Equestria from Dust

Celestia awakens to see an empty world, white sandstone stretching the horizon. She wanders the world as she builds it from her imagination, filling it with life, but as time passes, the world that she created begins to seem like little more than a lucid dream, conjured from the dust.

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7. Part 7: Royalty

Royalty

 

 

 

 

 

Equestria from Dust, by soundslikeponies

 

 

 

 

“This is unheard of! You would have me surrender my lands, become a lesser noble, and live in your city? When I agreed to a meeting, it was to discuss terms and borders, not assimilation!”

Celestia listens patiently to the red-faced noble spit and shout and slam his hooves down upon the table.

“You would still be a representative of the people from this area from within Everfree Castle.” Celestia repeats for the dozenth time.

“Strip me of my title! Strip me of my lands! Strip me of my dignity!” the unicorn noble continues, ranting in his own little world. He turns and gives Celestia a glare. “I ought to go to war with you westerners!”

Celestia raises one faintly amused eyebrow, and regards the King of the East as one would a foal. “Let us temporarily forget my armies out number yours ten to one,” she says, seeing him gulp. “And let us forget that all the pegasi have already sided with me, meaning you have no forces in the air. We can forget these things because no matter the size or strength of my army, your forces won’t raise a spear nor sword to me.”

“Th-th-they will raise a sword at what I tell them to! They will fight off any conqueror from another land!” the noble shouts, banging his hoof on the table and spilling his goblet of wine.

“They won’t raise swords because you tell them to. They will lay down their swords and come to me, because I am a ruler who has never once told a pony to raise their sword.” Celestia suddenly stands and spreads her wings, causing the guards by the king’s side to shakily draw their swords. The gold plate around her neck, embedded with a diamond shaped amethyst, gleams by the torches light in the hall.

“And allow me to clarify one thing to you,” Celestia says, her full height imposing to those sitting at the opposite end of the negotiations. “I did not conquer Equestria, I united it.”

The statement hangs in the air. The King looks at Celestia’s royal guards standing behind and to either side of her, their faces stoney and unflinching.

“If you have any love for your subjects,” Celestia says, turning to walk out. “You will make this as easy on them as you can.”

“Wait!” the king shouts, holding out his hoof after her. Celestia stops, looking slowly over her shoulder at him. The king lets out a sigh, his shoulders sagging. “Tell me... Tell me more about the location you’d have me and my family stay in.”

 

 

Celestia sighs, kicking her gold hoofwear off and walking over to her bed. Finally back in Everfree, she looks forward to a good night’s sleep in a familiar bed when her bedroom door opens.

“Sister!” Luna says, stepping into her bedroom with a wide smirk. “I heard that you convinced the king to hand over his lands!”

“I don’t wish to talk about it, Luna,” Celestia says, staring at her bedsheets longingly and letting out a sigh. “I don’t like the idea of taking these ponies’ lands, I never have.”

Luna rolls her eyes at Celestia. “Yes, whatever will the nobles do, living in a castle in a large city, with few responsibilities and copious amounts of wealth?” she asks, sarcasm scathing. “I think they will manage, Celestia.”

“It still makes me an intimidator and a thief,” Celestia grumbles, letting out a sigh and walking over to Luna. She can’t rest quite yet. “How have things been at home?”

Luna sighs and turns away from the window. “The same as usual. You know I’ve never been fond of court and you know I hate it when you leave and I have to manage it by myself.”

“Nothing... drastic this time, though?” Celestia asks carefully.

Luna flushes red with embarrassment. “That was only one time.”

Celestia smiles kindly and nods. “Good.”

Luna walks over to Celestia’s four post bed, tracing the solar shaped etchings down one of the posts with her hoof. “We did it, didn’t we? No one thought we’d be able to unite Equestria without a single war, but we managed to in only a few centuries.” Luna stops tracing the wooden etchings and settles for simply staring at them. “We finished it. What is it that we do now?”

“I have been concentrated on uniting Equestria for the past two hundred years, I have not given it much thought.” Celestia rests her chin on the windowsill and looks out. “I suppose we give guidance to anypony who needs it. That is what we set out for all along, is it not?”

“If that means spending each day sifting through fencing placement disputes in court, I refuse to take part in it. It’s petty and beneath us.”

“The court serves to spread harmony by settling disputes. I do not think that is petty nor beneath us.”

Luna groans. “But it does not serve to teach them.”

“Would you have us educate foals in a classroom?”

Luna pauses and looks over to where Celestia sits by the window. She walks over to her. “No, not a classroom.”

Celestia twists her neck away from the window to look at Luna, raising an eyebrow at her.

“But one foal. An apprentice whom you teach about the world, about magic, about history, and about themselves.”

Celestia raises her hoof to her chin and looks down at the carpet, contemplating. “We would each take on a foal as an apprentice and raise them?”

“They could move into the castle. We would be their warden, their mother, their guardian, their mentor,” Luna says, listing ideas off the top of her head. “We would each teach a student, in addition to overseeing the kingdom and court.”

“We would have to delegate some of our duties and appoint new positions for them...” Celestia muses.

“We could limit the hours that we hold court to reduce the number of meaningless squabbles we get.”

Celestia stands and turns to face Luna, a smile forming on her lips. “I am very fond of this idea of yours.”

Luna nods with a smirk playing on her lips. “I am very fond of spending less hours holding court.”

Celestia stifles a laugh, unable to not agree with Luna’s sentiments slightly. Suddenly, a wave of dizziness strikes her in her stomach and she has to brace herself against the wall to keep from falling over.

Luna eyes her with concern. “Are you alright, Sister?”

Celetia waves her off. “Yes, yes, I’m fine.” She stands and begins to shakily make her way over to her bed. “I’m just tired from my journey. Could we talk about this tomorrow?”

Luna looks down at Celestia’s hooves, realizing her golden shoes were off them. “Oh, I’m sorry. I barged in here and didn’t realize you were going to—” Luna breaks off, backing towards the door. “I will just leave. We’ll speak at length about this tomorrow.”

Celestia collapses onto her bed, its soft mattress is worth as much as a peasant's house and it eases the stress out of her muscles almost instantly.

Luna opens the door to the bedroom to leave, but stops in its doorway. “Goodnight, Sister.”

“Goodnight, Luna,” Celestia replies, hearing the door gently click shut as she closes her eyes.

 

 

 

The softness of the bed disappears and something hard, something scratchy replaces it.

Screams reach her ears.

Her eyes snap open. She lies on a brick road—one from Everfree City—and all around her buildings burn in towering infernos and ponies run past in panic.

A mare covered in burns walks up to Celestia. And in her eyes is a look Celestia almost does not recognize, for she is so rarely given it. Betrayal. “Princess... why did you do it?” she asks in a raspy voice.

“Do what?” Celestia shouts, a prickle of fear at the back of her neck. “Why did I do what?”

The pony looks up at the sky. “The sun...”

Celestia stands up and cranes her neck back to look. The smoke rising from the city obscures the sky, but Celestia can faintly make out the sun, hanging in the center of an orange sky, and looking far larger than usual. Her eyes widen.

“I didn’t do this! I didn’t move the—”

The mare who walked up to her collapses and her body disintegrates into a pile of ashen dust as it hits the ground. Celestia takes a step back, staring at the dust pooled around her hooves. Snow begins to fall, but then Celestia realizes it’s not snow, but ash from the fires. She backpedals even more, shaking her head and clenching her eyes shut.

“This isn’t real, this isn’t happening,” she says aloud, trying to convince herself.

As if giving hesitance at her words, time freezes.

Celestia peeks open her eyes. Ash falling from the fire hangs still in the air, as does the smoke and the fires. Then, everything begins to collapse. The flames, the houses, the ponies that are frozen mid-run, all of them begin to slowly dissolve into black dust that pools onto the road.

Then the dust picks itself up off the ground. It forms a swirling black sphere that’s the size of a castle, the black dust in it churning in a vortex.

It explodes outwards at Celestia, forcing her eyes shut and forcing her to put a wing up to shield her face.

When it fades, Celestia slowly opens her eyes. A flat bed of white sandstone as far as she can see and a sky the color of dull steel greet her eyes. Her mind works slowly to make sense of where she is as she looks at the sandstone beneath her hooves.

A part of her mane falls in front of her face and it is as white as the day she first woke. She glances back at her flank to see no cutie mark, and a tail as white as the sandstone beneath her hooves.

She realizes she’s back.

She sits down and for a while she does not move. The only sound in the desolate plain is her own breathing, because nothing ever moves and nothing ever changes in this place, because it is faceless, dark, and dead. She sits, tense and alone, waiting for the apparition that has haunted her dreams of past to appear before her.

But it does not.

With little else to do, she begins walking across the barren, but just as she starts, she pauses.

“Come out!” she shouts, spinning around in a circle. “I know you are here in this dream!”

To her great surprise, black dust gathers from out of the cracks in the sandstone and the apparition appears before her. She blinks, not entirely believing it worked.

“What are you?” she asks, eyeing the spirit with an untrusting sidelong glance. It doesn’t reply. “Why are you doing this?”

The black apparition tilts its head as though it’s not sure what she means.

“You are the only thing I know of that existed before the rest of life. I didn’t create you, so where did you come from?”

The apparition looks down for a moment as if thinking. Then it looks up at Celestia, still as a statue.

“What are you?” Celestia tries asking again.

The apparition turns and begins walking away, its hoofsteps making a monotonous sound against the hard sandstone.

“Wait! Don’t go!” Celestia shouts, beginning to follow it, but she falters as the apparition begins slowly dissolving into black dust as though there is a breeze in the motionless plane. As it disintegrates in the wind, it gives one last look at Celestia over its shoulder before being carried away.

Celestia raises her hoof after where the ghost disappeared the looks down and lets out a shudder once she realizes she’s been left alone again. “Please don’t go,” she whispers. Tears pool at the edge of her eyes as she squeezes her eyelids shut. A tear trickles down the side of her face, falling and hitting water with a splash.

The sound of her tear hitting water makes Celestia suddenly aware of the wet feeling around her hooves, and she opens her eyes to see stars, millions of them, and the moon. Their image reflects off of the inch high water covering the ground.

Celestia steps forward slowly. The sky is indistinguishable from the horizon, and the sky and ground blur together, the world disappearing in the process.

Celestia leans back and looks up at the stars. “Oh, Luna...”

As though hearing the name of who it was impersonating summons it, the apparition materializes behind her.

Celestia glances back at the black copy of Luna. “It’s beautiful,” she says before returning to look at the stars. The apparition tilts its head back and looks up with her. “I often forget how beautiful many of Luna’s creations are. She has such an eye for it.”

A while passes where neither of them do anything, both simply looking up at the tapestry of stars. Different patches of different shades of midnight blue stretch across the sky behind clusters of stars, creating a rainbow across the sky of just one dark color.

The two of them stand in mutual silence right until Celestia wakes up, standing side by side and looking up at the night.

 

 

 

Celestia opens her eyes to a rapping on her bedroom door. She tosses in bed, stretching her hooves as a smile spreads across her face.

“Come in,” she calls.

The door opens and Luna hesitantly pokes her head in. “Did I wake you?”

“Yes, but it’s alright,” Celestia replies, sitting up in bed. “Come on in.”

Her bedroom door swings open and Luna walks in, her silver shoes clacking against the stone floor outside Celestia’s room, but falling silent once they reach the bedroom carpet.

As Luna nears, she tilts her head and smiles at Celestia. “You look well rested.”

“I had a nice dream,” Celestia says, her smile widening slightly. “Come, sit on the bed. I’m not quite willing to leave its warm embrace.”

Luna walks over to the side of the bed as Celestia makes room for her, and lies down beside her sister. “I wished to continue our discussion from last night as early as possible so that I may start looking for an apprentice.”

A small frown finds its way to Celestia’s lips. “Do not rush your choice, Sister. You’re going to be teaching whomever you take under your wing for years. It’s not a decision to make hastily.”

“I know, but I wanted to confirm with you before telling the nobles of our plans to take on apprentices. I was actually hoping one of them would have a son—or a daughter—whom I may take on.”

Celestia sighs, glancing over her shoulder to look out the window. “I think it would be a bad idea to inform them this early, or to take one of their sons.”

“I don’t think any of them would be opposed if we offered to teach their son.”

“No, they wouldn’t,” Celestia agrees. “They would be thrilled, but I do not want who we choose to be influenced by politics, and I do not wish to create contest between the nobles over whose heirs are chosen to become out apprentices. And besides, think of the parents of the foal we apprentice once they’ve grown up. Their parents would seek to use their child’s connection to us as leverage and I don’t like the idea of what that would do to the child.”

Luna lets out a heavy sigh, but nods in agreement. “You are right. But you know they will be upset when we don’t consider one of their heirs for the position, right?”

“It’s not their decision who we decide to personally teach.”

Luna chuckles, a smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth. “That won’t stop them from protesting rather loudly about it.”

Celestia snorts. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re entertained by all this.”

Luna shrugs, her grin only broadening. “So if not in the camp of the nobles, where do you propose we find our new apprentices?” she asks, a hint of humor lacing through her voice.

“Schools of magic, smaller houses of nobility, reported cases of individuals with copious amounts of raw magical talent. We keep our ears peeled and to the streets, and wait for promising candidates to show up. And when we hear of somepony promising, we visit them in person to see if we wish to take them on as an apprentice.”

“That sounds agreeable,” Luna says. She glances towards the door and flicks her ears.

Celestia releases a weary sigh and rests her head upon her pillow. “We’ll inform the nobles of our plans tomorrow. I woke up this morning in a good mood and I’d rather not ruin it.”

 

 

“Again.”

Luna watches her apprentice, Rose Flame, shut her eyes in concentration, an unlit candle on the floor in front of her. Rose Flame grit her teeth, struggling to call upon her magic to light the candle.

She opens her eyes with a gasp, panting and staring at her failure to light the candle wick. “I-I’m sorry, Princess Luna. I don’t think I can light it again.”

“That is precisely why I am having you try. Now try again,” Luna says staring down at Rose Flame with an imposing aura about her.

“Surely she’s done enough for today, Luna,” Celestia says from the side of the room, where she is watching from a leisure couch. “She’s still a filly and she’s only been using magic for two years. You work her too hard.”

Luna turns and shoots Celestia a glare, but glances back at Rose Flame, who is still lying on the floor and panting. Her gaze softens and she sighs. “Rose Flame? Would you like to join me in my study for a bit of reading?”

Rose Flame looks up at Luna, her face instantly brightening. “Yes! Of course, Princess!”

Luna turns to leave, looking back at Rose Flame and motioning for her to follow. “Come along.”

Rose Flame rushes to Luna’s side as the Princess walks towards the door, falling in step beside her as Luna opens the door.

Celestia watches the door swing shut with a pang of sadness, listening to their hoofsteps disappear down the hall.

Standing, Celestia makes her way out of the room and down the hallway, her gold shoes clacking loudly against the stone floors. She gazes out the windows to her right, their stained glass patterns casting a myriad of colors on her coat.

She turns left and opens the door to the Captain of the Guard’s office.

The Captain snaps to attention at her entrance, standing and raising a hoof to his forehead in salute. “Princess.”

“At ease, Grimward.”

The Captain lowers his hoof, retaking his seat and glancing between paperwork scattered messily across his desk and the Princess. “I didn’t expect you’d be visiting,” he says, a hint of embarrassment leaking into his voice as he looks around his office.

“I’m sure it’s all very organized.” Celestia chuckles, looking around the room. “I was wondering if you’ve had any interesting incidents concerning young unicorns lately.”

“Uh, nothing this week, no,” the Captain replies, searching through the papers on his desk. A frown tugs at Celestia’s lips. The Captain looks up at her, spotting it. “But, well...”

Celestia raises an eyebrow, her curiosity piqued.

“It’s not really what you’re looking for. It’s just that a filly destroyed her classroom with a giant gust of wind.”

“I don’t understand,” Celestia says, her voice even. “That sounds like exactly what I’m looking for.”

The Captain slid a few of the papers on his desk around before pulling out one in particular and looking at it. “Ah, but it was allegedly a pegasus who did it, not a unicorn.”

Celestia raises two eyebrows, her curiosity more piqued than ever. “A pegasus?”

“There was some speculation about it actually being caused by a unicorn in her class, but none of them showed any signs of having used magic that powerful in the past day or more.”

Celestia brings a hoof to her chin thoughtfully and stares at the floor. “Where does this pegasus live?”

“She’s the daughter of the weather captain. He lives alone with her in the eastern district of the city.”

“No mother?”

The captain shakes his head. “Dead.”

Celestia glances out a window, looking at the sun. “She’s in school today, correct?”

The Captain of the Guard looks outside. “Uh, yes, she should be—illness withstanding.”

Celestia smiles at the captain. “I think I’ll drop by her school for a surprise visit.”

The Captain of the Guard’s eyes widened in surprise and he stands. “Shall I arrange a detail?”

“No, it’s quite alright,” Celestia says, motioning for him to sit back down. “I’ll most likely miss the first hour of court. Please apologize profusely to my sister for me.”

“Heh, you always give me the hardest jobs,” the Captain says, grinning up at her. “I’ll let her know.”

“Thank you,” Celestia says. She turns and leaves his office, smiling and walking down the hall at a much less subdued pace than she usually did. She smiles, both looking forward to getting out of court and meeting this filly whose wings produced a gale force wind.

Celestia takes a left turn, walking down the hall and out onto a balcony overlooking Everfree City. Stone houses clustered around a wide brick road that runs a circular path through the city, with a straight road stretching from the city’s main gate to the castle cutting through it. The buildings are almost all whitewashed and give the city a regal, spotless appearance.

Barely a brick of the roads could be seen, the streets packed with the commotion that comes with being a capital city.

Celestia unfurls her wings and takes off from the balcony, gliding over the city. Her massive wings keep her afloat with powerful strokes, and Celestia tries to recall when the last time she’d had a more than brief flight.

Tipping her wings, she turns left towards the eastern district. The high imposing structure of the city’s school sits nestled within the district’s heart among some of the other more wealthy buildings in the city, though that’s not to say it’s for the wealthy. But Celestia has since opened its doors to ponies of any income.

Celestia steps inside the building and looks around. Its hallways are empty, classes most likely in session. She notices a plaque that readsHEADMASTER’S OFFICE above a door down the hall from where she is. Straightening her gold and amethyst necklace, she walks inside the office.

She opens the door and steps inside, spotting an older mare wearing glasses sitting behind the desk. The mare pays little attention to Celestia and continues to sort through the paperwork on her desk.

Celestia gently clears her throat.

The Headmaster looks up, her eyes widening as she spots the Princess. “P-Princess Celestia! I-I-I didn’t realize we were expecting you!” the Headmaster says, leaving her work and walking around the desk to formally bow to the Princess.

Celestia laughs and offers the Headmaster a gentle smile. “It’s quite alright. You weren’t expecting me, to be completely fair.”

She looks around her office in a panic, spotting a slightly crooked row of books over on her bookshelf and walking over to straighten it. “I am so sorry about not noticing you come in. I-I sometimes get a bit absorbed in my work.”

“I can tell you’re quite good at your job.”

The Headmaster blushes gracefully. “Oh! Why, thank you. I try to do the best that I can around here. It isn’t always easy, though.”

“So I understand,” Celestia says with a smile. “You recently had one incident in particular with a bit of windy weather scattering a classroom, did you not?”

The Headmaster’s eyes dawn in recognition. She clears her throat, quickly averting her eyes to her desk and walking over to it to sort papers. “We’re still trying to piece together what happened. Our current thoughts are that it was one of the unicorns in the class playing a prank on poor Storm Gale, overloading a spell that was meant to shoot a small gust of wind out from where she was sitting. We asked each of the students in that class if they saw somepony casting a spell before it happened.”

“And?”

“None of the ponies in the class felt, heard, or saw anyone casting any magic. And Storm Gale keeps insisting that no one cast a spell on her, and that the damage to the classroom was her fault.”

Celestia muses over the information, glancing out the office door’s window at the empty hall. “You don’t believe her?”

“She has a history of getting into trouble during class and causing mischief. Her word isn’t very tangible.”

“Do you know what class she’s in now?” Celestia asks.

“I believe she’s in Ms. Daffodil’s English class. It’s in the west wing, up on the third floor.”

Celestia nods, looking at a drawn map of the school by the office’s door, the three different floors of it mapped out separately from one another. “I will be pulling her out of class to speak with her. Please make sure you excuse her absence.”

The Headmaster nods and clasps her hooves together on her desk. “Please, if there’s anything else you need, Princess, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Celestia heads to leave, pausing in the doorway and looking back at her. “Thank you,” she says, stepping out of the office and letting the door fall shut.

She walks left down the hall, spotting a set of stairs near a secondary door to the school and begins to climb them. She offers a pair of colts walking down the stairs a smile as she passes them, causing them to freeze while she walks past them, their mouths hanging open.

The third floor is less empty than the first, and a trio of fillies stop and stare at her, whispering to one another as she walks past. Celestia stops at a door on her right, its sign read MS. DAFFODIL.

She pushes open the door and steps inside. All the students sitting in their seats look at her.

The teacher finishes writing something on the blackboard. “Now, class, can anyone tell me what—” She cuts off, seeing all her students looking off to her side, and looks to see what they are staring at. She blinks, not entirely believing what she’s seeing. “Princess Celestia?” She hastily bows, her magic losing hold on the piece of chalk she’d been using. “Is there something you need?”

Celestia smiles at the teacher, trying to put on the air of the benevolent ruler she is. “Yes, I was hoping I could speak with Storm Gale for a moment.”

The children in the class look at each other and begin speaking in hushed voices. Sitting in the middle of the class, a light purple pegasus’ eyes grow wide and her ears shoot up, and the rest of the students are all watching her.

“Uh... me?” Storm Gale asks, her voice cracking. She lets out a nervous laugh.

“It will just be for a moment,” Celestia says, nodding.

Storm Gale stands from her chair, glancing around at her classmates as she slowly walks towards Celestia. Celestia opens the door to the classroom, and the two of them walk out into the hall.

Celestia smiled down at the blue-maned filly. “Let’s find someplace quiet to talk.”

Storm Gale gulps, but follows Celestia down the hall, stopping when Celestia stops at an empty classroom to their left. The Princess’ magic flares, a small click coming from the door, and she pushes it open.

Storm Gale walks inside and glances around. The room is dark from the blinds being pulled over the windows.

Celestia walks over to the far side of the classroom and takes a seat with a clear invitation for Storm Gale to join her.

The filly nervously walks over and sits on the floor opposite the Princess. “Is this about what happened in the classroom a few days ago? Because I swear, I didn’t mean to.”

“Relax,” Celestia says warmly, shuffling her wings. “You aren’t in trouble.”

Storm Gale sighs in relief. She looks up at the Princess. “If I’m not in trouble, what did you come by to talk to me for?”

“I wanted to hear your version of what happened.” Celestia glances at the windows running along the hallway, seeing a pair of filly laughing with each other as they walk down the hall. She turns back to Storm Gale. “The Headmaster told me they think a unicorn did it.”

Storm Gale frowns. “That’s not true. None of the unicorns in our class are even good at magic.”

“You don’t think one of them did it?” Celestia asks, an amused smile playing on her lips.

“Nuh-uh,” Storm Gale says firmly.

“Did you do it?” Celestia asks.

Storm flattens her ears to her head, looking down at the ground. “Will you be mad if I did?”

Celestia shakes her head. “I promise I won’t be mad.”

Storm Gale stares up at her, measuring the truth in her words. Shuffling her hooves, she gives a relentful sigh. “I caused the gust of wind that knocked the books off their shelves and blew away the other students’ homework out the window,” Storm confesses, looking up at Celestia with guilty eyes.

As promised, Celestia doesn’t get angry. Instead, she just asks Storm Gale a question. “How?”

Storm looks away and begins rubbing her leg. “I don’t really know. I forgot to do my homework that was due that day—but I totally had a good reason!”

Celestia’s smile grows in realization and she lifts a hoof to stifle a laugh. “You were trying to blow the homework handed in out the window so the teacher would exempt your class from having to do it?”

Storm Gale looks away and blushes. “Uh, basically.” She looks up at Celestia, clasping her hooves together. “Please-please-please don’t tell Ms. Daffodil?”

Celestia winks. “It’ll be our little secret.”

Storm Gale giggles, giving her wings a flap before folding them back at her sides.

“What happened when you created the gust of wind?” Celestia asks.

“Huh? Oh.” Storm Gale’s face scrunches up as she thinks. “I just remember concentrating really hard on the stack of papers on Ms. Daffodil’s desk.”

“Did you see anything strange?”

“Well...” Storm taps her chin in thought. “I saw this sort of light blue line in front of me. I tried cutting through it with my wing, and—” Storm cuts herself off, her eyes widening. “Is that why it happened?”

Celestia nods. “I think it most likely is.”

“I’ve never heard of anything like this from the other pegasi or my dad.” Storm Gale frowns and her tail swishes behind her.

“That’s because most ponies don’t know that pegasi and earth ponies have magic too.”

Storm gawks up at her. “They do?!”

“That’s right,” Celestia says with a nod. “Their magic is a lot weaker and a lot more limited than unicorn’s magic, but that’s not to say they don’t have magic.”

“What does pegasus magic do?” Storm asks excitedly.

“It does more or less what you saw it do,” Celestia explains. “It lets pegasi walk on clouds and manipulate storms. And if they get good enough at it, they can manipulate lightning and create twisters with a single flap of their wings.”

“Wow...” Storm looks up at Celestia with a look of awe in her eyes. “That sounds so cool!”

“It is,” Celestia agrees. She glances out the window. From the third floor, she can see most of Everfree, and the busy marketplace is only growing busier as it nears midday. “Tell me, how’s your father?”

Storm Gale immediately grows tense and defensive. “Why?”

Celestia sees Storm Gale’s sudden weariness and offers her a placating smile. “I was wondering how things have been for you at home, having only your father to look after you. His job must call him away from home often.”

Storm Gale looks down at the ground, her eyes saddening. “Yeah... it does...” She looks up at Celestia and her expression becomes firm. “But he takes really good care of me when he’s there—and I take good care of myself, too!”

Celestia stands, walking over to Storm Gale’s side and sitting beside her. Storm looks up at Celestia, shifting away with how close the Princess is. Seeing this, Celestia wraps her wing around Storm, its broad feathers easily encompassing the filly.

Storm freezes as the wing falls around her, but slowly relaxes as the warmth from Celestia’s wing makes her at ease.

“Have you ever dreamt of living in a castle?” Celestia asks, looking down at her.

“Uh, sometimes. I’ve never really been inside a castle. My dad has, though. He goes inside the castle all the time for his job and sometimes he tells me stories about what it’s like before I go to bed.”

“You know, you haven’t bowed to me once during this whole time,” Celestia says, a small smile forming on her lips.

“Oh.” Storm Gale blushes and hangs her head. “S-sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Celestia quickly says. “It’s refreshing.”

An easy silence passes between them. The halls outside the classroom are vacant, and there’s barely a sound to be heard.

“Would you like to live in the castle and be my apprentice?” Celestia asks suddenly.

Storm Gale blinks. “Huh?!” Leaning forward in her seat, her eyes widen. “You mean like Rose Flame?”

“Like my sister’s apprentice, yes,” Celestia says, nodding.

“B-but I’m a pegasus!” Storm Gale stammers, spreading her wings out to show Celestia.

Celestia smirks and draws her free wing over in front of Storm to show her it. “Well I’m a bit of a pegasus myself,” Celestia says humorously.

Storm Gale giggles and pushes Celestia’s wing away. Her smile abruptly fades. “What about my father?”

Celestia sighs, tightening her wing around Storm. “You will still see him at the castle, and visit home every once in a while, but you will probably see even less of him than you do right now.”

Storm Gale’s ears droop, and Celestia gives her a moment to think. Unfurling her wing from around Storm, Celestia stands and walks to the door, stopping in front of it and looking back at her. “Go home and spend tonight with your father. I’ll see to it that he gets the rest of the day off.” Celestia turns to leave.

“Wait!” Storm shouts, holding her hoof out towards Celestia. She runs up to Celestia, looking up at her mouth set in a thin line. “I do want to be your apprentice. I think.”

Celestia smiles and reaches up to rustle Storm Gale’s mane. “Go home.” She lowers her hoof and opens the classroom door. “And if you still wish to be my apprentice, have your father bring you to the castle tomorrow. I’ll let the guards know you’re coming, and ask any one of them to take you to my chambers.”

Storm stares down at the ground and nods, following Celestia out of the empty classroom.

Celestia motions for Storm Gale to walk with her. “Come, I’ll take you back to your class.”

Nodding, Storm Gale follows Celestia down the hall back to Ms. Daffodil’s room. Celestia remains quiet as she can tell by the way Storm is watching the walls that she has a lot on her mind right now.

They reach the classroom door and Storm Gale steps up to it. She stops before opening it, looking back at Celestia. “My father...” she says, looking down at the floor. “He’s been really lonely since mom passed away.”

Celestia nods, casting her eyes downward. “I’m sure he’ll appreciate getting a chance to spend time with his daughter.”

Opening the door, Storm Gale smiles and nods. “Thank you, Princess,” she says, then steps inside the classroom, closing the door behind her.

 

 

It’s the next day and the sun is setting.

Celestia walks down the hall to her room. Court has finished for the day and her mind desperately seeks to wind down and have some rest. She stops though, spotting the door to the Captain of the Guard’s office, and walks inside.

The Captain snaps to attention at her entrance.

“Has the pegasus filly I told you about come by?” Celestia asks, walking over to a window and gazing out at the city.

“Not that I know of, Princess,” the Captain of the Guard replies, his hoof still stiffly held up in salute. Her looks over at Celestia standing by the window. “Would you like me to have her escorted to the palace?”

Celestia’s mouth settles into a frown and she shakes her head. “No. Thank you. That is all,” she says, and turns to leave. The Captain gives her a slightly confused look, shaking his head as she walks back out into the hall and closes his door.

Letting out a sigh, she resumes cantering down the hallways to her room, the stained glass windows casting colorful paintings on the floor with the dying light of the sun. The distinct sound of her sister’s metal shoes come from around the corner ahead, and Celestia raises her head to see Luna come around the corner.

Luna walks up to Celestia and stops. “You look rather weary today, Sister.”

“I feel rather weary,” Celestia replies, giving Luna a weak smile. “How is Rose Flame?”

“She’s in my study, practicing levitation.” Luna’s eyes soften looking at her sister. “The pegasus you had an interest in... she hasn’t come by, has she?”

Celestia shakes her head sadly, her shoulders slumping and her waning smile disappearing completely. “I think I will retire for now. Good night, Sister.”

Luna nods, her mouth curving into a thin, grim line. “Take care,” she says, before continuing past her sister.

Celestia rounds the corner and walks to her room at the end of the hall. Stepping inside, she kicks off her gold shoes with a bit of help from her magic and walks over to her bed to lie down.

A knock rudely interrupts her resting before it has a chance to begin. She sighs.

“Come in.”

The door to Celestia’s room opens slowly. Celestia raises her head to see Storm Gale step inside the room, glancing around nervously.

“Um... hi again,” Storm says with a small wave. “Sorry I wasn’t here earlier. My dad managed to get the day off, and I wanted to spend one last day with him before...” She closes her eyes and shakes her head.

A glowing smile spreads across Celestia’s face. “I understand.”

Storm Gale lets out a sigh of relief, returning the Princess’ smile.

Celestia stands, walking around her bed and over to the little pegasus filly standing by her door. “Come, I’ll show you around.”

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