• Published 19th Apr 2016
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Ageless, or Celestia Plays Dice With the Universe - Cynewulf



The prospect of Twilight being possibly ageless like she and her sister are unnerves Celestia, and she wants to know why.

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IV. A Mare is What She Wills Herself to Be

Another letter, on the same nightstand, on top of the first:





To my dearest, silliest, and sunniest of Aunts:



I would like to say firstly that I am very, very happy to hear from you. I’m sure you’ve thought of some of the same things I have--in fact, after I wrote that I read your letter again, and you did mention my own reaction. I wanted to talk about that first, if that’s alright.


I was distraught. You remember how I was. All I could think about was… that I had changed into something I didn’t understand. I hadn’t chosen this. I hadn’t wanted it. The idea of being a princess had been so amazing, and then to suddenly realize… the dreams, really. The Blessing of our kind, that was what really did it. I thought I was going to lose my mind, I honestly did. Shining was only a crush then, someone I barely knew. We sat side by side in math class, and that was it. I cheated off of his homework like basically all the time and I babysat his sister. But then I started wondering what it would be like to become friends with him and then what if we fell in love, and then I just stayed the same and he got older and older and…


I know I was a bit of a burden on you. In my own defense, I was a child. I was thirteen.


As soon as I heard the news, I talked to my seneschal and had my Imperial duties carefully apportioned to various advisors and trusted ponies for some time. I have a week and a half starting the day of Twilight’s “trial”. I will be there for her. I know you will be too, but we both know that you’ve only been on one side of it. It’s been this way for you so long that you can’t really understand the beginning. And that’s okay. Together, we will love Twilight and love will do its best.


I’ve been thinking since I got your letter about a dream I once had. When Auntie Luna and I were still a bit awkward around each other--she was shy and I was a little too eager to help her feel part of our little family again--I asked her if she could give me dreams again. Real dreams. She asked, and I explained that I missed them dearly. I think she was touched. (Perhaps you should do the same, dearest Aunt.) She rarely crafts them. Per my request, occasionally without much warning I will dream as I did once before. Of course, a few months before my wedding, I had a nightmare. (Luna had already magicked me a long and panicky apology by the time I woke up. Apparently she has trouble entering my normal dreams if they are too intense.)


I had lived a thousand years, and was unmarried. Nopony remembered Shining Armor at all. The earliest they could remember was some stallion I had never heard of only two hundred years before. I kept trying to find some sign of him, some trace of him… and then with horror I myself found I could only remember his name.


I woke up. I didn’t read Aunt Luna’s letter for about an hour because I was too busy bawling my eyes out. The idea that a pony could be only a name, and nothing more, to somepony who had loved them. That was the only moment I truly, truly hated my immortality. I never told you, because for a few hours I hated you very much. But the manner of my ascension… I know it wasn’t your doing. It was wrong, and because I never told you, I was never able to apologize. I wanted to do that. I’m sorry, Celestia.


It was the other dreams that helped, in the end. Curious, isn’t it? Because they all knew Shiny. They loved him. I realized all of me would, and even if nopony else remembered, the Court of Love would always remember.


I read your letter many times, and I wanted to say that once again… You have two faces. The first face is the cool and collected Celestia, mother to all ponykind, gracious and warm as the sun on a bright day. The Sun is decency and order, always the same and always on time, never changing as far as ponies know. And that’s you.The other is… well. I’m always happy to remind you that it is the sun which drives all of Equestria mad in the end. As you and I know full well, the bright sunlight in spring is what brings heat on, and nothing is farther from decency or order as estrus season in ponylands. But that’s you. One face is calm and the other face has much more in common with Twilight than I think you’d care to admit, and both of them are equally you. Your letter is a mess. I can tell everytime you start to really get honest you would revert back to Princess Celestia until you felt too uncomfortable or you slipped up and became Merely Celestia.


(Shining is reading over my shoulder. Or was. He was distinctly uncomfortable with me talking about his old boss, The Princess of Equestria And God Empress of Ponykind, experiencing heat. I sweetly and lovingly informed him that I was not talking about Princess Celestia. I was writing a letter to Aunt Celestia, and that if he didn’t stop eavesdropping I would start discussing Twilight’s own natural and healthy functionality with you and he scurried off to do Very Important Things. I do so love him.)



All of this to say, that whether you intended it to be or not, your letter has been received as a request for an audience. The Court of Love has officially added you to the docket. I am sure that Luna can aid you in finding your way there, oh, around ten tonight? I’ll be waiting. Tell Luna no spoilers! She’s so bad about that. She ruined Kitkat and the Midnight Hour for me last month and I will never forgive her for all of eternity. Or until she finally reads Headlong.


I joke because I’m also afraid. I love you both very much. I hope you’ll visit tonight.


With Love,


Cadance

















“No spoilers?” Luna parroted. Her face was the perfect picture of scorn, a raised eyebrow and wrinkled nose. “Honestly, for a being whose domain is Love itself, our niece is intolerable.”


Celestia smiled wanly. Luna had come to see her before bed. It was nine of the clock. Or it had been, last she checked. Outside, her view of the night sky and the ancient city below were equally beautiful. Celestia loved Canterlot, even if it sometimes seemed a little overwhelming. Here, at least, time moved slower. As much as the part of her that was still young and bright hated to admit it, she did find some solace in dull pomp and circumstance because it was predictable and didn’t throw a poor mare for a loop every few decades.


“I take it that you have visited her in her own Court.” Celestia bit her bottom lip.


“Aye, I have,” Luna replied with a nod.


“Is it as… confusing as yours?”


“Mine is not confusing. Well, not really confusing. I think it is only you that is so dull or self-flagellant.”


Celestia flushed. “That’s a bit on the nose, Luna.”


And Luna leaned in. “It was a bit gentle, really. You enjoy pain, Celestia.”


“I am not going to give you room for a vulgar jest, but I am also not going to dignify that with a real response.”


“I am not sure it is something I could even joke about anymore,” her sister replied with a frown. “Perhaps, a year ago I might have. In my few visits I have seen enough to be deeply concerned. I… heard Dawn mention how many times after--”


“Please don’t,” Celestia said quickly.


Luna sighed, and then smiled. She scooted closer and kissed Celestia on the forehead, beneath her horn. “Perhaps in a decade we shall not be apologizing so much to one another.”


“I hope so.”


“I love you. Cadance also loves you. You really are not alone. I am proud of what you made of your sorrow in the world beyond. Do not think for a moment that I am not proud of it because I am horrified of what you made of yourself. Do not take from me the righteous burden of my crime.”


Celestia whined. “I feel like I’ve become a sputtering, gibbering fool. Somewhere between Twilight’s… I mean… somewhere between then and now, I feel that I’ve broken.”


“I think it is perhaps more than that,” Luna said. “Several things, in fact, and Twilight is the catalyst. For all my concern… This is a good thing. You have been sore sick, sister mine, and walking on broken legs. I am shocked you lasted as long as you did wearing the mask after I returned.”


“I don’t have a mask.”


“Wear the mask that grins and lies, Fear,” Luna said.


Celestia wanted to twist away in horror, but found that she could not. Luna was intertwined with her now. There was a moment of blind panic, and then crashing calm. This was no repeat of the past. Luna had not seized one of her aspects.“F-for a moment…”


“It is only I. The Moon does not rule me and I do not rule it. I am sorry if I startled you.”


“I’m sorry I…”


“Apologies are wearisome,” Luna said and shook her head. She seemed to ponder, and then chuckled. “Besides, it’s not a full moon tonight.”


Celestia groaned and her sister laughed.


Luna nuzzled her chastely. “I will take you with me to the Court of the Moon. We will entertain you until your, ahem, audience.” She tried to say it with a straight face, but they both fell to giggles at the idea of being summoned by such a young mare.















“I confess that I am unsure of the identity of this reflection,” Celestia said over tea. The others worked, directing faceless legionary ponies in the construction of a mighty citadel fit for a god. Luna herself idly sketched on the plans for the city that she would fill with ponies so that she might be surrounded with love.


Luna looked up and around. Only one other Luna was there: the silent one. The younger sister smiled and cleared her throat. “Reflection, tell my sister your name and introduce yourself. Wherein did I learn war?”


“In the sphere of Sulva I learned war,” the reflection replied. Celestia looked her over as the no-longer silent shadow stood. She was Luna, but not Luna. Taller, more regal. She was Celestia’s height and held herself as Celestia could never bring herself to--this was a creature that understood its superiority in such a way that it had no need to assert it or even to care about it.


She wondered if this is what Luna might have become had their places been reversed. A silent watchpony, a laconic sentinel against all dark things.


Her grey eyes bored into Celestia’s. “Hail, Sulva,” the older princess said at last. Sulva nodded.


“You are wondering what I am.”


“Well, yes.” Celestia sipped at her tea. “But it would be rude to ask.”


“Rudeness is a thing for those who care to take offense. I do not. The New Moon is a perversion of me. I am the Moon itself, the surface where once ponies lived in harmony. When you were sent on your own trial in the ancient days to claim the sun, Luna was left adrift on the moon’s surface. You know the story.”


Celestia swallowed. “Yes.”


“I am the sum of all of those experiences. I am the last line of defense. I prevent all other breaking. I am the implacable enemy of fear.”


“You must hold me in rather low regard.”


“You are not fear. You are only afraid. It is your weakness I would see you rescued from,” said Sulva roughly. “How could I destroy what Luna loves most in creation?”


Celestia felt herself warm. “A bit on the nose,” she said with a crooked smile.


“She’s where I get it from,” Luna said absently, not looking up from her plans.


“Is it… is it time, yet?”


Luna looked up and blinked. “Hm. Not quite. A few more minutes. Enjoy your tea. I’ll have you there presently. I’ll even warn you before you look like a foal in front of sweet Cadance. Perhaps she will be kinder than I.”


“That is highly unlikely,” Celestia groused.
















Cadance hadn’t laughed. This had been a bit distressing, even if she were thankful for it in the tiny part of her that had any dignity left. Celestia did not mind being laughed at, normally, not when she was in on the joke. Even being laughed at for her failing stung less than silence--Luna’s mirth whenever she happened to stumble spectacularly had nothing to do with malice, after all, and she usually joined in.


Even malicious laughter was better than silence for Celestia. Silence was the absolute worst thing, and the next worst was like it: nervous fretting.


The fact that she was carried along by multiple Cadance’s slightly made up for her entrance, if only a little. The fact that they were mothering her actually helped immensely. Celestia was used to being the maternal figure--it was nice to have that load off.


“How is she, Matron?” Cadance’s voice asked. All of the voices were hers.


“She will be fine. Luna didn’t warn us about this. I can’t believe she wouldn’t come with her to help her move from dream to dream!”


“Aw, but she’s so cute when she’s sleepy,” said another and then she giggled, which set them all to giggling, until at last one voice corralled them.


“Okay, okay. C’mon, ladies, don’t crowd her. Oh, and I see you. Yes, you. No cuddling. This is my aunt, you know. Matron, you can stay.”


Light was coming back. Celestia could see the ceiling… and a pony she almost didn’t recognize. She blinked. She blinked again.


Celestia gasped. “Oh, stars, Cadance! You’re… old.”


Cadance--or whoever it was--laughed. “Hello, auntie. That’s a rude thing to say to a mare, but I’ll let you off. You would say that I am not Cadance, but an aspect of her. She calls me matron, and a matron I am. Are you feeling well?”


“Yes,” Celestia murmured, feeling further ridiculous. “I’m quite fine. If you could help me up…?”


Matron nodded and together they rose. Celestia looked about herself, taking in the Inner Courts of Love on shaky legs.


What was it like? She had not had any real expectations, and yet still she was surprised. Cadance’s dreaming was soft, that was the first impression. The edges, the lights, the smells… everything was softer here. She stood shakily in some palace, perhaps borrowed from a book or from the whims of her niece. Fluted pillars held up a high vaulted cieling, and everywhere she found pillows ponies chatting whilst reclined. Wine, food, and song were there in abundance. Yet it did not feel decadent so much as it felt… intimate.


She realized suddenly with a shock that she saw only a few Cadances. The rest were ponies she did not recognize, and they were not faceless. She looked at the Cadances, trying to find the one who was the core.


“They have faces,” she said, blinking.


“Yes.” Cadance smiled. “Love would not abide a faceless shadow. They are all my memories, all the ponies I love. The Empire is outside, and I think if I went far enough I would find Canterlot.” She stepped forward. “I’m glad you came. I’m sorry that it was rough.”


“It’s alright.” Celestia nodded gratefully to the older Cadance--Matron. “I am honored to be invited.”


Cadance cocked her head to the side, and then seemed to understand. “Aunt Luna mentioned that you were more private about your dream. I’ve never felt that way. Shining knows. I told him all about it.”


Celestia blinked. Again. “You did?”


“Of course,” she replied with easy grace and a wide smile. “We’re married, silly.”


Celestia swallowed. “Ah. Yes. Right.”


Cadance looked at her for a moment, and then turned. “Well, since you’re here… I should introduce you. You’ve met Matron. These are the four loves: Eros, who needs no introduction--”


“Not that I wouldn’t mind one,” purred Eros.


“Storge--” Cadance said, but was interrupted as from the fold of Cadances smiling at her a foal emerged. A little colt with Cadance’s coloring gleefully bounded forth and hugged her, shouting excited little greetings.


Celestia wondered if she was the only alicorn not to have at least one childlike aspect. Maybe Luna was right. Maybe I am boring.


She cleared her throat, but returned the small embrace. “Hello, little one. You have an interesting name.” She looked up at the aspect who approached. “It’s ancient. That’s old Pegas.”


“Glad you noticed, Tia,” said the one who came to her. The aspect of Cadance nuzzled her, and Celestia tried to hide her shock. Outside of the Full Moon, Luna’s aspects were never so physical. “I’m Philos. I’m the part of Cadance that likes being your friend, as well, without the Aunt part.” She smiled and then mussed Storge’s mane.


“Agape is my name,” said the last. This was Cadance ascended--didn’t she already do that?--Cadance a little taller with all the regality and steel in her that Celestia had tried to teach. This was a mare that could destroy cities and yet chose instead to be gentle as a pony would in villages of ants.


“I am honored to meet you all,” Celestia said.


“Good luck gettin’ this kid off of you,” Philos said with an easy grin. She yawned and used her magic to summon pillows. “Might as well sit. We’re gonna be here for a while.”


Without any word from Cadance, the various aspects of the Court of Love had moved to surround her slowly. They sat around her, expectantly, as Cadance cleared her throat. “Well, I guess it’s about time we jumped into this. Your letter was… confusing,” she began with a frown. “Is it Twilight that worries you? Or is it yourself that is the problem? I have my own thoughts, but… it’s important that I hear yours.”


“Twilight is not the problem,” Celestia said. “Except she is.”


“That’s clear as mud,” Philos said and then chuckled.


“I mean…” Celestia sighed. “It’s…”


“Confusing?” offered the colt who was still snuggled up to her.


“Yes,” Celestia said. “Yes, that.”


“Well… why aren’t you happy to have Twilight around?”


There was the question. The damnable question she could not answer without…


“It’s not that,” Celestia said. “It’s not that I don’t want her around. I love Twilight. I genuinely love her. She is a wonderful pony and my friend. I watched her grow into a fine young mare. I could not be prouder of her. Time and time again she has wrestled with her own faults, which is more than most ponies even attempt.”


“But…” continued the foal. Celestia frowned at him.


“But I worry. I’ve been worrying a thousand years. It’s a hard habit to break.”


“But you were alone then,” Cadance said. “You have your sister. You have me… and you have Twilight.”


“I could bring up lots of things, Cadance. I could talk about… her flaws. And it would hurt, but I could do it. I’m afraid to even speak of them because I don’t want you or my sister to misunderstand how I feel.” Celestia idly attempted to fix the colt’s mane and he squirmed. “But I’m no fool. The real problem is myself.”


“You tend to blame yourself when you shouldn’t,” Matron said.


“Far too often,” Agape agreed, and her voice rung in Celestia’s ears.


“Luna and I have an old game. Back and forth, a longstanding argument over what makes life as an ageless one worth it. The problem of dying and… not dying.”


Cadance pursed her lips. “I need more than that.”


“I know, I know.”


“But… may I ask you something?”


“Yes, and if it’s about Twilight, the answer is yes.”


“I thought so,” Cadance said, and then tensed. “Is… that makes this more confusing, though. Shouldn’t you be happy? You’ll never… lose her.”


Celestia winced. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been so flippant.”


“When Shiny lives on, I’ll always have him,” Cadance said softly. “But you will always have her, I think, and in a way more tangible. Do you worry she will reject you after this? Or perhaps that she will think you were behind it all in order to…” She sighed. “Maneuver her into being your consort or something?”


Celestia gave her a wan smile. “Well, no, I hadn’t been quite as worried about that until just this moment.”


“Sorry,” Cadance said with a sheepish smile.


“I have had lovers who were former students before,” Celestia began. “Several, spaced over the centuries. I obviously waited for them to not be students, but it has not been the end of the world. And I loved them all, and remember them all today. They kept me grounded. They kept me… sane, I think. Their lives were so short, so fleeting, and I could love them despite the difference between us because death made them so urgent for love.”


“You think love requires death?” asked Cadance.


“I thought so.”


“That’s a bit bleak, Auntie.”


“More than a bit bleak,” Agape said. “It’s positively dark. I am not sure I can agree with that, Celestia.”


“Luna doesn’t either.” Celestia looked down at the colt. She loved children. She always had. Perhaps the dreams of others accommodated her? Unlikely. “And I know it’s bleak. But… but to me it made my short and frenetic time with them all the more meaningful. I had thought of Twilight perhaps joining them one day. I saw signs. The way she looked at me, the way she talked to me and what she didn’t say… I confess I was looking forward to seeing her first stumbling attempts at courtship. I was eager to see what a mortal pony would do for the first time in a decade. And then…”


“And then?”


“Luna was returned to me. Twilight Sparkle delivered her. The world became a much stranger place. Discord returned--and now he stays. I… I think I rushed into this,” Celestia said, feeling inordinately stupid for perhaps the first time in centuries. “I think she rushed into this, as well, but I should have known better than to dangle secrets in front of Twilight Sparkle and expect her to be calm.”


Cadance giggled. “She is a bit overeager, yes. She was that way as a filly, too.”


Celestia smiled, and then looked around at all of the Cadances. “Perhaps I should start from the beginning.”

Author's Note:

It's Sartre again but no one cares

I don't even care

At least he wasn't a nazi like Heidegger