“I don’t know,” Twilight whispered. “I’m not sure I’m ready for this.”
Luna smiled down at her and sighed. “I must confess, I have not done this for a long time myself.”
“But you’ve done it!” Twilight replied, frowning as she fidgeted with her hooves, adjusting her formal dress. “I’ve never even seen anypony from the Shire. What do I do?”
“Don’t say ‘anypony’ when talking about them, for a start,” Luna answered with a smirk.
Twilight chuckled and nodded, looking down at the floor. “Right.”
She went over everything the Princesses had told her, comforting herself with knowledge as she always did. The Shire was a small country under Equestria’s protection. Its residents were twice the size of ponies at least. They were a peaceful and independent agrarian folk and rarely took interest in pony affairs. And she shouldn’t call them ponies.
Celestia looked down at Twilight and gave her back a pat. “Don’t worry, Twilight. I believe in you. You wanted to see how royal business is done, right?”
Twilight beamed and blushed, but she nodded up at Princess Celestia. “Yes. I’ll be okay. Thank you.”
Soon a guard approached the throne and unfurled a scroll. “Now presenting the ambassadors of the Shire, official representitives of Thain Alba.”
The doors to the throne room opened and three large horses stepped inside. Twilight couldn’t tell whether it were more rude to stare or to look away. They were at least as tall as the Princesses but their bodies were much thicker, and they stood atop huge hooves covered by long fur. None of them were horned or winged, and their bodies were covered by green capes decorated with patterns of red and gold.
The mare in the center stepped closer and knelt before the throne, bowing her head. “The Thain of the Shire sends her regards, and we humbly address Celestia the Unconquered Sun, ruler of Equestria.”
Twilight blinked. She had never heard that epithet before. She looked up at Luna. Luna was scowling at the ambassador. It didn’t take long for Twilight to realize that the ambassador had addressed Celestia alone.
“We accept the regards of the Thain, and we welcome her representatives into our court,” Princess Celestia replied. Suddenly her tone changed, and she smiled. “It’s good to see you again, Skye.”
The mare, Skye, stood up and smiled back. “It’s always a delight to visit your court, Celestia.”
Twilight gasped. She had never heard anypony, or anyone, refer to the Princess by name alone except for her sister. She looked up at Luna, who rolled her eyes.
“We wish to know the purpose of your visit,” Luna said, and all eyes in the room were upon her. They universally looked surprised, as if they didn’t expect her to be there. Even Princess Celestia looked surprised, and perhaps a little irritated.
Skye nodded and one of her guards retrieved a scroll from her saddlebag. “We wish to renegotiate the trade route between Trottingham and Buckland.”
Luna raised an eyebrow. “This is no royal matter. Why do you address our court?”
Princess Celestia’s frown deepened as she looked over at her sister, but Skye just smiled back. It was a very proper, official smile.
“We simply wish to reaffirm the friendship between Equestria and the Shire.” Skye’s eyes drifted over to Princess Celestia and lingered before she glanced down at Twilight. Twilight tried to keep from shuddering, wanting to appear professional.
“For instance, we didn’t realize her Highness had a daughter,” Skye said.
Twilight blushed deeply but she couldn’t keep a wide smile from her face. She heard Celestia’s gentle laugh above her.
“Actually, this is my student, Twilight Sparkle, leader of the heroes who defeated Nightmare Moon and Discord, and bearer of the Element of Magic.”
“Not your daughter then, but your successor?” Skye asked.
“Perhaps someday,” Princess Celestia replied casually.
“WHAT?!” Twilight shouted and stared up at the Princess, then immediately clamped a hoof on her mouth as she blushed. Everyone in the room chuckled except for Princess Luna.
Twilight suddenly felt as if this entire meeting were a prank on her. She looked to Luna again for support, but only found the same scowl she’d worn during the entire meeting.
“It seems much has happened in Equestria since I last visited,” Skye said. “I should very much like to hear about it.”
Princess Celestia nodded. “Shall we meet after dinner in my chambers?”
Twilight’s ears perked up. Her chambers? Did that mean what it sounded like?
Skye nodded. “It would be my pleasure.”
Twilight shook her head. That couldn’t mean what it sounded like.
“And mine as well,” Princess Celestia added with a slight grin.
That couldn’t mean what it really, really sounded like, she repeated to herself.
“But for now, we’re prepared a banquet in your honor, and we should love if you would join us in the dining room. We can discuss the trade route over dinner.”
Slowly everyone started leaving the throne room. Twilight lingered, shuddering. She wasn’t sure how to handle everything she’d just heard. When Princess Celestia left Twilight heard Luna sigh, and she looked to her again.
“Is it always like that?” Twilight asked.
“It used to be worse,” Luna grumbled.
Twilight felt as though she suddenly understood Luna a little better than she used to.
“Do… do diplomatic visits usually involve a… private invitation like that?” Twilight looked down at her hooves and fidgeted.
“With Celestia?” Luna snorted. “Usually.”
Princess Luna chuckled bitterly as she walked away to follow the others. “She was always the popular one.”
Norse Pony’s comments: You sweet-talker you, with that mother-daughter dynamic between Twilight and Celestia. It’s a lovely thing to see. And the concept of the Shire horses is both amusing and intriguing. And jeez, I love the history you hinted at there between Luna and Celestia, and I wonder at the age of the Shire horses. I just want more of this continuity very badly in general.