posted by NocturnalMirage
The last solstice
Chapter 9: Doubts
The process is very slow, like cruising out of a dark tunnel. First, he hears muffled sounds. Everything’s quieted down. There’s no sign of battle. Then he can form coherent thoughts. The air is weird… stuffy, yet somehow refreshing at the same time. It’s quite ambivalent. Strange wafts are trying to get near his mind. The smell billows around his awakening consciousness. Is that… perfume?
The symbolic light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter, as the fog starts to break up. The stallion attempts to collect his thoughts. His heavy eyelids open a little. It’s nothing 更多 than a mere quiver. Everything’s a blur for a moment. He slowly turns his head and winces when a bright figure of a mare towers over him. She stands only a few inches away. Yes, those purple eyes… even 更多 enchanting from this close. The Princess!
She gazes at the features of the earth 小马 with a contemplative look, seemingly 迷失 in nothingness. The vigorous, mad flame revives in her iris, as she recognizes that the stallion’s fully awake and looks right back at her. The soft, but pale smile disappears from her face. Celestia’s eyes widen and her pupil shrinks to a size of a pin because of the realization: He saw me!!!
“NOOO!!!” The alicorn lets out a ghoulish scream.
She flares her wings and writes down an arch in the air, above Mirage’s head. He can feel the wind generated 由 the Princess’s wings and can even smell her. A gentle, yet vivid smell. It was her perfume…
With one mighty wing-beat, Celestia retreats into the darkness in less than a second. The cobalt stallion shakes his head violently, not fully aware of what just happened. His eyes adjust to the gloominess of the room. Now he can see different shapes and objects. The thick curtains are covering the large, 哥特式 windows, blocking out most of the light. Tormented 由 a terrible headache, he stands up from the 长椅, 沙发 he was lying on up to this point. His footing is unstable, but he manages to keep the balance. The stallion rubs his neck. There’s a bandage over his wounds. A bandage made 由 skillful hooves. And that other smell fills his nostrils. Some kind of herb, but he doesn’t remember which one.
Mirage spots the silhouette of the sun goddess at the darkest corner of the room. He can only see her eyes. Celestia stares at him and the cobalt 小马 is unable to tell if this look is threatening 或者 frightened.
“Princess?” Mirage says softly, taking a step toward the alicorn.
Celestia recoils because of the earth pony’s deep voice and the sudden movement. She grabs her forever billowing mane and tries to 包, 换行 it around her body, like a blanket.
Mirage is another step closer. The solar goddess holds her own mane convulsively and her grasp becomes even tighter as the stallion approaches.
“I just want to say…” Mirage stutters.
He feels very uncomfortable in the situation, but takes another step ahead. The Princess rolls up in a ball and her entire body starts to shake. The royal blue 小马 can see her features better now. Only the left side of her face is visible, the other half is 迷失 under her whirling, sparkly mane, along with the rest of her body, except for some parts of her swan-like neck. A desperate grimace of anguish furrows her otherwise soft features. She doesn’t make a sound, but she doesn’t need to. Mirage has seen this look before. Celestia begs him with her eyes.
Please don’t come any closer…
A series of miscellaneous emotions rumble through Mirage’s soul as he gazes upon the trembling figure in front of him. Even in her current state, there are some regal aspects to her. The old Celestia is there somewhere deep within. He can feel it.
The stallion often imagined how it would be like facing the Princess of the Sun muzzle to muzzle. Yet, all his vengeful thoughts have vanished and left him without a word to say. Except…
“I just wanted to say: thank you.” Mirage whispers and slowly backs away.
As the distance between them increases, the Princess stands up. Her behavior changes. Celestia idles on the same spot in the darkness and still keeps her mane around her body, but she obtains a graceful pose. Mirage raises a brow. It seems the sun goddess regained some of her confidence and pride. The alicorn watches Mirage and nods toward him. It’s a small, almost unnoticeable gesture. She’s 更多 reminiscent of her old self. Celestia locks her eyes on the stallion as he leaves her room with quiet steps.
“What’s the situation?” The Princess of the Night 问题 sternly.
“We have sustained heavy losses, but successfully repelled the changeling attack.” Shining Armor 回复 and lets out a careworn smile.
“Thank 你 Captain... I mourn all who gave their lives today.” Luna 回复 更多 gently and places her hoof on the stallion’s shoulder.
Shining Armor raises a brow when he examines Luna’s features 更多 carefully.
“With all due respect… Are 你 feeling okay, Princess? 你 look… pale… and exhausted…
“These attacks are getting 更多 and 更多 intense. The changelings must be stopped!” the alicorn exclaims, avoiding Shining’s question.
“Our numbers have dwindled. That is why I need 你 to return to the Crystal Empire immediately and bring back reinforcements from there. Recruit anypony 你 can. Your transportation awaits 你 outside.” Luna continues.
“Right away, your Majesty!” Shining salutes, but he stops at the door.
“I know what 你 want to ask. Unfortunately, Cadence is still needed here 由 my side to help me with... err… a special task. Good luck, Captain!”
“Understood.” the white unicorn sighs resignedly and leaves Luna’s room.
The moon goddess idles immovably until the sound of hoofsteps fade away outside. She suppresses a scream of pain as a bright, sky blue tendril of magic escapes through her horn. Luna flops down, her breathing accelerates. Her body trembles in anguish as she struggles to keep the magic inside.
“Luna!” a soft voice calls out.
Cadence gallops to the older Princess and helps her up. The 粉, 粉色 alicorn’s horn charges up with magic as she casts a regenerating spell.
“Yes… For the moment… I have less and less control over the process…” Luna gasps.
“You can’t do this alone anymore.” Cadence replies.
“I must. Can 你 imagine what would happen if anypony would know what is about to come?” the cobalt alicorn asks.
“Yes… Worldwide panic...” the younger Princess says grimly.
“Exactly. 你 are the only one who knows. And it must be that way. 你 didn’t tell your husband about this, did you?”
“No, of course not. But he’s not stupid. He’s suspecting something and sooner 或者 later he will connect the dots.”
“Indeed. I’ve sent him back to the Crystal Empire with a task that should keep him busy for a little while.”
They both stay quiet for a couple of minutes, each sunk deep into their concerns.
“What’s the status on our plan?” Cadence eventually breaks the silence.
Luna looks deep into her purple eyes.
“I honestly don’t know. And I fear we have acted too late. It was foolish of us to put the future of our kind into the hooves of one 小马 we don’t even know. How could Nocturnal Mirage accomplish something that we, her family, her 老友记 could not?”
“We have all tried, Luna. But to no avail. Celestia has locked herself into her Tower and surrounded her mind with barricades and walls. This called for a different approach…. a different way of thinking. We’ve done everything we could think of and look where we are? Maybe it takes a stranger to break through to her.” Cadence explains patiently.
“Well, he’d better do it fast!” the moon goddess exclaims angrily.
“Let me talk to him. He must understand what’s at stake here.”
“No! He cannot know! He won’t stay quiet!”
“But he’s sworn secrecy…” the 粉, 粉色 alicorn throws in.
“He’ll break! I’ve sensed it. His willpower is weak. He has family… friends. Could you resist telling them about the impending disaster, if 你 were the only one who knew?!” Luna counters sternly.
“No. Talk to him if 你 must, but tell him nothing about this. I’ll do everything in my power to buy us 更多 time… to delay the inevitable as long as I can… But it all depends on my sister anyhow.”