• Published 31st May 2014
  • 24,875 Views, 172 Comments

If You Came to Conquer - cleverpun

Nightmare Moon won. She defeated Celestia, broke the Elements, banished the sun. This all happened a very long time ago. So long ago, that she has had plenty of time to change her mind. Not that fixing it will be simple.

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2. Ignominious

The day was bright. Canterlot had been specifically built to minimize obstructions of its skyline. On a clear day like this, the sun hit it perfectly and fully. Even the Princess of the Night had trouble arguing with weather so pleasant, no matter how much she would have liked to. Perfect weather was surprisingly common in Canterlot, and yet she never seemed to find enough reasons to complain about it.

There was a loud knock on her chamber door.

“Are you okay?”

The Princess looked up from her sink. Her coat looked fine. Her chestplate looked fine. Her crown was slightly askew, but that was easy to fix. She took a deep breath and turned to the door. “Coming!” she called.

She opened the door, and Celestia was waiting for her.

“You were in there an awfully long time, Luna.”

“It’s nothing,” Luna replied quickly. “I was just feeling a little bloated. My body has been feeling off lately.”

“You needn’t lie to me, sister,” Celestia said. She began to walk down the hallway, and Luna trotted after her. “I noticed you have been more contemplative recently. Ever since Discord returned, if I am not mistaken.”

Luna sighed. “You are right, as always. Discord’s escape made me rather…nervous, I suppose. I never know what to expect from him.”

“None of us do. That is what makes him so dangerous. But we needn’t worry about him now.”

“I suppose not.”

The two Princesses walked along in silence. A few passing nobles gave them a bow, but otherwise nopony acknowledged them. The window washer and laundress in particular continued about their duties. The castle was as still as it could get.

“Tia, do you ever think about penance?”

Celestia raised an eyebrow, but her gait didn’t change. “I have, on occasion.”

“What are your thoughts on it?”

“I suppose I don’t really believe in it.” Celestia instinctively glanced at the garden. “It certainly didn’t do someone any good.”

“I do not think Discord is a particularly typical case.”

Celestia chuckled. “No, I suppose not. But even for others, I would not put too much stock in penance or karma or kismet.”

“Oh?” It was Luna’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “And why not?”

“They always struck me as so artificial and biased. Constructed, even. I mean, it seems a little obtuse, doesn’t it? How does one quantify punishment? How does one distinguish between coincidence and karmic retribution? Rather equicentric, really.”

“How scientific of you, Tia.”

“I know why you’re asking, Luna.” Celestia tried to hide her pity, but Luna knew her too well to buy into the lie. “I’m not sure how many times I can tell you that I’ve forgiven you.”

“If only forgiveness was so simple, sister.”

“Forgiveness is not something you can build out of penance, Luna.” Celestia stopped walking, turned her head to emphasize the sentence. “It does not come in pieces like a puzzle. You have it or you don’t. I gave it to you a long time ago, I just wish you could give it to yourself.”

“You haven’t forgiven yourself for sealing me on the moon.” Luna smiled, and she took care to make it appear slightly forced, slightly pained. Celestia was familiar with some of her habits, but she didn’t want the action to be misconstrued. “I could say the same to you.”

The hallway was empty. A Sunday was not without work, but even a palace had to slow down. Celestia still glanced around reflexively, checking for staff or nobles that might take their conversation out of context.

When her search turned up empty, Celestia continued walking. “You know me too well, Luna.”

“It was an appropriate response, Tia.”

“Yes, I’m sure robbing you of one thousand years of life was appropriate. I’m sure using the Elements alone was the best decision I ever made.” Celestia didn’t bother to hide the sarcasm on the word.

“You did not have another choice, I did not give you any other options.”

Celestia did not answer. The two continued walking. They turned a corner, and another, and the throne room’s double doors slowly came into view.

“I suppose,” Celestia said, “that the idea of penance can be an easy solution. The idea that once you earn enough vouchers, you can trade them in for forgiveness is very tempting.” Celestia turned her head. “But where do you distinguish between an excuse to punish yourself and a healthy outlet? And is forgiveness earned any better than forgiveness offered? That is why I don’t like the idea, no matter how alluring it might be.”

“You make it sound so simple,” Luna muttered.

“A thousand years of exile would be enough for anypony, Luna.”

“It wasn’t for Discord. Two thousand years isn’t enough penance for the things I’ve done.”

“Don’t say things like that, Luna. You didn’t injure anypony, didn’t kill anyone.”

Luna didn’t answer right away. “I might have. I could have. I feel like I did.” She hadn’t meant to say the last sentence. It had just spilt out. Celestia would, naturally, interpret it as hyperbole.

“You can’t punish yourself for things you might have done, sister.”

The two stopped, the doors of the throne room towering in front of them. The wood was thick. Luna hadn’t been present for the construction of this castle, but she had noticed countless little accents and color decisions that could only have been caused by her absence. The throne room doors were the most obvious, since she walked to them every day. The old ones had been colored differently, one blue and one gold, with simple reliefs of the moon and sun, respectively.

These new ones were plain lavender, adorned only by a darker line around the edge. Practically sterile, by comparison. A political statement as much as an aesthetic decision. It made her feel guilty, though the intent had no doubt been the opposite.

“Let’s discuss this later,” Luna said. “I wouldn’t want to make the Element bearers uncomfortable.”

Celestia smiled, just a little. “Not your most elegant subject change, Luna. But, perhaps you are right. Best to appear harmonious. They still see you as Nightmare Moon.”

“Yes, I suppose most ponies would,” Luna said. “Sometimes I still feel as if she never left.”