• Member Since 15th Apr, 2012
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bookplayer


Twilight floated a second fritter up to her mouth when she realized the first was gone. “What is in these things?” “Mostly love. Love ‘n about three sticks of butter.”

T

A powerful love story from Equestria’s history has been forgotten to time, yet it continues to this day.

Princess Celestia and Smart Cookie have watched Equestria rise. They’ve guarded it, and each other, against the most vile threats and darkest nights. 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; one that comes not from monsters or armies, but from the opposed wills of two ponies who want only what’s best for one another, their friends, and Equestria, and who can’t back down when any of those things are at stake.

(Canon taken into account through season 6... this took me a long time to finish.)

Chapters (22)
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Comments ( 244 )

Oh, so this is not Applejack Smart Cookie. Well then.

7948653
I figure if the founders were real ponies, a play performed thousands of years later probably isn't going to be accurate. I tried to make the characters ones that could have been polished down and sanized over time into the archetypes that the Mane Six portray.

Really enjoying this. I like the refreshingly organic feel of the Founder segments, especially Cookie as the rascal starry-eyed sociologist-scholar. The core conflict of the "modern" segments is nicely drawn. I keep feeling like Luna is the off-base one, though I can see arguments in either direction.

Couple notes:

I’ve had a.letter from that star’s damned bastard

Anomalous period of course, but I also wonder about the possessive. "Stars-damned" would be "damned by the stars" which makes a rough sort of sense, but I can't figure it in its present form.

Pour over maps

"Pore."

The paragraph beginning with "'Then why do you propose this?'" needs a paragraph break at the change of speaker.

Following with interest.

Huh. You're definitely making Smartlestia work. Between this and horizon's Time Enough for Love—whenever that's getting published—all we need is a story shipping Celestia with Pansy for the trifecta.

In any case, I'm very glad that I got here early. I eagerly look forward to seeing how both plots develop.

"Then I shall execute the Law. I have no tribe. Therefore, no tribe shall have blood on its hands."

--Lawrence of Arabia

To be honest, on my first look at this story I wasn't particularly interested since celestia is not usually one of my favourite characters, but hey, it's written by Bookplayer, let's give it a try. And of course, you delivered.
The story is great, I simply loved it, the characterization of the equestrian founders and your world-building around it it's pretty smart and their dialogues are really fun (even if I never liked too much the "princesses born-alicorns" explanation; yes, I know it's in the "official" book), overall it's seems really promising and I really interested on reading more of it.
Definitely recommended.

Wait. Have you read This Immortal, by Roger Zelazny?

Conrad Nomikos has a long, rich personal history that he'd rather not talk about. And, as Arts Commissioner, he's been given a job he'd rather not do. Escorting an alien grandee on a guided tour of the shattered remains of Earth is not something he relishes- especially when it is apparent that this places him at the center of high-level intrigue that has some bearing on the future of Earth itself.

7981588
I haven't, actually. I'm not very familiar with Zelazny outside of the Amber books. (I haven't read those either, but I at least know the premise.)

7981624

This Immortal bears directly on Smart Cookie's character and Lord of Light bears directly on his problem. I think you'll enjoy both. :-)

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and -atman and just call himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be...

I'd like for all of the Bearers to met him. Together or apart; separate from the plot. Maybe...eventually...

Even though every chapter so far (I think?) has started in the present day, I always like that I'm never sure which time it is for the first few paragraphs. Makes it feel sort of mythic.

I do look forward to seeing Twilight's reaction when she meets such a prominent historical figure. Cookie should probably get some paper bags ready for the inevitable hyperventilation.

I see that you're using baking as a metaphor here: for love most obviously, but more generally for conciliation.

Are you familiar with Tolkien's poem, "Perry-the-Winkle?" It won't take long to read, I think you'll like it, and your daughter may as well :twilightsmile:

7987708
Baking is definitely an important symbol in this; it's really a leitmotif for Cookie and it carries a lot of weight in the central theme as it builds. I hesitate to say more (and may have said too much already,) but I'm tickled you noticed it.

And that's an adorable poem. Thank you for sharing it. :twilightsmile:

Democracy is a right shitshow, so I naturally approve of Immortal Alicorns.

7969744 Somehow, Pansy will end up a boy too to make it so all 3 end up being straight, and I shall weep all the more for it.

Twilight meltdown will be fun here. And mystery-solving. I feel like there are shades of Raven in the ongoing theory as to why he's still alive.

I think this is easily my favorite chapter of this fic so far. The Cookie/princesses dialogue was really good, and hangouts with the Founders was precious and wonderful. I also loved the look at their governing style; it was super character building for all of them, and very efficient character building at that.

Also:

“I think she means ‘strong enough,’” Clover said, barely looking up from her scroll.

Clover's got the snark and she's not afraid to use it. :rainbowlaugh:

Also also:
There were way too many lines specifically focusing on Cookie remaining alive for it to not be foreshadowing the fact that he dies at the end. I've decided this, and nothing in heaven or on earth can change my mind. :pinkiecrazy:

I mean seriously the chapter ends with the words "we'll both live" if that's not prep work for some dramatic irony later on in the fic I don't know what is
NTM Celestia happily daydreaming about all the lovely times she and Cookie and the rest of the royals will have together like that's a beautiful vase just begging to be smashed by the cold realities of life

Still very much enjoying this! I feel like we're just scratching the surface in Cookie's dealings with the two junior alicorns, and am looking forward to seeing more.

Have you heard Elias Frost's Hearth's Warming Pony songs? I had one going while thinking about this fic and now I hear them as the soundtrack to the flashback segments. :pinkiesmile:

Finally got to reading this. And I'm already six chapters behind! :raritydespair:

I liked the discussion in the beginning about the Summer Sun Celebration and Celestia. I don't want get ahead of myself, or the story rather, but it seemed to be establishing the thematic direction--that this is going to be, in part at least, an intentional character study of Celestia. You've already set up a bit of a contrast, via Cookie/Chip's dialogue, between Celestia's two halves: pony and princess. Again, I don't want to set my expectation too firmly this early on, but I definitely like the scent on the breeze here. (This of course has absolutely nothing to do with my bias in this direction, nope).

Also, was not expecting any of this to take place in the present, or for Cookie to be so long lived. Very interesting.

Refugees, the forest called Everfree...I like that connection, even if it wasn't intentional. It gives a different spin on the origin of the name. I suspect you had a lot of fun (I hope!) creating the personalities (and appearances) of these historical figures of Equestria. That's the best way to do OC's, in my opinion. No one thinks of them as an OC!

Ah, so Cookie is the distrust-ponies-with-power type. And he likes democracy. Smart guy. I liked the discussion concerning how to govern the burgeoning Equestria. Good arguments from both sides. Of course we know who wins the debate, but it shows where the line falls between Cookie and Celestia, perhaps, and, maybe, why they'll make a good match, or a troubled one.

What you describe is a commander and mother and statespony and statue all in one. What pony can live up to that?”

I really liked this line.

Cookie met her eyes with all of the empathy he felt. “I spoke without thinking. It’s my habit, and I’m sorry. "

It's depressing to think that someone could live for over a thousand years and never amend their personal failings.

Though I suppose it's necessary for the story that Cookie remain essentially the same character throughout his life. And I suppose it's even more depressing--frightening really--to contemplate the alternative: a person's whole personality being gradually effaced and replaced multiple times over the course of a multi-century lifespan. A person could go from being Ghandi to Stalin, and back again. And then what would you do with him?

Heinlein deals with this tangentially, in Time Enough for---

...wait...

oh

my

God.





You shipped Celestia with Lazarus Long.



You shipped Celestia with Lazarus Long.



You shipped Celestia with Lazarus Long.:twilightoops::raritycry::fluttershbad::ajbemused::pinkiegasp::rainbowlaugh::trollestia:











"Hey Bad Horse! You know your Evil League of Evil thing? Yeah, well I got a candidate for ya, and she's a doozy!"

8009914
Another one I haven't read, so I can't really comment on that much.

I can comment on personal failings. One thing to consider is which ones can't or will never be fixed because they provide some benefit as well.

Speaking without thinking is callous when it hurts someone's feelings, but when it's perceptive or amusing we call it a quick wit. Can you really have one without occasionally wandering into the other?

8009994

Huh. Thousand-year-old-guy...running political commentary...sex...

Sure seems like you've read Time Enough for Love.

Someone must be operating an Infinite Improbability Drive near Delaware.

8007165
I haven't heard those, but I'll look them up!

8010000

Someone must be operating an Infinite Improbability Drive near Delaware.

Well they have to keep it close enough for the President to steal it.

8010031

Nobody seemed to notice that in the movie, Zaphod was basically Richard Branson.

The banter was on fucking point!

Hmm, this chapter makes me not like Cookie very much. He's like an Applejack without her warmth and concern for others. Perhaps it's a result of his bad history with Luna, or his really old age. He's more arrogant than he seems bitter, but maybe it's the latter. It doesn't feel genuine when he calls himself a fool. He clearly thinks he's wiser than most. None of this is critique, by the way, just personal reaction. ^.^

that was while the Nightmare courted me.

What is your view on NMM, btw? Was she an external force or the result of Luna entirely?

8011736
First, I really appreciate your comments. :twilightsmile:

Second, there will be more on NMM later, though not the answer to this directly, so I'll hedge my bets and answer under a spoiler:

My take is that Luna was arrogant, poorly socialized, and had a chip on her shoulder regarding her place as princess in comparison to her sister. She started studying dark magic as a scholarly pursuit, and there was a long period where she was Luna, but the magic she was working with was slowly playing up her jealousy and paranoia. She created Nightmare Moon as an emergency weapon in that state, and the temptation of power through it finished the job of corrupting her. So, the short answer is both, Luna made an external force that she eventually succumbed to.

Third, I don't want to stick up too much for Cookie because it's not my place, but it is worth noting that his contempt for Luna is well earned. For the first thousand years of Equestria she was everything he feared in a princess, then she betrayed Celestia and hurt her deeply, and this is the first he's spoken to her since. He knows she's reformed, he's not afraid she's evil, but she's done nothing in two thousand years to earn his respect.

Very nice to see Cookie get along well with the junior princesses. I think he and Twilight will get along swimmingly... provided she can ever accept that there is one mystery she flat-out isn't allowed to investigate.

As for the flashback, while the banter was magnificent, I can't help but feel bad for Luna. Already I can see the seeds of her rebellion and fall, and it casts a pallor over what's otherwise a wonderfully irreverent scene.

Still, eagerly looking forward to more.

8009914
Nah, not nearly enough wanderlust (or lust in general) to be Lazarus. Though I suppose an enforced exodus early in life might put a damper on the former, and an immortal lover the latter. Plus, the "specialization is for insects" speech falls a little flat in a species whose specializations are marked on their hindquarters.

8012081

He's not as obnoxious as Lazarus Long, which Bookplayer might attribute to his having been in a healthy relationship for a thousand years, and which I attribute to Bookplayer not being Heinlein.

(Because I like his stuff and all but jeez...)

8011784
You know it never occured to me to consider dark magic as a factor. I mean, I've never solidified my own ideas on NMM, which is why I like to ask others sometimes, but I really like your theory here. It makes sense of certain discordant elements that always seem to pop up when I think about the matter.

You make a fair point concerning Cookie. Given how he spoke in the flashback last chapter, Luna was I'm sure a textbook example of corruption for him. This may be the reason for his seeming lackluster empathy for Twilight or Cadance. Until recently, the Aclicorn Princess Project only had a success rate of 50%. I doubt he trusts the newbies either.

Celestia paused with a honey cake halfway to her mouth. She sighed but said quickly, “Girls, I have to ask that you don’t pry into it. Cookie has his reasons for declining to pursue it further.”

“Of course,” Cadance said with a simple nod.

Cookie examined her face, but if it held any disappointment she had mastered it thoroughly. He nodded in return. “Thank you.”

Twilight was another matter. Her eyes shifted, and she fidgeted in her seat, and Cookie could imagine the clouds of ethical and philosophical protests forming in her mind.

“You as well, Twilight Sparkle,” he said, hoping to clear those quickly. “I would expect that as master of friendship magic, you would know better than to pry into a pony’s personal business, no matter how mysterious.”

OK, hold the phone. Cookie recognizes the ethical dimensions of suppressing research into immortality, then tells Twi to back off anyway, because it's Cookie's "personal business". Wrong. No. Fail. And Celestia is going along with it. Even more wrong-no-fail.

Once we know that (non-Alicorn) immortality is possible, the moral calculus shifts. Anyone who wants to prevent others from accessing it effectively wants those people to die. A Princess of Equestria opposing research into the subject falls under the category of "gross misconduct, dereliction of duty, and reckless disregard for life", and I'd support a coup against Celestia at this point on those grounds alone.

Twi and Cadance, you're falling down on the job here. You're princesses too. Your duty to your subjects supersedes the wishes of two individuals.

8016555
Worth noting that it's quite obvious neither of them oppose research into it as a general thing. It's been very well researched, in fact:

“We’ve looked into it many times,” Celestia said, using her magic to refill her tea and replenish her plate. “Clover studied it, of course. I also brought Meadowbrook, Candlelight, Hay Carts, Moon Beam, Zellena the Wise, and Glow Worm to speak with him. Nopony has been able to figure it out.”

...Which is why they're so focused on one of the few remaining hypotheses.

More on this subject coming up in several future chapters, so I'm going to be a little vague here and spoiler tag, but if you can't accept that when there's a valid argument that observer effect might collapse a pony's immortality, or at least turn it into literal slavery, and do the same for some of the very few (potentially three, maybe four if it could work for Discord, plus maaaaybe polyamorus partners if any of the alicorns swing that way) other ponies it might even potentially affect , that changes the moral calculus, you're probably going to have trouble with this fic. I'm not arguing that answers the question of whether it's right or not, just that it makes Cookie's and Celestia's position more reasonable.

Of course, Cookie and Celestia's disagreement is over whether that's even the case, but if Cookie was actually convinced it wasn't he'd have Cadance examine him in a heartbeat. Since that question is still up in the air, and personal to him and Celestia, it is in fact his personal business.

The younger alicorns are probably inclined to trust Celestia's judgement. For now.

8016834
Previous attempts don't excuse obstructionism now, particularly when you're brushing off the Princesses of the two magical domains most likely to be responsible for the effect.

The futility of debating hypotheticals with the author of the story aside, from an outside point of view, the potential of finding a sustainable version of the effect for the population at large would seem to outweigh the potential disadvantages for the single couple currently benefiting from the situation, possibly even to the point of "call in the Mares in Black and prep the lab" (depending on how your ethical system balances the individual and the collective). Since Love and Friendship are fundamental forces in Equestria, and we've seen spells, potions, races and artifacts that can both produce/amplify/focus and consume/harness energy from those forces, I'd be inclined to believe there's a way around needing a direct connection to an alicorn.

I'll keep further gripes on the matter to myself though, at least until we see how things turn out.

8016930 ...Except, again, both Cookie and Celestia believe the effect is quite likely to collapse under specific circumstances that an investigation may trigger. And also, while Love and Friendship are fundamental magical forces in Equestria, they are not controlled or directed magical forces. They happen, and they happen in such a way that their effects are largely beneficial but unpredictable. If you can ascribe a direct magical theory and logic to the manifestations of the power of the Elements of Harmony, by all means submit your thesis on how this is in any way a direct substitute for the three, possibly four people you're trying to substitute.

...And to be honest, on that note, the idea that you could substitute people with anything would seem to run contrary to the idea of Love and Friendship as fundamental magical sources.

8017989
Oh, you might not need to substitute "people with [something else]", but you might be able to get away from having ~4 acceptable sources.

Changelings used to require a parasitic relationship with ponies in order to survive. Thorax's changelings found that they could survive and thrive by sharing love with ponies and other changelings. Instead of draining love from unsuspecting ponies, they created a positive feedback system that sustains them all without harming anyone.

If it's Love and Friendship expressed by an alicorn that keeps Cookie alive, then perhaps there's a way to make the effect less source-specific. It might take an amplifier like the Crystal Heart, but the sum total of the Love and Friendship directed at a pony by all their friends, families, lovers etc. could perhaps be channeled into a similar effect.

Heck, that might be WHY alicorns are ageless. The collective Love directed at them by their subjects might be doing the job. Celestia might just be sharing some of the overflow with Cookie. Luna was much reduced in stature upon her return, perhaps because she wasn't well-loved. Cadance and Twi are still smaller than Celestia and Luna. Again, this may be because they are newer, and less well-known. In a generation or so, when they're household names, they might grow along with their fanbase.

8018017

Heck, that might be WHY alicorns are ageless. The collective Love directed at them by their subjects might be doing the job. Celestia might just be sharing some of the overflow with Cookie. Luna was much reduced in stature upon her return, perhaps because she wasn't well-loved. Cadance and Twi are still smaller than Celestia and Luna. Again, this may be because they are newer, and less well-known. In a generation or so, when they're household names, they might grow along with their fanbase.

Have you ever ruled anything in your life? Because that would do wonders to explain Princess Celestia, but jack all to explain Nightmare Moon. Being a well loved political leader isn't the same thing as being loved, and loved deeply, and loved romantically, and loved to the point of madness and loved to the point that you sacrifice your time, your energy, your desires and hopes and dreams. You do that not for a leader. You might do it for a country, for an idea, but for a single leader who you probably have never met in person? Unlikely in the extreme. And even a well loved political leader is never loved without question in a country with an entire third of its population who are quite used to democracy.

If it's Love and Friendship expressed by an alicorn that keeps Cookie alive, then perhaps there's a way to make the effect less source-specific. It might take an amplifier like the Crystal Heart, but the sum total of the Love and Friendship directed at a pony by all their friends, families, lovers etc. could perhaps be channeled into a similar effect.

Sure. Want to kill him and figure that out? Cookie and Celestia are ponies, and asking a pony to please collapse his life because maybe, perhaps, something we don't know a great deal about might have a breakthrough if the stars align and we have all of our occult instruments in place and I offer a sacrifice to Hecate on the third moon. This isn't a trolley problem, it's barely even a chop-up-chuck surgery problem, it's "if I do this, there's a decent chance I die, and an uncertain chance anyone even benefits from that". And not all ethical systems permit that kind of sacrifice to be made.

Changelings used to require a parasitic relationship with ponies in order to survive. Thorax's changelings found that they could survive and thrive by sharing love with ponies and other changelings. Instead of draining love from unsuspecting ponies, they created a positive feedback system that sustains them all without harming anyone.

You will note that the nature of taking vs. sharing love is not actually what we were discussing, however. I think it's clear that Smart Cookie shares Princess Celestia's love. Sharing that love with others when you are not biologically adapted to consume love seems difficult, and even then the fact that Thorax and the changelings shared it about seems to have resulted less in immortality and more in solving a food shortage.

Sharing that love with others when you are not biologically adapted to consume love seems difficult, and even then the fact that Thorax and the changelings shared it about seems to have resulted less in immortality and more in solving a food shortage.

It does seem to indicate that Love energy is fungible. Changelings don't need "Love energy extracted from a pair-bond", they just need Love and/or Friendship (Thorax was doing just fine off whatever he was getting from Spike and/or the ambient energy in the Crystal Empire). Perhaps a similar work-around can be found for immortality.

Being a well loved political leader isn't the same thing as being loved, and loved deeply, and loved romantically, and loved to the point of madness and loved to the point that you sacrifice your time, your energy, your desires and hopes and dreams.

Ah, but (small fraction of a Love unit, where Pair-Bond Romantic Love = 1 L.U.) x (millions of ponies) > 1 L.U. is a distinct possibility.

Also recall that, even at her worst, Luna still had the love of her sister, and factor in any potential spill-over effect there as well.

This isn't a trolley problem, it's barely even a chop-up-chuck surgery problem, it's "if I do this, there's a decent chance I die, and an uncertain chance anyone even benefits from that".

Earth's total human deaths up to this point is estimated at around 100 billion people. We currently have ~7 billion people alive at any given time, expected to rise to ~10 billion in a few decades, then decline somewhat. Global crude death rate per year is around 7.9 per 1000 people currently. Assuming that drops somewhat and the population stabilizes around 7 billion, we're looking at around 50 million deaths per year going forward. That gives us another 100 billion deaths within 2000 years.

At a 1:50 million chance of it working for humanity, statistically speaking it's worth the risk. Assuming the experiment doesn't immediately kill Cookie, multiply that by his expected remaining natural lifespan, based on physical condition. If we have 20 years remaining, we can get by with 1:1 billion odds. Ponies seem to have a smaller population and longer life span, so the odds would need to be somewhat better, but it's almost certainly worth the risk from a raw numbers perspective.

And not all ethical systems permit that kind of sacrifice to be made.

Certainly not. Selecting an ethical system is left as an exercise for the reader.

8018017
I think I can safely say that the reason this isn't being seriously considered by the characters in the fic is that the kind of magitech you're talking about would take both the magic turning out to work in a specific way and a lot of study on that magic to find out if it was even feasible. At this point, the characters believe there's a good (say 75%-90%, depending on the character) chance it works this way, and if that's the case, a good (~75%) chance that if it does it could also work for other alicorn's romantic lovers. So they're taking those considerations seriously.

Everything else can be said to be conjuncture enough at this point in time that Cookie and Celestia easily assume personal rights and preferences and/or concern for Cookie's non-theoretical immortality take precedence.

These aren't ponies who aren't concerned about this sort of thing, but Celestia does run the most important center of magical research in the world, so she's well aware of where the current capabilities are and has certainly taken that into account. (ETA: And since we're talking about an immortal, there's no harm in waiting and reconsidering if the capabilities increase to the point where the probabilities change.)

I can also safely say that in this setting they understand the reasons for alicorn immortality: they either become sort of an avatar for a kind of magic (Twilight, Cadance, Celestia's mother) or they're born to an alicorn (Celestia, Luna, Flurry Heart). They have their own independent sources of magic from those things.


8017989
In all fairness, I should point out that Cookie thinks the collapse is likely, while Celestia thinks it's unlikely, though possible enough that she'd want the decision to be Cookie's as things stand now.

First chapter to include only one time period! Also, more things that feel like foreshadowing.

Cookie's point in this chapter took me a while (and multiple read-throughs) to finally understand, but I think it's a really good one that the others should be listening harder to. Though Celestia's rebuttal is also very fair.

Huh. I don't think I've ever seen the Tree presented as an extrusion from a more harmonious plane of existence before. Fascinating concept. Celestia's hoof on the proverbial button made for some excellent debate on top of that.

Now, let's just hope Star Swirl doesn't manage to instantiate some paradox that somehow undoes the future as we know it. I wouldn't put it past him.

"...while other ponies are trying to explain how the most powerful magic in the world ended up in our shrubbery.”

Wait---didn't Twilight's Castle spring from a magical box that came from the Tree of Harmony?

And the stump and roots of the Golden Oaks Library now hang from the ceiling of the Map Room.

You know what this means, don't you?

Harmony demanded another shrubbery.






Only slightly higher so there'd be a nice two-level effect...







"Harmo-Ni!"

It's all unnervingly credible. Nice work with this.

If Smart Cookie was voiced, what would he sound like?

8041881
Personally, I hear him as voiced by Kenneth Branagh.

“Imagine if you were approximately 986 earth ponies at once. Or about 690 pegasi, or 493 unicorns.” Clover looked up from the scroll and raised her eyebrows. “Well, you don’t really have to imagine. That’s how much magic you have.”

I'll imagine this was a result of an 'active magic' study and passive magic is discounted. That is also a lot of participants of a recently created nation from diversity even. I guess Star Swirl and Clover could put it together to find some way to measure Celestia's and Luna's powers.

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