"You're gone and my head's still spinning
Left the childhood
Left the good times of the past
Wishing the clock would stand still
The world can wait
Never will I forget you
And all the memories past
Nothing will take away the time we had
We knew that time would kill us
But you're still so close to me"
Vibrant leaves drifted and floated almost gracefully through the breeze, lazily coming to rest on the grass below. Despite the warm colours of the season, the air carried a biting chill. Winter was just around the corner, and the annual Running of the Leaves competition would no doubt begin soon.
An aged mare stood atop a small ridge and mused for a long while, admiring the beauty of the Equestrian landscape from her vantage. A fiery vista splayed out before her. A brilliant panorama of fall colours burned upwards to the contrasting the blue ocean of sky above. Vivid reds, oranges and yellows partially silhouetted by the lowering sun presented a beautiful scene of the end of an era. The final swan song of the season, making room for a whole new generation of life.
She liked it here. It was quiet. A place she could be alone without anypony to interrupt her thoughts. The only sound that stirred the silence was the occasional song from a nearby bird. A sort of peace radiated from the place, but yet, an old grief still hung heavy in the air.
Though she only just arrived, she could feel that sorrow already stirring in her blood. A somber sigh escaped the mare's lips as she turned her focus to the task ahead. As rickety as she may be, feebleness was merely a trifle that would never deter her from her task. She'd looked forward to this day for so long. The day she would say goodbye for the last time.
“Hey...” she began, her eyes drifting over each of the five headstones laid out before her. Each one carefully inscribed with a familiar marking. “I'm here, just like I promised.”
“I brought some flowers too. I know some of you aren't so much into them. They aren't even particularly fabulous, either.” The mare gave a grieved smile, “But at least it's something to let you know I still care. I love you all so much.”
The mare stepped forward, placing a bouquet before each stone. She paused at each one to brush away any stray leaves. She could feel tears welling up in her eyes as she passed each one, but managed to keep them back.
“Wherever you all are, I hope you're together and having a great time. Just like the old days.” The mare sniffled. “I cherish every moment of the times we spent together.”
“Remember when we would all stay up late and laugh for no reason at all? We would talk all night about our lives. I miss those times so much.”
“I remember when we'd talk about cute colts. A certain two of us pretended we were even interested.” She laughed gently through her teary eyes. “We were so obvious, weren't we?”
The mare sat down on the grass, somewhat fazed from the trip that would have been trivial only some years ago. She took a short while to catch her breath again before continuing. “Sweet Apple Acres is doing very well these days. Last years harvest was the most successful one on record.”
“Carousel Boutique is also booming. The place was left in good hooves. They use your designs to this day, and they're more popular than ever.”
The mare paused again, allowing herself to admire the landscape again. “This... this is probably going to be the last time I'll be able to visit. I'm not as young as I used to be.”
A small formation of migrating birds happened by, their arrow shape piercing through the cyan skies as they made their way to a warmer home. She eyed them as they flew past a billowy cloud. To a young eyes, a pony would notice nothing unusual about the airy pillow. Only one who had been around a long time would realize how lonely it looked. A perfect bed for an absent owner.
The mare's attention was soon diverted by a soft rustle of leaves behind her. soon turning into a dry crackling as a figure approached her from behind. A powerful shadow of a tall pony enveloped her in shade. Uncanny timing, as always.
“Hello, Celestia,” the mare began with certainty.
“Twilight. I thought the doctor told you to stay in bed?” The princess' voice had no trace of condemnation in its tone. It was almost as if she was glad to see her old student outdoors once again, regardless of the circumstances.
The unicorn took a glance at the lightning-inscribed headstone and smiled slightly. “I guess a bit of somepony rubbed off on me.”
Twilight could almost see the grin on the princess's face as well. “I know how important this day is to you. I came to visit the library since you couldn't make the festival.” Celestia stepped to a spot beside the lavender mare. “I should have known you would have other plans.”
“It still feels like it was just yesterday.” Twilight continued, “fifty years went by so fast.”
“Time loves to play tricks on us, doesn't it? I still remember the look on your face that day; you were beaming right from ear to ear. In a single night you saved Luna from herself and gained five lifelong friends.”
Twilight dropped her head, stifling the onset of emotion. “And now they're gone.”
Celestia stooped down and sat beside the lavender unicorn. Her expression dark and deeply sympathetic. “I'm sorry.”
“I just.. I just miss them so much.” The unicorn pressed her head into Celestia's side, squeezing her eyes together in vain attempt to stop the impending tears. Finding a way out as they always do, a small trickle leaked out from within.
A white wing wrapped her in a consoling hug. The princess nuzzled the unicorn gently on the cheek as Twilight allowed herself to cry softly. The royal alicorn had watery eyes of her own, visibly hurt by her student's pain.
“I'd g-give the world... just to see them one last time.”
“You know.. There's something I think you'd like to see.” The princess's horn began to shimmer with a delicate magical force; filling the air with a faint buzz as an oblong whiteness was imparted from its previous existence. The object contorted into a rectangle, then expanded outwards. As the magic began to dissipate, and a materialized object formed in its wake. An old brown book with six emblems emblazoned on its cover.
A blue aura surrounded the tome, lifting its cover and revealing its contents. Letters and photos of the past filled every inch of the page. Photos of Ponyville before long before it became a city, brochures for various airshows, and newspaper clippings. One in particular advertising a magical performance by 'The Great and Powerful Trixie!'
“It's a scrapbook of sorts that I kept. It was originally for the letters you and your friends sent me, but I started to add more as time went by.”
Twilight's eyes scanned through some old newspaper clippings and photos before her eyes landed on a particular note. “I... I remember this. It was the first letter I sent to you.” She said, her voice wavering from the sudden burst of nostalgia. “Dear Princess Celestia, I've learned that one of the joys of friendship is sharing your blessings. But when there's not enough blessings to go around, having more than your friends...”
Twilight trailed off as a small photo fell from the back of the letter, sparking a tearful smile to appear on her face once again.
There they were. The five vibrant mares that meant the world to her; exactly like how she remembered them. Young, carefree, ambitious, and full of life. They were posing in Ponyville on a warm summer's day. It was the very same picture she'd included in her letters to the princess so many years ago.
Memories she'd long since forgotten returned as her eyes met again with each of the ones that meant so much to her. Days that had been lost so long ago once again became so tangibly close. Memories she didn't even realize she still had broke through the floodgates deep inside her mind.
She could feel a faint blush appear on her face as her eyes locked with a certain rainbow mane. A mane that hadn't adorned the Equestrian skies for such a long time. Try as she might to hide it, the princess noticed her subtle gawk.
“You two were made for each other.”
An embarrassed wave of heat rushed up through Twilight's spine and into her cheeks. She suspected that her infatuation had been subject to rumour, but surely not so obvious as that the princess would catch on. “You... You knew?”
The alicorn laughed softly. “Well, it wasn't exactly the best kept secret. Besides, I was your mentor for years. I could read you better than any book.”
“I thought you might have been upset.”
Celestia frowned, almost as though she was offended by the assumption. “Nonsense.”
Twilight smiled. Deep down, she'd always known that the princess would understand, but she couldn't bring herself to confession. Be it lack of courage or shame, romance had been something she'd tried to avoid in her letters and conversation.
“She made it, didn't she? To the Wonderbolts. Before she passed away.”
“Yeah. They weren't able to give her a proper ceremony, since she was in hospital.” Twilight gave partially spiteful snort, “that's typical Rainbow Dash, though. She never did anything the right way.”
Twilight looked back to the photo and sighed with a slight smirk, “I guess that's why I loved her so much.”
Twilight took her time with the photo and her memories. Remembering the times they had together that she wouldn't have traded for the world itself. Adventures they had that nopony would believe if she told them.
Soon, curiosity's grip became too much. Mimicking the book, she flipped the page and instantly regretted it. A normally bearable scar, one that had become too deep to feel was made all too real again by seeing his young face once more. He was happy back then; back when life made sense. Back when nothing really mattered and farewell seemed so far away.
It was pouring rain in Ponyville, or more accurately, in the pasture of grassland on its outskirts. Gray, heavy clouds in the skies above seemed to share in sorrow with those below. The monotonous patter of rain as it hit the soggy ground was only broken by distant rumbles of thunder. It was a miserable day, but all things considered, the weather was the least of anybodies worries.
It was a day planned long ago. A day the two of them knew would come from the very beginning. One that seemed so far away at first, but now was all to close. Time has a way of slipping away, making even the most distant of plans come to pass all too quickly; and today was no exception.
“Please don't make me go. Please,” Spike pleaded, looking down at his very best friend. A small river of mixed tears and rainwater streamed from the sides of his face, dribbling off the end of his angular snout.
Twilight had tried to prepare herself for this very moment. The one moment where she had to be strong. Even so, she knew her preparations would be in vain. Her own tears streaked down her face, and it took all she had to keep from breaking into heaving sobs. “You h-have to go. You can't stay here any longer.”
“I don't want to go. I'll stay. Please. Please, let me stay. Just one more day.”
Twilight slowly shook her head, trying in vain to blink back her tears. “We've already waited for far too long. I.. I can see it in your eyes. You're tired.”
“I'm really not. Honestly.”
The dragon's antagonizing stubbornness fused with the emotion of the day was enough to flush her cheeks red with frustration. The massive beast still had the heart of a child deep inside. “You're dying, Spike! You know your body is shutting down!” she bellowed, surprising herself with the sheer volume and malice in her voice.
“I don't care! I'd rather die than leave you!” Spike screamed back, his tears pouring faster still.
Twilight reacted the only method that came to mind. Charging the giant, she collided with his armoured scales with a dull thump, locking their bodies together in a ferocious embrace.“P-please go. We both know that it's the only way.” Twilight begged, clenching her teeth together in attempt to keep the cistern of pain inside from surging forth.
Spike returned the embrace, his expression softening as he pulled the unicorn close with his strong arms. “Then is this.. our last g-goodbye, then?”
The lavender mare struggled a slow nod. “I'm sorry. I'm so sorry,” she gasped, burying her head deeper into the dragon's shoulder. “By the time you wake up.. I'll... I'll be gone. But m-maybe... someday we'll be together again. Forever.”
Spike held her in silence for a time, the only sounds in the air being their soft sniffles muffled by the leering tempest. Neither of them wanted to move. Neither of them wanted to let go of the embrace. Neither of them wanted to face the inevitable fate ahead.
“Forever isn't long enough to be with you.”
Twilight couldn't hold it back anymore. Spike's words tore into the deep sorrow she'd tried so hard to lock away. An errant sob escaped her lips, ripping apart the latches of the self-imposed chamber in the pit of her heart,. She held nothing back as her sobbing poured tears upon the dragon's already soaked body. It wasn't long before he too crumbled and joined her. The two of them cried into each other's shoulders for what seemed like hours. Every care, every desire, everything in their being dissipated into the black fog of agony.
“Please don't forget me.”
The unicorn did her best to bite back her sobs. “I will never, ever forget you. I love you, Spike. I always will.” Twilight sniffled, “And I'll always be with you. Even when my time is over on this earth, I'll be right there by your side. Don't you ever let me go, okay?”
Spike's embrace tightened as they sobbed once again. Even as Twilight's weeping began to sting her eyes, she couldn't find it in herself to stop. They tried to compose themselves for a proper farewell numerous times, but it's so hard to say goodbye knowing that it's over.
“I-I.. I guess it's time for me to go then.” Spike choked, slowly unlocking himself from the embrace, giving his wings a small flourish in preparation for flight. His eyes were visibly filled with clouds as they met with Twilight's own. Filled with the immeasurable pain of two lifelong companions as they were to part ways for the final time.
As much as Twilight tried, she couldn't bring herself to speak another word. She gave a small nod at the dragon she had grown up with for so long. His powerful wings stroked through the air, stirring a chaotic wind. The force whipped at her soaked mane, and by the time she opened her eyes, he was gone.
Twilight watched as his form became nothing but a speck on the horizon, then faded to nothing. She stayed there, staring into the sky where he disappeared with tears flowing. Hours passed before she finally collapsed on the grass, sobbing and shivering. The ruthless rain continued to fall in torrential sheets, but no amount of it could wash away her pain. She was cold. For the first time since she could remember, she felt so bitterly cold. No arms she could curl up into and be held. No chest snuggle with for warmth. No shoulder to cry into.
A tear fell onto the faded photograph. The droplet streaked down to its corner, leaving only a thin line of moist residue behind. Depressing under the weight, the photo's corner made way for the bead to dribble off the side and fall onto the earth beneath.
“I still think about him every day.” The unicorn wiped her eyes with a hoof. “I had to take his pictures down. It... It just hurt too much every time I saw them.”
“He loved you very much. He still does.” The princess' wing tugged her closer. “I'll bet you anything he dreams about you.”
Twilight smiled. Celestia's motherly affection had been a thing of comfort for her over the years. Anytime something went wrong, whenever she felt broken, she could always confide in the princess to be there for her. She was so much more than a teacher. She loved her like her own.
The two of them sat wordlessly for a long while, just watching the onset of eventide. The fiery red glow of eventide had begun to match the blazing earth below. The world was a pyre, a sort of final rite as if to join the ponies in commemorating those who have left it.
“Rarity used to always say that beauty never dies. It just moves on.” Twilight sighed, “as I've gotten older, the more I've realized that she was right.”
Celestia gazed to the open expanse splayed out before them. “It's almost like they're right here with us, isn't it?”
“I know they're still out there. I know they're waiting for the day I'll go home and see them again.” Twilight leaned into Celestia’s side, “you told me once of a magic that never dies, one that never falters. It's our friendship. Our journey we shared. The legacy we've left behind.”
Celestia gave a gentle nod. “We'll all be forgotten somewhere along the hands of time, but just know that you've helped build the future. We're passed down by the memories given to those who stay.” Celestia smiled, “we all leave a little bit of us behind in everyone we love. That's magic in itself.”
Twilight gave a soft laugh and looked up at her teacher. The alicorn still looked the same as the day she met her. The years had done nothing to diminish her regal beauty.
Celestia smirked, noticing her student's inspecting gaze. “What? I don't look that funny do I?”
“No. It just feels like I've been here before. Watching the sunset with somepony who loves me.”
The princess' wing hugged her closer again as they smiled at one other. A feeling burned inside her for the first time in years. It almost seemed to pulse through her, ebbing away at the sorrow she'd been feeling for so long. She'd forgotten what it felt like. It had been years.
It felt so real. Love stronger than the bounds of time; love that could transcend the barrier of eternity. A sense of gratitude for a life lived. A joy for those she was privileged to share it with. A feeling of the purest happiness flowed through her veins.
“Thank you, Celestia. Thank you for the most wonderful adventure a pony could ask for. ”
That very night, a lullaby was sung to a newborn foal. Unknown to the world, the young filly would one day grow up and be a light in Equestria, her smile shining so bright as to rival Celestia's sun. One day she would look to the sky, to the open canvas of ancient dreams to see a great rainbow illuminating her way. It would almost seem as though friendship would be the one to seek her out. Her adventures would be fantastic and extraordinary, and those she would share her life's journey with would make it all worthwhile.
For now, though, she just listened to the music. To the song of celebration for the generations that have come and gone. For the ponies who lived and shaped the world to what it is today. For the brave ponies of the past who dedicated their lives to building a better tomorrow.
To the song of hope for the generations yet to come. For the fillies and colts still to live their lives. For the endless tales of friendship and adventure to yet to come to pass.
A song of magic that never fades away.