A Moment's Hesitation

by FanOfMostEverything

First published

Twilight stops to think for one critical second.

Celestia sends Twilight her last, greatest assignment. The lost masterpiece of Star Swirl the Bearded!

The spell that the greatest mage of all time couldn't figure out.

The spell given to her by the mare who thought releasing Discord was a good idea.

The spell that, upon closer inspection, seems about as stable as Rarity's emotional state and as safe as Rainbow Dash's usual workout.

... Maybe Twilight should double check with the princess first.

Winner of the Rage Reviews F*CK THIS PROMPT 6 contest. Prompt: "Equestria is getting a new Alicorn Princess."

Reasonable Precautions

Dear Twilight Sparkle,

The spell contained on the last page of this book is Star Swirl the Bearded's secret unfinished masterpiece. He was never able to get it right, and thus abandoned it. I believe you are the only pony who can understand and rewrite it.

Princess Celestia

Dear Princess Celestia,

I know I've shown a lack of forethought with my magic in the past—the Smarty Pants Incident certainly comes to mind—but even at my worst, I'd be able to tell what a bad idea this is. An unrhyming, unfinished incantation that stumped the greatest wizard of all time? One that, judging by its wording, manipulates cutie marks? I'm sorry, Your Highness, but this seems like a really, really, really bad idea. Right up there with freeing Discord, even if I'm still waiting for another horseshoe to drop with him. At the very least, could you tell me what the spell is meant to do?

Your faithful student,
Twilight Sparkle

Dear Twilight,

I certainly understand your concern. However, I wasn't exaggerating when I said you were the only pony who can understand it. Star Swirl's mind outpaced mine with almost embarrassing frequency, and I'm pleased to say that at times, yours does as well. The Wedding Incident comes to mind.

As such, I have every faith that you will be able to complete this final work of your idol, and turn his final masterpiece into your first. I am sorry that I can't offer anything more concrete. All I can do is ask you to have faith in your friends, much as you do in Fluttershy to keep Discord on his best behavior, such as it is.

Princess Celestia

Dear Princess Luna,

As you may already know, your sister sent me a rather unusual assignment this evening. I have included copies of our correspondence on the matter thus far, but the situation can be summarized thusly:

• Princess Celestia wants me to finish Star Swirl's last spell.
• She doesn't know what the spell is supposed to do.
• She doesn't know what the spell currently does.
• She still wants me to cast it.
• She has explicitly said that I'm smarter than her.

I'm writing to you because, as these highlights illustrate, this is completely insane Princess Celestia's mental state may be compromised. Please confirm that she is not suffering from chaos magic-induced personality inversion, hasn't been replaced by a changeling, or is otherwise non compos mentis. I ask not just for my peace of mind, but for the good of the nation and of the world.

Thank you in advance.

Your friend,
Twilight Sparkle

To the Esteemed Dame Twilight Sparkle, Bearer of the Harmonious Element of Magic, Cleanser of the Nightmare, Bane of Chaos, Wise in the Ways of Changelings, and Hatch-Mother of the Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious,

Firstly, while your continued refusal to employ the many titles and honorifics you have earned is a commendable display of your humility, We continue to find it excessive. You are a hero thrice over, and any virtue in excess becomes a vice.

Secondly, while We agree with your assessment of Our honored and beloved Sister's latest scheme as dire foolishness of the highest order, We must confess that She was in possession of all of Her facilities when She ensnared you in it.

Alas, We cannot say with certainty what She has in store for you with this final dwœmercraft of the Bearded One. The wisdom of the alicorn is a worldly one, hard-earned through many normal pony lifetimes of experience. Ever were Our two raw intellects outstripped by Star Swirl's, and yea, by yours as well. Again, your humility waxes in excess.

Indeed, We agree with Celestia's choice not to share her suspicions as to the function of this spell, nor shall We share Ours, save to say that We two possess them. Long did We both ponder the text you now possess. Our ancient eyes cannot find the solution, but your young ones may offer a new, better perspective.

To you, Our dear friend, We can only say to exercise the utmost caution. Our Sister never intends harm in Her machinations, but never has that kept them from inflicting it in ways She could not anticipate.

Your friend and sovereign,
Her Royal Highness the Princess Luna Diana Hecate Regina Nox Alicor, Princess of the Night, Avatar of the Moon, &c.

Post Scriptum: As you can likely tell, while We believe We have largely tamed the strange beast that the Equish language has become in Our absence, Our efforts continue in the arena of the written word. How would you say We are doing?

Star Swirl's Unfinished Spell
Progress Report #1
by Twilight Sparkle

Procedure: The experiment was conducted in the Golden Oak Library's subterranean testing facility, inside a standard class-3 warding circle of powdered silver imbued with Faraneigh's Complete Containment, Vacuum Flask's Null Energy Shell, and Panopticon's Perfect Prestidigitatious Prison, all directed inward. Within this controlled environment, the incantation was recited by primary tester Twilight Sparkle, with the effects from without observed by secondary tester Spykoranuvellitar "Spike" Keyfahdon.

Observation: When reciting the incantation within the testing area, the only effects observed were a potent arcane discharge manifesting as blinding quasielectrical energy that arced from the layers of magical shields into the warding circle, reducing it to a molten state by the time the discharge was exhausted. The temperature of the silver by this point was 3,915ºF according to High Farrier's Thermal Probe.

Conclusion: Whatever effect the spell is meant to cause, it could not do so in the contained environment. However, the discharge indicates that the spell has a reality warping quotient of approximately twenty thousand resons per thaum, comparable to the distortions casually employed by Discord, Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony. It is the opinion of this researcher that we cease tampering with things pony was not meant to know, especially since the circumstances of Star Swirl's death remain one of the greatest historical mysteries of all time.

Dear Twilight,

You wrote to Luna, didn't you?

I understand your hesitation, and that you may doubt my judgement after my decision to free Discord. Under any other circumstances, I would welcome this. As I know all too well, I am far from infallible. I have rarely been fortunate enough to have a pony as intelligent as you be willing to question me. However, this is one instance when I must ask you to trust me.

That said, while I ask for your trust, I will not ask for blind faith. What I am about to tell you is incredibly sensitive information. Spike, if you are reading this, please pass it to Twilight. Twilight, if you are reading this aloud, please stop, assuming you haven't already.

Pinkie Pie isn't the only pony who can perceive the future. However, my premonitions are much clearer than a twitchy tail or pinchy knee. I sometimes dream of what is to come, and this allows me to prepare both Equestria and myself for it. This is why I asked you to free Discord, and why I ask you to cast the unfinished spell. This is a matter of incredible importance, Twilight.

Princess Celestia




Unreasonable Outcomes

Alicorns possess the senses of all the tribes and more besides. Celestia felt the disturbance not through horn, wings, or hooves, but through her very essence resonating with another that had risen to a higher level of being. She beamed. She loved it when the best-case scenario played out.

Celestia poked her head out of the door of her royal chambers. "Gentlecolts," she said to the guards at either side, "I have some pressing business to attend to. See to it that nopony disturbs me until further notice." Remembering the unfortunate incident with Private Blind Obedience, she added, "Or the end of your shift, whichever comes first."

Both stallions found a way to stiffen up even more than usual. "Of course, Your Highness," they chorused.

Celestia nodded, closed the doors, and settled herself on her bed. She shut her eyes and meditated on her most fundamental self, on radiance and authority and love. Her power filled her every cell with pleasant warmth, and she vanished in a flare of purest sunlight.

Spike's letter materialized on her pillow scant seconds later.

Celestia strode through the mists of the Astral Plane. The strange stars overhead were not her sister's and conformed to no known constellation, but she was confident that she was going where she needed to be. The forces of destiny, tangible in this realm, gently but inexorably tugged her along the path they needed her to take.

Celestia's heart soared. She knew the spell would work, that Twilight would make it work. Celestia had far more faith in her student than herself, and this latest triumph showed just how justified her faith was. As soon as she saw a shape in the distance, the words she'd longed to say since Sombra's defeat came spilling out. "Congratulations, Twilight."


Celestia stumbled to a halt. That wasn't right. That was about five extra voices worth of not right. Destiny pulled ever more forcefully until her legs started moving of their own accord, her mind still trying to figure out what was going on. "Are you alright?" She could see something in the mist now, definitely equinoid, definitely alone.

"That's... complicated," said the voices.

The image cleared. Celestia blinked. "So I see." At first, it seemed like see was looking at another alicorn, but the horn and wings were translucent, and they weren't the same color as the mare's body or one another. It was the mane that made matters clear for Celestia, cycling through half a dozen styles almost faster than the eye could follow. She looked at the cutie mark and confirmed that it too flickered through six different symbols.

After a few more moments of taking in the being before her, Celestia whispered, "What have I done?"

"Actually," said the composite mare, "this one was my, uh, Twilight's fault. Probably. Mostly. You did give her the journal."

Celestia latched onto the last part. "Star Swirl's spell did this?"

"Well, after... Twilight read through all of the journal, she was able to approximate Star Swirl's thought process, and she determined that the Elements of Harmony were essential to the spell's intended purpose. So, she called the rest of us, we all put on our respective Elements, Twilight read the spell, and..." The mare bit her lip. "Well, we've been trying to figure out what happened next since we got here, wherever here is. Our memories just kind of came together in this big glob of information. Several of us think we created a sort of hive mind."

"I... see," said Celestia, who didn't.

The other mare blinked. "Really? Could you explain it to us?"

Before Celestia could answer, six equidistantly spaced lumps of magic emerged from the mare's barrel, each one a different color. They circled her as she began to rise. "Uh..."

The worried utterance broke Celestia's stupor. She was no Star Swirl, but she could see where this was going. "Focus on your individual identities! Don't let yourselves be subsumed!"

The composite nodded and shut her eyes. The magic surrounding her, now a white band of energy, shifted to a strange pastel rainbow moments before it collapsed back into her.

There was an incredible, brilliant light, too bright even for Celestia's eyes. As she looked away, she found herself wondering if it were possible for a pony to ascend twice.

The flare faded, and Celestia stood alone on the Astral Plane. She struggled for words for a few moments. Finally, in what would be a whine from a less dignified pony, she said, "I had a song ready and everything."

Ponyville had long been accustomed to screams of horror. Sure, they had gotten more frequent recently, but the town had always sat on the edge of the Everfree. Still, a dragon doing the horrified screaming was a rather novel experience.

Spike had gotten the incoherent shouts out of his system. Now, as night fell, he was pacing outside of the library, muttering in the panicked fashion Twilight hadn't meant to teach him. "What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? Twilight's gone! All the others are gone! Who's gonna run the library? Who's gonna rescue Equestria? Who's gonna keep Discord under control? Why hasn't Celestia written me back!?"

"Why are you doing this outside the library?" Bonbon asked from in the crowd that had gathered around the spectacle.

"Bonnie!" Lyra nudged her. "It's rude to interrupt good street theater!"

"This isn't a performance!" Spike cried. "This is a national emergency!" He looked down and twisted a toe into the dirt. "And, uh, it's a lot easier to fill in a ditch than to ask an earth pony to coax the library back into shape after somepony worries a groove into the floor. Speaking from experience."

Lyra nodded. "Sensible."

Bonbon raised an eyebrow and looked at her. "Screaming his lungs out is sensible?"

"He'd be doing it either way."

"Look!" cried Blossomforth, pointing up.

All eyes followed her hoof, seeing the new constellation that shone like it was upstaging the moon. It grew larger, and the crowd could see that five of the stars were orbiting the central one.

"They're falling!" cried Daisy.

"We're all going to die!" added Roseluck.

"What is life?" said Lily. The other florists managed to tear their gazes away from their doom to stare at her. "My therapist recommended existentialist literature as a way to gain perspective on the little things."

As the stars got closer still, it became clear that only one of them even resembled a star. The others were familiar, though the townsfolk were used to seeing them as still images. The butterflies didn't normally flap, the diamonds rarely sparkled, and while the cloud did thunder sometimes, it was for much different reasons.

The symbols touched the earth with a flash of light that seemed bright as the sun. Spike's eyes were the first to clear, and he beamed as he cried, "You're back!" He charged straight towards Twilight and hugged her foreleg. "You're back!"

As far as first sensations after getting your physical form reconstituted go, thought Twilight, getting hugged by your assistant/familiar/brother/son/it's-complicated was pretty high on the list. She returned the hug. "I'm glad to be back, Spike."

Rainbow Dash cleared her throat from overhead. "Uh, guys? Hate to break up the touching moment, but we kind of have a problem on our hooves."

Twilight looked up. "What kind of horn!" Her wings flared out. After a moment, she looked at them. "Wings!"

"Hoof!" Everypony turned to Pinkie Pie, who was staring at her own leg like she'd never seen it before. She smiled. "What? It seemed like a fun game."

"Pinkie Pie is an alicorn." Twilight giggled and stumbled a little, her breaths growing shallow. "Fine. That's fine. We've already released Discord. Sanity wasn't long for this world anyway." Spike held up a paper bag. "Thank you, Spike." Twilight began to breathe into it.

"So, yeah," said Dash. She swept out a hoof, and Twilight took in a good chunk of Ponyville bowing to them. Fluttershy had hunched in on herself, Applejack wasn't looking much better, and even Rarity seemed uncomfortable with the situation. "Problem."

Twilight took one last comforting bag-breath. "Everypony, please, get up! We aren't princesses!"


Everypony turned. They were sure Celestia hadn't been there a moment ago, and there definitely hadn't been any kind of flash or noise to indicate a teleport. And yet, there she was, unable to make eye contact with any of them.

Twilight felt a growing pit in her stomach. "Princess, please, please, please don't say what I think you're about to say."

"The law is clear on the matter, Twilight Sparkle."

Everypony turned again. As with her sister, Luna had arrived without any indication of doing so. "Those who bear the mantle of alicornhood must also accept its responsibilities."

Applejack stepped towards Luna "Beggin' yer pardon..." She trailed off. "Actually, Ah don't gotta beg yer pardon no more, do Ah?"

Luna nodded. "Indeed you do not, good Applejack. We are equals now."

Applejack put a hoof to her head, then glowered when she realized she had no hat to adjust. "In that case, Ah can tell it to ya straight: Ah already got responsibilities."

"As do I," said Rarity.

Fluttershy squeaked something that might have been a "Me too."

Dash sank to earth, her head low. "I'm guessing the Wonderbolts don't accept princesses."

Pinkie scowled. "Do you have any idea how long it's going to take for me to compile party dossiers for everypony in Equestria?"

"None of us wanted this," said Twilight. "None of us asked for it, or planned it, or..." She turned to Pinkie. "What was that about party dossiers?"

Pinkie waved her back the other way. "We'll talk about it later! You're losing momentum!"

"Right." Twilight faced Luna again. "None of us is ready to be a princess."

Luna nodded. "Indeed you are not."

"I understand, but..." Twilight blinked. "What?"

"I have tried to tell my sister such since she first told me of this ludicrous plan, but she eventually won me over after your deeds in the Crystal Empire. It would seem that she has been secretly grooming you for this role for some time now. She even had rather unsightly coronation dresses made." Luna shuddered.

Twilight's mouth hung open for a few seconds. She turned. Celestia was nowhere to be seen. Twilight gritted her teeth. "Oh if she thinks—"

"Not to worry, not to worry." Discord emerged out of Twilight's left ear, holding Celestia by her mane between two lion claws. "One naughty cosmic mechanic, here for pickup."

Celestia bit her lip, looking for all the world like a filly with her hoof in a cookie jar. "Twilight, I—"

Twilight held up a hoof. "No. We are not having this conversation here." She pointed the hoof at Canterlot. "We are all going to the castle, we are going to discuss this like the octarchs we apparently are, and we are going to make sure that that's the last time anypony uses the word 'octarch' for the foreseeable future."

Luna smirked at her sister. "Scant minutes on the throne and she's already more sensible than you. No wonder you wanted her to ascend."

Improbable Aftermath

The Canterlot Herald
The apex of journalism

Drastic Governmental Shift
Celestia Sacked. Luna Crowned High Princess.

CANTERLOT—Last night, then-Princess Celestia managed to both triple the known alicorn population and upend Equestrian governance as we know it in one fell swoop.

Earlier that day in Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle, Celestia's personal student, cast the incomplete masterpiece of the archmage Star Swirl the Bearded at the former ruler's direction. The resulting magical cascade is still being analyzed, but researchers say that the preliminary results are astonishing.

"The spell resonated through the Elements of Harmony," said Riddle Cruller, Archchancellor of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. "The Bearers shared one another's memories, resulting in a level of rapport beyond even the most powerful psychomantic techniques. [Professor Stubborn] Ponder says this combined their magic exponentially, resulting in the explosive release that the filly will be able to clean off of her floor as soon as we're done with it."

More pressing in most minds were the political ramifications. With parts of the government still adjusting to the return of High Princess Luna, the incorporation of six new princesses, Jacqueline Apple, Rarity Belle, Rainbow Dash, Pinkamena Pie, Fluttershy Poseysfilly, and Twilight Sparkle, would've been wholly infeasible. Miss Sparkle ushered the other princesses into a secure room of Castle Canterlot in what is now recognized as the first meeting of the Council of Alicorns, with Empress Mi Amore Cadenza participating in the final vote via dragonfire post.

Twilight Sparkle announced the formation of the council at 2:00 AM today. The title of Equestrian Princess would no longer be recognized. Luna was elected and crowned high princess, with the other eight serving as councilmares. Furthermore, Councilmare Celestia was officially sanctioned for her reckless actions. Councilmare Sparkle would not comment on the nature of these sanctions, only that "They fit the nature of the misdemeanor and the best way to address it." Councilmare Sparkle confirmed that Councilmare Celestia will continue her duty of raising and lowering the sun.

Only time will tell how this drastic change will impact our nation.

Trending Topic, like this typesetter, is very tired and going to bed now.

The Ponyville Express
All the news that wasn't eaten

New Teacher at Ponyville Elementary

PONYVILLE—A new teaching assistant, Miss Sunny Skies, has been hired at Ponyville Elementary, leading to a mixed reaction throughout the town.

"Don't get me wrong," said Cheerilee Punch, until now the sole teacher at the school, "my job has always been a joy. But it's gotten rather more eventful lately, and I could certainly use the help."

Some of the students are less pleased. "I can play Miss Cheerilee like a fiddle," said one student who wished to remain anonymous, "but some newcomer? It's going to take a long time to get her where I want her, and until then, she's going to think she's in charge."

When asked about her fellow Canterlotter, Councilmare Twilight Sparkle said, "I've known Sunny for a long time. She'll definitely be able to do a lot of good here in Ponyville, as long as Cheerilee keeps a close eye on her. She can get a little extreme without some supervision and stress relief."

Miss Skies herself seemed very optimistic. "I look forward to giving the young minds of Ponyville exactly what they need to flourish."

Namby Pamby is the Ponyville Express's cub reporter and education columnist.

Dearest "Sunny,"

Firstly, my sympathies for the disgraceful slander the news-papers are bandying about as objective analysis. As I have told you since my return, this "free press" of yours carries a cost that mounts higher with every passing day.

Aside from those scurrilous scandalmongers, your idea seems to be working well, even as Canterlot recovers from its shock over the new alicorns and sudden shift of power. That being said, expect many more letters in the near future. You have made a city of schemers upon the Canterhorn, and my millennial absence, the Bearers' inexperience, and Cadence's duties in the Crystal Empire will leave us ill-suited against them without your counsel. The messaging spell and my receiving frequency remain as you remember them. If further security is needed, send the details through young Spike.

Beyond that, enjoy your vacation. You have more than earned it. Indeed, were I not privy to your earlier intentions and had I missed your slack-jawed astonishment, I would have thought this to be your goal all along.

With love,

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