may be brilliant, but he was doing the same sort of stuff I was doing. I wasn't finessing my spells. I was using a sledgehammer approach just to show off.” She thought about it for a moment. “And something’s missing, but I just can’t quite place a hoof on it.”

Not it, who,” I say with a smile.

Who?” Cadance asked.

Friends,” I replied, and trotted out of the room.

I found Lofty prepping coffee, and a moment later I was cradling a hot cup of cocoa on the sofa.

Moonie appeared in the room and glided into land on top of the sofa. She walked over to me looking much like a cat.

So how’s things?” I asked quietly.

Granny had a doozy of a nightmare last night, but is otherwise alright.” Moonie offered with a rather suspicious look on her face.

Just a hunch,” I offered. That was my story and I was going to stick to it. “No need to mention it to any pony.” Sure mom knew what I was up to, but she hadn’t scolded me or anything.

Sunset came out and sat next to me. “You know how to fix that spell don’t you.”

I’ve got a rough idea.” I offer. “Bottom line the spell has to take both the magic of friendship and the magic of harmony into consideration.”

Magic of harmony?” Sunset asked.

The first to harness the magic of harmony were the Pillars of Equestria. Rockhoof represented strength, Mage Meadowbrook was healing, Somnambula hope, Mistmane Beauty, Flash Magnus Bravery, and star swirl was Sorcery. But the truth is, they got it wrong. Rockhoof didn’t represent strength, he represented Strength of Character. And Meadowbrook was Compassion. And to inspire hope one must have integrity. Mistmane actually gave up her beauty and was generous to a fault. This is Honor, not beauty, nor generosity, though generosity does play a part. Flash was both brave and loyal, but both of these are nothing without a commitment to duty. As for Starswirl, he would not have been the accomplished wizard that he was without respect for his craft.” I turned from my task to see that Cadance was also listening in.

And to think that all this time I thought there were only five elements,” Cadance said quietly.

It's possible that’s all Celestia remembered.” I offered. “I mean, that was a long time ago for her.”

What do you think mine would be if I had one?” Sunset asked.

Might be redemption, perhaps empathy, or maybe even heroic courage. After all, all the empathy in the world is pointless without the courage to act.” I saw mom headed for the door out of the corner of my eye. She still has PJs on and is half asleep. “Mom, we’re on a sleepover.”

What?” Luna replied.

You don’t have to do chores until you get home,” I inform her. She just stands there. “Go stand in the shower and turn the cold water on.”

Um… OK.”

We all watch her head for the bath, and a few minutes later there’s a high-pitched scream.

What was that?” Holiday asked coming out of the bedroom. “Why’s every pony laughing?”

Was that Luna?” Lofty asked as she emerged from the kitchen.

Now why’d you go and tell me to do that for!?” demanded a wet Luna as she emerged.

You...” I said between fits of laughter. “..are awake now. Aren’t you?”

🚿

Ha ha, very funny.” Luna protested, but couldn't help but crack a smile.

What happened!? What’s going on?!” Exclaimed a couple of guards as they burst into the door. The door wasn’t quite big enough for two guards ponies at once and they proceeded to get stuck as they both hid the doorway at once.

Luna went into the shower and turned the cold water on herself,” Cadance informed them with a huge grin on her face.

Only because Nova told me to do it while I was still half asleep.” Luna protested. The guards smiled.

Ya, that works on Day shift too.” One of the guards offered, and then the two proceeded to dislodge themselves. Or at least try to.

Well this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into,” one guard said to the other.

I’m sorry Stand.” The other offered apologetically.

Stand?” I ask.

Standpipe, and I’m Laurel Wreath.”

It’s such a small multiverse,” I muttered. Stan and Laurel, hardy guards ponies at my service.

How’s that?” Sunset asked.

Take too long to explain. Any chance you can unstuck them?” I ask, and then hastily add, “without breaking anything?”

Easy.” Sunset offered, and simply levitated one guard which made it possible for the other to clear themselves from the doorway. Once both were clear we invited them to breakfast, but they cordially declined and went back outside.

Holiday went to Luna’s aid and had her dried off in time for breakfast. Cadance, Scootaloo, and I were delighted to have roast fish for breakfast. Lofty had a fish as well, and when Luna indicated that she’d like some fish, one was put into the skillet for her as well. Ms Holiday didn’t much care for it but she had simply become accustomed to the presence of fish. Even if the scent did tend to linger.

You actually eat that?” Sunset asked while trying not to sound judgmental or disgusted.

It’s good,” Scootaloo offered. “And I know full well where the young roosters are going that hatch.”

You don’t say?” I asked, my interest piqued.

I doubt very much Granny has a clue, or if she does, she’s got some twisted ways of thinking what with selling chicks that would otherwise be useless to the farm. Worse than useless. They only need a couple of roosters at most for the hens, and the rest just eat and don’t really do nothin.”

True.” I offer.

Anyway, there’s an outfit that buys young roosters. Takes em up to Canterlot. Said they were providing a nice place for them where ponies could appreciate them.”

In that case it’s entirely possible I have eaten some of Grannie's chickens,” I offered with a smug grin. “Just don’t tell Granny.”

Well now I can honestly say I do know where some of the chickens are going,” Holiday offered with a big smile on her face.

Let's not tell Granny.” Scootaloo offered. “Celestia knows they need the bits.”

Only because Granny won’t let them touch the stipend they get from the crown,” Luna offered. “What? Bright Mac is a Landed Barron. Princess Celestia makes more money than she knows what to do with these days so she pays out a stipend to all the earth pony nobles as a sort of an investment in the farms and ranches. The money is there for land improvements, new equipment, emergencies, or just to keep up appearances. But Granny won’t have anything to do with it so the money just sits in a bank doing nothing but enriching the banker. Adding insult to injury the deal she got from Filthy Rich is downright robbery, but Harmony forbid she should take a better offer from any pony else who’s not an Earth Pony.”

Wow,” I said softly. It also seemed to explain why mom didn’t come down on me for what I’d done to Granny. That old nag needed some comeuppance. Granted that mom being the Nightmare on the dreamscape and apparently having no recollection of it was troubling.

Chapter 23: Never feather-mark a colt while he's flying or misuse an element of harmony.

View Online

Alright Lover colt, back off, you're already taken,” I protested. Cadance, Silvereagle, and I were flying to the Ponyville school when Rumble decided to drop in to see who my new friends were. He was showing far more interest in Cadance than I cared for.

Our group had split up so I could get some flying time in with Scootaloo, Sunset, and Ms Brightwing walking.

Taken?” Rumble asked like that was news to him.

I couldn't resist gliding in closer and dragging my wingtip along his side. “Yes, taken.”

Miss Nova, that is inappropriate behavior for a princess.” Silvereagle scolded.

As for Rumble he’d apparently blanked out, and careened off at an odd angle, and crashed into a shed before he’d a chance to recover.

Rumble!?” I called as I landed by what was left of the shed. “Are you alright?” Cadance landed by me, followed by Silvereagle who started picking through the wreckage.

Rumble turned out to be fine once we’d gotten the rest of the shed off him with the help of the owner an Earth pony who I gathered was named Cabbage Merchant. Mr Cabbage was just happy there wasn’t any cabbage in the cart that’d been in the shed. Don’t ask me I don’t know. As for Rumble, I wasn’t too sure if he had in fact hit his head, or if that shit-eating grin was the result of the feather marking.

Care to explain what happened?” Mr Cabbage asked.

I’m sorry, it was my fault.” I pleaded.

Now don’t go blaming yourself for your colt friends clumsiness.” Mr Cabbage advised.

Oh it was entirely her fault,” Silvereagle said as she glared at me. “She feather-marked him.”

A big smile crept across Mr Cabbage’s face and then he busts up laughing.

Maybe we should get going?” Cadance asked. Was she blushing?

Yes, we should.” Silvereagle agreed, and we were on our way shortly thereafter.

Hey, is every pony alright?” Scootaloo called as she, Sunset, and Brightwing hurried along the lane to catch up with us. “And what happened to Rumble? Did he maybe hit his head?”

Nova feather-marked him,” Cadance whispered in a rather conspiratorial tone.

Um, sorry, unicorn. I don’t know what that is?” Sunset asked.

Just you never mind, young filly.” Silvereagle chastised. Brightwing got a very amused look on her face.

OK, OK, I was just as much in the dark. Sure I’d heard it was something pegasi do to let another pony know they liked them, but I couldn't quite understand what all the fuss was about. Ms Lofty would take me aside later that evening, but for now, I was the epitome of an innocent filly. As for Lofty’s explanation… being she had no idea that I was actually an adult in a fillies body, listening to her try to explain what feather-marking did to colts only confused me further.

When I did finally figure it out I had to admit that a wing boner while in flight was truly a bad thing.

As for school, I suppose that school being half-day for the summer was a blessing. The day started out with me introducing Cadance, and that’s about as far as I got. Sunset simply found an atlas to study there being nothing there that was at her level. I went back to my workbooks, and Rumble just sat there in a daze while the class all wanted to ask Cadance Questions. Every now and then they wanted some of my input, but the idea that I’d been a real princess all along was going to take a while to process in their little heads. As for Sunset, I think she was perfectly happy that she’d been forgotten.


Princess Luna walked through town with Shining Armor at her side. Their destination, the Oak Tree Library, and to their surprise there was a royal chariot waiting outside with a team of pegasi standing by.

“Commander Sparkle,” The lead pegasi said as he offered a salute.

“Princess Celestia?” Shining Armor asked.

“Inside, sir.”

“Thank you. We were just headed that way.”

“Good morning gentle colts,” Luna offered as they passed by. They hadn’t bowed, but they had saluted Commander Sparkle, and they were standing at attention. A pony can’t bow while standing at attention. Something she’d learned during her stay in Canterlot. Guards ponies on duty saluted.

Shining Armor opened the front door to the library and Luna followed them in. What they found was Celestia talking to a very dejected Twilight Sparkle.

“Commander Sparkle,” Celestia offered cheerfully enough. “Luna, has your stay been pleasant?” Celestia walked over to meet up with Luna and the two hugged.

“I am doing well, sister,” Luna offered as they broke apart. “Oh, and before you ask, little Moonie has gone back to normal.”

Celestia leaned over to whisper in Luna’s ear, “Could there perhaps be a little of mother in that stone?”

“And that tiny spark somehow took possession of Moonie? No way to know. I gather you did recognize the stone.”

“I did.”

“You didn’t take it from her?”

“How could I? Not only is it now rightfully hers, but there is also no way to remove the stone without irreversibly damaging her little protector.”

“Yesterday afternoon she protected ourselves as well. I’d assumed you’d had something to do with it until I saw mother’s cutie mark.”

“I may be partially responsible, but right off hoof I have the feeling she went well beyond her programming matrix.”

“Gave them a right proper chewing out just like mother used to do to us,” Luna offered with a smile.

“Princess?” Twilight asked with a feeling of dread in her voice.

“It’s alright. We were just discussing the unusual behavior of Nova’s little toy,” Celestia offered. She then turned to Shining Armor. “Commander, before you arrived I was informing Twilight that I was taking the elements of harmony. As I informed her, I fear that we could potentially lose the elements if the bearers behave in a way that is contrary to their elements while wearing them. Nor can I have them abusing the elements.”

“I fully understand. I did write up a report on the incident, but I can say I found the entire incident quite surreal. Finding myself faced with having to protect Princess Luna and the others from my own sister and her friends based on one pony’s insistence that Princess Luna was either still Nightmare Moon or had somehow reverted was not something I’ve ever trained for.” He turned to Twilight. “I’m sorry Twilie, but you put me in a very awkward position. I’d have been forced to protect Princess Luna and her daughter.”

“Daughter?” Twilight asked perplexed.

“Nova is my daughter,” Luna offered. “Her presence alone has been a great help to me.”

“And had Miss Pie been successful in her Discordian fueled madness you could have potentially done to the whole group whatever it was that was intended for Luna.” Shining informed Twilight. "What that would have meant is no more Princess Luna, no more Princess Nova, no more Princess Cadance, no more..."

"I think she gets the point," Princess Celestia admonished.

“I – I’m so sorry. I should have put a stop to it long before. I should have known something wasn’t right,” Twilight offered as tears began to stream down her face. Shining went to her and gave her a hug.

“Princess Celestia, I asked around about Miss Pie last night,” Shining began.

“Is she going to be in trouble?” Twilight asked.

“I’d like to hope that she has learned her lesson,” Luna offered.

“What concerns me is that Miss Pie may be a follower of Eris,” Shining offered. “And if I can believe half the tall tales that I heard last night, I can’t help but wonder if she has been exposed to chaos magic.”

“But she’s an element bearer,” Celestia pointed out.

“Stopping Nightmare moon would not be at cross purposes to a follower of Eris,” Shining explained. “What Nightmare Moon was offering was total stagnation.”

“I think I understand,” Luna offered. “I shudder to think what endless night would do, but in the absolute final end, the planet would become a lifeless chunk floating in an endless void. Not that a disembodied spirit whose only motivation is excess would care.”

“The thing that possessed you?” Twilight asked.

“The thing that possessed me,” Luna admitted. “I’m afraid I was already under its influence when I all but attacked Nova’s father. He was so gorgeous, and I’d had a few drinks. Afraid my inhibitions had been left far behind.” She stopped for a moment, the room went silent. “I think I killed him.”

“Killed him?!” Twilight gasped.

“Well at least he died with a smile,” Luna offered with a coy smile of her own.

“Now Luna, Twilight’s too innocent for that kind of humor,” Celestia protested.

“Who says I’m joking?” Luna countered just as a canary-yellow Wonderbolt with a gold and orange mane and tail entered the library.

“Ah, Commander Spitfire, how can we help you?” Celestia asked as she welcomed the opportunity to change the subject.

A huge grin formed on Spitfire’s face as she approached and pulled out a small bundle of legal forms. “Princesses, you have no idea how delighted I am to find you both here. Though to be honest I was only looking for Princess Luna.”

“Me,” Luna inquired as Spitfire made the required bow.

“Tracking you down is a lot easier than getting an audience with mother,” Spitfire offered.

“Mother?!” Twilight exclaimed.

“Well if that little brat Sunset can get recognition… but that’s not what I want. What I want, what I need, is the signature of a princess,” Spitfire said while offering her stack of legal forms to Princess Luna.

“Spitfire, do think of your father, and the fact that he doesn’t know, and two, he’d likely get lynched,” Celestia cautioned as Luna took hold of the paperwork, perused it, her eyes going wide a moment later.

“Understood,” Spitfire offered and then turned her attention back to the matter at hoof. “Not a fit mother they said. At least I’m not going to abandon my filly while I take off on some harebrained adventure or leave her to her own devices while I spend all my time at work and play.”

“I’ll sign it, but I’m not sure my signature is any good?” Luna offered.

“Well, they aren’t here to challenge it, and when they do eventually come back I figure they’ll have to deal with that cluster buck of trying to get in to see Princess Celestia,” Spitfire offered. “You have no idea how thrilled I was when that warrant came across my desk.”

“May I see that, Sister,” Celestia asked. “Oh, and Commander Sparkle, Twilight looks like she’s overstimulated. Perhaps you should put her in her bed.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Shining offered, and then picked up Twilight slinging her across his back. Her mane was sticking out all over the place. “By the way, Twilight, where’s Spike?”

“Oh, probably off trying to hump Rarity’s leg,” Twilight offered. Although from the sound of her voice she was probably oblivious to what she’d just said.

“Sister, what say we both sign this,” Celestia offered. “Spitfire, did you have any idea where you were going to live?”

“I’m stationed at the Wonderbolt base outside of Canterlot, and I can easily commute back and forth from here. I just need a place for the two of us. I don’t want to disrupt her life if I don’t have to.”

“I just happen to know a place that’s up for rent,” Luna offered with a big grin.

Chapter 24: Out at the Apple Farm

View Online

So, do you think I have a chance with Rumble?” I asked as our little group made our way out to the Apple farm after they let us go from school. Our group consisting of Cadance, Sunset, Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, and myself. Rumble was presently following us like a lost puppy and Sweetie… Well, Sweetie was grounded and had to go home. Something about getting into Rarity's supplies and costing her several hundred bits in damaged materials. As for Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara, they’d been abnormally quiet that morning and were likely off assessing how deep the hole they’d dug themselves was. After all, it’s not every day the daughter of Nightmare Moon turns out to actually be the daughter of… well, I think you get the picture.

Nova, you don’t really have a strong connection with him.” Cadance offered. “Meanwhile there is talk of fixing you up with Lord Prince Blueblood’s little brat.”

My ears went flat. “But I can’t stand him. He’s an egotistical stuck-up self-centered overbearing idiot with delusions of grandeur.”

Maybe he’ll mellow out as he gets older?” Cadance offered with a shrug of her wings. “Granted there isn’t a strong connection there either.”

Somehow I couldn't see it happening any time soon. Or ever. “Maybe we’ll set him up with Diamond Tiara,” I mused evilly. Cadance gave me a curious smile, Sunset looked at me, and as she assessed what I’d just said, formed a smile to match my own, and the others just laughed.

I don’t get it?” Cadance asked.

Diamond Tiara is an insufferable brat,” Apple Bloom supplied.

Maybe if we put the two of them together they’ll cancel each other out?” Scootaloo offered. She’d heard me talk about Blueblood’s brat often enough to understand that the colt was just a male version of Diamond.

No, typically that type just feeds on each other and just gets worse,” Cadance offered.

In that case I withdraw the suggestion.”

When we arrived at the farm Granny came out of the house and gave us all a warm embrace to include myself which had me nearly as befuddled as Rumble.

Ugg – Granny?” I protested. Dear sweet harmony what have I done?

It’s just, I was being such a cranky old...” Granny said as she loosened up on her hug.

Nag?” I suggested. Both she and Applejack who was standing nearby gave me a dirty look, but then Granny smiled.

I suppose you are right,” Granny replied a moment later. “And I owe you an apology. You’ve been such a good filly and I shouldn't be treating you differently just because you eat meat.”

I promise never to eat any of your hens,” I said with a smile.

Chickens, say chickens.” Warned Applejack.

Um, Applejack...” I say turning to her while keeping my voice at a whisper. Granny had a funny look on her face. “If I promise to never eat any of the chickens knowing what I know concerning what happens to the young roosters, I’d be honor-bound not to eat any. That would mean requesting that I not be served any from the Apple farm.”

Oh. - Who knew honesty could be so complicated,” Applejack replied. “Granny, I know where the extra roosters have been going. Well, not where-where, but I’ve got a good idea.”

Applejack?” Why does she have to be so dang honest? Who am I kidding she’s the bucking element of honesty. And then I reminded myself that when hooves hit faces it hurts.

How’s that?” Granny asked.

The chickens going to Canterlot are going to restaurants. Ponies aren’t making pets out of them.” AJ told her.

Why would you think that?” Granny asked.

Granny Smith, ponies in Canterlot don’t keep roosters as pets.” Cadance offered.

They are more than likely going to griffin homes and restaurants.” I supplied. “Meat substitutes tend not to have the required amino acids a meat eater needs to stay healthy. That’s why I like to mooch eggs off you, and Ms Lofty makes sure I have at least one fish a day so I’ll grow up healthy. There are nine proteins required for good health. A strictly plant-based diet doesn’t have the omega-3s that a meat-eater needs, and while a good deal of proteins can be found in a plant-based diet, plants don’t have the amino sulfonic acid known as Taurine. It’s considered a conditional amino acid because most creatures can make their own, or at least enough to stay healthy. Griffins and ponies such as myself who have ancestors who were dependent on a meat diet don’t produce enough of our own. Not only do we need meat to stay healthy we are also hard-wired to like it.”

The papers said you attacked a guard,” Granny asked.

It was in a griffin restaurant, he took meat from me, and from what I understand of griffin culture, the griffins would have seen that as me consenting to be his wife if I’d have allowed it.”

What?” Cadance gasped.

I know it’s not pony custom, but when in the company of griffins it’s best to be mindful of their customs or risk humiliation in their eyes. That and it'd been such a long time since I'd gotten any fried chicken that I kind of lost it too,” I explain and then direct my attention back to Granny. “So, have you any chores for us to do? We’ve even brought Rumble with us.”

I reckon I’ll have to take griffin culture into consideration.” Granny gave Rumble a calculating look. “I don’t know about Rumble though, you sure he’s up to it? He doesn’t look like he’s quite with it.”

She feather marked him.” Silvereagle offered. Granny smiled and laughed.

Well, there will be chores later. Come on in, and have some lunch,” Granny offered. “And then we’ll see if we can’t get some work out of him.”

So in we went and the spread laid out did not disappoint as Granny had been cooking all morning. We all found ourselves a place around, gave a quick word of thanks, and started loading up on the delight Granny had prepared.

You know, it doesn't count if it’s not meat.” I teased on catching Rumble swiping tidbits off my plate. And then I snatched something off his. Which was met with considerable laughter, and blushing on Rumble’s part. After we’d finished I volunteered to help granny clean up.

Princess...” Granny started but seemed hesitant. She was washing dishes while I dried.

Yes?”

You seem mature, for your age. Most of the time, that is.”

I wouldn't know, I’ve never met any pony over a thousand years other than Princess Celestia and my mom that is.”

To shay, as Miss Rarity might say.”

It was touché, but then again, Granny was technically correct.

Can I tell you a secret?” I asked.

And what might that be?”

I wasn’t in limbo the whole time,” I informed her. She continued washing dishes unabated. “Cadance, Sunset, and Princess Celestia know. Some of the guards. I haven't told Ms Lofty or Ms Holiday. I haven't even talked to my mom about it.”

Then why tell me?”

I found myself in another world, grew up, got married, my babies grew up got married and had babies of their own. My married name is Mrs Nova Arthol, and I’m a grandmother. I have more in common with you than I do with the ponies I call friends. I was happy. And then one day I suddenly found myself in the ruins of the palace of the two sisters out in the middle of the Everfree and I’m back to being a filly. Though just between you and me I doubt my old bones would have got me out of that forest, and starting over isn’t such a bad thing.”

Granny had stopped and just looked out the window.

His name was Rohan Godric Arthol,” I offered up. “My stallion.”

An unusual name. Almost Griffin.”

It was in another world, and I was able to confirm that it wasn’t all in my head.”

You miss him?”

Yes.”

Would you go back if you could?”

He passed away a little over seven years ago. I’ve got a son named Johnathan, a daughter named Aria.” I put down the dish I was drying and picked up another. “I had a chance to go back to them. The trouble is, in that world, I’m just an old nag, I’d be on borrowed time, I’ve friends and family here too, and coming back from the dead only causes a fuss.”

I would imagine it would,” Granny commented, and then went back to washing dishes. She didn’t ask what my chance had been and probably wasn’t sure if she wanted to know.

Can I ask you a personal question?”

Fair enough, ask away.”

Have you always been known as Granny Smith? Sometimes pony names just seem strange to me now.”

Maria Ann,” Granny told me. “There was a time when pony names weren’t quite so descriptive.”

It’s a nice name. If I remember correctly it means beloved grace. Mine means a beautiful bright new star.”

If Granny doubted me for a moment I made a believer out of her when I started telling her all about my kids, the in-laws, and of course the grandkids. I was careful to say foals though. After all, I didn’t want her thinking I’d been a goat in a world dominated by goats. Can’t have her thinking I’m somehow connected to Grogar now can I?

At least I know this world,” I said to break the silence I’d created when I’d stopped talking. “I remember the day they came back and told me that Cadance was gone, and wasn’t coming back. I refused to accept it. Back then, well, I’d a good idea what it meant when some pony wasn’t coming back. Death was far too frequent a visitor in those days. Finding myself in the ruins of the home I was born in, my age back to being a filly was rather disorienting. I’d no idea what to do at first. I just figured that if I could follow the old road without getting eaten along the way I’d be alright.”

And now you are here, and you were right about Princess Cadenza.” Granny offered. “Just not quite in the way you’d thought. I'd a mighty powerful nightmare that reminded me that things aren't always the way I think and that I should be careful what I wish for. I'd gotten myself worked up because Bright Mack had been so terribly injured. I'd even been blaming you on some level because you'd stopped Pear Butter from going with him. On top of that, I was resentful of Applejack for being away when we needed her here. Not once did I stop to think that I could have lost all three at once.

"You, you lost everything," Granny continued. "It must have been hard on you finding yourself out in those ruins."

"I'm afraid self-preservation won out over emotions," I offered. "I didn't have an emotional breakdown until after we'd retrieved Princess Celestia and Sunset from that mirror. That's when the weight of everything I'd lost finally hit me."

"To lose so much, not just once but twice. On the bright side, you missed the wars that followed Nightfall, and you now have a bright new future ahead of you."

Wars she says. The Crusades for the Sun they were called, many of the battles had been out and out massacres of innocent ponies, but then again, the history books had been written by the Platinum Clan.

"I'm good here," Granny offered a moment later. "Why don't you go on out and join your young friends? They are your future now. - And you might want to tell Miss Lofty some of what you’ve told me.”

I probably should. I can’t really see keeping secrets from her, but then I don’t want any pony to have to worry unnecessarily. Might not say anything to mom just yet, she’s a little delicate yet. Getting possessed and then banished for a thousand years kind of does a number on a pony. Are you sure you don’t need any more help?”

I think I can manage.”

Alright then,” I say as I put down my last dish. “Thank you.”

Chapter 25: The stone in the orchard. Part 1.

View Online

I found the others cleaning old hay, and… well, farm waist? Do you call them accidents when the farm animals were semi-sentient? Sure the cattle could talk, and even managed semi-decent conversation, it was like they truly were a less intelligent species in that they still behaved pretty much like regular farm animals. And that meant pooping wherever they felt like it. It was kind of like they were borderline ‘special needs’ and had to be kept fenced in or they’d wander off into the Everfree and get eaten by Timberwolves. I tried not to think about the implications of it all because it looked far too much like slavery and yet any change to the status quo could lead to disaster. I wasn't even sure what the ponies even got out of the deal. The cattle didn't do any work about the farm. The ponies fed watered and cleaned up after them... and milked them it seems. Cheese? Was that it? was that all ponies got out of the deal? Cheese?

Bright mac was out there working too. Which as it turned out, was the first time since getting mauled that he’d done any work around the farm. Sure the doctors had told him not to, but then again… there was a princess in his barn helping to clean it.

And now there are two of us princesses helping to muck out the barn.

He just had to insist on helping.” Applejack whispered as I started in on raking up the fine stuff the pitchforks had missed.

Well, if he gets to limping more than usual we’ll just make him go sit down,” I offered. “Right now it’s his Earth pony pride getting the best of him.”

Now why would that be?” Sunset asked. She was looking extra cute in a pair of overalls and an old straw hat. “Is something wrong?”

It’s just that… you’re just so cute!” I all but squealed out. I’d been overcome by the cuteness. OMG, I need a camera I could make a fortune selling pictures to bronies!!! Then the reality hit. It was going to be a while before I could even hope to put such plans into action.

What?!” Sunset asked making me wonder if I’d said any of the brony stuff out loud. She might even know what I was talking about for all I knew.

Something about making a fortune selling pictures of you dressed like that.” Applejack offered.

Oh god! And then my hoof hit my face again. Never face hoof when you’ve been mucking out a barn.

I’d buy one.” Rumble offered. Following by snickering from our bodyguards. And then he turned bright red.

What?!” Sunset asked while giving him the stink eye.

Ya know...” AJ offered in her slow drawl. “There is a camera inside.”

Oh you wouldn't dare?” Sunset said in both protest and warning of dire consequences.

The sound of a camera shutter caused us all to freeze up momentarily.

I turned to see Pear Butter in the open doorway of the barn with said camera. The camera itself kind of reminded me of an old Kodak Brownie Hawkeye only with a larger button and crank. The sort of camera one might see in old movies.

Now how about a group shot?” Pear Butter prompted.

Nova!” Sunset exclaimed.

What, am I a swear word now?” I teased.

Yes!”

So we all lined up, and got our pictures taken. After which we finished up what we were doing, and then went out for a walk in the orchards.

Cadance, can you feel it, the heartbeat of the trees?” I asked a short time later. I had a hoof against the tree. “I honestly feel like I was just about to figure out this apple-bucking thing when we ran out of ripe apples.”

Cadance put a hoof to the trunk and stood there quietly. Applejack did it too.

Ya, not like it’s a big deal?” Applejack asked.

Rumble and Sunset did the same, tried feeling it, but all they could feel was the bark of the tree.

I got nothing. Just bark.” Sunset offered.

Ya, me neither,” Rumble added.

But you can feel the breath of the breeze, can’t you?” I asked.

Well, sure. What pegasus can’t?”

I can. I can feel the heartbeat of the trees.” Cadance offered. She closed her eyes. “And the breeze, and even the ambient magic. It’s all connected. I’d even go so far as to say the trees are talking to each other.”

You can get all that?” AJ asked.

I stepped away from the tree and centered myself pointed down the row.

You remember that rock you kept tripping over?” I ask.

Sure do,” AJ answered.

It was somewhere around here, wasn’t it?”

I never could seem to find it once I’d a chance to look for it.”

Let’s see if I can locate it,” I say as I close my eyes.

One of the things I’d been doing since I ended up in Equestria was to try to remember the martial arts I’d learned and adapted that to my pony body. Not like I was ever any good at it. A little fox style, or at least that’s what the teacher called it. Kitsune no Michi he called it. It was an open-hand fast aggressive fighting style that incorporated moves from other martial art forms which created a gentle flowing motion that allowed the practitioner to change directions without pausing or losing momentum. It also emphasized distance and avoidance. Which made it ideal to teach for self-defense. The fun part was having to learn the basic stance and moves of several other forms before we could even start. Shaolin, Tai Chi. Hun Gar, and Ba Gua Zhang. Of course, being I was no longer a two-legged human meant I could no longer do much of what I’d learned quite the same way. I either had to rear up to do the movements or work out a four-legged equivalent.

Why do I bring this up? Maybe you’ve already guessed? I found that the more, shall we say flighty movements, proved very adaptable to being a pegasus. That is to say, I could move like the people in those movies with the fancy choreographed fighting. And I’d discovered that the more grounded movements allowed me to literally feel everything in or on the ground within my immediate vicinity. And the most exciting part is I could use my earth pony magic to simulate, yes that’s right, Earth Bending.

I stamped a hoof to get a feel for the environment under my hooves. The feedback telling me where the stone is, I slid a hoof, hop, and stomp my front hooves, and out popped the rock a short distance away.

Well I’ll be,” AJ said as she stepped away from the tree. Apple Bloom just stood there with her jaw agape. The rock wasn’t enormous, but it was still big enough that a little foal like myself, wasn’t going to lift it.

I can almost visualize you popping that rock out of the ground.” Cadance offered as she too left the tree.

What?” Rumble asked.

Rock?” Sunset added.

Nova just popped a rock out of the ground,” Scootaloo said like it wasn’t really all that big a deal.

I couldn't help but wonder about Scootaloo. She may be a pegasus with a button horn, but I was really suspicious she had a lot of Earth Pony in her. Which didn't bode well for her chances of being able to fly.

Scootaloo, were you able to feel what she did?” Sunset asked.

Um, yes, kind of,” Scootaloo offered. “I can feel the earth. I’ve always been able to feel the earth. Not so much the air.” The last bit was admitted with a touch of resignation.

I think Scootaloo may have some earth pony in her.” I offer. “That or she’s more alicorn than we figured.”

My dad’s earth pony, but alicorn?” Scootaloo protested.

I’ve earth pony in me, and so does Cadance and Sunset.” I offer. “It comes with being and or being related to alicorns.”

Why can’t I feel the earth though?” Sunset asked.

I imagine it’s a bit like a muscle. All you’ve ever done is trained your unicorn magic,” I explain. “I on the other hand have spent the last three months, or thereabouts, doing earth pony work.”

Hand?” Scootaloo asked.

It’s old ponish, it means hoof. It can be kind of difficult to follow her at times.” Sunset explained to cover for my slip-up while I just kind of looked up at the trees.

I really need to break myself from using human colloquialisms.

Cadance went over to the stone, tapped it a few times in different locations, and then pointed at a spot. “Nova, you’ve got the indestructible shoes. One swift strike right there should shatter it if I’m not wrong.”

I walk over to her and the stone. “Right there?” She backed off, I turned around and gave it a swift kick with one hind hoof, and sure enough, it shattered leaving a sparkling gem in the center.

I think it could be fair to say that equestrian geology would drive human geologists nuts. At some point in time, the planet must have been under some seriously freaky stress just from the sheer number of precious gems that could be found all over the place.

Oh, pretty,” Cadance said in a sort of hushed tone.

I turned to look and discovered a very large white diamond with pinkish edges that seemed to glow of it’s own accord.

Don’t touch it.” I cautioned.

Why not?” Scootaloo asked. She’d nearly crossed the distance between it and where she’d been a moment ago.

Something about it don’t feel right,” Apple Bloom offered.

Sunset, you're the expert on magic. What do you think?” I asked.

Me?” Sunset asked.

Let's not forget that I’ve forgotten much of what I once knew of things arcane, and that stone has most assuredly a powerful aura about it.” Forgotten… maybe I had, and then again maybe most of my knowledge of things arcane came from fantasy series with no way to know if any of it would even hold up in this world. Either way, this stone looked suspiciously like an Arkenstone. Which of course begged the question, what’s it doing here?

But it’s been here all this time?” AJ asked.

Encrusted in stone.” Sunset pointed out.

It may be harmless, at least to the trees, but we think it best not to interact with it directly until we know what its properties are. Twould best be determined by a master of an appropriate craft.” I cautioned.

Why don’t I get an apple bushel or a bucket. Bloom, see if you can find us a good stout branch to help us carry it.” AJ offered and dashed off.

On it,” Apple Bloom replied and dashed off in another direction.

It was right about then that I remembered our escorts. Brightwing and Silvereagle were completely mesmerized by it. I unfurled my wings to block their view, and they snapped out of it a moment later. “Are you two going to be alright?”

What just happened?” Brightwing asked.

So apparently it only affects pegasi adults?” Sunset asked.

No...” I cast a glance over to Rumble, his wings fully extended. “Lover colt seems to be out of it too. I don’t know, AJ was fine.”

True, but then it’s you he has eyes for.” Cadance teased.

Come on Rumble, it’s not like it’s the first time you’ve seen my wings extended,” I chastised.

Um, sorry,” He replied blushing. “You have nice wings.” And now he was nearly as bright as the stone.

For all I knew wings had a similar appeal to boobs in the human world.

Anyway, back to the stone… Applejack came back a few minutes later with a bucket, we shoved the gem in that using a small stick, the stone taking up a sizable portion of the bucket, and as predicted the weight required a long branch to carry it that was passed through the handle.

Chapter 26: The stone in the orchard. Part 2.

View Online

What ya got there?” Granny asked coming up to us as we entered the farmyard a short time later. Cadance and Luna had decided to carry it with the branch across their backs as the three of us seemed the least affected by the stone's presence, and I was just too short for such a carry to work. Granny took one look at it and asked, “So what are you doing with a hunk of dragon poop?”

Dragon poop?” I asked.

Was it crusted over?” Granny asked.

Ya.” Applejack replied. Granted that covered pretty much all geodes.

Dragon poop.” Granny declared. “Taint worth no-then save maybe a couple of bits.”

Not a thing? But it’s got an enchantment of some kind on it.” I protest.

Ya, Ms Brightwing, and Ms Silvereagle just kind of lose focus when they look at it,” Applejack added.

They’re pegasi and it’s all sparkly,” Granny explained. “You lot are still foals after all.”

I ain’t no foal,” AJ protested. “Oh, whatever.”

That true?” I asked giving our security a dirty look.

Well...” Brightwing protested rather sheepishly.

Now that I know, I’ve kind of lost interest.” Silvereagle offered, sounding rather sheepish.

Sparklies is it?” I say in an accusatory tone. I can picture pegasi collecting bright stones just like many birds back in the human world did.

Tell you what though, take that into Cutter, and he’ll as likely give you a couple of bits for it,” Granny said and started walking away.

Granny if we can get bits for 'em, why don’t we try finding more?” Applejack asked.

Cuz we are apple farmers, not rock farmers. I usually just stomp em into the ground.” And with that, she went back to whatever it was she was doing.

I’m beginning to think you may be right about the pot of gold thing.” Sunset drolled.

Pot of gold?” Apple Bloom asked.

If Granny were to find a pot of gold she’d as likely put it back cuz she hadn’t earned it herself,” Applejack said in a dry tone.

Well come on, let's go see if it’s worth anything.” Sunset suggested, and a moment later our group was on its way into town.

💎

Welcome to my shop, how may we be of service to you?” Mr Cutter said as we entered. He wasn’t really much to look at, a pudgy little pegasus, though he’d a lustrous golden coat and a fiery mane and was probably quite the looker when he was younger. His smile faded as four foals entered the shop, but brightened slightly on seeing Applejack and Princess Cadance.

We found this stone.” I offered while levitating the bucket up to the counter. “Granny Smith said it was just dragon poop, but that we might get a couple of bits for it.”

Indeed...” He replied sounding a little bit skeptical. “Ah, you haven't touched it.” He exclaimed excitedly. His tone switching from night to day in an instant.

Is that good?” Sunset asked.

Good, yes, yes indeed. And Granny Smith is right in a way. It’s an excretion sometimes dropped by elderly dragons and often holds a considerable charge of magic. The issue is that if it’s hooved improperly, and you can translate that as touched in any way, or simply opened up wrong, it loses its charge.”

Ah...” Scootaloo said softly. “And I nearly ruined it.”

What did you use to remove the outer crust?” He asked curiously.

My, um, shoe.” I offer sheepishly. He gave me an odd look, and I held up a hoof to show him. His eye’s widened on recognition of the material.

That’ll do it,” Mr Cutter replied with an astonished smile.

We thought it might have some dangerous enchantment on it.” Sunset offered.

Not a bad rule to live by when encountering things with a magical charge.” Mr Cutter replied. “If you don’t know what it is, consider it dangerous until you know it’s not. And in this case, touching it spoils it. I get far too many who get all excited, and go and spoil it because they can’t keep their hooves off it.”

I kind of learned that lesson the hard way recently. I got obsessed with something I had no business touching.” Sunset offered.

Mr Cutter took a calculating look at Sunset. “Ah, you must be Princess Sunset Shimmer. Princess Celestia’s daughter. So who was the lucky stud?”

That’s kind of a state secret.” I offered while reminding myself that what he was saying wasn’t necessarily rude in this world. The truth was Princess Celestia wasn’t telling any pony, not even us. “Right off hoof, I’d say it’s something of a tradition being I’ve no idea who my father was either.”

I think I can understand judging by some of the letters to the editor in the papers. Every pony’s untouchable paragon of virtue suddenly demonstrates to the world that she needs love just like every other mare.” Mr Cutter offered. “And you must be Princess Nova? I’ve seen you about town.”

Indeed that I am,” I reply with a smile. His golden coat and fiery mane causing all manner of flags, bells, and whistles in the back of my mind to go crazy. I’ve no doubt my ears are doing the tango as the possibility waged war in my mind. Could this be Celestia’s stud?

We watched as he got out a padded box, and gently rolled the stone from the bucket to the box. “Now the way it works with a stone like this, I can give you a partial payment upfront based on what I think it’ll fetch at auction.”

That sounds reasonable,” Cadance replied as the bucket was passed back to us with Applejack taking hold of it by the bail. Ya, that thing that’s wonderful for attaching to ropes and that thing humans have and most commonly called a handle, ya, it’s called a bail.

We were stunned when instead of just giving us some silver bits or even the more valuable gold bit which was worth ten of the silver bits, he pulled out a stack of the much larger gold coin, the Celestial Royal. These were each worth one hundred gold bits. He looked at us and chuckled.

One that hasn’t been spoiled can fetch you a month's rent for a decent apartment in Canterlot.” He offered. “Also I’ll need signatures of the sellers and primary residence.”

💎

The things we could buy with that money,” Rumble said as we headed out the door a few minutes later.

We, are not buying anything,” I stated. “We are going to the bank.”

So are we splitting this up?” Sunset asked.

The way I see it every pony gets an equal share now and when the rest comes in,” I say.

Now I appreciate that thought...” Applejack started.

It came off Apple property.” I offered. “You and Bloom are getting a cut whether you want it or no. Least we end up being raked over the coals later on when the media finds out. I put every pony’s name on that their bill of sale save for Brightwing and Selvereagle because they said they weren’t allowed. Now I understand it’s a lot of money, that’s why we are going to the bank.” Brightwing had stopped me before I could put their names down and whispered that the rules prohibited them from taking a share. I’d be bringing it up to Princess Celestia. After all, it wasn’t like I needed the money any more than Sunset or Cadance needed it. Each of us was getting an allowance that was more than we knew what to do with. I don’t know what they’d been doing with theirs, but I’d been actively investing most of what I was receiving.

But?” Apple Bloom protested. “I only agreed to go along because I only thought it’d be a couple of bits.”

And that’s why the Rich family is rolling in bits off of Apple farm apples.” I scolded. “You found a bucket of gold and now you want to bury it again. By rights being it came off your family farm your whole family should get a share.”

And I’ll get some too?” Rumble asked hopefully.

It’ll take the squeeze off your tuition costs for Flight School.” I offered.

I thought we were just doing flight camp?” Cadance asked.

Rumble is going to be a Wonderbolt someday,” I said with a smile on my face.

And here all I was thinking about was sweets,” Rumble said as he came to a sudden stop. He started up a moment later before he could be left behind.

Rumble, you could buy the whole shop. - Applejack, we’ll put it in an account, and it can be a rainy day account. Or a lack of rain account.” I offered. “Think of it as a small safety net that Granny doesn’t need to know about.”

That’s not a small amount.” Applejack protested.

By chance have your parents told you what it costs to run a farm?” I ask.

Um, not really no.” Applejack admitted. Apple Bloom didn’t have a clue either.

I know I’m just a filly, but you should really ask your parents to show you what it takes to run a farm.”

I know in the show it seemed like they ran the place on a shoestring budget, but this was the real Equestria. A farm had things they needed to buy, like feed for animals, and equipment that needed maintenance. Other expenses included paying the weather team to water the apple orchards and paying hired hooves.

A short time later we filed into the bank.

And how can we help you?” Asked a teller whose name tag said, Sunshine Daisy.

We just sold a gem, and need to deposit the money into the bank.” I offered as Cadance plopped the bag onto the counter. “It’s to be split evenly, and my share can just go into Ms Lofty’s account. By any chance does Rumble have an education account?”

Well, if he doesn’t I suppose we can set one up for him.” Sunshine offered while looking at the bag of gold coins.

I’m to understand that I have a savings account for my educational needs.” Scootaloo offered. “I know I normally deposit to the main account, but I’d rather this went into my account.”

Mrs Ladybug?!” Sunshine called on seeing how much money we’d just brought in.

This was going to require contacting adult guardians and or parents.

We can speak for Miss Cadance, and Miss Sunset.” Brightwing offered.

Not for me?” I asked.

Only in an emergency, otherwise it’s got to be Ms Lofty or Ms Holiday. Right now not even your mom can vouch for you.” Silvereagle offered. “We are allowed to act as guardians in extenuating circumstances. That is to say, emergencies.”

You can’t act in the capacity of a guardian in extenuating circumstances for me?” I ask.

As you are fixed to give that money to Ms Lofty, no, and this doesn’t count as an emergency,” Brightwing explained.

Ms Holiday is at work, and Lofty is probably out shopping right now,” I point out.

Well if you were to put the money in your own account we could OK that.” Brightwing offered. “It’d be no different than the bank holding it until Ms Lofty or Ms Holiday could swing by the bank if you are going to insist on giving it to them. And we should probably find Ms Lofty for Scootaloo.”

I don’t actually need any pony to make deposits,” Scootaloo pointed out. “I do it all the time.”

Scootaloo bringing in money orders sent by her parents had been happening so frequently the bank had never questioned it. The money went into the bank and the bank took out the monthly payments on the mortgage automatically so long as there was enough in the account. As to why this was going on it was because even when they were home most of their time was spent in Canterlot. They’d catch the train first thing in the morning and often didn’t return until late at night.

Well, alright,” I replied, and then turned to the teller who’d been joined by two more mares, another Sunshine, Sunshine Rose, and Mrs Ladybug. “Can we do that?”

Yes, yes, of course.” Offered a plump old stallion with a name tag that simply read ‘B Manager’ leading me to wonder if his name might actually be Branch Manager.

Mr B M looked mighty constipated. But in do course of time Lofty, and Applejack’s father were fetched and things got moving. We were joined a short time later by Rumble’s father who was grey like Rumble but with a blue and silver mixed mane and tail.

Cloudchaser. What’s going on? Rumble, you aren’t in some kind of trouble are you?” He gave our escorts a wary eye.

No dad, we made some money selling a gem,” Rumble informed him. “And Nova thought it’d be best to put it in the bank.”

Nova, isn’t that the filly you’re keen on?” He asked teasing.

Dad?!” Rumble protested.

Well you are.” I teas.

Can we focus please?” Rumble protested. He was so cute when he blushed.

So how much are we talking about?” He asked as he walked up to the counter. The teller showed him the receipt for one hundred seventy-five bits. Between the five of us, we had eight hundred seventy-five bits and that had only been the down payment based on the estimated worth.

Mr Cloudchaser just sort of froze up for a bit, and then started going on about all the things he was going to buy.

Nothing doing Mr!” I protested. “He needs that for his education expenses. That is not for you to fritter away on junk you don’t need!”

At this point he’d sat down and was backing away slowly with me in his face.

And I concur,” Cadance added.

You know, the word of an Alicorn Princess is kind of the law,” Brightwing whispered in his ear. “And you just got outvoted by two.”

Alicorn?” Cloudchaser asked. Up to this point all he’d seen was my bitey teeth and eyes that were perhaps a bit more forward-focused than an ordinary pony.

If only you had half Applejack’s hesitance to spend money.” I scolded as I lifted my wings and lit up my horn. This had him backpedaling even more.

Ah, Nova?” Rumble asked not sure if he should protest or not.

Rumble, he’s going to torpedo your future if he gets his way.” I protest going over to him.

You know, you’re sounding a bit like my mom right now.” Rumble offered quietly. “Not that that’s a bad thing. I mean you’re kind of right. My dad has so little ambition my mom took my sister, my brother, and went to Clydesdale because she’d had enough of him spending every bit they made on things we didn’t really need.” He turned to his father. “Isn’t that right? - Nova thinks I could be a Wonderbolt.”

Can, and will,” I say emphatically. “It’s just that having a little money in the bank will make it a little less of a struggle.”

Wonderbolt?” Cloudchaser asked with mirth in his voice. “That’s a pipe dream son. Now a brand new outdoor char-broiler, that I can put to use. I can just taste the BBQ’d veggies now.”

I’d say he’s got what it takes,” Silvereagle said as I look at Cloudchaser incredulous at what just came out of his mouth.

Rumble, does he always think with his stomach?” I asked. This was no way for a relationship to start. In a way, I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was a pony.

He does.” Applejack and Lofty reply at the same time.

I let out a sigh. I want that money to go towards his education. I also knew that grants and scholarships only went so far. “Very well,” I cast a glance to the bank staff making a motion that they write down what I have to say. “I Princess Nova Moon as grant'r of this shareth of the proceeds of the sale of the gem hath found while in the company of Applejack Brandy Apple, Apple Bloom Apple, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, Princess Sunset Shimmer, Scootaloo Shutter, while accompanied by Canterlot guards Ms Brightwing, and Ms Silvereagle, doth h'reby decree yond any shareth to behest given to and 'r did provide to one Rumble son of Cloudchaser who is't by virtue of his eke being presenteth at the findeth but having nay actual claimeth to hath said funds owing to nay legal contracteth 'r company having been f'rm'd grant an equal shareth conditionally for useth as educational funding to cov'r behoveful expenses above and beyond what standard educational funding wouldst normally cov'r with all expenses requiring an educat'r of valorous standing to signeth of on hath said expenses.

"Is the rest of the said company yet to be legally formed in accordance with this condition?”

Aye.” Cadance offered with a bit of a smirk.

I’ve no issue with seeing to it the money doesn’t get frittered away.” Applejack offered while giving me a funny look.

Brandy?” Lofty asked with a smile.

Yay or neigh Lofty?” Applejack scolded with a touch of annoyance.

Well I don’t have a problem with it.” Lofty offered.

I’m good too,” Rumble offered. “Living for the moment without a care for the future is no way to live.”

Let Her Highness's declaration stand as witnessed here by ourselves and the bank staff.” Silver Eagle declared.

But?” Cloudchaser protested.

Mr Cloudchaser, the only ponies who have any legal claim to the funds are Princess Cadance, Princess Nova, and the Apple family,” Brightwing cautioned. “Princess Nova wants to secure the future of the colt she’s fond of, and you have no business interfering.”

I wasn’t too sure how legal any of that was, but if the ponies at the bank believed it, and Mr Cloudchaser believed it, that was good enough to secure Rumble’s future.

I have one objection,” Spoke the voice of a mare none gathered knew.

We all turned to see Princess Luna with a golden-haired Wonderbolt, Spitfire, the two having just joined us. It took me but a moment to realize who she was.

You’ll need to change Scootaloo’s family name to Supermarine.” Spitfire offered with a rather interesting and possibly even triumphal smile on her face.

Mom had a big smile too.

Scootaloo just looked at her with the most dumbfounded look a pony could ever have. I’ll have to admit I wasn’t much better and I doubt any pony else was either. A Wonderbolt had just walked into the bank and declared that Scootaloo’s family name was Supermarine. A Wonderbolt known as Supermarine Spitfire.

Scootaloo, by any chance is she the reason you are obsessed with the Wonderbolts?” I asked. Nothing intelligible was coming out of Scootaloo’s mouth.

Spitfire walked up to Scootaloo and sat down on the floor to be on her level. “Your father has abandoned you for the last time. From now on, you will be living with me.” Scootaloo cast her gaze to Lofty.

Scootaloo, it’s alright, she’s your mom,” Lofty offered. “Mane Allgood is just the mare your father married after he left Spitfire. By Celestia, I’ve been more of a mother to you than Mane ever was what with taking off and leaving you all the time.”

Perhaps this’ll help,” Spitfire said and began singing softly. “Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye, Cheerio, here I go on my way. Not a tear but a cheer, make it gay, give me a smile I can keep all the while in my heart while I’m away till we meet once again you and I.”*

Music is a potent thing for drawing old memories from the depths they lay, and Spitfire’s little song had Scootaloo in Spitfire’s embrace, both had the waterworks going.

Chapter 27: Sunset Shimmer goes off on Diamond Tiara.

View Online

What, what’s going on?” Dash asked as she was striding across the bank lobby only to have her way blocked by Luna’s outstretched wing.

Don’t jump to conclusions,” Luna cautioned. “Commander Spitfire is Scootaloo’s mother.”

Ahh…” Dash said looking at Luna.

Snap Shutter may be her father but he and Mane Allgood are the ones who are forever dumping Scootaloo and taking off on adventures. That is no way to raise a foal. Celestia and I just signed the order giving Spitfire custody of Scootaloo.

Oh,” Dash said softly.

And she’s rented their house so that Scootaloo doesn’t have to move,” Luna added giving her a wink. The next step will be the crown confiscating Snap Shutter and Mane Allgood’s property and assets, and then we are going to give Scootaloo the house with everything in a trust just in case anything were to happen to Spitfire.”

Dash looked at Luna and smiled a great big smile.

From what Spitfire told us Snap Shutter didn’t like the fact that Spitfire wasn’t free to take off any time he felt like it. He divorced her, married a researcher that was as flighty as he was, and then turned around and used his position at the Canterlot Natural History museum and Spitfire’s status as a single mother in the Guard to get custody of Scootaloo.”

Why would she even fall for a colt like that?” Dash asked.

He wrestles cragadiles for fun. Charming, adventurous, good-looking in the eye candy department, tell me you wouldn't fall for a stallion like that?”

I’m not actually into stallions, but I get your point.”

:applejackunsure:

It seems like an awe-full lot of money.” Applejack said to her father in another part of the lobby while the two guards were telling Nova that she couldn't just give the money to Lofty and Holiday.

It’s not. It’s barely a drop in the bucket when it comes to running a farm.” Bright Mac countered. “And if you should happen to find any more of the stones that Granny hasn’t spoiled.” He gave a wink, and Applejack couldn't resist snickering.

Ya, well something tells me they’re best when unearthed by a pair of Alicorns.” Applejack teased just as Spitfire was entering the scene. The scene that played out had touched AJ and Bloom in such a way that they’d both decided to give their father a big hug right then and there.

Prior to finishing up at the bank I'd had a brief conversation with Bright Mac as I was a little worried I might be overstepping my bounds by quite a bit. Not that it had been an issue when we'd thought we'd only get a few bits, but now we were getting hundreds. Not only was he fine with it, but it also turned out that the Crown-owned all mineral rights to the land as part of the original charter. What that meant is that as a Princess of Equestria I was well within my rights especially being I'd been backed by Princess Luna, Princess Cadance, and Sunset as she was also considered a princess of Equestria. Only Princess Celestia could overturn my decision. I wouldn't mind having a look at the charter. When we were finally done, we all went to Sugar Cube Corner for treats. Which is what Rumble had wanted in the first place.

Welcome to Sugar Cube corner.” Pinkie offered in a subdued tone. Her mane was looking somewhat deflated as well.

Pinkie Pie, rejoice and be glad for on this day Scootaloo is reunited with the mare who foaled her!” I called as I entered. “If ever there was an occasion deserving of a party it’s this one.” And then I tossed one of the big gold coins her way.

I watched as the coin seemed to tumble towards her in slow motion, her downcast expression brightening, the coin striking her on the forehead, Pinkie pitching backward, hooves flailing, Pinkie’s chubby frame falling into the display cabinet behind her, dropping to the floor along with the contents of the cabinet cascading down on top of her to finally vanish behind the counter.

There was a moment of silence held that day.

Pinkie popped back up a moment later with the Royal in her teeth, a big grin on her face, and her mane just as poofy as ever. That afternoon saw a party like none other, and it’d be many a day before it was topped.

🎉

The remainder of the week went as follows per day, up in the morning, breakfast, school for Scootaloo, Sunset, and myself. Granted that for Sunset it was all review and learning to be a Decent pony. In that Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had been so gracious as to demonstrate how not to behave. Neither one seemed to have gotten the memo regarding who Sunset was or that I was an actual bonafide alicorn and daughter of Princess Luna. After school it was out to the Apple farm, lunch, chores, followed by Applejack and I helping Sunset and Scootaloo get in touch with their inner Earth pony, home, dinner, home study, bed, and repeat. Cadance and Luna actually spent most of their time at the library with Twilight. Scootaloo had been thrilled to be able to sleep in her own bed but had mixed emotions in that she’d kind of liked the pony pile we’d end up in at Lofty and Holiday’s place. We didn’t see much of Rumble that week and found out later that his father had decided that if Rumble was going to be a Wonderbolt he was going to teach him everything he knew. Oh, and we did find more of those stones. Every last one had been shattered by granny jamming it into the ground as hard as she could.

Yup, that there’s Granny’s size twelves.” Applejack lamented on finding another broken stone. It did beg the question was the apple farm on a dragon migration route, and what the hay was actually going on here? Bringing Rarity and Sweetie Belle in on the hunt was looking like a necessity if we wanted to find any that Granny hadn’t stomped.

Oh and one more thing, Snap Shutter and Mane Allgood were still at large and not likely to get brought in until they came into contact with a guard post or had to purchase a ticket. The rail and shipping lines had all been given a complete description along with the whys and what fores. It had also been made clear that they were not to be mistreated in any way. We just wanted them back so that they could own up for their neglect of Scootaloo.

I heard you had to dig up some dragon poo to make ends meet,” Diamond sneered as we exited the schoolhouse.

Please tell me I was never that dense,” Sunset said softly her ears going flat in disgust.

It was our last day before returning to Canterlot, and to be honest, I had mixed feelings. True, I’d be going to flight camp and then come back prior to the start of school in Canterlot, but I’d be leaving the Crusaders at the mercy of Diamond Tiara. Not that the Crusaders couldn't handle them. I was just feeling protective.

Oh ho ho ho,” Diamond laughed with a hoof up as if the cover her mouth. “And poor little Scootaloo, thrown out of Ms Lofty’s group home. You poor dear. It must be so awful knowing no pony wants you.”

Dear god she’s an Ojou Sama,” I muttered.

Hey, I got that reference,” Sunset whispered.

What? What are you smiling at?!” Diamond snapped. “Obviously no pony wants you, or you wouldn't be here, Sunset Dimmer. Your only friends are a freak and a bunch of blank flanks.”

Not having a cutie mark just means they’ve got lots of potential,” Sunset snapped back. “But you, what is that, oh yes, it’s a diamond tiara, same as your name.”

You better watch it, my daddy is Filthy Rich. He owns this town.” Diamond warned.

Owns it, the town?” Sunset asked. “Oh, you are delusional. Your Daddy doesn’t own a fraction of this little one cart town.” To be honest, the place had more than one cart, but it wasn't many. “And you…” Sunset took a step closer to Diamond, and I must say that at that moment she truly reminded me of a predator stalking its prey. “You know what you are? You are a little fish in a little town, your cutie mark suggests to me that your only talent is being daddy’s little princess. Your only talent is being an insufferable little brat. And those blank flanks as you like to call them, Apple Bloom’s father is a Barron, Sweetie Belle’s grandmother is Dutches Betty Bouffant, Scootaloo is back home with her mother, who is Commander Supermarine Spitfire of the Wonderbolts and a prominent member of the Supermarine family. Lord Pemberton is Scootaloo's grandfather and this freak as you call her,” Sunset gestured towards me. “She is Princess Kitsumi Nova, Daughter of Princess Luna Shepard of the Moon and Guardian of the Night, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza is our cousin, yes I said our as in Cadance and Nova are my cousins as in their Aunt Tia is my mother, as in I am Princess Sunset Shimmer, not dimmer, and my mother is Princess Celestia herself. Why you could do time just for smearing my name.”

Lies, all lies!” Diamond protested as she took a step back.

Sunset closed the distance and then she started up again in a low menacing tone meant only for Diamond, “You bucking little sodbuster. You little mud mule. Since you seem to be incapable of reason, I am going to take everything you hold precious away from you. I am going to destroy you. I am going to destroy your family. Not because I can, but because putting little tin-plated bullies like you in their place is the right thing to do. I’m going to ruin your father and bury you so low you are going to have to aim your fucking flank to the sky just to shit, and then you are going to realize just how fake your no talent cutie mark truly is. You have no talent, no potential, and you are nothing without your daddy’s money. As for that piece of dragon poop, it’s been estimated to fetch a whopping three million bits per carat. It’s the largest of its kind ever found and is estimated to be around thirty thousand carats after it’s been cut. That’s ninety trillion bits worth of dragon poop. It’s being called the Arcano stone. As in it came off the Apple ranch and the find was officially credited to Princess Cadance and Princes Nova.”

Up to that point Diamond had been going off of half-heard gossip being bantered about by her mother. The reality of the situation seemed too impossible to believe.

Ya, right, like you're going to have me believing that Bright Mac is a Baron,” Diamond said as she tried to dismiss everything Sunset had just told her.

Diamond, Bright Mac is a Baron,” Silver Spoon offered. “All the major landowners who hold land claimed by their ancestors are barons and that includes the Apples. They’re in the list of old families of the nobility. They live the way they do because of Granny. They've got money, Granny just throws a fit if they try to use it.”

Diamond’s eyes shrink down to pinpricks.

You’re a nobody with delusions of grandeur. Enjoy the hole you dug for yourself. Oh, and one more thing, members of the nobility are notorious for getting their cutie marks late in life. That’s because they actually put some thought into what they want to do with their life. Unlike a lowlife, nobody, sodbuster, mud mule like you whose cutie mark is literally for being a brat,” Sunset whispered and then walked away.

Chapter 28: The return to Canterlot.

View Online

Don’t worry about Scootaloo,” I said as we packed our bags to return to Canterlot. After all, Scootaloo was with her mom. Most of the luggage was Lofty and Holiday’s stuff. I’d only the one small bag, Cadance had a slightly larger bag, and Sunset had most out of the four of us, and Mom had the one small bag that had her basic necessities. It might have been worse, but then Sunset and Cadance had brought a number of things they’d intended on leaving behind. Although, I was suspicious that some of the outfits being left behind were things they hated. Lofty was bringing two bags for herself as she’d be going with us. And yes, Holiday was coming too and was taking a couple of days off from work so she could enjoy staying at the castle. Granted that she could take as many days off as she wanted now, but she loved her job and didn’t want to lose it. Not that she needed it. There wasn’t one of us who wasn’t floored when we found out how much money Lofty and Holiday were getting from the crown just to be my guardian, and it was an amount that hadn’t changed in nearly a thousand years. As in, the ponies who’d originally set it up over a thousand years ago were as crooked as hell.

We did one last check to see if there was anything else we wanted to take and then I opened the front door to find Brightwing and Silvereagle, along with Big Mac and Applejack who’d brought a cart along waiting for us outside. “Applejack, Big Mac,” I called as my bag trailed along behind me in my magic.

Just thought you all might need a little help with your luggage.” Applejack offered.

Eeyup.” Big Mac added.

Hey, you came to help,” Cadance said as she came out the door. She gave Applejack and Big Mac each a hug and plopped her luggage down on the cart. When Sunset came out she placed her luggage on the cart and thanked Applejack and Big Mac minus the hug.

What no hug?” Applejack teased as mom brought her luggage. Sunset hesitated for a moment and then gave Applejack a hug.

Not giving Big Mac a hug?” I asked, and watched Sunset blush. “Alrighty then, let's not push it,” I replied to quiet chuckling. I then decided I should probably go back inside and help Lofty. Cadance also decided to follow me back in, and a few minutes later we were finally out the door with everything loaded onto the cart.

So, Princess Nova...” Applejack began as we started out.

Yes? Lady Apple Brandy,” I asked. Nor could I resist teasing her a bit. She obviously wanted something.

Well, being you know my middle name...” Applejack began anew with a hint of annoyance in her tone as we started out for the station.

It’s Nova. My middle name is Nova.” I’d tried looking up the records and found that sure enough, I had other names registered. Though to be fair it was all third, fourth, and fifth hand… hoof information. There was more than enough evidence to suggest that Princess Luna had indeed had a family. Unfortunately, much of the speculation also blamed the family for Princess Luna’s fall from grace along with pontification about how the desires of the flesh could only lead to ruin, thus creating an atmosphere where Princess Celestia had been forced to hide her private life from all but the most trusted confidants.

Well then what’s your first name?” Applejack asked.

Kit Sumi wasn’t it?” Sunset asked. She’d likely looked at the same sources I had.

Key-soo-me.” I offered. “Kitsumi Nova.”

Oh, that’s how it’s pronounced.” Sunset offered.

I was looking at old accounts and not a one seemed to have it spelled right.” I offered. “It’s from the Neighponies meaning Beautiful fox, or just beautiful depending on which character sets are used to write it and how you wish to interpret it.”

Character sets?” Sunset asked.

Let's just say the alphabet isn’t as straightforward as the Romano alphabet we use today. A single vocalization can have multiple characters to represent that vocalization, each having its own meaning.”

I bet that makes learning to read kind of tough.” Applejack offered.

I bet it can make interpreting spells tricky.” Sunset mused. “Why when Nova’s first and second name are taken together the meaning becomes a beautiful bright new star.”

Oh, darling, that is so beautifully profound.” Rarity offered as she and Sweetie Belle approached us.

Hi Rarity,” I called in greeting her as they joined us. Rarity also had several bags which she added to the cart.

Honestly, I don’t know why you need so many bags.” Sweetie lamented.

Why Miss Rarity, I wasn’t aware you were going to Canterlot with us?” Cadance asked.

Is Sweetie coming too?” I asked.

Indeed she is. Summer fashion seminar at Canterlot Academy is this weekend.” Rarity announced. “It’s a chance to get caught up on all the new trends and techniques.”

I haven't really heard if I'm going to have to take an exam to get into CSGU. Though I imagine I probably should,” I offered while noting Applejack's raised eyebrow in Rarity’s direction. Granted that Rarity knew full well not to lie in front of Applejack. I too had my suspicions as to why there would be a seminar at the school on the same day testing was scheduled and Mom seemed to be at a bit of a loss as well.

Not likely you’ll need to,” Sunset suggested in regards to whether or not I needed to test to get in. “They might have you do private instruction until they know you are ready for classes. That’s what they did for Cadance and me. If they know they have some pony special they’ll typically bend over backward to accommodate. In fact, I’m to understand Twilight actually got accepted a year early, and your skillset is already above the level you’d be starting at.”

See, that's what I told you,” Sweetie lamented to Rarity.

Sunset, you had your own mom giving you private lessons,” I recounted with a smile on my face while filing away Sweetie’s comment for later. “Did you suspect?”

I know, but I didn't know at the time. I knew about a certain amulet Celestia had that my mom always wore though,” Sunset offered not once taking into consideration I might not know what she was talking about. Her usual bravado gone from her tone.

Both having the same exact unique one-of-a-kind amulet is definitely suspicious.” I offered, suspecting she meant the Changeling Amulet. “From what I know about the amulet I suspect you to mean, it could even be why you have a tendency to be so headstrong.”

I’m aware of that possibility,” Sunset conceded, and then added, “but then I might not have even been born if she hadn’t been using it.”

Now that, I hadn’t considered,” I admit. "For all I know I have Nightmare Moon to thank for my existence." Mom's silence on the matter was a good indication that she wasn't too sure herself.

Amulet?” Rarity asked.

I think I know which one Nova’s talking about,” Cadance offered. “It always gives me a queer sort of feeling like it was wrapped in dark magic.”

The one I’m thinking of is called the Changeling amulet. And it’s something of a confidential matter,” I explained to Rarity. “It has the power to transform any creature into another likeness, but it also has a corrupting influence. - I cautioned Princess Celestia to destroy it.” I’d also mentioned the Alicorn amulet to Celestia and was hopeful it could be found and destroyed before some creature could get their hooves on it and history repeat itself. At least Trixie and Twilight were friends now. Trixie hadn’t been horribly humiliated, but she had lost her wagon thanks to the two idiots who’d lured an Ursaminor into town. For their efforts, they’d been given community service until the mess had been cleaned up with a promise of 'hard time' if they ever pulled another stunt like it.

Ya, I figured you knew about it,” Sunset said after a few moments where no one said anything.

I don’t know everything,” I caution. “But I can tell you that your fate became your own from the moment we pulled you out of that mirror.”

If Princess Celestia hadn’t gone into the mirror, would you have still gone after me?” Sunset asked.

I don’t know,” I answered as honestly as I could. “After Aunt Tia went into it, things got mighty desperate, and a lot of ponies were looking to Cadance and myself for leadership. And no, they weren’t exactly looking to Mom either.”

I wasn’t exactly fit to lead any pony at the time, and it’ll be a while before I can even think of moving any heavenly bodies around,” Luna offered.

I imagine that after a thousand years of Princess Celestia’s rule they’ve become conditioned to the idea that the top leadership position must be filled by an alicorn.”

You don’t believe that do you,” Sunset stated.

Equestria is the only kingdom I’m aware of that has the luxury of an Alicorn Princess to ensure stability.” I offer. “But to get back to would we have gone after you, it’s as likely that Princess Celestia would not have let Cadance and I go near the thing for fear of losing us as well.”

A possibility I hadn’t actually thought of,” Sunset admitted as we approached the station. “And the moment of desperation as likely pushed you on to do something you might not have been able to do under more ordinary circumstances.”

I imagine that’s true enough as well. Let's face it, I was totally winging it without a clue as to what I was doing.” I admit with a smile.

Same here,” Cadance admitted.

Wish I could have been there, it must have been so inspiring.” Rarity mused.

After I got free of that mirror, I broke down in sobs,” I said quietly.

I was just so relieved to be home and I wasn’t going to get sent away, it didn’t really hit me full force until later,” Sunset offered. “Inspiration wasn’t what I felt. For me, it was the most humbling moment of my life and I pray I never go through anything like that again.”

On arrival at the station our group was directed inside with all the other ponies waiting on the train, and we were surprised to discover a heavy security presence.

What’s going on?” I asked, proving that I truly didn’t know everything. “Ms Brightwing, Silvereagle?”

Guys?” Silvereagle asked of the guards that were at the station. “Sargent Sandbur, what’s with the heavy security?”

Some pony has been posting threats in Canterlot.” He offered. “Guards have been sent to several stations along the line because of it.”

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with outside threats to Equestria,” Spitfire said as she joined us, and then let out a sigh. Scootaloo was presently perched on Spitfire’s back and absolutely beaming she was so happy. “I just found myself assigned to you this morning with instructions to bring Scootaloo.”

Well, that’s not very ominous,” I offered sarcastically While Scootaloo waved at Sweetie Belle.

Wonder if it was like this when Holiday went to work this morning?” Lofty asked of no one specific.

Likely not Mam, we were dispatched on the morning train.” Sargent Sandbur offered.

So a week wasn’t long enough for ponies to calm down. Maybe the threats would be enough to shock some sense into the rest? I could only hope. The whole situation stank of Discord, and just because he was presently a stone statue, didn’t mean he wasn’t somehow manipulating events. Then again it could just as likely be certain members of the nobility getting desperate.

At this point we either found seats or sat on our luggage. A little old granny was about to give up her seat, but I insisted she stay. After all, I was young, at least in body, little, and sitting on my luggage wasn’t going to be a hardship for me.

Even the greatest of us most at times bow to others,” I said to the mare. Cadance joined me, and Sunset a moment later. The place was packed.

Not like it much mattered. After all, our accommodations on the train were going to be first-class.

Scootaloo? What?” Sweetie asked perplexed as to why Scootaloo was riding on top of one of the top Wonderbolts. The news that Spitfire was Scootaloo’s birth mother came as quite a shock to Sweetie. After all, Sweetie had missed all the excitement the day we’d found the stone.

First class…

When the train arrived our little group was directed to a parlor car that had been added to the train. Cut in at the front for the smoothest ride, and they’d even cut it in between the baggage and mail car. We’d have no access to the rest of the train, but then they’d have no access to us.

We should go find our seats.” Rarity began and started to turn to go.

Nothing doing, you’re friends, and you can ride with us. At least just this once.” I insisted. Sweetie didn’t need to be asked twice, and Rarity had little choice once Sweetie had begun to bounce up and down.

Come on Rarity, you’ve already lost that battle,” Lofty said invitingly.

This is really nice,” I said as I climbed in. Railroad ponies were getting our bags for us, and a steward was there to wait on us. I went in, found myself a deluxe captain's chair on a swivel. Still though, as nice as it was, there’d been no sign of Rumble.

This is really something.” Rarity said as she moved further into the car.

I’m glad you like it.” Offered the voice of Prince Blueblood from the far end.

Prince Blueblood,” I said in a casual tone. “By what do we owe this pleasure of thy company?”

Oh my, a Prince.” Rarity said softly.

And do remember to address me appropriately.” Prince scolded.

His name is Prince,” I informed Rarity. “He’s the son of Duke Persnickety and as such only gets a courtesy title of Lord Prince Blueblood of House Platinum, and if we are to hold to formalities address him as Young Lord Prince Blueblood. Whereas Cadance, Sunset, and myself are addressed as Her Royal Highness and Ma’am thereafter. That is if we are to hold to formalities. Personally, I prefer being called Miss if we don’t have to be formal and all traditional. I just don’t feel as though I’m old enough for ponies to be Ma’aming me.” And if I really wanted to push Prince Blueblood’s buttons, Cadance’s cutie mark identified her as the rightful sovereign of the Crystal Empire and could by rights be addressed as Her Majesty.

Well, I suppose that does get rather cumbersome,” Prince admitted. “As to why I’m here, it was because of the threat. I realize you don’t have an issue mingling with the commoners, but with the possibility that one of them may be an assassin, it became necessary to separate the four of you from the general public.”

No doubt some pony on the payroll of some unnamed noble.” I offer dryly.

No doubt,” Prince replied. “Put simply, the four of you represent an obstacle to some pony's ambitions. And if I am, to be honest, I can’t imagine that even the worst of the nobility would be so boorish as to publicly post warrants of assassination. I also can't help but think it's some pony on a personal vendetta.”

It struck me that Prince Blueblood could be so, I want to say cynical, but the reality is he was actually well informed and surprisingly capable in a crisis. It was enough for me to have my own little existential crises.

Rarity seemed to be having some sort of existential crisis of her own.

And our excitable friend is Miss Rarity Belle Bouffant,” I offered.

Rarity gave me a puzzled look. “Bouffant is my mother’s family name but in truth, I seldom use it,” She offered.

“Young Lord.” Luna offered to Prince. “I don’t believe we’ve met yet. I’m Princess Luna. At your service, as it were. That or your pleasance. I imagine it all depends on whether you prove to be friend or foe,” She made a slight, but courteous curtsy. “Rarity dear, when dealing with the nobility it is generally wise to use the surname that caries the highest social status. I’d meant to ask you if you’d be using your family name or your father's when you register Sweetie for school?” She then directed Rarity to a seat and every pony was soon seated.

I’m related to the Bouffants?” Sweetie said a gasp from her seat.

Well, she’s got until she signs her enrolment forms.” Lofty offered as she found a place to sit.

Oh darling, Sweetie has already applied, and I used both names on the application.” Rarity offered. “I know full well how to play the system. And no, Mother doesn’t talk about our family ties. And considering that I was nearly as bad as that little Miss Rich in my foal hood, I think I can understand why. It would have likely gone straight to my head and in some ways, I was probably worse than Miss Diamond.”

Hey, look, some pony just got flattened by security,” Sunset announced as she looked out the window. A moment later we were all looking out the windows.

Nova, what are you doing?” Lofty asked as I slid a window opened and thrust my head out.

Don’t hurt him, that’s my colt friend!” I shouted. A broad smile formed on my face at the sight of his wings popping out hard enough to cast off the two guards who had him pinned.

Wow, I guess he is Wonderbolt material,” Spitfire said. Lofty and Cadance were trying not to laugh and failing at it miserably.

Sure, if he can control that while he’s in the air,” Cadance announced with a lilt to her voice.

Rumble! I’ll see you at Flight Camp!” I call as the train began to move forward. He sat up, I waved, and he waved back.

Good bye Rumble!” Scootaloo and Sweetie called.

Your Highness, if you could possibly pull your head back in?” Our Steward pleaded. “It’s not safe.” His name tag read Stewart.

Oh, sorry,” I replied and pulled back in. I waved one more time, and the window was closed leaving behind a young colt who wasn’t quite sure if he should be happy or sad.

Oooooo,” Scootaloo said as her eyes caught the passage of the landscape beyond the windows. She jumped from Spitfire’s back, I caught her with my magic, and her little wings started fanning desperate to propel her in the direction she wanted to go. To everyone's amazement, it was actually working.

Is she flying?” Cadance asked.

Not exactly.” Sunset offered as her mind put two and two together.

I’m not exactly holding her stationary.” I offered. Scoots was so fascinated by what she was seeing outside she was oblivious to being in the air. As for Sweetie Belle, she looked like she wanted to join Scootaloo in bouncing about the car but the presence of Rarity was keeping her in place.

Scootaloo proceeded to scamper about looking out the windows, and otherwise exploring, and then suddenly bounced my way to tackle me. One would hardly think we were physically the same age, more or less.

Hey?!” I protested as Scootaloo gave me a hug.

Don’t think I didn’t notice the assist,” Scootaloo offered.

True, your magic is really stable,” Sunset offered.

So Scootaloo and me turned our deluxe chair so we’d be ninety degrees to the length of the car and gazed out the window. Something I’d learned while on a train in the human world if you have got the luxury of a bed on a train you want that bed that goes across the car and not the one that runs the length of the car. The same holds true for the seats. This way the gentle rocking motion of the train will relax a body. Sleeping with the length of the car gives the sensation of someone pitching the bed one way and then the next. Sure, it’s not as pronounced in a chair, but the side-to-side motion is still there.

Scoots was soon asleep making me think she’d likely been up all night. I’d have to wake her when we were offered lunch. I could only imagine what inedible delights they served only for my internal record to scratch violently at the announcement they had fish. Fish and chips.

I’ll have the fish,” I said. “It’s not hay fries, is it? I’m afraid I can’t eat the things. At least not if I’m going to be confined in an enclosed environment where no pony can flee for their life. Too much roughage all at once.” Hay fries were the epitome of junk food and might just as well be little adobe bricks for all my gut was concerned. What they were was straw cut to length, rolled up into a batter to make little sticks, and deep-fried. I did try them once just to be polite. I thought they were quite nasty and let's not get into what they did to me.

Oh no, Ma’am, these are dandelion tubers sliced lengthwise, lightly seasoned, and cooked in the oven. And we’ve dandelion tea to complement it.”

Oh yes please,” I replied sounding quite delighted. Getting Ma’amed was something I was just going to have to get used to.

You can make fries from dandelion tubers?” Rarity asked.

Oh yes, and they are quite delightful.” Lofty replied and asked for some for herself. Minus the fish. Dandelion seemed the treat for the date as the others had delightful dandelion salads with chips on the side.

I’ll have the hay fries and burger!” Scootaloo called out causing the rest of us to laugh. “What?”

You were asleep,” I offered, undoubtedly with a smirk on my face. I’d forgotten to wake her.

After lunch we amused ourselves with tabletop games that consisted of boards with holes for pegs and dice. One was supposed to be hoof ball, another tennis, bowling, golf, and a derby game. There wasn’t any strategy to speak of, roll a die, and move a peg. I ended up playing the derby one against Prince, and just to make the derby one more interesting we decided that to win, we had to land on the start hole or start over.

At least we’d gone as far as the mountains by the time we’d grown bored with the games.

Maybe Prince wasn’t so bad after all.

G-g-gah!”Scootaloo protested on spilling her drink on herself.

I’ll get her.” Lofty offered as she got up.

We have a changing room, the last room on the right,” Stewart offered.

I can take care of myself,” Scootaloo protested.

Lofty returned a short time later with a fresher Scootaloo who was now intent on exploring every square hoof of the car.

You just let her run around?” Prince asked as though Scootaloo was a toddler.

Well it’s not like there’s anyone she can pester, and it’s best to just let her get it out of her system,” I offered. “Your parents were strict with you I gather.”

They still are,” He replied with an eye roll.

Scootaloo isn’t really at an age where being strict for convenience's sake is going to be worth it. Granted that technically I’m the same age, but then I come with a package of experiences she just doesn’t have.” I offered. “We did manage to impart on her -” I had to catch Scootaloo with my magic as she began to tumble out of a chair. True she was going to have to learn sooner than later, but not today. Spitfire looked like she was about to take a dive to try to catch Scootaloo.

I managed to impart on her the importance of sticking close when we are out and about,” Spitfire offered. “Wouldn't do to get separated in Canterlot. I’m going to try to calm her down a little at a time.”

I’m pretty sure Apple Bloom would not have been all over the car like that, Sweetie was behaving herself, but then again, Scootaloo had been allowed to run around like a wild child what with her parents never being there for her. To say that she was borderline feral would be putting it mildly.

And then Scootaloo remembered the view. Which was decidedly different now than when she’d taken her nap. To my bemusement, and what I hoped was private joy, Scootaloo came bounding over to me and snuggled up to me while looking out the window. There she stayed transfixed by the view until we arrived at Canterlot. What can I say, she was growing on me.

Why are we headed down a different track?” Lofty asked as we pulled away from the mainline.

There is a secure platform down this line, Mam.” Stewart offered.

I suppose that would make sense.” Lofty replied to him. “Ms Brightwing, did they say who was being targeted, or am I to assume all three fillies are being targeted.”

The threats were made against Princess Sunset Shimmer.” Stewart offered apologetically. “Some pony seems to have gotten it into their heads that they need to punish her for the fact that she exists.”

What? Not me?” I asked with bravado. Poor Sunset’s ears had dropped down.

Something tells me they are a coward.” Silvereagle offered. “No one wants to risk the wrath of a filly who not only took on a guard single hoofed but can open a trap that not even Celestia can get out of.” She’d finished off with a wink as if to try to lighten the situation.

And if Cadance had let go, I’d have been stuck in that thing too.” I pointed out.

Let go?” Stewart asked.

I opened the trap, and Cadance held it open so I could retrieve Princess Celestia and Sunset. It was a team effort,” I provided. He seemed to have an aha moment. After all, what good was a trap that could be opened from inside?

Meanwhile our train was pulling into what looked to me like Platform nine and three quarters. I couldn't help but wonder if one were to set a portal here, would it open into Kings Cross Station? How fun would that be, and how confused the Harry Potter fans would be if they came through to the station to find they’d been turned into ponies? How nettled would Dumbledore get if we could but poach Harry Potter?

No matter, we’d a gantlet ahead of us. The train had come to a stop and now we were wondering how this was going to work.

Sweet innocent fillies.

View Online

Alright Scoots...” Spitfire prompted.“Come on, we have to go.”

Moonie, watch for hostiles,” I whispered as we exited the train onto the platform, followed by an extra shadow slipping away.

Cadance and I flank Sunset as we form up on the platform. There are a dozen guards around us. Gate Captain Morgan and Lieutenant Mouse are leading the way followed by Prince, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, Rarity, and Lofty, while our Ponyville escorts have placed themselves between us and the staff bringing the luggage. As for Spitfire, she has joined a pegasi patrol who will undoubtedly be doing sweeps along our route.

Remember, sweet innocent fillies,” I whisper to Sunset. “Sweet innocent fillies. Heads down.”

Sunset and Cadance gave me an odd look.

You know, she might be on to something,” Cadance said with a smirk.

No smirking.” I chastised quietly. “Sweet and innocent.” I pressed into Sunset like I was looking for comfort from her. Meanwhile, my hooves were doing the nervous I don’t want to be here dance. Never once did I stop with all four hooves on the platform. Always, at least one hoof to push. “Scootaloo, stay close. This would be a really bad time to wander off.”

Don’t have to tell me twice,” Scootaloo replied taking a glance back at Spitfire to make sure she was still there. “What are you doing with your hooves?”

Same thing I was doing in the orchard, combined with that three-point landing I did the day we first met,” I offered. “I’m sending out taps, listening to the echoes, and making sure I can’t be caught flat hooved.”

Just don’t do anything rash,” Prince Blueblood cautioned. “If you break from the group the guards will be forced to split their efforts.”

Understood,” I replied as we began to move.

As our little parade made our way through the station Sunset, Scootaloo, Sweetie, and I made quite the picture of frightened fillies. Not that we weren’t just a little bit apprehensive. For Sunset, going through that mirror had been the double slap on the face she so desperately needed what with suddenly finding herself digressed in age. Knowing some pony wished harm on her for her foolishness and was going to such lengths was adding insult to injury.

We passed from public view when we went down a service corridor and out to a waiting double-deck omnibus.

Guards were waiting outside and several unicorns were on top of the omnibus.

We were directed into the lower compartment and told to keep our heads down if directed to while all around us guards were projecting a shield barrier. Our luggage was loaded in after us, Lofty checked to make sure it was all there, and then tossed something none of us recognized. Later on, we’d find out it was Spitfire’s flight pack. Soon as we were ready, four stout earth ponies started pulling the omnibus.

I let out a long sigh. This wasn’t how I expected my return to Canterlot to go, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to affect flight camp. I also would have rather gone by tram-like before. At this rate, I would have preferred a chariot pulled by pegasi strait from Ponyville. As it was we had to go back and forth through each and every switchback, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was all a deliberate show. Let every pony in Canterlot see the frightened fillies. Then again, perhaps the guard force was giving any wood be assassin the opportunity…

Mustn’t think that. Not that I don't have my very own shadow looking after me.

And we just turned down a dead-end street in a blind alley. Before us was a massive stone face.

We weren’t stopping though, and as we drew near, the wall shimmered revealing a grand archway to my eyes that was being hidden behind an illusion.

What are we doing here?” Sunset asked. Now there was real fear in her voice.

Wait for it,” I said softly, and a moment later the lead team passed right into the wall, followed by the backup, and then our omnibus.

Before us was a grand promenade cutting right into the rock which spoke of times long forgotten when the mountain had been mined for its crystal.

They are taking us into the heart of the mountain, how is this any better?” Sunset asked as we passed through a pair of massive doors that were shut tight behind us with several massive beams being placed across the doors. Philomena swooped in a moment later, her iridescent plumage illuminating the cavern, and landed on Sunset’s shoulder. Sunset calmed down a bit as Philomena snuggled up to her.

Phil seems to think we are fine.” I offer as we continue down the long passage that spoke of a grand past the present ponies couldn't even dream of.

We finally came to a stop at the base of a grand staircase.

Your highness's, Lady Lofty, Lord Blueblood, you’ll need to...” Morgan began but stopped as he looked out into the shadows not lit by the few lanterns lighting the grand hall.

Moonie?” I ask as I look out into the darkness. There is definitely something there. I see a dim glow of magic. What I see coming out of the darkness is a tall black horse in armor that spoke of wars from long ago and could easily be Nightmare Moon returned, and she’s got a pony in her magic. “Moonie?” I get up, exit the omnibus, and begin to walk towards her.

Princess?” Lofty cautioned.

Nova, no!” Luna called as she scampered out of the bus to stop me from going any further. The next thing I know, she’s blocked my path, and yet she’s shaking like a leaf.

It’s Moonie. I think she’s in some kind of defense mode,” I explain as I press into Luna’s side. “Moonie?”

He fainted.” Moonie offered as she slid what looked like a guard over to Lt Mouse. She then deposited a rather nice-looking crossbow that was most decidedly not standard issue. “You’ve been compromised. There were assassins all along the route.” She paused a moment and hung her head. “Forgive me. My mandate to keep you safe overrode my mercy protocol.”

What does she mean by that?” Captain Morgan asked.

I stepped around Luna, went over to Moonie, reached up, and gave my black beauty a hug. “I’m guessing it means she left a trail of bodies.”

Oh sweet Celestia,” Morgan said softly.

Mommy.” Blueblood whimpered about the same time. “St-st-still.” He managed to stutter out. “That anyone would stoop so low as to actually hire assassins.”

A lot of ponies really don’t like me,” Sunset said softly. “And I guess that’s my own fault. - If they’ll just give me a chance?”

I fear there is more to it than that.” I offered. “Large numbers suggest that no one was actually hired either. It’s more like a bounty was put out and every two-bit mercenary looking to make a rep for themselves came crawling out of the wood-works.

True, it really looks like ruining her character, and hoping she loses the good graces of Aunt Celestia just wasn’t enough for someone.” Prince Blueblood added.

Moonie, is our path from here clear?” I asked.

I’ll make sure.” She said and vanished as though made of shadows.

That’s a mighty dangerous toy you’ve got there.” Prince offered, sounding relieved.

We should hurry.” Lt Mouse offered, we gathered ourselves up, our captive loaded up with the luggage, and began our ascent on the stairs. “We’d used a number of enchantments on the carriage in hopes that anyone wishing to impede us would think we were just a busload of tourists. I never thought any pony would go so far.”

They didn’t have this kind of thing going on in your time?” Captain Morgan asked.

Political, yes.” Lt Mouse offered. “Actual open attempts at assassination were rare. Threats or rumors of threats on any member of the nobility could ruin an entire family, and time in Tartarus was often swift to those found guilty.” She gathered her thoughts for a moment. “Princess Celestia was rather naive back then. Luna had been too, forgive me, Princess.”

No harm taken, and I wasn’t as well insulated and soon became all too aware of what ponies would do to each other," Princess Luna offered. “Downside is that I went from innocent filly to a liability to those scheming low life.”

So tell me, Prince Blueblood, what’s your family’s take on all this?” I asked.

I...” Prince began but seemed reluctant. “Let's just say it has something to do with why my parents were willing to let me use the parlor car.”

Get into our good graces and maybe the young Prince might have a better chance at a Princess, is that it?” I teas.

“Well it’s not like it was my idea!” Prince objected.

Now Alice was laughing, and Rarity who’d been caught up in all this had a peculiar gleam in her eye. Granted that she as likely had the wrong end of the stick.

What? What?” Sunset pleaded. “Tell me?!”

Sunset, you are presently in the company of Equestria’s most sought after fillies, yourself not excluded, in more ways than one that is. In that we can count out the top nobles in that they’d as likely rather see you wed than dead,” Cadance offered. She’d a smirk on her face, and by the looks on the faces of some of our other escorts, they’d a good idea what it was too. After all, politically motivated marriages weren’t exactly a thing of the past.

And what’s that supposed to mean!?” Sunset protested.

What’s the oldest way in the book to gain alliances and political favor?” I ask.

To crush our enemies, see them driven before me, and to hear the lamentations of their mares?” Sunset asked.

And once again I’m reminded that hooves hurt when they hit my face. “Not that one.”

What other...” Sunset said as the wheels in her head spun, and the gears meshed. I could almost hear the sound of mechanical dials on an analog slot machine dropping locks into place to display all sevens, or in this case all lemons. “No! Buck no! No, no, no! Not going to happen! No times infinity! Cadance can marry him.”

Cadance and I both said no at the same time. Cadance looked at me and grinned.

They don’t really do that anymore do they?” I ask. I’m not about to say ‘it’s not like that’ because then it would be. “I mean as in arranged marriages.”

I was not too surprised when no one really knew the answer. Nor was it a huge surprise when we found a welcome party waiting at our exit. All out cold thanks to Moonie. Fortunately, we were also close enough to our destination that we were able to call for more guards.

Moonie, I think you can stand down now,” I said softly as we entered the Keep of Canterlot castle. A few minutes later Celestia herself came to greet us and embraced Sunset, followed by Luna, Cadance, and myself.

:trollestia:

“Your Royal Highness.” Offered the Captain of the guard with a bow momentarily after entering Princess Celestia’s private office. Ms Lofty and the fillies had retired to Cadance’s chambers. “The individual from the cavern has been quite talkative, and a number of arrests have been made.”

“And the presence of assassins as was suggested in Lt Mouse’s report?” Celestia asked.

“About a dozen individuals have been found. Every last one at the top of the most wanted list.” He offered. “Regardless of what was reported, they all appear to have either shot each other or suffered bizarre accidents. No pony is dead, but no pony is in any shape to misbehave for the foreseeable future. We found one in a dumpster, and when he came too he kept going on about a shadow pony.”

“Which tells me that I hadn’t pulled the teeth of Nova’s toy after all,” Celestia said in a sort of quiet resignation. “Although, I suppose in this case that’s not such a bad thing.”

“Ma’am?”

“There is definitely a little bit of the Nightmare in Nova’s Moonie,” Luna offered.

“Summary execution is not our way, but there was a time when it was necessary to maintain the stability of Equestria. I want the creature, be they pony or other, who is responsible for this outrage,” Celestia requested in a quiet tone that hinted of seething anger threatening to break through to the surface at any moment.

“Ma’am.”

“And Captain...” Celestia hesitated a moment. “Something you need to take to heart and believe me when I tell you that I am not immortal. Yes, I’m well over a thousand years old, but I won’t live forever. Cadance and Nova aren’t the ponies to replace me. Yes, they are alicorns, but the reason they took such a great risk to bring me and Sunset back wasn’t so much for my sake, but for the sake of Equestria. Nova has been paying attention to her studies and understood that no matter how strong she gets neither she nor Cadance can replace me. They don’t have an affinity for it. That leaves Sunset shimmer as she is presently the only pony with both the aptitude and the required affinity that we are presently aware of. Despite the issues we’ve had with her she is Equestria’s future.

“After Discord upset the balance and it became necessary for unicorns to raise and lower the sun and moon to maintain the cycle of day and night and the tides, it required dozens of the strongest unicorns to do it, and it would leave them drained. It wasn’t easy for me because I’m an alicorn, it was because I’ve got a solar affinity. Something that is fairly rare. And even rarer that such a pony has the potential to replace me. Those who would place their own petty ambition over the welfare of others have no place in our society.”

Chapter 30: Not the Arkenstone

View Online

It was nice to be back in the Keep, though our trip through Canterlot had me a bit on edge even now. Poor Sunset was a nervous wreck, and we were expected to come to dinner. Even Scootaloo would be coming to dinner being we were the ones she’d be staying with.

Do we really have to go to a state dinner?” Sunset asked plaintively.

Do I have to go?” Scootaloo asked. After all, the only reason Scootaloo was with us is that Spitfire had duties to attend to, thanks to the crisis, and that meant staying with Lofty and Holiday.

Ms Lofty?” Cadance asked. Lofty wasn’t sure what she should say.

We’re going,” I said flatly as I adjusted the dress that had been provided for me. Once I was satisfied with that I hung my pendant around my neck. “I know this is difficult, but you have to consider why Princess Celestia didn’t cancel the dinner.”

You think she’s sending a message?” Sunset asked. She likely already knew the answer.

Moonie strangely enough had been equally upset as the knowledge of the execution of her primary function warred with her desire to be a good pony. She hadn’t been a good pony today, and I’d had to reassure her that she’d likely not have had a choice in the matter and she was presently in doll form snuggling with Scootaloo. If placed in the same position, I imagine I might have done the same. At least the harmony stone that was part of the pendent was one that would not be affected by the taking of a life. As for the Hōju, I had no idea if it had any limitations. Not that I knew how to use it.

You know, right about now is when we could use a little of the old Sunset.” I offered. “Don’t let the nobles win.”

That’s easier for you to say, your not the one being targeted.” Sunset scolded.

Maybe that’s because they don’t see me as a threat,” I said quietly.

But I am?” Sunset asked.

At the very least you are an obstacle.”

Where I lived, we had our town bullies. The worst one was the son of a couple who owned most of the land.” Cadance offered. “He often got away with bad behavior because his father’s money insulated him. It’s the same thing with the nobles. - Sunset, we have to stand up to them. It’s the only way to get the bullies to back down.”

Let's keep in mind that I used to be one of them,” Sunset reminded us.

If it was me, I’d go.” Lofty offered.

Sunset?” Celestia called as she entered the chamber. “You’re not ready?”

She’s been through a lot,” I offered. “This is going to be difficult for her.”

Celestia went to Sunset and gave her a hug with a wing. “Just keep in mind that you’ll be by my side, and I will not let anything happen to you.”

Sunset nuzzled Celestia, and after a moment or two agreed she could do it.

And little Moonie looks down too I see,” Celestia mused. “Cheer up my little one, no pony is going to die, and you did what you had to do to protect the others. It kind of comes with the purview of that little green stone. It’s a very special stone related to the elements of harmony but unlike any of the others. It’s the stone that gives its user strength when faced with impossible choices. Which is part of the reason the nightmare took it from me. Its loss didn’t stop me, but then again, who’s to say that I might have been brave enough…” She let her words hang as the realization of how hollow that statement would have been.

I was fairly sure she was about to say she could have saved Luna, but we both knew better. I looked at Celestia with a deep sense of disappointment. She saw me looking at her and I saw it in her eyes and turned away. I was there, and so too was the stone. For all I know, my presence may have prevented something far worse from happening.

I’m sorry,” Celestia said softly. “No amount of lies to others, and especially myself will ever change the fact that the only thing I had on my mind that night was the desire to punish my sister for a transgression … that she wasn’t even guilty of. Luna?”

One day at a time, dear sister. One day at a time,” Luna offered softly.

So a short time later we entered a room filled with some very nervous nobles. Naturally, they’d all heard about the tragic events that had taken place only a few short hours before. The staff directed us to our places and everyone sat down.

I must say I was relieved to discover that the pink and well, dark pink maned mare I sat down next to, a Sakura-Hime, was in fact the wife of the Neighpon ambassador. Her husband a small unassuming white pony with fiery red hair and a cross-shaped scar on his left cheek. Yes, and his name was Kenshin Himura.As in the Battōsai. He kind of looked the part as well, save for the lack of a reverse blade katana and that he was a pony. He was presently wearing a purple kimono-styled jacket and Sakura-Hime wore more pink. She and Cadance should compare fashion notes as they were both wearing pink. I on the other hand – make that hoof – was wearing a dark blue gown with a delicate floral pattern in white that looked like flowers growing up from my tail. And yes, Rarity had made it. Don’t ask me where she got the material, though I’d a mind to make sure she wasn’t going into debt for it. I only wish she could have joined us, but she’d already had plans to be at a reception at the school. That and Rarity had needed the most time to recover after our harrowing trip through Canterlot and when she had, she continued on to the school. As it was I think she might have found the tense atmosphere at the dinner to be more than she could take.

Princess Celestia, introduced us to the gathered ponies, said a rather interesting invocation where she reminded the nobles to be grateful for their homes, their families, their wealth, their place in polite society, and most importantly, their lives. After which the waiters brought out our first courses.

Tell me little princess, who is thy mother?” Sakura-Hime asked quietly shortly following the beginning of the meal. Well, I’d been introduced as Princess Celestia’s niece but Princess Celestia hadn’t spelled out who my mother was. There was also the issue that Princess Luna hardly looked old enough to be any pony’s mother.

My mother is the Princess of the moon.” I offered with just a touch of cheek. “She who had been the prisoner of the Night Mare banished for one thousand years. I myself got caught in the periphery of the spell that banished the Night Mare.”

Oh my, you should be a nine tail by now then.” She teased.

Alas, I have but the one. And most precious it is to me I can assure you. But allow me to introduce you to my mother. Princess Luna?” I called Luna to get her attention.

Yes?” Luna asked as she looked my way.

The Lady Sakura wished to meet my mother,” I offered. Luna smiled back at me.

Lady Sakura,” Luna acknowledged.

You know her mother?”

I am her mother, and I’ve got the scars to prove it.”

Oh right, silly me, Princess Celestia’s sister. Scars?”

Now dear, we don’t need to get into such things as that,” her husband, the ambassador, admonished softly. They were a young couple he of the fox pony persuasion, she a fairly ordinary pegasus and likely unaware of the perils of suckling certain types of foals. I’d no doubt he was keen on her not finding out any sooner than need be.

Mom, was I really that bad?” I asked.

You were a very aggressive little filly when it came to nursing,” Luna offered.

Across the table Glory Rose actually smiled. “Prince junior was rather aggressive.”

Mom!” Protested the colt a couple of seats down, nor was there a mother in the place who didn’t at least smile.

And your husband?” Sakura asked Luna.

I’d imagine he’s dead,” Luna offered.

Rumor has it he died in bed, from exhaustion,” I offered with a cheeky smile.

Nova, please,” Celestia scolded softly, possibly hoping no one understood what I was alluding to. Celestia turned her attention to Sakura ignoring the muted snickering coming from several of the mares, “Nova was trapped in limbo along with her mother. Her father should by rights be long dead. Such a shame though. If only I hadn’t been so naive. I allowed myself to be maneuvered into betraying my own sister.”

And still they try their best to control our every move,” Glory Rose offered. “Oh, not you dear,” She added to Prince Blueblood senior.

Princess Celestia,” began an alabaster unicorn with a pink mane and tail that was so bright it was nearly fluorescent. “A lot of us mares have come to realize something that’s been staring us in the face our whole lives, and that is that you are a mare. A mare who is in her prime and as such likely has the same physical and emotional needs as any other mare who is in their prime. And this, whoever it is who’s throwing a temper-tantrum…” She found that she was unable to finish her thought.

Has only proven why I can never reveal who Sunset’s father is, and why I chose to keep my personal life strictly off the record,” Celestia replied. “When Sunset was first trapped I was devastated because the chances of ever getting her out were very slim. And that’s when I finally realized that I needed to be more than just a mentor. Sunset needed her mother. Though I feared I’d never get the chance to correct my oversight.” Celestia looked to Sunset with a smile. “For Twilight, and many of Sunset’s predecessors, they had at least one loving parent. Unfortunately, Sunset’s magic was too wild and too powerful for her father to raise her. I placed her with a family I thought could handle her, and they dumped her the first chance they got. I did my best to teach Sunset, but I didn’t raise her. I didn’t provide her a loving parent, nor was I a parent to her, and I should have been. And now I have the chance to do right by Sunset.”

There were a few moments when no pony seemed to want to speak. I looked down the table and found I was able to pick out Fancy Pants, Fleur de Lis, Jet Set, and Upper Crust, a stallion that made me think he might be Ponyacci and quite a few ponies I couldn't even begin to name. Most were unicorns. Not that it surprised me. What I wasn’t expecting was that I’d see Bright Mac and Pear Butter. He gave me a wink, and I smiled back. I couldn't help but wonder if they’d followed us on the next train. The downside is that they were too far away for me to ask them about it.

Tell me, Miss Nova was it?”

I’d imagine that’s close enough,” I offered to the elderly stallion, and to my surprise, it’s Sakura and her escort who bristle at my being addressed so casually. It’s a formal dinner and a certain amount of decorum was expected. Personally, I hate formal dinners, but when at one it’s always important to address ponies by their proper ranks if at all possible. “I mean, I don’t mind being addressed casually in a casual environment.” I offered politely enough, but the admonishment was loud and clear, the proper protocol should be maintained where appropriate and the old duffer should know that. Not like I hadn’t already been introduced.

Yes, um, well, I’m to understand you were one of the individuals who discovered the Arkenstone.”

No sir, sorry, I did not,” I replied. “I unearthed a geode in which was contained a crystallized mineral which I’m to understand is being dubbed the Arcano stone. While its properties are impressive it pales in comparison to the Arkenstone of legend which is more properly called the 'Eorcnanstan' in old ponish, the Precious Holy Stone. The Arkenstone is a stone required for kingship, and you’d have best take care not to be loose with thy tongue by calling things what they are not.”

Or people,” Sunset added.

I, I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it?” Celestia admitted possibly wondering where I’d heard of such a thing.

Oh I have,” Sunset offered. She’d undoubtedly read Tolkien as well. “I recall seeing something about it in some dusty old tome. It was unearthed by a race known as Dwarves from the very root of a mountain. There was even speculation that it might be a Silmaril which would be an ideal item to test to see if some pony was worthy to be king because no mortal or creature of darkness could touch it for long without suffering greatly.”

I gave her a look and she back at me. We both knew full well what we were doing, and I had to bite my lip in order to maintain a straight face. But then again, who’s to know it’s not a real thing in this world.

Lord Canterbelle,” Luna began on spotting the old fool beginning to work up a bluster, “Please do remember that Princess Nova is my Daughter. And she is your senior and not the other way around.”

Let's not push it,” I offer. Lord Canterbelle knows when someone is being cheeky.” I turn back to him. “Still though, we wouldn't want creatures thinking we’ve something we haven’t.”

Yes, right, wouldn't want that,” Canterbelle offered gruffly momentarily after getting elbowed by his wife Dame Betty Bouffant. “I was curious as to the methods you used to unearth and open it without destroying it in the process?”

To be honest, it’d been there under hoof for quite some time,” I explained. “Some pony would trip on it every now and then, but any time some pony would go back intending to dig it up they couldn't find it. At least not until some pony else tripped on it. We’d even found the remains of several more stones that had been shattered through the action of some pony stomping them into the ground.” I caught a glimpse of Bright Mac rolling his eyes, “I used what I imagine is a very old Earth pony technique to locate and pop it out of the ground. Princess Cadance gave me a likely spot to strike it, so I did. Also, I didn’t strike down, I struck at an angle in the fashion required to break a chip off.”

With your shoes?” Dame Betty Bouffant asked.

Adamantine,” Luna offered. “The shoes I got for her are adamantine. They are indestructible and will likely go into the vault containing the royal jewels when she’s outgrown them.”

Luna, dear,” Celestia began. “Why did you give her shoes made from adamantine in the first place?”

Because she’s part kitsune and part alicorn. You’ve seen the blue flame she can produce. That blue flame erodes everything else shockingly fast and the enchanted fire can erupt most alarmingly when she is upset. Adamantine was the only thing that held up.”

Foxfire, while relatively harmless to living beings, will burn away any material that’s not pure enough used as a shoe,” Ambassador Himura offered. “That leaves crucible steel or adamantine since silver and gold are too soft to be used for hoof wear.”

We had an adamantine source in those days,” Luna offered. “I’m under the assumption that the mines were lost to the Everfree.”

Wait, you had an adamantine source?” Celestia asked.

Didn’t you know? How did you think I was paying for all my excesses, as you called it, back then?” Luna asked while looking at her sister with a pained look in her eyes. “Prior to our betrayal, we were poised towards becoming one of the richest kingdoms in the world.”

I must confess that I honestly thought we were impoverished,” Celestia offered. “All part of the manipulation I suppose. That and I never once thought to just ask. I was such a foal back then.”

Every now and then one is found on my holdings, only for it to be ruined by mishoofling,” Lord Canterbelle explained.

We found that the very presence of the fully charged stone had a peculiar tendency to attract ponies to it,” Cadance offered. “Of our little group the pegasi were affected the most. They became entranced.”

The alicorns in the group were affected the least, with earth ponies being the next least affected,” Luna informed him.

Mares and Fillies more than colts,” I added. “Seems to be the sparkly effect.”

Afraid I’m well acquainted with the sparkly effect, it has a tendency to overpower my dear wife when she’s out shopping,” Lord Canterbelle offered only to get elbowed by said wife.

I was relatively immune because I could sense a strong magical aura about it, and not knowing what it was I feared it might be dangerous to any creature that touched it.”

After that the conversations moved to more mundane things considered appropriate dinner conversation by Canterlot polite society. Whoever they may be. Theater seemed to be a hot topic.

That was dirty,” Sunset whispered to me as we made our way back upstairs and to the royal quarters.

Maybe,” I offered. “Ever hear of a kids' show called My Little Pony?”

Ya, why?” Sunset asked.

To paraphrase Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean, you better start believing in ponies, you are one.” Sunset just gave me a pained look.

What?” Cadance asked.

One world’s fantasy may well be another world’s reality, and who’s to say the Arkenstone doesn’t actually exist as in the fantasy writers are somehow seeing into other worlds.”

You know, that’s a really scary thought,” Sunset admitted as we entered into one of the larger reception areas within the area known as the Inner Palace. “Afters,” Sunset offered in response to my confusion.

I’m probably going to need tutoring in modern deportment and protocol,” I offered. I will admit that I was delighted to see Bright Mac and Pear Butter already in the room along with the Neighpony ambassador. Lord Canterbelle was there along with a number of earth ponies and pegasi. Most of whom looked like they’d a fair amount of liquid assets. Few had been at the dinner.

Welcome my good Barons, Baronets, and guest,” Celestia called to the assembled group.

Alright, maybe it’s something other than afters,” Sunset whispered.

Baron Macintosh, Lady Pear, it’s so good you could come,” Celestia said as she walked over to Bright Mac and Pear Butter. “I see so few of the Apples.”

Motherthinks we are at a Granger’s meeting,” Bright Mac offered with a smile. “Oh, she’s as bright as ever, save in certain aspects. She’ll insist she is a founder of Ponyville to any pony who’ll listen and refuses to acknowledge that a Title goes hoof and hoof with the grant to the land Sweet Apple Acres consist of. She has a bad case of salt of the earth and I’m afraid there's no cure. That is to say, she is, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but she seems to be selectively delusional. She gets these notions in her head. The world conforms to her and not the other way around and I fear she has been that way for a very long time. If Father hadn’t have told me that I was going to be a Baron and that it came with certain responsibilities before he’d passed on I’d not had a clue. To make matters worse mother has no concept of inflation and tries to pay our hired hooves the same they were paid forty years ago, and she deals with the Rich family the same.”

Well, I’m not sure what to say?” Celestia replied dumbfounded.

Well, you will just have to branch out and not tell her about it,” Sunset offered. “The Rich family is cheating you, and, and it’s past time you did something about it.”

I already have put certain plans in motion, though they don’t as yet know,” Bright Mac offered. “Oh, and Princess Sunset, I heard about your run-in with Miss Rich. Do have a care.”

Sunset?” Celestia asked looking back and forth between the two.

Diamond Tiara,” Sunset offered in a tone that barely hid her dislike of the filly. “After a week of her example of how not to behave in polite company I may have lost my temper. And Baron Macintosh, I can’t help but think you’ve been getting a raw deal from the Rich family for a very long time. They’ve grown quite wealthy off your family’s hard work. Or at least that’s the appearance of it.”

Bright mac said nothing, only nodding his head. I suspected that Granny Smith had been the one handling the finances while old man Arkansas worked the farm. The downside to this arrangement was that Granny really didn’t have much of a head for finances. Something Mr Rich was all too ready to capitalize on. Diamond Tiara having been born into a family that thought nothing of taking advantage of others never had a chance to become a well-adjusted filly.

Princess Celestia, the filly is an absolute crashing bore who by the virtue of being spoiled rotten thinks she is better than everyone,” I offered, making sure to be extra polite given the company. “She wears a tiara everywhere she goes, and by some absurd stroke of irony, her cutie mark is also a tiara. In short, she has a false cutie mark by virtue of a deep sense of self-entitlement nurtured from a very young age. Meanwhile, she lords it over every pony she deems beneath her, ourselves included, and has even gone so far as to state that any pony who doesn’t have a cutie mark should be rounded up and sold to griffins so that they can be made useful. And yes she includes all foals because any pony without a cutie mark is less than worthless in her eyes regardless of age.”

I will admit that our dealings with the Rich family have been less than mutually beneficial.” Bright Mac admitted. “Princess Nova, what would you say about my cutie mark?” His cutie mark was a sliced green apple with a gold star in the middle and I can only imagine he hoped to test me in some manner by asking about his cutie mark rather than address Sunset’s statement.

Right off hoof I’d say occupational with an affinity towards apples. The gold star might suggest you are really good at what you do. Stars normally convey an affinity to magic and the night, but may also represent one who will be accomplished in their field above others,” I offered. “You have dreams but you are grounded as well. It’s possible you may be better at Earth magic than you realize. The next time you find yourself tripping over a stone you might try popping it out like how I did.”

Well, I,” Bright Mac all but found he was at a loss for words.

Assuming of course you weren't meant to be a big star on Bridleway in New Yak.” He had to laugh at that idea. “As I look around me I see lots of cutie marks that convey affinities towards occupations, the earth, the sky, magic, and leadership. And yet despite the company not one crown, tiara, or anything related to being found with the exception of Fancy Pants, only his cutie mark is three stylized golden lilies. The top half of three fleurs-de-lis to be exact, and while they may represent nobility, they are not crowns.” I can see the thoughtful looks in the eyes of the ponies around me and I know that they have but to look at heraldic designs to known I’m right. To be considered a crown it must be obviously a crown and not just suggested. If it was simply a matter of suggestion then the closest cutie marks in the room to that of a crown would be Princess Celestia’s and Sunset Shimmer’s suns as both could represent the image of a crown from the top down.

I’ve had my run-ins with the filly as well,” Luna offered. “I’ve no doubt the filly was intentionally trying to provoke us, and I can’t help but wonder if she was behind Pinkie’s reaction to me.”

You can’t mean a filly was trying to entrap you?” Celestia asked. Her tone indicated she was stunned.

Yes, and she’s rather blatant about it as well,” Luna offered.

She couldn't possibly be related to this morning’s troubles could she?” Celestia said softly.

She’s a pain in the flank, but I doubt she would do anything like that,” Scootaloo offered. “Her standard go-to plan anytime some pony tries to take her down a notch is to run to daddy.”

True,” Lofty offered. “I’ve had to apologize for Scootaloo on multiple occasions. Nor did it take me long to realize Scootaloo wasn’t the one at fault on most occasions.”

Let us hope I don’t find myself in a position where I must apologize to any of our subjects,” Celestia said softly while looking down at Sunset.

I’m sorry,” Sunset offered while dropping her head.

I’ll not fault you,” I offered. “Truly if she hath been a colt I’d have thrown down on the little bitch.” My remark gained a few chuckles from the gathered ponies who aren’t quite sure if I mean it or not.

Sunset looked at me, an unbidden smile cracking her face.

There’ll be none of that either, young filly,” Celestia scolded.

Now sister, she’s my filly,” Luna cut in. “I’ll be the one to decide when she is due a scolding. And I’d say that we both owe a great deal to her indomitable nature. Nor has she ever backed down from a fight if it meant protecting another or sticking up for what was right.”

Which brings us to the very reason we are all here,” Celestia offered as she turned to address the gathering. “As is the custom of long ago the Barons are gathered whenever there is some pony who is to be considered for a knighthood. To include six young mares for their actions in rescuing my sister Luna from the Night Mare that had possessed her.”

Might I ask what the nature of the Nightmare was?” spoke one of the Barons.

Baron Fields,” Celestia began.

If I may?” I ask. “I mean I was there when she fell to it.”

Let’s hear what she has to say,” Lord Canterbelle offered.

It’s a type of spirit. Likely one of King Sombra’s victims. Common myth and folktale lump it into a category referred to as a Shadow Pony. It feeds off of anger, resentment, hatred, and betrayal. Yes, I’ve done my research in my desire to understand what it was. Granted that information is sparse and contains a lot of conjecture. When it targets an individual it will attempt to possess them, a little at a time. A strong-willed individual may be able to keep it at bay for years in which case it may eventually move on to easier targets. In an ironic twist of fate, I may well owe my existence to it given my mother’s alleged string of inappropriate behavior.”

Well, as our wives have pointed out,” began a Baron Strudel who I recognized from an Apple family portrait. “There is nothing evil in a young mare seeking out the attention of a stallion. - Princess Nova, I have no doubt that you are the product of love and not the product of shadow-pony induced excess.”

Thank you,” Luna said softly.

In the end I’ve only myself to blame for Night Fall,” Celestia offered. “The Nightmare gained full control of Luna only after I confronted my sister for crimes she did not commit. I found myself fighting a malevolent spirit with all the power of an alicorn and I did not yet fully realize what had happened as clouded as my reason had become. I even delude myself into thinking if only I’d had a certain artifact I could have saved her, but the truth was, I wasn’t trying to save her. I wanted to punish her.”

Such creatures are rare,” Ambassador Himura offered. “And such are the downfalls of court intrigue when one has been misled.”

Now typically the Ambassador wouldn't be present at a meeting such as this,” Lord Canterbelle pointed out. By the looks on his face, he likely wasn’t happy about the Ambassador being privy to the conversation.

And normally you’d be correct,” Princess Celestia replied. “Nor would you, save in that one of the individuals under consideration is your granddaughter Rarity. Lord Barometer is here to represent the two pegasi being considered. His excellency is here in lieu of the absence of anyone from Nova’s father's family. We have our suspicion of who her father was and it’s possible that Princess Nova is also a member of the Neighpon royal family.”

Why am I being knighted? I’m only a filly. Nieghpon royal family?” I ask. I’m a bit dumbfounded at the news. Not that it wasn’t a possibility but I’d an urge to start speaking in a nasal tone and seek out the attentions of a lead character. Hang on, that’s me? Damn it, am I doomed to be Cat from Red Dwarf in love with only myself?

You and Cadance pulled me from that cursed mirror,” Celestia explained.

Oh, alright,” I replied. OK, so maybe I’m not a complete Marry Sue but then it just occurred to me that I probably shouldn't be here for this meeting. “Should Princess Cadance, Sunset, and I even be here? And maybe Scootaloo probably shouldn't be here either.”

The whole idea of being both a princess and knighted just strikes me as a bit much. Granted that it did mean certain privileges an ordinary princess would never have. Which when I think about it, doesn’t really amount to much.

I just wanted every pony to have a chance to meet you,” Celestia offered. “But you are right so the three of you can go now.”

Can I go too,” Luna asked.

No, you must stay if you wish to return to my side as my equal where we rule Equestria together.”

And then Princess Luna surprised Princess Celestia by bowing low to her. “Princess Celestia, though I may enjoy an equal vote in the parliament, the days where we could rule as equals is long past. You are the Grand Dame, the Crown Princess, and Regent in all but name and will continue to be until such time as you should choose to advocate another. And until such time I do hereby swear my fealty to you.”

Luna, what are you doing? Don’t you wish your place in the governing of Equestria restored?”

I do, and in good time I will, but I will not be a ruling princess. Not the now at least, for me to assume the position of co-regent at this time could potentially cause confusion and at its worse, a schism may occur. In fact, the arrangement we had may even have been what caused our parting in the first place. I will not be the shadow on your rule over Equestria. Will you not accept my pledge of loyalty?”

I walked over to join my mother and bowed as well, “And mine as well.” Silence reigns in the room. “If Mother feels there is a need to do this then that is good enough for me nor can I fault her reasoning on this in that our declaration sends a message of unity.”

I must confess, while perhaps a bit dramatic, I can not find fault in these actions,” Lord Canterbelle offered. “Accept their pledge of loyalty as it will help to confound those who would undermine you, and let us continue.”

Very well,” Celestia replied and knelt slightly to acknowledge our pledge. “I, Celestia, do hereby accept thy pledges of fealty.”

Should I do likewise?” Cadance asked as we straightened out.

Only if Princess Celestia requires it,” I offered. “The thing is, your cutie mark contains something few do, and that is a great destiny that awaits you.”

Destiny?” Cadance asked.

Your cutie mark links you to the Chrystal Heart of the Chrystal Empire. It is more than just a symbol, it’s an ancient relic of considerable power,” Princess Celestia offered. “You are the heir apparent in absentia.” Celestia hesitated a moment. “It would be beyond presumptuous of me to ask you to swear an oath of loyalty to me when you yourself may one day find yourself wearing the crown of an Empress.”

When that day comes I will be Empress in name only, and if not fealty then I will pledge to always be your friend and loving niece,” Cadance offered.

Princess Celestia went over to her and the two embraced. “And now,” Celestia said a moment later as they separated. “The four of you may go. Princess Luna, you will stay so you can observe how we do this. I think you will find the proceedings a bit on the loose side as we tend towards informality behind closed doors.”

Indeed,” Luna replied.

We save the pomp and circumstance for public displays such as the actual knighting,” Lord Canterbelle offered with a smile.

Chapter 31: Hall chase

View Online

Yes, there was a part of me that would have liked to stay, but then again, as the four of us hastily made our escape, I doubt there was any one of our little group who didn’t rejoice at our freedom.

What say we find Commander Spitfire,” Cadance offered.

Sounds like a plan, although…” I begin.

Although, what?” Sunset asks.

We probably shouldn't leave the keep,” I explain.

Oh, ya, that might be a bad idea,” Sunset admitted.

So, then what?” Scootaloo asked.

I guess we ask at a guard post,” I offered. “You don’t think they are doing tours do you?”

The whole place should be on lockdown and it’s getting late,” Sunset offered.

Let’s try the front entry,” Cadance suggested. “We can ask there.”

So who do you think is going to be knighted?” Scootaloo asked as we made our way downstairs to the grand entry hall.

Well, they said the element bearers. We already know about Rarity, and right off hoof I’d think we can include Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie, Applejack…”

Oh, she’s going to just love that, she’s nearly as fussy as Granny Smith,” Sunset offered.

She’s a little easier to reason with,” I offered. “And Granny isn’t quite so bad save in she gets these ideas into her head and she’s as stubborn as a rusty nail when it comes to trying to elevate her from her entrenchments. Though I will have to admit that the news that she is part of the nobility is going to come as quite a shock to Applejack.”

Rainbow Dash will be Knighted too, won’t she?” Scootaloo asked.

No doubt. So do you still think she is like the coolest ever?” I ask teasingly.

Well, that is, things have changed haven't they?” Scootaloo asked. “Dash has always been there for me when my parents were off doing their thing and she is like the super cool elder sister I never had. Finding out my real mom is actually Spitfire is like twenty percent cooler.”

I can’t help but laugh at the twenty percent reference.

What?” Scootaloo asked.

Isn’t ‘twenty percent cooler’ Rainbow Dash’s catchphrase?” I asked with a big smirk on my face. Scootaloo gives me a funny look and then busts up laughing.

We are starting to get curious looks from staff and security at the entrance to the grand entry hall as we descend the grand stairs.

Security has been doubled, but it looks like they are still running tours,” Cadance observed.

Crisis temporarily averted, back to business as usual,” Sunset offered. “Still though, they should be all done with the tours.”

Should we maybe have some identity badges?” I asked quietly. The staff is all watching us like we just aren’t supposed to be here.

I’ve one in my room, but I’ve never needed it before?” Cadance said softly.

Was the castle ever in a state of heightened alert?” I ask. We’ve stopped about halfway down.

Just that night you had to go into that mirror,” Cadance offered. “And then everything was pandemonium and no one knew what was going on.”

Likely they are overcompensating now,” Sunset offered. “Any chance we can back up the steps or are we stuck here?”

Maybe we are supposed to stay upstairs?” Scootaloo asked.

I don’t know? Let's just start backing up,” Cadance offered.

We are ponies, ponies don’t back upstairs very well,” I countered. “Anyway, isn’t there supposed to be guards at the top of the stairs as well?”

Ah, ponies, the guards are headed this way. Why are the guards coming this way?” Scootaloo asked.

Ah… run,” Sunset said and then scampered back up the stairs. Scootaloo didn’t have to be told twice, and I was quick on their heels with Cadance right behind me.

Hey you! Get back here!” Shouted a guard as he took off after us.

“Isn’t that the new princesses?”

“Can’t be, they are supposed to be at some sort of late meeting… why are they stopping?

“Kind of looks like they are turning around…”

“Hey, you! Get back here!”

Quick in here!” Sunset shouted and the next thing I knew I was in an old broom cupboard.

Damn it Sunset!” I shout as someone tries the door. And then I panic teleport us across the hall to another room.

No don’t!” Sunset says as Cadance goes to open the door to the hallway. She closes it, and we are rushing through a door into another room closing it behind us just as the guards are bursting into the room we were just in.

From our new location we rush out into the hall, up a few doors, and duck into a room across the hall just as guards come barreling out of the room we’d just been in.

This way!” Sunset offered and a moment later she’s opened a secret door and we trot through it closing it up just as we can hear the guards entering the room we just vacated.

Once again we are out in the hall racing for the other end when we hear a guard yell, “Hey! Get back here!”

This way!” I shout as I duck into a room followed by Scootaloo.

No, this way!” Sunset shouts as she and Cadance go in the other direction.

All we needed now was Yakety Sax playing as we raced from room to room with the guards trying to catch us. Even Moonie got into the action and had sized herself to the size of a foal just to confuse and goad the guards into chasing her while she laughed like a mad filly.

What’s Moonie doing?” Cadance asked as we met in the hall once again.

Having fun,” I said with a grin just as guards pop out on either side of us. “Oh poo.”

What is going on out here?” Princess Celestia demands as she steps out into the hallway. “Just because we cut the four of you loose, doesn’t mean you get to monkey around out in the hallway. Cadance? You too? Hang on… is that Moonie, and why are there guards up here?”

They were chasing us,” Moonie announced as she pronked about.

Moonie, why are you that size? Celestia asked, and why are the guards chasing you?” Princess Celestia asked.

I’m a decoy.”

Aunt Celestia, they just started after us for some reason,” Cadance offered.

We, um, thought they might be impostors.” One of the guards offered sheepishly.

I just wanted to find out about my mom,” Scootaloo offered. “We were halfway down the grand stairs when they started giving us the stink eye.”

I see,” Princess Celestia replied sounding like she was anything but amused. Moonie immediately shrunk back down to plush toy size and hid under me. “Commander Spitfire is coordinating Wonderbolt patrols. She’ll stop by later. Also, Scootaloo, you’ll be staying here since you got caught up in all this.”

Normally I would have either stayed at home or with Aunt Lofty,” Scootaloo offered.

And that meant coming with us,” Lofty offered from just inside the room.

Yes, I figured that was the reason she was here,” Princess Celestia remarked. “Now, if the guards can go back to their posts, I think we can forget this ever happened. - Cadance, why don’t the four of you go to the library and find some quiet pursuit to occupy yourselves.”

Yes Ma’am,” Cadance replied and then Princess Celestia backed back into the room they were having their meeting in and shut the door.

Out in the hall no one moved. And then I heard something. My ears perked up and I quietly made my way to the door listening to what was going on. I smiled a big smile at the sound of my Aunt Tia laughing while trying to explain what the interruption was.

Nova,” Sunset asked.

Listen, she’s laughing. It’s been so long since I’ve heard that laugh,” I can’t help but let out a quiet laugh myself. I looked back at the others all of whom have a mix of expressions, relief, surprise, delight, bemusement… “Come on,” I prompt and make my way past the guards and head for the library. Scootaloo followed first, then Sunset, and finally Cadance. A moment later the guards are quietly heading back downstairs.

Chapter 32: Pulling a Twilight is an expression.

View Online

The following morning saw us, Celestia, mom, Cadance, Lofty, Holiday, Sunset, Scootaloo, and myself gathered around a table enjoying pancakes that Aunt Tia had made herself.

Princess Celestia,” Spitfire said shortly after entering the room and standing at attention. “You wished to see me first thing this morning?” She hadn’t put her uniform on because she wasn’t scheduled for anything that day.

Oh stop, we are all family here, relax, sit down, and have breakfast with us,” Celestia bid as Scootaloo ran over and hugged Spitfire

Yes ma’am… now hold on, should you be calling me family?” Spitfire protested. The rest of us had stopped eating and were gazing back and forth at the two.

Scootaloo, Spitfire’s father, Sunset’s as well, is Mr Cutter from the gem shop you went to. It’s public knowledge that he’s Spitfire’s father, and if any pony says anything it could place him in considerable danger.”

Scootaloo nodded, closed her mouth her jaw having dropped at the news, and swallowed hard. Spitfire relaxed her stance, walked around the table, Scootaloo sat back down in her seat and Spitfire took a vacant seat that was right next to her.

Well it’s only fair she knows who’s to blame for that horn on her head,” Celestia offered. “So how was your night?”

Pretty mundane once we’d found all the creatures little Moonie left in our wake yesterday afternoon.” Spitfire offered “I turned in shortly after midnight when commander Mouse took over. I’m to understand there were some arrests in Ponyville last night which may or may not be related to the hit put out on Sunset. Commander Sparkle will be in later this morning to explain the situation further, but from what was relayed to me, Specialist Rainbow Dash was on duty at the Guard Station yesterday afternoon late to cover for the individual who would normally have been on duty. No word on why they weren’t there.”

What? But Rainbow Dash is the Captain of the Weather team?” Scootaloo asked.

She’s actually a specialist and not an officer. Captain of the weather team is just a title that goes with the job. It is a leadership position and I’m to understand that she often covers for any members of the guard who need to be out for any reason,” Spitfire explained. “And when she’s fully armored you wouldn't even be able to recognize her.”

Na, she’s got a very distinctive voice,” I offered. "She’d actually joined the night watch a couple of times outside Lofty and Holiday’s home."

I never knew,” Scootaloo said quietly. “No wonder she sleeps so much in the daytime, she’s been working at night.”

Most of the weather control is done at night too,” I offered.

So what happened?” Celestia prompted.

Well, apparently a rather inebriated Mrs Spoiled Rich stopped off at the Guard Station to complain about Sunset. Things were said, threats made against Sunset as well as the guard, and Specialist Dash saw fit to detain her given the alert. She was charged with public drunkenness, causing a disturbance, threatening members of the guard, and threatening members of the Royal family.”

Wow,” Sunset said in a soft tone that indicated that she was having a hard time processing what she’d just heard.

Commander Sparkle arrived on location a short time later and when he was attempting to sort out Mrs Rich, Mr Filthy Rich showed up and attempted to bribe him,” Spitfire added.

So now he’s been arrested as well,” Cadance added with a smirk.

He is at that,” Spitfire replied with a grin.

Sounds like Shining Armor will make a perfect replacement for Captain Quartermane to take over the Captaincy of the Royal Guard,” Celestia mused.

You’re not firing Captain Quartermane because of last night are you?” Cadance asked.

I’m going to pretend last night never happened, he doesn’t need that on his record,” Celestia offered. “Still though, if he’s to advance his career it’s time he moved on.”

So how did you know we weren’t in any real danger last night?” I asked.

I knew the moment I saw Moonie in filly fun mode,” Celestia replied with a smirk.

Did they say what is going to happen to Diamond Tiara?” Lofty asked.

All I know is that Foal Protective Services were contacted,” Spitfire offered.

She’s being raised by the maid and the butler as is,” Scootaloo offered. “What? It’s true. I’ve spent enough time without my parents to recognize when some pony’s parents are never there. The vast majority of the time the only ponies looking after her are the butler and the maid, and they can’t really do a whole lot about her behavior because they’d get fired.”

And she will probably blame me after what I said to her,” Sunset offered as she sat back a bit. “Just one more pony who will want me dead.”

Sunset, if I am to be honest,” Cadance began, “the majority of the ponies that you wronged don’t hold any grudge. Those that do, don’t want you dead, and they are too smart to even think about putting a hit out on you.”

Oh no, of course, they wouldn't want me dead,” Sunset replied. “That’s not how Canterlot politics works. Far more satisfying to watch me squirm or worse yet, manipulate things so that I’d have to swallow my pride and go to them to ask for support for something I want.”

Can’t say that doesn’t happen,” Celestia offered. “It’s a game though and you’ll never truly lose in that game so long as you remember to never take anything personally. Over the years I’ve seen the worst of political rivals become best of friends.”

Right now all I care about is undoing the damage I did and maybe to mitigate some of the damage done by others,” Sunset offered. I was actually thinking of using the bulk of my allowance to invest in some pony who could convince the Apple’s to sell to them instead of the Rich family. That or leverage the Rich family into buying apples at a fair market value. All that’s changed now, I guess.”

Excuse me, Princess Celestia,” Raven called softly from the door.

Yes, Raven?” Celestia asked.

Captain Quartermane is here, and has news regarding the individual who put out the hit on Princess Sunset.”

Well this is good news… I hope?” Celestia responded. “Do send him in.”

Yes, Ma’am,” Raven replied, turned, and retreated in the direction she’d come. A couple of minutes later a gray stallion with a white mane cut into a flat top and a tail equally short entered the room and bowed. His guard uniform gave no doubts that he was a pony in charge.

Princess Celestia, Princesses,” Captain Quartermane offered and remained in the bowed position.

Please rise,” Celestia bid. “What news do you bring?”

A subject was identified early this morning,” Captain Quartermane offered on straitening out. “A middle-aged mare, pink coat with burgundy and magenta striped mane and tail. She was identified as a Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods.”

Oh dear,” Celestia said softly.

I don’t remember anyone called Daisy Woods?” Sunset asked confounded.

And what of Mr Woods?” Celestia asked softly.

Sister, do you know them?” Luna asked.

Just one more example of where I horribly misjudged a pony,” Celestia replied. “This was never about sunset, not directly, no.”

Who are they?” Sunset asked.

Sunset, they were your foster parents. They had given me to believe that they could handle a troublesome unicorn filly. In truth they lied to me to get the money,” Celestia informed everyone. “Captain, do you know where they are now?”

Mr Woods is in custody for questioning. He may even be innocent. He’s presently married to a Miss Chestnut and says he hasn’t seen Daisy in several years. As for Ms Daisy, she made a break for it, we tracked her to the Pegasi neighborhood in the upper Northwest reaches of Canterlot, she charged past the guards at the checkpoint, and then we lost her.”

I really felt like I was missing some important bit of information at this point though I can see from Aunt Tia’s expression that she really didn’t need any more information.

So, are you still looking for her?” Sunset asked.

Sunset, she was an earth pony,” Celestia informed us.

Pegasi neighborhood?!” Scootaloo exclaimed as the implication hit.

I hope we can reconcile with Diamond Tiara someday,” I offered quietly. “Say, if the lock-down is going to be loosened up I’d like to go see how Sweetie Belle is holding up over at the fashion seminar.”

So where is it at?” Celestia asked.

They said it was at the school,”

Which school?”

CSGU. You know, your school,” I offered.

No, just testing to get in next year,” Celestia replied. “There really shouldn't be anything else scheduled right now, not even at the college. And we should probably get the three of you some identification so that we don’t have a repeat of last night.”

Last night?” Captain Quartermane asked.

Cadance, Sunset, Nova, and Scootaloo somehow managed to goad the guards downstairs into a game of tag,” Luna offered. “That was the gist of it, was it not Celestia?”

That was about it,” Celestia admitted. “Oh and Nova’s Moonie too. Seems she can make herself filly sized now.”

That’s not something you did?” I asked.

No, I didn’t do that either,” Celestia admitted.

Don’t look at me,” Luna offered. “And you know who had that stone first.”

So you think it’s the stone doing it?” Celestia asked.

Should I be concerned?” Captain Quartermane asked. “That thing isn’t dangerous is it?”

Well of course she’s dangerous, but only to creatures that threaten Nova or any pony close to her,” Luna offered. “Aside from that, I wouldn't be too concerned.”

We think it’s some small portion of our mother’s memories which resides within the structure of the large green gem in Nova’s amulet along with her personality,” Celestia offered. “It seems to be acting like a spirit medium of some kind.”

That sounds like that’s a little outside of my pay grade,” Captain Quartermane offered.

Alright then, Captain, if that’s all, you can go, but I’ll expect a detailed report later when Commander Sparkle gets here, and I think he is do an advance in rank to captain.”

Yes Ma’am,” Quartermane offered, made a polite bow, turned, and exited.

Cadance, do you have an identification?” Celestia asked.

It’d be in my room.”

Make sure you get it right after breakfast,” Celestia said in a way that left little to interpretation.

I don’t actually have one,” Luna offered. “I stole one belonging to a maid.”

Well then, Holiday and I can tail Luna and the fillies down to get identification tags,” Lofty offered.

Oh, and let’s look in on Sweetie Belle after,” I suggested.

I’ll have to go as far as the ID tags so I can sign for Scootaloo,” Spitfire informed Celestia.

Feel free to spend the whole day,” Celestia replied.

I am going to need a nap at some point,” Spitfire admitted.

Then we’ll book a nap in the greenhouse upstairs,” I offered. “Is there a greenhouse upstairs?”

Yes, there is, and it can be accessed via the stairs in both the Solar and Lunar apartments,” Celestia offered with a smile. “I never changed that portion of the keep save to make it nicer.”

I couldn't help but go over to Princess Celestia and give her a hug. A short time later after we have brushed our teeth, combed our manes, tails, and otherwise made ourselves presentable we headed downstairs to the office that provided badges for everyone with access to the Keep. Which was, fortunately, within the grand keep itself.

So, if it’s not asking too much, which one was being targeted?” Asked a cheerful office worker named Sungift. She was a soft blue unicorn with an auburn mane and tail.

That would be me,” Sunset offered. “I seem to remember you as someone I owe an apology to as well.”

Wait… Sunset? You are the same Sunset who made my first year of school life miserable? You haven't aged. Is that because of what happened to you?”

Yes. I wanted to say that I’m sorry about everything I said and did,” Sunset replied.

Don’t sweat it,” Miss Sungift offered. “In hindsight, while it wasn't appreciated at the time, it helped prepare me for ponies who think I should be able to fix problems that are outside my jurisdiction or give them access to areas they aren’t authorized.”

Would it be imprudent of me to ask why someone who went to CSGU is working in an identification office?” I ask.

You’d be surprised at how sophisticated the spell in the identification tag needs to be, and it has to resist tampering,” Miss Sungift offered.

Ah, that does make sense,” I replied.

Would you believe the mare responsible for yesterday’s drama had been Sunset’s foster mother?” Luna asked. “I’m to understand they offered to take care of her, dumped her in an orphanage, and continued taking the money that was intended to be for Sunset.”

Wow,” Sungift said softly. “Everything’s looking up now. You’ve got a real family now.”

She sure does,” I offered and gave Sunset a hug. “She’s got a mom, an aunt, I’m her cousin, Cadance is her cousin, and this here,” I shifted to Scootaloo giving her a hug. “This is Scootaloo and her mom is Commander Spitfire. You’ll be seeing a lot of them because we are just like family, aren’t we?”

Yes, Auntie Nova,” Scootaloo teased. I couldn't help but laugh. Mom nearly opened her mouth to correct Scootaloo but thought twice of it. After all, Luna was Scootaloo’s aunt, but they couldn't let that kind of info slip.

Lofty and I are your aunts though,” Holiday offered. “And as Nova’s guardians that kind of makes you two cousins.”

Oh, yes of course,” Luna concurred with a big smile.

And the stallion they sold that huge gemstone to is my father” Spitfire offered.

Small world, isn’t it?” I offered

Does he even know?” Scootaloo asked. “That I’m his granddaughter?”

No, I don’t think so,” Spitfire offered. “He might still have some pictures of you as a baby, but short of the only reason he’s even in Ponyville was to keep an eye on you. I’d have to say I doubt he would have recognized you because neither of us had much interaction with your father.”

We’ll just have to change that,” Holiday offered. “To think there was a member of the family in Ponyville we didn’t even know about.”

Now, how can I help every pony?” Sungift asked.

There was a little incident last night owing in part because several of us don’t have proper identification,” Luna informed Sungift. “To include, embarrassingly enough, myself.”

Princess Luna, you need an identification?” Sungift asked.

Not every pony knows me, and my moon medallions don’t command the respect they once did.”

Dare I ask what happened last night?” Sungift inquired.

Some of us got into a hall chase scene with members of the guard because they didn’t recognize us,” I supplied.

And your pendant should have prevented that from happening,” Luna protested. “Still though, Tia got a good laugh out of it.”

Oh. Alright. Um, Princess Luna…” Sungift began

I liberated one from a maid,” Luna offered sheepishly. “Yes, I know she got into trouble because of it. I made sure to let her supervisor know I was the one who had it. They let me keep it after that.”

Sungift had a bemused look on her face. “I don’t understand?”

I’m more comfortable having my meals in the staff dining room,” Luna offered.

There was no segregation a thousand years ago,” I explained. “Everyone behind the walls was either family or allies. Back then you’d be family regardless of whether you were related to any of us or not. And we all ate at the same table, guards and nobles alike. Granted it was a big table and ponies had their place at the table, but there were very few who didn’t use the same table.”

Even the lowest scullery servant got a place at the table if they wanted,” Luna offered. “The only requirement is that they be bathed before coming into dinner.”

I never knew that,” Sungift remarked.

Sitting in a fine dining room with a bunch of dandies takes a bit of time to become accustomed to,” Luna offered. “Back then my sister would have thought it the height of decadence.” She lowered her voice, “I lavished the adornments on my chambers and drawing rooms so I could show off to foreign diplomats. I saw it as a way to demonstrate wealth and power. Celestia did not approve. A thousand years later I find that somewhere along the line she figured out why I did that and started doing it herself.”

The dwelling of the leader of a nation reflects on the nation as a whole, doesn't it?” Sungift replied.

It does,” Luna offered. “Now, about those identifications?”

Right, who all is going to need an identity tag besides Princess Luna?”

Nova, she’s my daughter,” Luna offered. “She’s more or less authorized to go anywhere she wants so long as it’s not inherently dangerous.”

Scootaloo will need a pass that will get her on and off-post plus a guest pass here in the keep. Any time I can’t look after her, her aunts Lofty and Holiday looks after her regardless of where they need to be,” Spitfire added. “And of course Sunset needs a palace pass.”

You and Sunset aren’t related are you?” Sungift joked.

She’s my little sister,” Sunset offered in a deadpan tone.

Sungift looked back and forth at Sunset and then at Spitfire a bit as she made some mental calculations. “I’m not saying a word.”

That would be a good thing,” Spitfire offered. “We worry about what ponies would do to Sunset’s father if they knew who he was.” An evil smile crept up on Spitfire’s face. “Not so much Scootaloo’s father.”

Mom!” Scootaloo protested. “OK, sure, he’s got his faults, and just dumps me on Aunt Lofty and Aunt Holiday whenever I’m not convenient, but there is some small part of him who cares about me and I’d be sad if anything were to happen to him.”

Do you understand how dangerous some of his adventures can be?” Spitfire asked. “Just the fact that he put the house up for rent suggests he was worried that there was a possibility he might not come back.” There is a moment no one dares to say a thing. “I’m sorry.”

It’s alright, I kind of know about the sort of things he does. Traipsing off into uncharted jungles,” Scootaloo replied. “I figured it out some time ago. I mean, ya, I know. Every time they take off to go somewhere I’d count the days till I got a letter, and then I’d know they were OK when they sent the letter. The biggest thrill of my life is getting that letter that says they are on their way home.”

Ya, sorry. I kind of know what that’s like.” Spitfire replied and gave her a hug.

All-righty then, moving right along, let’s do Princess Luna’s identification card first. Princess, if I can get you to step right this way, cutie mark, a white crescent moon, distinctive features include a black Appaloosa cap, wings, and horn. Fully functional I assume on both?” She had Princess Luna stand on what looked like a combo scale, scanner, and camera.

Oh yes, fully functional. Granted that I’m nowhere near my peak,” Luna offered. “I expect I’ll get taller as well.” In truth, her present height was fairly average.

Coat color grayish-blue, main and tail color light azure,” Sungift offered. No, her main was not all cosmic just yet. “Canines, moderately large for a mare.”

Sungift did her thing and a few moments later Luna was done and I was next.

Distinctive features, large canines,” Sungift gave me a funny look.

Normal for her type, you should have seen the ones on her father,” Luna offered.

I imagine they’d have to be quite large to have dared a princess of Equestria,” Sungift said with a smile.

Well, it’s not like he was lacking in any departments,” Luna added with a grin.

Alright, I think we’ve heard enough about father’s attributes,” I protested.

What?” Scootaloo asked.

You’ll understand when you are older,” spitfire offered.

Why do ponies always say that?” Scootaloo protested.

Trust me, it’s better this way,” Sunset offered. She’d a look of annoyance on her face. That or it was resting bitch face. So hard to tell with her.

Black on the top of the muzzle, stalkings, backs of the ears and tail tip,” Sungift continued. “White coat, mane and tail, vermilion and purple stripes in the mane, purple and vermilion feathering at the base of the tail. Wings and horn, functional or non-functional?”

Functional,” I offered.

Fully functional?” Sungift asked.

She can fly and is proficient in beginner magic,” Lofty offered.

Can fly and proficient in magic.”

Next came Scootaloo.

You’ve got a horn as well?” Sungift asked.

Yes,” Scootaloo replied as she hung her head down.

Non of that now,” Sungift scolded softly. “I’m assuming you’ve no magic and can’t as yet fly. Trust me, I’ve seen a few like yourself. It’s just going to take a little longer.”

Like I haven't heard that before. Nova can fly and use magic.”

I was also born over a thousand years ago and got blasted by the elements of harmony,” I counter.

Just so you know, I did not list Princes Luna as an alicorn on her identification,” Sungift announced. “Princess Cadance isn’t listed as an alicorn on hers, and I’m not listing Princess Nova as an alicorn either. No pony gets listed according to what they look like in regards to what they may or may not be. A good friend of mine was just like you, her parents and the other adults around her all said she wouldn't be able to do anything and that she was going to be handicapped for life. And then one day her magic kicked in. In fact, her ability got her into Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.”

What about flying?” Scootaloo asked.

I’m guessing you’re a driven little filly and considering who your mother is, you are going to be one of Equestria’s top fliers even if she has to strap artificial wings on you.”

Damn straight,” Spitfire announced in agreement.

What I am telling you,” Sungift continued. “It’s not my job to decide who is what. When a pegasus comes in here I list wings as a distinctive feature. When a unicorn comes in here I list that they have a horn. For all I know, Princess Sunset is a wingless alicorn. Nor should you come to the conclusion that you will never fly just because you can’t fly right now.”

Ha, wingless Alicorn,” Sunset mused. “Hang on, I seem to recall some pony else making that suggestion not too long ago.”

Scootaloo’s smile perked up. After all, her grandmother was Princess Celestia, and maybe that just meant it was just going to take a little longer. Princess Celestia was well over a thousand years old. What then was ten or eleven years? It was nothing, barely a drop in the bucket.

Would it be possible to register Nova’s amulet?” Luna asked a moment later. “It’s one of my original prototypes and it’s calibrated so that only she can use it.”

I think we can manage that,” Sungift offered and asked for me to hoof over the amulet.

Moonie decided to make an appearance, on my head no less in her more diminutive form, at that very moment.

Oh my?” Sungift said.

Moonie, behave,” I admonished as I took the cord on which the amulet was hung off my neck and passed it over.

Is that, is that a guardian?!” Sungift asked while gazing at Moonie, her eyes wide in wonderment. “I thought they were only theoretical?”

She’s a one of a kind, so far as we know,” Luna offered. “And to be honest I was being influenced while not yet fully possessed by the shadow which eventually took control. That is to say, I can’t really be sure how I made her. My sister and I can tinker with the spell-work, but the full matrix of the spell has grown beyond our understanding.”

The theory suggests that such a warding spell would eventually become self-aware,” Sungift offered as she delicately took the amulet in her outstretched hoof rather than risk a reaction to her magic. She placed the amulet in an identification tag scanner, Moonie glided over and landed on top of the scanner looking back and forth at me, Sungift, and what she intended to do.

Given the stone I used,” Luna said with a smile as we watched Moonie’s curious behavior,” I would not be one bit surprised.

I’d say both those stones have some interesting properties,” Sungift offered as Moonie jumped down onto the scanning surface. “Here now, don’t be getting into there.”

Keep in mind that her true form is the pendant,” I offered just as Moonie’s fur went poof. Moonie stood there like she wasn’t too sure what just happened, shook herself, picked up the amulet with her mouth, and brought it back to me.

Hang on, I wasn’t done,” Sungift protested.

Looks like she’s decided that you are,” Luna offered. “Was that strictly a passive scan?”

Well, that is…”

Messing about with other pony’s magic can be dangerous you know,” Sunset chastised.

All I was doing was probing her matrix,” Sungift offered. She took a look at the data she did get. She only got a glance when her processor overloaded and the system crashed.

That does not look good,” Lofty offered.

So, did you get anything?” Luna asked.

The scan overloaded the memory matrix,” Sungift said softly. “There was too much data. My supervisor is going to kill me.”

Tell them you’ve been given Princess immunity, I never should have let you try to scan that with ordinary office equipment,” Luna offered.

But it’s not ordinary office equipment, it’s state of the art!?”

Am I going to have to pay for that?” I ask.

No, dear, it’s my fault, I should have stuck to a passive surface scan,” Sungift admitted. “Everyone’s done now so you can all go.”

Thank you,” I offered just as another office worker entered the room.

Why do I smell smoke?”

I’m sorry sir, I pulled a Twilight,” Sungift admitted as we filed out.

Pulled a Twilight! Oh my gosh!” I say on my way through the reception area my pendant plus my new identification tag hanging from my neck.

Hang on, I don’t have an I-D tag yet!” Sunset protested.

And then we had to stop and turn around … only … the machine was busted and Sunset was forced to use a temporary VIP visitor pass.

Chapter 33: When a Princess isn't a Princess

View Online

Princess Celestia had moved to her Government office and Shining Armor had arrived to give his report. Shining Armor was accompanied by Captain Quartermane, and Specialist Rainbow Dash who had even worn her weather services uniform. Something that seldom came out of her closet save for when she knew there’d be some pony to impress. Dash also had a shit-eating grin on her face.

“Rainbow Dash, if you knew about the corruption in the Ponyville guard why did you never say anything?” Princess Celestia asked with a bit of confusion.

“Princess, ponies have tried,” Dash offered. “There’d never be any evidence after the fact, or it’d be too little to bother with an investigation, and then the individual suspected of attempting to blow the whistle would get sent off to some wonderful post like Chrystal Station where there’s naught but ice and snow as far as the eye can see. When Mrs Rich came in drunk, and Commander Sparkle on site as it were, I saw my chance to push back a little.”

“And you trusted he’d make things happen?” Celestia asked.

“She’s good friends with my Sister,” Shining Armor offered with a smirk. “If I ever fail to do my duty and Twilight were to find out…”

Celestia smiled and nearly laughed.

“Your highness, considering the affidavits that Shining Armor’s ponies gave, we are going to want a full-scale investigation by internal affairs,” Captain Quartermane suggested. “It kind of looks like Mr Rich has been buying favors from the guard, and not just in Ponyville.”

“Ah…” Dash said unsure if she liked that idea of getting swept up into a full-scale investigation.

“Specialist Dash, you’ve been working around the clock, doing weather jobs day and night, and covering for the local Guard Constable. With that many pots on the fire, you're permitted a nap or three,” Shining Armor offered.

“Oh, good. I might have been just a little worried about that. Considering so many ponies don’t have a clue about all the work we do at night. Patrols, scheduling rain, dealing with rogue weather from the Everfree. It’s a lot to do.”

“We’ll have to see to it you get enough ponies to cover for you while you are at OTS as well,” Celestia offered with a smile.

“Oh, tea es?” Dash Asked with a bit of confusion.

“Officer training school,” Shining offered.

“Who me? An officer?”

“You’ll be able to apply to the Wonderbolts,” Celestia offered with a smile.

“Really? Does this mean I finally made the cut?”

“In a matter of Speaking,” Celestia offered. “Specialist Rainbow Dash, I need you to keep what I’m about to tell you a secret from everyone for a bit.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Dash said snapping to attention.

“You and the other element bearers have been selected for knighthood. What that means for you is an automatic Captaincy in the reserves.”

“A Captaincy?” Dash said softly. “And I have to keep it a secret? From everyone?”

“You can tell your parents,” Celestia offered.

“No, they’ll take out a full-page ad in the Canterlot Times, the Cloudsdale Gazette, and any other news publications they can think of.”

“Oh dear, You’ll be able to tell everyone once everything is finalized. We might even do the knighting ceremony at the Gala.” Celestia said with a smile. “As for right now, being as Scootaloo already knows you were up for consideration, you’d be able to talk to her.”

“But they're…”

“Around here somewhere,” Celestia offered. “They went down to get identification tags, and I think they were thinking of surprising Sweetie Belle who is over at the School for Gifted Unicorns. I’m assuming she’s here to do her placement test.”

“Identification tags?” Dash asked.

“With the lockdown due to the ongoing active threats, guards were implementing protocols that don’t normally get fully enforced, and some were a bit jumpy,” Captain Quartermane offered.

“Probably a good thing I wore my uniform,” Dash offered. “If I may ask?”

“Several individuals were taken into custody who’d been actively targeting Sunset,” Celestia supplied.

“Wow! Just because ponies know she’s your Daughter? “That’s mighty sour apples on their part. Sunset’s a right sensible filly from what I know about her,” Dash offered. “Not perfect mind you, and whatever she said to that Diamond Tiara Rich filly, she probably had it coming. - I got an earful from her mother. And if she hadn’t have been drunk, disorderly, and making threats against just about every pony, I might have actually listened.”

“So what are the Rich family-like,” Celestia asked.

“They inherited their money, mostly, and the business dealings, if I’m to base my opinion of what they talked Granny Smith into, aren’t exactly on the up and up. On top of that, they think that because they have a little money to throw around they own everything. My father’s one of the top execs at the Cloudsdale Weather factory. I’m not exactly poor. Not like they’d ever acknowledged it.”

“That’s because they think you are a layabout who’ll never amount to anything,” Shining Armor offered. “They haven't a clue how hard you work.”

“If they ever saw my house. Granted I did most of the basic construction myself,” Dash replied. “It’s a cloud house.”

“I’d love to see it sometime,” Celestia offered. “And as I believe we are finished here, for now, Shining Armor, why don’t you help Rainbow Dash find Scootaloo.” Shining looked a bit hesitant. “You find Scootaloo and you’ll find Cadance. They should be altogether to include Luna. Being with Nova has done wonders for her.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Shining Armor offered and he’d all but drug Dash out the door.

They arrived at the office where the Identifications were made only to be told the princess was in another castle. Or rather, the rough equivalent thereof.

🏯

Our little group had by that time made our way out of the keep and were presently winding our way through government buildings. It was all within the castle complex mind you as we’d two more walls to cross before we would be outside the Castle. Granted that to my eyes we were within the walled portion of the old city. Many of the buildings were new, but then again some of the older structures were refurbished old barns and carriage houses made to look extra fancy. From there we passed through a park-like setting beyond which was a palatial mansion that had once been owned by the Platinum family. They’d moved on to bigger and better and Celestia had turned it into a school.

Nova, as long as we are here, why don’t we check on your registration,” Mom suggested as we approached the building. We weren’t alone either as there was a sizable number of ponies bringing young unicorns to apply to the coveted few slots that were available every year.

I am already signed up, aren’t I?” I asked.

You should be,” Mom offered. “No time like the present to find out.”

We sent the required statements detailing your magic, received the application, filled it out, and returned it. The instructions gave us a list of times to come in and test.” Lofty informed us. “They were to tell us one way or the other following testing and I’ve no doubt you’ll qualify.”

I imagine having to wait a year isn’t going to be a huge imposition if I’m rejected,” I offered not really worried about it. “If we sign up Scootaloo now, maybe we’ll get to attend together the following year.”

What? Me?” Scootaloo asked as we cued up behind a long line of ponies. I can’t help but notice a number of ponies walking away with dismayed and disappointed faces.

Tomorrow is never set in stone, and I don’t especially believe in fixed points in time in regards to the future. Only the past is fixed and who’s to say your magic won’t have kicked in by then?”

Just to be clear, no one is paying any attention to us. Bottom line all the potential new students were far too keyed up to worry about the group of alicorns right next to them. That’s Cadance, mom, and myself as my horn had grown to the point I could no longer hide it. Scootaloo didn’t really count because her little horn blended into that rocker chick mane style she was sporting, and Spitfire was out of uniform.

Next pleas,” offered a matronly mare as we finally got to the head of the line.

Good morning,” Mom offered. “My daughter is starting this year and we were wondering if maybe she needs to go through the normal testing?”

Every pony goes through testing. Do you have your acceptance of application notification?”

Acceptance of application?” Lofty asked. We’d received absolutely nothing short of it missed us in the mail and Derpy was just the sort to chase us down and somehow manage to make it past guards and assassins alike.

I can’t process you without your acceptance form.”

What about returning students?” Sunset asked.

Name?”

Sunset Shimmer.”

Shimmer, Shimmer, no, sorry.”

Maybe it’s under Princess?”

You and about every other Canterlot noble’s daughter.”

Her mother is Celestia Athelas, Princess of Equestria, Shepherd of the Sun, Guardian of the day,” I offer. “What rock have you been living under, or is it that you’ve stuck your snobbish snoot so high in the air you can't see past your own arse long enough to realize you’ve Princess Luna, Princess Cadance, and Princess Nova right in front of you?”

The admissions mare was staring daggers at me at this point.

Nova, stop,” Luna scolded. “There’s no need for that. We need to follow the same rules as every pony else.”

I thought everything was taken care of?” I protest. “Why do we even need an acceptance notification?”

That seems to be the rules. We have to abide by them.”

A friend is applying as well,” Lofty offered.

Only immediate family members may accompany the applicants,” The old matron countered harsher than what was really necessary.

What about applying for next year?” Spitfire asked.

Applicants have to wait for open enrollment in the spring.”

Come on, we are wasting our time here,” Holiday offered. “Let's go take a tour or something?”

Miss Lofty?” I asked looking up at her.

I’m sorry, Princess Celestia said everything would be taken care of. It must be some kind of oversight?”

A pony would think being a Princess of Equestria would carry some weight,” Mom said and turned away. I immediately followed after, along with the rest of our group following us.

Lousy bureaucracy is what it is,” Sunset complained. What I hear the Admissions mare saying suggests she doesn’t even believe we are really princesses, just a bunch of ponies trying to get past their rigorous selection process as outlined by Director Nieghsay. I seem to be the only one who heard as Sunset continues, “Say, I know, I can teach you and Scootaloo. I need to review, and what better way than to teach it?”

Sounds like a plan,” I reply as my spirits begin to lift.

But I can’t actually do magic?” Scootaloo replied.

You can still learn the theory though,” Sunset offered. “That way you’ll be a little more prepared when you can.”

Don’t you mean, if?”

I think it might be best to work on the theory that sooner or later that horn on your head will start growing and your magic will kick in,” Sunset offered with a smile.

We arrived at the location where tours started a short time later.

So, we are good for flight camp?” I asked as we cued up for a tour. The place was still at a heightened alert status but they’d decided to go ahead and allow tour groups. That is to say that it was business as usual save in that every creature entering was being well scrutinized.

I got the confirmation for that,” Lofty offered.

Well that’s good,” I replied with a touch of relief.

Don’t worry about school either. We will talk to your Aunt Tia and see if we can’t iron things out.” Mom reassured me.

Mom. I couldn't help but smile as I was thinking of her as my mom more and more. Even if it was starting to feel like I had three moms.

Excuse me, but we don’t allow cosplay on castle grounds,” scolded a member of the tour staff. Suddenly all the ponies who’d been milling around waiting on tours were looking at us.

Cos what?” Luna asked looking at the mare in confusion.

Does this look fake to you?!” I all but shout while shoving my identification in her face with my magic while flapping my wings so I can get up to her level.

Nova, stop!” Lofty scolded while mom pulled me back with her magic. “That is no way to behave. What’s cos, what was that?”

Cosplay, costume play,” Sunset offered. “She thinks we are playing dress-up.”

But we’re not even wearing anything?” Cadance replied in confusion. Meanwhile, the tour employee was calling for security on a radio they had.

If I get arrested for being myself I’m never going to hear the end of it,” Spitfire lamented.

Princess Cadance?” Asked a young earth mare with a unicorn filly at her side that looked to be about Sweetie’s age. The filly had a strawberry blond roan coat and a green mane and tail that really made her look like a pony shaped strawberry. The mare was alabaster blond with a dark auburn mane and tail along with a few hints that suggested some fox pony heritage.

Yes?” Cadance asked.

It is you then. We were in High School together. I do so hate to bother you.” She made a polite curtsy. “I’m Business Savvy."

Oh no, that’s quite alright. We weren’t really doing anything, just maybe getting arrested for looking like ourselves,” Cadance offered with a big smile and a bit of a bow herself.

You’re joking right?” Asked the mare. And there was a good number of other ponies who were also curious about what was going on.

Maybe,” Scootaloo offered.

A tour guide seems to have gotten the wrong end of the stick,” Cadance replied. “Was there anything I can do?”

Well, the thing is, I brought my daughter in for testing at the School for Gifted Unicorns, and we were turned away. I understood that testing was first come first served. Open testing without the need for confirmation of any kind? We came on the dates our instructions said to. Did they change it and just not tell any pony?”

We just had the same thing happen to us,” Mom offered as the familiar face of Gate Captain Morgan came our way.

Oh… ah,”

This is my other aunt, Princess Luna,” Cadance offered. Suddenly there was the sound of cameras clicking.

Ah, I must say you don’t look anything like how the papers describe you, oh, I probably shouldn't have said that.”

That’s quite alright,” Mom offered. “One, it was the nightmare that was the monster, not me. And two, it looks like I may have a public image problem. The only monster here is my daughter Nova. “Nova, stop that.”

I’d stuck my tongue out at the strawberry who’d stuck her tongue out at me followed by the two of us going back and forth while Scootaloo did her best not to start laughing. Cameras be damned.

Nova, what are you doing?” Lofty scolded.

Wath? Ith, noth doth anthinth.” I pleaded while my tongue was still out.

Berry, are you sticking your tongue out at her, she’s a princess.”

She stuck hers out first.”

I did at that.” I offered. “Ti's only right she returns the greeting,” I offer with a big toothy smile. Berry gave me an odd look and then cracked up.

Nova, behave,” Mom scolded, though at this point she was having a hard time maintaining a serious expression. “And as Cadance said, we too were turned away. Nova is exceptionally gifted and everything was supposed to be taken care of.”

Captain Morgan, is there anything we can do for you?” Lofty asked him.

I’m not sure, I’m just a little confused. I was told there were some trouble makers over here,” he was looking quite perplexed.

It’s that little darling,” Mom said pointing at me with a wing and tickling me. Naturally, I bounced and scampered out of range. I dashed back and hugged tightly to her when I saw more guards coming.

Everything’s fine here,” Captain Morgan said into his radio. “Just a group of Princesses out for a walk.”

Ah, princess Cadance,” One of the new guards said as they walked up to us.

And Princesses Luna, Princess Sunset Shimmer, and Princess Kitsumi Nova,” Captain Morgan added.

Sweet Celestia’s plot, it’s Commander Spitfire out of uniform,” one of the other guards said perhaps a might bit too loud. Spitfire was quite possibly the best-looking mare in all of Equestria. Not only did she have the looks, but she was also built like a brick horse. Might have something to do with that alicorn heritage being she was one of Equestria's best fliers and had the strength of an Earth pony.

Try not to drool too much,” Spitfire teased.

We had been over at the school earlier to see about Princess Nova’s application and were turned away at the door,” Lofty offered. “After that, we decided to come over here and be tourists for an hour or two as we hadn’t anything scheduled.”

We were turned away too,” Offered the mare we’d only just met along with some other ponies nearby echoing her.

Turned away?” Captain Morgan asked.

Apparently the foal who is to be tested must wait for a confirmation letter now,” Lofty offered. “If it took us by surprise, I imagine it’s taking a lot of ponies by surprise.”

They must have changed it then,” One of the other guards offered. “We should probably pass it along that it’s no longer open testing.”

I’d sent in the required letters of recommendation, they sent out the application with the instructions, I filled out the application and sent it back,” Lofty offered. “The instructions that came with the application said that all we had to do was show up when testing was being done.”

Well, some pony’s gone and mucked things up, my little Berry is downright brilliant with magic,” Mrs Savvy offered.

Aside from someone at the school decided to change how they do things, what exactly was the hubbub over here?” Captain Morgan asked.

I’m not really sure,” Cadance offered. “That tour guide looking at us over yonder with the smug look on her face accused us of… what was it?”

Cosplay,” Sunset offered dryly. “And then Nova got up in her face with her identification tag. Seriously, what good are these when no pony even looks at them.” She was sporting a temporary.

Ah, it’s Mrs Brash Sniffy.”

Mrs Brash Sniffy was momentarily joined by a white unicorn with a silver mane. They exchanged words and then approached.

Mrs Sniffy tells me that these fillies were causing a disturbance. Why haven't you evicted them?”

Are there no paintings of us anywhere,” Mom asked in dismay. “Or are the tour guides all blind as mole rats?”

I’m thinking it’s more likely a disconnect where they simply can’t believe we would lower ourselves to coming down here where the site seers congregate,” Sunset offered.

Mr Silver, Mrs Sniffy has made the unforgivable faux pas of calling the guard to arrest Princess Luna, Princess Cadance, Princess Sunset, Princess Nova, Commander Spitfire, the court nannies Ms Lofty and Ms Holiday, and Commander Spitfire’s daughter,” Captain Morgan informed the two.

Oh dear,” Mr Silver responded. “Well, I am gobsmacked. Not like Mrs Sniffy to cock up and throw a right wobbly for no good reason, now is it? Now is it, Mrs Sniffy.” There was a distinct tone of sarcasm to his tone.

But, shouldn't they be taller?” Mrs Sniffy offered in her defense.

Age reversal effect caused by the Elements of Harmony when I was freed from the Night Mare,” Luna offered. “Even at my peak, I was never as tall as my sister, Princess Celestia. The amount of magic she has to channel to move the sun just seems to require it.”

And, and you move the moon?” Mrs Sniffy asked.

Sorry, no, not at the moment,” Luna informed her and everyone around us. “I haven't recovered enough manna to do it and likely won’t for some time to come. Full recovery has been a slow process. Even when I first started raising and lowering the moon I had help from others. I had to fully mature into it.”

Princess Luna, how old were you when you had your daughter?” asked someone in the crowd.

I was a hundred and twenty-six at the time,” Luna offered unabated by the question. Also to her credit, she didn’t react in the slightest when I flew up and landed on her back. The crowd was growing and the way they were slowly closing in was making me nervous. I turned around a couple of times and then decided I’d best sit.

Scootaloo was next to flap up to her mother’s back, and much as I had as she sat down. Granted that her effort wasn’t as graceful as mine, but she did it.

Princesses, I think it’s time to retire to some other location,” Captain Morgan suggested.

Might be a good idea,” I offered, mom reassured ponies that we’d look into what was going on at CSGU, and a few minutes later we were away and walking down between government buildings, this time with a small escort.

Chapter 34: Go Fish

View Online

Go fish,” One of our escorts said over his radio as our group made its way between government buildings. We'd put the morning's difficulties behind us. Our conversation was casual as we walked along at a relaxed pace while ignoring the curious looks we were getting.

Go fish?” Cadance asked.

Call for the Ace of Hearts,” He explained. “It’s a reference to your cutie mark, Ma’am, and we are headed for the ponds.”

Ah, makes sense,” Cadance replied with an amused smile. “So who’s looking?”

The Knave of Shields,” He offered with just a hint of a smirk.

I think he means Shining Armor,” Sunset offered with a big smile.


Funny how when the foal is not my own I just want to put as much distance between us as I can, but when it’s my own I just want to keep her as close as possible,” Spitfire whispered to Luna.

I’ve always had a weak spot for foals in general. Our own will always be special.” Luna offered.


Hey, Scootaloo,” I called over to her. “You got up there by yourself.”

And?” Scootaloo asked.

She’s trying to point out that you flew,” Spitfire offered. “All you needed was the right motivation.”

It was looking like I might get trampled,” Scootaloo protested. “And that was hardly flying.”

It’s a start,” Spitfire offered. “I can give you pointers, and I think it might help to stop using the scooter. At least cut back on how much you use it. You are producing a lot of backwash. Enough to propel yourself and two other fillies on a wagon I hear. That tells me you have more than enough magic. It’s your technique that needs addressing. Instead of directing all that air straight back, you need to push some of it down. Go on, stand up, and spread your wings.”

Alright, I guess,” Scootaloo offered and stood up on Spitfire’s back. She found herself automatically compensating for Spitfire’s gait.

Can you feel the air moving past us as we walk?” Spitfire asked.

Yes,” Scootaloo replied.

Now angle your wings so you can feel the breeze trying to lift them up.”

OK…”

Relax your muscles, bend the elbow, bend the wrists, bring your wings up, and don’t worry about air slipping through, that’s supposed to happen on the basic upstroke. Got that? Now, while maintaining that optimum angle, straighten out your wings and bring them down. You should feel a lot of resistance.”

Alright,” Scootaloo said as she lifted up ever so slightly. Her eyes lit up on the downstroke. Not quite airborne just yet though.

Maintain a nice slow steady beat and do it again,” Spitfire instructed.

But Rainbow Dash says to just flap my wings as hard as I can?” Scootaloo offered as she brought her wings back up.

Rainbow Dash is what we call a natural. She intuitively knows what to do without having to think about it,” Spitfire offered. I’ve got a hunch Spitfire might have called Dash an idiot if she hadn’t already figured out that Scootaloo has a fan crush on Dash. “If she understood the mechanics of flight, she would never have broken the sound barrier as a filly because she would have known it was impossible.”

It is?” Scootaloo asked.

And she did it anyway,” Spitfire offered.” The point is that because she does such phenomenal flying without having to think about it, she lacks the vocabulary needed to teach it.”

Now,” Spitfire continued. “When you bring your wings down you are going to want to reach forward a little bit. When you are doing it right, your wings will follow an elliptical pattern.”

Now Scootaloo was slowly beginning to lift off on the downstroke even though she wasn’t putting a lot of effort into her motions.

Now before you take off when stopping you are going to spread your wings out as far as they will go while bringing your leading edge up to block airflow,” Spitfire instructed and had to hold in a laugh when Scootaloo propelled herself backward.

Scootaloo threw her wings back thinking to arrest her backward motion and suddenly found herself lifting up as the leading edge of her wing flipped backward. Pony wing structure while ideally suited to flight that mimicked most birds, pony wings were capable of generating lift on the backstroke. How else could they hover like a hummingbird? She then brought her wings down and lifted up a little further. She adjusted several times as she worked her wings harder. A delighted smile lit up her face as she seemed to have an aha moment and suddenly she was flying. Granted that she was all over the place while she figured out how to maintain a steady straight line of flight, but she was flying.

I was pretty sure Spitfire had mixed emotions as she kept jinking back and forth on the ground possibly thinking to catch Scootaloo. I jumped off Luna’s back and was soon up in the air a little above Scootaloo who was presently laughing like a mad filly.

Shortly after this we rounded a corner that opened out onto a small park and botanic garden where a pond was located. Between us and the pond was Shining Armor and Rainbow Dash.

Scootaloo saw Dash and raced for her, did a barrel roll, unintentionally I’d imagine by the looks of her form, and began back winging frantically as she realized she was going too fast. Spitfire was hot on her tail, I grabbed Scootaloo in my magic pulling her up moments before spitfire tumbled into Dash followed by the two of them bowling into the pond.

You got it under control?” I called Scootaloo.

I’m good, you can let me go,” Scootaloo called back. A moment later she was landing on the side of the bank grinning at a very wet Rainbow Dash and Spitfire. As for myself, I couldn’t resist landing on the pond and paddling about like a duck.

How are you not sinking?” Scootaloo asked. Her attention had diverted to me quite possibly because she’d likely never seen any pony do what I was doing.

Cup air in your under-plumage and you’ll bob around like a cork,” I offered, and a moment later Scootaloo is in the water paddling about with me.

Commander Spitfire?” Shining asked with concern in his tone.

Spitfire sat up, shook the water out of her mane, and looked about, her gaze locking on Scootaloo. Dash was flat on her back floating in the pond.

Did I just see Scootaloo, and then Spitfire crashed into me?” Dash asked of no one specific. She was just sort of throwing the question out there.

Scootaloo paddled over to Dash, looked down at her, and announced, “I can fly.” She then paddled over to the shore, shook herself off, and with a pronk managed to get herself airborne again.

I on the other hoof decided that I was going to do a water take-off. The next minute and a half saw me frantically paddling and flapping. I’ll be honest, I was about to give up when a swell of water pushed me up and I was finally able to get into the air. When I turned I saw that the swell had been created by both Lofty and Luna. They looked a little distressed too.

Thank you, Mom, thank you Ms Lofty,” I called as I flew past them.

You looked like something was after you!” Lofty called.

I wanted to try a water take-off,” I offered as I swung back around.

I should have known!” Mom replied with a big smile. “Truly there can’t be anything in this pond that’s big enough to go after a filly. Especially that filly.”

At least it’s a warm morning. Which could possibly explain what happened next.

Woo-hoo!” Cadance called as she ran and then lept out over the pond. She held her wings out just long enough to put herself in the general vicinity of Lofty and Luna and then dropped into the water with a mighty splash.

Oh it is on!” Mom declared and then brought forth a mighty splash with a wing. What followed next was the group of adult pegasi and alicorns engaging in a frolicsome splash fight. Lofty and Sunset burst out laughing, and our impromptu escort was at a complete loss.

So, should we try to stop them?” One of the guards asked Shining Armor.

Kind of looks like fun to me,” Holiday offered.

And I’m thinking that it might be safer to just let them get it out of their system,” Shining Armor cautioned. “What?” he asked in response to Sunset’s chuckling.

Well, there is the opportunity to ogle a certain wet princess,” Sunset teased.

It’s not like that,” Shining protested as an aqua blue aura enveloped him. “It’s the getting drug in part,” he offered as he began to slowly slide ever closer to the pond despite the fact he’d dug his hooves in.

Shining Armor,” Called Captain Quartermane as he walked over to the as yet land-bound ponies. “I heard a report of mares frolicking in the pond... Shining Armor?”

Save yourself, sir, I’m done for,” Shining Armor announced as he slid closer and closer to the pond.

Sir, I fear that the only way to stop this is to call Princess Celestia,” Offered one of the rank and file guards.

Commander Sparkle?” Quartermane asked. “Hang on, is that Commander Spitfire in there too?”

It’s Princess Cadance who’s got a hold of me,” Shining Armor announced as he slid ever closer to the pond.

Princess Luna is with them too,” offered a guard.

Ah, and that must be Specialist Dash. Any idea what started this kerfuffle?”

Young Miss Scootaloo made her first flight, and nearly crashed into the Specialist. Commander Spitfire, while attempting the catch Miss Scootaloo, collided with the Specialist with the two going into the drink. Princess Nova decided to try her hoof at a water take-off, and then Princess Luna and Ms Lofty dove in thinking something was after her. Pandemonium soon followed.

It was right about here that Scootaloo misjudged and crashed into the pond. “I’m good!” she called as she climbed out while soaking wet, and for the briefest of time, her horn was visible prior to her shaking the water out.

Not one word,” Ms holiday cautioned. “She’s Commander Spitfire’s filly and we’ve known about the horn for some time. We’d feared she’d never fly at all. She’s no unicorn magic to speak of, but who’s to say what the future will bring.”

Aw come on, Cady!” Armor exclaimed moments before he got dunked. He came up a moment later with a lily pad complete with a little frog upon his head.

You’re so cute,” Cadance teased.

And I’m going to be up all night cleaning my armor,” Shining protested.

And I’ve my best uniform on. Lighten up a little,” Dash chastised even though by now the frolicking had ended.

Captain Quartermane,” Luna announced a moment later, acknowledging his presence. “You see, Nova fell in, and we all thought there was something after her.”

Right, you just stick with that story,” Captain Quartermane drolled.

It’s true,” Lofty offered. “At least that’s how it all started.”

Isn’t there a luncheon scheduled?” Captain Quartermane prompted.

Lunch… oh dear!?” Luna exclaimed and started leapfrogging her way out of the pond. She was clear in four leaps. “Come on, if we head back now we’ll have just enough time to get cleaned up and dried off.”

Rainbow Dash, Spitfire, you might as well come too,” Cadance offered as she waded out.

And what about me?” Shining Armor protested.

Listen to him, wants to shower with the mares,” Spitfire teased as she and dash waded out followed by Lofty who seemed to have been the furthest out.

A couple of moment’s later we were on our way back up to the Keep. And what a sight we were. Granted I’d already dried myself off with a good shake, Schootaloo wasn’t that bad, Holiday and Sunset hadn’t joined in, but Lofty, Mom, Spitfire, and Dash were all quite soaked. So much so that they were still dripping when we approached the gates to the Keep. Mom couldn't help but bubble over with sparkling laughter at the looks on the faces of the lined-up petitioners.

Chapter 35: Celestia gets a little hot under the collar.

View Online

I will have to credit the staff for meeting us at the doors with lots of towels. Towels to wrap up any pony who looked even remotely wet, towels to create a path for us, and towels to clean up after us.

A short time later we were all clean, dry, and in place just in time for the luncheon. Granted that Dash was a little confused as to how she’d ended up invited as well. Not that she minded.

Not one word to Rarity,” Dash whispered to Scootaloo who was a little confused concerning Dash at a fancy luncheon. “I may have stated that I don’t like this sort of thing, but I actually do.”

Rarity would have you doing tea parties every day, is that it?” Scootaloo asked.

Morning, noon, and night,” Dash admitted. “Too much of anything will spoil it.”

Princess Celestia,” Mrs Glory Rose Blueblood began in such a way as to be sure to catch every pony’s attention. “I was wondering if you were aware of the incident involving a group of pegasi frolicking in the big pond that borders the government buildings and the lower royal apartments?” Apartments for high ranking nobles but not royal.

I must confess, I’ve not heard a thing,” Celestia admitted.

I heard about it, quite scandalous,” Mom offered with false pomp.

Indeed,” Cadance offered. “Why the perpetrators should all receive a good dunking.”

My uniform is still drying from the first dunking,” Dash protested, and then let out a gasp as Spitfire elbowed her. “Right, dunked, they should all be dunked.”

Princess Celestia was now looking at us with keen suspicion. “So how is it I missed out?” Celestia asked.

Weren’t you holding the morning session of Day Court?” Mom asked.

I was, but tell me, weren’t you going to go over to the school?”

We did at that, but apparently Nova can’t test because we never received our confirmation.”

Confirmation?” Celestia asked. Clearly, it was the first time she’d heard of it, but the various matrons at the luncheon presently bragging that their grand foal had received their confirmations gave evidence enough that such a thing was happening.

A Miss Ditsy Hooves hasn’t brought it by has she?” Lofty asked. “Without it, we couldn't even get in the door.”

I seem to be out in the cold this winter as well,” Sunset offered. “I just don’t seem to be on the list, and we ran into a number of ponies down by the tour meet-up area who’ve had the same thing happen. Ponies are coming to do testing and being told they have to have a confirmation letter. I thought confirmation letters weren’t supposed to go out until after testing?”

They’re not.”

I’d a distinct feeling that there’d been a rather large solar flare erupting from the sun at that moment because it had gotten really hot.

Sister… Princess Celestia…”

Celestia’s eyes shifted to see that it was Luna who’d spoken, and she was looking very nervous. I imagine I’d as likely had the same look on my face.

I... I’m sure it’s just some sort of misunderstanding. Maybe they had so many applicants they had to schedule them?” Mom offered.

Yes, of course, I’m sorry,” Celestia replied as the immediate vicinity around her began to cool down. I couldn't help but feel that Celestia was likely aware of something that I knew nothing about because I’d never seen her quite that angry. And it was more than just heat as she’d allowed her spiritual pressure to flow unchecked for the briefest of moments. Something that had undoubtedly contributed to the soiling of several seats around the long table.

I’m sorry,” Celestia repeated and then explained. “It’s just that I’m constantly having to deal with individuals who keep trying to subvert the school for gifted unicorns into some sort of status symbol for the foals of the nobility.”

Is that how Twilight hatched Spike?” I dared to ask.

It is at that,” Celestia replied. “After Twilight hatched Spike, I personally interviewed every student they’d approved and found that not a one required specialized instructions.”

I assumed she meant that every last one could have attended any school with a magic program and been fine.

I set up the school to help foals who were prone to dangerous surges of manna or who’s raw power posed a danger to themselves and others.” Celestia continued in her explanation. “Obviously I need you at that school since you’ve already shown a proficiency and power level well beyond any foal your physical age possesses. I imagine that your level of maturity is playing a role in that. Twilight proved herself to be prone to massive power surges, and if she had gone to a normal school it could very well have ended in bloodshed. The egg that Spike the dragon had been hatched from was at the time being used to justify denying entry to students deemed unworthy without regard to whether or not the individual was in need of specialized instruction. I expelled every last new entry, fired the ponies who had been responsible, and word had to be sent out to schools across Equestria to be on the lookout for foals who would truly benefit from the specialized instruction that is provided here less there be another disaster...” She took a breath and let it out slowly. “Subsequently it has become something of a sore subject for me. It’s a problem that comes up with every other generation.”

She means me,” Sunset offered. “I was the disaster. I was living in an orphanage. Ponies didn’t give me half the credit I deserved and frequently dismissed me as a pony who would ever amount to anything. A teacher liked to harass me by making me levitate heavy objects. Heavier and heavier objects. Never once did it occur to her that I shouldn't be able to do what she was making me do. She’d make me stand up in front of the class lifting some heavy object while berating me. And then I lost control. Both emotionally as well as my manna flow.”

She left a crater where her classroom had been,” Celestia said softly. “A lot of foals had been critically injured, they locked her up and when I went to confront the monster as she was being called, I came face to face with my own daughter. She never should have been in that classroom. She never should have been in that orphanage. I made sure the media got the full story and let them go on about how a gifted filly who should have been at my school so that she could learn how to control her magic had instead been dumped by uncaring foster parents who were just working the system.”

And then that mare wanted vengeance on Sunset for her own decisions,” Cadance offered with a touch of distaste on her tongue.

What say we change the subject,” Mom offered with a hint of cheer. “Scootaloo made her first real flight today.”

On hearing the news there was a hint of a smile on Celestia’s face.

The dunkings began when I thought Scootaloo was going to crash into Rainbow Dash,” Spitfire offered.

And crashed into me yourself,” Dash added with a smirk.

True,” Spitfire admitted. “I’m not entirely sure how we ended up with so many ponies in the drink. “Even Shining Armor seems to have been drug into it.”

He put up quite the struggle too,” Cadance admitted with a sparkle to her tone. “I imagine he’s going to spend the rest of the day polishing his armor.”

You didn’t?” Celestia asked as her sour mood shifted to mirth.

I must confess, the whole incident was completely spontaneous,” Mom offered. “One moment we are chasing after reckless fillies and the next we are all trying to get each other as soppy as we can. It was a hoot!”

I do miss all the fun.” Celestia mused, but then her mood seemed to sour again. “But how can you be so carefree given what happened at the school?”

“And the tour queue,” Mom offered with a mischievous smile. “One old biddy didn’t think it possible that we might actually want a tour of the place, thought we were impostors, and called the guard on us.”

What?!” Celestia looked like she was ready to start boiling again.

Not to worry, everything worked out for the best,” Mom offered. “And why we were never too concerned over what’s going on at the school is because we all have confidence that you’ll put to rights whatever the problem is. I dare say not a one recognized me, though I can’t help but wonder if the correct image is being distributed?”

Ah… oh dear,” Celestia replied. “It’s entirely possible ponies are using an old painting that shows a version of you that is perhaps a bit more mature. I thought the side effects of the elements would have worn off by now.”

It’s entirely possible I’m going to age at a fairly normal rate. It could be another ten years at the least before I’ve returned to my pre-nightfall stature. Assuming I was ever meant to be that tall and my stature hadn’t been influenced by the Night Mare. I shall simply have to sit for a new portrait.”

Or we could just take a picture with a camera,” Celestia offered with a grin.

Camera?” I heard mom ask as she’d never heard of such a thing. Then again, maybe she hadn’t.

It’s a little box with tiny elves inside,” Sunset offered.

Sunset, have a care, she might believe you,” I cautioned.

Oh, I know the tone of one who is pulling my tail,” Mom offered with a grin.

It’s actually a device that directs light via a lens onto a thin film coated in a chemical solution that changes in shades of darkness according to the intensity of the light and the duration of the exposure. Once exposed the film is treated to a chemical bath that neutralizes the chemicals thus preventing any further exposure.”

There were quite a few ponies with camera’s at the tour entrance,” Ms Holiday offered.

Oh yes, I saw them,” Mom admitted. “Once they all realized we were the real thing there seemed to be a lot of pointing and clicking.”

What?” I asked as she gave me a pointed look.

It’ll be thine own fault if thy likeness ends up in the papers with thy tongue out.”

I smile a mischievous smile.

You weren’t harsh were you?” Celestia asked with concern.

Harsh? They were far too cute in their antics for anything more than a mild rebuke,” Mom replied with a smile.

They?” Celestia asked.

A nice filly I met who’d been hoping to get into the school,” I offered. “I’ve got a hunch she has some Kitsune ancestry and her magic might be a little erratic.” I had a wickedly devious thought cross my mind. “Aunt Tia, if you were to stand in line as we did, I wonder how long it would take them to notice?”

Surely they’d spot me right away?” Celestia responded.

I’m not so sure…” Sunset mused with a wicked smile on her face. “those ponies had their noses so high in the air I doubt they ever really looked at any of us. Let's face it, our pictures have been in all the papers.”

Mostly the tabloids I expect,” I offered. “Short of they are just using file footage.”

Well then we shall just have to schedule a photoshoot,” Celestia announced.

I don’t have to get my picture taken do I?” Dash asked.

If you want to be a Wonderbolt, you should,” Spitfire offered. “Publicity shots kind of come with the territory.”

Rainbow Dash, are you going to do a pin upshot?” Scootaloo asked.

Can we not talk about pin-ups,” Dash pleaded as she began to blush profusely.

Why? You’ve got a whole room dedicated to the Wonderbolts with just about every pin-up they ever did. She’s even got Ponfred von Richthoofen.”

You’ve got a pin-up of the Red Barron?!” Spitfire asked excitedly. “Those are super rare as in I didn't think there was any outside of museums.”

Mom, didn’t you have a Ponfred von Richthoofen in the Shadowbolts?” I ask.

He was a Shadowbolt,” Dash admitted. “From way back. Many of the original Shadowbolts were immortalized in Wonderbolt memorabilia. It was a way to honor those who had faithfully served the Crown.”

Von Richthoofen was the one who came up with the concept that the Wonderbolts are modeled after. General Firefly formed the Wonderbolts, but he didn’t invent the concept,” Spitfire informed Scootaloo. “Lots of ponies don’t know that. In a way, they were the first special forces team.”

I can remember having a huge crush on him,” Mom admitted with a wistful tone. “Oh, don’t give me that look,” Now she was admonishing me. “I was still just a little filly at the time. As I understood it, our numbers were nowhere near what we would have needed to maintain a full force on the walls of the citadel, so he came out with the idea of a floating unit that could rapidly respond to any given location along the walls. After they’d trained enough ponies for a full squadron they started doing night patrols.”

I can remember him insisting on placing polished bronze covers over lamps to direct the light down,” Celestia offered. “But not all the lights, just those visible from the air. He also made oversize lamps to light up the area beyond the walls that were hidden away during the day. I never understood that.”

I get it,” I offered. “It would present an illusion to any creature approaching that they were closer than they really were. Attacking armies would misjudge the distance and likely make their move too early. Bright lights are one of the many hazards a night flier must learn to navigate.”

At that point mom realized that The Barron had in fact created a killing field, and I could only wonder what was going on in the minds of a number of the weaker-willed guests at the table. We’d gone from a point where Celestia was more than likely scorching her chair, to lighthearted banter about the incident involving the pond, to talk of pinups which had somehow morphed to talk of the kill zone that surrounded the citadel that the old palace was part of.

To their credit Lofty and Holiday held up well.

Chapter 36: Once more into the lineup.

View Online

And now on too, or rather, back to the school.
We’d finished up lunch, and dismissed ourselves leaving those who’d embarrassed themselves with what little dignity they had left and made our way back to the school. As discussed earlier we got in line just to see if any pony would notice. Word had also been given to the guard to stop any pony from leaving who’d been turned away.

So there we were, standing in line. Again. And as before every pony was too focused to notice that princess Celestia was now standing in line.

I was getting a kick out of guards stopping ponies and if they would point out Princess Celestia and have them stand by. Nor had the ponies checking lists noticed that Princess Celestia was now in line.

Student’s name,” directed the mare at the head of our line as Celestia stepped up. She hadn’t even glanced up from her list.

Sunset Shimmer Athelas,” Celestia said as though she an ordinary pony was really hoping to get her daughter into the school.

Athelas, Athelas… sorry, not on the list?”

Perhaps it’s under Celestia?” Aunt Tia asked. I’d swear she had a bemused smirk on her face.

Sorry, not there. Next.”

Perhaps if you look again?” Princess Celestia suggested a bit more forceful.

Look, if you aren’t on the list your brats…” She’d looked up from her clipboard to see Princess Celestia’s peytral. “Pa – pa – pa…”

It’s Prin – cess,” mom offered with a good measure of sarcasm. “Go on, give it a try.”

Why don’t I have a look,” Celestia offered as her magic took the list from the mare. She perused through the list for a bit. “My, my, my, quite the who’s who list. It's astonishing that Athelas isn’t on the list being it’s my family name.”

Pa, pa, pa, Princess Celestia, what brings you here?”

Who is responsible for this?” Celestia asked indicating the list.

Princess Celestia?”

I’d like to know who was so forward-thinking as to screen the school from... what was it? Undesirables? Foals who might actually benefit, who aren't members of the nobility?” Celestia charged as she passed the list off to mom who had a good look-see.

Ah, Directer Neighsay.” the mare offered.

Do you work for him, or for me?”

Well, for Director Neighsay. He sent us over to help with the implementation of the new School board directive to prioritize Canterlot students following complaints that non-Canterlot residents were gaining admittance over locals.”

I see,” Celestia said dryly. “Do you think that perhaps the school board is overreaching?”

No, mam.”

I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

And it never occurred to you that the School Board’s authority does not exceed my own? - It’s my school. It’s within the confines of my castle. The castle is not part of the Canterlot city jurisdiction.”

It’s an institute of education and that falls under the School Board’s authority.”

Celestia gave the mare a calculating look, looked back at the assembled guard, and motioned to them to proceed on orders she’d already given. The guards came forward, and one by one the ponies with clipboards were hobbled with leg irons that gave them just enough of a stride to walk at a slow pace.

From the protests I was hearing there wasn’t one pony present who didn’t think that what they were doing was wrong. Princess Celestia then went inside with several members of the guard with her. There was also a fair amount of ponies all talking at once as they tried to make sense of what was going on. I also found that I now had the list as it was thrust at me.

Might we have thy concentrated cognitive process directed forthwith?!” Mom shouted out at the gathered ponies. No, make that Princess Luna as she really wasn’t Mom at that point, and there really was such a thing as the Canterlot voice. "The parties who did thus present thy selves as ponies of authority were a might bit ill-conceived in their undertaking. The list they were working from seems to be nothing more than a who’s who of Canterlot Aristocracy with perchance a few outliers. Ponies were being turned away based on societal status with little regard to actual needs. If your foal has shown signs of power levels that are in excess of foals for their age bracket or have incontestable cognition beyond their years then please stand by. If the only reason you are here is to get thy offspring into the Edifice for Gifted Unicorns because you see it as advantageous to status for thy household, then I’d like to remind you that Princess Celestia will personally evaluate each and every new student and if she doesn’t like what she sees you can be assured that thy foal will be removed from this school.

And who might you be?!” Shouted one of the gathered ponies.

She’s Princess Luna!” Shining Armor shouted as he made his way forward. “Have the citizens of Canterlot, and the Citizens of Equestria forgotten how to pay respect in the presence of a Princess of Equestria?”

She just wants to get her bastard brat in the school!”

:rainbowderp:

I can see the rage in Mom’s eyes. I dropped the list and leapt into the air to place myself between her and the crowd and if you want spectacular I got foxfire so I did a sharp three-sixty while pouring forth the foxfire from my hooves which I then gathered around myself and then let it whip out over the crowd where it impacted harmlessly against distant walls or simply dissipated where there is nothing to impede its outward flow. I then produced just enough to make it look like I was standing in mid-air, and folded my wings. Granted that my hooves looked like they were smoldering but it was that very effect that gave me perches in mid-air.

Nova! Stop!” Luna shouted. “What are you doing?!”

Some ponies here seem to think that that I am somehow unworthy, or that I couldn't possibly need specialized training to learn how to keep my power in check.” I can feel the breeze so I give it a tug and soon a strong wind is blowing, next came a little static discharge of electricity letting loose arcs of mini lightening all about me. The ponies in front of me are not bowing, they are cowering.

Nova! Stop it! You don’t know what you are doing!” Luna shouts over the growing wind.

That’s the whole point! I don’t know what I’m doing! But they apparently know better! I don’t need to know how to keep it in check. It doesn’t matter how powerful I might be because I’m not good enough.”

You are all I’ve got! And you are good enough for me.”

I let go of my hold on the wind, teams of pegasi quickly working to undo what I just did. Not like the wind wouldn't die back down by itself. I unfold my wings and glide over to Luna and she embraces me.

Princess Celestia steps past us.

I am the one who wants her in my school!” Celestia’s shout is more than enough to tell me she’d heard enough. In the silence that followed I hear roof tiles falling and smashing as they hit the pavement below. “And you will give my sister the same respect you give me!

Behind me ponies are being led out by guards, and one stallion is insisting that Celestia is making a big mistake.

I’m charging you with treason,” Celestia said calmly as he was lead past. “Treason against the state and crown on the grounds that you endanger the population by interfering with the mandate of this establishment. This school exists to serve students whose abilities far outstrip that of their peers. It is not a springboard to status. It is not the playground of the rich and famous. It is not a country club for the children of the elite.” She took a deep breath. “Testing will resume, with any luck, first thing tomorrow morning.”

What did you mean when you said that I’m all you’ve got?” I asked as we quietly walk back up to the Keep where the actual royal apartments are at.

Of the family I started so long ago,” Mom offered. “Your father and your brother, short of they are alive out there somewhere thanks to the life span of semi-divine beings, otherwise they are long dead. That’s what I meant. Celestia and I are sisters, true, and we are all that’s left of the family we grew up in, but I wanted more. I wanted a stallion, I wanted your brother, and I wanted you.”

Foxfire is harmless and the wind will right itself if given the chance. Lightning is just electricity overpowered. There isn’t really a whole lot around here to generate wind other than the mountain itself. Lightening will vanish the moment conditions that created it are no longer there. I’m not a complete idiot and far better I take the heat for blowing my top than you.”

Is that what you’ve been doing? Covering for me? Making a foal of yourself this morning and this afternoon to make me look good? And the wind and the electric light show should be too advanced for you to do it.”

Certain things just seem to come naturally for me,” I do a pony version of shrugging shoulders. “The way I see it, I can get away with being a brat now and then, Ponies will just say that I am Nightmare Moon’s whelp, maybe they’ll figure I just need time to adjust, admit that I need specialized training, but you need to be seen for who you are, and that is a warm loving mare with lots of patience and understanding.”

Um, Princess Nova?” Scootaloo asked.

Scootaloo, you know you don’t have to use my title.”

I… sorry,” she says as she holds the copy of the list I’d dropped. “Sweetie’s name is on the list.”

Miss Rarity must have gotten wind of what was going on,” Mom offered.

And that week Sweetie was grounded for no apparent reason, Rarity was probably making Sweetie practice her magic to cover all potential obstacles.”

Twood have been nice if she had said something to us.” Mom offered.

I don’t know why she ever said anything?” I admitted. “Aside from she knew something wasn’t right.”

It really doesn’t sound like Rarity to knowingly participate in something so seriously wrong,” Dash offered.

I looked up to see that our little group had separated from Princess Celestia and the guards who were escorting her.

Any chance Rarity and Sweetie Belle are back in Ponyville?” I asked.

Saw her waiting for the train when Commander Armor and I arrived this morning,” Dash offered. “I’d imagine Sweetie was with her.”

Rainbow Dash, she’s going to need to account for herself,” Mom offered.

You want me to fly back to Ponyville, don’t you?” Dash asked.

I flew up from Ponyville the morning Princess Celestia got stuck in that mirror,” Lofty offered.

I made it part of the training program,” Spitfire informed her.

Alright fine, not like I wasn’t going to catch a nap on the train. This is kind of important though, isn’t it,” Dash replied. “Say squirt, you going to flight camp?”

I, um…” Scootaloo began.

Yes she is,” Lofty announced. “We put in for her when Snap and Mane took off, and they’ve already replied back that they still had an opening.”

I’m going to flight camp?” Scootaloo asked.

You are going to flight camp,” Spitfire reassured her. “Not like I couldn't have found an opening for you.”

I’m going to flight camp,” Scootaloo said softly followed by excited shouting. “I’m going to flight camp! I’m going to flight Camp!”

Oh, and Dash, if you aren’t busy they can always use an extra body to keep an eye on the foals,”

If I’m not busy she says. Ya, I’ll do that… if I have the time, what with the local guard force suddenly being so short hoofed,” Dash offered.

I think Commander Sparkle will be working on making sure you guys have enough guards,” Spitfire offered.

Hey, that’d be great. I’d better get going,” Dash offered, gave Scootaloo’s mane a tussle, and then trotted off.

Scootaloo, I couldn't help but notice that when dash musses up your mane she avoids the horn,” I comment.

Quite a while now, She just kind of pretends she doesn’t know it’s there,” Scootaloo answered.

Well, come on, let's get up to the keep while we wait for the fallout,” Mom offered.

Greenhouse?” I suggested. I still wanted my afternoon of being lazy in the sun.

I believe that was the plan,” Spitfire concurred, and then we made our way upstairs.

What we found was a wonderful garden in a greenhouse with lots of cushions for a pony to sit and enjoy or just look out at the vast horizon. I found myself a cushion wiped my hooves on a mat and climbed on. Next came wing stretches, and when I’d finished I turned three times just because and flopped down to roll on my back. Little Moonie was up in the rafters looking down at me.

Where have you been?” I asked as I looked up at her.

I’d have been there if you had needed me,” she replied with a smile as Mom lay down with me.

Commander Spitfire was up fairly late last night,” Mom informed me. “She’s already asleep.”

And you?” I asked.

I spend a little time every night shadowing the night watch Commander.”

Commander Mouse?” I ask.

Commander Mouse. It’s ironic that I originally taught her and now she’s teaching me. Nova?”

It just occurred to me that Dash is going to have to fly against the afternoon wind coming up off the valley.” Mom didn’t say anything. “The natural movement of airflow is for the wind to come down off the mountain in the morning and then switches its direction of flow sometime around noon.”

So when the guard goes down to Ponyville in the morning and back to Canterlot in the afternoon the wind is in their favor. Yes, of course. I’d forgotten about that sort of thing. Poor Dash.”

Chapter 37: The Statement.

View Online

Rainbow Dash couldn't believe she let herself get talked into flying all the way back to Ponyville. Well if the Guard was doing it, maybe she should do it too. She was going to have to go back to Canterlot to get her uniform back from the Castle staff anyway. As for the flight, it wasn’t so bad, just a little on the boring side. Then again a trip on the train is only bearable when there is good company.

It didn’t take too long to get back to Ponyville, and Dash cruised on down to the Carousel Boutique and landed. The open sign was displayed so she reached out and gave the door a push. The door swung in and Dash entered.

“Welcome to the Carousel Boutique where everything is sheik, unique, oh it’s just you.”

“Well good to see you too,” Dash replied.

“Something tells me you aren’t here to procure a new dress, darling.”

“We need to talk.”

“Oh? Sounds like something serious?” Rarity teased.

“Princess Celestia on the warpath serious.”

“Pardon?”

“What happened at the School for Gifted Unicorns?”

“I don’t see as that would be any concern of yours?”

“Ordinarily it wouldn't, except that I was in the company of Princess Luna up in Canterlot when Princess Celestia had a bunch of ponies hauled off in chains.”

“Wait, what?” Now Rarity was beginning to become concerned. “This better not be a prank, because if it is it’s in bad taste. What were you doing in Canterlot in the first place?”

“Spoiled Rich showed up at the Ponyville Guard station last night. Drunk as a lord. I was covering for the pony who normally does that shift.”

“Guard? Ha, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I’m the Captain of the weather team. That position requires a specialist rating or above in the Guard. I’m a specialist in the guard. I arrested Spoiled Rich last night for public drunkenness and making threats against Princess Sunset Shimmer among other threats she made. By Celestia that Mare doesn’t know when to shut up.”

“Now you can’t possibly take something like that seriously?”

“Maybe not, but she was still drunk and disorderly which deserves a night in the lock-up. That and Sunset had put Diamond Tiara in her place earlier in the day so the mare was ripe with hate. What made things worse is that someone put out a hit on Princess Sunset. She is Celestia’s daughter after all.”

“The plot thickens. So how does that get you in Canterlot? Surely she would have spent the night in the lock-up and paid a fine and it would have been over.”

“Mr Rich showed up when Commander Sparkle was there and tried to bribe him.”

“Sparkle?”

“Twilight’s big brother, Shining Armor. And he’s as big a stickler for doing things by the book as Twilight. I had to go to Canterlot to make a statement and ended up in the company of Princess Luna and others. Tell me, did you have one of those confirmation letters?”

“I… I did. One of my contacts in Canterlot heard about them, so I sent a strongly worded letter reminding whoever it was who came up with that that I’m a Bouffant and just because I choose to live in Ponyville is no reason to be excluding my Sweetie.”

“You got a letter of acceptance?”

“I did. I spent an entire week making Sweetie Belle practice her magic, I get up there, they do an interview and never even bothered to test Sweetie.”

“Rarity.”

“Yes?”

“Put all that in writing, and have Spike send it to Princess Celestia.”

“You’re serious?”

“When Sunset Shimmer was a little filly her foster parents dumped her in an orphanage, she was abused in the school she ended up in, and when she broke… I’m to understand that the only thing left of her classroom was a crater. Princess Celestia’s school exists to prevent that sort of thing from happening by providing specialized education to unicorns who could potentially be a hazard to themselves and others.”

“I see,” Rarity said softly. “And as much as I hate to admit it, that describes Sweetie on multiple levels.”

“You’re probably going to have to go back up to Canterlot with Sweetie so she can be properly evaluated,” Dash offered.

“I really need to make a statement?”

“Princess Luna seems to think it would be a good idea. Best get started now and don’t leave anything out and that includes my telling you that this was at Princess Luna’s request.”

“And what will you be doing?”

“Rarity, I’ve been up a good thirty-six hours more or less. I’m going to go try to get a nap before my next shift starts. Right now it’s Commander Armor’s ponies running the local guard. Statements were made by Mr Rich that’s gotten several of our locals suspended pending an investigation.” Dash took in a big breath which turned into a yawn. “Sorry, I’ve got to go get some sleep,” and with that, Dash turned and exited the dress shop.

:rainbowdetermined2:

Rarity arrived at the Ponyville Library late that afternoon. “Twilight darling? Might I borrow Spike for a moment? Twilight?”

“Oh, hi Rarity. We were just reorganizing the library,” Twilight offered with the air of someone who’d never had more fun in her life.

“Hi Rarity,” Spike said nearly drooling while he said it.

“I need Spike to send something to Princess Celestia right away.”

“This doesn’t have anything to do with Diamond Tiara does it. I hear they are having an issue regarding finding any suitable foster parents in Ponyville willing to take her. Those who’ve expressed an interest have had questionable motives.”

“No, I’m afraid not, and I’d never do that to Sweetie Belle. That filly is a horror. Here, you might as well have a look so you’ll have some idea what’s going on.”

“Um, alright…” Twilight said as Rarity passed over a small packet from her saddlebag. Twilight opened it up, went through about half, stopped, started over, read the whole thing, and then went back over it again several times.

“Princess Celestia is probably furious,” Twilight finally said.

“And Sweetie and I are right in the thick of it.”

“Oh dear,” Twilight said softly. “But I don’t understand why you are doing all this, putting yourself out like this, and not your parents?”

“Twilight, that’s not really something I wish to discuss,” Rarity scolded while making a quick glance down at Spike. “Listen, I spend a lot of time with her, far more than my parents. Twilight, she burns orange juice.”

“Orange juice?”

“She pours it in a glass and levitates it over to the table. By the time she gets it there, her telekinetic field has cooked the juice. It doesn't happen very often, but it happens. I’ve forbidden her to use her telekinesis on anything living or flammable.”

“Oh my?!” Twilight was astonished. “That sounds like a surge of some kind. Listen, I’m going to write a cover letter for you, and then I think Sweetie Belle should come to see me daily until school starts. I can have her do some of the drills I had to do.”

“I’ve given her drills to do,” Rarity offered. “If you can help her that would be great.”

“Well, I am a graduate of Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns,” Twilight said proudly but became concerned when Rarity became a little downcast in reaction to Twilight’s pronouncement.

“I was ahead of you in the same school,” Rarity offered quietly. “Life got complicated and I had to drop out when I was still a teenager.”

“How complicated could it be?” Spike asked sounding confused. “Did you tell Princess Celestia?”

“Spike,” Twilight cautioned as a nagging suspicion began to creep over her.

“I did, dear Spikey,” Rarity offered. “When you get older you will come to understand that sometimes life will send us in a direction we hadn’t planned. When that happens all we can do is ride it out as best we can, and perhaps, in the end, we will find ourselves living a much richer life than when we started.”

“Hu?” Spike was just confused.

“Just let me get that cover letter.” Twilight offered. A short time later Rarity’s packet was off to Princess Celestia.

:unsuresweetie:

“Tia?” Luna queried as she poked her head in Princess Celestia’s office.

“Did you enjoy your nap?” Celestia replied a bit harsher than she had intended. “Sorry, it’s been a long day.”

“I hope to in time pick up more slack, as it were,” Luna offered. “I’ve been spending time every evening with Commander Mouse to better acclimate myself to how things are done now. I’m also slowly catching up on all the new laws thanks to my classes. And, well, that is to say. If it is permissible…”

“What do you want? To start up Night Court again?”

“Oh no, I’m nowhere near ready to do that,” Luna offered. “I wish to make myself available as a teacher in the magical arts. At your school.”

“You’re not accredited. Oh, who am I fooling, I just arrested the pony who came up with the latest requirements. And to add to my frustration he’s somehow pushed through ‘reforms’ that made his little power play appear to be legal in the eyes of the law.”

“Surely you never signed off on them?”

“No, I did not. The way the system works is that in order to not be completely overwhelmed by every little thing, a lot of, shall we say, low-level decisions are never elevated to my office unless they get challenged and somehow make it past the courts.”

“So, are you still leveling a charge of treason against him?”

“I am, and I’ve expanded the charges to every pony who supported his actions. The school is not actually part, and parcel of the local school district. It is in fact my own personal project located on property that is part of the Canterlot Royal Administrative district. What happens within is subject to my whims and no pony can overrule my authority. What they did amounted to a power grab that benefited a certain faction within the nobility and violated the authority of the crown. They’ve been whittling away at my authority for some time now and it’s time I start pushing back.”

Just then Rarity’s packet popped in to drop on Celestia’s desk. Luna took that moment of her sister's distraction to enter the room and sit in an available seat.

“The last thing I want is to be a despot, but if I allow them to have their way on such matters,” Celestia explained as she took up the packet in her magic and opened it up. “I’d become redundant. A puppet while they themselves destroy everything we’ve built over the years just to enrich themselves.”

“Everything you’ve built.” Luna offered.

“Not by myself. I have always had my allies, dear sister. If not I would have turned my back on these foolish foals and let them have the end they deserve.” Celestia stopped as she looked over the contents of the packet.

“Twilight says Sweetie burns orange juice while holding it in her telekinesis,” Celestia announced as she looked over the statement.

“We had hoped to meet up with them at the school,” Luna offered. “Once you’d told us there was no seminar that left testing at the school, and she just didn’t want to say anything.”

“She says she made up the story about the seminar in case Sweetie was rejected.”

“She really cares for her sister to go to such lengths.”

“They’re not sisters,” Celestia informed Luna. “Well, if you are going to be a teacher you’ll need to know. And I’m sorry to say it was Rarity who was at fault. She is or at least has become the very epitome of grace and generosity. It’s just that she wasn’t always the pony she is now. While growing up she demonstrated time and time again that all she cared about was advancing herself in noble society and was willing to do anything to do it. Or to use the more vulgar vernacular, she was a dirty little gold digger. Due to the prevailing attitudes of the more uptight ponies in Canterlot, the colt involved, a Junior ROTC cadet, had received no sex education and didn’t have a clue where babies came from. Miss rarity knew full well what she was doing and tried to force him to marry her and it would have worked save for one little issue – two actually. She’d filled for support before the dirty deed had been done and neither was of legal age and could not enter into a contract of marriage. The family was obligated to provide support, but no marriage, and no status.” She put the statement down. “She made a huge mistake and had to live with the consequences. Which was a horrible shame because she is nearly as talented as Twilight.”

“So what does she say?”

“She’d gotten wind of what was going on and decided that the risk was worth it to make sure Sweetie got into the school.”

“Something tells me she doesn’t regret Sweetie,” Luna offered. “Oh, I’m sure that there is plenty she regrets, but Sweetie isn’t one. Just like I could never regret Nova. She and the connections she has made have been a lifeline for me.”

“My greatest regrets are having allowed myself to be manipulated, losing you, and this corner in the guise of a pedestal I let myself get backed into.”

“Well then, perhaps we should run away. All of us,” Luna offered. “Start a new kingdom only this time we’ll know better and won’t fall to the same traps.”

“It is tempting, though I fear that those who dare to call themselves noble would soon find themselves skewered on the end of a dragon’s lance inside of six months. Make no mistake, we are on good terms with the dragons, but I can guarantee that they will not suffer fools for very long. That and I have an agreement with Lord Torch.” She gave Luna a wink.

Chapter 38: Testing is back on.

View Online

That night we had an impromptu feast with the staff and guards ponies to thank them for their many years of good service and to tacitly remind the nobles of what they’d become and how impotent they now were. The nobles made themselves rich on the backs of the common ponies but had no true power.

The next morning’s news headlines trumpeted Head of the Board of Education charged with treason. ‘In their drive to place themselves above all others, the board of education and backers seem to have forgotten what Princess Celestia’s school for gifted unicorns was all about along with the fact that the school is not within their control. The gross miscalculation on the part of the board and backers has been seen by Princess Celestia as both a power grab and an injury to Equestria as a whole. Under Director Nieghsay’s guidance, the school was turning away foals who by virtue of their own erratic manna flow can not safely attend other schools until they’ve learned control. Even princesses Kitsumi Nova and Sunset Shimmer had been turned away despite both having demonstrated raw power beyond ordinary fillies on multiple occasions’, read the paper. The article was surprisingly detailed in ways that suggested that the reporters at the paper had been investigating the actions perpetrated by Director Neighsay prior to our discovery.

I was delighted to find several cute shots of Scootaloo, Sunset, and myself just being fillies in the extra. There were shots of Cadance, Spitfire, and mom to include shots of Scootaloo and myself on our mother’s backs when the crowd had begun to press in on us. The two mares looked very much like any other young mare with a foal. Some pony had even followed us to the pond and had a picture of Scootaloo and me paddling about like duckies with the speculation that it’s possibly a pegasi foal behavior I brought forward with me. In addition to the two of us just being cute there was a really good picture of a wet Spitfire frolicking with the as of yet unknown pegasus Specialist the black and white of the paper not revealing the colors of her mane. I could only imagine how Rarity was going to react, or Dash for that matter. Spitfire on the other hoof had to go report into the Wonderbolts early that morning and likely wouldn't see the papers right away.





“Oy, Spitfire!” called a light powder blue Wonderbolt with a dark blue mane and tail as he approached the Commander. There was a paper under one wing.

“Lieutenant Soarin, what can I do for you?”

“Oh, I was just wondering if you’d seen this?” He asked and pulled out the paper with it folded open to a soaked Spitfire frolicking with Dash. His shit-eating grin turned to confusion when all she did was smile. Soarin quickly refolded to reveal Spitfire with a filly on her back. “So who’s that?”

“My daughter. I’m a divorcee. Anything else about my private life you’d like to know about?”

“Oh, I had no idea. So what’s her name?”

“My daughter or the mare?” Spitfire teased.

“Well, um, now that you mention it…”

“My daughter’s name is Scootaloo, my ex is called Snap Shutter, there is a warrant for him for abandonment, and the mare is none other than Rainbow Dash. She’s the only pony in living history to have broken the sound barrier and did that when she was a filly. Aside from that, she’s a good friend of my daughter, and my running into her was pure coincidence. She and Commander Sparkle had made a couple of arrests the night before that looked like it was going to cause something of a shakeup in the local guard down in Ponyville. They were here to report directly to Princess Celestia in that she has an interest in the goings-on in Ponyville.”

“Ponyville? What’s in Ponyville?”

“Not what, who. Specifically Twilight Sparkle, and Princess Nova. Princess Luna, Princess Sunset, and Princess Cadance just spent a week down there too. And since that’s where my daughter grew up, I now live there.”

“Commander Spitfire,” called Captain Wind Rider as he approached the two. “Are you going to be available for the Flight Camp detail?”

“Yes sir,” Spitfire replied with a sharp salute. “Wouldn't miss it for the world. My own daughter will be there this year.”

“Hang on, little Scootaloo?” Wind Rider asked. “She can fly? Wasn’t she, that is didn’t she…?” He didn’t want to come right out and say it.

“Yes sir, we even managed to get into the paper,” She offered took hold of the paper, and showed Wind Rider the picture. “I finally got her back.”

“I thought you were on a detail for Princess Celestia?” Wind Rider asked.

“Scoot’s Aunts are Princess Nova’s guardians. Princess Sunset Shimmer was with us. Let me tell you, the trip up from the station the other day was mighty nerve-wracking on multiple levels. I’m to understand the pony behind that brouhaha was Sunset’s former foster mother. The way I see it, that mare has got some nerve blaming a filly for her own bad decisions.”





And of course in Ponyville Rarity was on the warpath. If for no other reason than because she’d just seen the picture of Spitfire and Dash in the paper.

“Rarity! Oh good, I’ve found you.” Twilight called on seeing Rarity.

“Have you seen the paper? There’s a picture of Rainbow Dash frolicking with Commander Spitfire.”

“Never mind Dash, I got a letter from Princess Celestia.”

“Oh darling, how is that more important than Dash in a relationship with Spitfire and she never said anything?”

“Rarity, by any chance did you look at the front page?” Twilight scolded.

“Oh, I never look at the front page Darling, and the Celebrity pages are a good twenty percent more fun.”

Twilight grabbed the paper, folded it back to the front page, and made sure Rarity looked at it.

“Oh my. Oh no!”

“You’re not in trouble, although you may be called as a witness once the trial gets going. Princess Celestia said that you are going to have to go back with Sweetie Belle and get her properly tested. Also, she wants me to come up to Canterlot and help. A chariot is being sent to pick me up. If you and sweetie want to come up with me you need to be ready as soon as they get here. I figure you’ve got about a half-hour. One bag each, no more.”

“One bag?”

“That or take the train, your choice. As is you’ll need to take the train to get home because I’m going to be in Canterlot until all the new and returning students are processed.” Twilight offered. “The chariot is for me. I’m allowing you to ride as my friend.”

“Yes, of course, she’s not going to dispatch a chariot for little old me.”

“Even Sunset Shimmer had to go by train. And to tell the truth, I prefer the train. It’s just that the fall out of cleaning house at the school for gifted unicorns is causing a big mess. What am I saying? It was Neighsay and his cronies who’d caused the mess in the first place. And they’ve tried before. I was never supposed to hatch Spike. That’s how they justified failing potential students they didn't want in their club. Do you have any idea what it’s like to have a baby when you’re still a baby yourself?”

“Kind of.” Rarity offered in a strangely quiet tone. “I get the picture. You got saddled with a baby dragon.”

“When I was sweetie’s age.”

“Oh, Twilight.”

“Well, not like I didn’t have help. It’s just that he’d bonded to me and that meant he had to spend a lot of time with me. Now forget about Dash, your priority is to find Sweetie, one overnight bag each, and meet me by the library in about fifteen minutes.”

“Yes, school, she’s probably on her way to school,” Rarity said and dashed off in the direction of the local schoolhouse.

“Twilight, you know they’ll wait for you?” Shining Armor offered as he walked up to Twilight.

“BBBFF!” Twilight all but screamed as she jumped into the air, spun to face Shining Armor, and tackled him with a hug. “But why are you back so soon?”

“I’m the interim constable pending the investigation into the activities of the local guard. Right now it kind of looks like the local guard was being a little too accommodating to the locals.”

“Is Dash going to be alright?” Twilight asked.

“Dash just did a double shift. That kid is a workaholic.”

“Dash?”

“She’s the primary weather coordinator for the Ponyville area and adjoining regions. She works both day and night shifts and is literally on call twenty-four-seven. Personally, I don’t know how she does it.”

“Lots of little naps. At least now I know,” Twilight offered. “Now, I need to get ready.”

“Then I will walk with you,” Shining Armor offered.

“So, how are you and Cadance?”

“Not speaking.”

“What? Why?” Twilight gasped coming to a halt.

“She forcefully recruited me into their frolic session in the pond,” He offered with a smirk on his face. “..and then some pony called the guard on us.

“Oh, you!”

“No, really, they did. Captain Quortermane showed up while I was as yet still high and dry and since both Princess Luna and Cadance were involved he was at a complete loss.”

“That sure must have been something to see,” Twilight replied, and started walking again. “I’m guessing by that smirk on your face that you and Cadance are doing fine.”

“Well, yes and no, I’m stuck down here, and she’s going to flight camp. And now you are running back up to Canterlot.”

“Well, that’s what happens when ponies are selfish. Here I am in Ponyville to learn about the magic of friendship and because of a pony who probably doesn’t know the meaning of friendship I’m running back to Canterlot to help straighten out the mess they made.”

Rarity and Sweetie Belle arrived at the library a short time later where Twilight was standing by a golden chariot pulled by two pegasi guards.

“Oh good, you are just in time,” Twilight said as the two hurried over, each dragging along an obviously overstuffed suitcase.

“But where’s your suitcase?” Rarity asked.

“I don’t really need it,” Twilight offered as she stepped up into the back of the sky chariot. She had on a pair of saddlebags and that was it. She was followed by Sweetie and Rarity, the cart straining with the weight of Rarity’s bags.

“How could you possibly not need anything?” Rarity asked.

“About the only thing I’ll need is my vanity kit. Aside from that, I have things at my parent's house, at my room in Canterlot Castle, and my tower in the royal apartment area within castle precinct.”

“What are you, a princess?” Rarity asked.

“No, but as Princess Celestia’s protege, I sort of hold an honorary title of Her Majesty's Right Honorable Faithful Student Twilight Sparkle. Or just Lady Twilight Sparkle. The long-winded title is kind of provisional so long as I stay in Princess Celestia’s good graces otherwise I’m just plain old Twilight daughter of a minor lord who works as a government minister.”

Rarity’s jaw had hit the floor of the chariot.

“Rarity, you might want to close your mouth, you’ll catch flies that way. That is unless you want to catch flies.” Twilight turned to the waiting pegasi, “I think we are as ready as we’ll ever be, lets get going.

“Have you ever noticed Fluttershy eating bugs?” Twilight asked as the chariot was lifted into the air. “I’ve never seen her eat a fly, but she seems to like moths. I tried a butterfly once. Didn’t taste anything like butter. Kind of spicy though.”

“Twilight, you can stop now,” Rarity pleaded, as the chariot dipped now and then as they climbed higher and higher over rough terrain.

Chapter 39: Written exam.

View Online

Once again I found myself lined up to go in and test to get placed at the school for gifted unicorns. Only this time with no Moonie as I’d left the pendant behind. I’d only my palace ID as it was unknown if Moonie was capable of giving me answers to test questions. Berry from the tours was there as was Sweetie and owing to the shakeup we were first directed into classrooms in large groups where we were supplied a written test by none other than Glory Rose Blueblood. Test faced down.

Try not to get too excited, nervous, or Celestia forbid, apprehensive,” Glory Rose offered. “The test alone may not have any bearing on whether or not you will be attending here come next semester. “As I look out over you I see some recognizable faces and quite a few that are new to me. Don’t let that worry you. On either account.”

My ears twitched on hearing that last comment and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am Captain Glory Rose Blueblood, wife of Lord Prince Blueblood. I am presently a reserve officer in Her Majesties Guard.”

My opinion of Prince Blooblood went up a little though it was entirely possible she was still from a fairly high-up family. Granted that my assumption was that she hadn’t simply bought her rank, assuming that was even a thing. Prince Blueblood on the other hoof, well, he went for a Guards Pony instead of some shrinking violet who would put up with him. Then again, I couldn't help but wonder if she was the pony wearing the pants in that relationship.

Now, don’t worry about not finishing the written test,” Glory Rose continued. “With any luck, you shouldn't be able to finish it. If you do manage to finish it simply turn the test face down and go out into the hall to wait for further instructions. Otherwise, we will go until lunch at which time we will break. After lunch, you will be given an opportunity to show off your talent or to demonstrate your most spectacular failure. A truly spectacular fail stands a better chance of gaining entry than flashy tricks, just don't do it deliberately. Bottom line, we need to be able to judge your manna flow to determine whether or not you are going to need to attend this establishment. Remember that placement is about need. - Now, as I’m sure you are all chomping at the bit to get started, go ahead and turn your test over. Don’t start just yet. There should be plenty of pencils for each of you. You will also find a hoof grip in your desk if you feel you need it. No one expects that any pony here is still writing with your mouth, and if you are, please try to be as legible as possible. If there is anyone who can use your telekinesis to write, don’t wear yourself out. It won’t do you any good to use up too much manna prior to the practical examination.” She waited a moment, looked about at our eager faces, and told us to begin.

To my delight the first few pages were rather easy as they were straight out of the primer and we were being given possible solutions so it was a lot like a multiple-choice guesses test. Pick the most likely and expand on that while writing out our answer.

Of course I’d no idea that young unicorns seldom did hoof writing as most switched to telekinesis just as soon as they were able when I set to write down my answers. Me, I was just delighted I could hoof write without having to use the grip anymore.

As I flipped to the third page I hazarded a quick glance around to discover quite a few were using telekinesis, some were using the grip, and the rest were all mouth writing.

Back to my test. The questions were slowly getting harder, but no overwhelming just yet. My tutoring sessions with Twilight were paying dividends big time. And then it happened, I came to a question that I couldn't figure out. Specifically, I wasn’t sure what they wanted. The test-taking technique, don’t know the answer, skip to the next. Looking for clues in other questions was another technique that often paid off. So on I went to the next, answered it as best I could. I’d skip questions that looked like they’d take too much time, answer several, and then suddenly I discovered I now had the answer to several that I’d skipped. Back again. Hit that first one I’d skipped and move on. Make my best guess on questions I just wasn’t sure on. Always the first guess, never second guess because the second guess is almost always wrong. One after the other those questions fell to my relentless foxy determination. I don’t do dogged.

I’m better than halfway through now. Ha, questions on affinity, easy stuff. Questions about non-unicorn forms of magic. Heck, a good hoof grip is a not unicorn form of magic. It’s an Earth Pony trait. Granted that the fact that I knew more about Earth magic than Pegasus magic was a little embarrassing, and I was forced to make my best guess about several aspects of Pegasus magic some of which took logic and spit in its eye.

And then suddenly I’d turned a page and I was finished with the test. I take a quick look around to see no one has budged from their spots so far as I can tell. I’ve time. Alright then, review time. I skip through the easy ones and check the ones that gave me a hard time. No, no second-guessing. Time for me to put the test down. I’m sure I’ve done far better than most fillies my age, but if I start second-guessing I’ll probably change a right answer to a wrong answer.

I close up my test face down, put my pencil down, and shake out my hoof a bit. Up to that point, I’d no idea that it was possible to get a hoof cramp from writing. Slowly I turn and get up. For perhaps the first time I see the proctors who have been keeping an eye on us. I make a halfhearted smile at one of the adults who’s noticed me, turn, and start walking towards the door. I’ve got a limp.

The clock out in the hall says it's eleven o'clock. I literally still had an hour. Nor is there anyone out in the hallway.

Princess Nova?” came the soft voice of a lime green unicorn mare stepping out into the hallway with me. “Are you alright?”

Aside from a sore fetlock, I’m fine,” I respond.

You know, you aren’t supposed to take any breaks unless it’s absolutely necessary, and it’ll take time away from you.”

I look at her and blink. “I’m finished.”

She just looks back at me as though I’d just spoken a foreign language. “Finita, fini, completed, accomplished, finished. I’m done. I finished the test.” My experiences from my past life had made it possible to finish the test ahead of every foal in there.

Finished? You did all the questions?”

I did. I even went back to double-check my answers. I won’t say I got them all right, but I did answer them. I double-checked and didn’t feel like there was any point in staying any longer. - So, now what do I do?”

To be honest, we didn’t think any pony would actually finish it.”

Would it help if I told you that Twilight Sparkle has been tutoring me?”

That would do it.”

So, I just hang out until lunch?”

OK, you aren’t supposed to leave school grounds, otherwise lunch will be in the dining hall. Why don’t I show you where it is. - My name’s Bittersweet.”

Alright, and thank you,” I reply as we head down the hall.

Are you alright, your limping?”

Hoof strain,” I offer with a grin.

You seem to be very proficient at hoof writing.”

Haven't learned telekinetic writing yet. I imagine that’s kind of backward in a way.”

And how’s that?”

I can teleport, manipulate the wind currents, and even generate a little localized lighting. I can’t write telekinetically yet. I can move stuff. Even some heavy stuff. I’m just lacking in fine motor control. I can’t help but wonder if I already knew how to do everything prior to Nightfall, and I’m just having to relearn?”

I’d imagine that’s a possibility. And you can really do all that?”

I’m not so sure I can manipulate wind and lightning inside, and it upset mom a little too much when I did it yesterday,” I offered. “Best I do not teleport out here in the hall, the pop might disturb ponies taking their tests.”

Ah, yes. Later then.”

We turned down another hallway, went a little further, and then through a large set of double doors where we found castle staff preparing a luncheon for all the students that were being tested that day.

Princess Nova, is everything alright?” Asked an orange mare with a golden blond mane I recognized as Mrs Helianthus. I was also suspicious that she was Trixie’s mom as she matched the picture Trixie had in her wagon. Trixie’s wagon had been trampled by the Ursa minor, and I’d helped her clean up. Twilight gave her a place to stay and a collection was made to help cover the cost of a new wagon. Additional damages to the town were covered by Princess Celestia and I was hoping there would be no repeat of the Alicorn Amulet that happened in the show.

Several other ponies in the dining hall turned my way as well possibly wonder why I was there?

I finished the written test already,” I offered just as a little Moonie dropped down out of the rafters with my pendant in her mouth and landed on my back.

This is Moonie. She’s my Guardian,” I offered to Mrs Bittersweet as I placed the pendant back around my neck. “Not being able to be with me is warring with her programming.”

Well then, I see that you are in good hooves. I’d better get back.”

I’ll just find a spot to sit,” I offered and trotted into the room.

Would you like a cup of tea?” Mrs Helianthus asked.

Yes please, I’d love a cup,” I replied cheerfully. “Isn’t everyone a little too busy for me to go get a cup of tea though?”

Don’t worry, and no, you don’t need to get your own cup. Oh and Trixie told me all about how you helped her out,” Mrs Helianthus offered. I was right. “You just make yourself comfortable and I’ll get you something.” And with that, she trotted off towards the kitchen.

I watched her go and then started looking about for a place to sit. Of course, the only nice seats were the ones at the head table. Sitting at the head table just seemed too presumptuous, but then an idea struck me.

I sat down on a random seat, Moonie climbing to my shoulders, and decided to find out if I could, as predicted, make my own cloud. I cupped my hooves, blew gently between them while applying magic, and a moment later I had a little ball of fluff. A couple of minutes later I had a nice little cloud bed just my size, and it held my weight as well. Up to the rafters, I pushed it, then I flew up and landed on it. I tried working it a bit with my hooves and then lay down with my front hooves and my head peeking out over the edge so I could watch the goings-on.

Mrs Helianthus trotted out a short time later and then looked about with a rather confused expression. Naturally, my activity hadn’t gone unnoticed, a pony caught her eye and pointed up. “Oh my?!”

You did say I should make myself comfortable,” I offered with a big smile.

So then, will your highness be taking her tea up there?”

Um, actually no. I just figured out how to do this and I haven't a clue how to go about making objects not fall through,” I offered, stood up, stepped off while opening my wings, and glided down. Moonie had decided to stay on the cloud.

Thank you for the tea,” I replied a moment later once I was properly seated.

The tea was hot and tasted of lavender. Maybe not my favorite but it’ll do. Just as I was contemplating the tea a little honey pot was put in front of me.

Thank you. A little honey in lavender tea is just the thing,” I replied. This was a second mare. She was golden alabaster with a honey pot for a cutie mark of all things. She bowed politely and backed away. “No need to be so formal. I prefer to save all that for more formal occasions, and assuming I pass the requirements I’ll be just another student. I’ll expect to be scolded when it’s deserved.”

Oh, I couldn't, Your highness,” She pleaded.

I’ll try not to put you in that position,” I offered with a smile.

From what Trixie tells me you are quite the mischief-maker and something of a peacemaker all rolled into one,” Mrs Helianthus offered with a smile as I added a little honey to the tea.

Ponyville residents are a little spoiled,” I offered. “Trixi started up her show quite possibly the same way she does in every small town she goes to not knowing we’ve Twilight Sparkle as our librarian and three, shall I say, junior alicorns as a regular sight in town. They thought she was a braggart and were about to run her out of town.”

Not like I haven't told her to be careful of that,” Mrs Helianthus offered, and then she and the honey mare went back to the tasks they had before I’d come walking in.

I’d like to think they’d do what they did for any pony, but then I’d probably never know. I sipped at my tea and before too long it was all but gone. I looked up and saw that I still had a good thirty minutes before I could expect any of the other foals to come wondering in. I thought about maybe getting more tea, but there was a cloud calling me. I got up from the table and was in the air a moment later. It didn’t take me long to get back up to my cloud, where I found Moonie sprawled out like a cat.

All right you, move over,” I said as I landed. “Don’t you be grumpy, I had to leave you behind. Come on, move.” OK, yes, it took a bit of poking and prodding, none of which should have had any effect on her, but I managed to get her to move over. I lay down, we snuggled together and it was power nap time.

Chapter 40: Second to finish.

View Online

Sweetie Belle was starting to thank Rarity for the week-long cram session, but couldn't help but wonder why Nova got up and walked out. It was a hard test, well, not all of it. The first half had been fairly easy, but she was spending way too much time on some of those questions. Still, she pressed on until surprise of all surprises, she was done. She was also completely burned out. She thought about going back over the test but then decided that there was no point. She set her pencil down, turned the test face down, got up, and walked out.

One of the proctors met her and asked if she had finished.

“I answered all the questions,” Sweetie offered. “What happened to Princess Nova?”

“She finished the test. Don’t worry about her. And if you want, you can go join her in the dining hall.”

“Alright, I know where it’s at. Thank you.” Sweetie walked down the hallway, turned down the hallway that leads to the dining hall, and then in through the big doors. According to the clock she’d finished with twenty minutes to spare.

There was no sign of Nova as she walked into the big dining hall. Sweetie walked over to someone putting the final touches on the tables. “Excuse me, but have you seen Princess Nova?”

“Princess Nova’s up on a cloud in the rafters.”

“What?”

The staff pony pointed up and Sweetie looked up to see a little white cloud up in the rafters.

“Figures,” Sweetie said as she looked up, and then it struck her as the funniest thing ever, and just started laughing.

“Do please tell us what’s so funny, I could use a good laugh,” asked a pony who’d come up behind Sweetie Belle.

“Up in the rafters, Nova’s pulled a Rainbow Dash,” Sweetie said, turned around, and sobered up really fast at the sight of Princess Celestia. Sweetie bowed low.

“Rise my little pony and tell us your name,” Celestia said softly.

“Sweetie Belle Bouffant, Ma’am.”

“You’re rarity’s little filly, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Ma’am. Most of the ponies back home kind of got the idea that we are sisters though,” Sweetie offered quietly.

“You might want to fix that misconception. At least among your friends. The thing is, your friends are likely to find out sooner or later anyway. Now, speaking of friends, shall we see if we can wake up Nova?”

My first clue that it was time to get up was a sinking feeling. Or I could say I had a sinking feeling that I should get up. One, or the other. And then I was looking at Aunt Tia’s big nose. “Hello.”

Good morning,” Celestia offered with a smirk.

The room’s not full of foals is it?”

Not yet. So how did you do on that test?”

I think I did alright. I’ve taken harder tests. Not on magic mind you, but when you know how to take a test it kind of gives a body an advantage.”

I see. So how’d you get this cloud in here?”

I made it.”

You made it?”

I cup my hooves, make a little puffball and give it a push in Celestia’s direction. “I figured out how to do it while I was sitting in here.”

You do realize that that is an advanced technique?” Celestia asked me. “Granted so is manipulating the wind and creating lightning without a cloud.”

Creating lightning is just a matter of a difference of potentials,” I offered. To be honest I have no clue how difficult it’s supposed to be and likely something I inherited. I did at least know the mechanics.

And how long have you had that amulet on,” Celestia asked.

I knew what she was talking about and decided to sit up, little Moonie rolling over and off the cloud. It didn’t take her long to sweep up and land on my head. “Moonie was here, waiting for me with the amulet.”

Fine, but you’re going to have to give me the amulet before you do your practical. We need to know what you can do, and there must not be any appearance that you have gained any measure of preference by thy position nor can you have anything on your body that might act as an aid of some sort.”

Understood,” I offered. “I, um, I don’t know if I’ve been gaining by wearing the amulet or not. What if I am? What if I can’t do anything without it?” Now I was starting to worry.

You can do it, I’m sure of it,” Sweetie offered reassuringly from somewhere below.

I lay down while scooting forward so I could look at what was below me. “Hi, Sweetie.”

You had me worried when you got up and left,” Sweetie called up to me.

I was done. I even double-checked my answers,” I offered.

You finished with an hour to spare,” Sweetie called back.

You finished that fast?” Celestia asked.

I doubt I’m going to get every question right,” I offered. “Anything I didn’t know, I made my best guess. After I’d done every question and double checked there just wasn’t any point in staying any longer.”

But so fast?” Celestia offered.

I still took a fair amount of time, Twilight has been tutoring me, and test-taking is a skill in and of itself. Many a brilliant mind has been done in by a test because they lacked the skill required to navigate a test.”

Give me an example of a test-taking skill,” Celestia prompted.

Skip the hard questions and come back to them later,” I offered. “It’s better to lose the points on a question I might get wrong anyway than to lose the points that can be gained by answering the questions that can be answered. Tip two, other questions may give away the answer.”

That’s cheating,” Sweetie protested.

No, no it’s not,” Princess Celestia offered with a smile. “It’s even good advice for life. The answer to a seemingly insurmountable challenge may be found in the challenges that can be mastered and we should never let our progress be hampered by something we can’t do. Also, there is absolutely nothing in the rules that say test questions have to be done in order. Why you could do the test back to front if you’ve got a mind to. You know, get the hard questions done while you are fresh.”

I’ve found that the easy questions make for a good warm-up for the hard questions,” I offered.

And that explains how you were able to finish the test so fast,” Celestia replied with a bemused smirk. “Things you learned before finding yourself in the ruins of our old home.”

Accurate enough,” I offered. “But I see Sweetie Belle has finished ahead of time as well.”

Not by as much as you, but then we’ve both been getting tutoring from Miss Twilight Sparkle,” Sweetie Belle replied.

Now that I think of it, Twilight did have high praise for both of you,” Celestia offered. “Nova, Twilight did fail to tell me you had both wings and a horn.”

Oh don’t tell her she failed in something she’ll have a panic attack,” I teased.

Celestia smiled a big smile. “And you don’t?”

Only when I think I’m about to get banished and imprisoned in the place I was banished to. The media coverage around mom hadn’t been very promising. Let’s face it, news articles were speculating that she was under house arrest. Some were saying that she wasn’t in her right mind. Some of the articles were just downright evil for the sake of revenue.”

Unfortunately that is what happens when we allow a free press.”

The point of a free press is the ability to publish criticism of the government without fear of reprisal. It should not be carte blanche to print half-truths and outright lies.” I paused for just a moment. “Lies that likely contributed to that panic attack I had.”

Understood, and I am sorry. It’s just that reining in those types of publications is not the easiest thing to do,” Celestia admonished. “Now, how about you come down and keep Miss Belle company.”

Alright, can do,” I offer, and climb to the edge of my floating pillow and dive off. I’m not too far off the ground and only needed to open my wings just a bit to slow my descent all four hooves hitting tile at the same time. I then turn and use my telekinesis to push the cloud back up to the rafters.

Well, I can’t have ponies playing with it,” I offered.

I’m going to leave you two for a bit. Every pony should be finishing up soon,” Celestia offered and started for the door.

Alright, we’ll see you in a bit I gather?” I ask.

Oh yes, I’ll be back to address everyone during lunch.”

I watched her go for a bit and then turned back to Sweetie. “So, how do you think you did?” And then she hugged me. “Um, Sweetie?”

You have no idea how good it made me feel to see you up on that cloud so relaxed,” Sweetie offered as she let go. “I think I did alright on the test. The second half was really kicking my flank.”

I doubt they expect us to get them all, granted I’ve no doubt Twilight would have gotten them all right and asked for more.”

Ya, Twilight probably aced it. Hey, you don’t mind if I make a ‘powder room’ run do you?”

Do you know where it is?” I ask. “I could kind of…”

Come on,” Sweetie offered, and then we were on our way out into the hall a short time later. Lucky me I had Sweetie.

So how did you know where it was?”

Got the tour along with a bunch of snooty brats who couldn't make a fire with a blowtorch, let alone cast a spell.”

Daymn, and that’s the sort they were trying to pack the school with.”

Ya, I’m just glad I don’t have to worry about them anymore.”

Chapter 41: Scattered showers possible.

View Online

We were not in the little filly's room long when other fillies began to trickle in. Sweetie and I cleaned up and went to stake out a place at the tables where I found my teacup was still there. The two of us sat down and waited while the hall slowly filled up. We watched with bemusement as several foals go sit at the head table.

Don’t those idiots know the head table is for staff,” Offered the voice of Miss Berry from the side opposite of Sweetie.

Miss Berry, it’s good to see you,” I offered with a smile. “So, how’d you do? Good, I hope. I’d hate to think that lot who thinks they can sit at the head table will make it.”

That test kicked my flank,” Berry offered. “You left early.”

I finished it.”

As did I,” Sweetie offered. “Did you finish it?”

Page to go when they called time.”

Did you two actually finish it?” Asked a bedraggled looking filly across the table from us.

I’d imagine that my being familiar with both pegasi and earth pony magic probably helped,” I offered.

Earth ponies don’t have magic,” Scoffed a colt a few seats down.

Earth pony magic is expressed through the hooves,” I offered. “It can be used to promote plant growth, detect buried objects, or even move things around,” I replied. “Earth ponies can also align the structure of gemstones in such a way as to make it possible to place enchantments on the stones. Except for various combat techniques, most applications of Earth pony magic are very subtle. But don’t worry if you marked those questions wrong, the practical exam can have a large impact on whether or not you get to attend this school.”

I’m doomed,” He bemoaned as he put his head down on the table.

Surely not?” I asked.

My magic is all over the place and I keep overpowering.”

Then let it,” I advised.

What?” He was now giving me an odd look.

The primary mission of this school is to help foals who are experiencing an overflow of manna release. Providing specialized instruction to gifted individuals is actually secondary.”

He gave me a funny little smile. “So if I’m understanding you correctly, screwing up big time might actually help my chances?”

Pretty much,” I offered. “It all boils down to a question of whether or not setting an individual loose in a standardized classroom environment where the instructors may not appreciate said individual’s gifts is a good idea or not.”

The staff is clearing the head table,” Sweetie offered while the colt quietly chuckled.

Attempting to, by the looks of it,” Offered another filly.

Who does that idiot think he is?” Asked Prince Junior as he joined us. “What?”

I must have been staring.

Alright, fine, I may have been a little hasty when I accused you of being in league with the cultists.”

Well if it makes you feel better, Princess Celestia made some adjustments to that spell,” I offered with a smile. “So, you are hoping to get into this school too.”

Yes, I expect I will. Dad attended and mom says I’ve got a shot,” Blue offered. “Maybe attend for two or three years and then switch over to a school that specializes in political studies.”

So is that what you want to do?” I ask.

Not really. Not that it’ll make any difference.”

How so?” Now I’m wondering why he’s saying it won’t make any difference.

Because I’ll probably apply to the Royal Guard.”

You might want to stop fainting every time you see the visage of Nightmare Moon then,” I offered with a smirk. “I mean seriously, what are you going to do if you're lined up for review and my mom comes trotting out in her armor?”

Your mom?” Asked the colt with his head down.

Her mom is Princess Luna,” Sweetie supplied. Meanwhile, young Lord Blueblood had yet to counter my point.

And no, mom is not crazy or anything, she got possessed by a dark spirit, literally lost a thousand years, most of the ponies she cared about, and just doesn’t care for modern social events. I lost a thousand years. My father, my brother, every pony I knew, all gone. One moment I’m trying to reason with Princess Celestia and the next I’m sitting in the ruins of my home long abandoned. There’s no one around, it’s the middle of the night, and it’s now in the middle of one of Equestrian's most dangerous forests.”

She didn’t tell any pony who she was,” Sweetie offered. “Well, she kind of did, but never came right out and said it.”

Who’d believe it,” Blue offered.

And here comes Princess Celestia,” Sweetie Offered. “Headed right for the idiots at the head table.”

I know every one of them. Their parents are all cousin's you know,” Blueblood junior offered. “Even so, a pony would think they’d have enough sense to realize they don’t get to sit at the head table.”

Did he just sass Princess Celestia?” Berry asked.

Wow, even I wouldn’t be that brassy,” I offered as the tables filled in. I touch my hoof to my amulet, “Moonie, any chance there is enough moisture in our cloud to cool things down a bit at the head table?”

Moonie?” Prince junior asked.

My little nightmare,” I offered.

Little?”

Princess Celestia shrunk down the Nightmare Moon projection to the size of a plush toy,” Sweetie offered.

She’ll still go full size if the threat is real enough,” I offered. “Otherwise she’s a little snuggle.”

I’m a little confused,” Barry offered. “You touched that amulet like it’s a communications device, and what cloud?”

The small one up in the rafters that sneaking over to the head table,” Sweetie offered.

Dare I ask how that got in here?” Prince Junior asked.

Made it,” I informed him.

I found her up on top of it having a nap,” Sweetie supplied. She’d a bit of a smirk on her face.

Must be nice,” Prince teased.

I had tea first. - Oh dear, she’s called for the guard,” I say as a dozen burly guards came in through a side entrance. The next thing we know the whole group was being escorted out of the room, several of them spouting the usual you can’t do this to me my father is… and whoever their father was. Even Prince was at a loss because the names didn’t ring any bells to him either.

Did I hear Cobble Plot?” Sweetie asked. “I’d bet Rarity would know, but I seem to recall Cobble Plot being an old Goatham family.”

Oh dear,” I said as my mind put two and two together. “Well, Aunt Tia is doing a very good job of keeping her cool.”

Nova, Moonie is still moving the cloud over to Princess Celestia,” Sweetie announced.

I see that,” I reply, and place my right hoof on the amulet. “Moonie, you can stop now. Moonie? Moonie stop. No, Moonie, don’t do it,” I’m standing in my seat at this point, one front hoof on the table the other on the amulet. “Moonie, moonie, no, no Moonie, stop, don’t you dare, Moonie!? Moonie no!”

Princess Celestia is looking at me with concern, her eyes widen, and then she looks up just as the first drops of rain start to fall on her.

The water hitting Princess Celestia is sizzling, turning into steam, rising and feeding my little cloud. Up on top of the cloud can be seen a little miniature Luna jumping up and down.

I’m shrinking back down trying to make myself as small as I can just as mom walks into the room. She walked over to Celestia and just looked at her with a puzzled look.

Sister?” Luna inquired.

I’m seriously debating taking a hammer to that thing.” Celestia offered and then cracked a smile. The water quit boiling the moment it hit and she started laughing.

Pretty sure I'm pelt-ward bound at this point.

Princess Nova,” Princess Celestia called out a moment later. “Please be so kind as to remove your cloud from the building.”

I slowly got up from my chair, walked up to the front with my head down.

You’re alright. After all, I was the one who fiddled with the spell that controls the actions of your little guardian,” Princess Celestia offered.

Perhaps I should hold on to that amulet,” Mom offered.

Well, I was going to have to surrender it before my practical anyway. I take off the amulet, pass it over to mom, fly up to the cloud, take hold of it, and direct it to the nearest exit while doing my best to not rain on anyone. Down the hall, I go, to and fro, while members of the staff followed with buckets and mops. Moments later I’m out the door and pushing my little cloud up high enough that the little bit of rain it’s producing won’t be noticeable down below. Once deposited, I drop back down with little Moonie following. Now in front of the school, I turn and wave goodby to my little cloud as it slowly drifts away.

I returned to a very quiet dining hall a few minutes later and retake my seat.

Princess Celestia explained that your amulet contains a guardian spell and that it has a fault in it that she inadvertently introduced,” Sweetie whispered.

All well and good, but if I don’t do well enough on the practical exam I’m probably going to get turned into a pelt,” I whispered just as Princess Celestia began to speak.

Princess Celestia welcomed all the new hopefuls, explained what the intent of the school was, and counseled every pony not to be disappointed if they weren’t chosen. The school only had so many slots and they had to prioritize those with the greatest need.

I’d both front hooves on Moonie the entire time as she’d suddenly taken to mimicking Princess Celestia. “Stop it,” I hissed at Moonie. “I swear, you're as bad as Pinkie. There is a time and place, and this is neither.”

Mercifully lunch was soon served, which was followed by individuals being called to do their practical test.

Athelas, Kitsumi Nova.”

That’s you,” Sweetie announced.

Athelas, I thought that was a defunct clan?” Prince asked as I got up.

My grandfather’s surname on Princess Celestia’s side,” I offered. “Father’s surname seems to have been lost, and that means using mom’s surname.” Within Equestria, the surname didn’t necessarily have to follow a male line. It was typical for the surname to be whichever name carried the most historical prestige. It was also a perfectly legitimate way for Princess Celestia to get my practical out of the way as soon as possible.

A Practical for a young Alicorn.

View Online

Sweetie, Berry, Prince, and a few other foals I’d met over lunch wished me luck, I sent Moonie to mom with orders to stay with her and followed after the proctor who directed me to a lecture hall where a team of five ponies waited in the front seats. I’d also a feeling like that this was the very place Twilight Sparkle had taken her test. I can almost sense the residual manna that soaked into the walls. It’s there, kind of like the feeling of the sun on your back on a cold autumn day.

Good afternoon, Mrs Sparkle,” I offered on recognizing Twilight Velvet. Twilight Velvet smiled back at me.

Good afternoon, Your Highness Kitsumi Nova,” Mrs Sparkle offered, and then introduced a rose-colored unicorn mare with a bright red mane and tail as Mrs Rose a Velvet.

You two aren’t related are you?” I ask. “I mean, I was wondering, being that you know me, and given that Twilight has been tutoring me I can’t help but wonder if perhaps you should recuse yourself?”

Yes, that is a valid point, and yes, Rose is a cousin of mine,” Twilight Velvet offered. “However, we also have Mr Aver Ridge, not to worry, he’s not as mean as he looks. Mr Lepton, you’ll find he’s quite quick. Mr Argon couldn't make it, but Mr Justin showed up right when we were putting the teams together.”

Alright then,” I replied giving up.

Princess Nova, dear, short of you somehow demonstrating your abilities to be no better than average without your amulet, you are going to be allowed to attend CSGU.” Rose Velvet offered. “Now, the sooner we get going, the sooner we can get to the next hopeful.”

At one end of the lecture platform was a group of weights on a table which I was invited to lift. I walked over and picked out a weight.

To my dismay when I went to power up my horn it was like my manna flow was being constricted. Try as I might I wasn’t getting anything and the more I push the more feedback I got. And it hurt too. Looking at my horn I discovered that it was glowing teal every time I pushed. Aside from that, I wasn’t getting any indication other than I just couldn't seem to push out enough energy from my horn to do a simple task.

Was that muffled laughter I’m hearing? I looked over at the ponies there to evaluate me but I can see no indication that one of them just laughed at my feeble attempt to lift a little weight. The worst part is that I’m starting to think that maybe I was relying on my amulet. And it would make sense. Kitsune did rely on a wish-granting stone to do their magic… except, I have a horn. I don’t need a stone or any kind of gem for that matter. I looked up at my horn, attempted to power up again, pure clear blue light, and then suddenly back to teal and that horrible backup of manna feeling like someone pinching my nose every time I tried to breathe out. It was starting to give me a headache.

Teal.

Something’s not right here, and I could have sworn I’d heard someone laughing.

Tap. Down went one of my hooves in a sharp staccato.

Tap. Again I sent a vibration through the floor and then waited on the return. Tap, tap, tap, left-right, back left. Slowly I was building up a picture of my assailant based on the position of their hooves.

I was being assaulted. There was some pony on the platform with me and they seemed determined to stop me from passing this test.

Dear, just relax,” Twilight Velvet offered.

I gave her a smile and did some more tapping.

Well, we’ve got the dance, where’s the song?” Asked Lepton.

And now a slow slide of a hoof as I make a scan of the area I suspect my assailant to be. The scary part is that if I try to out them, there’s no telling what they’ll do. They might just sidestep any attempt to negate that invisibility spell they are using. At least every pony in the room just thinks I’m being nervous. At the same time, I’m wondering if the hair on my back is raising, or if my tail is getting all bushy? A good possibility they are because I went from nervous to frightened the moment I realized some pony was trying to cause me to fail the test.

I slowly walk back over towards the table. Somewhere outside a bugle is practicing a fan fair. The way it echoes reminds me of the theme music to Patton. I can feel my power amping up as I start to get all tingly. And yes, my tail has gone poof.

Whoever they are, they don’t know that I can do earth pony magic.

I slide a hoof, stomp the other, I rear up, stomp with the left, reach out with my front hooves as my fire ignites, the table lifts up, I slip my right hind leg forward and with a twist of my body the table careens through the air slamming into a startled unseen pony.

I can hear you breathing,” I say as I face their direction. Their horn lights up, so does mine, and suddenly we’ve both fired a bolt of energy at each other the beams connecting, each fighting for dominance. I’m being pushed back, but they are angry and I’m just a little pegasus. They are only thinking about hurting me. I’m thinking about options.

A slide and a stomp from my front hooves, another slide, and a stomp forward followed by leaping into the air, my wings pushing me forward against their energy beam, I come down and stomp with both front hooves.

A crack races through the tiled floor erupting in an explosion under them. Their energy beam stops and mine hits them like a big Mac truck.

Princess? What are you doing? Stop it!” Twilight Velvet shouts as an impact crater suddenly appears on the whiteboard on the wall. Her mind is having trouble computing what she’s seeing.

There’s some pony there!” Mr Justin proclaimed.

My assailant curses me, and I can hear them right themselves. My wings are out. I’m building up a difference of potential, I see the light of their horn powering up again. Quickly I reach out with my own magic, snatch up a small lifting weight and hurl it right at the light.

Twack!

I hear them cry out in pain, the light is out, but I’m not done.

I wait just a moment to let them regain their wits.

Go on, ask me what I’m the goddess of,” I say, my attention zeroed in on them as their invisibility spell slowly fades. It’s a white unicorn stallion. Of course, it is. Their mane is blond but I can see dirty roots.

Goddess? I’m the god of death! What are you the goddess of is it then?” He all but growled at me.

Funny thing about fox magic, it comes with its very own background music. It’s part of the illusionary capabilities of kitsune magic. Arcs of electricity start to dance about me, Immigrant Song starts playing as I lift up into the air. I’m fairly sure fox magic gets some serious rage buffs. Why? Because.

I – am – on – fire! I am literally on fire as my foxfire turns me into some kind of white phoenix. Their invisibility spell is completely gone now. I see the look of horror in their eyes.

I don’t care! I’m pissed now!

They charge me in an act of defiant desperation with their horn lined up on me like they intend to gore me before I can gain too much height.

The room lights up in blinding white light as an ear-shattering boom blasts all the windows out and even bulges the walls.

I’m still on my hooves. Relatively speaking. I’m standing on scorched cracked tile some distance back from where I started, and it’s so quiet a pony could hear a pin drop, provided their ears weren't already ringing. I am drained. Only now do I think of the proctors who I’m relieved to see cast a shield spell about themselves. Likely all of them did. As is they are halfway to the back of the class, seats have been pushed to the far walls, and the room literally looks like a bomb went off.

My victim is charred and twitching. And yet, strangely enough, they are still alive. Guards rush in through a now open archway where the doors used to be.

What happened in here?” one of the guards asked as they slow down and then stop.

Someone was dumb enough to attempt to assault me while I was taking my practical,” I offered in what I considered to be a reasonable reply. I turn my attention to the proctors and ask, “..did I pass the test?”

I can feel Twilight Sparkle’s old manna seeping into me to replace that which I spent, and then...





I woke up sometime later in a hospital room. Mom is there, along with Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Lofty, Sunset Shimmer, Cadance, and Rarity.

So, um, where's Aunt Tia?” I ask.

Doing a sweep of the school,” Mom offered as she stroked my mane back. “You destroyed the classroom. And your victim had a press pass. Equestria Daily News.”

Figures. He likely interfered with my test just for a story,” I said softly. “I was being assaulted. He was assaulting me and no one could see it.” To say I was upset would have been an understatement and the only reason I wasn’t flaring up was that I was low on manna. Manna was also needed to support flight which meant my trip to Cloudsdale was now in jeopardy for multiple reasons.

And that’s exactly how we are treating it,” Mom replied.

All testing has been put on standby until they know for certain there is no pony else attempting to interfere with the tests,” Sweetie offered.

Did you get a chance to test?” I just had to ask.

There was a big explosion that startled me and I sent all the lifting weights through the ceiling,” Sweetie replied in a deadpan tone.

Don’t worry Sweetie, they’ll give you another chance,” Rarity offered.

She doesn't actually need it,” Mom informed Rarity.

What do you mean she doesn’t need it?” Rarity protested.

Overcharging like that is an automatic qualifier,” Mom explained with a big smile.

I’m in?” Sweetie asked.

Short of you’ve bombed the written test. And in the event you did, you’ll just get private tutoring until you are up to the same level of all the other foals your age,” Mom offered.

So, where’s Moonie?” I ask.

I, um, sort of locked her in a drawer and haven't had a chance to let her out.”

Ex drawer,” Moonie offered as she flew in while holding the amulet curled up in her front hooves. She landed on me, looked me in the eye, and said, “On, put, now.”

I imagine there would have been less destruction if you’d been with me,” I offered, and then gave her a hug. Princess Celestia was the next to enter.

Luna, a drawer in the desk in the office I gave you exploded,” Celestia announced.

Hi Aunt Tia, and it was Moonie,” I offered. I’d no doubt I had a big smile on my face.

Nova, you’re awake,” Celestia said, a smile forming on her face.

I locked Nova’s amulet in a drawer that was probably sealed against magic,” Mom offered. “Somehow mini-me knew Nova was in trouble and blasted her way out. I imagine that by the time she procured her freedom we’d already rushed Nova to the clinic.”

The pony who seemed set on making sure I failed?” I asked.

Intensive care at Canterlot General,” Celestia informed me. “Now, we are going to need your side of the story. What we’ve got so far from the witnesses was that you seemed nervous at first, couldn't lift any of the weights, and then suddenly you flung the table across the room but they couldn't tell how you did it. This was followed up by a display of converging beams of magic, the floor exploding, a whiteboard being destroyed, and the appearance of a previously unseen assailant.”

I was being assaulted,” I offered. “Every time I tried to power up my horn they’d clamp down on it, and the resulting back pressure hurt. I realized what was going on because I heard them laugh at me. I used earth magic to locate them in much the same way I did that fancy piece of dragon poop.”

Why didn’t you say something?”

I figured that all they had to do was sidestep any attempt to find them, and it’d look like I was making it all up to cover for the fact that I couldn't do anything without this amulet.” I pointed to the amulet I now had on.

How’d you fling the table across the room?”

More earth pony magic. I literally directed my telekinesis through my hooves. That’s how Applejack can kick an apple tree and all the ripe apples fall down without bruising any. That’s how Trixie does her magic shows. And to be frank, Applejack as likely doesn't have a clue what she’s doing. Not like Trixie does.”

And then what happened?” Celestia asked while ignoring my quip.

He tried to blast me. I saw his horn lighting up and just instinctively countered him with a shot of my own. They were starting to overpower me so I went for a two-pronged attack. First I used my earth magic to cause the floor to erupt underneath him.”

Hang on, you did that at the same time you were holding them off?” Celestia asked.

You never know what you can do until you are at the point of desperation, and your options are limited,” I offer. “Yes, I set up the tile explosion while I was still pouring on the energy from my horn. Different manna pools. I was using my pegasus ability to set up the other prong of my attack.”

Hang on, didn’t you do something else?” Celestia asked. Ya, she pretty much had all the details, she just wanted my version.

He dropped his attack when the tile exploded, but then I saw his horn lighting up again and I wasn’t quite ready for the big finish so I snatched up one of the lifting stones and launched it at his horn hitting it squarely. I imagine I didn't hit him hard enough because all it did was disrupt his magic and make him mad.”

And then you asked him something… what was it?”

I told him to ask me what I’m the goddess of,” I replied sheepishly.

What are you the goddess of?” Celestia asked giving me a curious look.

You didn’t,” Sunset stated. She has a big grin on her face.

I did.”

No, way,” Sunset said.

Way,” I replied.

No, bucking way?”

Yes, way,” I replied. A smile crept across my lips.

And let me guess, he was stupid enough to oblige too, wasn’t he?” Sunset asked.

Well first he declared himself the god of death, so I think we can take that as a threat to kill me considering that he was actively assaulting me, and then he obliged me and asked. I mean I was ready to blast him with a lightning bolt, he wasn’t showing any signs of wanting to quit, it just made sense.”

We’ll just need to make sure you don’t get your hooves on a hammer made from Uru,” Sunset teased.

That’s an alloy that can only be made on the moon,” mom announced.

Wait, it exists?” Sunset and I both ask at the same time.

I seem to be missing something here,” Celestia commented dryly.

Let's just say that there is a legend of a legendary warrior called Thor,” Sunset offered while leaving out where the legend came from. “And he had an enchanted war hammer. Some rather dubious sources say it was made from Uru.”

It’s an alloy of adamant,” Mom offered. “Adamant and orichalcum. The appropriate combination is said to have some interesting properties.”

Any chance I can get a war hammer made of it?” I asked.

Both mom and Sunset said “No” and did so rather sharply.”

Anyway, there was this movie, you know, talkies,” Sunset explained, “..and a scene where the evil goddess out to destroy everything asks the hero ‘and what are you the god of little brother’ and the next thing she knows he’s brought down the mother of all lightning bolts on her.”

Mother of all… I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean,” Celestia stated.

When was this?” Sweetie asked.

Ah, ya, sorry, it’s confidential,” I offered with a sheepish grin. “Anyway, I overcharged the voltage differential in the air around him, and then pretty much destroyed the place.”

The doctor would come by later and announce that the only thing wrong with me was that I’d been processing manna faster than my body could cope. I’d simply exhausted myself both physically and magically. It was like I’d done an Iron Pony challenge. The irony was that I’d done it all in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, they wanted me to stay there for observation. Mom decided that she was going to stay with me, but there was really no point in anyone else staying. Sweetie and Rarity needed to check with the ponies running the test to make sure they didn’t need to come back. Scootaloo and Lofty were going to go back up to the keep since everything was in lockdown, and Celestia was going back to the school with Rarity and Sweetie Belle. Once the sweeps had been done they really needed to continue testing.

Chapter 43: An unexpected nine tail.

View Online

Canterlot Castle Press Room. Ms Raven Inkwell has been given the begrudging task of keeping the press up to date concerning happenings.

As you are aware, the lockdown is still in effect,” Raven announced. “The group of colts who were detained around noon is an unrelated incident involving a group of delinquents who’d gotten into testing based on perjured testimonies. The colts were uncooperative refused to cooperate even in the presence of Princess Celestia and a medical examination has shown that they all possess sub-par amounts of manna and never should have been recommended in the first place. The individuals who recommended them will be facing perjury charges.”

What about the explosion at the school?”

On the one hoof, explosions at the school are an occupational hazard. I went to school with Twilight Sparkle, trust me. - That said, the incident in question was the result of an assault on Princess Nova. The reason for the lock-down is because the perpetrator was using an as of yet unidentified invisibility charm. Invisibility charms are strictly regulated, and prohibited on campus. Three other individuals have been located in the school, all of whom seem to have been there to disrupt the efforts of the students while taking their practicals. The pony who went after Princess Nova is now in stable condition. Princess Nova overexerted herself in the process of defending herself and is presently being monitored in the Castle’s clinic.”

But what about the explosion?”

I’m to understand that Princess Nova was responsible for that. By the time the proctors had realized what was going on the princess had, I’m to understand, supercharged and generated a sizable electrical discharge. A thunderbolt in an enclosed space and this was after having rebuffed her attacker several times. The incident is still under investigation.”

🏥

So there I was, looking up at the ceiling looking for patterns in the holes in the ceiling tiles bored out of my mind. Mom was looking over some stuff that looked a bit like collage material that a pony had dropped off for her. Every pony else had gone and it was just the two of us.

Hello,” offered a unicorn stallion standing in the door. His coat was a light grayish azure, his mane a dark blue that matches Mom’s plot cap color.

Hi,” I offered. He’s familiar, but I can’t place him.

Can I help you?” Mom asked.

I’m Twilight’s father. I heard Nova was assaulted.”

Night Light, wasn’t it?” I ask.

I hear they are going to be implementing some new security protocols.”

You should be alright, or is there something you are hiding?” Mom asked.

Tails.” Night Light offered.

Tails?” I asked.

A thousand years of hiding who I am, causes some deeply ingrained habits,” Night Light explained.

Your a nine tail? Wait, why are you telling us?” Yes, ponies change when they get older, but they maintain certain traits. I start rising up out of my bed, the monitor attached to me registering an increase in my pulse. “You wouldn't happen to have a different colored mane would you, and that’s dye?”

Sort of striped pea green, teal, light blue, blush, and vermilion. In short, I take after Aunt Tia in the mane department.”

Your Nachtlicht?” Mom asked as she looked at him. I’m sitting up now.

I got wings too,” He offered and then dropped the illusion that hid the wings.

So, you were basically being selfish?” Mom asked.

No, yes, alright. I was being selfish. The last thing I wanted was for the sort of ponies that have gone after Sunset, and Nova to find out about me. And then the next thing I know they are after Velvet, Shining Armor, and Little Twilight. I don’t want them to ever have to go through what I did.”

How many years were you on the run?” I asked.

I had to be spirited out of Equestria. I was still very young at the time and it took a very long time. And the ponies who’d set everything into motion were hunting everyone down, and I am not my big sister Nova. Sorry. Not your fault.” The room fell silent for a couple of minutes. Seemed longer. “I only returned about a hundred years ago to see if any of the Night Clans still existed in Equestria.” More silence, but not quite as long. “It’s been so long, and I told myself you didn’t really need me. And then it was, I just didn’t want my family under a microscope. And I certainly couldn't have the cultist finding out about me. And then that pony went after Nova today and now everything is up in the air because of the security sweep.”

You know you two are only a few minutes apart,” Mom offered as she got up and went over to him. He’s tall, but not unusually tall. “Is this your true height?”

Pretty much. Dad is a Kitsune fox. Fox ponies don’t really get all that big. I think it has something to do with the way they channel manna. We don’t have to be big to do big things.”

The ultimate Irony is that I probably owe the Nightmare for both of you. Not just for the drive it gave me, but for the increased size. Ordinary ponies can’t have twins. There isn’t enough room. Even when we are talking egg-laying winged ponies, there has to be room, It’s a miracle when twins do happen.”

Any chance you’ll forgive me for not coming right to you?”

I can forgive you,” I offered. I mean, I wasn’t exactly planning on presenting myself to Princess Celestia myself. The only reason I did was that I wanted to fly and learn how to use magic. Well, I was probably going to bump into her sooner or later, I just wasn’t in a big hurry because I had no idea what to expect.”

To tell you the truth,” mom offered. “I wouldn't have had a clue who either of you was. I think I would have found it distressful.” She then closed the distance and gave him a hug.

I guess this explains how I was able to absorb the manna Twilight left in that classroom,” I offered as I sat there on my bed hoping for a hug too. “The place was saturated.”

Excuse me, wait, Princess Luna? Um, that’s my husband.” Twilight Velvet protested as she entered the room.

I can explain.”

And you even let her see your wings?”

Nova’s my big sister.”

Ah…” Twilight Velvet seemed to be having difficulty processing that last bit of information.

Remember how I told you my mom was in Heaven?” Night Light asked. “I didn’t lie, exactly, the moon is in the heavens after all.”

But…” twilightvelvet.exe has failed to respond.

Wow, I have a sister-in-law,” I said excitedly as the realization hits me. “And a niece and nephew. Twilight Sparkle is my niece. Shining Armor is my Nephew. This is so awesome! - Do foals say awesome?”

Some pony is coming, quick, hide the wings,” Mom cautioned moments before a nurse entered the room.

OK, whatever’s going on, it needs to stop. According to our equipment, you are overstimulating Princess Nova.”

We were just talking about how Mr Night Light’s family might be distantly related,” Mom offered.

Princess Luna’s your mother?!” Velvet exclaimed.

Not now, Velvet,” Nightlight cautioned.

What do you mean, not now?” Velvet asked.

If it’s your intent to keep it secret, why tell us in the first place?” I asked. I’d no doubt that my ears were back in distress. “I’ve suspected for some time. I mean look at me, I’m a fox pony Twilight Sparkle in black and white save for the stripes.”

Having relatives around who can provide a manna donation should say, Princess Nova push herself past her limits, would be advantageous,” Offered the nurse who I believed was called Old Iron Sides. Not sure if that was her actual name or not. And then she introduced herself as Nurse Ivy Baggs. I liked Old Iron Sides better.

If you are wondering, my incident took place in the same room that Twilight Sparkle overcharged when the rainboom happened. The place is saturated with her magic. I absorbed some of that old magic.”

And that’s not a good thing,” Nurse Ivy Baggs stated. “Regardless of compatibility that manna was stagnant.”

And that’s bad I gather,” I said.

Yes, and it’d been nice if someone had told me.”

No one asked.”

Is she going to be alright?” Mom asked.

Truthfully, I’ve no idea. In fact, I’ll be right back,” Nurse Ivy Baggs replied and trotted back out through the door.

Well, that’s not one bit ominous,” I said trying not to sound too concerned.

Don’t get too worried. Worse case, you’ll get a little bit of a fever, and be fine by morning,” Nightlight offered.

Are you sure?” Mom asked.

Maybe a strong impulse to rearrange a library,” Night light offered with a grin. “Now, the problem we have is that I and Twilight have wings, no she doesn’t know. I’ve been using a simple illusion charm on myself. When Twilight was born I put a transformation charm on her so that she’d have the opportunity to grow up as normal as possible. A strong enough spell intended to cancel out active magic could potentially trigger a transformation.”

So she could grow up normal? You saying I’m not normal?” I teas. "Hang on, Twilight is already an Alicorn? Wings an all?"

Why I’d never suggest such a thing as to say that you were ever normal in any way,” Nightlight teased. “As far as Twilight goes, getting transformed in a security shakedown might not be a good thing.”

Alright, stop it you two,” Mom chastised. Granted that by the sound of her voice she was loving it.

I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen if either Twilight or myself get found out.”

Do you have wings on your ID tag?” I ask.

Since the detection charms on the gates detect things like wings and horns, yes, I made sure that was covered and the ponies in the ID section have willingly kept quiet about it. Granted I told them that I was just a fox pony and I didn’t want any ponies finding out and getting the wrong ideas. - Now Twilight’s spell is a little more sophisticated so the wings aren’t going to register in that at the moment they aren’t there.”

And if someone breaks the spell? What can we expect to happen besides she gets her wings back?” Mom asked.

Instant Alicorn, wasn’t it?” Velvet asked.

She’ll pop up to the ascension plane, her wings will come back and it’ll give the appearance that she just achieved ascension even though she’s already an alicorn.”

I’d better talk to my sister,” Mom announced, went to her studies, pulled out a blank piece of parchment, made a quick note, and popped it off to Celestia. “I said I needed to talk with her right away, but didn’t say why just in case.”

Did you tell her where you are?” I ask.

Luna?” Celestia called a moment later from the hall. “Is Nova alright?”

She’s fine,” Mom offered.

Mr and Mrs Sparkle?” Celestia said as she walked into the room. “So what is it that was so important?”

Night Light is Nachtlicht, and he and Twilight are alicorns,” Mom offered.

This is a joke, right?” Celestia asked.

Twilight was born with wings and then a horn started growing,” Nightlight offered. “Her birth certificate lists her as a pegasus. I put a transformation spell on her so she could grow up as a unicorn and get lessons without having to deal with being an alicorn in a community that worships alicorns.”

Princess Celestia just gave him an incredulous look. That is until he dropped the illusion spell hiding wings and tails.

I’d just assume the world not know,” Night Light offered.

I can let the Guard force know to be careful not to use a spell that might undo your illusion,” Celestia offered with an air of resignation.

Today’s little issue and the security sweeps,” He offered.

I already knew about the spell on Twilight, but I honestly thought it was medical, and the guard force knows to be careful not to break it,” Celestia offered.

I’m just surprised the elements didn’t undo the spell,” Night Light offered.

It’s not time yet,” I informed them. And then I decided to lay down and close my eyes. “A slight fever was it?” I ask.

I’ve read about ponies absorbing old manna,” Night Light offered. “It’s rare, but you can rest assured that no pony ever died from it.”

Old manna?” Celestia asked.

She used too much manna, and that old classroom is or was saturated with Twilight’s, and since Twilight is literally her niece, that old manna was compatible enough that her body soaked it up to try to correct the imbalance,” Luna supplied right about the same time hospital staff came rolling in with all manner of monitoring equipment.

Just a fever,” I heard Velvet ask.

It’s just an overabundance of caution, I assure you. Nothing to worry about,” Offered Doctor Horse.

Dear, if you could roll over we need to shave your belly.”

What?” Whatever mild sleepiness that had taken me was gone.

We need to shave your belly so that we can attach these electric patches so that we can monitor your…”

Chapter 44: Serenity

View Online

I spread my wings as I came out of between above the patio areas of the central portion of the keep, and glide down to an opening to the greenhouse. It’s late afternoon, still plenty of time to soak up some sunlight, though my flight from the medical ward is likely to get mom in a panic. Even so, I'm not letting any pony shave my belly. No how, no way. Ain't happening.

I open the door and walk in. I close the door behind me just in time to see a couple of pegasus guards land on the platform outside the door. I lock the door and stick my tongue out at them. I then turn back and walk over to my favorite cushion and plop down to wallow in the warmth of the sun. Ya, I'd just enough energy. Sleep soon overtakes me.

I woke up sometime later to the now-familiar feeling of a wing over me. It only takes me a moment to realize that the wing belongs to Luna, I snuggle closer and go back to sleep.

I woke up the next morning back in mom’s bed. Not in our old wing mind you, but the guest apartment that had been provided for Princess Luna’s use. Renovations on the Lunar Wing were still ongoing, slowed down by a process that very much resembled an archaeological dig. Every single thing had to be recorded, and then carefully and painstakingly removed. I also felt fine.

I let out a yawn and stretched.

Good morning Sleepyhead,” Mom offered.

You’re awake?”

Yes. Disgusting isn’t it?” She said with a lilt to her voice. “Though to be true, my original reason to stay up at night was that our ponies wanted a princess on watch at night. Looking for nightmares on the dreamscape was only a small part of what I did. And back then it had more to do with intelligence gathering than relieving ponies of their nightmares. Ponies who’ve come in contact with hostile forces and lived often relive those moments in their sleep.” She was quiet for a bit.

I encountered Nightmare Moon on the dreamscape the other night. She said hi.”

Seriously?” I asked.

I think the elements did something to her and she was going around helping ponies in their dreams. I followed her into a dream where a young mare was dreaming about her job. I watched as the Nightmare set things to rights, reassured the dreamer, and then I followed her to the dream of the very antagonist from the previous dream and watched as she gave him what for and promised that she’d be back if he didn’t change his ways.”

I get the feeling that you are quite perplexed?”

And you aren’t?”

No creature is inherently evil. Not even malevolent spirits. Something happened to her that turned her into the spirit she became. The Nightmare was a spirit possibly untimely demised who was selfish in her motivation. She wished to experience all the things she’d been denied in life, and I have got a feeling the whole eternal night thing was out of anger and not born of a true desire.”

She seemed quite adamant about plunging the world into eternal darkness.”

Only because you, and by connection, her, had been so wrongly accused and set upon. I was there. My memories of my life before the fall may be shoddy but that memory was burned deep into my mind. When I look back on it, it becomes painfully clear that Aunt Tia had been misled and the Night Mare’s pride too wounded to do the one thing that could have salvaged that night.”

And how might I have salvaged it?”

By doing as I asked. By not fighting.”

Easier said than done I’m afraid.” Mom gave me a squeeze. “Didn’t want your belly shaved, is it? You gave us quite a scare when you took off like that.”

Mom, I have six teats. I’m lucky I don’t have the full nine of a common fox. Not to mention the embarrassment of going to flight camp with a shaved belly.” I could feel mom chuckling. “It’s not funny.”

Your a princess. Try to imagine if shaved bellies became a fashion statement?”

:trollestia:

Nooooooo!!!” Rarity screamed as she shot out of bed.

:raritycry:

Mom and I arrived at a small dining room in the keep a short time later for breakfast.

Nova, you’re feeling better I see,” Celestia observed.

You gave us quite the scare yesterday,” Lofty added.

Miss Lofty, your here already?” I asked.

I stayed the night. Scootaloo is here too, just not up yet.”

Turns out all she needed was a little sunshine,” Mom offered. “I am going to have to ask Night Light about it.”

So did we sort all the problems yesterday,” I asked as I picked out a place to sit and sat down.

We still haven't positively identified your would-be assassin,” Celestia offered. “Yes, we upgraded him to an assassin, charges pending a full inquiry.”

Good morning,” a bedraggled Scootaloo said as she entered the room. She walked over to me and gave me a hug.

So, did we tell Scootaloo we gained more family?” I asked just as Cadance entered the room.

Good morning. What’s this about gaining more family?” Cadance asked.

Nova’s brother is alive,” Mom offered.

So did you decide if he’s going public, or just keeping that information on a need-to-know basis?” I asked.

I think we will just keep it in the family,” Mom offered.

Does that include me?” Scootaloo asked.

You won’t be able to tell anyone,” I offered.

I already know a few things I don’t dare tell anyone,” Scootaloo replied and went to sit next to me. “I think I can put off Apple Bloom and Sweetie just by telling them everything I’ve heard about that fight you got into. Did you seriously turn into some kind of phoenix?”

Phoenix?” I was at a bit of a loss. Let's face it, everything happened really fast and I wasn’t paying attention to what I looked like.

You’d become completely enveloped in that foxfire you create,” Celestia offered. “Night Light says it’s called kitsune-bi. He also seems to think that despite your physical age, your ability to use that divine fire may well mark you as Kenzoka which could potentially place you at a higher rank than himself someday.”

If my memory serves me right, Kenzoka had something to do with the foxes of Inari . . . I was a follower of Inari-Sama in the human world, and now I’m wondering how that sort of thing carried over? Sure, Equestria had a strong vibe of Greek and Roman mythology, but certain parallels to the Japanese mythic cycle are uncanny. In the retelling of why the sun and moon occupy day and night, Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto who was the divine Kami of the moon had been banished by Amaterasu for the murder of Ōgetsu-hime, though some tellings have it that it was Susanowo who was responsible for the murder. Susanowo had also been banished, but he’d ended up on earth. Plenty of people know of Amaterasu’s connection to wolves, but how many know of the importance of white horses in Shinto? In Shinto rituals, a kami’s presence is often signified by the introduction of a white horse. But enough of that.

Nova?” mom asked. “Are you alright?”

Who me? Yes, I’m fine. I was just contemplating the implications. Can he seriously not use the divine fire?” One implication that while Night Light was indeed both a nine tail and an Alicorn, he carried not the rank of Kūko or Tenko. As in, while matching the basic requirements to be an alicorn, he hadn’t fully ascended.

Divine fire?” Scootaloo asked.

That thing you need to keep quiet. Night Light Sparkle who is Twilight Sparkle’s father is my son and he’s Nova’s brother,” Mom informed Scootaloo. “And Nova, he said that he can use it, but it took years. It never came naturally to him the way it does you. I kind of get the feeling that he looks up to you too.”

Wow.” Ya, that was about all I could say. “Haruki, that’s brother’s Neighpon name is it not?”

Harukiko,” Luna offered, her face lighting up at the recollection. “Little Haruki. Haruki-hiko. Night Light’s name was his father’s name.”

Heaven's light,” I said with a smile.

Only it was translated to its old ponish equivalent of a light in the night,” mom offered with delight. I can remember his name. Prince Haruki.”

Hang on one apple-bucking minute!” Scootaloo protested as the wheels in her head turned. “Are you telling me Nova’s Twilight Sparkle’s Aunt?”

And I’m her grandmother,” mom offered with a big smile.

So, do we dare tell her?” I asked with a sly grin.

Oh sweet harmony, no,” Celestia admonished. “She might break.”

Who’s going to break?” Sunset asked as she entered the room.

Twilight Sparkle. She’s a bit too high strung to be told that Luna is her grandmother,” Cadance offered.

Ah… excuse me?” Sunset asked as she stopped in mid-stride.

I’m gathering you missed last night’s reveal?” Celestia asked. “Maybe you should come sit, before we say anymore.”

Alright then,” Sunset said and moved on to an empty place at the table. “I was studying the outlay of magic that had been used in Nova’s little battle.” She sat down and then announced, “I’d found out which room Nova would be testing in, and placed a number of recording devices, and yes, I made copies available to the investigators. They began recording the moment Nova entered the room. And that’s when our alleged reporter entered as well. My spells were passively recording and picked up two active spells right from the start, a cloaking spell, and another to silence his hooves.”

He should have silenced his mouth,” I offered.

True. The audio picked up everything. It doesn’t reveal his initial intentions but my recorders did pick up his spell that he cast to block your manna flow. That in itself is a very serious offense. If you’d been trying to force out a large amount of manna the backlash could have rendered you a vegetable, or even killed you.”

Well that’s reassuring. Just why did you want to record my test in the first place?”

To check a hypothesis. You have four types of magic. At one point in time during that fight, you were doing something that should have been impossible. You were independently accessing all four manna pools at the same time. - Now, why is Twilight going to break?”

We found Nova’s brother,” Celestia offered. “Or to be more precise, he revealed himself to us.”

Oh-kay, not sure why that would break Twilight?” Sunset questioned.

Twilight’s father is Nova’s brother,” mom supplied. “He’s an alicorn. Don’t say anything to anyone though. He wants to keep it quiet and I think we should respect his wishes.”

Father was kitsune,” I supplied. “I’m guessing that has something to do with Night Light’s transformation to Alicorn. I mean, he’s got the full nine tails. Not of any of the higher ranks associated with that, I’m guessing. I’ll have to ask if he can do self-transformation magic as that could place him at the level of a Kūko.”

I don’t know what that is,” Sunset replied.

Have you heard the term Tenko? It’s one step lower.”

I’ve heard a few things about what a Tenko is,” Sunset offered. “The general consensus is to never upset such a creature.”

So tell us what Nova’s four forms of magic are?” Celestia prompted.

Well, there is Earth, Unicorn, Pegasus, and one other I’ve never encountered.”

Alicorn magic perhaps?” Celestia asked with a smug grin.

You recall when I asked to get a recording of your alicorn magic?” Sunset asked. “I’ve gotten readings off Aunt Luna, and Cadance. Cadance isn’t display anything I could call Alicorn magic, and you and Aunt Luna seem to be mixing your manna pools. As in Alicorn magic is just all three forms of magic which an alicorn possesses being mixed.” she let that sink in a bit. “I just wish I had a larger pool of ponies I could test.”

You’ll have to ask Night Light, but you’ll probably see the same arrangement of manna that I have,” I offered.

When it comes to producing that Alicorn magic, Aunt Celestia hasn’t taught me how to do it yet,” Cadance offered.

Speaking of teachings,” I prompted. “Are we still going to Flight Camp, or has yesterday’s attack forced a cancellation?” And to be true, it was a question that had been weighing on my mind from the moment I’d awoken in the clinic.

You and Scootaloo will be going to Flight Camp,” Celestia proclaimed.

Luna, Cadance,” Celestia continued. “I think it best the two of you stay here. That will make it easier of the guard tasked with security.”

You know, I’m loath to let Nova out of my sight,” Mom replied in a contemplative tone. “But I do understand your reasoning.”

I’ll be making the royal air yacht available to them as well,” Celestia offered.

There’s a royal air yacht?” Lofty asked.

I’d had it commissioned a few years back,” Celestia offered. “It was named Firefly after the pony who founded the air team now known as the Wonderbolts. You will be loading up after lunch so make sure you have everything you want to take with you ready to go. Nova, are you alright?”

I’d undoubtedly had a strange grin on my face, no doubt brought about by the idea I’d be riding aboard an airship named Firefly. “Sorry, it’d be too hard to explain.”

Chapter 45: Firefly

View Online

Later that afternoon to my surprise and delight we found the Firefly inside a large hangar that had been carved into the side of the mountain itself. Airship hangars have always had an issue concerning the size needed and subsequent lack of support. I remember the big airship hangar at Moffett Field. It was, and is, one of the world’s largest unsupported structures. During periods of extreme weather, it would be evacuated in fear that it might collapse. Making a, well, pony-made cavern hollowed into the side of a mountain just made all kinds of sense. As for the ship, it did indeed resemble a firefly and even had features that made it look very much like an airship version of the Firefly-class ship from the science fiction show of the same name. The body of the superstructure was straight and thin and thanks to two large extendable wings on its back it looked very much like a giant firefly. The back of the ship had a large set of windows where there were observation decks, and a little past the halfway point were two large thrust engines that were attached to stubby support columns which hung down at a forty-five-degree angle. On the underside was a long wide gondola that protruded from the bottom running a good two-thirds the length of the craft with a ramp dropping down at the aft end.

Of course the ramp was the first thing I wanted to look at and dashed across the hard stone floor with Scootaloo right behind.

Now, fillies, you don’t need to run,” Lofty admonished.

Wow!” Ya, that was Scootaloo and me on looking up into the hangar bay.

Walk,” Admonished a unicorn mare at the top of the ramp. Her uniform name tape read Pound.

I pronked and glided in.

Hey!” Protested Scootaloo while launching herself into the air.

The guard cleared her throat while giving us a dirty look.

You didn’t want us tripping on the ramp, right?” I offered with a big smile.

What I wanted was for you to go slow. What if some pony had been exiting?”

If they had been I would have seen them when I was at the apex of my pronk.”

That’s not the point.”

Well, you don’t expect me to…” My sentence trailed off as my ears perked up. The funny thing about all that magic I used all at once is that it’s made me extra vigilant. My ears zero in on the sound of the ramp clacking against the floor of the hangar like someone had just stepped onto it. I sniff, my nose picks up a sent, my sixth sense, which is more acute than it was before, picks up a blob slowly ascending the ramp. I am not getting into another fight that puts me in the hospital, but what if? If alicorn magic is when we mix our manna, what will happen if I hit Harvey with a mix of all four?

I will up manna from all four reservoirs bringing them up to my horn, turn to face the enemy, ram up the power, and release a fireball at my target, careful to cut off the flow of manna just as quickly. The last thing I want is to deplete my reserves again. My target is engulfed in a blue aura while blue arcs of electricity dance about them, they are slammed down the ramp, and across the floor to finally come to a halt when they hit the far wall with a loud crash. With their cloak gone they are revealed to be a pony in Guard uniform. City garrison by the looks of it.

Stay,” I say, as the guard standing by me starts to move. I can hear other guards on the move as well as the sound of running comes to my ears. That is to say that more than Ms Lofty who just came into view. She stopped at the bottom of the ramp and keeps looking back and forth from me to the pony in the City guard uniform. A moment later my victim is being roused and identified.

Nova, Scootaloo, are you two alright?” Lofty inquired.

We’re fine,” I offered. “I don’t understand why though? Who is that? What were they doing using a cloaking spell? How did they even get this far into the secure areas?” Why were they even here? And then a wave of panic hit me, and I teleported. A moment later I’m running through the halls of the keep casting out foxfire to see if I could spot anyone unseen. I find sunset in the library with Cadence. Their look of surprise as I cast out the foxfire is worth a thousand words. The blue fireball I sent their way brought about a look of panic in their eyes, they dive for cover but the unseen figure behind them didn’t. As before they are engulfed in that blue ball, only this time they don’t have as far to go.

Nova! What the buck!” Sunset yelled as the sound of something pony-sized can be heard crashing into a stack of books. Books start falling and this time the blue arches of electricity are all over the place.

I had a guest,” I offered after things quieted down. “And it seems you did too.”

The sound of my handy work brings palace guards running.

Under that pile of land grants in the back,” I offered. “I swear you guys need to install detection fields that will let you know if a pony is using a cloaking spell. There was another one in the secure hangar.”

What?” Now Sunset is looking around frantically.

They were in a downtown guard uniform,” I offered. “I couldn't figure out why they were trying to get onto the airship and then it hit me. It’s not about us. Someone wants to make Aunt Tia Miserable.

What was that blue fireball?!” Cadance asked as she looked up from behind the desk.

What’s happened?” Shouted a frantic Celestia as she dashed into the library.

I figured out how to mix my magic,” I offered. “It just results in a massive flare right now, but it’s effective against cloaked ponies.”

Nova, why are you here and not on the Firefly?”

We had an incident,” I offered. “And then I figured if some pony could get into the hangar…”

So you rushed over here,” Celestia asked.

You’re highness, we’ve got a pony under the books,” Called one of the guards. “Definitely not supposed to be here.”

I hazard a look in the direction I’d sent the intruder. Don’t touch that!” My blood ran cold on sighting the Alicorn Amulet. There is dark magic rolling off the thing. I can see it, like a black mist seeping out of it. “Oh, dear sweet harmony. Sunset, I think they were trying to put that amulet over your head.”

Oh no, do as Nova said,” Celestia admonished the guard who was about to pick up the amulet. “We need the hazardous materials team. That amulet mustn't be touched.”

The amulet will make anyone who dares to wear it go mad with power,” I offered. “And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Sombra had something to do with it.”

If they had put that on my neck?” Sunset asked.

All the worst parts of your personality would have been forced to the surface,” I offered. “And to the best of my knowledge, there are only two ways to get it off a pony wearing it. Either they take it off and they are not going to want to, or cut it off.”

The chain can’t be cut,” Celestia said softly, went over to Sunset, and hugged her.

Nova? What’s going on?” Mom asked as she walked into the small library.

We had some intruders,” I offered. “I should probably get back to the airship. Any chance I can get an escort. I think I’m out of teleports for today.”

Luna, go ahead and go with her,” Celestia offered.

💠

Luna and I returned to the Firefly a short time later with a sizable escort. We’d be taking off with a mixed crew of seven ponies, a dozen pegasi guards, six unicorn guards, and four passengers. The Airship itself had to be searched top to bottom and checked for signs of sabotage.

It was getting late with the sun on its way down by the time we were ready to go. Mom, Lofty, Scootaloo, and myself sat in a lounge behind the command deck, the doors were opened, and the engines started. Lines were cast off, and then we started forward ever so slowly. Oh for the theme music from Star Trek the motion picture to be playing as we exited the mountain hangar.

I had no idea just how high up the hangar had been either. Canterlot lay far below, its spires now cast golden in the light of the setting sun. As for myself, I found myself waking up in a berth sometime later. I’d simply pushed myself too hard too soon after having pushed myself way too hard. Granted if I’d known about mixing I probably could have dealt with my initial assailant with far less output of energy.

I was also ravenously hungry thanks to the outlay of manna and having missed dinner. But where can I scrounge up food in an airship?”

As I wasn’t going to get any less hungry by laying in bed, I decided to get up. My keen night vision showed that I was sharing a cabin with Scootaloo, so I made sure to climb down out of my birth as quietly as possible. Moving across a painted hardwood floor I opened the door to the cabin, and quietly crept out into the corridor. I then closed the door as quietly as I could, followed by wondering which direction was which. I'd gotten seriously turned around with no clue as to front, back, aft, or stern. Not even the gentle motion of the ship could clue me into which direction to go. Bucking relativity. In truth, it was I who was absolutely still while the world raced past. Or not?

I’d a fifty-fifty chance of going in the right direction… or I could let my nose find the way to food. I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath via my nostrils, pointed my nose into the air, and took in several more sniffs. Ya, I know, I’m not a bloodhound. I am a hungry fox pony, and my nose had picked up on an airy sent drifting down the corridor. Is that coffee? The chase was a-hoof.

Trotting along I came to a stop at an open door to what looked like the officers' mess and spotted mom sitting at a table. Her hair was slowly drifting from a light breeze felt by no other, there was a gentle blue aura about her, and her eyes were all glowy. One of the ship’s officers, a stallion named Washboard by the name tape on his uniform, was sitting at the table about as far away as he could get, and each had a cup of coffee.

I walked in and climbed into a chair next to Luna. “It’s just a communication's spell,” I offered as the officer looked at me to acknowledge my presence. His look of concern shifted to one of understanding. “I’m going to see if I can cut in,” I added, placed a hoof against Mom’s side, and began the meditation sequence that would place me in the dream realm.

They all worked for the Equestrian Daily News,” Celestia was saying to Luna. The setting was a garden patio and tea had been served on a small table between the two. “The Gentle-colt who attempted to place the Alicorn Amulet on Sunset had been told it would lead to an exclusive for the paper.”

By any chance is the paper owned by Daisy Bellis Woods?” I asked as I walked over to join them.

Nova? You can dream walk?” Mom asked.

That was you who taught me wasn’t it?” I asked. “Granted you didn’t seem to know who I was at the time?”

Considering the state I was in, anything’s possible, I’d imagine,” Mom offered. She gave me a knowing smile which made me wonder if it had been her at all. Of course, she wasn’t likely to say anything about Nightmare Moon wandering the dreamscape trying to make right the harm she’d done in front of Celestia.

What makes you think Mrs Woods owns the paper?” Celestia asked.

Reporters for a news rag that’s sold in grocery stores touting dubious headlines don’t typically put themselves at risk the way they’ve been doing. I mean, why interfere with the test at all when you can just make something up?”

Either way, they aren’t likely to try again anytime soon. Any chance we’ve figured out how they are getting past the scanners?” Mom asked.

I figure they are piggybacking. Walking in right next to someone with authorization,” I offered.

You think the system may be registering it as an escort then?” Celestia mused. “That’s certainly worth looking into along with some procedural changes. And Nova, thank you for not frying the last two. Thank’s to that we’ve been able to get a good idea what that invisibility spell is and will be able to work out a counter.”

Afraid the only reason I didn’t fry them, was because they weren’t actively engaged in suppressing my magic,” I offered. “As is I figured out how to mix my magic on the fly. I’m probably lucky I didn’t incinerate them.”

I suppose there is that,” Celestia admitted.

So, were you wandering the dreamscape before finding us?” Mom asked.

No, I was wandering the corridor in the airship in search of food because I missed dinner.”

Why did she miss dinner?” Celestia asked.

Fell asleep and didn’t want to wake up,” Mom offered.

Why didn’t you wake her?”

Because one, she was exhausted, and two, she gets nippy. We gave up and plopped her in a bunk to sleep.”

About Mrs Woods, did they find any remains?” I pressed.

There’s no way she could have survived?” Celestia protested.

Don’t be so sure. Nobody, not even so much as a splatter or smear down the side of the escarpment, and she’s still alive. I’m not going to rule out the possibility that fleeing to the Pegasi quarter wasn’t intentional.” Yes I know, I'm sounding really callous here, but my time in the human world had taught me that there is a time for emotions and a time for cold hard facts. So far as I was concerned, Mrs Woods was still alive until proven otherwise. Appearing to have fallen off a cliff was not proof.

The paper is owned by a Mr Rich Muddock,” Celestia offered.

Then why is he so willing to put ponies at risk just to sell a newspaper?” I ask.

It just might be that they’ve been infiltrating places of business and government offices for some time,” Celestia proposed. “As is the investigators have been turning up a chain of magical feedback induced incidents and your assailant seems to have had a front seat to nearly everyone. The paper would then write a report claiming the victims had been drunk.”

I get this feeling you might want to get your hooves on their story drafts,” I offered. I was just a little worried they’d already printed the story about my demise or Sunset’s ongoing rampage.

How’d you know there would be some pony after Sunset,” Celestia asked after a moment’s contemplation. I couldn't help but wonder why she was asking that now?

I didn’t. I was going on a gut feeling,” I offered. “That pony had to have known they’d be found out in the tight quarters of an airship. Their being there didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I just reasoned that if they were trying to get on the airship, they might not be the only ones wondering about where they didn’t belong. I imagine the guards and other personnel can describe how I was casting about my foxfire. The reason I was doing that, was because it would give away the presence of someone invisible.”

Ah, that’s what that was for,” Celestia said softly.

Speaking of gut feelings, I’m really hungry,” I pleaded.

You get going, and I’ll catch up in a minute,” Mom offered.

Alright,” I replied, and backed out.

Chapter 46: Traveling to Flight Camp.

View Online

“What’s going on?” Luna asked Celestia perhaps a bit more forcefully than she’d intended. Nova had just dropped out of the dream realm only a moment before.

“Nova was the one who knew about the amulet, warned us. Not only was her warning not taken seriously, but the information was also leaked, and they were going to try to plant evidence to make it look like she’d had it all along. At least our latest intruders are cooperating.”

“I doubt Moonie would let her get near the thing. Moonie knows everything I knew, and possibly everything the Nightmare knew. If there was one thing she and I were in agreement with it was regarding my two foals. As selfish as the Nightmare could be, my foals were precious to her. They were important to her, and I dare say she fretted over them more than I did. Yes, as my mind clears I am remembering things. Things that weren’t very obvious to me at the time. Those two foals may well have been intended for some grand scheme. What it was, I may never know.”

“Why didn’t Moonie go after these last two intruders?”

“It’s possible she didn’t recognize the threat. Perhaps the invisibility cloak interferes with her abilities. Which may be related to how they are getting into secure areas.”

“The spell they are using somehow confuses the magical sensors used by the various spell checkers.”

“One other possibility, and that is the possibility that Moonie is moonlighting. She’s autonomous to a point. She may be out looking for information herself.”

“That’s kind of a scary thought,” Celestia admitted. “You take care, and I think I’m going to talk to the investigators concerning the possibility of some raids. This whole situation just has me ready to boil. The perpetrators are doing it to get at me. They can’t really do anything to me directly, but they can hurt me by hurting the ponies I care about. Make sure you stay close to Nova and Scootaloo and keep your guard up.”

“I will. That’s not something you have to tell me twice.”





Oh, I saw him,” Moonie offered a short time later. Mom had gotten the on-duty crew to help her rustle up some food for me and I was happily munching away.

Why didn’t you do anything?” Mom asked.

To me he was visible, and I was completely unaware of any subterfuge. Keep in mind that my eyes are just for show and that I’m not limited to what’s on the visual range. No one was reacting to the city guard, and he wasn’t exhibiting any hostile actions. “It was Nova’s response and actions that took me by surprise.”

Alright,” mom replied thoughtfully. “You do realize that this is an issue.”

I’m afraid it’s outside the parameters of my matrix,” Moonie offered as mom got out a piece of paper. Luna wrote a note, rolled it up, and then sent it via a spell.

Moonie,” I began as I took a moment to catch my breath. After all, eating too fast is not good for me. “You can learn though, can’t you?”

Yes, that is in my abilities.”

In which case, sooner or later I’ll start calling you Selena,” I offered. “For now on, you need to evaluate everyone who approaches me, Scootaloo, Mom, or any other individual that we consider friend or family to determine if there is something out of place about the individual. A city guard should not have been in a secure hanger. Determining if they are actively using magic and considering deactivating any active spells should come next. Don’t deactivate cloud walking spells though.”

Moonie considered what I’d said, and smiled. I finished up what I had, and then looked around to see what I was supposed to do with the dish and flatware.

I’ll take care of that for you,” Washboard offered. "I'm the pilot. Don't worry, Melody Pond is covering for me right now."

Oh, thank you,” I offered. “Do we know how long it’ll be before we get to Cloudsdale?”

Probably midnight,” Wash offered as he placed the dishes in a gray tub. I’d still my glass of milk so I finished it off quickly so he could take that too. “We were scheduled to depart right afternoon, and arrive in time for a big dinner.”

Oh, I do so hate to miss out on big dinners,” I offered sarcastically. “Not sure if big dinners and cloud walking mix though. I can just see myself slowly sinking in.”

I’m sure you’d be fine,” he offered, took the glass, placed that in the tub, and took it away. "The dinners are typically held in an all-access facility."

You might as well go back to bed,” Mom prompted.

Will you be going to bed?” I ask.

To be honest, we’ll probably arrive a little after midnight, so there's not much point in my going to bed. And don’t you worry about it, you are light enough even I can carry you if I need to.”

Alright, I’m off to bed then,” I get up, I go around the table to give mom a hug, and then head for the door. I stopped shortly after poking my head through. “Ah, which way?”

Come on, I’ll help you find it,” Mom offered, and a short time later I was back in my bunk.


I must be a heavy sleeper because when next I awoke I was in a rather nice room. I’m not alone in my bed either and pull back the covers to discover Scootaloo curled up in a tight ball. It’s still dark so I decided to go back to sleep.

The next time I woke up it was because of the morning sun in my eyes streaming in through a Shōji screen. Only now do I realize we are sleeping on a futon and the floor is covered with tatami mats. The whole place had the look of a traditional Neighpon bedroom complete with a divided alcove, although in this case, one side had louvered folding doors. The open side had an Ikebana flower arrangement with a wall scroll painting behind it. The one actual window had a shelf slash writing desk right under the window.

This time Scootaloo and I were tangled together. I could just lay there, maybe get a little more sleep, but then again, nature was calling. I had to get up so I slowly extracted myself from Scootaloo, and then slowly dropped off the side of the bed rather than trying to climb all the way to the top of the covers. Now on the floor, I get to my hooves, my shoes are gone, but there are slippers, so I put on the slippers but can’t help but worry about what had become of my shoes.

Well it’s not a hotel, not a modern one, if it was there would be a bathroom attached to the room. I slowly turn the doorknob and have a look-see out into the hallway. Looks like some pony’s house. I step out into the hall closing the door behind me. I’m also just awake enough to summon Moonie.

Moonie, a little help? Which way to the toilet?”

Not going to go exploring?” Moonie asked from the ceiling.

Toilet first, explore later, and I should preen my feathers too.”

Suit yourself,” she replied and trotted down the hall while still on the ceiling.

Not like you have to do biological things. All you have to worry about is whether you have enough magical energy to sustain proper functions,” I protested as I followed. She pointed at a door, I knocked lightly, opened the door, went in, locked it behind me, and went about taking care of my need followed by morning ablutions.

When I’d finished I opened the door to come face to face with an impossibly cute colt who looked like he likely matched my physical age. He was a pegasus, mostly silver with a white band across his face just below the eyes that reminded me of the eighties version of Adam Ant from the group Adam and the Ants. The top of his muzzle was a slightly darker gray than the silver and narrowed to a point at the edge of his mane. His main was short and messy grayish midnight blue with a shock of white on the right side.

Hi,” I offered, and then he turned and ran.

Mom! There’s a strange filly in the toilet room!”

Well, that happened, I say to myself and go back to my room. I’m closing my door around the same time the colt is headed back to the bathroom with a mare in tow.

What’s the commotion out there?” Scootaloo asked from the bed.

I think we are at some pony’s house and no pony told the colt who lives here that there would be fillies.”

Ah.”

He’s kind of excitable, and cute.”

I thought you had a thing for Rumble?”

He’s cute too,” I offer with a smile. “Any idea where we are?”

Neighpon mission to Cloudsdale.”

The Neighpon Mission?” I ask as I find myself a broad spot on the floor, lift one wing into the air and start preening.

Last minute decision. I gather it’s the most secure place in Cloudsdale. It’s on a sky island. A great big hunk of land that floats about thanks to some sort of natural enchantment. The base is on one too, but they wanted to move us just in case.”

I can kind of see that. What with ponies behaving so unlike ponies. And the worst part is the fact that it’s a petty vendetta against Princess Celestia.”

That colts coming,” Moonie announced as Scootaloo was dragging herself out of her bed.

He’s not coming in here is he?” Scootaloo asked.

He’s trying all the doors, and he just went into Luna’s room.”

True to form we heard girlish screaming coming from out in the hall. Not from mom, the colt. Yes, I just had to look. So did Scootaloo, and we were both poking our heads out into the hallway a couple of minutes later with Scootaloo’s head stacked on mine. Mom was looking out her door, the colt was hugging a similarly colored mare, who was sitting on her haunches while looking at Luna with a half panicked expression, and Lofty was looking out another door.

Your right, he does look kind of cute,” Scootaloo offered. “A little on the dumb side. Just the way you like your colts.”

I couldn't resist jabbing an elbow into Scootaloo’s side. We gave each other a big smile though.

Did the Deputy Chief Consul not inform you that there would be guests?” Mom asked.

Pr-pr-Princess Luna!” Gasped the mare.

And Kitsumi-hime,” I offered, kindly enough making sure my smile is not too big and wide. “Is it customary to run away from a guest and then come back and do a room to room search?”

I am so terribly sorry. We thought our guests were diplomats.” The mare offered.

Some pony is trying their best to hurt Princess Celestia by hurting us,” Mom offered. “Coming here was a last-minute thing, in fact, few are those who know we came here. We pray that thou aren’t too inconvenienced and request you tell none of who thy guests are.”

It’s perfectly all right, and Kenta knows better than to pester guests.” Offered the mare I assumed was his mother.

I gather you don’t have many fillies as visitors,” I offered as I walked over to where they were. “Perhaps we will see you at breakfast?”

Yes, I imagine we will,” offered Kenta’s mother.

Good morning, allow me to introduce ourselves, I’m Lofty Clouds, the young miss is my ward Princess Kitsumi Nova,” Lofty offered as she stepped over to us. “And this is her mother Princess Luna Moon Athelas, and the other little filly is my niece Scootaloo.”

Tsuki no Luna Hime,” Mom offered. She switched her attention momentarily to Lofty and added, “Names tend to get switched up a bit.”

The banished princess?” Kenta said a-gasp.

Technically, we were both banished,” I offered. “We were freed from the Yōkai who had attempted to possess mother on the Summer Solstice. I am to understand that at the time there was no other way.”

Wow,” Kenta offered.

I am Sakura Yuki,” Kenta’s mother offered.

A pleasure to meet your acquaintance,” I offered as Scootaloo crept past and into the toilet locking the door behind her.

Hey!” Kenta called realizing he was now locked out.

You had your chance,” I say with a certain amount of satisfaction and then turn to Luna. “Mom, any chance you can help me with my preening?”

No, I didn’t really need it, it just felt nice when she did it. Mom said sure and then I followed her back into her room.

Do you know what became of my shoes?” I asked once in her room.

Not to worry, I held on to them. They offered to have them polished, but I cautioned that your shoes were far too priceless to risk it.”

Chapter 47: Breakfast at the Cloudsdale embassy.

View Online

Breakfast was located in a room with a hearth set right in the middle. The hearth had been lifted up with counter space on four sides that were just wide enough to accommodate tableware. It looked a bit like a Benihana restaurant save in that the host also had a place to eat and everyone sat on cushions that were on the floor.

I must confess I’ve not seen an Irori that has been lifted up like this,” I offered in reference to the fire pit in the middle of the room after having bowed to our host the Deputy Chief Counsel.

A modern adaptation,” he offered while directing Princess Luna to sit to his right. It’s mostly for show these days as most of the food is prepared in a modern kitchen.

Thank you Consular Kuna,” Mom replied as he pointed towards the lofted ceiling. In addition to the pothook that was suspended from the ceiling, a cage and a vent hood were up there.

You’ll note the cage, that is lowered when the hearth is not actively being used. Both the elevation and the cage are to keep inquisitive and or careless foals out of the fire pit. The hood features a fan at the far end of the pipe to draw smoke out without causing a noticeable disturbance the way a fan at the hood would.”

And you don’t simply allow the smoke to filter through?” I ask.

That only works with thatch. These structures feature a composite ultralight tile on an insulated roof. Smoke doesn’t filter through that type of roof very well. - Please, have a seat.”

I must confess that there is so much that is new to me,” I offered as I sat to mom’s right. Scootaloo sat next to me, then Lofty, followed by Sakura Yuki, Kenta, and then finally Consular Kuna.

You’ll find that there have been a lot of changes,” Consular Kuna offered as every pony was seated. It’s also brought about a blending of cultures.”

I must confess that I think that sitting on cushions like this just makes a lot more sense,” I offered.

You don’t like chairs?” Lofty asked.

They take a bit of getting accustomed to,” mom offered.

I don’t understand the use either,” Kuna offered. “They started out as a show of status and wealth. After a while, the use of chairs was adopted by just about everyone. We don’t use chairs or any heavy furnishings here to avoid overloading our island. Not that it’s a problem, but we wouldn't want to find we are at our limit the hard way.”

You mean like some heavy-set visitor steps on and suddenly the whole thing flips, I gather,” I offered with a smile as a servant brought out breakfast while another hung a tea kettle over the fire pit.

I’d say that’s a recurrent concern of mine.” He offered with a smile.

If you are having nightmares I may be able to help?” Mom offered. “There are limits to what I can actually do though.”

I’m good,” Kuna offered. “But since we are at it I’ve heard rumors of a black alicorn driving off night terrors.”

That would be the Night Mare,” I offered. “She seems to have been purified as well and if I were to hazard a guess, she’s trying to make up for what she did. I pray that someday she will find a way.”

You seem to have a soft spot for her?” Sakura asked.

It’s entirely possible she and her brother might not have been born without her influence on me,” Mom offered. “It took quite a lot to break away from my sister. And undoubtedly that same resentment that made me vulnerable. I’d become little more than furniture. At least now no pony expects me to just sit in a palace all the time and behave myself.”

And now that we have our morning meal set before us,” Kuna offered. “Perhaps the little princess would like to say a blessing?”

Thank you, I hope I do not disappoint,” I offered. I placed my front hooves together while casting my gaze downwards, and then went into the traditional Shinto prayer before starting a meal without a second thought. “Tanatsumono momono kigusamo amaterasu Hi-no-Ookami no Megami etekoso itadakimasu.” When I’d finished I made a polite bow and then looked up again.

And every pony is staring at me to include the servants standing by the door to the kitchen.

Have I erred?” It’s at moments like this that Impostor Syndrome hits hard. Way back when I was a little filly I can’t say I paid much attention, and to be honest, I can’t as recall if I ever ate with the adults. And dining with Aunt Tia it was either a simple thank you for the food or chastisement of the nobility for not living up to their responsibilities.

You, you’re a priestess?” Kuna asked.

I’ve had some introductory lessons,” I offered sheepishly. No, no, I’m not. Why would they think that just because; oh good grief the prayer is from Earth. “Nothing more I’m afraid.” Mom was giving me a funny look and then brightened when she realized where I might have picked up such knowledge.

Well, now that the formality is over with, shall we eat?” I asked.

Yes, of course, let us partake,” Kuna offered. Before each of us was spread steamed rice, baked salmon, Shiro miso soup, rolled sweet omelet, hot tofu, and lightly pickled vegetables. The best part is that it wasn’t in excessive portions, but would be enough to satisfy.

The meal was eaten quietly with very little conversation. I couldn't help but wonder if this is what was considered casual. Unlike the Equestrian Nobles who often prattled on about absolutely nothing of consequence, the ponies of Neighpon were cautious of accidentally embarrassing someone by asking a question just as the pony was taking a bite. Politics and religion were off-limits. Granted that in Equestria the two were often one and the same. What was left was stories revolving around one’s own life and things they hoped to achieve.

Mercifully the topic of this year’s Grand Galloping Gala came up.

I’m predicting a most interesting time will be had this year,” I offered with a hint of mischief.

Oh?” mom prompted.

The element bearers will be there this year.”

I’m afraid I don’t see how that’s going to affect the Gala?” Kuna asked.

With the exception of Miss Twilight Sparkle, not a one knows how to conduct themselves at such an event,” mom provided.

I predict that Twilight sparkle will be all but glued to Princess Celestia,” I provided. “Rarity, who by rights should have some idea how to behave herself will throw herself at Prince Blueblood…”

It’s Lady Glory Rose she needs to throw herself at if she wants a piece of that stallion,” Mom quipped.

I’ve got a feeling she doesn't know,” I provided and then continued. “Next we have Rainbow Dash, a Wonderbolt want-to-be and superfan. She’ll be more concerned with trying to impress the members of the Wonderbolts with her prowess than in demonstrating she knows how to behave at a posh event. We may wish to impart on the ponies who are doing the planning to make sure all decor is properly anchored. Now let's see, I expect Applejack will bring her street vendor cart.”

Can she even do that?” Sakura asked.

As a special guest of Princess Celestia, there’s no telling,” Mom offered. “I think a word to the guards might take care of that possibility. Place her where off-duty guards will have access and the caterers won’t know she’s there.”

And that leaves Pinkie and Fluttershy,” I pronounced.

Alright with Pinkie anything is possible,” Mom offered. “But Fluttershy?”

The garden menagerie,” I provided. “Pinkie will undoubtedly try to turn the gala into a polka party and I’m predicting that Fluttershy will stampede the animals in the garden menagerie.”

Fluttershy?” mom pressed.

She’s only shy around ponies,” Scootaloo offered. “She can be downright pushy around non-ponies.”

Sounds like it’s going to be a rather fun Gala this year,” Kuna offered with a mischievous smile. “And here I was thinking of sitting out this one.”

Chapter 48: Flight camp registration

View Online

Of course the Gala wasn’t preeminent on my mind at the moment. After all, flight camp started today. Breakfast was soon over, we finished getting ready, and then Scootaloo and I in matching golden flight suits went out to the garden where a chariot and a dozen pegasi guards awaited. Kenta would have liked to go with us but the need to keep hush-hush on where we were staying as long as possible required he go in an alternate conveyance.

Lofty, Scootaloo, Mom, and I arrived at flight camp a short time later, and such was the throng of pegasi that few paid any attention to the security detail around three young ponies.


Flight camp is at the Cloudsdale Wonderbolt compound this year and energy was running high as parents and students funneled into morning registration. Can’t say I’d ever thought I’d find myself the new student being brought to what was going to prove to be something of a cross between Summer School and camp. My spirits were high despite the potential threat that loomed over me. After all, this was a new experience, and in a way, it felt a little like going to snow camp. Walking across the tops of clouds was a lot like walking through fresh snow. There was that same chill in the air and I could feel my fur going all poofy in response.

Granted that our group had not gone unnoticed as we walked forward.

Flight camp, flight camp, flight camp,” Scootaloo chanted joyfully as our escorts directed us around the crowds.

I couldn't help but notice her usual pronk wasn’t gaining the same altitude it normally would have. But then again, the spongy nature of clouds was a bit like bouncing on a mattress. I tried it out to find that sure enough, it was a completely different kind of push. On my next push, I discovered that the more I push the more I compress the clouds, and the more I compress the clouds the more likely every pony around me will be affected.

Suddenly pony pile. "Ack!"

Followed by the entire group getting bounced into the air.

Next came the inevitable tangle of wings as we all did our best to not sprawl all over the place… which we did anyway.

Nova, dear,” Mom began in a soft tone that hinted at dire consequences from her place in the pile. “I don’t know what you did, but don’t ever do that again.”

All I could do was put my muzzle down in the clouds so she couldn't see me grinning. “Sorry. I had no idea the clouds would suppress that much or be so springy.”

So, what exactly was that?” Lofty asked as we began to untangle ourselves.

I noticed that Scootaloo wasn’t getting her usual height when she pronked, and I wanted to see if I could compensate for the spring of the clouds,” I offered. “Aside from that, I’m not really sure what happened?”

Is every pony alright?” Spitfire asked as she dropped in right next to us. She had her Wonderbolt flight suit on with the hood pulled back and was doing her best to maintain her professionalism.

We are good. Nova just did something that hadn’t worked quite the way she expected it would,” Mom offered. A little help would not go unappreciated.

I think I needed more open space to do a lot of compression,” I offered sheepishly. Fortunately, it didn't take too long to get untangled we were back on our hooves. I couldn't help but feel guilty about being ushered in ahead of all the other ponies but then again being surrounded by security did add to the dynamic. Before us at the registration desk was a light arctic blue pegasus with white hair.

Commander Spitfire, I wasn’t aware there would be VIPs today?” She meant Luna.

Sorry, Fleetfoot, it was originally supposed to be just Princess Nova and Scootaloo, but issues in Canterlot have everyone on edge. Ms Lofty had originally volunteered to help keep an eye on them because she’s Princess Nova’s legal guardian. Princess Luna decided to come following yesterday's difficulties. Both the inner palace and other secure areas were breached yesterday and Princess Luna doesn’t want to let Nova out of her sight. She’s Nova’s mom.”

Princess Luna is her mom? Seriously?”

Hi,” Luna said as she stepped up.

May I introduce Princess Luna,” Spitfire offered with a bright smile.

Hang on, Princess Luna? That, that is, you’re Princess Luna?” Fleetfoot asked perplexed. “But you’re, you are…”

Short?” Luna inquired playfully. Mom wasn't exactly short, she just wasn't anywhere near as tall as she'd once been. If anything she was slightly above average. "A lighter shade than in the pictures?” Luna leaned in and whispered, “Cute? Not a monster?” She gave the flummoxed Fleetfoot a wink.

Monster? Celestia, no,” Fleetfoot protested, remembered herself, got up, and made a polite bow. “Princess Luna, I could never think of you as a monster.”

And cute?” Luna pressed.

Mother, please,” I protested. I seem to recall that mom always did have a thing for white manes. “I do hope you flirt with Miss Alice, I seem to recall the two of you having more than a casual relationship."

I, um, think that perhaps we should move on with the heck en,” Fleetfoot said with perhaps a hint of a blush. “I mean check-in.”

Kitzumi Nova Moon House of Athelas,” I offered. “And Scootalo Supermarine.”

Scootaloo may be listed as a Shutter,” Lofty offered.

Supermarine? Spitfire, is that little filly related to you?” Fleetfoot asked as she turned her direction to Spitfire. Spitfire’s beaming smile of delight spoke volumes. “Commander?”

She’s mine,” Spitfire informed her while puffing up a little. Her smile indicated that she was more than delighted to present Scootaloo.

What? Really?! Hang on, what’s she doing with the Princesses?”

Miss Lofty is Scootaloo's aunt as well as Nova’s guardian.”

It just sort of worked out that way,” Luna offered. “No pony passed word far enough up the chain to let us know she was in Ponyville. Near impossible to undo, and Lofty and Miss Holiday are good ponies so we decided to just keep things as they are.” Originally it had been Celestia's decision, but Luna had agreed later that the current state of affairs had worked out for the best.

Did I hear right?” Soarin asked as he trotted over. “Actual evidence that Commander Spitfire is a mare after all?”

Don’t push it,” Spitfire warned.

Let’s just get every pony registered,” Fleetfoot offered sheepishly. “We’ve one Miss, make that Princess Nova, accompanied by Princess Luna and Lady Lofty. And then we have Scootaloo who is also accompanied by Lady Lofty. Um, Commander?”

I’ll be teaching another group. I’m going to let Soarin have them.”

What?” Soarin asked.

And don’t worry if Nova’s techniques are a little different,” Spitfire offered. “Come to think of it, Scootaloo might be better suited to using Nova’s techniques in that she has a similar wing structure. Her wings aren’t as long because she needs another molt yet.”

Ah, so they’ve both been blessed with your own magnificent wings is it?” Soarin teased.

Captain Soarin, need I remind you of this morning’s briefing?” Spitfire cautioned. Her tone was congenial enough, but the warning to remain professional in his comportment was loud and clear.

Yes, that is no, sorry,” Soarin offered sheepishly. Teasing the other Wonderbolts was such a normal thing behind the scenes that it was difficult to shut it off at times.

Just as soon as every pony is checked in and have their color-coded admission badge we can start forming groups,” Soarin offered with a polite smile a moment later.

"I'm at Flight Camp!" Scootaloo squealed while trotting in place.

And yes, her energy was getting me pumped up. Sure, I'd been to lots of seminars and flight classes, I'd had lots of simulator and air time, but it was different in Equestria. No relying on machines for me, not in this world, in this world most of my flying would be under my own power. Just me and the sky.

I would deny letting out a squeal and trotting in place later on when reminded of it.

Chapter 49: First flights.

View Online

Our little group, not counting our security detail, was directed to a large amphitheater in the clouds where we got to sit in a box seat no less. It was located in a row of box seats just above the first tier of bleachers. Behind us were three more tiers, but the bottom tier is what was filling up. Security fanned out and we waited.

After a while a Wonderbolt, who is nearly as pale as me with a bright yellow puffy mane and tail that reminded me of Pinkie, trotted out onto the stage at the base of the amphitheater. It came as no surprise to me when she started making balloon animals. After all, she is just there to be a distraction. Still, though, it was fun to watch her antics.

I’m going to get a balloon animal,” Scootaloo announced and started for the exit.

Scootaloo, stay please.” Lofty called.

But?”

Where are you going to hold it?” I asked. “There’s bound to be an opportunity later on. Your mom is Commander Spitfire, after all.”

Right she is!” exclaimed the pony who’d been on stage not a moment before as she popped up in our booth.

Gaahhh!” I protested as I fell over backward. “You’re as bad as Pinkie!”

Ooo, high praise,” She replied, and the next thing I knew I had a balloon crown on my head, followed by guards attempting to tackle the crazy Wonderbolt only to miss.

Oh, we are over-eager,” Surprise chastised with a wink as she pronked away.

Lieutenant Sloe Poke Surprise, knock it off!” Spitfire shouted as she dropped into the box. “Honestly, you are lucky you didn’t get blasted dropping in on them like that.”

Mom’s horn is lit and perhaps the only reason she hadn’t blasted LT Surprise was due to an inability to get a clear shot.

As long as she’s here, Scootaloo wanted a balloon animal,” I offered.

Right you are,” Lt Surprise affirmed and a moment later Scootaloo has a balloon something or another. It was looking strangely draconequus like.

But never mind the balloon. Spitfire escorted Lt Surprise back to the front, mom relaxed and a moment or two later Spitfire was welcoming everyone to Flight Camp. What came next was the usual safety precautions and then our introduction to the gathered ponies.

Today we have Princess Luna and her daughter Nova joining us,” Spitfire announced. “Security will be keeping an eye out for any creature trying to cause them trouble.” Her announcement generated a fair number of murmuring in the gathered flock of pegasi. “Princess Luna, how about giving everyone a friendly wave?”

Luna stood up, walked to the front of our box, and called out, “How do I know if I’m doing a friendly wave or not? I’m still learning modern manners.”

Jus… just wave, smile, and wave,” Spitfire said with a big grin.

I bust up laughing.

Care to share?” Mom asked as she looked back at me.

Snerk – take too long to explain! Aah, ha, ha, ha, he, he, he, snicker. Smile and wave. Smile and wave.”

What’s going on up there?” Spitfire called up.

I have no idea?” Mom called back, smiled, and waved her right front hoof as she looked about at the wide-eyed faces. “Something about smile and wave, but it’d take too long to explain.”

So, perhaps Princess Nova would like to say high to everyone?” Spitfire called.

Hi everyone!” I call out as I pop up so ponies can see me. I have a big infectious smile on my face as I do the pony equivalent of an elbow-pivot wave. Scootaloo gets up next to me and mirrors my movement.

Our reward is a brief moment of silence followed by an outbreak of giggles sweeping across the amphitheater.

And the little darling with them is my very own Scootaloo,” Spitfire offered with a big smile.

Stunned silence followed.

Yes, she’s my daughter and I’m her mother,” Spitfire added. She’s with the Princesses due to her Aunts being the Royal nannies. It just sort of worked out that way.

For those of you who have been following the News,” Spitfire continued, “The Palace has been having issues with ponies who have been less than on their best behavior. Princess Nova signed up for flight camp before any pony knew who she was, and following the incidents, Princess Luna was unwilling to let her out of her sight. Ergo the reasons for this year’s heavy security presence.

And now it’s time to form up our groups,” Spitfire announced followed by cheering. She waited a moment. “We’ve all got our color-coded badge. Just look for the Wonderbolt with the same colored badge. I’ll be leading the greens, Soarin has purple...”

I didn’t bother to listen any further and as every pony in our group had purple tags we all got up and made our way up to the front. Granted that we probably should have waited, but then no pony else was much for waiting either. The moment Spitfire announced her color group all sprang up and a form of semi-controlled chaos soon followed.

Rumble!” I called on seeing him. He’d the same color and I couldn’t be happier. We were soon joined by Featherweight, Zipporwhill, Wind Sprint, and Cotton Cloudy. Cotton Cloudy was sort of an off-white grayish pony with a sea-foam-colored main and tail, and Wind Sprint looked suspiciously like she might be related to the Sparkles.

Oh gee, golly, wiz, I get to be in the same group as a princess.”

That voice. Oh dear god.

I turn towards the voice and sure enough, it’s Cozy Glow. Well, it is, and it isn’t. She’s bouncing excitedly, but the super-tight Shirley Temple curls just aren’t there. Surprising me even further her cutie mark was not the familiar red tower, but a golden heraldic rook. Gone were the battlements at the top of the tower-like structure replaced by two stylized wings looking a bit like a jesters cap.

My mind immediately clicked on the origins of the Rook. That rook cutie mark was shouting out protector and quite possibly meant she was destined to pull a chariot.

I heard about that pony who went after you at the school. You must have been so scared,” Cozy stated in a drawn-out way that seemed more accusatory than questioning.

She was still bucking annoying.

Cozy dear, manners,” scolded a light alabaster mare with a pink curly mane and tail.

Oh, that’s right. Do please forgive me, your Majesty,” Cozy stated while doing a slight curtsy.

Miss Cozy Glow, it’s ‘Highness’ and if you could, please say ‘Miss’ instead of Ma’am,” I requested as nicely as I could. “And if you must know, by the time I’d figured out what was going on I was too full of adrenaline to be scared. That and angry. At first, I didn’t know what was going on. You see I have a charmed amulet that I wasn’t allowed to use during testing and I thought that just maybe the amulet had been boosting my magic. When I realized there was someone in the room actively hindering me it occurred to me that they were there to block entrance into the school of ponies not already approved of by certain parties unknown to myself.”

So you got mad and assaulted them, was it?” Cozy accused. Everyone who heard her accusation just stopped everything they were doing.

Miss Cozy Glow, I was being actively assaulted by an adult pony. Every effort I made to break free of their intentions was being countered. The other adults in the room had no clue what was going on, or if they did they failed to react in time to help. That pony fully intended to do me harm. As is I was taxing my abilities to the limits. My last-ditch effort to make them stop caused me to pass out. Had they anticipated my last spell and countered it, I might not be here now.” I took a breath and let it out slowly, fairly sure my ears had gone back in an aggressive display.

Now, if you’ve any other misconceptions, I’d be more than happy to help you out if I can.”

Well, I read that-”

Whatever you read, doesn't apply to ponies like me.”

Miss Cozy,” Mom interjected. “My daughter has a talent for doing the impossible.

And Nova, I realize recent events have been difficult, but that’s no reason to lash out.”

Alright, if I can get every pony together who’s in my group?” Soarin called cutting off any retort I might have had. “Come on, every pony this way.”

I sure hope those fuzzy wings don’t give you a problem,” Cozy offered as we followed our assigned Wonderbolt. “Those long thin wings don’t look like they’re going to be much good. I read that wide wings get more lift.”

Sleek bodies move through the air with less drag,” I countered. “But don’t worry, pigeons can fly too.”

Terms you should be familiar with,” Soarin said as he walked along and Cozy fumed. “Are thrust, lift, drag, gravity, G-force, apparent weight, and the physical effects of g-forces. Pegasi have the largest sternum along with some more bird-like features needed for flight. Your movement vectors are pitch, yaw, and roll. Think of pitch as the direction you go when your nose goes up or down with your body matching the movement. Yaw is when you turn your body on a flat plane, and roll is just rolling over. Something I’m sure you can all do.”

Cozy lifted one wing high into the air bouncing to get Soarin’s attention. He stopped and the group stopped with him. “If you need to use the little fillies room there are little porta-stations strategically positioned,” He offered and then pointed out several little cloud towers that looked suspiciously like pigeon lofts.

Oh good golly no, Mr Soarin, I had a flight question,” Cozy stated, sounding annoyed.

Which is, Miss?” Soarin asked.

Well, I read that smooth wide wings get the best lift.”

And your question?”

The irony here was that my long wings were every bit as wide as hers and only looked thinner when folded.

Well, wouldn't fuzzy wings be a hindrance to flight?”

Not at all. Smooth or fuzzy, each set of wings have their own unique characteristics. Flight is obtained by combining thrust and lift. All thrust and you’ll never be able to glide. Lift without thrust will get a flier off the ground but they aren’t going to go very far without a thermal to ride on, and may even find themselves walking a lot. Ponies obtain flight by overcoming gravity with lift and thrust. So long as we have enough lift and thrust to overcome gravity, we will fly.” He looked about at where we were. We’d passed out of the amphitheater to a large open expanse of clouds that looked a bit like gently rolling hills.

Alright, I’d say this is as good a place as any,” Soarin announced. “I want every pony to spread out and we are going to start with some basic exercises.”

Pardon, I’m going to need a little more room,” I prompted of the ponies next to me. Cozy was right on my nine o'clock position.

Oh my gosh, I should have known a Princess would need more room,” Cozy stated in a tone that was really starting to sound like she was mocking me. My keen hearing picked up the voice of Cozy’s mother hissing at her to be polite.

I’m so sorry, I should know better than to presume that I might need more room, just because I’m a princess,” I said loudly while unfolding my left wing and bringing the wrist portion of my wing down to pat her on the head. I’m rewarded with giggling from the other foals.

When I said spread out, I meant spread out,” Soarin called out. “Stretch out your wings as far as they’ll go and start side-stepping until you all have plenty of room. Both wings, come on, spread out.”

To both my delight and annoyance Cozy had to be physically moved. Although, the thing that bugged me the most is that I couldn't tell if she was doing it intentionally or if she just didn’t understand that what she was doing wasn’t appreciated. At least I’d be relatively free of her for the moment.

Soarin set to having us do some wing stretches, first, one wing straight out, followed by the other, forward sweep, and then back. Rotating our wing wrist clockwise and then counterclockwise…

My wing intersected with another. “Cozy, what are you doing?!” Yes, Cozy Glow had slowly shifted closer and closer until she’d gotten so close we were bound to mesh. And I was sure it had been her short of the clouds had been shifting under my hooves.

Oh golly, I’m so sorry, was I in your way?”

Cozy, whatever it is you are doing, stop it,” Her mother scolded as she trotted over. Now move back over to where we put you.

But I just want the princess to like me,” Cozy protested.

I’m not going to like you very much if you get me hurt from trying too hard,” I scolded. “For heaven’s sake, just relax and try to be mindful of your actions.”

To my bewilderment she looked more surprised than scolded.

We can talk later, alright?”I offered hopefully.

I, I guess. It’s just that you might be in danger,” Cozy replied cheerfully enough.

Cozy, we are surrounded by security,” I offered. My mind clicked on an idea. “Listen, are you any good at feeling air currents?” She nodded her head. “Well then, the best way to help is to feel for, how should I put this, anything out of place that doesn't quite make sense.”

Invisibility charms have their weaknesses,” Scootaloo informed her. “The stallion that went after her in the school was too clever for his own good and gave himself away. Clouds will reveal an unseen presence, and the wind has tells too. I’ve been practicing. I’m better at hearing the earth.”

You can hear the earth?” Cozy asked incredulously.

Mixed heritage,” I provided.

Are we quite done over there?” Soarin asked.

Oh, golly Mr Soarin, I’m sorry,” Cozy replied.

Alright, next I want every pony to move your wings up and down really fast,” Soarin commanded. He smiled as he looked out over the foals. Most weren’t going anywhere. Scootaloo, Rumble, and I went straight up.

Alright, you can stop,” Soarin called.

Scootaloo and Rumble cupped their wings to drop back down softly on the cloud surface, and I decided to create a quick little platform to perch on.

Soarin couldn't help but smile as he looked up at me. “I see that some of you have figured out a few tricks. As for the rest of you, what went wrong? Why didn’t you lift off?” He got no answer. “I’ve no doubt you’ve all been told to just flap your wings as hard as you can.” Several individuals nodded their heads. “Hate to tell you this, but the pony who gave that advice was an idiot.”

Rainbow Dash always said I should flap as hard as I could,” Scootaloo offered.

And is that what you were doing just now?” Soarin asked.

Well, um, ah, no.”

If all we do is flap our wings up and down it’s not going to matter how hard we flap because we’ll never get enough lift. Now, the first thing I’m going to tell you is that you are not too heavy. If you were you’d be sinking into the clouds. Pegasus magic can only go so far. That said, our magic is tied to our physical fitness. Couch potatoes never fly.” He waited a moment for the snickering to stop. “You all have your flight feathers, or at the very least, junior flight feathers. The secondary feathers and that’s this section,” He unfolded one of his wings to indicate the wrist back to the shoulder, “..is where you get most of your lift. You primaries out on the end provide lift and thrust. To take off you have to adjust the angle of attack.” He then demonstrated by pivoting the pitch of his wing. “Bring your wing up at a steep angle, allow the air to flow through, and then sweep forward and down adjusting the pitch of the wing to push down as much air as you can. Sweep back just a bit to push forward, bend at the joints, bring up that angle of attack, and repeat the cycle.” He waited a moment, and gave me a funny look. He nearly burst into laughter when my horn started glowing followed by my little cloud dropping back down to merge with the clouds we were standing on. “Alright, I want everyone to go through the motion, slow like. You should be able to feel it working. I want you to go through the motion a few more times just so we can get that into muscle memory and I’m going to go around and check how you are doing.”

Soarin walked around the group and every so often he’d stop and give some pony some pointers.

Your angle of attack is really shallow,” Soarin offered as he came over to me.

It sure is,” I replied. I shifted to catch and push more air down and immediately lifted off. From there I spread my wings to soar mode, pulled up my legs, and just hung there on the slight breeze.

Show off,” Scootaloo called.

Most ponies have elliptical wings,” I offered. “Relatively fast and can maneuver in tight spaces. I seem to have a compound wing that favors extremely slow soaring speeds while allowing for both high speed and maneuverability. All depending on how I use my wings. Speed takes a lot of effort unless I cheat.”

Cheat?” Soarin asked.

I’ve found that I can increase my thrust with my unicorn magic. I can even push myself without having to flap at all.” Yes, I’d figured it out. No idea how efficient my rudimentary use of magic was, but I could do it.

It’s a pity that’s not something I can teach everyone,” Soarin offered with a smile.

Afraid I can’t really answer that,” I offered. “Maybe there’s a way for a pegasus to do it using only their own magic. Can’t say at the moment because I just don’t know enough about magic yet. Good possibility Rainbow Dash is doing it subconsciously simply because the kind of speeds she can obtain should by rights be impossible. Even for an alicorn without at least three different assist spells.”

Assist spells?”

A spell to provide propulsion, a spell to shield the body, and some way to provide good air because at those kinds of speeds it’d be difficult to breathe.” My recollection was that birds adapted to highspeed flight actually had little cones in their nostrols that worked the same way as the cones on a jet engine intended for high-speed flight. Pony nostrils didn't have that adaptation but could be folded to control the amount of airflow. It still left the issue of the air becoming rarefied when we needed it the most. Sure a Peregrin Falcon could exceed two hundred miles per hour, but that was only while in a dive and never prolonged.

You might just be right,” Soarin replied with a grin.

Soarin walked back up to the front. “Our first exercise is going to be a little gliding, but before we can do that, you need to know how to stop.”

I couldn't help but contemplate the reality of a species born with wings not instinctively knowing how to fly, as Soarin demonstrates how to slow down and stop with wide sweeping motions of his wings. This was followed up with every pony mimicking him. More than a few found the need to do it real slow-like or get propelled backward.

Mr Soarin, I think I did it wrong!” Cozy complained. It was all I could do to not bust up laughing at seeing her on her back, with her wings spread, and her hooves straight up. “Help I’m stuck!”

Cozy, any chance you can pull in your wings and just roll over?” I asked.

Cozy Glow looked at me, then her left-wing, followed by pulling it in. from there she lay on her side while pulling in her right-wing.

Well, golly gee, I must sure seem like quite the fat head to you all,” Cozy offered as she got up.

So do you all have a general idea?” Soarin called out. He waited a few moments to see every pony’s reaction. “Alright then, it’s glide time, follow me.”

I have to admit that I am just a little excited as we follow Soarin over to a small cloud hill. Our helpers shadowing us to make sure no one somehow manages to get lost on the way.

Alright, every pony line up. Every pony is going to get a chance. What we are going to do is have each of you glide off of the hill a short distance to practice control and landing. I can tell you what to do, but in the end, you need to figure out what you need to do. We teach you this way so we can make sure you can handle the basics before we set you loose.”

You’re first flight,” I whisper to Scootaloo.

Ya, I was all over the place,” Scootaloo admitted.

Oh golly, what was it like?”Cozy asked while butting in. Meanwhile, Soarin was giving last-minute tips.

Featherweight nearly blew away and had to be fetched, Rumble had no trouble with the exercise, Zipporwhill was all over the place but somehow managed to stick her landing, Wind Sprint nosed into the clouds almost immediately and Cloudy dug a furrow through the clouds.

Some how or another Cozy Glow got ahead of Scoots and me. Naturally, she just had to impress upon Soarin all the fun little facts she knew about flying. Getting her to actually do it was proving difficult.

Cozy, there are ponies here who can catch you if something goes wrong,” I offered in a tone I hoped would be encouraging. The downside is that her reluctance to go was making me nervous.

What better time than now to listen to the wind. Listening to the wind could be tricky with so many pegasi about. Try to imagine singling out a single ripple in a river churning with rapids.

Nothing.

Of all the tells in the wind I could find nothing that seemed suspicious. At least until I felt a small tremor. Cozy was shivering. No, make that quaking in fright. Could she be afraid? I stepped up so she could hear me whispering.

Cozy, are you listening to the wind? Listen to her voice. So gentle and soft. Listen for her voice. It’s there, hidden under all the noise. Listen, she’s calling. Spread your wings and I will embrace you, spread your wings and I will lift you. Listen to her voice. I know you. I have known you your whole life.”

I, I can’t,” Cozy said softly.

It’s alright,” I offered softly. “Take a chance. Listen…”

I couldn't resist a little air pressure manipulation, a little backup music.

Can you hear her?” I whisper.

*If you change your mind, I’m the first in line Honey I’m still free, take a chance on me…

I add my voice to the song I know so well, *“If you need me, let me know, going to be around If you’ve got no place to go if your feeling down…”

Cozy’s ears have switched from back in fright to straight-up telegraphing surprise and delight.

Suddenly she is singing along.

Could that be Heart song magic? Can’t be, it’s ABBA. Cozy spreads her wings, steps forward, adds a hop as instructed, brings down her wings, sweeps them back, in, and then forward and out to glide.

*“Going to do my very best and it ain’t no lie, if you put me to the test, if you let me try,” Cozy sang as she glided out over the clouds.

*That’s all I ask of you Honey, the wind whispered back.

Given the magic of Equestria I wasn’t entirely sure if it was my doing or the wind had actually answered.


I on the other hoof had become one with the wind. My wings spread I kept pace with her. Suddenly Scootaloo is by my side adding to the song. A moment later Mom and Soarin had joined as we’d gone much further than we were supposed to.

Cozy Glow is oblivious as she delights in the experience of flight, and when she had decided she’d gone far enough she did the stopping motion and safely set down on the clouds.

I pull up even as Cozy is delighting in the triumph of her first flight. Soarin drops down to check on her, Scootaloo and Mom follow me. A moment later cozy is back in the air. A few moments later our entire class is in the air.

Undeterred, Soarin continued the class up in the air and when lunchtime rolled along we were all hungry enough that no pony needed to be prompted twice.

Chapter 50: X-wing

View Online

We weren’t exactly the first to arrive at the Wonderbolt dining facility, nor were we the last. To say the place was packed would be an understatement. It was also very loud.

Your Highness's,” Offered a guard Lieutenant with a sharp salute as he approached. “Princess Luna, the raid on the Equestria Daily News early this morning is in the late edition of the morning papers. Word is the proprietor is in custody and that there is ample evidence that they were writing stories and then making the events fit their narrative. Princess Celestia will be making a statement this afternoon.”

Thank you, Lieutenant,” Mom replied.

Ma’am,” The Lieutenant replied, and then blended into the crowd.

We should get something to eat before we get bombarded with questions,” I offered.

Might be a good idea,” Lofty seconded.

Looks like cafe style,” Mom observed. “Let’s get into line.”

They raided a newspaper?” Cozy questioned as we made our way to the line for food.

We’ve had several incidents at the Palace that hadn’t been released to the public,” I offered. “They’d figured out an undetectable invisibility spell which had been used to gain access to secure areas of the palace. They were also using it to get dirt on ponies. When that failed to give them the dirty laundry they wanted they’d make the facts fit their narrative. We already have evidence that their reporters have assaulted several members of the nobility using the same tactics they tried on me.”

Wait, what exactly was that unicorn you roasted trying to do?” Cozy asked.

He was blocking my manna flow. I’m to understand it’s extremely dangerous. There were others there doing the same thing to other applicants. They wanted to make sure certain ponies failed their practicals. When I realized what was going on, which was the last thing my assailant wanted, it turned into a fight for survival because I was trying to expose them.”

But if they were blocking your manna flow, how were you even able to fight back?” Cozy asked. I also couldn't help but notice she’d dropped the golly-gee stuff too.

He only blocked my horn.”

Pegasi magic is expressed via the wings, and earth pony magic is expressed via the hooves,” Scootaloo provided. “Nova did the magical equivalent of an Iron Pony marathon in only a few seconds. She collapsed and had to be hospitalized. That’s also why that stallion got so badly hurt. Nova doesn’t exactly know how to hold back yet and had become desperate in her own defense. Her manna levels had dropped so low by the time it was all over she had to be rushed to the onsite medical facility. Princess Luna was really worried about her.”

Desperation can inspire a pony to do the impossible,” I offered.

They hadn’t really mentioned any of that in the papers,” Cozy admitted. Granted that it was typical of many of the papers to leave out important details favoring sensationalistic wording. After all, headlines declaring that a princess put a pony in the emergency room sold more papers than admitting the princess nearly ended up in emergency herself.

The papers weren’t interested in the whole truth. One moment they are posting fluff and the next being intentionally misleading,” I groused. “Of course there are the occasional outliers who actually print the unadulterated truth or just fabricate out and out lies to gain readers.”

Aren’t you a bit young to be so cynical?” Cozy asked.

I’m a thousand-year-old filly who lost everything I knew because mom got possessed and my aunt got played. How could I not be a little cynical?”

Point taken,” Cozy admitted.

To be honest I was just starting to get adjusted to this new world.”

I let out a sigh as mom reached down to nuzzle me.

Come on now, let us not get worked up,” Mom offered reassuringly. “As you said, we should get something to eat before ponies start asking a lot of questions.”

Sorry,” I offered sheepishly.

I really should be more careful too. It’s not like our conversation was private. After all, we were part of a group that was in a busy dining facility. About the only privacy we had, was the cover of the din of the crowd.

It was a safe bet the ponies around us had heard every bit.

No matter. Food was soon upon our trays and we were directed to reserved seating. Nor were we the only ones with reserved seating. With as many ponies as were expected it was decided that each group would get a reserved table. This meant no wandering around looking for an open place to sit. Which was time saved. It also made things a lot easier on security.

After lunch the groups went to lecture halls, about a dozen groups per hall, where we got a heaping helping of the theory of flight and flight mechanics. Granted that there were a lot of foals who wanted to get out and fly right away which meant explaining to everyone that they didn’t want inexperienced fliers flying right after eating.

No one wants a wing cramp when they are two thousand feet in the air.

More likely they don’t want any pony puking up their lunch over populated areas,” I whispered to Scootaloo. Rumble and Cozy had heard what I’d said and it was all the three who bust up laughing.

Princess Nova, care to share?” Spitfire asked from the front of the lecture hall. The hall is one of those that had each row on a slightly higher tier which made it easy to see our instructors, and they could see us just as well.

I was just reminding my friends that flying on a full stomach can cause stomach upset,” I called back.

Oh, right, there is that,” She replied with a smile. “No bombing the ground pounders allowed.”

There is a moment of confusion followed by barely stifled laughter erupting throughout the room.

Let’s talk wings,” Spitfire offered as the room quieted down. “By now you’ve probably noticed that many pony wings are wide with rounded ends. However, if you take note of Soarin’s wingtips they taper down to a point. Come on Soarin, show us those marvelous wings.” Soarin proudly displayed his wings and got some good-natured teasing. “My wings, you may have noticed taper down even sharper,” Spitfire offered as she displayed one wing. “Look, just as wide on the inner half, but…” She stepped over to Soarin. “My wings are longer.”

She uses wing extensions,” Soarin teased in a mock whisper and one hoof up to his muzzle.

Our wings hint at our heritage,” Spitfire offered while ignoring the teas. “Ponies are in general, vegetarian, but not strictly so. We pegasi do like our fish, and our wings tell us a little about what our ancestors might have been eating.” She paused and looked up my way. “Princess Nova, might I borrow you?”

You want me to come to you?” I asked.

If you could.”

I looked back and forth, we’d been positioned right smack in the middle, and getting past the other ponies on our row was not going to be easy.

Nova.” Lofty stated as she’d already figured out what I was going to do before I had.

Lofty?” Mom asked and then switched to me as my front hooves lifted and my back legs coiled. “Nova, no!”

Too late. I’d pushed down, hopped so as not to over compress, and then pushed off as the floor came back up. Even as the ripple went out through the floor from where I started my wings swept down lifting me, and then I allowed myself to glide ever so slowly over the tops of the ponies who’d been between me and my goal. Even my tail feathers were fanned out which was something seldom seen in modern pegasi who used their fan sparingly.

I glided on over, making not a sound as I wheeled around and gently set down on Soarin’s back. Tip to tip my wings were nearly as long as his. Well, maybe not quite as long, but my wingspan to body size was impressive for an Equestrian pegasus.

To my amusement he actually spooked a little. He knew I was coming, he was watching me. But then I passed out of his field of vision. Perhaps he thought I was just going to land nearby?

Soarin, something wrong?” Spitfire teased.

She’s so quiet,” Soarin said softly as he looked back at me.

She’s got a very special set of wings,” Spitfire announced. “And not just because she’s an alicorn. Though alicorns indeed have larger wings, her unique wings are due to her Fox-Pony heritage. I’ve got a little Fox Pony heritage myself. Fox ponies weren’t just opportunistic limited meat-eaters like regular pones tend to be or fish eaters like pegasi. After all, we learned long ago that we need that protein and the extra calcium for big strong wings. Granted that with biological compatibility between the three tribes, we ponies are all equipped with the ability to digest both meat and dairy products, unlike the wild feral horse found in the southern grasslands beyond the borders of Equestria.

We don’t see many fox ponies in Equestria these days, but I can tell you that they are hunters,” Spitfire pointed out. “Notice the width and shape from the elbow inward is a nice wide airfoil for plenty of lift. Beyond the elbow, her wings shift to a long narrow profile with a knife-edge point. This is what allows her to go fast. That fluff on her wings does add drag while at the same time acting as silencers.”

Can’t say I’ve done any active hunting, aside from sneaking up on some pony that is,” I offered with a grin as I folded up my wings.

When we are done here, we are going out to the obstacle courses,” Spitfire announced.

Now that you all know the basics, it’s time to see what you can do,” Soarin added over the sound of murmured excitement.

Are you done with me,” I asked quietly.

Yes, go on back to your seat,” Spitfire replied. A moment later I was back in the air.

I imagine my small size as a filly helped as I doubt I’d have been able to maneuver in that room if I’d been full grown. Dropping back down to my seat proved a little tricky, but I managed it just the same.

Seems you figured out how to kick off without launching every pony into the air,” Mom offered dryly.

Rainbow is going to be so jealous when she hears you landed on Soarin,” Scootaloo teased.

I’d think she’d rather land on Applejack – oh, you mean her fangirling and all,” I replied, a big smile forming on my face. Down in front Spitfire and Soarin had gotten out some wing charts and were presently talking about the different wing types.

At the end of the hour it was time to go out to the obstacle courses. Which I would soon learn meant a series of gates that had to be navigated.

Not everything goes as planned. When our class arrived we discovered what to my eyes was a group of college-age students using the course we were scheduled to use. What with everything that had been going on I immediately thought the worst and we’d end up having to do relays or something.

And then I saw Dash and Cadance.

Cadance!” I called and trotted over to her. “What are you doing here?”

Nova, Sorry I couldn't tell you, it was top secret,” Cadance offered and then hugged me. “You didn't think they’d let a bunch of beginners do an obstacle course without helpers, did you?”

I think I can probably manage it,” I offered with a smug grin. “Might not break any speed records, but I’m fairly sure I can manage it.”

Hi ya squirt,” Dash says to Scootaloo.

Rainbow!” Scootaloo shouts zips over to her and hugs her. “Rainbow I’ve got to introduce you to someone…” Next thing Dash knows she’s being all but physically drug over to a big good-looking Wonderbolt. “LT Soarin, this is my big sister, Rainbow Dash.”

Big sister?” Soarin asked and then cast a glance over at Spitfire.

She’s her mentor,” Spitfire scolded. “How old do you think I am?”

Ah, wut?” Dash uttered. She wasn’t entirely sure if Soarin thought Spitfire was old enough to be her mother, or if he thought she was young enough to be Spitfire’s daughter, or if he was thinking they were in a relationship. Either way, that stallion was on thin clouds.

Just ignore him,” Spitfire told Dash. She then switched her focus to the group. “Alright, every pony team up with a partner. I want you to know that we don’t expect anyone to finish the course. We aren’t here to race either. This exercise is to help you learn by doing. Alright, everyone partner up.”

Cadance, you want to partner up?” I asked.

I don’t know, do you think you can keep up with me?” Cadance teased.

Can’t say I’d know. It’s not like I’ve ever seen you fly.”

Yes, there is that,” Cadance admitted sounding just a little put-out. “It’s just that ever since Aunt Tia took me in getting any actual air time has been difficult. The castle is a no-fly zone and if I try to fly anywhere they insist on loading me into an air chariot.”

Well then, let’s stop wasting time, and get started.”

Hold on, there’s an order to this.”

And let Dash in ahead of us?”

I heard that,” Dash protested. “Come on Scootaloo, let's race them.”

Race?”

Dash, no racing!” Spitfire called. “Team racing is tomorrow. Today is just…”

Dash either didn’t hear or was ignoring her and took off.

Oh heck with it,” I said to myself and took off after Dash.

Hey, we are supposed to stay together!” Cadance protested from behind me.

Wait for me!” Scootaloo called.

As for Dash, it didn’t take me long to realize she wasn’t going all out.

I simply could not resist sliding up right behind her, and when I saw her head moving to have a look a slipped around the other way.

Hey. Where’d Nova go?” Dash asked as she looked back, only to be answered by laughing and pointing. “What?”

I could hear the sound of Dash doing a spin followed by frantic flapping.

Oh, it is on!” Dash proclaimed as she speeds past me. I speed up and we were joined a moment later by Rumble who would not be left out.

Being an adult is overrated. Sure, I’d likely never have to worry about keeping a roof over my head or food to feed myself and my family in this world. Not that the position I’d been born into didn’t have its fair share of problems. At the moment, I had nothing to worry about on my mind. No morning rush, no getting stuck in traffic, no worrying about would-be assassins, or political intrigue. Just me being a filly enjoying life as though I hadn’t a care in the world.

I speed up to catch up to Dash. She’s got a jump on me which means working extra hard just to get in range.

Tractor-beam engaged.

And now I’m coasting along like a water skier being pulled by a boat.

That’s cheating,” Rumble protests, followed by latching onto me, his front legs around my neck.

Rumble, aren't we a little young to be ex-winging?” I teased in mocking protest.

Ex… what?” Rainbow turns a corner with Rumble and I careening out of control like we were the tip of a whip.

Granted if it had been just me I could have managed it, but Rumble was making it difficult to maneuver.

Rumble, let go!” This time my protest was in earnest as we tumbled out of control. My tractor-beam snapped, and away we went. “Yaaaa!!!”

Wump!!

It was anyone’s guess how deep we had been embedded into the cloud bank, and quite possibly a good thing we were over a cloud field and not the more solid sky island.

Chapter 51: The Drumlin Hay

View Online

What’s Ex-winging?” Rumble asked. He’d let go at the last moment but wasn’t too far from where I’d ended up. And that was deep inside one of the clouds following our crash landing. Hey, when you can walk away it’s a landing.

When a boy pegasus likes a girl pegasus a whole lot and she likes him back… go ask your brother.” To be honest I had no way of knowing if pegasi really did do it while flying. And no, I wasn’t going to try to explain something to a colt a filly of my apparent age should not even know about.

You two alright?” Scootaloo asked with her head stuck into the clouds.

OK, but stuck,” I replied.

Just activate your earth pony magic, just be careful…”

:scootangel:

I should have known.

Down I went through the clouds and out the bottom with Rumble and Scootaloo right behind me.

Be careful not to use too much!” Scootaloo shouted.

Oh now you tell me,” I offered as all three of us spread our wings to arrest our fall.

You didn’t wait for me to finish. I’d tunneled my way down to you.”

We’re under the clouds, what are we supposed to do?” Rumble called.

Find a break in the clouds,” I shouted back.

I see rain,” Scootaloo announced.

Then we go in the opposite direction,” I shouted as I looked around to find where the rain was. “The wind will push us down if we get too close or worse yet, caught in the rain. Come on, this way…”

I’d guide you back through the hole you made but it’s already closed up,” little Moonie offered moments after appearing at my side.

Moonie!” Scootaloo called.

Can you find us a way back up?” I asked. “If we have to go all the way to the edge of the city; I’m not sure we can make it.”

This way,” Moonie offered and then turned towards the rain.

Moonie?!” I was just a little apprehensive. “Come on, we should follow her,” I called to the others.

You said we’d need to fly away from the rain?” Rumble asked.

There must be a way up,” I offered.

☁☁🌧

I will have to admit that I did not expect to find an airship lurking in the lower portion of the clouds. Moonie opened a side door a short distance behind the bridge and in we went.

Should this even be here?” Rumble asked.

Probably not. Be quiet,” I cautioned. “I can just imagine what sort hides out in an airship right under a Wonderbolt compound.”

It’s looking kind of beat up, maybe it’s a derelict?” Scootaloo said softly as she tried a door to our right. “Looks like a kitchen. No one there though.”

A short way past there is a door to the left with a hallway opposite. I am the first to venture into the hallway. It’s short, having one door to my left, make that starboard, and a door at the other end of the hall. I decide to listen for anyone beyond the aft door first but hear nothing. From there I quietly pad my way to the port side door. I hear radio chatter and wonder if I dare look? Slowly, quietly I turn the knob and begin to open the door only to have a hinge sing me the song of its people.

I cringe. I hazard a look to find an empty radio room. I venture in and have a quick look around. “Letterhead says we are on the Drumlin Hay.”

Oh wow, it’s a ghost ship,” Rumble proclaimed. “The Drumlin Hay went missing over the Everfree, or at least that’s what every pony thought.”

No pony upfront,” Scootaloo offered.

Moonie, anyone on board besides us?” I asked.

Moonie thought about it for a moment, took off for the door aft, and ghosted right through it.

I had to let out the breath I was holding. “I keep forgetting that she’s made out of pure magical energy.”

Ya, I thought she was going to go splat too,” Rumble admitted.

I doubt there’s anyone on board,” Scootaloo offered. “If there was any danger wouldn't she go nightmare?”

Not necessarily,” I countered. “She never remarked on the pony trying to sneak onto the Firefly.” I left the radio room and opened the aft door to discover a very nice lounge. From there I went forward to the bridge.

I climb up into the pilot’s chair and have a look around. I reach out with my magic and turn the radio on. Sure I can reach the wheel, but pretty much everything else was going to require magic due to my small size. At least the control configuration was set to allow full control of the rudder and elevators. Behind me was a larger wheel on the Port side that was marked engine trim. Well, if I had to I could manipulate it with my magic and hope I didn’t overcharge and break anything.

Wonder what this does…” Scootaloo began.

Don’t touch,” I scolded.

And what about you?” Rumble asks.

I was a pilot in a previous life,” I offered as I started flipping switches. “Scootaloo,” I point to a large switch. “That’s the mooring line release, get ready to pull it.” I flip some more switches and watch the gauges come to life. A smile creeps across my face at the realization that it lives. Next came the four slide leavers to power up the engines, and power them I did. Granted that had the ship truly been derelict, the engines more than likely would not have started. No, some pony was up to no good, and I was about to ruin their whole day. I looked back at the engine trim and turned it to face the engines downward.

I could feel the ship shudder as it strained against its moorings.

Scootaloo, pull the leaver.”

A hatch in the floor opened.

Wrong lever.”

Is this even a good idea?” Rumble asked as he looked at the open hatch. Scootaloo pulled the correct lever, and a moment later we were dropping out of the clouds. I pushed forward on the steering column, and leveled the engines, as we pitched down. I pulled back on the steering column a few moments later and returned to level flight.

You said yourself that it’s a ghost ship, that the Drumlin Hay went missing over the Everfree,” I offered as my excuse. I was technically stealing it, but I had my reasons.

Moonie found passenger,” Announced my little guardian moments after popping in. “According to Moonie’s database, she is the presumed deceased Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods. Moonie cast a sleeping spell on her before she could make a fuss and locked her in her cabin. Also, Moonie found troublesome cargo.”

I knew it, I just knew it. Good work. Lucky and convenient too… shit.” Not sure what she meant by troublesome cargo.

Nova?” Scootaloo asked.

Moonie, where were we located in regards to the base?” I asked. “Where the ship was moored.”

The conning tower on the top was moored in a cloud basement located on the base. No pony was present in the basement though there may have been some ponies higher up.”

This thing has a conning tower?” Rumble asked sounding bewildered.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find it’s got a periscope as well. Only pegasi get stuck in clouds,” I offered. "Be rather handy for snooping.

"Handy?" Rumble asked.

"More of her old ponish. I think she means convenient," Scootaloo suggested.

I rolled my eyes at my own slip, grabbed the radio headset and mic, and put them on, a moment later I was keying the mic. “Cloudsdale Control,” I took a moment to think about how I wanted to identify myself. Ah heck, why not? “Rogue-One to Cloudsdale tower control.”

Alright, who is this?!” scolded the voice over the radio moments after I release the mic key.

Rogue one?” Rumble asked.

Inside joke,” I replied, and then keyed the mic again. “Tower control please advise Flight Camp that a security breach is in progress.”

Listen you little brat, get off the radio. This channel is for official use only.”

Figures, I muttered to myself. “Listen you- fine if that’s the way you want to play it, I’m Captain Kitzu Athelas, I have commandeered an airship, and have every intent to raid, pillage, and otherwise plunder my weaselly black guts out.” If I can't get them to declare an alert one way, I'd just have to try another. Not like I hadn't wanted to use that line for many a year.

What?!” Rumble exclaimed. “We are going to get into so much trouble it isn’t even funny!”

The king and his men stole the queen from her bed…” I began singing into the mic.

🏴

Back in the tower every pony listens quietly as the words “yo, ho, all hands, hoist the colors high,” are heard being sung by a filly.

Listen you little snot!” The tower operator all but shouted into his mic the moment I’d stopped singing.

I am the daughter of the night,” I shouted back. “But if you aren’t happy with the name I gave you I will give you Daisy Bellis Woods returned from the grave says aye. Tell Princess Luna that the foals who crashed into the clouds are alright and we are here but to be on her guard.” This request I followed with more singing and was joined by Moonie. Though to be true it was more of a medley since it was just the bits I could remember. And then just to be extra troublesome for the people listening in, Moonie added a male chorus.

South Australia I was born, heave away haul away, South Australia round cape horn!”

I knew those voices. The one’s Moonie was adding. Captain Hoofstrong, Lieutenant Ansaldo, Ensign Loki, Petty officer Morane, Gunny Gotha, and Corporal Pfalz.

While the land sleeps I will stand watch, ever vigilant,” I say into the mic as Moonie provides epic backup music.

I can’t really say how it happened but as I gazed outside I could see those ponies materializing. “Shadowbolts, ever faithful.”

Our escorts peeled off and I turned the ship to follow. Ahead, a gap in the clouds, traffic was flowing along the avenue only to scatter as the ghostly figures lifted through their ranks.

That’ll get their attention alright!” Scootaloo shouted with excitement as the Drumlin Hay breached upwards through the gap, all four engines heralded our presence, just in case the very presence of an airship that barely fit, passing through the gap wasn’t enough. Up and up we went, and once we were clear of the majority of structures I leveled off and made our way back towards the base and Flight Camp.

Maybe try taking me seriously!” I shouted into the mic at the latest tirade about little fillies getting themselves into big trouble.

I’m going to be grounded for life,” Rumble bemoaned.

Would you have missed it?” I asked as we pass by a large cloud tower which is uncomfortably close.

Not even if it gets me banished for a thousand years,” Rumble admitted as a smile slowly crept onto his muzzle.

📝

At Tower Control the various radios are jammed with ponies calling in various issues. “We’re getting reports of a rogue airship coming in,” one of the controllers announced to the watch commander. “They are flying right down Zephyrus Boulevard and headed for the base.”

“Celestia damn it! Get me the base commander.”

Chapter 52:

View Online

We’d begun to gather several Cloudsdale Guards, none of whom seemed eager to take on our ghostly escort as we traveled along the length of the boulevard below us.

Um, Moonie,” Something I should have thought about earlier, “Any chance you can let mom and Lofty know where we are?”

Um… Ah, you should be within range,” Moonie offered and then vanished. With her went the music and escort.

Looks like we are on our own for a bit,” I offered, and then pulled up to get more altitude.

If nothing else you’ve forced them to act, but why?” Rumble asked.

I key the mic, “No one on board save one pony who is supposed to be dead, and moored to a basement on base. That means the base has been compromised, and the crew has likely blended in with the ponies at Flight Camp.”

Ah, is that a shield?” Scootaloo asked.

Sure enough a pink dome just formed over the base and we are headed right for it.

Dang it Cadance,” I spat out while dropping the mic, and then quickly turned the power down to idol the engines. We are still moving along at a fairly good clip. “Let’s see, set to feather… Ah, and reverse!”

I gave it a moment and then slowly reapplied power in hopes I wasn’t about to pull the ship apart. Had I been in an airplane I could have just pulled up, but this was an airship, and even attempting such a maneuver might not end well. I quickly snatched up and keyed the mic again, “Who put up the shield! I’m too close and too fast to divert!”

I could definitely feel myself being pushed forward as the ship slowed.

It wasn’t going to be enough. We were going to hit and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

Moonie…” I’d an idea but I needed Moonie. “Moonie, I need you.”

You rang?” Moonie piped up and I dropped the mic for a second time. “Sorry, but the shield cut off my projection.” I hadn’t known it at the time but the dispatcher had heard me calling for Moonie and misheard thinking I was calling for my mommy.

Any chance you can project a shield around the ship that matches the one we are about to hit? It’ll need to be an exact match. It doesn’t even have to be the whole ship, just where we are in contact with the shield.”

You want me to… ah, match the frequencies, make a hole, and we’ll pass right through,” Moonie offered, transformed herself into an adult, and began projecting a shield in front of the ship.

To be honest I had no idea why she needed a projection of her adult self to do it other than as a conduit for the magic.

Her energy beam formed a small glob in front of us and then slowly began to open a hole. I just had to hope it’d be enough as I cut the engines and feathered the props.

The three of us watch as our momentum drew us through the ever-widening gap Moonie was making.

Rumble, can you stick your head out the door and give us a shout when we are through?” I asked.

Sure,” He offered, took a step, gave Scootaloo a look, she reset the lever that opened the trap closing it. He offered thanks and trotted on back to where the door was.

You weren’t going to do it?” Scootaloo asked.

Something tells me neither of you would have a clue how to operate one of these things. Heck, I’m lucky everything is properly labeled as is.”

And how do you even know how?”

It’s complicated. Complicated as in how I knew how to rescue Sunset. I’ll try to explain it another time. Right now might not be such a good idea. I kind of need to concentrate. The thing is, I’m kind of an adult in a fillies body. Like I said, it’s complicated.” I was rambling and I knew it.

Scootaloo just gave me an odd look. Moonie was looking like she was struggling so I shifted the props to forward propulsion and added a little power. When I’d done that I placed a hoof on my amulet and started adding power to that.

Come on, just a little more… Scoot, can you check on Rumble?” I knew we weren’t through yet. Still, though, I was getting anxious. Had the guards flanking us decided to board the same way we had, it could be a big problem if they were to distract Moonie.

Ya, OK,” Scootaloo offered and went aft.

Something wasn’t right and from the sound of it, some pony had just grabbed Scootaloo.

Moonie, are we one hundred percent certain there was no one else on board?”

Moonie was concentrating too hard now to answer me. Heck, it was probably the guards, though I can’t for the life of me understand why they’d be so reckless as to come aboard while we were passing through the shield.

Cloudsdale guard, come out now, and surrender!”

Oh bucking great,” I muttered, let go of the amulet, and charged my horn. I could not let them interrupt Moonie. Not now, not when we were only halfway through. I turned to the door, waited, and blasted the first pony that dared to venture a peep into the bridge with that now-familiar ball of blue fire and lightning.

Interrupt flight operations, and we all go down in a ball of flame!” I shouted. I didn’t know for sure the shield would come crashing down on us but I was scared to death that should Moonie’s efforts be interrupted that shield would cut the ship apart. And being the ship was not Pegasi construction it meant crashing down through the clouds taking everything along the way with it.

There was silence from the back.

Scootaloo, Rumble? Are you two alright? Are we through yet?”

Let me check!” Scootaloo called.

Moonie was flickering, so I quickly placed my right hoof to my amulet and gave her as much magic as I dared.

We’re clear!” Scootaloo shouted.

Moonie, you can stop now.”

Moonie’s glow faded, and then she shrunk back down to plush size and snuggled up to me in my chair. I on the other hoof feathered the props and then shifted them into reverse once more.

It took a few minutes to slow us down to a reasonable crawl. From there I turned her into the wind and applied just enough power to keep us stationary.

Once more I keyed the mic, “Tower be advised that we have injured ponies. And if you could be so kind as to guide us into land, that would be much appreciated.”

Care to tell me who you are?” asked the flight controller.

Just so you know, the crew of this airship are on base,” I repeated. “I tried to explain to you what was going on, but you wouldn't listen.” I let out a sigh. I did not want to identify who I was over the air. “I am Princess Kitsumi Nova Moon. House of Athelas. I and two of my companions managed to fall all the way through the cloud layer after taking a tumble. While wandering around down there looking for a way back up we found shenanigans in progress. I commandeered the ship to prevent their escape by that means and have in custody one Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods. A wanted fugitive presumed dead.”

Who got hurt?”

Bunch of city guards boarded us. Their actions risked bringing the shield crashing down on us. I couldn't stop this thing fast enough so I punched a hole in the shield. Never mind how. If I hadn’t we’d have crashed right into it. If I’d have let the guard interfere with the spell casting that shield would have cut right through us.”

There is a moment of silence. No doubt someone at the other end just let out a long low whistle.

You, um, kind of blasted them,” Scootaloo offered from the doorway.

Any chance we still have Rumble?” I asked her.

I think they grabbed him. He’s not back there. It’s just us and a bunch of out cold guards.” She paused a moment. “And some idiot tried to rush the gap. I saw them drop, but I don’t know how bad they are.

Tower, be advised that we lost one of our ponies, as in we can’t account for his whereabouts. I am to understand that there is a pony down. Rushed the gap in the shield as it was closing,” I said into the mic. My tone filled with worry. “Can you have someone check with the City Guard and let me know if Rumble Lane is alright? I’m more than a little worried. They boarded while we were passing through the shield.” If the shield had come crashing down on him… I tried not to think about it though I could at least be reassured in that Scootaloo hadn’t seen him.

We, we’ll do that,” the tower operator offered. Not like I couldn't hear it in their voice. If he’d been hurt - it’d be my fault for sending him. If he'd been caught in the shield when it closed up...

I looked ahead and saw a group of Wonderbolts headed our way to include Spitfire. “Scoots, your mom is coming.”

You alright?” Scootaloo asked.

I’m worried about Rumble. Never mind getting into trouble, I just hope he didn’t get caught when the shield closed up. What about you?”

I’ll be alright. We live right next to the Everfree after all. Not like I’ve never seen a pony get hurt.”

Is the door open?” Scootaloo was putting up a brave face but I could tell it was bothering her.

Ya, they can get in.”

Scootaloo looked out the window, turned, and went back to the door. As for myself, once again, I was spent. Who’s fucking idea was it to throw up that shield? OK, ya, I was blaming Cadance, but the reality was that I had no way to know.

Next time ... just blast it,” Moonie said softly.

Not so sure it would have worked,” I offered in kind. “Doing it might hurt the pony casting the shield spell. And if we’d have jumped…”

Mrs Daisy and cargo,” Moonie offered softly.

I’ve never teleported anyone, and where would I take her, she’s an earth pony. No, the base is a sky island, I could have taken her there. But what about all the ponies below the ship when it came crashing down. What about them? Cargo?” Pretty sure I was rambling again, and why did Moonie think the cargo was important?

Hey, you alright?” Spitfire asked as she came forward.

I’ll be alright when I hear Rumble is alright. And had a nap in the sun.”

Rumble, he’s not on board?” Spitfire asked.

Let me guess, different frequency. Damn city guard boarded us while we were going through the shield wall. Stupid idiots pulled him out. Or at least that’s my assumption. Assuming he’s not still onboard somewhere and Moonie is in no shape to go looking for him.”

I’m sorry. We didn’t know what was going on. Some ponies grabbed the Neighpon Consulate's son.”

It was Cadance, wasn’t it?”

She says it’s safe when forming.”

And if this ship had hit it – boom! Any pony left on board along with any pony caught underneath.” I let that sink in. “Kenta would have been fine, I took their ship. Which I am claiming as prize, all salvage rights, and ownership by right of capture. They aren’t going anywhere.”

Alright… Listen, Moonie?”

If I go into standby Daisy wakes up.” Moonie offered.

Daisy?”

The formerly former Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods. According to Moonie, and I’ve no reason to doubt her.”

Commander, we have got a locked cabin in the back,” Called up one of the Wonderbolts.

Daisy,” I offered.

Leave it for now,” Spitfire ordered. “Seems we have a special guest in there.”

There’s another radio in the navigator’s position back behind me on the port side if you want to talk to the tower,” I suggested. “I’m anxious to get our package delivered.”

You know, you’re supposed to be an officer to capture a ship.”

I’m a princess. Radio?”

Headset.”

Oh right. Any chance they’ll let me dock this thing?”

Hang on,” Spitfire offered. “She then keyed her radio and explained the situation as best she could.

I probably didn’t help matters, but I didn’t want the entire world to know my situation, and I didn't want to argue with a pony that was so quick to dismiss me,” I offered during a pause in the conversation. “I seriously need a call-sign that members of the guard will recognize.”

From what they are telling me, one of those idiots who followed you through got… Dear Celestia, Cadance is going to be devastated.”

You can’t just slap up a force field willy nilly… god I sound like Cozy Glow. Is, are they…?” I didn’t want to say it.

Wing got clipped is what they are saying.”

Oh. That’s, that’s not so bad. I mean, they’ll live, and hopefully ... they’ve enough left for a prosthetic. Rumble?”

They haven’t said.”

Tower control to Rogue One,” Squawked the radio. It’s someone new.

Tower, this is Rogue One,” I replied.

You are clear to bring it into Air-dock seven. I’m to understand Commander Spitfire is with you. She’ll be able to guide you in. All other air traffic has been advised to give you the right of way.”

Thank you Tower, Rogue One out.”

Zephyrus Boulevard?” Spitfire asked.

Is that the lane I pulled up through?”

You could have gotten some pony hurt. Care to explain?”

I was following Shadowbolts,” I offered as I applied more power to the engines. “I assumed they were Moonie’s doing. They were members of the guard from a thousand years back, and they vanished when I sent Moonie to tell mom where I was.

So where am I headed?”

Right…” Spitfire offered, stepped up closer, and pointed out reference points for me to guide on.

A short time later we were pulling up to Air-dock seven.

Commander,” I heard the familiar voice of Thunderlane. He sounded concerned.

I hazarded a glance back. Rumble was with him. “Rumble, where were you? I was worried.”

Nova, there are foals locked up in the cargo hold,” Rumble offered.

Cargo?” I asked softly as I gave Moonie a glance. I had to concentrate on what I was doing. Down below ponies were guiding me in, and what should have been routine was now anything but. “Scootaloo, I think the mooring release needs to be reset.”

I, ah, alright,” Scootaloo offered as I shifted the angle of the engines to bring us in closer to the landing area. With luck, we’d only need a few steps in place. Scootaloo reset the leaver, and a moment later the pony outside was giving me the cut-off sign.

Silence.

No longer was there the familiar sound of the engines as I shut everything down. Once I was satisfied I let out a sigh and slumped down.

Chapter 53:

View Online

Can we get an escort for Mrs woods?” I asked over the radio a moment or two following shutting everything down. We were down and secured. The engines were off, and I was about as worn out as I’d ever been while still upright. Spitfire had stayed with me up to this point and I heard her breathe a sigh of relief. “Wouldn't want her falling through the clouds for real. Leastwise not before we can throw her in Tartarus. After a fair trial of course. Also, we are going to need additional personnel and an investigation team, no, I’m not going to say over the radio, just send medical. I’m signing out, Commander Spitfire can relay updates.” I got up from my chair even though that was the last thing I wanted to do, and Moonie jumped onto my back. “Let’s go see about this cargo.”

Right behind you,” Spitfire stated as she followed. Though to be sure I didn’t understand why she hadn’t gone first.

A moment later I’m looking at the guards in the corridor. “So, um, Scootaloo, how’d I not get you too?” I ask as I look at the pile of out cold pegasi.

Actually you did,” Scootaloo offered. “Really strange and tingly. For whatever reason, it was like your magic knew not to blast me.”

Must be the kitsune magic mixed in,” I mused, and then made my way towards the back.

The lounge area came first and had all the outward appearance of a place people had been living in. And yes, it was a mess. How any pony could live like this was beyond me. Garbage was everywhere. If they cared this little why was it they never just chucked it all out the door? Beyond were the staterooms all but one was opened and all as bad as the lounge. Beyond the staterooms were toilets, showers, and a ramp that went up into the canopy of the primary superstructure. Above me were supports and gasbags. In front of me, I could see a series of chambers presumably for crew or cargo. There were also a number of ramps leading upwards towards the center at various intervals.

This way,” Thunderlane offered. He proceeded up past the rooms to a large area that was more or less open save for the presence of bamboo cages each barely large enough for the pony within. A baker’s dozen of foals, mostly fillies, filled thirteen cages already, and all had hackamore bridles that were made from heavy rope tied around their muzzles in such a way as to prevent them from simply chewing through the bamboo. It was sinfully efficient.

And there was a filly I knew.

Diamond?!” My hooves carried me to where she was.

Don’t touch that, it’s evidence.”

Only now did I realize that two of the city guards were back here.

Unless you want the same treatment I gave your friends I’d suggest you start breaking bucking locks!” I’d still enough energy to flare though, to be honest, I really wasn’t sure if blasting anyone in there was a good idea. We were way too close to the gasbags. Maybe they were full of cloud material, and then again maybe they were full of hydrogen. Hydrogen had a nasty habit of exploding in a bad way.

I’d suggest doing as she says,” Spitfire said in a tone that advised they’d no choice. The two also seemed rather suspicious to me. When exactly did they get here? “You guys see any keys?”

I turned from them as they tried to find some way to start opening cages and set about getting Diamond out of the cage she was in. “Can I ask who you two officers are?” I inquired as I fiddled with the lock on the cage door. Getting the tumblers to line up to spring the lock proved deceptively easy. Behind me, Spitfire is calling in a report on her radio being very careful to use code. Next came freeing Diamond from her bonds.

Cloudsdale City Patrol. Came in through the top,” One of the officers offered. “Already called this in. We were to wait for backup.”

I gave a quick glance to Spitfire.

Different agencies. We are all working on different frequencies, and apparently, no pony is sharing what they are doing,” Spitfire replied apologetically.

Diamond never said a word while I undid the halter that had her bound. Nor did she move an inch the whole time. She just sat there motionless with her head down.

Come on Diamond, talk to me,” I pleaded as I worked to remove the bridle. The reality is that she really couldn't as any attempt would be too painful. The top of the muzzle was a very sensitive place and the binding was really tight.

Finally I had the bridle off of her. “That’s better, come on…”

Isn’t this what you wanted?” Diamond asked softly. She’d made no attempt to move.

No, not this. Not even close to this. I wouldn't even wish this on the ponies that did this.”

But Sunset, and the way I behaved. The way I treated everyone.”

To be perfectly honest, Sunset never had an opportunity to do anything. Your parents torpedoed themselves.”

Tor…”

Torpedo, like a rocket. Used to sink ships. Or in this case, ponies engaging in self-destructive behavior. Your mom threatened Royal guards who took their orders directly from Princess Celestia, and your dad tried to bribe Twilight Sparkle's brother. He’s a bigger stick in the mud than she is.”

Nova?” Rumble asked. “We can’t get the locks. There’s no key and they are too solid to break with what we have.”

Alright, I guess I’m the key.” I gave Diamond a wing hug and then went to the next lock.

Emergency medical showed up after I’d unlocked three more. They got out bolt cutters and started cutting locks. Just as soon as they got a cage open they'd cut off the bridles with some fancy cutters. They looked me over as well and I had to assure them I wasn’t one of the victims. I’d merely overexerted myself. Merely, probably the understatement of the year.

Princess, there’s a team here to collect Mrs Woods,” Spitfire offered. “Every pony here will need to go to the hospital.”

Right, you need Moonie so they can get at her.”

Nova, are you alright?” Rumble asked.

Tired. Worn out. Upset. I never knew ponies could be so…”

Horrible, ya, I know. It’s kind of hard to take in.”

I better get going,” I offered and began to make my way forward. My hooves felt like they had lead shoes on.

🚪

I returned to the forward cabins a short time later where a security detail was waiting along with a couple of Wonderbolts. “Officers. - Moonie, go ahead, open the door, release her, and then I think you can go into sleep mode for a bit.”

Moonie let out a sigh as a noticeable click came from the door, and then she vanished like so much mist.

Princess,” offered a member of the security detail. They then proceeded through the door, roused the sleeping occupant who immediately attempted to bolt for the door only to be tackled.

What is the meaning of this?! Let me go this instant!” Daisy blustered.

Your co-conspirators outed you,” I offered. My face was deadpan with no outward appearance of emotion. Heck, I was so weary I probably couldn't show emotion at that moment. The detail gave me a funny look and then smiled. There was no way she’d know I wasn’t telling the truth or not.

Does Celestia send a filly to do her dirty work?” Daisy asked as anger boiled.

And why would she dirty her hooves with the likes of you any further than she already has?” I offered. My tone is cold and full of disdain. “She trusted you. Though it’s probably a good thing she hadn’t trusted you with the full truth. Oh, the money you could have made had you known the full truth, but no, you dumped her daughter in an orphanage. By any chance are any of the foals in the back from the same orphanage? Was that how that deal was supposed to work? Dump the unwanted in an orphanage and then trickle them out to buyers? You know your partners are going to try to cast all the blame on you, so you might just as well start talking.”

They would too,” Daisy spat. “Fine, that’s exactly what that little operation was about. Except they got greedy. Let's go to Flight Camp and help ourselves to some more foals. Bound to be plenty of unattended foals running around at an event like that. Disguised themselves as guards and just boldly went wondering about Cloudsdale. Not like any pony would stop them. Not with all the extra guards.”

Officers, those guards I blasted…”

On it!” one of the Wonderbolts exclaimed and rushed out the door.

Might be a good idea to verify those two in the back too.”

🌟

Of course it would make sense that there’d be more than one group wondering about Cloudsdale. Later on, I’d learn that they had several safe houses set up, and the officer whose basement they had moored to was going to have a lot to explain. And those reckless guards who’d boarded while passing through the shield had in fact been members of the crew who on seeing their ship cruising down the boulevard had gone into a blind panic. The two in the hold turned out to be an actual patrol who’d been on overwatch patrol. They’d boarded before the shield was up, and Rumble had missed them the first time into the back. Rumble had gone back that way when he saw ponies coming in the door and just sort of panicked.

Hi mom,” I offered as I exited the Drumlin Hay. Daisy had been loaded into a cloud sled by this point. Mom had just landed and was looking about hesitantly. “Did you rescue Kenta?”

We did,” She replied and walked over to me. “And and they’d three more with them. Care to tell me what you’ve been doing?” Mom asked.

Captured an airship, one Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods, and rescued thirteen foals. I also blasted some Cloudsdale guards that are now under suspicion of being fakes.” I looked back at the airship noting the mottled gray paint job that looked like an attempt at camouflage. Not that it hadn’t been effective. It also looked like there were gun ports all up and down the canopy.

Blasted some definitely fake guards myself,” Mom offered. “But who’s counting.”

I’m claiming 'Right of capture' - 'Réttr handtaka' of the airship,” I announce as I turn back to her.

I don’t think modern law works that way. It will likely be impounded.”

When the investigators are done with it. At which point I’m claiming salvage rights.”

It will default to property of the crown,” Spitfire offered as she and Scootaloo exited the airship.

And what were you going to do with an airship anyway?” Mom asked.

I don’t know? Maybe fly it out to our old home and load up on anything that’s still salvageable. Getting in and out isn’t exactly easy.”

Please tell me you didn’t go out into that forest?” This time it was Spitfire.

Getting out of that forest was bad enough,” I informed her. “I started at the old palace. I had no idea what had happened. I found myself waking up there, the place in ruins. It was disorienting and frightening.” OK, it was kind of thrilling too but Spitfire didn’t need to know that detail.

I, I’m so sorry,” mom offered, came over to me, and hugged me.

Mom, we kind of need to get out of the way,” I offered as ponies came in with cloud sleds. “And I don’t blame you for what happened. Nothing that has happened is any of your fault. None of it. I blame greedy ponies. The ponies that set everything into motion over a thousand years ago were no better than the ponies who were foal-napping foals.” I offered as we moved out of the way. “Diamond Tiara is in there too. She was supposed to go to a good foster home until her parents got their act together, and she ends up as cargo. As cargo!” My voice caught in my throat as the reality of the situation hit me. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't let myself. I had to stay strong.

When they started bringing out the foals mom and I went to reassure everyone that they were safe now.

When Diamond left Rumble went with her. He wanted to reassure her and the others that everything was going to be fine, and just didn’t want to let her go by herself. And yes, I was feeling both envious and hurt that that he hadn’t stayed with me. Sure I had Luna, Scootaloo, and Lofty would presumably show up soon enough. It’s just that I wasn't firing on all cylinders and all my mind could think was that I’d lost him to Diamond.

After they’d all gone we were joined by Lofty and Rainbow Dash who’d finally managed to get away from whatever it was that had kept them. I suppose the rest of our camp group and they’d left them with Soarin.

I’m not one of the captives!” Scootaloo protested from the doorway into the airship.

Hang on there, she’s with me!” I shouted. “She’s one of the rescuers.”

So where’s every pony going?” Scootaloo asked as she stepped out.

They are all going to the hospital to get checked,” Spitfire offered. And then to the ponies inside, “That one’s mine.”

I’d kind of like to go see how they’re doing,” I suggested.

Something tells me the two of you need to be debriefed first,” Spitfire cautioned. “And then we can all go see about the captives.”

Fine, let me know when. I’m taking a nap.” And so I did. Right there where I was. Clouds were mighty comfy. So was the warm feeling of mom’s magic engulfing me as I drifted into slumber.

Chapter 54: Meanwhile back in Canterlot

View Online

Meanwhile back in Canterlot, Princess Celestia was answering questions at a press briefing concerning that morning’s raid on the Equestria Daily News. Captain Quartermane had just been handed an urgent notice. He read the note and then left the room without a word.

“Captain?” Celestia asked. The gathered press and nobles murmur among themselves. “One moment,” She said to the press and then followed after him. She found him talking with Detective Columbine and Twilight Velvet who'd a memo in her magical aura.

The Detective was known to Celestia, and might even be considered an actual friend. But aside from her being one of the few ponies who had access to Princess Celestia, Detective Columbine was not remarkable in any way save one. No, she wasn't anything like the typical hangers-on. Columbine was an off-white earth pony with auburn mane and tail who’d a penchant for trench coats. She is also notable for having risen in the ranks by tenacity alone. Word was, once Detective Columbine was on the case it was time to throw in the towel and hope for a lenient legal system.

“Captain, what’s going on?” Celestia asked.

“There’s been an incident in Cloudsdale," Mrs Sparkle informed her.

"The Neighpon Consul to Cloudsdale’s son was foal-napped," Captain Quartermane added. "Nova captured an air pirate ship and threatened to pillage, plunder, and otherwise pirate her weaselly black guts out. Apparently, she was trying to warn the base but the flight controller wasn’t taking her seriously. At least that’s what has been relayed to us. Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods is alive, well, and was taken into custody along with a number of pirates who’d been dressed as Cloudsdale guards. And finally, a number of foals were rescued along with the consul's son. It seems Princess Luna played a part in the rescue of some of the foals as well. Details are a bit sketchy right now.”

“Daisy? Alive?” Celestia asked. “Nova seemed to think she might still be alive, but I thought she was just being cynical.”

“Something tells me she’d be a good investigator,” Detective Columbine droned. “We should have made more of an effort to determine if Mrs Woods had indeed fallen as was presumed. You see, the thing is, one should never make assumptions concerning the sort who would flaunt the legal system.

“Princess Celestia.” Officer Columbine had a bad habit of taking forever to get to her point. “According to the preliminary investigation, Mr Rich Muddock and Daisy Bellis Woods have been quite the item. They sent a lot of correspondence to each other. There was one confusing aspect about a number of the letters she’d sent him which aren’t quite so confusing anymore. You see, being that every pony just assumed she was deceased, the assumption was that the more recent correspondence had for whatever reason been delayed within the postal system. Prior to getting postmarked.”

“That she faked her own death is rather evident,” Celestia offered.

“From what I gleaned from some of the correspondence, she wasn’t interested in just escaping justice,” Detective Columbine suggested. “The thing is, I kept seeing the same turn of words over and over.”

“And that was?” Captain Quartermane asked.

“Turn the screws,” Detective Columbine supplied. “Those two were undeniably fellow conspirators and if I were to hazard a guess at their motives it was-”

“Me. They wanted to make me miserable,” Celestia cut in.

“It would seem that way. And not all out of spite either as there was money to be made as well.”

“Princess Celestia, what we are being told concerning the incident," Mrs Sparkle cut in. "Is that certain parties to include Mrs Woods was actively engaged in gathering foals. And their base of operations is General Gideon Pillow’s base quarters where they drilled through the rock of the sky island to build an airship dock and took advantage of the cloud layer underneath to keep everything hidden. The stallion I’m told is completely unapologetic. Princess Nova and two other foals somehow managed to penetrate the cloud layer and found the airship. No pony is quite sure how they did either.”

“I’ll be sure to ask her,” Celestia mused.

“Princess Nova captured the airship, Drumlin Hay. A vessel that had been listed as having gone down over the Everfree with all hands. She’s claiming salvage rights.

“Princess Nova proceeded to the nearest gap in the cloud layer while attempting to get the Cloudsdale Tower controller to take her concerns seriously. I’m to understand that when the controller failed to take her seriously she began to antagonize them. This was happening around the same time the Consul's son was spotted being taken away by individuals dressed as Cloudsdale City guards. Princess Cadance on learning of the foal-napping slammed up a shield bubble around the base presumably to prevent their escape without first clearing her action with any of the base leadership. The Drumlin Hay nearly slammed into the shield at this point.”

“She manages to pull away at the last moment?” Celestia asked hopefully.

“No, she went right through it," Captain Quartermane offered in a tone that sounded almost proud. "Not really sure how she managed to do it, and I’m to understand she is being tight-lipped about it.”

“I’d imagine she would be,” Celestia stated astonished. “We certainly wouldn't want that sort of information getting out.” Celestia had a good idea it wasn’t Nova, as clever as she was the culprit was likely Moonie.

“Around the same time they were passing through the shield, members of the crew boarded and attempted to wrest control of the ship only to be rebuffed by Princess Nova with that fun little headache inducer of hers. Elements of the Wonderbolts got involved, and at least one member of tower control was relieved of duty,” Captain Quartermane explained. “The information suggests that there is a bit of a shake-up due to the Cloudsdale rank structure.”

🏰

Princess Celestia returned to the press room a short time later to discover both the wings and back of the hall were now full to capacity.

Questions began flying. Princess Celestia said nothing until they quieted down.

“It would seem that we have all been the victims of a rather nefarious scheme,” Princess Celestia offered once things had quieted down. “This afternoon’s events in Cloudsdale, of which we are still getting reports, seems to be just one more aspect.” She waited a moment. “I’ve been informed that Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods, who every pony had assumed perished, driven to her death by the CCG, did in fact fake her own death and is now in custody. Along with a number of her co-conspirators who I’m to understand had begun to gather foals. We don’t really know why just yet.

“It’s looking like everything hit the fan shortly after the Neighpon Consul to Cloudsdale’s son was foal-napped. His abduction did not go unnoticed. Around the same time, Princess Nova and two other fillies somehow managed to find themselves under the Cloudsdale cloud layer. Something that needs to be addressed considering how dangerous it is for a foal to get trapped down there. While down there she and her companions discovered an airship by the name of Drumlin Hay. The ship had been listed as missing over the Everfree. The three assessed the situation they were in, identified the ship and took into custody the former Mrs Woods.

“Unable to get the Tower controller to take them seriously they ascended up through the cloud layer via Zephyrus Boulevard.”

“Your Highness, there was a report of the presence of Shadowbolts!” shouted a reporter towards the back.

Princess Celestia looked to her Captain and the detective. Neither had an answer.

“I’m afraid that is still under investigation. I can say that a number of foals have been recovered and I’ll let you know the headcount just as soon as that information is available.”

Chapter 55: Base Hospital

View Online

Arriving at the base hospital to visit the rescued foals was interesting, and annoying all at the same time. I'd woke up from my second nap of the afternoon just as we arrived, and hadn’t been there five minutes when I’d been diagnosed with manna depletion and magical exhaustion.

And yes, it looked just like any other ordinary hospital.

They made me sit in a wheelchair.

"Why do I have to sit in a wheelchair? I don't want to sit in a wheelchair," I complained, My body on the other hoof was grateful for it as I allowed myself to slump into it. I was there to visit the foals who'd been rescued. Mom on the other hoof was there to get me evaluated. She and Lofty went into an explanation of how I kept pushing myself too hard followed by my recounting that afternoon’s activities with Scootaloo and Spitfire backing me up. Minus the part about how Moonie and I punched a hole through the shield taking a whole airship with us. After all, my being so depleted wasn't because I'd punched through a shield with a little help, they couldn't know about that. I was spent because I'd been using way too much manna and wasn't supposed to exert myself. My explanation was followed by a full check-up whether I wanted it or not. When we’d finally satisfied the medical staff we were allowed to see the freed captives who were ready for visits.

I will have to admit that getting wheeled around was fun, and I was still worn out despite my short naps. Granted getting woken up and interrogated hadn’t been pleasant when all I wanted to do was sleep.

Seeing some of the very ponies I’d helped to rescue being worried about me was a little disconcerting. They had all received baths, were in good spirits, but the moment they saw how run down I was...

Of course, there was the usual bowing once they realized they were in the presence of not one but two princesses.

The ward was in fact one big room. It was a military base after all and only high-ranking officers got their own private rooms. Otherwise, you made do with the curtains if you wanted privacy. I looked around, greeted every pony, but I was troubled. I wasn’t seeing Rumble, Diamond, nor Kenta. I was also seeing ponies that hadn’t been on the airship. Which meant they weren’t all together.

I’m alright,” I offered repeatedly. “Just used too much manna. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I just need to take it easy for about a week or so, and get plenty of naps in the sun. And hopefully, I won’t get pulled into any more crisis for a while. Or any of us for that matter.”

She blasted a bunch of pirates with one shot,” Scootaloo informed them. “And the shields dropping right in front of us…” Her words trailed off. She’d been warned not to talk about the shields.

Scootaloo had stayed with me more than likely because she trusted me and to be honest, we could have used the trap door to get out if we had to. As for my own thoughts and motivations, I wanted that airship. Mrs Woods was just an afterthought. Let's face it, she was already legally dead and if push had come to shove I’d have left her to her fate in a heartbeat. She’s not worth risking my life or Scootaloo’s who I’m sure would have stayed right there with me.

Name’s Firebrand,” offered a tan earth pony foal who was from the airship group. His cutie mark was a hammer and anvil. “I hear you did more than just help get us out of those cages.”

Ya, I kind of helped myself to that airship,” I offered with a big grin. And then closed up quickly on seeing some of the ponies flinch.

Don’t pay them no never mind,” Firebrand offered.

I am who I am. I just don’t want any pony afraid of me who doesn’t have to be,” I offered. “I know I might look a little scary to some, but I am one of the good ponies after all.”

I heard that,” Firebrand offered.

Thank you for rescuing us,” Offered a golden yellow pegasus filly with a blue-gray mane and tail. “Name’s Meadow Lark.”

Your welcome, Miss Meadow. To be honest it just started out with me helping myself to an airship that was supposed to be lost over the Everfree. I figured whoever it was that had moored it under the base was likely up to no good so I took the ship to throw a wrench in their plans and gain a fairly decent ship in the bargain. Not a one of us figured there’d be any pony on board besides Mrs Woods. We didn’t even know she was onboard until shortly after taking the ship.”

You did seem worried about what might happen if the ship were to get cut in two and go crashing down on who knows who?” Scootaloo offered.

Yes there’s that. And had we jumped ship and left Mrs woods to her fate, I’d have felt horrible about it. Maybe not for long, but what can I say, she hasn’t exactly been a nice pony. Have you seen Miss Diamond?”

Is she a friend?” Firebrand asked.

An acquaintance really,” I offered. “Never really had the opportunity to be friends.”

They’ve been taking every pony for examinations once they got us cleaned up,” Firebrand offered.

We are orphans,” Meadow offered. “Everything has been harder on the foals with family.”

Diamond has a family but was recently separated from them due to some pony putting a hoof in the mouth at the wrong time in the wrong place,” I explained. “It’s complicated, and things will work out for her.”

Thought I was going to be apprenticed to a Smithy,” Firebrand explained. It’s just that we’ve kind of gotten accustomed to getting pushed around. Any idea what they had planned for us?”

Not really, no.” I’d seen the charts and I’d a good idea they had been headed for Klugetown. No point in telling them they may well have been fated to be furniture. Among other uses for pony parts. Granted the possibility of slavery was there too, but I distinctly remember that bit character wanting Rarity’s mane. As in it would be coming off. Sure the movie was for kids, mostly, but add a nasty dose of reality and you’ve got a recipe for horror. Let’s just say that if the place was anything like the movie, it would make Tortuga look like a daycare.

And the investigators, they’d never heard of the place. I’d told the investigators that I only knew of it by reputation. To explain how I knew about Klugetown I told them I’d overheard guests at Canterlot Castle talking about the place. I’d deal with the consequences of that lie later.

You sure?” Firebrand asked. He’d that look that Applejack got whenever I was skirting around the old proverbial bush. Let’s just say that I’m really bad at not giving a straight answer if I didn’t want to answer a question and AJ had a bad habit of asking questions that really weren’t her business.

According to the charts – south. Deep south. South of the Mason Dixon line, south of the border, and beyond the badlands.” They just gave me an odd confused look. “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies, and I’m not about to start speculating on what they had planned.”

Is there even anything down there?” Asked a gray unicorn. “Hi, my name’s Gray Leaf. Son of Gray Stoke.”

The Hippogriff Kingdom,” I offered regarding what was in the direction the charts had indicated. “They are friendly towards Equestria, but not much else, and I doubt anyone was going there.”

Kitzumi-hime!”

Yes, it was Kenta, my head turned in the direction his voice had come from.

My smile fell on seeing him. He’d a split lip, a bandage over one eye, a cast on his left leg and they had him using one of those leg scooters so he could move about without being tempted to use the leg. “Kenta!” I wanted to get out of my wheelchair and hug him.

Kenta, what… tell us who did this to you!” Scootaloo demanded.

Hey, I can take care of myself,” Kenta insisted with a big grin. “You should see the fake guards.”

I will have to admit they looked worse for wear when I arrived,” Mom offered. “And you are lucky we got there when we did.”

Mom! Why didn’t you tell me he got hurt?” I groused.

Because you had enough to think about.”

What? I was done save for my statement to the Guard.”

And you’d have been too preoccupied to think, and you know it.”

I still would have liked to have known. A pony lost their wing today.” I probably looked pouty. Why would I think that? It was because mom had that I mustn't smile look on her face. “If… Oh, who am I… fooling” I wanted to say kidding but then it would require explaining kidding to a group of foals. “It just occurred to me that had that dispatcher taken me serious I’d have been directed around to the city docks, the pirates might not have come after us and a bunch of ponies might not have been rescued.”

I imagine that’s a distinct possibility,” Mom offered. “But that’s not for you to worry about. You did what you had to do. And you did a surprisingly good job at it.”

Mom…” Yes, she was complimenting me but I was due another nap.

You ever fly an airship?”

Well, no.” Maybe in a computer game but not in real life.

Well then, you did a surprisingly good job. Let us hope the next time comes with fewer distractions.”

You’re going to let me keep it?” I asked perking up just a smidge.

You do realize we could buy a new one?”

True, but it wouldn't be the same as a ship I commandeered. I stole it has more impact than my mom bought it for me.” My smile was big despite how heavy I felt. I really did want to just fall asleep right then and there. My eyelids were getting way too heavy.

I gave my head a shake, but I just couldn't keep pushing myself. My body was telling me it was time for another nap as I let my eyes close. Maybe just a quick fox nap.

Wow, she really did overdo it,” I heard Kenta say just as I drifted off into dreamland.

Chapter 56: The Ambassador's garden

View Online

A soft futon, the warmth of the sun, and the gentle whispering of the breeze greeted me as I slowly woke up. Not like my shift in reality was a huge surprise. After all, I’d been pushing my limits, and my young body just wasn’t built for it. I do have an advantage over regular ponies though, and not just the alicorn thing. Ponies are semi ecto-thaumatic. That is to say, we can use the environment to augment our body’s natural recuperative abilities. For earth ponies, it is their connection to the land. Unicorns can draw more directly from ambient eddies of manna. The sort of manna that forms leylines. For winged ponies and fox types in general we absorb the energy of the sun in much the same way as creating vitamin D worked. My body just seemed to be especially efficient at converting sunlight to manna. Granted that being an alicorn meant being able to use all three methods, my preferred method was sunlight.

Mom had figured out my ability which quite possibly explained why I was presently sleeping in the sun. I didn’t just love to sleep in the sun, it invigorated me.

Opening my eyes revealed that I was on one of the verandas of the Neighpon Consul’s home with its immaculate gardens just out of reach.

Not far from me was the image of Diamond Tiara in a floral yukata. She was sitting on a stone bench, or step if you like, which overlooked a pond. Within the pond swam about colorful tasty morsels like little drops of sunlight captured within. Somewhere nearby could be heard the trickling notes of a floor harp. Koto I believe it’s called.

Such an idyllic setting, what with the harp, and the buzzing of bumblebees. Yes, they were bumblebees, I could tell by the sound they made. Bumblebees were also well adapted for high altitude. Somewhere in the garden could be heard the sound of falling water and the sharp staccato clack of a Sōzu fountain. A deer chaser as they are often called back in the human world. I rolled overexposing my tender belly to the sun and caught sight of little golden birds up in the branches of an ornamental maple. I let my wings flop out as I watched and discovered a variety of birds existed in the garden though most seemed to be the same species. They’d darker backs and heads, many with brilliant blue feathers on their heads, backs, and wings. Others had colors that were much more subdued. Quite possibly a male versus female thing.

They are called the Alpine Snitch,” Offered the voice of Kenta not far from me. Well, they were round enough to be a Snitch. I hazarded a glance his way to find him on his own mattress now covered by my primaries. I pull my wing back a bit. “The only other place they can be located is up in the Chrystal Mountains.”

The Chrystal Mountains?”

I’m told that according to legend the sky islands were part of a vast empire.”

That would be the Chrystal Empire,” I offered. “It’s an ancient enchantment using crystals that make the sky islands work.” I cast a glance over at Diamond to find she was listening. And to be true I wasn’t too sure if I was remembering or just making a wild guess based on an anime. After all, there hadn’t exactly been sky islands in the show. I suppose I could be forgiven if I was wrong as there were precious few who would be able to call me on it and likely wouldn't bother.

Can you hear the island?” I asked Diamond.

I can. It kind of feels like home in an odd sort of way.” She looked back at the sparkling fish. “Mom was always going on about how we were descended of Crystal Imperial nobility. Some nobility. Goes and gets herself arrested for being drunk in public, and then Father tries to bribe Twilight’s brother of all ponies.” She let out a sigh. Yes, I’d told her, she was simply repeating to herself as she mulled it over. “Crystal nobility my flank. It was just a bunch of lies.”

Maybe not,” I offered with what I hoped was a reassuring tone. “I’ve been there, to the Chrystal Empire, that is when it was still there, and Cadance is the Heir Apparent in abstantia. An Imperial Heiress. Granted it was technically just a Principality until King Sombra overthrew the royal family. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think you might be descended from Chrystal ponies.”

And I behaved horribly towards her.”

I’m sure she’d be willing to forgive you. All you have to do is apologize.”

But would she forgive me?”

Yes, I would.”

All three of us startled when Cadance answered.

Cadance?” I gasped. I’d flipped myself over and was now in a crouched position ready to spring, only...

What?” Cadance asked kindly enough and then gave the strings on the Koto a stroke with her right hoof. She was towards the back of the room just around a corner where Diamond wouldn't be able to see her.

That was you playing?” I asked astonished as I relaxed into a sitting position.

I did have something similar…” her tone dropped in remembrance of loss.

Hang on, why are you here?”

Just keeping an eye on the four of you. Kenta’s mother is in the Console's Office acting as a secretary while he and Luna are at flight camp talking with investigators.”

I should be at flight camp,” I groused. “Especially after all the trouble I had to go through to get there. Does it never stop?” Yes, I was feeling exasperated, frustrated, and a little like a leaf in the wind. Especially since everything that had happened hadn’t been in the shows, comics, or books. It was all completely new territory. But then again I had defied canon and helped to retrieve Sunset Shimmer. I’d meddled with what should have been fixed points in time, and now there were new events taking place.

Flight camp is on standby,” Cadance offered. “You aren’t missing anything. What is, or rather who are missing, are some foals that have yet to be accounted for.”

I thought we had them all?” I asked in astonishment and dread.

The individuals that are missing are known delinquents and probably just took off on their own,” Cadance offered. “That said, there are a lot of ponies who are going to be really worried about them until their whereabouts are known.”

Of all the times to play hooky,” I groused and then lay back down. “So is the day shot then?”

Hook-ii?” Diamond asked.

Old Ponish,” Scootaloo offered from somewhere out in the garden.

Scootaloo, what are you doing out there?” I called.

There’s this fountain with a branch sort of thing with a hollow that fills with water, tips over spilling the water, and then goes back up to fill again.”

It’s called a Sōzu fountain, and the stick is bamboo. It grows hollow,” I called back. I’m not about to tell her it’s a deer chaser, and I’m lucky I remembered Sōzu. I can just imagine what the Elks would think. Pure unadulterated speciesism.

Kenta let out a sigh as he lay his head down.

You going to be alright?” I asked.

I’m going to miss Flight Camp.”

Oh,” I said softly.

Miss flight camp? But your wings are fine?” Scootaloo protested. She emerged from the garden along a stone path.

It’s the pain killer, and he’s not going to do anything that might risk further injuring that leg,” I explained.

I’m not allowed to do any flying until my leg heals up,” Kenta lamented. “I kind of knew I was walking into a trap of some sort too.”

You knew, and you did it anyway?” I asked as I turned to look at him.

They said that Princess Nova wished to meet me. I asked; you mean Kitsumi-hime? And they were like ‘who? What?, Ah, no, Princess Nova wants to meet you. And then I said, but I had breakfast with her, and they were like, breakfast, and I said yes, I had breakfast with Kitsumi-hime, and they were like, well, Princess Nova wants to meet you and you have to come with us. I kind of got the idea that I wasn’t being given a choice. Soon as we got to where they wanted to take me I saw some other foals tied up, and that’s when the fight started.”

Nova, would that be about the same time you stole the airship?” Cadance asked.

Stole? Stole?!” I replied in mock protest. “I merely salvaged a vessel that had been reported as lost.”

Don’t believe her, she commandeered that ship with every intent to ‘pillage, plunder, and otherwise pirate her weaselly black guts out.” Scootaloo teased.

I might have made statements to that effect,” I admitted with a sheepish smile. “But only because that idiot on the radio wouldn't take me seriously.”

I hear a sour note come from Cadance’s Koto.

Cadance?”

When I looked back at Cadance it was like her little corner of the room had gotten darker. She was looking down. Not so much at anything, just down.

You heard did you?”

Spitfire and Dash had some words with me. General Dynamic wasn’t happy either,” Cadance offered. “All I thought about was preventing the foal thieves from escaping with Kenta. A pony lost half their wing because of me, and nearly lost you, Scootaloo, and all the other ponies on the ship. And there’s more. I’m to understand a patrol slammed into my shield. They are going to recover but it shouldn't have happened in the first place.”

Cadance, I’m alright, Scootaloo is alright, Diamond is alright, those fliers will recover, and if any pony is to blame for the stallion who got his wing clipped it’s me. I’m the one who closed it on him.”

No, it’d be my fault,” Scootaloo offered. She had moved up to the edge of the veranda. “I told you we were clear. And you know what, we were, and then that idiot tried to race through at the last second. He’s lucky a clipped wing is all he got.”

Forgive me for being blunt, but it kind of sounds like it was his own fault.” Kenta offered. “No pony forced him to try to race through a collapsing force field. I know every pony feels bad, but you don’t kick yourself for another’s foolishness. Nor will I hold myself accountable for what others do. Sure I could sit here and blame myself for my broken leg, but that blame belongs to the pony who slapped me down and stepped on my leg.”

Shame I wasn’t there,” I offered. Kenta gave me an odd look. “What? Up until we went through the cloud I was surrounded by security.”

Well, there is that,” Kenta replied. He’d closed his eyes and looked to be clenching his jaw.

You look like you could use some pain killer,” I remarked.

Is it time yet?”

Hang on, I’ll go find out,” Cadance offered, got up, and hurried out the room.

For my part I got up, went over to him, lay down next to him, and decided to try purring. Foxes can purr you know. And I could to I soon discovered. Delighted as I was at the discovery only helped.

Scootaloo gave me an odd look.

Comfort purring,” I offered and went back to purring.

Mkay,” Scootaloo replied. She smiled, and then whispered, “you like him?”

You mean like, like?” Purr, purr, purr…

How can you just… I mean?”

Casual about who I like? It comes with maturity. I wasn’t in limbo the whole time. In truth, I’d be in my eighties if I hadn’t reverted to a foal. I’ve had plenty of crushes, been married, had kids, grandkids… I had to accept the new me or…”

That’s...” Diamond started.

Pretty messed up?” I offered. “So what became of Rumble?” I figured a change of conversation might be a good idea.

There was a hint of harshness to my tone.

He had to go with his brother,” Scootaloo explained. “Because he went with the captives he couldn't leave unless a family member signed for him.”

Well, not like his brother didn’t know where he was,” I offered. “They’ll probably make us all see therapists.”

Therapists?” Scootaloo asked.

Egg heads who want us to talk about our feelings, tell them we are in love with our brother and hate our mother. Or was it thy other way around?” Scootaloo let out a snort.

Kenta! Dear, I’m so sorry,” exclaimed Lady Sakura Yuki as she trotted into the room followed by Cadance. “I said I’d be the one to take care of your meds and then I go and get preoccupied. Come on, sit up.”

Come on Kenta, sit up, it’ll make you feel better,” I offered as I sat up. He pushed himself up with his good leg followed by his mother having him drink a broth of some sort.

Bleh.” His tongue moved about as he wanted desperately to be rid of the stuff.

You’ll start feeling better in a bit,” Sakura offered and kissed him on top of the head.

Can I get something to get the taste out of my mouth?”

Alright, I’ll be right back,” Sakura offered and trotted off. Cadance sat next to him opposite to me.

Cheer up, you’ll be better in no time,” Cadance offered reassuringly.

Think I’m going to lay back down,” Kenta replied as he did so. He half-closed his eyes but it didn’t look like he was going to fall asleep anytime soon.

I just sat there not quite sure what I wanted to do. Scootaloo went and sat on the step next to Diamond.

Is she going to be alright?” Diamond whispered to Scootaloo. Ya, I could hear. I tried not to swivel my ears towards them.

I’m thinking Kenta reminds her of her brother,” Scootaloo offered. “That and Rumble going with you without saying anything to her probably has her second-guessing their relationship.”

A sort of silence fell over the garden broken by bird song, the breeze through the trees, and the occasional staccato of a bamboo rod.

She never asked why I was here,” Diamond said softly.

Diamond…” No point in pretending I couldn't hear her. “Fox ears are really good. I figured I’d be told sooner or later. I figure Mom signed for you and brought you here? Or did the Consul sign for you? No, he probably can’t. Mom cares what happens to you. She’s not going to turn her back on you when you’ve got no one. And despite our past relationship, I’m not going to walk away from a pony with nowhere else to go.”

So you are OK with me? I mean… You didn’t mention Ms Lofty?”

I imagine that’s a possibility, except that she promised me that she would not subject me to living with you. We tried to be friends with you but you never gave us a chance. I’m sorry, I know you don’t need to hear that right now, but it’s true. That leaves my mom.” I took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. “On top of that, I’m wondering if Rumble may like you more than he does me. That being my colt friend was just a fun little game that played into his ego. Seeing you in the condition you were in, he forgot about me and went with you.”

You, you think he likes me?”

You have ponies who like you. Ponies who managed to overlook your behavior,” I offered. “And no, your status doesn’t matter to Ponyville ponies.”

She’s right you know,” Cadance offered. “Well, except for a few individuals.”

Wonder how Rarity would react if she knew who my grandmother is?” Scootaloo asked with a big smile on her face.

Grandmother?” Diamond asked as Sakura returned with a cart loaded with drinks.

Sakura had cold mango juice, and a few moments later all else was forgotten. Even Kenta had perked up.

Hey, what flying fox doesn’t love mango everything?

I took hold of my glass in my front hooves and waited for every pony. “Diamond…” I held up my glass in the fashion of offering a toast. “As it looks like we are going to be family, welcome to the family. Mazel tov.” And with that, I downed a goodly portion of my drink.

Mozel…” Diamond ask in confusion.

Must be more old ponish,” Scootaloo suggested.

It means good luck,” I replied with a smile. “The thing about being in any way connected to the nobility is you have to calculate your every move. Oh, it’s not so much as being on your best behavior twenty-four-seven because there are going to be ponies who will find fault in everything you do. That and the media will likely have a field day with you. It’s a matter of calculating your actions for the best overall results.”

She’s not wrong,” Sakura said and then offered me more juice.

Don’t mind if I do, thank you very much,” I responded as I held out my glass. At least my hoof grip hadn’t failed me. “By any chance have they accounted for every pony yet?”

Word is the missing colts were at the Cloudsdale Arcades,” Sakura offered. “By the way… the flight Camp Organizers want to do another dinner tonight.”

I’m not going to have to go am I?” Kenta asked plaintively.

No dear, you can stay home and rest.”

Just prop me up in a seat,” I offered. “I imagine I’ll be rested up enough by then.” I turned to Diamond. “Diamond, would you be interested in going?”

Me? But, how could I?”

It’ll be on base on a sky island such as the one we are on now,” Sakura offered. “And a transport will be provided.”

What about, that is, I hate to ask?”

I think she means something fashionable,” I offer.

Afraid I don’t know if we’ll be able to get anything,” Sakura lamented.

Might be able to loan you something of ours?” Scootaloo offered.

True, they did send us with a lot of clothing. That is if you don’t mind wing holes?” I said in agreement with Scootaloo.

Yours?” Diamond asked.

Come on, I’ll show you what we brought,” Scootaloo prompted and headed for the step up.

I was to stay put and get more rest. It's not like I had a huge problem with that. I finished off my drink and lay back down in the sun. I soon found myself on the dream plane where I came face to face with an older version of myself of all things. Together we had a nice relaxing cup of tea each in a garden in an expansive greenhouse the likes of which I’d never seen. We talked.

I probably told her everything. I mean, it was just a dream… right?

When I woke up I was feeling considerably more energetic.

You feeling up to going to dinner?” Mom asked. She’d just come to check on me.

Ya, I’m good to go,” I replied energetically as I turned to look about. Kenta was giving me an odd look. So were Scootaloo and Diamond. And Cadance just had that I’m worried about you look.

Are you feeling alright?” Mom asked.

Her main started doing that in her sleep,” Cadance offered.

I’m fine. I’m better than fine,” I protest. I cast a glance at my mane to discover that it was shifting about as though being moved by an unseen breeze. Granted it was nothing like Princess Celestia’s main and tail.

That was just a dream… wasn’t it? No matter, I’ll worry about it later.

We still doing dinner?” I asked cheerfully.

Yes, let’s get you dressed,” Mom offered, and a short time later I was dressed in the colors of my cutie mark of plumb and violet.

Chapter 57: ignis Romanus

View Online

Our evening bus over to Flight Camp had an even heavier security presence from that morning, undoubtedly on the off chance some of the foal traffickers were still at large. When we arrived it was evident that the dining hall would have a capacity crowd that night.

We were directed up to a head table to the cacophony of ruckus applauds and cheering which had started up shortly after we were spotted entering the room. What had they been telling ponies? I would soon find out that Rumble, Scootaloo, and I were being made out as heroes when all I’d done was snag an unattended airship… and captured a fugitive along with many rogues.

I was being asked to step up to a podium.

I was being asked to say it.

I’m never going to hear the end of it.

No matter. I step up to the podium, elevate myself on a bit of cloud. “It is my intent to commandeered an airship, and I have every intent to raid, pillage, and otherwise plunder my weaselly black guts out.”

Enthusiastic applause and cheering resound.

I only said what I said because the air controller on hearing the timbre of my voice had no intention of giving me so much as the time of day,” I offered once ponies had settled down. “I’d a hunch something was going on and if I couldn’t get any pony's attention one way, I’d get their attention another. I will confess I’d no idea just what all they were up to.” I looked around to see several faces I recognized from the hospital. And then I decided to push my luck. “The Grand Galloping Gala is coming up and as much as I’d love to invite everyone, that I think would be pushing it. That said, I would like to invite all the unwilling passengers and misled passengers of the Drumlin Hay as my personal guests. That is to say, all the captives who were rescued. We’ll have our own little party off in another part of Canterlot castle.” I turned to Luna. “Mom, what do you think?”

She looked like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car.

Following that I had to explain how the three of us ended up under the cloud layer in the first place. The deep blush on Rumble’s face suggested some pony had explained ex-winging to him. I’d left that bit out of the narration but did explain that Rumble had grabbed hold of me, and that’s what caused me to lose control. I then had to explain how having Earth pony magic could be problematic while standing on clouds. This followed with a short explanation of what Moonie was.

Moonie?” I asked softly. “Any chance you’ve enough in you to say hi?”

Moonie materialized on my head. She let out a yawn and stretched. This maneuver was followed by laying down with her front hooves stretched forward. She looked very much like a cat on my head.

Is she alright?” Scootaloo asked with a touch of concern in her voice. “Her mane and tail are white.”

Mostly white was a better description.

Selena?” I asked tentatively. “Diagnostic?”

I am… whole,” she responded.

She seems fine,” I informed Scootaloo. “Probably leveled up or something. She’s becoming her own pony.” My declaration was followed by my explaining to my audience how it was theorized that a Guardian spell could at some point become sentient. Nor was her main and tail turning white unexpected. After all, hadn’t that happened in my stories? Granted that the circumstances were different. A cold shiver ran down my back at the thought of suddenly, and inexplicably, finding myself in another dimension. But then again that’d been Discord’s doing and Discord was still locked in stone. At least in this dimension.

Oh, the staff is going to love you,” Mom whispered to me once I’d gotten sat down again.

Any chance we can get a list so no pony gets left out?” I asked as General Dynamic went up to the mic to talk. I only half-listened as he talked about us being the future of pegasi. Talked briefly about the foal-nappings, and he hinted that he’d be retiring soon. Not like it was his fault one of his officers was a complete waste of pony flesh, but then again there would be ponies looking for someone to blame. Granted had someone thought to have patrols under the base they might have spotted that airship coming and going some time ago.

Dinner came out a short time later, my favorite, fish.

Kenta was already asleep when we returned to the Neighpon mission, and flight camp was back to normal the next morning. We started with stretches, went over the basics, covered some new techniques, and finished off the afternoon with relay races. Yes, the schedule was a little off, but overall it turned into a fun flight camp.

With one caveat. Cozy Glow. No, not in a bad way. The thing is, she got a good deal of my references to the human world. All the other ponies just figured I was referencing things from a thousand plus years ago. They’d shrug and we’d move on. Cozy would get the jokes. I suspected that she was like me, from the human world, unfortunately, I never got an opportunity to sit down with her and ask.


I don’t know if I need to praise you or scold you,” Princess Celestia said to me on our return to Canterlot a week later. She’d met us in the hanger shortly after disembarking from the Firefly.

Do you mean in reference to the airship?” Mom asked. Celestia paused on seeing a very timid-looking Diamond Tiara behind her. Yes, Mom had signed for her. Lofty followed behind and Scootaloo had returned to Ponyville with Spitfire. As for Cadance, she’d left camp early and I had no way of knowing what was going on with her, though I did hear a rumor that she was helping with the foals who’d been abducted.

Not that so much as she made a statement to the effect that we’d be sending a certain pony straight to Tartarus on an open channel,” Celestia clarified.

Oh dear,” Lofty said from behind me.

After a fair trial,” I protested. “Not like she deserves it though.”

Ponies get fair trials in Equestria.”

When was the last time you heard from the hippogriff kingdom?” My question was that proverbial curve ball no one expected and I was curious if her proverbial bat would connect?

What does that have to do with this?” Celestia asked. Her patience was wearing a bit thin.

Swing and a miss.

They were taking the foals to Klugetown,” I stated. Sure I couldn't know for sure but by the look in her eyes, she’d heard that name too. “That airship is armed. No pony in Equestria needs an armed airship.”

I am well aware of that…” Princess Celestia trailed off. “What do you think you know?”

And if I say anything, will it be acted on in a meaningful way? Well?” My tone was cold. “It’s one thing to be treated like a filly in deference to my needs, but quite another when important things I say get dismissed because of my perceived age. I am not the little filly I appear to be any more than Luna is a teenage mother and don’t think I haven't heard ponies gossiping. What I have to say needs to be taken seriously. At least when I am being serious.” If my warnings had been taken seriously and the guard had made more of an effort to locate Daisy the incident at Cloudsdale might never have happened. Though who’s to say that a confrontation might not have ended far worse.

Fine, we will see to it that that little issue is addressed,” Celestia stated with gritted teeth. “Meanwhile, I want you to sit in on the preliminary hearings so you can see how modern Equestria upholds the law.”

I’m a witness,” I point out.

I’m well aware of that. I want you to sit in on the pre-trial hearings anyway. Being that you are a Princess you may find yourself residing over such affairs in the future.”

Indeed, I thought to myself. I might just want to get some classes on Equestria law under my belt so to speak. Was Princess Celestia residing over the proceedings herself? To be honest, I’d yet to sit and watch the doings in the audience hall, I had little knowledge of the Equestrian court system, and if the show was any indication every pony was bringing everything to her. Obviously, the criminal proceedings were being given priority, but I couldn't help but wonder?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way,” Celestia said cheerfully enough, and turned her attention to Diamond. “Who is this that you’ve brought with you?”

Your Majesty!” Diamond blurted out followed by prostrating herself on the floor.

Oh dear, you don’t need to do that,” Celestia protested as I quickly trotted around to Diamond.

I lay next to Diamond and draped a wing over her. “This is Miss Diamond Tiara,” I offered and then turned my attention to her. “Come on Diamond, she’s not going to do anything to you. That is considering what I get away with.”

She does get away with quite a lot,” Mom offered in a reassuring whisper. “If you could please, stand up.”

I’m sorry,” Diamond offered and slowly got up. She gave me a look, and I found myself blushing just a bit as I brought my wing back over to my side.

It’s alright,” Celestia offered.

She’s one of the rescued captives,” Mom offered. “I took her in because she didn’t really have anywhere to go, and I feared she might get lost in the system.”

Do we know what became of her parents?” Celestia asked softly.

They are the Rich family, Filthy and Spoiled Rich. Filthy is serving thirty days with probation to follow assuming there are no further charges for his shady business practices, and Spoiled is in rehab.”

Oh! Oh dear,” Celestia said softly. “Did you get her an identification pass? It seems she will be our guest for quite a while.”

Oh yes, your-” Diamond began.

Yes, we took care of that first thing,” I informed Celestia, cutting off Diamond. And then in a whisper to Diamond, “It’s Highness, and Ma’am thereafter. And don’t worry, others have embarrassed themselves far worse.” Diamond gave me a look and her eye slowly opened wide.

You can’t mean?” Diamond whispered back.

My smile spoke volumes.

Oh dear…” Diamond trailed off realizing she was about to use Princess Celestia’s name as an epitaph.

Now, the Drumlin Hay is in an adjacent hold,” Celestia offered. “Shall we go have a look? I’d like you to tell me everything you can while it’s still fresh in your mind.”

Alright,” I replied.

I must confess we never had the opportunity ourselves,” Mom added. “Lead on dear sister, lead on.”

:trollestia:

So with Princess Celestia directing the way we left the hanger we were in, went down a hall and exited onto a catwalk that overlooked a larger hanger.

The Drumlin Hay was considerably larger than the Firefly, and armed to the teeth. Not only did it have gun stations along the sides, but there were also ball turrets extending from the base, and up top, no less than two dozen crank type ballista crossbow could be seen along the side of what should have been an observation deck midships to the bow with another on the stern. The two decks were separated by a conning tower with raised platforms fore and aft of the tower each fitted with another large ballista making it look a bit like an old WW2 U-boat. But wait, that’s not all you get, centered on the forward observation deck, one behind the other could be seen two large trebuchets with one more in the back. All of which I’d missed seeing when I’d moored her in Cloudsdale. Granted that all that weaponry could have been stowed away at the time. I couldn't help but wonder if it had a lightning gun in the bow? Oh, and yes, it had a periscope for lurking about in the clouds both up top and down on the lowest portion of the keel.

Elsewhere within the hanger, various items were on display in stacks and piles, while others had been boxed. And yes, the bamboo cages were out there as well.

It seems I’ve commandeered me a warship,” I said softly.

They fire explosive darts,” Celestia informed us. “Except for the siege machines. They launch large ceramic pots loaded with a chemical mixture that explodes and sprays out burning everything it touches.”

I can gather they didn’t discover that here in the bay?” I asked. It just seemed to me that if they had there would likely be nothing left.

No, they were suspicious of the contents and chose to break open a jar out in the target range. As slovenly as those ponies were, the explosives were given considerable care. Hit it with a dart and it exploded sending fire everywhere.” She turned back to me. “Klugetown?”

If what I know holds true, it’s a den of villainy full of cutthroats, thieves, rogues, scoundrels, near-do-wells, scofflaws, jaywalkers, tax evaders, people who don’t signal when they are going to turn, people who don't tag NSFW on NSFW art, and dirty rotten sweaty pirates. A place where everything and every creature has a price.”

I think I get the idea,” Celestia responded in a dry sort of tone. “Which would explain why you asked about the Hippogriffs.”

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

Sister?” Mom asked.

We lost contact and trade has slowed to a trickle. Goods are coming up from their kingdom, but it’s been sporadic.”

Any chance all the explosives have been removed to safe locations?” I asked. There was no point in discussing the fate of the Hippogriff Kingdom without more information. No, making sure those explosives had been taken care of. “Preferably in a cool dry place and not all in the same place?”

Soon as our people realized what we had things started getting moved a little at a time,” Celestia offered. “Forensics is going over it with a fine-toothed comb and the research and development ponies are eager to take apart all kinds of things. Mostly the weaponry. They have a device fitted to the crossbows that allow for rapid-fire.”

Sounds like a Legolas device,” I mused.

I’ve been assured that everything that even looked remotely dangerous has been moved to safe locations,” Celestia offered. “Now, I’d like to hear about your adventure, first hoof.”

Once more I went into the tale of the bold pirate Captain Kitzu Athelas as we went down a ramp to inspect the ship. I showed her the door we entered. That there was enough room for Celestia to enter and maneuver about wasn’t a huge surprise. Except, if she wanted to actually turn around she had to go into the lounge. And there wasn’t a lot of headroom.

Diamond was understandably hesitant to go onboard the Drumlin Hay. In the end, she decided she would rather not wait out in the hanger where the cages were.

I showed them the bridge and explained everything that I’d done. “I knew it wasn’t derelict when the engines turned over on the first try,” I explained.

Indeed,” Sunset offered as she joined us. “I volunteered to join the research team. There is something really interesting in the nose of this thing.”

So it does have a lightning weapon?” I asked. The dirty look she gave me was priceless. “But never mind what it’s got, can we counter it? Can we come up with weapons that’ll give us the edge when the storm comes?”

Possibly.”

Now hold on?” Celestia protested.

Mother, right now, we would not stand a chance against a fleet of ships like this. It’s only a matter of time,” Sunset admonished. “The way I see it, we are really lucky Nova took this ship out from under their noses.

We need shielding that isn’t dependent on ponies, and weaponry that will give us the edge we need to repulse the inevitable,” I offered. “I wonder if it’s possible to artificially duplicate my little ball of blue fire?”

Might be worth looking into,” Sunset mused. “At least it’s not lethal at the power level you are using and that would mean less explody things to load on board.”

I can’t believe how casual you two are about all this?” Celestia protested.

Taught us much, our time in the mirror world did,” I offered sagely.

Mirror world?” Diamond asked.

Complicated and classified,” Mom informed Diamond.

It’s a place through an enchanted gateway,” Celestia offered.

A place where many of the creatures have far more in common with the former crew of this airship,” I offered. “A place of nightmares.”

Thank you,” Sunset offered to me. “For bringing me home. Just in case I hadn’t said it enough.”

You’re welcome,” I offered with a smile on my face. “Shall we continue our inspection now?”

Yes, yes, of course,” Sunset replied, and a moment later we were headed for the back of the ship.


Diamond said not a word when we went back to look at the now empty cargo holds. Just a bunch of big empty rooms that did not indicate their use outside of stains and marks on the floor. When we got back we set her up with a room a couple of doors down from Mom and me, and when I went back to check up on her I found her crying her eyes out. I didn’t say anything as I walked in. I sat down next to her and wrapped a wing around her.

How can you…” Diamond began, but couldn't finish.

Stand you? Forgive you? Because I know that there is a good pony inside you. I always knew. We did try to be your friend, and now things are going to start getting better. Your mom will get out of rehab and be the best mom you remember. Even better. Your dad, well, we’ll wait and see. Princess Celestia is very forgiving, you’ll see him again.”

And the storm you are expecting?”

A couple of storms. Don’t worry, we’ll weather them and come out the stronger for it.”

You think so?”

I know so.”

Is everything alright in here?” Lofty asked from the door.

No, but we’re working on it,” I offered. Lofty came in, did her own bit of encouraging, helped Diamond to get ready, and a short time later we were on our way downstairs to a state dinner.

For Diamond it was all rather humbling and even a bit overwhelming. She wasn’t at a complete loss though and watched me for cues to protocol, such as not taking our seats until after Princess Celestia moved to sit. Of course, the inevitable inquiries concerning Diamond didn’t wait long.

She’s my ward,” Luna informed them.

Dear, Princess Luna, surely not another foal, and at your age?” Asked one of the old biddies.

I happen to think I’m quite spry for a pony well over a thousand years old. Why I was well past one hundred when my sister was so misled by her followers.” Luna pointedly reminded those gathered that she was not the teenager filly she appeared to be. “Why even my own daughter would be an adult if not for the fate that befell us.” She paused but a moment. “Miss Diamond is one of the foals recently rescued and a pony we know. She and Nova were attending the same primary school and were classmates. I could not in good conscience let her go back into Foal Protective Services after they failed her so badly. The worst of it being her stay was meant to be temporary as in she’d be going home just as soon as her parents get their life in order.”

You may or may not have heard,” Celestia began. “FPS has been under investigation for the past week. How so many of our precious little ponies could fall through the cracks so easily and no pony wise about it is beyond me.”

The room had gone strangely quiet. How many in this room, I wondered, knew of a foal who’d been left to foal services? How many had been turned out of their homes because they hadn’t measured up in some arbitrary way? Such as getting the wrong cutie mark.

There will be stiff penalties,” Princess Celestia added in a warning tone.

And that mare who seems to have been behind it all, will it be Tartarus for her as is rumored?” Prince Blueblood inquired rather boldly. “Popular opinion seems to think she deserves it.”

This was news to me as I’d been more or less cut off while at Flight Camp. Apparently, my loose lips had supporters.

It will be up to a jury to decide her fate,” Princess Celestia stated.

Chapter 58: Priestess of Akkadia

View Online

Morning, and as promised I was on the sidelines of the hearing regarding the members of the former crew of the Drumlin Hay. Whether I wanted to be there or not.

Princess Celestia was indeed the presiding judge, and Mom, or I should say, Princess Luna, sat with me in all her regalia.

I’d yet to receive any official regalia.

The cases were brought up to Princess Celestia one by one. Most were plea bargaining their way into a lesser charge. Such as impersonating a royal guard owing to a lack of evidence against the individual. Sure, there was enough to convict on higher charges such as aiding and abetting but only those who were caught with a foal in their presence were looking at foal napping charges. There were piracy charges on the table as well, but as they’d not actually been caught in the act it was going to be difficult to prove the various goods on board had indeed been pirated. Granted that the ship’s logs and manifests might well be enough to prove the charge the court had chosen to offer lesser charges for anyone willing to testify and plead for leniency.

A familiar tickling beckoned at the back of my mind.

Was she there? I let myself sort of halfway slip into the dream realm just as Daisy Woods was called forward. She’d several lawyers, all Earth ponies colors ranging from gray to khaki with dark manes, and a pile of law books. Several of the books looked like they were the sort that was not allowed out of the law library.

Hello me,” Offered my other-self.

Are you seeing this?” I asked softly.

Indeed I am,” Mom offered not realizing I hadn't been asking her. The lead lawyer, one Mister Rock Stain, was presently rambling off a bunch of obscure laws, chapter and paragraph, sub-paragraphs, and etc. His cutey mark, a large tome with loops hanging out of it.

Princess Celestia, owing to your past involvement, make that personal involvement with my client I humbly request that you recuse yourself from her case. Furthermore, we are making a motion for arbitration from a third party.”

Aye, I’m seeing it,” My other self offered. It was a bit like hearing my own voice in the back of my head, only not my voice.

And who would you like to arbitrate?” Princess Celestia asked. She sounded most annoyed. Peeved even. And Considering Princess Celestia, it was probably a good thing the judge's desk was non-flammable.

According to...” book title, chapter, and verse, “..codex of the Nations upon which all our laws are founded,” he had a copy with him, one of the rarest books in Equestria, and he had a copy with him,“..we request arbitration by a Priestess of Akkadia. Furthermore, if a priestess is unavailable according to…” more books titles, chapters, and verses, “..then my client has the right to parole until such time as one is available.”

They’d been planning this. They must have. That old nag probably had these ambulance chasers scouring the law libraries across the land in search of a way to forestall justice. The worst part is they were apparently all well within their rights. One might even say it was a very Twilight move. Daisy had planned for the day she’d eventually get caught. She’d undoubtedly cast as much blame as she could on the crew of the Drumlin Hay and was now going for indefinite parole rather than the lightest sentence she could get.

A Priestess of Akkadia hasn’t been seen in centuries. The old Republic is gone. Long gone,” Celestia warned.

It is still within our right to make the request.”

If only that prey lawyer knew of the predatory emotions emanating from my other self.

Princess Celestia had been outfoxed, and she knew it. She had but two options, grant the request or be seen as a pony who was above the law. A pony who let personal grudges blind her judgment. Grant the request and Daisy would walk. The worst part was that Princess Celestia’s own commitment to the rule of law meant she’d have no choice but to grant the request.

She was furious.

As for myself, I got to my hooves, and took a few steps forward. It just seemed the thing to do. Granted that at that moment I may not have been entirely in full control of my body.

Tell them…” my other self began as power began to well up through me.

Oh that feeling, that adrenaline rush, the hunt was on!

Ah, that must be how I recovered so fast. It was her.

Princess Nova!” Celestia shouted at me. Celestia was both angry and concerned.

Nova? Nova?!” Mom called sounding very worried.

I didn’t know it at the time but there was power rippling off me. I’d become white-hot. Why nothing burst into flame, we’ll never know, but maybe that’s the nature of foxfire. It only burns the wicked.

Thy request has been heard!”

It was my voice, but not my voice. I was using the Canterlot voice. It was her speaking through me. “Thy request shall be granted forthwith!

Nova! This is not the time!” Princess Celestia shouted back at me as she rose to her hooves. And then a hush fell over the hall. Music? Yes, music. You see, the fun thing about magical words is that when epic background music is needed, epic background music happens. The rumble of drums vibrates through the floor, followed by a string section picking up the tempo, and then the brass begins the fanfare.

Is that Prench horns?” Celestia said softly as the tempo began a hard-driving rhythm. Heavy drum beats, bass drums, the hall shook from a rain-boom outside. What followed was a sound that was reminiscent of sheet lightning or fighter jets racing overhead making hard turns with full afterburners on. I cast a glance out the windows and caught a glimpse of a pair of ponies racing through the air, wings set to the delta position doing impossible maneuvers without flapping.

And then it stopped.

I could still feel her presence, but she wasn’t in my head anymore. The hall had grown strangely quiet. No one moved, no one spoke, some even seemed to be holding their breath in anticipation.

A distant drumbeat of hooves on tile broke the silence.

The sound of some pony running, coming closer, ever closer hooves sounding like an approaching drum with a rounding boom of doors slamming open as they burst into the hall. They didn’t wait to be called forward choosing instead to run all the way up to within a wing length of Princess Celestia.

Alicorns,” spoke the runner in a breathless voice.

The soft sound of triumphal violins could be heard as if blown in on the wind along with flutes. The doors swung open, and the music transitioned to that of an invigorating march. I bowed as my senior entered, her armor looking remarkably like the Iron man black and gold armor. At her side was the adult alicorn version of Scootaloo in red and gold armor. Behind them came Fluttershy goddess of nature her mane trailing behind with vines, flowers, and even some woodland friends in it. All beautifully arranged. At her side walked a young sun-dappled alabaster redhead that I was sure just had to be Rose Myrtle. Had I in fact been seeing into their lives? I suppose anything’s possible.

One more thing I hadn’t noticed right at first was the physical pressure of their combined aura. Ponies dropped to the floor, heads bowed whether they wanted or not. They were in turn followed by a pair of stallions, a white fox type who I was just sure had to be Loki do to the Blue in his main. When exactly did that horn show up I wondered? With him was the most unlikely individual I’d ever seen. He was sort of a grayish tan with white below the fetlocks, dark gray hooves, mane, and tail. His wings started with that odd khaki color, then white, then black with bluish tips. His horn curled upward not in a tight spiral but in great swoops like the African Kudu. His cutie mark was a Triskelion form that spiraled out, then in, the rays arching back into tight spirals which then spiraled outwards once more, up and around to form a trio of Triquetra the ends of which continued to spiral out into a knot-work ring. Chaos contained, and then I knew exactly who it was; like the bowler hat, monocle, and tweed jacket hadn’t already been a big clue.

My adult counterpart gave me a wink as they progressed towards Princess Celestia. It was all I could do not to trot in place. As for Princess Celestia, she looked like she had overloaded in much the same way Twilight often did. Her perfect mane actually had hairs sticking out in random directions.

Princess Celestia,” I began when Celestia turned to me with a look of desperation on her face. “I’d like to introduce to you Princess Tsuki, element of Hope and Priestess of Akkadia. Princess Louise, element of Compassion...”

Ya, I was winging it, and I wasn’t about to just announce that Tsuki was in fact my counterpart from another dimension. As for the name Tsuki? Yes, that was a name used by one of my Kitsumi Novas at least once, Tsuki Nym. You know, as in pseudonym? Add to that the names are real enough. Tsuki means moon, and Nym was one of Shakespeare’s King’s men. Nym is also literally a placeholder. It’s Greek and means name. I literally called her Moon Name. Yes, I did a thing and didn’t even know it at the time.

And also a priestess of Akkadia,” Princess Tsuki, aka Kitzumi Nova, announced in reference to Louise. “If you’ll pardon me,” She smiled at me and then turned back to Princess Celestia.

Fraud!” cried out Daisy desperately. Beads of sweat could be seen on her forehead as she struggled against the presence before her. Her plans were about to go horribly wrong and there was nothing she could do. Still, though, she would try. She would grasp at anything that offered hope.

She was silenced by the sound of the air outside being shattered by a massive bolt of electricity arcing through the sky. Silence followed.

Chapter 59: What exactly were you the Goddess of?

View Online

I, and my partner, are indeed Priestesses of Akkadia, or Arkadia as its often referred to in the modern vernacular,” Tsuki offered in a calm yet menacing tone. “Accompanying us is Princess Diana and Princess Rose Myrtle.” Can’t very well tell everyone Diana is alicorn Fluttershy and Dianna kind of fits when you take into consideration the role of the classical counterpart who was the goddess of animals domestic and wild. A little prevarication never hurt anyone.

The two stallions are Prince Loki, and Prince Prometheus,” Tsuki added.

Prometheus?” I asked in a whisper.

The same,” offered the stallion I’d presumed was Discord. He bowed to me, leaned in, and whispered, “Discord was a prank that hadn’t gone as planned. I kind of got stuck like that. Everything has been sorted now.”

I see,” I said softly. “A prank you say?”

Blame the goat if you must. It was his fault I got stuck like that.”

🌞🌙

A request for arbitration has been made,” Tsuki stated coldly as she cast a withering glance at Daisy. “To be moderated by a Priestess of Akkadia. Now stand before you, two. We shall here thy supplication.”

I, I,” Mister Rock Stain started. He swallowed hard, gathered his wits, and sought a way to discredit this interloper. “How do I know that you are who you say you are? This could be not but a theatrical ploy, and your claim about as valid as a bit of undigested potato.”

Tsuki began to chuckle under her breath in a very foxy laugh.

What exactly were you the Goddess of?” he pressed. They too were struggling under the power of Tsuki’s spiritual pressure if his wobbly legs were any indication.

Oh dear god, he didn’t?” I said a gasp.

Princess Tsuki threw back her head in ruckus laughter as she became engulfed in arches of electricity. Some lept upwards while others grounded. Outside the city grew dark. Princess Celestia stepped forward to counter what was happening and found herself unable to access her own manna.

When Tsuki had finished laughing and the hall quite dark, she informed all, “I am war. I am destruction. I am vengeance. I am the queen of the sky. All within my domain are mine.”

A Night Mare,” Celestia offered.

Aye, I am a Night Mare. I am perseverance and resolve. I am sacrifice and uncommon valor. I am the bulwark that guards the night while others sleep. I am the dawn of a new day and hope for a better tomorrow.”

And I am compassion, understanding, and mercy. I am the open gate for all who would but say the word friend.” Louise offered, and as she spoke the sun returned. “Together we are in balance.”

I am all that is of the natural world,” Princess Diana offered.

I am spring,” Rose Myrtle added as she stepped up.

Prince Loki stepped forward. “I am industry. And I am bountiful harvests.”

I am progress, innovation, and true justice,” Prince Prometheus informed as he too stepped forward. He then levitated the largest of the tomes, turned the pages to leave it at a place of his choosing. “Do pray tell have a look at what it says about those who would obfuscate and thwart the spirit of justice.”

Princess Celestia,” Princess Tsuki began in a tone all would hear. “For the duration of these proceedings against Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods, Princess Louise will raise and lower the sun, and I will raise and lower the moon. I trust that will not be too much of an inconvenience?”

You, you can just do that?” Princess Celestia asked. She’d been cut off from her connection to the sun and the feeling had left her cold inside. Cold and vulnerable.

It is how you will know that we are who we say we are. The ability to transfer authority, to access the heavenly bodies or even magic itself is part of the authority of a Priestess of Akkadia,” Louise offered. “And it should give you a little extra time to do whatever you wish.”

I understand,” Celestia replied. Meanwhile, Daisy’s lawyers had become quite alarmed by what they saw in the book. “Perhaps we should adjourn.”

We could reconvene, say tomorrow morning? To give the defense a little time to come up with a real defense?” Prince Prometheus mused with a sly grin on his face.

Perhaps we should do that,” Princess Celestia conceded. She struck her hoof down on her desk. “The request for arbitration is granted. We are now adjourned until tomorrow morning, the eighth hour.”

Princess Celestia stepped away from the desk, asked her visitors to follow, and left the room. I watched for a bit, turned to Luna, went back to her, gave her a hug, and asked if she was alright.

Are you alright? I mean… wow. How?”

She’s how I recovered so quickly after my first day of flight camp,” I explained. And to be true I was feeling very fidgety at that moment and it was all I could do to maintain my equanimity. “We met via the dream realm. Seems I may well have been looking in on their lives for some time and thought it but a fantasy.” I dropped to a whisper only for her ear, “She’s my counterpart from another dimension.” I gave her a big smile. “Come on mom, let’s catch up.”

Indeed,” she replied, and the two of us started to follow after them even as ponies around us began to recover.

I stopped on overhearing Daisy’s lawyers scheming.

The priestesses are married, to each other, so have a care if you intend to pit one against the other. It’ll not likely go well.”

So we left them to contemplate their next move and followed after the others. And yes, just as soon as I got out of the public eye I started pinging. Not like I wasn’t pinging before, I was working really hard to contain it, and now that I could let loose I did. Just as soon as I was out of public view, pronk! Up and down the hall, up the walls, and across the ceiling.

Um, excuse us, but did you do that to my Nova?” Mom asked as we approached. I was presently pronking on the ceiling. Yes, jumping down and up like it was the floor. Buck gravity.

Um… I’m so sorry,” Tsuki offered with a smile. “Let me just dial that down a little.

Ak!” Suddenly gravity was back on and I had to do a quick flip and wingspread.

I must say you sure are flying a lot better than I could at that age,” Tsuki offered.

Suddenly I found myself being hugged by Rose. “You are so cute!”

How am I cuter than your Nova, we are the same pony, practically.”

No, not exactly.” Princess Shy offered. She gave me a hug. “You just don’t have that same look of loss to your eyes.”

Am I that bad?” Tsuki asked.

You’ve gotten a lot better,” Louise offered and leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek.

So then, can I set you up with rooms?” Princess Celestia asked.

Oh, we’ll be up in the moon wing,” Rose announced.

I’m sorry, but it’s still being renovated,” Celestia replied.

Did you bring your fancy suitcase? That is, do you have a suitcase that’s impossibly large on the inside?” I inquired curiously wondering if it truly existed.

Oh, no, we left it behind,” Louise responded.

Don’t actually have to bring it,” Tsuki informed me. “I discovered that I can link across dimensions. It’s actually easier than setting a second door in another location. I just set it to open into the correct dimension and it’ll open up in the same relative location.”

That is so awesome! Can I see?”

Sure, why not? Let’s go. Princess Celestia, Mom, er Princess Luna, care to have a look?” Tsuki asked.

Mom?” Celestia asked.

Don’t you get it?” Mom asked. “She’s Nova. From another timeline.”

But then?” Celestia was confused.

How could Louise and I possibly have any authority here?” Tsuki asked, and Celesta nodded her head. “The cosmic clock of the ancients leaves a marker on those chosen. That’s how we can cross over to different dimensions without losing our power.”

The world I ended up in, I didn’t exactly have any magic,” I commented.

Oh, you had magic. You just didn’t have a way to access it. Now come on, and we’ll show you the house.”

Chapter 60:

View Online

We made our way up to Luna’s tower and there on the far wall of the grand entry hall with its white log columns and rich furnishings stood a grand set of double doors with stained glass panels depicting alicorns of day and night in orbit around a central point that hadn’t been there a short time before.

Our home away from home,” Tsuki offered as the doors responded to her presence.

To my surprise and delight the doors opened into the greenhouse. That enormous greenhouse I had envisioned so long ago. The doors had been set at the top of a landing that overlooked the place allowing us a good look at the gardens. Before us lay mixed gardens of various backgrounds. There were lawns, flower beds, trimmed bushes, bonsaied trees of every imaginable variety to include the white trees from the Silver Wood.

Everything you see is in its own pocket dimension between dimensions,” Prince Prometheus explained as we entered. Off to my right was the facade of a grand manner. To my left could be seen the facade of cottages.

There seems to be considerably more than I’d envisioned.”

Possibly because we’ve added since we were last in range,” Tsuki offered.

If you don’t mind, can I ask what you do? I mean when you aren’t popping into neighboring dimensions and providing Arbitration services,” Princess Celestia inquired.

We do what we can to put timelines on a more favorable track,” Princess Louise informed her.

Would you like tea?” Princess Diana asked.

I’d be delighted,” Princess Celestia replied. “But this, putting timelines on a more favorable track?”

A pony named Starlight Glimmer tricks Twilight Sparkle into casting a time travel spell which allows the two to go back in time to the point where Rainbow Dash gains her cutie mark,” Prince Prometheus offered as we went into the greenhouse where tea and sandwiches now waited on a serving cart and we’d a cushion each along with a small table in much the style of an Onsen.

Nova mentioned a pony named Starlight Glimmer,” Mom supplied. “So does she succeed in her nefarious scheme?”

Any chance the Guard located her and evaluated her as a potential threat?” I asked.

In our world she did,” Prince Prometheus informed us. “Most annoying. Worse yet was Twilight trying to stop her.”

One’s own timeline can not be changed,” Tsuki stated. “Any point in time that guides even the smallest change in an individual's journey through time becomes fixed in reference to that individual. Should the individual in question go back in time and succeed in changing events that their present reality is dependent on it results in quantum duality resulting in two timelines from one, the original and a brand new timeline. The original timeline must exist for someone to go back in time, change or no change. Only someone who is safely outside of a given timeline can alter events without impacting the flow of time. Between the two of them, they created several brand new timelines.”

And you fix this? Put them back?” Celestia asked.

If we can prevent it from happening there will be nothing to fix,” Louise explained. “Quite possibly why your little Nova brought her to your attention.”

But if she impacts the timeline?” Mom asked.

It’s not part of her past,” Prince Prometheus explained. “She has seen versions of what occurred in other dimensions. In this dimension, it’s only a maybe. It’s not a must-be. One might even go so far as to say she is acting as an agent of chaos.”

Bite your tongue,” I quipped.

Well it’s true. You are a wild card. You don’t even exist in timeline zero.”

In our timeline it is Princess Twilight Sparkle who is my mother,” Tsuki offered. “Come everyone, pick a seat.”

And Luna in ours,” I responded as I picked out a spot to sit.

And we are the daughter of the Neighpon ambassador in yet another,” Tsuki informed us. “In the original timeline Twilight never married. She got placed in a leadership position she wasn’t ready for and ended up in the same trap of virtue as yourself, dear sweet Aunt Celestia.”

Mom marries Twilight Sparkle,” I add in response to Celestia’s unasked question as to the other all find a preferred place to sit. All protocol has been thrown out the window as well.

But?” Twilight Velvet asked having followed us. And yes, a cushion was provided for her as well.

Considerably more generations,” I supply. “Your Night Light’s not a Tenko?” I looked to my counterpart for confirmation.

Not unless he hides it really well,” Tsuki offered with an odd look on her face. “I do recall one dimension where Twilight was Luna’s Granddaughter.”

Ours as well,” I offered. “Kitsune ancestry and all.”

Um, should I be sitting with you?” Twilight Velvet asked.

You are our daughter-in-law,” Mom replied. “We really should spend more time-”

Hello?” Sunset called from the entryway. Diamond was with her. When Sunset found out what had happened to Diamond she immediately regretted everything she’d said to her in Ponyville. Sunset dropped or put on hold several ongoing projects so she could show Diamond around while I was otherwise stuck in Court.

Hi Sunset, hi Diamond. Come on in, we are having tea,” I called out.

Now dear, do let the host do the inviting,” Mom admonished.

That’s fine, we are kind of the same pony more or less,” Tsuki offered with a grin. “Sunset, Diamond, come on in and have a seat. Is Cadance around?”

Cadance is spending most of her free time at the emergency shelter for the foals that don’t seem to have a home to be returned to,” Celestia informed her.

Understood. Nova told me about her adventure while she was out-cold,” Tsuki explained with a smirk on her face.

Out cold?” Sunset asked as she and Diamond came in and sat down on cushions that hadn’t been there a moment before.

House-elves,” I whispered to mom. “I’ll try to explain later.”

So, um, hi.” Sunset offered. Hesitated, bowed, Tsuki made a polite nod of the head in response and then chose a cushion.

You’re highness… Fluttershy?” Diamond had recognized her. She’d begun to bow and then froze.

They are from another dimension,” I explained. “We are using the classical name Diana to differentiate from our Fluttershy.”

Oh, alright.”

Diamond, are you alright?” Fluttershy asked.

I, I’m getting better,” Diamond offered, completed her bow, Fluttershy nodded her head, and Diamond sat down.

Better?” Fluttershy pressed.

She was one of several foals who’d been foal-napped,” Mom offered.

Oh dear. But yes, I understand ‘better’ now.”

Now, you wanted to know about 'out cold',” Tsuki stated while smiling at Sunset. “After Nova overextended herself at Flight Camp I became aware of it due to her drawing manna off myself thanks to the close proximity of our dimensions right now. I sought her out in the dream realm. Took me three tries to do it.”

I was draining from you?” This bit of news was not something I ever expected to hear.

So, um, what is this place?” Sunset asked.

Our home,” Louise offered. “You’re not…?”

In the mirror world?” Sunset finished. “No, mom came after me, got trapped, and then we were rescued by a Mrs Arthol who turned out to be Nova.”

Arthol?” Tsuki asked. “Can’t as say it’s a name I’ve ever used.”

Married name,” I supplied. “Right, Luna is my actual mom in this dimension, I got caught up in the fight between her and Aunt Tia, and ended up in that other world. My coming back here has been something of a mixed blessing.”

Diamond was giving me a horrified look.

I can imagine,” Tsuki offered. “I have left behind far too many ponies.” She dropped her head followed by Louise scooting over to her and wrapping a wing around her.

You going to be alright,” Rose asked. At least I think she’s Rose.

We’ll be alright,” I offered. “Rose Myrtle wasn’t it?”

Ah, yes…” Rose said to me, followed by turning to Tsuki.

We’ll be fine, don’t worry about it,” Tsuki offered.

So, this place?” Sunset pressed.

Are you familiar with the turn of words tempest in a handbasket,” Prince Prometheus inquired. Sunset nodded. “Well, this is harmony in a suitcase.”

A pocket dimension. Sometimes called Wizard space,” Tsuki explained. “With it, I can link any two dimensions so long as there isn’t too great of a time differential. Our being here is because one Mrs Daisy Bellis Woods had the audacity to attempt to forestall justice by formally requesting arbitration of her case by a Priestess of Akkadia.”

And I just happen to have one on speed dial,” I boasted. I’d no doubt I’d a rather large smirk on my face.

Do you mean to say you weren’t drifting off?” Celestia asked.

She was talking to me. I saw the whole thing,” Tsuki offered. “From her point of view, that is.”

I must confess I thought she had drifted off,” Celestia admitted. “Woke up, realized what was going on, and gone Night Mare on us.”

We are Night Mares. Our saving grace is the fact that we can love and we are not soon to anger. We are safe enough so long as we are in harmony within.”

I must confess I came mighty close to breaking my own rules,” Celestia admitted. “That mare… to think I trusted her with my own daughter.”

It did look very much like they’d planned well in advance,” I offered. “They are likely scrambling to come up with an actual defense right now.”

I must confess that had she started with a story about how she’d fallen in with a bad crowd and asked for leniency I probably would have given it,” Celestia offered in a tone of regret.

They come to you because they see you as a soft touch,” Sunset offered.

It’s out of her hooves now,” Tsuki stated. “And given what I’ve seen so far it’s really a question of sentencing. She is clearly unapologetic about her actions, or why request arbitration from an office thought long gone?”

True,” I offered. “There could be any number of individuals readily available who would not have looked on Aunt Tia favorably.”

"We will of course endeavor to provide fair and impartial arbitration," Louise stated.

Prolonging sentencing indefinitely seems to have been her goal,” Celestia suggested. “Regardless of who she chose, in her effort to cast as much blame as she could on her fellow conspirators she confessed far too much. They, in turn, shoved it right back at her.”

And you should see the Drumlin Hay,” Sunset offered.

Nova’s told me about it,” Tsuki responded.

It’s armed to the teeth,” I stated.

Is it now?” Tsuki asked.

I’d almost swear she was salivating. What I knew of her suggested strongly that she was a war goddess.

We can have a look after we have tea,” Louise reassured her.

So there I was once more on that catwalk overlooking the Drumlin Hay. Only this time we’d a much larger group. As for my feelings concerning that ship, well, I can honestly say that I am beside myself.

I do believe you’ve got yourself a nice airship,” Tsuki offered. “And a wake-up call we didn’t get.”

It has a lightning gun too,” I offered.

And you’ll be refining it I imagine,” Tsuki mused.

Actually no. I’d figured on duplicating Nova’s plasma burst,” Sunset offered.

Plasma burst?” Louise asked.

When I combine all four types of manna available to me and release the mix into a burst of raw energy.”

Really?” Tsuki asked. “Never occurred to me to try that.”

You mean there is something I can do that you can’t?”

Oh I didn’t say I can’t, I’ve just never tried it. I’ve always considered that sort of use of manna to be wasteful. It runs the risk of depleting manna pools too rapidly. It might also prove useless against an antagonist like Tirek.”

That’s right, you prefer to launch projectile’s don’t you?” I asked. I suspect that she might well be right about Tirek and we're going to have to come up with some anti-tank guns.

I do at that. Fire and go. Rapid-fire at one target or multiple targets. Line up the shot and they’ll punch through even the stoutest shield or armor.”

Any chance I can get you to demonstrate?” Sunset asked. I’ve got a test range already set up.”

Don’t see why not.” Tsuki offered and once more we were on our way minus Princess Celestia who’d decided her time might be better served if she spent it discussing the case against Daisy.

Chapter 61: An Idol Hooves.

View Online

Following our brief visit to the Drumlin Hay we soon found ourselves in a small box canyon where a number of targets were set up along with Sunset’s test equipment. Nor were we the only ponies out there. The place was a firing range for the Guard and there were a half dozen unicorns practicing take-down bursts on dummies.

Sunset?” I prompted while casting my gaze at the equipment.

I wasn’t going to ask you until I knew everything worked. Hang on, let me get everything up and running.”

Alright,” I replied followed by waiting while she ran around getting things ready. When she’d finished she fired a burst of her own manna and then checked the readout.

OK, ready. Nova, if you can just stand in the box marked and fire off a burst at the target?”

Can do,” I offered and walked over to the indicated spot.

I centered myself, willed up the Earth Manna, drew in the Pegasi manna, wrapped that up with my unicorn manna, and finally mixed in the Foxfire. This was followed by stamping my front hooves while dropping my head, horn on target, and letting loose a burst of raw energy.

Now to be true, at that moment I hadn’t been acting on instinct. I wasn’t doing everything within the space of a couple of seconds as I’d done before. No, I’d taken my good sweet time. The last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass myself in front of my senior.

My eyes grew in surprise at the size of the burst I’d just set loose.

Not a sound followed the blast save for the occasional rock rolling down the embankment where the target had slammed against the wall and rebounded. What was left of the target lay smoldering on the ground where it had come to rest.

So, was that it or did you just blow your whole wad in one go?” Tsuki teased.

I blame you for supercharging me,” I offered. “It’s never had that kind of power before and I’ve still more. A lot more.”

That was beautiful,” Prince Prometheus said softly. “A little ball of chaos set loose at your bidding.”

Seriously?” Tsuki asked.

Chaos magic is, after all, just a bunch of different forms of magic all mixed together,” he explained. “That’s why it’s so difficult to control.”

So if I were to try to duplicate that, there might be… unintended consequences?” Sunset asked cautiously.

So long as there is no intent to shape it, you should end up with that raw destructive punch every time,” He explained. “Just be careful you don’t turn yourself into another Discord. Or worse yet, Cosmos.”

I’ll take that into consideration.”

Let me give that a go,” Tsuki announced, trotted up, stood a few paces off from where I was, and let fire a burst of her own.

It reminded me far too well of the plasma charge fired by a certain near-omnipotent machine from Star Trek the motion picture.

A moment later we were running for it as rock showered down on us. Which was just as well being it was almost lunchtime anyway.

Dear sweet Celestia,” one of the guards said under his breath when we’d stopped running.

I burst into laughter followed by every pony joining in.

Um, Sunset?” Princes Diana – Fluttershy asked demurely. “You’re equipment, will it be alright?”

Well…” Sunset began. Her word was slow and drawn out. I placed a fair amount of protection charms on everything, but after that blast? Who knows?”

Why don’t we go clean up, get lunch, and then we can dig everything out after lunch,” Cadance suggested.

I hate to say it, but you’re probably right,” Sunset relented.

Princesses,” A Sargent prompted. “Perhaps we should have Engineering look things over first? Might not be safe after that.”

That is a thought,” Louise replied just as a security team came galloping up the path. They slowed on seeing us, and then stopped a few paces away.

Gentle ponies,” Luna said greeting them, Princess Tsuki tried out Nova’s little trick, and brought down a sizable chunk of the target zone. Aside from that, every pony is fine.” She looked to the guards that were with us at the range. “Every pony is fine, are we not? Every pony accounted for?”

After a quick headcount we came up short one, and rushed back. We’d find our missing individual struggling under a green shield barrier, rocks threatening to crush him.

He was protecting Sunset’s recording gear that was on the firing line. As for the target zone, everything had been covered under a rock slide.

Corporal Hooves, I can replace my gear,” Sunset protested. “I can’t replace you.”

This is Corporal Idol hooves, he’s OK,” I offered to my counterpart who was eyeing him suspiciously. I stepped up close to her and whispered, “He’s an outcast.”

Oh, that’s alright then, I guess. Do you have a way to differentiate between outcasts, friendly gatherers, and potential hostiles?”

Tsuki’s comment had generated a panicked look on Idol’s face.

Idol, it’s alright,” I offered reassuringly.

I’ve found that having Lings on the payroll to be very beneficial,” Tsuki offered in a conspiratorial whisper with a big grin on her face.

Ling? Are you saying he’s a ling?” Luna hissed. “One of my guards is a Changeling?!”

Mom, it’s alright,” I insisted.

Alright!?” Luna exclaimed.

A-ten...hut!” Tsuki ordered followed by Idol, every guard on the premises, and embarrassingly enough, myself, all snapping to the position of attention. Tsuki smiled. “Can’t fake that. He’s one of your guards, and if he truly is an outcast, he doesn’t take orders from Chrysalis. - Idol, you swore an oath when you joined did you not?”

Yes Ma’am!” Idol replied. His training was winning out over any trepidation over being so easily spotted.

Who is your sovereign, answer true or so help me I’ll throw you in Tartarus right now!” Tsuki ordered.

He did not hesitate a moment. “Princess Celestia, Ma’am!”

A fine lad that,” Tsuki offered. She was absolutely beaming.

Seriously?” Mom said sounding somewhat bemused. “Is he the only one or are there more?”

I’m the only one, Ma’am,” Idol supplied. “I turn out any ling who tries to pass themselves off as a guard. To be a Royal Guard one must join in the proper way and do the training.”

Well, that’s reassuring… I guess,” Mom said dryly.

Now, Idol Hooves,” Tsuki began in a softer tone. “What I’m going to tell you is very important. The Changelings are under a curse placed on them, more than likely, by King Sombra. A curse intended to cause disorder.

Idol, to break that curse along with any hold Queen Chrysalis may still have on you, you need to give all your love, willingly, freely without remorse, without holding back. I can’t order you to do it, you have to want it.”

I couldn't help but wonder if he’d go through with it.

It’d be for the sake of order,” I offered while hoping the various fan fictions about him were correct. Idol worshiped order.

We waited as he mulled it over. Waited, and waited.

I suppose it’s understandable if you don’t want to try it,” I offered. “You’re still good by me.”

Ma’am, I’m standing at attention,” He pointed out.

Rules. Idol couldn't break the rules. When standing at attention you can’t do much of anything until told to do otherwise.

Mom started chuckling.

At ease, Idol,” Tsuki said with a smile on her face.

Idol shifted to a more relaxed position. He seemed to think about it for a moment when suddenly he rose up into the air while being enveloped in light. I’d a feeling of love wash over me as a silvery chrysalis formed around him.

He still had his armor on,” Louise stated sounding concerned.

Is that a bad thing?” Princes Shy asked.

No idea,” Tsuki replied.

We got our answer a moment later when our new changeling had revealed himself. Or was it herself? Idol had gone from a semi-dark gray to velvety dark forest green with tiny golden flecks. His golden armor now shined like the sun itself, and fit extremely tight. Idol was almost out of uniform and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t going to hear any complaints out of the stallions. There was no sign of holes in Idols' legs and their horn was now looking far more like a Kirin than a unicorn. Idol was also quite a bit taller now too.

I… it worked,” Idol offered and without thinking, removed the armor to get a better look at themself. Thin golden pinstripes ran the length of Idol’s elytra and they had gossamer wings as golden as the armor. And yes, Idol was most decidedly female. He’d become a queen.

Idol, as gorgeous as you are,” Mom offered, “.. you should probably switch back to your unicorn form.”

Alright, at ease the rest of you and listen up,” Tsuki called out. “No one is to speak a word of this!”

Idol’s pony form was now dark forest green. And very much a mare. A very good-looking mare.

Idol, you need to adjust that color,” I suggested.

It always made sense to just use my natural color,” She offered sheepishly. A moment later she was back to her gray and put her armor back on. When she’d done adjusting to fit back into the armor she looked at her comrades in arms expectantly.

If we can work with the lings who are willing to give us a chance and be true friends, it will be for our mutual benefit,” mom said to the assembled guards. I’ve no doubt the very idea was warring with her common sense, but she wasn’t the pony she had been a thousand years ago and it was time to try for the brass ring. Then again, Mom was typically the one to take risks and try new ideas. “Can we count on your support?”

With all due respect Ma’am,” a Sargent said slow-like. “Just how many like him, or her, are there in Canterlot and can we trust their word?”

Ha, there’s only one Idol Hooves,” Offered a corporal. “And any time Idol volunteers information you can rest assured it's accurate.”

I have a list of lings in Canterlot,” Idol offered. “This, this is so liberating. I feel that for the first time in my life I can think with a clear head. And others like me have been cast out. Before, I would never have dreamed of openly admitting any of this, but I know now, I understand now. I have friends. All of you are my friends. We are all in the service of Equestria. If I can share this gift with as many lings as I can we will all benefit.”

This is very important,” I offered as I stepped towards the group.

There is one more thing,” Idol offered. “My former queen, her behavior, I’m to understand, has been somewhat contrary to order.”

One of the storms I warned about,” I offered, making sure everyone present heard. I could only hope that these few, this band of brothers would understand. “We now have a way to prepare and possibly even prevent that storm from ever happening.”

I want to share this gift I have received to my fellow Lings, but if Queen Chrysalis finds out in her current state of mind she will try to stop us.”





I kind of felt like everything was happening all at once as I witnessed the guards gathered that day all agreeing to our little conspiracy. It kind of made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

So how long do you think it’ll take Idol to realize he’s a she now?” Cadance asked as we made our way back to the castle.

Meh, Changelings are fluid,” I offered.

Best table this before we are overheard,” Tsuki cautioned.

Not so sure I’m quite ready to explain to my sister that we’ve just sponsored a new Changeling Queen,” Mom offered in a conspiratorial whisper.

Maybe she doesn’t need to know?” I suggested and I wasn’t hearing any pony saying we should.

Chapter 62: Arbitration

View Online

There was a landslide,” Louise offered as we passed gawking onlookers. We were, after all, covered in dust. Ever pony except for Princess Fluttershy for some odd reason.

We cleaned up in Tsuki’s baths, and were back down in time for lunch. Each of us now wearing a Rarity original thanks to the other Dimension’s Rarity. The luncheon itself was subdued.

For a thousand years the only Alicorn they’d known was Princess Celestia. And then Cadance was introduced to them. Cadance was dismissed by most as a ‘False Alicorn” that Princess Celestia had taken under her wing. After all, Cadance was nothing like Celestia. Next came Princess Luna. Luna would also be dismissed by the vast majority of the Canterlot elites. Luna wasn’t a proper alicorn, and there was no way she could be Princess Celestia’s little sister. After all, they were nothing alike. And of course, I was also dismissed as just a strange little half-breed.

My recent activities were making it very difficult for the elites to ignore my presence.

Late that afternoon it was Princess Louise who walked out onto the Sun Balcony overlooking Canterlot Castle gardens and the Sun Square where ponies could gather to watch Princess Celestia lower the sun. If there were ponies there for the dawn it was typically tourists who’d been up all night. Something mom found amusing.

I’m sorry,” Tsuki said to a disheartened Celestia who’d been watching from the doorway. “This was, I’ll admit, more political than necessary.”

You had to establish authority. I understand,” Celestia replied. Tsuki’s horn lit up, but instead of the moon rising clouds appeared on the horizon painting a brilliant sunset.

Sunrise and sunset is really my time to shine,” Tsuki offered.

It’s beautiful.”

Glad you like it,” Tsuki replied with a smile. She then walked out onto the balcony, spread her wings, and lifted up effortlessly into the air even as Louise was dropping back down. The moon soon followed in its full glory appearing larger than any present could remember.

Tsuki dropped back once the moon was well on its way.

That night’s dinner was a bit more lively than lunch had been even if the primary topic was still whispered. The topic of the night was the undeniable fact that Princess Celestia was not the only alicorn.





The following morning saw Princesses Tsuki and Louise sitting in the thrones for the Moon and the Sun.

It is not our habit to insert ourselves in such a dramatic way,” Princess Tsuki said to the capacity crowd. “That said, it became necessary in that Princess Celestia is one of the principal aggrieved parties in the case against Daisy Bellis Woods, and in that Arbitration by no less than one Priestess of Akkadia has been requested.”

If the Bailiff can bring in the accused we can get started,” Princess Louise requested.

A very nervous Daisy was escorted in by guards a couple of minutes later. Minus any legal defense.

Why Mrs Woods, wherever has your legal defense gone off too?” Princess Tsuki asked.

They do seem to be running late,” Princess Louise suggested.

If the court will permit, perhaps I could hurry them along?” Prince Prometheus offered from his box seat attached to the far left wall. Luna, Loki, and I were in a box seat on the far right. Seats that hadn’t been there the night before. As for Princess Celestia, she and Sunset were sitting with the prosecution positioned right of center front. The defense was to the left and the witness box was dead center between the Royal Dais and the legal teams. There was no jury readily apparent.

Yes, that would be most appreciated,” Princess Tsuki conferred.

Prince Prometheus stretched out his right-wing, snapped his primaries, followed by the legal counsel appearing in their places. All wore traveling clothes, hoods to cover their faces, and carrying luggage.

I do hope you have got a better defense than running for it?” Tsuki asked in a stern tone as the lawyers looked about frantically. They settled down a moment later as it became all too clear that running would not be an option.

Let the record show that the legal team is hereby charged with contempt of court,” Princess Louise stated. “They are to be held for the duration of these proceedings or thirty days. Whichever is greater.”

Well, if they had any hopes of Princess Louise being the more understanding and hopefully pliable, those hopes just got dashed.

If we are ready, the court is in session, prosecution, please introduce yourselves and present the charges,” Tsuki requested.

Your highnesses,” Offered a grizzled old gray unicorn stallion as he stood. “I’m the lead prosecutor on this case. My name is Gharry Mason, my colleagues are Ben Matchlock, Jack Blackstone, Saul Goodmare, Batty Hues, and Anneal Shore.” Ben was another elderly unicorn, Jack was an Earth pony of middle age, Batty was surprisingly enough a dark bat pony and a very good-looking mature mare. Finally, we had Anneal who was a pegasus. He was the youngest in the lineup. Probably the go-fer.

It took the remainder of the morning just to list the charges beginning with Sunset’s abandonment at an orphanage that had turned out to be nothing more than part of the operation. Foals, mostly older foals, would be trickled out from legitimate homes, and shipped off to buyers and unknown fates. I did have to wonder about the parking tickets though. How exactly does one get parking tickets as a pony?

I object!” Mister Rock Stain protested raising while slamming his front hooves down on the table in front of him. By the looks of the grooves in the table, it was likely a common practice.

Mr Stain, how long have you been a lawyer, or perhaps it is common in these parts to object during the reading of the charges?” Princess Louise asked.

By the look on his face he’d regained his wits along with a measure of bravado.

Traffic tickets?” Mr Stain pressed.

Princess Celestia?” Princess Tsuki prompted. “Do you not have a traffic court?”

Traffic court?” Princess Celestia asked as though this was the first she’d ever heard of such a thing. “Ms Woods owns a cabriolet two-wheeled carriage and it has racked up a massive number of citations.”

Do you not have a lower court that is dedicated to handling traffic issues? Because Mr Stain does have a valid protest. Perhaps we could table the lesser charges?” Princess Tsuki inquired.

Princess Tsuki,” Mr Mason prompted. “Canterlot has a small claims court which does handle minor claims for individuals who do not wish to wait for an audience, but does not as of yet have an actual traffic court.”

In our opinion, Canterlot needs a dedicated traffic court. Harmony knows how much revenue is being lost,” Princess Tsuki suggested. “As for these specific traffic citations, perhaps we could table them, for now?”

I will have to agree,” Princess Louise offered. “Considering the nature of the more grievous charges it might be a bit pointless to press the matter on the lesser charges.”

We will table the charges concerning the traffic citations,” Princess Celestia conceded.

As a point of order,” Tsuki began, “Because arbitration has been requested, these proceedings will take the place of a trial.”

No jury?” Mr Stain asked dubiously.

We could ask the gallery to stand in for a jury,” Princess Louise suggested. The gallery was loaded with ponies that had that I already know she’s guilty look.

Personally I think you’d be better off with the two of us,” Princess Tsuki commented dryly.

Nova, as this isn’t going to end anytime soon, what say we break for lunch?” Princess Louise suggested. “Tsuki, I meant Tsuki.”

I’m screwed,” Daisy whimpered as she slunk down in the chair.

Breaking for lunch sounds like a good idea,” Princess Tsuki confirmed and we were on our way to lunch a short time later.

That week saw a parade of witnesses as the prosecution brought witness after witness detailing the sordid life Daisy had lived. Daisy had made one life choice mistake after another. That’s if one wanted to call them life choice mistakes. One of the things I’d learn is that she’d been the one who set up the orphanage in the first place, and while it seemed a legitimate organization at first, the placings of foals became steadily more questionable as the years went by. Sunset’s incident had been the tipping point. Daisy had been the darling of the nobility up to that moment. After that, she’d become that pony no one speaks of openly.

Firebrand, Meadow Lark, and Diamond Tiara were among many who testified. A Detective Columbine detailed her findings and in each case, the lawyers tried to trip them up. By the time they were finished with Detective Columbine, they’d only dug the hole they were in deeper. And yes, the crew of the Drumlin Hay testified. They were more than eager to cast as much blame onto Daisy as they could. My turn came late on Friday afternoon.

But you never saw my client with your own eyes until the cabin door was opened in the presence of the Guard, is that correct?”

Oh how I wanted to wipe that smug look off of Mr Stain’s muzzle.

It was Moony who discovered her, not aye,”