• Published 16th Dec 2020
  • 1,280 Views, 36 Comments

Pale Nights - Ice Star

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

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Night Three: These Blind Mortals

On the inside, Princess Celestia wanted nothing more than coffee right now. She wanted gallons of it to be poured down her throat and for every hint of weariness to leave her body. Evening time was when she usually got those cravings again, for nothing short of a barrel of coffee and a whole pond of tea to give her that machine-like focus. Now, that, the sheer perfection of an automated spirit — something that was quite the oxymoron — was a greater craving than caffeine ever could be. All her usual energy was really making her feel as pale as her coat right now.

Managing the moon and its power just never stopped being a gut-wrenching, draining ordeal. When she chose to indulge in sleep at all, it was no surprise she opted for early bedtimes. The best part was that she rarely needed any sleeping aids. The night was such a forceful, rebellious power — and its goddess still had her subtle rebellions. It wasn’t as though Princess Celestia couldn’t feel who was trapped in there, resisting her magic’s touch each time she made contact with the moon.

A long time ago, when she first had started to manage moonrise and moonset, Princess Celestia couldn’t sleep. For hours afterward, she would lie on her bed, where her mane would barely twitch and she was too weak to whimper. Somehow, there was a way to be both too exhausted and too depressed to fall asleep. On the rare occasions that she was able to get to sleep, it would be shallow and she would wake from nasty night terrors every now and then. It was horrid. She had resorted to sleeping draughts. The unfortunate thing was that even in those days you needed a prescription for them — but she wasted no time in abolishing those laws, and ensuring anypony who thought to speak out would not have the platform to do so.

Unfortunately, she found that medicine was a fickle thing for Alicorns. Yes, she had her physicians, doctors, and all sorts of things. But no advanced medical knowledge needed to medicate Alicorns existed — and that meant no long-term, species-specific medications existed for their specialized woes and wildly different systems. All she had was medicine for the three races of ponies in abundance, mules, donkeys, zebra, and every kind of creature but the everlasting Alicorns.

She had to self-medicate, and she didn’t exactly think twice about it. The thoughts of the princess were simple — she wanted to think that the only difference between her and ponies came down to size. All she had to do was give herself larger doses, and when or if those didn’t work, all she needed to do was give herself larger ones still.

For a time, she ended up with slumber so deep it sapped from her all but prophetic dreams. At last, she had managed to live without dreams and all their cruelties — both ‘good’ and bad ones. All of them were wicked, hateful things. She even would have said that she was happy to do away with them, but in those days, the princess didn’t really feel too deeply about anything past her smile.

After a few decades, no amount of sleeping draught worked for her. To drink it came to be no different than drinking water or poorly made placebo potions. It was ridiculous to think that she had gone from being able to need multiple troughs worth of sleeping remedies drunk each night to the point where drinking barrel after barrel was no different than sipping bathwater.

Her routine in the great year of 987 of the Solar Millenium was much simpler. Let the exhaustion of night managing make her earlier bedtimes easier. Her dreams were docile things now. Eventually, after years of potion-binging her dreams wearily returned to her. She was just thankful that it was only her foredreams that had any vividness or malice to them anymore. All her dreams were sweet dogs, pulled of claws and teeth.

She could want nothing more.

A long time ago, Princess Celestia used to try and manage the night in full. She would try and come as close as she could to imitating her elaborate art. To get the reflections of stars just right. To whip the vastest amount of clouds into shape like she had, wiping the night clear of obstruction or sculpting it in mere hours. Her magic had been able to do all that from the Everfree Forest’s castle, putting any amount of production and mass-weather of the pegasi of the past and future to shame. There were all kinds of surprises and secrets to her techniques. They always went unspoken and now the whole world paid of the lack of her unique touch and what only her magic could do.

It was the greatest tragedy never told, because now even Princess Celestia barely remembered the art the night had been. Meanwhile, no mortal ponies knew. Even if their ancestors had the technology or means to preserve what had once been heavenly artistry, who was to say it would still exist now?

While it used to vary by season, night-time used to be roughly twelve hours of the twenty-four a day took up. Dusk would be a gradual process, an experience as thrilling and dynamic as a concert. Morning’s moonset would be equally lovely, as seen by its artist.

Ponies never used to see any of that effort and entertainment.

The princess hadn’t either.

All of that ended when Princess Celestia brought her daily methods to both halves of the sky. No longer did nights take up half of the time. Seasonal variance grew restricted, and winter solstices only became a product of unseen lunar rebellion. Only longest days reigned in the year. Eight hours of night were cut and set aside, and all the remaining hours were the light of her day. Equestria may have gained a night culture and become an accepting place for creatures who struggled as she had, but Princess Celestia was no equalizer. The sky would never obey her fully, no matter what her ponies thought.

Things had been that way for a thousand years. What Raven stood next to her princess and gaped at was a routine of centuries. It had been decided long before her ancestors would be anything traceable or even recognizable to her.

Seeing Raven’s eyes shine under her glasses was a good thing. It made a familiar, warm feeling stir in Princess Celestia’s chest, one that awoke every time her ponies could not understand what they had missed. They were so terribly sweet that way, how they saw only the best because they did not think there could be anything else.

“Oh, Your Highness!” Raven squeaked. She looked ever-so-small in Princess Celestia’s growing shadow. “The night looks perfect today!”

“Rae,” said the princess warmly, “don’t you say that about every night?”

The light of her horn thinned somewhat, gaining more shades of yellow than gold. Such was the expected result of her distraction. Perhaps Raven hadn’t noticed.

“A-absolutely, P-princess!” Raven stammered, blushing. Her stutter was inevitable anytime she realized there was a spotlight upon her. “But there isn’t anypony w-who makes the n-night like you do!”

“How right you are, my friend,” Princess Celestia said, all the sadness she meant in her reply walled off.

Raven knew nothing about what her princess actually intended with her response, and things were better that way. The only pony currently in Princess Celestia’s life who didn’t value her was Sunset Shimmer, and she was likely off doing her homework or eating her dinner right now.

At last, Princess Celestia’s horn dimmed like a bulb flicking out one final time. A few silent sputters and her horn was free of magic once more. The five minutes needed to raise the moon had been completed, and the mechanical, one-act night had come to the world in only a blink. When one moved only the moon up and down, what was once art became merely going through the motions of something previously great. What the princess did was merely throw a bucket of flat, dark blue on canvas and deem it art.

Pale nights were all she could give to these blind mortals, unable to see a proper sky.

Comments ( 10 )

Pretty sure Celestia is going to have the mother of all imposter complexes by her sisters return.

Pretty sure Queen Chrysalis has imposter complexes covered.

Excuse me while I show myself out.

Two snares and a cymbal fall off a cliff.

Well, I wasn't expecting this to end before Luna came back. Then again, she isn't tagged as a character, and you are always pretty precise with your tags.

This last chapter has a lot more of a somber, melancholy feel to it than the others. The details about Celestia's (temporary) dependence/tolerance/addiction on the sleeping draughts, as well as her lack of artistry in comparison to Luna were especially poignant. The nights being shorter made sense in pragmatic terms, but also serve to further illustrate what both Celestia and Equestria are lacking (and have been lacking for almost a thousand years).

Another nice, evocative series of vignettes taking place in your broader universe. :twilightsmile:

Haha I fooled you I got you now you have come down with a case of the Feels again mwhaha


Finally finished it! Every chapter of the story was very interesting, although I found the multitude of clocks in the second chapter to be especially eerie.

Thanks for reading!

A pale immitation being praised by a love-blind kid, an armored security blanket and memories of self-indulgent whining, then bare minimum effort to check a box that STILL gets praised as the greatest thing ever...Celestia hasn't learned a thing in a thousand years...

My favorite bit is the lesson she teaches her MFS's before anything else; seek validation, avoid anything negative. No growth this way, no constructive criticism, no thick skin; just little neurotic, panicky clones afraid of failure...or overly ambitious, power hungry assholestrying to reach the carrot dangled in front of them.

I didn't think my disdain for "incompetent goddess Celestia" could grow anymore, thanks for proving me wrong :facehoof:.

Is there more in this world? This is the first of your stories I've read and I need MOAR!!!

Hello friend, may I introduce you to the rest of the stories here.

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