• Published 6th Apr 2013
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The Seventh - Arvaus



An impossible creature finds herself in a world which already knows everything about her. Slowly, she learns about the true nature of her own reality, her world's place in the cosmos, and herself.

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11 - In Memoriam

From his seat on the wall, Aaron watched Celestia running happily round the field in the afternoon sun. Chestnut was there as well of course, but he had stopped for a bit and was currently eating grass near the field’s border, leaving Celestia to enjoy her freedom.

It had been her idea to come back and see Chestnut again, saying she owed him an apology for her behaviour the previous day. Aaron had obliged, and was glad that he had. The way she behaved around Chestnut had seemed strange the day before, but now it was very satisfying to see. She was, temporarily at least, relinquishing control and letting her instincts take over. And she was doing so knowingly and willingly.

Aaron wondered if this was what had set her off the day before – the sensation of not being entirely in control having been too far from her usual nature for her to feel comfortable with. She seemed to be willing to let it happen now, though, which was gratifying to see. He wasn’t yet sure if she was completely comfortable with it, but really he would have been more concerned if she was so soon.

When he thought about it, this was probably the ideal way for her to start her recovery. It was clear that she had been deliberately holding herself back for a very long time, so there were going to be a lot of things that she’d have trouble learning how to do again. But what she was doing now was just simple, ingrained instinct. She didn’t have to learn this; once she gave it the chance it was coming back to her as naturally as breathing.

Whether or not this would work in the long term, Aaron was glad to see her making a concerted effort. The very first thing she had done on waking was to ask him to look after her tiara and peytral for the day, leading to him having spent the afternoon carrying two priceless artefacts round in an orange carrier bag. It seemed that she wanted to spend the day not as a princess, but just as Celestia.

After a while she paused and lay down on the ground, rolling around in the grass, and Aaron took the opportunity to go over and talk to her. He jumped down from the wall and walked over towards her, keeping a wary eye on Chestnut just in case he started to come over.

“You’re looking well,” he said as he approached.

She rolled onto her front, stretching her forelegs out in front of her. “I feel well,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve felt this well in a long time, but I never realised why.”

“I’m glad you got something good out of last night,” Aaron said, sitting down next to her. “I must admit that at times I was worried I was just making things worse.”

Celestia chuckled. “Actually, so was I,” she said. “But then I slept on it. I slept soundly in spite of – or because of – everything, and now I just feel… freer. It helps just to know what my own problems are.

“And now I hope to be more honest about how I treat others,” she continued. “I owe it to them to at least try.” She glanced over at the stallion standing nearby. “To start with, I think I’m now willing to admit my feelings for Chestnut.”

Aaron nearly choked in surprise, but Celestia raised a hoof to her forehead shaking her head in embarrassment.

“That could have been worded better,” she said. “I simply mean that I enjoy his company. If he were an Equestrian pony I would call him a friend – but yesterday I was hesitant even to go that far.”

“Is that anything to do with why—”

“—why I left so suddenly?” Celestia finished. Aaron nodded.

“In part, yes,” she said. “I had never really considered what he meant to me; I think I was too distracted by everything else to think about it. But then yesterday you referred to him as my friend, and it was then that I realised. I then started to feel the usual concern that being his friend would only hurt one or both of us. Given his… different nature, I decided then that the best thing to do was to just leave and not see him again. It would have been easier than maintaining a pretence that he may not even be aware of.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t run off entirely,” Aaron said.

“As am I,” Celestia replied with a smile.

“I hate to spoil this,” Aaron said, “but we probably shouldn’t hang around too long in case Chestnut’s owner appears.”

Celestia nodded and started to stand up. “You’re right,” she said. “And I was thinking we should move on soon, anyway. I want to prepare myself for tonight.”

“Do you know what you want to do, yet?” Aaron asked as they walked back towards the wall.

“I think so,” she replied. “I want to give them something in thanks for everything that everypony’s done for me over the years but that I’ve failed to fully appreciate. I don’t have much to give at the moment, though.”

“I’m sure whatever you do will be great,” Aaron said.

“Thank you,” Celestia said. “I do hope so.”

They reached the wall. Celestia lifted Aaron’s rucksack across with her teeth while he climbed over, then jumped over herself as he picked the rucksack up and put it on his back.

“Do you want to go anywhere in particular?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I think I know a good place.”

“Shall I leave you to it? If you want privacy—”

“No, I’d like you to be there as well,” she said. “It would be nice to have a friend with me.”

They shared a smile. Celestia then turned and started to walk slowly upstream. Aaron caught up to walk alongside her, and they continued on in silence for a while.

Aaron looked back up at Celestia as they walked. Her mane had almost entirely lost its buoyancy again, and he imagined that her magic was probably nearly gone. It was strange; it felt like, the longer she was in this world, the less she looked like the character he knew. But he liked the change. He had got to see another side of Celestia, and would never regret the experience.

Eventually they reached the trees again. Aaron followed behind as Celestia climbed through the uneven terrain, still following the stream, until they reached the banks of the pool.

“This is the place?” Aaron asked.

“Yes,” Celestia said. “It doesn’t hold any special significance in and of itself, but I like the peace and beauty. It will work well for what I have in mind.”

“It’s nice,” he said. “Well I’ll leave you to it, then. Let me know if you need me to do anything.”

Walking over to a tree, he put his rucksack down and pulled a book out of one of the side pockets, sitting down to wait.

~ ~ ~

Celestia looked round the patch of flat earth by the pool. There wasn’t a huge amount of space, but she didn’t require much for what she intended.

She looked up at the sky. The sun was approaching the western horizon now and would begin to set soon. A crescent moon was already visible in the sky, sitting high above the trees to the east. It was getting close to the right time, but she would give it a short while longer before beginning.

Instead she turned and walked over to pool, bending down and examining her reflection in the flat surface.

If your kingdom could see you now, Celestia, she thought, laughing to herself as she examined how much the last few weeks – in fact just the last few days – had changed her. Her mane was short and coarse, unrecognisable in comparison to its usual form, and her fur was messy and covered in dirt from rolling around in the field earlier. If she weren’t an alicorn, nopony would have ever guessed that she was a princess.

Slipping off her horseshoes, she waded in to the centre of the pool until she was up to her back in water. She rolled gently back and forth in the cool waters, washing all the dust off and letting the currents smooth her fur down. She intended to make this a sacred place, and wished to show it the respect it deserved.

Relaxing her legs so that she was floating on the pond’s surface, she lay her neck down across the water. She drew long, deep breaths in through her nose, clearing her mind and letting everything that had been weighing her down evaporate away. The continual noise of her thoughts that had been with her for two weeks died down, and she just lay there listening to the songs of the birds in the trees.

She could have stayed there forever, just soaking in the sounds of the world she was in. But she had come here with a purpose, and she knew exactly what she wanted to do now. Taking a deep breath, she lowered her head below the water’s surface and looked round the pool’s bed at the collection of stones of various sizes that lay there. Eventually she found one which felt about the right size and picked it up with her teeth, carrying it up out of the water and placing it on a large, flat rocky surface which lay nearby.

She repeated the process five more times, building a small circle of stones, then lay down on the rock with the stones in front of her. After glancing up at the sky for a moment again, she began the speech she had been mentally rehearsing all afternoon.

“My friends,” she said. “I have been blind. All my life I have been blessed by the companionship of so many ponies, but I have refused to let myself appreciate this. I starved myself of the friendship which I have always tried to protect and encourage in others, and in turn I have done you all a disservice. I hope you can forgive me for my foolishness.

“Everything I did I did to protect you all. Or that’s what I told myself. I thought that I was a danger to you all; that my position of power would only lead to me having to put others in harm’s way. And I thought that keeping my distance would avoid us having to one day feel the pain of being parted.

“But I should have seen through this. You all knew what I was, and yet you still freely offered me your friendship. You didn’t care about any of that, and wanted to know me anyway. It feels so obvious now; friendship is not broken by loss or sadness. It is in fact a support which helps you through them.”

She looked down at the six stones.

“And to you, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, I offer my sincerest apologies. Over the years you have learned so much about the true meaning of friendship, and I have happily read every word of the letters you sent me. But I refused to listen. I thought such things were of no use to me, and failed to learn the same lessons that you have.

“I promise you that this changes from today. I will stop ignoring the true importance of the Elements. They are more than just a weapon; they are the fundamental basis of everything in Equestria and play a vital role in everypony’s lives, my own included.”

She then picked up one of the stones with her magic and held it in the air in front of her.

“Pinkie Pie, the Element of Laughter,” she said, a smile breaking out across her face as she did. “Such a peculiar Element for such a peculiar pony. Laughter is such a double-edged sword that it almost seems out of place in the group.

“But what laughter provides, quite simply, is escape. When you have the ability to laugh, or even to cry, or shout, then this gives you the confidence to open yourself up to others. And only when you do this are you able to let your friends into your life.”

Her horn pulsed, and the stone glowed cyan for a moment. She then lowered it and placed it with the others, picking up the second stone in its place.

“Fluttershy, the Element of Kindness,” she continued. “Yours is such a simple Element, and yet it has the power to calm monsters and turn the hearts of demons. I have never met a quieter, more reserved pony in my life, but on your own you have saved more lives than most others could ever hope to.

“The power of kindness lies in its ability to reach out to and touch even the hardest of hearts. One can offer kindness freely, even to those who don’t wish to receive it—” she glanced over her shoulder at Aaron “—and by doing so you show them everything they have to gain by returning it. It costs nothing, but its effect is priceless.”

Her horn pulsed again, the stone glowing magenta, and she swapped it with a third.

“Rainbow Dash, the Element of Loyalty,” she said. “You can always be counted on to help your friends when they most need it. The true value of friendship lies in the knowledge that, no matter how dark your life becomes, there will always be somepony willing to give you the help you need.

“Many ponies have pledged their undying loyalty to me over the centuries, and I returned the favour by always promising my loyalty… to the nation. I don’t know if that is enough, but sadly there are so many for me to care for; I fear that I still have my limits. But the least I could have done is promise my loyalty to those whom I call my friends.”

The stone glowed a deep red as she put it down and picked up the fourth.

“Applejack, the Element of Honesty,” she said, chuckling. “Perhaps it is you whom I should have listened to the most. A friendship is worthless if you can’t be honest with each other, and I have had difficulty being honest even with myself.

“Your family is one of the strongest I have ever known, and if they are all like you I can imagine why. Honesty builds trust like nothing else, and I want you all to be sure you can trust me. This is the first thing I must remedy if I return.”

The stone briefly glowed orange. She then placed it with the others and picked up a fifth.

“Rarity, the Element of Generosity,” she said. “You have a talent which could so easily lead to greed and selfishness. But at the same time you are blessed with a generous spirit which drives you to use this talent, along with your other gifts, for the benefit others instead. It is fair to say that the other elements would be worthless without yours. When you do something for a friend, you need to be able to do so selflessly, or the act has no value.

“I always thought I was acting to protect you all, but you never asked for that. In fact, none of you ever asked for anything in return for the help you gave me. I should have recognised this sooner.”

The stone glowed indigo, then settled down with the others. Celestia paused, closing her eyes and taking a few deep breaths. She looked up at the sky again, now a beautiful spectrum of colours running from deep blue through to orange as the sun set.

“And Twilight Sparkle,” she said, picking up the final stone, “you bear the Element of Magic. Your Element is so different from all the others, but that does not make it any less important. While the other five are a significant part of everypony’s life, yours is vital to the very nature of our whole universe.

“Life could persist without magic, as I have seen here, but it would never be the same. Magic lets us interact with our world in ways which would be impossible otherwise. It guides us, helps us fulfil our destinies, and gives us freedom and safety to… to tell our stories. It helps give our world its purpose.

“But despite all that, despite the power of your destiny, few ponies have modesty to match yours. I sometimes even have to remind you that you are a princess,” she added, smiling.

“I have known you for many years now,” she continued. “I watched you grow from a shy, timid filly to the most talented pony I have ever met. You have become the friend of many ponies, myself included, and it has been an honour to know you.”

The stone glowed pink, then faded. She then lifted the other five up again, holding them in a circle round Twilight’s. She stood and walked back to the pond, carrying the stones in front of her, and stood by water’s edge again.

“To all of you,” she said, “I give you my thanks. Not only for everything you have done for me but for what you have done for the rest of the nation, and for each other. I have no idea if I will ever see you again, but if I don’t…”

She bowed her head, closing her eyes. If she weren’t already wet she would have wiped her eyes dry.

“If I don’t get to see you again, then I want it to be known that I love you all. I should have told you that so many times over the past years. While I do not have a family of my own, I would say that I consider you all to be my daughters. I enjoyed the time we knew each other for more than I ever realised, and I can only hope that I will one day get to see you again.

“Whatever happens, you will live on in my memory for as long as I live. Unfortunately, I cannot say for how long that will be if I remain here, so in my stead I also offer you this tribute.”

Raising her head again, she hovered the six stones out across the pond, holding them just above the water’s surface.

“Into each of these stones I have placed a portion of my own magic, along with a trace of my memories of you. I leave these here as anchors. Whatever happens to me, or to our world, I will make sure that you and the nation whose spirit you embody will always remain real.”

Slowly, the six stones lowered through the surface, falling down to bottom of the pool again. Celestia stood still, watching as the ripples dispersed across the pond and faded away. The scene then descended into perfect silence, and she just stood there, drawing slow breaths.

She glanced over at Aaron. His book was lying closed on the ground by him, and he had clearly been listening to every word. He gave her a curious look, but she shook her head. There was one final thing she wanted to do.

She raised her head and looked to the heavens, fixing her eyes on the moon that now hung almost overhead.

“Sister,” she said. “You are the one pony I have always trusted completely. I have never called you a friend, but only because that doesn’t even come close to describing our relationship. We are counterparts, two sides of the same coin, and your existence is a fundamental part of my own.

“This is not the first time we have been separated, and the first contained some of the darkest times of my life. I worry that this isolation may in part have been what caused me to lose sight and retreat back into myself. I should have told you about all this before; maybe then I would have realised my problem sooner.

“I have already had to come to terms with losing you once in my life, but I don’t know if this will make it any easier the second time. However, I take comfort in the knowledge that you remain in Equestria to watch over our nation. I know that you are a capable pony, and that you will be able to give our ponies the leadership they need. Just… please don’t make the same mistake I did. While your ponies must be able to rely on you, remember that you can also rely on them. Don’t forget what they have to offer us.”

She lit her horn again one last time. Her natural golden aura turned a dark blue, before releasing itself from her grip and disappearing off into the sky towards the distant satellite.

“To you, I give the last of my magic,” she said. “It is a small token of my love, and I can take comfort in knowing that, in a way, you are watching over me from above.”

She looked down at her reflection in the pool, imagining for a moment that it was her sister looking back.

“I know what it can feel like to lose a sister,” she said. “Please, stay strong for me. I will try to do the same for you.”

She took a step back and lay down on the ground, closing her eyes. The world around her was peaceful, and she could feel it sinking into her. She felt like she understood her life better now, having seen it for what it was supposed to be. Whether or not her time in Equestria had come to an end, she knew that it had had meaning and value.

~ ~ ~

As she lay there in the peaceful dusk, she became aware of footsteps approaching, followed by something settling down on the ground next to her.

“That was amazing,” Aaron said. “Did you mean that bit about it being the last of your magic, though?”

Celestia sat up and looked round at him. “I did,” she said. “I realised that most of what I have used it for while here was running and hiding.” She looked up to the moon. “It is serving a much better purpose now.”

“Your magic was such a huge part of your life, though,” Aaron said.

“That is why it makes such a perfect gift,” Celestia replied. “I know my life here will be more difficult now that I don’t have any magic, but this would have happened eventually in any case.”

Aaron placed a hand on her withers, gently stroking the water out of her fur.

“If it helps,” he said, “I doubt you’ll be waiting here much longer.”

Celestia chuckled. “I can only hope so,” she said. “Not that I am criticising this world, of course; I have actually come to like it here. But—”

“—you miss your friends,” Aaron interjected. “You don’t need to explain that any more, Celestia.”

She smiled, for once just enjoying talking with a friend. Then she chuckled as something occurred to her.

“Do you remember our second conversation?” she asked. “And what I said before I left?”

“You were talking about wiping my memory, I think,” he said.

Celestia nodded. “Yes, that’s right,” she replied. “And the thing is, I very nearly did. But one thing stopped me. One simple, little detail. You called me Celestia.”

Aaron stared at her, confused. “That’s all?” he asked.

Celestia laughed. “I’m afraid so, yes,” she replied. “You see, few to no ponies ever call me Celestia, and I only recently convinced Twilight that she was entitled to. When you called me that, you reminded me of her for a moment.”

Aaron smiled. “I guess you missed her back then as well,” he said.

“Yes, I did,” she replied. “I just hadn’t realised how much yet.”

She then stood up. Spreading her wings out, she walked forward to the pool, savouring the cooling feeling of the evening air on her wet skin. She looked down at the still water again, and as she did so Aaron walked up next to her.

“I noticed that you missed one,” he said, holding up another stone.

Celestia looked down at it for a moment, then chuckled. “The seventh Element?” she said.

Aaron shrugged. “You said something for each of the other six,” he said. “I just wondered if you had any thoughts.”

“In all honesty, I have not spent much time thinking about it,” she said. “Everything else that has been happening has kept me distracted over the past few weeks.”

Aaron nodded and stuffed the stone into one of his pockets. “I guess there’s not much to say for something when you don’t even know what it is,” he said.

“Indeed,” Celestia replied. “It would have been nice to know more about it, though,” she continued. "Given how intimately I knew the other Elements, it seems strangely out of place.”

“What do you mean?” Aaron asked.

“I mean,” Celestia said, “that the first six Elements are such a basic aspect of our world that, when they were discovered, they all seemed instinctively right to my sister and I. Their magic was so closely connected to ours that, as we discovered them, it felt like we had always known them.”

“Have you ever felt anything like that for the seventh?” Aaron asked.

“Maybe,” Celestia said. “There have been occasional sensations, but it is impossible to tell if they were genuine without hindsight. As for now, though… well, right now I can’t feel anything either way.”

“Because of the magic loss?” Aaron asked. Celestia nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t think of that. But if you don’t mind me asking, what does it feel like?”

Celestia thought for a few moments. “It feels strange,” she said. “But in unexpected ways. Until now I’ve been seeing this world through the veil of my own magic. And, forgive me for saying so, it always felt slightly dead in comparison. But without that distraction I can now see your world simply for what it is. It is a wonderful sensation.”

“That sounds incredible,” Aaron said. “I’d love to be able to see what magic felt like, just to be able to compare the two like that. I guess this is giving you a lot to talk about with Twilight Sparkle when you see her again.”

Celestia nodded, but then turned to look at him, confused.

“There’s that tone of certainty again,” she said. “Is there something you know that I don’t?”

Aaron shrugged. “It’s funny, it only occurred to me while you were speaking earlier,” he said. “It goes back to the sixth Element.”

“Magic?”

“Yeah. Like you were saying, magic is in a sense what holds the story of Equestria together. If something important were to suddenly go missing from that story, I imagine magic would do everything it could to bring that thing back.”

Celestia considered it. For all she knew he might actually be right. Aaron patted her on the neck and looked her in the eye.

“I bet that Twilight’s currently doing everything she can to bring you back,” he said, “and she’ll have the force of an entire universe behind her.”

Celestia smiled. “I had never thought of it that way,” she said. “I hope you’re right, but I suppose that even then it may still take many months, or even longer.”

“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” Aaron said.

Celestia nodded. She looked up towards the sky, watching as it slowly darkened. The stars were starting to appear now.

“I think I would like to spend the night here,” she said.

“I thought you might,” Aaron replied. “I’ll go get the tent out.”

Once Aaron had moved away, Celestia gave her body a shake to get rid of the worst of the remaining water. She then knelt down on the ground and sat there, watching Aaron putting the frame together.

I’ve been making friends, she thought to herself. This will take some getting used to.

After just watching quietly for a while, she lay her head down on the ground and closed her eyes, waiting to fall asleep. It occurred to her that, at this point, she had absolutely no idea what the next day would bring. But she was looking forward to finding out.