Like many slightly geeky types, I have been exposed by friends to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. A most unlikely series for young adult geeks to fixate on, perhaps, but has captured the hearts and imaginations of a lot of people, and in the process become one of the internet phenomena of recent times. I’m not ready to name myself a pegasister just yet (that’s the closest female equivalent of a brony, I’m told), but somewhere along the line I started watching for the sake of joining in on friends’ conversations… and now I’m up to date with the latest episodes.
Watching this surprisingly well-written and increasingly self-aware series as an adult, it’s all too easy to view with a cynical eye. The show is intended to be suitable for very young girls, and its themes tend to be exactly what you would expect in such a feel-good kids’ show. Part of the charm of the brony fandom is that they have embraced these messages of friendship, kindness, tolerance and determination so enthusiastically. When I watch the show with friends, however, my mind tends to wander down more sarcastic paths, and this fan fiction (my first in many years) is the result of such thoughts.
For those in the know, this is not Cupcakes (link deliberately excluded for the squeamish). I intend for this story to have a happy ending and a lot of the same overall messages that My Little Pony actually has – I’m just going there through some darker ideas. I have done everything I can to make this (including future chapters) consistent with the show and its canon; that’s part of the challenge. It should be believable, for fans.
Here, then, I present the first chapter of ‘The Eternal Sun’, hopefully with more to follow. Comments are welcome. I’d like to dedicate the story to the two friends who got me into this mess… you know who you are 😛
EDIT: Here’s a Google Docs link where I will put up all chapters in one place.
Chapter One: The Power of Friendship
“…and that’s why it’s important to have friends who really understand you, and love you for who you are.”
Princess Celestia snorted to herself, tossing aside her student’s latest letter, which crumbled to dust before it touched the ground. They seemed to get more insipid and idiotic every time, and yet they served their purpose well enough. Bit by bit, Celestia had gleaned useful information from Twilight Sparkle’s experiences with her friends, and it was paying off.
Twilight was an excellent student, of course – that much was true. She wouldn’t have made such a good pawn otherwise, but her natural understanding of magic combined with her naivety and blind admiration for her princess made her the perfect candidate. Celestia still remembered clearly how the young unicorn had blundered into her life just as she was wracking her ancient brain for a solution to her problem. Now the day was fast approaching when she would never have to read a friendship report again, and it couldn’t come soon enough for her.
The princess flung open the doors of her study, magic coming as naturally to her as breathing, and strode down a sunlit palace corridor. On either side of her tall glass windows depicted scenes from Equestria’s history, most of them including her or ponies chosen by her, sent by her to their heroic destinies. Celestia was Equestria, for all intents and purposes; without her the pony kingdom would be a shadow of its current glory. They owed her everything. Their lives were already in her hands, should she choose to exercise her power.
At the end of this particular corridor was a heavy door, locked and sealed with a number of enchantments that would baffle almost anyone who tried to decipher them – except perhaps her errant sister, who wouldn’t dare try. Celestia had made sure of that. Her horn glowed as she unlocked the door and disabled its tricks and traps, until the old wood swung open to reveal a golden box sitting in a pool of light.
The Elements of Harmony. The familiar aura of power radiated from the gems inside the box, a potent magic that she coveted but which somehow always hung just out of her grasp. Not for long though. Celestia was certain she almost had the key.
“Soon you will be mine to command,” she whispered, eyes glinting like the jewels themselves in the shadowed chamber.
* * * * * * *
Twilight Sparkle was sitting with her five closest friends on a lawn near Fluttershy’s cottage when Spike came running up to them so fast he almost bowled over the picnic basket.
“Woah there!” Applejack cried, nipping him at the last minute and placing him safely to the side of their blanket. “What’s your rush, partner?”
“Yes Spike,” Twilight said with some concern. “Is something the matter? You look like you ran all the way here.”
“I did!” Spike panted, chest heaving as he got his breath back. “We just got a letter from Princess Celestia! I knew you’d want to know right away.”
He held out a sealed scroll, which Twilight took from him with her magic and began to break open.
“From the princess?” she mused curiously, and with some excitement.
“Oh! Oh! What’s it say?” Pinkie Pie enthused, leaping to read over Twilight’s shoulder.
“To my dear student Twilight Sparkle,” she read aloud for the group’s benefit, “I would like to extend an invitation to you and your friends – my loyal subjects Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Applejack – to visit my palace in Canterlot for a special council.” Twilight’s eyes widened in wonder. “There is a matter of some urgency which I believe you may be able to help me with. Please come at your earliest convenience. Your Princess, Celestia!”
“Oh, it has been far too long since I visited Canterlot,” Rarity gushed. “How wonderful to receive an invitation from the princess herself!”
“I wonder what she could want to talk to us about,” put in Fluttershy. “I mean, we’re not that special or important.”
“Speak for yourself!” Rainbow Dash pushed herself into the air and struck a pose. “I’ve done plenty of heroic deeds to get the princess’s attention. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Rainbow Dash, queen of the skies, greatest flyer in all Equestria?”
Applejack and Twilight laughed, and Rainbow quickly joined in. Twilight didn’t let herself be distracted for long, though.
“Whatever it is, the princess seemed to want us to come as soon as possible. Is it a problem for anyone if we make a trip to Canterlot tomorrow?”
A chorus of “no”s answered her, and with a smile Twilight went into organising mode. It would be good to see Celestia in person again. She had a few new spells she’d like to show her mentor, so that the princess knew she wasn’t squandering her time in Ponyville.
* * * * * * *
The day after the letter was sent, Princess Celestia spent much of her morning pacing her rooms. Palace servants shied away when she stalked the corridors, sensing her odd mood. Rather than angry, though, she was impatient and eager. Twilight Sparkle was bound to be on her way, herding her friends ahead of her if necessary. How long would it take them? She was so close to what she desired, and now she chafed at what might be the last few hours.
In the early afternoon a pony knocked a hoof gently on the door of her study.
“What is it?” she snapped.
“Uh, princess, the guests you invited have arrived,” he called hesitantly from outside.
Celestia’ mane swirled around her as she turned and flung open the door with magic, finding a pale male unicorn with a blue mane cringing in the hall.
“Out of my way,” she commanded, not waiting for him to move before she stepped out to head to the palace’s entrance hall as quickly as she could without compromising her dignity. The meek unicorn flattened himself against the wall to make way, and let out a sigh of relief when she passed without further comment.
As she approached the entrance hall, the princess slowed her pace and composed herself with a bright smile on her face. At her nod, a guard opened the door and held it for her. Celestia swept through and gracefully made her way across an ornate balcony to the central stair.
“Twilight Sparkle! And our dear friends from Ponyville. I’m so glad you could come – and so quickly! We are all very lucky to have ponies like you in the service of Equestria.”
Twilight blushed, as did Fluttershy; Rarity held her head proudly, Rainbow Dash stood at attention, and Applejack ducked her head modestly. Only Pinkie Pie’s cheerful expression remained unchanged, and even that was as Celestia expected. These six were so predictable.
“We were happy to come, princess,” Twilight insisted humbly.
“Of course, we wouldn’t dream of missing a chance to visit this beautiful city,” said Rarity.
“Are you having another big party?” Pinkie Pie perked up hopefully.
“Not this time, I’m afraid,” Celestia said solemnly. “I need your help with a very serious matter involving the Elements of Harmony. Please, come with me; we should talk in private.”
“Oh my,” Fluttershy murmured nervously as the group followed their princess deeper into the palace.
The window-lined corridor outside the chamber which held the Elements was bright in Canterlot’s warm afternoon sun, the coloured glass throwing faint splinters and patterns of light across the carpet. Celestia drew up in front of the door and silently released all of her enchantments before opening the shadowy room and removing the locked box from its pedestal. It floated before her as she turned to face the Ponyville group, who assembled in an arc and watched reverently.
Princess Celestia opened the box, revealing the glittering jewels inside.
“The Elements of Harmony,” she announced, her voice quiet but laden with drama. “You six brave ponies unlocked their power once, and ever since they have been bound to you. The power of your friendship allowed you to use them to defeat those that threatened the peace of our fair kingdom.”
Rainbow Dash had flown up to get a view over the heads of the others, while Rarity and Pinkie Pie both craned forward. Celestia kept her own expression serious.
“Now I need to call upon that power once again. I will ask you all: are you willing to give of yourselves to help me? Think carefully now.”
There was a moment’s silence as everyone took this in. Princess Celestia turned her gaze on Twilight, who nodded resolutely and stepped forward.
“I’ll lend you any magic that I can,” she promised, eyes narrowed with determination.
“Good.” Celestia turned to the next pony in line. “Applejack?”
“I don’t know what I’ve got to offer,” the earth pony replied, “but I’ll sure do what I can.”
“Of course, princess. Anything I can do to help.” She bowed.
“Thank you. Rainbow Dash?”
“Count me in!”
The soft-spoken pegasus ducked her head respectfully. “If you think I can help, I’ll do my best.”
“Sure!” The last pony jumped forward enthusiastically, then paused. “But what are we doing exactly?”
Celestia smiled at them all, letting them feel warmth and gratitude from her.
“Thank you, everypony. Now, take your Elements.”
Twilight’s horn glowed as she distributed the jewels, which fit around their bearers’ necks comfortably while her own Element of Magic crowned her head.
Celestia almost felt like rubbing her hooves in anticipation. Finally, a chance to test her theories! Nonetheless she kept her excitement from showing on her face. These were delicate moments, and she should focus her attention on the matter at hand.
“I want you all to think as hard as you can about the Elements of Harmony. Think about what they mean, and what they stand for. Honesty – Kindness – Laughter – Generosity – Loyalty – Magic; you have used all of these to help and encourage each other these last years. Hold on to those feelings, my little ponies. Believe in them!”
All six Element bearers closed their eyes, and concentrated. Pinkie Pie began giggling to herself. Rainbow Dash drew herself up proudly in the air. Fluttershy’s mouth curled upward in a faint smile. As they immersed themselves in memories, the Elements began to glow, and Celestia could feel the pulse of their power quicken and grow.
Slender horn glowing as her eyes glazed over, the princess began her spell.
* * * * * * *
Twilight scrunched closed her eyes and concentrated with all her might. The others would do their part – she knew her friends would always come through for her, and for Princess Celestia too – but she had a far greater understanding of magical theory than any of them. Although she wasn’t sure what Celestia was doing, she could sense a spell in the making, and she had to do her best to contribute.
Odd energies were swirling and building around them all, perceptible to Twilight as magic although the others would probably just feel exuberant and strong. Something was coming to a peak, and Twilight opened her eyes just as a flash of light cut through the room. The jewels of the six Elements of Harmony flared brightly, colours mingling into an overpowering white light, and they detached from the ponies and began to float. As they moved to levitate above their bearers’ head, a sudden pain shot through Twilight, coming out of nowhere to double her over and shock her out of her concentration. Around her, her friends cried out and flinched as well, and she knew immediately they must be feeling the same thing. There was the pain, but also a deep sense of loss and despair – it felt to Twilight as if something invisible was being ripped out of her, something she had never known she had but which she couldn’t live without. Desperately she looked to her Element, hanging suspended in the air between Celestia and the other ponies – and then all the jewels flew suddenly together, as if drawn by a magnetic force. Instead of smashing into each other they merged, forming a ball of white light that slowly faded to reveal a single clear crystal. The new jewel balanced in the air near the tip of Celestia’s horn.
Gasping and struggling to stay on her feet, Twilight looked to Princess Celestia for help, but the princess was transfixed by the shining crystal which hummed with power in front of her. It glittered with an internal light which was reflected in Celestia’s greedy eyes.
“What’s going on, princess?” Twilight cried desperately, pleading to the mentor who had always looked out for her before. She was willing to suffer if necessary, but Celestia seemed to have forgotten they were there at all. Was she under some kind of enchantment?
With the grasp of her magic the alicorn princess took hold of the new stone, which gave off a hot and pulsing aura as if it were a living thing. She drew it down before her eyes and stared into its depths, where rainbows and reflections gleamed off a million facets, and began to laugh in a peel of joy and triumph.
“Princess!” Twilight screamed, pain shooting through her body again. Beside her Applejack groaned weakly; Rarity and Fluttershy were weeping, Rainbow Dash growled futilely as her wings fluttered and failed her. They were all too weak. Whatever was happening, it was draining them.
Wildly, Celestia laughed. “At last! So much power, lying just beyond my reach, and now it’s mine! I can be the true queen I was always meant to be.” She pulled her gaze away from the crystal to stare down at the hunched-over Twilight, and her lips spread in a cruel grin.
“The power of friendship. You hardly knew what you had at your fingertips, little pony; it’s a real force, oh yes, an energy source I could never tap into. But you!” Her eyes swept over the assembly of ponies, crippled and weak. “You were the perfect tool, Twilight Sparkle. Clever enough to find what I needed, but stupid enough not to get in the way. Now we’re done. Guards!”
The unicorn guards who came to her summons balked at the sight that greeted them – strange magical pulses and six ponies forced to their knees before their ruler, three now in tears as Pinkie Pie gave up her struggle. Celestia ignored their hesitancy and gave her orders.
“Take these six to the dungeons and leave them there. I’ll deal with them when I have the time. For now, I have some changes to make.” She laughed again. “Congratulations, gentleponies – you are witnessing the dawn of a new era.”
In obvious discomfort the guards reluctantly obeyed, Rainbow Dash still protesting futilely as they immobilised her and dragged her away. Twilight let them take her without struggling. She wouldn’t look away from Princess Celestia, silently beseeching her for an explanation as she tried to meet her gaze. The princess had eyes only for her sparkling new crystal, however, and when she turned carelessly away from the former bearers of the Elements of Harmony Twilight felt tears well in her eyes. Despairing, she gave up, letting her eyes close and waiting for unconsciousness to wash away the pain.