• Published 13th Feb 2012
  • 6,459 Views, 103 Comments

Our Lot, Our Life - KiroTalon

Twilight visits Celestia and Luna to learn why she seems to have stopped aging.

  • ...

Suffering Losses

“We must meet.”

The letter had been very simple. Short, with no signature, no ribbon or wax, no fanfare whatsoever. Had Twilight not recognized the writing--and, of course, had it not been delivered via Spike--she would not have known Celestia had sent it at all. Her initial response to the letter had been utter disbelief, not that the Princess had written her, but that the letter she had sent had been so...insubstantial. It seemed almost comical in the face of what Twilight was feeling tonight.

As she walked home under the streetlights burning warmly in the fading light of the day, the pointless letter habitually tucked into her saddlebag, she could feel the gazes of all the other ponies of the city hovering cautiously on her retreating form. They were confused. Concerned. Scared. Twilight couldn’t blame them; she was equally confused, similarly concerned...and completely terrified. Spike walked slowly beside her, as protective as ever, and now actually capable of providing some protection. His body had steadily filled out and grown as the years had passed, rendering him easily thirty hooves long, perhaps fifteen hooves tall, replacing his boyish smile with a permanent smirk full of razor-sharp fangs, his soft, rounded spines with long stilettos, and, perhaps only five years ago, granting him a pair of long, beautiful, fully-functional wings. Had Rainbow Dash still been in any condition to fly, she would have gladly shown him how to use them to their fullest potential. Instead, she had simply sat by, coaching him as best she could from the ground, and smiling broadly when he expertly mastered and demonstrated some of her signature moves. Her death two years later had been extremely hard for him, perhaps nearly as hard as Rarity’s death seven years earlier.

For Twilight, nopony’s death had been as hard as Pinkie Pie’s. It had been the first, not altogether unexpected--a life spent indulging a rampant sweet tooth had rendered her generally unhealthy--but it had been the first time Twilight had been forced to face her friends’ mortality, and to look at herself in the mirror differently. Pinkie’s passing had left Rainbow Dash, her mate, and Scootaloo, her adopted daughter, utterly distraught, and in their grief, they had lashed out. Twilight had faced the brunt of their anger, and while she had feigned indignance, later that night, she had spent hours sobbing bitterly into her pillow, wondering why her friends were slowly, steadily fading away while she remained forever young.

Even now, fifteen years after that first horrible loss, she was still unchanged. Her face remained unlined, her body fresh, spry, and healthy, her fur and mane vibrant and unsullied by the streaks of grey that began to invade the youthful hues of Rarity’s brilliant violet tresses, Pinkie’s vivacious cotton candy pink mane and tail. The first hints of concern had began to niggle at the edges of her thoughts at Granny Smith’s funeral. It was the first time she’d had cause to look at other ponies around her with a fearful eye, suddenly noticing signs of aging in all of them. Pinkie Pie no longer bounced everywhere she went, preferring instead to walk from time to time, her boundless energy suddenly limited. Minute lines were slowly inching across Rarity’s face, demanding more and more drastic measures to conceal. Even Rainbow Dash seemed to be steadily slowing down. It was all very confusing to the lavender unicorn, because as far as she--and Spike--could tell, she didn’t appear to be aging at all. It became even more obvious some years later when Scootaloo had finally announced her engagement, becoming the last of the Crusaders to do so. Twilight remembered vividly the day she’d first met the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and even though all three were clearly now young mares, Twilight looked at herself in the mirror and realized she looked barely a few years older than they were. The most damning evidence had come today, as she had sat at the edge of the grave and watched the coffin containing her last true, close friend, mate, and lover slowly lower into the pit, the wand and glittering swath of stars painted on the lid indicating who lay peacefully inside. It was obvious--painfully so. Twilight Sparkle was not going to grow old.

She had written Celestia the first time she’d had concerns, candidly expressing her fears to her beloved teacher, hoping desperately that the much older, much wiser alicorn would have some light to shed on the issue. Her response had been frustratingly evasive, not at all like the normally direct and honest Princess. It had been rife with the same palaver everyone was using to reassure her, nonsense about different rates of aging, the power of magical energy preserving the body, nebulous suggestions about healthy living and her element somehow prolonging her life. None of it was conclusive or even, as far as Twilight could tell in her research, probably true. The librarian had spent hours--days--poring over one book after another, obscure papers and research, requesting dusty, ancient tomes from the annals of the Canterlot Grand Archive, but nothing came of it. Her repeated requests, then demands, then tear-stained pleas for help from the Princess remained fruitless, substituting apologies for information. Finally, two years ago, after Apple Jack had passed quietly in the night, Twilight had written a furious, desperate letter, the ink smeared with tears of terror and sorrow as she realized that Trixie was now the only true friend she still had...and that even she had limited time left. Finally, after years of evasion and dismissal, the Princess had written a letter that gave Twilight some tiny flare of hope. It had been very short--easily the shortest she’d ever written.

“Please forgive my continual evasion of your questions. The time is nearing when I can answer them, but that time is not now. Please remain faithful, and be patient. All will be revealed in time.”

She had signed it as she always did, with a long, flourishing script, but this time, two things were different, and one immediately caught Twilight’s attention. Where she typically opened the letter with “My Most Faithful Student,” she had simply written, “Dearest Twilight.” This was extremely unusual, and very informal. Similarly odd and personal was the salutation at the end of the letter. Normally, she signed the letter with the traditional ‘Your Devoted Teacher,’ but this time, she had dispensed with the officious closing and simply written, “With Love, Princess Celestia.”

Twilight had pored over the letter for hours, racking her substantial intelligence for any possible reasoning behind the sudden break with protocol, but her pondering was as fruitless as her research, and she simply contented herself with the knowledge that an explanation was finally forthcoming, even if it was years too late to help her avoid the pain and confusion she had thus far endured.

Then, days passed. Then months. Then a year. Twilight’s initial enthusiasm and satisfaction swiftly faded into a deep, awful depression that even Trixie couldn’t help assuage. In truth, the other unicorn’s slow descent into old age and her inexorably approaching passing did nothing to help Twilight’s mounting sorrow, and it was all the ageless unicorn could do to keep her anger at Celestia from bleeding over into her relationship with Trixie. She knew her mate’s days were limited, even if her own somehow weren’t, and she had resolved long ago to enjoy them as much as she possibly could. To that end, Twilight felt she had managed at least that much, and when she had finally watched Trixie’s eyes darken and close for the final time, her bitter tears had been sorrowful, and not regretful.

Now, as she pushed open the door to the library that had been her home for decades, she was out of tears. The pain was no longer acute and searing, but had faded to a slow, horrible burn that sat heavily in her chest and stomach, rendering her without appetite, unable to sleep, barely able to breathe. Spike watched her from the doorway, his sultry breath blowing past her fur as he sighed heavily, wishing, she knew, that he had something...anything that he could say that would ease his adoptive mother’s pain. She wished the same thing.

“Spike, please prepare to leave for Canterlot as soon as possible. The Princess will be waiting for us, I think.” She levitated a few trinkets and mementos into the saddlebags on her sides, leaving almost all her personal affects where they were.

Spike’s brow ridges lifted in surprise. “Canterlot? Why? What makes you think the Princess is waiting for us?” His voice was deep and powerful, carrying with it the steamy scent of sulfur from deep within his chest. “What was in that letter, anyway?”

“Not much,” Twilight sighed. “But I think the Princess knows there’s nothing left for me...for us...here. She’ll be expecting us to come to Canterlot.”

“Nothing left?” Spike said, alarmed. “How can you say that? What about the library? The fillies who visit you every day? What about the Crusaders? What about Moonbeam and Sun--”

“Spike,” Twilight interrupted, her voice quiet but silencing his rant just the same. “I know what you’re trying to say, but you have to understand...” she looked back at him with tears clinging to her eyelids. “I don’t belong here.”

Spike opened his mouth to argue, failed to find words, and closed it again with a heavy sigh. “Yeah...me either.”

Twilight managed a very meager smile. “Come on, Spike. I bet Pony Joe’s is still there.”

Spike’s stiff lips twitched downward ever so slightly. “Yeah...but Joe won’t be.”

Twilight couldn’t think of a way to reply to this admission, so she stayed silent and simply walked out of the front of the library, carefully closing the door behind her. Spike already had a wing pressed to the ground, allowing her a makeshift ramp to climb up to his shoulders. There she sat and crafted magical bindings to keep her in place atop his back as he flew. “All set?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder at the lilac unicorn. Twilight nodded, and with a single powerful sweep of his wings, Spike was airborne. Mere moments later, the pair was so high that the village they had called home for the last several decades was but a smear of faint lights in the inky countryside.

The flight to Canterlot was not long. It never really had been, but Spike’s aerial speed was many times that of the Pegasi that normally pulled the Canterlot chariots. Twilight had only an hour to contemplate exactly how angry she could get away with being at the Princess when they finally met face to face. Even so, she had managed to work up a good, strong fury by the time Spike’s claws scraped the polished flagstones of the castle courtyard.

They had made this trip often enough that the guards no longer approached them with fearful but determined faces, demanding to know why a dragon was invading the protected area of Canterlot Castle. Instead they simply nodded in recognition and allowed Spike and Twilight to approach the Great Hall unmolested. The massive double doors swung slowly open in front of them, pushed inward by a pair of Pegasus guards. The pair entered the gigantic room, passing under the mostly-hidden silhouette of a heavy portcullis, a defense that Twilight had never seen lowered. The visible metal spikes glinted crisply, though, indicating that the structure was kept carefully oiled and cared for, eternally prepared to fulfill its purpose.

The doors were pulled closed behind them as Twilight and Spike stepped out of the courtyard onto the marble mosaic floor of the hall. The hall was vast, stretching dozens of hooves into the distance where it terminated at the tall gold and crimson throne upon which Twilight could just make out the ivory smudge of the Princess, flanked in front by a pair of grey and gold smudges that Twilight knew were the Royal High Guardians, specially hoof-picked for the singular purpose of defending the Princess. In truth, Twilight knew the role was primarily ceremonial in nature; there was nothing the Princess could not protect herself from that two Pegasi could possibly overcome.

Twilight followed the bright crimson carpet down the middle of the hall, passing soaring marble columns that framed magnificent stained glass mosaics, glowing brilliantly even in the deepening dusk, lit magically from the interior of the pane. Twilight didn’t look at the windows; she knew them all by heart, having crossed this hall multiple times, both in youth and in adulthood. They depicted centuries, millennia of history. Twilight wasn’t sure exactly how new windows were added, as the hall didn’t appear to be any longer from the outside, but sure enough, the two windows closest to the entrance depicted her and her...well, now-departed friends defeating Nightmare Moon on one side of the hall and Discord on the other. She couldn’t see any indication that any length of wall had been added to the room, but she remembered clearly that there had never been blank windows in the Great Hall. As she approached the throne, the windows represented more and more ancient history, stories from thousands upon thousands of years before, so many different ponies and events represented that the histories could even have been tens, hundreds, or even thousands of thousands of years old. She tried to contemplate a million years of history, and only succeeded in making herself lightheaded in the process. Finally, she approached the foot of the dais upon which the burnished golden seat of power of all Equestria sat, and slowly raised her eyes to the alicorn seated thereupon.

Twilight was momentarily shocked to see not one brilliant white alicorn seated in front of her, but in fact both the ivory Princess of the Sun and the ebony Princess of the Moon standing calmly in front of the throne, looking stoically down at her. Twilight resisted speaking her surprise, and simply said, “Princess.” She glanced at Luna. “Princess,” she repeated.

Both alicorns nodded vaguely at the address, and Celestia spoke to the guards at the foot of the throne. “Gentlecolts, if you do not mind, I will be taking my leave. My sister and I have some urgent business to attend to, so the throne will be vacant for some time. Luna’s guards will be arrive momentarily to relieve you.”

The guards responded forcefully and in unison. “Yes, Princess!”

Celestia nodded, satisfied, and then turned her somber gaze to Twilight. “Come, Twilight. We have much to discuss.” She immediately swept around and glided down off the dais, her ethereal tail wafting across the marble floor behind her. Luna didn’t speak, but merely followed her sister, sparing only a momentary glance for the lilac unicorn standing dumbfounded in front of her. It took a few moments for Twilight’s brain to change gears and allow her to move, and when she did, it was only after a stuttering suggestion to Spike that perhaps he should stay behind and help the guards protect the throne room. Spike knew immediately that this was a naked feint to keep him from following her into the small side door the Princesses were approaching, but he said nothing, simply climbing up the dais and curling his long, powerful body and tail around the towering throne, concern easily visible in his glittering emerald eyes. Twilight attempted a reassuring smile, but managed only a nervous grimace, which she quickly abandoned as she trotted over to the door and disappeared inside.