• Published 17th Oct 2012
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Equestria from Dust - Soundslikeponies

On a desolate plane on a barren world, Celestia awakes for the first time.

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Part 5: Civilization


Equestria from Dust, by soundslikeponies

The tundra is hard under Celestia and Luna’s hooves as they run at the front of a stampede of caribou. Their nostrils pump out frosty breaths and their hooves pounding the dirt in a dull rumble.

A sharp yap draws Celestia to look over her shoulder, over the heads of the caribou. A pack of wolves fall in line, hot on the caribous’ trail. The distance between them begins to close, the wolves natural sprinters to chase down prey, but lacking the stamina that the much larger caribou have.

Celestia turns to look back ahead, increasing her pace and hoping the caribou will do the same. The rumbling of their hooves grows louder with the increase in speed, and the arctic air whipping through Celestia’s mane urges her onward.

A howl sounds behind them, and Celestia peeks over her shoulder to see the wolves turn off. A little ways behind the stampede, the wolves gather around a kill—an old caribou that couldn’t keep up with the rest of the herd—and begin to feast.

Celestia peels off from the herd of caribou, who continue ahead at a subdued pace, still afraid of the wolves. Luna stops and slows to a trot beside her, following her eyes to the grim sight.

“Your idea for these predators never sat well with me,” Celestia says, drawing her lips to a thin line as the sound of the wolves eating reaches her ears.

“You know it’s necessary,” Luna says, watching the scene with much more indifference than Celestia. “Remember what happened with the rabbits?”

“Yes, I remember,” Celestia says, sighing.

“And if we were to create some other way to limit the populations, one that didn’t involve so much death, than we would have to take away the gift of new life.” Luna looks back at the carcass. “Look,” she says, and Celestia does so.

A pair of wolf pups wrestle beside the kill, their soft muzzles coated in red as they tumble on the wispy tundra grass. Despite the dead caribou next to them, Celestia finds a warm smile spreading across her lips.

Luna sees it and smirks. “See? That caribou will keep those pups—and the rest of the pack—from going hungry for a month or more.” Taking a deep breath, Luna looks at the scene with something akin to pride. “Where there is death—”

“—there is also life,” Celestia finishes. She closes her eyes and shakes her head, a faint smile on her lips. “I know. You have told me repeatedly these past few centuries.” The longer she looks at the pups, and their red-tinted muzzles, the more her smile slips away. “But something about this feels incomplete. It needs something more.”

Besider her, Luna snorts. “Weren’t you the one who wished to take a few centuries leave from all this?” she says, gesturing to everything around her. “How is it you’ve come to change your mind?”

“I don’t know,” Celestia says, her eyes narrowing to look over the plains. “But it feels like something is missing—something important.”

“What do you wish to do?” Luna asks.

Celestia turns and glances the other way, looking to the sun setting over the horizon. Dark clouds move in overhead, and with them the wind picks up across the tundra plains and penetrates Celestia’s coat easily. She shivers.

In the distance, the caribou they had been roaming with huddle together for warmth. Celestia feels something on her side, and looks to see Luna wrapping a wing around her.

“Maybe it would be best if we flew somewhere warmer before you decide,” Luna says, glancing up at the clouds. “I may enjoy the cold, but even I do not want to get caught in a blizzard.”

The wind begins to pick up a little more, and Celestia turns to her and nods, spreading her wings as Luna does the same beside her. Together, the two of them fly away, leaving the tundra behind. The sun sets as they fly across the tundra, and the stars begin to appear, shining in the cold night air. An aurora stretches across the sky—one of Luna’s ideas—and covers up the moon, bathing it in green light.

It isn’t until the next night that they arrive at a widespread meadow. Thick fields of hay roll across hills into the distance, and apple trees sparsely dot the landscape, their branches the only form of shelter in the entire area. Beneath one such tree, a family of deer—three adults, a young adult, and three fawns—lie at rest.

Celestia lands in the plains first, and Luna quickly follows. The earth beneath Celestia hooves is softer than in the tundra, and the grass stretches all the way up to her knees. Spotting a cliff where the grass is shorter, Celestia begins to walk to it, heading to an apple tree just a short distance back from the cliff and lying down beneath its branches.

Luna sees her do this and follows, lying closer to the edge of the cliff, away from the the tree. She crosses her front hooves and lies her head on them, looking at the deer family with longing. “Those foals have such a simple world,” she says, staring at them. “They were born, and their mothers guided them as they learned how to walk, and how to run.”

Celestia doesn’t say anything, but watches her watch the family of deer, and wonders what it is she’s thinking with the faraway look of longing she has in her eyes.

“We have no mother, no father. When I first woke up in this world, I was exactly as I am now, grown. I’ve wondered a couple times before what happened that night before I woke up, but I’ve always been afraid to ask. I do not know if I simply lost my memories of before that time, or if that was when I came to be. What I wonder most of all is why you were there when I first woke, and what that means.” Luna looks over her shoulder at Celestia, but she does not look upset or angry, she is only searching.

Celestia stares at her and says nothing, but that in and of itself speaks volumes. Luna’s mouth slips into a small frown, and her eyes change and begin to look lost.

“What are we? To each other?” she asks, barely above a whisper.

Celestia gets up and walks over to lie beside her, spreading her wing around Luna and hugging her with it. She nods in the direction of the family of deer. “Do you see those two fawns lying next to each other?”

“Yes...” Luna says slowly, looking at Celestia out of the corner of her eye.

“They are sisters, each born from the same mother, and they grew up together,” Celestia says, rubbing Luna’s back with her wing and looking her in the eye. “We are sisters,” she states firmly. “Maybe not linked by a common parent, but that is what we are to each other. We care for one another and we’ve grown together.”

Luna shifts slightly beneath Celestia’s wing and stares at the family of deer, looking at the two fawns sleeping peacefully with each other, their heads tucked into each others' sides. Hesitantly, she shuffles closer to Celestia and leans against her.

Celestia kisses her temple and gives Luna a slight squeeze with her wing as a warm smile finds its way to her lips. “I have always considered us family.”

Finally, a smile graces Luna’s lips, and she closes her eyes and shakes her head. “I care for you as well,” she says, nuzzling Celestia’s cheek. She stops and looks up at her, hesitating slightly. “May I call you sister?”

A warm feeling permeates through Celestia’s chest, and her smile grows as she rests her chin atop Luna’s head. “Of course.”

Luna rests her head against Celestia’s side and lets out a sigh, relaxing her muscles. “Thank you,” she murmurs, closing her eyes. “For putting my mind at ease.”

Celestia gives her a reassuring squeeze once more, and looks down beneath her chin at the mare resting against her side. Luna is warm and the plains feel safe.

Looking at the fawns under the apple tree, Luna’s eyes light up and she glances up at Celestia. “Can we sleep like the two of them tonight?”

“I don’t see why not,” Celestia replies, and removes her chin from atop Luna’s head, laying it against Luna’s shoulder.

The darker mare rests her head against Celestia’s chest with her horn laying across Celestia’s side, as she snuggles into her soft, white coat.

“Goodnight, Luna,” Celestia says, closing her eyes.

“Goodnight, sister,” Luna replies.

Celestia nuzzles her cheek against Luna’s coat. The hairs on it are sharp and prickly from the snow and tundra, and try as she may, Celestia finds herself unable to fall asleep. She shifts to get comfortable, but the soil feels like gravel, and the gentle breeze feels like howling in her ears amidst the quiet plane.

Letting out a sigh, Celestia continues to lie there with her eyes closed, trying to get some rest. She feels the steady rise and fall of Luna’s chest leaning against her side, and she peeks one eye open to look at the sleeping mare.

Her coat is ashen.

Scrambling to her hooves, Celestia takes several quick steps back from the pony, and looks to see its head raised, looking at her with its dead, white eyes. Her heart is pumping in her chest as she stares at it. Her tongue goes dry and she wants to look away, but she can’t.

A wind blows across the plain, and the two of them stare at one another for a while, neither moving. The ashen Luna does not blink.

Celestia swallows and tries to speak up. “W-who are you?”

The ashen Luna just gives her an unresponsive look.

“What are you?” Celestia asks, her voice growing weaker.

Again, the apparition does not move or respond. Celestia stares at it, her frustration growing, until suddenly stands up. The apparition stands across for a moment, looking at her, before it turns and begins to walk away. And then, after a few paces, it stops and looks back at her.

“Y-you want me to follow?” Celestia asks, staring dumbly at the apparition, and pointing to herself.

The ashen copy of Luna stares at her for a moment, and then continues to walk away from her.

Celestia glances around, hesitating, before swallowing the lump in her throat and trotting to catch up to the colorless copy of Luna. She matches pace alongside it, and tries not to stare, but she can’t help but sneak a glance at its face once in a while, looking in its white eyes for any kind of emotion, or sign of thought.

The apparition leads her down the side of the cliff. Celestia glances at the apple tree where the family of deer had been, only to see that they are gone. Wind bends the grass, and the plains look darker than she remembers. She looks up to see that there is no moon in the sky, only stars, and their light seems weaker than normal.

The apparition leads her down a steep path, until they come to a cave that travels inside the cliff. Celestia stops in front of the cave mouth, and glances at the apparition. It’s looking back at her, as if it is waiting.

“You want me to go inside?” she asks, pointing to the cliff.

As always, the apparition does not respond.

Celestia turns back to the cave. Light seems to stop at its entrance, afraid to go in. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Celestia steels herself for what the apparition may be leading her to. Images of Luna drowning and sinking beneath the moss bed come to mind—something she has not thought about for centuries.

Still, Celestia shakes the thoughts from her head and walks into the cave. The darkness swallows her whole as she walks slowly forward, cautious of walking head first into a wall or off a ledge. She glances over her shoulder at the outside. Luna’s apparition is standing in the middle of the entrance, staring right at her.

Celestia shakes off the cold feeling she gets from having it look at her, and turns, eyes forward, to keep walking deeper into the cave.

Gradually, her steps become more sure, and her pace more normal, as she becomes more sure of the ground beneath her hooves, and she begins to question if the cave even has any walls. She glances over her shoulder at the direction from where she came, but she can’t find the cave entrance any longer.

Celestia stops, about to turn back, when a shimmering white-blue light appears beside her. She shields her eyes in a moment of temporary blindness before lowering her hoof to see the apparition in front of her, its horn glowing.

“Where are you leading me?” Celestia asks, glaring at the colorless copy of Luna. She notices its pupil-less eyes are staring past her, and she stops glaring and turns around slowly to see what it’s looking at.

The light coming from the apparition’s horn lights up a wall directly behind Celestia. She stumbles back and cranes her neck to look up at it. Strange, ornate pictures decorate the wall all the way past the highest point the light reaches.

Celestia glances over her shoulder at the apparition and then walks up to the wall and places a hoof on it, examining the mural.

The sun and the moon lie in the center on opposite sides of the earth as two alicorns fly around the world on a starry backdrop. One white alicorn, one black—her and Luna. Paintings of all types of animals border the image in a collage of forests, deserts, mountains, plains, and oceans.

Celestia peers at the paintings to try making sense of it all, but finds herself at a loss. “What are you trying to show me?” she asks, looking back at the ashen Luna.

For once, the apparition reacts. Its horn glows brighter and brighter to reveal that the mural stretches farther than Celestia could have imagined. Looking up, a bit of fear grips her, seeing that the mural stretches upward an impossible distance—an impossible distance for the cave she has entered.

She turns her head slightly to glance back at the copy of Luna, feeling her mouth go dry as she meets its dead eyes. “We’re not in a cave anymore, are we?” Celestia asks, already knowing the answer.

It looks at her, unblinking, and its stare unnerves her into turning back to the mural.

Stepping forward, Celestia tilts her head and looks at the center painting of her and Luna flying around the world. Luna flies around it directly beneath the moon while the painting of herself flies around it underneath the sun.

Celestia tentatively reaches out to touch the mural. A shock travels through her the second her hoof makes contact with the wall and the painting comes to life. Spreading like a wave through water from her hoof, the green and blue coloring the world turns white, and then Luna, the sun, and the moon all disappear. The ripple spreads through the impossibly complex mural, and all the animals, all the forests, and all the mountains vanish from it, leaving the wall a boring brown.

Celestia lowers her hoof and takes a step back, looking at what’s left.

There is a unicorn flying over a barren waste made of white sandstone, and every last bit of her is as white as the sandstone beneath her.

Celestia rounds on the copy of Luna, her eyes narrowing with fury. “Why do you keep showing me what the world was like when I first woke?” she asks, clenching her teeth. “I don’t want to see it anymore. It was empty and lonely and I hated it!”

The apparition’s horn dims and the mural fades away into darkness.

Celestia glares at the copy of Luna, her nostrils flared. “Stop with this nonsense and show me what you mean to show me!”

Almost the second she finishes shouting, the world around her disappears in a flicker, replaced by an expanse of white sandstone.

Celestia startles and looks around wildly, seeing that she still has her wings, mane colors, and the sun is still emblazoned on her flank. “You did not take them away this time,” Celestia says, scrutinizing the copy of Luna standing across from her.

It gives her one single slow nod.


The apparition does not answer, but instead turns to walk away.

Not seeing a better alternative, Celestia follows it, staying a few paces back and keeping her eyes on the apparition. She follows it for what feels like days, but she can’t tell if it is with no sun or moon in the sky and time seems to stretch infinitely without any relativity.

So when the apparition finally stops, Celestia’s head snaps up and she looks to see it facing off to the side at something white on the ground. She looks back to the apparition and raises an eyebrow. “This is what you have been leading me to?”

The apparition slowly turns to look at her and stares at her for a moment before turning back the way it was facing.

Celestia’s mouth curves into a frown. She looks at the direction it’s facing and begins to walk over to see what it’s staring at and as she draws closer she begins to realize that the white thing on the ground is a pony, its coat and hair a perfect white and its back facing Celestia.

“It’s...” Celestia trails off, looking back at the apparition. “It’s me.”

The white unicorn on the ground’s eyes are closed and she’s seemingly sleeping in the middle of the barrens. Her chest falls and rises with even breaths, and something in Celestia clicks.

She turns to face the copy of Luna. “This is before I first woke,” she says evenly, glancing at her own sleeping form lying near her. She swallows and asks a question gnawing at the back of her mind. “What was before this?”

For a moment, Celestia almost thinks she sees the apparition smile.

The sky begins to dim. Celestia turns her head to look at the grey murk that’s steadily growing blacker by the second, and right before the light goes out completely, she glances to her sleeping form and watches it disappear in the dark.

The apparition’s horn glows with light and Celestia finds herself once more staring at the brown wall with the painting of her and the world on it. Compelled by some inner instinct, she reaches out a hoof and touches the wall, and like the last time, it springs to life.

The sun reappears and blue paint covers the world in oceans. Luna’s image fades onto the wall on the opposite side of the world along with the moon. Green paint spreads and covers most of the world, save the deserts and the arctics, and animals begin to appear surrounding the central mural and fill the wall as far as the eye can see.

Celestia stares up at it, her mouth hanging slightly agape as she tries to take in every detail. But something she does not recognize lies close to the center of the mura, a group of small ponies all separated into three groups.

The first group have horns, the second have wings, and the last have neither, and below each race lies an inscription.

“Pegasi, Unicorns, and Earth Ponies,” Celestia reads aloud, looking up again at the groups. The paintings of the pegasi stand and lie on clouds up in the sky, and beneath them the Unicorns and Earth Ponies graze on the ground, the Unicorns living in the mountains and desert while the Earth Ponies live in the forests and fields.

Celestia turns and faces the apparition, giving it a confused look. “I don’t understand...”

The apparition walks up to Celestia, tilting its head in a curious manner and staring at her with its white, dead eyes.

Celestia’s muscles tense and she takes a step back, a familiar feeling of fear making it difficult to move her body. She backs up as the apparition draws closer, until she backs into the mural and has nowhere else to go.

Stopping in front of Celestia, the apparition lifts its hoof and touches her cheek. Celestia flinches at the contact, but remains frozen to the spot as black sand travels from the apparition’s hoof into her, spreading through her body like poison.

Celestia lets out a gasp and falls to the ground, panting and sweating and struggling to breathe. She looks up at the apparition fearfully as it leans down slowly, stopping just above her ear, and whispers in Luna’s voice, “Wake up.”

Celestia opens her eyes and jolts upright, gasping for air. She looks down at herself and feels a wave of relief, seeing the plains and the cliff under her hooves once more.

“You were resting for almost a week.”

Celestia turns to the voice to see Luna looking at her with her brow furrowed in concern and her eyes cast toward the ground.

“I must have been more tired than I realized,” Celestia says, lying back down on the grass.

“It seemed like you were dreaming,” Luna says, looking up at Celestia, her mouth forming a thin line. “It did not seem like a good dream. You seemed to be struggling and afraid.”

“It... it was a bit frightening, I suppose,” Celestia says, trying to maintain her composure.

“I call dreams like that nightmares.” Luna walks over and lies down by Celestia’s side. “I told you about them, remember? The one where I was falling with no wings, and the one where I was trapped in a forest full of fire.”

“I remember those nights,” Celestia says, nodding.

“It helps to talk about them,” Luna says, wrapping a wing around Celestia’s side and gazing out across the plains. The family of deer are gone—Celestia idly notes.

“Thank you,” Celestia says, images of the paintings from the mural vanishing and the ashen Luna’s haunting guise. “But I’d rather put it in the back of my mind until it is forgotten.”

Luna removes her wing from around Celestia and bites her lip. “As you wish.”

Celestia closes her eyes and sighs, glancing at Luna out of the corner of her eye. “Have you ever wondered where the world came from?” she asks, shifting against the grass. “It must have been here before us, but how did it come to be?”

Luna looks at her. “I’m not sure I understand,” she says evenly.

“Nevermind,” Celestia says, shaking her head and smiling. “It’s a strange question—forget I asked it.” Feeling a nudge at her side, Celestia turns to see Luna rest against her and stare out over the fields.

They lie like that for some time and watch the sun rise over the fields and paint the grass a faded gold. Birds busy themselves as the sun comes up, collecting bugs and eating the apples growing on the trees.

A bunny hops along the cliffside near them and Luna giggles as she watches it. “Sometimes I wonder what they would say if they could speak.”

Celestia stares at the bunny and Luna’s words echo in her head. “I think I know what is missing.”

Luna lifts her head from Celestia’s side and turns to her with a raised eyebrow. “What is missing?” she asks, furrowing her brow. “You still believe something is?”

Celestia nods before standing, looking down at Luna, and speaking in a clear, calm voice. “I’m certain I know what it is now.”

“Well, what is it then?” Luna asks, turning her ears forward to listen.

“It’s missing other beings like us. Beings who talk and think like we do, who can create like we do. I want to see what someone else can create if given the tools.” Celestia sees Luna give her an uncertain glance, and she turns and rests her forehead against Luna’s. “We can take a break from creating, leave it to the young ones to shape the world while we watch.”

“Sister, I do not like this idea. Everything we’ve made... I don’t want to see it changed,” Luna says, pulling back and stamping the ground with her hoof.

“I felt very much the same way about you a long time ago.”

Luna snaps her head up and her eyes widen, her mouth slightly agape. “In what way?”

“When you made the shores, the soil, the arctic ice, it felt as though you were changing what I had built over so long. But after all the time that has passed, my greatest joy has been seeing you grow and watching how you change the world,” Celestia says, her voice resolute as she reaches out and rests a hoof on Luna’s shoulder.

“Truly?” Luna asks, biting her lip. She sighs deeply and faces away, looking out over the plains before glancing over her shoulder back at Celestia. “I take it you have something in mind for this.” Celestia nods and Luna sighs, hanging her head in defeat. “Then I shall condone it.”

“Thank you,” Celestia says, and turns to face the apple tree.

White wisps of magic flow up from her hooves as she steps forwards, her eyes closed and her head held high. Gradually, a white aura surrounds her, emitting a steady hum, and the grass beneath her hooves glows with life from merely being near her.

Breaking the soil down to sand, she raises it up from the ground, forming three statues of ponies under the shade of the apple tree, one with a horn, one with wings, and one with neither. Celestia’s horn glows and gradually color begins to fill in the sand statues, making them more lifelike.

Celestia’s magic fades and she draws it back to herself. The three ponies under the apple tree open their eyes and begin to take in the new world they’ve been brought into, and Celestia glances over her shoulder to see Luna looking at her with a raised eyebrow.

“Only three?”

“There will be more,” Celestia quickly says, looking at the ponies. “I thought you would help me to give them life.”

A small smile tugs at Luna’s lips, and she examines the three ponies. “What are they each called?"

“Unicorn, Pegasus, and an Earth Pony,” Celestia answers, pointing to each one. They looked dumbly back at her, already adults despite being less than an hour old.

“They’re so little,” Luna says, looking down at the pegasus. “And the unicorns, is their magic as strong as ours? Will that not cause problems?”

“Their magic is incomparable to our own,” Celestia says, walking to stand beside her.

Luna’s mouth slips into a bleak frown as her eyes dart between the three ponies, who are all looking at her and Celestia with curiosity. “I am still unsure of this.”

“Have faith, dear sister,” Celestia says, wrapping her wing around Luna. “And let us leave the world in their hooves for a while to see what they make of it.”