My Little Pony friendship Is Magic
Reharmonization Pony POV Series
Episode Title: "Pearl Necklace Part 4 of 5"
By Alex Warlorn
"So you are the trickster magician Twilight Sparkle saved from herself as part of her mission," Zecora said checking out the unicorn.
"The One and Only Trixie," Trixie said as formally and cooly as possible.
Behind the group Angel was pulling a bag and cart full of Fluttershy's nick-nacks and (destroyed) furniture she had brought to Gaia Castle from her cottage and now had to be brought back without a horde of loyal magical creations to do the grunt work. Angel hadn't even had to be asked, and in fact insisted to Fluttershy's protests, he could take it. Of all the things his master needed to worry about, relocating her property shouldn't have been one of them.
"Rainbow Dash?" asked Fluttershy in her typical, meek voice, peeking out from behind her bands shyly.
Did you mean what you said about
You think I'm a smart pony?"
Rainbow Dash didn't hesitate. "I don't think, Fluttershy
" she said, giving a smile to her friend.
AJ made no objection.
The group stopped among Fluttershy's microcosm theme park version of Ponyville as Fluttershy did. She looked wistfully at the half-finished buildings, the puppets now laying lifelessly on the ground. RD couldn't decide if they looked less or more creepy like that. There was of course no sign of Gladstone.
"This'll never be finished now, will it?" Fluttershy sighed. She looked to the empty spot where she had last seen Gladstone working.
Twilight Sparkle said calmly, "This will be just a memory soon, Everfree will reclaim this place in no time, don't dwell on it"
"Good riddance," Rainbow Dash said, then she pulled her hooves over her mouth when she saw the looks on Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie's faces. She quickly tried to change the subject, "At any rate Fluttershy, don't you worry none about anything said when we were fighting, we all know it was just the black magic and all that sadness you gobbled up talking."
"I meant every word of what I said," Fluttershy said concisely. "Everything I did was me."
"AND THAT MAKES YOU A MUCH BRAVER PONY THAN MOST. A LESSER PONY WOULD HAVE ACCEPTED THAT EXCUSE," so said The Traditional Canterlot Voice.
All seven ponies, one Zebra, and one rabbit were shaken as a black storm cloud twisted into being above them covering the dusk sky. A small storm cone descended, not giving nearly as much wind as it should have as the ponies were only NEARLY blown off their hooves. The incomplete buildings swayed. Angel held on for dear life.
The dark cone touched the ground, then dispersed. The storm cloud vanished. Before them stood the Princess of Dreams and Nightmares Herself. On either side of her was a bat-winged pegasus in black blue armor standing perfectly still.
Every living thing present was instantly prostrated on the ground. Even Trixie's ego wasn't that huge as to dare stand evenly with the Night Princess Herself and Twilight was fearful Luna and Celestia may be in a VERY foul mood and didn't want to push her luck this time.
"We don't mind you wanted to borrow the old castle, but you could have asked us permission first."
"And we do not appreciate being roused from our royal sleep so early, Princess Gaia. We are sorry we were not here sooner, we just needed to have some hired help take care of some chores for us."
A hogtied Night Guard hung from the ceiling, swaying back and forth, a sunny smilie face drawn on his eclipse and sword cutie mark along with 'Day Guard Rules! Night Guard Drools!' and was presently between tickle tortures.
The other Night Guard present was being used as a jungle gym by the four white pegasus foals, standing on his four hooves as dignified as he could muster, trying as hard as physically possible to keep a straight face. The shadows had farther to travel to Canterlot than to Ponyville. "My turn to play horsie!" "No my turn!" "How about we all ride at once?" "COOL!"
"Your Nightjesty, you die for this."
"And it seems that we misplaced a small trinket of ours from before our banishment, it had slipped our royal mind until now to retrieve it, considering we were recovering from a thousand years worth of insanity. Though we thought we left it in our old keepsake box in our closet, hidden under the floor stones, in a castle no one will give a second glance to, in the middle of a forest of death. NOT in the castle's throne room where we found it. And its power was under a seal only the magic of an Alicorn could break. Or so we thought."
Fluttershy wilted further.
A while earlier, flanked by her guards, Luna levitated the bloody unicorn horn off the floor. The guards swore the horn shuddered in fear at her presence.
"Did you try to hide from your creator after her return?" Luna said in a false sweet voice, "Naughty-naughty little thing. You caused enough trouble after I formed you you know. Now stay alongside your master." Luna slid the old spiral unicorn horn under her wing folds.
Luna also sensed a familiar lingering scent, so long ago, but being an Alicorn meant memories didn't fade (which came with it's own trade offs). "Maybe I should have included a way for me to negate that curse myself after all, instead of just from inside it. Oh well, what's done cannot be undone."
Luna's guards knew better than to speak of anything they witnessed in their Princess' presence.
"But where are our royal manners?" Luna glanced at the Zebra. "Greetings, the mare who was treated as evil because she was different. And then was as panicked and a slave to slander as everypony else once we graced Ponyville with our royal presence." She said in a perfectly civil voice.
Zecora held her composure but shuddered in shame.
"And who is this new face?" Luna glanced at Trixie. Then looked back and a bit more closely, as if taken off guard ever so slightly.
"The-The-One-One-And-The One And Only Trixie! The Greatest Show Pony In Hoofington and Ponyville!!" Trixie said grabbing onto her persona for all it was worth. Unlike the others, this was her first time meeting one of the Princesses and she had no desire of messing it up.
Luna then looked at Twilight. "Why did you not inform our sister, Twilight Sparkle, that you had found another one?"
''Another one' what?' Ran through the minds of everyone else.
"Doctor patient confidentiality, Luna!" Twilight said, calling her 'Luna' just as the Princess had asked on Nightmare Night.
"Hmmmm. We see. Still, all things considered, this should be an issue you bring up with your friends, least it cause confusion at the most critical of times."
Twilight made no response.
"Now, back to the real matter at hand, Princess Gaia-"
"PLEASE DON'T PUNISH HER!" Pinkie Pie was face to face with Princess Luna, ruler of half the day.
"IT'S OUR FAULT FOR NOT SEEING THE WARNING SIGNS!" Rainbow Dash's loyalty finally overrode fear and she placed herself between Luna and Fluttershy. Trixie was split between staying where she was or join the front line. Angel abandoned his oversized load and put up his paws, ready to defend his master from the night goddess Herself.
Zecora stayed where she was, but her eyes shifted between Fluttershy and Luna.
"SHE WASN'T BEING EVIL, JUST UNWELL! I-I-I AM S-SURE YOU KNOW H-HOW THAT IS, MY-MY PRINCESS!" Rarity said joining in. Applejack and Twilight stayed by Fluttershy's side.
“And please, do not worry about Fluttershy, I will try my best to help her with the consequences of her actions. I most certainly do not intend to banish her, or imprison her, or imprison her in the place I banish her to. I'm merely curious."
Fluttershy was completely startled. Words tumbled out of her mouth without connection or pronouncement, like a plug had been pulled and now the words came tumbling out in a disconnect stream of sounds.
Luna sighed, teleported bright behind Fluttershy and before anyone could properly react, touched her horn to Fluttershy's head.
The universe turned gray for Fluttershy.
Princess Luna's voice spoke even though her body didn't move. "Don't worry, you're not having a relapse. I've merely made it so you and I can speak swiftly and privately. I've done you no favors. The headache you're going to have in the morning will make you wish I had run you through with this horn instead. There's a reason why myself and my sister rarely if ever use this spell. Don't worry, you can break the spell on your end easily. But for now I felt we should speak in private, Princess Gaia."
"Uh, erm, that is, okay. But ... uh ... how do you know all that happened?"
"The horn told me."
"Thank you for finding it for me by the way."
"You-you're welcome? I just sensed it after ... after I began thinking I needed to fix things and came to the castle with all the ponies from Sunnytown to spruce the castle up. Please don't be upset with it, I was already lost in the darkness when I found it."
"Free advice from someone whose been there; accept what you did were your own choices as you've done, accept you're loved and forgiven, and -move on-. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble."
"T-thank you, Princess ... Princess Luna."
"I am pleased to see you are at least not fainting at the sight of me this time. I feel the angry foal is back sleeping in her cradle where she belongs. So maybe it is your other self that is helping you keep your nerve in my presence this time?"
"Er ... what other self?"
"Oh don't try to hide her from me. The horn has no lingering loyalties, there is nothing you didn't do or experience with it that it didn't tell me."
"I'm no one's 'other' anything, your Nighty-Nightness, I'm the only me there is!"
"Ah, there you are. I'd say such impertinence is refreshing but that would be my sister. I sensed you on Nightmare Night, but life is my sister's forte, not mine, I thought Fluttershy was pregnant. Nice to meet you my dear formally."
'Cruel responded, "Er, likewise."
"My sister tried making a place like you wanted to once, Princess Gaia. Granted to survivors of the last Cutie Pox outbreak. A town full of ponies whose wants were always simple and always granted and never struggled and thus never found their cutie marks did not work out... . Though it seems you were closer to solving those flaws at the end there than my sister was, and a lot faster too. Your foals were still doing something with themselves. Too bad."
"I'm going to save those ponies."
"You are wasting your time. They have learned nothing in a thousand years, they are beyond saving."
Fluttershy's voice didn't even tremble, "Even without the power, they were still willing to love and look up to me. I won't abandon them, with or without that power."
" ... You are most certainly stronger than the cowardly waif who on Nightmare Night who saw only our mad self when she had PERSONALLY WITNESSED and TAKEN PART in our healing!"
"Erm ... well ... you were a smaller and cuter and had less wavery night sky hair then."
"So you chose to judge on appearances?"
Fluttercruel spoke, "Hey! It was Nightmare Night! This here is a pony whose literally scared of her own shadow! I think I 'played' with her a little too much that night before you showed up. Blame me for that one, not her!"
"I see. Forgive me, my sister informs me I have a bit of royal temper. Something I am sure you can appreciate after your 'best night ever.'" Luna said in an almost mocking kind hearted tone.
"Princess Luna ... please." Fluttershy implored, wilting again.
"Hey! I'm the only one who gets to stab 'Shy where it hurts."
"You think me cruel, Fluttershy? You know I'm quite capable of the action. Likely why the Elements betrayed me in favor of Celestia," Luna said, sounding almost distant, cold. It reminded Fluttershy of Nightmare Moon almost, except for the lack of the overwhelming ego that was the Mare In the Moon's mark. "You took the form of one of my kind and declared yourself a Princess, and became one with an aspect of reality. My sister seeks no grudge against you for that. But one of your actions was a trespass against the territory of 'another' Alicorn, if you insisted on the gall to clothes yourself as one.
"You tried to take Pip from me, and for that I desire restitution. And I'm sure the fathers and mothers of the foals you kidnapped would desire some as well! And this is my vengeance and theirs: I'll ask you a question with no answer and tell you a secret unwanted, Fluttershy ..."
"P-pip? Pipsqueak? I-I was wondering what all those black and blues animals were doing around him but-but I had no idea-"
Cruel protested. "HEY! WAIT! In case you forgot, if you really know everything that went down! THEN you KNOW I SCREWED UP! NOT HER!"
"Parent and child are both responsible for their own actions."
"Uh, technically I think I'd be the parent." Fluttershy said.
"And that is your question. Are you really sure which one of you is the parent and which one is the child? How can you be so sure? How do you know, 'Fluttershy' that you are not merely a magical mental construct created out of the real Fluttershy's good memories and placed in control unwittingly by Twilight Sparkle's magic? You know how her spells in practice often had ... unforeseen effects."
Fluttershy's persona shuddered.
"And 'Fluttercruel', are you sure you haven't been the real Fluttershy this whole time? How do you know that Discord didn't just alter the real Fluttershy's personality after all? How do you know the reason those memories feel like a stranger's is because of how much he violated your soul? How do you know that the reason you've been so easily turned back towards kindness is because that is what you once were and it has been calling to you? Whose to say that's not the real reason the Element appeared on you and not 'Fluttershy' as Nightmare Whisper? Maybe the Element was with you from the beginning?"
Fluttercruel's head swam.
"And Fluttershy, maybe that's the REAL reason you broke down so easily, your psyche was swiftly constructed, so of course it would be a shoddy job. Whose to say that's not the REAL REASON that Cruel was able to regain control of her body after so long? Maybe she just needed some motivation? Maybe that's why you broke, you were made of all of Fluttershy's GOOD memories, so no wonder you couldn't handle sadness or loss when faced by nature's savage ruthlessness. Whose to say you're not the construct and Cruel is not the real thing, but twisted by Discord's taint into something not truly a pony anymore? Heh. Whose to say?"
"YOU'RE TO SAY!" Cruel snapped, "Stop torturing her and tell us!"
"Tell you?" Luna laughed at the Flutters. "Did I not say as part of your royal punishment you would never receive an answer. You will carry the seed of doubt with you until the day you die."
'Shy whispered, "It ... it doesn't matter ... I'm me. The choices I've made are real. And that's enough."
'Cruel said, "Even if I wasn't me before, heck, it beats being nothing before. This me? This me right here? I just finally got my head out of my flanks and realized I HAVE a self! So I'm not scared! What does it matter which one of us is the 'original?' anyway? We're BOTH real now!"
"You impress me." Luna said like an Arctic wind.
She then spoke calmly, appraisingly, and a tone that could have been approvingly. "First I shall say Fluttershy, I admire you for being able to hold onto your true intentions and remembering your heart in spite of your corruption and descent into darkness when I did not. And you were willing to actually adjust your vision when your loved-ones provided feedback whereas I became worse. And for that I bow my head towards you."
Then her voice became laced with kindness so fake, the worst actor in Equestria would have been ashamed. "But before was only half your punishment for your foalish foolishness. The first half was a question with no answer. Now an answer without a question:"
The came The Royal Canterlot Voice. If the medium had allowed it, she'd have stamped her hooves.
"There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea at the heart of the world you were trying to give birth to! If everypony finding happiness and caring about each other is unrealistic and boring, you MAKE IT realistic and interesting. That is one of the things that it means to be a goddess. To make the impossible possible, for YOU say what is, and what is not! But the methods you were using would have tainted that world forever! It would have been terminally ill at birth! And your 'quick fix' construction methods would have caused your new world to crack and fall under its own weight! Believe me when I say, ill thought out 'improvements', no matter what their reason, always lead to disaster.
"If you had given ponies a -choice- on becoming part of your dream world or eternal foalhood like you did your Knighthood of Mothers, instead of forcing feeding or cornering them? Ponies would have trampled over each other to join you. And within a lifetime you would have reached equal standing of myself and my sister in the people's love for you! And in a thousand years you would have supplanted myself or my sister as the most powerful being in Equestria by popular vote! And we would have handed the keys to the kingdom over to you, GLADLY, of our own free will. Because your paradise would have had time to -evolve- into a more perfect one than ours. But instead you had to rush things. Take the quick and easy path!
"And if you had been HONEST with your newfound followers, their love and support of your sacrifice would have enabled you to defeat the shadows you gathered inside you one by one, rather than letting them simply build up to the breaking point as they were doing!"
Fluttercruel dared to snap back at the night princess, "WHAT DO YOU KNOW?! Your track record with Utopias isn't all that good, yours or your sister's!"
"The word 'utopia' is relative. Two thousand years ago, a society where Griffons didn't hunt ponies for meat sounded like a 'utopia.' When we began our rule ponies considered ANYTHING other than living as Discord's playthings to be 'utopia.' If sparing our subjects suffering was so easy, do you not think me and my sister would not have already done it?! Our subjects paid the price for our inexperience. You could have lead Equestria into a new brighter age, but NONE of that EVER will happen now, because you had to be an upset, angry, thoughtless, impatient, foal! You had to let the power command you instead of you commanding the power: like the flawed mortal pony you are at your core! And that is my revenge for you daring to trespass on the territory of another goddess."
Fluttershy was silent for a few moments, until she finally answered. "... I don't blame you, I deserve it... I know how it feels to see somepony you care for be threatened. But can I ask one more question? No matter what I did, could I ever really have made a perfect world?"
Luna replied, no longer using her royal voice, speaking in a tone not that different from tenderness, "Sweet, innocent pony, don't you know that only My Parents were ever perfect? The rest of us make mistakes, and all any of us can do is learn from them. The only thing more I demand of you is to take care to learn from your own now."
Fluttershy fell to her knees, shuddering. Everyone was at her side at once. More than a few glared at Princess Luna. Her Guards look ready to fight them where they stood. Angel, RD, and Rarity looked ready to take them on.
"Consider her punished for everything she did," Luna said simply.
"G-g-Guys, please,-" Fluttershy stammered out, "Don't be upset with her ... I-I," Fluttershy felt sick saying this, "I earned this."
"But-BUT WHAT ABOUT everyone in Ponyville and everywhere else?!" Rarity pleaded. "They're going to be terrified of her!"
"Ask Miss Zecora about that."
Everyone looked at her, confused.
Rather put on the spot, Zecora looked a bit jarred around before replying, "Everything is not quite clear, but I believe Princess Gaia has little to fear."
"Could you please stop calling her that?" Rainbow Dash said in a not very funny voice.
"To your demand I would kneel, but I can not change how I feel."
"It's okay." Everyone looked at Fluttershy, she stopped trembling and pushed herself back on her feet, but her body was more tense, her motions more liquid, and she trotted with purpose, and took to the air with RD. "I'll carry her home. It's the least I can do," 'Fluttershy' said.
"Ya know," AJ said, knowing exactly who this was, "Ah can tell yer really sorry, but that don't change the fact you caused a lot of trouble whether ya meant to or not!"
Rainbow Dash also looked darkly at this pegasus in the body of her foalhood friend.
"She has been punished her mistakes as well. And that is all you need know." Luna said with a finality that put the ponies on edge. "But please, let your Princess provide you with transportation." And the ponies were sucked up into one of Luna's vortexes, it was a familiar feeling for Twilight, but for the rest it like a crazy amusement part ride.
Zecora found herself at home, and Angel found himself with his master's property back at the cottage. And the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters lay empty once again.
The group reappeared in Princess Celestia's throne room. There wasn't a bearer who wasn't surprised.
All heads turned towards the new arrivals who bowed to Princess Luna.
The Princess herself was talking to four pegasus Day Guards, who were grinning like they had just had the best vacation of their lives. Behind them were two Night Guards who looked a little worse for wear, both sporting at least one crayon drawing on them somewhere.
Celestia saw the heroes, smiled, and shooed the four Day Guards away, who practically skipped out of the room.
Trixie looked like a mouse in a room full of cats as it dawned on her where she was.
Like clockwork she brought in a couple of her personal medical unicorns, who went to work in stitching and dressing the injuries of the heroes where they stood and magically augmenting the healing process, happy to have someone to help as being the personal doctors to an Alicorn wasn't a tiring profession. One even complimented Rarity on her mid-battle stitch job on Applejack. The Flutters' body language became more passive in an instant, 'Cruel slipping back, letting 'Shy take the needed medical pampering.
"Princess! There's just so much I need to-" Twilight began.
"Wait until you're all healed up Twilight Sparkle." Celestia said gently but firmly.
Rarity was steeling herself at having a surprise audience with the Princess after such an ordeal and was agitated when the doctors refused her demand for a make-up kit.
Applejack felt naked without her hat (which was now a shredded mess from the battle with Nightmare Whisper, she'd have to get a replacement from Rarity).
Pinkie Diane stayed perfectly still the entire time, and her chat with the doctors coming across as pleasant rather than intrusive. Still, "Please, I don't want to accidentally stab you." Said the unicorn telekinetically holding the needle and thread to stitch Pinkie Diane's cuts.
"Oh okay." Pinkie Diane calmly -accepted- rather than go off another tangent. Instead she looked at the stained glass windows and imagined a stained glass Pinkie Diane playing in the various windows.
RD shook her head at this, this version of Pinkie Pie was STILL going to take a while to get used to.
Luna meanwhile looked at the two Night Guards behind the Day Guards. "You have both performed honorably and selflessly in your duty to Equestria and your Princess ... feel free to take the rest of the night, and day, off. Your Princess is going to go raise the moon, then catch up on her sleep she missed earlier today. Sister, I shall give you a full report in the morning. But for now, goodnight!" Luna politely bowed to the bearers of the Elements of Harmony and trotted out of the room, keeping regal posture, but the tension obvious in her wings. Her Night Guards followed.
The moon rose a while later.
For the rest, this was not the first time any of them had been in Canterlot, or met Celestia, but for Trixie it was both, and it was quickly taking a toll on her. She wanted to run back to Hoofington, buy the most expensive dress she could beg her family to help her purchase, perm herself up like a beauty queen, and spend a few days (minimum) practicing every possible line she'd need to say in front of the Ruler of the Day and still in the average pony's mind the total ruler of Equestria. Her brain was freezing up. This was a great help to the mare treating her broken ribs and electrical burns. If only other patients could be this well behaved.
"All leave us." Celestia soon said simply and any present royal guards, servers, or administrators departed at once, the medical unicorns waiting only a few seconds longer to make sure their work was done before departing as well. She then cheerfully greeted the prostrated wielders.
"Now hello my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle! Princess Gaia and the other Elements of Harmony. Oh will you get up off the floor? We just had it polished." Celestia said in a tone that couldn't have been less serious.
This just made Trixie's brain jam up more, after having Luna act so formal, Celestia, the older, supposedly more refined sister acting in such a way took Trixie even more off guard.
"Please, just call me Fluttershy." She said before she realized she had even opened her mouth.
"Heh, since that is a similar request to what I often ask my students, far be it from me to deny that request from another Princess ..." Her cheer then toned down to a less festive and more friendly manner. "Fluttershy." She then spotted Trixie.
"Oh? And what do we have here?" Celestia said eyeing Trixie, whose brain was still a league away filling out the paper work.
Twilight said seeing Trixie was having a slight breakdown being in the presence of the Princess. "This is Trixie, Your Majesty, she's the pony I mentioned who was hurt by Discord and who I was healing. Discord's taint has been fully removed and she's been staying with me to emotionally recover herself after all her time being buried by Discord's taint before she returns to her family."
"So THIS is the 'Great and Powerful Trixie?'" Celestia asked, sounding delighted and amused.
That worked. "'O-One And Only Trixie', Your Majesty."
Trixie spoke like she had a gear loose. "'The-The One and Only Trixie' My Liege. I revised my stage name."
"Oh? Is that a fact now? Is there any particular thing that inspired you to do so?"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie perished, it felt empty to continue to use her name."
Instead of reacting with confusion along with everypony else, Celestia said "My, my is that so my little pony? Sounds like a fantastic tale that would be worth telling."
"That, is a tale the One and Only Trixie shall be holding off on, including in her performances." Trixie was talking to Celestia, -Celestia-! The Princess of all of Equestria herself! Where was her confidence dammit? Had she become so twisted that she had lost that-?!
"Ah yes, well," Celestia politely accepted the answer. "I am certain you will be in your element when you put on your next magic show."
Twilight stiffened. Just being in the same room and Celestia could already tell? She remembered Luna's reaction to seeing Trixie, had they BOTH realized it from just a look?
Trixie struggled to say something, -anything!- Where was the Trixie who lived for the spotlight?! Celestia! Couldn't ask for a bigger one!
"I-I-I, YES YOUR MAJESTY!"
Celestia considered asking the pony how she'd feel about performing for an upcoming event on short notice, but she didn't want to give the poor filly a heart-attack at worst or a pathological breakdown at best. She'd wait until she had the medical staff on standby for the unicorn.
"Now Twilight Sparkle ... I am sure Luna will tell me any special details, but I wish to hear from you what has transpired this day in Equestria, from your point of view. And please, do not worry about Fluttershy, I have no intention of harming her. Nor do I intend to banish her, or imprison her, or imprison her in the place I banish her to. I have no intention of punishing her, I'm merely curious."
Twilight kept herself from outwardly reacting to the conflicting waves of surprise and relief. Had she really been planning to lie to Celestia about some details? Twilight herself wasn't sure.
"And Fluttershy, I'm sure you can fill in any details that Twilight might be unsure of." Celestia said kindly. "The more perspectives you hear from, the easier it is to get a full picture and have a better understanding of what really happened."
The righteous wrath of Luna, and the mercy of Celestia was just too much. "I-I'm sorry your Majesty, I'm sorry I made such a horrible mess of everything." Fluttershy looked ready to breakdown crying.
One of Celestia's wings stretched out and lifted Fluttershy's head. The Princess was TOUCHING HER, this caused Fluttershy's mind to do a soft reboot.
"There's nothing wrong with a little escape my little pony ... as long as you don't turn that escape into another prison."
Fluttershy nodded enlightened.
"Hey! That's what I-" started Pinkie Pie before Rainbow Dash and Applejack covered her mouth quickly.
So the recount came, from the point of view of every pony involved. Tears were shed, laughs were had, and Rainbow Dash only made minimal reenactment gestures for her flying stunts (only being half as proud of them as normal). Celestia ordered evening salad for all of them brought straight to her throne room and chairs and table were brought in automatically.
Though half the heroes were eager to get home to their families, the Princess' desire to know the full details of what took place sadly had to override that.
Trixie was spinning her wheels at Celestia acting so, so normal! She did not act like the Celestia from her ideal fantasy at all. She was just so -close- and -welcoming!-
Thankfully the dinner was simple enough that Applejack didn't have to chose to starve rather than accidentally eat the wrong course first.
Trixie felt a sick sense of shame at being relieved eyes weren't on her. What was wrong with her?
Rarity was amazed they could keep anything down after their quest. Maybe it was just the relief of having Fluttershy back with them.
But Rarity had no idea what to think of this new version of Fluttershy apparently living in the Fluttershy she knew. And had apparently been raising like a misguided filly since that villain Discord's fall according to the buttermilk pegasus.
"But there's one thing I don't get," Rainbow Dash said, (maybe or maybe not with some solar magic's subconscious prodding). "Why did that other Fluttershy's Element of Kindness look different from our Fluttershy's?"
The Flutters' tone and stature changed at once, "I'm not an 'other-Fluttershy', my -name- is Fluttercruel."
"Welcome out child, I was wondering when you were finally going to speak up." Celestia greeted delighted.
"Uh, oops." 'Cruel said suddenly sounding scared, she was still the spawn of this mare's ultimate enemy. So much for playing dead. Her wings folded and she looked at Celestia shaking, her eyes becoming dots. Fluttercruel knew mortal fear.
Celestia resisted the urge to face hoof. "Why must everyone be scared of me when we first meet? Though I have a feeling my sister has something to do with your fear, forgive her, she's still learning how royalty is to behave now as opposed to a thousand years ago. Relax girl, you are in no danger here. Less so than in most of Equestria I imagine. I will do no harm to any child of Fluttershy's, and furthermore I do not pass judgment on a foal for the sins of a parent. And no lasting harm has been done to Equestria through your mistakes, quite the opposite in fact, but please, you are an HONORED GUEST in my house, so please relax."
'Cruel's expression lost most of its tension.
"Though I was rather curious at sensing an Element of Harmony beating in one born from the magic of a draconequus, especially Discord's." The expression of The Princess of Life and Flame Herself then became quite serious. "You think I couldn't sense two souls in Fluttershy the moment I laid eyes on her?"
All the ponies felt smaller.
Celestia tactfully decided to leave out that sensing an Element of Harmony inside 'Cruel had been the only thing that had stopped Celestia from reacting naturally to the presence of the power of her family's eternal life long sworn blood enemy.
"Now then. To your question, Rainbow Dash," Celestia said right back into a conversational tone. "Didn't you ever wonder why the Elements took the form of your cutie marks? Simply because you were 'destined' to be their embodiments? The Elements take on a completely different form for any pony who becomes one with them. For even the same Element in two different ponies is always unique. The Elements do NOT just balance each other, which implies tension. There's a difference between harmony and balance. The Elements provide symmetry for each other, each adding their own special and unique traits to the whole.
"They make each other -stronger- not somehow restrain each other. There is more than one way to be kind, and there is more than one way to share the magic of friendship. That is why the exact nature of the power born from the six Elements is never identical, because -you- are changing and growing with them and because none of you are identical, even those of you who share the same Element. Fluttercruel may have been born from Fluttershy, but she can use the Element Of Kindness because she embodies it all on her own."
Trixie was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. It took all her will power not make some excuse and flee the royal chamber then and there.
Applejack remembered what she saw in the Truth, what would've happened if she stayed in Manehattan. Did Big Macintosh become an Element Of Honesty in the "Orangejack" world simply because she hadn't been in Ponyville herself? She had already told her brother on that day deep down he was as much a hero as they were.
Celestia looked at the show pony out of the corner of her eye. Almost there.
"When my sister and I split the Elements between us to save the world from Discord, we certainly didn't stop being Princesses. Miss Rarity certainly hasn't stopped being famous for her dress making to VIPs in Canterlot. Rainbow Dash is still this year's Best Young Flyer and has earned her place in the history books for doing the 'impossible' Sonic Rainboom. And Fluttershy, well, your modeling aside, you -were- the one to save Equestria by cowing a raging adult dragon, non-violently, I might add."
Trixie's eyes just kept getting wider. And not just because of the new facts she was learning about her friends.
"And Pinkie Pie ... I shall say only that she has a uniqueness that shall never be emulated within the lifetime of this universe."
Pinkie Pie got a wide, cheerful grin.
It at last hit Trixie that Celestia was addressing her! ... To the Moon with this. She was a showpony dammit! She didn't break or cower before anyone's attention! Not even an Alicorn's! She stood proud on her four legs and met Celestia's gaze head on.
"And Sweet Apple Acres run by Applejack is known for its produce, not that its proprietor is the Element of Honesty incarnate. And Twilight Sparkle was my personal student long before the Element of Magic chose her, in fact, I'd say given her anti-social attitude before, she was effectively it's opposite almost."
Twilight said nothing, she could tell what Celestia was doing, but couldn't bring herself to ask her Princess, the pony she loved and respected as much she did her mother, to stop.
"And Fluttercruel, I'd say your Element awakening has hardly caused you to be less yourself. And it certainly isn't because you were born a dark reflection of Fluttershy."
The pegasus just nodded.
"So I'd say, it would be rather silly, for a pony to assume that becoming one of the Elements of Harmony, and embracing it, and joining with the whole, results in the death of what makes one unique. It doesn't, nor does it sentence that pony to never be known for their own accomplishments. There is no 'I' in team, but there most certainly is an 'am.'"
"How could you even know all that?" Trixie asked Princess Celestia, asked Princess Celestia!
This confused most of the ponies present.
Celestia leaned close, their horns almost touching, and Trixie felt small, the power radiating from the Alicorn almost making her horn ache. Celestia spoke below normal volume but above a whisper. Her tone in that alien mix between stern and caring to this pony who had spent most of her life blind and had just barely begun to see the world around her.
"The more a pony's heart is ignored by its owner, the louder that pony's heart calls out to those who can hear it. And more it's buried, the more desperate those cries become. The more it hurts trying to dig itself out."
Trixie felt cornered. The idea of teleporting now felt really good, could she copy it from Twilight? But that was before, before what was within her had begun to wake up. Could Trixie do it?
"You don't have to be afraid my little pony. I promise." Celestia whispered softly.
And a truth was remembered, Twilight couldn't bear to see one of her friends in pain. And all Celestia was doing was bringing it to the surface. Like Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash.
"Trixie, please tell them, it's hurting you keeping this bottled up inside." Twilight nuzzled her.
"I-I-I-" Trixie was sick of crying, she was sick of being scared, she was sick of hurting, she was sick of having to hide this, she was sick of always having to be the one who things needed to be explained to, she was sick of having something she didn't even ask for, she was sick of being the one everypony had to stop for today ... sick of ... she was sick of all of it.
"OH GEEZE!" Fluttercruel thrusted her hooves up, "Do you have to steal the spotlight wherever you go? Some ponies take great offense to that you know. And it gets REALLY annoying! You're not the only freakin' pony in the world ya know!" Fluttercruel said, not smiling. Then her expression and tone changed to somepony else. "But my problems can wait, it seems you've been holding into your troubles longer than mine."
"It's just me." Trixie replied peaceful smiling without a hint of malice. "And .... t ... t ... th ... than ... thank, y-you. Thank you."
"It's what friends are for. They help each other."
"Yes, I'm starting to get that."
"Yer talkin' in third pony a lot less too."
"Really? I hadn't noticed."
Twilight said, "Maybe cause you have someone besides yourself to be with?"
Like a crossbow bolt through the glass at an aquarium.
"I think you're right." Trixie swallowed hard. "F-fellow Element of Magic."
Four ponies gasped.
Rarity theatrically fainted, a couch being pulled up for her to fall on. Nopony could tell if she had done it or Celestia to stop her from getting hurt on the hard floor.
"You just couldn't let us have our big moment could you." The Flutters said dryly.
"Humph! About time." Pinkie Pie crossed her arms, then looked at her friends surprised and confused. "Don't tell me you guys didn't figure it out! You didn't see all the foreshadowing?"
"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!" RD exclaimed, "Is this gonna be like buckin' DragonEggs Z where everybody get an Element?!"
"Nah, pretty sure this is like Pony Rangers RPM, when the two other Rangers shows up and make the team stronger, silly!"
"Dag-nabbit! How can she be the glue that binds ANYPONY together?! No offense, girl but-"
"There's more than one way to lead a whole." Celestia said simply. And she looked at the Flutters, "And there is more than one way to be a Princess, and more than one way to be kind, both right ways, and wrong ways. Both of which I think you've both had a taste of now ... And you have most certainly done a great deal of good with it! Which I believe calls for a celebration!" Celestia said with not a trace of sarcasm or irony. Pinkie Pie's face predictably lit up like a Christmas tree at mention of a celebration.
"Say what-?!" Was the unanimous echo.
Celestia flared out her wings, "All in good time, my little ponies! All in good time! But I believe you implied your families were worried about you, and that you wish to see your loved ones! And I believe I have kept you from those you love long enough! My sister, I'd wager is due back from her nap right about now to begin the night court, so please, as you arrived by Alicorn, allow me to have you leave by Alicorn!"
And before any of the ponies could get a word in edgewise, Celestia's horn flash with golden light, and deposited them not just in Ponyville, but through a series of rapid teleportations, either just outside or within their homes (or Twilight's library in Trixie's case).
While all were confused, all seven ponies almost magically had the same thought; that it had been a long way, they had done much, they were tired, and maybe it was best they go straight to bed.
Fat chance of that.
"Cup Cake! Carrot Cake! Pinkie Diane is so happy to see you!" Pinkie Diane cried out hugging the Cakes who hugged back.
"SWEETIE BELLE!" Rarity said magically lifting her little sister and pulling her close so she could hug her faster.
"Scoots! Scoots ya here-!?"
"Dash! Yeah! A couple of nice ponies gave me a ride up home!"
"Are you a sight for sore eyes short-stuff!" They nuzzled.
"Did ya win?"
"Was there ever any doubt?"
"Hey. Great Day Sis. Ya missed it." Big Mac said in his typical concise speech.
"Trust me big brother, ah know it! Applebloom! Applebloom ya here!"
"RIGHT HERE! Applejack ..." The two hugged at once. "The fog kept trying to get all closer, but a pony kept appearin' findin' a path out of its way. Applejack, it was HER! It was Ruby! She helped save us!"
" ... Ah've got a mighty big feelin' little sister, that she helped save me and mah friends too. Ya said that filly's special talent was findin' things?"
"Ah think she might have helped me find the truth."
Fluttershy smiled at the sound of her animals as they greeted her in their special way as the Flutters came inside. Angel of course greeted her too. She didn't hesitate, she didn't care how late it was or how much 'Cruel said it was it was best to let Angel take care of it, this made her happy. She began to feed and tend her animals.
"Ya should have seen me Twilight! Decked out in this super cool armor! And everypony was looking up to me! Okay maybe cause they were all little but really! I just KNOW Rarity would have loved to see me in it! A real Knight in shining armor! Where were you guys today anyway-?! I know where Princess Gaia was, but what about you rest of you?"
"HEY! You got stuck with butterfly wings too birdie!"
"Bed?" Trixie pleaded, having had more than enough adventure for one day.
"Bed." Twilight conceded, the two Elements Of Magic leaving for dreamland as Spike kept up his one sided argument.
The moon was high in the night sky, and apart from one bat, not a creature was stirring in Fluttershy's cottage.
A white ferret with magenta eyes climbed up the side of Fluttershy's home, undid the lock on her bedroom window and climbed inside. The ferret climbed onto a tears stained pillow. It seemed to look sympathetic for a moment, thoughtful as it looked at the tears.
The crepuscular animal wrapped its pelt around the sleeping Flutters' forehead.
The Flutters began to fidget and sweat in their sleep. Their serene face became grim and hurt.
It looked like I was having tea with Princess Celestia in my own living room at noon. Except there was no tea in the teacups. I didn't see Angel or any of my animals. Every part of me wilted under a heat wave I couldn't describe. And outside my windows . . . I saw vast glowing desert with a black sky with a planet and the moon floating in the void.
I tried to move, but my back legs were numb.
"I did not wish for your friends to hear this. And I felt Luna had already spoken to you the swift way already once today. And you will suffer enough in the morning from experiencing it once." There was no apology in Princess Celestia's voice. It was so, alien.
''Cruel? Do you know what's going on?' I mentally asked . . . and nothing. Fluttercruel wasn't there!
The Princess saw the panic on my face and must have read my mind or something. "Fluttercruel is fine. She is not the pony I wish to speak to, she carries enough weights for your mistakes. She is sleeping peacefully, remember, you two share a body, not a mind and certainly not a soul. You've done wonders teaching her to become more than what Discord made her as . . . or made her into."
"Oh it's alright," I smiled and nodded at the familiar comfort. "We don't care which one of us came first."
"All the same my little pony, know that whether she is a construct of Discord's or Fluttershy twisted into cruelty personified, she would not have grown better without you. I could not have done a better job."
I blushed. "Uh, erm, that is, thank you very much Princess."
"Tell me Princess Gaia. Did you discriminate at all at who you turned into foals when you spread your fog across Equestria?" She asked so politely, but the sudden change in topic jolted me.
"I, I didn't. If I sensed them, I wanted them to be a part of my new world."
"Including Mrs. Cake? Pinkie Pie's foster mother and the maker of some very lovely tea?" She asked so casually.
"Did you know she was pregnant?"
"Huh?" I asked confused by the question, "Oh yes of course I-" My blood turned to ice in the sweltering heat as the gears click in my mind.
"And if you regressed Mrs. Cake to a foal . . . how much did that regress her unborn foals?"
I asked shaking, "Foals?"
"She is carrying twins." Celestia's voice was colder than I could ever remember it being. I liked the angry voice she used when Twilight used the Want It Need It Spell better. Was this the face Discord saw when Celestia and Luna turned him to stone? "So tell me . . . Princess Gaia. What did you think would happen to them?"
"I-I-I-I didn't-I wasn't-I didn't think about-"
"Exactly." Celestia said calmly. "You. Didn't. THINK!" Celestia's booming voice echoed off the walls. Celestia's wings spread out and her entire body glowed hotly. Even when I looked Discord in the eyes I had never been so afraid.
I scurried like a rat away from her with my front hooves like it would do any good. I felt something stain the floor between my legs. I gulped. "So I'm going to be banished to the moon now after all?"
A vein appeared on Celestia's forehead. "I am sick of that infantile fear that has cultivated despite my best efforts! I sealed away my sister because she was insane, a danger to others, and I was out of time. You are no longer insane, have been healed, and there has been no actual damage."
I squeaked out hopefully, "Then, then, Mrs. Cakes twins, they're okay?"
Celestia calmed down. "Yes. They are. And all the unhatched griffin and dragon eggs and unborn buffalo. Even at your worst Fluttershy, the extensions of your will could never kill somepony. Their fledgling spirits were suspended in your fog and returned to their mother when she could carry them again. Like all the OTHER pregnant mares across Equestria you brought into your desperate fantasy."
I curled into a ball, folding myself hoping I could shrink into nothing. I knew I'd regret asking, but my curiosity bubbled up inside me no matter how hard I pushed at it and my mouth opened on its own.
"Uh, Princess Celestia . . .um, what would you have done if my fog . .. had, er, um . . would have done the thing that it's a good thing it didn't do?"
"Consumed with anger, I would have torn out your soul, told everypony how you died fighting Nightmare Whisper, given Fluttercruel every piece of information she would need to be introduced to Ponyville as your long lost twin. And sealed you away for a lifetime per every life you had ended."
"In the moon?" I whispered.
“In the sun, your soul five thousand miles below the surface. Able to feel everything. And at the end of your sentence, I would have a nice guest room ready for you in Canterlot Castle and introduced you as a long lost cousin. You could have still worked towards your redemption, even then. I forgave my sister for the crimes she committed as Nightmare Moon as she has forgiven me my mistakes.”
"Princess Celestia," I sobbed.
"Nightmares are insane, they can only be insane. You were mad with grief, I do not pass judgment on mad ponies. I only keep them from harming others. There is no putting it softly where lives are concerned Fluttershy. I do know that your magic reflected your refusal to commit murder and spared forty-two million innocent lives. And spared you."
Everything inside me died at hearing that number.
"If this horrible loss had happened, the world would have needed an eternity to forgive you and you would have likely needed even more time to forgive yourself. In a way Fluttershy, you are an oddity. Of all the Nightmares I've seen exist, or could have existed," Celestia shuddered, "you are the only who couldn't murder even indirectly, even in when in the depth of insanity. Even my sister couldn't keep that much of herself when she was infected by the black magic and became Nightmare Moon.”
Celestia nuzzled me, feeling warm and comforting, a sharp contrast to the supernova she'd been before. "Even I don't know if you'll remember this in the morning Fluttershy. Or if you chose to remember it. Whatever happens, be grateful. Whatever becomes of you next, be grateful. You've been spared. And innocent life has been spared. And know . . . that I still love you, I could never truly hate one of my ponies. I tell you this so you know the full weight of your mistake so you may grow from it. The legacy of Nightmare Whisper will be much different from that of Nightmare Moon my sister bears, but I promise you it'll be no less heavy a weight. But you shall not carry it alone
As Princess Celestia continued to nuzzle me, I felt memories of my family and friends float to the surface, and I was dipped into a peaceful coolness I hadn't known before, and for a moment, nothing mattered, because I knew Celestia would be there for me every step of the way. To help me, to guide me, to protect me, to heal me. I wasn't alone. And I drift away from this nightmare into more peaceful, kind dreams.
The ferret shook its head sadly, and crawled out the window, changed shape into a mighty winged and horned equine being, and teleported away.