LineOfFlowers

Students of Heaven 1-43 (Complete)

Apr 17th, 2016
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  1. Note: This is the original draft of this story, but not the best one. Another version, expanded, and rewritten in prose can be found here:
  2. https://www.deviantart.com/poisonhorsie/gallery/62495852/Students-of-Heaven
  3. and here:
  4. https://www.fimfiction.net/story/368234/students-of-heaven
  5. I hope you'll check it out. It's much better than this one.
  6.  
  7.  
  8.  
  9. Students of Heaven
  10.  
  11.  
  12. Post 1
  13.  
  14. >Dear Princess Celestia,
  15. >Things are well here.
  16. >The sun shines, the birds sing in the trees,
  17. >and I see you were right again;
  18. >life is so much easier with friends.
  19. >Snips and Snails have taken quite a liking to me.
  20. >They sulk around, destroy things, intimidate the students,
  21. >and most importantly of all,
  22. >they recognize my greatness.
  23. >They do so much for me I can just sit back and bask in the misery.
  24. >See? I'm making progress!
  25. >You may have refused to make me an alciorn but it doesn't matter.
  26. >There's no magic here anyway, and I already rule without it.
  27. >This whole area is "under my thumb."
  28. >Don't they have the cutest expressions?
  29. >But it's true:
  30. >I rule.
  31. >I rule a school, yes, but the wails of a child are no less real.
  32. >Their anguish is felt just as keenly.
  33. >Their tears are just as sweet.
  34. >I rule a school, yes, but it's a school of flypaper, and they're the flies.
  35. >They can't run without tearing off their own legs;
  36. >their society, even their families turn on them if they try,
  37. >hurting them in ways I never could.
  38. >In fact, their entire futures are destroyed if they don't graduate,
  39. >so they find no rest no matter where they go.
  40.  
  41.  
  42. Post 2
  43.  
  44. >They're trapped with me.
  45. >In a way adults never would be.
  46. >And it's all thanks to you.
  47. >Every time Snips and Snails steal for me,
  48. >every time someone is late for class because they're too afraid to pass me in the hall,
  49. >every time I lie to Flash, and he lashes out in my defense,
  50. >every downcast eye, every fearful whimper, every tearful breakdown;
  51. >they're all because of you.
  52. >I want you to remember that.
  53. >I may be on the other side of the mirror,
  54. >but I am still me:
  55. >indomitable, unstoppable, me.
  56. >And everyone here is mine.
  57. >Remember that.
  58. >You're the kind of pony who would care.
  59. >They aren't your ponies, they aren't even ponies at all,
  60. >but you care.
  61. >Sleep well Princess.
  62. >See my face when you close your eyes.
  63. >Dream about what I've done, and so, what *you* have done through me.
  64. >Dream too, about all the suffering still to come.
  65. >The sweet, sweet suffering.
  66. >I wonder how much longer it will be before I rack up a suicide?
  67. >Wish me luck!
  68. >Your faithful student,
  69. >S
  70.  
  71.  
  72. >I leave the book and walk slowly to my balcony
  73. >Something's got to be done about Sunset.
  74. >My poor little student, so very lost.
  75. >Pegai flit between my towers.
  76. >The faint sound of hooves on stone echo among my walls and gardens.
  77. >Ponyville and Cloudsdale dot the horizon.
  78. >All of Equestria spread out before me.
  79. >But I don't see it.
  80. >Instead, I see the past...
  81.  
  82.  
  83. Post 3
  84.  
  85. >Nowhere
  86. >Aeons ago
  87.  
  88. >I'm alone.
  89. >I've always been alone.
  90. >That's how it feels.
  91. >Emptiness stretches out around me,
  92. >cold, silent blackness above and below.
  93. >Time passes.
  94. >There's no way to know how much.
  95. >I don't want to be alone anymore.
  96. >I summon my power and a star springs into being.
  97. >More magic
  98. >I create a planet, beautiful and blue.
  99. >Sunlight glimmers off the water and high cloud-tops.
  100. >Eventually I descend, and call land from the waves.
  101. >It makes me happy, but I can do better!
  102. >Mountains, and prairies, islands and rivers!
  103. >Sometimes I form them myself,
  104. >but most of the time, I let the processes I set in motion do the shaping.
  105. >Eventually, I am satisfied.
  106. >I take pieces of my world and shape them further.
  107. >Some please me, and some don't.
  108. >Eventually, I create a kind I like more than all the others:
  109. >4 legs, hooves, a tail and mane.
  110. >It's pleasing. So much so that I adopt it myself,
  111. >twisting and molding my own shape to mimic it.
  112. >Larger, of course, to suit my majesty.
  113. >I give life to my creations and scatter them across my new world.
  114. >Now it's time to wait.
  115. >Eventually, some will be born with the potential to ascend.
  116. >I'll find them, and guide them, and when they are ready,
  117. >I will help them through apotheosis.
  118. >Then, I won't be alone anymore.
  119.  
  120.  
  121. Post 4
  122.  
  123. >Canterlot
  124. >Present Day
  125.  
  126. >Sunset was right, I hadn't made her an alicorn,
  127. >but I hadn't made Twilight one either.
  128. >I'd merely given them the seed of divinity, as I had a few others,
  129. >and tried to guide them in a way it would sprout true.
  130. >Sunset had so much potential, but she'd never had patience.
  131. >She'd left before I could make her understand,
  132. >and still carried the seed within her.
  133. >That made her dangerous.
  134. >Very, very dangerous.
  135. >If it grew while she still harbored so much darkness the results would be terrifying.
  136. >Even in that banal world she now inhabited, her powers would be immense.
  137. >Made even more formidable by being the only magic there.
  138. >It would be much the same as if Nightmare Moon had usurped my throne.
  139. >I can not let that happen!
  140. >But what to do?
  141. >She won't come back, and even if she did, she would still be the same corrupted unicorn.
  142. >How can I save her?
  143. >I look down on the ponies preparing for the upcoming Princess Summit.
  144. >They'd soon be on their way to the Crystal Empire, and I'd follow at my leisure.
  145. >An idea forms.
  146. >Sunset didn't know the origin of my "sister" Luna,
  147. >or how close Starswirl had come to ascending himself.
  148. >But Sunset does know about Cadance, and what she used to be.
  149. >She doesn't know about Twilight, or Twilight's ascension, or her crown.
  150. >But what if she did?
  151. >I return to the book and levitate my quill.
  152. >I close my eyes and summon all my knowledge of both ponies.
  153. >I'll only have one chance to get this right.
  154. >I compose the letter in my mind again and again.
  155. >Eventually, my eyes open, and I begin to write.
  156.  
  157.  
  158. Post 5
  159.  
  160. >Canterlot
  161. >c1300 years ago
  162.  
  163. >I follow Luna through the cool air.
  164. >It's always cool at this height, among the clouds.
  165. >She'd woken up early this afternoon and asked me to come with her;
  166. >to a meadow high up on Canterlot Mountain,
  167. >with a large piece of gneiss jutting over the valley below.
  168. >It's honeycombed with tunnels and passages, and had been an active jewel-mine in her youth.
  169. >Now depleted, and abandoned.
  170. >I know she visits from time to time.
  171. >This time we're together
  172. >We set down in the grass and make our way to the pond
  173. >A beautiful, pure thing fed by a waterfall
  174. >We sup and bathe, talk and play,
  175. >then, as the time for night draws close,
  176. >make our way to the tip of Canterlot Rock.
  177. >A gentle breeze blows, and insects softly buzz in the flowers.
  178. >I lay down and look out on my kingdom
  179. >A contented sigh escapes my lips
  180. >I smile
  181. >"Surely there is no pony so lovely, and so well beloved as I."
  182. >Luna laughs a little bit
  183. >"What a thing to say, Sister!"
  184. >"There's no harm in telling the truth, little sister."
  185. >"We do not say it doth harm. We merely observe that...modesty hath never been among thy virtues."
  186. >I say nothing and look out
  187. >She's right, of course. But why should I be modest?
  188. >The ponies are here to serve me.
  189. >No, not me: us!
  190. >At long last my dream is fulfilled!
  191. >Another pony was born: gifted and beautiful!
  192. >I taught her and trained her and eventually, gave her the spark of divinity.
  193. >Not long ago, she blew that spark to flames and became an Alicorn.
  194. >My very first!
  195. >My dear Princess Luna;
  196. >my sister from that day forth!
  197. >But still so young;
  198. >eventually she'll learn the ponie's proper place:
  199. >beneath us.
  200. >"We haven't offended thee, have we?"
  201. >Now it's my turn to laugh
  202. >"No you have not."
  203. >"Good. We would not be pleased to have soured the mood."
  204.  
  205.  
  206. Post 6
  207.  
  208. >A gorgeous smile spreads across her face.
  209. >"We hath prepared a spectacle of such majesty!"
  210. >"This is why we hath asked thee to come:"
  211. >"this is our favorite place in all the land, and we wish thou to savor it with us."
  212. >I smile and lower the sun
  213. >"Show us, little sister."
  214. >She closes her eyes and channels her magic
  215. >The moon rises
  216. >Her eyes open, and she lays down beside me
  217. >The soft light from her horn casts our shadow on the rock
  218. >"Keep watching the sky!"
  219. >Stars pop into being
  220. >flashing silver and blue and red against the black
  221. >then fading to steady twinkles
  222. >shooting stars fall like rain
  223. >brilliant streaks sheeting together from right to left
  224. >Suddenly, it occurs to me the streaks are falling in formation
  225. >taking the shapes of gryphons, dragons, minotaurs, and of course, ponies.
  226. >They burn out as they reach the rows of new stars
  227. >Falling in sequence so as to seem to walk along them:
  228. >A road of stars with meteor-creatures dancing along it.
  229. >Eventually the creatures reach the glowing orb of the moon and vanish.
  230. >Then the star road winks out
  231. >one by one until the moon alone remains.
  232. >I nuzzle, and lean against her
  233. >"That was beautiful sister."
  234. >"We are glad thou appreciated it."
  235. >"We wanted thee to know thy decision to grant us demense over the night was a proper one."
  236. >I lay my head atop her shoulders
  237. >"I had no doubts before sister, now I doubt I ever will."
  238. >She smiles and looks at me askance
  239. >"Good. As the beauty of mine nights becomes known, thou will rememebr not to become *too* jealous."
  240. >I summon a mildly biting look and stare into her eyes
  241. >"Sorry it has to be this way, princess, but the day will always outshine the night."
  242. >Then raise my snout to the sky, letting my pink tresses fall between us
  243. >A moment passes
  244. >then two
  245. >Have I hurt her more than I intended?
  246. >At last she laughs
  247. >"Just as we have said; modest as the sun itself!"
  248. >She resumes our lean and we pass the night together.
  249.  
  250.  
  251. Post 7
  252.  
  253. >The Crystal Empire
  254. >Present Day
  255.  
  256. >The thing about Twilight is, she's not my apprentice.
  257. >She never has been.
  258. >Oh she's my student,
  259. >and the most talented magic user I've ever encountered in my long life.
  260. >I love her dearly.
  261. >But she isn't like me;
  262. >she's like my sister, Luna.
  263. >Sunset though, is me.
  264. >Younger, less magically potent, but so much like me it borders on the incredible.
  265. >Her confidence, her power, her bearing and wit.
  266. >Very much like I once was.
  267. >Which is probably why I did it;
  268. >gave her the seed before she was ready.
  269. >I was sure, because I saw so much of myself in her.
  270. >She needed guidence and temperance, but surely she could not fail?
  271. >*I* could not fail.
  272. >Not again.
  273. >But I did.
  274. >I learned from the mistake, and was able to turn Twilight in time,
  275. >but I am the sun, and my sister the night.
  276. >Sunset, too is the sun, and Twilight the night;
  277. >there must be both.
  278. >So here I am, about to risk everything I've accomplished:
  279. >millions of lives, millennia of pony-history
  280. >and the unknowable expanses of time since I created the world.
  281. >All for the sake of one lost unicorn.
  282. >And it's worth it.
  283. >Because she has the potential to be so much more.
  284.  
  285.  
  286. Post 8
  287.  
  288. >The mirror has been moved to a room close to Princess Twilight's.
  289. >I have reduced the guard compliment.
  290. >Now I wait, cloaked and obscured in my most potent magics.
  291. >Even my dear sister would be hard-pressed to detect me.
  292. >A flash of light tells me she's arrived
  293. >I watch her stealthily creep among the corridors.
  294. >Not stealthily enough!
  295. >A bit of my subtle magic here and there ensures the guards don't spot her.
  296. >How easy it would be to catch her now!
  297. >But, she must be saved, not merely stopped.
  298. >Oh Twilight, forgive me.
  299. >You're a princess, and so, immortal; one day you'll be a goddess too.
  300. >Then you'll understand.
  301. >At last she finds what she's looking for.
  302. >The Element of Magic rises in the darkness.
  303. >This seems an opportune moment;
  304. >I give the tiara a little push into the lamp.
  305. >Damn it to Tartarus, she caught it!
  306. >Well, let's try again;
  307. >a touch of magic,
  308. >Spike rolls in his sleep,
  309. >Sunset trips,
  310. >and the chase is on!
  311. >A little magic to amplify the noise
  312. >Now all the ponies are involved!
  313. >Galloping and teleporting,
  314. >all the way to the mirror,
  315. >No! Twilight caught her!
  316. >Sunset won't give up, especially with this incentive;
  317. >I bounce the crown from one surface to the next,
  318. >and finally, through the mirror.
  319. >Sunset frees herself and turns,
  320. >victory scrawled across her perfect face.
  321. >"Sorry it had to be this way,"
  322. >a smirking salute
  323. >"princess."
  324. >My jaw drops, and she's gone.
  325. >I've often heard ponies invoke my name.
  326. >But who does a goddess pray to?
  327. >She's so very much like me.
  328. >I hope I'm not making another terrible mistake.
  329.  
  330.  
  331. Post 9
  332.  
  333. >Castle of the Two Sisters
  334. >c1100 years ago
  335.  
  336. >"Here ye, here ye! All who gather, stand and bear witness!"
  337. >Luna's Royal voice booms through the great hall.
  338. >I gesture with my horn and all eyes fall on the Grand Door.
  339. >As it opens my orchestra begins to play.
  340. >A grand tune, full of triumph and honor!
  341. >A lone unicorn stands tall, aged though he is,
  342. >and proudly marches down the carpet toward us.
  343. >All eyes follow him
  344. >Not a trace of contempt or loathing on any of their faces.
  345. >Stallions belong in the bedroom or the fields.
  346. >That's the way it has been for as long as I could remember.
  347. >They had said it to his face at first,
  348. >when as a foal his magical talents began to outshine those of any mare.
  349. >Then quietly, behind his back,
  350. >when I decided to teach him.
  351. >Now, they don't say it at all.
  352. >Some of the other stallions even seek educations of their own.
  353. >He stops before us, kneels, and smiles.
  354. >Awed by us, of course, but also,
  355. >by the sun and moon visible through the windows.
  356. >Sharing the sky.
  357. >Luna's idea.
  358. >An appropriate display for one who has saved Equestria!
  359. >The music fades, and Luna speaks again:
  360. >"Know Ye, that reposing special trust and confidence in the fidelity and abilities of"
  361. >"Starswirl the Bearded,"
  362. >We do appoint him a Hero of Equestria!"
  363. >"To be known as such from this day forth,"
  364. >"and I do strictly direct and require all ponies"
  365. >"to render appropriate respect thereunto."
  366. >Her echos slowly die.
  367. >My turn to speak
  368. >"Starswirl the Bearded, Hero of Equestria."
  369. >"For recognizing and defeating the Three Beasts of Song,"
  370. >"receive this medal!"
  371. >He rises to all fours and I place a Royal Seal around his neck,
  372. >borne on a chain of solid gold.
  373. >"Stand and be recognized!"
  374. >he turns, and as one they all bow to him.
  375. >I let him savor his moment.
  376. >"Now, Hero of Equestria, speak!"
  377. >"Name your reward. If it is within my power, you shall have it."
  378.  
  379.  
  380. Post 10
  381.  
  382. >Canterlot Meadow
  383. >that night
  384.  
  385. >Luna and I lie together, looking over our kingdom.
  386. >"Why did you do it Celestia?"
  387. >"Sister, please..."
  388. >"We are not really sisters. Answer us."
  389. >My dear sister is angry and embarrassed that the ponies still revere my days more than her nights.
  390. >She has been for some time.
  391. >But since the ceremony, she's turned frigid as ice, and now she says this?
  392. >Luna; petulent and puerile even after all these years.
  393. >But I will not rise to it.
  394. >I will be an example to her, as I am to every pony.
  395. >Eventually, she will realize how base her behavior is.
  396. >I sigh
  397. >"It was what he asked for."
  398. >"But another, like us?"
  399. >"He isn't an Alicorn yet, Sister."
  400. >"He has a great deal to learn before the seed sprouts, if it does at all."
  401. >A roll of her eyes
  402. >"We know that, Celestia. We worked long and hard before our own took root."
  403. >She lets out an incredulous laugh
  404. >"But, Celestia, what will you do if it does? Send him to rule one of our protectorates?"
  405. >I consider for a moment. "He isn't a mare..."
  406. >"That's right Celestia, he isn't a mare. They won't accept him."
  407. >"They'll play along. To his face, and ours, but nowhere else."
  408. >My sister's words are sharp, and flung with annoyance.
  409. >Why does she behave so?
  410. >"He is not a mare, but I believe the job would suit him."
  411. >Luna's expression changed to disbelief.
  412. >"They will mock him, and maybe you too. It is no fault of his own,"
  413. >"but his appointment will undermine our legitmacy in their eyes."
  414. >Her expression darkens, and she glares at me.
  415. >"But you know this, Celestia, don't you?
  416. >I raise my nose and let my gaze ooze down upon her.
  417. >"Meaning what, Sister?
  418. >"You are no fool Celestia."
  419. >A strange look flits across her face
  420. >"But neither are we!"
  421. >Her voice cracks
  422. >"You think we have failed. You think us delinquent in our duty of the night."
  423. >"You seek to replace us! To make him steward of moon and stars in our stead!"
  424. >That's it?
  425. >Oh how she is truly, my *little* sister.
  426.  
  427.  
  428.  
  429. Post 11
  430.  
  431. >I soften my gaze
  432. >"Sister, I..."
  433. >"Do not deny it! How strange that you would choose a male,"
  434. >"but his name is so convenient, isn't it? 'Starswirl'."
  435. >She spat it out like a rotten apple.
  436. >Her eyes narrow.
  437. >Then, she whispers so quietly no pony but myself would have been able to hear her:
  438. >"It's to humiliate us, isn't it? That's why you chose a stallion."
  439. >"Fields, bedroom, or replacing Luna... that's what they'll say."
  440. >I lower my head and nuzzle her chin
  441. >"Sister! I will never replace you."
  442. >She looks at me, tears welling in her gorgeous eyes.
  443. >"Look."
  444. >I gesture with my snout
  445. >"The land, the sky, everything in between."
  446. >"Every rock, every plant, every creature, every pony."
  447. >"I created this world to find you. You are my sister."
  448. >"Immortal, powerful, and one day, when you have learned and grown enough,"
  449. >"you will attain divinity every bit as splendid as my own."
  450. >"If Starswirl ascends, he too will become immortal, and he will not be accepted right away."
  451. >"But we can wait, dear sister."
  452. >"We will hold the kingdom, the world itself together, as long as it takes to change."
  453. >"Experience tells me, it will not be so long as you think."
  454. >"But what will not change, is my love for you, or your place at my side."
  455. >"You are my sister, forever and always, and I love you, forever and always."
  456. >She looks away, and silently gazes at the horizon
  457. >I lay my head on her shoulder
  458. >"Is it time, sister?" she asks.
  459. >I smile and nuzzle again
  460. >"It's close enough if you're ready."
  461. >I keep my head on her shoulder as she lowers the moon
  462. >There's a soft dripping noise
  463. >We linger
  464. >Everything's going to be OK. I know it.
  465. >At last I raise my head, and the sun.
  466. >Now, in the light of dawn, I see Luna is crying.
  467. >She looks over and smiles
  468. >"We do love you, sister. We just wish they loved us too."
  469. >"They do."
  470. >A moment goes by, and she smiles sadly.
  471.  
  472.  
  473. Post 12
  474.  
  475. >"We made something for you, Sister"
  476. >"Oh?"
  477. >"Yes, we have noticed something that all the ponies seem to love: an ornament for the day itself."
  478. >"An ornament for the day?"
  479. >Her smile is genuine now, despite her lingering tears.
  480. >"mmm!" She enthusiastically nods.
  481. >"Close your eyes, my sister."
  482. >I smile back at her, and do as she asks.
  483. >Her horn lightly touches my mane, and a brief tingle passes through me.
  484. >"Open them, sister, and follow me to the pond."
  485. >Among the rocks, shielded from the ripples of the waterfall it's clear and placid.
  486. >In its surfce our faces look back at us;
  487. >Luna's smile is as bright as the sun itself, and my own is awestruck.
  488. >"My hair..." I whisper
  489. >My pink tresses are transformed!
  490. >A rainbow, dancing on a gentle wind that isn't there!
  491. >Now it's my turn to smile.
  492. >My sister, My dearest Luna! So thoughtful even now!
  493. >"Thou can suppress it, when thy want to."
  494. >"Why would I ever want to do that?"
  495. >"Well..." Her tail swishes sheepishly
  496. >"it takes a bit of magic to keep it going."
  497. >"We gave thee a little of our own so thou could see how it looks,"
  498. >"but If it's not kept charged the spell will falter."
  499. >I shake my head
  500. >"I don't want to suppress it! I don't want it to falter! I'll wear it with love for you, forever!"
  501. >She giggles like a little filly and rubs her neck against mine.
  502. >"We'll teach you the spell, but first..."
  503. >"first?"
  504. >"Come and play with us!"
  505. >She leaps from the edge of the promontory at full gallop, then soars through the calm dawn sky.
  506. >I am not far behind
  507.  
  508.  
  509. Post 13
  510.  
  511. >Canterlot
  512. >Present day
  513.  
  514. >I haven't heard from Sunset for a very long time.
  515. >Twilight returned and told me what happened.
  516. >My dear little Sunset actually used the crown.
  517. >But of course, her seed failed to sprout, as I knew it would.
  518. >Sunset may have been able to fight Unicorn Twilight,
  519. >but, she was no match for an Alicorn.
  520. >Twilight said she left Sunset in the hands of some humans.
  521. >The very ones whom she had terrorized for so long.
  522. >It seemed an odd thing to do, cruel, even.
  523. >An indirect vengeance, unbecoming one of Twilight's station.
  524. >Then she said those humans had also been that worlds bearers of The Elements.
  525. >So I let her judgement stand.
  526. >Honesty, Loyalty, Generosity, Laughter,
  527. >and most of all, Kindness were just what Sunset needed now.
  528. >I was surprised there had been no Element of Magic,
  529. >But Sunset could do without that for now, at least.
  530. >But where was she?
  531. >Shortly after Twilight returned Sunset sent me a single letter.
  532. >Two little words:
  533. >"I'm sorry."
  534. >Then, no matter what I said, or how I tried to engage, she refused me.
  535. >Eventually, I stopped, thinking she would come to me when she was ready.
  536. >Now, it seems she is.
  537. >The book dances and glows atop my desk.
  538. >I open it and begin to read.
  539. >Oh no.
  540.  
  541.  
  542. Post 14
  543.  
  544. >My poor Sunset Shimmer.
  545. >To say nothing of the natives of that world.
  546. >The sirens have found them. It must be the sirens.
  547. >Probably attracted to, or maybe even awoken by the introduction of magic from Equestria.
  548. >If the portal were open, I could take care of this myself.
  549. >I can reopen it...but to my regret, she asked for Twilight's help, not mine.
  550. >Perhaps that's for the best?
  551. >Equestria needs me,
  552. >Twilight needs the experience,
  553. >and Sunset needs a friend, not a mother-figure.
  554. >With the portal closed, Twilight won't be in any danger,
  555. >and if it comes to it, I can cross over, and stop the Beasts of Song once and for all.
  556. >But only if I must.
  557. >Twilight needs the experience,
  558. >and Sunset needs a friend,
  559. >not me.
  560. >Time is of the essence, and a teleport is faster than even my best pegasus courier.
  561. >I'll send a letter once it arrives, but
  562. >Twilight will recognize the sirens as surely as I did,
  563. >maybe even before the message arrives.
  564. >She'll also have a way to talk Sunset through her new crucible.
  565. >I close my eyes, and cast my sight to Ponyville.
  566. >To Twilight's castle,
  567. >through the wards and spells meant to keep out farsight and teleportation.
  568. >My faithful student improves all the time; they are much better than before,
  569. >but still trivial for me to bypass.
  570. >There she is, among her books and letters.
  571. >When she's focused like this, I could teleport it right in front of her and she wouldn't notice.
  572. >She hasn't even sensed my presence.
  573. >What to do?
  574. >How fortuitous! My shipment of books is arriving!
  575. >And they're going right to the throne room.
  576. >They will catch her attention if anything will!
  577. >Effortlessly, I begin the teleportation spell, and reactivate the books message-alert.
  578. >A pop as it disappears from my chambers
  579. >Now to find a messenger...
  580.  
  581.  
  582. Post 15
  583.  
  584. >The Everfree Forest
  585. >c1000 years ago
  586.  
  587. >Silence
  588. >I watch the moon sink below the horizon.
  589. >Luna is nowhere to be seen.
  590. >Lately, that's not unusual.
  591. >We raise and lower our celestial bodies dawn after dawn, and dusk after dusk,
  592. >without ever laying eyes on each other.
  593. >But even at dawn, there is some kind of noise: birds, guards, something to hear.
  594. >Especially here in the forest.
  595. >Silence
  596. >I feel a chill up my spine and know Luna is watching me.
  597. >She sometimes does, using farsight to spy without having to share my presence.
  598. >No, not spy; she knows I know when she watches.
  599. >Observe, would be a more appropriate term.
  600. >I do not mind.
  601. >Dutifully, I raise the Sun
  602. >But it is so quiet.
  603. >I turn and head back toward our castle.
  604. >Last night, I did not want to sleep, and spent the night in the forest watching Luna's sky.
  605. >She'd become more and more upset this last century.
  606. >Nopony seemed to appreciate her efforts, and one night,
  607. >she'd just stopped.
  608. >She still raised the moon, but there was no more beauty.
  609. >No more soul.
  610. >I was expecting yet another dull night, with wan moon and faint, sickly stars, and it was.
  611. >At first.
  612. >Then, near midnight, I sensed her watching me.
  613. >Shortly after, the sky had exploded in light and color.
  614. >The moon shone like a beacon, and the stars flared, literally *flared* up,
  615. >bursting across the sky in hues I had never seen before.
  616. >Even a comet appeared!
  617. >I stayed out and watched it all;
  618. >after so much effort, I wanted her to know that I, at least appreciated her new-found spark.
  619. >"Thank you sister, that was beautiful."
  620. >Silence
  621.  
  622.  
  623. Post 16
  624.  
  625. >I'm not even at the gate yet, and I know something is terribly wrong.
  626. >None of the guards are at their posts.
  627. >None of the daily delivery-wagons are awaiting inspection.
  628. >None of the coopers, or bakers, or gardeners or any of the other staff are at their tasks.
  629. >And that silence
  630. >Not even an insect disturbs it.
  631. >I rush through the gate, the sound of my hooves echoing from the walls
  632. >Where is everypony?
  633. >"Hello?"
  634. >Silence
  635. >Thunderous silence
  636. >I can still feel the chill that tells me Luna is watching.
  637. >Why doesn't she say something?
  638. >"Luna, do you know what's happened?"
  639. >No answer
  640. >"Luna? Sister?"
  641. >Why doesn't she answer?
  642. >I spread my wings and fly to the servant's buildings.
  643. >I open the door and gasp in disbelief.
  644. >Sitting at the duty desk, is a guard, softly snoring with his head lolled back.
  645. >How dare he sleep on duty!
  646. >"Guard!" I say in my booming royal voice, "Wake up!"
  647. >He doesn't budge
  648. >I trot over and see his sleep is far from peaceful:
  649. >his eyes are swollen and tears streak his fur.
  650. >Sweat rolls down his body while muffled screams punctuate his whimpers.
  651. >"Guard?" I shake him with my wings.
  652. >Still he doesn't awaken.
  653. >"Luna, what's going on?"
  654. >This time she answers, but I almost wish she hadn't.
  655.  
  656.  
  657. Post 17
  658.  
  659. >"Hm-hm-hm-hm" her soft laughter drifts through the air.
  660. >"Oh he's having the most marvelous dreams sister."
  661. >The way she hisses out that last word chills me to my core.
  662. >"They all are. Sleeping and dreaming until my night cometh again."
  663. >"What have you done?"
  664. >"We sent the guards home and layed them to bed. In fact, everything on this planet that can sleep, is!"
  665. >"Why? Let them go!"
  666. >"Hahahahahaha! Oh sister, Thou used to love our jokes. How often did thee say thou adored our sense of humor?"
  667. >I looked at the guard, shivering and weeping in his sleep.
  668. >"This..." I gestured to him "this is funny to you?"
  669. >"No, Celestia. This is the set-up. The punchline begins when thee cometh to us."
  670. >Come to her? Has she forgotten who I am? *What* I am?
  671. >"I will not play your game sister. Release them at once, then, I will speak to you."
  672. >Suddenly the guard thrashes in his sleep.
  673. >A high keening wail erupts from all around me.
  674. >They're all screaming. Every pony, every animal, every insect.
  675. >Mad, piercing shrieks shattering the dawn's quiet.
  676. >Howls born from the deepest insanity and mind-breaking terror,
  677. >on and on, echoing and reverberating,
  678. >assaulting from all sides.
  679. >Then, as quickly as it began, they fall silent.
  680. >Luna's disembodied voice speaks again.
  681. >"Thou will, of course, because thee wants us to stop, dost thou not, sister?"
  682. >This couldn't be happening
  683. >She couldn't mean this.
  684. >My sister
  685. >*My* sister
  686. >My *sister*
  687. >How could she do this?
  688. >Tears fall freely from my face
  689. >I don't care
  690. >"Luna..." I manage to sob
  691. >"Well, come and stop us. Thy surely knoweth where we are."
  692. >"Luna, please..."
  693. >"No, sister! Come to us. Now is not the time for fear. That comes later."
  694.  
  695.  
  696. Post 18
  697.  
  698. >I'm crying
  699. >I can't help it
  700. >How could she do this?
  701. >Oh my dear sister...
  702. >I could end it now, release them myself, but that might drive Luna mad.
  703. >It might even enrage her such that I'll have to...
  704. >No, I won't let myself consider that.
  705. >I'll have to talk to her.
  706. >To make her understand there's only one way this can end.
  707. >That hers is only to choose where she stands when it does.
  708. >"Oh my dear sister..."
  709. >She was right too, I do know where she is.
  710. >The alcove behind our thrones.
  711. >Where we used to meet before going out and changing the sky together.
  712. >A quick teleport,
  713. >and there she is: standing before me, wearing a cruel smile.
  714. >"See, sister? We said thou would come."
  715. >"Luna, what are... WHY are you doing this?"
  716. >"Luna?" She smirks "Are we not *sisters*?"
  717. >"Yes," I nod.
  718. >"We are sisters, Luna, because I made you so."
  719. >Her smirk changes to a snarl.
  720. >"Have you forgotten what I am? I am a goddess! Creator of both sun and moon."
  721. >"I made the world! I gave life to it! Who are you to defy me?"
  722. >Her face is a mask of frustrated rage.
  723. >Can't she understand how hopeless her position is?
  724. >"We too, are a goddess! Thou said so thyself! That one day we would be thy equal!"
  725. >"And you think that day has come?"
  726. >"We are the night! We are the darkness! We are the bringer of dreams and the source of fear!"
  727. >"Luna..."
  728. >"They will love the night, if not for its beauty, then for its solace from the terrors of the day!"
  729. >"They will cower in fear at the mere thought of the light!"
  730. >Her horn glows, and they're screaming again.
  731. >Every throat on the planet screeching itself raw.
  732. >"They will love us! They will love ME!"
  733. >Louder and louder, their mad voices penetrating even the thick stone walls.
  734. >"They will worship the peace I allow them only when the darkness falls!"
  735. >"Luna!"
  736. >"Shut up, Celestia! Now is the time for fear! Stop me if you can!"
  737.  
  738.  
  739. Post 19
  740.  
  741. >This isn't working
  742. >And I can't let my ponies continue to suffer.
  743. >Oh sister, please forgive me.
  744. >I must save them from you, but I'm also saving you from yourself.
  745. >One day, you'll understand.
  746. >You must...
  747. >I call on my power, only a very little bit more than I'm used to.
  748. >Suddenly the screaming stops.
  749. >Luna's face jerks towards me with a shocked expression.
  750. >I force down my tears.
  751. >"No more of this Luna. You can't hurt them anymore."
  752. >Her horn glows, then blazes. Her face contorting with effort and rage.
  753. >Easily countered.
  754. >My sleeping subjects don't even stir from her renewed attack.
  755. >"NO!"
  756. >I calmly raise my snout.
  757. >She glares at me with a hatred and malevolence I'd never believed possible,
  758. >then all at once collapses to the floor, sobs gushing from her in an uncontrolled torrent.
  759. >Her tears and moans wrack her frame from nose to tail.
  760. >"Please, let this be the end of it, Luna, my dear sister."
  761. >I turn and march from the alcove,
  762. >between our thrones and down the stairs,
  763. >across the Great Hall,
  764. >almost to the Grand Door, when her voice rings out behind me.
  765. >"Not another step!"
  766. >Oh Sister, please no.
  767. >I slowly turn to face her.
  768. >"Did you really expect me to sit idly by while they all basked in your precious light?"
  769. >please no
  770. >"There can only be one princess in Equestria."
  771. >please no
  772. >"And that princess will be ME!"
  773. >The stone dias crumbles beneath her powerful hooves.
  774. >A fissure shoots up the wall behind her, and it too falls away.
  775. >Through the hole, I see my sun, shining in the clear blue sky...
  776. >eclipsed!
  777.  
  778.  
  779. Post 20
  780.  
  781. >Canterlot
  782. >Present Day
  783.  
  784.  
  785. >My Dear Sunset Shimmer,
  786. >Congratulations!
  787. >Through the great strength true friendship provides, you defeated 3 ancient, powerful terrors!
  788. >You are a brilliant, educated pony;
  789. >you don't need me to tell you how this accomplishment shines!
  790. >Even though a part of me indulges in the idea of you relishing my praise.
  791. >What I wish to discuss, is your other accomplishment:
  792. >reformation.
  793. >We tell ourselves a myriad of stories about, and justifications for our actions.
  794. >Our minds remember, forget, and reinterpret events in ways that make us appear laudible.
  795. >This protects us, but also stunts us;
  796. >we can't grow if we're blind to our own failings.
  797. >Unfortunately, many are.
  798. >Intellectually, we know "nobody's perfect",
  799. >but when it comes to it, we lack the strength to see ourselves in the harsh light of reality.
  800. >To drop our vanities, and see ourselves as we are,
  801. >instead of as we imagine ourselves to be.
  802. >They are never the same.
  803. >This takes more fortitude than many possess,
  804. >and even more to realize when one is wanting.
  805. >It is difficult.
  806. >It is painful.
  807. >But you did it anyway. And more than that,
  808. >YOU DID NOT TURN AWAY.
  809. >You faced the pain, and let it drive you to become better.
  810. >You are every bit the heroine, and so much greater than you realize.
  811. >One day, you will be a princess.
  812. >Because of this, there is one more thing I want to speak with you about.
  813.  
  814.  
  815.  
  816.  
  817. Post 21
  818.  
  819. >You know of Princess Luna's rebellion, but
  820. >will you let me tell you a bit more?
  821. >When I took up the Elements of Harmony against her, it was not out of necessity;
  822. >but hope.
  823. >I'd hoped to intimidate her in to giving up.
  824. >She knew how powerful they were, and I thought seeing me wielding them would bring her to her senses.
  825. >As you know they did not.
  826. >So when I knew I could not delay any longer, I banished her,
  827. >instead of purifying her.
  828. >Do you know why?
  829. >For centuries after, I told myself it was an accident;
  830. >that in the heat of the moment, my control over the elements slipped!
  831. >In period illustrations, I am shown pink-haired.
  832. >I ordered it so, to further convince myself that I was flustered, not malicious.
  833. >So flustered, in fact, that even my hair-magic faltered!
  834. >But it was a lie.
  835. >I did it in anger.
  836. >Pain at my sister's betrayal, and fear for my ponies,
  837. >wove seamlessly into a spike of rage which bore an action that haunted me for a thousand years.
  838. >Why am I telling you this?
  839. >Not as an excuse, but as a warning.
  840. >You will find yourself in desperate situations.
  841. >It is inevitable as a princess.
  842. >I hope you will learn from my moment of weakness,
  843. >and temper your wrath.
  844. >I know you will not see this letter for some time.
  845. >Since giving Twilight our book, I've begun writing, and saving them,
  846. >because I still hope you'll return to me.
  847. >Princess Luna has, and resumed her rightful place.
  848. >I hope one day, you will read them, and know that even now, far across the multiverse,
  849. >my thoughts are of you.
  850. >There is so much hope in this one little letter.
  851. >Long experience has taught me such hopes often go unfulfilled.
  852. >Were you anyone else, I would not dare hold so much of it.
  853. >But you are you. Indomitable, unstoppable you.
  854. >I have faith in you.
  855. >C
  856.  
  857.  
  858. Post 22
  859.  
  860. >Canterlot Meadow
  861. >c1000 years ago
  862.  
  863. >I lay in our spot and cry.
  864. >Our spot
  865. >Where we passed so many dawns, dusks, and gorgeous days and nights.
  866. >This is where Luna invented the aurora;
  867. >happily coloring her nights with the energy of my sun.
  868. >This is where she painted my mane.
  869. >This is where she played and explored.
  870. >This is where she loved; her favorite place in all Equestria.
  871. >Where our laughter echoed together time after time;
  872. >now silent, but for the wind, and my pitiful cries.
  873. >My sister!
  874. >Oh, my beloved sister!
  875. >If only you had listened!
  876. >If only you had stopped!
  877. >If only I'd had better control...
  878. >My thin veneer of equanimity collapses.
  879. >I am alone, and have no need for it.
  880. >I scream my pain to the mountain, and let my sobs blot out my grief.
  881. >On and on, I don't know for how long.
  882. >Eventually, my thoughts turn to my ponies.
  883. >All my little ponies.
  884. >So terrified, and so desperately in need of me.
  885. >I'd freed them from her spell, but great damage had already been done.
  886. >They need my magic to lull them to sleep now, so traumatized are they by her nightmares.
  887. >Nightmare Moon
  888. >That's what they're calling her now.
  889. >All her beautiful works, and heartfelt love forgotten.
  890. >Hers will be a legacy of terror.
  891. >She deserved so much better.
  892. >Again misery overtakes me, and I cry awful, wracking cries.
  893. >My heart tears from me and spills over the meadow.
  894. >Our meadow
  895. >The workers are already repairing my castle, but it's filled with bad memories.
  896. >My heart weeps every time I look on it.
  897. >But our meadow is filled with happy ones.
  898. >I lower Luna's now-marred moon knowing what to do:
  899. >abandon the Castle of the Two Sisters, and raise one here.
  900. >Canterlot Castle!
  901. >The dawn breaks, and washes me in its brilliant radiance.
  902. >A new beginning for my ponies, and also for me.
  903. >No more the distant monarch
  904. >No more the goddess
  905. >From now, until the end of Equestria I will be the kind and warm leader they deserve.
  906. >I love them all so much, and now they will know it!
  907.  
  908.  
  909. Post 23
  910.  
  911. >Canterlot
  912. >Present day
  913.  
  914. >It's a lovely day.
  915. >There isn't a cloud to be seen,
  916. >my sun is warm,
  917. >and my garden is filled with the perfume of flowers.
  918. >Best of all, I have a new tea to try!
  919. >For hundreds of years I've cultivated tea plants as a hobby.
  920. >Some of my blends, and strains are enjoyed well beyond the borders of Equestria proper.
  921. >Now, after nearly 4 decades of selective breeding, and magical tweaking,
  922. >I think I've made yet another delight!
  923. >Of course, there's only one way to be sure!
  924. >I smile in anticipation as I bring the cup to my lips, it's delicate bouquet filling my nostrils.
  925. >I pause a moment and marvel at the sight of my kingdom;
  926. >Cloudsdale shines distantly in the bright sunlight,
  927. >its alabaster spires contrasting beautifully with the blue sky.
  928. >Ponyville nestled idyllically in the rolling hills to the southwest,
  929. >their slopes dark with fecund apple trees.
  930. >I close my eyes and sigh, savoring the moment.
  931. >At last I drink,
  932. >savoring also, the feeling of its warm astringence meeting my tongue.
  933. >This is delicious!
  934. >Even when measured against the absurdly high standards of my gardens.
  935. >I think I'll give it a name to honor Luna.
  936. >She was the one who introduced me to tea, after all,
  937. >back when she was still an earth-pony.
  938. >The sound of a door being hurriedly opened intrudes on my reverie.
  939. >A guard pony canters down my arcade, looking rather worried.
  940. >I nonchalantly take another sip.
  941. >He leaps from the top of the stairs with his wings spread and glides to the grass.
  942. >Such urgency; it was only a few little steps.
  943. >He stops a few meters away, and bows deeply.
  944. >I regard him with a smile, and take another sip.
  945. >"Princess! You ordered to be notified at once, if your alarms on the mirror were tripped!"
  946. >My heart skips a beat.
  947. >I hold the liquid on my tongue.
  948. >Could it be?
  949. >After all this time, has she at last come back?
  950. >"Yes, has somepony come through?"
  951. >"Not exactly, Your Highness..."
  952.  
  953.  
  954. Post 24
  955.  
  956. >I'm on my balcony
  957. >It's nearing sunset, and the air is cool.
  958. >A speck appears on the horizon, toward Ponyville.
  959. >It's so distant, it seems to hang motionless in the sky,
  960. >but I know it's moving with considerable speed.
  961. >Gradually, it draws closer, and my eyes resolve it:
  962. >Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, glowing in my sun's red light.
  963. >My eyes track her progress as my mind puzzles over the days events.
  964. >Some pegasus guards intercept her, then quickly let her pass.
  965. >She comes straight to me, landing quickly, her face filled with concern.
  966. >"Is it true?"
  967. >I quietly nod.
  968. >Her ears and tail droop
  969. >"Oh, Twilight...I came as soon as I heard. I teleported right to Ponyville to check for myself."
  970. >Her frown deepens
  971. >"Even when I couldn't find her, I still hoped she might have come here."
  972. >"Not yet, Cadance, but if she does, we'll know; Equestria is on high alert."
  973. >She licks her lips and begins to pace
  974. >"Yes, so is the Crystal Empire. This would be a clumsy prelude to attack, but I agree it's prudent."
  975. >Suddenly, she stops, and looks at me, shifting her weight from left to right uncertainly.
  976. >"What can I do?"
  977. >"Luna is patrolling the Everfree Forest, you may help her, if you wish."
  978. >"What's she looking for?"
  979. >"Portals"
  980. >Her brow furrows
  981. >"But I saw the mirror, still in Twilight's castle."
  982. >"Cadance, as you know, when she found a way to keep it open, I swathed it in alarm-spells..."
  983. >"Also prudent" she says, too quickly.
  984. >"Thank you. Right now, those are the only enchantments it still carries."
  985. >"Was the portal dispelled?"
  986. >I shake my head
  987. >"Torn free, I think. Without the mirror to anchor it, the mouth will leap about unpredictably."
  988. >"...and the forest's magical nature makes it the most likely place for it to appear!" She finishes.
  989. >I nod
  990. >"The portal is gone, Princess Twilight is g...gone; do you think she went through it?
  991. >I am about to answer, when Cadance shivers visibly and a familiar chill shoots up my spine.
  992. >"Sister! Princess Cadance! We have found a portal!"
  993.  
  994.  
  995. Post 25
  996.  
  997. >High over Equestria
  998. >A few years ago
  999.  
  1000. >Even as old as I am, I can still be surprised.
  1001. >And that knowledge pleases me greatly.
  1002. >Moments ago, an incredible burst of magic swept across my world.
  1003. >I felt it, and so did my ponies.
  1004. >All at once, everywhere on my planet, their moods and dreams sweetened, though they didn't know why.
  1005. >I do:
  1006. >love.
  1007. >Pure, unconditional love powerful enough to bend reality itself.
  1008. >But what could have caused it?
  1009. >Instantly, I'd cast my sight across Equestria to it's source, not knowing what to expect.
  1010. >Certainly not expecting what I found!
  1011. >A little pink pegasus filly,
  1012. >standing in the snow, with a grown unicorn weeping at her hooves.
  1013. >I watch as the unicorn embraces her, and gives her a necklace:
  1014. >a crystaline heart bound in twine, blazing with invisible magic.
  1015. >Literally a heart,
  1016. >cut from the chest of a siren, meant to enslave it's victims, and deaden their souls.
  1017. >It's raw magical power dwarfs that of either the filly, or the unicorn, but it's different now:
  1018. >shining and pure.
  1019. >It's selfish malice somehow transformed by love.
  1020. >Her love.
  1021. >That's incredible!
  1022. >That's potential!
  1023. >The kind I've found only once before in my poor, lost sister.
  1024. >Unbidden, memories of her leap to the forefront of my mind. Still painful,
  1025. >but after all these years, a deep, dull ache, instead of raw, overwhelming anguish.
  1026. >I must sieze this chance!
  1027. >The unicorn steps into her cave, and I act,
  1028. >teleporting the filly, and myself to this special place.
  1029. >She blinks, looking thoroughly confused.
  1030. >"Where am...Princess!"
  1031. >Her eyes widen the moment she sees me
  1032. >"It's ok, my little pony, there's no need to be afraid."
  1033. >She regards me uncertainly for a moment, then relaxes.
  1034. >"Not as long as you're here...Your Highness."
  1035. >I smile at that
  1036. >"What's your name, little one?"
  1037. >"Cadance, Your Highness."
  1038. >"What a beautiful name."
  1039. >She breaks in to a smile.
  1040. >"Thank you, Your Highness."
  1041. >I beam back at her
  1042. >"You may call me Celestia, Cadance."
  1043.  
  1044.  
  1045. Post 26
  1046.  
  1047. >"Oh, no" she shakes her head "I could never do that, Your Highness!"
  1048. >"Well..." I say with an exaggerated frown
  1049. >"you don't have to, but I'd very much like it if we could be friends."
  1050. >She tilts her head to one side, and her candy-striped mane falls over her shoulders.
  1051. >She seems utterly entranced by the possibility.
  1052. >"You want to be my friend?"
  1053. >"Mm-hmm," I nod "and maybe talk a little bit. Would you like that?"
  1054. >"A lot!"
  1055. >"Good!" I say with my warmest smile. "Cadance, do you know why I've brought you here?"
  1056. >"No, Pri...C...Celestia." Her voice shrinks to a whisper at my name. "I don't even know where we are."
  1057. >She finally pulls her eyes from me and looks around
  1058. >For what seems like the first time, she notices she is standing on "nothing":
  1059. >a floor of pure magical force, and far, far below it, my world spread out like a shining gem.
  1060. >A satisfying gasp as her little jaw drops.
  1061. >"We're high above Equestria. Right over Canterlot, in fact."
  1062. >She peers through the floor
  1063. >"Wow, Canterlot?"
  1064. >"Mm-hmm, and you're here, because I want to give you a present."
  1065. >"A present, for me?"
  1066. >"It's not a present you can hold, Cadance, but it's very, very special. One day, it will change you."
  1067. >Her brows furrow "Change me?"
  1068. >"Yes, child. One day, when you're ready, it will give you a new strength, and a very special job to do."
  1069. >I can see her mind is working furiously;
  1070. >she's young, but maybe she can understand even if I don't simplify it so much?
  1071. >"You'll become like me, Cadance. And if you do your job right, if you love your ponies, and take care of them,"
  1072. >"They will all love you in turn."
  1073. >"Like the way we love you?"
  1074. >What can I say to that? What words can adequately express the way they make my heart leap?
  1075. >Fortunately, she speaks up almost immediately:
  1076. >"If it means I can help more ponies, then I want it!"
  1077. >"Are you sure? Once I give it to you, it becomes part of you. You won't be able to change your mind."
  1078.  
  1079.  
  1080. Post 27
  1081.  
  1082. >She nods with surprising solemnity.
  1083. >"I'm sure."
  1084. >"Then close your eyes, Cadance, and open your heart."
  1085. >For show, I gently tap her head with my horn, and silently will the spark to pass to her.
  1086. >Instantly, a burst of light shoots from her chest.
  1087. >I laugh in delighted surprise! So soon?
  1088. >It swirls and jumps around her, and carries her tiny frame into the air.
  1089. >Now she's smiling too, her face shining with sheer bliss.
  1090. >"It's so warm!"
  1091. >She floats, engulfed in a brilliant light, growing, and feeding upon itself.
  1092. >It surges back through her body, and up her neck, pouring from her eyes.
  1093. >She lets loose an exhilarated yell as it bursts from her forehead in a searing flash of pure magic,
  1094. >leaving a radiant spire in it's wake.
  1095. >She floats, laughing and languidly spinning about her axes.
  1096. >Gradually sinking lower and lower as the light fades away.
  1097. >At last, her hooves touch the ground.
  1098. >Her eyes are crossed, focused on her new horn.
  1099. >She grins soundlessly, twisting her head from side to side, and turns in a complete circle.
  1100. >"What happens now, Celestia?"
  1101. >I'm not sure how to answer.
  1102. >Nightmare Moon announced her arrival with a spasm of hate and fear so keen
  1103. >that even a thousand years later its wound still has not healed.
  1104. >Cadance announced hers with a wave of calming love,
  1105. >pure enough to wash the taint from a siren's dead heart.
  1106. >I don't know what happens now, but for the first time in far, far too long,
  1107. >I know genuine hope.
  1108.  
  1109.  
  1110. Post 28
  1111.  
  1112. >The Everfree Forest
  1113. >Present Day
  1114.  
  1115. >The stench of the forest's air washes over me as my teleport spell completes.
  1116. >A fraction of a second later, Cadance pops in to being beside me.
  1117. >"Where is it?" she hurriedly asks.
  1118. >Luna indicates a direction with her nose
  1119. >"It was there, for a moment."
  1120. >Cadance follows Luna's gesture, then stares at the ground, tears welling in her eyes.
  1121. >"Did you see Twilight?"
  1122. >"No, Princess Cadance, we are sorry."
  1123. >A single sharp sob escapes Cadance's lips
  1124. >Luna gently nuzzles her, and softly:
  1125. >"But as we said, there was not much time."
  1126. >I look around at our surroundings.
  1127. >This part of the Everfree is notorious.
  1128. >More swamp, than woods, and filled with ghost-lights and strange, dangerous things.
  1129. >Even the few ponies who regularly brave the forest itself, avoid it at all costs.
  1130. >But here my fearless sister had come alone, at night, without a moments hesitation.
  1131. >For Twilight.
  1132. >My heart would swell with pride, if I weren't so worried.
  1133. >I trot over and stand with them, wrapping my wings around their shoulders.
  1134. >We hold each other tightly until at last, Cadance is calm.
  1135. >"Please, Sister, tell us everything you can."
  1136. >Luna closes her eyes and concentrates for a moment.
  1137. >"First we felt great mirth overtake us, as if laughter, humor itself were a presence."
  1138. >I recall Twilight's mention of the Elements of Harmony in the human-world.
  1139. >"Then a purple glow appeared, and opened into a rift."
  1140. >"We rushed closer, and heard music, of a kind we've never heard before."
  1141. >Her snout scrunches in consternation
  1142. >"We didn't even recognize the instruments."
  1143. >"Also, there were voices, but we could not hear what they were saying."
  1144. >Cadance speaks up
  1145. >"Could you see anything through it?"
  1146. >"Yes. There was a wall, of sorts: horizontal wooden boards, secured to an iron frame."
  1147. >"with gaps between them, and a strange creature was peeking through."
  1148.  
  1149.  
  1150. Post 29
  1151.  
  1152. >"Did it see you?" I asked.
  1153. >She shook her head
  1154. >"We don't believe so; the portal closed before we could approach it."
  1155. >"Well," began Cadance "at least you found something."
  1156. >She smiles, and gives a strained laugh.
  1157. >"Really, it's lucky it opened close enough for you to find it."
  1158. >"Oh, it was not mere chance, Princess Cadance; we used a beacon spell to draw it to us."
  1159. >Again, I am impressed by my sister's selfless bravery.
  1160. >"That's very dangerous, especially here."
  1161. >Says Cadance, echoing my thoughts.
  1162. >"There's no telling what else might have come instead."
  1163. >"No, but we are as desperate to find Princess Twilight as you or Sister;"
  1164. >"we would be remiss if we did not use all the tools at our disposal."
  1165. >I set my wing on her back.
  1166. >"Sister, please," I whisper "don't do that again. Not alone."
  1167. >She looks at me, with a small frown, then nods.
  1168. >"Not alone." She agrees, pressing her neck to mine.
  1169. >We stand in silence a few moments, then quietly, Luna continues.
  1170. >"There is more."
  1171. >The magic was a tangled mess, but we could recognize a few signatures: one was the portal itself;
  1172. >others were Elements of Harmony: Generosity and Laughter.
  1173. >Cadance's gasp tells me she is as surprised as I am
  1174. >"But how is that possible?"
  1175. >"We suspect, it's because the largest portion..." she pauses,
  1176. >"was siren magic."
  1177. >That would explain it. Sirens absorb life and emotion, why not magic too?
  1178. >But I'd never imagined a siren could become powerful enough to destroy the gate.
  1179. >"Twilight said the trio on that side were defeated, their gems broken."
  1180. >"You're sure it was siren magic?"
  1181. >"We are. It was unmistakable, mangled, though it was."
  1182. >"Mangled?"
  1183. >"Yes..." Luna frowns
  1184. >"We don't know a better word to describe it."
  1185. >"Prismia used the heart of a siren as jewelry, and a weapon."
  1186. >Says Cadance.
  1187. >"Could somepony there have made something from the fragments?"
  1188. >A look of comprehension sweeps across Luna's face.
  1189. >"That's it!"
  1190.  
  1191.  
  1192. Post 30
  1193.  
  1194. >"The wall partially blocked our view, but the creature was wearing a locket."
  1195. >Cadance looks at me worriedly.
  1196. >"It glowed with the same violet light that preceded the rift,"
  1197. >"and when the creature closed it, the portal disappeared."
  1198. >"A locket?"
  1199. >"Yes, that's the source of the magic, I'm sure!"
  1200. >"Then we've learned something" I say.
  1201. >"Is there anything else, sister?"
  1202. >She shakes her head.
  1203. >I stand silently, turning ideas over in my mind.
  1204. >As Cadance said, this would be a clumsy attack on Equestria,
  1205. >but it would be a good first move if the sirens wanted revenge.
  1206. >Kidnapping Twilight, and closing the portal would isolate Sunset and the humans from our help.
  1207. >However, Sunset's new letters to Twilight don't mention them,
  1208. >and my alarms would have tripped if anypony had crossed through.
  1209. >Also, without their gems, they are powerless, certainly incapable of this,
  1210. >or defeating an Alicorn, and extremely gifted unicorn working together.
  1211. >It's probably not them.
  1212. >In fact, it's unlikely that Twilight is on their side of the portal;
  1213. >my alarms again, and the fact Sunset wouldn't be asking for her help via the book if she were.
  1214. >If Twilight isn't there, that makes siren involvement even less likely.
  1215. >But where could she be?
  1216. >If I knew where the portal led I could open one, and find out immediately.
  1217. >But I don't, and it will do no good to open them randomly in an infinite multiverse.
  1218. >"There's nothing for us to do now, but wait for it to open."
  1219. >"Cadance," I turn to her.
  1220. >"it seems less likely than ever that this is an attack,"
  1221. >"but I would like you to return to Canterlot, both to alert us if Twilight returns,
  1222. >and to coordinate a defense if it becomes necessary."
  1223. >She nods.
  1224. >"We'll contact you at midnight, dawn, noon, and dusk. If you don't hear from us,"
  1225. >"you may use farsight, but don't come looking for us. A royal must remain in Equestria."
  1226. >"Sister, I will remain here with you, and continue the beacon."
  1227. >She nods too.
  1228. >"Are there any questions?"
  1229.  
  1230.  
  1231.  
  1232. Post 31
  1233.  
  1234. >Midnight came.
  1235. >My dear sister wrought her magic, and I kept her safe.
  1236. >Dawn, and Princess Cadance asks to replace one of us.
  1237. >"I have never needed sleep" I tell her, "and Luna has been an Alicorn far longer than you."
  1238. >"Enjoyable as it may be, I doubt she requires it any longer."
  1239. >Reluctantly, Cadance had acquiesced, and we continued our vigil.
  1240. >Noon, but you wouldn't know it by my sun.
  1241. >Here the shadows are dark, and the waters deep,
  1242. >but my gaze penetrates it all:
  1243. >I see *things* lurking around us:
  1244. >Nightmares oozed, putrid and malevolent from cracks in reality.
  1245. >Products of evolution and feral magic also slink and crawl.
  1246. >None of these are creatures born of my work, but still they know me.
  1247. >And they dare not approach.
  1248. >Hours pass in uneventful, if oppressive silence.
  1249. >I glance at my sister, her eyes open, but unseeing, and still as a frozen lake.
  1250. >Exactly as she has been since Cadance left us.
  1251. >The steady light from her horn is the only clue that she is more than a statue,
  1252. >or a corpse,
  1253. >and even that is swallowed by the hungry gloom.
  1254. >I feel it then,
  1255. >a warm glow of swelling empathy: kindness!
  1256. >Luna's eyes bat furiously as she pulls herself from her trance.
  1257. >Our gazes meet for an instant, then wordlessly, we look about,
  1258. >scanning frantically for what we know is coming.
  1259. >There! across the swamp, a purple light among the vine-cowed trunks,
  1260. >fantastically bright in the darkness.
  1261. >Then another, and another, each following as quickly as thought.
  1262. >As one they open in to gates, and Luna rushes toward them.
  1263.  
  1264.  
  1265. Post 32
  1266.  
  1267. >Something leaps through from the swamp, and immediately returns
  1268. >pursued by a small, though terribly loud purple creature.
  1269. >They leap from puddle to tuft, and fall from one portal to another,
  1270. >their distorted shadows casting wildly about by the sunlight spilling from the portal's mouths.
  1271. >The glare doesn't hinder me, and I look through them.
  1272. >Bushes, grass, portions of a brick wall, 2 humans,
  1273. >and there, just as sister said!
  1274. >A pendant, floating around the neck of one, blazing in it's insane melange of sorceries.
  1275. >She's almost there, but already, I can see one of the humans wrapping her hands around it.
  1276. >Sister won't make it in time, and they are too small for her to fit through anyway.
  1277. >As quickly as only a goddess can, I reach through the portal with my mind.
  1278. >My senses stretch, searching for Twilight and...
  1279. >Sunset! Oh Sunset!
  1280. >My heart leaps as I brush her essence.
  1281. >Then, without warning, I see only the swamp again.
  1282. >The portals have closed, but that doesn't matter.
  1283. >I have already discovered what I needed to know.
  1284. >The amulet's base magic is undoubtably siren, but the one wearing it is only human.
  1285. >Worryingly, there were also the elements of Generosity, Laughter, and Kindness.
  1286. >But more than anything else, there was Sunset.
  1287. >"Sister, are you hurt? Why are you crying?"
  1288. >I blink in surprise as happy tears fall from my eyes.
  1289. >"No Luna, I found Sunset."
  1290. >She bobs her head and touches my nose with her own.
  1291. >"Tears of joy then?"
  1292. >"Mm-hmm." I nod.
  1293. >"And Twilight?"
  1294. >I shake my head
  1295. >"She's not there."
  1296. >"That is why you let them collapse?"
  1297. >"Yes. And Sunset... Sunset is close."
  1298. >Luna looks at me quietly in response, her thoughts nearly hidden behind her deep, placid eyes.
  1299. >"So she must solve this problem on her own."
  1300. >It wasn't a question.
  1301. >It didn't need to be.
  1302. >A few more tears fall, and I whisper so softly not even Luna can hear.
  1303. >"Good luck."
  1304.  
  1305.  
  1306. Post 33
  1307.  
  1308. >Twilight did not go through the mirror.
  1309. >We finally knew, but the question still remained:
  1310. >where was she?
  1311. >The query burned within us all,
  1312. >but with no more clues, there was precious little we could do.
  1313. >I was all but certain we weren't under attack,
  1314. >but it was conceivable the Yaks, or Changelings would learn something was amiss,
  1315. >and try to take whatever advantage they could.
  1316. >So, Cadance continued her organisation of Equestria's defence.
  1317. >Luna resumed her patrols,
  1318. >no longer calling the rifts, but instead, keeping my ponies safe from them.
  1319. >I returned to Twilight's castle, in hopes of finding something,
  1320. >*anything*, that would tell us what had become of her.
  1321. >I wandered about, inspecting each room, and every strange device I found.
  1322. >Twilight infused the place.
  1323. >Her scent, her magic, her very essence.
  1324. >The hard crystal walls glimmered and shone and reflected images of her from my mind.
  1325. >But my search was fruitless.
  1326. >Sister called me some time later,
  1327. >her disembodied voice breaking the silence of the dark halls to tell me of another portal.
  1328. >I felt it then, too; Honesty.
  1329. >But it didn't close.
  1330. >It grew, and grew, and I knew it would be trouble.
  1331. >Luna told me later that the swamp's carnivorous plants pushed their tendrils through the portals.
  1332. >Some of them even fit their entire heads through.
  1333. >But they were far from Ponyville, and no longer held the promise of Twilight's delivery.
  1334. >She was content to watch from afar until they winked out of existence,
  1335. >and I was content to let her.
  1336. >Moments after it closed, another opened.
  1337. >Loyalty, that time,
  1338. >and worse, it wasn't in the forest.
  1339. >But it too, was short-lived, and vanished.
  1340. >The siren-magic was getting out of hoof, but I remained at my task;
  1341. >Luna and Cadance would protect my ponies, and I would find Twilight.
  1342.  
  1343.  
  1344. Post 34
  1345.  
  1346. >Eventually, I make my way to her grand hall.
  1347. >The roots of the Golden Oak hang in the gloom like some tentacled horror from the Immaterium.
  1348. >This isn't working, and I must not fail.
  1349. >I have to go deeper.
  1350. >I expand my awareness, and in an instant know everything there is to know about the palace.
  1351. >Every facet, every groove,
  1352. >every mote of dust and every atom.
  1353. >All the forces and energies binding them together,
  1354. >and each tiny measure of the time which stops everything from happening all at once.
  1355. >Here, far below the threshold at which I normally leave my senses:
  1356. >the lingering scent of an unfamilliar pony, and a faint frisson of magic.
  1357. >Time magic.
  1358. >I recoil in horrified surprise.
  1359. >Could their shared presence really be a coincidence?
  1360. >Unlikely, but of course,
  1361. >I wouldn't have believed that Twilight's and the portal's disappearances were either.
  1362. >Even though they seem to be just that, there's more here.
  1363. >Fear. Twilight's fear,
  1364. >and the other pony's scent stinks of anger.
  1365. >For the thousandth time, I cast my sight across Ponyville,
  1366. >but there were none I didn't recognize.
  1367. >I search more broadly, sending my awareness down roads and rivers,
  1368. >Through woods, fields, and buildings.
  1369. >All throughout my land I search,
  1370. >but find not a trace of Twilight, or this other pony.
  1371. >If Twilight entered a portal through time, this pony probably went with her.
  1372. >I loathe time magic, but Twilight must be found,
  1373. >and I'm the only one who can do it.
  1374. >So I gather my strength, ponder how best to use it,
  1375. >and beg the multiverse itself to give her back to me.
  1376. >That's when the screaming started.
  1377.  
  1378.  
  1379. Post 35
  1380.  
  1381. >Normally, the walls and distance between us would have prevented me from hearing them,
  1382. >but now, with my senses honed, they roared like thunderclaps,
  1383. >rising and falling with the tidal wave of siren-magic crashing over me.
  1384. >Another portal,
  1385. >spewing it's noxious stew of eldritch energies like debris in a flash flood.
  1386. >At once, my sight is beyond her castle, and I see it:
  1387. >yawning beneath a tree, right in front of the Town Hall!
  1388. >A half-dozen ponies are in panicked flight;
  1389. >it must have been them I heard.
  1390. >Beyond it's mouth floats a creature of terror:
  1391. >a human mare, bewinged, crowned with a single, malformed horn,
  1392. >whose mad glinting eyes are limned in cold fire.
  1393. >With easy waves of her hands, she tears hole after hole between our worlds;
  1394. >I can see Manehattan, Appeloosa, Rainbow Falls, and many others.
  1395. >Too many,
  1396. >and all of them echoing with the fearful screams of my ponies.
  1397. >This has to be stopped!
  1398. >Effortlessly, I begin casting all the spells I'll need at the same time:
  1399. >teleports to take me there,
  1400. >and to move any ponies or humans on the wrong sides of the gates;
  1401. >masking spells, so she won't sense my arrival;
  1402. >shielding spells to protect me from attack, in case she does;
  1403. >numerous closure spells, for the portals themselves;
  1404. >and a variety of attacks to annihilate her,
  1405. >before she can bring harm to any of my dear, dear ponies.
  1406. >Everything will happen in an instant,
  1407. >and it will be over before anypony knows anything is happening at all.
  1408. >Suddenly, my heart stops.
  1409. >Sunset Shimmer.
  1410. >Straight-backed and stern-faced,
  1411. >resolute, even beneath this monster's unhinged glare.
  1412. >"Twilight, you can't do this!"
  1413.  
  1414.  
  1415. Post 36
  1416.  
  1417. >An image flashes to my mind:
  1418. >Sunset, still a filly, in Canterlot with me.
  1419. >We'd spent the day learning about Starswirl's victory over the sirens.
  1420. >"Celestia," she'd asked, "how could he be so brave if he was afraid?"
  1421. >"Oh Sunset," I'd replied, "that's the only time you can be."
  1422. >Pride and love swell within me.
  1423. >Oh Sunset...
  1424. >Magic hums and races along my horn, fighting powerfully to manifest,
  1425. >but I hold it in check, and watch; can she really handle this?
  1426. >"Why not!?"
  1427. >"There's a whole other world right there, and it's just filled with magic!"
  1428. >A flash of light, an extended limb,
  1429. >and she gleefully blasts another hole through the multiverse.
  1430. >Twilight told me there were human versions of her friends over there.
  1431. >Uncannily exact right down to their names.
  1432. >Knowing that, it makes sense that "Twilight" would be the one to make the locket.
  1433. >And seeing what she's doing with it
  1434. >is a sobering reminder of what my Twilight almost became.
  1435. >Of what Sunset *did* become.
  1436. >Until Twilight pulled her back.
  1437. >"But you're destroying this world to get it!"
  1438. >"So what? There's more magic there, and I want to understand it all!"
  1439. >I see it coming before Sunset does.
  1440. >The glimmer in the monster's eyes, the curl of her lips,
  1441. >and a thousand and one other clues that tell me an attack is imminent.
  1442. >But at the last moment, Sunset begins to dodge, and I know she'll be ok.
  1443. >The beam slams to the ground,
  1444. >sending clumps of dirt erupting from the gaping maw of another portal.
  1445.  
  1446.  
  1447. Post 37
  1448.  
  1449. >Another one.
  1450. >This isn't the way!"
  1451. >The largest one yet.
  1452. >"I know you feel powerful right now. Like you can have everything you want."
  1453. >Another portal to crack my world, and endanger my ponies.
  1454. >"I've been where you are. I've made the same mistake you're making."
  1455. >I'm sorry Sunset.
  1456. >"I put on a crown and just like you, I was overwhelmed by the magic it contained."
  1457. >This is far too dangerous to let go on.
  1458. >"I thought it could get me everything I wanted."
  1459. >With images of Nightmare Moon's banishment flitting before my eyes,
  1460. >I tally the gates, take note of where each pony and human is,
  1461. >and begin to unleash my blitz.
  1462. >Dimly, I'm aware of my sister approaching.
  1463. >She must have come all the way from the Everfree.
  1464. >It doesn't matter now though, this will be over before she arrives.
  1465. >I loosen my hold, and feel the bottled energies begin to slip...
  1466. >and my heart stops again!
  1467. >Another power touches me.
  1468. >Familliar, potent and wholly unexpected.
  1469. >The Elements!
  1470. >Passing in brilliant, colored streamers to the locket held defiantly over Sunset's head.
  1471. >There's something else too.
  1472. >I focus my attention on her,
  1473. >and start as Something else stirs.
  1474. >Not in the locket, but inside her.
  1475. >Suddenly, I'm laughing like a mad-mare among Twilight's dark, vacant halls,
  1476. >This is it! It must be!
  1477. >Instantly, I drop the other spells, and teleport to my sister's side.
  1478. >She must not interfere!
  1479.  
  1480.  
  1481. >Post 38
  1482.  
  1483. >Here, above and away from Ponyville, I watch Sunset slam the locket to the ground.
  1484. >It's pilfered magic bursts from the fragments,
  1485. >then quickly reforms and engulfs her.
  1486. >A shiver runs down my spine, and I know Cadance is watching, too.
  1487. >Luna says something to her eidolon, but I don't care to hear.
  1488. >I'm laughing and whooping and gliding to the surface.
  1489. >Out of the corner of my eye, I see Cadance materialize beside her.
  1490. >They trail me to the ground, regarding me with uneasy concern.
  1491. >They must think I'm mad.
  1492. >"Watch!" I flick my nose to the portal. "Can't you feel it?"
  1493. >Probably not, but I can!
  1494. >The seed inside Sunset is cracking open!
  1495. >It's roots are sprouting and setting her soul aflame!
  1496. >Divine fire burning away her mortality and forging her anew!
  1497. >My Sunset! My Sunset!
  1498. >My student turned protege,
  1499. >my protege turned devil,
  1500. >my devil reformed, and now, at long, long last:
  1501. >my demi-goddess!
  1502. >And I can FEEL it all!
  1503. >My sister and niece gasp as the radiance fades,
  1504. >I simply lay down in the soft grass.
  1505. >Sunset raises her arms,
  1506. >and in a flash the portal is closed.
  1507. >Two by two, all over my planet, I sense the rifts slamming shut,
  1508. >until only one remains.
  1509. >Cadance and Luna settle to the ground beside me in silence.
  1510. >I know they're watching me intently,
  1511. >but I am focused elsewhere.
  1512. >Long ago, when I was put to the test,
  1513. >my wrath bested me, and my sister paid the price.
  1514. >Now, across the multiverse,
  1515. >Sunset faces her own crucible.
  1516. >With furious eyes and terrible power she lashes out,
  1517. >the human wailing desperately as she's overwhelmed.
  1518. >Overwhelmed, but not destroyed.
  1519. >Sunset's visage is hard, and the girl cowers,
  1520. >but I can already read her intention.
  1521. >Closer she floats, in a column of light.
  1522. >"Take my hand Twilight. Let me show you there's another way."
  1523. >"Just like someone once did for me."
  1524. >I watch her take Sunset's hand.
  1525. >I watch the light of friendship burn away her bitter callousness,
  1526. >and sigh euphorically as the last portal is seared closed.
  1527.  
  1528.  
  1529. Post 39
  1530.  
  1531. >My song birds are singing again.
  1532. >Their high melodies perfectly suit my mood;
  1533. >Twilight has returned!
  1534. >I can't keep the smile from my face as I set out a table in my gardens.
  1535. >With my own 2 hooves, no less.
  1536. >And horn.
  1537. >Cups and saucers here, sugar and cream there.
  1538. >Leaves of my newest prize strain steeping in the kettle,
  1539. >and an assortment of cakes and treats laid out just so.
  1540. >I'm partial to the banana cake myself, but there are plenty of others.
  1541. >Twilight is coming for a visit,
  1542. >and she's bringing a new friend with her.
  1543. >It turns out, the pony I'd smelled earlier, was just as guilty as I'd thought.
  1544. >Starlight Glimmer, quondam leader of Our Town, had hunted my student down,
  1545. >and tried to take her revenge by taking Twilight's past.
  1546. >Of course, the multiverse being what it is,
  1547. >such a plan would never have worked anyway.
  1548. >Nevertheless, incredibly, Princess Twilight not only thwarted her vengeance,
  1549. >but actually turned her in to a friend.
  1550. >Ostensibly.
  1551. >Although she'd used Starswirl's magic, instead of her own to create the time-bridge,
  1552. >it was still a remarkable feat,
  1553. >so I am VERY eager to meet her.
  1554. >I trust Twilight's judgement here, but I also trust my own experience,
  1555. >and would much prefer to have a pony who is both so gifted,
  1556. >and so recently adversarial, somewhere she can be watched.
  1557. >Just in case.
  1558. >But, my ulterior motive does not counter my putative one.
  1559. >I truly hope her penitence is genuine, and until I know otherwise,
  1560. >will treat her as a friend of Twilight's deserves to be treated.
  1561. >So I prance about the table, humming to myself,
  1562. >and match my voice to those of the birds.
  1563.  
  1564.  
  1565. Post 40
  1566.  
  1567. >I hear a pony approaching.
  1568. >I don't need to look to know who it is.
  1569. >"Aunt Celestia!"
  1570. >"Hello, Cadance" I smile. "Are you here for the party?"
  1571. >Her ears perk up as she surveys the table.
  1572. >"Party?"
  1573. >"Mm-hmm. For Twilight and her new friend. I've invited them to have tea with me."
  1574. >"Ummm..."
  1575. >She looks down and awkwardly scrapes the floor with her hoof.
  1576. >"Actually, I have a message from Twilight."
  1577. >"Oh?"
  1578. >"Yes...she asked me to wait a little before giving it to you, though."
  1579. >she pauses
  1580. >"I wouldn't have if I'd known you were having a party."
  1581. >"What was the message?"
  1582. >"Yeah, well...oh boy."
  1583. >"Cadance?"
  1584. >"She read the book you gave her. The one to communicate with Sunset?"
  1585. >"Mm-hmm."
  1586. >"You know how excitable she is."
  1587. >"Mm-hmm."
  1588. >"Well, she didn't let me explain what happened,"
  1589. >"and just rushed off through the portal as quickly as her hooves would take her."
  1590. >"Oh."
  1591. >Well, darn.
  1592. >"So she won't be coming. What about her friend?"
  1593. >"Twilight didn't mention her. I don't think she knows."
  1594. >I nod.
  1595. >"That sounds like something Twilight might do."
  1596. >Cadance nods, still looking sheepishly at the floor.
  1597. >"She does love pop quizes..."
  1598. >Her voice trails off and we look at each other for a few moments.
  1599. >"Well, my dear niece, there's no reason to let this all go to waste."
  1600. >She perks up again
  1601. >"Would you care to spend the afternoon with me?"
  1602. >"You bet!"
  1603. >Shortly after we begin, the sound of a door gently opening filters down to me.
  1604. >I ignore it, and the clip-clop of hooves on marble.
  1605. >"Twilight!" Cadance shouts through a mouthful of cake.
  1606. >"Hi Cadance, thanks for your help!"
  1607. >"Anything for my favorite filly."
  1608. >Twilight smiles somberly, then turns to me, her purple eyes heavy with import.
  1609. >"Princess Celestia, There's a vital matter we need to discuss."
  1610.  
  1611.  
  1612.  
  1613. Post 41
  1614.  
  1615. >I am calm.
  1616. >My breath is even and measured,
  1617. >my snout is level and my eyes are serene.
  1618. >Inside, I'm anything but;
  1619. >my stomach flutters,
  1620. >and I feel the room might drop out from under me at any moment.
  1621. >The feeling of my hair in it's etheral breeze adds to my discomfiture.
  1622. >"You're hiding it well, sister" Luna not-quite-whispers.
  1623. >I meet her smile with one of my own;
  1624. >her gentle voice and kind eyes give a much needed anchor for my emotions.
  1625. >"Not well enough, it seems."
  1626. >"Oh no, sister," she says with a light chuckle. "Not even we can pierce your facade."
  1627. >She winks at me
  1628. >"We simply know you better than you give us credit for."
  1629. >The feeling of Cadance's delicate nuzzle on my left cheek,
  1630. >then, as she presses her shoulder to mine:
  1631. >"That's right Aunt Cely, we're your family, and we're here for you."
  1632. >With a smile, I lean more firmly into her, and feel Luna's weight on my right side.
  1633. >They're nervous too, but not like me.
  1634. >I'd told Luna about Sunset, and Cadance even met her briefly, years ago.
  1635. >They were both delighted at the emergence of another alicorn,
  1636. >and when Twilight said Sunset had asked her to seek my permission to return,
  1637. >they'd all but begged to be there when she did.
  1638. >Not that they needed to, of course,
  1639. >but they don't share our history,
  1640. >and so, don't share my doubts.
  1641. >Idea after unwanted, distracting, idea runs through my mind.
  1642. >Slowly, carefully I breathe in.
  1643. >I pause, focusing on the heartbeats of my sister and niece at my sides.
  1644. >Slowly, carefully, I let it go,
  1645. >and send my rampant thoughts with it.
  1646. >The mirror begins to glow;
  1647. >They are here, and I am ready.
  1648.  
  1649.  
  1650. Post 42
  1651.  
  1652. >Side by Side, so close their flanks are touching,
  1653. >they step over the mirror's threshold.
  1654. >Sunset Shimmer, ice-blue eyes fixed intently on the floor, turns to me.
  1655. >She opens her mouth to speak, but only manages a soft gasp.
  1656. >Tears well in her gorgeous eyes, and she tries again,
  1657. >but no words come out.
  1658. >Trembling with effort she forces her face to meet mine,
  1659. >opens her mouth a third time,
  1660. >and breaks in to uncontrollable tears.
  1661. >Her legs give out beneath her and she sinks to the cold floor.
  1662. >Luna and Cadance are silent; undoubtably wanting me to take the lead.
  1663. >Twilight drops back as I step forward,
  1664. >one measured pace after another.
  1665. >I can't run, I can't speak; if I do, I'll lose control.
  1666. >She moans softly as my hoofsteps come to a halt.
  1667. >I stand over her, emotions churning wildly, my eyes never leaving this one little pony:
  1668. >the very center of my world.
  1669. >"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorryyyy"
  1670. >Her voice breaks as the last sound stretches out to a wail.
  1671. >Slowly, carefully, I lay down in front of her.
  1672. >Slowly, carefully, I wrap my wings around her.
  1673. >"I am too."
  1674. >And suddenly, we're crying together.
  1675. >She crawls closer and pushes my neck with her own.
  1676. >We nuzzle, and lean, and hold each other,
  1677. >sobbing away our pain, fears and regrets together.
  1678. >Our tears mingle hot and wet on the cold crystal floor,
  1679. >as our hearts finally begin to heal.
  1680. >At last, we are spent, and I look around to see my family smiling at us.
  1681. >My family.
  1682. >Cadance was right; they are my family.
  1683. >Luna, my sister;
  1684. >first to ascend, and show me my lonliness would not last forever.
  1685. >Cadance, my niece;
  1686. >whose unconditional love taught my heart to hope again.
  1687. >Twilight, also my niece, through marriage if nothing else;
  1688. >who returned my sister, and Sunset, and saved my ponies time and again.
  1689. >And Sunset...
  1690. >Poor orphaned Sunset.
  1691. >My adopted daughter,
  1692. >in whom I saw so much of myself I threw caution to the wind,
  1693. >and in so doing nearly doomed an entire world.
  1694. >Here we are, all together for the first time.
  1695.  
  1696.  
  1697. Post 43
  1698.  
  1699. >A smile spreads across my face, waxing larger and brighter as my happiness grows.
  1700. >Luna is the first to speak:
  1701. >"Welcome home, Princess Sunset."
  1702. >She looks up at me, brow furrowed in confusion,
  1703. >before her gaze slides to my sister.
  1704. >"Thank you Princess Luna. Princess Twilight told my you'd come back."
  1705. >She looks back at me, then at Luna again.
  1706. >"If it's not too late, I'd like to say the same to you, Princess."
  1707. >"It is not, and we thank thee, as well..."
  1708. >A mischevous twinkle flashes in my sister's eye "...Princess."
  1709. >Sunset looks between us again.
  1710. >"Princess Luna why do you keep calling me that? I'm only a unicorn."
  1711. >Cadance lets out a little laugh.
  1712. >"I bet Twilight would have told you, but she didn't know either."
  1713. >She grins at Twilight, open-mouthed with disbelief.
  1714. >"Serves you right for taking off again before we could tell you anything!"
  1715. >Sunset's head swivels between my wings, looking at the four of us.
  1716. >"What do you mean, Princess Cadance? Twilight?"
  1717. >With a gentle nuzzle, I whisper "See for yourself" and let our hug go.
  1718. >"I have wings?" she gasps.
  1719. >Luna snorts facetiously
  1720. >"To think a pony could undergo apotheosis and not even know."
  1721. >"I have wings! When did...?"
  1722. >A look of shocked understanding shoots across her face.
  1723. >"The school? But how? You weren't even there!"
  1724. >"I've never really been as far away you think."
  1725.  
  1726. >Time passes in its slow, inexorable way.
  1727. >There is laughter and tears.
  1728. >More of each are sure to come, but we're mending;
  1729. >at long last, I have my family, and they have me.
  1730. >We'll live each day and each night in love,
  1731. >for our ponies, and for each other.
  1732. >Forever.
  1733.  
  1734. And that's more or less how it ends, dear reader.
  1735. I could keep picking at random ideas, but I've gotten out what I wanted to,
  1736. and think it's a fine place to bring it to a close.
  1737. I hope you enjoyed it.
  1738.  
  1739.  
  1740.  
  1741. Note: This is the original draft of this story, but not the best one. Another version, expanded, and rewritten in prose can be found here:
  1742. https://www.deviantart.com/poisonhorsie/gallery/62495852/Students-of-Heaven
  1743. and here:
  1744. https://www.fimfiction.net/story/368234/students-of-heaven
  1745. I hope you'll check it out. It's much better than this one.
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