The use of locations from The Ambassador's Son by Midnight Shadow is done with permission.
"Wildfire. I thought you were going to try to stay out of trouble?" The most powerful being in the entire cosmos took another dainty sip of her tea. "Tsk, Tsk."
Perspicacity and Wildfire raised their heads from where they had instantly bowed, as best they could while sitting at the table.
"We didn't mean to... it was all my fault, princess Celestia! Entirely my fault, Perspicacity is blameless! I am a silly, stupid newfoal and I forced her - against her will - to go on a foolish journey that endangered her life! She tried to stop me but..."
"Ah, love. We both know that isn't the truth, Wildfire," Celestia lowered her tea with her field. "Tell me, Wildfire Starshine, what did you think about Ralph Vitoni's last words? A bit overdramatic I thought, but then, it was his final speech. I suppose a little drama is appropriate in such a case. Don't you?"
Wildfire's mind whirled, his thoughts became a storm inside his head. How did she know about that? Wait - she wasn't supposed to be able to know everything, Pers had explained that... but if she knew about everything then why did she allow bad things to happen and...
"Princess Celestia..." Perspicacity had regained her composure surprisingly quickly, or so Wildfire thought. "...do you... watch us all of the time? Do you truly know everything in this world?" Wildfire suspected that Pers was wondering the very same things that he had been wondering, only she had the clarity to dare to ask.
"Goodness, no, my little pony. I wouldn't wish to even if I could." Celestia sipped her tea with a wicked gleam in her eye. The implication that omniscience would not be very entertaining had not been lost on Perspicacity. "A certain dragon holds something of mine for me..." again the gleam "...my crown I believe. He may not know that it is... a part of my person," Celestia smiled.
"I mean that, by the way. He may not know. So don't tell him." The princess of the sun winked at the Starshines. The gesture was cute, but there was no question that it was also a command.
"Of course, princess." The reality that some aspect of the princess lay in a dragon's hoard began to slowly sink into Perspicacity's thoughts, followed by the realization that the crown had been in her mouth for several moments. Celestia must be aware of everything that transpired because a part of her, in some magical way, was in the dragon's home the whole time.
"Why didn't you help us!" Perspicacity was suddenly angry. "I was beaten and Wildfire lost... he got hurt really badly! If you were listening, why didn't you help us?"
Wildfire looked over to see his wife leaning forward, anger on her muzzle, staring with rage at the supreme power in the entire cosmos. "Um... Pers... it's okay. Pers? I think that... maybe..." Wildfire felt a sense of dread.
"It's alright, Wildfire Starshine," Princess Celestia gave the still-bandaged stallion a reassuring look. "Your question is valid, Perspicacity, but I would ask you to think for a moment about that situation. The fate of both ponies and dragons were in the balance, Griffons too, I should think, and the scheme behind it all had not yet been revealed. There was no way at that moment to know just how far the corruption led, or what additional plans existed."
Celestia looked both Starshines over carefully. "Sometimes official Agents Of The Crown may face danger when doing their duties for the preservation of Equestria. We thank thee for thy service, as my sister might put it. If I had popped in at that moment, how would we know what was truly going on?"
Agents Of The Crown. "Are we... enemies? I don't want to be your enemy! I'm a loyal pony! So is Perspicacity! Please believe me, princess, we..." Wildfire was nearly in tears, he'd already caused trouble for Her Majesty once before, being named an 'Agent Of The Crown' was just too much.
Celestia laughed, not mockingly, but gently, comfortingly. "My little ponies, being recognized as an Agent does not always mean that I do not trust somepony. Sometimes it simply means that I am grateful for true service to Equestria. And also for the keeping of state secrets entrusted to such a valued Agent."
So they weren't enemies, thought Wildfire, that was good. But they were on notice. That was clear.
"This is a debriefing, isn't it princess?" Wildfire had watched many exciting holoshows about espionage in his human days.
"Something like that, if I understand the meaning," Celestia sipped her tea again. "This really is good tea, Perspicacity. I do enjoy tea, you know." Celestia paused, briefly. "I feel confident that what you have learned about the past will stay there, where it belongs, but I am curious as to how you feel about what you have learned. A native equestrian and a newfoal, each with their own issues. Please indulge me. Perspicacity, you first."
Perspicacity had slumped back, now she was startled and unsure. "I... well, your majesty..."
"Celestia will do. We're all friends here at this table. Good tea makes friends of everypony," Celestia smiled sweetly.
"Well," Perspicacity needed a sip of tea herself, her throat had become dry. "I was a little upset... at first... to find that I was, well, part human-ish, I suppose. But Wild helped me with that. I feel good that you kept your promise to Willelmus and rescued the humans. Actually, I'm very glad that you did because if you hadn't, I wouldn't have my Wildfire." Perspicacity held out her hoof to her husband who cradled it in his own. They smiled at each other.
"And you, Wildfire. How do you feel about everything, now that you know the expansion of Equestria into your world was not an accident, but a deliberate action on my part?" Celestia studied Wildfire, her tea held close to her muzzle, making her expression unreadable.
"I like being a pony. I love being a pony... Celestia. Even if the Earth had not been... doomed... I would have chosen Conversion. Sometimes I worry that I don't always fit in, and sometimes I feel bad about all the... pain, and loss... that happened during the end of the Earth, but... now that I understand your reasons, now that I see what it is you actually gave us... them, the humans I mean, and when I think about how humans would have reacted if you had tried to tell them the truth..." Wildfire felt unsure how to say what he meant. "Humans wouldn't have accepted the truth, because they wouldn't have believed it. A few, like me, would have Converted just because they wanted to be ponies and live here, but... I think most would have just called you a liar and made endless generations pay the price for it. Humans would never have accepted that not having magic meant not having souls, and... "
Wildfire finally knew what he really wanted to say.
"Celestia, humans had been waiting for thousands of years for the gods they invented to appear and rescue them. Generations came and went, each believing that theirs would be the age where whatever deity they believed in would return, or show up, or appear and save the world. Save them from all the evil and the horror and the bad stuff. Only it never, ever happened. And now I know why." Wildfire looked into the eyes of the living deity of Equestria, and trembled. "You actually are real. You're here. I'm having tea with you. When I was a colt..." Wildfire laughed a nervous, short sound. "When I was... a boy... I prayed to a human god. And he never answered, and no...one... appeared, or sat down and had tea with me. I quickly realized there was no...one... there. But you are there. Here, I mean. In the flesh... or whatever you're made of... you are actually, really here. You came for us. Humans always yearned to be rescued, they just couldn't imagine it would be by... you."
"I'm grateful for what you did. That's all I know. Thank you, princess Celestia." Wildfire looked down, studying his cooling cup of tea. He wished he was a better speaker, that he could have said that better, but... that would have to do.
"You're welcome!" Princess Celestia, solar goddess nibbled another biscuit. "These really are awful. I'll make sure somepony sends you a case of decent biscuits. Just in case we ever need to have another chat someday."
"Princess," Perspicacity seemed troubled.
"What happens when we die? If we have souls, because there is magic, what does that mean? And... if there is something more, after... here... why do we live... here... at all?" Perspicacity knew she had probably overstepped her bounds, that she once again was pressing things, obsessing over things, but... she had an actual deity, right here, right now.
Celestia froze, her expression undecipherable. For a moment, Perspicacity worried that she had indeed gone too far.
"Ralph Vitoni was not entirely wrong, Persy-Pants." The use of that name almost made Perspicacity laugh. "I and my sister need you, our little ponies, we need you very much. We try to make that service as painless and enjoyable as possible for you, but it is not your only reason for being, nor your only existence. I don't know that the little pony called 'Perspicacity Starshine' can understand any more than that about such things, but just know that you all do a very good job and that my sister and I are grateful to you all, that we care about you very much, and that one day you will understand far more than you can hope to imagine right now."
Princess Celestia rose from her seat at the table and took a few steps. "Your ribs are fine now, by the way, Wildfire, but I will leave your Apples alone. Scars help a pony remember the cost and weight of their adventures. Please try to avoid being of further assistance to the crown if you can help it, you've done enough for just one pony."
Wildfire leaned over in the wrong direction, and found his ribs were completely healed, as if they had never been broken.
"Oh! Perspicacity Starshine... It's been a long time, but I think it might be good to have an 'Official Telescope Maker To The Crown' once more. I know it would please my sister greatly. I will have the arrangements made. Expect a lot of orders in the near future. The nobles tend to jump on anything they imagine is currently trendy."
Perspicacity's mouth slowly, unconsciously dropped open, she didn't understand why Celestia giggled slightly at the way she looked.
"Do try to stay out of trouble, you two." The burst of light made Pers and Wild squint. By the time they had begun to adjust, the light was gone and so was the princess.
"It must be pretty wonderful to travel like that," Perspicacity said quietly, "I'm almost tempted to go back to magic school."
"What?" Wildfire wasn't sure if she meant it.
"Hee hee... don't worry, Wild. I haven't the talent it takes for teleportation. I really don't. I know it. Besides, I apparently have a lot of telescope orders to fill. Or will have." Perspicacity thought for a moment. "Wasn't there an order just before we left? From Clydesdale or someplace? They're not going to be happy. Oh, I've got so much work ahead of me." Pers seemed both glad of this, and also frightened by it.
"Yes, beloved?" Perspicacity poured them both some fresh, hot tea.
"How much of what we went through... do you think was actually just... stuff happening? Random stuff, I mean. Do you think that...?" Wildfire had a baffled look, filled with both curiosity and concern.
"Could an all-powerful living goddess somehow have arranged things in such a way that the single biggest threat to her peace might be discovered and ended through using a pair of silly, overly obsessed ponies as pawns? Is that what you are asking?" Perspicacity sipped her tea and ate one of the stale biscuits. They weren't that stale!
"When you put it that way..."
"A being that can do anything can't know everything," Pers sipped her tea. "But... she can try to make use of whatever eyes and ears... and hooves... she has available to her. I don't think we will ever know for sure, Wild, and I think that is probably for the best, all things considered. We know too much as it is, and state secrets are a heavy burden."
"She's magic, so why didn't she just zap our memories or wipe our minds or whatever?" Wildfire decided to try a biscuit, they couldn't be all that bad, both Pers and Celestia had been eating them.
"Because Ralph was right. She needs us, just as she said. Why send us a crate of biscuits? I suspect that sometimes, the princess may enjoy having somepony to talk to who knows what is really going on. A non-dragon somepony. And I suspect that may someday be us. Or it may not be. But the option is there, now. We're here, if she needs us. I suspect that's also why she made us Official Telescope Makers too." Pers tried dipping her biscuit in the tea, to see if that was better. "It's not so much a reward, as it is keeping a connection. She may never visit us again. She probably won't. But the option is there for her."
"Think about it Wildfire. Imagine how lonely she must be, even with her sister back. Even with all of us ponies prancing about and laughing our lives away. How terribly, terribly lonely, to be the only ones of their kind, to be what they are, looking out for the entire world but never truly being a part of it." Perspicacity looked very sad for a moment, then ate her tea-soaked biscuit.
When Wildfire finally returned to the Fire Hall, he found that he had been granted a citation from the Crown for Special Services To Her Majesty, and that this reflected well on the Greater Fetlock Fire Department and all of its staff. This made of him a bit of a local hero, at least with the other Fireponies, and especially with the Fire Chief, Bluey.
The fact that he dared not speak of anything that he had done on his sabbatical only made him seem all the more fascinating and mysterious, and his injury, far from being a matter of teasing or ridicule, became a matter of fairly embarrassing respect and awe. More than once, Wildfire found ponies trying to catch a peek under his tail, to see the truth of a stallion so fierce and brave that he nearly gave his all for the sake of Equestria and the princess herself.
It became difficult to avoid the mares that suddenly developed an interest in him. Worse, Perspicacity, being from an old-fashioned pony family, teased him only half-jokingly about who he wanted to share their bed.
Perspicacity, for her part, soon found herself overloaded with orders from Canterlot and other cities too, this necessitated an eventual move to a larger building and the hiring of a small staff of capable unicorns to help construct the telescopes, microscopes, magnifiers and other optical instruments that were demanded of her. While she was proud of achieving her grandstallion's - and her own - dream of making 'Starshine' THE name for telescopes once more, she did admit more than once to Wildfire, in private, that perhaps success was a kind of trap as well.
Some years later, the townsponies of Greater Fetlock were astonished when two dragons arrived for the first time in the history of either Fetlock. None were surprised when it turned out to be visitors for the Starshines. Fear turned to fascination as all found that the dragons were actually quite nice, though many commented on the odd, pony-like shape of the younger one.
Both Wildfire and Perspicacity lived happy and long lives, along with their other co-spouses Featherhoof, Amaranth and Sweetflower, and had many foals who grew up happy and content in a very traditional and old-fashioned pony family.
And I can assure you of these events because - as I finish this manuscript, written not on leather, but on nice cork-vellum from the Southern Coast - I have lived them. To be precise, I have lived with those who experienced them, and I would not for a moment doubt the veracity of my beloved grandstallion and grandmare, whose story I have presented to you here exactly as they have conveyed it to me.
Ours may be a strange family to some; old fashioned in our arrangements, yet made of newfoals, descendents of the lineage of the first human brought to Equestria, and bound in secrets by the princess herself, but I would hold any Starshine up as an example of a true and proper pony in the world.
Someday, it is my hope that their story may be known, and it is for that reason I have set down their adventures, as they have told them to me, in honor both of them, and of my namesake, who lived so long ago.
I leave you then, future reader, whatever pony you may be, with the understanding that our lives shine across the ages, and that there is greatness in even the most humble of ponies.
I therefore sign this manuscript Willelmus Telescopy Starshine of the Royal Canterlot Empyrean Society, in memory of my grandponies, with all of my love and gratitude. May Celestia herself guide you to whatever lies after, and may someday your great works be known. Foalsday, Trotober the thirty-fourth, 2163 After Discord.
One: The Big Respawn,
Two: Euphrosyne Unchained,
Three: Letters From Home,
Four: Teacup, Down On The Farm
The Conversion Bureau Novels:
27 Ounces: A story of eight and one half ponies
The Taste Of Grass
The Conversion Bureau: Code Majeste
The Conversion Bureau: The 800 Year Promise
The Conversion Bureau: Going Pony
The PER: Michelson and Morely
The Reasonably Adamant Down With Celestia Newfoal Society!
The Short Stories:
Her Last Possession
The Conversion Bureau: PER Equitum
The Conversion Bureau: Brand New Universe
Tales Of Los Pegasus
The Non-Conversion Bureau Fanfics:
The Ice Cream Pony Summer
Around The Bend