"Stop fidgeting already!"
"Are you almost done?" the mare complained, shaking out her mane.
"There, now I am," Tome declared as she stepped back to look over her handiwork, "It's a good material for you, really brings out your eyes."
Clockwork grimaced as she looked at the shimmering bodysuit she wore. It matched the one Tome had given her before, but while that suit had been a rubberized material well suited for use with her armour, this suit was flimsy and thin. It was made of an iridescent green material that glittered and captured the light, with gold touches highlighting it. The collar had been replaced with a mock-up of the necklace for the Element of Loyalty, matching the necklaces her other teammates were wearing.
"It feels like I'm wearing nothing at all "
"It's supposed to," Tome smiled, "Nylon blend like that should be light and form flattering. It's not very practical for 'real' work, but perfectly suitable for a ceremony. Besides, it shows off your flank."
"I feel ridiculous," Clockwork scowled, hiding a blush.
"You don't look any more ridiculous than I do," a new voice asserted, and Galaxi stepped into the room. She was adorned in her traditional purple bodysuit with white chasing, but Clockwork could see hers was made of similar material from the way it glittered in the light.
"See? Galaxi thinks you look fine, Clockwork," the cyan mare smiled, "Tome does too."
"You're still not comfortable calling yourself by your real name, Trixie?" Clockwork asked softly, changing the subject.
The mare in question looked away, "'The Six' may have forgiven me, but I have a long ways to go before I have forgiven myself."
"We're here if you need an ear to bend," Clockwork smiled, lightly hugging the cyan mare.
"Thank you, Tome will I will remember that," she answered, smiling gently.
A knock came at the door, followed by the head of a dark colored Alicorn, "I hope I'm not interrupting?"
"Not at all Princess," Trixie said, as the trio bowed to the entering Alicorn, "Tome should be heading out to get dressed herself."
"I'll help," Galaxi called, and followed the other mare out the door, leaving the pair alone in the room.
"She's recovered far more quickly than I expected," Luna said softly.
"She still has nightmares," Clockwork answered, "She hasn't been able to sleep alone since we returned; Galaxi and I have to stay with her every night."
"One cannot expect horrors such as the Nightmare visited upon her to vanish overnight," the Princess sighed and shook her head, "At least she was rescued and is back amongst friends now, as well as getting the counseling she desperately needs. It's almost poetic that the recognition she so craved when she was younger only came to her when she gave up her ambitions for greatness."
"I would have said 'ironic'," the green suited mare joked.
"Speaking of ironies," Luna said awkwardly, "I feel the need to apologize to you, now that things have settled down."
"I made a mistake, one that nearly undermined everything I was trying to do, and I did it for the sake of political expediency," Luna sighed, "I should not have removed you from the team after your conflict with Ultrapony. He was in the wrong, and I knew he was in the wrong. Against even Celestia's council I opted to try and preserve the Agency's poor image by punishing both of you for the infraction. That was one of the reasons Celestia was so quick to snap you up for that mission to the north. She hoped, correctly I might add, that the furor would die down in the meantime and she could convince me to reverse my decision.
"Your acts in just this past week have proven I could not have been more wrong. Ultrapony may have been the most popular Agent we have ever known, but he was also at fault. Rather than trying to preserve the Agency's image, I should have stood by your side."
"In the end, Princess, it worked out," Clockwork pointed out, "It may have, ironically, saved all our lives by making me available when you needed an outside member during the attack on Appleloosa."
Luna smiled thinly, "I understand how it worked out, Clockwork Key, but I still acted improperly. I hope you can accept my apology."
"Gladly, Princess. When it first happened I was angry and bitter about it but I got past it thanks to Skillet and Galaxi," the mare smiled, "But out of curiosity, what DID happen to Ultrapony?"
"We don't know yet," Luna answered, "In all honesty, with the threat of Nightmare no longer hovering over our heads, I hoped you might assist in tracking him down. If only so we can be sure of his fate and keep tabs on him; he is far too powerful for us to allow to turn on us."
"What about the Nightmare?"
"No sign of her," Luna said softly, "My sister and I are hopeful she has been permanently eliminated. In the days since her defeat, I have sent agents to her moon base. Much to our surprise, not all the Imps were hostile to us; more than a few wished a 'return' to their old lives. While we have no plans to integrate them into Equestrian life at this point, Celestia and I are allowing them to currently reside on the moon while we try to cleanse them of the dark magicks that Nightmare used to alter them. I fear it may not be possible to purify them all; only one who wants to be cleansed can have the taint removed."
"Filigree would probably point out that it is difficult to cease being a warrior," Clockwork smiled.
"At least we won't have to worry about a never-ending supply of Imps," Luna smiled, "That, in itself, is a relief."
"So the Agency no longer has a purpose?" Clockwork frowned.
"No, the Agency still has purpose, at least for now," Luna stated firmly, "There are still a lot of Imps here in Equestria to clean up, and not all the Imps still on the moon are peaceful. While we rounded up those that were openly aggressive, it is very possible there may be more subversive sorts that we missed. In short, we cured the Imps of throwing themselves at us in a constant stream and fury only to realize we may have to face those that can now think and strategize for themselves."
"In short, we traded the Imps the Nightmare controlled for Imps that are self determined," Clockwork frowned.
"Precisely," Luna nodded, "They are free of Nightmare's control, but that does not mean they will all choose peace."
Clockwork smiled, "Then we'll have to persuade them with deeds rather than words."
"That was my thought exactly."
There had to be hundreds of them.
Ponies, ponies everywhere, of every stripe and color. A rainbow sea of motion gathered before a podium placed in the center of Canterlot itself. It was constructed in haste, but covered with a drape of pure white to disguise any imperfections. Behind the podium towered the statue of the twin Princesses, sitting flank to flank while they each held aloft their element with a fore-hoof. On the left, Celestia, who held aloft the sun. To the right, Luna, who held aloft the crescent moon. It had been commissioned by Celestia upon the return of her little sister so many years ago. This very spot had served to be the first public announcement of Princess Luna's return to the palace. Years later, it would serve as the site where the six mares that came to bear the Elements of Harmony were awarded their titles for their deeds in rescuing both Celestia and Luna in those first attacks from the Imps.
Now, generations later, this site would once again bear witness to such an event. Ponies milled about the large park, flanked by Royal Guard intent on insuring the security of all present, especially the Princesses. In the first row of the crowd, there by request and invitation, stood six ponies. Two of them were accompanied by a violet unicorn doctor, who was keeping an eye on her two patients: a steel gray stallion that stood shakily and took frequent breaks to sit on the cool grass, and a three legged mare with a phony smile and pained eyes. The remaining three were a trio of elder mares, one of each pony type, who spoke in low voices to each other. Two were clad in simple, if elegantly tasteful, dresses, while the third opted for a bodysuit with flaming accents. To glance at them, nopony would guess they were visiting from the northern reaches, despite their occasional comment about how warm it was down here.
A series of horns rang out, and the air filled with a golden sound. Royal Guards, specially chosen for such fanfares, lifted long polished horns to the sky as if to call forth the gods themselves.
They were answered by Princess Celestia and Princess Luna descending from the scant clouds above. With Celestia leading the way, the pair wove back and forth in graceful curves, gliding down to the podium. Their hooves barely made a sound as they came to a stop, Celestia standing to the right of her younger sister, as they posed regally for the assembled ponies. As one, the crowd bowed to the pair (and a shaky stallion was helped to bow by his doctor), before rising at another note from the horns. As the horns faded, it was replaced by a new sound, a curious sound known almost exclusively to ponies: Stomping. They stomped their fore-hooves on the ground to create applause. A rumbling sound filled the air, drowning out everything else as the ponies applauded the very presence of the Sister Princesses.
The Princesses dipped their heads, having the humility to visibly thank the audience for the reception, which of course only lengthened its duration. Both Celestia and Luna looked about to the ponies assembled, their expressions warm and appreciative. Celestia could not help but smile serenely, looking out over the crowd like a proud mother. Luna, on the other hoof, looked about with excitement and fascination.
Finally, Princess Celestia held up a hoof, and the applause began to fade, the rumbling of hooves slowing until they stilled. The silence was almost deafening, and the Princess paused for a moment to drink in the silence before her horn began to glow, amplifying her voice so everypony could hear her.
"My little ponies," Celestia said, her voice at once warm and gentle, "Thank you for coming today.
"In the past few days, we have known great hardships. We endured the invasion of an enemy that we have suffered under for many years, lead by an implacable Nightmare. We have long suffered under the claw of this enemy, with star-falls always bringing some new terror. Many a pony valiantly sacrificed themselves in an effort to stop these invasions. New abilities, and new technologies, surfaced to assist in this effort. Fueled by need, our bonds strengthened, friendships and alliances were formed, and you ponies have risen to the challenge. Many new inventions were created, and many a pony rallied behind their creative genius to bring forth creations we could not have conceived of even a generation ago, much less when the Imps first came to Equestria.
"Further, the invasion revealed to us the first 'Specials', ponies of previously unheard of powers and abilities. Despite the divide amongst many of you about the threat these 'Specials' may pose, they have worked hoof in hoof with my sister to stand at the front lines of this battle. Since 'The Six' stood here and were rewarded for rescuing both myself and my sister, any and all specials who have the ability and desire to hold the line have been welcome in Luna's Agency.
"The Six, as everypony knows, were the embodiments of the Elements of Harmony, chosen for their valiant efforts against these invaders. We all know their names: Twilight Sparkle the Wise. Pinkie Pie the Random. Applejack the Strong. Rarity the Elegant. Rainbow Dash, the Fastest Mare in Equestria. Fluttershy the Caretaker. We still owe so much to their efforts.
"Yet new circumstances require new solutions. It was only months ago that the last of those mares passed away. The Nightmare sensed this weakness, and endeavored to strike while we ponies grieved. Into this void, a new group of valiant ponies took up the mantle and fought back. They rescued my younger sister twice, and fought by my side against the Nightmare herself. In fact, I dare say I would not have survived that battle were it not for their efforts. At great personal risk, these ponies fought all odds, and were found worthy. In the wake of 'The Six', a new group has taken up the mantle of the Elements of Harmony."
Celestia turned and smiled to her sister, allowing a murmur run through the crowd. Luna stepped forward, her horn glowing gently as she enhanced her voice, "At great risk to themselves, these ponies came to Canterlot's aid in its time of crisis. They first found the hospital under assault, and assisted those ponies who were within to rally against the Imps who sought to eliminate the weakest amongst us. Once they had finished, they stole into the underground reservoir in an attempt to gain the element of surprise, and carefully broke into the shield about the Palace.
"It was there that this group of ponies came to the aid of your Princesses. I was injured early in the fight, forcing Princess Celestia to battle these forces alone. Into this battle these ponies risked everything, heedless of their own safety, in an attempt to drive back the Nightmare and the invasion threat. This fight cost many their lives; court mages and royal guard alike sacrificed themselves valiantly in an effort to drive back the Nightmare. These ponies, even knowing the cost, chose to risk themselves to save not only our lives, but to drive back the Nightmare in a definitive blow, and save Canterlot and all of Equestria.
"Before continuing, I have been asked that I recognize a pony that played no small role in these circumstances, that without him these events would not have been possible.
"Skillet, code named Ironjaw. You are hereby recognized for your valor in service to Equestria. Your sacrifice saved the lives of other ponies, and your kind words have inspired them. Your actions in coordinating the defense of the Canterlot Memorial Hospital during the invasion have proven that every pony has the ability to be a hero. In recognition for your service, you are henceforth to be known as Sir Skillet the Resolute, Lord of Canterlot."
Luna paused with a smile, watching as the steel gray stallion blinked in surprise, then (with help from his doctor) turned to face the crowd. He answered the applause with a broad smile that seemed to dominate his face. He might have tried to wave, but he wobbled dangerously and the doctor forced him to sit back down before he fell over.
"Now, my little ponies," Luna continued when the applause died down, "I wish to introduce you to the individuals the Elements of Harmony have chosen. The heroes who saved my life, who saved Princess Celestia's life and who have saved the lives of every pony standing here today," Luna said softly, then stepped back from the center of the podium.
"Rainbow Star, code named Spectrum, step forward," Luna called.
From a tent that was hidden behind the statue (at least from the perspective of the crowd), a pristine white pegasus with a rainbow hued mane and tail trotted briskly into view, the necklace of her Element resting about her neck. She trotted up the small stairs to the platform, and came to stand dead in the center, her hooves just shy of the edge. She faced the crowd with an oddly calm gaze, her amber eyes fixed on a point well beyond the sea of ponies.
"Rainbow Star; Commander of the special task force 'Moonbeam'; Bearer of the Element of Kindness; Grandfoal to Lady Rainbow Dash; Daughter of Sunset Sparkle, code named Ultrapony," Celestia said in a commanding voice, "You are hereby recognized for your valor in service to ponykind. You are further recognized for your excellence of performance in efforts and conflicts against the Imp Invasion. You are thereby to be recognized henceforth as Rainbow Star the Gentle, Lady of Canterlot."
Applause erupted from the audience, washing over the stage for several long moments before Luna could continue.
"Galaxi, step forward," Luna called again.
The purple suited mare stepped about the statue, the tiara of her element glinting in the light and almost ducked back when she saw the size of the crowd. With some gentle prompting from ponies unseen, the purple suited mare timidly made her way up onto the stage. Rainbow Star glanced over, smiling in support even as Galaxi took her place at her left wing.
"Galaxi; bearer of the Sixth Element; Apprentice to Princess Luna," Celestia intoned, "You are hereby recognized for your valor in the service to ponykind. You are further recognized for the excellence of performance in the efforts and conflicts against the Imp Invasion. You are thereby to be recognized henceforth as Galaxi the Clever, Lady of Canterlot."
More applause, not quite as strong as Spectrum's, but the shy mare ducked her head all the same.
"Filigree, code named Steelwing, step forward."
The gryphon stepped around the statue, her expression inscrutable as she walked slowly onto the platform, standing to the right of Rainbow Star. She ignored the hushed whispers coming from the ponies in the audience, who seemed flabbergasted at the gryphon amongst the ranks, much less one wearing an Element of Harmony.
"Filigree; Bearer of the Element of Honesty; Citizen and pony of Equestria. You are hereby recognized for your valor in the service to ponykind. You are further recognized for the excellence of performance in the efforts and conflicts against the Imp Invasion. You are thereby to be recognized henceforth as Filigree the Brave, Lady of Canterlot."
The applause came slowly at first, but despite the trepidation, finished just as strongly as it had for Galaxi.
"Clockwork Key, code named Dragonfly, step forward."
The green suited mare stepped about the statue and her eyes about seemed to pop out of her head. She was shocked at the sheer size of the audience and looked almost as lost as a foal at sea, until her eyes found a handful of ponies in the front row. She trotted up, if slightly nervously, to stand to the left of Galaxi.
"Clockwork Key; bearer of the Element of Loyalty; sister of Widget, code named Warpony; Daughter of Midnight Belle. You are hereby recognized for your valor in the service to ponykind. You are further recognized for the excellence of performance in the efforts and conflicts against the Imp Invasion. You are thereby to be recognized henceforth as Clockwork Key the Steadfast, Lady of Canterlot."
Again, the applause seemed slow to start, possibly due to the memory of the infamous brawl with Ultrapony, but it warmed up after a few moments.
"Ember Spark, code named Pyre, step forward."
There was a pause, and nopony stepped forward. There was some confusion amongst the crowd, even as the ponies onstage simply lowered their heads.
"Ember Spark, you are posthumously recognized for your valor in the service to ponykind. You are further recognized for the excellence of performance in the efforts and conflicts against the Imp Invasion. You gave the ultimate sacrifice to save Princess Luna from death in the face of the Nightmare herself. You are thereby to be recognized posthumously as Ember Spark the Bold, Lady of Canterlot.
For a long moment there was only the sound of the sobs from a single yellow mare, while everypony's head lowered in silent reverence for several moments .
"Thistle, code named Flourish, step forward."
The burst of a pink cloud to the left of Clockwork key garnered a sudden gasp from the crowd, and the grey mare with her pink and lavender mane and tail appeared in place. She was adorned by the necklace of her element, which acted as a clasp for the fluttering pink cape over her back, and took an almost jaunty bow before assuming her proper place.
"Thistle; Bearer of the Element of Laughter; Former member of the Royal Guard; Daughter of Holly Pine. You are hereby recognized for your valor in the service to ponykind. You are further recognized for the excellence of performance in the efforts and conflicts against the Imp Invasion. You are thereby to be recognized henceforth as Thistle the Quick, Lady of Canterlot."
The applause was slightly subdued after the previous presentation. It might have been less, had not there been additional applause from a normally silent quarter the Royal Guard.
"Trixie, code named Tome, step forward."
The cyan mare strode confidently about the statue, a conical hat resting lightly on her head, and a matching purple cape littered with silver stars fluttered over her body as she stepped forward and onto the "stage". She left an empty space between herself and Filigree, before sweeping off her hat to smile brightly to the crowd the crowd she had always wanted as a filly.
"Trixie; Bearer of the Element of Generosity; Associate of the late Twilight Sparkle the Wise. You are hereby recognized for your valor in the service to ponykind. You are further recognized for your tremendous sacrifices made in the name of friendship and protecting the ponies of Equestria. You are thereby to be recognized henceforth as Trixie the Patient, Lady of Canterlot."
Trixie turned her gaze on the audience as the applause lifted for her as well, her smile so broad one would think it was about to take her head off. It continued as the Princesses stepped forward to flank the mares, each flaring a wing over the heroes of the day.
Six mares with seven places .