As she looked out of her window and saw the crowd of ponies gather in the gardens below, she could not help but feel more than a little excited. After all, it was not every day that she got to witness such an event.
Princess Mi'Amore Cadenza, or Cadence as she preferred to be called, was watching the gathering crowd with great anticipation. Like many of the annual Canterlot events, ponies from all over Equestria would gather to this city. And although her work often took other all over the principality to meet such ponies, seeing them all gather together in one place was always a rare treat.
This day was the annual dessert contest and many had pulled out all the stops this year. Treats and cakes of all shapes and sizes lined the gardens, waiting for the judges to come by and pass their verdict. She had to admit, it was an appealing sight.
Under normal circumstances she would have loved for Shining to be here today so they could both enjoy it. Unfortunately for the both of them he'd been sent away on important business. A training session in the mountains with some fresh new recruits. As captain it was his job to see they were properly trained, so he had to go with them.
Ever since the contest began, she'd been looking out for a certain lavender mare. One she had not laid eyes on since she was young. Twilight Sparkle, Sister to her fiancé Shining Armour, and her future sister-in-law. But with the crowd being so big, it was nigh impossible to pick out individual ponies.
Suddenly, a sound from behind caused her to pull away from the window. She turned to see the door to her chambers open. Through the doors walked a familiar navy blue alicorn. Cadence smiled as her aunt approached.
"Princess Luna. It is an honour to meet you." She said in a formal fashion.
The two of them may have been related, but as members of the royal family, there were of course certain protocols to adhere to. But judging from the somewhat amused expression on Luna's face, such protocols were not required here.
"My dear niece. It is only the two of us here. There's no need for formalities."
Cadence Smiled. Ever since Luna's first official reintroduction to the pony populace, she'd been getting more relaxed when it came to her way of behaving. In all honesty, her aunt had been rather intimidating to her the first time they met. Talking about herself in the third person, using that over-the-top voice that nearly made her deaf to hear it. It was as though she'd been plucked from some ancient time and dumped into this modern era.
But thanks to the help of a certain young unicorn, she'd managed to get better acquainted to these modern times and ways of talking. Which was of great use to Cadence as she'd never been entirely comfortable with all the prim and proper behaviours expected of a princess.
"Are you going to the contest this afternoon?" Cadence asked.
Luna shook her head.
"I'm afraid not. I have duties that require me to be outside Canterlot this evening. As such I'll need to be leaving earlier than normal. I just came around to see how you were doing. A lot has happened over the last few months and the two of us have had little chance to speak".
It was true, Cadence could not deny that. Ever since Shining Armour had proposed to her there had been masses of work to do. Arranging a guest list, sorting out the hall that would be used for the wedding. It had kept virtually the entire royal palace staff occupied from dawn till dusk. Needless to say it had cut into Cadence's free time.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to speak auntie. What would you like to talk about?"
Luna walked past her and looked out of the window at the crowd below, with Cadence following her every movement.
"I hear young Twilight Sparkle is visiting the city today."
She looked back at cadence, who promptly nodded in response.
"I was wondering, with your fiancé out of town at the moment, will you be going to meet with her?"
Cadence looked somewhat embarrassed at this question. In all honesty there was nothing she wanted more than to go and meet the one she used to foal-sit for. But there was, of course, and issue with doing so.
"Actually, Shining thought it was best not to. Twilight is his sister after all and he wanted to be the one to tell her of our engagement in person. If I go down there and reintroduce myself, she's going to ask questions. Questions that will more than likely lead to her figuring out that the two of us are getting married."
Luna considered this and nodded in agreement. They both knew Twilight well enough to know that she'd probably figure out what was going on if Cadence went down there. Cadence had to admit to herself that it was killing her not to be able to tell Twilight about something this important. But Shining Armour was family, so the right was his.
Luna walked up to her niece with a smile on her face.
"The two of you are most fortunate to have each other. Back in my time my sister and i never had a more devoted captain of the guard. If he's anywhere near as devoted to you as he is to his duties, you will not be disappointed."
Cadence blushed somewhat. As much as her aunt had become accustomed to modern ways of behaving, it was still odd to hear her talking about Cadence's relationship like this.
"And likewise, the good captain should consider himself lucky that you are the one who will be his wife. I know little of what the royal family has been doing over the last thousand years, but it would have been unthinkable in the old days for someone outside the nobility to become engaged to a princess like this".
Cadence had to relent on that front. Luna was correct. In the past the very idea of someone from the royal guard becoming a member of the royal family would have been considered ludicrous at best. Fortunately for her times change.
"It's still rare that such things happen aunt. According to Celestia, a royal has not wed someone who was not of noble birth for almost fifty years. The old walls may be gone, but it's clear that some traditions die hard."
Luna chuckled at this.
"If it means having ponies like Shining and Twilight in our family, it's a tradition worth casting aside."
The two laughed. It was a pleasant moment. Neither of them had spent much time with each other over the last few months, so it was good that they had this talk with each other. Finally the laughter died down and Luna spoke once more.
"I am happy for you, as everyone else will be."
Cadence bowed her head slightly.
"Thank you, auntie Luna."
Luna returned the bow. Their attention was then brought to the window, where they heard the noise of the crowd below. Both walked over and looked down at the gardens. They could see Celestia in the middle of the crowd, standing next to the strangest looking dessert either of them had ever seen. It looked like a combination of several dishes.
Cadence was confused at the sight of this strange dish, but even more so by the sound of Luna giving out a brief laugh next to her.
"What is it?" She asked.
Luna raised one hoof and pointed to the crowd below.
"Do you see that pink Earth pony beside my sister?"
Cadence looked down. There was indeed a pink Earth pony standing near Celestia. A rather excitable pony at that, given how much she was bounding around. Cadence looked back at Luna.
"What about her?"
"That is Pinkie Pie. She's a pony I met in Ponyville back on Nightmare Night. One of Twilight's closest friends."
Cadence's eyes widened at this. If her friend was here, Twilight would not be hard to find. She looked back at the pink pony and looked around that area, hoping to catch a glimpse. And it didn't take long, for there, standing amongst a group of other ponies, was the lavender unicorn she'd been searching for.
Cadence's heart rose at the sight of her. She'd grown up so much. It was quite a shock. When last she saw Twilight she'd been but a small filly. But she did not have time to dwell on nostalgic thoughts as Luna's voice broke her concentration.
"I believe I will visit them before I take my leave."
Luna began to walk towards the door of Cadence's chambers when the young Princess spoke up.
"You won't miss the wedding, will you?"
Luna stopped and turned around to face her niece, smiling as she did so.
"Of course not. I should make it back to Canterlot the night before the big day. I will see you then."
The two gave each other another head bow before Luna resumed her walk through the door. Cadence turned around to face the window again but mere moments after she did so, there was another knock on the door.
The door opened to reveal a white pegasus guard traditional golden armour. He bowed as he entered before speaking.
"Your highness. You wished to be informed when Miss De Lis arrived at the palace?"
Cadence smiled when she heard the name.
"Indeed. Send her in."
The guard nodded in response. He then turned around and gestured to someone outside. Shortly afterwards, a unicorn mare entered the chamber. Fleur De Lis. She was taller than most unicorns, with a brilliant white coat and a flowing pink mane, and walked with an almost regal manner. Anypony who was anypony among the nobility knew who she was. She'd made quite a name for herself as a pony with an eye for festivities. She'd personally arranged many of the more recent high end parties in the city, becoming close with many of the big names within Canterlot
And she was just the mare Cadence had been hoping to get to manager her wedding.
"Miss De Lis. Welcome."
The whiter unicorn bowed low.
"Your highness. It is an honour to be invited here today."
Cadence raised a hoof.
"There's no need for that. I'm pleased you could make it here. I trust your journey went well?"
Fleur raised her head to face the Princess.
"Indeed Princess. Your guards were most helpful in escorting me here."
Cadence nodded at this. She then looked at the guard who had brought her here. She nodded to him and he nodded back, understanding the gesture. He gave another bow before leaving the chamber and closing the door behind him. After which, Fleur began to walk closer to Cadence.
"So then your highness. What plans did you have in mind for your big day?"
Cadence gave a thoughtful smile as she considered this. Many of the big elements of the wedding were already planned, like where it would be and the rest of it. But when it came to the small details, like the style, Cadence had quite a few ideas.
"I was thinking something along the lines of what you did for last year's gala. With lots of flowers and things like that."
"A fine idea princess. Such arrangement would be perfect for such an occasion. I'm sure your fiancé will love it." She replied enthusiastically.
Cadence warmed to the thought of her future husband.
"I'm sure he will. He told me he didn't care about what the wedding looked like as long as we'd be together at the end of it."
Fleur gained an unusual expression on her face as this was said.
"Such love. I must say I'm quite envious. He sounds like a fine stallion."
Cadence turned away and looked out of the window.
"He is. This city owes him so much, given his constant protection of it. I'm truly fortunate to have someone like him in my life."
The princess continued to look out of the window as she heard Fleur speak behind her, the volume of her voice making it clear she was coming closer.
"Indeed you are."
Before Cadence could speak again, a strange sound was heard. She'd never heard the like of it before. Coupled with this was a strange green glow which seemed to originate from somewhere behind her. Before she turned around, she heard a voice.
A very familiar voice.
"I'll be sure to tell him that when I meet him."
Cadence spun around. When she saw what was behind her, she froze with shock. For there, standing in front of her, was cadence herself. It was like looking in a mirror. The only exception being the twisted and cruel expression on her double's face. Before the princess could do or say anything, the doppelganger's horn began to glow a sickly green colour.
It was a spell of some sort. One which caused a ring of green fire to encircle Cadence. Once the circle was complete, a bubble formed around her. She tried her best to ram into it in an attempt to somehow break it, but her efforts were in vain.
Soon after this, the bubble, much to Cadence's shock, began to melt into the ground below, dragging her down with it. Looking up the last thing she saw before her head was engulfed by the floor, was the face of her double, who looked down on her with a look of contempt and a sick sense of joy.
Then everything went dark.
After what seemed like hours, Cadence woke up. Her entire body hurt, as though she'd fallen from a great height. Wherever she was, it was pitch black. No light to see. She tried feeling around to see if she could find a wall of some sort. Soon enough, she found one. This was clearly not a piece of construction. This was some sort of natural rock formation.
After feeling around for a few minutes, she figured out she was in a small enclosed space. Finally fed up with being unable to see, Cadence used her horn to glow some light into the room. When she could see, she realised that she'd been placed in a small cave of some sort, formed from some sort of crystal, with no visible entry or exit.
Then it struck her. The caverns! She'd heard about them in old history books when she was growing up. They used to run all the way beneath Canterlot, used mainly for the mining of gemstones. They were abandoned long ago when the veins ran dry. Few, if any, ever came down here for any reason.
She was becoming increasingly distressed over this. A feeling that only got worse when she heard a laugh in that familiar voice. Looking around, she saw no-one, so decided to call out.
"Who are you? What do you want with me?" She asked in a frightened tone.
A few moments passed before the answer came, in a rather unexpected fashion. One of the crystal walls glowed green, revealing a face. Her face.
"What I want from you, little princess, is to be a good girl and stay here while I attend to my business."
The voice was cold and cruel, not a tone Cadence would ever willingly speak in herself.
"Who are you?"
The doppelganger raised an eyebrow.
"Who am I? I am Chrysalis, the queen of the changelings."
Cadence was confused. Changelings? She'd only ever heard about them in story books. Creatures that took the form of others to feed off love. But she'd never heard this Chrysalis person.
"What have you done with the real Fleur De Lis?" She demanded.
At the mention of this name, the double snickered, as though amused by the mere talk of this pony. This prompted a look of confusion from Cadence. What had happened to this unicorn? Was she too imprisoned in this place? Was she being held prisoner elsewhere? Or something worse? She soon got her answer.
"Oh Cadence. There never WAS a Fleur De Lis!"
Cadence gained a look of shock on her face. A look which prompted the queen to speak once more.
"It was merely a form and persona I created to infiltrate the city. For months I've been working to integrate myself into the aristocracy of this place. Acting the fool and sucking up to the rich and powerful. All to make a name for myself and get access to the palace, which you, me dear, so thoughtfully gave to me."
Cadence felt sick to her stomach. What had she done? She'd allowed this creature to get into the palace, to get to her! She'd fallen right into Chrysalis' trap. Whatever had happened, all that mattered to Cadence now was getting out, and more importantly, why she was here.
"Why did you put me here?"
The changeling laughed again, a sound that made Cadence's skin crawl.
"Oh my dear Cadence. I have no interest in you, only your husband-to-be."
At the mention of this, Cadence became enraged, causing the glow on her horn to brighten considerably. The queen noticed this and laughed further.
"Oh don't even bother. You cannot escape this place. And as for my plans for your beloved Shining Armour......"
The queen put a hoof to her chin and considered her next words, before finally breaking into a rather sinister smile.
"I'll just let you dwell on that for a bit."
With one final laugh, the image of Cadence's face vanished from the rock-face. Cadence called out time and time again, wanting that double to appear once more so she could answer her questions, but no-one came. As the minutes passed into hours, Cadence allowed the light from her horn to become dimmer and dimmer as her hopes of being rescued faded with it.
She looked around and realised that the queen was right. There was no way in or out, and her magic was not strong enough to break through the wall. Her only hope laid in waiting for someone else to come down here and find her. But that hope faded like everything else.
After what seemed like a day, Cadence finally became desperate. She stood up and began ramming at the walls. Clawing away at what she could with her hooves. Putting every last ounce of her strength into breaking them, despite knowing full well that she could not do such a thing. But she didn't care. She had to get out. She had to do something. She could not allow that double, that ....thing.....to take her place, to take her one true love.
But no matter how much she tried, the rocks would not budge. In that moment, the futility of her situation finally washed over her like a tsunami. She fell to her knees and wept.
In the dark solitude of her imprisonment, only one thought kept her going. Kept her from giving in to this despair. She looked up at the ceiling of her cell and spoke softly.
"Shining, my love. Please find me."