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Seizing the Throne - Part 2

By Lurkernon
Created: 19th December 2020 11:43:20 PM

  1. Originally published in November 2014
  2.  
  3. Pastebin #1: ponepaste.org/2294
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  6.  
  7. > Year 29, Month 3, Week 2
  8. > It took Celestia very little time to find her sister.
  9. > To pacify her sister, rather more time.
  10. > Even now, as they both bowed before you, Luna shook with barely-contained rage.
  11. > Both princesses wore the collars you had ordered made for them where once their ornamental peytrals had hung.
  12. > You stand from the bed, starting to pace back and forth between them.
  13. "Right. We're going to have to move quickly. There is a great deal that needs to be done, and right now the two of you are the only two I consider capable of handling this."
  14. > "YOU THINK TO USE US LIKE COMMON ERRANDS-PONIES?!"
  15. > "Luna! Please, don't antagonize him!"
  16. > You just smile to the smaller princess.
  17. "You should listen to your sister, Luna. The best way to make this go easily is to cooperate... I don't want to waste any more lives, but I will not hesitate. Not now."
  18. > Luna, unfortunately, is in no mood to listen.
  19. > "What hath we done to deserve this treason, Anonymous?! We took you in, granted you a home - and for this you subvert our subjects, take their lives, and seek to claim our thrones?! Thou are the vilest of villains, Anonymous."
  20. "Maybe I am. I would prefer not to be. Right now, though, you have work to do."
  21. > You produce a scroll of paper from your pocket, handing it to Luna.
  22. "This is a list of some of my best remaining agents. Leaders. You will send chariots of your personal guards to collect them and bring them here, where they will assume the positions listed with each."
  23. > Your eyes meet, and for a moment it is a battle of wills.
  24. > Then she yields, eyes breaking away. "We will do this."
  25. > When Luna is gone, you look to Celestia.
  26. "I will have to be crowned within the week... It does not need to be large, there will be plenty of time for lavish parties later. What matters is that I must have your support."
  27. > Celestia stares at you, still coming to terms what what you have wrought.
  28. > "Anonymous... they will not all accept this. Especially what you have done to us..."
  29. "I know. That is why it is critical I have your support, public and private. Yours and the other princesses... they will be the only ones to know how my rule is enforced."
  30. > She nods shakily.
  31. > "And the ones who do not accept it? Are they to die too?"
  32. "...Celestia. Come here."
  33. > She carefully moves to your side, allowing you to reach a hand up to rest on her cheek.
  34. > Celestia stiffens under your touch, but forces herself to remain.
  35. "I have taken power, but I do not intend to be some... blood-drenched tyrant."
  36. > It's probably a bit late for that, considering the lives you took to get here.
  37. > But maybe - just maybe - you can avoid spilling any more than necessary after this.
  38. "I mean what I said, Celestia. Do your best to support me, and I will not harm your - my - ponies."
  39. > She nods slowly, eyes falling shut again.
  40. > "That... that, I will accept, Anonymous."
  41. "Good. First things first, we are going to have to secure the other princesses. Once Luna returns, I will have her send chariots to find Cadence and Twilight."
  42. > "You trust her? Her guards?"
  43. "I trust she understands the consequences of failing to do her part. Besides, I can't afford to replace everyone. The names I gave her - they will take on certain roles that will help me integrate my technologies to the nation. But I intend to leave most of your officials in place."
  44. > Celestia seems to evaluate you for a moment, then nods.
  45. > "And your coronation?"
  46. "As soon as Twilight and Cadence can be found."
  47. > You smile widely to her, as you slip into the familiar role of laying out a plan.
  48. "I have visions, Celestia. Visions for the future. With you serving me, we can make these reality."
  49. > She seems to be trying to decide whether you are mad or genius.
  50. > Perhaps, you think, a bit of both.
  51.  
  52. -------
  53.  
  54. > Year 29, Month 3, Week 3
  55. > "My lord, Pr-, er, Luna has returned."
  56. > It's only been a few days since your coup, and the castle staff are still getting used to your new position.
  57. > You look up from the records you have been examining with Celestia, nodding to the servant who had intruded on your quarters.
  58. "Send her in."
  59. > The lunar princess enters moments later, offering you the barest sliver of bows.
  60. > It's enough to show she recognizes your power, and that is enough for you.
  61. "You've completed the task I assigned you, then?"
  62. > "Yes."
  63. > Your eyes narrow; even in that one word you sense that there is something she is not telling you.
  64. > "Cadence awaits just outside, ready to come whenever you would see her."
  65. > A worried feeling starts to form in your stomach.
  66. "You're short one princess, Luna."
  67. > For the first time in several days, Luna smiles.
  68. > It's a kind of smile you've seen before - triumphant, predatory.
  69. > The same kind of smile you gave Celestia when announcing your coup.
  70. > That worried feeling becomes a icy ball in your gut.
  71. "Where is Twilight, Luna?"
  72. > "It would seem she had gotten word of your intentions... she fled when my guards came for her, Anonymous. She has not returned to her palace, nor to the residences of any of her friends, nor the Crystal Empire."
  73. > You slowly stand, a snarl appearing on your lips.
  74. > How?
  75. > How had she learned?
  76. > She'd been investigating one of your Uranium-production sites, you knew.
  77. > Had she found something within the ruins the demolition charges had failed to erase?
  78. > Luna, cheekily, continues to stand before you - head raised high and proud.
  79. > "She is beyond you now, Anonymous. She will not return, nor will she surrender to you."
  80. "And how do you know this? For that matter, how do I know your guards did not tell her to flee?"
  81. > You advance until you are nose-to-nose with the smirking Luna.
  82. "And even if they did not, you failed to pursue her. Tell me why I should not punish you for this failure?"
  83. > Instantly Celestia is at your side, pleading.
  84. > "Anonymous, she couldn't have had knowledge of your bombs. She would never have risked doing this if she knew!"
  85. > She bows deeply, spreading her wings and lowering her ivory horn to the floor in a begging gesture.
  86. > "Please, Anonymous. You cannot take innocent lives for this!"
  87. > Taking a deep breath to calm yourself, you nod.
  88. > She is right. To set off your a bomb over this would only drive more to oppose you.
  89. "Luna... get out of my sight. And send Cadence up here, we need to have a talk."
  90. > "Of course, 'Lord' Anonymous."
  91. > Her mocking tone grates on your ears, but you refuse to acknowledge it.
  92. > As she turns and struts out the door, still smiling you note the worry and fear etched on Celestia's face.
  93. > At least someone here recognizes that it is a bad idea to antagonize you.
  94. > Especially now.
  95. > You'd hoped to have all four princesses supporting you at the coronation.
  96. > No sign of weakness to exploit.
  97. > Loosing Twilight was an enormous blow, even before you considered what further mischief she might get into.
  98. > Time for a new plan.
  99. "Celestia. Find Twilight's friends, and her dragon... have them put under watch. Their families too."
  100. > She looks up at you again, fear again flickering across her face.
  101. > "Anonymous-"
  102. "I'm not going to have them killed, Celestia. Or hurt, or even imprisoned. Just watched for now. They aren't to flee, and I want to know if she returns to them."
  103. > She cautiously nods. "Okay..."
  104. > "If who returns to them?"
  105. > Cadence's voice intrudes on your moment.
  106. > You look over to see the pink Alicorn peering in on the two of you.
  107. > "Auntie Celestia? What's going on? Why are Luna and you wearing those horrid things?"
  108. > You turn to face her, smiling widely.
  109. "Ah, Cadence... thank you for coming. I can answer your questions now, but I think it's best you close the door and come sit down..."
  110.  
  111. -------
  112.  
  113. > Year 29, Month 4, Week 2
  114. > The coronation had been, all things considered, a quite rapid and quiet affair.
  115. > Oh, by Earth standards it had been undoubtedly grand.
  116. > But by Equestrian standards you were rushing things, with bare days between Celestia's announcement of the coming new Emperor and the ceremony itself.
  117. > Nonetheless, there was plenty of information to be gathered from even such a rushed event.
  118. > Who had attended, who had not.
  119. > The majority of the Canterlot nobility had, either out of a desire to get in good with the new ruler or a recognition of whatever unseen power you had used to pull off a bloodless victory over the princesses.
  120. > Other important figures had flown in from beyond the royal city on pegasus chariot.
  121. > Shining Armor had dutifully remained beside his wife as she accepted your new rule and swore oaths to serve you.
  122. > Always the officer, he had kept his face studiously blank throughout the entire ceremony.
  123. > You would need to be wary of that one, you knew.
  124. > Especially since he had undoubtedly noticed even before the coronation began that Twilight was absent.
  125. > Prince Blueblood, by contrast, had only briefly presented himself before retiring to his estate once more.
  126. > It had been shortly followed by a strongly-worded letter in which he carefully acknowledged your newly-proclaimed title while questioning it at every turn.
  127. > Given what you knew of the cretin, it seemed more likely that he was upset you were now held several lesser titles that he had fancied for himself.
  128. > You would let him blather, you decided.
  129. > It wasn't likely he posed that much of a threat, and any malcontents he might gather under him could be easily contained.
  130. > Nonetheless, you made a note to get at least two good agents inside his staff.
  131. > With the pomp and ceremony over, you next slid into the business of solidifying your new empire.
  132. > Leaving the old bureaucratic structures in place had proven to be a very good choice.
  133. > Actual open defiance was rare, leaving most of the agencies to function without much difficulty.
  134. > With your hand-picked officials sliding smoothly into specific new roles to ensure that those difficulties were smoothed over, you expect to have any problems ironed out in a matter of months.
  135. > Other matters, had not gone so smoothly.
  136. > You knew Celestia often held open court, allowing almost any of her subjects to approach her.
  137. > What you had not realized was the sheer volume of time she spent on such matters.
  138. > A frankly touching note on how deeply she cared for her subjects, you thought, and one of the reasons you had first noticed her.
  139. > But also a staggeringly wasteful one.
  140. > In the end, you had been forced to hire several royal adjudicators to handle most cases and deflect a rare few up to Celestia or Luna.
  141. > The job of hiring them had been left to the sisters, though.
  142. > They knew better than you who would best fit the job, after all.
  143. > Slowly but surely, your business - the legitimate front of your operations - was being rolled into the new government.
  144. > Entire divisions were transferred straight over, becoming the empire's new research and development arm.
  145. > The remnants of your illegal operation?
  146. > You had other plans for them.
  147. > The old royal and lunar guards had proved adequate enforcers so far, barring the escape of the youngest princess.
  148. > But there were going to be times when you needed to be absolutely certain of the loyalty of your agents.
  149. > You needed your own guard.
  150. > Anyone not purged from your organization at this point was both ruthless enough to do what was asked, and smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
  151. > They would do.
  152. > You would have to make sure the palace guard knew to let your lieutenants enter unmolested.
  153. > There was no way you were going to let this go through Celestia or Luna.
  154. > Especially not Luna.
  155. > You don't think you'd had a conversation with her yet where she was not a hair's breadth from lashing out at you.
  156. > But she had been accomplishing the tasks you sent her on, so she understood who held the power in your relationship.
  157. > Celestia, on the other hand...
  158. > Your interactions with her since the coup had been severely limited.
  159. > The business of restructuring your new domain keeping you from getting closer.
  160. > The irony of your efforts all these years being purely to be able to claim her, only for your success to leave you busier than ever was not lost on you.
  161. > But it would pass, you were sure.
  162. > You only needed to wait long enough, until things quieted down again.
  163. > And then she would be yours.
  164.  
  165. --------
  166.  
  167. > Year 29, Month 5, Week 1
  168. > The first of your more substantial changes had begun.
  169. > Results, you thought, were mostly positive.
  170. > Mostly.
  171. > The undertaking of several national works projects had been met surprisingly well, with worker quotas easily being met by volunteers coming to sign up.
  172. > That you had offered any prospective workers a fair wage rather than merely demanding a number of workers from each town or city had probably helped.
  173. > It was draining the royal coffers in the meantime, but you suspected that it would pay dividends when your new imperial-owned dams, canals, and railroads were completed.
  174. > And enacting a draft was something you'd prefer to keep for when you actually needed it.
  175. > The issuing of your new flag and royal seal, however, had gone rather less smoothly.
  176. > Maybe that had been a mistake to do so early.
  177. > You understood certain more distant towns were still refusing to fly anything but the old moon-and-sun seal.
  178. > They would come over in time, you thought.
  179. > With your empire now beginning to not merely function but actually grow, it was time to pursue other matters.
  180. > "You wished to see me, Your Majesty?"
  181. > You looked up from your desk to the open door of your quarters, where Celestia was cautiously peering in.
  182. > She knew exactly where to look, considering that the room had until quite recently been her own, and you had never bothered to have the layout changed.
  183. "Yes. Do come in, Celestia, and close the doors."
  184. > The princess enters, bowing her head to you.
  185. > You stand, joints popping after working so long, and head to an enormous, well-stuffed couch.
  186. > That was one of the few new additions.
  187. > Celestia's bed might have been suitable for her and any more quadruped guests, but you needed something more normal to relax on.
  188. "Join me, Celestia - we need to have a bit of a talk."
  189. > She does, cautiously approaching before sitting in front of your needs.
  190. > "What do you need, Your Majesty?"
  191. "I can only remain sitting cooped up in this palace for so long, Celestia. I am going to need to get out of here eventually - go oversee some of my projects directly, make a few appearances, that sort of thing."
  192. > She immediately balks at that suggestion.
  193. > "But what if you are injured, or worse? What do you -"
  194. "You will be seeing to that. I intend to make you my personal bodyguard and assistant, Celestia. You will accompany me in most matters; Luna will remain here and handle any difficulties that come up."
  195. > Slowly, she nods. "This is what you called me here for?"
  196. "Yes. I hope you understand what this will entail; you may very well have to defend me from... certain disaffected elements."
  197. > "I understand, yes. I have understood since you... told me your secret."
  198. > It goes unspoken that 'disaffected elements' could mean ponies who had once been her subjects.
  199. > Or worse, her student.
  200. "Good. This will not just be while I am out, either; you and I will be working quite close together now."
  201. > Celestia nods, but you see her discomfort.
  202. > Being around you is still not something she is totally comfortable with.
  203. "I think I will have you return to sleeping in here as well - it would not be right for my bodyguard to be absent while I am sleeping."
  204. > Her head shoots up in surprise, eyes flicking to the single bed in the room.
  205. > "My lord, I-"
  206. "I'm not going to force myself on you, Celestia. I will have a bed brought in for you."
  207. > She calms, her coat smoothing back down as her fears fade.
  208. "...did you really think I am such a monster that I would do that?"
  209. > "You have the blood of many on your hands, Your Majesty."
  210. > Celestia looks away, her thoughts distant.
  211. > "When you... made your demands and called me your slave, the thought that you would... claim me as your prize did enter my mind."
  212. "Would you have done it, had I demanded that?"
  213. > She is silent for a long time.
  214. > "If it would have saved the lives of my little ponies... yes. I would have."
  215. > You smile.
  216. > This is the princess that you were first struck by when you saw her.
  217. > So dedicated to her charges that she would give anything for them.
  218. "It will not be a concern. I am not a monster... not that great of one, anyhow."
  219. > She slowly nods.
  220. > "I want to believe that there is still goodness in your heart somewhere, Your Majesty."
  221. "After all I've done?"
  222. > "My sister turned to darkness and nearly brought an end to this world with eternal night, yet she could still be redeemed."
  223. > She looks back to you again, searching to see how far she can push.
  224. > You grin.
  225. "Do not preach to me, Celestia. I may not be that much of a monster, but I will not turn aside from my goals that easily."
  226. > You stand, motioning to the desk.
  227. "Now, we have a trip to plan, I believe...?"
  228.  
  229. -------
  230.  
  231. > Year 30, Month 1, Week 2
  232. > You shuffle into the airship's cabin, quickly stripping off the thickly-lined coat you wore as the luxuriously warmed air hits you.
  233. "Ahhhh, that feels good."
  234. > Eight months on, you had nearly completed your extended tour of Equestria.
  235. > A train had brought you to the northernmost of your domain, where you had stayed until a newly-commissioned airship could arrive for the next leg of the journey.
  236. > One last blast of icy air washes over you from behind before the cabin door swings shut after Celestia.
  237. > Folding the coat beneath your arm, you proceed through your suite to the bedroom, where you set about pulling the heavy boots from your feet.
  238. > Celestia, who had not worn anything over her natural coat, simply watches you from a seat near the doorway while you massage the warmth back into your limbs.
  239. > You look back up to her, grinning.
  240. "There, now. Was it that hard to visit your niece again?"
  241. > She looks down, her gaze flicking away from you.
  242. > "Cadence would be doing much better if you had not insisted on reopening the mines in the Crystal Mountains."
  243. "This again, Celestia? I thought we had discussed this plenty during our meetings."
  244. > "The Crystal Empire has never been a place of industry, Anonymous! Those mines bear Sombra's taint."
  245. "Oh, they will be fine. I'm not sending slaves to drag the gems out, after all. And they'll be much safer with the new mining equipment."
  246. > "That has not helped the crystal ponies' memories, Your Majesty. You must remember, those they have only had a few years to forget his tyranny."
  247. "Then perhaps opening the mine and seeing it is safe will do good to erase those thoughts."
  248. > "And perhaps not. When they look to Cadence for hope and safety, what then? Will she have to carry the burden of your orders?"
  249. "Yes."
  250. > Celestia stares at you in frustration as you get up, exploring your new suite aboard the airship.
  251. > Three rooms, fairly well sized - a bedroom, a study, and a washroom.
  252. > Downright luxury aboard an airship of this size.
  253. > "I suppose my quarters are elsewhere, Your Majesty?"
  254. "Hmmm? No, no - as before, you will be staying here with me."
  255. > "These quarters... they lack a bed for me."
  256. "Oh? Really? They must have been unable to get one aboard in time..."
  257. > "I can... make do."
  258. "Make do? On what?"
  259. > "One of the carpets."
  260. > Celestia's voice suggests that sleeping on the floor will be just another indignity she can tolerate - one of many in her new role.
  261. > The carpets were rather thick, but still.
  262. "No, I think we can get around this."
  263. > You point to the single excessively-large bed that occupied a fair portion of your bedroom.
  264. > "You... are jesting?"
  265. "Hardly. That thing is enormous. Are you still afraid I am going to force myself on you?"
  266. > She huffs softly.
  267. > "No. It is just... wrong."
  268. "Because of what I did? Pfah."
  269. > You grab your a stack of freshly-folded sleepwear, retreating to the bathroom to change.
  270. "We will be fine."
  271. > When you emerge, Celestia is still eyeing the bed uncertainly.
  272. > You shrug, switching off the lights and climbing beneath the covers.
  273. > The weight of several days' strain and stress catches up with you quickly.
  274. > It takes little time for your eyes to fall shut.
  275. > When you awaken, the last vestiges of sunlight trickling in through the windows has vanished, leaving the cabin dark but for the paler, fainter illumination of the moon.
  276. > Distant engines hum gently; the airship must have cast off at some point while you slept.
  277. > You shift slightly, only to realize your clothes are quite sweaty for reasons you aren't totally sure of.
  278. > It's not an uncommon thing for you to suddenly wake up to at night since your reign began, but this is the first time it's happened in several days.
  279. > Probably exhaustion has been keeping you asleep otherwise.
  280. > Pushing down the covers to your waist to help dry out, your eyes fall on one of the cabin windows.
  281. > Beyond it, distant clouds drift past freely - unfettered by the guidance of any pegasus.
  282. > "You have nightmares."
  283. > The silence is broken by Celestia's voice, practically beside you.
  284. > You hadn't even noticed that she had taken your offer to use one side of the bed.
  285. "Do I now?"
  286. > "Yes."
  287. "Interesting."
  288. > "You speak when you have them."
  289. "Really."
  290. > Another long silence pervades before she speaks again.
  291. > "My sister could look int-"
  292. "No. Your sister will keep her mind out of my dreams and out of my head, thank you very much."
  293. > The idea of having the still-hostile Luna fishing around in your brain was one that frankly scared you.
  294. > "Then, do you wish to spe-"
  295. "No, Celestia, I do not wish to speak about them."
  296. > Even though you barely remembered what had woken you, it was never a pleasant feeling.
  297. > That, and you were mildly furious about the fact that you had potentially been mumbling secrets in your sleep.
  298. > "Who is Greta?"
  299. "Celestia, did I just not say I don't wish to speak about them?"
  300. > "I am sorry, your majesty.
  301. > Of course, now you're thinking about Greta.
  302. > After a moment of grumbling, you sigh.
  303. "I suppose I spoke her name, then? While asleep?"
  304. > "Yes."
  305. "Greta... was a griffon I brought in as one of my first associates. When I was planning all this."
  306. > "I do not ever remember seeing-"
  307. "Illegal associates, Celestia."
  308. > "Oh..."
  309. "She worked well for a while, but she always had a penchant for going a bit overboard with things. To violent, to aggressive."
  310. > "What happened to her?"
  311. "I had her removed."
  312. > "You had her killed."
  313. > You sigh.
  314. "Yes, I had her killed."
  315. > A brief pause before you add:
  316. "It was my mistake to let her climb so high in my ranks. By the time I needed to get rid of her, she was in possession of far to many secrets for any other options."
  317. > Celestia goes silent for a long while, eventually whispering her response.
  318. > "You confuse me so often, Anonymous. You do not hesitate to spill blood, but regret it afterwards? Why not stop?"
  319. "Because I would never have succeeded then."
  320.  
  321. --------
  322.  
  323. > Year 30, Month 1, Week 3
  324. > You are Celestia.
  325. > Anonymous has left you alone in his cabin while he goes to receive an unexpected message.
  326. > You dearly hoped it was good news.
  327. > So far you had been able to keep your ponies- yes, still your ponies - safe.
  328. > It was something you were deeply thankful for.
  329. > But how long until Anonymous felt somepony else needed to be 'disposed of'?
  330. > He had wiped out his labs when they no longer served his purpose, after all.
  331. > Would he do that to others?
  332. > He seemed to regret the deaths he had caused, but every time you implored him to turn his path back to harmony he had refused.
  333. > And to be forced to sleep next to him...
  334. > At least he had kept his promise not to try anything untoward as you slept.
  335. > But it still left you feeling odd to know you were sharing a bed with a murderer.
  336. > A traitor.
  337. > He did no seem so power-hungry, so vicious as Sombra - but who was to tell in time?
  338. > You wished you could do more, to actually argue with him against the changes he was forcing on your ponies.
  339. > But what would push him to far?
  340. > Standing with a huff, you slowly walk over to one of the windows and examine the land drifting by beneath you.
  341. > You were coasting along the shore now, making your way down the coast before turning back inland towards Canterlot.
  342. > Canterlot...
  343. > At least you would be able to see your sister again.
  344. > Worry for Luna constantly flowed through you.
  345. > She'd had little time to adapt to the new Equestria she had returned to.
  346. > And then Anonymous had left her in charge of matters in Canterlot while he traveled.
  347. > You had no doubts Luna would do her best to govern.
  348. > For the ponies as well, if nothing else.
  349. > But her anger at Anonymous' actions was obvious, and if she eventually lashed out in her frustration.
  350. > You desperately wish you could be there with your sister, offering her some comfort and guidance.
  351. > You wish you could have fought Anonymous on the decision to take you with him, away from Luna.
  352. > You wish you could show him the way back to harmony, to get back the man you had once known.
  353. > You wish-
  354. > Your eyes widen as a familiar tingle of magic flows through you.
  355. > A cloud of intangible smoke slips in through one window.
  356. > You stare in a mixture of joy and horror as it condenses into an all-to-familiar scroll in front of you.
  357.  
  358. > You are Anonymous.
  359. > You stare at the telegram before you in disbelief, unwilling to believe what you are reading.
  360. > The radioed message was short and succinct, but its point adequately made.
  361. > 'MILITARY BASE NEAR CLOUDSDALE ATTACKED STOP 53 CASUALTIES STOP NO DEAD STOP TWO DEFECTIONS STOP SIGNIFICANT MILITARY STORES STOLEN STOP ALICORN AMONG ATTACKERS STOP RPT ALICORN AMONG ATTACKERS STOP ALL ATTACKERS ESCAPED STOP AWAIT FURTHER ORDERS STOP'
  362. > Alicorn among attackers.
  363. > You crumple the note in your hand, growling angrily.
  364. > The last loose string in your takeover, and now she was coming back to bite you - hard.
  365. > Around you, the crew shifts uncomfortably; somehow you suspect Celestia never showed anger like this.
  366. > You don't even hear the frantic thudding of approaching hoofsteps until they are close to you - only a second longer and Celestia appears before you in a doorway, skidding to the stop.
  367. > By the look on her face, you suspect she already knows, somehow.
  368. "We need to talk. Now."
  369. > She nods shakily, turning and heading back up the way she had come.
  370. > You follow behind, the crumpled note still crushed in one hand.
  371. > Only when your the door to your private quarters has slammed shut do you spin around and face her.
  372. > Already Celestia has dropped into a bow. "Your Majesty, please don't d-"
  373. "Don't what? Don't be angry? Don't be upset that your protege apparently never learned how to follow the line and do what is best?"
  374. > Celestia flinches, the tips of her wings twitching.
  375. > "She only thinks-"
  376. "I don't care what she thinks. She attacked a military base, wounded my soldiers, and ran off with a fair amount of military equipment."
  377. > The sharp intake of breath tells you Celestia had not been expecting that.
  378. > You slump into the seat next to your workdesk, resting your head in one hand as your mind runs over the message again.
  379. > Facing an alicorn directly was not something you cared to do.
  380. "I wonder, if I could lure her in somewhere - with one of her friends, perhaps - could you talk her down? Would she still listen to your words...?"
  381. > "Your bombs-"
  382. "Will not be used. I never had a chance to explain them to her, and I doubt she would listen to me now."
  383. > You look up suddenly, remembering something from earlier.
  384. "Celestia. How did you know what had happened before you saw me?"
  385. > The possibility that someone had leaked the message to her flickers through your mind.
  386. > Some of the ponies still saw the sisters as their true rulers, you knew.
  387. > She shifts in place, looking down.
  388. > "I... was given something. A message."
  389. > Ah. Someone had, then.
  390. > Her voice is oddly apprehensive, though. Did she expect you to order them executed on the spot or something?
  391. > "A message for you..."
  392. > That gets your attention.
  393. "Explain."
  394. > Her answer comes in the form of something levitated up to you - a parchment scroll, sealed with a ribbon and a blob of red wax.
  395. > You take it, breaking the seal and unrolling the parchment to see what is written within.
  396. > As your eyes scan down each line, a cold ball of ice forms in your gut.
  397. > 'Dear Emperor Anonymous,
  398. > As I am sure you will hear soon, I have not fled this nation, nor do I intend to. I've watched as you subjugated every part of Equestria, every city to your whim. I've seen how you have humiliated the princesses, torn up the land and displaced families in the name of your projects. I see you have even ordered your guards to hold my friends and family hostage when I would not submit to your rule. I still don't understand how you managed to do what you did, but I have not forgotten the magic of friendship. I will not forget it. I will save them.
  399. > Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship'
celestia princess celestia aie

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