67w, 6dCelestia & Luna
58w, 5dThe Sci-Fi Ponies
15w, 6dWriting Gold
55w, 3dDoubled Fun
60w, 6dEquestrian Historical Society
- Show All Groups
45w, 4dEquestria's Past
55w, 2dProtect Celestia
53w, 2dPlan to Read
9w, 3dTwilight's Library
32w, 2dfimfiction's favorites
9w, 4dCelestia Is The Best Pony
37w, 5dAlternate Perspectives
16w, 4dStarlight's Fantasy
31w, 19hSt. Xavier Bronies
11w, 1dVallett's Private Library
Answers are always elusive. The fun part is in the searching.
The rain from the dark cloud sprinkled into her open mouth, small respite from a growing thirst. Not quite getting her fill, Celestia swallowed a gulp and sat there with hunched shoulders. Though the water soaked her all the way through and chilled her to the bone, she made no move.
The pegasi’s laughter and jeering slowly died away once their amusement from the prank dwindled. The trouble makers, those bent on antagonizing Celestia, slung a barbed comment or two at her, hoping to provoke her to new heights. In a gesture not entirely unfeigned, Celestia did not respond, or even glance up. Her frustration at the pegasi felt pointless and her attempts fruitless. Her only recourse was to take their barbs and wait until they gave up.
The cold wasn’t entirely evil to her. The pitter-pat of the droplets across her back worked to soothe some of the myriad of bruises she had collected on this journey. A small blessing, though. At the same time, knowledge of just how much hurt—her back, her legs, her neck, her ribs, and the bruises on her face—made her feel beaten down and weary.
At that moment, she’d have given anything for a friend to be there. She needed to vent, to lay out all her frustrations and problems with another, to feel the relief of their support. Her thoughts trailed to Ebon Swift. A small ache went with him, the memory of the last exchange they had when he signaled the alarm and nearly foiled her sister’s rescue. She’d have been eager to forgive him, were he here now. She had other friends too, and felt a longing for them. Other unicorns, and even childhood friends, Earth ponies like Crimson Coat.
Or Whip Scar and Lightning Kick.
The yearning turned into an outright ache for home and belonging. She wished to spill everything that happened to her parents, and hear their advice. They’d have known what to do. Lightning Kick would have remembered a story from the Earth pony past that shed light, or Whip Scar’s strength and wisdom would have supported her.
Then, there was Luna. She let out an exhale, half frustrated and half amused. A companion, yes, and something more complicated: a sister. Celestia could have unfolded herself to Luna, too, had Luna’s quirky and stubborn personality not driven her to careen down the cave to explore by herself. Celestia muttered at the timing of Luna’s stubbornness, leaving her to contemplate the situation by herself.
The question of why still galled her mind. Her skills and magic prowess made her invaluable to both Earth ponies or unicorns. Even here among the pegasi, she saw so much she could do for them with only a tiny bit of effort. She could brighten any stretch of cave with magic light, repair the cloud that concealed the entrance, removed the obvious trail signs outside, organize the glowing bugs and mushrooms into a more effective or appealing pattern. Yet, the pegasus ponies’ chief joy with her talent was either tricking her or teasing her into lashing out and avoiding the blows. Why didn’t they want her help?
Even her strange colors should have garnered some kind of reaction. Sure, many had seemed curious who approached her, but that was all: curious. Both Earth ponies and unicorns regarded her pink mane and pure white coat with a mix of trepidation and awe. Why would a pegasus pony make so much less of it?
Why would a collection of ponies all coexist and have no chief?
Why were all the pegasi in smaller groups instead of a whole?
Why did they fool their own kind and not care instead of supporting each other?
Why, why, why, why?
Her frustration mounted again, wanting to boil over and spew out. Antsy energy filled her legs and she stood up, looking again at the surroundings. The trouble makers had left, which had been her hope in sitting under the cloud. Seeing that she had reached her limit and would react no more, they grew bored and left to occupy themselves some other way. It would let her travel again without their horseplay.
Celestia felt shivers crawl down her back and she resisted the urge to curl up against the cold while underneath the rain. Teeth beginning to chatter, her sight was drawn to the cave entrance and she forced herself into a trot. The thought of bathing in Sun’s warmth at midday—relaxing in golden light with the familiar view of green forest’s trees, escaping her worries and the atmosphere of barren stone—proved the most pleasing idea she had since arriving and she immediately made her way to the lair’s entrance.
Emerging from the mouth of the cave and onto the rocky mountain shelf outside, she breathed in and filled her chest with the scent of fresh air. Though the wind was cool so high on Earth’s brow, Sun’s touch was all the warmer.
Crafting a spell in her mind and drawing it to her horn, Celestia wicked the water from her coat and mane a bit at a time by constructing a greedy root out of her will and guiding it across her. She watched the water collect into a ball and felt cleansed by the drenching she underwent. Despite being a little thirsty, she tossed the ball down the side of the mountain. Stars know what sort of grime she collected on her journey to the pegasi.
Now, she closed her eyes and let the warming rays work her body into placidity. She needed this. Needed this more than she even realized. Ever since Luna had been stolen from her those days ago by the unicorns, Celestia hadn’t found the chance to relax this deeply. Between Phantom Spell, that Ursa Major, Silver Spear, wolves, and the Everfree Forests, where was the time? Luna was safe now, at the least, and she could afford this moment.
As she rested her chin on crossed forehooves, a sound perked her ear. Close by, she heard the play of ponies carried on the brisk mountain wind. Not that of the other pegasi she met, these voices were much younger, fillies and colts’ shrill screams of excitement and joy.
A desire to go over rose up inside and she lifted her head to contemplate it. As comfortable as she was here, surrounding herself with others seemed all the more gratifying. Also, fillies and colts were very poor at lying. They’d have very little luck at fooling her, and if she wanted answers about the pegasi, they seemed the most likely to be bluntly honest.
Gathering her hooves under her, she trotted curiously in their direction. The high shelf that housed the cave’s mouth curved around the mountain, stretching flat and level, before tucking into a partly obscured crevice. A mostly-hidden spot for the ponies to run.
And run they did, a score of fillies and colts with no overarching game, cantering, leaping, hopping, pouncing, or taking a break in between. Celestia tilted her head, noting that none of the pegasus fillies and colts were flying and no older sentry guarded them. Yet still, to be around so many innocent and excited faces made her smile.
Moving closer, she looked over the side of the shelf in a habit of vigilance. The platform fell away into a sheer cliff face, straight down almost to the base of the mountain. The height played havoc on her senses and Celestia pushed herself away before vertigo took her balance. Taking a deep breath to recover, she supposed it made sense. What was a bluff to a race of flying ponies but extra protection? Celestia gave ample distance between herself and that drop before folding her legs and lying down to watch the play.
With a pink mane and white coat, she should have known it’d only be a moment before they noticed her.
“What are you?” A brave, little, brown pony approached her, looking every bit the young colt in his curiosity. Having been spotted, more ponies turned to look and ventured close themselves, a herd instinct to follow. In an instant, Celestia realized she had gathered a crowd.
“I’m a unicorn.”
“What’s a unicorn?” One filly’s question came on the heels of her answer.
“Why do you have a pink mane?” Another little pony jumped forward, too exuberant to wait between answers.
Yet, Celestia found one matter too pressing to ignore. “Where are your parents or nurse ponies?”
They looked at her in confusion, but one pony smiled gleefully, ignoring the parts she evidently didn’t understand. “Momma is getting food, which means we get to play.”
“She lets you play outside of the cave?”
“No.” The filly skipped along a faint line in the stone, attention divided between it and answering Celestia.
“My momma isn’t here,” another pony added in singsong. “So she can’t stop me!”
“What’s a unicorn?” a colt repeated, changing the subject back to the strange mare.
The idea worried Celestia, that all these fillies and colts would be allowed to play outside unguarded. The pegasi’s ways were still strange, and a bit unsettling. Yet, looking at all their eager and innocent faces, a warm and saccharine feeling pulled Celestia’s lips to smiling. It seemed that no matter what breed, fillies and colts changed little across herds.
At that thought, an idea leapt to the front of her mind, feeling complete and whole, like a final thread was given to her and wove many together. She stood up and flashed her eyes with mischief, donning a storyteller’s grin. Celestia thought of Lightning Kick and tried to mimic the nuance with which she recounted legends. Even of all the Earth ponies, with their pride in keeping of history through story and legend, her mother was the greatest teller Celestia knew.
Then, she stole a trick she learned from the pegasi. “A unicorn is a keeper of secrets!”
The young ponies let out sounds of awe, eyes dazzled and attention wrapped.
It was true enough, and that protected Celestia’s sense of honesty. The unicorns were secretive, hiding in the woods. After being on the receiving end of lies and tricks, she wanted nothing to do with how the pegasi treated her. This was, however, truth given with a purpose.
Celestia continued to grin. “Do you keep any secrets, pegasus ponies?”
The adventurous, brown colt that first greeted her bounced eagerly and shouted. “The clouds!”
“O-o-o-oh, that is a powerful secret.” Celestia gave him an approving nod.
Her actions played out exactly as she hoped. They all leapt forward, all wanting to impress and gain the mysterious mare’s approval because she was an adult and that made her revered. They fought for attention, speaking over each other and crowding around while Celestia kept her ears perked for subjects she needed to know more about.
Celestia raised a hoof for silence and called will into her horn. The act stalled their competition and they fell quiet to gaze at the horn and wow at the glow.
“Flight?” she said while dispelling the gathered magic. “What is the secret of flight?”
“My mom says you flap your wings like this!” A little filly cleared a space around her and stuck out her tongue in intense focus. Tiny wings flapped methodically in the air, careful with each stroke.
“Nu-uh!” a colt shouted in equal parts enthusiasm and prideful self-assurance. “My mom said it’s not how you flap your wings but the magic in them!” His own pair stretched out and buzzed like a hummingbird. Slowly, precariously, he lifted from the ground and hovered for a few hoofbeats.
“The power of flight is a wonderful secret!” Celestia exaggerated her motions in performance, but did not need to feign the curiosity or interest. “What more did your mothers tell you?”
One by one, Celestia chose an excited, bouncing filly or colt and listened to what they had to say or show. At each turn, the rest would fall silent before redoubling their efforts to be chosen next when the previous pony finished.
In only a few moments, Celestia had learned more about the basics of flight than she had since Luna’s wings appeared. While some accounts contradicted, between all the fillies and colts, she had memorized a wealth of knowledge which to test and perfect with her sister.
As the young ponies continued one after the other, Celestia noticed that the first two who spoke, the filly and that rebuking colt, had disengaged from the cluster of young. The filly glared at the colt with an angry pout, while he maintained a haughty stroll. A few others instinctively sensed the tension and turned to watch. Celestia, too, perked one ear to listen to the exchange.
“Uh-huh!” She breathed out with intense, offended fury. “You do flap your wings like this.” The tiny wings stroked again in the practiced motion. “Momma told me.”
His upturned nose eluded any eye contact. “My mom told me it doesn’t matter, and she is right.”
“She is not.”
Celestia nearly ignored the rest of the argument, hearing the familiar stalemate that every foal has experienced a hundred times over and knowing how it’d play out. Despite this, the growing heat of the debate still distracted a number of the young.
“My mom is right, because I can fly and you can’t.”
The filly’s lip curled into a sneer. “You can’t fly.”
Celestia saw the filly’s anger evaporate in a flash and the little pony’s demeanor changed, words coming out as smooth and sly as a fox. “If you could fly, then the cliff wouldn’t scare you.”
The colt flinched. The comment stunned him. Glancing at all his peers watching him, he hid his reaction and puffed out his chest. “It doesn’t.”
“Why don’t you go up to it then?” The filly rocked her shoulders and hips, replying with mocking and smug smile.
She scoffed and turned to walk away. “Told you he couldn’t fly.”
Aware of the position he was forced into, of the choice between embarrassment and fear, the colt gritted his teeth and chose what he’d endure. “Fine!”
The practice reminded Celestia of a game young Earth ponies played. Told of all the fearful things that resided in the Everfree forest, the young and rowdy routinely dared each other to get as close as possible to the forest’s border. The dared pony would stalk closer and closer before nerves overcame resolve and they’d go shrieking back with a playful thrill. The adults knew of this practice and tolerated it. The borders of the forest were not necessarily more dangerous than the field itself, so it was reckoned harmless.
The cliff must have been their version of the forest’s dare and Celestia watched it curiously. Either predators could see the edge of the cliff, or there was some thrill to the risk of falling for pegasi who had not mastered their wings.
The colt swallowed, his mounting trepidation showing with the unwitting transparency of the young. Step by step, the colt willed himself to march forward and approach the daunting drop. As he came within pony lengths of the bluff, he all but crawled with how far his shoulders cowered. Front hooves touching the edge, he shuffled his rear legs close as well, pulling up alongside the mortal fall. Assured that his feet wouldn’t slip, he timidly straightened, gained his confidence, then stood with his tail arched proudly, and head raised in triumph.
“See! Not scared.”
Realizing her defeat, the filly’s nose contorted with disgust. “That’s still not flying!”
Fear kicked Celestia in the chest as she saw the colt’s spirit rise to the challenge. Unconsciously, she raised one forelimb, a grass width away from bolting to stop him.
His tiny wings buzzed away, again sounding like that of a hummingbird, and his hooves left the rock. With an utterly careful ascent, he rose to a tail length from the ground on nothing but the furious beat of his feathers.
Then he looked down.
From his new vantage point, recognition dawned on his face. He could see down the dizzying height and how he left the sure, safety of the ground. The whites of his eyes flashed in panic and the colt listed uncontrolled to the side. In the span of a heartbeat, he dropped from view.
The bottom of Celestia’s stomach fell out from her. She surged forward at full gallop, only narrowly stopping at the cliff’s edge to peer over the precipice. The colt had vanished among the visual confusion of the clouds, mountain side, and forest.
There was no time to think. She threw herself over the edge.
The world stalled as she teetered on the edge of her upward bound and coming fall. Her insides tried to leap out her body, a fluttery feeling as she crested her jump. In that span, an odd thought struck her. Even if she had wings like Luna or a pegasus, she had neither the skill or ability to save herself from such a long drop. Then, the wind whipped across her face, through her hair, and she plummeted.
Everything began to happen so fast. The safety of the ledge fell away. The cliff side rushed by in an indiscernible streak. Wind gripped at her body, dried her eyes, pulled at her mane and tail so that they whipped wildly. The ground’s ungiving presence began to grow and enlarge, threatening to break her on its surface. She had never experienced anything like this. Never imagined, never wanted to, never thought she would be falling so far and so fast. It threatened to overwhelm her senses. She fought through the intense fluttering of her belly, balanced on an obsidian edge of panic, desperation, and determination to save this young colt. With too much happening at once for her to comprehend, Celestia simply acted. From a place of intuition and instinct, she moved, while thought grew silent.
Celestia angled her body into a dive, forelimbs outstretched, reaching, and searched for the colt’s plummeting form. The errant clouds and the colt’s own coloring obscured him. Each heartbeat that passed drove Celestia to new heights of dread. She screamed out her fear and exhilaration, blinking to keep her eyes moist and searching.
There, in front of her, the colt tumbled. His wings fluttered furiously and he twirled about, flailing with his limbs to try to right himself. His panic undermined him, but what skill he had slowed his descent and allowed Celestia to close in.
Instantly, she cast a spell that bathed him in a pink glow and drew the colt into her limbs. He clung hard to her neck and uttering scared cries. She held him tight against her body while she raced to save them both. Calling will into her horn in preparation, Celestia threw out her magic again and haphazardly summoned a great wind. Clouds that lay scattered all around the mountain found themselves scooped up in a gale and drawn to the cliff side.
A few thudding heartbeats passed with nothing below her but the rocky ground, coming ever closer. Using the growing fright to strengthen her resolve, her will, she forced even more magic through her horn and a yet-greater wind whirled beneath them, collecting every lumpy white shape possible.
She shoved the colt, hard enough to break his grip around her neck. For a moment, she saw the look of betrayal and confusion in his eyes. It constricted her throat to see his helplessness.
Then, she threw him with all her might. A pink aura of magic guiding her aim, she threw him off of her and onto a thick, bulbous cloud.
The cloud deformed with the impact, a small smattering of white puffs scattered to the air, but it held the colt and Celestia soared past, losing sight of him.
The act twisted her around. She fell facing the sky. Her mane whipped past her vision, blurring the edges with flailing pink strands. The mountain shot into the sky, seeming to grow without end. The cliff side raced by, too quick for her to contemplate. She struggled uselessly in the air to right herself.
This had not been suicide. She had not leapt from the edge expecting to die. What thoughts came to the surface told Celestia of her intentions. When she jumped, she fully expected to catch herself. To use her skill in magic and improvise a spell that would soften her landing or catch her and the colt.
On her back, she could see nothing but blue, mountain, and the blur of that cliff, could think of no solution when there was so much to take in. Some distant, quiet part of her knew she’d hit the ground, and that doing so would hurt. It would hurt a lot. She tightened up and braced herself. Scared, she waited for the painful shock.
When she struck, the ground caught her in an embrace lighter than feathers, more giving than water, and more pliable than a brand new sapling. She drew in a startled breath as it folded, stretched, and bent around her, slowing her fall degree by degree until she thought it’d never quit stretching. Her stomach shot back into place, her mane settled, all the overwhelming sensations ceased except a sense of heaviness until she almost collected herself.
Something told her an instant before she halted that the ground felt unusually taut, like a pine taken to the edge of flexibility. Then, it snapped back into place. It slung Celestia helpless through the air. She shrieked in startled confusion, flailing wildly as she went, unsure what was happening, just that she was hurtling over the ground.
The cliff face loomed before her and she threw her hooves out. The impact sent shocks through her legs as they reduced the crash, though she escaped serious injury. For a harrowing moment, Celestia found herself bouncing off in rebound with nothing to catch herself. She flailed and screamed again, the air opening up around her. A snap decision sent a spell into the rock. Granite grew from the cliff face like an overeager branch seeking light, and a long, thick bough reached out beneath her.
Celestia landed on that round thrust of stone and wrapped her all her legs around, clinging harder to it than anything before in her life. Wiggling her hind and forequarters like an inchworm, she scrambled up the length and back to the solid mountain. Only once her nose brushed against the cliff did she let go, forming another spell which molded the stone into a wide, secure ledge for her to nestle her back against the wall.
Her heart pounded furiously, pumping blood hard and thick in her temples now that she laid down. Her whole body quaked with horrified thrill, and she stared fixedly at the ledge, afraid to step forward and view the bottom. She needed to wait and let the lingering feelings pass, to vent them out with her breath now that she was grounded.
Sharply, Celestia’s thoughts turned to the colt she had left behind. She looked up and searched through the clouds her spell’s wind had collected, eyes darting from one to another. High above and peeking over a fluffy edge, a tiny pony’s head peered out and watched her with an unreadable expression.
A smile burst forth on Celestia. Then, a laugh erupted from her throat. “He’s alright. We’re alive.” The remaining horror melted like a snowflake in Sun’s gaze and left behind pure exhilaration. “We’re alive! We’re alive!” She clattered her forehooves on the stone, that fact both wonderful and hard to believe. The laugh was joined by more, uproarious and noisy. As she craned her neck to stare the distance she fell, she could not stop and it felt more a product of madness than joy. She had fallen many hundreds of pony lengths—an experience that felt instantaneous in retrospect despite so much having happened so fast— and survived by the width of a hair. A sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach came with that realization, even as her face split into a wide smile.
Unable to sit still, Celestia stood up with a skip in her trot. Her entire body sang with life and energy in abundance. She lived. She whooped loud and clear with victory. The colt and her were alive. It felt like reason enough to be happy. Out of curiosity, she approached the edge of her granite platform, to peer at what odd thing she landed on that cradled her fall so effortlessly.
The smile stopped. Abruptly, the laughter silenced on her lips and she stared down. The Earth was still fifty or so pony lengths below her, an easily lethal distance.
She had not fallen all the way to the ground. Celestia had landed on nothing. Empty air had caught her and thrown her against the cliff.
“Luna?” Celestia stared wide eyed as she shifted her gaze left and right. She had felt something, she had known for sure. Felt it against her back, her legs, saw it out of the corners of her eyes. Magic seemed the best answer, that Luna had been there and weaved a magical construct to save her from the fall.
Yet, the blue pony’s shadow was nowhere to be found. All that she could see was—
In front and just below her, one of the clouds swept up in her spell-cast wind sat idly, as if waiting for another gust to send it on its way. It stretched long and thin, flat with fuzzy edges except for a single dimple at the center, where something had bruised it. Or some pony.
But if she could touch a cloud, that would mean . . .
Celestia scarcely breathed as she looked over her shoulder, quivering at the thought of what she might find. Folded at her side, a pegasus wing nestled against her body.
A gasp ripped from her throat and she stared in shock, a new height of elation coursing through her veins until she felt her skin could scarce contain it. The wings fluttered against her in response. With a thought, they stretched and Celestia beheld two broad, pegasus wings, feathers shimmering beautifully in a pure shade of white that matched her coat.
“O-o-o-oh my!” Gingerly, she touched one with a shaking hoof.
Luna was right. They did feel odd. Suddenly, extra limbs. Celestia knew this day would come ever since she saw her sister’s wings. Why would it not? They were always a pair, even before their horns appeared. Yet, this was different. When Celestia gained her horn, she became a unicorn, a kind of pony known and revered. Now, what was she? Not unicorn, not Earth pony, not pegasus. Celestia and Luna were things never before seen.
Right now, though, none of that mattered. In what felt all too natural, her wings responded to her desires. She moved them up, down, tilted one way, then the other. They moved with unparalleled dexterity, able to manipulate themselves in tiny, precise ways for flight.
“Yes!” Celestia shouted and reared up, flaring her wings to either side. “Yes, yes, yes, yes!” No longer did she come as unicorn in a foreign herd, but as fellow pony of the air. If not a pegasus exactly, something very close, something equal. It changed everything.
Placing four hooves on the ground, she trotted in place with uncontainable glee. “I have wings! I have wings! Now, I’ll get them to teach Luna how to fly.” The next thought stopped her and she smiled broadly. “And I’ll fly! And we’ll both learn how to be with the pegasus ponies!”
Looking up, she caught sight of the colt, still staring down at her from far off. “Hello, you silly foal!” She laughed and spoke knowing full well that her voice would never carry the distance. “Just stay up there and you’ll be fine. I think the other young ponies will have spread the word by now. Help will come soon to scoop you off the cloud.”
Which left Celestia. A thought striking her, she craned her head over her shoulder and stretched one broad wing. “No. Oh, no.” The wing snapped back into place and she shook her head, scattering the temptation away. The completely untried ability of flight risked killing Celestia at this height if she fell, and she could not trust her life to it. If anything, the colts and fillies had taught her the danger of an inexperienced flier. No, she needed a safer way to return
Leaning against the cliff face, she let loose an unrestrained groan. Without flying, Celestia had to scale the mountain the way she had previously: magic and a steep climb. Memories of the hardship returned and deflated all her enthusiasm.
In some ways, this time it had been easier. She did not have as far to go and had the spells for the task perfected from yesterday. Molding her granite platform like clay, she extended it all the way around, to the side of the mountain she had climbed the day before. As she came to the series of graduated ledges, she forged a ramp, climbed, dismantled it behind her, and repeated the process with thoughtless efficiency. The air did not grow thin like last time, which seemed to be another benefit of pegasus wings’ latent magic.
Though, she had new problems. Luna was not there to undo the ramp and share the strain. That, and Celestia had not eaten since arriving. As boredom set in, her stomach began to complain with pangs and groans of hunger, making the ascent all the more miserable.
Twice, she had to do this. Twice climb this mountain, and that took its toll of energy. With her spare attention, Celestia contemplated the problem of food for herself and Luna while living in the cave.
An alternative way to scale the mountain tempted her. After coming near the top, the burning in her legs and drained quality to her mind wore her down. With a nervous swallow, she stared up at the next ledge. Only a few pony lengths high, a fall that would bruise but not kill. Slowly, and methodically, Celestia tested the motions of her wings. Sorting through all the advice the young ponies had shown or spoken, she took their directions one by one. Starting with the physical movements of the wings, she raised, turned, stroked down, and repeated the motion until it came effortlessly.
Diverting her thoughts away from the physical, she contemplated her need. Up. To hover. A gentle ascent to the next ledge. The wings themselves couldn’t carry her the way such things worked for birds or bugs. But the magic in them had to be connected some way to both their actions and the pony’s need.
Faster, and faster, her wings beat at the air. They were far too broad to buzz like that colt’s and instead swept great swaths, swirling little eddies around her hooves. Firming up her resolve, she stared fixedly at where she wanted to go and let the wings do their work.
In an instant, she felt lighter. The weight on her shoulders and knees, so accustomed to holding her as to not be noticed, lifted. In only a breath, they weren’t even touching the ground and it sent giddy, nervous excitement though her, where she couldn’t help but utter a loud, “Heeee!”
But she couldn’t let that distract her. She tossed the feelings aside and concentrated on her goal: a smooth hover yet higher. Celestia continued to rise in that deliberate manner, slowly progressing until she saw herself on level with the ledge.
That giddy excitement redoubled and she held her breath as she tried to drift forward.
“Celestia!” Luna’s voice ripped through her concentration.
Her wings faltered and Celestia squealed a high, helpless yelp as she collapsed, only half way on the ledge.
“Oh my, I’m sorry!” Luna’s apology came as she hurriedly tried to land.
Celestia scrambled on the stone, hooves trying to find purchase in which to hoist her rear up from hanging over the ledge. Instead of replying to Luna, she grunted with the effort and a touch of annoyance.
The blue mare galloped to her sister’s side, clutched a bit of coat between her teeth, and helped haul Celestia onto solid ground. Uncomfortable, but the only feasible way to bring her up.
Once there, the elder sister rolled onto her back and let her chest heave for breath. Sweat collected on her brow, beading off in droplets.
“I came as soon as I heard!” Luna broke the silence still carrying a sense of urgency.
Collecting her thoughts together, Celestia rolled upright. “What did you hear?”
“Not much,” The urgency faded, Luna’s expression returning to that of the observer, recounting what she saw. “I overheard the pegasus ponies talking about a unicorn who leapt from the cliff. I hurried away after that.” A relieved smile spread her lips and she let loose a pent up breath. “I didn’t know what I would find. They didn’t mention your wings.” The smile turned subtle, but genuine. “They’re beautiful, Celestia.”
Celestia sat up on her haunches, silent only a beat in introspection. “Yes. Yes, thank you.” She looked over her sister. “They were right, for the most part. A colt had fallen off the cliff before he really knew how to fly and I went after him. I was going to use my magic to save us . . .” She shrugged, her wings carrying the motion to their tips. “I didn’t expect this to happen. They appeared during the fall.”
Luna stared fixedly at the new limbs, lost in thought. Then, she asked, “How?”
The question caught Celestia off guard and she did not answer right away. Between the terrifying fall and the elation of their appearance, she did not think to wonder. “I needed them, I guess?” she said out loud, before she shook her head. “No, I would have needed them before when—” the wolves attacked, nearly fell out of her mouth in a lapse of judgment. It was not yet time to tell her little sister and burden Luna with the guilt that knowledge would bring. “When I fought Silver Spear. They would have appeared then.”
“So it is something else?” Luna stated as she lifted a hoof to her chin. “What was different?”
“It’s not fear,” Celestia mulled her thoughts over out loud. “Or need for one’s life.”
“What were you thinking about when you fell?”
“Magic comes from within, so . . .” Luna’s eyes fell away, searching something inside. Celestia reminded herself that Luna had gained her wings first and had more time to think about these things. When Luna spoke again, her voice came low and heavy. Whatever she found had a deep and powerful place. “What were you thinking about when the wings appeared?”
Attention turning inward, Celestia closed her eyes. Experience fresh, the answer leapt to her tongue and simply felt right. Even if the events occurred too fast to understand all at once, she knew this had been part of her motivation. “The colt.” She opened her eyes. “The colt was even younger than Painted Hoof, when he died. I thought of this pegasus’ friends crying. I thought of them asking their mothers ‘why,’ as I had. I didn’t want them to have to ask, or be answered.”
Luna stared with a solemn frown and no words to speak.
Celestia regarded her sister, and found she did not like the silence, or her own feelings brought up by Painted Hoof. “When did yours appear, again?” the white mare asked with a slight turn of her head.
“Oh, I was fighting Phantom Spell,” Luna said without pride, just stating facts. “And a few other unicorns he had brought with him. The battle got heated and magic was being thrown everywhere. They wanted to move me to a different tree, but I refused because that would ruin my plan.”
“Aww!” Celestia felt her mouth stretch with a wide, almost teasing grin. “You wanted to be with your big sis!” She pecked Luna’s cheek with a kiss and the grin turned into a laugh.
The blue mare’s brows furrowed, looking entirely unconvinced.
As far as ideas went, Luna’s felt plausible. “Maybe you’re right, though.” The laugh fell away. “Since magic does come from within, and these wings are clearly magic …” Celestia let her thought trail off. The need to save that colt had indeed been powerful, in ways she felt very hard to express. Powerful enough to awaken another part of the gift from the stars, perhaps?
A young male’s chuckle interrupted the train of thought and both sisters looked up to find Rebel Bolt winding effortlessly through the air. “There you are,” he said while coming to a gentle landing. “I knew it was a good idea to bring you here.” With an expression smug as Celestia had ever seen a pony, he trotted to them. “Everyone is talking about it.”
“Rebel!” Luna beamed at the sight. “We’ve been looking for you, too.”
Inhaling a deep breath, Celestia let out a relaxing sigh and regarded Rebel with the shadow of a smile. “Yes, I imagine they are. What are they saying about me?”
The pegasus replied without missing a beat. “It’s the funniest thing any pony has ever seen.”
Celestia froze solid in disbelief. “…What?”
“They nicknamed you Pink Plummet. No one can stop laughing.”
Her jaw went slack before she snapped it closed, anger rising in her blood like a burbling spring. “And the fact I saved someone’s foal from falling to his death in front of his friends?!”
Bolt regarded Celestia as if she took leave of her senses. “You jumped off a cliff without any wings.” The statement brought another short laugh and he tried to speak through a smile. “Really, who is that dumb?”
The burbling spring swelled and flooded, and Celestia thought she might begin foaming at the mouth. Her lips worked sporadically, trying to form words over meaningless sounds as Celestia’s frustration mounted beyond language.
“You have wings now.” Bolt remarked mildly before he shrugged. “The story is already too funny, so I don’t think that matters.”
Whatever impediment had been placed over her tongue vanished, and curses flowed without end. “Of all the Sun scorched, Moon forsaken, foolish, idiotic herds I’ve ever seen of in my life!” Celestia marched back and forth with her hooves pounding the ground, bucking at the air, or rearing back and flailing her forelimbs in impotent ire. “These pegasi are the most backwards in the Everfree Forest! The wings are sucking the wits out of their heads! The cave is smothering their Sunless thoughts! They are all mad ponies, goat-headed! A topsy-turvy herd of chuckling fools!”
Luna kept her distance, watching in silence as the tirade sent Celestia from one end of the ledge to the other with her pacing and flailing. Rebel Bolt smiled with amusement, using his wings to hang in the air with a relaxed ease, forehooves crossed.
“I save one of their kind and they think it’s wolf-begotten hilarious!” Most of her anger worked out, she whirled on Bolt. “So, what now? How do I find help as a joke? We need to learn to fly!”
The pegasus gave her a peculiar look, some part of her statement striking him as strange.
The tide of emotions emptying from her, Celestia felt drained and exasperated beyond her capacity. “Will no pony help?”
“Ugh,” Rebel’s face contorted with disgust. “Teaching an adult pony how to fly? That sounds boring, and weird.”
“What about you?” Celestia cantered beneath the hovering pegasus and looked up, face pleading out of sheer desperation. “Luna called you a friend!”
A pair of midnight blue ears shot up and Luna’s neck straightened with sudden, intense interest.
Bolt’s mouth parted in surprise, his sky blue eyes clear as summer day and just as transparent. Pain flashed through them and stayed as Celestia saw her comment had stumbled across tender ground. The humor had left Bolt and he settled his wings to land, folding them at his sides.
“I can’t help.” Remorse, thick and genuine, colored his voice. “Not with all that. But I know someone who might help you understand.”