• Published 19th Aug 2017
  • 6,582 Views, 201 Comments

Enemy of Mine - Ice Star



A few years after Luna's return it seems that Equestria will finally know an era of peace and appears to be on the verge of a new renaissance. Ponies are happy. Luna is recovering. Celestia is miserable.

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Interlude 6: Hemera

O Morning Star, You have lived for thousands of years and have been through more than anypony could realize, even if you told them anything about the real you. The throne was maintained by you alone for one thousand years, with only your misdeeds to maintain your position. You stopped wondering how you brought yourself through each day after the first two centuries of losing the one you smothered and rebuked without consistency. The words of many a diplomat have been heard by your ears when you sat alone, but it is your nature who is slippier than any honey or poison that they doled into their words.

Just as there were many diplomats, there were many students to pass under your wing as well. Each little unicorn started out the same in your eye. They were always obedient little shadows, newly bestowed with the title of Faithful Student as they stood in the silver light of your greatest regret and the sunlight that you bring. You lied to them about the moon's scars, about your nature, and kept luring them closer than any ought to ever be to a wicked mare like you.

...

It was shortly before Cadance ever set hoof in Canterlot, and during one of the times when she felt so especially raw and hopeless about the words of the fortune teller, whose prophecy still felt new in her ears during these phases of denial. She had made the decision during a migraine of a few days and a bout of loneliness so thick she swore she would drown in it. Princess Celestia had vanished into the appearance of an earth pony of the palest yellow with a mane of familiar pink and green piled on her head in a graying bun. Her trouble with these disguises was that she was still confined to showing something of herself even though she was exactly what she wanted to escape. Thankfully, her geas could save her mind from such liberation with every barrier she needed.

The name she gave herself was Buttercup, and Buttercup found herself stretched out on the couch of a psychologist in a way that was hardly different from a virgin upon a sacrificial cloud altar of the pegasus tribe. Both Buttercup and Princess Celestia could throw planets farther than they would trust therapists. But she had the need to talk to somepony about even a fraction of her stress the way stitches had to be split and pulled out. So here she was, dishonestly disguised in search of somepony to talk to about a pinch of the truth, because that was the heart of the matter she could barely address: she needed to tell just enough truth to live her lie. For Princess Celestia so ached with loneliness and hurt in her empty entirety that she needed this, that was how she gaslit herself into coming here. One of the maids had been talking about how grief counseling helped her with the death of her grandmother recently. That had been overheard by the sun goddess, whose loss began when she woke up every single day and could not name the chasm she detected in herself.

Now she was a patient, telling her life slant as a mare with silver half-moon glasses took scribbles. The unicorn was named Clear Conscience, and her office was crowded with plenty of cozy things: pillows, framed degrees, cat needlepoints, and a shell that constantly burbled with the sound of water (and yet nothing came out of it). There was nowhere that either Buttercup or Princess Celestia could possibly feel less safe, even as she lay, stomach exposed and stiff as a board. She spun stories of how much her job got to her, making Buttercup into just enough of a mask to confess through about what she felt working a job position of Princess Celestia's own invention assisting the hall of archives in Hayfable, where the political records of all of Everfreeshire's towns (save Canterlot's own) were stored. That little village was a blink-and-miss-it sight from the train up the mountain. It was long in the limbo of being absorbed as a district of Canterlot and existing as it historically did: a few fine estates, airship docks, and municipal buildings seated below Canterlot upon Canterhorn mountain, with nothing but the rockiest roads to get from place to place, leading to airships being common everyday transportation for the residents.

They spent numerous sessions like that, with Buttercup talking about the demands of her job and the woes of her social life, until one day Dr. Conscience had other ideas. With the kind of gentleness that stirred immediate warnings in Princess Celestia's mind, she urged Buttercup to talk about something more than her job for this session. Apparently, this mare had gotten the impression that while the job was of no benefit to Buttercup (the princess wanted to snap as soon as she was told this) that in the eight months Buttercup had been seeing Dr. Conscience, she had said nothing of her history and only so much of the true feelings that the psychologist insisted she knew were there. Dr. Conscience implored Buttercup to do this, stating that the grievances that were being reported were better suited to a therapist, especially with their apparent duration.

There was an urgency to Buttercup's words after that. She wrung out any words she could, letting them gallop away from her and doing nothing to stop herself until she caught what she said: the sister she had mentioned as a source of orbiting tension became something more. Buttercup's sister had been a clear source of frustration to Dr. Conscience, who had wanted to know why it was that Buttercup was so fixated on managing what sounded like the life of an adult mare. Princess Celestia had not been able to see why the age was relevant; everypony should have the strictest sense of fate built into their life no matter what stage of it they occupied — and what reason could there be to deny her will to make such changes?

Her words balked, then backed up on themselves without Buttercup realizing it. The sister became a daughter, and the change spoken allowed in an instant plea to stay as a client, an indirect protest against further abandonment even by somepony she saw as a confession receptacle. She would not be alone, she would not be discarded again. She had failed so bitterly as a sister, and Dr. Conscience said she wanted to hear no more about sisters, so Princess Celestia's mind offered a change: the possibility to succeed as a mother. Sisters were such evil things, there was no repairing the rottenness that was best changed into something else.

The change had been one of impulse, but something about the glorious delusion sunk into her the way needles pinched into flesh; that change stayed stuck with its transformative pain from the point of entry biting outward.

Before she could realize what she was doing, Buttercup's change had unlocked something: a wellspring of further slanted truths. She told a tale of a daughter she lost to never be seen again, or stallions who romanced her as a mask, orphanhood, a wicked stepfather, her general outlook, a succession of manipulated children, a genuine romance abandoned, the sum of her feelings, her daily emptiness, a self-made prison of lies, and a gilded cage of a lifestyle. All told through the keystone of a sister-turned-daughter described as deceased and flowing into more retellings of a mare who never lived created to represent a goddess who dreaded just that.

...

Only one of them ever graduated successfully, becoming as close to gods as ponies could be, a mere imitation of your kind and mashup of something beyond a mere mortal, but mortal all the same. The pink demigod is evidently the most successful, and it is because she was not your doing. Others quit, some failed, and others became monsters. In your heart, all of them who lived short of the demigod status were failures, and that is something you dare not allow to surface from the sea of lobotomized feelings that you have been drowning me in for so long. Each and every one of them had something in common despite the different paths each was led on.

They all saw you smile, and what a pretty smile you have, and a truly disarming one at that! It absolutely sickens me, the rightful host of your magic and body, the one who ought to be making something of the life you have spent in self-pity, self-objectification, and gaping loneliness. Not a single one of those who branded as Faithful before they could ever understand that burden ever left your side. Hardly any came close to learning what is beneath the serenity you have recovered in the course of this millennium, one that has been built like a wall underneath the exchange of so many masks, as though you would not be an imposter even without one. It was because of these Faithful Students, the private pupils that rose above all the others in the academy you founded as a fishing pool, that you were only alone if you stopped to think.

...

The best thing about being Princess Celestia was that when she committed to a change, the world changed with her as if she had cast no spell at all. One of the worst things about being Princess Celestia was that every present became her eternity; her moments of lightness made everything seem as if it had always been so. But the same was true of that great underlying emptiness and all the worst feelings she ever felt. Princess Celestia had tampered and smothered her own memories so much that she could not even say if this had grown from tendencies or whether she had always been this way, it would require the deconstruction of barriers that were not meant to be broken.

When she decided to say that Luna had been her daughter instead of her sister, all of history had reshaped itself to match her words. Except for those lying history books. Or the books of lore. Both were already revised often enough and well-suppressed if they were unfavorable editions with certain content. But for a mare who was reduced to a few sentences in the infinite sage of history, there was something about Luna's remains (whose name was never spoken) that wasn't dishonest enough to bend entirely to what Princess Celestia needed them to be. So what if it concerned somepony she would never see again? She deserved to feel stingy about this, and the wrongness in the rightness of things.

That day was supposed to be an important appointment — Dr. Conscience had told her so, in an almost mysterious way. At their last appointment, she had calmly told Buttercup that her diagnoses had been worked out. Princess Celestia held herself stone-still when she heard that, she did not come here to get diagnoses and this mare had no right to give them to her. The doctor had added nothing else, save for a remark that she hoped (ah, that ugly word) Buttercup would emotionally prepare herself to hear them, and from there, they would restructure the course of Buttercup's treatment plan.

Princess Celestia decided that this appointment was important because it would be the last one; she needed no such labels for flaws she did not have. Yet, when she was called back to her session, the notes presented to her were heinous accusations befitting a madmare not fit for rulership:

  • Borderline Personality Disorder (petulant subtype)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Features of communal narcissism noted

Anypony with such ailments was better suited for a madhouse, not the necessary labor that Princess Celestia did, the very kind such mean-spirited labels interfered with. She was right as rain, merely grieving. How dare such deep personal defects be leveled at her? How dare she be attacked this way, as though it were any other soul who brought light to the world? She wasted no time in telling Dr. Conscience just that, everything Buttercup could get away with. She laid out the lie of her disguised soul: she was a simple mare dedicated to others, who espoused kindness, who sacrificed herself generously, who understood friendship like the back of her hoof, and who was humbly as far from these off-the-mark misdiagnoses as possible. They were entirely inaccurate and unsolicited, based on nothing but a year and a half's worth of ramblings. She was not a sick pony, as sick ponies were not to occupy her place in society. Sick ponies were antisocial, isolated, and all manner of nasty things that did not fit her, that were better off given to the real sick ponies, the ones who had things worse, the ones who were bad, and not meant for everyday heroes.

For some reason she never understood, Dr. Conscience did not appear the slightest bit surprised by Princess Celestia's tightly-wound deflections and seething, stone-faced shut-downs. All she did was adjust her glasses, sigh, and say something about how the client directed whether they would see her or not.

Buttercup never showed up again, nor did Princess Celestia come bearing any other faces.

...

It does not matter if the room is crowded or empty, a single stray thought or pause in your performance and you will realize just how alone you feel. How alone you have always been, how that void that Others you can never be less empty, no matter how much you deny it or try to toss me further in. That only gives my voice a stronger echo, and forgotten things you throw here a chance to be offered the intimacy your attempts at destruction deny them, Your Radiance. You would know exactly why you do not tell anypony of your woes, why the deep parts of you have been bricked up with the insistence that there is nothing actually wrong with you and cemented with further lies to the point that you fall for it. As if you had not denied anything was wrong even to this day and sealed away even the mere acknowledgment of your problems. As if you did not build up immunity to centuries' worth of sleeping draughts over time with your abuse of them, all so that you could more cruelly assuage the guilt that is rightly yours, Celestia.

You have even forgotten what's wrong, have you not? Can you even tell anymore? Or is the kingdom just a way to build the world how you need it to be, perfectly arranged so that your underlings need you to be the breezie tale cliches you need to be felt as? Luna's return is not a guarantee that your behavior will get better, but it is only with your careful and dedicated management that it has improved at all, if you still see fit to call this improvement. Surely, you at least know what this problem involves? This isn't a bordering on a rare occurrence anymore. Did it ever? Can you even tell me that? Can you tell yourself that — can you be real, can 'Celestia' really be anything other than a life you watched from the sidelines and prettied up here and there? When nopony is in the room with you, do you cease to be?

I think you do; I know you feel like you do.

...

Three weeks later, Dr. Clear Conscience got a single letter: due to sufficient evidence of inaccuracies and dubious treatment of clients, her license would be suspended indefinitely. It was signed by none other than the secretary of the Princess herself. Following the initial declaration was how she could submit evidence against the claims being made against her and see whether she would be able to proceed to a court case judged by Princess Celestia herself or lose her livelihood.

Clear Conscience hurried to make copies of everything she could to protest the once-in-a-lifetime shut down — one that drove ponies from seeing her just from the sheer taboo of the declaration, despite all her protests. Among those were copies of the notes from her ex-client, Buttercup, who was the only pony to recently separate from her services.

Mere days later, she received word from Canterlot Castle: almost everything she sent out had been lost in the mail, and what she did arrive was deemed insufficient evidence to keep her license and practice open by Princess Celestia.

The letter suspending her from practicing psychology in Equestria indefinitely bore all the marks that it was approved by the Princess, it bore her seal, but absolutely nothing suggesting that it had been personally composed by her in any other respects. Every paper from the castle was like that. Her diplomas from the secondary and undergraduate campuses of Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns had been just as impersonal.

...

You are not healthy, even your body is trying to tell you that at this point, and I simply adore the effort that this porcelain shell still puts in. You may have defeated many tyrants in an age that has since passed but you are the tyrant of your own mind and the ruins it has developed into, so perfect for trapping you, who abuses it best of all. You need not worry about the favor being returned. You still numb your heart to what has been going on with a stranglehold that hurts only one mare in the end. Even after all of this, you still have not realized that you are the greatest villain that there is, for who else turns their magic against themselves, beats their own development to bits, robs their own memory, and has their feelings pressed upon like a mewling kitten ground under millstones? All so that you can know oblivion in your heart and call it tranquility as if this has been painless to you!

Tirek stole the magic, but you cripple your own even now, when millions of ponies in a growing agrarian waste of a nation depend on you. Discord overthrew the first nation of Equestria set up by the newly unified tribes, but he never wounded anypony as deeply as you wound yourself or those who have been close to you. The changeling queen who crashed the wedding of the niece you groomed to perfection was less of a parasite than you are. Only the Crystal Empire's overthrown king is worse than you for he has spilled blood wantonly. I know that still sits somewhere in your thoughts.

You still think of life in two absolutes even if you have lessened the strict observance of your morals, keeping them squirreled away in contradictory cubbyholes whose jarring hypocrisy you attempt to soften as nuance. As if you could ever think without defect, as others do. There is not a soul alive, mortal or immortal, who could not hate the reality behind the impossible benevolence you live. Even the other demon is vocal about knowing that there is nothing real to the image you want Equestria to believe, that when something is so seemingly good as you are, it only indicates there is something amiss with such unreality.

You continue to betray yourself and those you suffer for your actions, no matter how small the ripples start. Your kindness was a trait that earned you an Element of Harmony because of its unnatural excess, despite how unreliable yours can be. Your subjects adore their image of an altruistic and peaceful ruler, but you are only the reflection in the mirror. When the room is empty, the looking-glass is too. Like the benevolence you have shown as something so sickly, your Generosity was not without flaw either. When you stood before Harmonia, a mess unfit for a crown crying and raging for Luna back, she revealed to you that you were given Magic for the reason that the most recent Bearer of Loyalty was given her Element — so that you could learn from it, and because between the two of you, it was you who had friends, however, fragmented the other areas of your life were. Harmonia admitted her desperation to you, that if even you could not bear Magic, none could. Of all creatures alive, there are none who are more of an antithesis to the Spark than you are now.

You are the only thing you have ever run from. Why can you not face yourself? Why seal yourself away? I am only you.

You listen so much to everypony, but seem quite deaf yourself. Even though you have to know I am here to help push yourself away, to take over what you have been doing since before the time of three tribes, freezing and warring in the heartless northern wastes. If you keep this up will there be anything left? Why do you ask questions if you stopped seeking answers?

My Queen of Fools, are you lying again? When will you tell the truth? When will you tell anypony?

You are so sure that you are perfectly fine and that you will never have another outburst or fight with Luna again as you two used to over a millennium ago, when doors were closed and fractures were on full display.

You have waited and waited and waited, smiling all the while, calling this procrastination towards nothing a life. Even though you have whined about how much you tried, that has never been so. You have only tried to cover up the problem until there's only your own denial left.

I am you. I think you want me to let me be you. Give up. It is never far from your thoughts. I am the things you will never know, and what you have let yourself become. I am everything you will never say beneath the totalitarian control you are crushing your heart, mind, magic, and soul under — even when your feelings can still tear you apart, despite that effort. You'll never realize that you still feel, even if you cannot bear or bring yourself to name the emotion you envy and scorn others for. Or, to put it correctly, I used to be you, and maybe I still am you. I was a piece of the puzzle that — when correctly built — formed you, Celestia. Currently, I am but a buried and broken aspect of you, and only recently have we begun to know one another after all of these years. The small pauses you make in the halls when you catch yourself with a thought that does not feel like you — or at least not the you that Celestia wants to be — have almost always been something of me. And yet... how would you know what you are supposed to feel like, you empty jar of a mare?

Now maybe, I am still only that to you, your illusion, your denial, a simple little voice that sprung from the divide you lay within yourself. Or maybe I am worse.

You are not a victor; you haven't escaped anything.

It is only missed opportunity to get better, all of which have long since expired as you have passed all the points from where there could be a return. I think that after all these years you have made it quite clear that none of that matters to you.

So go ahead. Tell yourself that maybe you will teach more Faithful Students, even though they would be useless. Few to none distrust you enough to fully realize that their absence in the wake of Luna's return is one of the loudest whispers of your malice that there ever was. Do you continue to appreciate the happiness that comes from learning the true nature of your former Elements only after Luna was gone? Know that I can only get you when you are awake like this, and your regrets are a platter of conversation topics I can indulge your anxieties in. If you want happiness to last this is a botched job.

Break your promises, as you have since fillyhood. Avoid honesty. Be as kind to everypony who lives under the rule of Luna and yourself while trying to hold onto your mask for that much longer, we shall see where it gets you. Just do not forget how cruel this is to yourself, and that it has always been a sign of your selflessness that you are willing to do this to yourself. Tell everypony how happy you are. Maybe it will be true when they leave you to pursue their own lives. Go on feeling empty when they grow up and you still refuse to tell a single soul about any of this. You still think there is nothing wrong. You do not know why you can feel so empty so much of the time. You are still stuck on the foal's whine of not wanting to — and therefore it cannot be so — instead of ever asking yourself why it is, how it came to be, and what you are going to do about it.

"It's all in my head" has gotten you this far. Ignoring it has gotten you this far. It has also made everything worse.

Just go on distracting yourself, since now all this light is only meant to blind yourself and others from the unending brokenness within you.

Author's Note:

An extremely old and unrefined version of what was adapted into this can be found here. I may or may not be an enjoyed of foreshadowing.

Hayfable is a reference to Haystable, from the story Christen.

What's communal narcissism, some readers may wonder: click here.

Explaining the petulant subtype of BPD: click here.

What's OCPD and how is it different from OCD: click here (PDF), or here (article).

What's PPD: click here.

What does it mean to have features versus being diagnosed with the condition? "Features" refers to showing traits of another condition without meeting the diagnostic criteria to have the full condition. Two examples are: Princess Celestia has features of behavior distinct to NPD in this story (and others) but she does not meet the full diagnostic criteria for the condition NPD, whereas Sombra does meet the criteria for the full personality disorder. Another example is that Sombra shows features distinct to both Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) and Schizoid Personality Disorder (SzPD) without having the disorders themselves -- partly because of his differential diagnosis (ie. factors from other conditions he would have contradicted having full SzPD or ASPD).

holy shit I waited years before really slapping a DSM on these characters, researching, and getting second opinions, and now here are the results in 2023

So... if they have such similar conditions (at points), why is it that Sombra and Celestia do so differently?

  • These conditions don't impact everyone the same way; it doesn't give them cookie-cutter results, it just makes them similarly dysfunctional
  • Sombra does get therapy at his own pace and seeks to improve his (limited) relationships and Celestia doesn't
  • Celestia has almost omnipresent delusional thinking whereas Sombra doesn't; the limited delusions he has are relatively harmless and even silly
  • Sombra directs himself inward, tends to mind his business, and allows himself to feel all his emotions (for better or for worse); Celestia enmeshes herself with others
  • Sombra is honest about the trauma he's experienced and relies on helpful characters for support
  • Sombra's emotional dysregulation is directed outward and he can be observed to make mistakes
  • They both direct remorse differently
  • There are other traits from each others' conditions that inhibit or ease things for them, adding to their uniqueness (example being: Celestia's perfectionism vs. Sombra's disregard for social norms)
  • Sombra is heavily discriminated against and shows a willingness to uphold moral convictions even in the face of worsening how he is viewed, Celestia is more morally heterodox and rigid making her unreliable
  • Etc.
Comments ( 6 )

Hey fuckers read my blog

As of typing this comment, I've edited up to Husband of Hers, Part three (so, chapter 6) with a few exceptions. You'll notice the a/n of this interlude doesn't acknowledge some things, namely:

  • after this it's chapter, interlude, chapter interlude, chapter, interlude, and then the epilogue (major parts of these are already written and have been for years, they're just getting broken into chunks)
  • I forgot I was supposed to make this an interlude whoops
  • It acknowledges Sombra should have an updated diagnosis but doesn't state what his are; this is because it's supposed to be inserted into a few chapters ahead of where I am with a NEW scene. For those who require spoilers to help w/ context: the conclusion on Sombra is that he has CPTSD, BPD, (overt type) NPD, w/ schizoid and antisocial features, along with autism and pyromania disorder. This horse is fucking insane and a major thank you to everyone who gave me feedback on helping put a DSM to him and unintentionally getting both a positive representation of someone with PDs and also major Literally Me character energy. Because reasons.

WOOOOOOOO UPDATE!!!!!

That was a good chapter.

Ahhhh, the premier character study returns! It's back!

11689660
It is! Everything is coming together, though very very slowly. I'm absolutely flattered that you'd refer to this story as such. :twilightblush:

11789103
It's good to hear that I still have my power. I'm glad you're enjoying this beast of a story!

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