When the Goddess spoke to her, Celestia learned she was going to die. It was not the only knowledge she gained with the Goddess’s gift.

She learned that she was not the original Celestia, who had died more than a thousand years ago, right after concluding her bargain with the Goddess. The greatest achievement of her life.

She learned her true date of birth. Eleven years ago, seconds after a young filly named Rainbow Dash completed her first Sonic Rainboom.

She did not learn her true purpose. Yes, the Goddess had whispered it to her along with the other parts of Her gift, but Celestia had already known it. She always had.

Author's Note

Why does Celestia's personality change so much between seasons, going from a distant immortal goddess to an exhausted retiree aunt?

Why do Celestia's abilities go from omniscience and raising the sun to being helpless in a fight against an old has-been, a weird bug, and a racist child?

Why can't Celestia act to save her life?

Why is Equestria always being saved just in the nick of time?

Why exile Nightmare Moon for a thousand years?

What's up with Daybreaker?

Anyway, this is my headcanon for all that, and more. Enjoy!

Thanks to Reese and Fillyfoolish for feedback on the first draft.

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Chapters (8)
Comments ( 52 )

I've seen at least one fic that had Celestia be a series of mortals in disguise, but I've never seen the idea handled quite like this. I like it. Looking forward to the rest.

would have been interested but chapters too short

Most intriguing. The bargain between the two raises a number of fascinating questions. Looking forward to seeing where you go with this.

Sunny #4 · Jan 8th, 2021 · · · 3.13 ·

Curious where this goes to, because right now it's a potentially interesting idea, depending on what's behind the curtain.

The Goddess Within, not to be confused with:

Disturbing ending...

That actually sounds really interesting! I might try to dig that up.
In retrospect I wish I’d waited just until the end of today and posted it with everything complete! Got to rewriting 6.25 and got stuck, so I thought I’d need another day or two to shake it loose from my brain, but it turned out fine as you can see. Feel bad for leaving you all hanging.

Sunny #9 · Jan 9th, 2021 · · · 9.26 ·

Huhm huhm. It was a rather interesting idea, but I think I'm a bit hung up on the nature of what this 'Goddess' was; like near the end increasingly I was going 'Ah, mental illness metaphor of some kind' but then no it seemed Eldritch Shit was actually going on. And thus, confusion.

I left clues throughout but 1.2 and 7.10 are the biggest ones.

Um... you wanna explain that in language suitable for mere mortals, please? (pun definitely intended)

What, or who, exactly is the Goddess? What’s the bargain, why was it struck, and what happens if the Goddess is released from the bargain?

its literally in character tags. The 'goddess' that reincarnates her alot is Daybreaker

Well that does not really explain a lot.
Because the canon Daybreaker is the "crazy" side of Celestia who would just burn everything...
That does not match with this "Goddess".
So we are back to the question in a different form "Who is THIS Daybreaker?" and the following question "What was the bargain struck?"

Hm there is a logic snatch at the end...
Goddess says that she choose this Celestia to be the last as she would not reveal her existence, but then says that she CAN'T foresee the future. Sooo she does NOT know if this Celestia will spill the beans.

"The same alicorn Celestia was keeping her wings away from during the embrace, lest she feel the cool metal underneath the layer of illusion."
Oh, interesting... Her armor, still? Or something else, I wonder?
(I also wonder if this detail wasn't in the draft I read at all, or if I'm just not remembering.)

"It was a recursion problem. A simulation cannot create another simulation. A mask cannot itself wear another mask."
...Yeah, still not really getting that, and running with the hypothesis that that's not actually what's going on there, I think.

Well, I think that that was an improvement on the draft I preread, and that one was already good; thank you for writing. :)

Oh, and:
"an old has-been, a weird bug, and a racist child"
I'm still finding that phrasing funny. :D

I mean it feels like somehow she is kind of a robot or other artificial construct and Daybreaker/NMM are the 'AI Cores' or something? But yea, it's...I guess for me the issue is I can see a bunch of 'It could be thisses' but can't really nail it down past that.

Re: 8.7. Totally off in a tangent; but...

That’s only true for finite state machines. Infinite state machines can contain themselves; recursively. Infinities are weird...

Or another story here on FiMFiction involving Feral-to-Anthro TF, but one I won't link to here because it's clop.

(Re: "Celestia" is a mantle inherited by mortals in disguise)
Here you go.

My belief as to why Celestia and Luna are powerful enough to move sun and moon, but seem surprisingly weak in a fight is due to hax. They don't move them through brute force, something about their magic acts like a key that makes the sun and moon obey them. Anyone could do it, as long as their magic is has the appropriate attunement. In terms of how powerful their magic is, in most cases, such as direct combat, they're equivalent to a very powerful unicorn.

As for the rest of the questions in your summary, my guess is the writers didn't believe the audience would think too deeply about them.

I think the idea is either a) alicorns embody a magic so powerful that it gains sentience and overwhelms them, possesses them, and acts out its own whims, leading to things like Nightmare Moon, or; b) alicorns, by dint of their power, become a conduit for some sort of eldritch external forces that swoop in and use the alicorn's form for their own ends. In either case, it strikes me that the possessive event must be a traumatic and destructive one for the alicorn in question, which would lead to madness and violence, as in the case of Nightmare Moon. I suspect the deal Celestia struck was to willingly give herself over to Daybreaker, in return for Daybreaker's promise to care for and guide Equestria, instead of simply acting out her most destructive urges.

So now Daybreaker cloaks herself in a series of magically constructed, self-aware simulacra of Celestia, each tuned to live our a particular moment and bring about a particular objective, while Daybreaker herself observes from within. Celestia has been "hollowed out" by this, turned into "simulations" that are projected through magic. Now Twilight is going to face the same issue, and will probably end up striking a similar bargain.

All of this is, of course, only my speculation.

That’s pretty much it! Nice.

eyyy! I love that stuff.

While what you say of infinite and finite state machines is true to the best of my knowledge, I don't think it really applies here, as I don't think we're talking about a machine containing itself.

After all, the context this is coming up in is acting, the playing of a character on a stage; for that, Celestia need not contain another whole and complete person, merely as much of one as any other actor might. In analogy, masks may be put atop other masks, and though they may fit less well and transmit less expression, where not as much expression is required they may perform as well as if the outer mask was directly on the face. In computing, I have installed on the computer I'm typing this on a virtual machine, a simulated computer, on which is installed a copy of SimCity 4; certainly, a city in that game is far removed from a real one, but it is little to no more far removed for being run on the virtual machine than it would if it was running outside it (if the game still worked for me outside it, at least).

Why, then, should even simple stage acting be so beyond Celestia just because she's being run as a simulation on another system? This makes as little sense to me now as it did when I looked at the earlier draft, so as then, I'm inclined to fall back on this merely being Celestia being wrong -- for it's her thoughts we get on this, after all, not a confirmation from an omniscient and reliable narrator.

(I'm inclined to suspect that, if it's not a deliberate and purposeful limitation imposed by Daybreaker, it's instead Celestia just not being allocated enough resources to run the extra layer of acting. After all, Daybreaker does say that she has limited resources to dedicate to simulating Celestias; assuming that's true, I suspect that, if she really needed a Celestia who was good at acting, she could make one, but at the expense of other processing... but it would have to be being specifically good at acting that was needed, because if she needs a Celestia to behave a certain way that's contrary to how the current one naturally would, she clearly finds it more efficient to just swap in a Celestia who would naturally behave that way, rather than giving the current Celestia extra resources to make a cruder mask.)

Interesting! Thanks.
That mostly matches my own speculations, but has some significant additional details I hadn't thought of.
(But I still do wonder what the trigger for the magic gaining sapience and/or the eldritch entity arriving might be...)

Thanks, that makes it moderately more clear :)

Yeah the simulations line wasn’t a definitive statement about all simulations! It’s just that a more accurate statement would ruin the poetry of the line, so I hoped readers would get a sense of what Celestia meant. At the very least, Celestia realizes that she is a simulation that cannot simulate. It would be more accurate to say that the simulated versions of Celestia cannot do recursive simulation, and this is due to either resource limitations or deliberate design (as recursion makes them more unpredictable) or both. Your idea of the Goddess simply swapping in Celestias who truly believe what they are saying when She needs Celestia to “lie” or behave in a specific way that would come across as acting is accurate. This is deliberate because Celestia-in-canon kind of acts irresponsible or forgets her powers, etc., all the time, but really looks as if she genuinely is like that despite it being incompatible with the immortal all-knowing super-wise Goddess-Queen that is depicted otherwise. It’s much more reliable and efficient to just create the Celestia that really would genuinely act that way instead of one that is really, really good at acting and super conniving.

Ah, thanks for the explanation!
So, yeah, sounds like I did pretty much understand what was going on. :)
(Though I'm afraid I'm not sure how common an experience that'd be from the text.
(Though, as a disclaimer, I'm also pretty tired right now, and just trying to get some things on FIMFiction squared away so I can get closer to bed, so my brain isn't at its best at the moment; sorry about that.))

Wow. This is honestly exactly what I hope to find when I read fanfiction.

What a fascinating interpretation of Celestia. Controlled by some kind of strange, unknowable force that definitely had its own plans, but seems to work out in the short term. This really earns the dark tag without resorting to cheap tricks.

I shouldn't overlook the quality of the prose or the characterizations. I was in a trance the whole time I read this. Everything came together beautifully.

Nothing needs to be added or removed. It's exactly what it should be.

Great work!

Thanks! This is exactly the kind of impact I was hoping for. Couldn’t ask for better praise!

Fascinating. This does explain much about Celestia's inconsistencies... and presents truly haunting implications for Twilight. I'd say that if anyone could reach a more equitable arrangement with her inner magic, it would be her, but her feats were all orchestrated by Daybreaker. On her own, who can say?

It is interesting that Discord effectively tried to do what the Goddess had done for so long. Sadly, his stochastic modeling needs work.

Great work. Sorry it took me so long to get to the rest of it.

I have a lot of ideas about Twilight will deal with (or not deal with) the consequences of her accession, as well as the fallout of realizing just how much of the canon events had more going on behind the scenes. But my stories all comment on each other here! A bit of this is in Companion, and The 41-Second Goddess points to how Discord's own manipulation attempts as depicted in canon also may have more behind them than they seemed! He did not lie about His intentions, but it is suspect that a Discord-level failure was yet again another crisis that was perfectly solvable by Twilight, along with the lessons she had been learning throughout that season, no?

And no matter when your reading and comments come, I am always very grateful for them! Thank you so much for being a reader of mine.

You really do have some creative ways of resolving canon inconsistencies. Celestia's character has always bothered me... It's part of why Season 9 is so lacklustre in comparison to the rest (particularly 5-8) for me. I would have never guessed being possessed, rebirthed, and killed over and over again by Daybreaker was the explanation you would come up with, but you pulled it off well.

I love the consistency of the tone, pacing, and scenes here. Another commenter stated that they were "in a trance" as they read this, and I have to agree. Despite my own issues with brevity and love of longform writing, these micro-chapters were just perfect. Slowly revealing the machinations of Celestia/the Goddess and integrating canon events at the same time through simple, yet impactful prose. Magnifique!

And ending it as you did, on the note of Twilight now being subject to this same cycle and torment under Daybreaker's whims... I wonder what bargain Twilight chose to strike up in exchange for being the next vessel. Great potential sequel hook there if you're ever inclined. :twilightsmile:

What about Cadence?


...Yeah, still not really getting that, and running with the hypothesis that that's not actually what's going on there, I think.

I think what it's saying is that Celestia is simply a 'mask' for Daybreaker. A sentient mask. And it asserts that a mask cannot create a mask. Thus Celestia is incapable of creating a mask for herself.

Thank you for trying to help, but it was how the as-stated assertion would work, rather than what the as-stated assertion was, that I had an issue with. This was also addressed by the author here, if you're interested: 10622666
(The thanks for trying to help are genuine, though; it just wasn't needed here.)

No problem; like I said, I appreciate the thought. :)

Horrifying. I love it. I hate you.

I'm crying

Thank you so much! This comment made my night

A review for this story has been completed.

thanks for the review!

Comment posted by Deep deleted Jul 14th, 2021

Damn...it weirdly is not as sad as it probably should be or meant to be? It's just so quick it makes me chuckle both humourly and sadly.

You go Celly!

One minor correction, you haven't quite understood the ending.

as long as I was the only being of my kind, I could make predictions about the future. but there is another now.

When Luna and Celestia became the monarchs, their inner magic, their inner goddess, created masks to let them achieve their goals. The important thing to remember is these are masks only. They appear different, as Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker are their true forms, but thats because peaceful flesh suits the future Daybreaker is trying to create.

When The Elements of Harmony hit Nightmare moon, Luna's inner goddess conceeded defeat, and let herself be destroyed. Thus the mask at the time became the real Luna.

In the final Chapter, Daybreaker considered her work done and let herself be undone. The mask she wore at the time became the real Celestia.

Meanwhile the Celestia that was the mask tries to see Midnight Sparkle behind the eyes of Twilight. Or perhaps tries to see the last moments of the Twilight Sparkle she knew before the Deity consumed and replaced her with the first mask.

This is an interesting take on Celestia's character, and though I found it annoying at first, I like that you don't really explain what's going on. I picked up enough along the way to piece together the basics, but you left enough shrouded in mystery to keep me reading until the end. And, that ending. Way to twist a knife into one of my favorite series finales ever!

I like the idea of trying to explain why Celestia's character doesn't seem entirely consistent through the series, and I liked your chapter naming convention to explain exactly which instance you were referencing for those of us who haven't seen the middle seasons in a while. I wasn't entirely sold on the concept or execution, and I think that's because seasons 4-8 are kind of a blur for me. I'd say that's more of an audience (i.e. me) issue than a writing issue, though.

A couple technical things:

Celestia supposed that that should have frightened her

I get why you've repeated the word, and I've done so many times, but I've come to realize that it's rarely needed. Replacing both with the word "it" I think works equally as well without the repetition.

a spat with her little friends, Of watching her

Not sure if that's a misplaced capital or accidental comma.

In one moment, the Goddess had finally answered a question that past Celestias had spent a thousand years begging the universe for an answer to.

Ending a sentence with a preposition, like "to," is often clunky, and I try to rephrase the sentence to avoid it. "... a thousand years begging the universe to answer" is more succinct and clearer, IMO.

Overall, enjoyed the read. Hoping to see more soon!

Howdy, hi!

Okay, took me a bit to wrap my head around the concept for the first two chapters but got the gist by Chapter 3. This is a super interesting premise, this idea of a separate entity that guides Equestria using Celestia as a vehicle of which to cause change is definitely new. At least for me.

The bargain effectively as I see it was that Equestria reaches this status as a utopia over the course of several hundreds and hundreds of years. Upon reaching that point, Celestia gets the "get out of jail free" card, but the next in line with the most influence takes it on themselves. Each new Celestia is needed to react and act perfectly in sync with the situation as needed. A simulation of "Celestia" that can properly react.

The whole thing is just a really interesting dark trip that I thoroughly enjoyed. Just a solid concept and execution.

Anyways, thanks for the read! Thoroughly enjoyed.

I love the high concept and description of the story--a romp through show episodes to attempt to meld them into a cohesive interpretation! The high concept stood up to the writing, despite the attempt to conform to certain word limits per chapter and ending on zeroes--which is amusing and admirably executed since the writing withstood the intentional limitation (although I wonder what *more* might have been written if the limits weren't so intentional), but generally this type of contortion should probably take a back-seat to making a story work unless the limits themselves are a meta-joke/point (don't worry, this is not a harshly-intended concern--you made it work here and I've also had fun trying to shoot for writing certain length stories. Smiles arise when I see stories hitting nice round zeroes in their length, so I understand the appeal).

So, what did it all mean? That's up to the author to decide (more on that in the next paragraph), but thankfully as readers we can interpret things however they make sense to make us happy and here's what makes me happy. The Goddess is the creator of Friendship Is Magic. She foresaw the need for Twilight to rule and set the world aright, so she manipulated Celestia to be whatever she wanted her to be. And now, Generation 4 is over and Twilight is Ruler and heavy-handed manipulation of Celestia for the plot/plans of the capricious authorial Goddess is no longer needed. Celestia can be her own pony: her role in the series is done and she can truly "live". She no longer needs to "die" within herself to fit someone else's expectations. At last she is truly liberated. Related, one could also see the ending as Celestia having graduated. She can take with herself what she has learned and can apply it to the world and make her own story. Meanwhile, Twilight is now bound to the author's whim and will since she's in charge and responsible for the kingdom.

I see glimmers of a couple more interpretations--cosmic horror, manipulative parenting, and of course what Bicyclette confirmed it meant in a response to archonix's spoilered post, etc., but the above one spoke to me the most and while I hypothesized a cosmic horror relation, I didn't make the in-universe connection (After it was pointed out in the comments, I see how it makes sense, but I did not make the connection while reading, but it's entirely possible I just missed it due to the technique I use to read.)

In one moment, the Goddess had finally answered a question that past Celestias had spent a thousand years begging the universe for an answer to.

I like a lot of Scribblestick's comments on posts that Scribblestick has made here and on other pieces and I agree that as general advice it is a poor idea to end on a preposition like "to"; however, I disagree with what Scribblestick wrote in response to your sentence above. I think this is exactly the type of sentence where one can end it on a "to". It certainly could be rewritten to not end on a preposition and Scribblestick's suggestion is good in a vacuum, but I think that would be meddling with an intentionally archaic flow. In a work without this archaic oppressive bent, though, my opinion would probably differ.

It's also commendable that you use links and references to the show within your piece. Years from now, people will be able to catch the references much easier. We have a great digital medium here, so I think it's good when authors make the most of it as you have.

It took me longer than it should, but I was trying to divine the meaning behind the chapter numbers... I am fairly sure they're episode numbers.

Thank you for this intriguing piece.!

*NOTE: Edited this a bunch in the first 10 minutes after posting.

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