The Morning War

by Obselescence

Chapter 1: Let The Battle Begin

Celestia was a morning pony, which was to say that she made the morning—all of it. From the coolish pre-dawn breeze to the gentle warmth of the rising sun, it was all her work. Some ponies, perhaps, took the new day for granted. Some needed a little coffee first. But she never would. It was hard work, yes, but she was an artist—or, no! More than that! She was an artiste, with an e. The morning sky was her canvas, and she painted with light.

This morning she was feeling daring. She brought the sun up slowly, carefully, casting a rich array of reds and purples over the horizon. Golden rays of sunshine fell over the sleepy land of Equestria and all the uncountable realms beyond. And, just over the sun itself, she placed the shining arc of a rainbow—because you couldn’t go wrong with a rainbow. It was perhaps a bit much for a sunrise, but she supposed it would be a nice treat for the early birds. They deserved a worm every now and then.

With most of the hard work done, she set about the finishing touches: adjusting the humidity for that faint sheen of fresh dew on the leaves, adjusting the glare of the sun, and so on. It would be the perfect start to a perfect day, if she did say so herself. And she did. It might have been arrogant of her—she was only really fulfilling her duties as a Princess—but speaking as an artiste... well, she was allowed to take a little pride in her work.

Creative freedom was one of the few perks of her job.

Satisfied that the sunrise had gone well, Celestia stepped out from her balcony and back into Canterlot Castle. She hummed a bit to herself as she walked along the corridors, ready to tackle the new day—now that it was, in fact, the new day. Skipping was altogether out of the question for a Princess, but she did carry herself with more poise than usual. Because you couldn’t go wrong with more poise.

The corridors were mostly empty at this hour, what with it being six in the morning, but she did pass by one familiar face: her beloved little sister, Luna. Celestia found her shuffling slowly through the halls, grumbling audibly to herself when she wasn’t grumbling quietly. But today Luna’s grimace seemed a little more gruesome than usual, and Celestia decided that a little sisterly conversation was necessary to brighten the mood.

“Early to bed, Luna?” she asked, giving Luna her most radiant morning smile.

“Early to rise,” Luna corrected. She gave Celestia a somewhat less radiant frown. “Honestly, Sister. I am at the end of my rope, my chain, and possibly my wits. I cannot stomach any more surprise early sunrises. Can you not commit to a schedule?”

“Well, ah...” said Celestia, her smile stretching a bit wider. “Why not look on the bright side of things, Luna? Shorter nights mean more time off for rest and relaxation! Why don’t you take this opportunity to take a break?” She gave Luna a wink. “I think you’ve earned one.”

Luna frowned a bit harder.

“No? Not buying it?” Celestia’s smile faded. “All right, all right.” She wrapped a wing around her little sister’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Luna. You know I’ve tried scheduling, but I simply don’t do my best work that way. I have to create when the mood strikes, or else it’s so... dull, and lifeless. You need a certain amount of inspiration for the sunrise to be perfect. Remember the Gray Days?”

“And what was wrong with the Gray Days?” Luna snipped. “I liked the Gray Days! They were a soothing and uniform shade of gray, as befit their name! And the sunlight was bearable for once, much like the moon in the late hours of last autumn, whereupon the stars did glow like—”

“We’re not going back to the Gray Days,” said Celestia firmly. “And poetic descriptors won’t sway me this time.” She sighed and gave Luna’s mane a gentle, soothing stroke. “Come now, Luna. I’m sure it’s been a busy—if unforeseeably short—night, and you must be tired. Why don’t you go to bed and let me handle things from here? We can talk about this later, if you’d like.”

Luna nodded, lips pursed. “Yes, all right then, Sister,” giving Celestia a somewhat rigid hug. “We shall talk about this... later.”

“Have a good morning’s rest, then,” said Celestia. She returned the hug with as much affection as she could squeeze into it, and a little more, because she could. “I’m sure you’ll feel better once you’ve gotten some sleep.”

She waved farewell as Luna broke the hug and trudged off toward her chambers, muttering darkly all the while. Celestia, for her part, simply smiled and resumed walking. It was no cause for concern, really. Almost every conversation with Luna ended with at least a little ominous muttering, and by her standards, this one hardly even ranked as sinister.

“Note to self,” she muttered lightly. “Check the bed tonight for snakes.”

The rest of the morning proceeded as per usual, once the palace staff realized that it was morning, and that, no, the clocks weren’t broken. Breakfast was a few eggs cooked sunny-side up, washed down with a tall glass of orange juice. She would’ve had a few more eggs and a slightly taller glass of orange juice, but her plate was plenty full today without food on it. Diplomatic meetings with the ambassadors of neighboring countries, diplomatic meetings with the ambassadors of far-off countries, diplomatic meetings with the ambassadors of countries she’d never actually heard of... The list went on. And on, and on, and on.

Celestia thanked her lucky star that she’d gotten such an early start on the day. If only inspiration could always strike at five AM.

The Negotiations Room was ready for her by the time she’d finished breakfast. It was a simple set-up, all told: a large wooden table for the negotiations, and a window to make sure that time hadn’t stopped in the process. She took her seat and waited patiently for her first meeting of the day. She set about readying the right mix of compassion, respect, and immaturity necessary for proper diplomacy—and then she prayed that she could hold it long enough for the first meeting to begin.

It was vaguely possible, after all, that none of the ambassadors were awake yet.

Thankfully, it didn’t take all that long. The gryphons’ ambassador arrived not five minutes after she did, looking only a little deprived of sleep. “Greetings to the Princess of Equestria,” he said as he entered. “I am honored to be in your presence on this fine and—” He yawned. “—this fine and extraordinarily early morning.” He gave her a slight bow and took his seat at the table. “I am Horace, Duke of Fancy. I present myself now before you in service to His Madness, the esteemed Lord Foghorn.”

“Well met,” she said, giving him a cautious smile. “I trust His Madness is in good spirits?”

“He... claims to be haunted now by the ghost of his great aunt Gertrude and her favorite chihuahua.” Horace shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Which I, uh, suppose to mean ‘no.’”

“Ah.” She nodded diplomatically. “A shame... I think. What business, then, would he like to discuss with me this morning?”

“A good question, Princess,” said Horace, pulling a letter out from under the table. “As it so happens, the morning is precisely what His Madness wishes to discuss. I received orders recently to negotiate for a change in the morning hours.” He passed the letter over to her. “His Madness, you see, has apparently heard a rumor that impromptu sunlight may be upsetting to his beloved pet rock.”

“His Madness should talk to my sister, sometime,” Celestia muttered. “They both get upset over the strangest things.” She unfolded the letter and gave it a once-over, searching the text for any hidden meanings or statements of intent. It was by no means an easy task, though—His Madness evidently favored the yellow crayon. She set the letter down and coughed. “I sincerely hope His Madness is aware that his pet rock cannot possibly—”

“Oh, I assure you, Princess,” said Horace calmly, “His Madness is aware of many things. Chief amongst them how to execute those of his subjects who dare question him. Quite painfully, I might add. You do not wish to know what happened to the previous Duke of Fancy.”

“Oh.” Well, that was a bit awkward. “I... really must remember to speak with His Madness about that,” she said, after some careful thought. “Do apply for another appointment after this, won’t you?”

“That would be my pleasure, Princess,” said Horace. Celestia thought he might have given her a quick smile, but it was difficult to tell with gryphons’ beaks. “As for the matter at claw, however, His Madness has made unusually clear his desires: the sun must rise at noon, and no earlier.”

Celestia considered this. “Guards!” she called. “A glass of water, please.” A gold-armored guard brought a glass of water post-haste, well prepared for such situations as these. “Thank you,” she told him. The guard saluted quickly, then ran for cover as she grabbed the glass with her magic. She took a small sip from it—

And spat it out. “What?” she shouted, bringing her hoof down on the table with an audible crack.

Then she remembered that these were diplomatic negotiations between civilized countries, and that such moves were reserved for slightly later in the discussions.

“Ahem.” She took a moment to regain her composure and clear the water off the table. “What I meant to say was: I believe Equestria has previously informed His Madness as to what might happen if the gryphons attempt to impose scheduling on the sovereign nation of Equestria.”

“Which is precisely why I’ve been given leeway to compromise,” said Horace, giving no sign that he’d noticed the faux-pas. Years in His Madness’ service had evidently given him some perspective on royalty. “Even His Madness fears the Gray Days, for he has heard that they were quite drab and lacking in primary colors. This in mind, I have been instructed to bargain you down to a minimum sunrise time of eleven o’clock and fifty-nine minutes.”

“His Madness has much to learn about the art of compromise,” said Celestia, tapping her hooves idly on the table. “And art in general. If Equestria should fail to acquiesce to these outrageous demands...?”

“Then His Madness will see no other option but to declare war.”

Celestia took another sip of water and spat it out. “You can’t be serious. There would be nothing to gain, and it would be little but pointless bloodshed. All for a pet rock! You would have to be—”

She stopped.

Horace scratched his beak. “You see our dilemma, I hope.”

“I do.” She sighed. “Surely there must be some way to avert war without giving into these absurd demands. Equestria simply can’t accept raising the sun so late as noon, and I personally can’t work with that kind of restraint. Isn’t there some reasonable solution His Madness might coincidentally accept?”

“I’m afraid not, Princess,” said Horace. “As I’m rather fond of living, and happen to treasure it more than questioning His Madness’ orders. Barring a miracle, I think it would be impossible to find a compromise that would fit both si—”

At that point the door was ripped off its hinges.


“I tried to stop him, Your Highness!” said a panicked guard, right before he was pushed aside by the bulky Minotaur Tribe ambassador.

“Buff Wellington!” he shouted, showering Celestia in tiny droplets of spittle. He bowed, careful to hold his monocle in place. “At your service! Your palace guard has skimped on its workout regimen and requires personal training, but that is not why I am here!”

“So, pray tell,” said Horace. “Why are you here, then? It was my understanding that this meeting was solely to be between the representatives of His Madness and Equestria.”

“Excellent question!” said Buff Wellington, flexing his sizable biceps. “Word has reached the minotaurs that Equestria is talking with other countries ‘bout when to raise the sun, and the Minotaur Chieftain—bless his mighty pecs—wants in on this showdown. I am here as a representative of his will, which is rock-hard and unyielding, like his abs!”

“Yes... well, all right, then,” said Celestia. Truth be told, she wasn’t sure Buff Wellington’s arrival was a blessing or a curse. On the one hoof, a third party in the negotiations could be helpful in handling His Madness’ demands. On the other hoof, it was yet another foreign diplomat, trying to dictate when she raised the sun.


“Take a seat, ambassador Wellington,” she said, directing him to a chair. “Let us hear what the Minotaur Chieftain’s perspective on this matter is.”

“I will stand, thank you!” shouted Buff Wellington. “The only thing on which a minotaur sits is a bench! Which he presses!” He flexed his biceps again. “And speaking of pressing matters, the Chief demands earlier mornings, that we may get a start on our mid-morning leg reps and still have time for arm curls!

“Well, I’m afraid that simply won’t do, Mr. Wellington,” said Horace, tapping a claw on the table for attention. “His Madness would be most upset if these negotiations were to end with even earlier mornings.” He narrowed his eyes at Buff Wellington. “Militarily upset, if you understand my meaning.”

“The minotaurs accept your implied challenge!” Buff roared. “We respect the opinion of nobody who can’t lift a house with their quads!

“And His Madness respects nobody at all,” said Horace, standing up. “It seems clear, then, that we are at an impasse.”

“Gentlefolk, please,” said Celestia, using her magic to separate the two ambassadors. “I’m sure we can find a solution that will suit everyone’s interests. Particularly Equestria’s, considering that it will be my job, and mine alone, to carry out whatever proposal we agree to.”

“The minotaurs pay mad respect to your power to lift the sun, as it is heavy!” said Buff Wellington. “But without our mid-morning leg reps, our legs will be tiny and weak, like a gryphon’s! Our entire way of life is at stake here!”

“My way of life would be at stake here also,” said Horace quietly. “Insofar as His Madness may behead me for allowing these freakishly-muscled minotaurs to go unchallenged.”

“Well,” said Celestia, “since it’s clear that war is undesirable, and that each side wants the morning at different times, I’m sure we can find a way to compro—”

“Did somebody say whey?” asked the Cow Herds’ ambassador, poking her head in through the open door. “Because the cows would like to weigh in on the matter also.”

Celestia looked desperately to her glass of water—empty. No water left to spit out, and she’d already tried banging on the table. She was running out of ways to keep the discussion in check that didn’t involve violence. And that was only for after every other civil course of debate had failed.

Just like they always did.

“Is this seat taken?” the cow ambassador asked, pointing to the chair nearest Buff Wellington. “I’d like to sit next to the handsome young bull there, but wouldn’t want to moo-ve into someone else’s chair by mis-steak.”

Buff Wellington flexed his pecs a little more obviously.

“I, uh,” Celestia stammered. “Well, the chair isn’t taken, per se, but this discussion is to be kept between—”

“Good!” said the cow ambassador, sitting straight down on the chair. It promptly broke in half. The cow settled herself in on the battered wooden remains of her chair, pounded her hooves on the table. “Now! From the cows’ perspective, it’s clear that we need our mornings to start at eight o’clock, precisely. And here’s why...”

Celestia had never quite reached the end of her rope before, nor her chain, and especially not her wits. She was now, however, quickly approaching the end of all three. More and more diplomats were streaming into the Negotiations Room, such that it was becoming almost impossible for any one of them to be heard. And, somehow, they all wanted mornings at a different hour.

“Mornings at noon!” cried the gryphons, sticking by His Madness’ orders.

“Mornings at four!” roared the minotaurs, still pressing for more workout time.

“Whatever at whenever!” rallied the mules, who mostly seemed happy to be present.

It was all Celestia could do to keep them from killing each other, and it was taxing her to her limits. Through the room’s window, she could see the sun beginning to dip down in the sky—they’d all been debating this matter for hours, and were even further now from resolving it than ever before.

Beneath the table, she could feel her stomach rumbling. She wished now that she’d stopped for a bigger breakfast this morning. The servants occasionally brought trays of cheese, crackers, and—of course—glasses of water, and she could survive on those indefinitely if need be, but she really didn’t want to. Two weeks had been her upper limit the last time debate had stalemated like this, and all that cheese had haunted her for a long while afterward.

No. She shook her head. This needed to end now.

She slammed her hooves on the table, cracking it in half and sending splinters flying everywhere. “Hear me now!” she shouted, using her magic to amplify her voice. The diplomats grew quiet as they realized that she’d gained a decisive advantage in talking over them. “This debate has gone on long enough! It is time to find a path that all parties can accept!

“But, Princess—” said the donkeys’ ambassador.

Silence!” she screamed, and the windows exploded.

The ambassador was silent.

I cannot raise the morning sun without ample inspiration—which may strike at any time—and it is clear that none of you can agree on when I should raise the sun.” She paused to let the effects of her words sink in. “Therefore, I propose that we change nothing, and that I continue to raise the sun as best fits my ability to do so. It will not be a proper victory for any of you, but it seems the fairest choice for all of you—and me as well. Is this not so?”

One by the one, the diplomats began to nod. She could almost see the gears turning in their mind as to how they could best spin that logic to their sovereigns at home.

“Hmm, yes,” Horace mused. “I suppose His Madness would find that preferable to a war against everyone else here. Perhaps we could get him a new pet rock, which would be less sensitive to sunlight...”

“The minotaurs are displeased by this development!” announced Buff Wellington. “But in the interest of fairness to those without biceps the size of their heads, we will concede and move leg reps up in our regimen!” He pointed to all the other diplomats. “Be grateful!

“Does anyone, then, disagree with this proposal?” asked Celestia, letting the magic flow out of her voice. “If not, then I will declare this discussion—”

“Actually, Princess,” said one of the guards by the door. “We’ve been talking to the night guard, and it seems like they’ve been getting regular work hours. If you could give us schedules or something, for when you’re going to raise the sun, we think that would be really great.” He yawned. “Just a thought, I guess.”

The room grew dim for a moment as a single black cloud passed over the sun outside. The diplomats gave the window a quick glance, but most forgot it as soon as the moment had passed. Ambassador Wellington, who happened to have been standing by the window, shivered ever so slightly.

Celestia pursed her lips. “And do the rest of you,” she asked, turning to the diplomats, “sustain this disagreement?”

The diplomats murmured amongst themselves for a moment before turning back to her.

“Schedules would help the minotaurs plan their weight-lifting for maximum mass-gain...” said Buff Wellington sheepishly.

Horace coughed. “It was a fairly early sunrise this morning...”

Celestia took a sip of her glass of water. Then another sip. “I see,” she said quietly. “Well, then, it seems that we are at an impasse once more. You desire scheduling, and I desire that you cease to place unfair impositions upon me and my work. Do I have the correct understanding of this?”

The room roared with affirmatives.

She took a final sip of her water. “I see.” She smiled to the rest of the room. “Then I will, of course, concede and give you all exactly what you want.”

Cheering from the diplomats.

“For the next week, then,” said Celestia slowly. “The sunrise shall be handled by my capable sister, Luna, who has proven herself adept at scheduling them in the past. You shall have the scheduled, organized, regimented sunrises you all so desire. All in favor?”

Slightly less enthusiastic cheering from the diplomats.

“Excellent,” she said, rising up from the shattered remains of the table. She stepped to the door and bowed. “Then it seems we have nothing else to talk about. I shall now take my leave.”

“Thank you for your time and consideration, Princess,” said Horace, bowing himself. The rest of the room bowed alongside him. “This agreement would not have been possible without your boundless compassion and willingness to consider the position of others.”

“No, thank you,” said Celestia, smiling back at them all. “For the vacation, I mean.” She waved them goodbye as she stepped out. “Enjoy your Gray Days.”

The room was silent for a long while after. The diplomats looked to each other, then to the door, and finally to the broken window, which—for now—showed them a pale-blue sky.

And, for the first time in their lives, they weren’t quite sure what to say.

“Well, if nothing else, it will be some time off,” said Celestia, drying her mane as she stepped out from the bath. She looked to Luna, standing patiently by the door. “And you’re sure you don’t mind, Luna? I don’t want to impose if you aren’t willing to handle this, but those diplomats simply don’t seem to appreciate—”

“Nonsense, Sister,” said Luna, smiling. “I assure you that I am perfectly capable of raising the sun. In fact, I will do the realm one better! For the next week, sunlight shall not blind the eyes of unfortunate ponies, and there will be fewer colors to incite undesirable passions. Consider it your vacation.” She gave Celestia a wink. “You do deserve it, Sister.”

“Really?” Celestia laughed and settled down onto her bed—which she’d made sure was quite free of snakes. “I suppose I might. Today was something of a mess.” She sighed. “I just don’t know how they all knew to start piling on the sunrise negotiations. Those were supposed to be behind-closed-doors... until the minotaur ripped them off their hinges, anyway.”

“Truly a mystery.” Luna nodded. “But worry yourself not, Sister. I shall combat the diplomats while you enjoy your break.” She grinned. “They will riot against me, I am sure—rise up, perhaps, against my cold, iron hoof—but I shall strike fear into them as they have never known before! By week’s end, they shall cower in my presence!”

“Don’t go too hard on them, Luna,” said Celestia, chuckling. “I’m only trying to make a point. And do keep the sunlight at minimum levels this time. I don’t want to hear any reports of crop failure, or ponies freezing solid, or—”

“Yes, yes, Sister,” said Luna, with a wave. “No undue deaths... Honestly! Make a few mistakes here and there, and suddenly everypony’s afraid when you’re in charge of the sun.” She pouted. “I liked the Gray Days, at least.”

“I’m sure you did,” said Celestia, smiling. “And thank you for your help with this, Luna. It’s good to know I can count on you, at least.”

“One of the many benefits of being organized,” said Luna, laughing. “Now, if you will excuse me, I shall leave you to your relaxation. I have quite a lot of work to do.” She stepped toward the door and gave Celestia one last parting smile. “Good night, Sister.”

“Good night, Luna,” replied Celestia, as Luna shut the door behind her. She smiled and snuggled under her covers. It had been a long and unforgiving day, but now that she had a little time to relax, free from duty—and the responsibility of creativity—Celestia supposed she may as well start enjoying it.

She opened up that book she’d always meant to finish reading and began flipping pages. Daring Do was amongst her personal favorites, and there was no better way to spend a vacation than by catching up on the series—with her canvas gone for a week, she’d need her creative pleasures more than ever. With any luck, she’d be finished with this one by tomorrow morning. “Let’s see...” she said, opening up to page fifty-four. “Daring Do, having exhausted her strength flying over the ocean, was almost ready to give up, when—”

And she would have finished that sentence too, had not a particularly annoying sound reached her ears and disrupted her flow. She closed the book and listened for it again—there it was. She knew that sound. Her eyes narrowed, and her smile curled down into a frown. Celestia unraveled the towel from her still-wet mane and strode purposefully toward the door. She’d always considered herself more of an artiste than a musician, but she knew a few things about that sound in particular.

Because, oddly enough, it sounded precisely like the maniacal laughter of a little sister, who’d finally gotten what she’d always wanted.

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