Twilight, just behind Princess Luna, stepped into the cave. At first, it was pitch-black, the stone around them seeming to suck the light from the world despite the huge entrance behind them. Their hoof-steps echoed loudly in the dark tunnel as they walked on hard stone. As they went further, however, flickering red and yellow glows filled their vision, finally shedding some light in the cave.
Twilight gasped after they came across the first source of light. A single torch was set in a bracket on the wall, the fire shedding a magical glow. But for Twilight, her gaze was locked on the walls themselves.
Instead of stone like she was expecting, the walls looked like they were made completely of glass. The uneven and multi-faceted surfaces were shaped in places like a massive gemstone. Twilight peered into the transparent walls, examining the thousands of tiny cracks and flaws within. The light from the torch seemed to almost refract from within the walls, bouncing off of the natural curves and bends.
“It’s like glass…” Twilight whispered, staring at the roof, floor and sides with awe. “It’s made completely out of glass. Look! You can’t even see the end!”
“It is just like the moonlight caves in Iyecaris,” Luna said, staring around at their surroundings with wide eyes.
“Huh?” That was a name Twilight had never heard before. The way Luna had pronounced the word like she were singing made it sound like it came from another language.
“A place from my past, Twilight. It’s high up in the frozen mountains on the top of the world. The caves there would collect moonlight and feed it into the river Styx that poured into Tartarus.”
“Collect moonlight? That’s just like the cave I found back in the forest.”
Luna bit her lip, though Twilight did not know why. “I know. And here it is again...”
“It’s incredible,” Twilight said, starting to move again, still staring at the walls of glass around her.
“Yes,” Luna replied, her voice distant and barely louder than a whisper. “It is.”
The tunnel plunged into the depths of the mountain, angling gently downwards. Torches were set evenly into the walls on alternating sides every fifty or so paces, filling the cave with more than enough light to see. Apart from their own hoof-steps and the crackling of the magical fire, it was completely silent.
At least, Twilight thought, it’s a little bit cooler in here than it is out in the sun.
They walked down into the earth, not saying much, just staring at the tunnel around them. The walls of glass were so… otherworldly. Surreal, almost.
It wasn’t long before Twilight first saw it. In the corner of her vision, there was a sudden flash of colour. She stopped and peered into the glass wall, trying to see whatever had caused the flash. Luna had stopped too, but she was looking in the opposite wall, searching for something that was clearly no longer there.
Twilight watched as a light began to grow in the depths of the transparent walls. Red and inky darkness swirled together, and occasionally a streak of blue, white, green, gold or silver would flash through it all, leaving a trail in its wake. As Twilight stared, the light became larger and larger, slowly drawing closer to the edge of the walls.
And then, with a rush of light that seemed to almost make the walls explode with images, the pictures raced towards the unicorn, filling the wall completely with a mess of indiscriminate colour. Twilight stumbled backwards in the shock of the sudden movement. She righted herself after a meek whimpering sound.
“The walls are moving,” Luna whispered, staring on her side where the wall had done the exact same thing.
“I…” Twilight said, unable to tear her eyes away from the swirling shapes visible inside the walls.
Suddenly, the light shifted. Twilight felt like she was falling, as the image flew through darkness before righting itself inside what looked like a gigantic stone cavern.
All was still for a moment before the darkened cavern was suddenly illuminated with a wash of red, orange and yellow light. It flickered and danced feverishly along the walls, revealing grotesque formations that looked like tumours clinging to the rock. The light coming from beneath grew and grew, until Twilight could finally see its source. A roaring inferno was burning from somewhere out of the image, filling the hall with a wall of flames that consumed everything in its path.
But even as the fire grew, Twilight watched as a single point of white light formed near the ceiling. The speck of light shone brightly despite the darkness and the fire, casting out rays of silver into the cavern. A battle was forming between the light and the fire, each one vying for supremacy within the enclosed space.
But then, even as both sides looked to be nearing a climax, the image suddenly disappeared in a flash of shadow. Twilight watched the light swirl, rearranging itself before her very eyes.
The image started to settle, and Twilight could see another huge underground cavern, this one filled with massive spires and pillars that reached from the floor to the ceiling. The entire thing was filled with fire. It swirled like clouds through the air and vomited forth from every crack or crevice in the floor. The ground was awash with lava, the molten rock filling every depression. It was hard to tell without a frame of reference, but Twilight guessed the cavern would have been easily over a mile high.
But that’s not what she was looking at. All Twilight could see was the mass of moving creatures. The cavern was filled with them; entire legions of beasts and monsters rushed around like scuttled ants, screaming in soundless voices to the roof of the cavern. Twilight could see hydras, dragons, wyverns, basilisks, trolls, giant wolves and even more that she did not recognise.
But they were all subtly different. The hydras weren’t the muted natural tones of the ones in Equestria; these were all pitch black, their hides almost looking like living rock. The dragons, instead of being covered in a thin pattern of smaller scales, were all protected by huge plates of bulking and jagged armour, each one meshing together like the chitinous exoskeletons of many insects.
All of the monsters were shrouded in shadow and flame, and all of them were armed.
But what Twilight couldn’t stop looking at were the marshals of shadow and fire themselves. Twilight realised she was staring at the living manifestations of the statues and paintings she had seen in the old city, the statue with the whip in its hand, fire in the other. Black horns curled up from their heads, and their chitinous bodies glowed a scalding red.
There were several of them, all standing on two legs, holding massive, cruel weapons constructed out of metal so black it looked like tar, covered in glowing red symbols. Their darkened bodies were cracked, and Twilight could see the red glow seeping forth from the fissures. They were all encased in spined fragments of armour made out of the same black metal as their weapons.
“Daemons...” Luna whispered, her voice breathless and quick, a panicked voice.
Twilight didn’t answer. She didn’t ask what daemons were. She couldn’t. All she could do was stare.
The daemons stood watch over their dominion, standing over twenty feet tall. As hard as Twilight tried, she could not stop looking at these ancient monsters, these monstrosities from an age forgotten by history itself. But if the picture Twilight was watching really was true... then these monsters... they were real...
Suddenly, an explosion of gold and silver tore a massive hole in the roof of the cavern. Twilight watched as all of the beasts fled to avoid the massive pieces of stone now plummeting to the ground, splintering in their own miniature explosions on impact. Bright light flooded from the hole that had not been there mere seconds ago, and from it came two objects. Two glowing creatures of grace, flying into the heart of darkness, encased in halos of pure light.
The two beings soared into the room, one as fair and beautiful as the sun, the other as elegant and mysterious as the moon. Both were sheathed in shimmering armour that hugged their bodies naturally and effortlessly, embedded with jewels and other pieces of finery. Twilight watched as they summoned tremendous amounts of power while the daemons below howled and screamed, throwing waves of fire at the magnificent creatures.
The pair broke apart in tandem, swirling away to avoid the burning missiles before coming back together, leaving trails of light in their wake. Twilight watched as the there was a flash, and then each creature slowed to a stop, hovering over the burning cavern, illuminating the shadow with beams of light.
The two creatures, alicorns of the heavens, looked at the chaos beneath them. Suddenly, the light around them seemed to stretch and elongate, forming two bright beams. Twilight stared in awe as the beams materialised, forming weapons of terrible beauty and craft.
The Midnight one levitated a sword of the deepest blue, the thin and slightly curving blade shimmering like the night’s sky. It was razor sharp and sliced through the air with elegant ease, sending sparks of liquid silver flying off into the shadow.
The creature of the Light held a massive spear, one of pure gold. It was a thick and hefty weapon that broadened out into a broad, wide blade, the edge keen and glinting in the light. It was decorated with silver filigree looking like infant vines that seemed to flow into the blade itself.
Together, their weapons held within shimmering auras of power, the pair descended on the shadow beneath them. They swept through the legions of monsters, leaving ruin in their wake. The daemons roared, fire spewing forth from their mouths. They drew their weapons and took flight on massive wings of darkness, launching themselves at the beings of light. The larger of the daemons, wielding a whip in one hand and a jagged sword in the other, led the charge.
Twilight stood, shaking in fear, unable to look away. The alicorns and the daemons engaged in a ferocious battle, explosions of pure energy and sparks of molten metal flying off as shields, bolts, and weapons collided with terrible force. The angels pirouetted effortlessly in the air, avoiding the savage blows of the daemons before striking with lances of magic or making calculated strikes with their blades.
Soon, the daemons began to fall, their bodies leaving crumpled ruins in amongst the broken stone on the floor, still smoking from the energies sent tearing through their bodies.
The darkness and the fire was strong, but the light was unrelenting, filling the entire cavern with its presence.
The light could not be stopped.
“Lu… Luna…?” Twilight whispered, still trembling.
“I am here, Twilight Sparkle,” came the distant reply. Her voice sounded like it came from another world, the voice of a ghost trapped in time.
“What… is that?”
“A moment in time, Twilight. A moment in history long forgotten by all. And for good reason.”
“Where… where are you?”
“But…” Twilight shook her head. Not wanting to believe. Unable to believe. “I have seen Tartarus! I have looked at the gates! I have seen Fluttershy pet Cerberus! Tartarus is not that!” Her voice was loud, manic even, as she tried to process what she was looking at.
Luna watched the terrible angels with sadness as they cast down another daemon into the fire. “There is more than one level to Tartarus, Twilight Sparkle. There are seven,” she said softly. “Each one more terrible than the last. Remember what I told you about the magic of the elements changing the world around it? The same is true for hell itself. Things are different now. I do not know if the effect has penetrated the depths of all of the seven levels, but regardless, Tartarus looked very different. This is how things were, Twilight. This is the history of your home… our history.”
“But… your weapons… your armour…” Twilight mumbled, not quite looking the Princess in the eye.
“Yes,” Luna said, her voice weighted with sadness. “Narliah and Alduaine, blades of the heavens. The sword of moonlight and the spear of the sun. They were our companions.”
Twilight watched as a massive hydra reared its head in the image, fire seeping out from its mouth, eyes and nose, its body cracked and crystalline like stone put under immense heat and pressure. The hydra roared, snapping at the angels with ferocious jaws. The Midnight one swerved and with one fell stroke, removed the creature from one of its heads. There was a swirl of darkness and of fire, but before the head could regrow, the Light sent forth a beam of energy, striking the wound and crippling the beast. With a howl, the hydra fell, and the Light fell upon it, plunging its spear into the monster’s heart. It twitched, and the fires within it went out and it lay still.
“I… don’t understand,” Twilight whispered at last. She stared at the equally magnificent and terrible form of her mentor, her ethereal mane swirling about her face as she removed her spear, before leaning down to whisper to the deceased monster. With a heavy expression, she took flight again, rejoining her sister in battle.
“I… That was a long time ago, Twilight. I have said it before; the world is now very different. That was the first of many wars for peace in Equestria’s early history. We learned… so much from it. Mistakes were made that we swore never to repeat again, and we strive to live by those vows.” Luna looked troubled by her own words, lost in thought.
Suddenly, the image shifted subtly. The legions were gone, and instead there was only a single daemon. He stood over thirty feet high, his black armour dripping with fire. He roared at the angels who answered him with silent grace.
“Who… who was that?” Twilight said, staring at the great and terrible monster.
“That was Necroth. One of the great daemons of the seventh level of Tartarus. He was one of their leaders, a puppet of the shadow, and a being of unspeakable evil and hatred.”
“One… one of?”
Luna nodded. “Yes. One of.”
“What happened to them?”
“We stopped them, Twilight Sparkle. We lost so much, but we stopped them. We sealed the lower levels for all eternity, slaying or trapping all of the worst creatures inside.”
“It was a war?”
“One of the worst this world has ever, or will ever see. Only Discord rivals its destruction. Be thankful for my sister’s magic, Twilight Sparkle. Be very thankful.”
“But you helped. You saved Equestria from these daemons and from Discord!”
The Princess turned on Twilight, her eyes burning. “And then witness what I did in payment! I cast the world into night, seeking to control it!” Twilight flinched as Luna’s voice suddenly rose, echoing off the glass walls. “I am no better than them, Twilight Sparkle! I am no better!”
“Princess! No! That’s not-”
“Twilight, please stop!” Luna said, her voice jarringly lower, but menacingly chilling. “I know what I am. I know better than anypony – mortal or not. You cannot convince me otherwise. I can only atone for what I have done.”
“Please, Twilight Sparkle. We should continue. We have lingered here long enough.” With that, Luna turned and started to walk away down the flickering tunnel.
Twilight stared plaintively after her, before running to catch up. She wanted to speak, but she didn’t. She wanted to run as fast as she could back toward the opening, but she didn’t. She held her tongue, respecting the Princess’ desire, and she stayed.
Because sometimes, that’s what a friend needed to do.
They had been walking in silence for about ten minutes when the tunnel finally ended. At first the images on the walls had faded out of existence, at last no longer showing the scenes of terror and violence within hell itself.
Then the glass walls began to change. Veins of glossy black rock could be seen running through the transparent walls, growing thicker and more numerous as they went.
Finally, the amount of rock in the walls outnumbered the amount of glass, and then there was none at all. Twilight noticed the subtle change in the sound her hoofsteps made on the floor, and realised that the glass had been left behind, and now they were firmly back in amongst rock. The temperature was growing again, and Twilight guessed that this meant they were nearing the centre of the volcano.
Then suddenly, without any warning, the tunnel ended, and the two mares found themselves in a huge stone cavern. It was filled with empty space, a curtain of dust hanging in the air like a smog, shifting and shimmering under the light of the fires burning along the walls. Twilight looked at the massive stone pillars and the boulders lying around and shivered as she remembered the levels within Tartarus she had seen only minutes ago. A small waterfall of lava flowed into a small pool up against the far right hoof side, bubbling gently.
But what Twilight and Luna were focused on was the stage and the thrones at the back of the cavern, for there, lying curled up in front of them, her mane shimmering gently around her white body, was Princess Celestia.
“Princess!” Twilight shouted, sprinting towards her mentor as fast as she could. “Princess! It’s me, Twilight!”
Twilight could feel the wind from Luna flying just above her, but she only had eyes for the Princess, who looked up at the sound of Twilight’s voice, her face illuminated by her smile, visible even from so far away.
“Twilight!” Celestia called out. Her voice was still as rich and beautiful as ever, but it shook slightly at the end, like someone who was struggling to stay awake. “My faithful student!”
“Princess!” Twilight said again, rushing up to Celestia and throwing her legs around the alicorn in a hug. “We came to find you, Princess.”
“Sister!” Luna said from behind her. “You are safe!”
“You came to find me?” the Princess asked, confusion written over her face. “Why?”
Up close, Twilight could see that her coat wasn’t quite as white as it usually was, almost as if it had lost its luminescence. Her mane seemed less ethereal as well, more like normal hair now. But she was still, without a doubt, the same Princess she loved. “Because we have to bring you home, Princess. Equestria needs you back. The sun won’t rise, and so we came to get you.”
Celestia nodded. “Yes, the sun does need to be raised. But I cannot return, Twilight. That task lies with Luna for the time being.”
“I… what?!” Twilight cried.
“Indeed. I have to rest, Twilight. I need to sleep. Luna has to raise the sun till I return. She has to rule Equestria.”
“But sister…” Luna said, her eyes wide and fearful. “I cannot! I cannot rule! That is your responsibility, not mine! We entered your mind to bring you back. You cannot leave me alone!”
Celestia cocked her head to one side, looking at her sister intently. “My mind? Whatever do you mean?”
“The dreamscape, Sister. We used the celestial void to enter your dreamscape.”
Celestia shook her head, a small frown on her face. “That cannot be. I sealed that away after you left. I prevented any of us from entering another’s dreamscape – we can only enter our own.”
Twilight froze, staring at Luna. It couldn’t be… It didn’t make sense… but did it?
“But- we- I…” Luna spluttered, her eyes darting to-and-fro. “That is impossible! I cast the spell on your mind! We entered into it! I felt it, I saw it! We are in your mind!”
“You can’t be,” Celestia replied evenly. “Only I can enter my mind, and only you yours. The only exception to that is if you willingly bring someone into your own, something only you or I know how to do. And before I slept, I did not bring you in.”
“But… but… I don’t understand…” Luna said, staring at her sister in shock.
It started slowly at first, but it quickly gained momentum. The laugh echoed from every corner of the cavern, filling it to its entirety. It was a cold, cruel laugh, and one that Twilight had heard before.
“Are you finally figuring it out?” Nightmare Moon’s voice hissed down from the ceiling, reverberating off of the stone. “Can you finally begin to grasp that this isn’t your precious sister’s mind, but rather your own prison?”
Luna’s eyes widened, and Twilight watched every single muscle in her body freeze and lock up. She could practically hear the heartbeat within the Princess’ chest from here.
“You cannot escape from me, Luna.” The voice practically spat the last word, loading her voice with as much contempt as possible. “I am inside every part of you. I am inside your mind when you are awake. I am inside your mind when you dream. I am a part of you, and I am always there, and I am always stronger than you.”
“No!” Twilight shouted back. “You’re not strong! You’re cowardly! You think power is all that it takes to be strong, to be respected, but that’s not true!”
Nightmare Moon laughed again. “Oh, and it’s precious little Twilight Sparkle. Such a pleasure as always. It’s nice to see you without your friends. Perhaps now we will show you what happens to those who dare defy the will of a goddess.”
“You…” Luna said, softly at first, but her voice rapidly gained volume and fire. “You shall not touch her!”
“Or what, Luna? What could you possibly hope to do? Your sister is too weak to fight, and the mortal lacks her friends to trick me like she did before. All there is, is you and me. And I think we both know who the stronger one between us is.”
“You shall not touch either of them,” Luna said again, her voice firm and resolute and fiery like a forest fire. “I shall crush you like we did the forces of hell. I shall crush you like we did the Puppet Master Discord!”
Nightmare Moon laughed again, and trails of shadow started to crawl into sight from every corner of the cave. The wisps of darkness pooled in the centre of the cavern, coalescing into the outline of an alicorn. “Fool,” she said, her voice hissing like a snake’s. “I am stronger than you. I always have been. You couldn’t change me, and so I won. And I will win again!”
With a flash of shadow, Nightmare Moon launched herself across the hall at Luna. Her cold and wicked armour materialised on her as she flew, and she summoned forth a blade shaped identically to the one Twilight had seen in the images in the wall. But this was a black with the dull gleam of ice, imbued with glowing runes, just like the daemon’s weapons.
Luna reacted, throwing herself to the side, drawing Nightmare Moon away from Twilight and her sister. Twilight watched as Luna encased herself with a halo of energy, her eyes suddenly glowing white instead of their normal teal. Luna cast a bolt of energy that sizzled in the air as it flew towards Nightmare, but the dark goddess absorbed the blow easily with her shield, laughing as her protection barely rippled.
“Please! Is that all? If you are going to make an attempt at beating me, show some strength!” With a snarl, Nightmare Moon sent two crackling beams of dark lightning streaking over to Luna, rending her shield apart with an explosion of energy. Twilight felt Celestia struggle to cast a shield around the pair of them, protecting them from the discharge of magic sent flying across the room.
She looks so weak, Twilight thought, moving a little closer to the white alicorn.
Luna tried to swerve to avoid the worst of the blow, but Nightmare pounced, closing the distance between them with two powerful flaps of her wings and a flourish of shadow. She brought her sword hissing down through the air towards the Princess, a sneer painted on her lips. Luna, realising she couldn’t avoid the blow, grimaced and sent out every ounce of her magic in a solid beam to absorb the strike.
Nightmare Moon’s sword struck beam of light with an explosion of sparks, and for the second time, Luna’s shield flickered and fell. But not before she was able to push herself away with a backwards arch through the air to give herself some space.
The dark goddess watched Luna back away with contempt. “See? You cannot beat me! You do not even have the strength to summon Narliah to focus your power. You are too weak to use your true potential!”
Luna allowed herself to land, catching her breath. She held Nightmare Moon’s gaze for as long as she could before looking down, her expression twisted in frustration.
Nightmare Moon took advantage of this lapse in concentration, and she swept forwards towards the Princess on a wave of shadow. “Fool!” she screamed. “You are weak! You are nothing compared to your sister! Nothing!”
As Nightmare spoke, Twilight watched Luna’s face change. Her lower lip trembled and her eyes narrowed into pinpricks. She looked up, her face a mask of rage. “I am not weak!” Luna screamed.
With a blinding flash of light, Luna encased herself with yet another ball of energy. She disappeared and materialised a few feet to the left, neatly avoiding Nightmare’s vicious swings. Nightmare turned with unnatural agility, her sword already waiting to strike again, but this time, Luna was ready.
She stood, encased in armour constructed out of shimmering blue and white light. Her eyes blazed like stars, and her mane was more ephemeral than real. Beside her, shedding the last of the silver light encasing it barely a second before, her sword, Narliah, glinted at the ready, its elegant blade testing the air in front of her.
With a cry, Luna charged Nightmare Moon, striking at the dark goddess with a flurry of blows calculated to outmatch her opponent through pure speed. Twilight watched her funnel all of her power through the sword as she struck high and low in a complex series of strikes.
Nightmare blocked them all with lightning speed, but Twilight saw the grimace that had spread across her face. Luna brought her sword down in a savage cut that Nightmare parried, and both their blades glinted off the other in a shower of sparks. Luna used the deflection to her advantage, changing the blade’s momentum to sweep sideways, attacking Nightmare’s legs. The dark goddess flicked her blade down, but she was too slow, and the strike hit home, opening a shallow cut at the top of Nightmare’s left leg.
She snarled and sent out a wave of power that forced Luna backwards. The shadow alicorn examined her wound with fury, and with a burst of light from her horn, the flesh stopped bleeding. She couldn’t close it, though, a side effect of magical blades, Twilight guessed.
“You can halt the bleeding,” Luna said, panting. “I must not have struck you hard enough. Perhaps next time…”
“Be my guest,” Nightmare said, gritting her teeth. “You will not get a second chance. It is nice to see you embrace your power, but that will not save you.”
With a flourish of shadow, Nightmare Moon materialised next to Luna, bringing her sword down in a savage arc onto her back. Luna flicked her sword around and only just managed to deflect the blow. Nightmare quickly followed up on her advantage, pressing Luna back towards the thrones with a series of blows so fast that Twilight lost sight of the two blades – they were just blurs of light, visible only when they stopped long enough for a shower of sparks to be sent flying.
Luna was being beaten backwards, barely keeping up with Nightmare’s pace. With each strike, the dark goddess channelled more power into her blade, allowing it to ripple and glow with energy. The shields around the two goddesses grew brighter and brighter, surrounding them both with balls of light.
Luna slipped, and Nightmare’s blade smashed into Luna’s shield, causing it to explode with a wave of energy that tore the very air apart. Loose wisps of magic filled the cave, burning and hissing as they disappeared into nothing. Twilight watched in horror as Luna was violently thrown backwards, Narliah hitting the ground next to her with a clang.
Nightmare Moon moved to stand over Luna as a cloud of shadow, materialising with her sword pointed at the Princess’ throat. She sneered at the midnight alicorn, her cat-like eyes narrowed into slits.
“You are weak, Luna. Know that. You cannot beat me, and you never will. I have more strength than you. I have more power. You could never win.” She paused, looking up at Celestia and Twilight with a sneer. “Do you want to know what happens if I kill you here within your own mind? You die. Luna will die, and I can possess her body. Think of that, Luna! I can permanently take control of your body and that way the elements of harmony can never defeat me. I will be unbeatable!”
“You…” Luna choked out. “You shall never be victorious. The others… will… find a method to… stop… you.” She winced as she coughed blood onto the stone.
“Fool. Not this time. This time, I win. Know that, Luna. Know that I shall win because I am stronger than you. Your friends will die because I am stronger than you. Your world will die…” She leaned in to Luna, and whispered in her ear, “Because I am stronger than you.”
With a sneer, she leaned back up. “Goodbye, Luna. Let the eversleep torture you for all eternity.” Her sword flicked up, and she brought it down in a shimmering swipe at Luna’s neck.
As the blade fell, Twilight watched the world slow to an absolute crawl. She saw Luna tense, and the unicorn’s own body became flooded in the icy grip of fear. “NO!” she screamed, her voice suddenly and inexplicably amplified by more power than Twilight had ever felt in her entire life. She was aware of everything, and she watched the magic dance as it brought death down on the Night Goddess.
Before Twilight was even aware of what was happening, she made up her mind. Her body disappeared into the ether, vanishing into a world of magic. The world was constructed out of nothing but magic, so it was a simple matter of accepting that fact, letting that truth enter her, become her. She crossed the distance between herself and Nightmare Moon in a fraction of a second, her body becoming awash with tingles as she passed through Celestia’s shield.
Twilight was pure energy, her body losing all physical form and structure. She was a purpose. She had to save Princess Luna. She had to save her.
Twilight slammed into Nightmare Moon with the force of a meteor. A shockwave of molten energy tore outwards like a supernova, shredding the stone in the cavern to pieces. Twilight ensured that it passed through Luna and Celestia harmlessly.
Nightmare Moon, on the other hoof, took the brunt of the power. Her body was sent flying, slamming into a pillar a mere ten feet away. The stone crumbled into dust, and she collapsed with it, limp and barely moving. As the shockwave passed, Twilight began to lose control of the power that made her. It rushed out of her, dissipating into nothing. Normally, she would return to her body, and the magic would leave, but Twilight had no such solace. She panicked as she realised that magic was all she was; she had no body. As the power vanished, so did she.
The unicorn tried to create a body, but it was useless. She had never done enough creation magic, and the power was leaving rapidly. She was vanishing from the dreamscape, fading into nothing.
But then, she felt a pull on her consciousness. A line had been drawn, a life preserver of magic tethering her to something permanent, something eternal. Twilight felt the pull and submitted herself to it, letting it take her wherever it wanted.
Twilight was aware of bright flash, and then, she inhaled – a deep and glorious breath that filled her lungs with air so sweet she could almost taste it. She opened her eyes, and saw Luna leaning up against a pillar, the light from her horn fading away.
“Princess!” Twilight began, but her knees suddenly buckled beneath her as a wave of nausea and fatigue washed over the unicorn. Before she knew it, Luna was standing over her, the princess looking battered and bloodied, but very much alive. “I’m fine, Princess,” Twilight murmured. “I just… need a moment to catch my breath.” She tried to smile at the alicorn, who frowned, concerned, down at her.
“So… so pathetic…” came a rasping voice from underneath a pile of rubble.
Luna turned and faced the ruined and broken Nightmare, who could do little more than watch helplessly from the rubble. “You have been cast down once more, Nightmare.” She flicked up her sword in a midnight blue glow, and limped over to the fallen shadow. “Your darkness is over.” She placed her sword against Nightmare Moon’s throat and pressed the blade against her flesh.
“Princess!” Twilight tried to call out, but her throat didn’t want to seem to work. Her cry was barely louder than a whisper.
“What?” Nightmare sneered. “Are you going to kill me? Are you going to finally decide to take my life and be strong? Can you do it? Can you actually show any kind of strength and kill me?”
Luna pressed the blade a little deeper, drawing a line of crimson to run down Nightmare’s neck from the sword’s point. She looked at Nightmare Moon with cold eyes, her expression torn. Then, with a sigh, she removed the blade.
“I didn’t think so,” Nightmare Moon mocked, breaking into another coughing fit, blood dribbling out of the corner of her mouth. “You are... too weak.”
Luna shook her head, a small smile on her face. “No, Nightmare. You are wrong. I… I do not have the strength to kill you, but I have the strength for something far greater.”
“And that is?”
“I have the strength to know that I was wrong, and that you are nothing but fear. I shall not be dictated to by fear. I shall not live in shadows of my own making. I shall be free. And that is how I am strong, Nightmare.”
She leaned down, placing her lips on the dark goddess’ ear. “I forgive you.”
And with that, she turned and limped away, leaving the broken body of Nightmare Moon in the rubble.
“No!” Nightmare Moon screamed, her voice cracking. “No! You can’t! You-” Luna’s horn flashed, and suddenly Nightmare’s voice disappeared. Her mouth still moved, but no sound escaped.
Luna helped Twilight to her hooves, and together they walked towards Celestia who was staring upon the pair with a warm and benevolent smile.
When they arrived, Twilight lay back down, and Luna followed suit. She looked toward her sister with an exhausted expression. “Tell me, sister. What are you doing here? I thought you said that you could not enter other’s dreamscapes unless they invited them in.”
“I am not sure,” Celestia replied. “I am not even sure that I am here. I believe that I am, however. Dreams are tricky little things.” She winked at the pair. “So perhaps when you tried to enter my mind, you established a connection that let my unconscious self enter yours.”
Luna nodded slowly, thinking back to the spell she cast on her older sister’s mind. “Why are you resting, sister? What happened?”
Celestia gave her little sister a searching look. “I used too much power, Luna. I took on a responsibility that was meant to be shared. I tried to control both the sun and the moon, and after a thousand years, it left me exhausted. And the battle with Chrysalis only made things worse. I needed to rest. You know this, Luna. You know the way magic of that level must regenerate... especially since I closed the celestial void to us.”
“But…” Luna began, her expression pleading. “You must return! You must! You have to raise the sun. It cannot remain nighttime in Equestria forever. The nobles and officials trust me little as it is. This would be perceived as a coup!”
Celestia just smiled as her sister’s voice rose in volume. “Breathe easy, dear Luna. Until I return, which should be soon, you know what to do. Just like when we were children. Do you remember on the plains of the void when we watched the heavens light up the creation? Do you remember? They were ours, Luna. Not mine and yours. Ours.”
Luna held her sister’s gaze for a moment, before lowering her head and nodding. “Just like before…”
“That’s it. You know. You can do this. I believe in you.”
Luna looked up and smiled softly. “Thank you, Sister.”
Celestia returned the smile, her expression saying more than words ever could.
Luna sighed, and turned to Twilight. “And Twilight Sparkle… I… thank you.”
“For what, Princess?” Twilight asked.
Luna looked up and smiled the exact same smile she gave her sister. “For everything, Twilight. For everything. Are you ready to go home?”
Twilight’s eyes widened. “Ahhh yesplease!”
Luna chuckled. “Then it is no matter.”
“One second,” Twilight said, struggling to her hooves. She staggered over to Celestia and nuzzled her gently. “You promise you will be back soon?”
“I promise, my faithful student,” Celestia replied, returning the nuzzle. “You won’t even realise I’m gone.”
Twilight nodded, and took a shaky step away. She turned back to Luna. “Ok. I’m ready.”
The Princess of the Night smiled, her horn already glowing. “Then hold still, Twilight Sparkle. This may feel a little… strange.”
She touched her horn to Twilight’s and suddenly, the world melted away into a cloud of darkness.
With a groan, Twilight opened her eyes. She stretched on the ridiculously comfy bed she was laying on, feeling her muscles and joints crack and pop satisfyingly. She yawned once and looked around the room.
It took her a moment to realise it, but she was still in Princess Celestia’s chambers. She was lying on a bed that felt as soft as a cloud directly across from the Princess herself. Luna was on a similar bed on Twilight’s right, still sleeping blissfully. Gentle moonlight shone through the cracks in the velvet curtains, illuminating the two sleeping Princesses.
Smiling, Twilight examined Celestia. She couldn’t help but notice that her coat seemed to have regained some of its lustre. Perhaps it was just a trick of the light, but it definitely seemed to glow like it once did. Or maybe it was just the ghost of a smile that graced the sleeping Princess’ lips that gave the impression that the Princess was in a far better state of health. Twilight wasn’t sure.
Luna stirred gently, her large, teal eyes blinking as she opened them. She looked to Twilight and smiled. Twilight returned the smile as warmly as she could. Luna looked to her sister, and nodded once, a look of determination crossing her face.
“That... that was your mind?” Twilight asked hesitantly, biting on her tongue.
Luna looked at her for a long time, her expression troubled. “Yes. It would appear so.”
“What about Nightmare Moon?” Twilight asked slowly.
“A part of me, Twilight. Like everything you saw. My history and my fears. A part of me and one that will never leave.” She paused, staring past Twilight into nothing. “But... I feel... better,” she said simply.
Twilight thought back to everything she had seen. The city, the forest, the battle with the skeletons, the volcano, the visions inside and the fight with Nightmare Moon. She opened her mouth and then closed it again, struggling to comprehend. “I... you were really brave, Princess,” was all she said.
Luna looked at Twilight appreciatively. “Not as much as you, Twilight Sparkle.”
“Huh?” Twilight said, thinking of all the times she nearly ran away. “I wasn’t brave, not really.”
“You never left, Twilight Sparkle. You never abandoned me. I have the experience of millennia, millennia that you began to witness. You have no such expectation. You only have your strength, and you never left my side, even when it almost cost you your life..” She paused for a moment, staring at the unicorn with large, shining eyes. “...Thank you.”
Twilight smiled, her heart singing. “Anytime, Princess.” It was, after all, a simple and logical situation for the unicorn. A friend had needed help. Nothing could be easier, nothing could be more important.
Luna returned the expression, her smile lighting up the room still adorned with moonlight.
“What do we do now, Princess?” Twilight asked.
Luna smiled again and got up, the sheets falling like liquid moonlight to the floor around her. “Follow me, Twilight Sparkle. I shall show you.”
Curious, Twilight did as she was asked, slipping to her hooves, surprised at how much better she felt. The exhaustion from within the volcano had felt so real…
Twilight followed Luna as she stepped from the room and out onto the expansive balcony. Canterlot and the valley soared out below them, and Twilight could swear she could see the distant lights of Ponyville twinkling in the distance.
Luna smiled at the unicorn and nodded, turning her gaze to the horizon, staring up at the moon and stars hanging in the sky like little flowers of light.
“What now, Princess?” Twilight asked again.
“This…” Luna said with a quick smile. Her horn suddenly erupted into life, and Twilight had to look away from the sheer intensity of the magic. Luna closed her eyes, and her face scrunched up in concentration as the light covering her horn grew brighter and brighter, washing the castle behind them in a silvery light.
Princess Luna shifted her weight, her mouth stretched into a thin, tight line. Her back began to arch as if pressed down upon by a terrible weight. Twilight watched as her mane whipped around her body, driven by an imaginary wind. Luna cried out softly, her stance slipping.
But then, right as Twilight thought the Princess couldn’t possibly keep up the effort any longer, another glow joined the one from Luna’s horn. Twilight gasped as a warm, golden light flooded the horizon on the east, washing over the land with brilliant hues of orange, yellow and gold.
With one last final gasp, Luna let the magic go, her horn falling dark as the sun began its daily journey across the sky.
Twilight looked on the Princess, standing proudly, her mane floating around her regal features, and she smiled. She smiled like she would with any of her other friends. She smiled for them.
Somewhere down in the valley, a rooster crowed, heralding the arrival of the dawn. Ponies around the nation began to wake, the golden light of the sun drawing them out of peaceful slumbers, gently coaxing them out of worlds of their own making, containing all of their dreams, fears and desires. The sun rose, and Equestria rose with it, willing and eager to live like any other day.
Luna saw this, and she smiled. She smiled because another day had dawned over Equestria.
And it was hers.
Well there you go! Another story done and dusted. This one was a lot of fun – just letting my imagination go wherever it pleased and seeing what came out from it. I was trying to find my style outside of my last story and get some world-building ideas onto paper, and hopefully you guys liked it! As per my usual fashion, I am a firm believer of leaving things open for wide and various interpretations, so tell me what you think! What do you think the various landscapes and events in the dreamworld meant? I always love to hear what people’s thoughts on things were.
First, a big shout out to xX-Mr-No-Name-Xx for the awesome artwork! Be sure to check out his DA.
As always, my eternal gratitude to my editor Sessalisk. My work would be a mess of abysmal proportions if it wasn’t for her help, and for that I cannot thank her enough! Be sure to tell her she’s awesome!
Finally, a massive thank you to everyone for reading, commenting and faving/liking. It means the world to me, and I wish I could convey just how much each one makes my day! Stay awesome guys. If you haven’t already, be sure to thumb the story up, and drop as a star rating over on the EqD page. Every vote/like counts!
As for the future… Oh boy. As you may have noticed, there are some subtle historical events and then some not so subtle ones mentioned in this story, things I have been planning for months now. There is a massive world that I have started the ball rolling with this story, and if you liked this chuck us a watch because, well…
I am just getting warmed up.
Till next time,