• Published 19th Jul 2012
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The Best of All Possible Worlds - McPoodle

The philosopher Voltaire finds himself in the most-frustrating place imaginable: Equestria

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Chapter 42

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 42

At the end of the sixth day, Voltaire and Celestia lay down on a slope of the Coppenbrügge’s foothills to watch the sunset. Neither of them said a word as it progressed.

“Well!” Celestia finally exclaimed as the twilight began to fade. “That one was pretty good.”

“Hmm,” Voltaire said. “Not as good as yours, though.”

Celestia gave him an accusing look. “You’re just trying to flatter me,” she said with a frown.

In the darkening sky, a distant point of light began to grow.

“I am not!” Voltaire said, sitting up. “That sunset right there was an impersonal activity, the interaction between an immense natural process and the peculiar nature of the atmosphere on the horizon. A good sunset might be caused by a distant forest fire that puts dozens of people out of a home, while a bad one might be caused by weeks of clear skies that help crops to ripen. Your sunsets, on the other hand, are deliberate works of art, and are a direct reflection of your mood. The melancholy you hide from the ponies always shines through in those moments.”

Celestia put a hoof to her cheek in thought. “Well maybe they’ll start getting cheerier in a few years. My sister’s coming back to me, and I think this time it will be handled correctly.”

The light grew into a fireball, which streaked above them to hit the far side of the mountain.

Celestia closed her eyes and swung her head around a few times, before stopping in the direction that the meteorite had landed. “I have its location,” she announced as she opened her eyes.

“Great!” exclaimed Voltaire, jumping to his feet. “Let’s go right to it!”

“Right now?” Celestia asked with a smile as she rose to her hooves. “It will be too dark to navigate. It’s not like anybody’s going to stumble across it in the next few hours. We shall go in the morning.”

“Aw, but I wanted to go now!” the human protested.

“Are you that impatient to hasten the moment when we will permanently part?” Celestia asked sadly.

“No,” Voltaire replied, “but I’m no good at waiting, and there’s no way I’ll get any sleep tonight.”

“Well perhaps in that case we can move on to the next card game you were going to teach me. Cribbage, I believe it was?”

“Ah, cribbage,” Voltaire said with a growing smile. “I’m sure to beat you at this one!”

~ ~ ~

“How do you do it?” Voltaire asked fifteen hours later, as the two set out to find the meteor.

“Oh, I’ve always been fond of games,” Celestia said, taking to the air.

“Now that’s not fair,” Voltaire said, pouting.

Celestia flew low over him in a circle. “I’m staying with you instead of racing ahead, so I don’t see how that’s unfair at all,” she observed.

“Let me get on your back, and we’d get there a lot faster,” Voltaire countered.

“I only had you on my back before because we were in public view,” the alicorn said. “You’re heavy.”

“I am a twig compared to most humans!”

“Then I shall institute a ‘no riding policy’ for humans and my ponies,” said Celestia with a half-smile.

“But this will take forever!” Voltaire whined.

“Patience, dear Voltaire, patience.”

~ ~ ~

Five hours and one lunch break later, the human and the alicorn had finally found the long trench in the earth that terminated in the black rock from space.

“Are you sure that’s it?” Voltaire asked. He looked around to see that Celestia had backed off by six feet.

“I’m sure,” she said.

“What are you doing back there?”

“I don’t want to get any of that stuff on me.”

“It looks pretty harmless to me,” the human observed.

Celestia shook her head violently. “You are looking at the most potent source of magic on this world, in some ways even more powerful than the Elements of Harmony. I think it’s the life essence of a god.”

Voltaire walked around the lumpy black rock, taking it in on all sides. Suddenly he froze. “I think you may be right,” he told the alicorn, “because this sky stone has a face.”

Celestia carefully walked around to Voltaire’s side of the meteorite to study the mostly buried visage. “It’s another Discord!” she exclaimed. “Or a creature with at least a family resemblance to Him. But this one seems almost calm. Like He knew the fate that was coming for Him, and accepted it.”

Voltaire crouched down and remained in that position for several seconds, noting that the face looked rather horse-like, but the carbonized skin resembled that of a dragon. “Perhaps this, err...draconequus was Discord’s mirror opposite,” he speculated, “giving His life to prevent Earth from becoming like Equestria did under the Lord of Chaos’ reign. Or else He got so bored of torturing mortals in this dimension that He willed himself out of existence, and yet even a piece of His body is fated to make humans and ponies miserable. I just wish I knew for sure,” he added with a sigh. “I much prefer to know if the gods I meet are benevolent or malevolent.”

“Well, that’s the whole thing about being a mortal,” said Celestia with a shrug. “No omniscience means we will never know if this object landing here was part of a bigger plan, or a complete accident.”

“So now what?” Voltaire asked uncertainly. “Will you be able to destroy it?”

“It won’t be easy,” the alicorn replied. “No force on Earth or Equestria will be enough to do the job. But I know what to do, when the time is right. Until then...” and she stepped even further away from it.

“What about me?” the human protested. “I’ve got to make a pencil out of it!”

“Voltaire, the worst that will happen to you is that your hand will fall into Equestria.”

Coward,” Voltaire muttered jokingly to himself. He kneeled down next to the large rock and opened the knapsack he had carried out here with him. Removing the garden trowel, he set to work digging into the head of a god. For an all-powerful creator and/or destroyer of worlds, He sure had a spongy cranium.

~ ~ ~

After a couple of crumbling failures, Voltaire succeeded in creating a pencil from what was once a lock of hair of the fallen god. “You know, this looks exactly like the magic pencil Genevieve and I handled,” he said, holding it up.

Celestia carefully trotted forward to examine it. “No it doesn’t. It looks completely different!”

The human and the alicorn spent a moment looking at each other in confusion before reaching the same non-conclusion: “That’s just creepy.”

~ ~ ~

Voltaire looked up at the sky. “Okay, Genevieve, we’re ready!” he announced in a loud voice.

With a sudden whooshing sound, a flat vertical circle of blinding light appeared floating in the air before them. From out of it stepped the goddess Genevieve, and then it snapped shut into nothingness behind Her. Voltaire noticed that there was a fuzzy ball of golden light floating beside Her, about the size of Her head.

Without saying a word, She stared at the space between them and blinked. This caused another glowing portal to appear at the level of the human’s waist; this one was oriented horizontally instead of vertically, and was much smaller in size. While the glow of the ring itself remained, the light from within the circle faded, providing a view to the space on the other side.

Peering down into the ring, Voltaire saw himself sleeping in the cell of the insane asylum—it was the night before he would have drawn his way into Equestria with the magic pencil, only in this reality he didn’t have that pencil.

With the room’s door closed and no windows anywhere on the floor, it was impossible to tell what time it was. In fact, the light streaming in from outside the portal was the main source of illumination for the indoor scene.

The juxtaposition of dark cell with late afternoon mountainside was enough to start Voltaire tipping forward, losing his balance.

He was suddenly righted by a tug of magic.

“Oh, no,” Celestia said, “we’re not starting that again!”

With a shake of his head, Voltaire recovered himself. He picked up his homemade magic pencil, and dangled it over the hole in space and time. “Death from above!” he said playfully, as he released the pencil point downwards towards the sleeping Voltaire’s chest.

The portal winked shut just as the Voltaire from 1751 was about to look through it at his counterpart.

~ ~ ~

“Kneel, Voltaire.”

The human looked over at Celestia, to see that she was presenting her bowed head to Genevieve.

Voltaire shrugged. “Alright, I’ll trust you,” he said, doing as she did. “This time.

Genevieve gently raised a hoof, and somehow drew a ball of light out of each of their heads, yellow for Celestia’s and a dull green for Voltaire’s. “I will give these to your alternate selves,” She told them, “and then My duty to you will be at an end.”

“So those are our memories of the reality with You as a goddess?” Voltaire asked, rising back to his feet.

“They are,” the donkey replied.

“And whose memories are those?” he asked, pointing at the ball of light She had brought with Her.

“Those are Blue Belle’s,” said the goddess.

“We won’t be needing those,” said Celestia staring down Genevieve. “I never want her remembering those things.”

“She won’t give you a choice,” Genevieve told her sadly.

“Let me be the judge of that,” the alicorn replied. “Give her memories to me, and I’ll be the one to decide whether to break her or not.”

“Very well.”

Celestia used her magic to pull the ball of light into herself.

With a nod of Her head, Genevieve opened another glowing portal. “I’ll open the second portal after the consequences of delivering these have settled out.” She gestured at the balls of memories remaining beside Her.

Two seconds later, the human and alicorn were once again alone on the slopes of the Coppenbrügge.

~ ~ ~

The winter sun swiftly set. It began to get bitterly cold, so Voltaire volunteered to make a fire. This task was completed far too quickly, leaving still more time to wait.

During this time, Celestia sat quietly, while Voltaire paced incessantly.

Finally another portal appeared, a small one, floating right above Voltaire’s head. From it dropped the magic pencil.

Death from above!” cried out the voice of the Voltaire from 1751, just as the portal winked out of existence.

“Hey, no fair copying me!” the 1740 Voltaire countered. “Well, that was anticlimactic,” he commented as he picked up the pencil. “What happens now?”

“What happens is that this timeline ends,” said Celestia with a sigh. “I just need to destroy this enchanted graphite, and our purpose would have reached its conclusion.”

“So we’re going to die?” Voltaire asked nervously.

“We have become superfluous,” Celestia explained in a serene tone as she closed her eyes. “Our new selves have our memories, and the consequences of allowing two of any individual to exist at the same time are quite dire. If it were not for Geneveive’s protection, one of us would have probably blown up by now.”

“And are you sure you’ve thought this all through?” Voltaire asked carefully, holding up the magic pencil he had just retrieved from himself, from the version of himself that would survive while he would die.

“What do you mean?” Celestia asked.

“Well, forgive me for playing Devil’s Advocate, but what would happen if you used this pencil to fix up a few of your mistakes before letting Celestia #2 take over? Maybe there’s a way for the griffons to figure out who they really are without slaughtering themselves. And maybe there is a way to save your sister.”

Celestia shook her head firmly. “No,” she said, “no second chances for me. I am blessed to have seen and done as well as I have, and I simply have to accept that I cannot do better. If I take that pencil to correct one thing, what justification is there to prevent me from using it again, and again, and again? And after that, what’s to prevent me from stopping the new timeline from replacing this one?

“Your condemnation of the Goddess Genevieve was entirely apt, and would with justice apply equally to me if I were to start using that instrument to bend the rules: The ponies would become dependent on me, and would end up as little more than toys for my amusement. I cannot take that pencil, for any reason.”

“But the griffons!” Voltaire pleaded.

“Do you have a better answer?” Celestia asked, honestly hoping that he did. She continued speaking when he failed to say anything. “If I had never helped Duke Thunderwing, then the griffons would have continued under the despotic thumb of the dragons. Who’s to say that would not have ended in a bloody war of revolt, or even annihilation? The revolution that we got appears to be dying down, or so I sincerely hope. One generation of bloodshed, and one generation of atrocities before that. I wish I knew how to eliminate that much, but I think even with the wisdom of a goddess that I would be unable to manage it.”

Celestia caught the way that the human looked covetously at the pencil in his hand. “And what of you? Would you be any better at resisting the lure of having your every wish granted, were I to take that pencil and draw whatever you bid me draw?”

Voltaire sighed. “There is only one thing in my entire life that I have truly regretted, and I have long since realized its uselessness.”

“You would have me bring back your Émilie,” guessed Celestia.

“She was not meant for this time,” the human said with a sad shake of his head. “Her entire life, she was ridiculed for doing things that the world thought belonged solely in the realm of men. And in the end, I failed her like every other man, or woman, she ever met. But I firmly believe that she would not have lived in a later century if she had been given the choice. She told me often how lucky she felt that she might provide an example, no matter how feeble, for the generations of women to follow, that they should know what might be possible because she had tried it first. Even her failures she hoped would become inspirations to future would-be Émilies.” In a lower voice, Voltaire forced himself to continue. “I would, if I could, reverse my own stupidity so that at least when she died, she wasn’t surrounded by her enemies. But if doing so would have prolonged the emotional torment that was her life, then I think in the end it was for the best.”

He tossed his homemade pencil atop the meteorite and turned away. “Let’s get this over with,” he muttered.

He suddenly noticed the air around him getting hotter and hotter, kept from escaping by a crystalline dome that Celestia had summoned into existence around them. The atmosphere shimmered around him as he broke out in a sweat. It was hotter than the hottest summer day he ever remembered, hotter than the ovens at Sanssouci, hotter than the iron-smelting furnaces from his childhood. So hot in fact that he no longer felt anything at all, like his body had been burnt away, leaving only his soul to continue to witness the events around him.

Voltaire tried to look to Celestia, only to be turned away from the gleaming brilliance of her coat. A sort of liquid fire poured out of her eyes as she channeled the power of the Sun through her—Earth’s sun, for her cutie mark gave her control of all stars within a certain range. The light of the Sun was so bright that it merged with Celestia’s white coat, making her invisible.

In the field of pure whiteness, only one object was visible, and that was the alien meteorite. Slowly, it began to glow brighter and brighter, changing color steadily from red through orange, before beginning to fade back to red.

And then Geneveive was suddenly beside her, and added the power of Equestria’s sun to the conflagration.

The meteor’s color began to shift once more, through orange to blue, and from blue to the same brilliant white as everything else.

Suddenly the jagged ball incinerated, accompanied by an unearthly howl of frustration so loud it obliterated Sound itself as the bubble protecting Earth from the alicorn’s spell suddenly blew out like a candle.

The white faded to black, leaving nothing behind of the god’s head, the human, the alicorn and the former god donkey but a scorched hole in the earth.

End Original Timeline

Author's Note:

Note: This is not the last chapter.