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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3. Part 3: Forests

Forests

 

 

 

 

 

Equestria from Dust, by soundslikeponies

 

 

Celestia touches down behind Luna. They stand on a ledge high up the side of the snow-capped peak, but still below the clouds. Arctic winds howl in their ears, and their breaths are visible in the night air.

“Everything has changed...” Luna says, looking out at the sprawling tundra, a large flat plain of frozen earth. “Except the barrens.”

“We agreed to keep that as a reminder of what was,” Celestia says.

“It seems like it has been so long since we started.” Luna’s shoulders droop, and though the motion is subtle, Celestia catches it.

Celestia walks to Luna’s side and spreads a wing over her back. “There was a time before this. We can still go back.”

Luna shakes her head, and gives Celestia a weak smile. “Creating has ruined me. I can’t imagine sitting around doing nothing anymore.” Luna chuckles. “I would go insane, and probably drive you insane along with me.”

“You already do such on a regular basis,” Celestia teases, earning a small nudge and pout from Luna.

Luna looks up at the sky, contemplating. “Do you feel like the night sky is missing something?”

Celestia glances up and then shakes her head. “No.”

“It is too dark and cold,” Luna continues, hardly missing a beat and walking out from under Celestia’s wing. “The moon is not bright enough.”

“You are thinking of making it brighter?” Celestia asks.

“Most definitely not,” Luna says, staring up at the sky, her eyes searching. “I like gazing at the moon. If I made it brighter, I would fear it becoming too bright to look at.” Her eyes widen and she turns to Celestia. “How did you create the sun?”

Celestia blinks. “I created a light, and simply nurtured it with magic until it grew bigger and bigger.”

Luna’s horn lights up. “One like this?”

“Yes...” Celestia looks at her oddly, wondering what she could be up to.

Luna turns back around, kneels, and her horn begins to glow brighter. The wind picks up around them, carried by the current of Luna’s magic. Light at the tip of Luna’s horn separates and becomes an orb, floating to rest in the air in front of her. Midnight magic streams from Luna’s horn into it, transforming into white light along the way and increasing the orb’s brightness. Luna cuts her magic, panting, and stares at the small orb of light she has created. It hums with magical energy.

“And after that?” Luna asks, glancing over her shoulder at Celestia.

“I put it in the sky,” Celestia answers.

Luna closes her eyes and concentrates once more. The orb floats up above their heads briefly, before shooting off into the sky, towards the arctic, and appearing as a sparkling dot of light on the night sky.

Luna frowns, staring at it. “Is there a way to simply make them up there like you did with the moon?”

Celestia chuckles, smiling and stepping forward. “I will show you.”

Celestia’s horn glows, and Luna glances between it and the sky, paying attention to the way Celestia manipulates her magic. The magic emanating from Celestia’s horn seemingly travels nowhere, but still, a second light blinks into existence in the sky, though it is dimmer than the one Luna made.

As Celestia’s magic dies down, she turns to Luna. “You have to forget about the distance and imagine you are there.”

Luna nods, biting her lip and looking up to the sky, her horn beginning to glow. Magic pools around the tip of her horn, far more than Celestia used, and the strain from doing so quickly become apparent. Luna’s breath begins to come in short bursts, her teeth clench, and sweat rolls down the side of her face.

Letting out a gasp, Luna cuts her magic. She stares at the ground, panting and shaking.

Celestia walks up to her, wrapping a wing around her and pulling her close. “You will learn how to manipulate magic like that someday.”

Luna raises her head, looking up at the sky with longing. “But I want to create more...”

“Then create something else for now.”

“I have no more ideas,” Luna says, casting her eyes back toward the ground.

Celestia rubs Luna’s side with her wing and stifles a laugh. “Now that, I simply do not believe.”

“It’s true!” Luna insists, backing out from under Celestia’s wing and facing her. “I created the shalestone, iron, and diamond, but they are all just different names for different rocks!” Luna shouts. She looks at the ground after her outburst, sighing.

Celestia’s smile fades. She walks up to Luna and nuzzles her. “More ideas will come with time,” she says, reassuringly. “They always do.”

Luna gives her a strained smile. “I hope you are right.”

“Come,” Celestia says, placing her wing back around Luna’s shoulders. “Let us find someplace warmer to rest.”

Luna chuckles, a small teasing smile forming on her lips. “You never liked the cold.”

“My coat is not as thick as yours,” Celestia replies.

Luna looks over the ledge and down the mountain, her smile becoming subdued. “I’m not tired.”

Celestia sighs, but does not prod Luna any longer, standing in silence with her near the top of the mountain, ignoring the cold. It begins to snow, small flakes fluttering down from clouds so close one could easily fly up and touch them. Luna lifts her hoof out to catch a falling flake.

“When this all began,” Luna says, staring at the snowflake. “You created the rain and the clouds. It was something new, something different. It was nothing like what you had made before.” The snow continues to trickle down slowly, clinging to their coats in the high altitude air. “You taught me how to create, but the soil, the gems, the sand, even snow, all I’ve ever done is change.” Luna lets her hoof down with a sigh.

“You created more variety from those things than I could have ever imagined,” Celestia says.

“But I have not yet created anything!” Looking at the snow falling around them, Luna’s lip curls up in distaste. “Even the snow is just another form of rain.”

“Do not be so quick to belittle what you have changed,” Celestia says, a bit of anger leaking into her voice at Luna’s tantrum. “You have a gift for detail, one I have always been envious of.”

“I don’t want it!” Luna cries, stamping the ground. “I want what you have!”

Celestia snaps. “Don’t act so petulant!”

Luna flinches, staring at Celestia. Celestia feels a pang of regret as tears begin to form in Luna’s eyes.

“Luna...” Celestia sighs, looking at her. “I am sorry—”

Luna’s wings snap open and she dives off the cliff.

Celestia stares at where Luna was for a moment. She walks to the cliff edge and looks down, seeing a black dot flying towards the barren coasts.

She does not give chase.

Slumping down on the cold rock, Celestia shivers and sets her head down on the stone to close her eyes, but the howling wind and a disturbed thought keep her up. She does not know whether Luna will come back.

The sun disappears, and the clouds clear to reveal a gibbous moon, stark and bright in the sky, and it makes her think of Luna. The night seems much longer than most, but eventually the sun peeks its way over the horizon, and the snow-capped mountains glow bright pink with its light.

Celestia wearily raises her head. Her body feels weak from the cold and lack of rest, and her legs feel like stone. She spreads her wings, but stands there for a moment, as though hoping Luna will show up if she waits.

But she does not.

Celestia takes to the air and flies down from the mountain, the snow disappearing behind her.

The air and ground whip past as she flies in the direction Luna disappeared, but she knows her chance of finding the other mare is slim.

Flying over the barrens, she keeps her eyes peeled for a dark blot on the ground or in the sky, but after circling the expansive wasteland twice, she gives up and heads beyond the barrens. The white sandstone flatland gives way to sun scorched earth, and she follows a river through it. The river merges into another, and then another. It becomes as wide as a lake, and then pours out into a lagoon which in turn pours out into the sea.

Celestia lands and comes to a halt at the shore of the lagoon, her eyes wide as she looks out into the water.

The water is deep green, almost no trace of blue is left in its color, and it is murky enough that she can’t even see the bottom of the shallows. She looked back up the river; it must have carried particles from the soil out to the ocean, creating the color of the lagoon before her.

“Luna! Look at what has—” Celestia begins, but the words die in her mouth as she turns around to see nopony there. Her shoulders slump and she lets out a small sigh, looking back at the lagoon.

With nothing else to do, she spreads her wings and takes off again to search.

She flies along the shore, the earth steadily growing darker beneath her. She flies for days, the lack of rest and constant flight making her weary and tired, but she can’t sleep, not under the moon.

The shore becomes steep cliff with jagged rocks at its bottom, which the waves crash ceaselessly against. Stopping on the soil a short ways inland from the shore, Celestia lies down.

The moon rises and sets hundreds of times. It rains. It hails. It snows. Mud taints Celestia’s coat, and it becomes a dull shade of white. The entire time she lies on the hill near the ocean, watching the sky and wondering what Luna is doing.

As the winter leaves and the weather becomes warm, Celestia finally stands back up. Searching on hoof or wing for Luna will take forever, so she decides instead to create a message. One that will draw her back.

Celestia closes her eyes and her horn begins to glow. The magic seems to breathe life back into her, and her coat becomes pure and untarnished again.

She imagines a single strand, and extends it into a blade. She thinks of the lagoon that she wished Luna could have seen, and colors the blade a rich green. She gives it roots to drink the rainwater and to hold it upright in the wind. Her magic emits a low hum as she pictures all of these things, and gives life to them.

Her eyes open, and she is standing in a field of what she decides to call grass.

As though afraid to crush it, she carefully takes a step on the newly created field. The grass bends under her hoof, and the ground feels soft, much softer than the soil had felt. An ocean breeze wanders past, and it makes the grass bend and wave in the wind. For the first time in months, Celestia feels a smile tug at her lips.

Her walk around the field picks up to a trot, and then throwing her inhibitions aside, her trot hastens to a gallop, running across the field with a carefree laugh.

She doesn’t run for long, and the feeling of tiredness comes back all at once. Folding her hooves under her and laying down, Celestia rests her head on the grass, smiling at the feel of it against her cheek.

It has to bring Luna back. She needs her to make it complete.

Celestia closes her eyes, feeling for the first time in a while that things would be alright. And the thought allows her to fall asleep.

 

 

 

Her eyes snap open.

Celestia rushes to her hooves, looking around wildly. A heavy mist the color of ash surrounds her, leaving only a small circle around her where it will not go. The ground beneath her hooves looks like the sandstone that once made up the world, but it is dark grey, same as the ash.

“Luna?” Celestia calls out. She has never heard her own voice sound so frightened.

She steps forward. The cloud of ash parts in front of her hooves, but rushes in to fill the gap behind her just as quick. She begins to walk forward, veritably blind amidst the miasma of ash.

“Luna!” She tries again.

“Celestia.”

Celestia’s head whips around at the sound of Luna’s voice. “Luna? Where are we?” she asks, walking to where she heard the voice come from. Luna’s face pokes out of the ash cloud in front of her, and the miasma of ash vanishes into thin air.

“Luna, what is this?” Celestia asks, giving the other pony a scrutinizing stare. “Why did you change the seaside cliffs back to barrens?”

Luna stands still as a statue.

“Luna?” Celestia asks, lifting a hoof to touch the other mare. “Are you al—”

The second her hoof touches Luna’s cheek, the Luna in front of her crumbles to ash. Celestia flinches and retracts her hoof, watching as the ash picks itself up off the ground and floats on an unnatural wind up into the sky.

“Luna!” Celestia shouts after it, as it disappears into the sunless murk that was once the sky so long ago. She feels her heart pound in her chest as she stares up at where the ash had vanished. “Where am I?!”

 

 

 

Celestia wakes with a gasp.

She looks around to see herself in the field of grass once more, the moon in the sky, and rain pouring down from clouds overhead. Her mane is damp and clings to her, and she is certain there is some of her own sweat mixed in with the rain.

“You finally woke.”

Celestia spun around at the voice, staring at Luna with wide, frightened eyes. “Luna, you’re here, and the ocean is here, and there is no dust.” Celestia stops herself, seeing the look Luna is giving her. She swallows the lump in her throat, and lets out a sigh, relaxing her shoulders. “You came back.”

Luna walks up to her, and reaches up a hoof to touch her cheek. Celestia flinches, almost expecting Luna’s hoof to turn to dust the second it touched her.

“You must have had a nightmare,” Luna says, walking closer to Celestia and embracing her.

Celestia shudders into her embrace, closing her eyes and resting her chin on Luna’s shoulder. “I must have,” she agrees. She still shakes from the memory of it. She pulls back out of the hug, facing Luna. “How long was I asleep?”

“Fifty nights,” Luna answers.

“Truly? That long?” Celestia asks, placing a hoof on Luna’s shoulder and staring into her eyes. “You are not trying to have fun at me, are you?”

“No, not at all!” Luna brushes Celestia’s hoof off her shoulder, and looks sternly at her. “I tried to wake you. You slept through rain, snow, and hail. Nothing could wake you.” Luna eyes her suspiciously. “Did you sleep at all since I left?”

Celestia avoids her gaze. “No.”

“I thought you would be waiting back atop the mountain. I tried to go back and look for you there, but you were gone.”

“I had gone looking for you over the barrens.”

Luna slaps a hoof over her forehead. “It was stupid of me to...” she trails off, searching for the right words. She hangs her head and sighs. “It was stupid of me. I just wanted some time alone.”

“All you need do is ask for it.”

“I know.”

They stand there in the field of grass for a moment, an easy silence passing between them.

Celestia looks at Luna with a warm smile. “I call it grass,” she says, gesturing the the green carpet beneath them.

“Oh... I see.”

Celestia sees a pang of jealousy in Luna’s eyes, and steps closer to her. “I can not think of what to do with it though,” she says, smiling gently at Luna. “Will you help me make it something more?”

Luna looks down at the ground, hesitant. She pushes at the grass with her hooves, staring at it thoughtfully. Stopping and looking down at it intently, a smile slowly spreads to her lips. “I may have had a few ideas while you slept.”

“Show me.”

Luna’s horn begins to glow, and her magic channels to a single point in the air in front of her, turning green in the process. Something solid, a seed, forms from her magic. She lowers it into the ground, burying it deep beneath the earth. The ground glows with dark green magic, and then a small winding stalk pokes out of the soil. Its growth enhanced by Luna’s magic, the stalk continues to grow its light green skin darkens and turns to a light shade of brown as it grows past their shoulder height, the stalk continuing to grow thicker and darker.

The stalk splits and branches into all different directions, and those splits split again, and again, and they grow wide and flat pieces of grass that hang from the branches on short stems.

The tree grows to three times their height by the time Luna cuts off her magic. Celestia approaches it slowly and lifts a hoof to touch its skin.

“It is rough.”

“It is a tree,” Luna replies, walking to stand next to Celestia under it.

Celestia stands there for a moment. Her eyes trace the leaves and branches, and the grain of the wood down to the base of the tree. The leaves rustle in the wind from the sea, but hold fast to their branches.

Closing her eyes and lowering her head, Celestia’s horn begins to bloom bright green. All around the field of grass, stalks begin to grow out of the ground, winding their way up out of the earth, and stretching high into the sky. The ground glows pale green with Celestia’s magic, and the clearing becomes surrounded by trees. Beside Celestia, Luna takes a step back and looks around.

The trees’ trunks grow thick, and their skin dark. Leaves sprout along their branches, and soon the two ponies can no longer see past the trees to the land surrounding.

Once the trees stand as tall as the one in the middle of the clearing, Celestia halts the flow of her magic and opens her eyes.

Luna walks out into the middle of the clearing in a trance, the light from the moon making her coat shimmer like polished ebony. She stops a dozen paces from the tree Celestia stands under and looks back at her. “I can see a world covered in forests,” she says, slipping into a grin.

“You have that look again,” Celestia says, a grin forming on her own lips as she joins Luna in the moonlit clearing. “What do you plan now?”

“Grass and trees, covering every inch of soil.”

“I like the thought.” Celestia lets out a laugh, and touches her forehead to Luna’s, her smile fading as she looks the other mare in the eye. “I missed you.”

“I am sorry,” Luna says, closing her eyes and letting out a long, drawn out sigh. “We are each talented in our own ways. I was immature.”

“I would give you the world if I could,” Celestia says, backing up slightly and looking at her. “You know that, right?”

“I feel it may have been that exact thing which spoiled me so.” Luna cocks her head to the side and smiles. “You do too much.”

Celestia walks forward and hugs her, resting her head on Luna’s shoulders, as Luna does the same. And while Luna is not looking, she allows a single tear to trickle down her face and bury itself in Luna’s coat. Wiping her eye and stepping back out of the hug, Celestia sends Luna a smile. “Let us go create the world’s forests.”

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