• Published 13th Mar 2012
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Inner Glory - Erindor


A utopian society cannot exist without the corpses of the revolutionaries.

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((Canon Chapter)) Chapter 67: Immortality
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The world below churned and frothed, steam and lava spewing like a boiling pot. The ground shook, and with a mighty, creaking crunch, the newly-formed rock ripped itself apart as the pressure underneath was relieved.

The shadowy observer cocked his head. He'd seen the formation of many worlds, but this one in particular intrigued him. The components were the same; superheated materials slowly collapsing on their own gravity, cooling and compacting as it formed the continents. This world was already special to him, in that it would eventually spawn life that he had no hand in creating, but not even that was unheard of. It was the culture that would form that was of greatest interest; it was one of utter cooperation and camaraderie. And somehow, despite the distinct lack of wars, it had developed magic theory, solely for the purpose of making life more enjoyable. Strange, the thought that creatures could work together, for the common good. So many cultures claimed that was their goal, but so few had reached it before their behaviors had finally snuffed out the small flame of their existence.

He'd seen enough. It was time to head to the beginning; to learn how this world really started. Was it truly just a coalition of particles, put together by happenstance? It did turn out that way, occasionally, but for every intelligent world with a natural birth, there seemed to be twelve more self-perpetuated by the heroes that grew upon it. And then there were the very few, where, for a moment, he thought he saw The Origin itself, but it without fail it disappeared before he could get a better look.

The flames of his eyes extinguished as they closed for a brief meditation. He had to get this right the first time; once observed, the past was set in stone. His soul orbs began to burn brightly, enough to pierce the shroud of his body. Countless years of arcane practice flickered in his mind, some his own, some belonging to those he preserved alongside his own soul. Like a faucet, the life energy began to flow, the orbs beginning to speed up their rotation. The very fabric of space was torn apart, the rift pouring out echoes of ages past and yet to come to any perceptive enough to listen. Thael's eyes opened once again, the flames sparking back into existence. He got up from his resting position, and took a step towards the newly formed rift.

Hello, Thael.

The voice entered Thael's mind without any forewarning, causing him to panic. He threw a blast of sheer energy flew towards the portal, causing the rift to tear even wider, revealing the speaker, who stepped forward casually. A mirror copy of the surprised, humanoid Metaspectre held out a hand of peace. Don't worry; it's just me, your near future.

Thael recovered from his shock, looking at the intruder with a combination of relief and concern. Why are you here, Destiny?

To stop you from making a mistake, Origin.

A mistake? I was only going to make a small jump to the past. We do this all the time.

Exactly my point. Thael, this is one past you don't want to skip to, not immediately.

Thael stepped forward, drawing close to his future self. What is so special about this world? Tell me, do I find it here?

You do.

Thael lowered his head, sighing into the vacuum of space. At long last, my search has come to an end.

No, not just yet. You still have to finish the journey. Make the last of it your best.

Thael cocked his head. Something doesn't add up, Destiny. If you're still here, then the end of my journey isn't what I thought it would be. Shouldn't I have moved on? Shouldn't I finally be with Mithra, either in consciousness or in oblivion?

Your wife will wait a little longer. We can't have you entering the Beyond unprepared, can we? After all this time?

Thael shook his head. No, I suppose not. I will understand your silence, if you choose to withhold your knowledge from me, Destiny, but you haven't yet answered my question. Why are you still here? What are you waiting for?

I'm waiting for the end, Thael.

The end? The end of what? Our life? Our journey?

The end of time, Thael.

The end of time. Thael paused to consider. The end of all people's time, or ours?

The end of time itself, Thael. Think, if you will, for but a moment. When we were young, we were bound, as many are, to the timeline we were placed in. When we grew, in both age and in power, we eventually freed ourselves of those bonds. For a while, mistakes had no meaning to us. If we slipped, we could simply undo the damage we had caused. But very quickly, we found that... The future-Thael paused, to allow the past-Thael a chance to speak.

We found that the mistakes are what make us who we are, and regardless of how we tried to run, either through lies, excuses, distance, or resets, those mistakes couldn't be escaped. Not because of the effects, but because of the lessons they taught.

Precisely.

To run from our failings does us no service. It only weakens us in the long run, making us less humble, less thoughtful, and less grateful.

And so, what did we do?

We embraced our weaknesses, not to preserve them, but to purge them. We ran with the mistakes we made, and eventually, despite growing stronger because of it, we found trouble greater than we thought we could handle.

The death of our race.

We fought it. We forgot our standards, and reversed time again and again in an effort to change what had to be done. This is when we learned another harsh truth.

That the problem, for once, wasn't us. It was them.

While we can spend all of our efforts attempting to better ourselves, at a certain point, we just have to accept that we can't force change upon others. We can hold them or their ideals hostage, we can bribe, we can plead, we can threaten, we can even say nothing, but if somebody is going to change, then they have to want to change themselves. The past-Thael stopped relaying his thoughts for a moment. Destiny, I've been over this a thousand times. Tell me, why bring it up now?

Because, Origin, you're about to realize something that you've missed. Continue.

Well, through mediation and self-reflection, we found very early on that we have an insatiable need to progress, to become as close to a perfect being as we could. But a bit further down the line, we found that the goal by itself wasn't enough. We didn't need a destination; we needed an answer. Why do we live? The question has stymied thought since its inception. The things that all civilizations cling to, such as wealth or power, mean nothing in the grave. Even to us as immortals; at some point you will find you have more power than you know what to do with, and then what good was your hoarding? I can, and have, created worlds and destroyed them in childlike catharsis. I have let them live. I have supported them so their lives are absolutely perfect and blissful. I have condemned others to lives of slavery and anger, to see them rise in rebellion against me. I have played a God, only to find I do not have the patience for it. As long as I am bound to this Reality, I am some other force's creation. I am not the master, but a servant, to an unseen and seemingly silent concept. Through the lives of those I have consumed, I have heard the voices, I have seen the visions, felt the feelings, the liberation, the certainty that my actions were lead by a higher force. Too often, I have been that higher force. I hear no voice but my own and those of the people whose lives I've kept. I see nothing but what's around these eyes that have seen too much. I feel nothing but that gnawing void waiting to be filled; that must be filled. I carry on, because the alternative would be an acceptance of a defeat deeper than any a man has suffered; the acceptance that we are an accident. That our pain, our joy, our struggles and our victories, are meaningless. Such a thing cannot be. I cannot accept it. I cannot end myself, I cannot finish my journey, nor my meddlings, my experiments and observations, until I have an answer to that question greatest of all; Why do we live?

The future-Thael nodded. Indeed. Why do we live? That's the question you'll finally find an answer to on this world. And by knowing why we live, you will finally be able to die, with peace in your heart.

I would very much like that. Tell me, if I'm not to go to the beginning of this world, where should I enter? I've already examined it for a few decades during the reign of one of its rulers; Princess Celestia, the citizens call her.

I'm certain you're aware of her student, Twilight Sparkle. It wasn't a question, really. The future-Thael could remember well enough past-Thael's thoughts.

Of course. Celestia seems to take particular interest in her.

I want you to study her. I think you'll find her much more interesting than the general populace.

Is she? She's not much more than a school-girl, I thought.

That's because you arrived just before her greatest moment of discovery. Before you left, she was about to be sent to a rather quaint town called Ponyville, to oversee the festival they were going to hold there.

Ah, the Summer Sun Celebration. Yes, I attended those in each of the other cities. What makes this one special?

It marks the return of Celestia's sister.

Past-Thael frowned. I had wondered when it was going to happen. The minds I consumed during my stay had little knowledge on her, and the books held seemingly less. And Twilight Sparkle's the catalyst for her release?

No, but she is the solution to the animosity between the two rulers. It'll start a new era for the nation as a whole, one most conducive to Twilight's development. She's the champion this world raises, and I think you'll find her likable as well.

Past-Thael nodded. Very well then. Should I return to the time I left from, then?

Future-Thael laughed, making the other's brow raise. His future self never laughed during their conversations. Ever.

No, the chuckling creature began, No, it's time you continued on your way. Go to the beginning of this world. I never intended to forbid you from doing so. You just need to go about it with the right mindset. He turned, pausing one last time. “Good luck, Thael.” With that, he disappeared, leaving the spoken words echoing in the pensive ancient's mind.

Thael, now alone, looked at the planet once more. He began to feel a little bit of hope, a feeling long lost and forgotten. He relished it, blocking out everything but the feeling that he'd been longing for, for so long. Hope, he whispered. How I've missed you. He made a portal of his own, stepping through it without hesitation. Lead the way, dear forgotten friend.

{- - -}

“Welcome, Thael.”

Thael blinked in surprise. Before him stood a being that was obviously some version of Twilight Sparkle or another. She had changed from when he had last seen her, he noted. She had wings, majestic and imposing, and yet, she had a brightness in her eyes that betrayed her truer, kind nature. She was looking over him like a mother, rather than a predator. Not entirely sure how to approach the situation, Thael bowed slowly, morphing from his humanoid form to the equine form he had assumed on Equestria.

Greetings. Miss Sparkle, if I'm not mistaken?

“Technically, Princess Sparkle, but I can't stand the pomp. Twilight will do.”

Very well.

Thael took the chance to sneak a peek at his surroundings. Just another point in space; nothing for light-years around, only the distant, blinking stars met his gaze. He had only jumped in time, not space, so it was rather apparent that the planet hadn't formed yet. Furthermore, it appeared that Twilight had found a way to adapt her body to the harsh conditions of the vacuum, which only furthered his suspicions that a lot had happened between the two Twilights he now was aware of. He looked back at her.

Tell me, Twilight, what are you doing here?

“I could ask the same of you.”

Unwilling to share too much, but hungry for answers, Thael nodded. You could. Well, I'll speak if you do. Would you like a better seat? Thael willed his altar from its resting place, several dimensions away, causing it to appear before them with a flash. He extended a hoof towards it, and Twilight politely took the invitation, stepping through the darkness towards it. They drew around the black, reflective surface, looking at each other over the effective table. Thael gave her a long, contemplative look before beginning to speak. Twilight, I'm afraid to admit that you have the advantage. Apparently, I'm to take part in a good deal of Equestria's history, which is news to me. You seem to know me, though I haven't made any meaningful relationships in countless years. All of this seems rather unlikely. Tell me, what makes you special?

Twilight grinned slightly. “Not much. I like to read books and take long walks in the park. I can cook dinner and perform chemistry at the same time, assuming nothing's distracting me. I exercise at least once a week, and try to watch what I eat, but I'm known to have a sweet-tooth. I laugh, I cry, hug, cheer, sing, sleep... just like anybody else. In all honesty, I'm not too special. Sure, I have an innate talent for magic, but that doesn't solve all of my problems. Without the support of my friends, I'd still be a stiff perfectionist I was, who, ironically, wasn't able to get anything done because 'it wasn't good enough'. The only thing that sets me apart from those around me is an incessant need to improve. Both myself and others. I can't sit still for too long.”

Thael nodded. Most champions share that trait. They often lack your humility, however. What changed you? No offense intended, but I've seen your past self, when you were personally tutored by Celestia. You were, as you said, a stiff perfectionist.

“The fastest answer is my friends. But beyond that, it was the realization that while being imperfect isn't a bad thing, it's not an excuse either. At first, I could only see the problems in those around me. Rainbow is sometimes overconfident, Applejack can be pigheaded, Pinkie can be oblivious, Rarity can be overbearing, Fluttershy can be imposing... everybody has their flaws. Even you.”

Do I now? Thael let out a telepathic snort of derision. Yes, I've had to live with them for far too long to not know, Twilight. And with all of my experience, I can confirm your observation. We are all flawed in some way or another. Often, our flaws define us more than our successes. So tell me, what is yours?

“I'm too judgmental.”

The two looked at each other for a moment, before Thael waved a hoof of ambivalence. Continue.

“Well, I used to spend so much time finding flaws in others that I often missed the good. When I first met my friends, all I could see was what I just listed. But as time went on, I found that those flaws could sometimes be strengths in the right situation, and more importantly, they were a constant opportunity to grow. For both myself and them.”

Interesting.

“So yes, I'm judgmental. But that doesn't have to be a weakness. I can transform it into a strength. This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned, Thael. I'm guessing you've probably thought this through before, but would you mind if I told you my findings?”

Oh, of course. Please do, as a matter of fact.

Twilight nodded. “Our flaws are to be embraced, but not upheld. It doesn't matter how long it takes to become a better person, as long as we are always making progress. There will be bumps along the way, as there always are, but we have to bounce back from them. It's okay to take breaks, to indulge ourselves in harmless fun, as long as we don't become slaves to apathy. It's okay to be down on ourselves as long as we aren't holding ourselves back. As long as we remember this, everything will be fine. Whether you're given eighty years or a million in this life, it's not where we end up, but how far we've come that matters. Sometimes we'll shoot ourselves in the hoof, sometimes we'll be stabbed in the back by those we once called our friends, and at some point in our life, we'll be all alone, with nobody but ourselves to pass the time, that precious time that we can't afford to waste. And in that moment, there are two things we can do, Thael. In that moment, we can either become the hero, or the villain. Inside of each villain is a disappointed idealist, and, guess what? There's one inside of each of the heroes too. But the critical difference between the two is one choice, the only thing we truly have when everything else has been stripped from us, either because of our own folly or because of the bitterness of others; the ability to forgive. Forgiveness is the thing that all intelligent creatures pine most deeply for. And yet, it's what they find most difficult to give, despite it being free, despite it being freeing. I heard it all the time growing up; 'Holding onto a grudge only hurts you. Vengeance is a poison, and drinking it never quenches your thirst before it kills you.' There's truth to this, but the reason these words of warning don't have enough of an impact is because they only focus on the selfish, negative side of forgiveness, when the whole point is how intrinsically good and selfless it is. Forgiveness hurts. It does. Trust me, I know. You don't become the Alicorn of Forgiveness without learning that. But it heals so much more than it hurts, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Thael, we have to forgive others. Not even for our sake, but for theirs. You choke out all hope of progress when you can't. You hold them back, even if only mentally, and that taints any future thought or conversation you have with them. That doesn't mean you have to become their best friend, nor does it mean you have to suddenly speak with them whenever you see them. But if you're avoiding them because of the past and not because of a hope for the future, you've already lost.

“And most importantly?” She held his gaze steadily, looking deep into his eyes, and Thael was suddenly aware that she could see past his bodily shroud of smoke and to his glowing soul directly. “Thael, we have to forgive ourselves. Because we're the only ones who can.”

She leaned over the altar, placing her hooves on top of it. “So, Thael, I'm ready to make a deal with you, under the conditions you present to all the others. Yes, I understand the conditions, you'll take my soul if I fail to uphold my end, all that. I don't care. Not because I know I can't lose, but because it will be worth it even if I do.”

What could you possibly want? You're already an effective God. All power is within your grasp, if you're willing to take the time. I must admit, I am confused, Twilight. For such a logical being, it makes no sense to ask something of me. You know what I've done.

“That's just it, Thael, I don't. You've been traveling for so long, I think you've forgotten what it means to be alive. So Thael, the knowledge I desire, that I'm willing to put my soul on the altar for is this: Who are you? All I ask is that I come to know you perfectly.”

Thael's confusion was apparent even on his stoic face. I don't understand.

“I'll restate my request, then. Thael, will you be my friend?”

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