Romance and the Fate of Equestria

Chapter One Hundred and Ten

The ponies emerged from the northern forest at sunrise.

"There's Vanhoover," said Twilight, pointing to a city on the horizon. "The princess wanted us in Canterlot as soon as our mission was done, so we'll catch a train there. And she's just raised the sun… so it's a new day. We can put all of this behind us."

Something huge appeared on the Vanhoover skyline: a towering image of Princess Cadance, transparent and fuzzy, clearly an illusion. Other, identical illusions appeared throughout the countryside, though the one over Vanhoover was by far the largest they could see.

"Uh… greetings, folk of Equestria," said Cadance nervously, her voice huge and echoing. "Please do not be alarmed. My name is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza… a lot of ponies call me Cadance."

Twilight chuckled at Cadance's apparent nervousness.

"I'm here to tell you that our great leaders, the princesses Celestia and Luna," Cadance went on, "have left Equestria—temporarily—on a mission of world-shattering significance… almost literally. I would like to assure the public that the sun and the moon shall continue their cycle as scheduled even while our princesses are away, and that I will be ruling in their stead until they return.

"The reason I appear before you now, in this way, is because the princesses have asked me to read this," said Cadance, holding up a sealed letter, "so that every corner of Equestria can hear."

She opened the scroll, and looked at its text for what was obviously the very first time. "Princess Ann… Annih…" she began, pausing to stare in alarm. She cleared her throat and started over.

"Princess Annaialara," she read, taking a stab at the name's pronunciation, "wherever you may be… you are the heir to the throne. Should you choose not to accept it, have faith that Equestria is in good hooves in your absence. But truly, it was meant for you, cousin. Please accept your right. Love and regards from Princess Celestia and Princess Luna."

Cadance scanned the letter again in surprise. "What could that possibly me—? Oh." She looked up from the letter and once again addressed whatever device was projecting her across the country. "Um, hold faith and have no fear, citizens of Equestria. Our princesses are making the world a better and safer place for us, as they strive to do every day. I believe with all my heart that they shall return to us promptly. This I swear, with all my authority as acting sovereign of Equestria. Thank you."

She disappeared. The six friends stared blankly at the empty sky where she had once been.

"The princesses are away on a mission?" Fluttershy peeped.

"What could that be?" Pinkie wondered, turning to Twilight.

"I… I don't know," said Twilight. "And I don't like the sound of this."

"Yeah, anypony else feelin' a bit… uneasy?" Applejack asked, squirming slightly.

"Yes, I'm getting a bit of that sinking feeling myself," Rarity muttered.

"Announcing it to the whole world just to get a hold of Annihilara?" Rainbow pondered. "That might not have been the best idea."

They all turned to Twilight again.

"The princesses… gone…" she whispered. "I can't even imagine… but our plans haven't changed. Let's get going."

-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Celestia and Luna stood on a sandy beach, the forest behind them, the sun rising over the ocean, the coast empty and clear for miles and miles, as they were many miles south of Manehattan and north of Fillydelphia.

"Sister," Luna said quietly. Celestia nodded to acknowledge she had heard. "I trust your judgment," Luna continued, "and I am delighted that we have at last been able to come to an agreement. But I sincerely hope this doesn't take too long. I have a movie to make."

"Don't worry, Luna," Celestia replied. "It'll get made, and it'll be exactly the way you dreamed it would be. But for now, this is more important."

"Yes, I know it is," said Luna, staring at the sea. "I fully understand. So… we await the others."

"Yes," said Celestia.

Something the color of sandstone, something incomprehensibly massive, hurled out of the water, a streak of water droplets trailing out of it.

Lady Kolassa landed on the beach, the impact so thunderous that a shockwave rustled every tree in the forest and sent Celestia and Luna spiraling in the air. "I ARRIVE!" Kolassa bellowed.

She sprawled herself out on the beach, her legs splayed in every direction and her chin touching the sand, sand whiter than the desert sand that made up her body. "Where's the rest of the team?" she asked.

Celestia and Luna stabilized themselves and landed back on the ground in front of Kolassa's towering face. "Once again, you're the first to arrive after us," said Celestia. "You know, I believe I owe you an apology."

"Oh?" said Kolassa. "What for?"

"For centuries, whenever I've mentioned you, I've always made a point of saying that you're always late for everything," said Celestia. "I now realize that was a broad generalization based on a singular event which stuck with me more than it probably should have. So, I'm sorry."

Kolassa's smile vanished, and she was solemn. "Oh… that's all right. It was a… pretty bad day to be late. I don't blame you for latching onto it."

Luna nudged Celestia. "Tell her the other thing you've been saying about her for centuries but never to her."

Kolassa smirked. "Yes, please do," she teased.

"Hmm? Oh, yes… that," Celestia said awkwardly, averting her eyes. "Kolassa?"

"Yes," Kolassa replied simply.

"You're…" Celestia stammered. "You're the… you're my… you're my b…"

"Spit it out, sister," Luna laughed.

Celestia was silent for a moment, then quoted, "'Ooh, you make me live'."

"…What?" Luna said blankly.

Kolassa pondered that, her sand-carved eyes turning to the heavens in contemplation before dropping back down toward Celestia. "Are you saying I'm your best friend?"

"I am," Celestia choked out.

"Oh, Celestia," Kolassa said tenderly. "I am honored. I wondered… and I hoped you felt the same. Come here." She offered a hoof, and Celestia flew up to stand upon it. Kolassa brought the princess to her face, gently nuzzling her.

Something came streaking down from the sky, going on a perfectly vertical downward trajectory. It landed in the sand and left a crater there, and a tunnel going down, down, down into the earth. The sound of sand shifting and metal clanking could be heard, before Empress Song Li burst out of the ground, creating another hole. She slowly turned off her jet-propelled shoes to set down on the beach, then seemed to suddenly notice their three pairs of eyes on her and looked mortified, as if she sorely regretted what she had just done.

Attention was deflected off of her when something very small swooped down, rustling against Celestia and Luna's heads before sailing back up into the sky, circling overhead once before floating down to the ground like a leaf on four lovely blue wings. Queen Okapiopteryx looked haughtily at the other goddesses before opening her mouth; rather than words, she unleashed a gorgeous noise, the exact mix of a hawk's majestic scream and the terrifying roar of a dragon.

"That is so spectacular," Luna commented. She turned to Celestia, still atop Kolassa's massive hoof. "Why can't we make big hammy entrances like that?"

"Because Celestia has a thing about being the first to show up," Kolassa said, setting Celestia down on the ground. "The poor thing's nuts; she's just gotta do it."

"Well," Luna chuckled, "next time this group meets, you and I are hanging back and arriving at the scene in style."

"We don't do that enough here in Equestria?" Celestia protested. "Arriving via thunderstorm or bursting straight out of the blinding light of the moon doesn't appease your hamminess enough?"

"You said you wanted to show off to our peers," Luna pressed.

"This is hardly the time or the place, little sister," Celestia said pointedly.

"Of course."

"Well, you all know why we're here," Celestia said graciously.

Song Li dipped her head. "We are to travel the world together and hope that the five of us combined have the strength sufficient to put a stop to Sørmur dï Mitgaeard's plans by whatever means necessary."

"Yes," said Celestia, nodding. "Any one of us alone would be unable to stand up to Mitgaeard's power, but together… we will almost certainly be able to foil her plans. Perhaps defeat her outright. Perhaps even kill her, which I find the ideal solution… she's proven she can be neither caged nor controlled… I just don't know if killing her is even possible, but we shall find out."

"And yet there's a chance we may fall," Okapiopteryx said bluntly. "Did Annihilara not answer your call? I'd be feeling less fear, if I knew she was here, the most powerful one of us all."

Celestia's expression very quickly became sour. "Shut up, Okapiopteryx," she snapped. "Just… just shut up! Speaking as the founder and leader of this expedition, I don't want to hear another limerick out of you! I don't know why you've never liked me, but as of right now, I don't care anymore! Just keep your mouth shut, keep your stupid remarks bottled up inside, and do what must be done to serve the mission!"

She fumed for a few moments, glaring straight at Okapiopteryx as if daring her to reply. When the queen didn't, Celestia went on, "I've left Annihilara an alternate set of instructions. If she receives my message, she'll be taking the throne of Equestria in my absence. I believe that in case the worst happens, there should still be a goddess watching over my country since, unlike some other countries I could mention, mine has some significance in events in the world at large!"

The others stared at her, stunned.

"Well, I think now we know at least one of the reasons why she doesn't like you," Kolassa said dryly.

"Excuse us for a moment," Luna said brightly, ushering Celestia aside and into the cover of the trees. "What on earth was that?"

"I'm sorry…" Celestia mumbled. "Things are going on up here." She tapped her own head. "I was just overcome with sensations and messages from Discord… he's found a way to escape Twilight's control, and is now serving the changeling queen. He's betrayed us all. I went mad with rage for a moment there."

"Oh," Luna said blankly. "I am sorry to hear that, but dear sister, you had no right to take it out on a powerful world leader… not even that one."

"I know," Celestia sighed. She turned around and started back to the group. "I am sorry," she said to Okapiopteryx, making eye contact with her just once before turning away. "There are torturous things going on inside my mind… which is no excuse. You didn't deserve that, good Four-Winged Queen. I beg your forgiveness."

Okapiopteryx merely glared.

"Well, while we're waiting on that," said Kolassa, "how about an apology for the rest of us whose countries don't matter?"

"Yes, of course," said Celestia. "I am deeply sorry, my dear friends."

"It's all right," said Kolassa. "This predicament is eating at all of our nerves…"

"Song Li?" Celestia said plaintively. "Do you accept my apology?"

"Oh, yes, I do," Song Li said immediately, looking in the direction of Celestia's hooves rather than her face. "It would be extremely foolish to let such a petty interpersonal conflict impact any of our actions or emotions on this very important mission we're undertaking for the sake of the world, so it would be ideal, I think, to simply let these things be forgiven and move on from them. Wouldn't you agree, Okapiopteryx?"

Okapiopteryx rolled her eyes. Song Li turned to look at Kolassa. "Passive-aggressiveness," the armored goddess explained. Kolassa burst out laughing.

Celestia stared anxiously at Okapiopteryx, who stared back with unprecedented solemnity. Finally, Okapiopteryx sighed. "You give, we live, we must go, and so, I forgive."

"All right, well," Kolassa said cheerfully, "with that heavily abridged limerick out of the way, Celestia has given me some coordinates for where to start this journey. If you'll all take a seat."

She lowered her snout, and the four others flew up to her and sat down upon the bridge of her nose. Kolassa heaved herself to a standing position. "Brace yourselves, tiny insects," she said. "Are we all ready?"

They all responded in the affirmative. As one, all five of them dissolved into sand and disappeared.

-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-

END OF PART TWO

May 31, 2014

So, now would be the ideal time, if you haven't already, to read Legend of the Goddesses, which is still in progress. During the upcoming hiatus, I'll be working on several other projects—hopefully they won't all be pony-related, but I'm starting to genuinely fear that I've lost all of my abilities as a writer outside of MLP fanfiction. I'll be making a few desperate attempts to prove myself wrong on that one.

I'll begin Part Three around the time that Legend is finished, whenever that may be. Part Three has been planned out beat-by-beat, every step of the way to its conclusion. I try not to think any further ahead than that, but doing so is inevitable, so I have a fairly clear picture of Part Four, and what I know from those thoughts is that there will definitely be a Part Five. And since I still haven't given any thought to a full-story conclusion, I'd say we're looking at about a 50-50 chance of a Part Six—hey, where are you going?

Look, if I could end it earlier, I would. But that's just not how the story goes. I can't control it. I said earlier that I'm not capable of stretching or padding, which is absolutely true; well, I'm not capable of reduction either. I guess whatever length something I write is, that's the length it was meant to be, because I have a complete mental block on changing it.

Thank you, to everyone who's read this story in the past two years, including those people who only read for a little while but are now gone and will therefore never read this message of thanks: I thank you in spirit. To those of you who are here, I'll see you guys back here when Part Three debuts. Thank you so much.