The night air was cold as she walked down the main street of Cloudsdale. But it didn't bother her, for her mind was far more focused on just how upset she was. Lightning Dust, a green pegasus with blonde hair, and, until just a few hours ago, a recruit at the famed Wonderbolt Academy. was going over the events of the previous day over and over again in her mind. Every time she looked over it, it made no sense to her.
She had proved herself to be the best flier in the entire academy, having been praised for her accomplishment and even achieving the rank of squad leader. Becoming a Wonderbolt had been her dream since she was a small filly. And every moment of her life since then she had worked towards becoming one of therm. Training, practicing, making sure that her flying skill was the best it could be, the best that ANYPONY could be. And it seemed as though she just might make her dream come true.
And then, out of nowhere, it all came crashing down. Rainbow Dash, her squad partner and fellow recruit, had apparently quit over Lightning's use of a tornado during one of the training sessions. Some of her friends had been travelling to the academy to visit her and the tornado put their lives at risk. But Lightning knew that risks were tio be expected. This had led to her being thrown out of the academy by the leader of the Wonderbolts, Spitfire herself.
It was a humiliation the likes of which she'd never expected. Nor was it one she understood. Ever since she and the others had entered that academy, they'd been told time and again to push themselves to the limit, to do whatever it took to advance themselves and to become the best fliers they could be. But it was all a lie. Spitfire had taken Rainbow's side in thinking that such actions were too risky. Too risky? Those other ponies weren’t even there when she started using the tornado. If they hadn't blundered into the training site when they did, this could have been avoided.
It was their fault, not hers. Or so she told herself. She had dreamed of being counted among the Wonderbolts her entire life. And now, these other ponies, these noponies, had taken in all away from her. Never again would she ever get the chance to fly with Equestria's most famous fliers. Fillies and colts would never look up to her, people wouldn't line up to have her write her autographs, and nopony would ever admire her.
"It's not fair." She grumbled.
As she kept walking down the cold, empty street, she was suddenly stopped by the sound of a voice.
"Indeed it wasn't."
Lightning stopped and looked up. She couldn't see anypony. It was dark, so she squinted her eyes to try and get a better look around. But all she could see was an empty street.
"......Hello?" She called out.
"Over here." The voice replied.
Hearing the voice again, Lightning turned to where she could hear it coming from. To her left there was an alleyway in between two cloud-houses. There, in the middle of the alley, was a figure. It was too dark to make it out, but the silhouette showed that the figure was cloaked. The general size and shape indicated that it was a pony. Whoever it was, Lightning knew it wanted something with her, which caused her to assume a defensive stance, wings stretched out, and a look of wariness on her face.
"Who are you?" She asked aggressively.
"I'm......a friend." The figure replied.
Lighting could tell from the voice that it was male, but the voice was strange to hear. It was deep, and possessing of a warm and caring tone. But there was an edge to it, something that made her gut tell her that she shouldn't trust him. She figured the best way to describe the voice would be a kindly grandfather, if you knew he was hiding a knife behind his back.
"A friend huh? Well, "friend", I don't know you. And right now, I'm, not in any mood for a conversation."
The movements from the shadowed figure indicated a nod of some sort.
"Oh yes, I'm sure. Today hasn't really gone as planned for you, has it?"
Lightning's expression became one of surprise? This pony knew what had happened to her? How? Her confusion quickly turned to anger.
"How do you know what's happened to me?" She asked.
"Oh my dear mare, I know all about it. How you were cast out, humiliated by those you once looked up to. Such a shame. For what it's worth, I think your actions were most impressive. I have seen few pegasi your age able to handle a tornado like that."
Lightning frowned at the figure, before turning away from him.
"Look buddy, I don't need your charity or pity. Whatever you want with me, I'm not interested."
She began to walk away, even as the figure started talking again.
"You WERE the best you know."
Lightning stopped at those words, turned her head around to look at him and raised an eyebrow.
"Excuse me?" She asked.
The figure raised a hoof and pointed it towards her, all the while staying in the shadows.
"Your skills as a flier are one-of-a-kind. The type of abilities those fools at the Wonderbolts would have given their own wings for to have in their little group. But instead, they were blinded by fear. Fear of appearing uncaring when those other ponies got mixed up in your impressive display."
Lightning Dust did not reply, but listened closely. It was as if the guy had read her thoughts, as much of what he was saying mirrored what she had told herself mere moments ago.
"That amateur, Rainbow Dash, does not deserve to bear your badge Lightning. But, I suppose in many ways it was for the best that they kicked you out".
It was here that she stopped listening and turned around completely, slamming her hoof angrily into the cloud-made ground below.
"What?! What do you mean by THAT?" She asked, clearly insulted by his words.
The figure lowered his hoof back down before replying.
"Like I said, your skills are more impressive than any I have seen. As such, they would have been waste had you joined the Wonderbolt. They may claim to be Equestria's best fliers, but what do they do with such talents? They spend their days putting on little shows for the masses, entertaining children and other lowly activities. But you......you deserve far better than that. You could be so much more."
There was that feeling again. The same feeling she'd felt when she first heard this guy's voice. Something about what he was saying and how he was saying it made her feel uneasy. His words slithered into her ears, making her want to listen more, all the while her instincts were screaming at her, telling her to get as far away from this guy as possible. But her instincts lost on this occasion, as she stepped forward, intrigued by what she was hearing.
"More than the Wonderbolts? What exactly is it that you're offering?" She asked.
Although she still couldn't see his face, she could tell that he was smiling with her question.
"What I offer is a chance to become more renowned and respected than the Wonderbolts ever were. A chance for all in Equestria to know your name, and to know that you are a pony to be reckoned with."
There was a pause, as Lightning considered such an offer. It was, after all, why she'd tried to become a Wonderbolt in the first place. To become known far and wide as the best. And now an offer had been made for just that.
"How could you do that?" She asked.
"A great change is coming to Equestria. A change for the better. A change.....of MY making. To make such a change happen, I need help. I require the aid of the best of the best. And you my dear are most certainly the best at what you do."
Even Lightning had to admit, flattery worked well on her.
"And when Equestria is changed, the ponies of this land will know that you had a hoof in it, that you helped to bring it about. And they will respect you for it. They will know that you are the best. They will flock to you as so many once flocked to the Wonderbolts."
Lightning tried to imagine it. Imagined a world where pegasi came to her, to learn about flying and how to become better, just as she once tried to do with the Wonderbolts. She confessed, the through pleased her. But the way this guy had said it brought back the sense of unease. Whatever change he had in mind, he wasn't telling her everything, that much was certain. But still, her desire to be known as the best was one she had carried since she was a child, and was not shaken off so easily.
"You say you need me to help you. I won't be asked to do anything......bad, will I?" She asked warily.
The shadowy figure remained perfectly still as he replied.
"Let me answer that question with one of my own. What are you willing to do to be the best, and to have everypony know you are the best?" She asked.
Lightning opened her mouth, ready to tell him that she was willing to anything within reason, so long as it wasn't bad or wrong in any way, as anypony would sensibly have done in that situation. But before she could say a word, he raised a hoof to stop her.
"And please.....I will know if you are lying."
She closed her mouth, now feeling unsure as he stepped forward, still cloaked in darkness.
"Look deep inside yourself and ask, what are you willing to do......TRULY willing to do to achieve your greatest dream?"
Lighting remained silent. This whole situation was crazy. Who was this guy? What was she standing here talking to him about some big plan of his instead of just flying away right now? Why was she entertaining his notions like this? But she already knew the answer to those questions. And more importantly, she knew the answer to his question also. She'd known the real answer for some time, even back when she was at the academy. It was a promise she'd made to herself when she entered, when she made it her goal to achieve great heights.
Many ponies may have found such drive to be deplorable, as her fellow cadets did when she did what she did to achieve victory in the various tasks she had been set. But that's who she was. If other ponies couldn't keep up, or were bothered by the things she did, that was their problem, not hers. What mattered to her was being able to achieve greatness, no matter who got in her way or what obstacles she had to overcome. And knowing that, she now knew the answer this mysterious figure was waiting for.
"For my dream.......I'd do.....ANYTHING".
She trotted along the long marble hallway, having enjoyed a very restful night's sleep. Princess Celestia, mare of the sun and co-ruler of Equestria, had woken up bright and early this morning. Her aim was to surprise her little sister and relieve her from her duties early so she too going get some rest. Besides, she always made it a point to have the two of them be together during the switch-over anyway.
As she approached the large wooden doors that led out onto the great balcony of the main tower of Canterlot Castle, her horn began to glow in a yellow-coloured magic that soon covered the entire door. It swung open with her magic and she saw outside. The night sky was beautiful, as it often had been since her sister's long-awaited return. The views, even in the dark of night were breathtaking, owing to simply how high the tower was.
Looking ahead, Celestia smiled as she saw her sister on the end of the balcony, her back towards her elder sibling. Celestia approached, with Luna still not turning to greet her, which Celestia noted as unusual. But she decided not to let it bother her as she smiled before speaking.
"Good morning sister. I hope the evening treated you well?" She said amicably.
Luna, now aware of her sister's presence, turned from the horizon to look at her. Celestia' smile vanished as she saw Luna's face. There was a look of deep worry upon it, as though Luna was almost afraid of something. Celestia moved closer to her, now fearful for her.
"Sister! What is it? What's wrong?"
Luna opened her mouth to speak, but soon closed it, instead shaking her head.
"I......I don't know. But something......"
The night Princess turned away from her sister and back towards the horizon.
".....Something terrible has happened this night, although I do not know what."
Luna faced her sister once more, with both of them now looking worried.
"Celestia. I fear that something dark is happening in our land".