Of Maids, Memories & Mayflies

by NorrisThePony


When Celestia smiled, she spoke another language.

It had taken Twilight some time to fully realize so—and indeed, speak seemed a rather unfitting term to describe Celestia’s subtle language—but after a lifetime or two as Celestia’s friend, she gradually came to learn the intricacies of every smile the solar princess would give.

They all said so much without either princess ever having to utter a word. Entire tales or emotions sung like an opera through subtle twists of the lips; invisible to anypony else—even Luna—and certainly invisible to every one of their beloved subjects.

Melancholic introspection, distant nostalgia, expertly veiled mirth... all spoken through subtle variations of the same neutral smile.

Over time, Twilight had inherited Celestia’s language, so that every smile or frown was a careful communicative affair without calculation.

Looking out at the rippling ocean waves from the porch of her humble little beach-house, Twilight had not even noticed she was talking to herself until Celestia pointed it out.

She came flying from some point further down the beach, her back hooves dragging playfully through the ocean, but she drew them in the moment she caught sight of Twilight sitting by herself. She landed on the porch, using her wings to dry her hooves and then giving them a ginger shake.

By time she sat beside Twilight, they had already spoken a thousand words, but Celestia was the first to break the silence of the lonely beach.

“You’d better just tell me,” she said, staring straight ahead at the setting sun. Her horn was glowing as she set it, but she did not seem to be paying much attention. “I hate it when you keep secrets from me.”

“I can’t imagine you hating secrets nearly as much as you hate listening to me whine about some petty thing on my mind,” Twilight replied.

“So you do have something on your mind?” Celestia gave a triumphant smile.

“What? No! I mean…” Twilight began, but trailed off and chuckled when she realized it was fruitless. “Fine, Celestia. You got me.”

“Not yet I haven’t,” Celestia replied. “Go on, Twilight. What is troubling you?”

Twilight was silent.

“You haven’t left this place in weeks,” Celestia reminded her. “It’s a beautiful scenic flight from Canterlot, but I’d appreciate it if you gave an old mare a break when it came to reaching you. So naturally, it begs the question—why are you here, Twilight? Why won’t you come home?”

“Again, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed by my pettiness when I tell you. But since you insist…” Twilight sighed heavily. “I’m here because I’m trying to remember somepony.”

Celestia stared straight ahead, both eyes locked on the rippling water. Go on, they said.

“She was a maid, I’m pretty sure,” Twilight elaborated. “At my castle. During my first few years of having it. Nice mare. Kind smile, always chattering off innocent and entertaining little stories…”

Twilight gave the porch floor a disapproving glare. “I forget her name.”

“Twilight, that was… many years ago. You can hardly be blamed for forgetting her name.”

“I know,” Twilight said. “I’m not even mad at myself or sad about it or anything. It’s just… more like a commitment. Like, it’s my duty to remember. I suppose that sounds weird.”

“Of course it does not,” Celestia replied. “I understand. I had a similar fear when I ascended, you know. However many eons ago that was.”

Twilight chuckled. “You’ve gotta tone down the self-deprecating ‘old mare’ jokes, Celestia. They’re getting tiresome.”

“Only more so thanks to their truthfulness,” Celestia rolled her eyes and smiled. “But yes. Me and Luna both had the same concern actually—we feared some projected future version of ourselves; ones who saw ponies as mayflies and their fates as insignificant. I had in my mind some cynical old harpy named Celestia, looking at Equestria as though it were a chessboard and her subjects pawns. I’m happy to say that is not the mare I became.”

Twilight frowned. “But what does that say about me, when I can’t even remember one of my own subjects from a couple hundred years ago? Isn't my whole duty to be there for them? What kind of mare am I going to become?”

Celestia did not immediately reply.

When she did, Twilight noted that she very deliberately chose to answer nothing.

“Why are you here, Twilight?”

“I told you. To remember,” Twilight said.

“Indeed, but I wish to know more specifically. I know you too well to assume you did not set out for this little beach-house without a specific goal in mind. I’d bet if I were to search your desk, I’d find flowcharts of planning and schedule.”

Twilight blushed and looked away from Celestia at the ocean again. “I figured a quiet little place without distractions would be a good place. I told myself I wouldn’t come home until I’d remembered that maid’s name. I deliberately cut off communications because they would both distract me, and by doing so I gave myself motivation to remember so that I could have a chance to talk to you again as soon as possible.”

This time, it was Celestia’s turn to blush. “That is very flattering, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Thanks, but the effect is kinda lost when you just show up yourself.”

Both mares laughed into the silence of the lonely bay. When they once again fell silent, Celestia abruptly flared her horn, conjuring up an apple for herself and passing another to Twilight.

“Tell me more about this maid.” She took a bite of her apple.

Twilight took a bite of her own apple and nodded. Perhaps it was a breach of her own arbitrary rules, but having Celestia to speak to might be what she needed to break through her own memory’s barrier. “She was an earth pony. Pretty sure she had a light purple coat, blue mane.”

“Yes, yes,” Celestia waved a hoof dismissively. “Tell me about her. Not her physical appearance.”

“Well, she was really friendly, like I said. Always telling jokes, good friends with all the guards and other maids. Had some fresh compliment about my mane every morning. One of those ponies who just makes everypony else happy. I remember this one time I threw a little gala for all the staff and she brought her filly and colt and they were such sweet kids.”

Twilight had begun smiling in the echoing ripples of some long-passed mirth, but she abruptly shook her head and ground her teeth in frustration. “And I can’t even remember her damn name.”


Celestia spoke with distinct finality. Perhaps the princesses were equals, but Celestia’s tone was one Twilight had yet to speak over or idly daydream through.

“You have told me more than enough to convince me that you have taken some pony that any other leader would regard as… ah, background noise, and immortalized her with warm thoughts and stories,” Celestia said. “Perhaps you cannot remember her name, but you remember her. And that is infinitely more important.”

Twilight blinked first in confusion, and then in surprise.

With a warm smile, Celestia took another wayward bite of her apple. “Twilight, despite your fears, you do not see ponies as mayflies. Nor numbers or pawns. Most importantly, you must remember that remembering a pony’s name or face does not mean you remember that pony.”

“Huh,” Twilight cocked her head. “I guess I never thought of it like that.”

She looked behind her—she’d emerged onto the porch long before the sun had begun its descent, but now with it below the waves the inside of her lonely little beach-house monastery was unlit in crepuscular darkness.

One glance at Celestia, already on her hooves, smiling with victorious overconfidence and giving her wings curt little shakes to prep them for a long flight, and Twilight decided she’d have no reason to light a torch as she headed back inside.

She’d brought nothing with her and she’d be leaving nothing behind.

Leaving the lonely house as it was, Twilight followed Celestia as she flew off to Canterlot.