"Simply the thing I am, shall make me live."
Prologue: Lost in the Fire
Thrumming rain and thrashing leaves overwhelmed the usual silence of the mid-afternoon air. The library was dark, much too dark for anypony to see properly. The tall, book-filled rooms were usually flooded with sunlight, which on most days would pour through the great tree house's numerous windows and spill onto the floor like an overturned barrel of Sweet Apple cider. Today, however, there was no sun to be spiltat least none that could be seen by the unicorn filly that crept through the shelves of the library in search of a family treasure. Apparently, the building's resident dragon had not cared to light even a single candle.
The Pegasus ponies had set up a regular tempest, something that they had to do every so often when a scheduled drizzle was skipped. That seemed to happen quite frequently lately, though no pony was entirely sure why. Lightning arced across the sky, connecting with the magical lightning rod atop the tree. The living wood of the building uttered a gentle creak as it accepted nature's electric fury.
Most any filly would have been scared witless by the sheer power of the storm that was crashing its fists down upon Ponyville, but this filly was on a mission that no amount of scary thunder could deter. Her mother was out of town visiting the royal city of Canterlot on what she called "Official Business," and would be back later that same day. The filly couldn't care less what her mother called this errand of hers; all she was concerned with was the fact that her mother wasn't there. More specifically, that her mother wasn't there to tell her off for what she was about to do.
That was, if she could even find what she was looking for.
She stumbled about in the dark, tripping over rugs and piled books that her mother had left strewn about the floor after yet another night of intense studying. Her blind gait eventually ran her right into a telescope tripod set up next to the windowthe instrument wobbled precariously before proceeding to fall directly on top of the little filly, who quickly covered her head with her hooves to protect herself. The tripod and its load fell over with a mighty crash that almost rivaled the thunder outside.
"Ouch!" she yelped, and then instantly froze. Spike had probably heard the commotion and would surely investigate: dragons had good hearing. At least, that's what she had read in one of the library's bestiaries. After about a minute and a half with no sign of an impending investigation, she sighed with relief. Spike was likely napping deeply, as he tended to do on rainy days.
Deciding that she needed some light after all, she gave her magic a try. Squeezing her eyes shut, she concentrated as intensely as she possibly could. Though she strained and clenched her teeth, nothing happened. After stopping for a few deep breaths, she began her trials anew and with increased vigor. Her horn fizzled and popped, showering a few amber sparks onto the floor. The magical residue danced and skittered around like living creatures before fading away. Finally, her horn sputtered to life and gave off a bright glow from its tipthe light illuminated the room as much as any candle, and it was more than enough for a pony so young to find what she wanted.
The room was as it had always been: shelves lined the walls, crammed full of manuscripts, books and scrolls on every subject imaginable. Along one wall sat the small bed where her mother slept, the covers patterned with the night sky. She winced as the light revealed the telescope she had knocked over, lying on the floor among shards of broken crystal and glass. Her thoughts quickly turned back to her goal.
It has to be here somewhere, she thought, But where?
A search of the bookshelves came up with nothing, as did a thorough examination of the jewelry cases and armoire. She finally sat down with a frustrated huff.
"I know it's here somewhere," she sighed as she lay down for a moment to rest. The moment her head hit the floor, however, she spied something under the bed: a simple wooden box. She snatched it up and held it close to her face, so that her glow spell could shed some light on the mysterious object. This must be it! She thought excitedly, blowing the dust off its lid.
The box was small, only about the size of a loaf of bread. Its faces were largely unadorned save for a perfect facsimile of Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark painted atop the polished mahogany lid, and a shimmering padlock decorated with a fiery magical symbol clunked noisily on one side. She set it down on the floor as she fumbled for something she had stashed in her mane; the object fell to the floor with a sharp metallic ping.
The object was, in fact, a tiny silver key that she had surreptitiously "borrowed" from Twilight's key ring before she left. Taking the key carefully between both hooves, she slid it down into the lock on the box. The instrument stuck momentarily, but with a light jimmy it slid smoothly into the keyhole. Once she was sure that the teeth of the key were perfectly seated within the pins of the lock, she rotated it forty-five degrees clockwise and was rewarded with a satisfying click. The lock abruptly fell off the box with a soft clunk. She lifted the lid delicately, marveling at how effortlessly it moved on its oiled hinges. Inside, she found surely the most beautiful piece of jewelry that had ever been created. Reverently, she picked it up to examine it.
The subject of her search was a tiara, crafted from the finest gold and with nine small sapphires set into its front. Intricate patterns carved into the gold wove about and around the gems, but it was the apex of the tiara that truly caught her eye. A gem cut into a six-pointed, faceted star lay set into the marvelous golden lattice, catching the glow from her horn and sending sparkles of purple flying to all walls of the room. In the dim light, it shone like a veritable beacon.
She knew exactly what it was that she held in her hooves. Her mother had told her about her adventures when she was younger: about how she, auntie Applejack, and their friends had saved Equestria from the eternal night of Nightmare Moon many years ago. This was THE Element of Magic. The jewel atop the pinnacle, Twilight had said, acted as an amplifier for a unicorn's innate magical ability. It allowed one to cast spells beyond the power of imagination, and could even allow a non-unicorn to cast magic. There were few who could activate this power, however; only the gem's harmonizing spiritcurrently Twilight Sparkleand Celestia herself had ever been able to access its true potential.
But, perhaps, could she activate its power? After all, she was descended from the Spirit of Magicperhaps it might work for her as well? Intense, burning curiosity overcame her and she moved ever so warily to place the tiara upon her own head. What spell would she cast? How would she even activate it in the first place? Her many questions, though, were cut short before she even had a chance to place the artifact upon her tiny head by the sound of the front door to the library open and almost immediately slam closed again due to the gale outside. Her little heart raced.
"Daylight!" Twilight called happily from downstairs. "I'm home, Day, and I've brought you a treat!"
A cold bead of sweat dripped from Daylight's brow as she hurriedly put the element back into its case. In a panic upon hearing the sound of hoof-steps upon the stairs, she slid the box and lock back under the bed and snatched up the key. She'd put it back on the key ring later and Twilight would never know that it had gone missing, but for now it was nestled safely in her hair. Lights came on all around the library as Twilight ignited the candle flames with her magic. A single strand of grey shone dully in the purple unicorn's mane.
"Oh! There you are, Daylight." She smiled at the filly as she finished illuminating the bedroom, but then frowned once she noticed the mess. "What are you doing here in the dark? And what the hay happened to my telescope?"
I was, uhh
hiding from the thunder," Daylight lied nervously. "I kinda sorta knocked over the telescope in the dark
To her surprise, Twilight chuckled and gave her a loving look. "It's alright, Day, especially seeing as Spike couldn't be troubled to turn on any lights. I have just the spell that will fix that telescope right up. And I also have just the thing to cheer you up after such a dark and gloomy afternoon."
Daylight perked up immediately as she was given a pink bag from Sugarcube Corner, opening it with gusto. "A Double Chocolate Super-Sprinkled Frosted Donut! Thanks Mommy!" She smiled, excitedly biting into the sugary treat.
"You're welcome sweetie," Twilight replied, giving her daughter a playful nuzzle.
The storm cleared out later that evening, leaving the sky open for the stars to shine. Each one winked into existence as the moon climbed into the sky, dragged there by the ancient magic of its caretaker. A lone wisp of cloud snaked its way through the otherwise pristine expanse, blotting out a few of the fainter stars, and a cricket chirped in the wet grass as it was dully illuminated by the warm light from the windows of the library. Inside Twilight sat with her Number-One Assistant after finally getting Daylight her dinner and tucking her into bed.
Spike had grown a great deal in the years that Twilight had known him. She still remembered the day when she hatched his eggthe same day that she gained her Cutie Mark and became the protégé of Princess Celestia. She smiled at the memory. Spike was now slightly larger than herself, and he sported a pair of lovely reptilian wings that had just recently finished growing in. He wasn't too terribly used to them yet, however. Rainbow Dash had given him numerous flying lessons, but he still flew like a clumsy, one-winged owl.
"So, ah, what exactly did the Princess want, Twi?" Spike asked. He had inquired earlier, but she had told him to wait until Daylight had gone to bed. "And why couldn't you have talked by scroll? Why did you have to go all the way to Canterlot? Seems like an awful lot of trouble just to talk
"Whoa, slow down there Spike, one question at a time," Twilight said. "The Princess didn't want any written acknowledgement of what's going on is all, so we had to talk face to face."
"But about what?" Spike insisted.
"About something that's going on. I'll assume I can trust you not to breathe a word of this to anypony?" Twilight asked.
"Absolutely! I am still your Number One, after all. You can trust me!" Spike puffed his chest out rather proudly.
"Good. Well, there's a group of ponies that have been gathering near Ponyville. They call themselves 'The New State.' We're still not entirely sure what they're about, but the Princess has reason to believe that they may be radicals who have designs on gaining political powerpossibly even overthrow the diarchy. She said that they are fairly widespread, and have even shown up in Manehattan and Cloudsdale over the past few weeks in addition to their other haunts. The Princess wants me to be on the lookout for them, as Intelligence reports that they may have something big planned. We just don't know what or when."
Spike looked puzzled. "Why would anypony want to overthrow the Princesses? Things are great the way they are! Aren't they happy?"
"Who knows?" Twilight sighed. "Some ponies are never happy. They rebel just for the sake of rebellion. They take up a grand cause even when they don't truly understand the implications of what they are doing."
"But what could possibly be wrong with the diarchy? Celestia and Luna are both some of the most caring ponies in Equestria! They do nothing but good for us!" Spike wondered, disturbed by the situation.
"It's hard to say. You or I may not see anything wrong with the diarchy, but not all ponies think the same. Perhaps they see something that we can't. And this is still just idle speculation; we don't know for sure what they're trying to do. They could be entirely harmless," Twilight said, somewhat hopefully.
"Well, I still don't" Spike yawned, "still don't
" and promptly fell down right where he stood, snoring loudly.
Twilight shook her head; Asleep all day, and quick to fall asleep at night. That was a dragon for you. She turned from the room and climbed up the stairs to check on Daylight. The filly lay in her bed, fast asleep. She was neither small nor weak like Twilight had been when she was her age, but rather was well-built, and her father's deep green eyes looked at Twilight every day. However, an unexpected trait had turned up when she was born that surprised her parents: Day's fur turned out to be bright sun-like yellow, inspiring her name. In hindsight, though, it wasn't entirely surprising. Her father's side of the family had a fair amount of yellow genetics, but Twilight had never seen a pony of that color before. It even almost seemed to glow when the light struck her just right.
Twilight smiled sadly, then continued up the stairs to the very top of the tree. Ponyville lay stretched out before her through a small porthole window. A few lights flickered in the distance in houses and stores alike, and Rarity's Carousel Boutique was brightly illuminated as always. A great dark shape loomed at the edge of the horizon: the mountains, she thought to herself, and perched atop one of them a small speckle of light that marked the city of Canterlot.
Putting a hoof to her forehead, Twilight felt the thin golden ring at the base of her horn. She looked off in the distance, in the direction of what once had been Sweet Apple Acres. No light had shone there for many seasons.
"Oh Macintosh," she whispered, a single tear forming in the corner of her eye. "Why did you leave me?"
"HEY TWILIGHT!" A high-pitched voice echoed in Twilight's ear, rattling the treetop windowpane she had apparently fallen asleep leaning against.
"WhaPinkie?" Twilight awoke with a start to see the familiar face of her old friend staring at her through the window.
The fourth-floor window.
"Aha! You're awake! Open up, silly filly!" Pinkie said merrily.
Twilight rubbed the sleep from her eyes. What time was it? The sun was rather high in the sky, so perhaps she had overslept. Her joints gave a few pops as she stretched, lifting herself to all four hooves. She unlocked the latch of the window and swung it open, sticking her head out to see how this early-morning greeting was even possible. Pinkie was standing on what had to be the four tallest stilts Twilight had ever seen a pony wear. It almost seemed impossible, but she knew better. This was Pinkie Pie, after all.
"So, to what do I owe this unexpected visit?" Twilight yawned.
Pinkie Pie beamed a huge smile and took a deep breath
"So I was trotting off to the mill to get some more flour for Sugar Cube Corner because we're out of flour and you can't make cupcakes without flour so anyway I was trotting along when I noticed some new ponies that were all dressed the same way and that I hadn't seen before so that must mean that they were new to town and if they're new to town then I thought that I should throw a welcoming party so I jumped over to greet them and tell them that I was going to throw a super-duper-mega-extra-fun party for them and that they could make all kinds of new friends here in Ponyville and they told me that that's exactly what they were here to do and that I didn't need to throw them a party because they were going to throw us a party although they didn't really call it a party but what else could it be oh I bet it's a surprise party so that they can get to know us all and they also said that I should spread word to everypony that I could so as to make sure that everypony is there so they can enjoy the party oh and the party is going to be at eight o' clock sharp at the fairgrounds tonight!" Pinkie finished, gasping for breath but still smiling.
Twilight raised an eyebrow. New ponies, all dressed alike? This sounded suspiciously like what Celestia had been talking about. She needed to know a bit more about them, though, as she didn't want to bother the Princess with a false alarm.
"Pinkie, I need to ask you a few questions about these ponies," Twilight stated.
"Well okee-dokey Twi! What do you want to know?" Pinkie asked, grinning.
"First off, how were they dressed?"
"Huh, well, I wasn't paying too much attention to that because the party sounded so exciting," Pinkie confessed, abashed.
Twilight frowned. "Well, I need you to tell me what you did notice about them. It could be important, Pinkie."
Pinkie thought for a moment. "Well. Like I said, they were all dressed the same, wearing white coats, and there were six of them and they all had this emblem of a creepy eye or something embroidered on their sleeves." She paused, and then seemed to remember something more. "Oh! And they were all unicorns."
Twilight nodded, going to retrieve parchment and a quill from a small desk to take some notes. "Okay, did you get any names, perchance?"
"Nope, sorry Twilight, they didn't really say, but I did ask. Though they did call their creepy eyeball club something
"Yes? What was it?" Twilight pressed urgently.
it was something like 'The Blue Date'
I dunno, I didn't really hear that well. What's all this matter, anyway, there's going to be a party! And guess what? They said I could join their club! I bet it's fun! Yay!" Pinkie shouted in pure elation.
Twilight stared hard at the notes, not really paying too much attention to Pinkie.
"You okay, Twilight?" Pinkie asked, concerned.
The unicorn looked up, distracted. "Yes, I'm fine," she said and then, in an effort to get Pinkie to leave, "I've got some things I need to check up on; why don't you go tell the others about it?"
"Okee-dokey-lokey!" the pink earth pony replied happily as she teetered off towards Fluttershy's cottage on her wonky stilts.
Twilight hurried downstairs, where she found Spike and Daylight sitting at the table for breakfast. The purple dragon was heating up two bowls of oatmeal with his fiery breath. They both looked up as Twilight entered.
"Well there you are, Twilight. I was wondering where you were, it's nine o' clock after all. You're late," Spike stated, with a certain degree of smugness.
"No time to talk now, Spike. I need you to send a letter." Twilight said hurriedly.
"A letter? Now? But I haven't even had a single bite of my oatmeal yet! Can't it wait?"
"No. I mean now, Spike!" Twilight said hotly.
"Okay, sheesh, I'm coming." Spike resignedly followed Twilight into the upstairs study.
"Get this down: 'Dear Princess Celestia, I have reason to believe that The New State ponies have come into the open in Ponyville, just as you warned they might during our last meeting. They are planning some sort of gathering for 8:00 pm and are trying to get as many ponies to attend as possible. I know of six of these ponies so far, all unicorns, and bearing the emblem of an open eye. It is possible that more could be either present already or on their way. Their motives are as of yet unclear. Please advise on how I should proceed. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.'"
Spike rolled up the scroll and burned it with his searing green dragon fire, sending the magical ashes through the air to Canterlot. He looked towards Twilight, an expression of fear on his face.
"You think they're here? Now?" He asked.
Twilight looked him in the eye. "I don't think that they're here, I know that they're here," she said. "I want you to keep a close eye on Daylight. Don't leave her side. I'd feel a lot better knowing that a big strong dragon was here to protect her while I'm out."
"Of course!" Spike replied, basking under the compliment he had been given. His face screwed up momentarily as he let out a loud sputtering cough, followed by a belch, and spewed green flame and ash into the air in front of him. The ash swirled around before coalescing into a slightly crumpled and hastily rolled piece of parchmentnot at all what Twilight was expecting, given the pristine condition in which Celestia's letters usually arrived.
Spike unrolled the parchment and began to read. "Ahem. 'No time to talkbusy. Problems. Investigate NS meeting. Report back. Celestia.'" Spike turned over the paper to see if there was any more on the back. "That's weird, I've never seen a letter like this from the Princess. The writing is barely even legible!"
Twilight stared off into space, deep in thought. "All the more reason to be worried," she said in a hushed voice.
Twilight locked every door and window in the library that evening, giving all of her keys to Spike for safekeeping. Parchment, ink, a spyglass, and a quill were all thrown into a saddlebag, which was hastily slung over her shoulders.
She turned to Spike, giving him instructions. "Don't let anypony you don't know in tonight. In fact, don't even open the door unless it's me. Understand?"
"Yes, ma'am!" Spike saluted diligently.
Daylight stood impatiently to his side. "But Moooooom, can't I come with you? I promise I won't be any trouble!" She mewled piteously.
Twilight looked fondly at her only daughter. "No, Sweetie, I'm sorry. Where I'm going is no fun anyway, and it probably isn't safe."
"But I heard Pinkie say that it was a party and that everypony was going! I wanna go too!" Daylight whined.
"No buts, Daylight. Stay here with Spike, be good, and maybe I'll bring you home another donut. Would you like that?"
"I guess so," Daylight said, resigned.
"Good," Twilight said, and gave Daylight a kiss on the cheek. "I'm going now. Lock the door behind me."
As she stepped out into the cool evening air, Twilight heard the door close and the latch shut behind her. She waited a second, until she heard the sound of a sliding bolt to indicate that the door was, in fact, completely locked.
Reassured, she began down the dirt path that led around the outskirts of Ponyville. The path would take her around to the south, where the Fairgrounds were located. Every autumn a traveling carnival would set up there, its towering Ferris wheel the center attraction. The carnival was Daylight's favorite event of the year, more so than the Winter Wrap-Up or the Summer Sun Celebration, even though she'd only been to the fair once.
Twilight spotted a bunch of other ponies heading in the same directionalmost enough to qualify as a crowd. She scanned their faces, finding that she knew most of them personally: Lyra with Bon-Bon close by her side, Derpy with Dinky in tow, Cheerilee, Lightning Bolt, Colgate
and a lot more that Twilight didn't know quite as well. It seemed that whatever these New State ponies were planning, it would be big.
Perhaps it would be better for her investigations if she wasn't seen; that way, she couldn't influence the proceedings. Stepping off the path, she concentrated on casting a concealment spell. Her horn glowed momentarily, and she immediately knew that the spell had worked. It didn't make her invisible, per se, but it did make it so that any casual observer would overlook her
provided that she remained silent.
Twilight chose to stay off the path, keen on avoiding any direct attention. The fairgrounds opened up in front of her, a large field of grass trimmed and kept nice by a year-round groundskeeper. She took up a position in the woods to the west, giving her a prime view of the proceedings.
An elevated platform sat in the middle of the field, surrounded by tables set up with all kinds of food and drink. All were brightly illuminated by an unseen magical source. The moment it seemed that the last pony had arrived, one giant white banner was unfurled behind the platform. It bore the visage of an enormous, lidless eye. Some sort of enchantment made it seem as though the eye was gazing directly at you, no matter where you were. Twilight shuddered.
Nearly the entire population of Ponyville, just shy of two hundred ponies all told, was present and partaking in the refreshments while they waited for something. After eating from the table, each pony turned and lined up in front of the stage. What were they waiting for? Extending her spyglass, Twilight peered more closely at the ponies. Most of them were sitting, all facing the banner as if entranced. Pinkie Pie was seated in the front center, perfectly still. Upon seeing her, Twilight knew instantly that something was very wrong. Pinkie was never motionless or perfectly concentrated.
Just then a silvery-blue unicorn in a pristine white coat and tie took position at the front of the platform, flanked by five cohorts dressed in identical suits. Opaque silver glasses completely covered his eyes.
He began to speak, magically projecting his voice. "My friends," he began slowly, in an oily voice that seemed to slither into one's ears, "You are about to witness the most important event of your generationnay, the most important event in the history of Equestria!"
What was this unicorn talking about? Twilight listened further, writing down his words as he spoke them.
"Tonight, you shall be part of a revolution. Tonight, my friends, we shall throw off the shackles of royalty. We will cast the chains of the diarchy aside and erase it from history. And in its place we shall be erect a new establishment, a brand new state, governed by you and I. We will erect a grand empire that shall last a thousand years and beyond!"
Twilight didn't like what she was hearingCelestia's fears were right, and she must be told as soon as possible! The Royal Guard would take care of these usurpers!
The speaker continued. "All who stand opposed will be crushed by our iron hooves! My friends, look now, gaze into the abyss of the Eye. The Eye can show you everything and anything. The Eye will show you happiness and love, like nothing you have ever known before." The speaker paused, making sure that every pony present was looking into the banner. "Trust, kindness, honesty
these are all burdens that weigh us down. No doubt it was these very things that brought you here today. They give you a heavy heart, and in the end they bring unhappiness. Cast them into the abyss! Give them to the Eye, so that you may be free of them! Join with me, and we shall have our way at last! Tonight, we come out of hiding and seize control!"
The speaker stood silent for a few moments as the congregation gave themselves completely to the Eye. A wisp of black smoke coiled down from the sky, reforming into a bleach-white scroll that unfurled in front of the nameless speaker. He read it over, and the scroll theatrically burst into flame and vanished.
"As we speak, the six artifacts that have held you for more than a thousand years of tyranny come into our possession. We have taken them back from those who acted to hold you in bondage. They have been sent to the storm front, where they shall be used by five of our finest magi and myself to spearhead the assault and finally free us all!"
The congregation burst into cheers as Twilight sat numbly in the bushes. This couldn't be happening. Nothing like this had happened in a thousand years. Why now?
"My friends" the speaker began anew.
Sudden realization hit Twilight like a sledgehammer. These artifacts that he talked ofthere was only one thing that they could be: the magical focuses for the Elements of Harmony! If they had stolen all of them, then that would mean that they had gotten hers. She kept it under the bed, in a magically locked container. How could they have gotten to it? A sick feeling crawled into her stomach. If they had taken it, then they would have been in the library.
The very library where her daughter and best friend were hiding.
" the words left her lips before she could stop them. Despite being barely over a whisper, it was enough to break her concealment.
"I see now, the Eye shows me our troops are marching through the gates of Cant" the speaker stopped. His ears twitched, and he turned as if seeking out a sound.
Twilight held her breath.
"Ah, my friends, it seems we have a spy in our midst. Find her."
Immediately as the command was uttered all of the ponies, previously entranced by the Eye, sprang up and dispersed, looking for the interloper. It was only a few seconds before Twilight was found.
"Over there! Look! In the bushes!" A voice that could only belong to Pinkie Pie shouted, causing all of the ponies to immediately surge toward Twilight in a colossal mob.
Panic rushed over Twilight, and she instinctively knew what to do. Just as the ponies were almost atop her, a thunder-crack rent the still night air. In a flash Twilight had vanished, leaving the ponies grasping at nothing.
Twilight materialized in front of what was left of the library door. It lay there on the ground in front of her, ripped from its hinges and cast down from its frame. Dread weighed down upon her hooves as she took a few wary steps inside.
"Day? Spike?" she called out into the darkness. There was no response.
She illuminated the room with her horn and found it largely untouched. The books still sat in their places on the shelves and dirty oatmeal bowls sat on the table from that morning, still unwashed. Whoever came here must have known exactly where to lookperhaps they could even sense the energy of the crystal.
Her hypothesis was confirmed when she climbed the stairs to her bedroom and found the wooden box on the floor, unlocked and open. Its magical protective seal had been removed with its keyher key. It was the only way possible to penetrate the enchantments that she had meticulously placed upon the box to protect its contents. It must have been left opened, and she knew who must have been responsible.
"Oh Daylight, you can't even know what you've done," Twilight said slowly, her head bowed in frustration. Her crystal was gone; the one thing that could possibly focus the power of the Elements of Harmony was now in the hooves of the New State thugs. Only a being such as Celestia could conjure that much raw power. She sincerely hoped that Celestia would be able to hold off the New Statewho could tell how powerful they were now that they had the Element of Magic? And what if they had taken the other crystals as well? She didn't even dare to think of that. The Princess had warned her, the day that Nightmare Moon had been defeated, of what could happen if the crystals fell into the wrong hooves.
Somepony was in the room behind her, she could sense it. She spun around and shot a beam of magical energy at the intruder, knocking it off-balance and pinning it against the wall by its neck.
"Twi! No! It's me! Spike!" it gasped through the magical stranglehold.
Twilight let Spike fall to the ground in horror. She could have killed him! "Oh, Spike! I didn't hurt you, did I?" she asked worriedly.
Spike gasped for breath. "No, not really," he croaked, rubbing at his neck.
"Where's Daylight? Is she safe?" Twilight asked frantically.
"Yeah, she's safe. We both hid in the basement when some uniformed ponies broke in. They didn't even go down there. Twi, they stole it," he said.
I know. Where is Daylight now?"
"Oh, she's still in the basement. Want me to go get her?" Spike asked.
not yet. I need you to send a note to Canterlot as fast as possible. I cannot describe the urgency, so write quickly," Twilight replied.
"Okay!" Spike said, quill quickly ready in his claws.
"Dear Princess Celestia, I have observed the meeting of the New State ponies. They hypnotized the town, but I'm not sure how. Maybe a drug was placed in the food they consumed beforehand, or perhaps it had something to do with what they called 'The Eye.' Regardless, the focus crystal for the Element of Magic has been stolen from me by thieves working with the New State.
"I fear that you and Princess Luna may be in grave danger. I do not know if the other five focus crystals have been stolen as well, but it is a safe bet that they have. Whoever is behind this knew exactly what they needed. They mean to dethrone you, most likely through violent means! Please respond poste-haste, your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle" Twilight finished. "Send it now," she said flatly.
Spike rolled the parchment and wrapped a red ribbon around it before breathing a burst of dragon fire. The note vanished in a puff of green smoke. They had to wait only about a minute before a response came. Spike doubled over, and retched out a cloud of ashes that became a note. This one was odd; it was a completely different kind of paper. It was thin and pasty white, not like the thick ivory parchment that Celestia favored, and had been neatly folded rather than rolled.
" Spike said as he opened the note. It was not written; rather, it had been typed by one of those fast new typing machines.
"What is it, Spike?" Twilight asked, looking over Spike's shoulder.
"This isn't from the Princess. Here, listen'Mrs. Sparkle, I regret to inform you that this warning of yours came too late. Only moments ago, rebels stormed the city and overran the castle defenders. They were led by six unicorns, each wielding one of the stolen focus crystals. Their magic was amplified by the crystals to the point that the Royal Sorcerers were powerless to stop them.
"We don't yet know exactly what went on in the throne room, but we have confirmed that Princess Celestia is missing, and Princess Luna has suffered a mortal puncture wound to the neck.
"The New State has forced a retreat of the remaining Royal Guards and myself to a safe location. Casualties cannot be estimated at this time. Major damage to the city includes the destruction of the Royal Records Office and the burning of the Royal Library. Princess Luna is with us now, but our medical staff does not believe that she will make it through the night. The magical failsafe for the Sun and Moon has been tripped, which will keep the celestial cycles in motion for the time being in the Princess's absence.
"Our covert agents, who have been monitoring the dragon fire networks, have informed me that the New State believes you to be a major threat, most likely due to your connection to Princess Celestia. You must remove yourself from Ponyville immediately to ensure your safety.
"Our scrying devices also show movement of New State rebels in your area and estimate that they shall be upon you within ten minutes. Signed, Maj. General Stouthoof, Commander of the Royal Military Forces of Equestria,'"Spike said, his voice wavering.
Twilight could not find any words; spoken language momentarily eluded her. Her fear suddenly became a grim resolve when she realized what she had to do. She galloped downstairs and seized a book from the shelf nearest the shattered door. Rushing back upstairs and snatching the quill from Spike, she hastily wrote a short letter before folding it and placing it in an envelope.
Twilight touched her forehead, feeling the cool trace of gold at the base of her horn. Forgive me, Macintosh, for what I'm about to do. With loving care, she slipped her wedding band off of her horn and placed it in the envelope with the letter. Twilight sealed it with wax and wrapped it with the book in brown paper. The little bundle was then thrown into her saddlebag, which she handed to Spike. She then wrote a second note with as much speed as she could muster.
"Go and get Daylight for me, I need to talk to her," Twilight commanded with deep sadness in her voice.
"Sure thing, Twi," Spike said disconcertedly and ran off to do what she asked.
Spike rushed back with Daylight in tow. The little filly was disheveled and almost in tears. "Mommy!" she shouted happily at the sight of Twilight. "I was so scared! Who were they, Mommy? Why did they break the door?" the filly asked as she affectionately rubbed up against her mother.
Twilight looked down fondly at her daughter. "That's not important. I need you to listen to me carefully, Daylight, and do what I'm about to tell you to. Can you do that for me, Daylight?" she asked.
"What is it, Mommy?" Daylight asked nervously.
"Can you do that for me, Daylight?" Twilight repeated.
" Daylight responded, after a pause.
"Okay, I'm sending you to visit with Aunt Applejack for a while; I want you to do everything she tells you to. Give her this note when you get to Appleoosa." Twilight handed her the second note.
you will be coming, right?" Daylight asked.
"I have to stay here for a little while sweetie, there is some unfinished business that I have to deal with before I can come. Spike will fly you there safely," Twilight said in a soft tone.
"I want to stay with you, Mommy! I don't wanna leave!" Daylight said in a fuss, tears beginning to well up in her eyes.
Twilight leaned down, giving her daughter a firm hug. "I'll be with you every step of the way, sweetie. Don't you worry."
Daylight sniffed. "Promise?"
"Promise. Now, you must go," Twilight said, placing her daughter carefully on Spike's back. She leaned in to whisper in his ear, "See her to safety, Spike. I'm counting on you."
Spike gave a weak smile. "Anything for you, Twi."
Twilight gave Daylight one last embrace. "One more thing," she told her.
"Don't look back," Twilight said. Before Daylight could reply, Spike was out the door and surging forth clumsily into the dark summer night.
If she was so important to these rebels, then they would follow her. She was far too exhausted to teleport them all to safety. Even if she could have, they would have come at her again. If these ponies had already done this much damage and they wanted her dead, then they would never stop chasing her. At least this way, her daughter would be safe.
They'd be here any second now; she could feel the massive vibrations of many hoof beats on the dirt road. Daylight and Spike had gotten out just in time, it seemed. The hoof beats stopped abruptly. Twilight stood as tall as she could when the speaker from the fairgrounds trotted through the open door and took a place in front of her, his cohorts standing close behind. None of the brainwashed ponies followed. That was good.
"Twilight Sparkle, I presume?" the slimy voice said, "I am Maleve. I don't think we've had the pleasure of a proper introduction."
Twilight looked at him hard, and though she could not see his eyes, she stared directly into them. She said nothing.
"Oh, come now," Maleve said, as if taken aback. "Have you nothing to say to a pony of such eminence?"
Twilight ignored the unicorn's words. She simply stared at his invisible eyes, beaming hot sulfurous hatred into his soul.
"Well, I do admit, I had hoped for a philosophical conversation, having heard many things about your intelligence from a certain elderly tyrant. What was her name again? Oh, I remember now. She called herself Celestia. That was of course before I killed her, personally I might add. It was a pity that I couldn't have finished the blue one off, but I think she will not recover. That wound of hers was pretty nasty, after all. It's a shame, reallyshe would have made a powerful ally if she had taken me up on my offer."
Twilight met him with silence.
"You're wondering, no doubt, how I did it," he continued, "Wasn't I at the rally and not in Canterlot? Oh, that is quite true, I was in Ponyville, but I was also in Canterlot. Come to think of it, I led the revolt in Manehattan as well, and took down the bastion of Cloudsdale with my own two hooves and horn. Yes indeed, I was in many places at once. I can split myself, you see, with the magic that the Eye has given me. The Eye gives me the ability to do many things. But now, I am all here." His voice dripped with morbid sincerity. "I have come to extinguish the spark."
"That is, unless you would take me up on my offer," he said pensively. "The same offer that foolish Luna did not accept. I am in a position to offer you a powerful place in the new order. A position that would grant you many things, indeed. Oh, don't try to hide ityou want power. You crave power. This is your chance to have it. So now I ask you, and I will ask you only once: will you join the New State?"
"No," Twilight stated boldly. "I could never be party to such horror. No, I will not join you." She looked at Maleve coolly. "You have extinguished nothing today. All you have done is ignited a flame in the heart of Equestria that I know will never be put out. It will burn forevermore, only growing in strength and intensity as time goes by. It is something that can never be tamed by you, or by any pony."
She gazed about the library one last time, remembering everything about it, drinking in the moment. She relived in a fraction of a second all the long nights of studying, the surprise party that Pinkie Pie threw here on her first day in Ponyville, her first sleepover with Rarity and Applejack, the many sleepless nights of weeping until she fell asleep, thinking of her husband Macintosh and how he'd never come back. She took her memories of life and stored them away, somewhere deep inside herself. Somewhere she knew that they couldn't ever be forgotten, no matter what happened.
As Twilight finished her sentence Maleve made as if to move against her, but hesitated ever so slightly as if unsure about her. It was all the time she needed. Her magic welled up within her, growing into a flame and quickly matching the ferocity she felt within. Every door and window snapped shut and magically sealed, the smashed front door suddenly repaired and bolted. Maleve turned to see it with a start, realizing that there would be no escape.
Twilight's eyes began to glow with a piercing light. The wreaths of flame that she had felt envelop her heart began to snake out into reality, blossoming like flowers in the morning sun. Curling tongues of fire spread from her mane and lapped at the books around her, igniting their weathered pageseach one the summation of a lifetime of knowledge and each one vanishing in a cloud of smoke and ash faster than one could blink. Greedily, hungrily, the flame spread outward faster and faster. It consumed everything it touched, changing soft fabric to black dust, charring and burning fur and skin alike until it was wholly unrecognizable. The inferno melted glass from the windows that began to drip down like a hellish, terrible rain.
A hurricane wind whipped itself into being and stirred the roaring conflagration. The wind fanned and blew the flame in a mighty firestorm that spread throughout the entire tree. She saw the ponies surrounding her succumb one by one to the flame. Maleve was the last to fall, his own magic having protected him thus far. But not even magic of his ability could stand forever against this raw, primal outburst of fury.
The light inside the tree was blinding
almost like standing on the surface of Celestia's magnificent sun. Twilight shut her eyes as her own magical fire turned against her. As she felt the sting of the heat and the weight of the world collapsing in upon her, the light faded from her eyes.
I'm sorry Daylight, that I couldn't keep my promise.
I'm sorry Macintosh, for everything.
I'm so sorry.
She looked back.
Daylight had promised that she wouldn't look back. But she did anyway.
As Spike climbed higher into the night air, she saw the flash of light within the library as it seemed to shrink. She saw the flames climbing higher within what used to be her home. The ponies of the town raced about aimlessly in the flickering firelight, like a trail of ants cut off from their queen.
Soon the entire tree was illuminated both inside and out, like a dreadful beacon, sending a wordless message to the world. Smaller and smaller the tree looked, with every passing minute. Would she ever come back? Would she ever see her mother again? The questions hung like lead in her heart.
The light from the flames reflected off of the billowing pillar of smoke, ash, and intensely heated air, giving it an almost supernatural glow. Her last glimpse of the tree was as it collapsed in upon itself before the light receded over the eastern horizon.
The only light that shone upon the duo now was the silvery light of the stars and the moon.
She cried openly upon Spike's back, until she found her way into a fitful sleep.