By Pen Stroke
Assisted By Batty Gloom
The Castle of Nightmare
They were too late. Even when they had her in their sights, they were too late. Princess Celestia’s worst fears had come true. Nyx had become Nightmare Moon, and she had been the one to deliver her to those who would complete the transformation.
While Princess Luna lingered in Ponyville to find out more about what had happened, Celestia went straight back to Canterlot. Upon arriving at the palace, she ordered for her generals to be summoned. She didn’t care if they needed to be roused from their beds or pulled from their spouses. Celestia needed to speak with them immediately and was making rare use of her royal rank to ensure it happened.
The royal guard took to the princess’s orders, and, within minutes, some of the most trusted members of the guard were racing to fetch the generals. This left Celestia with a moment to herself, and she spent it sitting on her throne. She needed some time to rest, some time to think.
Princess Celestia began scrutinizing every recent memory she had of Spell Nexus. Surely there had to have been a clue. Surely there had to have been a sign of his treachery, yet she could not remember a single instance of doubt. Spell Nexus betraying her would be like Twilight Sparkle betraying her; it just didn’t seem possible.
Yet that impossibility had become a reality. Spell Nexus had betrayed her, but, before Princess Celestia could try to figure out why, she was drawn from her thoughts. The doors to the throne room opened, and Celestia couldn’t help but look to see who had entered the room. She didn’t think her generals could have arrived so quickly, and they hadn’t. The pony that was now striding across the room, moving with purpose in each step, was her sister, Luna.
Celestia rose from the throne and walked to meet her. “Luna, I’m surprised you were able to return so quickly. Have you already finished interviewing the residents of Ponyville?”
Luna did not reciprocate the warm welcome her sister offered. She instead glared at Celestia with hard eyes and a deep frown. “I delegated the task to a number of guards, because there is only one pony I want to talk to at the moment: You. What have you been hiding from me?”
Celestia winced under the sharpness of Luna’s tone. She quickly realized the conversation she and her sister were about to have wasn’t going to be one of their better ones. Still, she maintained her composure. “I don’t know what you mean, sister.”
“Do not speak as if you are ignorant, Celestia!” Luna snapped, her words dripping with anger. “You know something about what just transpired in Ponyville and of the strange mare that was seen there. Now, I shall only ask once more: What have you been hiding from me?”
Celestia turned away from her sister, unable to look her in the eyes as she began to recount the truth. “Just after the end of winter, a cult ponynapped my personal student, Twilight Sparkle, as part of an elaborate spell that would have done the unthinkable. I am happy to say that Twilight suffered nothing worse than a small cut on her leg and some rope burns. The spell in question, however, was designed to take the shreds left behind when you were saved by the Elements of Harmony and…”
“And do what?” Luna pressed.
“The spell would have taken those shreds, the lingering magic and echoes of the mare you used to be… and used them to give Nightmare Moon her own body.”
“Give Nightmare Moon her own body?” Luna echoed in disbelief, shaking her head firmly. “No, such a thing is not possible. I was Nightmare Moon; she cannot exist without me. She is what I became when I stole magic to make myself more powerful, and she was destroyed by the Elements of Harmony.”
Princess Celestia shook her head. “Not destroyed, Luna. The Elements of Harmony are not a force of destruction. They could only separate you from the power and jealousy that once possessed you. They peeled Nightmare Moon off of you and left behind the tattered shreds like discarded fruit peels.”
“But how could that be enough to reform Nightmare Moon?” Luna asked, her rage growing more intense as it was fueled by her confusion. “There is more to a mare, to a life, than power and emotions.”
“I do not claim to fully understand it,” Celestia said, “but you know how magic works just as well as I do. Truly pure magic is a rare thing. Any magic from any pony can carry with it an echo of its owner. It is why some spells are stronger when driven by emotions like anger or happiness. It is why no two unicorns have the same magic. Magic and the soul are very closely tied.
“And, because of this,” Celestia continued as she shifted on her hooves, “I can only assume that an echo of the mare you used to be, an echo of Nightmare Moon, lingered in the shreds that the Elements of Harmony left behind. That was what the resurrection spell was meant to target. It was supposed to distill, reform, and strengthen that echo, so that it would be able to create a new body for Nightmare Moon.”
Luna shook her head firmly. “No, that can’t have been enough. A body could be formed of such magic, and perhaps a mind, but that would not be enough. For Nightmare Moon to exist once more, she would need to possess her own—”
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Celestia interrupted before she turned back to face Luna. “The simple truth we must deal with is that Nightmare Moon has returned, and we must stand against her.”
“It does matter, Celestia!” Luna snapped. She strode up to her sister and did her best to look her straight in the eye, despite the discrepancy in their heights. “You say that all of this happened just after winter, at the cusp of spring and I must ask why? Why am I only told about this now?”
“I… I didn’t want to burden you with this knowledge,” Celestia answered with a caring tone. “I was going to handle it, and you already had enough to deal with. I just felt—”
Luna grunted in rage and stomped away from her sister. “I am not a filly to be foalsat anymore, Celestia! I do not need you to handle or deal with things for me, and I do not need you shielding me! I have learned much of the modern Equestria. I can speak the modern tongue and have retaken my royal duties.”
“But Luna—” Celestia tried to interrupt, but Luna stomped her hoof and forced Celestia back into silence.
“No! If the threat to Equestria is Nightmare Moon, then I should have been told. I was Nightmare Moon! Everything that mare did was my fault! If, somehow, somepony were to bring that… that… bring her back, then it’s my fault for being her in the first place!”
“Luna, stop it! You aren’t responsi—”
“Yes I am!” Luna bellowed. Her starry cloud of a mane was pulsing violently, like enraged waves on a storm-torn ocean. “And, even if I weren’t, you still should have told me about this before it became such a threat! When were you going to tell me?”
“When, Celestia?!” Luna pressed through gritted teeth.
Celestia opened her mouth to answer, but, after a few moments, she shut her mouth again. She was unable to say anything. She had no words, and, from that silence, Luna got her answer. “You weren’t! You weren’t going to tell me anything, ever! You were hoping to keep this whole thing a secret!”
“I was only trying to protect you,” Celestia said, trying to defend herself. “I was just trying to keep you from having to—”
“Keep me from what?! Keep me from taking responsibility for my past? Keep me from doing what I can for the sake of our kingdom, for our ponies?! Nightmare Moon, either as what I was or what she is now, is my responsibility! You should have told me about this from the very beginning!”
Luna brought her hooves up and stomped them on the ground in an attempt to vent some of the rage boiling inside her. “If anything, the fact that she and I were once one and the same makes me more qualified to deal with this situation than you. At the very least, had our roles been reversed, I would have told you the truth.”
“I know,” Celestia admitted, “and perhaps you are a better mare than me in that regard. But, sister, you’ve had enough to deal with. You’ve been working yourself to the bone. You perform your duties at night and spend the rest of your waking hours trying to catch up with all that has happened during your banishment. I didn’t want to burden you any further.”
“But it was my burden to bear, Celestia, and we may have been able to avoid this entire situation if you had told me in the first place.” Luna sucked in a deep breath and let out a ragged, irritated sigh. “You and I, however, cannot change the past nor deny the present. Nightmare Moon is now a mare of her own, and all we can do now is try and stop whatever schemes she has formed. We should send word to your student and her friends. I imagine we will need them to wield the Elements of Harmony once more.”
Celestia tensed and shifted her gaze away from Luna. “We… may not be able to rely on the Elements of Harmony.”
Luna furrowed her eyebrows, sensing that there was still more she hadn’t been told. “Why not?”
“Do you remember Twilight’s cousin, Nyx? The one who played Nightmare Moon during the children’s play at the last Spring Festival?”
Luna’s eyebrows shifted, one becoming arched as her rage took a back seat to confusion. “Of course. Why do you ask?”
“That filly is not Twilight’s cousin, nor is she even related to Twilight by any familial connection. In fact, she had never been seen before her arrival in Ponyville a few days after Twilight was rescued.”
Luna needed a moment to take in the information. When she realized why Celestia would suddenly bring up Nyx, her jaw dropped, and her eyes widened in disbelief. “That filly? You don’t mean to tell me that—”
“Yes,” Celestia confirmed, “the filly known as Nyx was the incomplete product of the original resurrection spell. This evening the cult got their hooves on her, and they were able to finish the spell they started. In truth, Nyx was always Nightmare Moon, but tonight the cult returned to her all the memories and powers she once possessed.”
“But how did the cult get a hold of her?” Luna asked. “I spoke with a few ponies in Ponyville before departing. They said that the cult appeared and Nightmare Moon rose up from the center of the spell. Nopony witnessed someone being taken into the ritual, and wouldn’t Twilight have sent a letter if she feared Nyx was missing?”
“No, she wouldn’t have,” Celestia admitted with a whisper.
Celestia swallowed as she struggled to find the strength to admit her own mistake. “Be… because I was the one that took Nyx. I was the one who delivered her into the hooves of that cult.”
Luna was struck silent. She strode up beside her sister, expecting the punchline to what could only be a cruel joke. Yet, the expression on Celestia’s face made it clear she was telling the truth. Luna couldn’t help but stumble over her words in disbelief. “Celestia… why? Why would you do that?”
“For some time now, I have feared that Nyx was Nightmare Moon,” Celestia confessed. “At a school function, she was able to turn another pony into a tree and displayed other magic well beyond unicorns her age. My dreams became tormented with images of her growing into the mare you used to be and threatening everypony I care about.
“I had to be sure she wasn’t a threat,” Celestia said, trying to defend her actions with words she didn’t believe anymore. “I had to know what I was dealing with, so I could act before Nyx could become a danger to Equestria, to Twilight, or to you. So, I spoke with Spell Nexus, and he promised a spell that would allow me to glimpse Nyx’s soul. It was supposed to let me see for myself if she was a danger.”
Celestia growled, and tossed her head. “But, of course, it would seem the greatest threat came not from Nyx but from the headmaster of my own school. Spell Nexus… How could he be involved in this? He was attacked at the beginning of last fall. His home was ransacked for the shreds of Nightmare Moon. The thieves beat him so badly that he had to be hospitalized for weeks. He showed no signs of treachery.
“He was once my student!” Celestia bellowed, punctuating her words with a stomp. “Why would he betray me?!”
“I do not know, Celestia, but there is a far more pressing question you are avoiding,” Luna said firmly, steering the conversation back to the matters at hoof. “The question I’ve asked, the one that you have yet to answer, is why we cannot rely on the Elements of Harmony.”
“Because I dare not ask a mother to strike down her own daughter!” Celestia shouted, directing her anger with Nexus not only at Luna, but also at herself. “Not when I tore that daughter away.”
“Mother… daughter? Celestia, you do not mean to tell me…”
“I do. I speak of Twilight and Nyx. Since the end of winter my student has been caring for Nyx. From what Twilight told me, it began innocently enough. Like me, she feared that Nyx was Nightmare Moon, but she did not want to risk an innocent filly being unjustly banished to the moon. Thus, until she could be certain of Nyx’s origins, Twilight kept her a secret.
“Yet, over the months they spent together, Twilight Sparkle grew to be more than just a caretaker. She…” Celestia struggled with her words. “She came to care for Nyx like a daughter. She became her adoptive mother.”
Luna’s face contorted into a horrified expression. “And is that why we cannot rely on the Elements of Harmony?! Because you stole Nyx away from Twilight?! Celestia, it’s one thing to keep this a secret from me, but what could have possessed you to… do you realize that—”
“I am fully aware of what I’ve done!” Celestia bellowed, cutting off Luna’s accusation.
“No, I don’t think you are!” Luna yelled back, raising her voice to match Celestia’s. “Don’t you think Twilight would have noticed if Nyx acted like the mare I used to be? Don’t you think she would have sent you a letter if she feared something was wrong? You once told me you trusted Twilight completely. Why would you doubt her NOW?”
“I could not stand by and wait for Nightmare Moon to—”
“Yes, you could have!” Luna shouted back, her voice booming. “If Nyx was going to become Nightmare Moon, there would have been warnings, signs. She wouldn’t have just transformed overnight. Why did you act before there was an actual threat? You realize that it’s your fault this happened, don’t you? It’s your fault Nightmare Moon—”
“I know!” Celestia shouted, her composure breaking like a frail twig. “Do you actually think for a moment that I wanted to do any of this?! To cause my dear student such pain?! I do not need to be told the heinous nature of my actions!
“But I could not wait for Nyx to become Nightmare Moon!” Celestia said with a flare of her wings. “I could not wait until that witch was standing on our doorstep with half of Equestria destroyed in her wake! I had to act preemptively. I had to be able to prepare, to get ready, so that if Nyx did change into Nightmare Moon, I would be ready to stop her before anypony got hurt.”
“But why?!” Luna demanded. “Why couldn’t you wait?! Why did you feel you had to act?!”
“Because the last time I waited, I lost you for a thousand years!” Celestia screamed.
The fire of Luna’s anger cooled under the weight of those words, and she couldn’t look away as Celestia crumbled in front of her like a sand castle being eroded by the ocean’s waves. Celesta’s wings fell limp, and she hung her head so low her nose almost touched the floor. Tears began to stream from her eyes, forced out by the guilt, fear, and pain welling up inside of her.
“The last time I waited,” Celestia said quietly, “the last time I decided to just wait and see if things would get better or worse was when you were showing the first signs of your jealousy. I thought, I hoped, you would get through it. I thought that surely the ponies of Equestria would appreciate your night as I did. I decided to wait, to let things work themselves out… We both know how successful that was.
“So condemn me for what I’ve done, Luna; it’s no less than I deserve,” Celestia said. She raised her head to meet Luna’s gaze as tears continued to flow down her face. “I stole a daughter from her mother because I feared the monster she could become, and, in the process, I hurt my dearest student, Twilight. Even worse, because of my actions, my fears have become reality.
“I, however, couldn’t just sit by and wait. I couldn’t give Nightmare Moon the chance to cast her dark shadow over Equestria once more. I couldn’t let her hurt Twilight. I couldn’t let her hurt you. I just… couldn't stand by and hope that things would work out.”
“Sister,” Luna said. Her voice had a kind tone for the first time since the conversation had begun. Celestia, however, shied away from the comfort. She turned and walked slowly back to her throne, doing her best to magically dry her eyes.
“But I can’t think about that now. I have to focus on the threat Nightmare Moon poses. I must be ready to stand against her.”
“Not ‘I’, sister, ‘we’,” Luna corrected. She moved beside Celestia as a reassuring smile spread onto her lips. “Just as Nightmare Moon threatens me, she threatens you, and I’m not going to let her hurt my elder sister. We’ll work together, we’ll find her, and, if she won’t listen to reason, we’ll do what is necessary to protect Equestria.”
Celestia smiled, nodded, and leaned into Luna. “Thank you, sister. I don’t think I could face this if you weren’t beside me.”
“That’s what sisters are for.”
Nightmare Moon stood in an elegant hall, taking in its finely-crafted beauty. Regal black marble columns flanked either side of the hall and rose to support a high, arched ceiling. Rich purple curtains were draped from the columns, and torch holders glowed with white, magical gems. The finest detail of the room, however, was the ceiling. It was encrusted with diamonds, using the precious gems as stars in a mural of the nighttime sky. One gem in particular, which looked to be as big as Nightmare Moon’s head, had been used to mimic the full moon in all its glory.
“Does it please you, my Queen?” Spell Nexus asked with a respectful bow.
“It does,” Nightmare Moon replied as she moved toward her new throne. It had rich night-blue cushions and a frame made of rare black oak from the dragon country. Nightmare Moon couldn’t help but admire its every detail as she settled into it. She fluttered her wings, and a contented smile formed as she looked across the room. It was her throne room, and it existed only to compliment her own elegant beauty.
“You have done well, Spell Nexus,” Nightmare Moon said, “but I am curious. How did you manage to construct such a grand room in secrecy?
“It is not just this room, my Queen, but a whole castle,” Nexus replied. He rose from his bow and approached the throne. “We found an unexpected ally in a clan of wild mutts known as the Diamond Dogs. They were a more than willing workforce once we promised to assist them in their search for precious gemstones.
“They dug out this entire cavern, and then assisted in the construction of the castle,” Spell Nexus continued. “Once you have defeated Celestia and Luna, there are but a few dozen feet of rock separating this castle from the world above. Should you wish, it would be trivial for you to raise the castle to the surface. It would be a grand proclamation of your new place as Equestria’s ruler.”
Nightmare Moon’s smile widened, and she pictured her castle rising up and casting a harsh shadow across the land. Yes, it was a good thought, but one she would save for later. She could not raise the castle before defeating the Royal Sisters, and her curiosity was not yet sated.
“Tell me, why were the Diamond Dogs willing to put forth so much effort for the gemstones?”
“I do not know, Your Majesty,” Spell Nexus answered. “We never questioned why the Diamond Dogs wanted the gems. Perhaps they are like dragons and eat them. Or perhaps they just like to roll around in piles of gemstones as hogs roll in mud. In the end, does the reason really matter? The important thing was that they were a strong, fast, and willing workforce.”
Nightmare Moon’s eyes flashed, her curiosity fed by Spell Nexus’s words. What did the Diamond Dogs do with the gems? Was Nexus right? Did they use them as a source of food or did they, in fact, roll around in them? But wouldn’t rolling around in gemstones hurt? Perhaps they had thick skin, or maybe they used the gems in another way. Perhaps they used them to make clothes or used them as a source of currency.
There were simply too many questions, and Nightmare Moon would have at least some of them answered. “Spell Nexus, I want to see the leader of the Diamond Dogs or whichever of them you brokered this deal with.”
Nexus looked up at Nightmare Moon with equal parts concern and confusion. “Forgive me, Your Highness, but part of our agreement with the Diamond Dogs was that, at the conclusion of the deal, they would migrate much further into their tunnels. We could not risk them interfering with our work.”
A frown formed on Nightmare Moon’s lips. She hated it when she couldn’t find the answer to a question. Her insatiable curiosity was her vice. It was why she loved to sit in Cheerilee’s classroom every day when she was in school. Oh, how she found such joy in learning new things from the mulberry pony who—
Nightmare Moon shut her eyes and seized control of her mind before it could wander further. She could not think of those memories anymore. She was a queen, and Cheerilee was no longer her teacher. Cheerilee, like everypony else, was just a subject that needed to be brought into line, nothing more.
“I see,” Nightmare Moon said as she turned her gaze back to Spell Nexus. “That is unfortunate. Still, if a Diamond Dog is found, have him brought to me. There are some questions I would like answered.”
“As you wish, Your Majesty,” Spell Nexus said with another bow. “Now, your Highness, please allow me to show you the rest of your new castle.”
Nightmare Moon followed behind Nexus as he gave her a grand tour of her new home. The castle was beautiful, every bit as regal as Canterlot Palace. Yet, Nightmare Moon found herself questioning some of the decorations. Around almost every corner there was a mural or statue depicting her.
The quantity alone would have been creepy, but there was also an unnerving, constant theme in how she was being portrayed. While each mural and statue was unique, each was made up of dark, threatening visuals. One had her standing over the battle-broken bodies of Celestia and Luna. Another had her casting a dark shadow over cowering ponies. They were all images of the future Equestria could look forward to, and it left a strange feeling in the pit of Nightmare Moon’s stomach.
“And here is the royal library,” Nexus announced, drawing Nightmare Moon’s attention away from the castle decorations as the pair entered the grand, bookcase-lined room. “Please forgive the lack of books on the shelves. We built it to house the collection from the Canterlot Palace. Once you have taken your place as Equestria’s true queen, we intend to move the collection from there to here, should you wish to continue using this castle as your palace.”
Nightmare Moon nodded and let her gaze drift across the mostly empty shelves. The room was just as impressive as the rest of the castle. The towering bookshelves dominated the walls, and the entire room was wrapped in a cool, dark color scheme. Yet, she found one aspect of the decor unappealing. There was a painting above the library’s fireplace which showed her standing over the charred, blackened ruins of Canterlot.
Why did every painting, mural, and statue in her castle have to make her look like she was leading an army from Tartarus?
Deciding she would leave that thought for another time, Nightmare Moon strolled around the room. She noticed a few pegasus ponies fluttering about, putting away some of books that had been gathered. Like all the other servants and guards she had seen, the pegasi possessed something that drew her curiosity.
“Why do all of you have eyes like mine, Nexus?” Nightmare Moon asked.
“It is your blessing, my Queen,” Nexus replied, swelling with pride. “As you may know, I was once the headmaster of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Upon your initial defeat, Celestia tasked me with studying your shredded remains. It was upon examining those shreds that I became enlightened to your wisdom and power.
“It was on that same day my eyes turned the turquoise color you see now, and it became a sign of the order. I bestow the gift of these eyes upon each pony who joins the Children of Nightmare when they pledge their service to you.”
Nightmare Moon nodded, turning her attention back to the shelves as she perused the few books in the library’s existing collection. She didn’t recognize most of the titles, but one book did catch her eye. Coming to a stop, she used her magic to remove the book from the shelf. She gently cracked it open and flipped it to the title page. Grand Tales of Equestria.
“And, with that final buck, the wolves were driven from the town,” Twilight said, looking up from the book she was reading aloud. “And the ponies rejoiced. They had once again been saved by the only mare among them brave enough to stay out at night, the village’s own black-coated guardian: Nyx of the Night.”
“Did you really name me after her?!” Nyx asked in disbelief. She squirmed deeper under the covers of her bed and rested her head on the pillow as Twilight shut the book that had been the source of the evening’s bedtime story.
Twilight laughed and set the book down. “Yes, though I’ll admit it was mostly because she has a black coat like yours.”
“Do… do you think I could be as brave as she was someday?” Nyx asked.
“Of course,” Twilight answered with a smile. “Being brave isn’t like a special talent; you just have to be able to stand up against the things that scare you.”
“Have you ever had to stand up to something really scary?”
Twilight nodded. “I have. This one time, my friends and I had to go convince a dragon to leave his cave and go someplace else.”
Nyx’s eyes went wide. “Really!?”
“Oh yes. He was taking a nap in the nearby mountains, and his snoring was throwing all of this black smoke into the air. So, Princess Celestia asked—” Twilight stopped her story, smiled knowingly, and looked at Nyx before playfully tapping her on the nose. “Hey, you just got a bedtime story. You don’t need another.”
“Awwwww,” Nyx complained, “but what about the dragon?”
“I promise I’ll tell you the story tomorrow night,” Twilight assured before she gently kissed Nyx on the forehead. “Now, go to sleep.”
“Okay,” Nyx replied with a yawn, letting her eyes slide shut.
Nightmare Moon shook her head, snapping the book shut and replacing it on the shelf before looking to Spell Nexus. “My apologies, I can get caught up in my reading.”
“No apologies necessary, my Queen. This is, after all, your library,” Nexus replied. “Though there is still much of the castle left to see.”
“Here we have the guard barracks, where we train those new to the order to defend this castle. The word of your return is spreading. Those I have sent out to recruit new ponies to our cause are finding several eager to get on good terms with you. It would seem not all of Equestria is foalish enough to stand against you.”
Nightmare Moon didn’t offer any reply as she watched the soldiers. They were standing in a line, each one taking turns attacking a set of training dummies under the watchful eye of their trainer. What drew Nightmare Moon’s eye, however, were the dummies themselves, which bore a striking resemblance to a certain set of mares.
“Why do the training dummies look like Twilight Sparkle and her friends?”
“Because it is they who are the greatest threat to you, my Queen,” Nexus explained. “It was they who defeated you, and we shall not let them have the opportunity to do so again. Should they get the idea in their heads to attempt to bring their unified power against you once more, they will be dealt with immediately.”
Nexus’s words were punctuated as a guard attacked a training dummy that looked like Twilight Sparkle and, with a single swift motion, beheaded it. The cotton-stuffed head bounced on the ground and rolled to Nightmare Moon’s hooves. She stared at it and then spoke with a firm tone. “No.”
“Should the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony come to the castle, they are not to be harmed. The Elements of Harmony themselves are to be taken from them for safe keeping. Then, Twilight Sparkle is to be brought directly to me and the rest of her friends are to be locked in the dungeon. I will then decide how I want to punish them for standing against me.”
“Of course,” Nexus replied with an approving, devilish smile. “I can fully understand your desire to punish them with your own hooves.”
Nightmare Moon turned her back on the training dummies and began to walk towards the door. “Good, and I want one of the Twilight Sparkle training dummies brought to my bed chamber. It is to be intact.”
“It will be there before the end of the tour,” Spell Nexus assured, choosing not to question his queen’s wishes.
“The dining hall is, of course, spacious enough for any sort of event, should you ever be interested in holding a gala or other such frivolity,” Nexus explained as the pair walked alongside the long, regal table that dominated the center of the dining room. It was made of softly-colored brown oak, covered in a night-blue table cloth, and decorated with sterling silver candelabra, each holding three candles.
“You’ll also be happy to know we already have employed a royal chef who is eager to tickle your taste buds with some of his deserts,” Nexus said happily. He motioned to a unicorn standing in the corner of the room. That unicorn quickly galloped forward and levitated a tray in front of Nightmare Moon. It was filled to the brim with chocolate cupcakes that had been expertly decorated with a thick swirl of purple and a single curl of white chocolate set delicately on top.
“Seriously, who would have thought making cupcakes would be so hard?” Scootaloo grumbled. The four Cutie Mark Crusaders were standing in the middle of a kitchen, which was covered in the messy aftermath of their baking endeavors.
“I told you,” Apple Bloom said. “I told you it wasn’t easy.”
“So girls, how are things going?” Pinkie Pie chirped, sticking her head into the kitchen.
“Not so good,” Sweetie Belle admitted.
“Please don’t be mad about the mess,” Nyx begged.
“Oh, girls, I’m not mad! You should have seen the mess I made of the bakery when I first started working for the Cakes. After all, my special talent is throwing parties, not baking,” Pinkie Pie reassured them. “Now, why don’t we get this place cleaned up? Then I’ll show you how to make cupcakes one more time.”
The faces of the four fillies lit up with smiles, and they eagerly helped clean the mess. Then, under Pinkie Pie’s close supervision and unending enthusiasm, each filly managed to make a batch of cupcakes that was not only edible, but good tasting. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle made vanilla cupcakes with apple and chocolate frosting respectively.
Scootaloo and Nyx, on the other hoof, had made chocolate cupcakes. Nyx’s were frosted with a simple vanilla frosting, but Scootaloo tried to frost hers so each one would have a rainbow on it. Unfortunately, she had not been able to keep the colors separated. They had mixed and swirled together into make a dark purple frosting. Scootaloo was disappointed, but, in the end, the cupcakes still tasted good, and that was what mattered.
“My Queen, do the cupcakes displease you?” Nexus asked, noticing Nightmare Moon had once more fallen silent.
“No,” she replied, using magic to gently nudge the tray away. “I am just not hungry at the moment. Have some delivered to my chamber. I will taste them later.”
The chef nodded, galloping off to place the best of his desserts in the bedchamber. At the same time, Nexus showed Nightmare Moon into the kitchen to prove it was capable of handling any and all requests she could make of it or its staff.
The high spirits Nightmare Moon had been in when she first arrived at her castle had faded. Each room Spell Nexus showed her dredged up unwanted memories and desires. She was no longer a weak, cowardly filly; she was no longer Nyx. Still, the months she spent as a filly would not give her any peace, and it was putting her in a foul mood.
Despite the small headache chewing on the front of her brain, Nightmare Moon continued to follow Spell Nexus. Thankfully, he had taken notice of her degrading mood, and had rushed through the tail end of the castle tour. They were just about to enter the last room on the tour.
The moment the door to the chamber opened, a tingling sensation washed over Nightmare Moon. Magic, very powerful magic, was being performed within. It wasn’t anything on the scale of the spell that had given her a body of her own, but the power was still respectable.
“Spell Nexus, what sort of sorcery is being performed in here?” Nightmare Moon asked. They walked into the room, and her mood began to lift.
“Research, my Queen,” Spell Nexus answered with a smile, waving his hoof across the room. “Welcome to the research laboratory.”
Nightmare Moon eagerly looked across the lab. A number of desks and tables were set about the space. At each station a unicorn worked, twisting and bending magical energy. Some seemed to be just casting spells, while others were working with different baubles, trinkets, and equipment. Along with the unicorns, a number of pegasi and earth ponies were assisting the researchers by taking notes and fetching materials.
“Everything,” Nightmare Moon quietly muttered with a faint smile, “tell me everything about the work being done here.”
Spell Nexus gave an uneasy smile. He was glad that this room seemed to please his queen, but the curiosity she displayed was far more intense than he would have expected. Still, he nodded and quickly led her about the room.
The first research station they approached was by far the largest. A series of lamps had been mounted above the table, half of them shining with a bright yellow light, while the other half had a pale, bluish-white glow. On the table itself, beneath the lamps, several different kinds of plants had been organized into neat rows. A single black barrier ran down the middle of the table, ensuring the plants under the yellow lights were separated from the plants under the blue lights.
“What is this?” Nightmare Moon asked, looking between the two batches of plants.
“Here we are testing our latest batch of plants that can grow under eternal moonlight. We initially focused this research on agricultural plants such as grains, fruits, and vegetables. Those plants were finished some time ago, and we’re ready to begin replanting Equestria’s fields, gardens, and orchards with the new plant breeds.”
“Then what are you currently developing?” Nightmare Moon asked as she inspected the plants more closely.
“More frivolous plants such as flowers, grasses, and less productive species of trees,” Nexus answered. “Some of the researchers made the point that Equestria would be far less picturesque without its many forests, plains, and flowered towns. I was inclined to agree with them, but I, of course, asked them to focus on flowers that compliment your beautiful night before proceeding onto other species.”
Nightmare Moon gave a satisfied nod and followed Nexus. Each station held some bit of magic meant to make the eternal night possible, which also meant she was getting abruptly acquainted with the natural effects of never having any sunlight. The withering plants, the creeping cold, these were the things the Children of Nightmare were working to solve. Yet, her gut began to twist with guilt. During the Summer Sun Celebration, she had plunged Equestria into eternal night without considering any of these ramifications.
What was she thinking back then? Why did she not realize what the eternal night meant? Ponies would have seen her sky, but they would not have survived for much longer after that. Nightmare Moon tried to remember why she hadn’t considered the consequences of her actions, but found she could not. It was like a piece of her memories was missing, the memories surrounding her motivations. She knew she had those motivations; she knew what they were. Yet, when she tried to remember them directly, what they felt like and why they had driven her, it was like she was grasping at nothing.
Nightmare Moon shook her head, realizing she had zoned out once more. She turned to Spell Nexus, who was looking at her curiously. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry, I was wondering if you had any questions for the research team.”
Nightmare Moon shook her head, turning towards the door. “No, Nexus, I do not have any questions for them. They have been doing good work, and I’m pleased to see you have endeavored to make Equestria a paradise of the eternal night.”
Spell Nexus smiled before he and the whole research team bowed. “You honor us with your kind words.”
Nightmare Moon huffed, fluttering her wings. “Just make sure, that once I have unseated Celestia and Luna from Equestria’s throne, that you do not waste time transforming Equestria. I will not have this country become a frozen wasteland.”
“I assure you, my Queen, we will work with all haste to make Equestria a paradise worthy of your rule.”
“Good,” Nightmare Moon stated flatly. “Now, I am tired and wish to rest.”
“Then I’ll escort you to your private chambers without delay,” Spell Nexus said eagerly before leading Nightmare Moon back into the hallway.
“And here are your private chambers, my Queen,” Nexus said, his horn opening the large, elegant door. “You will find a pair of guards stationed outside at all hours, should you ever need any assistance. We only used the finest furniture, and I picked out the decorations myself. Does it please you?”
“Yes,” Nightmare Moon replied, though she had barely even looked at the room before she stepped inside.
“I am honored to hear you say that, my Queen. Now, you are undoubtedly tired. I will leave you to rest, and, when you are ready to begin the campaign to seize Equestria, simply have one of the guards come find me.”
“I will,” Nightmare Moon replied flatly. She turned and watched Nexus bow one final time before leaving. He pulled the door shut behind him, and, only then, did Nightmare Moon take in the atmosphere and furnishings of the room. Like the rest of the castle, it was decorated in a nighttime theme, with dark blues and purples accented by moons and stars. A perfectly circular bed sat in the center of the room. It was easily large enough to fit her comfortably, and it rested beneath an intricate fresco of the moon on the ceiling.
With only mild interest, Nightmare Moon circled the room once and examined all of the new furniture. There was a fireplace, a vanity mirror, a set of dressers, a few tables, a bookcase, a door to a small exterior balcony, and a writing desk. It was everything somepony would need to enjoy a quiet night in their bedroom, and, as Nexus said, it was all the finest furniture.
It, however, did little to improve Nightmare Moon’s mood. She finished examining the rest of the room and turned her attention back to the bed. There, resting on the soft looking blanket, were the two items she had requested during the day: a tray of carefully decorated cupcakes and the training dummy that resembled Twilight Sparkle.
Focusing on the desserts first, Nightmare Moon gently lifted and removed the paper from one of the cupcakes. She took a single, gingerly bite and smiled at the flavor. It was good. It was moist, smooth and it tasted so much like the cupcakes Pinkie Pie—
The cupcake hit the door a moment later, thrown across the room by Nightmare Moon’s magic. It bounced off the door, crumbled to pieces, and fell to the floor as some of its frosting clung to its point of impact. Nightmare Moon then took up the tray and slammed it, along with all the remaining cupcakes, against the door. She pressed down hard, using it to flatten each one of the frosted desserts for several seconds before she released her magic.
The tray stuck to the door for a moment, but then fell free to reveal the results of Nightmare Moon’s anger, the squished mess of cupcake crumbs and frosting. With the tray no longer holding it up, the gooey mess began to slide down the door. It left a smear of frosting in its wake and only came to a stop once it had reached the floor.
The next thing to fall under Nightmare Moon’s hateful gaze was the training dummy of Twilight Sparkle. She lifted it with her magical mane and held it in front of her face. At first, her grip was careful, gentle, but then she began to squeeze tightly around the dummy’s neck.
Nightmare Moon stood there for several seconds, strangling the lifeless doll. She then threw it on the ground and began stomping. Again and again she lifted her body up and brought her forehooves down on the Twilight dummy. Only when it was leaking cotton from a number of holes and a leg was about to fall off did Nightmare Moon cease her assault.
As a final insult to the doll and the pony it resembled, Nightmare Moon hurled the dummy across the room. It bounced off the floor and ended up disappearing into the space beneath the writing desk, where Nightmare Moon chose to leave it. She stomped over to the balcony door, threw it open, and stepped outside to look at the exterior of her castle and the cavern it was contained in.
She would be Equestria’s queen, she would overthrow Celestia and Luna, and she… she would make Twilight Sparkle pay.
Questions, Comments, Concerns?
I do not own the intellectual properties this fan-fiction is based on.