posted by NocturnalMirage
The last solstice
Chapter 37: Fair trade
The dungeons were beneath Canterlot Castle, carved deep within the mountain which the capital sat on. The cells were empty most of the time, there was no need for them since the royal sisters came to power a thousand years ago. Of course, a few criminals and villains were accommodated there from time to time; the crude engravings on the walls testified for that. Names, crooked drawings, lines representing days, months and years. Even Silent Hoof, the infamous burglar was a guest in one of the small cells.
The stone walls were cold and moist, and the temperature was freezing. Whoever got sent down here could no longer see the light of day. Everything was dark, only a few torches provided a gloomy light. The air was stuffy, heavy with the smell of rust, soot and decay.
Nocturnal Mirage was sitting in his cell, listening to the deadly silence that surrounded him. The only sound he could hear was his own breathing and the rattle of his chains, every time he made a motion. He was all alone, the other cells were empty, nothing plus than dark holes, yawning at the nothingness. One could easily loose track of time in such surroundings and so did Mirage. He had no idea how long he has been down there; it could have been a few hours ou days. No noise from the surface could find its way to the dungeons and Mirage was left all alone with his swirling thoughts and emotions.
He was unable to comprehend what went wrong. Yes, his name was in the paper, right below the story of what happened in Manehatten. He was absolutely sure he didn't spill the beans; however, the only problem was that the story was quite accurate. Not exactly what he heard from Celestia, but the basic facts were correct and the secret got out.
“I would never do something like that to her!” he shouted and his deep voice echoed in the darkness.
His soul was in constant misery, knowing he Lost Celestia forever. The broadsword of death was hanging above his head, but he didn't care. He found his other half in a very unlikely mare; the one poney he was taught to hate and despise. Even though he knew he was innocent, Mirage accepted his fate with resignation. Life wasn't worth living if he had to endure Celestia's judgmental glare. He didn't even try to escape. It would have been a useless attempt anyways; the bars were enchanted. Despite his enhanced magical aura, he would not have been able to break free. He didn't even want to.
What if she has another mental breakdown? The logical fear emerged from Mirage's brain. Then his thoughts got messed up, merging into a solid mass of perplexity, confusion and the unbearable feeling of helpless fury. His head was heavy and numb with these shadowy images and he could not think clearly.
“I never thought it will end like this...” he sighed.
Time passed par on led hooves, every minute felt like a lifetime. Mirage almost fell asleep, when he heard the click of a lock. The moist walls reverberated the metallic noise and a few secondes later, two royal guards opened the thick iron door and marched in. The armored stallions lit up all the torches in the narrow corridor and came to a halt in front of Mirage's cell. Soon, another poney entered the dungeon and Mirage immediately recognized the hoofsteps he's been listening to for several months up in the Ivory Tower.
Celestia didn't hurry, she walked par every empty cell with slow, confident steps. Mirage gulped instinctively, knowing when her beloved Princess arrives, he'll have to face her wrath.
He was correct, the sun goddess stopped in front of him, throwing a hostile glare at Mirage. Her purple eyes were flashing with passion and rage in the gloominess and Mirage shrank in her gaze. She pierced through his soul with those lovely, yet fearful eyes and her features were steely and unrelenting. None of them could speak for several minutes.
“You may leave.” Celestia said, turning to the guards.
“Are toi sure, your Highness?” the pegasus stallion asked back.
“Absolutely. I'll call for you, when you're needed.”
“We'll be here right outside the door, if toi need anything.”
The royal guards bowed and trotted out of the dungeon, leaving Celestia and Mirage alone.
“Tia, I...” Mirage eventually opened his mouth, when he heard the door closing behind the guards.
“You have betrayed me, Mirage!” Celestia declared on a frosty voice.
“No! That's what I was trying to tell Luna!” Mirage shook his head in denial.
“I trusted you!” Celestia shouted vigorously. “I let toi into my lit chambers! I told toi my most inner secrets!”
“Please listen to me!” Mirage begged, reaching out through the bars for the Princess.
“DON'T toi DARE TOUCHING ME!” Celestia exclaimed on the Royal Canterlot Voice, which was deafening to the ears in such small room.
Mirage recoiled, but kept his eyes locked on Celestia.
“Don't toi ever dare touching me again!” she hissed. “When Luna told me about what toi did, I didn't want to believe toi played me like that.”
“Would toi please listen to me for a second?!” Mirage lashed out. “I didn't do it! I l’amour toi with all my cœur, coeur and I'd never do anything to hurt you! Somepony's obviously trying to frame me to separate from you!”
“Yes, that was my first thought too.” Celestia nodded. “Until I had a little chat with the auteur of that article. He was scared beyond belief when I showed up in front of his door, thanks to you!”
“But when I asked him who gave him the information, he gave a perfect description of you.”
“That's impossible I was right here with toi all the time!” Mirage protested vehemently.
“Several other witnesses saw toi walking in to that building, which happens to be the editorial office of the Equestrian Herald, the same newspaper which leaked the information!”
“I'm telling you, it wasn't me!” Mirage replied. “There are still many changelings left in Canterlot, it could have been one of them!”
“You think I'm that stupid, Mirage?!” Celestia yelled. “Those changelings are like zombies and even if there was one capable of impersonating you, how could they possibly know about my story?! Explain that to me!!!”
“I... can't...” Mirage a dit quietly, lowering his head.
“Of course toi can't! Because it was you, not a changeling! Only three ponies knew about what happened in Manehatten and I am 1000% sure it wasn't my sister ou Twilight who betrayed me! It was you! Only you!!!” Celestia exclaimed feverishly.
“Why would I do that?! Tell me, why would I throw away everything we have so foolishly?” Mirage questioned.
“I suggest toi watch your tone, subject!” Celestia called out in a formal fashion. “We share nothing anymore!”
“You don't honestly believe that after what we've been through, do you, Princess?”
“If you've lived as long as I have, you'd know it is often irrelevant what we believe ou don't believe in. All facts are against you. But I know why toi did it.”
“Yes. toi knew I needed to be pushed harder to use my magic and I'm sure toi had good intentions. But the path to Tartaros is paved with good intentions as well. Although I'd never thought you'll go this far to complete the task my sister gave you.”
Mirage wanted to react, but Celestia raised her hoof, silencing him.
“Don't speak. I don't want to hear any plus of your lies. Yes, I know about the mission Luna assigned toi to. And toi succeeded. toi earned my trust, toi brought me out of my shell and helped me to wear the crown once again. Too bad it was based on a lie. All the things you've a dit and done... it was all a lie. Just an act! And I didn't notice it, because I wanted to believe that lie. I wanted to believe that after all these years, there was still something out there for me... I wanted to believe there was somepony who didn't care about my Princesshood ou my scars... a stallion who loved me only for me...”
“It wasn't all a lie.” Mirage said, moving closer to the bars, which separated him from Celestia. “I had a mission, yes. At first, it was nothing more. But somewhere along the way, I fell in l’amour with you. I never lied about that.”
“It was a dream, Mirage. Only a dream. “Celestia replied on a sorrowful voice, shutting her eyes. “And like every dream, this one has to end too.”
“I still have something to say.” Celestia cut him off with a cold gesture. “A few things of merely technical nature. For what you've done, Luna wants your blood. And I should let her execute toi in the morning. But, if it wasn't for you, I would still be up in the Ivory Tower, fighting with my own past. toi dragged me out of the shadows and I owe toi for that. GUARDS!”
The same armored pegasi trotted inside the dungeon with heavy steps.
“Release him.” Celestia commanded when they arrived.
“Uh... your Majesty...” one of the guards stuttered nervously.
“I said, release him!” Celestia exclaimed plus sternly.
“As toi wish, Princess.”
The gray stallion took out a divisé, split ring from under his armor and put a long, black key into the lock. The door opened with a discharge and the guard walked inside Mirage's cell to remove his shackles.
“I don't understand...” Mirage said, rubbing his hoof, where the chains scratched his skin.
“You gave me back what I've lost. Life for a life. It's a fair trade. Now we're even.” Celestia replied, puffing out her chest, letting her tall figure dominate the shorter earth pony.
“But what will I do?”
Celestia took a step closer to Mirage, lowering her head to look him in the eye.
“Run, Mirage, run!” she hissed. “Run and never come back!”