Reclining on her favorite armchair in the castle library, Twilight Sparkle was absorbedly rereading The Elements of Harmony. It was the first book every parent read to their children, introducing them to the world’s history, the universally-dreaded God of Chaos Discord, and the Elements of Harmony, the traditional teachings of Princess Celestia for achieving inner peace.
When Twilight was a child, her parents had read the book to her and her older brother Shining Armor every Summer Sun Celebration. Twilight loved the tradition so much that she continued to read the book at the beginning of every summer, even now that she was an independent teenager. The young Elf girl was especially excited for this year’s Summer Sun Celebration; it would be the thousandth one held since Celestia’s defeat of Nightmare Moon, and the millennial festival to come in a week promised to be the most spectacular Celebration the world had ever seen.
It was a bright, sunny day outside, with warm late-spring sunlight pouring in through the enormous windows in the library’s outer walls. The chamber was circular and tall, as it was the interior of a high tower, with many floors and lustrous crystal stairs winding up between them. Ancient scrolls and thick tomes filled the fine oaken shelves that lined the walls behind smooth, polished marble pillars.
Twilight, the library’s sole occupant, was curled up on a plush leather armchair, resting the open picture book on the chair’s right arm. She was of average height and build, with dark brown skin that betrayed her father’s Shangri-Lan heritage. She was wearing purple sneakers, loose blue jeans, a short pleated skirt, and a lavender t-shirt bearing an intricate, delicate tree design. Her violet, pink-streaked hair was tucked behind her pointed ears too keep it from obstructing her purple eyes, which were set on the illustrations of the ancient tapestries of the master weaver Tale Spin and the words of her distant ancestor and hero, the Royal Court Magician Star Swirl the Bearded. On the back of her hands was her Mark of a purple, six-pointed star superimposed over and surrounded by smaller, white stars.
As Twilight turned to the last page of the book, she heard someone pantingly run into the library. She looked up to see who it was. It was Spike, her apprentice.
Spike was a head shorter than Twilight, with light skin and electric-green hair and eyes. His hair was rather long for a boy and was tousled into a small faux hawk, which along with a pair of fangs gave him an endearingly youthful appearance. Like Twilight, he was dressed in sneakers, loose jeans, and a t-shirt. On his shirt was a dragon, and over it was an unzipped purple hoodie. He too was an Elf, and therefore like Twilight had pointed ears and his Mark on the back of his hands: a green flame.
“Hey, Twilight,” Spike said breathlessly.
Twilight smiled. “Hi, Spike.”
After taking a few moments to catch his breath, Spike pointed out of the door and said, “Celestia wants to see you.”
Twilight immediately jumped to her feet. “She does? What for?”
Spike shrugged. “No idea. She said it was important, though.”
Twilight nodded. “Alright. Thanks, Spike,” she said, then she ran past him and out the door into the courtyard.
As Twilight rushed through the castle’s fragrant gardens of fruit trees and flowers, she felt the crisp, cold wind of the mountaintop bite at her face. The view from Camelot was spectacular; from the peak of Mount Olympus, the highest point of the Olympian range, the sky was always clear and so you could freely see for kilometers in every direction. Gazing down the mountainside gave you a perfect sight of the city of Olympus and its streets, lamps, and buildings of crystal, stone, and glass situated on the mountain’s face. Floating just over these precarious structures were great, vast clouds, upon which were founded magnificent buildings of sky marble that drifted slowly through the air like hovering glaciers. Beyond the mountain’s base were the vistas of the vast Everfree Forest and the rushing rivers that cut through its trees and the plains beside it. In the westward distance, you could see situated just next to the edge of the forest was the small farm town of Avalon, connected to the city of Olympus by a long steel train track that winded through the plains and zigzagged up the mountain.
Olympus was abuzz with activity; Twilight saw Elves telekinetically stringing colored paper lanterns between the street lamps and Humans carrying crates of food and other supplies through the streets as Angels darted over their heads between the clouds, all decorating and preparing for the festival.
Twilight had to dodge the castle’s servants as she approached the throne room, as they were preparing the shining marble castle of Camelot for the coming Celebration, as well. However, she was stopped by three of the teenaged servant girls. “Hey, Twilight!” one of the girls, whose name was Molly, said. She was Human, as evidenced by her rounded ears and the cocktail glass Marks on her thighs. She continued, “We’re gonna be having a dance at the Plasma Orb tonight. You wanna come?”
Twilight smiled apologetically. “Sorry, not now,” she said. “I have to see Princess Celestia.”
Twilight pushed past them and continued running. She heard one of them huff indignantly behind her. “My gosh, Twilight, can’t you learn to have a little fun?” she shouted, though Twilight ignored her.
Twilight approached the castle’s central structure’s entrance, which was flanked by two guards. They would have stopped her if she were nearly anyone else, but they barely glanced at Twilight as she sprinted past them, up the stairs, and into the great front doors.
Twilight had only to ascend the stairs of the grand hall to reach the doors to the throne room. Pushing past them, she was greeted by the sight of a long, columned hall lined at both side walls by tall, colorful stained glass windows depicting the most critical events of the world’s history. A red carpet stretched between the doors and the golden throne, behind which was a massive, round, clear window that overlooked the east horizon. Princess Celestia was standing before it, gazing out into the blue sky.
Twilight walked past several guards stationed at the columns and came to a stop a few meters away from Celestia. She then fell to her knee, bowing to Celestia with her right hand over her heart. “You summoned me, Your Highness?” she said deferentially.
Celestia turned to her student, smiling cheerfully. “Hello, Twilight.”
The Gods were agreed by all to be the most beautiful Beings in the world, and Celestia was widely considered to be the most beautiful of the Goddesses, rivaled even remotely only by her niece the young Goddess Cadance. She was tall, even for a Goddess, with a perfectly-sculpted figure and a flawless, fair complexion. Her large eyes were a soft violet, and were as hypnotic as her smile was enchanting. Her white, feathered wings were so enormous she could envelop her whole body within them. Her hair was so long it nearly reached the ground and flowed through the air like a liquid, seeming to hold a starry night sky of blue, green, and pink nebulae. Her green bangs obscured her left eye, and the rest of her hair was kept out of her other eye behind her pointed right ear. Her Mark consisted of a golden sun on her thighs, shoulders, and the backs of her hands, between which were intricate weaves of auroras the same colors as her hair. She was dressed casually in a white tank top, denim short shorts, and leather sandals that wrapped up around her calves. Twilight found herself blushing slightly, as Celestia’s outfit showed off the intoxicating shape of her body quite nicely.
“Is there something you require, Your Highness?” Twilight asked, still bowing.
“Rise, my faithful student,” Celestia said. Twilight stood, then Celestia commanded the guards, “Leave us, please.”
The guards all bowed. “As you wish, Your Highness,” they chorused in unison, then they marched out of the throne room, telekinetically closing the doors behind them.
“We must speak in privacy,” Celestia explained, stepping before Twilight.
“Is something wrong, Your Highness?” Twilight asked worriedly.
“No, dear Twilight. At least, not yet,” Celestia replied.
“What do you mean?”
“Twilight,” Celestia said, turning her head to gaze at a window depicting Star Swirl the Bearded. “Do you remember how a Ritual is performed?”
Twilight grinned confidently. “Of course! A Ritual Circle is laid down, then the Sorceress uses its designs to aid her channel and fashion her Chi into a specific substance or energy.”
“Very good,” Celestia said proudly. “And where can the Circle be placed, and with what can it be drawn?”
Twilight recited, “A Ritual Circle can be placed anywhere, so long as it is stable. It can be drawn on a floor, wall, or ceiling, and it is even possible to suspend a Circle in midair. A Ritual Circle can be drawn with anything, so long as it is visible and stable for the duration of the desired spell.”
Celestia nodded. “That’s right, Twilight. A Ritual Circle can be drawn with anything.”
Celestia walked to her throne, then sat. “A Ritual can even be performed if the Circle wasn’t drawn, but appeared naturally, so long as the Circle’s shapes fit the desired design.”
Celestia gazed somberly at her apprentice. “That is the reason I called you here, Twilight. On the eve before the Summer Sun Celebration, the stars will be in a unique position to act as a Circle to aid in the performance of a specific Ritual. If a God or a powerful Elf were to use the stars’ alignment that night to perform this Ritual, it would grant them access to an enormous pool of Mana- enough to power the release of one of the Sealed Gods.”
Twilight flinched, and felt her body fill with dread. “Release… one of the Sealed Gods? Which one?”
“Nightmare Moon,” Celestia replied gravely.
Twilight began to feel panic overcome her. Of the Sealed Gods, Nightmare Moon was by far the most powerful, second only to Discord. Her release would be a sign of catastrophe; that the world would soon feel the wrath of the moon’s power wrought upon it. “Do… do you think it might happen?” Twilight asked worriedly. “That someone would try to unseal her?”
Celestia smiled comfortingly. “I doubt it, and even if someone tried there would be little chance that they would succeed. The Seal upon my sister is strong, and even with the Mana this Ritual would provide only a God or an exceptionally powerful Elf could succeed in breaking it. In addition, few know of even the existence of the Ritual, or of the other Rituals necessary to channel the energy to release her, so it is quite unlikely that such an attempt would be successful.”
Celestia’s expression became serious again. “Nonetheless, we cannot allow anyone to even attempt it. For that reason, the other Gods and I have stationed a trusted servant in each of our kingdoms’ settlements to oversee the festival and ensure the Ritual is not attempted or succeeded. Twilight, your diligence is unequaled and I trust you completely. Will you take up this task, as well?”
Twilight nodded determinedly. “Yes, Your Highness.”
“Only your apprentice Spike may know of and aid you in your mission, and you might face danger while performing it. You must be prepared for the possibility of great peril, and to defend your own life and especially the life of your student should it occur. Do you still accept this mission?”
Twilight nodded again. “I do, Princess.”
Celestia nodded, smiling. “Very well. You will oversee the festival in the town of Avalon, and I will dispatch you there tomorrow morning. Your task is to oversee the townspeople, their preparations, and the Celebration, and report to me any suspicious activity and ensure any attempts at releasing Nightmare Moon are stopped before they can be completed. Tell Spike and your family of your mission, then prepare for your journey. I will arrange for your accommodations and for the town to send someone to collect and guide you.”
Twilight bowed to Celestia once more. “As you wish, Your Highness,” she said.
As Twilight stood, Celestia said, “Farewell, my faithful student.”
Twilight began to walk away, but stopped when Celestia called, “Oh, and Twilight?”
Twilight turned back to Celestia. “Yes, Princess?” she asked.
“Try to make some friends while you’re there,” Celestia said with a concerned smile. “It will do you good.”
Twilight groaned internally, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at Celestia, but instead she replied, “I will, Your Highness,” and walked out of the throne room.
Twilight returned to Camelot’s library, where she found Spike sitting in one of the chairs reading a Steam manga volume. “Hi, Spike,” Twilight said.
Spike looked up. “What did Celestia want?” he asked.
“She asked us to go to Avalon to oversee their Summer Sun Celebration,” Twilight replied. “We’re leaving tomorrow. Come on, we need to pack.”
Spike stood, gaping indignantly at Twilight. “What?! But my birthday’s then!”
“I’m sorry, Spike,” Twilight said with genuine sympathy. She smiled reassuringly as she added, “We’ll celebrate your birthday when you get back.”
Spike closed his book, sighing with great disappointment. “Damn it. We were gonna have a Steam party night with my friends.”
“We can play with them when we get back,” Twilight replied. “Let’s go.”
“Alright…” Spike said, then he shelved the book and he went with Twilight to pack for their trip.
Twilight and Spike’s bedrooms were next door to each other in the servants’ hall, connected by a bathroom that the two of them shared. The rooms’ layouts perfectly mirrored each other, with a desk, chair, and a bed, as well as several bookshelves and a wardrobe lining each of their walls. Each also had a tall stained glass window that could be unlatched and swung open to reveal the east skyline, which were the only permanent contrasts of the room; Twilight’s window depicted a colorful field of flowers while Spike’s held the likeness of a bowl of fruit.
However, the occupants themselves could not have kept their rooms in more different conditions; Spike’s was chaotic, with a bed that looked like a nest of blankets, and all around it were piles of carelessly-stacked books and discarded clothing. Twilight’s room, on the other hand, was tidy and organized, with her bed always made and her floor always clear.
As Twilight was taking a pair of folded pajama bottoms from her wardrobe and laying them in a trunk, she heard knuckles sharply rap on the door. “So, Celestia asked you too, huh?” she heard a young man’s voice say behind her.
Twilight grinned, then turned to face her older brother. “Hi, Shining!” she said.
Shining Armor was leaning against the doorframe, his arm draped around his girlfriend, Princess Cadance. He was the stunningly handsome Elvish Captain of the Olympian Royal Guard, with brown skin the same shade as Twilight’s and stylishly messy hair that was several shades of blue, matching his eyes. He was wearing his military uniform: white trousers tucked into high, brown boots; a white jacket with a standing collar fastened with golden frogs; a blue sash; dress gloves; and a white beret decorated by an embroidered Royal Shield bearing a phoenix. The beauty of Shining, however, paled next to the surpassing loveliness of the bare-footed Goddess of Love Cadance, who looked like a younger version of Celestia. The only differences between Celestia and Twilight’s former mentor were that Cadance was more youthful and small (but still larger than most mortal girls); her skin was caramel; her wings were a violet-tinged pink; and her hair was still, didn’t obscure her eyes, and had three stripes of purple, pink, and cream that curled at the end. Her Mark was a sapphire heart flanked by gold flourishes, and like Celestia she had auroras up her sides and down her arms. She was wearing a peach sundress, leaving the Marks on her hands, arms, and shoulders uncovered.
Shining and Cadance were almost inseparable; they were together any moment Shining was off-duty and Cadance wasn’t studying under Celestia. It was to the point that Camelot’s servants wondered why Shining still had his own bedroom, since he slept with Cadance in her chambers every night. Beings all over the world envied him, though they resentfully admitted that only a God would look better with her.
“My aunt asked you to watch over a festival, as well?” Cadance asked, stepping into Twilight’s room.
“Mm-hmm,” Twilight replied. “She asked me to go to Avalon.”
“Avalon, huh?” said Shining. “Doesn’t sound too dangerous. Mom and dad are going to help me and the Guard keep an eye on Olympus. Is Spike going with you?”
“Yep!” said Spike, who was standing behind them. He entered Twilight’s room as well.
“But isn’t your birthday on the same day as the Celebration?” Cadance asked.
Spike leaned against a wall. “Yeah. We can celebrate it when I get back, though.”
“I’m sorry, Spike,” Shining said sympathetically.
Spike shrugged. “Eh, it’s alright.”
“Is there any way we can make it up to you?” asked Cadance.
“Now that you mention it,” said Spike, grinning at her, “I’d really love to have a nighttime pool party when I get back.”
Cadance laughed. “Alright, Spike.”
Shining interjected, “We should probably let you two finish packing. Hey, Twily, do you want us to bring mom and dad to the station to see you off tomorrow?”
Twilight smiled gratefully. “Yes, thank you, Shining.”
“Alright. See you, Twily,” Shining said, waving once at her.
Shining took Cadance’s hand, and Cadance said, “Bye!” as she left with Shining back down the hall.
Spike turned to Twilight. “So, you finished packing yet?”
“Just about,” Twilight replied, walking to one of her bookshelves. She took down some of her favorite light reads, placed them in one of her suitcases, then zipped it shut. “There.”
“Well, I’m not quite done yet,” Spike said, turning and walking out of the room. Twilight followed him to his significantly-less-clean room, and found that his clothes were stacked carelessly in haphazard piles in his suitcases. She groaned, “Spike, you need to fold them and stack them neatly.”
Spike sighed, pulling his clothes back out and morosely beginning to fold them. Twilight stood next to him. “Here, I’ll help you,” she said, picking up one of his shirts.
Spike smiled at her and said, “Thanks, Twilight.”
As they were folding, Twilight asked, “Did you pack your soroban and textbooks?”
Spike groaned with great irritation through his teeth. “Come on, Twilight! It’s summer!”
“Spike,” Twilight said patiently, “if you don’t review what you’ve learned, you’re going to forget it and have to re-learn it next year. You don’t have to do very much; you just have to go over the material once in a while and keep it fresh in your mind. I promise, you’ll have less work than if you don’t.”
Spike sighed wearily. “Well…”
Twilight draped her arms around his shoulders. “Please,” she said, pouting. “For me?”
Spike blushed, looking away. “Um… o-okay. I will.”
Twilight beamed. “Thanks, Spike,” she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. As they returned to packing his supplies, Spike continued to blush with a small smile. He was glad he chose Twilight to be his mentor; there was nothing that was was more motivating to him than pleasing such a brilliant, cute girl.
After they had completed packing Spike’s things, Twilight said to him, “Come on, let’s get some donuts and eat out tonight.” She winked. “My treat.”
Spike grinned. “Alright! Thanks, Twilight!”
Twilight and Spike exited Camelot together into the streets of Olympus. Unlike other cities, the magnificent Olympian streets consisted not only of shining stone roads, but also wide, long staircases that connected these roads as streets in and of themselves. It was necessitated by the steep upward incline of the mountain, and so carriages and trains were forced to gradually move upward by weaving back and forth across the roads on Mount Olympus’s face. While some complained of the strenuous labor of scaling the steps, new Olympian residents quickly found that the effort soon granted them great endurance as well as some of the longest lifespans in the world.
Twilight and Spike, having climbed Olympus’s millions of stairs their entire lives, expertly and swiftly scaled them and crossed the roads and bridges over the rivers until they came to Donut Joe’s shop on an upper platform in the market district. Joe, being a good friend of Twilight’s parents, gave them a heavy discount for six cream cheese donuts sprinkled with crushed rock candy (Spike’s favorite kind). Spike and Twilight then went to a nearby soup kitchen where they bought two bowls of spiced potato soup. For beverages, Spike got iced peach tea and Twilight got a daiquiri, then they sat on stone benches at a small marble table in a nearby plaza to eat.
As they were dipping bread sticks sprinkled with parmesan into their soup, Spike asked Twilight, “So, why are we monitoring the festival in Avalon?”
Twilight lowered her voice to a whisper as she gazed with deep gravity at Spike. “Celestia wants us to ensure that a potential Ritual to release Nightmare Moon from Tartarus is not performed the night before.”
Spike’s eyes widened with fear. He stammered, “T-Twilight, I know that you don’t make jokes very often, but that’s really not funny.”
“I’m not kidding,” Twilight said. “The stars will align to make the Ritual possible the night before the festival. Celestia and the other Gods are sending their servants throughout their kingdoms to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Spike trembled. “So… Nightmare Moon could really be released?”
Twilight nodded. “Yes. But you can’t tell anyone else.”
Spike leaned back in his chair, folding his arms. “Are Shining and your parents watching the Celebration here, then?”
“Does Celestia think that anyone’s really going to try to unseal Nightmare Moon?”
“No. She doesn’t even think that anyone but the Gods knows how to do it, let alone has the power to. But we still need to be prepared in case someone does.”
Spike sighed relievedly. “Alright. So that’s all we have to do? Go to Avalon and make sure no one tries to unseal Nightmare Moon the night before the festival?”
Spike smiled. “Doesn’t sound too bad. This might be fun.”
Twilight frowned. “Spike, this is serious. We can’t take this mission lightly. We have to make sure we do a good job.”
Spike shrugged. “Alright. Sounds like we don’t need to worry too much, though.”
A nearby clock tower began chiming, and Twilight and Spike turned to it. It was nine o’clock.
“We’d better go home,” Twilight said. “We need to get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow.”
“Alright,” Spike said, and they finished their soup and walked back to the castle. They both brushed, took turns bathing and putting on their pajamas, then retired to their beds for the night.
* * *
Twilight was awakened the next morning by a knock on her door. As she yawned and sat up, her family’s butler Frederic opened her door. “Good morning, Miss Twilight,” he said. He was carrying a tray bearing Twilight’s covered breakfast, a sealed envelope, and two train tickets. “Princess Celestia regrets to inform you that she will be unable to accompany you to the train station this morning, as she is busy overseeing preparations for the festival. However, she bids you a safe journey and has sent you your tickets and a letter to be read when you’re settled in at the inn.”
“Thanks, Frederic,” Twilight said, taking the tray from him.
Frederic continued, “I will be here in half an hour to assist you in bringing your bags to the carriage. The train is scheduled to leave at eight o’clock,” and with a bow he exited her room.
Twilight ate her breakfast (which today was a cheese sandwich with tomato soup) and got dressed. After combing her hair and brushing her teeth, she went to Spike’s room to see how he was doing. He was ready, as well, and so in a few minutes Frederic came back with a couple more servants to help them carry their luggage to the black horse-drawn coach that was waiting outside.
When Twilight opened the door, she saw that Shining, Cadance, and her parents Twilight Velvet and Night Light were sitting inside. She smiled. “Hi, mom! Hi, dad!” she cried, running forward to embrace them.
Like his son, Night Light had blue hair and dark brown skin. His wife, however, had the fair complexion of an Athenian, with purple-and-white-striped hair, but was aside from that a spitting image of their daughter. They were both dressed in fine formal suits, as Velvet was Camelot’s head librarian and Night Light was the Royal Astronomist, leaving Twilight the only member of her family not yet in Celestia’s court.
Twilight stood back and sat next to Cadance while Spike sat next to Night Light. Once the door was closed, the driver urged the horse on and the carriage began driving to the station.
“Our daughter,” Night Light said, “to Avalon on a mission from Princess Celestia herself. We’re so proud of you.”
“Not as proud as I am,” Shining said, reaching across Cadance’s shoulders and rubbing Twilight’s head.
“Cut it out!” Twilight laughed, swatting his hand away.
“Be careful, though, Twilight,” Velvet said. “It could get very dangerous out there.”
“I’ll be fine, mom,” Twilight insisted.
“Besides,” Spike interjected, pointing at himself, “she’ll have me!”
Shining laughed. “Yeah. I’d hate to be the one who messed with Twilight with you around.”
“Oh! I almost forgot-” Velvet said, reaching under her seat. She produced a colorfully-wrapped parcel, which she presented to Spike. “Here is your present from Night Light and me. Just don’t open it until your birthday!”
Shining slapped his forehead. “Shit! Cadance and I forgot our present!”
“Watch your mouth, Shining!” his father chided.
Cadance took Shining’s hand in hers. “Don’t worry; we’ll mail it to Twilight when we get back home,” she said.
Twilight blushed and chuckled nervously. “Um… do you think you could send my present too, Shining?”
Spike scoffed, rolling his eyes. “My gosh, did everyone forget my presents?”
“We didn’t,” Velvet said, sniffing indignantly.
“Oh,” Spike said. “Right. Sorry. Thanks, Mrs. Velvet.”
In about fifteen minutes they arrived at the Olympian train station. Shining and his parents helped Twilight and Spike pull their luggage off of the carriage and roll it to platform nine, the number listed on Twilight’s tickets. They came to a black luxury steam train that Beings were filing into as its conductors cried over the clamor, “All aboard for Avalon! All aboard for Avalon!”
Twilight turned to her parents. “Well, see you all in a week.”
She embraced them again.
“We love you, Twilight,” her father said.
“Love you too,” Twilight said, giving her parents each a kiss on the cheek.
Twilight gave Shining a hug, as well, before she turned smilingly to Cadance. They both danced in place, covered their eyes, then peeked through their fingers, singing, “Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake.” They then played patty cake and than turned and shook their hips at each other, concluding, “Clap your hands and do a little shake!“
They laughed and embraced, and Twilight said, “I’ll see you next week.”
“Bye, Twilight,” Cadance replied, releasing her.
Spike rolled his eyes, then accompanied Twilight onto the train. As the whistle blew and the engine lurched forward, Twilight stood on the stairs and enthusiastically waved at her family. “Goodbye!” she called.
Twilight’s family waved and called farewells back to her as they moved further and further away until they disappeared into the distance.