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Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Prologue Part I:

 Coronation

        Celestia...

The Princess of the Sun found herself surrounded in a white void. A presence could be sensed by her, so strong it was almost tangible.

“Who is there?” Celestia called out. There was not a soul to be seen from the looks of things.

Celestia, Princess of Equestria...it is time for you and Luna to find them. The order of the world has deemed the time for change to be now...

An expression of understanding dawned upon her features, a sudden feeling of humility washing over her. “I...I see...” She bowed as low as possible for a pony of her stature. “We shall begin our task immediately.”

Very well, Celestia. We will place our faith in you and Luna. Thank you.

Celestia got to her feet and nodded. Then her vision went dark.


        Celestia’s eyes opened as she looked to the ceiling of her bedroom. The dream was still vivid in her mind, as though it had been a flesh and body experience. She slowly crawled out of her bed and yawned before looking out the window. The moon was still hanging in the night sky, but the prodding sensation in the back of her mind told her to set about her main duty as a princess of Equestria. Celestia stretched a bit before walking out to her balcony, her mane flowing behind her as she felt the cool spring air gently brush against her face.

        She pointed her horn to the eastern sky, and focused her energy on the horizon. Rays of light slowly stretched across the darkened sky, oranges and yellows beginning to bleed together as the shining, celestial giant appeared.

With the sunrise in motion, her main task for the day was complete. Her magic would be able to run its course without her supervision, leaving her to attend to other important matters.

        After grooming her mane until it shined in the early dawn’s light and placing her golden crown and regalia on, she made her way out of her chambers and towards the throne room. She greeted two of her Royal Guards who bowed deeply before opening the doors to the chamber. Just as she had predicted, Luna was sitting in her throne, cushioned by a dark blue pillow that matched her own fur coat perfectly. She got up from her seat and made her way to Celestia, greeting her with a nuzzle.

        “Good morning, Celly.”

        Celestia felt  a warm smile spread across her face at the sight of her sister in such a chipper mood. “Luna, how was your evening? I saw a little bit of Aurora Borealis last night, but I was drifting off around midnight, so I’m afraid I couldn’t stay up for the whole thing.”

        Luna grinned while falling into step with her sister as they walked about the throne room’s length. “Oh, it was quite peaceful, really. A few representatives from Manehatten made a late visit, and I was happy to give them an audience concerning the construction of another loading dock on the East River. I thought it was a wonderful idea, what with the boats coming in all the time. It will allow for greater importing and exporting, and allow for more ponies to use the waters.

        Celestia felt a bit of pride well up in her. Luna had slowly become more and more involved in Equestrian life once more, and it made her happy to no end to see her little sister being able to give some contribution to the kingdom. “Wonderful, I was wondering when they were going to get on that project.” She leaned close to her sister, and whispered softly. “I’m guessing you had the vision too?”

        A look of perfect understanding fell upon the midnight alicorn’s features. “Yes...I’m a bit surprised that it’s happened so soon, though. It’s only been...three to four thousand years since we took reign, hasn’t it?”

        “More or less.” Celestia agreed. “I’m not sure who will be the next generation, but...I have an idea of where we are supposed to go.”

        “Ponyville.” Luna stated, not a slight hint of hesitation in her voice. Celestia could only smile and nod. “I wonder...do you think that they are the next ones?”

        It was easy to hear the hopefulness in her sister’s voice. Quite possibly. We’ll simply have to go there and find out. I must admit, I’m thankful we’re not being directed towards several locations at once. That would be quite confusing.”

        After a light breakfast (or dinner in the case of Luna), the two informed the castle attendants and guards that they would be going to Ponyville in regards to ‘business of the utmost importance’. Four guards tagged along with the two regal sisters, if only to help with the possible need for crowd control. The two had decided on getting some exercise and stretch their own wings a bit. It took a great deal of convincing for the chariot teams to allow this, but they eventually caved in and let the two fly on their own.

“Celestia, did you inform Twilight or the mayor of Ponyville that we were visiting?” A small smile crept across Celestia’s face, causing Luna to frown. “Celly, you’re not planning on surprising them with this visit, are you?”

        “Maybe.” Celestia replied. The sing-song tone of her voice set off an alarm in Luna’s mind. Celestia was being mischievous, and if there was one thing Luna could remember learning in her days as a filly, it was that Celestia and mischievous made an unpredictable combination to deal with.

        Luna sighed while giving her sister an exasperated look. “Honestly, sister, you’re more than three thousand years old, yet you act like a little foal with these pranks you pull. You know how ponies act when we pay them such visits.”

        Celestia giggled. “I know, but Twilight Sparkle’s simply adorable whenever she gets frazzled up anytime pay her a surprise visit.” She looked off as though reminiscing on some memory of hers before continuing. “Besides, it will give us both a chance to see Ponyville on a normal day.”

        The Princess of the Night couldn’t argue that point. It had been more than a year now since she had returned from the moon, and she was already seeing that some things were still the same in Equestria. Ponies revered the two like living deities at times, and while it was flattering, if not a bit disturbing, for Luna and Celestia, they both sometimes wished to just simply relax and be casual with their subjects.

        “If Twilight starts hyperventilating I’m putting full blame on you, then.” Luna stated with a shake of her head.

        “Very well. If Fluttershy starts blushing before fainting upon seeing you, I’ll place the blame on you.” Celestia replied without missing a beat, a small smirk on her face. “Have you and her visited each other as of late? She sent you a letter recently if I remember correctly, and it seemed quite long.”        

Luna blushed deeply before turning away. She was thankful that they were passing through a few cumulus clouds so that she could hide her embarrassment. “Fluttershy and I have become good friends if you must know. She has a wonderful singing voice and a love for the nocturnal flora and fauna as well.” She glanced over to see Celestia giving her a knowing smile. “S-stop reading into things, Celly!”

        Celestia simply laughed to herself before dropping her gaze to a collection of buildings dotting the land ahead. “Ah, looks like we’re almost there.”

        Sure enough, within a minute’s time they had approached the outskirts of Ponyville. The two alicorns and four pegasi guards circled the small pony settlement once before landing in the town square. Ponies all over stopped whatever they were doing, some gasping in surprise while others began whispering to those near them.

        “Greetings, my little ponies.” Celestia spoke, her voice carrying a calm yet powerful and confident tone, not in the least bit put off by the nervous glances she was receiving. “Please do not worry, this is an unannounced visit. My sister and I are here on sudden business regarding the kingdom, but do not let this stop you from whatever it is you were doing.”

        The reply she received was several long moments of revered silence before ponies hesitantly began what they were doing once more, though most simply continued to gawk, albeit more discreetly than before. She rolled her eyes while smiling, then turned to two of the guards escorting them. “Swift Heart, Stormy, if you two would be so kind as to inform the mayor of our arrival, it would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure she’d like to know that we are in town so she won’t hear rumors later from other ponies and put herself into a panic.”

        “Yes, Milady.” replied the two pegasi with deep bows before they trotted towards the direction pf the town hall.

        “In the meantime, Fair Breeze, Captain Lily Wing, I would like you two to go to the Ponyville library and inform Miss Sparkle of our arrival as well, and that we will likely be stopping by to visit her later. Please...try not to be too intimidating about it if you would.”

Lily Wing, a pegasus pony who appeared to be only a few years into marehood, spoke. “I...well, your Highness...while I don’t mean to go against your orders, are you certain that you’re fine without either of us to guard you or Princess Luna?”

It was Luna who decided to speak. “We’ll be fine, Captain. Ponyville’s a relatively peaceful community, after all.”

“If that is what you wish, your Highness then-”

“Oh, Princess Celestia!! Hi, remember me? I’m Pinkie Pie! My tail started twitching and my back legs started wobbling while my left eye started itching, so I just knew someone important had arrived in Ponyville, so I had a hunch it was you and-” Pinkie Pie’s eyes widened suddenly before she let out a gasp. “Ooooh! Princess Luna, is that you?? I haven’t seen you for a long time! How are you? Have you been given a tour of Ponyville yet, because if you haven’t I think I should give you one because if you don’t know the place then you could get lost and...”

“I...er, well, Pinkie Pie, I wasn’t...” Luna tried to find her voice, which Pinkie Pie was oblivious to at the moment.

Lily Wing leaned towards the elder princess. “Your Highness...again, are you certain that we should leave your side?”

Celestia chuckled quietly, due in part to the expression of confusion Luna had on her face, while also enjoying the bright atmosphere that the bubbly pony seemed carry about her at all times. She could feel the Element of Laughter flowing out of her like a fountain of mirth and good-natured mischief. “Yes, Captain. Pinkie Pie is a friend of Twilight Sparkle’s, and I know for a fact that she is a good pony. We’ll be quite fine.”

“If...if you say so, your Highness.” Lily Wing and Fair Breeze reluctantly made their way towards the library while throwing concerned glances over their shoulders towards the pink party pony every couple of steps.

“...and then Applejack told me that cider and apple juice aren’t necessarily the same thing but I drank the whole bottle anyway. I got a little dizzy after that but I still had a fun time at Big Mac’s birthday either way. Not sure if I’ll ever drink it again anytime soon, though. It wasn’t as sweet as apple juice.”

Luna gave Pinkie a confused look, still trying to process everything the bubbly earth pony had said. “I...see...”

“So, what are you and Princess Celestia doing here in Ponyville? Wait, I know, you’re on super important princess business, aren’t you? Oh, can I help?”

Princess Celestia lowered her gaze to meet Pinkie’s, her horn glowing slightly. Her eyes widened a little as she smiled brightly. “Actually, Pinkie Pie, you’re part of the reason we’re here. Would you mind tagging along with us today?”

“Oh, I get to help? You really mean it? That’d be super-duper!!!” Pinkie beamed.

        Luna looked to Celestia before closing her eyes and channeling magic into her own horn for several moments. When she opened her eyes they were shining with an expression Pinkie couldn’t quite peg. The princess appeared to be happy, though she wasn’t sure why. “I agree with Celestia, Pinkie Pie. It would be wonderful to have you tag along with us.”

        Pinkie’s smile fell slightly before she raised an eyebrow upon seeing the younger alicorn imitate her sister’s actions. “So, what super-important princess stuff are you doing in Ponyville?”

        Celestia gave Luna an inquiring look, and the younger alicorn only gave a nod in reply. The Princess of the Sun leaned close to Pinkie and spoke softly into her ear. Pinkie’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates before she looked up to Celestia. “R-r-really? M-me...y-you’re serious??”

Amused by the pink pony’s rather uncharacteristic response, Celestia cracked an amused smile while nodding. “Yes, and I honestly think you’re a wonderful choice.”

        The pink earth pony seemed to reach her limit as she let out a squeal of delight before her eyes rolled into the back of her head, ending with her fainting. Celestia caught her using magic, and levitated her gently onto her back. “Well, I guess even Pinkie Pie can be overwhelmed at times.”

        “Oh dear...” Luna looked worriedly to the frizzy maned Spirit of Laughter before sighing deeply. “I just hope whoever else we find doesn’t react the same way. I’m not sure how many we can carry with us.”


        Twilight Sparkle was surprised when she answered the door to two Royal Guards. The apparent captain had informed her that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were in town on rather important business and that they would probably be visiting later on during their visit to Ponyville.

        After they left, Twilight found herself frantically cleaning up the library as best as she could. Spike had taken the day off to go fishing with Big Mac and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, so he wouldn’t be back until later on this afternoon. Owlowiscious was sleeping and wouldn’t be awake until sunset.

        “I really need to get this place organized properly...” Twilight grumbled as she looked at a colossal stack of books that arrived a week ago from the Canterlot library. She had yet to take the time to shelve them, and without Spike or Owlowiscious around, the task proved to be a bit arduous for her. Not to mention organizing meant moving books around, which also caused dust to be disturbed in some of the higher shelves, and thus prompt the unicorn into a sneezing fit.

        “Geh...ga-aaaachhoo!!” The lavender unicorn sneezed so hard she ended up on her haunches, rubbing her nose while groaning in annoyance. “Gah...stupid dust...”

        About a half hour into organizing her library the sound of someone knocking at the door.

Twilight froze in place before slowly turning her head towards her front door.

Oh no! What if it was Princess Celestia or Princess Luna? The place was a total wreck, she couldn’t let them see this!

        “Twilight? Twilight Sparkle, are you there?” called out a soft voice. It wasn’t like Celestia’s, which carried an air of wisdom, but a voice full of youth and mystery. She felt like she had heard it before, and curiosity drew her towards the entrance. She opened the door, her eyes widening before she bowed.

        “P-Princess Luna! I-I heard that you and Princess Celestia were in town, and I was in the middle of organizing the library! I apologize for this horrible mess!” The lavender unicorn, still bowing, could feel sweat forming on her forehead, trying to find a way to explain the current state of disarray that the library was in.

“Twilight...it’s quite alright.” Luna tried to stifle her laughter at the sight of the dust-coated pony. Twilight Sparkle was visibly trembling before her, and still stumbling on her words as she attempted to find a way to explain the chaos that was the Ponyville library. Luna decided she needed to calm the scholarly mare’s nerves if she planned on getting any further with her.

        Twilight felt a gentle hoof on her shoulder. She looked up to see Luna’s horn glowing a soft yet steady blue color. There was a flickering light in the alicorn’s eyes that matched her horn’s aura.

        “Princess Luna...is something wrong?”

        Luna simply shook her head. “No, there isn’t. Far from wrong, in fact.” Luna gave Twilight a low bow.

        “P-Princess Luna, what are you doing? Please, you shouldn’t be bowing to-”

        Luna giggled a bit before rising to her full height once more. “It’s alright Twilight Sparkle. My sister and I are here in regards to something incredibly important.”

        “How important?” Twilight asked, unsure if she wanted to know the answer. Was it something dangerous? Something that would require her services? She was ready to serve the princesses in a heartbeat, but the tone in Luna’s voice was a bit eerie. Probably a part of that whole cryptic air that she carried with her, Twilight surmised.

        “Well...we do know this much. What we do today will affect the future of Equestria, as well as the entire world.”

        “Oh...” Twilight stated profoundly.

        The Princess of the Night just laughed. “Come, Twilight. I’m suddenly being pulled towards that fancy looking boutique down the road, and I think I know why.”


        “Now, all Ah’m saying Rainbow is that this ain’t the proper way to go ‘bout paintin’ a wagon!” grumbled a hat-wearing earth pony mare. She was currently studying, with a certain degree of disgust, a cart wagon used for hauling produce to and from market. “Wagons are supposed to be red.”

        Her chromatic-maned pegasus friend failed to see the reason for the disgust, unfortunately. “Says who? This wagon looks a hundred times cooler!”

        “...Rainbow Dash...you painted it every single color of paint we had in the barn, An’ are those flames on the side? This has got to be, by far, the most outrageous lookin’ bit of farm equipment I’ve ever done laid eyes on.”

        “Exactly! It’s going to be the best looking wagon ever! Have you ever seen a cooler looking wagon than this? Now, all we need to do is get an awesome spoiler to put on the back and-”

        “A spoiler? Son of a billy goat, Rainbow Dash, this is a wagon! A wagon, not some race cart that you make at the boxcar derby durin’ fillyscouts!”

        “Fine, fine, I’ll paint red over it...though it still would have looked cooler with the flames.”

        Applejack was about to make a retort when she noticed a small group of ponies coming their way. “Hey...Rainbow, ain’t that Princess Celestia down the road there?”

        Rainbow Dash looked up from the paint bucket and squinted a bit, recognizing the shimmering colors of dawn belonging to the mane of the Princess of the Sun. “Huh...yeah, yeah, that is Princess Celestia! What’s she doing here, though? It looks like Pinkie Pie’s with her too, along with a few guards.” Her eyes widened before she felt a small pit form in her stomach. “Oh hayseed, don’t tell me that pony got herself in trouble with the Princess!”

        The two mares made their way down the road leading out of Sweet Apple Acres, meeting the royal sister halfway and bowing as they neared her. They decided to play it cool, hoping that this visit was for a positive reason, and not an arrest.

        “Boy, it’s a pleasant surprise seein’ you here, Princess Celestia. Wish you would’ve told me you were comin’. I’d have made enough apple dumplings and carrot stew for you an’ the others if that were the case.”

        Princess Celestia gave a shake of her head. “That’s not a problem, Applejack. I came here unannounced, so there was no way you could have known.” She stared up at her glowing horn, which began glowing brighter. She walked past the ponies, and then turned to her left, then her right, and then faced the two mares once more before smiling as she looked up to her horn. “Well, it seems my prediction was correct.” She looked to Pinkie Pie, whose eyes were lighting up while looking to her to friends.

        “Oh! Princess Celestia, does that mean they also...?”

        The ancient pony gave a simple nod.

        “Waaahooo!!!” Pinkie Pie’s began cheering and bouncing around the two confused mares and the two Royal Guards that had returned from the town hall.

        Applejack decided to try and get the pony’s attention “Pinkie...”

        “...and now I got my friend’s by my side, through thick and thin we’ll keep things in order and-

        “Pinkie Pie...” No luck from Celestia either.

        “...we’ll do the best that we possibly can, because we’re the best of friends and-

        “I got this.” Rainbow Dash cleared her throat. “Pinkie, there’s a goose on the loose!”

        Pinkie paused in mid-bounce and gave Dash a weird look. “Huh? A goose on the loose? Ponyville doesn’t have any geese nearby, though, we do have lots of ducks...” She scratched her head. “You sure they aren’t ducks, Rainbow Dash? I mean, I could see someone getting the two confused. Like, one time, my older sister had to go pluck some feathers for Granny Pie for a new goose down pillow, but all the geese were too fast so she-”

         “Pinkie!” the cyan pegasus shouted, snapping the earth pony out of her trip down memory lane. “Sorry, I had to get your attention. There’s no goose.”

        Pinkie Pie frowned a bit before landing on the ground. “Oh. Darn, I was hoping we could go on a wild goose chase, too.”

        “I...ugh...” Rainbow Dash shook her head. “...okay, I admit I walked right into that one.” Rainbow sighed before looking to Princess Celestia. “Um...yeah, anyway, what is that you needed, Princess Celestia?”

        The white alicorn stood up to her full height while gazing down at the two mares with a smile that hinted mischief. “That’s for me to know, and for you to find out shortly...at least as soon as I find out if Luna’s found the others that we sensed here. I’m pretty sure I know who they are, too.”

        “Why not just tell us right now?” Applejack asked.

        “Because, it’s a surprise, silly filly!” Pinkie Pie answered, bouncing in place.

        “Pinkie’s right. It’s a surprise, and I hate ruining surprises for my little ponies. Now please, girls, if you would be so kind as to follow me.” Celestia answered before continuing in another direction, Pinkie Pie following close with the guards flanking either side of them.

        Rainbow Dash and Applejack were soon following the rest of the group, trailing behind a little while murmuring to each other.

        “What do you reckon’ this surprise is all ‘bout, Rainbow?”

        “I don’t know...but I’m starting to worry about what would happen if Pinkie Pie and Celestia decided to pull pranks on other ponies.”

        The two felt chills run down their spines. No, pranking of that caliber was too great for any pony to experience.


        “Oh my, you look simply divine, Princess Luna. This outfit would be perfect for next year’s Gala, assuming that you want to attend.”

        Rarity circled the small platform that Luna was currently standing on. Mirrors surrounded the alicorn and fashion designer on all sides, and several lights were angled so they shined directly on the midnight pony. The princess had a baby blue dress on with sapphires and white gems embroidered into the fabric, ending with wavy frills and lace. Luna continued to stand in place with an embarrassed smile while Rarity to looked her over.

        “What I wouldn’t do for a figure like yours, your Highness.” The fashionista sighed while looking to other unicorn present. “Twilight, dear, what do you think?”

        Twilight, who had been paying most of her attention to the slightly embarrassed princess pony, blinked before frowning. “Um...I’m not sure if I’m one to consult on fashion, Rarity. I think you know that better than most-”

        “Oh please, Twilight, you don’t give yourself enough credit.” Rarity smiled while waving a hoof in the air. “Yes, you can go a bit...overboard with things, but I know that you can at least tell when something beautiful is standing before you.”

        “Well...” Twilight looked to see Luna staring at Twilight, her cheeks failing to hide the blush on her face. “Yes, she does look pretty. I will have to agree with Rarity, Princess Luna. You look amazing in that dress.”

        “I...well, Rarity, I love this outfit, but I didn’t bring any money to pay-”

        “Nonsense, Princess Luna. Consider it a gift from one friend to another.”

        Luna’s expression morphed into one of surprise as she began shaking her head. “Oh no, I couldn’t do that. You have to make money somehow, don’t you? I couldn’t possibly take this dress for free, especially when it’s so elegant and comfortable.”

        Rarity just smiled while taking a slight bow. “Then consider your compliments payment for it. I made that dress on a whim one night while I was having a creative streak run through me. Considering the moon and stars were my inspiration, I feel it rightfully belongs to you.”

        Luna frowned, but realized that this was one argument she wouldn’t be winning. “If you insist, Rarity. Thank you very much.”

        “Of course, of course. A pony with such a stunning mane like yours needs an equally stunning dress to go along with it. I could probably make a few improvements along here...maybe a slit on the right side...oh, Princess, if only you weren’t so busy with your duties. Photo Finish would have a field day with you.”

        “Y-yes, speaking of duties, I wanted you to come with me and Twilight. We have a most pressing issue that needs to be taken care of, and my sister is looking for the other ponies that will be involved with this I can imagine.”

        Rarity gave a nod before taking off her sewing glasses. “If you insist, Princess. What was it exactly that you wished to have us do, by the way?”

        “I was about to ask the same thing, actually. While I don’t mind helping you and Princess Celestia, your Highness, I am curious as to what exactly this task of yours entails.” Twilight Sparkle chimed in.

        “Ah, well, I could tell you right now, but I think it’d be best if I wait until I find the final pony that I came for. I think my sister has found the last of the ones she was meant to seek out, and my magic is directing me...” Her horn began glowing brightly as she gracefully hopped off the platform and began to walk towards the door. “...this way.”

        “Well, if that’s the case, would you be willing to take off the outfit first? I’d hate to see such a wonderful dress be ruined by a possible dirt stain or stray twig.

        Luna snapped out of her trance and looked sheepishly to Rarity. “Oh, yes, I think that’s a good idea, Rarity.”

        After getting out of her dress, Luna lead the two unicorns to the outskirts of Ponyville, over to the edge of Everfree Forest where a small cottage was nestled. Luna visibly brightened up with joy as her horn began give off a more powerful glow. “Oh, I knew she’d be among them! Come on, we’re almost done!”

        Luna knocked gently on the wooden door of the small cottage. Hooves walking across  a wooden floor could be heard on the other side, followed by a latch unlocking. Two round, deep cyan eyes peeked out between the crack in the door. “H-hello?”

        The midnight alicorn smiled warmly to the pony behind the door. “Good afternoon, Fluttershy. I hope I’m not interrupting anything. Would it be okay if I come in?”

        Fluttershy’s let out a small gasp before smiling. “Princess Luna, hello!” Her meek demeanor was quickly replaced with elation and genuine happiness. “I wasn’t expecting any visitors and...oh, hello Rarity and Twilight. It’s nice to see you two as well.” She opened the door all the way and took several steps back. “Please, come in. I was just helping Angel finish making some carrot stew for a few sick little bunnies. If you don’t mind waiting in the living room until I’m done, that would be wonderful...if you’re okay with that.”

        Luna gave a nod. “That’s not a problem, Fluttershy...” She suddenly looked over towards Ponyville and smiled. “I hope you don’t mind, but I think my sister and several other ponies are heading this way. I sense...” She closed her eyes for several moments before opening them. “Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack with her, and four of our guards. Is...that alright?”

        Fluttershy grew silent for several long moments before speaking softly. “Oh...um...I guess that’s okay...” Princess Luna, who was a rather gentle soul like Fluttershy, was nothing the pegasus wasn’t used to. However, four Royal Guards and Princess Celestia as well was another thing entirely for her. She had nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for Celestia, but still...

        “If you feel uncomfortable with so many ponies here, we can just as easily wait outside.” Luna offered gently.

        “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly have you wait outside for me. That would be rude as a hostess. Please, make yourselves at home. I’ll go get a few extra pillows from my closet for the others.”

        The three mares walked quietly into the pegasus’s cottage, admiring the welcoming atmosphere it held. Luna sat on a soft bean bag while Rarity and Twilight made themselves comfortable on a couch. Five minutes later Fluttershy reemerged from the kitchen before making her way towards a closet. She pulled out a hooffull of pillows and blankets and set them in the center of the room. No sooner had she done so when a knock could be heard at the door.

        “I think that’s Celly right now.” Luna got up from her spot while waving off the yellow pegasus, who nervously looked to the cottage door. “Don’t worry, Fluttershy, I’ll get it.”

        Twilight leaned towards Rarity and whispered softly. “She just called Princess Celestia ‘Celly’, didn’t she?”

        Rarity let out a lighthearted chuckle. “Oh, Twilight, come now. They’re sisters; nicknames are only natural for them.”

        Luna opened the door to reveal none other than the ponies she had mentioned. Princess Celestia stood behind Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash, while four pegasi guards flanked them on either side. “Hello, sister. I thought I felt your magic near here.” Celestia looked into the home. “I trust you found the others alright?”

        Luna gave a nod. “Yes, and it was like I said it would be. It was the six of them.”

        “So I see...” Celestia turned to her guards. “Lily Wing, please have your team keep a perimeter around this cottage. Mind where you walk, since there are plenty of small animals around here.”

        The guards gave a bow to both Celestia and Luna before beginning their patrol of the area, then Celestia and the other three mares made their way inside and took seats in the living room.

        “I...I hope you don’t mind the tight space, Princess Celestia. I...well, I would have made preparations if I had known you’d be here with Princess Luna today, but...um...”

        “It’s quite alright, Fluttershy.” Celestia said reassuringly while giving Fluttershy a gentle smlie. The pegasus seemed to visibly relax upon hearing those words. Satisfied with helping the Spirit of Kindness calm down, Celestia returned her attention to the group as a whole. “Now, seeing as all the ponies we need are here, I believe Luna and I can talk to you about why exactly we are here. Pinkie Pie, I know we already told you, but there’s a bit more to it than that.”

        Pinkie Pie, who had been uncharacteristically quiet since arriving, gave a small smile and nod. “Okey-dokey! I’m all ears!!”

        Luna cleared her throat before speaking. “As my sister and I explained, you six have been chosen to take on a most important duty in regards to Equestria.”

        “What duty would that be? Your personal bodyguards?” Rainbow asked excitedly, earning a chuckle from Celestia.

        “No, something much more demanding. Care to explain, Luna?”

        The Princess of the Night nodded in agreement. “Celestia and I were directed here by the Elements of Harmony to find our successors...”

        While normally a quiet place, the silence that hung in the air of Fluttershy’s cottage was enough for one to hear the gentle snoring of the bunnies upstairs.

        “S-s-succesors?” Twilight repeated. “W-what do you mean, Princess?”

        “Just as it sounds like, Twilight.” Luna answered. “You, Rarity, Fluttershy, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie have all been chosen by the Elements of Harmony to carry on as the future rulers of Equestria.”

        “Wait, hold on there just a sec’.” Applejack cut in. “Ah don’t know if I’m hearing this right. Yer sayin’ I’ve been chosen to be a future princess of Equestria?”

        “Precisely.” Celestia replied.

        Applejack jumped to her feet. “But...I ain’t a princess! Hay, I’m not even one of them nobles in Canterlot. I don’ wear all those frou-frou gowns and shiny slippers, either. I don’ speak all sophisticated-like and I sure as hay don’ know how to run a kingdom.” She adjusted her hat before sitting back down, a deep frown marring her features. “I certainly can’ just up and leave my family to run the farm by themselves, either...Sweet Apple Acres depends on me!” She sighed. “I really wasn’t expectin’ anything like this...”

        “Nor were the rest of your friends, Applejack. There will be time to figure things out though, I promise.” Celestia answered with an understanding smile.

        Twilight’s eyes were watering a bit at this point. They were going to be Princess Celestia and Princess Luna’s successors? “B-but Princess Celestia...does that mean you’re...leaving us?” The thought of Princess Celestia leaving Equestria was enough to crush her spirits. “I...I don’t know if I could-”

        Celestia’s eyes widened before the gravity of Twilight’s question hit her. She placed a comforting wing over Twilight. “Goodness, no! Oh, I’m sorry Twilight, I must have had you worried.” She nuzzled her student gently before continuing. “No, Luna and I will simply be...stepping down.”

        Luna smiled. “Yes, that would be an appropriate way of putting it. Celestia and I have ruled Equestria since before it was even founded. We’ll continue to remain here with the six of you, and while we won’t play as active of a role in governing the kingdom, we’ll be here to help you. It’s sort of like a long overdue vacation for the two of us.”

        “What about my little sister, Sweetie Belle, or my boutique? Like Applejack, I do have to things here that I have to take care of. Not to say this isn’t a wonderful bit of news to hear, but...” Rarity frowned before looking down. “What made the Elements choose us? Is it because we’re the Spirits of Harmony as well?”

        Celestia shook her head. “I’m not fully certain on that, Rarity, but I’m sure that has some significance in their decision.”

        Rarity slowly looked up, her eyes full of distress. “Would I be correct in saying this is more of a civil duty than an option?”

        Luna offered her a sympathetic smile. “It would make things very difficult for the land if you six refused to take up the mantle. You see, the natural order of the planet is...changing...and it needs you six in order to help push those changes into affect. If you don’t, well, I think it would be safe to say that Equestria would be going through hard times for ages to come without the guidance all of you would provide for fit.”

        “So, let me get this straight...” Rainbow cut in. “We’re going to become rulers of Equestria because the Elements of Harmony say so?” She frowned. “How come we weren’t told about this from the Elements themselves, huh? How come you and Princess Celestia were told about this, and not us?? We are the Spirits of Harmony, aren’t we?”

        Twilight cast a worried look to Princess Celestia and Princess Luna before placing a hoof on the cyan pegasus’s shoulder. “Rainbow...”

        “It’s fine, Twilight.” Celestia raised a hoof to calm the unicorn. “That’s a good question, Rainbow Dash. The truth is while Luna and I are the rulers of Equestria, we are not what some think us to be. We are not deities, or omnipotent. Yes, I can use scrying magic, and Luna’s able to enter ponies’ dreams, but these powers have limits. So, to answer your question honestly, Luna and I are not entirely sure why things developed this way.” She tapped a hoof to her chin thoughtfully before continuing. “Even after several thousand years of ruling this land have passed, neither of us fully understands how we ended up in the current positions we did. We sort of just...were.”

        Luna decided to continue where Celestia had left off. “The Elements of Harmony have been a part of this world for as long as Celestia and I can remember, which as we’ve stated before, is quite a while. They’ve subtly helped guide us and understand our powers, but the majority of our work was through our own experience. Let me say this much, Equestria was not nearly as organized of a kingdom as it is today. A lot of our initial creation of the government was touch and go for us. We also had to worry about dragons, and griffons, and the Diamond Dogs...”

        “Hmmph. I imagine those mongrels were a charming bunch to deal with.” Rarity grumbled while her eyes darkened a little.

        “You don’t know the half of it.” Luna chuckled a bit before continuing. “The point being is this; you’ll slowly come to understand what your respective powers are capable of, outside of what you already have. Celestia and I, even as we speak, are beginning to see the briefest of visions of what you six will do in terms of guiding Equestria’s future, but we’re not certain.”

        Fluttershy looked up, her eyes shimmering with moisture while her lips quivered slightly. “So...does this mean we have to leave everything we have behind? I...I don’t think I could possibly leave my animal friends behind, especially when they need me so much.”

        “Yeah, and I have to help the weather ponies in Ponyville. I am the most experienced member of the town’s team, and none of the others have enough years under their belt to take things into their own hooves without me around.” Rainbow added.

        “What about my home...I mean, the library, Princess? Would I have to leave that unattended? Is Spike able to come back to Canterlot with me?” Twilight’s voice began to take on a more panicked tone. “I...I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but...I’ve come to love Ponyville very much.”

        “...and I’d be terrified of the mess Sweetie Belle might make of the place in my absence. Goodness, I’m feeling faint just thinking about it! Besides, she’s much too young to be left alone! Oh,Sweetie Belle would be so alone at night and...”

        “...not to mention Applebuckin’ season is only a few months away, and Big Mac can’t do it all on his own. Applebloom is gettin’ older, but she has ‘bout another year or so before she’s old ‘nough to be buckin’ those trees like Macintosh and I do...”

        “...I still haven’t finished organizing all the shelves in the non-fiction section, either...”

        “...I have fabrics that are supposedly on their way from Manehatten, and if I’m not around to take them...”

        “...if I can’t get enough blankets made for the little animals, they could freeze when winter comes around this...”

        It was Pinkie Pie, however, who remained quiet the whole time. She looked up to Princess Celestia, who in turn simply nodded. Pinkie Pie smiled before getting back to her feet and taking in a huge breath. “HEY!”

        The five mares all stopped talking and turned towards the pink party pony.

    “Girls, I know that we’re all super-duper busy most of the time, but...” Pinkie continued to demonstrate a rare sense of control as she spoke in a calm and collected tone. “...this is something bigger than us. I mean BIGGER bigger than us! It’s Equestria, and the rest of the world! I mean, yeah, the Cakes will have trouble running Sugarcube Corner without me, and Gummy’s going to need someone to look after him, but...the truth is, this is something that could be important for many, many, many, many years. Like Princess Luna said, if we say no to this, the world could end up becoming a bit coo-coo as a result!” She grinned brightly to her friends. “Besides, it could be lots of fun, too!”

Her friends all looked at her with uncertain expressions, though they all gave murmurs and nods of agreement. Rainbow eventually broke the silence among them. “How long do we have until we have to go to Canterlot?”

Celestia looked out a window to the midday skies of Equestria. Her magenta eyes seemed to be looking past the skies though, focusing on nothing in particular. Several moments dragged by before she seemed to come back to reality, a smile on her face. “Roughly a week. Six days and some odd hours before the hour of your calling happens.”

“Huh...one week? That’s...surprisingly not much time for me to talk to Big Mac an’ the family. We’ll need to hire some extra help and that’ll be difficult as it is. Caramel is a hard worker, but he’s only one hired-hoof. We’d need...hay, at least three more ponies to cover for me, an’ that ain’t includin’ Spring and Summer when Mac and I are tendin’ to the tree saplings.”

        “I understand your concern, Applejack.” Celestia spoke while fixing her gentle gaze on the orange earth pony directly. The cowpony’s eyes dropped to the floor, unable to meet the warm gaze of the ancient pony princess. “I promise you that Luna and I will help ensure that your family, as well as the rest of your families, are not left without help. Canterlot will be more than willing to give any of your family members a home as well, if need be. The castle has more than enough rooms to fit almost every single pony in this town alone.”

        “Oh wow...” Fluttershy whispered. “But...I don’t think that the animals would like the big crowded city of Canterlot when they have the nice, quiet woods outside of Ponyville.”

        Luna suddenly straightened up, her eyes gaining a similar distant look to them that Celestia had. “I...don’t think that will be a major problem for you, Fluttershy.”

        Fluttershy shrunk back a bit upon hearing the princess’s words. “I...but the animals here truly depend-”

        “No, Luna’s right, Fluttershy. Trust us, for you in particular, it won’t be a problem.”

        The yellow pegasus seemed like she wanted to argue, but gave a nod, trusting the alicorns’ words. “O...okay...”

        Celestia and Luna both stood up, looking at each other and back at the six mares. They seemed to be sharing a private conversation with each other based on the looks they exchanged.

        “Well,” Luna cleared her throat. “I suppose Celestia and I will have to find a place to stay for the evening...there are inns in Ponyville, right?”

        Silence once again permeated through the room.

        Rarity was the first to give an answer, coughing while giving the two a sheepish smile. “Well, technically there aren’t. You see, your Highness, Ponyville is still a rather small town. Most visitors here have family, so they just stay with them. The town hall sometimes offers a room, but those rooms are usually just unused office space. We...don’t usually expect visitors of such importance.”

        “Actually...” Applejack began. “If...if neither of you or yer guards mind, the Apple family would be more than willing to give ya’ll a nice place to sleep. Now, mind you, it won’t be fancy, but we’ve got plenty of warm blankets and beds, and we have a nice cozy guest room for you two as well...” She blushed a bit. “...that’s if ya’ll don’ mind the lack of luxury that yer both usually entitled to...”

        The elder alicorn sister arched an eyebrow before smiling genuinely at the earth pony’s generous offer. “That’s very kind of you, Applejack, but are you certain we wouldn’t be imposing at all?”

        “Not at all, Princess Celestia.” Applejack answered with a smile. “Shoot, I bet neither of you have had an Apple family meal yet, have you?”

        “No...I don’t recall ever eating at your family’s farm.” Celestia couldn’t help but chuckle with mild amusement as the young mare swelled with pride.

        “Well that just won’ do! You two haven’t lived until you’ve had a good home-cooked meal at the Apple house.” She turned to the others and continued. “Ya’ll are more than welcome to join us too, by the way.”

        “Heheh, I can’t remember the last time your family cooked for me, Applejack.” Rainbow grinned. “I must have just moved into Ponyville the last time I ate over at your place.”

        Twilight felt her mouth watering. She still remembered the extravagant meal she had when she first came to Ponyville. The Apple family changed her entire outlook on what ‘brunch’ was and just how much a pony could physically eat in one sitting. She leaned close to Celestia and whispered. “Applejack’s grandmother makes the best apple pie in the world. I’m not kidding.”

        Celestia noted the seriousness in her student’s words. It was settled, then. “Well, Luna, shall we inform Captain Lily Wing and her team that they should save their bits and plan to have dinner at Sweet Apple Acres?”

        Luna could only nod and smile, her own appetite finally catching up with her.


        After one of the best meals Celestia had eaten in years (quite a claim coming from an ageless alicorn), the two princesses and their guards were shown to their respective rooms. Celestia and Luna’s room consisted of a large bed with a wooden frame, a small nightstand with a lantern on it, and a window looking over the silent acres of the Apple family orchard.

        “Ah hope you don’ mind the lack of space, yer Highness.” Applejack began as she opened up the door to one of the guest rooms. “While the Apple family house is large ‘nough to fit a whole herd of ponies, our accommodations aren’t exactly up to par with royalty.”

        “That’s quite fine, Applejack.” Celestia reassured the earth pony as she placed a hoof on the surprisingly soft mattress. “As soon as Luna comes upstairs after raising the moon we can settle how we’ll sleep tonight.”

        “Alright, make yerself at home...” the orange mare hovered at the door for a moment, worried expression concerning the Princess of the Sun. Applejack spoke once more, albeit much softer than before. “...I talked with my family ‘bout the news involvin’ me an’ the girls being...princesses and what have you...they took it in stride, surprisingly.”

        Celestia released a small breath she had been holding. “Good, so her family is alright with this.” 

Still, it appeared the mare herself was uncertain about the situation. “That’s good to hear, Applejack. You have a very loving family from what I can tell. Like I said earlier, Luna and I will do all that we can to help support your families with your absence. I know for a fact that there are numerous ponies who would be willing to work on an orchard, especially one as well known as yours.”

        “Heh, you flatter me, Princess.” Applejack adjusted her hat to hide her embarrassment. “I hope yer right though ‘bout gettin’ help ‘round here. Big Mac is strong, but he’s only one pony. Granny Smith is well over the hill, and while her mind is still as sharp as a whip most of the time, she’s not as strong as she used to be.”

        A featherlight touch graced the earth pony’s shoulder, and she looked to see Princess Celestia placing one of her wings gently over the smaller pony. “It makes me happy to see you care so deeply for your family, Applejack. You’re a model example of what can result from hard work and kindness.”

“Ah...well...” Applejack began to blush deep red. “Heheh, shoot, now you’re going and makin’ me all flustered.” She removed her hat and scratched her mane while smiling. “Thank you kindly, Princess Celestia.”

        “No thanks is needed. It’s only the truth.” Celestia replied, pride evident in her voice. “You’re truly a wonderful pony, and your family is without a doubt proud of you.”

        Applejack was now sniffling a bit. “Aw shucks, I ain’t nothin’ but a regular pony like the rest of us Ponyville folk, heheh.”

        Celestia lowered her head to Applejack’s level. “Nonsense. You, as well as every other pony, are special. I know you’ll be a great leader for Equestria.”

        The orange earth pony mare felt a single foreleg wrap around her frame gently. She felt a warm sensation envelope her, and her worries seemed to become a little less heavy on her. Raising her gaze to Celestia’s, she was met by two gentle magenta eyes. “I appreciate this, Princess Celestia. For listenin’ to me and stuff. Thanks again.”

        “Anytime, Applejack. That’s what I’m here for.”


        The Princess of the Sun was soon lying in the rather comfortable, if not worn and aged, bed that the Apples had provided for her and Luna. The younger sister, being the Princess of the Night, was wide awake and content with simply watching the starry sky from her window.

Luna was currently sitting on the mattress, facing towards the window with rapt attention. “Wow...you can see everything so clearly out here. Canterlot has its observatory, but even still, there’s always some activity going on at night, so the lights can be a bit of a problem when stargazing.”

        Celestia, who was slowly drifting off to sleep, opened one eye while giving Luna an adoring smile. “Is the Summer Triangle visible tonight?”

        Luna directed her gaze towards a particular section of the sky. “Yep, there’s Deneb, Altair, and Vega.” The younger alicorn was silent for several moments before she sighed. “Oh dear, I think I made Polaris too bright tonight.”

        Celestia chuckled quietly while Luna’s horn glowed a soft hue of blue, a look of concentration etched onto her face.

        “That should...oh, but what if somepony’s trying to find their way home by using the stars? Perhaps I should keep it like it was, that may be too dim...hm...”

        Celestia was soon dozing off to the quiet murmuring of Luna, who was now commenting on the visibility of the Milky Way tonight. Luna would likely be joining her and fall asleep right before dawn, when Celestia would be prodded by the celestial cycle into waking up again. For now, though, the two were content with enjoying a rare moment of rest in the quiet countryside of Ponyville.


One week later...

        Twilight paced in a circle in front of the library, pausing every so often and looking towards the mountains that Canterlot was built upon.

        “Twilight, Princess Celestia said that Princess Luna would be here before noon, and you know the Princess is good about keeping her word.”

        The lavender unicorn looked over her shoulder to face her dear friend and assistant, Spike. The baby dragon had a glass of orange juice in one hand and a sandwich in the other.

        Shaking her head while trying to calm herself, Twilight stopped for a moment and sat on the grass. “I know, Spike, but I can’t help but be nervous. I mean, this is something I never in a million years would have expected to experience.” She began pacing again, much to Spike’s annoyance. “Me...a princess...”

        “Well, Princess Twilight, as your assistant, I recommend you get something to eat. You know how you get when you’re working on an empty stomach.”

        Twilight gave the dragon a grateful smile before lifting the sandwich off the plate he was holding with her magic and taking a bite. It was bluegrass and clover with some ranch dressing. Not her favorite, but still delicious.

        “Thanks, Spike.” She continued to eat the sandwich while downing the orange juice he brought her in one gulp. “Ah...wow, that hit the spot.” She let out a content sigh. With her hunger satiated, she returned her attention to waiting, and looked to the town hall clock.

Ten minutes to eleven.

        “Twilight! Heeey!!”

        The librarian looked up to see the bundle of energy that was Pinkie Pie. She had a harness around her with a small cart which carried some of her personal belongings.

        “Morning, Pinkie.” Twilight greeted. “Did you eat anything yet? We could make-”

        “No problem, Twilight! I had two banana nut muffins and a bowl of oats and daisies this morning! In fact, I have some left over muffins if you want any!” She unstrapped her harness and dug around in a saddle bag she had slung over her back. “Now where is...it...aha!! Found them!”

        Before Twilight knew it, a pink hoof shoved a banana nut muffin into her mouth. Twilight immediately tasted the bananas’ natural sweetness on her taste buds, along with the bran and walnuts. It had just the right amount of moistness, and the texture was perfect.

        “Oh wow, Pinkie...” Twilight said after swallowing down the delectable morsel. “That was delicious! You’ll have to make more of those when we get to Canterlot.”

        “I know, right? I made about a dozen of them, but gave most of them to Mr. and Mrs. Cake.” Her mane drooped a little. “They seemed a little sad to watch me leave, but...I promised them I’d come back to visit! I mailed my parents a letter several days ago telling about the news, but they haven’t sent anything back...” She frowned a bit. “It takes about two days for pegasus mail, and I sent the letter as high priority...I hope they’re alright with this...” She began to scratch the ground nervously. The somewhat gloomy attitude the usually peppy, pink pony permeated was unsettling to her unicorn friend.

        Twilight knew very little about Pinkie’s past, and while Pinkie Pie never had anything bad to say about her childhood, she also never had anything positive to say either (at least until she got her cutie mark, that is).

“Well, as long as you let them know, that’s what matters, right? ”

        Pinkie looked up before smiling and giving a nod. “Yeah. Hm...by the way, I was wondering...” She dug into her cart and pulled out, much to Twilight’s surprise, Gummy. The toothless alligator clamped down onto Pinkie’s nose while she simply giggled. “Do you think Canterlot has a nice pool for Gummy to live in? He’s alright without water for a couple days, but he does like to have a nice swim once in awhile, don’t you, Gummy?”

        The alligator replied by opening his jaws and releasing his grip over Pinkie’s snout. He plopped onto the ground and promptly made his way towards Spike before clamping down on the baby dragon’s tail.

        “Gaah! Gummy, let go!” Spike grumbled while attempting to shake the alligator off. “Come on, my tail’s not a chew toy!”

        The two mares laughed at the scene before them. Eventually the little alligator released Spike’s tail and instead deciding to turn his attention towards an ant crawling on the ground. Pinkie eventually picked him up by the back of his neck and placed him back into her wagon where he sat quietly.

        “Do you know if any of the other girls are ready yet?” Twilight asked. “I have a wagon full of some of my belongings, but that’s about it.” The unicorn gave a nod to a wagon that appeared to be full of mostly books.

        “I think Rarity said she had a few more boxes to pack up, mostly Sweetie Belle’s things. She’s been such a busy-body lately that I don’t think she’s slept more than a few hours in the past couple of days. I offered to help her a few times, but she refused, saying she had to have everything packed a certain way!” Pinkie Pie shook her head, giggling a bit. “She can be such a stubborn pony. She’s going to be too worn out for the huge princess party I have planned!”

        Another half hour passed between the mares before Rainbow Dash and Applejack neared the library, Applejack carrying a larger cart than Pinkie Pie’s while Rainbow had two saddlebags on her back.

        “Is that all you’re bringing, Rainbow?” Twilight asked. “I mean...it’s not my place to question what you bring, but...”

        “Huh?” Rainbow looked to her saddlebags and laughed. “Oh, no, AJ volunteered to carry my stuff with hers in the cart.”

        “Wow, Applejack, you’re such a strong pony!” Pinkie Pie beamed as she greeted the Apple family member. “I wonder how strong you really are, though. Maybe we should load up my cart with a few more things and-”

        “Now hold yer horses, Pinkie. I only volunteered to help Rainbow here because she went and helped me pack up my own things the other night.” Applejack rolled her neck and stretched her legs as soon as she freed herself of the harness. “It’s quite a load I’m carryin’ right there. Nothin’ short of me or Big Mac would’ve been able to pull it. I don’t think I can do much more than that, though.”

        “Oh my...if I had known that everyone was bringing so much I would’ve brought more than this...”

        The four mares looked to see Fluttershy walking towards them. She had two saddlebags on her back like Rainbow Dash, as well as a small wagon filled with several belongings of hers as well.

        “Oh, hey, Fluttershy.” Twilight greeted the yellow pegasus. “I wouldn’t worry about that. If you really want to get more of your stuff, Princess Luna told us that she’d have a group of movers accompany you back to your house later on and help you out.”

        “I guess that would be nice, though I don’t want to cause any trouble by doing so...”

        “I’m sure it will be fine, Fluttershy.” Twilight said reassuringly.

        “Well...I would like to get all my birdseed if I could...and maybe more of my medicine and bandages for any animals at Canterlot...”

        Further conversation was cut off by the sound of rolling wheels. The group turned their heads to see a large, wooden cart being pulled by Rarity. She trudged along, grunting as she made her way towards the tree library.

        “Ah...good...morning...I...hah...just finished getting everything packed. Sweetie Belle should be...right behind me...”

        Sure enough, the sister of Rarity could be seen pulling a small red wagon loaded with some lighter belongings of hers. She gave a yawn as she stopped, unlatching herself from her harness. “Hey, Rarity, can we get something to eat before we leave for Canterlot?”

        “Really? I thought you ate the daffodil and tulip salad I gave you this morning. Was that not enough? I can go back home and get-”

        “It’s alright, Rarity, I can get her something to eat.” Spike volunteered. “Come on, Sweetie Belle, I think we have some hay fries from last night in the fridge, and I could probably make some fried clover if I have enough time.”

        Sweetie Belle looked to Rarity, who simply nodded. The young filly trotted after Spike, and the two disappeared into the library.

        “Wow, Rarity, you sure you can carry all that to Canterlot? Ah don’t mean to question yer strength, but...well, yer not exactly a draft pony, and Canterlot’s ‘bout eighteen kilotrots from here...”

        “No need to worry, Applejack. I may be a fashion designer first and foremost, but I can haul my weight around when the occasion calls for it. I’ll just...need to pace myself, that’s all.”

        “Maybe we can get a few of the Royal Guards to help?” Rainbow suggested.

        “Oh, that won’t be necessary, Rainbow Dash.”

        The cyan pegasus jumped into the air before yelping in surprise. “Wahh!!”

        Rainbow Dash, as well as the others, all turned to face the newcomer who had managed to sneak up on them.

        “P-Princess Luna!” Twilight managed to stammer out before bowing. The other five mares did likewise. As they rose, they were greeted by a rather odd scene.

        “Um...Princess Luna, are you alright?”

        The younger alicorn sister looked up quizzically. “Hm? Oh, yes, why?”

        Twilight opened and closed her mouth several times before just sighing and speaking her mind. “Well, you’re bowing...again. It’s just not...”

        “Normal? Becoming of a Princess?” Luna just chuckled as the lavender pony blushed. “Well, considering you all will be peers to my sister and I, it only seems proper to bow back when you do so to me.”

        “Oh...well...we’re not princesses yet...” Rarity pointed out. “Though, you do flatter us, your Highness.”

        Luna waved a hoof dismissively. “Think nothing of it. You six are more than deserving of my respect, after all. I owe you all a debt I can never fully repay, so showing you all gratitude and kindness is the very least I can do.” She inspected the various carts and luggage the ponies had brought with them. “Hm...well, this is actually less than I was expecting. Not a problem, though. Do you have everything you need before we depart?”

        “A-already?” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “I mean...I was expecting a few movers to accompany us, but...I suppose we can move our belongings without help.”

        “Oh, no, you won’t have to do a thing, Twilight. Celestia and I worked on a transportation spell for large quantities of mass. She’s currently working as the anchor for my magic while I see to the transportation of all your belongings to Canterlot.”

        It was at that point that Spike exited the library, a yellow bottle in hand. “Hey, Twilight, do you know where we keep the mustard-Princess Luna!” He dropped the empty bottle and gave a bow. Sweetie Belle, who was poking her head out of the library, also gave a bow. The six mares noted that the princess did not bow this time, though she approached the baby dragon and filly and gave them the warmest of smiles.

        “Spike, isn’t it?”

        The young dragon’s eyes widened. “Y-yes, your Highness.”

        “I’ve heard wonderful things about you from my sister, as well as from Twilight Sparkle’s letters. It’s a pleasure to finally meet such a charming young dragon.”

Spike blushed while looking to the ground and smiling. “I-it’s nice to meet you, too.”

She turned her attention towards the young unicorn. “You must be Sweetie Belle.”

        The filly seemed embarrassed by the sudden attention, but gave a demure smile and nodded. “Yeah, my sister said she’s moving to Canterlot, so I have to come with...” Her smile fell a little, a hoof shuffling the ground as she lowered her gaze. “I...kind of feel nervous though.”

        Luna gave an understanding nod. “That’s perfectly normal, Sweetie Belle. Canterlot’s a big city, and it’s very different from Ponyville. I’m still getting used to it myself” She crouched down a bit so she was level with the young filly. “If you want, though, I can see to having some of my most trusted guards provide you with chariot rides to your school everyday. I imagine you have a lot of friends here in Ponyville, don’t you?”

        Sweetie Belle’s eyes lit up. “Y-you’d do that for me?”

        Luna placed a gentle hoof on the young unicorn’s shoulder as she continued. “Rarity had told me how much you enjoy school. I wouldn’t want to tear you away from it, nor would my sister, or yours for that matter.”

        Sweetie Belle squealed in delight. “Thank you, Princess Luna! I...I was so worried that I’d never get to see Applebloom, Scootaloo, Ms. Cheerilee, or any of my friends ever again!”

        Luna laughed as the filly wrapped her front hooves around her. She returned the hug while turning her gaze to Rarity, who gave her a thankful smile. The fashionista mouthed the words ‘thank you’ as Sweetie Belle released Luna from her grip.

        “Well,” Luna began after Sweetie Belle had returned to her sister’s side. “I believe it’s time we get going. If everyone could gather your belongings to this area, I’ll transport us there as quickly and safely as I can.”

        A few minutes of pushing and pulling carts later and the group was prepared. Luna looked to each of the mares and once satisfied that they were prepared, began to channel magic into her horn. A white circle appeared around the perimeter surrounding the group, and light began to emit from it.

        “Celestia...we’re ready.” Luna spoke, her eyes glowing with an ethereal light.

        A voice that that seemed to echo all around the group gave reply. “Alright, Luna. Follow my magic’s signature, just like we practiced.”

        Luna gave a nod while focusing her magic. Twilight and Rarity were the first to feel the magic flowing through the air. Sweetie Belle soon felt a tingling sensation as well, followed by Spike, and the other mares present. It felt like a summer day had paid visit to Ponyville suddenly, bathing the ponies and baby dragon in a warmth that one could doze off in under the shade of a tree.

        Celestia’s magic was wonderful in that manner.

        “Alright, everyone, try not to move for a few seconds if you would.” Luna spoke. A dazzling light erupted from the tip of her horn before it flooded the area. Several seconds passed, and it appeared as if the world was racing by them. Images of trees, rivers, and eventually mountains passed by their vision before the scenery became clearer.

        Canterlot. They were standing in the royal court yard of the Canterlot castle, Twilight realized. The others were slowly taking in the scenery before them as well, and had arrived to similar conclusions if their murmuring was any indication.

        “Welcome, everypony.”

        Twilight looked over her shoulder to see Princess Celestia standing a few feet away from where they had appeared, several guards flanking either side of her.

        The six mares, filly, and baby dragon all gave respectful bows while Luna approached the elder sister and gave her a bright smile. “So, did I do alright?”

        “That was a splendid job, Luna. For a large mass teleportation spell, you did quite well for a first real attempt.” Celestia answered with pride. “Seeing as you invented it, though, I’m not too surprised.” The alicorn turned her attention towards her student and the other ponies. “I imagine that you’re all rather tired. I know that you all were rather busy these past several days, judging by all the luggage you brought with you.”

        Twilight spoke first. “Well, we’re a bit rundown, but I think we’re doing well, all things considered.”

        Celestia’s smile grew a little. “I’m glad to hear that. Like we mentioned earlier this week, if you need to make any future trips to Ponyville, please don’t hesitate to ask one of us. We’d be glad to help in any way we can...” She looked over each of the mares, Spike, and her gaze lingered a little longer on Sweetie Belle. The young unicorn gave a shy smile, hiding behind Rarity’s legs. Celesita laughed quietly before sitting down on the ground so she was at eye level with the filly. “Hello, Sweetie Belle.”

        The filly gasped. “Y-you know my name, too?”

        “But of course. Twilight has told me all about you, Applebloom, and Scootaloo. How could I forget about the Cutie Mark Crusaders?”

        All traces of shyness vanished from the filly’s face at that point. “You know about us?! Hey, do you think you can tell us what our cutie marks are? You and Princess Luna are princesses, so you should both be able to figure them out, right?”

        “Sweetie Belle...” Rarity spoke, but Celestia waved her hoof gently, dismissing Rarity’s concern.

        “I’m afraid such things are beyond my sister and I.” She offered a sympathetic smile to the young filly, understanding how exciting it was to discover one’s Cutie Mark all too well. “We’re not able to determine the special talents of a pony. That’s something that you must discover on your own.”

        “Awww...” Sweetie Belle deflated a little, but looked up hopefully, “Maybe...maybe Applebloom and Scootaloo can come here once in awhile?”

        “I would love that. It’s always nice to have young faces in this old castle.” the alicorn answered. Having the three adventurous fillies romping around the halls would no doubt bring some life into the at times dull stone walls of the castle.

Celestia rose back to her feet and continued, once again addressing the group. “Well, I hate to rush all of you after just arriving, but we have an important task to take care of involving you six in particular. The Elements, as I’m sure you already know, have chosen you six to become the future rulers of Equestria. As is the case, your presence is needed in the throne room.”


        The six mares stood in the center of the throne room while Celestia and Luna were currently seated in their respective seats overlooking the ponies. A little ways off stood Spike and Sweetie Belle, along with a group of Royal Guards, as well as about a dozen castle attendants and several government officials. All the attention was a bit much for them, especially Fluttershy and Twilight.

        Celestia and Luna were currently discussing something with each other in hushed voices, glancing towards the six mares every so often. They seemed to be concerned about the time too, as they looked to the large clock hanging from the throne room entrance about every minute.

        “We have to wait until the clock chimes the hour, Celly.”

        The elder alicorn simply rolled her eyes while her sister pouted. “That’s just for show, Luna, you know that. I’d rather get this started as soon as possible so we can get them settled in. You know how hard it will be for them to adjust to the changes.”

        Luna’s shoulders slumped in defeat before giving a nod and turning to the six, deciding to speak first. “It seems that the time to begin the coronation ceremony has approached.” She cleared her throat before looking to the other ponies (and dragon) in the room. “All of you who are gathered, I ask that you be witnesses to this event for those in Equestria who are unable to see it firsthoof.”

        The six mares were unsure of what to expect. Twilight had asked the princesses what they were to do, but Celestia simply answered that they were to remain attentive and that was it. While used to the sometimes vague and intentionally cryptic instructions of her teacher, the unicorn couldn’t help but feel a bit on edge. What exactly was going to happen that required so many witnesses to see?

        Celestia continued where Luna left off. “Twilight Sparkle. Applejack. Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy. Rarity. Pinkie Pie. The six of you, who represent the Spirits of the Elements of Harmony, have been chosen by said magical artifacts to rule Equestria. Do all of you accept this?”

        The six all gave a simple ‘yes’ in unison.

        “Do you swear upon the Elements to bear this task and follow the principles of Harmony, to hold true to them, and guide Equestria to the best of your abilities?” Luna asked.

        “Yes.”

        “And do you swear to open up your hearts to not just the ponies of Equestria, but the other inhabitants of the world, big and small, and value all forms of life, even those that are not benign?” Celestia inquired.

        “Yes.”

        “Finally, do you all swear that you will uphold your respective duties, and should the time call for it, protect Equestria from danger?”

        “Yes.”

        Celestia and Luna both smiled before channeling magic into their horns. They closed their eyes and began to chant in an archaic tongue that Twilight vaguely recognized as Ancient Equinic, though most simply knew it as ‘the language of the Royal Pony Sisters’.

        A circle of rainbow-colored light formed around the six mares. They felt warmth surging into their bodies as magic built up in the area around them. More magic than any of them had ever felt before. More magic than what could have been possible for even five hundred unicorns to generate.

        The two sisters finished chanting, and were now channeling their seemingly limitless power into the circle. The six mares now had their eyes closed, having become overwhelmed the awesome magical power flowing into them. Six orbs of different colors suddenly emerged from the ponies before floating up into the air.

        They were the Elements of Harmony, shining in all their magical glory for the world to see.

        “The rest is up to the Elements now...” Celestia stated as the two cut off their magic flow to the circular field of light.

The magical artifacts began to spin slowly above the circle of rainbow-hued light. After a minute had passed, the Elements began to rapidly speed up their spinning, eventually reaching speeds Rainbow Dash would have been proud off. A wave of magic shot out from them, knocking several ponies off their feet. The Elements suddenly halted, humming loudly as they floated back down to their respective owners. The castle began to shake a little once the Elements of Harmony vanished, and the ponies gathered in the throne room became nervous, several shouting and crying out in fear of being crushed by the castle walls.

        “Don’t worry!” Luna called out. “The castle will be fine. This is merely the final part of the coronation.”

        The ponies calmed down a little, though they continued to cast glances towards roof above their heads every so often.

        Finally the rumbling ceased, and the light eventually died down. All who were in the throne room fixed their gazes on the six mares lying before them. Gasps could be heard in the crowd as they lay their eyes on the Spirits of Harmony.

        The first to open her eyes was Rarity. She groaned while slowly shaking her head. “Oh my, that was quite a spell...” She stood on wobbly feet, before she lost her balance and fell back onto her haunches. “Ooof!”

        Next was Applejack and Rainbow Dash, who both let out similar groans. Applejack seemed to be even worse than Rarity, though, for she was unable to do so much as rise to her feet. Rainbow Dash took several seconds before getting her bearings, and stood fine, although she appeared to be a bit dizzy.

        Pinkie Pie, Twilight, and Fluttershy were the last to wake up. Fluttershy, like Rarity, had ungracefully fallen back, while Pinkie Pie got to her feet a bit too quickly before tipping from side to side and falling over.

“Whooah!!” the pink earth pony shook her head several times before deciding to remain seated.

Twilight was the only other pony aside from Rainbow who had been able to stand on her own four legs, if only barely. She gazed down at her hooves, then realized something was off.

        “Princess Celestia...what happened?” Twilight asked.

        Celestia and Luna were positively beaming. The elder sister instead turned to a group of guards present. “Please bring the large mirror over here that I requested earlier.”

        Several guards managed to shake themselves out of the apparent stupor they were in before giving quick nods and wheeling over a large mirror that could have covered an entire wall at the Ponyville schoolhouse.

        What followed after were a series of gasps and a bewildered looks from the mares.

        “Wh-what in the hay is on my head?! Is...is that a horn?!”

“My word, are these real? Oh, they’re simply lovely!”

        “Wooo, I’m super-tall now, hahaha!”

        “Um...this isn’t one of those fun house mirrors...is it?”

        “Hey, look at my wings! They’re huge, haha!!”

        Twilight’s jaw went slack as she took in her appearance. The lavender pony staring back at her was probably around the same height as Celestia! Her horn was about twice as long now, and her body had a more lithe build to it.

        The biggest change, though, were the two large, feathered wings that flared out a little as she unconsciously stretched muscles she never remembered having before.

        “I...I...I’m...” Twilight took a step closer to her reflection, rubbing her eyes with a hoof. “I’m...dreaming?”

        Celestia chuckled. “No, Twilight Sparkle, I assure you that you are not dreaming.”

        Twilight looked up to her mentor for several moments before looking back at her reflection.

“Oh...”


        Three hours and numerous sessions of calming down the six mares later, Celestia and Luna were sitting in their expansive bedroom with the six new alicorn mares, Spike, and Sweetie Belle. For the ancient pony sisters, they were quite a sight to take in.

        Twilight Sparkle found that she still needed to look up at Celestia, if only a little. Aside from the longer horn and wings, she was easily recognized.

        Pinkie Pie was shorter still, probably a few inches shorter than the lavender alicorn. Her frizzy mane had grown out in length, and was now running down her back like a waterfall of pink cotton candy. Her horn was as long as Twilight’s, too. The wings on her back seemed to have a mind of their own, stretching and flapping every so often, causing her to giggle.

        Rainbow Dash had grown very little compared to the others. Her horn was only slightly longer than that of an average unicorn’s, and she stood only a hoof length taller than she used too. Her mane had grown a little longer, though, which she seemed to be bothering her a little. Her wings, however, had gone through major changes. Once powerful yet small enough to tuck to her sides, they were now large and draped over her back, covering up her flanks as they rested.

Rarity was a similar case to Rainbow, being only a bit taller. She stood around the same height as Luna, and her horn was a bit longer, too. Her mane still had the same elegant curl to it, but was now running along her backside as she sat down. The wings sprouting out from her shoulder blades were about the same size as those of the Princess of the Moon’s. One of the most noticeable changes, however, was her lustrous white coat. While it wasn’t overwhelmingly bright, a faint sheen of light seemed to play off of it at all times, much like the way Celestia’s own mane shined at all times.

        Fluttershy stood about three feet taller now, just a little over Luna’s height. Her typically long mane now pooled around her like the branches of a weeping willow. Her horn was the same size as Rarity’s, and her wings had gained a more softer, elegant appearance to them.

Applejack had gone through the biggest changes when compared to the other five. She now stood about a hoof taller than Celestia, and on her forehead rested a horn that was easily a few inches longer than the Princess of the Sun’s. Large, powerful wings rested at her sides as she sat on the ground. She stretched them every once in awhile, glancing at them with uncertainty while tapping her horn with a hoof as though to confirm it to be real. Her mane and tail had kept their same style of being tied in a ponytail knot, but had grown out in proportion with the rest of her body. As for her body itself, she had gained a more athletic build, her muscles stretching and growing out to accommodate her new frame. Every movement of hers was accompanied by rippling muscles that looked powerful enough to move at least three field plows with little difficulty.

        “So...uh...” Rainbow Dash began. “What...happened to us, aside from the obvious?”
        “Aside from Rarity and Twilight, none of you six have used magic before, correct?” Luna asked.

        “Well, pegasi can float on clouds...and earth ponies tend to have a sixth sense with the environment.” Rainbow Dash answered. “Though, yeah, only Twilight and Rarity can cast spells.”

        Luna smiled. “Right. Alicorns are...different. We have a bit of unicorn, pegasi, and earth pony running through our blood.

        “You will all eventually get used to the changes you’ve gone through...yes, Applejack, even you will learn how to use magic, trust me. As for your magic powers, that depends on you individually. For instance, I have power over the moon’s orbit, as well as the display of the night sky, and to a certain extent, music. Celestia has ties to the sun, as well as the ‘classical’ studies as ponies describe them in this day and age.”

        “Classical studies? Wait one second, how is somethin’ like philosophy magic?”

        “That’s a good question, Applejack, and in a nutshell, it isn’t.”

        The former farm pony gave the Princess of the Sun a flat, unamused look. She suppressed the desire to groan and instead spoke calmly. “...okay, can ya explain for me then how yer magically connected to something that ain’t magical?”

        “Let’s see...I guess the easiest way to put it is like this; I will have random moments of inspiration where I begin writing long essays on the importance of life, or art, and other such things. A week later somepony will have a theory on life’s big meaning published, or what the purpose of love is. Things like that. I create a spark if you would. My inspiration creates inspiration in ponies across the land, though I cannot directly control it.”
        “Oh! You mean like a butterfly effect? Whooa, that’s craaaazy!” Pinkie chimed in.

        Celestia laughed. “Yes, I suppose that would be a suitable term for it.”

        “Alright, that’s all fine and dandy, but what ‘bout us then? How do we know what we’re in charge of as far as our magic goes?” Applejack continued.

        Again, Luna spoke. “Well, Applejack, Celestia and I sort of have an idea of what you six will be doing already. A vision from the Elements would be one way to put it.” She looked towards Rarity, Twilight, and Fluttershy. “Rarity, from what I can tell, you’re powers encompass Generosity, first of all. They also follow the fine arts like theatre and sculpture, as well as beauty and aesthetics in the world.”

        Rarity’s eyes widened. “I...I’m in control of those things?”

        “Like Celestia explained, not so much in control of as much as what your powers are related to. You’re powers are not so concrete as they are abstract, though beauty can be from such things like gems, rainbows, waterfalls...the possibilities are unlimited.”

        Rarity was silent after that, her eyes still shining with silent wonder.

        “Well...um, if you wouldn’t mind telling me, that is, Princess Luna...what are my special powers related to?”

        Luna was clearly eager to share the news if her grin was any indication. “Fluttershy, I think your powers are very well suited towards you as well. You are connected to Kindness, as well as the flora and fauna of the world.”

        Fluttershy’s eyes became as big as dinner plates as she gave a quiet gasp. “A-all the animals and plants..of...the world?”

        “Correct. From every ladybug, grasshopper, or sparrow, all the way to manticores, ponies, and dragons. From every dandelion, clover, and tree sapling to every vine, pine tree, and  oak. I’m not certain on how deep this connection runs, but...I can tell you right now that it’s powerful.

“I...I see...um...oh my...that is quite a large amount of things to take on.” Fluttershy mumbled to herself. “I...I’m not upset at all, though. I like it, actually.” She gave Luna a cheery smile.

The lavender alicorn that Luna turned to gave her an anxious smile. “So, you know my powers too, huh?”

Luna nodded. “Twilight Sparkle, your powers are very peculiar, and they’re going to directly affect my sister’s as well as mine to an extent. You’re powers encompass Magic, science, and a third aspect.”

        “What’s the third aspect?” the lavender alicorn asked.

        “The Elements have deemed that the system of the solar cycle needs to be changed. You’ll be in charge of the orbit of the planet around the Sun.”

        “Around...the...” Twilight quirked an eyebrow. “I thought the Sun orbited the world, though?”

        “Yes, it still does...for now.” Celestia spoke. “However, my powers are beginning to change. I’m finding it a little harder to move the Sun these days, and the planet seems to be going through some changes as well. You’ll be in charge of affecting this new path the planet shall take in its revolution around the Sun, as well as the angle and speed it shall rotate, which will in turn bring forth day and night.”

        “I...wait, you mean I’m taking away the jobs of you and Princess Luna?” Twilight asked. “Oh, nonono, I can’t-”

        “Twilight, my faithful stud...excuse me...my dear friend and peer...you aren’t taking our jobs. Luna will still be in charge of the moon’s orbit as well as affecting the brightness of the stars and other such aspects of the night sky. I will have a little less work, though. I’ll now only be in charge of determining the warmth and brightness of the Sun, and insure that enough sunlight reaches the planet every day. That will be my duty, along with inspiring the classics, as Luna explained.”

        Twilight gave a nod, still a bit uncertain about this change. “Okay.”

        “Now, as for you three...” Celestia continued, turning towards Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack. “...Applejack, you’re powers are tied, of course, to Honesty. You also have close ties to the physical earth and soil, which affects not only crop growth, but also the foundations of towns and the shape of the planet’s surface. Such powers can make mountains and volcanoes, and cause earthquakes.”

        Applejack felt her jaw go slack. “Ah’m in charge of makin’ volcanoes an’ earthquakes???”

        “Among other things, yes.” Celestia chuckled.

        Applejack blinked several times before taking her hat (which still fit on her head, thankfully) off. “Hoo boy...Ah’m gonna need a nap after all this is done.”

“What about me?” Rainbow inquired eagerly.

        “You, Rainbow Dash, have a task very fitting for an alicorn such as yourself. Your powers are aligned with the weather and seasons, as well as the wind, seas, rivers, and water of the world. You’re also the Princess of Loyalty, though I’m sure you already figured that much out.”

        Rainbow beamed while punching her front hooves into the air. “Awesome! I can move the oceans, haha!!”

        Pinkie Pie was practically bouncing in place as Celestia cast a warm smile towards her. “How about me, Princess? I bet I’m the Princess of Partying, right?!”

        Celestia shook her head, causing Pinkie Pie to halt in place. “No, you’re not. You’re something much greater than that, Pinkie Pie.”

        “Really?!” Pinkie gushed. “What, what is it?? Huh, huh, huh??”

“You’re powers are connected with Laughter, as well as emotions, celebrations, and lastly, hope.”

        “Hope?” Pinkie inquired, halting in mid-bounce. “Whattya mean by that?”

        “What she means, Pinkie...” Luna began. “...is that you’re powers are tied to what give ponies the abilities to do amazing things, like building cities like Manehatten; give ponies strength and will to do things they normally couldn’t do. You’re magic is very special, just like the others but, like Rarity, you’re powers are more abstract than physical.”

“Wow...” Pinkie whispered. “That sounds really...important.”

“It is.” Celestia agreed. “All of you have important tasks to take on. Luna and I will do all we can to help you as you learn to use your magic, wings, and new connection to the land .”

The six mares all gave nods of understanding.

Rarity looked down to her sister, who had curled up at her feet. “Well, Sweetie Belle...how do I look? Am I regal enough to be the Princess of Beauty?”

Sweetie Belle had a look of awe on her face. “You look really pretty, Rarity!” Sweetie Belle replied, earning a nuzzle from her older sister. “Does you being a princess make me one, too?”

Rarity chuckled a bit. “I suppose that in a way it does, doesn’t it?”

“Wow, I’m a princess! Hahaha!”

Meanwhile, Twilight had sat down so she could talk to Spike at eye-level, just like Celestia always did. “So, Spike, are you willing to be the number-one assistant for a princess now?” She smirked a little as her reptilian friend looked up suddenly, eyes widening.

The baby dragon gave Twilight a hopeful grin. “You mean it? I can still help you out with things?”

“Of course you can! After all, who’s going to help me organize all those books in the Canterlot library? I’m sure Owlowicious would be willing to move here, but he’s only one owl.”

Spike jumped towards his dear friend and wrapped his tiny arms around her neck. Twilight all to happily accepted the hug, glad to see Spike in good spirits despite all the big changes they had gone through in the past couple of hours.

The two sisters smiled at the sight. Luna eventually cleared her throat to get their attention. “You will all have the rest of the day to enjoy to yourselves. I have several of our more experienced guards stationed near here, and if any of you need a tour of the castle, feel free to ask them. Although...Twilight, I believe you’re pretty familiar with the place, are you not?”

The lavender alicorn nodded once. “I know most of the palace pretty well, though I also know there are rooms that I wasn’t allowed into for various reasons.”

Luna gave a satisfied nod to the lavender alicorn. “Good. If anything, perhaps you could give the others a brief tour of the castle?”

“I’d love to.”

“Wonderful.” Celestia smiled. “Tomorrow during midday you six will introduce yourselves to the Canterlot ponies at the central plaza. No formal speeches need to be prepared, sharing a word or two with the ponies would be a wise idea.”

The six mares, unicorn filly, and dragon all exited the room, leaving Celestia and Luna alone. The Princess of the Sun gave a content sigh as she watched the door close behind her. “I’m glad they’re taking all of this well. I was worried they would be unwilling to do this.”

“Well, they haven’t really had to do any governing yet. Give them time, Celly.”

Celestia frowned a little, but it was more of a look of acceptance than worry on her face. “I suppose you’re right, Luna. I won’t lie, though, I’m particularly worried for Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy. They’re going to be taking on jobs normally done by many ponies at one time, or in the case of Twilight, a task that has never been done before.”

        “I’m sure they’ll do fine, Celly.” Luna said reassuringly. “Come on, we’d better make sure that dinner is being prepared.”

        “Ah, right, right. We had better make sure those apple pies are coming along well, too. I’ve heard that Applejack’s very critical about meals involving anything with apples.”

        “I can’t imagine why.” Luna joked, earning a laugh from her elder sister.


End of Prologue Part I

A/N: I usually don’t do this for my stories, but I figured this one was deserving of an author’s note. This story is more of an episodic deal, though the chapters will be related to one another in several ways as well. The chapters may focus on one character, two, or several. After the prologue is over, this is how I plan to work on the story, just so you’re all aware. Thanks for reading!

Next Chapter: Prologue- Part 2


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Prologue Part II: Adjusting

        Applejack awoke with the first rays of morning light, just as she always did. She had slept surprisingly well, despite being in a place she was mostly unfamiliar with. The luxurious bed was most likely the cause behind her restful sleep.

Who knew that pegasi down made for such comfortable pillows?

        Stretching her legs as she slipped out from her covers, she almost fell to the ground. Still getting adjusted to her new body frame, she took careful steps towards the bathroom connected to her bedroom. She quickly began washing her face and combing her mane before tying it into a loose ponytail. For a finishing touch, the alicorn picked up her stetson hat, only to pause and look at her long horn resting on top of her head. She sighed before setting the hat back on its hanger. “Looks like I’ll have to get Rarity to look into makin’ adjustments for my hat later.”

She turned towards the door leading out and opened it, only to be greeted by a stallion in golden armor. One of the Royal Guard ponies, if their appearance was any indication. “Um...can I help you, sir?”

        The guard gave a curt bow. “Good morning, your Highness. I’m Captain Spark Fyre, and my team and I have been assigned to accompany you throughout the castle until you make your public appearance in the Canterlot central plaza later today.” The stallion looked up and smiled. Princess Twilight suggested to Princess Celestia that you may have desired someone to show you around a little, considering you live in a rather open area back in Ponyville and are still rather unfamiliar with the castle. ”

        “She did, huh...?” Applejack inquired while taking in the stallion’s features. She noticed the horn on his head, and a vibrant blue lightning bolt cutie mark. He had a dark blue coat, which contrasted greatly to his vibrant orange mane. He appeared to be middle-aged, and while his posture spoke of years of service in the Royal Guard, he had a rather laid back look in his eyes.

        “Correct, Milady, though she meant no insult to you. Several guards were directed to Princess Rainbow Dash and Princess Pinkie Pie as well. We’ll be happy to show you around the palace, if you wish. My team should be here shortly, and I can only imagine that you’re quite hungry. If you like, we can escort you to the dining hall.”

        The former earth pony turned alicorn didn’t need to give reply; her stomach did the talking. Her insides growled, and she blushed deeply while Spark Fyre simply laughed.

        “Oh, pardon me. I...I’m usually up before dawn and havin’ breakfast by this time. My stomach apparently ain’t used to this sudden change in schedule, heheh...”

        “No need to apologize, Princess Applejack. I’m an early-riser myself. I can sympathize with you there.” He turned his head at the sound of flapping wings and hooves clopping against the stone floor. “Ah, there you boys are.”

        Applejack followed the unicorn’s gaze, noticing three more stallion guards approaching them, one a pegasus and the other two being earth ponies. They all gave bows to Applejack before saluting to their superior.

        “Sorry, sir. Lightweight had to use the latrine at the last minute, and we figured it’d be better if we all appeared as a group then wait for a single pony.”

        “Right,” Spark Fyre began with an authoritative tone. “It will be overlooked this time, considering we’re running on a unplanned schedule right now.” He turned to Applejack once more and grinned. “Milady, these boys are my charges. Meet Lightweight, Scrappy, and Quick Wit. They’re the finest greenhorns to join the castle’s guard in the past five years.”

        “Geesh, Sir, you really know how to sugarcoat things.” joked one of the earth ponies, whose coat was a light brown with a copper-red mane.

        “Shut up, Scrappy, he’s trying to make us look good.” grumbled the other gray bodied, white and yellow maned earth pony, who Applejack concluded was Quick Wit.

        Applejack grinned as the three other guards gave respective bows. “Pleasure makin’ your acquaintances. Now, first order of business...you were saying somethin’ ‘bout the dining hall and breakfast?”

        “Of course. Right this way, your Highness.” Spark Fyre answered, and began making his way down the hall with Applejack close behind. The three other stallions automatically moved to flank either side of her.

        No more than two minutes passed before Spark Fyre led Applejack into a spacious dining hall. She looked around, and was surprised to see several ponies walking back and forth from a large oak table to what she could only assume to be the kitchen. The smell of pancakes, fresh fruits, and light greens wafted through the air, teasing her nostrils. Again, her stomach growled, a bit louder this time.

        “Anything in particular that you’re hungry for, Milady?” Spark Fyre asked, trying his best to stifle the chuckle in the back of his throat. “The chefs here are some of the best in Equestria, and can have almost anything you desire ready in no time.”

        The former farm pony gave a shake. “Ah’ll just have a few pancakes to start things off...maybe ten will do for starters.”

        Spark Fyre faltered. “Right, I’ll just...wait...you mean ten whole pancakes?”

        “Yep.” Applejack repeated with a nod.
        Only years of service under Celestia kept him from questioning the newly crowned princess’s eating habits. Alicorns didn’t always follow logic in his book, so this was merely another one of those incidents. “A-as you wish, Milady.” He made his way towards the kitchen while the trio of younger stallions continued to remain at Applejack’s side.”

“So...” Applejack began. “...you colts are fresh from the recruitin’ batch, huh?”

“Yes, your Highness.” Quick Wit answered.

“Must have been tough gettin’ into the service, huh?”

Scrappy snorted. “Hardly. Equestria’s been peaceful for over several hundred years        now. The need for an army is more for presence than actual defense. I went through basic training in a little over three month’s time, then got picked up by Captain Spark Fyre shortly after. Lightweight took about four months, and Quick Wit took about seven, though that’s because he was apparently qualified for special training.”

“I was sent to Advanced Military Tactical Training, Scrappy. The least you could do is know what you’re talking about before you go spouting your mouth off like that.” The earth pony guard frowned before giving a curt bow to Applejack. “One thousand pardons, your Highness. Scrappy’s a bit of an idiot at times.”

“Basic trainin’ huh? You all took different classes though, that right?” She received nods from the three stallions. “I guess that makes some sense. I wonder if...” Her voice trailed off as she spotted two familiar faces on the other side of the massive dining hall. “Well shoot, I thought I was goin’ to be the first up at this hour. Hey, Twilight!”

A lavender alicorn, who was currently occupied with looking out one of the large windows of the dining hall, perked up at the calling of her name. She, as well as the white alicorn with a flowing mane resembling the dawn’s light, both turned to the voice of the orange alicorn. “Good morning, Applejack. I was wondering when you’d be awake.”

Applejack smiled before turning to greet Celestia. She was about to bow when the Sun Princess held up a hoof. “No need for that, Applejack. As I have said before, we’re equals now. All of us.”

“Heh, right, old habits die hard, I guess...” Applejack blushed a bit. “Well, I guess I should’ve expected you to be up already, Prin...er...Celestia.”

The white alicorn gave a small smile. “I was just helping Twilight figure out how to use her new powers.”

“It’s pretty difficult...” Twilight mumbled as she looked down. “Thanks for the help, Princess Celestia.”

“You’re quite welcome, Twilight. I believe I mentioned before to you as well that you can stop with the Princess Celestia business. Celestia will do just fine.”

“I...I know, but...it still feels weird.” Twilight sighed. “You’ve always been ‘Princess’ Celestia to me.”

For a brief moment Celestia frowned, and Applejack thought she saw something in the alicorn’s eyes. A flash of sadness...maybe something else, she wasn’t sure, but before she could think further on it the Princess of the Sun smiled and gave an understanding nod. “It’s fine, Twilight, but do try to work on it. Ponies will have a harder time seeing you as a ruler if you still refer to me as a superior.

Twilight blushed a little. “I’ll try and get used to it.”

Celestia smiled gently. “That’s all I ask.” She turned her attention to the three guards who were currently arguing over some matter or another. “I see you’re getting along swimmingly with the guards. That’s good, that could help you with nominating ponies when you decide to form your Honor Guard.”

The orange alicorn blinked several times before raising an eyebrow. “Honor Guard? You mean I’m goin’ to have my own troop of ponies?”

Celestia nodded. “Correct, whatever number of guards you wish to have, within reasonable limits at least. For instance, Luna currently has about fifty soldiers in her Honor Guard. They’re your personal soldiers, and if they agree, will pledge their loyalty explicitly to you. Think of them as modern day knights.”

“Huh...that’s kinda neat, but I don’ know if I need a bunch of ponies followin’ me ‘round all the time.”

“Of course, privacy is a necessity for anypony, Applejack. They’ll more or less escort you  whenever you make a trip to some town or city, or whenever you personally attend a festival or public hearing, or whenever you’re holding court for the public.” Celestia watched the young stallions slowly making their way to Applejack’s side. “Just keep this in mind, Applejack. Your guards will keep you safe if you wish, but they’ll also be willing to offer you a friendly shoulder to lean on if you get to know them well enough.”

“What about you...um...Celestia?” Twilight asked. “How many guards do you have in your Honor Guard?”

“Ah, well right now Captain Lily Wing is the only actual soldier who serves in my Honor Guard, but I often ask other ponies to accompany me whenever I travel, with or without Luna.”

Applejack nodded before turning to see Spark Fyre approaching her, pausing to reprimand the three stallions for not acting like proper guards and keeping a good image. Her mind began to ponder on the subject. Would these four be possible candidates for her Honor Guard?

“Princess Applejack, your breakfast is ready.” Spark Fyre stated, pointing a hoof towards a healthy stack of pancakes.

Well, maybe she would focus on breakfast first.


Sweetie Belle awoke to the comforting warmth of her sister lying beside her. A single foreleg was draped over the filly while one of Rarity’s wings seemed to be blanketing her. Closing her eyes and sighing contently, Sweetie Belle snuggled closer to her sister, causing the alicorn to mumble something as she continued to lightly snore.

Rarity used to let Sweetie Belle sleep with her back when she was still only a few years old. Namely whenever there were thunderstorms or when she had a bad dream. While Rarity was a sometimes a bit of a pushy pony when it came to behaving like ‘a proper pony’, she was never above pampering her little sister. It had been that way for as long as Sweetie Belle could remember.

One azure eye opened, then another. Rarity let out a quiet yawn before looking to the sleepy mass lying beside her. Sweetie Belle gave her a soft smile before giggling.

“What’s so funny?” Rarity asked sleepily. She could see where Sweetie Belle’s eyes were looking, so she had a fairly good idea.

“You’ve got really funny bed-mane look right now.”

Typically, having a mussed up mane would cause Rarity stress to no end, but waking up in the morning was an entirely different thing for her. She simply laughed while slowly stretching her legs (and wings). “Well, you’re one to talk, Little Miss Frizzy Head.”

Sweetie Belle giggled more as Rarity ran a hoof through her messed up mane. The two eventually hauled themselves out of the luxurious bed and headed to the bathroom. She did a quick brushing job on Sweetie Belle’s mane before attending to her own. After she finished, the two made their way down the corridors leading to the dining hall. The sound of laughter could be heard echoing from within, several voices belonging to ponies Rarity easily recognized as those of her friends.

“Good morning, Princess Rarity and Lady Sweetie Belle.” greeted one of the two guards standing at the dining hall entrance.

“Good morning to you, fine sir.” Rarity and her sister gave a small curtsy. “I trust the others have already begun eating breakfast?”

“Princess Celestia is an early riser by necessity, so she ate a few hours ago, along with Princess Twilight Sparkle and Princess Applejack. I believe Princess Pinkie Pie was seen bouncing into the dining hall before I took my shift, and Princess Fluttershy just entered the dining hall no more than ten minutes ago. I’m unsure about Princess Rainbow Dash though.”

Rarity was impressed; the guards already knew their names. She would have to compliment Celestia and Luna on the quality of their guards around here. Speaking of Luna...

“Ah, what about Luna? Is she awake yet?”

The guard smiled a little before laughing. “Typically Princess Luna won’t be awake until four or five in the afternoon, sometimes earlier, sometimes much later. Her sleep cycle has always been a precarious one, according to what Princess Celestia has told us. She tends to stay up late no matter what though, and is usually holding late-night audiences for ponies because of that.”

“I see, well I’ll just have to see about getting those alterations on her dress done later. Come, Sweetie Belle, I smell pancakes.”

Sweetie Belle was all too eager to oblige.

Rarity and Sweetie Belle entered the dining hall, and were greeted to the sight of Applejack sitting in front of a rather healthy stack of pancakes saturated in maple syrup. Judging from the stack of dirty plates next to her, this wasn’t her first helping.

“Your Highness, while it’s not my place to question your diet, don’t you think that much syrup is unhealthy?”

The orange alicorn just chuckled. “Heheh, don’t you worry none, Spark Fyre. I don’ have maple syrup that often back home, so this is more of a treat for me than anything else.” She licked her lips before tying a napkin around her neck. She then turned her attention to the fork and knife lying beside the table, an apprehensive look forming on her face. She closed her eyes while her brows knitted in concentration. The silverware gave off a faint glow before rocketing into the air and embedding itself into the ceiling. Applejack’s eyes opened and she cursed before closing her eyes again. The silverware promptly dislodged itself and shot downward into the table.

“Ah, confound it, I can’t do magic for the life of me.”

Celestia, who had watched the ordeal with a small smile on her face, chuckled quietly. “Give it time, Applejack. I wasn’t that great at magic too when I was first learning. Considering that you moved the silverware on your first try says a lot. You already have a basic understanding of what you have to do. Just give it time.”

Applejack grumbled something while deciding to instead eat the good old fashion earth pony way. She took a delicate bite out of a pancake, being as careful as possible not to get any syrup on her face as she did so. She figured that with being a princess she may as well demonstrate proper table manners while eating.

As for Pinkie Pie, she was eating with a bit less etiquette, a small glob of brown sugar oatmeal adorning her face as she happily ate.

Soon Rarity and Sweetie Belle were seated at the table directly across from Celestia and Twilight. “So, Princess Celestia, I was curious as to what exactly we’ll be doing at the central plaza, other than introducing ourselves.”

“Please, Rarity, Celestia will do just fine.” Celestia said. “As far as what this public appearance goes, I will simply explain the reason for you six being alicorns now, and what changes will take place. Ponies are going to be curious when I tell them why I’m only in charge of maintaining the heat and direction of the sun’s rays, after all.” She looked to Twilight, who dropped her gaze a bit while smiling bashfully. “By the way, Twilight, that was a good first attempt at rotating the planet this morning, despite what you may think. I’m truly proud of you.”

“Thank you Pr...Celestia.” Twilight murmured while looking up. “I’ll get better, I promise.”

“I know you will, Twilight, that’s why you were chosen for this task.” Celestia gazed across the table to the other mares. “Have any of you experienced anything relating to your powers yet?”

“Well...um...” the group turned to Fluttershy, who was blushing as she noticed she was the center of attention. “I...well, when I woke up this morning I could...I’m not sure how to put this, but I felt the animals nearby. I could sense every single little bird, bunny, and insect, and pretty much everything within Canterlot. I also could tell how the plants were doing in the garden just by looking at them.” She smiled a little as she continued. “Needless to say, Mr. Hayseed is doing a wonderful job at taking care of the garden.”

The Princess of the Sun smiled. “Yes, his family has worked for the castle for almost five generations now. The Hayseeds are truly a gifted bunch of gardeners.”

“I had this weird feeling when I woke up this morning.” Pinkie Pie began as she looked up from her oatmeal. “I felt all happy one moment, then grumpy the next, then nervous, then sad. I was really, really confused, but then I was fine!” She frowned. “I thought I was going cookoo for a moment!”

“That sounds awfully confusing.” Fluttershy commented.

“I know, right? That’s why it was a weird feeling! Weirder than my pinkie-sense!” She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “I think, and this may sound crazy, that all those emotions were coming from other ponies! Like right now, I’m feeling happy, but in the back of my mind I’m annoyed too. That’s probably from Applejack because she’s got bad table manners, hehehe!” She giggled as the orange mare cast a weak glare towards her direction. “Come on, AJ, there’s no reason to be a slumpy-grumpy! It’s a new day, and we’re going to introduce ourselves to the ponies of Canterlot!!”

Despite being upset with her inability to control her magic, Applejack managed to find herself smiling. Whether it was because of Pinkie Pie’s magic or just the way the party pony was able to make you smile, she didn’t know, but it was working. “Yer right, Sugarcube. I’ll get this magic stuff down soon enough.”

Rarity and Applejack both felt no developments in relation to their new powers today, but Celestia assured them it would come with time. It was almost eleven in the morning when one Rainbow Dash trotted slowly into the dining hall, yawning every couple of steps while rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “Mornin’...”

The mares couldn’t help but snicker at Rainbow’s appearance. Her wild mane was matted on one side and sticking up in random spots while feathers were poking out in odd directions, indicating she had been tossing in her sleep.

“Well, you look like you slept well.” Twilight commented as she tried to suppress a laugh.

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. My hair is a mess, so what?” She slumped down into her seat and helped herself to some wheat bread and raspberry jam.

“Ohhh, now I’m feeling frumpy. Rainbow Dash, cheer up!”

The chromatic alicorn sighed while rubbing her eyes. “Nn...gimme a few minutes.”

After the ponies had finished their first meal of the day, Celestia urged them to all go about preparing themselves for the public appearance, which would be held in less than a couple of hours.


Before they knew it, it was one in the afternoon and the six newly crowned princesses were standing outside the main doors leading out to Canterlot. The mares all had varying looks about them, from Pinkie Pie’s exuberant bouncing to Fluttershy’s nervous scratching at the carpet while trying to appear as small as possible.

Celestia, who was standing before them all, gave them what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “Girls, don’t worry. I’ll do most of the talking, alright? If anypony has questions directed towards any of you in particular, you can choose to answer them if you wish, though I’d recommend keeping the answers as brief as possible.” She looked over all of them once more, her smile growing slightly. “You all look wonderful, by the way.”

The six had decided to wear their respective Elements of Harmony, along with adornments selected by Luna and Celestia themselves. Their regalia matched that of Celestia and Luna’s though there were a few subtle differences if one looked.

Twilight wore a golden chest plate and shoes that were complimented by a small cape tied around her waist that shined a brilliant lavender hue. The tiara of Magic rested on top of her head, sparkling in the natural light that shined through the windows of the castle, making her appear more regal than she could have ever thought possible.

Rainbow Dash wore her necklace of Loyalty and golden regalia like that of Twilight. In place of a crown were golden leaves that strongly resembled those that were part of her Grand Galloping Gala outfit.

Pinkie Pie’s blue necklace of Laughter was easily visible in contrast to her pink coat. She wore a gold crown and had a chest plate and shoes that were a vibrant, metallic pink hue that matched the color of her mane.

Fluttershy wore no crown, opting instead for a small forehead tiara and regalia of silver that resembled Luna’s own design. The tiara had a raindrop diamond of pink that hung loosely to the woven jewelry, complimenting the yellow alicorn’s graceful figure perfectly. Her butterfly shaped necklace of Kindness could be seen hanging around her neck as well for a finishing touch.

Applejack was dressed modestly compared to the others, wearing only a chest plate and shoes made of gold. She had her stetson hat tied around her neck by a string that was accompanied by the Element of Honesty, and it appeared that the orange pony had taken the time to groom her mane, which was now gleaming in the midday sunlight.

Last was Rarity, who had dressed up the most of the group. The first piece of regalia that the two sisters suggested to her was a golden crown similar to the one that rested on Celestia’s head. Aside from this, she had on an elegant, feathered cape of royal blue that draped her sides and decorative leg armor of bright violet. Her necklace of Generosity shined vibrantly against her white fur coat.        

“Well,” Celestia began. “We had best not keeping our citizens waiting.”

        The seven princesses were quickly surrounded by guards of varying rank and decorum as the doors opened. The iron hinges creaked under the strain before several Royal Guard ponies moved forward, followed by Celestia, then the other six.

        “Alright, ponies!” barked out a feminine voice. The six alicorns looked ahead to see that Captain Lily Wing was the owner of the voice. “This is a standard crowd control and escort procedure, but with our new co-rulers we need to cover more ground. If I so much as see a stray leaf touch their backs, I’ll have every single one of you running hay bails up and down Canterlot peak until sundown tomorrow! Are we clear?!”

        “Sir, yes, sir!” shouted the guards, causing Fluttershy to jump.

        “Good. Now, forward, march!!”

        Within seconds the small herd of ponies was marching out of the castle and towards the actual city of Canterlot. The denizens of the capital stopped to gaze briefly at Celestia before returning to whatever task they were taking care, only to do a double take when they noticed six new alicorns following behind her. By the time they reached the central plaza, a small crowd of mostly unicorns, a few pegasi, and the occasional earth pony, was following behind them. The Royal Guard parted at the front to allow Celestia and the other six to make their way towards a small platform. Celestia walked up to the center of the white stone platform before looking to Twilight and the others, giving them an expectant smile.

        Twilight was the first to join her side, along with Pinkie Pie, and then the rest of the alicorn mares. Celestia gazed over the large mass of equines now gathered around the platform while the Royal Guard stood at all points, providing a barrier between the princesses and the public.

        “Do we really need these many guards, your Majesty?” asked Rarity in a whisper. “I mean...I know we’re part of the reason for the large number, but still...”

        Celestia gave a small nod while keeping her gaze on the growing crowd of Canterlot inhabitants. “Unfortunately, Rarity, the crowds can grow excited quickly if I bring news, good or bad, to them. Luna nearly had a panic attack when she was swarmed shortly after she returned, and you can imagine how that must have been after ages of isolation...”

        Rarity blinked before looking forward, only to gasp. In the span of a minute, the plaza had become flooded with ponies. It was like they were riding on the waves of a pastel sea.

        Celestia raised a hoof in a gesture requesting the ponies to quiet down. The citizens slowly quieted, though there was still the background buzz of individual conversations that could be heard. “Greetings, everypony.” Celestia smiled brightly as the ponies all slowly bowed to her while she gave a respectful nod in return. “I come to you all with wonderful and exciting news. In case any of you had not yet noticed, there are six more alicorns beside me today. Some of you may recognize them, others may not. Today, I am honored to introduce you to your future co-rulers of Equestria!”

        The crowd erupted into gasps, shouts of excitement and confusion, and even a scared whinny or two. She raised her hoof, though it took much longer for the crowds to grow quiet this time. “These six mares standing before you are the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, and as most of you I hope know, the ones responsible for defeating Nighmare Moon and helping return my beloved sister to us all.” She repeated the silencing gesture again, a patient smile still on her face as she waited for them to let her continue. “The Elements of Harmony have dictated that the world shall begin going through various changes, and that new rulers are needed to help guide the planet.” She took a step to the side before continuing her speech. “Ladies and gentleponies, I present to you the Spirits of Harmony, and new co-rulers of Equestria!”

        There was an eruption of cheers that had reached deafening levels. Celestia simply looked to the six and smiled before nodding. Twilight took the cue and stepped forward while trying to quell the butterflies dancing in her stomach. She applied a small level of magic to her vocal chords to help amplify her voice. “Good day, everypony. I-I am Twilight Sparkle, and I was actually born and raised here in Canterlot.” She gave a small nod as the crowds continued to stomp the ground in applause. “I...look forward to my new calling, and will do all I can to serve the kingdom!”

        She quickly backed up, almost stumbling into Celestia, who managed to catch her with a hoof. The lavender alicorn gave her an embarrassed grin before looking to the rest of her friends. They all looked about as nervous as she was, their eyes glued to the crowd before them. Just when she was beginning to worry, Pinkie Pie bounced forward in a single hop and spoke. “Hi, everyone! I’m Pinkie Pie, and I’m really, really excited to help run the kingdom! Oh, before I forget, we’ll be throwing a HUGE party in the castle when I get a date set up, and everypony is invited! Free cake and ice cream for everyone! See you there!!”

        The crowd went quiet, the occasional grunt of confusion being heard in the mass of ponies.

        Then one pony, a young unicorn stallion, shouted. “Yeah! Party at Canterlot Castle!!”

        The crowd decided to go with the flow, and once more erupted into cheers. Pinkie Pie grinned from ear to ear and flared her wings while joining the celebration. She eventually took her place in the back, but not before giving Rarity a nudge forward.

        “Goodness, Pinkie, was that really necessary? A true princess wouldn’t be so-” She almost bit her tongue as she faced the masses. “Er...” She cleared her throat, took a calming breath, and spoke. “Salutations, my fellow ponies. I am Rarity, and it is truly an honor to be given this responsibility. I look forward to getting to know this wonderful city better, as well as the rest of Equestria.” She gave a low curtsy. “Princess Rarity is at your kingdom’s service!”

        As the crowd continued their applause, Rainbow Dash decided to take her turn. She grinned before flaring her wings fully, eliciting several ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s from the ponies. “Hey, everypony, my name is Rainbow Dash, winner of last year’s Best Young Flyer Competition!” There were a few cheers from the crowd, namely the pegasi. She grinned while continuing. “I promise that I’ll do my absolute best as a princess of Equestria, and I never go back on my word!” She smiled brightly as the crowd continued cheering, and even gave a little kick into the air with her forelegs before turning around and joining the others.

Applejack and Fluttershy were frozen in place. Fluttershy’s eyes darted from one corner of the plaza to the other while Applejack was staring off in space, her mind racing.

        “Fluttershy...” Celestia whispered. “Go on. We’re right here with you.”

        “Eep!” the yellow alicorn shrunk back a little. She looked up to see the reassuring smiles of Pinkie, Rainbow, Twilight, and Rarity. Her confidence grew a little, and she slowly made her way to the front. “U-um...” The crowd grew incredibly silent as the ponies struggled to hear her. “H-h-hello. M-my name is...Fluttershy. I...um...well, I’m honored to be made a princess of Equestria...I guess...” She slowly backed up. “Th-thank you.”

        Among the applause, several adoring ‘aww’s’ could be heard. She was thankful that Rarity decided to rest a wing over her, providing her with something to hide under.

        The orange alicorn blinked, realizing she had yet to introduce herself. Even Fluttershy managed to muster up enough courage to speak in front of all these ponies! She sucked in a deep breath before exhaling slowly. She stepped forward, knees a little wobbly, and spoke. “Hi, everypony. Mah name is Applejack, an’ before yesterday I was just yer run o’ the mill farmer who helped tend to Sweet Apple Acres over in Ponyville.” She grinned as several faces in the crowd lit up in recognition of the orchard name. “Now, I might not be experienced in the whole bureaucracy thing an’ what have you, but I promise to learn my role and help out in whatever way I can. Thank you.” She gave a slow nod as the ponies continued to cheer, several even letting out a whoop and ‘yeehaw’, followed by hats being thrown into the air.

        Celestia beamed brightly at the orange mare before stepping forward. Applejack gave a small nod before walking back to her place beside her friends. The Princess of the Sun waited until the cheers died down before speaking once again.

The Princess of the Sun spoke at length of how she and her sister would continue to assist in the running of the kingdom, but also made it clear that the other six were true rulers of Equestria and were to be respected as such.  “Thank you for giving us your time, my little ponies. These changes will take time, mind you, and my sister and I will do all we can to help your new co-rulers learn their responsibilities. I ask that you all welcome them with the kindness that Equestria is known for. Thank you, and I wish you all a pleasant rest of the day!”

        A final cheer that dwarfed all previous ones shook the plaza, rattling the bones of the six mares as they gave courteous nods to their new subjects. Within less than ten minutes, the Royal Guard had managed to create a path back to the castle, and usher the royal ponies back within the white stone walls.

        As soon as they were inside the castle walls, Celestia turned to Lily Wing. “Thank you for your help today, Captain. You may have the rest of the day off.” Celestia said as she walked into the castle entrance chambers. “Oh, and send a messenger to find Lady Sweetie Belle. I believe she was escorted to the central plaza by Azure Skye and Stalwart to the plaza, right Rarity?”

        Rarity gave a nod. “Yes, I wanted to avoid her becoming caught up in the publicity. Poor dear would be overwhelmed and I fear she’d get panicky. Captain Azure Skye said she would be waiting in the southern gate entrance chambers with my sister if I remember correctly.”

        Celestia turned back to Lily Wing, who simply gave a salute before going to find a messenger pony to retrieve Sweetie Belle.

        “Celestia?”

        The ancient equine looked to see Applejack shuffling her hooves distractedly. “Yes, Applejack?”

        “Ah...” She took in a deep breath before continuing. “How many public appearances like that will we have to make?”

        “Well, I know how it feels to make a speech in front of so many ponies, but I think it would be a good idea to at least visit a few of the other towns and cities of Equestria. Manehatten will be an necessary one, as will Fillydelphia, perhaps we’ll also stop by Hoofington. I like to call those cities the ‘Big Three’ since they hold the three largest populations respectively within the kingdom.”

        “W-wait, we’re going to have to visit Manehatten???” Rainbow spoke up, her voice shaky as her knees. “I...uh, can we maybe make that the last visit?”

        Celestia tried to hide the amusement in her voice from the distraught ponies. “It’s alright, Rainbow Dash. I promise that you’ll have all the time you need to prepare a speech for a city like Manehatten. I used to be afraid of public speaking, too.”

        Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Really? Prin...Celestia, you’re so good at it though. Why would you be afraid of something like that? Everypony respects you so much.”

        Celestia chuckled while looking out a window to the midday sky. “Truth be told, Twilight, back when Luna and I had first become the diarchs of Equestria I was quite the stage-frightened pony. Luna was also scared stiff at the idea of speaking before crowds of hundreds of ponies, being the timid filly that she was, and I was only slightly better. While she was unable to form a single word I was able to form a half-way coherent sentence if I was lucky.” She sighed. “However, the staff of the castle at the time helped tutor me on proper public speaking, what to do and what not to do, among other things. You remember the Equine Manifesto, don’t you Twilight?”

        “Oh, yes, it’s probably one of the most passionate speeches you’ve ever given!” Twilight’s eyes lit up, and Celestia realized a little too late what she had unleashed. “The desire for civil rights to be a given right and not a privilege to everypony, the wish for treaties to be rewritten with the neighboring lands, and have equal representation of the various pony settlements in the Equestrian parliament-”

        A gentle hoof rested on the lavender alicorn’s shoulder. She paused to see Celestia giving her a look that hid laughter, asking her to hold off on her praise for now. “Um...yes, I remember your speech.”

        A few of the mares laughed quietly while Twilight blushed. Celestia just nodded before continuing. “Right, and while you may view it as one of my best works of writing, I will be the first to admit that it had taken me almost a year to muster up the courage to deliver it to the ponies of Equestria. I kept putting it off, or lost my nerve, but eventually several dozen of the castle attendants and guards decided to serve as my first audience. I began small, then more ponies would listen, until eventually I was giving the speech to the entire city of Fillydelphia, which at the time was the largest city in Equestria.”

She gained a far-off look for several moments before laughing. “When Luna returned, one of the first things she read was that speech. She couldn’t believe that I had managed to give such a speech in front of so many ponies. It was a radical proposition on the change of government, and it was given in front of the largest population of ponies at the time.” She smiled. “Luna’s still a bit shy in regards to public appearances, unfortunately, but her desire to be with her fellow ponies and the craving to learn about all the changes in society that she missed out on has stamped out most of that fear.”

“So you see, girls, while it can be a bit intimidating to stand before enormous crowds of ponies and give a speech, the only way one can get better at it is with practice.”

“Well I thought it was lots of fun! We got to see a whole bunch of new ponies, and now they all know about the party in the castle! It’s going to be so much fun!” Pinkie Pie cheered.

Celestia found her smile widening a little as the pink alicorn giggled. “Yes, Pinkie Pie, that’s very true. Your ability to stand before such a large crowd without the slightest bit of insecurity is a true mark of your ability to connect with other ponies.”

        “I just thought about what I wanted to say, and said it! That’s all.” Pinkie Pie beamed. “My Granny Pie always told me that I shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, because I can only learn from them!”

        “That’s a wise bit of advice, Pinkie Pie.” Celestia agreed. “Perhaps you can help the others learn to conquer their stage fright?”

        “Ohhhh, I’d love to!”

        Further conversation was cut off as the doors opened. A messenger pony cleared his throat before speaking. “Your Majesties, Lady Sweetie Belle has arrived.”

        The young unicorn filly walked into the chamber, followed by two stallions who the six could only assume were Azure Skye and Stalwart. Upon seeing Rarity, Sweetie Belle quickened her pace before reaching her sister and embracing her. “That was a great speech, Rarity!”

        While the fashionista wasn’t entirely in agreement with the claim, the praise still meant a lot to her when it came from Sweetie Belle. She nuzzled her sister before speaking to the guards. “I trust she was well behaved?”

        Azure Skye, a rather muscular pegasus, gave a small smile. “Lady Sweetie Belle was a perfect model of how a proper filly behaves...” He gave the little filly a sly grin before continuing. “...though I think she’s a little jealous of Princess Celestia’s ‘pretty mane’, as she so eloquently put it.”

        Sweetie Belle gasped. “Azure, you said you wouldn’t tell!”

        The stallion laughed. “No, Stalwart said that. I never made such a promise.”

        Now embarrassed and blushing, Sweetie Belle hid behind her sister’s legs as Celestia looked down to her with that ever-present smile of hers. “Thank you for the compliment, Sweetie Belle. You shouldn’t be jealous, though; your mane is just as beautiful.”

        Sweetie Belle gave out a bashful thanks before walking out from under Rarity’s legs. After the laughter had calmed down, Celestia decided to speak up. “Well, I suppose now is as good a time as any to get you all acquainted with some of the duties you’ll have to perform during the time that the castle is open to the public.” With that, Celestia lead them to the throne room while explaining the intricacies of being a co-ruler of Equestria.


        One day had passed since the public appearance in Canterlot, and already Twilight found herself sitting beside Luna during the late hours of the castle’s public hours. She was listening intently as a young mare from Fillydelphia nervously asked for some funding towards in agricultural research which would hopefully lead to better yields of corn and wheat for future harvests. She explained the details to Twilight, the lavender alicorn and Princess of the Moon both studying the visual aids their visitor provided as the mare continued to explain how much this would cost to fund.

        “...I realize this is a bit of a risky project to fund, but...if we can get the irrigation system made and the natural fertilizer is a success...then we could feed twice as many ponies throughout all of Equestria within six years’ time.” the Earth pony, Twilight believed was named Silver Trowel, finished her presentation and gave the princesses a hopeful look.

        Luna smiled after setting the small pamphlet down, and turned to Twilight. “Well, I think this is a good venture to invest in, don’t you?”

        Twilight studied the pamphlet floating before her more intently before looking to the mare kindly. “Silver Trowel, correct?”

        “Y-yes, Princess Twilight Sparkle.” the Earth pony replied with a bow.

        Twilight hummed as she looked up to the ceiling in thought. “I think this is a good idea as well, however...I’m not entirely certain about this irrigation system, if only because of the possibility that it could fail, or that the fertilizer could drain into the water itself and possibly get into the local drinking water.”

        Silver Trowel sighed. “Yes...there is a risk involved, but as I mentioned, the rewards if this research project were to be a success would be great.”

        “How much of this were you asking the Royal Treasury to fund?”

        Silver Trowel looked down. “About...about seventy percent, your Highness. It would come out to about seven hundred-fifty thousand bits, perhaps a bit more.”

        Luna gave a nod. “That is a reasonable sum of money, and considering the amount of work you’d be putting into this, I can understand the costs.” She looked towards her co-ruler. “What’s on your mind, Twilight?”

        “Well...” Twilight looked towards the door leading to the royal chambers where most of the others were sleeping. “I think that while this is a good idea, you could probably benefit from inquiring further on the matter with Princess Applejack. She’s a splendid farmer, and considering what her domain of magic encompasses, she would probably know a few things about irrigation farming. Still, I think we can provide this much money for your group’s research, Miss Silver Trowel. You have my approval.”

        “As do I. Considering we are the only two giving audience right now for open court, I believe that means you’re request has been accepted.” Luna smiled as the young mare standing before her beamed.

        “Oh, th-thank you, your Majesties! I-I will be sure to seek out Princess Applejack’s advice on the matter during my stay in Canterlot. If by chance, would either of you know when she’s available?”

        “She’s typically awake by dawn, and I’m sure if you can get here early enough, whoever is holding court at the time can find her for you.”

        Silver Trowel bowed again as Twilight and Luna filled out the proper paperwork stating she had their approval for funding from the Royal Treasury, and made her way out shortly after.

        Twilight looked at the clock. “A quarter after nine already?” She sighed. “We go until ten, right?”

        “Yes, but we usually end early, considering we rarely get any ponies after eight at night.” Luna replied before looking to the pony guards at the door. “Are there any other visitors?”

        “Yes, Milady. A unicorn couple by the names of Night Light and Shimmer Tail.”

        Luna noticed Twilight visibly perk up at the mention of the guests’ names. “My parents are here?” She looked to the Princess of the Night and smiled. “I...Princess...you don’t mind if-?”

        Luna chuckled. “Not at all. As I said, we’re usually done with most business by eight. Do you want some time alone with the family?”
        “No, please, I’d actually love to introduce you to them.” Twilight nodded to the guard. “Please let them enter.”

        The doors opened, and sure enough, there were Twilight's parents. The lavender alicorn hopped down from her seat at the throne and met her parents halfway. She was met with a welcoming embrace from the two unicorns.

        “Well, Shimmer, I never expected our little girl to get this big.” Night Light joked with a smile. “We just got your letter today. We had been gone on vacation for the past week in Hoofington, and got back a little over an hour ago.”

        Shimmer Tail nuzzled her much taller daughter and smiled. “We just...we couldn’t believe it, so we had to see it for ourselves.” Twilight watched as her mother began tearing up. “Oh, Twilight...your father and I are so proud of you.”

        Twilight blushed a bit as Shimmer Tail began to nuzzle her gently while calling her ‘my little baby filly’. She looked over her shoulder to see Luna watching in amusement, saying nothing while her eyes twinkled with hidden laughter.

        “Um...Mom, Dad, this is Princess Luna.”        

The two unicorns bowed while Luna gave them nods. “A wonderful pleasure to finally meet the Princess of the Night, your Highness.” Night Light commented. “I’m actually a part of the staff at the Canterlot Observatory, and a major fan of your work, namely the nebulae. It’s amazing how many newly formed stars can cluster together in such a small area, considering how large they end up becoming when they’re fully formed.  I’m particularly fascinated by how well you’ve managed to make the Horsehead Nebula look so detailed when it’s seen in front of the hydrogen gas clouds at-”

        “Dear, you’re doing it again.” Shimmer Tail said with a tolerant smile. Night Light blinked before giving an apologetic smile.

        “My deepest apologies, your Majesty. I tend to go off on tangents when I get caught up with discussions.” He looked to his much taller daughter and grinned. “I think Twilight got that from me. Luckily her mother’s looks more than make-up for it.”

        “Daaad...” Twilight groaned while the blue unicorn stallion chuckled good-naturedly.

        Luna seemed to be enjoying the family’s interactions, though. “Your daughter has been a truly helpful mare for my sister and I. I owe her much, and it is a true honor to be working beside her.”

        Shimmer Tail and Night Light blinked several times, surprised by the midnight alicorn’s words. “W-well, that’s wonderful to hear, you’re Highness.” Twilight’s mother stated while looking to her daughter and giving her a proud smile of her own. “Though I do think Princess Celestia had just as much of a part in helping Twilight grow up.”

        It could have been a trick of the dimmed lighting of the throne room, but for a moment Luna thought she saw sadness in the eyes of the two parents as they looked to Twilight, who was currently occupied with adjusting the Tiara of Magic on her head. Whether they were troubled by something or not, Luna barely had time to think on it as the two unicorns continued to talk with their daughter. Eventually, Luna returned to her spot in the throne while Twilight and her parents went off to one end of the hall and had a more private chat. By the time Twilight returned to Luna, it was close to midnight. Night Light and Shimmer Tail each gave Luna a deep bow before exiting the throne room and telling Twilight they’d stop by later this week when she was available.

        Luna turned her attention to her peer, and was taken by surprise when she saw Twilight quietly shedding tears. “Twilight Sparkle, what’s wrong?”

        The lavender alicorn smiled, though, much to her surprise. “H-huh? Oh!” She wiped her eyes with a wing. “It’s...childish, really.”

        “I doubt that is the case. Please, tell me.”

        Twilight sighed. “I haven’t spoken to my parents in person for over five years, Luna. We’ve kept in contact with each other through letters. Spike transfers letters from me to my parents in the same fashion that he does with Princess Celestia, and vice versa.” She frowned a little. “Oh, I wish he was awake right now. Mom and Dad would have loved to see how much he’s grown up in the past couple of years.”

        While Luna wasn’t a pony to judge, she couldn’t help but ask the following. “Why such a long time since you’ve spent time with your parents?”

        Twilight smiled sadly. “My parents are both very busy ponies. While they work for the capital, they also do a lot of field work for Equestria as well. My father travels across the land to map out stars and make observations with his telescope while my mother is an magical theory researcher as well as a philosopher. That’s...part of the reason why I was allowed entry into Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. In place of paying the rather hefty enrollment fee, the school instead gave me an aptitude test. I passed, obviously, and got to keep Spike and help take care of him.”

        Luna was surprised by this. “My sister has a fee for teaching magic?” She shook her head. “She never told me of this...it doesn’t sound like her at all, though. I don’t mean to be a flatterer or anything, but Celly’s always been quite the philanthropist. If it weren’t for the ponies’ insistence, Celestia and I would not even be wearing these crowns and regalia.”

        “From what I remember, Princess Celestia told me she didn’t like the enrollment fee either, but it does help pay for the professors a little, and help maintain the school.”

        “Ah, I suppose that makes sense.”

        An awkward silence permeated through the room for several long moments before the lavender alicorn spoke up again. “Princess Luna...?”

        Luna would have corrected Twilight’s formality, but looked over the matter, having sensed the hesitancy in Twilight’s voice. “Yes, Twilight?”

        “I...” She frowned before forcing a smile onto her face. “Never mind. It’s nothing important.”

        The midnight alicorn could have seen the forced smile on her peer’s face from a mile away. “Twilight, what’s wrong?”

        The lavender alicorn  answered with a shake of the head. “Oh, there isn’t anything wrong, just something silly that I was just curious about...but I think I already know the answer.”

        “Really?” Luna wasn’t convinced.

        Twilight nodded. “Yes, I...” She became interested in a spot on the floor suddenly, and her voice dropped ever so slightly. “...like I said, it’s nothing important.”

        Deciding not to press further on the matter, Luna instead changed the subject towards the progress Twilight made in her new magical powers. The lavender mare visibly perked up at this, and began to tell her what she had experienced with her new powers over the past couple of days.

        Despite the change in atmosphere, Luna couldn’t help but feel a nagging sensation in the back of her mind. Twilight had been troubled by something, and still was from what she could tell. She would have to consult Celestia about it, or perhaps one of her new co-rulers.

        For now, though, she only wished to enjoy her time with Twilight Sparkle.


One week later...

        Celestia finished listening to a stallion from Hoofington who merely wished to have some renovations done on a rather out of date cobblestone road. The costs would be rather cheap, and Celestia saw no real reason why the request couldn’t be accepted. So, she quickly signed the proper forms and turned her attention to the pony sitting beside her.

        Pinkie Pie was entertaining one of the ponies waiting to be heard with a tale of an apparent baking mishap about a year ago involving muffins. The event was nothing short of a historical event in Ponyville, according to what she had told them.

        “...so I decided to not let Applejack help with baking at the Sugarcube Corner anymore unless she got her rest. The silly-filly was so stubborn and grumpy about getting all those apple trees bucked, even though she was all bucked out!”

        The unicorn, who appeared to be a Canterlot local, raised an eyebrow. “I say, that is quite a unfortunate mishap. Surely all the ponies recovered from those muffins, yes?”

        “Oh sure! In fact, those muffins are a real hit with non-pony customers, namely dragons...too bad we don’t get many dragon customers in Ponyville.” Pinkie giggled. “Could you imagine how much we’d need to make for a big old dragon? Hehehehe, we’d need a couple wagons of flour and sugar!”

        Celestia enjoyed the scene, watching as the stallion and the other ponies nearby chuckled at the thought. “My word, a dragon-sized muffin? Good heavens, we’d need a whole wheat field just to make a baker’s dozen.”
        Pinkie Pie giggled more, and while Celestia would rather let the day pass with laughter and fun stories, she did have matters to attend to. “Excuse me, sir. Did you have something you wished to speak to us about?”

        The stallion wiped a tear from his eye after hearing a rather corny joke from Pinkie Pie involving dragon-fueled ovens before nodding. “One thousand pardons, Princess Celestia, but Princess Pinkie Pie appears to have a direct line to my funny bone.” He cleared his throat while trying to maintain his composure. His expression became a little more serious, and even Pinkie Pie could sense the pony’s demeanor change. Then again, that was part of her magic, Celestia supposed. “I was told to bring this matter up with you, seeing as it could possibly be a diplomatic issue with the griffons.”

        Celestia’s eyebrows rose. “I see. Please, go on.”

        The unicorn nodded. “You see, you Majesties, I am Finer Edge, the proprietor of The Iron Shovel. We specialize in crafting various tools for farming and digging, namely shovels and plows. Our metal ore provider is a griffon, but his company is outside of Equestria’s borders. I’ve been doing business with him for the past ten years now, and while we’ve had nothing but great business together, he’s begun to raise the costs of his ore significantly.”

        “Well, ore prices have been on the rise recently, Mister Edge.”

        The unicorn shook his head. “Yes, but that’s besides the point. You see, we drew up our contract for the year and he sells his ore to me for a set price per half ton, and it stays that way until next business year when we write up a new contract and negotiate the price.” He paused, receiving nods from both princesses to continue. “There’s no loophole in the contract that says he can do that, so he’s creating problems and breaching our contract by doing so. I’ve brought this to his attention on three separate occasions, but all have been met with a refusal to lower the price.”

        Celestia became silent for several long moments. She looked to Pinkie Pie and smiled before speaking. “What do you think we should do about this, Pinkie Pie? We have a pony who is being treated unfairly and a griffon who only wishes to be able to maintain their business. This is a delicate situation, as you can probably already tell.”

        Pinkie Pie only grinned. “Maybe we can visit them, or have them visit us? If we just talk to them about it, we could probably get a lot done, don’t you think?”

        “With all due respect, your Majesty, the Griffon kingdom is a good couple of days flight from here, and that could be more if they travel with chariot.” spoke up Finer Edge.

        Pinkie frowned, resting her chin on a hoof and humming. “Well...” She perked up. “If we invite them to Canterlot and throw them a party, maybe they would come anyway! Not a big one, but maybe just a few ponies and griffons...I just hope they’re not like Gilda...”

        The elder princess gained a thoughtful look before nodding to herself. “Mister Edge, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’ll see to it that proper actions are taken. If you would leave us a way to contact you when this matter is settled, that would be greatly appreciated.”

        Finer Edge quirked an eyebrow. “Your Majesty, what do you plan on doing?”

        Celestia just smiled. “I believe Pinkie Pie and perhaps myself as well will be taking a short vacation to the Griffon Kingdom. I must admit that quite a bit of time has passed since I last paid them a visit.”

        An hour later found Pinkie Pie and Celestia making their way towards the gardens where they had planned on having a light lunch with the others. When they arrived they found a small picnic table to be occupied by their fellow co-rulers.

        Pleasantries were shared, most of the talking being done between Rarity, Twilight, Pinkie, and Celestia while the others threw in a little conversation once in awhile.

        “So Sweetie Belle seemed quite excited about going to school this morning. Something about giving a report on a family member.” Rarity giggled while dabbing her face with a napkin to wipe away a few stray crumbs of wheat bread. “I only wish that I knew more about my duties so I could give her a more thorough explanation of what I do for the community.”

        A rather loud sigh could be heard from the other end of the table, and Pinkie Pie was the first to speak. “Applejack, are you okay?”

        “Ah’m fine, Sugarcube.”

        Pinkie Pie frowned. “No you’re not.”

        “It’s nothin’, just a little tired, that’s-”

        “Applejack, you’re making me sad just by looking at you, and that’s without listening to my magic.”

        The orange alicorn gave her a weak glare before grumbling. “Well, since you’re so curious...” She set down her hat, which now had a hole to allow her horn to stick through, and continued. “Ah actually got a letter ‘bout two days ago from Big Mac. He...well, he suggested that Apple Bloom interview me for the same report for school, what with me bein’ a princess and all. Apple Bloom flat out refused to, and when Big Mac asked her why she just said she didn’ want to, and stormed off to her room.”

        “Oh dear...did he find out what was wrong?” Fluttershy piped in.

        “Yeah...he did.” Applejack said, her voice cracking a little. “She said that she wants to interview someone in the family that actually cares ‘bout her.”

        “Oh, Applejack...” Celestia began. “If you need to visit the family, all you need do is ask.”

        Applejack nodded. “I just...she seemed all fine with it, even after I asked her face to face if she was alrigh’ with me leavin’ for Canterlot.”

        “Maybe she was afraid to speak up? I mean...you are her older sister, and I don’t think she wanted to make you upset or worried.” Luna suggested. “Believe me, I know what it’s like to be the youngest.”

        Celestia gave Luna a small smile before returning her attention to Applejack. “The offer still stands; if you need to see the family, then there’s nothing stopping you. I want you to know that.”

        “I...I think I might need to do that. Big Mac seemed to be worried ‘bout her, too.” The orange alicorn got up from her spot and gave a weak smile. “If ya’ll don’t mind, I think I might arrange a carriage to Ponyville and leave this afternoon. Rainbow, I know you an’ I were going to visit the Royal Guard barracks together tomorrow mornin’ but that may have to wait for another day, that okay with you?”

        Rainbow Dash waved a hoof and smiled. “No problem, AJ. Just make sure Apple Bloom and you work things out, alright?”

        The orange alicorn gave a final nod before heading off to the castle, likely to arrange her departure. Soon the others excused themselves, stating they had various things to take care of as well. Only Luna and Celestia remained at the table, sharing a silent conversation with their eyes.

        Luna was the first to actually speak. “I think we need to talk to them about the long term obstacles they’ll be facing, Celly.”

        The usually radiant and ever-calm alicorn visibly slouched, her expression taking on a somber look that only one who had lived for eons could wear. “I know...it’s just...” She looked to the sun for several long moments before turning to her sister. “What if...what if they become angry with us, and hate us? It’s not like we really gave them a choice...even if they did have the option to refuse becoming an alicorn.”

        “Then that’s something we’ll just have to bear, sister.” Luna said softly. “You know what, though? I don’t think that will happen. They are some of the most remarkable ponies I’ve ever met, and...and I don’t think they’d hate us. They may be angry, yes, but...anger fades with time and understanding. You know that better than anyone.”

        The Princess of the Sun stood up and walked over to her sibling. “I wonder what I would do without you sometimes, Luna.”

        “What you did while I was on the moon, I imagine.” Luna replied with a small chuckle.

        “No, I mean...if I never had you with me to begin with. You’ve...always been that one pony that I could rely on when everything seemed to be going wrong for me.” She nuzzled the midnight alicorn and closed her eyes. “We can talk to them when Applejack comes back from seeing her family.”

        “I think we need to talk to Twilight as well, Celly. She hasn’t been showing it, but she seemed to be troubled by something when she saw her parents last week.” Luna paused for a moment as Celestia met her gaze. “I also think a certain someone needs to have an important talk with Twilight as well.”

        “I...” Celestia looked away. “That’s not an important subject at the moment.”

        “Celly...” Luna frowned. “If you don’t bring it up with her, it’ll only eat away at you more. Besides, what’s to say it wouldn’t work out between you two?”

        Celestia was quiet for several long moments. She frowned a little, but upon meeting her sister’s eyes again, gave a defeated smile. “I’ll talk to her.”

        Luna quirked an eyebrow.

        “Okay...I promise to talk to Twilight about it. Does that work for you?”

        “Mm.” Luna nodded. “I also think we should address certain things in the Canterlot Statue Garden.”

        Celestia went silent. “I...yes, I noticed it too. Looks like he’s starting to get stronger.”

        Luna just smiled. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about him. Even if he got out...well, I doubt he’d be able to do much to them.”

        The Princess of the Sun sighed. “I hope you’re right, Luna. The last thing we need is for him to be running free again.”


End of Prologue Part II

A/N: This is officially the end of the prologue, I guess. Like I stated before, these chapters will be divided on characters, and focus on them. There may be little mini-arcs, maybe not...I dunno, this could be an ongoing thing for awhile. Updates are slow for me at the moment, namely due to life and all it’s little hassles. Thanks for being so patient, and I’m sorry if any of you reading were hoping for more ‘action’ in this chapter. There will be more interaction between characters in the upcoming chapters, drama, romance at times, and maybe a fight or two.

Next up: An Applejack chapter. Deadlines, public appearances, speeches, diplomacy, controlling the earth and ground, family problems, proper etiquette...being a pony of simplicity, how will this former farm pony adjust to life as a princess of Equestria? It’s as they say after all, you can take the pony out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the pony.

Previous Chapter: Prologue-Part 1

Next Chapter: Chapter One- Applejack 1


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Applejack: The Apple Never Falls Far...

        Applejack kept her gaze glued on the horizon ahead.The clouds whipped past her as she let her thoughts wander to the current problems on her mind.

        Apple Bloom was, like most fillies of the Apple clan, proud, stubborn, yet through and through, a good hearted pony. If Big Mac’s letter was any indication though, the youngest member of Applejack’s family was not all that happy with the Princess of the Earth (a title she had apparently received if the way some of her guards addressed her was an indicator).

        “Milady?”

        Sure, she had the occasional argument with Apple Bloom, and they’ve exchanged less than pleasant words more than once, but still...

        “Er...Princess Applejack...?”

        Why didn’t Apple Bloom say anything before, though? Was she afraid that the older mare would be angry with her? Did she honestly think of Applejack as a mare with such little concern for her-

        “Princess!”

        The orange alicorn snapped out of her thoughts as the sound of a pegasus stallion brought her back to reality. “Huh? Oh...sorry ‘bout that, Lightweight. I got a lot on my mind at the moment.” She gave the young stallion a smile. “What’s the problem, Sugarcube?”

        Lightweight gave an apologetic smile and nodded. “We’re about a minute away from Ponyville. I figured you’d like to know that.”

        Applejack chanced a peek over the side of the chariot, and noticed familiar landmarks. “Huh...so we are. Well, ya’ll can just land near the city hall. I suppose the mayor would like to see me, seeing as I’m droppin’ by an’ what not.”

        Lightweight nodded, and the information was quickly relayed to the other pegasi ahead. Sure enough, less than several seconds passed before the chariot made a smooth landing within the center of Ponyville. The residents immediately took notice, most stopping in their tracks and taking a few seconds to look at the strange, yet familiar looking, alicorn.

        The pegasi guards unhitched themselves as Applejack hopped off the chariot. She insisted they not worry when they asked if she wanted to put on shoes as she walked along the dirt road leading to the city hall.

        “Our you certain, your Highness? We can go and purchase you two pairs from a local store in-”

        “Now don’ you worry ‘bout me.” Applejack spoke. “I was born an’ raised here, so it’s not like I’m suddenly unaccustom’d to walkin’ barehooved.” She chuckled when a few of the guards gave her sheepish looks. “I’ll be fine. Yer free to do as you like for the time bein’. If any ya’ll are hungry, Sugarcube Corner’s a mighty nice place to grab somethin’ for yer sweettooth.”

        Several of the guards bowed while excusing themselves and heading off to various locations within the small town. Despite her protests though, Lightweight followed her, stating it was his duty to stay beside her (and that Captain Spark Fyre would hang him by his back hooves if he found out he left Applejack to herself).

        As the orange mare approached the city hall entrance, the double doors of the building opened and the mayor walked out to greet here.

        “Appleja- excuse me, your Highness.” She gave a bow. “I wasn’t expecting you to be here. We just got a letter from Canterlot with the news a few days ago, so we haven’t been given too much time to prepare for your vis-”

        “Don’t fret none, Mayor. I’m kina here on family business for the most part, but I reckon you’d like an explanation on my visit.”

        “Oh, yes...is this about your grandmother?”

        Applejack quirked an eyebrow. “Granny Smith? No...I was here to talk with Apple Bloom. Why, what’s the matter with Granny?”

        The mayor’s eyes widened before she looked down. “Oh, I...I’m sorry. I don’t think it’s my place to-”

        “Mayor, what’s wrong with her?? Is she hurt? Did she break her hip? Oh, if she went and hurt herself while I was away...”

        “No, it’s...not anything like that, but...” The older mare sighed. “I’d recommend making your way to see your family, Applejack.”

        The alicorn didn’t even bother pointing out the mayor’s mistake in forgetting the honorifics as she turned towards Sweet Apple Acres. “Right, thanks Mayor!”

Applejack didn’t even register how fast she was galloping by the time she reached the wide expanse of Sweet Apple Acres. She slowed down as she reached the orchard, Lightweight flapping up beside her shortly after.

        “Princess, are you alright?”

        “Not sure if I should be or not, Lightweight.” She started looking around the rows of apple trees. “Lightweight, you see a big red stallion somewhere? He’s got a big ol’ green apple half on his flank and is ‘bout a hoof tall-” She paused before looking at herself. “half my size.”

        Lightweight gave a salute before flapping into the air. He took no more than several moments before flying back down and pointing towards the western field. “He’s tending to some apples over that way.”

        The duo quickly made it towards the direction Big Mac was located, and sure enough he was bucking several large trees by himself.

        “Big Mac!”

        The stallion halted in place upon hearing Applejack’s voice, and looked up. He squinted before his eyes became saucers. “AJ? T-that you, sis?”

        Applejack gave a small nod. “Hey, Big Mac.”

        The stallion blinked several times before looking at himself. “Um...wow, I heard through some of the gossipin’ mares in town ‘bout this, but I didn’t know any of it to be true...”

        “Heheh, yeah, I mighta grown a little since I left for Canterlot.”

        “A little? You’re twice my size now. C’mon inside, we’ll talk over some lunch. Um...” Big Mac eyed the pegasus beside her before nodding.

        “Ah, sorry Mac. Lightweight, this is my older brother Big Macintosh. Big Mac, this is Lightweight.”

        Lightweight gave a slight bow. “Pleasure to meet you, Lord Macintosh.”

        The farm pony gave the pegasus a quizzical look. “Lord?”

        “Well, you are a brother of Princess Applejack, are you not?” Lightweight smiled while Applejack gave her older brother a sheepish grin. “Therefore you’re of nobility by relation.”

        Big Mac was silent for several moments before he spoke again. “Hold on...does this mean I’m suppos’d to be governin’ a town or somethin’, because I have to tend to the orchard an’-”

        “Now hold on, Big Mac, you don’ have to do anything like that.” Applejack raised a hoof to calm her brother. “Shucks, Sweetie Belle’s technically a Lady of the Court, but she’s still doin’ what a filly her age should be doin’: goin’ to school and enjoyin’ her fillyhood.”

        Big Mac let out a sigh of relief. “Phew, you had me worried for a second there. Heh, I’d definitely not be fit for any royal duties.”

        “Heh, right...” Applejack adjusted her hat a little and felt her stomach rumble. “So, whattya say we go and make some lunch. Lightweight, I’d be happy to have you join us.”

        Lightweight grinned. “It’d be my honor, Milady.”

        As soon as the trio of ponies was situated in the Apple family dining room, Applejack began to tell Big Mac of what had happened since she left for Canterlot. It was a half hour later when she finally concluded her story, and Big Mac seemed to be all the more amazed with his sister.

        “Well, AJ...that’s mighty impressive. So, you’re in control of the ground itself?”

        “I guess...to be quite honest I haven’ really felt much of a magical connection or whatever since I changed into an alicorn. Princess Celestia says it’ll take time though. Lot of stuff ‘bout me gettin’ in sync with other girls’ powers and such.”

        Big Mac nodded. “Well, that’s impressive all the same.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “Hm, Apple Bloom should be back from school soon.”

        The orange alicorn’s eyes suddenly widened. “Apple Bloom...hey, Big Mac...I got that letter you sent, by the way.”

        The red stallion’s smile morphed into a frown. “Ah...I was goin’ to ask ‘bout that...” He sighed. “So I imagine yer here to talk with Apple Bloom as well, right?”

        Applejack gave a solemn nod. “I thought she was alright with me doin’ this when I talked with ya’ll before I left.”

        “She was at first...but then she started gettin’ all upset ‘bout you bein’ gone. It started with her just bein’ upset that you weren’t ‘round to help her with homework, then when “Bring A Family Member to School Day” came up...” He sighed. “I can help her just fine with math, but I’m no good with the social studies like you. I was going to go to her school for her project...but...”

        Applejack’s head drooped as she pawed the floor. “Shucks, Big Mac, I-”

        Further conversation was cut off as the front door opened. “I’m home!”

        A yellow filly with red hair trotted into the kitchen. She spotted the taller mare sitting at the table and frowned. “Sis?”

        Applejack smiled. “Hey...Apple Bloom.”

        The filly looked to Big Mac and frowned. “What’s she doin’ here?”

        “Apple Bloom, that’s no way to go an’ treat yer kin.”

        “Ah know, but up an’ leavin’ yer family ain’t any better!” Apple Bloom turned towards the staircase leading up to her room. “I bet she doesn’t even know about Granny bein’ sick!”

        “Granny Smith’s sick?” Applejack asked, her voice laced with worry while her expression became one of shock.

        “Yah see? She only cares ‘bout bein’ a princess!” Apple Bloom stormed up the steps to her room.

“Apple Bloom, get back down here this-” Big Mac’s words were cut off by the slamming of Apple Bloom’s door. “Consarn that filly...” He looked back to his sister and gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry ‘bout that, sis.”

        Applejack didn’t acknowledge the stallion’s apology. “How long has Granny been sick, Big Mac?”

        The stallion’s gaze fell to the table. “Granny’s been sick with somethin’ fierce for ‘bout a week now. I...I didn’t want to worry you none, ‘specially since yer busy with takin’ on the duties of bein’ a princess and what have you. I was goin’ to write you another letter if you weren’t able to make it...”

        “Big Mac...this is Granny we’re talkin’ ‘bout! I ain’t too busy to see my own kin when they’re sick!” She stomped a hoof on the ground to emphasize her point, causing several plates and glasses to fall out from random cupboards and shatter on the ground. She winced as she looked at the shards of broken eating ware. “Oh hayseed...guess I don’ know my own strength. Is the broom in the closet, Big Mac?”

        “Eeyup.” The stallion said while looking at the mess.

        Applejack was soon sweeping up the broken glasses and dishes with her mouth and hooves. Lightweight insisted on helping her, only to be met with stubborn refusals from the alicorn. As soon as she finished, Applejack sat back down at the table and sighed. “Right...tell me what’s goin’ on, Big Macintosh.”

        Big Macintosh sat quietly, his thoughts apparently else where. He looked up, and frowned. “I...I don’ know how else to tell ya sis...”

        “Well, just tell me. Is it the flu? The Hacks?”

        “Leukoencephalomalacia...or somethin’...”

        A cold lump dropped to the bottom of Applejack’s stomach. The name alone sounded bad to her ears. “Come again?”

        “Nurse Redheart said it...it’s spread faster than normal. Granny...” Big Mac took a ragged breath before continuing. “...s-she musta ate somethin’ bad...I don’ know, but I told the Mayor and she’s informin’ all the ponyfolk ‘bout steerin’ clear of the corn fields for awhile...”

        Applejack hardly realized that she had got up from her chair and was sitting beside her distressed brother. Usually the strong one, physically and emotionally, it was hard to watch him hold back the pain and worry in his voice.

        “They can help her, can’ they?” Applejack watched as Big Mac held his head low. “Big Mac, they can help her, right?”

        The red stallion looked up slowly, meeting his sister’s green eyes. “Sis...she’s got about a week...though it could get worse really quick. Nurse Redheart says she probably had it in her for some time before it started getting bad.”

        A week or less? “N-no...” Applejack got up from her spot. “This...this is Granny Smith! She’s the oldest pony in Ponyville! She’s gotten through darn near every sickness there is an’ bounced back like it was nothin’!”

        “Sis, it’s some kinda’ corn mold or somethin’, but it’s still pretty new to equine medicine. Nurse Redheart said...well, she said that it...it spreads fast an’ there aren’ many clear symptoms...” Big Mac shook his head. “G-Granny was the only one who ate any corn on the cob when we had ‘bout a week or so ago, an’...I-I’m just thankful Apple Bloom didn’ touch any of it...though...”

        Applejack slumped down, and didn’t even realize the tears that began to run down her cheeks. “It ain’ fair...Granny...Granny’s looked after us since we was just foals...she can’t just...just...”

        Applejack was out the door a moment later, Big Mac and Lightweight calling out to her. The pegasus guard was about to follow when Big Mac stopped him. “Hold on...” He wiped his eyes. “You’d probably be better off leavin’ her to cool down...”

        Lightweight wanted to object, but this was Princess Applejack’s older brother. He knew her better than some Royal Guard did. “I suppose...” Lightweight sighed. “I...I’ve heard of this sickness...my captain said most of the guard ponies call it Corn Stroke, but I don’t think there’s any real common name for it yet...” He was quiet for several moments before continuing. “I’m sorry that this has happened.”

        Big Mac just nodded. “Granny’s been...rather calm ‘bout the whole thing.” He forced a weak smile as his throat tightened. “Then ‘gain, she always told me that someday we’d be the only ones in charge of the farm and orchard when she passes away...I just...never though’ much ‘bout anything like this it until recently.”

        Lightweight grunted in understanding. “Yeah...most of us never do.”


        Why?

Applejack leaned against one of the older apple trees in the orchard, a Red Delicious from what she saw. The sun was beginning to set across the horizon, which snapped Applejack back to the present. It was sundown already? How much time had passed?

“Must be part of bein’ magical an’ such...” She sighed. Her thoughts began drifting to these topics. Magic...that was something she had no familiarity in whatsoever. Flying, well, she understood it well enough. Keep flapping and you’ll eventually lift off with the proper amount of force. She planned on getting lessons from Rainbow and Fluttershy in the future, but it would have to wait. Seriously, though, how would she be able to lift off the ground with such weight on her? Celestia was already big as far as ponies went, but Applejack had both height and muscle mass over her. How could...

The sound of a whippoorwill in the distance shook the mare from her thoughts once more. The sun was now below the horizon, and Luna’s waxing crescent moon was now rising into the sky and giving faint light to the peaceful apple orchard.

“Landsakes...how did I let time slip by so quickly?” The alicorn thought aloud. It felt like she had barely for more than five...minutes...

        A cold feeling once again washed over her. Time. Celestia and Luna have been alive for how long? At least one thousand years? Applejack recalled Twilight telling how she had asked Celestia on several occasions about her exact age. Celestia always gave ballpark guesses that varied as much as nine thousand to fifteen thousand years.

        Would the same apply to Applejack? Was she going to live for eons while still looking to be in the prime of her marehood? If that was the case...

        The knot in her throat tightened. She wiped a few tears from her eyes before letting out a ragged sob. She tried to stand up, but her knees only quaked before she dropped back to the ground, crying openly without shame. After several long minutes of tears and stomping her hooves on the ground, Applejack finally managed to shakily stand up.

Immortal? Her? No, that should not be possible. She was a pony. Ponies aren’t immortal, they age, grow old, and eventually die. That’s the law of the world, that’s the way things are.

        “You’re not just a pony though, are you AJ?” She shook her head in an attempt to rid her mind of the betraying thoughts, but to no avail.

If she was immortal, then that meant...

        Her head snapped to the direction of her home. She quickly galloped towards the farmhouse at a speed that Rainbow Dash would have been proud of. Before she knew it, she was standing at the front door. She pushed it open, ignoring the salutes and calls from the surprised guard ponies that had shown up since she left the kitchen of her house several hours ago. Big Macintosh and two pegasi guards were sitting at the table, talking from the looks of things.

        “Big Mac, I’m gonna talk to Granny.” Applejack stated as she made her towards the main hallway.

        “Sis?” Big Macintosh barely registered her statement before getting up. “Hold on, now, Granny’s sleepin’ and she needs-”

        “I ain’t arguin’, Big Macintosh, I’m tellin’ you, I’m gonna talk to Granny!” Applejack snapped. Big Mac actually stumbled back, and the orange mare immediately regretted her sharp tone. She let out a deep breath and spoke, much softer than before. “Look...I-I need to do this, alrigh’? Just...let me do this one thing. I...I need to talk to her, just...just in case...”

        If he wanted to argue, he didn’t show it. He cast his gaze to the floor and simply nodded. “I think you might wanna talk to Apple Bloom as well. She...she came down for dinner, which you missed by the way, an’ she looked even worse than earlier. Somethin’ is botherin’ her, an’ I could probably name the main cause in one guess..”

        The mare nodded before she disappeared into the darkness of the main hall.

        The floorboards creaked as she made her way to the room at the far end where Granny Smith slept. She closed her eyes, and channeled a little magic into her horn. After feeling the ‘pull’ like Twilight had told her about, she released it and felt light fill her vision. A faint glowing light emitted from her horn, giving her enough brightness to see where she was going. She pushed open the door of Granny’s room, and poked her head in. She could hear the faint snoring of the elderly mare in the bed, several blankets covering her as she slept soundly.

        “Granny...?”

        The matriarch of the Apple clan didn’t stir. Applejack looked to the candle sitting on her grandmother’s bedside table and managed to light it after finding some matches in a drawer. The soft candle glow seemed to create enough light to cause the older mare to stir. Her eyes blinked several times before she spoke.

        “App...jack...? That...tha’ you, hun..?”

        Her voice was barely a whisper, and the the alicorn just managed to hold back the tears. Even in her advanced age, Granny Smith had a rather strong voice when she wanted. Now that she took in her grandmother’s features she could see how badly this illness had affected her. She looked like she had a stroke, her muscles were slack in parts of her face, and one eye was closed. She had tiny beads of sweat around her forehead, and her breathing was a little more labored than what would be considered normal for a minor illness.

        “Hiya, Granny...it’s me, Applejack.” Applejack doused the light from her horn and knelt down a little.

        Granny managed to laugh weakly before coughing. There was a glass of water by her bedside, and Applejack helped her take a few sips. Her dry throat soothed, Granny spoke a little clearer. “Landsakes...look at ye’...” Both her eyes opened as she struggled to lift a shaky hoof. Applejack sat down so that she was level with the mare while her grandmother patted her cheek softly. “So all tha’ gossip in town had some truth after all...”

        “Yeah...I...I’m a princess...”

        Granny chuckled, a little louder this time. “Oh, don’ be so modest now, Applejack. Why, I bet ye got ponies comin’ from Manehatten already, tryin’ to court ye.”

        The orange alicorn smirked before laughing as well. “Hardly. Too darn busy for tha’ courtin’ and frou-frou stuff.”

        Granny nodded slowly before closing her eyes for a few moments. “I always knew ye’ were special. All grandparents tell there grandfoals that, but...I just knew...” When she opened her rust-red eyes her smile grew. “I bet Apple Bloom gave you some grief when y’stopped by, didn’ she...?”

        Applejack nodded.

        “That filly...” She chuckled before moving on her side so she was directly facing her eldest granddaughter. “She thinks the world of you...”

        “I’d beg to differ...” Applejack said with a weak smile.

        “Oh, hush, you used to be mean to Big Macintosh too when you were her age. Yet whenever you had free time, it was always spent tryin’ to get Big Mac to play a game with you, push you on the tire swing, or help y’with yer homework...”

        The elderly pony had a far off look in her eyes for several long moments before she spoke again. “Applejack...I’m proud of you...”

        Applejack nodded, the familiar knot in her throat returning with full force.

        “I don’ want you t’go blamin’ yerself for what’s happen’d to me though, alrigh’? Y’tell Big Macintosh too. You, yer brother, and sister have made this ol’ mare so proud...and I can be happy knowin’ that my little Applejack is goin’ to be takin’ care of the kingdom when I’m gone.”

        Applejack tried to swallow the lump in her throat, and failed miserably. She opened her mouth, and her voice came out in shaky breaths. “G-Granny...I...I wanna do a good job with bein’ a ruler...but...” She nuzzled her grandmother gently. “I’m scared, Granny. I ain’t...I ain’t an aristocrat, an’ I don’ know if I can do things right.” She shook her head and let out a few shaky breaths. “I’m in charge of all the ground, rocks, and soil of Equestria. I...shoot, I can make earthquakes!” She was sobbing now. “Granny, I ain’t no unicorn or pegasus, an’ I don’t know anythin’ ‘bout magic other than the little stuff that Twilight helped me with. What...what if I mess up? What if I hurt somepony when-”

        “Hush...” whispered Granny Smith softly. “Yes, you ain’t no aristocrat, thank Celestia. You are a smart pony though, and y’got a good heart.” She weakly stroked her granddaughter’s mane as she continued. “You migh’ mess up a thing or two...but you know what?”

        A sniffle. “What?”

        “You got yer friends...an’ if I remember right, you said they’re the best friends a pony could have...am I right?” Applejack gave a single nod. “Good friends don’ leave each other to fend fer themselves, either. You just make sure to be there for them, an’ I promise they’ll be there for you, thick ‘n thin.”

        Applejack nuzzled the elderly mare gently. “I will, Granny. I promise...”

        Granny Smith smiled gently before closing her eyes. “That’s my girl...now...this ol’ mare needs to rest.” Applejack said nothing, just watched as her grandmother quickly drifted off to sleep once more. She quietly walked out of the room, a heavy weight in heart and her vision blurred by tears. She sniffled a bit before pausing at a the foot of the steps leading up to her old room and Apple Bloom’s.

        “Might as well have a word with her...” the alicorn thought as she made her way up the steps. She stopped upon reaching the second floor and stared at the door with various drawings on it. She took several steps forward and lifted a hoof...

“Go away!” came the voice from behind the door. Applejack froze in place, a bit surprised by the sound of her younger sister’s voice. She must have heard her make her way up the steps

“Apple Bloom, I just wanna talk.”

“Well, I don’t!” was the reply she received. The orange mare frowned before setting her raised hoof onto the wooden floor and grumbling under her breath. Apple Bloom could be stubborn, but she never recalled Apple Bloom acting so bold towards her.

“Sis, look here now! I know that this whole situation is a bit mucked up, but ya gotta understand that I ain’t tryin’ to avoid ya’ll. Yer my family an’ I still love each of you as much as I always did.” Several seconds of silence followed before she continued. “Apple Bloom...I know yer mad at me, but...please, just...just let me have a word with ya. That’s all I ask...”

The sound of hooves walking across the room could be heard on the other side, and a latch clicked the door opened a little. Two orange eyes peeked through the crack, widening a little as they directed their gaze upward to face the alicorn.

“Can I come in?”

There was a snort from the younger filly. “Is that an order, yer Highness?”

        Much to her credit, Applejack bit down a retort, instead lowering her body to face the young pony at eye level. “Apple Bloom...please...”

        Apple Bloom’s annoyed expression cracked for the briefest of moments before she turned around. “I guess you can come in...”

        The two sisters walked back into the filly’s room before shutting the door. Apple Bloom sat on her bed, brooding quietly while Applejack attempted to think of some way to break the silence.

        “Just so you know...I...well, I’m hurt, but I’m not all that mad at you for bein’ upset with me...”

        “Y-you aren’t?”

        Applejack shook her head slowly. “Nope. Big Mac explained....well, everythin’ that’s happened since I left, so I guess I can understand...” She sighed heavily before giving into her mental fatigue, resting her head on the foot of her sister’s bed. “I just wish that you would’ve told me yerself.”

        “I can’t. Yer in Canterlot.

        Applejack rolled her eyes. “I know that, ya silly filly. You could’ve sent me a letter if you needed to talk to me.”

        Apple Bloom cast her gaze downwards, a shameful look on her face. “I thought you’d be too busy...”

        “Now what made...” Applejack held her tongue before taking a deep breath and exhaling. “Apple Bloom, I...I may be a princess now, but that doesn’t mean I’m too important to spend time with my little sister when she needs me. The same goes for Big Mac, and the rest of our family.” She nuzzled her sister gently. “Shoot, yer the only sister I have, and Big Mac’s my only brother. You, Big Mac, and Granny...yer my family.”

        “What about Braeburn, and Apple Fritter an-”

        “They’re family too, Apple Bloom. I mean...well, yer what they call immediate family. You know...closest relatives? Like moms and dads, and brothers and sisters...that’s what I mean.”

        Apple Bloom nodded. “Yeah, I know. That’s...kind of why I got upset. Ms. Cheerilee is havin’ a family project for school, an’ I have to interview my family and talk ‘bout how they are important to me and stuff like that.”

        Applejack felt the slightest of smiles tug at her lips. “Big Mac said you didn’ wanna interview me.”

        “No!” The filly blushed. “Well...y-yeah, but...I didn’t mean it. I was just mad, an’ he said I wasn’t bein’ fair to you. I guess I was bein’ kinda unfair, seein’ as I was makin accusations when you weren’t here.”

        “Accusations, huh?”

“Yeah, Ms. Cheerilee taught us that word two weeks ago. It means to say somepony did somethin’, usually somethin’ bad.”

The orange alicorn just chuckled quietly while shaking her head. “You know, Apple Bloom, if I had half the smarts you have when I was yer age, we’d probably have enough bits to repair the roof of our barn every year for the next decade.”

“Huh?”

The older mare just ruffled her younger sister’s mane before pulling her close. “Look, Apple Bloom, I know things are rough right now...but don’t you fret none, alright? I’m gonna stay right here through it all. Granny’s got us, and that’s all that matters right now. I’m here for her, an’ for you and Big Mac. You got that?”

“What ‘bout Canterlot and-”

“Hush.” Applejack placed a gentle wing over her sister without even realizing it. “Princess Celestia and Princess Luna said if me or the girls need to take care of family things, we take care of ‘em. Right now, I’m worryin’ ‘bout my family.” She sighed. “Shoot, I’m still learnin’ the basics right now...me bein’ gone won’t be much of a problem.”

“Basics? Like what?”

The blond mare smiled a bit. “Hmm...well, let’s see, I got to learn a little Archaic Equinic...or whatever it’s called. Celestia said it’s sort’ve pointless, but Luna heard me use my frou-frou voice an’ said it’d be nice to have some formal speakin’ under my belt if I ever need it.”

“Archaic Equinic?

“Yep. It’s the way most ponies spoke ‘bout a thousand years ago. Really fancy stuff, sort’ve like the language you read in them really dusty old fairy tales and old plays by that Flankspeare pony.”

“You mean Whinniam Flankspeare?”

“Yeah, that one. Never liked his plays that much. Too sappy and kissy for me.”

Apple Bloom giggled. “Is it hard to speak it?”

        “What, Archaic Equinic?” Applejack tapped her chin before smiling. She took a breath before clearing her throat. “Dearest Apple Bloom, wouldst thou care to let me partake in thy project for school? We would find it most pleasing to help our sister, if that is not of too much trouble.”

        Apple Bloom blinked. “...why are you sayin’ ‘we’?”

        “Fancy talk. Luna says it’s the proper way of sayin’ ‘Me and the Elements of Harmony’, since being a princess means speaking for not only yerself, but also Equestria, an’ the Elements of Harmony.” Applejack grinned as her sister just frowned in confusion. “Don’ worry, like I said, it’s kind of pointless nowadays. Rarity caught on to it pretty quick, which isn’t a surprise I guess.”

        “Huh...” Apple Bloom’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Hey, did you say you wanna help me with my project?!”

        “Sure do.”

        Apple Bloom looked to her hooves before smiling. “Thanks, Applejack. You’re the best sister in the world.”

        Applejack pulled the much smaller pony closer to her. She didn’t even realize it when she started shedding tears.

        “Applejack? W-what’s wrong?”

        “Hmm?” Applejack noticed the moisture on her cheeks and gave a weak laugh. “Sorry, Apple Bloom. I’m just...really tired. Granny Smith and the princess stuff...”

        “...and I’m immortal...”

        She shut her eyes and forced down the dark thoughts. No. For now, her family was her focus. She wanted just this one favor from the world. Let her be a pony. Just a normal pony with a family that she loved and looked after.

        “Sis, are you sure you’re alright? Yer shakin’...”

        Applejack looked down to her little sister and shook her head slowly. “I...guess I’m not alright...” She felt her sister scoot closer until she was lying in the crook of her neck. “I’m...scared of...” She couldn’t say it. She couldn’t...

        “...scared of losing yer friends...?”

        The alicorn’s breath hitched as she once again met her sister’s deep orange eyes. “Apple Bloom...”

        Apple Bloom smiled. “Don’t worry Applejack. You still got yer friends, right? Yer all princesses, so you’ll never be alone in Canterlot.”

        Applejack closed her eyes for a moment and exhaled deeply. Of course Apple Bloom wasn’t talking about her being immortal. She was only a filly, after all...she didn’t mean alone in that sense...

        “Thanks, Apple Bloom...” She looked at the alarm clock on her sister’s side table and raised an eyebrow. It was almost midnight. “You need to get to bed. You’ve got school in eight hours. I don’ wanna be the one to explain to Cheerilee that I kept you up all night, either.”

        As if on cue, Apple Bloom let out a yawn. “Okay...”

        Applejack tucked the filly into her bed, and made sure she was warm and comfortable before closing her door. For several long moments she stood in the hallway, her feet cemented to the floor as her gaze drifted down the hall, stopping at several photographs of family and friends.

        The silence and darkness seemed keen on reflecting her mood at that moment. She let out a ragged breath, but no tears came. She had cried herself dry, it would seem.

“All of them...every single one...” She whispered to herself.


        “Come on, Applejack! I’m gonna be late!”

        “Hold yer horses, Apple Bloom.”

        Applejack adjusted her hat before tapping it onto her head and nodding to her reflection in the mirror before her. She still had the half-asleep look in her eyes, and for the first time in years she was the last of her family to wake up in the house. Even Granny Smith mustered up enough energy to have some light breakfast in her bed. Usually she was up with the dawn, seeing that she was the (former) proprietor of the numerous acres of land that made up Sweet Apple Acres.

        The sound of a certain filly grumbling from downstairs could be heard, followed by the deep bass of Big Mac, no doubt telling her to be patient.

        “Um...Milady?”

        Applejack turned to see one of her guards standing at the doorway, a mare to be exact, looking to the floor. “Lady Apple Bloom seems rather...irked...”

        Applejack chuckled. “Irked, huh?” She let her guard’s words sink in. “Wait, Lady?”

        The pegasus mare gave a brief nod. “Yes, Milady. She is related to royalty, so technically she holds a title of sorts.”

        “Best not tell her that for now. She’d probably brag ‘bout it at school if you told her that.”

        “Yes, Milady.”

        Applejack and the mare made their way down the steps and into the kitchen. Several pegasus guards were eating a light meal while others stood at the entrance of the farmhouse while assuming the look of professional vigilance.

        “Sis! What took you so long? We got...” She looked up at the grandfather clock near the hall before continuing. “...’bout twenty minutes before school starts!”

        While Sweet Apple Acres was technically within Ponyville’s borders, it was still in the outskirts. A steady gallop into town took about ten minutes, and Ponyville Elementary was another seven minutes across town if it wasn’t too busy in the morning.

        Applejack flexed her wings a bit before smiling. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it in time.”


        Apple Bloom bounced towards the schoolhouse doors with an enthusiasm Pinkie Pie would have enjoyed.” Wow, I never went flyin’ before! That was fun! Can we do that again sometime?”

        “Heheh, sure thing, Apple Bloom.”

        Lightweight and two other pony guards flanking either side of the sisters halted at the doorway leading into the school. They gave Applejack an expectant look, and she simply smiled and shook her head. “Don’t worry. I doubt any of the fillies or colts are gonna try an’ pull a fast one on me.” She chuckled a bit. “After all, they know any smart-mouthin’ out of them means they get nothing during snack time.”

The pegasi all shared a look before giving their princess a nod. “We’ll be out here if you need us, your Highness.”

Applejack gave a nod before entering the school with her sister. Apple Bloom headed straight for her desk while Applejack made her way to the desk at the front. Cheerilee was busy looking over some papers, no doubt reviewing her lesson plan for today or grading assignments. The school house was still relatively empty, which wasn’t surprising. Applejack made the flight to Ponyville in less than ten minutes’ time, which she considered to be a sign of improvement in her book. She still preferred solid ground under her hooves, but hearing Apple Bloom giggle and cheer as she flew a few dozen feet over Ponyville helped put her mind at ease.

That and the pegasi guards had promised they would stay close to her side if Apple Bloom should fall off her back.

“Mornin’ Cheerilee.”

Cheerilee kept her eyes on her papers, but gave a greeting. “Good morning, Applejack.” She stopped writing, red pencil in her teeth, and looked up as her eyes widened a fraction. “Ah...App-er...your Highn-”

“Applejack will work fine with me, Cheerilee. You were a grade or two ahead of me in school if I remember right. It’d feel weird if you started gettin’ all formal with me.”

        Cheerilee managed to keep her composure as she spoke. “Still, you’re a princess! I should-”

        “Today I’m just a big sister doin’ a little presentation for Apple Bloom.”

        Cheerilee blinked. “Ah...yes, that’s right. Big Macintosh was going to stop by today for Apple Bloom...I take it there have been a change of plans?”

        “Yep. I’ll be here in his steed.” She lowered her voice. “To be honest, I’d rather him be with Granny Smith than me right now. He’s better with those kinds of things...”

        As she expected, Cheerilee was aware of the situation back home at Sweet Apple Acres. “I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother...Apple Bloom was so distraught during class for the past couple of days that she even skipped recess...” She cast a concerned look to the young filly. “She’s a wonderful filly, Applejack...but she wouldn’t talk about what was bothering her with anyone. A foal shouldn’t have to bottle up all those feeling at such an age...”

        “We had a bit of a talk last night...she’s a little better, all things considered.” Applejack whispered.

        “I’m glad. I hate seeing my students in such a state...” She smiled a little as she watched more of the colts and fillies file into the classroom, most pausing to stare at Applejack for a few moments before taking their seats. “I...I know it sounds almost cliche, but they’re all like a family to me. Watching them grow up and become the ponies they’ll be when they’re adults...it’s hard not to get attached to them.”

        Applejack nodded, and a thought came to mind. She stored it in the back of her mind before speaking. “Er...Cheerilee, you mind if I talk with you later on? I’ve been havin’ a lot on my mind lately, an’ I think you might be the pony I can talk to.”

        Cheerilee must have sensed the urgency in her voice, seeing as she nodded immediately. “Of course, Applejack.”

        “Thanks...um...I hope me bein’ here ain’t gonna throw any of yer lessons into a mess...”

        Cheerilee shook her head. “Not at all...in fact, believe it or not, we were going to discuss a little about plants and how they change with the seasons. I think you’d be great as far as guest speakers go, seeing as you run a farm that relies on such things all year.”

        “Actually...Rainbow Dash is the one in charge of the seasons and weather...”

        Cheerilee nodded. “Yes, we received an official announcement from the mayor herself about the changes in Canterlot.” She smiled while looking to her students. “I...” She paused, then shook her head.

        “What?”

        “Nothing. I wouldn’t want to cause any trouble for you six.”

        Applejack frowned. “Now I’m curious. Tell me what’s on yer mind.”

        Cheerilee sighed. “If it’s at all possible, would...well, would you, Fluttershy, or Rainbow Dash be willing to visit our class when I begin covering materials on the the Earth and it’s weather? I...I know we’re a small school, and I can understand how busy you all are so-”

        “I’d like that...” Applejack paused, then added. “I should probably bring it up with the others though, and ask Princess Celestia an’ Princess Luna about somethin’ like that.”

        That could be a possible issue. If word spread that the royalty was favoring one town over others in terms of visits, it could cause some ponies to wonder how serious they were taking their duties.

        “Of course. I won’t make any anouncements until I get word.”

        “Mm. Shoot, if yer hopin’ for a guest lecturer, you should just get Twilight to come here. She’d be right in her element with teachin’.” She looked to the clock. “Speakin’ of which, I suppose I should let you get started.”

        Cheerilee looked to the clock and noticed it was two minutes past eight. “Ah, yes.” She cleared her throat while Applejack took a seat on one side of the room. “Good morning, class.”

        “Good morning, Miss Cheerilee.”

        Applejack found her self astonished by the energy Cheerilee had. Most adult ponies would be a little intimidated by the prospect of being in charge of so many colts and fillies, but the fuschia earth pony seemed to be genuinely excited and happy to be teaching.

        “As most of you can tell, we have a new student with us today.” Cheerilee remarked in a joking tone, to which several of the young ponies replied with giggles while casting looks in Applejack’s direction. “Everypony, I want you to greet our guest and one of the new co-rulers of Equestria, Princess Applejack.”

        Apparently the title of Princess wasn’t that big of a shock to the students, seeing as most of them simply greeted her. “Hello, Princess Applejack!”

        “Princess Applejack is, as most of you already know, Apple Bloom’s big sister. Since all of you have been doing reports on your family and letting them visit our class over the past couple of days, Apple Bloom asked her sister to stop by and spend the day talking with us about herself and what she does for Ponyville and Equestria.”

        The ponies sitting before her were watching with rapt attention. She gave them a small smile as she walked to the front of the class. “Howdy. Hm...well, Miss Cheerilee mentioned that ya’ll are learnin’ ‘bout plants an’ seasons right now, that correct?”

        There was a collective ‘yes’ given by the class.

        “Right... well, I’m no expert on that stuff, but...” She looked to Apple Bloom as she continued. “I can tell you a little bit ‘bout how workin’ with apples is dependent on the weather an’ seasons. Now, let’s see...right after Winter Wrap-Up me an’ my older brother Big Macintosh...”


        Applejack found herself enjoying a simple daisy sandwich brought to her by Lightweight from a restaurant near the school house. She and Cheerilee were currently sitting at a bench near the school yard where the fillies and colts played for recess.

        “I think I can see why you like teachin’ so much.” Applejack said with a smile. “I wish I had yer patience, Cheerilee. Though that Diamond Tiara wouldn’ quit yammering to Silver Spoon right before lunch time...”

        Cheerilee sighed. “Yes, I must admit that it can be hard sometimes. They’re still foals, after all. I’m just glad I don’t have to give them the ‘Birds and Bees’ talk.”

        The alicorn snorted with laughter. “Aren’t you lucky?”

        The two watched as a small group of ponies walked tentatively towards a guard. Cheerilee was about to call out to the group when Applejack raised a hoof. “Hold on. That’s Windswept. She’s a nice mare. Let’s just watch for now.”

        Cheerilee gave a nod and watched.

        “Um...miss...guard pony?”

        The same mare that had spoken to Applejack earlier that morning turned to a group. She gave a smile as she looked to a young earth filly of blue color with a cutie mark that resembled a bow and arrow. “Yes?”

        The filly looked down and spoke. “Um...I was just wondering...is being a Royal Guard hard?”

        Lightweight gave a light laugh. “It’s hard work alright. Get to run up Mount Canter- oof!”

        Windswept removed her hoof from Lightweight’s side before giving the young blue filly a smile. “It is hard work, but it’s a job I’m proud to do.”

        “Do you have to fight dragons?” spoke up Snips.

        Ligthweight grinned. “Nope, most dragons tend to shy away from us. They’re big and scary-looking, but most would rather keep to themselves.”

        “Well, Spike ain’t like that, an’ he’s a dragon.” commented Apple Bloom.

        “True, but he’s also lived with ponies his whole life if I’m informed correctly.” Lightweight replied. “Hey, Stratus, didn’t you see a dragon two years ago outside of Hoofington?”

        A gray pegasus stallion who stood a little ways from the group looked up. “Hm? Yeah...she was probably about one hundred years old. She was heading west or something, stopped by to grab a few gems from a local diamond cutter she heard about.”

        “No kidding? What’d she pay with?”

        “Would you believe platinum armor?”

        Cheerilee decided to jump in. “Platinum armor? Platinum hasn’t been cycled through Equestrian bartering systems in over two hundred years...we simply stopped making platinum products after the last conflict with the Griffon Tribes in the north...”

        “I know. The jeweler said he couldn’t give her enough change in exchange, so she simply let him keep it.” Stratus grinned. “They say she also gave the jeweler one of her magical scales.”

        “What kind of magic?” Snips inquired.

        “Don’t know. Never found out.”

        The fillies and colts let out a collective groan, then the blue filly from earlier spoke up. “Someday, I’m going to be a Royal Guardspony!”

        Windswept beamed. “Is that so? Well good for you!” She looked over to Applejack and laughed. “Your Highness, we have a hopeful recruit over here for you.”

        Applejack forced out a laugh. “That so? Well, that’s mighty nice to hear.”

        “I wonder if I’ll remember that filly by the time she’s old enough join the Royal Guard.” was what she was actually thinking.

        The rest of recess was spent with the fillies and colts running around and playing as ponies do at such an age while Lightweight, Stratus, and Windswept continued their watch. After the recess was over Cheerilee spent another hour on math with the ponies before the final bell tolled. Applejack stayed in the school while the rest of the fillies and colts, Apple Bloom excluded, said their goodbyes to the alicorn before leaving.

        “Just to let you know, the afternoon class is smaller. Though you’ll likely recognize a few of the students.” Cheerilee began as she erased the bored. “Apple Bloom will probably know a few of them too.”

        “Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, right?” Apple Bloom asked with a knowing grin.

        Cheerilee gave a nod. “I must say, I can’t remember the last time I had a student stay after school for another class.”

        “Yeah, sometimes I wish I had the afternoon class, but if I did then I couldn’t hang out with Twist.”

        “Well...” Cheerilee began. “From what I heard, Twist’s parents were going to start having her go to the later class period next year.”

        “Really?” Apple Bloom looked to her sister pleadingly. “Hey, sis, can I go to the later class next year instead of the mornin’ one?”

        “Hmm...” Applejack thought for a moment. “I don’t think that’d be a problem...but you’ll have to promise to help Big Mac ‘round the farm in the mornin’ then, as well as make sure to do all yer homework.”

        “I will, I promise.”

        Soon the ponies of the afternoon session piled into the classroom (Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo both cheered before running to embrace Apple Bloom in a group hug) and two pegasus stallions could be seen drawing a chariot to the side of the schoolhouse. Likely the two that were overseeing Sweetie Belle’s transportation from Canterlot. With Rarity’s and her parents on their year-long cruise through the Sea Pony and Serpent Oceans, the two sisters really had no other option. Applejack could only guess that Sweetie Belle loved the chariot rides.

        “Good afternoon, class!” Cheerilee began, speaking a bit louder over the chatter of the classroom. “Now, as most of you have already noticed, we have a very special guest here today.” Cheerilee looked to Apple Bloom. “Would you care to introduce her, Apple Bloom?”

        “Sure!” Apple Bloom happily trotted up to the front of the classroom and grinned. “Today I invited my big sister Applejack! She’s the best apple farmer in all of Equestria, and is also a princess!”

        There was a general murmur of excitement and interest from the class, aside from Sweetie Belle, who simply sat in her desk and listened intently.

        Applejack repeated the same routine as before, talking about the importance of the change of seasons while answering any questions directed to her from the class. Sweetie Belle asked one question in particular that caught her by surprise.

        “Do you ever...talk to the Element of Honesty?”

        Applejack blinked, and she noted that several pegasus guards peeked into the classroom from outside. “Well now...that’s an interestin’ question.” She hummed in thought before shaking her head. “No, I don’t rightfully claim to have ever spoken to the Element of Honesty, or any of the others for that matter.”

        Cheerilee didn’t miss a beat. “Now, if most of you remember, the Elements of Harmony are responsible for bringing Princess Luna back to us and for giving harmony to the land of Equestria.” She gave Applejack a small nod before continuing. “Can anyone tell me the other five?”

        “Magic!” shouted a filly once she was called on.

        “Yes, Magic is definitely one of the Elements. Yes, Sweetie Belle?”
        “Generosity! My sister Rarity is the Princess of Generosity, too!”

        “That’s right. How about...Princess Rainbow Dash. Can anyone tell me what Element she’s in charge of?”

        Applejack watched in amazement as the colts and fillies before her fired off answers to questions she herself didn’t know until a little more than a year ago relating to the magical jeweled artifacts. An hour later when she had finished her impromptu presentation on farming it was time for arts and crafts. While Apple Bloom joined Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, Applejack watched with Cheerilee.

        “Sorry for stealing your thunder earlier...” Cheerilee began as she graded some papers from her desk. “I noticed the surprised look on your face, so I wanted to keep the students from overwhelming you.”

        “Huh? Oh, no, thank you for helpin’ me back there...though...how did you know all that stuff?”

        Cheerilee smiled. “About three months ago Canterlot sent out textbooks for teachers on subjects relating to the Elements of Harmony. Apparently when Princess Luna returned she thought it a good idea to have the general populous educated on the basic history of the Elements.”

        Applejack didn’t know what was more impressive, the casual tone Cheerilee used to explain such things like the Elements of Harmony, or the fact that she was able to talk so clearly with a red pencil in her mouth.

        “As for the information relating to you six being princesses, the mayor gave me a little bit of public information to add on the topic from the letters sent throughout Equestria relating to all of you becoming our new rulers.” She chuckled a bit before looking towards Sweetie Belle. “One unicorn filly in particular is our ‘expert’ on those things.”

        The two mares chatted quietly for about another hour before Cheerilee let her students go out for recess. This time Applejack took part in the fun, chasing the ponies around the schoolyard in a game of tag. Afterwards Cheerilee called the class back inside for math. The final hour of school came and went quickly for Applejack, and before she knew it she was giving Sweetie Belle a hug goodbye.

        “Oh, hold on a sec’ Sweetie Belle. Here,” She gave the filly a sealed envelope. “Give this to yer sister. It’s...well, it’ll explain what the situation is with me an’ my family.”

        The young unicorn caught onto the tone in the blond mare’s voice. “Is something wrong?”

        “Well...” She didn’t want to lie, and keeping her in the dark wouldn’t be the best of ideas, considering the circumstances...and Apple Bloom would need her friends’ comfort more than ever when that time came. “Scootaloo...can you come over here too, Sugarcube?”

        “Sure, Applejack.” The pegasus filly walked over.

        She looked to Apple Bloom, who was engaged in conversation with Windswept. “You girls should probably know this. Granny Smith...well...” She bit her lower lip, trying to find the right words. “...she’s not doin’ too well right now. She’s sick.”

        Sweetie Belle gasped. “Oh no, how bad is it?”

        “Is it the hay fever? The trots?” Scootaloo added.

Applejack shook her head slowly. “No, I wish it were just that. It’s...worse. She’s got somethin’ called Leukoencephalomalacia. It’s a very bad disease, an’ there ain’t no cure.”

“S-so...she’s gonna have to deal with it for the rest of her life?” Sweetie Belle asked tentatively.

Again, Applejack shook her head. “No, it’s...worse than that, girls. She...well...the illness is at its worst stage, an’ I...don’ think she has much longer.”

Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle both went quiet. For several long moments they stood there, trying to process what Applejack had just told them. “S-so...Granny Smith is...gonna...?” Scootaloo shook her head. “N-no...she can’t...”

“I’m sorry, Scootaloo, but...it’s incurable. No magic can fix it, and there ain’t no known cure for it.”

Sweetie Belle let a few tears run down her cheeks. “W-why didn’t Apple Bloom tell us?”

“My guess is that she didn’ want you girls to fret none ‘bout it.” The alicorn looked to her sister and sighed. “A little foolish, really, but...part of me knows I’d probably do the same thing.”

Apple Bloom and Windswept made their way towards the others, and the young Apple filly was caught off guard when her friends both wrapped their hooves around her in a hug.

“G-girls, what-?”

“We’re sorry about your grandma.” Scootaloo said quietly. “Applejack...she told us.”

Apple Bloom looked to her older sister, who simply nodded.

The young filly blinked several times while fighting off tears of her own. “It’s...it’s going to be okay-”

“You shouldn’t keep things like this to yourself, Apple Bloom.” Sweetie Belle said with a sniffle. “Granny Smith is like a grandma to us too.”

“W-well...I didn’...”

 “You’re like family to us, Apple Bloom.” Scootaloo added.

With that, the flood gates opened. Apple Bloom cried quietly in her friends’ embrace. “I-I’m sorry! I was...I didn’ want you to worry ‘bout all of that! I-I mean, Sweetie Belle’s got her sister in Canterlot, and Scootaloo, you’ve got yer tricks to work on an’-”

“You’re our friend, Apple Bloom. We care about you, too.” Sweetie Belle said.

Applejack watched with a mixture of sadness and relief as her sister let the tears out. No doubt she was still hurting badly from all that was happening. She smiled and laughed in school, sure, but Applejack could see that under the surface, the filly was still broken from all the pain she had been dealing with lately.

“Milady...?”

A featherlight touch brushed against the alicorn’s side. She looked down to see Windswept offering her a sympathetic smile. “O-oh, s-sorry ‘bout that, Sugarcube. What’s wrong?”

Windswept just frowned a little. “Milady...if I may offer some advice from Princess Celestia’s book of wisdom?”

Applejack nodded.

“Her Highness has said it time and time again, “Every pony feels. Alicorns are no exception.” If...if you need a shoulder to lean on...we’re here.”

The former farm pony smiled gratefully. “Thanks much, Windswept. I...I’ll be alrigh’ for now, though.”

Windswept gave a low bow. “Very well. Lightweight, Stratus, and myself will be waiting near Lady Sweetie Belle’s chariot for you and Lady Apple Bloom, then.”

Applejack watched the guard pony head back to talk with her peers, a small smile playing at the corners of her lips. For ponies who were supposedly the most disciplined in all of Equestria, they sure had compassion. No doubt in part because of Celestia.

“Applejack?”

The blond alicorn looked over her shoulder to see Cheerilee approaching her hesitantly, taking note of her distraught students. “I-is everything alright?”

Applejack gave a slight nod. “I told the girls about Granny. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle are Apple Bloom’s friends an’ I figured they have a right to know. I mean...” She glanced over to the trio of fillies, who were now quietly holding each other. “Those two are practically kin to me as well.”

Cheerilee nodded. “I know the feeling all to well.”

Applejack suddenly remembered her conversation with the teacher earlier today. “Oh, Cheerilee, I...you remember that question I had for you?”

“Yes, what did you want to ask me?”

“I was...just wonderin’...how do you deal with watchin’ yer students grow up right in front of yer eyes...how...how does it make you feel to watch time pass so quickly?”

“Ah.” Cheerilee put on a thoughtful expression before a smile slowly crept onto her face. “I suppose I try to remember the fun I had with my students when they were just little colts and fillies. I haven’t been teaching for very long compared to other ponies in Equestria...but these past few years have been wonderful. I’ve watched some ponies leave town that I truly cared for as students. I know I may never see some of them ever again...” She shook her head. “Some ponies may think a teacher caring so deeply for school age ponies to be cliché, but...I take great pride in what I do. Therefore, I value every moment I have with my students. I try to teach them everything I can to prepare them for the big, open world out there.” She made a gesture with her hoof towards the hills beyond Ponyville. “The truth is, Applejack, even now I think about such things. The day will come when I will no longer be teaching your sister, or any of my other current students. They’ll grow older...they’ll move onto to bigger things and learn more.”

“Aren’...aren’ you scared of what will happen to them when they get older?”

“Sometimes, but I think part of being a teacher involves being able trust your students’ judgement and let them make their own choices. If I continue to hold their hooves, they’ll never be able to reach their full potential.”

Perhaps it was the way Cheerilee said it, or the sympathetic, knowing look in her eyes that said, “I understand what you’re trying to ask me.”, but Applejack found herself nodding.

“Thanks, Cheerilee...I may be a princess, but...I still consider you the smarter pony.”

“Well, someday when I become old and senile I hope you keep those words in mind.” She laughed. “It can’t hurt to boost an old mare’s ego, can it?”

“No, heheh, I suppose not.” Applejack managed to grin a little before walking over to the three fillies. She gently nudged her sister, who looked up, clearly surprised and shaken from her thoughts. “Hey, ready to head home?”

Apple Bloom nodded. “Yeah...”

Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle gave a final farewell to the red-maned filly before going their separate ways, Sweetie Belle taking the chariot while Scootaloo headed into town. Applejack offered to give Apple Bloom a lift on her back, but the filly declined, stating she felt like walking.

So they did just that...

The walk was rather quiet for the most part, neither of them feeling much like talking. Lightweight, Stratus, and Windswept flew overhead at a discrete distance to provide the two sisters adequate privacy, which Applejack couldn’t be more thankful for at the moment.

“Hey...Applejack...?

A sensation cascaded down Applejack’s neck, like tiny pinpricks on skin. She shook it off and smiled. “Yes?”

“So...there’s no magic in all of Equestria to help Granny Smith?”

Darn, should’ve listened to the feeling. “No, from what I understand, there isn’t. No medicine, an’ no magic either.”

“Even...even Princess Celestia or Princess Luna can’t help Granny Smith?”

“I’m ‘fraid not, Apple Bloom. I talked to the guards and they more or less said that magic don’ fix illness, even an alicorn’s magic.”

“B-but...it’s not fair! She’s the best grandma in all of Equestria an’-”

“I know, believe me, I’ve been thinkin’ the same thing. That’s...just the way things work. Ponies don’ live for ever. Nothing does. Not even dragons. Sometimes it’s sickness, or an accident that hurts somepony, but in the end, we all have to pass on.”

She found it odd to be talking about such a grim subject with the filly. Apple Bloom had always been advanced for her age in terms of thought, but this was something even Applejack avoided talking about. Most ponies did, actually. Death was like a weed in a garden: it was a part of the surroundings, but it was typically treated with distaste and most tried to ignore it. Removing it from the picture was a temporary solution, but it would only return later in a different manner or appearance, and cause problems for the rest of the plants.

It was an inevitability.

“What...what ‘bout you?”

Applejack almost tripped. “What ‘bout me?”

“Well, yer an alicorn. So is Princess Luna an’ Celestia...an’...they’ve been ‘round for a thousand years or more, right? Neither of them look that old. I mean...Granny Smith’s not even eighty years old and look at her compared to them!”

Again, Apple Bloom was advanced for her age.

“I don’ think I have an answer for that at the moment, Apple Bloom. I need to talk to Luna and Celestia ‘bout that...” She gave what she hoped was a comforting smile as she gazed into her sister’s inquisitive, worried eyes. “Whatever the case may be though, it ain’t gonna change anything between us. Yer my sister, an’ if somepony has a problem with it, they’ll have to speak to me ‘bout it.”

The filly seemed to accept the answer for what it was and remained quiet for the rest of the walk back to Sweet Apple Acres, much to Applejack’s relief. The three pegasi landed behind the sisters and flanked their left and right sides as they made their way up the road to the farmhouse.

“Hey, Stratus, am I seeing things or are those the Honor Guard of Princess Luna up ahead?”

About twenty ponies in a dark blue armor could be seen standing around near the farmhouse. They noticed Applejack and the others and bowed low upon her nearing the home. One of the more decorated guards spoke. “Your Highness, we apologize for the unannounced visit. Her Highness wished to come by as soon as she got word of your grandmother’s condition from Lady Sweetie Belle.”

Applejack blinked. “That was almost an hour ago. Sure, we took our sweet time gettin’ back home an’ all, but still...”

The unicorn coughed. “Well, Lady Sweetie Belle took a chariot, and the average trip from Ponyville to Canterlot is less than twenty minutes if one keeps a brisk pace. We arrived here via mass teleportation spell about ten minutes ago.”

Applejack frowned. “Well, that’s thoughtful an’ all of Luna, but...we don’ have room for all of you to-”

“Don’t worry, Applejack, we won’t be here for too long.”

Applejack looked to the front porch of her home to see Luna standing there, her dark blue coat and blue mane reflecting the late afternoon sunlight like water.

The orange alicorn nodded. “Well, I’m guessing you’re caught up on everythin’ then, huh?”

“Indeed.” She sighed while making her way towards her peer, giving a small bow of respect, which Applejack returned. “I spoke briefly with your grandmother. She truly is a pony who has lived her years well. I must admit, I’m envious of your family, Applejack. Celestia is a wonderful sister, don’t misunderstand me, but...if my knowledge of the Apple family is correct, you have relatives from every corner of the country.”

“Heh, it’s as they say: Where there’s apple trees, there’s sure to be Apples.” Applejack glanced down to see her sister gazing at the blue alicorn in a mild daze. “Apple Bloom, you remember Princess Luna, don’ you?”

Apple Bloom smiled before stepping forward. “Hello, Princess Luna. I’m Apple Bloom.” She gave the best bow she could. “Pleased to meet you.”

Luna smiled in mild amusement. “The pleasure is mine, I assure you.” She sat down before continuing, her voice softer this time. “You have a wonderful family, Apple Bloom. Your grandmother is one of the wisest ponies I’ve spoken to in ages.”

Apple Bloom scratched at the ground with a hoof. “Is it true that you can’ make her better?”

Luna bowed her head, her mane shadowing her eyes slightly. “I’m sorry, dear Apple Bloom. This illness...I’m not familiar with it myself, and from what Twilight Sparkle has heard of it, Equestria’s finest pathologists are still trying to find a cure for it.”

“What ‘bout magic? Can’ you just make it...vanish?”

“Apple Bloom, I already-”

Luna raised gently raised a hoof, interrupting Applejack as politely as she could. “It’s alright, Applejack. If...if you do not mind too much, I would like to have a talk with your sister.”

The orange alicorn looked to Apple Bloom, then nodded and made her way inside the house. Luna turned back to the young filly and smiled gently. “Magic isn’t a cure-all, Apple Bloom. It follows certain principles and rules, and unfortunately afflictions to the body are something that ponies cannot remove with magic.”

“B-but I’ve seen Twilight do all sorts of amazin’ things with magic! She turned a rock into a hat once, an’ she told me that she even turned her parents into plants by accident when she was a filly!”

“Did she now? I’ll have to ask her about that some day.” Luna laughed quietly. “That was most likely transformation magic. Spells like those, while amazing, are only temporary spells.”

Apple Bloom’s head drooped. “But...you’re a princess! You can do anything, can’t you? You and Celestia move the Moon and Sun!”

“Yes, but even we have limits.” She nuzzled the distraught filly. “I cannot get rid of the common cold or flu. Even alicorns can get sick...to an extent.” The last part was spoken in a hushed tone.

“R-really?”

“Yes. Why, a few months ago I had a minor fever. It wasn’t pleasant at all, but I got through it in the end...”

The filly felt tears welling up in her eyes yet again. “So...Granny Smith is just going to die...?”

“She won’t leave you, though.” Apple Bloom gave the alicorn a confused look. “You see, Apple Bloom, the wonderful thing about ponies is that they continue to live on, even after death. You know how?”

Apple Bloom shook her head.

“Right here...” She tapped Apple Bloom’s head gently. “...and right here.” She placed her hoof gently over Apple Bloom’s chest. “We keep their memories alive, and that’s how they live on. So as long as you remember the good times you’ve shared with that pony, they shall never leave you.”

“You really think so?”

“That’s what my sister told me when I was younger. I believe there’s a lot of truth to it. Remembering a pony and keeping the values they taught close to your heart allows those we care for throughout our lives to exist even after death.” She covered Apple Bloom with a blue wing. “She may leave you in body, Apple Bloom, but as long as you remember what she taught you and cherish the times you had with her, she’ll still be with you.”

The sound of a door opening from the farmhouse could be heard. “Apple Bloom?”

The filly in question looked up to see her brother. His eyes were puffy and it looked like he had been crying. “Big Mac?”

“I think...you better come inside with me. Granny Smith is...well, she’s gotten worse...”

Apple Bloom’s eyes widened. “Wh-whattya mean?”

“She’s...well, she’s not awake anymore...she’s in what they call a coma. She...probably won’ make it through the night. I...I figured it’d be best for us t’say our goodbyes.”

“N-no...you can’ be serious!”

Big Mac walked over to his now sobbing sister. He pulled her gently into a hug while giving the Princess of the Night a nod. “C’mon, Apple Bloom.”

The Apple siblings walked inside, the door closing with a rattle behind them. The midnight alicorn exhaled deeply, her eyes now shadowed by her mane . Luna expected Celestia and she would need to have a long talk with Applejack and the others after this was over. While she had seen more ponies than she would like to remember age and pass on before her very eyes, the experience always affected her deeply. Both of the ancient sisters had learned to control their emotions over the centuries of ruling Equestria, but every now and then Luna or Celestia had to find some way to release their pent up feelings. Celestia sometimes ate unhealthy levels of ice cream, or flung paint at a canvas to ‘reflect her inner self’s pain’ or so she put it. Luna would lock herself up in her room and play whatever instrument she had lying around, or stomped in a feathered pillow she had in her room.

She only hoped the others would find ways to keep themselves from breaking down.


Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Big Macintosh stood on one side of the bed by their grandmother, silently watching as she breathed. While she was unresponsive, her body still managed to keep her breathing and alive, if not barely.

“Granny...it’s us.” Applejack began. “We wanted to make sure we got to...say goodbye. It ain’t right for an Apple to not say goodbye, after all.”

The three were silent again, the occasional sniffle from Apple Bloom being the only thing cutting through the silence. Big Mac had a hoof placed gently over her as he and his sister attempted to comfort her as best as they could.

“We’re...we’re all a little scared, Granny, but...” Applejack let out a weak, ragged breath. “We’ll pull through, somehow. We’ll keep doin’ our jobs...an’...an’ I’ll take good care of Equestria. I promise.”

“I’ll keep studyin’ hard, and help Big Mac ‘round the farm.” Apple Bloom added quietly.

“I’ll look after Apple Bloom an’ the farm.” Big Mac spoke, his voice just above a whisper. “I’ll do my best, Granny.”

Eventually Apple Bloom was escorted out after giving a final goodbye, and now only Applejack remained in the room. She looked to the door, then to her grandmother. She gently placed her horn beside her grandmother’s forehead, and closed her eyes tightly. The horn sparked to life, bathing the room in a soft, orange glow. She opened one eye, only to close it again. The light intensified a bit more, and tears began to fall from the alicorn’s eyes. She opened them again, and began to sob as she watched her dying grandmother continue to lie in her bed, unmoving.

The glow became so intense that one would have expected it to be morning from the brightness of the room. Her horn suddenly fizzled out as Applejack collapsed in a silent heap, tears pouring down her cheeks. “I-I’m sorry, Granny...I...I tried...”

Meanwhile, Big Mac stood just outside the room, watching between the partially open door as his sister wept. He hung his head and cried silently before walking back to Apple Bloom’s room.

He would have told Applejack to stop, but...in a way it was probably closure for the headstrong mare. He wouldn’t begrudge her of that.


The following morning Apple Bloom didn’t go to school. In fact, almost all of Ponyville took a day off from normal activities.

Granny Smith had asked to be cremated, and her remains be spread across Sweet Apple Acres after the harvest. Partly because she had put so much of her life into building up the orchard into what it is today, and partly because she didn’t want her remains to land on any of the apples that would be sold to pony folk. That wouldn’t help for business, or so her will had stated.

The two sisters and one brother had placed her remains in a marble urn for the time being, and simply spent the better part of the morning greeting ponies who visited them at their grandmother’s wake. Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie, Rarity, Luna, and Celestia all paid the Apple family a visit throughout the day at different times, offering what comfort they could.

Naturally, Granny Smith left all her belongings in the care of her grandchildren, though she stated that Sweet Apple Acres could be passed down to any capable Apple family member who was able run both the labor and finances of the vast estate. This left the three Apple members of Ponyville in a rather tough spot.

Big Mac was a great worker, but he simply lacked the experience of working in the financial field. He could crunch numbers, but he wouldn’t be able to focus as much time on finances while also tending to the farm throughout the year. He simply had too much on his plate, so to speak.

Apple Bloom was simply too young. She lacked the muscular strength to buck as well as her brother and sister. She was also still attending school. Suffice to say, she wasn’t quite ready to run the farm.

Applejack was a princess now, and couldn’t spend her time focusing on the farm and orchard. Doing so would get in the way of her duties, which she was already taking time off from.

As such, there was only one thing left to do: call out to the Apple family for help. Letters were sent to all parts of Equestria to every member that Applejack and Big Mac could think of. Even a few of the Oranges were mailed letters.

“Do you reckon any of ‘em can move out here?”

Big Mac and Applejack were currently sitting and looking out to the vast fields of Sweet Apple Acres. It was somewhere around two in the afternoon, but they both felt drained. Apple Bloom had went to her room where she cried herself to sleep, so now it was just the two of them.

“I don’ know, sis, but I know that Apples don’ leave each other hangin’.”

Applejack grunted in agreement. “If anythin’, I’m sure Braeburn would be willin’ to move on over to Ponyville. He’s still livin’ on his own, an’ technically the town of Appleloosa owns the orchard, not him. I heard Apple Fritter’s been tryin’ to find business in Hoofington, but she’s been havin’ little luck. Maybe she’d like to move in with us...”

The two were silent after that. Big Mac was currently chewing on a piece of long grass, a habit indicating his mind was likely elsewhere.

“Then again, maybe Red Delicious or Golden Delicious can move over here instead. They’re only a few days away in Flank Valley. No...wait, they’re busy with startin’ up they’re family’s grocery store...”

“Sis...”

“Maybe Apple Bumpkin can come here...though she’s out in Fillydelphia, an’...wait, she’s got her bakery to worry ‘bout...”

“Sis.”

“Well, shoot...this ain’t good at all. Perhaps gettin’ Apple Brioche over here from Coltsburgh is-”

“Sis!”

Applejack jumped a little at the sound of Big Mac’s voice. “H-huh? Oh, sorry, what were you sayin’?”

Big Mac shook his head. “I was goin’ to tell you not too worry. Caramel still works with us, an’ I’m sure the Harvest family down the road can lend us a hoof if we are in a real pickle this year. I also know for a fact that Princess Luna told me somethin’ ‘bout gettin’ extra help next season if we really need it.”

The alicorn blinked several times before looking down. “I know.”

“The point is that all that is in the future. What we should focus on right now is the present.” He gave her a gentle nudge with a hoof. “Granny Smith always said you tend to get worked up easy.”

Big Mac wasn’t much of a socialite or talker. As such, when he spoke, ponies tended to listen. “Thanks, Big Mac.”

“Eeyup. Anytime.” He continued chewing on his grass, his gaze once again looking out towards the apple trees. “Granny left us with all of this. This isn’t just ours, though. This is Ponyville’s, and the Apple family’s. It ain’t gonna vanish just like that, sis.”

Surprisingly enough, Applejack felt a little less stressed upon hearing her brother’s words. “Right...sorry ‘bout that.”

“No worries. You just promise to keep bein’ the pony that you are, an’ everythin’ will turn out fine.”

“I’m lucky to have a brother like you, you know that?”

Big Mac smirked ever so slightly. “Eeyup.”


“Now you be sure to write to me as soon as you get word back from any family, alrigh’?”

“Eeyup.”

“If you need anything, an’ I mean anything, be sure to let me know.”

“Eeyup.”

Applejack frowned. “Big Mac, I mean it.”

The stallion just smiled. “So do I.”

The alicorn sighed before looking to her younger sibling. “Take care of Big Mac for me. Make sure he doesn’ go an’ burn dinner every night.”

“I’ll try. He ain’t that bad of a cook, Applejack.”

“Well, all the same.” The orange alicorn leaned down and nuzzled her sister and brother. “I’ll send you a letter if I find out anythin’ ‘bout work for the next season, alrigh’? Just take care of yourselves, an’ I’ll be sure to visit durin’ the holidays.”

“Actually...” Big Mac began. “Somepony was hopin’ we could maybe come to Canterlot.” He directed his gaze to Apple Bloom, and smiled when Applejack caught on.

“Well, I dunno. It’s a pretty big castle, and I hate to have either of you get lost when-”

“Sis!”

Applejack chuckled before ruffling her sister’s hair. “I’m only teasin’. Now remember, you write to me whenever you wanna talk.”

“Sis, I don’ wanna make you too busy though-”

Applejack placed a hoof over the filly’s mouth. “I ain’t gonna argue. I’m yer big sister. That’s what big sister’s do.”

Apple Bloom smiled in defeat. “Alright.”

Applejack made her way towards the chariot where her guards waited. “Keep in touch. Promise?”
        “Eeyup.”

Apple Bloom grinned. “I will! I Pinkie-Promise!”

“Fair enough. I’ll be sure to tell Pinkie you said that. She’ll hold you to it, y’know.”

Applejack stepped into her chariot and gave the guards a nod. The pegasi made their way down the road, flapping their wings as they slowly got the chariot off the ground.

“Bye, Applejack!” Apple Bloom called out as she raced down the road, Big Mac trailing behind. “Take good care of Equestria, okay?!”

Applejack looked down to the two as she moved further and further away. She waved at them and felt herself tearing up.

“I will, Apple Bloom...I’ll do it for you, Big Mac...Granny Smith...for everypony.”

While she knew she had a long and likely difficult road ahead of her, Applejack no longer felt as intimidated by it. She saw it merely as a part of who she was, and what was expected of her. She was a princess of Equestria, and the overseer of the earth and all it’s resources. She would insure that orchards like Sweet Apple Acres would continue to be healthy and hardy for ages to come, as well as all the other farms and gardens in Equestria.

Granny Smith would have liked that.


End of Chapter 1- Applejack Chapter 1

A/N: Yep, this is still alive. I know it’s been...several months, but I’ve been incredibly busy. I’ll hopefully be getting a bit more free time in the coming weeks, so I’m hoping to dedicate more time to this. Don’t fret though, I don’t think I could abandon this even if I tried. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading this so far (despite the huge gap between updates).

Next up: Celestia. Eons of ruling a country, keeping peace with other nations, and doing what she can to ensure the health and prosperity of Equestria’s citizens, and raising the sun every day: these are but a part of her duties as a Princess of Equestria. Now she must teach the new co-rulers of Equestria all she can with the help of Luna. What about her, though? What about her wants, needs, and feelings? Surely she has something she wants in life, endless though it may be.

Previous Chapter: Prologue- Part 2

Next Chapter: Chapter Two- Celestia 1


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Celestia: Shine On

        While Celestia never considered herself much of a poet, she would be the first to happily admit she had a passion for the canvas and paintbrush. When asked how many works of art she has painted, she would only laugh and claim the number too big to remember. Some were of sunsets, some of the mountain range near Canterlot, others were of the sprawling wilderness that was Everfree. She enjoyed nature and landscape paintings most of all, but she wasn’t too shabby at profile paintings either.

        “Twilight, raise your chin up a little...and...perfect! Okay, hold that pose.”

        Twilight Sparkle was the Princess of the Sun’s current conquest in the art of oil base painting. The purple alicorn had been hesitant about the idea, but eventually caved into Celestia’s gentle prodding.

        “How long will this take?”

        Celestia looked up from her canvas and smiled gently. “If you want, we can always do this another time, Twilight. I don’t mind.”

        “No!” Twilight shouted, blushing a little. “I mean...I wouldn’t mind doing this later...it’s just...well, I was hoping to get some lunch in first. I can wait, though.”

        “Do you want to get lunch, then?”

        “I don’t mind. If you want to paint first, I’ll pose.”

        Celestia closed her eyes and shook her head. “Twilight...do you want to eat lunch?”

        Twilight frowned. “I...it’s up to you, Princess.”

        Celestia raised an eyebrow.

        “I...I mean, it’s up to you, Celestia.”

        Celestia smiled gently. “Twilight, it’s your choice. Are you hungry?”

        The younger alicorn frowned a little. “I hope you don’t mind. I had a light breakfast before taking over for Rarity on throne duties. That was quite a while ago, though.”

        “There’s no need to apologize, Twilight. Come, let’s get something to eat.”

        The two alicorns made their way towards the dining hall, greeting passing attendants and guards on the way. After finding their seat at the large table, the two ordered a rather simple meal of daisy sandwiches with extra alfalfa and a glass of lemon water for each of them.

        “So, Twilight, have you had any new developments with your magical powers?”

        The lavender pony looked up from her meal and shook her head. “Yes, actually. I...well, I can feel the movement of the planet if I focus enough. It’s...very weird. I can also feel the orbit of Luna’s Moon, at least a little bit.”

        Celestia smiled. “I suspected as much would happen. Luna and I predicted that all of us would end up being closely bonded to each other in regards to our powers. I’m sure in due time you and Applejack will be able to sense each other’s powers without a single thought.”

        Twilight paused from her meal, looking down to her plate and frowning a little. “Um...about Applejack...”

        Celestia frowned as well. The farmpony turned princess had been rather quiet since she returned from Ponyville. She claimed she was exhausted, and just wanted some time to herself. She couldn’t blame the orange alicorn though. Losing loved ones was hardly a joyous occasion.

        “I was actually hoping to speak with her, as well as the rest of you. There’s a topic Luna and I need to discuss with you girls, but I’d like to do so when all of you are present.”

        “What do you want to talk about?”

        The white alicorn shook her head. “I would rather bring it up when you’re all here.”

        Twilight wanted to ask more about the matter, but could tell when the regal pony was set on her answer. “Alright.”

        “In the meantime, I think we should finish our lunch and check up on Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. I believe they took over throne duties about an hour ago.”

        After finishing their lunch, the two made their way down the hall leading to the throne room. Sure enough, when the guards opened the doors, there sat on the two thrones Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. They were engaged in a conversation from what it looked like.

        “...the next thing I knew, the cloud began to get heavy. It was really cool, I pushed it towards the plains outside of Canterlot and it began to rain like there was no tomorrow!”

        “Oh wow, Rainbow...how did you get it to come towards you without touching it, though?”

        “That’s just it...I just...wanted it to come to me, and it did!”

        Fluttershy smiled. “Do you think that’s part of your powers?”

        The chromatic alicorn smiled proudly. “Probably. I bet I could make a thundercloud move with my magic if I really wanted, heh.” The two suddenly noticed Celestia and Twilight’s presence. “Oh, heya Twilight. Celestia.”

        Both bowed in greeting, and Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash returned the gestures with low nods. “Good afternoon, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.” Celestia smiled. “So, Rainbow Dash, it sounds like you’re learning more about your powers.”

        “Hm? Oh, yeah! It was soooo awesome! I forgot to mention, I was flying over a lake the other day when I made the water move.”

        Twilight quirked an eyebrow. “You splashed water around?”

        Rainbow Dash shook her head. “No, I literally made the water move without touching it!” She tapped her chin. “Kind of like what you do...tele...telekinetisis...no...”

        “Telekinesis?” Twilight offered.

        “Yeah! That one!” The cyan pony grinned. “It was so cool! I kind of lost control after a few seconds, but I made it into a ball and flung it into the air and made it explode...that part wasn’t supposed to happen, but it was cool. It was all sunny out, so I made a rainbow when the water exploded, hehehe. You should have seen it!”

        “I see,” Celestia commented with a chuckle. “Anything else?”

        “Well...call me nuts, but I think it’s going to be snowing tomorrow.”

        “Tomorrow?

        Rainbow Dash gave Twilight a nonchalant look. “Yeah, I just feel like it’s going to snow tomorrow.” She pointed out one of the windows of clear glass. “It’ll be coming from...northwest of here...probably...”

        “Dash...it’s the middle of autumn.”

        Rainbow Dash shot the lavender alicorn an annoyed look. “Hey, don’t give me that look. I’m just saying what I think is going to happen! Yeesh!”

        “Well, either way, that’s really interesting Rainbow...um...” Fluttershy gave Celestia a shy smile. “I...actually had a few experiences with magic as well...”

        “Really? Do tell, Fluttershy.”

        “Yes, you see, I was taking a quiet stroll through the gardens. I wasn’t trying to look for any of the animals...not after the Gala...but, I found myself suddenly followed by a whole family of chipmunks, a few songbirds, and several bunnies. Oh, it was so adorable,” Fluttershy sighed happily. “I talked to them, and they simply sat and listened to me, it was so wonderful. That’s not the best part though. Eventually they scampered off to go get some food to store away, and then I felt it.”

        The three ponies looked at her expectantly. Rainbow Dash finally broke the silence. “You...felt it...?”

        “I felt it.”

        “Felt what?” Twilight asked.

        “Nature.”

        “Yeah? So?” Rainbow asked. “So can Applejack. She’s a farmer. Besides, aren’t you able to talk to animals and use that sixth sense of yours to understand wildlife already?”

        Fluttershy shook her head. “No, not like that. I felt nature. I could feel the flow of the energy of the plants and animals course through me. I...I could feel the plants making food from the Sun, I could practically taste the sweet sugars from the flowers’ nectar. I was able to tell what every animal and plant near me was doing...” She smiled contentedly. “It was nice.”

        “That must have been overwhelming,” Twilight said with a bit of awe in her voice.

        “Oh, no. I was able to understand it all perfectly. It...it’s hard to explain, but I just knew what nature was doing, and I felt like I was a part of it.”

        Celestia had an idea of what the yellow alicorn was saying, but decided to prod her further for details. “Fluttershy, ponies are a part of nature. We’re animals, just like everything else, aren’t we?”

        “Yes, but...well, this was different. I felt like I was one with nature. Like I had roots going into the ground, and that if I stood there long enough, I could do photosynthesis as well.” She giggled. “Maybe I’d become a tree.”

        “Twilight, didn’t you say you’ve been feeling weird lately, too?” Rainbow inquired.

        “Well, not weird, per se. I felt as though things were off kilter. I was feeling the world moving through space. I could literally feel us moving through space if I concentrated hard enough.” She let her horn glow and closed her eyes. Her head began tilting towards the eastern direction, towards a window, and she began to move, as if possessed. “The Earth moves...it’s always rotating...we can’t feel it though, since we’re moving with it...” She started walking in slow circles. “The Moon will rise soon. Very soon, and will set later than it did yesterday...”

        “Really?” Fluttershy spoke up, her voice laced with confusion. She glanced towards Celestia. “I thought that Luna is usually up a little before you set the Sun, Celestia.”

        Celestia was still processing the information she had received from Twilight. “I...yes, that’s typically the case.”

        “Luna’s Moon...it’s moving differently now. It...it rotates the same speed as our planet...and...the eliptical...orbit...it...” She opened her eyes suddenly and began swaying from side to side like a newborn foal.

        “Twilight!” Celestia was at the lavender alicorn’s side, balancing her before she fell. Twilight’s eyes fluttered several times before they regained their focus.

        “Ungh...” She looked up to see Celestia’s face inches from her own. “Gah! Princess, I’m so sorry! I didn’t pass out, did I?”

        “No, though you almost collapsed.” Celestia smiled kindly. “Are you alright?”

        “A little dizzy...but yeah, I’m fine.”

        Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash quickly trotted towards their friend. Fluttershy had a look of clear concern on her face. “Oh dear, Twilight, is everything okay?”

        “Yeah, you got all goofy on us. You looked like you were in a trance.” Rainbow said half-jokingly.

        “Twilight just experienced a mild case of magical exhaustion.” Celestia explained calmly. “I had similar problems when I was first learning how to move the Sun a long time ago.” She glanced down to her former student, who had opted to lie down on all fours while listening. “It’s nothing that out of the ordinary for a pony who’s learning to use her magical powers. Unicorn foals experience it from time to time.”

        “I haven’t had that happen to me for years,” Twilight stated with an abashed smile.

        “Don’t worry about it, Twilight.” Celestia nuzzled her former student gently. “Though, I would advise you to be more careful when digging deeper into your powers for a while.” She turned to the other two. “The same goes for you two, as well as Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rarity. You are all still exploring your powers, and while it seems you’re quickly coming to understand them, it will be some time before you have good control over them.”

        “Thank you, Celestia. We promise to be careful.”

        Rainbow Dash waved a hoof dismissively, “Pfft. Don’t worry about me, Celestia. I’ve got my powers under control.”

        “I’m serious, Rainbow Dash. The last thing I want is for you to lose focus and pass out while in mid flight,” Celestia said with a gentle, yet firm, tone.

        The cyan alicorn’s confident smirk drooped. “Alright, alright. I will...”

        “Thank you.” Celestia smiled. “Can you stand up, Twilight?”

        Twilight gave a nod before rising slowly to her feet. “There...I think I’m good.” She flexed her wings and rolled her neck a little. “Right. I’m fine.”

        “Good.” Celestia looked to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash again. “Is everything going alright for you two? No problems with running the court?”

        “Nope. We had a pony come in from Canterlot, asking for permission on holding a festival in the city’s main square two weeks from now.” Rainbow Dash answered.

        “We kindly replied that the matter will be marked in our log of civil inquiries, and stated that we will reach a decision within two days.” Fluttershy added. “He seemed like a very nice colt, still in high school from what it looked like.”

        “Yeah. Teenagers, heheh. He said the festival was some kind of academic festival of sorts. He was the student president or something.”

        “Rainbow Dash, he was a representative of the student body. His name was Ink Smudge.”

        “Huh...that explains the cutie mark.”

        Twilight suddenly bolted upright, “Ohmygosh!” She checked the clock on the opposite end of the throne room. “Oh nonononooooo!” She looked to her three peers and gave an apologetic bow. “I’m sorry, but I really need to go. I completely forgot that I was going to give a lecture at the Canterlot University on Equinic Runes. If you two hadn’t mentioned students, I would have completely missed it!” She sighed, “I was going to take my time getting there, but now I’ll have to teleport.”

        “Oh, well don’t let us keep you, Twilight,” Celestia said while shaking her head. She let out a sigh before looking to the sunny skies outside the windows looking over Equestria. “I suppose we’ll have to finish your portrait later.”

        “I’m really sorry, Celestia,” Twilight apologized. “I do want to continue with the portrait later, though.”

        Celestia beamed upon hearing Twilight’s insistence to continue. “Wonderful. Let me know when you’re free. I should probably be out in the gardens or in the castle somewhere. You know how to find me.”

        Twilight nodded to Celestia before focusing her magic and vanishing in a flash of magic. As soon as the lavender alicorn was out of sight, Celestia exhaled deeply.

        “You alright, Celestia?” Rainbow Dash asked.

        Celestia looked up to the two other alicorns, as though seeing them for the first time. “Hm? Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve just had a lot on my mind as of late.”

        Fluttershy looked at Celestia with clear concern. “Oh, do you want to talk about i? I mean, that is, if you’re comfortable with telling us...”

        Celestia gave them a reassuring smile. “It’s nothing too major, just a little pre-harvest season stress. So many ponies are busy as of right now, myself included.”

        “It is a really busy time of the year. Trees are getting ready to lose their leaves, all the furry little animals are preparing for hibernation...oh, I hope the ponies will be able to do everything without my help in Ponyville.”

        “Don’t worry, Fluttershy,” Rainbow Dash gave her fellow alicorn a bright grin. “Ditzy bought a compass this year. Now she’ll have to try in order to get lost come winter wrap-up.”

        Celestia chuckled. “I share Rainbow Dash’s optimism, Fluttershy. Things will be fine, even if you are not there to help yourself.”

        “I hope so...” Fluttershy prodded a hoof on the cushioned seat.

        After excusing herself from the throne room, Celestia made her way out to the gardens. She needed to clear her head, and fresh air always helped.

        “Hi, Celestia!”

        The Princess of the Sun nearly jumped into the air as she whirled around. “Oh, goodness, Pinkie Pie!” She laughed. “You scared me. How are you?”

        Pinkie Pie’s smile fell a little. “That’s my line.”

        “Hm?”

        “Well, first we had to postpone our trip to the Griffon kingdom, and that made sense with everypony being so busy during harvest season...but then you’ve been giving me a whole bunch of jumbled feelings whenever you’re near me.”

        “I...” Celestia blinked. “I’m sorry, what do you mean, Pinkie Pie?”

        Pinkie sighed. “Celestia...something is bothering you...right here.” She gently tapped Celestia’s chest, right over her heart. “It’s not a icky feeling, but...it’s not a really happy one, either, is it?”

        The elder princess soon realized what the bubbly alicorn was talking about. “You’ve been reading my emotions, haven’t you?”

        Pinkie flashed her a cheery smile. “Yep yep! Luna said you’ve been really...what was the word... disconcerted! Yeah, she said you were really disconcerted about something. Well, I said I would help you, since it’s my special talent to make ponies happy, and I am the Princess of Emotions! Since I’m the Princess of Emotions, I have to help ponies who are very emotional and not liking it. So, what’s you’re problem?”

        Celestia found herself trapped. Pinkie Pie was determined, and from what she knew from experience and Twilight’s letters, Pinkie and determination were a powerful combination. “I guess I have no choice, do I?”

        “Nope!” Pinkie laughed. “I brought some brownies though, so we can eat them while you tell me all of your problems! Auntie Pinkie is here to help!” She produced a tray of brownies from out of nowhere, grinning from ear to ear.

        A small laugh escaped Celestia’s lips. “Very well, Pinkie Pie. Let’s go to the central courtyard.”


        The brownies, much to Celestia’s delight, were fresh and still chewy. Just the way she liked them. Pinkie Pie was currently telling Celestia a story of her fillyhood, and how she found her cutie mark. Celestia recalled Twilight sharing a story of how the six of them had ended up sharing a bond via Rainbow Dash’s first sonic rainboom years ago, but not much as far as details went.

        “...and now I live in the bedroom above the Sugarcube Corner, at least until I became a princess,” Pinkie Pie finished before taking a bite out of her brownie. “Now, why don’t you share with me what’s bothering you! I’m still getting the ‘disconcerted’ vibe...and now you’re nervous.”

        “N-no, I’m...” Celestia closed her eyes and breathed through her nostrils. “I’m beginning to see how your powers work.”

        “Yep yep. Not much gets past me!” The pink pony beamed. “Now, calm down and just tell Aunt Pinkie what’s on your mind. I promise I won’t laugh or make fun of you. I can tell this is important to you.”

        The ancient pony sister took another deep breath before opening her eyes once more. She felt a little better seeing the patient smile on Pinkie’s face. “This is Pinkie Pie. She’s my friend...my peer...she may as well be family with the way things will be from now on...” Celestia looked to her hooves. “Pinkie Pie...have you ever loved someone?”

        Pinkie cocked her head to the side before grinning. “Of course I have. My mom and dad, as well as my sisters, the Cakes, my friends, pretty much everyone in Ponyville-”

        “No, Pinkie Pie...I mean...in a romantic way.”

        Pinkie stared at Celestia for several seconds. Then her eyes widened before speaking. “Ohhhhhh! Love love! Well...no, not really.” Pinkie Pie tapped her chin with a hoof. “I mean...I guess I never really fell for anypony when I was a little filly. Granny Pie said to not go looking for love. It tends to find you on its own.”

        “I see...well, that’s...my dilemma.”

        “You’re not in love with anypony?”

        “No, no...quite the opposite, actually.” Celestia laughed quietly.

        Pinkie gasped. “Oh! Who is it?! Tell me, I Pinkie Promise not to tell!”

        Celestia looked down to the grass, and for the first time in ages felt her cheeks burn in embarrassment. “I’m not sure if I want to...”

        Pinkie frowned a little. “Does this pony like you?”

        This question brought a smile to Celestia’s lips. “As a friend? Yes. In a romantic way, though? I’m...not so certain.”

        “Well, what do you like about this pony?” Pinkie began. “There’s got to be something about this pony that makes an amazing-superific princess like you fall for them, right?” She looked ready to bounce in place. “Are they a good storyteller? Maybe they dance really good...or maybe not so well, but try their best and you adore that! Oh, I know, they’re a knight in shining armor, and they saved you from an evil, scary wizard-pony and...”

        Celestia smiled as images of a certain lavender pony...a unicorn...no, as an alicorn...appeared in her mind. What wasn’t there to like about Twilight Sparkle?

Twilight was so intelligent for her age. She had such a kind heart, and always sought to help others. She was responsible, patient (to an extent, she had a tendency to panic if she was thrown off schedule), and just...so...

“...so, it’s Twilight huh...?” Pinkie asked.

Celestia’s eyes widened. Oh no, had she been thinking out loud? “Oh dear, did I just say all of that?”

Pinkie gave Celestia a gentle pat on the hoof. “Celestia, I won’t tell a soul. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye...huh...” Pinkie looked to the wings on her back. “I guess I don’t have to hope to fly anymore, hehehe.” She shook her head before returning her attention to the pony sitting before her. “You should be telling though. Especially Twilight Sparkle. Bottling up those feelings isn’t good for any pony!”

        The regal pony shook her head. “It’s not that simple, Pinkie Pie. She may not see me in the same way.”

        “Yeah, but what’s the worst that could happen? She says ‘no thanks’?” Pinkie grinned. “It may sting a little, but Twilight’s a good pony. She’ll still care about you just like she always did. Besides, you never know; maybe she’s got certain feelings for you, too.”

        “She does?” Celestia blushed deeply, realizing she had just shouted. “I-I mean...you think she could?”

        “Maybe, but you’ll never know if you don’t tell her.”

        Celestia was experiencing another feeling she hadn’t felt in ages. Insecurity. “What if she’s disgusted by the idea? What if...what if she frowns upon my...preferences?”

        “There’s nothing wrong with liking mares,” Pinkie Pie said simply. “It’s not wrong for stallions to like stallions, or to like both, either,” The party pony giggled. “Your sister and Fluttershy aren’t ashamed, are they?”

        Celestia chuckled. “I’m glad I’m not the only one that see what’s going on between those two.”

        “Yeah! I’ve been telling Fluttershy to buy Luna a dozen red roses and a bottle of wine next time she visits Luna late at night,” Pinkie giggled yet again. “She was beet red and said she wasn’t ready for anything like that yet. The silly filly.”

        Celestia’s mind began to wander to an image of Twilight standing outside her bedroom door, a bottle of chardonnay floating in her violet magic while she held a rose in her teeth. Her hair would be bathed in the soft candlelight of the late evening oil lamps, and she’d have a sleek dress on that-

        “Celestia...?”

        The white alicorn was shaken from her thoughts by Pinkie’s voice. “I’m sorry, what was that, Pinkie Pie?”

        “Um...your wings...”

        If Celestia’s cheeks had been hot with embarrassment, they were scorching now. “Oh-oh my, I...” She got up and quickly walked up to a nearby fountain. Pinkie was pretty sure that steam form as soon as the Princess of the Sun dunked her head into the water. She quickly pulled her head out and checked to see her wings were still fully opened and rigid.

        “Don’t worry about it, Celestia. I never saw a thing!” Pinkie waved a hoof. “Though it looks like you have a really, really bad case of the love bug.”

        Celestia’s cheeks were still a deep hue, though her wings were slowly folding back now. “I’m not so sure it’s love in a romantic sense, or just...a baser sense.”

        “Twilight’s a pretty pony! There’s no shame in thinking about things like that...though I’m pretty sure you care for her a lot more than just that.”

        The elder alicorn found herself silently impressed with the party pony’s insight. She doubted it would be the last time she felt that way, either. “Yes, Pinkie. I suppose I do.”

        “See? You admitted it!” She smiled brightly. “Hehehe, now I’m super happy!” She jumped forward and wrapped her forelegs around Celestia. “That must mean you’re at least a little happy, too!”

        The pink alicorn’s mirth seemed to flow right into Celestia. She found her smile growing, and she began chuckling with the pink pony. She returned the hug and wiped away a tear while giggling. “Thank you, Pinkie Pie. You’re the Princess of Emotion through and through.”

        Pinkie’s smile softened. “Thanks, Celestia. You know, I was really, really worried, but I didn’t want the other girls to worry, so I just grinned and went with it. I’m happy I did, though, because being a princess is super cool! A little boring once in a while, but that’s because not everything about running Equestria is fun and games, though I wish it was. Oh, what if we threw a party at the next council meeting? Do you think the representatives would want to play Hide and Seek in the castle? Or maybe tag? We could swim in the biiiiiiig pool and play Marco Foalo, or-”

        “Pinkie,” Celestia said while placing a gentle hoof over the younger alicorn’s mouth. “I think we better take that idea of yours one step at a time.”

        Pinkie’s eyes dropped a bit. “Yeeahhh...I guess you’re right.”

        “Maybe we’ll have a small little party after the meeting though, have some cake and refreshments,” Celestia added, her eyes twinkling as Pinkie’s grin returned in full force.

        “Thanks, Celestia!” The Princess of Emotion gave a final hug before standing up and beaming. “I better get going! I have to take over for Fluttershy soon!”

        “Ah, that reminds me,” Celestia began, getting Pinkie’s attention. “Luna and I would like to meet with you girls tonight...probably around midnight or so. We’ve already made plans to have night court cancelled for the evening.”

        Pinkie’s eyes were locked with Celestia’s for several moments. The Sun Princess felt like her very soul was being studied by the alicorn’s gaze. For all she knew, Pinkie may have been doing just that. After a few seconds passed, Pinkie put on a small smile. “Okie dokie lokie!” She began trotting ahead, but stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Hey, Celestia?”

        “Yes?”

        “Just so you know...I kind of already thought what it’ll be liking not growing old...but I’m just glad I’ve got ponies like you and Luna, and my friends to be with. I’m not angry at you or Luna, not even a teensy, tiny bit.”

        Celestia barely held back her surprise, and once again reminded herself who she was talking to. “I...thank you, Pinkie Pie. That means a lot to me.”

        “Yep, no problemo!” With that, Pinkie Pie made her way towards the castle.

        Celestia spent the next few hours meandering Canterlot Castle, admiring the various paintings, sculptures, and art that adorned the vast and numerous halls. She had asked the castle stewards and attendants to change the scenery every so often, at their discretion. It helped make her job less monotonous and gave some variety to her day-to-day routine. Artwork was continually pouring in from all corners of the kingdom, and it wasn’t uncommon for art auctions and galleries to be held within the walls of stone several times a month.

        “Princess Celestia!”

        The princess looked over her shoulder as a small purple dragon and unicorn filly approach her. “Hello, Spike and Sweetie Belle.”

        Sweetie Belle gave a curt bow while Spike nodded his head respectively. Spike then pulled out a book from a saddlebag Sweetie Belle had on her back. “Hey, Princess, do you know what this sentence is saying?” Spike flipped through several pages before pointing at a line. “Sweetie Belle and I asked the librarian, and she said she can’t read dragon words. I’d ask Twilight, but she’s doing that lecture right now.”

        Celestia smiled. “Well, Luna’s more fluent in Wyrmahk than I am, but let me take a look.”

        “Wire...mock?” Sweetie Belle repeated.

        “Why-er-mach,” Celestia repeated as she sat down. “It literally means “Serpent Voice”. The dragons’ language is very old, older than even the Royal Canterlot voice.” She pointed at the odd symbols that appeared to be more like simple shapes than an alphabet.

        “What about Ancient Equinic?” Spike asked.

        “Ah...well, that language was made by Luna and I. We...are older than the dragons, so no.”

        “Wow...” Sweetie Belle and Spike whispered. Celestia laughed quietly, enjoying the reactions of the young dragon and filly.

        “Now...let me...ah, here we go,” Celestia cleared her throat. “...‘the mighty elder set forth.’...oh this is one of their silent ‘J’s’...hmm...Vujese su iyei yehl krov...” She looked up to see Spike and Sweetie Belle watching her expectantly. “Hm, if my understanding of Wyrmahk is as good as it used to be, that roughly translates to ‘His wings were very powerful’. I could be wrong though. The dragons have several words that look similar, but a single letter can make the difference between insult and compliment. The volume and tone you speak a word also means several different things.”

        Spike grinned. “Twilight has started teaching me Wyrmahk. She says in a few more years my voice should be ready for the full range of the language.”

        “That’s wonderful, Spike. It’s good to learn about one’s history. While many dragons keep to themselves, they still have a rich and diverse culture, just like ponies do. You might even learn a little more about yourself and how you’ll grow up as well.”

        “See, you make it sound fun. Twilight says it’s so I can ‘enrich my knowledge of dragon history’ and boring stuff like that.”

        “Well, you’re pretty lucky to have someone like Twilight Sparkle teach you. She studied the language since she hatched you all those years back.”

        Spike quirked an eyebrow. “She did?”

        “Yes. Of course, she has to use magic to amplify her voice to reach all the different pitches that dragons can.”

        “Heh, yeah. I remember when she taught me how to say her name in the dragon language. She almost made the bookshelves in the library fall over because she lost control of her volume.”

        “Well, for the record, I was trying to enunciate the syllables because someone was unable to say the draconic sound ‘Aag’ right at the time.”

        Spike jumped before turning around to see Twilight Sparkle looking at him with an amused expression. “T-Twilight! Hey, we were just talking about you.”

        “So I heard,” Twilight smirked. “Tu iyie skolahk solvens, Spike?”

        “Um, wait, I know this one...” Spike thought about it for several moments before shrugging. “Um...did I clean the library out today?”

        The lavender alicorn shook her head. “Spike, come on, we went over those words just last week.” She cleared her throat. “Tu iyie skolahk solvens? Did you study today?”

        The dragon blushed while looking down. “Not yet.”

        “He kept going to look at the comic book section of the library,” Sweetie Belle said, earning a dirty look from the dragon.

        “We have a comic book section?” Twilight asked before shaking her head. “Well, either way, you need to your studies, young dragon. Sweetie Belle, I know for a fact that you’ve got a big test coming up at the end of the week as well.”

        “How did-?”

        “Rarity’s been keeping me informed,” Twilight explained, cutting the filly off with a knowing smile. “So you better get your tail in gear as well.”

        Sweetie Belle sighed deeply. “Yes, ma’am.”

        “If you want I can give you a list of fun study-tips to-”

        “We’ll pass. Thanks anyway, Twi,” Spike said as the two returned towards the library.

        “Honestly, if he’d only gave those tips a chance, he’d find studying a lot more fun. What better way to learn vocabulary terms than with flashcards?” Twilight frowned before returning her attention to Celestia. “Sorry, Princess. Lecture went over a few minutes.”

        “It’s not a problem, Twilight. I managed to find ways to keep myself entertained,” She looked to the sky, noting that she probably had about three to four hours of light left before the sun dipped over the horizon. She would have been able to pinpoint the time within a fifteen minute range about a month ago, but Twilight had control over the shift in day to night now. “Shall we continue the painting? I think we have a little bit of time left before sunset, but I may have to make adjustments to the painting with the different lighting and time of day.”

        “Oh...” Twilight hummed to herself in thought. “Maybe we should just continue tomorrow around the same time?”

        “Perhaps that’s for the best,” Celestia agreed. “I take it you have nothing else planned this evening?”

        “Not really. I’m free if you are, Celestia.”

        Celestia’s heartbeat quickened as Twilight smiled at her. “Well, why not just enjoy the afternoon while we still have sunlight? The castle grounds are always beautiful at this time of day...”

        “Sure! That sounds great, Celestia.”

        So, the two took their time, walking at a casual  pace as they made their way throug the courtyards of Canterlot Castle. Celestia listened as Twilight discussed her experience with lecturing to the teenage ponies he, and was delighted when Twilight said she wished to continue doing so.

        “The students actually sounded interested! Not interested like Pinkie Pie or Fluttershy sometimes pretend to be, but genuinely interested! Oh, Princess, it’s so wonderful, I may just take on a student of my own someday...er...if that’s alright with you, I mean.”

        Celestia laughed. “My dear Twilight, you are a grown mare now. You can make whatever decision you want.”

        “I-I know, but...well, I don’t know if I’m still a student as well, or if I’m ready to teach...”

        “To be a student means to learn, Twilight. Ponies learn something new every day. So, in a sense, one never stops being a student.”

        “Huh...” Twilight nodded. “That...actually makes a lot of sense, Celestia.”

        “Of course. I myself am still learning new things every day. It’s one of life’s little joys.”

        The two finally arrived at the garden’s central fountain, and the two took a seat on a large stone bench. “Princess...I mean, Celestia...do you think I’ve been doing well with the planet’s rotation?”

        Celestia sensed the worry in Twilight’s voice. “Of course you have, Twilight. You’ve taken on a task that is incredibly important, and you’ve done marvelous so far.”

        “Do you really think so?”

        Celestia smiled gently. “Yes, I truly do.”

        Twilight loosened up a little. “That’s good. I was worried that...well, maybe I was setting the sun too early, or maybe the moon was not rising at the right time. Luna’s been telling me I’m doing well, too, but I’m not sure if she’s just being nice...”

        Celestia’s smile dropped a bit. That was just like Twilight. She was a talented pony with great potential, yet she still found herself uncertain of her skills. She continued, even now, to seek Celestia’s approval. “Twilight...I think I need to explain something to you.”

        Twilight’s ears perked. “Yes, Celestia?”

        “You recall me saying that you six are equals alongside Luna and I, do you not?”

        “Yes.”

        The Princess of the Sun smiled softly. “That means you don’t have to always worry about what I or Luna, or anyone else may think of you. For the record, I chose you as a student because I saw how talented you were. You were the first foal in decades, no, centuries, to cause such a magical calamity, if you’ll excuse the expression.”

        Twilight blushed. “I know...you’ve told me before. Still, I’m your student. I should be good at what I do.”

        “Well, technically you’re not my student anymore.”

        “I’m not?” Twilight blinked several times. “Oh, right...I’m your equal, right...”

        The two were silent for several minutes, one unsure of what to say to help her friend’s mood, the other not sure if she should continue talking about said subject.

        “Twilight...” Celestia spoke softly. “I think we...we’re beyond just student and teacher, don’t you agree?”

        “What...what do you mean?”

        “We’re, well, we’re friends, Twilight. Though...” Celestia paused, and found her voice suddenly gone.

        “Princess?” Twilight gave her idol and mentor a confused look.

        “Twilight...you’re very...very important to me. I know it’s not right for a princess and co-ruler of Equestria to say such things, but you’re one of the most important ponies in my life. You cannot imagine how happy I was when Luna had discovered that you were to be one of the new princesses of Equestria. I...I felt so relieved and joyful when you were chosen by the Elements to take on the crown,” Celestia cleared her throat several times. If she stopped now, she may never be able to say what she wanted to Twilight. “Twilight Sparkle, you...you mean so much to me, and...the thought of you one day not being with me just...it always scared me.”

        Twilight listened, half afraid of the way Celestia was acting, the other half flattered and happy that she meant so much to her long-time teacher.

        “You and the other girls gave me my sister back, and for that I am forever in your debt. Though, if you don’t mind me...for...” Celestia’s mouth felt like it was full of cotton for a few seconds, but she forced herself to continue. “Twilight Sparkle, please understand that I am being sincere when I say that...I...” She paused, looked to her hooves and cursed her own cowardice.

        “Three simple words, Celestia! Come on! You’ve faced dragons, the creation of an entire country, Nightmare Moon, and the incarnation of chaos himself. Why can’t you say these words?!”

        She raised her eyes to meet Twilight’s confused expression. “I love you, Twilight Sparkle. I have loved you for...for years now. I know it may sound...disturbing for a pony of my age to say such a thing to a younger mare like you, but I’m being honest. I love your smile, I love your brilliant mind, the way you are always willing to help a pony in need, how dedicated you are to magical study and friendship, and above all else, I love you simply because you’re you, and nopony else.”

        Twilight was shell shocked, from the way her eyes only widened. Her jaw seemed to not work properly, as it was hanging open. She began to breath a little faster, but managed remained calm for the most part...at least on the outside she appeared to look as such.

        “Twilight...are you alright?”

        The lavender alicorn slowly got to her feet, and spoke just above a whisper. “You...you really mean all that? Everything you said...you meant all of it?”

        “Yes, as the Elements of Harmony as my witness, I did.”

        Twilight took in a few gulps of air before speaking, her voice cracking a bit. “I...wow...” She smiled. “You...you really, really mean it...” She began to tear up a bit. “This isn’t a joke, right? You’re not pranking me?”

        “Heavens, no, Twilight! I most certainly would not prank about such a thing.”

        Celestia was suddenly tackled to the ground by a sobbing alicorn. She immediately began to worry. “T-Twilight, are you-?”

        “I’m wonderful,” Twilight breathed. “Oh, Princess, I-I never in a thousand, no, a million years, would have expected this to ever happen.” She sniffled a bit before pulling away, embarrassed. “Luna...well, I had asked her if you had a special pony in your life...a bit of a foolish thing to ask in hindsight, considering I was practically screaming that I was interested in you, but she said you didn’t have anypony. She also said you love trashy romance novels, cheesecake, and fine wine. I think I almost knocked over several hoofmaidens when I turned and galloped away from being so embarrassed.”

        Yet again, Celestia was finding herself completely unprepared for the situation. “You mean...you-?”

        Twilight nodded slowly. “I’ve had a school-filly crush on you for years now. Even before that, really. I think it was when I first saw you at the Summer Sun Celebration...you were...” She sighed, “I was so excited the day you chose me to study under you. I managed to become content with being your student, but a small...well, a big part, actually, of me wanted to know you better.”

        “I...I cannot remember in much detail the last time I dated a pony, Twilight,” There was apparent shame in her voice as she confessed this. “It must have been at least...three...four hundred years ago...I’m not certain,” Celestia looked to her hooves. “I thought that, being an alicorn, and a princess, most ponies would find me unapproachable. My status was always something that was a blessing and a curse to me...mostly a blessing, but I’ve had my bad days, as any pony does.”

        “Well...I’ve never...dated...”

        Celestia’s eyes widened a fraction. “Never?”

        “It’s not that surprising, is it?” Twilight asked with an amused smile.

        The white alicorn gently nuzzled the younger princess, a small bit of pride swelling in her chest. It was a little shallow of her, but she was happy to know that she may be the first pony to have such a relationship with Twilight.

        Maybe...

        “Twilight...would you like to join me for a stroll through the garden? I know some quiet places where we can have a quiet chat together...if that would be alright with you.”

        “I...Princess, are you blushing?”

        Celestia looked down. “N-no! Well...yes, I suppose.” She gave Twilight an innocent smile. “I meant nothing of...graphic nature...in the invitation, Twilight. It’s just...I’m still surprised by this...I honestly didn’t expect you to feel anything close to what I felt.”

        “Likewise...” Twilight smiled. “I would be honored to accompany you on this fine afternoon, Celestia.” Twilight gave a deep, over exaggerated bow. “Milady?”

        Celestia stood up while giggling. “Oh, what a gentlefilly.” She looked to the mare with a soft, yet nervous expression. “So does this mean you’d like to...date me?”

        Twilight looked down for a moment before meeting the elder alicorn’s eyes. “Yes, I would like that a lot...I mean, Fluttershy had the courage to get together with Luna, I don’t see why we can’t be the same way.”

        “Ah,” Celestia chuckled. “Luna and Fluttershy still seem to dodge the topic, though. I think they’re still getting comfortable with the idea.”

        “Well, it’s not the best kept secret in the world, if that’s what they’re hoping for. Pinkie’s already tried holding a party for Fluttershy on several occasions, and Luna almost tripped down some stairs when she saw Fluttershy walk by the other day.”

        “Let’s give them time. They’ll come around eventually.”

The two shared a quiet laugh, and the tension that had been in the air minutes ago quickly vanished. It was a rather humorous scene, really. The regal and graceful Princess Celestia was fumbling on her words like a little filly while Twilight was trying desperately to fight down the crimson that continued to stain her cheeks.

        The next couple hours passed quickly for the two. They spent their time admiring the flowers, talking of anything that came to mind (namely each other), and the oddest part was how...right it felt. Yes, they were still a little nervous, but it didn’t necessarily bother either of them. She had just declared her feelings to Twilight, and she was thankful to the stars and sky above that she felt the same.

        “So...how do we go about telling this to the girls?”

        Magenta met violet as Celestia peered into Twilight’s eyes. She could still see the ever-inquisitive nature behind those eyes. It was true what ponies said; the eyes were the doorway into a pony’s soul. “Well, I think it would be best if we tell them sooner than later.”

        “I was thinking the same. I hope this won’t bother Spike at all. I never really talked much about relationships between two mares or two stallions. Though, it’s not like he isn’t aware of such things...”

        “Twilight,” Celestia began. “Spike is a smart, open-minded young dragon. I’m sure he will just be happy that you have someone you care about in such a way.”

        The lavender pony nodded. “I know, I know...I just hope it doesn’t change how he sees you.”

        Celestia pondered her words for several moments before nodding. “I think that’s unavoidable. It may not be a bad thing, though. In fact, it may be a very good thing. He has always seen me as your teacher, and as a princess. As a friend too, but...well, us being together will hopefully make us less...distant, for the lack of a better term. I care about him like family, as do I all of my citizens. Like you, though, he’s more a part of my personal life. Not in same way with you, but in a very close way nevertheless.”

        “I hope you’re right. I really should have read up more on that book about ‘Relationships in Today’s Society’ by Spring Fever. She has a doctorate in pony psychology, and studies relationship issues such as-”

        “Twilight...” Celestia placed a wing over the shorter alicorn’s back. “Don’t worry so much. Just do what you feel is right. Not everything can be taught from a book, after all.” She winked as Twilight looked to the ground sheepishly.

“Heheh, right...”

        Eventually the bell chimed, signaling the time was now nine at night. Neither had really noticed time fly by so quickly, but the same couldn’t be said for the stomachs. Twilight let out an embarrassed chuckle as her stomach growled ravenously, and the two quickly agreed to get a late dinner.

        Upon entering the dining hall, they were greeted by a rather peculiar sight.

        “Sweetie Belle, I am speaking the sincere truth, your voice is possibly the most beautiful one I’ve heard in several thousand years.”

        Celestia and Twilight remained quiet while Luna and Rarity sat quietly, speaking to a flustered Sweetie Belle.

“It’s okay, I guess.”

        “Okay? Far from it, dear,” Rarity spoke with a laugh. “Sweetie Belle, you have a very strong singing voice for your age. I am seriously jealous of your raw talent sometimes.”

        Sweetie Belle scuffed the floor while smiling a little. “Thanks, Rarity, but still...the Winter Solstice concert...that’s a really, really, really big concert.”

        Luna gave a nod, her eyes dancing with excitement. “That it is, dearest Sweetie Belle. We would love for you to grace the concert with thy...” She paused briefly before coughing. “Forgive me, old speech habits returns when I become...jubilant.” She placed a gentle hoof on Sweetie’s shoulder. “Sweetie Belle, I would love for you to join me in the opening and closing numbers. I won’t pressure you to, but your sister and I truly think you would dazzle the audience.”

        “I’ll think about it, Princess Luna...” Sweetie Belle managed to grin, albeit nervously. “I just...that’s a lot of ponies.”

        “I’ll help you get over your stage fright. Just ask Celestia. The two of us used to have trouble speaking in front of lots of ponies as well.”

        “Okay. I will, Princess.”

        “Luna is fine when we’re not in front of lots of ponies, Sweetie Belle.”

        Sweetie Belle received an affectionate nuzzle from the dark alicorn before Rarity ushered her out of the dining hall, likely to tuck her in for the night. Rarity gave Twilight and Celestia a polite nod before picking up her sister, who was beginning to nod off. As soon as the two left the hall, the Princess of the Night turned her attention to the newcomers. “Good evening, Celly. Twilight.” She gave small nods to the two, which were returned. “We were...excuse me, I was rather disappointed when I was unable to have dinner with you this evening. It was sweet potatoe pie and split pea soup.”

        Celestia made a face. “Split pea soup? Ugh, Luna, I don’t know where your love for that soup comes from.”

        “It is simple and easy to make, dear sister,” Luna gave a smug look while Celestia rolled her eyes. “I must ask though, where were you two at such a late hour?”

        “I...well, Twilight and I were just having a friendly talk in the gardens.” Celestia answered while Twilight nodded a little too quickly in agreement.

        “I see.” Luna had a knowing look on her face. “Must have been quite an intriguing talk.”

        Celestia frowned. “Oh forget it,” She sighed in defeat. “Twilight, do you mind if I tell her?”

        Twilight shook her head. “No, not really. She sort of expected it from what it sounds like.”

        Celestia closed the distance between Twilight and herself, placing a wing over her backside. “Twilight and I have decided to start dating.”

        Luna’s eyes brightened. “Oh, happy day! You two have admitted to being smitten with each other! Huraah! Joy and jubilation!” She got up and pranced happily to the two mares. “We are most delighted to hear this, dear Celestia!” She beamed at Twilight, “Oh, Twilight, we had suspected the same from you as well! Our sister has hidden this poorly from us, and we were worried she would go mad with love-sickness!” She squealed a bit while dancing in place. “Tell us, tell us! Who confessed first? Wait, wait, twas you, wasn’t it, dearest sister? You spoke softly with rose colored cheeks about-”

        “Luna!” Celestia looked nervously over to the guards, who were a combination of flushed cheeks, slack jaws, and one mare who was teary eyed and had a handkerchef while sighing happily. No doubt that if they hadn’t been paying attention earlier, Luna’s notorious volume had gotten them to listen. “I...yes, I told Twilight first. We’re...going to take it slow for now. This is a new thing for Twilight, and I’d appreciate it if you don’t go announcing it to everyone like you just did.”

        “Oh, we-” Luna blushed a bit. “Forgive me...I will not tell a soul.” She quickly resumed squealing. “Oh, if only Fluttershy were here as well. She has been waiting for this to happen as well.”

        “Wait, what do you mean?”

        The Princess of the Night laughed quietly as Twilight gave her a perplexed look. “Well, Fluttershy has noticed for quite some time now, actually. At least in your case, Twilight Sparkle.”

        Twilight quirked an eyebrow. “My case?”

        “Forgive me for being blunt, but it’s easy to see that you adore my sister. A lot of ponies do, and I’m sure more than a few have some romantic interest in her.”

        “Luna, please...” Celestia groaned.

        “My point being, Twilight Sparkle, is that Fluttershy noticed how you acted differently around Celestia.”

        “Well, she-”

        “Yes, yes, Celestia is the princess, and your mentor, so of course you would try to be your best around her. However, you’re the only pony, as far as both she and I can tell, that Celestia openly displays affection back to. No guards, handmaidens, or foals ever receive the same gentle nudges or affectionate embraces from her.”

        Twilight looked to Celestia. “Is she always this way?”

        Celestia sighed. “I try to convince myself it’s what makes her so charming.”

        Luna’s wings fluttered as she continued on. “This shall be wonderful. Oh, I’m sure you two could take a trip to the Bahaymas, or maybe go skiing in the Alpaca Mountains. Yes, yes, Celly, you two will...” She was walking in circles, and had seemed to forget that the two were even there as she continued.

        “Um...” Twilight could only watch helplessly as Luna began planning several getaways for the two.

        “I think it’s best we leave her be for a little while. She was exactly like this when I had gone out with a rather handsome baron about two millennia ago,” Celestia whispered before nudging Twilight to a distant table where they ordered a light meal. “She’s a creature of the night, and many ponies consider the night a time of moonlit walks and romance. I think that may be the reason for her...mannerisms.”

        “I guess that makes senses,” Twilight murmured while Luna magically produced a roll of paper and quill while humming to herself. She began to write down what appeared to be a list. She decided it best not to pry on what the list entailed.

        By the time they had finished with dinner, Luna had compiled a small stack of papers, and was now looking over a map of the land surrounding Equestria. Spectacles rested on the bridge of her snout while she studied it in detail, humming in thought as she made several notes on a piece of paper resting by her hooves.

        “Um...hello?”

        Luna, Celestia, and Twilight all looked up to the entrance to see Fluttershy standing at the entrance. Luna beamed happily at the sight of yellow alicorn. “Good evening, Fluttershy. Do you need something?”

        “Oh, well, I remember you telling me that we were supposed to meet here at midnight...we were going to have an important discussion about something involving all eight of us.” She scuffed the tile flooring nervously. “If...if you want, I can come back later if you’re too-”

        “Not at all. Please, take a seat.” Luna made the numerous piles of paper and writing utensils vanish before tapping on an open spot for her to sit down at.

“Hey, is this where the meeting is taking place?”

        Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie walked into the dining hall, with Rarity following behind. Last of the group was Applejack, who sauntered in slowly.

        “Evenin’, ya’ll,” the apple-flanked alicorn said with a yawn. “”Scuse me for bein’ so tired. I just haven’ been able to sleep much lately.”

        “It’s okay, Applejack. No need to apologize,” Twilight said, the others nodding in agreement.

        As soon as everyone had taken a seat, Celestia and Luna looked around the room. There were two night shift guards standing at the main entrance doors, but that was about it. “Well, Luna...do you wish to start?”

        “Yes, I suppose,” Luna exhaled deeply before speaking. “I imagine that most of you have a bit of an idea what this meeting is about?”

“It’s ‘bout us bein’ alicorns, ain’t it?” Applejack asked with a weary sigh.

“More or less,” Luna nodded. “Celestia and I would have addressed this sooner, but...well, forgive us, but we were caught in the task of finding the six of you and bringing about your powers as princesses.”

“What are you talking about?” Rainbow asked.

“She’s sayin’ that she wants to talk ‘bout us havin’ immortality, Dash.” Applejack mumbled her eyes focused on a knot in the wood of the table.

“Immortality?” Rarity echoed. “My word, is that true?”

“I wouldn’t say immortality, Rarity. More like...” Luna frowned as she looked up to the ceiling in thought. “Celly...help me here.”

“Eternal would be a more accurate word,” Celestia replied.

Luna gave a nod of agreement. “Yes, that would probably be a better word. You see...we are of flesh and blood like the other ponies, but...we cannot really cease to exist. We cannot die. If we were to receive a fatal injury or wound for whatever reason, we would heal and recover. We can still get sick, sprain ankles, get concussions and bruises, break bones, and so forth.”

“Sounds like immortality to me,” Rainbow stated with a frown.

“Yes, it does. However, if we were to be completely obliterated, stars and sky above forbid that would be the case, we would return in time. A perfect example is when I was imprisoned in the moon.”

The six ponies’ ears perked up at the mention of the Nightmare Moon incident.

“You see, my little ponies...when I used the Elements on Luna...I had more or less vaporized her. I had not intended for such a thing to happen, but I wished for her to stop what she was doing,” Celestia said softly while nuzzling Luna. “The Elements knew of her powers and as such, knew the only way to stop her was to destroy her physically. Her...her essence, or soul, whatever you wish to call it, was sealed in the moon. She was still alive in a nearly intangible, metaphysical state, but she held no body for one thousand years.”

Luna nodded. “It’s true. I was aware of my imprisonment, and aware of who I was, and what I had done. I was still Luna, but also Nightmare Moon. I spent eons in that prison, waiting for my chance to escape to seek revenge,” She looked down in shame, but shook her head before looking back up to the others. “I digress. My point is I was not destroyed completely, despite being torn from physical form. You see, my sister and I, as well as the six of you, represent something beyond a mere pony body. You are avatars, if you will. Some see you as living goddesses now, others as symbols of a kingdom, untouchable icons,” Luna smiled. “That cannot be further from the truth. We are living, breathing creatures, but we lack only one element that other beings in this land have.”

“That element is a finite existence,” Celestia answered.

The six alicorns sitting around the two sisters were quiet for quite some time. It was very similar to how they had been when they were first given their powers a while back. Wide eyes, confusion, even some fear.

“I know this is quite a lot to take in, but it’s the truth. Alicorns are...an anomaly, in a way,” Celestia stated her eyes looking towards the ascending moon outside the dining hall windows. “We exist in a world where things expire, yet we remain constant. On top of that, we are the rulers of the pony realm, yet we affect all life on this planet.”

“Is that the reason why the griffons and Diamond Dogs don’t always get along with ponies?” Twilight inquired.

“I can only assume so,” Celestia replied morosely. “Luna and I have tried numerous times to placate their suspicion and distrust towards the Equines, but we’ve had little success. The griffins have improved, I suppose, but the Diamond Dogs still want little to do with us. They fear that Luna or I would use our powers against them.”

“Well, they have some justification, Celly...” Luna said quietly. “One thousand years is long, but their descendants were still told stories of me.”

“That’s true...but that was something entirely different. That wasn’t you, Luna, that was Nightmare Moon. We’ve been over this...” Celestia placed a wing over her sister to comfort her. She gazed at each one of her younger co-rulers and smiled softly. “Now, I’m sure you all have questions for Luna and I. We will answer them as best as we can.”

Twilight was, unsurprisingly, the first to break the silence. “So...I won’t age at all? I’ll outlive all the ponies I meet?”

Celestia nodded. “Yes. That is part of the burden that we as princesses must take on. It will hurt, believe me, it will. The hurt will fade with time, but never fully leave.”

Her answer given, Twilight went silent once more.

“Oh...” Rarity’s voice trembled. “Y-you mean...even my parents and...my dear sister...?” She sucked in a shaky breath before speaking slowly. “I-I don’t think I could bare such a thing. Sweetie Belle...my parents...” She shook her head.

“All the more reason to treasure your time with your family, Rarity.” Luna spoke softly.

Fluttershy pulled Rarity into a gentle hug speaking quietly to her as the fashionista turned princess shed quiet tears.

“I know what you mean, Rarity...I...when Granny passed on, I thought the same thing ‘bout lil’ Apple Bloom and Big Mac...” Applejack looked to Celestia. “I can’ say that I’m entirely happy that you forgot to mention this to us...but I can’ hold a grudge against the two of you either.”

“Thank you for being so forgiving, Applejack. It means more than words can express to us.” Celestia felt her throat tighten.

“I’m just surprised that the two of you have lasted for such a long time without losing it,” Applejack spoke with a weak chuckle. “Shoot, I’m surprised you still care so much for everypony. You’d think that after seein’ so many be born an’ die...”

“We’ve gone through phases like that, Applejack, believe me,” Celestia began. “It was because the ponies cared so much for us though that Luna and I have come to terms with our role, however. We were loved, and we learned to love in return.”

“It helped that we had each other, too,” Luna added.

“So...wow...” Rainbow Dash had been rather silent, a trend that was becoming more and more common with her as of late. “This changes any plans I would have had with the Wonderbolts...”

“I don’t think that’s entirely true, Rainbow Dash.”

The cyan alicorn frowned at Celestia. “You think so?”

Celestia smiled. “I know for a fact that there is no rule barring royalty from entering the Wonderbolts. Time and your duties to the kingdom will probably limit your participation, but you shouldn’t completely deprive yourself of what you enjoy.”

“Yeah...but I’d never grow old. When would I ‘retire’?”

“That...” Celestia began. “Is your decision to make, Rainbow Dash. You are still your own pony, princess or not. The same goes for all of you, as well as Luna and I.”

It felt like hours to the two sisters before any other words were spoken. Rarity had calmed down a little, and Fluttershy was doing what she could to console her. Applejack had a distant look in her eyes, but seemed rather...well, she didn’t seem angry, but for a pony that was rather honest and spoke her mind, she was hard to read, even for Celestia. Rainbow Dash was acting similarly to Applejack, her mind elsewhere while she studied the cracks in the wood. Pinkie Pie was rather quiet, but Celestia had already heard the pink pony’s input on the topic earlier. When she looked to the party pony, the frizzy maned princess just gave a soft smile before returning her attention to Applejack, who she currently had a wing over.

Then there was Twilight Sparkle...

“Princess...er...” the Princess of Magic sighed before continuing. “So...I guess...I have a question...”

“Go ahead, Twilight,” Celestia could hear the hesitation in her former student’s voice, and judging from the way Pinkie and Luna’s ears twitched, so did they. Rather, Luna heard it and Pinkie probably empathized with it.

“What...what if there’s a pony that we may like...but they’re not an alicorn. What if we had...become serious with them. How would you have dealt with such an issue, like watching them age while you remained the same?”

Celestia caught on to the hidden meaning behind her words. “I would treat them as I would anyone that I care for in such a way, Twilight. Love is something that is meant to be given...and while I may lose loved ones, the love I shared with them will remain so as long as I remember them.”

Twilight’s eyes began to tear up and she smiled. “I see. That’s...that’s a good point, Celestia.”

The two didn’t notice that the others had taken notice to their “not-so-private” private conversation. Rarity let out a small gasp, her mood brightening suddenly. “Oh, do tell me they have!” She looked to Pinkie Pie. “Pinkie, dear, you know something, don’t you?”

Pinkie gave a nervous laugh. “Heheh...what are you talking about, Rarity? I know lots of things! I know that Gummy can eat over a dozen gummy worms in one minute, I know that the type of molasses you use changes the sweetness of bread, and-”

“Pinkie,” Rarity sighed. “You’re not hiding anything from me.”

“Whaaat? I’m hiding something??”

“Heh, you’re almost as bad at lyin’ as I am, Pinkie.” Applejack smirked.

Celestia looked to Twilight, who merely grinned before nodding. “I suppose Twilight and I may as well admit it. We...well, the two of us are going out, if you will. We both felt that- Luna, will you please stop giggling?”

The mood quickly lightened up as the ponies congratulated Twilight and Celestia. Though, the two weren’t exactly keen on the idea of matching dresses for the upcoming Grand Galloping Gala, or the fact that Fluttershy had begun whispering with Luna about who knows what.

Pinkie, on the other hand...

“I’m soooo happy for you two! See? I told you if you just told each other it would work out! We need to hold you girls a party!” She was bouncing on the tips of her hooves, a hopeful look on her face.

“Um...” Twilight forced a grin onto her face. “We’ll see about that, Pinkie. Not sure how much time we’ll have for a party, though.”

“Oh, it doesn’t have to be a big party! Just a little one! Maybe just a teensy, tiny-winy little get-together! We don’t have to invite anyone, it can just be us eight, and maybe the guard over there,” She looked to the stallion standing at the far end of the dining hall, minding his own business. “Heey! You want to come to a party?”

Soon Pinkie was off, trotting happily over to the random guard with a bounce in her step. Rainbow Dash shook her head and chuckled while turning her attention to Celestia and Twilight. “Congrats, Twi and Celestia. I thought something was going on between you two, but I never worried much about it, unlike someponies.” She cast a look over to Fluttershy, Luna, and Rarity, who were currently gossiping quietly. “Anyway, I better get to bed. I might need to wake up early in case that snow gets to be bad.”

Again, Twilight gave Rainbow Dash a perplexed look. “Rainbow, I-”

Celestia cut Twilight off with a gentle brush of her wing. “Perhaps we’d better drop that for now, Twilight. For all we know, we might have a snowstorm tomorrow.”

Twilight gave Celestia a look of mock-betrayal. “Celestia, not you too!”

Rainbow just grinned. “Heh, thanks for the back up, Celestia.”

Pinkie Pie had soon followed suit with Rainbow, followed by Applejack, who gave a polite nod to the two elder sisters. It was a simple gesture, but coming from the down-to-earth alicorn, it meant volumes to them. Fluttershy left for her bed only after Rarity had assured her that she would be alright. The typically quiet mare thanked Celestia and Luna for the talk, and promised that if they ever needed her for anything, she was free to listen. Luna and Celestia had told Fluttershy the same in return.

Twilight had given Celestia a gentle nuzzle and told her that she needed some rest. It had been a rather exhausting day for the both of them, and she felt it beginning to wear on her. Rarity was the last of the six to leave. She seemed to still be distraught, but like she did with Fluttershy, reassured the two princesses that she would be alright...in time.


Eventually Celestia had gone off to bed as well. Since she would be the first to take morning duties, she needed her rest. While she could use her magic to help her stay awake and fuel her body, she enjoyed the ability to get a few hours of rest when she could. Unlike Luna, she wasn’t accustomed to being such a night owl.

As she began to drift off to sleep, her mind went back to the events she had experienced throughout the day. Her and Twilight...she had never expected it to happen, really. It did, though, and she couldn’t be happier. Her dearest student...her friend, and now...

        “My, my, Celestia...you sure do get around, don’t you?”

        Celestia’s musings halted as a familiar, mocking voice rung clear as crystal in her head. She frowned to herself, but forced herself to ignore it.

        “Oh, that’s just cruel. You’d ignore me, after all we’ve been through? Typical of you, I suppose. Once you’ve had your fun with a pony, you move on to the next thing in your life. I guess I can’t blame you, what with being ‘eternal’ and what have you.”

        The alicorn’s patience was quickly fizzling out with this intruder’s continued taunts. She rolled over and grumbled to herself before placing a pillow over her mane, hoping to drown out the noise.

        “I’m curious to see how long this little fling of your with this...oh, what’s her name again? Twilight Sparkle...yes, that’s her name. I wonder, how long will your little thing with her last? A century? Two centuries? Maybe three? Hahah...oh, can imagine the look on her face when you decide to break up? Oh, she’ll be sooo traumatized, but it’ll be worth it just to see her break into-”

        “Silence!!” Celestia shouted, scaring herself by the sudden outburst. She barely registered the tears coming from her eyes, or the way her mane was flashing dangerously with intense waves of light. “I would never, never hurt Twilight Sparkle intentionally! You know nothing of how much she means to me, you fiend!”

        “Oho, looks like I struck a nerve!”  the voice laughed. “Dear me, I had no idea you were this serious about her! Well...this is interesting, isn’t it? It’s a good thing she’s an alicorn as well, otherwise you’d barely have time to be with her before she fades away, like all ponies do in time,” She suppressed a shiver that ran down her spine as the voice continued. “Tell me, if you will, Celestia...how much have you and Luna prepared those six mares for their duties? They barely seem suitable to rule Equestria right now, don’t you think?”

        “I swear, Discord, if you lay a single wretched claw on her, or any of them for that matter, I’ll be sure you beg to be placed back into that stone prison of yours.”

        The only response she got was a raucous laugh before it faded with the dark of her room. She managed to steady her breathing, only to be disturbed by a knocking at the door. “Y-yes?”

        “Milady, is everything alright? We heard...shouting...from the halls out here.”

        Celestia sighed. “Yes, I’m quite alright...just a bad dream.”

        “Do you need anything, your Highness?”

        She was about to dismiss them, but paused before speaking. “See if you can talk to the librarian on duty about finding any books on the Elements of Harmony from the private stacks in the castle’s library. I’m going to begin some research on them, and I’d appreciate it if I had some references to go off of.”

        “Of course, Milady,” replied the guard pony from behind the door. “Will there be anything else?”

        “No, but thank you.”

        “As you wish, Princess. Sleep well.” The sound of two sets of hooves could be heard as the guards headed down the hall, no doubt towards the library.

        The Princess of the Sun shook her head before flopping back into her bed, groaning in frustration before turning over and screaming into her pillow. It wasn’t fair! They had no affiliation with him, and they certainly weren’t involved with the liberation of Equestria all those thousands and thousands of years ago.

        Well, she wouldn’t let him do anything. Not if she could help it. She would have to inform Luna as soon as she could. Together they would be able to protect the others. If possible, they might even be able to stop him from breaking free all together. Only time would be able to tell her for sure, though. So as long as there were ponies to watch over, she would do what she could.

She was a princess of Equestria, after all. It was her sworn duty.


End of Chapter 2- Celestia Chapter 1

A/N: Hm...yeah, I’ve never been one for fast updates. Maybe it’s chapter length, maybe it’s just me. To those of you who were worried about this story, I apologize. Though, I will say that I had been waiting for the Nightmare Night and Hearth’s Warming Eve episodes to see if I could get a better insight into the two royal sisters...and I didn’t for the most part, aside from seeing the ROYAL CANTERLOT VOICE in action. They were nice episodes either way, though.

Anyway, thanks to everyone still reading. I know that other fanfic authors update twice as often as I do with just as much length, and as someone who has a serious interest in writing, I should be able to at least do these updates a little faster. I’ll try and pick up the pace, but as is often the case, life can be hectic and we don’t always have time for what we want. Still, keep your eyes peeled, and I’ll continue to make the updates!

Oh, and I know the shipping has been light thus far...I do plan on turning that up a little bit as I get more into this story, but right now I’m just trying to establish things between characters. As most of you have been able to see, though, there’s obviously some romantic happenings taking place. Just give it time.

Next Up:  While not one the new co-rulers of Equestria, she has already earned the attention of paparazzi and hopeful journalists in Equestria. Not even out of school and already more famous than most ponies twice her age, little Sweetie Belle is just trying to find her place in the world. While the regal life has its perks, something is bugging the little unicorn filly. What of her friends back home, or her parents? Will this new-found fame go to her head, or will she crumble under the pressure of being an Equestrian celebrity?

Previous Chapter: Chapter One- Applejack 1

Next Chapter: Chapter Three- Sweetie Belle 1


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Sweetie Belle: A Filly Among Princesses

        Sweetie Belle yawned as she rolled onto her side, facing towards the window. The sky was a pale gray, small flakes of white fluttering down from the sky. She looked to the clock on her wall and noted that it was a little bit past nine in the morning.

It was weird, really; it wasn’t even the end of October, yet there was already several inches of fluffy white powder covering the majority of northern and central Equestria. Canterlot was getting reports from all corners; some weather control teams were asking what was wrong with the weather, and if they had reason to be worried. Rainbow Dash, had personally answered the vast majority of them, with a little help from Twilight, seeing as the planet’s axis was changing, whatever that meant.

The weather ponies were currently being paid through the castle, seeing as weather was still going through its transition from pony-dependent to a more primal, uncontrollable state (aside from Rainbow herself). The Princess of Weather and Water had actually come up with the idea of hiring ponies to study the weather and see if they could come up with a way to figure out a way to predict it ahead of time. She knew what was going to happen, but she couldn’t relay the message to all ponies in Equestria fast enough, regardless of whether or not she was the one of the fastest fliers in the land.

Sweetie Belle crawled out of her bed, shivering as the cool tile floor touched her hooves. She slipped on some slippers and trotted to the bathroom to brush her mane a little and make herself look presentable for breakfast.

Presentable...

The little filly sighed as she looked into the mirror. She focused her magic on the brush before her, and grunted a little before lifting it into the air and slowly pulling it through her purple and pink mane. Rarity had begun to help her control her magic, and encouraged her to practice when she could.

The truth was that Sweetie Belle’s magic was hard to use. She was embarrassed when she struggled to lift her spoon whenever she dined at the table with the others. Other times she found herself randomly flipping over chairs while trying to move a stool to reach a book in the library. She had even set a roll of fabric on fire once. Twilight still wasn’t sure what to make of that instance. Princess Luna had found the whole incident rather entertaining, though.

Thinking of the midnight alicorn brought a smile to her face. Luna, as she preferred being called outside of public events, had also taken initiative in helping Sweetie Belle. She gave Sweetie Belle a few tips on keeping her magic flow steady, and how to not overexert herself too much when moving larger or heavier objects. In the last week alone the filly had made astounding progress according to her sister and Luna. She wasn’t fooled though; she was behind for her age as far as magic went.

A polite knocking at her bedroom door shook her from her thoughts. “Lady Sweetie Belle? Are you awake?”

Sweetie Belle set down her brush and looked to the door. “Come in, Miss Lily Wing.”

The door opened, and a young pegasus mare walked in. She had on the standard guard uniform of gold, the only difference being a sun insignia blazed onto either side of her armor, signifying her rank as the sole member of the Honor Guard of Princess Celestia. “Good morning, Lady Sweetie Belle. I trust you slept well?”

Sweetie Belle beamed. Lily Wing was a wonderful pony once she got to know her. She appeared a little distant at first, but she quickly warmed up to the filly over time. Seeing as Celestia rarely had any need for escorts, Lily Wing sometimes volunteered to serve as the personal guard of Sweetie Belle.

“Yeah. Is Rarity awake yet?”

“Princess Rarity is actually in the dining hall right now. She’s having a light snack, but I do believe she’ll be going to bed shortly.”
        “Awwww...” Sweetie Belle sighed. “She had night duty again?”

Lily Wing smiled with sympathy. “Yes, she will be off to her personal chambers to rest very soon, Milady. Princess Rarity and Princess Luna have been taking most of the late shifts in the court recently. Though, now that Princess Celestia isn’t in charge of sunrise anymore she’s been offering to take more late shifts as well.”

“I wish Rarity wasn’t always up so late...I barely get to see except when we have lessons.”

Lily Wing placed a gentle hoof on Sweetie Belle’s head. “Now I’m sure her Highness feels the same, but it’s part of her duty, Lady Sweetie Belle.”

“I know...I know...”

“Come, let’s see if we can find her before she goes off to bed.”

Sweetie Belle and Lily Wing quickly made their way towards the dining hall. Sweetie Belle rattled off all the plans she had for today, namely making Snow Ponies and Snow Angels in the gardens. Lily Wing chuckled, remembering fondly of her own times as a filly during the winter.

“Ohhh! You’re going to make Snow Ponies? Can I help? I’m the best Snow Pony maker! We can add carrot horns to make them look like unicorns, or branches with dead leaves for wings, or maybe give them straw for a mane!”

Then there was Pinkie Pie, another pony that had been making Sweetie Belle smile a lot as of late. The Princess of Emotion and Laughter had been a new playmate of sorts for Sweetie Belle...when she wasn’t discussing the ongoing trade disagreements with the Griffon kingdom. Her visit with Celestia to the Griffons’ lands was a good one, but some issues had yet to be resolved, unfortunately.

“That’d be great, Pinkie Pie. Um...I mean, Prin-”

Pinkie Pie gave Sweetie Belle a light noogie with a hoof. “Oh, stop it, silly filly! You can call me just plain ol’ Pinkie when we’re by ourselves.” She gave the filly a playful nuzzle before following the filly and pegasus. “So, you going to get breakfast?”

“Yeah, Lily Wing said Rarity was there, and that she may still be eating. I want to say hi to her before she goes to bed.”

Pinkie smiled. “Yeah, Rarity’s been a busy bee with night court. She talks to all sorts of ponies, and does a really really good job with staying awake...” She leaned closer and whispered to the two. “I think she’s been drinking a lot of that coffee though from the kitchen...the yucky, bitter stuff.”

Lily Wing laughed. “Oh dear, that’s the special blend for the graveyard shift patrols. It’s the strongest blend we have in the entire castle.”

“Hehehe, good thing Rarity’s an alicorn then, right?”

The Captain of the Guard nodded. “Right, Milady.”

The trio reached the doors of the dining hall and were greeted by the sight of Rarity and Celestia, who were discussing something in hushed tones.

“...just hope she doesn’t think I’m pressuring her too much, Celestia. She’s a wonderful little filly, and-” Rarity noticed the three enter and stopped whatever she had been saying. “Oh, Sweetie Belle! Good morning to you, dear.”

The two sisters greeted each other with a sisterly embrace before Rarity turned her gaze to Pinkie and Lily Wing, giving them a nod.

“Rarity, do you want to go outside and play in the snow? Pinkie Pie and I are going to make Snow Ponies!”

Rarity sighed, her eyes showing genuine disappointment. “Oh, Sweetie Belle...I don’t think I have the energy to go outside. You see-” She covered her mouth with a hoof and yawned. “Luna and I spoke to some representatives all the way from Flank Beach. That’s a good three day walk from here, and they were on a tight schedule...oh, Sweetie Belle, I’m sorry. Please don’t be so sad.”

Sweetie Belle expected her sister to decline the offer from the start, but a small part of her had hoped otherwise. “It’s okay. Pinkie Pie said she would play with me, so it’s not like I’ll be alone.”

“I’m sure your sister will have free time soon enough, Sweetie Belle. The snow may be around for only a little while for now, but Rainbow Dash said it should return when the winter season actually starts,” Celestia said with a reassuring smile.

Sweetie Belle looked to her sister with the cutest puppy-dog eyes she could muster. “Will you be able to play outside next time?”

Only years of being an older sister had helped build an immunity to such a vicious assault. Rarity let out a small sigh before pulling Sweetie Belle under her wings and wrapping a foreleg around her. “I will do what I can to make some free time for us, alright? I can’t promise that I’ll be able to play out in the snow, but I promise to try and make more time for us. Alright?”

“Thanks, Rarity.” Sweetie Belle nuzzled the alicorn. She felt her sister’s hold around her tighten a little, and she swore she heard Rarity whisper something. “What did you say, Rarity?”

“N-nothing, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity replied. “Now, go get some breakfast. If I don’t see you before dinner today, I’ll be sure to tuck you in for bed tonight.”

Sweetie Belle quirked an eyebrow. “Okay...are you okay, Rarity?”

Rarity fluffed her purple mane with a hoof while smiling. “Of course I am. I got to see my favorite little sister before I went to bed. Why wouldn’t I be okay?”

Yeah, Rarity definitely was acting funny. “Alright...good night...er morning, Rarity.”

Rarity bid her sister and the others a good day and headed off to her own chambers. As soon as the Princess of Generosity and Beauty was out of sight, Sweetie Belle plopped down onto her haunches and pouted. “Why’s Rarity acting all weird?”

Pinkie Pie and Celestia shared a look with each other before the Princess of the Sun spoke. “Weird in what way, Sweetie Belle?”

“She’s...I don’t know, she’s just not acting like...herself. Usually she’s a little grumpy when she hasn’t gotten enough sleep. She’s never really mean, but...” She groaned in frustration. “It’s complicated. You have to know her like I do.”

“Maybe she’s trying to be less of a grouchy-face? She’s a princess now, after all. You can’t be all frumpy around the ponies coming to speak to you.”

Sweetie Belle put the thought aside for now, and looked to one of the chefs that had managed to walk to their table without making a sound. “O-oh! Um...hello.”

The chef gave a polite nod to Sweetie Belle. “Good morning, Lady Sweetie Belle.” The stallion gave a bow to Pinkie Pie and Lily Wing as well. “Your Highness. Captain Lily Wing. Can I get the three of you anything this fine morning?”

“Waffles?” Sweetie Belle asked with a big grin. “Oh, and some milk!”

“Oatmeal with a dash of brown sugar and a side of vanilla yogurt, thank you,” Lily Wing replied.

Pinkie Pie beamed. “A banana nut muffin, some bran flakes with strawberries, and a glass of orange juice, please.”

The stallion gave a nod. “Coming right up. Princess Celestia, care for some more chai tea?”

Celestia gave the stallion a grateful smile. “Yes, please. Be sure to thank the kitchen staff for the fine work, too. The breakfast souffle was wonderful.”

“The honor is ours, your Highness.” The stallion gave a final bow before making his way back back to make their meals.

Lily Wing smirked as she watched the stallion enter into the bustling kitchen. “That’s Barley, isn’t it?”

“Hm?” Celestia looked to her Honor Guard before nodding. “Oh, yes. Barley returned from his vacation trip to the the Serpent Isles.”

“No kidding?” Lily Wing laughed to herself. “I imagine he picked up some exotic recipes?”

“Seven different ways to serve coconuts, a few plantain recipes, and over two dozen veggie barbeque meals.” Celestia rolled her eyes as Lily Wing made a face. “Oh, Lily, you really should open your mind up to new foods more often. I tried this spicy potato soup he makes, and it was delicious.”

Lily Wing grunted. “I’m fine with my down-to-earth meals, thank you very much, your Highness. Nothing wrong with the basics.”

“You have to admit it becomes a little bland after awhile, though.”

Lily Wing amber eyes settled on the small cup of chai tea the Sun Princess was drinking before glancing up at the regal sister. “I suppose I’ll try some of this chai tea you enjoy so much. Personally, I think a drink that sweet should be considered a dessert rather than part of breakfast.”

The Captain of the Guard made her way towards the kitchen to inform the chefs of the addition to her order. Pinkie Pie leaned close to Celestia and spoke softly. “She felt irritated.”

Celestia sighed. “Yes, Lily Wing’s a wonderful pony, believe me. She just...well, forgive the expression, but she can be a bit of a stick in the mud at times. She likes to have order and prefers her peace and quiet.”

        Sweetie Belle watched the mare from afar. “Why is her cutie mark a lily, Princess Celestia?”

        Celestia chuckled. “Lily Wing loves to work with flowers, particularly when it comes to growing them.” She lowered her voice before continuing. “She’ll deny it six ways to next week, but she’s an expert in the language of flowers, too. Her favorite is the lily, as you may have guessed. Beauty, elegance, and sweetness...purity is a common one. She matches those attributes too, though she may seem to be a little...abrasive at times.”

        Giggling, Pinkie nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I can tell. She tries to hide it, but she really cares about everypony.”

        Lily Wing returned with a cup of chai on a tray that she held in her teeth. “Honestly, your Highness, they added cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and honey to this. They may as well give me some marshmallows and whip cream to go with it.” She sipped it before her eyes widened a little. “I...guess it’s not that bad...”

        “Hehe, see, Lily Wing? It’s never bad to try something new!” Pinkie Pie said as she watched Lily Wing set down her brew.

        Lily Wing cleared her throat before speaking. “I suppose not, Milady. I...may have to try this again. I’m sure it’s better than drinking coffee every morning.”

        Soon breakfast was served, and Sweetie Belle couldn’t have waited a minute longer. She dowsed her waffles in blueberry syrup before going to town on the delectable meal. Pinkie Pie took her time eating, remembering that she had to maintain some level of dignity (though she chugged her orange juice in the typical fashion).

        “Princess Celestia?”

        Turning to Sweetie Belle, Celestia smiled. “Yes, Sweetie Belle? You can call me Celestia, too, by the way. We’re here by ourselves, after all.”

        “Oh, yeah. Um, well, Celestia, I was wondering...can I...well, I was thinking for the Winter Solstice concert...if you would want to hear what I wrote so far...”

        Celestia’s eyes widened a little. Sweetie Belle was already composing music? “You’ve written something already?”

        “Well, not a lot. Just a little. It’s about...” Sweetie Belle looked to the floor and smiled shyly. “...it’s about Princess Luna. She’s been helping me learn more about music and magic. She’s a really good teacher.”

        Celestia felt her heart warm at the sound of filly’s praise for her younger sister. “That would be wonderful, Sweetie Belle. I’d be happy to hear it later.”

        “Would tonight work? Since it’s going to be played at night, I think it would be best to hear when the moon’s out.”

        Celestia’s interest grew. “Well, this must be a really nice little bit of music you composed, hm?” She laughed a little as Sweetie Belle’s blush darkened. “Oh, Sweetie Belle, I’m just teasing you a little. Yes, I would love to hear your composition tonight.”

        “Thank you, Celestia.” Sweetie Belle trotted over and wrapped her hooves around the princess in a quick embrace. “Since you’re Luna’s sister, I thought you’d like to hear it first.” The little filly lowered her voice before continuing. “Just be sure not to tell her. I don’t want her to find out about it yet.”

        The regal alicorn nodded. “Very well, I shall not tell a soul about your music until you want to make it public.”

        Sweetie Belle looked to Lily Wing and Pinkie Pie, who gave reassuring nods. Satisfied with their responses, Sweetie Belle continued her breakfast.

        “So, I heard the griffons are still not entirely happy with the current negotiations,” Lily Wing stated as she read a section of the Equestrian Inquirer. She looked to Celestia and Pinkie Pie before continuing. “The papers say they feel that Equestria’s got wealth to spare, and that with current trade agreements the griffons are still feeling cheated out of what they rightfully deserve as far as metal prices go.”

        Celestia sighed as she set her tea down. “Yes, I’m afraid Pinkie’s charismatic speech on how we should try and look at things from the other pony...or in this case griffon’s...shoes wasn’t effective enough. You see, while we may have more wealth, we also have a larger population and more business and trade within the country as a result. The griffons are...very set in their current position though. Finer Edge’s case with his tool-crafting agreements isn’t the only one we’ve had brought to our attention.”

        Pinkie Pie nodded, a small frown marring her features now. “Yeah. I really hope we can fix things between our kingdoms though.”

        “That may happen sooner than you think.”

        The three mares and one filly looked to the entrance, only to be greeted by Rainbow Dash. “Hiya, Dashie!”

        Rainbow Dash greeted the mares with a nod before sitting down, placing a scroll on the table. It had a broken wax seal that looked to be from the griffon kingdom. “I got word from an old friend of mine.”

        Pinkie’s eyes widened as soon as she recognized the griffon insignia. “Gilda?”

        Dash nodded. “Yeah. I already read over it already. She apparently landed a job as one of the Griffon Kingdom’s ambassador’s guards. She says that she wants to talk at some point with me...and you as well.”

        Pinkie’s eyebrow rose. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

        “From what I can tell? Either or. I’m pretty sure she knows our new situation as princesses though, considering she had this formally written up and mailed to the castle directly.” She shook her head. “She was really brief, which is typical of her in letters.”

        “Well, I hope she isn’t planning on being a big meanie-jerkface again,” Pinkie said, her voice laced with a small amount of annoyance. “She wasn’t that nice when I met her.”

        Rainbow Dash nodded. “I know. Still...maybe she wants to start over. We grew up together in Junior Speedsters Flight camp, after all.”

        Celestia recalled Twilight explaining the situation with Gilda in one of her early letters, so she had an idea of what was going on. “Sometimes friends change with time, Rainbow. You remember how she treated your friends, and how she reacted to you when you told her you didn’t like the way she was acting. She probably thought the same of you, not expecting you to be so disapproving of her behavior.”

        “Yeah, I know.”

        “If you want, I’ll be with you when she arrives.” Pinkie offered.

        Dash smiled. “Thanks, Pinkie. You don’t have to though. I’m a big filly.”

        Pinkie rolled her eyes. “Oh geesh, Dashie. I just meant to be there for moral support, and if she does end up turning out to be a little sorry for what she did, then I’ll want to be there too. To let her know that I want to be her friend.”

        Sweetie Belle’s curiosity finally voiced itself. “Who’s Gilda?”

        Rainbow Dash sighed. “An old friend of mine, Sweetie Belle. She’s griffon.”

        “Oh! Yeah, we learned about the griffons in history class. They’re really tough, and are part eagle and part lion.” She took a few bites of her remaining waffle before continuing. “They sound scary...”

        “Well, they are tough, but they’re not bad. Gilda’s got a bit of a mean-streak to her, but it comes with being a griffon. They’re very proud, and value strength,” Rainbow Dash explained. “However, they’re also one of our neighbors, and an ally.”

        “Rainbow Dash is right, Sweetie Belle. Even though we’re having disagreements with them right now, neither of us would want to break our ties with one another. We’ve been on friendly terms for more than five hundred years now, and even before that we were rather good to each other.” Celestia looked to the paper Lily Wing had been reading. “Rainbow, is it my understanding that the ambassador will be arriving in about two weeks’ time then?”

        Rainbow nodded. “Yeah. Gilda will be with the ambassador when she arrives.”

        Celestia smiled. “Yes, I believe Mildred is the current ambassador. She’s a great griffon, and very wise.”

        As soon as Sweetie Belle had finished her breakfast, she hurried to her room to get her winter scarf and boots on. Ten minutes later and she was rolling in the fluffy white powder while Lily Wing watched from a bench.

        “Hey, Lily Wing, want to help me make a snow pony?”

        Lily Wing gave a small smile. “I’m afraid I’m not much of a snow artist, Sweetie Belle.”

        “Awww, that’s okay! I’ll help you!”

        “Yeah, it’s not so hard! All you got to do is try, Lily Wing!”

        “Gwaaaah!!!” Lily Wing jumped up into the air, her wings locking to her sides as she wheeled around. “P-Princess Pinkie Pie!” She took in a deep breath before exhaling slowly. “You surprised me...”

        “Teehee, why would I scare you? Come on! I got some carrots so we can make a unicorn!”

        Lily Wing found herself thrown onto Pinkie’s back before being carried towards Sweetie Belle. “Milady, please, this is-”

        The Captain of the Royal Guard was soon rolling a snowball around the snow covered gardens, struggling to keep herself from breaking it under her own weight. She had already destroyed the first one, and was now bound and determined not to make the same mistake again.

        “See? Isn’t this fun?”

        Lily Wing chanced a glance towards the Princess of Laughter, her eyes going wide as she looked to see a perfect snow sculpture of Sweetie Belle posing. A few feet ahead, the filly stood, a single hoof raised while her nose was lifted in a rather snobbish manner. She opened an eye and grinned.

        “Wow, Pinkie Pie! It looks just like me!”

        “H-how did...but...” Lily Wing swore that no more than five minutes had passed since she had joined the duo in the snow. How had the pink alicorn managed to make such a detailed sculpture in such a short amount of time?”

        “I just packed the snow together, silly. It’s really easy!”

        “B-but...you...I...” Lily Wing sighed, reminding herself of Celestia’s words on Pinkie Pie. The party pony was an Element of Harmony, and was talented in her own way. Confusing and confounding ponies while disregarding the basic laws of time must have been among them. If it were Celestia, Luna, Twilight Sparkle, or even Rarity, who were knowledgeable with magic, she could see such a feat in only a few minutes, but...

        “I see. It’s a very lovely sculpture, your Highness.” She swore that she had even made individual eyelashes for the sculpture!

        “Hey, Pinkie, think fast!”

        The alicorn’s ears twitched and her front hooves crossed before she turned her head, only to be smacked in the face with a snowball.

        “Waaaahahahaha! Oh, that was perfect!” Rainbow Dash was standing on the far end of their play area, pointing a hoof and laughing. “Hahahahh...man, that was-oof!!”

        Four snowballs smacked Rainbow Dash in the stomach, knocking her over a small bench and causing her to fall over. She got up, an unamused look on her face as she regarded a certain filly who was whistling innocently while Pinkie Pie was studying a particular mound of snow with intense curiosity.

        “Lily Wing, you’re on my team! We’re having a snowball fight!”

        Again Lily Wing was at a bit of a loss. “Princess Rainbow Dash, I’m not sure-”

        “Yeah, snowball fight! Pinkie’s on my team!” Sweetie Belle cheered.

        Rainbow Dash laughed. “Ha! Don’t celebrate yet, kid! Lily Wing and I are going to bury you two up to your snouts in snow by the time we’re done!”


        The day would forever go down in history, according to Princess Rainbow Dash, as “one of the most epic snowball fights to ever happen in Canterlot. Period.” The four had started by building individual snow forts to hide in. After their small defenses had been set up, they began with the simple lobbing of snowballs at each other. Pinkie Pie managed to convince the next twelve guards that passed by to join in. About halfway into the fight, Twilight Sparkle and Spike got involved and created a third team of their own. Soon an all out snowball war had started, ending when Rainbow Dash conjured up a whirlwind with her magic and lobbing snowballs in all directions. It had come down to Sweetie Belle, who had been saved from the barrage by Autumn Night, a second year unicorn stallion who bravely dove in front of her, taking the projectiles intended for her.

        Rainbow Dash smiled triumphantly as Sweetie Belle cowered behind her ruined fort. “Give up, Sweetie Belle. I win.”

        “Milady...” croaked Autumn Breeze, half buried in a pile of white powder. “Don’t...give up.”

        Sweetie Belle felt her knees quake as Rainbow Dash formed a large ball of snow above her head.

        “Oh, Rainbow, your magical control has gotten better!” Twilight commented happily as she shook snow out of her mane.

        “Huh?” Rainbow turned to her friend. “Y-you think so?”

        Sweetie Belle saw her opening. She let out the loudest battle cry she could, which amounted to a rather adorable scene to those watching. Snowball in one hoof, she dove over her barrier and leaped at the chromatic alicorn. Rainbow Dash was given a face-full of snow, but reflexively lobbed her own projectile at the filly, grazing her on the side. The two crashed into a heap, the filly lying over the body of her fallen adversary.

        Pinkie, Twilight, Spike, Lily Wing, and the guards all gasped at the sight. Silence fell over the battlefield.

        Then, Rainbow let out a snort. The snort soon became a giggle, then a chuckle, then full-blown laughter. Sweetie Belle joined her, enjoying the moment. “Well, Sweetie Belle, looks like you got me. Rather brave move on your part.” She ruffled the powder-covered filly’s mane. “Not bad.”

        Sweetie Belle simply beamed proudly. She had won! Victory was hers today!


        As a reward for her heroic act, Sweetie Belle was given an extra large mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows, courtesy of Pinkie Pie. The filly drank the cocoa, enjoying the rich-flavored beverage as it’s warmth spread from her snout to her toes.

        “Well, I must say, I wasn’t expecting the fight to get that huge.” Lily Wing commented while drinking a cup of chai tea. Pinkie Pie and Sweetie pretended not to notice the choice of beverage for the time being.

        “We should do that every weekend! Rainbow, can you make it snow more next weekend?”

        Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Sorry, Pinkie. I can’t really decide what the weather will do so far ahead. I...actually don’t really have too much control at the moment.”

        “What do you mean, Rainbow Dash? You made that wind appear out of nowhere and took out almost everypony!” Sweetie Belle asked.

        “That’s just a little whirlwind, Sweetie Belle. Nothing too fancy or big. I mean...if I really, really tried, maybe I could make it snow. It’s not that easy, at least it isn’t right now. I can’t just make weather happen, either. I have to keep it balanced.”

        “Balanced?” Sweetie Belle asked. “What do you mean?”

        “Well...like, for instance, if it rains a lot in a place without wind, then it’ll probably rain there again when the water evaporates. Clouds will form over the already wet area and unless the wind blows them, they’ll probably just rain again. I have to make sure the wind’s where it’s supposed to be, too. I can’t just change it, or that would cause a lot of problems.”

        “Like what?”

        Rainbow tapped her chin. “Well, for starters, maybe I decided to make the wind blow through Appleloosa instead of Hoofington in the spring. Lots of plants and trees need their seeds to be blown through the air by wind. If I decided to not let it be windy in Hoofington during spring, those seeds wouldn’t be spread. Most of them would probably not grow because the bigger trees would blot out the sunlight.

        “On top of that, Appleloosa’s rainy season is in the spring when the winds are weakest. The warm air manages to stick around for a little bit, and since it’s still a little cool in the early spring, the warm and cold air meet and cause storms to form. Storms are good for rain. If I blew all that warm air away, there would be no storms.”

        Sweetie Belle sat in silent wonder, her eyes glued to the cyan mare while she slowly sipped her cocoa.

        “It seems you’ve done a lot of study on this, Princess,” Lily Wing stated with a smile.

        Rainbow Dash smiled proudly. “Hey, I was the captain of the weather team back in Ponyville. It pays to know a thing or two about weather when it’s your job.”

        “Yeah...those are cool magical powers, Rainbow Dash...” Sweetie Belle frowned. “I just wish Rarity was able to show me her magic.”

        Pinkie’s ears flicked a little as she smiled. “Rarity’s got a very important job, just like the rest of us, Sweetie Belle. Don’t forget, she’s got magic that’s not...not so easy to see. Like me!” She grinned as Sweetie Belle quirked an eyebrow. “Like right now, I can tell you’re confused. Not just by that look on your face, either. You feel confused because ‘how can magic not be easy to see’, right?” Pinkie giggled as Sweetie Belle just stared at her in clear confusion. “I don’t understand magic like Twilight or Rarity might, but I know it works in different ways.”

        Rainbow Dash tried to help. “Yeah, like...when Luna or Celestia move the Sun and Moon. You don’t see the magic that moves them...but it does it. Maybe...” She hummed in thought. “Maybe Rarity’s magic is sort of like that.”

        “She’s a princess of Generosity and beauty though. How does that work?”

        “Why don’t you ask her?” Pinkie suggested.

        Sweetie Belle went quiet. “I...well, she’s really busy with being a princess, and-”

        “So are we, Sweetie Belle,” Rainbow Dash cut her off, giving the filly a small grin. “That doesn’t mean we’re not too busy to take a little time for ourselves, though. Besides, I think that little snowball fight managed to help all of the guards let loose for a bit, you know? I mean, it’s no fun to be all business and no play. That’s just plain lame.”

        “Boo~ooring!” Pinkie Pie added. “I know Rarity’s been a night owl lately, but I know she’d love to talk to you about her magic, Sweetie Belle.”

        “How do you know? You talk to her?”

        Pinkie tapped her horn and flexed her wings before pointing to her crown. “Princess of Emotion. It’s my job.”

        “Oh...right.”


        Sunset crept up on Sweetie Belle before she even realized it. She had finished her math and science homework (Twilight had been nice enough to help her through the harder problems), and spent the rest of her day in Luna’s private music studio in one of the towers. The Princess of Night was likely busy with attending the throne, so it was the perfect time to get more work done on her composition.

        A quiet knock at the door shook Sweetie Bell from her work. She looked up from the table and was greeted by two alicorns, one who she hadn’t seen since early this morning.

        “Rarity!” Sweetie Belle got to her feet and ran to embrace her sister. Rarity returned the hug with as much fervor as the filly.

        “Hello, Sweetie Belle. I hope you don’t mind, but Celestia mentioned you’ve been busy with some music.” She smiled as Sweetie Belle’s cheeks turned a little rosy. “Would it be alright if I listen as well?”

        “Um...” Sweetie Belle looked down for a moment before smiling shyly. “If you want. I...don’t want to spoil anything for you, though. I wrote the music about Luna...but it’s also sort of...well, you’re sort of why I wrote it, too.”

        Rarity felt her heart melt. “Oh, Sweetie Belle...” She nuzzled her sister. “Well, I will respect your wish to keep it a secret for now...if you want I can leave for now and-”

        “N-no...you can stay...” Sweetie Belle’s eyes held an anxious glow in them. “I...just don’t know if you will like it.”

        “Now, that’s just absurd, Sweetie Belle. The fact you wrote the music alone is more than enough reason for me to enjoy...”

        Celestia felt the smile on her own face grow a little. She definitely saw how the two were related, and not just by looks. Despite the fact that she was still a filly, Sweetie Belle tended to carry (at least to a degree) the same grace that Rarity had. They both enjoyed peaceful activities, though like any filly Sweetie Belle was inclined towards playing intense games as well. Such an example was the amazing snowball fight that had apparently occurred in the gardens today.

        The two alicorns took separate cushions and waited patiently as Sweetie Belle made some last minute corrections on the music score she had written out. Rarity noted quietly to the Sun Princess how there were at least five or six sheets of paper with music on them.

        Apparently Sweetie Belle had only written them for the piano, and was beginning work on the other instruments.

        Eventually she sat down at the piano, assuming proper posture. She paused for a few seconds before turning to Celestia. “Um...Princess...j-just so you know, this song might be about the night, but...I like the day too, so-”

        Celestia raised a gentle hoof, and understanding smile gracing her features. “It’s fine, Sweetie Belle. Just play as though you were playing for Luna and your sister. Pretend I’m not here. I’m sure it will help you play as you want to play.”

        Sweetie Belle gave her a nervous smile before nodding. “O-okay. Um...the title of this song is...Dearest Nocturne. I dedicate this piece to Princess Luna and my sister, Princess Rarity...two ponies who make the night as pretty as it is.”

She slowly began to play the keys with her magic, each note from the piano eliciting it’s tune with deliberate slowness at first. Then, a soft pink aura enveloped a violin, flute, trombone. Rarity would have commented how calm her sister appeared using her magic, but remained silent. All attention focused on her little sister as she took in a quiet breath.

        Then...magic happened.


        Rarity wiped her eyes as Sweetie Belle finished after about three minutes. Incomplete or not, the song she had composed was pure art. Even Celestia found her eyes growing a little moist.

        Sweetie Belle seemed to wake up from a trance, her horn losing its glow as she set the instruments down and stopped playing. She took a slow breath, then looked to see the two in tears. “O-oh no! You didn’t like it?”

        Rarity got up, shaking her head. “Oh, nononono, Sweetie Belle! Th-that...” She walked over and pulled her sister into a tight hug. “Oh, Sweetie Belle, if only you knew how beautiful you sounded...if only you could have heard it like I did.”

        Sweetie Belle had a confused, yet at the same time pleased, expression on her face. “So...you both liked it, then?”

        Celestia chuckled, dabbing her eyes with a tissue she had found on a nearby table. “Sweetie Belle...to say ‘I liked it’ would never do that song justice. No...Sweetie Belle, that song moved me. To tears. I haven’t felt music do that to me since...since Luna last composed music.”

        “When was that?” Sweetie Belle asked, oblivious at the moment to how much weight Celestia’s statement held.

        Celestia smiled. “Over one-thousand years, Sweetie Belle. There were plenty of wonderful musicians and composers, mind you during that time. Ones such as Beethoofen, or Johann Sebastian Buck...but...” She laughed quietly. “Sweetie Belle...thank you. I haven’t heard something like that for...for...”

        “A very long time.” Rarity suggested, earning a nod from the Sun Princess. “Sweetie Belle...I know you were still unsure about Luna’s offer, but...I truly, truly think you should participate in the Winter Solstice concert. Ponies will love to hear your voice. If...if you can make Celestia of all ponies the way she is, then I daresay the concert will be wonderful.”

        “I...I know. I wrote this song because I decided I want to do the concert, after all.”

        Rarity smiled brightly and nuzzled her sister, sniffling a little. “Oh, Sweetie Belle. That’s wonderful.” She looked to the clock on the far end of the room and sighed. “Oh dear, I’m afraid that it’s close to your bedtime.”

        “Okay...” Sweetie Belle sighed. “Um...will you at least tuck me in?” She looked down in embarrassment.

The Princess of Beauty smiled warmly. “Of course, dear.” She turned to Celestia as she guided the filly to her bedroom. “Have a good night’s sleep, Celestia. I trust you’re probably going to be doing the same as Sweetie Belle soon as well.”

        Celestia yawned. “Yes, I’m afraid that I’m still a bit of an early-to-bed, early-to-rise mare. I’m sure in time I’ll adjust to a changing schedule.” She looked down to Sweetie Belle and gave the filly a gentle nuzzle as well. “Sweetie Belle, I’m really happy you chose me to share this with tonight. I really enjoyed listening to your song.”

        “Th-thank you, Celestia...”

        Five more minutes passed before the two alicorns managed to get down from the emotional roller coaster that Sweetie Belle’s music had created. Sweetie Belle was soon tucked under the covers of her bed, Rarity sitting bedside and smiling as Sweetie Belle got comfy. The filly raised a curious eyebrow as Rarity kept staring at her, the smile never leaving her face.

        “Rarity...?”

        The platinum white alicorn blinked several times. “Sorry, dear. I’m still...” She shook her head before leaning down and giving her sister a loving peck on the forehead. “Sweetie Belle...I know I have said it before, but...you truly, truly are a wonderful singer.”

        Sweetie Belle smiled demurely. “Why does everyone keep saying that?”

        Rarity chuckled. “Sorry, I suppose old mares like us have a tendency to get caught up in the lives of you fillies and colts.”

        “You’re not that old,” Sweetie Belle replied.

        The alicorn said nothing for several moments before sighing. “No...I suppose I’m not that old, am I?”

        “Rarity, are you sure you’re okay?”

        Rarity wanted to say no. She wanted to express her chaotic thoughts and feelings, how she was uncertain of what awaited her and her immortal life, what it would be like to outlive everyone (aside from her fellow princesses) she knew. She instead settled for a nod and nuzzled her sister. “I’m fine, Sweetie Belle. Just a little fatigued, I guess. My intuition tells me tonight is going to be busy.”

        Frowning, but accepting her sister’s answer for now, the filly spoke. “Hey, Rarity, what exactly do you do as the Princess of Beauty?”

        Ah, yet another question she wasn’t sure she could answer at the moment. She pondered the question for several moments. “Well...hm...that’s a tough question, at least it is right now. I’m still trying to figure that out. I do have an idea though of what it entails.”

        “Really? What do you think it means?”

        Sweetie Belle felt a comforting warmth as Rarity rested her chin on top of Sweetie Belle’s head. “Well...when you played tonight, for example...you looked so calm. Peaceful and comfortable. When I watched the moonlight bathing you from the window of the studio, I found myself...happy. I think even Celestia was blown away a little by your appearance. You looked like a little angel who had come down from the heavens to sing just for us. I’m sure that whatever Celestia saw, she felt you looked wonderful in your own way as well. Not only that, but you sounded beautiful as well.”

        “So...you make things beautiful?”

        “Not make...no, I think I do something more along the lines of bringing attention and help beautiful things reveal themselves to other ponies. At least, that may be a part of what I do.” She sighed. “It’s not so clear cut with me, dear. Pinkie Pie, she has an idea of what she can do, but both her and I are what some ponies call the ‘abstract’ princesses,” She paused when Sweetie Belle frowned. “Oh, dearie, they don’t mean anything bad by that. It just means that Pinkie and I have powers that are not as concrete or physical. Our powers are still there, though. You ever notice how Pinkie Pie always seems to know what to say to make you feel better when you need it most? Don’t you ever feel happier just by being close to her?”

        “Yeah...but that’s because she’s fun to be around.”

        Rarity chuckled. “I suppose that has a bit of influence, but that’s also because you’re still a filly, and playing is part of being a young pony. Pinkie Pie loves to play, so...” Rarity sighed again. “She also can tell what a pony is feeling because she feels it, too. Sometimes it’s harder for her than other times.

        “Still, Pinkie Pie is a Princess of Emotion, and Laughter. It’s hard for joy not to follow wherever she goes. Though...she also is the Princess of Hope.”

        Sweetie Belle nodded. “Yeah, I remember Princess Celestia and Princess Luna explaining that.”

        Rarity smiled. “Right. Well, I’m in charge of Beauty, as I said, but...beauty’s not something that is set in stone. For instance, let’s take your friend Scootaloo...”

        “What about her?”

        “Well...she doesn’t necessarily act the part of a typical little filly a lot of the time, does she?”

        “So? She’s still my friend,” Sweetie Belle said, rising to the defense of her close friend.

        “Yes, and I wouldn’t want her any other way. My point is this; she is a wonderful pony who you and Apple Bloom are dearest of friends with. While she may not have the same curly mane as you do, or the pretty bow that Apple Bloom has, she is still a pretty little filly in a way that no other pony could possibly hope to achieve. She is very athletic, has a wonderful heart, and a beautiful smile, too.”

        “Ohhhh!” Sweetie Belle nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. One time I saw her dancing to some ballet-” Sweetie Belle placed a hoof over her mouth and looked to Rarity. “Um, promise me you won’t tell her I said that. She didn’t want anyone to know she dances to stuff like that.”

        Rarity’s eyes widened. “Scootaloo dances? I’m sure she’s a lovely dancer; why would she hide it?”

        Sweetie Belle’s eyes spoke volumes of how much she agreed with Rarity. “She says it’s not cool enough.”

        The Princess of Beauty sighed. The poor little pegasus was still worried about what others thought about her...such was typical of a young pony her age, and Rarity was in no position to criticize. Still...

        “Sweetie Belle...I do believe Apple Bloom will be staying during winter break and the holidays.” Her smile grew a little as she continued. “What about Scootaloo, though? If I remember correctly, her parents were going to be going on a second honeymoon, weren’t they?”

        The filly nodded. “Yeah, I think they were going on a cruise...oh!” Sweetie Belle’s eyes lit up. “I remember now! She said her parents were going to be stopping in the Sea Serpent Isles, getting on the same cruise as Mom and Dad were.”

        “Well...if her parents wouldn’t mind...maybe she could stay here during winter break as well.”

        The little filly’s eyes widened even further. “Really? Could she??”
        “
If it’s okay with her and her parents.” Rarity chuckled as Sweetie Belle settled down a little. “If need be, I or one of the girls could even offer to pick her up and bring her here. I’m sure Rainbow Dash would be delighted to see her biggest admirer.”

        Sweetie Belle sat up before wrapping her forelegs around Rarity. “Thanks, Rarity. You’re the best.”

        Rarity could only chuckle and return the hug. After being tucked in once more, Rarity turned off the lamps in Sweetie Belle’s room and wished her a goodnight before closing the door, leaving a small crack of light for her. The filly gave a yawn before drifting  off to the sweet bliss that was sleep.


        “Somepony’s knockin’ at the door. Somepony’s ringin’ the bell.” Sweetie Belle hummed. “Do me a favor, open the door and let ‘em in! Ohhh yeaah yeaah!” Sweetie Belle did a cute little spin before hopping into the chariot where to pegasi guards waited, small smiles playing at their lips. It had become a sort of competition for the royal guards serving under the princesses to see who would get to drive the chariot to Ponyville.

        “...brother Mac, Twilight Sparkle...Applejack! Golden Harvest, Granny Smith! Open the door...let ‘em iii~iiin, yeah!

        “Ready, Lady Sweetie Belle?”

        Sweetie Belle’s eyes fluttered as she fell back to reality, blushing. She looked to bright blue maned stallion. “O-oh! Sorry, Azure Skye. I’m ready!”

        The two pegasus stallions pulled on the reins before flapping their wings. Sweetie Belle began to hum another tune.

        “Oh, there is a place where the grass is what’s for dinner! Charmed, fun, and wild! There must be somethin’ in the water!

        Click!

        Click click click!

        Azure Skye looked over his shoulder as they continued to push off the ground. He groaned as he turned to his peer. “Summer, looks like we got some paparazzi. Six o’ clock. They’re pegasi, too.”

        Summer, a light green mare serving currently under Rarity, sighed. She blew a strand of her auburn and green mane out of her eyes as the two kicked off the ground and began to flap hard. “Ten bits says they’ll try and flank us and get Sweetie to pose.”

        Azure chuckled. “Fool’s bet if I ever heard one. I won’t put anything past those ponies.” The two were soon soaring over clouds as Sweetie Belle continued, unaware of the small crowd of shutter-happy ponies following her.

        “You could travel the wo~orld! But no one can groove like the girls with hooves! Once you party with ponies you’ll be seeing Rainbooms!” She didn’t even realize she was bouncing in place as she continued. “Equestria girls, we’re kinda magical! Boots on hooves, bikinis on top! Furry coats so cute we’ll blow you’re mi~iind! Aaaaah, aaah ah aaaaah!

        Summer looked over her shoulder when Sweetie Belle looked at her expectantly. Summer grinned nervously. “Oh, Milady, I-”

        “Come on, Summer! It’ll be fun!”

        Summer nickered. “Well...I don’t necessarily know the song...”

        Sweetie Belle beamed. “That’s alright! Azure knows it!”

        Summer looked to the stallion, who was flush with embarrassment. He cleared his throat before singing just loud enough to hear. “Equestria girls, we’re pony-fabulous...

        “Fast, fine, fierce, we trot till we drop!” Sweetie Belle joined in.


        As Sweetie Belle hopped out of the chariot, trotting happily to school, Azure turned to Summer and spoke, his expression serious. “What happened on that chariot stays on that chariot. Are we clear, Private Summer?”

        Summer gave an uneasy grin. Azure Skye was known for being a rather easy-going pony, so it was a little unsettling to see him like this. “Cl-clear as crystal, sir!”

        Azure’s expression brightened instantly. “Wonderful! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to confiscate that camera from that one mare who decided to get shots of me on the way here.” He trotted towards a group of photographers, whistling happily to himself. Summer decided on not commenting the fact that he was whistling “Sensational Sunset Shindig”, a Sapphire Shores song that had come out this past summer. She didn’t want rumors to spread that Azure Skye was a closet Sapphire Shores fan...at least not yet, anyway.


        “Now then, can anyone solve this problem for me? It’s a little harder than previous ones we did.” Cheerilee pointed to the board, where a two part multiplication problem could be seen.

        Cheerilee spotted several ponies looking in through the window, lifting cameras towards Sweetie Belle. She sighed before walking from the front. “Excuse me, children. I’ll be right back.”

        Cheerilee opened the door and walked towards the group of ponies gathered outside of her schoolhouse. “Can I help you?”

        The photographers all turned towards the teacher, a few even looked a bit surprised. One of them, a young stallion, spoke up. “We’re just here to get some photos for the Pony Today Magazine.”

        This wasn’t the first time Cheerilee had to deal with paparazzi. In fact, she recognized several of the ponies already. “I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to stop. My students are trying to learn, and all that flash photography is distracting them.” Her students were trying their hardest not to, whether it was to avoid getting in trouble with her, or because they genuinely wanted to learn. “Now, if you’ll please leave, I would greatly appreciate it.”

        “Would you say that Lady Sweetie Belle is a good student, Ms. Cheerilee?”

        The fuschia pony frowned. “I don’t believe sharing the academic reports of my students with strangers is exactly a good idea.”

        “Is there a problem, Ms. Cheerilee?”

        The teacher and group of paparazzi turned to see Azure Skye and Summer looking towards them impassively. Cheerilee gave a small sigh of relief. “Nothing major, Captain Azure Skye. I was just asking these ponies here if they would kindly leave the school grounds. I’m in the middle of class.”

        Azure Skye gave her a nod before looking to the others. “I’ll need you all to leave. These fillies and colts are trying to learn, after all.”

        “We could turn off the flash on our cameras,” one of the mares suggested, only to receive a stern look from the blue stallion. “...or not.”

        The paparazzi left shortly after. Cheerilee gave a grateful smile to the two guards. “Thank you, both of you.” She sighed as she noticed her class glancing towards the window curiously. “Sweetie Belle’s been doing well in school...but I worry about all the publicity she’s been getting as of late.”

        Azure Skye nodded. “Well, we can’t really force the paparazzi to leave, though we can highly encourage it.” The stallion looked towards the window where a small group of fillies and colts were gathering. “In the mean time, you probably want to attend to the children.”

        Summer waved a hoof to the young ponies, which was returned by a few who had seen her before, among them being Sweetie Belle. Cheerilee gave a final thank you to the two Royal Guards before walking back inside. The colts and fillies immediately got back to their seats, looking to Cheerilee as she returned to the math problem at hand.


        At recess, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were taking turns on the swing pushing each other. Scootaloo was currently pushing Sweetie Belle, who was bound and determined to flip the swing around once. The current record for the highest swinging was held by Aura, but Sweetie Belle was set on-

        Click!

        Sweetie Belle looked to her side to see several cameras flashing as they took pictures of her.

        Scootaloo noticed her friend’s gaze and stopped pushing. “Are those ponies with cameras out there again?”

        Sweetie Belle appeared neither upset nor happy, but nodded. “Yeah. Why are they taking so many pictures of me?”

        “Maybe because your sister’s a princess?” Scootaloo offered.

        “Why me, though? I’m not really a princess, so why are they taking pictures of me?” Sweetie Belle’s face contorted into a confused look. “It doesn’t make much sense to be taking a whole bunch of pictures of me when they could be getting pictures of Rarity.”

        “Well...don’t all the guards call you ‘Lady’ Sweetie Belle? You are a lady of the court, aren’t you?”

        “Yeah, I don’t know what that means, though. The only ‘lady’ thing I’ve done so far is have dinner with Rarity and Luna when some fancy ponies from Manehatten visited us.” She frowned. “It was boring.”

        “Yeah...hey! I know, why don’t you hang out with Apple Bloom and I after school?”

        “I can’t,” Sweetie Belle replied sadly. “I need to go straight home after school, and the guards always make sure they know where I am after school’s done.”

        “Well...” Scootaloo looked around before speaking to her. “What if you snuck out with me after school?”

        Sweetie Belle looked nervously to Azure Skye and Summer, who were occasionally looking their way, but didn’t appear to be suspicious at all. Sweetie Belle really wanted to see Apple Bloom. She missed her other close friend dearly, but she was also afraid of getting into trouble.

        “I don’t know, Scootaloo. I don’t want Rarity...or Princess Luna or Princess Celestia to get worried.”

        Scootaloo’s hopeful smile faded. “Oh...right. Yeah, I forgot about the others...” She laughed sheepishly. “We’d be in big trouble, wouldn’t we?”

        “I would. I don’t think you would be, though.”

        Scootaloo plopped onto her haunches and groaned. “It’s not fair! You never get to play with Apple Bloom and I anymore.”

        Sweetie Belle nodded in agreement. “Yeah, and I-” She looked over her shoulder to see the paparazzi had moved closer. A few were scribbling into notebooks. “What are you writing?”

        One of the pegasi stopped what she was doing, a look clearly showing that she had been caught with one hoof in the metaphorical cookie jar. “Oh...just...” She looked around before speaking with an overly cheerful smile. “...writing about the most famous filly in all of Equestria.”

        The unicorn filly’s eyes widened. “You mean me?”

        Another one of the photographer’s nodded. “Oh, of course! Who else has the best singing voice on this side of Canterlot?” The stallion held up his camera. “Care to give us a smile? Erm...excuse me, little filly...?”
        Scootaloo wasn’t to sure she liked the paparazzi. “My name’s Scootaloo.”

        “Yeah, and she’s one of my best friends.” Sweetie Belle replied. Several of the ponies began to scribble furiously into their notebooks.

        “How long have you known each other?”

        Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo looked to each other before Sweetie Belle answered. “A year or two?”

        “How is it like going to a common pony school?”

        “Huh?” Sweetie Belle quirked an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’ve always gone to Ponyville Elementary.”

        “Right, right. Have you ever wanted to go to a bigger, nicer school, like Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns?”

        “Um, well, Rarity says when I’m-”

        “I thought I had asked that you would all leave the school grounds earlier.”

        Everyone turned to see Cheerilee walking towards the group. Her expression was not happy.

        “We were just leaving,” answered the mare who had first spoken to Sweetie Belle. “Thank you for your time, Lady Sweetie Belle.” The photographers left suddenly, leaving two confused fillies and an annoyed Cheerilee.

        “Girls, did you two say anything to them?”

        “Not a whole lot.” Scootaloo looked to the retreating back of the ponies. “Just our names and that we were good friends.”

        Cheerilee sighed. “I don’t think you should be talking to those ponies.”

        “Why? They don’t seem like bad ponies to me.”

        Cheerilee tapped her chin. How could she explain the world of tabloids to the young ponies. She hummed to herself in thought. “Girls...sometimes ponies like to spread rumors...gossip.”

        “Oh, Rarity loves gossip!” Sweetie Belle stated.

        Cheerilee suppressed a chuckle. “Yes, yes, but um...how to put this...some ponies try to talk about things that are private and personal to ponies. They try to bring it out in the open so everypony knows about it. Sometimes personal and private things aren’t always good to share.”

        “Like a surprise?” Scootaloo offered, though she didn’t sound confident with the idea.

        “No, more like...well, girls, I don’t like using this as an example, but you girls and the fact that you don’t have cutie marks yet.” She noticed their expression fall. “Oh, girls, there is nothing to be ashamed of with that, believe me. However...well, sometimes Apple Bloom, for example, has to deal with bullies like Diamond Tiara.”

        “Yeah, her and Silver Spoon are jerks,” Scootaloo grumbled.

        “Yes, and I have made it clear to those two young fillies that I do not tolerate bullying. They’ve gotten a little better, but...nyway, sometimes they try to spread rumors...though most ponies tend to spread rumors. Sometimes the rumors aren’t so bad, like So-and-so and so-and-so might like each other. Those can be nice rumors, and perhaps even have some truth to them.” She frowned as she looked to the spot where the paparazzi had been. “Sometimes though, ponies will try to blow things out of proportion, or make something that a pony said sound worse than it is.”

        “You mean those ponies over there were trying to make me and Scootaloo look bad?”

        Cheerilee gave her best attempt at a hopeful smile. “I’m going to hope that’s not the case, but it very well could be true.” She looked to the two guards, who had been watching the exchange the whole time. She half suspected that they would have stepped in to stop the camera flashes if Cheerilee had not beat them to it.

        “Are we in trouble, Ms. Cheerilee?”

        “No, no, girls, you have done nothing wrong.”

        Both fillies looked relieved. Sweetie Belle perked up. “Thanks for telling us, Ms. Cheerilee. We’ll try to keep away from the popper-rot-zees from now on.”

        “Paparazzi.” Cheerilee emphasized each syllable before smiling. “Alright, well you girls enjoy the rest of your recess. I’ll be right inside the schoolhouse if you need me.”


        The bell rang for the final time that day as Sweetie Belle trotted towards the chariot where Azure Skye and Summer were waiting, already strapped in and ready to go. Sweetie Belle had told Scootaloo about Rarity’s idea to stay with them in Canterlot over winter break, and the pegasus filly had stated happily that she would love to, and would talk to her parents about it as soon as she could.

        The trip back to Canterlot was the same as it always was, Sweetie Belle singing a tune, Summer awkwardly trying to sing along while Azure Skye pretended he didn’t know the lyrics. When they arrived back, Sweetie Belle was greeted by someone she had only seen in passing.

        “Ah, Lady Sweetie Belle, I was hoping to talk to you.”

        The filly stopped short at the sight of a regal stallion, suave hair, brilliant smile, the works. “O-oh, hello Prince Blueblood.” She gave a little bow as the guards followed suit.

        To her surprise, Blueblood returned the gesture, although not as deep of a bow. “Dear, would you be care to perform at a social in the Sun Hall this weekend? I’m holding it for some of the more influential ponies in Canterlot, so you don’t have to worry about entertaining any of the common rabble.”

        Sweetie Belle quirked an eyebrow. “Common...rabble?”

        Blueblood smiled while chuckling. “Ah, to be innocent at your age. Either way, what do you say, Sweetie Belle. Would you still be interested?”

        “Um...I don’t know.” Sweetie Belle hummed in thought. “I think I was going to be visiting my friends Apple Bloom and Scootaloo this weekend. We sort of planned this last week.” She frowned. “Sorry, but I don’t think I can.”

        “You’d rather go spend some time with...” He held his tongue, and nodded. “I understand. I suppose Lady Apple Bloom would enjoy your company. Um...who was this other friend of yours? Scooter?”

        “Scootaloo.”

        “Yes, quite. Well, while it’s a shame, I suppose we’ll have to try again some other time.” He gave a respectful nod to the filly. “Good day then, Lady Sweetie Belle.” He turned around, only to pause and look back towards the young unicorn. “Oh, and if you ever wish to get in with the right ponies, let me know. I have a way of making things work, if you understand where I’m coming from.” He gave a sly wink before continuing towards the castle doors leading inside.

        Sweetie Belle gave a confused look to Azure Skye and Summer, who just shook their heads and smiled.

        “Don’t worry about it, Lady Sweetie Belle,” Azure Skye reassured the confused pony. “Prince Blueblood can be a bit...” He looked around and to Summer, who simply nodded. He lowered his voice before continuing. “...snobbish. He’s not necessarily a bad pony, but tends to think of himself before others when it comes to manners outside of his official work.” The stallion looked towards the door where Blueblood had entered and sighed. “It’s hard to believe he’s related to Celestia and Luna.”

        “Well, he’s like...what, fifty-some odd generations removed?” Summer commented.

        “Yeah, something like that.” Azure Skye gave Sweetie Belle a gentle smile. “You don’t have to worry about anything, alright? You planned on seeing your friends, and right now being a filly and going to school are the two big jobs you have.”

        “What about the Winter Solstice concert?”

        “That too, yes, but that’s secondary to the others.” He chuckled as she gave him weak smile. “I have two foals of my own. Just trust me when I say that you’ll be grown up before you know it and wishing you’d known where all those years of your fillyhood went.”

        Sweetie Belle was greeted by Twilight and Spike upon entering the castle throne room. Twilight was currently the only princess holding court, and it had been rather slow. She was delighted when Sweetie Belle asked her for help on her math and social studies homework. It gave her a pleasant distraction from the boredom that usually arose with tending a quiet court.

        “Well, I’m quite surprised that you’re already studying the history of Cloudsdale. I didn’t start studying the history of pegasus culture until I was a few years older than you. Then again, most of my studies were in magical history...” She looked at the essay Sweetie Belle was in the midst of writing, smiling as she read the rather neat writing.

        “Yeah, Ms. Cheerilee says she thinks we’re ready for it though. It’s really hard to remember some of the ponies’ names. The only two I can remember are Commander Hurricane and Private Pansy...that’s only because they were among the six that founded Equestria.”

        “That’s very true, Sweetie Belle.” Twilight chewed on the tip of a quill while she made a minor grammatical note on the filly’s paper. “You have great writing skills, Sweetie Belle. I made a few little notes for you to look at, but otherwise this is a strong rough draft.”

        Spike, who had been reading a book titled Stories from the Dragon Tongues, looked up from his dense reading. “I know how you feel, Sweetie Belle. I’m reading about this one wyvern who had fire breath so strong that he melted an entire statue of granite into glass...” He frowned before looking to Twilight. “How come all these stories are so...fairy tale like?”

        “Well, Spike, if you must know, it’s because most of draconic history is oratory. That book is a collection by a pony who spent years traveling and speaking with dragons.” Twilight finished the last of the corrections on Sweetie Belle’s two page essay and floated it back to her. “The important thing with reading those stories is learning the lesson behind them, Spike. There’s a moral to most of them.”

        “Hm. No wonder they sounded like fairy tales.” Spike groused.

        “Oh Spike,” Twilight sighed as she nuzzled the dragonling. “If you want to stop reading them, that’s fine.”

        Spike sensed the slightest hint of sadness in her voice. Truth was, he rarely spent as much time with her as he used to, what with him spending his time reading and studying old tomes and her with her duties as a princess. While he wasn’t as big of a reader as Twilight, he didn’t want to hurt her feelings by turning down an activity she shared with him. “I-it’s alright, Twi. I want to still read, but...do you have anything that’s about dragons that’s not as...kiddie?”

        Twilight’s eyes brightened. “Oh, if that’s what you’re looking for, then...” She magicked a list from nowhere, looking over the paper with a smile. “Hmm...aha! Here we are.” She highlighted one of the book titles on the list with her magic. “This may be more to your liking.”

        Spike looked over the title before his face broke into a toothy grin. “Heroes of Dragonkind? Nice!” He took the list from Twilight before making a beeline for the throne room doors.

        Twilight shook her head, her eyes twinkling with laughter. “Still a baby dragon, even if he tries to hide it.” She returned her attention to Sweetie Belle. “Right, now then, Sweetie Belle, did you want to practice your math?”

        Sweetie Belle gave a nod. “Yes, please.”


        Two hours later and Sweetie Belle had finished her homework for the evening. Her second draft of the essay on Cloudsdale was given Twilight’s stamp of approval (Sweetie Belle had insisted the rubber stamper was not actually needed, much to the alicorn’s disappointment), and trotted outside to play in the snow for a while. It was a bit late, and she would probably be called inside to eat dinner soon. Still, she wanted to enjoy the early winter weather while she could. Rainbow Dash told her it was going to warm up again soon. Fall weather would soon be in Equestria, starting with a downpour throughout the central part of the kingdom, which would melt the snow.

        Not that she minded, though. That meant walking around in October would be less chilly for her when Nightmare Night rolled round.

        “Oh, hello Sweetie Belle.”

        The gentle voice of Fluttershy shook Sweetie Belle from her musings. She smiled to the Princess of Nature before trotting up to her. “Hi, Fluttershy. What are you doing out here?”

        Fluttershy smiled before pointing a hoof up to the trees of the garden. “There’s some lovely cardinals flitting around in the trees. I just wanted to watch them.”

        “Oh, really? Aren’t they cold and hungry out here? You always gave birdseed to the animals back in Ponyville that stayed around during winter didn’t you?”

        “Well, yes,” Fluttershy replied. “Cardinals are wintering birds, though. They have extra fluffy feathers to help keep them warm during the winter.” She watched the red birds chirp as they hopped from branch to branch. “Some ponies, like me, will leave out bird feeders for them during the cold months, but they’re not entirely helpless. They will look for seeds in trees and plants to eat too.”

        “Oh yeah, Ms. Cheerilee was hoping you could come to one of our classes sometime to talk about animals and plants with us. We’re studying life cycles and stuff like that, and she wanted me to ask you about that.”

        “Oh, I wouldn’t mind that at all. Applejack actually told me about that a while back, and I remember Rainbow Dash visited the schools in both Ponyville and Appleloosa already to give a lesson about the weather.” The yellow alicorn giggled. “She said it was kind of fun to spend a whole day with colts and fillies. I’ll be sure to arrange a time for me to go to Ponyville to give a lecture.”

        “Neat!” Sweetie Belle went quiet as one of the male cardinals began chattering at another, smaller male. “Hey, what’s that boy cardinal doing?”

        Fluttershy’s smile didn’t falter as she spoke softly. “Oh, he’s just keeping the younger male from getting too...hm, what’s a good way to put it...well, he’s making sure the younger cardinal knows who’s the older cardinal and to not get too full of himself.”

        “Shouldn’t we stop them from fighting?” Sweetie Belle asked.

        “Don’t worry, he’s not going to hurt him. Cardinals are territorial, but they’re not mean birds, either.” Fluttershy chuckled quietly as one of the females flitted in between the two, causing the two males to scatter onto either side of a branch. “Looks like the female’s being a little pushy, though.”

        One of the males sitting on the top branch let out a whistle, followed by a few shorter chirps. Fluttershy closed her eyes and let out a content sigh as it continued several more times.

        “Wow, that’s a pretty song.” Sweetie Belle said. “How come I never hear them in Ponyville?”

        “Oh, you do, but most of them are closer to the Everfree Forest.” Fluttershy licked her lips before mimicking the bird’s call. The cardinal cocked its head before repeating the song, which she called back. The cardinal flitted down from the top of the tree, landing on Fluttershy’s outstretched hoof.

        “He’s so red.” Sweetie Belle said with giggle. “Kind of like a fluffy tomato, heheh.”

        “He is, isn’t he?” Fluttershy lowered her nose, nuzzling the little bird affectionately. She lifted her hoof, and the bird flew back up into the tree. “These cardinals have been in the garden since I first got here. A few of the other animals have popped their heads out, but most are either hibernating, nocturnal, or they migrated south.”

        Sweetie Belle wet her lips before whistling to the sound of the cardinal call. The cardinals all looked to her with varying degrees of interest, but returned to their business upon seeing it was her. “Aw...how come they won’t fly down to me?”

        Fluttershy’s smile faltered a little before she placed a gentle wing on the filly. “Would you like it if I asked one of them to fly down?”

        “If...if that’s okay...”

        “I’m sure it won’t be a problem.” Fluttershy closed her eyes and went still. Her horn gave of a faint, yellow glow. One of the females looked down to her before hopping down the branches and flitting to the ground, giving what probably qualified as a curious look.

        “Hello, Ms. Cardinal. My friend Sweetie Belle was wondering if it’d be alright to pet you. Would that be okay?”

        The cardinal gave a quiet chirp before flitting onto Sweetie Belle’s back. Sweetie Belle laughed as it’s little claws tickled her skin. “Teehee, wow, she’s so fluffy.” She nuzzled the bird gently as it gave a little trill. “How come all the girls aren’t as red as the boys?”

        “Oh, that’s because females use their colors for camouflage.”

        Recognizing the word, the filly perked up. “Oh, that means...um...to blend in with your surroundings...right?”

        “That’s right. You see, the female usually sits on the eggs to keep them warm while the male goes looking for food to give her. When the babies hatch, the female will go to a new nest and lay more eggs while the male takes care of the hatchlings.”

        Sweetie Belle looked to the cardinal on her back with mild awe. “The girl cardinals have more than one nest?”

        “Usually.” Fluttershy answered.

        The cardinal pulled at a strand of Sweetie Belle’s hair playfully before flitting off her back and flying up into the tree to join the rest of her group. “Hey, Fluttershy? I have a question...”

        The mare sensed the unicorn’s change in tone. She gave a comforting smile and sat down in the snow, not minding the cold at all. She was quite warm thanks to the energy coursing through the fauna and flora. “Go ahead.”

        Sweetie Belle kicked a small pile of snow away before speaking. “Do you...do you remember when you were doing that modeling for Photo Finish?”

        Fluttershy’s ears drooped a bit. “Oh, well...yes, I remember. W-why, did you see her somewhere?”

        “No, but...you got really famous for a little while...and, well...” Sweetie Belle let out a breath before continuing. “It’s just, I got these popperotties following me and-”

        “Actually, um, I think it’s pronounced papparazzi.” Fluttershy corrected.

        “Right, and so I saw some of them at school today, and they were asking me lots of questions and taking pictures of me, and...” She looked to her feet. “I didn’t mind the attention, but Rarity always told me that “I shouldn’t let things go to my head”, so I tried to be polite...” She frowned. “Is it bad to like the attention?”

        “W-well, I don’t like lots of attention, but...that’s just me.” Fluttershy lifted a wing so Sweetie Belle could crawl under and stay warm. “However, I...I think that it’s okay to like being admired, too.”

        “That, and Prince Blueblood wanted me to sing for some ponies at a party he’s having this weekend. Something fancy, but I said that I had other plans with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, because I do, and...” The filly groaned in frustration. “What do I do?”

        Fluttershy could sympathize with the filly. She was still so young, yet she was living among such influential people. She was bound to receive some attention from ponies.

        “Well, Sweetie Belle, I think that it’s important to remember who you are.” She laughed as Sweetie Belle gave her a somewhat flat look. “I mean...really, it’s important to remember what makes you the pony you are. Do you sing because people like it, or well...do you sing because you like it?”

        “Why does everyone think I’m such a good singer?” Sweetie Belle blushed. She didn’t sound upset, just embarrassed. “I mean...I like singing because it makes me happy. I can sing about whatever I want...”

        Fluttershy nodded. “You see? Right there is a small part of who you are. Cameras and magazine articles are okay, but it’s important to be true to yourself. Your friends are important to you, so you still see them when you want to.”

        “Well...what about Rarity? How come she doesn’t see me as much anymore if that’s the case?”

        Oh. Fluttershy should have been prepared for this. She recalled Rarity having a ‘heart-to-heart’ talk with her a day or two ago about the increased amount of time between seeing her sister as of late. “Oh, Sweetie Belle...I...” She paused, thinking her words carefully. She could sense the gloomy thoughts coming from the filly. “Your sister loves you so much. You have to realize that, even if she’s not around as much as she used to be. Why, she was telling me earlier today how happy she was to hear you sing.”

        “Yeah...I made her and Celestia cry.”

        “That was a good cry, though. You made them so happy.” She nuzzled the filly. “Rarity is a busy pony, but she is always thinking about you in the back of her mind, Sweetie Belle,” She whispered quietly as she continued. “She’s actually planning on making you, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo dresses for the Grand Galloping Gala.”

        The filly sucked in a breath of air. “Sh-she is?”

        “Don’t tell her I told you. She hasn’t said so, but I think she wants it to be a surprise.”

        “Oh. I promise not to tell,” Sweetie Belle did the motions of a Pinkie Promise before smiling. “You’re right, Fluttershy. Rarity’s a great sister. I...I’m being a little selfish, I guess.”

        “I don’t think you’re being selfish, Sweetie Belle. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with your family, especially when you have a sister like Rarity.”

        Sweetie Belle found herself feeling a little better. Looking up, she gave the yellow mare a smile. “Thanks, Fluttershy.”

        “It’s nothing, Sweetie Belle. I...I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I kind of see you as a little sister too...well, I’ve started to, at least. I’ve started feeling that way towards all of the girls...um, except Luna...we’re close, but...” Sweetie Belle didn’t know what to make of the faint blush on the mare’s cheeks, but thought nothing of it. She knew Fluttershy and Luna were good friends.

        A cool wind blew by, and the cardinals all went quiet before flitting off to some low-lying shrubs, likely to hunker down for the night. Sweetie Belle shivered a little as well, despite wearing her scarf, hat, and boots.

        “We should probably get you inside before you catch a cold,” Fluttershy suggested. She didn’t even wait for a response from the filly before lifting her up onto her back and covering her with her wings. Sweetie Belle gave no protest, finding the soft feather blanket of the Princess of Kindness all too comfortable.


        Sure enough, the following day Rainbow Dash’s prediction was true. The sun was out, the sky was mostly clear, and the snow was beginning to melt. The air still held the nip of autumn, though. Cheerilee was a bit relieved, considering she wanted to take the kids on a field trip to Sweet Apple Acres as a follow up on the importance of crops and soil and how all of nature fits together to make the food that ponies eat.

        When Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo arrived with the afternoon class, they were greeted by Apple Bloom herself. She was accompanied by Big Mac and another stallion that neither were familiar with.

        “Hi, ya’ll. Welcome to Sweet Apple Acres!” The stallion gave the class a smile. “For those of you who haven’t met me yet, my name’s Braeburn. I’m Big Mac and little Apple Bloom’s cousin. I’m from Appleloosa, way out in the western portion of Equestria!”

        “Are there cowponies in Appleloosa?” asked a colt.

        “There most certainly are! Why, we’re plannin’ on holdin’ the Equestria Rodeo in ‘nother year or two when our town’s more settled in.”

        “Wow...” a few of the colts and fillies whispered.

        “So, I hear you foals wanted to learn a thing or two ‘bout how we go ‘bout harvestin’ the apples. Well, we’re in the middle of applebuck season right now, so I’ll give you kids a sample of the work we do.” Braeburn turned to Big Mac. “Where’d you like me to hit this time, Macintosh?”

        Big Mac glanced over to a nearby cluster of Granny Smith trees. “I reckon those apples are ‘bout right.”

        Braeburn nodded. “Alright, kids, follow me.”

        Ten minutes later and Braeburn had bucked a bushel of apples from one of the trees, and was letting the foals each have one (after they were inspected for worms, bruises, and the like) for an afternoon snack.

        “Mr. Braeburn?”

        The young stallion tipped his hat up before smiling down to the young unicorn filly. “Well, now I recognize you. You’re that young lady who’s the sister of Princess Rarity, right? Lady Sweetie Belle, if my memory’s correct.”

        Sweetie Belle gave a small bow that her sister would have been proud of. “Yes, sir. I’m one of Apple Bloom’s friends.”

        Braeburn’s eyes widened. “Shoot, that’s right. Heh...” He lowered his voice. “Kinda hard gettin’ used to the fact that me an’ my kin are sorta royalty.” He grinned before taking his hat off and giving a quick bow. “I remember the other night that Apple Bloom was sharin’ a few stories ‘bout you two an’ a little pegasus filly...let’s see...what was her name?”

        “That’d be me!” Scootaloo piped up. “I’m Scootaloo.”

        “Oh, sure!” He threw his hat back on and laughed. “I remember you and Apple Bloom were racin’ round the barn on your scooter the other day. Somethin’ ‘bout gettin’ an off-road racin’ cutie mark.” He shook his head while smiling. “If I only had a chance to be a colt again.”

        Sweetie Belle smiled softly. “I was just wondering how everything is going with the family. I haven’t really gotten to talk to Apple Bloom lately, and Scootaloo says she doesn’t really talk much about...well...”

        Braeburn’s smile softened a little. “That’s mighty kind of you t’ ask, little miss.” She sighed. “Great-auntie was a wonderful mare. A true lady. Heh, I remember the handful of times I got to stop by for the family reunion, she always made sure I’d gotten enough to eat before I went off to play with Big Mac an’ the others. Made sure I ate my veggies, too.”

        Sweetie Belle smiled. “We all miss her.”

        “We’re takin’ it day by day.” Braeburn replied. “How ‘bout my little cousin, Applejack? She doin’ alright?”

        “Yeah. I think she’s getting better...” Sweetie Belle answered. “I think she’s looking forward to when you all visit Canterlot for the holidays.”

        “Hoo boy. Y’know, I only been to Canterlot once, and that was way back when I was younger than you two fine ladies.” He rubbed his chin in thought. “Wonder if that donut shop is still in town...”

        “Oh! That’s right!” Scootaloo gasped. “Sweetie Belle, my parents said I can stay with you in Canterlot for Hearth’s Warming!”

        “You can?!” Sweetie Belle smiled brightly. “Great! Did you get to tell Apple Bloom?”
        “No, but we can right now!”

        The two fillies quickly ran to their earth pony friend, eager to share the news.

        “I think these apples aren’t ripe yet...” said a young filly. “They’re kind of sour...”

        Braeburn chuckled. “Granny Smith apples are always sour. Here, let me get you an apple from one of our Gala trees. They’re a lot sweeter...”


        The field trip had lasted the entirety of the class for Sweetie Belle, so she and Scootaloo simply stayed around afterward to spend some time with Apple Bloom. The two pegasi guards in charge of bringing Sweetie Belle home had parked near the Apple family barn a short time ago, and were patiently waiting for her.

        “I’m glad that we can all spend some time together this weekend,” Apple Bloom said while carrying a small load of Granny Smith on her head towards the apple cellar. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle each carried a small basket of their own, Scootaloo by wagon via her scooter and Sweetie Belle with her slowly developing magic.

        “Yeah, and we’ll get to hang out during the holidays!” Scootaloo added. “I can’t wait to talk to Princess Luna and Princess Celestia! I bet they can get our cutie marks to appear!”

        “No, I already asked them about that.” Sweetie Belle sighed. “Princess Luna said those things take time and self-discovery.”

        “Awww.” Scootaloo grumbled. “Hmph. Well, we’ll just have to try being guard ponies. That’s got to work.”

        “Or maybe royal bakers!” Apple Bloom added.

        “I don’t know. I tried baking a pie. It...scared one of the chefs who was in the kitchen at the time.”

        “Hm.” Apple Bloom hummed in thought as she dropped the bushel alongside the others. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

        Eventually Sweetie Belle had to bid her friends farewell. Before she left, Big Mac had given her a bushel of various fruits and vegetables to take with her.

        “I know Applejack won’t complain ‘bout most food, but I’m sure she’d like to have some home grown food to eat once in a while. Let her know we’re doin’ alright,” the stallion had explained as he placed the bushel onto the chariot.

        The ride home, as always seemed to come to an end before it even began. She managed to get Lightweight, one of the two pegasi flying the chariot, to sing a song while his co-pilot Typhoon Dancer merely shook his head and faced forward.

        Sweetie Belle asked one of the guards to carry the bushel of food to Applejack’s room and relay the message from Big Mac for her, seeing as she was too small to carry the heavy load. She made her way to her room and dropped off her saddlebag, unaware of the other pony in the room with her.

        “Sweetie Belle, dear, can we talk?”

        Sweetie Belle jumped before looking to see Rarity sitting on her bed, her eyes scanning a particular magazine. When Sweetie Belle opened her mouth to ask her sister what she was doing in her room, Rarity merely lifted up the magazine being held in her magic, showing the page she was reading.

Lady Sweetie Belle: Caged Songbird or Reluctant Princess?

        Recent events in Equestria have caused quite a wave within the kingdom. From the addition of six new princesses, weather being less controllable, and even the change in the movement of the planet itself, to say ponykind has been adapting well to the changes is an understatement.

        For one little filly though, the lifestyle of high society seems to be too much for her. Photos of her taken at Ponyville Elementary show her with her close friend, Scootaloo. Sweetie Belle had complained to her friend about the lack of a social life, stating that she barely got to see her due to the relocation of her home in Canterlot. She had even planned on sneaking away from her Royal Guard escorts just so she could get a chance to spend time away from being a lady of the court.

        Her singing talents have made her a slowly growing icon in the Canterlot social cirlces, but she still remains aloof to the public. However, is it possible that she is trapped in a life that she doesn’t want? Some ponies sympathize with...

        Rarity set down the magazine, her face unreadable. Sweetie Belle was worried that she had upset her in some way, but couldn’t tell.

        “I-I didn’t tell them anything like that! I was just talking with Scootaloo when-”

        Rarity gave a nod of understanding. “It’s alright, Sweetie Belle. I believe you.” She tapped a hoof on the plush comforter of Sweetie Belle’s bed, offering her a spot to lie on. Sweetie Belle complied.

        “I don’t want to leave Canterlot, Rarity. I...I kind of like it here. It’s fun to get to play in Luna’s music studio, and all the guards are really nice to me.”

        Rarity smiled. “Do you truly mean that?”

        “Yes! Honest! I don’t want to be in Ponyville if you’re not there!” She had moisture glistening in her eyes now.

        “Oh dear, I didn’t meant for you to get upset.” Rarity pulled her sister in close, speaking softly. “I imagined that this was the case. I’m ire to admit it, but these ‘journalists’ do a good job. This article makes you seem like a helpless victim of circumstance. I was made a princess, and you had no other choice but to come with me,” the platinum white mare sighed wearily. “Sweetie Belle...do you...do you think that I’m a bad sister ever?”

        “Huh?” Sweetie Belle’s eyes blurred, but she didn’t sob. Tears poured down her face. “No, Rarity! I mean, you can be dramatic at times, but nopony’s perfect! I mean, I’m kind of a lousy cook, and I don’t always think things through...” She frowned. “You’re a great sister, Rarity. Almost too good for me...”

        Rarity nuzzled the filly gently. “Now stop there. That’s not true at all.” She smiled when Sweetie Belle looked up to her. “Fluttershy...she told me that you talked to her the other day about me.” Sweetie Belle’s eyes widened a bit, but Rarity’s smile only grew. “She told me how you only wish you could spend more time with me, and that you felt like you were being selfish.”

        “I...yeah...”

        Rarity lowered her eyes to Sweetie Belle’s level before whispering. “I thought we could make a promise to each other. I got the idea from Celestia.”

        “What kind of promise?”

        Rarity spoke softly. “Well, Luna and Celestia made a promise after the Nightmare Moon incident. They promised each other they would always make time for each other, no matter what the situation. They promised to always put aside a certain time during the week where they would get to spend together, just the two of them. A few hours during the week where they could talk, gossip, and just do whatever it is that they do together.” She could see the light go on in Sweetie Belle’s eyes. “Perhaps we can make a promise like that?”

        Sweetie Belle missed the slight hitch in Rarity’s question, but she was all for the promise. “Sure.”

        Rarity and Sweetie Belle linked their right forelegs together and shook once before speaking simultaneously. “I promise.”

        “Right then,” Rarity began. “So, what do you think would be a good day to share time together?”

        “Maybe...every Wednesday? After school, when I get home? Until dinner time?”

        Rarity nodded, liking the idea. “That sounds wonderful. In fact...” She looked at the clock, “...today is Wednesday, if I’m not mistaken. It’s about three hours before dinner time for us, too.” She chuckled. “When did you get so clever?”

        Sweetie Belle giggled. “What do you want to do?”

        The alicorn tapped her chin. “Well, I heard that there’s an indoor tennis court somewhere in the castle. I have yet to see it, but Twilight said it was in the gymnasium. What do you say we play a game of badminton?”

        “I’m not very good at it. The stick’s are too big for my mouth to hold onto.”

        “Well, we’ll just have to make this an opportunity for you to practice your magic, too.”

        “You mean you’ll help me?”

        “But of course. After all, I am your big sister.” Rarity placed a hoof to her chest proudly. “I shall teach you everything I can, including how to use the TRADITIONAL ROYAL CANTERLOT VOICE!

        Sweetie Belle found herself blown off the bed, rolled up in the sheets as Rarity looked over the edge at her. “Oh dear, it seems our dearest sister has fallen from thine bed! Sweetie Belle, do you insist on lying in that heap of sheets for the remainder of thine day? ‘Tis a silly thing to do, is it not?

        Sweetie Belle giggled as she was blown back a few more inches from her bedside before being picked up by Rarity’s magic. She gave her sister a giddy smile before wrapping her in her hooves. “I love you, Rarity.”

        Rarity’s heart melted. She felt her eyes water, and spoke softly. “I love you too, Sweetie Belle.” She wiped her eyes and cleared her throat. “Well then, let us get to the badminton court. I wish to get some practice in so I can show up Blueblood during the Canterlot Spring Recreation Festival next year.”

        “Raaarittyyy...” Sweetie Belle groaned before giggling some more. Rarity only smiled proudly before doing her best imitation of a Canterlot aristocrat, nose stuck up while pretending to adjust a bowtie. In public, it would have been something that would have caused the princess a lot of problems.

        However, with Sweetie Belle, she could care less about the way she looked. When she was with Sweetie Belle, Rarity could be the mare she truly was...

        …a big sister with a bigger heart.


End of Chapter 3- Sweetie Belle chapter 1

A/N: This chapter progressed a lot quicker than the previous one did. I don’t know, maybe it’s because it was Sweetie Belle? Though, I’m certain it would have gone through a lot sooner had I not finally gotten around to reading/finishing Fallout: Equestria. Yep, that’s a full four or five days I’m never getting back (not that I regret it, that story was...yeah, too good for words). I wonder if Hasbro and Bethesda could...no, I’ll stop there.

Aside from that, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. I’ll likely be making at least one chapter for each of the CMC trio. They’re too adorable for their own good.

Next up: Loyal to her kingdom, her friends, and her ideals, Rainbow Dash is a mare who’s proud to say she is a princess of Equestria. However, her duties are both vast and important to the land. How does one mare cope with the burden of guiding the weather, the oceans, and all the bodies of water while also being the Spirit of Loyalty? Sometimes the answer is harder to see than one may think.

Previous Chapter: Chapter Two- Celestia 1

Next Chapter: Chapter Four- Rainbow Dash 1


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Rainbow Dash: Under the Weather

        “I...I don’t believe this!”

        “Princess Rainbow Dash, I know this is sudden, but you have to understand that weather was a major-”

        Rainbow Dash lifted a letter mailed to her from the Cloudsdale Weather Factory in her magic and tossed it across the room in a crumpled ball. She breathed shakily as she began to pace around. “I-It’s not my fault that my powers control the weather! I didn’t want to take away the majority of their control over the weather! I just-” She let out a scream of frustration, stomping her hooves several times before letting out a snort of frustration.

        Scrappy looked to the floor, unsure what to do. He had been warned by Princess Twilight about the cyan alicorn’s quick temper. He fought down the trembling in his knees as he felt the air ripple, the faint scent of sea salt filling his nostrils.

        Sea salt? Oh, right, she was the Princess of Oceans, too.

        “Scrappy,” Rainbow Dash said in a firm, barely controlled, tone. “Take a copy of this...letter...and place it the archives.” She let out a sigh. “I...need a moment.”

        The chocolate brown stallion blew a stray lock of white out of his eyes before taking the untouched copy of the letter in his mouth. “As ‘ou wish, P’incehss.” He exited the room, leaving her to her thoughts.

Rainbow Dash glowered at a spot on the floor, trying to contain her growing temper. She took in a few deep breaths and turned her gaze towards the midday view of Canterlot. How many other ponies were angry at her for what she had domain over? Hundreds more? Thousands more? Millions?

Cloudsdale held a special place in her heart, being the place where she had grown up, learned to fly, and discovered her talent. As such, it was a hard pill to swallow when pegasi began to protesting over the recent changes in the weather making and control. Hundreds upon hundreds of pegasi were employed at the Cloudsdale weather factory and throughout the numerous branches of weather teams in the kingdom.

With Rainbow Dash being Princess of Weather and Water though, there was almost no need for it those now. She had begun urging officials to follow through with a program to employ pegasi to observe the weather and see if they could find patterns. She had told them before, but stressed the fact that while she knew what the weather would be like, she was only one pony, and her knowledge was not the most specific. Sure, she could tell if it was going to rain or be sunny tomorrow, and she could tell you where winds were blowing, but she wouldn’t be able to tell you how warm or cold it would be aside from ‘comfortably warm’ or ‘freezing-my-tail-off cold’.

Her vision of the future weather was not consistent either. It would vary from tomorrow to three months from now.

She narrowed her eyes at a patch of cloud.

Break...

The cumulus cloud floated over the land, unperturbed by the ponies below. It’s form was weak, she could tell just by reaching out with her senses.

Break...

The cloud began to slow down, but maintained its general shape.

Break!

The cloud suddenly ripped into five pieces before scattering into the wind. She snorted in grim satisfaction before returning her attention to the letter that was crumpled on the floor. She picked it up, flattening it out and looking over it once more.

Dear Majesties,

The recent changes of our land’s weather conditions have caused many stressful problems for the citizens of Cloudsdale. As I’m sure you all are aware, pegasi weather control has been a major industry for much of our kingdom’s citizenry. We therefore fear that with the recent exchange of control of weather from many pegasi to a single pony is of major concern for not just us, but all ponies currently employed in said area of business.

The weather factory has produced less than a modicum of the usual amount of clouds as of late for unexplained reasons (though we assume this is due to the Elements of Harmony). Without clouds, we cannot properly create weather. We’ve already had to let go of half of our work force, and now we’re at risk of shutting down completely.

While we mean no insult, we believe that the recent changes are somewhat unfair. What are we to do about the unemployed? We have received word of the new Sky Watcher Program, but only a handful of our ponies are able to apply to it, due to limited jobs available. Meteorology is a relatively new science, much too young to provide jobs for all the ponies who are without work.

Please consider our situation, and let us know what can be done to help. We appreciate your time, your Majesties, and hope you’ll help us find a solution as soon as possible.

        Your humble subjects of Cloudsdale

        Rainbow Dash would be the first to agree that pegasi, as an equine tribe, were proud. Cloudsdale was the cultural capitol of the pegasi. About ninety-five percent of the city was made up of pegasi. About two percent were earth ponies and unicorns supported by cloud walking magic, and three percent was griffon. So, when Cloudsdale spoke up about an issue affecting pegasi, it usually was speaking for all pegasi. Pegasi didn’t like being ignored, either, as a rule of thumb.

        The problem was that she couldn’t really do anything about the change in weather. She didn’t have the ability to give the power of weather control back to the ponies. She was an alicorn, but she wasn’t a deity.

        “Rainbow?”

        The Princess of Weather looked to the doorway and was greeted to the sight of a familiar orange mare. “Oh...hey, AJ.”

        “Scrappy an’ Quick Wit told me ‘bout the letter from Cloudsdale. Now, don’ get all flustered, I told ‘em to tell me what was wrong, so you got no reason to yell at ‘em.” She closed the door behind her and gave her friend a small smile. “For the record, it ain’t the first time that the government’s been blamed for something that’s sort of outside of its power of authority.”

        “Yeah?” Rainbow Dash asked skeptically. “Give me an example?”

        The minute the words left her mouth, Rainbow Dash realized she’d walked into Applejack’s trap. “Well, there was the Parasprite infestation in Fillydelphia, which caused at least nine-hundred seventy-four thousand bits in property damage, the drop in the Equestrian farming industry due to the heat wave seven years back, the lack of success in rock farming ‘bout a century ago, and...well, Celestia said her banishment of Luna wasn’t necessarily an ‘approved move’ in the eyes of a lot of ponies.”

        Rainbow Dash blinked. “Huh...well, so what? You trying to tell me that I shouldn’t worry, that this will all just settle down on its own? If you are, save it.” She turned towards the window once more. “Even if they don’t like it...I have to take care of the weather. If I don’t, well...”

        “Well...what?”

        “Things would get ugly,” Rainbow answered. “Remember that huge thunderstorm that happened a while back. The one where that tree top fell into Twi’s house?”

        “Hoo boy, yeah, that was a whopper of a storm.”

        “Picture that, and multiply it by five. Or more. Drop that over the middle of Ponyville during the summer.”

        The blond mare went silent. “Landsakes, Rainbow, yer serious, aren’ ya?” She shook her head. “Remind me to never get on yer bad side.”

        “Hey, I wouldn’t go and abuse my powers like that!” Rainbow snapped. “Just because I have power over the weather doesn’t mean I’ll scare everyone with it! That’s just...just...wrong.”

        Applejack smiled. “I think that’s why you were given the powers you have, Rainbow. Y’know how to be responsible with them. Yer also a loyal pony, an’ I know you’d put Equestria before yerself...just like any of us would.”

        Rainbow nodded. “I just...I wish that this would be a little easier sometimes, you know? I know they didn’t say it, but they meant it. They’re blaming me.” She nodded to the letter to make her point clear.

        “Well, if it makes ya feel better, Celestia is willin’ to set up a time for you to address the public. She said she’d be happy to be by yer side while you do it, too.”

        “She did?”

        “Yep, she sounded mighty determined to let you know that she wanted to help,” Applejack chuckled. “Seein’ her so get so passionate over fixin’ this problem was really somethin’. Well, that an’ seein’ Twilight gettin’ all starry-eyed while watchin’ her speak was quite a sight to see.”

        “Heheh, that Egghead. She’s lucky to have a mare like Celestia.”

        “I reckon Celestia’s feels the same towards Twi.”

        Rainbow ran a hoof over her mane before adjusting her gilded leaf crown. “Right, I guess I’ll take Celestia up on that offer.”

        A knock at the door cut off further conversation. The two mares looked to see one of the castle servants bowing a little as she peeked in. “Um, pardon me your Highnesses.”

        “Lemon Drop, right?” Rainbow asked. She had seen the middle-aged mare around the halls numerous times. The lemon yellow coat and neon green mane were hard not to notice.

        “Y-yes, Princess Rainbow Dash,” the mare replied with another bow, flushing slightly. “I was instructed by Princess Celestia to come find you. The Griffon kingdom ambassador and her entourage have arrived, and that your presence is desired. They are currently in the main greeting hall.”

        Rainbow gave a nod. “Thanks, Lemon Drop. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Lemon Drop gave a bow before stepping out. Rainbow Dash turned to Applejack and sighed. “I guess we’ll have to wait until later to figure this whole fiasco.”

        “Don’ worry ‘bout that right now. We’re all here to help you, an’ it’s as important to us as it is to you.”

        “Thanks, AJ.”

        Applejack just grinned. “No problem, Dash.”

        The two mares made their way to the of the Canterlot Castle Greeting Hall. Pinkie Pie, Twilight Sparkle, and Celestia were already there, making small talk with an older female griffon. Her feathers were a dull white with dusty gray coloration around the tips. Her eyes were colored chocolate brown, and her body was a darker tan. She wore robes of deep blue with a sash of silver wrapping around her. Two male griffons flanked her left and right side while three stood in the back behind her. Out of the two female guards in the back, Rainbow immediately recognized the one with light purple coloration around her eyes and feather tips. It was this griffon guard in particular that was speaking to none other than Pinkie Pie.

        Was Gilda...smiling? She looked like she was genuinely happy to see Pinkie Pie.

        “How long have they been here?” Rainbow Dash asked one of the guards standing at the door.

        “About half an hour, Milady,” the guard replied. “Princess Pinkie Pie was the first to greet them. Something about her ‘Pinkie Sense’ or something.” He cast a quizzical look to the pink alicorn. “I’m not sure what to make of that, but that was what she said at any rate.”

        “You’d best not think to much ‘bout it.” Applejack said with a chuckle as the two princesses made their way to the guests.

        Celestia took notice of the two mares first. “Ah, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, I’m glad to see you both.” Celestia gave a nod towards the griffons. “This is Lady Mildred, Ambassador and one of the members of the Elder Council of the Griffon Kingdom.”

        The graying griffon gave a low bow, wings fanning out and angled down in the traditional pose of greeting. “It’s an honor, Princess Rainbow Dash, Princess Applejack.”

        Rainbow returned the gesture while Applejack gave a respectful nod. “Pleased t’ meet ya. I hope ya’ll had a safe trip gettin’ here. I imagine the autumn winds weren’t easy on ya.”

        Mildred chuckled. “I’m old, not decrepit, your Highness. I appreciate the concern, though.” Mildred turned her gaze to Rainbow before continuing. “Princess Rainbow Dash, one of the young-bloods here claims to know you.”

        Rainbow noticed Gilda was looking everywhere but at her, and began adjusting the holster of her short sword in an attempt to look occupied. Rainbow smiled, trying to hide her the sadness from her voice. “Yeah, Gilda and I went to Junior Speedsters Camp back in our fillyhood...or fledgling...hood...but yeah, we’re old friends.”

        Gilda looked to Rainbow before glancing to Pinkie Pie. The party pony gave a cheerful smile before nodding, encouraging her to speak.

        The griffon cleared her throat. “Er...Dash, I mean...your Highness, Princess Rainbow Dash...I was wondering if I could speak to you in private when you have a free moment?”

        Rainbow could hear the uncertainty in her old feathered friend’s words. She sounded scared.

        Rainbow gave the best disarming smile that she could. “Of course, Gilda. I’ve been hoping to catch up with you...you know, talk about a few things, stuff like that.”

        “Y-yeah, same here.”

        Pinkie laughed. “You know, Rainbow, Mildred was hoping to have lunch. Why don’t you give Gilda a tour of the place and catch up with her?” Pinkie looked to Mildred before continuing. “That is, if you don’t mind, Lady Mildred.”

        Mildred shook her head and smiled. “I see no harm it that. Just make sure she gets back to the guest suites before seven. I need to discuss our plans for tomorrow. Won’t do her any good as one of my guards if she’s not where I need her, right? Go on and take a break, Gilda.”

        “Thank you, Elder Mildred.” She bowed in respect before turning to Rainbow, the same look of uncertainty returning. “Well...whenever you’re ready, Princess.” She made a gesture with one of her claws, indicating that she would follow.

        “Right, um...how about I show you the gymnasium? I’m sure you’d like to stop by there during your stay.”

        Rainbow Dash and Gilda made their way out of the Greeting Hall, and started down a random corridor leading to what Rainbow hoped was the right direction.

        As soon as they were out of earshot of the others, Gilda spoke. “I take it you got my letter?”

        Rainbow nodded. “Yeah. You said you wanted to talk to me.”

        Gilda stopped, letting out a sigh. The alicorn noticed and turned to face her friend. “Yeah, I...look, I’m not very good at doing this, so...I’m sorry. For well...blowing up at you, treating your friends badly, and...just being a downright jerk.” She ran a claw through her bangs. “I guess I was just...I dunno, trying to be tough and make you think I was still cool like you did back when we were young.”

        To her credit, Rainbow Dash managed to look a little ashamed as well. “I suppose I could have tried to pay more attention to how you were feeling during your visit, too. You’re one of my oldest friends...next to Fluttershy, that is. I can understand where you were coming from, a little. I know you have a bit of a short temper with ponies like Pinkie, but...well, I don’t mean to keep bringing it up, but you were mean to my friends. Fluttershy told me later that you made her cry.” Rainbow frowned. “Just be glad I wasn’t there to see that.”

        “Yeah, I wanted to find her, as well.” Gilda scratched the back of her neck. “After you and I had our fight, I went back home. Joined the capital guard, then was promoted to personal bodyguard of Lady Mildred. She learned about my past, and that I don’t really have any relatives to turn to for support.” A smile played at her beak as she continued. “Truth is, she’s been like family to me. It’s hardly been a year, yet I owe her more than I can probably ever repay in my lifetime. She helped me get my act cleaned up. I’m taking some seasonal classes on a few different subjects when I’m not working for the capital, and...well, I think it was due to Princess Celestia paying a visit last winter than I found out how much of a jerk I was.”

        “Really? She visited your class?” Dash asked, quirking an eyebrow.

        “Yeah. Princess Celestia was telling us griffons in class during a guest lecture that friendship is a very important part of life. She explained how you and your five friends...the Spirits of Harmony, right?”

        “Yep. I’m Loyalty...though now I’m not so sure, seeing how I treated you-”

        “Dash, stop. You were being the kind of pony you always have been. You were in the right. I was just being a lame-o.”

        Dash managed to smile. “If it means anything to you, I was ready to forgive you the moment you wanted to talk about it.”

        “Same. Though...not sure what you’d have to apologize for.”

        Rainbow Dash held out a hoof. “Friends?”

        Gilda curled her claw into a fist, bumping her alicorn friend’s hoof. “Friends.”

        Rainbow Dash chuckled. “So, Pinkie seemed happy to see you.”

        Gilda rolled her eyes, though a small smile could be seen. “Yeah. She’s...not that bad, actually. Talks a lot, but...I she’s alright.”

        “She didn’t ask you about trying out any of her new strudel recipes, did she?”

        “No. Why, should I try them?”

        Rainbow Dash shook her head frantically. “If she offers you her ‘Verde Picante Strudel, just say no. Spike got sick from it, and he was one of the only residents in Ponyville who could stomach Applejack and her baked bads.”

        “Baked Bads?” Gilda repeated.

        “Long story. Earth worms, lemons, and muffin mix. That’s all you need to know.”

        “...and you six were the ones that stopped Nightmare Moon and saved Princess Luna?”

        “Don’t lose sleep over it.” Dash laughed, Gilda joining in while shaking her head.

        Rainbow Dash began giving the griffon a proper tour of Canterlot Castle, and sure enough, Gilda looked rather pleased with the gymnasium. Especially when she saw the obstacle course for pegasi.

        “I’ll have to give that a go some time. How about you, Dash?”

        Dash frowned a little. “Well, I’m still pretty fast, seeing as I kind of kept my original body frame...except for my wings.” She opened them up and sighed as they billowed out. “My wing length is about the same as by body length. I’m built more like an eagle than a falcon now, but they’re still as powerful as ever. I just need a lot more room to do tricks...which kind of sucks.”

        “You can use magic too, right?”

        “A little. Twilight taught me how to do a few of the easier spells, you know. I can levitate things with my magic, and Celestia taught me some of the basics to teleporting. I’m not very good at moving long distances with magic yet, but I can teleport from one area in vision to another pretty easily.”

        “Seriously?” Gilda quirked an eyebrow before looking around. “Could you show me?”

        Rainbow smiled, then signaled Gilda to back up a bit. Rainbow’s horn glowed a hue of red before she disappeared with a flash of light, reappearing further down the hall a second later.

        “Neat! So, can you do anything else?”

        Rainbow Dash felt herself puff up with pride. “Well, I learned how to control water and the winds about a month ago.I can still do pretty much everything that a pegasus can do, and I can, according to Twilight, predict the weather within a seven to twenty percent error. I guess that means I’m pretty good at it.”

        The griffon gave her friend an amused smile. “Try and sound a little more proud, why don’t you?”

        “Heh, what can I say? I’m still awesome.” Rainbow Dash continued down the hall, not entirely sure where she was leading them. Oh well, if all else failed she’d ask one of the guards. They all had this place memorized like the bottoms of their hooves.


        “...so then one of the colts asked me if I ever ate a lightning bolt before.”

        “Hahaha!”

        “No, I’m serious. The little guy was determined to know if I could eat lightning.” Rainbow said, waving a hoof to her small audience. Spike had bumped into her and Gilda outside the library, and Captain Spark Fyre had joined them during his patrol of the castle.

        Spike blinked several times. “So...?”

        “Of course you can’t eat lightning, Spike.” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. Though, Captain Spark Fyre can do everything else with it.”

        “Please, your Highness. While I can control electrical current, harnessing lightning is a bit too much for my magical strength.”

        “What about Zap Apples?” Spike suggested.

        “Okay, so that’s sort of like eating lightning, but only a little bit. You don’t get shocked by the jam.”

        “Actually, I had a cousin who visited Ponyville during Zap Apple harvesting time. Said he got a burnt lip from eating too much jam at once. Though, I suppose a whole jar is a bit much for anypony to eat at once.”

        Rainbow Dash stared at the unicorn for several seconds. “Really?”

        “Yeah. Didn’t stop him from going the following year, though.”

        “Huh...well, anyway, I explained to the colt that I can’t eat lightning, and he said that if I was really the Princess of Weather I’d be able to. I made it snow a little over his head to prove him otherwise. Then we went out and made snow forts during recess.”

        Gilda smirked. “I do have to have to admit, seeing you eat lightning would be pretty sweet.”

        “I know, right? So, after I finish my lecture at Fetlock Hills I returned here and started reading up on lightning. I mean, I know enough about it already from all my work as a weather pony, but I figured it was worth looking up.”

        “Well?”

        Rainbow Dash looked to Spike, grinning. “Apparently there have been several dragons in history who not only could eat electricity, but also were able to breath it.” She chuckled with amusement as Spike’s eyes widened. “Though, it sounded like it was a talent they were born with. Kind of like how your fire can deliver things when you want it to.”

        “Aw, and here I was hoping to learn how to shoot lightning out of my mouth.” Spike grumbled.

        “We had a dragon visit the Griffon Kingdom a few months back,” Gilda commented. “Some dragoness in her second growth state. Just woke up from her hundred-year nap, said she wanted to buy some amethysts from our treasury. She had a huge horde of gold and silver in a cave several miles south of the capital.”

        “Huh, don’t dragons usually keep to themselves?”

        “Some do, but she apparently has been around griffons before. The Elder Council confirmed she had been a resident in the mountains for several centuries after looking in the archives.” Gilda scratched her chin. “Apparently she can breath ice.”

        “Ice?” Spike’s eyes widened. “What’s her name?”

        Gilda gave a teasing smile. “Slow down, kid. She’s a few centuries older than you.”

        Spike flushed a bit in the cheeks. “I-I wasn’t asking anything like that!”

        Gilda chuckled. “Easy, easy, I was just teasing. Anyway, if I remember correctly, her name was Flurry. Real chill dragon, at least the chillest one I’ve ever seen, no pun intended.”

        Spike got up suddenly, carrying the large book titled Dragons, Serpents, and Wyverns: Culture, Language, and Relations to Ponies.

        “Where are you off to, Spike?”

        Spike gave Rainbow an excited smile. “Well, Twilight said I should try and look into meeting some of the other dragons in Equestria. This Flurry, whoever she is, sounds okay.”

        “Why does she want you to meet other dragons?” Gilda asked.

        “She said it had something to do with me being “the next generation”, and that “I had to learn the lore of my kin”. Not entirely sure what she was talking about. Still, if Flurry has ever been in Equestria or the Griffon Kingdom, there’s probably a record on her that I can use as a reference for communicating with her using my fire.” He scampered off without further explanation.

        “Hm. You know, I can barely recall when he was still a hatchling,” Spark Fyre commented with a bemused chuckle. “He was a real handful when he started teething. Ate several of Princess Celestia’s gem collections. Twilight got so upset, but I think the Princess rather enjoyed the scene.”

        “Wait, how old is that little guy?” Gilda asked as she watched the dragon’s retreating form enter the castle.

        “Spike? Hm...probably close to thirteen or fourteen years old. Not too old, but older than any of my nieces or nephews are.”

        Gilda frowned. “You’re kidding. He’s that old yet he’s still considered a baby?”

        Spark Fyre gave a nod. “Dragons grow up slowly at first. Kind of the opposite of us ponies and griffons during our early years. We take off like weeds in a garden. Dragons are more like a tree.”

        “Trees can grow pretty quickly, though,” Dash pointed out.

        “True, but the rate of growth compared to how big they grow varies. A dandelion, for example, starts from a little seed, sets its roots, grows leaves and a stem before flowering. They pop out of the grass and before you know it they’re all over the place.” He cleared his throat before continuing. “A tree, on the other hand, takes time to grow. Spike’s body metabolizes about three times faster than a newborn foal, four times faster than a griffon hatchling, and almost six times faster than a young filly, colt, or fledgling.”

        Rainbow and Gilda exchanged looks before looking to the dark blue unicorn. “You seem to have a lot of knowledge on dragons.”

        “Well, I did take three years of biology at Canterlot University before joining the Royal Guard. Part of the reason I’m typically leading new recruits on field and survival training.” He smiled with a hint of pride before continuing. “Anyway, Spike will experience a mild growth spurt in about three to five years, which will bring him up a few feet past the height of most of the full grown stallions serving the guard here. He’ll slow down then, and in about another fifty to seventy years he’ll have his second growth, which can last up to two decades in some cases. That’s where he’ll really take off, and if my estimations are correct, he’ll be a huge dragon by the time he he’s done.”

        “How many growths do dragons go through?” Rainbow asked.

        “Depends. Some serpents have up to twelve growths. Wyverns typically only have two. Dragons vary from four to eight. Not sure about Spike, though, considering he has a magical connection to Princess Twilight Sparkle. Unicorn magic can alter dragons somewhat.”

        Gilda quirked an eyebrow before chuckling. “Well, as far as dragons go, he’s a pretty smart little guy.”

        Rainbow smiled. “That’s because he’s got Twilight. She’s like a mother hen sometimes, making sure he gets enough sleep. That, and she’s been really throwing him to the books lately. He still resists her, though,” She laughed. “Heck, just the other night she was hauling him off to bed in her magic while he complained, telling him that he was too young to be up so late on a weeknight.”

        The three laughed at the image brought to mind. Amongst the laughter, a little sadness welled up in Rainbow’s mind. Spike never really had any other dragons to interact with. The one he had gotten to meet had tried to hurt him, but that was about it. As far as she saw it, he had never been around any of his own kind.

She decided right then and there that she would do what she could to help him meet this Flurry. It was the least a good friend could do.


        Gilda had eventually excused herself for the afternoon, stating she had to return to the ambassador and check in. She promised she would find time to talk more with Rainbow tomorrow, and bid her a good evening.

        Rainbow was now left alone in a random courtyard within the castle grounds. She took in a whiff of the air, and sighed contentedly. Fall was always a wonderful time for Equestria. The smell of musty leaves was unique, the air was just cool enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable for her. Not to mention one of her favorite festivals was coming up in another week.

        Nightmare Night. She didn’t want to say it was a big deal, but she really, really, really wanted to be in Ponyville for the event. Rarity had already promised Sweetie Belle she would take her home for...

        ...home...

        Rainbow shook her head. Despite the fact that she had been in Canterlot for little more than a month, she still considered herself a guest. Canterlot was great, no doubt, but it just seemed so...different. The air temperature was different, the air was a little thinner, and she hardly knew the various shops that were in the Canterlot central square.

        Still, would she get flak for going to Ponyville instead of somewhere else, like Cloudsdale, or Hoofington? Maybe, it was a possibility. Perhaps if she stated it was because Luna was going there as well (Luna wished for her first Nightmare Night to be in the town where she had returned after her banishment).

        “Well, it’s just one night,” Rainbow Dash said quietly to herself. “I doubt anyone will be too upset if I chose to go to Ponyville for a night of candy and games.”

        It was decided, then. Ponyville would be her stop for Nightmare Night. If anyone had a problem with it, then tough.


        “...I’m glad we could come to an agreement, your Highnesses.” Mildred rolled up a scroll, her smile reaching her eyes as she looked to each of the alicorns in the room. “This...this meeting went just as I had hoped it would.”

        “Yep! We really wanted to avoid any big problems, Lady Mildred. I’m sure this new agreement will work well for both kingdoms,” said Pinkie Pie as she grinned. “You sure you can’t stay until the end of the week, though? I mean, I’m sure your Elder Council and king wouldn’t mind if you stayed until the end of this coming weekend. We’re holding the Nightmare Night festival, and all of us will be in Ponyville to celebrate! You’ve already been here a couple of days now, I don’t see the harm in staying a little longer!”

        Mildred chuckled. “You honor me with your offer, Princess Pinkie Pie, but I’m afraid I do have duties to attend to back home.”

        “Either way, the lowering of iron prices along with our lowering of gemstones and fruits as far as trade between our kingdoms will work nicely for all of us,” Celestia stated. “If there are any further issues you wish to bring to our attention in the future, do not hesitate to speak with us.”

        Mildred gave a slow nod. “Thank you, your Highness.” She looked to the clock on the wall, seeing that it was a little past eleven in the morning. “Well, I’m afraid if we don’t leave soon, we’ll be flying through dark skies by the time we reach the border.” She turned to her escort of griffon guards. “Meet in the Greeting Hall in half an hour. I’d like to make good time on our way back.”

        The griffons gave affirmative nods before heading towards the door, likely to gather their few belongings. All except Gilda, that is. The lone griffon guard looked to the tiled flooring bashfully, realizing that even Mildred had left the room. The princesses all watched her expectant looks.

        “Um...your Highnesses?”

        “Gilda, relax. You can drop the formalities when we’re not in meeting,” Rainbow spoke.

        The young griffon smiled before nodding. “Right, I...I just wanted to thank all of you for...for your hospitality. I also wanted to thank you for giving me a second chance.”

        “Oh, of course, Gilda.” Fluttershy gave the griffon a gentle smile. “Thank you for...clearing the air with me, too. I...um...I’m glad we managed to talk.”

        Gilda chuckled quietly. “Listen, I know it’s sort of a weird request, but...well, I spoke to Lady Mildred about it, and I kind of figured that maybe we could...look into creating a sort of exchange program. I mean, the mages in the Griffon kingdom aren’t unicorns or zebras as far as magic goes, but they’ve still got talent. The Junior Speedsters Flight camp already took on the idea, but...well, I was just thinking that we could look into encouraging it more.”

        Twilight beamed at the suggestion. “Oh, that would be wonderful! Griffon culture is so fun to read about, I can only imagine what it would be like to have professors from your universities visiting our own.” She clopped her hooves together. “I like the idea! I’m in favor of this!”

        Celestia smiled, a hint of adoration directed towards Twilight before giving a nod to the griffon. “I feel the same. I know some of our earth pony engineers would enjoy working alongside your kingdoms architects.”

        “Darling, I’ve always wished to get the chance to speak with griffons about their fashion. Perhaps some series of dresses inspired by your traditional council attire would be a place to start...” Rarity nodded. “You have my vote.”

        “Me too,” Fluttershy chimed.

        Applejack tilted her hat up, smiling. “Heh, I figure we could learn a thing or two ‘bout farmin’ from you griffons. Sure, count me in as well.”

        “Griffons choral music is just behind dragon chanting in my list of favorites. I’m sure Equestria and the Griffon Kingdom would experience a great cultural exchange from the experience. You have my vote as well.” Luna stated, grinning enthusiastically.

        “Woo! I like it!” Pinkie cheered.

        Rainbow gave a single nod. “I’m all for it.”

        Gilda blinked, a little surprised by how quickly the princesses had gone for it. She had suspected Rainbow to favor the idea, even Pinkie Pie, but...unanimously agreeing...

“Thanks, I really mean it. I’ll be sure to bring the idea to the Elder Council and the king. I’m pretty sure they’ll like this too.”

Rainbow Dash found herself thinking the same as well.

A half hour had come and gone, and soon the eight princesses were standing at the open door leading out into Canterlot while Mildred and guards made some final checks over their gear.

“Thank you again, your Highnesses, for being so hospitable. I believe we should have these diplomatic visits more often. Perhaps next time we won’t have to settle a minor trading issue, either.”

“It’s okay, Lady Mildred! You’re all more than welcome in Equestria! Next time we’ll have to throw a little party together! Maybe a concert, or a play, too!”

Mildred blinked before laughing heartily. “I daresay, Princess Pinkie Pie, you may very well become my favorite ruler of all time.” Mildred bowed slowly. “Thank you, and perhaps we shall take you up on the offer of a concert someday.”

Pinkie just grinned.

Gilda walked towards Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie as Mildred shared a few final words with Celestia, Luna, and Twilight. The griffon smiled. “I’ll try and keep in touch, though they keep us plenty busy at the capital. This was more of a vacation than anything for us, so I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to write.”

Rainbow chuckled, waving a hoof. “Don’t sweat it, Gilda. I know how it goes. No rest for the weary.” She and Gilda bumped their talons and hooves together. “I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah. I’ll look into that dragon business for you that Spike was wondering about when I have time, too.” Gilda smiled. She then turned her attention to the bubbly alicorn. “Pinkie, I-”

The griffon was cut off when a pair of arms wrapped around her, pulling her into a hug. Gilda felt herself flushing with embarrassment as she heard a few of the other guards present, pony and griffon alike, chuckle. “I’m so happy we’re friends, Gilda! You’re such a cool pony, I mean, griffon! I mean, if you were a pony you’d probably be really cool, too, but you’re a griffon, which is sort of cooler! Not to say that it makes a difference, but-”

“Pinkie!” Gilda held up a claw, and Pinkie went quiet immediately. “I...I get what you mean...and I appreciate it. You’re the coolest former-earth pony-turned alicorn I think I’ve ever met.”

Pinkie Pie giggled. “Oh, you’re just saying that!”

Gilda just sighed. “Don’t ever change, Pinkie.”

“Alright, griffons! We’re off!”

Gilda and her group quickly got into formation. Mildred opened her wings, and her guards followed suit. Flapping several times, the griffons lifted off and circled the castle once before flying off.

“I’m glad she visited,” Pinkie said happily.

“Yeah, same here.” Rainbow agreed. It was good to know that despite what may have happened, she still had a friend in Gilda.

An exhausted sigh was emitted from Rarity as she let her posture sag a little. “Ugh, no offense but I’m glad we’re done with that. I swear, I could go for a twelve hour nap, thank you very much.”

Luna giggled. “Rarity, I told you that you should have got some rest. I was more than capable of handling the night shift by myself last night.”

“Ah ah, not another word of it, Luna. I am a princess, and I have my duties to attend to. I just,” she was cut off by a yawn before continuing. “....oh my, excuse me, but I need to go to bed. Tell Sweetie Belle that I’ll be up later this afternoon if she wishes to see me.” Rarity’s eyes lit up before she turned to Rainbow Dash. “Oh, Rainbow, dear, Sweetie Belle told me that Scootaloo’s parents will be leaving earlier than we previously expected. Two days from now, I was told, but she’ll be staying with Derpy Hooves until school’s done.”

“Am I still picking her up, then?”

Rarity nodded. “Yes, I just wanted to let you know of the slight change. Derpy’s got little Dinky with her, though, so I’m worried she’ll be having her hooves full with the two fillies.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much, Rare. Derpy’s mighty good at takin’ care of kids,” Applejack said reassuringly.

“Not to mention one of the best muffin makers in Ponyville!” Pinkie added with a bounce. “Oh, I should stop by there someday and buy some from her! I miss my blueberry muffins...”

Rainbow smiled. “Alright, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, Rarity.”

With her news given, Rarity bid the other seven princesses a good day, retiring to her bedroom. Luna repressed a yawn, her eyes watering a bit at the corners as she looked to the midday autumn sun. “My word, it seems Rarity’s exhaustion has rubbed off on me. Perhaps I’m losing my touch with staying up all hours...”

Celestia tittered before placing a wing on her sister’s back. “I think you should take your own advice and get some rest as well.”

Luna frowned. “Nonsense! I am quite capable of staying awake. Why, Fluttershy and I planned on taking a look at the orchard and animal census reports from Trottingham and Fillydelphia. I can’t just leave her to do them herself!”

Fluttershy blushed a little. “A-actually, Luna, I’m alright with doing them myself. I’d be much happier if you got some rest.”

Luna opened her mouth to argue, but one gentle smile from the pale yellow alicorn snuffed out her resistance. “Fine, if you insist, Fluttershy. Though, don’t hesitate to ask for my assistance if you need it.”

“I will, don’t worry.”

“You’re quite certain you don’t mind doing this alone?”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be alright. I’ve done census reports before, remember?”

“W-well, yes, but this is more than just a few bunnies, Fluttershy. This is orchard counts and the number of all animals...”

Fluttershy’s smile remained in place. “Now, Luna, I’m sure I’ll be alright. You need your rest, though. I can see the lines under your eyes. Princess of the Night or not, even you need to sleep to.”

“I...” Luna’s wings drooped. “Very well.”

“Luna...?”

The dark alicorn looked up with a mild pout to face her dear friend. “Yes?”

“I’ll make some rose petal smoothies for us when you wake up, okay?”

Luna’s mood immediately brightened. “You’re too kind, Fluttershy. Thank you.”

“W-well, I am the Princess of Kindness...” Fluttershy felt her cheeks redden as Luna wrapped her in a hug.

As Luna disappeared down a hall leading to her chambers, Rainbow trotted up beside the still blushing yellow alicorn. “You two make a cute couple, you know that?”

“O-oh, Rainbow, that’s...um...” Fluttershy found herself suddenly interested with her feet. “Luna’s a wonderful mare, Rainbow Dash. I sometimes wonder why she...likes me so much. I mean...we’re friends, but...I’m not sure if we’re more than that.”

The other princesses decided to give the two friends some space, and made their way to their respective destinations, wherever they may be. Rainbow smiled a little as she placed a hoof on Fluttershy’s back. “Well, do you want it to be more than that?”

“I...” Fluttershy’s blush deepened. “Yes, I do. I really...really do.”

“I think it’s safe to say that Luna probably feels the same, then. I mean, you two spend a lot of time together already, and it’s no secret that you both like each other.” Fluttershy squeaked in surprise as Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Please, Fluttershy, the way your eyes get all dreamy when you see her for the first time every day is a clear sign.”

“What if...what if she doesn’t feel the same, though?”

Rainbow Dash chuckled quietly. “Well, look at Celestia and Twilight. Those two were pining for each other I think before they knew any of us. Celestia got all nervous at first, but look at them now.”

The Princess of Nature giggled. “They are quite adorable, aren’t they?”

“Hahaha, yeah,” Rainbow agreed. “Just...listen, I’m not an expert at this romance stuff, but I think if you just tell Luna what you feel, and be honest, things will work out for the both of you, whatever or however they may be.”

Fluttershy’s eyes brightened a little. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Y-you’re right. I need to stop being so...silly about this.”

“I wouldn’t call it silly. Just nervous.”

Smiling gratefully, Fluttershy gave her oldest friend a hug. “Thanks, Rainbow. I think I’ll...write her a letter. I’m no good with words, but...I can put them on paper.”

“There you go!” Rainbow grinned. “Just tell her what you feel.”

“I will.”

Rainbow watched as Fluttershy made her way to her own chambers, a bit of a spring in her step. Her yellow wings would flutter every so often, giving her a little bit of a lift off the ground as she hummed a tune of some sort.

The cyan mare smirked in triumph. “Heheh, I am so awesome.”


“Eeek! Run, it’s Nightmare Moon and her Shadowbolt minion! Run!”

Rainbow suppressed a snort of laughter as she slowly flew over the town square of Ponyville while Luna chased after the little colts and fillies on hoof. Luna wore, in Rainbow’s opinion, the second coolest outfit ever (the Shadowbolt costume being the obvious first place holder). Luna had asked for Rarity’s expertise on the construction of an outfit resembling Nightmare Moon’s armor. It was, of course, just some old refurbished Royal Guard armor painted a metallic blue. She also wore a light hue of eye shadow and some fake fangs, completing the look.

“Mwahahaha! Run! Run away, little foals, for I am Nightmare Moon! None shall stop me from eating you and all of your confectionery treats! Mwahahaha!”

Luna had managed to corner a trio of little fillies, who were shaking (and giggling) as the midnight alicorn neared them.

“Shadowbolt! I require your assistance!”

Rainbow Dash grinned before diving down from her miniature thundercloud after giving it a solid kick. A crack of thunder echoed in the sky as she landed, grinning as any awesome villain would.

“We have three fillies who dare run from me on this scariest of nights. What say you to this deed? What shall we do to punish them?”

Rainbow was enjoying this; Luna had quickly gotten into the spirit of the festivities after Pinkie Pie explained what the celebration was all about. Being able to terrorize little foals (which more or less involved kicking a thunder cloud and scaring the ponies before giving them candy) was right up her alley in terms of fun.

“No, Nightmare Moon! Don’t take all of our candy!”

“She’s going to eat us!”

Luna gave a small, bemused smile at the two fillies, who Rainbow recognized as Dinky Doo and Aurora. The third filly wore a wolf head costume, and immediately Rainbow’s grin grew.

“Your Nightly-ness, these little fillies seem legit. I think we can let them off the hook...as long as they admit I’m the best Shadowbolt ever! If they admit it, we let them go!” Rainbow Dash grinned before making eye contact with the orange pegasus filly. Scootaloo tried to bite down a chuckle, and failed.

Luna arched an eyebrow at the filly’s laughter. “You there, young filly, what is your name?”

“Scootaloo!”

Luna’s smile grew as she turned to the other two fillies, getting their names as well. The scary act seemingly dropped, Luna settled into her more calm demeanor. “Are you three enjoying yourselves, this fine evening?”

Dinky Doo bounced in place excitedly. “Yeah, it’s really fun with you and Princess Rainbow Dash here, Princess Luna!”

Luna’s smile grew. “That’s very kind of you, Dinky Doo. Now then, let’s see what we have here...” She dug into a bag of candy she had brought all the way from the finest candy-makers in Canterlot. “Ah, here we go. Three chocolate bars, one for each of you.”

Rainbow Dash drew from her own bag using her magic as well, and produced three decent sized lollipops. “Here you go! Happy Nightmare Night!”

The three fillies beamed. “Thank you, Princesses!”

Dinky Doo and Aurora bounded off to go bobbing for apples, which was being supervised by a certain orange alicorn dressed as a scarecrow. Scootaloo stayed behind, smiling even wider as Rainbow Dash waved to her. “Heya, squirt. Nice wolf costume.”

Scootaloo puffed up with pride. “Miss Ditzy Doo helped me make it! She barely had time for her own costume, though.”

“Huh...looks like she took a lot of time on it.” Rainbow glanced over to the gray pegasus mare wearing paper bags on her four hooves and on top of her head. “I guess that explains her choice of costume.”

“Yes, I was hoping to inquire about that...” Luna began. “...erm...what is she dressed as?”

Scootaloo giggled, apparently knowing something the other two didn’t.

“You have any idea, Scootaloo?”

Scootaloo nodded. “She decided to wear that costume so everyone would wonder what she is supposed to be.”

The Shadowbolt alicorn rolled her eyes. “That’s Derpy for you.”

Luna was a little slower on the uptake. “I’m not so sure I understand. She’s wearing the paper bags...just to confuse ponies?”

Dash chuckled. “Yeah. Derpy’s got a kooky sense of humor sometimes. She likes to make others laugh, and figured the best way to do so for Nightmare Night was to wear something completely ridiculous.”

“Well, she did have a muffin in the bag on her head.” Scootaloo added.

Rainbow let out another chuckle. “Yep, that’s definitely Derpy for you.”

The voice of Sweetie Belle suddenly rang out amongst the buzz of the many ponies. “Scootaloo! Hey, come on! They’re starting the spider toss!”

“Oh! Alright, I’m coming! Um, later Princess Luna and Rain-er, Princess Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo picked up her candy bag and scurried off.

“I must admit...this festival is much more positive than I had expected it to be, considering what it’s about.”

Rainbow Dash pulled down her hood before giving Luna a playful bump on the shoulder with a hoof. “Hey, don’t get all gloomy now! What happened with Nightmare Moon was...well, it was bad, but we know that you never wanted to hurt anypony. I mean, yeah, the holiday is a bit of a bending of the truth on who Nightmare Moon was, but you’re here, so if anyone has anything to say, they can talk to us.”

Luna gave her peer a grateful smile. “Thank you, Rainbow Dash. I was worried I’d draw...well, the wrong kind of attention with this outfit. I’m surprised everyone didn’t run when I arrived by chariot.”

“Heh, yeah. Dusk Sweeper and Vigil look awesome in those outfits, by the way.”

Luna looked to her two guards, who were currently following the group that Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo were in. They kept a discreet distance, and maintained a friendly demeanor with the ponies who spoke to them. They had volunteered, after all, and were technically off duty.

“Yes, I’m glad they decided to partake in the festivities as well.”

“Yeah, I was going to ask, how did you give the twins those bat wings?”

“Ah,” Luna began. “Those, as well as the eyes, were courtesy of Rarity’s magic. An aesthetic transformation spell, if I’m correct. It will last for only a few hours.”

        Rainbow Dash and Luna made their way to the spider toss, being supervised by Lily and Daisy. A few of the foals were in a line, taking turns as Lily gave them the stuffed spiders. Daisy kept track of the foals’ scores with a chalk board.

        “Interesting. So...why do they throw the spiders into the webbing?”

        “Well, your Highness,” Lily began. “The game works where every pony gets a few turns to throw the spiders as close to the center of the net as possible. Daisy keeps track of the score, and the pony who gets the highest score wins. They also get a few caramel apples as a prize from Sweet Apple Acres.”

        “That’s right, made by yours truly!”

        Rainbow and Luna turned to see a stallion whose face was painted white like a skull, and wearing a costume of a skeleton. Rainbow immediately recognized him. “Heya, Braeburn!”

        Braeburn bowed a little while taking off his hat. “Princess Rainbow Dash, Princess Luna.” He stood up and placed his hat back on his head. “I trust you ladies are havin’ a fine evenin’?”

        “Oh, it is a most splendid evening, Mister Braeburn. I truly am enjoying myself.” Luna gave a gracious nod to the stallion. “How about you?”

        Braeburn chuckled. “Well, Big Macintosh an’ myself have been takin’ turns with givin’ the foals hayrides round the town square while tellin’ ‘em some spooky stories.” His face fell a bit. “Not much of a ghost story teller, mind you. Macintosh can get pretty scary when he gets into the story, but we’re pathetic compared to Zecora over there. That zebra’s got a real talent with words, I tell ya.”

        “Yeah, Zecora’s pretty cool. I don’t know how she can rhyme so well, though.”

        “Well, your Highness, if you must know, rhyming is a part of how zebra foals learn and grow. Rhyming helps our young foals learn to speak both the Equestrian language and our own. It teaches us the new language and combines it with an element of speaking that is already known.”

        “Whoa!” Rainbow Dash jumped up a little before spinning around and meeting the eyes of the zebra mare resident of Everfree Forest. “Yeesh, you scared me, Zecora! Heh, Happy Nightmare Night.”

        Zecora had decided to take part in the festivities as well. Her mane had been covered by a large white wig that was decorated in fake spiders while a long, billowing cloak hung over her body. “Happy Nightmare Night to you too, and may I add that I’m most happy to see you. I was delighted to hear that you’d be stopping by tonight. I figured that you would be quite excited for a festival full of frightful delight.”

        Luna’s eyes widened before she spoke while giving a deep nod. “You must be Zecora; Twilight and Applejack have told me a lot about you. It’s an honor to meet you.”

        Zecora’s own eyes widened before she spoke. “You know my native language?”  While Luna’s style of speaking was a little antiquated compared to Zecora’s the words were expressed clearly enough. She shook her head before bowing and giving the midnight alicorn a smile. “Forgive me, the honor is mine, Princess Luna.”

        Luna stood and returned the smile. “Twilight has told me that you’re an accomplished potion and brew maker. I’d love to hear more about them some time.”

        The zebra mare’s smile widened. “I could talk to you now, if you desire. Come, let us go and talk by the fire.” There was a noticeable bounce in Zecora’s gait as she led Princess Luna to a crackling fire where several of the Ponyville residents were roasting marshmallows and pudgy pies.

        Braeburn chuckled. “Well, I haven’ seen her that happy since Big Mac started invitin’ her over.” The stallion bit down on his words as soon as Rainbow Dash cast a curious look his way.

        “What was that, Braeburn?”

        “Uh, nothin’...” Like a true member of the apple family, he had the worse poker face. “Just a ramblin’ Apploosan, nothin’ to worry ‘bout.”

        “Uh huh. I heard something about Big Mac and Zecora.” She smiled as Braeburn gave her a nervous smile.

        “Oh for apples’ sake, Braeburn, there ain’t no use hidin’ it. Almost everypony in Ponyville knows ‘bout it already.”

        Applejack trotted over to the two. “If you must know, Dash, Big Macintosh sort’ve asked Zecora to give her advice on a few of the trees in the orchard. They had some kinda mold on the bark that none of us were that familiar with. Seein’ as Zecora has more know-how ‘bout plants than anyone else in Ponyville, he consulted her ‘bout the problem. Well, she goes an’ whips up a concoction of some sort to spread on the bark that very night, and within a week the mold was gone.” The mare smiled as she looked towards the zebra, who was listening with rapt attention as Luna talked to her about some subject or another. “Ever since then, she’s been sort’ve visitin’ the orchard, or so Apple Bloom said in her letter to me recently. I ain’t makin’ any calls yet on it, but...let’s just say Big Mac ain’t a pony to go and invite and casually invite a single mare over for dinner.”

        “Huh.” Rainbow Dash found herself gazing towards Zecora, feeling herself looking to the typically quiet zebra with a renewed sense of admiration. “I suppose she is the best pony...well, zebra...to go to about those kinds of-”

        A loud roar of thunder was heard overhead. The residents of Ponyville looked up as a small streak of thunderclouds raced over the town square before racing up and diving towards the town center. Even in the darkness of the night, Rainbow could pick out the bright blue flight suit of the Wonderbolt as they made a quick landing near Sugarcube Corner. A second later, a familiar voice was heard over the crowd.

        “I need to speak to Princess Rainbow Dash! Where is she?”

        Several ponies pointed towards the cyan alicorn, and moments later a pale azure stallion was galloping towards her. He was breathing heavily, apparently winded from what she could assume had been a very quick flight from the Wonderbolts’ headquarters in Canterlot.

        “Soarin’? What are you doing here?” Rainbow asked, though she had a smile on her face. “You sure the team will be alright with you snacking this late-”

        Soarin’ gave Dash a hasty bow before speaking. “Sorry Princess, but...” He lowered his voice before speaking, noting the other ponies watching him. “We need you to head back to Canterlot. Fast.”

        “What’s wrong? I thought Celestia and Fluttershy were taking care of things tonight?”

        Soarin’ shook his head. “It’s an emergency. You were asked for specifically by both Celestia and Fluttershy.”

        “What, is Cloudsdale sending representatives now? Celestia and I spoke of the issue just the other day.”

        “No, though I wish that were the case.”

        Rainbow Dash felt her stomach tighten. Soarin’ was never this serious, at least from the hooffull of times she had been around him he never was. To see him looking so worried didn’t settle well. “What’s the problem?”

        “I...” He frowned. “I...don’t think it’d be good to say in front of all the ponies here. It’d probably cause some to get really worried.”

        “Is it weather related?”

        “Yes.”

        The knot in Dash’s stomach twisted. “Alright, then.” She looked to Applejack, who had overheard some of the conversation. “I have to go. Just...tell everyone that it’s a weather issue that I need to take care of. Probably just a rogue thunderstorm that’s going off course.”

        Applejack nodded. “Sure thing, sugarcube. You do what you gotta do. We’ll see you back in Canterlot.”

        With that, Dash and Soarin’ took to the air, Rainbow’s larger wings blowing up dust as they lifted off into the dark night sky.

        “So, what did Celestia and Fluttershy tell you? Is this a storm? Some bad winds?”

        Soarin’ frowned. “A bit of both. It’s a hurricane.”

        A cold feeling crept through her body. A hurricane. The nastiest kind of storm you could possibly ask for.

        “Oh.”

        “From what I was told, it’s moving from the central part of the Phoenix Archipelago Islands and moving north. Luckily no one lives on those islands.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “Some of the weather patrol pegasi down in those parts estimated it would be a category four by the time it hits the Serpent Isles.”

        “S-Serpent Isles?” Dash repeated. No! Ponies lived in those parts! Sure, hurricanes happened in the tropics, but most of the time they were out in the middle of the ocean, and rarely hit any settlements. Pegasi ponies usually were able to contain the storm from a safe distance by moving clouds and precipitation away from the storm so it could run its course without added fuel from the atmosphere.

        Soarin’ nodded. “I know. That’s what I thought too.” The stallion let out a shuddering breath. “Spitfire’s got family down there. She and the rest of the team took off a little while ago to help with the evacuation teams.”

        Rainbow took in a few deep breaths. She couldn’t afford to be going to Canterlot! She had to hightail it over to the Serpent Isles!

        Rainbow Dash halted in midflight, her wings keeping her hovering in the air. She quickly tore off her costume, disregarding a few tears she had made in doing so and threw it to Soarin’. “Tell Celestia and Fluttershy that I’m heading to the Serpent Isles.”

        “W-wait, Rainb-I mean, your Highness, they asked for you to head to the castle first so they could discuss-”

        “That’s an order, Soarin’! I can’t afford to waste time when I could be helping the ponies over there instead!” Rainbow Dash gave him what she hoped was a stern, determined look. “I’m the Princess of Weather and Water. The Princess of Loyalty! How can I possibly have those titles if I don’t do my job?”

        Without waiting for an argument, she took of with a blast of air, her wings pushing her through the air faster than Soarin’s could ever hope to achieve. He cursed before racing towards Canterlot, hoping Celestia and Fluttershy would be able to understand.


        About an hour or so later, Dash was slowing her flight speed down as she made her way towards the small grouping of islands a couple dozen kilocanters off the coast of Equestria. She circled around twice before noting the largest grouping of ponies gathered on an island with two ports. She banked to the side and made her way towards a clearing surrounded by palm trees.

        In hindsight, she probably should have paced herself more. Several times she felt herself pressing against that familiar force she knew to be the sound barrier, and had to stop herself from breaking through. She was already sore and fatigued as it was; she could only imagine what she would have felt like upon arrival if she had gone and done a third Sonic Rainbooom on the way here.

        Two earth ponies wearing bright yellow raincoats with flashlights attached to their hats ran towards her, stopping short upon recognizing her. “Y-your Highness! We didn’t expect you to be here so quickly!”

        Rainbow Dash waved a hoof as they began to bow. “How many ponies do you have left to evacuate to the shoreline?”

        “Roughly between two to three hundred more, your Highness. That doesn’t count the four rescue boats we sent out to meet up with the cruise liner.”

        “Cruise liner?” Dash quirked an eyebrow. “How big?”

        “It’s a high class one, Princess. Carrying about three hundred ponies total when counting both passengers and crew. They were supposed to be docking here for a few weeks before heading west to the Palm Fire Coves. They radioed us about two hours ago, requesting help with evacuation. They have some life boats, but they’re useless in this kind of weather.”

        This situation just kept getting better and better. Looking towards the dark horizon, she could see the faint flicker of lightning in the south skies.

        “Where is the cruise liner right now?”

        “It’s about two kilocanters east of here. We estimated that it would take about four hours to get everypony onto the rescue boats and to the mainland. The storm’s going to touchdown here in about another three...”

        The cyan alicorn bit down her lip, trying to ignore the tingling feeling running down her spine. Her pegasi instincts were still strong, and right now every nerve in her body was telling her that this place was going to be a disaster before long.

        Still...

        “Get back to your teams, tell them to spread the word that I’m here. I’m heading to the southernmost island and see if I can try and slow down the hurricane.”

        The earth ponies jaws went slack. “Um...you’re going to try and slow it down?”

        “Yes! Now go! Please!”

        They didn’t wait for further prompting, and galloped off to the docks. Rainbow Dash lifted off into the air, her wings flaring out as a wind caught them. She grit her teeth and pushed with all her might, and eventually regained control of her movements. She could see her current destination straight ahead; a small little islet that could house about a forth of Ponyville on it. She tucked her wings in a little as a gust blew by, and made a quick landing near the sandy shores. She galloped towards the waters edge, ignoring her wet hooves as she looked to the storm off in the distance.

        “Alright...” Rainbow said, licking her lips and trying to steady the thundering beat of her heart in her chest. “...what do I do...?”

        Rainbow closed her eyes and found herself dipping into the well of her magical powers. Suddenly, the world was alive with the forces of nature. She could see the wind currents, feel the shifting tides, and felt the unease in the air due to the incoming hurricane. She felt the static of the storm clouds, tasted the ozone in the storm that was heading towards her.

        “If I just...focus...” Rainbow reached out with her magic, surprised at how easily she was able to do it. She felt the chaotic winds and whirling mass of raw power that was the hurricane far away. She pressed her magic against it, hoping that maybe she could just hold it in place...

        She felt a powerful force push past her magic, and she opened her eyes while letting out a gasp. The hurricane resisted. It pushed through her magical hold like it was tissue paper. She narrowed her eyes before closing them once more.

        “Again. Focus...” Rainbow Dash directed her magical power towards the hurricane’s stormy walls, and pushed. She did her best to ignore the wobbling feeling in her knees. No! She was far from being tired! She could do this!

        The magical barrier she had created lasted a few seconds longer this time, just long enough for the hurricane to pause for a moment before ripping through its telekinetic hold.

        Rose eyes snapped open, and Dash growled in frustration. She wouldn’t let this storm get the best of her. Not while so many were depending on her.

        “Alright, storm. It’s going to be you or me, and I’m not good at losing,” Dash said aloud, her hooves digging deep into the wet sand. “You picked the wrong mare to tangle with.”


        “She did what?!!”

        Soarin’ was standing before the entirety of the Equestrian Royalty (minus one stubborn Rainbow Dash), his head looking to the floor while a slightly torn Shadowbolt outfit hung at his feet. At the moment, a very flustered Princess Rarity was looking aghast as he relayed the information he had told Celestia and Fluttershy upon arrival.

        “She was haybent on going, your Majesties. Even if I had tried to stop her, she took off way too quickly. Not even Spitfire would have been able to catch her.”

        “What in Equestria is she thinking? She doesn’t honestly believe she can hold that storm off by herself! Magic is not going to be enough, if that’s what she’s hoping for,” Twilight added. “Soarin’, you said that she was heading to the Serpent Isles, correct?”

        “Yes, Princess Twilight Sparkle. I’m guessing she got there in under an hour, judging from the speed she was moving at.”

        Twilight nodded. “Fair enough.” The lavender alicorn stood up. “I’m going to go help.”

        Celestia looked to Twilight, a small frown forming. “Twilight...”

        “Celestia, Rainbow can’t do this alone. I know she’s a strong pony...but she’s going up against one of the strongest forces on the planet! I can’t just let her be by herself out there.”

        Celestia’s frown slowly disappeared, being replaced with a smile. “I understand. I’ll go along-”

        “No.”

        Celestia turned to Luna. “Luna...?”

        “Celly, you two must stay here. Out of all of us, you and Twilight are probably the ones who need to stay in Canterlot the most.”

        Twilight didn’t look ready to agree. “Luna, I don’t-”

        “Twilight, you and Celestia are what keeps Equestria, along with the rest of the planet, full of sunlight. If you became too focused on the storm, you could possibly cause a change in the planet’s rotation or axis. Celly, you need to continue warming the planet with the proper amount of sunlight. You recall what happened the last time you and I faced an incident like this, don’t you?”

        “But...the planet’s been doing it all on it’s own most of-”

        “Think of what would happen if you lost focus of your magic, Twilight. Fighting a storm could cause you to do something, make a mistake! I don’t doubt your control, but just think of the possible risk that could occur. A few degrees off on the axis or so could cause some serious changes.

        Twilight opened her mouth to object, but Celestia cut her off. “Twilight...Luna’s right. I hate to say it, but we may have to sit this out.”

        “Celestia...I can’t just leave her, though.”

        “Don’t worry,” Luna began. “I’ll go and help her.”

        “Me too! Dashie’s not the only pony who cares about Equestria!” Pinkie Pie declared with a bounce.

        “Um...I’ll go. I mean...I want to help...however I can.”

        “Knowin’ Dash, she’ll probably do somethin’ stupid if we don’ keep an eye on her. I better go an’ make sure that doesn’t happen.”

        Rarity smiled happily to her friends as she got up from her spot. “I do believe I should go as well. I’m not going to let some brute of a hurricane go and hurt Rainbow while I can do something about it.”

        Twilight found herself smiling. “Girls...”

        “Now, Twi, I know you don’ like it, but Luna makes a good point. You and Celestia’s powers are an immediate concern if they get thrown out of whack. I mean...we’re all kinda in that situation, if you think ‘bout it, but even more so in yer cases.” Applejack took her hat off and tossed it to the lavender mare. “Don’t worry; we’ll be back soon enough, and that hurricane will wish it never reared its ugly head at us.”

        Twilight nodded, finally giving in. “Alright. Just...be careful.”

        “Oh, we’ll be alright, dear. I’ll keep an eye on them, so don’t fret.” Rarity gave Twilight a weak smile. “Like Applejack said, we’ll be back soon enough.”

        Celestia looked to Luna. The two shared a silent conversation, expressions speaking hundreds of words before Celestia closed her eyes and exhaled a long breath. “We’ll be waiting for your return.”

        The Princess of the Night just nodded before her horn glowed. She looked to Soarin’, and the stallion quickly approached the five mares before they vanished in a flash of light. Soon the throne room was empty, aside from Twilight and Celestia.

        “...I hope they’ll be alright.”

        Celestia gave the younger pony a gentle nuzzle. “We have to believe they will be, Twilight. As much as I want to follow them, we shouldn’t.”

        “Have you dealt with hurricanes before?”

        Celestia nodded. “About a dozen times in the past.”

        Only a dozen? Twilight expected a bigger number. “How bad were they?”

        “Hurricanes? Well, sometimes Luna and I were able to handle them with enough magical power. Other times we were left battered and weak, and the hurricane was unscathed.” She rested her chin on Twilight’s head. “To be honest, even the times that Luna and I had been able to take care of them, we were both left exhausted and drained of our magical reserves. One time the sun rose about a day’s span late. That was a long week of corrections that Luna and I had to make...”

        Twilight had nothing to say, and simply leaned in closer to Celestia, accepting the wing that wrapped gently around her in an embrace.


        Winds whipped at Rainbow’s face, and drops of rain felt like tiny pinpricks against her skin. She closed one eye, focusing on the encroaching natural disaster. The outer wall of the hurricane would be touching the Serpent Isles within an hour, and still she could see the occasional rescue boat jetting through the water as fast as it could. Pegasi had been ordered to stay grounded as the wind speeds picked up. A few of the Wonderbolts had been flying by before the order was given, asking Rainbow what needed to be done. She simply told them to assist the rescue teams with the cruise liner and evacuation of the islands.

“Rainbow Dash!!!”

        Rainbow’s ears twitched. Someone was calling for her. She would have tried to look to see who it was, but doing so would risk her losing her focus.

        Pink suddenly flooded the right half of her rain-blurred vision. “Dashie, don’t worry, we’re here to help you!”

        “Pinkie??” Rainbow called out over the howling winds. “What are you doing here?? Get back to Canterlot before you get caught in this hurricane!”

        “Dashie, it’s alright! We won’t let you face this alone! We’re your friends, and friends stick together!”

        “We??” Rainbow suddenly saw Rarity, Luna, Fluttershy, and Applejack step into her vision as well. “What are you all doing here?! It’s too dangerous!”

        “Sugar, I think we’re well aware of that, no offense! Still, we aren’t gonna let you go and run this little stunt of yours solo, alright?” Applejack said with a laugh.

        “Rainbow, what can we do to help?” Rarity chimed in, her voice barely audible as the winds grew louder. “Oh! This horrible weather is going to do a number on my mane!”

        “I...I just need you all to get out of my way! Alright? I have this under-gaaah!”

        The cyan alicorn’s horn suddenly glowed a bright red before flickering out. Rainbow felt her knees grow weak as she struggled to stay standing.

        “Rainbow Dash, how long have you been here?”

        The Weather Princess looked to Luna. “I don’t know...an hour or so? Maybe two?”

        Luna’s expression morphed from concern to shock. “Have you been holding back this storm by yourself the whole time?”

        “Well...yeah! Someone had to give the ponies here more time!”

        Luna nodded before looking to the others. “Rainbow Dash has drained herself of most of her magic. We need to channel our power into hers, and help her keep control of this hurricane until all ponies in the area have reached safety!”

        Pinkie, who was smiling despite the situation, raised a hoof. “Okay, I’ll give her my power first!”

        Rainbow eventually slumped to the ground. No! She couldn’t give up! She just had to try harder!

        Her legs burned, and her horn was unable to manifest a simple glow. She growled, her mind telling the rest of her body to get the buck up off the ground and do what she told it to. Eventually her legs strained before lifting her off the sopping wet sand. Her horn began to glow once more, and her reins over the storm returned. Unfortunately, her mind was already frazzled from struggling to maintain its hold. The mental link to her magic was growing weak, and she could feel the storm slipping from her grasp yet again.

        Suddenly, a surge of warmth washed over her. She felt like was basking in the glow of a midday sun, and the urge to smile and laugh tickled at the corners of her lips. She turned to see Pinkie Pie placing a gentle hoof on her own. “It’s okay, Dashie! Use my magic to help you!”

        Dash’s worries seemed to melt at the sound of Pinkie’s voice. She could do this. She could hold the hurricane back!

        “Princess of Hope, indeed.” Dash thought.

        Another wave of mild euphoria washed over her. She suddenly saw each detail of the the storm clearly. Her eyes watched in awe as the clouds of the approaching hurricane churned. It was primal, terrifying, and at the same time sublime and beautiful. Despite the danger it held, Dash felt like she was looking at one of the most beautiful creations of nature. It was a natural creation, manifested from the simple meeting of warm and cold air and water. How could something so powerful happen?

        “Don’t get too distracted, Rainbow Dash. We have a job to do, after all.”

        Rarity’s voice scratched at the back of her mind, and she grinned before renewing her focus. Now with Pinkie and Rarity giving her the magic needed, she returned her attention to the hurricane.

        Meanwhile, Applejack was lifting up rocks from the ocean depths, creating a last-minute levee of sorts in an attempt to stave off the waves that were crashing into the shoreline. Luna and Fluttershy had headed towards the rescue teams still on the islands, intent on offering what help they could.

        “Princess Luna?? Princess Fluttershy??” one of the Wonderbolts wearing goggles recognized her before giving both her and Fluttershy a quick bow. “Your Highnesses, what-?”

        “How many more need to be rescued?”

        The Wonderbolt mare frowned. “Too many, and we’re still trying to help that cruise liner. The unicorn rescue teams are trying help with their magic, but the storm’s creating too much interference. Even the few of them that are able to teleport are having trouble. There’s just too much electrical energy in the air.”

        Luna noticed as well. She could teleport if she wanted too, but a mass teleportation of more than a dozen ponies would be asking for much in these conditions. Moving multiple life forces in chaotic conditions like this was nearly impossible.

        Fluttershy and Luna exchanged looks before nodding. “Tell us what needs to be done. We’re going to save everypony that we can.”


        “Whoa nelly, hold on girls! Here comes another one!!!”

        The four mares were all huddled together now, channeling what power they could to Rainbow Dash. A gigantic wave crashed into them, but they managed to stay standing.

Rainbow’s red aura lashed out at another wave, breaking it apart before it could reach them. “T-this hurricane is just...getting...worse!” Dash shouted in anger.

        “I’m just glad I left my hat back in Canterlot!” Applejack stated, earning a few laughs from Pinkie Pie.

        A sharp intake of air from Rarity drew their attention. “Rainbow! That cruise liner! Look!”

        Rainbow didn’t want to look. She really didn’t, but she knew she had to. Opening her eyes, she watched in horror as large waves crashed into it, rocking it to a dangerous tilt.

        Not now! She was having enough difficulty with slowing down the hurricane! “I’ll see what I can do!”

        The waves heading towards the massive ship began to weaken, if only a little. The faint sheen of red magic from Rainbow’s horn rippled over their surface. She could feel the stinging of sweat in her eyes, and had to close them yet again.

        “I...I’m not sure how much longer I can do this!” Rainbow cried out. Dividing her magic between the two intense forces was taxing.

        A roar of thunder echoed overhead. Rainbow felt the wind thrashing through her mane, and her three friends were starting to lose footing. She had to try harder!

        “Rainbow Dash, the last of the islanders are evacuated!” came the voice of Luna. A small weight was lifted off her chest, but Dash still had to worry about the cruise liner.

        “What about the ship?!” Rainbow asked.

        “They have about half of them off the ship, they’re trying to route a few more boats towards it, but the waves are too dangerous to go very fast!”

        Rainbow’s muscles screamed in pain as she felt the hurricane beginning to breath down on her. It wouldn’t be much longer now.

        As if on cue, a particularly nasty gale of wind blew past them. Rarity and Pinkie Pie were blown back, and Rainbow could hear the faint cry of Fluttershy somewhere behind her. Applejack looked back to her friends, but soon joined them as she lost her own footing.

        “Luna, the girls! They-”

        “Don’t worry! They’ll be alright!” The midnight alicorn had managed to reach Rainbow’s side, giving her what support she could. A soothing, cool wave of magic ran through her body, and she found her powers had once again been lent aid. Luna was drained, though. Rainbow could tell by how quickly her reserves were waning.

        “Luna! Get to the girls! You may be alicorns, but you can still get hurt!”

        “Absolutely not! I will not allow you to-”

        “Darn it, Luna!” Rainbow practically screamed. “Don’t worry about me! You five lent me all the magic you could, and it’s helped! We held the storm back for an hour longer than we planned, and now we need to get everyone we can to safety!”

        “What about the boats?”

        Rainbow Dash forced down the cold lump in her stomach. “I’ll take care of it.”

        Luna remained in place. “Regardless, I’m a Princess of Equestria as well. I’m not abandoning my subjects in their hour of need.”

        A maelstrom howled in Rainbow’s ears, and the sky grew even darker. The clouds overhead had grown thick. She didn’t even realize it, but the hurricane had somehow managed to sneak past her. They had just entered into the wall of the storm.

        The waves began thrash in every direction, and rain blinded the two alicorns. Rainbow raised a hoof over her eyes, and looked out to the ocean. The scene before her was one that would burn in her mind for years to come.

        The few rescue boats that had managed to get to the cruise liner were very close to capsizing. The cruise liner was a different story.

        The massive ship began to tilt, slowly, ever so slowly before suddenly tipping over. At that point, something inside Rainbow ignited.

        The cyan alicorn let out a primal scream, and her eyes were flooded with an ethereal white light. Her scream, amplified by magic, roared over the winds and thunder.

        “ENOUGH!!!!”

        Overwhelmed by an explosion of magic she had unknowingly released, Rainbow felt her mind go numb and her world grow dark. She swore she heard someone calling her name, but didn’t really care.

        She was tired.

        So...tired...


        “...think she’ll wake up...been...days...”

        “Give...Sparkle...she spent most of...magical power...”

        Rainbow groaned weakly, her mind a jumbled mess of thoughts. She forced open an eye, immediately regretting it as a pale, white light flooded her vision.

        “Ungh...not...cool...”

        “Dash...?
        Her ears were still trying to catch up with the rest of her body, it seemed. She blinked slowly before trying to get up, only to feel a gentle hoof push her back down.

        “Easy, sugar. Doctors told us you need to take it easy when you woke up.”

        “...no...need to...go clear the clouds before...my nap...”

        “Don’t worry, the clouds are fine,” replied the voice of who she had concluded was Applejack. “You need your rest right now. You worked yerself to the bone, if ya ask me.”

        Rainbow’s eyes snapped open suddenly. The hurricane! The ships!

        Before she could bolt back up, a strong magical hold kept her in place. An older, calmer voice spoke this time. “Rainbow Dash, it’s alright. Don’t worry, the hurricane’s come and gone.”

        “B-but, what about the cruise liner? What about the rescue boats? Fluttershy, Pinkie, and-”

        “They’re right here, Rainbow.” Applejack place a gentle hoof on Rainbow’s fore leg before nodding to her side.

        Rainbow slowly turned around, and took notice of Fluttershy and Twilight, who were sitting on one end of the room next to an occupied bed. She recognized the dark coat of a certain Princess of the Night lying under the sheets. Turning to her other side was Pinkie Pie, who had a front leg in a cast. The pink alicorn was awake and smiling at her.

        “We were all worried about you, Rainbow Dash,” spoke Celestia, who walked to her side, horn still glowing as she held Rainbow in her warm, magical glow. “You have been out for close to six days.”

        “Six days?” Rainbow repeated. Her throat suddenly felt dry, and as luck would have it, there was a glass of water on the side table next to her. She raised a hoof, but a faint orange glow wrapped around the glass first before floating it over to her.

        “Take it easy, Dash.”

        “Heh...thanks, AJ...” Something seemed off to Rainbow Dash as she sipped her water. She set the glass down and looked around. “Where’s Rarity?”

        The room went quiet. Not a good sign.

        “Rarity’s in the intensive care wing of the hospital,” replied Fluttershy.

        “What? Oh no, what happened to her?”

        “Rainbow...it’s not her that’s hurt...” Twilight began. “...it’s her mother...”

        “Oh, well...what about her dad? Is he alright?”

        More silence.

        “Oh...oh no,” Rainbow Dash was whispering now. “I...I need to see her.”

        “Now, hold on there, you aren’t goin’ anywhere until the doctors give you the okay.”

        Rainbow Dash grit her teeth. “I’m not in casts, so obviously I can walk.” Rainbow Dash wanted to move, but noted that several IV needles were in her arms. It’d be a pain to walk with all those things stuck to her. “Can I at least get a wheelchair?”

        Less than ten minutes and a lot of arguing later, Dash was being wheeled down the halls into the intensive care wing of Canterlot Hospital by one of the nurses. She eventually was brought to a nondescript room. She felt herself beginning to sweat, and was thankful that Celestia had decided to tag along.

        “If you need anything, let me know, your Highnesses,” the nurse stated with a curt bow before allowing Celestia to direct her into the room.

        Celestia’s horn gave off a faint white light before carting her through the doors. Rainbow waved an arm for her to stop, and whispered. “Maybe I shouldn’t do this.”

        Celestia frowned slightly before giving a sympathetic smile. “Rainbow, I know this is hard, but...trust me when I say this idea of yours is a kind one. Rarity will see that, as will her mother and Sweetie Belle.”

        “So..is Rarity’s father...?”

        Celestia nodded slowly. “I’m afraid that there were more than a few unfortunate deaths, Rainbow Dash. However,” Celestia’s voice was firm, gentle, and soft all at once. Quite a feat. “I want you to understand that you are not to blame for those deaths. The storm subsided almost immediately after you...well passed out. Luna suspects some instinctual part of your mind unleashed a wave of primal magic, and managed to quell the hurricane. It cost you though, as you can tell by your current state.”

        “I could have saved more though, if I only-”

        “Rainbow Dash...I know it hurts, but you need to try and be strong. I can understand where you are coming from, but try to understand that you are just one pony. A very magical, powerful pony, but still only one pony. Putting the weight of the world entirely on your shoulders is never a good thing, and this is coming from personal experience. Rarity doesn’t blame you, and from what I can tell, neither does the rest of her family.”

        Rainbow slumped into her seat a little and nodded.

Celestia gently pushed the wheelchair into the room, and cleared her throat as they walked into view of the two mares and filly within. Rarity was the first look up, and her eyes widened before she got up and quickly trotted over to Rainbow, wrapping her in as fierce of a hug as she could without causing any physical harm to her friend. “Oh, Rainbow...I’m glad you’re okay, dear.”

        Rainbow tried to feel good as she heard her friend’s words of concern, but her mind was elsewhere. She smiled a little before looking to Sweetie Belle. The usually chipper filly was looking sullen, but managed to smile slightly.

        Finally, Rainbow’s eyes rested on the mare in the bed. She had a mane that shared a similar color to Rarity’s, and it was currently tied in a loose ponytail, likely done by the hospital staff to avoid problems with treating her. Some bandages were wrapped around her head, and she had one of her back legs in a thick cast. Her mane was a light pink, and she was, as Rainbow had much expected, a unicorn.

        “Oh my goodness, I didn’t expect to get any visitors!” The mare’s accent was one typically heard in the upper midwest region of Equestria. “Rarity, you need to warn me about these things. Oh, I’m sorry, your Highnesses, but the hospital isn’t much for fashion, don’tcha know?”

        Celestia gave a light chuckle. “Yes, my dear sister would probably agree with you on that account. She’s not a fan of the hospital gowns, either.”

        Rainbow couldn’t help but notice the forced smile on Rarity and her family’s faces. It was a mask...and she didn’t want them to suffer on her behalf.

        “Rarity...um...look, about...”

        Rarity’s eye watered a bit, but she placed a hoof on the cyan alicorn’s arm. “Dear...it’s alright. Well, no, it’s not alright that it happened, but I don’t place any blame on you.” She smiled. “You saved my mother, and for that, I’m...” She wiped her eyes a bit. “Ah, forgive me...Rainbow, I’m being sincere though. What you’ve done for my family...it means more than I can ever hope to repay back.” Rarity turned to Sweetie Belle and nudged her gently. “Come on, dear. Let’s go get some lunch. Mother, we’ll be right back.”

        Rarity’s mother nodded, watching her two daughters as they retreated out of the room. Eventually she turned her attention to Rainbow Dash, and spoke.“My husband made sure that I got on one of those boats before the ship tipped over. We got separated, but he made sure that at least one of us made it to safety.” Her own blue eyes watered a bit. “He was always trying to be a stupid chivalrous gentlepony. I always teased him for doing stuff like that, ladies first and such...but...” She frowned a little. “I...I know that if it was between me and him as far as who got off that ship...he would have it like this...and while I hate that he would do that...I know that I would have done the same and chose him over me.”

        Rainbow Dash sniffled a bit, her head hung in shame. How...how could this mare be so...so...nice to her? It didn’t make sense! Because of her weakness, Rarity and Sweetie Belle lost their father and made their mother a widow.

        “Princess, please look at me.”

        Rainbow looked up slowly, forcing herself to meet her eyes. The mare smiled gently before speaking. “Rarity told me about how you toughed it out for about an hour before she got to you with the others. I’ve already read up the paper, and those meteorologist ponies, or whatever the new weather job title they use is called, said that had you not been there, the storm would have claimed many more lives than it did.” She chuckled a little, tears running down her cheeks. “I’m not the smartest pony most of the time, but even I can see how much good you did out there. Please...don’t punish yourself because of what happened.”

        Rainbow Dash swallowed a hard lump in her throat before speaking slowly. “Celestia...can you wheel me over?”

        As soon as Rainbow as beside the bed, Rainbow leaned in and held Rarity’s mother in a hug. “Th-thank you...”

        When Rarity and Sweetie Belle returned, they were greeted by the sight of Rainbow and Celestia have a quiet conversation with their teary-eyed mother. Sweetie Belle almost dropped her plate from its magical hold as she rushed to comfort her mom.

        “Mommy?”

        “Oh...hello, Sweetie Belle. Did you and Rarity get what you wanted?” She managed to smile despite her tears.

        “Yeah, but...Mommy, are...?”

        The mare embraced her youngest and nuzzled her lovingly. “I’ll get better. I just miss your daddy...but...I’m just counting my blessings right now. I still have both of you.”

        Sweetie Belle shed a few tears before whispering into her mother’s mane. “I love you, Mommy.”

        “And I love you, my little princess.” Rarity’s mother looked up to her older daughter, offering her a foreleg. Rarity didn’t need further prompting, and practically galloped to her mother’s side.

        Rainbow wiped away a few tears before looking to Celestia. Taking the silent hint, the two mares left the room, deciding to give Rarity and her family some time alone again.


        “What...what are these?”

        Rainbow, Pinkie, and Luna were the only ones in the hospital room now. It was close to midnight, and Rainbow was restless, finding sleep hard to get. So, in hopes of helping ease Rainbow’s mind a little, Pinkie placed a rather large bag full of mail on her bed.

        “They’re letters, Dashie. From all over Equestria, thanking you!”

        “H-huh? Thanking me?”

        “You may think otherwise, Rainbow Dash, but many ponies see you as a hero. You protected more ponies than you probably realize that evening.”

        Rainbow gave the two mares on either end of the room a weary smile, and opened the first letter. She didn’t know the pony who had mailed it, but was able to figure out that whoever had written it was a colt.

Dear Princess Rainbow Dash,

Hi, my name is Whiplash, and I’m from Trottingham. Thank you for saving my grandma from the hurry hurricane. Daddy and Mommy said you were really brave, and helped lots of ponies. My big sister says she wants to be as cool as you are someday, but told me not to write that, so please don’t tell her!

Thank you,

Whiplash

        Rainbow felt herself smile a bit. That was...heartwarming. The colt even drew a picture with crayons of what she assumed was her (there was an arrow pointing to her that indicated as such) and a big, nasty black scribble which she assumed was the hurricane. In bright letters he wrote “Thank you, Princess Rainbow Dash!” on the bottom of the drawing.

        Pinkie Pie, who was leaning out of her bed, smiled as well. “Aww, that’s sweet! Read another!”

        Rainbow dug into the bag and pulled out a larger envelope this time. She ripped it open, and was surprised when the card folded out to a large paper with probably close to five or six dozen signatures.

        

Princess Rainbow Dash,

Despite the losses some of us have experienced these past couple of days, those of us here in the Serpent Isles want you to know that we are forever in your debt. We didn’t expect to make it through the hurricane, but thanks to you, we were able to save so many lives and be here to share time with our families and loved ones.

May you continue to rule and protect as bravely as you did in the face of impossible odds. If any ever criticize you for what you did that day, we will gladly stand on your behalf and defend your name.

Your Loyal Subjects,

The Serpent Isles Marine Patrol and Rescue Team

        Rainbow Dash looked over the signatures, making a mental note to visit the Serpent Isles as soon as she was healthy enough. She dug further into the bag, and noticed a particularly brightly colored envelope of blue and gold. She recognized the official seal of the Wonderbolts, and recalled something Soarin’ had said before she had confronted the hurricane. Spitfire apparently had family living on the islands...

Dear (Princess) Rainbow Dash,

First of all, I wish I could personally give you my deepest thanks for protecting the ponies of Serpent Isles, among them being my uncle and aunt and younger cousins. Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of helping them begin repairs on their home, so this letter is all I can manage.

I always figured you’d be a mare who would go on to do amazing things. You’re a spectacular flier (Soarin’ swears he never saw a pegasus take off so quickly in mid-air like you did when you found out about the hurricane), and have more spunk than most athletes do at your age. However, I never expected you to go on and not only become a co-ruler of Equestria, but also go and hold back a category four hurricane for over three hours.

I know you’re probably not thinking as positively about the events as I seem to be, but believe me when I say that I’m hurting as well. I knew some of the ponies that died in the storm, but I believe that they went into the waves well aware of the fact they might not come back alive. You probably don’t know it, but you were a necessary sight for the ponies of the Serpent Isle. You, Princess Luna,Princess Fluttershy, Princess Pinkie Pie, Princess Rarity, and Princess Applejack. All of you, but you in particular, gave us hope. When Soarin’ arrived, he told me how you went off and were now trying to stop the hurricane with your magic. By yourself, no help expected.

I only wish I could say that I have the strength and courage that you possess.

I better cut this letter short before it becomes too cheesy with praise. In the end, know that I am honored to serve under a mare as brave and strong as you. Never think otherwise, Rainbow Dash.

Always follow your dreams. Never let anypony tell you what you can and cannot do.


Spitfire

        Rainbow smiled as she looked to see a glossy photograph of the Wonderbolts team in its entirety. Each one of them had autographed it and had given their own personal thanks on the back of the photo.

        “Rainbow Dash, are you alright?”

        She didn’t even realize it when she started crying. Wiping her eyes, Rainbow chuckled weakly. “Heh, yeah...I’ll be alright. I’m just wondering why you didn’t get any mail either. I mean, you girls all helped me, too.”

        Luna chuckled before leaning to the far side of her bed, and hefting up a smaller bag of mail. “Oh, we got some thank you letters as well. Not as many as you, keep in mind, but still quite a few. I even received a letter from the darling little colt in Ponyville. Pipsqueak was his name, if I remember correctly.”

        “Heheh, yeah, I think he has a crush on you. Poor guy, too bad you’re already taken!” Pinkie joked, earning a deep blush from Luna.

        “That is a silly thing to say! I am not taken by anyone!”

        “Really? What about Fluttershy?”

        Luna made no further comment, slumping into her bed while digging into the bag for a letter of her own to read.

        “Maybe he’ll sign your leg casts!”

        Luna quirked an eyebrow. “Sign my casts? Why would anypony do such a thing. It would be quite garish and odd.”

        Rainbow just laughed quietly as Pinkie started explaining the many reasons to have one’s leg signed. The conversation drifted into background noise as she pulled out another letter. This one in particular stood out because of the official seal of the Ponyville post office. The return address was that of Derpy Hooves. Tearing open the envelope, she read.

Hi Rainbow Dash,

        

It’s me, Derpy Hooves. I heard from the Cakes about what happened in the Serpent Isles. Needless to say, everyone in Ponyville is proud of you. You’ve always been a bit of a hero I guess, but you really showed what it takes to be one when you faced that hurricane. I’m happy to say that you’re among my group of friends.

Unfortunately, this letter isn’t completely happy. It’s about Scootaloo.

        Rainbow Dash paused. Scootaloo? Was she okay? She didn’t know the filly as well as she would have liked to, but she knew that the athletic little pegasus admired her. While Rainbow was already a rather proud pony, she was happy to know that she had young fans like her. That, and the kid had a good heart and good friends.

        Concerned for the filly, she continued.

Her parents were among the few that didn’t make it. They had been on a rescue boat that capsized on it’s way out of the port. She’s been very strong, but I’m worried for her. Dinky says that sometimes she hears Scootaloo crying at night. I’ve asked Scootaloo a few times if she wants to talk, but she just shakes her head and says she’ll ‘get over it’.

Losing parents isn’t something that little colts and fillies simply ‘get over’, though. I think she’s trying not to show how much she’s hurting. Dinky said that Scootaloo ‘doesn’t cry because Rainbow Dash doesn’t cry, either’. I know that’s not the truth, and I know you do as well.

She looks up to you, Rainbow Dash. Please don’t think I’m blaming you for anything, but...I need your help. She’s torn up, and unless she opens up and talks to someone, she’s only going to get worse. I want to help her, but there’s somepony who could probably reach out to her better. That pony is you.

I hope you’re doing well, Rainbow Dash. Please let me know if you can help. I can feed her and make sure she has a roof to live under, but opening up to another pony takes a bit more time.

Your friend,

Derpy Hooves

P.S- Tell Pinkie Pie thanks for the raspberry chocolate muffin recipe. It’s delicious!

        Rainbow was already digging in the side table drawer next to her bed, looking for something to write on. Stationary, napkins, it didn’t matter. She was happy to see that the hospital had a small notepad and pencils.

        She had a letter to write. Two, actually. Within ten minutes she had folded up the first letter, placing it on the side table so it would be mailed later. The second one would be much harder to write. She was certain that she would be bending a few rules with what she was going to attempt, but she would worry about the complaints she would probably receive from it later. Derpy was a single mother working one job to support her daughter, and Scootaloo was now an orphan with no other family (at least that’s what Pinkie Pie had mentioned when Rainbow had asked).

        Screw bureaucracy for now. Besides, it’s not like her actions would do any harm. They’d help, if anything.

        Luna noticed the small smile on Rainbow’s face, and Pinkie’s ears began flopping before her front hooves shook, earning a weak yelp of pain from her broken arm.

        “Dashie, what are you planning?”

        “Nothing.”

        “My ears flopped twice and my forelegs shook. You’re planning something, and you know it!” She grinned. “Please tell me before my hooves shake again.”

        “Indeed, I’m quite curious as well,” Luna added for good measure.

        Rainbow rolled her eyes before smiling and setting down her pen and paper. “Well, Twilight mentioned to me how while she was studying in Canterlot that she sort of got personal support from Celestia. Not just basic needs, but she kind of got...well, another mother-like figure. Equestrian law doesn’t say anything against giving support and providing for a student, so...”

        Pinkie lifted up the letter that Rainbow had read from Derpy, scanning it over within a few minutes while Rainbow went back to writing. After she had finished reading the letter from Derpy, Pinkie frowned a little, but it vanished as she looked towards the Princess of Weather. “Oh, Dashie...that’s so...” She beamed before passing the letter over to Luna with her magic. The midnight alicorn quickly read through it as well, her own lips forming a frown as she finished the letter.

        “Yeah, yeah, thoughtful, kind, yaddah yaddah. I thought it’d be...um...cool...to offer her the opportunity. I mean...I’m not sure I could teach her anything in magic. I’m not really qualified to do that, but I can certainly teach her a thing or two about being a pegasi.”

        Luna’s eyes lit up. “Oh, this is wonderful! Haha, if you manage to do this, Rainbow Dash, perhaps we may do the same as well! There is a particular filly who would make a wonderful student, and...well, we have never done such a thing! She would be our first student and-”

        “Luna, you’re doing it again.”

        Luna blinked before chuckling. “Ah, thank you, Rainbow Dash. We got...ahem, I got excited at the thought of having a new pony living in the castle! Isn’t she that little pegasus who was wearing the wolf outfit?”

        “Yep, that’s her. She’s good friends with Sweetie Belle, too.”

        If possible, Luna’s smile brightened. “Oh, this is such wonderful news! We shall...I shall have to tell Rarity of this...” She paused, her eyes dimming a bit. “...when...when she and dear Sweetie Belle are of a better state of mind. Still, Rainbow Dash, you truly believe that Scootaloo would be interested in taking up this offer?”

        “I don’t know. I can only hope. I mean, some ponies are going to be calling it favoritism, and I can’t really deny that. It’s just...”

        “You just want to make her happy, and she’s a friend!” Pinkie stated with a voice of cheerfulness and certainty. “Oh Dashie, you should do it! Scootaloo would be a wonderful student! You’d be a great teacher!”

        “Really?” Dash asked with a light chuckle. “Pinkie, I’m not exactly a teaching type. This is just a sort of way of me being able to exploit a loophole...sort of. It’s not really a lie, but...well, I’ll be teaching her, but she should probably still go to Ponyille for her normal classes with Sweetie Belle...if she wants to go through with this.” She stared at the letter in her lap and sighed. “I’ll wait a day or two, send out the letters to Derpy and Scootaloo, and then...well, wait and hope for the best.”

        “Don’t worry, Dashie! Everything will work out.” Pinkie’s wings flapped, likely her way of compensating for the lack of mobility in her forelegs. “Just hope for the best, just like you said.”

        Well, that was coming from the Hope Princess herself. Now she definitely had nothing stopping her from finishing the letter.


        “Lightweight, I swear to her Majesty’s chromatic mane that if you don’t stop with the nervous flapping of those wings that I will hogtie you to the flagpole in front of the castle grounds and dress you up like a piñata and let Princess Pinkie Pie throw a party for all of the foals in the School of Gifted Unicorns.”

        Lightweight stopped immediately, landing on all four feet and standing at attention. “Sorry, Captain Sparkfyre, sir.”

        Sparkfyre grumbled before turning to the young pegasus stallion’s current source of distraction. There, standing before her Highness Rainbow Dash, was about half of the Wonderbolt team.

        “Thanks again for doing this, Spitfire. I know you’re all very busy as it is...but...well, public figures help push forward good causes like this.”

        Spitfire just smiled. “Don’t worry about it, your Highness. We do stuff like this all the time. A charity drive to help give support for the ponies out there is definitely a good idea. For things like this, we’d do it for free every time.”

        Rainbow grinned happily upon hearing those words. The “Wonderbolts’ Flight for Charity” event was her most recent brainchild in the efforts to give relief to the many ponies affected by the hurricane. It would be a day-long event of races, shows, autograph signing, panels, and seminars, and all the money going towards it would be used for hurricane victims. She had anticipated that the Wonderbolts would be generous with the offer, but not expecting them to do it completely for free. They may serve under the Equestrian Emergency Flight teams, but they were performers first. Rescue workers came second.

        “Oh, rumor has it that a certain filly in Ponyville may be interested in something like this.” Spitfire gave Rainbow Dash a large envelope.

        The cyan alicorn gave the Wonderbolt mare a curious look before undoing the string holding the envelope shut and carefully pulled out the contents. She let out a small gasp before smiling. “O-oh...wow.”

        It was something that she herself would have spent a good amount of her monthly wages as a weather pony on, once upon a time. There, in her two hooves, wrapped in plastic, was a limited edition ‘History of the Wonderbolts’ book. The book itself was the latest volume of a series that had been released every five years since the twenty-fifth anniversary of the group’s founding. Within the pages were photos, newspaper articles, biographies, and even small segments written by the current members of the flight team.

        “How did you know?”

        Soarin’ chuckled. “We had a hunch.”

        “Was this hunch by any chance a dark blue color and have a mane made of starlight?”

        “What makes you think that?” Spitfire asked, earning a chuckle from the other Wonderbolts. “We’re all in favor of what you’re doing, by the way. Nothing against Canterlot, but the pegasi here don’t have any real chance at flight education. Cloudsdale’s definitely a great place to go for flight school, but not everyone can go. I mean, some of us don’t even have pegasi parents.”

        Rainbow Dash nodded. “Right. If I can get this project rolling after the charity drive is done and we start cleaning up the towns on the Serpent Isles...and if she accepts my offer, then she’ll have a place to live and I can open up a new school.”

        “I hope everything works out for you and her. Have you gotten a letter back from her yet?”

        Rainbow shook her head. “No, but it’s been a little more than a week. She can take all the time that she needs with that reply back to me.”

        “Yeah...” Spitfire sighed. “Let me know how that turns out, alright?”

        “You bet. Thanks again, all of you. This truly means a lot to me, and to the ponies who need the help.”

        The Wonderbolts all gave bows before leaving the throne room. Feeling much better than she had in a while, Rainbow Dash flexed her wings and sighed in contentment. “Captain Sparkfyre?”

        “Yes, Milady?”

        “Send a report to the National Weather Bureau Office. Let them know that the next couple of days will be clear skies throughout most of Equestria.”

Spark Fyre smiled before giving a bow. “As you wish, Milady.”

Equestria had gone through a major tragedy, that was true. However, things would get better. Wounds would heal, though the memories of those lost would remain. For now, all she could do is stay strong, and look toward the future.

She was still inexperienced, but she would learn. She would become the princess that Equestria needed her to be.


End of Chapter 4- Rainbow Dash chapter 1

A/N: Holy guacamole, I updated again! I better be careful, or you’ll all start holding me up to higher expectations! Well, there you have it. Rainbow Dash got her first chapter. Some of you probably think I have some sort of hatred for Scootaloo or something (hint: I don’t, Scootaloo is best filly-pony). I sort of had this planned out from the very beginning with the hurricane and what not. This chapter took a bit longer to work on at some points, but it just seemed to come through for me for the most part. Hope you enjoyed it! Next chapter will be mostly happy, I promise!

Next up: One thousand years of being separated from Equestrian society. Even for an alicorn, it’s quite a long time. Luna strives to adapt to her kingdom’s new ways, while at the same time plans for what she hopes to be the greatest concert since her long-term absence. All the while, feelings are growing stronger between her and a certain soft-spoken alicorn.

Previous Chapter: Chapter Three- Sweetie Belle 1

Next Chapter: Chapter Five- Luna 1


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Luna: Moonlight Rhapsody

Luna’s head slowly rocked from side to side as she waved her arms to a steady rhythm as she mouthed the words being sung from a group of ponies. The occasional pop and crackle of the needle moving on the vinyl could be heard as the song progressed towards the ending verses. Being true to her affinity, the music was, literally, moving her.

...Deine Zauber binden wieder

Was die Mode streng geteilt;

Alle Poneschen werden Brüder,

Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt...

The Princess felt tears coming to her eyes. Yes, this was her utopia. If she could just stay in this moment without letting time move on her, she would take that opportunity without a second thought.

The song came to its end, and Luna slowly came down from her musical high. Moving the needle off the vinyl record, she sighed dreamily. “Oh Ludwig...if only I could have had the honor to meet you.”

From what she understood, the song was dedicated to none other than Celestia. He had written a sonata as well that was dedicated to the moon, though rumors had been made during Beethoofen’s life that the song was dedicated to somepony else. A mare who lived on the moon.

She liked to pretend that Beethoofen had known of her existence and had meant to dedicate it to her.

Beethoofen was, by far, her current favorite out of the ‘classical era’. To her, though, this music was new. Ever since her return, Celestia had exposed her to the majesty of song, dance, and music in all its forms over the last one thousand years. She loved it. All of it. The classics of Chopin, Beethoofen, and Mozart were wonderful. The jazzy (she had learned this word recently) tunes of Frank Sintrotra, the Rock ‘n Roll of Alfalfis Presley, to the heavy metal of Metalliclaw...she loved it. It amazed her how quickly music had changed forms over the years. Celestia had informed her that what she had been exposed to since her return was only scratching the faintest surface of what existed.

        It shouldn’t have surprised her as much as it did, though. She held domain over music, after all. The real problem with such a wide taste for music was the fact that not as many ponies shared her same passion. Celestia, of course, knew most of the music, but she didn’t have the love that Luna had. For instance, she tried to avoid the works of the rock bands from thirty years ago, a period most simply called the “80’s”. The songs played were, in Celestia’s words ‘not suited to her tastes’. She preferred the classics herself, but also held a special interest in the music from almost forty years ago, also known as the “70s”. Luna had inquired on the details, and Celestia had said something about flower fields, lots of open concerts, and a more ‘magical’ life.

        Luna would have to look into one of the books in the library and study more on the 70’s. They sounded like an interesting time for many ponies.

“...Wer ein holdes Weib errungen, mische seinen Jubel ein! Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund...!”

Luna’s ears perked as she heard the voice of a very familiar filly’s voice. She smiled happily as she whirled towards the entrance of her music studio.

“...Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle...” A white filly entered the room, her voice trailing as she took note of the alicorn’s presence. “O-oh! Luna!” She bowed. “I-I didn’t know you were in here! I...” Her ears flattened a bit. “You didn’t hear me singing...did you?”

Luna chuckled. “Dear Sweetie Belle, I did. I loved it, too. Your Germane has improved as well, I noticed.” She walked over to the filly, offering a nuzzle which the filly returned. “Hearing you sing is never a bad thing, Sweetie Belle.”

She meant it, too. Sweetie Belle had been rather quiet for the past two weeks, but Luna could hardly blame her. While she couldn’t say she understood the pain like she did, she understood that it wasn’t a good feeling.

Losing a loving father like Sweetie Belle’s didn’t sound appealing at all in her mind.

Sweetie Belle’s smile was not as bright as it usually was, but it was genuine. “I want to sound good for you when we sing the final song at the Winter Solstice Concert. So I’ve been practicing with Rarity and Ms. Fleur in my spare time.”

Ah, Fleur. Luna was pleased to hear that Sweetie Belle was socializing more with the other ponies who would be singing alongside her. Fleur was what most would consider an ‘aristocrat’ by social standing, but the mare was much more graceful and not nearly as stuffy as most Canterlot ponies in the upper class were. She was also fluent in Equinic, Germane, and French, and had been tutor the filly for about two weeks now.

“Wonderful. I imagine you’ve learned a lot from her, then?”

“Well...I learned mostly how to pronounce the words in the song, but she tells me what they mean if I ask. I read the Equinic version of the song, though, so I know what it’s about.” Sweetie Belle pawed at the floor shyly. “I hope I can be as smart as her when I get older. Rarity says I shouldn’t worry so much, and that I’m already a great Lady of the Court, but...”

Luna placed a wing gently over her student in music. “I’m certain you’ll be as great of a mare as Lady Fleur, if not more so.”

Sweetie Belle sighed, smiling contentedly as she leaned against Luna. “Um...Luna?”

“Yes?”

“Are you sure you want me to sing in the Winter Solstice Concert? I mean, what if I screw up, or what if-?”

Luna’s fore leg wrapped around her comfortingly. “Sweetie Belle, even if you completely forgot the words to Beethoofen’s Ode to Joy, I wouldn’t be upset. You’ve gone above and beyond what most ponies your age would do as far as music goes since I’ve met you. I am proud of how much you’ve grown as a pony.”

Sweetie Belle was quiet, but remained comfortably in the feathered embrace of Luna.

“Um...excuse me, Princess Luna?”

Luna and Sweetie Belle looked up to see a burly, blue-gray unicorn stallion guard standing at the doorway. He looked a little embarrassed to have walked upon the tender scene, but Luna gave him a welcoming smile. “Ah, Stalwart, good day. What can I help you with?”

“Milady, erm...I’m sorry, perhaps I should return later when I’m not intruding on your lessons with Lady Sweetie-”

“It’s alright, Stalwart. Please, go on.”

The unicorn coughed into his hoof before speaking. “Yes, well, Princess Rarity wished for you to meet her at your convenience in the throne room. She wished to discuss the finer details of the concert stage decorations, and wondered if you had any specific designs in mind.”

“Ah, well, tell her I shall be there before noon, then.” Luna looked to the clock on the wall, taking note that she had about a half hour before midday.

“Yes, Milady.” Stalwart bowed slowly before stepping out, keeping his posture low as he did so.

“Stalwart is a really serious guard, isn’t he?”

“Understatement of the year, Sweetie Belle,” Luna chuckled. “Come, let’s go speak to your sister. The last thing we need is a repeat of her pre-Nightmare Night panic.”

The filly’s expression spoke volumes more than words could and, Sweetie Belle picked up the pace, following alongside her mentor.


“...and these reports are wonderful, Raindrops. Thanks for this, I’ll be sure to send it over to the National Weather Bureau Office as soon as possible.”

Luna and Sweetie Belle walked into the throne room, greeted to the sight of a pegasus mare wearing a gray cloak with an emblem of a cloud and two wings on either side of it. It was the symbol for the newly created Sky Watcher Office. It was more or less a fancy name for the meteorology officers of Equestria, but it definitely had a nice ring to it.

The yellow coated pegasus mare with a teal mane gave a little bow before smiling. “Ponyville’s really excited about the new program, your Highness. We may not have full control of the weather, but we’re still able to make cloud homes and push the stray cloud away.”

Rainbow Dash gave a weak chuckle. “Yeah, I wish I could do more about that, but the weather’s kind of doing its own thing. I’m more of the weather’s warden than its master.” She looked to the sky before smiling contently. “Either way, we’ll be setting up a magic line with Ponyville’s office in the next week, so don’t be surprised if you see some unicorns in Ponyville in a few days.”

“Yes, your Highness.” Raindrops stood up and adjusted her cloak. “Well, if that’s all we needed to discuss, Princess, I’ll be going. Winter’s getting closer everyday, it seems, and I’d rather not be out in the cold any later than I have to.”

“Heheh, I understand. Fly safe, and tell Cloud Kicker to keep up the great work. Her studies will be useful when we start setting up the information network for the Weather Bureau.”

“Very well, I’ll be sure to tell her. Good day, Princess.”

Raindrops walked out of the throne room, pausing to bow to Princess Luna as they passed her.

“Rarity, you wished to speak to me?”

The other princess holding court looked up from a catalog, smiling as she noticed the two ponies walking towards her. “Ah, yes, Luna! Just the mare I needed to speak to.” Rarity got up from her seat and trotted over to the two. She paused to give Sweetie Belle a hug before continuing. “So, I was thinking we could do something that’s not too over the top or garish. What do you think of gemstone encrusted metalwork shaped like stars? Above the center stage we could have a crescent moon, and Rainbow said she could cast a minor spell that will create a few small snow clouds over the area. No wind, just some snow.”

Luna’s hooves clicked on the floor in approval. “Yes, that is a perfect idea, Rarity! To be honest, I didn’t really have any ideas myself other than some soft lighting and maybe placing a banner of some sort over the front of the stage.” She tapped her chin in thought. “I wonder though, would the snow affect the instruments at all?”

Rainbow spoke up at that point. “Well, I could probably work with Twilight and see if there’s a way we could cast a weak filter barrier over it to keep the snow from reaching the audience or the musicians on stage. The snow could simply melt and evaporate before it even touches them.”

“Yes, I’m almost certain there’s a spell for that,” Luna replied with a nod. “Well, this is better than I had hoped. Rarity, are you certain you don’t wish to perform with my choir? You have a lovely voice...all six of you are rather talented singers, in my opinion.”

“Oh please, I’m already quite familiar with the limelight,” Rarity joked with a smile. “No, no, my role in decorating is quite fine with me. Besides, I wouldn’t want our little starlet to have her style cramped by moi.”

“Rarity, I would never think that!” Sweetie Belle said, frowning at her sister’s jest.

“I know, dear, and that’s why you’re such a lady.” Rarity waved a hoof. “Alas, my voice is only sub-par compared to yours.”

“That’s not true, either!” Sweetie Belle protested.

“Easy, kiddo. Don’t wanna give her a bigger ego than she already has,” Rainbow chuckled, earning a mock hurt expression from the Princess of Beauty.

“Rainbow, how could you?”

“Ahem...” The herald on the opposite side of the throne room cleared his throat, waiting for the princesses to look towards him. “...your Majesties, and Ladyship...Sir Fancy Pants and Lady Fleur are here.”

Rarity and Sweetie Belle both perked up at the mention of the two arrivals. “Oh, well please, let them in at once.”

Moments later a dapper looking unicorn stallion with a white coat and blue mane and a charming unicorn mare with a pink mane and alabaster coat.

“Ah, Princess Rarity, good to see you again! I was hoping you’d be here,” spoke the stallion before pausing. “Where are my manners? I swear...” He shook his head before bowing. “Forgive me, your Majesties, I am Fancy Pants.”

Fleur followed suit as well, smiling and giving Sweetie Belle a wink. “Yes, and I am Fleur. We arrived in hopes of speaking to you about the concert. Though, seeing as you’re here as well, Princess Luna, this makes things all the better.”

“Oh, and what did you wish to speak to us about?” Luna usually found the aristocracy dry and dull, but Celestia had taught her eons ago the importance of maintaining image with the ‘high society’. The two ponies before her oozed of high society in appearance, but she had gotten to know the mare personally, so she suspected that this Fancy Pants was a decent pony as well.

“Well, you see, we’ve been discussing with the rest of Canterlot, and by extension, Equestria’s other towns and cities, and we were surprised to hear that the Winter Solstice Concert has managed to gain quite a crowd of hopeful attendees,” explained Fancy Pants. “We’re afraid that the Canterlot amphitheater won’t be big enough.”

Luna gave the stallion a perplexed look. “Seriously? The only place that holds more seats is the Cloudsdale Colosseum. How many are we expecting to attend the concert?”

“Roughly speaking? Somewhere around two to three thousand. Not all of them are ponies, either. The Griffion Kingdom has already reserved about two hundred seats, and there are several traveling groups of zebra who sent word that they wished to attend as well.” Fleur dug into a saddlebag she had with her, pulling out and unfurling a few scrolls with her magic. “These are legitimate documents from the Griffon Kingdom. They sent it to the Canterlot Theater office, seeing as they are directly in charge of the seating. The same can be said for the zebra tribes coming to Equestria. They’ll probably be here in another day or so.”

The Princesses (and Sweetie Belle) digested the information. Three thousand? Not even the Summer Sun Celebration had received more than one thousand attendees at best. While she wasn’t one to look at such things childishly, she couldn’t help but let out a little mental cheer. For once, she could say the night had held greater attendance at an event.

“This...is quite the bit of news. Well, are there any suggestions from the Canterlot Theater Office?” Rarity inquired.

“Well, one is the setting up of cloud seats. That would probably give us about four hundred more seats, but we’re still estimating an overflow of about five to six hundred seats.” Fancy Pants frowned. “While this is a good thing for the concert, it’s also a problem, as I’m sure you can see.”

“Is there anyway we could erect another couple stands of seats before the concert?” Rainbow asked. “I mean, it’s an amphitheater, right? It’s not like there’s limited space within a building for us to worry about.”

“Yes, we could...but the concert’s budget can’t cover that, and the theater needs to hire workers to do that. It would probably be costing us another two to three thousand bits.

“Hm...yes, that is a quite the problem.” Luna began to pace, trying to find a way. They could borrow from the castle treasury. She opened her mouth to speak but...

“I believe I can provide the funds necessary to pay.”

Everyone looked to Rarity. She was looking to her hooves, trying to fight down the blush on her face. “My...old home and boutique back in Ponyville is where I keep most of my gems. While most of them are quite common, I have some finer pieces that are very rare. If we can exchange the gems for bits through the castle treasury, then we should have enough.”

Fancy Pants’ monocle popped out place before he quickly recovered and placed it back over his left eye. “I say, Princess Rarity...are you quite sure? I mean, that’s quite a generous offer, but surely-”

Rarity smiled, laughing easily. “Ah, ah, say no more.” Rarity ignored the looks from Rainbow Dash, Sweetie Belle, and Luna. “I shall stop by at my old abode and collect my gems as soon as I’m done with court. Think nothing of it.”

Fleur frowned a little, but eventually a smile and bowed. “Your Majesty, thank you for your support.”

“Of course, Fleur. I should be thanking you as well, for helping my little sister with her Germane.”

“Well, it’s hardly a challenge. Your sister is such a quick learner when it involves anything musical.” Fleur brushed a bang out of her eyes and looked to Sweetie Belle. “She might possibly be the next great voice in Equestrian music.”

Fancy Pants adjusted his monocle and grinned. “So you’re the little filly that Fleur is raving about?” He chuckled as Sweetie Belle shyly nodded. “So modest, too. Honestly, you’ll be a real heart breaker someday.”

“Oh stop it, Fancy, you’re making the poor dear embarrassed.” Fleur tried to fight down a giggle as Sweetie Belle did her best to remain composed.

“Well, thank you again for the support, your Majesties. We’ll be sure to deliver the news to the theater. I’m certain they’ll be pleased to hear this.”

“Don’t forget, Sweetie Belle, we have lessons tomorrow after school.” Fleur said after the two gave bows to the three princesses. “We’ll be working on amplifying your voice with magic. I don’t think you’ll have much trouble though with the strength you have behind your voice.”

“Okay, Miss Fleur,” Sweetie Belle said as she gave a low nod of respect. “See you tomorrow!”

After the two unicorns left, Luna bid Sweetie Belle, Rarity, and Rainbow a good day, claiming she needed to get some rest before waking up to her late night duties. She made her way down the hall to her room, greeting to the two guards standing at attention as she passed by.

Her room was, as one would expect of a princess whose domain was the night, dark. Not gloomy, though, but comforting. Peaceful. Soft lamp light from purple magical flames lit the far corners of her room.

Walking over to her four post bed, she sighed contently as she crawled under the covers, only to pause as she met a warm mass that was already under her sheets. She lifted the covers and felt her heart melt at the sight.

Fluttershy had apparently decided to take a nap in her bed. Luna sighed before pulling the covers over them and took off her crown and regalia. Even in the dark of the room, she could see two sleepy, deep cyan eyes opening slowly.

“Sorry. I was just so sleepy from staying up late last night...”

Luna smiled, nuzzling her gently. Ever since Fluttershy had given her a very long, heartfelt letter, the two had become...well...not just friends...something...more than that...marefriends was the current term, she believed.

This was the first time in what seemed like eons since she had been in a relationship that bordered anything remotely intimate. The midnight alicorn had been rather surprised when Fluttershy had suggested the idea of sharing living spaces. For as long as she could remember, such a thing was unheard of in equine society. The times truly have changed. “I don’t mind. Its better than crawling under cool sheets and being alone.”

Fluttershy let out a content sigh as she rested her head within the crook of Luna’s neck, “How was listening to Beethoofen?”

“Lovely. I daresay that if I had known him during his lifetime that I would have probably become enamored with him solely for his music.”

“His music truly is wonderful, isn’t it? Though, it’s sad...he lost his hearing when he was still a young stallion. They say he wept at the premiere of his Ninth Symphony because when he turned around at the end to see his audience applauding, he couldn’t hear it.”

Luna frowned a little, trying to wrap her mind around how it must be to lose your hearing, especially when such a sense is important in music. “It makes for a perfect tragedy, in a way.”

        Fluttershy smiled a little. “Sometime I wish I could go back in time and meet the ponies who I admire. Biologists like Darwing...though I wonder if I could someday speak to somepony like Hayvid Attenborhoof.”

        “Yes, Attenborhoof...I listened to one of his audio recordings...very soothing voice.”

        “Do you...do you think that I could do something like that? I’d like to teach other ponies about all the different kinds of flora and fauna in Equestria.”

        “I’m sure you could. Twilight’s quite the scholar as well. Perhaps we could all make a collection of our knowledge someday and put it out for the public. Though, I do wonder what Pinkie Pie would do,” Luna chuckled as the thought of Pinkie Pie recording herself telling jokes for an hour ran through her mind.

        “We would probably have to give Twilight a very large recording tape to work with...I, mean, not that I don’t mind her talking about things, she’s such a smart pony, but...well, she can...go onto long tangents sometimes.”

        “Mm. I do believe Celly finds her...what was the word that Rainbow used...ah, ‘adorkable’.”

        “Oh, she’s not a dork. That...I’m sure Rainbow wasn’t trying to be mean.”

        “No, I don’t think she was either. From what she explained of Twilight though, I find the description rather endearing.” Luna giggled a little. “What’s even touching is how my sister listens so intently to what Twilight talks about. The other day Twilight was discussing a theory on the latent magical powers of ponies and their origins. I know Celly has heard that talk at least several times before from other scholars, but she seemed so enthralled with Twilight’s thoughts on the matter.”

        Fluttershy let out a hum of agreement. “I think that’s because she cares a lot for Twilight.”

        “That must be the case.”

        “Well...at least I’m pretty sure that’s why.”

        “Well, who am I to argue with the Princess of Kindness, hm?”

        Fluttershy let out a few quiet giggles as Luna wrapped her fore legs around her. “So, how are things going with the concert?”

        “Most wonderfully, Fluttershy. We ran into a small obstacle with seating, but...well, Rarity is willing to pay the extra costs to construct more seats. She’s going to give the castle her collection of precious gems in order to pay for the work.”

        “That’s Rarity for you. She’s always willing to give if it means helping other ponies.”

        “Yes, but...I know how much she enjoys her dressmaking and designs. I hope she isn’t going to give up on it with the lack of gems to work with. I don’t want to take that away from her.” Luna closed her eyes, relaxing as Fluttershy returned her embrace. “Fluttershy...I’m worried about Rarity...and Sweetie Belle.”

        Fluttershy found herself agreeing too. Rarity was already having problems with adjusting to the life of being not only a princess, but also an alicorn. Being eternal was quite a change, after all. Fluttershy was still coming to terms in her own way. Luna had been there for her during some of her less than happy hours, though. Rarity...she had her and the girls, yes, but she suspected that there were some cases when you needed a special somepony to confide in. Sweetie Belle was still rather young, and also wasn’t an alicorn herself. Such a thing was hard to relate to.

        “I’ll try and talk to her when she’s not so busy,” Fluttershy said as she began to get up. “She’s good at hiding her emotions when she needs to, though. I’ll try and see if I can cheer her up a bit. Maybe she’s just waiting for someone to talk to her first.”

        Luna yawned as she snuggled into her pillows, pouting a bit at the lack of warmth due to Fluttershy leaving the bed. “Alright.”

        The yellow alicorn gave a smile to the midnight alicorn. “Get some rest, Luna.” She hesitated for a moment before leaning down and giving the Princess of the Night a small peck on the cheek. She blushed as Luna’s eyes opened, and quickly made her way to the door, wings fluttering nervously as she exited the room.

        Luna found herself chuckling quietly before closing her eyes once more. How had she been so lucky to find a pony as sweet as Fluttershy? It was a mystery, but she was grateful that it had happened.


        The following days came and went with little action for Luna. Fancy Pants and Fleur had started stopping by the castle more often, usually to keep Luna and Rarity updated on the concert situation. The seats were in the midst of construction, and would be ready by the end of the month. November brought with it both cooler winds and the signs of snow that would be coming in a few weeks. Trees had long since gone dormant, and leaves now decorated the land throughout the northern portion of Equestria.

        Her eyes closed as she heard the distant song of a Whippoorwill, along with a few other songbirds that were still active. The Sun was in the midst of setting, and in a few minutes it would be dark.

        Her gaze fell towards the garden of Canterlot. The hedges were still standing, most of them being evergreens of some sort. She spotted several ponies strolling through the gardens, likely enjoying the late autumn evening. She knew for a fact that more than a few young couples would rendezvous at secluded parts of the expansive garden to engage in more intimate affairs. Being the Princess of the Night, whenever she saw such couples walking through the gardens, she would make those nights the most beautiful for them to see.

        Perhaps Celestia was right in a sense by accusing her of being overly romantic.

        Her eyes paused as they fell upon a particular part of the garden. A particular statue, to be exact. She frowned, trying her best to not let the foreboding feeling in the back of her mind get to her.

        “Celestia’s been looking into the matter. Captain Lily Wing has been keeping our best guards on patrol of the gardens. The spell doesn’t seem to be weakened at all...” Luna felt her ears twitch a bit. She couldn’t hide it; she was feeling uneasy.

        “If the worse happens, and he breaks free...I’ll be ready.”

        “Luna?”

        The Princess of the Night looked over her shoulder to see her elder sister standing at the entrance to the balcony. The smile on her face didn’t reach her eyes, but she only noticed this due to knowing her for eons. Even a millennium of separation didn’t change the little quirks the two could pick up from each other.

        “Good evening, Celly,” Luna smiled before giving her sister a welcoming nuzzle. “I trust your studies with Spike and Twilight went well?”

        Celestia’s smile became genuine. “Yes. Spike’s truly becoming a little scholar.”

        “I could tell. I heard you speaking Wyrmahk from my room. Vigil and Dusk Sweeper were a bit surprised as well when they heard their soft-spoken Princess of the Sun speaking with the volume of a fully grown dragoness.”

        Celestia’s cheeks darkened a bit. “Oh dear. I was positive Twilight’s muting spell would be able to contain my amplified voice.”

        “Well, we did invent the the Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice ages ago. It stands to reason that an older innate spell could leak through something like a simple muting spell. Even so, our amplified voices only barely qualify for true draconic speech.”

        The two sisters were quiet for several minutes after sharing a quiet laugh. Despite living in the same castle, they didn’t get to spend as much time as they would have liked. Such was the reason behind their weekly meetings to simply spend some quality time together.

        “Luna...you seem troubled. Tell me what’s wrong.”

        Luna’s eyes glanced over to the gardens once more, her gaze falling upon the statue of a creature not seen in the lands of Equestria since the days before Equestria’s founding by Princess Platinum, Chancellor Puddinghead, and Commander Hurricane...before Celestia and her had managed to harness the power over their respective celestial bodies...

        “Ah,” Celestia quietly sighed as she followed Luna’s gaze. “I’ve been keeping an eye on him as well.”

        “You’re more in tune with the spell than I. I don’t sense any weakening...do you?”

        “It’s hard to say, Luna. Casting a spell on a stone is one thing, but to encase a spirit in stone with a spell is another. It’s an old spell. The Elements lost power back...back when I banished you. I can’t be certain that the spell we used was affected as well. The transfer of power from the two of us to only me, and from me to no one, and then to the girls...for all we know, he’s simply biding his time.”

        Luna grimaced. “We should tell the others.”

        “No.”

        Luna quirked an eyebrow at her sister; Celestia was never rash or sudden in her actions or replies. Luna was more prone to such behavior, in all honesty. “Celly?”

        “Luna...we cannot burden them with...with Discord.” Celestia said the name like it was a curse, a vulgar word not to be spoken. “If they are exposed to him, can you imagine what he would do to them?”

        “Chances are he is already aware of them, Celly.” Luna pointed a hoof towards her sister. “Believe me, if I could avoid it, I would hide Fluttershy from him and never let his name grace her ears, but the truth of the matter is that we cannot shield them from his existence. Doing so is foolish, not to mention borderline betrayal to their trust in us. We owe it to them, Celly.”

        Celestia’s ears flattened, and she bowed her head in defeat. “You’re right...” She shook her head before looking up, the faintest shimmer of tears in her eyes. “I...I’m just scared, Luna. I mean, we’ve confronted dragons, Ursa Majors, we’ve even fought each other...but...Discord is the one thing that I truly fear above all other things.”

        It wasn’t really an absurd fear, Luna reasoned. She herself dreaded the draconequus as much. Celestia had her reasons for harboring such emotions, after all. Luna wouldn’t blame her for that.

        “Celly...promise me something.”

        Celestia simply nodded.

        “If, the cosmos above willing, Discord remains in that stone before the end of Hearth’s Warming Eve, we will tell the girls and whomever should be privy to this information before the new year starts.”

        “Yes,” Celestia agreed quietly. “I’m sorry...it’s just...Discord and the things he would do. Twilight alone would be a huge target for him with the way her mind works.”

        “Then we’ll have to prepare them for the worst.”

        Celestia’s eyes softened a bit before she smiled with what could only be pride. “I sometimes forget how strong you can be.”

        “Well, one of us must be. You’ve done the same for me numerous times in the past.”

        Celestia chuckled quietly, her gaze falling towards the purple and orange horizon. “Ah, looks like Twilight’s right on schedule. The sun should be setting any minute now.”

        Sure enough, a minute had passed before the glowing ball of light vanished behind the mountains of the western horizon. Luna looked up to see her moon slowly making its orbit over the night sky. It had already been there for a few hours thanks to the changes in the way the heavens were working now. She found herself enjoying the times when both Celestia and her shared the sky at the same sky.

        “We should probably get to dinner. Spike was hoping you could tell him your story of the famous speech you gave to the ponies and dragons of the the northern mountain range.”

        “The Draconic Rebuttal?” Luna rolled her eyes before smiling. “It would seem I’ve gained a...fan would be the proper term, correct?”

        “Yes,” Celestia chuckled. “Yes, that would be the correct term..”


        Luna fretted with a lock of her astral, starlit hair. Rarity had managed to get it stylized into a loose bun while still letting a few wisps of her dark, wavy hair flow free.

        “You look very beautiful, Luna.”

        The Princess of the Night looked up to see Fluttershy approaching her. “Thank you, Fluttershy.”

        A layer of metallic blue cloth wrapped around her frame, while another layer of semi-transparent midnight black silk draped over the back half her dress, ending in a wavy design as it fell down to her metallic blue shoes. Whenever she stepped into the shadows, one could see the faint glimmer of stars and wisps of crystalline light. To accent her face, she wore black opal earrings and a simple silver necklace. The ensemble had been put together with the help of the Princess of Beauty’s expertise. She had told Rarity it was a bit of overkill, but she wouldn’t deny that she enjoyed the opportunity to look ‘absolutely gorgeous’, as Rarity had put it. Needless to say, the dress would be her main choice for the upcoming year’s Grand Galloping Gala.

Fluttershy’s eyes followed the dark mare as her blue heels clicked against the floor. “Luna, why don’t you sit down and take a few deep breaths? You um...look rather nervous.”

        “No, I cannot. What if somepony’s having trouble with their lines, or having difficulty tuning their instruments?” Luna paced back and forth, chewing tentatively on her bottom lip. The loud buzz of the crowd on the other side of the curtains drew her attention every few seconds.

        “I...I know it’s pretty scary being in front of so many ponies, but...you can do this. I know you can. Rainbow’s got the weather filter up over the amphitheater and the surrounding stands, and the lighting and sound crew are all ready.” Fluttershy walked over to her marefriend and fellow co-ruler and smiled while placing a gentle hoof on her shoulder. “You’ll be fine, and you won’t be alone. Sweetie Belle, Ms. Fleur, and Mr. Fancy Pants will be on stage, not to mention all the other ponies performing as well,” She nodded slowly to the stage beyond the curtains. “They’re...they’re counting on you though, Luna.”

        Luna found her nervousness fade a little. Fluttershy was right, and if Fluttershy of all ponies was telling her to go through with this, then she couldn’t back down. “Yes, you’re right.” She looked to the clock sitting on a table off stage, noting she had only two minutes before showtime. Several stage ponies were moving around, doing some last-minute work before the concert.

        “Is everything set?” Luna inquired to the stage director, a purple and gray-maned earth pony mare by the name of Encore.

        “Yes, Princess Luna. We’re pretty much ready when you are.”

        Luna nodded before turning to Fluttershy. “Very well.”

        Fluttershy gave her a reassuring hug before trotting off stage, likely making her way towards her booth with the others. Luna took a few slow, calming breaths before clearing her throat and mentally going over her little speech before the music would start. She gave a nod to Encore, and the mare gave the signal to part the curtains. The orchestra and musicians were already prepared for her.

        The thundering applause of hooves and a few claps from griffons was heard as she gave a low nod. She cleared her throat before applying a bit of magic to her voice to make her voice loud enough to hear for all. “Thank you, everyone for joining us on this most wonderful and long lasting of nights. On behalf of Canterlot, may I say that I am honored by how many of you have decided to give us your time tonight. I know some of you have traveled far to come, and we truly appreciate this. This is the fiftieth year of the Winter Solstice concert, and my very first time...”

        Luna went on to the three minute monologue on how much of the concert was made possible through the generous effort of volunteers and donations, and how it was through continued support that places like the Canterlot amphitheater could survive. She closed with some personal thoughts on how the night was both sacred and calm, and that even in the dark one can find peace and joy.

        Luna stepped to the front, turning to face her orchestra. The ponies all took a ready posture as she lifted the baton with her magic while standing up on her hind hooves and raising her front legs. Her wings flapped to keep her standing, and also provided the ‘metronome’ for her conducting with how fast they moved.

        The first three pieces were classical ones by long dead ponies, each piece moving into the next without pause. About twelve minutes later when they finished, Luna took a seat at the piano on the far end of the stage, and began playing Beethoofen’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. Five minutes later she and her orchestra received a thunderous applause after the music finally stopped

        Luna gave a curt bow before moving a hoof, pointing to the orchestra. She smiled as the applause continued, and waited until the noise died down a little to speak once more.

        “Thank you, but I assure you, the concert has only begun. However, this next piece is something I have not yet had the chance to hear,” She looked to the side of the stage, smiling to someone before continuing. “For this next number, I’d like to introduce my dear friend and student in the art of music, Sweetie Belle.”

        As the unicorn filly stepped onto stage, Luna’s breath caught in her throat. As many had stated before, Sweetie Belle was definitely related to Rarity. Her hair had been tied into a neat bun, and she wore a flowing silver and purple gown that twinkled gently in the stage light. A diamond necklace hung around her neck, no doubt from Rarity’s personal jewelry collection. She gave Luna a nervous yet excited smile before looking to the audience. She faltered for a moment as she took in the vast number of ponies and griffons sitting in the dark of the night, but it was barely noticeable to any offstage. Luna placed a gentle wing on her shoulder, and Sweetie Belle nodded. Luna’s horn gave off a faint glow before Sweetie Belle’s voice was too amplified.

        “Hello, everyone! My name is Sweetie Belle, and I wanted to say a little something about this piece I composed. First of all, the Canterlot Symphonic Orchestra had less than a week to practice this, and I had to make sure Princess Luna was never around to hear it.” A few chuckles could be heard from the crowd as she continued. “This piece was inspired by the night, and how beautiful it can be. This song is dedicated to two very special ponies in my life: my big sister, Princess Rarity, and my amazing teacher, Princess Luna. Together, they bring out the best in the night.” She paused for a moment to look to Luna, whose eyes held the faintest hint of surprise in them. “This song is called ‘Dearest Nocturne’. Thank you.”

        A brief applause was given as Sweetie Belle walked to the center of the stage. Luna stepped off to the side of the stage, walking out of the lighting to enjoy the song while keeping out of sight of the audience. To her surprise, Fleur walked onto the stage, giving Sweetie Belle a friendly nod before bowing to the audience and lifting the baton.

        “Fleur was in on this little secret, too?” Luna smiled. Sweetie Belle really had pulled out all the stops, it seemed.

        Fleur waited until the filly was ready. Sweetie Belle’s horn glowed with a soft light before she took a deep breath. The faint glow could be seen on the piano keys and pedals on the bottom as well. At the same time, Fleur readied the orchestra to play. Sweetie Belle and the strings of orchestra began to play, the sound haunting and lovely as she had expected.

        Then Sweetie Belle sang...

        The filly’s voice seemed to naturally amplify itself. Her magic was not only playing the piano, but it was naturally strengthening the volume of Sweetie Belle’s voice. She wasn’t even trying to focus! Luna would have been so proud to see this if it wasn’t for the fact that she was so enraptured by the music.

        Sweetie Belle continued, her voice rising and falling with the hum of the strings and the soft notes of the woodwinds and brass. Fleur maintained the rhythm as the filly began to walk forward to the edge of the stage, her motions flowing with the music.

        By the time the final note was sung by the filly and orchestra, the audience was silent. Sweetie Belle had the thinnest sheen of sweat on her brow, and was starting to look nervous.

        Then, a few clops of hooves hitting the floor were heard. Then more. Soon, the air itself shook with applause, louder and more emotional than anytime previous. There were several cheers and whistles as Sweetie Belle’s took in shaky breaths, smiling and shedding tears of what Luna could only assume were joy.

        Walking onto stage, Luna embraced the filly as Sweetie Belle tried to wipe away some tears. A soft pop of magic was heard, and Rarity was soon standing beside the two. Sweetie Belle practically galloped to her sister’s embrace, the two laughed while shedding quiet tears. Fleur quietly walked up beside Luna and watched the sight.

        The unicorn mare smiled at the two sisters. “It’s really beautiful, isn’t it?”

        Luna could only nod in agreement.


        A short half hour intermission was announced by Luna before the curtains closed. Luna immediately trotted towards Sweetie Belle, who was still shaky with emotion as Rarity held her under her wing. The Princess of the Night was even more thrilled when she saw their mother had managed to make it backstage, despite being in a wheelchair. Luna waited for the daughters to share a few moments with their mother before she made eye contact with Sweetie Belle. The filly was flushed in the face and smiling from ear to ear.

        “D-did you like it, Princess Luna?”

        Luna chuckled before finding her tears had managed to return. “Sweetie Belle...I...” She nodded. “In all my years of music...in all the eons of I’ve listened to numerous talented composers and musicians present me with their work...that was by far, one of the most moving pieces I’ve heard.”

        Sweetie Belle’s jaw went a little slack. “Y-you really liked it?”

        Luna nodded before walking over to Sweetie Belle and hugging her once more. “I daresay it will be a song they will be singing for ages to come. Sweetie Belle, you do me and Rarity too much honor with such a dedication, but...thank you. I loved it.”

        Sweetie Belle was just happy to see her other half of the dedication was just as happy as her sister. She looked up to the dark alicorn and laughed a little. “Were you crying, too?”

        “Yes...I guess I was.” Luna wiped her eyes. “I didn’t really notice, either, oddly enough.”

        Then, Rarity’s mother spoke up. “Sweetie Belle...come here for a moment.”

        Sweetie Belle quirked an eyebrow before walking to her mother. Her mother instructed her to spin around once before smiling. She whispered something into her filly’s ears, and the filly suddenly took off towards a mirror behind a dress curtain.

        Seconds later, a shrill, girlish squeal of delight was heard.


        The intermission passed rather quickly for the performers, and soon Luna was back on stage conducting once more. Along with the orchestra this time was an electric guitar and bass, a drum set, and pretty much everything a rock band would need to perform.

        Luna had been quite excited when a group of the Royal Guards had asked for a spot in the concert. The lead singer and drummer of the band, Vice-captain High Road, was an earth pony mare who had served Canterlot Castle for over ten years. Along with being a staunch supporter of the rock music movement in Equestria, she also had a voice that few could stand in comparison with (except for Sweetie Belle and Sapphire Shores, though that was hardly fair).

        The combination of rock and orchestra was...lovely. Luna always kept an open mind with music, but she had been a little doubtful at first. However, after first hearing High Road’s tune ‘Embrace the Night’, she had been sold.

        Judging from the applause, so was the audience.

        It was going onto midnight now, and the last of the bands had finished. It was time for the final number. Luna only hoped it would be as grand as she pictured it would be.

        Seeing that the audience was watching her expectantly, she stepped forward and gave a low nod. “For this final performance tonight, we shall be performing a symphony written and completed over one hundred and fifty years ago. While not a piece directly associated with the night, I do believe that this piece shall reach out to many of you. Hopefully it will touch your hearts the way it has touched mine. I present to you, for our finale, Beethoofen’s ‘Ninth Symphony-Ode to Joy.’”

        The audience gave a short applause before Luna raised her baton. She looked over all the eyes that were upon her, and smiled. She didn’t say it, but she was pretty sure they were all excited for this piece.

        The orchestra began playing, and less than a minute into the piece, a stallion’s voice broke out into song over the music. Luna’s eyes closed as Stalwart’s low vocals entwined with the flutes and strings.

Several seconds later and the Royal Canterlot Choir broke into song along with Stalwart as the rest of the orchestra began to play again.

        Even as she conducted, Luna’s head began to move with the music, her front hooves moving with the rhythm of Beethoofen’s great work.

        The chorus went quiet, only for Stalwart to sing once more, this time joined by Fleur, Fancy Pants, and Sweetie Belle. Luna’s eyes remained closed, conducting by pure instinct and her affinity to music.

        Yes, she was glad that Sweetie Belle had decided to go through with singing along with the rest of the Royal Canterlot Choir. The way her young voice melded with the older stallions’ and mares’ voices was simply divine.

Several minutes later and the piece was reaching its end. Luna’s mane was a bit disheveled from her passionate conducting of the music. The choir broke out one final time, loud, powerful, and beautifully.

Before she knew it, the song had ended. Luna paused for several long seconds, taking in slow breaths, her eyes wide and mind racing, still caught up in the moment. She smiled as looked to her orchestra. A few of the ponies gave faint smiles before Luna lowered her baton, signaling the ponies to rest. She turned around and was met by one final applause that dwarfed any previously given. She looked to the choir, then to the orchestra. She gave a nod, and at once they all bowed. Luna gave several more bows before stepping aside and waving a hoof to the orchestra, and then the choir. The applause erupted with renewed vigor, several whistles and cheers being heard over the hooves and clapping claws.

Luna was a bit surprised when Fancy Pants and Fleur, along with a few of the choir members and musicians, stepped forward and presented her with a bouquet of flowers. She laughed and wiped some tears from her eyes before nodding gratefully. Fancy Pants gestured a hoof towards her, and the cheers doubled as Luna gave a final bow.

She only wished that she could capture this moment and preserve it for all time so that others could see it the way she did. It was wonderful, and she was certain that no matter how many years passed, it would remain with her for all times as one of her happiest memories serving as the Princess of Music.


The after-party of the Winter Solstice Concert was wonderful. A few hors d’oeuvres were spread across a table, and an assortment of drinks were presented in fine glassware. It was reserved for the orchestra, choir, and performers who had participated in the concert, along with a select few who were invited.

“Honestly, I’m surprised I did that well with the singing. I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I was able to sing for such a long duration,” Fancy Pants stated with a laugh from the small group of ponies standing beside him. “Not to mention this young chap managed to outshine me in his knowledge of the Germane language. Well done, Stalwart.”

“You do me too much honor, Fancy Pants...High Road, seriously, you sure don’t want to sit down somewhere?”

“Hehe, nope. I’m quite fine right-hic-here.”

“Ugh, just be glad you’re not on duty right now.” Stalwart sighed.

Luna smiled behind a glass of dark red wine as Stalwart tried to hide a rising redness to his cheeks. It may have been the glass of brandy he was lightly sipping. Though, it could have also been the fact that a more-than-a-little clingy vice-Captain High Road was leaning on his side. From what she heard from Celestia, High Road enjoyed parties, but suffered from the unfortunate combination of also being a bit of a lightweight when it came to alcoholic beverages.

“Princess Luna!”

Luna looked down to her feet to see the smiling face of Sweetie Belle. Beside her were two other fillies that she had come to know a little better over the past few months. “Ah, if it isn’t my favorite group of Cutie Mark Crusaders.” She set down her wine on the table next to her and smiled. “I would say that you three should be in bed. Considering the solstice takes place after school has been let out for break though, I’ll let it slide.”

Scootaloo gave a little smile. “We’re not that tired, Princess.”

Luna chuckled. “Did you three enjoy the concert?”

“It was really nice, Princess! Applejack said that it was even better than the ones she went to see back when she visited Manehatten with Aunt an’ Uncle Orange,” Apple Bloom replied. “My favorite song was Sweetie Belle’s.”

“Yeah, me too!” Scootaloo agreed, wrapping a hoof around said unicorn filly. “You should have heard her singing this lullaby once! Fluttershy thought it was a little too loud, but we thought it was pretty good.”

“I see. It must have been lovely,” Luna noticed that Sweetie Belle appeared to be less than thrilled with this divulging of information..

“Oh, Princess Luna! Look what Sweetie Belle showed us!” Apple Bloom nudged Sweetie Belle, who just rolled her eyes while blushing.

“Apple Bloom, she already saw it. Remember, I told you that I showed her, Mom, and Rarity first?”

“Well, show it again! It’s really cool!” Scootaloo piped in, and Sweetie Belle found herself unable to argue.

The filly pulled away part of her gown to reveal a cutie mark. Luna feigned surprise as she looked to see a single eighth note enclosed in a pink heart. Luna speculated it was discovered the moment Sweetie Belle felt joy at the ability to make others feel moved by her music. Rarity was a bit surprised that she hadn’t found it sooner.

“Yeah, and now that she’s got her cutie mark, we’re going to work even harder to find ours,” Apple Bloom stated with determination. “She knows what it felt like to get hers, so she can help us, too.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll do fine. In fact, if I remember correctly, a certain two fillies are going to be spending Hearth’s Warming Eve and winter break in our castle...”

Apple Bloom let out a gasp. “Oh mah gosh! Girls, d’you think that...that maybe we could try and become Royal Guard ponies?”

Luna suppressed a giggle as Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo exchanged looks of surprise before smiling. “CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS ROYAL GUARD PONIES! YAY!”

Several guards and party-goers looked towards the shouting while a vice-Captain shouted in approval. “Yeah! You tell-hic-them, girls!”

The three fillies galloped off to only the heavens knows where, likely intending to try and discover a talent involving patrol work of the castle.

“Oh my...are those three at it again?”

Fluttershy walked up beside Luna, a sarsaparilla floating in her magic. She raised it to the wine glass that Luna had picked up once more, and smiled. “Um...to a concert well done.”

“Cheers,” Luna said.

The quiet ping of glass was heard before the two took sips from their respective drinks. Luna noticed the light tinge of blush on Fluttershy’s cheeks. It would seem Fluttershy had taken from the mixed sarsaparilla.

“Oh Luna...you were so wonderful at that concert. I mean...you’re always wonderful when you play music, but...well, that was especially lovely. Oh, and Sweetie Belle, she’s such a dear. I’m sure Rarity and her mother are so proud of her. You know she got her cutie mark. She was so happy. I hope little Apple Bloom and Scootaloo aren’t too jealous though, they’re such good friends. Do you think I should go talk to them and-”

Luna placed a gentle hoof over Fluttershy’s lips. “I think they’ll be alright.” She chuckled as Fluttershy blinked, her cheeks darkening further, and this time it wasn’t from the alcohol. She was a little surprised with Fluttershy. Apparently mixed sarsaparilla was the beverage needed to turn her into a chatterbox (albeit a quiet, still somewhat timid one).

“Oh really? Well, that’s good.” Fluttershy’s eyes stared into Luna’s for several moments before she giggled. “Luna, I’m so proud of you. You were so nervous, but look at how things went.”

Luna flushed a little from the compliment of her marefriend. “Thank you, Fluttershy. I do remember a certain pony reassuring me before the concert, though.”

“Um, well, yes, but...you were the one who did the conducting.”

The two were quiet for a few moments, enjoying the comfort of each other’s company among the crowd of ponies gathered.

“Wooo! That was some concert, huh?”

Fluttershy nearly dropped her glass as a bubbly pink alicorn bounced up to her and wrapped her hooves around her neck in a hug. “Heya, Fluttershy, Luna!”

Luna felt her smile widen with the newcomer’s presence. “Good evening, Pinkie Pie. I trust you enjoyed the concert?”

“Oh, you betcha! I even got Sweetie Belle to autograph my concert pamphlet with the list of songs performed tonight! See?” She held up the paper with her teeth, and sure enough, there was the rough cursive of Sweetie Belle next to her printed name on the paper.

“Wow, Pinkie, do you really think it’ll be worth something someday?” Fluttershy asked as she looked at the paper.

“Maybe, but I just wanted Sweetie Belle to sign an autograph. She was so happy when I asked her to,” Pinkie giggled. “She said she wasn’t famous enough to do that, but I told her that was silly to say, and that she’s a super-awesome singer and that I wanted her to sign it anyway.”

“That was very nice of you, Pinkie Pie,” Fluttershy said as she took another sip of her drink. “I wonder what the other girls will get for cutie marks.”

“Who knows, but I bet they’ll be awesome!” Pinkie Pie beamed. “Well, I’m going to go over to the chocolate fondue fountain! Later! Twilight said that cheese in chocolate doesn’t sound good, but then again, she also said hot sauce is gross, and that’s just silly. Later!” With that, Pinkie bounced off.

“Looks like Pinkie’s having a good time,” Fluttershy commented, laughing a little as she shook her head. “She’s so random sometimes.”

Luna couldn’t help but agree with the yellow alicorn. Her gaze eventually returned to Fluttershy, and she found herself smirking as she watched Fluttershy’s eyes drooping a little. “I think you should retire for the night.”

“H-huh?” Fluttershy blinked several times before smiling. “I’ll be alright, Luna. I’m just...” She let out a yawn, then pouted as Luna gave her a look of triumph. “I...guess maybe I should go lie down for the night.”

“I’ll help you back to the room if you want.”

Fluttershy found herself consenting to Luna’s offer. Soon the Princess of Nature found herself leaning slightly on Luna’s side as the two made their way towards the much quieter corridors leading toward the princesses’ personal chambers.

“Luna?”

“Yes?”

“Um...thanks for...helping me. I think I may have had a little much.”

There’s no shame in enjoying yourself at a party, Fluttershy. Besides, I don’t mind helping you at all.” Luna spoke softly, afraid to disrupt the comfortable silence of the hall.

Fluttershy let out a content sigh, enjoying the warmth of the mare beside her as she struggled to stay awake. When they finally reached Luna’s room, Fluttershy had to be guided towards the bed. Luna helped her under the covers and made sure she was comfortable before dimming the lights of her room.

“Um, Luna...there’s one more thing I need before you go.”

Luna paused, turning to Fluttershy. The yellow mare waved a hoof, beckoning her to come close to her. As soon as she was by the bedside, Fluttershy sat up and gave her a light peck on the cheek.

“Good night.”

Luna blushed lightly before smiling happily. “Good night, Fluttershy. I’ll probably be joining you in another hour or so.”

Fluttershy snuggled into her pillow, smiling cutely as she hummed contently. “Okay. Don’t stay up too late.”

Rolling her eyes, Luna chuckled. “Yes, yes, I won’t.”

As she quietly trotted out of the room, Luna couldn’t help but think of her current relationship with Fluttershy. She could get used to this.

“I wonder if this is what Celly feels like with Twilight...” she thought to herself. She certainly hoped so.


        “Luna...”

        Luna frowned, her ears trying to locate a voice that was hauntingly familiar to her. Who could it be, though? Few struck such a sense of feeling in her. She had been gone for several centuries, after all.

        “You hurt me, Luna. After all the fun times you, Celestia, and I shared, you can’t even remember me?”

        A cold sensation settled in her chest. No. Not him.

        “Ah, so you do remember me. Why are you so alarmed, Luna? What could you possibly fear from silly, old me?”

        Luna glared into the darkness surrounding her thoughts. “I have plenty of reason to not want your company. Where would you like me to start?”

        An eruption of laughter filled her mind. “Oh, I always enjoyed your witty comebacks more than Celestia. Your tantrums when you were young were second to none. Though, your sister was much more pleasant company in my opinion...”

        If Luna were her sister, she would have exploded with the heat of a burning inferno. Instead, she settled for glowing eyes and a sudden drop in temperature that would dwarf the coldest peaks all of Equestria. “You dare speak of my sister that way...”

        More laughter. “Oh relax, Luna. I was merely jesting. We were hardly close as she is with that new little filly of hers...Twilight Sparkle, am I right?”

        “Hold your tongue!” Luna roared, the darkness around her trembling at the use of her Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice.

        “Hahaha, dear me, what a temper you have today!”  The laughter surrounded her, as though it was coming from all directions. “So help me if I ever came near Fluttershy...”

        Now, Luna may be younger than Celestia, but she could bear most insults and taunts fairly well. Sure, the jab at Twilight Sparkle and her sister had set her on edge, but she was capable of keeping a cool head.

        Speaking in such a way about Fluttershy, however, was a little different.

        “Does thou wish to face our wrath, Discord?! Know that we will not show the same degree of mercy that Celestia would, thou wretch! How dare you?! How DARE you threaten our friends and those we care for?! Thou sickens us with the perverse pleasure taken by causing suffering and misery to others!” Blood pumped through her head as she continued. “Heed our warning, Discord. Should you lay a single finger on one of them with malign intent, we shall deal with you like the monster you truly are. Becoming stone will be a mere annoyance compared to what we will do!”

        There was a few moments of silence, and she thought that perhaps she had cowed the unruly spirit into silence.

        Alas, it was but for a few moments.

        “So I was true about you...the line between you and the twisted form you took all those ages back is but a thin one.” More laughter. “I wonder...what would Fluttershy think of you if she saw how you were acting right now?”

        Luna had no response. Discord must have suspected as much, for he merely laughed harder, his voice slowly fading into the void. Luna found herself shaken by his last words. What would she think?


        Luna’s eyes opened to the darkness of the room. The faintest rays of light shined through the gaps in her thick curtains, and her internal clock told her it was still early morning.

        Her breathing was fast, and she noticed moisture in the corner of her eyes.

        She went silent when a warm body shifted a bit, letting out the quietest of sighs. Luna sucked in a breath, hoping she didn’t awaken her. To her relief, Fluttershy nuzzled further into her pillow, unconsciously wrapping a foreleg around Luna’s side.

        Luna accepted the foreleg, and gently nuzzled the crook of Fluttershy’s neck. Troubled thoughts flooded her mind now, but she warmth of her beloved marefriend managed to settle her down a bit.

        Luna would tell Celestia of the conversation she had with the draconequus. Celestia had done the same a little while after her own encounter with Discord. Focusing her magic, she sent out a telepathic wave of magic to the statue holding Discord in place. It hadn’t changed at all since she last inspected it. It was unsettling.

        A little murmur was heard from the mare beside her. Luna watched as two groggy eyes opened, followed by a sleepy smile from Fluttershy. “Oh...good...” Flutteshy blearily looked to the glowing clock on Luna’s wall. “...morning.” She nuzzled the midnight alicorn gently.

        The nuzzle was returned with only a half-hearted enthusiasm. Fluttershy immediately noticed, and frowned. “Luna...are you alright?”

        “I...” Luna glanced to the side, unable to meet the gentle alicorn’s gaze. Discord’s words echoed in her mind. “...no, Fluttershy, I had a bad dream. It...was really upsetting.”

        “Oh dear...do you want to talk about it?”

        Luna shook her head.

        “Well, don’t you worry.” Fluttershy wrapped both hooves around the dark mare, trying her best to comfort her. “I’m here. You’re safe.”

        Luna sniffled a little. The tears returned, and she blinked as a few ran down her cheeks. “Fluttershy...?”

        “O-oh, Luna...!” Fluttershy gasped a little, pushing back to get a look at the distraught mare. “Luna, what-?”

        “Do...do you think I’m a bad pony?”

        “I would never-”

        “I-I know Celly says she forgives me, and I know Nightmare Moon is gone, but sometimes I feel like I’m still-”

        “Luna,” Fluttershy’s arms held Luna so that she was looking directly into her eyes. “I never want you to talk like that, alright? You are a wonderful pony. Equestria is lucky to have had you and Celestia ruling it for as long as you two have. You may have done some things as Nightmare Moon that most ponies would never dream of doing, but you aren’t like most ponies. Neither am I, anymore.” A warmth spread across Luna’s cheeks as Fluttershy pressed her muzzle against Luna’s affectionately. “You’re the first pony I’ve felt feelings like this for. You make me happy in ways I never have experienced before. Now, you tell me...would a bad pony be able to do that?”

        A gentle hoof brushed across Luna’s tear stained cheeks. Fluttershy’s eyes softened as Luna managed to smile.

        “Thank you, Fluttershy.”

        “No need to thank me, Luna.” Fluttershy slowly got up. “Now, come on. Scootaloo and the Apples are going to be here soon for Hearth’s Warming.”

        Luna felt herself perk up at the thought of having guests over for the holidays. “That’s right. I’m sure Sweetie Belle’s excited.”

        Fluttershy giggled as she began to comb her mane. “I’m sure she is...I just hope they won’t be too loud when they arrive.”

        Luna quirked an eyebrow.

        The yellow mare rubbed her temple with a hoof. “I think I may have had a little too much of that mixed sarsaparilla...my head hurts a little.”

        “It’s been a while since I’ve awoken to...a hangover...yes? I’m still learning some of the new terminology.” She got out of bed, and was soon standing before her own mirror, using her horn to give some lighting to see. “Though, I can see that the effects of too much drink are still the same as they were one thousand years ago.” She chuckled as she ran the brush through her mane.

        An hour and some herbal pain relief supplements for Fluttershy’s hangover later, the two princesses were standing in the Greeting Hall with Applejack, Sweetie Belle, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash.

        “Where’s Twilight and Celestia, and Pinkie Pie?”

        Applejack and Rainbow chuckled. Rarity rolled her eyes at the two. “Oh, would you both grow up?” Rarity turned to Fluttershy before sighing. “It appears that we managed to discover Celestia’s limit with mead last night. She claimed that it had been more than fifty years since she touched the stuff, and decided to indulge herself a little too much. Poor Twilight’s been tending to her since early this morning, and she herself is suffering from a not so pleasant hangover as well. The only difference being that Twilight can stand on her own four hooves and hold her stomach.”

        “What of Pinkie Pie?” Luna inquired.

        “She said somethin’ ‘bout throwin’ a little holiday breakfast party for the guards and staff who are stayin’ here for the holidays.”

        “Oh, a breakfast party?”

        “Yep. Since they ain’t with their families for meals an’ such, she made a little proclamation that the castle staff an’ guards are required to ‘have fun, but not too much fun that you can’ do yer jobs, an’ be sure to attend the big Hearth’s Warmin’ Eve Dinner, because it’s gonna be really yummy’. Somethin’ ‘round those lines. Anyway, she’s makin’ a huge brunch for everyone when they get here.”

        Their conversation was cut off by a guard clearing his throat. “Your Highnesses, our guests have arrived.”

        A second later two fillies came galloping into the hall, causing the guard to back up a bit in mild alarm.

        “Sis!! That Captain Azure Skye says we can help the guards with patrollin’! Can we, can we please?”

        “Yeah, we promise not to break anything!”

        Braeburn and Macintosh walked into the hall, hauling a few bags of luggage over their backs while their entourage of guards followed behind. The large red stallion shook his head. “Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, I thought we agreed not t’bother them with that until after we got settled in.”

        Rainbow Dash chuckled. “I think we can arrange a little patrol route for you three girls.” Dash looked over her shoulder to the pegasus walking into the hall. “Captain Lily Wing, would you be willing to help train some new recruits?”

        Lily Wing blinked several times as the three fillies gave her a hopeful look.

        “Perhaps I can help them?” Everyone turned to Luna, who smiled happily to the three fillies. “I’m familiar with some of the basic patrols around the halls and garden. We can even give you three Royal Guard attire to wear.”

        Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom all let out squeals of joy, followed by a rapid fire of thank you’s from the trio.

        “Alrigh’ now, simmer down you three. We gotta get to our rooms and grab some brunch, first,” Braeburn piped up, and the three slowly quieted down, still smiling like it was going out of style.

        Eventually the Apples and Scootaloo were shown to their respective rooms by some of the staff staying at the castle for the holidays as well. Luna found her smile growing as she watched the group Cutie Mark Crusaders galloping down the hall, excited about being in Canterlot castle and being able to serve as Royal Guards for a day.

        “That was sweet of you, Luna. I think if you keep it up you’ll end up becoming their favorite,” Fluttershy joked. “Looks like the rest of us will have some competition on our hooves.”

        Luna chuckled. Spending the holidays with her friends, family, and those close to her filled her with joy. Even with the thoughts of Discord rolling around in the back of her mind, she couldn’t suppress the happiness she was feeling.

        For now, she would continue to monitor the statue garden with her magic. She couldn’t do much more than that. Tampering with the prison of stone that held Discord was risky, after all. Stressing would only allow him to get the better of her later.

        She also remember Celestia mentioning that the emotions and love felt and given by ponies throughout the holidays tended to help stave off any malign forces at work. It was, according to her sister, part of the ancient and powerful magic of friendship.

        “Luna, come on. Let’s go get some breakfast,” Fluttershy called to her.

        “Right, I’m coming,” Luna replied, finding a sudden spring to her step.

        It was, for the most part, a rather splendid start to her first Hearth’s Warming Eve with her sister and new extended family. She just hoped it would continue to follow the current trend without any problems.


End of Chapter 5- Luna chapter 1

A/N: Woo, Luna chapter is complete! Well, the first of what may be several, at least. It was a little hard to do this chapter in certain sections, seeing as Luna appeared in only one episode with more than two lines of dialogue. Eh, she’s still adorable either way. Hope all of you enjoyed this chapter. I tried to make it as happy as possible while touching on a few plot points (which always seem to be rather dreary/saddening, I noticed). Next up is the Hearth’s Warming Eve chapter! Woo!

Also, to those of you who are either interested/confused on who the OC Royal Guard ponies are, I compiled a basic list giving some tidbits on the guards mentioned thus far. Here’s the link:

"Duties" Guard Pony mini-biography list

Next up: A filly who strives to be strong and do whatever it takes to prove she’s worthy of being a Cutie Mark Crusader. That’s one way of describing Scootaloo. Despite the recent loss of her parents, she has tried to hide the pain from those around her. Will the loving words and actions of her friends and adoptive family allow her to open up once more? Hearth’s Warming Eve may prove to be the perfect opportunity to attempt and see.

Previous Chapter: Chapter Four-Rainbow Dash 1

Next Chapter: Chapter Six- Scootaloo 1


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Scootaloo: On the Winds of Change

        “Report, Private.”

        “Sir, the castle is secure. Nothing suspicious found on patrol route.”

        “Good. How is Princess Luna?”

        “Unharmed. She’s still safe, and we haven’t seen any signs of the rogue, princess-snatching dragon, Sinister Spike.”

        Scootaloo adjusted her cardboard helmet while grinning at her two subordinates, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. “Well done. Make sure the princess remains safe until we get her back to the castle.”

        “Sir, yes sir!” the two fillies replied with a salute.

        Luna grinned as she watched the fillies adjusting their blue Royal Guard winter cloaks. “Thank you for keeping me safe, Captain Scootaloo. You and your team are doing a most splen-”

        “Raaaaaawr!”

        Scootaloo whipped around, drawing a toy sword from her hilt while Sweetie Belle drew a toy bow with suction cup arrows. Apple Bloom took unstrapped a cardboard shield from her back and stood in front of Luna.

        “It’s Sinister Spike!” Sweetie Belle cried out. “He’s here for the princess!”

        “Cutie Mark Crusader Royal Guards! Forward! Get that princess-snatcher before he captures Princess Luna!”

        Spike laughed as sinisterly as possible while letting out what he hoped was a scary hiss. “Princess Luna, I am here to take you to my lair! You cannot escape!”

        Luna raised a hoof to her forehead in mock worry. “Dearest me, how terrifying!”

        “Don’t ‘orry, Pri’cess, ‘e’ll p’otect ‘ou!” Scootaloo shouted as she bit down on the sword with her teeth. “Al’righ’ team, ch’rrge!”

        The three fillies galloped towards the baby dragon as he blew a few embers of green into the air before growling and running towards them. Scootaloo managed to smack him in the tail with her sword while a suction cup arrow struck him in the stomach. He ran towards Sweetie Belle, but Apple Bloom cut him off by bumping him with her shield. He fell onto his back in a mild daze.

        “Haha! You’ finish’d, drag’n!” Scootaloo held her sword at his snout, and he raised his claws in defeat.

        “Grrr...curse you, Royal Guards.”

        The sound of hooves clopping together was heard as Princess Luna applauded the four. “Well done, guards. Now, I suppose we should take this mean little dragon to Princess Twilight’s dungeon so he can get to work on his studies.”

        Spike sat up and pouted. The three fillies followed suit. “Awww, but Princess Luna!”

        Luna raised a hoof, cutting off further argument. “Now, now, Spike must not shirk his reading. I promised Twilight I’d make sure he got to his studies by two, and it’s almost time.” She walked over to the four children and gave an apologetic smile. “I promise I’ll tell you and the girls here about the first time I met an Ursa Major if you do.”

        Spike’s eyes widened before he got to his feet. “Alright, but you got to promise to tell me that story!”

        “I promise,” Luna smiled.

        With that, Spike waved to the fillies and took off towards the library.

        “Now what do we do?” Apple Bloom sighed. “We can’t protect Princess Luna from dragons if they ain’t attackin’ her.”

        “Maybe we can see what Rainbow Dash is up to,” Scootaloo suggested. “She said she wanted to show us what she does, right? I bet she’s got loads of cool magic spells that she does with the weather! Maybe she can even teach me how to-”

        “Actually, I think she’s napping right now,” Sweetie Belle interrupted. “She’s usually covering the later shifts, and she’ll probably be asleep until three.”

        Scootaloo’s wings drooped at this revelation. “Darn.”

        “Maybe Applejack can show us some stuff! I mean...she’s doin’ court duties right now, but she said it won’t be that busy with the holidays and what not.” Apple Bloom grinned. “That, an’ Princess Celestia’s supposed to be workin’ court in a little while, right?” The earth pony filly turned to Princess Luna.

        Luna laughed a little at the thought of her sister. “I believe so, but she’ll probably be rather...tired. She enjoyed the festivities a little too much last night after the concert.”

        “Miss Derpy told me that a lot of the adults were hanging over this morning...” Scootaloo frowned in thought. “What are they hanging from?”

        “They ain’t haning over anything, Scootaloo. Braeburn said it’s called a ‘hangover’. It’s a thing that adults get when they don’ know their limit.”

        Sweetie Belle shook her head. “No, Rarity told me it means a pony was having too much fun last night.”

        “Huh? That don’t make sense at all. Why do only adults get it, then? We had lots of fun last night, an’ I don’t feel weird at all!” Apple Bloom shook her head before looking to Luna. “Princess Luna, adults are weird.”

        “Indeed, they are,” Luna agreed with a small chuckle.

        Scootaloo walked up to the midnight alicorn, an inquisitive look on her face. “So, what is a hangover?”

        Scootaloo noticed a myriad of emotions flicker across Luna’s face before she went quiet, thinking deeply about the question. “Well, Scootaloo...erm...you know that sometimes adults will have...stronger beverages.”

        “Like prune juice?” the pegasus filly inquired.

        “Ah, no...have you girls ever heard of mead?”

        Scootaloo and her friends all remained silent.

        “It’s...a type of drink made from the honey of bees and-”

        “Honey? Wow, that sounds good! We should have some!”

        “No!” Luna shouted, before smiling apologetically to the three alarmed fillies. “Heheh...ahem...no, it’s...an adult drink.”

        “You mean like wine?” Scootaloo asked.

        Luna’s eyes lit up. “Yes! Yes, it’s an alcohol! Well...anyway, when an adult drinks too much of a drink like that...they may get a headache, and a very, very bad stomachache.”

        Sweetie Belle cocked her head to the side. “So...it’s like a really bad sickness?”

        “Precisely,” Luna smiled. “You see, alcohol has...impurities, and those impurities cause ponies to become dehydrated over time. Dehydration leads to sickness.” She gave the trio a small smile. “It’s just how the body reacts to it. You three will learn when you’re older.”

        The three went quiet once more, this time looks of confusion on their face. “Why do adults do that if they’ll get sick, then?”

        “From drinking in excess,” Luna explained.

        Scootaloo was once again frowning. “Adults are weird...”

        “Well, I don’t know about you girls, but I ain’t never gettin’ one of them hangovers. They sound downright awful!”

        Luna chuckled, but said nothing further.

        “C’mon! I bet if we get to the throne room now, we’ll be able to see Rainbow Dash when she arrives!” Scootaloo urged. Her three friends consented, and galloped off, Luna trotting at their heels.


        The girls were still a little unclear about what hangovers were, but Applejack had briefly explained that they were too young to be getting them anyway, so they stopped asking after that. They had occupied themselves with asking Applejack and a somewhat groggy Celestia about anything they could (in their quiet voices, as requested by Celestia). Scootaloo was starting to get impatient, wondering when Rainbow Dash would wake up.

Rainbow Dash, while she had greeted Scootaloo and Apple Bloom after they arrived, had promptly returned to bed so she could catch up on her rest. Scootaloo recalled her once calling them “power naps”. They were probably the reason why Rainbow Dash was so fast and cool, the thought to herself.

“So, um...is it true that you’re over one thousand years old?” Scootaloo inquired quietly, her eyes gazing at Celestia curiously.

Celestia opened one eye before chuckling quietly, as though Scootaloo had told a joke. “Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened in mild awe and reverence. “Wow...”

Celestia smiled a little, her hoof still massaging her temple. “Unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to learn some simple lessons about socializing at a party, it would seem.”

“Huh?”

Celestia waved a hoof. “Nothing to worry about.” Celestia sipped some water at a small table by her seat before speaking. “So, are you enjoying your time here so far, Scootaloo?”

Scootaloo nodded. “Yeah. Princess Luna even played Royal Guards with us, but we had to stop when Spike went to go study.” She tapped her hoof absentmindedly on the floor. “Hey, Princess?”

“Celestia is fine, Scootaloo.”

“Um...okay, um, Celestia, do you have any family besides Luna?”

Celestia paused for a few seconds before looking to Scootaloo with that signature soft smile of hers. “Well, I do know that my family is right here with me as I speak.”

Scootaloo blinked before looking around. “Really?”

“Yes,” Celestia nodded slowly. “I have Applejack, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and you as well.”

“Wait, you-”

Celestia’s smile seemed to brighten a little as she looked to the confused filly. “Family can be a very broad term sometimes, Scootaloo. I consider mine to encompass all of Equestria. When you’ve ruled the land as long as I have, you tend to view things in such a manner.”

Scootaloo scratched her mane with a hoof. “I...guess that makes sense.”

“Since you’re my family, I want you to know that you’re always welcome to talk to me, alright?”

“You mean like the letters that Twilight sent you back when she was in Ponyville?”

Celestia chuckled. “Or in person, if you wish.”

“Aren’t you too busy?”

“Never for family.”

Scootaloo felt the smile on her lips grow a little. “Okay...” She pawed at the floor a little before continuing. “I’m glad you’re our princess, Celestia.”

The alicorn just smiled. “I’m glad you feel that way.”

“So, I heard a couple of Cutie Mark Crusaders wanted to learn about the weather with me, huh?”

Scootaloo’s ears perked up before she spun around and began galloping to the entrance. A cyan alicorn laughed before greeting the eager filly by ruffling her mane a little. “Heya, squirt. Good to see you, too.”

“Rainbow Dash, is it true that you’re even faster now?”

“Um...well, maybe, but I haven’t really tested my new body out that much yet...”

“Miss Derpy’s been teaching me a few things, but she admitted that she’s not really a trick flier, and I want to learn every-”

Rainbow Dash placed a wing over the filly and laughed. “Easy, Scootaloo, one thing at a time, heheh. I like your attitude though.” She gave a nod to the two other members of the Cutie Mark Crusaders before smirking. “I’m going to be directing a blizzard through Equestria, and it’s going to be totally awesome! We’ll be getting almost three feet of snow from the feeling I’m getting.”

“Yeah, we just got word back from all the towns that are goin’ to be affected by it. They said they’re all prepared for the incoming weather, and have a few snow teams on stand by if things get to be really bad for ‘em.” Applejack presented Rainbow with a few papers before continuing. “Sounds like Cloudsdale’s goin’ to be caught in the snow as well, huh?”

Rainbow studied the papers before raising an eyebrow. “Huh...Fillydelphia’s getting a lot more than I expected if these weather maps are right...wait...Coltsburg” She set the papers down and walked towards the window. Her horn began to glow before she frowned. “The clouds are a lot denser than they should be...”

Scootaloo and the others watched as the clouds outside began to move, some breaking apart while others combined. Her horn began to glow bright red as she began to change the directions of a few of the larger clouds. Her horn’s glow began to fade as she opened her eyes once more. “There, that’s more like it.”

“What was wrong?” Celestia asked.

“The town of Coltsburg was going to be getting a lot more than it should have. I mean...yeah, the weather’s doing its own thing, but I don’t want to see an entire town disappear under tons of snow. They’re too small to deal with that much weather.” She made her way back to the throne as she continued. “I broke up a few of the clouds that were heading that way and divided up the chunks before dispersing them westward. They’ll hit the mountains bordering the Griffon Kingdom, and there’s no settlements out that way to worry about.”

“Wow, you did all that with just yer horn? That’s so cool, Rainbow!”

“It’s a lot harder than it looks, Apple Bloom, but thanks.” Dash gave a confident smirk before continuing. “Right, well, if you three want, we can go to the observation tower and I’ll show you a little of what I do. We may...hm, wait a sec...that...” Rainbow Dash’s face lit up before she zipped over to Applejack’s side. “AJ! I just had a killer idea!”

Applejack’s eyebrows rose before she frowned. “Does it involve flyin’ at high speeds?”

“Maybe,” Rainbow Dash grinned sheepishly before sighing. “Alright, fine, yes. A little bit. I was thinking of taking the girls for a little ride around Canterlot on my back. You know, let ‘em get a taste of what it feels like to fly.”

“I get to ride in the chariot every school day, Rainbow Dash,” Sweetie Belle said.

“Pfft, that’s not real flying. You can’t do tricks or anything like that in a chariot.” The cyan alicorn looked to Applejack pleadingly. “I swear I’ll be super careful with them! Come on, it’ll be so much fun, and I’ll work whatever time I miss during my shift later!”

Applejack sighed. “Well, I can’t speak for Rarity on Sweetie Belle’s part, but I suppose I can let you give Apple Bloom a ride. That sound like somethin’ you wanna do, Apple Bloom?”

The earth filly’s eyes widened before her face split into a grin. “Yeah!”

“Hm. Scootaloo, seein’ as we’re sorta holdin’ throne right now, I guess you can go too. Just make sure this crazy daredevil don’t crash with you three on her back.” The orange mare turned to Celestia. “What do you think?”

Celestia gave a nod. “I don’t see any harm with a little flying, so as long as you’re careful.”

Scootaloo began bouncing in place. “This is going to be awesome!”

Sweetie Belle sighed. “Rarity probably won’t let me.”

“Won’t let you what, Sweetie Belle?” came the voice of the filly’s older sister.

The unicorn filly looked up before giving a nervous smile to Rarity, who was entering the throne room. “Um...let Rainbow Dash give us a ride on her back through air above Canterlot.”

Rarity nearly tripped before regaining her footing. “Y-you mean as in...flying?”

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Typically that’s what moving through the air is called.”

Rarity chewed her lip nervously before looking to Sweetie Belle. She looked really excited, and her eyes were practically begging for the okay. Was she doing the right thing? Would it be safe?

Her gaze drifted from Sweetie Belle to Rainbow Dash, who stood before her with a confident smile, her wings stretching a bit as she looked to her. Rarity sighed before nodding. “Alright. It’s only because I know you’re a capable flier, Rainbow Dash. Please don’t go too fast.”

“I promise. I’ll avoid doing Sonic Rainbooms, and any of my really complicated tricks. Heck, I’m pretty sure we can find something to keep these three secured to me.”

A guard cleared his throat, and the princesses turned to see the unicorn stallion grinning awkwardly. “Actually, Princess Rainbow Dash, there are...saddles I guess would be the best term...available in the Flight Corps storage building. The only thing I’d be worried about is the weight of three fillies on your back at once.”

“Oh, I didn’t plan on having all three riding on my back at once. That’d be too much for a mare my size. Applejack could probably do it with no problem at slower speeds, but...not everypony is as awesome of a flier as me.”

“Or as much of a braggart...” Rarity added, earning a raspberry from the cyan mare.

After about twenty minutes, Rainbow had a saddle on and Scootaloo was strapped in tight. She was shaking a bit, but Rainbow suspected it was from the excitement.

“You ready, kiddo?”

Scootaloo nodded.

Rainbow spread her large wings and began a gallop. They passed by Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, who waved as the Princess of Weather and Water picked up speed. She kicked off the ground before flapping. The sudden speed caused Scootaloo to rock back a little, but she held her hooves around the alicorn’s shoulders near the neck.

“O-oh...wow...”

Rainbow laughed, enjoying the filly’s reaction. “Pretty neat, huh?”

Scootaloo was unable to form words at the moment, to mesmerized by the view of Canterlot

“You know...” She banked a little to the right, dropping a bit as Scootaloo giggled in delight. “...I can help teach you how to fly. I can teach you all sorts of things...if you want to learn, that is. I’m not the best teacher, but...well, I think you’d be a great flier, Scootaloo.”

Scootaloo’s ears perked up. That’s right...the letter Rainbow Dash had sent her. She had mixed feelings about it, most of them were good though. There was just one thing that tugged at Scootaloo’s chest that bothered her. “Would...would I have to leave Ponyville?”

“Not permanently. I mean, you could probably travel here after school with Sweetie Belle a couple times a week...or everyday...or weekends. It’s up to you, I promise!”

Scootaloo’s ears flattened a bit as she looked down. This was a really cool offer, a once in a lifetime opportunity! Yet...

“I can’t fly at all, though. I can only hover a bit, and my wings get tired really quickly.” She slumped a bit. “I’m probably nowhere near as good as you were when you were little.”

“Well, I was already flying by your age, yes. Still, not everyone starts off the same, Scootaloo. You know, you’re a lot better at plenty of stuff than I was when I was your age.”

“Really?” Scootaloo found herself looking up in surprise. She was better at stuff than Rainbow Dash? The coolest flier in all of Equestria? How? What?

“Oh yeah. Whenever I saw you riding around on that scooter of yours in Ponyville, I would wonder why I never picked up on anything like that when I was young. You’re also good at dancing from what I’ve been told.”

The filly’s eyes widened. “...what?”

“Oh crud, I wasn’t supposed to say that.”

“Who told you that?” Scootaloo’s voice was filled with embarrassment. “It must have been Sweetie Belle! Darn it, she was such a blabber mouth sometimes! She said she wouldn’t tell anyone either!”

“First of all, there’s nothing wrong with dancing. Ballet isn’t my thing, but so what? I had some friends who danced back in Cloudsdale that could stand on the tips of their hooves without even trying, and they could lift and carry a pony without breaking a sweat while dancing.” She steadied herself and began to glide on an updraft before looking over her shoulder. “Scootaloo, I...I really would like you to be my student in flight.”

“Why me, though? I’m sure there are better colts or fillies who can fly way better than I can.” Scootaloo didn’t know why she was asking such things. She should be jumping all over the offer, right now!

“Maybe,” Rainbow began. “Though I doubt any of them have the same kind of adventurous spirit you’ve got.”

“So...if I started...learning under you...would I still be able to stay with Miss Derpy Hooves and Dinky?”

Rainbow smiled. “If you want to, absolutely.”

Scootaloo smiled. “Miss Derpy’s really nice. She makes Dinky and I the best muffins for breakfast, and she visits me during school at recess when she’s delivering mail.” The filly’s voice became quiet. Celestia’s words rang through her mind. “She’s...not my...mom, but...I think what Princess Celestia said is right. Dinky and her are sort of...family...”

Rainbow looked ahead to gain her bearings and change course a bit. “Derpy can be a little clumsy sometimes, but she’s a great pony.”

“Hey...Rainbow Dash?”

“Hm?”

“I...I think I want you to teach me.”

“You sure? This is your decision. I don’t want to make you feel like you have to do it.”

The filly gave a small smile before nodding, even if Rainbow couldn’t see it. “Yeah. I...I think it would be cool to learn under the most awesome princess in Equestria.”

“Hm. Guess I’ll have to let the others know that I’m your favorite, huh?”

“Um,” Scootaloo suddenly got nervous. “I don’t want Celestia or the others to think I don’t like them, but-”

“Hahaha, chill, Scootaloo, I’m just pulling your leg a little.” Rainbow veered a little to the left before looking over her shoulder. “So...you ready to dive?”

Scootaloo’s face paled a little. “D-dive?”

Rainbow grinned. “This will be fun, I promise!”

“W-wait, Rainbow Dash, I think I need a little-waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...”


Scootaloo giggled as she watched Rainbow Dash spiral downward like a corkscrew with Apple Bloom screaming in a mixture of sheer terror and unbridled fun. The filly found herself bouncing in place a little as stood beside Sweetie Belle, who had yet to take her turn on Rainbow’s back.

“I-is it..scary?”

Scootaloo grinned. “At first, but there’s nothing else like it! Trust me, you’ll love it, Sweetie Belle. It’s nothing like the carriage we took to get here.”

Sweetie Belle gulped deeply as she and Scootaloo watched Rainbow do several flips in mid-air before abruptly stopping and making a beeline for the garden where they were watching. She skidded to a halt while a green-faced Apple Bloom clumsily galloped to a bush before promptly tossing her cookies.

“Heheh...looks like she couldn’t handle the loop-de-loops like you, Scoot. I’ll have to watch you three better while flying next time.” She looked back to the little filly. “Apple Bloom, you alright?”

Apple Bloom groaned before nodding slowly. “I...I think I’ll be alrigh’...just...woozy...unngh.”

“Sorry about that, kid. I guess I didn’t take the possibility of you getting dizzy while flying into consideration,” Rainbow sighed. “Good thing you managed to get my attention so quickly. That could have been a bad experience for both of us.”

Sweetie Belle took a tentative step back. “Um...on second thought, I think I’ll skip my turn, Rainbow Dash.”

Rainbow frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Um...Scootaloo, you want to have my turn?”

Scootaloo leaped into the air while letting out a whoop of joy, her little wings fluttering and making her hover for several seconds before she landed. She was about to gallop over to Rainbow Dash when she saw the alicorn’s crestfallen look.

Rainbow Dash...she wanted for them to each get a turn. She wanted to do this with all of them.

As much as she loved flying on the back of Rainbow Dash, she wanted Rainbow Dash to be happy, too.

“Sweetie Belle, it’s fun, trust me. It looks scary, but, maybe you can just fly around without the spinning and flips.” She looked to Rainbow, who perked up a little.

“Y-yeah, Sweetie Belle. If you want, we can go slower. I mean...I really think you’d have fun. If you don’t want to though, then-”

“I...guess I’ll take a ride. C-can you just not go so fast?”

“Sure thing, Sweetie Belle.” She lowered her body and waited for the filly to crawl on. Sweetie Belle strapped herself in, and Rainbow did a quick check to make sure everything was fastened tight before flapping her wings. “Alright, here we go!”

Scootaloo watched as her unicorn friend took off into the air with her idol. Sweetie Belle let out a little cry of surprise when Rainbow banked off to the side before flying around one of the towers.

“Ungh...y’know, it was pretty fun up until she started doin’ those tricks of hers,” mumbled Apple Bloom. “I mean, I really did enjoy it.”

The earth filly looked a little better, but she still had the look of nausea about her as she spoke. She imagined for a pony who spent their whole life on a farm, feet almost always on the ground, doing something like a triple frontal flip in the air was definitely not something she was used to.

“It’s okay, Apple Bloom. I mean...you’re not a pegasus, after all. Flying like that isn’t something earth ponies are really meant to adjust to so quickly.”

“Heh, I suppose.” She adjusted her bow a little before smiling at the sight of Rainbow slowly circling around the top of the highest tower in Canterlot Castle. “I reckon Sweetie Belle’s glad she went for the ride, huh?”

“Yeah...” Scootaloo looked down as the recent conversation with Rainbow Dash came to mind. “Um...hey, Apple Bloom...would you be mad if I started getting flying lessons from Rainbow Dash in Canterlot?”

Apple Bloom frowned. “Now why would I get upset ‘bout somethin’ like that?” The corners of her mouth turned upward as she smiled. “You always said you wanna learn from her, don’tcha?”

“Well...I’d have to come here. I probably wouldn’t be around as much to do any crusading with you.”

“Oh.” Apple Bloom went quiet for several moments before laughing. “That’s alright, Scootaloo. I mean...Sweetie Belle got her cutie mark, and she did it all by herself.”

Scootaloo nodded. “Yeah. Maybe...” She couldn’t believe she was going to say it. “...maybe we don’t need to worry about getting them so quickly. I mean, Sweetie Belle said she got hers from singing, and from seeing how happy everyone was when they heard her music.” The pegasus filly exhaled deeply. “Maybe what Applejack told us that one time was right. We can’t make these things just happen like that...”

“Well, maybe not, but...we’re all still the Cutie Mark Crusaders, right?”

There was the faintest sound of urgency in Apple Bloom’s words. Scootaloo looked up to see the filly pawing the ground nervously. “Of course! No one can break us up just because we’re not always going to be together! Besides, I’ll still be living in Ponyville with Miss Derpy Hooves and Dinky! So it’s not like I won’t be close to you!”

“Yeah...though, sometimes I wish we could see Sweetie Belle more often than just at school and once and awhile durin’ the weekends.”

Scootaloo walked to her friend’s side and placed a hoof over her shoulder. “That’s what we’re all doing right now though, isn’t it? We get to spend all of Hearth’s Warming here!”

“Heh, I suppose, huh?” Apple Bloom shook her head a little.

Scootaloo continued to grin, but a small part of her felt like something had changed between the Cutie Mark Crusader trio. She was pretty sure it wasn’t a bad thing, but it had put a bit of a distance between the three of them. That was bad though, wasn’t it?

She pushed down the uncertainty for now and watched as Rainbow Dash finished her ride with Sweetie Belle, landing at a leisurely trot before coming to a stop.

“So, what did you think of that?”

Sweetie Belle hopped down before turning around and giving a hug to Rainbow. “Thanks, Rainbow! That was lots of fun!” She pulled back, looking a little sheepish. “I guess I had no reason to be so afraid after all, huh?”

“Bah, that’s alright. You’re not a pegasus, so flying like that isn’t normal.” She ruffled Sweetie Belle’s mane a little. “Don’t sweat it.”

Scootaloo found herself feeling envious all of the sudden. Rainbow Dash and Sweetie Belle had obviously become a little closer ever since moving to Canterlot. She wouldn’t deny that she was jealous of Sweetie Belle being able to spend more time with her idol, not to mention she got to fly to school every day.

“Scootaloo, you coming?”

“Huh?” The filly blinked, looking up to see her friends following Rainbow Dash back to the doors leading inside.

“Rainbow’s gonna let us watch her work with the snow clouds. She said the blizzard’s going to be here soon! Come on!” Apple Bloom waved a hoof, urging her to follow.

Sure enough, the first bit of snowfall had arrived. Light, puffy flakes of white flitted down to the ground, landing silently on the cold ground beneath their hooves.

Scootaloo quickly galloped towards the three, yet again putting her thoughts aside.


        The rest of the day had passed at a leisurely pace for the three fillies. The blizzard had started up rather quickly, and even Rainbow admitted she was surprised when she first found out how much snow they would be getting. After about an hour of watching Rainbow Dash work with the clouds (she stated that she was working with clouds that were mostly too far away to be seen by the fillies), the Cutie Mark Crusaders felt their stomachs rumble with hunger.

        Leaving the observation tower with the cyan alicorn, the four made their way towards the dining hall. It seemed that Rarity, Braeburn, Big Mac, Spike, and Twilight Sparkle had the same idea as well, and were currently seated with a few of the guards who were currently off duty.

        “Ah, there are the girls right now,” Rarity stated with a wave. “Well girls, how was your flight with Rainbow Dash?”

        “Fun!”

        “It was awesome!”

        “Dizzy.”

        A few chuckles were heard from the older ponies as the three sat down and recalled their their escapade in the air with Rainbow Dash. By the time they had finished, dinner was being served to them.

        “Mmm, now don’t this look great?” Braeburn stated as he tied a napkin around his neck. “Y’know, I remember one time when I visited Aunt an’ Uncle Orange in Manehatten, an’ I remember havin’ to ask for fourths and fifths at almost every meal with how little they served.”

        “Eeyup,” Big Macintosh stated before digging into his plate of collared green and vegetable salad with his side of applesauce and fruit.

        “Sis says that Aunt an’ Uncle Orange are arista-cats, and that’s why they don’ eat as much as us...” She frowned in thought before speaking. “What’s an arista-cat?”

        “An aristocrat,” Rarity began as she daintily set down her fork. “is a name given to ponies who live in the upper class of society.”

        Apple Bloom gave the platinum pony a blank look.

        “She means to say that aristocrats tend t’have more money than normal pony folk do, and do lots of fancy things because it’s what their groups do. Lots of frou frou stuff...” Braeburn clarified. Apple Bloom’s eyes lit up in understanding before she returned her attention to her apple and strawberry salad with greens.

        “Aristocrats also tend to talk a lot about nothing whenever court is being held...” Spark Fyre commented off-handedly. That got another chuckle from most of the guards present.

        Sweetie Belle looked to Rarity, and then to Twilight who was seated next to her. “Is that true?”

Twilight sighed while shaking her head. “Well...” She tapped her hoof to her chin. “I’m...not sure how to put this, but I...”

“Twilight, I assure you that whatever you say at this table shall remain here,” Rarity spoke, her tone reassuring and friendly.

“Yeah, Princess, don’t worry about us. Pretty sure whatever you have to say is true, anyway,” spoke Summer, who had taken her helmet off to let her auburn and green mane hang loose around her neck.

Twilight chuckled quietly before smiling. “Well, Sweetie Belle...unfortunately that’s sort of true. The aristocracy for the most part in Canterlot is rather...self-absorbed.”

Scootaloo piped in. “You mean they’re selfish?”

“Yes and no. While some of them aren’t intentionally trying to be mean, some of them can be a little rude. Or dull. Or talkative about nothing...” Twilight groaned, apparently having already experienced some of the drier aspects of ruling Equestria.

“Can’t ya just have ‘em send ya petitions or letters instead of just talkin’ yer ear off?” Braeburn inquired.

Rarity smiled. “Trust me, Celestia had tried that almost three hundred years ago. She said it worked for about thirty years before the aristocracy started to realize that they weren’t getting as much of their favors granted as they used to. Eventually Celestia said that she was not intending on granting special favoritism over rich ponies. Eventually the class system fell apart completely, but one hundred years later there was a revival of the aristocratic society. It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be, though.”

Twilight nodded in agreement before adding. “Most of the higher class ponies can be a bit pushy, like I said, but there are also lots of nice ponies among them, too. They may appear a little boring or concerned about silly things like the state of the sidewalk on Gilded Hoof Street, but...I guess somepony has to be,” She took a bite of her salad before continuing. “A lot of them give away lots of money to various charities each year as well.”

“So...are the Wonderbolts aristocrats?” Scootaloo asked.

Rainbow Dash, who had been rather engaged with her soy, pepper, and veggie stir fry, spoke up. “Not really.”

“Aren’t they famous, though? I thought aristocrats were all important ponies.”

“Famous is a little different from being an aristocrat,” Dash answered. “Most of the Wonderbolts live in rooms within the castle near the guard barracks.”

“Soarin’ actually has a room right across from my little brother,” added a pegasus stallion on the far end of the table.

Further conversation was cut off by the sound of the kitchen doors bursting open. Several chefs bustled out, followed by Pinkie Pie, decked in a chef’s hat and apron.

“How’s everyone doing?” Pinkie asked with a smile. The pink alicorn had several trays of cupcakes floating beside her, her soft pink aura holding them steadily as she trotted towards the tables. “I figured you would all like some dessert, so we all made some cupcakes!”

Apple Bloom reached for one as soon as they were set on the table, only for a red hoof to lightly slap it away. “Not until you finish yer dinner, little missy.”

Apple Bloom pouted, but complied. Big Mac returned to his own meal while quietly listening to the others converse.

“Honestly, Pinkie, all of you have done a marvelous job with this meal,” Rarity complimented while looking to each of the chefs proudly. “Please tell me you have all eaten as well.”

“Milady, we’ll eat our share afterwards. Think nothing of it.” replied Barley. The tan coated stallion smelled of rich flour, and despite the smile on his face, looked rather tired. Though, considering who he had been working with for the better portion of the day, it was understandable. Pinkie Pie could be exhausting, even with the most energetic of ponies.

“Barley’s a super-duper great chef,” Pinkie began before turning to all of the ponies in white chef attire behind her. “You all are, actually.” She cleared her throat before speaking and raising a single hoof, mimicking the graceful pose often assumed by Luna and Celestia. “I hereby declare that you all have the rest of the evening off. Please do take time to enjoy the food as well, since there’s plenty of it left over in the kitchen.”

“I...Princess, really, you don’t have to-”

Pinkie giggled. “Oh, come on, Barley! It’s the holidays! Since you were all so nice enough to stay around and make our food for the holidays, you should at least be able to eat with us!”

“Yeah, come on, Barley! You still haven’t told us about your vacation to the tropics!” said Spark Fyre with a grin. A few of the other guards joined in, urging the chefs to take part in the meal.

Barley looked to his junior chefs. Most of them just had defeated grins on their face. Sighing while letting out a chuckle, Barley nodded. “Alright, everyone. Dig in. Princess’ orders, after all.”

Pinkie Pie bounced up once before smiling. “Yay!” Without warning, she galloped back into the kitchen. The sounds of pots and pans clanging against one another was heard, followed by a few giggles and a ‘whoopsies!’ that could only belong to Pinkie Pie. The doors opened once more with the aid of the party alicorn’s magic as she trotted out with a large cake in tow.

“I was going to save this for later, but I figured now was as perfect time as any to eat it!” With a light flick of her horn, the tray levitated over to the table, landing gently in the center. “Hope you all like it! Oh, does anyone have any food allergies?”

“I get a mild reaction from cauliflower...” spoke up a chef. “That’s about it, though.”

The room was silent.

“What? It’s not my fault,” the chef pony replied, returning his attention to his cooked daisy and greens.

“Oookie dokie...anypony else?” No one replied. “Great! There’s chocolate in this cake, and you never know with new ponies!” She plopped down in a seat right next to Scootaloo, beaming. “Heya, Scootaloo!”

“Hi, Pinkie,” Scootaloo didn’t know Pinkie Pie all that well, but she was a friend of Rainbow Dash, and the filly couldn’t deny that the pink alicorn was the best at throwing parties. “Thanks for the cupcakes and everything.”

“No problem, it’s what I do best, right? Well, maybe it’s singing? Hm...or maybe it’s mountain climbing! No, wait, I bet I’m pretty good at bocce ball!” Pinkie giggled. “Gah, there’s so many superrific things I could be good at that I don’t know yet!”

“I thought your talent was throwing parties and making ponies happy?” Scootaloo asked. “Remember, you told us back in Ponyville.”

Pinkie grinned. “Well yeah, that’s my special talent, but anypony can be good at lots of different things! Like Spike!”

Spike looked up from his bowl of turquoise and zinc with a side of hay fries. “What about me?”

“You’re really good at blowing flames!”

“...I’m a dragon.”

“Pfft, details! You’re also a good writer!”

Spike smirked. “Well, thumbs are kind of helpful, I guess.”

“You’re also a super awesome princess-napping dragon!” Sweetie Belle added with a laugh. “Well, until you had to go study, anyway.”

Scootaloo listened as her friends began to recap their game with Spike and Luna. The little filly added a comment or two, but remained quiet for the most part.

A gentle brush to her back snapped her out of her thoughts. Scootaloo looked to see Pinkie Pie drawing her wing back, giving the filly a small smile. “You alright, Scootaloo?”
        “Y-yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

Pinkie frowned a little, but it quickly vanished, her small smile reappearing as though it never left her face. “You sure?”
        Scootaloo felt a strange, yet comforting warmth spread through her. The warmth, strangely enough, didn’t frighten her. It felt good, like the feeling a pony might get when they’re by a fireplace or wrapped in a blanket drinking hot cocoa.

She began to think to herself. Was she alright? She didn’t have any broken bones or anything...

“I mean how are feeling...in your heart, Scootaloo?”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened and she stared straight to the pink alicorn. How was she doing that?

“Magic?”

Oh, that explained things...sort of.

“Yeah, it’s a little confusing for me, too.” Pinkie’s voice agreed. “I can feel something inside you, but I won’t push you to talk. It’s just...I feel like your hiding something. Something that’s making your heart feel heavy.”  Pinkie gave the filly an understanding look. “If you want to talk, I’ll be around, okay?”

Scootaloo gave a mental equivalent of nodding, or at least she thought she did. Pinkie’s smile grew a little as she lifted up a spoonful of lily soup. “I’m running the night court with Applejack tonight, so come talk to me if you want.” Her voice was just above a whisper.

Perhaps, Scootaloo thought, she would take her up on that offer.


Scootaloo had gotten up from her own little bed, claiming she wanted to get a glass of water when Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle had asked where she was going. By the time she had passed the bathroom, and began wandering the halls towards the throne room, she knew what she really wanted to do.

“Oh, Scootaloo! You’re up pretty late!”

There sat Pinkie Pie in the throne to the right, while Applejack was seated in the left. The two mares both looked pleased to see the pegasus filly.

“Heh, usually I’d be tellin’ you to scamper back off t’bed, but I reckon with the holidays we’ll let it go.” Applejack adjusted her hat and smiled. “Everything alright, Sugarcube?”

“Um...” Scootaloo stood awkwardly at the foot of the small series of steps leading to the thrones. Pinkie patted a small spot on her chair, and Scootaloo tentatively climbed the stairs and took a spot beside the pink pony.

“Dashie says you had lots of fun flying with her,” Pinkie stated in a conversational tone. “You know, I’m not much of a flier myself. I think Applejack’s probably flown more than I have! Isn’t that silly?”

“Heh, you bounce high enough to make up for that, Pinkie,” the orange mare chuckled.

“Yeah, it was fun. Rainbow Dash did all these cool stunts with me riding on. She wouldn’t do a Sonic Rainboom when I asked if she could, though.”

The Earth Princess quirked an eyebrow at the filly before shaking her head and chuckling some more. “Well, good thing she didn’t. You’d probably have flown clear off her back and that wouldn’t be good for anypony.”

“Yeah, Dashie said that she has to break the sound barrier to do that, and going that fast with anyone holding onto her is risky!” Pinkie giggled. “Still, I wonder if we could do a Sonic Rainboom!”

“Eh, that ain’t my cup o’ tea, Pinkie. I don’t think I’ll be attemptin’ anything that crazy anytime soon.”

Scootaloo’s wings fluttered as she hopped up to her feet. “I hope someday that I can do a Sonic Rainboom!”

“Weeeell, there’s a really cool pony who can help teach you how...” Pinkie said with a wave of her hoof. “She happens to be here in Canterlot.”

Scootaloo’s wings sagged a little. “Yeah...she...talked to me a little about that.”

Applejack seemed to choose her words carefully. “She sounded like she really was hopin’ you’d want to learn from her. You’ve been all she was talkin’ ‘bout the past few days before you got here.”

“Really?”

“Yep yep! She was saying how she wants to have the best student to teach flying to. She wants to also open up a school for pegasi that aren’t in Cloudsdale, and she thinks that helping you could be a good way to start!”

“She also cares ‘bout you, as well as Sweetie Belle an’ Apple Bloom.”

“We all do!” Pinkie said while placing a hoof around the filly’s shoulder.

The filly once again found herself enveloped in that warm feeling she had felt before. She had the strangest desire to smile and laugh as Pinkie Pie made a funny face at the filly.

So she did.

Applejack joined the filly, laughing a little at Pinkie’s antics before speaking. “So, Scootaloo, anything else on yer mind?”

Scootaloo managed to get her laughter under control and stopped. She smiled a little before shaking her head.

Pinkie gave the filly a nuzzle. Scootaloo was initially caught off guard, but accepted the friendly gesture and returned it in kind. “I think I understand what was bothering me earlier, Pinkie Pie.”

The pink alicorn cocked her head to the side. “You do?”

“Yeah...I...I was worried that if I let Rainbow Dash teach me...or started coming to Canterlot...that Miss Derpy and Dinky...Apple Bloom...all of my friends...I was afraid they’d be upset that I left them or something.” She gave an awkward grin to the two princesses. “Silly huh?”

“Not at all,” Applejack replied. “Well, I guess the thought of everypony being upset with you is, but hey, we all get nervous ‘bout things like that sometimes.”

“Yeah...and...well, I mean, with Mom and Dad...and what happened to them...I was worried that I’d have no where to go in Ponyville. It still hurts...right here...” She tapped her hoof to her chest. “I wish it didn’t hurt, but it’s not as bad anymore.”

Pinkie Pie’s smile had become a little somber, and the faintest trace of moisture could be seen in her eyes. “It’s never a good feeling, but it’s important to remember who your parents were. That hurt will probably never leave, but it’ll get better with time.”

“She’s right, Scootaloo,” said a new voice. “It’s important to remember the fun you had with them, all the good times...stuff like that.”

Scootaloo looked up to see that another pony had entered the throne room. “Rainbow Dash?”

The cyan alicorn looked to the ground, giving an awkward smile. “Heh...sorry...I um...kind of overheard you three talking.”

“I thought you said you were going to see if Scootaloo would want to speak to me?” Pinkie inquired, earning an eye roll from Applejack and a facehoof from Rainbow.

“I...ugh...” Rainbow Dash looked to Scootaloo. “Scootaloo...I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to take you away from Ponyville. I would never do anything like that.”

Scootaloo got up from the throne and walked towards her idol. “I know.”

“S-so...do you...still want to learn stuff from me? I-I know you said so earlier, but if you changed your mind, I understand...” She let out a frustrated huff. “Darn it, I’m no good at these kinds of things.”

Scootaloo wrapped her hooves around Rainbow’s neck, which wasn’t that hard considering she was the shortest of the alicorn princesses. “I want to you to teach me, Rainbow Dash. I think that’d be awesome!”

Rainbow’s smile grew, and she sniffled a bit. “Cool. I think it’d be awesome, too.”

Scootaloo eventually was ushered back to her room by Rainbow, who said that tomorrow she’d start teaching her flying basics. Were the little pegasus not so tired already, her excitement at the news would have probably kept her awake.

As her mind began to cloud over with sleep, her thoughts turned to her friends and family. Again, Celestia’s words rang true in her mind. Yes, she still, and probably always would, dearly miss her mother and father. No, she would never be able to replace them in her heart, nor did she want to. However, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle were as close to her as sisters could be. Derpy and Dinky were great ponies too, and Derpy said that Scootaloo was just as much of family to her as anypony was. Rainbow Dash was more than just her idol now, she was going to teach her!

She wondered how many ponies could say the knew the princesses as well as she did. Aside from Ponyville’s ponies, probably not many.

If her parents were watching, she was sure that they were happy with her. She would be the become the best pegasus that she could. She would do it for her mother and father, for Rainbow Dash, for all of her friends, and most importantly, for herself.


End of Chapter 6- Scootaloo 1

A/N: Hey everyone, it’s me again! Not much to say. This chapter I guess was mainly about Scootaloo trying to come to terms with the abrupt changes in her life, in case it wasn’t obvious. I have a much bigger chapter planned for her later on if I stick with my original plot outline. Anyway, Scootaloo is going to become the personal student of Rainbow Dash, woo! I guess this will be the equivalent of the student and teacher relationship Twilight and Celestia have in the actual show (no, there won’t be any romance between Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash, for those wondering). Thanks for reading, keep an eye out for future chapters!

The next chapter will not be character-centric, but more...event-centric? Is that even a proper way to describe it? Eh, whatever, here’s a sneak-peek below!

Next Up: Hearth’s Warming; a time to enjoy the company of friends and family. A time to reflect on what you’re thankful for, and spread the cheer of the holidays to those around you. For the first time ever, Celestia and Luna will be spending their holiday not only together, but with many, many ponies that have come to be part of their newly formed family unit.

Previous Chapter: Chapter Five- Luna 1


Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.

Duties

by Denim Blue

Stoking the Hearth

        “The fire of friendship lives in our hearths~”

        “I think it’s ‘lives in our hearts’, Scootaloo...”

        “Huh...I always thought that verse was weird.”

        Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo were currently hanging wreaths and red ribbons along the main hall of Canterlot Castle. Seeing as Hearth’s Warming Eve was tomorrow night, they had volunteered to help with decorations.

        “You’re doing a wonderful job with the decorations, girls,” commented Twilight, who was holding a small clipboard in her magic, checking off a few items on a list of things that no doubt related to the holiday preparations. “At this rate we’ll have the entire Greeting Hall and the throne room complete before nightfall.”

        “Thanks, Twilight. Um...what’re you wearing?”

        “Huh?” Twilight looked to the socks on her hooves and chuckled. “Oh, these are stockings. Just something to keep my hooves warm. I’ve been getting a little chilly at night.” She shuffled her hooves a bit before continuing. “So, did you girls go outside yet? Rainbow Dash said that we’ll be having a light, constant snowfall all day.”

        “Yeah, we went outside after breakfast. Scootaloo did some trainin’ stuff with Rainbow Dash on flyin’, too.”

        “Oh, that’s great! How did it go, Scootaloo?”

        The little pegasus frowned. “Horrible.”

        “It wasn’t that bad, Scootaloo! You got off the ground, remember? You were hovering for a good fifteen seconds!”

        “Yeah, and Rainbow Dash said you have pretty good control of yer wings, too! You’ll be flyin’ ‘round Equestria in no time!”

        Scootaloo smiled at her friends’ encouraging words. “Maybe...”

        “They’re right, Scootaloo. You’ve just got to give it some time, and keep at it.” Twilight unfurled her own wings and laughed a little. “These things haven’t been used much, so I should be taking my own advice. Fluttershy said she can help teach me, but I think I’ll wait until spring comes around to really give it a go. I mean...I probably could fly right now, but I have no idea how well I’d do.”

        “Yeah, we don’t want you to go crashing into any buildings!” Scootaloo giggled.

        Twilight just rolled her eyes. “No, that would likely happen, knowing my luck.”

        “There you are, Twilight. Pinkie Pie told me you were doing some ‘checklist’ work.”

        Twilight looked over her shoulder to see Celestia walking towards her. The Sun Princess wore her usual regalia, along with a few holly leaves wrapped around her crown, giving her a festive look. “Hello, Celestia. I loved the sunrise this morning, by the way. It was very nice to see while I was in the observation tower.”

        Celestia gave Twilight a gentle nuzzle. “Thank you, Twilight, though I can only claim half of the credit. After all, a certain pony is responsible for rotating the world now, isn’t she?”

        “Well, yes...”

        A melodic cooing sound was heard, and the ponies all looked up to see a familiar red and orange bird flying through the air. Sweetie Belle was the first to speak, her eyes widening as she grinned. “Philomena!”

        The phoenix hen gave out another trill cry of elation before flitting down, landing on Celestia’s back. Sweetie Belle, along with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, galloped over to see the beautiful bird.

        “Well, someone is in a pleasant mood today,” Celestia chuckled as Philomena began to preen her wings. “Did you enjoy the flight outside, Philomena?”

        Philomena gave a short whistle before nuzzling the white alicorn. She then turned her attention to a particularly stubborn feather before looking down to the three fillies.

        “Woooow, I’ve never seen a phoenix before!” Scootaloo said in amazement. Philomena, sensing the amount of attention she was getting, puffed out her chest a little.

        “Careful, Scootaloo. She’s got quite the ego sometimes,” Celestia joked, to which the phoenix replied with a curt squawk of indignation.

        “Yeah, she sang with me once when I was practicing for the Winter Solstice Concert.” Sweetie Belle held out a hoof, and the phoenix flitted down, landing on the outstretched limb before perching on her back. “She’s really warm! Philomena, can my friends pet you?”

        Philomena gave the equivalent of an approving noise, and the two young fillies gently brushed their hooves over her. “Heheheh, she really is warm!”

        “That’s because she is well taken care of. A healthy phoenix gives off more heat than most ponies do...um, except you, Celestia.”

        “Hahah, well, I suppose I would be an exception, wouldn’t I?” Celestia turned to her side to see Fluttershy walk up alongside her. “I take it Philomena’s check-up went well?”

        “Oh yes, although...” Fluttershy cast a knowing gaze to the phoenix, who immediately hid behind Sweetie Belle’s mane. “A certain someone has been sneaking some millet bread without letting anypony know.”

        “Oh, do tell?” Celestia smiled while following Fluttershy’s gaze.

        Fluttershy giggled. “I’d recommend putting the millet bread in a secure container. She’s gained a little weight, which isn’t a problem in the winter, but try to get more fiber and charcoal pellets into her diet if you can.”

        Celestia nodded. “Philomena’s been known to get a little...gluttonous with the grains every couple of cycles.” She raised an eyebrow while smiling at the mystical bird. “Haven’t you, young lady?”

        Philomena gave a long coo before hiding her face in Sweetie Belle’s mane once more.

        “Oh, Philomena, there’s no need to act so silly,” Fluttershy trotted over to the phoenix and gave her a nudge. “Now, either stop pouting and come out of there, or I’ll just give your special berry and sunflower dessert to the little birdies outside...oh, though, do you think I should? They’d probably like that to!”

        “I’m sure they’ll be fine, Flutter-” Twilight was unable to finish her thought, since the yellow alicorn was already half-way down the hall, making her way to what she assumed to be the kitchen. “...aaaand there she goes...”

        “We’ll just be sure to thank her for being so nice to you, won’t we?” Celestia looked to Philomena, who gave a nod.

        Scootaloo brushed the phoenix’s neck while speaking. “Celestia, Miss Cheerilee says that phoenixes can turn real bright and make fire. Is that true?”

        “Yes, though little Philomena here doesn’t do that as often as a wild phoenix.”

“Really?” Scootaloo looked to Twilight for confirmation, knowing the studious mare was probably able to tell her more about the magical birds.

        Twilight nodded before going into librarian mode. “Phoenixes can perform various magical feats. They light their feathers with a magical flame to ward off predators and can create a blinding light as bright as the rays of the sun for a brief amount of time.”

        Scootaloo blinked before looking back to Philomena. “That’s so awesome!”

        “Applejack said that Philomena went an’ turned to ashes when you visited Ponyville once!”

        “Ah yes, that was when Philomena had been close to the end of one of her cycles.”

        “Cycles?”

        Celestia nodded. “While she won’t admit it, Philomena is quite old. However, when phoenixes reach a certain age, usually when they’re too old and weak to fly anymore, they will burst into flame, becoming nothing but ash. Then, out from the ashes, they will be reborn as they were when they were young and hardy, and their life cycle shall begin all over again. Philomena here has done this quite a few times now.”

        Philomena raised her head and gave a nod before stretching out her wings and lifting off again. She circled the room once before flying down the hall, likely to find a place to perch and have a little rest.

        “She seems to be in good spirits,” Twilight commented aloud.

        Celestia smiled. “She always gets excited during the holidays, and knows if she does enough showboating and looks as beautiful as possible she’ll likely get a treat or two from the ponies in the castle.” The white alicorn shook her head. “She’s a little troublemaker at times, but her heart’s always in the right place.”

        “That reminds me, I need to see how Owloysius is doing. He doesn’t migrate, after all.”

        “That’s right, how is your little owl friend doing? I haven’t seen him since about two weeks ago when he moved into one of the older trees in the garden.”

        “He’s doing well. He’s actually been helping Spike do some research on dragon lore. He’s found at least five different tomes on draconic culture. I never found any books like those back in Ponyville, though.”

        “Yeah, Spike and I were trying to read one of the bigger books on dragons once, and we couldn’t get past the first page! It was written in Wyrmahk, but...there was so much to translate.” Sweetie Belle cringed at the memory. “We ran out of paper before we got to the end of the second paragraph...”

        “Wyrmahk’s a very difficult language to learn, especially for anyone who speaks Equinic primarily, like Spike.” Twilight sighed as she looked to the clock. “I should probably check up on him, too. He’s starting to scare me. He actually complained when I told him to stop studying so he could eat dinner last night.”

        “In all fairness, the draconic stories are always fun to read,” Celestia said with a chuckle. “I imagine Spike will be finding it harder and harder to put down the books after awhile. I wonder where he got that trait from, though...”

        Twilight fought down a light blush, only to get a teasing nuzzle from Celestia.

        “Heheh, Celestia’s right, Twilight. You like readin’ books just as much,” Apple Bloom agreed.

        “Yeah! I remember one time when you were doing some research, Rarity had to actually drag you out of the library so she could get you to the spa. Your mane was a wreck, heehee!”

        Twilight rolled her eyes. “Alright, alright, so I’m a bit of a bookworm. No need for you to all gang up on me. Celestia’s teasing is enough as it is.”

        “Awww, we weren’t tryin’ to be mean, Twi!” Apple Bloom said with a smile, knowing that Twilight hadn’t taken it personally. “Come on, girls, we gotta finish the other halls before tonight!”

        “Yeah! Cutie Mark Crusaders Holiday Decorators! Yaay!!”

        With that the three fillies took off down the hall. Twilight laughed at the sight, only to be cut off by a gentle brush of a wing on her shoulder. She looked to Celestia, only to gasp quietly when she found magenta colored eyes inches from her own. “Y-yes, Celestia?”

        “Look above.”

        Twilight hesitantly eyed the ceiling above her, gasping yet again as she saw a few holly leaves and a silver bell hanging above them. The holly leaves and silver bell...a long-standing Equestrian tradition during Hearth’s Warming.

        The clipboard she had been holding in her telekinetic magic dropped to the floor with a loud clatter. “O-oh, those are holly leaves. They’re from the Ilex genus.”

        “Yes, they are...”

        “An interesting fact about the Ilex genus is that it is made of several hundred species...and they’re the only living genus in the family Aquiofoliaceae.”

        Celestia whispered softly. “Go on...”

        “W-well...ahem...the genus is made up of flowering plants that are evergreens, deciduous, and climbing plants. They can be found in areas ranging from tropical to temperate...a-and...well, certain species like the one above have red berries that are slightly toxic, but there have been no reported deaths related to ingestion of the berries.”

        “Hm...”

        “An old, long standing holiday tradition in Equestria and parts of the Griffon Kingdom is to kiss whomever is standing underneath holly leaves. The exact origins of-” Twilight felt Celestia run her muzzle along Twilight’s neck, and the lavender mare shuddered a little. “Celestia...”

        “Yes, Twilight?”

        “S-sompony might see us.”

        Celestia paused, and gave a small smile. “Would that upset you?”

        “N-no!” Twilight blurted out before stammering out an apology. “I-I mean...no...but...I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re intruding on something. I mean, the girls all know, and I’m sure Sweetie Belle understands what’s between us, but...well...”

        Celestia’s smile softened as she gave Twilight a gentle nuzzle before pecking her on the cheek. “It’s alright, Twilight, I completely understand.”

        Twilight looked up from the floor she had been boring a hole into. “Y-you do?”

        Celestia chuckled. “Yes, and I’m in no rush with this relationship of ours either, just so you know. We can go about this at whatever pace you feel comfortable with.”

        Twilight smiled before surprising the older princess with a light kiss on the muzzle. “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Celestia.”

        The Sun Princess blinked before sighing, returning the gesture with a second chaste kiss on the cheek. “You’re adorable when you’re flustered, did you know that?”

        The lavender alicorn pawed the ground as Celestia gave her a gentle nudge. Twilight looked into Celestia’s eyes, and saw the raw emotions laid bare before her. Love, adoration, joy, and a few others that made her knees tremble ever so slightly.

        The doors at the far end of the Greeting Hall opened. A few flakes of snow drifted in as one of the guards walked in. The unicorn mare brushed off a few patches of powdery white from her winter cloak before speaking. “Ah, your Highnesses, I was hoping to find you. There is a mare outside with Private Quick Wit who wishes to be granted an audience.”

        “Oh? That’s odd, we don’t get many petitioners or requests during the holidays.” Celestia looked out the window before smiling. “Well, do let them in. You and Private Quick Wit should come inside as well and get a cup of tea or soup. I know you’ve both been out there for almost three hours now.”

        The mare bowed. “Thank you, your Highness. We’ll take a break as soon as we let our guest in.”

        No more than a minute passed before the doors opened once more. Twilight heard the voice of a mare speaking to the two guards. Though, complaining would be a more appropriate term.

        “Is this really the way you treat all ponies who come to speak to the princesses? Have them wait out in the blistering cold and be torn to shreds by the Elements? Just look at how wrecked this mane is, it will take hours to-”

        Twilight’s took a step back, recognizing the voice immediately. She had only met the pony once, but that voice...

        “Honestly, the Great and Powerful Trixie has had better service in Hay Valley! Do either of you know where that is?”

        “Southeast of Manehatten, just north of Whitetail Wood. Population of only three hundred twenty-eight,” rattled off Quick Wit.

        “Precisely, yet a little backwater village like that was able to give me food and lodging within two minutes of requesting it for a discount! Two minutes!”

        A rather disheveled, azure unicorn mare trotted in after the two guards, who both looked annoyed at the moment.

        “Trixie?”

        The azure mare raised an eyebrow as she glanced over to the lavender alicorn standing near the opposite end of the Greeting Hall. The unicorn took off her cloak and squinted before her eyes widened.

        “W-wait, you...” Trixie took a step back, pointing a hoof at Twilight. “Trixie thought those ponies in Fillydelphia were only joking with her!” She looked around, suddenly nervous.

        Quick Wit raised an eyebrow at the distressed unicorn mare. “Um, ma’am, are you alright?”

        “Do I look alright?” She grated, wheeling on the earth pony stallion. “No, Trixie is not alright! She’s cold, hungry, and looking for work on the holidays of all times, and now she’s being greeted by a pony who not only completely embarrassed her, but also became royalty along with five other ponies from a little bumpkin town called Ponyville! I would also like to add that three of those five others were humiliated by yours truly!”

        “Huh...okay, you got a point there,” Quick Wit said. “Well, your Majesties, I’m off to get some veggie and barley stew.” With that, Quick Wit and his unicorn partner treaded off to the kitchen.

        Trixie took a few more tentative steps back, her eyes never leaving the two alicorns.

        “Trixie, look, I know we had a rather rocky start at introducing ourselves, but-”

        The unicorn prostrated herself, shaking as she lowered her head. “The Great and- er, Trixie begs for your forgiveness, your Highness! She never meant to besmirch your home or friends’ reputations! Sh-she was just-”

        The unicorn felt a hoof gently tap her shoulder. She slowly looked up to see two violet eyes looking down at her, exuding warmth and pity.

        Pity.

        An expression she both despised and was thankful for at times.

        “It’s...alright, Trixie...though, I think I’m not the only one that you should speak to.”

        Trixie paled a little. “N-no, I should probably just go. I-if what I heard is true, one of your friends is taller than Princess Celestia herself, and I’m pretty sure she’s the one I hogtied and-”

        “Trixie, was it?”

        A soft, calming voice cut off the showmare. She looked over the shoulder of Twilight Sparkle to see Celestia approach her, a smile on her face. Trixie had only seen the Princess once during a visit to Canterlot during the Summer Sun Celebration when she was a schoolfilly.

        The Sun Princess standing beside the lavender alicorn suddenly caused another light bulb to go on in her mind.

        “Oh, by Star Swirl’s beard...Twilight Sparkle is her student...her personal protege!”

        Great, now she was going to be banished to a dungeon, or worse, sent back to magic kinder-

        “Trixie, please...it’s okay. You don’t have to be scared.”

        The gentle voice of Celestia eased the rising panic in the unicorn’s chest. She looked up to see Celestia kneeling down beside her. The action made her feel like she was a little foal. Considering who she was being addressed by though, the feeling was understandable. More than a few ponies revered Celestia in a maternal way.

        “Before you ask, yes, I know of you. Twilight Sparkle sent me a letter explaining the Ursa Minor. While I do think it was unwise of you to go boasting about things you never did, I know the situation was out of your hands,” Celestia placed a soft wing over the mare. “After all, who would have expected two colts to go and do something like awaken an Ursa?”

        Trixie felt a warmth surge through her. It was like she was sitting in a sunbeam on a lazy summer’s day.

        “You’re as kind as they say, your Majesty.”

        Celestia laughed. “I only do what is right, my little pony. Now please, stand and don’t be afraid. You’ll find that Twilight and I, along with the others, are much better than you think.”

        “She’s right, Trixie. I was so worried when you ran off,” Twilight added. “You said you wished to speak with us?”

        Trixie managed to compose herself a little, raising her nose up a little higher and smiling. Her haughty tone returned, though it wasn’t as abrasive as before, Twilight noted. “Yes, the Great and Powerful Trixie was merely seeking lodging...” Trixie looked down, her voice dropping in volume to match her apprehensive demeanor. “I...had heard that Canterlot Castle offers cheap lodging during the holidays...most ponies don’t take up on the offer namely because it’s the home of royalty.”

        “That is most certainly true about the lodging, Trixie. We only ask that you pay for the use of the bed chambers. All meals and luxuries are free of charge, otherwise.” Celestia looked to Twilight.

        The lavender mare nodded. “Trixie...would you care to stay here in the castle with us for the holidays?”

        Trixie gave a nod.

        Twilight smiled. “Wonderful. If you want to bring your belongings in, we can-”

        “Everything Trixie owns is what you see before you.” Trixie dug into her cloak pockets to reveal a small coin purse, a few quills, and a deck of cards.

        Twilight frowned. “Trixie...”

        The azure mare looked up, a defiant look on her face. “Don’t feel pity for Trixie, Twilight Sparkle. I am not helpless.”

        Despite the defensive tone she had used, Twilight found a small spark of admiration for the unicorn. She understood how important self-reliance could be for a pony. If you couldn’t rely on yourself, what else could you do?

        “I understand. Come on, let’s get you something to eat. I’m sure you are probably a little cold, too. The fireplace in the dining hall is usually going at this time.

        Trixie blinked several times before letting the faintest, ghost of a smile cross her lips.

        She couldn’t remember the last time she had celebrated Hearth’s Warming with anyone but herself.


        “Rainbow, calm down. She’s just-”

        “Twi, I know you’re a good pony, and I can understand why you would do this, but...” Rainbow continued to whisper quietly as she glanced over her shoulder to look at Trixie, who was facing the fireplace while eating. “That mare caused a lot of problems for Ponyville...or have you forgotten the Ursa Minor incident?”

        “For the record, that was Snips’ and Snails’ doing, and she had actually tried to do something about it. Yes, she was a bit of a blowhard, but who isn’t once in awhile?”

        “She’s right, Rainbow Dash. I mean, not to be rude, but you tend to talk big yourself,” Fluttershy said quietly. “Just look at the poor dear. I can almost see her ribs through her coat.”

        Rainbow sighed. “Fine...I’m willing to give anypony a second chance. Just don’t go crying to me when Rarity tries to maul her.”

        Twilight rolled her eyes before heading to the kitchen to get her own meal with Rainbow following behind. Fluttershy opted instead to acquaint herself with the unicorn guest. She quietly approached the mare, clearing her throat a few times so she wouldn’t alarm Trixie. “Um, hello. You must be Trixie, yes?”

        Trixie looked up from her plate of baked sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a healthy serving of fried vegetables and pinto beans with a glass of eggnog. “Yes, you are speaking to Trixie...”

        Fluttershy smiled before taking a spot by the fireplace, sighing as the warmth spread through her body. “Twilight told me a little about you.”

        “Wonderful. I suppose you wish to tell me that you’re disappointed in me, your Highness?”

        Fluttershy winced at the mare’s tone.

        “At least she respected my title...”

        “Trixie does regret being so...foalish for what she did back in Ponyville, though she will not say she would have undone what had happened.” Trixie lifted a fork-full of carrot with her magic before continuing. “I learned a valuable lesson that evening.”

        “Oh, and what lesson is that?”

        Trixie bit into the carrot and chewed methodically. After swallowing, she spoke. “The Great and Powerful Trixie is a fool. She quit doing the traveling pony act after that, and sought out odd jobs to help her make ends meet.”

        Fluttershy frowned. “Why would you do that? Twilight told me that you said your talent was in magic.”

        “It is...but just because I have a talent in magic doesn’t mean I have a lot of it.” She stabbed a piece of sweet potato with her fork. “Trixie has good control and understanding of magic, but she is not Twilight Sparkle.”

        “Well, to be fair, no one is Twilight Sparkle but her. Even Rarity’s not the best at advanced magic except for her gem-finding spell. Well, um, at least until we became princesses...”

        Trixie quirked an eyebrow at the yellow alicorn before smiling. “Forgive me, but you’re Princess Fluttershy, correct?”

        “Yes, I am. Oh, but please, I’d prefer you call me just Fluttershy for now. I’m still new to being royalty...”

        Trixie set down her plate and chuckled. “To be honest, Trixie isn’t a fan of the upper class business, either. Even though she lived a long while in Canterlot.”

        “You used to live here?”

        “Yes, back in my fillyhood. My father and I, to be specific.” She waved a hoof. “I started traveling as I got older. My father and mother had me when they were older than most couples, so by the time I was an adult, my father had passed away.”

        “Oh, I’m so sorry. Um...what about your mother?”

        “Trixie doesn’t know. She left when I was but a year-old foal. Father never talked about her that much.”

        Fluttershy’s ears flattened a bit as she sighed. “Well, I’m glad you can spend time here during the holidays.”

        “Mm.”

        “So, um, Trixie, I was curious...”

        An elegant eyebrow rose at the alicorn’s questioning tone.

        “You’re not like most ponies I’ve spoken to since I’ve become a princess. You’re...more...”

        “Confident?” Trixie offered. “Charismatic? Open?”

        “Yes, um...all of those.”

        Trixie chuckled. “Well, I imagine dealing with nervous ponies all day and everyday must be frustrating. Trixie’s father always taught her to be herself.” She lifted up her plate again as she continued. “So, this is who I am.”

        Fluttershy nodded while smiling. “I think that’s a good idea to live by.”

        “Trixie is curious about something as well. She never saw you at Ponyville when she visited. Why is that? I heard that the new co-rulers of Equestria all came from that town.”

        “Well, I was out of town at the time. I’m sort of glad I hadn’t been there...an Ursa Minor sounds like quite the problem to deal with. Though, they’re not really that bad from what I understand.”

        “You’re serious? Obviously you must be mistaken with a different animal.”

        “Oh no, not at all. Ursa Minor’s are just babies, after all. That, and Ursa Major’s aren’t typically the kind of animal to go causing problems either. They tend to stay isolated and keep to themselves, and try to avoid being bothered.”

        “You would know this...how?”

        Fluttershy tapped her tiara of thinly woven silver and smiled. “I’m the Princess of Nature. It’s my job.”

        Trixie blinked before clearing her throat. “Of course, I was just...making sure.”

        The two mares sat in relative silence once more, the only sound being the kitchen staff at work, the crackling of the fire, and the quiet scraping of Trixie’s silverware as she continued eating.

        “You’re more than welcome to seconds, if you’re still hungry.”

        Trixie glanced to Fluttershy, but said nothing.

        “I don’t mean to be...intrusive, but...well, actually, I guess this is rather intrusive, but you don’t feel like you’ve been getting enough nutrition lately.”

        Trixie’s fork clattered noisily to her plate as she looked squarely at Fluttershy. “What do you mean, Princess?”

        “I-I...” Fluttershy exhaled once before giving Trixie a stern look. The azure mare actually shrunk back a little at the expression. “I want you to get a second plate, preferably more fruit, some more beans, and legumes. I can feel the weakness in your body, even if you yourself are ignoring it.”

        Trixie rolled her eyes and scoffed. “Trixie is sure she knows how her body is-”

        “Now you listen to me, missy.” Fluttershy’s voice was still calm, yet the sweetness it usually carried had vanished. Trixie once again felt like a little foal as the Princess of Nature lectured her. “You are, whether you believe me or not, still a young mare, and you need to keep your body as healthy as you can. You are giving off the first signs of malnutrition, and you haven’t been taking in as much fluids in you should be.”

        Trixie was flushed with embarrassment, but gave a nod. “O-okay. Sorry.”

        The commanding side of Fluttershy disappeared instantly, being replaced once more with the kind, benevolent, mother hen-of-a-pony that she normally was. “I’m...sorry for raising my voice like that. I didn’t mean to sound so angry.”

        Trixie felt the overbearing feeling of being reprimanded vanish. Had that been magic? No, she hadn’t seen the alicorn’s horn glow. Perhaps it was a deeper, more innate power of Fluttershy’s.

        “I-it’s alright. Trixie...hasn’t been eating as well as she would have liked. It’s hard when you don’t have a place to stay.”

        “Well, you don’t worry about that. Nopony should go without having to bear that kind of problem, especially at this time of the year.” She looked out a window at the ever-falling snow. “Most of the animals are either waiting for the snow to settle, or are hibernating. Since ponies don’t hibernate, we have to make due with storing food and living off what we can until spring.”

        “I remember helping with getting the animals situated for hibernation in Trottingham once when I was younger.”

        The alicorn smiled brightly at that. “Oh, really?”

        “Yes, we made sure they all had enough room and enough material to keep warm over winter. I found it a little odd.”

        “Well, there wasn’t any need to do that this year in Equestria. The animals can do everything by themselves now.”

        “How?”

        “Instinct. It’s what helps them hunt, helps them choose their nests, tells them when to make a family, and how to take care of themselves and their young,” Fluttershy replied happily. “All animals have instincts, even us ponies. It’s what will tell us to run when we’re scared, or to protect our foals. It’s a basic drive we all have. We just tend to ignore it a lot more often than most wild animals do.”

        “Trixie never really thought of that.”

        Fluttershy simply giggled. “Not many ponies do. We’re animals too, which many often forget.”

        Before long, Trixie was listening with rapt attention to Fluttershy as she talked of the many wonders of the winter and how it affected the flora and fauna. She was so focused that she hardly noticed when Twilight and Rainbow Dash, along with three fillies and a baby dragon, had taken spots next to the fireplace as well to listen.

        “Wait, so, if the birds don’t need us to guide them anymore, how do they know where to go when it’s time to migrate back?” Rainbow Dash inquired.

        Fluttershy actually went quiet at that question before shaking her head. “I...oh, this is embarrassing...”

        “What, you don’t know?”

        “Well, that’s like asking Applejack how she knows how to walk, or how you and I can fly.”

        “We were taught how, that’s how.”

        Scootaloo nodded in agreement. “Yeah. Fluttershy, do you mean that birds teach each other?”

        “Maybe.” Fluttershy closed her eyes for several moments before opening them again. “They may use landmarks to guide them on their way, they may navigate by the Sun and stars, or maybe they can sense the magnetic north of the world. It’s a mystery, really.”

        “Y’mean like a compass?”

        “Yes, sort of like a compass, Apple Bloom,” Fluttershy answered while giving the filly an approving nod. “The truth is, I’m still learning things everyday about all the plants and animals. I’m still trying to understand how so many plants are able to survive the cold each winter. I...I think a lot of them kind of go into a hibernation as well. It’s really amazing.”

        “Wow, Fluttershy, I’m kind of jealous. I mean, I’m studying things like the path we’re taking around the Sun and how magic works, but you’re looking at some pretty cool stuff as well.”

        “Thank you, Twilight.” Fluttershy beamed.

        Sweetie Belle noted the horn on Trixie’s head, and smiled. “Hey, you’re a unicorn, too!”

        “Yes, Trixie is indeed a unicorn. It’s why she has her talent, after all.”

        Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes while Twilight gave the cyan alicorn a warning look.

        Scootaloo grinned. “Hey, you’re talent’s magic too? Wow!” She looked to Twilight. “Hey, Twilight, did you hear that?”

        “Yes, I’m right here,” Twilight replied with a laugh.

        “I didn’t know that two ponies can have the same kinda talent. That’s kinda neat!” Apple Bloom commented. “Though, I guess the Apple family’s all got apple-related cutie marks...”

        “Well, even if a pony has the same kind of area of talent, it doesn’t mean they’re exactly alike. A talent is unique, just like the pony who has it.”

        “What about the spa sisters in Ponyville? Aloe and Lotus each have the same kind of cutie mark!” Scootaloo said with a hint of confusion lacing her words.

        “No, Aloe’s got a light blue flower on her flank. Lotus has a pink one,” Sweetie Belle said with a smile. “Rarity told me so.”

        “Oh yes, and Aloe’s much more of a massage therapist than Lotus. Lotus does more work with manes and hooves,” Fluttershy added.

        “I really need to pay those two a visit again sometime. My neck has been stiff as a board lately.”

        “You could just get Celestia to help you with that,” Rainbow Dash teased, earning a light jab to the side from Twilight.

        After dinner (and enough food that Trixie was certain she had gained back about ten pounds lost from traveling so much), Twilight suggested they go out and enjoy the crisp winter air. Trixie asked in a sarcastic tone if Twilight wanted to freeze out there, to which the alicorn replied that she had a spell to prevent that from happening. Thus began a discussion of blocking the flow of thermal heat from a pony to the winter air, the ground, and so forth. The discussion was so intense that the two had opted instead to go the Canterlot archives in order to better settle their disagreements on how plausible of a spell it actually was.

        “I think we’ve lost them...” Rainbow Dash commented as the two mares headed off to the castle’s giant library. “Well, Fluttershy, you still want to go outside? The snow has lightened up a little.”

        “Can we make snowponies?” Sweetie Belle asked as she wrapped a scarf around her neck.

        “I suppose I wouldn’t mind going outside for a little while. I can’t remember the last time I made a snowpony,” Fluttershy giggled to herself.

        The Cutie Mark Crusaders gave a cheer before galloping out the door, decked in their winter apparel. Rainbow Dash had a simple multi-colored scarf wrapped around her neck and some earmuffs, and Fluttershy was putting some boots on her hooves as well as a thick winter coat.

        “Up for a snowball fight, Fluttershy?” Rainbow asked. “I’m sure we can get Scrappy and Lily Wing in on the fight too. I get dibs on Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, though.”

        “Actually, I think I’d rather just enjoy the-” Fluttershy’s words fell on deaf ears as her rainbow-maned friend was already out the door, kicking up snow with the fillies while laughing the whole time. Fluttershy sighed, but shook her head and smiled.


        The throne room of Canterlot Castle was rather quiet at the moment. Rarity was levitating a magazine with her magic while Celestia was sipping some tea quietly.

        “So...a unicorn named Trixie will be staying with us for the holidays.”

        Rarity almost ripped the page she was turning as she whipped her head to the side, giving Celestia a look of confusion. “Trixie? As in the overly arrogant, apathetic, abrasive, making-boasts-that-aren’t-true-at-all Trixie?”

        Celestia blinked, her cup in mid tilt as she made to sip from it. “Well...I guess you could say that. She seemed rather sociable when I spoke to her.”

        “Hmph. Of course she was with you. You’re Celestia.” Rarity gave an apologetic smile. “Oh, I’m sorry, dear. I wasn’t trying to be rude, it’s just...well, you can’t deny that I have a point. It’s the same for the rest of us, too.”

        Celestia set down her cup before giving a weak chuckle. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. Though, Trixie was rather interesting to talk to. Once she realized that Twilight and I were being rather casual with her, she went along with it as well. I will admit, she isn’t the most tactful of mares I’ve ever met in my life, but I can respect her self-confidence in speaking plainly.” She laughed as a thought rose to her mind. “She even accused Twilight of trying to imitate my every move, which Twilight gave no argument to.”

        Rarity’s eyebrows rose. “She did? Well...I suppose she’s right, in a way. Twilight’s admiration for you has always been quite astronomical.” The platinum white mare’s lips turned to a mischievous grin. “Speaking of which, how are you two getting along these days?”

        Celestia returned to drinking her tea, eyes closed as she delicately sipped in silence.

        “Oh, Celestia, don’t be upset! I want details, darling! Tell me, please!”

        Celestia opened an eye, but remained silent.

        “Please, won’t you at least tell me that you’re spending time together outside of duties? It’s so romantic, Celestia! You can’t just keep me out of this, I have to know!” Rarity’s bottom lip began to quiver. “Please? Pretty please?”

        If Celestia didn’t know any better, Rarity was intentionally trying to give Celestia a headache. Even eons of dealing with Luna’s fangirlish squealing was nothing compared to this. Perhaps Twilight’s story of Rarity talking her way out of a situation with the Diamond Dogs wasn’t so far-fetched after all. “Fine, fine.”

        “Oh, I knew you’d tell me!”

        Celestia rolled her eyes, though a small smile was playing at her lips. “We’ve had dinner, just the two of us, at least four times now, by candlelight. I’ve shared a bottle or two of the finer dessert wines in the castle’s wine cellar, too.” Celestia looked to the ground before whispering. “I am a little ashamed to admit that she’s even more adorable when she’s toasty from a glass or two. Less reserved about talking.” She waved a hoof as she continued. “She’s a truly bright young mare, though. I’m incredibly thankful to have her in my life.”

        Rarity placed a hoof to her chest and smiled. “I’m certain she truly cares about you as well, Celestia.”

        “Oh, I don’t doubt that for a minute. It’s just...well, she’s a more private mare when it comes to relationship stuff, I’ve come to realize. It could be due to this being her first real relationship, or perhaps it’s because she’s a princess. I will not pressure her at all, though. If there’s anything I’ve learned about romance and relationships, it’s that patience is definitely a virtue.”

        The Princess of Beauty let out an airy breath. “It’s charming how you two are around each other. I can only hope that some dashing stallion will be able to sweep me off of my feet the way you do with Twilight.”

        Celestia chuckled. “I daresay she probably does that more so with me.”

        “Aw, all the more reason that I adore what you two have,” Rarity commented happily.

        The two chatted for another couple of minutes before hearing the evening bell tone. “Well, that came quickly. Where does the time go?” Rarity looked up. “I imagine Applejack’s just about ready to take over, too.”

        Sure enough, the door to the throne room opened as the blond mare pushed her way through. She walked a little slower than usual, and before Rarity could ask, she saw what Applejack was carrying behind her.

        There, floating in the orange light of the Princess of the Earth’s telekinetic magic, were about ten volumes of books thick enough to provide Twilight an evening’s worth of speed-reading.

        “Applejack, darling, what do you have there?”

        The orange alicorn looked up with a smile. “Just some readin’ material on farmin’ techniques and agricultural stuff.”

        “Oh? For Sweet Apple Acres? I know Braeburn and Big Macintosh had mentioned something about growing a few Pink Lady apples out in the back ten acres of your family’s farm...” Celestia was curious. For Applejack to be turning to such thick text was interesting. Not to say the mare wasn’t intelligent, but Applejack preferred action and face-to-face information exchange over reading.

        “Nah, I’m just lookin’ into that Silver Trowel gal’s questions on irrigation and such. She made a good case with me, an’ I’m all for her plans on farmin’. I just want to make sure she’s all set for this comin’ spring. Just a bit o’ readin’ for me to refer to. I’ll be writin’ up a letter to her and give her some advice.” Applejack reached the throne where Rarity sat before gently setting the books down in a pile. “Most of this stuff I already know ‘bout. It’s just good to have references.”

        “I must say, Applejack, I’m ashamed of myself. I...never would have expected you to do something so...”

        “Scholarly?” Applejack waved a hoof to Celestia. “Don’t worry none ‘bout it, Celestia. Though, y’can ask Rarity herself. I was a decent student throughout our school years. Never got anything lower than a C in any of my classes...well, except that one year in calculus.” Applejack shuddered. “Big Mac was always the mathematician of the family...”

        Rarity nodded. “Yes, I do remember when we had the town spelling bee during our teen years. You almost beat Rose for second place that one year.”

        “What word do you misspell if you don’t mind me asking?”

        “Kyphorrhinos. Never heard o’ the word until that day. Means having a nose with a bump on it.” Applejack chuckled. “I think I forgot an ‘r’ somewhere in the word.”

        Rarity and Applejack laughed quietly while Celestia simply smiled, appreciating the moment. The doors to the throne room opened once more as Luna trotted in, carrying a large thermos of what was presumably hot cocoa. The dark alicorn had become hooked on it earlier this morning, finally trying it out for herself.

        “Landsakes, Luna, at the rate yer drinkin’ that stuff, we’ll have to add a bathroom in a far corner for you to use,” Applejack chuckled. “How many cups is that, now?”

        Luna raised her nose up in proudly. “If you must know, I’ve only had twenty cups of cocoa since this morning.”

        “Uh huh...and how many trips to the bathroom is that for you?”

        Luna blushed. “Applejack, please cease with such personal questions!”

        “Forgive, Applejack, my dear Luna. She’s just teasing you a little.” Rarity quirked an eyebrow at the still-laughing Apple pony before smiling. “If you want to give her a hard time, ask her about how much she had at our friend Berry Punch’s birthday last year.”

        Applejack froze in place before giving her violet maned friend a weak glare. “Nopony needs to know ‘bout that night, Rarity.”

        Celestia got up from her spot and greeted Luna with a nuzzle before smiling. “I don’t believe Twilight wrote me a letter on that night.”

        “Oh, the poor girl probably forgot most of the evening. Come, Celestia, I shall regale you with the whimsical tale that is Berry Punch’s twenty third birthday in Ponyville.” The two made their way out the doors, giving the two mares a final wave before leaving the room.

        “Y’better not say anything ‘bout me and Caramel! That was a mess-up between the two of us, an’ we’re over it!” Applejack no sooner said those words before groaning and pulling her hat’s brim over her eyes as Luna chuckled quietly. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, missy. I know for a fact that Fluttershy and Celestia could probably tell me some wonderful stories ‘bout you as well.”

        “Oh, I wouldn’t deny that. Though, Fluttershy would probably be too flustered to say anything about me, and Celestia would only embarrass herself if she told anything bad enough that I looked bad.”

        Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Whattya mean?”

        Luna waved a hoof. “Celly’s more often than not the one who tends to overdo things when given the opportunity.”

        “What ‘bout the toy spider incident durin’ Nightmare Night? Poor Lily looked like she was gonna faint...which wouldn’t be all that surprisin’.”

        Luna cleared her throat several times while avoiding Applejack’s gaze. “Yes, well, nopony is perfect.”

        “So...” Applejack looked to the doors before smiling, a rare mischievous look dawning her features. “What ‘bout Celestia? Anything from when you two were younger that you can remember?”

        “Gossiping about others, Applejack? For shame...” The Princess of the Night teased.

“Eh,” Applejack shrugged. “I got some readin’ to do, but I’m bored enough to hear a little gossip once in a rare while.”

Luna tapped her chin in thought before chuckling. “Ah, yes, actually. I’m sure you’re rather familiar with the plant from Everfree Forest known as Poison Joke, have you not?”

        Applejack could only shake her head and laugh.


        Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom were all under the covers of the unicorn filly’s large bed, listening intently as Rarity’s mother read from a large book she had picked up from the shelf.

        After the recent events that had happened, the mare had opted to stay in Canterlot until the end of the holidays. She would be returning to work at her family’s jewelry store next week, but when Sweetie Belle had asked when she’d be going back to Ponyville with her, the mare had simply said she would be staying in the castle.

        Sweetie Belle had argued a little, namely because she was worried about her mother being by herself. Her mother had simply said not to worry about her so much, and just keep singing and doing well in school. She would make sure to visit her and Rarity when she could.

        That discussion had been about two hours ago, and now she was finishing up the large book being held in her magic. “...and so, eventually Clover the Clever, Smart Cookie, and Private Pansy all managed to drive away the Windigos with the fires of their friendship. Soon, Chancellor Puddinghead, Princess Platinum, and Commander Hurricane were thawed out from the ice. In time, they all learned about the importance of trust and caring for one another. This day was called Hearth’s Warming ever since, and is celebrated as the founding of the land of Equestria.”

        “So, um...Ms. Pearl?”

        “Pearl’s fine, Scootaloo. What’s your question, dear?”

        “If Equestria was founded by those six ponies...where did Luna and Celestia come from?”

        Pearl looked to the little filly before pausing. That was a good question. “Y’know, I’m not entirely sure, Scootaloo. I bet if you asked Princess Celestia or Princess Luna they’d be able to tell you. They were around all those years ago, don’tchaknow?”

        “Princess Luna told me once that she and Celestia are over one thousand years old,” Sweetie Belle stated.

        “Yeah, I wonder what they were doin’ back when Equestria was founded. Do you think the Windigoes maybe froze ‘em or something?”

        “Naw, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are too cool for that to happen to them!”

        Pearl gave a chuckle. “Well, I think that’s a good question to save for tomorrow when you three wake up,” Pearl slowly got up from her chair, walking awkwardly with her back leg in its support-boot and cast. She gave each of the filly’s a peck on the forehead before turning out the light to their room. “Good night, girls.”

        “Goodnight!”

        As soon as Pearl closed the door, the three girls began talking.

        “I bet Princess Celestia could make all the snow melt if she wanted to,” Apple Bloom thought aloud.

        “Twilight told me that she can’t though...at least not anymore. She said something about how the earth’s tilted so it’s colder. I think she called it the axis or something.”

        “What an axis?” Scootaloo asked.

        Sweetie Belle sighed. “I don’t know. Rainbow just said it means the sun’s can’t warm Equestria as well in the winter. That and the snow clouds are usually covering up the sky, so sunlight doesn’t reach through as easily.”

        The three went quiet for a while, each pondering the things that filly’s do when talking about the mysterious Royal Sisters.”

        “I used to think that Princess Celestia’s mane was fake,” Apple Bloom admitted sheepishly.

        “Me too,” Scootaloo confessed. “It moves on its own, even when there’s no wind! I’ve never seen a pony’s mane do that!”

        “Luna’s mane does that too, though. I remember asking her why it does that. She said something about magic.” Sweetie Belle chuckled. “I think she doesn’t know, actually.”

        “You know, I saw Rarity’s mane and coat sparkle like Celestia and Luna’s, too. It’s really pretty to see.”

        Sweetie Belle turned to Apple Bloom. “That’s because Rarity’s the Princess of Beauty. Of course she looks pretty.” The filly then remembered her talk with her older sister some time ago. “Rarity says everypony is beautiful in their own way. She doesn’t make them beautiful...she said she helps bring out the beauty they already have.”

        “Huh?” Scootaloo quirked an eyebrow. “What’s that mean?”

        “Um...I think it means that Rarity’s in charge of showing the beauty that we have inside of us. She takes the beauty we have, and lets ponies see it the way they do.”

        “Hmph. Well, I’ll skip on that. I don’t want to wear dresses all the time with glitter and makeup.”

        “I don’t think that’s what she means, Scootaloo,” Apple Bloom said.

        Sweetie Bell gave a nod. “Yeah. Actually, Rarity even said that you already are a pretty filly, Scootaloo.”

        “I...am?”

        “Yeah! She said that you’re very athletic, and you’re a very great pony to have for a friend. That’s beauty, sort of. It’s not just looks.”

        Scootaloo took in the words of her friends. She then rolled to her right to face them both. “Do you think ballet is cool?”

        “Yeah! I mean, I can’t really do any of those dance moves that you can, Scootaloo, but yer real good at ‘em. I mean, I remember when you were hoppin’ around on the tips of your hooves without fallin’ over! That looks hard!”

        Sweetie Belle giggled. “I remember trying to do that once. It was really hard, and I don’t think I was able to do it right.”

        Scootaloo smiled a bit at the praise. “Well...it takes a lot of exercise and practice. My back legs are really strong so I can stand on my hooftips. I don’t think I’m as strong as Applejack is, though.”

        “Nopony’s as strong as Applejack...well, except maybe Big Mac. Still, yer strong in yer own way. Applejack would never be able to stand up on her back legs for as long as you can.”

        Scootaloo rolled onto her back once more before speaking. “Rainbow Dash said she thinks ballet is kind of cool, too...you know what I wish I could do, though? Fix things like you, Apple Bloom! I mean...geesh, you know how to use tools I’ve never seen before!”

        “Well, in all fairness, awl’s aren’t that commonly used. I just use ‘em for markin’ wood because I need to use normal carpenter saws an’ such. Big Mac showed me how everything works, though, so he’s the real expert in tools.”

        Sweetie Belle turned to her earth pony friend. “Yeah, but you remember that one time you showed Scootaloo how to change a tire on her scooter?”

        “Yeah...?”

        Scootaloo laughed. “I felt so embarrassed. You made it look so easy!”

        “Well, it’s not that hard when you know what yer doin’.”

        “Remember when we tried making a chair?” Sweetie Belle asked, earning a giggle from the other two.

        The night continued on for the two of them. Eventually Luna’s peaceful night, accompanied by the steady, quietly falling snow from Rainbow Dash, lulled them off to a comfortable sleep.


        Twilight was in her bed, quietly listening to the rhythmic snoring of Spike in the far corner of the room. He had finally gotten himself a small bed, since he had finally outgrown his basket (his feet were starting to hang over the edges a little).

        She glanced over towards the dragonling, and smiled peacefully. She was proud of him, though she tried not to say it too often so she wouldn’t embarrass him. Still though, he was definitely proving to be the little scholar, having learned almost one hundred words in Wyrmahk in the past month. She assumed it was part of him getting older. Dragons tended to have the ability to learn a lot if they applied themselves. She was going to have a little test planned out for him in two weeks, just to see how well he was retaining what he learned. A little bit of dragon culture and lore, some Equestrian history, and of course, the new language he was learning.

        The door handle to her room turned, and she heard the faint creaking of her chamber door as it opened. The soft clicking of gilded shoes on the floor was heard, followed by the quiet hum of magic. Several metallic objects were gently set on the nightstand opposite of Twilight, followed by the pulling back of the covers as another body quietly slipped underneath the sheets.

        “You should be asleep right now. You have morning shift, you know.”

        Twilight giggled quietly. “I know. I was just thinking about Spike.”

        Celestia gave a soft hum as she scooted closer to Twilight’s side. “He’s really growing up.”

        Twilight nodded. “Last year he was only able to cook the simplest of dishes, his reading was about the level of a fourth grade foal, and he could only speak Equinic. Now...” Twilight sighed. “He’s reading books bordering on classic novels and myths with little editing, he is starting to understand simple, basic Wyrmahk, and he’s a natural gourmet chef.”

        Celestia hummed in thought. “I remember when I was teaching him the alphabet and how to use his fire.”

        Twilight rolled over to face Celestia. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I heard Barley and Pinkie Pie are pulling all the stops on the big feast. Spikes even going to help.”

        “Hm. Well, that should be fun. I’ve never had anything prepared by him before.”

        “It will be delicious, I’m sure.” Twilight’s eyes drifted toward the window of her chambers, admiring the soft lamplight from outside that illuminated each flake of snow that drifted earthward.

        “Celestia?”

        “Hm?” The Sun Princess’ voice was muffled due to having her face pressed against Twilight’s mane.

        “Did you ever meet the six founders of Equestria?”

        Celestia seemed to think on the answer for a while before giving a reply. “You actually remind me a lot of Clover the Clever.” Celestia pulled back, her eyes shining faintly from the soft moonlight outside. “Though she was less of a spellcrafter than you are.”

        “Really?”

        “Mm. She was more of a teacher, though. She wasn’t one for seeking fortune or fame. She just loved to learn, and help others learn as well. I sometimes wish that she had at least written a book or memoir, but I can just look to our education system and see the echoes of her contributions. A lot of the magical studies were started by her, actually. She also encouraged other ponies outside of unicorns to attend her open classes.”

        “Open classes?”

        “Things were different back then, Twilight. Being a student wasn’t as much of a occupation as it was a passion or interest. That’s why I say you remind me a lot of her with the way you love to learn.” Celestia rolled onto her back so she was facing the ceiling, her thoughts drifting back in time. “Clover held lectures in a large, open hall of a town that would later become known as Canterlot. Princess Platinum funded the hall’s construction after Smart Cookie made the blueprints. Luna actually gave lectures in the hall as well. Since she was a friend of Star Swirl the Bearded, she also got to know Clover.”

        “Wow...I actually feel a little envious of Luna. It must have been amazing to be with such great minds like Star Swirl and Clover.”

        The white alicorn chuckled. “Luna actually tended to debate with Clover on issues. We weren’t actually princesses at the time. That came some years later.”

        “My gosh, how long ago was this?”

        Celestia shook her head. “I only wish I could put a number on it. Equestria was founded about two hundred years before Dis-” Celestia coughed suddenly before clearing her throat. “Excuse me, Twilight. I hope that’s not the sign of a cold coming.”

        Twilight’s quirked her head. “You said Equestria was founded two hundred years before something?”

        “Ah, yes...it was...” Celestia debated in her mind whether to tell. If she did, then she would have to explain the Spirit of Disharmony in the gardens, as well as the fact that there was a powerful entity that they would likely have to face in the near future. She quickly decided to stave off the explanation until after the holidays. That’s what she and Luna had agreed upon. “...about two hundred years before Luna and I became its rulers.”

        Twilight smiled. “You know...it’s kind of nice to know that I’m playing a part in all that. It’s a little ego-inflating, yes, but...I’m glad I can help the kingdom.”

        Celestia nodded. “I’m glad that I have you with me to do that, too.” Celestia placed a gentle kiss on the mare’s cheek before snuggling into her pillow. “Good night, Twilight. Please be sure to wake me up when the three fillies are done eating breakfast. They wanted me to help them decorate the dining hall for the big meal tomorrow. Oh, and tell Trixie that she has free reign of the small stage in the dining hall as well. She said she wanted to put on a little performance for us.”

        “Well, things will be busy tomorrow, won’t they?” Twilight let out a small yawn. “Alright, I’ll be sure to wake you up first sign I see of them.”

        Despite having more freedom for activity now, Celestia still wasn’t as adjusted to being a night owl as Luna. She herself let out a long, drawn-out yawn before closing her eyes and drifting off to the bliss that was sleep.


        “Now, that is a fine glass of cider,” Braeburn said with a satisfied smile. “Macintosh, you try any of this yet? They use our family’s apples, ya know!”

        Macintosh held up a small mug of cider in his hooves. “Eeyup.”

        “Wow, this stuff is awesome!” Rainbow Dash said with a sigh. She took another sip before digging into her yams and vegetable pie. “Could it get any better than this?”

        “Well,” came the voice of Scrappy, who was seated at the far end of the table. “We could have some sarsaparilla as well.”

        “Scrappy, there’s kids here. Come on, use your head,” grumbled Quick Wit between bites of lily and sunflower salad.

        “It’s okay, Mister Quick Wit. We don’t want to get those hangovers or whatever they’re called,” said Scootaloo, her face showing small crumbs of cornbread.

        Several of the guards laughed while Luna flushed red, hoping that the fillies would have the common decency to not mention her in this conversation.

        “Scootaloo, a young lady like you shouldn’t be talking of such things at your age.” Rarity gave her a brief, disapproving look.

        “It’s okay, Princess Luna told us what those are, Rarity.”

        Ah, as usual, luck was not on her side. Soon Rarity, Applejack, an amused Braeburn and Big Macintosh, and the rest of the table were staring at Luna with questioning gazes.

        “I...well, they asked, and I figured the truth would be best. I didn’t mean to...l-look, we apologize if we have upset-”

        “Bah, don’t worry ‘bout it none, Luna. Shoot, I was ‘bout Apple Bloom’s age when Granny let me try a sip of real apple cider.”

        “Does that mean I can have some, then?” Apple Bloom asked.

        Big Mac beat Applejack to the answer. “Nope.”

        “Aw, no fair.”

        “Hmph. Trixie never had much of a stomach for heavy drinks like cider. Though, I must admit, this cider is delicious.” The azure mare swirled glass around with her magic before taking a healthy drink from it. “Trixie should probably hold off from drinking too much though. Stage performances are never fun when inebriated.”

        Applejack chuckled. “Bad experiences?”

        Trixie gave a quick nod. “Fireworks magic is never something to take lightly.”

        That got another chuckle out of the orange mare.

        After the dinner, Trixie indeed put on a small little performance. The performance, per se, was a story of Windigoes, and how they fed off the negative emotions of ponies. It was a fitting story, considering the background behind the founding of Equestria. The mare used her light tricks and fireworks magic to paint a story of the windy creatures. It was an entertaining display to say the least. She also pointed out how Hearth’s Warming is not only a time to remember how Equestria was made, but also remember how to avoid being plagued by the cold of hatred and distrust.

        “...and so, Trixie hopes all of you ponies gathered here can remember this story of these scary creatures. Never close yourself off from your friends and all those that are dear to you. Trixie...Trixie has learned this lesson recently herself...” She looked up, smiling with a proud fire flaring up in her eyes. “Happy Hearth’s Warming Eve, everypony!”

There was a final crackle of some fireworks that popped, creating snowflake-shaped bursts of light. The sound of hooves (and one pair of dragon claws) could be heard applauding her as she gave a dramatic bow.

The guards had returned to their business of patrolling and the like, and the kitchen staff returned to cleaning. Trixie dusted her cloak off, only to be wrapped up in an aura of pink magic before being embraced in the hooves of an equally pink pony.

“Oh, Trixie, that was such a nice performance! It gave me warm-fuzzies on the inside! Well, except for the part when the Windigoes froze you. I got all surprised by that, but then I remembered it was a magic show.”

“Urk...th-thank you...Pinkie...Pie...” Trixie choked out. “Trixie...can’t...breathe...”

“Oopsies!” Pinkie let go, plopping the unicorn on her rear. Trixie gave a weak glare before sighing. Pinkie Pie had been nothing but hospitable to her since her arrival, and she couldn’t find it in her to be upset with the jovial alicorn. She tended to always feel a need to smile around her, to be quite honest.

“I agree with Pinkie, Trixie. That was some interesting magic that you performed. Illusions, right?”

Trixie turned towards Twilight Sparkle, who looked quite intrigued.

Trixie adjusted her cloak. “Trixie has a strong rapport with illusionary spells. She can do them better than most other kinds of magic, but she does know lots of other spells, too. She just needs a lot more time to prepare them.”

Twilight nodded. “Um...Trixie, about you staying here...”

“Has Trixie not paid enough for lodging?” The mare inquired. “Surely the lodging costs didn’t change in one night...”

“No, no, um...actually, I just had an idea. You see, I’m not only the Princess of Science and the planet’s orbit...I’m also the Princess of Magic.”

Trixie quirked an eyebrow, but remained quiet.

“That’s a lot of duties to cover, and to be honest, it’s starting to build up for me. I’m considering hiring a small group of ponies to help advise me on things...and I think I’d like to have you be my first advisor.”

Now, Trixie had not been expecting this. Sure, she was surprised with the kindness shown by Twilight and the others, but...this?

“Y-you mean...you want to have...Trixie...me...working as a R-Royal Advisor?”

“I know, it’s a big decision to make. I understand if you want to continue traveling, so I won’t hold it against you if you decline,” Twilight replied.

Trixie wouldn’t have to live day by day anymore and worry about running out of money again. Sure, she always kept a nice cushion of bits on her if she ran into a tight spot, but this was a guaranteed source of income to live off of, and she would be staying in Canterlot studying Magic!

The azure unicorn pondered it for several more moments before smiling. “Trixie would be honored, your Highness.”

Twilight winced. “Please, only call me that in public.”

“Fine, if you wish, Milady.”

Now Twilight gave her a flat look. “Already pushing to see how far you can take this, huh?”

“Of course.”


        Typically, Hearth’s Warming Eve would end in towns with a play put on by the locality that reenacted the story of the founding of Equestria. The major plays usually took place in Manehatten or Canterlot, but this year Phillydelphia was hosting it. With recent events, among them being the hurricane, and the addition of six new princesses, most of Equestria saw this year as a time to simply reflect on what they have. It was also a chance for playwrights to improve or change the plays around for next year when it would be hosted in Canterlot.

        Instead of attending the play, the eight princesses, Spike, the Apple family, Trixie, Scootaloo, Pearl, and Sweetie Belle, along with several guards, set out through Canterlot and simply caroled to their fellow ponies. Families would join them from time to time for a song or two before giving them cocoa and whatever treats they had available.

        “Luna and I used to do this all the time,” Celestia commented, letting out a few puffs of air as she sipped on her cocoa. Steam could be seen rising up from her mug that she had brought with her. “She was and still is a better singer than me, too.”

        “Aw, it’s okay, Princess! Not everypony can be as good as Princess Luna! I mean, she is the Princess of Music.”

        Celestia gave Apple Bloom an appreciative smile. “Yes, I suppose she is, isn’t she?”

        The Cutie Mark Crusaders had come to follow alongside the Sun Princess while they caroled. Celestia noticed the three fillies looking to each other every so often before nodding her way.

Finally, Scootaloo piped up. “Um, Princess Celestia?”

        “Yes, Scootaloo?”

        “Well, last night Pearl read us the story of how Equestria was founded, but we were wondering...when did you and Luna become princesses? The story didn’t mention anything about you two in it at all.”

        The alicorn had expected this question ever since the start of the holidays. She had the answer rehearsed in her mind for the three. It would be short, sweet, and not overly complicate things. “Well, you see girls, Luna and I were sort of wandering around the world at the time. We didn’t come to find Equestria and all its ponies until about one hundred years after its founding. One hundred years after that, we became the princesses of the land.”

        “How come?”

        “For a few reasons, Sweetie Belle. The ponies had gotten to know Luna and I over time, and since we knew so much about magic, weather, not to mention we learned how to move the sun and moon when we got our cutie marks, we were chosen to become the land’s rulers.”

        “Did you mention to them how we were total foals at first?” asked Luna, who had picked up on the conversation. “Neither of us knew what taxation meant for the first two years. We thought the ponies were just being nice to us and they were helping taking care of the kingdom by donating bits.”

        That got a bark of laughter out of Applejack. “Heheh, boy, I can just imagine what that must have been like.” The orange mare slowed down to walk alongside the two sisters. “Were you nearly as bad at figurin’ things out at first as us six?”

        Celestia shook her head. “No, you girls have been astronomically better than Luna and I were during our first months as co-rulers.”

        “Aw, thank you, Celestia!”

        Pinkie Pie bounced up to the group before wrapping her fore legs around Celestia’s neck in a hug. “You’re still both awesome princesses, though! You and Luna are so nice, and you both did such a great job helping us out!”

        The sound of several high pitched whistles and pops were heard, and the group turned to see Trixie’s magic at work yet again. A small group of foals, along with an elderly unicorn stallion, watched in awe.

        Celestia recognized the stallion and promptly made her way towards him. The stallion got one look at Celestia before breaking into a smile and give a low nod. “Your Highness, it’s good to see you this evening. Happy Hearth’s Warming.”

        “Open Doors, my old friend, how are you doing?”

        “Heheh, still kicking as you can see. My niece has been doing most of the work though. She’ll probably be taking over in another year for me.”

        While Celestia and the stallion going by the name Open Doors talked, Pinkie Pie leaned towards Luna. “Hey, Luna, who’s that pony Celestia’s talking too? He’s really nice!”

        Luna quirked an eyebrow, and was about to ask how Pinkie was so quick to assuming things about a pony. “How-?” She held her tongue, and sighed before smiling. Of course she would know that Open Doors is a good pony. It was her job to know. “Open Doors runs the Canterlot Orphanage. He’s been doing so for almost forty years now. I have had the privilege of meeting him once before, and he was nothing but benevolent. Every year the castle gives a generous portion of our funds to the orphanages in the kingdom, his being one of the largest ones.”

“Orphanage? So...all those little foals are...?”

        “Yes, Pinkie, they are.”

        The pink alicorn frowned briefly before perking up. “Well, I’m going to go introduce myself then!” She bounced towards the group of foals, whose faces lit up as they spotted the Princess of Laughter heading towards them.

        Luna looked to the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who were watching the group of younger ponies with varying degrees of interest. Scootaloo in particular was watching them with an unreadable expression. The Princess of the Night gave her a light nudge, and the little filly seemed to snap out of her thoughts. “Everything alright, Scootaloo?”

        Scootaloo nodded. “Yeah, I...was just thinking how lucky I am.”

        Would these girls cease to impress Luna? “Well, that’s a wonderful thing to be thinking about.” She smiled. “It helps put things into perspective, doesn’t it?”

        “Yeah.”

        “Hey, Scootaloo! Come on, some of the other foals wanna make a big ol’ snowpony with us!”

        Scootaloo turned to the voice of Apple Bloom before grinning. “Alright! I’m in!”

        Soon the group of foals, along with Pinkie Pie and Spike, were building one of the biggest snowponies Canterlot had ever laid eyes on. By the time they had finished, it stood close to ten feet high and was over twelve feet long. The most impressive part was that it had taken less than a half hour to do.

        Twilight claimed it was because Pinkie was involved.

        “Does she know time magic?” Trixie inquired.

        “It’s best not to think about logic too much with Pinkie,” Twilight replied.

        Eventually Open Doors and his foals bid the princesses and the others goodnight, and continued back towards the orphanage. Twilight had since put Spike on her back the moment his eyes began to droop, and Rarity was soon carrying Sweetie Belle on hers. Rainbow Dash was walking alongside a sleepy Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom had already dozed off on the back of Big Macintosh.

        Trixie felt a smile tug at her lips as she looked to the small dragon on Twilight’s back. “Someone’s had a busy night.”

        Spike mumbled something before snuggling into the cover of Twilight’s mane. The lavender alicorn just giggled quietly. “He’s still a growing dragon. He needs his sleep, even if he tries to deny it sometimes.”

        “....mmm’not tired, just...resting’m eyes...”

        “We know, Spike,” Twilight replied without missing a beat.

        “Twilight, thank you again for...offering Trixie the chance to be your Royal Advisor. Trixie...really, really appreciates it.”

        “Of course, Trixie, I’m happy you feel that way!” Twilight gave the unicorn a delighted smile. “Truth be told, unless I have everything organized, I can be...easily frazzled. It will be nice to have a helping hoof by my side.”

        Trixie adjusted her winter cloak before proudly raising her nose up. “But of course, Princess Twilight. I suppose I’d be the best candidate for the position. After all, magic is my talent.” She opened one violet eye to see Twilight chuckling.

        “Well, don’t get too full of yourself. I’m sure you’ll be working along with lots of other brilliant ponies in the future as well.”

        Trixie gave a nod. “Do not fret, Twilight Sparkle. Trixie doesn’t let down those when it matters.”

        Eventually the cold was getting to be a little too much for everyone. The group made their way back to Canterlot Castle, intent on enjoying the warmth and getting some good rest.

Needless to say, not a single Windigo had been spotted in the land of Equestria that holiday evening.

It was just another wonderful Hearth’s Warming Eve, a time filled with love and friendship.


It was a scene of serenity in the Canterlot gardens as the eve of Hearth’s Warming came to a close. The chime of the midnight bells could be heard from the castle, signaling the end of another day, and the beginning of a new one. Soon the year would be coming to a close, and another year would start. Many ponies would use the time to celebrate amongst loved ones, and try to improve themselves by setting goals for the next year.

There was one part of the gardens that was far from peaceful, however.

A single stone statue, covered in a layer of snow, could be seen. It was an animal that appeared to be an amalgamation of beasts. Its form had no rhyme or reason, but in a way, it was perfect the way it was.

A loud crack echoed through the night. Bits of dust fell off the statue as the crack over its chest widened. A dull, black aura could be seen, pulsing in the center of the animal’s chest. The cracks began to spread throughout the statue’s entirety as a low, menacing laughter was heard coming from from the stone itself.

        Something ancient had finally found a way out of its prison.

        Trouble was on the horizon, and it had its sights on Equestria.


End of Chapter Seven- Hearth’s Warming

A/N: Hello, everyone! Well, there you have it, Hearth’s Warming chapter, complete! That, and the Great and Powerful Trixie to boot! Yes, before any of you ask, she will get her own chapter. This was just a way to introduce her to the picture. Now, I don’t know about all of you, but I’m really looking forward to the upcoming mini-arc I’ve got planned here (yes, it will be more than one chapter). Thanks for reading, as always, and keep your eyes peeled for future chapters.

Next Up: Better get your umbrellas, everyone. It looks like Equestria might be due for a big old storm of chaos.


Duties

by Denim Blue

Discord Arc: Draconequus Rising

        Today had started like any other morning had for Celestia in the past few weeks, awakening to the early morning light. Twilight had been doing an excellent job with the rotation and elliptical path of the planet and maintaining the schedule of sunrise and sunset. While she had always held a great amount of pride in her work as the mover of the Sun in the past, she wouldn’t deny the pleasure she took from sleeping in. After thousands of years of waking up before dawn, it was a welcome change. It allowed her to take her time getting cleaned up in the morning, and not worry about sticking to a set schedule.

After having a light breakfast of oats with honey and several orange slices, Celestia perused through the morning’s issue of the Canterlot Sunrise. With Hearth’s Warming Eve having taken place the night before, the usual articles were replaced with stories of holiday events and gatherings that had gone on instead.  The paper even mentioned the princesses’ caroling tour through the city’s neighborhoods. She still wasn’t sure how the news staff got the pictures, but she had long since given up on trying to understand how the photographers and journalists were able to take pictures of her and the others without her noticing.

        Her eyes stopped upon a particular article. It wasn’t much in terms of length, but the heading had caught her attention.

Strange Weather Phenomenon: Orange Sherbet Snowfall in Equestria?

Today’s weather report had called for partly cloudy skies with light snowfall during the midday, as stated by the Canterlot Weather Bureau and Princess Rainbow Dash herself. Instead of snow, locals within the Canterlot area, as well as the towns of Cloverton, West Trottsdale, and Withersdale received precipitation of what appears to be orange sherbet from the clouds above. Meteorologists were both perplexed and alarmed by this odd phenomenon. Tests were done on the odd precipitation, and results confirmed it was real orange sherbet, and safe for consumption. While this has provided locals with a chance to indulge in tasty sherbet, the effects of this weather are predicted to be harmful to the overall environment.

Several similar incidents have been reported as far as Appleloosa, which experienced a powdered-sugar dust storm this morning. Experts claim this may be a mishap in our Princess of Weather’s magic, but we cannot be certain. The Princess has stated that she has not intentionally caused these incidents to occur, and is currently looking into the matter. As of now, we have been told to advise all citizens to avoid going outdoors whenever possible.

        Celestia dropped the paper, making her way to the throne room. She opened the doors without waiting for the guards to assist, and found a very distraught Rainbow Dash and Applejack speaking to a group of ponies wearing uniforms signifying their office within the Canterlot Weather Bureau.

        “Look, I said before that I have no freaking idea how those clouds got like that! I’ve been up since four this morning, and as far as I can tell you, I didn’t make them!”

        Rainbow Dash was reaching her limit with the ponies. Applejack, meanwhile, was scanning reports that were coming in via magical transfer. Scrolls had piled up by the hundreds alongside her chair. Every few seconds another would appear out of thin air with a sudden burst of arcane flame, varying in color and sound. It was both sad and comical to Celestia as she watched the orange alicorn attempting to read the documents, only to get interrupted by a random popping sound as a roll of parchment fell on her head.

        “Rainbow Dash, Applejack, what’s going on?”

        Both of the mares looked up, their bodies sagging with relief upon seeing the Sun Princess.

“Celestia! You gotta help me! I-I don’t know what the hay is going on! I’ve tried clearing away these clouds of sherbet, but...they just keep coming back! I don’t feel any magical connection to them at all!”

        “That ain’t the half of it!” Applejack began. “We’re getting scrolls from Fillydelphia; apparently there was a bunch of Diamond Dogs who had decided to start doing something called a “flash mob” in the town square! What’s even weirder is that they were singin’ in French while wearin’ hot pink leotards! The local authorities were called to the scene, an’ then they started joinin’ in the dancin’ too! It’s a mess! Ponyville’s been callin’ in since six this morning. Somethin’ ‘bout flyin’ pigs and a parasprite circus!” She grabbed ahold of another scroll that magically appeared out of thin air. “Hoo boy...looks like Cloudsdale’s dealin’ with chocolate milk rainfall or somethin’ nasty. They’re worried ‘bout the milk puddles going sour later. Can’t say I blame them.”

        “Diamond Dogs don’t speak French, do they?” Rainbow asked, looking to Celestia.

        “N-no...well, very few do, at least. Most of the clans only speak Canid and Equinic,” Celestia answered.

        Rainbow Dash groaned as she set down a few scrolls that she had been holding in her magic before turning to the ponies before her. “I...here, send copies of this out to the towns affected by the weather, and let them know that we’re dealing with this as best as we can.” She dug around through a small pile of documents lying on a side table before finding a particular sheet of written parchment. She lifted the paper with her magic, then took a quill and quickly wrote her signature on the bottom before handing the signed document to one of the pegasi. “It’s just a brief explanation of what we’ve figured out so far. We’ll get to the bottom of this, I promise.”

        The pegasus, whose badge of a golden cloud with two lightning bolts signified him as the highest ranking officer of the group, bowed, along with the others. “As you wish, your Highness.” The group then about-faced and made their way out the doors.

        Applejack and Rainbow both visibly slouched as soon as the officers left. The halls were once again quiet, aside from the clicking of hooves on tile as the occasional castle staff or page would walk in to give another document of written concern from a distressed citizen or noble. Celestia frowned a little. “Please tell me you two have at least taken time to eat?”

        Applejack chuckled. “Princess, have you ever taken time to eat durin’ a crisis?”

        The Sun Princess had no argument for that. “Touché, Applejack.”

        The doors burst open again, and a frazzled blue unicorn wearing purple and white robes galloped in. “Trixe and Twilight-er...” She gave a quick bow to the three mares before continuing. “Princess Twilight and I have been looking into the the strange clouds. Her Highness is still in the Arcana Lab, but she wanted me to give this to you right away.”

        Rainbow Dash took one of the papers floating in Trixie’s magic, grasping it with her own red aura. The paper unfurled, and she immediately recognized the chicken scratch that Twilight’s writing devolved into when she was occupied with experiments and research. She cleared her throat before reading aloud to the others:

        “5:07 AM- These clouds seem to be manifested from an alien form of magic. I have never seen anything like this before. Trixie and I are currently trying to tap into the magic flow of these clouds, but have...” Rainbow paused as she studied the writing for several seconds, letting out a snort of annoyance. “Ugh, what the hay, Twilight, were you having a seizure or something here? What’s...the magical influx capacity of...?” Rainbow Dash squinted as she tried to discern her friend’s writing.

Lines of ink were slashed across several equations and various formulas that made little sense to Rainbow Dash. She scanned further down the paper, and continued reading the notes, this time in a slightly neater penmanship, most likely Trixie’s.

        “Right...uh...7:49 AM- After studying the presumed epicenter of these magical effects, we have determined the odd weather’s source to be within the general area of Canterlot. The initial spell casted to create this weather started with a larger than normal ‘affected zone’. This leaves a large area to search through to determine the first point of ‘magical contact’, for the lack of a better term. However, judging from the range and spread pattern of the spell, we hazard a guess of it being centered somewhere within the castle.”

        Applejack turned to Trixie. “So...yer sayin’ that we should be concentratin’ our efforts on Canterlot to solve this problem?”

        “Well, we have narrowed it down to the castle grounds, which is a decently sized space to start our search with.  The sooner we find the source of this problem, the sooner we can get rid of it before it spreads further.”

        Celestia’s breathing hitched a little at this revelation. “Trixie...do...Twilight or you know the nature or caliber of this magic?”

        Trixie sighed, trying to regain her composure. She had been up since this early morning, and the research with Twilight had be hectic at best. While she wouldn’t admit it, she was more than a little freaked out by the powerful magic they were dealing with. Quite a way to start your first day as an advisor to the Princess of Magic.

She looked to Celestia while rubbing one of her temples. “Trixie has been unable to gauge it properly herself. Princess Twilight has done only a little better, placing its potency rating within the range of you and Princess Luna, your Highness...possibly stronger. She seemed rather distraught by this revelation. Trixie cannot help but feel the same.”

        Celestia bit down a curse before looking to Rainbow Dash and Applejack. She was silent for a few moments, trying to gather her thoughts as she looked to the two. Her eyes held a small hint of fear in them, yet her voice betrayed no emotions as she spoke. “Cancel all meetings. Go get Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Luna, and Fluttershy, and your families. Stay together, and don’t leave the castle for any reason.”

        Applejack frowned. “Celestia...what’s wrong?”

        “Meet me in my personal chambers. Luna and I will explain, I promise.”

        Rainbow and Applejack wanted to press her further, but held off, closing their mouths and slouching a bit as the Sun Princess gave them a gentle, yet determined look. “Alright, Celestia. What ‘bout you?”

        “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She turned to two of the guards standing at either side of the throne room doors. “Privates Stratus and Summer, please escort Trixie. Trixie, you and Twilight should also head to my personal chambers as soon as possible.”

        Trixie gave a bow. “Trixie will get to Princess Twilight as soon as possible.” With that, she, along with the two pegasi guards, left the throne room and headed towards the Arcana Lab.

        Celestia looked to the few guards stationed along the walls of the throne room. She cleared her throat before speaking in a loud, firm, clear tone of voice. “Spread word to your fellow guards. I want everypony within the castle on high alert. Follow high alert protocols, and all patrols will be done in pairs, if not more.”

        The guards saluted in unison before exiting the chambers as well. All except a certain dark blue stallion. “Milady...may I ask what the cause for alarm is? Surely this weather is a problem, but...”

        Celestia looked to Spark Fyre and frowned. “I’m afraid Equestria is on the brink of facing total catastrophe. This is likely the beginning of worse things yet to come.”

        Spark Fyre’s eyes widened, but years of serving under the princess kept him from showing any other signs of alarm. “Milady...?”

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