• Member Since 17th Jan, 2012
  • offline last seen July 1st

UnlicensedBrony


Writing about magic, romance and the bonds of friendship!

T

Some types of magic carry with them a heavy price. Celestia is faced with the grim task of teaching this to her growing student.

Thoughtful little snippet inspired by the prompt 'Breaking the Rules'.

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 35 )

Why shouldn't it be studied? Ponies kill plants all the time anyway to gain their life force by eating them. Why is this especially dark and not that? What about all the wild areas cleared to grow their crops?

I also have to wonder - as in all these Secret Magic stories - what Celestia is supposed to do if someone else independently discovers this magic and makes it public. So-and-so from the University of Not-In-Equestria publishes amazing new magical research!

That said, this is well written and charming despite the implications.

5618324
Scientists are like that sometimes. They do horrible things like inject mold into people and cut pieces out of one person to put into another person. And then they desecrate corpses by cutting them open and poking around the insides. We'd all be better off if they didn't do such things. They can take that "electricity" and shove it, too. I'm tired of hearing about people getting zapped.

But that's not really what I'm asking. What should Celestia do when this comes up? It's all well and good to tell her close-as-daughter young student to keep her secret for her. That's one thing. But what one Pony can come up with, so can another. And will. And that Pony may not feel obligated to keep this "secret" amongst a tiny elite - or even consider anything other than immediately telling everyone about it.

Suppose this scenario: Applebloom gets killed. Applejack is heart-broken and, aloud, says she's do anything, sacrifice anything if only she could have her sister back. Twilight agonizes over this, but ultimately decides that it's too dangerous a magic to be using; the consequences could be terrible. A few laters later, post public discovery, Scootaloo breaks her neck in a tragic scooter-related accident. Rainbow rushes her still-warm body at supersonic speeds to this foreign discoverer, begging that her poor adopted sister be brought back to life. After some haggling over details, Rainbow pays a farmer to allow six acres of crops to be destroyed for their life energies to restore Scoots.

So I ask you, what would the conversation between Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash - and maybe Scoots and Celestia - look like upon their return? I ask because it would be a very interesting one.

5618419
I think I've read more than a few sci-fi stories like that. Every single one comes with a dire warning, the same that Celestia mentions in this story: there are consequences for your actions. People discover this new means of saving lives and even bringing back the dead, but in the end every single one ended up with someone abusing that power or being desperate enough to ignore the warnings and overuse that power.

One story here, I can't recall its name, has an aged Rainbow Dash demanding to know why Twilight wouldn't save their other friends from dying of old age. I think the reasoning Twilight gave is that she'd have to help save their relatives, and their friends, and eventually all of Equestria would be immortal Alicorns. There would be no risk, no life, and no room for growth as there would be no reason to have foals even because of the risk of over-population centuries down the line.

Every story with this subject of immortality contains both blessings and curses. And the warning that if one is not careful you could be unleashing all kinds of hell. Sometimes literally. "The Re-Animator" and "Pet Semetary" come to mind.

i love these kinds of quiet, introspective stories.

5618497

I think I've read more than a few sci-fi stories like that. Every single one comes with a dire warning, the same that Celestia mentions in this story: there are consequences for your actions.

That's true. But saying, "Let's shove this in a box and never think about it again," is also a choice with consequences. And the sets of consequences of each side of a choice need to be weighed against one another. Though I have a hard time seeing how vague threats that nobody has ever seen can weigh much in the scales against death. It's sort of like saying that jumping out of a second story is too dangerous even though the building is on fire.

This fic doesn't actually condemn using this power, it merely says, "be careful." And we should be. My objection is that Celestia isn't allowing anyone else to have a say, only herself and Twilight and maybe Luna and Cadance. Everyone else is too stupid or immoral to make such decisions sanely.

This was a nice read and evocative of Twilight's Kingdom -

“When the temptation arose, yes. You've already displayed an innate talent for making things happen when your emotions are running high. I have no delusions that if you were ever put in that situation—where you would do anything, sacrifice anything--”

I read this and said "oh" quietly to myself because, well, that's just about what she winds up doing. Whether you had that in mind or not, it made the impact.

The characterisation and portrayed relationship between Twilight and Celestia feels very natural and true to canon here. I especially enjoyed the delving into Twilight's magical usage, and how it relates to her as a person pony. It's refreshing to see someone actually put thought and depth into that, rather than take it at face value.

All in all, very enjoyable.

5618419

Suppose this scenario: Applebloom gets killed. Applejack is heart-broken and, aloud, says she's do anything, sacrifice anything if only she could have her sister back. Twilight agonizes over this, but ultimately decides that it's too dangerous a magic to be using; the consequences could be terrible. A few laters later, post public discovery, Scootaloo breaks her neck in a tragic scooter-related accident. Rainbow rushes her still-warm body at supersonic speeds to this foreign discoverer, begging that her poor adopted sister be brought back to life. After some haggling over details, Rainbow pays a farmer to allow six acres of crops to be destroyed for their life energies to restore Scoots.

And the ground salted and made barren, unusable henceforth. Now multiply that by every dead little sister.

Y'ever just get something that started bouncing around your head, and wouldn't quit until you got it out? Well this happened. Sorry.

"There's a cost," Twilight said quietly.
"Indeed," said Celestia. "Every time we use this magic, we make a choice. A choice between the life of something we love, and something loved equally by somepony else."
Twilight shook her head, her face grim. "No, that's not what I meant. I understand what you're saying, but I don't think that's the right argument."
Any joy that Celestia may have felt in her faithful student's delightful ability to surprise her was washed away in a wave of terror. Had she misjudged? Was Twilight not ready for this lesson after all?
"I mean, I agree with your conclusion," Twilight continued, allowing Celestia to relax slightly, "But from a rhetorical standpoint, a moral argument isn't effective here."
"Oh?" Celestia gave a gentle smile. "And what would you use?"
"Well..." Twilight looked up from the grass, frowning. "I think the best reason to avoid that magic would be an economic one."
Celestia managed to suppress a small giggle at Twilight's reflexive distaste at the so-called 'soft sciences'. "How so?"
"First of all, you used grass, which shows that the magic works for plants." Twilight glanced over with a measuring eye to the area of yellowed grass, now fading to a dead brown. "Probably not on a one-to-one basis by mass, but.. that's just a matter of scale. You're right that using naturally occurring plants would be unethical, not to mention disruptive to the local ecosystem, but growing separately allocated plants just for the purpose of extending a pony's lifespan... I mean, that's agriculture."
"Twilight, this isn't the same thing." Celestia bowed her head before Twilight's, in an attempt to derail Twilight's lecture before she gathered too much steam. "When we take the fruit from the tree, that is food given to us from nature, and we do not snuff out the tree itself. The-"
"Right! Trees aren't a good example." As it turned out, Twilight's recitations had become increasingly difficult to stop lately. "This is more like carrots, or potatoes, where the plant itself is destroyed or consumed. Any root vegetable, really." Her eyes flicked back and forth as she sorted through the library of her mind. "...Peanuts too, I think? I'll have to review agricultural practices. My point is, there are lots of plants whose lives we take to nourish our own. And that's without even going into the trees that get chopped down for things that just make our lives better, like paper, furniture, Hearth's Warming logs..."
"Twilight," Celestia interjected again, more firmly this time. "As I said, this magic has a cost-"
"Exactly! It's not a lossless transaction. Which means more plants would be needed to reverse a death than to just extend a life - again, a matter of scale. Carrots, let's say, to generalize for all the relevant crops. So the price of carrots goes up - that's where it gets economic. It's a fact already that the ponies who live longest are those who can afford the greatest health care - this is like that, but it removes the upper limit entirely. The cost of consumable life - generalized here as carrots - would increase dramatically, to the point where only the richest would be able to afford them. Those that continue to live are able to keep accruing money faster than they spend it, and since they don't die, the wealth never has a chance to re-enter circulation. It's a positive feedback loop, the richest of the rich continuing to live longer and longer while the lower rungs of high society drop out of the race due to the increasing cost of the life-sustaining carrots. Eventually only one pony can afford it, but by this point, they would effectively be able to life forever, and they'd be almost as rich as-" and finally, Twilight's train of thought hit the mythical penny on the tracks and came crashing to a halt. Twilight looked at the circle of grass, and then up at Canterlot castle behind them, and then up at Celestia, her eternal, immortal Princess.
"...As rich as you," Twilight finished, hollowly.
Oh.
Oh dear.

5620567 I haven't even read this story, and now I don't need to. This is better.

5620563

And the ground salted and made barren, unusable henceforth. Now multiply that by every dead little sister.

Oh, absolutely!

But stories are about people and there are any number of people who would happily sacrifice - in perpetuity - six acres to snatch back a loved one from Death's grasp. But there are only so many acres in the world and we are expecting any number of generations to call upon them.

Moreover, it's a very easy can to open, but a very difficult one to close. Oops! The heir to <insert noble house here> is dead and political turmoil is sure to follow. Unless.... One of the Bearers has dropped dead, but we're sure to be facing a problem solvable only by the Elements any time now, so..... Researcher so-and-so has been working on a project to vastly improve our lives in some way, but he had a heart attack.... Sapphire Shores kicked the bucket from a drug overdose and now her screaming fans are demanding that her career not end now, not when she still had so many years ahead of her....

And what do you do when somepony breaks the law and/or arranges to get themselves revived? Most laws punish those who harm others or at least put them in danger, but this would have to be a law against something that not only solely involves Ponies' own property, but also provides the greatest possible good: a life restored. By what principle do you declare that someone can't buy six acres and sterilize them if they so choose?

Policing this would be a nightmare, much worse than Prohibition. The criminals are offering something that almost everyone would want access to - would need access to.

It'd certainly be an interesting setting to work in.

5620837

One of the Bearers has dropped dead, but we're sure to be facing a problem solvable only by the Elements any time now, so.....

The Rainbow certainly wouldn't accept them as a legitimate element bearer anymore.

And what do you do when somepony breaks the law and/or arranges to get themselves revived? Most laws punish those who harm others or at least put them in danger, but this would have to be a law against something that not only solely involves Ponies' own property, but also provides the greatest possible good: a life restored. By what principle do you declare that someone can't buy six acres and sterilize them if they so choose?

That's a very capitalist view of property rights, most economic systems don't recognize exclusive rights to property.
Even capitalist societies don't really. Every layer of government above you has ownership rights to that property as well after all.

And ponies don't have an industrialized society, so they certainly can't have a capitalist one.

5620848

That's a very capitalist view of property rights, most economic systems don't recognize exclusive rights to property.
Even capitalist societies don't really. Every layer of government above you has ownership rights to that property as well after all.
And ponies don't have an industrialized society, so they certainly can't have a capitalist one.

That's a very good point. I didn't take that into account. Most of the "rights" we argue about would be somewhere between alien and silly to them, wouldn't they? I've gotten too used to arguing on the ragged edge of Libertarianism where individual property is nigh-sacred. I neglected to shift gears.

Equestria would either be Feudal (where everyone lives on the lord's land) or else Imperial (the same, except Celestia is the only real lord anywhere) and either way any desired changes to the status quo - especially a drastic one like this - have to be kicked up the chain of command before they can be done. The farmers can work the land - maybe even as they choose - but it's not really their land. There's also liable to be a system of traditions and tradeoffs that specify what particular parcels of land are supposed to be for and "destroyed" isn't likely to be one of them.

5620901

Equestria would either be Feudal (where everyone lives on the lord's land) or else Imperial (the same, except Celestia is the only real lord anywhere)

It seems largely distributionist, where everyone owns the means of their own production. But yes there is still the crown and local governments to consider in that.

and either way any desired changes to the status quo - especially a drastic one like this - have to be kicked up the chain of command before they can be done. The farmers can work the land - maybe even as they choose - but it's not really their land. There's also liable to be a system of traditions and tradeoffs that specify what particular parcels of land are supposed to be for and "destroyed" isn't likely to be one of them.

Feudalism was incredibly complicated.
The peasants did own their land, so did the baron, count, duke, and king above them. All with individually negotiated contracts with the person above and below them.
So burning land for a raise would in feudalism by violating half a dozen other peoples property rights.
So in a feudal system draining your own field,

Alternate ending:

:twilightsheepish: “This is revolutionary, princess. If I understand correctly—if it's possible to literally move magic from one vessel to another... Goodness, the possibilities are unfathomable--”

:trollestia: “Twilight, I have your promise tha-" *Celestia get's crushed by a falling piano*

:twilightoops: "Celestia? CELESTIA?"

:derpyderp2: "Oops, not again..."

:twilightoops: "She's gone... she is... WAIT! This must be why she brought me here! For a time like this! I know what I must do!!!"

Later...

:twilightangry2: "Stupid magic, BUCKING WORK ALREADY!!!" *Magic*

:trollestia: "Uh... what... huh... where..."

:twilightsmile: "CELESTIA! I DID IT!" *Hugs her mentor*

:trollestia: "Did... what? Why are you covered in blood..."

:twilightsmile: "I ripped your soul from the Grim Reaper's grasp and brought you back to life!"

:trollestia: "NO! That wasn't your choice to make... or dear Faust why is there so much blood?"

:twilightsmile: "Through a lot of trial and error, I determined that more powerful magical creatures need exponentially greater amounts of increasingly complex life forms."

:trollestia: "How... many?"

:twilightsmile: "Don't worry, I have already organized Canterlot's repopulation and reorganized feudal holdings in the mass purging of the nobility."

:trollestia: *Opens her mouth in horror, lower jaw falls off*

:twilightsheepish: "It's been... some time, and I couldn't figure a way to counter act the necrosis so..." *Staples Celestia's mouth back into place*

The big one here is there's no practical limit on how much life energy can be transferred.

How long till someone decides they need their Fluffy back as a filly and accidentally ends up devouring their parents from a lack of control?

That's what happens when magic like that becomes public knowhow. Eventually, it gets into the hands of those skilled enough to use it, but not skilled enough to control it. In the end, it's a literal death spell that happens to have the side benefit of invigorating someone, or something else.

Or worse, something bigger gets their hands on it. How much energy does it take to revive a dragon? Or if one magician decides to start sustaining their own by consuming the life-force of another land instead? An endless appetite is a dangerous thing, and that's what you get with this. As noted, it's a selfish spell, and that's the heart of dark magic. If it only allowed the caster to sacrifice their own life for another, that'd be different- but it doesn't. Any energy the caster can grasp, they can take.

Tirek was bad enough, in Equestrian terms.

Now the question I have.... Celestia will heal. She said so herself.

Why does some pony have to die?

If 5,000 energy donors who gave a slice of their energy (which would eventually heal) could jump start a dead pony...

---
Soul sickness is a pain in the patoot but yes it does heal over the course of days or weeks so long as you do not drop below a critical amount. [If you are wondering about how I understand soul sickness at all, I will give you an example -- if you die in a dream, not wake up right before you die, but actually die in a dream -- when you do you wake up, you will have some measure of soul sickness.]

5618213 Thank you! Glad to hear it :twilightsmile: I'd definitely be interesting in reading that scenario - where someone else figures it out and makes it/tries to make it public knowledge. Shady stuff indeed!

As to whether or not it should be studied, I can't say. I'm not much of a philosopher myself, but I don't think I'd be able to make that choice. So much could go wrong if it were made public, but the same could be said for keeping it a secret. Is it right to hide the truth and try to make sure people don't find out? Or should you embrace teaching the world, trusting and preparing them not to misuse it?

This is why they never made me prime minister... :derpyderp2:

5618595 Me too! Both reading and writing them. Can you recommend any of your favourites? I've always got an eye out for this kind of thing :pinkiehappy:

5619734 Thank you very much :twilightsmile: Great to know that I got the characterisation down, and I'm especially glad the link to Twilight's Kingdom had an impact! The episode was a big part of the inspiration - with Tirek stealing magic and the princesses moving it around. I looove exploring magic! What it does, how it works, why it works... Never delved much into the moral side of things before so this was an interesting one to write.

5620567 This is cool man - don't be sorry, I love it! It's always nice to get another take on something I've written about. Actually seeing a scene rewritten like this is a pleasant rarity for me :rainbowkiss:

The scene itself was great. Celestia trying to cut off her line of thinking before she could reach that haunting conclusion was cool. I wasn't completely sure why she was at first, but then it got to the end and... "Oh. Oh dear" indeed. Nicely executed! Thanks for sharing :twilightsmile:

5620947 Haha! Ouch! Who gets the blame for this one? Celestia? Twilight? I want to say Derpy but I can't...

...Thanks, Obama :derpytongue2:

5622356 Indeed! Tirek was a big part of the inspiration here. Also I think using this kind of magic would be a very slippery slope in itself - even someone using it to do 'the right thing' will only go so long before the line blurs entirely...


5627483 Aye, something like that occurred to me as well - taking a little bit of energy from a lot of things to make a lot of energy. Growing up with DragonBall Z probably had something to do with that on my part :pinkiehappy: Taking a little bit of life from 5000 willing donors would definitely incur a cost - as you say, they'd take time to recover, just as someone else would if someone close to them died, only spread out over many times. Depending on the theory, if someone could focus, control and believe in that big of a spell, it could work.

Though if you look at it a different way, maybe the spell only works in the sense that something of 'equal value' in the eyes of Death has to cross over to bring something back?

Good thought - got me thinking too :pinkiehappy:

Comment posted by OddOneOut deleted Feb 15th, 2015

5628467
Paper Tigers is the only one i can think of off the top of my head, but I'll look for some of the less well-known ones later.

Wow, good work. The implications of regarding the use of such kind of power are many, but I can't help but wonder what would happen if somebody with malevolent intents found a way to use the magic of all kind of living being, like animals, or even other ponies.

An interesting look at something that comes up a lot in fan fiction. Can ponies be brought back from the realm of the dead. Should they be brought back? I liked the way this showed the repercussions of such powerful magic. Cool stuff.:ajsmug:

I disagree completely.

What is the purpose of having such power if not to use it?

They should use this spell to bring back, youthen, and improve those they feel are worthy now.

Bring back Starswirl the Bearded, Clover the Clever, all the great ones too as well.

Using this spell no pony would ever have to fear aging again and live forever.

Think of the paradise they could create.

5628652 Thanks! I checked it out and loved it (and also some of the author's other work - that's some amazing writing)

5641887 Thank you :twilightsmile: Yeah, that would have some serious implications - I mean Tirek used a similar kind of magic (except never actually killed anyone) and look at all the damage he did!

5644543 Yeah it's an interesting subject to ponder and write about :ajsmug: Cheers!

5648761 I don't know man... even if there wasn't any other cost involved, I'd find the prospect of everyone living forever pretty terrifying. Heck, I'd find the prospect of just me living forever terrifying! But that's what the fic was about - provoking thought and different views, and it's good to see so many different viewpoints :twilightsmile:

The only moral decision is to institute massive farming projects to cover for the lifeforce requirements of resurrection spells, as well as research into creating even more lifefeforce. Massive hydroponics farms on the oceans, check how much the Tree of Harmony can be harvested for and and if it can be bred and so on.

At the same time restrictions are necessary for breeding, as every pony above the cap of the amount that can be sustained is a pony doomed to die while the others live. An extra foal is an eventual death sentence on somepony.

5680689 Unless they invent faster than light travel and start colonizing the universe for their population.

5688972 The cap here is the number of ponies who can be sustained using this method given current resources, not living space. New planets only enter the equation as far as they allow building new massive farms.

5680689 I suspect that it would render the affected area of soil infertile for quite some time. You could end up with an Equestria that looks like that old D and D world where the world was almost entirely dried up.

This was a great story! It really felt like Celestia, something I rarely see in stories! Amazing job!

5931348 Thanks very much! It's always good to hear that the characters feel as they should (especially true for Celestia, since I don't write her very often) :twilightsmile:

If the patch grows back I have to take the side that Celestia picked the wrong choice... and she should have investigated that before.

Thumbs up for containing meaningful thought though.

I know you won't see this, sadly, but this deserves a proper review anyway.

Fuller review here, but in brief: a solemn, thoughtful fic that considers its ethical question very satisfyingly. An excellently characterised Celestia, which isn't that common. Faved.

This is a really nice scenario — if a bit contrived — and well backed by some great characterization.

I don't really understand what the 'random' tag is for, but I really like the story.

Brilliant story - thought provoking and very well written.
Well done!

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