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Champions of Equestria

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Description:

Although the Castle of Everfree remained the Equestrian seat of power for half a millenia, barely a century had passed when Queen Luna set her eyes to the west, where unexplored mountains and tranquil waters lay undisturbed. After conferring with her older sister, the Moon Goddess ordered a second castle built by the southwestern coast of Equestria, overlooking a peaceful lake that reflected all the colors of their beloved sky. Here, she proclaimed, a pleasure palace would be built, a magnificent triumph of architecture that would reflect all the colors her dearest sister created during the day, and glow merrily in the night. And so it was done.

The Castle of Starsgrace is said to have been one of the most beautiful places to have ever delighted the pages of Equestrian history. With three high towers that reached lean and sharp towards the sky (the Altalune, the Solarspear and the Twilight towers, the latter named after the brief moment where the sun and moon share the sky), it served as a beacon of light to call nearby ponies to share its bounty. With glass gardens, a large ballroom and several airy galleries, Starsgrace became the Sisters' seasonal respite from the busy day-to-day of their court. If they so desired, the Sisters and their guests could sail around the coast, fly over the nearby lake or stargaze from the balconies that crowned their proud towers. Although not as stout or strongly protected as the Castle of Everfree, this new landmark quickly caused ponies to flock to the area, and a makeshift town of sorts blossomed in its shadow the way mushrooms grow around a tree.

No pony enjoyed the comforts of Stargrace and the Alicorn Sisters' hospitality as much as a certain crystal unicorn by the name of Amore Blossom. Up in the frozen north, the crystal ponies stubbornly endured, working the icy soil until at long last the land yielded to them, and their numbers started to rise as their community swelled; the reason they had been so drawn to this desolate place was revealed when the aforementioned unicorn discovered the Crystal Heart, deemed by Celestia and Luna to be a magical artifact crafted from the same pure crystals that substained the Tree of Harmony. Amore's destiny unfurled as the Heart's magic spread all over the northern wasteland, and all at once the seeds that would one day grow into the Crystal Empire were planted. For her discovery, for the first time in over a hundred years, the northern ponies hailed one of their own as royalty, a leader and savior who had led them to hope and shelter admist the ice and snow.

Down south, Equestria held its breath.

The story was passed from pony to pony with strained smiles and nervous, breathy laughs, as too-fresh memories of the strife that had plagued the three tribes before the Union of Equestria resurfaced once more. Would the Sun and Moon, so beloved of their people, take this as a challenge? Had the northern ponies forgotten themselves, and turned to ungratefulness by crowning one of their own? Was the founding of this northern kingdom a victory for ponykind, or the rise of an Usurper?

"The Twin Thrones of Equestria we hold as our duty, by the grace of our ponies," Queen Celestia proclaimed that auspicious summer morning, meeting with their small court at the base of Starsgrace's three towers, "Not as our birthright." They had forged their crowns in sacrifice and blood, the Daybringer said, and neither should the hardships this northern princess faced be dismissed. The Alicorns would fly north within the week, to offer aid and counsel where needed, and welcome the newly named ruler into the fold.

Amore was already on her way.

The bold unicorn, never one to lack for initiative, was by then on a ship on her way to Starsgrace, having safely entrusted the mantaining of the northern oasis to the Heart's magic. Accompained by her closest friends, she presented herself before the Queens crowned in nothing but bravery and victory three days later. "The North is yours, my Queens," Amore bowed deeply, more of a knightly gesture than a lady's courtsey. Celestia bid her rise and Luna hailed her a hero, and at long last the western city erupted in booming cheers, relieved and delighted to see their heavenly monarchs welcome the mortal princess to the realm.

Amore would be presented to the court in a more formal manner later that evening, as Princess Amore of the Northern Mountains. She looked more royal then, garbed in pale gold and translucent jewels, and blushed prettily as the Sisters kissed her (once on each cheek) and draped her with blue winter roses, the very last of the season. A treaty was signed, the technicalities of this ocurrence being defined politically; the Northern Kingdom was a nation of its own in name if not in practice, for it was still subordinate to Equestria's rule. It was so far removed culturally and geographically that it would be permitted to exist as such, with only the smallest portion of its tax and income feeding into southern Equestria's vaults. Princess Amore would hold the ceremonial title of Empress, in accordance to ancient crystal pony customs, but with the explicit understanding that she and hers owed fealty to the Queens in the Everfree. Amore ruled the kingdom in Celestia and Luna's names, but this nopony seemed to mind, least of all the unicorn princess herself. She would linger at Starsgrace for a mere week before returning to her crystal ponies, "for there is plenty of work to do still, and signing papers won't feed my people." Celestia happily sent her on her way, with the sun's blessing, and if anypony noticed Luna's… fondness for the crystal warrior-princess, they held their tongue.

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Princess Amore has more knight than lady in her, always more of a warrior than a princess. She shunned the luxuries her title afforded her, preferring armor and boiled leather over silks and tiaras, the only sign of wealth or privilege on her being a crystal brooch to signify her connection with the Crystal Heart. Overall a very practical, down-to-earth pony who saw little sense in formalities and perfunctory duties when she could spend her time actively helping her ragtag kingdom be a little safer, Amore quickly became almost as beloved as the Sisters themselves.

The Crystal Heart had chosen her, and bestowed some of its magic to the unicorn; this much was true. She had not ascended, however, the way Celestia and Luna had over a hundred years ago. She became a powerful unicorn, yes, her natural leadership skills only enhanced by the magic of the Heart, yet she lacked the godlike powers the Alicorns wielded, nevermind the fact she hadn't been killed in battle. And still the crystal ponies flocked to her, and even down in Southern Equestria she became a well-liked, if "lesser" princess. Although caring for the North was a daunting task, she visited the Sisters often, ever an honored guest at both Canterlot and Starsgrace.

This all led to an exciting new chapter in Equestrian history, and what would one day became the Crystal Empire first consolidated itself. It would also plant the seeds of a long lasting friendship with Queen Celestia, and a dynamic with Queen Luna that would give the courts much to fuss over in the coming years.
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