• Published 6th Apr 2013
  • 5,324 Views, 192 Comments

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.

  • ...

5 - A Bit of Fun

Celestia lay near the edge of a large cumulus cloud, her wings spread open, taking in the warmth of the sunlight. She let her mind wander, drifting back to her home, remembering the voices of all the ponies she knew.

Assuming time passed the same in Equestria, she had been gone for nearly a week now. Her thoughts dwelled on her sister, Luna, who would now be fully in charge both of the nation and of her sun.

Her sun. The great sphere that circled Equestria each day was hers to control, and had been her constant companion for her entire life. The powerful magic burning in its core fuelled the planet, spreading light and life across the land.

But it was different here. As far as she could tell, this world’s sun served the same purpose, but she couldn’t fathom its mechanisms. On her first night here she had reflexively tried to reach out to it and lower it below the horizon, but had quickly realised her mistake. This sun was much more distant, both literally and figuratively. Like everything else in this world, it had no magic in it, and was unable to respond to any of her commands. It had been a strange experience watching the sun set without her for the first time.

Fortunately some things were the same. The grass and other plants felt and tasted like Equestrian plants, so at least she would not starve here. Even the clouds responded to her magic to an extent.

She idly examined one of her golden horseshoes. Along with her tiara and peytral, they were the only parts of Equestria that had come through with her. She had left them on since she had arrived, even while sleeping, telling herself that they might get lost or stolen if she didn't. But she hated to be parted even for a moment from her only link to home.

Well, nearly her only link. The creature that had brought her tiara back knew so much about her and her nation that she couldn’t help but be intrigued by him. She regretted that she still didn’t know his name, or even his species for that matter.

Twice now she had thought to sever her connection to him. Even if he acted as a friend, she had felt it was dangerous to trust her safety to somepony (something? she mused) whom she knew so little about. But each time something in her head had told her not to.

Fortunately he had shown no sign of being a threat. In fact, he seemed to be putting a lot of effort into reaching out to her, perhaps even trying to help her. As far as she could tell, he had come out to the same spot each day for the last week in an attempt to find her.

So today she had decided to return the favour. Flapping her wings to clear away the thin layer of mist that was forming around her, she looked over the cloud’s edge towards the ground. The stream by which they had talked lay below her, and she watched the fields beyond, waiting for any sign of him. She had no idea if he would make an appearance, but she had nothing else to do, so it was worth a try.

~ ~ ~

Aaron headed back the next day. Their last meeting had ended a bit oddly, but it had least been friendly, so he had hope that the next would go better. Now that talking to her was a definite possibility, he had thought ahead and brought a few provisions. The crate he was carrying made it difficult to get over the stiles, though.

As he crossed the last field, a shadow swept across the ground, drawing his attention upwards. To his surprise, he saw Celestia spiralling down towards him. She must have been waiting for him this time.

“I wondered if you would come again,” she said as she landed on the ground next to him. “I feared you may not want to after the way I left yesterday.”

Aaron realised he had no idea what to say. He had tried rehearsing greetings on the way over, but his tongue froze now that she was actually here again and he just ended up staring at her for a few seconds.

Just before the silence became awkward, Celestia nodded down towards the crate. “I see you have come well prepared,” she said.

“Oh, right!” Aaron replied, the query jolting him back into gear. “I just brought a few things I thought you might appreciate. Er, shall we go over to the stream? I could do with sitting down.”

Celestia nodded and they turned and walked together across the field. After a few moments, she turned her head to look at him.

“I must apologise, but I have yet to ask your name.”

“Oh!” Aaron reflexively went to shake her hand and introduce himself, then remembered the crate he was carrying. Then remembered that Celestia didn’t have hands.

“My name’s Aaron,” he said. “Aaron Joseph Wright. Aaron’s fine, though.”

“An intriguing name,” Celestia said thoughtfully. “Its meaning isn’t immediately obvious.”

Aaron thought for a few moments, puzzled by the statement, then realised what she meant. “Human names don’t tend to mean anything particular,” he said, “at least not in the same way that a lot of pony names seem to. Wright means that one of my ancestors was probably a shipbuilder or something like that, but that would’ve been a long time ago. No idea if Aaron means anything.”

A moment later they reached the fence, and with a single flap of her wings, Celestia jumped over it and landed on the other side. Aaron shifted the crate awkwardly in his arms to try and get a hand free, but then a yellow aura appeared round it as Celestia lifted it over the fence for him, placing it on the grass.

“Thanks,” Aaron said as he climbed over. The two of them sat down on the grass next to the crate, and Aaron started fishing around in it, pulling out a Thermos flask and some cups and plates.

“May I ask what you have brought?” Celestia said, watching him unpack.

“Well,” he replied, “I thought that as you’ve been stuck out in the countryside all week, I’d bring some tea—” he indicated to the flask, then reached back into the crate and removed a flat, square cardboard box “—and a cake.”

He lifted the lid to reveal a huge Victoria sponge, and held back a laugh as Celestia’s eyes lit up at the sight of it.

“That is certainly appreciated,” she said, her eyes fixed on the cake as he started cutting slices. “I have been surviving well enough on grass and plants, but living in a castle for so long can spoil a pony. I am beginning to miss the luxuries.”

Aaron held up a plate and fork, and Celestia took them in her magic and began to eat. He cut himself a slice and poured two cups of tea, then reached back into the crate. This time he pulled out a tablet PC.

“I thought you might want to see this as well,” he said as he turned it on. “This is a computer. It’s... well, I guess it’s what we had to come up with to get by without magic. But I’ve got every episode of the show loaded on here. I thought you might want to see one.”

Celestia’s eyebrows raised as she examined the device, watching the images flash across it as Aaron scrolled through the different videos.

“I would be very interested to,” she said. “Do you have any recommendations?”

Aaron thought about it for a moment. He had decided beforehand that starting from the beginning may not be such a good idea; he wasn’t sure how much Celestia would want to watch an episode about Nightmare Moon. In the end he decided to just go for his own favourite episode. It would work well for showing Celestia her own cartoon self as well.

“Well, I quite like this one,” he said, picking it out of the list. He propped the tablet up on the crate as the episode started.

News from northern Equestria! Er, your Highness.

“I remember this,” Celestia said, watching the small screen. “This happened nearly three years ago.”

“Wow, really? It only aired about half a year ago here. I mean, it was probably written longer ago, but...”

He trailed off when he realised that Celestia wasn’t listening anymore, and was watching the video intently. He sat back and returned to his cake.

~ ~ ~

By the time the second part had ended, they had managed to finish the tea and cake between them. Aaron began to pack the cups and plates away, while Celestia sat still on the grass, deep in thought.

Watching her out of the corner of his eye, Aaron tried to imagine what she was thinking. Her demeanor of impenetrable grace, no doubt the result of thousands of years of princesshood, remained in place however, so all he had to go on was what he thought he would feel in the same situation. And that was useless as well; this whole thing was somewhat beyond his experience. He wished that she would give something away. It was hard to know how to deal with her when she insisted on remaining so distant.

“That was fascinating,” she said eventually. “Everything happened exactly as I remember it happening, and I could recognise everypony I know. Even Lieutenant Stronghoof looked and sounded correct. That was the guard in the opening,” she said when she noticed Aaron’s confusion. “It was strange seeing everything drawn in such a simple way, though. Very different, but exactly right at the same time.”

Aaron laughed. “I know that feeling, as it happens. To me you’ve always been a cartoon character. Looking at you in real life, you look so different, but you’re definitely you.” He picked up the tablet and started scrolling through his video library again. “Do you want to watch any more? The batteries’ll last a while yet.”

Celestia thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No, thank you. It was certainly interesting to see, but I think I will leave it at that.”

She stood up and looked towards the sky, then turned back to face Aaron. “Before we part company again, perhaps I can do something to repay you for the kindness you have shown me.”

She knelt down on the grass again and lowered the wing nearest him, gesturing towards her back with her head. He stared at her in disbelief.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Not at all,” she said. “That is, if you are willing.”

“Er, well, I...” he fumbled with his words, then shrugged and walked over to her. He started to lift his leg over her back, then hesitated, trying to work out how you were supposed to sit on a winged horse.

Celestia chuckled and looked round at him. “Just sit forward and keep a tight grip on my neck,” she said. “And don’t worry about my mane. It should stay out of your way.”

Intrigued by the last part, he lifted his leg over and sat on her withers. He reached forward and held his hand up to her mane, and was amazed as it simply flowed round his arm, like a stream around a rock. It was so light that he could barely feel it against his skin.

He wrapped his arms around her neck, gripping it tightly, and anchored his feet at her sides as well as he could manage. Once he settled, Celestia stood again and leapt into the sky, tearing away from the ground.

~ ~ ~

Aaron’s eyes were clamped shut. He had to force back a scream as the sudden acceleration left his stomach on the ground. Once the force reduced, he opened his eyes slowly and tried to look around. Celestia’s neck was right in front of him still, but in all other directions he could just see murky grey.

“Where are we?” he asked, but before Celestia could answer, they burst out through the top of the cloud into the clear sky beyond. Aaron dared to look down for a moment, and saw the ground spiralling away from them at a phenomenal rate, behind the receding cloud and Celestia’s huge wings.

“Wait a minute!” he shouted over the wind rushing past him. “The crate! My tablet!”

“Don’t worry, they’re safe.” Celestia replied. She levelled out, and they soared through the air high above the ground. Looking over his shoulder, he could see the city spreading out into the distance away from him. The modern buildings of the university were clearly visible in the foreground, the stark contrast against the ancient town centre even more noticeable from above.

“This is incredible!” he shouted. “And I don’t think I’ve ever used that word so correctly!”

“Do humans ever come up this high?” Celestia asked.

“Higher than this!” Aaron called back. “Aeroplanes, helicopters, hot air balloons! You must have seen some aeroplanes flying overhead! This is a first for me, though!”

“Are you enjoying it?”

“Are you kidding? This is terrifying! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done!”

Celestia looked around at him with a wry smile. “Shall we have a bit of fun, then?”

“What do you—”

Before Aaron could finish, Celestia twisted her wings, going into a long corkscrew roll. He was thrown sideways by the sudden movement, but managed to keep hold of her. She pulled out of the roll upside down, so that the earth hung high above them, then swung into a backwards loop, flying round until they were heading upwards towards the sky once more. Aaron was close to screaming again, but didn’t dare close his eyes in case he missed anything.

Celestia closed her wings against her back, going into free-fall. For a long while Aaron was weightless, and severely regretted eating so much of the cake. They rolled unguided through the air, the world spinning around them in a dizzying display, and then they began to fall towards the ground. Celestia straightened herself out, minimising her air resistance, and before long they were hurtling towards the ground at near terminal velocity.

Aaron opened his mouth to call forward, but the wind snatched the words out of his mouth before he had a chance to. They passed through the cloud again in a fraction of a second, and suddenly the ground was ahead, rushing up to meet them. At the last moment, Celestia opened her wings and pulled out of the dive, dodging the ground with only metres to spare. The sudden change of direction forced Aaron’s rebellious lunch back down, along with all the blood from his head.

He shook himself, trying to overcome the light-headedness, but just as his head cleared, his eyes went wide as he saw the tree-line speeding towards them.

“Don’t you dare!” he shouted, but in vain. Celestia dove into the woods, spinning and weaving between the trees. She held her wings close to her sides as branches whipped past and were pulled clean off the trees. Within seconds they emerged from the other side of the mercifully narrow wood, and Celestia spread her wings again, pulling up and disappearing into the sky once more.

~ ~ ~

A minute later, Celestia was circling calmly in the sky just above the clouds. Aaron had just about recovered his senses when she started to spiral gently downwards. She slowed to a hover just above the cloud’s edge and lowered herself gently through the surface, kicking up swirls of water vapour as she did. Once she had settled, she lay down in the mist and folded her wings away.

“You could’ve given me more warning,” Aaron grumbled.

“Don’t worry,” she said, chuckling. “I ensured that you were safe the entire time. You can get off now if you wish,” she added, looking back over her shoulder at him.

“Are you sure?” Aaron said, looking uncertainly down at the cloud below him. The one which he had just flown through a minute ago, as he recalled. Even though Celestia was happily sitting on it, it looked about as solid as, well, a cloud.

“I cast a cloudwalking spell on you just before we landed,” she replied. “I have done the same with your crate, as you can see.” She nodded to her side, where his crate was indeed sitting.

“How did—”

“I carried it up and left it here as we passed,” she explained. “I figured it would be safer than leaving it on the ground. If you are unsure about the cloud, you can hold on to my wing as you dismount,” she added, opening one of her wings out beside her.

Still unconvinced, Aaron took hold of the edge of Celestia’s wing, leaning on it so it was supporting his weight. He then slid slowly off her back, lowering his feet further into the cloud. They had already gone a good distance in, with a thin mist blurring his view of the world beyond, and his feet met no additional resistance for a disconcertingly long time. But eventually they did come up against a remarkably solid, albeit spongy, surface.

Once he was sure it would support him, he let go of Celestia’s wing and lowered himself into a sitting position. He pushed his hand down, feeling the cloud push back against him. There was an unnerving lack of visible surface, everything below just looking the uniform pale grey of the cloud.

“How is this even possible?” he asked, prodding the cloud with his finger.

“Pegasus magic is able to sense clouds,” she explained, “and it generates a form of levitation spell when we get close enough, pushing against us as if it were a solid surface. I do find it harder to maintain at times here, as I am unable to keep the clouds as dense as usual, but thick enough clouds will still support my weight happily.”

“Wait, I’m confused,” Aaron said. “If your magic still works, why doesn’t that?”

Celestia opened her wings, swinging them back and forth a few times, and the layer of mist around them blew away, revealing the sky above. Without the vapour sitting above it the surface below looked a lot more solid, but still with very little in the way of discernable features.

My magic still works,” she said. “I can still interact with and manipulate the clouds as usual, but...”

She paused, her wingtips flicking at the vapour that had begun to encroach on them again.

“The natural magic present in Equestria’s environment doesn’t exist here. While I can shape the clouds as I see fit, there is nothing to keep them that way. Without constant maintenance, they just spread out again and any form is lost.”

Aaron waved his arm through the cloud, watching it move with him.

“Wow, I hadn’t realised how much things could be different here,” he said.

Celestia nodded. “There are many differences. Some are obvious, like the different geography, or the animals. But unless you know what it’s like to feel the world’s magic flowing around you, you can never truly appreciate what it means for it to be absent.”

Aaron stared at Celestia. For a brief moment, he thought he could see through her calm facade to the pony hiding underneath. He even thought he saw a tear forming in her eye before she blinked it away. He held a hand out, placing it on her shoulder.

“You must miss Equestria,” he said.

She lowered her head. “I do... wonder how they are managing without me. They are more than capable of keeping going, of course. My sister, along with Twilight and Cadance, are all capable leaders. But watching over the nation has been my entire life. I wonder how they have explained my absence to my subjects.”

She paused for a moment, then looked up again and turned to face Aaron, smiling calmly again. “But I imagine I will get to see them again eventually. If Twilight can work out how to reverse whatever sent me here, they may still be able to bring me home.”

Aaron removed his hand. He realised that he had never even asked her how she thought she had ended up here, but now it had been mentioned, he had to know.

“What did happen?” he asked. “On your end, what did it look like?”

Celestia looked away for a moment, then shifted her weight, moving round to face Aaron. He moved back, giving her more space, and got into a more comfortable sitting position.

“We were performing an experiment,” she said once they had settled. “The bearers of the Elements of Harmony, Twilight and her friends, were attempting to cast a new spell which they had designed.”

“You were doing an experiment as well?” Aaron asked. “That can’t be a coincidence.”

“Yes, I realised that the place I first met you in must have been a research institution once I had a chance to consider it,” she replied. “I do not know how the two are linked though. Your work may merely have provided some form of anchor for what brought me here, rather than being a part of the cause.”

Aaron nodded. He had been trying to think how their work could have caused this, but if the effect had come from Celestia’s side, the connection could be as simple as bad timing. He was relieved to think that it may at least not be their fault.

“But you clearly didn’t expect this,” he said. “Did the experiment go wrong?”

Celestia considered it for a moment. “It must have,” she replied. “There is no way that this could have been the intended outcome.”

“Why not? What was supposed to happen?”

“The intended purpose of the spell,” she said, “was to reveal the seventh Element of Harmony.”

Aaron stared in surprise back at her. “Seventh? I thought there were only six!”

Celestia shrugged. “So did we, for many centuries. Prior to my sister’s fall much research had been put into the nature of the Elements. The original five were discovered many aeons ago, and we were able to use them to defeat Discord, but we knew that they were not the complete set. The five each represent virtues, foundations on which harmony can be built. But we realised that there must be a sixth, representing some aspect of the universe itself, to fully bind them together and unite them as one.”

“Magic”, Aaron said.

“Exactly. It eventually awoke within Twilight Sparkle, and she soon fulfilled her destiny by fully uniting the six Elements together.”

Aaron massaged his forehead with his hands, working through all the information in his head, and fitting it in with what he already knew from the series.

“But where does the seventh Element come in?” he asked, lifting his head up again.

“We realised that it must exist not long after my sister’s return,” Celestia continued. “The castle where Nightmare Moon was defeated had been considered off-limits since Discord’s defeat long before, and had largely been forgotten. After Twilight and her friends managed to make it there safely, bringing its existence back into the public eye, a few academics from Canterlot University became interested. They led an expedition there, and managed to recover many valuable artefacts, including the contents of the library.

“Among the many documents was a wealth of lost legends and old research into the Elements. With the added perspective of all our work from the intervening centuries, we began to see new information buried within it. The clues pointed to the existence of another, seventh Element, representing something fundamental to the structure of the universe, perhaps even more so than magic itself.”

“Like what?”

“A few sources provided speculation as to its identity. Some early texts gave it names such as Inspiration, but all later clues pointed to... Is there something wrong?”

Celestia paused, because Aaron had buried his head in his hands again.

“It’s just,” he said, almost laughing. “Well, Rarity’s Element was called Inspiration in early scripts for the show, before they changed it to Generosity. I only found out about that a few weeks ago.”

Celestia thought for a moment. “That is a curious coincidence. But as I was saying, later clues indicated that the seventh was far beyond the level of the original five, something much more fundamental. Other names were suggested by some sources, and I had begun to believe that it would represent Life itself. I had hoped that the spell may finally be able confirm this.

“But as I say, the spell failed. They cast it, and... and this happened.”

She closed her eyes and her horn started to glow. After a few moments, Aaron began to hear sounds in his ears, voices calling over a loud roar.

“This isn’t right! This isn’t the Elements’ magic!”

“She won’t budge!”

“It’s too strong! What do we do?”

“Everypony stand back!”

There was a loud crash, then the noises stopped and Celestia opened her eyes. “The magic of the spell was drawn into some sort of vortex, and it began to pull Twilight in as well. I tried to stop it, and ended up getting caught myself. The next thing I knew I was lying on the floor in a room I had never seen before.”

She stopped, closing her eyes once again, and took a series of long, deep breaths.

“This cannot be what was supposed to happen,” she said, her eyes still closed. “Instead of discovering a new form of magic within my universe, I was sent to another, one in which there is no magic at all. There are no Elements of Harmony here, and there never have been. Quite simply, we failed, and I have no idea why.”

Aaron thought over everything he had been told. It was a lot to learn in such a short space of time, but he had to admit that it all at least seemed to make sense.

“You seemed to be saying that the research you were working on wasn’t completely consistent,” he ventured. “Do you think it was missing something? Or maybe something was wrong?”

She opened her eyes and looked at him again. “Perhaps,” she said. “It is the only explanation that I’ve managed to come up with thus far, unless it was somehow caused by interference from your experiment.”

“I doubt it,” Aaron said. “But I suppose it’s possible. And when you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains...”

“...however improbable, must be the truth,” continued Celestia. “Have even the Fetlock Holmes books made an appearance in the series?”

Aaron shook his head, laughing. “Not exactly,” he said.

They sat in silence for a while, and Aaron reflected on everything he had learned. This was part of the reason he had wanted to meet Celestia; there was so much she could teach him. She had knowledge of an entire other universe, with its own physical laws and mythology, and the chance to learn about it was fascinating. She had told him so much, going back millennia to events fans could only speculate about, but still she must have only scratched the surface.

He imagined that a number of fanfiction writers would be overjoyed to hear all the information he had been given. Still others would be as likely to tear their hair out. He would have to write it all down when he got home. He would be Earth’s foremost authority on Equestrian history! Somehow even more so than the writers themselves it seemed, which was a difficult concept for him to get his head round.

“Anyway, I should not keep you too long,” Celestia said, interrupting his thoughts. “I had better take you back down to the ground.”

Aaron nodded, then shifted carefully over to the crate. “Before you do, though, there’s one more thing I wanted to give you.”

He pulled out an old mobile phone and held it out for Celestia to take it from him. She picked it up with her magic, and examined it carefully.

“This is a telephone,” Aaron said, “one of my old spare ones. You can use it to contact me, from anywhere, at any time. I thought that it might be useful, just in case something happened.”

Celestia stared at the small device, considering it for a long while.

“That is very thoughtful,” she said. “You will need to show me how to use it, though.”

Aaron gave her a quick demonstration of how to use it, and how to speed-dial his own phone. Once she had confirmed that she was able to work it, Celestia locked the phone and levitated it round behind her, stowing it somewhere by her wing. Aaron tried to look round and see where it went, but by the time he did it had vanished.

“With any luck I will not have much need for it,” Celestia said, “but it is a sensible precaution. Thank you, Aaron.”

“So, do you want to meet up again at any point?” he asked. “I need to go into the lab tomorrow morning at least, but—”

“Thank you, but I can manage by myself for now,” she said. She shifted around for a few moments in the silence then added, “But perhaps we should arrange to meet again in a week or so, just in case something happens.”

Aaron nodded, sighing in relief. “Well, the battery on your phone should last for about that long if you don’t use it, so... unless I hear from you beforehand, how about next Saturday, in six days’ time? Same place about midday?”

Celestia nodded, then shifted around, lowering her wing again. “Shall we get going, then?”

Aaron climbed onto Celestia’s back again. “No acrobatics this time, though,” he said as he grabbed hold of her neck.

“As you wish,” Celestia replied with a smile, then she picked the crate up, spread her wings, and lifted herself gracefully out of the cloud.