The Mare at the End of Forever

by Obselescence

Chapter 1: Disquiet

There was no longer anything worth speaking of, and there hadn’t been for a long time. Not for millions of years, give or take a few if you thought that sort of thing mattered. Nopony cared. There was nopony alive to care. The chapter on life had been closed an eon ago and the book itself was going out of print.

Under an ash-gray tree on the beach sat Celestia. Not Princess. Just Celestia. She didn’t have a land and she didn’t have any subjects, and a princess without either was no princess at all. So, just Celestia. She didn’t care to hold on to empty titles.

Memories, though—those had stayed with her. Etched in her mind and the lines on her face. She was old now, even by her standards, and she was starting to look it. Was starting to feel it. Her morning-hued mane had faded and grayed, and there was an ache in her joints that she just couldn’t shake. It was only natural, though. After a billion-odd years of perfect health, she couldn't begrudge age now that it was finally—finally—catching up with her.

Occasionally Celestia looked out on the horizon, to the burning red sun that had filled up the sky, and contemplated it for a second, or for an hour. If nothing else, it served as a blazing reminder that nothing ever lasts forever. Not even a star. Not even a former princess. She needed that, every now and then: that reassurance of her own eventual mortality. Then she could go back to watching the waves, drowning her thoughts in them as they crashed on the shore. She would die quietly, she hoped, simply existing on her little barren beach until eternity itself came to an end. It wouldn't be too long now, really. She could not die until the sun, but it would live only a few billion years more. She just had to wait out the clock.

Tick tock.

But all fires flicker before they fade out, and Celestia was no exception. She couldn't forget—that was the trouble. The past, always growing, was too big and too fearsome for her to kill off entirely. The best she could do was keep it at bay and away from her thoughts, and often enough even that was a struggle. Someday, perhaps, it would rise up and swallow her whole, but she wasn't too worried about that. She didn't have to fight it forever; just until time ran out on the clock.

Tick tock.

So she took it in stride when the past reared its head and began to haunt her in earnest one day. She barely even bothered to turn her head when that starry blue mane fluttered by the corner of her eye. It wasn't Luna, she knew. Luna was dead.

"Hello Luna," she said calmly. "It's been a while."

"Hello Sister," came Luna's voice, just as Celestia remembered it. "Indeed it has."

Whatever it was that sat beside her now sounded like Luna. It looked like Luna. It could have been Luna, with her little black crown and crescent-moon cutie mark, youthful and bright as ever... but it wasn't her baby sister, and Celestia kept that in mind.

"To what do I owe this pleasure, Luna?" she asked. "We don't speak all that much anymore."

The Luna-thing pursed its lips, glaring at her indignantly. "Must I have a reason to speak with you, Sister? Perhaps I simply wanted the conversation."

Celestia laughed. A weary, exhausted laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. "You're right, Luna. That was rude of me. I'm sorry."

"As you should be," it grumbled. The Luna-thing pouted for a moment, then smiled back at her. "But it is good to see you again, Sister."


The years went on as they sat there in motionless silence, the only sound that of the sea. It was better that way, really. Celestia had nothing she wanted to say. Not to Luna, and not to her shadow either.

"I missed you so much while I was gone, Sister," said the shadow at last, breaking the silence. "It was not easy, to be gone from you for so long. Cold. Afraid. Alone..." It smiled warmly at her. "I am glad to be with you again."

"I can only imagine," said Celestia, bored. She didn't have the energy to feign much interest in her memories. "You'll have to tell me about it sometime."

It paused at that. The smile dimmed and disappeared. "Did you not," it asked slowly, "miss me also, Sister?"

Celestia shrugged. "I did, once. I'd like to think I've grown a little wiser since then."

"Wiser?" It looked up at her with Luna's big cyan eyes. Confused. Hurt. "You think it wiser now to forget me?"

"Well, with age..." Celestia chuckled. She flexed her wings experimentally and winced as they crackled and popped. "With age..." She sighed and folded her wings back in, turning her gaze to the sky, to the sun. "It's been a long time indeed, Luna. I've moved on. You know you can't ask me to mourn you forever."

“But surely—”

“I don’t miss you, Luna. There’s nothing more to it.”

It gasped, its mouth falling open in shock. "Y-you do not truly mean that!"

"And if I did?" Celestia asked, unabashed. “What, then?”

The Luna-thing choked down a sob. “If you did...” It looked up and smiled at her again. Not with affection this time, but with pity. "Oh, Sister," it said sadly, closing Luna's teary eyes. "What has happened to make you this way?"

"Things change," said Celestia simply. "Everything changes, if you live long enough to see it."

"Do you truly intend to forget everything, then?" it asked her, wiping away the tears. "Equestria? Your sister? Your subjects?"

"They're dead too, aren't they?"

"That favorite student of yours?"

She thought briefly back to that far-off time, of a lavender-colored nose pressed eagerly to a newly-opened book, of all the promise and potential in that filly bouncing before her with joy, of—she caught herself and forced her thoughts back to the present. Celestia didn't want to continue this battle. She'd fought it already, a hundred thousand times. She’d earned her rest from it. "I'm tired now, Luna," she said, yawning. "Later."

She worried, briefly, that it wouldn't listen—that it would stay and torment her to the bitter end—but the Luna-thing obediently stood up and brushed the sand off its coat. "You said those words to me so many times," it said, "when I was alive."

"Did I?"

Maybe she had. So what if she had? There'd always been a later, hadn't there?

Almost always.

It turned away and looked back one last time before it left, staring down at her with a disappointment Luna had never once shown in life. "I'd just wondered," it said, "if you wish you had said them less often." And with that, it flew off, shrinking into the hazy horizon until she could no longer see it, leaving only the great clouds of dust it had stirred up with the force of its wings.


A century or so later, long after the memory itself was a memory and the imaginary imprints it had left in the sand faded, Celestia answered. "It wouldn't have mattered if I had," she said quietly. More for her own sake, than anything. It was much too late now to get the last word, but she could rest a little better now, knowing that she could have had it, if she’d wanted it.

And all the while, the clock went tick tock.

The sun blotted out still more of the sky as time passed her by, imperceptibly expanding its all-encompassing reach, second by second by billions of seconds. Celestia smiled as the atmosphere around her got just that tiny bit hotter, enjoying the warmth of a heat she could barely feel anyway. One of the few pleasures left to her in her old age. She had to take them where she could get them.

A scarlet ocean wave broke on the shore and fell back to the water. Then another, and another, as the minutes and months and years ticked on. And every year the water sank another fraction of an inch. It had been that way for ages now, even before the last corpse of the last fish had rotted to nothing before her eyes. How much longer would it be, Celestia wondered, until the seas boiled away altogether? Until even the vastness of the ocean proved temporary?

Ten million years? Twenty?

It didn’t matter, she supposed. It would happen soon enough, and her own end wouldn’t be too far behind. It would only take patience, and she had patience in spades. The sun could only burn so bright and so hot before it burned out entirely. And then—

And then—

The tree behind her started crackling before she could finish that thought. The first signs that it would catch fire. She put her musings aside for the time being and drew on what was left of her magic. The tree glowed a dull white as the protection spell on it was renewed, and the crackling ceased soon after.

She looked to make sure she’d saved it in time and sighed in relief when she realized she had. The tree was still there, its branches still gnarled and leafless... exactly the way it had been when she’d first set herself down on the beach.

It was just a pet project, to keep it alive. The tree gave her some scant hints of shade, and she liked the idea that something else—anything else—would survive for as long as she did, so she kept it standing.

One of her few remaining pleasures. She deserved them, didn't she?

Satisfied that the tree would not burn under her watch, Celestia closed her eyes and let her tired mind wander. There had been a time, ages back, when casting simple protection spells would have been effortless. When she'd been all but omnipotent. When nothing had seemed out of her reach...

But she'd been so much younger then. Now that she had some perspective, Celestia could see that some things were indeed out of her reach. No wonder, then, that she'd never climbed high enough to catch them.

She looked down the coast and saw smooth, unvarying sand. Her mind’s eye rebuilt the uncountable granules into the cities they had been once, long ago. Cities where ponies had lived the entirety of their fleeting lives. She couldn't have preserved them, not with a thousand times as much power as she'd ever held. In the end, there wasn't a protection spell powerful enough to save brick, stone, and skeletons from wearing away into sand. All she could do was accept that.

"Do you envy them, Sister?" whispered Luna's voice. "Your subjects?"

Celestia didn't bother to look or respond. Maybe it would go away if she didn't acknowledge it. Maybe it would finally leave her alone.

Maybe it would...

"Do you envy them, that they died before they were made to bear witness to what their world would become?" it continued. "Is that the root of your suffering, that they were mortal and you are not?"

Or maybe it wouldn't.

"We're all mortal, Luna," said Celestia calmly. "It was their time when they died and my time will come soon enough. It's as simple as that; there's nothing more to it. Now please go away."

She could almost feel its stare on her... almost imagine the steel in Luna’s piercing eyes. "Was it merely my time, then," it asked, "when I was so unjustly slain? Is that what it was?"

"We're all mortal, Luna. What more do you want me to say?"

She felt the feathery brush of a wing against her back. Luna's wing. Or something that felt so much like it. Celestia resisted the urge to turn and see Luna's face. No—not even her sister's face. Merely her recollection of it.

Celestia chided herself for thinking otherwise for even a moment. She couldn't give into illusions and delusions now. Not when she'd come so far free of them.

"I only wish to understand you, Sister," said Luna softly. "To help you break free of this madness that has taken hold of your mind. Why must you fight me?"

"Madness." Celestia's lips curled upward at the irony of that. "I wouldn't be speaking to you if I weren't already past that point, would I?"

"I would not be speaking to you, Sister, if you did not need it."

A hoof brushed soothingly through Celestia's mane. She might have pushed it away, if she'd had the strength to do so, but she couldn't quite raise the effort. What would be the point? It wasn't a real hoof and it did her no harm. There were better ways she could spend her dwindling energy. She couldn’t think of any off the top of her head, but they certainly existed. Somewhere.

"Fair enough," she admitted. "Do as you like."


Again, for a time, silence reigned on the beach, save for the rhythmic splash of the waves. And then, a new sound: the soft, soothing hums of the long-dead Princess Luna. Melodies and lullabies her big sister had sung to her in the mornings, when the world was young and the moon was new—Celestia remembered. She wished that she couldn’t, but forgetting the past was always difficult. There was so much of it, after all, to forget.

That was what she was feeling, seeing, hearing now... wasn't it? A memory she simply remembered too well. A thought she couldn't stop thinking.

"Why are you here, Luna?" she asked, when the humming finally drifted to a stop. Her eyes did not turn away from the sea. "What can I give you to leave me alone?"

"Why should you want to be rid of me, Sister?" it asked. "And what could you give me, save for your company?"

Against her better judgment, Celestia turned to face the memory of her little sister directly, and her old, old eyes met squarely with Luna's, which would never age another day. "I killed him, you know," she said, her voice barely a croak. "Discord." She blinked and turned back to the sand on the shore, and the blood-red sunlight that illuminated it. "Wasn't that enough for you, Luna?"

Slowly, Luna laid a hoof on Celestia's shoulder. "I did not ask to be avenged. Not in so terrible a manner."

"No," whispered Celestia. "No, you didn't."

She felt old and tired. Moreso than she ever had before. It had been a mistake, she realized, to look into Luna's eyes. They reminded her too much of an innocence she had lost long ago. Hopes that hadn't yet been shattered. Dreams that might have come true...

The real Luna had been fortunate to die early, hadn't she?

"No, you didn't ask for it," said Celestia softly, "but if he’d killed me instead, you would have done the same. He deserved nothing better."

Luna's hoof fell off her shoulder. "There is always a better way," she said. "Harmony should be held to a higher standard than chaos."

"Oh, is that so?"

"We should be above trading death for more death," said Luna, her voice calm and thoughtful. "Ours is a force for preservation, not destruction. Do you not regret that your vengeance—your victory—called you to stoop to his level?"

Celestia couldn't help but laugh at that. "Ours, a force for preservation..." She looked to the shore, where all that was left was the sand, and her single, solitary tree, and not a trace of the civilization that had crumbled to dust around her. A force for preservation indeed. "Can you look at all this, then," she said, "and tell me that I truly won?"

No answer.


Still nothing.

She turned back again, to where Luna had been sitting, and saw sand. Not even a phantom or echo of her little sister—only more sand.

"No," said Celestia, somewhat disappointed herself. "I didn't think so."

And that was that.


What was left of eternity passed her by without issue and the clock ran on until the mainspring of the universe went slack. The sky glowed a fiery crimson with the final gasps of a dying sun, and the beach fell from quiet to total silence as the waves disappeared and the seas turned to vapor.

It had been a long and tiring journey, but the end was in sight; so close now that she could almost taste it. Soon—so very, very soon—the sun would reach the end of its life and burn out, like the galaxy’s greatest candle. And when that finally happened, she could set her burdens down and sleep.

It was over. Thank the sun, it was finally over.

Withered and weak, she sat with the tree, guarded only by the dwindling magic of a million-year-old spell. Somehow, it seemed fitting. She was ancient by then—beyond ancient—but the tree was ancient too. She had seen to that much. It had grown older and grayer with her as the years had gone by, and was practically fossilized now, despite her preservative magic... Soon it would die with her too. Neither of them would be forced to face the end alone.

"There isn’t much time left, Sister," said Luna, suddenly sitting beside her as well. "Are you sure there is nothing left that you wish to say? No final words?"

Of course. Celestia sighed. She couldn't be left to die in peace. "Leave me alone, Luna," she croaked. "I've said all there is to say for you. I've done all I could do—" a hacking cough interrupted her and her eyes drooped downward as her energy began to flag. Even the mere effort of speech was starting to take its toll on her. It almost hurt to talk. "If there's anything more... I don't care to hear about it."

Luna moved in close and draped her wing over her. It seemed bigger now, to Celestia. Or perhaps, in her age, she had simply shrunk. "I never asked that you do more," said Luna softly. "You have done so much, Sister. Far more than anyone could ever have asked of you."

"Then... why do you keep coming back?"

"To remind you," said Luna, "so that you would not forget."

"I don't want to remember," Celestia rasped. "I shouldn't have to remember."

Luna said nothing to that, but drew her wing in, nestling a bit closer to her big sister. She felt warm, Celestia realized. Warmer than anything she'd been able to feel in a long time.

"It was often said that the moon needs the sun," said Luna, after a time, "for the moon could not shine if it did not reflect the sun's light."

"When there were still those who could say that..." said Celestia, her eyes turning back to the ancient tree behind her. "When there was still a moon..."

"But I think it true also," Luna continued, "that the sun needs the moon, to keep its light shining when the night is at its blackest, and all is dark."

"It hasn't been dark for a long time."

Luna hugged her tightly, tears starting to flow from her eyes. "You think it meant nothing because it came to nothing," she said. "But it did mean something. We all meant something. To you. If ever, even once, a subject, a student, or a sister, mattered to you—if you still cherish what time you did have with them—that is reason enough for them to have lived in the first place."

Celestia coughed again and shuddered. The sand glowed with heat from the flickering sun. She wouldn't last much longer, she knew. Not like this. She didn't have to deal with Luna’s shadow forever. The chill of death, slowly welling up inside her, would save her from that fate. "I keep telling you: it doesn't mean anything to me now," she said. "Maybe it did... Not anymore. I’ve grown past that."

Luna smiled at her, her eyes bright through the tears. It wasn’t the disappointed, piteous smile from so many millions of years ago, but that adoring, unconditional grin she'd always worn when she’d looked up to Celestia in life. Celestia could barely remember the last time she had seen that smile, and she wondered how, after everything she had said, Luna could still wear it while looking down on her in death.

"As you wish, Sister," she said. "But you are wrong: if it truly meant nothing to you, the tree above us now would not still be standing."

With that last parting shot, Luna vanished, and the feathery warmth of her wing faded into the air around Celestia, leaving her alone to spend what little time she had left.

And with only a few hours left on the clock, Celestia turned her head upward one final time. Through the withered and leafless branches of her tree, she looked to the looming red sun that she was destined to die with. She leaned just a bit to the side, to rest her head against the tree that was her baby sister’s gravestone, and mustered just enough of her remaining strength to smile.

"Fair enough, Luna." She closed her eyes. I'll see you soon.

Author's Notes:

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