“Come on!” Luna shouted, “Stop falling behind sleepy head!”
Celestia groggily made her way across the muddy road, taking care not to step in the slimier puddles of mud. “Alright, alright, calm down Luna, I’m coming.”
“But you have to hurry!” said Luna, prancing around impatiently, “If we don’t hurry, then we’ll have to stand in the back and we won’t be able to see the show!”
Celestia picked up her pace a little. “Ok, don’t worry so much, the show doesn’t start for another hour at least.” Celestia laughed a little at Luna’s excitedness.
“I know, I know, but I really want to get a good spot. And, if we’re lucky, they might leave some nice things laying around.”
I don’t know,” said Celestia, “Maybe we should stop for a little while, we got so close to getting caught last time, I don’t want to risk it again for a while.”
“Oh don’t worry, we won’t get caught. Besides, they probably won’t have anything good on them anyway. Then after this show, we can go to the market and get some food.”
Luna smiled a little, “Didn’t you wonder where I was yesterday?”
“I was doing some work for Dusty, the shopkeeper who runs the trinkets and antique shop. I helped him run the shop and clean up the place, so he gave me a few bits so I could buy some food.”
“Really?” Celestia asked with excitement, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise.” Luna said, still smiling.
It was a very nice surprise, Celestia had never paid for food before. They always had to steal it, or if they were lucky, a pony running a stand would take pity on them and throw a loaf of bread their way. But for the first time, they would be able to walk up to a stand, find something they wanted, and be able to honestly pay for what they were about to eat. Celestia found the thought very exciting.
“Oh thank you so much!” Celestia said, giving Luna a loving nuzzle, “I can’t wait for lunch now.”
Luna laughed gently, “Me either, now let’s hurry and get a good spot for the show.”
They ran the short distance to the show, arriving to a small crowd already gathered around a small stage being set up. Luna began looking around innocently, taking in her surroundings. No doubt looking for hiding spots and escape routes. She was quick to pick up on a small stack of books behind a crate on the stage, on the books was a small rusty pendant. Luna eyed it with mild curiosity, assessing the value of it. But her attention quickly turned to the performers, who began setting up their various props for the show. They were dressed as most performers, outlandish costumes and heavy make-up. Every item of clothing on them was decorated with various jewels, not all of them real, and they didn’t seem to walk anywhere, but rather strut, choosing to walk in such a way that it looked almost uncomfortable. As they were setting up, Luna walked back over to Celestia.
“Celestia,” she whispered, “I think I can get to those books, they’re right out in the open.”
“Isn’t that a problem?” Celestia whispered back, “If everyone can see them, can’t they all see you trying to take them?”
“No, because ponies only see what they watch, and they won’t be watching me. They’ll be watching the show. And when they’re watching the show, I’ll lift like, two books from them. The performers will never even know they’re gone.”
“I’m still worried Luna, I don’t want you to get caught, the punishment is really harsh.”
“I won’t get caught sis, everything will be fine.”
“I hope not.” Celestia was still worried.
The show was beginning to start, a larger crowed of fillies, mares, and stallions had gathered. Celestia saw why Luna had wanted to get there early, if they had had to stand at the back of the crowd they would never have been able to see anything.
Fireworks started off the show, dazzling the crowd with the bright lights and loud noises. Celestia could tell that magic was powering the fireworks, otherwise they would never be so bright so early in the morning. Celestia looked over at Luna, she was still watching the show, enjoying the spectacle before she had to risk getting caught. Celestia decided to enjoy the show too, it would be nice to just be entertained by the theatrics.
There was a story to the performance. The actors talked of the birth of the sun, accompanied with sparks and booms. Then they acted out the birth of Equestria, adding their own story to the history. There was a battle scene, with explosions and dramatic dialogue, and a love story subplot. The whole thing was very good, even if it wasn’t historically accurate. Celestia watched, observing their movements, their level of concentration. They made it look easy, but she could still see a break in their cool every now and again. A bead of sweat here, a small twitch there. Little things that showed how hard they had to work to create the illusion of ease. It made Celestia feel good, to know that even professionals still had to work hard at using their magic.
She looked around, noticing Luna was gone. She started slipping through the crowd, looking for any sign of her sister. When she got towards the left of the crowd, she noticed her Luna, eyeing two things. She walked up to Luna.
“Luna?” Celestia asked suspiciously, “What are you doing?”
“I can’t decide.”
“I can’t decide whether or not to take a book from the show, or from him.” Luna pointed at a stern looking pony. He was a rough looking figure, he was dirty but it was the kind of dirt that came from traveling rather than working. He looked around at the stage, looking past the performance. Celestia noticed that he was looking at the books on the stage too.
“What do you want from him?” Celestia asked.
“Look at his satchel,” Luna said, “He’s got a book on him that looks important. It’s got designs on it that I’ve only seen in story books, this could be what we’re looking for Celestia!” Luna was whispering more excitedly now, “This could be the book that gets us out of this stupid village! We could be like those performers, or we could get hired to a store, and then we would have enough money to eat every day without stealing!”
Celestia thought through Luna’s reasoning. The book poking out of the strangers satchel did indeed have some very old markings on it, the kind that she thought were only used in story books to impress young fillies. If the book could teach them something useful then it could be their ticket out of starvation, at the same time, if they were caught, the consequences of stealing from such a tough looking pony could be deadly, and nopony really cared if a few trouble making orphans lost their lives for attempted theft.
“I won’t do it unless you’re ok with it,” Luna said, “But if you do want to take something, you need to decide fast, we don’t have much time before the performance is over and the firework finale is our best shot.”
“I…” Celestia thought a little more, “I, I think we should do it.”
“Awesome!” Luna began to perk up a little in anticipation, “What book do you want? The stage books or his?” she said, gesturing to the pony’s satchel.
“I think we should take his book,” Celestia said a little nervously, “if you think we can do it, that is.”
“Of course we can, you just leave the hard part to me, and if anything happens, try and create a distraction, ok?”
“Ok.” Celestia replied, as she watched Luna get to work.
Luna began to slide over to the stranger, she walked through the crowd being as discrete as possible. As she got closer, she began to get more cautious. Eventually she had made her way next to the stranger, about twenty feet away from Celestia. Celestia could barely see Luna and the stranger through the other ponies, but she could make out Luna concentrating on magically undoing the clasp on the stranger’s satchel. She had just gotten the clasp undone when the show’s finale began. Fireworks began to light up and make loud noises, there were lots of them to celebrate the finale, and Celestia could see that it was giving Luna a hard time to concentrate. But Luna carried on, trying to lift the book out as softly as she could with magic. The stranger didn’t seem to notice so far, he had been focusing intently on the show, and hadn’t taken his eyes off of the stage since the finale had started. Luna almost had the book out now, but she was having trouble lifting it out so precisely and so slowly. The finale was dying down and the stranger was beginning to lose interest in the show, Celestia had to do something or else he would be sure to look down and notice a small pony trying take a book off of his back. Celestia tried to think, what were some ways she could distract the stranger? As she looked around she noticed another pony standing in a soft patch of dirt next to the stranger. Celestia began to concentrate, she looked at the front right hoof of the pony, and tried to use her magic, she concentrated on both the hoof and her horn, trying to harness her magical energy so she could move the hoof. It wouldn’t take much, she just needed to make the pony stumble a little. After a few seconds focus, Celestia succeeded in pushing the pony’s hoof forward abruptly about two inches. The pony stumbled forward and almost knocked completely into the stranger, the force jostled the stranger forward just enough that the book slipped the rest of the way out, giving Luna ample opportunity to make off with it.
Luna ran up to Celestia, “Come on!” she whispered hurriedly, “Let’s get out of here before he notices!”
Luna and Celestia took off through the alleys and roads, where they could study their newfound treasure in peace.
The two sisters stayed up all night reading. While Celestia had at first been a little tepid about looking through the pages, she soon found curiosity got the better of her and before she knew it, both she and Luna had found themselves too enthralled with the lessons to run to the market that day to buy fresh food. So they ate the food they had stored previously and continued to read into the night. The book had turned out to be very useful, there were tips for how to create fireballs, or make light bright enough to blind enemies. The book was about magic used in combat, which meant it had plenty of dangerous spells, but Celestia was more interested in using the spells safely, and in such a way that they could be used in daily life. Luna agreed that this was probably the best thing to do, but Celestia could also see that Luna was itching to try out some new spells.
“Oh please Celestia!” Luna begged, “I just want to try the fireball spell! It’ll be really small, nothing would happen!”
“But something could happen, and what if that something burns down our tent? The ponies around here barely tolerate us as it is.”
“Yeah, but nothing will happen! If I could learn how to create fire, we could work in a bakery or something. How can I learn if I never try? Anyway it looks simple enough.”
“Oh alright, but you absolutely have to keep it small! If anything does happen, we might not have anywhere to sleep!”
“I promise nothing will happen Celestia, I promise.”
Luna stood up and began to scrunch her face in concentration and effort. The tip of her horn began to glow orange like a dull ember, but as she scrunched her face harder, the tip of her horn began to glow a little brighter.
“Careful Luna, please be careful.” Celestia continued to say as Luna tried to muster her energy.
Luna squeezed out a quick nod of acknowledgement, as her horn grew a little brighter. The tip was now glowing a fiery red-orange, and a few small sparks flew from the tip.
“Almost… got it…” Luna grunted as she continued to focus.
Suddenly, a small ball of fire no larger than a small pebble shot from the tip of Luna’s horn, causing her to let out a small yelp. The miniature fireball shot through the tarp and into the darkness outside. Celestia and Luna heard a small cry come from outside their tent.
“Ow! What the hay!” said a squeaky little voice. The voice belonged to a young colt named Skamper, and seeing the small burnt hole coming from the lit tent, he walked over and into the tent. “What the hay was that! I’m tryin’ to sleep and you girls won’t let a poor pony get his rest?!”
Luna giggled, “Aw I’m sorry Skamper, I didn’t mean to hurt you. It was just a new spell I was trying that went wrong.” She shot Celestia a playful look. Celestia gave a teasing scowl back.
“A new spell?” asked Skamper, suddenly forgetting about his annoyance at Luna. “Can I see? Where’d you learn it from?” he looked down, “Did you learn it from that?” he pointed at the open book on the ground.
“Yeah.” Said Luna.
“Can I see a spell?” asked Skamper, “I bet there some really cool ones in there!”
“There are. There are ones for fireballs and lightning and all sorts of stuff!” Luna was getting more excited again, talking about magic.
“Really? Can I see one?”
“Well I don’t know, maybe…”
“No way!” Celestia cried, cutting off Luna before she did anything.
“Why not?” Luna and Skamper said in unison.
“Because fireballs and lightning are dangerous! And we’re not even supposed to have this book, if something happened, we’d be in huge trouble!”
“Oh come on Celestia,” Luna said, “They might be dangerous but it’s not like I can actually do any damage. You saw me try and cast that fireball, it was pathetic! I could barely do it, how would I cause any damage?”
“And I wanna see a cool new spell, Luna promised me she would show me something cool when she learned something new!”
Celestia sighed, “Did you promise him that Luna?”
Luna shrugged, “Well… yeah.”
Celestia sighed again, “Alright, show off your new trick.”
Luna and Skamper’s faces lit up.
“But keep it safe and small!” Celestia warned.
“Ok, you got it.” Luna said to Celestia. Then she turned to Skamper, “Now, I’m gonna go for something with a little more flare.”
“What is it?” he asked in wonder.
“It’s a cross between two spells, a flash spell, and a fireball spell.”
“Whoooaaaa,” Skamper said in awe, “I can’t wait!”
Luna smiled, her showmanship side taking over, “Now, I will need absolute concentration,” she said dramatically.
Skamper nodded in compliance. Celestia had a concerned look on her face next to him.
“Now, I shall begin!” Luna closed her eyes and began to concentrate again, she bowed her head and started to try and use her magic. Her horn began to glow slightly, this time with a more bright, luminescent glow, rather than the previous orange glow she had given off. She kept working at it, and steadily the glow grew brighter.
Then, Celestia heard hooves. There sounded like there were five sets of them, and they were getting closer.
She heard other scared orphans crying, “They’re over there! We didn’t do anything! Please don’t hurt us!”
The sound of hooves got closer.
“Uh, Luna, maybe we should-“
“Hold on!” Luna grunted, “Just give me a sec! I’m so close!”
Skamper looked around, terrified.
“Hold on, hold on…” Luna kept saying.
Suddenly, a guard poked his head into their tent. Upon seeing Luna, and glancing at the book, he let out a shout. “Hey! Hey they’re over here! I found ‘em!”
The shout startled Luna, but what Luna did next startled everyone.
Her eyes began to glow a sudden bright white, and the glow from her horn grew into an intense white shine. Luna was losing control, and the glowing white stare in her eyes only got brighter.
Energy began to emanate from Luna’s horn, giving off sparks and beams of light.
“Hey! What’s she doing? Make her stop!” the guard cried to Celestia, he turned to Luna, “Hey! Stop that!”
“She can’t stop!” Celsestia yelled, “I don’t know what she’s doing but she can’t- Skamper! Get out of here!” She turned past the guard and out of the tent, yelling into the alley, “Run! Everypony run!”
Skamper scrambled past Celestia, Celestia ran too, but she didn’t get very far.
The blast knocked Celestia nearly unconscious. She was thrown against a wall, and a blazing white light left her mostly blinded. The noise from the blast had rendered her temporarily deaf, but she struggled to her hooves after a few seconds, adrenaline running through her.
She began to make out the scene before her. Skamper was a few feet away from her in a small heap of rubble, she couldn’t tell if he was unconscious or otherwise. Most of everything around her looked or smelled singed, and just about everypony was either as dazed or as confused as she was. But the guards who hadn’t been caught in the blast were regaining themselves, and advancing on Luna.
Luna. Celestia suddenly remembered Luna. She tried to clear her head as she looked toward the epicenter of the blast, she feared the worst for her sister. But Luna was alright, in fact, she was just fine. She stood amid the destruction, trembling and afraid, but otherwise unharmed.
Luna backed into the wall, stammering out questions and apologies. “Oh no… what happened… that wasn’t me was it… Skamper?”
The guards began to close in on her.
“Take her in!” one shouted, “Yeah! We’ll show that hinny a lesson!”
“You can’t take her!” Celestia cried!
The guards continued to advance cautiously on Luna.
“No!” screamed Celestia. She ran past the circle of guards and stood in front of her sister.
“Celestia?” Luna asked dazedly. “What are you…”
“I said NO!”
Celestia was suddenly overtaken with a very odd sensation. She couldn’t see anything, but had a keen awareness of something she had never felt before. It felt like something inside of her was showing itself for the first time, and as worried as she had been, she now felt tranquil, and had no intention of restraining this new and powerful force inside of her. Celestia could hear the echoes of the outside world around her, but they were far away, and the feeling inside her told her that it wasn’t something to be worried about. Celestia could see only white, it was so bright she wanted to closer her eyes. But when she did, she realized that the blank white world in front of her didn’t go away. Just as she felt herself about to be blinded from the light, Celestia began to make out three blurry shapes. The one on her left came into focus first, as it stepped closer to her, she made it out to be her sister, Luna. Luna didn’t say anything, she merely smiled, and faded away into the light. The figure in the middle came into focus next. Celestia didn’t recognize the pony standing in front of her. It was a purple pony, with different shades of purple in her mane and a sparkle for her cutie mark. The purple pony looked around for a moment, as if lost. But when she looked at Celestia, she smiled, and gave her a bow, before running off and out of sight. Celestia struggled to make sense of what she saw, and a sudden wave of uncertainty swept over her, as the third figure stepped closer. The third figure never came into focus, nothing except its’ eyes and its’ cutie mark. The eyes stared at Celestia, they gave a look of blame, and of sorrow and anger. The eyes gave a look of disgust. Not only of Celestia herself, she felt, but of something much bigger. The blurry figure turned away, leaving Celestia with only the image of a cutie mark resembling bubbling smoke behind.
The feeling of intense worry and hatred began to overtake Celestia as the brightness began to fade. The echoing of shouts and cries drifted off into the distance, and when Celestia awoke, she at first noticed that her head hurt.