Celestia sat at her desk, silently ignoring the two curtiously waiting behind her. The old mahogany creaked slightly as the still irritated demigoddess scribbled out the last of a great many diplomatic letters, a small pile of them already shove messily into a corner of the desk out of the way. At the top, a lone letter addressed to Twilight rested, awaiting delivery to explain to her faithful student why the sun had been pink all week. With one last flourish of her quill, she signed the letter and sealed it; the letter and all it's fellows found themselves picked up in Celestia's magic and sorted away into the ceiling-high warren of shelves for delivery as Celestia at last turned to her family.
"So, what have we learned?" Celestia furrowed her still pink-tinged brow as she stared the duo down. A week's worth of damage control, embarrassment and chaos found itself weighted against the sad and sorrowful looks that Luna and Scootaloo were desperately giving her.
"Pranks that the entire world notices are really bad and make Mom very very angry." Scootaloo piped up first, looking her mom in the eye as she spoke.
"We should take more care in the methodology of our pranks as there is a limit to just how much somepony is willing to take before they lash out and turn us green with purple and orange 'polka dots'." Luna, as the architect and instigator of the Great Pink Week, as it had come to be called, had suffered her just reward for her actions. With interest, as the dripping sugary mess her mane had become attested.
"We're sorry." The two spoke in unison, hoping to avoid further retaliation after a week of turning the palace into a warzone with the forgotten pranks of a millennium before.
"Very well. I hope my point has been made clear. I am still very unhappy about turning so pink that the sun and my mortal guise showed it; but perhaps we can avoid this unpleasantness in the future." Celestia tapped her horn to Luna's own, the golden flash of her counterspell returning the lunar alicorn to a presentable state. She was glad that it was all over after a week of having to keep away from her daughter for appearance's sake.
Even if bespelling the moon into the illusion of a giant pretzel for a few minutes in the heat of battle had been worth it for the priceless look on Luna's face; the havoc unleashed by two alicorns and their mortal family had drawn far too uncomfortably close to unleashing the garden guest.
"Now then, if everypony is back to normal, I'd like to talk for a moment." Scootaloo and Luna scooted closer on their cushions to find out what Celestia had to say.
She nuzzled both in turn as they did, each getting as much of her love as she could bring to bear in a few moments. The sun, ascendant in the skies cast it's light deep into the study as she did, warming the trio with the slight metaphysical touch of Celestia's guarded heart. The weekend, part of the time she had at last reclaimed for her own was at last upon them; and finally the group had a chance to breathe and think in the quiet morning light.
"Luna, I know this should all be about you, and your return home. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, especially not this week. I've let things get more than a little out of hand since you left. More importantly, I've let them take what little time I can spend with the most fleeting part of our family." Celestia spoke quietly, the regrets of a thousand years finding themselves forcefully purged with each soft word. Thoughts of could have, should haves, would haves ran through her mind at the edges of her consciousness; teasing her each and every moment.
"Nay, Tia. It should be as every other week should, a celebration of all that we hath in each other's strengths." Luna rebutted her elder counterpart's words, preferring a different approach. Scootaloo nudged her after she spoke, the filly pointedly staring at the wood tiling afterwards so that Luna would get on with it.
"Oh. Yes. We know that we will not always have thee, our any of the rest of our family. But, there is a way we all could remember one another's love for each other no matter how far apart our journeys take us on our separate paths." Luna gently smiled and rubbed Scootaloo' head until it crackled with static electricity from her mane. Scootaloo just smooshed her face into her seat and giggled at the tickle from the static grounding out into the floor.
"Really... Let me guess, Scootaloo came up with the idea, and she suggested a present exchange." Celestia arced an eyebrow as her daughter gave her the best little angel impression she could imagine.
"Well, you do know me kinda well, Mom. But not just presents, but the best presents ever! The kind of awesomely cool stuff that'll stick around to the end of... uh, everything!" Scootaloo popped up with glee, one hoof punching the air as she spoke.
"Right. And Hearth's Warming Eve comes next week." Celestia turned to Luna for help with her wayward child, only to find a sly grin on the blue alicorn's face.
"It does? Why doth nopony tell us these things?"
Scootaloo leaned against her partner in crime while giving her mother a mischievous look. "Well, duh! It's some kind of... responsible adult, uh, thing! Trying to hog all the fun to themselves and stuff."
"A pity, we were looking forward to testing our creative mettle against forging a present worthy of Tia for her dedication towards saving us from our moon." Luna pouted, standing up and pacing as if in protest. The lunar diarch carefully waited as she slowly prowled about the room, waiting for Celestia's inevitable reaction.
Celestia still had every bit of work that Luna had ever forged. The lunar diarch had a brutally brilliant way with metal, and the very magic of her night had often seeped into her work."Let's not be so hasty. You mean-"
Scootaloo shuddered as she remembered some of her more memorable school projects. "Yeah! She'll make something for you and me, I'll hunt down the best and coolest presents ever since I can't make anything without it catching on fire or getting covered in goo, and you could-"
"Luna, I do construction, and shrubberies. I have never, and will never knit." Celestia stamped a hoof, ignoring the rattle of the desk behind her and the bookshelves around the room's perimeter.
"Aww, c'mon Mom. It'd make us really happy if you did. And it'd make Luna feel appreciated." Scootaloo pleaded with her mother as Luna impassively stared out over the palace grounds and the Canterlot skyline.
"Alright, I'll consider it." Celestia felt the rumble of the cheer building behind her as she waited for the perfect moment to counterstrike. "But don't expect anything too good. I'm afraid I won't have too much to offer."
Celestia stood up, and headed for her room and the millennium old cask of fine ale hidden within, wondering how many glasses it would take to nurse away the growing headache developing behind the base of her horn.
"It can't be nearly as hard as flipping gravity in a single room." Scootaloo scrubbed a hoof against her pillow as she spoke, looking at Luna and waiting for the golden moment.
Luna met her gaze before turning towards the bedroom door. "Nay, a proper knit is a far worthier task than merely toying with the forces of nature." 5, 4...
Celestia paused suspiciously at the doorway, the wording of Luna's rebuttle worrying her. She didn't notice the pair behind her exchanging concerned looks behind her back as she finally reached out with her magic and opened the doors. A series of horrified realizations passed through her mind in the split seconds that followed.
The first was that she knew exactly which room they had reversed gravity within as she found herself halfway into the altered gravity field. The second was that the duo of disaster behind her had somehow doubled the strength of gravity within her room. The third was accompanied by a startled yelp as she found herself rapidly ascending towards her ceiling.
"All is fair in love and pranks, Tia."
"Last one, Mom, we promise."
"She stared at it, a vile abomination from the darkest markets of Canterlot. Shapeless, and yet round it defied her understanding of geometry. Its surface was marked with the twisting twirls of individual strands wrapped within each other without a known beginning or end, an affront to her senses. The amorphous object rested unheeding of the baleful gaze weighted against its form, an uncaring truth within the universe. She beheld it, taking in the colors intertwined within the endless maze, grotesquely fading from one to another. Why it even-"
"Mom. Stop playing with the yarn. You sound silly narrating like that."
"The mare recoiled from the object, hunching down below the plain of existence it rested upon until only her magnificent horn could emerge from the dark depths. Once more, she slowly rose forth in careful consideration to rest her gaze upon its fearsome form. Study revealed no means to manipulate the object, no manner in which to unravel its secrets. Knowledge of its dark wonders remained hidden from her, beckoning her to touch it, to try and unravel it without being consumed and ensnared by its convulted and endless depths."
"Mom, you're over 1000 years old. Stop talking about it like its something out of Marecraft's... stuff."
"Clearly, the voice was calling forth from within the object's depths, some former victim forever ensnared within. She would have to be cautious. The hypnotically twisted surface beckoned to her, enticing her with the promise of knowledge. Its dread call distorted her mind, drawing her closer to the thing from another world. Points began to appear, as if materializing from its depths as strange wooden rods parted the surface."
"Mom, if you don't knock it off, I'm going to stick that thing on your horn."
"She recoiled back at the horrid noise, her ears burning with the discordant notes of the unknowable thing. The brave and valiant mare struggled to regain her senses after the punishing horror, knowing that she had to master the material or be cursed to miserable, dismal failure."
Scootaloo groaned, dropping the book on Canterlot she had been studying as she decided to carry through with her threat. While her mother muttered and peered intently at the impressively sized ball of tye-dye yarn, the little filly snuck around behind the table it sat on, grumbling all the way as she did. Normal fillies don't have this problem. Normal fillies don't have moms who went stir-CRAzy 1000 years ago and became unable to do anything the normal way anymore. Then again, normal fillies don't have the coolest mom in the country. Scootaloo hopped up off of a reclined chair as she finished her train of thought, clip-clopping lightly across the wooden table to where her mother had become entranced by the way the colors of the yarn ball twirled around. Giving the elder mare no time, she picked it up, impaling the innocent yarn on the white alicorn's horn with a violent press of her hooves.
"Aaauuuuuaaagh! Save yourself Scootaloo! The yarn is attacking!" Celestia jolted back from the sudden assault of color in her vision, flailing her hooves trying to get it off. Scootaloo fell to her side, clutching her chest as she burst out laughing at the ludicrous sight of her mom under 'attack' by her project to be. Desperately trying to remove it, Celestia began to try and push it off her horn, discovering to her horror that she had only managed to begin unraveling it as the arcane knot caught her forehooves within the tangled mass. "It's all over me, get it off!"
"Mom, you are crazy. Cra-ZY!" Scootaloo giggled as her mother struggled to entangle herself. Waiting for a moment, Scootaloo jumped into the mess and tackled Celestia playfully, digging into the rapidly entangling mess. Grinning, Celestia wrapped her yarn-covered hooves around the little pegasus, stringing her up into the mess with swift deftness.
"Arg! Scootaloo, no! It's got you too! What is this?" Celestia struggled as she tussled Scootaloo's mane with her magic, soon finding that she had manged to bind herself and her foal tightly together in a web of inadvertently knitted yarn. "Scootaloo?"
Purple eyes glared halfheartedly at her for a few moments, softening up at her mother's smirk. "This is all your fault, Mom. At least nopony can walk into your study and find us like this. I don't want to explain how you fell to the evil charms of Yarnthulu or something."
Scootaloo reached out with her remaining free hoof, nudging a loop around Celestia's regal muzzle and tugging it until the solar diarch couldn't speak. "Mom, maybe you shouldn't talk anymore. You're freaky when you get distracted. Maybe you should go talk to Twilight. She knows everything." At her foal's words, Celestia's eyes widened and she leaned forward, kissing Scootaloo between her eyes. "Mom wait, don't-"
The solar princess lit her magic, glowing blindingly with the warm golden glow of the sun; the field of her teleport spell tingling the pegasus's orange legs for just a moment. And then, she was gone in a brilliant flash and Scootaloo found herself hovering in midair amongst a twisted web of yarn. "Awww."
A heavy thump marked Scootaloo's landing, and she groaned as the twisted and entwining mess landed atop her and buried her up to her neck in yarn. A brief struggle only tangled her more thoroughly until the little orange filly couldn't move at all. "Mom? Mom, left me here, by myself. And Luna won't be back until midnight. And nopony can get in."
"I hate my life."
Luna scowled as she stalked the lower halls, looking for landmarks long since erased by the passage of time. When Canterlot had been founded, a mere hundred years before her fall, she had commissioned a mighty and magnificent forge in the depths of the castle; perhaps the finest ever constructed. Built to amplify the power of her moon and draw it into her works, it had been the armory of her lunar guards. And now, other than the chimney and magic center she could find not even the slightest trace of it's existence.
Not a scrap of information in the archives for 200 years, not a sign of its doors where it clearly had to be. She was ready to rip the mountain from its foundations if she could stoke the great fire there even one more time. Now if only there was somepony she could scream her frustration out at, she might-
"M'am, the dungeons aren't exactly fit for everypony. Mind if I suggest that you head upstairs?" The white guardspony tapped Luna on her rump with an oddly familiar magic pulse.
Spreading her wings regally for the full dramatic effect and summoning the ethereal light of her moon; Luna stood tall and turned around to face him. The wind of her gathering her presence kicking up a small dust storm in the unused corridor and nearly knocked the helmet off his head as his eyes grew wide at the realization of how massive his accidental breach of protocol had been. A moment's movement saw him prostrate on the floor, horntip scraping against the carved basalt.
"Ah. Excellent, somepony who remembers the old ways. Praytell, what is thy name, and were might we find what our sister hath done with our forge?" The rumble of Luna's voice shook the corridor, echoing for what seemed like forever in the dark and empty passageways.
"Shining Armor, m'am. Head of the unicorn guard."
"Thou seems familiar to us, despite our long departure. Hmm, no matter. Once more, we beseech thee, where might we find what our sister hath done with our forge?" Luna toned down her voice in the realization that a dust storm wasn't particularly regal, settling back to her hooves just before Shining Armor. That he was a unicorn with her sister's colors instead of those of her own guard intrigued her. It almost made her want to bend down and sniff his mal- err, magic.
"The Forge of Protheus the Mad? Her majesty Princess Celestia had it walled over after he set the defensive spells to kill everypony just before he died." The distinctive unicorn raised his head to look at Luna, who cupped his chin with a hoof to look him in the eyes. Darkness stared into light, the gaze of the moon sending a chill into the air as she almost bored through his soul and past it into the black rock flooring.
"We would ask if thou jests, but we see that thou telleth the truth." Luna narrowed her eyes as she stepped away and turned to the dimly lit stone walls, her magic sweeping away the cobwebs and dust. There was one solution to the immovable object.
Unresistable force. "Very well. Bring us a hammer."
Twilight dreamed, fitful almost feverish visions induced by Pinkie Pie experiments haunting her sleep.
The lilac-coated unicorn rolled over in her snug bed, twitching her covers tighter around her as frightful dreams took shape. The warm summer night had penetrated the defenses of her hapless new home and was slowly driving her mad in the humid heat.
"Twilight. Twilight. Twilight."
A terrible vision filled her sleep; one of a thousand small birds, each wearing her mentor's face and wearing Pinkie's mane. The flutter of wings filled the air from the cloud of abominations surrounding her on all sides.
"Twilight. Twilight. Twilight. Twilight."
And then the thousand voices spoke as one, the terrible flock pressing closer to her form in the shiftless void of existence she beheld beyond her terrors. Their fell voices chirped in her ears and the young unicorn flinched back from them in horror; their wings brushing at the nape of her neck and the marks on her flanks.
"Twilight, Twilight, Twilight, Twilight, TWIIIII-LIIIIGHT!"
Twilight screamed as the creatures landed upon her and began pecking into her flesh; their cruel muzzles nipping away at her as they pressed into her belly, her legs, her ears. The smothering weight of their forms pressed down upon her in a frenzy of poking and nipping and squawking of her name as-
"TWILIGHT! I NEED YOU!"
"Auuaaagh!" Twilight flailed her limbs as her sudden jerk flipped her off of her bed and onto the hard floor. Spike's cries of surprise could barely be heard over the frantic rustle of feathers on fur and the thumps of hooves and a horn on the wood floor. Pegasus and unicorn grappled for top position, rolling across the floor in a frenzy of struggling to free each other until they found themselves tipping over into midair.
The thump of two bodies slamming onto the ground floor of the library rattled books from the shelves and Spike out of his basket. Twilight groaned in agony as a stray hoof brushed the nasty lump on the side of her head from hitting the floor twice over, entangled in the sheets she had formerly been so comfortingly ensconced within.
"Twilight. I need you."
"AuuuAARRGH!" Twilight jerked back once more at the sight of Princess Celestia's personal assistant Sunbeam standing so close that her lemony fresh breath tweaked Twilight's nose. The now thoroughly panicking unicorn scuttled backwards across the floor until she rammed herself into the far wall with a bone-jarring thud. "How did you get in here!?!"
"Celestia's key. Do you know how to knit? Celestia needs to learn really quickly for Luna before she ends up creating Yarnthulu again."
Sunbeam held up the items in her saddlebag with a hoof, namely a mangled ball of yarn and two knitting picks. "Knitting. You know everything! Please don't tell me you don't know how to knit!"
Twilight reached out for the light switch as she heard Spike stumbling close to the top of the stairs, blinking in the sudden infusion of light into the room and the revelations it brought. The orange pegasus's mane had been transformed into a rats nest of yarn knotted around formerly graceful locks of hair and hung dreadfully around her face as she held up the bundle of items. Her soulful, pleading violet eyes seemed to etch themselves into Twilight's soul as she reached out with her hoof towards the mage of all trades.
"I don't know how to knit." Twilight held up her hooves defensively as Sunbeam began to protest, waving one wildly before her. "Nonono, I never studied it because I couldn't find a spell on it! I was majoring in general magic studies under Princess Celestia!"
Twilight winced as Spike at last tripped in his semi-slumber, tumbling bodily down the stairs and yelping on every step until at last he rolled to a stop in an ungainly heap by the front door. Twilight started to grab a notepad with her magic to make a self-memo to install padding at the foot of the stairs before Sunbeam shoved her implements into the telekinetic field.
"Does he know?!"
"No what, Twilight?" Spike rubbed his eyes as he sleepily stumbled across the floor to the pair, blearily looking at the notepad Twilight carried for a moment. "Oh, why do you think I don't know how to take notes?"
"Not notes; knitting, Spike!" Twilight moved out in front of Sunbeam, trying to keep her from getting to her number one assistant.
Spike looked between them as Sunbeam beamed a hopeful smile in his direction and Twilight did her best to hover a large atlas in the way. Thoughts slowly bubbled to the surface as he tried to make sense of the strange situation. "Uh, maybe you should try Rarity?"
Sunbeam stopped her antics as muddled considerations ran through her head and a dozen expressions briefly graced her features. Twilight glared at Spike who shrugged in confusion back at her. Worry sprouted as he wondered how exactly Celestia's assistant had gotten into the library. "I said the wrong thing, didn't I?"
"Oh, no. You only gave Princess Celestia's creepy assistant who woke me up by whispering in my ear while standing on my bed the idea to bug all our friends all night long until she gets answers. What could possibly be wrong with that?" Twilight reflexively reached up and smoothed down a stray lock of her mane as she spoke. In her frustration, she missed Sunbeam sinking flat to the floor and backing away on her belly towards the door.
Spike missed it as well as he realized that Sunbeam would be heading for Rarity's place next."Oh no. You said it, not me. Why does Sunbeam need to know how to knit, anyway?"
"Something about Princess Celestia needing to knit a present for Princess Luna and not knowing how. And Yarnthulu, whatever that means." Twilight turned back to where Sunbeam had been as she spoke, a chill running through her blood as she realized the pegasus was gone. The creaking of the unoiled hinge for the libary's front door confirmed her suspicions and sent a pang of guilt into the pit of her stomach. "Well, now we'll never get back to sleep."
"How'd she get in, anyway?" Spike hopped onto Twilight's back as she wearily began to trot towards her door, hanging tightly around her neck from sleepiness.
"A key Cel- oh no. She might be able to get into our friend's houses as-" Twilight stopped talking as Rarity's ladylike scream echoed through the night and awoke ponies all across the village. Spike clung tighter as Twilight reared up, getting ready to run to the fashionata's house. "Hang on, she can! We've got to catch her if we want sleep tonight, Spike!"
Twilight's leaping start out of her door nearly threw Spike off her back; and the faint sounds of a pegasus being thrown out a window could be heard in the distance. The hunt for the yarny burglar was on.
Granite and basalt crumbled under the punishing hammer blow; the barely restrained fury of the goddess behind it punching a hole deep into the formerly solid stone. Behind Luna, Shining Armor bounced from fright and the shockwave that rattled the corridor. His hooffalls echoed skittishly in the long-abandoned corridor as he scooted farther away from the now furious princess of the night as her telekinetic field flared brighter; her massive sledgehammer swinging backwards until it bounced off the other corridor wall hard enough to leave an impressive dent. Luna's eyes narrowed once more with intense concentration, and her implement of destruction whistled through the air like the cracking tip of a whip, meeting the wall with terrifying force.
"Tis not enough that Tia failed to abolish the nobility after they drove us to madness." Luna strained for a moment as she angrily growled, ripping the sledgehammer from the powdering stone once more.
Thunk! Fwe-CRACK! THOOM!
"Tis not enough that she let us BE FORGOTTEN. Reduced to naught by some mere foal's fable!" The lunar goddess paid no heed to Shining's shaken form as she slowly wedged and levered the massive hammer from the deep hole. Stone crackled and groaned as it was pulverized by the grinding. Her temporary bodyguard backed away several more paces, wincing at the chips snapping from the wall into the air.
Thunk! Fwe-CRACK! THOOM!
"Nay, she had the audacity to let some lesser hooves disturb our forge, OUR INTIMATE HAVEN! And the interloper had the idiocy to change the triggers of our wards!" Luna strained to free her instrument of destruction from where it was nearly entirely buried in the former wall; her aura glowing nearly brighter than Celestia's sun as it ground her weapon free.
A ragged cry broke from her lips as she began to flail at the wall, each hit a ringing crack that dented supposedly unbreakable steel and pulverized rock. Again and again she smashed the wall, her wordless anguish counterpointed by her relentless pounding as the full realization of just how much had changed finally hit her. In her state she didn't even notice the small cuts as granite chips were ejected from her bezerker fight with the wall. The soft noise of steel against magical barrier didn't reach her either; but the feel of its owner grabbing ahold of her and shouting something in her ears did, to the detriment of Shining Armor.
He found himself flung through the air by reflex as she lashed out once more. Undaunted, he picked himself out from the crater his shield had carved into the wall and once more launched himself at her hoping to calm her down. "Your majesty! Princess Luna, please stop! You're hurting yourself!"
Her thrashing at the impediment slowly ceased, her dark form trembling with mixed emotions as she struggled to hold back her tears. Finally, though, she at last sank to her belly, splaying her legs about as she pressed her face against the solid rock below. The realization at long last of just how much time she had missed, of her true friends long having turned to dust ages ago, of how so much of what she had made had been turned into myths at best; it all hit home in a train of misery and loneliness.
Shining's hoof slowly stroked at her shoulder as he laid beside her in the darkness. "It'll be alright, your majesty. We're not all bad nowadays. Your sister did purge the ranks after you, uh, left." Shining slipped his helmet off, lifting Luna's head with his magic and sliding it plumed-side up under her muzzle as a pillow.
Shining winced at the faint dark trails of tears on his charge's cheeks as he continued. "The family has been nobility for a while. Got the title of an old abolished house for kicking an Ursa Major into an Ursa Mini four centuries back. Most of us don't bug your sister, just a few houses she can't touch."
Luna growled deep in her throat, but cut off with a wince as she felt how her aural stress relief had left her throat feeling tender. At the same time, though, she was confused. Never in her time had the nobility cooperated, nor comforted her or Celestia. Or acted selflessly in extreme danger. If it had not been for her sister's kind hoof and the need to rally the masses, they would have all been wiped out at her own will long before she had fallen.
And yet, here was one whispering reassurances into her ear. Luna raised her head for a moment to look at the damage inflicted by her anger, horrified by what a moment's lapse of control had inflicted. A strong white hoof slowly reached up and curled a forelock of hair from her face, before hugging her around her neck.
Shining channeled a bit of his magic into a specialized variant of his shield, gently pushing the multitude of tiny drying rivulets of blood from Luna. His voice had become quiet as he laid against her, knowing that she needed a friend. "Most of the nobility has tried to ease your sister's workload. After most of the real jerks got taken out under mysterious circumstances, the rest have been slowly trying to take the workload off your sister, your majesty."
"Why?" Luna plaintively looked towards him at last, as the adrenaline and initial despair leaked out of her system.
"Why- oh. Well, most of the kingdoms and principalities around fell in the thousand years you were gone. We learned from your sister, and if she ever left us, we'd all be in trouble." Shining slowly tried to break physical contact with Luna, only to find her wrapping a leg around him to keep him pinned in place.
"What happened? What changed?"
Shining winced, remembering how bored history class had left him. "I can't say for certain. I know that in the first hundred years you were gone a lot of bad things happened while your sister grieved. My lil' sis could tell you more, your majesty. Princess Celestia could get you in touch."
Luna laid her head back down at the knowledge of how much her absence had hurt the land, even indirectly. She wished she could take it all back, to go back to the horror she had started. And yet, if she could take it back, Scootaloo would never have been born. With somepony to lean on, Celesta would have never found happiness, never worked so hard to restore the land and make it one worth living in.
"Thy sister, what is her name?"
"You already know her, your majesty. She's the one who, uh, overdosed you on friendship to save you. Twilight Sparkle." Shining Armor perked up at the question, glad to see Luna at last rise up slightly at the name. Before he could react much more than that, the sudden tight hug around his neck began to dim his vision from a lack of air.
"Thank you, Commander. For proving us wrong, and for thy sister. We owe our life to her." Luna nuzzled him once behind the ear, and then released him as she rose to her trembling hooves. One thing left to do, it was time to start again.
"Uh, thanks, your majesty. But what now?"
"Stand back, Commander. We have another way. We suggest down by the stairs." Luna pointed down to the barely visible stairs to the surface, where a strange silvery glow could be seen. A similar glow began to seep though an otherwise unremarkable section of wall; revealing it to be some form of glowing liquid that began to coalesce around Luna's outstretched hoof.
"Your majesty?" Shining tentatively began to push an extension of his shield towards the mystic substance, feeling great power coming from it. The touch of Luna's magic surprised him as she drained away his spell and pushed him away with it.
"Nay, you foal! Do not touch it! It is the light of our moon condensed into liquid form. Your slightest touch would release untold amounts of energy instantly, killing thy foalish self without hope of salvation. Get to the stairs!" Luna's magic shoved him along as she continued to gather her concentrated moonshine to her, great streams trickling down the walls and dripping into a ball gathering at her hoof. She paid no attention to him making a break for it as she continued to gather her energy, beginning to slowly push it into the crater she had created.
Far down the corridor, the white unicorn loped towards the stairs, silently praying to Celestia that Luna wasn't about to get hurt. Heavy hooffalls behind him alerted him to her rapid approach just moments before she scooped him up in a telekinetic field and poured on more speed with her pegasi magic. The slight look of worry and panic on Luna's face frightened him just before she shoved his helmet down on his head and covered his eyes. Rough stone scraped against his belly as she yanked them both behind the curve of the spiraling stairs and pressed them against the curve of the floor.
What followed next could not be described as a sound, only the sensation of a great wind and terrifying pulses of energy washing over him from where they had been.
Shining held onto his charge with all of his magical and physical strength, praying that he wouldn't be ripped free in the onslaught of the magical detonation. The pressure shocks continued for several moments from rockfalls and air rushing back in a screaming wind, until at last it all died down into a slight breeze blowing in from the forge.
Dust choked the air, swirling in obscuring clouds of silicate powder. Luna's hooves roughly reached out of the dust, grabbing Shining's head and yanking him close to her own. Her aura lit up in a pinpoint light that shined roughly into each of his eyes in turn. Shining squirmed under the grip of the princess, breaking free at last to look Luna in the eyes.
"Hold still, Commander. We hath not finished inspecting thee for head injuries. We should not have been so impulsive in our actions." Luna released him as she concluded that he seemed well enough. Her voice had reverted to her original gruff tone as she tried to hide her concern.
"Well, so long as you use less of... whatever it is that was, I'll live, your majesty." Shining Armor blinked in the sudden change in ambient light; trying to identify the source of the mysterious glow which illuminated the dust still swirling.
"Moonlight. Liquefied moonshine. We concentrate it until it is dense enough to be liquid, then release it when we will." Luna hauled Shining Armor to his hooves as she spoke. It was an old trick that was a part of her talent pool that had fallen from favor. "We are unsure of the exact terminology to describe what we just did. How is instinctive, describing it is not."
"Right. But how does blinding me with a hornlight help?" Shining blinked his eyes in confusion, wondering where the stars had come from.
"Light makes the eyes react. If they react improperly, it means thy mind was damaged by the blast. Thou art fine, though." Luna tried to hide her concern as she looked down the corridor once more, seeing faint light from somewhere reflecting in the dark stone.
"I don't know about that. I'm seeing stars." Shining cut off any retort to that that Luna might have; his hoof reaching up and sliding a lock of her now ethereal mane blowing in a nonexistent breeze down into hr vision. The sight of her mane transformed into starfield crashed her mind in disbelief. Somehow, though, Shining wondered what the law said about letting the sovereigns blow stars into their manes.
"Fluttershy, Fluttershy... I need you."
Sunbeam facehoofed as the shy pegasus that looked almost like her twin dove under the bed, letting only the tip of her tail show as she shivered in terror. An orange hoof gently pinned the trembling pink appendage, dragging the scared-stiff mare loose from her hiding place. A gentle hug from behind comforted the butter yellow pegasus. Fluttershy's trembling form calmed and ceased struggling against Sunbeam's grasp.
Gentle murmurs of comfort were whispered into the poor pegasus's ears for several moments, until at last she was released and sat down upon one of the room's many cushions. Sunbeam joined her after a moment, checking out the windows in the brief period before she sat down next to her excitable friend. Luckily, though, the lynch mob out to tie her up with her own yarn had yet to track her down.
"Sorry, Fluttershy. That was very rude of me." Sunbeam held her head low in shame as she sat across from the animal keeper of Ponyville.
Fluttershy shook her head in response Her voice grew cheerful as she spoke, her nerves calming from the thought of helping a friend. "Oh, no. My door is always open for my friends. What's wrong, Sunbeam?"
Rustling filled the air as Sunbeam rummaged through her disheveled saddlebags for the objects of interest. Fluttershy perked up, edging closer to her friend as she recognized the sight of a ball of yarn falling apart from the abuse it had sustained over the course of the night. Her hoof reached up, nudging the ball as if in sympathy for the troubles it had sustained.
Fluttershy 'ooooh'ed in the dim lighting, as she realized what Sunbeam was asking of her. The gentle pegasus got up and approached her companion, picking up the object of attention to get a closer look.
"Fluttershy, please help me. Celestia needs you." Sunbeam pleadingly looked to her, hoping she could help her. "I tried Twilight first, but she didn't know. So she sent me to Rarity, and she didn't know. So I snuck into Pinkie's place. You would figure she would know how for helping her parties, but she didn't know. So, she sent me to Rainbow Dash, who sent me to Applejack. Not even Granny Smith knew. Help me Fluttershy, you're my only hope."
The shy pegasus shook her head, not quite understanding what Sunbeam had said. "Oh no, I really couldn't help Princess Celestia make anything. I'm just a beginner, I'm not even very good." Apologetically, Fluttershy gave her unexpected guest the most innocent look that she could in exchange for her trouble.
Sunbeam jumped up in frustration from her latest failure. The pre-dawn light cast a menacing pattern of shadows across her form as she wracked her brain for something, anything to help her quest to help Luna. "C'mon, please? Celestia just wants to learn the basics so she can give something she made to Princess Luna! She'd do anything if you could help her."
Pink locks of hair swished in the still air as their host jerked back in pleasantly surprised thought. Ideas of all shapes and sizes passed through her head, her decision promptly reversing itself at the thought. "Oh. Well, I suppose I could maybe possibly show her something. That is if she really wants to learn."
Stiffness knew her once more as Sunbeam pounced her; knocking her to the floor in an ecstatic flurry of hugging and hoofkissing and slightly incoherent thank-yous. The poor abused ball of yarn rolled to the floor, unraveling as it rolled towards and down the stairs to the ground level. Neither noticed; Sunbeam because of her victory celebration, and Fluttershy was far busier worrying herself into a state of shock over the pegasus hugging her tight and whirling her about in a dance frenzy slightly above the floor.
Then the knock came from the door, silencing the mini-party, Sunbeam's eyes widening as she realized she was about to be caught. "I wasn't here!" Her harsh whisper grated in the suddenly silent cottage, gaining a meager nod from the still startled and dismayed pegasus.
"Saturday, nine in the morning alright with you?" Slow, gentle nods.
"Eeeeii! Princess Celestia 'll teleport you to her study. She's got loads of stuff there. Be ready, please. Gotta go!" Sunbeam dashed for the window, quietly unlatching it before flaring her wings and accelerating into the air with extreme haste from the sound of further knocking at the downstairs door.
After what seemed like an eternity, bright blue eyes suddenly leaned into Fluttershy's field of view, looking down at her where she laid upon her back. "Oh no! Fluttershy!"
"What, what happened Pinkie!?" Twilight could be heard as she reached Fluttershy's room, clip-clopping across the wooden floors to where the creamy pegasus laid. The faint sound of two more sets of hooves and a pair of wings gently flittering in the air followed the studious unicorn, though Fluttershy couldn't tell from where she remained.
"Look! The blank look in her eyes, the yarn in her hair, the blank look of the icky truth eating her soul! We're too late, Yarnthulu ate Flutterbrains!"
The sound of a hoof faintly impacting a muzzle could be heard as Applejack couldn't contain her exasperation any longer. "Sugarcube, it's too dang early in the morning fer this."
Sunbeam snuck into the royal study, eager to stretch out for the morning in seclusion. The bright sunlit glow of her telekinetic field eased the room's panoramic windows shut and drew the curtains to a light-engulfing close. The diarch in disguise let her magic further flare; the great plume of power breaking apart the latticework of magic that hid and compressed her true form.
Celestia breathed easier as her native colors washed over her once more, illusion ripping free in a dazzling light show. The spectral wind began to brush her mane once more as the binding mana ripped free, her horn fading back into view from the energies. And yet, at the same time, as free as she felt there was a strange emptiness that came with her true form. The alicorn of the sun put her feelings aside as she strode towards her room, glad that she had an hour or two before court.
"Scootaloo? Scooty-Scootaloo?" The white furred diarch glanced about, hoping her daughter hadn't run off to do something rash-at least not yet. Thinking further, she found herself surprised that Scootaloo hadn't been glaring at her from the reading nook in the back from under a pile of yarn. "Scoota- oh. Oh my."
Her golden aura still gripped the handles of her personal room's doors; her form paused in surprise at the sight within. Luna was posed awkwardly, stiff as a statue as Scootaloo and Shining Armor worked to try and make her look asleep. Celestia realized her mouth was hanging open in surprise at the sight, and snapped it shut with an audible clop.
"Uh, this is exactly what it looks like?" Scootaloo tugged at Luna's hoof in yet another attempt to free the spectral mane clutched in a deathgrip before her face.
Shining shot the little filly a desperate look as he kept trying to repose the lunar alicorn. His mind frantically thought thoughts of his marefriend Cadance as he pushed Luna's rump down onto the cushion.
"You mean it really is you two trying to pose Luna after she shocked herself to death with the sight of her adult mane? Oh, good. I'd have hated to have to hand out banishment decrees for the brother of my faithful student." Celestia smiled cannily as she bounded over to Luna, who's eyes faintly quivered in shock still.
"Please don't- wait. 'Adult mane'?" Shining found that his mind had blanked out at the implications.
Scootaloo joined the older unicorn in boggling; even as Luna herself let her eyes widen ever so slightly in confusion and embarrassment. The two attempting to pose her innocently found themselves brushed away by Celestia, as she caressed the elegant new form of the dark alicorn's mane. A gentle nuzzling graced the back of her head between her ears as Celestia took advantage of the moment. "Oh, yes. You see, when a young alicorn either performs a terrifyingly powerful feat of magic or a very special act with their special somepony-"
"Lalalala! Not listening! Ewewewew!" Scootaloo grabbed a great fold of the covers from the day alicorn's bed, wrapping it around her head in a vain attempt to blot out the suggestions from her mother.
Shining instead scooted backwards across the center of the room, ignoring the static building up from his shuffling hooves as he did. "I-I didn't do it!"
"Oh, of course not." Celestia patted both of them atop the head with her magic. And then wrapped them in the glow of a teleportation field, depositing them beyond the boundaries of her chambers. Small whimpers escaped Luna as her elder counterpart turned back to her; drawers opening all around them to give the solar diarch access to their contents for her devious makeover. "Oh, I've been waiting more than a thousand years for this day, Luna. I'm thinking lace..."
The early dawn light streaming through the eastern windows cast deep melancholy shadows across her study; the grey and lonely light brought no warmth to Celestia's soul. The elder diarch of the land sipped her early morning tea as the sun rose over the mountains that Canterlot straddled. She couldn't remember the last time she had a chance to just go out and explore them; to wander the ever winding roads and see what her hooves had wrought from the barren earth that had once been the natural state of her lands.
What a sad, lonely life she'd created for herself. Separated from her subjects, almost separated from her daughter by her workload; even apart from the lands she called home. She took a soft slurp, inhaling the nose-prickling scents of her tea as she did. Just once, one time, she so desperately wished she could do something even as trivial as flying The Ribbons from their Canterlot headwaters to the sea. For even a chance to ignore her subject's fears and just be herself; that wasn't too much to ask, was it?
She sat her tea down on her bedstand, beside the warped helm of Nightmare Moon. She didn't know why she had kept it or what to do with it; but it had only served to deepen her melancholy. The ornate clocks sounded the hour, reminding her of the time and the appointment she had.
A warm breeze tickled her haunches, its passing the slightest sign of her scrying spell being called forth to hunt down her teacher. Rising, Celestia strode to her balcony to look over the heartlands of her nation; the gentle breeze gaining strength to become a rippling wind passing over the lip of Canterlot into the valley below. Every quiet glen, every nook and home felt their sovereign's gaze in that wind for a moment, settling at last in a gyre of agitated air that circled about the forest-side cottage that Fluttershy called home.
Small tendrils of that essence-infused wind found the nooks and crannies of that small and rustic cabin, whistling in with a slight rattle of loose boards. She could feel the pegasus within, feel the nervous mare well enough to grasp, to tug her. Arcane energies reached out to that small cabin, swirled about Fluttershy for a moment as the bridge was made. Golden light spun forth from what appeared to be nothingness in Celestia's room, taking the shape of a cowering pegasus for a moment as the energy reached its crescendo.
Her relatively barren room shook slightly with the release of energy from the dissipating spell; Fluttershy shivering at the epicenter of the swirling wind. The solar alicorn slowly stepped across the soft carpet and tile floor, coming up beside the daisy yellow pegasus to comfort her. Softly, she stroked down Fluttershy's spine with the most comforting touch she could muster. It took a minute, but the pegasus's shivers eased to a comfortable halt as she at last looked up at the royal presence she found herself in.
"Oh, Princess Celestia! I-I... Oh, why do I make such a flutterbrain of myself?" Fluttershy prostrated herself on the floor, avoiding looking Celestia in the eyes as she did.
"Fluttershy, you are not the one who must bow. I owe you more than I could ever tell or repay. Please, rise." Celestia looked to her as she spoke, curling a hoof under Fluttershy's chin to get the pegasus to look her in the eyes.
"Um, okay." Fluttershy reluctantly stood, legs quivering slightly from Celestia's presence as she did. She almost buckled back to the floor in surprise as the solar alicorn lifted the weighted saddlebags from her back and brought them to the bedroom table.
"My little pony, I brought you here because I need your help. You've proven you can be trusted, and more importantly, you know how to knit." Celestia held up the set of knitting needles and a ball of yarn to her guest, hoping for actual help. "Didn't Sunbeam tell you who you were supposed to be teaching?"
"Oh, yes. I just never realized that- that-"
"It really would be me?" Celestia groaned inwardly, pondering how to convince 'shy to teach her without the timid pegasus falling over herself all day. "Would changing myself to be less worrisome to you help?"
"Maybe. If you really feel that is necessary"
The solar alicorn resisted the urge to facehoof, if only just barely as her foreleg twitched against the floor. Gathering herself once more, she cast the familiar illusion once more and shrank herself into mortal form. "Like this?"
Fluttershy nodded numbly, as she realized she could have been looking at the princess at any point over the few years she had known her friend Sunbeam. She reached into her saddlebags in an effort to keep from making even more of a foal of herself, handing the disguised princess a partially completed piece with a shaking hoof. The question sat on the tip of her tongue, and she decided to finally get it out of her head. "Um, how long have-"
"What? Oh. Ever since I hired her. We switch out on a regular basis. I just want to not have everypony bow to me all the time, to be a normal pony. And she rather enjoys my privileges. Now then, how do we start?" Celestia held out the partially complete work to Fluttershy in her currently orange-coated hooves.
The shying pegasus quickly nodded, and held up a pair of knitting needles for her disguised companion. "I need to show you the basic knitting stitch before we can get into more advanced techniques. If that's alright."
Celestia nodded, dutifully doing her best to mimic her companion's movements. Yarn twisted and wrapped around wooden needle as the disguised alicorn fumbled through the movements shown to her. Smiles turned to frowns and then to scowls as the yarn wrapped over and over around the needles. The overwhelmed mare of the sun whimpered as she saw the mess she had made, turning to Fluttershy for help.
"What? Oh. Oh my, I've never seen somepony stitch one wale through another before." Fluttershy crouched over as she spoke, looking through the tangled mess of yarn. "Could you tug on this thread here, please? It should free up enough to fix this. Ohhhh."
"I'm not sure what went wrong..." Celestia reached into the mess as she was shown by Fluttershy, working her needles as she did. To her frustration, she watched as her inexperienced fumbles drew a knot shut instead of freeing up yarn and trapped her hoof in a tight loop of material. "This isn't right at all."
Fluttershy grimaced as her expert hooves reached in with a pair of knitting needles of her own, expediently plucking at the threads in a way that Celestia could only dream of. A deft tug freed Celestia's hoof once more as the timid pegasus' tongue began to poke ever so slightly out the corner of her mouth from her concentration. "Oh, I've never seen anypony cast onto five wales at once."
"I would imagine Pinkie would say that I've done a fairly good job of harpooning this lesson, then." Celestia reached in once more, pinning a section of yarn for her teacher to work with. To her annoyance, the first string that pulled free wrapped around her leg multiple times over in its mad dash to escape. She could only imagine what horrors were to come.