Sunset Looms Chapter 1
The Grey Potter
If I may impress upon you the simplest fact, the essence that my life boils down to, it’s that I am very, very old. More than that. Only the land itself can even hope to out date me. All those who might match me in age are sealed away, or corrupted by other forces. Only I remain.
A thousand years, dozens of dozens generations of ponies. A hundred court compositions have crumbled and reformatted, each as arbitrary as the last. These ponies blur together in their persistent grave-chasing. They are, ants, mice, some other small vermin one couldn’t even fathom picking out individuals from. There is no such thing as an individual. They all serve, one eternal mass, forever shifting and changing, yet never changing at all. A rainbow-colored slurry who’s only positive point is that it doesn’t leave a film where it oozes. Their children replace them, and I give them the slightest courtesy of remembering their name before they die as well. I have to deal with the persistent ones for twenty years at most. Shorter if they act as fools do and oppose me.
Ah yes, to all those inspiring anarchists who wish to see the sun and moon stop rotating, I do not find you funny. I smile because it’s easier than putting up with infinite questions about my mood. I have no mood, and no stirrings of remorse will come to me over the crushing of your tiny little bones. Do you understand how brief your ventures are? It’s odd to one as old as I to it is to have ponies bite at my ankles during sunrise, then have others kiss them by sunset. Not that it matters. Each action is equally useless. Both groups die, blow away in the wind. One a little sooner than the other.
Why do I even bother to rule, to move the celestial bodies? With a whim I could stop them from turning. I could allow the anarchists to win, see how the pony masses react. That seems quite unthinkable, doesn’t it? Would Princess Celestia be so cruel?
No, I wouldn’t be. This my place, no, I suppose this is what I am. I am the force that keeps this world running. The crucial cog. I have become a feature of it. Immovable as the soil I stand on. I wish that I had been granted the gift of unconsciousness, so that I may simply move the world in ignorance. Then maybe the ponies would have nothing to oppose their useless aspirations. Yet, I am fully aware. And with that awareness, that physical presence in this plane, so much is demanded of me. I am the key to every ceremony, the figurehead to every event, and the decider of all things. It’s difficult for my current court ponies to think otherwise, despite all their parties and political struggles. Illusions. I am the supreme leader of this land and each of their frail little lives. From these current ponies I receive little objection. No, the multicolor blurs drives me to do exactly what I have been doing, and will be doing. For now, and all eternity. It’s pointless to say yes or no. It is my place. I have walked the roads for centuries, digging deep and clear ruts in their stone. My hooves will dig for centuries more.
I was attending one such ritual, one of the more arbitrary of my duties. A celebration of shearing bushes until they become recognizable forms. I said my piece, all ponies welcome and so forth, and began my traditional Walk Among the Roses. This was so that I may attempt to memorize a single name and declare it at the end. This wasn’t an all too ancient of an event, only three hundred years old. But already it was deeply ingrained into everyponies’ mind as important and traditional and in needing of my passing respect. I swiveled my head to each bush and bowed a little, as they expected of me.
There was an explosion, a flash, a rainbow slicing across my sky that demanded my attention for several seconds. Ponies bucked and brayed around me, startled by the sound. Some of the manicured bushes were nearly trampled. I supposed this most likely was not part of the event. Or if it was, most ponies must not have been informed. I returned to observing the bushes, trying to show the panicked ponies that this was nothing to pay mind to. Startling, yes, but random violent events happen often enough, even for normal ponies. This seemed to be merely a dazzling light show, no destruction or invasion followed it. I would have forgotten the event immediately, continued to walk the ruts of the event, but another explosion happened. Closer this time.
Perhaps a crash would be a more accurate sound to describe it. A dragon’s head burst out of the Tower of Magic. Wooden planks and beams scattered from the epicenter. They bounced and broke a number of roofs before crashing into the gardens and crushing several carefully maintained plants. Innumerable splinters and gold paint flakes drifted afterward, only slightly less dangerous. The dragon sat where he appeared, seeming shocked by the instance of transportation. Gold foil shredded and drifting around his purple neck, as thick and tall as an ancient oak.
So this was an attack. However, it was pitifully blunt. This rebellion would be easy to locate and break up. I was certain their leader would be imprisoned before I urged the moon to rise. I left the panicked ponies and stepped out of my well dug rut for but a moment before stepping into another. This was just another path I took. One less frequently travelled, but just as automated as any other interaction with my subjects.
I expected that my first task would be to subdue and banish the dragon. On the terrorist’s side or not, even the most passive dragon would destroy much of Canterlot in its bid for escape. But the dragon continued to sit in place, blinking at the clouds. He didn’t even sneeze from the dust his destructive appearance must have caused. Curious, but his actions, or lack of them, simply moved him into the to-do list. I saw it at the time as my opposition’s first mistake. The attackers should have summoned a dragon that was less slow.
I expected to face at least a few attackers. When no army appeared from everywhere to attack me, I supposed I would find a small faction of elite combat ponies. But as I ascended up the tower, no pony rose to fight me. Thoughts of surprise stealth, invisibility, and so forth were banished the higher I climbed. There was now merely one option for what I would face, and a pathetic one at that.
I expected, with no backup and terrible summoning skills, that this was the work of a lone mad stallion. The moment I entered his temporary lair he would begin to demand cotton candy be served with every colt’s lunch, or that a town be named after him. I had hoped that this event would have granted me at least a slight distraction, but there would be no such luck. I would be expected to continue my Walk of the Roses after this small of an interlude. Disappointing. And yet, not even this expectation was fulfilled.
I entered a lecture hall to find a small purple filly, writhing, held aloft by her own aura. A magical storm was stirred, uncontrolled, corrupting the space around her. She had overwhelmed four experienced unicorns in their own magic. They were unable to free themselves from the filly’s levitation spell, and they flailed uselessly in midair, spells fizzling, braying in panic. The massive dragon squatted in his place atop a small pile of hay and a shattered cart.
At first glance, one pony might suspect that even the youngest of youths could oppose my reign. But I knew this was not quite the situation I had come to expect. The filly was victim to her own aura, overtaken by it, body and magic moving on its own. She would probably be crying if her own body let her. The four court magicians were held aloft with pads and pencils floating around them. The cart had an instructive paper on the side. Ripped, but it made the true situation clear. This was a magic exam turned disastrous. A standard test of magic in Canterlot was to hatch a dragon’s egg. It was a reasonable feat that required a decent amount of raw magic and technical know-how to accomplish. But somehow, she had made the baby dragon explode in size, crushing the cart the egg was housed in. The four court mages were her examiners, here to observe her skill. Instead they had become victim to it.
Ever happened before?
Had there ever been a pony with so much raw magic stored inside her? Or released so suddenly, so violently? I almost did not know what to do.
For the first time in centuries… I suppose I was surprised.
But there was an appropriate response to this, as there was for everything in my life. I banished the spells. The world righted itself. Two more ponies appeared, apparently turned into plants. More surprises. I didn’t let it distract me from my purpose. The small filly began to stammer apologies at my feet, but I banished them as well. She was now my protégé, I decided. A star pupil under my wing alone. This I declared, and she accepted as if she had a choice in the matter.
I was surprised how even my voice was. One would think such a shock to my life would at least allow me a slight stammer. However, I was well practiced, and the filly was placed under my care immediately.
Her name was Twilight Sparkle. I made it a point to memorize it immediately.
I wondered to myself as I raised the moon that night, was I brash? Could I afford to be brash? Was I really that eager to jump on the slightest change, accept a little variety into my life? Did the birth of a particularly adept unicorn honestly matter?
It didn’t matter, not really. There was nothing preventing her personal sunset, no hint that she’d leave impact beyond her small lifetime. Training might have her written in history, maybe with a discovery or two to shake things up among the unicorns. But time will erase and replace those impacts. A particularly potent pony was still only a pebble on the road to the future.
Yet that pebble shook me. Dropped into my tranquil pool. Leaving the smallest of wakes.
I knew this was just another unimportant event in a string of endless monotony. Logically speaking, that’s all this was.
I wasn’t overtaken. But this was incredibly fascinating.
I began her lessons immediately.
As a student, Twilight Sparkle was incredibly receptive, unusually studious, and quick to learn. I would teach her a topic, and the next day she would return having skimmed four books on the subject, eager to delve further into the magical theory. Just by looking at her one could understand. Her cutie mark, formed on the day of her awakening, announced her devotion to magic.
Her focus was almost frightening. But not as frightening as the variety of spells that she could cast. Even if a pony understands the concept, that doesn’t mean they could perform the magic. Most are typically limited to one or two types of manipulation. For Twilight Sparkle, each brand really was another realm of possibility, another area she could use. I realized as I was teaching her that I was literally the only one in Equestria who could bring out her full potential. My magic was similarly unimpeded by field. Had she been officially educated by the court ponies, she would find herself tossed between departments. Her education would have formed unbridgeable gaps. Even worse, she might have given up entirely in her frustration.
I wondered sometimes, should I have allowed that to happen? Am I afraid that, in teaching her, Twilight Sparkle’s skills would eventually outshine my own? Certainly not. I am still the only one able to move the sun and the moon.
But was it only her lack of knowledge that prevented her from doing the same?
Is that why I did this? Why I took on Twilight Sparkle as a student? Did I feel threatened? Did I think, if I let her loose to grow on her own, or tossed between multiple teachers, she could be my only true opposition in a thousand years?
I supposed that’s what I convinced myself of at first. When she first came under my care I afforded the filly more… niceties… than I would any other pony. I brought her toys and books. Gave her extra scoops of ice cream with her desserts. Let her stay up an hour past her bedtime if she was good that day. Fillies are remarkably simple beings, and very easy to please. In return for my small efforts, she adored me, trusted me fully. She would often hug my ankles. Nuzzle her nose against mine.
Once, Twilight Sparkle gave me a picture constructed from glitter and macaroni. I understood this to be a custom of endearment among the younger ponies, and I should have simply taken it as proof that my tactics were successful. I hung the picture to prove to her that my kindness was not a false one.
However… I often I dwelled on that picture. Every morning when I rose the sun, the mass of glitter would glare in my eye, forcing me to look at it. Look over it. Keep my eyes on it for far too long.
Surprise, that was one thing. I had been stirred by Twilight Sparkle, certainly, but I expected such things to die down as she grew. I expected her to vanish. Blur back into the general pony court. Her skills were great, but certainly, there wasn’t anything else special about her.
I assured myself of this over and over again. As each day turned into a small adventure, I assured myself that she is just another pony. As she grew and learned, responding to my kindness, I confirmed it. It’s all she is.
Then why did it feel… a little heavy each time I told myself this?
A little light each time the sun made the macaroni picture shine?
It took far too long, yet barely any time at all, to realize that I was, in a way, attached, I suppose. Possibly. Yes, attached. When was the last time I felt some stirring inside me? When was the last time I felt such things to an individual. To anything at all?
It was honestly… pathetic.
But what was worse… in no time at all, whether I could help it or not, Twilight Sparkle’s sun would set, and she would leave me forever.
I detested the internal weight I became burdened with when I arrive at that conclusion. I was uncertain what to call this feeling. Heartache didn’t quite seem to sum it up. But at that point, what I detested even more was the thought of returning to the never-changing nothing when she ceased.
Caring for this filly became my life, what I lived for every day. Conflicted as I was, I knew now to cherish what I had with her. I would be a fool not to. She grew quickly, and as she did I learned more and more about her. Who she was beyond a master of magic and my star pupil, my protégé.
Her studies held the majority of her attention, as I knew all along, but the extent that she was… Well, I had assumed that her commitment was a temporary state. That she was a very focused pony, setting aside the fun things and her friends for a mad dash of education. I assumed that once she learned all she needed, she would return to the life of a normal pony while holding a job as my archmage.
It was only when she became a mare that I truly realized what was happening with Twilight Sparkle. She never once hinted that her studies would slow. She knew exactly two people, myself and her scribe, the baby dragon Spike. Her only friends were her books. She would consult with the volumes in her sleep if she thought she could. On her days off, I watched her as she continue to pour herself into their pages. She hadn’t talked to her parents at all since she began her study, not one letter or holiday. She had happily decided the life of a recluse bookworm was the best for her. Away from any ponies. Away from the court. Away from any contact that did not further her own educational gains.
Don’t you understand just how…
That life is?
Yes… lonely. Lonely. That’s what the distant, empty life was. What my life had become. Lonely, lonely. Now that I knew the word it wouldn’t leave my head. It was the emotion that would weigh me down at the thought of losing her. I would again return to an empty, lonely life. That is what would happen. No one to talk to or love. No one to share my suffering with, or anyone to even tell me that I was suffering.
The pool inside my heart, the same pool Twilight cast her ripples across, seemed to solidify in between breaths. It was clear now, watching this mare tuck herself away in books. She was blindly running down the same path, by her own volition. The path of unforgiving loneliness.
Should I respect her choice? She was a grown pony. She knew what she was doing. No. Out of the question. Completely and totally out of the question. All ponies were just fillies and colts compared to me. She was foolish, refusing to acknowledge what was best for her. Twilight Sparkle was gifted, the brightest pony of a thousand generations.She stood above the pack, and wrote her own place in history. Into my own life. I could not, and would not let her suffer from her small areas of ignorance.
I urged her, make some friends, but she saw no value in that venture. Not when there was true learning to be had. So I sent her to learn the error of her ways, away from Canterlot and her books. Away, with my blessing, even as my heart felt heavier and heavier. Make friends. Make friends and tell me of what you’ve learned. So that maybe I may too learn about friendship.
So that I may too break this unending curse of loneliness.
Sunset Looms Chapter 2
The Grey Potter
I should mention that I knew my orders for Twilight Sparkle to make friends would not be swallowed easily. Passing mention and direct questioning of her priorities did not change Twilight Sparkle’s outlook on her life. To me, it was clear her own path was set, erroneous as her decision was. To encourage her to change, I constructed for her a temporary official position. She would inspect preparations for the Summer Sun Celebrations in Ponyville. Hopefully the interaction with many would at least grant her a few friends. I did not expect miracles to be worked. I did not expect to be contacted with overwhelming acceptance of all things friend-related. I only hoped that the necessity of connection and friendship be sparked within her. Maybe she would meet another bookish pony at the library. Someone to study and learn with.
However, before I could send her orders, I received a letter. Twilight Sparkle wished to bring to my attention an entirely different matter. This Summer Sun Celebration was the thousandth since the capturing of Nightmare Moon, and could bring with it the dark pony’s release. She urged me to act.
I considered myself informed and sent Twilight Sparkle to her task regardless.
I admit, I had forgotten about the prediction surrounding my sister’s release. Once, hundreds of years ago, I had been approached by a mathematician and astrologist. His name escapes me, as his discoveries were limited and quickly forgotten. The stallion warned that on a certain day, the patterns of the stars and moon could produce a sort of rudimentary fairy ring. This circle could allow Nightmare Moon a path or focus, allowing her to break through the bonds formed by the Elements of Harmony.
Despite the dire tidings, I still felt that I had no reason to worry. One pony’s predictions did not mean the event was inevitable. And if it did come to pass, I would simply use the Elements of Harmony to trap my sister once more. I would do the same in a thousand years’ time, and the same again a thousand years from that if it came to it. It was a cycle, like every other aspect of my life. A new and long cycle, but I was sure in five thousand years it would be as normal and routine as every other aspect of my life. Depressing. Another pointless and endless task. But one I would accept with time.
I continued with my business around Canterlot at my usual pace, without urgency or rush. Decorations, catering arrangements. Last minute checkups and mess ups. Alterations and confirmations. It took attention, even if it was only trying to sort out what a dozen frazzled ponies were trying to tell me. Did it honestly matter if the napkins of an event were changed from white to red? To some ponies, it apparently sent their entire life into a downward spiral of misery. I had to tell them as politely as possible that they were getting too caught up on trifles. If I had a moment for my mind to wander, it went more to combing over the state of Twilight Sparkle than to my actions regarding Nightmare Moon.
As events began moving into night and parties began needing less of my attention, I departed for the old Castle of the Two Sisters.
There was an old ruin a few miles outside Ponyville, once the magical and municipal center of all of Equestria. The Castle of the Two Sisters, where Princess Luna and I had ruled together before her rage had overtaken her. It had been years since I had been there… since anypony had been there. The Everfree Forest that surrounded the castle was heavily enchanted, filled with beasts, placed there at one time to protect us. With no unicorn magic to control it, the magic and beasts had fallen to chaos, striking out at what they pleased.
As for the castle itself, barely any of it remained. And yet, it was miraculously intact for near a millennium of neglect. Stone walls still stood tall, even as their roofs had collapsed. Despite the vines coating the walls, hardly any soil or leaves had drifted into the rooms. Once more, I suspected the remnants of unicorn magic still held this place intact. Luckily for me, that meant the Holder of Harmony was still in place.
It was an obtuse addition, thrown together in the middle of the throne room floor. The Holder of Harmony was a lump of rock carved hastily to keep the Elements of Harmony in a fairy circle, to maximize their effect. The roof of this room had been intentionally removed, to allow access to the night sky, while still being protected by the magic within the walls. It had its purpose, one that did not require it to be a testament to art and expression.
Here I stood. In front of the Elements, after all these years. They had turned into cold stone after so long, an inactive state. A drained state, I imagined. It was no matter at all to me, as I easily set my connection to the stones, calling out for their aid. Attempting to renew the seal they had been holding for so long.
My magic wrapped around them, but would go no further. They did not react. The Elements remained cold, inert, useless.
I realized I no longer held within me the emotional attachment one needed to use them.
What happened next was very… strange. I will attempt to describe the experience.
I don’t know when I ceased to be aware, nor when I awoke. I’m not even sure if awakening is the exact term for how I became aware. Quite possibly, events transitioned normally, and I’ve simply forgotten. To me, I went from pacing the ruins for another solution to the center of the sun.
No, that’s wrong. I became the sun.
All the proof I had about being Princess Celestia was my own memories. All the proof that I had that I was the Sun were the memories of the Sun. I remembered moving the Sun, while simultaneously remembering being the Sun moved by myself.
As both Sun and Pony, I could muster no magic. I tried to move, but there was nothing left of me to move. All that there was, all that I was, was light, blinding light and heat. I was aware that I, as the Sun, was stationary. But I was not aware of anything else. I did not feel space, nor stars, though I knew of them.
I surmised that Nightmare Moon had arrived, in accordance with the prophecy. It was intelligent, her first action to get rid of the only one who could oppose her. Was this the new cycle she and I were destined for? A thousand years of interchanging sisters, one of war, another of peace? One of oppression unchanged and the other of change so fast and frequent to become meaningless?
As the Sun, I was assured of the mind-numbing bliss of ignorance.
As Princess Celestia, I wondered if a thousand years of monotony would be more or less torturous than a thousand years of routine. If departure from the observation of Twilight Sparkle would drive me mad.
I think I may have panicked then.
There was no need to spend my time worrying. I was only the Sun for a few hours at most, enough time to look back at the event and wonder why I was worried at all. Where I had failed with the Elements of Harmony, Twilight Sparkle had succeeded. She had made not one or two friends, but five, each attuned perfectly to an Element.
I returned to the Castle of the Two Sisters when I was freed. Twilight Sparkle and her friends stood where I arrived, decorated in the activated Elements. They were distracted by my reappearance, but I was not. My sister lay, stunned, not as Nightmare Moon, but as I remember her. She was Princess Luna, confused, alone, with magic broken like glass fragments all around her. I immediately offered my returning sister sympathies and a place back by my side, as co-ruler.
I told Twilight Sparkle to stay in Ponyville and continue her studies on friendship, obviously the true victor of the day. This time she leaped at the chance, failing to doubt my decision at all. Once more she saw it as a request… maybe I should start thinking of my directives for her as that. Would that be friendlier?
Barely an hour passed before I began regretting my emotional reactions.
It was a frazzling past two hours. I had just… accepted the bizarre scene and my sister immediately, taking no time to assess? An irrational set of actions. I actually think I was crying. Crying. What was becoming of me, that a few hours of insanity would reduce me to relying on the unreliability of emotional judgment?
I wasn’t going to go back on my word. Twilight Sparkle and I still needed the lessons she could provide. But as for my sister, Luna…
I once knew a Princess Luna… When we first wielded the Elements of Harmony, she was Honesty, Laughter, and Kindness. She felt it important that others saw her as powerful, but her heart was on her hoof, and you could always tell what she was feeling. She felt like it was her place to act the role as Princess, yet always found connections with her subjects. She never could manage to be aloof as I was, and it was hard for her to act rationally in the face of sorrow, or even joy. She was always welcoming of travelling performers, but since most performed by day, there were many shows she missed.
That Princess Luna would never begrudge all ponies, or curse Equestria. Princess Luna would never become a being so corrupted as Nightmare Moon. The moment I saw her transformed, I accepted that she was reformed? That somehow her very attitude had changed with her appearance? Certainly, she apologized, her entire attitude altered. But…
Luna, my sister. If you are the same as I remembered, it does not change what to do with you…
I felt the accepted routine was to try to reconcile. To put all in the past and attempt to make friends with her once more. To stop her from falling back into her sorrows. But as I was, I was uncertain about how to approach her. I knew how to win ponies to my side with courtesies. When to be casual and when to be formal. When to grant boons and when to withdraw them. Not all had been fooled, but most accept me as a caring pony, if not a very personal one. Was sincerity and attention the only boundaries between true and false friendship? I did not know… and Twilight Sparkle had not yet sent me any lessons on the matter.
I considered waiting for Twilight Sparkle’s advice, but how long would that take? How long would I avoid my sister, and how long would it take for my absence to drive even more distance in our relationship? The decision to continue down my preplanned paths seemed much more appealing. I had to talk to Luna swiftly. This was a matter of the safety of Equestria. Even if I only pretended to care for her, it was still a better option than leaving her to regress once more.
I might not even have to pretend… It was a distinct possibility that Luna might be the only one who would understand a millennium of loneliness.
The Castle of the Two Sisters had been built with the symmetry of night and day in mind. Both my sister and I ruled equally. Whatever one had, the other had in full. Our rooms were once the same size, and both decorated grandly. Both on opposing sides of the castle, one a reflection of the other, like the sun and the moon.
When she became corrupted and forcibly removed from her rule, the design of the castle no longer seemed appropriate. In a scant few years the capital was moved to Canterlot. A new castle was built around its sole ruler. My quarters were the grandest in the castle, and no other living space would dare to outshine it.
So, even if I wished to claim Luna as my equal, simply having her stay in her own room brought to light our inequalities. Her room was large, and already decorated with her colors and cutie mark, decorated to suit her specifically. But it was an inescapable inevitability that her room would smaller and less personal than my own. I hoped dearly that she wouldn’t take offense to this.
It was a few nights past her rebirth, and Luna was seated in front of the hearth. It was the only light in the room and not out of necessity. Black candelabras were placed among the dark banners and silk, all unlit, blurring into the dark stone. I cautiously approached my sister. As I did, I noticed Luna was fiddling with her mane, dragging her hooves across it. Where she pulled, her naturally purple mane darkened, became transparent and smoky, glittering like night.
I made myself known by rapping on the stone floor, “Good evening, Luna.”
She turned on her pillow to look at me. I tried to read her expression, but she shadows and loose hairs of her mane played with her expression, standing in the way of my analysis. I tried to not let it stop me from sitting beside her.
“Good evening, Celestia.” All these years and all her transformations, her voice remained the same. She sounded tired, yet even that did not stop her from half-shouting every word, as if it added meaning. “Ah… how… How are you doing? How have you been, my sister?” Luna asked.
“I am…” doing very well, thank you. That would have been my response. But now, here, was honesty a better option? “Off-kilter. It’s all very strange to me.”
Luna tugged at her mane, “Yes. Yes, myself as well. Everything that has happened. It is a little hard to take in. Equestria, it has changed so much.”
“Don’t worry, I think you’ll enjoy the changes. What do you know if it already? Oh, do you know from your observations as the Moon?”
“No… were you not able to see with the Sun’s perceptions?”
“I knew I had things to see, but not the ability.”
“Ah, right! I have forgotten, it took me a while to see past the rock of the moon!” she raised her voice, but it didn’t seem like she had become any more excited or happier. Her voice lowered almost immediately, as if she realized she was shouting. Shouting more than usual, I mean, “I could see the stars and Sun, a planet below. I was able to see continents and clouds, but no more than that.”
“Well, there are cities now that never sleep. Even at late hours, Manehatten is still active. I think you’ll enjoy it.” She shifted on her pillow and gave me a crooked smile.
“Do you believe that I’d fall to madness again, sister dearest?”
I wished I was the one who had an excuse for silence, “It had passed my mind… I don’t want to lose you again, Luna. It’s been… lonely.”
“Concern yourself not! I feel as though that madness has been lifted from me.” She did not react to my admission, at least not the part I had hoped. Her smile straightened, into something that might be taken as a proper grin, “However, I do think I would like to see Manehatten! Once I have made myself presentable again, at the very least. My poor mane…” she stroked it, fading the color once more, “I will not have it so plain, so common when I go out again!”
“I was hoping to reintroduce you to the court soon, Luna…”
“I am sorry, but when I am reinstated, I wish to stand as an equal to you, Celestia.” So she had noticed our disparities, “Our subjects have been without me for a thousand years! They can stand to wait another few months!”
I wasn’t certain if Luna expected the Ponies to welcome her with open hooves, but I wasn’t about to tell her otherwise.
I didn’t have much to say beyond that. The conversation was stiff and distant already, what more tedium could I add to it? I wanted to bring up loneliness again, see if it was a way to connect and understand one another. See if I really wasn’t the only one to suffer this. While I calculated, she spoke again.
“You do forgive me, correct, sister? I must be assured.”
“Of course I do Luna, you weren’t yourself.”
“It was…” again, she fidgeted. If she were any other pony, I would have politely had them speak up or move on. There was no gain in letting a pony get lost in their own thoughts. But this was my sister, and I was certain that understanding included patience.
“It was as if I was dreaming,” she said, “You know what a dream feels like. You do and feel crazy things, illogical things. Things you would never even think of doing. Yet you… No, I. I was always aware of myself, that it was me doing these things. Yet I was barely aware… I am not certain how to describe it. I knew it was me that was raising my hoof, yet I was watching myself do it. And as I watched, I was unable to inhibit my own feelings. My emotions became exaggerated, as things are in dreams… So when you say I was not myself… I am not certain if I was or was not myself entirely. It is why I must keep apologizing. I must make up for my lack of control.”
“You’ve already made up for it, Luna. A thousand years on the moon… it must have been lonely.” I felt as though this was the crux of what I wanted to discuss with her, what she and she alone might understand. Loneliness, a thousand years of it. If we could share that burden together… then I knew there would be nothing else between us.
“It is funny when you say that! A thousand years…” she smiled at me, “What is the passage of time in a dream? I have heard this phrase before… ‘it felt like yesterday’? Or just yesterday? How much has changed, Celestia? Is it true that there are Ponies who trot at night? A new castle? How much more has become so strange? I wish to know!”
I remember having to even my seating. The room had gone all wobbly. “A lot has changed, Luna. A great deal.”
I left her room that night feeling that, between my sister and I, there was an uncrossable chasm. Did I wish that my sister had suffered, so we could share each other’s pain? I would have been the cause of her suffering then, the one who banished her instead of attempting to heal or save her. I should be glad that she slept all these years, unscathed and ready to pick her life up again.
But I wasn’t ready. I knew then that I wasn’t ready to approach my sister, or any pony. They rushed trying to figure out what place Luna would have in their ceremonies, as if a change in number of rulers was the one thing that could tear the world apart. They did not care nor understand that their one active ruler was suffering. I was so experienced at hiding it, that I didn’t even know how to express it to them. So I thought, often alone and on the balcony, watching quietly as the moon rose, no longer under my power.
I’m shaken, uncertain, and I do not like the feeling. I wish to forge a new path and pattern, and yet I wonder if my patterns are what are keeping me away from my pony subjects, keeping me distant and lonely. I at least when I was distant I had the assurance of a path to follow. New territory is not something I’ve had to deal with for hundreds and hundreds of years.
I constantly comb over and analyze my thoughts, and before it helped me straighten them. But with each sweep more and more tangles and knots form, more complications arise. I don’t even know if my introspection is working for me anymore. I lose sleep as I ponder. I thank the stars that I do not have to move both the sun and moon anymore, I hardly have the focus for one celestial body, but two?
Why has this issue left me so frazzled? Twilight Sparkle, you are the one who has formed the cracked in my façade, yet I turn to you to correct them? Or should I think of it as your duty to correct them? I don’t even know if a pony should be praised or punished anymore. Are you even to blame, Twilight Sparkle? You merely opened my heart a crack, yet now so much confusion is pouring in. I barely knew what to think of you, and now I must worry about how to approach and connect to each pony I meet? Absolutely preposterous. How have you done this to me?
Not only done this to me, but all of Equestria. Not days go by since I told Twilight Sparkle to leave the castle, and she has already made her mark on the world. The masses… my pony court approached me not days later with the request to immortalize her and her friend’s achievement in sculpture and stained glass around the castle. Everyone now knows how special she and all of her friends are. I suppose I should get around to remembering their names as well but…
Twilight Sparkle, I beg of you, please, send your guidance quickly.
An hour later, she did.
Sunset Looms Chapter 3
The Grey Potter
Time passed, as it tends to. I lost count of days, held aloft by a small rekindling of an emotion I’d like to call hope. This was my new path. Urged and encouraged by Twilight Sparkle’s letters, I poured myself into getting reacquainted with the ponies of Equestria. The first few reports were not very applicable, certainly, but I knew eventually that here were my instructions for reconnection. I placed my faith in them for a long, long time.
Eventually, Eventually, I told myself. Patience. I have all the time in the world.
But a depressing pattern was formed, given context. Each and every one of them described friendship. Friendship is sharing. Friendship is accepting. Friendship is pride, is faith, is understanding. Each and every one, friendship is what friendship is.
I had thought my salvation would come in the form of her reports. Yet, my only achievement, the only thing I got out of the experience, was to make my frustrations even more blisteringly painful.
Twilight Sparkle, you have taught me the properties of friendship, but I still don’t know what friendship is! What separates it from being courteous? I already know how to have faith and understand ponies, how else would they think of me as kind? How else would I garner their respect and admiration? What must I do to connect, to share, to speak?
If this was all there was to friendship, then friendship is a lonely position indeed. It means that I’ve been the greatest friend in the world, and no one else has returned it to me.
That is what I had thought, at first. I must encourage others to return my hand of friendship. And what better place to start than a circle of friends I already wished to be connected to? I had resolved myself to make friends with the Bearers of Harmony. If anyone understood and could return my hoof of friendship, then it would come from the Elements of friendship themselves.
In practice, it was easier said than done.
No, no, it was not any fault of theirs. I was simply too busy to really… get into the experience, I suppose. To really understand what made these ponies and their friendship tick. The disparities between each member were, are, so strange and vast. They seemed to share no or few common opinions or hobbies. What brought them together? What cemented their friendship so strongly that they could bear The Elements? I could never tell, and Twilight Sparkle offered me no answer.
Also, I must apologize to them for a few mistakes I have made. I assumed, being the Bearers of Harmony, that they would be able to use the Element’s powers frequently, and could be effective at managing problems most ponies could not. I have been informed by now that this isn’t so. I should have known better.
From all the effort I put into understanding and befriending them, all I learned was their names. A courtesy.
As for Twilight Sparkle herself…
I still enjoyed the few moments I could spare for Twilight Sparkle, but the brevity and infrequency of the meetups made each successive one more and more painful. Parties carefully planned, cut short by schedule. Stealing away from the castle offered even less time. Each one makes me wonder, why did I end the days of our study so hastily? I wanted her to make friends, to not grow up lonely. I did not want her abandon me. Or my own schedule deprive her of me. Why couldn’t she have friends, and still continue to learn about magic, or whatever topic she wished. The trips made me long to be seated beside her as we used to, talking about magical theory, cosmos, any topic. Any at all.
Should I be trying harder, dropping duties to continue this study while she, her friends, still live? Devote myself to molding these ponies into friends?
Or was this venture entirely foalish from the start?
“Thank all of you for your continued dedication and service!” Luna shouts from my lofty throne, her mane flowing as mine does, like an ever-shifting blanket of stars. Heavyset military personnel kneel at her feet. Not many, only half a dozen unicorns, all donned in gilded barding. “You are the spectacular few,” Luna continues, “You are those allowed to guard we, the royal sisters! How hard it must have been, your journey to get to this point!”
She went on, reciting her part in the ceremony, pausing only for Patterns’, our general’s, contributions. I remembered giving this speech, over and over, at least twice a year. Sometimes four or five times. An endless blur of muscled stallions… It was very odd to stand beside the throne, see someone else recite the lines. And even stranger to see this stranger pour heart into each syllable and word. She certainly was taking to her reinstatement well.
I was certainly grateful. With half of my schedule handled by my sister, it allowed more time for observation of my subjects, for reconnection. It wasn’t much of a difference yet, as Luna could only take set-in-stone ceremonies at this point. But maybe someday, I’d have actual free time when I needed it.
I looked up and down the line of guards, at our General, and I wondered if it would be easier to make friends with them. A pony of the court. I did not want to make friends arbitrarily, but at the moment, I was quite possibly getting ever so slightly desperate. Certainly, I had all the time in the world to find someone special, but then, what would be the point? They would just die on me a few years later. And I did not want to wait for Twilight Sparkle, the closest thing I had, to die in the meantime.
Maybe I just wanted Twilight Sparkle to be that someone special… She already was, what point was there in denying it any longer? Every time I think of her I get lost in dreams…
As I had then. Already the ceremony had moved beyond the Pass of Medals. Luna gives her final two lines, and the stallions respectfully depart, marching out the door in line.
“How did I do, my sister?” Luna asked as she rose from my throne. She almost lost her regal step in her hurry to ask me this question, grinning. I returned the smile, an automatic reaction.
“Wonderfully, Luna. You really command their respect and attention.”
We began walking out of the Throne Room by another entrance. We had nowhere in particular to go at that point, a rare hour of peace. At least until a kitchen exploded or another trivial accident demanded our attention.
“Yes! This is a situation where the Canterlot Royal Voice may be used effectively! Ah but…” Luna lowered her voice, “I guess just talking with you, I don’t have to use it.”
“Oh… oh, the Canterlot Royal Voice. I hadn’t noticed.”
“You just sound like yourself, Luna. You have always had force behind your every word.”
“Thank you, sister!” Again, she had to lower her voice, “But I think I’ll try and get used to talking normally, like you. Twilight Sparkle said that it’s the accepted composure of the day.”
Ah, even the name caused me to pause. “So you’ve met Twilight Sparkle then.”
“Yes! I visited Ponyville this past Nightmare Night, remember? I’ve become friends with her, so I hope to visit again sometime!”
“You’ve become friends.”
“Yes! She is such a likable pony, did you know that she-“
Luna looked up at me then. Shock. Surprise on her snout.
“What do you mean, how, sister?” she asked.
I doubt she could tell how I felt. She saw this friendship ordeal as nothing, as a whim, a fun little thing. I was stiff, I couldn’t walk properly anymore, and she wondered what the matter was. Friends. So easily? While I struggle with… is it really something that only takes a single night?
“Tell me what happened,” I demanded. Placidly.
She slowed with me. “Are you alright, Celestia?”
I regained feeling in my legs and promptly walked by her. To show her. “I have been studying friendship with Twilight Sparkle for a long time. It’s a surprise that a friendship could be formed in a single meeting.”
“That’s how Twilight Sparkle met all of her other friends, is it not?”
“Yes. I suppose.”
“Are you Twilight Sparkle’s friend?”
“I am her teacher.”
“Do you… want to be her friend?”
I don’t think it occurred to Luna to not ask that question. Was I too hasty in dismissing Luna as a potential attachment? I didn’t know what to say. Honesty was Luna’s Element, not my own. Should I admit to my needs, my pain, or simply keep—
“Celestia, you’re doing that thing. You’re getting all tangled in your thoughts.”
“I’m sorry.” I cover, “Luna, I… I think I need to go over a few things. Can we talk later?”
She laughed softly. “Sister, sometimes I think you think too much. Can you tell me what’s bothering you so much about this?”
“Tonight? After you move the moon?”
She nuzzled against my nose, trying to reassure me, I was certain. “Shall I leave you a few hours to craft the most perfect story of your troubles? Tell me now, while you still struggle with this!”
“I’d rather not.”
“And that is why you absolutely must! We have not had a nice long sister to sister talk since I have arrived! I know you are busy, but you are not right now, and I do worry about you sister!”
“Ah… the Royal Canterlot…”
“Oh, so I have gone back into it! You see the troubles I have? You did not know about them, and I do not know about yours! Let us head to your room and chat like the sisters we are!” She playfully shoved my flank, clearly losing her composure in her ridiculous tizzy.
“Alright, alright. I’ll tell you what’s on my mind. You seem rather eager for this, Luna.”
I delayed our talk for as long as possible. I really only succeeded at delaying it until we reached my room. Not enough time to ‘craft the most perfect story’ as Luna put it. Oh, listen to me, I’m using her terminology now.
I let the sun fall into its setting pattern and found my favorite spot, a soft rug in the center of my room. Luna sat beside me, thankfully not as close as she kept in the hallway. The same distance Twilight Sparkle would sit from me. Luna pulled over a pillow and joyfully fluffed it before dropping down atop it.
If anything, it was a different dynamic than Luna and I’s last talk.
“So, Celestia, tell me!” Luna started, “What is on your mind? No, no, don’t get all caught up in the words, just tell me, my sister!”
“Well… Twilight Sparkle. She’s on my mind. She is my student.”
“Yes, you told me that!”
“So I did.”
"What about her, Celestia? She seemed like such a pleasant and likeable pony!”
I feel like that’s something I should know, yet, with the distance growing between Twilight sparkle and I… “I’m glad… I… I feel as though I’ve run into her worrying and fretting more and more. And her reports. They aren’t all by her anymore…”
“Do you want them all to be from Twilight Sparkle?”
“I didn’t want her to fret anymore about her friendship reports… She was getting so worked up about getting them in on time, so I allowed others to write them. And so… Oh, listen to me, explaining these things. I doesn’t really matter.”
“It sounds like it does matter! You are the one who brought up the reports as a point of pain.”
“You really seem to be enjoying yourself, Luna.”
Instead of balking at the suggestion, she laughed. Still loud, she continued, “I am chatting with my sister again, and it seems like you really are getting yourself in a tangle about Twilight Sparkle.” She scooted close to my face and grinned, “Dearest Celestia, do you have a crush on the little purple pony?”
Under normal circumstances, I would retreat into myself to process this. A crush? A crush on a little meaningless… no, not meaningless, what am I thinking? My silence, once a comfort, spoke volumes to my sister. She knew more about my habits than I admitted.
“Oh my goodness!” Luna scooted away from me, cradling a fallen jaw in her front hooves. “You have a crush on this Twilight Sparkle?”
“Don’t use that word, crush, sister. It’s, it’s belittling.” I was blushing, wasn’t I? Stammering, trying to cover this, find what I really thought. Pathetic. “Frivolous and silly. We are not little foals who—”
“So then, you love Twilight Sparkle.”
“Love?” Oh, how I wish the space between my ears was private once more, that I could be allowed to think to myself, and be able to deflect these mental blows. I used to have all the time in the world. Now I had to answer to a pony who knew me too well, yet not well enough at all. Luna demanded that I remain in the present moment, that I step out of a path and fumble around with feelings I had no way to handle anymore. Now ‘love’ was the word echoing around my head, building and building louder and louder, until it allowed for no other thought. In the haste demanded by my sister, I had but one answer: “Yes. I love Twilight Sparkle.”
What an odd thing to say. What a crazy thing to be coming from my mouth. Was it true, was it false? I needed time to think, but my sister afforded me none. She snuggled up against me, joyful as a filly.
“Oh, my dearest sister, I had no idea! I haven’t heard you speak of love since your foray with Baron Blueblood, all those years ago.”
“They call themselves Princes now…” I muttered.
“Oh, they’re not important. What is important is you and Miss Sparkle! Have you told her your feelings yet?”
How could I if they had only just occurred? “No.”
“You’re spending too much time in your own thoughts aren’t you?”
And you spend too little, I wanted to say.
“You better tell her, before it’s too late!”
“I… I suppose so.”
“Is this all that’s bothering you, Celestia?”
“Yes.” I answered in the hopes that she would be satisfied and leave me alone. This was far too much excitement and rush for one as old as I.
Luck was with me, she was happy with that answer. She asked me nothing more that demanded much attention, and eventually Luna trotted off. I remained. Alone once more. Alone to let myself comb over tangles and my turbulence.
How do I handle this? How did I ever handle this? A flurry of nonsense and white noise was in my mind. It was not how I wish to spend the rest of my time. Disconnected tranquility was preferable to that, that overblown pining. Love was still beating around my head, refusing to lose its place.
Love, love, LOVE. Was it the right answer? Should I spend weeks, months, years trying to sort it all out? Spend more time than I already had? How long had it been, one, two years since I sent my young student away? Too long. I needed her here with me. Now.
In my pathetically hasty state of mind, I decided something incredibly foalish. Twilight Sparkle has learned and taught me enough about friendship, little as she was able to teach. Her studies were over. Her schooling was over. Twilight Sparkle was graduating and she was coming home.
I’m sure Twilight Sparkle told you what happened when she arrived. It should have been obvious from her letters what would happen, but my head felt far too muddy to think straight about these things. Can you imagine it? My head, once so clear and concise, once so set in stone and immovable, confused? In all my duties, once so easy, I was distracted. Love, love, love, the word itself pounded around my head. Never to be thought out or explained. It was just a wrecking ball, smashing every errant thought.
I almost forgot to arrange a carriage for my fair student. But I did. I set aside the rest of the day, pushing as many duties as I could on Luna so I could wait for Twilight Sparkle’s arrival.
Giving her my own carriage for transit was what I wanted, what the wrecking ball demanded, but I at least understood that most ponies would find that blasphemous. I found for her instead the grandest transport I could manage. Not two, but four white pegasi pulled the cart, of course wearing the royal gilded barding. The cart itself matched their coloration, whitewashed wood with gold foil twisting and looping into complicated patterns. It probably took months of the most skilled unicorn’s time to make. There were no gems adorning the craft. Its purpose was utilitarian, and gems might have overdone the design, just a tad. But I felt as if she deserved them. That she should have them Somehow.
Love, said my head. Love.
Inside the carriage was my precious student. Twilight Sparkle. Practically dressed, as always. The cart, so grand, outshone her, making her seem exceedingly plain in comparison. Out of place even. Among all the white and gold, her purple coat made her stick out. I dare not compare her to a swollen thumb, but I could see where most ponies would see the comparison. Most importantly, it made her visible from miles away.
It made me able to watch her as soon as she left Ponyville skies. I admit, it was exactly what I did.
She landed uneventfully and stepped out. Smiling, unchanged, just as I always remembered her. Spike wasn’t with her. Travelling with her things, I assumed. I was glad, of course, all I wanted then was to be with my student. No, no longer my student. My friend, hopefully. Or more…
“Welcome back to Canterlot, Twilight Sparkle,” I said. My voice was even then, practiced as it ever is.
“I’m glad to be back, Princess.” Ah, it had been ages since I heard her voice. A small and precious joy.
“Glad to have you back as well. Do you remember where your old room is?”
“The tower? Wow, is that still mine? I thought another student would have it by now.”
“Of course not! Shall I bring you there?”
We began walking, just us two, side by side. We talked lightly. Graduation. Ponyville. The School. Luna. Teacher and student once more. I’m not sure if small talk was a comfort or a grating pain. It was wonderful, being able to just spend time talking with her again. And yet, I needed to tell her, as soon as possible. My feelings would not be tamped down forever. They beat inside my head, even louder than before, making conversation a difficult joy indeed. She seemed to be working up the courage to say something important.
Oh, I hoped for the best. What is Equestria was I expecting?
“Princess Celestia,” she said to me. I turned to her, smiling my smile, gentle. Understanding. Unconflicted. She returned my smile, slightly nervous, yet confident. “As soon as I’m done with my graduation, I’m going to move back to Ponyville.”
That stopped me solid. “Whatever for?”
She stopped beside me. Craned her neck up, her eyes meeting mine to display her surprise. “Well… that’s where all my friends are, of course! And they’ll need a librarian, so—“
“But Twilight Sparkle, I was going to offer you the position of High Court Mage.”
“Yes, and I’m very grateful for the offer,” her voice was still smooth, set in stone. Smiling her apologies away. This was unlike her. Or was it, I didn’t know. I didn’t know her. “But I’d rather live with the people I care about than have the position of my dreams.”
“I can offer them positions here. They’re all talented mares. They can have good jobs here as well.”
“I’m sure you can’t offer all of Ponyville a job, princess! That’s my home now, it’s where I want to be.”
She was so sure, so ready to leave me, to leave all of this for good. And now, then, I wouldn’t get any letters either. I had said that her studies were over. I had tried to bring her close, and all it had done was sever the last of my ties.
I didn’t lose my composure. I stayed exactly as I always was on the outside, collected. Straightforward. Calm. I leaned into her smiling face and asked her, “Twilight Sparkle. Aren’t I your friend?”
She gave me the same smile, the smile that she had just dismissed me with. I pressed on before she could speak again, before she could break my heart further.
“If I am your friend, then why are you so casual about abandoning me here?”
“Abandoning?” I had finally gotten through. Her apology smile dropped. “Oh, Celestia, I’m not abandoning you.”
“Then why have you turned down this position? Why are you leaving me? What am I to you?”
“Princess Celestia, you’re my teacher, my mentor. All teachers eventually have to say goodbye to their students, as do the students have to say goodbye to their teachers. Remember? I sent you a letter about that a few—“
“I remember the letter, I remember the lesson. But Twilight Sparkle, aren’t I more than that?”
“Of course you are.” A flutter in my heart. “You’re the Princess, the ruler of this land.” And an emptying. “If there’s another disaster, we’ll probably have to overcome it together.” A black and vacant ocean. Her smile was returning too, as if she understood what my worries were. She didn’t. She had to be informed. I don’t know how I let her be so thick skulled. It needed to be pounded down.
“Twilight Sparkle, I love you.”
“Why thank you, I—“
“You do not understand!” I don’t know what my composure was at that point, or what I appeared to be to her. I was going to get through to her. Now. “I love you. I love you more than any other pony alive, or ever had lived.”
“So, as a teacher to a student…”
“No. Not like that.”
In a small voice, “So, love me, love me?”
“Love you. Love you.”
“Oh dear,” she squeaked.
Not the response I wanted. Of course it wasn’t. And saying it had only made the pounding louder, louder. Love, love, LOVE LOVE. It’s not even a word anymore, it’s a need. I don’t have needs, I’m not supposed to. But I needed her!
And by the look on her face, she wasn’t going to fulfill this desperation of mine.
“I’m going, to uh.” She backed away, pointing over her shoulder. “I’m going to go now.”
“Why?!” I was shouting, oh Celestia, why were you shouting? I think I caught myself then, in a wreckage of myself. My body had fallen out of a regal posture, and my mane was wild, no longer flowing in waves, but in jagged folds. Its violent flow had tipped my tiara to the side, and threatened to eject it entirely. I corrected myself, straightening. “I’m,” I said. Nothing more.
“Princess, Igottagonowbye.” She galloped off, as fast as she could. I stood, rooted to the spot. Stiff, staring at the blazing blue sky, my sky. Twisting my face into a rigid position, and trying not to cry.
Trying not to cry. Ridiculous. What have I become?
Luna found me back in my room. I’m uncertain how either of us got there, but there we were. She watched me for several minutes. Was she waiting for my invitiation? Trying, as I did, to think of something to say?
“I just spoke with Twilight Sparkle,” Luna said at last.
“Celestia… You really scared her. I still don’t think she’s calmed down. Why would words of true love scare her?”
I didn’t wish to respond to that. I didn’t even want to think about how I hurt Twilight. Love wasn’t even beating around my head anymore. Nothing was there. Nothing at all. Pathetic. Pathetic pathetic.
“I don’t think you were completely honest last time...”
“You didn’t allow me time to be.”
“I thought that it would make you tell me the truth. It usually does.”
“It did, Luna.” I turned to her, forcing her to look me in the eye. “When you knew me a thousand years ago, it would have. I’ve changed. Did you think I wouldn’t?”
“I don’t know… I hadn’t.” She came and sat beside me, pulling a pillow under her. “Tell me the whole story this time sister. Tell me everything, and be honest about your thoughts. I’m here to help you.”
I had started going over what I would say, what needed to be said and what didn’t need to be, but Luna spoke again, seeing me take too much time.
“Celestia,” she said, “I am your friend. I am trying to be your friend. Please. Tell a friend the truth.”
I had never felt so inferior. So chided and childish. Yet… desperation. I was desperate. I needed what Luna had to offer me. A caring hoof… A kind one. Her elements to compliment my own.
And that is exactly what happened, Luna, to the very best of my recollection. I hope I haven’t disappointed.
Sunset Looms Chapter 4
The Grey Potter
The halls of Canterlot Castle were made to impress. To dazzle even the most jaded of pony kind. Ceilings were high and obscured by arches, with paint and cloth making the actual ceiling vanish into obscurity. Windows attempted to reach that high, and they couldn’t. But it was their frequency that made the hallways long and infinite, stained glass casting a thousand colors on the white marble work. To the filly I used to be, the castle would seem massive, overwhelmingly big and detailed. Infinitely so. There was no physical way to walk from one end of the corridor to the other. It was just as feasible as trying to get to the ceiling without wings. I mean, my living room was big. Canterlot was huge. Equestria was unimaginably massive. But just walking down a typical hallway in Canterlot Castle, you’d think it was bigger than all of those combined.
I may have been a clever filly, but I wasn’t above the use of silly superlatives.
I guess I’m trying to leave this impression with you, because when I walked side by side with Celestia, that huge, gigantic, and enormous place? I became right at home. I would imagine that she warped space to make everything a reasonable size. We’d reach the end of those infinite corridors in just two seconds. Of course that was just another silly filly superlative. Now I can understand that talking with Celestia is what kept me distracted from the size of the place. Back then, I had to run to keep up with her regal stride, with the magical effect of shortening the corridors. I didn’t mind it much. Anything to be near my teacher, my idol, a literal god.
Now that I think about it, did she even notice how I kept falling behind her?
Maybe she wanted me to learn to keep stride, because… I don’t know, some kind of weird, self-building lesson? Celestia works in mysterious ways, that’s what I always told myself.
I guess they really were mysterious. No, actually, I wish they had remained that way. I got an answer, an answer that just confuses, just… What kind of answer is this?
“I love you”
The pillow in my old room was a weird consistency, fluffier than I was used to, but it made it easier to block out the rest of the world. I was trying to vigorously scrub thought from my brain. It mostly involved trying to scrub my snout from the rest of my face. No, it doesn’t really work, but I felt like I was accomplishing something.
“Spiiiiiiike!” I yelled into my pillow, “What am I going to do?!”
“Um, I don’t know?” he replied, words muffled beyond the fluff barrier.
“I don’t know either!” I lift my head up, then slam it down again. “What is that supposed to mean?! ‘I love you’? Ack! ACK, SPIKE! ACK!”
Ever the helpful assistant, Spike sat at the foot of my bed, playing with his fingers nervously. “Your friends all say they love you all the time. Maybe it was a friendly thing.”
“No it wasn’t…” I raised my head. “She said… she said…”
“She said…? C’mon, say it!”
“She said LOVE YOU love you!”
“Love you, love you?”
“Yes!” I moaned into my pillow and keep scrubbing. Don’t want to think, please, Luna, anybody, memory charm. Memory charm this away, please.
“And um, that’s…. Bad?”
I looked at Spike. Just looked at him. I thought he could read my face easily enough. He tilted his little confused head, just like a puppy. Close enough.
“Yes Spike. It’s bad,” I said. “Do you think I’d be, I dunno, pillow diving? Screaming and hollering? If it wasn’t that bad?”
“Well I don’t know, maybe you didn’t know what to wear to your first date.” I glared at him, or I hope I was glaring at him. He shrugged. “Hey, I don’t understand you girls all the time. Just last week you had this same reaction to spilling ink all over some book.”
“First of all, that book was a limited first edition copy signed by Sapphire Wednesdays. And second? This is worse. Much, much worse.”
“Why?!” I squeaked, “What do you mean why?!”
“It’s Princess Celestia, Twilight!” Spike exclaimed. “That’s like, the most powerful, intelligent, and beautiful pony in all of Equestria. And you’ve known her for a really, really long time! She’s perfect for you!”
I sighed. A deep, long exhale, trying to calm myself down, trying not to get mad at Spike. He was only trying to help me. That’s all. I fluffed my strange pillow and tried to get comfortable atop the old bed. “Have I, Spike? Have I really known Princess Celestia? If I really, really knew her that well, then why is this… this love thing coming as such a surprise to me? How long has she felt like this, and hidden it from me? I thought we were just teacher and student, learning from one another. But now…” I shook my head. “Every little thing we’ve ever done together, I have to think differently about it. Even when she first took me as a student, Spike. Even then, did she look at me, a filly who didn’t even have a cutie mark yet, and think ‘when she grows up, I want to marry her’?”
Spike was silent for a moment.
“That is creepy,” he admitted.
“But, but,” Spike pulled himself up on the bed. His face was compacted in confusion. “Even Celestia’s feelings have to take time to develop, don’t they? You’ve known each other for years and years. There’s gotta be some time when you’ve noticed she changed.”
“Yes, but… I’m trying to put a date on when things felt different, and it’s hard. Celestia’s always been Celestia. It makes me think that this is something that’s been going on for a very, very long time.”
“Oh come on, Twilight. You can’t think of one significant change?”
“No,” I sighed, “Not even one.”
“One thing that was so radically different?”
“Not even… Hey, why are you grinning like that?”
“Not one thing that completely and totally changed your life forever?” He wagged his eyebrows like I was in on this joke.
“Spike!” I laughed, despite myself. “What in Equestria are you trying to get at?”
“C’mon, Twilight! The Summer Sun Celebration! Celestia sent you to Ponyville to make friends! You gotta admit, that was a little weird of her. Different weird!”
“She had a purpose, Spike. It was so I could attune to the Elements of Harmony.”
“And then later, once that was all done?”
“Spike, just because my life changed didn’t mean Celestia did.”
“Well, no, maybe not, but didn’t your relationship change? Even by the teensiest tiniest amount? You went from learning right under her to sending letters all the time. Maybe Celestia changed then, when you were so far away?” I was silent, so Spike spoke up again, “Maybe she got lonely without you around, and it made her realize just how special you are.”
“Spike!” I laughed, “When did you get to be the master situation reader?”
“You wrote a letter about it once, remember?”
“So.” His smile grew wide. “Now does it seem like such a bad thing?”
“Are you playing matchmaker, Spike?” I nudged him with my hind hoof and laughed again. I was relieved, or maybe just less tense. I definitely didn’t feel like scrubbing out my brain anymore. But…
I thought about this, if Celestia could have changed in such a short amount of time, looking aside and resting my head on my hoof. Maybe I was focusing too much on her outward behavior. Or maybe… Well, to me, Celestia never changed, it wasn’t like her to change. Old as she was, it seemed ridiculous that anything could affect her. But if she could, and did, change, that means she was hiding this from me. For how long? And how many other things were kept a secret… besides the obvious stately matters I had no business hearing. All ponies had things they kept to themselves. But the Princess always seemed so forward and candid with me, with everyone.
And love? She hadn’t had a… thing …. Since Blueblood, the original Blueblood over a thousand years ago. This, for me, all of a sudden, still felt, well, strange. And more importantly…
“Spike.” I turned to look at him. “I don’t think I love Celestia. Love her, love her, I mean. Don’t give me those eyes. All this time, she’s been a teacher, a mentor. I love her to bits, but, just not that way. And she just feels… I don’t know, unapproachable? I still get nervous every time I see her, like I’m going to disappoint her, or not live up to her expectations.”
“I’m sure you won’t, Twilight! She’s arranged a date with you, hasn’t she?”
“Please, it’s a meeting. A get-together. Date is a… pretty strong word.”
“You’re going to tour the gardens! Isn’t that just sooo romantic?”
“Oh, stop it! You’re making me nervous again!” I shook my head, turning away. There was a book I had, left long ago in this old bedroom. With a small levitation spell, I brought it to me, and set it gently on my pillow. “I mean… what am I supposed to say? My Big Book of Romance Etiquette isn’t going to help me here.”
“Why, because it doesn’t cover ancient all powerful alicorn gods?”
“No. Well, yes, it doesn’t cover that either.” I magically flipped through the pages, reaffirming my worry, “More importantly, the book only talks about dating colts.”
Some time later, I began my walk to the Royal Gardens. Spike had insisted that I wear a fancy dress and go by carriage and bring flowers and so on and so forth. I think towards the end he was making fun of me and my nerves, trying to calm me down. In the end, I left as I usually did, without any fancy dress or gift. Just as myself. I hoped Celestia did the same... If she turned up with flowers, well, I don’t know what I’d do.
I still couldn’t help but feel a bit lost. Not in Canterlot, I knew the place like the fall of my fetlock. But what do I say to the Princess? She’s always been special, always there for me. A mentor. A guardian. This felt like my mom had come up to me and professed her love. It didn’t sit well at all. Not at all.
But could I sum up the will to turn down the ruler of all Equestria? To deny her? What if she simply forced me to become her lover? She had the power to do that. I was certain she did.
Thinking about this, I felt like I didn’t know my mentor at all. I was going to the gardens to see a very powerful stranger. I never was good at handling situations I didn’t understand. At least I wasn’t getting all twitchy and panicky. Just feeling a bit small. Tight. Short of breath and maybe a little queasy.
How long was this walk again? I picked up my pace, occasionally breaking into a gallop as I rushed to the Royal Gardens.
Night had fallen. Lamps all around the city, and in the garden itself, were lit up. Fairy Fire, I think. The flames were warm and yellow, contained in bulbs, and made all of Canterlot feel like it had settled down next to a comforting hearth. The entrance to the gardens was framed by a pair of these lamps, offering what light it could into the rows and lines of well maintained hedges and bushes.
Celestia was there, between the lamps of fairy light, waiting for me. She was thankfully the same as she always looked. Legs straight, head held high and tall, face gently placid. She gave me a small bow, her head bobbing gracefully, like a flower caught in the breeze.
“Good evening, Twilight Sparkle,” she said as I approached.
“Uh, good evening, Princess Celestia.”
“We have something very important to discuss, Twilight. Will you walk with me?”
I bowed my head. “Certainly, Princess.”
We entered the garden, side by side. She didn’t speak, but she didn’t do anything else either. We simply walked, enjoying the scenery. Well, I enjoyed the scenery. I have no idea what was going on in the Princess’ head, but sometimes, it was just best to let her think. Being trapped in my own thoughts wasn’t getting me anywhere plesant. So I observed and named plants. Dragon Lily, Warren’s Running Posy, Snow-on-the-Mountain. There were many species of plants I hadn’t encountered in years, all spun and shaped by the Canterlot Unicorns, maximizing each plant’s natural beauty.
We had spent a few minutes in the arbortorial section of the garden, mentally checking off each species, when she spoke. If there was anything special about the spot, I could not determine what.
I looked up to my mentor, feeling my heart clamp shut.
“Will you indulge me for a few minutes?”
I found myself smacking sideways into a tree in an automatic flight response. Indulge?!
“I just want to explain myself, Twilight. Do not worry.”
“Oh, oh okay! I’ll listen!” I laughed nervously, then laughed again when I realized I was laughing nervously. Oh dear, I am becoming a wreck.
She stopped and glanced over me. “I’m sorry, I have hurt you, haven’t I?”
“Hurt me? No… no, of course not, Princess.”
“That’s not what you told Luna.”
“Okay… okay, I admit, I was a little... a little…”
“Freaked out, I think is better.” I paused, then tried to cover myself, “not that there’s anything wrong with you or—“
“Twilight, it’s alright. I want to apologize.”
“Yes.” She settled down, began lying in the finely cut grass, “Twilight, telling you that I loved you was the most selfish and thoughtless thing I have ever done.”
I sat in front of her, a comfortable distance away. How we used to sit when we had lessons together. “Can you really say that? For how old you are, I’m sure there something else…”
“Maybe. But this was certainly my most self-absorbed time in a long time. Twilight Sparkle, did you know that I had my eye on you for a while?”
“No, Princess. Not at all.”
“For so long, day after day, nothing would happen. No, a lot would happen, all around me, but I didn’t notice it anymore. It was all white noise.
“But then you appeared.
“Don’t. Don’t withdraw from me. No, it wasn’t love. I don’t think it ever was love. But you were interesting, something new, and you forced me to realize something painful. I had lost connection with my pony subjects. I thought that you had the answers, because you were such a stand-out in magic. Because you could attune with the Elements. Because you were giving me friendship reports. I became obsessed with the idea of you, thinking you as the cause of all my woes, yet the savior of all my problems. I became convinced that this focus was love, and forced the idea on you in my haste.
“But I was wrong. And it was wrong of me to throw the emotions at you, as if you would accept them, or help me with them.
“Twilight Sparkle.” She looked directly at me, and I couldn’t help but return her gaze. “I am sorry to have hurt you. But I am having trouble understanding feelings and friendship. I was too prideful to admit it sooner, and now I’ve made a mess of things. Of myself, and of you. Will you please continue to teach me about the magic of friendship? Not as a mentor or tutor, but as my friend?”
I was glad I had always let Celestia have time to think, because I needed a moment after a story, an apology like that.
Though not too long.
I carefully nuzzled against her nose. Still not comfortable, but much more at ease. “Of course, Princess. Apology accepted. We can be friends.” I stood up, smiling reassurance, “I’ll help you the best that I can!”
“Thank you, Twilight.” She returned my smile, brighter than I had ever seen from her. “Thank you.”
I can admit to you, in security.
And we can reforge a relationship.
A true relationship
Before the final chapter.
Before your private sunset.