Chapter 2: Learning Stages
Many years had passed since the world changing day that Celestia, heir to the throne of Equestria and bringer of the dawn, had been born. The Everfree forest had shown signs of it’s continuing age, with many of it’s trees growing closer to the bedroom of the castle. The forest was still vibrant and full of life, very similar to the young princess who grew up around it.
Celestia crouched in a small bush, peeking her eyes out at a butterfly which lazily flew to a flower. It slowly flapped it’s wings as it landed, showing off its elegant patterns and colors. The princess licked her lips and bent her legs, before pouncing out of the brush at the insect. The small creature was smart enough to quickly move, however, and Celestia only manged to land in a flower bed and lose her balance, tumbling to the ground. She brought a hoof to her face and wiped a lock of pink hair out of her eyes before watching the butterfly make its way to a far off tree. She gave a defeated frown as she got up, but soon became fascinated with a bright yellow flower and trotted towards it.
Being an alicorn, Celestia’s aging process was greatly slowed, which is why the two hundred year old pony was still but a young filly. She had just begun her life in the time it took many generations to live and die. This fact wasn’t known to the princess, however, as the family kept quiet in the deep woods. To Celestia, her long life was perfectly normal, and her parents would prefer it to stay that way - at least until she were an adult.
It wasn’t long before Sonance found himself in the small clearing that Celestia was playing in; he had heard her giggling long before he spotted her. He couldn’t help but a find a smile overtake him when he saw the tiny filly chasing after birds and other woodland creatures, in a vain attempt at a game of tag.
“Come back here, mister bird!” Celestia called, running after a blue jay gliding through the forest.
Sonance leaned against a tree and silently watched his daughter enjoy herself, not wanting to spoil the moment. After the avian had flown past the treetops, Celestia huffed and turned around, quickly spotting her father. Sonance waved a hoof as their eyes met.
“Daddy!” she squealed in delight, rushing over to him with a wide grin. The young princess nearly tackled his leg as she embraced it, nuzzling him affectionately.
“Hello there, little one.” Sonance said, kneeling down so he could be eye level with her. “Are you having fun?”
“Yeah! I just wish the birds wouldn’t fly so fast.” she gave an adorable little pout.
“Someday soon, you’ll be able to fly with them.” Sonance replied.
“You really think so?” Celestia asked.
“I know so. In fact, I think it’s time for some flying lessons.”
The little alicorn’s eyes lit up at the notion of learning how to fly. She had always watched her mother and father take wing, often to gather food, and questioning when she would learn was a near daily occurrence. “Oh, yes, yes, yes!” she cheered.
Sonance’s horn lit up and he gently lifted Celestia onto his back, making sure to be careful with her. He stood up and began walking towards the castle, which was only several hundred feet away.
“Daddy, when can I fly as good as you?”
“Oh, I’d say a few hundred years.”
Celestia melodramatically groaned. “A few hundred? That’s really long!”
“It is a long time, but flying takes practice and patience.”
“If I try real hard, can I be good at it sooner?”
Sonance lightly laughed. “I suppose you could.”
The two of them went to a small courtyard, tucked inside of the castle, for Celestia’s flying practice. Sonance went through the basics, showing her how to properly lift off, how to control her height, speed and descent, and how to land safely. However, despite the small alicorn’s efforts, her wings weren’t quite strong enough for her to stay afloat for more than a few seconds. Her diligence didn’t go unrewarded, though, as Sonance offered to play a game of hide and seek with her when they were finished. After a fit of running around and laughing, the two of them laid next to each other in the soft grass. It was then that Celestia asked a peculiar question.
“Daddy, why was I born with my cutie mark?”
The inquiry was a surprise to Sonance, who had to think about what he was just asked. He turned his head to Celestia, who was staring at him inquisitively. Her small head was cocked to the side as she patiently awaited his answer.
“Well...” Sonance started, bringing a hoof to his chin and rubbing it. “I think it’s because you’re a very important pony.”
“Here we go.” Sonance thought. He rolled over onto his stomach and stood up, Celestia following suit. “Come, Celestia. Let us talk.”
“Okay!” she said, walking to his side.
They began their light walk through the courtyard, entering one of the buildings. “You see, Celestia, someday, you will rule all of Equestria.”
The little filly’s eyes widened at the statement. “Wow, really?!” she exclaimed.
“Indeed. When you were born and your mother and I saw your cutie mark, we believed that you would also raise the sun.”
Celestia looked through a nearby window to see the sun’s rays shining over some plant life and parts of the castle. Her gaze drifted upwards, into the sky, where the intense, bright orb hung. “I’ll be able to move that?” she said, not able to believe her fathers words.
Sonance nodded. “Of course, just as your mother and I do. However, she tends to deal with the sun more often than myself.” He noticed himself starting to drift off topic. “Regardless, one day, you will be princess of Equestria, and the only one able to bring the sun up for dawn.” Their idle walking brought them in front of the castle now, near the rope bridge hanging across the gulch. Sonance slowed to a stop, then looked down at his daughter. “Would you like to learn how to raise the sun?”
“That sounds hard.” Celestia said, scrunching up her nose.
“Oh, it’s not so difficult with a bit of practice.” As if to demonstrate the ease, Sonance’s horn glowed for a moment, and the sun seemed to move ever so slightly along it’s course. “I’ll have to push that back later...”
“Wow...” Celestia said, her mouth slightly hanging open. The dark alicorn gently brought a hoof to her chin and shut it, with a grin.
“It’s a bit of a feat, at first. You should try.”
“Do you think I can do it?”
“I believe in you, Celestia.” He knelt down next to the princess, and used his hoof to motion to the bright sun. “Just imagine that you’re taking a mighty hoof, and pushing the sun along it’s way.”
“Um... I’ll try.” Celestia closed her eyes and focused, pointing her horn in the direction of the sun. It gained a soft glow, as her magic was being channeled through it. She felt the strain as she attempted to push the great star forward, and it’s increasing difficulty caused her to spread her hooves out and brace herself, as if she herself was pushing the star. The glow intensified, and slight sparks began to jump out; a clear indicator of the amount of effort this little filly was putting forth. Sonance eagerly watched as Celestia attempted the impossible task set forth, almost inspired by her diligence and perseverance. Finally, she gasped and fell to the ground, her horn returning to it’s regular, matte color.
“Did... did it work?” she asked, not even bothering to look up. The small alicorn was much too tired from the attempt.
Sonance gave a light hearted laugh as he delivered the unfortunate news. “I’m afraid not, little one, but you certainly tried!” He helped Celestia to her hooves, allowing her to lean against his leg for support. “Don’t fret, someday it will come naturally to you.”
“Daddy, I think I’m done trying to move the sun right now.”
“That’s okay, my dear. Later, you can try moving the moon.”
Her eyes widened, the dread of having to try and move that heavenly body as well washing over her. “Not that, too!”
Sonance laughed, using his magic to place the tired princess on his back and walking back into the castle. “We’ll practice that some other night.”
Celestia let out a high pitched yawn, and curled up on her father’s back. “Okay...”
“You should always try and practice your magic, Celestia. One day, your mother and I won’t be here to raise the sun and moon for Equestria.” Sonance pursed his lips immediately after saying his last sentence, silently contemplating if he had just revealed too much for the young alicorn.
“I don’t really get it.” she said, allowing a wave of relief to fall over Sonance.
“That’s fine. You’ll understand in the future.”
The two of them were silent as Sonance walked through the stone hallways. Sooner or later, him and Rhapsody were going to need to let Celestia know what would happen in four hundred years time, but they just didn’t know how to tell her. It was a puzzling ordeal that pained Sonance every time he thought about it. He would need to think on it.
Sonance reached the entrance to the tower, where he let Celestia down. She rubbed her eyes a bit, still tired from the sun raising attempt, and wobbled slightly as she touched the ground. Sonance eyed her carefully to make sure she wouldn’t topple over, and after confirming she would be alright, spoke.
“I’m going to go out into the forest now. How about you play in the courtyard while I’m gone?”
“Alright, daddy.” she said, starting to perk up.
“Stay safe.” Sonance said, giving her a hug before trotting off. Celestia then thought about what to do, after her father went on his way. She looked to the courtyard, then behind her to the stairs leading up. In her little mind, she formed a plan to get some answers.
Celestia’s ‘plan’ consisted of walking up the stairs and consulting her mother on the issue. While not the most complicated of actions, in her mind it was a genius idea. She reached the top of the long flight of stairs, panting as she walked into her parents room. Although she slept here as well, the abundance of things belonging to her mother and father were enough to label it as their room. She found Rhapsody sitting at a desk, using the sunlight coming through the window to illuminate the paper she was writing on. Hearing Celestia’s breaths, she turned around and looked at her daughter.
“Celestia, my love! What brings you here?” The soft auburn alicorn got up and embraced Celestia, even curling her wings around for extra comfort. Celestia particularly enjoyed when her mother did this, as it made her feel warm and safe - though she was shy in speaking of it.
“I wanted to ask you about my cutie mark.” Celestia said, looking up and smiling at Rhapsody. There was no denying her daughter’s plea.
“Well, I asked daddy about it, and he said that it means I’m gonna be really important, but I don’t know why.”
“Come here, my young Celestia.” Rhapsody walked to the southern window of the room, which was overlooking one of the small structures in the castle. It was barely visible through the trees, but still remained noticeable because of it’s contrast in color. The light amber alicorn levitated her daughter on her back, so that the princess would get a better view through the windows.
“What about my-”
“Patience, little one. Your father and I believe that one day, you might rule Equestria for the greater good.”
“So my cutie mark is about being good?” Celestia raised an eyebrow, this answer clearly not what she had been expecting.
“It might be.” She took hold of Celestia and let her back down on the floor, then laid down herself. “To be honest, we don’t know exactly what your cutie mark means, darling.”
“Aww...” Celestia let out a disappointed groan.
“One day, you’ll figure it out for yourself. I’m sure of it.”
“I hope so.” the small alicorn replied, looking down and lightly pawing at the floor. “Can I ask another question?”
“Of course you can.”
“Daddy says that one day you and him will have to leave. Is that true?”
Celestia was too young to notice the quick look of surprise flash across Rhapsody’s face. She clearly hadn’t prepared for a question like this. For now, all she could do was answer the best way she could, and hope her daughter didn’t keep pressing the issue.
“This, too, is something else you learn in time, my dear.”
The white alicorn pouted, still not satisfied. She wasn’t very fond of all of the waiting she had been told to do recently, whether it be for finding out what her cutie mark really meant, why she was born with it, and if she would be able to raise the sun and moon. Rhapsody noticed the look of disappointment in her daughters eyes, but was unsure of what to tell her.
“Thank you, mommy. I’m gonna go downstairs and play now.”
“As you wish.” She leaned down and nuzzled Celestia, ruffling her pink mane. “Stay safe, dear.”
Celestia left the room and begun the long descent down the staircase. “I guess if mommy and daddy say I’ll know one day, then I’ll just wait.” she thought, as she walked down the steps. There was too much on her young mind, and right now she wanted nothing more than to explore through one of the mysterious parts of the courtyard. She had always loved to explore.
The shadowy alicorn gave a heavy sigh as he entered the room at the top of the tower, mane flowing loosely behind him. “What are we going to tell her, Rhapsody?”
“I’m just as lost as you are, my dear.” she replied, looking out one of the windows. Her horn flashed as the sun dipped behind the horizon, leaving only the bright moon making it’s way into the sky.
Sonance practically fell into the bed when he approached it, stretching his limbs out and pulling off his armored shoes. They fell to the ground with a hollow clang, which echoed throughout the stone room. “I want her to know the truth, but I fear she’s too young to understand.”
Rhapsody crawled onto the bed and cuddled next to her worried husband. “Sonance, my lunar prince, perhaps time will solve this problem.”
“Do you really believe that?” Sonance turned to his wife, frowning. “She deserves to know what the ascendancy will entail.”
“You worry for her, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. I’m just not certain she’ll be able to rule Equestria alone when we’re gone.”
Rhapsody sighed and laid her head on Sonance’s silky mane. “Our little sun princess might get along well with a little moon princess.”
“Is that what she needs? A sibling? She certainly wouldn’t be alone...”
“I think it might be just what we’re looking for.” she gently kissed the dark alicorn’s cheek. He returned the affectionate gesture, unfurling his wing and wrapping it around her.
“Hopefully, this will help her. All I want is for her to be happy.”
“As do I, Sonance... as do I.”
The faint sound of tiny hooves clopping against stone alerted them to Celestia’s approach, and they silently nodded; an agreement to stay quiet about the predicament. In four hundred terribly short years, the two of them would learn whether they had made the right choice or not.