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Starguard 00


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A one-off exploration made for shits and giggles. Visit the rich and enchanting alternate reality where friendship isn't magic. The canon got ripped out, shredded, pooped upon, and your waifu is probably shit.

 

Wayward Star

 

Twilight Sparkle was feeling like a jumpy bag of bricks. It was a mix of drowsy relaxation one felt after a strenuous task and residual anxiety that made her bowels churn in an unpleasant dance of urgency and constipation. Finally, the cramp diminished and she gave away a loud sigh of relief. This became a sort of ritual for her. Each major test inside the Canterlot Castle went the same way: she got up, she panicked, she somehow made it to the classroom, then followed a calmer period while she was writing a test, a slightly less calmer period in which she was frantically trying to double check everything at least three times, and when the time was up she finally retreated into one of the castle’s luxurious public restrooms. These were mostly deserted in the mornings when tourists were yet to be unleashed upon the stained glass hallways, and castle personnel had their private ones anyway. It was just her and the muffled commotion deep down on the bustling streets and markets outside the castle walls. Upon finishing her bathroom deed she uttered a lengthy groan, remembering the supervisor’s words about how they were getting the results in the early afternoon. It meant she had to wait here in the castle, far, far away from her cozy, warm bed, surrounded by chatty unicorn peers who had most likely aggregated inside the library, all loud and upbeat about those allegedly easy questions. A thought made her puff a sour chuckle out of her nostrils: she might just as well remain stuck on the toiled, trickling the last remnants of her anxiety down the drain while perusing the Daily Hay for some worthwhile news that would keep her mind off the whole test thing.

 

Her horn lit in a pale pink aura of a telekinetic spell that drew today’s newspaper and a griffin pocked watch from her saddlebags. She had snatched the former before her father and big brother had gotten the chance to open the mailbox. The second item was somewhat of a family heirloom she had received as a birthday gift from her father. He had allegedly bought this watch in the griffin lands far to the northeast beyond the rocky shield of Griffonstone. She opened the device with a gentle click and released another sound of frustration: “Two hours!” That Daily Hay better got some very engaging news to tell!

 

The first page looked like a disaster: Poll Results are in for the Best Song of the Year! Below this bombastic title was a picture of some fair earth pony mare with teary eyes and a moved expression of your standard showbiz diva. Twilight skimmed through the whole article which turned out to be the usual: talented filly, corrupt manager, couldn’t make it without her friends, yada, yada, yada. A wide yawn betrayed her lack of sleep. Constantly checking and rechecking facts in early morning hours on the day of a test was the usual routine for many a magic student. Not that she ever fell asleep before midnight anyway.

 

She flipped the page and skipped a bunch of pony comics until her eyes stopped on an article about a jousting tournament in Winsome Hills. This one made her think. Her big brother had obligatory lance practice in the city watch and had won a few tournaments here and there. Perhaps they could go if he had managed to get the next week off like he had been bragging. There was a curio shop filled with miscellaneous magical items located somewhere around those parts that has piqued her interest, and Winsome Falls were said to be at their most beautiful in the summer. She looked at the watch and flipped another page. Only one more hour and three quarters to go!

 

The article on the third page declared this summer’s mane style to be a low ponytail with flower accessories. Twilight skeptically glanced up at her dark blue bangs. She was wearing the same mane style since, well, forever. It really went well with her straight hair and rose-violet streaks that adorned her mane and tail. It was simple, cute, comfortable, and never out of fashion. Why change it?

  

She gave the watch another quick glance before she concluded it was time to stretch her legs. Besides the library, there were other places accessible to public that were seldom visited by chatty students. There was that tiny moss-covered courtyard with a barred well, the southern ramparts, the stables for students and visitors, a few vacant classrooms, and the observatory in the south-east tower. The latter was her favorite. Dark, private, filled with celestial charts and apparatuses, it was a window to strange and wondrous places far beyond her reach. She has been spending quite some time there, gazing towards the stars and moon. And when she hasn’t been doing that, she has been reading about magic, history, and pony science. As far as she was able to remember, Twilight has always been drawn to the arcane arts, and she had a cutie mark to prove it. Most magic-prone unicorns had one with some sort of a celestial motif. Hers was a pink six pointed star overlaying a lesser white one. Nothing too fancy; however, this colorful representation of those mysterious lights twinkling high above the sky made her feel proud all the same.

 

She opened the big wooden doors and entered the perpetual dusk of the observatory. Catching her breath from the long climb up the spiraling stairway, she dismounted her saddlebags onto the floor and checked for time: “An hour and a half.”

 

“An hour and a half?” a calm, gentle voice inquired from behind her tail.

 

Twilight jumped and turned, unsure if she should have been more concerned by the fact that she wasn’t alone or by the fact that she was suddenly dragged into an awkward conversation. These little fears of hers lingered there only for a moment, until her mind finally managed to process the picture it received from her wide open eyes. There, in the shadows between a bookshelf and a low tea table, lying on a bunch of soft pillows was nopony other than Queen Celestia, her long, elegant horn bathing the surroundings in a warm glow of magic sunlight. Twilight’s racing heart jumped into her throat while a thousand panicked thoughts began to swarm inside her mind. She suddenly became acutely aware of her loud panting, her increasingly sweaty coat, she remembered how she had forgotten to wash her hooves before leaving the restroom, and how she had casually dropped her saddlebags onto the observatory floor like she owned the place. She wanted to just turn tail and run if that wasn’t even more inappropriate. One must never turn their back on royalty, let alone on the supreme leader of Equestria!

 

“Um, yes? Oh, Your Highness,” Twilight performed an awkward curtsey that was supposed to ameliorate the first part of her blunt reply.

 

Queen Celestia didn’t seem to mind her manners on the outside. She was still smiling when she reiterated her question: “You rushed in and said an hour and a half. I was just wondering what it meant.”

 

“Oh, that,” she wheezed out some forced laughter: “I’m just waiting for the test results. We had a test. Today. Half an hour ago.”

 

“Is that so?” Celestia shuffled some papers she had laying around: “And you are?”

 

The realization put her in a state of mild shock: a lady was supposed to introduce herself along with the curtsey! She bowed: “I’m sorry!”

 

Celestia slightly tilted her head with a concerned expression: “Beg your pardon?”

 

“I’m Twilight Sparkle. Last grade of prep at Surewall University.”

 

“Ah, you’re one of them,” Celestia’s face brightened: “I was beginning to worry that I’m not capable of recognizing my own students.”

 

“Yeah, he-he, one of them,” Twilight forced herself to smile along with the Queen. Surewall University was a small public establishment for those that didn’t have what it took to be accepted into Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. As such, it depended on a rigid stream of taxpayers’ gold, so it had to borrow many of castle’s classrooms which were specifically designed to teach certain subjects like alchemy and astronomy. Other classes like magic theory and history were held inside a spacious watchtower close to the city gates, while their practical courses took place at the old royal stables near the Canterlot River. Suffice to say, their daily schedule always took them on a wild ride all over Canterlot.

 

“Last grade, you say. How are things with the good old Tower?”

 

“Err, they’re both doing well,” she gave the Queen an unsure shrug. The Tower was both the colloquial name for the school and its eccentric headmaster, a grizzled old unicorn who went by the name of Sir Iron Locket. They both were old, grey, tall, and unyielding.

 

“Glad to hear it. So now that you’re finished with your preparations for the university, do you have any plans for the future?”

 

“Huh, well, I was thinking along the lines of astral magic …” That was the highest form of unicorn magic that touched upon many subjects from thaumaturgy, divination, teleportation, to forbidden spells that brought blazing destruction down upon one’s enemies. It was a dauntingly vast, diverse, and troublesomely interconnected area of expertise that many talented unicorns had studied their entire lives, but only a few have ever managed to master.

 

“Astral magic,” Celestia winked: “Then perhaps we’ll see each other more often.”

 

Twilight doubted that. Queen Celestia was not only the leader of Equestria but also the headmistress at her private school for gifted unicorns and the most powerful mage ever. On the other hoof, Twilight had flunked its entrance exam and had to enroll into the school of her second choice instead. Though that had happened a long time ago when she had only been a filly, the memory still kneaded her guts into a fluttering ball with each recollection.

 

“You seem troubled. Is everything alright?”

 

The question pulled Twilight out of her memories with a quick jolt of shivers: “Yes! Of course! I’m fine! Thank you for worrying about your humble subject!” She reinforced her hasty statements with a bow and another sour grin.

 

“You know, you shouldn’t be so worried about the test.”

 

“I shouldn’t?” she was taken aback by the Queen’s statement: “But it’s the final test about thaumetic principles, a subject that is very important in astral magic!”

 

“I know,” Celestia’s polite smile widened: “But you still shouldn’t worry yourself so much.” Her bright magic engulfed a piece of paper she has been holding between her hooves and sent it across the room where it stopped just a few hooves before Twilight’s muzzle: “See, you need to trust yourself more.”

 

“I … I … Why …” she gathered herself and looked from behind the paper at the white mare who was clearly enjoying her confusion: “Excuse me, but why is the Queen in possession of my test?”

 

“Let’s just say your headmaster still knows how to play Castles. Now, have you checked your test?”

 

Twilight’s lips stretched into a timid smile: “I scored above average.”

 

“Quite a good mark, even when compared to my students,” Celestia nodded: You still lack a firm grasp on the subject of thaumetic threshold and magical field characteristics, but I suppose that is something you’ll learn on your astral courses.”

 

 “Does that mean I’m …” her voice got stuck in her throat.

 

Celestia took a longer look at a tattered ledger that has been hiding among the pillows: “Well, judging by your grades and the fact that Sir Locket has the same admission system as my own school, I do think that you pass the threshold.” She then retrieved Twilight’s paper and scribbled her grade inside the ledger.

 

The relief gave Twilight a bit of courage, so she stepped closer. The Queen noticed and lifted her head: “Once I’m done with the grades, could you be a dear and take this back to your headmaster’s office?”

 

“Of course!” she nodded. It felt strange standing in a room with the most powerful entity in Equestria, and it felt even stranger having such an ordinary conversation with her. She has always imagined Queen Celestia to be more regal and imposing, but the real Queen Celestia resting before her on a heap of cushions turned out to be a totally different pony. She seemed warm, kind, she didn’t use fare speak like some old wizard, and even though she ruled Equestria for centuries, she really gave one the impression that she cared. Still, a queen was a queen and Twilight had no intention of poking into somepony so official. So she just stood there, observing Celestia who was scribbling numbers into the ledger one page after another.

 

Suddenly, the Queen began to murmur: “Twilight Sparkle … Twilight … Sparkle. Are you perchance the young daughter of Night Light and Twilight Velvet?”

 

“Yes I am,” Twilight answered, concerned by the Queen’s sudden interest in her family.

 

“And your brother is Shining Armor from the city watch?”

 

“Yes,” she hunched her posture. Was this about her failed entrance exam? Did Celestia personally remember her failure?!

 

“Your mother is quite an accomplished writer. I really enjoy her books, especially the Siren’s Game. Lullaby is a foe I’d never want to face.” An exhilarating shiver overtook her head and turned her long mane into a glittering ocean of multi-colored waves.

 

Siren’s Game was her mother’s latest book about a powerful abyssal warlord who led an army of deep sea monstrosities to the surface in order to free an eldritch deity. She was calm, ruthless, charismatic, and more than a match for the heroes who sought to stop her.

 

“I’ll make sure to pass on your compliments.”

 

“Then make sure your also pass them to your father and brother. They’re both doing a fine job serving Equestria.”

 

“Of course …” she wanted to add a few more words to her generic confirmation but was interrupted by Celestia’s sigh of relief.

 

“There! All done!” The big white mare rose and stretched herself, then took a stroll towards Twilight’s saddlebags: “These are yours I presume?” she threw a glance at the young mare's flank and back to the pink stars sewn onto the bags, put in all the documents, and turned back towards Twilight who was cautiously sneaking after her playful tail which fluttered around like it had a mind of its own: “I hope this does not inconvenience you too much. It’s just that this wasn’t inside my schedule and I’m running late to an important meeting.”

 

“Not at all My Queen. It will be my honor,” she made a successful curtsey and even managed a pristine smile. Twilight usually mocked the fictional characters that blindly followed their leaders, but doing favors for Celestia somehow actually felt rewarding. Like she was doing something important to help Equestria, and that feeling left a warm, gratifying sensation inside her belly that melted the shivering remnants of her anxiety. For the first time today, Twilight was happy.

 

The Solar Forum was populated by a lively herd of patrolling guards, shouting merchants, and upper class unicorns trotting around in neatly caparisoned groups. The golden Sun Obelisk on the forum’s podium was shining brightly in the late morning rays.

 

Twilight was just returning from the Surewall University where she had somehow managed to deposit both the tests and the ledger back into the headmaster’s office without being noticed. Since it was the last day of school, both the students and their teachers had apparently taken some liberties and never checked in. Granted, most Surewall students haven’t taken upon themselves to study astral magic and thus didn’t have thaumetic principles for one of their courses. They were a pretty normal bunch of unicorns who have gathered here from all over Equestria to get a proper magical education required of healers, crafters, alchemists, guards, and other horn-related professions. It was quite a welcome change from competitive and ambitious castle busybodies.

 

Her mental pasture was violently interrupted by a white mare that bumped into her side right as she was turning corner onto Mane Street. Being a little sister of an overprotective city watchpony and a fairly jumpy unicorn, Twilight had no problem deflecting the poor mare backwards with an instinctive barrier.

 

“Oh!” Twilight yelped and made an indecisive step towards her toppled victim: “Are you alright?”

 

The mare seemed unfazed by the event. She brushed the dust off her breezy yellow gown, placed the overdecorated hat back onto her wavy purple mane, threw Twilight a timid smile, and quickly scurried away into the forum crowd, dragging along two bags of fabric aglow with her blue unicorn magic.

 

Canterlot was the capital of Equestria with bustling streets, famous attractions, and colorful shops luring many a strange pony through its gates. Judging by the lack of angry nickering and snide remarks, this young mare was probably some traveling artist trying her luck around the country, or maybe she was just your average pony visiting her friends or relatives in a fancy dress.

 

Twilight let the mare slide out of her thoughts as she was slowly maneuvering among ponies, street lamps, and carriages on the broad and busy Mane Street. These long walks have always been the most tedious part of her education.

 

The loud crowd thinned once she had passed a few crossings and trotted onto the hoof-licked paving stones of Runnel Street. A tall stone mansion with a well-kept garden and a dwarf pine hedge stood just a few jumps away from where the street disappeared into a walled off precipice. She gave out a soft, tired sigh: Home at last.

 

Merged with the steep mountainside from which it had been chiseled, the lopsided yet elegant outcrop called Lightstone Mansion reigned supreme over the broad ledge of Primrose Cove that had once served as one of Canterlot’s main harbors. Its high steps and a garden riddled with winding overflow channels told of annual floods that came with each spring.

 

Twilight dragged herself through a wooden gate arch, down a garden path, and up the stone stairs. A star-shaped keychain flew from her right saddlebag with a jingling sound of many keys that had gathered on its ring throughout the years, but before she had time to select the right match for the mansion, its doors opened and Twilight came muzzle to muzzle with an unfamiliar face.

 

“And you are?” she made a befuddled grumble and squinted wearily at the tall pink pegasus mare who has come between her and a nice warm bed: “And why are you dressed like a maid?”

 

The other pony donned an unsure smile and took a few steps backwards, accidentally bumping into a big trash bin stuffed with freshly made vegetable waste.

 

“Twilight!” a familiar voice came from the garden. It was her mother Velvet who emerged from a small wooden shed all enveloped in her white-green gardening attire complete with a gigantic straw hat. Her sky blue magic was totting along two pots of dried sediment from their septic tank, each swaying somewhat dangerously in the fresh mountain breeze.

 

“Mom!” Twilight descended back into the garden: “What is going on?”

 

“Oh, yeah, we should have told you, but you were so busy with your tests.”

 

“Told me what?”

 

“Well,” her mother inhaled a whole story worth of air: “Your father is always out and about with his airships, I’m busy with my books, Shining is practically living in the city stables, and you have your studies to worry about, so we’ve all agreed to hire a housemaid.”

 

“Father agreed?” Night Light had come from a poor family of oddballs and semi-famous adventurers and was thus a little bit more anxious when it came to money. Her mom, a rich and high-born Canterlotian, represented the opposing force in their family’s financial affairs.

 

“Not at first, but in the end he too likes a clean house and a warm meal on the table,” she turned towards the sky: “Just put it down here dear!”

 

The pegasus mare managed an awkward landing between two lush thyme bushes with the trash bin lodged between her long legs: “Lady Velvet, these are all the remains from our lunch and dinner preparations,” she then turned towards Twilight with a polite nod: “Lady Sparkle.”

 

Velvet giggled: “I've already told you that you can call us just by our names, though a lady here and there doesn’t hurt!” She took the bin and continued: “I do believe you two haven’t yet been formally introduced,” she nudged Twilight forward: “This sleep-deprived unicorn here is my daughter Twilight Sparkle. And this overly polite pegasus is Cadence, our new housemaid,” she focused her attention back towards the pink mare: “If I recall correctly, you come from Rainbow Falls up north.”

 

“You are correct,” Cadence nodded.

 

“Lovely place! Been there a couple of times while I was writing my first books. Quite chilly, but the view is absolutely stunning!”

 

Twilight was unimpressed by the whole situation. Her mother’s chatting was slowly merging with the background, giving way to her sleepy thoughts. So mom hired a maid. She glanced at the pony in question, all frills and polite smiles. This one had to be only a couple of years older, same as her big brother. She started wondering if Shining has already inspected this lovely new addition to their household. The maid was a lean, doe-eyed creature of pink coat and cutesy wings flaunting a pair of soft mane and tail buns streaked with bright golden and lilac highlights. She sighed. Her big brother was a complete fool for such namby-pamby princess types.

 

“Twilight … Twilight?”

 

“Huh?” she slowly shifted her narrow gaze towards mom whose loud voice managed to penetrate into the maelstrom of her increasingly hostile thoughts aimed at the pretty pony newcomer.

 

“I was asking you about your test?” Velvet continued unbothered by Twilight’s reaction: “So, are you all prepped and ready for the summer?”

 

“ … I guess so.”

 

“Great! Then I suggest you to go say hello to your father down at the Cove.”

 

“Why? Won’t he be coming up for lunch?”

 

“Of course he will, but we have prepared a special surprise for you.”

 

Twilight’s sleepy squint got adorned by wrinkles of seriousness and suspicion: “A surprise? What kind of surprise are we talking here?” The last time her family had prepared her a special surprise, she had been forced to spend an entire Hearts & Hooves Day with some orange schmuck from the Royal Guard. He was her brother’s acquaintance she had bumped into on a castle corridor once or twice, and according to her family, that had turned him into an eligible escort for the Hearts & Hooves Festival. Suffice to say, Twilight just wasn’t cut out to go on dates with stallions who were spending their days playing in stable bands, singing in taverns, talking about physical sports, and driving around giggling mares in their fancy red carriages. Those things were all just so boring, unnecessary, and quite irresponsible.

 

“It’s not another date, I promise,” Velvet gave her that annoyingly patronizing smile only an overbearing mother could give: “We just want you to have a little fun over the summer is all.”

 

A cobbled path wound atop the old ramparts that stood guard over the vertiginous view, then went down a flight of chiseled stairs, ending on the windy ledge of Primrose Cove all dressed in old loading equipment and rusty containers. A small fleet of two Hoofsize bulk freighters and a Cloudsmax reefer were resting at their respective moorings.

 

Twilight was trotting among the cranes and containers that were scattered across the whole ledge in a seemingly disorganized mess. A few dockhooves and aeronauts were unloading grain from one of the freighters into smaller crates bearing Canterlot’s royal crest. Upon noticing her, each pony raised their head and nodded in silent greeting. She nodded back and pulled to a stop: “Has anypony seen my father?!”

 

An older pegasus aeronaut came closer and put off her aviator cap: “Excuse me ma’am?”

 

“Do you know where I could find Night Light?”

 

“The pegasus swung her right wing in the general direction towards the sky: “He just went for a test ride and will be here shortly ma’am.”

 

“Test ride?”

 

The pegasus shrugged: “He fixed his ol’ ship and went to see if it’s working all right. That thing hasn’t flown for ages,” she put back her goggles and faced the southern horizon: “Must admit. They don’t build ‘em like this here in Canter.”

 

Though blinded by the rising sun, Twilight noticed a glistening spot that was fast approaching the ledge. Once the object has flown into the mountain shade, she slowly recognized its form. It was indeed her dad’s old airship from his adventuring days. However, even though it was old, this aerial vessel wasn’t one of your ordinary blimps but a full-fledged rigid airship: sleek, sturdy, spell-driven, fast, and maneuverable. Even its striped grey-white back and blue belly spoke of adventurer’s practicality overruling the usual equine concern with aesthetics. Her dad had used to take them all on short trips in this ship when she and Shining had been little foals, but he had later decided to ground it in storage due to its age and increasingly hazardous quirks.

 

The airship landed gracefully below their walled-off street at the narrowest end of the cove’s ledge, so Twilight had to canter its entire length to get there. She found Night Light tying the ship’s ropes round the bollards with his yellow magic.

 

His left ear turned in her direction: “Hey Twilight!” he fastened his knots and offered her another rope: “I hope you still know how to tie down a ship.”

 

She did. Just another perk of growing up in the Lightstone family. Her nimble spell quickly weaved the rope into a turn and two half hitches, then moved its pinkish gleam to subjugate another. Soon, the whole ship was moored securely to the mountainside, leaving them free to discuss other matters.

 

Twilight spoke first: “So what’s this all about? First mom tells me you’ve all prepared some surprise and now this. You’ve repaired your ship after all this time. Why?” She kinda suspected the answer and was having mixed feelings. Her eyes moved from her dad to the ship’s elegant hull, then back again.

 

Night Light made an apologetic expression: “Well, your mother and I have been talking and we think you’re old enough to fly on your own. Some small trips across Equestria, you know, to broaden your horizons.”

 

“But I only just got my license!”

 

“Even more reason to practice.”

 

“On this ship? It’s practically a flying house!”

 

“It’s not so bad once you get to know her,” he led his daughter into the interior: “I admit that she can be a little moody, but she’s very safe, even if you crash her.” He proudly knocked onto its metal frame: “Yes sir, Wayward Star can really take a beating!”

 

“That sounds … reassuring.”

 

They walked past the pantry and into a narrow space furnished with a berth, a miniature stove, and a lean wardrobe. There were a few larger rooms spread across the hold with closed ports built into their sides.

 

Twilight grinned and puffed out a mocking snicker: “So, do I also get cannons?”

 

“We don’t have any at home, but if you ever manage to get your hooves on some black market stuff, I recommend the 75 model.”

 

“You’re kidding, right?” He probably was, though she could never know. Her dad was a retired adventurer after all. The use of gunpowder and other explosives were strictly prohibited inside Equestria, with fireworks being the only exception. Only some renegades were bold and skilled enough to operate such volatile weaponry.

 

The protruding gondola under the ship’s bow was made into a spacious cabin sporting two comfortable cushions and a fairly complicated control panel riddled with levers, valves, and gauges. Twilight’s muzzle stretched into an unwitting smile. She suddenly felt a great urge to test them all. Winsome Hills were only a day’s ride away from Canterlot. One little trip couldn’t hurt.

 

Night Light who has until now left her to inspect the cabin on her own seated himself onto the copilot’s cushion and put his hoof among the controls: “Are we clear for takeoff, Captain Sparkle?”

 

She finally peeled her sparkling eyes of the panel: “Yes. I think we are.”

 

Sounds of running water and hushed whisperings of spruce trees spread across the steep slopes above Canterlot. Mountain choughs played in the clear blue sky where white peak met the patchy sea of dwarf pines and scree.

 

Moonlight Brilliance was ascending a steep stairwell that led inside a hidden place, a trip that she had made many, many times before. As the Captain of the Royal Guard and Celestia’s most trusted student, Moonlight usually briefed the Queen about less important matters in time of her evening relaxation. Today she was climbing these steps before the sun has even managed to reach its zenith. The reason for such an untimely visit was silently striding besides her.

 

Colonel Grom Rainsteel wasn’t particularly large for a male griffin, yet still he towered over her head by at least three hooves. His grim goshawk anterior and feline body were both covered in distinct metal barding of Hyperborean imperial forces, and to make matters worse, the whole thing was adorned in a comprehensive array of battle gear, most of which was very illegal inside Equestrian borders.

 

She threw him a nervous glance and saw that all the killing instruments were still happily bouncing around with each of his steps. The griffin had demonstrated substantial resistance to disarmament and had sent four of her best subordinates to the infirmary just a few moments after arrival. He would likely have done even more regrettable things if she hadn’t agreed to take him to the Queen along with all his clutter. Colonel, though still fairly young, was one of those beasts forgotten by time, a relic that hadn’t yet stepped into the modern era of peace and prosperity. Nothing ever got solved by violence. Moonlight knew that better than most.

 

Upon reaching the entrance, two unicorn guards with stern glares suspiciously scanned the griffin who fortunately showed no signs of irritation.

 

“It’s all right. I take full responsibility.”

 

The guards nodded and stepped aside, allowing them unimpeded passage into the mountain.

 

Inside was an airy hall lined with rows of tall stone pillars. Heated glacial meltwater gushed forth from fountains chiseled in likenesses of many fantastic monsters and gathered itself in a vast central pool. This was the very heart of Old Canterlot, the first unicorn sanctuary built within a mountain cavern.

 

They have found Queen Celestia resting by the pool. Her colorful mane and tail were both freshly washed and neatly tied into loose knots, her white body still wet from the bath. It appeared that her after-work routine has remained unchanged despite the griffon’s sudden, unannounced visit.

 

“My Queen,” Moonlight bowed before her liege: “Colonel Grom Rainsteel of the Imperial Hexenjägers.”

 

 Queen Celestia raised her head and nodded to the griffin with a peaceful, content expression: “Colonel.”

 

“Queen Celestia,” the griffin returned the nod, though he did not bow, nor did he lower his glare. Then he suddenly unpacked a large sack and emptied it with one swift thrust of his claw.

 

Moonlight’s skin crawled in disgust as a giant, greasy eyeball started rolling towards Celestia.

 

The Queen remained unmoved by the griffin’s action. Her shining magic stopped the eyeball in its sticky tracks and lifted it up for a closer inspection. After a few moments gazing into its golden iris, she pointed her muzzle back at the griffin: “It seems you’ve taken care of the problem.”

 

“For now,” the griffin’s answer bore a grim undertone reflected in his unkind eyes: “Now it’s time for our equine allies to do their part.”

 

“And we shall,” the Queen agreed: “Our aid shall be arriving shortly. Make sure it’s properly guarded.”

 

“Aye, I’ll send a wolper immediately,” the griffin nodded, this time with a bit more effort.

 

Celestia returned the eye back to its new owner: “Feel free to stay in Canterlot as long as you like. As far as replenishing your strength is concerned, I recommend Joe’s Dinner. That’s just right from the castle’s entrance. With a little guidance, I’m sure they’ll know how to make you a proper meal.”

 

“I shall take your word for it. Queen,” with that last word, the griffin bagged his gruesome prize and strode off.

 

As the tapping of talons disappeared through the sunlit entrance, Celestia tilted her head slightly to the side: “Miss Pie.”

 

A cheerful pink mare with curly mane peeled off from the shadows in a series of springing hops and bowed before Celestia.

 

“Would you be so kind and show our friend around the city? We don’t want him blowing up an entire neighborhood because of some terrible misunderstanding.”

 

“Okie dokie lokie!” the mare saluted and started prancing after Grom in that specific, leisurely manner that made Moonlight feel uneasy every time she met this particular member of the Queen’s personal investigation agency.

 

“What troubles you now my merry student?”

 

Celestia’s words made her realize they were alone: “Nothing … It’s just … this griffin …”

 

Celestia chuckled: “Quite a charmer isn’t he?”

 

“My Queen, I must apologize,” Moonlight lowered her head in shame: “I have let an armed beast into the Sanctum.”

 

“Don’t take it so hard upon yourself my merry student. It would be more foolhardy if you attempted to disarm him.” She paused and gazed beyond the entrance: “Do you know how ones like Grom are called in other lands?”

 

She didn’t, so she remained silent.

 

“They call them Horn Hunters, beasts formidable enough to fell even those versed in arcane arts. Only few ever earn this title, even fewer manage to keep it for long.”

 

“But why are we helping them? These griffins go against everything we ponies stand for!”

 

“Would you rather face the horrors of the world alone? Would you have me forsake them out of principle and allow only ponies to shield us from the vast unknown? We do not always have the luxury to choose our allies my merry student, and griffins, as feral and stubborn as they may be, have stood by our side since the Crystal War. They may not know much about peace and harmony, but they do know war better than anypony.”

 

Crystal War. Once upon a time a dark power had enslaved the equines and yaks of the north, and marched them upon Equestria, locking it in perpetual strife. It was only when it had decided to go against the Hyperborean Empire that the tide had turned. Despite overwhelming odds, the griffin garrison had emerged victorious on the craggy fields of Deep Karren, pushing the reeling shadow all the way back to its crystal citadel. The battle had been a bloody massacre in which the Imperial airships had rained death upon the slaves caught in twisting gorges below. Even today, one could still find shattered bones and twisted metal beneath the cliffs of Rainbow Falls. War and violence was everything griffins have ever known. It was because of creatures like them that the world was constantly in peril. Aloud, she only let a bit of her frustration slip into careful words: “Still, as the Captain of the Royal Guard, an exemplar to our brave protectors, I must insist that Equestrian laws are being upheld even by their ilk.”

 

Celestia stood up and shook the last droplets off her graceful wings: “Our laws were written with ponies in mind. The primary concern that guided our pens was the safety of our people. Gunpowder and various contraptions that utilize it are second nature to the griffin claws but become a dangerous liability when handled by pony hooves. And if we take a look at the other side of the argument, we see that nopony is forcing unicorns to wear restrictive enchantments around their horns here in Equestria,” she wrapped her damp mane and tail in towels, then took a few steps further into the mountain: “You must learn how to look at things through the eyes of others. Now walk with me.”

 

She took her to the inner wall where flameless crystals drenched the surrounding pillars in a soft blue light. A colossal doorway gaped in the middle, offering a view onto a natural tunnel of wet rock and dripping ceiling.

 

Moonlight’s trot slowed down to a stop: “We’re going to the Inner Sanctum?”

 

“Indeed we are,” the Queen kept walking.

 

She has never grown fond of that strange, mystical place that was hiding behind the doorway. Those lights, the hot dry air, and that constant tingling sensation along the spine have made her develop a sort of aversion to its presence.

 

A soft golden glow was becoming increasingly brighter as the mares approached the tunnel’s end where it transformed into a ghostly radiance, pulsating and ebbing like weightless liquid through the still dusk. In the middle of this aura was a wondrous pale tree that stretched and coiled its many elegant branches towards the high ceiling above where holes in the mountain supplied its transparent phantom leaves with beams of sunlight. Its thick roots bore into the solid rock, displacing many a protrusion from deep below. A single small pearl shone on a distant branch dressed in bright golden sheen mixed with delicate crimson hues.

 

Celestia approached and put her glowing horn onto the surreal surface that stirred like liquid before solidifying back into smooth milky bark: “At long last, the Ambrosia has blessed us with another fruit,” she threw a somber look at Moonlight who has decided to stay at the entrance: “It’s nearly rip. You do understand what this entails?”

 

She did. The fruit had appeared the same way as described in the ancient unicorn scrolls: silently and without fanfare that usually came with harvests of magical variety. Ambrosia was the embodiment of equine magic and its fruits had only appeared a few times thorough the entire course of pony history, always as portents of great change. 

 

The Queen raised her head high and unfurled the towels, allowing her flowing locks to play within the magic glow: “Notify the Council and brief your ranks,” her gaze slowly went back to the tree and its shining fruit: “We must make preparations.”

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3 hours ago, Goat-kun said:

A one-off exploration made for shits and giggles. Visit the rich and enchanting alternate reality where friendship isn't magic. The canon got ripped out, shredded, pooped upon, and your waifu is probably shit.

 

Me after finishing reading the story:

.........what happened to the shits and giggles? This is book worthy, good quality reading.:dash:

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2 hours ago, -Buttercup- said:

Pretty good read, but you can reduce the spacing in your post. 

:mlp_wat: I thought his spacing was alright though? He only did some space when theres a change of topic scenery and story.....

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On 2022-05-12 at 12:34 AM, Kujamih said:

Me after finishing reading the story:

.........what happened to the shits and giggles? This is book worthy, good quality reading.:dash:

I did write it for shits and giggles. I just wanted to see if I can put more fantasy and adventure into my pony. There is an idea for the story. We'll see.

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6 hours ago, Goat-kun said:

I did write it for shits and giggles. I just wanted to see if I can put more fantasy and adventure into my pony. There is an idea for the story. We'll see.

I kinda like how you casually place the famous characters into the story.... Interested in pinkie pie though... Is she just a jester? Then why use her to guide a dangerous griffin? 🤔 Hmmm the plot thickens ...

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