• Published 29th Jul 2013
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Conversations with Eternity - Sunchaser



Prodded by whimsical intuition, Princess Luna finds herself walking the nostalgic streets of the desert city Gallopfree, and conferring with its enigmatic Steward of Eternity.

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Under the Desert Moon

Conversations with Eternity
By Sunchaser

Princess Luna glided along the dry sirocco currents, a fine dusting of powdered sand turning her indigo coat just a touch gray under the glow of her moon, as she alighted upon the stone terraces of Gallopfree.

Nostalgic.

Of all possible words, this was the one that came to her, and easily at that. It was not quite the feeling she expected; she had expected to feel rueful, or discomfited, or even defiant, as she set her hooves down upon the carved sandstone edifice of Gallopfree—home to one of the few beings in all the world older than she.

Yet, perhaps just to spite her, nostalgic is what she felt; for she had not set hoof down upon these lands in an age. Actually, in three ages, if one was to be specific.

She wasn't even sure why she had set hoof down in this ancient city. Furthermore, on reflection, she couldn’t even say why her wings had turned from their customary Canterlot overflight in the first place—dipping into the warm western trade winds only to bear her here, so very far beyond the borders of fair Equestria. Though it was a simple enough matter for her to make such a flight, being an Eternal, she was now two weeks from Canterlot as the pegasus flew, and with little idea as to why.

What she did have was that nagging feeling in the back of her mind—the one she'd noticed accompanied her now, ever since Everfree—and what little sense it decided to make told her that in this moment, she was supposed to be here.

To what end, well, need to know, and evidently she didn't.

Because isn’t that exactly what I need right now? Winging off to the Eternal Land, and nary a whit as to why.

But here she was, and if her perfidious wings had brought her here, she at least had a pretty good idea as to where they meant for her hooves to go in turn. With a sigh, she set those hooves in motion, ambling along the stone arches and casting her gaze about the city.

She found it not so well beloved, under the pallid light of her desert moon.

Her mind labored to reconcile the dull, featureless expanse of carved stone city that greeted her eyes with the verdant colors of her memory, the Gallopfree before her now with the one she had walked the streets of so long ago. That great cosmopolis, with its wide tiled avenues lined with artistic sandstone-engraved architecture great and small; its winding sidestreets beneath a rainbow of silk and linen sunshades, breaking to open sky above little hidden squares enclosed by carved reliefs, soothing with their calm waters in fountains framed by milk quartz and aventurine; the flickering of torchflame and the rich sunset sky playing light off the ornament gemstones scattered all about the city, twinkling citrines and chalcedonies and amethyst grandeur...

But all she could see was the cold stone—dry, drab, and gray under the straining moonlight.

Have I simply been gone too long?

Perhaps it was so. Perhaps to her eyes, so long adjusted to the rich forests and green grasses of Equestria, the pale desert was just too desolate. Perhaps her hooves, so used to the pristine polished marble in the gilded towers of Canterlot, were unaccustomed to the roughness of the sandstone on which she now walked.

For, so long as it had been, Luna knew better than to think the eternal city had waned with the march of time. Indeed, the elevated stone pathway upon which her silver-shod hooves fell was as faultless as the day in which it had been carved and raised, the wear of windy centuries and cracks of earth shifted between ages whisked away. For Gallopfree was the City of Time, and thus unto the city it had ever been conspicuously less implacable in its assault.

This was not to say that it did not change. New streets would be laid out, new homes and shops and open-air theatres raised as the years marched on and the peoples of the city shifted and increased. This was clear to Luna with a simple glance around herself, noting how little of the city she recognized. To her immediate right, where once had been a market square was now a quiet circle of homes, a communal ring around a central court, the sort that Zebras tended to favor. To her left, a few hundred meters distant, an entirely new district stood where she remembered naught but the city wall and sands beyond; a few lights burned in windows there, and the wind carried to her ears a hoofful of words that sounded Antholosian; a cheerful, lilting language she'd not heard since the bygone days before the Long Night.

A smile touched her lips as she walked on, a few more distant words carried on the evening breeze catching her ears again, and her head turned as she thought.

Not simply Antholosian, but perhaps northern dialect?

A thought in the back of Luna's mind insistently poked at her consciousness, and so she raised her head and ears high into the evening air, letting let her eyes fall closed...

And the City of Time came alive.

The pallid light of her moon did not favor it, but the playful sirocco carried to her ears the truth, in the many voices that spoke and whispered even at so late an hour as it was. Tribal songs and poetry from the savannahs of Zebrica; chittering, animated conversations in Anthalosian, as much laughter as traded words; serene Ziraphi and its considerations of lofty philosophy, likely over games of chess; even a few unexpected words of hushed Cervidan, the ancient forest tongue somehow still sounding at home among the rock and sand.

Perhaps I have been gone too long, Luna thought quietly, as she returned to herself, and set her hooves moving again, turning the next corner on her way to the city center.

Only to then be suddenly seized by the most powerful of memories, as she realized that this stone walkway that she'd just set hoof upon...

This walkway was one that she had walked before.

It was little different from any other, aside the tiled central path giving to a wider overlook that opened onto a fountain square. Rather it was the significance of the place that mattered, and as she descended into memory, Luna wondered just how she'd managed not to notice she was stepping into the middle of perhaps the single spot in the world that had most clearly shaped her fate.

~~~~~

"Leeeeeeeneeeeeeeee!"

The voice cracked, just a little, on the second syllable, as it tended to do when she was excited. Really, one would have been shocked speechless to see who it belonged to.

"Solara," she responded measuredly, as the regal Alicorn of the Sun finished frantically scampering up the steps to the overlook.

"Have...have you...heard...?" Solara rasped out, having obviously spent the whole trip from the Hall of Eternity at full gallop.

"Yes. I heard," Selene replied calmly, to which Solara, between gasping breaths, perked a curious brow.

"You...you don't seem..." She paused, taking a few deep, measured breaths to settle her voice. "Are you sure? You don't seem very excited, and what I was just told seems pretty exciting."

"The Equestrian Triumviri have invited us to Everfree, to formally honor us for our defeat of the tyrant Discord, saving their nation, so on, so forth."

Solara frowned, peering at her fellow alicorn questioningly.

" 'So on' and 'so forth'? They want to crown us as diarchs of the realm! Entrust us to lead the nation into a new age!"

"There is also that, yes."

Solara sighed, shaking her head.

"I don't understand how you're not excited about this. We're being recognized for all our hard work and sacrifice, given an opportunity to make a real, visible difference in the world. Eternity's sake, Selene, we get to be princesses!"

The younger alicorn turned her head then, regarding the elder.

"And what if I don't want to be a princess?"

Solara blinked, tilting her head curiously.

"Who wouldn't want to be a princess?"

Selene perked a brow at the question, soon breaking out into quiet laughter.

"Oh, Solara, sometimes...don't ever lose that wonder of yours."

The elder alicorn glared, but only managed to hold it for a moment before faltering into a sigh, and draping her forelegs over the walkway wall.

"I don't rightly intend to. And well that I shouldn't, if you're going to be so solemn all the time. You're thinking about the shady machinations behind all this, I expect?"

Selene smiled grimly, and nodded.

"It's all just politics, Lara. Equestria used to command the sun and moon, until Discord took them away. We, in turn, have claimed them from him, and so now the Triumviri moves to take them back. Yes, we did save them from a dark time, and I'm sure that plenty of ponies want to honor us for that, but that isn't the true objective. It's just the means; the convenient excuse they're using to reclaim the power they lost."

Solara looked to the younger alicorn, frowning.

"That's an awfully bleak outlook, Lene. Must you always assume the worst intentions?"

"Given how these self-same ponies have shamelessly emerged from the ruins of Discord-ravaged lands to reclaim their positions, after so many others fought and died while they were hiding away? Yes. I must always assume the worst."

Solara started to respond, only to remain silent as she realized that there wasn't all that much room for debate.

"Just consider the outcome," Selene continued candidly. "The Triumvirate crowns us. We get to be princesses of Equestria, popular figureheads of political leadership. For their part, however, the Triumviri secure internal national stability and discourage external threat through acquisition of the twin alicorns who vanquished Discord, and lay hooves not only on the celestial bodies that they lost, but also on the Elements of Harmony, through the two fresh, naive Eternals who wield them."

Solara pondered for a moment, and sighed.

"You mean to say that those crowns would in truth be shackles; that we would become obligated to secure Equestria as the premier nation of the world."

"Would we not be compelled to such ends? As rulers, we would necessarily have to prize the well being of our populace. And we hold the power to destroy any adversary who would threaten them. Solara, we're Eternals now—our very presence bends the currents of fate. If we take a side, that side will claim victory by divine fiat."

"And we certainly couldn't just refuse to intervene," Solara noted, shaking her head. "As usual, you raise a frustratingly good point. I don't suppose you have an accompanying way around it?"

Selene shook her head, staring out over the sandstone rooftops at the fading sun.

"The extent of our powers is widely known, with the spreading of Discord's well-detailed defeat. The best option I've come up with is taking up their invitation, smiling and bowing and generally accepting thanks and accolades, but turning down their offer of coronation. Declining their gambit."

Solara considered, nodding as it played through her head.

"So since the board is tilted by our mere presence, you would refuse to play. That is certainly a wiser option than acceding to their intentions."

"I'm sorry to have doused your hopes," Selene said as she turned to the elder alicorn, smiling apologetically. "You did look so happy at the idea of being a princess."

Solara smiled in return, shrugging off her—

"...Being a princess," she said quietly, brow furrowed in thought, before her lips curled into the most mischievous smile. "Selene, you're brilliant."

"I am?" The younger alicorn asked, curious.

"You are. You've illuminated our third option."

"And...that would be what, exactly?"

Solara excitedly tapped her forehooves together, her face consumed with a gleeful grin.

"The problem lay in that the game can't be played on even terms. As you've said, our very presence tilts the board. And we can't handicap ourselves, as our powers are known. Ostensibly, this leaves our only options to be accession to the Triumvirate's gambit, or refusal to play at all. But we have a third option, Selene; we can change the game."

The younger alicorn's eyes went wide.

"You mean to suggest—could it be that easy?"

Solara laughed, and promptly nodded.

"They want to put us in gilded chains for their own ends? I say, let them crown us—we'll take the nation from them. They will make us their princesses, and much to their chagrin, we will become their princesses!"

~~~~~

It took a somewhat indeterminate amount of time to reach her destination, but such was the way of it.

One arrived at the Well of Eternity in exactly as much time as one needed to prepare for that arrival. Of course, whether one agreed with that level of preparedness was often an entirely different matter.

In Luna's case, being an Eternal meant she got to cheat, as she could objectively measure time by referencing the orbital track of her moon. Thereby, it had taken her a little over twelve minutes to arrive here at the east entrance to the Hall of Eternity.

Those twelve minutes had seemed to her like close to an hour, however, and she wondered just what it was she needed so long to prepare for.

It would certainly help to know why exactly I felt the need to come here in the first place.

But she didn't, other than a vague sense of rightness of place now that she was here. And so, if with a mild annoyance tickling the back of her consciousness, into the Hall she went, and brought her hooves still when she could see her reflection in the Well.

It was a strange thing to mortal reckoning. It was a shallow pool, set into carved stone, the sides encased by artistic etchings of subtle, simple designs, alternately stark geometry and free-flowing organic lines. The water, if one were to step into it, was scarcely more than knee-high; the pool itself was floored in sandstone mosaic, the plain grid tile pattern easily seen beneath the completely and stably contained water.

Yet absent any source of current or appreciable wind, the pool maintained a quiet flow—a light rippling that never quite settled to the stillness it arguably should have. And though there was, perhaps, enough water to fill three or four baths, in the middle of the desert, it never dried up. For that matter, there were plenty of stories of those who had drunk from the Well, or of water being drawn from it for one reason or another, but never did it empty.

This, of course, made perfect sense for a magical, enchanted spring. The problem with that was that any mage would tell you that the Well of Eternity didn't feel one bit magical; in fact never has, through the sum length of its existence.

Luna, as one may understand, could vouch for this fact with more authority than most.

She recalled having wondered, over a dozen centuries past, as to whether the Well was simply inclined to being mischievous, and thus was magical precisely in that it wasn't. And really, that was as good an explanation as any.

Because aside the curious lack of a perceptible magical aura that ought to reach for miles, even the most casual, uninitiated onlooker could tell you that yes, it was a magical well.

In point of fact, this was precisely because all one had to do was look into it.

Her reflection had surprised Luna at first, until she had remembered the why of it. Her eyes, her face, the color of her mane, even her simple size were not as they should have been. This was because the Well, for all its water, did not reflect the one looking in from outside, but rather the one within them.

The reflection looking back at Luna was a filly; bright eyes filled with wonder, a mussed mane of tangled cobalt blue, and a smile so wide that it hurt to look at.

Which is why she looked away.

"Hello, Selene."

Luna caught herself actually looking around for the voice, and chastised herself for the lapse in discipline.

The Steward of the Well was not a literal creature; at least, not physically, like even she and her sister were. The Steward, so far as she understood—and that was far less fully than she would have preferred—was the Well.

"It's Luna now, Steward," she spoke to the empty chamber, centering herself to face the unknown situation. "I laid aside my birth name fourteen hundred years ago now."

"Not only 'Luna', as I've heard," the voice responded colorlessly.

It was a strange thing, as was essentially the rule. One heard the voice, but there was no tone; one felt the emotions behind it, but there were no inflections. It simply was, like the Well itself.

It irked her, not least because the Steward had needed all of six words to drag a millennium of fault into the room.

"So is that why I'm here?" Luna asked, suddenly angry. "For you to pass your grand judgement on my failings from your distant precipice on high?"

"Eternity laid its weight upon you, Selene, and you broke beneath it. By the grace of your sister and some auspicious mortal agency, you were recently reprieved. My 'grand judgement from on high' doesn't fit in, so if that's what drew you here after near one and a half thousand years away, there you have it, and off you go."

She gritted her teeth, stomping an annoyed hoof on the etched sandstone. It wasn't fair. Her greatest crime, the horror, the failure that exemplified her life, and the miracle that saved her, reduced to a casual anecdote.

But still, that nagging feeling in the back of her mind said she wasn't done here.

And then she felt the Steward smile knowingly.

"A little maddening, isn't it?"

"Yes! Immensely!" Luna cried sharply, flaring her wings and stomping both forehooves down angrily, pounding fiercely against the ancient stone again, and again, as she drew sharp, hot breaths of dry sandy air, blinking her eyes against unexpected tears.

The Hall rang with the echoes of her anger for a long moment before falling quiet, as Princess Luna silently wept at the edge of Eternity.

~~~~~

The moon told her it that had been two and a half minutes, but to Luna it had felt like hours before she'd finally stopped crying.

"Feel a little better?" the Steward whispered softly to her ear, and she felt a blanket settle over her shoulders, warding her from the cold air of the desert night.

"So it's my reflection that rings true, after all," Luna said, voice weighted with remorse. "I am still a child. I stand in the oldest hall in all the world, and I have a tantrum, beating my hooves against stone carved by artisans who were old when I was born."

"...Perhaps," the Steward said warmly, "but that's not what I asked."

Again, it was strange; like it always was. It was just a voice; not even that, technically, so much as just the idea of spoken words.

But you could still hear the smile.

"...Yes. I feel better now, when I should feel horrible for being so childish."

"Should you?" the Steward asked, and as she gazed down into the waters, Luna felt as though someone were sitting next to her, gently stroking her mane. "I don't know about that, Selene. Sometimes, even the oldest, wisest, most patient of us just want to yell, and scream, and stomp around and break something."

"Did I...?" Luna said worriedly, quickly drawing up her head to inspect the stone she had so viciously assaulted with her hooves—

"Of course not," the Steward assured her warmly. "I'd hardly go and get you angry only to saddle you with guilt afterward."

"What do you mean, get me angry—"

The princess blinked a few times.

"...Of course. I forget who I'm dealing with," she said with a sigh, but smiling despite. "Was it really so evident?"

"It's always easier to see the things we're familiar with ourselves."

She perked a brow, eying the Well curiously.

"You mean to tell me that you get angry and stomp about?"

The Steward chuckled, and Luna got a palpable sense of suspicious glancing, and leaning in for secrecy.

"My dear Selene, you have no idea. Why, the number of times I've been frustrated to petty violence in my tenure...well, actually, I don't believe the number properly exists in current Equestrian. May not for another few centuries."

Cheerful laughter rang against the stone of the Hall, airy and light, and Luna belatedly realized it was her own.

"...Still," she said, once her voice was her own again, "I do feel more than a little foalish. Throwing a tantrum, really. My sister would not have been so petty."

"Is that so? Then I imagine you would be surprised to know that if Solara peeked in here, her reflection would be a sprightly young rose-maned thing?"

Luna smiled. "That's kind of you to say, but I can face the truth of my failings, you know. That is...I can now."

"Oh, I know. Still, when next you have a moment, you should ask about her exigent circumstances teacup collection. Assuming there are any left."

Actually, now that Luna thought about it, there is that one cupboard in her study—

"But that's not why you're here, is it."

"...No," the princess eventually said, her voice now calm and composed. "No, I suppose it isn't."

The Steward shifted, and Luna very clearly felt she had its complete attention.

"So, Selene. Why are you here?"

"...I had a question, I think," she said, as that feeling in the back of her mind formed into words, now that she was strong enough to speak them.

"Am I broken?"

"Yes, you are."

Luna couldn't help but laugh in the face of it.

"Not even the slightest hesitation? My, I must be worse off than I thought."

"That's one way to look at it," the Steward offered, "but I prefer to think of it as having that much more potential to work with."

"Potential?" Luna repeated, incredulous. "Just how is there in any potential in my apparently having even less time than I thought before I go mad again?"

"Oh, Selene, such pessimism. You're looking at it entirely the wrong way," the Steward playfully chastised.

"Am I now? How else might I view it?"

"The same way that the Elements of Harmony did a few years ago: as an opportunity."

Luna blinked as she pondered a very unexpected line of thought.

"The Elements...? I'm afraid you're going to have to walk me through that idea."

"It's a rare enough thing, so that's not unexpected," the Steward responded knowingly. "Let's begin with a summation, shall we?"

"As you like," Luna said plainly. "I've some time on my hooves just now, at least."

"Quite a bit, actually, if you care to note," the Steward said cheerfully.

Perking a brow, Luna indulged a sudden temptation to reference the progression of the moon—

"You...you stopped time?"

"Only here in the Hall. Steward's prerogative, you know."

She felt the mirthful chuckling, more than heard it.

"Honestly. Incorrigible," she mused, shaking her head disapprovingly.

"Now, there you go, Selene. Hang onto that playful derision; it's rather suited to our topic."

Words of skeptical dispute sprang to mind, but Luna quashed them in favor of a more measured, insightful response.

"Meaning that the breaking of an Eternal is a matter best addressed from an innocent perspective?"

"Quite so! Particularly when said broken Eternal is oneself."

Luna felt the strangest urge to laugh at that; so she did, then settling into a smile.

"Well then; you were to review my setting?"

"Just in brief, so as to frame my point," the Steward replied simply. "Now then. Your descent began a hundred and fifteen years prior to your setting; in a relatively mundane event unto itself, as these things tend to do. Specifically, the celebration for the third centennial anniversary of the establishment of the Equestrian diarchy."

"Ah, yes," Luna said quietly, as the memory came to her. "When I first truly noticed that 'our' subjects kept putting Celestia before me in ritual announcements. She assured me it was simply a matter of ceremony, of her being the elder between us, little difference as there was by then."

"Something the two of you had discussed before," the Steward noted. "The difference being that this was the first time you doubted it. That little wavering in faith and trust, so innocent on its own, opened the way for other doubts to follow. And that was the way of it for the following sixty two years, until the Summer Solstice of Year 377 of the New Equestrian Calendar."

"That would have been when those particularly thoughtless nobles forgot to formally invite me to the ceremonial rite, yes?"

"That's the one. Your sister explained their mistake, even brought them before you to apologize themselves, but you refused to believe it was so innocent."

"I was convinced it was an open slight against me," Luna added, sighing quietly. "That they had intentionally excluded me from my sister's rite."

"That would be when all the little doubts brought their combined weight to bear," the Steward continued, "and so that one direct event, which should have been little more than a bureaucratic embarrassment, led the Lunar Princess to shut herself away, withdrawing from open Equestrian society. And to be blunt, Selene, regardless of my knowledge of the following events, from that point on it became a matter of when."

"Did I do well, perhaps," Luna asked pensively, "in lasting another fifty years?"

The princess was surprised, just then, to feel such warmth wash over her.

"Actually, Selene, yes. Had I not seen it myself, I would hesitate to say a waning Eternal could ever last so long as you did."

Luna smiled, dipping a tentative hoof into the Well, slowly stirring it back and forth in the cool water. "In no small part due to my sister's noble efforts."

"Solara's refusal to give up on you helped, yes, but you too easily disregard your own strength," the Steward chided. "It's all too easy to fixate on what we did wrong for so long a time, only to miss the virtue found in having held on for so long as to have done it."

That brought Luna's eyes up, and she was silent for a long moment as it sunk in.

"I...must admit, I had never considered it that way."

"Most don't," the Steward replied, a touch of sorrow filling the air. "Blinded by failure and self-condemnation, they commit themselves to bleak acceptance, never seeing the good to be found even in such things as that."

"If I might selfishly inquire," Luna asked timidly, "what sort of good?"

"I expect that you would have held on for at least another five to seven years, Selene," the Steward said quietly, "if not for the machinations of the Nightmare speeding along your setting for its own ends. Though even that had its benefits."

"In that I was claimed by a malicious intelligence bent on seizing Equestria," Luna inferred, "as opposed to simply going mad and trying to destroy it."

"Just so," the Steward replied, smiling again by the feel of it. "Which in turn allowed Solara time to form a strategy that would allow her to preserve you, instead of being forced to immediately destroy you, as is more typical for fallen Eternals."

"Losing the ability to wield the Elements in the process," Luna countered.

"By temporarily sealing you instead of permanently destroying you, Solara technically violated established divine edict in a few egregiously flagrant ways. However, and pardon my Prench, it's a cold day in Tartarus before I let such backwards, antiquated horseapples bear on my Eternals. That aside, with the Elements of Harmony being independently self-regulating magic, there was nothing I could do about them."

"Wait a moment," Luna said, taking in what she'd just heard. "Tia broke divine law for me? And then you intervened for her?"

"Of course she did, and of course I did," the Steward replied flatly. "How could we not?"

Luna shrank down a little as she felt very clearly that she was being looked at rather reproachfully for having doubted such things.

"I...the thought of such things never occurred to me, I suppose," she admitted, her ears flopping dolefully down aside her face.

"Oh, stop pouting, Selene. You're far too good at it."

Luna sighed, her eyes focused on the hoof she was dangling into the water, and the gentle ripples it brought to the surface.

"You were talking about the good found in things?"

"I was, yes. And those events are not unrelated to the topic."

"And what good managed to come from Tia nearly bringing divine wrath down upon herself, but for your intervention?"

Luna was just then overwhelmed with the most powerful feeling of hopeful compassion, only noticing when drops fell into the Well that she was suddenly crying.

"You, Selene."

She quickly rose to her hooves, casting the warming blanket from herself as she hastily wiped the tears from her cheeks, and shook her head fervently.

"Stop that. Stop it! I don't deserve such sympathy," she cried, trying vainly to hold back her insistent tears.

"The hell you don't," the Steward nearly shouted; Luna felt the forelegs she hid herself behind pulled away, and found herself struck silent in awe.

The Steward stood before her, holding her shaking hooves, looking into her eyes with a blazing and furious compassion that took her in, enveloping her in kindness and strength and the resolve to endure the passing of worlds and stars.

"You broke, and you fell, and yet Solara flouted divine edict to protect you. You were claimed by Nightmare, inflicting terrible horrors upon your homeland, and yet the Elements pardoned you. And now you come before me here, resigned to a dismal fate, and I tell you: you are precious, Selene. The most wonderful and spectacular of all the facets in all creation, and I too shall never forsake you."

Luna stared into the eyes of Eternity, and she cried so freely that her own grew blurry for the tears.

"But why? Why do you care so much for someone so wretched?"

The Steward just smiled.

"Why do we break, Selene?"

"Because—" She choked on her words, her tears brimming on the edge of a storm of grief and sorrow. "Because we're not strong enough."

The Steward shook its head, brushing the tears from her eyes.

"No, Selene. We break so that we can put ourselves back together better."

She could bear it no longer, and so the Alicorn of the Moon collapsed into the Steward's waiting embrace, and cried for a thousand lost years.

~~~~~

All told it had amounted to about twenty minutes, according to the progress of the moon, but to Luna it had been hours. This time, she was inclined to believe her own intuition.

"So I can put myself together better, is it," she mused quietly, as she stared out the western archway at the unfamiliar stars.

"Yes, Selene. You may have broken back then, but Solara's strategy to preserve and restore you with the Elements was not ill considered. As you have realized, you are not immune to a second descent—but you are also not predestined to one."

"A second chance, then," she suggested.

"You have the knowledge to turn your former weaknesses to strengths. The insight to forestall a second setting. And most importantly, you have those who care for you, and will stand beside you, if you should need."

"Helped in no small way by the very fact that I did fall," Luna said in calm reflection. "I have ventured that abyss, and while by grace of others I may have survived, such petty things as foalish pride have not fared so well."

She felt the Steward smile.

"But courage and resolve remain; and well that they do, for you will need them in coming days."

Luna turned back to face the Well, a brow arched curiously.

"Something tells me you aren't speaking only of my inner struggle in that."

"Indeed I am not, Selene. I cannot impart to you the detailed nature of it, but I tell you: a storm is coming, and Equestria shall not be left unscathed. Not long from now, a time will arise when you will have to make a choice."

"What manner of choice, if I may inquire?"

"Into the garden a serpent shall come," the Steward decreed. "A lance shall need be taken up against it. You shall have to choose then, child: whether you shall remain Selene, the Silver Maiden, daughter of Gallopfree; or become Luna, the Midnight Watcher, the Shadow Huntress—Princess of Equestria."

"...I see," Luna replied softly, taking in the declaration of Eternity. "I shall be mindful of your counsel, noble Steward. My fondest hopes for Gallopfree, until we should meet again."

"The future remains in motion, Selene," the Steward replied, with a hint of sorrow. "But thank you, and take my own with you in turn."

She dipped her head low in respect, and turned to the eastern archway, spreading her wings wide and springing into the air, off back toward Canterlot.

The Hall of Eternity fell silent with her departure, and she was soon well on her way, vanishing beyond sight over the distant horizon.

I pray you persevere, noble Luna, through coming trials.

And...I'm so, so sorry about Celestia.

Comments ( 30 )

Last line kind of ruins it for me.

"Hey, it's okay, you get a second chance, the future will be better. Also, your sister dies."

2957893 Who says she dies? Something will happen to her in the future (probably; the future is in motion, and nothing's guaranteed until stories release), something that Luna will probably rather not like, but it's certainly not something so cut and dried as just that.

2957934

It's where the mind immediately goes, though. Oh well.

Looking forward to the next installment. That last line is a well-done cliffhanger, after all.

Are we going to see more expansion on Eternals and their structure? Seems like Luna and Celestia are organized under the Steward, but there are others like the Steward and perhaps even higher powers?

Brilliant tie-in with 'Destiny' there at the beginning, though now I'm struggling to figure out how the two are connected.

2958029 Huh, interesting; I've not partaken of such books. Granted the idea of the mystical city beyond time isn't exactly new. The Steward of Eternity, however, is not a god; though all of that will be more properly covered later. :twilightsmile:

2958165 Oh yes. Twilight is going to get her chat, after all, and that means infodump!

To be perfectly honest, I found it a bit dull. Still the same high quality I expect from you, but not my cup of tea.

I must admit that some of the dialogue... I don't know... in danger of becoming faux profound. Writing good profound is profoundly hard, basically by definition. But towards the end it started working. "No, Selene. We break so that we can put ourselves back together better." That. That hit home.

I wonder where you're going with this, and if there is a big, multi-parter on the horizon? Immortal Game scope? I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation.

2958351 ...Maaaaaaybe. >.> <.<;;

2958376 It's not so different, actually. But there won't be any Burning Legion or other such extradimensional horrors climbing out of the Well in Gallopfree--the Steward exists to prevent just such things.

It's not so different, actually. But there won't be any Burning Legion or other such extradimensional horrors climbing out of the Well in Gallopfree--the Steward exists to prevent just such things.

And I had just gotten my hopes up, too...

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Yeah, this reads a lot like typical prologue (especially those in the epic fantasy genres). Namely it explains very little and promises a lot. Maybe we're going to get a cycle of stories like Skywriter's Cadence of Cloudsdale cycle?

Luna is not the only one with the potential to fall ... and if Solara flaunted divine law to protect her sister, who is to say Selene would not do the same?

Actually, Selene probably wouldn't - it doesn't seem to be in her character. But Luna would.

That last line is both thrilling and scary... Thrilling cause it's a good indicator that more is coming. Scary cause it means that Celestia is gonna fall, or something of the like. Interesting story.

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I guess I want to see this as a prologue, because I want to see what happens next and where it goes. I mean, Sunnchaser called it the beginning of the "Sunnchaser Canon", but what could that mean?

2960369
It starts (in publishing order) with "How to Remove a Unicorn Tooth" and is split into several stories, each being a window into Skywriter's version of Cadence. Chronologically, the stories are being published out of order and often with big time skips in-between them. I suppose if you like lost chapters you could check them out.

Phew, finally got to finish this after starting it a few days ago!

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot, and it's gotten me very interested in your headcanon. I really liked the flashback to when Luna and Celestia were much younger; I especially enjoyed seeing how Celestia was quite different from her current, older self. The fact that the personalities of both sisters were different, as well as their names, gave me a good sense of just how old and unique the two are, and how much they've been through. They have a past that neither Twilight nor anyone else (canon wise) has any idea about, and it elevates them in their mystery and grandeur. It shows that their positions and long life have had a great affect on them.

I liked the Steward of the Well, too. He wasn't boring at all, as he could have been, and I like his interactions with Luna. At times he even came across as Jesus-like, with how I know him; how he comforted Luna, didn't judge her but accepted her, assured her of her worth (in general and to himself) and promised to never forsake her. I think though that the greatest attraction of this story for me was, of course, Luna. She was well rounded, and we got lots of emotion from her (always very important for me in a fic). Even though it centered mostly around an old topic, it didn't feel cliché. And I liked the idea that she--along with Celestia--is really more of a child on the inside than an adult. It certainly makes sense for her. I expected Celestia to be portrayed as an old tired out mare, like she usually is, but the fact you also portrayed her inner self as a child has me very interested in seeing it come out.

I hated that little foreshadowing at the end about Celestia--please! Don't kill her! I hate it when she dies. Though hopefully, you have something more original in mind, if only so I don't have to see her die. Though...there are fates worse than death :fluttershysad:

I feel I should admit the beginning didn't interest me too much; it's very hard to give out some straight up originally made stuff and get people interested or invested in it when writing fanfiction, I feel--at least, right off the bat, and especially when it's about locations. I mean, Gallopfree is a really cool name (and I mean that), as well as a very interesting and neat idea. It's different (it's in the desert) and I like it. I guess it's just that, while it was cool, I had no reason right at the beginning to care much about it. That, and it was a little confusing too; I kept thinking it was an ancient but deserted city, preserved through time by magic even though it was empty. It wasn't until you mentioned the fact it had inhabitants that I got the right picture. Overall, I didn't get interested until the flashback, and from that point the story held me.

The strange thing is, I can (now) tell that you were trying to give me a hook with Luna and her actions in the beginning: that for some unknown reason she had flown here, to a place she hadn't been since before she became nightmare moon. That certainly sounds interesting, especially with the "before she turned nightmare" bit, since it hints at dealing with Luna's character and past, but for some reason it didn't really work as a hook for me. I don't know why. It was a mystery, yes, but it didn't start grabbing me until I got to see her and Celestia in the flashback. Perhaps it's because that's when I could see the place definitely had a connection with her character--or rather, with a personality that had now changed, and getting to see what the sisters were like in the past is always very interesting, and so that's when the story began to grab me.

I think my lack of initial interest is also because despite how much description there was about how unique and interesting and mysterious Gallopfree was, it was missing the human element. That is, I think places are made more interesting (and we learn more about them) when we see how its people act and live, their behavior or interaction. A place is, I think, in large part defined by the people living there--what kind of people they are. And when we don't get any of that, it's just a location, and feels kinda dry and isn't too interesting. I could be wrong of course. I don't mean to keep going on about this, it's just that I don't want to point out a part of your story that didn't really work for me, and then leave you without any reason as to why. That's no help.

But overall, I really enjoyed exploring Luna's character and your own interpretation/version of her past. Since you're apparently planning the same sort of thing with Twilight and Celestia too, I equally look forward to getting to explore them as well, along with the Steward. Especially Celestia. Always Celestia :yay:

So yeah, good job man, and keep it up! I want more! I demand it!

Interesting backstory for the Princesses. That final line makes me a tad apprehensive, but only so much as to make me want to find out what happens.

That... is the first time a Fan-Fiction has actually made my heart ache. That last Line... That last line secured this stories place my my favourite Fan-Fiction ever! Above things like Past Sins, Little Wonders and Friends have benefits. DRAMATIC READING INCOMING! (Not sure my ability's can do this justice)

I was trying to put a voice to the Steward in my head. Then, suddenly...

I'm so, so sorry about Celestia.

That did it.

I just ran across this on my travels about the 'ternets, and thought of conversations.

That Last Line :) Also, nice world building :)

So, is there a sequel coming?
Also, I'm kind of confused about the 'alternate universe' tag. Nothing in it is directly contradicted by canon.

But still, the story was awesome.

Impressive piece. I do hope this becomes something more. That last line set my jimmies to rustling, and they will not be silenced.

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hey, i know its an old post but i just came across it and wanted to say thanks for showing me kintsokuroi. it really does add beauty.

Oh. Oh wow.

This is an amazing piece; off with it to the high upper range of my favourites.
Powerful writing, close to perfect in its technical aspects and its narrative flow.

Well, I'm a sucker for this kind of historical accounts and reflections set in vivid world building, but still.
Thanks for writing this.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I wonder why so many people take the last line as meaning Celestia is going to die. I thought it was fairly obvious that she's going to have a "setting" herself. <.<

Anyway, I find it odd that you invoke the name of Gallifrey here, and I'm very eh about the Nightmare thing, but this is a fantastic "fixing Luna" story, and the prose is marvelous. :D

This is... perfect. It's been a while since I've read anything on this site I can call perfect. I can't remember the last time.

My only thing is that I don't feel good about is the Steward's "comforting" idea that Luna should be proud of who long she held out before failing. That ideology is only comforting now because it claims Luna wasn't responsible for her actions, so it gives her an excuse to ignore her guilt, which isn't healthy, at least not for mortals like you or me. He's saying that her failure was completely inevitable and unavoidable once the "setting" process got started, and I don't really feel comfortable seeing that presented as sagely wisdom from such an ancient, respected character.

I'm not counting it as a flaw of the story, though, since for worldbuilding purposes, "Setting" could very well be inevitable for Eternals, either for inscrutable cosmic reasons or simply as a result of living so long. It's a very interesting idea. Actually, this whole story is full of interesting ideas. The unique setting for the backstory gave it a much different flavor than the decidedly European style most authors give ancient Equestria. It felt much more ancient because of that, so I can actually believe we're talking about thousands of years, time that brings worldwide change, not just a certain historical measurement in a timeless, unchanging fantasy land.

What do you mean, "So sorry about Celestia?!" I don't like that at all.

aww man thats omnious. Celestia for a thousand years

I come back to re-read this almost four years after the first time - and it's still just as amazing. This story has aged incredibly well and keeps its place in my top favourites of all time.

The Hall rang with the echoes of her anger for a long moment before falling quiet, as Princess Luna silently wept at the edge of Eternity.

So powerful. And many more moments like this scattered throughout your tale.

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