The next morning dawned upon a figure formed of lumps, sound asleep under a massive pile of blankets atop a large, luxurious bed. The gilded posters shimmered in the early twilight, the sun having yet to crest the horizon. Purple velvet curtains strung between the posts blocked the sleeping creature from the view of the outside world, despite the fact that the room was sacrosanct. In those troubled times, nothing was held sacred.
Soft carpets of deep crimson padded the floor under the bed. On either side sat two delicately carved end tables: a slender green banker's lamp on one, and a ticking clock and yellow bottle sitting upon the other. A large, white vanity hugged one of the walls flanking the bed, gilded in fine reliefs of plants and flowers. A dresser lay on the opposite side; a gold and onyx crown sat on a head form on the top.
Overall, the room was smaller than one might expect for a goddess, but since it was just one of many in her suite, the queen did not mind. Three doors led into the room: a set of oak double doors right in front of the bed, leading to the rest of the suite, and two others on the flanking walls. The fourth wall was gently curved and covered with tall windows that let light stream into the room.
Peace filled the space, marred only by the occasional subconscious grunt of the monarch as she slept. Dreams were her escape from the stress and pressures of trying to keep the country on-track despite war, and a few pesky rebellions who could not seem to do much more than vandalize property and disturb the peace. However, her reprieve ended when a loud ring from the alarm clock sounded, prompting a groan of pain from the waking mare.
"Shut up!" she groaned as an aura of lavender surrounded the time keeping device, flinging it across the room to shatter into a million pieces. The bottle that once sat beside it became enveloped in the same aura, disappearing behind the veil before returning with one less pill inside of it. After a couple of seconds to compose herself, the curtains flew open, revealing Eos to nopony but her own reflection in the vanity mirror.
She was never a morning pony, and getting up so early to raise the sun taxed her patience. The queen grunted as her bad hoof made contact with the floor, making her shift her weight onto the other three as she crawled out of bed. After a quick stretch of her good limbs to begin the day, the alicorn limped over to one of the doors, leading to a spiral staircase that ascended an adjacent tower. As usual, she decided to forgo the stairs and fly up to the tall balcony instead.
Casting open the doors with a wave of magic, she limped onto the balcony and concentrated on the horizon. The magic flowed through her, pulling her out of her body as one ghostly hoof lowered the moon while the second forced the sun to crest over the horizon. Satisfied with her work, the Queen descended the tower to go through the rest of her (far too early) morning ritual, passing through the opposite door and into her private bathroom.
Fifteen minutes after the sunrise, Queen Eos emerged from her chambers after bathing, grooming, and adorning herself with her royal vestments. Her crown of gold and onyx glistened in the early sun as she slowly walked past windows, the symbol of her divinity reached up to only half the height of her long horn. Her gold and onyx shoes clicked lightly against the gilded marble floors of Canterlot's many winding halls as her matching necklace shifted while she walked. Her limp had improved from earlier and continued to do so with time, making her procession a little less noisy.
Ponies bowed before her as she progressed, with utterances the likes of 'good morning, your majesty' filling her tired and easily agitated ears. At first, she would have shocked them for annoying her at such an early hour, but time on the throne cooled her morning temper, since the castle could not function if half the faculty had to rest in the hospital wing.
As well, in the beginning her advisers would have descended upon her to get her to listen to their foolish whims, but she made sure they learned to not disturb her before breakfast. "Good morning, your highness," both the unicorn guards to the royal dining room chimed in unison. She nodded her head in understanding: about the best response a pony could hope to receive from the monarch so early.
With a quick bow to her nod, they opened the doors with their magic to expose the dining room to the hall beyond. The green-stained marble floor shimmered from the combination of the light coming from the pink granite fireplace and the high polish of the floor itself. The oak panels depicted scenes from history, echoing a time when most creatures could not read or write. Overall, the entire room sat in near darkness, as it offered no windows to the outside.
A long table sat in the middle of the room beneath a golden chandelier, worker ponies installing it fled from the monarch since they did not want to be in her way, especially in the morning. Canterlot was undergoing a lot of changes at her hoof and one of them was lightening up the depressing room. A fine white cloth of silk sat upon the solid mahogany table, countless floral decorations bringing more colour into the room. At the head sat an elaborate high-backed chair with a crest of sun and moon, the bottom and two sides of the table contained one less intricate chair for royal guests.
As soon as the royal rump made contact with the soft, solidified cloud cushions, a unicorn waiter appeared by her side, clipboard at the ready. "What would you like to eat, your majesty?" the green and pink mare asked with a small quiver in her voice. She was new, evidently.
"A bran muffin to start, followed by wheat pancakes, maple syrup and a glass of milk," she ordered. The unicorn vanished in a flash, another appearing instantly on her opposite side with a platter of muffins. Eos took a random baked treat before nibbling on it. "Leave the tray," she ordered to the second unicorn, who bowed and made a hasty retreat.
She continued to snack on the muffins before her, trying to push thoughts of a certain Pegasus out of her mind as she enjoyed the common treat. No matter how hard the queen tried, she could not stifle that irritating conscience she had. However, the voice had become stronger since yesterday, and she began to worry that she was getting soft again.
Closing her eyes, she silenced the annoying voice for the moment as the unicorn appeared with the main course of her breakfast. Her thoughts turned to her plans for the day, as they usually did while she ate her meal in the deathly silence. No pony dared speak to her while she ate, especially breakfast.
"Your highness?" echoed one of the guards with trepidation as he opened the door a crack. "Advisor Stardance wishes to speak with you when you are done." She had to suppress the urge to moan in annoyance as the words drifted across her ears. The combination spelled nothing but trouble to the monarch, as Stardance rarely had good news that early in the morning. He tried to act like her nanny, the only saving grace being that he at least had the stones to tell her when an idea she had was foolish.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WE HAVE LOST SHIMMERING PASS!?" the royal mare screeched at her advisor not more than a couple of seconds after meeting him outside.
"I-I don't know your majesty," the earth pony stallion replied in terror, although he expected the reaction. "It was General Shatterbuck's plan and it got approved by the War Council. You haven't been sitting in on it for the last few months, and I tried to tell you about it, but you just kept dismissing me. A thousand pardons your highness!"
"I'm not mad at YOU Stardance: you are but the messenger. Come. I will be sitting in on the council today." The lavender pony started forward, the stallion of white mane and peppermint green coat following. He braced himself, apprehensive about her reaction to his worries.
"Have you taken your pill today, your highness?" he asked.
"Yes, what of it?" Eos replied in an annoyed tone of voice as they cantered to her office.
"Well... are you sure that you're in the state of mind to sit on the War Council? You know that the painkillers mess around with your head, your majesty," he urged.
"Do you doubt my lucidity? Obviously, the generals cannot be trusted to get the job done on their own anymore. As such, I will take matters into my own hooves. I will attend the council from now on and there are to be NO objections. Do I make myself clear?"
"Crystal, my queen," the peppermint colt gulped.
"Good, now what else is scheduled for the day?"
"Well, at oh-nine-hundred you will be sitting in court. There are seven indebted ponies who need to be placed, and former Prince Blueblood says he wants to discuss cracking down on crime and vigilante actions. There are also three criminal hearings and a pony says she has some information on the whereabouts of one of our top ten most wanted criminals."
"Excellent. A good tip always boosts my morale. I hope it's Applejack: that hayseed has had me gritting my teeth for two years now with her taunting notes. I'd like nothing better than to hang that horse personally," she smiled expectantly, only for the voice in the back of her head to scold her.
"Of course, your highness," he continued. "That should take up most of the morning, leaving lunch. Then, there is War Council from thirteen-hundred to seventeen-hundred, followed by dinner. Sunset is scheduled for eighteen-hundred and twenty-six hours today. At nineteen-hundred hours, you have that appointment with the Royal Dressmaker. After that, there are the usual forms to sign and seal and any other matters you might wish to see to."
"Good," she spoke as the pair reached the doors to her office, "I will be in my office until court. As usual, I am not to be disturbed until five minutes previous, unless there is a dire emergency that requires my immediate attention." The peppermint pony bowed as he left her side, allowing her to enter her office undisturbed, save for the salutes offered by the twin Pegasus guards.
Stepping inside the darkened room, the queen's horn glowed, causing the large purple curtains to pull away from the three massive windows they blocked, allowing sunlight to flood into the room. A large, darkly stained desk of extinct ancient elder wood sat in front of the windows, serving as the focal point. Carved into the legs and sides were depictions of all the different kinds of ponies, showing just how old the desk really was, as common Alicorns sat beside Pegasus, Earth and Unicorn Ponies.
Upon the top of the desk sat a large, brown quill sticking up from a pot of ink. Two piles of papers, complete paperwork and items she had yet to finish sat on the elegant desk, awaiting her signature and seal to be made official. Eos groaned as the pile had grown since the day before by about an inch. She really needed to fit in one of her marathon paper-pushing sessions, and soon, lest she be buried up to her hips in the waste of bureaucracy.
The queen rounded the desk and sat behind it with a sigh, head resting on the ancient wood. She would kill for a cup of warm coffee at that moment, but knew she could not drink it since it would mix badly with her painkillers. Instead of focusing on how tired she was, she decided to fiddle with the fireplace, lighting and extinguishing the fire with her magic. The masonry on the alabaster marble impressed her the first time she ever stepped hoof into the room, those many years ago.
Figures of sun, moon, and other important staples of Equestrian nationality were carved with great skill and smoothness, leaving anypony in awe that the hearth could be over nine hundred years old. Even the queen found herself impressed at the hard work those ponies of yore put into constructing the castle. If only they could see that it still stood after so long, not looking a day older. She made a mental note to commend the maintenance staff.
Formerly, portraits of the previous rulers and regents of the sun hung on all the walls. Their faces had seemed to stare at her in disapproval, so she ordered them removed, and had the entire castle swept for all traces of ANY past monarch. Yet, the nagging conscience persuaded her to simply store them away from prying eyes, instead of destroying them like she had originally planned.
The bright, cheery walls of canary yellow contrasted the deep, royal blue carpet on the floor, coaxing the regal mare into a state of relaxation. Eos found her eyelids growing increasingly heavy, prompting her to rest her head upon the desk. All she needed to do was shut her eyes for a few minutes and then she would be able to climb the pile of papers before her. She closed her eyes, letting the gentle blackness encompass her and whisk her away to the land of dreams again. Just a few minutes to nap was all she asked.
'Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock,' sounded the office doors some time later. "Your majesty?" called out the familiar voice through the darkness. "It's time to head down to the throne room to hold court, my queen." The lavender alicorn moaned as she raised her head from the desk, her nap far longer than planned, but not long enough to recharge her.
"I'm coming," she answered. "I'm just... finishing a couple of papers. Give me a minute." Sitting up in her chair, the alicorn gave her head a liberal shake to rouse herself from her slumber. Holding court usually proved to be boring, but it was a necessary evil if she planned to keep her approval rating up. Naturally, as a goddess the whole thing was naught but a waste of time, but she could not be a queen without having some of her subjects respect her.
True to her word, sixty seconds after speaking, she emerged from her office, the door glowing dull lavender before opening to her magic. Stardance awaited her on the other side of the door, briefcase nestled comfortably between his lips as he fell into line behind the ruler of sun and moon. Thankfully, the two had no new business to attend to as they walked, which soothed the queen's nerves, if only just a little.
The route down to the throne room was ingrained into her very being, able to walk to it from any point in the castle without so much as a thought to what hall she needed to turn down next. If she had a soul, she would say it was ingrained into that as well, but she made do with what she had: that had always been true of her. Still, she did not need to dwell on the matter, for the queen and her entourage swiftly arrived before the single door leading into the back of the throne room.
Taking a deep breath, she stepped beyond the threshold and into the scene of her crushing victory against the two tyrants just little over a decade before. Had it really been so short a time since she seized control of the kingdom and started it on its new course? It did not really feel like it to the mare, but she refrained from celebrating the milestone, since it would anger many of her subjects: not that she actually CARED anyway.
Sitting upon the gold and onyx throne at the stroke of nine o'clock, she nodded to the two ponies that guarded the double doors leading into the massive chamber. Stardance had taken his seat on a humble stool beside the elegant and impressive new throne. Although it echoed the designs of the two old ones, it was far larger and more intricate in detail: something befitting the liberator of Equestria.
Organizing court was an easy affair. The easily-dealt-with cases, like placing the ponies that could not pay their taxes into government work, or passing sentence on criminals, came first in the day. After that came the more difficult cases, like discussing food-distribution policy. Anything that needed further investigation into its claims, like information for an arrest, came last.
Of course, dealing with the former Prince Blueblood was a different affair altogether. Even since she had abolished the noble houses and all their benefits, the royal-pain-in-her-flank had a chip on his shoulder as big as the Everfree Forest. She could tell this 'crime and vigilante' discussion was just another excuse on his part to moan and complain in a desperate bid that MAYBE this would be the time she would restore at least HIS rank. Still, she would hear him out, if only to see if he had any amusing arguments.
"Presenting to the court, Mr Blueblood of Canterlot," the herald announced ahead of the white draft unicorn stallion.
He walked into the throne room, still sporting his usual attire, nose in the air even as he approached the living goddess. She had to admit that this time he was showing some stones, quite a break from the norm, where he would be quivering and grovelling for her to hear him out. Perhaps, just this time, she would actually pay attention instead of imagining the stallion dangling above a vat of boiling oil before simply replying with, 'No. Dismissed.'
"Most honourable QUEEN Eos," the stallion spoke with a shallow bow, his head still high in the air, as if only calling her that by mandate. "I come before you today to discuss the recent crime wave that has been sweeping our nation by storm! Just this week past, my mansion, which has been in the family for over ten generations, was burglarised for the seventh time this year! Taken was my own portrait, no less..."
And so he yammered on. For the better part of an hour, he went over numerous ideas to stem the tide of the recent outbreaks of criminal and vigilante activity in the major cities. She had to admit that several of his ideas impressed her, until she remembered that he was probably just taking credit for the ideas of others. After a total of forty-seven minutes, he finally got to his point: a new record for his speeches.
"... and none of this would have happened had YOU not disbanded the noble houses!" he finished smugly. Several of the guards, and even Stardance, shuddered a little. They knew discussing the abolishment of the nobility was a forbidden topic to bring up in court, yet there it was, now openly before them.
"So, we finally reach the centre of the shrubbery maze," the queen spoke with contempt. "I must admit, I have never seen a pony beat around the bush for quite as long as you, Blueblood. I am impressed." She smirked, the white unicorn still not lowering his nose, as if looking down upon her despite her lofty perch. Eos stood; causing everypony around her to jump back as she slowly descended the steps.
"However," she added, her tone becoming cold and murderous, "This is the only time you have impressed me, in your eight years of WHINING and COMPLAINING. I recall my dressmaker telling me a story about you: about your unchivalrous nature at an ill-fated Grand Galloping Gala. Yet never, in my wildest dreams, had I painted you as the kind of pony to so blatantly insult a GODDESS as you are doing right now. How dare you show your muzzle! How DARE you continue to peddle your futile crusade!? It's over: you lost before the fight could even begin."
The lavender alicorn stood right in front of the draft unicorn, her mane billowing in the solar breeze, towering over the royal pain. Light blue eyes met dark amethyst, the former rolling in contempt before closing, a deep breath filling his lungs. "Auntie Celestia and Auntie Luna were goddesses. YOU are nothing more than a common trollop trying to fill their shoes." A collective gasp was heard in the court.
A gurgled cry of surprise echoed from Blueblood's muzzle in the ensuing silence. In a flash, the wafting mane of the alicorn jumped to life and coiled itself around his body like a twilit snake. He was lifted off of the ground, dangling in front of her like the trapped vermin he was. He looked into the eyes of the enraged mare, which were glazed over in a white glow of magic. A look of absolute horror was upon his face: finally an expression other than smugness.
"I am tired," spoke the queen in controlled rage. "I am tired of your incessant whining. I am tired of your complaining. I am tired of your voice, of your smug attitude and of your face! In these last moments you have of life," she squeezed him a little harder to accentuate her point, "I recommend that you reflect upon it and see how useless, how destitute and how utterly unloved you really are! I severely doubt anypony will miss you."
His eyes bugged out of his sockets, desperate to hold onto that last breath he collected before it could be stolen from him. Everypony else in the room held their breaths as well at the sight of the queen killing a pony right before their eyes. The light of life slowly left the stupid unicorn's eyes as his face turned blue, a wave of fear rippling through the court. Stop this! cried a voice in the back of the queen's mind. Stop it! He's not worth it! Can't you see he's scared!? Don't let him get to you! Be the better pony, or else you'll cement us in the minds of all our subjects as a tyrant!
She growled: the body of the former prince fell to the floor, gasping for breath as her mane receded. "You are lucky I have calmed myself down, Blueblood," she added, turning her back on the heaving stallion as she returned to her throne. "If I ever catch you in my court, in my castle, ever again, consider yourself executed. GUARDS! Drag this sorry heap out of my sight!"
The guards sprang into action, they seized the recovering stallion and dragged him away unceremoniously. It was not until the guards returned that she decided to speak again, sitting upon her throne once more. "I apologize for the outburst, everypony. I simply could not stand his constant complaining anymore. I lost my temper and there is no excuse for it. Please, send in the next petitioner. I have calmed down."
With a nod, the pony at the front doors opened them, calling for the next petitioner before returning and telling the herald the name and town of origin. "Now presenting to the court, Miss Carrot Top of Ponyville," the herald announced. A yellow earth pony mare with an orange mane meekly entered the throne room, no doubt having witnessed Blueblood being dragged out, struggling for breath.
"My queen," she spoke before bowing deeply.
"Your appearance is familiar. Have we met before?" Eos asked, interested in knowing her origin.
Stardance leaned in close, and spoke to her, saying, "My queen, she fell behind on her taxes and was sent to work at Sweet Apple Acres. She owes the crown some five thousand three hundred bits, but has worked off about one thousand and fifty to date."
"Ah, that explains it," she replied before raising her voice to the audience. "What information do you have, Miss Carrot Top? Which of the most wanted is this about?"
"Um... well..." the mare trailed, trying to choose her words carefully. "All of the top four, I would suspect."
The queen arched an eyebrow, curious. "That is quite the claim. What is it that you wish to bring to our attention?"
The orange pony bit her lip in trepidation, scuffing the marble floor with her hoof. "Well, it's not about them SPECIFICALLY," she stressed, "But rather, I saw a pony who is friends with all of them and I know where she lives. I... haven't come to you before today because, well... everypony thought this mare was dead, your highness."
"What is this pony's name?" Eos asked, genuinely afraid of the answer she might give.
"T-Twilight Sparkle, your majesty." It was actually far worse than she had imagined, and that was saying something. The queen could not help but let her jaw drop ever so slightly, hidden behind her unwavering lips, at the news. How could that mare be around without her knowing? She dove into her subconscious, probing for any signs of magic. I'm just as surprised as you are, admitted that voice in the back of her mind.
"Come closer," she commanded, "I must validate your claim." The guards ushered her up the steps before the throne, stopping just short of it. The alicorn's horn glowed, the head of the earth pony mare shimmering in a lavender aura as the memory of the encounter floated to the surface. What she saw turned the alicorn's blood cold, one of her eyes twitching in confusion as the aura vanished. "The claim is verified as true," she spoke, murmurs sounding through the court.
"Stardance?" she asked, looking to him, speaking before he could answer, "Inform the director of the R.E.R.T.S. that Miss Carrot Top has been awarded five hundred bits pardon off of her debt for services to the crown. Furthermore, go to the director of the Royal Investigation Bureau and have him list one Twilight Sparkle as number one on the nation's most wanted list.
"The mare in question is of average height and build, a unicorn with a lavender coat, deep blue mane with a single pink streak and a cutie mark of a purple six-point star surrounded by five smaller white stars. List a five hundred-thousand bit reward for capture. Include a warning as well, citing her as armed with powerful magic and dangerous. Permission is given to hire bounty hunters if he must. I want this mare ALIVE. Make special note of that key fact."
"Yes, your highness!" he spoke, teleporting away the instant he finished compiling the note.
"You are dismissed," she added to Carrot Top, who bowed and backed her way out of the room.
Lunch, as usual, proved to be a boring affair for the ruler of the sun and moon, as she dined in the gentle embrace of silence once more. In an effort to save money for the war effort, she volunteered to take a slip of quality in the food she would normally eat. That day, she had soup and a hay and daisy sandwich as opposed to fine cuisine like fresh garden salad with exotic seasonings, fruits and dressings.
Normally, while her generals sat in council, she would go about doing paperwork, or use the time creatively in order to relieve stress and actually have fun. However, the earlier news told her that she simply could not leave them to their own devices anymore. Shimmering Pass was an important trade route with strategic importance, and recapturing it would be difficult, if not impossible, now that they had lost it.
Walking down the halls with her trusted advisor, she silently mused over ideas to try and retake the landmark before remembering she needed to know how the griffins captured it in the first place. A sigh passed her lips as the strain of the day was beginning to make itself known to the lavender alicorn. Later that night, she planned to have a nice, long soak in her tub and forgo all of the paperwork waiting for her in the office. It could always wait until tomorrow.
Two unicorn guards stood before a set of big, white double doors at the end of a rather long hallway. With a quick bow to the monarch, their horns glowed as the doors parted, opening up into the War Council chamber, otherwise known as the War Room. Inside sat a magical map of Equestria on the opposite wall, taking up almost the entire side. On it, little blue, green and red dots moved around, a white line showing the front.
Queen Eos sat herself on the tallest chair, directly in front of the map, facing the door as she put her front hooves on the table. It was a plain white and rectangular conference table, the smooth and polished surface only broken by raised semi circles in front of each chair for her four generals, her advisor (and his aide), the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence. Naturally they could rarely come directly to the castle, so they almost exclusively appeared as magical representations.
At the stroke of one in the afternoon, the alicorn's horn shimmered as the orbs in front of each place began to glow, the lights of the council chamber diminished to aid the magic. Six pony-shaped silhouettes of light began to appear at their seats, each glowing electric blue. Their details were obscured by the magic, but the monarch could place their colours from her memory.
"Stardance," spoke the queen once the spell finished, "Please, begin roll call."
"Yes, your majesty," he spoke before clearing his throat. "Her Grand Royal Highness, Queen Eos of Equestria, Ruler of the Sun and Moon," he started. "The Right-Honourable Regal Scroll, Prime Minister of Equestria. The Honourable Dropkick, Minister of Defence. General Horseshoe. General Portland. General Shatterbuck. General Shetland." Each one of the ponies called nodded their head, or otherwise made their presence known.
"Grand Royal Advisor, Stardance," he nodded before ticking his name off, "Advisor's Aide and Council Clerk, Jade Buckingham... in absentia." The queen quirked an eyebrow at the rather uncharacteristic absence of the clerk: usually, Stardance and Jade were the only ponies she could count on in the castle to always be in attendance. Still, it was of little consequence, since her advisor was well prepared to take over her duties in the meantime.
"This meeting of the War Council is now in session," Eos started, as the ranking pony in attendance. "Would you be so kind as to go over the minutes of the last meeting, Stardance?"
"Of course, your highness," he started before going into the details from last week. Old business always came first in meetings, like reviewing battle plans brought up in the new business in the last meeting, and then approval or denial of the plans. As much as Eos wanted to tear General Shatterbuck a new one for losing Shimmering Pass, that would be new business, so she had to be patient. "...and that's all there is. Now, is there any discussion of the old business before moving on?" asked the advisor, only to be met by silence.
"I suppose that brings us to new business," the Queen smirked, glancing in Shatterbuck's direction, who squirmed under her piercing gaze. "Does anypony have anything to add, or am I going to have to be the one to bring up some... issues?"
"I have something, your highness," Regal Scroll announced, much to the Pegasus generals' relief. "Earlier today, you downgraded Applejack from number one on the most wanted list and replaced her with somepony named Twilight Sparkle. Now, I am not one to question your majesty's' judgment, but why have you listed that you only want her alive?"
"Mr Prime Minister, you are technically out of order, since this is not normally a military issue," the Queen replied coldly. "However, in this instance it is of vital national security. The mare in question is an incredibly talented and powerful magician. In fact, she is the only pony... only creature in this world that can pose any significant threat to me."
"Why not kill her?" questioned the unicorn known as Portland. "If she can challenge the crown, why keep her alive?"
"If we list her as wanted dead or alive, that will only pique more interest. Rumours about the mare are ridiculous and far-flung, but not in regards to her power. If our enemies learn she had been sighted, they will try to capture her themselves. Then, it is completely likely that they will try to use her as, or part of, a magical weapon of mass destruction and sweep over the nation like a plague. I don't know about any of you, but I want her in this castle so we KNOW she isn't a threat."
"Does she really possess that much power?" asked the earth pony known as Horseshoe.
"Take all the unicorns in our command, combine them all into one single pony and you MIGHT, just might manage to create ONE Twilight Sparkle. Does that answer your question, General?" asked the queen. All ponies present, through magic or otherwise, nodded their heads in understanding. "Now, General Shatterbuck. About Shimmering Pass..."
Like the breakfast and lunch before it, dinner was the usual unceremonious affair: the queen preferred something light before she wrestled with the task of lowering the sun from the sky. Thankfully, she was allowed just over a half hour of time to herself before her next appointment, so Eos took a quick nap after putting the sun to rest and taking her second painkiller for the day. Staring into her vanity, just before leaving to see her dressmaker, she frowned.
Under her billowing mane, the scar of rainbow from that attack on her life remained. It had been quite the task to remove the rainbow juice from her blood, causing a pain she would never wish on anypony, living or dead. Even three years later, some of the substance remained inside, putting her through constant, throbbing pain. Her limp was the only sign she ever let show of her trauma, covering the scar with her mane as much as possible. The juice would have to work its way out the slow way: she had no other choice.
Looking at her (magically repaired) alarm clock, the queen could tell she was starting to run late, and a proper lady would never keep another waiting. Taking a deep breath, she emerged from her royal sanctuary to find no entourage waiting since her advisor had gone home for the night. The lights of the castle met the night sky with stark contrast, turning the crystal-clear windows into translucent mirrors that reflected the regal alicorn as she trotted to her appointment.
Approaching the door leading in, the queen gently knocked on the door, as was proper etiquette. "Come in," spoke a voice from beyond the wood paneling. "Ah, your majesty: right on time, as usual," the alabaster unicorn replied with a bow as the monarch entered the room. Although she put on a cheery disposition, the alicorn could tell that the tailor was not at all pleased to see her. It was like this every time.
"How are the designs for next year's Gala dresses coming along, Miss Rarity?" the queen asked as she shut the door behind her with a causal wave of her magic. The room was a large, circular space, about as close to the size and shape of the Carousel Boutique as she could manage. Purple curtains hung from the ceiling to serve as partitions, a small circular stage in the centre so she could work better at the undersides of a pony.
"They are coming along, your highness. I've had a few ideas, and I've wanted to hear what you think about them," she replied, the barest hint of discontent in her voice.
"I trust your judgment, Miss Rarity. Now, let's get this over with. I have some important relaxa--- paperwork to get to." With that, the queen began to strip her vestments; crown, shoes and necklace, floating them over to forms around the room as she walked up to the stage. The white unicorn nodded and dug into her drawers with her magic, pulling out a long measuring tape to use to get her dimensions just right. She had notes, but she wanted every dress to fit perfectly, which required re-measuring for every single one.
"Um... your highness?" the unicorn asked some minutes later. "I've... been wondering. Well, you see, there are so many ponies out in the city that are cold and homeless, especially since the price of just about everything is going up. So, I was thinking, maybe it would be better to cancel the Gala and spend some of the money on fabric, so I... I mean, the crown, could hand out blankets to them, since winter is coming."
"We've been over this, Rarity," replied the queen. "The Grand Galloping Gala is the only event of the year where I can try and garner some sympathy and improve relations on the international stage. Plus, it is a tradition thousands of years old, and I will not be the one to break it. I like your idea, but I simply cannot afford both with the war. This is the last I ever want to hear about it. Understood?"
"A... a thousand pardons, your majesty," the elegant mare bowed before resuming her work. Although the last Gala was but three months ago, the queen liked to give her dressmaker plenty of time to plan, gather materials and create the next year's dress with as little stress as possible. In some ways, Eos was incredibly charitable, but in others, it drove the white pony mad with her demands and reasoning.
"You know, I heard a very interesting rumour today," the ruler of sun and moon smirked as the mare started measuring around her undercarriage. "Apparently, a Miss Twilight Sparkle was sighted in Ponyville yesterday. It's very strange because I distinctly remember killing a mare fitting that name and description, as I have told you a thousand times before. A most curious phenomenon, don't you think?"
Rarity dropped her jaw (and her measuring tape) in shock. Eos could see her mind racing as she figured out that she had truly betrayed all her friends to work for their enemy. The realization was marked by the building of teardrops around the rims of her eyes.
Holding back her sobs, the white pony quietly picked up her tape and continued to measure Queen Eos, hiding her face so she could not see her tears roll down her cheeks. Eventually, she finished her (rather hasty) intricate measurements. "I'm... I'm all done, your highness. I'll... I'll see you next w-week for a... a design meeting," she sniffed. Eos left the chamber just as soon as she put her garments back on, straining her ears to hear the muffled cries from the tailor.
That was a very, very mean thing you did to Rarity! the voice nagged, causing the monarch to roll her eyes. You know she feels bad about leaving her friends... our old friends.
"Oh, shut up," Eos spoke to herself as she walked down the hall. "She deserved it for that crack about us not giving a damn for the common pony. You know we feel bad about it, but there's nothing we can do right now." The voice in the back of her mind remained silent, as if turning her nose up at the queen in disgust, which only aggravated her just a little more.
Staring out across the vast fields of her country allowed a sense of calm and relaxation to wash over her body, wearied by a long and difficult day. Usually screaming her lungs out at a stupid pony that deserved it, or making the dressmaker cry, would ease her nerves and help her feel better. Yet, today they only made her feel worse in the end. She was beginning to feel as if something was wrong with her.
Those feelings only helped that irritating voice become more powerful in the recesses of her mind, until it felt like it took up the entire back half. What was going on with her? Was she going soft? Nothing had changed in the last few days and she doubted the news that somehow a SECOND her was wandering about the country would do much.
"Stars damn you, Twilight Sparkle," the alicorn cursed as she slumped on the railings of her private tower. Something far above seemed amiss as she cursed the pony, but she decided to ignore it since it was coming from over Trottingham. How she hated that city and its vigilante activities! They could all die in a fire for all she cared. In fact, she had to restrain herself on many occasions from cutting her losses and doing just that.
I hope you know that you just cursed yourself, the voice smugly spoke. Just out of the corner of her eye, reflecting on the window sat an image of the lavender unicorn, glaring at her in disapproval, as usual. Suits you right too, since you really hurt Rarity's feelings. Not to mention all of the other monstrous things you've done since that day.
"Oh, I'm sorry," growled Eos. "Remind me WHO blew up Ponyville? Remind me WHO attacked Celestia and Luna? You're as much at fault for this as I am; I just finished what you started." The phantom Twilight looked to the ground dejectedly, tears building up in her eyes as memories of the day wafted across both of their minds.
The difference is that I regret what I've done; you seem to revel in it and take PRIDE in making me miserable. I don't know how there can be two of us running about, but I hope she kills you, even if it damns me to the Hells as well. We both deserve nothing less for our crimes. We've made our bed, and now we have to lie in it, Eos. For the moment, we can only do the best we can. She looked beyond the towering mare and into the stars above.
"Shut up," dismissed the voice. "If I cared to listen to your counsel, I would have done so a long time ago."
You spared Blueblood today, despite your vehement desire to strangle him, countered the phantom.
"That is different. The foal would be a waste of my divine power to kill. Let nature weed him out like the genetic scum that he is. Natural selection, Twilight: that is why I am in control and you are naught but a powerless apparition existing on the fringes of my illustrious being." Her divine senses overwhelmed the alicorn, as if something in the stars above had gone wrong. Giving them a passing glance, she saw a small meteor hurtling towards the earth, aimed right at Trottingham. "At least one of my problems will resolve itself."
I have more control then you care to admit, Mirror Twilight spoke, her eyes becoming just as cold as the queen's. I can tell you right now that you will go and save that town from the space debris, and do you know why, Eos? The monarch shook her head. You will do it because you know that if you don't, you'll be blamed and hated even more than you are right now. There will be armed rebellion and you will be forced to fight the war on two fronts.
The ruler of Equestria winced in pain at that remark, knowing that her words were true. She did not want to say so, but the smug look on the unicorn's face told her that she already knew she was right. "I really, really hate you," Eos hissed in great loathing, looking to the sky above Trottingham to see the sizable astral body hurtling towards it. The queen took a deep breath and sighed, concentrating with all of her magical power.
In an instant, the night sky surrounded her, as cold and terrible as ice, yet hot and brutal like fire. A loose collection of rock sat under her hooves, her eyes opening to behold the chunk of space rock hurtling towards her country, her planet. The Earth loomed before her, like a giant blue and green eye, unsettling her heart. It was as if the entire population of the world looked upon her expectantly, causing her to delay.
"I should really just let this hunk of rock do as the universe wants and kill those thankless cretins," she muttered into the vacuum of space, her words unheard even by her own ears. The rock was large, big enough to wipe out the city of one million ponies in a heartbeat upon landing. It would be very easy to say that it was beyond even her power, consequences be damned.
Remember what I said? the voice nagged once more. Just because they don't like you doesn't mean you can abandon your duty to them.
"Shut up. I'm here, aren't I?" With that, her mighty horn began to glow as bright as a sun, the lavender alicorn focusing as much magic and power into her front hooves as possible. Gathering all the mana she could spare, the goddess opened her eyes, the Earth almost completely filling her sight. She reared with a soundless whiny, kicking at space as her forward limbs dangled before swiftly becoming rigid. They slammed into the loose chunk of rock, creating a mighty crack on the surface.
Magical energy encircled the chunk of rock as white light, causing further cracks in the ball of rock as it broke up into millions of tiny pieces, much like her alarm clock just that morning. She flew down towards the planet with the rocks ensuring none of the chunks would be big enough to cause harm to anypony. Only when they entered the atmosphere did she vanish in a flash of light, appearing back on her balcony in Canterlot.
"I'm going to bed," she spat before limping down the stairs. In her tired stupor, she failed to notice the smiling unicorn in the vanity mirror as she trudged past. Her mirth was two-fold: having coaxed the monarch into doing something good, and remembering a time when a friend appeared in a mirror just as she did.
The citizens of Trottingham watched the meteor shower in awe that night, little realizing how close they had come to complete destruction.