Sunrise was late. Luna stood at the tower balcony, basking in the light of her beloved moon. She was tired after the festivities of the royal wedding, but she knew Celestia would likely be even wearier. The nocturnal princess wondered how her older sister had managed these past thousand years all alone. Though her exile had hardly been relaxing, Luna knew it must have been at least as difficult for Celestia. She wouldn’t begrudge her sister an extra hour of rest. Besides, it was a lovely night. There could be no harm in extending it a bit.
The soft sound of hoofsteps drew the princess out of her musings. “Good morning princess.”
“Twilight Sparkle,” Luna greeted the young mare as she emerged onto the balcony. “Thou art very early awake. The revelry could not have ended but four hours ago.”
“Oh, this is pretty normal for me. I usually stay up late studying, and then wake up early to make my checklist for the day.”
Luna smiled at her young friend. “You are truly a driven individual. It is clear that my sister did well by apprenticing you.”
Twilight beamed at the compliment. “But speaking of your sister, isn’t she late raising the sun?”
“I expect she is tired from the wedding festivities as well as her battle with the Changeling Queen—” a wide yawn interrupted Luna’s sentence, “Though perhaps it is time she was roused.”
“I’ll come with you.” Luna nodded and the two ponies descended from the balcony toward the royal bed chambers.
When they arrived, Luna knocked on her sisters elaborately carved door. After waiting a few moments she pressed the latch to let herself in. The door swung wide and the princess halted, momentarily stunned by the sight that greeted her.
Celestia lay in the middle of the room. Next to her unmoving form stood another Twilight Sparkle.
“Princess Luna! I’m so glad you’re here, I came to wake Celestia and found her like—”
“Who’s that?” said the first Twilight, stepping up to peer into the chamber.
Luna leapt back, brandishing her horn, unsure which of the ponies, if either, was her friend. But her caution turned out to be needless as the Twilight in the doorway reacted. Without hesitation, the violet pony sent a spell buzzing angrily at her counterpart. With a flash, the false Twilight was hurled back against the wall and resolved back into its true form. With a cry of dismay, the true Twilight Sparkle dashed to Celestia’s prone form. Luna advanced on the changeling, but it recovered quickly, hopping up and hurtling itself through the chamber’s stained-glass window with a crash.
Luna longed to give chase, but her unconscious sister demanded more immediate attention. As she rushed to Twilight’s side, it was apparent that Celestia was alive, but gravely injured. There were two puncture wounds in her neck, weeping scarlet blood onto the mare’s snow-white coat and her breathing came in stuttering gasps.
The younger princess caught a sudden blur of motion from under the bed and reacted just fast enough to avoid a mortal wound of her own. The second changeling shot toward her, its wings buzzing sinisterly. Luna reared and twisted, trying to get her neck out of the creatures reach. With a sickening, slicing sound, the changeling’s horn ripped a gash in Luna’s shoulder.
A sudden, blinding rage accompanied the white hot pain that surged through her. This creature had harmed her sister and now it attempted to do the same to her. Before her attacker was even a meter away, Luna was already gathering power for a violent spell. The changeling banked tightly, attempting to come around and continue the attack, but Luna’s spell was already prepared. A beam of deep blue light flashed from her horn. Adrenaline and anger sent it flying straight and hard at her foe. The spell connected, flinging the black creature against the wall with such force that a spider web of cracks appeared in the stone. But the creature was not yet dead.
Its crumpled wings fluttered uselessly as it desperately tried to rise and escape. With a ruthlessness she had never experienced, not even during her time as Nightmare Moon, Luna launched herself at the changeling, intent on finishing it permanently. She brought her horn to bear as she charged, skewering the changeling through its tough carapace. Violently, the princess reared, hauling her foe off the ground.
“RAAAGH!” With a primal roar, she smashed the changeling back to the ground. Red tinged the edges of her vision and her heartbeat pounded in her ears. Panting, she looked down at her felled opponent. Green blood was beginning to pool beneath it.
As her breathing steadied, the pain from her wound truly set in. Her left leg buckled as her shoulder gave out. With a gasp, she stepped forward with her hind leg to keep from toppling sideways. After a moment, she turned and limped back to where Twilight still sat with Celestia.
“Hnng. H-How is she?”
Twilight only stared at her for a moment. Luna knew a moment of terror as she recognized the fear in her friend’s expression, but was relieve when the violet pony shook it off after a few seconds.
“The bite isn’t deep, but her heartbeat and breathing are erratic. I think it might be poison. We need to get the doctor.”
Luna couldn’t help but admire the younger pony’s focus in the face of crisis. “Right, stay with her I shall—”
“C-denz. . .” Celestia’s voice was weak and broken.
“My sister?” Luna lowered her head to her sisters, favoring her injured leg.
“ Ca-denz. They’re after. . . Cadence.”
Luna glanced up at Twilight. Her eyes echoed the icy fear that had seized Luna’s heart.
“Stay here,” the princess said as she rose and limped toward the door.
Twilight rose and came after her, “But you’re injured, you can’t go alone!”
“So I won’t,” Luna snapped back, “I shall raise the alarm and ensure that your brother and Princess Cadence are safe. But you must stay and do what you can for my sister until the royal physician arrives.” Luna glanced back at her friend, meeting her gaze squarely. “Please Twilight Sparkle. I cannot lose my sister.”
The young mare blinked back tears of panic and looked away, relenting. “Hurry,” she whispered.
Without a word, Luna trotted gingerly out into the hall. “GUARDS!” she called, putting all of the urgency into the summons as she could. A pair of gold-armored stallions galloped around the corner. Before they could even solute, Luna began barking commands. “Princess Celestia is badly injured and the palace has been breached by intruders. You, fetch the royal physician to my sister’s bed chamber at once. You, find as many guards as you can and have them meet me at Princes Cadenza’s bed chamber. MOVE!”
The stallions were clearly shocked, but they were well disciplined and jumped to obey without hesitation. With all the speed that her injury allowed, Luna rushed through the corridors, collecting any guards she came across. Finally, she stood before the minor princess’s door. She took hold of the door with her magic and slammed it open.
Cadence and Shining Armor stood shoulder to shoulder in the corner of the chamber, fending off no less than seven changelings. The newlyweds seemed to suffer only minor wounds, Luna doubted they could have held out for even a minute more.
The changelings were startled and Luna was able to strike one with a spell before they could react. They rounded on the midnight-blue princess, but once they saw that she was backed by a squad of guards, they opted to flee. Luna downed another as they scrambled out the already shattered window and was able to clip the wings of a third, sending it spiraling down to crash beyond the city’s walls.
Once she was satisfied that the changelings were truly routed, Luna turned her attention to the other nobles. “Art thou injured?”
“Only a few scratches,” Shining Armor replied through pants of exhaustion.
“Thank you, princess,” Cadence added. “I’m not sure we would have made it without you.”
Luna nodded gravely. “My sister was also ambushed by these vermin and she is gravely hurt. I must return to her. Shining Armor, art thou well enough to see to the security of the palace and the city?”
“Of course your highness,” The captain of the guard replied with a solute.
“I know a bit of healing,” Cadence chimed in, “Perhaps I can help the doctor with your sister.”
“Very well,” the older princess assented.
Luna and Cadence left the captain to his task and returned to Celestia’s bed chamber. It was a scene of silent chaos as the royal physician knelt to his task and a couple of nurses bustled in and out with various medical supplies. Cadence joined the fray, and Luna went to stand by Twilight, who was watching the ordeal with a stony expression. Almost immediately, the young mare leaned her head against Luna’s good shoulder. The princess felt a shudder run through her friend and eventually the warm damp of tears. They stood together, silently, helplessly, watching as Celestia slowly stabilized under Cadence and the doctor’s care.
It seemed like an eternity, but Luna supposed it must only have been about half an hour before her sister was placed in bed. The doctor stitched and bandaged Luna’s shoulder before departing, saying there was nothing left to do but wait for Celestia to recuperate. Twilight and Cadence went to help Shining Armor, leaving Luna standing alone at the foot of her sister’s bed.
She looked down at Celestia’s sleeping face, and then at the bandages that covered the bite wound on her neck. A strange sort of panic rose up in her throat, threatening to choke her. She clamped her eyes shut against a flood of tears. She had returned from exile to find her beloved sister as warm and sheltering as she had been during their fillyhood so long ago. But today she had come so close to losing her. The thought of it was unbearable. Desperately, she reached for anything that could ease the sickening fear. She found a spark of the battle rage she had experienced before killing the first changeling. It was easy to fan that spark into a smoldering flame of anger. How dare those creatures threaten her sister and her kingdom.
“Princess Luna?” a guard inquired hesitantly. Luna turned her head slightly in acknowledgment. “Pardon me, but the sun still has not been raised. With Princess Celestia. . . as she is, you will have to do it instead.”
“I shall see to it,” was her only reply. The guard saluted and disappeared quickly. Luna took another moment, reluctant to leave her sister, but finally she left the room and ascended the tower stairs to the balcony. The moon perched on the horizon, anxious to return to its slumber. Luna’s horn glowed midnight blue as she gathered power for her spell. With the bowing of her head she lowered the moon behind the horizon then turned to the east. Again, she gathered power to herself. She could feel the sun, poised to rise and begin the day. Its presence had always been tangible to her, yet she had never reached out to it before. It took her a few tries, but she managed to take hold of the celestial body and nudge it up into position. The light it gave off seemed weak, but it would do.
“Princess Luna!” She turned to find Shining Armor hurrying up the stairs. “Princess Luna!” he repeated through labored breaths.
“Have you something to report Guard Captain?”
“Yes your highness.” At her nod, Shining Armor began, “My scouts tracked the few changelings that were left back to the border of the Everfree forest. They’ve massed there in numbers that haven’t been seen in ages.”
Luna’s heart sank. “The attack on Canterlot was only the beginning,” she murmured, “They’re preparing for war. . . Evacuate all of the smaller settlements nearest the swarm. Alert the governors of the major cities to begin work on fortifications. Then mobilize every unit of guards at your disposal and begin recruiting volunteers. I want an army assembled by week’s end.”
“But your highness, we are not equipped for heavy fighting. Even with an army, we won’t stand a chance.”
“Leave that to me Captain. See to your other tasks. Swiftly.”
Shining Armor frowned but said no more. As he left, Luna gazed at the horizon where the moon had disappeared. Once more she gathered power and in a flash of magic, she disappeared into the dawn.
. . .
She materialized on the steps of a great, black fortress. She looked up at the blue planet spinning lazily above her. How many times had she looked upon her home from this vantage point with nothing but hatred in her heart? Now she did so with conviction, not that she would return to conquer, but rather to defend. She climbed the familiar steps to her old stronghold.
She had built this place, brick by brick, during her exile. The great hall was exactly the same as she’d left it. Bare and lonesome. She strode through the corridors to the tower staircase. She ascended her tower, a near-exact replica of the one at the Canterlot palace. But instead of overlooking a bustling city, her balcony overlooked the vast and baren Lunar fields. Fields that she had spent her years in exile filling with instruments of war. Suits of black armor stood empty and waiting. Wicked blades hung at the ready on countless racks. Various engines and vehicles crouched among piles of Lunar rock that had been fashioned into artillery ammunition. It had been her intention to turn these tools against any resistance her sister might offer. But now it would all be redeemed, just as Luna had.
The Queen of the changelings desired war. So war she would have.