The weather had turned quickly, going from bright and sunny, to grey and cloudy. But despite that, she didn't care. She didn't care about anything except simply sitting here and being alone. Twilight was on the top floor of her home in Ponyville, looking out of the window as she sat on the edge of her bed. Depressed would, at this point, be an understatement of how she felt right now. She was devastated. She had tried her best to overcome a great threat to her people, and not only had she lost, she had been stripped of something previous too her.
Reluctantly, she looked over her shoulder, at her back. A day ago, that back bore the wings of an alicorn. Now, they were gone. Even though she'd spent only a relatively short time as an alicorn, she had been happy as one. Now someone terrible had come along and taken that from her. She had been entrusted with great responsibilities and powers far above what many other ponies could ever wield. And in one moment of foolishness, she'd thrown it all away.
She turned away and looked back towards the window. The sight of her now-bare back would have sent her to tears, but she'd already spent them earlier today. It had not been long since she'd woken up in her bed, having been carried there by her friends. They told her that they'd found her in the middle of the street, unconscious, and most likely having been teleported there by Sombra. Apart from that she was unharmed, for which she was grateful. For whatever reason, Sombra, and his partner-in-crime, Chrysalis, had spared her. Why? She could not figure out.
But even if she could, there was little she could do about it. If she couldn't beat them as an alicorn, there was no chance she'd stand any chance against them in her present state. Since her recovery, she'd asked that she be left alone. Although she appreciated that her friends had looked after her, she didn't want them to see her in this state. They no doubt wanted to be by her side right now, but had nevertheless respected her wishes and not entered the house.
But her solitude was interrupted by a loud knocking on the door. Twilight didn't turn to face it, merely kept her eyes facing the window. The knocking started again, this time followed by a very familiar voice.
"Twily? It's me. Shining."
At this, Twilight turned and looked at the door on the level below. She didn't budge from her spot, but she concentrated and her horn started to glow. She used her magic to turn the knob of the door, opening it. Sure enough, her brother was on the other side. He entered the house and closed the door behind him. After taking a few steps further, he finally caught sight of his sister on the second level. But she turned away from him as soon as she saw her.
As she looked away, she could hear him starting to walk up the stars to get to her. Through the corner of her eye, she saw him walk next to the bed and sit down next to her. For quite a while, there was silence between them. Then Shining finally spoke.
"How.....how are you doing?"
Twilight sighed. She knew him all too well. He was trying to put up a brave front for her, just as she was for him by not crying right now. He was making small-talk, trying to make the situation less uncomfortable. But today, she was in no mood for it.
"Brother, must you really ask that question?"
Her tone was harsher than she intended for it to be, and her brother quickly withdrew to silence. The young mare felt a pang of guilt over making him feel like this. This was her fault that all this happened, her recklessness. If she'd merely gone to him in the first place. That thought caused her to speak up.
Her brother looked at her, his expression clearly one of confusion.
"Sorry? What could you possibly have to be sorry about?"
She turned to face him.
"This was my fault. If I hadn't gone there alone and tried to fight him.....this.....this....."
She couldn't bring herself to say it. The loss of her wings was still painful to have to think about. And her brother knew this, as was evidence by him gently placing his hoof around her shoulders in an attempt to comfort her.
"Yes. It's true you shouldn't have gone alone. But this was that monster's fault, not yours. Never yours."
Twilight shook hr head, her tears threatening to return once more.
"But I screwed up! I was charged with being a leader for Equestria. Instead, I made the biggest mistake of my life. I handed our enemy a victory. A victory that will come back to haunt us. I didn't deserve to ascend. I wasn't......worthy."
She hung her lead low in shame. This was something that had been on her mind for some time. Her rise to princess had been, without question, a great honour. But there was always some part of her that kept telling her that she wasn't worthy of the position, that perhaps she wasn't ready. This failure on her part only served to confirm her fears of that. In all her years of being princess, Celestia never made a blunder on this scale, and neither had Cadence. And here was Twilight, failing in her very first year in the position. It was enough to sadden even the most hardened of hearts.
But Twilight suddenly felt her brother draw her closer to him, leading to her looking up at his face. It was softened, and bearing an expression of understanding.
"Twily. You have ALWAYS been worthy. You have, in your short time in this world, had qualities few others could ever claim to have. You have shown bravery and kindness and an intelligence that puts others to shame, even me. Your skill with magic is unrivalled and you have always taken actions that you have felt was the right thing to do."
Her tears began to recede from her eyes as she became enthralled by the words her brother was saying to her. Shining closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against hers in an affectionate manner.
"If nothing else, you'll always be a princess to me."
Twilight didn't have it in her to answer to that. At certain moments in her life, she'd feared that she and her brother were growing further from one another, that they were becoming less close than they had been when they were children. Here, in this place and time, she knew how foolish she was to have ever thought that. This was Shining Armour, her brother, and the most important stallion in her life. In spite of everything that had happened, Twilight allowed herself to smile. The two embraced each other in a hug, and for just that one moment, everything in the world seemed like it was going to be okay.
But then, the two were interrupted by the sound of another knock on the front door of the house. The two broke away from each other and looked at it.
"Who is it?" Twilight called.
The voice that answered was not one that either of them expected.
The two looked at each other with surprise. Shining got up from the side of the bed and began to move downstairs, with Twilight close behind him. Once at the bottom, Shining used his magic to open the door. Sure enough, there was the princess of the sun on the other side of the door. The former captain of the guard gave a bow to her, as he'd been so used to doing whenever she arrived. But as Celestia entered the house, she raised a hoof.
"At ease Prince Armour."
Shining stood up again. He looked up and saw that Celestia's expression was a fairly serious one. he looked from her, to Twilight behind him. It didn't take a genius to figure out that she had come here to speak to Twilight about what had happened. But, after what the two had just gone through together upstairs, he was inclined to try and protect her from further inquiry. And so, after giving his sister a final nod to indicate he was leaving, which she returned, he began to move past Celestia and leave the house, giving a final statement to the princess as he passed her.
"Don't be hard on her."
Celestia said nothing as the prince moved past her and used his magic to close the door. Now it was just Celestia and Twilight in this house. Twilight nervously started to bow to her, but another raised hoof from the princess stopped her. As the princess looked on and Twilight got up from her bowing position, Celestia couldn't help but feel a pang of regret over what she now had to say to her. But her position, and the actions this young mare took, demanded that she do so.
"Twilight, you know why I've come."
The unicorn nodded slowly, clearly still worried about what was going to be said about her.
"What you did......was a terrible error in judgement on your part. Nopony, not even you, can deny that. I will not ask what your reasons are for going off by yourself like you did, for your reasons are your own. But you should know that I am deeply disappointed in you for this."
Twilight remained silent in the face of all this. For her, it was like being a child again, being scolded by her parents for doing something wrong. But she couldn't really blame Celestia for this. After all, she HAD done something wrong, and paid the price for it. Slowly, she looked up at her mentor. The princess' face was stern, as it often was whenever Twilight had made a mistake. The last time she saw that face was over a year ago when she'd used her magic to drive the ponies of Ponyville crazy over her old doll.
This entire situation was uncomfortable for both of them. Twilight had become very close to Celestia over the years and it brought the princess no joy whatsoever to berate her like this. She knew full well that Twilight had been through something terrible and traumatic, and she wanted nothing more than to comfort her over what happened. And now that she'd said all the things she was obligated to as head of state, she allowed herself to do just that.
The young unicorn looked up at her again.
"......I am so sorry about what's been done to you."
Twilight was clearly taken aback by the princess saying that, so soon after her scolding. What was even more surprising was the princess placing her hoof on her shoulder, and looking down at her in that warm, motherly expression she'd become to accustomed to as a child.
"Regardless of what you did, I am glad that you managed to get home alive and safe."
Those words felt like a great weight lifting from her heart. She'd known that Celestia would be upset with her over her actions, but she'd known her for a long time, and so should have known that she couldn't stay angry at her forever. But, in truth, Twilight didn't really want to keep talking to this with other ponies. Her chat with Shining moments ago had been enough to get her out of her depression, and so she was not all that keep to have to go through with this again.
"Thank you princess, but I think I'll be fine. My brother and I have already talked about it. Something like this isn't going to hamper me."
Celestia allowed herself a small smile at this.
"That's good to hear. However, it is a matter of great importance that I ask you a few question about what happened."
Twilight nodded in response to that. She'd been expecting this. A debriefing. It was rare that enemies of Equestria would band together in common cause against them. Celestia's presence here was to be expected. Twilight gestured to the table and cushions in the middle of the room behind her, and the two moved over to it. Taking their place on the cushions, Celestia began her questions.
"You say that Sombra has regained his physical form?"
"And that he has allied himself with the changelings, and their leader, Chrysalis?"
Twilight nodded again. Celestia's expression was a sour one. But Twilight couldn't blame her. After all, the last time anyone had heard of Chrysalis, it was during the failed invasion of Canterlot. Celestia had attempted to thwart the changeling leader directly, but her power had been no match for the energy that chrysalis had taken from her brother. Celestia's defeat had left a scar on her, emotionally, if not physically. But the expression soon changed back into Celestia's usual poker face as the questions continued.
"Do you know where they have made their base of operations?"
Twilight had not been looking forward to that question. Although she'd tried hard to remember where the fight had taken place, she was unable to do so. She could remember the fight and everything that had happened in it, but when it came to trying to remember where she'd gone to face Sombra, there was a blank. It was as though some dark cloud was hovering over that specific part of her memories. No doubt it was something Sombra had left behind in her mind to keep their location a secret.
Nervously, Twilight shook her head at the question. Celestia sighed.
"I thought as much. Sombra had always been talented in affecting the hearts and minds of ponies. I suppose I should have expected such precautions from him."
That statement piqued Twilight's curiosity. Sombra had said something to her before about Celestia knowing him somehow, though he'd been light on the details. Now it seems that there may have been some truth to his claim. Twilight knew that it probably wasn't a good idea to ask the question, but it was burning on her mind now and she knew that, if there was any way for her to better understand her enemy, it was to ask.
"Princess....." She began.
Celestia looked up at her student.
"......did you know Sombra.....from before?"
There was a silence between them. Celestia's blank expression became one of pain as she shut her eyes tight. She gave out a long exhale before finally opening her eyes again and answering.
"Yes. I knew him. Long before he tried to conquer the Crystal Empire, I knew him.....well."
"How? How could you have possibly had anything to do with that tyrant?" Twilight asked.
Celestia's expression became one of sadness, and Twilight immediately regretted asking the question. Whatever the connection was between the two, it was not a happy subject for her. But then, Celestia gave her answer. An answer that Twilight would not have expected even if she'd lived to be a thousand years old.
"Because.......he is my son."