There was nothing quite like anxiety to get the heart going, Twilight knew. Striding up the familiar steps around Canterlot Castle, the alicorn did her best to keep breathing steadily. Something pounded in her head, though, and whatever it was, it had a friend with an iron grip on her chest.
Still, Celestia had agreed to the meeting, she’d cleared her schedule for her favorite student -- though after that business with Sunset Shimmer, Twilight wasn’t sure what that title meant, exactly -- and the magical land of Equestria was not being threatened by any ancient evils today.
At least, Twilight hoped it wasn’t. Ancient evils were sneaky like that.
The air in the palace halls felt warm and welcoming. The Royal Guard had members keeping an eye out up high, and they all nodded towards her in greeting and respect.
Twilight took another steadying breath. Mere days ago, she’d felled an ancient demon who had managed to escape the fiery clutches of Tartarus itself. She’d researched the matter afterwards, and as far as she could tell, escaping Tartarus meant jumping in a direction that couldn’t be pointed to. Or rather, falling upwards in a direction that couldn’t be pointed to. It was a relatively simple feat to open the doors and put a prisoner in, but the other way around was next to impossible for anyone who wasn’t a creature of chaos like Cerberus or Discord. Tirek shouldn’t have been able to escape, even with the guard dog distracted.
But escape he had, and that had left Twilight and her friends to clean up the mess.
Her train of thought stopped as she did, right in front of the door of Celestia’s throne room. One final, deep, steadying breath, and she went in.
The great white mare sat ready for Twilight, bright smile on her face as always. Two dark Royal Guards flanked the steps to her throne, as always. Twilight walked up and bowed in front of the Princess. “Hello, Princess Celestia.”
“Twilight, please, no need for that. After all, you are a Princess now, too. We are equals. You can just call me by my name now, especially after everything you’ve done.”
Twilight stood upright again. She hadn’t bowed since sprouting wings. Must have been the surroundings. “Sorry. Old habit, I guess.”
Celestia quirked an eyebrow ever so slightly. “Now, what did you wish to speak to me about, Twilight? You seem troubled.”
Twilight gulped. “I wanted to talk about my battle with Lord Tirek.”
“What about it?” Something shifted in Celestia’s voice. Twilight caught a hint of the same tone of urgency Celestia had spoken with regarding Discord, or the Crystal Empire.
She had to ask.
“Did you really give me all your magic to hide from him?”
There, she’d said it. A great weight fell off her back at last.
Celestia cleared her throat ever so gently. “I did what I thought was best, Twilight. I’ll admit I do not always make perfect decisions, but-”
“Not that,” Twilight interrupted. “I mean, did you really give me all your magic? You didn’t hold anything back? Anything at all?”
A sigh went through the room. “Guards, leave us, please.”
Without a word, the two stallions departed. Celestia stayed still as the grave until the sound of hoofsteps out the door couldn’t be heard anymore.
Celestia took a moment to gather her thoughts before speaking. “I take it you noticed a discrepancy between what you assumed was my power and what you felt was my power?”
Twilight nodded. “Yes, Your Highness. I did notice. Or rather, I noticed it afterwards, when I gave it back.”
A shudder went through Celestia’s body, settling all the way at her wingtips. “And what part of my power did you find lacking, then?”
Twilight steadied herself. She had to take a deep breath for this one.
The monarch let her head hang. “Oh.”
Twilight nervously bit her lip. “See, the funny thing is: I didn’t feel immortal. I was expecting something a little more substantial, something, I don’t know, different. Now, I know magic, I think I have some idea of what immortality is supposed to feel like, and I didn’t feel it. I felt more powerful, less vulnerable, sure, but I still felt mortal. I didn’t feel any different compared to my normal self, and when I gave it back, I didn’t notice anything like that passing on to you either. So that only leaves two options: either you didn’t pass on your immortality to me, or I was already immortal and I never knew it.”
Celestia rose up from her throne and led the way through the corridor. “Come, I have something to show you.”
Twilight cringed. “I hope I wasn’t out of line asking?”
Celestia turned and gave her a warm smile. “No, Twilight. As my equal, and fellow Princess, you have every reason to ask, and I promise you will not be punished. I just want to show you. Please, follow me.”
Twilight scampered behind her mentor to keep up with those big steps she took. As they walked through the palace, Twilight recognised their path as the one leading to the Canterlot Library, her former home, or rather, student home. She’d learned her trade as a librarian there, as well as most of her knowledge on magic. And it was where Spike had learned to fill in for the librarian when she was too busy. Spike had done a lot of learning in that field.
Celestia opened the doors and strode in. She didn’t even look back to close them once Twilight had entered. “First and foremost, I apologise for not telling you everything I should have when you needed me to. There have been times that I knew your future and knowingly withheld that information. I’ve been meaning to have this conversation with you for a very long time now, but I kept putting it off and you have had to suffer for it. For that, as one mere pony to another, I am sorry.”
“It’s okay, Your Highness. I understand.”
Celestia shook her head. “No, you do not, and that is my fault and my fault alone. However, we can discuss that another day, when there is nothing else weighing down on your heart.”
Twilight looked around. They’d entered the main hall of the library without her even noticing. Strange how the smell of books had become so familiar to her that it was the scent of home, of normalcy. It made her yearn back for her old library home, and angry at Tirek for his crime against literature. The view here was still nice, though, with those huge windowed walls.
“For now, let me just assure you that no, you are not immortal. You have not become immortal, you have never been immortal, and neither has Cadence. Myself and my sister are the only immortal alicorns in the world.”
Twilight felt the words hit her like a hammer. “Then… you didn’t give me your immortality when I fought Tirek?”
“You let me fight him when he was immortal and I wasn’t?”
Celestia shook her head. “He was already immortal, Twilight, it didn’t make much of a difference. And if I recall correctly, I told you to stay away from him. You chose to fight to protect your friends, not because of anything I asked of you.”
“But then… you became mortal because of Tirek? Even for a little while?” Twilight winced at the very thought. Celestia could have died if Twilight hadn’t restored her powers.
Celestia sighed. “No.”
“But that’s impossible. You said Tirek would come after alicorn magic, that he’d drain you of your powers and then become too strong for anything to defeat him.”
A solemn nod answered her. “Yes, I did. However, you seem to be mistaking Tirek’s powers for something else entirely: he never had the ability to steal magical prowess. He could steal the mass of power, yes, and in order to perform certain feats he needed a certain kind of magic to feed on, but he never stole anypony’s abilities. He could steal mass, but he could not copy the material the mass was made of.”
Twilight nodded. “Steal the substance, but not the essence, I get that, but there’s just one flaw in that logic: I was able to raise the sun with your powers. I had the substance of your magic, and its essence. And I gave that to Tirek willingly.”
The great alicorn chuckled. “Yes, you acquired my abilities, because you are the Element of Magic. You could wield my power properly when it was given, Tirek didn’t have anywhere near your skills, as I’m told he found out the hard way. I knew I could trust in your skills to take over my responsibilities, that’s why I gave you my power in the first place. Tirek could only do crude things with the magic he stole. Did you not find it odd that he never used any of Discord’s magic?”
“Well, that did cross my mind, but that’s not really what I was worried about, Pri- umm, Celestia.”
“Then what was?” Celestia tilted her head.
As much as she wanted to remind herself she was Celestia’s equal, it was still hard to accept it. “You gave me all your magic, yes?”
Celestia nodded. “All of it.”
“But I didn’t become immortal because of that? Even for a little while?”
“No, you did not.”
Twilight felt her throat tighten. “Then I have to ask, if giving someone your magic doesn’t mean they get your abilities… doesn’t that mean you still gave up your immortality? If Tirek didn’t get it, then doesn’t that mean you put it where he couldn’t find it?”
Celestia let her head hang. When she raised it back up, she smiled. “I think it’s high time you learned the truth about my ascension, Twilight. No, I never lost my immortality, neither did Luna. The source of our longevity is not innate.”
Twilight felt the blood drain from her face. “W-wait. What are you saying?”
Celestia turned to look out the window overlooking Canterlot Park. “Seeing as we are… equals now… I have to ask, in your long and extensive studies of magic, did you by any chance ever learn about the field of, ah, necromancy?”
“You’re undead?!” Twilight half-shouted.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, then.” The great white princess rolled her eyes ever so gracefully.
Twilight hadn’t realised how much she’d backed up after that. She moved closer to the mare again, if only because she couldn’t imagine Celestia being a threat to her. Then again, the option of Twilight getting her brains eaten was now very much possible. “Umm, well, I have to admit, that’s a bit of a shock.” She sniffed the air. “You’re very well-preserved for a mummy that old.”
Celestia quirked an eyebrow. “Excuse me? Who said anything about me being a mummy, of all things?”
Twilight shrugged. “Well, you said you were undead, and there aren’t all that many kinds of undead with eternal life. I just figured, you still smell nice, so obviously you’re perfumed and, since you are as, umm, tall and slender as you are, maybe not all of your organs are in the same place?”
The white alicorn chuckled. “No, Twilight, they are very much in place, and still working.” She patted her belly to illustrate.
“Sooo… you and Luna are wraiths, then?”
“Wraiths? Do I look like a wraith to you?”
“Not really, but that’s the point, isn’t it? I’ve seen Luna change shape, and she definitely looked like she was an astral creature at the time. It would explain the glowy things in your mane.” Twilight pointed up at those little star-shaped glittery things.
Celestia glared at her former student.
Twilight cringed. “You know, now that we’re being so frank with each other and all.”
“I suppose. But no, that is not because of any astral powers. Luna and I mastered transmutation on a very high level, she just uses it more often than I do.”
“So you’re not a nightgaunt either, then?”
Now Celestia was properly confounded. “What, pray tell, is a nightgaunt?”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “It’s like a shadow, only more evolved, and sharper. But if you’re not one of those either, then that only leaves one option.”
Once again, Celestia sighed. “I know this is hard for you to accept, Twilight, but believe me when I say it is not an easy thing to admit to, either.”
“You’re one of the living dead?” The purple mare took a careful step back, just in case.
“No, no, Twilight, that would be silly. I could never rule this land as a living dead. The very notion would be preposterous.” Celestia let out of her hearty chuckles that she reserved for the most private moments.
Twilight felt a load fall off her chest at that.
“The living dead are vampires. My kind is known as the walking dead, or trotting dead, but generally we prefer to be inclusive to all races.”
And there was that load again. “This is a joke, right? Like that time your pet phoenix got loose? You can’t possibly be a zombie.”
“I am, technically. Though I am considerably more powerful than the shambling undead that beset our city five hundred years ago.”
Twilight gave it some thought. “Wait a second, I think I see it now. You’re not a zombie; you’re a lich. You just couldn’t tell me because of your phylactery, right?”
“Well, it is an embarrassment, Twilight. I’ve ruled over this land for so long, the very thought that my life depends on a simple object remaining intact is… it’s demeaning.”
“But you are a lich, then? No tricks, no joke?”
Celestia mulled it over for a bit. “Oh, I wouldn’t know, to be perfectly honest. I suppose that all depends on your definition of the word. We really should agree on some terms here.”
Academic debate, that was something Twilight could wrap her head around. That would surely lead to some satisfactory answers with no unfortunate implications. She tried her best to remember the exact words from the few books she’d read on the topic.
Once she had all the pieces ready in her mind, she presented them. “A lich is an undead creature whose existence and lifeforce are bound to a book, called its phylactery. The phylactery imbues the lich with the ability to act as if it were alive, as well as a magical talent, the likes of which can only be acquired by linking one’s soul to the spells written in the book. They are, in effect, walking corpses with magical powers.”
A content smile settled on Celestia’s face again. “Right, then, that settles that. As you can clearly see, I am not a corpse. I eat and breathe and sleep, still.”
“But you still have a phylactery?”
“Then technically, I think you do still qualify as a lich, actually. There were some theoretical cases presented by the Council of Eurepona when they banned all forms of necromancy… wait a second, if you’re undead, aren’t you technically breaking the law?”
“Of course not, technically. Necromancy’s been legal for centuries, it was one of my first acts as ruler. Of course, I did put so many rules about it in place that most ponies just can’t be bothered to learn it. But no, I am not breaking any laws by prolonging my life.”
Twilight rubbed her head, which was now, once again, throbbing. “Wait, I’m confused.”
With a mere thought and a gesture from her horn, Celestia brought forth a hot cup of tea. Twilight took a careful sip, before looking up. “You knew what I was going to ask when I wanted to meet you. You knew we’d end up here.”
“I told you, Twilight: I’ve been meaning to have this conversation for some time now.”
Twilight sipped her tea some more. It was the same she’d drank before every important exam, the same herbal mix that always calmed her nerves. “Why?”
“Look outside.” Celestia nodded her head towards the window.
Outside, ponies were enjoying yet another bright and sunny day. Colts and fillies were playing together, Earth ponies flying kites while pegasi flew next to them, and right near the pond Twilight spotted Moondancer reading stories to the local kindergarten children again. It certainly brought back memories.
“I wanted to apologise, Twilight, but most of all I wanted to explain.”
Twilight looked up. For some reason, Celestia’s seemed older than usual. Not that she wasn’t old to begin with, it was just better hidden most of the time. She always looked so vibrant and alive, it was easy to forget she wasn’t anywhere near as young as she looked. It made her moment of weakness look horrible in comparison.
“My phylactery, as you accurately assessed, gives me certain powers, and immortality is one of them. Premonition is another, as you may know.”
“It depends on what book you use, but yes, I did catch that in the literature.”
Celestia closed her eyes to bask in the sunlight for a moment. “I have visions of the future sometimes, but in the end they do not allow me to actually change things. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I think or try, in the end I am but a pawn in the grand scheme of things, not a player.”
“That’s not true. Look at all the times you stopped disasters from happening, even before I was born.”
Celestia smiled. “That’s very kind of you, Twilight, but the truth is… the truth has always been that the only way I can ensure my little ponies can live out their lives is by doing nothing.”
“Now you’re just being silly, Princess Celestia. Raising the sun every morning is hardly nothing.”
“Perhaps. But it’s certainly less than going out right now, right this very second, and burning down a hive of parasprites in the Everfree Forest. It’s less than going out towards the mountains near Ponyville, finding those Diamond Dog miners, and sending them straight back to their homeland with a stern warning. It’s less than imprisoning Trixie Lulamoon for what she did to your town.”
Twilight caught her breath. She almost dropped her teacup then.
“Oh, yes, I know all about those. I could do so much more, Twilight. I could make life so much easier, for every single pony in Equestria. I could have told you the entire truth of what little I knew about your destiny, about my sister, even Discord and the Crystal Empire, right up to Tirek, and it would have saved everypony so much trouble. And I am sorry I did not.”
Twilight finished her tea, and thankfully that was enough to keep her calm. “Then why didn’t you?”
The mare’s wings drooped, and the waves in her mane dropped, before rising again. “Because it is my place to protect the lives of my little ponies, and that is what I vowed to do. Not to change them, not to dictate them, merely to protect. And if I were to ever forget that, I’d become the very thing I’m trying to protect them from. I want you to be free, Twilight, all of you. That includes being free from my tampering. That is why I wanted to apologise to you especially: I have tampered too much with your life, and I’ve taken away your freedom of choice once too often. But I only did so because of what I saw, and I cannot say for certain what would have happened if I hadn’t.”
“Apology accepted, Princess.”
Celestia’s wings drooped for the briefest moment, before standing proud again. “It’s not enough to be forgiven, Twilight. I wish to make amends, and that means relinquishing my power over you. That is why I wanted you to know my true nature, and Luna’s. We both decided that you should no longer be subject to our designs, but get a fair say in our plans, as an equal. And we both want you to have at least a modicum of power over us as compensation for the power we exerted over you. You now know how I remain immortal. What you do with that knowledge is beyond our power.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I have kept it a secret for many years. Now you are free to with it what you will.”
Twilight thought it over for a second. “I think I’d rather keep it a secret, then. I mean, I’m not angry with you, or Luna. Sure, things changed kind of radically.” She unfolded her wings and gestured towards them. “And I didn’t always get a say in it, but… I’m still happy. I’m glad I got to do all the things I’ve done, and I’ll keep doing whatever needs doing to keep Equestria safe. I don’t see how revealing your secret would help that at all.”
“Thank you, Twilight. Now that we have that out of the way, I suppose you’ll want to go looking for it?”
Twilight let her cup levitate towards a nearby table. “Look for what?”
“My phylactery, the source of my power, well, the part of it that’s not innate, at least. The thing that is keeping me alive this very instant? Go on and look, you know you want to.”
Twilight narrowed her eyes. “You keep your phylactery in a public place? In a library?”
“I keep my phylactery safe. And, let’s be honest, Twilight, if you had a phylactery of your own, where would you hide it?”
Twilight looked around. Books littered the walls, the racks, even a few in chests. The hall was big enough to host a Wonderbolts derby, a fact which Twilight then resolved to never bring up around her friends, particularly a certain rainbow-maned one. There was no telling how many books were there, even for someone who’d lived there for years. “Well, I suppose the best place to hide a book is in a place full of books. And it does make sense to keep it in the last place anyone would look.”
Celestia let out a private chuckle. “That it certainly is.”
“But there is one tiny problem: this is a library. All the books are organised by topic. All anypony really needs to do is figure out what powers you get from your phylactery and which ones are innate. Sooo…” Twilight scanned those familiar bookcases. “I got the power to move the sun from you, so that’s innate. That means it’s not a book about astronomy.”
“What makes you sure it’s a book in the first place? How do you know it’s not the kettle I used to make your tea, Princess Twilight?”
“Ah, very shrewd, Your Highness, but I know the rules. Liches can only bind their souls to books. The process that binds their essence is the same as a hypersigil: it needs to be a work of art that they can pour their energy and soul into, a work of art with a dimension in time, usually their life story. Paintings can’t evolve the same way the written word does, and any mundane object would require an inscription, and that’s pretty much always too small to hold anything substantial. Besides that, books can contain any number of spells before they’re bound to the lich’s soul. Other objects can’t hold that many, or anything that complicated.”
“It could still be that silver platter over there,” Celestia teased.
“No, no, it’s definitely a book. I read the oldest book on the topic, and it clearly stated that only a book preserves the knowledge and essence of magic. A book is the only thing that can keep that information intact, especially considering how your body hasn’t decayed at all. Even if you managed to do it with a normal object, your body would start to decay after a few decades, and you’d look like a skeleton. The same thing happens if the book itself decays. No, it has to be a book in pristine condition, even after several millennia. That means it’s one that’s been treated for preservation, a real classic. So, I’m guessing, since you did mention premonitions, something in the scrying section, perhaps?” Twilight flew over to the section. When she poked her head out from between the bookcases, she was met with a shaking head.
“No, too easy. Somepony would have found out if it was as obvious as that. Something in the realms of science, then? Some of the older science books still had spells in them.”
Celestia smirked. “Warmer.”
Twilight flew back and forth from case to case. “Let me think… Ahah! Is it a book about gravity?”
The smirk grew wider. “Warmer.”
“Science, but not gravity, then. A history book, maybe? Something about the oldest forms of magic? You intertwined your life story with the history of magic, that’s why you could wield the Elements of Harmony.”
Again, that smirk grew. “Warmer.”
Twilight hovered in front of the history section. “Okay, so it has to be one of these…”
“Twilight,” Celestia called out. “Come down and I’ll give you a clue.”
Twilight rushed down to a smiling princess.
Celestia chuckled. “I do not keep my phylactery in the library itself. I keep it above the library.”
“Oh, you mean it’s in the attic? Very clever, if a bit dangerous. What if there was a fire?” It was only now Twilight realised that the book keeping Celestia alive had, for a few years, at least, been in the same building as a baby dragon who breathed fire when he sneezed.
“Oh, that wouldn’t be a problem. It is high above the library.”
Twilight looked up. “Oh, so it’s hidden in the roof? That’s very safe.”
Another chuckle, and Celestia leaned in to whisper. “Twilight, you misunderstand. When I say ‘warmer’, I do not mean you are getting warmer. I mean you need to think of something warmer.”
“Your book is in the roof, and it’s made of metal plating, then? That’s the only way a book can get hot without destroying it.”
Celestia gestured towards the sky. “Think bigger, Twilight. And much, much, higher.”
In the end, it really was in the last place Twilight would ever look, or anypony else for that matter, if they valued their eyesight. It was right where everypony could see it, but not in a place where everypony would look.
Twilight felt the blood drain from her face. “T-that’s your phylactery? But that’s the-”
“Yes, it is.”
Something in the former unicorn’s mind had gotten jammed. By the time it was fixed, she still couldn’t think straight. “But the book said all phylacteries were books. That is most definitely not a book. How does that even work?”
“The great thing about being a part of history, Twilight, is that you get to write history. I laid claim to my phylactery a long time ago, and while the powers it bestowed upon me were not quite what I expected, they did give me the opportunity to develop the ones I needed. And if you must know the mechanics behind it, let’s just say that if ponies ever figure out how to look at the surface of the Sun, they’d see some very interesting patterns in the flames. They’d almost look alive, even vaguely resembling ponies from my past.”
Twilight rubbed her head as that bit of information sank in. “So… Princess Luna?”
“Exactly what you are thinking of right now, yes. She learned to scatter her power over the stars, as a reserve in case she’d need it, but her life story is engraved on the dark side of the moon. Well, more like a movie made of cracks, actually. It’s much more effective if the art can move.”
Twilight would have asked another question, but thought the better of it.
“And as for Luna’s banishment,” Celestia started.
“I don’t need to know,” Twilight interrupted. “That’s personal.”
“Please, Twilight. I have seen you as a child, and as an adult I’ve seen you in your weakest moments. We are equals now, so I cannot deny you knowing my weakest moment. Do you not want to know, or do you want to not know?”
Twilight nervously dragged a front hoof over the floor. “I think I do want to know, actually. I still don’t understand how that happened, or why.”
Celestia smiled sadly and shrugged. “It’s simple, really: my sister was better than I was. She still is, you know, in many respects. She was stronger, more understanding, and she took upon herself duties that I could never take over. Unlike me, she always knew how to guide her little ponies without disturbing their lives. And yet I was the more beloved of us. There were many demons haunting her mind, some of them literal, even. She went quite mad, but not just with anger. The sadness, and the loneliness, that’s what did it.”
“I saw the fight between you two, in a vision. The fight where you locked her away. She struck you down.”
Celestia nodded solemnly. “The part of our power that comes from our phylacteries depends partly on how they are aligned. She fought me on the day I was weakest. And, as you know, either one of us can move both the Moon and the Sun. She was going to start an eternal night, just to harm me.”
Twilight could see the guilt welling up in Celestia’s eyes. There was one tiny, rebellious tear trying to break out, but the monarch held it back, still. It didn’t need to escape to be seen.
“You did the right thing, Celestia. Everything worked out in the end. You don’t have to feel guilty anymore.”
“It’s not guilt that plagues me,Twilight; it is fear. You have to understand, I trapped my sister in her own phylactery. I imprisoned her in the one cage I knew she could not destroy unless…”
The implications finally dawned on Twilight. “Oh.”
Celestia let out a private gulp as the very memory of what happened seemed to drag her down. “For a thousand years, every night I would reach out to the Moon to raise it, and for a thousand years, every night there would always be that one moment of terror when I couldn’t quite find it. It was my fault that she went mad, and it was my fault that she was not helped when she could have been. I don’t know what I would have done if she’d ended her own life.”
“Why are you telling me this? Just so we’d be equals? Did you tell Cadence about this, too?”
Celestia nodded. “I did. And the reason why I am telling you this is so you would know that if ever you should find yourself questioning your place, or your worth, know that you can ask me. I took away too much of your freedom, so now your happiness is part of my responsibility. Please, if something ever starts haunting you, let me know. Do not let it lie and eat away at your heart, these things can drag down even an immortal pony. There’s been more than enough suffering because of my foolishness.”
Twilight could almost see the images of Sunset Shimmer and Nightmare Moon in Celestia’s eyes. Then she realised those were just the ones she knew of. Celestia was immortal, she had had a lot of days to make mistakes, and a lot of nights to dwell on them.
“It’s okay, I will. I’m not going anywhere, Princess Celestia. Things can get rough, but I’m still okay with how things are. If I’m ever not… I’ll try to remember.”
The Princess smiled.
Twilight smiled up at her former mentor. “And, you know, since we are equals and all… that goes both ways. If you ever need a pony to just talk to about things you can’t discuss with Luna, like, Luna, I’ll be right there. I know I don’t have the thousands of years of experience, but, you know, every little bit helps.”
“That it does. Thank you, Twilight.”
“Your Highness!” A dark grey pegasus Royal Guard rushed in. “Trouble in Ponyville! Some kind of giant slug is eating all the floats for the victory parade, and all the salt has disappeared!”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “Guess I’m needed.”
“We’ll catch up some other time, Twilight.” Celestia winked at her former student.
“I’ll send a letter when I can!”
With that, she was off, the pegasus guard leading the way. The library was quiet as the grave.
“A giant slug? Really? You’re getting stale with age, Discord.”
“And you’re getting soft in your old age, Celestia,” the dragonequus appeared next to her, sipping some tea.
“Hmm, I have to wonder, how is making a giant slug eat the floats for a parade something a reformed dragonequus would do?”
Said dragonequus shrugged nonchalantly. “I only let it eat the ugly ones.”
The princess grunted. “What is it you want?”
“Want? Moi? Honestly, Celestia, I should think that after the horrors I went through, it should be obvious: I wanted to talk to a friend.”
The white mare let out a dejected sigh. Discord floated up next to her. “Does it really bother you that much, Celestia? I could just make that slug disappear, you know.”
“You mean you could send it back where it came from, making it someone else’s problem.”
“Tomater, tomato, Tom ate you, whatever.”
“In all seriousness, Discord, why are you here?”
“Oh, can’t I be here out of all seriousness?”
Celestia shot him a glare. It was the one most immortals had learned to interpret as ‘That vault of mine had more than one set of magical artifacts in it. Care to see what I’ve got in there now?’
Discord grunted. “Fine, be that way. I was actually wondering if now was a good time to finally introduce me to that friend of yours. What was his name again?”
“Hmm? Oh, Zack, right. His grave is right outside Trottingham.”
“Ah, it’s a dead friend. I’ll bring some flowers, then.” With a gesture, he conjured up some poppies.
Celestia rolled her eyes. “He’s a vampire.”
“Flowers and sunblock.” He brandished a bottle in his free claw.
“Come now, what’s really bothering you, Celestia? You can’t just make a big speech to little Twilight over there about talking about your -- ugh -- feelings and then shut out one of the few immortals in this world who’s still on speaking terms with you.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just that I keep finding myself thinking, that’s all.”
“Thinking? Goodness, no wonder you’re upset. Only horses think, my dear: that’s why they have such long faces.” To illustrate, he pulled on his snout and deformed it to make him look like Big Macintosh with a goatee.
Celestia groaned. “Good one. Perhaps you should have used it last millennium, when it was still funny.”
“Psh, balderdash and gobbledygook. Are we going to see this vampire fellow or not?”
“Luna should be coming back from her covert mission any second now. We’ll leave together.”
Celestia looked up towards the sky.
“Oh, I see what the problem is now. You’re worried about your phylactery, aren’t you?”
“If you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you be?”
Something flashed next to her, and next thing Celestia knew her horseshoes had eyes and mouths.
“What do you mean ‘if’? I am in your shoes, and I must say, Celestia, you’re far overdue for a hooficure. I know a very good spa near Canterbury. Royal quality, I assure you.”
“I’m serious, Discord. How would you feel if someone found the source of your power? Wouldn’t you be stricken with fear, even if it’s not a phylactery?”
Another flash, and he was next to her again. Discord sighed. “I suppose I would. I am sorry, Celestia, I really shouldn’t be poking fun at you when my time on this world can be cut off so easily as well. Still, at least I know where I’d end up if I did. But you, with the threat of death hanging over you? I honestly don’t know how you do it. Having your life tied to the sun, not knowing when some silly gang of rebels tries to cut off the ties to your immortality.”
“You heard about that, did you?”
“I did, and I must say, I think you handled that very well. Why, I’d have been just livid to think any family would spend three generations casting the same forbidden spell every day for eighty years. All that effort just to destroy you, and you’re not even as fun as I was!”
Celestia nodded. “Indeed. Took me all day to undo it, too.”
“And that’s not even the worst of it. Not knowing if those sweet little ponies would still love you if they knew what you really looked like, I can imagine that’s stressful.”
“I beg your pardon? I do not need to hide my true appearance, Discord.”
Discord chortled. “If you say so.”
Celestia quirked an eyebrow. “Just that? No witty response, no magic to distract or annoy me? No debate?”
“Now why would I go and do a silly thing like debating with you, Celestia? We both know nothing good can come of it.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“Besides, everyone knows it’s pointless to beat a dead horse.”
Stop for a second before you comment. Yes, that means you. Listen up first, or read up.
-I do not consider the 'Journal of the Two Sisters' as canon. I don't see why I should, since nothing in the show references it. Heck, even Season 4 didn't really say what was in the damn thing.
-Edited the name of the vampire. Apparently the only show canon male alicorn is named Zack.
-Celestia wanting to treat Twilight as an equal just seemed like the best place to take this story, and them both being on first-name basis was the obvious place to start. I wanted a minimum of depth here. If I didn't add it, there'd be a lack of character, and it'd just be a gimmicky "Hurrdurrdeadhorse" fic. Which brings me to my final point:
Luna's not in this much because it's a matter between Celestia and Twilight. Mental illnesses and suicidal tendencies are a Big Deal, but they affect more than only the ones suffering from it. I'm not implying Luna or Twilight are suicidal, I'm implying Celestia would be worried about either by now. It's not a soapbox fic, it's not supposed to 'take a stand', it's written to provoke some thinking and entertain. Just wanted to make that clear. Blame you-know-what-fic for the overly cautious note.