A still night, quieter than many in recent memory, had settled on the quaint town bordering the Everfree Forest. Cool autumn air wisped slowly across the streets, sweeping leaves not a hoof off the ground before returning them to their original altitude. Not a single pony wandered the paths this night, no. The previous evening’s festivities had all but exhausted the population.
In one home, however, sleep could find no hold. The pure cumulus mattress did little to help its owner as the spectral pegasus tossed and turned, groans penetrating her pillow.
“Ugh!” Dash whined, turning to read her bedside clock. “One in the morning?! I have to wake up in five hours!” She stuffed her face back into her pillow, continuing her woeful groans. Thoughts of the immense quantity of rain clouds she would have to clear before sun-up barraged her consciousness, foiling any and all attempts at slumber. As best she tried to forget, images of the acres’ worth of rain-depleted Nimbostratus continued haunting her.
Rainbow cracked open an eyelid, looking through her window to see if any had already broken up on their own. Unfortunately, Dash’s eyes met with naught but a dark gray, not a single star's light piercing the fluffy cover unaffected. Her groan turned into a pitiful sigh of defeat. She slid off the bed and onto the soft floor, stretching her legs and wings.
‘No point lying in bed awake,’ Rainbow reasoned. ‘Once I’m finished, I’ll just take a nap.’ The pegasus stepped out onto the balcony, wings extended and braced for flight. With a huge thrust, Dash snapped her wings down, shifted her weight forward, and launched herself silently into the night.
While running through her typical warm-up, Dash attempted to recall the last time she had been on a solo night-flight such as this. ‘Celestia,’ she realized, ‘I haven’t done this since flight school!’ Rainbow had almost forgotten the thrill of flying under the cover of darkness. With the horizon invisible, knowing one’s orientation proved nigh impossible--especially at Dash’s speed. The giddy mare began looping and rolling through the cool air, allowing herself to free-fall just to recalibrate her sense of direction. Rainbow hurtled towards the ground before pulling up at the last second, only when she could practically feel the trees beneath her.
Dash ascended slightly before coming to an equilibrium with gravity, her wings fluttering slowly. Rainbow glanced up to the sky, a smirk sliding onto her face as she saw the moonlight glowing through the sheet of clouds. With a single, powerful thrust, she throttled towards them, hooves pointed up in a dive-like position. Without so much as a puff, the pegasus burst through the dense vapor, piercing the cloud like a needle.
She spread her wings, opened her eyes, and gasped, retinas absorbing the night’s full beauty. Every star shimmered with a newfound pride, determined to be the brightest in a sky of millions. The moon gleamed as if it were the sun itself rather than a humble reflector of light.
Rainbow shook her head in disbelief; never as a filly had she seen such a gorgeous night despite her many unauthorized evening escapades. Even the clouds beneath her hooves appeared to glow of their own accord.
“We see you are enjoying our night,” observed a rather powerful, but clearly female voice. Dash’s wings froze in shock, sending her plummeting into the clouds below. The shadowy figure above her placed a hoof to her mouth and giggled slightly. “Oh, we-I didn’t mean to frighten you, Ms. Dash.”
Dash glanced towards her, vaguely recognizing the outline of an alicorn, and mentally face-hoofed at her own cowardly reaction. Attempting to salvage what pride she had left, Rainbow protested, “I-I wasn’t scared! You just surprised me!” She flashed Luna her classic, cocky smile, but the princess only chuckled more.
“I’m sure... Just out of curiousity, why art thou-you out here? Are you not tired from Nightmare Night like the other residents of your village?” Luna turned her head slightly to one side, indicating her curiosity.
Rainbow’s sly grin now morphed into one of anxiety. Though not the Element of Honesty, the cyan mare knew she couldn’t lie to the princess.
“I-uh... couldn’t sleep,” she confessed, rubbing the back of her neck with a forehoof and avoiding eye contact. Even in her peripheral vision, Dash could see the disappointment in Luna’s face. “But I’m really glad I couldn’t!” she emphasized. “I’ve never seen such a beautiful night in all my life, and I’ve done night flying dozens of times as a filly.” Luna smiled sheepishly.
“Well, it is the fall equinox. We-I thought I might put a little more effort in tonight, but I didn’t know it’d be so cloudy. It’s a pity, too... The full moon gave me much more magic to pull from, but nopony is going to see it,” she said, frowning slightly.
“I can see it,” Dash assured her confidently, “and I love it.” Luna blushed, thankful that her dark coat hid it well.
“Thank you, Ms. Dash. You flatter--”
“Just Rainbow,” the pegasus interrupted, “or Dash.”
Luna smiled and nodded. “Very well, Rainbow. You may call me Luna.” Rainbow’s eyes began to drift, more specifically to the princess’ mane which glittered like diamonds.
Dash smiled awkwardly and stammered, “O-okay, Luna.” She still couldn’t shift her gaze from the princess’ beautiful mane and tail, both of which seemed brighter than the stars themselves.
“I see you have noticed our-my appearance has changed slightly from what you saw last night. I wax and wane along with my moon, just as my sister’s appearance changes slightly during each season.”
Rainbow quickly spoke to defend herself. “I-uh didn’t mean to stare! I was just... curious.” The pegasus inwardly cursed herself for acting so foalish around the princess. Noticing the mare’s apprehension, Luna decided to change the subject to something more comfortable for them both.
“Oh Rainbow, I had been meaning to speak with you about this but forgot last night. Celestia tells me you are the fastest flier in Equestria,” she said, raising both eyebrows.
Dash’s head lifted, and her mouth quickly formed a wild smirk as her wings flared. “You bet! I can even break the spectral sound barrier!” Luna shook her head, smiling knowingly at Rainbow’s arrogance.
“So, you wouldn’t by any chance be interested in a race would you?” she asked, circling the pegasus slowly. “After all, if what my sister has said is true, you have nothing to lose.”
Dash’s smirk widened into a great, beaming grin. The prospect of a race with an alicorn excited her beyond all measure; nopony in known history had ever been offered such a pleasure! It took all Rainbow’s willpower to keep herself from bouncing in place and squealing like a schoolfilly as Luna paced around her.
“I accept!” she said, puffing out her chest and biting her lip to avoid giggling in delight.
Luna laughed, much in the way a mother would at a foal attempting to assert itself. “My dear Rainbow Dash, you haven’t even heard the terms yet.”
Dash, not one to be unphased, retorted, “Pfft! You can worry about that after I beat you.”
Rainbow’s display of ego only made the princess’ laughter increase in volume. After a while, Luna managed to compose herself and say, “Very well then, Dash. The winner may ask for any one thing from the loser that she can give. Agreed?”
Dash rubbed her hoof on her chin, though not searching for an answer; she already knew her response would be an affirmative. Rainbow was having difficulty deciding exactly what she wanted from the Lunar Princess. Thoughts of her crown and necklace came to mind, but were quickly cast off as too materialistic. ‘More Rarity’s thing,’ she thought.
And then it hit her: the one thing Rainbow had wanted since foalhood, her lifelong dream, to be a Wonderbolt! Luna, as Princess and co-ruler of Equestria, could easily get her onto the team. With her trophy in mind, Rainbow responded.
“Let’s do this!”
Luna smiled and drew a line in the cloud below her parallel to the edge of the Everfree. She pointed her other hoof at a mountain in the distance. “We race to the peak of Mt. Everfree,” she announced. “The first one to reach the summit may name and claim her prize. There are no rules.” Rainbow Dash nodded, all former giddiness replaced with sheer determination.
Both mares took their place on the starting line, forehooves bent and flanks high--poised to pounce at any second.
“Art thou ready?” Luna queried, unfurling her massive wings. Dash gasped, her eyes shooting wide open. The Lunar Princess, while only about two-thirds her sister’s size, had the same--if not longer--wingspan. Proportionally, Rainbow estimated the alicorn must have at least twice the wing size she herself did. Luna smiled maliciously, causing the pegasus to gulp. ‘Buck.’
Dash nodded, and Luna immediately launched off the clouds, yelling, “No rules!” boisterously as she soared away, laughing. For a few fractions of a second, the pegasus froze with her mouth agape, completely dumbstruck. Luckily, instinct kicked in, and she was soon closing the gap.
Luna’s velocity topped that of anything Dash had ever witnessed before. Half a minute passed before she eventually caught up to the princess who was smiling radiantly back to her. “I see you finally decided to join us!” she yelled over the wind noise.
Rainbow shot Luna a dirty look and retorted, “You know that was a cheap trick! Now it’s my turn!” Though quite tired from catching up to Luna, the cyan mare ignored her body’s pleas and kicked her strokes into overdrive--flapping as hard and as fast as she possibly could. She quickly overtook the alicorn, and a mach cone began forming around her forehooves. Dash pressed harder into the pocket of air encircling her, and she could see the spectrum spread around her hooves as she finally ripped through.
The familiar rain-boom rippled out from the pegasus as she felt the trans-sonic barrier fade. Rainbow glanced back and smiled at Luna in the most arrogant way she could manage. Luna smirked, put her head down, and--with a mere three strokes of her powerful wings--broke the sound barrier, sending black and purple waves out around her. Dash’s jaw dropped as she noticed Luna closing in on her.
Within seconds, the beaming alicorn whizzed by Rainbow Dash who immediately became too stunned for words (though they have little practical use at supersonic velocities). The pegasus watched in awe as, not but fifty hooves in front of her, Luna seemed to break yet another speed barrier. Immediately Rainbow’s mind flashed to mythology lessons in flight school, detailing how alicorns could supposedly break the kinetic barrier, essentially traveling faster than air molecules themselves.
‘If she can do it,’ Dash thought with resolve, ‘than so can I!’ Desperate to catch the princess, she added more force to her thrusts and once again increased their frequency. The pain in Rainbow’s body was enough to make a grown stallion cry, but she didn’t have the time to allow such distractions. She needed to catch that dark blue mare; she needed to win.
The mountain was coming into full view now, and Luna was no more than ten seconds away. The realization kindled a new passion in Rainbow Dash who continued increasing her speed. The azure mare began to see a new air pocket forming around her hooves, signifying she was close to breaking the second barrier. She pushed harder and harder, but the sharp cone wouldn’t budge. Rainbow’s heart pumped faster as she saw how close the mountain was now, and realized only a few seconds remained.
Then, it happened.
Rainbow’s right wing, completely spent, cramped up and snapped to Dash’s side.
‘Oh buck no!’
The cone snapped backwards, but with more force than Rainbow had anticipated. The added pressures of the sound and kinetic barriers sent the pegasus hurtling back towards the forest. Only one thought entered her mind, causing a tear to fall from her face.
Luna passed the mountain’s peak, rounding it quickly so she could watch her competitor’s finish. Sure enough, her naturally sharp eyes locked onto the mare's figure in the distance, but... it was falling. The princess gasped, her eyes as wide as dinner plates while the small dots of pupils on them followed the trail of the plummeting mare.
Rainbow didn’t so much as bother panicking. Although she lacked Twilight's brainpower, Dash could do math well enough to know she was finished. Falling over a thousand hooves, into trees, with nothing to help her but a single exhausted wing didn’t seem to register in her experience as something remotely survivable, even for her. The resigned pegasus took one last look at the sky--Luna’s beautiful night sky. Dash silently thanked the mare as her vision went black from pain and exhaustion; she couldn’t think of a better way to die.
Rainbow Dash awoke to the sound of soft weeping and the warm sensation of shaking hooves wrapped around her body. Her eyes fluttered open but could see nothing save for a dark blue coat, shivering from sobs. Confused, the pegasus turned her head up to see Luna’s face, wet with tears and blood. The alicorn gasped and focused her gaze on the stirring pegasus.
“Rainbow! Are you hurt?! Dear Discord, I was so worried!” she yelled, voice trembling from crying. Dash shifted and groaned slightly, pain slowly invading her senses.
“Yeah,” she whispered hoarsely, “but I’ll live.” Thankfully, the mare wasn’t terribly injured despite a few lacerations down sides of her body. The cramp in her wing had worn off, but a dull, throbbing feeling remained. Rainbow looked up at Luna, wincing when she saw the alicorn’s broken pinion.
“Oh no, Luna! Your wing!” she cried, pointing a hoof towards the injured appendage. The Lunar Princess didn’t so much as glance at her wound, still intent on attending to the mare before her.
“Hush now,” Luna whispered calmly, “My wing will heal. Right now, we need to move; it isn’t safe here.” Dash glanced around and observed the trees hanging overhead, instantly recognizing them as Everfree willows, and an ominous shiver shot up her spine. The pegasus nodded quickly to her companion.
“I am unfortunately far too injured to fly,” she continued, pointing a hoof at her tired wings, “but you should be able to after your pain subsides.” Luna’s voice impressed urgency and earnest, but lacked the bite Celestia’s voice acquired when she had reprimanded Twilight. Instead, it carried an undertone of sincerity which calmed the nervous pegasus.
“Can you walk?” she asked concernedly as Rainbow struggled to stand.
Dash pushed herself upright and nodded. “Yeah, I think so.” With the mare’s warmth now replaced with cool night air, Luna shivered slightly and rose to her hooves.
“We should start heading back towards Ponyville. If we move quickly, we can be there by midday tomorrow.” Dash gave a single, serious nod, and the princess resumed. “I suggest you stay in front, where I can see you. There is evil in this forest that does not sleep, but I know a good deal of combat spells.”
The two began cantering away from the mountain’s base, ears perked for any sound other than that of their own hooves. Rainbow occasionally glanced back to ensure Luna was close behind. Her short glances became long stares as the princess’ starry glow, enhanced by the contrasting darkness of the forest, placed Dash in a trance. The athletic mare’s hoof caught a root, allowing inertia to send her face-first into the ground. Luna quickly galloped to her aid.
“Dash, are you okay?” she inquired, bending her head down towards Rainbow’s eyes. The pegasus blushed and stumbled to her feet, almost slipping before Luna leaned against her. “Caaareful,” she said softly, “we don’t want another injury.” Dash’s blush deepened with the alicorn’s contact.
“Th-thanks,” she half-whispered. Luna nodded and gave a friendly smile.
“I’m sorry; I forgot not everypony can see as well in the dark as I can. Perhaps some light is in order...” The princess closed her eyes, and her horn began to glow a bright blue, the most intense light emanating from the sharp tip. Around her, flowers began to succumb to her will, allowing the magical energy to resonate through them, and cast their illumination upon the forest floor. Luna opened her eyes once more and smiled.
“Wow,” Rainbow Dash sighed, her irises wide with astonishment. The radiant blossoms completely changed the sinister forest’s ambiance to that of a mystic beauty. As the two continued navigating the enchanted glade, the flowers before them courteously lit the way. Though still vigilant, a sense of security enveloped the pegasus. Nothing could hurt her while she remained by Luna’s side.
For hours they trotted in near silence, only conversing every so often to ensure their direction was correct. Rainbow had never been much of a night-time navigator seeing as she could barely recall any constellations, but she fortunately didn’t need to. Luna naturally knew every star in the sky and, by extension, their direction to the nearest degree. By her calculations, they would exit the forest right outside Fluttershy’s cottage--an ideal place to end up given the extent of their injuries.
As they traveled longer, however, the princess observed Dash’s augmented limping. The pegasus was seemingly protecting her left hind leg. Upon closer examination, Luna could see the culprit: a dark bruise just above Rainbow’s cutie mark. With each step, Dash’s face tightened noticeably and sent pangs of guilt into the alicorn’s heart.
“I think we should rest a moment,” she suggested, much to Rainbow’s relief. The duo stopped moving as they reached a large tree. “How are your wings?” Luna asked, pointing a hoof towards them. Dash stretched, rotated, and flapped them lightly. She shrugged nonchalantly.
“They feel okay; why do you ask?”
“I think you should fly back to Ponyville. Your leg can’t take much more of this, and--”
“No way!” Dash interrupted, shaking her head violently as she stamped her front hoof into the ground. “I can’t just leave you! That would be totally uncool.” Luna sighed, realizing her own defeat. She knew she should have expected as much from the Element of Loyalty.
“Fine, but you can’t keep going on like this. We’ll have to rest here until you’re in a condition to walk again.” Luna sat on her haunches and hummed with delight as the strain in her hooves dissipated. Rainbow followed suit, but winced as her bruised flanks made contact with the ground.
“Ugh,” Dash grunted, her mind returning attention to her ubiquitous aches and pains. “I’m gonna be sore tomorrow.” Luna turned slightly away and frowned.
“I shouldn’t have been so reckless; I nearly got you killed!”
Rainbow shook her head. “But you didn’t; you saved my life!... Although I’m still a little fuzzy on the details. What happened?”
“All in good time, Dash. At the moment, we-I think I’m strong enough to heal you, so hold still... You may feel a bit odd.”
A dark blue glow surrounded Luna’s horn as she concentrated. Dash could feel the aura coursing over her open wounds, cleaning and sealing them tightly. The tingling sensation made her start giggling, but she quickly repressed it. Luna smiled slightly, but continued with her work. She made her way to Rainbow’s several large bruises, cooling them to ease the inflammation.
“Thank you... So what did happen?” Despite her pain, the pegasus still felt eager to know what had transpired. Near-death experiences always proved good stories and certainly added to Dash’s radical factor.
Luna sighed, but began the tale. “When I finally reached the peak and turned around, I noticed you were no longer on course. When I saw you falling, I flew as fast as I could. As luck would have it, I caught you before you hit the tree, but I lost my balance. We fell, but I f-formed a ball around you, and that’s when I broke my wing. I lost consciousness after we both hit the ground... W-when I woke up... I was so worried!” Tears began to fall from the alicorn’s eyes as she turned her back to Rainbow. She felt Rainbow’s hoof on her shoulder and turned around, using a forehoof to wipe her eyes.
“It’s okay,” Dash whispered, bringing Luna into a hug. “We’re both alive, and I’m pretty thankful for that. I don’t care how you see it, you still saved my life.” She poked a hoof into the princess’ chest, eliciting a small giggle. They both smiled, and Rainbow used her left wing to softly wipe away what remained of Luna’s tears.
“And I still lost the bet,” she sighed, the smirk on her face indicating her relative indifference to the fact. Yes, she had lost her chance of becoming a Wonderbolt, but at this moment, Dash knew her pulse was a gift in itself. “So, what do you want?”
Luna stared shockingly at the azure mare. “I-I nearly got you killed! Do you truly expect me to now demand something of you?” Rainbow merely smiled, shaking her head.
“It doesn’t matter; you won the bet. Tell me what you want and it’s yours.”
Luna’s face acquired a slight red tinge as she stuttered. “Rainbow Dash, I-I refuse!”
“You can’t refuse! If I don’t honor my debt to you, I’ll be exiled from Cloudsdale!” Much to Luna’s dismay, she knew Dash spoke honestly. The Cloudsdale pegasi had strict laws, the breaking of which often led to exile or worse, and a great many had been written regarding racing. “C’mon, just tell me what you want. You seemed to want it pretty badly when you made the bet.”
Luna gulped loudly, and her blush deepened. “It’s n-not important!” She once again turned from the pegasus, attempting to hide her heated face. Dash scooted over to her side, confused at the transpiring events. She placed a hoof under Luna’s chin and turned the alicorn’s face towards her own, those light blue eyes matching Rainbow’s coat almost perfectly.
“Luna, what’s wrong? You shouldn’t be afraid to ask me, especially considering I wouldn’t even be alive anymore if you hadn’t rescued me. If anything, I owe you everything I have!... I promise, no matter what it is, I will be glad to give it to you.”
The princess paused extensively, staring into the glittering void. Her full moon, at its highest orbit of the century, seemed more a star than a mere satellite tonight. Directly to its side lay her most precious star, a white dwarf composed purely of her own magic... and tears. Its rapid and erratic movement across the nocturnal canvas reminded her too much of the star’s namesake which in turn reminded her of the mare next to her.
“I-I w-w-wanted...” Luna began to tremble slightly, apprehensive due to Dash’s proximity, but desperate to tell the loyal mare exactly what she wanted while simultaneously far too afraid. ‘I only have one shot at this,’ she whispered inwardly, feeling Dash’s growing impatience.
“A kiss,” she whispered, averting her eyes and tearing her chin from Rainbow’s outstretched hoof. Though she couldn’t bear to gaze upon the mare directly, Luna could see the friendly smile on Rainbow’s face had morphed into an expression of pure shock.
“Wait, uh... huh?” Rainbow’s mind had more than checked out; it had already returned the room key and driven off. Instinct, however, took control of the mare as she witnessed Luna’s despondent state. Dash once again reached her hoof to the princess’ jaw, nudging it towards her. Luna moved her head, but her eyes remained fixed on the ground under her as she continued avoiding eye contact. Rainbow pulled her head up slowly, inching her face closer. The smell of fresh spring filled her nostrils, causing the young pegasus to quiver.
In the depths of Luna’s pupils sat her illustrious full moon, its cool light drawing Dash further in. The alicorn’s eyes widened, and her pulse became rapid. Rainbow’s fervent breath washed over her cheeks, eliciting more blood to Luna’s already reddened face. As the pegasus closed her eyes and tilted her face, the princess’ frozen state shattered, and she backed away in anxiety, more tears leaving her azure eyes.
“I-I can’t,” she whispered. Dash’s hurt and perplexed expression only furthered Luna’s anguish. “This isn’t right, and I know it!” She stood up and cantered to a nearby tree, placing a forehoof on the living pillar as she stared at her stars vacantly. Rainbow, although slightly vexed by her companion's response, felt concern for the princess. She slowly rose to her hooves and trotted towards Luna.
“Luna, i-it’s okay, I, uh...” she paused, a blush beginning to envelop her cheeks. “I kinda want to.”
Instead of the surprised gasp Dash expected, a sigh came from the royal alicorn. “I know,” she said flatly. “I knew when you looked at me earlier--when we were among the clouds... I could see it in your eyes.”
Rainbow’s bewilderment increased tenfold, and her open mouth moved as she attempted to conjure a response. After stammering for a few seconds, she asked, “Then what’s the problem?”
Luna, without tearing her gaze from the moon, began to speak.
“Do you remember those bedtime fables, Rainbow--the ones with the elves, dwarves, and men?”
Dash slowly replied, “Yeah... Why do you ask?”
“You must recall the story of Olimus and Tera.” Rainbow Dash nodded; it was a classic legend, one told to all foals at some point in their life. Regardless, Luna proceeded to reiterate the tale. “Olimus, the kindest elf of them all, was struck with love for the fair Tera. Despite their differences in almost every aspect, including age, they decided to pursue their love together. Tera, being human, aged slowly and painfully with each passing day. Shortly after her death, Olimus locked himself away, and eventually went mad with grief.”
Luna paused for a moment, turning away from her own moon as she gazed upon her own outstretched forehooves. “Eventually, he set out on a killing spree, trying to make everybody physically feel the equivalent of his emotional pain. Then, the wise hero Helio struck two arrows in his heart, ending his brutal rampage.” The alicorn slowly placed a hoof on her chest as she turned to face the sky once more.
Dash, following the story but still immeasurably confused, asked, “What’s the point? I don’t get it, Luna.”
The princess chuckled. “How history repeats itself,” she replied in little more than a whisper. Luna turned to face the pegasus, looking her dead in the eye as she spoke, her voice unwavering.
“Her name was Streak. She was a pegasus much like yourself, in fact. I couldn’t help but fall deeply in love with her, and I was fortunate enough to be the object of her affections as well. Although we could not be seen together publicly, she and I enjoyed decades upon decades of happiness, but one day, as all do but I and my kin, she had to pass.”
Rainbow began to connect the dots, and a gasp escaped her lips when she reached the only logical conclusion. “...What really happened a thousand years ago?”
Luna smiled slightly and continued her story. “I mourned Streak for years, and nowhere I went could I shake the thought of her and how miserable eons without her would be. Every time I saw ponies smile--every time I saw ponies laugh--I despised them for their insincerity. How could they be so happy, while an eternity of misery lay before me?... One day I put on my royal armor and enhanced my power with the darkest magic I knew. I refused to allow the sun to rise, and for one reason only: If I had to live the rest of my life with the center of my universe missing, so would the rest of ponykind.”
Dash’s eyes were now filled with tears, but her focus remained on the alicorn before her.
“Celestia had always cautioned me against becoming attached, given the extent of our lifetimes. But like a foal, I ignored her and became a monster. Her sentence to the moon wasn’t punishment for my actions. It was to teach me to accept being alone because that is both our destinies...”
The pegasus shook her head and stepped towards Luna, tears still silently running down her cheeks. The princess paused at first but began to back up as Dash continued trotting towards her. Luna’s flanks pressed hard against the large willow behind her, but Rainbow continued moving forward.
Without hesitating, the cyan mare wrapped her hoof firmly around Luna’s neck, closed her eyes, and pressed her lips against the princess’ agape mouth. The alicorn’s apprehension melted immediately and gave way to Dash’s passion. The rainbow-maned mare flicked her tongue past Luna’s lips, but she offered no resistance and only moaned slightly in reply. Rainbow continued for a few moments but eventually pulled away, leaving the princess leaning forward, resenting the end as the bitter taste of cold air replaced that of Dash’s lips.
The two mares opened their eyes, and no hints of sadness remained besides the stains of previous tears.
“You don’t have to be alone,” Dash whispered, her voice strained from crying.
Luna grumbled in frustration. “Rainbow, you don’t understand. I can’t afford the luxury of love. Anypony I devote myself to will die long before I do, and I’ll be left alone again. Only it’ll be all the more painful because I’m not used to it anymore.” The princess turned herself from Dash, needing to avoid those soft, magenta eyes, and sat on her haunches. She looked again to her moon and stars, allowing them to comfort her with heavenly light.
“Tell me about Streak,” Rainbow said, attempting--despite her smaller stature--to put her wing around the alicorn’s back. Luna’s blank expression turned quickly to one of anguish.
“That is a very woeful topic, Dash. I would prefer to leave it alone,” she replied sharply, irritation evident in her voice. Rainbow Dash shook her head and nuzzled Luna’s neck, quickly dispelling Luna’s former anger.
“I want to know how you two met,” she said, almost cooing. Rainbow rested her head on the princess’ shoulder, staring at her with wide and curious eyes. Finally, Luna glanced to her side and melted in the cyan mare’s magenta-rimmed gaze.
“... I suppose I could entertain you with a story, seeing as we’ll be settling here for a while...” She began, noticing the grin invading Dash’s lips. “One thousand and fifty years ago, more or less...”
The sharp sting of winter’s howling wind pounced upon the dark blue mare exiting onto her balcony. The Princess of the Night, however, did not so much as shiver as her own night embraced her. The vast metropolis of Everfree lay before her eyes, its lights few and sounds subtle. She turned her gaze upwards, sighing slightly at her beloved moon making its calculated journey across the dense void of night.
Suddenly, a shadow zoomed across her view of the moon, causing the princess to jolt with fright. Luna moved quickly back to the edge of her balcony, hoping to catch sight of what had startled her. There, in the moon’s modest glow, soared a silver pegasus. The focused mare, evidently unaware of her spectator, continued to loop through the sky, a daring smile chiseled into her face.
Though still mildly aggravated, the alicorn could not help grinning herself, relieved that at least one pony was awake to enjoy her precious painting of dazzled darkness. With her great lungs, she called upon the mare.
“Yonder subject!” she bellowed, “We wish thee to approach us!”
Though scores of yards away, Luna could feel the young mare’s gulp and visualize her fading smile as she banked towards certain doom. Upon nearing Her Majesty’s balcony, the pegasus paused, too petrified to do any more than hover a few hooves away. The pure fear in the mare’s eyes distressed Luna slightly, and she spoke more softly, hoping to convey that she meant the filly no harm.
“We apologize for yelling earlier. Art thou... enjoying the evening?” she asked apprehensively. The silver pony eagerly nodded in response, though likely more due to terror than anything else.
Without warning, the wind began picking up speed, bending the stiffest of trees as if they were naught but blades of grass. The floating pegasus, taken by surprise, barely managed to stay aloft. As the wind fought to tear her away from the castle, the mare did her best to push back and hold her position. Luna, for her part, reacted quickly.
With a flick of her horn, the balcony door shot open, curtains from inside being sucked into the maelstrom by their hems.
“Get in, quickly!” she shouted to the stranger who obliged without a moment’s delay. After rushing inside and closing the door behind them, the princess took a moment to catch her breath, only to lose it again a second later.
The pegasus was stunning. Her steel-colored coat almost blinded Luna in the well-lit bedroom, and the mare’s bright blue irises presented such sharp contrast to her dark pupils. The streaks of silver and white which extended into the pony’s wind-tousled black mane certainly caught the alicorn’s eye.
Perhaps “imprisoned” would prove the more appropriate term as Luna continued to gaze softly at the pegasus, admiring every curve and feather. Her admirer shifted slightly, unsure of her comfort with the princess’ staring. Luna quickly stopped herself, remembering she was technically entertaining a guest.
“What is thy name?” she questioned, hoping some light conversation would ease the pegasus. To her relief, the pony seemed to relax slightly.
“Oh, my name is Streak!” the mare replied in a tomcolt-ish voice, puffing out her chest slightly. Luna smiled, pleased that her guest’s uneasiness had vanished.
“Charmed. Thou may refer to us as Luna,” she responded with sincerity in her voice. Streak smirked and spoke mockingly to the monarch.
“Of course your highness.” she said, giving an exaggerated courtesy. Luna laughed, partially at Streak’s courage for being so uncouth to the co-ruler of the country. She sneered and bowed back, chuckles still escaping her lips.
“We were wondering... what is a specimen as young as thyself doing in the sky so late at night?” Luna questioned, a playful smirk on her face. The mare standing across from her blushed slightly and opened her mouth to object.
“I’m not so young!” she protested, flicking her hair back as she scowled at the princess who only giggled. “It was just... such a beautiful night, and I wanted to fly,” Streak explained, averting her gaze.
“Thank thee,” Luna said softly, smiling as she walked closer to the pegasus. “That truly makes us glad.”
Streak blushed slightly and looked away, her heart-rate accelerating as the princess continued approaching her. About a hoof away, she halted, barely speaking above a whisper.
“W-we do not often receive guests...” Luna stammered, eyes shying away from the fair pegasus in front of her. “Would thou... st-stay with us this night?” she finished, peering directly into Streaks pupils, hoping desperately to encounter some affirming detail in the mare’s blank expression.
The pegasus stared back helplessly--ached by the only identifiable component of Luna’s expression, the woeful truth screamed from the back of her eyes, the inescapable darkness behind the gleam of her own crown: loneliness. It tainted her beauty like the poison in an Oleander flower. It weighed her down like a ship with far too many treasures to burden. It burned her like a flame deep within, painfully turning her heart to ash as her body continued on, impervious to the passing of time.
Yet, Streak knew she could not agree to such a request. The calling of a goddess was not hers to answer, no matter her own mortal fantasies. Luna would paddle on through the ages, and pegasi such as herself were but leaves floating in the rapids. Streak frowned and opened her mouth, about to utter words she knew would haunt her, if only for selfish reasons.
As if on cue, a flash of light invaded the room followed by a boisterous CRACK, causing both occupants to leap into the air. After the initial shock had dissipated, Streak once more turned her eyes to the princess, anguish building in her mind. She found herself unable to trust her own vision, however. Surely the alicorn-goddess could not be... trembling. Yet before her own eyes, Luna was shaking uncontrollably, her eyes no longer attempting to persuade the pegasus into staying--they were begging her to.
Streak sighed slowly as she stammered, “Y-yes, your highness.”
Luna’s solemn expression immediately snapped into a broad grin. “Oh joy, oh joy! We shall have so much fun!”
And so they did. After several rounds of chess, the two loosened up considerably. They shared stories of long flights and daring tricks (accompanied by vivid descriptions of the resulting injuries). The frequency of moves eventually descended to naught, leaving the mares in a current of enjoyable conversation, meandering through the long winter night. Before long, hints of Celestia’s light spread over the dark sky’s edge.
Luna yawned slightly, feeling the senseless desire for sleep tugging at her immortal figure. Streak copied, the dark bags under her eyes confirming her own exhaustion. The princess giggled slightly and nuzzled the pegasus--causing a violent blush to cover her silver cheeks--before trotting towards her bed. Still flustered by Luna’s gesture, the young mare stared as the alicorn’s hips oscillated hypnotically from left to right.
With a quick hop, the princess gracefully landed on her mattress and turned to face the still star-struck mare. She wedged herself beneath the dark, silken sheets and patted the space next to her, sporting a mildly provocative look. The pegasus gulped aloud, causing Luna to giggle more as her companion approached the bed.
With a brief flap of her wings, Streak managed to land atop the layers of blanket. Though still notably shaky, the silver mare too sank beneath the covers of Luna’s bed. The two ponies turned to face each other, gazing longingly into the adjacent mare’s eyes. Secretly, neither wanted the night to end, hoping in vain that they would never have to part.
“D-dist thou enjoy thyself this night?” Luna asked quietly, insecurity evident in her tone as she deliberately directed her gaze away from the mare’s bright blue eyes.
Streak couldn’t stand it any longer. The regal alicorn’s depressing lack of confidence served as the final blow against her rigid composure.
In what seemed a reassuring gesture, the pegasus wrapped a hoof around Luna’s neck and whispered in her ear, “Ever so much.”
Before so much as a smile could grace the blue mare’s lips, Streak’s muzzle buried itself into them, forcing them open as the princess let out a gasp. The silver mare pushed in her tongue slightly, eliciting a small moan from the confused alicorn. The pegasus pulled at Luna’s lips, attempting to set a rhythm which her flustered partner eventually picked up.
Without warning, the princess slipped her tongue between Streak’s lips, sending a shiver down the young mare’s back and snapping her wings open. Luna giggled slightly through the embrace, but resumed exploring the other mare’s lips and tongue, experiencing with each taste a sense of closeness to this pegasus. Every sensation made her want to hold Streak and never let go.
For the first time in Luna’s long life, she felt complete.
Tears streamed down the alicorn’s face as she chuckled softly to herself. Much time had passed since she had last told that story to anypony, and Luna was taken aback at just how emotional it made her.
“It sounds to me like you really loved her, Luna,” Dash said quietly.
The princess nodded, a subtle smile still chiseled into her face as the last tears rolled down. “You have no idea.”
Rainbow nuzzled the alicorn’s neck, enjoying the emanating warmth which shielded her from the cool, autumn breeze. As much as she would have liked to overlook it, the pegasus knew Luna’s pain must have been unbearable. Even memories of her first encounter with Streak had brought tears of anguish to the princess’ eyes. Dash thought for a moment and then decided one question--a single hypothetical--would allow Luna’s heart to prevail.
“Would you take it all back if you could?” She questioned, looking softly at the alicorn.
Luna appeared more confused than anything. “How do you mean?”
“I mean, would you have not dated Streak just to avoid the pain of losing her?”
As Rainbow predicted, the princess reacted ferociously at first, accusing the pegasus of audacious insincerity. “How dare you compare my everlasting suffering with a mere mortal’s strife! You have absolutely no comprehension regarding this matter whatsoever, Rainbow Dash! How you can just sit there an--”
“--Stop!” Dash interjected, holding a hoof up to the alicorn’s mouth. “I wasn’t trying to say it wasn’t a horrible pain--a pain that nopony should ever be forced to feel. I was asking you if the love you two shared was worth it!”
Luna paused, her mouth slightly agape as she began to understand what the pegasus was attempting to convey. Her years with Streak, the best years of her life--had they truly been for naught? Yes, the anguish following her death seemed unbearable, but... all those nights with her, every kiss--every touch, no less... Every memory of her suffering was complemented threefold by those of sheer warmth and bliss. Even reminders of her own descent into the darkness could not match with every--no, any second she had spent in the company of her love.
The princess once again turned to her moon, and though the night sky's image was distorted by the many surrounding trees, she could still make out the one star to its West. Whether by mirage, magic, or mere coincidence, the star brightened suddenly, its glare surpassing that of all other heavenly bodies. As it's engorgement reversed, a single thought protruded Luna's conscience.
'Worth every second.'
The alicorn turned back to Rainbow, tears of happiness flowing freely. Dash nodded, smiling slightly, and pushed her head into Luna's chest as she yawned and snuggled up close.
“We have a long day tomorrow. I think we both need some rest,” the pegasus suggested quietly. Luna nodded and put a hoof around Rainbow, pulling her closer in an embrace.
“Thank you,” she whispered in Dash's ear, causing her to chuckle slightly.
“Don't mention it.”
The caped princess made her way slowly up the spire to her chambers, the freezing air at her side remaining as her sole companion.
Three days. Three days of complete emptiness were now fading into a dull throb in her chest. The funeral should have sent the point across, but it didn't. No ceremony can denounce an inwardly held truth; only the small things can. Only the lack of color before her eyes, the coldness at her side, and the weight in her hooves reminded her that she had nothing.
As she pushed open the door to her domicile, the once-alluring furniture Dash had helped her pick out seemed tainted. The fading of colors became evident now as her eyes scanned the room. She slowly made her way onto the bed, feeling each hoof's weight tug at her limbs.
The princess closed her eyes slowly and reopened them, pupils turned towards the closet...
She crawled off her mattress and trotted autonomously to the closet door. With a flick of her horn, the door opened and revealed a black chest in the corner. Luna approached the gold-trimmed cist, a ghostly whisper beginning to invade her mind--remnants of an ancient evil never completely cleansed. She slowly lowered her horn, a black aura emanating from the tip began to turn the magical lock system.
A loud clacking noise echoed in the room as the chest flung itself open, revealing a dark and dusty suit of armor. Luna blew gently on the surface, as if it were an ancient tome. In the dark metallic reflection, the princess gazed upon herself--her depressed, destroyed self. She was weak. She was helpless.
The armor would make her strong.
Piece by piece, she slipped on the armor, and to no surprise it fit perfectly. Nothing had changed. A thousand years and such had passed, but nothing had changed. Such must be the way of immortality.
She trotted back to her bed, stopping in front of her nightstand--the one item in the room that had never changed. Luna chuckled; it was just like her.
Once again, a black aura unfolded before the alicorn and, with naught but one click, unlocked the bottom drawer. In the back of her mind, Luna could hear the whisper clearly now, its bitter voice all too familiar.
With her magic, the princess reached down to the lone book in the drawer, it too covered with dust. As she lifted it, however, her eyes caught a small sheet of parchment falling out. Assuming it had been slipped in somehow, Luna became curious as to its contents. Lifting the note closer, she observed it was mouth-written in a very familiar script.
It was worth every second.
Your Rainbow in the dark
For a long while, the alicorn stared at the paper, unmoving. The words passed through her mind countless times before the memories began to follow, each one quieting the malevolent presence within.
'Worth every second,' she thought to herself, smiling.
Luna again turned her gaze upwards, scanning her black canvas. Right next to her moon, a small star twinkled. The princess grinned, allowing a tear to slip down her cheek.
With a short and whispered spell, another star appeared close by, but this one was different from all the rest. The new star began slowly changing color, cycling through the entire visible spectrum. Luna couldn't help but feel a sense of justice in it.
“My Rainbow in the dark.”