• Published 18th Oct 2012
  • 6,350 Views, 108 Comments

Trust - Bad Horse

Celestia teaches Trixie a lesson about trust.

  • ...

The pretender

By the time Celestia had resolved all the pending petty disputes between neighboring farmers, and some even pettier disputes between great nobles, the sun's rays slanted low into the great hall. There was only one case left, and no way of putting it off any longer.

Celestia sighed. "Bring her in," she called.

The guest, or prisoner, was escorted down the red-and-gold carpet, one very serious-looking guard on each side, eyeing her as if they expected her to bolt for the side door at any moment. Sometimes one's own propaganda caught up with oneself that way. But if the guards were hoping for excitement, the prospects seemed dim. With her head sunk toward the floor so that her white mane fell over one eye, and looking naked (half the ponies in the room were naked, but only she seemed self-conscious of it) without her cape and hat, the bedraggled sky-blue unicorn looked neither great nor powerful. She shuffled to stand in front of the dais and look mournfully up, not quite meeting Celestia's eye.

"So," Celestia said, "I meet the Great and Powerful Trixie at last."

Trixie blushed and looked down again.

"Trixie. We are very cross with you." Celestia only ever used the royal "we" to indicate that she also spoke for Luna. "Do you understand why?"

The magician said, in a small, repentant voice, "Because I am a selfish and arrogant pony."

Celestia's lip curled in a bitter smile. "Then I should be cross with half the ponies in this room. No, Trixie. Try again."

Trixie risked a look up, and a look of worry crept into her face, which was more convincing than the repentance. "Because," she said experimentally, "of the damage that the Ursa did to Ponyville?"

"Closer." Celestia leaned forward in her throne. "Trixie, can you tell me what our rule of Equestria depends on?"

Trixie's legs bent backwards even as she bowed her head forwards, as if her rear half were thinking about bolting and leaving the front to fend for itself. "Power?"

Celestia shook her head. "No, Trixie. Not power." She calmly watched Trixie squirm and waited for an answer.

"Love? Friendship?"

"That's very flattering of you to say so, but no."

"Ancient mystical rocks?" Trixie guessed with a weak grin.

Celestia shook her head in a disappointed fashion. "No, Trixie. Trust. Our rule depends on trust. I sit here on a throne in Canterlot, and govern counties so far away it takes days for news to travel back and forth. How do I know the ponies in all those far-off places are acting as they should?"


Celestia smiled. "Now you've got it! And, more importantly, why do the ponies in those far-off places obey the commands of a princess most of them have never seen—who might, so far as they know, not exist at all? Why do they not come stomping down to the castle in a mob, and make angry demands, or scheme silently against me in distant secret places?"

"I'm... supposed to say trust, aren't I?"

Celestia snorted. "You think it's the guards, the army, and my terrible sharp horn. But it isn't, Trixie. It's trust. Trust makes Equestria go round." She stood up off her throne and took one step forward, towering over the much-smaller pony at the bottom of the steps, whose knees were beginning to tremble. "And when you lie to ponies, and you pretend to be something you aren't, it isn't a little thing of no consequence, Trixie. It teaches ponies not to trust. That makes it an attack on the foundations of Equestria. That makes it a threat to our peace."

"I didn't mean it like that!" Trixie protested. "I... I just wanted ponies to respect me!" Trixie glanced round her at the guards and the spectators, but found only stony faces.

Celestia let out a disdainful bray. To the shock of everypony, she stomped down the steps of the dias and stared directly into Trixie's face, their horns almost touching. "You wanted respect!" she spat. "You wanted admiration! What a despicable reason to deceive ponies!"

The guards standing beside Trixie backed away a few steps, giving up any pretense of guarding Celestia from Trixie, and glanced at each other nervously. Celestia paced slowly around Trixie, from her head to her tail and back again, never looking at the unicorn mare. "Do you understand what could have happened if you'd gotten away with it? More lies, more lies to cover up those lies, more respect. More unearned trust. More ponies depending on you to do things you can't, like those foals rushing out to find an Ursa because they were so sure you could fight it off."

The crowd of onlookers had fallen absolutely silent, staring open-mouthed at their princess. The guards looked to the old chamberlain, who had served the Princess since before they were born, and he looked back and shook his head as if to say, No, I've never seen her like this either.

Celestia's heavy hoofsteps echoed loudly as she began pacing faster. "You were building your own cage out of lies. If not for this Ponyville fiasco you might have gone on for years, building it bigger and stronger until you couldn't have gotten out of it if you'd wanted to. You don't know how lucky you are that you were caught so soon!" She came to a stop back in front of Trixie and glared at her, sides heaving, and now it was Celestia who was trembling.

"I'm sorry!" Trixie bawled. "I'm so, so sorry, I—"

Celestia spun around and looked away. "Escort her from my palace," she said, without looking back.

The guards snapped out of their daze, and saluted Celestia's hindquarters. They escorted Trixie out, and then the stunned audience gradually trickled out, until only Celestia, still staring into the back corner of the room and breathing heavily, and her guards remained.

"Get me Shining Armour," she called.

The captain of the guard galloped in minutes later and drew up before her, blowing his dark-blue mane out of his eyes with every breath as he huffed from running. "Your majesty?"

She set off immediately toward the private section of the palace, and he fell into step beside her. "Your shield," she said. "Have you managed to teach Purslane how to cast it?"

"He's working on it," the captain replied.

"I take it that means no?"

"Well," he said apologetically, "what with the wedding in a few days..."

Celestia came to an abrupt halt and turned towards the captain. "I apologize for keeping you somewhat in the dark about this. I did not wish to start a panic. But it is high time for somepony to start panicking. Allow me to explain. Are you familiar with vamponies?"

The captain pursed his lips, and said diplomatically, "I was under the impression they did not exist."

"They do not. They are merely symbolic representations of something too terrible to speak of in stories. Imagine, Shining, a being which drained you not of blood, but of love. A being which left you alive, but with no feelings for your fellow pony. All the feelings you had for your Cadence, for your parents, for your sister, would be gone, fodder in the belly of a monster to feed it for a day or two. You would live the rest of your days in uncaring selfishness, nothing more than a pony-shaped machine."

A shadow passed over the captain's face. "That would be a fate worse than death."

"Indeed," Celestia agreed.

He inhaled slowly. "We will not fear," he said. "We have faith in you."

Celestia looked him in the eye, and he looked back, his honest face full of admiration and trust.

"Teach Purslane the shield," she said.

She left the captain and hurried to the second-floor sitting room at the front of the palace. The sky was turning red as the sun sank toward the horizon. Celestia stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the courtyard. She smiled at the crowd of ponies, and a cheer went up. Many of them had travelled days just so they could say that one day they had watched the Princess raise and lower the sun. The pages standing at the corners of the balcony raised their trumpets and sounded them, and she aimed her horn toward the sun. It began to glow gold with magical energy, turning white as it grew more brilliant. She took a deep breath, screwed up her face in a look of intense concentration, and once again pretended to lower the sun.

Comments ( 74 )

It might be just me, but I tend to prematurely stop reading stories in which Celestia goes into rage-bitch mode. It's just way too out-of-character for my canon-minded brain to wrap itself around. Happily, I kept reading this one, and I'm glad I did. It's a very well-written story, and now my mind is wanting to know what is going to happen to Trixie now that she's put out of Celestia's presence. Well done.

Da fuq? How the hell did it transition to that?

This is brilliant Celestia is in the same position as Trixie would have been if she continued with her lies.

I see what you did with that chapter name. :twilightsmile:

Now that is an interesting take on a few concepts.
Definitely appropriate AU tag, but nice concept all around.
Not gonna fave it because there wasn't much story to it other than the concept, even though the scenes were written well.

Don't really get the bit about Shining teaching his shield.

Do you know what this means?

Lies are the enemy of Equestria. Which means...

APPLEJACK IS BEST PONY. Element of Honesty represent. :ajbemused:

I'm not sure I entirely get the point. I'm fairly certain that Celestia talking about creating a web of lies that is impossible to escape from is actually her talking about herself, and I'm thinking this might be Celestia as a changeling, but that's all I got :derpyderp2:

What happened here? I'm going to need an immediate sitrep.

What the hell? I see too many suggestions, she could be talking about trust, or she could know what is going to happen in the future. She could be a changeling herself, but so many things don't add up to that. She could be regretting her own lies (hypocrite) or she could be trying to make sure that her lies stay together. She might be trying to save Trixie from the Changelings (if she can see the future) or she could be sick of her reflection...

Well you got my thumbs and gold star. Now to read your other works.

What? ... *scrolls up, rereads*


Because Celestia is a pretender and will not be able to defend Canterlot in case of an invasion if Shining Armor's shield fails or if Shining Armor is not around but on his honeymoon.

That was very well done.
Does anyone happen to know of any other stories where Celestia doesn't actually raise the sun?

So....she doesn't want another bull(REDACTED) artist running around starting a rebellion, eh?

Bad Horse, you're a great writer, but ... I'm really struggling here to find the one crucial clue that will click into place and make all this make sense for me. :fluttershysad:


It seems clear on a second pass that Celestia is trying to stop Trixie from making the same mistake she did and building the "cage out of lies". Given the severity of Celestia's reaction, it seems like in the process she's digging herself in that much deeper -- simultaneously trying to give Trixie a second chance that she didn't get, and resenting her deeply for it.

What I don't get is the changeling part. It seems wholly extraneous. However, I don't think Bad Horse would have included it -- especially not that major of a point, in a story this size -- if it weren't relevant. This is a meta-clue that the answer has something to do with changelings but there's not enough context in the rest of the story to make sense of it. Is Celestia a changeling herself? (I don't think so; she's telling Shining to defend ponies from them.) Did Celestia get eaten by one? (This is the conclusion I'm leaning toward -- but she demonstrably cares for both Trixie and the ponies under her rule, albeit in a roundabout fashion.) Was she testing Trixie for changelinghood? (If so, I think she passed.)

Edited to add: I really wish I knew whether in this AU the sun and moon have always moved on their own, or whether they get moved by someone-who-is-not-Celestia.

1459250 1459433
The key is the last line of the story.

HAH! Awesome! Chrysalis nabs Celestia rather than Cadence. I find this awesome and approve heartily. How did nobody else pick up on that?



How did I not notice that?

Wow, that realization just made this so much better. Have my like, and favorite... and my first born.

Wait a second... there are some issues with consistency with cannon here... oh right AU. So the unicorns of pre-Equestria were also faking it? That would honestly make for a more interesting story. And count as satire. Wait another second... is THIS satire?

across the vast expances of space and time
the rustling of my jimmies could be heard

Unrelated but awesome: If Purslane's name is a reference to the plant, that's a goddamn subtle and clever easter egg:

In antiquity, its healing properties were thought so reliable that Pliny advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil.


1459565 You're a cynical one! You will go far.
1459609 The changelings are just there to be a terrible threat that people aren't really taking seriously because they assume Celestia can take care of everything.
1459681 That is brilliant. But I didn't pick up on it either...
1459722 Also, reputed to stave off depression. Herbal and edible wild plants are a hobby of mine! Yours too?

Hmm, interesting, and thought-provoking.
Caught in a web of one's own lies; et tu, Celestia?

I actually stopped reading partway through and skimmed the rest because 1. I didn't figure out why Celestia might have acted the way she did and 2. I didn't see that alternate universe tag. Looking at the comments to try and figure out what this story's supposed to be at all, I found this comment: 1459619 And then I read the last line.

"Oh, now I get it!" :derpytongue2:

Too much left to interpretation, I just can't do it. I feel really dissapointed. Whatever, I guess I'll follow this.


Really great story but the question is that is it truly an Alternative Universe or truth of reality, Seeing how things laid out in "The Canterlot Wedding" episode? As for dealing with Trixie, I imagine Celestia dealt with her to "eliminate" competition and have the ponies trust misdirected to her, if not reinforce the trust in her. Great touch on concept and like the idea a lot, two thumbs up my man:eeyup:

This got me thinking. (Granted, there isn't much else to do when you're at work. :twilightsheepish:) What does Celestia's pretending to raise the sun mean for the show's mythology. Although it has a big ol' AU tag, there is nothing in the story indicating that Celestia and Luna are not immortal (or perhaps just really long lived.), nor any indication that the Elements of Harmony are not exactly as we have seen. If those two things are in fact true, then the implications of the whole Nightmare Moon thing become much MUCH worse.

Blast it, I had a whole big ass WMG in my head a minute ago. Why do these things evaporate whenever I actually start typing. :raritydespair:

It's a bit suspicious, isn't it, that Celestia can't handle Nightmare Moon, can't handle Discord, can't handle Chrysalis... realistically, one assumes that she simply suffers from the Worf Effect - warning, link to tvtropes, don't follow if you want to do anything else today - due to the difficulty of fitting in enough storytelling in 22 minutes.

1459565 Not to toot my own horn, but there is some similarity to my own 'Madame Butterfly' . Pluggin' ones own stories, that's a little, you know, evil, right? But it's okay here, presumably, because, well, League of, you see.

1459800 Am I stupid, or did you not write another story with a 'dark' Celestia, but one who actually had the power she claims to have? Only now I can't find it?


> The changelings are just there to be a terrible threat that people aren't really taking seriously because they assume Celestia can take care of everything.

To be honest, I'd consider that a weakness in the story. An enemy that can convincingly impersonate your loved ones tends to interact with the topic of trust.

1461636 Hmm. Good point. Any ideas how?

1461600 Am I stupid, or did you not write another story with a 'dark' Celestia, but one who actually had the power she claims to have?
There are 3 dark Celestia stories in Pony Tales. Or you could have been dumpster-diving in Bad Horse's Bad Stories; there's one or two in there.


I'd forgotten that thing existed, actually. It was 'The Real Reason'. No wonder I could never find it again.


They're not lies, they're stories, exactly like a traveling entertainer is supposed to tell. It's not her fault those two idiots actually believed her! :raritydespair::raritydespair:

(Yeah, I know, AU and not the point, I just felt like venting.)

1459800 I uncovered that one through research (I'm pretty good at faking erudition via google), so sadly I can't connect via shared hobby. Still tickled at the reference, though.

Also, re my confusion (1459609), I agree with 1461636. The changelings are a bright, tempting path that goes straight into the metaphorical weeds.

This isn't a comedy, but you're writing a story with the framework of setup -> punchline. The last line recontextualizes the entire story that came before it; we have to re-evaluate everything from that final revelation. The instant that you introduce trust issues into a story that explicitly involves changelings, that re-evaluation points to a lot of places you weren't intending to go. Note that I ruled out all of my own guesses but couldn't shake the conclusion that there was something more there, and other bright readers (e.g. 1459681) went straight for the changeling jugular.

As far as fixing it, I think all you can do is either explicitly paint the possibility as a red herring in the story*, or else change the crisis.

* Even adding something like "... as she had done every day for millennia ..." to the last line would help, since that would rule out Celestia herself being a changeling -- but because there are just too many possibilities for changeling insertion (present/past, any named character, unnamed character) I think you simply need a new problem for Celestia not to be able to handle.

1462035 Probably the most straightforward approach would be to substitute some other crisis, like a swarm of parasprites in Fillydelphia.

Nice twist at the end.


Hah, that's a nifty twist; The Great and Powerful Celestia. :raritywink:

so I'm thinking "that's a cool scene with Trixie" and then started to wonder why we were going into the changelings, and then the gamechanger:

"and once again pretended to lower the sun"

and OH SNAP. :pinkiegasp: And now we have to reexamine everything with Celestia

Comment posted by Ellington deleted May 18th, 2013

Man, the final line is what makes this story. Just glorious.

One handy thing about having established characters like this, I suppose; you can do stuff like that without having to build up for it, and no one sees it coming at all.

Well done.

1868326 Orbit, my friend! Learn it. You didn't think Equestria was the only planet in the Equus system, did you?

Very nice! Makes you really step back to think about some plot points. :rainbowkiss:

I heard scribbler's reading of this and while I liked it, that last bit doesn't sit with me for one obvious reason.
Season 1 episode 2, after nightmare moon has brought enteral night, it isn't until celestia is returned that the sun rises again.

This story has the Alternative Universe tag for a reason. :rainbowwild:


Ooooh. Well, I didn't expect that twist...

Ohhhhhhh I just got it.


Absolutely brilliant story here, both this one and the alternate ending.

Have a fave! :ajsmug:

4583554 4108201

No, Autumn Breeze is right. Its a problem regardless of AU or not, because the question does jerk the reader out of his/her immersion and therefore it is a problem. Simply pushing an AU tag onto the fic or accepting that it's AU should not prevent one from asking these questions as the whole reason an AU exists is to offer a comparison to canon and if the comparison doesn't quite stand up or cannot exist then you have problems with the AU fic itself.

That being said, for such a short fic, it's rather good with a good twist at the end, but better construction would mean a better explanation as to how this AU world is possible.

Login or register to comment