The Quest for Harmony

The Quest for Harmony

by Jay David


  • Summons
  • Meeting with Royalty
  • Departure
  • Summons

    Across field and rivers, over villages, towns and cities, over hills and even the tallest of mountains, the sun was rising over the land of Equestria. This land of magic had, for many countless ages, been the home of the Equestrians, who stood tall above all others peoples of the world as the most friendly, the most successful and one of the most powerful races in the world. And at the centre of it all, slap-bang in the middle of their great land, was their shining jewel; Canterlot. This ancient city had been a source of pride for the Equestrians for longer than any of them could remember, for it was the largest, most beautiful and most renowned city in the known world, housing the greatest of their magic-users, as well as their leaders, the princesses themselves. With pristine white spires reaching up into the heavens, Canterlot would appear, to the casual observer, to practically grow out of the mountain it was adjacent to, looking down upon the rest of Equestria like a silent guardian. All who lived beyond the borders of the Equestrians' land would simply have to take one look at this city to know how great a people this was, and how much they had accomplished during their long history.

    And in the city itself, the townsfolk were waking with the rising of the sun. Earthens, unicorns and pegasi alike were emerging from their homes, ready to greet the dawn and give thanks to it, as they had hundreds of times before. The royal guard, the military pride of the city, would patrol the streets as ever, giving the assurance of security to all who saw them, as they marched in their famous golden armour, which now shone brightly with the sunrise. As the minutes rolled on, everyone within the city was getting to work, or attending to their various duties, and while a city as great as this could hardly ever truly be asleep, in this moment, it was more than awake, as the air filled with a chorus of "good morning" across every street. But, there was one person in this entire metropolis who had not slept at all the previous night, and she was currently in her room in one of the most notable locations in the city; The magic academy. This centuries-old school had, for its entire existence, been the place where the most talented of unicorns came to learn and enhance their craft, learning secrets of arcane lore that few beyond its walls could ever know. If you attended such a place, you were truly special.

    In one of the towers on the eastern side of the academy, in one of the highest rooms, there was a lone unicorn woman, lavender in her fur and bearing a shoulder-length dark-purple mane. She was clad, as many of the school’s acolytes were, in simple light-brown robes, which stretched from her shoulders all the way down to her ankles, wherein she was wearing simple brown slippers. In this moment, the young lady was sitting at her desk, a still-smouldering candle beside her, a clear sign of having worked all through the night. The light of the rising sun crept in through her window, which was facing east, and she was focusing hard on an open tome before her on the desk. Though she had not slept, there was no sign of fatigue in her whatsoever, as her eyes trailed form left-to-right in her attempt to study. After a few further moments of this, she let out a sigh, closing the book and then turning to a small wooden bowl on the other side of the table, which was filled with various fruits. Reaching for it, she picked out a bright red apple, looking at it intently before gently placing it closer to her on the table. After staring at it in silence, she spoke softly.

    "Okay...let's see if this works."

    Slowly, she closed her eyes, and the room stilled to a quiet. There was a long pause as she concentrated, never allowing anything to distract her. She focused hard, calling forth the magic that all unicorns had within them, and within moments, her horn began to glow. The light surrounding it grew brighter and brighter, and soon afterwards, that same aura began to envelop the apple before her. Her breathing was steady during all this, and she thought of nothing more than the apple and what she was going to do with it. The magic surrounding that lone fruit also began to glow far brighter than before, and everything was right on the cusp of what Twilight envisioned for it. That is, until the door of her quarters suddenly burst open.


    Immediately, the young lady, Twilight, let out a yelp of surprise, snapping her eyes open as the magic faded around the apple. Her head turned rapidly in the direction of the door, and there, she saw a sight that few in this land would ever know; a young dragon. But this was not one of the massive beasts of legends, so often used by mothers to frighten children into behaving themselves. No, this was still just a child, a few years the lady's junior, looking as bright-eyed and excited as any Equestrian youth. Like Twilight, he too was dressed simply, bearing pale-green cloth shirt and shorts, standing tall enough to be just shy of the height of Twilight's shoulder. And right now, he had a massive grin on his face. But, sadly for him, that smile soon faded when he saw the angry look on Twilight’s face.

    "Spike! How many times have I told you to knock before you come in here?!"

    The young drake, as one might expect of someone his age, immediately looked saddened by the outburst, poking his index claws together while looking at the ground.

    "I'm...I'm sorry. I just..."

    Seeing that unhappy look on her friend’s face, Twilight let out a sigh, unable to stay angry for much longer.

    "Its fine, Spike. I was just in the middle of something important here. Whatever it is you wanted to say, could it wait for a few moments?"

    The sadness faded from Spike as soon as those words were spoken, and he smiled and nodded in response to that, closing the door behind him and making his way to the corner of the room, watching Twilight carefully. Twilight smiled in appreciation over this, and shortly afterwards, got back to looking at the apple. Reaching forward again, she placed her hand on the fruit and put it back where it was before, having accidentally knocked it slightly when Spike had caught her by surprise. With everything now as it was before, Twilight closed her eyes and concentrated yet again. Spike watched with interest as, almost immediately, the apple began to glow again. The aura grew brighter with every passing moment, and soon enough, there was a bright flash. Although Spike had to turn away from that flash for a brief moment, when he looked back to where the apple had been, his eyes widened with shock to discover that it was no longer there. Twilight, after having opened her eyes, gained a similar look, and together, the two youngsters looked around the room for a while. Eventually, they both locked eyes on a nearby bookcase, seeing that the apple had, in fact, re-appeared on one of the shelves. Getting out of her chair, Twilight approached it carefully, raising her hand and gently poking it with a single finger. It wasn't long before she smiled afterwards.

    "I...I did it! My teleportation spell actually works!"

    Before Spike had a chance to say or do anything, he was taken aback when the young unicorn rushed towards him and embraced him in a tight hug, winding him slightly. Thankfully, he soon recovered, chuckling at the young lady's enthusiasm before returning the hug. Although they stayed like this for some time, in the end, Twilight parted from the drake, still smiling all the way.

    "I didn't think I could pull it off, but...I can! Oh, Spike! I can't wait to show my classmates this!"

    Spike's smile widened at that before speaking up in a happy tone of voice.

    "I'm pleased to hear your spells are going well, Twilight. It was pretty impressive."

    A slight blush appeared on the lady's face as she turned from him, moving back over to her desk, picking up the still-closed spell-book and carrying it back over to the bookcase.

    "I tell you, little brother, the spells they teach here...I'd have never been this good at magic if I hadn't come to this place."

    Spike nodded in agreement at that, a new notion entering his mind as he did so.

    "Who knows? Maybe Princess Celestia herself might want to see your magic one day."

    But Twilight, looking back to him, merely scoffed at that.

    "I thank you for your praise, Spike, but my magic is hardly that good. Besides...the princess has never even spoken to me before, and a trick like this isn't going to catch her interest."

    Spike frowned slightly, showing clear disapproval of his sister's lack of self-confidence in this matter. However, he had not the time to speak about it, as she then looked to him with an expression of interest upon her face.

    "Now then...what was it that you couldn't wait to tell me about?"

    Instantly, Spike's expression became one of surprise, as one who had just remembered something important. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a slightly-torn parchment and handed it to Twilight. Although confused at first, the young woman carefully took it from the drake, unfolding it to discover that it was a newspaper page, freshly-torn out of the main book. There were the usual serious political articles, like "Griffons rioting under treaty terms", as well as a few tabloid stories like "Sailors report seeing trio of beauties out at sea", but Twilight's attention was drawn to a small item in the corner of the page, underlined in black ink by Spike. The article read, "Royal guards closing in on the elusive Radiance". Raising an eyebrow, Twilight looked up to Spike, seeing the enthusiastic look on his face, which compelled her to roll her eyes somewhat.

    "Oh, Spike. You're not still going on about that vigilante, are you?"

    Yet again, Spike found himself frowning at his sister's words.

    "Twilight, you're not the least bit interested in all of this? A masked heroine, righting the wrongs of the corrupt nobility of Canterlot? Facing down those who would take advantage of the poor and defenceless?"

    At that, Twilight let out a slight giggle as she placed the parchment to one side.

    "Honestly, Spike, you can be so overly-dramatic sometimes. I admit, some of the nobles of this city could stand to be taken down a peg or two. But putting on a mask and prowling around the city at night like a criminal is never going to be the right way to go about it. Besides..."

    Raising a hand, she gestured to the parchment.

    "...it says right here that they're closer than ever to catching her. Hero or not, she's been operating outside the law for the better part of a year now. It won't be long before this chapter in Canterlot's history is closed. So I'd try and avoid being too invested in her "heroics", as you put it."

    Spike opened his mouth to reply, only to be interrupted with a sudden and unexpected knocking at the door. Turning, the two siblings gained looks of confusion as they gazed upon the wooden door. Slowly, Twilight approached it, turning the knob and opening it. When she did, her expression became one of surprise, and then one of joy. For there, standing on the other side, was a member of the royal guard, clad as ever in their bright golden armour. But this man was, to Twilight, far more important than the other rank-and-file soldiers she'd seen about the city. This one, a unicorn, stood a full head taller than her, bearing bright white fur and a distinct blue mane, and rather than seeming stern or authoritative as so many of the rest of the guard, this one smiled warmly to her.

    "Good morning, Twily."

    The moment those words had been uttered, the young lady rushed forward, flinging her arms around the man and hugging him tightly, far more so than she'd been doing with Spike not so long ago. And speaking of whom, the drake now leaned against the nearest wall with his arms folded, grinning widely at the sight before him, all while the older man at the door rolled his eyes before sighing and returning the hug. In time, Twilight spoke, her voice one filled with love.

    "It's so good to see you, Shining!"

    A smile grew on the man's face.

    "And you, sister. I wish I could visit you more, but..."

    As Twilight parted from him, she gave a nod of understanding.

    "I know...your duties come first. I won't hold that against you. Tell me, how goes the life of the guard?"

    Entering the room, Shining placed his golden helmet on the nearby desk before turning to his sister again.

    "It goes well actually. Things have been pretty quiet in the city as of late. The incidents we do get are fairly minor on top of that. I actually wish we could have something serious happen, just so I can have something to do."

    A giggle escaped the young lady before she replied to that.

    "Be careful what you wish for, brother. I'd much rather have a quiet city than a troubled one any day of the week."

    Shining chuckled somewhat and nodded, conceding her point. A silence followed the shared laughter of the siblings, and in that moment, Twilight looked to her brother, seeing something in his eye. It was only there for a moment, but she had nevertheless caught it. Hesitation? Concern? Regardless of what it was, Twilight knew that there was something going on here beyond a simply need for Shining to visit his sister, a fact made all the clearer when the older man began to seem unable to look her in the eye. But, in the end, Shining looked to her, seeing concern upon her own face now, and knew that she had figured out that he had something important to say. Knowing this, he let out a sigh before speaking up again.

    "Twilight...I wish it were different...but I'm afraid I'm here on official business."

    As one might expect, that caused Twilight to look far more worried than before, taking a step back from her brother.

    "Wha...what do you mean? Am I in...?"

    But, before she finished, Shining raised a hand, trying to alleviate her fears.

    "No! No, you're not in any kind of trouble. It's just...I've been asked to escort you."

    Twilight looked to her brother with confusion, as did Spike, who was the next to speak.

    "Escort her? Where to?"

    Shining looked to the young drake, then to Twilight, looking as if he was quite uncomfortable talking about this. But, in the end, he gave an answer.

    "To...the royal palace."

    Immediately, Twilight's eyes shrunk to the size of pin-points, for she knew that this summons could only mean one thing. It was a suspicion her brother then confirmed for her after nodding his head slightly.

    "You've...been called to meet with the princesses."

    Having now been sent into a state of near-shock, Twilight turned her head towards her little brother, Spike, who, after much thought, simply shrugged his shoulders before speaking to her.

    "Well...you did always want to meet them...right?"

    Meeting with Royalty

    To say that Twilight was worried would have been a great understatement. As she walked behind her brother, through the long and tall hallways of the esteemed royal palace, she found her hands shaking considerably, and she took great pains to try and steady them. Nobody could blame her of course. After all, when your nation's ruler asks to see you, it is no small matter, and as such, her mind was flooding with the many terrible possibilities of why she had been summoned like this. As for Spike, who was currently walking alongside her, he was not so fearful, though Twilight knew the reason for this. Instead, he looked to his sister, reaching out and placing his hand upon her shoulder, gaining her attention. She turned to him, seeing him offer her a reassuring smile, which did much to alleviate her worries, though not as much as she would have wanted.

    Looking ahead once more, she began to notice the many stained-glass windows that lined this hall, depicting the many historic events from Equestria's distant past. Being in this place, seeing those legendary events immortalised in those images, it made her feel small, far more so than the reason behind her being here, which was saying something. But, her attention was soon focused on her brother, who cleared his throat to get her attention.

    "We're here."

    Twilight looked past him, and saw a massive doorway of immaculately-carved oak, flanked by two burly members of the royal guard. The young woman knew that her leaders were there, on the other side of those doors, and her heartbeat had grown quite fierce and loud at this point, prompting her to try and calm herself as best she could. Shining, though concerned for his sister, nevertheless kept his eyes on the two guards ahead, giving a salute, as was custom. The men themselves gave him a brief look-over before returning the gesture, after which they moved to the knobs of the door, giving them and almighty push, causing the whole thing to open up slowly.

    Twilight kept her eyes forward, watching as those doors opened more and more, and eventually, she finally saw it; the royal throne room. The stories she'd heard of this place did not do it justice, for it was by far the largest room she had ever seen in her life. It towered above her, with the high ceiling held up by ancient marble columns. Yet further stained-glass windows decorated the walls on either side of her, and on the floor was an ornate red carpet, leading up through the middle of the room, to their final destination.

    And there, as Twilight, Shining and Spike entered the room, did the former at last see the one whom she'd been called here by. Princess Celestia, diarch of the sun, and without question one of the most revered figures in their nation. Never before had Twilight laid eyes on her, and she was just as regal and imposing as she'd always imagined. The alicorn woman was far taller than any other, bearing a flowing white dress that almost blended into the whiteness of her fur. Upon her neck and wrists were the golden ornaments that was typical of royalty, and her head bore the bright tiara of her station.

    The princess kept her eyes upon the young woman, as she nervously entered further into the throne room. And as Twilight drew closer, her eyes veered to the left, seeing that, as always, Celestia was accompanied by her younger sister, Luna, who sat beside her in a throne of sapphire, rather than the golden throne of her elder sister. Like Celestia, she too wore a long dress, though it was coloured black instead of white. The closer Twilight walked to them, the harder it was for her to keep her eyes up, and she found herself drifting her gaze to the carpet instead. During this, Celestia leaned over to her younger sister, speaking in a hushed voice so the others could not hear.

    "This is the one?" she asked.

    The moon princess gave a single nod.

    "Yes, sister...I believe she is."

    The elder princess looked back again to Twilight, who had finally reached the bottom of the small stairs leading to her and Luna's throne. Shining, her brother, gave a bow, as was expected of a guard to the princesses, and the latter two nodded, giving him silent permission to rise again. After this, he stepped aside, presenting his sister. The younger unicorn was visibly shaking all over at this point, showing clear terror at being in the presence of alicorns like his. But Celestia, before addressing her, instead looked to her side, seeing the young drake that accompanied here. And here, rather than the stern and authoritative demeanour she had worn throughout the last few minutes, instead gained a look of warmth and affection, which was reflected in her tone as she spoke.

    "Spike...it is good to see you again."

    The dragon smiled back and gave a quick bow of his head.

    "It is good to see you as well, princess."

    In stark contrast to how most Equestrians would have expected of her, Celestia responded to this with, of all things, a giggle.

    "Oh Spike. How many times must I ask you not to call me that?"

    At that, Spike scratched the back of his head while letting out a nervous chuckle.


    Celestia nodded.

    "That's better. Now then..."

    In an instant, the warmth faded slightly from her face, as she focused her attention once more upon Twilight.

    "You are Twilight Sparkle, yes?"

    Being addressed by the princess directly seemed to push the young unicorn over the edge, as she immediately dropped to her knees, placing her hands flat on the ground before her and keeping her head pointing straight at the red carpet below. Her voice was wobbling, showing the obvious nerves she was feeling.

    "Y...Your...Your Highness! I...I am indeed Twilight Sparkle. You...you...you sent for me?"

    Celestia gave a quick glance to her sister, who seemed, at least in part, amused by the behaviour of the youth before them. The older sister then looked back to her grovelling subject, and rose to her feet, walking down the steps and towards Twilight. The latter remained on all fours, never once daring to look up at her diarch’s face. But, soon enough, she heard the footsteps approach, and only slightly craned her head up, seeing that Celestia was indeed approaching, which, as one might expect, led her to looking down again. When Celestia finally reached her, she stared at her for some time before finally letting out a sigh.

    "You have no reason to fear me, child. Please...stand."

    There was clear hesitation on Twilight's part, and for a moment, Shining considered stepping forward to try and help her up, but a quickly-raised hand from Celestia made sure that he stayed where he was, with Spike also staying aside this whole time. A moment passed, and then another, and another, before Twilight finally started to do as she was told, inching herself into standing up, albeit very slowly. But through it all, Celestia remained patient, watching her subject gradually get back to her feet, and even then it took a good deal more time afterwards for her to even look at her in the face. When she finally did so, Celestia saw all of the fear and worry this girl had carried with her, and put on a warm smile for her benefit.

    "There, that's better, isn't it?"

    Saying nothing, Twilight nodded, though it was clear that she was still uncomfortable, only agreeing to try and keep Celestia happy. Sighing at this, Celestia's smiled faded a little, electing to speak in a somewhat sterner voice.

    "I have heard good things about you from your teachers, Miss Sparkle. They tell me you have exceptional skill in many areas of magic."

    Though the young unicorn still avoided looking her in the eye, there was nevertheless an almost-embarrassed smile growing on her face.

    "You...you flatter me, your highness. But my skills are merely a reflection on your good teachings and..."

    But, Twilight was prevented from saying anything further, as Celestia raised a hand to stop her, and shortly afterwards, spoke up herself.

    "I may be the official head of that school, Miss Sparkle, but I have no right to claim to have ever taught you anything. After all, we have never even met before today, have we?"

    Although she would have wanted nothing more than to simply continue to shower praise on the princess, Twilight suddenly gained a feeling in her stomach that doing so would probably annoy her, and so, after a good deal of silence, she shook her head, acknowledging Celestia's point. In time, the princess spoke up again.

    "Had I the time, I would seek out the students more regularly. But that is an issue for another day. As for right now, I imagine you are curious as to why you are here, yes?"

    Very quickly, Twilight nodded.

    "Y-yes, your highness, I am."

    "Then I shall keep you in suspense no longer. Tell me...what do you know about the Elements of Harmony?"

    For the first time in all of this, Twilight finally looked up, right into Celestia's eyes. The words she'd spoken hung in the air for some time, and for a good deal of that time, Twilight looked very much confused over what had been asked of her.

    "Um...I...I don't understand, your highness."

    Celestia raised an eyebrow at that.

    "The Elements of Harmony, Miss Sparkle. I trust you have heard of them before?"

    At that, Twilight gave a brief nod before speaking up again.

    "Well...yes, I have. But...only as legends. Stories from when I was just a girl."

    Celestia nodded.

    "And tell me...what did those legends say, exactly?"

    Although Twilight was still quite unsure about where this was going, or what it had to do with her, she had nevertheless been given a direct question by her leader, and she was not going to simply avoid answering, no matter how confused she was. So, after brushing herself down a little, she cleared her throat before giving Celestia the answer she sought.

    "Well...according to the stories, the Elements of Harmony were six magical artefacts, forged by the great power of our world's creator, the blessed Faust."

    Before continuing, Twilight immediately closed her eyes and lowered her head slightly.

    "May she always be loved."

    But, to Twilight's surprise, this gesture on her part was met by yet another giggle form Celestia, prompting her to look up as the older woman began to speak to her.

    "I appreciate the reverence, Twilight, but my ancestor has been gone for a long time, and even if she were here right now, I very much doubt she'd want you to speak of her so. Please...continue."

    A slight blush appeared upon Twilight's cheeks, after which she did as she was told, continuing on as instructed.

    "The...the Elements were created by Faust, who imbued them with tremendous power, which she used to not only found our great nation, but also to breathe life into our entire race. It is said that...that when her work was done, she scattered the Elements around the world, so their power could never be used for ill purposes."

    Celestia nodded slightly.

    "It is good to know that the old lessons are not forgotten. Tell me, Twilight...what would you say if I were to tell you..."

    The princess leaned closer, much to Twilight's worry.

    "...that the Elements were real?"

    Hearing that, Twilight's eyes widened with shock, almost as if she had just been told that the world was about to explode. Needless to say, this shock was soon reflected in the jittery nature of her voice.

    "Then...then...it's all true? The legends of our world's creation? Faust making our race? All of it?"

    For a brief moment, Celestia gained both a smile and a somewhat ponderous look, as she turned from Twilight and towards one of the nearby stained-glass windows.

    "Perhaps...but then again, perhaps not. Those stories hailed from a time many thousands of years ago, Twilight. Long before even my great-great-great-great-great grandmother had even been born. It will be impossible to ever truly know what events transpired in those ancient times. But even if it were possible to know..."

    Slowly, she turned to look at Twilight yet again.

    "...that is not the reason I bring this subject up."

    Curiosity grew on Twilight's face, and she tilted her head to emphasise it. Celestia, after staring at the young woman for a few moments, finally gave her the answer she was waiting for.

    "Twilight Sparkle...it is my wish that you go forth from Canterlot...and find the Elements of Harmony."

    The silence that followed those words was almost deafening, as Twilight stood as still as a statue. Part of her had no idea what was happening, and other parts of her were very much hoping that Celestia, despite her seriousness, was actually joking about all of this. Go out and find a long-lost group of artefacts that have been beyond Equestrian hands for thousands of years? It couldn’t be done. It was laughable to even think of it. And yet, as Twilight stood there, looking at Celestia, she saw no jest in her eyes, nor falsehood. The princess of the sun had meant every word of it. This was the reason she'd called Twilight here, and this was what was now being asked of her. To go out from the city she had spent her entire life in and journey forth into the unknown.

    Her breathing became difficult, and she felt as if the walls around her were closing in. That was how much of an overwhelming moment this was for her. As for Spike and Shining, who had been standing silently to one side this whole time, they gave each other equally-flummoxed looks after hearing Celestia's words, with the latter hesitantly taking a step forward.

    "Um...princess? May I speak freely?"

    Celestia regarded the blue-haired guard for a moment before giving a small nod, granting his permission.

    "If the task you wish for is a journey such as this...then I ask that I go in her stead."

    The sun princess seemed somewhat surprised at that remark, as indeed did Twilight, who had finally shaken herself out of her trance-like state to turn towards her brother. After a few moments of silence, Celestia spoke.

    "You do not believe your sister capable of this task, Sir Armour?"

    Shining shook his head before replying.

    "My sister has far more talent in magic than any other I have known, myself included. My faith in her abilities is not my concern here, your highness. She has never once set foot beyond the borders of Canterlot, and the lands beyond can be very dangerous. I do not wish to see her harmed by this task you intend for her, and so I ask of you...no...I beg of you...send me instead."

    Celestia regarded the young guard for some time, seeing the determination and honesty in his eyes, before eventually breaking out into a warm smile, as she then turned to the Twilight instead.

    "You are fortunate to have a brother as loving and loyal as this one, Miss Sparkle."

    Turning back to shining, Celestia let out a sigh before continuing.

    "I have no doubt that you would attempt this quest to the best of your abilities, Shining. But my decision stands. It is your sister that I have chosen for this."

    Against his better judgement, Shining frowned slightly before speaking again.

    "With all due respect, your highness...if my sister must go...then allow me to accompany her."

    Sighing again, Celestia shook her head.

    "I am sorry...but your duties lie here, in Canterlot. I must respectfully refuse your request...though I appreciate your reasons for asking it."

    Shining was clearly upset at this, as evidenced by the look he gave Twilight soon afterwards. As for the latter, she kept her eyes on Celestia, speaking up in a somewhat meek manner.

    "But...why me? Are there no others in Canterlot who could do this more than I could? I'm sure there are many experienced warriors or travellers who could easily find what it is you seek."

    Celestia nodded.

    "Perhaps. But answer me this, Twilight. Do you trust me?"

    At that, Twilight grew more confused than before.

    "Wha...what do you mean?"

    Celestia frowned slightly.

    "Exactly what I said. Do you trust me?"

    There was a pause, and Twilight considered her position carefully. This was after all, one of the two high rulers of her land. One who had safeguarded and guided their nation through thick and thin for decades. One she had spent her whole life hearing nothing but praise for, by her family, her fellow students, by everyone. And so, when asked such a question as this, she knew in her heart that there was only one answer.

    "Y...yes. I do trust you."

    Smiling, Celestia gave a nod at that.

    "In that case...trust me when I say that there is a reason for my choosing you. And in time, should you undergo this journey...perhaps you will come to realise it."

    Twilight fell silent, her face bearing a look of both discomfort and hesitation, which Celestia was quick to pick up on.

    "Twilight...this is not a command. I am not forcing you to do this. If it is your wish not to go...I will respect it."

    Yet again, silence feel upon the room, and a million different thoughts filled Twilight's mind. Should she go? Where would she start? How dangerous was it really going to be out there? Was her magical training going to be enough? Why did Celestia choose her? When it came to that final question, Twilight found herself looking up at the elder alicorn before her, and for a brief moment, she saw something in her eyes. It was a glint of some kind, gone as quickly as it had come, and in her heart, Twilight felt that what the princess now felt about her, to her surprise, was confidence.

    Celestia truly believed that Twilight was the one needed for this task, and that thought alone, more than anything else, awakened in the young woman a drive of some kind. It was like the excitement of a child, knowing their parents were proud of them, at least, that was the best description Twilight could give of the feeling. So, looking to her left, she saw the still-worried look upon her brother's face, and her mouth morphed into a comforting smile for his benefit. Turning back to Celestia, Twilight took a deep breath before giving a short bow to her.

    "Princess...it would be my honour to do this for you."

    Shining and Spike looked at her with shock, and Celestia broke out into a far wider smile than before, clasping her hands together with what could only be described as joy.

    "Thank you, Twilight. It is a far better thing you do today than you can possibly know."

    Rising from her bowing position, Twilight returned the smile, prompting Celestia to continue.

    "I do not have all of the answers you will need to find the Elements, but I will say this..."

    Turning, Celestia looked onto one of the eastern windows, prompting Twilight to look at it as well.

    "...I suggest that you journey east for seven days. On the seventh day...I believe you will find the first clue to your quest."

    Although confused at first, Twilight nevertheless nodded to the princess.

    "Thank you, princess. I...I will do my best."

    Looking back to her, Celestia smiled.

    "I know, young one. I know."

    Twilight's own smile grew wider, and it was here that she saw Celestia give her a silent gesture with her hand, which she instantly recognised as her being given permission to leave. So, the young unicorn gave yet another bow, as did Shining, and before long, all three of them, including Spike, soon found themselves heading back the way they came, straight for the exit from the grand chamber. It took a few moments, but eventually, the found their way outside, with the old wooden doors closing behind them. Now outside of the throne room, silence fell between them, and each was thinking and feeling a thousand different conflicting ideas and emotions. But, in the end, it was Twilight who broke that silence, looking to her little brother with determination upon her face.

    "Spike...let's start packing."


    It had been a long and calm night, and yet, as always, the sun began to rise once more upon Canterlot. The orange glow of that fiery orb bathed the city in a beautiful light, and all around, there were signs of Equestrians getting up to greet the day yet again. But, out on the furthermost edge of the city, there was already activity, as Spike and Shining were standing together at the city's easternmost gateway. Shining, as ever, was clad in the golden armour of the guard, whereas Spike, in readiness for the journey, had donned an attire different to what he'd normally choose to wear. Today, he was clad in simple brown cloth trousers with a white shirt, the latter of which was covered by a brown over-vest, and as ever, he forewent any footwear of any kind. As the young drake knelt down, he finished looking over the things he'd placed in his travel bag, which he then hoisted up and slung over his shoulder, ready for the journey ahead.

    "So...any sign of her?"

    Shining turned, looking upon the city road that led to this gate, and there, his face lit up, giving a nod to the dragon beside him. Seeing this look, Spike turned, and was, for a brief moment, taken aback at the sight before him. Twilight had indeed arrived, though like him, she was no longer dressed as he normally expected her to. Gone was the simple brown robe of a magical acolyte, replaced instead with a more refined-looking brown cloak and hood, and underneath that, Twilight was wearing more appropriate garbs for travel, largely in the form of a well-stitched purple dress-trouser combo, with the image finished off with some simple walking boots. At present, her hood was, up, but as soon as she reached her two brothers, she lowered it.

    "Well...how do I look?" she asked nervously.

    Shining took a step closer to his sister, giving her a quick look-over before breaking out into a smile.

    "You look ready for a long journey, Twilight."

    The young woman smiled back at that.

    "Then I chose well."

    Although he would have wanted to keep up a happy face for her benefit, Shining soon found himself donning a more serious expression.

    "I still wish I could go with you."

    Like her brother, Twilight's smile shrank a little, and she raised a hand, gently placing it upon Shining's shoulder.

    "I know. And I appreciate the concern you have for me, brother. But the princess herself has faith that I can do this. So you needn't worry."

    Shining sighed at that.

    "I wish I had the same faith in her highness' decision as you do, Twilight."

    Turning, Shining looked upon the already-open gate, where the rising sun was pouring light into his vision.

    "Alright then. If you are set on this...then I wish you luck. But know this, Twilight. If ever you need aid out there in the vast reaches of our land...do not hesitate to call for help."

    Twilight gave her brother an appreciative smile, moving forward to embracing him in a hug, which the latter returned soon afterwards. When the two siblings eventually parted form one another, Shining gave Twilight a final nod, and then one to Spike, before donning his helmet and starting to walk away, no doubt to assume his regular duties. As for Twilight, she stayed in one spot, watching her brother go until he was too far to see, at which point she finally turned and looked upon Spike. Seeing the travel bag he was hanging from his shoulder, she raised an eyebrow.

    "You know...your royal mother didn't actually ask you to come with me, Spike."

    The young dragon chuckled at that.

    "Maybe not. But, unlike Shining, she didn't say I couldn't go. And if you think I'm letting my best friend go out there all alone, you've got another thing coming."

    Twilight gave a brief giggle at that, after which she shook her head, half-shocked and half-impressed with her brother's forwardness in this matter. Even so, her smile faded yet again, as she found herself looking upon the gates beside them, which were far larger and imposing than she'd ever really cared to think of before. She walked forward, with Spike close beside her, and within a few moments, she stopped, just short of the open gate itself. Looking down, Twilight stared at the unseen line in the ground. The official boundary between Canterlot and all that lay beyond. Never before had she strayed from the city, nor seen what wonders or terrors were out there, save for what she'd heard from her brother and her books. And now, she knew she'd be seeing many of them in this quest. So, looking ahead, to the eastern road away from the city, she took a deep breath, and finally, took that first step beyond Canterlot.

    Atop the highest tower of the royal palace, Celestia herself stood upon the large balcony that emerged from her private chambers. It always pleased her to look upon her city, especially in moments of peace such as this, and as ever, her sunrise brought her nothing but joy. However, today, her attention was focused on other things, as her gaze drifted down to the eastern road, beyond the city's borders. Sure enough, there she was, Twilight, already heading out as instructed. Beside her, as predicted, was Spike, and together, the two youths were making a good pace away from their lifelong home. Although maternal concern fought for control in Celestia's mind at the sight of seeing her own son out there, she nevertheless afforded herself a smile, silently assuring herself that all would be well. But, that smile faded when she heard the sound of footsteps behind her.

    "Luna...you are certain she is the one?"

    Turning, Celestia saw her sister walk beside her, looking out upon the east as she did.

    "Indeed. All the signs point to it."

    Celestia sighed at that.

    "Then if it is true...Twilight has little time to waste. That is...if your predictions are correct, Luna?"

    Luna turned to her, bearing a look of utter seriousness.

    "I am certain of it, sister. The nightmares in the minds of our people are growing worse with every passing year. It is returning...and the Elements will be needed."

    Hearing that, Celestia shut her eyes tightly, bearing a melancholic look to her.

    "Thousands of years of peace...and after all that...our people must face it again."

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