There was a mahogany dining table in the Lady’s mansion, carved from ancient trees and kept intact with even older magic. It was long, quite long, the kind to seat a gathering of twelve or more. The dining room that housed it was as grand as its table, every wall decorated with oil portraits of people—some prominent, some unknown, and all beautiful in some way. In their artistic design, in their color palette, or in their subject.
There were three that stood out.
The first was a portrait of Lady Celestia. Somber and quiet, hands folded on her lap as she sat on a bench in her garden, this painting was almost as unnerving as the indecipherable smile on her lips. She stared at you, the Lady from the portrait, with a piercing gaze that seemed to follow you wherever you went and know just about anything you were thinking. It was rather accurate in that respect, wasn’t it?
The second, on the opposite wall, was of Lady Luna. Like her sister, the Lady sat on a bench in the gardens, though it was not sun that shone upon her, but the moon instead. White light bathed her, the shadows it created dancing all around, and yet none cast a shadow larger than the lack of a smile on her lips. I myself could count with the fingers of my hand the times I’d ever seen my dear Lady Luna smile in the years I’d been under her employ.
Finally, the third painting, which hung all by its lonesome on a white wall, was a portrait of a young girl in a white dress. Devoid of color, this mysterious child of no more than ten years of age sat on a swing, her hair tied up with a ribbon. She seemed to be looking down upon the dining table with innocent curiosity, and should you stare too long into her eyes, you might feel as though the people eating were nothing more than her little playtime dolls.
These three paintings and the dozen more scattered along the walls were Twilight Sparkle’s sole companions as she and Lady Celestia quietly ate lunch, both seated at opposite sides of the table.
Hurry up! the child seemed to say as Twilight stared up at her. Tell her, silly!
“You know, Twilight, I can arrange a meeting with the artist, if you’d like,” said the Lady quite suddenly. Her smile matched the child’s amused one. “You’ve been staring at it for a while now.”
My darling nearly choked on the water she’d been drinking.
The Lady laughed at Twilight’s poor attempts to compose herself, yet her laugh was not malicious in any way. You see, that’s what makes the Lady all the more dangerous.
She always means well, always tries to do what is fair and just, and yet we all know what the road to hell is paved with, do we not?
But I digress on this matter, and let us return to Twilight Sparkle and the portrait she’d been staring at for far too long.
“What’s on your mind, my dear student?” asked the Lady, and with a flick of her wrist, a second serving of meatloaf delicately alighted on her plate.
Twilight faltered. Questioning her teacher’s methods was not her usual approach.
“You’re wondering why you’ve been here for almost a week already,” the Lady said, cutting her meal, “and we’ve yet to have a single class on magic.”
A faint blush crawled up my beloved’s cheeks, but she did not deny her teacher’s guess. It was true, after all. She’d come to Canterlot expecting daily classes on mesmerizing subjects, and instead she seemed to be nothing more than a simple errand girl spending more time in the city than she did the mansion.
“Yes,” she said lamely. “Not that I don’t enjoy the errands, of course, but…”
“Twilight,” asked the Lady, “why do you think I send you out on so many errands?”
Feeling herself being tested, my darling stood up straight. “To prepare for our magic lessons?” she ventured.
The Lady gazed at her for a second, her expression indecipherable.
“What do you know of Redwood Grass?” she asked quite suddenly.
“I don’t,” Twilight replied with great shame, embarrassed to not know the answer to a question asked.
The Lady, however, was not bothered.
“It is said that once upon a time, a great mage by the name of Redwood Grass traveled the realm searching for something,” began Lady Celestia, her fingertips glowing with magic and the illusion of a young man no larger than a bottle stood on the table, the hood of his red cloak barely hiding face.
“What was he looking for?” asked Twilight.
“Magic,” replied the Lady, and a large staff appeared in Redwood’s ghostly hand. He lifted it up and when it began to glow, she continued, “Magic in all shapes and forms. Very little mattered to him other than understanding and studying it completely.” Another pulse of magic, and Redwood aged until his clear skin was tainted with the damning passing of time. “He spent his entire life devoted to the matter. They say his notes rivaled Starswirl’s.”
“What happened to him? Why haven’t I ever heard of him?” asked my lonely beloved, and what a start when the Lady snapped her fingers and so did Redwood vanish from sight.
“Who knows,” said the Lady, leaning back with a smile. “There are no records of his final whereabouts or where he left his notes. He was so focused on magic itself, he had no friends or family to remember him and try to preserve his legacy.”
“How many times have I sent you to North Ridge’s store this week?”
“Five,” Twilight replied. “Wait, uhm, six.”
“And in those six times you went, did you ever find out that North and his wife Frost Flower are experts on rune magic from the Undiscovered West? Knowledge that even I don’t possess?”
My beloved bowed her head. “No, Lady Celestia.”
“I would ask you why not, but we both know the answer to that,” said the Lady, delicately putting her cutlery on her plate. “As much as Flint and I enjoy your company, we should not be the only one you have. True magic, Twilight, cannot be gleaned just from books. Magic comes from how we connect with others, what we learn from them and teach them in return. I cannot teach you magic if you’re simply sitting there, waiting to be taught.”
Hours later, long after Twilight Sparkle had gone into town out of her own volition, Lady Celestia of The Sun sat in her lonely chair inside her lonely study inside her lonely mansion, and she stared at the little blue chair that had been unused for many lonely years.
Her fingertips again glowed with magic, and just like Redwood Grass, she conjured up an illusion to keep her company. The little girl from the dining room painting now sat on her little blue chair, her hands politely folded on her lap and her curious eyes piercing into the Lady’s.
“Why did I agree to take her in?” the Lady asked the child.
The child said nothing. She simply continued to stare, fidgeting on the chair and adjusting the small bracelet on her wrist.
“I miss you,” she continued softly. “Will you forgive me?”
Will you forgive me? she’d asked, folding her hands on her lap much like a vulnerable child would, and so she sat in silence, staring at this little girl as she did every Sunday and asking a question whose answer she feared above all else.
I… I don’t know. These sentences grabbed my heart and squeezed it so, so hard I just… I feel so much emotion from this. Celestia’s regret and since it’s Rarity narrating you also get a glimpse of her own pain. It’s raw and real, it’s amazing. It’s packed with so much emotion that it just bursts at the seams.