"I don't understand," Starswirl said, following the Doctor as he paced around the room. "How is looking for a legend going to help end this conflict?"
The Doctor tapped his screwdriver impatiently before waving it around again. "When you've been around as long as I have, Starswirl, you begin to assume that all myths are true. Trust me, it saves you a lot of unfortunate surprises in the long run."
stick of yours is supposed to help us find them?"
The brown colt held the screwdriver in front of his face. "This, my wizard friend, is a sonic screwdriver. It can do a while mess of things I won't go into right now, but right now it can get a lock on an energy source magic, in this case and lead me to its location." He smacked the device again, frowning. "At least it will, after I isolate Celestia's magic. Oh, why did we have to be in the Unicorn District?"
"Actaully, I think I can help," Twilight offered. "Celestia's guards have a spell they use for locating her in case of an emergency. I learned it while I was studying in Canterlot; I just hope it will work now
She closed her eyes in concentration. A beam shot from her horn and raced out, leaving a solid purple trail in its wake. It continued outside, travelling through the city and into the snow-covered mountains.
Starswirl looked at the unicorn in amazement. "Such skill
a perfect combination of classical scrying and pathfinder spells flawlessly executed! But you're so young
no unicorn has that much power! It's impossible!"
Rainbow Dash chuckled. "Trust me, we've made a habit of doing the impossible lately."
The group, collectively covered in hooded cloaks, walked cautiously through the streets of Canterlot. Starswirl had warned them to keep their cloaks up at all times within the city; as long as nopony knew they weren't all of the same tribe, they would have nothing to worry about.
The magician looked behind him and stopped. He roughly pushed Twilight and the others, guiding them into an alley. "Quickly get in here, all of you!"
"What's goin' one?" Applejack asked.
Starswirl peeked around the corner. "Clover is coming; I'd prefer for her not to be mixed up in all this. Plus, Twilight's identical appearance would be difficult to explain."
The other seven ponies hurried into hiding just as the other unicorn appeared. "Starswirl! Have you heard the news?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Starswirl said, nodding. "As much as it was bound to happen eventually, I was hoping we wouldn't enter a war so quickly."
"I can't believe this is happening," Clover said. "Everything we worked for, coming down right on top of us."
Starswirl threw a quick glance at the alley that held the Doctor and his companions. "Perhaps not yet," he said quietly. "Listen; I believe I may have a lead of a solution. I'm going to the mountains to investigate."
"I'm coming with you!"
"No, Clover. I need you to find Smart Cookie and Private Pansy. The three of you have to talk to the Council and try to convince them what they're doing is folly or at the very least, try to stall them. If my efforts prove fruitless
He fell silent. Clover tilted her head. "What's wrong, Starswirl?"
The mage sighed. "If I fail, I will be called to serve in the Unicorn army." He looked her straight in the eye. "If that happens, I don't want you to come with me."
"What?! I can't just leave you!"
"You can and you will!" Starswirl said, pausing to soften his voice. "Many ponies will die if war does come about. I couldn't bear to put you in directly in danger."
The senior magician lifted Clover's chin. "Please. Don't follow me to death."
After a moment, Clover slowly nodded, eyes moist. "Just
be safe, alright?"
Starswirl smiled sadly. "I will, my love." He leaned in and kissed her, then slowly, she began to walk away.
Starswirl stared after her until she disappeared into the crowds. When he turned around, he was met with the seven ponies all peeking out from their cover, including one red-faced, open-mouthed Twilight Sparkle.
He gave a small grin as he passed her. "I assume that wasn't in your history books, either?"
The journey up the mountain was long yet not difficult, as most of their path lay along the pass created during the original migration to Equestria. The Doctor was finally able to lock on to the magic signal, giving Twilight a much-needed rest before they veered off the pass.
"Is this it?" Starswirl asked as the screwdriver pulsed brightly at cave mouth. "I expected the dwelling of an alicorn to be more
"Appearances can be deceiving, my dear Starswirl," the Doctor answered. "Look at you ponies, for instance. No one would ever suspect you to be capable of civil war, and, well, here you are."
He stepped into the cave. "Hellooooooooo! Is Celestia in right now? We'd very much like to speak with her, if you don't mind."
"WHO DARES?" a voice. From the shadows emerged an alicorn, but she was different from the one Twilight knew. She was only a few feet taller than her, and her mane and tail were pink rather than flowing rainbow. It was odd to see her like this, Twilight thought, finding it ironic that she had now seen her mentor in both the distant past and far future.
Celestia's eyes widened at the at group. "Ponies? How did you find this place? How do you know my name?"
"We're from the future," the Doctor said. "Well, except for Starswirl here he's from this time but that's not important. What is important is that we need your help."
The alicorn frowned. "I am aware of the war brewing in the valley below. Why would you ask for my assistance? Can the ponies not take care of their own problems?"
"This is beyond any of us," Starswirl said, finally overcoming his awe at seeing an alicorn in the flesh. "The Doctor says there is only one way to end this, and it must come at your hooves."
"And I am to believe a madpony who believes himself a time traveler?" Celestia asked. "Your words are hardly compelling."
"Please, you must do something!" Fluttershy pleaded, surprising even herself with the force in her voice. "You can't just watch as they hurt each other!"
"What the ponies do is not my concern. They knew what war details when they made their decision; it is their own fault that they die tonight." She turned away from the group. "Whatever happens, when the dust settles, we will remain."
"'We?'" the Doctor asked. "Oh, so Luna is here! We never get to talk much, she being the Princess of Night and all. Could we see her?"
Celestia slammed her hoof in front of his face. "You will stay away from her!"
Celestia gasped softly as she looked behind her. Peeking out from the depths of the cave was a small blue alicorn filly. She tiredly pushed her light blue mane out of her eyes. "What's goin' on? Who are these ponies?"
Celestia walked calmly over to her and stroked her mane. "It's alright, Luna. These are
guests; they won't be here long. Go back to sleep."
Luna ventured a look at the ponies. The Doctor gave her a playful wink, causing her to giggle slightly before walking back into the cave.
she's so young." Starswirl said. "What are you two doing in the mountains alone?"
There was a moment of silence, and then the alicorn sighed. "Our mother sent us here. It was very sudden there may have been trouble in the city, I don't know. But she told us to come here, to remember everything she taught us about harmony and friendship. She said we were to be 'a light in the darkness,'" She shook her head. "She made it sound as if we had some great destiny to find. But here we are, in a cave overlooking a kingdom at war. This is no place to live. This is no place to raise a sister."
The Doctor smiled softly. "Your mother was right, Celestia. You are meant to be a light. But do you think she wanted you to do that hiding in a mountain while a nation destroys itself? Or were you meant to show them what harmony truly means?"
Celestia walked outside the cave, ignoring the biting cold and falling snow. She sat down at the cliff side, staring down upon the gathering armies in the valley. "Why should I?" she asked. "I owe nothing to them."
"Perhaps not," the Doctor admitted, "but are you really so far above them? Maybe they just want their families to be safe. Maybe, if you look hard enough, they're just like you."
The alicorn didn't move for a moment. But when she did face them, no one could deny the resolve in her eyes.
"So. This is it."
Princess Platinum stood with the other two leaders. The sky was unnaturally dark; true to her word, she had commanded her unicorns to not raise the sun. Commander Hurricane wore more armor than usual, yet still retained her natural flexibility. Chancellor Puddinghead, on the other hand, had not changed her clothing, but Platinum noticed that her hair had fallen out of its naturally curly state and instead fell flat over her face.
"Yep," Hurricane affirmed, front legs crossed.
"It sure is," Puddinghead agreed, her voice grating lower than Platinum thought possible for the mare.
"The point of no return," the unicorn continued. "From here on, we will be enemies at war."
The other two agreed again. There was little point to this meeting, they all knew, but Platinum saw the true reason for stalling in their eyes: in these final hours, their uncertainty had come crashing down on them.
She knew because she had felt it, too. The sudden, ever-present doubt: What in Tartarus are we doing?
More than anything, she wanted to say she was sorry. She would give her crown to stop this, to resolve it peacefully, and she was certain they felt the same.
But as she said, it was too late now. They were too far gone on the path they chose and had to follow through.
Her gaze wavered. "Well
I suppose this is goodbye."
The other two returned her farewell. The unspoken meaning wasn't lost to them; this would be the last time they ever gathered as anything other than enemies.
She walked back to her army, composing herself. No matter her personal feelings, she would be strong for her soldiers.
As she mounted her chariot, she saw the looks of hatred in the unicorns' eyes, anger for the other tribes. If she said anything now, they would only think her mad carry on without her.
Platinum closed her eyes resignedly. "Commence the attack."
A shout went across the lines. Slowly, the army began to move, gaining speed until they came to a thundering gallop. The pegasi and earth ponies charged at them, poised so all three would meet in the middle.
It would be a massacre.
Platinum couldn't hold it in anymore. When the sound of hooves reached their loudest, she cried, "I'm sorry!"
A bright light flashed just before the armies met. The soldiers stopped in their tracks and looked on with fear and wonder. In an instant, the sun had risen, bathing a flying alicorn in light. As she descended, the armies stepped back to give her room to land.
She cast her eyes over the armies, every pony turning from her gaze.
"Ponies, hear the words of Celestia," she began. "When you came to this valley, you were as one nation. You vowed to remain as friends to one another, to abandon your petty squabbles in the interest of survival. And yet, here you are now: at each other's throats, ready to spill the blood of the ones ypu once called your brothers and sisters.
"Have you forgotten the lessons of your exodus? Do you so easily cast aside the bonds you formed? Did you never learn the values of a prosperous friendship?
"Honesty to be truthful even when it is difficult. Loyalty to stand with and for your friends and loved ones in their time of need. Kindness to overcome evil with good, or else turn the other cheek when wronged. Generosity the willingness to give unto others even when you will gain nothing in return. Laughter to find joy in all its forms and bring it to others. Magic - not just as the unicorns know it, but as we all feel it in our lives.
"These are the elements of harmony. These are what will keep your friendships whole and your nation strong. These will be your reminders that you are not earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns you are ponies, one and all, and you are meant to stand together in harmony and love as long as you live."
Nopony dared to speak after Celestia finished. Then slowly, Princess Platinum, Commander Hurricane, and Chancellor Puddinghead stood before her, and bowed as one.
And with that, the Equestria's first and final civil war was ended.
Canterlot was a very different picture than it had been the previous day. Now, ponies from every tribe walked together, rediscovering their lost camaraderie and mending damaged relationships.
"I can hardly believe it, Doctor," Starswirl said, gazing at the scene before him. "You stopped a war before a single blow was made. How do you do it?"
The Doctor smiled sadly. "It dosen't always work out so nicely, Starswirl. Sometimes, there's a lot of death before the victory. But I keep going, trying my absolute best, hoping that this time, this will be the day that nobody dies." He gazed at a group of foals and fillies playing in the snow. "These days are the ones I live for."
Celestia emerged from the crowded streets. "They wish for me to lead the nation, Doctor," she said. "I am honored, but
I'm not sure that I am ready."
"No one's ever truly ready for this kind of thing," the colt replied. "As for you, I think these mares could tell you better than I could."
The alicorn faced Twilight and her friends. "Mares of the future you have undoubtedly seen my rule and hold me in high regard. Tell me do you have any wisdom to give?"
"I'm not going to lie to you, Celestia," Twilight began, "there are
things in your future that will try to break you. But I can tell you that what you said to the armies was true. Remember the Elements of Harmony "
"And Magic," Twilight finished. "Hold on to them and never let go, and everything will turn out alright."
Starswirl smiled. "The future holds you in favor, Celestia. Personally, I believe you will make a great queen."
"Princess," Celestia corrected. "My mother was a queen, and she will never have an equal."
The Doctor announced it was time for him and his companions to go. Twilight was the last to enter the TARDIS, but stopped in the door. "One more thing," she called to Celestia, "If you happen to have a faithful student in about, oh, a thousand years or so, and she happens to knock over the entire Royal Library her first time there
go easy on her, okay?"
She ducked into the TARDIS as it slowly departed. Once it had disappeared, Celestia turned to the unicorn beside her. "Starswirl. Clover tells me that you are studying the manipulation of time through magic."
"Yes," the unicorn answered. "It's more of a side-project, really, nothing important."
"It is now," said the alicorn. "From this moment forth, your studies will have full funding from the Equstrian government."
Starswirl gaped at her. "Why my lady, this is thank you! But why? I've barely made any progress."
"Twilight said there are still dark times ahead," Celestia explained. "Without the Doctor, our nation would have been destroyed today. He travels through time as if it were a sea to be sailed; if we are to call upon him again, we must understand time as he does." She closed her eyes. "I have seen many things you ponies would never dream of. I pray they will never make it here, but if they do, the Doctor may be our only hope."