Equestria from Dust

Celestia awakens to see an empty world, white sandstone stretching the horizon. She wanders the world as she builds it from her imagination, filling it with life, but as time passes, the world that she created begins to seem like little more than a lucid dream, conjured from the dust.

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11. Part 11: Flight

Flight

 

 

Equestria from Dust, by soundslikeponies

 

Celestia steadies her wings against a gust of wind, keeping the sleeping Storm Gale expertly balanced between her wings. The still-young mare hadn’t known her bounds, and Celestia had to catch her before she dropped right out of the sky.

To her side, Rose Flame is still awake, though barely. Her hooves grip Luna’s neck tightly, and her eyes seem to roam anywhere but down.

She catches Celestia’s eye on her. Her eyes are barely staying open. “Is it much further?”

“Yes,” Celestia answers, frowning and looking down at the road they are following. “Are you unable to sleep on Luna’s back? She’s a bit boney and uncomfortable, but she won’t let you fall.”

Luna gives her a flat look and snorts.

“I know,” Rose answers, yawning and shifting her vice grip around Luna’s neck. “I’ll be fine, just—” Another yawn interrupts her. “Just a bit of sleepiness.”

The corners of Luna’s mouth tug back. She shoots Celestia a worried look. “There should be an inn someplace ahead on this road. The last one we passed is nearly a days walk behind us now.”

Celestia nods to her sister. “We’ll stop and rest there. We won’t lose much time in doing so.”

“Dear, Sister,” Luna says, steering closer to Celestia. Her voice drops to a hiss that her apprentice’s ears can’t pick up over the wind, but Celestia’s can. “I understand that you want to find the one causing all this quickly, but you should not hasten it so. This is something we want to go at with our eyes and ears open, and you have to consider how this makes us look to our apprentices.”

Celestia glances up Luna’s back at Rose Flame. The young mare is glancing between the two of them and trying to make out what they’re saying. Celestia slows down to move at a more relaxed pace. “We will find someplace to rest soon. Will you be alright a while longer?”

Rose’s eyes snap back open at being asked a question. “Yes, Princess.”

A two story building with a shingled roof appears in the distance, though odd for an inn, its lights are all off. Celestia and Luna straighten their wings to slowly descend below cloud level, a cool mist splashing their faces as they pass through a cloud.

They land by a sign that reads “Favor’s Inn”, and Celestia and Luna glance at one another uncertainly. The front door’s shut, along with all the windows.

“Hello!” Celestia calls, “is anypony in there?”

Silence answers.

Celestia walks up to the door, knocking her hoof on it and then pressing her ear against it. Something shuffles on the other side. “I can hear you in there! We’re just looking for a place to stay until morning!”

“Who’s there?!” a scared, male voice snaps back from behind the door. “Did you come from Hay Burrow?”

“No, we’re heading there from Everfree, and we need a place to rest.” Celestia walks around to one of the windows, trying to peek through the blinds. “Can you offer us that?”

“Heh, you don’t want to go to Hay Burrow, lady. That place’s become lawless. Had a few folk stumble out of there and come to this here inn. Tried to help them. Won’t make that mistake again.” There’s a short pause. “You never said who you are!”

“I’m Princess Celestia, and I’m here with my Sister Luna and our two students.”

“You said you wasn’t from Hay Burrow!” the voice shrieks, back on full alarm.

“We’re not! We’re heading there from Everfree!”

“Only some kinda madpony would think that they’re the Princess, and right now all the madponies in the world are comin' outta Hay Burrow!”

Celestia takes a step back from the door. A harsh midnight breeze blows past them, causing the inn’s sign to creak and sway. Sitting on her haunches, Rose Flame hugs her forehooves around herself and shivers.

“He really doesn’t have any reason to believe it is us,” Luna says, stepping up to Celestia’s side. “It would be simple to blast this door open.”

“I would find us a cave or large oak tree to sleep under before that happens,” Celestia says, quickly halting any notion of them breaking and entering. “Though I would much sooner convince him to let us in than that, either.”

“Let me try,” Luna says. She steps up to the door and briefly presses her ear to it, before taking it away and speaking. “This is Princess Luna.”

“Oh great! There’s two of you!” the nasally voice shoots back. Luna ignores it and continues.

“Last night you dreamt about your father. He raised you in Hay Burrow, didn’t he? You used to always look forward to the pumpkin harvest, even when you were much too young to work on the farm. You’d try to help out, and your father would always make a pumpkin pie that night to reward you.”

Luna pauses for a moment, silence coming from the other side of the door. “You also dreamt of your mother. You only have a few memories of her from when you were very young.”

Not a sound comes from behind the door. Taking a deep breath, Luna begins to sing:

 

Hiding amidst the pumpkin patch

 

 

Sits the Raven, the Ram, and Scratch

 

 

The Raven hides under his wing

 

 

The Ram hides for its spring

 

 

And little Scratch hides till I sing

 

 

Hiding amidst the pumpkin patch

 

 

 

 

The sound of a metal bolt and chain sliding out of place comes from behind the door. Two more separate locks click, and the door hesitantly opens. An old, tired face belonging to a stallion peeks out from behind it.

He takes his straw hat off and places it over his chest, his eyes falling to the ground. “I haven’t heard anypony sing that song for thirty years...” He looks up at Luna, his wrinkled lips cracking as he smiles at her. “Thank you.”

Luna nods and smiles, before looking past him at the inside of the deserted inn. “Could we stay the night? We have two very tired children.”

The stallion clears his throat and puts his hat back on his head. “Oh, absolutely, absolutely,” he said, walking back inside and leaving an open invitation for the four of them to follow him. “Sorry your highnesses. I don’t know where my manners have run off to.”

Once they are all inside, the stallion quickly doubles back behind them, hastily doing up the two locks and bolt on the door.

“Scratch’s just what my ma and pa called me when I was a little tucker. My name’s Favor, as you well mighta seen on the sign out there,” Favor says, pointing at the door.

“Well, thank you, Favor,” Celestia says, taking a step forward. “We don’t have any bits with us, but I can see to it that you are paid for our visit once we get back to the Castle.”

“Ah, hay, don’t even bother. I figure having the Princesses visit is enough of a story to be worth the coin of havin’ ya... Assuming you really is Princesses.”

“I can assure you, my sister and I are very much who we say we are,” Celestia says.

“No, no, I believe you two are at the very least some kinda royalty or noblety.” Favor walks around the inn’s counter and scans the back of it. “Drink? I have a few fine bottles of mead or cider, whichever strikes yer fancy.”

“No, thank you. My sister and I don’t drink.”

Favor takes a dark scotch bottle with a fine layer of dust on it, brushing it off and placing it on the counter. “Eh, suit yourself,” he says, opening the scotch. An aroma pervades the air from it almost instantly, and it’s the kind that makes the eyes water.

Coughing at the floor once, Favor tips the glass to his lips and downs the shot with a self-satisfied sigh. “You don’t carry yourselves like no merchant or farmer, and while you certainly look like what I’ve heard the Princesses look like, I’ve also heard that they haven’t left Everfree Castle for ‘round about decade.”

Celestia straightens, standing opposite him on the other side of the counter. “There are a myriad of things that need attending to back at the Castle. My sister and I have been much more involved with our land’s affairs than the kings and queens that came before us.”

Favor gives Celestia a waned smile. “Well I guess that is true, not that us country folk are privy to the goings on at the Castle.” Screwing the lid back on the scotch, he tucks it back under the counter. As he looks back up at Celestia, his eyes suddenly widen. “Well! You must be starved! Will you be having some supper? I can prepare some warm bread and a stew. Wouldn’t take long.”

A small frown comes to Celestia’s lips, and she shoots a look back at her sleeping pupil slung over her back. “It’s been a long flight, and our students really are quite tired—”

“Ah, say no more,” Favor interrupts, lifting his lantern from the counter. “I’ll just show you the rooms then.”

Celestia nods, relieved. “Thank you.”

Favor leads her and Luna up a set of creaky steps to the second floor. She holds Storm Gale with her wings, making sure she doesn’t slip. At the top of the stairs, Favor leads them down a hallway and points to four different doors at the end of it.

“Not any other guests, so feel free to take a room each to yourselves. Just let me know if you switch rooms so I know which rooms’ sheets I’ll have to change after.” Favor opens the latch on the door of his lantern. Sticking his muzzling in the cage, he puts the light out with his tongue. “And no candlelight, alright? Things have quieted down, but there’s still a few lunatics wandering around out there.”

“We’ll be discreet,” Celestia promises. She takes Storm inside one of the rooms and lays her on the bed.

Favor walks to the window at the end of the hall, peeking between the blinds as he hangs his blown-out lantern on a hook nearby. “Well, then,” he says, walking back to the doorways of the rooms Celestia and Luna are in. “Sleep tight!”

The floorboards creak under-hoof as he walks away, leaving Celestia and Luna in the darkened corner of the inn with their two passed-out students.

Luna yawns loud and long. “We are being given an opportunity to rest, so rest I shall,” she says, closing her door but leaving it open by just a hair for a moment longer. “Goodnight, dear Sister.”

 

 

 

Celestia opens her eyes to find herself lying in a lush spring forest on the grass. It’s softer than any bed she’s ever slept in. A part of her wants to simply shut her eyes and fall back asleep, but the awake part of her keeps them open and looks around. The sky the bright blue of a sunny day, yet try as she may to look for it, the sun doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight, despite how glowing and warm the forest is. And it’s then that her mind wakes up and she realizes she’s in another dream.

Celestia makes to stand, but freezes as she hears the sound of padded hoofsteps against the grass. They stop directly behind her. Celestia hesitantly turns around, expecting, and knowing, that the ashen copy of Luna stands behind her.

But it doesn’t. Instead, a different, much less malefic, copy of Luna stands before her. Its mane and coat are white as sunlight and its presence holds a strong warmth and comfort.

Celestia stares at the spirit for a while, not sure what to make of it. “Who are you? Is this a trick?” She walks around the spirit, peering at it for a far more familiar black in its coat. She finds none. Its coat is as pure and white as a first snowfall. But still, she keeps circling it, examining it.

The spirit follows Celestia with its eyes as she walks circles around it. Celestia meets its eyes and notices something that greatly differentiates it from the ashen apparition she was expecting. It almost seems as if it has a slight smile, a sincere one, unlike the apparition.

She stops examining the spirit, satisfied for the time being. “What are you?”

Like its opposite, the apparition, the spirit remains mute. Instead, it turns around to walk away, looking over its shoulder at Celestia and motioning for her to follow. Celestia obeys. It leads her all the way to the edge of the forest, where the ground suddenly gives way to the edge of this world, an endless bright blue down below. Looking down at it feels the same as looking up at the sky.

The spirit spreads its wings and flies off the edge of the world, turning back and facing Celestia, waiting for her to do the same.

Celestia spreads her wings and goes to the spirit, glancing back at the forest behind her and seeing that it’s floating in the air. But now the sky is all around her, and the spirit begins to fly away, leaving Celestia to follow it again.

They fly endlessly. The forest island has long since disappeared into the distance behind them, and though they have been flying for what must have been days, Celestia doesn’t feel the slightest bit sore nor tired. As they fly the sky changes to night, stars dotting the sky--but no moon, and then even that eventually fades to a starless black.

Celestia speeds up and pulls alongside the spirit. “We’ve been flying for a while now, and I’m bound to wake up soon. Where are you taking me?”

The spirit glances at her and motions up ahead of them, and Celestia looks back ahead to see a large, stone arch floating in the dark, a pair of magic floating crystals lighting its archway. The two of them land on the stone platform in front of it and Celestia looks up at the arch, marveling at its height which seems to stretch as high as the Everfree Palace. The spirit, however, wastes no time and walks inside. Celestia notices and snaps out of her gazing, quickly following it.

They walk through the dark for a while, the spirit’s body glowing with white light like a beacon for Celestia to follow. Eventually, a wall comes into sight, the mural from her other dreams, and it’s changed yet again. The mural still shows the world, and Luna and her flying around it, but now it shows another, much larger painting of silver flames rising up from the floor. The colors of the flame are alive, streaks of black and white mixing and twining around one another. And in it, two alicorns stand tall over the world, facing each other over top of it. One is black, and the other white; the one from her dreams past, and the one standing beside her right now.

Celestia turns to the spirit. It simultaneously turns to look at her. Suddenly, Celestia feels a wave of drowsiness pass over her, her eyes struggling to keep open. She looks up at the spirit, whom she believes to be the cause, as it leans forward and plants a gentle kiss on her forehead. Unable to keep her eyes open a moment longer, Celestia closes them as a feeling of warmth floods her chest.

 

 

 

Celestia opens her eyes and finds herself lying back on the bed at the inn. It’s still night, despite how much time passed in the dream, though her room’s illuminated with light, and she quickly sees why.

Standing at the foot of her bed, in the real world, is the white spirit.

Celestia holds up her hooves and eyes them with discern. “Am I still dreaming?” The spirit shakes its head. “How are you outside of my dreams?”

Suddenly the spirit turns and gallops away, running straight through the bedroom’s door and leaving behind a stupefied Celestia.

Regaining her wits, Celestia jumps to her hooves and busts open her room’s door. She catches the end of the spirits tail as it disappears down the stairs, and chases after it. Her hooves thunder down the hall, while the spirit’s steps are voiceless. Darting down the twisting stairs, she catches a the tail end of the spirit again.

The spirit runs out through a wall. Its body fades through the thick wood like glass, leaving a white glow where it passes through. The glow lasts barely a second before it fades.

Celestia whips around to the door at the opposite end of the tavern, and she rushes towards it. A white glow surrounds her horn and deftly unbolts the door, just in time for her to barge through it out into the night.

She pauses for a moment, taking a split second to reconsider chasing after the spirit. A full moon hangs overhead, lighting up the night forest around the tavern. It glows in the same way the spirit does.

She makes up her mind. Galloping back around the side of the inn to where the spirit fled, she spots a glowing trail coming from inn and leading off into the forest. It clings to the moss like paint, but also hangs low to the ground like a mist, and it passes through several trees along its path.

Sprinting, she weaves around the trees the spirit passed through and chases the path deep into the forest. Not even once does she look back. Not even once does she think about how far she has gone. Not even once does she think about how she’ll find her way back.

Chasing through the forest for hours, Celestia finally stumbles upon where the glowing trail leads: a pool in the middle of the forest. Standing atop its surface, is the spirit, staring at her like it’s been waiting the whole time.

Celestia glances around, wondering if there’s something she’s missing. There appears to be nothing but the two of them and a pool of water. “I don’t understand,” she says. “What did you take me here for?”

The spirit walks towards Celestia, across the water’s surface. The pool ripples beneath its hooves and the magic saturating the air around it is nearly palpable, and Celestia takes a step back from it.

Then, a pulse of magic from the spirit washes over her. The tension in her muscles disappears and her stance becomes unguarded. An innermost instinct tells her to trust the spirit, and with great hesitation, she decides to obey it.

“Lead me.”

The spirit nods. It slips beneath the water, diving down into the deceptively chasmic pool’s depths.

Celestia puts her hoof in the water while staring down at the spirit, its glow lighting the walls of an underwater tunnel leading down. The spirit’s looking up at her. A calling from within Celestia pulls her forward. Joining the spirit feels like something she is meant to do, feels like her destiny. She strides into the shallows, closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath.

“Celestia!”

Luna gallops to her, the slight pant in her breath turning to fog in the morning cold. She stops at the water’s edge and approaches Celestia with her brow knit. “What are you doing running off in the middle of the night? And this close to Hay Burrow? We still don’t know what the cause of this dark magic is. What were you thinking?

“I was following—” Celestia turns to pool of water only to find the spirit gone, the bottomless tunnel leading deep underwater gone with it. “I was following...”

“Following what?” Luna asks. She looks at Celestia, waiting for an answer.

“It was...” Celestia sees the look on Luna’s face. She knows that nothing she can say will be taken credibly. Reaching up, she places a hoof on her forehead as though in pain. “I was seeing lights. I must have followed them all the way out here into the forest.” Luna still glares at her, unsatisfied. “I followed them much farther than I realized. Sorry.”

Luna’s lips form a tight line as she weighs Celestia’s explanation in her head. Eventually her stern expression softens. “You should not have come out here so soon after your recovery. I wonder if you should even be flying at all.”

“I can fly,” Celestia says, a bit too quickly, she realizes.

“I’m not going to stop you if you are so determined to make this trip, Celestia, but please realize that your actions are causing me concern. And that I do worry about you—almost all the time.”

“We’ve been together for millenia. You will have known by now that I’m not somepony whom you should worry over.”

Luna shakes her head, a dark chuckle coming from between her lips. “I have known you for millenia. That is why I worry. Even after all this time there are moments when you feel like a complete stranger to me. Never once have I managed to truly know what you are thinking. And that makes me worry about the uncertainty, the uncertainty of what you’ll do.”

Celestia falls quiet as Luna speaks, casting her eyes to the water. A ball of guilt, from making Luna worry, settles in the pit of her stomach. “Sorry, Sister.”

Luna reaches out and tips Celestia’s chin up to look at her. “You are what you are. You are my sister, and I’ll love you no matter what.”

Celestia feels herself return the smile—somewhat, though it is slightly painful to do.

Luna turns back towards the inn. “Come, we may still rest an hour before we leave.”

Celestia nods, and begins to follow Luna back to the inn. All the while her gaze wanders back over her shoulder, back to where the spirit had been.

Her eyes catch a white glow and she stops in her tracks. Luna clears her throat, bringing Celestia’s attention back to her.

“Quickly now, Sister. We don’t want to leave Storm and Rose by themselves for long.”

Hearing their students’ names, Celestia straightens and firmly forces herself to look away from the pool of water. “You’re right. It’s not safe here,” she says. Striding past Luna, she sets a fast gait back towards the inn. It’s soon matched by Luna, after her initial surprise at Celestia’s sudden reversal of behavior.

They arrive at the inn to find Rose Flame and Storm Gale still fast asleep, the two of them having slept through Celestia storming down the halls. The innkeeper, on the other hoof, doesn’t really have an excuse for having slept through it, other than maybe being a bit hard of hearing.

They walk up to their rooms, where Luna bids Celestia goodnight for the second time that night, before retiring to her bed and falling asleep.

Celestia lies down on her bed. Images of the white spirit and fear of another dream keep her from sleeping, and she begins to wonder just what would have happened had Luna not been there to interrupt her.

It’s a restless hour before they leave the inn.

 

 

Celestia and Luna descend to a high hill overlooking Hay Burrow. Storm hops off Celestia’s back, gliding the rest of the way down to the ground ahead of them. A smile of adventure spreads across her face.

The ground is frozen solid, and blades of ice grass crack and break beneath Storm’s hooves as she lands upon the hill.

“There’s smoke!” she shouts, grinning.

And there is. Celestia and Luna land behind her and step forward to get a good look at the village down below. Great white plumes rise from several of the houses, marring what may otherwise look like a peaceful morning.

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