• Published 13th Feb 2012
  • 6,467 Views, 103 Comments

Our Lot, Our Life - KiroTalon

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

  • ...

On the Mend

“It was hard,” Celestia said, “especially where nature had been allowed to spread unchecked. The pure chaotic power that nurtured the plants’ and animals’ growth also twisted and mutated them into unrecognizable grotesqueries we had no way of reverting. Our magic could do many things, but it was unfit to undo generations of mutation that resulted in monsters like the Manticores, the Timber Wolves, the Hydras, and all the other nightmares of the Everfree Forest and the areas beyond. Instead, we simply had to force them away from pony cities and towns, employing animal caretakers like your friend Fluttershy with the ability to communicate with the animals on a higher level. They were able to keep dangerous creatures away from the populations while letting less menacing animals like cattle and chickens live and flourish under pony care.”

“Then, of course, we had to take control over the weather. This was relatively simple, as Pegasi have always had the ability to move, create, and destroy clouds and weather patterns, but it was too much to expect them to be able to do this across the whole planet. Instead, we simply designated special, highly-skilled Pegasi like your friend Rainbow Dash to lead teams of weather ponies in each population center to maintain safe, manageable weather patterns that would keep dangerous weather like tornadoes and floods from devastating small towns, but would still provide enough rain to nurture the orchards and gardens of the earth ponies, and to keep the aquifers from running dry. Of course, when we handed control of the weather to the Pegasus ponies, we also inherently eliminated seasonal change. This caused problems we could not have foreseen. When the seasons failed to change from Spring to Summer, we lost whole crops of plants that could not live through the occasional cold snaps of Spring weather. With no Winter frost, no early Spring plants would sprout, and without the Fall chill, Autumn plants never grew. Animals who normally hibernated through Winter grew fat and ungainly, and those creatures that stockpiled food for the Winter months continued to do so until their burrows were overflowing. We contemplated a few solutions, but in the end we decided it was simply more practical to continue to change the seasons manually. Pegasus ponies could alter the location and power of various weather fronts, and direct physical interference would make the transitions easier and more absolute.”

“So...we have to change the seasons because of the Draconequi?”

Luna nodded. “Before the Draconequine Empire took control, the seasons changed quite smoothly on their own, or so our histories taught us. Now, of course, they don’t change at all in Equestrian territory, and they change wildly and unpredictably elsewhere.”

“But there are plenty of plants that grow outside of pony cities...like Poison Joke and Zap Apples. Don’t they need seasons?”

Luna shook her head. “No, those are magical plants. They only exist because of the Draconequine magic, and so have adapted to growing and flourishing either without seasons at all, or by forcibly creating their own, like the Zap Apples. Zap Apples used to be normal apples until the chaos magic made them into what they are today. In truth, it is extremely unusual that anypony can properly tend and grow a chaos crop. The Apple family is truly gifted in the art of horticulture.”

Twilight smiled. “Yeah, they are. I think Granny Smith was the best there will ever be, but Applejack was extremely talented, too. Her son and daughter are carrying on the family tradition...or at least her oldest daughter is. Her younger daughter,” Twilight chuckled. “Well, she’s taken after Cheerilee.”

Luna smiled broadly. “I should hope so. Cheerilee was an excellent teacher. I imagine her daughter will follow in her hoofsteps quite ably.”

The grin on Twilight’s face faded slightly. “She has...it’s almost as though Cheerilee never left.” It faded further as she found herself slipping into nostalgic reminiscences of afternoons spent whiling away long hours with Cheerilee in the library, helping the teacher grade papers, develop lesson plans, or simply letting her rant good-naturedly about her more troublesome students, including, without exception, the rambunctious and strong-willed Crusaders. She remembered vividly the first time Cheerilee had bashfully expressed her attraction for the genteel orange earth pony who attended all of Apple Bloom’s parent-teacher meetings in lieu of their long-deceased mother and father. Her admission had amused Twilight as much as it had surprised her, so she had agreed to help Cheerilee catch Applejack’s attention. It had taken some effort to convince the stubborn apple farmer that ‘filly-fooling’ was not as rare or heinous as she had been raised to believe (a task made somewhat easier by Twilight’s preexisting relationship with Trixie), and a greater effort still to get her to give Cheerilee a shot.

In the end, the payoff had been substantially better than the investment, as on their wedding day, Applejack had tearfully thanked Twilight in an atypically tremulous voice for helping her find the magenta mare of her dreams. Only a few months later, the couple had come to Twilight and sheepishly asked her to magically help them have a foal. The next request two years later had been much less abashed, and the third, only a year after, had come via a shout across the marketplace. Their children--a colt named Blenheim and two fillies named Honeycrisp and Topaz--had inherited their mothers’ stubbornness and diligent work ethic, ensuring that both Sweet Apple Acres and the Ponyville Schoolhouse would remain in good hooves for several years.

“Twilight?” The quiet address brought the lavender unicorn back to the present where she discovered that tears running down her cheeks. Embarrassed, she brushed them away and looked over at Luna, the alicorn whose voice had awakened her.

“Sorry, I just got lost in...memories.”

Luna smiled sadly and opened a wing to drape it across Twilight’s shoulders. “No, Twilight, please don’t apologize. There’s nothing wrong with missing those you care about.”

“I know,” Twilight sniffed, fighting tears, “I just wish...I wish I could have...shared that experience with them. I mean...I don’t want to die...but I think it might have been nice to...grow old with them.” She resisted the coming storm for a few seconds longer, the pain in her throat intensifying as the reality she had been comfortably distant from ever since the princesses’ story had begun began to sink its icy fingers back into her consciousness.

The alicorns were not fooled, and Celestia finally said in a gentle tone, “Twilight, please don’t think you must keep up appearances here. You are one of our dearest friends, and we hate to see you suffering alone in silence like this.”

“I can see the pain in your eyes, Twilight,” Luna said. “Please let us be here for you, as you were once there for me.” The memory of coming upon the distraught Princess Luna on her very first return trip to Ponyville after being reverted back from Nightmare Moon forced its way to the forefront of Twilight’s mind, and brought with it a dozen more awful, beautiful memories of her friends. It was all too much for the lilac unicorn to take, and she suddenly burst into tears, burying her face in Luna’s waiting embrace. The alicorn immediately wrapped both wings around the sobbing unicorn and rested her head firmly on Twilight’s. “That’s it, don’t be ashamed,” she murmured, her lilting voice softer, less formal and more soothing than Celestia’s. “You’ve suffered more than any pony can be expected to withstand alone, and you don’t need to do it by yourself any more.”

Twilight cried hard, the fierce sobs wracking her chest as Luna continued to mutter softly to her, holding and rocking her like a filly. Had she been in a state to care, she might have been embarrassed to be coddled so, but the sheer weight of all she had experienced coupled with a lack of anyone available to share her burden left her completely inured to whatever shame her pride may have left her with. Luna’s body was warm and firm against hers, her fur soft and soothing. Her wings were strong, and her voice seemed to echo in Twilight’s head, extracting and easing all her deepest sorrows. It was more than simply comforting, it was cathartic.

Several minutes passed before Twilight was able to regain her composure and the bitter sobs subsided, leaving her with her tear-streaked face pressed up against Luna’s shoulder while she sniffed quietly. The princess did not move, but simply muttered, “Twilight, are you alright?”

The unicorn slowly pulled away, suddenly aware of the wide patch of darkened fur her tears had left on Luna’s side. “Yes,” she said, her voice quavering slightly. “I think so. I mean, better than I was before, anyway.” Her face flushed slightly. “I’m...I’m sorry about...that,” she said, gesturing vaguely to Luna’s tear-stained shoulder.

Luna chuckled softly. “Don’t worry about it, Twilight.” Her horn glowed faintly for a moment, and the patch dried in an instant. “I’m simply glad you felt comfortable enough here to allow yourself to cry like that. I know you’ve been wanting to for some time, but you know as well as we do that your pride would not have let you show any of your friends how much you were hurting.”

Twilight sighed. “No...I mean, they all had their own problems to deal with. I didn’t want to add to that any more than I had to. After all, how bad could it possibly be to simply live, when everypony else has to cope with dying? I couldn’t do that to them.”

“Actually,” Luna said, the faintest hint of sadness visible at the edges of her expression, “it turns out that living is often a great deal harder than dying, as I believe you have seen.”

“How?” Twilight said, unconvinced. “How could death be the less difficult ordeal?”

“The greatest pain anypony can feel is losing someone dear to them. Those of us who live for eternity will experience that pain thousands upon thousands of times in our immortality. Those who eventually pass need only suffer that pain a few times, maybe as many as a score, if they are truly blessed with a multitude of great friends, and even they may not need to suffer terribly, if they pass on before their friends do.”

“Like Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said, almost involuntarily.

“Yes, like your friend Pinkie Pie. She was the first of your friends to depart, wasn’t she?” Twilight nodded. “How fortunate for her, that she did not have to suffer the gnawing ache of a lost loved one, wouldn’t you agree?”

Twilight smiled very faintly. “Yeah...Pinkie was always pretty emotional. I guess it’s better that she didn’t have to attend any funerals...although she’s probably upset she had to miss her own” The purple unicorn grinned in spite of herself. “I’m sure it would have been one heck of a party.”

Luna chuckled. “No doubt.” Several moments of contemplative silence passed, and Twilight was surprised and pleased to find that her crying episode seemed to have eased a lot of tension and nebulous sorrow she hadn’t realized she’d been carrying. Luna’s counseling had also assuaged the guilt Twilight had been ashamed to admit she felt for feeling sorry for herself. It didn’t seem fair to curse her apparent immortality while her friends were aging and dying around her. She had always assumed that they were worse off than she, and it had upset her deeply to realize she felt sorry for herself. Somehow it just didn’t seem right. Now, though, with Luna’s explanation, Twilight realized that there was no shame in her feelings.

The whole room seemed warmer now. The fire’s flicker seemed brighter, more cheerful. The sofa was a little softer, and even the two alicorns lounging around the hearth seemed closer, more relaxed. Twilight felt herself easing into a more informal state of mind as she realized that like her, the princesses must have felt the pain of losing close friends a hundred times more than she, and if anypony could understand her suffering, they could. She found herself suddenly eager to hear more about the princesses, their life, and their unique origins. “So how long did it take to clean up after the Draconequi?”

“Years,” Celestia said, sighing lightly at the memory. “We managed to make our lands livable again fairly quickly, but it took much longer to bring everything to the level of predictability and stability we now enjoy. In truth, I wish there was some way to allow even a small amount of caprice in our lives, just to alleviate the stagnation that such a strictly controlled world causes, but any time we’ve attempted to do that in the past, there have been terrible consequences. Eventually we decided it was better to live a predictable, if boring existence than an exciting, but frequently dangerous one.”

This comment caught Twilight slightly off-guard. She had never imagined the princesses who had originally brought Equestria to its current state of stasis could possibly want to undo it for the sake of excitement. Like most ponies, Twilight had always assumed Princess Celestia preferred the stability in her domain, if only to make ruling it easier. Admittedly, while Twilight enjoyed the occasional adventure outside of the peaceful monotony of Equestrian territory, she found coming home to be all the sweeter for the knowledge that everything would be exactly as she left it. Very few ponies ever left home to try and strike out on their own in Free Lands, and the few that did usually came back within days, cursing their decision and all too eager to put it behind them.

“So with the chaos of the earth under control, there was only one more aspect of life in Equestria that needed our attention, and that was the heavens. The sun and moon still insisted on rising and setting at random, and the stars would wantonly rearrange themselves every night. Luna and I eventually realized that it would be up to us to control these immensely large, stubborn, powerful elements of the universe. The decision of who would control what was actually very easy. I had always had a fondness for the sun, especially the first rays of the morning light peeking over the horizon.”

“I, on the other hoof,” Luna picked up and continued, “preferred the night, the soft glow of the moon, the beauty and majesty of the star-studded midnight sky.” She smiled. “And I still do, of course.”

Twilight knew which of these she preferred, but she did not say, for fear of offending one alicorn or the other. “Was it easy to do?”

“Not at first,” Celestia said. “The sun is a very powerful, very noble creation. It is stubborn and not easily coerced. It took several days of dedicated work to make it rise when I wanted it to, and several more to keep it from rising before I was ready. Eventually, I managed to bring it fully under control, and the first day I raised and set the sun in exactly the time and place I wanted, my cutie mark appeared.” She glanced down at the ornate yellow mark on her flank and smiled.

“It took me a few weeks longer,” Luna said. “The moon is not as wild or powerful as the sun. She is gentle, timid, and difficult to dragoon. Excessive force can cause catastrophic damage, something my sister learned during the first several days of my banishment,” she smirked sideways as Celestia, who blushed faintly. “However, I did eventually manage to coax her into a slow, steady progress across the night sky, after which I merely had to expend a small amount of magic to set the stars in place. Fortunately, Discord’s magic was not strong enough to effect permanent change in them. Like my sister, when I manged to pass a single night without incident, I too earned my cutie mark.”