• Published 7th Apr 2013
  • 3,809 Views, 214 Comments

Old Wounds - Martian



They must not be forgotten.

  • ...
14
 214
 3,809

Chapter 2 - Fresh Scars

“Konabos...”

The late afternoon sun was filtering in through the window, catching the old wooden table and giving it a deep, fiery glow. Atop it, two sizeable piles of books, their covers greying and cracked with age, with one of their number set open upon the small stand between them. Twilight sat before it on the worn old stool that she had been using since she was first allowed in the High Archive, years ago. Her hooves were crossed before her on the same desk, a position she has occupied so frequently that there was a subtle indentation in its surface that perfectly fit her.

The first planet in orbit of Celestia’s Sun. It is believed to be roughly half the size of Luna’s Moon, though its proximity to the sun makes this difficult to ascertain. Its orbital period has been measured as taking eight months and ten days to make a complete circuit. The best time to view Konabos is immediately after the sun sinks below the horizon, though it might only be visible for a few moments to the unaided eye. With a suitably tuned telescope, one can just make out the faint trail of gasses and dust that follow in the planet’s wake. When our world and Konabos are at a certain angle to one another, this dust trail acts as a sort of prism for the light of Celestia’s Sun, giving the planet the appearance of being trailed by a rainbow.

Twilight frowned a bit, flipping the page and scanning quickly over the next few paragraphs of theories about the planet’s composition and atmosphere and any number of other things. The piece she had wanted was near the end of the entry, little more than a footnote. She had read it all those years ago when she had developed her little cosmic obsession, but she had been wanting to figure out what the planet were, not the origin of their names.

The planet’s rapid orbit and spectacular transit are the source of its name: Konabos was the spirit of travel and messengers, held in legend as being the envoy of our noble regents. Some stories credit Konabos with travelling for an entire day and night without stopping to warn the still-new kingdom of Equestria of a dire threat from the north, thus saving pony civilization.

“I wonder if they mean King Sombra,” mused Twilight, nibbling on her bottom lip and flipping through the next few pages. That was the end of the entry though, near identical to the other six cosmology books she had essayed. She wasn’t really surprised at the outcome; there was plenty of good speculation of the science in them, but by its nature, science didn’t have much interest in old myths. Still, Twilight was nothing if not diligent, and it was worth covering all her bases.

It was also kind of fun to revisit those old books she had poured over while she camped out in the Astrolabe.

An effort of will saw the old book lifted gently in a faint nimbus of magic, to be settled atop the rightmost pile as a different book was drawn from the left.

“Myths and Legends of Old Equestria,” Twilight read aloud, albeit in a soft voice that wouldn’t carry. Princess she might be, but in the High Archive even Princess Celestia bowed to the authority of the hard-eyed old librarian mare. Mrs. ShadyOak was actually a very pleasant pony... just so long as you didn’t break the rules. They were simple rules, at least, and posted above her desk for all to see:

1. Silence.

2. Books must be returned no later than the date shown.

3. Do not meddle with the nature of causality.

The last rule had always struck Twilight as a kind of joke, until she had gotten her hooves on the time spell, at which point it made perfect sense. Just why it was a rule being enforced in a quiet, non-magical wing of a library was baffling, but that wasn’t the kind of question you asked Mrs. ShadyOak. Not if you wanted to continue to go through life without the memory of her slowly tilting her head down to peer at you over her precise little half-moon spectacles.

Ponies on the receiving end of that look described it as something like what a mouse must experience when the hawk is an instant away from striking.

----------------------

The books were little help. What entries there had been on Konabos were vague at best, and two of them were actually contradicting one another on several points. For a dedicated lover of books and the knowledge therein, it was practically heartbreaking. Twilight dejectedly reshelved her takings and strode from the library.

She could ask the Princess about Konabos, but Twilight wasn’t so certain that she wanted to stir those memories again so soon. The loving regent had thanked Twilight last night in the Astrolabe, after the tears had dried and the sobs had been stifled, her smile as genuine as it could be... but Twilight didn’t want to put her mentor through that pain again to merely sate her curiosity.

She considered travelling down to the Starswirl wing and delving through the older tomes there, though it was an unimaginable pain in the rump trying to sift through the mess. Mrs. ShadyOak ran her High Archive like a well-oiled machine, with nary a paper out of place, but the Starswirl wing had no such guardian. It was a wild place, as libraries go. This might not sound like much a thing for the uninitiated, but those contemptuous feelings swiftly vanished when one experiences their first magical discharge from a carelessly nudged scroll. Most learned immediately after that to take extra special care when in the wing. The others... they received a heartfelt entry in the obituaries section of the Canterlot Gazette.

Twilight took a brief detour to the rooms she was staying in during her visit, gathering some ink and quills, as well as a small bottle rather fine hard cider Applejack had given her before she left. Such contraband in the High Archive might have earned a lifetime ban, but there was no such eagle-eyed watch dog down in the old stacks. It was a guilty pleasure, but Twilight did enjoy a few sips of AJ’s special hard cider while browsing books. Anyways, if it wasn’t allowed, then they should have cleared away the unmistakable whisky bottles that still littered Starswirl’s desk down there after who knows how many years.

Well, what did you expect? No pony in their right state of mind would willingly wear a hat with bells on all the time.

Her tools and supplies gathered, Twilight departed her rooms and trotted her way down the great stairwell, her wings spread slightly for that extra bit of balance. A friendly envoy bowed to her as she passed, and a grizzled old guard she recognized gave her a wink and deftly tossed a peppermint her way; a tradition between them that felt as old as time, and not the least bit changed by Twilight’s new status.

Her mouth a pleasant tingle of mint, warm sun streaming through the tall window, an entire evening of sifting through mountains of books ahead of her. Twilight was quite possibly having one of her best days, and it only got better when she spied Princess Luna seated in the small courtyard that Twilight had to pass through to reach Starswirl’s wing.

She hadn’t even thought of asking Luna about Konabos and the others. Excited now, she trotted down the steps towards the regent, who was browsing a book of her own, though with what looked like little interest. When she saw Twilight approaching, she sat up a little straighter and regarded the younger pony with an aloof expression. Luna was indeed getting better with ponies as late, but the ancient habits died hard, and she wasn’t entirely at her ease yet with being addressed in casual fashion.

As Twilight had understood it, before Luna was banished, it was customary for most ponies to address the princesses from the opposite side of a line of armed and armoured guards. It was also dreadfully impudent and rude to looks at anything but the regents’ hooves. It had been such a different time...

“Princess Twilight. How do you find the day?” The good news was, she had her voice under perfect control now, and was even starting to drift away from the archaic “thou”s and “thee”s.

“Very well, thank you Princess Luna,” replied Twilight, giving a slight but respectful bow, and not failing to note the slight grin that showed at the corners of Luna’s mouth. Their prim and proper greeting completed, the two visibly relaxed to something closer to companionable ease.

“You look ready for an excursion,” said Luna, nodding towards the ends of no less than five quills peeking from the small saddlebags Twilight had prepared. “What is the occasion?”

“Fact-finding!” said Twilight, all cheer. She drew forth the small glass flask from her bag and held it up for Luna to inspect. “Care to share? Apple family specialty: you couldn’t buy some for all the gems in Araby.” Luna had little taste for drink, but one simply does not turn down an offer like this.

Wars had been fought over less.

“I would love to. What are you after?” asked Luna, taking hold of the offered flask with her magic and carefully cutting away the wax seal with a small effort of will.

“I was talking with Princess Celestia last night, and she brought up a bunch of names. I was actually rather interested in trying to find information on them, but the High Archive is pretty barren.” A quill, a bottle of ink and some parchment slid slowly free from the saddlebags as Twilight tried to look innocent, her voice taking on a wheedling tone. “I was sort of hoping I could maybe ask you about them?”

“Surely a genealogy collection would serve a better purpose?”

“I wish... though that would be interesting to look into later. These names are really old, though.”

“Mmn? What names?” asked Luna, peeling away the last of the wax from the cork.

“The ones we gave to the planets, actually. Bronte, Aithon, Hippokampa, Podarkes...” Twilight popped open the cap on her ink bottle, the quill’s nib drinking deeply of the black liquid within. “She had said those were the names of ponies she had known personally.”

Twilight was so drawn up in the anticipation of learning something new that she did not notice the flask being gently set down on the ground beside her saddlebags. The cork was still set firmly in the neck.

“She had told me quite a bit about Hippokampa, and some stuff about Podarkes, and I’m wondering if you could shed some more light on them?”

“Podarkes...”

“Oh, yes! Celestia had said so much about her, she sounded wonderful. You knew her, right?” She was excited, practically buzzing with energy... and absolutely oblivious to the chill that radiated from the starry-maned mare at her side. Too late, she realized what she had just said, too late did she remember what happened to Podarkes, in the mist-shrouded ages long ago.

Luna’s gaze was cold. Not merely expressionless; this was something beyond that, an expression that echoed the starless black depths of the cosmos. That look pinned Twilight to her seat, pushed icewater into her veins. The ink bottle dropped to the ground, spattering the grass with oily midnight. The quill fluttered down, laying within the pool. The parchments rustled as they tumbled away.

“I killed her.”

It was a long moment before Twilight was able to breathe again, and it was longer still for that oppressive weight to fade from the courtyard, though the young pony didn’t dare move but simply stared, wide-eyed at the pony beside her. Luna hadn’t changed, hadn’t shifted back into the hateful creature that had taken her over before, did not scowl or frown or curse. Somehow, Twilight felt it might have been better had she done any of those things. Luna simply going cold like that was beyond terrifying.

“P-princess, I-”

“As Nightmare Moon, I slew my sister’s lover, then laughed as she wept over the body.” Luna rose to her hooves, stepping away from the bench. “Is that something you wanted to hear, Twilight Sparkle?”

“N-no, I just. I’m sorry; I wasn’t thinking...”

Luna’s wings were spread wide, great midnight blue feathers seeming to drink the light of day. Her muscles were taut, her jaw clenched tight, her eyes staring straight ahead and burning with a barely suppressed rage. It wasn’t a hate that was directed at the world, though: this was a fury turned inwards.

“No, you weren’t thinking. You are asking about very old names, Twilight. Names that have deep echoes in scarred hearts.” Here a breath. Luna took it in, then blew it out, and with it much of the tension eased from her shoulders. She stood there, head hanging now, her wings drooping low until the tips of her vanes just brushed the ground.

Twilight didn’t move a muscle, barely dared to draw a breath. The fear was fading, but in its place came an awful guilt that drew the beginnings of tears to her eyes.

“Luna, I am so sorry.. Please, I never meant to...”

A gentle answer, almost kind. “I know. Calm yourself, Twilight...” Luna turned back to the younger pony, settling beside her again, closer this time, a wing draping across the trembling Twilight’s shoulders. “I did not mean to frighten you so.” A long breath. “Those names... they carry a great burden in my sister. But you have to understand, Twilight: what has been a thousand years for Celestia has only been two years for me.”

Twilight tried to scrub the tears from her cheeks with the back of a hoof, only managing a faint sniffle.

“What are just faint echoes and misty images to her are still vivid in my mind. I can still hear their voices, the cry of the trumpets, the smell of the flames. I can still see my sister weeping over what I had done, as readily as you can remember freeing me from my curse just those months ago.

“You are curious, you want to know things... but you have to remember that sometimes what you are trying to find is not mere trivia.”

“I’m sorry,” quavered Twilight, but she was gently hushed by Luna.

“You are forgiven. Take a breath now...”

The two stayed there together for a long while, sitting in silence, listening to the whisper of wind and the calls of distant birds. No words passed between them, no questions or conversation. So very different they may be, but they had become near sisters only days ago, and even such a painful moment would pass and be forgotten.

------------------------

In time, Twilight felt herself calmed enough to venture, “Celestia asked if I would share more time with her, to ask her about those names...”

“I hope you will take her up on that offer, Twilight. Her memories are old, and she fears to forget them. It’s why the worlds beyond ours bear those names, and why she had Sage Wisdom build her the Astrolabe. Many of those names will ease her heart to hear, but they will bring with them much pain.”

“I know, I saw... when she spoke of Hippokampa and of... of her.”

“Comfort her, then. She holds you very close in her heart, Twilight. Help her remember those fond faces lost to the past.”

“I will,” said Twilight, making her way a little shakily to her hooves. Her things were gathered slowly with a wisp of magical power, the only sound the faint clink of the bottles rattling together as they were set back into the bags.

“And Twilight... if you would like to ask me of Konabos, or Bronte... I knew them well, and their stories don’t carry such a black weight.”

Twilight turned back to the princess, a faint but hopeful smile showing beneath tired eyes. “I think I would like that, Luna... But maybe, not for another few days.”

“That may be for the best. Sleep well, Princess Twilight,”

“Fair winds, Princess Luna.” Twilight left the courtyard the way she had come, slowly climbing the stairs back to her rooms.

Beyond the walls and windows, the last of Celestia’s sun drifted down for the horizon, painting the sky in a riot of orange and violet, celebrating the close of the day and the coming rise of the moon.

Author's Note:

Boy, that escalated quickly. A sudden urge to write this struck me at roughly 3am, and it is now approaching 6am.

Again, I only made a single editing pass to clean up glaring errors, so do not expect perfection.

And yes, this story will continue.