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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13. Part 13: Dreamwalker

Dreamwalker

 

 

Equestria from Dust, by soundslikeponies

 

Celestia and Luna land on a balcony outside the Everfree Castle, right outside Luna’s bedroom. The citizens of Hay Burrow are safe, and now Celestia and Luna’s concerns turn back to the welfare of their students.

Celestia paces, feathers ruffled. “Why is he inviting us into his dreams? What does he hope to gain by it?”

“You were right when you said he’s more interested in you than anything else,” Luna says as she folds her wings at her side. A question nags the tip of her tongue as her sister paces. “Do you know that creature from before we first met?”

Celestia halts. Her wings tense. “No. I never met him before now.”

“But he spoke as though he’d known you for some time.”

“How he knows me, I do not know, but I do not know him.” Luna falls silent with her last answer, but Celestia can taste her dissatisfaction with it. “I’m at as much of a loss for answers as you, sister.”

Luna sighs and puts a hoof over her muzzle. “Maybe it’s a question we ask when we meet him again. Mountains above know, he does love the sound of his own voice.”

“It’s a fault we can make use of,” Celestia says, allowing herself a small smirk. “If we do not instead shoot balls of flame at him.”

Shaking her head and rolling her eyes, Luna scoffs and turns to go inside. “With a snake like that, words that you can count to be true are few and far between.”

“Be that as it may, the next time we come across him we put getting our students back above starting a petty squabble.”

Luna’s nostrils flare with a snort as she opens the balcony door and steps inside the castle. Celestia plans to follow her, but first walks to the balcony railing.

In the dead of night the city below rests. Its streets are empty, save for a few late night wanderers, and the windows in homes glow with hearths. She remembers when she watched such a thing from afar, and wonders how she ever didn’t want to be a part of these ponies’ lives.

In a way, the ponies down below are better than she’ll ever be, haunted by only a single lifetime of mistakes. The burden of choices she’s made over the centuries weigh on her shoulders, and the weight only ever seems to grow.

Celestia sits by the rail and rests her hooves upon it. Glancing down at the city, she thinks back to what Discord said. “Is this a dream?” she mumbles. The stars twinkle with mischief.

For a moment, she closes her eyes and listens. The houses below quietly hum like the plucking of a cello as the wind flutes melodically. She can hear her own heartbeat, thumping in her chest with all the thundering of a great drum—and with her eyes closed, she feels as though she can see.

Then suddenly, in her mind’s eye, the white and black spirits appear, standing side by side, and her concentration breaks.

“What in Equestria are you still doing out here?” Luna asks, standing half inside.

Celestia turns, jumping slightly, having not heard her sister open the door. “Just thinking.”

“Moonlight’s fading,” Luna replies tersely. “If I am to teach you what I know of dreamwalking, it would be best if we start early.”

Celestia shakes her head and follows Luna’s beckon inside, where Luna has already lain out a pair of lush deep blue pillows on the carpet. She lies on one now, patting the other.

“Come, it’ll be easier to guide your magic this way.”

Celestia sits across from her, and waits.

“You want to lie all the way down,” Luna tells her. “Your body will be asleep while you dreamwalk.”

Celestia creeps her front legs forward and lies down, resting her chin on her crossed forehooves.

Luna clears her throat and begins to lecture. “To dreamwalk you must use your magic to extend your soul to the astral plane.”

“My soul?”

“Here,” Luna says, closing her eyes and drawing forth her magic. It hums, surrounding her with a faint glow. “Your soul is the heart of your magical energies. You call on it every time you cast a spell. Surely you’ve felt it before?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like you describe.”

Luna looks at her, one eyebrow furrowed, the other raised. “Strange...” She touches a hoof to her chin in thought, but quickly removes it with a shake of her head. “Nevermind. You can always find it now. Simply do as I do.”

Celestia straightens in her seat, ready to follow along.

“Close your eyes,” Luna says, closing hers and taking a deep breath. “Focus on your breathing until all outside discomforts and noises are gone—except my voice. Listen to my voice.”

Celestia does as instructed and squeezes her eyelids shut, listening closely to her breathing coming from her nose. Her breath slows and calms to a steady pace similar to one that somepony might have while sleeping. Complete with the first step, she awaits further instruction.

“Slowly, begin to summon forth your magic from inside you.”

Celestia’s eyes snap open and she gives her sister an incredulous look. “I’ve never—”

“Just close your eyes and try,” Luna interrupts. Her expression’s stern and growing impatient.

Reluctantly closing her eyes again, Celestia meditates, trying to draw on power from deep within herself. But after a few moments, nothing happens. She lets go of the breath she’s holding in defeat.

“Now’s not the time for foolishness, sister. Our students are still being kept away from home.”

“I am trying,” Celestia answers, attempting not to show her frustration. “I have never called upon magic in such a way.”

“What?” Luna’s irritation gives way to curiosity. “How do you call on your magic then?”

A moment of silence passes between them. Then, Celestia closes her eyes to do the exercise again. Her slow, focused breathing is the only sound in the entire room. Gradually, she begins to summon forth her magic in the way she learned so very long ago.

At first a white glow surrounds her body, its light vibrating with energy. The near-silent hum of that energy begins to accompany her breathing, but not feeling it’s enough, Celestia reaches for more. Her reach spreads outwards, drawing on magic from the air. Like dust, a glowing white haze spreads from her and begins to fill the room. The magic, visible in the air, swirls with patterns as it flows much in the way water does.

Luna stands and takes a step back from it all, her eyes and mouth wide open. “Celestia?” she asks, afraid.

But Celestia can’t hear her.

“Celestia!”

For she is asleep.

 

 

Warmth. As though a blanket is draped over her shoulders. That is the first thing Celestia feels as she opens her eyes.

The second, is her heart missing a beat as her eyes open to meet the white spirit’s own.

It stands above her, head bowed, looking down at her.

Celestia tries to stand, dizzy and stumbling. Her wings stretch out for balance and she begins to look around.

All around her a glowing white dust hangs in the air, moving, swirling, alive. But breathing it in feels as natural as breathing air. Only cleaner. Purer. She glances down at her hooves and sees a bed of cracked, white sandstone, and though she can’t see it, she has no doubt it stretches to infinity in every direction.

The white spirit steps back and gives her room. Silently observing her. Its eyes are calm and loving, though the rest of its expression lies emotionless.

Celestia turns away from the spirit, looking up into the sky full of swirling dust. It’s sand, and snow, but neither. It moves with all the fluidity of water, sparkles with all the splendor of sand under a hot sun, and dances like snow. For some time she simply stares, entranced by it.

She feels... at one with it.

Tentatively, as though afraid to scare it away, she reaches out to it. The dust is drawn to her. It clings to her and creates a white halo around her body, and Celestia can’t help but feel that it’s natural.

She lifts a hoof and stares at the white glow surrounding it. “What does this mean?” she asks.

The white spirit walks over to her and nods its head.

After a moment, Celestia realizes it’s gesturing behind her, and she turns around.

In the distance in the haze, the dust grows dark. It’s a wonder she didn’t notice it earlier: a thick, black pocket of shining ebony dust. But despite its darkness, it, too, glows.

Celestia feels herself drawn towards it. The black miasma shudders and skitters as she approaches it, inching away from her.

A part of her wants to reach out. To touch it like she did the white dust.

She closes her eyes and begins to extend her reach.

Celestia!”

 

 

Celestia’s eyes snap open. A blinding light shines from her body, and the whole room with it. Her body is floating, lifted up by the sheer magic energy around her. She looks down at her hooves, marvelling at how they’re off the ground.

“Sister!”

Luna’s voice draws her from her temporary fascination, and to the source of the cry.

Luna stands with her back against the wall, looking up at her. And in her eyes is something Celestia never thought she’d see Luna look upon her with.

Fear.

Celestia immediately retracts her reach, as if scalded. The glowing dust filling the room fades and becomes invisible once more as the halo surrounding her dims and then disappears.

She drops to the ground, heavy, barely managing to land on all fours. Her breath escapes in quick, excited breaths. She raises her head, her mane half covering her face, her expression lost.

Luna gives her a sidelong stare, still cautiously keeping her distance. “That is not how you have summoned magic in the past, Sister.”

“It—” Celestia falters. “It was your exercise.”

Luna and Celestia stare at one another, blankly.

Then, as though sharing the same thought, both burst into laughter. Luna holds her stomach and wipes a tear from the corner of her eye, shaking her head. “An exercise for school children.”

Celestia clears her throat and regains her composure. “Well then we best have them stop teaching it immediately,” she said, another small giggle escaping afterwards.

Luna takes a deep breath, smiling. “So what was that just now? The air itself lit up like I’ve never seen.”

Celestia’s smile vanishes. “My magic has always been different from other beings’ magic. I had thought you were the same up until today, too.”

“Thousands of years and I’d never known...” Luna trails off, her eyebrows furrowing as her eyes lower to the carpet and flick back and forth. The atmosphere in the room shifts, and Luna raises her head, her gaze unfriendly and angry. “Why didn’t I know?”

“Sorry,” Celestia says, wincing. She remembers how much Luna hates her weak apologies, but she doesn’t know what else to say.

Luna simply stares at the carpet. “I have something that’s been on my mind for a while now—thousands of years, even. I could never bring myself to ask, for whenever I strayed close to t he subject, your eyes gained a distant look and you fell silent. It made me afraid of what answer you may have.” Luna’s eyes glisten in the moonlight cast through the windows.

“Luna... maybe it’d be best if we—”

“I’ve grown tired of not knowing, Celestia,” Luna says, staring her down. “I’m not even sure if I can call you sister any more.”

Celestia recoils as if struck. “You don’t mean that!”

 

Luna bites her lip, still cross, but looks away, unable to meet Celestia’s eyes.

Celestia thinks back to the time when she was alone. Before Luna was there to keep her company. She knows Luna better than she knows herself, and she knows if she tells her, things will never be the same. “I’m sorry, Luna...” she says with an utterly hopeless look. “I won’t.”

Luna shakes her head, her disappointment in Celestia clear. “I didn’t expect you would,” she says, the anger gone from her voice. “But I’d hoped.”

Celestia lowers her head, quiet. Luna walks out of the room, and all Celestia can do is watch her go, not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do, not knowing.

The tall metal doors bang shut under their great weight. Celestia left alone.

For a while, she stands there in the dark, reflecting on her choice as midnight winds howl outside. All she can wonder is this one thing, this one thing she’s been wondering a lot lately:

What is this game she’s playing?

For not the first time since their encounter, Discord’s voice wanders in her ear, whispering questions she thought she had long since buried. Their answers tantalize her, floating just out of reach. Held there by even more questions she does not know the answer to. Was it her curse to wonder these things forever? Never knowing the answers? She has wandered this plane she awoke upon longer than any mind can remember, yet so many things remain mystery, and she can’t help but wonder if she has made any progress at all since she first woke amidst that dark sea of white.

Celestia trots over to a pillow left out on the floor and lies down upon it.

Storm Gale and Rose Flame are still out there, but with her sister’s grievances, she was without a guide to go find them. All she can do is sit, think, and rest.

 

 

 

Wind. Roaring, biting, screaming. Celestia’s eyes open, only for her to squeeze them shut from the stinging wind. She realizes after a moment that her wings are gone, though a phantom image of them extend from her shoulders. Skeletal. Made from dust.

She tries to open her eyes again, and is greeted by the same stinging sensation as before, as well as a starry night sky and the ground rapidly drawing closer.

She has no magic to slow her fall. The dust-made wings she woke with mirror her own original ones. They constantly try to reform, the dust trying to stretch and create feathers, but the air rushing past keeps shattering them.

The ground draws closer now. Homes become visible, their details more clear by the second.

Celestia wants to shut her eyes and look away, but she can’t. A shingled roof lies directly below her, and she realizes with some dread it’s where she will crash.

She flaps her ethereal wings, desperately, the dust from them trailing behind as she falls. The city below turns black, every candle and every lantern snuffed out all at once.

From the blackness, a pair of white, glowing eyes open and a figure rises from the roof Celestia’s hurtling towards. The apparition.

It looks up at her and time freezes. Celestia can hear a voice, but it’s no voice at all, rather an allure, calling her, calling her home. Its slender hooves embrace her with love. So afraid, so alone, celestia leans into the embrace, and closes her eyes as time resumes.

Then hooves reach down from the darkness behind her. Their stiff, jerking embrace pulls her from the tender one, and her eyes open to see her fall stop.

A pair of night blue hooves lie around her chest.

She turns to see Luna—the real Luna, her wings flapping furiously to keep them aloft with the moon shining down in a halo around her.

Celestia lets out a breath she was holding, relieved. “Thank you.”

Luna’s lips form a thin line, still mad at her from before. She lands them down on the moonlit streets below, far from the miasma of black dust surrounding the apparition.

Free of falling, Celestia’s wings begin properly forming feathers, finishing into a pair of magnificent golden wings taller than hers ever were. She looks at them with curiosity for a moment, before folding them at her sides. “How did you find this place?”

“I was looking for a dream of a large magic soul, looking for Discord.” She shakes her head. “I actually thought I’d found it until I saw you. It’s strange, usually I can see a dream’s soul and tell whom it belongs to, but I could see neither for yours.”

Luna pauses, staring hard at the apparition. “Is that me?”

“Yes, they take on your form—the black spirit and the white one.”

Dark dust swirls around the apparition, darting agitated as its master watches them.

“I’m unable to do anything about that,” Luna says. “Normally I have some influence over dreams I’m in, but yours...”

Celestia grimaces. “I thought as much.” She meets the apparition’s stare, unflinching. It’s only after a moment that she realizes it isn’t looking at her at all. She follows its gaze to the rooftops behind them. The other spirit, pristine and white, stands on a roof in the distance.

Luna looks back and forth between them, the concern on her face growing. “What is this dream?

“I don’t know,” Celestia answers, watching the two spirits face one another down. “I’m no longer sure if it is one, at all.”

A sandstorm of white gold rises up around the spirit, flowing around it and matching the miasma surrounding the apparition. The clouds of magic spread, growing to cover the dark, empty city. The two dust clouds rise high up into the sky, forming gigantic pillars.

Then, they crash down upon them.

Celestia and Luna both clench their eyes shut as the pillars of dust crash into them, bracing for the impact to follow. But surprisingly, there is none. They carefully open their eyes, blinking as they’re greeted by the sight of a great, grey abyss.

Luna stares at her hooves, seemingly standing on nothing, and experimentally takes a few small steps on the new unfamiliar ground.

The moment doesn’t last long. The dust begins to lift, rising away to reveal a bed of flat, white sandstone. The sky remains the same sea of grey, though now the white sandstone can be seen, stretching the horizon.

Celestia immediately recognizes where they are.

Luna, however, spins around, searching for anything in the flat and dry barren land. Eventually, she stops, turning to Celestia. “Where are we? It feels... familiar.”

Celestia takes a deep breath, making a decision then and there. “This is the world when it was new. This was what I first woke to.”

Luna’s eyes widen, and she looks back at the plateau of sandstone with awe. She looks up. “There is no sun.”

“No, there isn’t,” Celestia agrees.

“No oceans, no mountains...” She pauses, pointing back. Her voice drops to a whisper, though it rings clear across the silent plane. “Just how long were you here before me?”

Celestia approached her side, cautiously, and wrapped a wing around her. The action makes her jump, but she soon relaxed, looking up into the caring eyes of her sister.

“I walked across these sands for longer than my memory can recall. Days did not yet exist. I hadn’t yet thought of time, and had no means to keep track of it. I walked for what could have been hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of years—I do not know.”

Celestia stepped away from Luna, standing out in the sea of sandstone. She let out a sigh, staring at it all. “It was so dark and lonely.” She threw a sidelong glance back at Luna. “I can’t tell you everything that happened. The sun, the mountains, the oceans, all came from my loneliness. I spent a great deal of time wandering aimlessly, not knowing what to do.”

Celestia hangs her head and looks at the colors in her mane. “Though I never forget.”

Luna takes a measured step forward, clearing her throat. “And me?”

Celestia takes a deep breath and says nothing. Luna walks to her side. Celestia can’t do anything to stop the tears flowing freely down her face. A wing wraps around her shoulders and she looks to see Luna, smiling at her.

“It’s okay, sister,” Luna says, gently.

Celestia turns and rests her head against Luna’s shoulder. She hugs her, clinging on as tears drip down her chin. “I don’t want to keep secrets from you, but I can’t... I can’t...” Her voice breaks, and all the dams and barriers she once constructed to keep herself, and others, safe collapse as she weeps openly. “Oh, Luna, there’s so much weight upon these shoulders.”

Luna strokes her back in calming circles. “Then let me help you carry some.”

“I’m sorry,” Celestia blurts out. “I’m sorry for so many things, I’m sorry.”

For a while, Celestia just stays there, holding on to Luna. Luna was the one who first banished her loneliness. Though as time has gone on, others found their way in without her even realizing it. A starving village boy. A kind lord. A gentle maid.

A student.

She wipes away her tears and lets go of Luna, determination and will returning to her eyes. “Rose Flame and Storm Gale are still out there.”

Luna nods, understanding completely. “I can try taking us to someplace else in the dream. It’ll be better than waiting around here.”

“Let’s leave then,” Celestia says.

Luna closes her eyes, letting out her breath. A deep, blue glow emanates from her chest, the soul of her magic. After a brief moment of concentration, a loud bang deafens their ears, a dark blue portal tearing itself into existence beside them. Inside it appears to be a whole nother world: expansive fields and cliffs, flanked on one side by ocean and forest on the other.

Celestia approaches it, a stiff, cool breeze blowing from inside.

“Celestia, wait.”

Celestia turns back to Luna in question, to which Luna points off in the opposite direction of the portal.

The black and white spirits stand there, side by side, watching her.

Celestia shakes her head, but turns to face them. “We’re leaving now,” she announces to them. “My student’s in danger—Luna’s as well.” She pauses, almost expecting some reaction from them, but of course receiving none. “You won’t keep me from this, will you?” she asks them.

Their stares bore into her. Then, after a few moments, the two of them turn and walk away, off into the empty distance of the sandstone plane.

Celestia lets out a sigh of relief and turns to Luna. “Let’s go.”

Luna nods dumbly and follows Celestia, still glancing over her shoulder at the two spirits walking side by side, off into the distance.

Celestia stops immediately in front of the portal. Tundra winds blast her muzzle.

Taking a deep breath, she steps forward.

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