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Guiding Light

by archonix

Chapter 1: Just Another Day

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The day she had finally got the hang of the sun had been Derpy's greatest personal and public achievement, one celebrated by all of Equestria, though perhaps for differing reasons.

Though christened Princess she had never revelled in public successes, which had little meaning: they were just things she had done. She had always wished other ponies could just see that, but they didn't see. They only saw her triumph. They hadn't known that her real success lay in the little-noted presence of her youngest daughter at that first successful ceremony. Dinky had stood at the back of the balcony, just beyond the curtained doors, watching her mother stand over the adulating and somewhat singed crowd in the courtyard below.

Derpy knew the sun had risen that day not because she had learned how to control it, but because she had finally known to set it free.

The sun, eternal and undying, had become her only focus in those early days, when her terrified daughter had utterly rejected her new form and role. For the longest time the little filly had hidden whenever Derpy entered the room, run when she couldn't hide, and screamed when she couldn't run. She'd lost her firstborn child; lost her entire life. Her guiding light had left her and she'd clung like an abandoned foal to the only light she could find. The sun. Celestia's sun. Her sun.

For one hundred and twenty years, her sun.

The hallways echoed with the quiet steps of ponies going about their business as Derpy – Princess De Raptura as she styled herself in public now – made her way to the apartments she'd set aside for her daughter the day she'd come of age. The youngster had grown to be a fine mare, and an adept mage under the tuition of her predecessor's most favoured student, yet she had never taken on airs and never let herself become corrupted by the machinations of the court.

Those machinations had stuttered and fallen under Derpy's reign. At first, believing her to be a not especially complex or intelligent pony, the court had gone into overdrive in its attempts to manipulate her, gulled by her simplicity. Derpy had simply ignored them. What did she care for their needs of favour and power? And somehow... somehow it had worked out. Especially when Dinky had stepped in to manage her affairs and virtually cleared the entire problem out overnight.

Perhaps it had been the eloquent speech Dinky had given that day at court, stood between her mother's throne and the great throng. Perhaps the sincere look on her face as she gave it, the spark of passion dancing in her eyes. Or perhaps it had been the way she had welded the doors of the great hall shut and threatened to bring the entire thing down on their heads if they didn't do as they were told.

There was a lot to be said for simplicity.

Guards stood outside the apartment, eyes forward, not even acknowledging their ruler's presence. It was still a strange feeling even after all these years. Their ruler. She was a mail mare, she'd always been a mail mare. She'd never be anything but a messenger. Though, when she thought about it, she was still making a delivery every day. Large package, wouldn't fit in mailbox. Left behind horizon. Will try again tomorrow.

The door opened. A familiar face, welcoming her, beckoning her to take a seat. Tea poured into a cup, a habit of a predecessor long gone, carried forward by the only pony alive to have ever truly known her.

Twilight Sparkle moved well for her age. So did Derpy, but... she shook her head, refusing to think about it.

They spoke of the past. Memories of friends long gone, places once seen and seen again years later, changed beyond recognition. They spoke of the future, of a time when all would be different, all would be changed. They spoke of the present, a time and a place Derpy did not wish to think about. Yet here she was. Sipping tea as if it was just another day, as if she were not in this room, on this day, sharing her time with the legendary Twilight Sparkle, the most powerful mage, most powerful member of the court and, at a hundred and forty four years and with a birthday coming up in less than a month, one of the oldest mares alive. The list went on and on.

They spoke of justice. Derpy had always understood justice to be a simple affair. Wrongs righted, bad ponies given either punishment or forgiveness. Good ponies lived. It had seemed so simple at one time.

Why?

More ponies. More movement. Her eyes were blurring. Twilight, long of limb and slender and old, led her to another room. A bedroom. She almost turned and ran right then. She almost screamed. She couldn't hide.

Why her? Why now?

Celestia help me, save my light! But Celestia would not help her. Celestia was gone.

Derpy and her charge were alone now, Twilight having long departed to her own work. De Raptura considered the ancient mare in that bed, lying on her side, barely breathing. She tried to be impassive and dispassionate as she took in the sight. Derpy could not be dispassionate. This one had always been so strong, so powerful. Like her father. To the very end she had seemed to remain young, though the signs had told all the while. Only in this last year had age finally caught her, sucked the life from her limbs, from her body, leaving her a worn and tired shell. But her eyes, her eyes had never lost their dancing spark.

The sun moved, shadows moved. Derpy watched her daughter sleep on the edge of the abyss. Her only remaining child. The sun faded, and it was as if it took the only thing precious to her with it. Night fell. The moon... the moon should sleep tonight. For all she cared it could sleep forever. It was a feeble light, it had no warmth for her heart. But she danced with it anyway, just for something to distract her mind for a few moments.

The sleeping mare woke with a start and looked around, bleary-eyed and confused as a newborn foal. But the spark was still there, still dancing behind her eyes. She smiled as she looked at her mother, smiled and nodded, and lay her head down to sleep once again.

The last thing Derpy had learned about her new form was that she could feel other things. Being no longer mortal, she could perceive worlds no pony had even thought possible. Sometimes a familiar shape, a half-remembered face. Patterns. She could feel the motions of those worlds as they drew close and fled. Near and far. Back and forth. A never-ending stream of messengers to a place she might never see.

She was left with no fantasy. No need to guess. No false hope in an echoed sigh or a slackening jaw.

Her guiding light went out.

Next Chapter: The First Day Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 26 Minutes
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