Heart of the Mountain
Written by The Descendant
Chapter 2: "Formal Introductions"
Twilight walked up to the princesses, Spike not riding her but instead walking along beneath her, half hiding himself behind her forelegs as she walked, head down, towards the sovereigns.
As she came up to them she felt the strange light of the dagger-fire upon her, and as she passed next to it she glimpsed into the basket. White fire fading to blue emanated from the silver dagger. In the basket were bunches of vines and different types of tree leaves, but also cylinders of black earth, and a blue breeze, a visible spell, blew among it. The objects within the basket and white fire were not so much burned as consumed; fading into sparks that ascended into the sky.
As fascinating as it was Twilight could not dwell on it, and soon found herself in the most of unusual positions bowing towards the princesses with whom she had shared a familiarity. She wondered now if that privilege had been squandered
"Stand, Twilight," said Celestia, "Things are not yet that desperate."
"I, I am so sorry, I...I didn't mean to spy, I was " she said, trailing off, cheered slightly at her mentor's statement, but still racked with shame.
"Why did you come?" asked Luna, tilting her head, speaking in a more contemplative tone.
"I I had waken from a dream, you see, Majesty, and went out onto my balcony. There I saw your ladyships and the unicorns. I I had seen how distant you both looked today and and I was worried "
Twilight dared lift her head, and as she did so she was overwhelmed with relief when the terrible and stern expression on the faces of the princesses faded, replaced with something more akin to understanding. Yet, their faces fade not back to the expressions of happiness she longed for.
"Tell us of the dream," said Luna as the fire made sounds like single notes played on a violin.
"I I stood under the constellation, and it became black. The nine stars fading into a, I don't know, something. There were white clouds, and somepony rose up " she said, trying to remember it all.
Luna looked to Celestia, and their expressions got deeper. Twilight found herself staring at the ground again. Soon however, the familiar nuzzle of her teacher passed over her, and she was refilled with confidence.
"Twilight," spoke Celestia, the grace-filled eyes meeting those of her student, "you are loyal, strong, and empathetic. In this place is something that has long been the realm of me and my kind, something over which the alicorns alone have had to hold dominion "
Twilight looked up to her teacher, saw the concern growing there.
" and we must use this time wisely. What happens again here tonight has not happened since before you were born, Twilight. You are among the greatest of my students, and if you will promise me not to touch anything, and not to speak unless spoken to, and to follow directions, you may enter with us."
Twilight did not know what to say. Something important was about to transpire, but what? She could only shake her head as the curiosity and wonder overwhelmed her. Nearby something cleared its throat, and the three looked down to where a little dragon still bowed.
"You may of course come too, Spike," spoke Celestia, nuzzling the bowing form, "granted that you follow the same conditions."
"Umm, oh sure! Thank you!" he said, suddenly filled with enthusiasm.
The four turned from the fire, and for the first time Spike and Twilight saw the space beyond the arch clearly. It was massive. As they drew nearer Spike jumped back up on Twilights back and whistled. It was as a naïve of a great cathedral, with buttresses flying out on either side. Beneath the reaches of it were trees! How could there be trees inside the mountain? As she looked she saw that they were stone, intricately carved and formed, and plants like them covered the spaces along the path. The white light crept up their branches, and the spaces between the stones that made up the towering pillars were illuminated by it.
"I am curious," said Luna to Spike.
"My princess?" he answered.
"What would you, Spike, have done if after following us you had found that we had been delivered into a trap, that your princesses were betrayed and faced enemies unnumbered?"
"Well," answered Spike, standing tall and pointing to himself, "Twilight and I make a good team, and we would have rushed in and saved you, of course! I am a dragon after all!"
He opened his eyes to see the smiling faces of the three ponies looking at him, and he grew self-conscious. "Well," he said, shrinking down onto Twilight's back, looking at the sparkling space between the floor stones, "I am, Majesty even if just a little one."
"You are indeed, and I am glad you both are here to lend comfort, for even with my sister with me I do not know how my judgment here will pass "
Twilight and Spike looked to each other, then to the smaller princess, and as they did so they saw her expression fall down into a subdued one of a painted smile and resignation.
They wished to ask so many questions, but their promise held fast, and they stared at the towering space that encompassed them.
Soon they arrived at a circular space, nine stone chairs, two larger than the others, each marked with a symbol that Twilight could not recognize. The space held her attention for a moment, but soon she was drawn to a glowing edifice in the distance.
At the end of the path stood a massive gate. Brass in color, and covered with a relief like those in the palace, baffling constellations, and symbols she did not know. The gate thrummed with the white light that was pervading all, and voices emanated from the space beyond the path. Twilight felt Spike's arms wrap around her neck tighter as the voices went up and down in tone, volume, and duration.
"They can not harm you," said Celestia, "They are memories, both of things revealed and not yet revealed."
More questions piled up in Twilight's mind, but she soon found Celestia motioning to her, showing her a space among the plants that was paved with the luminous stones, one from which she could see the gate, the path, and the circular space with the stone chairs.
"You are to wait here until I call for you," said Celestia, her face still pleasant, yet set, "Do not make any noise until you are called upon or spoken to, and do not be afraid, there is nothing here that my magic will not defend you from, and do not stray from this spot by any means."
Spike gulped, and Twilight looked to her teacher.
"Do you wish to leave? There is no shame in it if you do " asked her teacher, tilting her head.
"No, no My Princess," said Twilight, "I we will do just as we are bidden."
Celestia smiled, nuzzled the two interlopers, and set off to where Luna paced back and forth before the circular space.
Twilight and Spike watched as Celestia and Luna shared some small words. Luna looked to the floor once more and Celestia, her eyes softening, leaned in and embraced her younger sister.
After a moment, the two turned towards the gate. Spreading wide their wings they bowed low, almost throwing themselves on the floor.
Spike looked up to Twilight aghast, and saw that she too was baffled. What could the Two Sister Sovereigns of all Equestria possibly have to bow to? Together Twilight and Spike lowered themselves to the floor, not so much bowing as trying to hide behind the stone foliage, shielding themselves from whatever was about to occur.
Soon, the white path thrummed, and to Twilight it seemed that it was keeping cadence with the beating of the hearts of the Two Sisters. At once the light passed between them and the great brass gate shown with greater intensity, and soon the path become more luminous.
A booming sound erupted from the gate, and as it did so the voices in the distance grew louder. Spike reached out to Twilight again for comfort, but found first that she had gathered him up. The gate erupted into light, and the brass shone forth, and the symbols upon it shimmered and then moved. The planets turned, the stars flew and, and the figures danced.
The voices grew louder, a blue breeze, like the one in the white fire outside, crept from behind the gate, and with the sound like a crack of thunder over a tempest sea the Gate of Brass came open, and out from it flew sound, and wind, and visions.
Twilight could barely keep her eyes open to see it, could only hold tighter onto Spike as he buried himself into her chest in fear and wonder.
And there, at the end of the long corridor, sat Procer Celestia Invictus, and Procer Luna Revenio, unmoving, the tides of light and sound washing around them, but touching them not.
Silence overcame all, and even the voices in the distance were still.
Twilight and Spike looked up to the gate over the marbled hedgerow in front of them. It stood open, a black sheet of obsidian beyond its borders. As she watched, white swirling forms appeared in it just as they had in her dream. She stifled a gasp, pulled Spike in closer, and knew what was about to happen, even though she could not name it.
There, in that silence, came to sound of one hoof-fall. Then another.
Soon the sound of proud hoof beats came to them, and as Twilight watched, the most perfect alicorn she had ever beheld in her life stepped out of the black sheet of rock and onto the path.
He shone with the white intensity of suns unnamed. As he came forward the space around his noble form erupted from the black stone illuminated by white light into the full glory of a majestic palace, the stone as white as if it were newly hewn and cast into the light of noon, highlighted in blue. The stone plants became as real ones, filled with life, and birds flew overhead, insects buzzed among the leaves.
As he came down to where the princesses lay in supplication Twilight and Spike saw that where his hooves had trod plants sprang up from the stones, bloomed, withered, and died in the space of seconds. Such was the power and grace of his ennobled form that looking upon him was akin to facing buffeting winds of magic and the raw power of nature itself.
In front of Spike and Twilight the hedge which they hid behind went from stone to a lush and verdant display of green leaves and flowers, and the very paving stones on which they lay trembling seemed to echo his power.
Twilight dared lift her head a bit more over the top of the hedge, Spike peaking beside her. There they watched as the stallion approached Celestia and Luna. As he did he stopped before them, where they still lay bowed out across the rapidly illuminating stones.
There he stood, looking down on them, his light flowing out in all directions around him. Soon all of the vast delving which they had entered was filled with this light, and it shown forth in splendor.
The circular space where the stone chairs had sat turned now into a dais, and proper thrones were there, and the archway was hung with banners, and the outside world faded away
The alicorn stallion, looking down on the princesses, spoke. The voice was like rolling waves on forgotten shores, like wind through a lonely canyon, and it came from within him.
"Luna, you have come I had sensed it, sensed that your imprisonment had ended," he said, placing himself between the sisters. For one brief moment Twilight actually felt worried for the smaller sister, concerned that perhaps this being was somepony to be feared.
"My return was not graceful, not as it could have been," said Luna, her voice trembling, her face still to the stones.
"Speak not of it. I sensed that as well. It matters not," said the stallion, his lips not moving, the voice coming from somewhere beyond. "Know now that you have been granted the possibility to return to your ennobled form."
Luna's eyes opened, and a smile dashed across her face even as she still stared to the paving stones. In that moment Twilight saw the concern that had worried Luna so depart from her, and knew this was what had drawn her there, and that it had ended for the better.
He turned to Celestia, and Twilight tensed. "You have reconciled," he stated, "I knew you would I knew what to expect "
With that, his light dimmed, and he became as Luna and Celestia. A tall and handsome alicorn, one in whom the great wisdom of age could be seen, yet he was still strong in appearance, thought Twilight, as though the ages he had witnessed were as hours to him.
As he spoke the words now came from his mouth, and he suddenly seemed all too living, yet about him was the same bearing that the princesses carried them selves with only greater in form and in magnitude
"I knew you would find a way," he said. He reached down his noble head and nuzzled them, first Luna, then Celestia, running his head along theirs, "I knew you would and I am so proud of you my daughters, my wonderful daughters my beautiful daughters "
"Oh, father!" called Celestia, bounding to him.
"Daddy, daddy!" called Luna, leaping into his offered hug with a dash of her wings.
In the hedgerow Spike and Twilight, their eyes wide, their jaws hanging slack, watched as the Two Sister Sovereigns, the ancient and seemingly immortal High Graces, the very Majesties that guided the sun and the moon, they who held dominion over all Equestria as these two became giggling children and were squeezed, hugged, and twirled about by the ancient alicorn.
Spike reached up and closed Twilights jaw for her as she did the same for him.
The three alicorns made their way to the chairs, and there the stallion seated himself on one of the two larger ones, and Luna and Celestia seated themselves as well.
"Mother sends her love," said the stallion as he was seated, "as do the others."
"Father," said Celestia, "there is somepony I would like you to meet."
"I was wondering how long you were going to make them hide in the shrubbery," he said, and Twilight and Spike felt their faces go red.
"Twilight Sparkle, Spike, come to us, please," said Celestia in her happy tone, the one Twilight had hoped so much to hear again, the entire reason she had left the tower that evening.
Coming to the dais Twilight lowered herself in a bow, and Spike did as well. "These are two of our dearest subjects, Ms. Twilight Sparkle, my designate in Ponyville "
"Ponyville," interrupted the stallion, "one of the cities, yes."
" and this is Spike, her summoner."
"Most excellent, always good to have a dragon about."
Spike smiled at the floor, his head still bowing.
"Very good, well, sit up you two and have a seat," said the stallion, and Twilight and Spike stood. Approaching one of the thrones, she looked to the symbols that were set in them. Behind the radiant Celestia shone a sun, and behind the luminous Luna, a moon.
"Appropriate," she thought, "and so, what are these?"
Upon a throne a series of small grass-covered hills fell into the distance. Moving to the throne she began to take a seat, but a great booming invective met her.
"Not that one!" echoed the voice of old stallion. Trembling, Twilight Sparkle backed away from the chair, turning to face her princesses. Twilight looked to them, hoping that Celestia's promise of nothing hurting her in this place would hold true.
She turned to the stallion. His face was stern, but upon looking at her, it mellowed and the echoing fell away.
"Forgive a sentimental old alicorn, my dear," he said, rising out of the larger throne, "That one is special to us."
Twilight did not understand, but she saw then that when he looked at that throne a certain sadness marked his ancient eyes. It was echoed in the sisters as they too looked at the forlorn throne.
"Here, be seated in this one," he stated, motioning to a throne closer to the princesses, this one marked by a symbol of a breeze blowing across a cloudscape. "He would be the first to offer up his chair to a pretty young filly, he would be pleased to share it, the gentlecolt."
As Twilight sat in the throne Spike jumped up and sat in her lap. She folded her legs across him, glad for his being there. She watched the ancient alicorn make his way back to the large throne. Before he sat she saw on it the symbol of an eternal loop and a crown upon the chair.
When he sat he looked to her, and her eyes dropped.
"Twilight," spoke Celestia to the alicorn, "is one of the greatest students I have ever taught, and her magical abilities are most impressive. She has accomplished much."
"Really?" spoke the alicorn, leaning back.
"Twilight," she said, turning to her student, "Won't you speak of the reforging of the Elements of Harmony?"
"Yes, yes, of course, Highness," she said. However, something flashed within her, "If if that is okay with both of you."
Luna looked up, raising her head, and smiling at her, nodded, "Of course."
So it was that Twilight retold the story, of the great gambit undertaken by Celestia, the belief that he had placed in her that she would be able to make friends, and therefore inherit the power over the elements.
As she spoke it all the old alicorn looked on, a slight smile across his face, his expression unchanging.
Soon it was over, and upon the completion of the story, all was silent. Soon the alicorn leaned forward, and spoke.
"I was there when they were first forged, the Elements of Harmony, and I know their power. It speaks volume of you, Principal of the Elements, that at such a young age you, and your friends, were able to control them. Far older, and seemingly stronger and more powerfully magical ponies have failed. Much trust my daughter has in you though I still wonder "
He trailed off. And soon Luna and Celestia engaged him in conversation again.
Twilight tried to listen, tried to understand, but the names, places, and ideas that flowed back and forth between the alicorns were beyond her. They were far too much for her to comprehend. She felt as a fish suddenly freed from a small tank and thrown to the vast ocean overwhelmed, yet understanding that there was something massive going on about her.
All too soon it began to fade. A knocking came from beyond the great brass gate, and the alicorns all in turn faced it. Outside the constellation dimmed, and the dagger began to lower into the basket, the flames decreasing.
"Well, my daughters, Miss Sparkle, Spike, it seems time is to be satiated," said the old stallion, and he did so the faces of the princesses suddenly became deeply saddened.
They all together walked back down the long path towards the gate. As they did so the great living spectacle of the cavern fell away, returning to the figures of stone and lit mortar.
"Good-bye, my daughters my Celestia," he said, grabbing her up in a hug, kissing her. "My Luna," he said doing the same. As he stepped back from them Twilight saw the tears streaming down their faces, big wet tears that fell to the stones with audible pat-pat-pat sounds.
As he turned towards the gate he was suddenly filled with the same amazing light that filled him when he first crossed out of it. He was once again the imposing figure of radiance and terrible countenance.
At that moment the shining stallion, that brilliant and ennobled alicorn, looked back to his children. He smiled to them, tears of his own now visible, rolling down the ancient face.
The two sisters fell down into their deep bows, and Spike and Twilight immediately following in the gesture.
Proud hooves clipped, clopped, clipped, and then disappeared into the blackness of the space beyond the gate.
As soon as he was gone, the sisters, still bowing, began to sing. The words were soft, low, lilting, and in Spike's ears they spoke of something lost, something that had occurred and was being remembered.
At once the great brass gate began to close, and as it did popping sounds came from it. Spike though barely heard them. Instead he, still bowing, caught up by the music made the two sisters, focused on them with his eyes still closed.
In their song he heard many things, and even though it was in a language he could not understand, in his young mind he saw the ages that it spoke of. Long ago times, ponies now vanished, an Equestria young and shimmering, these images and more flit through his thoughts.
So enraptured was he that he did not sense something was wrong for long moments. It was only when the voices began again that he knew something was happening. He opened his eyes, looking up from where he laid. The princesses were before him, still singing, their own eyes still closed.
But there, where the gate slowly closed, stood Twilight, her hoof held up to the black face of the rock. Her mouth moved, but she said nothing.