Princess Celestia had a certain glow about her in the warm light from the lanterns that hung from string around the stage. The cheers of the crowd only grew louder the further she walked out on stage. Her spring dress of white and yellow flowed in the same rhythmic motion as her rainbow mane and tail. They rode the cool evening breeze that passed through. Another eruption of applauds filled the square when she was pursued by Princess Luna, Cadence, and Twilight.
“Can I have your attention please?” Her voice echoed through the crowd, the cheering died down to a spattering of applauds. “I want to thank everyone for coming to the Friendship Means Family Festival.” Again the applauds rolled through the crowd, the hoots and hollers ringing out. Princess Celestia giggled and waved her hands as if telling them to quiet down.
“Silence, all of you!” Princess Luna used her royal voice to boom over the crowds. The applause and cheering stopped at once. Princess Celestia cocked an eyebrow at her younger sister, who blushed and shrugged with a nervous laugh.
“Thank you, Luna, for your assistance.” Princess Celestia turned her attention back to the crowd a large smile tracing her lip. “I would also like to thank those family members that have traveled from all over Equestia to join us for the festivities.” Another round of applauds followed, this one sounded more controlled then the previous ones. The loudest cheers came from her friends and family in the front row. Twilight could hear their familiar hoots and hollers over all the others. Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy stood front row giving their all. Even Braeburn, Shining Armor, and Maude Pie cluttered in behind them, waiting to hear the rest of the speech.
“I would like every pony to know that this is the largest turn out in the entire twelve years of the FMF Festival and it's all thanks to none other than Ponyville's own Princess Twilight Sparkle.” As expected, another round of applause exploded, the loudest coming from her friends.
Princess Celestia stepped away from the mic stand, beckoning her favorite student closer. Twilight's chest swelled with pride at the introduction from Celestia as well as the response from the festival goers. The idea of seeing all of her friends and family so elated about something she'd put together, meant more to her than even she realized. “Thank...” Twilight started, but the applause still carried, it was enough to bring a blush to her cheeks. “Thank you all very much. This wasn't just a task for me to undertake. This wasn't just another of my many obligations as Princess of Friendship. This was a labor of love for my friends...” She beckoned down to the starlit eyes of her closest friends. “...as well as my brother Shining Armor and my sister-in-law Princess Cadence.” Shining Armor's hoot rang out above the quieting crowd. “I only wish my mom and dad could be here, but it's not everyday you celebrate your quarter of a century wedding anniversary.” With that the crowd was alight again.
Out of the corner of Twilight's eye, she could see a guard with a rather urgent look on his face whispering to the other Princesses. Twilight couldn't quite make out what they were saying, but it made a prickle run up her back. “So...” Twilight scrambled to regain her composure. “Since this is the final night of the FMF festival, I urge you all to have the best time that you can. Sample a little bit of everything that the Cakes, and the Apples have brought and please, please stop by the friendship trials tent for a whole new brand of friendship tests. Lastly be sure to leave something tied to the friendship tree in memories of the fun that you've had at the festival this year. Now get out there and have some fun.” One final cheer rumbled the platform beneath her. It didn't take long after that for the crowd to disperse through the festival grounds.
Twilight joined the other princesses right as the guard walked away. Celestia was whispering something to Luna, while Cadence rubbed her rounded belly. There was a worried look in her eyes. “Is Everything alright, your highness?” Twilight's arrival caused Celestia to stop talking and look at her.
“We were just discussing that. I think things are fine, but I've been summoned to the palace to look into a few things.” There was a grimace in her face that showed her disappointment. Luna gripped her arms urging her to be more honest about what was the matter. Celestia glared back at her younger sisters. “I would rather not burden her with this tonight.”
Luna opened her mouth to speak, but heavy hoof fall brought them around to see Shining Armor coming up from behind. “What's going on? You're missing the celebration.”
“Somethings come up and we must return to the palace.” Cadence pushed through the princesses to embrace her husband, who was already looking at Twilight.
“But...” Shining Armor began.
“You don't have to go, if you don't want to sweetie. I know this is a really important night for you and Twily. I don't want anything, especially something that might not turn out to be anything, to stand in the way.”
“Are you sure?” Shining Armor let his hands slip down her arms so his hands could fall into hers.
“Certainly and I'll be back in the morning to get you.” Cadence giggle and planted a small kiss on his lips, before shooting a look to Twilight. “You'll take care of him won't you, Twily?”
“Nothings going to happen to him while I'm around.” Twilight joined them in a family hug.
“Alright you two, if you're coming, we have to go now.” Celestia urgently stepped down from the stage. Cadence nodded and shared another long look with Shining Armor, mouthing the words 'I love you', while Shining Armor mouthed it back adding 'more' to the end of it.
Twilight noticed that Luna was hanging back, she saw her opportunity to ask just what was going on. “What is this about Luna?”
Luna didn't speak at first, instead she took Twilight's hand leading her along as she pursued her sister and Cadence. “Walk with me, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight swallowed hard, starting to feel like she was in some form of a conspiracy theory, The thought made her skin crawl. Luna's hushed voice carried a smoky tone with it, like some form of mysterious woman in an old spy movie or something. “There's been a few reports of illness sprouting up around Canterlot. Ponies that are infected are show symptoms of throwing up, feeling faint, weak, feverish, and even showing signs of extreme violence. Keep your eyes peeled for any such symptoms here in Ponyville, make sure you quarantine them and contact us immediately.” Luna stopped short, pulling Twilight close. “I have a bad feeling about this, stay on your guard.” Luna touch their horns together. Twilight could feel a comforting yet powerful vibration of the power that existed there.
“Luna, we have to go!” Celestia called from her seat next to Cadence in the carriage. Luna threw a glance to her sister and then back to Twilight, they shared a nod, before she turned to join her sister. Twilight swallowed hard, waving to them as the carriage pulled away into the night.
There was a cold breeze surrounding her as she dwell on the words that Luna spoke. A strange illness that causes ponies to become violent. Even with all of the books she's read, she'd never seen anything like it before.
A hand gripped her in the darkness causing her heart to jump into her throat choking the scream that fought to get out. Applejack's yucking laugh, pulled her around. The tall filly wrapped her arms around Twilight's neck and bent over still laughing. “Sorry...Sugar Cube. I didn't mean to scare you so badly.”
Twilight pursed her lips, trying to stifle her anger and calm her hammering heart. “That's fine, you just took me by surprise is all.” Applejack laced there arms together and started back towards the festivities, she was still trying to regain control of her laughter. At first Twilight thought about telling Applejack about the worrisome news, but decided against it The last thing she wanted to do was spoil the evening.
A grim look curved her lips down, her mind dwelling on the news. Something deep inside wished that Luna never told her about the problems in Canterlot, it was going to be hard to focus on the fun of the evening with such a heavy cloud over head. “Sugar, you doing alright? If your bottom lip hung any lower, you'd trip on it.”
Twilight opened her mouth to speak, her mind trying to come up with a convenient reason why she'd seem sad on such a fun night. She stammered as the lights of the lanterns were getting brighter. The closer they got to the festivities the more Twilight could make out the silhouettes of her friends. They were gathered on the outskirts of the festival grounds waiting for her and Applejack to get back, she could hear them talking and laughing.
Rainbow Dash landed a punch on Shining Armor's bicep. Maude was leaning against Braeburn laughing at something Pinkie Pie was talking about. Even Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Big Mac had joined the group. The worry seemed to slip away at the sight of her friend and family. They were all turning to look at her, hands held out welcoming them into the fun and festivities. Applejack rested an arm around Twilight's neck. “Well sugar, if you want to talk about it, I'm here for you. For now though...” Applejack landed a hard slap to Twilight's hind end before tearing away. The pleated skirt did little to cushion the blow making her butt cheek sting. Twilight let out a sharp scoff and chased after her into the waiting group of her friends and family.