TWILIGHT OF CELESTIA
A My Little Pony Friendship is Magic story
by Tommy Simms
I saw the face of evil.
I looked into the eyes of the tyrant. Cold and dark, an abyss of the soul. Her face, radiantly beautiful. The sapphire-blue, gem-studded dress that Rarity designed for her made her look majestic and proud.
"I will have your answer now," she said.
Just minutes ago, I saw my friend die before my eyes. She had refused to take the Vow of Obedience, the infamous vow that every pony has to take. Obedience - or death. There are no other choices.
After the echoes of my friend's "NEVER!" died away in the immense Main Hall of Canterlot, the tyrant's eyes started to glow. A lightning bolt, bright and red as hellfire, hit my poor friend and separated her flesh from her bones.
"Obey me. Or share her fate," the tyrant said coldly.
Not a single drop of sweat had appeared on her forehead after the brutal murder. It was an effortless execution. I wondered how many times she had done it before, to be capable of such a gruesome routine.
Tears welled up in my eyes. I wanted to scream, to let the world know how much I hated her, the monstrous being who had turned our lives into living hell.
The tyrant noticed my hesitance. Of course, I thought, she can read my mind with her magic. She had been reading our minds all the time and used what she had learned to control and manipulate us.
"Say it," she said and a faint smile appeared on her face. "Tell me what you think of me. Give me an excuse to end your miserable existence right here and now."
Curiously enough, those cruel words had the effect of calming me down.
I've never been a brave pony. Life has never been easy for me. Other ponies have criticized me for being shy, reclusive and overly cautious, cowardly, even. But my instincts never betray me. When all the pegasi were summoned to Canterlot, I knew something terrible was about to happen. On the way to the castle I tried to talk to Rainbow Dash about the vow. She wouldn't listen. Poor brave, foolish Dash.
But it wasn't cowardice that made me take that horrible vow. It was the realization that my death wouldn't make any difference. Not to the tyrant, not to the world.
"I will obey you, Queen Twilight," I said.
The tyrant's eyes glowed, but shortly and faint. She kept staring at me, not giving her release orders yet.
"It appears to me that your words aren't as eloquent and honest as your thoughts," she said, after a long silence. "But your words are what saved your life. Go now."
The royal guards appeared and escorted me to the exit. Halfway, Queen Twilight's voice stopped me.
I turned around. My heart stopped.
"We will discuss your thoughts later."
Once outside the castle I collapsed. The whole weight of my sorrow, and of all the misery I had seen and experienced crashed down upon me.
I don't know how I managed to reach my house. I fell down on my bed and cried for hours. I knew that soon the guards would come for me again. I knew my life was going to be cut short too, but that wasn't what saddened me most. It was the loss of all my friends and the tearful remembrance of the good times we had that felt truly unbearable.
It hadn't always been like this. Twilight Sparkle had been a good friend for years, since she arrived in Ponyville. But we know now that she didn't join us to study something trivial like "friendship." She was banished from Canterlot because her magic had grown too powerful and she had attempted to take the life of princess Celestia.
Celestia had dealt with powerful unicorns before. The trick was to teach them to control their powers and use them for good. But Twilight was different. When asked what she wanted to be when grown up she answered "Ruler of Equestria!" There was no irony in her voice.
Together with her increasingly powerful magic, Twilight developed an evil streak, which first manifested itself as cruel little games in which she took pleasure in hurting other ponies. Her magic studies also made the Canterlot staff worry because the young pony preferred the darker forms of magic, which she learned to master at an alarming rate. Soon she became known as the "Evil Filly", but Celestia dismissed all warnings as just petty jealousy.
Twilight remained her favorite student, till that one fateful day, when the young pony learned a dangerous trick called "bloodbending" and applied it to her teacher. Celestia was amused at first at the seemingly playful attempts of her student to hurt her teacher, but when she looked into Twilight's dark, cold eyes, she realized with a shock that Twilight was serious about it. Dead serious.
The princess only survived the vicious attempt at her life because at that time her own magic was still slightly more powerful than Twilight's.
A less forgiving and soft-hearted ruler than Celestia would have killed the unruly filly at the spot, but instead, the kind princess just banished her to a friendly little town called Ponyville, with the intention of exposing her disobedient student to a new, healthy atmosphere and hoping making new friends would benefit her. Celestia carefully selected five ponies to keep Twilight company, each one providing a quality that was missing in her twisted character.
I was one of them. My quality was "kindness."
I'm not certain whether Twilight made a genuine attempt to improve and socialize or she simply fooled us all from the start. I fear it's the latter.
Twilight made sure never to display the full range of her powers. To us, she was just another unicorn pony. A good friend, who had as much trouble finding her place in life as we did. The few occasions when she was urged to use her magic powers she appeared rather clumsy and not at all brilliant. Just another pony struggling with her talents, we thought. Of course it was all make-believe. If she wanted, she could have destroyed all of Ponyville just by raising one eyebrow.
One time, when I cleaned her house to assure she'd give me some coveted tickets (how foolish I was!) I glanced upon some books she had left lying around. She probably knew neither of us had any interest in those so there was no need to lock them away. The books all had innocent covers, dealing with everyday subjects, but inside, it was all about dark magic. Curses, evil spells, pictures of horrendous rituals that made my skin crawl.
Why didn't I tell the princess? Maybe I could have avoided the disaster that befell us shortly after. But then again, maybe it was too late already. The tragedy couldn't have been avoided.
One day, Spike disappeared. Twilight seemed rather unaffected by the loss of her assistant. We now know that she probably killed him in some satanic ritual and used his body as a source of ingredients for her evil powders and potions. Baby dragons are believed to be a powerful source of black magic.
I don't know how princess Celestia died. I don't think anyone knows. But rumor goes that Twilight managed to convince the princess that she was cured of her evil urges and was ready to join Celestia's inner circle again.
Shortly after Twilight was admitted to Canterlot again, the princess died under mysterious circumstances. Her state funeral was one of the biggest, most solemn events Equestria had ever seen. Everypony was invited. Twilight Sparkle, dressed in a gorgeous black dress (designed by Rarity of course) gave a touching, glowing eulogy, in which she revered her former teacher and praised the good deeds she had done for Equestria. Her words sounded hollow and false.
Then Twilight presented princess Luna as Equestria's new, rightful and capable ruler. I couldn't help but notice that Twilight's proud announcement contrasted heavily with the appearance of the sister of the dearly deceased, who looked frightened and nervous, rather than solemn or grief-struck.
Luna never looked or acted like a proper ruler. And that's because she knew she would never be one.
Twilight's transition to power went relatively smooth and peacefully. She was smart enough not to seize full command immediately, which would have raised questions about the legitimacy of her rule since she wasn't of royal blood. Instead, she accepted the humble position of royal advisor and spokespony, claiming her main task would be making sure all the princess' decisions would be executed swiftly and efficiently.
Luna's decisions? Or Twilight's?
Soon, ponies all over Equestria started to complain about the new administration. Taxes went through the roof, local government was curbed and put under the centralized rule of Canterlot and all media were put under strict censorship.
Applejack's farm suffered heavily from the heavy taxation, and she was one of the first ponies to organize a rebellion against the new government. She managed to rally up thousands of ponies for a march to Canterlot. It was an impressive display of true pony spirit: thousands of stallions, mares, colts and fillies, earth ponies, unicorns and pegasi, putting their hooves down and demanding an audience with the princess and the right to vent their complaints.
At the palace, a small delegation was admitted to the Great Hall. Applejack and I were part of it.
The hall was only dimly lit and the ponies could hardly discern the fragile figure of princess Luna, seated on the massive throne. Its gold surface reflected enough light to faintly illuminate her sad, forlorn face. Behind her was darkness.
Applejack came forward and pleaded passionately for her causes and those of all the other ponies she represented. After she was done, the princess sighted, and even in the somber, crepuscular light, it was clear that a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Applejack," she said with a feeble voice that gained some confidence as she went on. "I remember you. You were one of the ponies that prevented me from making a terrible mistake, years ago. And it looks like you're preventing me from making another again."
Out of the shadows behind the throne stepped a dark figure, whose silhouette remained invisible, but whose eyes glowed menacingly in the shadows.
"Maybe it isn't too late yet," Luna continued. "Maybe I still have the strength to..."
Suddenly she stopped and gasped. It was like an unseen force threw her backwards on the throne and pressed her throat, preventing her from speaking or breathing. Applejack dashed forward, but she was stopped by what seemed to be an invisible wall surrounding the throne and the princess.
The dark figure, whose eyes had pierced the darkness, now stepped in front of the throne. Everything suddenly became clear to Applejack and me.
"T... Twilight?" Applejack stammered.
The unicorn pony fixed her gaze upon her former friend.
"As you can see, the princess is unwell," she said coldly. "This audience is over."
Twilight turned her head towards Luna, who was still choking and fighting for breath, and blinked to break the spell. The princess collapsed on her throne, drawing deep breaths.
"Hell no it isn't!" Applejack exclaimed. "I don't know what the hay came over you, Twilight, but you can be darn sure that this ain't over ye..."
She stopped, aware of a sudden terrifying change in Twilight's appearance. A howling, infernally glowing whirlwind started to surround her body and the pupils of her eyes disappeared into a bright whiteness.
"Leave now," she ordered. "And take your company with you. If you're still here in twenty seconds I'll tear you apart."
We fled the castle. Applejack knew not even an army of thousand ponies would stand a chance against this demon.
After this incident, Twilight Sparkle didn't attempt to hide her true intentions anymore. Since there wasn't any doubt anymore about who was the real ruler of Equestria, she dethroned Luna, explaining that the princess has been physically unfit and unable to perform her duties properly. Twilight also found a simple solution for the problem of her being not of royal descent: she crowned herself "queen" not "princess", thus expressing her independence from the princesses' bloodline while making clear her power was of an higher order.
The coronation ceremony was a chilling affair. Everypony was invited again, and nopony dared to refuse the invitation.
Twilight looked radiant, wearing the most opulent dress that Rarity ever designed. Complete galaxies were embroidered on the dark blue silk, each star being a perfect little jewel. Complicated patterns made out of alchemic symbols made the fabric look incredibly rich and rare.
I met Rarity in the audience, which gathered on the main plaza outside the castle when the ceremony started.
"Nice dress. But are you aware of the fact that the whole of Ponyville regards you as an opportunist and a traitor?" I asked her.
Rarity smiled bitterly.
"She asked me to come and work for her here at Canterlot. No," she corrected herself, "she commanded me."
She looked down, ashamed. "I know everypony either hates or envies me. But I would happily trade places with the most common pony in Ponyville. I'm living in a prison here. Working day and night, hoping that the next dress will be as good as this one. I displeased her once or twice already, and that made me realize what's going to happen to me if I ever fall from grace. And there's something else."
I saw a tear running down her cheek.
"It's Sweetie Belle," she continued. "I love her more than anything else in the world. She's in Twilight's power. Twilight told me that my work is her life insurance."
Suddenly I felt terrible for my blunt and inconsiderate question. Rarity noticed my confusion and smiled reassuringly.
"It's ok," she said. "Times have changed and we all have to adapt, somehow."
We both looked up to the balcony, where Queen Twilight appeared, crowned, looking down on her subjects, stern and proud. A shiver went down my spine.
"God help us all," Rarity said.
The fate of princess Luna remains a mystery. Many ponies believe that Twilight killed her, but I doubt that. Black unicorn magic is partly parasitical in nature; it derives magic from other living beings or objects and uses it to increase its own strength and abilities.
I sometimes have visions of the evil queen descending into the dungeons of her castle and draining a weak, helpless princess from the little magic that she has left, like a vampire. A horrible image, but as long as Luna is alive there may be a spark of hope. Maybe someday, with the help of... but I'm running ahead of things. Let me recount first how Twilight's reign of terror unfolded and how she set a chain of events in motion that brought about the loss of all my friends and the death of Rainbow Dash.
Applejack continued to provoke the new administration by organizing demonstrations, printing pamphlets and refusing to pay the new taxes. Sweet Apple Acres soon became the center of the organized opposition against Twilight's rule.
The queen's response was swift and deadly. The farm was burned down and its inhabitants were either killed by the fire, shot down when they tried to flee the blaze, or arrested at the spot. Applejack herself managed to escape and sought refuge in the Everfree Forest.
"We'll get her," Twilight declared. "Dead or alive."
But the clever pony hid herself well. The Everfree Forest was a strange and mysterious place where nature was more powerful than magic. Even Twilight's black sorcery couldn't easily penetrate the dark jungle that had offered shelter for innumerable outlaws since the beginning of time.
But Twilight didn't need her magic. All it took was a picture of a little filly, posing for the camera with the queen herself, her terrified face covered with tears. One life for another.
Applejack surrendered. Apple Bloom lived.
After the mock trial and the public execution in Ponyville's town square, Applejack's dead body was left on the scaffold for three days, as a reminder.Nopony was allowed to move or even touch the body.
It was this sight, her dear friend's corpse on display for three long days in front of her confectionary store, that robbed Pinkie Pie of the last remains of her happiness and sanity.
The impact of Twilight's oppressive regime had been great on many ponies, but nopony had suffered more than Pinkie Pie. To the always happy and naive pink pony, Twilight's betrayal had come as a tremendous shock. Her once boundless confidence and trust were shattered, now all that she ever loved and believed in appeared false and ugly.
Applejack's death was the last straw. I'm ashamed to admit I couldn't think of anything to say or do to offer her some consolation. I was just too shocked and depressed myself.
The third day after the execution Pinkie Pie was found at the attic of the store. She had hanged herself.
There's only so much misery a pony can endure before she closes up emotionally. At Pinkie Pie's funeral I didn't cry. The only thing I could think of was escaping from this nightmare, starting a new life elsewhere and taking the few friends I had left with me. But I soon found out it was too late for that.
"If only Applejack was allowed a decent funeral too", I thought when they lowered Pinkie's coffin into the soggy ground. The weather had been sunny all day, but now the sky darkened quickly and rain came gushing down, making the few ponies who showed up disperse immediately after the service ended.
I stayed at the grave, alone. I couldn't feel anything. Something inside me had died and was buried too.
"It was a nice service," a voice behind me said. It was Rainbow Dash. Her face was moist. From the rain?
"I expected more ponies to attend, though," she added.
"They're afraid," I said in a voice that sounded cold and toneless, much to my own surprise. "Pinkie was friends with an infamous terrorist."
"Poor AJ," Dash said. "So noble and brave. She deserved a proper funeral."
"I just thought about that," I said. "But I guess Twilight didn't want her grave to become a sanctuary for the Resistance. God knows what she did with the body."
"To think I actually admired Twilight," Dash said, in a choked voice. "I hoped she could get me to join the Wonderbolts. I supported her even when it was already clear to everyone else that her character was rotten and evil. She used me. I can't believe how naive I was. Even Pinkie knew the truth sooner than me..."
Her voice broke. She turned around. Tough ponies don't cry.
"The weather is appropriate," I said, to change the subject. "Of course, Pinkie would have liked a blue sky better."
"When Celestia used to control the sun, it brought warmth, radiance and happiness," Dash said bitterly. "But now it just blazes heat, mercilessly, all day. Everything that Twilight touches becomes twisted and evil."
"The sun has become the queen's evil eye," I confirmed, "but your clouds did a good job obscuring it."
Rainbow Dash smiled faintly, with some of her old pride shining through. "It was the least I could do. I didn't want that tyrant to look down on us when we were saying goodbye to Pinkie."
We were silent for a while. The clouds that Rainbow Dash had gathered started to drift apart again. A bleak sun penetrated the thinning veil.
"Who will be next?" I asked rhetorically.
"We will know soon," Dash answered. "Maybe even tomorrow."
I gave her an inquiring look.
"Didn't you hear?" Dash explained, "Twilight's ordering all ponies to take a vow of obedience. But for some reason only pegasus ponies are required to go to the palace and recite the vow to the queen personally."
I sighed and nodded. "I expected something like this. The two of us are the only two ponies left from her old circle of friends who are still living in Ponyville. We're a threat to her because we know her better than anyone else. She wants to humiliate us, to break our spirit."
Despair flamed up in Dash's eyes.
"I don't think I can do it, Fluttershy," she said. "I'm too ashamed of what I did to support her evil reign before. I can't take a second round of hypocrisy and lies. Not after what she's done to our friends."
I gave her a stern look. "You're not much use to the Resistance when you're dead, Dash. You got to promise me you'll take that vow. Just swallow your pride and say whatever she wants you to say."
She didn't answer. I feared the worst, and my fears would be realized the next day.
I'm all alone now. All my friends are either dead or missing. Soon I will be gone too. I can already hear the rapping on the door, Twilight's henchponies coming for me. And I have no illusion that I will survive another interrogation. If I were useful to Twilight in some way, like Rarity, she'd spare my life, but I'm not - and I know too much about her previous life in Ponyville that could be harmful to her reputation. I just hope there will be no torture and my death will be painless.
Like I said, I'm not a brave pony. If I were as courageous as my poor friends, I would have died together with Rainbow Dash yesterday, or even earlier, alongside Applejack. But my cowardice at least granted me the time to write these lines, which are meant to give anyone who will read them some understanding about the terrible events that happened in our once so peaceful country. I hope I can finish these notes and hide them in a safe place before it's too late.
What will the future bring? A gifted seer like Zecora could probably tell, if she wasn't imprisoned for practicing not officially approved magic.
One thing is sure: Twilight's rule will not last forever. One day a pony or an army of ponies will be strong enough to stand up against her and end her evil reign.
And maybe that day will even come sooner than everypony expects. I have heard rumors about a certain mysterious pony, a grey pegasus mare with a blond mane. She goes by many names, but her real name is unknown.
Rarity once told me that there exists something like pegasus magic. It's incredibly rare, but when it occurs - maybe once every thousand generations - it's so powerful that even the strongest unicorn magic pales in comparison.
This pony has been seen multiplying herself, travel in time and otherwise perform acts that defy the laws of physics. Feats far beyond the scope of unicorn magic.
Rarity also told me that Twilight is terrified of her. The evil queen could easily send her death squads to hunt her down, but she doesn't. I think Twilight knows that while the grey pony's magic appears to be untrained and unfocused, it could very well unleash its full force against an aggressor when provoked. Pegasus magic is as unpredictable as it is powerful.
This strange pony could be our last hope. If she can manage to focus her magic better and use it for the good cause, she could restore the natural order, reinstate princess Luna's authority and lead Equestria into a new age of freedom, peace and happiness.
It's too late for Fluttershy, I know. I will not live to see this glorious vision come alive. But maybe the younger generation will. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo and all the other fillies and colts who inherit this troubled country.