In Her Sanctuary
“Good morning, my little Twilight. I hope you slept well. I know I did whenever I get to wake up next to you.”
Celestia sat up in her grand bed, her forelegs stretched wide while she smiled at her beautiful, if weakened, partner. Twilight remained still, as her glassy gaze stared at her own navel, only to be propped up by Celestia. The faint glow on Celestia’s horn thrummed with magic as she began her day. The dark storm clouds outside of her tower made her frown, if only for a little bit. If the weather did not cooperate with her, that was no matter.
Twilight, of course, did nothing.
Twilight slumped to her side, eyes still staring off to a wall as Celestia hummed a tune to herself. She turned to Twilight and asked, “What would you like for breakfast, my love? We have…”
Celestia rummaged through her small pantry. She lifted empty containers that once held various foodstuffs. “Oh, silly me,” she tittered. “I’ve just been having such a lovely time with you; I’ve completely forgotten to send for food. I know! Let’s have a garden brunch! Doesn’t that sound lovely, Twilight? We can read in the comfort of the… clouds. Yes, the clouds. Don’t worry, Twilight, I’ll make sure today is just perfect.”
Of course it would be perfect. As long as Celestia was with Twilight, every day was a sunny day.
As she pranced around her royal chamber, Celestia opened her closet to reveal a grand assortment of different outfits, all made by some of the best tailors in Equestria. Despite such a vast collection, only a few were originals made by dear friends. It was a shame that Celestia didn’t hire on her the services of Twilight’s friend more often. It was too late for that now, and concern about it wouldn’t help things.
Celestia continued to hum as she drew out a white sundress with matching hat. She slipped on the garment effortlessly before she shifted focus to Twilight. In the back of the closet she found Twilight’s favourite ensemble, the simple yellow dress with the pink ribbon around the collar. Celestia cooed, as Twilight looked too cute in her practical and sensible wear. Of course this was her favourite.
With just a little of her magic to help Twilight’s joints, Celestia helped her lover cross the floor from the bed towards the closet. “I know you’d prefer to walk across the floor yourself, Twilight, but that immortality spell wasn’t perfect. Once I’ve figured out how to make it work, you’ll be moving on your own. But don’t worry, dearest. I know you think you are being a burden, but you are never such. I will be by your side until the sun burns out.”
Once Twilight was dressed, Celestia clapped her hooves together. “We need to find you a new book to read while we’re in the garden! I’m sure we’ll find something you haven’t read before in the library. It will be difficult, though. You are such an avid reader!” Celestia’s horn glowed brighter this time, lifting Twilight off the ground and onto her back. “We’ll go down together, Twilight. I’ll carry you, as always.”
With Twilight comfortable on her back, Celestia’s magic pulsed all around her. The spell enveloped both ponies until time and space blurred around them. As quickly as the teleportation spell was cast did it fade, the reality of Twilight’s library within the tower revealed into clear view. Celestia walked with soft steps, so she wouldn’t disturb Twilight, and made her way to the center of the library.
While bigger than Twilight’s old library treehouse in Ponyville, it was a far cry from the Royal Librarium in Canterlot. Then again, everything about Celestia’s tower in the middle of the Everfree forest was a shadow of the majesty that is Canterlot. The food was hoof-grown in the garden, rather than imported from across Equestria and prepared by expert chefs who begged to serve the Princess. The only music Celestia and Twilight enjoyed was what records Celestia could bring in the midst of her exodus, as well as an old phonograph. Soon enough, the phonograph would break, and getting parts would be difficult. She would have to send missives to Canterlot, to Luna—
The memory of Celestia’s sister twisted her face with anger, but she calmed down in a rather quick manner. Twilight did not like to see Celestia upset for any reason, and Celestia never wanted to make the love of her immortal life worried. No, she would not think of her sister or anypony else for that matter. They chose this place in the Everfree to be with each other. They needed nopony else.
“Now then!” Celestia smiled at Twilight, who remained motionless. “Let’s find you a new book. You’ve gone through more than half of the library already, but I know there is a book you haven’t read yet. Now, let’s take a look…”
Celestia began to browse the shelves of novels, anthologies, and tomes of magical knowledge. She tried to find one of the very few books she knew Twilight had not read yet. Twilight devoured every book she put her nose into, and Celestia always loved her thirst for knowledge. Yet finding something new now proved a challenge.
“Perhaps in the back?” Celestia walked to the back of the library, where old dusty tomes waited to be cracked open, their contents to be consumed by a learned mind; just perfect for a pony like Twilight. With a bright smile, Celestia began to rifle through the bookshelves before spotting a very large book with a grey pony on the cover. The book, ancient even by even Celestia’s lifetime, sat at rest covered in dull runes that she could only barely understand.
“From Clay to Shale to Flesh: Building Blocks to Golem and Equnculus Construction.” As Celestia read the title aloud, an idea sparked in her mind. Perhaps, with careful study and preparation…
“This is what we’ve been looking for!” Celestia exclaimed, “This will help you, Twilight, I just know it! Oh, once we have this book memorized cover-to-cover, we’ll find you a better body, a perfect body! You’ll be restored, and we’ll be happy forever! Isn’t this just wonderful?”
Twilight, of course, said nothing.
With a cheery tune on her lips, Celestia trotted across the library floor and back to the steps of her tower, ancient golem instruction manual in tow. The possibilities in the book sparked Celestia’s hopes anew. Ever since she tried to cast the immortality spell…
There Celestia went again. Why did she think about old baggage that upset her? Her thoughts should be focused on Twilight, the love of her life, and on doing everything she can to deliver her happiness. Without another word, Celestia’s horn began to blaze with faint magic, and with another loud pop both she and Twilight now stood in the small vegetable garden Celestia maintained. With both precision and a gentle magical touch, Celestia lay Twilight on her favourite cushion.
She propped the tome into a reading stand and opened the book to the first page. Celestia helped Twilight position herself into proper posture, careful not to disturb the weakened joints. With Twilight’s comfort into account, Celestia began to work on her garden, lifting various water pots and trowels for her work. Carrots, celery stalks, and heads of lettuce were ready to harvest thanks to the fertile ground of the Everfree and some unicorn magic.
The harmonious air of the garden helped Celestia forget the troubles of the world. With Twilight at her side reading, Celestia took the time to breathe in the smell of the soil. She enjoyed the simple life, when compared to the busy work that was being a sovereign. There were no courtiers pining for favour, no citizens asking for some magic spell or another to help them, no dignitaries from foreign lands to deal with. Just Twilight and Celestia and cabbages.
With another flick of her magic, Celestia manipulated the water pump of her tower and filled a large bucket to clean the vegetables with. She levitated several vegetables into the water, washing the dirt off while humming to herself. As she worked, a brisk wind blew in from the west, enough to send her sunhat flying off her head.
“Ohh…” Celestia grumbled in frustration, and reached out with her magic to snatch her hat from the wind. She shook her head, then gazed into the direction of the breeze. Whether it was natural or perhaps a dragon kicking up a storm, it did not matter. So long as they did not disturb Twilight, Celestia would not let a little gust disturb her perfect life.
With a basket full of clean vegetables, Celestia brought her bounty to Twilight. “I brought all of your favourites, my love,” Celestia said as she placed several vegetables on a plate. “Not all your favourites, I know… but it’s hard to get the apples you used to love. They simply don’t grow them anymore. I’m sorry, but you really need to eat. Come, we can read together as we enjoy our lunch.”
Twilight, of course, did not eat a single leaf.
Celestia gave a heavy sigh before she took a bite out of a carrot. She looked to the tome of golems Twilight perused, and noticed that the pages had quickly turned to a section of equnculi. “My goodness, Twilight, I knew you were an avid reader, but so quickly…”
She stopped and began to study the words of the section Twilight had turned to. Celestia’s eyes scanned the words of the page, reading them aloud:
“As per the studies of the shamed unicorn wizard Paraclopsus, the equnculus is one of three ultimate goals of alchemical research, the others being turning lead into gold and creating the Elixir of Life. The equnculus is also known as the ultimate disregard for life, for it has been called unnatural and an affront to the natural and magical laws of the world. Despite these criticisms, the creation of an equnculus poses a unique solution to the ultimate problem. Ponies are born flawed due to the shared bloodline of their parentage. What better way for a perfect pony to exist than to create the perfect pony?”
“The perfect pony…” Celestia glanced over to her immobile darling. “They must mean you. Oh Twilight, if only we could perform the spell together. We’ll make you the perfect body and then we’ll be truly together forever. Won’t that be wonderful?”
Celestia levitated Twilight onto her back and was about to lift the tome when a rumble shook the very leaves of the Everfree forest off their branches.
Celestia’s eyes shrank to pinpricks. The Royal Canterlot Voice tore through the forest as the roar of thunder shook the skies. The voice came from a pony she had dared never to expect to enter her home, her haven, her sanctuary. A cold sweat dripped down her face and before she knew it, her horn was already aglow with arcane might.
Another pop and both Celestia and Twilight were back in their private chambers. Celestia breathed a sigh of relief. There was no way she was going to get in here. Celestia cast the most powerful wards she knew to make sure only she and Twilight could enter or leave the tower. Twilight helped with the wards as well. When the most gifted unicorn in a thousand years lent her power to cast protective barriers, there was no possible way anypony or anything could breach them.
Twilight, of course, did not show any fear.
“She’ll go away soon,” Celestia muttered, holding Twilight against her. “I know she will. She won’t get past the wards, because you and I made them, and our love will be our shield.”
The doors to the chamber flew open, a gale of frigid winds sweeping through the now defiled private chambers. Celestia refused to look in the direction of the gusts and closed her eyes tight. She squeezed Twilight ever closer to her chest.
The heavy sounds of hooves on wood echoed along with Celestia’s despair. To her great surprise, another set of hooves joined the first, much gentler than those that belonged to her.
She looked up only when the hoof falls stopped, straight into the dreaded gaze of her sister, Luna.
“What are you doing here?” Celestia hissed, “I saw you months ago, when you brought books and food for Twilight. I told you in no unclear terms that I didn’t want to see you again.”
“Sister, this charade has gone on long enough.” Luna’s words were always so harsh, so callous. No wonder she became Nightmare Moon so easily all those centuries ago.
She did not understand what love or even friendship was. Twilight tried to show her, and for a while the lesson sunk in. When the time came for Luna to repay that kindness, what happened? She sat by and did nothing. Celestia would have to take drastic measures to keep Twilight’s long sought peace.
“There are no games being played here, dear sister,” Celestia continued, and pulled herself closer to the shadows. “Twilight and I are perfectly happy together. She may not be able to show it, but it’s true! Now be a good little sister and go back to Canterlot.”
“Months? It’s been decades!” Luna’s eyes flashed with frustration, only for her to pause and breathe deep before continuing. “I have been patient, hoping for the day when grief no longer has its iron grip around your heart, but still it has not come! My patience is at an end! Equestria needs both its princesses. I need my sister.”
“And I need the love of my life!” Celestia’s shout shook the chamber.
“Aunt Celestia…” Celestia’s throat constricted as she heard her niece speak. “Please… please listen to Aunt Luna… please…”
Cadance stepped past Luna and knelt on the cold floor as Celestia huddled away from the pair. “It’s been far too long since you secluded yourself. I know the pain you are going through, when Shining left me. I really do—“
“Do you? Do you?!” Celestia stood at her full height, which would have been impressive if she noticed just how much taller Luna and Cadance seemed to be. When did that happen? No matter.
“You think you know what I’ve been through? You’re still a foal compared to me, you both are! Neither of you know what it means to go years, decades, centuries without love, only to finally find it! And when you have that moment of happiness, you cherish it above all others. You hold onto and hope beyond all hope that it never ends.”
“But it does end. So cruel is life that it takes the only pony you’ve ever loved, ever truly been in love with and dashes all hopes and dreams against the rocks. She was scared, so scared of the dark, so I gave her light. I give light to all of my little ponies. I cast the spell to keep her alive! Look at her! She still has that same youthful leap to her step! She still hungers for knowledge like when she was a filly! Why do you deny me this, Luna? Why do you deny me this happiness!?”
“Look at her, Celestia.” Luna’s voice rang with hidden steel that would brook no further arguments. “Look at her and tell me why you would seek out forbidden magics such as equnculi. Tell me to my face… that she still lives.”
Celestia sobbed wildly, unable to look in the direction of Twilight. Luna and Cadance continued to stare at her, until she felt forced to look at her beloved. Twilight remained as Celestia had left her, beautiful and radiant even in slumber, unconscious out of fright caused by Luna—
Tell them. Tell yourself.
Celestia shook her head and took a deep breath. Twilight remained as she left her, a stuffed carcass kept somewhat “fresh” by twisted embalming materials and even more perverse magics. Her eyes were little more than painted glass. Stitch marks lined the limbs where the flesh had grown weak. Twilight’s smile never faltered, as it was permanent and forever held by thread and wax.
Twilight, of course, did not live.
Celestia broke as her reality crashed around her. She collapsed against her sister’s loving embrace while tears streamed down her face. She was the perpetrator to the mockery of Twilight’s memory and she was the one who desecrated the corpse. Twilight should have been buried in a place of honour, not held like a stuffed foal’s toy.
But then, that is what Celestia had been. A foal who feared the pain of death.
“There, there. Let it all out.” Luna held her sister close. “We’ll go back to Canterlot together. I still love you, Celestia. We are still family. I want to help you, if only you’ll let me.”
“Take me out of this place,” Celestia whispered, her knees feeling weak. “I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t want to remember Twilight like this.”
“Of course, of course.” Luna looked up to Cadance and the body of Twilight. “Cadance, I know how close you were to Twilight, but I—“
“Have to take care of Aunt Celestia. Don’t worry… I’ll treat Twilight well. Go on ahead of me.” Cadance watched as Luna’s horn sparked with powerful magic and twisted time and space around both her and Celestia. With a flash of brilliant light, both were gone.
Cadance took a deep breath before looking over at Twilight’s body. “Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake…” She choked on the little song she and Twilight played when they were younger before levitating a large sheet over the body.
For a moment, Cadance thought she saw something in the glass eye of Twilight. Perhaps it was just the moisture, but she could have sworn she saw a single tear.