The instant the door closed behind her, there was a blinding white flash, a sudden static, a flash of heat, and Twilight opened her eyes to a fully unsurprising change of scenery. The hallmarks of teleportation were well known to the unicorn, who had mastered the art early in her studies in Ponyville, but she recognized the signs of a particularly powerful and proper teleportation spell, the likes of which Celestia had just used to move the trio from the side room to another room, one which Twilight recognized only from her oldest memories.
“This is...” she said involuntarily as she glanced around, waves of nostalgia sweeping over her. Celestia’s solar was nothing like the rest of the castle. It was large, of course, but felt incredibly cozy. Every inch of the marble floor was covered in a thick red carpet, and the long crimson sofas situated around the broad, blazing fireplace were thick and soft, Twilight knew. The gigantic four-poster bed on the opposite end of the room had bright white sheets and a deep crimson comforter and curtains. The frame of the sofas and the bed were a warm mahogany, highly polished but well-worn from eons of use.
All along the walls were tall, masterful paintings of ponies that Twilight had never met or seen in any of her studies, but who must have been incredibly important to the Princess. A giant chandelier hung from the middle of the room, its dozens of fairy lights covered with black shrouds. Twilight knew from experience that when all of the lights were uncovered, the room was as bright in the dead of night as a clear summer afternoon. She remembered whiling away hour after hour at the Princess’s hooves, sitting in front of the fireplace and reading, writing, studying, or simply dozing under the alicorn’s wing. A smile of recollection slid unbidden onto her muzzle as she recalled that simpler time, when she had only one friend...well, two, if she included Smarty Pants--and she always did--and the rest of her life was but a strange, ephemeral concept, years in the future and completely meaningless to her as yet. How long had it been, she wondered? It seemed a lifetime ago.
Twilight reminisced for only a few moments before a quiet cough brought her coldly back to the present, and the horror of the life now behind her. “Yes, Twilight, this is my solar. I trust you remember--”
“Yes,” Twilight interrupted the alicorn, her voice sharp and cold as she turned slowly to face the Princesses. “I remember. I remember a lot about this room, about my private lessons. You used to tell me there was no question without an answer, that you would always help me find those answers, no matter how hard it may be. I never forgot that promise, you know.”
Celestia’s face fell slightly, and she looked down at the carpet beneath her hooves. “Yes...I know. Nor did I.”
“Is that so?” Twilight spat, her anger overriding whatever sense of decorum she might have been clinging to. “That’s funny, because I seem to remember asking you a question a long time ago that you never really bothered answering.” The alicorn didn’t answer, so Twilight continued, Celestia’s silence fueling her rage. “You know, I know what it sounds like when you lie to someone, Princess. I saw you do it over and over in the throne room, telling ponies what they wanted to hear instead of the truth, because you thought you knew better. You promised me it was for their own sake, and I believed you! I believed you because you never lied to me!” The tears on Twilight’s eyelids broke down her cheeks, and still Celestia didn’t look up or respond. “All my life, you told me the truth, no matter how horrible it might have been. When my parents died, you didn’t lie and tell me they’d just gone on a trip or something equally foalish, you told me the truth! You told me the truth, because you believed I could handle it, that I was smart enough, mature enough, strong enough to know how the world really worked. Isn’t that what you said?” Celestia’s face remained stoic, and Twilight pressed forward, her voice quavering as her resolve threatened to break. “But when I asked you the single most important question of my life, when I begged you to explain to me why my friends were dying around me while I just continued on, stagnating, never aging a day, you lied to me! You lied to me, and I knew it, because I could hear it in your words, I could read it in the strokes of your quill. Did you really think that your star pupil, your most devoted student, your best friend, wouldn’t be able to tell? Well?”
She finished in a scream, her voice finally giving out as the pain in her chest reached a sudden pitch, raging into her throat and head, sending waves of bitter tears down her cheeks and awful, painful sobs searing through her lungs. The horror and sorrow of the years finally crashed through the dam she had carefully constructed, rendering her utterly distraught. She collapsed to the floor of the solar, her muzzle buried in her hooves as she cried loudly, the pitiful howls echoing off the marble walls and magnifying in the giant room.
Suddenly, she heard a quiet sniff, mere inches from her ear, and she was stunned to feel a large body settle down next to her and press against her side. Before she could react, a second, slightly smaller body pressed against her other side, capturing her in a tight, warm embrace. She didn’t need to be able to see through her tears to know who the bodies belonged to, and in a moment of horrified shock, she leaped up from the carpet and fled a short distance, whirling around to glare furiously at the now-supine alicorns. “How...dare...you!” she growled, her voice barely more than an irate hiss. “After all you’ve put me through, you have the...the...nerve to think you can just cuddle up like I’m some little filly? Like you could possibly make this better with a pat on the head and--”
“No, Twilight,” Celestia suddenly said, effortlessly stemming Twilight’s rant despite her voice barely being audible over the crackling fire. “No, I am afraid that nothing makes what I am about to explain to you any easier to accept, or to comprehend. In time, I hope you can forgive my...obfuscation of the truth, but I promise it was in your best interests.”
Twilight’s ear twitched involuntarily. “In my best interests? To lie to me?”
Celestia nodded. “Twilight, please have a seat at the fireplace. There is much we need to discuss, and I fear we have less time than I would like to do so.” The purple unicorn contemplated refusing the alicorn’s request out of pure, fillyish spite, but there was something in the Princesses’ faces that resonated in her heart. She could see genuine sorrow in the alicorns’ eyes, regret for their deception painted on their face in the flickering firelight. Twilight suddenly found herself feeling slightly guilty for her outbursts, and for intentionally feeding her own anger, forcibly infuriating herself at the Princesses. In her depression, she had searched desperately for a scapegoat, and it had just made sense to her to blame the two ponies she knew had the answers she sought. Their constant refusal to provide any assistance only served to further indict them in her mind, and it had never occurred to Twilight to wonder whether they had had a good reason to deflect her questions. Now, on the precipice of finally receiving the answers she had so desperately craved, she was ashamed of her own impatience. Sheepishly, she hung her head and walked over to climb up onto one of the sofas in front of the fireplace. Celestia took a seat on the sofa across from her, but Luna came up and paused, eyeing the spot next to Twilight. After a moment, she appeared to make a decision and cautiously settled down next to the purple unicorn. Twilight ventured a wan smile, which Luna returned.
“So,” Celestia said, heaving a deep sigh as she prepared to start speaking, “while you will certainly have many, many more questions by the time we are finished conversing tonight, I suspect there is only one question you are particularly interested in having answered right now, am I right?”
Twilight nodded fervently. “Why aren’t I getting older?”
The two alicorns exchanged a small smile and a nod. Celestia continued. “Twilight, the time has come for you to learn about your past...and your future.” She took a deep breath. “A thousand years ago, just after Luna...well, Nightmare Moon," she corrected herself, after Luna turned away in shame for a brief moment, "was banished to the moon for her insubordination and attempted coup, I was summoned to the High Throne, to meet with the Deicorn Cosmos."
"Wait, but I thought--" Twilight interrupted before she could stop herself. She froze in horror at her rudeness, but Celestia merely smiled and nodded.
"Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions that occur to you, my little pony. There is much to understand, and I know you of all ponies learns best when you are conversing, and not just listening."
"Th-thank you, Princess. Anyway, I thought the Deicorns were just a myth. That they didn't really exist, and were just how ponies explained things they didn't understand." Twilight realized that she had inadvertently just accused the princess of either lying or believing in old mare's tales. "That is, not that you don't understand, or that you would lie..." she trailed off, her face burning with embarrassment.
Celestia laughed softly, a light, musical sound. "Twilight, please don't worry. This is not a formal meeting. In fact," she said, smiling across the way at Luna, "I daresay nothing will ever have to be formal among the three of us again." Luna smiled warmly at her sister.
Twilight glanced at Luna, then back at Celestia. "What do you mean?"
Celestia shook her head. “In time, Twilight, in time. As for your question, no, the Deicorns are not a myth. Some of the stories told about them are, but they do in fact exist. I have met them very few times since I took over my role as the Keeper of the Sun, but I assure you they are quite real, and very, very ancient and very, very powerful.” She paused for a moment. “Tell me, Twilight, what do you know of the Deicorns?”
“Well, nothing except for the mythology.”
“Much of that mythology stems from truth, my dear. Tell me what you know.”
Twilight immediately launched into a lecture as she had so many times before with other subjects. “The Deicorns are a mythical pair of ultra-powerful alicorns. The Discorn Asha, Queen of Nature, Chaos, and Life, and the Concorn Cosmos, King of Matter, Order, and Death. Supposedly, they created the universe and everything in it, are beyond immortal, being utterly timeless, and everything that happens does so with their blessing.”
Celestia nodded. “So far, everything you’ve said is true, except for all things happening with their blessing. They take very little interest in the day-to-day affairs of the universe, and only take notice when something of extraordinary significance occurs. But please, continue.”
“Well, legend has it that when the earth was still young, and life had just begun to flourish, the Deicorns each chose a race to be their ‘children’. The Concorn Cosmos chose the gentle, diligent ponies to nurture and care for, carefully cultivating their intelligence and granting them extraordinary powers: immense strength and endurance for earth ponies, magic and wisdom for unicorns, and flight, speed, and agility for the Pegasus. The Discorn Asha, much less concerned with perfection and success, chose instead to foster a new creature, one born of her most beloved element: chaos. The Draconequus is supposedly the result of Asha’s attempt to create a being that embodied the very essence of Asha’s will.” Twilight paused and looked at Celestia, wondering if the myths she was recounting were actually history.
Celestia smiled. “Your command of mythology is excellent, Twilight, despite it being largely dismissed by most academics. It is also generally accurate. Cosmos is in fact the patron Deicorn of all ponykind, and Asha the matron of the Draconequi. What happened next, Twilight?”
“Well, at this point, history actually takes over, because we don’t hear about the Deicorns for some time. Supposedly, the Draconequi used their extraordinary power to cause chaos and upset the natural balance and order of the world to take complete control of the earth. The ponies of the recently united nation of Equestria were able to resist them for a short time, but eventually, they too were overcome by the chaotic invaders.”
“Excellent, Twilight.” Celestia beamed. “As you well know, the Draconequi, and in particular their ruler Discord, maintained control of all the earth for several millennia, exacting tyranny over all living creatures, but especially over the unfortunate ponies, who were uniquely susceptible to the suffering wrought by their chaotic overlords.”
“Why is that?” Twilight asked.
“To a creature with limited intelligence, chaos is just a diversion. A minor inconvenience. A rabbit who finds one day that their burrow is suddenly filled with soap bubbles will simply find another burrow to live in. However, a pony who finds her house has suddenly been made into an ice sculpture will be devastated. All of her personal effects, all of her memories, the place she has called home for years and years has suddenly been irrevocably altered. Destroyed. By choosing them as his favored children, Cosmos had unwittingly given the ponies of Equestria the ability to suffer terribly at the hands of the Draconequi.”
“I see,” Twilight mused. “So the Deicorns can’t see the future, then?”
Celestia didn’t immediately answer, putting a hoof to her chin and tapping it thoughtfully. After a moment, Luna spoke up. “Well, Twilight, you see, the Deicorns don’t really experience ‘time’ like we do. They are timeless, so they can only see how things are at one moment, and only by manifesting themselves at that moment in time. After they relinquish their manifestation, time becomes immeasurable to them again. All things happen at once.”
“I don’t understand,” Twilight said.
“Consider this,” the lunar princess said. “If I were to draw a picture for you, that would be a snapshot in time. If I were to draw several pictures in sequence, that would be a period of time. But because I am not a part of that timeline, I am not bound by its flow. I can choose to look at whichever picture I please. I can even look at them in reverse order. However, that doesn’t change the actual order of the pictures. Understand so far?”
“Now let’s say I only drew the first picture, and then someone else drew the rest. Let’s also say I can choose any picture I want and change it however I want, forcing the rest of the pictures that come afterwards to change in response. Let’s also say that there are many, many different possible ways each picture can be drawn, resulting in millions of possible series. I can choose any picture to change however I want, whenever I want, and that will change the way the series proceeds. The subjects of the picture will only ever see one series, no matter what changes I make, no matter where. That is essentially what the Deicorns do. They drew the first picture together, then began changing pictures from time to time as they saw fit, never really knowing beforehoof how their changes were going to affect the series.”
“I see. So it’s not that they can’t see the future, it’s just that the future changes when they step in.”
“Fascinating...” Twilight said, her head spinning a little. “Okay, so, after the Draconequi took over, they ruled for thousands of years, until one day, a new kind of pony appeared.” Twilight smiled at the princesses. “An alicorn.”
Celestia smiled and nodded. “Yes. This too was the Deicorns’ doing. You see, while Asha was perfectly content to let nature take its course, allowing the Draconequi to rule unchecked, Cosmos was not willing to let his ponies continue to suffer. However, he did not want to directly interfere, because that would be an act of treason against Asha, who, for all their differences, was still his beloved partner and wife. Instead, he focused a small amount of his magic into six very powerful relics that embodied those qualities in his children he most admired and cherished. He called them the ‘Elements of Harmony’.”