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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4. Part 4: Life

Life

 

 

 

 

 

Equestria from Dust, by soundslikeponies

 

 

 

 

The dense jungle canopy makes the soil cool and dark. The trees tower a hundred times Celestia’s height, and no grass or brush manages to grow on the forest floor. Trunks shoot up from the ground and disappear into the sky—pillars to hold up the roof of leaves shading the jungle.

Below it all, Celestia walks along the ground, touching her hooves to the trees she passes, and checking on their health. The air feels hot and humid, and the air holds a slight haze. The forest is only a day’s flight from the sea, and it is watered by monsoons which give it its glory.

It is one of many forests created by Celestia and Luna, but it by far has the largest trees.

Luna flies up and lands beside Celestia, tucking her wings into her sides. “Have you flown high up?” she asks, staring at the forest ceiling. “We’ve made this land green as far as the eye can see. It’s so different from the arctics or the desert.”

“Good,” Celestia says. “That is the idea, is it not?”

“I’m just making idle comment.” Luna huffs and looks away. “You are harder and harder to talk to these days.”

“Sorry.”

Luna rolls her eyes. “You need not apologize for it.”

Celestia gives her a playful smirk. “Sorry.”

Luna lets out a low groan and shoots a half-hearted glare at her, but mirrors her smirk nonetheless. “We have been traveling far recently,” Luna says, glancing up at the treetops. “And this place is hot and muggy.”

“You do have trouble bearing heat,” Celestia comments, having no problem with the air herself.

Luna snorts and swishes her tail, walking to the base of a tree and leaning her side against it. “I blame it on this coat. Its dark color makes it hungry to trap the sun’s heat.”

“We’ll be someplace we can rest soon,” Celestia says, looking at the nearby trees and checking her bearings. “There is a cave nearby a waterfall just south of here.”

The sound of rushing water reaches Celestia’s ears, and a small river—almost a stream—lie up ahead. A cliff marked with moss and jagged edges cuts the stream in half, and water crashes and foams, pouring from the cliff into the waiting pool below. On the opposite side of the river, not far from the waterfall, the dark entrance to a cave lie with its bank covered with moss.

Celestia walks to the waters edge and leaps with a few accompanying wingbeats to see her over the river. She lands on the rock on the opposite side, and turns to look back at Luna on the opposite bank.

The darker mare mimics her actions over the river, and lands next to her.

“I must say, I was looking forward to sleeping on something more comfortable than rock,” Luna says, testing the ground beneath her hooves.

Celestia smiles and starts towards the cave. “You won’t have to worry about that.”

Luna follows her, curiously, and stares at the cave mouth. They step inside it, and for a while, it is pitch black, and they can’t see their own muzzles in front of their faces. The only way Celestia even knows that Luna is still with her, is the soft, almost inaudible sound of her hooves on the moss.

The darkness is cool, and the cave stone is chilled by the river that runs near it. Celestia strains her eyes to make out any light in the darkness.

“Any reason you have not cast a light spell?” Luna asks behind her.

“We won’t need one in a moment,” Celestia says, still peering into the dark.

She spots it, a faint blue glow coming from around a corner up ahead. The walls and moss floor of the cave become visible again, and Celestia and Luna round the corner to see a myriad of color.

The turn opens up to a great cavern, high enough that one could fly around in it. Crystals line the roof and emit a luminescent blue light, shining down on the moss below and turning it into a sea of turquoise. A pool of water, clear as air, lies in the center of the chamber, and the blue light dances off its surface.

“When did you make this?” Luna asks, looking around at the crystals on the walls.

“I didn’t make it, you did,” Celestia says as she walks towards the water. “You made this cave centuries ago, when you made all the other crystals and gemstones. The moss spread from the forest to the cave, and I only found it like this the other night.”

“It is like another plane hidden away from the rest of the world!” Luna exclaims, rushing up to Celestia’s side, and spinning around to look at all sides of the cavern. “I’d forgotten about the caves.”

“I always thought they were your most beautiful creation,” Celestia says, giggling at the way Luna’s eyes were lighting up with glee from looking at the cavern. “You have a way with color.”

“Maybe it is your mane which inspires me so,” Luna teases. She wades into the pool of water, and walks to its center. The blues dance off her coat, and the waves she creates in the water send ripples of light down her body.

Celestia lies down on the moss bed by the shore and lays her head down upon her hooves, watching Luna wade through the pool.

 

 

 

“Celestia!”

Celestia snaps her eyes open at hearing Luna’s voice cry out. Standing and looking out at the pool, she sees Luna struggling and sinking into the bed of moss beneath the water.

“Luna!” Celestia screams, charging into the water. She makes it only halfway, when Luna’s head is dragged underwater. “Luna!” she screams again, trudging through the water to see Luna’s wide and frightened eyes, only her head and hooves still sticking out of the moss. “Luna, hold on!” Celestia shouts, closing her eyes and focusing, calling upon her magic to pull Luna out.

But her magic is gone.

Celestia gasps, and panic courses through her veins. She reaches her hooves down to grab Luna’s. Kicking and flapping her wings, she feels her limbs scream in protest as she pulls as hard as she can to free Luna out.

Luna looks up at Celestia from underwater and smiles, making Celestia’s blood run cold.

“Don’t give up!” she shouts, but Luna simply smiles, even as the moss swallows her. Celestia grips onto her hooves still sticking out, but eventually, even they disappear into the ground.

Celestia sits, broken, in the water. She combs through the moss with her hooves, but all there is below the moss is stone.

A tear falls and splashes the water. And then another. Celestia shudders, and her vision waters as she holds her ears pressed against her head. She does not know how long she sits there, staring at the spot that swallowed Luna whole.

And then somepony wading through the water sounds from behind her.

Celestia freezes, her hairs stand on end, and a shiver travels along her spine. She stands and turns to face them, and what she sees causes her to falter.

Luna faces her, but her eyes are blank and her coat and mane are dull, ashen colors. She says nothing. Her face is a stoic mask that doesn’t even register Celestia’s presence. The water does not ripple from where she stands; her body is perfectly still.

“Luna?” Celestia asks, but she knows it is not her, only a ghost resembling her. “What happened, you were—” Celestia reaches a hoof out to touch Luna, but the hoof passes right through her as though she were air. She looks down at her hoof, then back up at the ash colored Luna. The apparition remains unmoving, uncaring of her presence.

Celestia looks down at the water. “I... I don’t understand.”

The ashen Luna tilts her head, in a curious manner that reminds Celestia of the real Luna. Then, she begins to step forward.

Celestia’s gut reaction is to step back, but the ghost keeps walking towards her, a haunting smile on its visage. Luna’s body begins to crumble into black sand that floats as though caught in a dust devil, but there is no wind.

The black sand sweeps around behind Celestia, and surrounds her, forming a bubble around her. It hisses with the sound of the sand rubbing against itself, grains grinding against one another, and the sound grows louder as the sand spins around her faster and faster. Celestia sits in the water and holds her hooves to her ears, trying to block out the sound.

The bubble bursts, and the sand dissipates. Celestia looks around to find herself staring at a flat, gray horizon. She slowly, almost fearfully, looks down at the ground.

White sandstone.

She pushes against it with her hooves, not believing it to be real, but it feels as solid as it did back then. The sandstone spans the horizon. There is only her, and every last bit of her is as white as the sandstone around her, and she has no wings.

“How...” Celestia sits and looks around for any sign of anything. “How am I back here?” Her voice breaks the absolute silence. Not even wind exists in this barren.

Celestia stands, and she begins to wander for a very long time.

She looks up at the sky, half expecting the moon or sun to show their faces at any time. But time does not exist here. Nothing moves, nothing changes, and nothing casts a shadow. The ground is hard, and leaves no hoofprints. The air is dry and has no taste.

After what feels like months of wandering, Celestia sees a dark figure in the distance. She pauses, and realizes that they are slowly walking toward her. A ray of hope shines through as the silhouette draws closer. It has the same figure and poise, and even the same walk as Luna.

Celestia breaks into a gallop towards her, wishing she could just fly up to her and hug her with all her strength, but as she draws closer, something seems wrong. Luna is not calling out to her, or rushing out to greet her. She simply walks towards her, at a subdued pace.

Celestia draws closer, and recognizes the figure not to be Luna, but the ghost that sent her back. She stops, but the apparition draws closer.

Celestia steels herself, and levels a glare at the approaching thing that wears Luna’s guise. “Where’s Luna?” she shouts across the wasteland at it. “Why did you bring me back here?”

The ghost makes no move to stop, and continues to walk towards her.

Celestia snorts, and kicks at the ground, lowering her horn to bare, but the ghost is unfazed by her show of aggression, and she wonders if it even knows she’s there. Breaking into a gallop, she charges the apparition with her horn lowered to its chest. She breathes deep, panting breaths, and her eyes focus on the ash colored Luna.

The copy of Luna continues walking forward at a slow pace, uncaring of her charge.

Celestia draws close, and she looks at the blank, dead eyes of the copy, and it gives her pause in her charge. The eyes seem to stare into her very being, and it sends a jolt of panic through her that makes her halt her charge.

The copy continues walking calmly towards her, uncaring of her halting.

Celestia can only stand there, petrified with fear as the ghost approaches her. It walks up to her, and presses its lips to hers.

Celestia’s blood runs cold, and the kiss feels like death. There is no love in it, no joy, no passion, just an emptiness that threatens to swallow her whole. She wants to desperately pull away, but she is rooted to the spot with terror.

Its lips still locked to hers, the apparition begins to dissolve into black sand. The sand travels into Celestia’s body, and she feels it spreading through her like a poison. She shudders, her lips still pressed against the apparition’s. They remain in a kiss of death until all of the sand is absorbed into her body. The ghost’s head disperses to sand last and goes inside her. And then, all is quiet.

She is alone in the sea of sandstone once more, and nothing moves, nothing stirs, aside from her.

Celestia lets out a gasp, finally able to breathe. She sits down and raises a hoof to her chest, trying to slow her racing heart. The sound of her heartbeat fills her ears, and she swallows, her tongue feeling dry and uncomfortable where it sits in her mouth.

Pain strikes her. It is sharp like a thousand crystals in her bloodstream, and it feels like she is being drowned in arctic water. She falls to the ground, her breath coming in short, raspy gasps, and the world begins to collapse around her.

Like shattered pieces of glass, the world crumbles around her, falling down and disappearing in a dark abyss below. The murky, gray sky leaves, and all that’s left is a black void and Celestia, lying on a floating isle.

The pain fades, and Celestia stands up. She looks around, searching for any sign of the world that once was, but all around her is an endless black that seems to stretch for an eternity in every direction.

Hesitantly, she steps towards the edge of the isle she’s stranded on and looks down, but the void seems to fall for an eternity, and the pieces of the land that fell have already disappeared.

Fear and desperation grip Celestia, and she looks up at the endless void. “Please, let me go back!” she shouts. She shudders as her eyes begin to water, and she looks down at the ground, her tears dripping onto it. “Please...”

An orb of light falls down from the void, and Celestia’s head snaps up to look at it. It floats gently down and stops just in front of her. The orb’s light grows brighter, and its intensity forces Celestia to clench her eyes shut.

 

 

 

“Celestia!”

Celestia’s eyes shoot open, and she finds herself back at the moss and crystal cavern, Luna standing over her and giving her a worried look.

Luna smiles and giggles at her. “You drifted off! I still wanted to ask you how you made the crystals glow like this!”

Celestia rubs her eyes, to make sure what she’s seeing is real, and looks up at Luna. “How long was I asleep?”

“Only for a moment. You fell asleep when I was about to ask you a question.”

“Only for a moment?”

Luna looks at her, her brow furrowing in concern. “Is everything alright?”

Celestia shakes her head. “Yes, I’m fine,” she says, letting out a sigh and standing.

Luna’s looks unconvinced and her eyes soften as she lies beside Celestia. “If you are tired, you should rest. It is, after all, what we came here for.”

“I am tired, but I don’t believe rest is what I need,” Celestia answers. She avoids looking at Luna. The sight of her brings back haunting shadows from the dream. She looks at Luna and she can’t help but see her ashen counterpart, whose kiss sucked all the warmth out of the world.

Luna turns away, looking around at the cavern, her eyes searching. “So what is it we do now?” she asks, walking to the edge of the pool, her expression uncertain. “The world seems full of forest, so what now do we make?”

Celestia lets out a sigh and rests her muzzle on the moss bed, its tendrils tickling her nose. “Why do you always hunger for more? When will it be enough?”

“It’s not that I am unhappy, it’s just...” Luna trails off, opening and closing her mouth a few times as she fails to find the right words. She suddenly stops and turns to look at the, her eyes taking a more somber tone. “It doesn’t feel complete,” she murmurs, looking at her reflection on the water’s surface.

Celestia furrows her brow in thought, looking up at the crystalline ceiling. “I don’t know what to make of this world. What are we to work towards?”

Luna turns towards her and looks at the ground in thought. “I-I’ve never really thought much about what we work towards.”

“I haven’t either,” Celestia mumbles, causing Luna to raise her head and look at her with surprise.

“Does it matter though?” Luna asks, tilting her head at Celestia. “The things we create, can’t we just create them because we want to?” She pauses, looking at the pool, and then gesturing to the ceiling. “I like that you created this because the moss is soft, I like that you created this because the glow from the cavern ceiling sparkles and looks beautiful, and I like that you created water because it is cool and refreshing.” Luna turns back to Celestia and raises an eyebrow, giving her a small smile. “Do I need more reason than that?”

“No,” Celestia says, a small smile making its way to her lips. “I suppose not.” Celestia sighs, shaking her head with a small chuckle. “We don’t have to keep going at the rate we have been. We could take a century or two long reprieve from this.”

Luna smiles, but shakes her head. “No. Maybe later I will take you up on that idea, but at this time I still wish to keep going.”

“Very well.” Celestia stands and closes her eyes, taking a deep breath of the cave air in through her nostrils. She walks forward, eyes closed, to the waters edge next to Luna.

Luna fixes her with a confused look, cocking her head to the side and raising an eyebrow at her, but Celestia ignores it. She dips her head down to the water, her horn floating just off its surface and beginning to glow. The light coming from her horn hums with energy, and despite not touching the water, it begins to send small ripples along the surface.

Celestia focuses on the power in her horn, and shapes it into heat and light and raw energy that makes the air feel alive with magic. It glows, not unlike the sun, but in a softer, more intimate manner.

Beside her, Luna takes a step back, both to give her room, and to create some small distance between her and the power Celestia is emitting. The entire cave is illuminated by the light, and the fainter light of the crystals is overwhelmed and smothered by the radiant light coming from Celestia’s horn, and it paints the water into a white sheet as the surface continues to ripple.

Something in the way the magic is moving changes. The heavy, oppressive feel of it saturating the air retracts back into Celestia, and the magic moves from the tip of her horn and spreads back to her, giving her entire body an aura of white magic, but it is thin, and controlled.

Celestia’s eyes snap open, and they are pupilless and glow with her magic. Luna takes a step back before she can stop herself, watching Celestia’s mastery over magic with a bit of awe. In a trance-like state, Celestia walks out into the center of the pool in calm, confident strides. Water parts away from her like it is afraid, and the hum of her magic bounces around the cave, coming from every direction.

A small orb of solid light the size of a pea appears floating over the water. Celestia wraps her magic around it, adding layers to the orb and slowly making it grow, until it’s the size of her head.

The magic dies down, and the solid white orb—the egg—floats down to the surface of the water, and lies there.

Luna is the first to take any sort of action. She walks out into the water to stand next to Celestia, and stares at the egg intently. They stand there for a while, but nothing happens. Giving a sigh of defeat, Luna turns to Celestia.

“What exactly is it?” she asks, gesturing to the egg.

Celestia opens her mouth to speak, but a loud crack coming from the egg interrupts her. As the egg wiggles back and forth, a crack spreads around the top of the egg to form an imperfect ring. Luna leans in close to it, poking her muzzle just before it.

The top of the egg splits open, and Luna pulls back, blinking at the thing whose head is poking out of the top of the egg. Its skin looks hard, like it’s made of thin, flat pieces of stone to protect the creature. Flaring its nostrils, the creature opens a pair of yellow-green eyes with slit pupils.

“It’s a dragon,” Celestia says, walking up to the egg and leaning down to look at her creation. The dragon pokes its head out of the shell a little further, revealing a pair of featherless wings just below its shoulders that already look grown enough for flight.

Scampering to get out of its shell, the dragon tips it over, and scurries out the hole in the top of it. As the egg shell begins to take on water, the dragons wings snap open and it takes to the air, its wings barely able to keep it flying over the water.

It flies up to the ceiling of the cave, clings to a crystal there, and begins gnawing on the tip of it with barely formed teeth.

“It eats crystals?” Luna asks, giving Celestia an incredulous look.

Celestia nods, looking up at the dragon and smiling. “And gems as well.”

“So...” Luna trails off, looking at Celestia with uncertainty. “You wish to fill the world with these... dragons?”

Celestia shakes her head, and turns to look at Luna. “I wish to fill the world with life.”

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