Twilight strolled through the verdant gardens of the palace with Celestia and Luna, enjoying the soft night breeze that swept through the foliage. Tantalizing scents of nocturnally blooming flowers tickled her nose, and silvery moonlight cast an ethereal glow about her surroundings.
After a lengthy time spent in idle small talk as they enjoyed a late meal provided by Lucid Dream, Luna suggested they move to the gardens. Luna had hinted at a desire to show Twilight something she had been unaware of, but she had no idea what she would find in a garden she had visited many times while attending Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns.
She had never before had the opportunity to enjoy the gardens of the palace quite like this before. In the past she had been staving off sleep to catch glimpses of the night time flora, her drowsy brain muting her senses. Now, however, without the need for sleep and with a fully alert mind, her senses were dancing with the never before perceived depth of her surroundings. She was brought back to reality by the soft tittering of Celestia's light laughter. She looked up to see her mentor gazing fondly at her, an easy smile adorning her face.
"What is it, Pr- Celestia?" Twilight inquired, unsure what to make of the elder alicorn's reaction. Celestia shared a knowing smile with Luna before responding.
"I was merely taken in by a strong sense of nostalgia," Celestia explained, "when Luna and I rose as the first alicorns, not simply just winged unicorns, we had to become accustomed to a whole new aspect of Equestria ourselves." Twilight nodded in understanding.
"There are entire ecosystems that flourish only in the dark of night," Luna added, "and under a bright moon they shine with a ghostly beauty that few ever enjoy." They rounded a corner, approaching an area of the garden Twilight had visited many times during the day. It was a plain an unassuming area that she enjoyed studying in quite often. As they came closer and the sweet scent of nocturnal flowers grew stronger, Twilight soon understood that it was not as unassuming as she had so often thought.
Blue flowers shone in the light of the silver orb that hung in the cosmic art that was the night sky. Their soft petals waved in the breeze, coaxing Twilight's appetite, even as she was struck breathless at the scene. The waters of a small fountain caught and refracted the light, teasing a pony's mind into the infinite promises of dreams.
"Many incorrectly assume that this area of the garden, Luna's Repose, was a memory to my sister who had been locked away in the moon in centuries past," Celestia explained as Twilight was drawn in by the enchanted view. "This place is a reminder that the night is equally important to the safety and prosperity everypony enjoys. I spent many nights here, seeking some way for my sister to truly return to me." Twilight was taken by surprise when Celestia drew close and draped a wing over her in warm embrace.
"Thank you, Twilight," Celestia whispered hoarsely into her student's ear, "you shattered centuries of worry and heartache. If you hadn't gathered the Elements and rescued my sister, I would be lost." Twilight was speechless, and could only lean in to her teacher's side. She could feel something tickle the back of her neck, it was warm and wet. It dawned on her suddenly that Celestia was crying.
Soon Celestia's body was shaking, her breathing becoming ragged, soft whimpers escaping her attempt to keep silent, save for the repeated whispers of "thank you." Twilight looked around, at a loss as to what to do. Her eyes fell on Luna, standing there, her eyes welling with tears as well. When their eyes met, Luna could hold herself back no longer and moved forward, throwing her forelegs around Celestia and Twilight, weeping silently.
Not knowing anything else to do, Twilight gingerly sat back on her haunches and reached her forelegs up, gently stroking Luna's shoulder and Celestia's neck. That was how they stayed for a long while, the royal alicorn sisters letting all of their sorrow finally leave them, the barrier that was royal etiquette shattered by finally having a peer with whom they could share their true feelings.
Slowly, Luna and Celestia pulled back from the embrace, their breathing becoming more regular. Celestia wiped away her remaining tears, and let out a long sigh of relief.
"I'm sorry, Twilight," Celestia apologized, "it seems that I was unaware of the burden I still held." She lightly scuffed at the ground with one of her delicate fore hoofs, feeling somewhat awkward at having displayed such a moment of weakness. Twilight moved up to her mentor and pressed her head against Celestia's neck once more.
"It's okay, Celestia," Twilight said softly, "you and Luna must have been terribly lonely. If you ever need someone to talk to I'm here, now. I always will be." She stepped back and rolled her shoulders, her diminutive wings giving a light wiggle. "Though I never thought I'd be able to say that to you and mean it quite so literally," Twilight added with a light giggle. Celestia smiled gratefully down at her protege.
"Thank you, Twilight," Celestia said, "though it seems my outburst has led us off topic." She reached down and stroked one of Twilight's wings gently, causing it to shudder in response. "Our experimentation with the Elements of Harmony aside, there is still much to discuss about your ascendance." Twilight nodded, though she wore a wry smile. Saying there was much to discuss was like saying there were a few raindrops in a thunderstorm.
"Indeed, sister," Luna offered, "the least of which being the acceptance of another alicorn in their midst, especially so soon after my return. The nobility are rarely pleased when they have to add another pony to the list of those they must pay deference to." Twilight furrowed her brow at that statement.
"I thought I was able to continue staying in Ponyville," Twilight said. Celestia nodded in response.
"And you will," she said, "though that will not change the fact that you are now an alicorn. Unfortunately it seems that all of my effort to shield you from the less than pleasant aspects of court etiquette have been for naught in light of your heroic deeds." She let out a fond sigh. "Twilight, my dear, must you always exceed my expectations? It certainly makes things difficult, exciting though they be." Twilight blushed, unused to so much praise from Celestia, especially over such a short period of time.
"There are two things that are the most pressing," Celestia continued, "the first being the time and place to announce your transformation. Second, our continued experiments with the Elements of Harmony." Celestia paused for a moment to give Twilight and Luna time to refocus their attention on the matter at hoof. "Unfortunately, the noble ponies of the court will not accept you as an alicorn without definitive proof. To that end, it is best that we do our best to help along the transformation, as well as show your connection with the earth as well as the sky and magic inherent to pegasi and unicorns. In light of that, how do you feel we should proceed, Twilight?" Celestia asked her student. Twilight was silent for a moment as she thought.
"I suppose that helping along the transformation is a non-issue, we already know that it is the Elements of Harmony that are the cause of the accelerated transformation." She soon started muttering to herself as she puzzled out the immediate future. "But how do I prove connection to the sky and earth? Is there something in the pegasus physiology that would offer that proof? Certainly pegasus wings are much too small to carry their weight naturally, so I suppose being able to fly for an extended period of time and manipulating the weather might prove that I share the magic inherent in pegasus wings."
Celestia nodded happily, Twilight's thoughts moving in tandem with her own. She couldn't help but marvel at the young mare's capacity for deduction. Here she was, a former unicorn with no formal training or teaching as to the nature of a pegasus or earth pony's magic, and she was quickly working out their nature. She doubted she would have arrived at a similar conclusion as to the nature of pegasus magic without her years of experience, or the training at the hands of her pegasus family members.
Celestia shared a smile with Luna, who was also watching the powerful analytic machine that was the mind of Twilight Sparkle. She let her attention drift to their surroundings for a moment as she let Twilight work out the conundrum before them. The blue flowers surrounding them had only recently begun to bloom once again, the silvery moonlight once more carrying the alicorn magic of Luna with it to the soft petals. Her earlier outburst had helped bleed away the guilt and sorrow, and now she was able to once more appreciate the beauty of Luna's Repose.
A soft scratching noise drew Celestia's attention once more back to the lavender mare who was now sitting in the bare earth surrounding the fountain. Twilight's horn was aglow with magic, telekinetically manipulating a stick, probably plucked from one of the surrounding trees. Celestia drew closer to Twilight and peered over her shoulder, and what she saw couldn't have shocked her more.
Twilight had been puzzling out an equation, and her familiarity with standard arithmancy helped her decipher the young alicorn's work. It was clearly a detection spell of some sort, but one she had never seen before. Moving along the mathematical structure, she followed Twilight's calculations and gasped as realization struck her. Twilight was working out a rudimentary detection spell to identify the presence of pony magic.
She couldn't keep the pride from swelling in her heart. Of course, she had always known that Twilight was brilliant, but this was unexpected. Aside from observation ruling out any other winged unicorn as possessing the connection to the earth all earth ponies enjoyed, there had never been a need to develop a spell to identify pony magic before. Yet, here was her student, a mare who's gifts she had encouraged and nurtured, creating just such a spell before her very eyes.
"Sun's warmth," Celestia breathed out in awe. Twilight stopped her writing and looked up suddenly.
"Oh, I'm sorry Pr- I mean, Celestia," Twilight stuttered nervously, "I was supposed to be planning, but I got carried away and I-"
"Managed to craft the answer to our problem," Celestia finished for her student. "Twilight, this is wonderful, just a few minor modifications, and we can have the court unicorns testing the spell within the day. How ever did you think of this?" Twilight focused her gaze on the equations she had been writing to hide her blush of embarrassment, scuffing her hoof in the soft dirt.
"I just thought that the fastest way to tell if there was pony magic present was to check for it magically," Twilight explained, "but I really don't favor the idea of having any more of my horn and hooves shaved off to provide samples. That was when I remembered Rarity's gem finding spell. It works by finding the natural magic inherent in the crystalline structure of the minerals that comprise the gemstones." She shrugged, trying to downplay the leap in logic. "I just thought if I used an unknown variable, rather than the magical signatures of the gemstones, that it could be adjusted to detect any specific magic." She looked up at Celestia meekly. "The only difficult part was the fact that Rarity's spell was part of her talent, and it had never been expressed arithmantically before. After that, the rest was just really elementary arithmancy."
"Truly this is amazing," Luna offered, "Twilight Sparkle, never has any unicorn attempted to change another unicorn's special talent thus. Why even Swirly would have had trouble with such an endeavor. Not only that, you managed to simplify the magic to such an extent that only three unicorns are needed to weave the magic. Please, wait while I fetch some parchment and quills, this is most exciting!" With that, Luna sprang into the air and was flying toward her tower before anypony could respond.
Celestia watched as Luna flew off before turning back to her student. Twilight was shyly staring at her handy work in the dirt around the fountain. A fond smile graced Celestia's lips.
"Twilight, you continue to make me proud," Celestia said, "even through all of your dedicated studies, you've always displayed a deeply intuitive grasp of magic. Why, you are well beyond what I was capable of before I became an alicorn, and your ability will only continue to blossom." Even as her pride was being stoked by Celestia, Twilight couldn't help but shrink under the praise.
"It was just some simple math, its not really that amazing, is it?" Twilight asked, looking up at her mentor. A gentle smile and a soft nuzzle dispelled some of Twilight's insecurities.
"It is easy to forget, my dear," Celestia explained, "to ponies that do not share your talent and accumulated knowledge, what you just did tonight would take weeks, if not months, of effort. Why, even for me, to craft a spell like this based off of another pony's talent would take the better part of a night." Celestia sat next to Twilight, plucking another twig from a nearby tree. "I daresay with some simple adjustments, we could examine the purity of a specific magic, whether or not there are other magics present."
Twilight watched as Celestia began to make small notations around her basic equation. Suddenly, her earlier embarrassment forgotten, Twilight's mind began to dance with possible variations of Celestia's efforts. Soon a second twig, bathed in magenta energy joined Celestia's writing utensil. The two sticks moved around one another in an intricate dance as they made alterations here and there to the spell Twilight had been working on.
As Luna rode the night breeze back to where she had left Celestia and Twilight, she saw the unmistakable glow of magic as two small objects swirled around each other. She landed softly and crept between a couple trees to see what was happening. There in the clearing sat her sister with Twilight. They were leaning against each other silently as they worked together with sticks where Twilight had written her equation earlier.
Luna watched, entranced, for a time. She had at first wanted to speak up, to get their attention. That thought was set aside, however, as Luna failed to recall a time when Celestia seemed so relaxed. Not even in their private quarters was the Princess of the Sun able to lose herself quite like this.
Luna reached out with her magic and silently retrieved the parchment along with some quills and a bottle of ink. They moved through the air noiselessly to rest just out of sight next to her sister. Satisfied they would find the writing implements easily, Luna quietly walked away from the scene wearing an easy smile and took off into the night sky.
The two sticks slowed, before drifting lazily to rest next to Twilight. She marveled at the spell that was written in the dirt before her. It was elegant, no doubt Celestia's handy work. She let a soft sigh escape her lips as she leaned against the warmth of her mentor. She couldn't recall the last time they had been able to just relax in one another's company. While she enjoyed Luna's presence, she longed for the simple times when it was just her and Celestia, discussing magic theory.
The cool night air swept passed her, causing a shiver to run down her spine. She was surprised when a voluminous white wing draped over her shoulders, blocking the wind, and warming her immediately.
"Luna's left us waiting for a while," Twilight noted idly. Celestia hummed in response, and a roll of parchment encased in a soft white glow was hovering in the air in front of her.
"It appears she has already come and gone," Celestia noted, "It was silly of her to sneak off, though I appreciate the gesture. I had not realized just how much your absence had left palace life dull. No truly inquisitive minds, no late night discussions, no time to relax." Twilight looked up at the white alicorn to see her eyes were closed, a contented smile gracing her face.
"No exploding libraries," Twilight continued for Celestia, who chuckled in response.
"Life with you here was anything but dull," Celestia acknowledged. "I do hope that after your return to Ponyville you will visit more often. You know I would make the time for it." Twilight smiled at the offer.
"Wouldn't that be selfish of me?" Twilight asked.
"Not at all," Celestia responded. They sat in silence for a moment, enjoying each other's company. "I must confess, Twilight, I am overjoyed that you have become an alicorn."
"Princess?" Twilight was unsure what Celestia meant.
"It was with caution that I chose to make you my personal protege," Celestia explained, "every day you brought so much into my life that had been missing since Luna's absence. And every day the dread in my heart grew, knowing that, as a unicorn, you would not be with me forever. Again, it would seem, you managed to take away the fear growing inside of me." Celestia's wing wrapped around Twilight fully, blocking her view and embracing the smaller pony.
Twilight relished the embrace, she hadn't received one from Celestia since she had been a filly. A gasp from Celestia dispelled the moment.
"What is it?" Twilight asked. Wordlessly, Celestia's wing drew back from Twilight, her view once more no longer blocked by the massive feathery appendage. Twilight couldn't help but gasp in a manner similar to her mentor.
When her view had been blocked a mist had rolled into the garden, and Twilight suspected Luna had brightened the moon's light as well. The mist surrounding the flowers glowed blue with the light reflecting off the petals, and the waters of the fountain glittered in the moonlight. No words that came to Twilight's mind could accurately describe the beauty of the garden surrounding her and Celestia at that moment. Celestia's voice tittered lightly in a soft giggle.
"Thank you Luna," Celestia called out into the night air, "this is a most exceptional sight."
"I'm glad you think so," Luna's voice came from behind them, "'twas such a tender moment, I could do naught but beg the moon shine brightly for you." Luna approached her sister and offered a gentle nuzzle, which Celestia accepted gratefully.
Twilight, still captivated by the flowers glowing in the mist under the bright moonlight was suddenly struck with an idea. She closed her eyes and reached out the the magic in her horn. Celestia watched silently, unsure what her student was currently doing, until she could hear the breeze pick up. It was strange that she could hear a breeze, but not feel it strengthening at all.
Something caught Celestia's attention then. A soft note was drifting on the sound of the breeze, soon followed by more. Before she realized it had happened, a veritable symphony of soft tones drifted through the night air, unearthly and beautiful.
"Wonderful," Celestia exclaimed, clapping her hooves together in amusement, "such a creative use of the gentle breezes spell!"
"Truly enchanting, Twilight Sparkle," Luna praised, "your gift with magic is simply divine." Twilight blushed in response. "Sister, should we not return to the castle?" Luna asked, taking note of the position of the night sky. "The night will soon end, and there is still much to prepare before the other Elements awake." Celestia nodded in agreement.
"Yes, we should," Celestia said, taking hold of the parchment and quills with her magic, "give me a moment to preserve Twilight's work, and we shall return." The parchment unrolled, and a quill was dipped in ink before moving with an enviable alacrity across the blank sheet. Once complete, a quick burst of wind dispelled the mist that had gathered and dried the ink. Satisfied that the spell was preserved, Celestia rolled the parchment and tucked it into Luna's saddlebag.
"There, let us be off," Celestia announced, before making her way through the gardens. Twilight gave a parting glance to Luna's Repose, and the sanctuary it provided, before she followed Luna and Celestia back to the palace.
The gardens soon gave way to the venerable architecture of the palace, where Celestia led them back to her study. Celestia sat again on a large pillow at the table they had occupied earlier, Luna sitting across from her. Twilight favored a spot next to her teacher, taking an apple from a fruit bowl in the center of the table and getting comfortable.
"Now then, Twilight," Celestia caught the young alicorn's attention, "thanks to your efforts we were able to at least make some progress on the most pressing matters, that being the confirmation of your status as an alicorn to the nobility here in Canterlot. In but scant hours, your friends should be awake, and we can resume our experimentation with the Elements of Harmony. That is most important as your friends must soon return to Ponyville, and their duties in the town. That leaves very little time for us to tackle the other pressing issue at hand." Twilight followed along with her mentor's logic.
"That would be the announcement," Twilight reasoned, "right, Pr- Celestia?" Celestia smiled at Twilight's continued effort to adhere to her wishes of informality.
"That is correct, my dear," Celestia confirmed, "thus far I have let you take the lead, however, the announcement of your ascension directly relates to matters at court. For that reason, I shall arrange the official announcement." Twilight nodded her acceptance of Celestia's plan. "Thought I believe there is a hand you should have in more personal matters."
"Personal matters?" Twilight asked, not sure as to what Celestia was referring to. Celestia smiled fondly at Twilight.
"Can you not think of any ponies who might like to know what you have achieved?" Celestia asked. Twilight thought hard about the question that Celestia had presented her.
"My friends already know," Twilight thought aloud, "even your hoofmaidens know." Twilight trailed off in her thoughts. Celestia let out a soft giggle at her protege's confusion.
"Perhaps there is somepony in the guard who aught to know?" Luna offered, enjoying the adorable social awkwardness that Twilight possessed. Luna's statement served as the necessary lead to get Twilight's mind working in the right direction.
"In the guard?" Twilight wondered, softly nibbling at her apple. "Well, I suppose as a matter of security the guard should know, especially the cap- Oh no!" Twilight bit down hard, scattering bits of apple as she suddenly realized where the princesses were leading her. She stood up and began pacing worriedly.
"Shining Armor!" Twilight exclaimed. "Oh no, oh no, what am I going to tell him and my parents?" Twilight nearly choked on the last word. "My parents! Why didn't I think of them? What am I going to tell them?" Twilight's eyes looked around the room frantically, as if searching for the answers in the furniture present. No answers were forthcoming. "What are they going to think of this? I'm not a unicorn anymore, they'll probably disown me! What am I going to do? I won't have a family anymore!" Celestia and Luna's laughter caught her attention. Twilight's eyes narrowed, and her face reddened in sudden irritation. How could they be laughing at her right now, she was in a serious bind.
Before Twilight could say anything she might regret in the immediate future, she was encased in a soft white glow, and carried aloft, through the air back to her place next to Celestia. A calming hoof rubbed her shoulders, and Celestia's soft voice cooled her thoughts.
"Peace, Twilight," Celestia gently commanded, "there is little need for such worry. It may have been a few millennia since I last spoke with my parents, however, I am certain yours would not disown you. If anything, they would probably like to know why you so seldom visit. A sentiment I must confess I share with them" Celestia was smiling softly as she spoke to Twilight. Twilight, for her part, took several calming breaths.
"You're right," Twilight relented, "but I still need to let them know, they should be the first to know of the ponies who weren't present." Celestia nodded in agreement. "What am I going to tell them? How am I going to tell them?" Parchment and quills landed on the table before Twilight.
"In person would be best, I think," Luna said, offering Twilight a small well of ink, "though it might be more expedient should we all gather for the announcement. To that end, a letter should suffice." Twilight looked at the quill as though it were a dangerous creature that would end her life should she dare attempt to touch it.
"A letter?" Twilight asked, looking at Luna with doubt in her eyes. "Do you think that's best?" Luna nodded.
"It need not explain the entire situation," Luna explained, "merely advise them that a most pressing matter has arisen, and that they should be present at the earliest possible moment." Twilight nodded, calming herself, what Luna said made sense.
Twilight tentatively reached out with her magic and took hold of one of the offered quills. The tip of the quill violently dipped into the offered well of ink with a sloppy splash, before shakily hovering over the parchment. Twilight gathered her thoughts, and with a nervous gulp, began to write. Or rather, attempted to write, as the quill pierced the parchment and tore the sheet as it was dragged harshly along the surface of the table instead.
"I think I need a little time to calm down first," Twilight chuckled nervously, blushing in embarrassment.
An hour later found Twilight finally calm and finishing the letter she intended to send to her parents. She was still nervous, hoping for the best when she would finally stand before her parents as more than the daughter they had raised.
Even though she was relatively calm compared to earlier, she had developed a slight, though in reality quite severe, paranoia. She had become convinced that every noise or shadow was her brother. The princesses assured her that he was currently not on duty, and that he had no reason to be near the princesses' room while off duty. They reasoned with the young mare that even the thought would be scandalous.
Twilight stood up, letting the quill rest, and looked out the window in time to see Celestia return from raising the Sun. She reluctantly waved the parchment in the air to dry the ink before tidily rolling it up. Tying it with a ribbon, she set it on the table with a nervous sigh.
"Are you prepared my dear?" Celestia asked her, offering a comforting nuzzle.
"No," Twilight answered honestly. How a pony could ever be prepared for something as big as this was beyond Twilight's frazzled mind at the moment.
"Of course not," Celestia smiled, "no pony would ever have been prepared for this." She appeared to have read Twilight's thoughts. She leaned in and spoke softly to Twilight, her tone taking on a light conspiratorial bent. "Between you and I, Luna was just as nervous when we ascended." An indignant huff from the open window alerted them to said princess' presence.
"Of course I was nervous," Luna defended, before adopting a decidedly less than friendly smirk. "Of course, had I the benefit of a pining teacher willing to drop her half-flanked duties to see to my nerves, perhaps I might not have been." Celestia looked less than amused at Luna's words.
"Half-flanked?" She sniffed disdainfully at the insinuation, "unless my eyes deceive me, sister dearest, the Sun is certainly shining across Equestria as we speak." Luna laughed triumphantly.
"And certainly nopony would lament the loss of half an hour as the Sun vaulted passed its proper position in the morning sky," Luna responded, "you are welcome, by the by, for adjusting the Sun's position, 'twas not the least bit an effortless endeavor, as I am not practiced in the ways of adjusting that particular celestial body." Celestia had the good grace to blush.
"You must have been mistaken," Celestia offered, a millennium of sole rule over Equestria having dulled her wit when verbally sparring with a family member such as Luna. Certainly they still had their family's descendants, however there was still the social barrier of alicornhood that kept them at bay.
"Yes," Luna said, "mistaken, that must be the reason. Come, sister, let us break our fast as the Elements are sure to rise soon." Luna huffed as she walked passed her sister, sharing a secret smile with Twilight Sparkle as she exited the room.
"Such an annoying sister," Celestia groused, "pay her words no mind, Twilight. Luna seems to have returned to Equestria with a somewhat twisted sense of humor." Twilight, for her part, smiled at her mentor.
"I find it reassuring," Twilight admitted. Celestia raised a delicate eyebrow at her student's words as they exited the room and made their way to the dining hall.
"How so?" She asked.
"Seeing the two of you behave like any normal pair of sisters," Twilight explained, "like Apple Bloom and Applejack, or Sweetie Bell and Rarity. It makes me feel like becoming an alicorn won't necessarily change who I am." Celestia's annoyed expression softened fondly at the remark.
"I can see what you mean," she agreed, "however that does not change what I said. Pay her jokes no mind, it will only encourage her." They shared a laugh as they entered the dining hall.
"Encourage who?" Luna asked from her chair at the table. Celestia only shook her head in response, and nuzzled Luna as she walked by to take her seat.
"Worry not, sister," Celestia said, "I was just offering some advice to my faithful student." Luna smiled.
"Take heart, Twilight Sparkle," Luna offered to the lavender mare as she sat at the table, "Celestia is a jester par none. Her advice often leads to woeful embarrassment of younger siblings, often publicly. Indeed, there is a secret resistance to her intricate conspiracies, one that will never end, mark my words. Why, just this morn did they snap victory from the dreaded Princess of the Sun." Celestia laughed fondly at Luna's Joke.
"Then I must ensure that the resistance is crushed ruthlessly," she played along with Luna's metaphor. "Perhaps it shall be a public execution?" Celestia wondered aloud, rubbing her chin with a golden clad hoof in mock thought. Luna looked at her sister, her face aghast at the prospect.
"You wouldn't," Luna challenged her elder sister. A Cheshire grin accompanied Celestia's response.
"Wouldn't I?" Celestia asked. "After all, I am the dreaded Princess of the Sun, the malevolent and omnipresent source of little sisters' embarrassment Equestria over." Luna wilted spectacularly at the thinly veiled threat.
"Fine then," Luna sniffed, "I shall play nice, for the moment." Celestia smiled in victory, before clapping her hooves.
"Rosy Dawn!" Celestia called. In response the rear door of the dining hall opened, admitting the rose hued hoofmaiden. Dawn bowed low when she entered.
"Yes, Princess?" she asked, smiling pleasantly.
"Have the chefs prepare this morning's meal," Celestia requested, "the Elements will be joining us, so please make sure that enough food is prepared, as well as some gemstones for Twilight Sparkle's companion."
"Of course, Princess," Rosy Dawn bowed low in acquiescence, before quietly excusing herself from the room. Twilight relaxed in the morning sunlight that filtered through the expansive windows of the dining hall. Soon skittering footsteps alerted her to Spikes nearing presence.
"Morning," Spike yawned as he entered, "how'd everything go last night?" He hopped up onto a chair next to Twilight, a small claw stifling another yawn. Twilight thought a moment before she answered.
"It was reassuring," Twilight said at length, "in a sense. I'm still nervous." Spike nodded, he had expected as much. "I have a letter for you to send to my parents after breakfast." Spike smiled.
"I should have seen that one coming," he laughed. "Hey, uh, are there going to be any gemstones for breakfast?" he asked, rubbing his claws together in anticipation.
"Of course there will be," Celestia answered, "a growing dragon requires them to grow big and strong, does he not?"
"Not to mention my amazing fire," Spike added with pride, puffing out his little chest.
"That goes without saying," Celestia added, stoking the baby dragon's pride. Twilight smiled fondly at her charge. Soon the sound of energetic conversation filtered into the room as Twilight's friends arrived, all apparently having had a good night's rest.
"Morning, everypony," Twilight greeted them, "it sounds like you all slept well."
"Oh my, yes," Rarity agreed excitedly, "I feel more refreshed than I have after any spa treatment, we must play with the Elements more often."
"Not too often," Applejack countered, "takes too long. Though Ah do have to say, Ah feel like Ah could tackle all of apple buckin' season all by mah self." Fluttershy nodded her head in agreement as she took her seat, next to an excitedly bouncing Pinkie Pie.
"Speak for yourselves," Pinkie Pie exclaimed happily, "I couldn't sleep a wink, I kept thinking of the most amazing parties to throw, especially one for Twilight becoming an alicorn!" Everypony laughed at Pinkie Pie's antics.
"Hey, speaking of that," Rainbow Dash said, "did you make any progress with your wings at all last night?" Twilight recalled her lackluster attempts at controlling her wings after everypony had returned to their rooms the night before.
Before she could answer, however, the incident with Celestia popped into her head, and she felt her eyes drawn to her mentor. She could almost feel Celestia's gentle ministrations the previous evening as well as the tickling pinpoints of telekinetic force that led to Luna's teasing. She felt her face flush, and quickly averted her gaze.
"I, uh, ahem," Twilight coughed into a hoof to regain her voice. "Yes, we made some progress, though it will be some time before I will be able to freely manipulate the muscles necessary for flight." Rainbow dash cocked her head to the side, unsure of what to make of Twilight's response. She looked at Princess Celestia for clarification.
Said princess was looking anywhere but at Twilight at the moment, a light blush adorning her face. Rainbow Dash looked back and forth between the two ponies, a sly smile making its way onto her face.
"Some progress, huh?" Rainbow Dash asked, her voice anything but innocent. "Was there some preening involved?" The question caused a myriad of expressions, to explode across the room. While Pinkie Pie, Applejack and Rarity could only guess at the meaning in confusion, Fluttershy nearly fainted with a soft squeak escaping her lips.
Princess Celestia and Twilight's faces exploded into a furious blush, neither willing to confirm the guess or to lie and deny it. Rainbow Dash couldn't help but laugh, having become comfortable in the presence of the princesses of Equestria over the course of the last day.
"Enough of that, Rainbow Dash," Luna scolded gently, fighting hard to keep a smile from her face. "Plenty of fun has been had at their shared expense after the discovery of their little... session last night." Luna failed to let the opportunity slip by to tease her sister, opting for the most ambiguous statement she could have made about their attempt to isolate the nerve endings in Twilight's diminutive wings the previous night.
Luna's words only egged on Rainbow Dash, who exploded into a fresh bout of laughter. By this point Fluttershy's blush seemed to be as severe as the two ponies in question, while the remaining three Elements of Harmony began to blush as the insinuation began to dawn on them. Spike, however, remained confused, as he was still a baby dragon.
Celestia allowed herself to take several calming breaths as she turned to regard her sister with a somewhat scary smile adorning her face.
"Luna~" she practically sang, "I believe you had brought my attention to a resistance movement that required immediate action?" Luna paled at her sister's words, easily recognizing the tone and expression.
"I believe they have gone underground, and will not be heard of for some time," Luna shrank back from the intense stare from Celestia, before adding a meek "if ever again." Celestia nodded, assured that her sister had been sufficiently cowed. Everypony shared a laugh, Twilight and Celestia's more awkward than the others'.
"My Princesses," Rosy Dawn's voice rang over the laughter, everypony turned their attention on the hoofmaiden, "your meal has been prepared." With that announcement several maids allowed themselves into the room, each pushing carts filled with various foods.
Before each pony a generous bowl of rich oatmeal was placed, in the center of the table vast bowls of various fruits, nuts and berries were arranged, as well as several pots of honey. Twilight's stomach grumbled at the sight, she couldn't remember ever being as hungry as she was now. She supposed it was her body's way of compensating for the energy she was burning during her transformation.
She inhaled the wonderful scent of the oatmeal, losing herself in nostalgia. It was a staple of her diet when she had been growing up in Canterlot, and she had never grown tired of the rich oats that Celestia's chefs used to make the nourishing meal. She began to salivate as she looked around the table, searching for her favorite fruits and nuts to add, as well as a generous helping of honey.
"Wait a minute," Applejack announced, she was holding up a rather plump apple, "these're Sweet Apple Acres apples!" Celestia favored the orange earth pony with a smile.
"Of course they are," Celestia confirmed, "not so long ago I was given a bushel from a small farm courtesy of a young miss Smith. I was immediately taken with the apples, and as long as there is a Sweet Apple Acres, I will be more than happy to continue having their wonderful fruits here in Canterlot." Applejack smiled proudly at the praise.
"Ah sure don't remember ever sellin' no apples here in Canterlot," Applejack admitted. Celestia looked somewhat uncomfortable at the statement. Luna answered for her sister.
"It is an unpleasant facet of life as a ruler of a nation," Luna explained, "but there is always the risk of less than benevolent ponies and their plots. We are loathe to admit it, but the food here in the castle is all purchased and delivered anonymously, as to ensure the safety of everypony here at the castle, and those from whom we purchase our supplies."
"Ah suppose that means ah can't be goin' 'round an' sayin' that mah farm's apples are bein' eaten up here?" Applejack asked, smiling somewhat sheepishly. Luna smiled at her.
"I would appreciate you not, for your safety as much as ours," Luna requested, "however, I'm sure there would be no harm in a simple endorsement, would there, sister dear?" Celestia smiled at Luna, already forgiving her earlier remarks in light of the generous attitude she was displaying now.
"Of course not, Luna," Celestia answered, "tell me, Applejack, would there be an event soon that happens to showcase your farm's specialty?" Applejack rubbed a hoof along the back of her neck, obviously thinking about any such event.
"Nothin' soon, Ah reckon," she replied, "but Cider Season's right 'round the corner in a few months." Applejack looked up hopefully at Celestia. Celestia happily clapped her hooves together.
"That sounds simply delightful my dear," Celestia said, eagerly, "I shall be certain to attend, as will Luna, I presume?" Luna nodded happily, the ponies in attendance quickly becoming ponies she desired as friends. "It is settled, then. Please, let us know when the first day of Cider Season will be, and I will clear the date."
"Will do, your Princess-ness, er," Applejack blushed at her fumbled words, "that is, thanks, Ah sure appreciate it, 'n all."
"Think nothing of it, my dear," Celestia said, "now, let's eat, I'm sure everypony is famished." Everypony agreed enthusiastically, and proceeded to select their favorite accompaniments to the oatmeal they were about to partake in.
Twilight happily levitated one of the pots of honey over her bowl and poured in a generous amount of the sweet liquid, before adding a variety of berries. She gave a gentle swirl of her spoon to mix together the honey and oats, before she lifted to spoon to her mouth and took a delicate mouthful of the mixture. She moaned in nostalgic bliss as the aromatic oats filled her mouth.
Having spent so much time with Celestia the last day had been pulling at the strings of her memory. Every moment had been drawing her back to a more simple time, when she was a filly studying under the awesome presence of Princess Celestia. She could almost picture a moment, back from that time, with perfect clarity, the scene around her fading as the memory solidified.
She wasn't sure of her age, but it had been during one of the few court recesses, where there were no official duties for Celestia to attend to, save teaching her protege. They had taken breakfast in Celestia's study, Twilight recalled. What had they been talking about?
Twilight was having a hard time remembering, she could only recall how happy she was to spend some time alone with the princess. They had been talking about nothing all morning, Celestia entertaining the wandering mind of a young filly with infinite patience. They had been talking about special talents, how every unicorn had a spell that was theirs alone.
"Do you have a special spell, Princess?" Twilight had asked. Celestia had smiled at the tiny filly.
"Of course I do, my dear," Celestia said, her smile full of warmth, giving the young unicorn a sense of profound security.
"Really? What is it?" Twilight pushed, her eager mind absorbing every bit of information that Celestia could offer the inquisitive lavender filly. Celestia gestured toward one of the open windows.
"I can raise and lower the sun without any aid from other ponies," Celestia explained, "I can even move the moon, though between the two of us, that's a little harder for me to do." Twilight's eyes grew wide in wonder.
"Really? Why is it harder to move the moon?" she asked. Celestia had smiled with a far away look in her eyes.
"That is another pony's special spell," Celestia offered, "she was a kind and energetic pony, much like yourself."
"Really? Where is she?" Twilight's curiosity knew no bounds. Celestia's smile had grown sad at that point.
"She had grown confused, long ago," Celestia said, "she left for a while, but she will come back soon."
"She sounds nice," Twilight had smiled, "I can't wait to meet her." Celestia's smile had grown fond and happy once more.
"I'm sure she will absolutely adore you, as I do," Celestia offered the young filly a gentle nuzzle, which the young Twilight had accepted with a tittering giggle. She had then looked up at the Princess, a confused look on her face.
"Princess, what do you think my special spell will be?" she had asked. Celestia had looked out at the horizon in deep thought.
"That I am unsure of, my dear," Celestia had answered, "since your special talent is magic, I'm sure your special spell will be whatever you desire." Her answer had excited Twilight beyond any specific answer she could have given.
"Really?" Twilight had pressed, "maybe I'll have a spell that will give me big, beautiful wings like yours, then we could fly together!" Celestia had laughed a kind and gentle laugh.
"I think I would enjoy that very much, my dear," Celestia had responded, before they were suddenly interrupted.
"Your highness," a strong voice had called, one of the guards, it had been her brother, she recalled. "Shining Armor reporting for duty." Twilight had become excited when he had arrived.
"Shining Armor!" she had exclaimed, "what are you doing here?" Shining Armor grinned roguishly at his little sister.
"Twilight?" his confused voice was at odds with the confident smile he was wearing. "I'm the captain of the Royal Canterlot Guard, but what are you doing her? I though you would have returned to Ponyville by now." Ponyville? That hadn't been part of the memory. Why was Shining Armor asking her that? She had only moved to Ponyville a year ago. "And are those wings on your back?"
The memory shattered at that question, Twilight's senses bringing her suddenly and unexpectedly back to the present. Everypony was looking at her, and there in the doorway was her brother.
"Shining Armor!" Twilight gasped, unprepared to meet her brother with her new developments.
Chapter 3 end.