• Published 25th Apr 2016
  • 3,446 Views, 77 Comments

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.

  • ...

Chapter 22: Anagnorisis

Sombra wrenched himself away from Celestia, and she gasped in pain. She looked up and saw there was blood on his horn. Her blood. It ran down his face and into his eyes, and dripped onto his smiling teeth. She looked down, and felt it more than saw it: under her right arm, a deep, gaping hole, spurting her scarlet lifeblood down her side.

She tried to gasp—but the air wouldn’t come. She coughed, and spat blood on the crystal floor.

“Hm,” Sombra said, almost dispassionately. “Lung puncture. Perhaps an artery.” He stepped closer. “By my count, that leaves you less than ten minutes.” He turned away. “Perfect.

They were still in the crystal chamber—and there, in the center of the room, trapped in the dark crystal pillar, still hung the crystal heart. Celestia pressed a hoof to her side. It was warm and slippery. She was warm and slippery—

“I called you friend, once,” she choked, her voice dripping with rage and betrayal.

He smirked. “Then you really have no one else to blame, do you?”

She tried to respond—but she coughed again, scarlet leaking from the corner of her lips. She felt her knees buckle, and, slowly, she sank to the floor. Sombra chuckled darkly as she went limp, her mind going fuzzy at the edges.

She found herself staring at the light—the light in the center of the crystal.

...crystal heart

With great effort, she raised her head a few inches. Her horn flared, and a thin pencil-beam of light shot from her. It ricocheted off the crystal with a sharp pang.

Sombra frowned, then turned to examine the crystal. “Barely a crack,” he said in that same, dispassionate tone. “A noble effort, to be sure...” he glanced down at her, “especially given your current circumstances…” he turned back to the crystal. “but, as you saw on the battlefield, you cannot beat me. Not while the Crystal Heart is mine.”

Celestia groaned, but Sombra continued as if he hadn’t noticed. “The Crystal Heart,” he said. “The figurative and literal heart of the Empire. Every one of my subjects is connected to it.” He began to pace, circling the crystal. “It protects and strengthens my crystal ponies in times of need—and, in return, it pools their magic into a wellspring of power. Power that I can draw on.” He paused. “My mother was a fool,” he added, almost to himself. “Her Highness Amore claimed that the Heart worked best when filled with love,” He sneered. “But love is fickle. It waxes and wanes, and fades at the first sign of trouble.” He grinned wickedly. “Fear, on the other hand—fear is where real power lies. Fear is resilient. Fear grows ever stronger.” He paused. “And fear is far easier to wring from who would keep it from you.”

Celestia coughed again—swallowed—then pushed herself upright. She still felt the blood—her blood—seeping from underneath her hoof. She felt almost like this were a dream—something happening to someone else, far away.

And yet, it was her voice that she heard speak.

“Why,” she croaked hoarsely.

“Why?” he repeated, turning to look at her.

“The treaty,” she croaked again.

Sombra stared at her, then grinned. “If my kingdom is built on fear and force, why waste time negotiating with you and your sister? Simple,” he said, stepping closer. “The treaty was never the point.” He leaned down to look her in the eye. “It was always Luna.”

Celestia’s eyes widened.

“When you left Luna here to negotiate with me, you gave me all the time I needed to woo her. Convince her I was a good stallion in a bad situation. That I loved her for who she really was,” he sneered disdainfully. “And, with that done, all that was needed was to allow her to convince me to relent on certain things.” He turned to Celestia and grinned madly. “Do you know how proud she was that she talked me down from flat refusal to temporary, occasional emergency powers? And then you threw all that hard work back in her face.” He smirked. “You couldn’t have played your part better if I’d given you the script.”

Celestia moaned. Dark clouds were beginning to gather at the edges of her vision...

“I was never serious about the text,” he added, almost casually. “Half of those provisions were there to infuriate you—and the other half were there to be conceded later, during negotiation. Make me seem like the bigger pony.” He paused. “The only point I would not relent on was Luna. For, you see, when she became the Crystal Queen, she would bear my children. She would bear alicorns.” His eyes flashed. “Even if I had to force her.”

Celestia’s lips parted in a silent snarl.

“Can you imagine?” he continued, turning to face the crystal. “A generation of gods at my command. With them, we would take your precious Alliance—we would take the whole of the earth. Every single creature on the face of the planet would bow to me, and be chained to my Crystal Heart! And with that…?” He smiled grimly. “Then I could finally keep my people safe the way they deserve.”

Celestia gritted her teeth. Someone had to stop this lunatic—and, while she still drew breath, she had the smallest sliver of a chance…

Slowly, painfully, she began to stand.

“Don’t bother,” Sombra called over his shoulder. “There’s nothing you can do now. After I’m finished with you, I’ll go back to Luna. Convince her my army only came to save her from her wicked sister—the sister who tried to sabotage my kingdom, and who died horribly in the attempt. We will sign the treaty, just the two of us, and we will be married soon after. All will rejoice.” He turned to her. “And all will bow.”

Suddenly, Sombra strode to Celestia. He kicked savagely at her left foreleg, just behind the knee, sending her crashing back to the floor. “And why am I taking the time to tell you all this?” he asked. He placed a hoof on her windpipe, then leaned down closer. “Because, Celestia,” he breathed, “I want you to know, as you slip forever into the darkness, that I—mere mortal Sombra—beat you.”

Celestia tried to gasp, but the air wouldn’t come. The darkness closed in again...

“Goodbye, Celestia,” Sombra intoned. “And, if it makes you feel any better…” He ground his hoof deeper into her neck. “You never even had a chance.”

Celestia tried to push him off, but he was too strong. She tried to cry out, but her voice would not come. This is it, she thought, as the darkness took her. My sunset.


Suddenly, the pressure lifted. Celestia gasped a breath, then coughed as her vision began to clear. She looked up, and saw Sombra looking away. She followed his gaze…

...and saw Luna.

She stood in what was left of a drifting cloud of smoke, magic and ozone heavy in the air. She stared, wide-eyed, at the scene before her—Celestia on the floor, bleeding, Sombra staring back at her in frank astonishment, blood on his horn.

“I can explain—” he choked out.

Without a word, Luna’s horn flared to life. She tossed her head, and Sombra slammed against the wall like a rag doll, then fell limp to the floor.

Luna walked to Celestia, her horn still glowing. Slowly, the pain in Celestia's side began to ebb. She could breathe again. She coughed up another mouthful of blood, then spat. She could feel strength returning to her limbs—could feel the wound beginning to close—

“Come on,” Luna murmured, pulling Celestia to her hooves. “Time to get up.”

Celestia wobbled, but stood fast. She draped an arm over Luna and squeezed her affectionately. Then, she turned to Sombra, still in a heap on the floor.

“I was going to offer you peace,” she rasped.

Sombra looked up at her, then rolled onto his stomach. “After you invaded my palace?”

“After I stopped the killing.” Her eyes burned. “But now I see that it will never stop.” She turned to Luna. “The crystal,” she said. “break it.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Sombra snarled from the floor.

Luna looked at her. “Cece?” she asked uncertainly.

Break it,” she repeated. “I can’t do it on my own, and it’s the only thing that can stop him.”

Luna glanced back and forth between the two of them. She sighed, heavily, then turned to the black crystal in the center of the room. The light from her horn grew brighter—bright as the sun—

No!” howled Sombra.

—and the crystal disintegrated.

Celestia shielded her eyes. So bright…

When she dared lower her hoof, she stared. Luna gasped, and her horn went out.

Hanging, still and free, in the exact center of the room, was an enormous heart, carved from flawless crystal. It shone with its own pure light, bathing the room in glory. It spun gently on its axis, and, as it turned, Celestia thought she saw, in the reflections playing across its faces, faint images that seemed, somehow, familiar. Scenes from her childhood. From her time as Princess. From moments that, perhaps, had yet to come. She took her arm from around Luna, then limped a half-step towards it, grimacing at the pain in her side. Even from this distance, the Heart was indescribably beautiful… she wanted nothing more than to step close and gaze into its depths...

“You fools,” Sombra snarled. “Do you know what you’ve done?”

As Celestia watched, the Crystal Heart began to spin, faster and faster, until the air hummed around it. Without warning, it rocketed upwards, smashing through the roof of the chamber with a crash that shook bones of the Spire itself.

“You’ve killed us all,” Sombra growled.

You’ve lost your power,” Celestia spat. “That’s a far cry from—”

“Cece,” Luna murmured. “Look.”

Celestia turned to look out the window. For a moment, nothing changed—all seemed as it should be. The world outside was brightly lit by the false noonday sun. Ponies walked the streets and worked the markets, backgrounded by the blue sky of the shield surrounding the city. Only the faintest trace of the blizzard outside could be seen.

And then—

—Celestia’s eyes went wide—

—the dome protecting the city flickered and collapsed.

The howling blizzard swept over the city as the shield crumbled. Ponies screamed and began to run, but the wind was too fast. Within seconds, snow buried the outlying homes. Celestia watched in horror as the curtain of icy darkness swept inwards.

Sombra slammed into Celestia, knocking her back several unsteady steps. “You,” he snarled.

Me,” she spat back.

“You’ve ruined everything.”

“You’d already done it before we ever set eyes on this place.”

He glared at her, his eyes burning with hatred. “My Empire was order!” he roared. “My Empire was perfection!”

“Your Empire,” Celestia countered, “was a sham—a fantasy you’d built on the backs of your people.” She flicked a glance out the window. “And now it’s up to us to save them from your arrogance.”

Sombra snarled. “How can you? You’ve killed them all.”

She shook her head. “You killed them, long ago, when you thought you could use fear to make them safe. And now it’s time for us pick up the pieces.” Her horn flickered to life. “And it’s time to start with you.”

She shot a beam of light at Sombra—a golden yellow cord—and hit him in the chest. He screamed aloud, golden light spreading outward from the impact.

“You’re no different, Celestia,” he snarled. “I’m not the only one using her.”

Shut up,” she hissed. She tried to force more power into the spell—but the light still spread too slowly. She glanced sideways. “Lu,” she said, a faint plea in her voice. “I can’t do this alone.”

Luna stepped forward, and glanced between the two of them with a sad little smile. Her horn glowed, and she, too, shot a beam. Her sky-blue light smashed into Sombra, and began to spread across him as well—and, where it touched Celestia’s gold, began to boil.

Suddenly, Sombra began to laugh.

“You’ll never have the Empire!” he roared.

“I never wanted it!” Celestia bellowed back.

He laughed, and laughed, and laughed, his voice growing louder and higher, until a sudden, blinding flash of light.

Celestia slammed backwards against the wall. For a few moments, she could see nothing but white. As soon as shapes began to swim back into focus, she scrambled to her hooves, horn blazing and eyes wide.

But there was nothing to see. All that was left of Sombra were four hoofprints left in the floor, smoking gently.

Celestia stared at them for a long moment, before heaving a sigh. Finally, the nightmare was over. Now they needed—

“What did you do?” hissed Luna.

Celestia looked across the room, to where Luna was standing, eyes wide. Celestia looked her in the eye and opened her mouth to speak, but froze. What she saw in Luna was—to her astonishment—sorrow. Pain. Loss.


“I?” Celestia repeated, hesitant. “We. We killed him.”

Killed him?” Luna squealed. “You tried to kill him?”

Celestia glanced her up and down, alarmed. “You helped,” she said, incredulous.

No,” Luna returned sharply. “No, I didn’t. I thought you wanted to capture him.”

Celestia shook her head. “Prison wouldn’t have helped. He was too far gone.” She began to limp across the room towards Luna.

“But I could have saved him, Cece,” Luna pleaded. “I know I could have. Why did you—”

Luna.” Celestia put a hoof on her shoulder. Luna sucked in a gasp and fell silent. “Any other time, I would tell you everything.” Luna looked away, but Celestia put her hoof on her cheek and pulled her gaze back.“You deserve to know,” she said tenderly. A tear rolled down Luna’s cheek, and Celestia looked away. “He had us both fooled, Lu,” she murmured.

Luna bit her lip.

“Any other time,” Celestia repeated. “But right now,” she said, “there are ponies that need our help.” She glanced out the window. “We need to save them—all of them—from the storm.”

Already, snowflakes were beginning to smack wetly against the window, even at this height. She could see the dim glow of homes and buildings under the snow in the distance, and thought she could still hear the screaming.

“It’s our fault,” she murmured. “My fault. And we need to fix it.” She turned to Luna. “We need to get help,” she said. “Get them underground or something. Can you teleport back to the camp, round up anyone who’s—”

Suddenly, she hesitated, staring out the window. She pulled her hoof from Luna’s face, then took a slow step toward the window behind her. Had she seen that? Or just imagined it…?

No. It happened again. There, on the edge of the city: a light had gone out. Simply disappeared.

And there—it happened again. One moment, a house was there—and the next, it was gone.

It came again. And again. And again, faster and faster, until entire streets were vanishing, like candles in a storm.

And suddenly, like a bubble bursting, the Spire itself vanished.

Celestia screamed as she fell into empty space, the wind whistling past her. She opened her wings and tried to fly, but they were too weak to carry her. She plummeted like a stone through the dark and the cold.

She crashed into a snowdrift, already several feet deep. She lay there, breathless, for several seconds, then finally, she sat up and coughed, spattering the snow with crimson. She groaned; her wound was throbbing again. She gritted her teeth, then looked up. After a moment, she stood, and began to glance frantically about at the sudden, great emptiness.

They were alone. The city—the Spire—the ponies—had simply vanished.

Luna landed beside her, shivering from more than just the cold.

Celestia glanced at her with wide, unseeing eyes. “Luna!” she cried, “W-we need to do something!”


“We’ll go find the unicorns,” she said, faster. “They can use their magic, see what happened—”


“—o-or we can find the pegasi, see if the villages are still there—”

“In the name of Harmony, Celestia, will you listen to me?!”

Celestia whipped her head around and stared. Luna stood in the snow, chest heaving, her gaze trembling. She shook her head, sending little drops of crystal flying into the darkness.

“Just… stop,” she said. “Give it up. It’s gone. They’re gone.” She swallowed. “He’s gone.” A moment of silence, then she looked away and sobbed. “I—I loved him, Cece,” she choked out. “I loved him…”

Celestia took a deep breath, and her vision seemed to clear a little. She walked over to Luna, then drew her in close. “I know,” she said gently. “I know. And I’m sorry.”

And she was surprised to realize she meant it.

She pulled Luna tighter and laid her head on her shoulder. Suddenly, something broke inside of Celestia, and she began to weep.

She had failed. She hadn’t saved the crystal ponies. She hadn’t saved her sister from Sombra—not her heart, at any rate. And now, trapped, hurt and exhausted, in the middle of the valley, no food, no supplies—she couldn’t even save herself.

She had failed, completely and absolutely.

The realization cut her deeper than the wound in her chest.

Celestia hugged Luna tighter, like a frightened little filly, and wept.

And slowly, subtly, almost so gently that neither of them noticed...

Luna pulled herself away from her grasp.

Author's Note:

Protip: I've chosen these chapter titles carefully. Some of them are simple synopses, but if you don't immediately recognize a term, try googling it.