Brotherhood is Magic
A lone pegasus, clad in the golden armor of the royal guard marched—quietly—through the dark hallways and corridors of the royal palace, noting that while the architecture was designed to let in as much sun as possible during the day; at night it made everything seem large and looming. Swallowing nervously he made his way to Canterlot Tower, the location of the fabled Elements of Harmony.
He looked at the large door with the intricate symbols and, most significantly, the hole for a unicorn horn. Quickly looking around to make sure he was alone, he reached under his armor to remove a small pointed object. He had bought it from the same unicorn who had sold him the magic armor that made his coat and mane change colors to match those of the royal guard. The pegasus wasn't sure if all royal armor was enchanted the same way or if they selected guards based on their coats to match. He didn't much care either way, so long as the ruse was kept up long enough for him to do what he came in to do: get the Elements of Harmony.
Gingerly he lined up the magic object with the hole in the door. The unicorn claimed that it would emit a magical emission that would open any door or her name wasn't the Great and Something…something or other. By this point he had stopped listening to her. Holding his breath he slowly started to push the magic skeleton key—horn, whatever—into the hole…
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." A soft voice whispered in his ear. With a startled yelp the pegasus dropped the key and whirled around, his heart hammering in his chest. He found himself staring at a pure white coat that shined all the more brightly for being in a totally darkened room. From her large graceful wings to the tip of her long horn, she practically radiated royalty. Of course, the crown helped too.
"P-princess Celestia?" He stammered. "I-I…"
With a thoroughgoing neutral look, Celestia raised an eyebrow at him. "Am not one of my royal guards? I had guessed as much. Now, why don't you remove your armor and tell me who you are and why you've come for the Elements of Harmony?"
Slowly, with shaking hooves, he removed the royal armor. As he did, his normal colors returned. A lazuli blue coat with a light turquoise mane and tail; also visible was his Cutie Mark, three five-pointed stars. He was also sporting a pair of glasses balanced at the end of his snout. Celestia noticed that he was a young adult, perhaps a few years older than Twilight and her friends. "I—I'm Trinary. Um, Your Highness. From, er, Cloudsdale." He gulped.
Celestia didn't bat an eye. "Follow me."
She turned around without even waiting to see if he would comply. Trinary contemplated fleeing, but realized that flying away from the Princess of Equestria would probably be an exercise in futility and would just make her madder. On shaky hooves and with a bowed head, he followed her through the castle. With every step the silence of the Princess seemed to make every thought and fear in his head grow louder and louder. What if she banishes me? Or throws me in a dungeon? Or banishes me and then throws me in a dungeon in the place that she banished me to?'
Celestia stopped suddenly, so suddenly that the distracted pegasus' head actually bumped into her rump. He leapt back blushing and starting to apologize. "We're here." Celestia said evenly, taking no notice. She had stopped in front of a closed door.
Trinary's knees went weak. Lowering his head he slowly walked forwards as the Princess magically opened the door. There was a glow from her horn as a candle was lit. Looking up he expected a dungeon, manacles, maybe a rack or…a nice soft looking bed with the nicest sheets and what. The. Hay?
Trinary raised his head, blinking and rubbing his eyes with his hooves while Celestia stepped inside behind him, closing the door. "P-princess Celestia? Does this mean that you're not going to banish me or throw me in a dungeon or…"
"Banish you and then throw you in a dungeon in the place that I banished you?" Celestia finished with a smile. "My goodness, where do my little ponies all get these strange ideas?" She chuckled. "But young Trinary, I need to ask why you came here for the Elements of Harmony."
"I-I need them. For my brother." He blurted out. "Please, if you want to punish me, fine—I deserve it. But please let me have the Elements first, for Tycho's sake? I'll bring them right back! I swear!"
Celestia raised a hoof to cut off the stream of babbling. "Have a seat Trinary." With immediate unquestioning obedience, Trinary sat down on the floor. The alicorn's voice betrayed a little mirth as she clarified. "On the bed, please." Nodding sheepishly, Trinary got up off the floor only to climb onto the large soft bed and sat down, his legs tucked beneath him. "Now, then." Celestia could almost hear his jaw drop as she sat down next to him. "Why does your brother need the Elements of Harmony? Is he in some sort of trouble?"
Trinary swallowed. "T-Tycho's…dead. He died last year." He looked down and sniffled. "I wanted…I wanted to use the Elements of Harmony to bring him back. Please, let me do this!"
With a face schooled over the millennia, Celestia refused to let her face betray what she was thinking until she was able to articulate it in words. This was not the first time a pony had come beseeching her to restore a lost loved one. She would have to, kindly, explain to them that not even she could turn back time, nor grant life back to the dead.
To lose one's younger sibling…that was a special kind of pain, one Celestia knew all too well. She started to lift up a wing to console him. "Young Trinary…" She began, but got no further.
"I'll do anything!" Trinary suddenly blurted out, actually cutting the princess off. "Please! I mean it! Anything! Just please help! I…I just want my brother back." His voice cracked as tears started to trace their way down his cheeks.
Leaning down, the white alicorn gently rubbed her muzzle against his mane, like any mother would do to comfort her foal as she gently wrapped a wing around Trinary's side. "I'm so sorry for your loss." She murmured gently. "Do you want to talk about it?" Sniffling, Trinary gave a weak nod and a subdued "uh huh." Celestia nodded. "Tell me about your brother."
There was a long pause that might've been half a minute or half an hour before Trinary started speaking. "T-Tycho was…the most amazing pony I've ever known." He said. "He was my younger brother—the youngest of the three of us. There was Jaysong, me, and then Tycho. Tycho was the youngest, and he knew how to exploit that to get what he wanted from our parents. He could be a real pain in the rump but I wouldn't have traded him for anything. He probably lived more than both of us combined." Trinary gave a sad little grin as he looked up at Celestia for the first time. "Jaysong and I liked to horse around with each other, tease one another, make bad jokes, trade insults…before he even earned his cutie mark, Tycho was slinging insults and fighting to prove that he was our equal."
Celestia smiled. The personality might have been different but the thought of a younger sibling trying to prove the equal of their older brother or sister…that sounded familiar enough. "Sounds like a rambunctious little pony." Celestia said gently, encouraging Trinary. It worked as a weak smile crossed his face.
"Ty was a lot bolder and stronger than I was, even if he was eight years younger than me. I-I don't have many friends and I just like to be by myself a lot. But Tycho was outgoing, funny, athletic and adventurous! He had more self-sustained injuries than any pony I've ever known. Broken legs, broken wrists, sprained wing, even a kidney stone once! No matter what happened or what he did to himself, none of that stuff would ever stop him or make him change the way he acted. He would just keep cool, make jokes and ham up how horrible it all was."
Celestia nodded encouragingly for Trinary to continue. "Tycho was a better colt, and a better teenager than Jaysong or me. He did things spontaneously and stupidly, and some of his accidents were just plain embarrassing. But whatever he did, he did naturally and without fear. He was born to be a teenager, doing the dumb things teenagers are supposed to do. Jaysong and me…we never did stuff like that. For Tycho though? It was just his nature. He would always refuse to think before he spoke. He defended himself by saying he was dumb, but that was false. He was a smart kid who decided he didn't care if he was the smartest person in the room. That had always been important to me and Jaysong. Tycho preferred to let his impulses steer him right even if he injured himself in pursuit of a good time. He was the bravest pony I've ever known and no matter what stupid thing he did, he always came out of it. I thought he was indestructible." Trinary looked down at the floor. "I always wished I was a little more like him…I actually got my cutie mark after he was born."
Celestia looked. His mark was a trio of five-pointed stars in a triangular pattern; one for each of his brothers and himself. She reached over and gently nuzzled him. "You must have admired your little brother a lot."
Trinary gave a weak nod. "Ty was my inspiration. After he was born I started getting interested in politics and history and I got passionate for various causes. Whenever I saw a little filly or colt being sad or in trouble, I just put Tycho's face on them and, well, I wanted to make things better; for him. It was just so…amazing being a big brother. And now I'm not." He shifted uncomfortably. "I f-feel like…it should've been me. N-not…not Tycho."
"Trinary—" Celestia put a hoof on his withers. "Why would you say something like that?"
"B-because…because he had a future, a real future! Everyone liked him, he just got so much more out of living than me…I like doing what I do, but I know that he could've been so really great-could've touched more lives than I ever could hope to. Me? Sure my family would be sad and a few of my friends, but it wouldn't have been as big a loss as…" He trailed off, sniffling.
Saying nothing, Celestia sighed and stroked Trinary's back with her wing. "You don't honor your brother by minimizing your own worth." She soothed. "I don't think Tycho would've liked that. I know how big an influence older siblings can have on their younger brothers or sisters and by minimizing yourself, you minimize him." The pegasus looked down, dejected. Celestia rubbed his back a little more. "Can you tell me what happened?" When he didn't respond she gently nuzzled him again. "You don't have to if you don't want to, but I honestly think it'll help."
Licking his lips slowly, Trinary sighed. "O-okay…a few months after I came home from my studies he had this sore throat. I mean, this really bad sore throat and scratchy voice and it just would not go away. After four weeks my mom started taking him around to doctor after doctor. Finally a unicorn scanned his head and they found a…thing…in his head." He trembled. "S-so then he went to Manehattan for surgery; for brain surgery. H-he was only fourteen years old. It was supposed to be two weeks, but it turned into two months!
"We started hearing all these horrible words…meningitis, stroke, tracheotomy. I-I don't know how he endured it. I know I couldn't have done it, but he did. He couldn't play sports anymore because they had to fuse part of his spine to his skull, which I think bothered him more than anything else; that and missing his annual summer flight camp stuff. He really loved camp." Trinary shook his head. "A-anyway, the rest of the year was spent doing follow up scans in Maresachusetts and in rehab. He got a lot of support though, and I think that helped. Jaysong wrote to Vinyl Scratch—Ty was an incredible music fan—and he was so blown away when Vinyl Scratch sent in a signed picture where she wrote he hoped he got better! And the ponies from Make a Wish Foundation got him season tickets to the Allmare Sisters. I even went once, even though it wasn't really my thing. It was tough and it sucked, but it seemed like it would be okay…but then the thing came back a year later and he had to go back to Maresachusetts…I think it was sometime around then that I saw Mom cry for the first time. Ever.
"Mom, well—she can be like an Ursa Major on a rampage—she didn't believe in making things happen, but ordering things to happen. Even without facts, she had this absolute, overwhelming certainty about how things should work. She could summon that certainty at a moment's notice and deploy it to set reality straight the instant somepony said anything she felt was wrong. Given the choice between shouting down a thunderstorm and disagreeing with Mom, any of us would have reached for a raincoat. In my whole life I never saw anything faze her like that. But this…it was cruel, and finally it was too much for her. She was never the same. Mom didn't mind that life could be hard. She could fight obstacles no problem. Fighting to get us the best teachers in the best schools or finding work or whatever she could do. But now life was just being mean-spirited. It was like life was out to prove it held every single one of the cards, and that there was nothing she could do to fight it." Trinary's rubbed his snout with his hoof.
"But it seemed okay for a bit…the unicorns there zapped it with their magic, and I think they got it controlled, for a while at least. Then last year, he was at camp and so excited to be back! He'd been going since he was eight and missing a summer there killed him worse than anything. Then just after his birthday h-his face was partially paralyzed on one side, so mom had to bring him home."
Celestia could feel his body shuddering under her wing. This was so painful for him, but she knew he would feel better once he had finished telling it.
"Then a little while later my father gave me a hug out of nowhere while mom and I were cleaning Ty's room. I didn't get it at first…then I asked mom if there had been any news. They called me into their room, Ty was already sitting there. He already knew. That's when my dad told me that…w-we weren't going to have a happy ending."
He sobbed, instinctively burying his head into Celestia's shoulder. She made no move to dissuade him; only gently holding her wing across him. Like a broken dam, Trinary continued his sad narrative.
"O-over the next two months, Tycho got weaker and weaker. He started walking with a cane, the right side of his body was so weak, it never recovered from a stroke he had the first time he was in the hospital. One of his vocal cords had been paralyzed when this all started and it was hard for him to eat without choking. Even cutting his food into smaller pieces only helped a little. Mom started sleeping with him in his bed and he almost never left his room under his own power. He was in so much pain, they gave him painkillers but they made him sleep a lot, and he wasn't really lucid for the last week or two. Then he stopped eating. It was just too much trouble for him, so we had to start freezing drinks into ice cubes so he could start sucking on them. It-it was so hard to watch!" Trinary looked up at Celestia. "He was just withering away! It wasn't—it wasn't him! So tired and weak and dependant…it was like he wasn't Tycho anymore! Like somepony else had come and taken his place one day."
Celestia closed her eyes. "I know how that can feel." She said softly.
Trinary had to stop to swallow a lump in his throat. "Jaysong told me about something he saw one day. Ty, who had been getting in really bad moods, raged at my parents over something or other; only then to start crying and ask that they not remember him that way. A-and Jay's girlfriend overheard my mom asking Ty to promise to visit her in her dreams. He said he would."
That was probably when Celestia felt her own heartbreak, for Trinary, for Tycho and their family, and for their poor mother.
"T-then the day the hospice nurse told us that he would…die, we all just stayed in his room with him. We started playing his favorite music, read books of poetry, things he'd wrote…we took turns reading MyFather'sDragon series. Mom read that to all of us when we were little…we had just finished the second book when Jaysong saw his lips turning blue. S-so we all stopped and just…watched him breathe. His breaths started to get farther and farther apart. A-and at the end we held our breaths to see if that was it. That it was over. But then he'd just force another breath out. And another. I-I tried to start counting them but I couldn't keep track. And then he just…stopped. It was over and he was g-gone—" Trinary let out a wail like a hydra had buried its fangs in his chest and started keening.
Celestia laid her neck across his back and made soothing sounds as he cried. There were no words needed, nor adequate for the task. Eventually Trinary ran out of tears to shed and started silently shaking with sobs. He might have dozed off for a bit until he heard Celestia murmuring in his ear. "When was this?" she asked quietly.
"A year…a year ago today." Trinary admitted tiredly.
"Oh, my poor little pony…if I could, I would do what you asked. But it would be cruel to raise your hopes. Neither I nor Luna nor the Elements of Harmony themselves can stop the progression of life and death. I can't bring Tycho back. Nothing can. I'm so sorry."
Trinary seemed to sink into the bed as if his bones were magically removed. "…I know…" He admitted wearily. "I just—I mean, I had to try. What kind of brother would I be if I didn't?"
"You are a wonderful brother and I know that Tycho knew that." Celestia said kindly. "Trinary, do you know the story about my sister Luna…of Nightmare Moon and the Elements of Harmony?" Trinary nodded weakly. "When I had to—when I used the Elements to seal Nightmare Moon away, I was heartbroken. I didn't know if I would ever see Luna again. I didn't know what the Elements would do to her; if I would ever see her again; if she would ever stop being a creature of nightmares; if she would even survive. I mourned for Luna, the same way that you're mourning for Tycho now. I know what you're going through.
"But there's something I learned from my separation from Luna; when I thought I would never see her again. Even then, I realized that she wasn't truly gone. Neither is Tycho." Trinary looked up at her, his attention rapt. "His future will be invisible to you. But invisible is not the same as nonexistent. His deeds and accomplishments, his influence and achievements will still serve to guide everypony who has known him and in that way, will never truly be gone. It's like dropping a rock into a pond. Even after the rock fades from view, the ripples will go out in all directions. They may get smaller and harder to see as time goes on, but they'll still be there in your life. And when you come across one of those ripples and you realize just how wide your brother's influence spread, you'll feel happier and prouder of him than you can imagine."
Celestia saw the look of hope in Trinary's eyes, the promise that the perhaps one day pride would replace pain whenever he thought about his lost brother. He yawned, physically and emotionally drained. Celestia rose from the bed. "Please, try to get some sleep. In the morning I'm going to arrange a chariot for you to Ponyville. I think you'll find there a magic even greater than that of the Elements of Harmony."
"M'kay." Trinary said sleepily as he pulled the blankets of the bed up and slid beneath them. With a soft 'whoosh' of her breath, Celestia put out the candle and slowly trotted out of the room, pulling the door gently shut behind her.
As he lay his head on his pillow, Trinary faced the open window, where the curtains were pulled back to reveal Luna's night sky. The stars were all shining brightly against the black velvet curtain of night, but none shone quiet as brightly as a trio of stars Trinary had never noticed before. Then the smallest but brightest of the three seemed to wink out. Then he saw a shooting star streak across the heavens and go down behind the mountains where it faded from sight. "Goodbye Ty." He whispered softly as sleep claimed him. "I miss you."
Brotherhood is Magic