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Has That Always Been There? · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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San Palomino
The rays of slowly setting sun sinking towards the sea caused nearby mountains to cast long shadows over cooling desert sands. At the base of one mountain lay a town, nestled between mountains, desert, and a bay jutting inland from the nearby Sapphire Ocean. As shadows spread, a series of indigo mage-flame lanterns flared to life all over the town, thinning the darkness and leaving the inhabitants with a calm evening radiance with which to wander and carouse.

Within the town, the streets bustled with activity. Ponies travelled to saloons, bars, stage-shows and even the one in-town cinema, though most headed towards the great library that was carved deep into the mountain. The library contained copies of every book known to ponykind, and it was the rare pony indeed who found themselves on the waiting list for a desired book.

While most wore little to nothing, one mare had on cape and cowl to cover her features, at least until she passed the great doors into the library. Where other ponies streamed towards the enchanted tomes that would help them find whatever they might desire, the cowled pony turned left into a reading alcove. There was a shelf there with a dozen tomes, and she carefully removed the third, ninth, and eighth, then put them back in the same order, and finally gave the chair a soft kick.

The nearby wall swung silently inwards, and mare passed into the waiting passage as wall shut behind her. She made her way up winding stairs and into the private quarters of the Librarian. Books were strewn in piles to the ceiling, and floating orbs of uncovered mage-flame wisped about the room in an endless dance of light and shadow.

“Hello, Twilight,” said mare as she lowered her cowl to allow horn and flowing mane free. “It is good to see you again, as it were.” Celestia strode forward and stretched her wings, then settled them against her side. “Now where are you hiding tonight?”

“Boo,” came voice behind Celestia’s ear, startling the mare, but only for a moment before melodious laughter and a gentle flick of hoof touched her ear. “Right behind you, it would seem. Hello, Princess.” Twilight’s voice carried the warmth of long affection as she walked round Celestia, standing eye to eye with her. “I’m glad you could come. I don’t get to see you nearly often enough.”

“So you say with each visit, Twilight,” Celestia said softly. “But I have responsibilities back home, and I…”

“Do not feel comfortable visiting for more than a few hours at a time. I know. I know. It’s okay, Princess.” Twilight’s mouth turned upwards even as Celestia’s curled into a small frown.

“If I had a bit for every time I’d asked you to stop calling me Princess-” Celestia began, only for Twilight to interject.

“You’d have eighteen thousand, seven hundred and forty-three bits, Princess,” Twilight grinned. “I may have kept count.”

Celestia snorted, but her lips quirked just the same. “Apparently so,” she agreed. “But then, there is only so much time. If you wish to spend it all teasing me…”

“Oh, no, no, no! I had thought we could go out on the town tonight. I mean, if you will. Assuming you want to stay here, anyway?”

“Yes, please,” Celestia said. “Your town is a comfort, Twilight. It reflects you well, with so many scholars and researchers choosing to make their home here.”

“There was a petition, recently,” Twilight laughed, “To dub me the Princess of Books. Again. That one never goes away, not forever anyhow. Somepony always seems to think they are being clever when they read a reference to the first time, and try to bring it back.”

“Ah, well...ponies will be ponies,” Celestia said softly. “And, oh, your friends? Anything new and notable?” She broke into a short trot, heading towards double balcony doors now that lay on the far side of the piles of endless books. “Shall we glide back down?”

Twilight shook her head in wry amusement. “All that trouble to sneak in every time and as soon as you get here…”

“Ponies don’t bother me when I’m with you,” Celestia said simply. “When I am seen alone I tend to get swarmed. Together, well, there is always the curious one or two, but-”

“They understand our time is important. Of course, you could simply teleport directly here. You’re always welcome.”

“Let an old mare have her games, Twilight. There’s little enough for me to play at as is.” Celestia nudged open the balcony doors and walked out, then hopped onto the balustrade, perching there and turning head to await Twilight.

“There could be,” Twilight said softly. Celestia’s posture tensed in moments, and Twilight’s ears folded backwards. “I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “My mouth runs ahead of my sensibility, sometimes.”

Celestia said nothing as she fanned her wings and gave them a quick flap, then let the swirling air play over her feathers. “I know how you feel,” she said quietly. “How you both feel. Please don’t make this an issue again.” She leapt off the edge, and Twilight followed.

The crisp air had hints of sea-salt in it as thermals buoyed them upwards, the cooling desert radiating away its daytime heat. The two alicorns flew in a spiral for a time, then wings spread and they began to glide downwards, towards the waiting town below.

When ground approached, Twilight took the lead, guiding them towards a quiet alleyway dotted by closely packed two-story buildings. All windows save one were dim for now, and it was at the adjacent door Twilight raised her hoof and knocked twice. A small cover cracked open to reveal a pair of eyes, and then door followed.

“Princess Twilight! Come in! Oh! Who is this?” The mare beckoning them in was a pudgy earth pony of soft moss-green coat and autumnleaf mane, her cutie mark a loaf of bread with wisps of steam wafting from the top.

“This is Celestia,” Twilight said gently. “You know, the other-other-other-other Princess. Good evening Fresh Loaf.”

“Welcome, Celestia!” chirped Fresh Loaf, “Oh, I didn’t realize you were coming or I’d have pulled out all the stops! Twilight, why didn’t you tell me you were bringing a Princess?”

“I asked her not to,” Celestia said as she ducked through the door and into a comfortably large two-floor dining room. Her eyes roamed up the winding stairs. “An interesting choice in interior. Where do you live?”

“Oh, well, I’m from Neighples originally, and I always want to keep a touch of home with me. And the third floor, of course! Sit down! What would you like and when? The usual for you, Twilight?”

“Yes, please,” came the reply. “Celestia, I would recommend any of her pasta dishes. Those are Fresh Loaf’s specialty.” Twilight winked. “Her mark may be in bread, but she’s branched out recently.”

“Well, you know,” Fresh Loaf replied, “There’s only so many ways I can make bread. I wanted to try something new.”

“Lasagna, then, if you would,” Celestia asked. “It’s been some time since I’ve had anything from around there.”

“Of course! Just ring the bell whenever you are ready and your food will be right out!” The hostess scurried away, leaving just the two Princesses to catch up and gossip. Small talk for a time, and at mutual agreement, Twilight lightly jingled the bell.

Their food was at the table within half a minute, and after her first bite Celestia slumped backwards and smiled. “Oh, delicious. I haven’t had anything tasting like that in a long time!” She paused. “Thank you, Miss Loaf. Would you perchance have a little extra sauce? It felt just a touch dry for my tastes.”

Fresh Loaf smiled and dipped her head. “Try now,” she prompted, and Celestia bit in once again. Her next bite was more vigorous, and then she tore into the food, the sort of guzzling that would put Twilight’s long-ago hayburger binges to shame.

Twilight put her own utensil down and frowned a little. “Have you been eating alright, Princess?” she asked carefully.

Celestia paused mid-bite to swallow and lick red pasta sauce off her cheek. “Of course,” she said. “There just hasn’t been as much menu variety. Gala Sweet is the current cook and while I do love her desserts I sometimes wish she had a wider entree variety, but…” A small sigh. “There will be a new chef eventually. Perhaps he or she will experiment, again.”

Twilight opened her mouth to say something.

“Hi!” chirped a bright new voice from hip-level. “Who are you? Are you a friend of Miss Twilight? I haven’t seen you before! What’s your name?” The speaker was a small emerald-coated filly with white mane and a nubby horn. “Oh! I’m Little Gem! Momma’s food is really good, isn’t it?”

Celestia took the chatter in stride, and gave the child a smile. “Hello, dear. My name is Celestia. Your mother’s food is good.” A small pause. “Did you say your mother? When are you from, dear?”

“Well, here!” Gem said brightly. “I’ve always been in San Palomino! Well, except for vacation. And school, I guess, but I like it here! Princess Twilight is really nice and I love my friends too!”

“She’s a…” Celestia prompted Twilight.

“Native Eternal, yes,” Twilight said. “Always has been. Gem, dear, why don’t you go tell your Mommy we’re ready for dessert? Maybe Celestia will talk more later, but she’s had a long day and is a bit tired.”

“Okay!” came bright reply as hooves scampered off into the kitchen.

“I’m sorry about that,” Twilight said. “Most ponies here are too caught up in their studies to want children, but there’s a few, and well, now that we can, it’s nice to have children about again.”

Celestia pushed her chair back abruptly and gave Twilight a strained smile. “I think I need to get going,” she said. “I said I would do the Sunrise Ceremony today and that will require some preparation. I’d rather not keep the Seraphs waiting.”

Twilight’s ears drooped. “If you need to go,” she said softly. “I understand. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize Gem was home and -”

“It’s okay, Twilight. Give my regards to your friends. I’ll see you next time.”

“What about-” Twilight began, but the seat across from her was already empty.

Once more, sun fell towards setting amidst the desert, mountains, and bay that framed the town of San Palomino. Once more, cowled Princess joined the throng headed to the library only to duck in secret passage and make her way into Twilight’s sanctum.

Once more, Twilight could not resist playing a little prank, this time dropping from the ceiling to startle Celestia, although both were giggling at the end of it.

“Another season gone, then,” Twilight observed.

“The harvest was bountiful enough,” Celestia smiled. “We will have plenty for the winter back home.”

Twilight shook her head. “It never ceases to be strange every year you tell me that,” she replied.

“It would not have been, once.”

“No…” Twilight said, and dipped her head. “No, it would not have. But all things change, Princess.”

“Not all things. Some things change far less than they used to.” Once more, Celestia moved her way towards balcony. “What are the plans for tonight, then?”

“I had thought we could go see a film,” Twilight smiled. “Have you ever seen a Three Dimensional film, Celestia? They are absolutely breathtaking.”

“I have not. What is it called?”

“Space Star Six. Rarity and Rainbow Dash helped produce it. And star in it. As Rainbow puts it, ‘She adds the class, I add the Awesome!’. They’ve spent some thirty years perfecting it.”

“‘Space Star Six’?” Celestia’s ears pricked forward and her feathers lightly flicked. “Then there are five before it?”

“Oh, no. Well. Not yet! There may be at some point, but they wanted to start in the middle of the story. It’s about this grand galactic conflict - Discord helped in inventing some of the stranger things that are present in the film. I’ve heard it’s quite good!”

“Still, it seems very...futuristic.”

“Well, it’s from somewhen else,” Twilight said.

“Oh,” Celestia began, and turned head away to look out the window. Her tail twitched in mild agitation. “I suppose we can try.”

“Princess,” Twilight said, and stepped close, draped a wing over her. “You’re visiting, yes? There’s no harm in seeing something new. We’re still staying here in San Palomino. It will be just us. It’s not out yet, so we’ll have a private theater.”

“‘Private’,” Celestia repeated. “Yes. I suppose it would be easy enough to arrange for that here. ‘As many screens as anypony can want’, no?”

Twilight stroked her wing down the Princess’s back, let feathertips touch just enough for comfort. “Exactly,” she agreed. Together they stood in silence and watched the distant ocean which glimmered in reflected solar radiance, turning the water into an evening jewel. “Have you talked with Luna recently?” she queried, breaking temporary silence.

Celestia tensed immediately, and only the sudden tug of Twilight’s wing kept her own from flaring out aggressively. “Our last conversation was simply a repeat of hundreds before it, Twilight. Luna will not change. She does not understand. Doesn’t want to understand. And I have better things to do than let my little sister try to tell me how little regard she feels for my views on the matter.”

Twilight lowered her head and her nostrils flared with escaping breath. One hoof held to chest, slowly extended to point towards the sea. “Don’t you miss her?”

The first denial died unsaid on Celestia’s lips, and instead she stared out towards falling sun. Then she strode forwards onto balcony and hopped up onto it. “I believe we have a movie to get to, Twilight. Luna has her own path she has chosen, and refuses to deviate. Until then, how much I miss her matters little. Why should I have to come in here to visit her? She can come out whenever she wishes.” With that she launched herself off and towards the theater waiting below, and Twilight spiralled down in her wake.

“I never would have expected Rainbow Dash to play the imprisoned princess,” Celestia said as they emerged afterwards. “Though I suppose she was ‘awesome’, as it were. Not at all, how did she always complain? ‘Frou-frou’?”

Twilight nodded. “Dash has grown a bunch. They all have. I wish you’d come visit more often, Princess. I’m sure they’d all love to see you.”

Celestia frowned at her. “Twilight,” she chided, “What has gotten into you? I’ve said my piece on this matter. This place? It is not my home. Equestria is my home.”

“Equestria is here too, Princess,” Twilight said softly. “Any way you like it, any where or when you like it, it can be here.” The two lifted into the air and came to rest shortly thereafter on roof of the theater to gaze out to sea, and sun frozen just above the horizon. Absently, Twilight flicked her hoof forwards, and a scintillating rainbow spread across the horizon in wake of her motion. “You see?”

“That is what I am afraid of,” Celestia said softly. “Till next time, Twilight.” The last rays of setting sun were lost within the waves, and as the moon crested the opposite horizon, Twilight stood alone atop the theater.

Celestia rose from the cushion she lay upon. She arched her back, fanned her wings to full extension, and twisted neck side to side to enjoy the pleasant ache of sleep-addled muscles stretching to wakefulness. She gazed side to side, taking in the relatively simple quarters she slept in. A sleeping mat stuffed with straw, an old, well-worn pillow, a heavy blanket still thick with ancient enchantments to keep it preserved. That, at least, she was loathe to part with. It had been a faithful companion through long eons, and if she had her way, would be with her for ages still.

The walls of her room were hewn red stone, rock decorated with a few scrolls, some old paintings, and a photograph or two. Each of these, too, bore the faint glimmer of enchantment to keep them safe, and her eyes fell upon an old portrait of herself and her sister in happier days. She lingered upon it till a tugging in her horn called her out to the balcony of her shielded mountain-home. Far below lay the fields where were the sun up she knew she would pick out a few distant figures already at work.

She shut her eyes to fix that pressing issue, and far away felt the sun answer her call. An old, gentle caress, but she bid sun wait patiently, for the moon still needed tending. A second call, and this was more mournful, melancholy, for the moon longed for her mistress, and though she no longer ached as involuntary prison, the separation still ached at her. Or perhaps it is just me projecting, Celestia thought to herself. Moon sank and sun rose and so she ushered in the dawn.

Day’s first duty done, she turned and headed out of her quarters. Her hooves echoed throughout the stone halls, and soon enough she encountered her first pony of the day. “Good morning, Acolyte Redfern,” she greeted gently.

“And to you, Celestia,” he replied in a grave tone, though he bent a knee and splayed tufted ears in respect.

“Oh, you used my name for once!” she teased, and graced him with a smile. “It’s much better than ‘She-Who-Brings-The-Dawn’ or ‘Our Lady Light’ is it not?”

Redfern tutted softly as he rose, and his wing membranes twitched at the tease. “That remains to be seen. But you have asked it of me, and I shall endeavor to obey...Celestia. May I have your leave to part? The night’s vigil is finished, and though you are the best possible reason to be up in the daylight, I need rest to stand vigil again tonight.”

“Then do not let me stop you, Redfern!” Celestia stepped aside to allow him to pass easily in the somewhat narrow hall. “Is the Abbess awake yet?”

“She is,” he said. “And is waiting for you within the Reflection Room.”

“Thank you, young Seraph,” she said, and dipped her head in a bow.

Redfern frowned. “I have not yet earned that title, Radiant One,” he said, falling back into more formal posture as he did. “I am not worthy to be called such.”

“I see few ponies who take to their studies with such gusto as you, Redfern. Twilight Sparkle was one, of course. Well, is one, I suppose.” A pensive frown. “Apologies. I have much on my mind.”

“A visit to the Eternal?” he asked unbidden, then his ears laid backwards. “Apologies. Forgive me, Radiant One. It is not my place to pry into your business.”

“There is naught to forgive, Redfern. Please, rise. You are correct.” She shook her head. “I...had hoped...but no matter. They are all well, of course.”

Redfern smiled at her. “I would hope so. Though the herd may not be as large as it once was, still there remain enough to watch, and shield, and stand vigilant so long as the Radiant One stands with us.”

Once more, Celestia smiled. “I have no plans to go anywhere, Redfern. This is my home. Our home. Be well, and give the cooks my regards.” She paused briefly. “Actually…” she said, and turned her head. “If you would be willing, ask Gala Sweet about possibly changing the menu up at dinner tonight. Perhaps she could try something new with the potato harvest? We have plenty to spare, and I would love to see her experiment.”

“I shall convey your request, Radiant One. But…” Redfern kicked a hoof against the stone. “Gala Sweet always seems to be quite set to her routine, given it is-”

“The optimal diet to promote health, strength, and longevity,” Celestia repeated, adding a nasal rasp to her voice as she did. “I daresay we would get a bit more of all three if ponies had something new to look forward to, mm? Perhaps I shall plant the idea in the Abbess’s head as well. But I have kept you long enough. Good day, Redfern.”

“Good day, Radiant One,” Redfern said. He moved past Celestia, but then stopped and watched as she made her way down the corridor. After a few seconds he observed the wilt of her ears, a small droop to her wings, a slowing of the flowing of mane and tail, and a frown spread across his face as he set off once more.

The Reflection Room was a place of quiet contemplation, set several floors up, and it was one of the few rooms within the monastery to show signs of luxury. A great window was set into the stone, many-colored glass panels mounted within, so that when the sun rose the room was cast into an array of endlessly shifting colors. The opposite wall was one of the few painted surfaces, kept a fresh white to provide a canvas for the sun to play. Upon the floor, comfortable, well-tended pillows sat strewn about the room.

At this hour, nearly every pony was either still abed or already engaged in the day’s labors, so only one pillow was occupied when the Princess slipped the door open, then guided it closed as quietly as possible. Celestia took a few steps forward, till she sat herself upon one of the largest pillows and faced the one sitting there.

She then dipped her head, and spoke. “Good morning, Abbess Lightfeather. Is there anything new to report? Any ponies in need of aid?”

Lightfeather was an older pegasus, whose days of all but gliding were behind her, but her eyes still sparkled with youthful fire as she shook her head. “The night was quiet, but I suspect you know that already from young Redfern. Unless I’m mistaken he was headed your way.”

“I did encounter him, yes.”

“As for the second question, I can think of one pony, Celestia. But in all the time I have known her I have found her quite stubborn. She is a very generous pony to all but herself. Wise and kind, but it seems incapable of admitting when she is in pain.”

“Oh? Well, perhaps I can speak to her, then. There is nothing wrong with taking time for oneself when needed, and if one spends too much time giving, eventually there is nothing left to give.”

Lightfeather shifted on her pillow, turning eyes to the colors washing across the far wall. “It is good advice,” she agreed. “I am not so certain the mare will be wise enough to listen, however.”

“Where is she?” Celestia prompted. “I can go to her myself.”

“You visited the Eternal last night, did you not?” Lightfeather asked abruptly. “How was your time there?” Her wrinkled features creased into a smile. “You are not so secretive as you may wish, Celestia. Don’t look so shocked. The Longest Day. The Longest Night. And the twin days of balance. You are like the seasons themselves in that regard. Those who keep eyes open and ears attentive…but I digress. Whom did you visit?”

“Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia said. “We watched a film. It is like a -”

“I know what a film is, you silly old nag,” Lightfeather laughed aloud. “Oh, come now, I was a young mare once, and I was curious about the Eternal Dream. There are very few of us who don’t peek at least once, and I?” She chortled. “I was quite taken with it when I was an acolyte. A place where anything you desire can be made real with but a thought? Wondrous. But when the time came to choose…” She raised her head up, met Celestia’s gaze. “I would be loyal to the one loyal to us.”

“I do not ask that of you,” Celestia whispered. “I ask that of none of you.”

“And that is why you are worthy. Perhaps, at the end of things, I will find I am not ready for the longest sleep, and instead choose to dream. Perhaps. But I do not think so, highness.” Lightfeather rose to her hooves and strode to the window to look outside. “I do not believe I could dream forever. Eventually every Dreamer must wake, and if we are lucky, we shall all run with the Eternal Herd.”

“And if not?” Celestia prompted softly.

“Then what matters it if it comes in eighty years or eighty thousand, Radiant One?” she replied. “If there is an end that is a true end, then it awaits us all, and once we enter the final sleep, there are no more dreams to remember, no matter how many have come before.” Lightfeather sat there and watched distant sun continue its slow climb. “Still,” she said, “If I am honest with myself, the Dream is tempting. But so few of those I have known have chosen it, and I cannot help but feel to Dream would be to betray the vows we make to honor your choice.”

Celestia bowed her head and stared at her hooves. “It is no betrayal,” she said softly. “It is a choice I would support. For all of you, if you chose to take it.”

“There are fewer of us than there once were,” Lightfeather replied. “And fewer still in the years yet to come, I wager. Young Redfern is one of only a half-dozen Nottlynga we are aware of. Perhaps there is some distant colony, but I think it far more likely that they have all followed their lady Moon. The Dream calls to them more strongly than others.” She fluffed her wings. “It is we stubborn pegasi who hold out most, it seems. Who would have thought, ages ago, that pegasi would have to take up farming? But we have, and in tandem with our earthbound cousins, we grow enough for our needs.” Her voice fell to a soft near-whisper. “Loyalty’s blood remains strong amongst the Seraphs.”

Celestia finally rose and walked only to sit beside Lightfeather and join her in gazing outwards, towards what remnant of Ponykind toiled in fields below or within the Monastery itself.

“Celestia?” Lightfeather asked. “Did you mean it, earlier? That advice for the errant mare?”

“I did,” she said, and turned to smile at her. “Would you like me to go to her now?”

“There is no need,” Lightfeather said. “You’ve already told her. You had some quite insightful advice for yourself.”

Celestia turned head away again, and slowly her limbs drooped till she was lying upon the floor. “I wouldn’t know where to begin,” she said.

“What do you want most?” Lightfeather asked. “Or more appropriately, who do you want most?”

Celestia stayed silent.

“I suspect she wants you too. But if she is half as stubborn as you, you old mule, you two will be sitting apart until the sun goes out, and then it will be too late. Why wait?”

“Because…” she began. “She won’t let go. Every meeting, a fight. Neither of us will ever convince the other she is right.”

“So what?” Lightfeather raised a slightly trembling wing, but boxed Celestia on the neck with it anyways. “Is winning the argument worth the price?” With that, Lightfeather rose to her hooves and began to hobble her way towards the exit. “No, no,” she said, waving Celestia off when alicorn rose to aid her. “These old bones aren’t that old yet. I just need some time to get my blood moving, that’s all. Take your own advice, Celestia. Visit the Eternal more often if you like. Live there for a time, if that’s what you need. You are one of the chosen of Harmony. You may awaken whenever you wish. She’s there, if you are willing to go to her.”

With that, Lightfeather slowly pushed open the door and exited, leaving Celestia to sit alone. After a time, she turned and watched the colors dance across the far wall. After a longer time, when she was far from the only occupant of the room, she rose and left.

No natural light reached this deep within the mountain. The rough hewn stone of the monastery had long given way to more precise horncut stone, till she stopped before an ancient metal doorway. A panel glowed beneath the touch of her hoof, and with a soft hiss of chilled air, the door slid open, and Celestia walked inside.

A light azure light rose from the crystal lanterns hanging at regular intervals within. She moved forward along a ceramic-tiled walkway, stepping around the perimeter of a vast cavern a dozen lengths high and hundreds of hoofsteps in length and width. Soon, she came to a stairwell and descended to the floor below, lanterns ahead of her coming to life as those behind fell into darkness when they were no longer needed. Ahead of her she could feel the swell of vast amounts of magic, an endless pulsing heartbeat of power that hummed beyond hearing and yet set her horn to sympathetic thrumming.

She passed between row after row of great, ceiling-high shelves, each shelf containing thousands upon thousands of small cubbies, and within each cubby sat a dimly glowing crystal, each its own subtle hue, adding a dancing kaleidoscope of flickering color upon every shelf. Deeper and deeper she went, till she reached the far wall, and stopped before another doorway set amidst the metal sheeting covering the walls. Once more she pressed a panel, and waited. This time when doors opened, Celestia stepped onto a waiting platform, and stared at a panel with a dozen buttons. She tapped three in succession, then sat down to wait as platform hummed to life and she felt herself start to descend. Minutes passed as the elevator took her ever-deeper within the mountain, till it slowed to a stop, and the doors opened as the pleasant voice of Twilight Sparkle announced brightly, “San Palomino Repository, level five hundred.”

Down here the air was even chillier, but the crystal lamps still flared to life at her approach. The ceiling here was far shorter, the racks containing far fewer crystals, the design more haphazard as Celestia wove her way towards the center. Here, there were actual doors, and though most she passed without a glance, she stopped before one, and after hesitating, pressed hoof to panel to coax it to glide open.

This room held no crystal lanterns, yet when she entered three balls of purple mage-flame sprang into being, illuminating the room, empty save for a tube in the center. The tube was filled with a lightly glowing fluid, and suspended within lay the thin form of Twilight Sparkle, her eyes shut, naked save for a torc in which was mounted a glowing crystal, one that pulsed in tandem with the countless others cradled safely therein.

Celestia smiled. Her hoof reached up to touch the glass, lingered there for a time, and then dropped away. Twilight would not be waking today, or anytime soon. Sometime in the next century, Celestia hoped, she would visit, if only to inspect the facility and ensure everything remained in order. “Dream well, Twilight,” she whispered, then turned to leave the room.

There were other doors she passed without stopping. Cadance. Flurry. Discord, though last she heard he instead slept upon a pedestal in what was once the gardens of Canterlot. He was never one to resist a wisecrack, even if only she would get the joke. All dear friends, as were so many others, but not whom she had come to see. That was the final door. The heart of the San Palomino Repository.

The mare who made it all possible. Who formed the heart of the Eternal Dream.


Her hoof trembled as it rose, yet...it fell short of touching the panel to open the door. Celestia drooped, as her breath came ragged in her chest, yet still she turned away and took a step forwards. One became two, and two became three. Three did not become four, for a noise behind her stopped her in place. Her ear strained and she turned her head, yet saw naught but the door behind her, and after a few seconds of staring, she turned and walked forward again.

Once more a noise, but this she dismissed as an echo of her own hooves, or a mere trick of perception.

The quiet cough, however, was no illusion. “Leaving...so...soon?” came rasping voice in its wake, each word slow, forced reedy through lungs straining from ages of disuse, and Celestia froze in place.

Her disbelieving head turned around and body followed suit as she stood flummoxed at sight before her.

“Don’t be...so...quick...to compliment…” There was the wheeze of lungs struggling to pull in fresh air. “My...beauty...Celestia.” Luna stood there, trembling on emaciated legs. Her skin was drawn tightly against her thin frame, and her whole body glowed in her own hornlight, magic necessary to supplement muscles far too atrophied from her long, long sleep to stand under their own power.

“What…” Celestia began, then swallowed. “What are you doing...awake? You...never wake. Ever.”

“Your...young...Redfern...cares quite...deeply...for you.” Luna’s next breath was a little stronger now. Her voice still shook from disuse, but words flowed more freely as Celestia’s own horn lit to lend aid to her struggling sister. “Good that he has...not taken his vows yet...yes?” Her left eye trembled as it fought to close, but eventually stopped halfway and Luna soon abandoned the wink. “Abbess Lightfeather, on the other hoof...my, my, I never expected the High Seraph to visit the Eternal Dream. Rather...naughty of her.”

Celestia’s hooves began to move, slowly. The ground was but air as she closed the gap between herself and Luna, and then bent and quietly touched her horn to her sister’s own. “I missed you,” she whispered. “So, so much. I am sorry. For…”

Luna touched a cracked hoof to Celestia’s lips, holding it for a second before burning fatigue forced her to lower the limb. “None of that...now, Tia. Apologies can come...once I...recover some strength.” Little sister smiled. “It has...been a long, long time...since I have seen your sun. I would...love to see...the sunrise once more.” Her stomach abruptly growled. “And...food. I have not eaten real food in…however long it...has been.”

“It’s a little late for sunrise, Luna,” Celestia said with a soft smile. “It’s afternoon. But...sunset is but a few hours off. I could show you my home while we wait. Fetch us a meal. I suspect you’ll be needing broth, for a while. And...perhaps, if you feel up to it...I do not know if I have the strength to raise the moon today. Would you try in my stead?”

Luna smiled once again, and Celestia crouched on her belly to allow her little sister to clamber onto her back.

Within San Palomino, countless generations of ponies continued to frolic within the Eternal Dream, but for at least one more day, the waking Equestria would welcome both sisters, as they were meant to be.

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#1 · 1
· · >>Morning Sun
My, oh my...

First of all, hats of to the author for painting the scenery of a high sci-fi alternate future without a single bit of exposition dump. It's really satisfying to be able to infer what has transpired between the setting of the show and the future you're presenting by paying attention to the small details.

You can clearly sense the motivations of the characters, their feelings, their thoughts, even the side characters feel alive and not just props thrown around to liven up a set. This is a sign of great skill, author.

That being said, for all the strengths the story has, I believe they're all brought down by a weak ending.

Early on we get the feeling things are not well between Celestia and Luna, and the conversation with Lightfeather lets us know just how bad they really are. So we have this underlying rift between the two sisters regarding San Palomino. They have very different views on the matter and have gotten into heated arguments before. So, to where does this all lead?

A reunion between the two sisters after Luna wakes up from keeping the Eternal Dream running.

It's not that such an ending wasn't expected (or welcomed) but it feels so... anticlimactic. We've been slowly teased by how the issue of San Palomino has caused so many discrepancies between the two sisters to the point of causing Celestia so much distress, but once they finally get together, everything is brushed aside for the purpose of a happy, if fleeting, ending.

I want to love this story, because it's doing some things extremely well, but the ending left me wanting something more.
#2 ·
· · >>Morning Sun
Well, someone watches Black Mirror.
#3 · 1
· · >>Posh >>Morning Sun
This is going to be long and harsh. The short version: I think you're a great writer, but you need to think things out more than this and share more with the audience.

You have some great word porn here and beautiful character interactions, but the story is fatally flawed in several ways right now. This story consists mainly of a slowly-developing premise. It was a premise I grokked fairly early, which isn't necessarily a problem. The problems are that you never go beyond that premise, we're provided with a very incomplete picture, and there isn't a resolution.

Let's talk about the historical arguments between Celestia and the other ponies. Those arguments are the most important element in the story because they define the entire conflict upon which the narrative and characterizations are based. Yet we never get to see or hear any of the rationale! There are tiny little hints about reproduction and religion, but the audience gets no details about any of this. We never see any foals in the monastery, we never learn details about the religion, and most salient, we never learn what Celestia herself believes.

You can't get away with leaving the foundation of the story to the reader's imagination. The worst part of this is that the tension between Celestia and Twilight, which is most of what you're describing, is about concepts that are never elucidated. It feels like watching a soap opera in another language. Not developing the foundation of a story is a cheap way to get around the difficult process of structuring the background details and history in order to make sense of everything. Nothing in the story suggests the author has determined any of the princesses' rationale behind their decisions.

Part of the trap you've fallen into is overdoing something writers like you and I enjoy: providing a steady trickle of information so the reader figures things out piece by piece. This is a good way to provide suspense and intrigue. You're quite good at this, but you do it way too much, and it shows. I noticed this right at the beginning of the story, when you kept Celestia's identity a secret until the fifth paragraph. There's no reason for that. Celestia isn't visiting a place we wouldn't expect her to be (from the audience's perspective). She's in a library. Having her disguised is fine, but hiding her identity from the reader is not. You're withholding basic information from your audience in order to create a false atmosphere of suspense. This is only one example, and it's not the best one, but I did pick up on it immediately and that pattern continued.

At the end of the story, there's not a real payoff, mainly because we never learned the unspoken motivations of the two characters so there was no way to develop it at the end. But even without that issue, there's no attempted resolution provided between those two characters. The story ends on a cliffhanger, and the audience has no idea what happens next, or why this interaction even matters. The only payoff we get is some information about two OC side characters. I didn't sense the suggested 'romance' between the OC side character and the main character. If that information is intended to be part of the payoff, you need to develop those characters more than you did.

Also, you didn't develop the science enough to make it seem consistent. I wasn't clear on whether all of the ponies/characters needed vats, or if it was only Twilight and Luna in vats because they were powering the device. Clearly, mortal ponies have to ditch the body, so they're not in a vat, but the hints provided are insufficient to determine that conclusively. Consequently, it doesn't make much sense that a mortal pony could go for a brief visit. How would they accomplish that? Probably 'visitor vats' or something, but there's a lot here lacking clarity.

I have a hard time imagining Discord in a vat. That doesn't make any sense to me. He shouldn't need one.

You kind of implied that Luna was needed to keep the device running at all, but then she stepped out of the vat... which means what, exactly?

Equestria has more than ponies in it, and all life requires the Sun in order to survive. There's no indication of whether other sapient races, like yaks and gryphons and dragons have joined Twilight, and certainly dragons aren't there based on the description of the location. Even if Equestria only has animals left in it, Celestia would have a clear moral imperative to keep raising the Sun. I can't see anypony at all arguing against that. These are things that need to be thought out.

You seem to be implying that the conflict is what ended up causing Equestria to fall apart, but based on what I just wrote, it seems unlikely that this even started unless Equestria was already post-apocalyptic. If that's the case, there are no indications about what happened.

The need for maintenance seems to require outside materials (Luna needs a lot of help to function when she exits the vat), so the idea that Celestia shouldn't be where she makes even less sense.

This could be a great story, but you need to mentally develop the characters, their motivations, and most of the details of what happened that you intend to hint at, before you start writing. Then you can be as coy as you like about leading to the reveal, because what you're revealing isn't incomplete.
#4 · 1
· · >>Morning Sun
This is quite a ride; quiet and lulling but never ever a drag. Well done. That being said, my list of unanswered questions is pretty long:
What drove Luna to this?
What caused her to wake?
What drove the mane six (Twilight in particular) to side with her over Celestia?
Why can they suddenly have children in the eternal dream?
A quick visual of what remains of the lands of Equestria would be nice too.
#5 · 2
· · >>Morning Sun
As much as it pains me to agree with >>Trick_Question, not because I dislike her or anything but because she didn't invite me to her 10th birthday party and I can't quite forgive her for that... I have to agree with >>Trick_Question. The lore of this story would make for compelling reading, and what little is fed to the reader is tantalizing enough to keep me involved in the story, but I still had to infer a lot more than I'm comfortable with based on context clues.

A compellingly told story that never left me bored or confused, but one where the ambiguity of the situation and the suddenness of the (poorly explained and somewhat self-contradictory) ending left me feeling a little lost. 8/10.

I'm going to keep doing this until I am forcibly ejected from the Writeoff
#6 · 1
· · >>Posh >>Trick_Question >>CoffeeMinion >>Morning Sun
The mystique of this story lust its lustre as soon as this being a San Junipero crossover became clear. The drip-fed exposition and elaborate descriptions then became less intriguing and more exhausting.

I feel similarly about this as I do So Be Prepared to Precede Me. Only this time, twice as many words were spent describing science heaven.
#7 · 3
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
>>Feris Petition to make "science heaven" an official write off genre
#8 · 2
· · >>CoffeeMinion >>Morning Sun >>Morning Sun
If the premise here is heavily based upon another story, that weakens it significantly.

Author, I don't think you should have done a homage with the name of the story. You should have personalized this to the point that the other story is mere inspiration, at which point the allusion is no longer necessary.
#9 ·
#10 · 1
· · >>Morning Sun >>Morning Sun
Ohhhh, this is a crossover. That probably explains a lot!*

Genre: Crossover!

Thoughts: I regret to say that this didn't work for me. I spent much of the story trying to figure out what was going on with the world, and what genre this ultimately was (I swear there's an early head-fake toward Twilestia which made me keep expecting it to turn out that way). The good news is that there were some beautiful descriptive passages (e.g., the beginning) and some cool characters (e.g., the bat pony guy), so I was reasonably interested in continuing to read. The bad news was that I didn't think it ever coalesced into a story per se. It got close, in that it presented Celestia with a choice of sorts, and she headed into the belly of the proverbial beast to make that choice. But then Luna suddenly appeared out of nowhere with an olive branch, and... I guess it just ends? How did Luna even know she was there? What is Celestia going to choose? And why does it matter?

An ambiguous ending can be a valid choice, but I felt like there were a few too many unclear elements throughout. I think that could be fixed in revision, but for now I gotta rate what I see here.

Tier: Needs Work

*Being uncultured swine, I haven't seen the original
#11 · 1
· · >>Trick_Question
Right, read this! The biggest weakness as exhaustively said so far is 'Suddenly, Luna! Suddenly, Forgiveness!'. There's a big piece missing to justify that and you need to put it in there.

I like the rest. It's obvious there's a world here that's been built up, but we don't see enough to put it together. I'd blame wordcount except you're not at 8k yet so you had more room to work with.

I don't know I'd call it a crossover. It's clearly an homage - the title makes that blindingly obvious. But the actual story itself as presented doesn't crossover in a way that say The Iridescent Iron Rat did. Rat took the old characters/idea and rewrote it as Equestria; in this I don't see anyone who resembles Yorkie or Kelly whatsoever.

The part that's straight out of Black Mirror appears to be in the sim itself, but even there it's at least been twisted. Junipero was computers for everything after all and our glimpse of the real world seems to be primitive, if anything, rather than futuristic - the only thing 'techy' is the vaults but those too appear equal parts science and magic.

In the end :
Story is on the right path, but falls shy of coming together - add that and it's golden.
#12 ·
· · >>Morning Sun
>>Morning Sun
It can be a homage, I don't care what you call it. It just shouldn't have mimicked the name of another work. If it's original enough to stand on its own, as you suggest, it should have an original name. Otherwise the name is a spoiler, and it belies the originality of the piece.

For Rat, given how much ponies say it copied a similar work, the neigh-identical name is an appropriate admission. (Although I would feel like a plagiarist if I didn't mention the work I was copying in the description.)
#13 · 1
It didn't prime me immediately, at least, because San Palomino is an actual location on the Equestrian Map - it's south of Los Pegasus; specifically, the San Palomino desert. Now since I've seen what it's referencing it became clear enough once the reveal hit, but before then? I don't think it's as big a giveaway as you're believing.
#14 · 3
· · >>Morning Sun
An attempt at original, speculative material doesn't quite achieve its goals.

On the surface, there is an Equestria which is slowly dying as its population "leaves" to be part of the Eternal Dream. No small amount of time is spent laying out the breadth of wonder of the Eternal, which, while beautiful and quite competently-executed, is relegated to the role of surface and setting. (There are parallels to be drawn with "Friendship is Optimal" (relevant to another story on my slate) and the film "Inception", but they are not crucial to discussing this particular work.) This exodus serves as a backdrop to the core of the story: Celestia struggling with her feelings.

It is slowly revealed--somewhat evident from early in the first section but carefully expounded upon--that Celestia is conflicted about her responsibility to the real Equestria and a deep sense of loss, both towards her people, her friends, and--most of all--her sister. Indeed, Luna's stubbornness to remain within the Eternal in opposition to Celestia's dedication to Eqeustria, is at the story's heart. Unfortunately, because so little is provided (or even intuitable) about Luna's rationale, this conflict is little more than an "unstoppable force meets immovable object" stalemate, leaving the reader wanting for a "third option".

Ultimately, the resolution supplies itself, with Luna--at the prompting from two of Celestia's subjects--exculpating Celetia of the unthinkable task of concession. Yet, as relieved as the sisters are to meet once more, there seems to be no discussion of the issues that separated them to begin with, draining the resolution of lasting significance.

Accordingly, the essential conflict deserves attention. Make the resolution also a reunion--connect the sisters' disagreement with the heartfelt meeting and this will be a much stronger story.

The exclusion of articles and pronouns (e.g., Celestia began, and turned [her] head away to) lends a poetic air to the work, but is a very sophomoric choice as it reduces clarity and serves little apparent purpose than declaring sophistication. Additionally, while the actual count is low enough, the number of "said softly"s and other such diminution of speech was striking; like the above, create context and tone with structure and context as much as with mere words.

TAILS (sum of 20 points)
Technical (Correctness) : 5
Abstract (Clarity) : 3
Impact (Consequence) : 3
Language (Congruence) : 3
Structure (Composition) : 6
Gestalt (Considered): Strong
#15 ·
· · >>Morning Sun
I applaud you for tackling a topic with real potential. However, the actions of the Princesses here seemed more childish than wise, and that always bugs me - probably more than it should.

I found myself skimming this halfway through, and at the end my response basically boiled down to 'what's all this about then'? The deviance from cannon is extreme and never justified, and the phrasing grated at times; near repetition, seemingly dropped words, and ideas I thought contradictory that were forced together. (Sea-scented breeze rising from the desert?)

A good effort, but failed to engage me for various reasons. I may not be in your audience though.

Also, I swear I've seen Nottlynga in a fic somewhere.
#16 · 3
Right, so! I had a huge retrospective typed up. And like a genius I put it in Notepad, and lost it, so this is all off the top of the head! So!

San Palomino Retrospective
Everyone who says this is from Black Mirror is like, 100% correct. San Junipero shot up to one of my top episodes of television ever when I saw it, and I instantly wanted to write a pony story with the concept.

Also, if you haven't seen San Junipero, and have Netflix, go find it now - Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 4. Everything below here is going to spoil bunches of ideas in the show, but seeing as the core of San Junipero isn't really about the technology that won't hurt you much even if you know the 'twist' going in.

Anyhow, after seeing it, I'd been mulling ideas for weeks. Equestria added a delightful wrinkle in that it had natural immortals, so any story I did was going to involve them in some way because that's a big part of what makes the scenario different from Earth. And, well, instead of doing it with science, I already had a good in-show justification from Magic Sheep - a mass shared dreamspace. And who would that center around? Luna, of course - she'd be the creator or core of the Dream, somehow, or at least critical to its existence.

The first was born from that idea of natural immortals. 'Celestia, alone, maintaining the world while everypony else is in Science Heaven', not that Science Heaven was what I called it at the time. That by itself got discarded because, well, there was no conflict, although I did and still do think there's ideas to play with in the idea of Immortal consigned to a lonely immortality because she's what allows the mortals to experience the same eternity otherwise denied them.

The second, more born from the episode, was that the world itself in-show is our 'Sim' - and it was created to house Luna, who in the 'Real' world, was critically injured ages ago. That may still be fun too, but I never got past half-formed ideas like 'Her thousand years on the moon were really a dreaming coma before the system was invented', and 'The Nightmare is a representation of her broken psyche being mended, and the EoH are basically the science-magic finally knitting her mind back together'. And, well, yea, again, I had no actual story, just ideas.

So I got to talking to CiG since he wasn't participating, and he honed rapidly in on 'What is the conflict, and what do ponies want?', and from there I got what I needed.

San Palomino takes place far, far in the future of Equestria - in my mind we're talking 10,000 or more years from the In-show era. Somewhere in Twilight's lifetime, she, working with Luna, created the Eternal Dream as a way to save ponies - in Twilight's case, probably a way to keep her friends around. But that's way way back in the past and doesn't really come into play here.

Fast forward century on century, and more and more ponies are brought into the Dream, and ponies in the 'real' world begin joining earlier in life because, well, why risk death from accident and miss out on forever? Why stay trapped in the real world when the Dream allows you to experience so much more? And the end result is that for a long, long time, Equestria has been fading. By the time the story begins, all that's left, at least all that's left for certain, is the Monastery that Celestia dwells in with the Seraphs.

The Monastery is built into San Palomino mountain, which is where everything was created way back when; that's why In-World Twilight dwells within her version of it, because the laboratory that started it all was hers. In the ages since, the only pony who goes into the deep areas is usually Celestia, save perhaps the rare adventurous filly or colt.

The Seraphs who dwell within, then, are a quasi-religious monastic order that formed out of a combination of luddites, the Royal Guard, and ponies who prefer mortality to eternity; in the age since they all blended together and now basically venerate Celestia as a holy figure. How they see her varies pony to pony, but she's generally seen as a not-quite-deity; more like a living Buddha. On her part, she gently discourages this, but - well, is also lonely, with everypony she knows in the Eternal Dream, and so has in a way come to value the devotion because it helps keep her feeling needed.

And that brings us to the major conflict in-story : Why is she out and Luna in? That's two-fold; there's the answer I wrote based on and the answer I'm revising to include in the Fimfic version.

For the Writeoff? Luna is always in because in the Dream she finally has the love & respect she always wanted, and as the Princess of Dreams, in there she is the Greater Light, so to speak. She sees no real value in the real world anymore and believes those ponies who refuse eternity are foolish and ultimately it is not up to her to try to force them to see reason. In that regard, she wants Celestia in because, well, she wants her sister. She sees no reason to stay outside and endure again and again the pain of loss as ponies die; why not have forever, with those you love?

Celestia, meanwhile - her reasoning at first was that, well, Equestria ain't a safe place. SOMEONE with power had to stay outside and make sure everyone in the Dream wasn't vulnerable, say, Tirek breaking free again, or some previously unknown threat. Additionally, someone has to maintain the cycle of Sun & Moon and she takes that burden on herself. Finally, as the Seraphs slowly evolved, she kind of feels a connection to their veneration of her - even if she doesn't really want it, she respects it, and stays with them because she forms their rock; she doesn't want to leave the ponies in the real world to fend for themselves, not when they are dwelling in a desert and all that remains is a small community of two thousand or so centered around Monastery and Village.

And then their fight, the rift grown over centuries, is one of values. Luna being more hotheaded, she could never really stop trying to get Celestia to enter the Dream permanently, and what began as gentle disagreement grew into arguments grew into a rift grew to the point where Celestia only enters 4 days a year, on the Solstices and Equinoxes, and has grown to somewhat agree with the Seraphs that there is something not-quite-right about the Dream, that there is some value in striving for something where you actually can fail, and where that failure has real teeth, and so on. And when story takes place, they are hurting badly, but neither is willing to admit she's wrong, neither is willing to say sorry first, and neither really even knows how to relate to her sister any longer because they are so far apart now.

Unfortunately, I didn't find a way to work any of this backstory in well; I hinted at it, but never spelled it out, and even if I had, it still leaves 'Why did Luna suddenly come out?'

And that is the weakest part, because due to time constraints I cut out like, a major bit of middle-scene, which was where Luna entered play; the original was a planned 'Luna forces her way into a Twilight-Celestia meeting, Luna & Tia have a huge shouting match, Tia leaves feeling lonely and horrible, Luna finally feels truly bad and realizes Celestia matters more to her than winning a dumb fight.'

Which, y'know, gives the finale its power.

And then Redfern and Lightfeather sort of waltzed into existence out of nowhere, and I realized that they had a greater role to play as I was writing them, but again lacked the time for their major contribution - namely that rather than have Luna realize things herself, Redfern & Lightfeather were going to go inside seeking her and essentially serve as the catalyst to get Luna to be willing to take the first steps towards mending things. Celestia, after all, has always been willing to go in - but when has Luna been willing to come out? Celestia is willing to admit the Dream has much of value, but Luna is rejecting automatically the real world and thus dismissing what her sister finds precious about it.

Except, well, there wasn't time to put all that in.

But even then I still felt there was a piece missing. Namely, like, why is every alicorn but Celestia always, always in there? Why Discord? Why do none of them ever come out? Twilight should be willing to, after all.

It turns out solving for that answer also helps make the fight between Luna & Celestia work much better. In the revised version, the alicorns (and Discord) are the actual energy sources maintaining the dream. They don't leave because, well, they can't - not for a significant length of time, because that would put strain on the others and eventually parts would fail and ponies might be lost forever because the source of magic keeping the crystal that holds their essence energized would be lost.

Twilight could leave for a time, and likely does - but not often; no more than a few hours every ...year, decade, some long time interval. Cadance doesn't because Shining & Flurry are inside. Flurry doesn't because she's young enough when she joins in to have no real attachment to the real world. Discord doesn't because in here he can totally cause insane amounts of Chaos and everypony around him LIKES it.

And Luna doesn't because she's the core of it all, and her leaving would cause the greatest strain on the system. As in, like, if the others ALL left, Luna could hold it together, alone, for a while. If she leaves, the others are going to be exhausted fairly fast.

But oh, there's more, because I have thought a TON on this. The Dreamborn was something I added in kind of whimsically - Luna created the Tantabus, after all, so why wouldn't it be possible for ponies to be born in the Eternal Dream? They would have no physical form - they would be pure Dreaming essence, but in there that wouldn't matter, and in some ways would be an advantage as they require no physical anchor, whereas ponies who were born in reality had their essence stored in the crystals that are stored in the hundreds of vault floors in the Mountain.

Then, last, was the bit that alicorns grow in power, over time, but slowly; the Dream as it is expands, but not nearly so fast as the populace would now like. Many, many ponies wish to have children, but they can't because there isn't spare capacity for it; the waiting list to have one child is on the order of centuries or more, because the Princesses inside won't aid in it unless they are certain it will not cause harm to the fabric of the Dream.

And thus, the conflict : Luna wants Celestia to give up the real world because Celestia represents a massive opportunity for expansion. She would allow all the ponies wanting children to be able to do so; she would allow the creation of many new Spheres, where a Sphere is basically a place & tech level; Rainbow & Rarity's movie, for example, takes place in a high-tech future Sphere, while Twilight's San Palomino keeps itself mostly around a high-magic show-era general level, but with some exceptions like the movie theater that's way bigger on the inside (Hence why Celestia & Twilight could see a private movie with 0 issue).

Luna sees Celestia as being selfish in refusing to help out.

Meanwhile, Celestia stays out because she is still attached to the real world, and whereas Luna is advocating more of a 'Greatest Good for Greatest Number' view, Celestia refuses to abandon those who value her so much already. The old world may be fading away, but...it's all she's ever known, and she just can't embrace the Dream like Luna could.

There's lots of other bits - she's happy Luna has found the respect she desired, but some part of her is hurt because Luna is now the most-loved Princess, so Luna's happiness is bittersweet in that. Celestia is also less prone to change; things like that.

Basically, the goal is 'Give them both solid reasons for why they believe the way they do', because the resolution in the end is 'Sometimes, people disagree with one another not because one side is right or wrong, but because they have different values - and love & family matter more than winning & getting them to admit their beliefs are wrong.'

Especially in today's political climate where our unwillingness to constructively disagree is causing so much bile & toxins to spill through society.

So yea. The new goal is to get all that into the story which will likely double the length or more, but make it much stronger for it.

And then I may well play around in the sphere more because I have loooaaads of ideas - like, say, what happens when 100,000 years down the line and Celestia has finally joined in, something breaks and one of them is forced to leave to fix it? What happens when San Palomino is a near-forgotten myth to the few ponies who remain in the distant corners of the world? Like there's this image of mine of a resolute young mare setting out to seek San Palomino and the legendary Sisters said to dwell there to ask them to save her village from some sickness threatening to wipe them out, and all the possibilities that presents.

Right! Now to reply to specific comments.
#17 ·
And now replies!

>>Zaid Val'Roa
Hopefully all the stuff above shows how I'm planning to address the weakness in the ending!

Darn right!

Let's talk about the historical arguments between Celestia and the other ponies. Those arguments are the most important element in the story because they define the entire conflict upon which the narrative and characterizations are based. Yet we never get to see or hear any of the rationale! There are tiny little hints about reproduction and religion, but the audience gets no details about any of this. We never see any foals in the monastery, we never learn details about the religion, and most salient, we never learn what Celestia herself believes.

All true, although the only real argument in play is between Sun & Moon; everything else is in some ways in the orbit of that argument, but all that got left out for lack of time/wordcount.

Not developing the foundation of a story is a cheap way to get around the difficult process of structuring the background details and history in order to make sense of everything. Nothing in the story suggests the author has determined any of the princesses' rationale behind their decisions.

Oh, no, I had extensive thought into that...just, well, I hate being explicit and being like SHE THINKS X CAUSE Y and so string it out more. And even in final version it's going to go on for a while before any clear exposition occurs.

I noticed this right at the beginning of the story, when you kept Celestia's identity a secret until the fifth paragraph. There's no reason for that. Celestia isn't visiting a place we wouldn't expect her to be (from the audience's perspective). She's in a library. Having her disguised is fine, but hiding her identity from the reader is not. You're withholding basic information from your audience in order to create a false atmosphere of suspense.

Less that and more an interesting hook, and one I'm revealing quickly enough that I don't feel bad about making them wonder what's going on for those first couple minutes.

I didn't sense the suggested 'romance' between the OC side character and the main character. If that information is intended to be part of the payoff, you need to develop those characters more than you did.

What romance? There's no romance at play with Redfern or Lightfeather. Redfern sees Celestia as basically a goddess, while Lightfeather is older and wiser and has great respect for her but has come to see her as just an old, wounded pony. No crushes or snuggly kissytimes at play here.

Also, you didn't develop the science enough to make it seem consistent. I wasn't clear on whether all of the ponies/characters needed vats, or if it was only Twilight and Luna in vats because they were powering the device. Clearly, mortal ponies have to ditch the body, so they're not in a vat, but the hints provided are insufficient to determine that conclusively. Consequently, it doesn't make much sense that a mortal pony could go for a brief visit. How would they accomplish that? Probably 'visitor vats' or something, but there's a lot here lacking clarity.

That whole giant area Celestia walks through full of crystals is the other ponies. The vats are for alicorns only and are kind of a shelter cocoon / nutrient bath / energy tap for them, or something like that. Mortal ponies (And Celestia) can enter using focusing crystals which create a temporary bridge into the Dream, but I didn't have time to put that segment in showing them being used and seem to have forgotten to have inserted one where Celestia wakes up

I have a hard time imagining Discord in a vat. That doesn't make any sense to me. He shouldn't need one.

Quite true, which is why he's way off in what remains of Canterlot, sleeping on the pedestal that he was turned to stone on ages ago; it's sort of an amusing joke to him to have his real body effectively a statue where he once literally was a garden decoration - it's called out in the very same line that has the 'doors' showing various chambers for the Alicorns.

Equestria has more than ponies in it, and all life requires the Sun in order to survive. There's no indication of whether other sapient races, like yaks and gryphons and dragons have joined Twilight, and certainly dragons aren't there based on the description of the location. Even if Equestria only has animals left in it, Celestia would have a clear moral imperative to keep raising the Sun. I can't see anypony at all arguing against that. These are things that need to be thought out.

That argument is part of the division between them, yes. I have ways I'm bandying about as to Luna's proposed solution to it that lets her not be concerned; I may edit things to have her still raising the Moon from within the Dream to indicate that it can happen even if she is asleep.

You seem to be implying that the conflict is what ended up causing Equestria to fall apart, but based on what I just wrote, it seems unlikely that this even started unless Equestria was already post-apocalyptic. If that's the case, there are no indications about what happened.

Nah, it never fell apart; merely dwindled and faded away for reasons outline in my previous comment, but basically because over centuries more & more ponies entered the Dream without ever having children and so the population cratered till the only ones left are the Seraphs and whatever scattered distant communities that have forgotten the Princesses & Equestria entirely.

The need for maintenance seems to require outside materials (Luna needs a lot of help to function when she exits the vat), so the idea that Celestia shouldn't be where she makes even less sense.

Another part of their conflict; Luna wants to automate all of this and largely has done so, Celestia doesn't trust it not to ever break down and so another reason she stays out is to ensure nothing breaks without them realizing, so that it can be fixed before something truly bad happens.

See above comment; in short 'Blame Twilight; she finally had her eyes opened that her relationship with Celestia is more important than winning; only Twilight can even possibly leave the Dream, so for the others its simply necessity to dwell in there; the Dreamborn are literally Dreaming Essence akin to the Tantabus, but much more advanced & actually sapient; and yes, if I can work it in'

Hopefully final version addresses all the lack of lore I couldn't work in but had planned out!

Junipero is the starting point, but not the ending; Science Heaven is fun but in the end its about relationships, just, well - yea, didnt get to go into that as fully as I wanted.

The title is staying the same because even if you've seen San Junipero it won't be at all obvious till you realize what's up. The San Palomino desert is on the actual map of Equestria; also, while there are similar themes explored here and the general conceit of Science Heaven is common to both, that's about where the similarities end.

Read above giant comment by me, but watch the episode first you uncultured swine, as you so eloquently put it =^. .^=

This is also super helpful and you double-win for picking up on Luna's catalyst for coming out which I think most people missed. But yea, really useful feedback, thank you!

It's less 'deviates from canon' and more 'Set in the far far future'. And Nottlynga is taken from The 99 Nectars of Princess Luna. Sadly, NoeCarrier dropped off the face of the internet a year ago as far as I can tell and I don't think that story will ever finish, but Nottlynga is a beautiful sounding word, so I incorporated it into this because I like it more than 'Batpony'.
#18 ·
Unfortunately I don't have the time to comment on the story extensively, but I'd want to say I liked it a lot. It took me two re-reads to fully understand everything, and even now I'm not sure if I fully "get it", but I love the premise and the scenery, and the writing was really good as well. The story has an interesting atmosphere to it, a combination of the outer world's somber melancholy with the quiet, paradisal contentment of those asleep. Makes me think of tastefully muted colors and quiet piano.

One thing that's bugging me: These two sentences, which are missing the 'the' articles:

and mare passed into the waiting passage as wall shut behind her.

Once more, cowled Princess joined the throng headed to the library only to duck in secret passage and make her way into Twilight’s sanctum.

I assume you did it on purpose, to make it feel more poetic... but to me, these sentences sound gratingly awkward and pretentious.