Diamonds Amidst the Stars

by Amber Spark

Chapter 1: The Dappled Doe

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“Are you sure, sis? You’re still upset. I can tell.”

Astra Princess Twilight Sparkle rolled her eyes at Sunset Shimmer. Her big sister probably was concerned, but that just made things worse.

“I’m fine,” Twilight snapped with more heat than she meant to. Her ears flattened as she rustled her great purple and silver wings. “I’m just tired. I’m tired of… everything. The bickering. The confusion. This… this… whole stupid war.”

“You’re not supposed to like it,” Sunset stepped up and nuzzled Twilight. “It’s been hard on all of us. But we’re part of the Royal Five. It’s our job to keep up appearances… especially when things are… well, like they are now.”

Twilight sighed.

Can’t she take a hint? All she’s doing is just making it so much more… frustrating!

But she couldn’t just tell Sunset to go away, not with both of their royal entourages behind them. Starlight and Trixie stood at attention beside Minuette and Lemon Hearts, each wearing the armor of their respective princess. The armor of all four mares glittered faintly from the starlight above.

Sunset pulled back and studied Twilight with her piercing teal eyes. Twilight tried to avoid the gaze of the Aurorae Princess, but it was like trying to hide from Mother on a sunny day. It was simply fighting the inevitable.

As expected, the moment their eyes locked, Sunset’s vision pierced through Twilight’s feeble attempt at obfuscation.

“I hate it when you do that,” Twilight growled. “It’s not fair.”

“Count Blueblood,” Sunset all but hissed, ignoring Twilight’s protest. She stomped a golden hoof into the springy ground at the edge of the Golden Boughs park. “I should have guessed. That idiot will get what’s coming to him. Did he insult your parents again?”

Twilight gave up and hung her head.

“Commoners. He called them commoners. Called me common.”

“I swear… I will burn his coat off!” Sunset growled. Her phoenix-like wings of red and gold flared. Twilight could hear the crackle of flame leap from feather to feather. “Nopony talks to my sister like that! Especially not with half the city beyond the Diamond Wall in ruins! This isn’t the time for petty squabbling! I’m gonna bring him up on charges! Sedition, Twi.”

“No!” Twilight cried, holding up a hoof before her sister could do anything foolish. “This isn’t about him. This is about me. It’s… it’s all part of the test. Maybe, if I can finally get him to respect me, the rest of the city will too. Either way, I…” She cleared her throat and licked her lips, “I need to learn to not let things like him get to me.”

“Sis…” Sunset sighed and rubbed her temples with her forehooves. Even if she was trying to hide her exasperation, she was doing a pretty miserable job at it. “You are letting him get to you. I can help! I want to help! I’ll even hold him down for you, so you can use your starfire on him!”

Twilight’s mouth threatened to quirk up into a smile. “You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you?”

“To see him squirm under your starfire?” Sunset let out a full-blown cackle. “Oh, that’s the stuff dreams are made of!”

Twilight couldn’t help it. She laughed. Even if it was just a little.

“As fun as that sounds… no. I just… I just need some time alone right now, Sunset. Please?”

“You’re sure?” Sunset repeated. She stepped forward and wrapped one of her enormous phoenix-like wings around Twilight. “You don’t have to be alone. I could get Cadance. I know it’s sometimes easier for you to talk to her.”

Twilight let her sister hold her for a moment before pushing Sunset away. “I’m certain. I’ll find you when I’ve had some time to think. Anyway, you should check in with Shining Armor. It’s been three days since the last raid. Considering our luck, we’re overdue. I overheard some of the guards talking about sightings beyond the Harmony Gate.”

Sunset sighed. “Fine. But I make no promises regarding the state of Blueblood’s mane if I happen to run into him.”

“And I promise to act utterly horrified when—I mean—if something happens to that fop.”

Sunset smirked. “That’s my girl. I knew you couldn’t stay all sweet and innocent forever.”

“Yeah… me… sweet and innocent.” Twilight grinned her best “go-away” grin.

For once, Sunset actually paid attention.

That’s not fair, she chided herself. She always pays attention. She just ignores it and ‘helps’ anyway.

Still, Sunset finally nodded one last time and, with a twinkle in her eye, she turned and departed from the edge of the Golden Boughs. Twilight stifled a smile as an image of that jerk Blueblood after meeting Sunset popped into her mind. If he was lucky, he’d only be missing some eyebrows.

Minuette and Lemon Hearts followed their princess beneath the archways to the Diamond Palace, and disappeared from sight. That left Twilight with her the Astra Guard, the two mares who had been sneaking peeks at one another all evening. Twilight was in no mood for their little attempts at hiding their ‘thing.’

Especially considering how many times they’d been caught. By Twilight. Specifically.

Watching them just made her feel more lonely. Even if her stars overhead felt stronger tonight than they had in years. Somehow, that just made it worse.

“Starlight, Trixie, go on.” Twilight rolled her eyes. “I’ll send Faerna along if I need you.”

Trixie winced and Twilight forced herself not to roll her eyes. Ever since the ‘incident’ last month with Sunset’s phoenix, she’d been skittish around Faerna, even if Twilight’s phoenix had been completely innocent.

“Your Majesty?” Starlight asked, looking concerned. “We’ve been on high alert since the last attack, under orders from Lord Shining—”

“Yes, I’m quite aware of what my brother has ordered for all members of the Royal Guard, including the Astra Guard!” Twilight snapped, her wings flaring. “But I want to be alone! I can handle myself for a few hours, so just… go away! Go on, shoo!”

They were smart enough not to argue any further. The two mares immediately turned tail and trotted out the garden gates.

“And try and be discreet this time!” Twilight called after them, knowing it would make no difference whatsoever. “Ugh. Nopony ever listens to me. Why should my own guards?”

Twilight plodded into the Golden Boughs, passing beneath the mystical apple trees that dominated the park. With an idle tug of her magic, she pulled down one of the golden treats and took a bite. It was tart and slightly tangy, which suited her mood just fine.

Her eyes wandered up into the sky, thankful that the smoke rising from the city didn’t blot out too many of her stars. She needed them tonight. An hour ago, when she brought them out, she’d felt a strange sense of anticipation. It was as if something she’d looked forward to for years was only moments away. It hadn’t made sense then. It still didn’t make sense now.

She finished off the sour-sweet apple core and sighed again.

What she wished for was one of those rare moments where she could pull poise or confidence from her stars. However, ever since the shadowlords had focused their efforts on Canterlot three weeks ago, nights like that had been few and far between.

I’ve been igniting them for ten years, and I still don’t understand them. How do I get feelings from stars? Aunt Luna never said anything about special connections to them. Then again… she usually talked about how much she loved her Moon.

Twilight traced a few of her favorite constellations with her mind’s eye. I wish I could make sense of it all! Maybe you could tell me how to do this job I’m supposed to do. Huh? Anything?

She had the strange sense the stars themselves were chuckling. Twilight shook her head and forced her imagination back down.

They’re just stars.

Twilight stopped at the great lake at the eastern edge of the park. Despite the smoke to the west, the lake remained pure. The surface was clean and clear, like a sheet of woven diamonds reflecting the starlight above perfectly. She settled down beneath the canopy of glittering arcane willows along the bank, and sighed at her reflection.

She tried to see the Astra Princess, but Twilight saw what she always saw. In the water, there sat a small alicorn with a lavender coat, a purple mane with a couple streaks of color and a simple silver circlet around her head. Twilight stretched her wings and caught the glint of starlight reflecting off the silver in them. She still wasn’t used to that, even after five years. Working with her stars each night had done strange things to her body, though she had yet to figure out why it had taken so long for her wings to shift from solid lavender to a gradient of silver.

It’s probably a sign that somepony made a mistake. I really don’t deserve my title. Harmony must have been having one of those days when she gave me wings.

There were days when she wished Mother had left her studying in her parents’ home in west Canterlot beyond the great Diamond Wall. Since the shadowkin had started their attacks against the Equestrian Realms in the last few years, those days had only increased. Now, not a single night passed when she didn’t wish somepony, anypony else had been given this responsibility.

Twilight looked up and stared at the Wall, both annoyed and glad she couldn’t see beyond it. She wondered if the black and twisted armies had devastated that part of the outlying city yet. She hoped not, but at least her family was now safe behind the Wall. And though the rest of the Equestrian Realms did not have the same level of magical defenses to protect them, the hidden shadowlords seemed determined to blast Canterlot off the face of the map before spreading their darkness. Thankfully, the only way they could do that was to breach the Harmony Gate, something that wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

From her spot on the shore, Twilight could just barely make out great braziers of blue fire above the entrance to the great gate. The Harmony Gate was one of the most fortified entrances ever built. The ancient wards had protected the doors for countless centuries. The sheer idea of them failing was all but ludicrous.

And yet Mother and Aunt Luna seem grimmer every day.

Still, the thought of her old home out there being destroyed by those monsters drove her crazy. She wanted to throw herself into the air and strike down every shadowkin lurking beyond the Wall. To root out the shadowlords, and erase them from existence. To do something.

But that wasn’t her role. It would be another decade until she fully grew into her power. Even then, she was no fighter. She never would be. It was her responsibility to handle the stars.

So many lives ruined... and the Diamond Palace’s newest princess couldn’t do a thing to help the suffering citizens of Canterlot.

No wonder the whole world thinks I’m just a glorified astronomer.

Twilight hung her head and watched as a single tear fell into the pool below, sending endless ripples into the diamond-like water. She studied the patterns caused by the impact, finding some small comfort in this simple act of order in a world filled with nightmares and chaos.

It didn’t help all that much.

“My dear, I do believe you may yet be the saddest looking pony I’ve ever seen.”

Twilight leapt to her hooves and whirled, magic at the ready, prepared to face whatever trickster who thought it clever to sneak up on the Astra Princess.

But at the sight of the newcomer, Twilight’s jaw dropped and her magic faded away. She couldn’t be seeing what she thought she was seeing.

And why is my chest suddenly tight? It can’t be any sort of— No, that’s impossible. Something’s wrong. Heightened heart rate, shortness of breath… and increased sense of vulnerability?

Umbrum? No, they only cause despair. Something worse?

“Wha—Who are you?” Twilight hissed as she raised her mental shields, since her automatic reaction simply could not be internally generated. It had to have an external impetus.

Yet the strange… intensity didn’t fade.

“She speaks as well!” the svelte tones of a deerkin doe replied from the shadows. She was leaning against the trunk of the willow tree not three yards away. “And here I’d been told ponies were naught but beasts with delusions of grandeur. I find myself pleasantly surprised.”

The veiled insult was enough to shake Twilight from her stupor, though the words ended up just making her more annoyed. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“Did I not?” The doe’s blue eyes glittered in the shadows. “How utterly boorish of me. One such as I, not following perfect etiquette? I do believe the very moon may fall from the sky!”

Twilight narrowed her eyes and gritted her teeth. “Answer the question.”

A gentle laugh erupted from the creature, sounding like the wind flowing through the boughs of arcane willows, setting each crystal leaf to glittering. Finally, the doe stepped out of the shadows and into the starlight.

Once more, Twilight’s jaw dropped. The doe wasn’t just a deerkin. She was a virtrung, a creature Twilight had only seen in old treatises and histories of the ancient places of the world.

I thought they were hermits! Or myths! To see one in real life…!

And she suspected the newcomer was well aware of Twilight’s response by the way she posed. She fluttered long eyelashes at the princess. Twilight studied the virtrung and tried to process the impossibility of the moment.

And then she just stared.

The virtrung doe had a flawless white coat and a few faint hints of dappled arctic blue scattered over her hindquarters, right around where strange markings— her soul mark? I thought only ponies had soul marks—glowed on her flank in the form of three blue gemstones. The gemstones obviously showed some talent with gemwork or another similar field. That same arctic blue ran down the doe’s chest in a great swath, under her belly and covered the top half of her small tail. A brilliant purple mane curled around her smirking muzzle, though Twilight was absolutely positive intense glamours or physical magic had been used to create such an alluring display. Delicate patterns of swirling dusky blue wove up and down all four of her slender yet strong legs, likely the manifestation of the innate magical ability of this particular race of deerkin. At the end of each leg was a shining azure crystal hoof that reflected light like a faint prism, probably the conduit through which the virtrung channeled her powerful sorcery.

Some tiny, rational part of Twilight noted that it took her far too long to record all of these facts. Yet Twilight still did it with the same intensity and attention to detail as she did with most things. That is to say, she studied the doe until she could recreate her with the very stars themselves.

Which I might just do… Twilight thought absently. Once this thought managed to fully process, she blushed furiously and turned away from the virtrung.

“My, you do make a lady feel appreciated, darling,” the doe tittered. “Your eyes drank in the sight of me like a thirsty pony in the desert. I can’t remember the last time anydeer—or anypony—did such a thing. I must say, it’s rather invigorating.”

Twilight didn’t bother responding. This was mainly because she doubted she could respond. At least, respond with anything even vaguely coherent.

“Oh my.” This time the deer let out a full-bodied laugh that sounded like crystal goblets ringing against one another. “Here I believed myself to be simply teasing, but I may have actually flustered the Astra Princess. Granted, I hear that’s not very hard to do, yet to accomplish this with nothing beyond a mere glimpse and a few words…”

That jab earned the doe a glare from Twilight. The same strange tug on her emotions was back, so she fortified her mental shields. She was determined to resist whatever witchcraft was upon her. Since that was the most logical explanation for her mental notepad’s flights of fancy in describing her…

… admirer err...


“Besides,” Twilight muttered to herself, “there’s no need to note how the doe’s coat reminds me of the early winter snow gracing the Crystal Cliffs.”

The doe’s ears perked. So did her lips.

“And I am absolutely, positively sure that I did not say that out loud. Not a single word about coat, or eyes or… slender, graceful… legs.” Twilight shook herself and rejected any notion of her mouth opening within the last sixty seconds. “What are you doing here? And who are you?” She demanded.

“What?” the doe asked innocently, holding a shining hoof to her chest. “Am I intruding on your dear personal time, in which all you appear to be doing is little more than moping alone?”

“I don’t like being teased.” Twilight’s eyes narrowed again and despite herself, her wings flared with annoyance. “Now, you either answer the question, or I’ll send you to the dungeon where Lord Armor will get some straight answers out of you!”

Magic fire erupted around Twilight’s horn as she glared once more at the doe. For most ponies of the Equestrian Realms, seeing one of their princesses call on their magic would at least give them pause.

However, this doe was not most ponies. She laughed yet again.

“Oh, I would dearly love to see you attempt that. Why, to witness such a brazen act, my dear princess...” The doe waved a hoof. “To match my skill against the Astra Princess herself would be a wonderfully entertaining diversion, even if I doubt I am as proficient in battle magic as one of the Royal Five.” She sighed and the edges of her lips crept upwards. “But there is no need. All you seek is a name, and to you, I shall give it. I am Lady Rarity, though I insist you address me as simply Rarity. Especially after that comment regarding my coat.”

Twilight was certain she had no idea what ‘coat comment’ the doe was talking about.

“Very well, Rarity,” Twilight growled, making sure her horn was still burning with magenta fire. “What are you doing here? How did you slip past the sentries?”

“Ah, that.” Rarity stepped forward to the edge of the lake and stared up at the Diamond Wall of Canterlot. “I did present myself at the gate where an odd pegasus inspected my letter of transit and ‘ordered’ me to report to the Palace. He was rather unlikable, so I decided to satiate my curiosity first. I’m sure you’re aware of teleportation, my dear, just as you know my kind practice it rather differently than you ponies, even one as gifted as yourself. It is a small matter of slipping through the cracks of space and time.”

Rarity turned, smirking at Twilight. Twilight couldn’t help but stare into the virtrung’s eyes. They reminded her of that unique color of the sky that could only be glimpsed when standing at the very summit of Canterlot Mountain. “With the chaos of the siege and the current state of your city, I’m sad to say there are many such cracks to slip through.”

“I will notify the Wardens of that oversight immediately,” Twilight snapped. “Right after I summon a proper escort to have you taken in for questioning.”

Rarity rolled her shining eyes at her. “No need for such hysterics, my dear princess. Firstly, only one of my kind could even see these cracks. Secondly, only the most subtle of casters could use them. Thirdly, I am expected before the Two Thrones before the sun sets tomorrow—”

Twilight twitched.

I have to stop that. She’s my sister! Despite all the teasing, I know she loves me! It shouldn’t bother me every time somepony says something even close to her name! Just because I’m—ugh!

Twilight wasn’t stupid enough to think Rarity had missed the tell. However, she didn’t even react, continuing as if nothing had happened.

“—so I will happily present myself to your guards when the time is right.”

“Then for the last time, why are you here?”

“Are all ponies as single-minded as you?”

Twilight felt her mane beginning to curl at the edges as stars glittered in her vision. Tiny crackles of electrified starlight flitted over her wings.

What is it with this doe? How does she know all of my buttons?

“Oh, don’t look at me like that, my dear princess. I’ve not said anything to warrant such a horrid stare,” Rarity once more waved a hoof. “I simply wished to be the first among my kind to greet the newest member of the Canterlot Royal Line, of course. In an informal setting.”


Rarity sighed, settled herself onto the grass just beyond the water, and idly slid one beautiful crystal hoof along the still surface. Waves rippled through the lake in strangely familiar patterns.

Twilight watched for a long moment, mesmerized.

“Because it seemed like it might be fun,” Rarity stated, watching Twilight watch the ripples.

“Fun?” That brought Twilight out of her daze. “What’s… fun about watching me mop—contemplate the events of the last few weeks?”

“Be a dear and sit with me, Princess? Please?” Rarity asked in a suddenly respectful tone. “I have had a long journey. I could use some rest and pleasant company.”

“You’re in the middle of a city constantly under attack by the shadowlords. If you want rest, you picked the wrong place to be.”

“Indulge me. If not rest, then at least grace me with your pleasant company.”

“You should find that somewhere else, too,” Twilight muttered.

Yet she still found herself settling down into the grass beside the virtrung.

“Oh, I assure you, I find your company most pleasant.”

“Then I assure you that there is something seriously wrong with your head.”

Rarity laughed. “Perhaps. But I am the one who sought you out, am I not? All I ask of you is to simply indulge me, my dear princess.”

Twilight rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Why is she bothering with me? She’s completely crazy! She has to be crazy!

Another part of her—a part of her she didn’t listen to very often—came up with several answers. Three-quarters of those involved just what those crystal hooves of hers might be able to do.

“Bit for your thoughts?” Rarity said in an entirely too cheerful voice.

“What?” Twilight blinked. “What was that?”

The deerkin laughed that lilting, tinkling laugh of hers.

“You were staring again, my dear princess. I wished to know what had you so focused… and so very flustered.” She paused and cocked her head. “Oh, is startling somepony a common cause of flared wings?”

Twilight mumbled something and forced her wings back down. Then she finally decided to actually be a princess—for once—and take control of the situation.

“Just wondering what a virtrung is doing here in Canterlot, especially while the city is besieged,” Twilight said in a brilliant—and not at all obvious—shift in topic. “It’s been three weeks since they focused their efforts on Canterlot. Three weeks since the call for allies went out. The griffons were first to respond. They’re working directly with the rapid response teams all over the Equestrian Realms. The buffalo’s braves arrived a few days later. The zebra weavers after a week. An entire legion of diamond dogs now hold the western walls. Even the dragons sent five wings of their best combat fliers.”

“My, such esteemed company,” Rarity tittered. “How wonderful it must be to know that the ponies of the Equestrian Realms command such respect from their neighbors.”

“Sunset said that the deerkin wouldn’t answer the summons. You never have before. Why now?”

Rarity turned and once more met Twilight’s gaze. Both of the doe’s eyes sparkled like Twilight’s stars. “Because it sounded fun, darling.”

Twilight groaned.

“Very well,” Rarity sighed with a shrug. “I suppose the real answer would be revealed soon enough. There are those among the Council of the Woods who believe it is time to reestablish ties with the rest of the world. And I will admit I’ve had a—ahem—minor fascination with the pony races for some time now. This presented a sublime opportunity to see your kind at your best.”

“Yeah, because us trying to survive savage assaults while our citizens are infected with the Nightmare Pox is definitely us at our best,” Twilight muttered.

“The buffalo have an adage, my dear princess: ‘See a creature in fury, and you will know the passion of their heart.’ While we are not as savage as them, there is occasionally wisdom to be found outside of our forests. Occasionally.”

“You do realize just how egotistical you sound, right?” Twilight glared at her. “The buffalo are not savages. And you know it.”

“I do indeed. But your reaction is most telling.” Rarity didn’t bat an eyelash as she locked eyes with Twilight. “Tell me, Astra Princess, how old are you?”

Twilight froze. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”

“It has to do with everything. Why so reluctant, hm?”


Twilight found herself nearly compelled to answer. There was no reason to, she knew that. She would have suspected some form of enchantment if she hadn’t taken a brief moment to verify that her mental shields were flawless—as usual. And yet, that subtle tug on her emotions still remained. It felt tantalizingly familiar. Where once it had been eminently noticeable, the longer they spoke, the more… comfortable it became. It was almost natural.

Twilight looked up at the stars and wondered for a moment before dismissing the errant thought.

“Astra Princess?” Rarity prompted.

“I’m… only in my thirties.” Twilight mumbled, poking at the springy grass with a hoof.

She waited for the barbs.

Rarity hummed a little as she ran her hoof through the water once more.

Twilight stamped once. “Go on.”


“Mock me. Everypony else does.”

“And why would I do such a silly thing as that?” Rarity asked in a genuinely curious tone.

“Well… Everypony else does.”

Another one of her crystalline laughs rang through the Golden Boughs and rippled across the lake. “You will quickly find, my dear princess, that I am not ‘everypony else.’ If it gives you any comfort, I am likely only a half-dozen summers older than you.” She drew closer to Twilight, whispering conspiratorially. “Though I would ask you not to spread that information around. A lady should have some secrets.”

“Could have fooled me. You have the glossy coat of somepony a decade younger...” Twilight mumbled. Her brain caught up with her mouth, and she plowed ahead before she made any other… slips. “I mean… I find it surprising because deerkin age differently than ponies!”

“Normal deerkin do,” Rarity replied with a shrug, but Twilight saw something else in the expression she couldn’t quite place. “But the virtrung are unique. And I… am more unique still. But surely you know this. I was under the impression you were a great scholar.”

“I am!” Twilight protested. “I’m just… I just don’t have time to study everything.”

“Ironic that the physiology of the deerkin happens to be a gap in your knowledge,” Rarity chuckled.

“Why’s that?” Twilight demanded. “Wait! Are you calling me… uneducated?

A quick flap of Twilight’s wings was all that was required to put her back on her hooves. She grit her teeth even as Rarity began to laugh.

“Oh, no, no, no! Perish the very thought, darling!” Rarity got to her hooves in one, long, fluid motion. “But you are the Astra Princess. I assumed you studied all forms of magic. Though, on further consideration, your sister may know more about this particular subject… while still knowing far less.”

“And just what are you—”

“Tell me, my dear princess,” Rarity interrupted. “Why were you sitting out here alone? No guards. No friends. Nopony save yourself and your admittedly-charming reflection?”

“I…” Twilight felt herself grow warm again. “It’s… it’s nothing to concern yourself about!”

“Come now, you can tell me!” Rarity pleaded, gazing at Twilight from under heavy lashes. “I have come an awfully long way. It’s the least you can do.”

Twilight huffed and took a few steps backward until her flanks bumped into the arcane willow’s trunk behind her.

“It’s not important!” Twilight squeaked—and immediately cursed herself for doing so.

“Your tone says otherwise.”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Why are you dodging the question?”

“Because you don’t need to know!”

“But I want to.” Rarity stalked forward on her crystal hooves, a tiny smirk on her muzzle. “And you’ll find…” She all but glided towards Twilight, moving with an almost liquid grace. “I tend to get what I want.”

Why is my blood pressure extremely elevated? Why is it so very warm this evening? Why has a colony of butterflies taken up residence within me?

“I… I… I…” Twilight stammered as the virtrung doe crept closer, coming to a halt mere inches away. Her eyes seemed enormous, even though they were half-lidded. Twilight sucked in a breath, catching a hint of oak leaves and summer fields.

“My dear princess, you obviously need someone to speak to. I swear by the boughs of my home, the stars in the sky and the life in the earth that I will not speak of it to any living being.”

Twilight blinked and looked down. A wash of pale blue magic coursed over the delicate dusky blue lines on all four of Rarity’s legs, only to flash briefly once it reached her hooves. There was a subtle shift in the air around them.

That… I remember that vow. That’s the Bond of Earth… that’s a binding oath! She… she actually bound herself to that promise! To me! But… over such a small thing? Why… why would she do that?

“Because… today, somepony reminded me today of… my lineage.” Twilight whispered in a tiny voice. “Reminded me that I was common. I’ve been a princess for only ten years… but nopony cares. Nopony will ever care. I’ll never be like her.”

“And by her, I assume you mean the Aurorae Princess, Sunset Shimmer, the pureblood daughter of Solis Princess Celestia?”

This time, there was no twitch. She didn’t have the energy.

Twilight nodded, all the feelings from before vanishing in an errant breeze. A chill ran through her bones and into her chest, as the confirmation of the words struck home.

“Ah, the jealous nature of siblings.” Rarity tutted. “It is something I am quite familiar with, I assure you.”

“You?” Twilight looked up. She relaxed a little as Rarity took a few steps backward. “You have siblings?”

“Oh, indeed,” Rarity mused as she looked away at something only she could see. “My younger sister. The dear fawn is always getting into some sort of trouble or another. I admit… I have looked upon her and felt jealous on more than one occasion.”

“What could somepony—err—someone like you feel jealous about?”

Twilight couldn’t imagine anything that would make this doe jealous. Anything in the world. She looked like she had everything she had ever wanted.

“Why, her freedom of course.” A wistful smile graced Rarity’s muzzle. “At an early age, I was marked in a way that set me apart from all those around me. The divide only grew with time, and, despite my natural charms, gifts and talents, I’ve ended up quite alone. My sister has no such issue. She is as happy and carefree as any fawn in the forest.”

Rarity let out a long and low sigh.

“You sound like you miss her,” Twilight hazarded.

“Well, that’s because I do, my dear princess,” Rarity shrugged. “Despite our differences, she is still my sister. Yet, my calling was not to remain in the Day Woods and I will not shirk my responsibilities.”

Twilight nodded. It sounded familiar. Far too familiar, if she was honest. Yes, the reasons were different, but the truth was still there.

Twilight’s eyes climbed up the enormous glittering spires of the palace she’d called home for the last decade. The ramparts where the ever-vigilant palace guards watched over the great city of Canterlot. The enormous anti-air magic ballistae on the battlements that could vaporize a shadowflier at five hundred yards. She could even see half of the command dome, where her brother was likely in counsel with Mother right now.

But more than anything, her eyes were drawn to the great gold and silver tower that dominated the Diamond Palace. She could see her balcony from here, directly below Luna’s own rooms. And she could just barely make out Sunset’s balcony opposite of Twilight’s. And of course, the Solis Balcony above that.

Mother in name only… Twilight mused. Both outsiders even among family.

“Is your family still here?” Rarity’s voice was delicate and gentle. “They have not… fallen during your battle with the forces of shadow?”

“No, they’re fine,” Twilight replied as she tore her gaze from the Tower of the Heavenly Sisters and back to her visitor. “When the shadowkin started attacking the city directly, most of the population of Canterlot were evacuated to homes within the Diamond Wall. They’re among them. The Princesses ensure they live extremely well.”

“And they would be of ‘common’ stock, I assume?” Rarity’s voice remained gentle, despite the words.


“So, you’re somehow under the impression that, since they are considered ‘common’ by your nobility, they have a ‘common’ daughter?”

“That about sums it up.” Twilight’s gaze dropped to the ground. “Just a commoner with delusions of princesshood, since I’m not like Mother, Aunt Luna or Sunset. I wasn’t born an alicorn. I ascended to it. My sister-in-law, Cadance, has dealt with some of the same prejudice but…”

Rarity remained silent.

“She’s always been better at dealing with other ponies than me,” Twilight muttered. “She is the Amoris Princess, after all.”

“Ah yes, the second-newest member to the Royal Line, the one who has taken up the call of love in your battle against the Pox. I’ll admit, she intrigued me for a short time, until I learned of you.”

“Me?” Twilight looked up into Rarity’s shining blue eyes. “Why would I be of any interest? I’m just the boring princess who ignites the stars at night. I spend most of my days in libraries or laboratories.” With a groan, she collapsed to the soft earth. “Who am I kidding? I am a commoner.”

Rarity settled next to her. “You are anything but common, my dear princess.”

“How would you know?”

“Well, perhaps it is because of your soul mark… and mine. I’m surprised you aren’t—”

“Princess!” cried the familiar voice of Starlight Glimmer.

Twilight frowned and got back to her hooves. Taking just a moment to at least try to compose herself, she stepped out from beneath the willow’s branches and away from Rarity. For some reason, it felt much cooler outside of the tree’s canopy than it had a few minutes ago.

“I’m over here, Starlight!” Twilight called to the frantic-looking unicorn in silver and blue armor.

Beside her was Trixie. The armor of both mares was a great deal more crooked than they had been before their dismissal. Twilight chose to ignore that.

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked as they galloped up. Their eyes were wild.

“Shadowkin!” Trixie squeaked, almost out of breath. “Siegebreaker! At the Harmony Gate!”

Twilight’s blood turned to ice.

“That’s… that’s impossible,” Twilight breathed. “The Harmony Gate is protected by—”

“Your Majesty,” Starlight interrupted. “There isn’t time! We need to get you to safety immediately. Lord Armor ordered us to find you at once and escort you to the Tower. This section of the city is no longer secure. They’ve opened up waygates directly outside the Wall. They’re getting legions of reinforcements!”

“My brother wants me to hide while my people fight and die?” Twilight’s wings flared with her temper. “That’s not happening. Not today.”

Starlight bit her lip and her voice dropped in volume. “Twilight, please.” Twilight was taken aback. It had been a long time since Starlight had used her given name. “Trix and I can’t take on a mass of shadowkin alone. We can’t risk anything happening to you!”

Only then did Twilight hear the sounds of battle coming from the west. The horrific roars of the shadowkin and the battlecries of soldiers.

Those were her soldiers. As much as they were Celestia’s, Luna’s, Cadance’s or Sunset’s. What’s worse… she knew the population dispersion of Canterlot. There were too many innocents near the Harmony Gate.

Who knows what would happen to the civilians if the gate was actually breached?

She thought what the venom of the shadowkin could do to a normal pony, one without the enhancements placed upon them by serving in the Celestial Forces.

For a brief moment, she pictured her mother being consumed by the Nightmare Pox, only to be pulled away to whatever horrible fate happened to the infected in the half-ruined city beyond the Diamond Wall.

She couldn’t just run and hide. She wouldn’t. For three weeks, she’d been forced to watch as the shadowkin devoured more and more of her city.

Not tonight! Not under my stars!

“Nothing will happen to her,” Rarity said as she stepped from beneath the boughs of the arcane willow.

Both unicorn guards whirled. Instantly, spears of starlight appeared before them and they struck, running purely on instinct. Before Twilight could even speak, Rarity’s hooves flared with magic and a half-sphere of diamond appeared before her. Starlight’s spear struck diamond… and lost in an instant, shattering into ethereal magic.

“I am not your enemy,” Rarity said, looking entirely unruffled by the attempt to skewer her. “Your enemy is out there. And I do not believe your dear princess wishes to cower behind walls of magic and diamond, does she?”

Rarity’s bright eyes flicked to Twilight. In that moment, Twilight saw something beneath the arrogance, the wit and the jests. Beneath the charisma and the flirting. Twilight’s breath caught in her throat.

Beneath all that lay a core of pure diamond. And while diamond was beautiful, it was also nigh-unbreakable. It was as eternal as the stars themselves.

Twilight looked up at her stars. To her surprise, she didn’t even need to ask for their help. A surge of confidence rushed through her. It was time to stop pretending she was merely an astronomer.

“You should gather your entourage,” Twilight snapped. “You’ll need it.”

“Ah, well…” For the first time, Rarity actually looked somewhat abashed. “Therein lies a bit of a problem. A teensy little misconception, rather. That is to say—”

“We don’t have time for misconceptions!”

“Very well,” Rarity took a breath and drew herself up. “I have no entourage.”

“What.” It wasn’t really a question.

Twilight stared at the doe, who was actually blushing now.

“I’m the only deerkin the Council sent.”

“What,” Twilight repeated. There was no way she heard that right.

“Sorry?” Rarity offered. Now, she had the audacity to look sheepish! “If it’s any consolation, there is another reason I was sent.”

“One doe,” Twilight growled. She felt her mane begin to frizz. “One virtrung doe. That’s all the vaunted Council of the Woods sends us? One doe?”

“Allow me to demonstrate,” Rarity said with a placating smile. “And perhaps that may allay your concerns.”

“Your Majesty,” Starlight repeated. “We really shouldn’t—”

“Quiet!” Twilight snapped. “I need to think!”

Starlight shut up.

Rarity closed her eyes, took a deep breath and reared. The swirling dusky blue patterns on her front forelegs suddenly burned with brilliant blue light. Both Trixie and Starlight both gave cries of surprise and staggered backward, but Twilight stood motionless, lost in thought. She was still trying to process what in the world would possess the deerkin to send a single doe to the defense of Canterlot.

Granted, if it had to be one doe in particular, I don’t mind that it was this particular one but—

Before her mind could wander down that path much further, Rarity’s eyes flashed open as a pulse of magic erupted through the air. Her crystal hooves flared with power as she slammed them down into the earth. The grass didn’t even bend at the impact.

Instead, the world bent around them.

That got Twilight’s attention.

A flowing geyser of blue and white magic swelled up from the point of impact. Strange silver-white metal flowed into the air from nothingness. Something shifted and in mere moments, the liquid metal engulfed the doe.

As Twilight watched with her jaw once more hanging open, the quicksilver-like material transformed into beautiful sheets of shimmering silver-white armor. In the space of a few heartbeats, the metal wove itself over the doe’s graceful body. Ornamented filigree dominated the center chestpiece which—to Twilight’s surprise—bore Twilight’s own soul mark. The mark burned with starlight, glittering in the doe’s magic. Similar glowing patterns of deerkin script flowed along the armor’s flanks and legs—and the armor also did a very good job of accentuating those particular assets.

A helm appeared on Rarity’s head, though it allowed most of her extravagant mane freedom through a narrow slit in the top. Finally, Rarity’s own soul marks appeared on either flank, each with the azure shine that matched the color beneath. As the armor solidified completely, Twilight was struck dumb as she realized exactly what she was seeing.

Rarity now wore not steel nor anything as crude as that. What Twilight was looking at was nothing other than starsilver.

The ball of liquid starsilver floated to the doe’s side. Rarity looked at it and narrowed her eyes, as if concentrating. A few seconds later, an elegant tapered blade of interwoven starsilver and crystalline amethyst formed from the orb. It burned with soft lavender fire. With a nod of approval, the blade slid into a sheath on Rarity’s left flank.

After a few heartbeats—very rapid heartbeats—Twilight somehow found her voice again.

“You’re a starsilver shaper?” Twilight whispered. “A real… a real starsilver shaper?

Rarity nodded without a sound, her eyes dancing with silent joy at surprising the Astra Princess.

“Well…” Twilight said after swallowing the lump in her throat—why is it so hot all of the sudden? “That does indeed change matters. That kind of power should help a lot. Now… we should hurry.”

Rarity cocked an eyebrow “Should you not armor yourself, my dear princess?”

“There isn’t time to head back to the Royal Quartermaster.” Twilight shook her head. “We’ve already taken too long as it is.”

“Oh, please. Who said anything about a quartermaster?”

Rarity’s eyes glinted. Her hooves flared. There was a blinding flash of light. Then, starsilver flowed over Twilight’s body, gently caressing her every curve. Twilight gasped as she stared down in wonder as Rarity did her work. Squeaks of surprise came from behind her and Twilight managed to glance back to see similar things happening to Trixie and Starlight.

However, neither of them were blushing nearly as much as Twilight when she felt the armor tighten in… certain places. When she looked back at the doe, there was a telltale flush on Rarity’s cheeks as well.

Twilight looked away. She didn’t even bother stammering out something.

The process lasted seconds. Once solidified, each armor took on the soul mark of its bearer, though all had Twilight’s mark on the chestpiece. The one difference was the entire surface of Twilight’s armor glittered with something akin to stardust. The armor even had a thin, flexible layer around her joints so as to not impede her movement. A moment later, three more interwoven starsilver and amethyst blades floated before the three ponies. Twilight took one in her magic and there was a brief shock as she felt the blade bond with her power. A few experimental swings proved that it was better balanced than any blade she had ever practiced with.

Even Starlight and Trixie let out appreciative noises as they tried out their new weapons.

“How many can you do that for?” Twilight asked.

“Oh,” Rarity said with a shrug. “Maybe a couple dozen at a time? The blades take a bit more work, of course. Crystalline amethyst is quite tricky to work with, even when bonded with elemental starsilver.”

A piercing roar shook Twilight. Then, the first scream brought her crashing back to reality. The scream was one of fear, but not panic. It was a sad thing that she had learned to differentiate the two. But it was still not something she could simply leave unanswered.

“Princess…” Starlight pleaded one last time. “This is a terrible idea.”

“Your opinion has been noted,” Twilight declared. “But we’re going in.”

She’d never really felt like a princess before. Now that she thought about it, she’d never acted like one either.

Time for that to change.

Common or not, she wasn’t about to turn tail and run. Not again. Never again. Being a princess in the Equestrian Realms meant that every single citizen within her nation was her responsibility. Everypony. Everyone.

Not to mention my family is out there. Both of them.

“You two coming?” Twilight asked, though she knew she needn't have bothered. Trixie and Starlight were both extremely capable. They wouldn’t shirk their responsibility. Twilight’s faith was rewarded with two nods, though she could still see Starlight’s hesitation.

“I do hope you’re planning on including me in your little soirée,” Rarity said as she studied an armored leg. “It would be most inconsiderate to simply leave me behind. Especially after I crafted such fabulous armor and weapons for you all.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Twilight replied with a raised eyebrow. “After all, I need to see if the stories of deerkin superiority are all they’re cracked up to be.”

“My dear princess, that sounds very much like a challenge.” Rarity’s smirk grew and her eyebrows danced.

“That’s because it was.”

“Ah!” Rarity slipped her blade from its sheath. “Then what are we waiting for? We have a city to save, do we not?”

Twilight grinned at the doe. For the first time in years, the weight of the circlet upon her head felt right.

By the end of the day, I will earn this. One way or another.

Her horn ignited with magenta fire as she unleashed the teleport spell. The world around them went white.

A moment later, it snapped back into utter chaos.

Author's Notes:

For the record, this Rarity was far too much fun to write. My first time working with her and I got to use her dialed up to eleven.

It was simply divine. :duck:

Chapter two, "The Fallen Gate" releases tomorrow!

Next Chapter: The Fallen Gate Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 23 Minutes
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