The last solstice
Chapter 23: Deadline
“Exactly who do toi think toi are?!” the Princess of the Night snapped at Mirage without any preliminary, as soon as she closed the large door of her office.
“Princess, I…” the stallion began.
“Silence!” Luna exclaimed, angrily raising her hoof. “Do toi think you’re above me?! When I let toi in to the menacing secret, I wasn’t expecting this! I was expecting achievements! It has been three weeks since your last rapporter and when I finally have the time and strength to trot up there, what do I see?!”
Mirage looked around in the room quickly, like if there was somepony else there who could help him out.
“I tell toi what did I see.” the cobalt alicorn hissed and took a step toward Mirage. “I saw YOU, waltzing out of my sister’s room with a wide grin on your face, carefree of everything! Did toi forget what’s at stake here?! DID YOU?!”
“No I haven’t!” Mirage called out on a high tone of voice, which overstepped the confines of respect.
However, the cutting edge of Luna’s words struck him in the chest. He wasn’t sure anymore if his last statement was still valid ou not. He also could not believe he spent three weeks up in the Ivory Tower. Could it be?
“What did toi do up there?! What progress can toi montrer me?!” Luna questioned mercilessly.
Mirage remained silent, and the Moon goddess took another step closer to him.
“Don’t toi see?! I have put the fate of our entire race into your hooves! If toi fail, everything will be Lost and I’m not going to stand par and let that happen! Not without a fight! What did toi spend the precious time with?! SPEAK!!!”
“I was earning Celestia’s trust, your Highness!” the blue earth poney replied quietly.
“I sense confusion in you, but your words are true.” Luna softened a little after a long break.
“Please, Princess, toi have to understand! This takes time and your sister’s soul is very fragile. I cannot urge her! One wrong déplacer and she breaks again and everything will be Lost as toi said. I may have Lost control over the situation, but please give me another chance!” Mirage requested passionately.
“Hmm…” Luna murmured, rubbing her chin, seemingly Lost in thoughts. “All right. toi may continue your work with my sister, but this time, I want proof of your progress.”
“What do toi mean?”
“The solstice is near; we have two and a half months to be exact. toi know what happens if my sister will not perform her royal duty until then. I want to meet with Celestia, muzzle to muzzle before that. toi have exactly one mois to make that happen!” the nocturnal alicorn raised her hoof once plus to silence Mirage’s protest. “This is not a matter of bargain. If toi fail, I will pull toi off the case and toi will never see her again. Is that understood?”
“Yes… your Majesty…” Mirage gulped.
“Good. And remember! This is your last chance! In fact, this is everypony’s last chance!
Nocturnal Mirage gazed upon the obsidian skies, studying the flickering stars. He was sitting like a statue, on Celestia’s balcony, beside him there was the solar alicorn and between them stood a golden telescope. Autumn has arrived and the coldness started to montrer its sharp teeth, but the two ponies did not seem to be affected par it. It was almost midnight and the last lights of Canterlot slowly died out and the windows turned dark as the residents went to sleep. The sky was clear, not even a tiny nuage kept the stars and the Moon to pour their cool white light on the landscape.
It was the perfect time for stargazing. At first, Mirage was surprised the Princess invited him to rejoindre her for this nocturnal activity; therefore the confrontation with Luna occurred on the worst possible day. Never before Celestia allowed him to enter her suite at night, they always a dit goodbye in the evening, only to rejoin again early in the morning suivant day. The royal blue stallion understood this was a huge favor from the sun goddess and a sign of trust. Since Luna’s ultimatum, Mirage began to realize the full depths of his odd relationship with Celestia. The quarrel cleared his mind and even though he could not pull himself out of the solar alicorn’s aura, he was at least able to observe things from a rational point of view. He now comprehended what he achieved with the Princess, and despite Luna’s warning he began to accept the role of the apprentice beside Celestia. As he looked back on the past few weeks he recognized with surprise how close he felt to her. It seemed like he has known this strange mare in his entire life and assumed she must feel the same way about him. Why else she would be jouer la comédie like this?
Although his mother, Summer Pride often came at night to haunt his dreams, Mirage began to doubt everything she had taught him about Celestia. He remembered his initial hatred towards her with shame. Summer always told him that the Princess was a tyrannical monster, a common war criminal, who destroyed King Sombra only because he wanted an independent Crystal Empire. But as the stallion kept looking at Celestia, he found nothing monstrous about her. On the contrary, he could not believe how could possibly somepony who’s so wise, sophisticated and kind be a tyrant?
“… and toi see, over there… that’s the Ursa Minor!” Celestia a dit excitedly.
Mirage was so Lost in his thoughts he didn’t realize the solar Princess was talking to him for minutes.
“Excuse me, Princess?” Mirage shook his head.
“I said, if toi look over there on the right, at two a clock, toi can see the Ursa Minor constellation. It consists of seven stars; the brightest is called the Polaris… Oh my… I feel like I’m at the School for Gifted licornes teaching young fillies and colts, ha ha!” Celestia chuckled.
The sound she made was short, yet it came from the cœur, coeur and it was new. Mirage never heard it before; probably the Princess herself didn’t do it in over a decade.
“I hope I’m not boring you… toi seemed to montrer some interest in astronomy, that’s why I thought we could watch the stars together. I haven’t done it in a long time.” the white alicorn a dit softly.
“No, no, please continue. It is very interesting.” Mirage replied quietly.
“All right. So, about the Polaris… it’s 360 light years from our planet…”
But her words did not reach Mirage’s brain, for he kept gazing at Celestia, trying to pick up the précédant thread of his thoughts. Her voice filled his ears with a pleasing resonance and she was utterly indulged in her presentation. In this uplifted condition she forgot about her billowing mane and the fluorescent hair returned to its natural position, no longer covering her old wounds. Even though it was dark, the black scars were clearly visible on her snow white manteau which reflected the moonlight. Mirage tried to look away but it was attracting his eye and aroused his curiosity once again. It was the first time he could observe the scars from this close and Celestia wasn’t paying attention. The most severe injuries covered the right side of her chest and her face, but her ear, eyelid, hoof and neck were also affected. It seems something burned the flesh long ago…
the cobalt stallion thought. But in that moment, the Princess of the Sun snatched his vision. The enthusiastic smile immediately vanished and her features darkened. Mirage knew he made a fatal mistake, before Celestia opened her mouth to speak.
“It’s always about the scars, isn’t it?” she asked sadly, her voice was barely audible.
“No, no, I…” Mirage began but was silenced par an alicorn the seconde time this day.
“I felt something was depressing toi the entire night… but I thought…” Celestia a dit as her mane slowly floated around her body, covering her wounds again. “I thought we’re passed this…”
“No, Princess, toi are mistaken! We are… I… It’s just…” Mirage stuttered, desperately seeking for the right words.
“Go now.” the sun goddess a dit coldly.
“Please, listen to me! It’s not what toi think!” Mirage countered in frustration for he was forced to explain himself twice this day.
“I a dit LEAVE!” Celestia yelled, her voice almost reaching the regions of the Royal Canterlot Voice.
“Let me explain…”
“LEAVE!!!” the alicorn stood up, menacingly towering on the smaller earth pony. “GET OUT! toi WILL NEVER HAVE TO LOOK UPON THIS MONSTER!”
Sinister storm clouds appeared on the sky from nowhere, even though Mirage didn’t see the golden magical aura around Celestia’s horn. He assumed the dark cumulus was created par her pure anger. He saw no other choice then to comply with her demands and quickly ran out of her suite fearing for his life. The door closed behind him with a loud bang and he remained alone in the dark hallway. He tried to get back inside but he bumped into an invisible repulsive wall. He doubled his efforts, even summoning upon his unique terra-magic, but the odd force got plus solid and plus powerful with every attempt. The royal blue stallion flopped down on the cold marble floor, gasping for air. He lay still for several hours in front of the door, but even from there he could hear Celestia’s violent sobs, coming from her bedroom.