The last solstice
Chapter 22: Breakthrough – Part 3
“I tell you, something’s not right here, man.” the armored pegasus stated, turning to his partner.
“Tell me about it…! They’re at it again.” the other stallion nodded.
Even though they could not understand the words, the sounds of quarrelling clearly sifted through the large wooden door and every Royal Guard who posté in front of Luna's office knew something was wrong between the alicorns.
“I don’t care what toi say, Cadence! This is taking far too long!” The Princess of the Night exclaimed, speaking on the archaic unicorn language.
“Just calm down, and let’s talk about this!” the rose alicorn replied softly, speaking the same language.
For Luna’s suggestion, they always used the obsolete, dead language to discuss serious matters. This allowed them to speak safely, without curious ears listening in to their conversation. Only a few ponies in the entire kingdom could possibly understand their words.
“No, Cadence! toi always say everything’s going to be fine! No! Everything’s getting worse! I can’t keep this up anymore! The gravitational delays are beginning to exceed my powers!”
“It seems our time will come to an end…” the Moon goddess a dit grimly. “The constant changeling threat drains what’s left of my strength… and now I’ve Lost contact with Nocturnal Mirage as well… it was a mistake to allow him to stay up there all the time…”
The nocturnal alicorn walked to the sofa and flopped down to the plushy furniture. She took the dual crown off her head and rubbed her temple.
“So, what do toi want to do? Give up?” Cadence questioned, her soothing voice turning sharp all of a sudden.
Luna looked up and returned the l’amour Princess’s penetrating stare.
“I… I’m so tired… so very-very tired…” she sighed exhaustedly.
“When we started this, we knew we’re putting everything on one card, Luna. We’ve thought about this long and hard… if there was another way I would have been the first one to support it. But Celestia summoned upon a powerful magic to joint, joint d’étanchéité herself in the Ivory Tower. toi remember the countless hours we’ve spent trying to break it… nothing worked. She locked us and everything else out of her life. We grabbed this one last chance to save our kind.” Cadence said, switching to a warmer tone.
“And look where we are now… We brought in this outsider and for what? If I had the power, I’d march up there, smash the door in, drag out my sister and force her to fix the damage her absence caused! I’d stop at nothing to prevent the disaster which is about to come!” the lunar goddess called out vigorously.
“I know your relationship wasn’t too good when she decided to live in exile, but… we both know what toi say is not possible. The harder we try the plus powerful Celestia’s spell gets. She herself is the only one who could break it.” the rose alicorn replied, taking a step closer to Luna.
“Yes... I know… but I’m helpless, Cadence… Helpless!” The Princess of the Night said, grinding her teeth. “I am helpless and frustrated… because everything we have built in a thousand years, everything we have worked for will be ashes and there is not a single thing I can do to stop it!”
“I know it seems hopeless and the chance of success is very small. But toi simply cannot lose faith! As long as we’re here, our cause is not Lost yet!” Cadence exclaimed with an enthusiastic spark in her purple eyes.
“How are toi doing this?” Luna asked with a pale smile. “How can toi stay so optimistic in the shadow of doom?”
“Because there is always hope, Luna. And that is why I’m here beside you. To give toi hope. Equestria needs you, plus than any time before."
“Hmm… Equestria needs my sister, not me.” the Moon goddess countered quietly, lowering her head.
“The kingdom needs toi both to restore balance. Just trust me. Nocturnal Mirage will deliver Celestia.” the Princess of l’amour replied with a warm, reassuring smile on her face.
“I truly admire your faith. But what makes him so special that toi believe in this stallion so much?”
“His complex emotions. The feelings run deep in him, deeper than anypony else I’ve met. The key to our salvation is through Celestia’s heart. And Mirage will win it over.”
“I hope you’re right about him, Cadence… When it comes to emotions, your judgement is beyond any doubt.”
“I’d never let toi down. Just give him time.”
“War material is a luxury we have. Wine too. Time is not.” Luna remarked sternly, walking to the window. “Whatever your protégé does, he better do it quickly… The Darkness is near."
Cadence followed the nocturnal alicorn’s glance through the window and recognized a pitch black spot on the Sun, covering a quarter of its surface. She knew they were the only ones who could see it, for Luna have shielded the truth with an illusion spell from the eyes of everypony else. Her expressions didn’t reveal any concern, but the Princess of l’amour felt a solid mass of anxiety forming in her stomach, slowly coiling up on her throat, like a large snake holding her in the rings of its lethal grasp.
Nocturnal Mirage was stooping over the small table, rubbing his chin. The game of Bao has lasted for almost four hours and he had to make his suivant déplacer very carefully. He examined every colorful pebble on the wooden board. He slowly reached out for a blue stone, but withdrawn his arm halfway. The stallion knew if he makes the wrong déplacer he’ll lose the battle. His émeraude green eyes traveled upwards to the form of the solar Princess. Her mane billowed around her softly, sparkling in the couleurs of the summer sunset, always covering her scars, but the discrete, yet confident smile in the corners of her lips was new. Celestia returned the glance with a waiting look. Only then Mirage realized he was cornered. The white alicorn already ruled his Eastern Fortress and claimed three of his most valuable crimson stones. He eventually placed a blue pebble from one of the eight holes to another. That new, impish smile grew wider on Celestia’s face as she immediately made her suivant move. Mirage’s features darkened as the realization struck him: he walked right into the trap of the sun goddess and she managed to surround him, cutting his way to retreat. She formed a winning combination within two moves.
“Impressive. Where did toi learn the rule of the Seven Stones?” Celestia asked, after the game was over.
“My mother taught me long ago…” Mirage replied, looking up from the board, his features montrer disbelief.
“Commendable. Nopony plays this ancient game anymore.” the Princess nodded in approval. “How about another confrontation? Unless you’re exhausted… This was the third battle in a row.”
Mirage pondered over the question for a little. Despite the complexity of the Bao and the enhanced mental extortion, he didn’t feel tired at all. It seemed the radiation of Celestia’s aura was filling him up with energy. The only thing that bothered him that he wasn’t able to win a single game yet.
“Sure.” he replied shortly and they reset the stones.
“Persistent are we?” the solar alicorn asked with a tiny bit of taunt in her undertones, but before her game partner could say anything she continued. “You know, there is no better way to get to know somepony than analyzing his game. I like what I’ve seen, but toi still have so much to learn if toi want to be victorious... Do toi want to learn?”
“Yes.” the cobalt stallion agreed after a moment of hesitation.
“Excellent! Now listen carefully, I’m going to teach toi the rule of the Four Bulls…”
Celestia spoke for almost an hour, confirming her words on the board, montrer the complex combination of stones. Her inhibitions came down quickly as she once again tapped into the thrill of teaching, an emotion that was one of the defining aspects of her being and which she denied herself for so long. Mirage on the other hoof, drank in every word the Princess said, enjoying the melodious voice of the sun goddess.
Since Luna told Mirage the truth, he barely left the Ivory Tower anymore and spent a lot of time with her sister and now the amount of time has been doubled (ha-haaaa, see what I did there? :). A certain craving was always a part of his soul. The craving for more. And it seemed he has found somepony who could satisfy that craving. Celestia was a source of infinite knowledge and wisdom and she’s become confident enough that she was willing to share this wisdom. Oh and she had so many things to teach…
A few days later, Mirage was able to beat Celestia in a game of Bao, however she still remained Victorious most of the time. As the royal blue stallion observed the solar Princess, he noticed something. It seemed as soon as she’s retaken the role of the wise mentor, she’s become plus radiant. Her being was slowly refilled with life; she’s become plus genial with each day. The proximity of another poney did not disturb her anymore and her late night freak-outs have stopped as well. Mirage caught her smiling plus and plus often, yet some persistent somberness was still lurking in the depths of her soul. The earth poney knew that was the source of Celestia’s problems, but it will not be easy to reach down there.
But as the days passed by, one after the other, Mirage began to forget his initial goals. No matter how hard he tried to resist, time became meaningless, he often surprised par the bright sunlight ou the cold night breeze. He sucked in all the knowledge Celestia offered, while he’s become rapturous par her very presence. He somehow felt stronger and bustling with health when he was around her and that odd craving inside his soul grew plus powerful with every heure he spent with the Princess. He didn’t know how long he was in the haze, but it didn’t really matter to him, until one evening.
He trotted out of Celestia’s suite to have dinner, but he suddenly stopped in the hallway. It seemed his senses became plus acute since he was spending extended periods of time with the solar alicorn. He quickly turned his head to the stairway where a dark shadow idled immovably. The figure pierced her sarcelle, teal eyes into Mirage’s, glaring at him judgmentally. The stallion winced as he sensed the presence.
“Oh… Princess Luna! toi scared me…”
“What do toi think you’re doing?! This is not what we have agreed on! In my office, NOW!” the Moon goddess declared decisively.
"You know, there is no better way to get to know somepony than analyzing his game..." (pic drawn by me)