• Published 14th Feb 2017
  • 2,012 Views, 260 Comments

Sun and Hearth - bookplayer



Princess Celestia and Smart Cookie have watched Equestria rise. They share a dream that’s entwined their hearts for two thousand years, and a love that’s given them the strength to see it realized. Now they face the ultimate test of that love.

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Epilogue - A Madpony's Spell

The kitchens at Canterlot palace were always hot and crowded during the day, between the cooking and plating at meal times and the baking and preparations in between. Smart Cookie did his best to keep out of the way, staking out a small section of counter among the pastry chefs and asking around the kitchen before laying claim to an oven. He had only been there a week, and at first his arrival was met with whispers and snickering due to his newly created position and the orders from the princess that came with it: that he was to deliver baked goods to her whenever he wished.

That subsided quickly, first as the kitchen staff came to find out he was a baker, even if his recipes where hopelessly old fashioned. But even that grumble fell by the wayside as rolls and scones and sweet buns began to be provided in the cafeteria and meetings and staff spaces around the palace. Few ponies cared to argue about the novelty or refinement of free food, and most were professional enough to admit that it was quite good.

Cookie slipped a tray into the heated oven and closed the door, enjoying a moment where the room felt comfortable by comparison as he walked back to clean his counter. He had just finished wiping it down when one of Celestia's guards emerged from among the bustling chefs, headed his way.

“Spit Shine, isn’t it?” Cookie called to him.

The guard nodded. “Chocolate Chip, Princess Celestia requests your presence. Immediately.”

“Well then, I’d best not keep her waiting.” Cookie turned to the pony working at the counter next to him. “Turnover, would you mind taking those out of the oven when they’re done? It should be about 20 minutes.”

“Sure thing, Chip,” the orange pegasus nodded.

Cookie took off his apron as he walked out of the kitchen, hanging it on one of a long row of pegs outside of the door.

The guard waited for him, then stepped forward to lead him in an unfamiliar direction. He knew which hallways led to Celestia’s chambers, the dining halls, or the areas occupied by the meeting rooms and offices of the civil servants, but they seemed to be making their way to the public areas by the palace entrance. All that was there was the throne room and the occasional spacious foyer containing bric-a-brac from Equestria’s history, proudly displayed and suitable for photographing by tourists.

“Where are we going?” he asked with a curious glance at his escort.

“The charter hall,” the guard said, looking at Cookie out of the corner of his eye. “The princess requested it be sectioned off for this audience.”

As they approached the area in question they came upon a group of annoyed tourists talking to two of Spit Shine’s fellow guards, earning them sour looks as they breezed past. But by the time Cookie and the guard arrived at their destination there were no other ponies to be seen, save the beings waiting for him.

The Charter Hall held, appropriately enough, the charter of Equestria that Cookie had written so many years ago. Celestia stood before it, smiling as she saw him approach, but with her were Twilight, Spike, and Discord. Twilight was grinning from ear to ear and appeared to be barely keeping herself from hopping excitedly.

“Well now, what’s all of this?” Cookie cocked his head but offered a friendly smile to the ponies and Spike.

“It seems Twilight has some very exciting news.” Celestia glanced at her.

Unable to contain herself any more, Twilight gave a hop and clapped her hooves together. “I figured out your magic!”

“I see…” Cookie raised his eyebrows, feeling a bit fidgety with nervous excitement himself.

“He’s here now, can we get on with it?” Discord asked, crossing his appendages.

Cookie eyed him suspiciously. “What’s he doing here?”

Discord shrugged as he pulled out an hourglass in which the sand had stopped falling with time left to go, and he gave the glass a tap with his talon. “I want to know why you're immortal, too.”

“You know about my immortality?” Cookie raised an eyebrow. “I thought you find me boring?”

The draconequus raised both of his eyebrows in return. “Being boring for a very long time hardly makes you interesting, now does it?”

“We can’t get rid of him, can we?” Cookie asked Celestia with a wan smile.

She chuckled. “You could ask him nicely… but no, probably not.”

Cookie shook his head with the same smile. “No, that’s quite alright.” He looked over to Discord. “Since you’re here, you might as well stay.”

Discord had created a pink striped beach chair and somehow acquired a cocktail with an umbrella in it. He took a sip then waved his paw. “Don’t worry, I already made myself comfortable.”

“Perfect.” Cookie rolled his eyes.

Celestia turned her attention back to the younger alicorn. “Now, Twilight. You had something to tell us?”

“Yes! It’s very exciting. Spike, do you have that book?” She glanced at Spike, who dug through a satchel until he emerged with the book in question.

“Right here!” He held it up and Twilight took it in her magic with a smile.

“Thanks.” Twilight turned back to Cookie with a grin, holding the book up to show. “This was in the papers Princess Celestia had, from mages who had looked at you before.”

The book was very old, and something was etched on the cover that he couldn’t quite make out, worn and faded with age. He studied it a moment before the lines made a pattern he recognized as a familiar cutie mark. His eyes narrowed in confusion as he glanced at Twilight. “...Clover?”

Twilight nodded and opened the book to a page she had marked, then she looked down to find the passage. “Yes, and she wrote: Judging by the restructured spellglow (spent a month reconfiguring Star Swirl's refractor for that one. Couldn't have done it without his notes, and the dear old coot left them in a mess, let me tell you) whatever's got into Cookie is quite strong around Everfree. A sort of dusty pinkish, dry blueish, beigeish glow, like a dirty rainbow. I'd suspect a form of Harmony magic, but it seems especially strong in the charter, and the stars know that was mostly formed of bickering and paranoia and a begrudging acceptance that we had to have some form of rules to keep the blessed darkness at bay. Hardly seems like Harmony to me, but there is a bit of it in the tree. Since Cookie wrote the Charter and was in the cave, might be some magic personal to Cookie. Genetic? Something he stumbled on? Just puts me back at the start.”

Discord gave her a dry look. “That's exciting?”

Twilight glared at him. “Yes! Clover reconfigured Star Swirl’s refractor 1496 years before Haycarts! And she found the same magic I did in the cave, and she recognized that it's not Harmony magic! And she found it in the charter! That was really amazing, because by the time anypony else could have looked at it the glow would have been muted by years of preservation spells, and nopony had any reason to think the charter itself was magic!”

Cookie blinked at her. “But… the charter isn't magic.”

“We'll see about that!” Twilight smirked, and her horn lit magenta. The charter on the wall was surrounded by the same magenta glow before colors shimmered beneath it. It was hard for Cookie to make out what colors they were, but it was clear there were several of them swirling together.

Twilight squealed as all the magic disappeared. She grinned and looked around at the gathered ponies. “It’s there! She was right! Do you know how exciting this is?”

“It's very exciting, Twilight,” Celestia said with a calm smile. “But what is the magic?”

“Equestria!” Twilight announced with the same grin.

Celestia blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

Twilight’s grin faded to a smile. “Okay, not Equestria exactly. The charter is a spell that gathers the powers of every pony who considers themselves part of Equestria and uses them to ensure and protect our freedom.”

Cookie had been following in mute astonishment and finally regained enough sense to verify what he was hearing. “The charter is a spell?”

Twilight nodded. “It's not technically a charter, you know. The leaders of Girthshire and Hippocampus and Monoceros were agreeing to it, but also you and Pansy and Clover. And you wrote it on behalf of all ponies, so technically it's a constitution.”

Cookie frowned. “Whatever it is, it's not a spell. It’s six months of arguments made to fit on the largest scroll Platinum would let me get away with.”

“It is, technically, a spell.” Twilight smirked at him. “A new kind of magic that acknowledged that a government was a collection of powers of all ponies intended to secure not only physical protection, but the rights they have. You wrote it, you collected those powers and wrote the spell that protected the rights of those ponies, and that made you an alicorn.”

“An alicorn?” Celestia stared at Twilight in confusion.

Cookie opened his mouth a few times before saying gently, “Twilight, I think I’ve spotted a glaring hole in this theory… Namely, I am not an alicorn.”

“I’m pretty sure you are an alicorn.” She considered a moment and added, “Technically.”

“Technically?” Cookie raised an eyebrow at her.

Twilight smiled. “You understood the magic, and wrote the spell and gathered the power of Equestria, more than enough magic to equal us. But then you loaned it to us on behalf of the ponies it came from. If you had given it, it would be our magic and you might have died after a lifetime. And if you became Prince of Equestria, recognized by the spell, you'd be giving the power to yourself, and I'm pretty sure you'd get wings and a horn and magic to cast.”

Cookie glanced around to try to see if this seemed as mad to everypony else as it did to him. Twilight just beamed with pride in her accomplishment, while Celestia considered what Twilight had said with a smile growing on her face.

Cookie swallowed and tried again to explain, "But it isn't magic. Not—not actual magic."

Celestia chuckled. "Starswirl's First Definition of magic."

"I..." Cookie gave a bewildered shrug.

"Magic is that force which grants us the impossible,” Twilight supplied automatically.

“Ah, right.” Cookie nodded at a vague memory. “Clover always thought that one was too vague and preferred the third definition, the one that goes over three pages, you know."

"It applies.” Celestia smirked. “I mean, look around all of this. Would you describe it as anything short of impossible?"

Discord appeared between Cookie and Twilight, looking from one to the other. “Twilight, you said that Equestria is the power from all ponies?”

Twilight nodded.

“Ponies who rarely agree on what kind of salad to order?” Discord went on, “Who lie to each other and judge each other and become unaccountably offended when somepony else does the same to them?”

“Ponies with their own lives and hopes and desires, yes,” Cookie said dryly, raising an eyebrow.

Discord grinned and a cap sporting the Equestrian flag appeared on his head, with a miniature version of the same flag in his talon. “That sounds like chaos to me! Why didn’t I think of it?”

Spike cleared his throat. “He set up the charter so they could have a country that works even when ponies do those things. It’s more… chaotic good.”

Discord’s props disappeared and he frowned at Cookie. “Does that make him a bard? No wonder he’s useless.”

A warm wing draped over Cookie’s back, and he heard Celestia’s voice next to him, “You say you have no power but words. You forget that words can be quite powerful.”

“That’s what they always say about bards.” Discord rolled his eyes. “But then the skeleton army attacks and they’re all oooh, I’ll just stand back here and inspire everyone!”

Cookie tried to shake his head clear, then he motioned at Discord. “What is he on about?”

“Ogres and Oubliettes. It’s a game,” Spike said, then his eyes lit up. “Hey, you should play with us sometime! We have a guys night with Big Macintosh.”

Cookie blinked at Spike. “I’ll consider that later. Right now I have some more pressing concerns.”

“Twilight, what if the charter was broken? Would he perish?” Celestia asked with a worried frown.

“I don’t think so,” Twilight shook her head. “As long as there's a recognized princess to lead us, he'd be fine. If we all broke the charter… well, I guess the power would revert to Cookie until a new pony was selected by the official process.”

Looking between them, Cookie gave a stern frown. “Ladies… you are never to break the charter, do you hear me?” He went on in a mutter, “What in the course of the stars would I do with a horn? I'd most likely blast a hole in my door.”

Celestia chuckled and gave him a squeeze with her wing. “We shall certainly try to avoid it.”

Cookie put a hoof over his eyes, trying to direct his thoughts. He had to admit this wasn’t nearly as bad as finding out he was immortal, but he still fought the urge to understand every effect this magic could have before he took another step.

Taking a breath, he looked over at Twilight. “So... long ago Celestia and I talked of marriage. If that had happened, would I have assumed a mantle like yours?”

Twilight paused and considered. “That’s an interesting question. Probably not, I think the magic goes to the ponies recognized by the charter, while you’d be more of a consort. On the other hoof, if you’d been public about it then and ponies started to think of you as a ruler over time, and informally offered you those powers… I’m not sure.”

“That hardly seems to be an issue anymore.” Celestia smiled down at him. “We made our vows and we’ve stood by them.”

“We have.” Cookie looked at her and smiled. “And it turns out your dedication and honor may have saved my life on more than one occasion, though not in the way we had imagined.”

“Only because your magic loans me the power to act on behalf of all of my ponies, including you.” She leaned down and gave him a nuzzle. “I hope that satisfies you that neither of us is lesser.”

“It does.” He looked up into her eyes. “And we can both rest easy knowing that the source of this magic is something that either of us would gladly lay down our lives to preserve.”

Discord blew his nose loudly and dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief. “I’m so moved! Have you ever seen anything more... symbolic?”

Spike shot Discord a sidelong look. “Says the floating symbol of a universal force.”

“Fair.” Discord threw the handkerchief over his shoulder. “Well, the mysterious magic has been uncovered, it’s probably just kissing from here on. Come on, Spike. Let’s see if Mac is free.”

Spike looked to Twilight, who nodded.

“Go ahead. I’ll find you later.”

Discord snapped his fingers, and the two disappeared, leaving Cookie and the two princesses alone in the hall.

Celestia smiled at Twilight. “Twilight, thank you so much for all of your work.”

Twilight blushed and pawed the floor with a hoof. “Clover did most of it. If she had understood how becoming an alicorn worked, you would have had the answer centuries ago.”

Cookie smiled and walked over to her, laying a hoof on her shoulder. “Clover was without a doubt one of the most intelligent ponies, and one of the best friends, I’ve ever known. So please understand that weight when I tell you that you are the first pony I’ve met who’s her equal in both.”

“I understand.” Twilight grinned at him. “And thank you.”

Cookie pulled away and took a deep breath, then he smiled at the two princesses. “Now, if you ladies will excuse me, I think some baking might help clear my mind, and I really must see how my tarts turned out.”

Celestia nodded. “Perhaps Twilight will come with me to my chambers and explain the more technical aspects that I know she’s dying to talk about, and later you’ll allow us to see how they turned out?”

“That can be arranged.” Cookie offered a nod. “Until then.”

“We’ll see you later!” Twilight said cheerfully as Cookie turned to make his way back to the kitchens.

As he walked back, he took special notice of the ponies he passed along the way; the stoic guards, the leisurely packs of tourists, the messengers and bureaucrats hurrying through the back halls, the frantic kitchen staff preparing for dinner service. Each pony was unique in appearance and countenance and purpose, and each of them kept Equestria alive and made up a piece of the magic that kept him alive.

He chuckled as he took his place at the counter and considered that it was no wonder he was such a blasted mess. But his tarts had come out nicely.

***

A month into his tenure at the palace, Cookie had stepped outside into the kitchen garden for some fresh air away from the heat of the kitchen. The garden was a small, plain courtyard planted with herbs, though only the hardiest still bore leaves with winter wrap-up a month away. Cookie remembered mentioning to Sketchston that just such a thing might be useful when the plans for the palace were being drawn up, and while it had seemed like one of many tiny details at the time, he was glad it had been noted.

Cookie had just leaned against the stone wall of the palace when the door opened, and a pony stuck his head though, looking around.

“There you are.” Leafy smiled and stepped out into the courtyard.

Cookie nodded. “Leafy. Good to see you. How is the family?”

Leafy Salad was one of the first ponies Cookie had encountered at the palace, given the unusual nature of the orders to the guards regarding Cookie’s access to the princess, and since then they’d developed a friendly acquaintance. Of the various dedicated and very busy ponies who made up the top levels of bureaucracy of Equestria, Leafy seemed to Cookie to be almost well-adjusted. At least, he had a discernible life outside of being the Permanent Undersecretary of State for the Home Office, and he seemed to be aware that various forms of sustenance could be sought out. The other government officials apparently lived on their caffeinated beverage of choice and some infinite supply of crackers in the bottom drawer of their desks, to the point where there were rumors that a cargo cult was forming in the records office around the appearance of trays of pastries Cookie left for them.

Leafy stretched his neck and wings and then leaned against the wall on the other side of the door. “They’re just fine, and I’m told it’s likely to stay that way as long as I bring home another batch of cinnamon rolls soon.”

Cookie smiled. “Celestia requested a few dozen for the embassy luncheon tomorrow, but I’m sure there will be some left over in a box set aside with your name on it. Check back tomorrow afternoon.”

“I’ll be sure to do that. Wouldn’t want them to go to waste.”

“Especially when they might help to assure your domestic tranquility.”

Leafy’s face shifted to a kind of annoyed worry. “Chip… speaking of domestic tranquility… I actually stopped by to see if you had time for a quick meeting.”

“Regarding my own domestic tranquility?” Cookie raised an eyebrow.

Leafy gave a nod. “Yes. That.”

Cookie regarded him with a curious expression. “And who is this meeting with?”

“The Permanent Secretary and the Press Secretary.” He sighed, then offered a wan smile. “There’s nothing wrong, really. Not yet, at any rate. But you’re putting Spinning Top in kind of a tight spot, and we were hoping you could help us out.”

“I see.” Cookie nodded, then stood up and motioned to the door. “Well, far be it from one of the kitchen staff to turn down a request from Mister Line. I hope I haven’t kept them waiting.”

“Can’t say, but maybe you ought to bring a peace offering, just in case?” Leafy opened the door and looked hopefully towards the kitchens. “Might help smooth things over.”

Cookie chuckled and followed him inside. “A fine idea.”

After stopping by the kitchens to retrieve some sweet buns that were freshly cooled, Leafy led Cookie through the halls to Dotted Line’s office.

Cookie had spoken to Dotted Line just once, and the shaggy grey unicorn had asked him a total of three questions: how he was settling in, if he needed anything, and if he had remembered to drop form 229-B off at Equine Resources. Cookie couldn’t help feeling there was something odd about the pony; he was awkward in every way imaginable, but everypony from Celestia down admitted in hushed whispers that he must be some sort of powerful mage for the way he managed the government.

Then there was Spinning Top, whom he’d never spoken to or so much as nodded at. He had, however, seen her; she stood out in any group of government officials like a gem in a potato bin. She was lovely, he had to admit, though her loveliness was so carefully crafted that it approached engineering. But he was sure that by even the strictest standards her hair and hooficure were up to code.

As they entered Dotted Line's office, both of those esteemed ponies were there, Spinning seated primly on a dark green chair and Dotted behind a pile of paperwork that presumably had a desk under it somewhere.

Dotted looked up and nodded at Cookie. “Good afternoon. Please have a seat.”

Looking around the rest of the room, Cookie realized that real estate on the desk must have been valuable indeed, as the paperwork was forming skyscrapers and mass transit to other surfaces around the room. A few chairs had been cleared, like parks in a crowded city, with nearby piles edging in on the valuable square footage.

Cookie found a pile that seemed stable and carefully brushed the bottom of his tray of pastries with a foreleg before depositing it on top. "Thank you. I’ve brought these for everypony, please help yourself."

Dotted just nodded, but Leafy picked up two in a napkin before taking a seat.

"Maybe just a bit." Spinning Top leaned forward and cut one into four pieces, taking a quarter.

As Cookie and Leafy settled into chairs, Dotted cleared his throat and looked to Cookie, “Now, I’m sure you know everypony here has received classified document 44035-x.”

"Yes, of course, though you were asking Celestia about my hoofwriting before you saw it." Cookie smiled. They knew they'd need to tell a few senior officials, but Celestia wanted to see if she was correct that Dotted would take less than a week to become suspicious. He approached her about it on day four.

Leafy smirked at Dotted, and the unicorn fussed with some papers on his desk. "Well, I have to admit that it’s strange seeing the writing from the charter on requests for additional nutmeg."

Cookie shrugged. "I’ve written more requests for nutmeg than charters in my time. But I suppose that document is more familiar to ponies."

"For better or worse," Dotted muttered. "No offense."

"None taken." Cookie chuckled. "I assure you there isn’t a line in there that one or the other of us didn’t disagree adamantly with when I was writing it. Personally, I fought long and hard to have a democracy, I’ve never liked the idea of princesses."

The look of pure terror and fury on Dotted Line’s face suggested that there was an alternate universe somewhere where the short, rumpled pony had been forced to become a radical monarchist revolutionary, and he didn't much like the idea.

"Lucky for you that didn’t work out, eh?" Leafy said with a smile at Cookie.

"For all of us," Dotted said, shaking his head clear.

Cookie smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Compromises were made, and we settled on something we could all put our names to. And we were fortunate to offer it to a pony who has more than earned the support and affection of her ponies."

"More affection from some than others," Spinning Top said pointedly as she slipped another quarter of a bun off the tray.

"Yes." Dotted sighed. "Yes, and it’s for that reason we needed to speak with you. It seems that the ease with which you’re allowed access to the Princess is causing a bit of a stir among the press."

"The same way a whirlpool causes a bit of a stir," Spinning muttered between bites.

"I’m very sorry to hear that." Cookie frowned. "I can speak with Celestia about returning to a more discreet circumstance. She may be disappointed, but--"

"That will not be necessary," Dotted cut in quickly, as if the very idea offended him. "We will see to it. Leafy suggested an alternative he thought you might agree to."

"Go on…" Cookie leaned forward.

Dotted took a breath and said carefully, "If it’s acceptable to you, we would like to offer the press… the truth… of sorts."

"Of what sort?" Cookie eyed him suspiciously.

Dotted looked to Spinning Top, who quickly set down what was evidently the third quarter of the bun she was having a bit of and lifted a scroll to read.

"Well, this is a very rough draft, but…" Her voice changed to one of fond sympathies, with a precisely matching sad smile on her face. "The pony in question, Chocolate Chip, believes himself to be Smart Cookie, a founder of Equestria. He has been very thoroughly vetted, he’s quite harmless and only wants to work at the palace and be helpful to Her Majesty in her reign. Princess Celestia cares deeply for the well-being of all her ponies, and in this specific case she’s determined the kindest course is to humor the poor fellow. He’s to remain in the employ of her government and be allowed to visit her as her schedule permits. The Princess kindly requests that ponies allow him his privacy so as not to endanger his mental state."

Dotted and Spinning looked intently for Cookie’s reaction, though Spinning absentmindedly ate the last bite of her roll during the few seconds that passed. Leafy glanced up between pressing his hoof to his plate to clean up the last few crumbs of his own snack.

Cookie arched an eyebrow. "You’re going to allow them to think I’m mad?"

"You did sign your name to article III, section IV," Dotted pointed out.

Cookie smiled and began to chuckle. "Perfectly fair. It’s brilliant, and I’m happy to help however I can."

"I told you he’d be a good sport," Leafy grinned.

“Do you think the princess will agree?” Dotted asked Cookie.

“That I’m mad? I have no doubt. She knows it better than anypony.” He smirked, then let his face fall to a more gentle expression. “She’ll find it very amusing, her only disappointment will be that she didn’t think of it herself.”

Dotted seemed to relax and reached for a paper from the stack to his left. “Very well. I’ll make an appointment for you with Dr. Golden Bloom to make a paper trail. Just tell her exactly who you are, and in a few days we’ll have this all in hoof.”

Spinning smiled at Cookie and stood to leave. “Thank you for your cooperation, you’ve saved me decades of headaches.”

“Glad to be of service,” Cookie said with a nod.

On her way to the door, she paused next to the tray of buns, and her magic picked up a napkin and used it to wrap up one of the baked goods. “...and if you don’t mind, I may just take one of these in case I get peckish.”

Leafy followed her, stopping in the same spot. “I think I’m always peckish, so I better take two.”

As the two ponies left, Cookie sat and studied Dotted. There was something familiar about the pony with unkempt hair, hunched over a desk, with the weight of the world in messy heaps of paperwork solidly awaiting his attention. It took Cookie a moment to place it.

Dotted glanced up at him. “I’ll send the information along when arrangements have been made. Don’t let me keep you.”

Cookie tilted his head and leaned forward. “You know, Dotted, I began my career in government as a civil servant. Secretary of Urban Planning to Chancellor Puddinghead of Girthshire.”

Dotted set down his quill to listen.

“It was very different from the operation here, I was appointed simply to curry political favor. I had ideas for reform, for new ways of thinking about ponies and their rights, about the open and limited workings of government, but my position was one of those that gets handed all of the busy work, ordering the filling of potholes and repairing of sewers and filing plans for contingencies that might never come to pass.” Cookie nodded to the piles on the desk.

Dotted gave a humorless grin. "Well. It sounds unglamorous, I know, but... You might be surprised how ponies' passions for things like rights and limited government mysteriously vanish if the trash isn't removed daily." He paused with a dry laugh. "Except for their right to speech, of course, which they direct towards us with all of the care, skill, and precision of a drunken dragon lighting a candle."

"Oh, I'm well aware." Cookie gave a dark smirk. "And you can only imagine the chaos if it seems as though spring might never come, and the Chancellor has decided to shove diplomacy under her tail, and the Secretary of Agriculture has quietly sold off three quarters of our emergency provisions and embezzled the profits. Then all one can do is hope to the stars that whatever poor bastard was in charge of filing the emergency evacuation plans did his job, and did it thoroughly enough to not have to depend on the neighboring nations for aid they have no intention of supplying even if they were able.”

A brief terror crossed Dotted’s face, replaced quickly by a studied curiosity. Cookie didn’t blame him; by all rights Puddinghead’s government should have been a dark legend among civil servants, whispered about in the same hushed tones as Nightmare Moon or Lord Tirek.

Cookie shrugged as he went on, “I didn’t have much of a life outside of my work at the time, so I had mapped a third route, away from the pegasi and the unicorns, to a land that some of the traveling merchants had mentioned. Puddinghead seemed near ready to hang herself that night, until I pulled out those scrolls, neatly filed in triplicate, with maps and itemized lists of the most efficient means of mobilizing.”

Dotted gave an approving nod.

“You know what happened next, I suppose.” Cookie smiled and rose to his hooves, idly pacing to the tray of baked goods where he slid a roll onto a plate. “Some inspired clerk among the unicorns must have had the same idea, and of the several hundred emergency plans and back-up plans and contingencies to the emergency back-up plans the pegasi had filed they selected a similar one. And here we are.”

Cookie carried the plate to the crowded desk and slid it between two of the piles, towards Dotted. “I’m sorry, I’m rambling. I just wanted you to know… as much as we may have differences of opinion regarding government, I have the deepest respect for the job you and your ponies do here.”

Dotted nodded to Cookie. “Thank you.” He made a move to retrieve his quill, then decided against it and looked at Cookie again. It took a few seconds before he spoke with a frown, “I couldn’t help but notice... last fall, and through Hearth’s Warming, something was unusual about Princess Celestia. I don’t think anypony else noticed, but I saw it, I… with due respect, I felt it in her words and what she wouldn’t say. I was concerned. She seemed to be in pain.”

Cookie nodded, looking down at the rug. “I’m sorry for that. We had a falling out, and while I never intended to cause her pain, I’m afraid my actions at the time did nothing to prevent it.”

“After Hearth’s Warming, with your arrival, that remededied itself, and then some.” A thoughtful look crossed Dotted’s face that hinted, with some embarrassment, at serenity. “I’ve never seen her happier. It might be disrespectful to speak this way of the princess, but at times she seems almost... giddy.”

Cookie smiled fondly. “They used to call her spirited, when she and Equestria were young.”

“Yes. Spirited.” Dotted smiled at a thought with similar fondness. He composed himself and looked to Cookie. “It’s not my place to comment on her private life, but you have my deepest respect for your role in that.”

“I understand most ponies around the palace have few objections to my roll in that.” Cookie smirked and nodded to the baked good on the desk.

Dotted frowned at him. “Puns are the lowest form of humor, you know.”[1]

“All the more reason to engage with them when you can.” Cookie chuckled and turned towards the door, talking over his shoulder. “But I am pleased to do my part in keeping Celestia happy. And if you’d ever like to chat about the charter or political philosophy, you know where to find me.”

Dotted raised his eyebrows. “I look forward to taking you up on that. Have a good day.”

“And you as well.” Cookie nodded to Dotted as he stepped out and closed the door behind him.

[1] Aside from footnote humor, of course, which is demonstrably lower. [2]
[2] The very lowest form of humor would be the footnote-pun, but they are a rare sight-ation.

***

It was well after sundown when Celestia finally returned to her chambers. A state dinner had managed to drag on and on, and while the beings there had seen nothing but grace and smiles from her, now it felt like the building wave of weariness crashed upon her head.

But as she opened her door she saw that there was a tea tray and honey cakes waiting for her, next to where Cookie sat reading. He glanced up and studied her for only a second before offering a sympathetic smile.

“You’ve had a long day, haven’t you?”

Celestia let out a sigh that drained the weariness and replaced it with contentment, crossing the room and settling into her cushion. “Very. And dull. The Yakyakistani Embassy put on a performance of traditional yak singing, and I’m sure it’s designed to allow one to sleep through any amount of smashing that may be going on.”

Cookie chuckled. “That sounds culturally enriching. If you want to retire early, I understand.”

“After two thousand years it’s a bit late for early retirement, I think.” Celestia smiled at him as she poured herself a cup of tea.

He pretended to weigh the information. “True, you may be entitled to a full pension by now. I understand if you’re careful you can get a nice little place in Vanhoover, and afford an air ship cruise or a trip to Las Pegasus every now and then.”

Celestia smirked. “It’s tempting.”

“You’d miss the food here.” Cookie nodded to the rolls on the tray.

“I’m not sure, I’ve heard they have all-you-can-eat buffets…” Celestia raised an eyebrow, but her magic retrieved a roll from the tray and she took a bite.

“Well in that case…” He gave a resigned shrug. “Just try not to lose too much betting on horseshoes.”

Celestia smiled and shook her head, relaxing into her pillows. “How was your day? I’m sure there must be something interesting going on somewhere in the palace…”

Cookie grinned and took a sip of his tea. “Well, I spoke to the doctor. I've officially been declared mad. You have a piece of paper to prove it now.”

“That may be the least surprising thing that's happened this century,” Celestia said, trying not to giggle. When Cookie told her about the plan she had laughed like a schoolfilly, then immediately sent for Luna to share the joke. They agreed that only the stars could endeavor a prank that fitting.

“Soon the entire country will know that you're dedicated to indulging and ministering to me,” Cookie raised his eyebrows at her, chuckling a bit himself.

She raised her eyebrows back with a smirk. “It's almost like we're married.”

“I know you thought you had escaped that trap long ago,” he said casually, though he tilted his head as if studying her.

With a sigh, she smiled at him. “I thought the stars had set us on another path. One I've never regretted walking, except when I feared it had ended.”

A slight smile touched his lips, and his eyes twinkled. “The stars never did set a straight course for ponies, my dear.”

Celestia nodded. “But they set a true one, if one is true to oneself.”

“Indeed they do,” he whispered. Then he drew a breath and looked into her eyes. “In that spirit… would you like to be married?”

“I think that might be offering a bit more comfort to a madpony than my ponies would excuse,” she answered with a smirk, taking a sip of tea.

He snorted a laugh. “I wasn't suggesting it should be public. Beyond our friends and your sister, of course, and they might excuse it if it seems to make you happy.”

Celestia slowly set down her teacup and drew herself up in shock, as her face fought to convey a dozen emotions at once. “You're serious?”

“Yes. If it's agreeable to you, of course.” He smiled and shrugged. “If not, I'd hardly be offended after subjecting you to a courtship that strains the word ‘extended.’”

With mighty flap of her wings she nearly overturned the teatray darting to his pillow, where she buried her face in his shoulder and nuzzled his neck and face. “Of course it's agreeable to me! This is wonderful! I never expected…” She drew back and looked into his eyes. “You don’t have to, you know.”

Cookie grinned from ear to ear and planted a light kiss on her lips. “I know I don’t have to. But… it feels right. A wedding celebrates a new chapter in a love. The world is changing, and not for the worse, and so our love changes in the same direction. We have a family to move forward with, and a community of friends around us, it seems right to seek their blessings.”

“It is right.” Celestia beamed and settled on the pillow next to him to resume nuzzling. “Oh, Cookie… for so long it was us, alone together, and I felt so blessed, I was so blessed to have you. And now, to get to stand before our loved ones and celebrate… it’s perfect.”

She felt him give a contented sigh, and his hoof stroked her wing. “It will be beautiful.”

Celestia nodded, picturing the day. “Luna will be my bride’s maid. And I’ll ask Cadance to officiate, I’m sure she’ll be happy to. And I’ll get Rarity to make me a dress… something comfortable and flowing, and a crown of flowers for the veil, I think.” She smiled at Cookie. “My regalia will have the day off, it isn’t fair to ask you to marry a princess.”

Cookie chuckled. “You know I’m perfectly capable of seeing past your crown, but I have no doubt you’ll be beautiful, whatever you wear.”

“Where will we have it?” She tilted her head in consideration. “It will have to be away from Canterlot, having Twilight and her friends and Cadance and her family here might draw too much attention... “

She felt Cookie shift nervously. “I… had a request, to that end. Of course, it’s a foolish groom who gets his heart too set on the business of a wedding…”

“Foolish or not, it’s your wedding too.” She looked to him with a fond smile. “Where do you think it should be?”

“Well, we haven’t got much of a guest list, so I had thought we might hold the ceremony in the cave.” He gave a sad smile, but there was a hint of pleading in his eyes. “There are several ponies we can’t share this day with, but to be close to them would mean the world to me.”

“Cookie…” Celsetia whispered, frivolities falling from her mind as she looked at him and remembered him standing among those honored ponies the day she took up her crown. Looking in his eyes, she could feel the emptiness of a place that would never be filled, and dedication to holding it sacred.

Tears stung her eyes, but her face fell to a determined line as she answered with all the authority she possessed, “Consider the matter settled. No other place will do. I’ll let Twilight know this evening.”

He smiled and gave a shaky sigh, leaning to nuzzle her neck and resting his head against it. “Thank you.”

She nuzzled his unruly mane and said softly, “They would be proud of you, Cookie.”

She felt him nod. “They would be proud of both of us. And so happy for our fortune. It’s right to remember them as we celebrate, and to be grateful for the ponies at our side now.”

Celestia smiled. “Besides, we know for a fact the cave will be pleasant, whatever the weather in the Everfree forest. And one can’t ask for a more impressive alter decoration.”

Cookie looked up at her and smirked. “And if Equestria is threatened during the ceremony--”

“Do not joke about that,” Celestia said, her face suddenly deathly serious. “I have waited two thousand years for this day, I will not be feeling merciful if we’re interrupted.”

Raising an eyebrow, Cookie started to chuckle. “Oh come, how likely is it that two royal weddings in a row--”

“Smart Cookie,” she said in a warning tone with a pointed look to go with it.

He chuckled some more and raised a hoof to brush her cheek. “Very well. We’ll petition the stars for a day of peace and quiet.”

Celestia relaxed and smiled at him. “Can we petition them for a century? I think we deserve a very long honeymoon.”

“We can petition them for whatever we’d like, it doesn’t mean they’ll grant it,” he said with a shrug. Then he shifted to nuzzle just in front of her ear and whispered, “So I would suggest we begin the honeymoon now.”

Her ear flicked on reflex at the pleasant sensation of his warm breath, and she turned her head to nuzzle his neck as she ran a hoof down the length of his body. “You know, sometimes you’re a very wise pony.”

He nuzzled down her cheek and left a lingering kiss on her lips, before parting to look at her with a devilish grin. “Sometimes it’s easy to be wise.”

Author's Note:

Post-update blog for the last chapter and epilogue!

PS. It's mentioned in the blog, but Dotted Line, Spinning Top, and Leafy Salad are OCs created by GhostofHeraclitus. If you didn't know that, go read Whom the Princesses Would Destroy already.

Comments ( 11 )

this is an interesting story but there's a lot about it that bothers me. The treatment of Princess Celestia grates on me. Twilight would have had a breakdown knowing she had to make friends to stop Nightmare Moon. And Fluttershy's entire relationship with Discord was about setting limits, so this idea she'd just marry Discord if told to really strikes me as wrong

If anything the biggest problem I had with Celestia was her overestimating the threats from outside Equestria

Oh wow, logged into Fimfiction for the first time in a couple months and this was a fantastic surprise! Started a re-read last night and just finished up.

First, congratulations on finishing the story and THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting it! I've loved all of your founder stories, and Sun and Hearth has always been extra special to me because I love a story about people living their vision.

To have a hope, a dream.... an ideal and to live it messily the way life tends to lead... It makes for the best stories of people of all times.

I love the pacing and structure, how the tension and conflict are put aside and given depth with the scenes from the past and how it all weaves beautifully into the tale.

I love how Cookie is presented as being so ineffectual, and I still find him incredibly likeable. Probably because he's surrounded by characters that are presented as competent and seem to respect him. I never really broke out of the "Cookie aint that great" mentality until the end because I never thought too hard about it. His self-perception and how it has persisted over the course of millennia is powerful. He and Celestia are perfect and ya did a fantastic job with their romance :twilightsmile:

Whelp, off to steal stories to read from your library and re-read Respect and Respectability. Ta ta~

9843653
Thank you so much for this. It really made my night. :ajsmug:

Leafy Salad

I see what you did there...now I really want to see what Dotted thinks of all this that's been going on...

Oh, never mind, we actually do get to see Dotted Line after all...
Over worked as always I see.
He wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm curious as to what "article III, section IV" is.

And of course we can't have a Ghost guest star without footnotes.
Thank you for putting them at the bottom of the section and not at the very end of the chapter. I know by now to open two copies of Ghost's works, one to read the other to have the footnotes, but I hadn't done that here.

Over all a very nice conclusion to the story. Thanks for the words Book, they were quite enjoyable to read.

After he is done chuckling, the ghost of Sir Terry is going to scold you for that lowbrow humor. You know which one.

In the last, ohh, two days I think I've binged the last like...well, everything from her visit to Cadance onward. Nearly 2 years worth of updates.

And I am a massive lesbian, so like...you know, it takes really good writing for me to want straight romance to succeed. I mean, after all, Princess Celestia is ideally meant to end up with Chrysalis or Twilight, not an icky gross colt, ew gross ew ew ew [1]

But I was delighted to see this romance succeed, so you know, I think that says something about quality.

Also if you were on Discord I would be writing a much lengthier bit about philosophical thoughts right now I am not comfy putting in public. Which is to say, what the hay kind of IM service do you use these days, cause Skype is like, dead to 99% of people and it ought to stay that way :rainbowwild:


[1]I mean, they consume organic material and it reform it into something that comes out their BUTT! Who would want to be around somepony like that?!?!

Discord’s props disappeared and he frowned at Cookie. “Does that make him a bard? No wonder he’s useless.”

A hundred skill points invested in Diplomacy and Perform (oratory)!

...to the point where there were rumors that a cargo cult was forming in the records office around the appearance of trays of pastries Cookie left for them.

The amount of worship involved eventually reached the ascension point even with the loan, but due to one of Puddinghead's more inspired subclauses, the horn and wings ended up going to Pinkie Pie.

Brilliant use of Dotted and company, especially Cookie's heart-to-heart with him. And no Ghost tribute is complete without at least a little footnote humor.

All told, a fantastic conclusion to an equally great fic. The reconciliation and reveal were both done excellently, and the entire thing makes for one of the best Celestia shipfics and political dramas I've read on the site. Thank you for it.

(This was originally gonna be posted on the blogpost corresponding to the last chapter but decided to better post it here)
I've had this problem in the past, when I read a story that i like so much that i want to post a comment on it proportionally meaningfull and well-tought as the story meant to me.., and because that happens, i let time happen withouth writing any comment at all.
So, let's go with what i can: I loved this fic, when you posted the last chapters, i decided to go all the way from the beggining and read it from there, and once again, i just love your character interaction and dialogues, i could just keep and keep reading your character (they way they talk and act) interaction with each other for days, is just a pleasure.

I don't know if the ending was exactly what i was expecting,
spoilers for the fic:
I was under the impression (wich can be wrong and just biased in on our outside perception) that there was a certain change of pacing or plot on the chapters you posted at the end. At the beggining, the manipulativeness of Celestia is kind of subtle, and almost unconscious, and consecuently the problems that arise from it seem more subtle.

After the fight with Cookie, and after the start of the new chapters, Celestia goes on on a very agressive, cynical and manipulative mood that, to me, really didn't feel like it was expectable from what we had seen before, even if I considered that part of it could be seen as a kind of reaction (the kind of that says "ah, you think i'm x, i'll show you how x can i be"), and then, she goes to the party, recieves one speech, and that seems to turn back to the caring sensible Celestia from before. Now, that may be a simplification, and i think there was more than that of that, but overall the idea is that i felt that either the amount of steps/things to get Celestia to change her ways would have had to be more, or Celestia should have gotten in a less extreme position after the fight. but, that's just like, an opinion :P

also i liked the thing about putting the source of the magic as an epilogue, and obviously the explanation of it. you are completly right htat it wasn't the imporat part of the story, but also not explaining it would may have feelt like just incomplete. that was a perfect way to handle it.


In any case, i still absolutly loved the fic, i loved this characters and i cried when it ended, ... it would be a bad deal for you, but i'd love to just read more of this character and their interaction, dialogues, etc, forever, lol. Is just so enjoyable.

In any case, i'll be eager to see whatever you can work next, whenever that may be, and in the meanwhile, I hope you are having a happy life with yourself and your family, you deserve it!

They finally get married :yay: Very happy to see that. Celestia and Cookie deserve that bit of happiness.

Alas, the story is finished now. I'm glad you kept at it, book. I know you always said you would, and that you never stopped enjoying it for yourself, but, well. Having seen lots of other good stories die before they're done, even when the author said they'd finish, let alone the unexpected bumps you ran into, I admire your perseverance in finishing it. Seriously. Not everyone would have, and I hope you give yourself credit for that. It was always a story worth finishing, and so I'm very glad you did.

The charter is a spell that gathers the powers of every pony who considers themselves part of Equestria and uses them to ensure and protect our freedom.”

I love this idea. Not just within the narrative, but as applied to real life. It's one of those metaphors that seems so obvious in hindsight I wonder how I've never seen it before. Because it's true. The words your nation, your government are founded on are indeed a spell. They are functionally quite equivalent, and they hold real consequential power over the lives of people. Get the spell wrong and you cast a curse over your entire country, crippling it from the start. Cast a good spell, and you'll prosper.

I also liked this story's use of baking--not just the themes surrounding it, but how the story surrounds it with those themes. How it turns it into a symbol. I suppose this is basically a point about shop. I've thought often on how you make something a symbol in a narrative. My current theory is that, essentially, it's through repetition. You repeat an object, in different contexts and different ways, but along some common line, again and again, building an inventory of meanings. Through this it becomes a symbol, just like any other symbol in real life: via repeated attachments.

That's what you do here with baking, turning it into a unique, meaningful symbol, that both illustrates the themes of Sun and Hearth and shines light on the characters and their relationships. The moment that always sticks in my brain is in ch13 when, in the pause in their argument, Celestia secretly stuffs her face with some pastry Cookie has in his pantry. To me it demonstrated in a subtle but clear way her lack of respect for his (and others') boundaries, which is what was at the core of Cookie's grievance with her, and I really liked that. Cookie's identity as a baker and the food he makes and Celestia eats isn't just a random choice in this story. It has purpose, and meaning. It's the only story I've seen that actually does something with Celestia's love of sweets beyond the meme of it.

I don't know what's next in the pipeline, but I hope one day you revisit Celestia. :)

Firstly, I would like to apologize for how long this took me to get to. There is no excuse I can offer for that.

This comment will cover from "The Battle One Always Loses" to this chapter, as well as giving my overall thoughts on the story. I hope it is enough to make up for how long it's taken me to finish reading it.

Anyway, let's begin by talking about your writing. I was excited to read about how Smart Cookie and Princess Celestia were treating this; you had a great way of putting in millennia-old wisdom with contemporary problems and weariness from them. The back-and-forth they had throughout about this whole debacle, and their dealings with the other characters, was not only very believable, but paced well, tense and simultaneously philosophical and human. I am pleasantly surprised that ||the ending wasn't completely in Smart Cookie's defense, and that he had to face some repercussions for his actions as well||. I wouldn't have been surprised if ||Celestia had to do all of the apologizing||, but I'm glad this wasn't the case.

Not only do I love how the resolution was paced; I also love how the denouement was handled. In not only Smart Cookie and Celestia's case, but everyone's as well, it felt as though you gave a lot of weight to everyone's actions, knew how they were going to be used, and gave them as much time and attention as was needed. I love slower-paced stories, and this one was a delight to get in-depth with.

A part of this strength, I feel, is how the character interactions were portrayed. There is a certain style of character inclusion in storytelling that I don't like, where characters seem to be included only as a means of including everyone at once. This story introduces characters as needed, and that creates a lot more tension as well as makes each character's role in the story that much more special. I especially like how you wrote Celestia and Rainbow Dash, especially their interaction in her quarters.

Likewise, the way you described the stars and the snow and the coziness of the insides of the cottages and Twilight's castle were splendid. I think that not only did you use each character uniquely, but I also think that every place, and every object, was placed with the utmost care.

The flashbacks were pretty cool as well. I think you wrote each of the council distinctly enough, and the inclusions made Smart Cookie's point of view, both positive and negative, more vivid. I especially appreciate how intellectual they discussed his immortality. Being a curse, and then a blessing, makes sense, and I love how hardheaded everyone is. I hope to write characters with as much conviction one day.

And finally, ||I wasn't expecting that particular explanation for Smart Cookie's immortality, but boy howdy does it make sense. I actually find it an ingenious explanation for it all, and it helps with the whole love issue going on with Fluttershy and Discord.||

Overall, I think the whole fic was excellent. It was philosophically rich, character driven, deeply human, deeply mysterious, careful, coy, and perfectly crafted. It is a fic with a broad scope and a great depth. I very much enjoyed it, I thank you for writing it, and I apologize once more for taking way too long to comment on it.

Thanks again for lighting this candle, I got a lot of enjoyment out of a good re-read. It's nice to see a story where people can disagree on upholding "Equestria" and NOT tear each other apart or get lost in rhetoric.

It's nice to see people who lost sight of what's important be able to remember.

An indecisive mess of a pony with a dream of a country of people who are united and free. A Princess determined to uphold that nation, secure it against whatever might threaten them.

And lots of delicious baked goods.

Thank You for the awesome read. The story is one of my favourites and I have also given it a like. This story deserves definitely more attention. :heart:

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