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Title Drop · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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A flick of a shadow darted across Celestia’s private chambers. Another pony may have dismissed it as a trick of the fireplace’s glow, but the princess’s ear twitched in response. Without turning from her desk, she gathered the scrolls she was reading and set them aside.

“Feeling a bit too dramatic for the door tonight, are we?” Celestia asked her empty room.

From a far corner, Luna stepped out from Obscurity and into the space behind Celestia. She walked with a cat-like silence across the room, idly inspecting a portrait on the wall.

Celestia gave a tired grin. “You know my door is always open to you, but I’d do wish you’d knock more often. Goodness knows why you insist on shrouding your way here.”

“I do it,” Luna said, drawing out the spaces between the words, “because I’d rather not let your evening guard see me.”

The smile on Celestia’s face vanished and was replaced angry disappointment. “Stormfront is still giving you looks? He’s a good stallion, but he can have a spiteful stubborn streak. I’ll be sure to speak to him thoroughly about this.”

“Nay, sister. T’will only worsen matters,” Luna said. She tread to the next picture: a painting just a little over a century old of Celestia with a griffon dressed in pompous attire. “He watched me strike you down and steal you away from Canterlot, as did his peers. They are good soldiers, and their distrust is founded, were I still the Nightmare or not.”

Celestia shook her head. “They’ve all been thoroughly instructed on what really happened. For stars’ sake, you’re going to be holding Night Court in a just a little more than a week. It’s been months since you’ve come back.”

“And it will likely take many months more, dear sister, before the nagging fears finally give up and die.”

Turning her head, Celestia somberly looked at her younger sister. Luna carried her form elegantly—almost hauntingly. Her legs were straight, her head raised coldly high, her eyes sharp as spear-points. There was a deliberateness in every step that lent her movements an alien quality.

“You’re here for something,” Celestia said.

Luna’s form went still for a moment before she stepped from the wall and turned to Celestia. The strangeness in her eyes broke a little piece of Celestia’s heart.

“Why don’t you just ask me?” Celestia said. “What are you afraid of? I hate it that we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other.”

“My apologies,” Luna said. Her voice was tinged with bitter humor. “That would be my doing, wouldn’t it?”

“Luna, please, don’t do this to yourself.” Celestia pleaded. “It hurts me when you say things like that.”

Luna’s stance fell. Her shoulders became sagged and her wings dropped the tiniest bit from where they were held tightly to her sides. Her eyes met the floor and she sighed. The longest of moments passed before she spoke.

“There is, in fact, something I’d like with speak to you about. But I am at a loss to know how to approach it. I’m quite out of practice at this sort of thing.”

“Take all the time you need,” Celestia said.

Luna ambled aimlessly to the desk until her eyes caught sight of the scrolls Celestia had been reading. Her gaze hardened like tempering steel.

“These are from that mare on the Blatimare council? The appeals for reconsideration of city tax rates.”

There was an edge to her voice that made Celestia immediately cautious. “Yes, her name is Whinnyfield.”

“I’ve met her. It’s clear that she despises you,” Luna said. “Or, at the very least, your influence in things. It is telling that she would call the new taxes into reconsideration only days after you’ve instated them.”

Celestia sighed. “We may not see eye to eye, but she’s a good councilmare. She was appointed because she sincerely cares for her city. Our means and opinions may be different, but our goals are the same.”

Luna gave Celestia the same steely look she had used on the scrolls. “That makes you incredibly lucky, then.”


An ice-kissed buffet of wind nearly threw Celestia straight into Luna. Celestia swiveled her wings, deflecting the brunt of the force away from herself before regaining the rhythm of her flight. Sleet stung at her face like needles being pushed into her skin.

She nodded to her sister to show that she was alright, and Luna returned the nod curtly. The pair surged their shivering wings and continued their spiraling ascent up the face of the mountain. The view of the earth below had long since been lost to the whiteness of the storm.

Finally, as they neared the top, the great waterfall that cascaded off the peak’s east face came into view. The sting of falling ice suddenly stopped, and it took Celestia a moment to realize why. The falling water was torn by the wind, breaking up into tiny droplets that froze on their way down. From up here, the water had not yet had the chance to freeze. Up even higher above, water and great pillowy billows of steam rushed out from a gaping cave.

With a splash, the sisters landed in the mouth of the cavern, nearly a dozen feet wide. The water burned with pinching, tingling heat as it ran past their hooves and over the edge of the cliff, like an overly heated bath. Celestia nearly jumped in surprise, while Luna gritted her teeth and silently adjusted.

The cave was overwhelmingly quiet. Celestia could hear Luna’s breaths with the same stark clearness as her own. The two of them began their way deeper inside, quietly splashing as they walked.

Celestia gazed at the walls, ground down as smooth as the water-worn floor underneath them. She reckoned that it was a result of the cave’s occupant, who in all likeliness filled the entrance from edge to edge. Gomorgyl wasn’t an old dragon, but he had grown large and fat from the Greed of his hoard. The hardness of his scales did a fine job of polishing the walls each time he entered or exited his lair.

Suddenly, a rumbling voice broke the still silence.

“I hear you, little ponies. I hear you scampering in my home.” The sound of each vowel was like great boulders being ground into dust.

Luna froze, and her ears flicked from side to side, and Celestia followed suit. Seconds ticked by before the alicorns cautiously resumed their journey.

“I smell you, little ponies,” Gomorgyl continued. “You ought to be afraid.”

“Nay, dragon,” said Luna. “Your arrogance will do you no favors with us.”

A chuckle like an avalanche. “Oh, I did not recognize you. I am hardly prepared to entertain royal guests, Princess. But come in; I am curious to hear what you would say to me.”

The sisters walked until they passed through the point where the entrance tunnel ended and opened up into the chamber proper of Gomorgyl’s lair. Great claw-shaped marks were torn from the stone here, as if to widen the exit from the inside.

The inner chamber was shrouded in darkness, all except for the lividly blue glow of the dragon’s eyes. With a tilt of her horn, Celestia summoned sphere of sunlight which sprang up to the roof of the cave, lighting it in its entirety.

Celestia felt her breath catch in her dry throat when she took in the sight of Gomorgyl and his hoard. Both were much larger than they were when she had last seen them. A single tooth in his wide grin could skewer a pony from end to end lengthwise; a single claw reached as long as a minotaur stood tall. His black scales shimmered in the light of Celestia’s spell, casting little reflections into the shadows of the room.

Huge gashes and furrows lined up and down the walls and ceiling of the chamber, dug by claw to widen the lair and make room. Piles of rubble sat near the tunnel to the outside, very nearly clogging the spring that fed the waterfall.

“You have grown,” Luna simply stated. “The farmers in the valley below this mountain tell us that boulders have fallen on their fields.”

Another chuckle blew great waves of hot air against the princesses. “Yes, that is my doing.” Lifting his tail, he demonstrated by flicking an immense stone out of the cave, where it would fall down the mountain outside. “I must make accommodations, now that I’ve outgrown my home.”

“That is why we are here,” Celestia said, projecting firm authority into her voice. “We recently became aware that you have inherited your father’s hoard.”

“Inherited? Ha!” Gomorgyl smiled wickedly. “There’s no need to be civil about it.”

“No, I suppose there isn’t,” said Celestia. “You slew your father, Rotherin, and added his collection to your own.”

The great black dragon nodded pridefully. “He was a fool, that old worm. I was stronger, and now he is dead.”

Luna spoke in a dangerously low voice. “Rotherin was among the only learned drakes of our era. The first one in centuries to study the arcane arts. To call him foolish is to insult your entire race.”

A frown twisted Gomorgyl’s snout. “He was stupid, because he bound himself to the biddings of ponies. He was stupid, because he imagined ponies equal to dragons. He was stupid, because he slept with both eyes closed and with his back turned to the entrance of his lair. I put my teeth to his throat and broke his neck before he awoke.”

“That you did, dragon,” Luna snarled.

From Luna’s perfectly kept posture, Celestia could tell how much effort she was spending to keep herself from leaping upon Gomorgyl on the spot. Clearing her throat, she did her best to intervene.

“We have come to believe that you now have possession of an old chest given to you by your father,” Celestia spoke evenly and calmly. “It was given to him by Star Swirl the Bearded, and it bears his mark.”

“Yes,” Gomorgyl said. With a claw, he plucked a blue-grey steel box from his piles of treasures. “I know of what you speak.”

“Good.” Celestia nodded. “We are prepared to offer a quarter of the gold in our treasuries in exchange for it and your promise to leave this country by spring. Take your hoard; do not return. We have plans for Canter Peak, and they do not include you.”

“Ha, ha ha!” The beast laughed, his voice rumbling and his breath rank. With a flick of his wrist, the chest was tossed back into his stash. “What makes you think I would part with the smallest piece of my treasure, let alone my most prized trophy? Every bit of this hoard is mine, earned by blood. It will not be bought and sold like trinkets.”

“Be reasonable. I would rather allow you your life, if possible.”

“I, on the other hand,” Luna interjected, “would not. But I would grudgingly permit it if you agree to these terms, drake.”

A deep growl came from Gomorgyl’s throat. “Do you dare think you could hurt me? I have amassed the greatest hoard this world has seen in eons. It gives me strength beyond compare, pony.”

Luna took unfaltering steps towards the onyx dragon. “You are an overgrown, spoiled child. I would humble you in a moment were my sister not so insistent on preserving Rotherin’s line. I fail to see the point. You have none of your father’s greatness, you little worm.”

Gomorgyl roared, shaking the entire mountain with the force of his voice. Foamy, foul-smelling spit flew from his maw and peppered the floor in front of him. Celestia lept back in alarm, but Luna marched even closer to those wickedly curved teeth.

“Call me by my name, pony! I am Gomorgyl! I am The Conqueror! You will speak my esteemed title, and then you will beg for your life!”

“I will do neither, whelp.” Luna spat back.

With another stone-rending roar, Gomorgyl flung a heavy claw at Luna, who leapt out of the way a moment before it fell on the stone floor, cracking the rock. Luna dashed forward, lighting her horn. Her wargear shimmered into existence, covering her from horn to hoof in dark plates of armor.

“Now, sister!” Luna cried as she flung herself into the air, towards Gomorgyl’s face.

Celestia put out her light, and absolute inky dark fell upon them. A moment later, an inferno of blue fire spilled from the dragon’s maw, lighting the room like a sun. The rock of the cavern burned and glowed red-hot as his breath flicked across the walls, searching for Luna in vain. The flames roared unceasingly as the Gomorgyl swept his head this way and that, stomping his feet in frustration. Celestia took cover behind the corner of the exit tunnel, erecting a wall of magic to shield herself from the conflagration.

In the corner above and behind Gomorgyl’s head, pale shafts of moonlight drew into being from the darkness of the drake’s shadow. Luna’s form materialized from wisps of Obscurity, and her horn ignited. Each magical spear glowed with a blindingly bright white-hotness, and she hurled them all at once. There was a deafening crack as they tore straight through dragonskin, flesh, and bone, bursting in heat and light as they struck the stone on the other side.

Gomorgyl threw his head back and screamed in pain and anger. He turned his huge body around on limping, broken legs and sent another stream of fire towards Luna.

With a snap of magic, Luna teleported herself across the room, avoiding the blaze. Before Gomorgyl could react, she flew up and into the arc of the turn of his head. Cerulean flames singed her tail as she dipped just below his chin. Summoning two blades of crackling magic, she swung with all her fury at his exposed neck.

Fire and blood spilled from the torn tissues of Gomorgyl’s throat. The flames died as he coughed, then hacked, then gurgled on his lifeblood. The great dragon fell to his knees, as rivers of gore ran down his body and into the waters of the spring. He tried to swat Luna away with a futile flap of his leathery wings, but in a flash of indigo magic, the alicorn appeared in midair in front of his face.

With a single, deft motion of her glowing blades, Luna finished the fight. The Gomorgyl’s lifeless body slumped and collapsed in a heap on the floor of the cave.

Celestia let her shield drop and hurried to Luna’s side, recasting her light spell. Luna was already reaching into a pile of Gomorgyl’s treasure, retrieving Star Swirl’s chest from where the dragon had flung it. A burst of magic undid the locks, and Luna quickly opened the box.

“This is, indeed, Star Swirl’s incomplete spell,” she said after a moment. “The scrolls are unharmed.”

“What of you?” Celestia asked. “Are you injured?”

“Nay. He had only met foes lesser than himself. He was unprepared for me.” Luna glanced at the dragon’s corpse out of the corner of her eye. “Let us return to Everfree Castle. I grow sick of this mountain.”

“Must he have died?”

“Yes,” Luna said, sharply. “It was necessary.”

With a curt turn, she walked out of the chamber, down the path towards the surface of the mountain.

Celestia gazed solemnly at Gomorgyl’s body. It had already begun the slow process of melting away into black, acrid smoke. His huge, glassy eyes were frozen in fear and surprise. Like with every other dragon, they would be the last to go.

With a sigh Celestia turned away.

“You conquerer of nothing. You fool.”

“Why the sudden interest in politics, though?” Celestia asked. She watched Luna stride away from the desk again, fixing her gaze on some knick or knack in the room. “Might this related to that thing you wanted to talk to me about?”

“Yes, in a manner of speaking,” Luna replied. She affixed a sharp sidelong look at Celestia. “I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in this new Equestria. I hesitated to mention it for fear of being in ignorance about modern times, but now I’m convinced that I have not misinterpreted things.”

Celestia’s brow furrowed. “I find this… upsetting to hear.” She selected her words carefully. “Perhaps you have perspective on things that I have lost over time. Do go on.”

“The other day I was at the new Grand Library. I was shocked to find an entire section dedicated to none other than you.”

Perplexion washed over Celestia. “Well, yes, I have tried my hoof at a little writing over the years. A little poetry, a little fiction, some essays here and there. I would think they’d be harmless, outside of being somewhat embarrassing.”

“You misunderstand, sister,” said Luna. “I speak not of the works by you. I find no issue with those. I speak of the books about you.”

Celestia cocked her head. “Please, continue.”

“I heard that it’s become its own area of academic study. A librarian called it ‘Celestiology’ or something to that effect. ” Disdain driped from the word palpably, and dark stormclouds fell over Luna’s eyes. “I cannot see how you could permit this, sister.”

“It appears simple enough to me. My subjects are simply curious about their ruler,” Celestia offered. “I’ve helped them occasionally over the years, but mostly I let them come to their own conclusions. There’s nothing malicious about it.”

“Something need not be ill-intended to be wrong,” Luna said. “This is nothing short of a mockery of your character.”

“That’s going too far, Luna.” Celestia studied Luna’s expression. “Be frank with me. Why does this bother you?”

Luna’s face hardened to granite. “It is your name for Skies’ sake! The name our parents gave us.”

Celestia was struck speechless at Luna’s sudden outburst. The younger alicorn took it as a signal to continue.

“Before my banishment, it was nearly blasphemy for anyone but a few to address you by name. And now you’ve allowed them to turn it into a textbook term! A carnival word!” Luna fumed. “They swear by it, they bestow it on boats and buildings, they scream it when they rut their lovers. They foul it.

“And then they study you like some rare caged animal, questioning how you think and feel and act, fumbling like foals in their insistence that they can comprehend you. A thousand years ago, ponies knew to simply trust and obey, and were better for it! How could you let them debase you like this?”

Despite her fury, Luna’s masterfully kept pose was unbroken; she stood with wings firmly at her sides and with an unbent neck.

“Calm yourself, Luna.” Worded like a command, but voiced as a plea between equals. “I cannot pretend to know how difficult this has been for you. The truth of the matter is that things have changed. The way I see myself has changed over the past millennium, as have my relationship with my subjects. Regardless, I can assure you that for every bit of fear or reverence I may have lost, I’ve more than regained in affection.”

“Affection? There was no lack of affection before I left,” said Luna. “But there was also awe and respect, and these served when love alone was not enough. Now one simply must not love you to become another Whinneyfield—a thorn in your hoof. And I doubt all their intentions will be as well-founded as the councilmare’s. It would take naught but one thought of malice to turn that thorn into a dagger in your back.”

“That’s not how ponies think anymore,” Celestia said, shaking her head. “Times are better than they were before.”

“Are you in such a hurry to forget the past?” Luna swept forward to meet Celestia’s gaze face-to-face. Her turquoise eyes shimmered with anger and hurt. “Is this why you’ve allowed nearly all of our old titles to fall out of use?”

“Many of them are considered distasteful by modern sensibilities, much like how your own Griffsbane was retried after the treaty was signed. The same goes for your Dragonslayer.”

“Has Queen of Unicornia also become offensive? I could not find any written work less than three hundred years old that still references you by that name. What of Warden of Ever Free? Has that also become disagreeable?” asked Luna.

“No,” Celestia stated simply. “But today’s Equestria needs a Princess, and nothing more.”

Luna chuckled dryly. “The lone title you’ve kept is one without meaning. We were born Princesses to a race that is very nearly gone. Now I’d be hard-pressed to find one pony who still remembers that you are in actuality Princess Regent of a dead nation.”

“But I am no queen, sister,” Celestia replied. “The title of Princess is what our subjects and I make it to be. It has grown and changed beyond its original meaning. I need no other form address.”

Luna stomped a front hoof. The sound rang sharply in the large, spacious room.

“A title is a covenant,” she said. “It is a promise of action. It reminds our subjects and enemies of what we are capable of—and it reminds us of our many obligations to our people.” Luna’s eyes narrowed into piercing slits. “What are you trying to forget, Celestia?”

Queen of Unicornia.

There was a looming silence in the Queen’s chambers that hung thickly in the air. Festering and gnawing in its emptiness, the stillness was anything but gentle. Celestia could see the strain of its weight on faces of the hoofmaidens she pushed by as she approached the extravagant four poster bed in the center of the room.

The castle’s apothecaries and physicians surrounded the bed, all resigned to the task of soothing pain rather than actual healing. Nudging even them aside, she presented herself to to weakly moving figure lying beneath piled layers of scarlet comforters. There was the sticky odor of unwashed sweat in the air.

“My Lady, it’s me, Celestia. I’m here.”

Queen Platinum’s once lovely visage was stretched gaunt by the passing of years. Her silver coat paled to a feeble white with age, and now it came out in clumps around her waist and fetlocks. Turning sunken, barely-opened eyes to the alicorn at her side, she she beat back her frailty to put authority into her thinning voice.

“And what of Charming? Where is that boy?” she rasped out. Celestia winced as Platinum struggled to catch her breath from the exertion of even simple speech.

“I’ve sent Luna to fetch him as soon as I heard. She’s a far stronger flyer than I, and will be there within minutes. His camp is nearly an hour away on hoof, though, so it’ll take him some time to arrive.”

Platinum replied with a noncommittal grunt. “We’ll just begin without him, then.” She rolled her eyes to a nearby doctor. “Hurry up and help me sit, you old fool.”

The doctor, who Celestia noted was likely decades younger than the Queen, hurried to her side. Slowly and carefully, he eased her up, bracing her back against pillows piled against the headboard. Groaning from the effort, Platinum gave an exhausted sigh when she finally worked her way into position.

“Are you comfortable, my Queen?” the doctor worriedly asked.

With a quick shudder of a nod, Platinum said, “Yes. This will do.” She waved him off, and shifted from side to side underneath the covers. Finally, her eyes rolled up to Celestia. “All these blasted blankets, and I’m still cold as a windigo’s hindquarters.” Gasped breaths and pained swallows. “This quack of a physician tells me a hot bath will only worsen it. Have you ever heard anything so cruel?”

“I’m afraid he’s probably right,” Celestia said. She sat at the side of the bed, with her forehooves resting on the mattress. “A medium like water would only exacerbate magic ebbing. I hear it happens a lot to unicorns who injure their horns.”

“And also to nags far too old for anyone’s good.” Platinum laughed hoarsely at her own joke. “Stars, I sound like my father did back when he set his own affairs in order.”

Platinum coughed and hacked, and by some cruel irony it was far louder than any speaking sounds she might still be able to make. Celestia’s inability to help in any way ate away at her heart. It was far too long before the old Queen caught her breath again.

“Look at you, Celestia,” said Platinum, eyes full of weariness. “You’ve not aged a day past twenty. I don’t resent you for it, but it certainly can make a mare jealous at a time like this.”

“You still have plenty of time left, Platinum.”

“No,” Platinum said without the faintest tremor in her voice, “I don’t. That doctor can’t keep a damned thing off his face. He’d be terrible at cards. Or politics.”

Even before realizing it, Celestia shot the stallion in question a dirty look. He shied away and pretended to busy himself with the contents of his doctor’s bag. A pang of guilt lanced across Celestia chest before she broke eye contact.

Platinum gave another weary chuckle. “Don’t blame the colt. Nothing he can do. I did him a great inconvenience by being born so long ago.” The queen shifted and forced herself more upright. “But we’ve wasted enough time, considering my lack of it. I’ve called you here to address a matter of some significance: I have no heir, and if these fine physicians are to be believed, it may be too late for me to try to produce one.”

Despite it all, the joke was enough to tug a lopsided smile unto Celestia’s face. “You needn’t worry about that. Your nephew is a upstanding stallion, and he’ll make an excellent king.”

“Charming, bless his soul, couldn’t rule half a village, let alone a kingdom,” said Platinum. “He’s got a good heart, but he’s got no sense for it. That colt wouldn’t realize anything was amiss even if every one of his advisers were plotting to kill him.”

“I’ll watch over him, Platinum. You know you can trust me to keep him on the tips of his hooves,” Celestia reassured her.

“No.” Platinum feebly shook her head. “If these were better times, then perhaps. But there are too many ponies in high places who would chew off their legs to see our plans of a united Equestria fail. And it would take far less than an unsure king to let their schemes succeed.”

With a surprising burst of strength, Platinum sat up and took Celestia’s hoof in her own, firmly. Before Celestia could say a word, the queen spoke.

“We’ve worked far too long for this to fail. This needs to happen.”

“Your Majesty!” a hoofmaiden exclaimed. “Please, try not to exert yourself!”

Platinum didn’t even seem to notice her. “I've learned the hard way that none of the tribes would last another generation on their own. Charming simply can’t bear the responsibility. He knows it too.” With a groan, Platinum slumped back unto her pillows. The far too weak sound of her rasping breaths filled the room for several long moments.

“But I have a pony in mind.” Platinum brought tired, hopeful eyes to Celestia’s own. “She is exactly what this nation needs right now.” She turned to address her hoofmaiden. “Go fetch the Grand Scribe, girl.”

Celestia was stunned to silence. As if in a trance, she watched the young mare scurry out the door and down the hall. When Celesia finally gathered her thoughts again, she stumbled on her words.

“Y-you can’t be saying— No, surely you can’t be serious.” A desperate glance shot out from Celestia to the doctor, as if begging for an explanation. Tired, the stallion merely shrugged and nodded. The exchange did not go unnoticed by Platinum, who frowned.

“This is neither jest nor madness, Celestia,” she said. “I am prepared to name you as my successor, as soon as Quill Scratch gets himself here to record it.”

“No, I cannot be queen! I am a princess of a foreign land with no relations to your royalty,” Celestia desperately countered. “By what law could I assume your throne?”

“By the law I write today, Princess. I am still queen, after all.” Platinum’s smile would have been smug had she not looked so tired.

“I… I am not prepared for this.” Celestia bowed her head low. “I am simply not ready.”

“Celestia,” said Platinum, fixing onto the princess with unwavering eyes. “You are near your sixty-first year now, aren’t you?”

“Yes, my Lady,” Celestia said, “I am.”

“There have been kings and queens crowned at a third of your age and with half your wits. Believe me when I say that you are more than ready for this.” Platinum cleared her throat with a strained effort. “I do not give that kind of praise lightly, Princess.”

The bedroom doors swung open to admit Platinum’s maid and an aging blue-coated stallion with a cutie mark of a scroll. The Grand Scribe quickly took his seat at the other side of Platinum’s bed and glowed his horn to retrieve parchment and quill from the bags the hoofmaiden carried for him.

“Put your pen to ink, Scratch,” Platinum rasped. “I have a royal decree for you to take down.”

After a moment’s of preparation, Quill Scratch nodded to signal Platinum to begin.

“By the authority of Queen Platinum—Daughter of Iron Grasp, 35th of Her Line, Monarch Unchallenged of Unicornia, Warden of Ever Free, Dignitary of New Equestria—are these words written,” said Platinum. “Of my own unfettered will, I appoint my successor to be Solaria Celestia, Princess of the Old Line, Steward of the Sun. Upon my death I grant her my crown, bequeath her my lands, and trust her with my little ponies. Long may she reign.”

Platinum leaned as far forward as her aging body allowed her. “Now give it here, Scratch.”

The scribe levitated the scroll up to Platinum’s face, holding it there as she gathered her breath. With a single herculean effort, Platinum lit her horn, showering herself and the parchment with fiery violet sparks. The seal of her mark appeared on the paper, and she fell back, wheezing and gasping. As physicians quickly surrounded her, she pointed weakly at the scroll, locking eyes with Quill Scratch.

“Yes,” he said resolutely, “I will have this copied and sent to all relevant parties immediately. Worry not, my Queen.”

Nodding, the old Queen fell back on her side. Her hoofmaidens spread out to usher everyone but the physicians out of the room. One even approached Celestia, who still sat there in incomprehension.

“Pardon, Princess, but you must leave.” The maid prodded Celestia’s shoulder tentatively. “The Queen needs her rest, and the physicians need space for their work.”

With an absent-minded nod, Celestia stumbled out of the Queen’s chambers through the magnificently large double-doors. She did not get far before she fell onto her haunches, slumped against a wall. Thoughts and feelings of every sort ran like violent eddies across the surface of her mind. Unaware of the passage of time, she sat there like a foal outside of her mother’s bedroom until a stallion’s voice shook her back into the present.

“Celestia? By the stars, Celestia, what’s going on? Is Auntie okay?”

A full moment passed before Celestia recognized Charming. His beard was longer than when she saw him last, and there were the beginnings of creases at the edges of his eyes. Prince Charming was a pony at the very last of his days of being called a young stallion.

With a thick, fumbling tongue, Celestia finally tried to answer. “S-She’s okay; she’s fine.” Glancing around, the Princess realized how strange she must have looked, sprawled there on the floor of the highest tower of Ever Free Castle. She clumsily began to pick herself up from the ground. “They sent me out to let her rest.”

Charming helped her up with a strong hoof. As he bent over to pick her up, he gazed deeply at her eyes. “I’ve known you all my life, Celestia, and it doesn’t take a very smart pony to tell that something’s wrong. What is it?” he asked.

“Oh, Charming,” said Celestia. She turned sad eyes away from the Prince. “She’s named me as her successor. I tried to change her mind, but she didn’t listen.”

A short laugh bursted from Charming’s mouth. Celestia’s ears swiveled in confusion.

“Oh, stars, you needn’t worry about that,” he said. “Auntie and I have already talked about this. We both agreed that the Kingdom needs a better pony that I at its helm.”

“But what of you?” asked Celestia in surprise.

“What of me, Tia?” Charming gave a quick shrug. “I’m naught but the Queen’s spoiled great nephew who knows only how to keep his men from ale before battle. I wouldn’t even be considered for the crown were it not for these ridiculous circumstances. I envy you not.”

“Charming are—are you sure?”

“Fear not, my Lady,” he said, sauntering to her side. “You will already have plenty of dangerous ponies to worry about, even without adding a jealous brat of a prince to the bunch. There’s no way in Tartarus I could do that to you.”

Celestia reached out and hugged him. “Thank you. I was so worried.”

“Whoa, whoa. Enough of that now, I’m a married stallion.” Charming chuckled out. He gently pried himself from Celestia’s embrace. “You know what will be funny, though?”

“What?” said Celestia.

“Technically, my children will the the last direct line of unicorn royalty now. They’ll all be princes and princesses, as will their children, and so forth.” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

“What’s so funny about that, now?” Celestia wondered.

“Well,” he said smirking, “As long as you’re Queen, there’ll never be a king among them! Think of it: a whole royal line of endless princes! Down through the ages! Imagine how angry they’ll be after a few generations down the road. All those titleless bluebloods, fuming at their great-something grandfather, who simply threw the crown away!”

Celestia raised her hoof to her face to hide her giggles. “Yes, the thought is a little amusing,” she admitted.

A roguish smile pulled across Charming’s cheeks. “Enough of the woes of my children, though. One of us has been crowned future Queen! We ought to celebrate quickly, before the more stuck up of the nobles gets word of it and ruins our fun.”

“What do you suggest we do? I’ve woefully little experience in celebrating something like this.”

“I’ve got enough casks of ale at camp to get ten big stallions blindingly drunk ten times over.” He smiled invitingly.

“But what of the castle? There will be affairs to be addressed, now that a successor has been named,” said Celestia

“Nothing but busywork,” said Charming dismissively. “Castle Ever Free is in the fine hooves of our scribes and coin-counters. I’m sure they wouldn’t burn down the castle in one night,” he said, tapping the wall with his horn. “There’s far too much stone.”

Luna’s cold frown tore gashes in Celestia’s heart. She circled Celestia with an interrogator’s eyes.

“We are the last remnants of the old Order of Harmony—the closest thing to gods left in this world,” said Luna. “Biographies are not written for gods! One does not study a goddess; one does not interview deity. The idea Celestiology is a gross equinization of your stature.”

Turquoise eyes pierced through Celestia’s soul, from one side straight to the other.

“Why, sister?” boomed Luna.

Celestia fell to pieces. “I was alone!” she cried. “Stars help me, I was so lonely.” As tears streaked down her cheeks, she turned from Luna to avoid seeing what was surely a look of disgust. “Nopony thought to comfort me; nopony thought they should.”

A pregnant stillness filled the room, punctuated by Celestia’s sobs.

“I missed you so much,” said Celestia between gasping cries. “Those first few years broke me. And I realized that I was still a pony.” Celestia hung her head. “I couldn’t bear to hear my oaths and obligations and responsibilities, day after day. Not when I failed you, most of all.

“I couldn’t bear it, so I let them love me. I let myself become part of them. Oh, Luna, I’m not strong like you’ve always been. I’m not fit to be queen or goddess.” With a flick of magic, she flung her tiara from her head, where it clattered to some corner of the room.

Celestia sat on the floor, letting tears fall for minutes that felt like hours. She very nearly jumped in startlement when she felt a warm pair of wings and forelegs wrap around her shaking form.

“Stars, I’m so sorry,” said Luna. Her voice was so different now: wavering and unsure. “I wasn’t—I didn’t mean to be so cruel. I came tonight, wishing to have a civil discussion, and instead I’ve made a monster out of myself.”

Celestia returned the hug, holding her sister with an almost desperate tightness. Nuzzling her deeply, she just managed to bring herself to words. “I love you Luna. I’ve missed you so much.”

Patches of dampness grew where Luna’s face was pressed up to Celestia’s shoulder. “Forgive me, sister. Please, forgive me once more.”

“Always and forever, Luna.”

Luna broke away after both their tears had stopped. Shifting from one foot to another, she spoke while creases folded the space between her eyebrows.

“I don’t know what to say, Celestia. I was mistaken, gravely so. If this new way our subjects see us is truly something born of Harmony, I will speak no further about it. I know now that I am not nearly as familiar with today’s Equestria as I thought I was.”

“It is Harmony,” Celestia said, “but you are right in more places than one. I am not perfect, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the years.”

“Then what would you propose to remedy this?” asked Luna. “I think this may be something that needs a subtle touch. We both know you’re much better at that sort of thing.”

Celestia tilted her head in thought while a weary smile worked its way unto her lips. “No, I believe we might not need to be subtle at all.”

The last of the sun’s light streaked in through the tall stained glass windows of the throne room, bathing the chamber in a rainbow of tinted light. There were the murmuring sounds of an excited herd of ponies in the outer hall, just on the other side of the great gold-inlaid doors, but for now the only ponies in the room besides Luna were guards and court officials.

Luna trotted across the mostly empty room, sitting at her place on her newly-made onyx throne. Its shape felt foreign to her, but she was sure it would become comfortable with time. Gazing to the horizon through the windows, she reached out with her magic and felt the heavens.

The presence of Celestia’s magic around the setting sun was like a soothing waterfall in her mind. Luna gave the sun the slightest of tugs, an age-old greeting between the sisters. She could feel the smile in Celestia’s reply as the older alicorn poked back at her moon. With a smile of her own, Luna lifted the moon over the threshold of the horizon just as Celestia’s sun dipped out of sight. She nodded to her Night Guards, who opened wide the doors of the throne room.

“All hail,” boomed the court crier. “Princess Selene Luna—Fifth of her Line, She Who Bears the Moon!”

The ponies became hushed as they came in and formed a neat que at the back of the room. A few watched with unhidden awe on their faces as the crier continued.

“Dragonslayer and Griffsbane of Old, High Magistrate, and Guardian of the Realms. May she watch over us, this night and for all nights!”

Fiercely grinning, Luna nodded at the crier. For the first pony in one thousand years to speak those words, he had done a fine job. Turning her attention to the crowd, she looked over the gathered ponies and spoke.

“The Night Court is now in session! Thy Princess will now receive petitioners. May our generosity tonight leave none of our ponies in want.”
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