I opened my eyes to the sight of the fiery sunset, illuminating with bright crimsons and golds the beach we sat upon. The sun was a ways above the blue horizon, its deepening color spreading to the clouds around it and painting a picture of serene fire in the evening sky. My neck and chest were incredibly warm and comfortable, the soft fur and warm body underneath substituting as my pillow. The rest of my body couldn’t complain, either; warm sand cushioned me as I lay on all fours, its remaining heat relaxing me like the best massage. My nose was just above her body, and her smell was everywhere, intoxicating, though I couldn’t quite place it.
I turned my head to the left, rolling it while still keeping contact with her withers, and watched her. She seemed asleep, her hooves supporting her head, the essence of tranquility on her beautiful features. Her allure was so easy to get lost in, and it was so tempting to let it carry me away, like the tides of the sea we sat before. Her light breathing carried my head up and down, again and again, and her heartbeat gently pulsed. I must have lost track of time, for when she spoke I gave a small start of surprise.
“I would have thought that a Princess knew how impolite it was to stare.” Her lips twitched after she spoke. She was such a bad liar that she couldn’t even make a joke without breaking composure.
A soft grunt went through my throat, and I could feel her skin’s reaction to the vibrations. “I would apologize, but you know that I can’t help myself.” I grinned and chuckled in response. The way her ears flattened slightly, the way her brows lowered and her cheeks reddened as she sheepishly grinned and examined my words... It drove me insane. Nopony should be allowed to be that adorable. It made my body heat up in odd ways, sent my heart soaring and my stomach diving and made my mind fog over. “What would you have me stare at, instead?”
Her eyes opened, beholding the same view I had a few short minutes ago. “The sunset is beautiful right now.” She spoke quietly after a moment, like she was in awe of the sight before her. I lifted my head off of her back and turned to the west, and suddenly, I didn’t blame her for feeling that way.
I must have been lost for well over a few minutes, for the sun had almost entirely disappeared below the waves of the ocean. The sunken, comfortable crimson of the sun was haloed by the clouds, their deep hues of purple and pink highlighting the darkening sky. Tendrils and spirals of magenta twirled and danced in the last rays of light, their dance making me smile inwardly. My sister truly was an artist.
“The sunset is lovely, you are right.” I turned my head once again to view her. She still stared up at the sky, her violet eyes slowly roving the scene and absorbing every detail. My stomach dropped again. “I don’t think it’s a fair trade, though.”
Her reaction was the same as before, if slightly more pronounced when her eyes looked down and away. Her blush was heavier as well. Or perhaps it was a trick of the light.
She faced me for the first time, her head slightly lowered and tilted so she looked up at me. Her eyes smoldered with emotion, the violet seeming to glow like the embers of a flame. She held my stare, the shyness and uncertainty she usually observed in intimate situations gone, replaced with passion and desire. Another wave of fog covered my mind, blanketing any thoughts not related to her and sending a floating feeling into my chest. With the emboldened unicorn right in front of me, watching and mirroring my feelings for her, the last thing on my mind was that sunset.
Her head tilted to the side slowly, her eyelids lowering as she moved forward. My body burned like the fires of Sol as I started to do the same. All of the feelings I held for this mare concentrated in my chest, constricting and quickening my airflow and urging me to meet her lips with mine, seeming to pull me forward. As my body obeyed, and our love became physical, my eyes closed.
Something brushed my face, its pressure and urgency making my eyes snap open. A cloudless, golden sky and descending scarlet sun greeted my eyes, the view seeming so familiar to me. I looked towards what had awoken me; another pony, whose body my head currently rested on, looking forlorn and alone in the approaching twilight. Her faded pink eyes regarded my horn with worry. “Sorry,” she whispered, averting her gaze and dropping her head into her white hooves, facing the celestial orb for which she was named. “I just want you to be here.”
Her words cut me deeply, even though malice was completely absent from her voice. I had fallen asleep in a time like this? What was wrong with me?
“Sorry, Cel,” I breathed. She had good reason to wake me; the sun was fast nearing the horizon, and its deep shadows were cast from everything around us. Not that the barren hilltop had much on it. Nor did the surrounding fields. These plains and fields once tended to by Earth ponies and farmers had whittled away, replaced by endless fields of grass.
There really wasn’t much of anything left in the world. Nothing was around to maintain it. Cel and I had watched buildings and castles once erected by powerful Unicorn magic fall to plants and wild growth, and watched the plants fall to drought from a lack of rainfall. No Pegasi meant no rainclouds.
The only thing other than ourselves to be graced with this sunset was the tree we had sought refuge under. The blackened bark of the oak held little beauty, as did the branches that hung overhead and were devoid of leaves. Odd, seeing as this was the Summer Solstice. The gnarled bark twisted in grotesque ways, distorting and warping and making odd patterns.
Cel simply shook her head softly, signalling that it was fine, but I knew that it wasn’t. She couldn’t keep her eyes still, constantly moving them over another area of the sky or to an open stretch of land around us, and her breathing was quick. These signs normally wouldn’t be such cause for alarm, but my sister had a bad habit of keeping all of her emotions bottled up. Knowing her, she was probably on the verge of tears.
I moved my head towards her, nuzzling her cheek with my nose to try and comfort her. It seemed to work, because she smiled softly, then turned her head and gave me a small lick on the cheek, her mane tickling against my nose as she did so.
As the hair fell away from my face, I looked the entire length of it up and down. The pastel teal and green and rose had remained mostly untouched throughout the years, disregarding the odd grey hair. My nose wrinkled in distaste as I looked her body over as well. It was insulting, really. Through all of the hardships we had faced together, that she had been put through, life did not have the decency to let her body reflect the years. It was as if she were a puppet, only there for the ponies that needed her guidance and rule, and as such it would not due for her to have a grey mane or wrinkled features.
I huffed, a small amount of steam blowing from my nose. Turning and looking over my own body, I saw that it had received the same treatment. Over the centuries, I matured at a faster pace than my sister due to my imprisonment and suspension on the moon. Where it had taken her over two thousand years to get to the impressive height she stood at, I had passed her by a few inches about three-quarters of a millenium afterwards. My starry mane was also adorned with a dozen greys or so, and a lake’s reflection had shown me the slight wrinkles around my mouth and brows.
“Lu?” I turned back to my sister. She had raised her head from its rest on her hooves and faced me, and her pale eyes regarded my nose. It’s difficult to say what her expression was. Maybe one of hope? Resignation?
“Yeah, Cel. I’m here.” My nose touched her’s, and her eyes closed at the contact. She pushed against me lightly, as though I were a fragile crystal, and her warm cheek slid past mine. She stayed there with her neck against mine for an extended moment, and we both relished in the heat and comfort we brought the other. I pressed against her, determined to absorb every ounce of warmth I could.
She broke away first, gently moving her head down in a nod towards her withers. I gladly accepted, laying to rest on her shoulder as she returned to her original position, and we both gazed out at the sunset. Just now, with almost tangible movement, the sun kissed the horizon and started to sink into the mire of green and brown fields.
There was a corporeal feeling in the air now, an aura that I knew Cel could feel as well. It was cool, like a spring morning, but it did not hold the same promise of life in the air. “It’s time,” Her voice was a breeze in the twilight, soft and soothing despite the message it carried, but even with its almost non-existent volume I could still hear the waver in her tone.
I brought my right foreleg out from under me, draping it across her body as I rolled onto my left side. She slowly turned with me, rolling so that her back was facing me. I lay my head across her neck, my ear against her warm coat and my nose under her’s. I could feel her slow heartbeat softly thrumming against me. I shifted, drawing closer so that my chest touched the blades of the bones in her shoulder. I felt a knot at the base of her neck release at my touch.
We watched, waited. The slowly reddening color of Sol allowed for the darkness of night to creep up from the east, covering us like a blanket. It was when the crepuscularity had extended about three-fourths of the way down the sky, when the sun had set halfway, that Cel spoke up.
“L-Lu?” I hugged her closer, touching my nose to her chin to say that I was here. She was hesitant, very much so, and it took her a moment to get the words out. “Do you...do you remember her?”
Her. Just thinking her name was like flexing a muscle I hadn’t used in years. It was painful, her absence hitting me like the first night she vanished from the world. But it also held an odd sort of euphoria through the pain, and with the somber thoughts of her absence came the revival of her memories. It made me smile, even though I wanted to let go of the tears building up at the same time. “Yeah. I do. Why?”
Something wet hit the bridge of my nose. “C-can you describe her?”
Now, it felt like I had built a little beaver’s dam to try and hold back a tsunami for all the good holding in the tears did. As the hot tears ran down my face, I moved the leg that was holding Cel up and down along her side. It took me a minute to gather my thoughts, but eventually I started.
“She was a beautiful person. She had a lavender coat, always groomed perfectly, the same with her violet hair. There was a fuschia stripe among the purple, and she usually brushed it to the left of her horn. Her cutie mark was a six-point, magenta star, with another star behind it, and five stars surrounding it. Her eyes were always as soft as her body, and they held intelligence and compassion.”
As I spoke, there was something tugging at me from the inside. It was a pressure in my chest, a knot in my heart that got tighter and tighter the more I talked. I felt Cel slowly nod along with what I was saying, and I could only hope that she actually remembered her.
“She represented all of the Elements, in a way. She held the best qualities from all of them, being faithful, sweet, reliable, unselfish, and sometimes crazy.” I giggled through the tears at that last bit. I felt a small smile tugging on Cel’s lips, too.
“You were always the highlight of her day, Cel.” The hoof that was brushing her stopped and pulled her close. ”You remember her, right? The way her eyes lit up at a new book, the little smile she got whenever a compliment reached her, the smell of her coat...” I trailed off at that. The memory of her scent kept slipping from my grasp, and the more I chased it, the more it dissolved, like smoke in the air. The knot in my chest snapped taut like a noose.
“Raspberries...” If it hadn’t been silent all around us, I would have missed what she said. But she was right, the more I thought about it. Raspberries. Another smile cracked my lips closed my eyes, letting the remembered scent fill my memories.
“Yeah. Thanks.” An idea sparked to life in my brain, and the second it did, it caught fire and burned through everything else. My old horn light up, and the azure glow filled the darkening world with a faint shimmer. “I love you, Celestia.” I said with Twilight’s voice. I had to try so hard not to break down after hearing it myself. I pushed forward, even though I lost the concentration to keep the spell going. “I love you, Cel.” I choked on the last sentence as new tears flooded my cheeks and ran onto the ground and white fur underneath.
The only thing I could hear was the sound of my heartbeat. With every pulse from my chest, a roar filled my ears. But that was wrong. What was wrong about it?
The other heartbeat was absent. Picking up my head and looking out to the west, I knew why. The sun had set fully, but I didn’t know how long ago. I didn’t know if I had been too late to say those final words. I still don’t.
The sun’s dismal light was fading much more rapidly than it should have. Where the remaining light should have taken an hour or so to be replaced by nightfall, I could see the gold and red vanish in a matter of seconds. After a moment, all of it was gone. So was I, in a way.
I stared out over the hilltops for a long time, unmoving. Medusa had visited me at some point, turning me to stone, draining all feeling from me. The roar filled my ears again.
There was a pull in my mind. This was a part of me, of who I was, and I knew what this pull meant. But for the first time in my long life, I didn’t allow it to become physical. The moon stayed below the horizon. It didn’t like that. I didn’t care.
Without the moon overhead, there were only the stars to bring light to this dead world.
I turned back, looking down to my sister in the near-pitch black. I could still make out her alabaster form against the earth. I stood, slowly, deliberately, making sure not disturb her in any way. She had earned her rest.
I could see all of her from here. For the first time in the last two thousand years, she looked peaceful.
There was some part of me that just wanted to stand there for the rest of my unnatural life. Another part of me wanted to fly away and never return to this place. My wing twitched with the thought. Instead of doing any of that, I started to speak in a language strange even to my ears. I knew not its origins, or how I learned it, but I knew that Cel had known this language as well. I didn’t need to think about what to say; the words simply flowed from me, but I don’t think I could have said anything better.
I leaned down as I finished, my lips kissing her cheek for the final time. Try as I might to restrain it, a tear rolled its way down my face and splashed onto her white coat. There was no stain, however - no wet mark, like there should have been. When the tear touched her, it turned gold. It spread outwards from the point of impact, and her entire body, head to tail, dissolved into beads of halcyon light. They were the same color as the glow of her magic used to be, a pale gold. There were thousands of them, hundreds of thousands, still in the shape of Cel, all moving and twinkling slightly. Their light was intense, stretching for miles in every direction, illuminating me and the deadened tree with soothing light.
I knelt before them on all fours, bringing my head level with them. All it took was the smallest breath, and they started to scatter. They moved as one, in a cloud, flattening out and spreading around the tree. Around in a slow circle they revolved, sometimes touching the tree and causing sparks and crackles. Eventually, one succeeded, and a blaze began from the roots of the oak.
I jumped out from under the lower branches as the fire quickly spread upwards, covering the trunk and branches in a burning glow, engulfing the oak in a matter of seconds. The golden beads swirled and rose with the heat, all of them rising up towards the sky in a spinning, spiraling motion, even though there was no smoke from the flames.
Just as the fire touched the highest branch, all of the little drops of light had been expelled into the night sky. All but one. I followed the movements of a flickering bead as it floated like a leaf, sometimes spiraling, other times dropping quickly, until it landed like a feather on my nose.
For the ghost of a second, I thought that I could smell lilacs.
No debris fell from the tree. No ashes piled around the base, no sparks jumped menacingly out, trying to claim more for the fire. No sound was made from the inferno. As I watched the fire consume the oak, the little light on my nose flickered, sometimes shining as bright as the moon, other times smoldering as softly as a star. As the pyre started to recede from the top down, dying and leaving nothing of the tree remaining, the tiny bead sputtered with the flames.
The last gout of flames from the base of the tree moved inwards, to the center of the blaze. It rose in a small spiral, to about half the size of my leg, then stopped. The fire died completely, as did the light on my nose, leaving a small plant standing on the top of a barren hill.
Almost without thinking, I started towards the small fauna. The light of the stars above seemed to dance off of this flower, and as I got closer, I could see my reflection in its tiny pedals. I was looking at a golden rose of absolute perfection. I sat in front of it, looking at it from every angle. Everything about it was gorgeous and flawless, from the pattern of the petals to the way the stem curved. Its smell reminded me of hundreds of things; freshly washed bedsheets, oven-baked cakes, a crisp, cold winter morning. The memories pulled to the front of my mind from this scent brought a sad smile to me. I think Cel would have liked it.
I layed down next to the rose, breathing in the smells and losing myself in them. There were so many, and they were all waiting to be recognized and remembered. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply, and smelled lilacs...
The next time I opened my eyes, I felt the cool spring breeze in my face, rippling through my mane. The wind was fair, and the sun kept the temperature at a nice level. I could hear some birds chirping in the trees off to my left. The grass brushed against my legs, swaying with the wind, and the lavender flowers a short distance in front of me were bent forwards, letting their scent drift around me and fill me. Lilacs. Her favorite.
On the ground, right in front of my hooves, a polished marble plaque sat in front of the spring flowers. My eyes were drawn to it for the thousandth time, and I automatically started reading the words on it, even though I had them memorized. The little picture on the bottom of the plaque recieved the most attention. I traced every line of the symbol that I had carved into the stone with my eyes, following the line until it reached the point where I had started, then moving to another line. I did this until I heard the soft clop of hooves approaching me from behind. I didn’t need to look up to see who it was.
Celestia sat down in the grass to my right, in the exact spot she had sat in during her time here the last three days. No words were passed between us. None needed to be. All that could be said had been spoken already. Instead, I let my head fall onto her shoulder, still observing the marble. It stirred something inside of me, to have her there, knowing that I wasn’t alone. It was a good and a bad feeling.
My back felt relief from the sun as Celestia stretched her wing out over me, letting it cover me like a feathery quilt, the way she used to do when we were foals. The feathers’ cooling touch soothed an ache I didn’t know I had. Maybe it was a burn.
I could feel the pumping of her heart through her coat. It was slow, and heavy, like being here physically weighed the organ down. It matched the beating from my own chest.
The only sounds were the birds and her heartbeat. The shadows from our bodies, the flowers, and the plaque constituted all that I could see. Lilacs permeated the world with their scent, and the breeze blew my hair back, making it bounce across my neck and withers.
Had not the sun been moving, time would have been stopped. I was only dimly aware of the shadows moving across the grass as we sat there together, looking at the plaque and remembering the pony who lay beneath it.
The birds in the forest had stopped their chirps and cries. The wind had shifted, now only a whisper from my left, and the stone was covered from the bouquet’s long shadow. Celestia turned her gaze from the marble, to the west, and her horn glowed as the shadows disappeared.
The tug that gripped my mind felt foreign, alien, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand what this feeling was. It grew in intensity, a pressure in the back of my skull, requesting attention I would not spare it.
Celestia’s chest fell with a deep exhale. Again, her horn glowed, releasing the pressure in my mind and freeing me of the invading presence. Our shadows again began to cover the ground, the memorial, and a paler light now illuminated the world.
I could feel the muscles in her shoulder flex as she gradually stood up, felt her wing brush over my withers and haunches as she retracted it back to her side. My neck screamed as I moved my head back, dropping it in my hooves with careless abandon. Celestia’s shadow bowed her head for a moment, then reached further down. She kissed the top of my head, slowly drawing away, as if she were hesitant to leave me, then turned.
The soft hooffalls that marked her departure echoed in my ears. Crickets chirped from the surrounding grass, and I felt the biting night air being pushed and shepherded to the right by the gentle wind.
A lavender petal fell from the group of flowers, being lifted from the ground and twirled in the air. It spun and flipped and flew in slow motion, coming to rest on the tip of my nose after a few seconds. The wind didn’t seem as cold, suddenly.
As my eyes closed, and the scent of lilacs again filled the world, a tear fell onto the grass around my hooves.
I blinked awake, and immediately felt like I was on fire. An absolute, burning cold had descended upon the world in the absence of the sun. Equestria was exactly like the surface of the moon, now; silent, barren, cold, and alone. It feels weird to say it, but it felt... nice. Comforting. The agony of the temperature was familiar to me, and I embraced it, welcoming it into my body and letting it consume and engulf me as I looked above my nose at the golden flower.
The flawless petals had begun to wilt and decay, and all the feelings in me drained along with their remaining time. It broke something in me, something irreparable, to watch this golden rose die. Something even this magnificent, this... perfect, was mortal, and its life was finite. Perhaps that was better.
I rolled, from my stomach to my back, and looked out upon the moonless sky. The stars painted pictures of exquisite beauty in the night, and I looked for all of their artwork.
Aquila, the Eagle. Draco, the Dragon. My eyes found all of the formations with ease. They were familiar to me, relaxing to see, like the favorite toy of a child.
Something seemed...off, however. My eyes searched the sky, over and over, unable to shake the feeling that something had changed, that something had been added. After another minute, I found it.
I couldn’t stop the sharp gasp that escaped me. My heart flooded with emotion, tightening the muscles in my neck and making my eyes sting. Just above Pyxis, to the left of Canis Major, there was a new constellation.
Two spheres, one small, inside the larger one, were surrounded by eight arms, all of equal size. The arms seemed to be spinning to the right, and they were curved, like the waves of the ocean. The little icon was fitting, I thought as I looked it over and over. It matched well with the others. Of course it did, considering who it represented.
A sharp, fierce sensation in my head ripped through my thoughts, causing my mind to burn like my body. The moon was not happy at being denied, and for so long. With a sigh, and a small twinge of pain in my heart, I allowed the tug to become physical with the aid of my horn. The moon all but jumped into the sky, moving quicker than it should have to make up for lost time. It didn’t need to rush, though. Now, it was alone.
In minutes, the celestial orb had reached the apex of its journey. I let it stay there, located in front of Orion’s bow, between Taurus and Eridanus. It seemed like a good fit, like it belonged there.
I turned back to the stars, roving their shapes again and again. The newest formation, Empyra, recieved the most attention. I ran over the invisible lines of the icon over and over again, only stopping after the icon was as ingrained in my memory as my own cutie mark.
The rose behind my head was now completely blackened, the sublime petals having submitted to death and fallen to the world. The golden flower refused to let this be the end, however. The earth that the petals had touched grew upwards, little, midnight blue sprouts of new life marking their graves. It filled me with this feeling, a conflicting emotion of hope and loss, that life may be reborn from this little gift, but there would be none around to see it.
I turned away from the dead flora, unable to bear its sight anymore. I simply stared up, not really thinking and not really seeing.
So now, here I lay, gazing up with unseeing eyes, recounting the moments that led me here. For the second time in my disgustingly long life, I find myself wishing I had died so I could join the stars in their peaceful, twinkling beauty.
I wish I had died with Cel next to me.
I wish I had died at sundown.