The Worth of Her Heart

by Jay David

Chapter 1: The Worth of Her Heart

Shining Armour, former Captain of the royal guard of Canterlot, and Prince of the Crystal Empire, had many things in his life that just got under his skin. But above all else, nothing bothered him like seeing someone he cared about look unhappy. And so it was that here, as he walked out on the great balcony of the Crystal Palace, overlooking the Empire, that his gaze fell upon his beloved wife, Princess Cadence. Having known her for so long, he could always tell when something was bothering her, and today was most certainly such a time.

Though, to be fair, anypony with eyes could have taken one look at her face and known that she was less than enthusiastic about something. So, taking a deep breath, Shining took a few steps forward, and it was not long before the sound of his approaching hoof-steps caught Cadence's attention, causing her to turn and face him. When her eyes met with those of her husband, she put on a smile for him, but Shining knew her well enough to know that this was no true smile. Even without being told a word, Cadence knew what he would ask about, and so turned away from his gaze.

When the Prince had finally reached the edge of the balcony, and stood beside his wife, he broke the silence between them.

"Cadence? What's the matter?"

The Princess of love let out a long sigh before responding.

"It's...it's not something you can help with."

Shining frowned at that before gently placing a hoof upon hers, which caused her to look at him once more. As the two stared at each other, Shining spoke, his voice one of seriousness.

"Maybe not. But I wouldn't be much of a husband if I let my wife face her problems alone."

Cadence looked away, out of sadness, shame, or possibly both. But Shining placed his free hoof under her chin and moved her face to look at him yet again, before speaking softly.

"You helped me once. Now let me return the favour."

The pink alicorn looked upon the stallion she married, at the earnestness in his eyes, and knew that he would not leave until she'd let him help her. And she could not deny that he had every right to offer his aid, given that she herself had gone to great lengths to put him at ease not too long ago. But even so, it gave her no joy to speak of such things, or even think of them. What was on her mind was something that she knew would be bothering her for a long time, and though she knew Shining would do his best to help, she didn't know if there WAS any help to be had here.

So, looking at Shining's expectant face, she took a deep breath and began to give him the answers he sought.

"It all began a few days ago...when I took on my student."


Cadence could not have been happier as she walked down the main street of the Crystal Empire. The sky was gloriously sunny, with the light causing all of the surrounding crystal buildings to shine beautifully. The songbirds were flying through the air, filling her ears with their beautiful melodies. With every step she took, the ponies of her domain bowed in respect towards her, which she would always respond to with a nod. But above all else, what made her happiest was who was accompanying her. For today was the day she'd been looking forward to for some time. The day when she found herself a student of her very own.

Just beside her, walking the same path, was a young unicorn mare. Her coat was a dark pink and her mane was a lighter shade, with her cutie mark being that of a simple, red heart. Her name was Tender Heart, and she looked incredibly nervous. Every once in a while, she would dart her eyes up to Cadence, waiting for her new mentor to say something, only to lead her to stumble on the sidewalk slightly. Cadence afforded herself a brief chuckle at this, as it reminded her all too well of her former charge, Twilight Sparkle when she was younger. She wondered to herself if this is what her Aunt, Princess Celestia, went through when Twilight was being tutored.

Eventually, after touring the streets for some time, Tender finally managed to work up enough courage to speak up.


The pink alicorn turned her head to face her as she kept on walking.


Tender cleared her throat a little before continuing.

"I...I just wanted to say thank you for this opportunity to learn under you. When my parents found out I'd be studying under an alicorn, I can't say how pleased they were."

Cadence smiled at that before replying.

"No need to thank me, Tender. I have been searching for one of your talent for a very long time. Gifts like yours should be nurtured, and I am honoured to pass on what I've learned."

The Princess turned away from Tender before she could see the younger mare's reaction, but even so, she'd meant everything she'd said. For Tender had been blessed with a very rare ability, one only a handful of magic-users in history had ever known, and one that Cadence herself was quite knowledgeable of. Love magic. The power to mend the hearts of others and bring loved ones together. It was a skill Cadence had used to great effect in the past, allowing those around her to see through the fog and realise how important those close to them really are. Needless to say it was something she'd often prided herself on.

But even so, the fact that she was the only pony of her generation to have such a skill was always a bothersome fact to her. That she alone had this power made her feel, in all honesty, lonely. But now, all that was about to change, or so she told herself. She had somepony to pass on her knowledge, her experience, and to teach in the ways of love magic. Now, under her guidance, this young mare would be able to spread the same kind of good work Cadence had so often been overjoyed to see.

And it was not long before she finally had an opportunity to begin her first lesson, for as she and Tender were walking, she spotted something nearby. It was a small cafe on a street corner, with several tables outside where ponies would eat their lunches. Cadence looked on as a pair of ponies, an earth pony stallion and mare, seemed to be bickering over something. Through her own love magic, Cadence sensed that these were ponies who cared deeply about one another. But, as had happened many times in the past, some trivial thing had made them forget that. In spite of the trouble this couple were in, Cadence smiled, knowing that she now had a chance for her new student to show her stuff.

"Tender, look over there. Tell me what you see."

The young mare stopped in her tracks and focused her attention at the still-arguing couple. There was a long period of silence as she kept on staring at them, and Cadence saw a look of uncertainty creep upon her face. Every so often, Tender would look up to her, with her expression showing that there was a question she wanted to ask, but was almost afraid to do so. Eventually though, she finally got her words out.

"Do...you mean that couple?"

Cadence smiled.

"Yes. This will be a fine first lesson. So, go ahead. Let's see what you can do."

Tender looked at her, with her face bearing a clear look of confusion. Once again, there was a moment of silence between them before Tender finally spoke up.

"Um, Princess? I'm not entirely sure what you want me to do here."

Cadence raised an eyebrow at that response, clearly taken aback by it. As far as she was concerned, even as foal would be able to look over at this scene and figure out what to do. But, not wanting to appear frustrated, Cadence cleared her throat a little before explaining herself in a calm manner.

"I want you to use your gift to help that couple."

Tender's eyes began to widen as she heard that and, to Cadence's confusion, she began to look rather worried all of a sudden, even taking a small step backwards away from her.

"Wha...what gift? What are you talking about?"

This situation was growing increasingly strange to Cadence, so she decided to just come out and say it at this point.

"I mean I want you to use your love magic on them."

Tender's face became one of shock as her mouth hung open. This was, as one might expect, not a reaction Cadence had been expecting, or even understood. After almost a solid minute of silence, Tender spoke, though in a very hushed voice.

"You...you know about that? You know I have that kind of power?"

Cadence, still confused, nodded, albeit somewhat hesitantly.

"Well...yes. I mean, I'm one too. Didn't you wonder why I asked for you to enter my service?"

Tender's face changed from her initial shocked expression to one of confusion, before slowly morphing into one that Cadence recognised as irritation.

"THAT'S why you asked for me to be your student?!"

Her tone was not one that Cadence was used to hearing from those in her service, and so was somewhat unsure of how best to react to all of this. Truth be told, it was anathema to her that anypony would be acting this way when asked to use their special talents. Still, she felt at least obligated to explain her position in this matter.

"Of course. You have a very important gift, Tender. And like me, it's your responsibility to use it to both spread love and help those whose love needs aid."

Tender's expression looked as though she'd somehow been offended by those words, though Cadence could still not understand why. Before long however, Tender spoke.

"Princess...with all due respect...I have no intention of using my magic like that."

The silence that followed those words shocked Cadence to no end. She didn't want to use her power? Why not? The Princess just couldn't wrap her mind around such a statement, and so felt compelled to enquire deeper into this matter.

"Why would you not use such a special ability? Don't you realise the tremendous amount of good it can bring?"

Tender sighed deeply, her face now looking less angry than before, then gave her answer.

"Of course I do. But...it's not my place. I have no right to butt my nose into other pony's lives like that."

Cadence frowned at that, before raising a hoof and pointing over to the nearby couple they'd been discussing earlier.

"And what about them? Would you just stand aside while they carry on like that? Just watch from the sidelines as some tiny, unimportant matter drives them further and further apart? Knowing all the while that you could have helped?"

Tender frowned once more.

"Don't think me heartless, Princess. I understand exactly how tragic it is when two ponies leave each other's lives. Really, I do. But I have no right to manipulate them into doing what I want. If they decide to stay together on their own, great. If not..."

She turned and looked over at the couple before finishing her sentence.

"...it will be a shame, but it will also be their choice."

Tender looked Cadence in the eye yet again, still frowning, before speaking up again.

"I cannot and will not, use my power to change the way they feel and act, just because what they're doing doesn't suit me."

The Princess of love said nothing, merely racked her brain to find some argument she could use in her favour. After a brief while, she settled on one point that was practically staring her in the face, and so triumphantly pointed over to Tender's flank, specifically to her heart cutie mark. Tender, giving her mark a glance after this, let out another sigh, knowing full well what Cadence meant by her gesture. The fact that she'd earned that mark, a specialty in the ways of love, showed that she had already used that power at least once in her life, otherwise she'd never have learned it was her talent to begin with.

"Yes, I have used it. Though it was not my intention. Two of my friends were bickering, not unlike those two over at the cafe. I wanted them to stop so badly, and without even thinking about it, that love magic began."

She looked down at the ground, her face becoming increasingly bitter.

"At first I was happy that I'd helped them, but as the days went on, I realised exactly what I'd done. I had, for all intents and purposes, forced two of my best friends to behave the way I wanted them to. I kept them together, regardless of what they might have wanted if I hadn't been there to interfere."

Tender looked up at Cadence, looking even angrier than before.

"When I realised that, I swore to myself I would never use that power again. Nopony should have that kind of influence on other. Not me..."

She narrowed her eyes before speaking again.

",,,and not you."

Cadence stood there, aghast at what her student was saying to her. In her eyes, love was the most important thing in the world, and having an ability that allowed that love to flourish in others was something to be treasured. That there was a pony out there who was not only willing to allow love between ponies to end, but openly rejected her own power to avert such tragedy, was a shock the likes of which she never thought she would encounter in her life. The two stood in silence, the heated emotions of the last few minutes having cooled off somewhat. Eventually though, Tender exhaled deeply before looking up at her, with her face that of sadness, rather than the anger she'd been expressing before.

"I'm sorry, Princess Cadence. But if that power is why you wanted me, then I can't accept your offer to be your student."

Before Cadence could say anything, her once-and-future student began to turn around and morosely started to walk back the way they'd come. After a few steps however, she stopped and turned her face to speak one final utterance to her, with her expression that of disappointment, though whether it was in herself or Cadence, she did not know.

"I'll get my things and be gone by tomorrow."

And with that, the mare that Cadence once felt such hope and excitement for, walked further away, as the Princess just stood there and watched her go, blind to all the passers-by who might have wondered why their Princess suddenly looked so utterly distraught.


Shining looked at his beloved wife, whose face made it clear that she had been hurt deeply by this experience. In truth, he was just as shocked as her. Few ponies would ever speak to royalty like that, out of courtesy if nothing else. For her to have been criticised and questioned in such a manner was not something he would have wanted her to go through. But, he could not change the past, even though he'd like nothing more than to do just that. Instead, he moved closer to her and draped a hoof around her, holding her close.

"I'm sorry you had to go through that. Nopony likes having their talent in life be challenged like that."

Silently, and to Shining's surprise, Cadence shook her head ferociously and moved away from him. Shining looked on as Cadence, who now looked at the horizon with her back to him, spoke in a saddened voice.

"It's not just that! What if she's right?! What if I've been doing nothing but meddle where I'm not welcome?! I always felt like my magic helped people, but..."

She turned to face him, her eyes showing that she was on the verge of tears.

"...what if I've just been doing something that I never had any right to do?"

Shining looked at her, at her face, so filled with sadness, and thought carefully about what he'd just been asked. It was a problem, what Cadence was going through, that much nopony could deny, and he thought long and hard for something to say to her. What would help her? What could he say to make her feel better about what she'd gone through? How could he make her think that what Tender had said to her was wrong? Eventually, he though of the only honest thing he could conjure up to tell her.

"There's nothing I can say to fix this."

Cadence looked at him, half shocked and half confused at his response. Clearly, she'd been expecting him to say something comforting or the like, and deep down, that's exactly what Shining wanted to do, to comfort her and get her out of this. But he was no liar, and so instead stepped forward and began to explain himself.

"Honey...you have a truly wonderful gift. A power that I could never hope to have. The ability to bring ponies together, and make them see what's truly important in their lives."

He reached out with one hoof and took hers into his own before speaking.

"But that power is, at the end of the day, one that influences the way others feel and behave. That means there will always be those out there, like Tender Heart, who will look at that and condemn it."

Cadence remained silent, wondering where her husband was going with this. Eventually, she got her answer.

"But it doesn't matter what she or anypony else think. What does matter is what you feel about it."

He gave a look of affection towards her before continuing.

"You once told me that nothing gave you greater joy than to see the smiling faces of those you helped get together, or of those whom you helped to make understand that what they wanted was right in front of them. You are a good person, Cadence, and though there may be those who will criticise what you do..."

He took a step forward and gave his wife a wide smile.

"...know that there will always be far more...who love you for it."

There was silence between the two ponies as Shining's words sank in for her. But eventually, the Princess of love broke into a smile. A genuine one, not just one put on to put Shining at ease. She knew he was right, and there were many who had appreciated what she'd done for them. And though she knew that there would forever be some doubt in her mind as to whether she'd been doing the right thing, that was something she would just have to accept. However, she also knew that, as long as there was at least one pony out there who knew the joys of love, then her magic was, is, and always would be, a gift.

And so it was that the two lovers moved closer, placing their lips upon each other in a gentle kiss, as the sun began to set upon their Empire, knowing how fortunate they were to have each other in their times of need.

Author's Notes:

Ever since I received all that positive attention from my previous Cadence/Shining fic, "The Worth of His Shield", I've been thinking about making a counterpart to it, one based on Shining comforting Cadence, rather than the other way around. But what he would comfort her about was something I had a hard time figuring out. That is, until I wrote the final line of last week's fic, "The Princess and the Prime":

"And THIS is exactly why love is Cadence's job!"

That was the point where I really started to consider Cadence's power which, as of this fic, has only been shown once in the entire series. But nevertheless it was one that I felt was worth exploring.

Now before anyone asks, I'm not trying to bash Cadence with this fic. I like her a great deal, but when I think about her power over love, I can't help but be a little disturbed that she has this influence over people, and I'm sure many others would to. I just felt that a story needed to be made of what might happen if she were to meet a person who had a very aggressive and negative opinion on her talent in life.

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