Mercy came to work that morning with a smile on her face. True, she never disliked what she did, always counting herself lucky to have what was in her opinion one of the best jobs a pony could ask for, but today was something special. Fuchsia’s new parents would be arriving to formalize the adoption, and she'd finally be getting a home of her own. The little filly wasn't the oldest child at the orphanage, but she'd been there the longest, since she was barely old enough to speak. Few foals spent half as much time waiting, and many pony couples were eager to open their homes to little fillies and colts in need. Still Mercy had watched Fuchsia be passed over again and again, retreating further into her shell, no longer seeming to even want to find a home or a family. She remembered the day Fuchsia’s father had left her with them, convinced of his inability to raise a child alone, not even saying goodbye to his daughter. Mercy had never seen a pony cry as much as when Fuchsia realized her father wasn't coming back.
Yet despite her withdrawn behavior, Fuchsia had apparently managed to warm the heart of somepony. When the letter came, she'd dropped everything to run and tell the little filly to get ready, that this time tomorrow she'd be leaving. Now standing at her desk, Mercy kept eyeing the clock, counting down the minutes. She hoped they wouldn't be late. Though the girl didn't seem to socialize much, she imagined Fuchsia might be missing the time she could be spending with the other children as she sat near the door, all her belongings packed in a single tiny bag. As the clock was ticking away the final seconds, there came a knock at the door. Mercy nearly tripped over her own hooves as she went to open it, revealing a tall, handsome unicorn male with a luxurious ebony coat, wearing perhaps the last thing she'd expected to see come through that door today or any day. The unicorn was wearing the gold armor of Celestia's royal guard. Mercy had no idea what he was doing here. "Can I help you?" The unicorn's horn flashed and a scroll appeared floating in midair.
"I was told to give you this. If everything is in order the child is to come with me." Mercy had unfurled the scroll before he finished and was reading frantically, and as the signature at the bottom came into focus, she paused on it, finally rolling the paper back up and standing dumfounded. Eventually she turned toward Fuchsia, the little filly's attention fully commanded by the presence of the gold-armored guardpony. She'd never seen anypony like that in her life. She realized that Mercy was talking to her.
"Darling? Did you hear me? You need to get your things. Our friend here is escorting you to your new home."
"But...I thought my new mama was going to come get me." A faint sadness cracked the filly's otherwise featureless expression.
"Sweetie, it's okay. She's waiting for you. She sent this nice pony to come get you and take you to her."
"But why didn't she come here herself? Why can't I meet my mom and dad before I go? What if I don't like them?" Mercy gritted her teeth to stop herself from tearing up in front of her.
"I wouldn't let anypony take you away from us if I wasn't sure you'd like them. Do you trust me?" Fuchsia took a few tentative steps forward.
"If I don't like them, I want to come back. Will you promise I can?"
"Sweetie, please. I can't--" But the guard interrupted.
"If you're not happy when we get there, you're free to return. I have assurances from the Princess herself." Fuchsia didn't understand what he meant, but reluctantly said her final goodbye to Mercy as she and the guard trotted out the door.
"We're not going far, but you don't have to walk." The guard hoisted Fuchsia onto his back with a little levitation magic and started down the street. She knew the layout of this area fairly well, though she'd never been inside any of the other buildings. She also knew the way to the park where the caretakers often took her and the other children, which seemed to be where they were headed now. But as soon as the familiar grass and little trees came into view, she found them turning up a wide avenue, headed toward the largest building she knew.
"Why are we going here?" It didn't look like any house she'd ever seen.
"I'm taking you to see the Princess. You might not understand how fortunate you are, but the Princess has selected you to be her new student." The guard trotted up the carpeted front steps past several other ponies in similar attire.
"But they said I was going to get a new family! Miss Mercy lied to me!" Fuchsia tried to jump off the guard's back, but the unicorn held her in place as they reached the top of the stairs and started inside. "Let me go!"
"Princess Celestia has selected you as her student, which means she's adopted you as well. As I said earlier I have her assurances that you will not be forced to stay against your will, but you must come with me to meet her first." Fuchsia gave up struggling at last, now looking around the wide hall at the amazing images adorning the walls and banners. They came to a halt in a tall-ceilinged room with another large staircase, at the top of which sat a majestic figure bathing in warm, golden evening sunlight washing in through the high windows. Fuchsia had never seen anypony so beautiful. She knew this must be the Princess, and as she leaned upward, Fuchsia realized the unicorn guard was no longer holding her in place, lost her balance, and topping over onto the carpet. The Princess jumped up, swiftly making her way down the stairs. Fuchsia was lifted up again, meeting the Princess's eyes.
"Are you alright?" Her voice had a gentle, whispering quality, yet bubbled over with concern.
"I'm okay. I'm sorry, I.." Fuchsia didn't know why she was apologizing.
"There there, it's alright." The Princess gently lowered her to the floor. "If you're feeling well, allow me to introduce myself. I am Princess Celestia of Equestria, and I herby extend a formal invitation to you to to stay here and study as my apprentice. If however you wish to return to the orphanage, you may choose to do so.” Celestia smiled at Fuchsia, whose desire to run off had left her the instant she’d laid eyes on the Princess. At the very edge of her mouth, a faint curl of a smile appeared.
“I’d like to…” She bit her lip. “I’ll stay.” Celestia beamed.
“Wonderful.” The Princess unfurled her wings a bit, which Fuchsia only now noticed she had in addition to her unicorn’s horn. She’d never seen a pony with wings and a horn, before. “Would you like to come with me and see your new room?” Fuchsia nodded, then cantered alongside the Princess as she made her way over to a large wooden door in the back of the throne room. Inside the room was a deep, cool purple, slightly darker than the hue of her coat, with a gently crackling fire set near a fluffy cushion. “Do you like it?” Fuchsia would have been happy with any room, even a closet, if she could call it her own, though this one was smaller than she’d expected after passing through the enormous rooms earlier. Still, it looked cozy, and an empty shelf nearby could easily house the few toys and trinkets she’d carried with her from the orphanage.
“I love it.” Her smile had widened a bit. Celestia grinned.
“I’m happy to hear you say that, and it’s nice to see your beautiful smile. You should smile more often.” Fuchsia blushed. “Anyway, my quarters are right through that door, so I should never be far away, but sometimes I might be very busy. I’m responsible for ruling an entire nation after all, among other things. But if you’re going to be my pupil, then we’ll be spending a lot of time together. But we’ll discuss that later. Actually I have some business that needs tending to this very minute. Would you like to come see the observatory?”
“Sure!” Fuchsia had no idea what an observatory was, but she was excited by everything at this point. Celestia led the way, and they didn’t go back out through the door they’d entered in, but through a spiral staircase behind a curtain in Celestia’s room, which Fuchsia saw was identical in size, although with the walls and floor a notably warmer shade of purple. At the top of the stairs was a large domed room with a glass ceiling, giving a lovely view of the evening sun as it drooped in the sky.
“It’s time to lower the sun for tonight and bring out the moon.” Celestia closed her eyes, her horn glowing softly white. The sun began to sink slowly down over the horizon until the only illumination in the lonely observatory was Celestia’s magic. Eventually a second source of light appeared on the periphery of Fuchsia’s vison. She turned around to watch the silvery moon climb into the sky, its rise slowing to a stop as the light from Celestia’s horn died down. The Princess turned to see her pupil spellbound by the lunar glow. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Fuchsia thought she heard the Princess sniffle, but maybe she’d imagined it. At the Princess’s urging, they went back down the spiral stairs, back to her new room, and Fuchsia shook off the chilly night air in the warm glow of the fire. “Would you like a story to help you sleep?”
“What kind do you have?” Fuchsia didn’t really like stories. They usually didn’t help her sleep much at all, even though all the other foals liked them. But she might be willing to try a story if the Princess would stay and red it.
“Well now let’s see…” She expected the Princess to walk back into her own room to pick something from the large bookcase she’d seen, which must have had more books than the entire library at the orphanage. But instead she went over to a shelf tucked away in a lonely corner of the room, and pulled out an old, dusty-looking book with a worn binding and yellowing pages. It had no visible writing on the cover. “I think there may be a few stories in here you might enjoy.” Fuchsia listened attentively as Celestia read from the book, telling her pupil about the adventures of a silly little pony she simply referred to as The Princess. Fuchsia asked if these were stories written about her. “Oh, no. I do have some stories about me, but they’re mostly all nonsense. If you’d ever like to hear a story about when I was younger, I’ll tell you a few, but aren’t you enjoying these stories?”
“Well yeah, but does that mean they’re made up?”
“No, of course not. Everyone one of these stories is absolutely true. I’m not the only princess in the whole world, you know.”
“Well then does that mean I could be a princess someday?”
“Maybe someday, but if you like you can be my little princess.” Her eyes lit up at this.
“You really mean it?” She bit her lip. “But it’s just…I don’t really have a good name for a princess.”
“I think Fuchsia’s a perfectly cute little name. Do you not like it?”
“Miss Mercy said they named me that ‘cause of my hair pattern, but she always said she would have named me Violet. But I don’t really like that name either.”
“Well if you like, I had a name in mind. But first, what kind of a name do you think you would like?”
“I think…something really pretty, like a star. Like…Princess Sparkle!”
“Well then, how about a compromise?” Celestia knelt down and pulled a blanket over her without magic. “Twilight Sparkle.”