68w, 1dCelestia & Luna
59w, 17hThe Sci-Fi Ponies
16w, 1dWriting Gold
55w, 5dDoubled Fun
61w, 1dEquestrian Historical Society
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45w, 6dEquestria's Past
55w, 4dProtect Celestia
53w, 4dPlan to Read
9w, 5dTwilight's Library
32w, 4dfimfiction's favorites
9w, 6dCelestia Is The Best Pony
38w, 13hAlternate Perspectives
16w, 6dStarlight's Fantasy
31w, 2dSt. Xavier Bronies
11w, 3dVallett's Private Library
Ah! The joys of youth.
Celestia's gaze traveled in a practiced motion, a set of movements instilled from when she was a foal. Left, then right, then skyward. Left, then right, then skyward. The motions had long since moved into muscle memory so the filly, on the cusp of being a mare, practiced them unconsciously. Vigilance was needed when traveling the Everfree Forest, even mid-day.
Between thick branches of the tree canopy, Celestia caught a glimpse of sunlight, moving lower on the horizon. "It's growing late. I really don't want to be here at dusk." Colts and fillies of a certain age braved the forest during the day, despite the danger. The craving for adventure was too strong in the young. But even the young had enough sense stay out of the forest at soon as the sun touched land.
"One more moment." Luna dug at the ground with her forelimb. Her hoof made rhythmic clops on the dirt as she unearthed small pebbles of imperfect turquoise. They had found this deposit not long after the herd had settled along this new edge of the forest. Ponies loved beauty: flowers, butterflies, and stones included. But they likewise understood it could be captured in memory, only. Migratory and without tools, it was said that memories are the only things you keep. So each day, Celestia and Luna traveled back to the mineral deposit and gathered a new stone. A new stone, a new memory—and a new chance to show it off to the other fillies' jealousy.
Luna frowned at her quarry once she gathered them. Selecting the brightest, bluest rock with her lips, she planted it safely in her tail. "Yesterday's was better." She fell into a trot beside her sister, practicing the similar motion of a look-out as the two traveled alone. Nothing to the right, nothing to the left, and nothing on the branches to attack from above.
Celestia lead the way, winding through the forest to return to the field. "Yesterday's was great. Round and with specks of black."
Luna's voice fell into a daydream like daze. "Do you think Chosen Oak will like this one?"
The halt came so fast, Luna nearly rear ended Celestia. The younger sister's admiration for the colt Chosen Oak was a poorly kept secret. Mares grinned and giggled to each other to watch Luna's large blue eyes light up when Oak passed by and watch him quietly from a distance. That information passed down to the fillies, who teased Luna and only made her that much more shy about approaching Oak. Celestia glanced over her shoulder. "Oh my, Luna, you must not have heard. Oak stepped on a snake just yesterday. He's seriously sick." It did not need to pass between them that he was unlikely to recover, or survive.
"Oh." The word left Luna as quiet as a breeze. She stopped her look-out's gaze to stare down at the trail in front of her. Celestia resumed the walk back, Luna behind her with head lowered. "That makes two this week."
"Two? In one week? Who is the other?"
"Uncle Apple is growing old. His joints hurt when he moves. They say his Time is coming soon, and he is making peace with his family."
Celestia shook her head. A pony's Time came when they could no longer keep up with the herd. Whether it was a snake bite, or old age, if they could not run, it was simply impossible to shield them from predators. "Two in one week." Thoughts of Painted Hoof drifted through her awareness. Her mother had been right, you never did forget the first. But even prepared to lose more, losing too much, too fast still stung with unexpected pain.
The forest ended on ahead, trees giving way to long shoots of grass and rolling hills. Celestia broke out into a canter, Luna doing the same to keep up. Ahead, a loose crowd of ponies roamed. Foals played, adults grazed or rested, and sentries kept a careful watch on the forest and sky. Only once Celestia was in the herd with ponies at her back did she let out a sigh of relief.
"We're back!" Celestia found Whip in the throng and greeted him by wrapping her neck partly around his: an equine hug.
"Welcome!" he said with a wide smile, and greeted Luna as he did Celestia. "So, what did your forest adventure find this time?"
Luna fished in her tail and pulled out the turquoise rock with her lips before dropping it on a hoof to show off. "Do you like it, daddy?"
He leaned in, admiring the details of the rare stone. "It's lovely. A thing of beauty."
A smile pulled stretched the lips of the midnight filly, and she raised her tail in a proud arc at the comment. "Is it like what the humans wear?"
"Sometimes, sometimes." Whip gave a nod, then knitted his brow, thinking back. "I didn't see many humans with such stones. Only their chiefs and people who had lots of money could have ones with colors like this."
"Money?" Luna tilted her head.
"It's something that humans love. They give it to each other to get more things. Do you remember how they live in houses rather than fields or forests? When you have a house, you can fill it with things. Money is a thing."
"Oh!" Luna seemed satisfied with this answer and smiled broadly before tucking away the rock back in her tail. "Did your master have a lot of things?"
A laugh erupted from Whip. "That crotchety old cuss? Maybe he had a lot of things, I can't tell what is a lot for a human. But he didn't have a lot of nice things in his house or mind, and that's for sure!"
The laugh was infectious and Celestia smiled, but inwardly the line of questions started to bore her. Scanning over the herd for friends' faces, she found her eyes drifting over the forest and her thoughts turned to Uncle Apple and Chosen Oak. "Did you fear predators while you were with the humans, dad?"
Whip took a seat on his haunches, considering the question with a long moment of silence. "I suppose there were other things to fear. If master was in a bad mood," He gestured to his back, striped with the scars from where he got his name. "Or if I fell and broke a foot. When I ran, I feared his dogs, nasty creatures like wolves, but louder and stupider. But I did not fear predators."
The trees swayed in a breeze that ripped through the field. Dark, foreboding leaves turned only darker as the sky gave way to twilight. "Do you ever wish you could go back and not have to be afraid of them?"
The brown stallion shook his head and the answer came without hesitation. "Never."
Celestia turned her attention back to her father. "Why not?"
"I suppose watching out for medusa, cougars, manticores and the like is not fun." Whip shrugged his shoulders, and tossed back his black mane. "We'd all be happier to be rid of those things. But forcing a pony to stay when he wants to go, or work for what is not his, and whipping him when he doesn't please you, that just wasn't natural." He gestured with his neck to the field. "Here, I have a herd." He sat up and nuzzled each in turn. " And my daughters." His eyes fell on Lightning Kick and a quiet smile, one he only ever had for her, grew on his muzzle. "And my mate. Things I want to work for. Here, I am happy. Monsters, or no."
Celestia fell silent in thought, but that only lasted a breath before Crimson Coat nearly bowled her over. "Ahhh!"
"Celestiaaaaaa!" He grinned and trotted around with a giddy bounce. "C'mon, we got ol' Tank Flank dared to try to dance the Star Trot in front of everyone! It's going to be hilarious." As quick as he came, Crimson was off like a shot to spread the word.
The night passed fitfully. Dreams of wolves and griffins filled Celestia's rest, and several times she found herself flung to her hooves, awake and panting with fear. The yellow eyes of the wolf remained clear in her mind, still staring with their cold, calculating gaze impressed into her ever since that day some time ago. She curled back up to sleep each time and tried to shake off the feelings that lingered. These things occurred often enough with her, and to some extent, universally, called the Shared Dream.
At a time all too early, warmth bathed her body and light flooded past her eyelids. Celestia groaned over the lost sleep and rolled over. But it was a losing battle, the sun merely grew brighter as it raised itself into the sky. Finally, she rose to her feet and shook out her disheveled, pink mane.
"Good morning, Celestia." Luna's voice held a light and teasing quality. "Not often that I beat you out of rest."
The elder sister grumbled and groggily stumbled forward.
Luna looked over her shoulder with a smile. "Dreams bother you last ni—" The smile vanished and Luna stared unwittingly, jaw dropped, body frozen, eyes wide.
Celestia stumbled back. "W-what?" A flush came over her face.
Without saying a word, Luna approached step by slow step, reached up a hoof and tapped something attached to Celestia's forehead.
"H-hey!" She raised her own hooves and felt along her face, annoyance rising in her gut. "Did some pony play a prank on meee …" Everything melted away from her awareness, like water smeared over ink, as her hooves told her the shape and feel of the new addition to her features. A long, unyielding substance, shaped like a thin cone, curved with ridges that spiraled up to a pointed tip, on the center of her forehead. Celestia's disbelief nearly matched Luna and she exchanged a single glance before she sprang on her feet and ran full gallop to the river's edge, heedless of anything else.
She snorted out in agitation as the river's flow proved unable to catch a reflection. She ran up and down the river bank, bumping into Crimson Coat and knocking him into the water as he drank. "Hey--!" he got out before the splash silenced him. Not that it mattered at the moment. In a crevice of still water, the blue sky bouncing off a smooth surface, Celestia had her first glance at her new, white, unicorn's horn.
Her breath was stolen by that image. Gingerly she touched it and felt the real sensation of it being a part of her body. She explored it all over, looking for seams, or perhaps some sticky sap that meant someone stuck it on her forehead as a joke. But it was too perfectly matched to her white fur coat, felt too real in hoof, and she threw doubt out the pasture.
"I'm a …" Her face lit up in the pond, shining brighter and smiling wider than she ever had. "I'm a unicorn!" She reared up, bucked, kicked, bounced, screamed and hollered, unable to contain the raw excitement of the fantasy made reality. "I'm a unicorn! I'm a unicorn! I'm a unicorn!"
The commotion gathered attention, heads poked up curiously from the herd, Luna came running over at a canter, and even Crimson Coat came out of the river with the sour look wiped from his face.
"A unicorn! A unicorn! A unicorn!"
What followed was, at best, calm chaos. Murmurs rippled through the herd in waves. Mares, stallions, foals under their feet moved forward. A crowd formed around her, growing thicker and thicker. Whispers were traded until the sheer number grew loud. The whispers gave way to outright talking, and that into a cacophony of voices speaking over each other. Gasps, cries to the Sun and Moon, praises, swears or mere trading words all merged. Sentries abandoned their posts as the commotion stretched to the outermost edges, and joined the growing cluster.
Celestia pranced and posed and grinned wide at the attention, strutting through the crowd that left her a respectful distance, while savoring each gasp, each jealous stare from a disliked filly, each look of astonishment as she sought her friends to speak to and squee and bounce with in shared excitement. "I'm a unicorn!" She repeated to herself. More than anything, that was her thought. Still finding it hard to believe.
It was the stern command of the chief mare that called sentries back to their posts. The throng of ponies parted, allowing her passage, flanked by Lightning Kick and Whip Scar. The chief, in her grizzled gray fur, stood taller than most mares, though Celestia was not sure if that was merely because she held herself more erect. With serious brown eyes, she broke through the crowd and leaned in close to the new unicorn. Celestia, for her part, knelt politely.
The Chief's presence hovered close to that horn, her breath ruffling the unkempt mane. "Little filly, can you cast a spell?" She risked a gentle touch to the spiral of the horn
"I don't know how I'd do that." Celestia blinked up at the chief, but the old mare's attention already turned inward and she went to leave with a purposeful trot. Lightning and Whip followed stealing glances back at their child. The crowd closed around their wake, still marveling at the new horn, but with a curious kind of murmur.
That encounter left her in unease.
The night justified her discomfort. "Celestia." Lightning Kick summoned her away from her friends, with whom she whittled away the last of daylight. As Celestia closed, Lightning Kick turned to lead her to relative privacy among the herd. "There is something important your father and I need to discuss with you."
Whip gave Lightning a passing affectionate nuzzle as she turned to sit and both faced their daughter. Celestia chewed her lip and waited.
"The chief, your father, and myself have been discussing your new … blossoming."
The filly nodded her head. Whip exchanged glances with Lightning before she continued. "The uniqueness of your birth has never been hidden from you. Or most of the herd, for that matter. Hard to hide a mane of pink, as I'm sure you know." Lightning let a smile pass over her, but the humor was chilled by the gravity on her face. "There are no stories in our collective memory like yours, no tales of such a birth or growth, and only the faintest stories of unique colors. We believe that this turn of events is the blessing of the stars playing itself out."
Celestia's eyes darted between them. "That's good, right?"
"Yes," Lightning's grave smile returned. "That's good. But it also has certain implications we have been discussing."
Whip gave a quick nod. "The point of this being, it's been decided to take you to the unicorns."
"The unicorns?" Excitement charged Celestia's voice, with equal parts reverence. A wide grin stretched her lips and her eyes dazzled.
"Yes, this herd has no idea how to support your growing. The unicorns will know if you have magical talent, and be able to teach you, if you do."
"I'm going to learn magic?" She'd thought she'd squeed the last word and rose to her hooves, trying not to prance off right away.
Whip raised a single eyebrow, then burst out in a short lived laugh. "You're taking this rather well. But yes, you just may learn magic."
"Thank you, daddy!" Celestia's hind and forequarters rocked as she hopped over to Whip and gave him an equine hug. "Mommy!" Lightning received one as well, and Celestia felt her mother hug tighter than normal. But too many other things were on her mind, and she turned to gallop off. "Wait until my friends and Luna he—" Dirt kicked up under her hooves as she ground to a halt. "Luna is not coming with me, is she?"
Lightning shook her head. "I'm afraid she isn't going. While you have a horn, she's just an Earth pony."
The answer drained her of the gallop and the elder daughter left at a walk.
That night brought much needed rest to Celestia. The dreams treated her kindly, and she slept with a peaceful grin and a soft sighing chest. But before sleep had carried her off, her mind was filled with stories of unicorns. Descendants of the first unicorn princess, inheritors of magic. Elegant mares of grace, weaving beauty with their horns. Stallions strong in magic, commanding the elements, striking at predators. Time could not pass swiftly enough. And yet, what of Luna?
The next morning, she tapped her sister on the flank and watched her large, blue eyes slowly open to the early morning light.
"Ehh-mmm …" Luna slowly stretched out. The remnants of sleep still gripped her. "Whaaat?"
"C'mon," Celestia gestured for her to follow. "We need to get you a horn."
Luna pursed her lips and shot Celestia a skeptical look. But silently, she rose and followed. At the river, with other early rises, Luna refreshed herself, drinking cool water and smoothing over her mane with one hoof. Feeling the last dregs of sleep shrug off with the daylight, she shook out her tail and turned to her sister, waiting in silence.
"Are you ready?"
"To get you a horn."
Luna looked to the side and down, contemplating what she heard. "How?"
"Uhh …" Celestia's flower-colored eyes of soft pink widened at the question. "We'll figure that out." Turning away Celestia took off at a canter for the rolling fields of green grass. Plenty of room around them, and fewer distractions from all the adults. "Alright!" Celestia stopped and Luna had to back pedal after the unexpected halt. "Well, I think I know what we can do to get you your horn!"
Luna took a seat on her haunches, long shoots of grass tickled her back and rump. Celestia marched and paced in front of her like a teacher addressing a group of younglings without looking at them directly.
"So, the stories say that magic comes from within, and horns are magic. So, we need to get that magic in you, out of you, and on your head. Then you'll have a horn!" Celestia stopped and smiled to her sister. "That easy!"
A nebulous feeling of doubt rose at the back of Luna's mind. She maintained a serious expression when met with Celestia's smile.
"So, start on that. Umm, concentrate. Concentrate on getting that magic out of you."
Sun rose over head. Shadows marked the passing of hours as Celestia coached Luna in the spacious field, repeating the exercise again and again. Luna had long since collapsed to the ground as her legs grew tired of sitting.
"Concentrate harder! Find that magic." Celestia only had so many ways she could convey that one idea, so she simply repeated herself.
"Ehhh!" Luna grunted out with the sustained effort. Muscles tensed all along her body, her face, her head. She grimaced with the force she pushed herself, harder, and harder, imagining a horn of her own. "Ehhh-GAH!" She stopped, exhaustion set into her once again, head and face numb with the unusual work out.
"Luna!" Frustration took over Celestia's voice. "You've got to keep trying. Otherwise, you can't come with me to the unicorns."
A colt's laugh interrupted the air, and Luna jerked with surprise. Crimson Coat approached, having gotten close while Luna tried to find her magic. "Luna? See the unicorns? Why would she do that?" He smirked with the confidence of a joker, a mocking in his voice.
Celestia swiveled to face him with the bulk of her body and held her neck proud and aloft. "Because she's my sister!"
"Yeah, so? Stars never said anything about her. She's never going to have a horn. Just going to be a little Earth pony." A self-amused, uninviting laugh finished his sentence.
Luna stared down, low, observing the grass around her feet, the intricate seedpods, wide blades, and thin, stiff stems. Crimson's words stung like barbs across her back, each one hooking into skin and drawing blood. She stayed low, and quiet, watching the grass while feeling the words.
"She can get a horn, and she will. Just you wait." Celestia huffed and widened her legs to stand her ground. "We share blood, so we might as well share this."
"I'll be waiting a long time. Just 'cause you want her to have a horn isn't gonna get her one. Face it, all she's going to be is the boring Earth pony sister."
Celestia dropped her head low and grunted, closing her eyes and pointing her horn at Crimson. It glowed with a translucent pink aura, and he fell to his hind quarters, gasping as fear gripped him and paled his face. Celestia strained and groaned louder, the pink glow became brighter, more vibrant. Crimson broke out into a sweat, frozen in place.
The white filly let out a cry as she released the building magic, rearing back. A single, white ember leapt from the tip of her horn and drifted down to the ground on the dalliance of the wind, harmless as a firefly.
Crimson Coat fell to the ground in uproarious laughter. Limbs flailed and he rolled uncontrollably back and forth on the ground.
Luna rose to her hooves and tapped a disappointed Celestia on her flank. "I think I need a break. All this concentration has given me a headache."
Celestia exhaled and nodded to her.
The younger filly trotted away from the colt and across the field of green. Adults and others milled about, grazing or talking as they always did and Luna weaved her way through the herd to put some distance between herself and Crimson. Returning to the blue river, she trotted downstream, following the winding curve until she felt satisfyingly secluded from the company of others.
Sitting down at the edge, she finally let out a sigh, releasing the pent up tension of Celestia's training and Crimson Coat's remarks, though she could not say the sigh was a relaxed one when it left her lips. She knelt to the ground and dunked her face beneath the tugging waters of the river. Closing her eyes, the refreshing coolness stole away some of the headache until she needed air. She laid and thought while staring at her reflection in the water. No horn in sight under that waterlogged mane.
Briefly, she tried to envision the horn using Celestia's methods, but abandoned it as it returned the headache at the very thought.
"Magic comes from within?" Luna posed to herself and closed her eyes, experiencing every emotion as it whirled around in her head and sorting through them. The pain still lingered from Crimson's comments, finding a true soft place to pierce. Pressure weighed on her. Celestia would leave without her unless she earned a horn. What would she do at this herd alone? However, these were simply emotions. "What is magic even suppose to feel like?"
Her frame lifted in another sigh, this one filled with hopelessness. No shaman ever came at her birth. No pink and white colors marked her as special. Luna opened her eyes and looked down at her leg's midnight blue coat. While a dark blue didn't stand out, her shade was at least a little different, and far more pure a color than any pony had seen. But still not special when she stood next to Celestia.
A yawn stretched out her jaw and she rested her head on crossed forelimbs as thought gave way to a light sleep.
When she opened her eyes again, the sun had travelled another short distance across the sky, no longer rising but descending to the west. Luna stretched out her limbs and shook out her neck, casting her mane over her shoulder. With a pang of thirst she knelt to the river and drank. Satisfied, she pulled back and stared into the water, assessing herself after the nap.
And saw a blue horn on the center of her head.
"Oh!" Excitement flooded her veins and she tapped her horn with a forelimb to confirm what her reflection shown her. It was there, responding with a physical sensation that signaled it was a part of her. Face flushed, she inhaled a happy breath.
Her hooves could scarcely carry her fast enough back to the herd as she yelled out her sister's name. "Celestia! Celestia, come quick! Where are you?" She darted between mares, searching all around, poking her head out at the river and circling back to check the field. Out of the corner of her vision, she caught Lightning first and turned sharp to her
"Mother! Mom!" Luna's feet slipped on the grass, and her hind quarters fell out from under her, but she stayed on her forelimbs and was up as quick as she fell. She threw herself around Lightning Kick's neck in a hug. "Mom! Look! Look what I just got!" She stepped back and tossed her mane, showing off her new, blue horn.
Lightning gasped, and caught off guard, her mother was unable to block the anguish and shock on her features. Quickly, she covered it with a smile, but it was too late. Luna had seen it. "That's a lovely surprise, dearest."
In that moment, Luna realized her mistake. Whip and Lightning already had to lose one foal. Now, they were going to lose both.