• Published 16th Dec 2020
  • 1,188 Views, 36 Comments

Pale Nights - Ice Star

Princess Celestia tries to raise the moon on three nights across eras.

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Night Two: A Four Star Game

Princess Celestia’s chest rises and falls soundlessly. She never once snored, and her pale chest maintained its simple rhythm, its was color only visible due to its contrast with the darkness. Her bed chamber is warded from moonlight with tightly-shut curtains — she was never able to sleep if she could see the moon. As long as she could hide from it, there could be nothing to haunt her — at least nothing outside of her self. To see only what made one feel positive and supported was one of the strongest pieces of advice she gave. Her Faithful Students each had that mantra — seek only validation; shut out negative feedback — cemented into them until it was stronger than any spell.

A sudden twitch crosses the features of the princess, her mouth twitching. Her eyes remain closed, and still, she cringes at something that cannot be seen. There is nothing in her room save her and her furniture. No latent magic lurks about. Not a single trace of any spell, active or otherwise permeates the room of flows from Celestia — at least nothing she hadn’t cast herself.

Erupting from the princess is a single, thin whimper as she twitches again. Her ears, once lax with sleep, pin sharply against her skull. One leg jerks sharply, lashing out against sheets that had long since been kicked onto the floor.

Her third whimper is higher than all the others, bordering on a frightened whinny. It leaves her as her muzzle is distorted with a flash of fear, ruining the angelic visage she was a stickler about maintaining. Princess Celestia’s eyes are just damp enough that if one of her hooves to stray up, it would be like someone had let water drip at her face. A temperament of eternal chill mixed with habits of tyrannically stomping back her capacity for such displays of emotion had spanned centuries before she lost her sister. These were the tears that no longer had the iron bars of Princess Celestia’s habits holding them back.

The second hand on her clocks ticked by — two, four, six, eight, nine — before the princess bolted up with a sharp scream and a ghost in her eyes.

She stared, horrified, and hyperventilating at the dozens of clocks that ruled her throughout her room. Only when she realized the syllables that escaped her — the last half of a name that had been in no history book or upon her tongue since the Longest Night — did an ill gladness rise in her. She had brought no stallion to bed with her tonight, and had not had one as a lover in a few years. Never had she shown such brokenness in front of one, not when they all craved her because she was immaculate to them.

There were a dozen lies and more she could have offered one, if she had not been sleeping alone tonight. He would have believed her. They always did. She wouldn’t like to keep them around if they did not see the mare she made for them, and love her with the worship that exceeded her most devoted thaumaturges.

But tonight, she was glad there were none — what she took no relief in was her present state. To be unwitnessed in imperfection and to be alone were two correlated things, and nothing more.

She would rather they not be anything more.

Princess Celestia let the dead song of all the clocks drag her emotions back to where she could slam a lid on them. As the meter of tick-tocks tapped throughout her room, everything about her wound back into place. Her wings folded right at her sides, and she knew she would have to preen them later. The light from her eyes faded until only kind meekness remained. The flow of her mane and tail were no longer the sharp, erratic twitches she had woke with. They flowed sluggishly, like syrup suspended being poured from nowhere.

She did not allow her forehooves the time to stop shaking before she hurled herself out of bed. Moments later, she was upright and squeezed within her calm illusion. The regalia she was frightened to sleep without was a cold weight upon her form, and the mere thought that she could possibly separate herself from them made her sicker than her dream had.

Permitting herself a sigh, Princess Celestia lit her horn. The small bit of hornlight trembled where it was reflected in the glass face of her clocks before stabilizing.

Even if she had not been wearing her great golden shoes, the princess was well-aware of the silken sheets under her hooves. To step all over such luxurious things was painful, and certainly improper, but nothing she couldn't replace. Sentiment over most trinkets was best avoided, and an entirely different matter from indulging in what her station allowed her.

One glance at her clocks revealed that it was nearly six. Her nap had been too long.

The dusk would come late.

This single stroke of error was not something that the princess allowed to register physically. The disappointment she had with herself was best swallowed, as with all bitter pills. She knew her ponies would not speak against her, or dare judge her. Perhaps there was some loveliness in that, ruling those who loved her more with each generation because they knew her less.

It was deliciously addictive.

In any other moment, when a better mood was upon her, Princess Celestia would be glad she was not a changeling queen. She knew full well that the number of passive feeding opportunities alone that her subjects could provide would balloon her to the size of the planet — or bigger. To be heavier and plumper than she already was — to have even more extra, unshakeable chub — made the prickling sensation at the back of her neck that much colder.

Princess Celestia trotted over to her balcony curtain, wishing she could think of a way to shake the eerie wordlessness she was submerged in off. Her gait was stiff, and more fitting for an unsleeping automaton than any creature — mortal or goddess, pony or Alicorn.

Her rich maroon drapes were cinched with a heavy golden rope. It was prevented from fraying or damages by enhancement and preservation magics. These helped it last a few centuries. Even though it was not worn in any way, every century that this magnificent rope had been through still showed in it.

As her magic grasped it, the weight of the rope impressed itself upon Princess Celestia’s mind, as was expected. Tired motions led to its unraveling, and when she was done she became too exhausted to handle it carefully any longer — she tore those curtains open…

...and was faced with a moon she hadn’t risen…

...with all its scars glaring down at her…

...a scalding, branding reminder that only two creatures could control the heavens…

...and that if Princess Celestia hadn’t risen it, only one being had the power to.

There was a knot heavier than the one tying Princess Celestia’s drapes forming in her throat. This one tied off all her words and flooded her with fear — and there were no greater fears than the known and the unknown; to have an answer and to have a question.

A goddess could be sealed away certainly, and the princess never had any reason to think that she wasn’t gone forever. But it was a different matter entirely to treat being sealed within an inaccessible heavenly body as the same thing as mortal death, or aboslute loss of power. Yes, she could tell all her subjects that she had brought the night forth from another location — it was only ceremonially a public display — and they would not hesitate to believe her.

But this would not make her fear of the ever-full moon wane.

The stars did not have any of the brilliance they used to when she controlled what was rightfully hers. This did not mean that there were not many subtle signs of brilliance that Princess Celestia could not give the night being thrown back in her face — like a streak of comets across the sky, one that was not seasonal or predicted by her astronomers.

And it was so totally, insultingly new.

She saw where it was pointing.

Far from the moon, in four different corners were bold white shapes so like stars.

None of them had been there the night before; even if they had their visibility would not be so painfully obvious. She knew what they were framing; who they acted as corners around. Why hadn’t she seen these dreadful things before?

Princess Celestia swallowed, her legs shaking with a few, brief, stiff jerks.

It was the seven hundredth and third year of the Solar Millennium.

The board was now set.

A cruel game had begun.

And there was nothing that Celestia could do about it.

Author's Note: