Rest in peace, Anne McCaffrey. (1 April 1926 - 21 November 2011) One of my top three favorite authors, Anne was one of two authors that strongly influenced my writing. I first found out about her in school, while looking through my new English book, I found a story in it that interested me: Dragonsong. I hadn’t really seen a book about dragons before, and read through it. I was instantly hooked and read everything I could by her. Dragonriders of Pern, Acorna, The Ship Who Sang, The Freedom series. So many wonderful stories and worlds to explore. I can barely see what I’m writing right now through tear-filled eyes. There is so much I wish I could just write here, but, if I did it’d be longer than this entire story. I can say that I have met her, and she was a very powerful woman.
Thank you, Anne McCaffrey. For everything.
The power of the sun, and more, at my hooftips; more power than I’d ever have been able to safely use before. This must be like the power my weakling sister had at her disposal! Celestia thought... no. Solar Flare, she was called now. A worthy name. My sun shall be seen across all the land, as Luna once tried to do with her moon. Oh, yes, I will take care of that shortly, among many other things. Solar Flare stood, glanced about her empty throne chamber. Erebus was long gone, it seemed, as well as her sister and subjects. Silence permeated the castle around her, its inhabitants and workers having fled hours ago. This will not do, another item on my list to take care of. But first, I must see my new appearance.
Her horn shone brightly as a tall mirror materialized before the alicorn. This is what my subjects will gaze fearfully and adoringly to... the image of... Empress Solar Flare. Standing before it, the transformed Goddess of the Day’s face broke into a wide smile. While Celestia’s coat had been a pristine white, Solar Flare’s was whiter still, even emanating a soft light. Her mane and tail were no longer the auroras flowing in the solar wind, instead now the wild undulations of flames. Around the alicorn, the air shimmered with the intense heat rising off her body, her hooves leaving permanent scorch marks upon the red carpet before her throne. Amber eyes stared back from the mirror with an intense gaze. Now this, this is a body fit for a Goddess and Queen of all she sees. Now, a demonstration.
Focusing her power, Solar Flare threw a blast of solar plasma at the mirror in front of her. The aged wood promptly burst into flame before disintegrating into ashes, while the silvered glass flowed downward into an oozing white-hot puddle. Barely any effort. The Ponies of Equestria will tremble beneath their Righteous Queen.
Stepping over the remains of the ruined mirror, Solar Flare began her tour of the castle grounds, searching for any signs of life. While she could detect the body heat from numerous sources, they all seemed to be hiding, and it was taking her quite a bit of concentration to acclimate to her new sense. It wasn’t until she’d been exploring for half an hour that she finally discovered two of her royal guards near her chambers. From afar, the new visage of their Princess took the guards by surprise, and even struck fear into their hearts at her new frightening appearance. Even from several feet away, Solar Flare could tell that the pegasi could feel the blistering heat radiating from her body.
Glaring down at the guards before her, Solar Flare commanded, “My castle is understaffed. You will find the rest of the guards and servants with all due haste. When I leave my quarters, I had better see this castle bustling with workers. Am I understood?”
Snapping quick salutes with their hooves, the two guards galloped off as if their tails were on fire. That will be the least of their worries if they fail me. Snorting, the Empress magicked open the doors to her chambers, walked inside, and closed them behind her before surveying the mess in the room. Noticing her hooves weren’t helping any by leaving scorch marks upon the delicate carpets and rugs, Solar Flare effortlessly toned down the heat she was generating to a level more tolerable for anything nearby.
Gazing about the room, her eyes fell upon Philomena, preening innocently upon her perch in the corner. Stepping cautiously around the objects strewn across the floor, noticing that her bookshelf was the only thing not destroyed (yet in the wrong order), Solar Flare confronted her wayward pet.
“Philomena!” the alicorn hissed. “What is the meaning of this? Are you the one responsible for destroying my chambers!?” Philomena started and brought her head up from beneath her wing, giving Solar Flare a simple squawk before going back about her business. “No? Then who is, bird?” The avian turned her head, giving her owner a searching glance, then twittered and clacked her beak. Solar had long ago learned how to interpret Philomena’s speech and mannerisms.
“My sister and her friends! And you did not have the decency to stop them? What use are you to me?!” Solar Flare demanded, nearly yelling at the bird now cowering before her. With that last sentence, Philomena let out a shrill screech and took off into the air, flying out into the evening air from the open balcony. Useless avian. I think my sister’s Nightmare had the right idea in making my daughter her pet, she thought before turning to her room to begin the cleanup. Upon cleaning several parts of the room Solar Flare noticed a few things of interest. One, her body care products had been tampered with; two, her little figurine of Luna was missing. Not like I care for that weakling anymore. And three, most importantly, her stash behind the bookcase had been disturbed! The mess her room had endured, plus the disturbance of several of her items of a more intimate nature, set the Goddess in a foul mood.
Foul enough that, once she left the confines of her chambers, Solar Flare radiated enough heat to make the air around her shimmer, and the ponies who had returned, still too few for her liking, had to cringe back against the walls to escape both the intense heat and her obvious anger. None dared question her new appearance. As it should be. Now, first thing’s first... to make sure the extravagance of Sol is always felt. One of the few things I can thank Luna’s Nightmare for, that idea. However, I think I’ll keep it in the sky for eternity, rather than allowing it to go down every so often.
Stepping out onto one of Canterlot Castle’s many open air balconies, Solar Flare focused her gaze upon the fiery orb within the sky, and then, using her full will upon it, wrested it from its normal place and drifted it across the heavens until the sun sat at high noon.
Basking in the beginning of her new rule, Solar Flare stood at attention, her eyes piercing into the heavens. What felt like several long minutes passed, though it could have easily been half an hour or more, when a polite cough erupted from a pony’s throat behind her. Celestia, of course, could feel the stallion’s heat signature, and knew who it was without even needing to turn around. Blueblood.
“Yes, Blueblood?” Solar Flare tested, keeping her back to the stallion.
“Prince Blueblood, Aunt, and as your nephew I-” the unicorn started before being interrupted.
Solar Flare whirled about, her hooves stamping upon the white marble beneath them and creating sparks that danced before going out. “-am neither!” the Goddess of the Day finished for him as she menacingly made her way over to tower above the ‘Prince’, her blistering heat pouring over the surprised stallion. “Loopholes and familial titles neither make you my nephew nor a ‘Prince’ of anything!”
Blueblood had, until this point, been cowering from the heat roiling off the Empress and her obviously livid demeanor. Once his titles were called into question, however, he stood straight and tall, looked Solar Flare in the eye and retorted, “And what can you do about it, Princess? I have already utilized my power to claim these titles, no new law you make can fix that!”
Solar Flare smiled. Yet what lay behind that smile was anything but congenial. The alicorn slowly walked around the ‘noble Prince’, her smile growing wider and more full of malice with each passing second. “Is that what you think, ‘Nephew’? You would dare defy your Empress? Oh, my dear little pony, I do not think that you...” An intense wave of fire came and went, followed by screams of agony and a unicorn tumbling to the marble floor. Solar Flare gave pause, then finished her sentence, “...have a leg to stand on.”
Blueblood’s right foreleg was gone, only a cauterized stump remained at his chest. “Oh dear me,” Solar Flare continued. “It certainly seems my moral compass is askew, maybe I should take yours, hmmm?” She kicked out with a hoof, the normally pristine and well-pedicured hoof scoring along Blueblood’s flank, digging deep into his coat and scraping off half of his cutie mark, eliciting another shriek from his throat. “Oh my, Blueblood. It seems you actually have red blood and not blue, just like any commoner!”
Ignoring the sobs of pain from the bleeding mess of a stallion beside her, Solar Flare summoned a wall of flame in the corridor behind them, to prevent any sort of escape for the egotistical unicorn. “Now, let me teach you the finer aspects of magic, nephew!” Solar’s hoof stomped down, shattering the unicorn’s horn. Then, as if to insult further, her magic lifted the broken tip of Blueblood’s horn and drove it into his chest, crimson spilling down over his body. “I think you get the point!”
This time a wave of plasma erupted from thin air and Blueblood shrieked yet again, a rear leg gone this time. The Goddess stood over her maimed prey, glaring daggers at the pitiful excuse for a pony before her. “I am the rightful ruler of Equestria, and under no circumstances do I delegate my power to anypony else. Celestia’s weak reign has ended; thus begins Empress Solar Flare’s eternal reign of Daylight!”
Of course, Blueblood was not wont to sit still and accept his fate at the hooves of a clearly demented mare. Solar Flare watched his agonized form as he dragged himself over to the railing with his two remaining legs, leaving a trail of blood in his wake. He was nearly there when, with a flick of her horn, Solar Flare sent a shower of embers down upon his body, causing the stallion to erupt into tall flames. The immense pain as his hide turned from a pristine white to a charcoal black harried the false Prince’s movements. The scene of Blueblood pulling himself up over the railing and tumbling off the side of the balcony reminded Solar Flare of one of her favorite fantasy books, The Lady of the Bracelets. Stepping up to the railing, the alicorn glanced over the edge at the burning form as it tumbled down before crashing into the courtyard below.
“Long live the Prince...”
Luna awoke with a start, her eyes going wide at what she had felt. No, it can’t be! After settling the unconscious Twilight into the tent’s lavish interior, which Luna still could not believe had fit into that tiny block, she had settled down for a nap. What woke her was the feeling of her moon being pushed across the sky. In the entirely wrong direction! Luna scrambled upright and dashed out of the tent into the cool night air. Night, it shouldn’t still be night! It should nearly be dawn by now! What has Erebus done!? Reaching out with her magic, Luna allowed her consciousness to slip into the night sky, filling the heavens with her being.
No... no! This... this can’t be! The power the alicorn felt at work was definitely not that of Erebus, and the signature felt all too familiar. The reason her moon was not setting was her sister. Her sister had forced the sun back into the sky on the other side of the world. That’s not possible! Unless... A flashback to some of her Nightmare’s own words flew through her head. The night will last forever, her... my own words. Is Celly doing the same?
Luna grasped hold of her moon and pushed. Nothing happened, it was like Applejack trying to push Canterlot Castle off the side of Pandora Mountain. Throwing all her power into it, the alicorn tried again, yet her moon refused to budge, her strength unable to overcome her sister’s. Receding back into her body, Luna slumped down upon the loamy earth, unable to understand what could have happened to her elder sister.
I’m not strong enough to move my moon, not against her power. How can I be strong enough, magically and mentally to face my sister if she has fallen prey to the same corruption as I once did? Nightmare Moon was much stronger than me, so if Erebus has overcome Celly, I can only guess at how powerful she’s become. Will I have to... no, I don’t want to do that. Luna thought, standing up and walking back to the tent. Her hooves tripped over the pitch black orb, returning her muzzle to the soil. But that was the least of her worries.
Something wasn’t right. One moment, Luna had been in the forest, the next, she was within an orchard of orange trees. The next thing she noticed was that she was floating in the air. Not flying, but floating, and that below her was a pitch black alicorn. The alicorn looked nothing like Altair, and she could definitely tell that it was a stallion. His mane billowed out behind him as a cloud of darkness, not unlike a starless night. The last thing she noticed was the sky above. It was most certainly full daylight, but nothing like the skies she was used to. High above, the heavens were filled with orbs of light, a lot like her stars but much larger in appearance.
I’ll add this to the list of ‘things that can’t be possible but seem to be so’, Luna thought as she discerned something else. The alicorn below wasn’t alone. Coming up behind him was a second alicorn, this one a sky blue color with an ethereal, morning mist-like mane and tail billowing out behind her. And a her it was indeed, the bodily structure said as much. Something isn’t right. I should be terrified and fretting over Celly’s behavior, yet I can’t seem to muster up the feelings. I am way too calm right now. It was almost as if the presence of the two alicorns was mellowing out the Goddess’ mood.
Opening her mouth to speak to the alicorns below, Luna became shocked when nothing came out. I... I can’t speak! What’s going on here!? Tendrils of panic crept across Luna’s mind, but were swept away by the same aura of calm, which she now believed the two alicorns below her carried. It was then that the sky blue female began to speak.
Laying a blue feathered wing over the pitch alicorn’s body, she said, “Night, I can feel it, too. It is nearly time for his return...” There was something strange about her voice. It sounded like a typical alicorn’s voice, as if she were a flock of birds singing in a chorus, but the way she said Night, there was something off about it.
Night, as she had called him, turned and gave his... mate, Luna would guess, a sad smile. “Yes, we must prepare for him, and make sure the current rulers know what to expect, warmth of my heart. However, I tire of this eternal struggle against Erebus, to always be confronted by the atrocities we committed in the past. To always know that our friends, whom we defiled, can never rest, can never go to Haven because of our hubris. Day, I tire of this battle, and yet I cannot stop fighting him, for if we let him win, then all of Equestria falls. The sins of the parents...”
“...are all to bear witness to and suffer.” Day finished for her mate, planting a kiss upon his cheek. Luna realized what the strange tone was when they said each other’s names. It was something lost and forgotten, a shield protecting, or preventing what was once known from being remembered.
They don’t know their own names, Luna discovered, finally putting two and two together. What could they have done that they are still suffering for? The scene shifted around Luna, swirling about before coalescing into a new image. What’s going on!?
The scene before her now was one she still had bits of memories from. The throne room and audience chambers of Everfree Castle. Before her were once again the two alicorns, Day and Night as they called themselves. Around her, the chambers were decorated differently from what she remembered. Many banners hung from the pillars rising to the stained glass ceiling, while the stained glass windows on the sides of the chambers showed scenes that were unfamiliar to Luna.
Ahead of her, the two alicorns stood in position with their wings spread and stern looks upon their faces, apparently ready for whatever may come at them. Behind Luna, the ceiling-height double doors to the chambers were shut and locked, while above her, through the few clear panes of glass within the stained-glass, Luna could see the night sky. What she could see of the scene was breathtaking. Above her, as much as she could see, the pitch black sky was awash in color. The patterns of color were reminiscent of the Auroras, but instead of ribbons of light in limited patches, they filled the entire sky.
For Luna, it was a great distraction, more so even than the events at hand. Ideas streaked across her mind on ways she could use this to improve her night. Voices buzzed on the edge of her perception from the two alicorns, and it was not until she saw a noticeable decline in the levels of light emanating from the magical lanterns that she began to once again pay attention. Behind her, a mist began to fill the chambers, swiftly dropping the temperature from a warm early fall night to the deepest depths of winter. Even the light from the magical torches dimmed, leaving the throne room eerily in shadow.
The mists came together, merging into what Luna could only describe as... well, a particularly intimidating unicorn, nothing more. What she had been expecting was a monstrosity as terrifying as the form Erebus had taken back in Canterlot. Whenever this was, it was certainly a much different time. Erebus appeared almost normal, other than his unusually large stature and his pitch-black coat. In addition, his horn was longer, and his eyes were a pale white with no pupil or iris to speak of.
The glare he leveled at the two alicorns, however, was all too familiar. “--- and ---, I see you still stand against me for the transgressions you both committed. When will you give up your foolish fight and truly pay for the atrocities you have wrought? When will you allow me to restore the balance?” Erebus asked, plain and simple. His fleshed face betraying nothing of his mood. It was as if he were carved from stone.
Luna realized, too, that her hypothesis of Day and Night’s names may just have been correct. She could see Erebus’ mouth moving to form the words, but she neither heard what came out, nor could read his lips to divine any meaning. The circumstances were absolutely of the strangest quality, and thus far still not the most bizarre of sights she’d witnessed.
“And you know we will continue to fight you to the end of days, Erebus. Buck the balance, it was my choice to welcome the warmth of the sun into my heart, and it was our choice to commit our sins. We will not permit you to take the Son of the Night to that forsaken land!” Night yelled out to the unicorn before him, stomping his forehoof to add effect.
Day looked at Night in admiration before turning her gaze back to Erebus, her mouth opening to speak while her horn began to shimmer a bright white, “Allies we may have been long ago, Erebus, but now enemies forevermore. You rob of us our names, our titles, our power, our future, and you expect us to lie low? We think not! We will continue to fight you, no matter the cost to ourselves, so that none shall go back to that land of death.”
Tendrils of shadow began to extrude from Erebus’ coat, wriggling through the air around him as his eyes narrowed to mere slits. “So be it. I will hold no mercy for your souls.” The tendrils lashed out to all corners of the room, and nearly entrapped the two alicorns, who ducked beneath their reach.
Day lashed out with her horn, burning the tendrils away with the pure light of her horn, rebutting with, “We have none, not after you placed your judgement upon us! We will forever walk this world, unable to ever fully rest, monster!”
“A balanced price for the atrocities you committed. Several souls will never again see Trelaria. Several souls will never break past the barrier and live out their existence before Ascending. And thus, I deemed the same for you.” Erebus gave no indication that he was in pain from having his tendrils so forcefully destroyed. Luna could only watch the coming battle from her vantage point.
Day and Night both destroyed the tendrils nearest them, making sure no part of their bodies was touched by the thickened shadows. While they were distracted with this, a spear of ebon light lanced through Day’s foreleg, eliciting a shriek of pain from her and causing Night to turn to his mate. Hissing in agony, Day flicked her eyes at the tendrils, bringing Night to nod and return to battle while she lowered her horn and burned away the spear. Her pain was not yet abated though as blood dribbled down her leg, a contrast against her blue coat, and the wound blackened and began to spread.
Grimacing at the pain, Day could see Night guarding her out of the corner of her eye while she took care of her wound. Her teeth clenched, the alicorn lowered her horn to the wound and directed a blast of sunlight into her leg, immediately cauterizing the wound and burning away the corruption. The scent of burnt flesh wafted through the air around her, and Luna could tell that the unknown alicorn would definitely bear a severe limp until her leg healed.
While Day taking care of herself, Erebus was pressing his attack upon Night as Luna watched on in awe. If Erebus is this powerful as a mere unicorn, how powerful is he as an alicorn? she wondered, her eyes scanning the battlefield. Everywhere, tendrils of shadow struck at Day and Night from all sides. At the same time, the unicorn faded from sight, while the attacks continued. The pair of alicorns did not seem to notice their foe had vanished amidst the slew of tendrils.
Within a few moments, a great darkness spread across the chambers, surrounding the two alicorns and almost completely hiding the fight from Luna. The Night Goddess had discovered she could maneuver herself around this memory, or image of the past, whatever it may be. She slipped herself into the only lit space, the sphere of light surrounding Day and Night emanating brightly from Day’s horn.
Luna nearly had a heart attack when numerous spears of shadow skewered through the orb of light, immediately being vaporized by Day’s intense light without doing any damage to the two alicorns within. The Night Goddess swore she had also seen two or three spikes skewer through her own body, with no effect. It is very disconcerting to find a spear protruding from my chest, and yet nothing is wrong, she thought.
“Shall we, love?” Night asked his mate, turning his head toward the mare.
Day smiled through the intense luminosity of her horn and replied, “I would follow you to Trelaria and back, Night. Not even Erebus can stop that.”
Together, the two alicorns leapt into the shadow and were consumed. That can’t be the end of them. If they’re the Guardians, then they’d have had to live until current times! Luna thought, pushing herself into the shadows to follow. Nothing happened, except for being unable to see or hear a thing. For the longest time, Luna drifted, unable to find her way back to that spot of light.
What felt like half an hour later, the shadow slowly receded, leaving Luna bewildered as to what occurred. This time, she found herself nearly at the glass ceiling of the chambers. Drifting down through the arches and columns, the alicorn laid eyes upon Day and Night, who appeared to be heavily battered from whatever they had encountered within Erebus’ domain. Not only that, but the rapidly disintegrating body of Erebus lay broken and defeated before them.
“And yet, I return. I always return,” a voice said from nowhere, and ultimately everywhere around Luna. The mare threw her head around, looking for the source, while beneath her Day and Night spoke quietly to each other.
Around Luna, the scene shifted. Yet again, the night and day skies were different from what she was used to, and it started again with Erebus’ return. A battle he lost.
Another battle, another loss.
More shifts, and ever more battles. Luna eventually lost count of the battles the Guardians and Erebus had. As a unicorn, Erebus still was many times more powerful than even Twilight could hope to be, but was still not a match for two full grown alicorns. Two alicorns, or even four could never hope to stand against him now that he had gained an alicorn’s body. And with each battle, Erebus’ new body became more grotesque and twisted.
It was the last scene that told Luna she was at the end of her journey. The scene of Erebus, as she knew him to be, facing her sister. The goddess cringed inwardly at what unfolded, and Celestia’s capture.
“And now, it is your turn. Choose wisely. A war millenia in the making now comes to a head, and the alicorns of Equestria and Trelaria shall bow to the balance, or be wiped off the face of the world.”
Luna drew in a gasp of breath when she felt herself return to reality, scrambling upright off the soft loam beneath her body while attempting to keep from touching the orb of darkness again. That must be what caused this vision! I... I touched it, and it showed me that! All at once, the feelings that had been repressed by the visions hit her, and she stumbled in shock, nearly falling against the tent beside her. Oh Altair, I need to do something! I can’t just stand out here watching visions of the past while my sister is in trouble and Equestria is endangered! Oh, I wish I were strong enough to do something!
Ignoring the orb, Luna stumbled back into the tent, her mane and tail disheveled. What had started as a slow day had abruptly become very fast-paced. Within the tent, Luna would still be amazed at everything that lay within the magical structure if it weren’t for the fact that she was already deep in thought. The plain exterior did not at all hint at the luxurious interior. The tent, while large, had enough room to comfortably house several ponies. Not only were there piles of cushions strewn around for ponies to sit upon, but also a fanciful table in the middle of it all, while along the outer edges of the tent wall, alcoves lay where equines could sleep. There even stood a bookshelf against one wall. It was amazing what magic could do!
So many things that worry me, Luna thought as she paced, walking past the sleeping Twilight in one of the alcoves. If Celly is now like my Nightmare, then she is definitely more powerful than she was before, in addition to whatever power Erebus allocated to her. The Elements are scattered, and possibly dead, leaving only me who is powerful enough to face my sister and Erebus! And I’m nowhere near strong enough to do so! Luna collapsed onto one of the piles of cushions, staring off into space with a dejected look upon her face. What have I done? I should have heeded Erebus’ warning, and now I get to tell my new niece I may have killed her friends and our possible saviors.
“Ugh... my head. What happened?” Rainbow Dash asked, rubbing her head and finding herself stuck within the branches of a tree. She blinked and looked up through the canopy at the star speckled sky above. Night? How long was I out!? And where am I? The rainbow-maned pegasus peered around, noticing only trees around her, not a pony to be seen.
In fact, the forest seemed eerily quiet. Even in the middle of the night, there should have been the sound of insects and night creatures. Instead, the only thing Rainbow heard was silence, aside from the sounds she herself made.
Oookay, getting creeped out now, Rainbow thought, pulling herself entirely onto the branch to perch while her eyes roved warily through the trees. Her ears alert to catch any sound, the pegasus swiveled her head in all directions. At first, she heard nothing, but after a few moments she heard a soft sound coming from a short distance away. Listening closely, it almost sounded as if somepony was whimpering.
Silently launching herself into the air, Rainbow Dash flew toward where she thought she heard the sounds, but could find nothing other than trees, underbrush, and thick bushes. It wasn’t until one of the bushes shook that she stopped to investigate, dropping down to the ground and creeping forward to part the brush.
The shriek from Fluttershy that followed evoked a yell of surprise from Rainbow in return, who jumped a few feet into the air with her heart pounding. It took several seconds for the sky blue pegasus to realize what happened, then to hang her head in exasperation. Finally, Rainbow once again parted the brush and peered inside at a huddled Fluttershy. “Jeez, you scaredy pony, it’s only me!” she softly said, still wary about the silence in their region.
“Rainbow Dash?” a demure and terrified voice came from the bush as Fluttershy’s head popped up and stared wide-eyed at Rainbow. Suddenly, Dash found herself in a choking hug that was surprisingly strong for Fluttershy. “Oh! I was so worried! I couldn’t find Princess Luna or anypony else, and I found your goggles and saddlebags but I couldn’t find you!”
Pushing herself out of Fluttershy’s hug, Rainbow raised an eyebrow, then placed a hoof to her forehead. Nothing. Peering back at her flanks, her saddlebags were also absent. “They must have fallen off after whatever happened to us! I’ve never experienced pain like that before. Strained wings, a broken leg, concussions, but nothing like that,” Rainbow pointed out, on the brink of complaining.
Fluttershy nosed back into the bushes, then emerged a moment later dragging both of their saddlebags, as well as Rainbow’s flight goggles. After resettling the packs upon her hips, and the goggles around her neck, Rainbow sat down and crossed her forelegs in a huff. “I bet this was all Luna’s fault! I knew we couldn’t trust her! She was Nightmare Moon twice, what makes us think she’d ever be more than that?”
“But...” Fluttershy started, then paused before continuing, “...Princess Celestia and Twilight both trust her, why can’t we? I don’t think Princess Luna would ever do such a thing, what if it was Erebus?”
“Yeah? And what if the Princess is working for that overgrown cloud of dust? How do you know that she didn’t just do this to get the Elements separated?” Rainbow Dash stood up and glared at Fluttershy, ready to fly off and face Erebus herself, if she had to.
“I... I don’t know, but I do know that our friends are missing, and we can’t just leave them here! I mean, what if a bear got them? Or a hydra? Or a bear got them and the hydra got the bear!” Fluttershy asked.
Tossing her mane, Rainbow Dash rose onto her rear hooves and shadowboxed the air, “We’re not going to find them sitting here, but if a bear or hydra is attacking them, I’ll take ‘em out and save them!” Pulling her flight goggles over her eyes, Rainbow leapt into the air and was about to dash off when Fluttershy spoke up.
“Wait! We... we don’t even know where they are.” Fluttershy looked to the side, then up at the hovering Rainbow Dash. “What... what if we’re in the middle of nowhere and we’re lost forever?” The yellow pegasus held her hooves to her cheeks in distress, “What if all the others are lost forever, too!?”
Rainbow rolled her eyes. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen one of Fluttershy’s freakouts, but it was certainly one of the rare times she’d talked as much. Settling back down to the ground, the future Wonderbolt wiggled her wings at her partner, “That’s why we have these babies! All we have to do is fly high enough and we’re bound to see a town!” Before Fluttershy could respond, Rainbow launched herself into the air and spiraled up high, her wings flapping furiously to gain height. Around the pegasus, the forest stretched out in all directions, broken by the occasional clearing. Stopping and then hovering, Rainbow put a hoof to her forehead and glanced in all directions.
Trees. Trees. More trees. Clearing. Trees. Clouds. Mountains. Road. Trees. Aha! A road! The road should lead us right to civilization! Marking the direction of the path in her mind, Rainbow dove down, picking up speed before she reached the treeline. Weaving herself through the branches, the pegasus braked and skidded to a halt just as she touched down upon the ground in front of Fluttershy, startling the pegasus and forcing a soft ‘eep’ out of her.
“I saw a path to the northwest, a short flight away. If we get to it and follow it, we should be able to fly to wherever it leads in no time at all! It’ll be nice to get back amongst other ponies, so let’s get going!” As Rainbow was about to take off for a second time,she heard a whimper from behind her and sighed. “What now?” she asked, turning around to see Fluttershy looking to the side and holding out a bandaged wing. Rainbow Dash hadn’t noticed the bandages until now.
“I can’t fly. I hurt my wing when I fell out of the tree I woke up in. It’s not broken, just strained, but...” Fluttershy tightly shut her eyes and daintily folded her wing against her side, shivering from the pain of it.
In a huff, Rainbow kicked a nearby root and exclaimed, “Great, you mean we’re going to have to walk the entire way? Or, well, you’ll have to walk. I certainly will be flying the entire way!”
“I, ummm, well... yes.”
Rarity screamed several times, nearly making her voice hoarse. It was the worst possible thing to have happened! Worse than running out of a certain fabric, much worse than Sweetie Belle’s cooking! No, what was worse than those was waking up in a pond covered in mud, muck, and things best not described. Screaming again, Rarity jumped out of the pond and shook herself free of as much of the muck as she could, shivering with abhorrence.
My coiffure! My coat! My... It was at that moment that Rarity noticed two separate but related things. One, her saddlebags were missing, meaning not only would she have to painstakingly groom herself without any of her usual beauty supplies, but fashion was entirely out of the window, too! And two, her friends were missi-
That thought was completely interrupted when Applejack came galloping out of the trees to skid to a halt in front of Rarity, raising an eyebrow at her condition. “Ah was gonna ask what was attackin’ ya, but ah think ah can see what it may be,” she said, giving the unicorn’s pond scum-covered body a quick glance over. “Ah found our bags in a clearing nearby, and ah know how prissy you are about getting clean.”
“Thank you kindly, Applejack. I... think I’ll manage as long as I don’t think too hard on it.” Rarity replied, taking a disgusted look down at her scum-covered body, then walking into the nearby trees in the direction the farmer had come from. At least we’ve all arrived in one piece, I just can’t imagine what caused that intense pain. As far as I knew, teleporting was only supposed to be disorienting.
Pushing her soaked mane out of the way, Rarity peered back to see Applejack following her. “Did the others experience that dreadful pain, Applejack?” she asked in concern.
“Well, erm, ah haven’t found the others yet. Ah only found ya when ya screamed bloody murder. Don’t worry,” Applejack replied, smiling at the unicorn. “We’ll find ‘em. They couldn’t ‘ve gone far at all. Ah mean, you weren’t far from the field ah found myself in!”
“Darling,” Rarity responded, “Of course we’ll find them. I’m more worried right now about getting dried, groomed, and settling in for the night.” Rarity stepped around a large root sticking up, sticking her tongue out in disgust at the clumps of dirt sticking to her drenched hooves.
“Sorry ta disappoint, Sugarcube, but the Princess has the tent and the other camping materials, so until we find them, we’re stuck high and dry. Pardon, I will be stuck dry, you’ll still be wet.” Applejack poked fun at Rarity, earning a glare in return. In retaliation, Rarity shook her entire body, sending clumps of mud, plenty of water, as well as pieces of scum over at Applejack, coating her in just as much grime as the unicorn.
“There, now we both shall be left high and drenched!” Rarity taunted, throwing her head up into the air as she stepped into the clearing Applejack must have come from. The clear, full-mooned sky shone down upon the tall grass and the insurmountable number of night-blooming violet colored flowers that glimmered and glistened in the soft light. Rarity’s eyes lit up at the beauty of it all while she scanned her gaze across the field. Of all places to appear, this has to be the best of them all!
Applejack came up beside her, her eyes full of amusement. “Very mature of ya, Rarity,” Applejack added, then noticed her gaze. “Very pretty, of course, and they make good eatin’!
“Applejack, how could you!?” Rarity demanded, wheeling on the other mare with a glare.
Instead of a reply, Applejack reached over and plucked one of the flowers, and then before Rarity could react, stuffed it into the alabaster unicorn’s mouth.
At first, Rarity was revolted and shocked at the uncouth behaviour of the farmer, but after giving an experimental chew, not only did she forget about the rudeness Applejack showed, but also that she was still dripping wet. The flowers were simply delectable, as if they had come from some noble’s private garden. No, not just some noble, but the Princesses themselves!
Having not eaten all day, and with the amount of time that must have passed, the two ponies proceeded to have an epic meal time. Well, perhaps not epic, but a sizable patch of the flowers did vanish down the gullets of only two ponies. Unfortunately for both ponies, the flowers had some interesting effects. First came about a round of drunken giggling over every little thing, followed by some quite lucid hallucinations, many of which both ponies would later on agree never to speak of again. Except in private, of course.
Intense hunger occurred afterward, causing the two obviously drugged ponies to go about feasting on more flowers, intensifying the effects, until finally, they both simply fell into a sleep-like state of unconsciousness. Nopony would ever be envious of what the two ponies will feel when they wake up.
“A new land!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, bouncing about within a forest, oblivious to the fact that her friends were all missing. Of course she wasn’t worried, it’s all a game of hide and seek, and she was always best at that game, so she’ll easily find them all in no time! Pinkie gasped excitedly, “And that means new ponies to meet, too! Eeee! So many parties I’ll have to plan. A ‘Welcome us to Trelaria’ party, a ‘Welcome us to Trelaria party’ afterparty, and even a ‘Hello to everypony in Trelaria’ party!”
Pinkie was absolutely giddy with the prospects of all the celebrations she could plan, until a random thought... well, perhaps less random than her usual thoughts popped into her head and made her skid to a halt mid-leap, then sink to the ground. “What if they don’t have party decorations? ….Such a silly filly, every town has decorations somewhere!”
Resuming her bouncing, her saddlebags in tow on her flanks, the pink party pony pranced pretty passionately past plenty of plants while pondering the perils of participating in parties with pitiful proportions of presents and decorations. Once again, Pinkie Pie skidded to a halt, realizing she didn’t have a word that started with P for decorations. Shrugging her shoulders, she merrily went back to her important planning duties, barely noticing the quietness of the forest around her.
To any other pony, the silence would be eerie. To her, it wasn’t noticable at all, Pinkie Pie was so caught up in her thoughts she began to sing a simple tune. A familiar one, in fact, and a favorite of hers. Giggle at the Ghostie, one her Granny Pie taught to her all those years ago. Pinkie didn’t mind that her Granny was long gone, the mare’s grandmother having passed on peacefully to that big party place in the sky.
In fact, if Pinkie Pie concentrated, she could almost hear her Granny Pie singing one of her many lullabies to her right now. She used to sing to the young filly to help her sleep on those nights she was afraid of the dust monsters beneath her bed and in her closet. And a night like this would be a perfect one to remember her Granny Pie.
Swiveling her ears, Pinkie paused in her bouncing for a moment and turned her head to the north. “Granny Pie?” she asked into the night air, swearing that she could most certainly hear her long gone family member in that direction. Of course, any direction was as good as any other, and Pinkie Pie could always find her friends after she found whatever may be calling to her.
Twilight shifted as she woke, noticing something strange about her surroundings. She was not in her own bed, which caused her to stiffen in surprise. Peeking at her surroundings, the lavender unicorn was met with the glorious trappings of what appeared to be a large tent, or maybe a small living space reminiscent of some of the tents in Ponyville. Her aunt was also pacing through the interior, mumbling something under her breath with a distant look in her eyes, and a frazzled bodily appearance.
“Princess Luna? Are you alright?” Twilight asked, lifting herself into a sitting position. She probably did not look as well groomed as she usually was, generally getting a bad case of bed-mane, but Twilight guessed that whatever had Luna fatigued had to do with whatever that thing in the castle had been. Erebus, I think it was.
Luna froze, her head whipping around to look in Twilight’s direction. The unicorn could see that the Princess’ pupils were mere dots. The next thing she knew, Luna had dashed over and grabbed her up in a hug, whispering, “Thank Altair you’re okay! When everypony started screaming, I knew something had gone wrong with the teleportation! When you started as well, I couldn’t ignore your screaming I was so worried for you! And with everything that went on recently...” It seemed that Luna had barely stopped for a breath, which was more than could be said for Twilight, who couldn’t breathe at all with how tightly she was being hugged.
It wasn’t until Twilight started frantically tapping at Luna’s back with her hooves did Luna realize what was going on and release her. Gasping for breath, the unicorn turned to Luna and managed to get out, “Wha... what are you... talking about? All... I remember is us using... that orb and then waking up here.”
Luna drew away and looked to the side. The guilt on her face could not have been more evident. Twilight rubbed her throat, which she had to admit felt dry and parched, as she stared over at the alicorn. “Luna. What happened to the others?”
The Goddess of the Night started and appeared to try to speak several times, her mouth opening and yet only silence coming forth. The uncomfortable silence persisted for a couple long minutes before Luna found her voice. “Something went horribly wrong during the teleportation. Erebus had warned us it wasn’t for mortal ponies, and... I can still hear the screams of your friends. They’re all gone. Dead, or...” Luna trailed off, unable to look Twilight in the eyes.
The unicorn scholar’s mouth hung open, nothing escaping from it but silence. M-my friends? May be dead? No no no nonono! We always get through everything together! We’re all strong together! Through Nightmare Moon, the dragon, the parasprites, too many things to count, we got through it all! Twilight’s gaze hardened as she became resolute in her thoughts. No, they are out there somewhere, and we will get through this together.
“No, they are alive, I’d know otherwise. We’ll find them, Pri- ...Luna. Or they’ll find us. Either way, we will all get through this together! No matter what happens, my friends are always there.” The goddess did not seem soothed. “There’s more, isn’t there?” Twilight had been about to end her short speech, but she noticed that Luna only drew more inward, so she added that last part.
Luna could only nod, still unable to meet Twilight’s gaze, then, with a spill of words, she said it. “Celly’s become a Nightmare like I did, probably because of Erebus. The sun is high over Equestria right now, even though my internal clock says it should be the middle of the night. I can’t fight her, Twilight, I just can’t! I am physically, mentally, and magically unable to face my sister!”
Even though her mind was screaming at her not to do it, Twilight climbed down out of the sleeping alcove and walked over to Luna, following what her heart said instead, and wrapped her hooves around the larger alicorn. Luna stiffened and turned her head towards Twilight, her eyes wide in fear. “We will get through this Princess! You’ll have all of us to turn your sister back, and then we can take out Erebus!”
Luna stubbornly shook her head and replied, “It is not that easy! Celly has always been the strongest of us two, and now with a thousand years of experience over me, she’s many times stronger than I could wish to be at present. When I became Nightmare Moon, my strength intensified to the point that Celly had no way she could ever defeat me. If what I believe happened to her indeed has, then she would outmatch anything we threw against her, and the only two beings that would be able to stand against her would be Erebus and...” Luna paused, then finished her sentence, hanging her head while Twilight released her. “...Nightmare Moon. I am not her anymore.”
Twilight settled back onto a nest of pillows and looked thoughtful for a moment. The second time the Elements of Harmony were used against her, Nightmare Moon had her power stripped and was thrust into the rear of Luna’s mind. It drove the Mare of Darkness mad. The third time, when she returned, Luna said she had accepted that Nightmare Moon was a part of her, and it allowed the Elements to finally join them together. Looking up at the Goddess of the night, Twilight flattened her ears back at the thoughts that came next. If we could somehow get Luna to tap into that power without fully becoming Nightmare Moon, she would be able to face her sister and stall her long enough for us to cleanse her with the Elements. Ohhh, this could either go spectacularly or horrendously.
“Luna?” Twilight tentatively asked, laying a hoof upon the alicorn’s shoulder. “Is there any way for you to tap into the power that was once Nightmare Moon’s?”
A shudder rippled through the Goddess’ body and she shook her head. It was the most vulnerable Twilight had ever seen Luna, and it worried her. “No, not without accepting all that is Nightmare Moon and becoming her once again.”
Twilight’s thoughts raced as ideas came and went, but one stuck out in her mind. “Wait, we merged the both of you with the Elements, so if you did become her, wouldn’t it be a mix of you two? You would of course have her power, but you’d be in control, wouldn’t you?”
Scratching a hoof against the pillows below, Luna appeared lost in thought while muttering under her breath. Twilight shifted in position, just barely able to catch what the Princess was saying. “I could open the door, and release what I shoved inside, but what about the… I would still have to deal with that. Plus, the added strain on keeping her in control… I… could possibly do this, yes. But at what cost to myself?” Luna’s eyes flicked upward to peer out through the clear ceiling of the tent , up past the boughs of the trees and into her night sky.
Several long moments passed in silence, and Twilight became uncomfortable. Standing, she walked about the large tent, taking notice of the various things within. The several sleeping alcoves, the piles of cushions strewn about, even a little alcove meant to be a kitchen! Those didn’t interest her as much as the bookcase, or the numerous spells encompassing the living quarters. It seemed half the night went by for Twilight while studying the spells and books, when when in reality it was perhaps not more than half an hour until she finally heard from Luna, “...I’ll do it.”
The suddenness of it all surprised Twilight into clunking her head upon the shelf of the bookcase above her where she had been investigating the titles of the books. Rubbing her head, Twilight turned and beamed, if not happily, then at least in victory. “Really? Then let’s hurry so we can go find the oth-”
Luna rounded on Twilight and held up a hoof, signalling for her to stay quiet. Her expression was dire and stern, and she walked as with great purpose “Twilight Sparkle, this may save us, or be the death of us both,” Luna said matter-of-factly, moving to stand before her niece. “You only read how terrible my Nightmare really was. I experienced it first hoof. I may be unable to control her, but right now, this is the only thing we... I am able to do.” The alicorn took a deep breath and shut her eyes, then slowly released it before opening them once again. “This is our best and only option. Stand back, my niece.”
Twilight was speechless, but did as she was told and backpedaled away from the bookshelf. I certainly hope this works, Twilight thought as she got a safe distance away, and for good measure, set up a pillow wall in front of herself with magic. If not, I would hate to see what Nightmare Moon would have planned for me. I was the cause of her downfall, after all. Twice. The lavender unicorn swallowed and ducked down low behind the wall, so that only her mane, eyes, and horn peeked out over the top.
For several long moments, nothing happened, with only Luna’s muttering breaking the silence that not only was within the tent, but also outside of its walls in the eternal night. Even the animals knew something was wrong. No bird sang its song, no animal crept through the trees and underbrush, and not a single insect chirped in the unnatural night.
“I only have to open the door,” Twilight heard Luna say several times, before she went silent. Finally, Twilight tired of waiting and edged herself back over to the bookcase, interested in the numerous books she hadn’t had time to look at, much less read. I think I have time to peruse through a couple. Maybe I should try the Mystic’s Guide to Meaning? Or maybe I should finish that book the Princess... mother gave me. Oh dear, I am never going to get used to thinking of Princess Celestia as my mother. Oh! This book looks good! Using her magic, Twilight Sparkle slipped a book off the shelf, then settled down upon the floor and opened it over her hooves. Within the illumination cast from magical orbs of light hung about the tent, Twilight could clearly see that the book she chose pertained to some of her best interests. Magic.
Time passed, with Twilight firmly engrossed in her book, so much so that farther in the room, the lavender unicorn did not at all notice Luna’s transformation. At first, the alicorn only glowed a brilliant white, yet cast little light. Then, her form began to change, becoming more lithe and tall with every passing second. The luminance faded, revealing an alicorn as black as night. Giving her elegant wings a flap, narrowed, turquoise eyes turned to stare at the unicorn reading the book with her back turned.
“Well, well, well. It seems I have you to thank for my return, Twilight Sparkle,” the alicorn’s regal and intimidating voice came forth as she moved forward to tower over Twilight, lowering her head to glare at the unicorn who had twice defeated her.
The suddenness of the voice caused Twilight to jump, sending the book flying. Trying to calm her pounding heart, the unicorn turned her head to find her eyes staring into the alicorn’s own, face to face. Nightmare Moon had returned.
Far away, within a great citadel as dark as the night, a cloaked and hooded unicorn raised his head and stared out a skylight into the eternal night above. For several long moments, that is all he did. Then, he turned his head in another direction to stare at an empty throne nearby, just as black as the night and as fearsome as a nightmare, its entire structure designed to instill fear.
The throne, while kept dust free and clean, radiated an air of having lain dormant and unused for centuries, millenia or even eons, while the rest of the audience chamber saw daily use in the form of petitioners and visitors. Of course, the old stallion knew this would soon shift. The Winds of Change were on the breeze, and they would soon become a hurricane of proportions unseen for millenia. He knew this world sat on the razor’s blade over oblivion, and that coming choices could teeter it off the edge.
Looking at the chess board next to him, the stallion silently grinned to himself. The pieces were in place. The board and setup looked nothing like a normal chess board. Multiple sides, multiple players. Pieces playing multiple sides, some playing no side at all. And others just trying to maintain the balance. Oh yes, everything was coming to a head, and it was only a matter of time before the major players became known.
But one thing he knew, and knew well, as the Winds had brought to him the news.
His Queen had returned.
It was time for the armies of darkness to march forth and wage war upon the light.
END CHAPTER 6
(A/N) Yay! Finally completed this chapter! I blame Skyrim, The Old Republic beta, Modern Warfare 3, as well as the usual writer’s block and grey areas of the story. Things are really cooking up nicely now, I just have to be careful not to let them get burned or undercooked. To say the least, stay tuned, there’s a lot more here that hasn’t yet been said. We must go deeper in the rabbit hole.
BEHIND THE SCENES:
Finally! The chapter is finished. Sorry it took so long, everypony. Skyrim is a cruel mistress. Also a very sadistic one that is handy with a riding crop. Dragryphon could take lessons. Hey now! I’m better with a crop than Skyrim ever could be! I was just busy... with Skyrim. Yeah. Taking lessons Tis a lie! Shut up and suck on my FUS RO DAH!!! -Stealths, pulls out her Legendary Draedric Bow named The Nightmare, and then instakills Fifth with a 3.0x Sneak Attack.- 103 damage, +69 fire, +69 Shock, all tripled. Screw your Fus ro dah, you can’t use it if you have no idea where I am. >:D Neeerrrrrrd *blinks* *Goes play Ocarina of Time.* *epic brohoof* MM was better. Highly debatable. OoT was amazing, even though I actually did play MM as my first LoZ game. Twilight Princess is fantastic as well Well I’m certainly no authority on LoZ games, so... yea.
“CUT! CUT! HE MISSED THE MARK AGAIN! BRING THE HEALERS! Blueblood, how many times must I tell you to land on your mark? Somepony might get hurt! Now, go back up there and explain to Solar Flare why she has to burn you up again!”
^^ From the directors of Cupcakes comes Deep Dark, the second creepiest freaking movie you’ve ever seen. Just ask Blueblood! “Umm, guys? I can’t feel my hooves...”
ATTENTION READERS: All of you, yes, including you, should definitely read “It Takes A Village”. I literally have no other reason to plug this story other than the fact that it’s awesome. Note, I am officially plugging this on 10/31, when I read chapter 2 for the first time, so it’ll likely be even more badass by the time this story actually gets posted. (tsk tsk, plugging a random fic from another author in the notes :P)(Rhiia, you spelled “awesome” wrong. Defy my pink ink, I dare you)(Stardate: 11/14/2011. I am honestly astonished that NMM hasn’t fragged my plug.)(Why frag it? It’s simply a plug to another good fic. It’s not a competition, and even I plug other good fics where ever I go.)