The Sleeping Earth
Jan 5th, 2015
- There are distant noises, ages away. Soft and echoing, they persist in sparking vague recognition inside your head. They would be easy enough to sleep through, but there's a sense of urgency to them that keeps you at the surface. Slowly, grudgingly, you begin wrenching your consciousness from the depths of sleep. It's more difficult than you remember, and is taking longer than expected. If it were not for the fact that you'd already begun, you might just give up.
- The sounds become clearer, and crystallize into a singular voice.
- "Wake up!"
- You're already doing that.
- "Wake up, curse you! We can tell that you're not dead."
- It's a girls voice, you're pretty sure. She doesn't sound particularly happy. What's her deal? She's talking to you, right? Your thoughts begin congealing, making more sense. You feel like a machine slowly warming up. Cognitive pathways that were denied to you a moment ago begin sparking to life, and small epiphanies begin hitting you one after another. Who is this lady? Where are you? Why does it feel as if you're floating? Why is it so cold? As you collect yourself, more questions appear. What do you remember about last night, anyway? Have you been drugged? It feels like it. Try as you might, you cant seem to conjure up details about... Anything.
- "Finally. Coming about are you? Open your eyes at least." You're starting to understand the inflections of her voice. Frustration?
- You try to take her advice, but your eyelids are much heavier than you remember. It takes a second or two for them to even move, and when they finally do; you see nothing. At first you think it's just dark, but then you start to see light out of one eye. It starts as a little pinprick, but slowly spreads into a larger picture. Your vision returns to you in this eye as if it had dormant for a long time. This would concern you more, but you're presently quite confused by the sight you see before you. It's as if you're looking out of a peephole in the side of mountain from within. That's the only way you can think of to get the dimly lit view you have right now. The distant landscapes capture your attention for only a moment however, as a much more interesting figure enters your sight.
- She's blue. A deep blue, with an ethereal mane of stars that stands starkly out against the brightening sky behind her. It's impossible. You find yourself stunned beyond belief, as if some core part of your being has been shaken. Yet, when you try to think harder on it, you can't imagine why that might be. Why is she impossible?
- "Yes, hello. A long time it's been." She seems relieved, but her face and voice still carry an expression of annoyance.
- She obviously thinks that she knows you, but you don't know her. You've never seen her before. Of that you're certain, or at least you think you are. You aren't sure of a lot of things right now, like what you should say. Should you explain that you've somehow become trapped in a cave in the side of a mountain and don't remember how you got there? That seems like a prudent idea, and would certainly be a conversation starter.
- She blinks, tilting her head. "You just going to stare at me?"
- Another epiphany. Aside from your eyes, you haven't moved a muscle. Why can you not feel anything against your skin? You feel cold, and heavy, but almost nothing else aside from the air that's been filling your lungs. You twitch a hand experimentally, and hear the clatter of couple rocks bouncing down the steep side of the mountain. Your guest smiles. Encouraged, you concentrate on moving your head. You find that there is resistance, something keeping your head locked in place. You try harder, exerting yourself only slightly. A great cracking noise fills your ears, followed by further sounds of tumbling rocks and pouring sand. Dust fills the air around you, and you recoil from it in surprise; drawing your head back instinctively. Your vision reels, abruptly pulled far above the cloud of dust and high into the midnight air. Sight is suddenly returned to your second eye, which blinks from the sudden exposure. Shocked from your change in altitude, you whip your head back and forth; sending sand and small bits of rocky debris through the air. You incline your head, wide eyed. The equine is still there, gazing up at you with a pleased expression. How the hell did you get up here?
- You catch sight of what looks like a very large pillar directly below you of similar color to the rocky mountainside, but smooth and... Scaled. A final epiphany settles in upon you, and your shock and fear begins to fade. What takes its place is deep, deep confusion. More questions. More questions. This doesn't feel real, or likely, or right in most ways. And again, you don't know why. Looking down at your neck, your thoughts turn to marvel at how enormous you must be.
- "You went too far even for me to follow after the first couple centuries. Where have you BEEN?" She spreads her wings, and rises to eye level with only a few graceful beats. She hovers there, looking into your eyes expectantly.
- You know that you cannot answer her question. So, after taking time to think, you decide to voice the first pertinent question that occurs to you. Your throat takes almost two seconds to produce sound that actually qualifies as a voice, dragging and rumbling like rock against rock, or an ancient beast rising from a thousand years of slumber. It comes out much more slowly than you intend, though it feels like you spoke normally.
- "WHO... ARE... YOU...?"
- From the expression on her face, it seems that was the worst thing you could have said.
- "Wh... What?"
- Princess Celestia sets her teacup down on its dish, and wipes her lips with a kerchief. She smiles down at Twilight as she mimics her, the room entirely silent save for the clink of china. Twilight always was a difficult one to read. She seems so incredibly innocent. As if oblivious to all negativity around her save for the few obsessions she chooses to invest all her worries into. Her mask of naivete is near perfect. So perfect that Celestia wonders if maybe it's no mask at all.
- And yet, everything she's accomplished speaks to the opposite, of wisdom and courage and power. The monsters and villains she's conquered, the magic and knowledge she wields. Twilight is formidable, as every foe she has faced has learned well. The letters explain little of the details, and her friends accounts are nonsensical and distracted. Even the personal debriefings are full of what have to be half-truths. She narrows her eyes at her student, who has happily begun reading the tome gifted to her at the beginning of this visit. So studious. Is it even possible that she doesn't know? Reason tells her that Twilight would have mentioned it, brought it up somehow if she did. Yet the idea that she's completely oblivious just doesn't fit the profile. She has to know, and thus she has to have a reason for not mentioning it. Could it be that she's known all along? Had she seen through everything long ago? Is Celestia being toyed with?
- No... No, she isn't 'that' good. She hasn't been around long enough to be that good. There has to be another reason. But what? She finds herself staring at Twilight, examining every inch of her face. Nothing. Pure oblivious innocence. Maybe... Is it possible that she's somehow overlooked it? Just accepted everything and not examined further? It doesn't sound like Twilight, but still. Anything is possible. Everyone makes mistakes.
- Celestia's face twitches, remembering Spike. What a terrible mistake. It had been such a good idea, too. Any other outcome would have been preferable. He could have been a friend, a companion, a lover, a sibling, a son, anything. Instead, he had become a servant. She blames herself mostly. She underestimated how long dragons take to mature, and Twilight had grown up far before Spike became capable of an interesting conversation. She sighs. She'll have to send him an extra bucket of jewels sometime, poor kid. Celestia had hoped recent events might've given Twilight a more sympathetic view of the situation, but hadn't heard as much.
- Twilight looks up from her book, quirking her head slightly. "Am I bothering you, princess? Sorry, I got carried away. It's just such a fascin-"
- Tia waves her hoof dismissively. "It's fine, Twilight. Just lost in thought. And you know you don't need to use my title anymore."
- She smiles, closing the book after carefully marking her place with a glowing sigil. "Old habits die hard I guess. What's on your mind?"
- Celestia shakes her head and attempts to change the subject. "Nothing, just something I've been wondering for a long while. I'm pleased you were able to join me so early in the morning."
- Twilight's smile flickers for a moment, and she presses "Well, what do we have these meetings for if we aren't going to talk about what's on our mind? And it's no trouble, I know how busy your days must be."
- Celestia smirks. True, that. Very well. She supposes that now is as good a time as any. "You have me there. Alright." Deep breath. "Twilight, how have you been adapting?"
- Twilight begins skimming the book again, apparently this question not worthy of all of her brainpower. "Much better nowadays. The first couple months were very awkward, but once everypony realized they didn't have to treat me any different things settled back into normalcy."
- Celestia smirks. That was a prepared statement if she ever heard one. What other hypothetical conversations had she run through? Tia starts to relax. She had chosen her student well. There was no way Twilight hadn't discovered the truth by now. "So. You've been dealing with the changes well? I was worried it would be too much for you."
- She nods, flipping to a different chapter in her book. "Yup. Like I said, things really weren't so bad after the first few months."
- Relief. Things could have gone so very wrong if Twilight didn't take this well. No doubt her cool logic helped her adapt smoothly, without losing herself. "I'm so glad. And you've managed so well on your own, I've had to explain nothing! Has Rarity been assisting you with your new appetites? I've heard interesting things about the origin of her cutie mark."
- Something that Celestia says causes Twilight to pause mid page. Slowly, she sets the book down on the table and turns her attention to her mentor.
- The elation in Tia's gut drops like a stone as she examines Twilight's face. Curiosity, nervousness, caution, even suspicion. By all the gods, the girl has absolutely NO idea.
- "I... I HAVE noticed a few... Odd cravings," Twilight admits, a little hesitantly.
- There are a few moments where Celestia's mind wrestles with the idea of backpedaling, but it's too late now. She had already planted the seeds, and if she backed up now Twilight would have even more reason to distrust her. No, now is the time; however unpleasant it may be. She begins steeling herself for the worst. "Ah... I.. I'm afraid I must beg your forgiveness, Twilight. I may have done you grave ill."
- Twilight just looks alarmed now. "Princess? Beg my-? What's going on?"
- Tia bows her head, expressing shame. "I made an... Incorrect assumption, and because of it I approached a subject with much more nonchalance than I should have," she exclaims, trying to pique Twilight's curiosity before dropping anything potentially disturbing. There's a long silence in which Twilight grows ponderous, and Tia takes this as her cue to continue.
- "Twilight... I..." Celestia trails off, beginning to grow uncomfortable. Then she starts to look uncomfortable too. This is all so wrong. How could the both of them be so oblivious? Celestia had crafted the spell to be complex and difficult to unravel, yes, but it was intended to be that way. It was supposed to be a puzzle that was impossible for someone like Twilight to resist. It was designed to slowly leak hints to her as she studied it, before ultimately revealing the secret. Tia had thought it the perfect plan. Apparently she had been sorely mistaken. This entire plan of grooming Twilight for the throne relied on her having suspicions. On having at least SOME idea that Celestia wasn't telling the whole truth. She had relied on vindicating Twilights suspicions, and today she realizes that the mare might not even have any. Now instead of confirming the conspiracies of a sharp pupil, she has to reveal to a naive child that almost everything she believes about her rule and her body is a charade. She had forgotten that Twilight is a pony. Was a pony. And that ponies have an overdeveloped sense of trust. As more and more seemingly obvious holes in her plan start to reveal themselves, Celestia starts to chuckle. It had been a long, long time since things had gone this wrong.
- "I've gotten us into a real mess, haven't I?"
- You apparently really should not have said that. The lady horse practically fell from the sky the moment you did. Now she just seems utterly FURIOUS. Though you are at least able to determine that her anger is not directed at 'you', which is good.
- She swears in various archaic sounding languages, yet you find yourself able to understand most of them. Several iterations and varieties of "whore" are spoken. Along with a few choice other vulgarities.
- You find yourself pondering just where exactly you are getting your standards from. You called these languages archaic, but you obviously know them. Why? From what memories are you drawing on? There is something there, just out of sight, and grasping for it is confusing you further. Your thoughts become muddled as you abruptly begin thinking in several languages at once, transitioning from one to the other like switches are flicking in your head. Concepts of syntax and disjointed ideas of proper contexts and slang, odd cultural idioms that don't make any sense by themselves, dialects, proper formal language and thousands of flickering characters... You snort and shake your head, trying to stop thinking so much as pebbles and sand slide from your face. You resolve yourself to try and stick to thinking in one language for the immediate future. Your mind is like a maze right now, and thinking down the wrong paths is leading you to strange and disorienting places.
- "Are you listening?" She says, sounding exasperated.
- You blink. No. You apparently were not. Not for a while at least. How long have you been silently sitting here?
- "Ugh. Look. Listen. Do you hear?"
- You give a slight inclination of your head.
- "Good. Listen to me. You have become part of this mountain. It has been a very long time since you were awake, and I am unsure the mountain will survive if you move too much."
- Well. It is a good thing she told you that, you had been considering stretching your legs. You look down at where your towering neck is extending from, and you see that the rest of your body seems to be buried beneath the landscape. It would not be good to cause an avalanche of rocks with her so nearby. Though now that you imagine it, you don't think you want a mountain falling on YOUR head either. No matter how big you may be.
- "Hey! Do not fade away again!" The blue horse recaptures your attention. It feels wrong thinking of her that way, but you're having difficulty thinking right now. "To make things more difficult there is a town and a castle on this mountain, and the castle is the seat of power in Equestria."
- Oh. Wonderful. If you hadn't been feeling claustrophobic before, you certainly are now. A whole town is at stake if you move too much? How long must you stay here?
- "Calm! Calm yourself!" The mare shouts, her wings fluttering more rapidly as you realize you nearly blew her from the air just by exhaling too hard. "We can free you yet! But you must remain calm! We will have you out of there by first morning light, on our honor it will be done!"
- That makes you feel a bit better, and you try and stay relaxed. The feeling is starting to come back to your body now, and one of your legs twitch. Stay still until sunrise? How hard could that be?
- Both Celestia and twilight's ears perk up as the floor wobbles beneath them. A soft rumble is heard shortly after.
- "Was that an earthquake?" Twilight asks as she looks at the floor, sounding rightly concerned at the prospect. Then her eyes return to Celestia, who's face has turned grave. Angry even? The whirling questions from a moment before are briefly pushed aside. Is this an emergency? As Twilight watches, Tia's face grows more foul. Disappointment. She shudders, imagining Celestia making that face with herself as the cause.
- "That hasty little-" Celestia abruptly stands up, her teacup utterly forgotten. Twilight barely manages to catch it with her aura, even as Celestia begins making her way to the balcony door. She makes it halfway there before the floor turns to jello again. That ominous rumble returns, much louder this time. A second afterwards Twilight is startled to feel the prickling of powerful magic against her senses, the ripples of some faraway powerful spell.
- "I told her to wait!" Celestia shouts. "WHY DOES SHE NEVER LISTEN!?" The balcony door flings open, and she bolts outside.
- Twi can hear the sound of wings unfolding, and she finally pulls herself together enough to realize that she REALLY wanted to know what Celestia was talking about before. What an awful time to be interrupted! She scrambles to her hooves and follows the princess, practically hurling herself from the balcony after her. Sort of a reckless idea in hindsight, but at least she manages not to throw up as she remembers the way to fly.
- Celestia is far ahead of her already, diving like one of Fluttershy's birds of prey. Twilight spares a few thoughts to be impressed at the display of skill, before being overwhelmed with terror at the prospect of what she has to do to follow suit. She keeps her wings open, concentrating as hard as she can to remember Rainbow's lessons at controlling the angle of her descent. She lets out a sound of frustration, lamenting the fact that she just can't feel her individual feathers in the way most pegasus seem to. Her dive becomes more of a tentative circling glide with periodic sudden drops.
- After a few moments of being in the air, her flying instincts seem to come alive slightly, and she relaxes enough to start controlling her panicked breathing. It occurs to her that she was so focused on flying properly that she had lost sight of Celestia, and a stab of fear hits her as she starts scanning the darkened mountainside for a flash of pale white. Instead, she spots a blue glow about halfway down the mountain, and something tickles her senses. A spell? Twilight has been able to sense such things ever since she became an alicorn, but it still surprises her every time she experiences it. She keeps her eyes on the area and descends towards it, filled with trepidation.
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