day late and a dollar short...
but I'm still posting!
"Lost" by Weesh, in three parts.
Celestia and Shining Armor surveyed the mountain ledge. It was afternoon, and five crack squads of Celestia's best guards, known as “The Hundred” stood proud and steady in spite of their wounds. They were well trained, and had rebuffed the hydra attack on Canterlot efficiently, and before they had even reached the outer walls.
“Princess” Shining paused before continuing in a strong voice, “One pony is missing. Rock Solid.”
“The earth pony that fought blindfolded during the cockatrice attack last year?”
“Find him!” Celestia added to the finality of her words by launching herself skyward to begin her own search.
Shining issued orders, and the ranks broke. Pegasus squads did broad sweeps and painted locations for more thorough searches. The battle engineers directed the delicate removal of rock from sections where Solid had fought. Earth ponies used their instincts to detect voids below them. Each had a job, and they systematically ruled out acre after acre, until it seemed the only possibility was that he had slid down the slope. The Princess' initial passion gave way to logic as she began to coordinate with the other 99. By the time the correct chasm had been located, their only light was that provided by the unicorns. Rock was teleported to safety, and his joy was apparent in spite of his appearance. “What took you so long?”
A medic reported: “Princess, there are no broken bones or punctured organs. The rest will heal with time.”
The Hundred were not used to receiving hugs while on duty, but they were used to Celestia's complete disregard for military decorum.
The following evening saw a banquet prepared in the grand ballroom. A visitor could be forgiven for misunderstanding the purpose; it was not about the defeat of the beasts, nor was it about heroism. In fact, it as to celebrate the successful conclusion of the hunt for Rock Solid.
The semester's graduating class of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns were lined up to receive their diplomas. The school has an excellent track record for getting students from entrance to graduation, typically getting all 10 students through 5 years without anyone dropping out. If there are only nine, someone is missing. And if that someone was due to be valedictorian, the occasion is stranger still. Sunset Shimmer had stormed out of the realm just days prior, and the shock of her disappearance, witnessed by only two ponies, had not fully sunk in to her classmates. To make matters worse, the portal she used had closed, and would not reopen for some time.
The mood was somber, which is typical for many graduations, but in felt inappropriate here.
Following the ceremony, Celestia walked to the mirror that Sunset had escaped through.
After contemplating the events that lead to the meltdown, she emerged to find an attendant, Serene Grove, waiting on her.
“This room needs to be made more welcoming. Send in a decorator. The door is to remain unlocked, and unguarded. Sunset is welcome to return, and we will not show even the appearance of distrust.”
30 moons later:
“Princess” Serene Grove began, “Sunset returned, and she abused our hospitality. Twilight's element was nearly lost to us and an entire world as put in jeopardy. Can we really afford to leave this room as is?”
Celestia sighed. “Twilight's report indicates that Sunset made a breakthrough. We will give her another chance. However, as the date approaches, the more powerful elements that could break this world or that one will be secured. I have a few more ideas to implement for the next time...”
30 moons later:
Sunset emerged from the mirror to discover a bright room, with tasteful, but comfortable looking trappings. These were hardly noticed as she made her way to the large door across the room. With a sigh of relief, she discovered it unlocked, and passed through. The hallway was naturally lit and familiar, but still there wasn't anyone to stop her. She made a B-line for the nearest guard post, and discovered a veteran on watch.
“Welcome back Sunset. We hoped we would see you again.”
“In another life, I didn't give a second thought to the guards who protected us, and I never learned your name. But we had dealings did we not?”
“My name is Stratus, and about 5 years ago, I was given the order to escort you from the school. Today, I get to offer my assistance.”
“Thank you Stratus. Is Celestia is available?”
“Most certainly Miss Shimmer, let me lead the way”
Sunset would be surprised to find that Celestia was immediately available, and that a dinner had been planned, on the chance that she returned that night.
Their relationship would be restored before Sunset returned through the portal to her home.
Celestia's love for Luna and Twilight is heartbreaking.
Each time she raised the moon, she ached to have her sister back. The thousand years were nearly concluded, but how could the return of Nightmare Moon bring about the redemption of Luna? The collective memory of Luna was weak, but had not been lost due to the popular Nightmare Night celebrations across the land.
Twilight had graduated the previous year, but had accepted a rare extension on her studies. She hung on every word Celestia spoke, but also built walls around her heart that only her family could breech. Warm words went unnoticed.
Past grace was forgotten.
Offers of support as well as unheard as Twilight agonized over pleasing a pony who already loved her.
The plan started as a series of books unassumingly made their way into the young pony's curriculum. A special location was chosen for the Summer Sun Celebration., and Twilight was sent to Ponyville to learn her most important lessons yet.
The results were mixed. Luna was restored, and Twilight's walls had cracked. She had already given the keys to her heart to another 5 ponies. But still, the distance remained between her and Celestia. Letters written by Twilight would begin to echo warmth, and yet there was still fear and a sense of unworthiness. It was time to destroy these walls.
The schedule for the Nightmare Night festival was similar to those in the past. But there were more games set up, more booths, and Ponyville had temporarily doubled in size due to the influx of ponies from many surrounding towns. Luna's appearance had made a big splash last year, and Equestria's newest princess was living there as well. However, there wasn't a Royal to be seen. As the festivities drew towards the conclusion and main event, many of the visitors started to get antsy and curious about their conspicuous absence.
Excitement returned with force as a series of lanterns were lit, one after the other, leading towards the Everfree Forest. No verbal invitation was given, but the intent as clear. The two hooded ponies walked slowly and deliberately forward, would light a wick, and move to the next one. The progress was such that even the slowest of ponies longed for a quicker pace. By the time a handful of lanterns flickered pale yellow light across the path, a procession had formed. Excited whispers turned to complete silence as the gathered strained to make out any sound that could clue them in to the surprise.
The first of which was that the clearing had been dug out into an ampitheater centered on an empty pedestal, that once held a full size statue of nightmare moon. The lantern lighters finished a circuit of the clearing as those gathered found seats.
What followed was the first re-enactment of Twilight's journey to Ponyville, Nightmare's return to power and Luna's redemption, with each pony playing their own part. Tears flowed freely from actor and viewer alike. The ushers removed their hoods and lead a return procession back to Ponyville.
When the only other pony remaining was Twilight, Celestia began: “Dear Twilight, our performance today tells the tale of two lost ponies. One who forgot that she was loved and struck out to reform the world in her image. And one who never realized that she as loved unconditionally. She strove always to earn my love; to prove that she was worthy. Twilight I do not love you because you are talented, or because of the number of spells you know, or because you graduated first in your class, or because you have exceeded my expectations in everything that you have done. I love you because you are you.
Can you let go of your fear, and put trust in that love?
Logic and emotion fought inside Twilight. They had done so often, but this time logic had the upper hand. Lies with no basis that she had told herself for years had been crushed, and there was only one conclusion. But a verbal response would come later. Her tears would have to do for now.