Cold Hearted

She is the last. All her kin are gone. They'd either been blown apart by the Friendship spell so many ages ago or, in the case of her sister, changed their diet from hate to love. Cryoxia is the last of the windigos, but she is determined to be different, to never go back to those days ever again.
She'll make friendship from hate. She'll adopt an alicorn foal as her sister. She'll take physical form and learn how to move the celestial orbs with her mind. Celestial... has a nice ring to it. And she'll ally with the other nations in the world, establish friendship and preach harmony, no matter how they may diminish her food source. She'll make a world so wonderful that it will starve her to death.
Or die trying.

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1. Winter Sun

Celestia

 

Cryoxia whinnied and swirled through the air, floating in a wide circle above the mountain, her aura of cold turning the water vapor in her surroundings to snow, which drifted down to pile upon the rest her kind had conjured. Her long mane of liquid nitrogen billowed behind her and against her tail-body of microscopic ice particles.

With a delighted cry she plummeted, the chill wind brushing her face as she did. Just before she hit the ground she pulled up, the flowing spikes on the back of her hooves carving gashes in the heavy, heavy layer of snow and shattering the thin layer of ice on top. Cryoxia let her momentum carry her on, away from the mountain, over the snow-engorged plains, to another little town.

It wasn't much. Some earth pony village that had cleared out the snow into thick piles around it. Clearly, they were keeping up. They were coordinating. She couldn't have that, could she? First it would be cooperation, then it would be compassion, then it would be lovebetween them. Cryoxia couldn't eat that! She had to stop it, to drive them against one another. It wasn't anything personal, but a windigo had to eat.

But how? The ponies were wise to their existence, and while they perhaps didn't know precisely their role, they did know that when a windigo appeared, tensions flared, earning them the apt title of demon. It was okay. Cryoxia was clever. She'd circled and harvested hatred for three centuries, and in that time she'd learned a few tricks. How to imitate unicorn magic without a horn. How to coalesce, to turn ice and snow into flesh and blood, to walk among the foodsicles and -

"OOF!"

Someflurry collided into her back, their body flattening her mane to her back and forcing her down, down down into the snow. Cryoxia gave a little ethereal grunt when she hit the ground, but kicked off and turned the tables, twisting around her assailant until they were pressed to their bellies against the icy snow, screeching in protest. "Gotcha," she said.

"No fair! I had you!" her younger sister, Crystalis, complained.

She leaned down and gave her a headbutt. "Nope. Never even close, Crysty."

"I told you never to call me that!" she said, trying to flow out from between Cryoxia's hooves. In response, she pushed down harder and formed ice barriers around her sister to keep her in place.

She supposed she could have let Crystalis win just one bout, but what for? She'd win when she deserved to win. Cryoxia hadn't let her sister win one of their little scruffles ever since they were young wisps, and she wasn't about to start now. "So, what's the big idea tackling me just as I'm about to go get lunch?"

"I want them!" Crystalis complained. "You know I want to try feeding off love!"

She groaned and let Crystalis go. "Oh not this again! Crysty, you know that stuff melts us! You can't eat it, it'll kill you!" she said, genuinely worried. It wasn't that windigos couldn't feel the same spectrum of emotions that their prey could. They could. But there wasn't... there wasn't any magic behind it, no sustenance. And so Cryoxia had set her eyes on the village, but now her sister was pulling this again.

"I can do it!" she complained. "I'm sure of it! I know how to keep myself together. Trust me, Cryo!"

She rolled her glowing eyes. "Fine, fine!" she said, drifting a little further from Crystalis. "Whatever. I'm going to go visit the big to-do over by that cave." Without waiting for her sister to respond, Cryoxia flew off, leaving a trail of dense snow as she siphoned the heat from the air.

The cave, a few kilometers from the desperate town, had a great many of her kin floating around. She could feel it. She could feel the hatred flowing from within, the iced ponies filling the air with the sharp, brisk taste of the emotion. Cryoxia opened her mouth and ate it, feeling it flow through her body as a pall, her internal flurries growing stronger and her mane of liquid nitrogen flowing more languidly. Around her were hundreds, thousands of her fellow windigos. It was likely that every windigo was here, or damn near. Near the entrance of the cave were the Elders, working their demon magic upon the six ponies within.

Cryoxia nickered, and wailed joyfully as the hatred fed her. Such a meal! Such a feast! The space around her began to shimmer with cold as the temperature dropped, dropped, dropped, her icy aura turning the air around her to liquid which rained down, only to evaporate moments later. Crystalis could keep her fool's errand of feeding off love. This, this was the stuff. This was food, this was -

Suddenly it was gone, and then there was a blinding flash of red and pink and an orb of not-food-friendship-love-GETAWAYexploding outwards. Cryoxia screamed as it tore through the other windigos, their bodies gone like wind, and reached her -

 

***-_***_-***-_***_-***-_***_-***

 

Princess Celestia sat upright with a scream. Her breath caught in her throat and she raised a hoof to her chest, willing her heart to calm down. She felt something wet, and looked around to see that little wisps of ethereal blue fog were wafting off and back into her body, and that her luxurious bed was covered in a thin layer of ice crystals.

It wasn't the first time she had the dream, of what would've happened if she'd gone to the others, if she hadn't stayed in the town to oversee her little sister's fool attempts, gotten separated, and met a young, blue-coated alicorn...

She shook off her nightmare and pulled imitation-alicorn magic to her horn. Pulling herself off her bed, she vaporized the ice with a longing look, and then went about her morning ritual. Raise the sun, put on her royal garments, wash out her mouth, pull the ghostly energy back into herself, etcetera etcetera. With that done, she was ready to go to breakfast with her dear sister.

Opening the soundproofed door with the flick of a wing, she greeted the two guards - Blue Skies and Clear Skies - with a smile and a good morning, which they stiffly returned. Making her way towards the dining room, she passed several maids and other ponies in the employ of the crown with a warm smile. Yet she couldn't help but feel like she was forgetting something...

... ah! Her planner.

Opening a brief teleportation field back to her room, she pulled her schedule book to herself and opened it to the day's date, December Fifth. Breakfast with Lulu, then some paperwork, followed by Noon Court, and then some free time to slip out into the city and feed, followed by - ah! Celestia smiled. Her dear, dear Twilight was coming to share a new changeling-revealing spell with her. She cherished any time with Twilight she could get.

Trotting through the halls, she soon arrived at the dining room. Her guards took their positions outside it as Celestia went inside. Lulu was already there, a mug of hot cocoa resting in her hoof as she pecked away at her spaghetti dinner. Luna had, thoughtfully, already prepared a plate of pancakes and syrup for her, knowing that was always what she had for breakfast on Thursdays.

"Good morning, Luna," she greeted as she closed the door.

"Morning to thee as well, Tia!" she said, stubbornly adhering to the old ways of speech despite Celestia's best efforts. Her face softened. "Sorry we could not aid thee with thy nightmare, thou knows how difficult it is for us to change thine dreams."

"It's fine, Lulu. I'm used to it," she said as she took her place next to her little sister. "So, enough about me. How was your night?"

"Very long and taxing, Tia. The Midnight Court was especially busy with ponies complaining about the snowfall." She smirked deviously. "Thou wouldn't have happened to have had a hoof in the schedule, would thee?"

She busied herself with her pancakes, feeling the odd way they slid down her throat and rested in her stomach. Physical food, what stuff! So tasty but so... not filling. "I don't know what you're talking about, Lulu."

"Oh cease thy denials, sister! We know thy soft spot for snow remains to this day."

She shrugged and offered a sheepish smile. "Well, what can I say?" She ate another slice of pancake. "So, has Twilight spoken to you about her new spell?"

Luna shook her head. "Neigh, Tia. It remains as much a mystery to us as to thee. Thou shalt simply have to be patient, it seems."

About what she expected.

Luna and Celestia finished up their meals while sustaining their sisterly banter, and then it was time for Luna to retire for the day. Both of them stood up and leaned over to each other, sharing a warm nuzzle and hug. "Sweet dreams, Lulu." It always amazed her how warm ponies were.

"A good day to thee as well, Tia. We believe we shalt remain awake for a while yet, there art several novels we dearly wish to peruse." They pulled apart, and Luna lit up her horn. With a flash of teleportation she vanished, leaving Celestia alone. A brief flicker of magic organized their plates and cups to make the maids' job a little easier, and Celestia was away, back to her chambers.

The halls of Canterlot Castle were, in accordance with winter, cold and sharp, just the way she liked it. What would her little ponies think, realizing that Celestia Helio Invictus, Princess of the Day, Goddess of the Sun, much preferred winter over summer? Celestia gave a little chuckle. She knew a few ponies that'd throw a conniption at the very idea!

Meanwhile, her guards shared a nervous look they thought she didn't notice. It was usually an omen of things to come when Princess Celestia gave a laugh like that.

Celestia made the return journey to her chambers swiftly and entered. Her horn lit up with blue-disguised-as-gold magic as she summoned her paperwork to herself, as well as an inkwell and a quill pen that Luna had generously given her from her own wings. Then, laying down on a mattress given to her by a long-dead griffon emperor, Celestia set to work.

First was the proposal for more bits to the snow-plowing services. Cross-referencing the amount of snow scheduled, followed by some looks in the budget, Celestia approved it and sent it on its way. Next was a request by her adopted nephew - what was it with her and adopting ponies? - for funding to a trip to the Great Sea in order to map out some of the islands there. She approved it. Another paper. Denied. Another. Approved. Denied. Denied. Approved. On and on, until there was no more to do. The servants brought her lunch to her room, and while the expertly made salad and dressing was delicious, it just didn't feed her.

She was so hungry, and though she took care to hide the weakness of her steps and her disguise hid her lean form, Celestia couldn't stop the omnipresent emptiness inside of her, tempting her to find a pair of arguing ponies and entice them, tell each of them that they were right and the other wrong, to freeze their hearts and bodies and drain the emotion from them as their cups ran over -

No. She'd controlled herself for twenty five hundred years, this would not be the day she lost control. It was time for Noon Court; that would provide much needed distraction.

The trip to the throne room was, as usual, uneventful. She took her seat on the cold-enchanted throne and made herself comfortable, before looking over at her assistant, Raven, with a gentle smile that the pony returned eagerly. "We're ready to begin, Princess," she said.

"Excellent. Noon Court is in session!" she announced. The gates to the palace opened - letting in a wonderful little breeze and a glimpse at snow-covered Canterlot - and the trickle began.

After so many centuries doing the same thing day in, day out, it was easy for Celestia to fall into a pleasing rut and let her mind wander, while only a fraction of her attention was focused on the court itself. She trusted herself enough to know that even distracted, her decrees would be nothing short of fair and just. She wondered what spell Twilight had come up with now to reveal the changelings. They always seemed to adapt to them so fast, so that once one changeling was revealed and deported to the Badlands - or in extenuating circumstances, granted citizenship - that same spell would be worthless. Though if anypony could come up with a catch-all it would be brilliant, genius Twilight.

There was, of course, sometimes something interesting in court. Like the two business ponies disputing over who had cheated whom. Their names were hardly even noticed by Celestia - she made an effort to know as many ponies as she could, but even her memory had its limits - but their emotions were certainly detectable.

They hated one another. They wanted to destroy the other. Celestia breathed in deep through her nostrils to smell it; bitterness, anguish, betrayal. They had trusted each other and were hurt, they'd been friends once and now they were foes. It broke her heart to see something so precious broken, but on the other hoof she was just so hungry. Surely she could just encourage them a little. Surely, Cryoxia could feed a tad. Just a sip. Cryoxia was sure they'd never even notice the ever-so-slight tint of blue in their vision, that they'd pass off the chill in their bodies as a side effect of the weather. She wouldn't hurt anypony. Just a taste...

She spoke her verdict and emotions were eased, flared tempers went down. Much to her relief the two ponies left the throne room, leaving her to fight the urge to lean back and breathe heavily. She couldn't let her little ponies know anything was wrong. Besides, she could go feed soon.

The rest of Noon Court, mercifully, passed without further incident. Such bitter disputes were rare, thank heavens, but whenever they occurred they taxed her willpower so much. Finally, the last petitioner for the day came and went, a simple issue about how they'd apparently been overtaxed and the Crown owed them thirteen thousand bits. She checked the data and it was legitimate, so she ensured that the mare would get the money she deserved. "Please inform the ponies outside that Noon Court is closed for the day, and they may either attend Midnight Court or next Noon Court to see their requests aired."

With that, she stood from her throne and, with a flash, teleported back to her private room.

Celestia trotted out to the balcony and took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. It was time. Making sure that her sight-concealment wards were functional she let ghostly blue energy flicker across her form, engulfing it and consuming her disguise from the inside out, until she resembled little more than an icy cloud, the inspiration for Luna's own mist-transformation magic. She wove a cloak of invisibility around herself and soared out of Canterlot Castle, down into the city proper. It was beautiful, the first snow of winter having coated the city in beautiful, scintillating whiteness that piled on rooftops and the sides of streets, rolled into balls by foals and tossed at their peers. Celestia, with an internal cheer, dove straight through a snowbank and back out into the open, before opening her senses to emotion.

She could see the flickering emotions in Canterlot, red and orange and blue and green, searching for the most blue she could see, and then going after it. She coiled around lamp posts and zig-zagged between ponies' hooves. Eventually she found a dark alley and let herself reform there in a whirlwind of demon magic, taking on the form of a nameless, unimportant earth pony.

There wasn't any special nexus of hatred in the area, but she could still feel it in the background. Simmering beneath ponies' hearts. Everypony had something they hated, despised, even if just a tiny amount. Whether it be a person, an event, a failing of their own, from Discord to Celestia to Fluttershy. The crowd of ponies before her was no different.

Stepping out, Celestia applied a bit of demon magic to make sure her eyes wouldn't start glowing when she fed. She opened her mouth and started breathing in. Everypony around her harbored hatred over something. She just had to bring it out; a frigid wind blew outwards from Celestia, going through ponies' souls and causing them to - forcing them to - think about what they hated most. It didn't matter what it was to Celestia, so long as they did.

She began to breathe in the hatred, the spite, anguish, betrayal, fury, all those and more. They were biting, cold, almost like mint. Each breath of emotion brought the ambient temperature down a little more, causing ponies to tremble with the cold no matter how bundled up they were, which Celestia also did to stay in character. They'd chalk it up to the weather.

Every bit of hatred she drained flowed throughout her body, strengthened her, filled up the gaping void of hunger inside. But she was just so hungry. Cryoxia wanted to just take more and more and more until she was finally, for the first time in centuries, in millennia, full.

Stop! She cut herself off when the area was becoming dangerously cold. Ponies were outright shivering and breathing frantically onto their hooves. Celestia retreated to an alley and dematerialized in privacy, cursing herself. She could have hurt somepony; even feeding justenough to fuel her imitation alicorn magic and keep her alive, she nearly had. Recently it was getting harder and harder to feed, so she was always more and more hungry. That was a good thing; it meant that she was making the world a better place. But it also made it so much harder to control herself. She feared what would happen when things got worse. Feeding was already horrible enough, having to hurt her subjects like that, but if she ever lost control...

She mentally shook her head. No, no thinking about that. Celestia had spent enough time feeding, it was time to go meet up with Twilight about her revelation spell. There was some cause for concern about it, given the close relationship between the changelings and her own kind, but Celestia wasn't that worried. It was Twilight, she could trust the young mare.

Celestia flew back to the castle swiftly, reforming under the disguise of her alicorn body, and made to find Twilight. The purple alicorn's letter had said she'd come to the library, so it was to the library she went with a skip in her trot. She quickly checked the position of the sun in her mind: two nineteen? She was late! She hastened into a canter, drawing some odd looks. Before long Celestia found herself in a secluded corner of the library, ready to meet her faithful ex-student.

Twilight was already waiting for her in the little, circular alcove of the library. A whirlwind of notes describing magical formulae and pony-like bodies with far too many holes in its form. Celestia cleared her throat to grab Twilight's attention.

She looked her way and her ears perked up. "Celestia!" she put down the book and trotted to her, embracing her in a hug while Celestia put a forehoof around her. Immediately Twilight stiffened and pulled away. "Princess, you're freezing!" she exclaimed, looking up at her.

Oops. She wove it off. "Oh, I was just spending some time in the snow, Twilight. Rest assured, I'm fine," she said as warmly as she could.

Twilight returned to her notes with a little flutter in her wings. "Alright, so should I get right to it, or...?"

She motioned her to continue. "Please, Twilight. I'd like you to explain the theory behind it."

Twilight smiled, and entered Lecture Mode. "Well, the changelings keep getting used to our revelation spells remarkably fast. Leaving aside how all of them learn how to do so based on one cast of revelation on one changeling, I thought about how they would keep doing it, and realized we were doing it all wrong. Instead of disrupting their disguise, we need to strike at the very core of their power, which relies highly on emotions." Twilight lit up her horn.

Worry tugged at Celestia. Surely, Twilight couldn't mean...

"And due to the reliance on intercortex redistribution matrices, it affects everypony around the caster, not just a singular target, which is unlike past versions. Nothing that uses emotions to fuel itself can possibly resist this spell unless they change that, so unless a changeling stops being a changeling, this will always work." The alicorn's horn brightened, and Celestia gasped.

No! She didn't want Twilight to know, and if she had to know then Celestia wanted to tell her on her own terms. She shielded herself, warded herself in whatever way she could. "Twilight, wait!"

Flash!

Celestia pumped more faux alicorn magic into her wards, but it did nothing. The magic flowed through her shields and back into herself, nipping and biting at her and it flowed up her throat and into her mouth, love and warmth and beauty and spite mixing together into a terrible, corrosive mixture that spilled down her throat, up her nostrils and into her lungs, her stomach, through her eyes and into her brain, her magic, her body.

She retched and realized she'd been thrown back against the library shelves, collapsed to the ground as the magic continued to ravage her, whirling in a horrible spiral of purple and gold and blue and green down her dissolving horn, her ethereal-turning-liquid mane, letting lose the demonic cold that she kept hidden easily with how weak it was, through her veins and heart as her organs dissolved and vanished and her skin boiled off into a homogeneous body of microscopic snowflakes. Then it was over and Celestia, utterly drained, wheezed in her ghostly voice and her head dropped.

No, no, no, she repeated to herself like a mantra. She cracked open her eyes, casting everything with an ever so subtle teal light.

The look of horror and betrayal on Twilight's face was one she never wished to see again. The alicorn stared at her with shock, her jaw working up and down. She had to defuse the situation, fast.

Celestia pushed herself up on her trembling forelegs, her hunger more noticeable now than even before feeding. "Twilight," she whispered, her hooves chilling the ground with a thin layer of frost. "Twilight, Twilight it's me. Please, please stay calm," she said as she felt the rising panic and revulsion in Twilight.

"No," Twilight whimpered.

"It's me," she urged desperately. She called to her demon magic, tendrils of mist briefly flickering about her form but not succeeding in reconstructing her alicorn body. "I'm so sorry. I didn't want you to... please, I'm still Celestia." Twilight's eyes were darting back and forth frantically, the irises shrinking as her mane and tail frazzled. Her horn lit up and -

"Don't go, please."

- she was gone.

Moaning weakly, Celestia lowered her head to the ground. What was she going to do?

 
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