She lay restless in bed, her breathing an uneven rhythm, her body far removed from that of her supposed lover. The sheets were pulled down, covering only her lower half as she stared at the ceiling, waiting for the moment when salvation would come through his mental prodding. Impatient to see him, she slowly rose out of the bed, casting a disgusted glance to the sleeping yellow alicorn stallion who remained unmoving beneath the sheets. She walked quickly and quietly, her hooves barely making a noise upon the stone floor as she left the Royal Chambers and stepped into the lavish hallway. The Queen of the Night picked up her pace as she got farther from the bedroom and swiftly exited the palace, hastily making her way out into the forest. Her head tilted back and she smiled as she looked skyward and breathed in the musky scent of the surrounding dusk. His voice came into her head, and her entire body convulsed in an involuntary response of forbidden pleasure. She began to gallop toward where he would be waiting, longing for his touch and his enticing words.
My dear, sweet Selena… sit upon the throne with me, not him… take your place as my Queen… cast aside your useless husband and your bothersome daughters…
Resisting his call had become harder and harder with each passing day, and the weary alicorn mare was finding her unforgivable lust becoming more and more beyond her control as he reached out to her with his mind. Each night after her husband, the King of Equestria, retired to bed, she found herself wandering through the Everfree forest outside of the palace grounds in search of the conspiring chimera. The light blue jewel around her neck pulsed, seemingly pulling her along and guiding her steps, giving her direction on her slow, descending road to madness and betrayal. The necklace tugged forward each time the jewel brightened, and she found herself sweating in anticipation at the thought of being able to see him once again as she continued to run.
Yes, good, come to me. Let your Element guide you. You've given them everything, you've poured your heart and soul into your craft, and still, nopony appreciates you. Not even your foolish husband can acknowledge what fine work you do. You give generously of yourself, expecting nothing in return. But to be ignored for so long… I can only imagine what it must do to you…
She galloped onward, heeding his summons and pushing her body in order to pick up her pace. He was right, after all. Nopony cared for her beautiful creations, nopony but him. His serpentine embrace had kept her warm on so many nights that her husband had failed to do so, and the sensation of him whispering sweet, traitorous words into her ear as they writhed together as one among the trees did much to ensure her nightly return. Their affair had been going for months, and it was not one that she intended to stop. She lived for his touch, his words, and his company. Though the Element around her neck represented Generosity, she had had enough with giving, only to be shunned by her people. It was time for Selfishness to reign, and her husband's advisor was more than willing to indulge her every desire.
He doesn't deserve you. All of the good that you do, ignored by the King himself and his pathetic subjects. Soon we shall make our move. Soon, this kingdom shall be ours, and you will rule at my side, free from your unappreciated responsibilities and your irksome family. Bring me to power, my love, and I will share that power with you. It is time to stop being content with living in King Lumon's shadow, it is time for you and I to shine more brightly than his worthless sun. You have given for so long... and now, it is time to take…
The words sent a chill up her spine. Some part of her still felt a cautious foreboding toward the silver-tongued hybrid, but the will of her corrupted Element was stronger than her waning sense of loyalty for her husband. The jewel's pulsations picked up in frequency, sending waves of jealously and envy through her mind. If she could not gain appreciation from the common ponies by following her assigned task and investing herself in it, then she would gain their respect by fear.
Come closer still, my love. I will send him a chilling dream, and lure him to our place of meeting. He will never see it coming. You know what we must do.
The black mare snorted and slowed to a canter as she reached the arch of trees that marked the place that they had so often broken her vows to King Lumon. Upon coming near to his form, the Element of Generosity stopped its reverberations, instead adopting a darkened glow. She walked closer to his floating body, and embraced him with an affectionate nuzzle.
The king dies tonight. By your hoof or my claws, it does not matter. It would be so much more poetic if you were responsible for his fall, though. A total eclipse, indeed.
She looked up at him, a twisted smile playing across her features as she nuzzled her head under his neck once more before drawing him into a deep, passionate kiss.
"You are sure? You only wish to summon a few of them? There is safety in numbers, my student."
Twilight Sparkle looked up from the letter as she signed her name and let the quill held by the purple glow fall down onto her blankets.
"I… I know, Princess. I just… I don't want everypony to get involved here. We need at least one capable fighter in Ponyville in case Discord tries something there out of spite. I want our anchor to have backup, just in case, and… I'm not sure that… bringing Pinkie into Canterlot would be a good idea. I trust her, but… when we were fighting Discord last time, she almost… she seemed to almost… sympathize with him a bit…"
Celestia grimaced and nodded, remembering how the pink mare had questioned her at the celebration dinner in honor of Discord's defeat. Though she hadn't taken it seriously at the time, Celestia did not want to leave anything to chance. After all, Discord had his hooks in her already. What was to say that the jubilant party pony couldn't become his loyal pawn on a whim?
"I understand. I believe that you have chosen well. How are your wounds?"
The princess rose from her sitting position at the side of the bed, and her horn began to glow as the blankets covering Twilight's side slowly began to rise.
"They're… a little better. It's been not even a full day, after all. But… they're starting to heal… I think…."
Celestia gingerly pulled back the gauze over the violet unicorn's side, revealing a spiderweb arrangement of deep, crimson gashes upon her skin. The pattern stretched from just behind her shoulder almost to her flank, and wrapped around under her body to cover half of her stomach with crusted-over red scars. The alicorn quickly recovered the wound at the sight, and dropped the blanket over the young mare's form once again before moving to nuzzle her affectionately.
"Twilight… I am so, so sorry. This… it never should have come to this. Had I not been so careless, so selfish, you would never have come into harm's way…"
Twilight immediately moved to sit up and wrapped her free leg around Celestia's neck. "No, don't think like that! It's hardly your fault! I went against your orders, and I ca-"
Celestia withdrew her head, looking away from her student and closing her eyes with an angry snort as she backed up from the bedside.
"No, Twilight. You do not understand. I should never have been so weak… I should never have come to you for comfort to begin with. My personal issues cannot be allowed to endanger the entire kingdom, and that is exactly what has happened due to my lapse in judgment. You almost lost your life earlier today because I buckled under pressure. You mean more to me than words could ever say, and yet I caused you to jump into the front lines out of concern for my well-being and alarm at my distrustful secrecy. Time and time again I have failed to protect the two most important ponies in my life, and yet I am expected to watch over all... I am not fit to rule…"
The unicorn sat up even further, going so far as to toss her blankets off and drop her back hooves to the pristine tile floor before Celestia was able to rush over and stop her.
"What are you doing? You cannot leave the bed! Your foreleg needs to set! Please, Twilight, lay still!"
Twilight resisted the alabaster hooves, pressing her chest into them angrily as she tried to move past Celestia.
"I'm not just going to lay here and listen to this! Y-you're… you're wrong!" Twilight's eyes shined with tears, and her face became rigid with determination as she stared pointedly at her mentor.
"You've given yourself to the ponies of Equestria every day for a thousand years or more, and you practically raised me from fillyhood! I've always trusted in you, and never doubted your words, but now… this isn't right, Princess! You can't just give up after a few days of… of… whatever is going on! You're stronger than that! I know you are! You'll only be unfit to rule if you give up now, when we need you most! We can fight him, together! The incident with Nightmare Moon was not your fault, and you have never failed me! Stop blaming yourself for everything that has ever gone wrong and see sense!"
Celestia's hooves slowly withdrew and sunk into the mattress at the unicorn's side, allowing Twilight to sit propped at the edge of the bed. She cast her eyes to the floor, and heaved a great sigh.
"I wish that I still had your optimism, my faithful student. I am responsible for more failures than you may ever come to know, and I..I fear that… this time, winning will not be so easy… and a loss would be potentially fatal to everypony in Equestria..."
Twilight threw the hoof not in traction up into the air as she snorted. "You and Luna are Goddesses! He may be the Spirit of Chaos, but he should stand no chance! Not only that, but you've got the entire Royal Guard and my friends with the Elements of Harmony backing you up! That's more of an advantage than you've ever had!"
Celestia let her hooves fall to the floor as her voice changed from its hopeless air of melancholy and adopted an icy and serious tone.
"Twilight… Luna and I are Goddesses in title only. It is an honorific name that was given to us long ago by the commoners, who saw us as infallible God-Queens simply because we brought an end to Discord's tyrannical rule. We are not invincible, nor are we perfect. Though alicorns may have the incredible gift of immortality and immunity to the withering of age and the effects of disease, we can be killed... and so can Discord... though I pray it does not need to come to that..."
Twilight began to sputter, taken completely aback at the words of her mentor. It was seemingly common knowledge that Celestia and Luna were eternal figures of divine grace, born to a family of alicorns bearing the same distinctions. To hear the truth from Celestia's own mouth shook the unicorn to her core, and the revelation that Celestia had kept the information from her made Twilight's tears begin to trickle down her face.
"W-what? Y-you mean… you're not…"
Celestia lowered her head and closed her eyes, unable to face her most trusted student. "No. There is nothing Divine about us. We are of this planet, just like all ponies. Alicorns have long been thought to be descended from the Creators, and while that may be true, I cannot say for sure, and nopony has ever provided concrete evidence to support that claim; it is based entirely in legend. However, I do know that we are not so invincible as we may appear to most, even if we can theoretically live forever. My parents ruled before Discord, and Discord... was responsible for bringing about their ends. Their names are lost to history to all but Luna and I, all records of their existence having been erased in a terrible accident, and all oral traditions about them having been slowly forgotten as the generations continued to pass onward. It is not public knowledge that they ever even existed, and that is not something that I would prefer most to know."
Celestia looked back up at Twilight, and moved to rest a hoof upon the trembling unicorn's shoulder. "If you resent me for hiding such crucial information, I will understand completely. However, I want you to know that there are reasons that it is kept hidden, and not just so that I stay in power unquestioned. You will find out in time, when you need to know, which may be... much sooner than I would like. Though it pains me greatly to withhold such knowledge from you, I ask that you remain patient and keep your faith in me. You are old enough now to begin learning the truth, though I cannot share it with you all at once. Never before have I trusted a student with such information, but I feel that you need to be made aware that not all is as it seems in regards to the Royal bloodline. If something is to happen to Luna or I, I need somepony that I know I can trust to be aware of the truth."
Twilight sniffled and rubbed her eyes as her lip trembled while she tried to find words. The sudden shock brought by Celestia's confessions unnerved her and made her begin to question what other knowledge she possessed might not have been entirely accurate. The Sun Princess leaned her face in closer to Twilight's before she could ask any questions, and she began to speak again.
"Twilight. There is one other thing I must tell you, in regards to your statement about our chances." Celestia moved her mane out of her eyes, revealing the one hidden by the multicolor strands of hair. She gazed her light magenta hues into Twilight's own, giving her a stern look to emphasize the importance of her words.
"What I am about to tell you is something that was told to me long ago, something that I ignored and had forgotten until very recently. The words still ring true, and though they may go against everything I have taught you, I need you to keep an open mind and listen to me here and now. Can you do that?"
Twilight swallowed hard and gave a shaky nod. She had never expected the Princess to share such personal, dangerous secrets with her, but she knew that the situation was an extreme case that called for the knowledge to be passed on. She leaned in closer to listen, and did her best to accept the information as truth, despite the pain that the already-revealed secrets had caused her.
"The Elements of Harmony… they can not be relied upon, especially now. After this most recent failing of them to function as intended in keeping Discord sealed, and considering the words spoken to me so long ago, which I chose to ignore… I cannot in good faith place trust in them. Keep them… where they are, and do not attempt to use them until I am able to ascertain their origins and true purpose. There is more to them than even I know, and I cannot help but feel as though they serve a different purpose from the one that tradition has told us. My parents told me exactly what I told you about them previously, and clearly... they were wrong..."
The violet mare sat silent, considering the words for a long time as Celestia continued searching her face. Twilight finally brought her gaze back up to Celestia's own, and she gave a determined nod.
"I… I don't understand, but… you would know far more than I. I hope that we do not regret forgoing the Elements, but… something is telling me that you may be right. I-I... I don't hold your secrecy against you, I understand that... that ruling necessitates... the obfuscation of truth, in some cases. You have been a wonderful, generous, and caring ruler, and even if... even if you have hidden things from us all... I... I will always support you."
Celestia gave a grim smile and returned the nod before giving Twilight a slow, comforting nuzzle. She sniffled, and kissed Twilight upon the cheek before pulling away.
"Thank you for trying to understand. Though the actual attributes that the Elements represent are wonderful and to be celebrated, I cannot help but feel that the gems themselves serve another purpose. A purpose that I do not yet understand. Discord… has said that he does understand them, even if he, too, cannot control them. Therefore, we cannot allow them to fall into his hands. As for my rulership... your support means more than that of anypony else, and I shall try to rally and be the Princess that everypony needs me to be."
Twilight smiled and leaned back into bed as Celestia utilized her magic to drape the blankets back over the weary unicorn. The sound of hoofsteps from the hallway drew the alicorn's attention, and she turned to the doorway to see Luna stepping into the room.
Luna tilted her head and gave a warm smile to the two as they looked over at her. "Greetings, Sister, Twilight. Are you both doing well?"
The two nodded and returned her smile, and Luna walked over to the side of the bed, choosing to sit atop a cushion laid on the floor beside the apparatus. "Tia, it is past sundown. I will be happy to keep watch over Twilight if you need to rest."
Celestia heaved a sigh and moved to nuzzle her sister before stepping back and giving a small bow of the head toward her injured student. "I… need to take care of some things before I retire, but the offer is appreciated and accepted all the same. Twilight, I trust that you will feel safe with Luna here?"
Twilight leaned forward a bit and smiled once again. "Of course!" She yawned heavily, the stress of the day's previous events finally beginning to weigh upon her mind. "I may be falling asleep soon, though. Will you come and visit in the morning?"
Celestia sighed, and gave the mare a crestfallen look in response to the question. "Twilight… Discord can… see into my mind and read my thoughts as though they were written out for him. I… after your friends arrive, I have ordered for you to be moved to a secure location. Though Discord may still be able to find you, relocating should keep you safe for a while, and my visiting you would only undermine the secrecy of where you are being moved to. I will try to come and see you in the morning, but after that… your friends and the guards will be keeping you safe, until I can afford to reunite with you and find another place in which you can stay hidden. Please understand."
The purple mare hesitated, wanting to cry out against her monarch's orders, but reconsidered and nodded. "I understand. If… if he does come for me, though…"
"Then I will come running. Luna has agreed to stay with you whenever she can, and I will know if something is amiss, either through her or Discord's own gloating. I will not let any more harm come to you, I promise. Your coming to Canterlot has woken me from passive resistance against Discord, and I know now that it is time to take action instead of reacting to his moves. He will be stopped, and you will be kept safe, at all costs. Luna, allow nopony into this room until morning."
Luna gave a firm nod. "I will protect her with my life if need be. Please, Tia, go and do what you need to do before getting some sleep. You need to rest if we are to begin formulating a plan of action in the morning. I will sleep here, and the guards will rouse me if anything happens. Please do not worry, Sister."
"I will do my best not to. Goodnight, and sleep well, both of you." Celestia's golden shoes clacked against the floor as she turned and exited the room, and Luna moved her eyes from her sister's retreating form to the prostrate unicorn as Celestia passed through the dividing curtain.
"Is there anything I can do for you to make you more comfortable?"
Twilight leaned back against the pillows and sighed, thinking honestly about the question. "I… don't think so. I just… I think I need to sleep."
Luna shifted and moved to lie down fully upon the plush crimson pillow beneath her. "I understand. You've been through a lot, and I'm sure the stress must be getting to you. If you wish to sleep immediately, I can assist you."
Twilight raised a brow, and looked quizzically at the midnight blue pony laying near her side. "You… can assist me?"
Luna rose to her hooves, stretched briefly, and placed her forelegs upon the rail of the bed. "How much do you know of me, in terms of my abilities? I'm guessing it's… difficult to find many records after so long…"
Twilight involuntarily shifted her body away from the princess, somewhat unnerved by her current proximity to the alicorn whom she had only met twice before. "I… I do not know much. You'll have to forgive me, it's been… impossible to find books that go into detail of what happened to you, and harder still to find anything about you before… you know…"
"I became possessed?" Luna gave a light laugh at the visible flinch of the mare before her. "I don't see the need to mince words. You did save me, after all. I owe you, and each of your friends, my freedom. I… I don't exactly understand how you broke the spell, but all the same, I am grateful."
>A sudden thought occurred to Twilight, and she titled her head at the strange notion. "We… we used the Elements of Harmony. But… but Princess Celestia just told me that… that it is no longer safe to rely upon them!"
Luna blinked. "She… did? Strange… though I agree that controlling them is exceedingly difficult, I do not know why Tia fears them at the moment. She mentioned to me that something about using them felt… off… but I cannot claim to understand. However… if I can believe in anything with absolute faith, it is Celestia. She has always been right when it comes to important things and matters of the heart, and I trust her more than a handful of representative gemstones."
"But… but they freed you! They saved your life!"
Luna sighed, and gave Twilight a sympathetic look. "While that may be true, they have caused an unintended outcome more often than not. Let's chalk my freedom up to being lucky until we can understand them fully, hm? I would rather not dwell on it."
Twilight moved to speak, but Luna raised a hoof to silence her. "Do not let it trouble you. Please. You need sleep, and I can provide that for you easily."
She leaned in slowly, and gently pushed Twilight back onto her arrangement of pillows. "The night is my domain. For as long as I was free, I heard the hopes and dreams of everypony who would wish upon the stars, and sympathized with them, doing my absolute best to make them come true where and when I could. I can control more than just the moon, Twilight. I can direct the stars, among other things, and I can entice you into sleep with but a song. It all comes with the honor of ruling over the night."
The unicorn mare titled her head in curiosity as she smiled. "Really?"
"Mm-hmm." Luna leaned in closer still, pushing her mane back behind her head with her hooves in a gesture that echoed her sister's movements as she rested her stomach over the railing. "Just close your eyes, and I will grant you rest."
Twilight did as she was told, and a soothing melody soon overtook her as the alicorn began to sing. The words of the princess were in a long-dead language, a language that Twilight had briefly attempted to study in her time at the School for Gifted Unicorns, but was never able to fully decipher. She was able to pick out a few choice words of Luna's song, but soon her mind became fuzzy, and after a few minutes, all tension melted away from her body, leaving her to fall into a peaceful, uncaring sleep.
Luna reached out a hoof to stroke Twilight's mane, whispering a hushed 'sleep well' into the mare's ear before she returned her hooves to the ground. She fluffed her own body pillow upon the floor a bit, before laying back down upon it and calming her mind with peaceful thoughts. Luna soon fell into a relaxed sleep as well, and all was quiet except for the steady beep of Twilight's heart monitor, a pulsing constant in the mysterious darkness.
Through shuttered windows, doors, and walls, the lord of madness deftly crawls. Though effort is made to keep him out, he revels in your screams and shouts. His hunger stirs from fear of death, and draws him toward your panicked breath. If filly or colt has not obeyed, then he shall bring their end of days…
Luna's head rose sharply from atop her hooves as her eyes opened from sleep upon hearing the familiar nursery rhyme, one that her mother had so often recited to get her to behave when she was but a foal. She quickly picked up upon the voice being inside of her head and immediately stood, surveying the room and looking for the source of the familiar voice that was projecting to her.
Do not bother to speak, we wouldn't want to wake your sister's star pupil from her beauty rest. Though I cannot read your mind like I can Tia's, if you think at me, that should be more than good enough.
Where are you? Why are you torturing Tia? What do you have to gain from this?
A twisted laugh moved through her mind, and the sensation only served to annoy Luna instead of unnerve her.
I am close, yet I am far, speaking from beyond the stars. See if you can figure it out… it's quite clever, if I do say so myself...
Luna's eyes adjusted to the darkness quickly as she spun around in the pitch-black room. Skip the riddles, Discord. I know you are here in this room somewhere, I can feel the taint of your presence in the air. I have issues with you, you twisted freak, and I will not tolerate you doing… whatever you're doing to my sister! Show yourself!
Slowly, a long, serpentine form rose from the other side of the hospital bed, the moonlight from the window reflecting off of his snaggletooth and his yellow and red eyes. He leaned over Twilight's sleeping form, and swept his clawed hand across where her flanks would be under the blankets while smirking. Discord glared at Luna and watched with twisted satisfaction as the alicorn before him backed away and fluffed out her wings in a gesture of warning.
Scared of me? But I thought you were willing to fight to save your precious sister…
Luna lowered her head and aimed her horn at his heart as her eyes narrowed with determination. I am. You'll find me more than ready for you, Spirit of Chaos. If you wish to fight, then I ask that we move this elsewhere. Twilight has gone through enough, and I will not let you hurt Tia even more by inflicting additional pain upon her student!
Discord gave a muted laugh, and bent low over the slumbering unicorn. He traced a talon under Twilight's chin, and moved to cup her face with a claw. Such a fragile little thing. She almost broke before… it seems that today's toys are simply not built to last...
Luna stepped forward immediately as he spoke through her mind, and her horn began to glow with a shadowy aura of rippling black mist. Do not touch her! Discord, if you so much as pinch her face I will not hold back!
He removed his hand from the mare's head and turned to look at her while stroking his short goatee with his claw. I'll need more incentive than that, my little moonlight enchantress. Do you seriously think that you are a threat to me? You were merely Tia's moral support and a conduit for the Elements the last time we fought. I am more powerful now than ever before, and you would think to stand against me? What is to stop me from extinguishing this mare's life here and now and sending Celestia further into depression for my own amusement?
Luna narrowed her eyes as she decided to make a desperate gamble in order to save Twilight. Would it not do more damage to kill me? If you come for me, I will resist you with all of my power, but you are certainly welcome to try. I will agree to a duel in a location of your choosing, so long as we leave Canterlot and Twilight behind. I will gladly grant you your chance to harm my sister through me, but please, do not harm Twilight Sparkle anymore. For once in your pathetic life, be reasonable.
Discord rose from his bent position and floated over the bed, stopping to land directly in front of the Moon Princess. He stepped forward, moving to place his leonine paw against the side of her face. She flinched and tried to draw back from his grasp, but he held her cheek firmly in his palm.
You sound so confident in mind, though your shaking body betrays your fear. I am intrigued by your willpower and protective nature, and I still find it fascinating how much stupidity and irrationality that 'love' can bring. You are so like your mother, Lulu, and she was a satisfying obstacle to break and bend to my will. I can only hope that you will prove just as much fun to toy with as she did.
Luna snarled into his palm, her eyes burning with hatred as she glared up at him. You sick, twisted fuck. I will be more than a match for you. For Tia, for Mother, for Father… I will see the end of you this night.
The draconequus chuckled, and gave Luna a light pat on the cheek. We shall see. Have you been obedient, Lulu? Or is tonight the night when I finally gain ownership of all that is the darkness?
Luna's teal eyes widened, and suddenly he gripped her cheek once again before he snapped his talons together. The two disappeared in a swirl of deep blue light, leaving the room devoid of life save for the sleeping unicorn upon the plain, white-sheeted bed.
Credits go to Cadenceofrain.