(Image from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_8XlorG6n_cI/TU5dcOd7igI/AAAAAAAABG4/75Oju7KbxDA/s1600/1296932188128.png)
Author’s note: This work of fiction speculates on what would happen if the worlds of Equestria and Ōkami were intertwined. Spoilers are unavoidable, although I have done my best to minimize them. Having played Ōkami will likely boost your appreciation, however I have tried to make it easily understandable to people who haven’t experienced Ōkami’s magic as well. The story begins shortly before the end of Ōkami, and the title is meant to be a twist on A Tale of Two Cities, unrelated to the game Two Worlds, which I was only recently made aware of.
This is only the second fan fiction I have ever written, and it is also my second attempt at writing an Ōkami/MLP: FiM crossover; the first, Minus the Sun, was more speculation and fanservice to Ōkami than a work of fiction in its own right (and, if I may be totally honest, pretty effing terrible), so I scrapped it in favor of starting from scratch. I would appreciate any constructive criticism anypony has; just leave a comment on the Equestria Daily page for this story.
Okami and its respective characters © Clover Studios, and MLP and its respective characters © Lauren Faust. This is a fan fiction, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Cheers to all you bronies, and without further ado, enjoy!
One thousand years ago, a dragon with eight heads and a body the size of a mountain appeared on the Celestial Plain and brought with it terror and darkness to the tranquil home of the Celestials. Only two rose to combat the horrifying beast—a golden-haired man and a wolf of divine power. They stood against the dragon with the conviction of the heavens themselves, but their dark foe was not easily bested, and they soon found themselves stripped of any hope of victory before the dragon’s relentless assault. Seeing only one chance at defending her home remaining, the wolf took it without hesitation; seizing the dragon with all her might, she dragged it down into the mortal realm and away from the Celestial Plain. Her friend called out to her as she fell, telling her she must wait for the Chosen One.
So she waited. The dragon grew accustomed to its new home and began demanding sacrifices from the nearest village. On the same day every year, a white-plumed arrow would bury itself in the roof of a house in the village, and every year, a beautiful maiden would be offered to the dragon to appease it. No one dared challenge the terrifying monstrosity.
And still the wolf waited. She ventured through the village at night, ever vigilant and determined that no other harm should befall the villagers. But still she waited, and did nothing.
For nine hundred years she waited, helplessly watching the village sacrifice maiden after maiden, until she found him: The Chosen One. The Chosen One was secretly in love with the most beautiful maiden in the village, but on that fateful day, the arrow chose her. Enraged by this sign, the Chosen One armed himself, took her place, and found himself stared down by no less than eight pairs of gleaming red eyes. Raising his sword and shouting his fury, he leapt about, avoiding the dragon’s bites and breaths with swift movements and swinging his sword in return. Well into the moonless night he slashed, but his efforts did nothing to the dragon’s thick hide, and they left him exhausted and defenseless before the mighty dragon.
It was then that she leapt in, fangs bared and howling her vengeance, and she continued the fight. As the Chosen One recovered, he saw the wolf shielded with the elements of Nature herself. As the dragon closed in for a killing blow, a tree sprouted before his eyes, reaching to the sky as it stood defiantly between the dragon and the wolf. And as the dragon reared back and drenched the ground in searing flames, a wind would form and simply whisk it away.
Yet still it was not enough. Before long, the wolf lay helpless before the unharmed dragon, her white coat dyed crimson from the many cuts she had received. The dragon closed in once again, and the Chosen One knew that it would be the last.
Summoning her last ounce of strength, the wolf faced the sky and loosed a mighty howl. Moonlight pierced the sky as clouds parted, and as it shone down, the Chosen One’s sword glowed golden and hummed with power.
Knowing this to be his last chance, the Chosen One brought his sword and thoughts of his loved one to bear. Leaping forwards, he swung his sword again and again, the blade gleaming in the moonlight, and head after head fell to the floor, until finally, he leapt towards the heavens, and cleaved the last head in half, from scaly top to the base of the neck. The dragon was defeated and the village was freed.
But as he basked in his moment of glory, one that would be etched in history for years to come, he heard a whimper. The wolf had collapsed, and a pool of blood was forming under her. He scooped the wolf up in his arms and ran the entire way back to the village.
The villagers surrounded the wolfas she lay on the grass. She whimpered for one last time, then closed her eyes, as though she was simply going to sleep.
The village was eternally thankful for their canine savior, and they erected a shrine with a statue of her likeness in her honor. An era of peace and prosperity followed.
The book ended there. The lavender unicorn reading it took down a few final notes, then closed the book and put it back on the shelf. Twilight Sparkle was a little put off by the story; it glazed over some important facts in lieu of a heroic story, and as epic as it was, she couldn’t shake off the feeling that the book, Ancient Tales, had left a few things out on purpose.
Whatever happened to the Celestial Plain? She wondered. And what about her friend, the golden-haired man? And all the Celestials?
She sighed, flicking her tail in annoyance. The book, she reminded herself, was a compilation of old ponytales, not a history book, and its purpose was to entertain, not to instruct or educate. She chuckled as a memory flitted across her mind: “You simply must stop reading those dusty old books!”
Her reverie was interrupted by a loud burping sound from the kitchen, and shortly afterwards a small purple dragon emerged, holding a scroll with a golden seal on it. “Letter from the Princess!” Spike announced, unrolling the parchment and clearing his throat:
My faithful student Twilight Sparkle,
I am sure you are aware of the upcoming astral event tomorrow evening, and I am also sure that you are still studying the magic of friendship diligently. In light of this, I humbly request the presence of you and your friends, tomorrow in Canterlot. I will send a chariot to the library tomorrow morning to collect you and your friends; please pack one or two night’s worth of necessities, and tell your friends to do the same. I look forwards to seeing you all again soon.
Your loving teacher,
“Wow,” Spike said, scratching his head. “That’s kinda…random. What would she need you all in Canterlot by tomorrow for?”
He lowered the letter to find an empty room. “Dangit, I hate it when she does that,” he grumbled, walking to the stairs. “TWILIGHT! What would Princess Celestia need you all in Canterlot for?”
“Tomorrow evening, there’s a total solar eclipse!” Twilight responded, walking back down the stairs with The Stars and Skies of Equestria floating in front of her, her purple eyes shining. “This only happens once every hundred years, Spike! We can’t afford to miss something like this!” She frowned, a thought occurring to her. “But why would Celestia need me and my friends in Canterlot for it?”
Spike shrugged. “Beats me. But hey, we get to go back to Canterlot! With your friends! And without some stupid frou-frou nonsense to keep us from hanging out together!” He grinned and winked at Twilight, who rolled her eyes.
“Spike, how many times are you going to make me say this? You were right! We should’ve hung out together from the beginning.”
Spike hid his grin behind a hand. “So…we should probably tell everypony, right?”
Twilight nodded and set her book on a table. “We should go now, I’d rather not tell them tomorrow morning that ‘Hey, did you know you’re going to Canterlot with us for a night or two to hang out with Princess Celestia?’” Spike chuckled and opened the door.
The sun shone brightly overhead as they made their way to Sweet Apple Acres; it was applebuck season, Twilight reasoned, so they should tell Applejack first so they could make harvesting arrangements while she was gone. A voice in her head said they should visit Rarity first, because she would likely need time to prepare as well, but Twilight ignored it. The voice became increasingly annoyed when she decided to tell Applejack first until she zipped Spike’s mouth shut.
“Mmmphhh,” Spike said, tugging at the zipper on his mouth. “MMMPPHH.”
“Sorry, Spike, I can’t hear you!” Twilight turned her ear towards him, suppressing a smirk. “Speak louder!”
Spike glared angrily at her, hands on hips. Twilight laughed, and someone else joined in. They turned to find Applejack walking towards them, chortling merrily and moving normally despite the cartfuls of apples she was hauling.
“Hey there sugarcube! What’cha up to? Did’ya need anythin’?” Applejack asked, still chuckling softly.
“Oh no, I’ve just been studying, you know, the usual. But I got an interesting letter…” she pulled the letter out of her saddlebag and floated it up for the orange pony to read. Applejack’s face grew more and more puzzled as she read, finally looking back up at Twilight.
“It’s a total solar eclipse,” Twilight explained before Applejack could ask. “It means that the moon will move between us and the sun for a short amount of time.”
Applejack looked down at the letter. “Hmm…” she said finally, looking thoughtful. “I reckon there’d be some mighty weird stuff goin’ on between Celestia an’ Luna if the moon really does block out the sun. But we’ll be okay, right? No problem. S’long as nothin’ happens with…” she broke off, paling. She gulped nervously. “Oh, pony feathers…”
The same thought occurred to Twilight. “Oh no, you’re right! That must be why Celestia needs us! Just in case…” she trailed off, gazing at the sky. After a moment, Spike poked her and crossed his arms. “Shoot, you’re right, Spike, we still need to tell everypony!” She turned to head back to Ponyville. “See you tomorrow morning, Applejack!”
“Sure thing, sugarcube! I sure got a lotta packin’ to do,” she added, muttering to herself.
Twilight finished telling everypony about the eclipse and their duty to the Princess before dinnertime. Rarity had pouted that she wouldn’t be able to continue work on another design for Hoity Toity, Fluttershy had quietly agreed, Rainbow had become immensely excited at the prospect, and Pinkie had continued making muffins as though Twilight had only asked what her favorite flavor of cake was, but they all agreed immediately when Twilight brought up her and Applejack’s suspicion.
The sun was setting as they returned to the library, Twilight groaning under the weight of a few dozen cupcakes. Spike collapsed into his bed almost immediately, but the unicorn couldn’t follow suit just yet. She wearily relieved herself of the cupcakes, then set about packing for tomorrow, gathering up astronomy books and her notes.
An hour passed before Twilight finished, dragged her hooves up the stairs, and barely made it into her bed before she fell fast asleep.
An arctic wind blew across her face, threatening to blind her with snow. It was nearly impossible to see through the raging blizzard, but a lake frozen solid was stretched out in front of her, and in the distance, she could see the outline of something protruding from the lake, but as hard as she tried, she couldn’t make out what it was. She heard a whimper at her side, but as she turned to look, the earth beneath her feet began to rumble, and the ground came up to meet her.
“Come on, Twilight! You can’t sleep in today, the chariot will be here any minute now!” Spike shook Twilight again. “The Princess won’t like to be kept waiting!”
Twilight snapped awake on the word “Princess” and leapt out of bed, almost colliding with the purple dragon at her side. “I’m not late, am I? Are we?” she asked.
Spike shook his head. “Nope. Not yet, anyways.”
Horrified, the lavender unicorn leapt towards the door, snagging her saddlebags on the way and draping them across her back, pausing only to brush her mane. Looking back, she saw Spike still standing by the shelves. “We can’t afford to be late, Spike!” she said, wrapping the dragon in magic as she lifted him up and dropped him on her back. She pulled the library door open and blinked as sunlight flooded into the library. As her eyes adjusted, she saw ponies emerging from their houses to go about their daily business. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon, bathing Ponyville in a golden yellow light, and she found all five of her friends standing outside, all wearing saddlebags and surrounded by luggage. They were all looking upwards expectantly.
The lavender unicorn suddenly found herself buried beneath a hyperactive mass of pink.
“Twilight! Omigosh can you believe it?! We’re going to CANTERLOT! To see PRINCESS CELESTIA! I wonder if I can have her cupcake again! It was SSOOO tasty! Ooh! And maybe I could make her a cake and then eat it before—“
“Not now, Pinkie.” She pushed Pinkie off of her impatiently, and the pony’s cotton-candy hair seemed to wilt slightly.
“Aww, no cakes? Not even a mini-cupcake?”
Rainbow stifled a yawn. “Pinkie, are you ever tired? Like, ever?”
“Nope! Not when I’m awake, anyways! And you should really stop taking naps at weird hours, silly!” She started bouncing around again, a smile plastered back on her face, but she stopped immediately when Twilight’s stomach growled. Twilight coughed nervously to cover it up, all too aware of Pinkie’s habits, but as bubbly and as oblivious as Pinkie could be, the purple unicorn wasn’t about to get away with it this time.
“I heard that!” Pinkie exclaimed, glaring at the offending stomach. “And I have just what you need!”, she added, grinning as though her smile could stave off hunger.
“Pinkie, I didn’t have time for breakfast, that’s all,” Twilight began, but Pinkie was already rummaging around in her bags. Less than a second later, she pulled out a plate full of pancakes, already drizzled with syrup and topped with a pat of butter.
“How—but—what?” Twilight stammered.
“It’s Pinkie Pie, sugarcube, do ya really need t’know?” Applejack muttered to Twilight under her breath. The purple unicorn shook her head in silent bewilderment, accepted the plate of pancakes from Pinkie, and promptly began relieving her hunger as fast as she could without sacrificing dignity. Pinkie began bouncing again.
“So how are they? Pretty good, huh? They’re apple pancakes, I made ‘em myself with super-juicy apples thanks to Applejack! Whaddya think?” she asked.
Rarity shot a withering look at Pinkie. “Darling, please. She’s eating, and her mouth is full. You really should know better than that.”
“That’s silly! She might change her mind about the pancakes after she’s had one! The only way I can get to know what she really thinks is if I ask RIGHT NOW! I mean, something might happen after she swallows that makes her think it’s awful when it actually isn’t! So how are they, Twilight? Good, huh?”
Twilight, her mouth full of her third pancake, simply nodded.
“WOOHOO! I knew you’d like ‘em! I know! This calls for a CELEBRATION! With free apple pancakes and apple muffins for EVERYPONY!”
Rainbow failed to stifle another yawn, and they all turned to look at the light blue pegasus snoring lightly in the grass. Pinkie bounced to her side.
“Aww, what’s wrong, Dashie? Why the cloudy skies?”
Rainbow murmured softly in her sleep. “Ten…seconds…flat…”
Exactly ten seconds later, Pinkie started shaking the sleeping pegasus. “Wake up, Dashie! They’re here!”
Rainbow groggily opened her eyes, meaning to defend herself from the perpetual sugar rush, then stopped when she noticed she was lying in front of two stoic pegasi clad in golden armor and harnessed to an ornate carriage.
“Oh, horse apples. Coming!” she called, grabbing her saddlebag and hopping into the carriage. Everypony was already inside, only having their saddlebags to carry. Applejack was leaning out the opposite window.
“I said ‘no,’ Applebloom, t’ain’t no use in arguin’ with me, I ain’t gonna budge. I don’t reckon the Princess’d have room for an extra filly that she didn’t ask for. I’m awful sorry,” she added as Applebloom gave her the eyes. “But I can’t have ya jus’ wanderin’ around Canterlot all day, an’ ya got school anyways, so go on! Git!” Applebloom turned away in a huff, not even bothering to say goodbye to her older sister. “Ugh, I love that li’l filly t’death, but she’s just so dang stubborn all the time. Oh, hey, Rainbow, “ she said, having pulled her head back inside the carriage and noticing the newcomer rather than her friends snickering at the farmer calling anypony stubborn. “Glad t’see ya didn’t get run over. Where’s Rarity?”
“I’m out here, darling!” Rarity replied. Rainbow glanced out of the window to see Rarity floating no less than seven luggage bags in addition the saddlebags she was wearing.
“Rarity, what in the hay do you need all this stuff for? We’re only going to be there a couple nights, max!”
Rarity looked astounded at her friend’s lack of acuity. “A couple nights with Princess Celestia! I’ll not have me nor any of us appearing in front of royalty in anything less than our best, especially on my watch! And I could really use a hoof here,” she added, visibly struggling to keep the luggage afloat. Rainbow rolled her eyes.
“Fine,” she said, hopping out of the carriage and grabbing hold of a bag. It was surprisingly light, and she pulled it towards the carrage.
“So what is all this stuff anyways, Rarity?” Rainbow inquired, pulling the third bag onto the carriage.
“Oh, they’re just full of spare cloth for your dresses. Just in case, you know, something dreadful happens,” she said airily, giving Rainbow a meaningful wink.
“’Dreadful’ meaning ‘royalty using ponies as a flying cake shield’?”
“Yes, darling, I would say that qualifies as ‘dreadful’,” Rarity said, emphasizing the last word as though the word itself was the cake she had involuntarily intercepted. “Nopony should ever be covered from head to hooves in frosting, even if the cake is wonderfully delicious.”
“What if it were,” Rainbow paused, smirking. “Prince Blueblood?”
A fleeting look of absolute bliss appeared on Rarity’s face, but it was swiftly replaced by suppressed rage. “I do think I won’t ever woo a prince ever again! They’ll just remind me of…him. Ugh! The royal pain is highly unpleasant and most unchivalrous.”
“Being used as a pony shield can’t be much fun,” Rainbow empathized. “I mean, even if—ow!”
She broke off, having dropped the final piece of luggage, which was far heavier than the others.
“Dearie, I can’t maintain your dresses if I don’t have my equipment,” Rarity chided, answering Rainbow’s unasked question. “Now, on three…one, two, three!”
She wrapped it in magic and lifted it upwards as Rainbow pulled it onto the carriage. “There, darling, that’s all of them. Now, let’s go, shall we? Oh, thank you, darling!”
Rainbow grinned as she bowed and held the door open for Rarity, and the same smile crept across Rarity’s face as she noticed her friend’s grin. “How chivalrous!” she added sarcastically, and they shared a good laugh at that as the pegasi spread their wings and turned towards Canterlot.
Clouds whipped by the windows of the carriage, and their light talk of anything that came to mind faded to silence as the ride progressed. The sky was a pastel blue all the way across; it looked as though it was just the ceiling of the world that somepony had painted over. The lands far below them seemed to glow with a soft yellow in the morning sunlight. Rainbow had quickly become annoyed by all the sitting, had taken to flying alongside the carriage to stretch her wings. The other pegasus with them was nowhere near as bold.
“Oh, my,” Fluttershy whispered, shuddering as she looked out of the window. Applejack gently pulled her back into the carriage.
“Now don’t get yer mane in a twist, Fluttershy,” she said. “We’re gonna be jus’ fine.”
Fluttershy buried her head in the seat, whimpering. Twilight rolled her eyes, but said nothing and began reading an astronomy book on various celestial anomalies.
It seemed like mere moments later that the carriage shook as the wheels touched pavement, and she looked out the window to see Celestia’s palace. She placed the book back in her saddlebag, then followed her friends out the door.
Her horn shimmered as she lifted several of Rarity’s bags off of the carriage, earning her a grateful look from Rarity, and side by side, they all walked up the steps. The steps were lined on both sides with decorative white pillars wreathed in spirals of flowers, and the steps themselves were marble, polished so brightly that it seemed like they held the sun themselves. The palace was massive, the highest turret extending almost to the mountain’s summit. As they ascended, they found Princess Celestia standing just inside the entrance, her multi-hued mane drifting in the solar wind that nopony else could feel. They all bowed before her; Applejack even removed her hat.
“My faithful student, Twilight Sparkle! How good it is to see you and your friends again,” Celestia said, regal as ever. “You don’t have to be so formal with me, Twilight, nor do your friends. I get enough of the groveling from everypony else; please stand up.”
“But, Princess Celestia—“ Twilight began, but Celestia cut her off.
“I insist,” she said. “Meaning your princess would be grateful if you stopped bowing,” she added, seeing Rarity.
“Your majesty! Are you absolutely sure? I’d hate to be in the presence of royalty and not give them their dues!”
“Even if a member of royalty had you take a cake in the face?” Celestia countered, smirking.
The white unicorn looked panicked, unsure of what to say. “Well…I—“
Celestia laughed, and the sound calmed Rarity. “I suppose I might have to make an exception in that case, your Highness,” she said finally, allowing herself a small smile.
“Good. In that case, shall I show you where you’ll be staying?” Celestia gestured down a hallway to the side.
She showed them to their room, which was finely adorned and immaculate—and, Twilight noticed, right next to Princess Celestia’s own room, although she didn’t mention it. There were several four-poster beds lining the edges of the room as well as two doorways, which Twilight saw led to a bathroom and to a small room with a desk and lamp. She set Rarity’s bags down next to one of the beds, then turned to Princess Celestia and was about to ask her why they were here when the door opened and another pony walked in.
“There you are, Celly! I was looki—oh, my,” she stopped dead upon seeing the room full of six ponies in addition to her sister. Princess Luna looked exactly as she did when they defeated Nightmare Moon; she had a coat of navy blue fur, both wings and a horn, a necklace adorned with a crescent moon, a similar crescent moon on her flank, a white mane tinged with the slightest hint of blue, and brilliantly blue eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, I’ll just go,” she said quietly, turning back to the door.
Twilight was reminded heavily of the yellow pegasus quivering at her side; everypony else looked stunned, both at Luna and at the notion that Princess Celestia had a nickname.
“Oh, Luna! Come here!” Celestia said. Luna turned away from the door, looking as though she had just been caught escaping from prison, and walked over to her sister, every step ringing out in the silence; she kept her head down and one eye covered with her mane. Celestia seemed not to notice. “I’d like you all to meet Princess Luna, my sister. Luna, this is Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie and Rarity. Though I think,” she said, her eyes twinkling, “that you may have already met.”
“Hello,” Luna said softly, still not meeting any of their eyes.
“Hey there, sugarc—“
Rarity silenced Applejack with a glare, then turned to Luna. “Apologies for my friend, your majesty,” she said; her voice could’ve been announcing a royal decree. “She does not do so well standing on ceremony.”
Celestia laughed again. “Rarity, I’ve already told you, I’ll not have you six—nor Luna, indeed—standing on ceremony during your visit. I wish us all to speak as equals.”
Rarity looked less than pleased at the prospect, but she relented. “Of course, your Hig—I mean, Celestia.”
Rainbow, on the other hoof, looked as excited as though she had just been made captain of the Wonderbolts. “Wait, does that mean we can call you Celly too?” she asked hopefully.
Celestia’s eyes seemed to glow with amusement. “If that is what you wish. I think it will also go a long way if you all do. Yes, that means you too, Twilight,” she added, seeing Twilight’s horrified face. “To be honest, my most prized pupil insisting on calling me ‘Princess Celestia’, ‘your majesty’, or ‘your highness’ somewhat detracts from our relationship.”
Rainbow let out a cheer and Pinkie began bouncing around the room. “But,” Celestia said, smiling knowingly as her eyes followed Pinkie. “I hardly think that this requires a celebration.”
Pinkie’s hair deflated a little. “Aww, you mean I can’t have your cupcake again? I even brought a cake for us to eat!”
Celestia chuckled as somepony’s stomach growled. “I suppose there’s no better time than the present for that,” she said. “Follow me, and I’ll show you where you can dine.”
They left Spike snoring on the bed as she led them out the door and down another corridor, Luna still at her side with her eyes still on the ground as though it were the most interesting thing she’d ever seen. Fluttershy was looking thoughtfully at Luna, silently contemplating the princess for several corridors. Eventually, she quickened her pace and fell into stride with princess of the moon.
“I understand,” she whispered, as though she were just scolding Angel Bunny, but everypony had fell silent when she began talking. For the first time, Luna made eye contact, her blue eyes speaking volumes. “We’re not afraid of you and we don’t hate you. We know that you aren’t Nightmare Moon and that you regret what you did. We love you, Luna,” she said simply. Her voice was full of undeniable conviction, though it was still as soft and demure as ever. A pause, then everypony chimed in, confirming Fluttershy’s words.
Luna’s eyes looked rather watery, but she didn’t break eye contact, and neither did Fluttershy. The blue eyes stared into the turquoise for a moment, but then Luna looked back down at the ground. It took a few more corridors before she finally spoke; the silence was overwhelming, but everypony knew that only one of them could break it.
“I thought it was only Celly that would forgive me,” Luna said softly. “I thought nopony else would ever want to see me or my night again after...my incident. I was filled with nothing except jealousy and anger for a thousand years, and I let it control me, let it override my reason until I become nothing more than a manifestation of rage. I cannot—will not—let that happen again, but nopony…“ She paused, clearly suppressing tears. “…except all of you… believed me when I told them. I’m sorry,” she said faintly, but in the ringing silence that followed, her words echoed clearly through the empty hallways. Luna finally drew her gaze away from the floor and looked carefully at each of them in turn. “Thank you all…for believing me. That’s worth more than you’ll ever know.”
She promptly found herself squeezed from every direction as the group embraced her, hugging tightly enough to expel the air from her lungs, and she couldn’t help but smile. Her teeth, outlined by her navy blue coat, shone like the full moon in the night sky.
“Here we are, lad…ies?” Celestia had been listening to the conversation but not looking, and as a result she found herself in front of the dining hall with her band of ponies in a massive group hug on the other end of the corridor. She walked back and joined in the embrace, which now looked reminiscent of the rolling ball of Parasprites, except with ponies instead of the small insects. Pinkie giggled.
“Na naaaa, na na na na na na, na na katamari damacy! Ooh, can we roll down the hallway now? Plleeeaaase?”
Celestia laughed again. “I don’t think the cooks would take it too well if we came rolling into the kitchen like this; we should probably stop so we can eat properly.”
Pinkie opened her mouth to complain as they broke apart, but the words died in her throat when her stomach rumbled loudly. Everypony looked at her, and Luna wiped the tears from her eyes without anypony noticing.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur. The walls of the dining hall were almost entirely made up of floor-to-ceiling windows with grand views of Ponyville, mountains, and a sparkling lake. They had eaten their fill quickly then whittled away time talking, occasionally asking for another drink or some food from the cooks. What seemed like no time had passed when Celestia and Luna stood up.
“I enjoyed our time together, everypony, but I’m afraid we cannot linger much longer. There is much I need to tell you. In private,” she added, preemptively answering Twilight’s question. “Now, if you would follow me, please.”
Celestia led them back down the way they came, but stopped a door short of their guest room and ushered them into her own room. Her horn glowed as she closed all the window blinds, then turned to face them, her face inscrutable.
“So, I’d imagine you’d like to know exactly why you are all here. However…it is not my place to tell you.“
“It is mine,” Luna said, her voice noticeably more confident than before. “One thousand years ago, I was exiled to the moon to prevent me from bathing Equestria in eternal night. Many thought that for one thousand years, I was alone with nothing my anger and hate for company. They would be wrong. During my stay on the moon, I met and saw…strange creatures, creatures that couldn’t possibly belong to this universe. At first, I was consumed by rage and paid them no attention, but time has a way of eating away at your emotions. Gradually, I calmed down, eventually accepting their presence but still avoiding them.
“One of the creatures took it upon himself to approach me once I was calmed down. Over the years, we grew close. He sat by my side as I talked about why I was there, what I had done. His shoulder was there whenever I broke down crying. And in return, I was at his side whenever he seemed lost, unsure of what lay before him.
“I never learned his name, nor did he ever learn mine. Names seemed unnecessary around each other, even trivial; we instinctively knew when the other was approaching, when they were sad or happy. It was not romance by any means, but we both knew that the link between us was far stronger than that of friends, perhaps even stronger than that of husband and wife, yet neither of us could explain it. However, we couldn’t deny it either.
“One day, I awoke to find him preparing to leave the moon. His kind could do so freely, although they rarely did, and I could not go with him. We both knew that this is where we parted ways. Before he left, he told me two things.
“The first was that I would eventually return home, and that when I did, anger would seize hold of me once again and that only six ponies—the wielders of the Elements of Harmony—would be able to release me from its grasp.
“The second, he agreed to tell me only when I had promised I would tell no one other than my sister and the six, though it was hardly as straightforward as the first.” Luna’s eyes faded out of focus as though they had just returned to the moon, then she continued.
‘There will come a day after your return in which the sun will be hidden by your moon, and on that day, your world will be shrouded in darkness. Lifting this curse will be possible only when the six are joined by a seventh, and their power is increased to unimaginable levels.’
The first prophecy he made came true, precisely as he said it would. I have no doubts that the second one will as well. That,” she said, her eyes looking sharply upon them all. “is why you are here.”
An awkward silence hung in the air. Luna’s words echoed in their heads for several moments, until Twilight recovered several moments later.
“So…you really think Equestria will be cursed?” she asked tentatively; both Princesses were wearing iron-hard expressions. Luna nodded.
“Of that, I am sure.”
“And we have to—?”
Celestia stepped forwards. “Yes. I’m afraid I know as much about the seventh Element as any of you—which is to say, nothing. I have found no book that so much as mentions it,” she added, as Twilight opened her saddlebag. She closed it, sighing, and Celestia spoke again.
“I trust you all not to speak of this to anyone, and I hope you all enjoyed this afternoon as much as I did, for a journey awaits you all, and even I do not know where it leads. Please go back to your room,” she said abruptly. “I am sure you have much to think about, so I will not stop you from doing so any longer. Meet me back here in an hour.”
They left the room, still in silence. Luna was staring at the floor again.
“Thank you, Celly,” she said softly. “I hope they can handle it.”
Celestia wrapped a wing around Luna, pulling her closer. “I hope so too, Luna. I hope so too.”
Time seemed stand still as Twilight stepped over an exposed tree root. They had been trudging through the forest for what she guessed was at least an hour, but for all the change in scenery around them, they might as well have been walking in place. Trees half-masked in shadows still surrounded them on every side; Twilight’s compass was the only reason they knew they were at least walking in the right direction. It seemed an eternity since the apples she had for breakfast. Fluttershy jumped a foot in the air and hid behind Applejack every time Twilight’s stomach growled, but they had agreed to not eat the apples unless there was no other options. There was plenty of grass they could eat in the forest, but the lavender unicorn was determined to not eat any, convinced that it was poisonous. Hunger had even gotten the best of Rarity, and the white unicorn had allowed herself a few bites of the grass, though she had done her best to look regal with her mouth full of green sprouts.
“Poythonus?” Rainbow said around a mouthful of grass. She swallowed, then went on. “Twilight, Applejack had some like ten minutes ago, and she’s still standing! It’s not poisonous, just eat some!”
“An’ I feel jus’ fine, Twilight, watch!” Applejack added, walking over to a tree and lifting her hind legs.
“Applejack, no!” Twilight yelled, but there was no stopping Applejack’s practiced motion. The orange pony’s hind legs snapped backwards and slammed her hooves into the tree; a deafening splintering noise rent the air as the tree trunk was split cleanly in two, the upper half rocketing skyward into the darkness from the strength of the blow.
There was a brief silence as they looked at the orange earth pony.
“Oops,” Applejack said sheepishly. “I’m awful sorry...”
Twilight was examining the tree’s remains, her horn glowing. “It’s OK, Applejack. Look,” she said, pointing at the stump. “It’s covered in mold and mildew and it’s completely rotten, so of course it was going to break easily. I wonder—“
She broke off as a distant but unmistakable splash reached their ears.
“We must be close!” she said excitedly, all hunger forgotten as she broke into a gallop, heading for the splash. “Come on!”
Moments later, they skidded to a stop on the edge of the lake, gasping as they took in the sight that the forest canopy had concealed.
A colossal ship was hovering above it, its sails motionless without wind, spanning the length of the lake and then some. It was a dark stone-grey color with a tinge of green, and it was covered from end to end in green-blue glowing lines that twisted and turned, giving it the appearance of a rather bizarre jigsaw puzzle. The lake was bathed in the glow from the lines,; In the gaps, there were strange pictures that reminded Twilight of hieroglyphics she had read about. They emitted the same eerie green-blue light as the lines; there was a spider and a fox with nine tails amongst several others that she didn’t recognize.
“Wow…that’s something!” Pinkie whispered.
A chill crept up Twilight’s neck as she remembered her arctic dream. Now that she had seen the boat, it was obvious that the object in her dream—the one protruding from the lake—was the very ship that floated before them now. But the lake here was still water, it wasn’t snowing, and the ship wasn’t halfway stuck in ice.
She bent down and pulled up some grass, chewing on it slowly as she pondered her dream and the sight before them, but movement on the ship shook her out of her reverie.
A square on the side of the ship edged with green-blue lines emitted a deep rumble as it slowly opened, the stone slab peeling itself away from the ship to become a small platform. The hole where it had been was as dark as the sky around them, but nothing emerged.
“Hm,” Twilight said thoughtfully, chewing on the grass. “That’s odd.”
Rarity found her voice at last. “’Odd’…I guess I could agree with that, but ‘odd’ hardly expresses the magnitude of how absolutely bizarre it is! Though it is rather beautiful, in its own way, I must admit, don’t you think, Fluttershy?”
The yellow pegasus nodded, though the rest of her was still frozen in fear.
“Beautiful? Rarity, that…thing has to be behind all this!” Rainbow spat. “The sky goes black, we lose the sun and the moon, and this thing just shows up outta nowhere? There’s no way this is just a coincidence! I’m goin’ in!” She made to speed towards the boat, but came crashing down as Applejack seized her tail.
“Hold on jus’ one apple-buckin’ minute,” she said, spitting out the multihued tail. “I know yer itchin’ to take out your anger on somepony, but you can’t jus go up there an’ start hittin’ things. Fer all we know, they could jus’ be bringin’ us a load’a cupcakes, y’know what I’m tryin’ t’say?”
Rainbow pulled her face out of the ground, shaking off dirt and leaves. “Sure,” she said bitterly. “But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna listen!”
She leapt into the air, beating her wings fiercely, buffeting her friends with gusts of air. It took her a moment to realize that for all her efforts, she was still merely a few feet off the ground; it took another moment for her to realize she was also wreathed in shimmering magic. She was lowered to the ground for the second time, though the impact was considerably softer this time.
“Twilight, wh—“ Rainbow began, but Twilight shook her head.
“It wasn’t me,” she said, pointing a hoof at Luna. The princess’s horn was shining brighter than ever as she looked at the blue pegasus.
“You might do well to remember my sister’s advice,” Luna reprimanded, releasing the magic once she was sure Rainbow would not take off again. “Do not unnecessarily risk your lives. Of the three of us who can fly, two of us will likely not be at your side when you take such rash actions, and the loss of even one of us will ruin our chances at dispelling this curse. We cannot say for sure what the nature of this boat or its occupants is, so it would behoove you to at least determine that before you decide to go in and try to start a fight.”
Rainbow looked disconcerted as she tilted her head down, one of her rose eyes obscured by her brightly-colored mane. “I was just going to check it out,” she said weakly.
“Regardless,” Luna continued. “I think it would be best for us to be in groups of three, at the very least. So, Fluttershy, if you wouldn’t mind…shall we go?”
Fluttershy looked alarmed at the very notion of getting any closer to the boat.
“Oh, I don’t know…” she whispered. “It’s so…big…what if there’s a..a…dragon in there? No…I can’t go…I’m sorry.” She laid on the ground, still quivering, eyes squeezed shut, and tensed up; it looked like she had grown roots in a matter of seconds.
Twilight rolled her eyes.
“Perhaps Spike, then?” Luna asked, turning to the baby dragon.
Spike’s eyes were wide. “Me? I dunno, it looks kinda dangerous, but if we have to, of course I’ll go!” he said, his chest thrown out bravely.
“Climb on, then,” Luna said, walking over to him, but Applejack spoke before Spike could climb up.
“I reckon we ain’t gonna have to go up there,” she said, pointing at the opening. “Looks like they’re comin’ to us.”
A faint rainbow had appeared on the edge of the platform and was swiftly extending towards them, spanning the distance between the platform and the lakeshore within seconds. The colors of the spectral bridge shifted and twisted, a veritable river of multi-hued water that was, without a doubt, completely solid.
Twilight raised an eyebrow, and a blue pegasus next to her gave a small huff of shock mixed with envy, but before Twilight could even open her mouth to speak, a pink hoof stretched out from behind her. A yank and a muffled “Hey!” later, she was lying on the ground behind several trees, the rainbow bridge hidden behind tree trunks. A lightning rainbolt next to her head told her that Rainbow Dash had, likewise, been pulled into the treeline. Twilight opened her mouth to speak again, but Pinkie jammed a hoof in it, shaking head and pointing towards the rainbow bridge with her free hoof. Twilight poked her head out from behind the trees.
Two figures had emerged from the ship, but at this distance, even with the boat’s eerie glow illuminating the lake, it was difficult to see them clearly. As it was, Twilight could only see their outlines against the pulsing lines. One was short and thin, almost comically so, and barely taller than Spike, by Twilight’s estimate. The other was taller, about the same height as Luna, but was oddly shaped; it looked for all the world like an upturned ice cream cone.
Pinkie started to giggle, but Twilight returned the favor in kind and stifled her as a voice drifted to them from across the water.
“…perfectly dreadful, ma chèrie, is it not? Something terrible has happened,” the voice said serenely. “And even I do not know what. This place has magic enough to sustain itself indefinitely; there must be something else at work here. But we’ll find out, one way or the other, won’t we, ma chèrie?”
Two short barks followed shortly afterwards; there was a soft rustling of leaves as Fluttershy collapsed behind them, but the voice continued on, growing louder as the strange pair drew closer, oblivious that they had an audience listening to every word with bated breath.
“Let’s see…a grand palace…some old ruins…an ancient cavern…and what is this?”
The voice paused. The resulting silence seemed to solidify the air, freezing them in place. The tension could’ve stopped a charging rhino.
“…Horses?...that’s a lot of horses, ma chèrie. And…a tree…a farm…that building looks absolutely ridiculous…a cottage…and a building that’s shaped like a cake? Does this make any sense to you?”
Twilight felt the tension crank up another notch as each of their homes was named, no, listed off. She heard a small gasp from behind her, and she didn’t need to ask why.
She did, however, need to ask what Luna was doing as the princess of the moon crept forward, her feathers brushing against Twilight as she passed.
“Luna!” she whispered as quietly as she could. “What in Equestria are you doing? Luna!”
Luna continued moving towards the voices as though she had not heard.
“LUNA!” Twilight half shouted, but the princess stepped beyond the last tree between her and the voices.
A growl reached their ears, and Rainbow Dash bolted out of the woods towards the voices, a faint rainbow and several shocked ponies in her wake.
“Rainbow, no!” Twilight yelled, but it was too late. She turned to her friends in desperation, and they sprinted out of the forest after Rainbow and Luna as the growling grew louder.
“Ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodness!” Fluttershy said as they broke through the treeline, stumbling slightly over exposed tree roots.
The scene that met their eyes was even more bizarre than the ship had been. The short figure turned out to be a wolf, with fur so white it seemed to emit a light all its own in the darkness. Its front legs were bent and teeth bared as it snarled at Rainbow Dash. The blue pegasus was on the ground but her knees were bent, her rose eyes furrowed in a righteous fury, staring daggers at the wolf. Applejack leapt forwards and tried to pulled Rainbow back, but the pegasus simply dodged her efforts, not even glancing back as she evaded the farmer time and time again.
Both the wolf and Rainbow were so focused on each other to the point that any other strange occurances were all but invisible to them. Juxtaposed brilliantly merely a few feet away, the second figure was embracing Luna, hugging the princess tightly; it looked like it never planned on letting go. Twilight noticed that Luna was crying, but they were tears of joy, almost as though…
“…they haven’t seen each other in years,” Twilight murmured.
Saying it aloud made it all frighteningly clear. Twilight’s hornlight flashed brighter as she lifted Rainbow off of the ground, floated her back to the group, and planted her behind firmly on the ground. Rainbow’s face held an odd mixture of anger and curiousity, though her eyes were still on the wolf.
The wolf’s growling petered out as the unicorn spoke, and it sat down quietly, head tilted to the side curiously, its black eyes glinting at them in the hornlight as Twilight briefly recalled Luna’s story, and the connection that their interaction implied.
“Good heavens, darling, you can’t possibly mean…?” Rarity began, but Twilight talked over her.
“Rarity, why else would she just up and randomly hug somepony we’ve never seen before? Does she really seem like that kind of pony to you?”
“I suppose not, but—“
“Excusez moi,” said a quiet voice from behind Twilight. The lavender unicorn slowly turned around to find Luna and the second figure standing before her, finally having broken apart. Now that it was close up and bathed in hornlight, the tall figured appeared, impossibly, even more ridiculous that it had seemed. It stood perfectly balanced on only two legs, though it was bent oddly in a graceful s-shape. Its clothes—they had to be clothes, there was no way something looked this way naturally—were the most preposterous things Twilight had ever laid eyes on, including their self-designed dresses from Rarity; as if on cue, the white unicorn whimpered weakly and fainted. It wore a baggy, plain pink shirt with red cuffs and two large, red, cottony-looking puffs arranged down the center like buttons. Loose purple pants concealed disproportionally short legs, a white ribbon tied around its waist. An ivory-handled, gold-embellished hilt was protruding from a simple black sheath tied to the ribbon. The shoes it wore looked ludicrously impratical, T-shaped pieces of wood painted red that the figure was somehow balancing on. White hair fell from its head almost to its feet, splayed out in a graceful fan, but closer inspection revealed that it was not white hair, but a white cape dangling off of a dark-blue helmet styled like an eagle. Two short loose locks of bright blonde hair jutted out over its face from either side of the eagle-helmet’s beak. It carried a thin wooden flute in its left hand.
They gaped at the figure for what seemed like eternity crammed into a single moment, until Luna chuckled, and the moment passed.
“As I’m sure Twilight has already inferred,” she said, a smile touching her lips. “This is…him. The man with whom I was stranded on the moon for nearly a thousand years.”
The figure bowed low; Twilight suppressed a giggle, but a pink pony behind her wasn’t nearly as disciplined; Pinkie keeled over, laughing hysterically. The figure froze.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle, and I beg your pardon,” it said quietly, rising slowly, its every word ringing clearly through the silence that had fallen. His voice could have been that of Princess Celestia, he sounded so calm. “But it has been a while since I was here last, so I may be a little out of touch with your…customs. Tell me, is it traditional to greet newcomers by laughing at them?”
Rarity wanted nothing more than to say “No, but I think we might make an exception in your case. You look simply ridiculous!” but she kept her head high and her mouth shut. Twilight silenced Pinkie with a glare, then turned back to the figure.
“No, it isn’t, and I apologize for my friend. She can be a bit…hyperactive.”
The figure laughed. “I can see that. Oh, but forgive me, where are my manners? I am Waka,” it said, bowing again. “God’s gift to man! And horses, of course. And this,” he added, motioning at the wolf, who had wandered over and sat down beside the figure. “This is the one and only Amaterasu.”
The wolf barked happily and began chasing its tail. Twilight watched for a moment, lost in thought, until it occurred to her that it would probably be best to return the introductions.
“Oh! I’m Twilight Sparkle,” she said, then pointed to each of her friends in turn. “This is Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity. I think you’ve already met Princess Luna.”
Waka bowed again, though at this point Twilight was beginning to suspect that he was doing so for more reasons than simple formality. “Indeed, I have.”
Rainbow took a few steps forward, bringing herself alongside Twilight. ”Okay, introductions are done with! Now can we please move on to the real problem? Y’know, missing sun and all that? Kinda important.”
“Of course, mademoiselle,” Waka said, bowing yet again. “Though I know no more about it than you do. It certainly wasn’t like this last time.”
Twilight found herself wondering how exactly long ago “last time” was, but now was admittedly a bad time to bring that up.
“We were watching a solar eclipse, and after it had passed we heard a really faint howl and a terrifying scream before the sky turned all dark, and Celestia and Luna said they couldn’t feel the sun and moon anymore,” she said. “Celestia is Luna’s sister,” she added. “She—“
“—raises the sun, does she not? Rather like Luna raises the moon. How curious…”
Twilight couldn’t help but ask. “What? What’s curious?”
“Forgive me, baby, but I cannot tell, not yet. You will know when the proper time comes. For now, I think I must speak to this...Celestia. She sounds most intriguing,” said Waka, making to walk away.
“Wait,” Luna said quietly.
“Ah, Luna, too soon we must part again. I am sure we will see each other again soon enough.”
“No, not that,” Luna said, even quieter. “It’s just…well, most ponies aren’t used to seeing humans, so…”
Waka nodded. Just once. “So I shall.”
He brought his flute to his lips. Twilight would never have guessed that the simple wooden instrument could sound as haunting and foreboding as it did; each note resonated with a power far beyond that of simple music, weaving a breathtaking melody that stole the very air from their lungs.
The melody seemed to hang suspended in midair as Waka lowered the flute, holding it before him with both hands as though he were presenting it to Princess Celestia. He moved both hands to one end, and there was a small schlick as the flute suddenly retracted into itself, no longer than a single hoof now. He pulled one hand slowly away from the other, but instead of wood following it, a beam of solid green light extended itself to where the wood had previously been. The light looked exactly like the glowing lines that covered the boat, though rather than being merely decorative, this was clearly a sword of some kind.
Twilight rubbed her head, bewildered; how do you make wood collapse in on itself and turn it into solidified light? She had no time to think any more of it before her thoughts were displaced by her friends’ reactions.
“Whoa,” Rainbow murmured. “That’s cool!”
“A lightsaber?! IN EQUESTRIA?” Pinkie yelled. “Where did you get that? I want one! Tell me! Where did you get that?!”
Waka grasped the sword before him tighter, but show no other reactions. He flourished the sword before him in several strokes that left glimmering trails, then with a final flick, spun it so he held it out in front of him, blade pointing inwards and poised mere inches away from his stomach.
Pausing only to wink at Luna, he stabbed himself.
Tendrils of dazzling white energy instantly erupted from the wound, twisting themselves around Waka and blinding the onlookers with pure white light that flashed through the clearing. The sudden influx of heat was nigh-on unbearable, and Twilight could almost hear the light hissing as the tendrils blazed brighter and completely enclosed the man from the moon in their writhing grasp.
It looked like the sun itself had just materialized in front of them, it was so bright, but the spectacle was short-lived. The cocoon of light exploded a split-second later, the tendrils flying off into the distance, shrinking rapidly as they faded into oblivion. In its place stood Waka.
It had to be him. He had the same, calm look in his eyes as he looked back at them, completely unharmed despite having impaled himself mere moments ago. He was no longer adorned in his ridiculous clothes, and he was not wearing the same shoes, but the same wooden flute, miraculously returned to normal, was tied to his back with a white ribbon alongside the same black sheathe, and he was wearing the same dark blue eagle helmet. But he was a pony. A pegasus. The same size as Fluttershy or Rainbow Dash. His coat was a light grey color, almost silver in the hornlight, his mane and tail purest blond and streaked with white, the tips of his unnaturally sharp wings tinged red. His cutie mark was the wooden flute. His eyes were an icy blue, and he turned them on Luna, who looked as awed as any of them.
“What do you think, ma chèrie? I must say, this effort wasn’t small by any means, but I do hope I didn’t forget anything.”
Luna was at a loss for words. “It’s…it’s…beautiful.”
The wolf had watched the display silently, but now its jaw was hanging open slightly and its head had fallen to the side slightly, clearly dumbfounded. Waka turned towards his companion and laughed.
“Oh, Amaterasu! You really should stop dropping your jaw like that, baby, it doesn’t make you look good. I trust you can take care of yourself? I must go…we will see each other again soon enough, I think. And you too, ma chèrie,” he added, hugging Luna again. “Farewell!”
And with that, Waka spread his wings and soared off into the darkness.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Rainbow said, watching the newly-formed pegasus fade away. “How does he even know where to find Princess Celestia? We never even mentioned Canterlot.”
“Don’t be such a silly filly, Dashie! He probably just saw it while the boat was flying over all of Equestria!” Pinkie said as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s not like it takes a genius to guess that the grand palace is where a princess would be! I mean, come on, even I would’ve figured that out!”
“I reckon Pinkie’s right, sugarcube,” Applejack said in her familiar drawl. “T’ain’t exactly hard to connect the two, an’ there ain’t exactly another town that looks as grand as Canterlot.”
Rainbow snorted. “Sure, Applejack, sure. That whole pegasus transformation thing was fishy, if you ask me.”
“Fishy? I’d say interesting,” Twilight said, intrigued. “Think of the magic that must’ve taken! And he has to sustain that spell all the time or he’ll revert to his normal form. But…he doesn’t have a horn. How does that work?” She rubbed her head with a hoof. “You’re right, it is awfully suspicious…”
Luna was still in a trance as she murmured under her breath. “No, he wouldn’t. He would never.”
Comprehension dawned on Rainbow’s face; her rose eyes grew huge, and she turned to Twilight. “Hey, Twi, any chance I could get a light of some sort? I need to get to Canterlot, pronto.”
Twilight frowned, eyes narrowed. “Why?”
Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Do you trust me, or not?”
Twilight sighed. “Fine.”
Her horn shimmered brightly as she scrunched up her eyes in concentration, grunting with effort as she poured more magic into her horn, covering it in a sheathe of glittering lavender energy that spilled off of the tip and began wrapping itself around Rainbow.
The translucent energy completely covered the sky-blue pegasus, sparkling brilliantly in the hornlight. It flashed solid purple before shrinking into Rainbow; the pegasus shuddered as she started to glow gently with light the same sky-blue color as her coat.
She frowned, seeing the dim light that the magic was giving off.
“Twilight, this isn’t going to work too well, you know,” she said irritably. The lavender unicorn shook her head.
“Wings,” she said simply.
Rainbow flapped her wings experimentally, and as the the air passed over the feathers, a strong blue light emanated from the wings, illuminating the surrouding area with a calming blue glow. The feathers themselves trailed a faint rainbow, a phantom of the pegasus’ trademark sonic rainboom.
“That’s…coo—I mean, that’ll work,” she said weakly, trying to hide her amazement at Twilight’s magical aptitude.
“Once you get to Canterlot and you need to come back, just ask Princess Celestia and she’ll get you back to us in an instant,” Twilight said, choosing not to disclose exactly how that feat would be achieved. She hesitated. “Do me one favor, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight asked tentatively.
“Anything for a friend!” Rainbow said, saluting formally, glad that Twilight had changed the topic.
“Don’t let anything happen to you. I’d never forgive myself.”
Rainbow looked a little put out by Twilight’s tone. Even beneath the shield of awesome that she normally hid behind, Rainbow could tell that this wasn’t at a party Twilight, and this wasn’t nose in a book so leave me alone Twilight. This sounded more like you had better listen to me or else Rainbow Dash Twilight. Rainbow hesitated, then plastered a weak smile on her face, doing her best to look reassuring.
”Don’t worry, Twilight! Ain’t nothing in Equestria that can catch me! See ya!”
And so she took flight, and despite the blazing rainbow trails wrought by Twilight’s spell, the black sky completely swallowed Rainbow’s form in no time at all.
“I sure hope she don’t do nothin’ too stupid,” Applejack muttered.
“Me too! I don’t wanna know what happens if Dashie gets stabbed!” Pinkie shuddered. “I don’t even want to think about it!”
Rarity glared at her. “I hardly think even Rainbow Dash would do something so foolish. Did you see her expression after Twilight told her to not let anything happen? I’ve never seen an expression that odd on Rainbow’s face before. No, Rainbow would not do anything to endanger herself, not now, I’m sure of it.”
“I don’t know, Rarity,” Spike said. “You know how hotheaded she gets, remember when she crashed through your roof and starting attacking manequins?”
Rarity rolled her eyes. “You can hardly judge her based on her behavior while intoxicated. Especially since you decided to put alcohol in those cookies without telling anypony.”
“You gotta admit,” Spike chuckled. “Drunken Twilight is pretty hilarious.”
“I’m terribly sorry, Spike, but eight hundred bits spent on replacing incinerated books is most definitely not what I would call ‘hilarious.’”
That shut Spike up.
“So, now what?” Pinkie asked happily. “Can we have a party? Plleeaaase? I haven’t thrown one in forever and I think I’m going through withdrawal! My itchy hoof says if I don’t I’ll go crazy!”
It was Twilight’s turn to roll her eyes. “Pinkie, when are you not crazy?”
“Oh, you silly filly! I mean super-duper, loco-in-the-coco crazy! If I get that far there’s no telling what I might do!”
“There already is no tellin’ what you’ll do, sugarcube,” Applejack said.
“I don’t think there’s any need for a party right now,” Luna said quietly, breaking the silence that had fallen over her since Waka’s transformation and departure. “But I don’t think we can deprive you of one for much longer. For now, we should figure out what to do, because as entertaining as it is just standing around, it gets us no closer to dealing with this curse.”
Twilight looked confused. “But what can we do? We don’t know anything about this curse apart from the fact that the sun and moon seem to be missing.”
The wolf whimpered.
“My astronomy book said nothing about the sun and moon just disappearing,” continued Twilight. “And I can’t think of any other book that says anything about it, either.”
“Surely you haven’t read all of the books in that library?” Rarity asked.
Twilight shuffled awkwardly; not having completed her goal of reading the entire library irked her, but she didn’t regret a single minute of the study of friendship that had taken precedence. “No, I suppose not…”
“Well then, we should go back there and look through every book until we find something!” Rarity said. “Surely there is at least one book that mentions it.”
Twilight looked horrified. “Do you know how many books there are in there? Even Spike doesn’t know, and he’s spent more time putting them back on shelves than me!”
“I don’t exactly count them,” Spike admitted. “But that’s still a ton of books to read through! It took me a week to put them all back in order after Rainbow knocked them all off the shelves practicing her sonic rainboom.”
Luna looked a little disconcerted, but determined all the same. “Even so, we have nothing else to go off of.” She turned to the wolf. “Amaterasu, was it?”
The wolf looked at her and barked once.
“Could we take your ship to Ponyville? Or rather, to the Everfree Forest nearby? I don’t think we should just land it in front of the library.”
“Shall we go, then?”
They trotted along the rainbow bridge, a painful reminder of their incomplete circle of friends; the haze that drifted over them as they thought of Rainbow Dash blurred the passage of time, and before they knew it they were standing at the opening. But as they entered the ship, there was an odd crackling noise as Fluttershy was thrown backwards, landing on her back and sliding onto the bridge. The wolf whimpered again, head turned towards the yellow pegasus.
“What was that?” Twilight asked, confused.
“I have absolutely no idea,” Rarity said, stepping forwards. “Oof!”
The crackle sounded again as she, too, was thrown backwards from the portal; the rest of them had passed through effortlessly, now standing on the other side of the invisible wall. Rarity clambered to her hooves, dusted herself off, and walked cautiously towards the opening. She held up a hoof experimentally; a matrix of the green-blue lines glowed faintly near it, a ghost of the wall that impeded them.
“Well,” she said uncertainly. “It looks like neither me nor Fluttershy will be able to enter.”
“But—but—“ Twilight stuttered. “The rest of us could get on just fine, why can’t you?”
“Darling, I’m afraid I’m as clueless as you are when it comes to exactly why.”
Twilight groaned. She loathed the idea of splitting up further, and Rarity might be able to handle a few Diamond Dogs, but she had Fluttershy with her who couldn’t, and who knew what lurked in this forest? The other option was to spend the next few days walking back to Ponyville, which wasn’t much better. Teleportation was out, she could only teleport herself and maybe one other pony, and most certainly not six ponies, a wolf, and a baby dragon, and just teleporting herself and one other pony back and forth would leave her drained for weeks. Luna seemed to read her mind.
“Please gather around me, then,” Luna said, stepping back outside of the ship and standing in the center of the platform. “In a circle, if you could.”
“But, Luna—“ Twilight began.
“Twilight, please. You may be the Element of Magic, but you are still young and inexperienced. I have been around for far longer, and I have learned my fair share of tricks when it comes to magic. Now, a circle, please.”
They gathered around the princess of the moon at her request, spaced evenly in a neat circle. Luna closed her eyes as her hornlight intensified, dark blue magic swirling around her horn. Some of it began to spill off, landing on the platform and forming an octagon of glimmering blue magic, lined with ancient runes, Luna in the center and a pony, dragon, or wolf at each vertex. The octagon solidified as Luna grunted softly, and with a blinding flash of brilliant blue, they vanished, leaving the ship and several bewildered critters behind.
Bonus picture of Waka as a Pegasus below (sketch by Bluesparks)
Rainbow Dash was in her element. The wind flowed smoothly over her wings, ruffling her multihued mane and bringing a modicum of tranquility the blue pegasus. The air that rushed past her smelled almost sickeningly sweet, but Rainbow didn’t care. Even if she couldn’t see the sky for the darkness, this was where she belonged. This was home.
Twilight’s spell lit the trees under her with an unnatural blue glow as she passed over them. She had been thrilled to find that the spell didn’t affect her aerodynamics at all, but even so she couldn’t just glide casually around in this darkness. Fly too high and she wouldn’t be able to see the ground; too low, and she could just as easily crash into a tree. Every now and again, she would fly just a bit lower and brush the canopy with her hooves, just to remind herself that this wasn’t a dream. The offended leaves would sway in her wake, glowing faintly with remnants of Twilight’s spell.
Rainbow couldn’t help but admire the unicorn’s magical skills. They were far beyond that of any unicorn she’d met short of the two princesses, and even though her talent was supposed to be magic, Rainbow couldn’t help but find herself awed by Twilight’s handiwork every time she cast something spectacular, which usually meant something more than simple levitation or teleportation spells.
And, she thought to herself, watching the ghostly rainbows trailing off of her wings. This has got to be as cool as when she banished that Ursa Minor!
She wasn’t worried in the least bit about not knowing which way to go. Perhaps one tends to develop a good sense of direction when they spend hours at a time flipping, corkscrewing, and looping through the air, where the slightest mistake could mean broken limbs and a painfully lengthy amount of time spent lying in a hospital bed.
She shuddered at the thought, and beat her wings faster to clear her mind.
It came as no surprise that she was soon passing over buildings in Canterlot. She wasn’t the only pony to pull of a sonic rainboom twice for nothing, after all. But the city was dead silent. There wasn’t a single pony in the streets as far as Rainbow could tell. A few lamps were lit here and there, but their made little headway against the imposing darkness, and there wasn’t a sound apart from a faint flowing from the waterworks.
Rainbow frowned. She’d expected the city to be full of rioting ponies, angry that they couldn’t conduct their business due to the absence of the sun. That’s what she herself would’ve done, given that Princess Celestia was the sole being responsible for the sun. Or rather, raising and lowering the sun. But she knew better now.
Her path took her straight to the royal palace steps. She hadn’t thought she’d see them again so soon, but she had no time to dwell on it; waiting even a second could end in failure. She flew into the entrance and almost fell out of the air in shock.
The entrance hall was brightly lit with lanterns and packed to the edges with unicorns, but they weren’t yelling, screaming, or even waving torches angrily. It took Rainbow a second to realize that there was a light brown pony on a podium at the front of the crowd.
“…urge you all to remain calm. I would like to remind you all what happened last time there was mass panic in Canterlot, and I assure you that we are doing all we can possibly do to rectify the situation.”
The pegasus turned tail and stepped off of the podium. Muttering broke out as soon as she set one hoof off of it. Rainbow caught snatches of conversation as she flew to the front; the passageway to the rest of the palace was flanked on either side by armored pegasi guards.
There’s no way he could’ve gotten past them, she thought, hovering just near the front of the crowd. But I have to try…
Rainbow landed cautiously, making sure not to tread on anypony, and walked carefully up to the guards. Their wings shot out mechanically as she neared, barring the entrance with a foreboding X.
“Nopony is allowed to enter the palace in this state of emergency,” the left one intoned coldly, eyes boring into her. “We cannot allow you to pass.”
“I think somepony’s going to try and kill Princess Celestia!” Rainbow muttered urgently, all too aware of what would happen if her suspicion reached any other ears. “I have to talk to her, right now! You’ve got to let me in!”
“We cannot allow you to pass,” the guard repeated.
“Do you not care about Princess Celestia?”
“What is going on here?”
The speech-giving light brown unicorn had reappeared, looking unnerved by the confrontation. The guards looked minutely stunned at her return, and there was a slight pause as Rainbow racked her brains.
“I said, what is going on here?”
“This pony,” the right guard said quietly. “Believes that Princess Celestia is in danger, and is determined to see her at once. Princess Celestia herself has given us explicit orders to allow no entrants into the palace until further notice.”
The unicorn sighed. “Ma’am, do you know how many ponies have tried that already? I’ve lost count in the past hour or so, but Princess Celestia is still alive and healthy. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t beli—“
“Excusez moi,” said an unnervingly familiar voice from somewhere behind Rainbow. She whirled around; Waka was standing less than two hooves away from her. She almost leapt at him right there, to disable him before he could so much as lift a hoof, but something in his voice stopped her. He spoke casually, calmly, as though he were simply describing an apple tree to a hyperactive schoolpony. Rainbow found herself unable to even lift a hoof against that serene voice.
“Forgive my good friend,” Waka said, still with that maddeningly peaceful voice. “She can be hotheaded at times, but I assure you she has a good heart and will not hesitate to defend her friends. I am sorry for her behavior. Come,” he added to Rainbow, motioning towards the crowd with a slight tilting of his head.
The guards and the unicorn looked slightly disconcerted as Waka and a slightly stunned Rainbow Dash walked back into the crowd and were swiftly concealed in the massive gathering.
“Shh,” Waka silenced her. “I apologize for leaving so hastily, but I was eager to meet—and only meet—Princess Celestia. I mean her no harm.”
Rainbow once again found herself incapable of arguing with that tranquil voice. What is he doing? she wondered. How can he do this to me? Me, the fastest pegasus in all of Equestria! Slowed to a crawl by…this pony’s voice? What is happening?
Waka peered knowingly into the rose eyes of the pegasus beside him. “There are…advantages to being slow, too, you know. For instance, trying to bypass those guards there with haste alone will merely get you captured and imprisoned.”
Rainbow bristled, but remained calm. It was impossible not to listening to that voice. “What do you want to do, then?”
Waka merely grinned and turned to a shadowy corner of the room. “There’s someone…some people I think you should meet. Follow me.”
She did so, trotting closely behind him, still looking at the newly-formed pegasus suspiciously. They reached the corner, the shadows obligingly swallowing them, hiding them from view. Waka pulled out his flute and began to play softly, quiet enough for only the two hidden pegasi to hear.
As each note of the melody hummed from the flute’s end, Rainbow found herself losing the feeling in her hooves and wings. She began to panic, flailing wildly, but the entrance hall vanished, and she felt herself torn away from reality. Panic overcame logic, and she blacked out.
The first thing Rainbow noticed was that it was warm. Not hot, just warm. She was laying on something comfortably soft, like a cloud. It was calm here. No commotions, no crowds of disgruntled ponies, no ambient noise except her breathing. Like the sky on a clear sunny day, where she could do whatever she wanted. Complete freedom. But this cloud was so cozy and fluffy. Maybe just ten more minutes to nap.
She didn’t open her eyes. Just ten more minutes. Please?
The voice was closer now. It was as serene as the place she was in. She just wanted to sleep.
Ten more minutes.
She bolted upright. “Excuse me?”
Waka was bending over her. “My apologies, but it is time. Get up.”
She clambered to her hooves and looked around. She was standing on nothing. It certainly looked like nothing, but she was definitely standing on something. There was no sky or earth, no horizon. It was all a bizarre yellowish-brown dome, colored like the scrolls that Twilight uses. A faint landscape was painted onto its surface. A mountain here. A forest there. A valley over here.
“Rainbow Dash,” Waka said again. “Do you know where we are?”
She shook her head. Waka’s ice-blue eyes were still on her.
“This is the Plane of the Gods.”
Twilight felt the familiar bending of reality as Luna’s teleportation snatched them off the platform, distorting her vision and elevating her consciousness to an ethreal level. It felt like she had left her body standing on the ship’s platform while her mind rocketed for the moon. She could feel the others’ minds nearby, emotions spilling across their mental link as they traversed time and space; Luna’s cold determination, Applejack’s confusion, Rarity’s intrigue, Fluttershy’s fear, Pinkie’s elation, Spike’s awe. But unlike them, Amaterasu’s predominant emotion was incredibly vague, impossible to name. A series of memories flashed across Twilight’s vision as she focused on the wolf, as vivid in her mind as the day she earned her cutie mark.
A hundred years spent stone-still, watching villagers go about their business.
Endless green plains punctuated by a single enormous cherry tree in full bloom.
A circular stone room, the floor adorned in strange symbols, with a beautiful garden surrounding a large golden bell at the center.
A bouncing green spark, tinged red as it yelled indistinctly, clearly angry.
Amaterasu lingered on the memory of the spark. It took a moment for Twilight to realise that unlike the others, this one had an emotion tied to it, and that it was most definitely one she could recognize: longing.
She had no time to dwell on it; the emotions vanished as suddenly as they had come as the inside of Ponyville’s library materialized around them. Twilight relaxed as the teleportation disorientation faded and the familiar, musky smell of old books filled her nostrils.
“Everypony OK?” she asked, looking around. They were still standing in the same circle, though Fluttershy was quivering slightly. They all nodded.
Luna swayed a little, then collected herself before carefully looking at each of them in turn before speaking. “We should eat and rest first. There’s no telling how long this will take.”
Amaterasu barked softly, then dropped to the floor and fell asleep instantly. Spike eyed the sleeping wolf jealously for a moment before dragging himself to the kitchen, returning in seconds with several plates full of cookies, hayfries, and sandwiches. Twilight just looked at him.
“What?” he said defensively, setting the plates onto the few tables scattered around the room.
“I didn’t say anything!” Twilight said, lifting a daffodil-and-daisy sandwich and taking a bite out of it gratefully. It was, thankfully, much tastier than the grass she had eaten earlier. Rarity, likewise, wasted no time in delicately levitating a few sandwiches over to herself, and the rest of them quickly followed suit, save the snoring canine on the ground. It was a mark of how exhausted they were and how worried they were about Rainbow that even Luna said nothing as the plates were swiftly emptied. Shortly afterwards, a blissful oblivion drew their eyelids closed, and one by one, they fell asleep.
It was dark in this cave. Starlight shone through a hole in the ceiling, falling upon a statue that towered above her—a statue of a creature like Waka, posed dramatically, pointing a broken sword towards the starlit sky. The whole scene was faded. Transparent. A ghost of what once was. A swirl of colors wrapped around the statue for a moment, then disappated, revealing a fully-restored blade. The starlight intensified, but as Twilight looked up, darkness consumed her vision.
“Wake up, Twilight,” Luna murmured.
Twilight groaned in response, batting the princess’s prodding hoof aside.
“Up, Twilight,” Luna said, more firmly. Twilight relented and opened her eyes to find Luna and Fluttershy staring at her with some concern.
“How long have I been asleep?” Twilight managed to groan.
“Longer than normal,” said another familiar voice from out of sight; Spike’s head entered her field of vision, and he too looked concerned. He had a plate of waffles in his hands. “Y’know, since I’m up before you.”
Twilight clambered to her hooves, accepted the plate, and ate slowly, unaware of the other four sets of eyes on her. The fifth pair was still snoring softly.
“I’m fine,” she said to her friends. “Really. Stop worrying about me, we have work to do.”
“Beggin’ yer pardon, sugarcube,” Applejack said. “But you didn’t look ‘fine’ to me.”
“Yeah!” Pinkie chimed in. “You looked all saddy-waddy, and you kept rubbing your eyes like somepony was shining a light into it! Your mouth was kinda hanging open too, but I closed it so you didn’t accidentally eat anything!”
“Most unbecoming,” added Rarity. “Are you quite sure you’re alright?”
“Yes,” repeated Twilight. Had she really been doing all that? “Now can we please get to work?”
She levitated a book to each of her friends, and one to Luna. “Read carefully, we don’t want to miss anything!”
Twilight opened her own book—Movements of the Sun, Stars, and Moon—and began to read. There was a soft clacking noise beside her, and she turned to see Luna absentmindedly poking at an abacus while her eyes ran over her book.
“What?” she said. “I—“
She broke off as Pinkie started giggling.
“Oh you silly filly!” Pinkie said. “We understand! You don’t have to explain!”
“T’ain’t nothin’ in this one,” said Applejack, throwing her book into a pile in the center of the room and pulling another one off the shelf. “Just a bunch of ol’ hogwash about constellations.”
“This one can’t seem to stop raving about how the moon is going to crash into the earth,” Rarity said, her book—entitled History of Termina—joining Applejack’s on the floor. “It sounds absolutely ridiculous! How such a thing would ever happen with Luna, I do not know…”
“Ooo!” Pinkie shouted, grabbing the book. “I haven’t played that in forever!”
“Pinkie, how do you play—Pinkie?” Twilight broke off. Pinkie was already staring into the book as though it were the most interesting cake recipe she’d ever seen. Twilight rolled her eyes and returned to her book.
Countless hours passed in a blur as the pile of discarded books grew larger and larger. None of them had found anything so far, even Twilight. The lavender unicorn was growing agitated at the lack of information on their predicament, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to contain her anger, something that did not slip past the nearby fashonista.
“Now, dear,” Rarity said. “Please don’t set anything on fire…”
Applejack and Fluttershy both looked up on the word “fire”. Twilight’s frustration was nearly palpable, building up with every word she read; her mane and tail seemed to be glowing red.
“Maybe it’s time for a break, sugarcube…”
Twilight’s eyes continued to bore holes in her book. Fluttershy could almost see daggers shooting out of the familiar purple eyes.
Twilight hurled the book into the ground with an angry huff. Flames engulfed her mane and tail as she rose up in the air, eyes now an alarming red, the fire licking the ceiling. Applejack leapt up, grabbed a hoof, and pulled her down before the ceiling caught fire, but the fiery Twilight shook the farmer off like a bothersome fly and continued to glare at the book she had just thrown down. Applejack leapt to her hooves, preparing to tackle her friend, but the book erupted into white-hot flames. The floor began to smoke, and the unmistakeable smell of burning wood began to permeate the room.
“OUT!” yelled Applejack, grabbing a paralyzed Fluttershy by the tail and hauling her towards the door. There was no stopping Twilight now; the rest of them bolted outside before the fire could spread to the door, and now they stood outside, watching the smoke billow out of the windows. All of them except one.
“Not again,” groaned Rarity.
“Wait!” Luna cried. “Where’s Ama—“
A howl—from inside the tree—interrupted her. At once, a fresh wind blew across their manes, but it rapidly grew into a hurricane-force gale, deafning them as it blew past and forcing them to shield their eyes with their forehooves. Applejack peeked out from behind a hoof to see the wind whipping the smoke away into the dark sky. The wind died down instantly as soon as the last of the smoke was gone, leaving an eerily dead standstill in its wake and allowing another sound reached their ears; the sound of rain. But they were completely dry.
“What in heaven’s name is going on here?” Rarity managed to say. It was just her luck that it was Pinkie that responded.
“I dunno but—WHEEE! Did you see Twilight on fire? That looked like so much fun! I wish I could do that! Then I’d be able to bake cupcakes anywhere! Can you imagine how amazing that would be?! Then I could throw a party—”
“Whoa!” Spike cut in. “Guys, come look at this!”
He was standing in the library’s open door. They rushed to his side and looked inside.
The fire had vanished.
It was raining.
Inside the tree.
But even as they watched, the rain stopped. Just stopped.
Rarity whimpered and nearly fainted. Fluttershy started trembling again, and even Pinkie stopped bouncing long enough to stick her head inside the entrance.
“Wow, Twilight!” she said cheerily. “You’ve really outdone yourself!”
The books that surrounded Twilight were oddly, completely dry as Applejack threw them aside, digging in the pile of literature. Underneath, the lavender unicorn was on the floor, her soaked mane plastered to her neck. Her eyes were closed.
She coughed as they galloped to her side.
“What…happened…” she spluttered.
“I got no idea, sugarcube,” Applejack said, lifting Twilight to her hooves. “I’m jus’ glad yer safe.”
“I’m glad we don’t have to replace any torched books,” Rarity said. “I shudder to think of having to go through that absolute mess of paperwork again.”
Fluttershy spoke up for the first time in minutes.
“But…um…if you don’t mind me asking…why was it r-raining? And—and where did that awful wind come from?”
There was an awkward pause.
“I think,” Luna said quietly, looking off to the side. “That one of us may be more powerful than she seems.”
They turned as one to Amaterasu. The wolf was just standing there, looking at them. Pinkie dived at her and wrapped her hooves around her in a tight hug.
“Oh, thank you, Ammy!” she said, then frowned. “Is it okay with you if I call you Ammy? ‘Amaterasu’ is kinda long....”
Amaterasu barked once and nuzzled Pinkie back. Pinkie grinned.
“Thank you for saving Twilight! I don’t know what we’d do without our super-smart, super-magical unicorn! Even if she burns things more often than me when I’m baking after a party!”
The wolf was buried as Spike, Applejack, and Fluttershy joined Pinkie in hugging her. Even Rarity wrapped her hooves around the bundle of friends, though she let go quickly, examining her hooves. Twilight took the opportunity to have some questions answered, and turned to Luna.
“What happened?” she said again. Luna looked a bit put out, but she had to know.
“You threw the book, then your mane and tail caught fire,” Luna said quietly. “Then the book you threw caught fire as well. And, well…this is a tree. We ran outside, but Amaterasu didn’t come with us. We didn’t see exactly what happened, but a wind formed and blew the smoke away, and when we looked inside again, it was raining.”
“Yes, raining. Erm…inside the tree. It put the fire out.”
Twilight rubbed her chin. “And there weren’t any clouds?”
Luna shook her head.
“And you didn’t cast anything?”
Luna shook her head again.
“Then I guess it really does mean…”
She trailed off, looking at the wolf, who was barely visible underneath the grateful ponies that were piled on top of her. Twilight was silent for a minute.
“It’s odd,” Luna said softly. “She seems…familiar. Not like I’ve seen her before, but like I’ve known her my whole life.”
Twilight was startled. “What? You mean Amaterasu?”
Luna nodded. “I don’t understand any more than you do. I can just…feel it. It’s not the same as the connection between me and Waka, but it’s there. Just different.”
Spike broke off from the group hug, instead coming to hug Twilight instead.
“You sure you’re okay?” he said, muffled by her coat.
“Yes, Spike. I’m fine.”
He looked up. “So what made you so angry anyways?”
Twilight averted her gaze.
“I was just…frustrated, I guess. The library’s never let me down before. I could always find something, at least a mention, of any topic I was curious about. And that stupid book I was reading wasn’t helping anything…it’s the most useless, presumptuous, absolutely horrible thing I’ve ever read, and that includes 1001 Ways to Chip a Hoof.”
Spike let go and went over to the charred book. “Wow. Musta been somethin’ really awful.”
He picked the soggy remains up and brushed some of the ash aside. Beneath the burn marks, he could just barely make out the title and author.
“Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer.”
“The what of the whats?”
“The Plane of the Gods. This,” Waka gestured towards the dome that encapsulated them. “Is where gods reside.”
Waka nodded. “Indeed.”
Rainbow looked around. “I don’t see Princess Celestia or Princess Luna anywhere.”
Waka chuckled. “You don’t really think gods spend all their time here, do you? Even the most powerful gods get bored now and then.”
Rainbow dropped the topic, not wanting her ignorance to show.
“How did you get here, anyways?”
Waka looked away. “I have…connections…to this place.” His tone made it clear that he wasn’t going to explain any further, so Rainbow asked her next question.
“So why did you bring me here?”
Waka’s ice-blue eyes sparkled. “I already told you. There are some people I would like you to meet.”
Rainbow looked around once more. “Unless you want me to meet nothing, they seem to be late.”
“No, not late. Merely hidden from view. One cannot see gods if they do not believe in them. From which I take it you still don’t quite believe me. Look at me.”
Rainbow did so. The ice-blue eyes were almost painful to look at.
“Do you truly believe that magic is something only unicorns possess?”
She shifted uncomfortably.
“That magic can only come from a horn?”
She did not respond.
“Magic is but a fraction of the divine power that gods wield, and it is but one way in which that power may manifest. Unicorns have magic. Pegasi can control the elements. And Earth ponies possess an inherent, unparalleled knowledge of life—and death—in their many forms. Applejack would hardly be as good a farmer as she is if she were a unicorn or pegasus. The will of the gods is present in every living being. How it manifests is what sets you apart from one another.”
Waka turned to stare into nothingness.
“They are weak. The gods. The darkness is not their doing. It drains them of energy, renders even them helpless, and they had so precious little power to begin with.”
He turned back to pierce her again with those ice-blue eyes.
“Do you know why that is?”
It took a moment before Rainbow could shake her head. Waka looked away again.
“The power of the gods does not come from nowhere,” he said quietly. “It is a cycle. Just as ponies draw power from the gods, so too must they return it. Do you understand?”
“Then allow me to say this. If ponies did not believe that Celestia could raise or lower the sun, then she would not be able to. She would still be an extraordinary creature with both powerful magic and wings, but her magic would not be strong enough to manipulate celestial bodies. Do you understand?”
Waka sighed. “Gods have no power when they have no believers. Ponies that believe in Celestia are the ones grant her the power to move the sun. But,” he added, looking sorrowful. “She is not the only god that needs believers. Your own gods—the creators of Pegasi—are in need of you, Rainbow Dash.”
“Too long has passed. Ponies have forgotten them. They are weak without believers. They live on only because there are a few who believe that remain, and their belief is powerful. I am one of the three, and I would like you to be the next.”
Rainbow shifted her weight.
“What do you need me to do?”
Waka just looked at her. “I need you to believe. Believe that there are others besides Celestia who have divine power. Believe that you did not come from nowhere. Believe that there is someone here, someone who would be extremely happy if you could see them.”
Rainbow closed her eyes.
“Believe that it is like the sun and moon, day and night. Just as light is meaningless without dark, just as life is meaningless without death. One cannot exist without the other. Gods exist to create, and the created exist to serve the gods.”
The truth rang in Rainbow’s ears. It wasn’t the voice this time. What Waka said was true.
And for all her stubbornness…
For all her suspicions, her judgement, her fear…
She believed him. She believed every word.
She opened her eyes.
Standing in front of her, as regal as Princess Celestia herself, was a white horse. A real horse. It looked like a pony, but it was taller, its legs were thinner, its flanks more muscular, its snout more pointed. It wore a strange flag on its back, a green piece of cloth with a single swirld inked upon it. Red markings curled around its face, neck, and flank, and its mane and tail were both curled oddly in some places, slightly reminiscent of lollipops. Tiny wings jutted out from its feet.
“Greetings, Rainbow Dash.”
The voice rumbled the surface she stood on, layered with a multitude of indistinguishable tones, blended together in perfect harmony.
“It has been a long time since a pegasus has last seen me. I am Kazegami, god of the wind and primary creator of the Pegasus race.”
“P-p-primary?” Rainbow squeaked. Kazegami was enormous, dwarfing even the mare’s renowned ego in comparison.
“Yes, primary. Gods are not flawless. Four others were involved in your creation. Allow me to introduce them. This is Nuregami, goddess of water.”
A perfectly spherical glass bottle, sealed by a single cork, faded into view. There was a long snake-like dragon—colored like Kazegami, white with red markings—curled up inside, but it didn’t looked bothered in the slightest at its confinement. It looked at Rainbow with glinting black eyes as Kazegami spoke again.
“Moegami, god of fire.”
A huge phoenix alighted next to the bottle. Its wingspan was easily five or six times that of Fillamena’s, and its plumage was constantly shifting between red, orange, and yellow. It puffed on a long, ornate puff several times before laying it down and eyeing Rainbow with the same glinting black eyes.
“Itegami, god of frost.”
A lumbering ox—also colored like Kazegami—appeared beside the phoenix. It wore a large red conch shell around its neck, but it didn’t play it, instead choosing to turn its glinting black eyes upon Rainbow.
“And Gekigami, god of lightning.”
A white saber fell from the sky, landing neatly on all fours and sending a tremor through the ground. An extremely large bow adorned its back, and a quiver of lightning bolts hung off its flank. It notched a bolt into its bow, pulling it back with its tail. It released it with a roar and a rumble of thunder, and lightning arced above Rainbow’s head.
“Wow,” she said softly. “So, you guys—“
“Created your race. We are the reason you can fly, move clouds, influence fire, create ice, and tame lightning. We are within every Pegasus. To different degrees in each, but in you all the same.”
Their maws opened as they roared, growled, howled, and squawked, and the elements whipped up around them.
A torrent of water erupted from the ground beneath Nuregami, blasting the bottle skyward.
A whirlwind wrapped itself around Kazegami, scattering Rainbow’s multi-hued mane.
A pillar of fire enclosed Moegami, searing the very air with withering heat.
A snowstorm whipped up around Itegami, blinding her with brilliantly white snow.
A lightning bolt struck the ground in front of Gekigami with a thunderous crash.
Then the spectacle faded, leaving dazzling stars in Rainbow’s eyes.
“…you sure don’t look weak,” she said under her breath.
They turned their glinting black eyes upon her as Kazegami spoke once more. “Your belief has given us more power than most. It is most…irregular.”
Rainbow hesitated. Should she tell them that she was the Element of Loyalty? She looked to Waka for help; he simply nodded once.
“I’m the Element of Loyalty,” she said, a note of pride in her voice. “One of the six Elements of Harmony.”
The elemental gods turned to each other. They said nothing, but the looks that passed between them spoke volumes that Rainbow could not even begin to comprehend. After a moment, Kazegami turned towards her again.
“Do you know of the seventh?”
Rainbow pointed a hoof at Waka. “Only what he said. That the bond between the six will be stronger than ever with it.”
“Then you know enough. One more thing before you go. Your mane. Is it natural?”
Rainbow unconsciously lifted a hoof to her namesake.
“It is a sign of immense elemental power. You will understand when the time comes. Remember to believe, remember we are watching, and remember our powers are yours to command. Goodbye and good luck, Pegasus Rainbow Dash. May your heart always remain balanced.”
Darkness creeped into the edges of her vision as the wind god spoke, and by the time he finished, everything had faded to black.
Chapters 13-15 (Not yet released) >