A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
Princess Luna found herself once again unable to concentrate on her paperwork. Her quill just couldn't seem to accurately transcribe her muddled thoughts. Her night beckoned, soft and plaintively, a gentle call that resonated deeply within her. The dark alicorn stubbornly resisted... at least for a while.
A half completed bill on the Equestrian tax code now lay long-forgotten on her desk, a lonely abacus standing in silent vigil on the side.
Luna gracefully carved through the cool air, banking into a gentle turn high above the castle. Her expansive wings left faint, arcing contrails in the moonlit sky. The Princess couldn't resist a smile as she observed the city of Canterlot spread out before her. In the time she had been on the moon, electricity had become commonplace, and now the ponies of modern day were often out and about late into the night, taking full advantage of the new light source. Finally, ponies were able to appreciate her time, and not shun it, hiding away until the sun crept over the horizon.
The city reminded her of a still pond, in a way. Below, the intriguing system of city lights glittered softly as ponies went about their business. But above, it seemed for all the world now that the starlit sky reflected the metropolis, it's own carpet of twinkling pinpricks seemingly cheerful now that it had something to look at. Of course, the city could never compete with her work. She was an artist, and the night sky was her canvas.
Luna completed a long, slow glide around the top of a tower. She felt strangely compelled to outdo the city, not that it was a competition. Our subjects will get a show tonight, she thought. With small adjustment of her wings, the Princess alit atop the gently sloping roof and pointed her horn to the sky.
A soft glow lit up the area as she extended her magic into the heavens. With a few small forward jabs of her head, several twinkling stars burst into existence, as if she had poked a hole through a dark paper to let the light behind shine through. Her horn acted almost like a painter's brush, as she swiped it to the side to extinguish the lights that didn't fit into her grand design. The work continued for a while, as she occasionally blotted out a star or two, but adding many, many more. Entirely new constellations formed under her mastery of the arcane.
Luna had always loved her constellations. Each one told a story, simply through a picture. One of her her favorites, and one that she never changed, was The Lighthouse, a grouping of stars that resembled the outline of a it's namesake structure. Long ago, sea travel in Equestria had been impossible once out of sight of the coast, until the idea of a star that never moves had been introduced. Sailors could use the star to navigate, and finally explore the far corners of the world. And so a group of ponies had stood before the Princess of the Night to ask this favor. Luna, however, had been reluctant to include an everlasting presence in her precious sky. Every night was a new work of art for her enjoyment, to start anew on the black canvas and paint incredible works of art from the depths of her imagination. Who were they ask her to give up a piece of her domain?
One brave and skilled sea captain, her name had lost to history, had proposed a challenge. She would sail outwards from Equestria, farther than anypony had ever dared go before, past the edges of the map and into the pure unknown. After one month, Luna would set this unmovable star in the sky, and leave it there for thirty days and thirty nights for the distant captain to navigate home by. Should she succeed, the star must remain in the sky for all time, to guide other lost sailors home.
Of course, the adventurous captain had somehow done the impossible, triumphantly returning on the thirtieth night of the challenge. She had described the guiding star as a beacon, a celestial lighthouse, that pulled her home across the vast expanse of the oceans.
And so, it had been dubbed The Lighthouse, and Luna had arranged a namesake constellation around the bright star, and it shone from where the top of the starry building, fittingly similar to a real thing. She had been hesitant at first to honor her bargain, but when she saw how happy her subjects were made, she realized that the sky was not hers alone to paint and enjoy, but to spread her starlit stories for all ponies to enjoy.
In those days, when the world was still young and unexplored, they loved us almost as much as Celestia. 'Tis almost a shame that most of the wilds were tamed, for the ponies began to drift away from the glory of our night, Luna thought as she put the finishing touches on.
Satisfied with her work, Luna stepped back to survey what was yet another masterpiece. The stars had been swept and arranged into a glorious, pulsing nebulae of light. It was not unlike viewing a moonlit forest after a rainfall, the silver light catching spectacularly onto the plentiful drops of water.
She smiled at the sound of the familiar, accented voice. A large presence slowly moved to her side and joined her on the edge of the roof. For a while, they simply looked at the stars, content with the silence. Then, "How did thou even ascend to here, Buck?"
A deep chuckle. "Jumped."
She turned to him, surprised. "This is the tallest tower of the Canterlot Castle! Surely thou jests."
"Nope," the stallion said. He shook his hind legs, as if warming up for a race. "I'm a lot stronger now. Figure it's got somethin' ta do with the blessin'."
Luna pondered this for a while. "That is... most unusual. Then again, thou art the first to receive a gift of such magnitude. We know not what thy will be capable of."
Her friend simply shrugged at his, and blew a lock of his shaggy mane out from his eyes, which were focused on the sky. Luna could not help but feel grateful for this - Buck had been on of the very few ponies to love the night as much as (if not more than) the day, all those years ago. He had often surprised her of his knowledge of the stars, and could name all of the permanent constellations with ease.
...Well, except the ones she'd added since her return from the moon.
"What's that one?"
"How 'bout that beauty?"
"Equis, the Grazer."
"And the one over there?"
"Why's it called that?"
"'Twas a tribute to the Bearers of Harmony for releasing me from my corruption."
"Ya know, it's funny, I'd never thought I'd be related to one of them, much less by her grandpappy from a thousand years ago."
"Lady Applejack speaks fondly of you, and often."
"Lady? Ha! Don't let her hear ya callin' her that, she'd wallop ya into next week."
"Nay, 'tis we who will be doing the pummeling!"
They laughed at that, and continued to talk, each content with the familiar company. The discussion turned to how different Equestria was since their time. Inspired by the topic, Luna told him the story of how her first Nightmare Night went, much to the dark teal stallion's amusement. Buck, in turn, described his first encounter with the divinely scrumptious baked good known as the muffin, and the loopy mail-mare who presented him with it, receiving a similar reaction from the Princess for his efforts.
Midnight found them lying side by side on the roof, Luna wrapping a dark wing around the knight's broad shoulders due to the chilly altitude, and a comfortable silence hung in the air. It was not from lack of things to talk about, rather from both ponies simply enjoying the feeling of being able to relax.
Finally, Luna broke the silence. "Buck?"
He kept his head rested on his forelegs, his eyes closed in contentment. "Eeyup?"
"For what reason art thou here?"
"Well..." He flicked his ears around in thought. "Couldn't sleep, I guess."
She laughed, and lightly bopped him on the head with her horn. "Nay, we mean why are you here, with us? There are a multitude of places to view our glorious night."
The knight opened an eye, it's ocean-colored iris regarding her warmly. "Your the only normal pony around here, I guess. Well, maybe normal is stretchin' it a bit," he grinned mischievously and rolled his head away from another horn-swipe. "But yer the only familiar face, ya know, from before. All I got left now." His voice had lowered dramatically as he said those words, and his demeanor became rather melancholy.
Luna sighed and laid her head across the top of his neck. "Thou must miss thine family most terribly."
He snorted, but leaned into her, and she could tell he enjoyed the feeling of her flowing mane on his coat. "I don't even remember why I was frozen in the first place. I don't even remember... If I said goodbye. What was the last thing I said to Leaf? To Bloomie? I can't get it outta my head, Luna. I don't even know what happened to them after I vanished. Did they make out all right?"
"We... Perhaps we can show thee."
He suddenly tensed beneath her. "How."
She began slowly, "When... we finally fell to the corruption, at first, we were fully aware of ourselves. It was only later that the Nightmare took complete control, and Celestia banished us. Before this, we, as Nightmare Moon, went across the land to see how our subjects favored our eternal night... Sweet Apple Acres was our first stop."
"If you did anything to them..."
Luna was shocked he could even suggest such a thing. "No! We would never! They were almost as dear to us as thou art! We did them no harm. But... in your honor, we left them with a final gift."
Buck relaxed again. "Sorry... What happened? Were they all right?"
Luna frowned for a moment. Words will never be enough to heal his heart. We must use something else instead, she thought. "We shall show thee, should thee wish. Be warned, though. This memory is not a pleasant one."
His voice was as hard as stone. "Do it."
She nodded, and her horn lit up with her deep blue aura, before spreading to the rest of her body, and then suddenly covering Buck as well. "This is a memory spell. It allows the caster to relieve a memory from their past, or in this case, Nightmare Moon's past. But since thou shares our aura, this should be extended to thyself as well," she explained.
The spiraling grooves running up her horn suddenly lit up with a pale light, and she laid the tip onto Buck's head.
There was a surge of power...