• Published 11th Nov 2019
  • 851 Views, 30 Comments

Sister Solstice - Fylifa



A unicorn filly discovers a magical secret that will change the world. But her sister worries that's not all that will change.

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Chapter 3

Celestia floated.

It was nice. It wasn’t quite like lying back in a pool of water, but her coat tingled with neither coldness nor heat. A kind of neutral that matched her body temperature perfectly. She could just melt into that feeling with her thoughts playing on the edge of awareness. There was no need to move, or even think. She was comfortable. Perfectly balanced. A kind of coziness one could only get during brief times huddled in a blanket on Hearth’s Warming Day.

Celestia smiled.

The thought of Hearth’s Warming brought a memory as clear and as vivid as the day itself. Nocturna, a small foal climbing their tree, star clenched sideways in her mouth like a pirate with a sword. Her Mother’s giggle as she set a mug of hot chocolate in front of Celestia.

So detailed, she could nearly smell the cocoa right down to the marshmallow. Almost as if—

Celestia blinked.

In front of her floated the mug, steaming and as fresh as it had been in her memory. She reached for it with a hoof, but the cup spun away from her, weightless. She switched to her magic to grasp it before it could float too far and brought it back.

“How did this—” she began, then yelped when she looked past the mug at the cloudy void of white surrounding her on all sides. Instinctual fear struck, and she flailed her hooves. She was falling!

After a few panicked moments of her waffling, she took a second look. She hadn’t moved, and neither did the mug. Not falling. But how did she get here?

The details slowly trickled back to her. She found herself viewing it in a vista that opened up before her like an enormous window. She stared at herself, eyes running with tears, her mouth silently moving, followed by a flash that made the room empty and dark, save for a sizzling mark on the wood floor.

Celestia flailed at the air a second time and tumbled backwards from the vision. A new panic rose, and she quickly touched a hoof to her neck. She couldn’t find a pulse! Horror welled up inside of her... until she did feel it.

A moment later, its echo beat in her chest. Relieved, she let out a breath and that brought another realization: she hadn’t been breathing until just now.

Experimentally, she floated the cup of cocoa to her and sipped. The flavor tasted as sweet and as wonderful as she… remembered?

She squinted at the cup. Mom had always made it with marshmallows, but what if it had cream?

A brief laugh came from her when the cocoa now sported a spiral of fluffy cream instead. She drank it happily and savored the taste. So it wasn’t just things in her memory! When she found herself left with the empty cup, she closed her eyes. She didn’t need the cup anymore, and she didn’t wish to be a magical litterbug.

When she opened her eyes, the cup had vanished.

What else could she change? She looked down at the formless nothingness as her hooves dangled. It would help if she could walk somehow.

Musing about it brought it to being. Gravity returned, and her hooves landed flat on invisible air. “I’m probably higher than the highest flying pegasi,” she said, then giggled as the floor changed with her imagination. Now she was on a sparkling road of twinkling stars in a cloudy cosmos.

She bounced along the star-road, testing the artistic spread with her hooves while skipping across assorted lights and nebulae. On impulse, she set off on a gallop and took a running leap that carried her from one ursa to the other. When she landed, she marveled at the distance.

“It’s like fl—” Her breath caught, and she held the thought. Almost too afraid to think about it and find it to be the one thing this magical place couldn’t do. She closed her eyes and wished with all the youthful desire she had in herself. When she peeked an eye open, she let out a whoop of joy at the white-feathered spread from her shoulders.

The next jump had her zooming over the road and cartwheeling in the air. “I can fly! I really can fly! Wait until I tell Nocturna!”

Nocturna.

The thought stunned her, and the world around her came to a stop as she braked and skidded on stardust. Her sister! Was she here?

Celestia looked around, seeing only infinity at every side. She squinted her eyes shut again and thought of her sister. A hint. A direction. Something!

She looked around again and spotted the change. A void in the white distance. She trotted, then took to the air, crossing the gulf with vigorous flaps.

The black mote was a swirling whirlwind made of shadow.

For the first time since awakening, Celestia felt uneasy. There was something malignant about this stationary tornado. In the otherwise pristine white of the realm, it blotted like a dark, ugly stain in the firmament.

Celestia gasped when she saw a silhouette. Peering through the crosswinds, she saw her sister with eyes shut and horn burning with darkness.

“Nocturna!” Celestia called but got no answer.

Why was this happening? Celestia thought on her first experience, it’d been a happy memory and one that summoned her a treat of chocolate. But what if her first thought had been dark and unhappy? In a place where emotions and memories could manifest…

Celestia lit her horn and struck out against the shadows with her magic. At once, the shadows twisted her light and bounced it back at her.

Another glance through the veil of shadow and showed her Nocturna’s face contorted into a terrible grimace. The whipping winds of the maelstrom carried away the tears that ran down her cheeks.

I could never abandon you.

There was really only one thing she could do.

Celestia set her jaw and charged forward into the heart of that tempest. She braced herself for pain, but what she got instead was worse. Wherever the wind slashed at her, her body became numb and her coat darkened. She leaned into the assault, fighting the headwinds until she reached her sobbing sister.

She gathered Nocturna tight in her forehooves and continued on with her wings spread and flapping against the surrounding torment. The wind tore at her feathers with every flap, pulling them out by the roots. Her body was almost entirely senseless, but finally, the shadowy wind parted, and she tumbled out the other side. She landed on the magical star-road in a heap, panting..

“L-Lumi?” Nocturna asked in a voice groggy and sluggish.

“I’m here.”

Nocturna hugged her then, clutching tight around the neck and shoulders.

Celestia smiled tiredly. The numbness had faded, and she could feel the hooves as they squeezed. A look over showed the feathers in her wing regrowing while the wounds disappeared. She added her wings to the hug and put them around Nocturna’s shoulders.

The feathered touch startled Nocturna, and she woke fully. “You have wings!”

“It’s this place. It makes wishes come true!” Celestia couldn’t help the grin crossing her muzzle. “Close your eyes and think about having them.”

Nocturna blinked at her explanation but closed her eyes. A moment later, she gasped as a pair of wings spread out from her own shoulders.

Celestia giggled as Nocturna went through her own round of self-discovery, taking to the sky and pirouetting before zooming in wild aerial spirals.

“I’m flying!” she called from above, voice giddy and full of excitement.

“I know!” Celestia answered and flew up herself to meet her, joining her in the air to touch hooves and spin about with her.


Below the two dancing sisters, the black tornado tore itself apart into tattered wisps. Each laugh above broke apart the darkness below until only a small shadow remained and became dormant.


Nocturna waved her hoof, and a muffin appeared in front of her. She waved again, and it turned into a cookie. Another wave turned it into a glass of milk. Her smile wilted at the edges, and her browed furrowed. “I’m afraid to ask, but are we... dead?”

“I’m not sure,” Celestia admitted.

“Not sure?” Nocturna echoed. “That’s not comforting.”

“We could test it, maybe,” Celestia tapped her chin with a forehoof and mused, “If we can go back then we're not dead. I haven’t tried wishing to leave yet.”

She closed her eyes and pictured the bedroom in their mother’s cottage. She thought about the way the walls looked, how the floors felt. The familiar furniture. Bit by bit, the image in her imagination became more vivid and real—

Suddenly a pair of hooves grabbed at Celestia and broke her concentration with a hard shake.

Celestia blinked at Nocturna’s worried expression. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you okay? You started to fade. Like… becoming transparent fading. I was afraid you’d disappear completely!”

“No, it’s okay. We can go back. It’s almost as easy as waking up, actually.”

“Is that what this place is? A dream?” Nocturna’s ears drooped, and she sighed. “Does that mean we’ll lose our wings when we ‘wake up’?”

“I hope not.” Celestia reached with a wing to tickle along Nocturna’s side. “Cheer up, if all it took was a nap to come here, we wouldn’t have needed the spellbook.”

“The spellbook that blew up. Maybe we should worry more about returning than leaving.” Nocturna squirmed and rustled her own wings. “What if this is our only chance to explore?”

Celestia looked around at the white expanse. “There aren't any places to go on hoof. It’s all the same until we think of a destination.”

“How philosophical.” Nocturna stuck her tongue out. “How about… answers to mysteries? Ah! Could it explain how you could move the sun when nopony else could?”

“It’s worth a try. The magus did say he wrote this spell after watching me.” Celestia considered the right approach. Could she just imagine a book with all the answers in it? She closed her eyes and tried to picture it.

Celestia opened her eyes and saw floating in front of her a book with an ornate golden cover. Secrets of Stellar Motion the book proclaimed in fanciful embroidered script. Reverently, she took the book in her hooves and opened the cover—

—only to find the actual pages blank.

“I guess it wouldn’t be that easy!” Nocturna giggled.

“Let me try again,” Celestia muttered and cinched her eyes shut.

Thoughts of diagrams from the countless books she’d read on astronomy flitted through her mind. None of them were satisfying, she’d always been more a hooves-on mare. Her thoughts drifted instead to the times she played with the orrery in Star Swirl’s classroom.

Beside her, Nocturna shuffled on her hooves. “Umm...”

“Just a few more moments,” Celestia replied with her eyes still closed.

She first learned about star movements through that mechanical curio. Equus was situated in the center, and the smaller satellites of the sun and moon ran on tracks around it. There was even a part with a spring that one could wind up—

Nocturna tugged on her mane. “Sister...”

“I’m almost there!” Celestia answered and shook off the hoof.

In her mind, she reached out pushed the little lever Star Swirl always did when he came back from performing the sun ceremony. Funny how she never thought she’d be the one to set the thing.

Celestia smiled and opened her eyes. “How’s tha-aaaaaaahhhh!”

The milky sky of the realm had grown dark and full of stars. They had a painted-on quality like being on the roof of a planetarium, and Celestia noted the constellations were the same ones she saw when she did her stargazing with Nocturna.

But the biggest thing was the orrery itself. The glittering globe of Equus rose before them like a mountain supported by a giant column of brass. Celestia could see gearwork as large as continents turning in massive arches. An earthquake rumbled briefly, announcing the great ‘tick’ of the mechanism as it turned an enormous wheel at the base.

“I suppose you’re just too literal of a thinker,” Nocturna noted.

Celestia sighed. “If we ever get another spellbook, we should bring mom here. She’d be better at this whole creating-stuff-out-of-thought thing.”

“It’s still pretty. You did do a job that would have taken countless craftponies to make.”

“Or just one very very big one."

For a time, they watched the giant machine at work. The clouds on the gargantuan model of Equus swirled into eddies and hurricanes while water lapped on the shores.

“Have you noticed that it’s not like the one the magus has?” Nocturna mused.

Celestia waved a hoof. “The one he has isn’t accurate. When I imagined this one, I guess I couldn’t help but fix it.”

Nocturna gave her a funny look. “Did you ever tell him that?”

“You think I want to be yelled at?”

“It might have been an important thing to say to the one moving the sun,” Nocturna muttered before blinking when another booming tick had them both suddenly bathed in silvery light. She craned her head back and pointed. “If this is so accurate, what’s with the moon?”

Celestia mirrored the head craning to see the moon on its mechanical track. It was banded by kilometers of heavy chain and a lock put in the center. “I told you before. The moon is locked into its path.”

Nocturna frowned at the moon from a distance. “Why chains, though? They look ugly.”

“You are talking about a metaphor given life in a magical astral dream world,” Celestia replied plainly. “It’s what the math and star charts say, even if there aren’t any ‘actual’ chains.”

“Well, I say it’d look better without them,” Nocturna insisted.

Celestia shrugged and was about to answer when Nocturna spread her wings and took off. “What are you doing?” Celestia called after.

Nocturna winged high and flew up the mechanical arm holding the moon in place. To Celestia’s perspective, it was like watching a fly buzz around a hoofball. With every pass, Nocturna struck the chains with blasts of magic.

At first, it seemed like an impossibility in terms of scale involved, but Celestia reflected in a place like this willpower counted for more than physical size.

When the chains finally broke, they split away in a sudden sliding clash and fell into the darkness where they dissolved into stardust.

Celestia clapped her hooves to applaud the light show, but gasped when Nocturna turned her magic on the moon itself.

Like the finale to one of their mother’s acts, Nocturna raised her hooves and spread her wings wide. The moon itself glimmered with her aura and lifted off the mechanical arm it had been yoked to. It floated off the rail to hang free when the next enormous tock came.

Nocturna returned to Celestia and bounced on her hooves when she landed. “Hah! What great fun! It’s looking so much more beautiful now. I didn’t think I could do it, but then I remembered that all that matters here is to think that you can do something. So I did, and now it’s done! It felt amazing and—err, is everything okay?”

“It’s different now,” Celestia murmured, barely hearing her.

Nocturna’s enthusiasm waned, and she fidgeted. “Did I break it?”

Celestia studied the altered orrery. When Nocturna made the change, Celestia expected to feel like she did when she looked at the orrery in Star Swirl’s classroom, noticing the imperfections and inaccuracies. Looking at the changed system now brought a feeling of sublime clarity that this was better.

Even the mechanism reflected the difference. No longer were there deafening ticks and tocks that moved things by degrees. The planet and sun now moved in a smooth movement that was much more… natural.

Nocturna whinnied at her silence. “Can you fix it?”

Celestia shook her head to clear it from her fugue. “Actually, I think you might have fixed it.” She smiled when she spotted something else. “And if it’s broken… well, you know the saying.” She pointed with a hoof. “It looks like it’s yours now.”

Nocturna followed the pointing hoof to her own flank and gasped at the white crescent in the center of her splotch. “W-what does it mean?”

“My guess is that you're going to need a stage name, too.”

That provoked a flat stare from Nocturna before she made a sheepish smile. “I...uh... I’d already thought of one before. Back when you came up with yours.”

Celestia grinned. “Really? Come on. Tell. I can probably summon every feather in the universe here if you don’t.”

“Luna.”

“You’re going to call yourself ‘moon’ in the old tongue?”

“Like your ‘heavens’ is any better!” Luna protested with a blush.

Celestia pursed her lips and blew out a ‘pfft’. “I’m never going to call you that. I think I’ll just say ‘Sister’ or ‘little Lulu’.” She punctuated her teasing imitation with a lick along Luna’s nose.

Luna reared back and tackled Celestia to the ground, where they both rolled over one another in a ball of hooves, wings, and happy giggles.


“Where’s your student?”

Star Swirl looked up from his spellbook. He quickly fixed his expression with a small frown to cover the surprise at Platinum’s appearance in his personal study. “Isn’t she supposed to be with you at this hour?”

Platinum’s cane tapped the floor in a light two-beat. “Which is why I’m asking you.”

A glance to the window showed daylight behind the curtain, which meant that Celestia had still raised the sun wherever she might be. Star Swirl relaxed in his seat and shrugged. “I would be a legend among legends if I could divine the workings of a mare’s mind. Alas, some mysteries are not meant for stallions.”

That brought out a haughty snort from the matron as she sat opposite from him. “A legendary fool, more like. Could you not divine the outcome of a drinking contest with an earth pony?”

“Some lessons are best learned at the hoof than through the book,” Star Swirl grumbled sagely before raising the spellbook again.

A moment of quiet passed through the study, interrupted only by the steady tap of the cane against the floor and the distant sounds of ponies in the castle courtyard. Star Swirl slouched a little more behind his book to avoid the heat of the glare Platinum was drilling into the cover.

Finally, Platinum’s cane swung around to push the book to the table. She leaned over the desk and spoke in constrained, exceedingly smooth tones. “Everypony is asking me about her. The mare who will become the first United Equestrian princess.”

“Are you sore that you will finally have to call yourself Queen?” Star Swirl replied, matching her annoyance with some wizardly gumption. “You have to pass that princess title along sometime.”

Platinum rolled her eyes. “I can accept that I won’t stay young forever. But I need a pony to pass it to. She hasn’t run out on us, has she? I’d wanted to ease her to the idea before you spilled it!”

Star Swirl guffawed. “Is that what you’re worried over? No, Celestia will never run away from duty. She knows what’s at stake. If anything, she’s an overachiever.”

“You sound so certain?”

“I knew it the day her cutie mark changed,” Star Swirl said, grinning. “I’ve seen its like before.” His gaze drifted towards the mirror in the room.

Platinum eyed him and the mirror. She looked as if she was weighing the decision of hitting one or both with her cane. Meanwhile, the din outside became a loud clamour and drew her attention away. “Hmph. What is going on out there?”

Star Swirl stood and reached to pull on the curtain only for it to billow back at him with the sudden booming shout.

“IT IS TIME FOR A NEW DAY IN EQUESTRIA!”

Outside the window was the sight of Celestia at the castle ramparts along with her sister. Both mares stood with wings spread underneath a sky split by sun and moon.

“It... looks like we are going to need another crown,“ Platinum commented with her level voice, though her eye twitched.

“Like I said, she’s an overachiever,” Star Swirl said from the floor.

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Comments ( 20 )

Ok. I'm done reading this now and I have to say, well done. I want to say something whitty and philosophical, but the story covers everything I can think of with the immagery of orreries and the inner workings of alicorn ascention, and then the interaction between Beard Pony and the Princess at the end killed me with how totally unsurprised yet still annoyed they we're at the sisters antics.

Well done.

9935866
Aww, thank you so much!!! It really means a lot (been sweating on this for the contest for weeks). Thank you for reading and enjoying !

I really liked this tale. Good job to the author!

Brilliant work throughout. Fantastic sisterly interactions, great continuity, and some wonderfully literal celestial mechanics. I can only imagine the discussion if Twilight ever asked them about this. Thank you for it, and best of luck in the judging.

Much as I disliked Horse Play and everything to do with it, I like how this story works with that episode and builds upon the ideas it introduced. And I like how it actually crafts an original backstory for the princesses that's more or less compatible with new seasons canon, while still diverging from previous interpretations.

9936886

Brilliant work throughout. Fantastic sisterly interactions, great continuity, and some wonderfully literal celestial mechanics. I can only imagine the discussion if Twilight ever asked them about this. Thank you for it

As always your comments make me happy for running through all the coffee in the house writing this.

-best of luck in the judging.

I am certain the judge is an incredibly intelligent and handsome and insightful person. Whoever they might be. :derpyderp1:

But more seriously. I'm thankful just for the chance to entering. Even with the sleepless nights, the contest was really fun to do and was what I needed to boot me out of my writing slump. So I've already won a prize out of this already in a way. :twilightblush:

9936974
I know it is sometimes an effort to read something that might not be your cup of tea so I am glad you gave it a chance and found it interesting in its own right! Thanks for always swallowing for me, Danny. Swallowing the bitter pill, that is. :scootangel:

9936991

Let it never be said that I do not swallow.

9943441
Thank you for saying so! It always makes me happy to hear people enjoying. It feeeeeds us.

I debated quite a bit on how soon I should have had that detail happen. But then I thought it was a lot to ask a reader to endure if both main characters were off-named for like 99% of the story.

If I had room to write an act before this one I’d probably have peppered in Lumina’s hero worship more and perhaps more scenes where she’s trying it out in public before donning it wholly.

Hopefully it still works in a narrative way, as being one more thing Luna to worry over along with all the other changes happening to her sister.

“My guess is that you're going to need a stage name, too.”
That provoked a flat stare from Nocturna before she made a sheepish smile. “I...uh... I’d already thought of one before. Back when you came up with yours.”

This is a small moment, but I love it. It just feels so authentic and does a lot to make me empathize with Luna--which is made even more impressive by how the story's not from her perspective.

This clearly deserved to place. Brilliant work.

10002436
Thank you so much for the kind words :heart:
And I am happy with Honorable Mention. There were some amazing stories in the contest!

Yep, this was really excellent. Great stuff. I particularly like the interactions between the sisters, but Platinum and Star Swirl are excellent as well. I love Star Swirl's line about mysteries.

Speaking of which, the mirror is distinctly mysterious. I think the implication is that Star Swirl can see bits of the future through it (and so does Celestia at one point)? Is that item in canon?

The dreamworld is also distinctly mysterious. I'm not sure whether the implication is that anypony could use that spellbook to become an alicorn?

Despite my unanswered questions, the fic was extremely enjoyable and just generally superb. Congrats on the HM!

10009876
Thank you so much for reading and the nice comments! I admittedly threw what snippets of workable canon I could draw on and stuffed it in a blender with some Fylifa ideas to try and make a narrative.

the mirror is distinctly mysterious. I think the implication is that Star Swirl can see bits of the future through it (and so does Celestia at one point)? Is that item in canon?

Regarding the mirror, I imagined that it would be silly for Star Swirl to be able to throw the sirens to another world if he didn’t have his own preliminary grasp of other-world jumping already. As he mentions to Celestia, with her taking over sun raising it’d given him time to explore other magic fields.

As for the mirror’s ability being canon. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the comic Reflections if it specifically mentioned anything about giving glimpses of the future. Though I know in the comics Celestia brings Sunset specifically to look into the mirror for a look at a possible self. In the Journal of The Two Sisters, Celestia mentions that Star Swirl looks visibly older in places and I think he has a line that suggests he foresaw her sun raising.

The MLP episodes It’s about Time and the scroll Starlight steals for S5’s finale at least lay the groundwork that Star Swirl at some point does start playing around with the idea of time travel.

So you can take your pick of explanation! The mirror does have a wobbly time dilation thing going on in Equestria Girls. So, perhaps you can view alternate universes that are ahead of you in the future?

And I am glad you picked up on that part when she leaned her head against it. :trollestia:

I'm not sure whether the implication is that anypony could use that spellbook to become an alicorn?

For the dreamworld, that’s to my knowledge only shown in Magical Mystery Cure and Twilight asks no questions about it. :facehoof:

But I like to think it still requires an understanding or an explosion of harmony magic to get there. Considering the book she gives to Twilight is not the book she herself used. Perhaps Celestia finds a way to recreate the spell! Or understands that the ‘test’ part is only to provoke a friendship epiphany at a suitable supercharged magical moment.

I quietly hope that she does give mom her own chance at visiting. She’d be good at having a empty surreal canvas to explore other worlds. :twilightsheepish:

I wrote a critique/review of this story. It can be found right over here.

10330550
:twilightblush: If it fits, I sometimes like to sneak a reference to a fandom thing once per story.

Plus if you remember Starkatteri-style wish granting well… being cursed to turn into a pair of immortal alicorns fits the ‘never losing my sister’ in that monkey paw kind of way.

And I am glad you appreciate! I sweated for like a week over what to call her.

I thought about using the name Fortuna, Then maybe have her be fond of wearing laurels, but I figured that was too 20D chess for folks. When in doubt with a pony. Just stare at their bum and inspiration will come :raritywink:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Fantastic. :)

10334023
:heart: Means a lot coming from you! I am glad you enjoyed and had fun.

A very clever and entertaining way to pull everything together.

Seeing their bond tested and reforged as a matter of will and friendship was heartwarming. Even the non-apocalyptic stakes match the ascension of Twilight in the show!

10347771
Yes! I am glad that came through. :pinkiesmile: I wanted to go for the 'humble beginnings' style vs the usual 'gods from above'. But a kind of familial love and friendship was still important in the ascension as much as it was in Twilight's.

Thank you for the comment! And even more bigger thank you for enjoying!

This was a nice little read. :D

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