• Published 25th Apr 2016
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For the Good of Equestria - brokenimage321

In the wake of a great tragedy, Celestia tells, for the first time, just how much she's had to sacrifice for the good of Equestria.

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Chapter 14: Forking Paths

Absolutely not.

Luna stared at the floor. Celestia returned Sombra’s burning glare. “Your Brilliance,” she said evenly, “I encourage you to—”

No,” he repeated. “These—these Accords of yours will destroy the Empire.”

Celestia stared into his eyes and saw, to her mild surprise, tears forming there. “Please,” she said cooly, “Could you elaborate?”

Sombra unrolled the parchment and began to read. “Accord the first: fair wages for work performed. Accord the second: free and unhindered travel for all Alliance citizens, including my own. Accord the sixth: financial, material, and personnel support for the Alliance monster hunting corps.” He rolled up the scroll and glared at them.

Celestia stared back, a vague panic beginning to build inside her. “Please,” she repeated. “I don’t see—”

“These will starve the Empire,” he snarled. “You will steal the workers away from their due labor, and you will force me to spend what they do bring in on taxes and wages.”

“I still fail to see the issue,” Celestia said, the panic now clawing frantically at her calm.

The issue,” he growled, “is that the Empire is not your temperate lowland kingdom. We don’t have the weather at our beck and call. We need every worker possible to grow and harvest as much as we can in the short summer season. If we don’t squeeze the land for every drop of nourishment it will give up, we will die with the winter snows. Don’t you see?” he snapped. “You will force me to let my workers leave when they choose. You will force me to make them work for filthy lucre, not for civic duty and loyalty to the state. These Accords,” he repeated, pounding the scroll, “are a death sentence for myself, and for my Empire. I will not sign.”

His words hung in the air like a death sentence. After a long moment, Celestia turned to stare at Luna, eyes wide.

* * *

“Thanks for this,” Celestia said, shoving the last of her things into her saddlebag.

Luna sighed deeply, then flopped on her bed. “Thank me later.”

“No, I mean it,” she said. “This could be a great opportunity, if it works out.”

If,” Luna repeated. “Honestly, I’m just surprised that we could talk him into letting either of us stay.”

Celestia sighed. “You’ll bring him around.” She draped her bags over her shoulders, then cinched the belt. “I mean, you’ve done it before,” she chuckled. “Do you remember Iron Plains, how long it took you to get into the place?”

Luna smiled a little. “Stubborn old mule,” she muttered.

“And Lariat Fork,” Celestia continued. “She refused to sign, too. But you managed to talk her down.”

Luna nodded. “Well… that was a little different...”

Celestia sat next to her on the bed. “Not that different.” She smiled. “I know you can do it,” she said. “This could be really good for us. N-not just us, I mean,” she added quickly. “For everyone.” She hesitated. “I’m a little worried about what’s going on around here… and if we can convince him to stop… well, whatever’s going on...”

“I’ll try,” Luna said weakly.

Celestia turned and smiled. “If anyone can do it,” she said, “It’s you. You always were the better diplomat.”

“And you the better bureaucrat.” Luna smiled weaky. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Celestia replied. They were quiet for a moment, before Celestia slipped her arm around Luna. “You gonna be okay?” she asked.

Luna looked up. “Like you said,” she smiled, “this could be a great thing for both the Alliance and the Empire. Given the circumstances, I don’t think I matter at all. I know what you mean,” she added, “and, thank you for your concern. But, if this is for the good of Equestria, well—” she shrugged.

Celestia nodded with a grim smile. “I just want to make sure you won’t get hurt.”

“Don’t worry about me. I’m a big girl,” she said with a smile.

“That you are,” Celestia said. After a moment, she snorted. “If His Brilliance continues to be as generous with his gifts as he was yesterday, well—” she smiled. “You might even be better off here than back home.”

Luna chuckled. “True,” she said. “But it won’t be the same without you.”

Celestia shook her head. “Nor will Canterlot,” she replied.

Luna reached up and squeezed her hoof. “Take care of the palace for me?”

Celestia squeezed back. “Of course. Don’t be too long, now. And keep in touch.” She turned to grab her things, but Luna stood up from the bed. Celestia turned back around, and, almost before she could react, Luna had her arms around her.

“I’m scared, Cece,” she whispered.

Celestia embraced her back. “I know you can do it,” she said. “But, if things don’t work out, you can always come home.” Celestia patted her on the back. “And I mean it this time. If things get fishy, just cut bait and come back, alright?”

Luna nodded against her. “I’ll try,” she said.

Celestia smiled. “Good girl,” she said. “See you soon.”

* * *

Celestia, lying on her bed, hesitated. “It took four months,” she said, “before anything really happened.” She sighed. “Luna worked hard on him—hard as she knew how, I think—but even her talents couldn’t make him budge. And, though she tried to make it seem like she was enjoying her time there, I could tell that it was wearing on her. More than she wanted to admit.”

She sighed, heavily. “Meanwhile, I was by myself back in Canterlot. We’d been co-rulers for two centuries, Luna and I. We took breaks for diplomatic visits, but those lasted no more than a month, generally. But this time…”

She swallowed.

“After a while, I… I found I was able to get things done so much faster. I didn’t have to talk to her about every little thing. I sent her the laws, the bills, all that, for her to sign… but everything else…” she swallowed. “It was only four months… longest trip by far… but I got used to being sole ruler. And so did the rest of the palace. Fewer and fewer asked what Luna would have wanted. Everything boiled down to me alone.”

She looked up at Posie and Sill. “Do you think it was… wrong of me to… to enjoy it?”

Posie’s eyes went wide. “Do I think…?” She stammered for a bit, then went quiet and looked away. Sill cleared his throat, but did not speak.

Celestia watched them, a growing sadness in her eyes, then looked away as well.

“Four months…” she said again, after a pause. “Four months of nothing. And then…”

She hesitated. “We wrote each other,” she said, “almost every night. Me with little updates from back home, she, generally, with complaints about Sombra. But, suddenly, she stopped answering. For ten, fifteen days—no letters.” She looked down. “I… I was on the verge of sending troops in after her. And then, suddenly, she started writing again—and, it seemed, Sombra had finally caved. He was suddenly much more willing to cooperate, and they were making progress, she said. Another three weeks, and she asked me to travel to the Empire to sign the treaty.”

Celestia fell silent. “If only I had known…”