Letters, Letters, Letters
Twilight was her favourite time of day.
As her sun dipped down into the eastern horizon, the dark of night slowly starting to encroach on the white spires of Canterlot, Princess Celestia, ruler of all of Equestria, was finally permitted time for herself. The comfortable lounge in her sitting room, a warm cup of tea, and a fine book, a rather silly little piece of romantic fluff, that had none the less caught her fancy. Celestia smiled softly, as she turned the page, eager to find out if the star-crossed lovers would find their way back together, and let out a laugh. It was times like this that permitted her to be not the Princess of Equestria, but rather just Celestia. She rather doubted that many of her subjects would believe that even she would read such things.
What was better was these times were coming far more often for her these days. Her returned sister had finally felt ready to assume her true position as Princess of the Moon, which meant that the workload on Celestia had been significantly lessened. In all honesty, she was starting to have more free time than she knew what to do with. Before, any time that she had free would be devoted to teaching her faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, but with the purple-coated unicorn now living in Ponyville, that was no longer an option. Celestia had to admit that she had been missing her student far more than she had been expecting.
As if predicting her line of thought, green smoke snaked into the room from her open window, causing Celestias spirits to soar. It floated towards her, and in a flash, manifested into a scroll, emblazoned with Twilight Sparkles seal. She reached out with her magic, grasping the scroll tenderly, eager to read the contents. While she missed Twilight, her being in Ponyville had been nothing but good for her student. Celestias mood swelled with pride, as she opened the scroll. Her student had grown into a fine young mare, her isolation broken by the friends that she had made, the experiences that she had gone through.
“Oh, is that another letter from Twilight?” Celestia blinked, and glanced over her shoulder. Standing at the doorway was her beloved sister, her eyes sparkling with curiosity. Celestia herself could still hardly believe that Luna had been returned to her, after a thousand years of hatred and imprisonment. Yet another thing to be thankful towards Twilight for. She shifted over, allowing Luna some room on the lounge to lay next to her.
“Yes. I was just about to read it when you came in, Luna. It seems that she has learned a new lesson.” She responded, as the darker-pelted Princess took her up on her offer, settling against her older sister. Celestia cracked open the seal, and unfurled the letter, reading out loud.
“Dear Princess Celestia,
Being a good friend means being able to keep a secret. But you should never be afraid to show your true feelings with a good friend. You see...”
The letter went on to speak of how Twilight had learned this lesson, an incident where she was caught between two her friends, each unwilling to admit what they were feeling to the other. Celestia read with pride, her eyes bright, her heart pattering with delight as she read her latest adventure. She was taking so much joy from the letter, she didn't notice the thoughtful, quiet expression on her sisters face.
PS: Twilight told everyone about my secret crush on-”
“Oh, well, it looks like Spike had something to say as well.” Celestia said, giggling softly. “So, what did you think, sister?” She asked, turning to Luna. She hoped that these letters would help her still socially-awkward little sister. Her smile turned into a slight frown as she saw the expression on her younger sisters face.
“Not hiding your true feelings...that is a good lesson. Somepony should take that advice.” Luna said quietly, looking up at Celestia. Celestia briefly felt a slight chill down her spine at her sisters words. Had Luna been secreting her feelings away? Had jealousy and loneliness been assailing her heart again? Celestia had been trying so hard to show her sister not just her affections, but their subjects as well. Had she been failing? She would simply have to redouble her efforts, her sister meant too much to her to lose her to the Nightmare again.
“What do you mean?” She asked, nuzzling Luna comfortingly. “Do you have some secret you wish to tell me?”
“Oh, no, II wasn't speaking of myself. I was speaking about you.” That surprised Celestia. She shook her head fiercely.
“I have hidden no feelings from you, Luna. What makes you speak like that?” She asked, curiously, wanting to know if she had been doing something to make her sister think that she had been keeping secrets from her.
“It's not your feelings towards me that you're keeping secret, Celestia. I don't think you even realize it, so effectively have you kept it from yourself.”
“What do you mean?” Celestia said, the confusion evident in her voice. But, instead of answering her question, Luna asked one of her own.
“Remind me, sister, what did you do at the last Fall Festival?”
“...I went to Ponyville to take in the Fall Race. It was an important event.”
“Yes, an important Ponyville event. That you went to, unscheduled and unannounced, forsaking Canterlots own Fall Event, the event you were supposed to preside over.”
“I believed that it would be good for you, Luna, to do it yourself, so you could make relations to everypony. Didn't you speak for a week afterwards how much fun you had?”
“It's true.” Luna said, blushing slightly at the thought. She had been the belle at the ball, and then there was afterwards... “Believe me, I appreciated it. But I don't believe that was the main reason why you made that decision.”
Celestia was a very patient mare, perhaps the most patient pony in all of Equestria, but even she was starting to grow a little frustrated. She couldn't see where this line of conversation was going, but before she could protest, Luna continued.
“Then there was the Young Fliers Competition. I believe that you awarded Rainbow Dash the award personally.”
“...It was my prerogative. Her Sonic Rainboom, and her rescuing of the Wonderbolts, were truly spectacular. There could be no other choice.”
“Forgive me, for I'm not caught up on everything, but isn't there supposed to be an official award ceremony? Yet, you personally met with Dash and her friends.”
“Where are you going with this, dear sister?” Celestia said, allowing a little more frustration in the tone of her voice than she had wanted. Princess Luna stood up, her horn glowing softly, taking the scroll from the baffled Celestia. She trotted over to her nightstand, and opened its drawer, where several dozen similar scrolls laid, carefully rolled up to keep them from being damaged.
“Letters from Twilight, if I am not mistaken.” Luna said, mostly to herself, as if her suspicions had been confirmed. She turned to her sister. “Tell me, sister, what do you think of her?”
“She is my most faithful student, of course.” Celestia said, cautiously. There seemed to be a strange tautness in her chest, as if something was trying to burst through her.
“Is that all she is to you? It seems to me that there might be something more.” Luna said, a strange caution in her voice. “I have heard you speak of her, big sister. There is a passion in your voice that comes from more than just a teachers pride. Your actions, going to Ponyville unannounced, awarding her friend that prize personally...”
“Luna..” Celestia said, surprised at the warning in her voice, her heart seeming to hammer in her chest, causing her to ache inside.
“I believe you love her, big sister...” Luna finished. “I think you love Twilight Sparkle.”
“That is enough, Luna.” Celestia said, standing up. Her legs were shaking, trying to betray her, but she stood tall. “I cannot...I do not l-love Twilight, and I will not let this...this absurd conversation continue!” Her voice wasn't angry, but there was a firmness that was rare for her.
“It is night now, I believe, and you have duties to attend to. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must respond to my student.” Princess Luna hung her head slightly, looking away. She quietly began to walk towards the door, Celestia watching her go sternly. It was only when she was about to close the door behind her that Luna spoke up one last time.
“I don't think it's wrong.” Luna finished, as the door closed, and Celestia was left alone. Princess Celestia paced for a moment, aggravated by the events of the night. She had been feeling so good, and then her sister had to bring up such a foolish notion. She could not have some school-filly crush on Twilight. Luna was mistaken, taking her consideration and compassion for Twilight as some sort of sign of romantic love. Perhaps a little roughly, her magic grasped a blank scroll, and her quill. Twilight deserved a response to the wonderful lesson that she had learnt, encouragement on how she was perfectly correct, that emotions shouldn't be hidden, lest they twist inside. They should be expressed, the bad so that they could be dealt with, the good ones so they could be delighted in. Her quill dipped into the ink, and she stared at that blank scroll below her. She just needed to find the words.
Why couldn't she find the words?
Why was the only thing marking the scroll a few damp spots?
* * * *
“Spike! Hey, Spike, wake up!”
The purple baby dragon let out a soft groan, as his afternoon sun nap was interrupted. He opened his eyes, and sat up in irritation. He had been napping on a small chaise lounge in the front of the library, and now his boss was poking at him with her horn.
“Come on, Twilight, it's so sunny and bright! It's perfect snoozing weather for a dragon.” Spike protested. “Whatever it is can't be that important, it's too hot to do much else!”
Indeed, in the past week, Ponyville had been in the grip of the worst heatwave in a century. The sun was beating down so harshly that the cloud pegasus were unable to schedule any other weather apart from clear skies: the clouds simply dissipated under the heat of the sun. Most ponies spent their days indoors, or trying to hide behind what little shade that they could find. As such, the usually lively Ponyville had ground to a standstill.
“Of course it's important! Has the Princess responded yet?” Twilight half-asked, half-demanded, the worry evident in her voice.
“Oh, come on, Twilight, stop worrying about it. I'm sure she's just busy, she is the Princess, after all.” Spike said with a groan, and curled back up in that chaise lounge, closing his eyes.
Twilight couldn't help herself, though. Princess Celestia had never taken more than a couple of days to respond to her letters, and that one time had been during a tour of Equestrias cities. Normally it only took about half a day to get Celestias response to the letters Twilight sent. Twilight had sent her last letter over a week ago. She had been spending her time when she realized the response was late fretting over the letter that she had sent, in between bothering Spike. The sheer thought that she had said something wrong, did something to insult the Princess, sent her stomach looping inside her, churning up fret and anxiety.
She was about to knock Spike off of his lounge when she saw-barely-a rainbow-coloured flash zoom by her. She turned, seeing Rainbow Dash flying along close to the ground, pushing a rapidly-dissolving cloud. As Twilight watched, the cloud dispersed into vapor and fluff, Dash letting out a yelp, losing control and crashing into the ground. Twilight gasped, and ran over to where the pegasus had piledrivered herself into the ground.
“Dash! Are you alright?” She exclaimed, her horn glowing, pulling Dash upright, pulling her head out of the ground. Rainbow Dash let out a groan, putting her hoof on her head, regaining her bearings.
“Yeah, I'm okay...Stupid cloud..” She muttered, looking at the rapidly disappearing remnants of the cloudstuff. “I was hoping if I flew close enough to the ground, as quickly as possible, I'd be able to get at least one cloud to Applejack.”
“It's that bad?” Twilight winced. Rainbow began to dust herself off, and looked at Twilight.
“You should see it Twilight, half of the apple trees are already going brown. They're just not getting enough water, and too much sun. Applejacks been running around in a panic the past few days.”
“And the cloud ponies weren't prepared for this?”
“Hey! We're prepared for summer, but we weren't expecting anything like this!” Dash protested in a huff. “We're having a hard enough time keeping our homes floating as it is! We're lucky that the nights have been so cool, or we'd all be sleeping with Flutters-.”
“That's not everything, the animals are suffering too.” A meek voice interrupted, as Fluttershy came to join them. “They're just not used to the heat. Poor Angel hasn't moved from his burrow in three days.”
Twilight sighed, looking up at the sky, wincing slightly from the glare of the sun.
“Well, I'm sure Princess Celestia has a good reason for it being so hot...I just wish I knew what it was.”
The momentary silence that the three ponies lapsed into was interrupted by a surprised belch, and the sound of a baby dragon falling from his sleeping spot.
“Oof! Hey...Hey, Twilight! It's a letter!” Twilight let out a sigh of relief, and a smile spread across her face.
“Finally...I was so worried...” She trotted up to the fallen Spike, taking the letter from him, and unfurling it.
“Dear Twilight Sparkle,”
“Not 'My Faithful Student?” Spike questioned, and Twilight tilted her head quizzically. It was a good point.
“Dear Twilight Sparkle,
Before I continue, know that this is Princess Luna writing. Please forgive me for interrupting on whatever you are doing, but I am writing to you on a matter of great urgency. I believe that I have made a terrible mistake in dealing with my elder sister. I believe that she is making the same mistake that I did so many centuries ago, and sealing emotions deep within her heart. These emotions are not resentment and hatred, those that transformed me into Nightmare Moon, but more positive feelings. However, if they are not expressed and dealt with, they will cause her grievous harm. I attempted to make her confront them, but my approach was unsuccessful, and I have hurt her unintentionally. I believe the only one who will be able to make her deal with them is you. Please, send her a letter, and invite her to Ponyville. Make some excuse. I will see to it that she arrives. You can take it from there. Make it seem as if it was your idea.
I beg of you, please free her heart as you and your friends did with my own.
“There's something wrong with the Princess? But she seemed fine at the Young Fliers Competition.” Rainbow Dash said, tapping her chin with a hoof.
“Yeah, she didn't seem to mind you throwing that cloud at her at all.” Fluttershy contributed.
Twilight re-read the letter to herself, and shivered slightly. If there was something the matter with Princess Celestia, she wanted to do something to help. But, so help her, she couldn't figure out what could be causing it, and Luna seemed so frightfully obtuse in the letter about the matter of what emotions were causing Celestia such problems. Celestia was so strong, noble, and kind. Twilight felt heat on her cheeks. Whatever the problem was, whatever was hurting her, if Twilight could help, she'd do anything to make Celestia happy.
“Spike, take a letter.”
* * * *
“So she hasn't left her room, apart from when necessary?” Princess Luna enquired the pegasus guards that were posted in front of Princess Celestia’s door. It was mid-day, which meant it was very early for Luna, but things were more important than sleep.
“No, Princess. Only to raise the sun and preside over court, and even then she has seemed distracted. She claims that she simply needs her rest, that she's been overworked lately.”
Luna sighed. This was not the intention she had when she had tried to help Celestia with her feelings towards Twilight Sparkle. It had been perhaps a little naive of her to think she could do it on her own. What was worse was that it seemed to be affecting Equestria as a whole-there had been reports all across the land the past week had been one of the hottest on record, and things were starting to be affected adversely. Fortunately, Luna had begun enacting on her Plan B, that started with the letter to Twilight.
She had wanted to tell Twilight the specifics, but it wasn't her place to. She would simply have to hope that Twilight would pick up on the hint, so that if she could get the two together, that they would be able to work everything out.
From inside the room, Lunas perceptive hearing picked up the sound of a letter being delivered to her sister. Luna smiled slightly, put on her best worried face-which was completely honest at this point-and then pushed past the guards, and into Celestia’s room.
Inside, Celestia was already reading the letter. Her eyes were red-rimmed, but that was the only sign of weakness on the Princess of the Sun.
“A letter from your faithful student?” Luna started, careful to keep her tone neutral but curious.
“Luna? Oh...yes.” Celestia really did sound tired, and a little surprised. “It seems her research has hit a bit of a snag, and she's requesting my personal assistance.”
“Well, isn't that interesting? You should go, it might be important.” Luna said simply, and Celestia looked up at her, examining her. Luna kept her face straight, and acted as if the conversation that they had a week ago had never happened. It wouldn't do for Celestia to think that she hadn't convinced Luna.
“I...cannot. There is much to do here, too many duties, too many responsibilities, I'll have to decline. I trust she will be able to work through her snag. She is such a smart pony...” Already she was grasping her scroll and quill, but was stopped as Luna stepped on the scroll.
“Now, now, sister. You could do with the vacation, could you not? You've been so overworked, it's starting to affect Equestria as a whole. Or have you not heard about the heat wave? Surely, if you're that tired, some off time researching with your favourite student would do you some good.”
“But what about..?” Celestia said, clearly trying to find a way to escape from the trap Luna had woven using Celestia’s own words. “Can you handle both sun and moon?”
“Really, dear sister. You handled both for a thousand years. I think I can handle it for a week or two. Do you not trust me?” Luna hated herself for a moment, for pulling the trigger on her ultimate weapon against her sister, but it was for a good cause. Celestia gave a pained look to her little sister, and then nodded softly.
“Very well. I DO trust you, Luna.” Celestia said, slowly standing up, and giving a gentle nuzzle to her sister. “Perhaps...I can reassure myself of some things on this trip.”
“Alright, well, go, then! No time like the present, you can get there before dark! I'll send Twilight a letter saying that you are coming.” Luna exclaimed, glancing back at the guards, ensuring that they, too, had heard it. She had woven the last thread around Celestia, quashing any chance of escape. Clearly still reluctant, Celestia nodded softly, gave Luna a quiet farewell, and then gave a smile to her guards, allowing them to lead the way.
Luna exhaled when she was the last pony left in the room. She had fulfilled her role, she could only hope that Twilight Sparkle could be as clever this time, as she had been when she defeated Nightmare Moon.
* * * *
“Hurry, Spike, she'll be here at any moment!” Twilight said in a panic, her magic doing its best to clean four places at once. She had gotten word from Luna that Celestia had left, and was on her way.
“We've gone over the library three times, Twilight!” Spike griped. He was beginning to feel a bit used, considering the rapid correspondence between the two conspirators had to go through him. “Besides, I don't think the Princess is going to mind a little dust!”
“Well, I do!” Twilight protested, her eyes wide. “Princess Luna’s letter said that Celestia needs my help, and I don't want anything interfering! Not even a little dust!”
“Well, I think-” The dragon started, and then let out a yelp as he felt pony magic grab him, and push him out the door. “Hey, what are you doing?!”
“I said I don't want anything interfering! Not even you!” Twilight said, her eyes wide.
“Geez, Twi, the way you're acting, it's almost like...”
“Like WHAT, Spike?” Twilight said, promised death in her eyes. Spike shivered slightly.
“Ah...nothing! Nothing! I think I'll go...see what Rarity is doing!” The baby dragon showed wisdom beyond his young years, and beat a hasty retreat. Twilight exhaled,watching her scribe run off, and then basked in the quiet of the library, trying to calm her anxious nerves. The whole idea of Princess Celestia having problems of her own seemed foreign to her. She was always the wise one, the one who had a kind word or a fond nuzzle for her, to make her feel better when Twilight was sad, or confused. Her smile and praise made her feel lighter than air. She still remembered the hug that she had gotten when they freed Princess Luna from Nightmare Moon, how it made electricity dance through her.
Twilight quietly made her way to the bedroom, starting to make herself more presentable for the princess. Her hoof passed over her nightstand, and she paused for a moment. She opened the drawer, and gently took out one of the letters that had been so carefully stored there, unfurling it, and re-reading the kind words that the Princess had given her, bolstering her courage. She didn't know why she had so carefully kept those letters, save for the fact that they had been from Celestia, and that alone was enough.
Twilight blushed slightly as warmth tingled through her body. She was starting to get those thoughts again. The ones she had never dared tell anyone about, least of all the subject of those fancies.
Twilight frowned, looking herself in the mirror.
“Wasn't that the point of the lesson? To be brave enough to show your true feelings?” Maybe to help her Princess, she would have to face them herself.
* * * *
Princess Celestia sighed softly as the carriage started to descend, heading into Ponyville proper. She looked over the land, parched from the heat of the sun, the grass growing brown and the trees starting to suffer, and mentally scolded herself. It wouldn't do for her to be affecting her land this much, she was making ponies-her subjects-suffer needlessly for her own weaknesses. Celestia wasn't a fool. She knew exactly why her sister had been so forceful in getting her to Ponyville. She wanted Celestia to face the feelings that were plaguing her, and deal with them.
So she would.
She would meet face to face with Twilight Sparkle, her belov-her faithful student, and she would snuff out any undue feelings. It didn't matter anyways, she believed, no, she firmly knew that Twilight would have any of those feelings towards her in any regards. One of her guards-how she hated how her guards insisted that they accompany her nearly everywhere-nodded to her, indicating that they were landing near the tree that served as the library of Ponyville, and her students living abode. Princess Celestia’s heightened senses could pick up surprised gasps, the residents of Ponyville expressing their shock that their Princess was paying their little town a surprised visit.
Celestia hated that too. Sometimes, she just wished that people would treat her as an equal, not some deity to be put up on a pedestal. She felt the carriage touch down, and she stepped out, ignoring her guards, ignoring the ponies that were rushing to watch her. She had a specific task to do, and she really did not feel like dealing with anyone other than Twilight Sparkle. Sparing just the briefest of nods to ponies that she did recognize, before rapping firmly on the door to the library.
“I'm coming! Just a moment!” Twilight’s voice called out, clearly flustered on the other side, and despite herself, Celestia smiled. Twilight could be so awkward sometimes, and it was really rather charming. There was a thump, a crash, a yelp of pain, and then finally the door opened. Her student, the cute purple unicorn, her hair obviously having been combed carefully, and then ending up in disarray again. Twilight looked up at Celestia, a strange mix of happiness, worry, and something else playing across her. Twilight had a terrible poker face.
“Hello again, my faithful student.” Celestia began, and it briefly shocked her inwardly how...eager that she sounded.
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight said delightfully, and leaned in, clearly looking for a hug from the Princess. With a little trepidation, she leaned in, wrapping her head around the smaller pony, and trembled just a little as she felt electricity dance through her. They released the hug, and there was a faint blush on Twilight’s cheeks. “Come in, come in...”
Celestia followed Twilight into the library, closing the door on her guards, on the other ponies. The library was, for the most part, spic and span, save for one bookshelf, that had fallen over, spreading its contents all over the floor. Celestia chuckled softly, and Twilight’s blush intensified.
“I-I'm sorry, Princess!”
“It's alright, Twilight. I see enough sterile environments in the castle. Please, you know I like you calling me Celestia.” Twilight led Celestia to a lounge built for her size, and the Princess gratefully settled down, as Twilight began to pour them some tea. “So your letter said that you hit a problem with your research?”
Twilight blinked blankly, as if she had completely forgotten the letter. She had the most nervous look on her face, and which, in turn, was starting to make Celestia feel nervous, her heart fluttering slightly. It couldn't be.
“Yes, well, Princes-I mean, Celestia. It's about ones true feelings...” Celestia’s heart lept into her throat, and she was very careful to keep from reacting visibly to her student.
“Go on.” She kept her voice steady. Had Luna informed Twilight in some way? No, it couldn't be.
“I think that the lesson is a good one-a very good one-so I've been following it.” Twilight said, and that blush was still on her cheeks. She seemed to be refusing to look Celestia in the eyes. “But there's one pony I haven't been able to show them to yet...but I think I'm ready to now.”
The faintest tremble raced through Celestia. No.
“Twilight, you don't have to do any-” Celestia began, but her voice stopped working as Twilight looked at her, raw emotion etched on her face. Not just any emotion, but that one. The one she was most scared of.
“Celestia...oh, this is really hard!” Twilight fretted, her hooves adorably tapping nervously on the table. This wasn't supposed to be how it was going. The floodgates opened, as Twilight spilled everything out lest her nerves stopped her. “But, I'm worried you're hiding things and hurting yourself and I think this is the only way I can think of helping you and so I’m going to say it I love you Princess!”
“I-I'm sorry..I'm sorry!” Twilight pleaded. “But I feel good around you, Celestia! Y-You make me happy!” Celestia looked away.
“E-even if I-I felt the same way, we couldn't...”
“Why not? Is it because you're my teacher? I'm a mare, I can make my own choices!” Twilight continued, demanded, and Celestia felt her heart breaking a little.
“It's not that...It's because...I will outlive you. Someday, you will be just a distant ghost to me. You deserve someone to grow old with.” Celestia finished, leaving unsaid, but as clear as day, that other reason. That Celestia herself didn't want to face the day she would lose Twilight. She knew it was going to be hard enough as it was, but with those sort of feelings in the mix, it would be ever more painful. The library settled into a quiet silence for the briefest of moments, until Twilight looked up at her teacher.
“You told me once, when I asked about it, that the curse of being a Princess is losing everyone in the passage of time.” Celestia nodded numbly.
“Do you remember the other thing you told to me that day?” Celestia blinked slightly, and reflected back, to that sunny afternoon spent in the garden of Canterlot, the day slowly winding down. She remembered speaking to the younger unicorn, and as she remembered the words, Twilight repeated them.
“That the blessing is that you get to keep the memories of them, forever. That you never forget them, even after a thousand years. That the act of knowing and remembering is worth the pain of loss.” Twilight shook her head softly, and got onto the lounge with Celestia. The Princess could feel her smaller body trembling, the warmth pressing against her. “I-I know I'll pass on someday...but if I can give you good memories... If I can live forever in your heart, and keep it warm, then, I'd be happy.”
Celestia felt her heart pattering softly, and it felt so right to have Twilight pressing up against her like this. Celestia looked down, a soft smile starting to spread.
“You're wiser than I, it seems...”
“P-Princess Celestia, I'm sorr-mnh!” Twilights apology was cut short, as the larger Princesses muzzle met her own, Celestia kissing her with a surprising passion, letting go all of the barriers to the Princesses heart, finally allowing her own true feelings to flow through her, to be readily accepted by that small purple unicorn. Celestia’s wing wrapped around Twilight’s body, and pulled her closer.
“S-So I take it...”
“You'll live forever in my heart.” Celestia smiled softly, allowing tears of happiness to roll down her cheeks. “So, we'll have to start building those memories together.”
With a cry of happiness, Twilight pressed as tightly as she could to her Princess, closing her eyes, and together, they stayed like that, enjoying the warmth of each others bodies, the beating of their hearts. Deep into the night, and well into the next day.
That day in Ponyville would be talked about for decades to come, as the best summer day that small town had ever experienced.