Luna’s Story 3: Long Live the Night
Part 2: Melt to Tar
Little Pippen had never been more terrified in his life. The speckled white and brown colt was flailing in the hooves of evil. His little friends lay strewn about the floor, unmoving, their faces frozen in expressions of horror. “And now, little whelp, thou shalt meet thy end!” Nightmare Moon breathed cold, white air upon his face. Lifting him high by the front of his tiny collar, she opened her maw to show the massive fangs dripping with neon green goo. The acid dripping from her mouth hissed upon the ground, burning holes in the wood. Her great black wings spread to their full, bannered span and she lifted the poor foal to her mouth to eat him alive. Pippen screamed, all four hooves kicking.
“Stop right there, Nightmare Moon!” A pair of Lunar Stallions descended from on high with the flapping of bat-like wings. They landed so hard the floorboards shot splinters, startling the onlookers. Snorting with flared nostrils, they threw their chests out and reared as their hooves flailed like war horses. “Put the colt down!”
“Lunar Stallions!” Nightmare Moon set Pippen down quickly, hissing like an angry snake. The colt ran for his life, to one side. “Another night, then!” she told her prey.
“Begone! Even Nightmare Night has no place for your evil!” whinnied one of the Lunar Stallions, leaning forward and lifting his jowls at her. Such teeth! Nightmare Moon roared in frustration and she slowly backed off. She could not stand against such mighty stallions. Curling her black wings about herself, the dark alicorn coiled into a sphere of sparkling midnight smoke. Rocketing into the sky she burst into green sparks like a shower of brilliant fireworks!
The crowd watching the play burst into cheers and hoof stomping. Pinkie Pie fired the party cannon over the crowd, howling fireworks imploding across the suddenly clear and starry night. The foals that littered the stage suddenly sprang up from their pretend deaths, laughing and rushing until they could get into a long line. They bowed to the crowd, receiving whistles and loud applause. They turned to look up at the pair of Lunar Stallions, who smiled embarrassedly and bowed too. It was for the children after all, they could bear it. Stepping out from behind the curtain came Princess Luna, smiling grandly. She’d dropped the Nightmare Moon illusion and was back to her starry-maned self. The squealing children gathered around her, hauling her forward to the lip of the stage. The gathering of ponies whooped and cheered. She smiled, soaking in their adoration. “CITIZENS OF PONYVILLE!” She blasted the Royal Canterlot Voice over the crowd like rolling thunder. The recoil was funny to all the little ones. “LET THE NIGHTMARE NIGHT FESTIVITIES-- BEGIN!” She thrust out a hoof. More fireworks split the sky and lit up the night.
Lunar Stallions appeared on surrounding rooftops and in the alleys between buildings. Melting out of the night like the golden-eyed mysteries that they were, they opened saddlebags to see to their duties. They cantered about the crowd bearing treat baskets, punch-bowls, and other goodies. The foals pranced off of the stage, and Luna herself dismounted so the band could get into place. Music started up somewhere, and the kick off began. The Princess of the Night snagged a caramel apple for herself, smiling and bowing when she was addressed. A whole night, just for her! There was a bounce in her step as she walked among the crowd, passing out blessings. Good luck would follow those ponies around for a few days, her alicorn magic willed it so.
“Your majesty.” Stalwart Hide bumped into her in the crowd, a saddlebag full of orange suckers on his back. He looked quite Nightmare Night…y, with the gobs of black eyeliner under his eyes and the traces of ink on his ribs. It made him look dark and otherworldly.
Leaning, Luna blessed Stalwart Hide with a tap of her horn as well. He smiled, thanking her with a bow of his head. After they’d parted, she was delighted to see him nod to a little filly who wanted to ride on his back. The Princess snickered, eyeing her Lunar Stallions over the crowd. She’d managed to rope over fifty of the seventy of them to come to the festival for the evening. Nightmare Night was a foal’s holiday, sure, but it was very popular. What better opportunity to expose ponies from outside Canterlot to the Lunar Stallions? They needed some social interaction with normal citizens, to show they were just as upright and dependable as their solar counterparts. Besides, hosting a festival was something fun and laid back they could do as a group.
“Princess.” Aegis Shield appeared out of the crowd, smiling broadly. He was wearing a jet-black tabard with a crescent moon over his normal Lunar Armor. His golden mane was slicked back with oil, and his grin was devilishly handsome. “May I have this dance?” he offered her his hoof, which she took right away. He pulled her into the hopping, dancing crowd. They made space for the alicorn’s long strides, and soon the couple found a proper rhythm.
The festivities and merry-making went on for hours and hours, well into the night. The moon was reaching its apex by the time the foals were all put to bed in their respective homes. It was then that the cider and other more grown-up entertainments were broken out. Hammershot was swooping the crowd, back and forth, dropping black flower petals like snow. The slow dance of the night was starting, and the band turned it down a few notches so ponies could pair up. Luna once more paired up with Aegis Shield. Stalwart Hide was approached by a strange Pegasus mare with a rainbow mane. One by one, the Lunar Stallions found themselves with mares eyeing them up. Bashful smiles were exchanged, and the pairing off didn’t take long. The huge influx of stallions in Ponyville made sure that just about every single Lunar Stallion got a dance partner. Ponyville was 90% mares anyway, so it was a good fit. Luna knew her festival location well, it seemed.
While she danced cheek to cheek with Aegis Shield, Princess Luna sighed happily. Flicking her gaze over the crowd, she spotted more than one of the mane six bashfully dancing with a Lunar Stallion. An orange earth pony mare, dressed as a scarecrow again this year, was giving soft eyes to Panzer Hoof. The titanic stallion gulped when she traced a hoof flirtatiously on his big chest plate. He shook like a leaf, smiling as convincingly as he could. Invulnerable indeed! A purple unicorn mare was trying her best to dance, but seemed to be staring at her hooves and counting more than she was actually paying attention to her dance partner. Poor Pen Maker-- the poor guy looked bored out of his skull. Smirking just a little, Luna yipped when Aegis Shield nipped her ear. Blushing, she returned her attention to him in earnest. He kissed her cheek with a quiet smile, and they leaned into each other.
“Think we could get away?” Aegis Shield whispered flirtatiously.
“The night is young, my love and heart.” Luna said, cheeks warming. “I think they would notice if I slipped away from my own festival.” She flicked her gaze towards the Everfree Forest, dancing her eyebrows at him playfully. “But perhaps later, after the festivities are--!”
Suddenly a pony fell from the sky, crash-landing into the crowd! It was a solar guard, a mare, knocking Hammershot out of the sky and spilling his entire bag of black petals over a wall-eyed grey pegasus mare. The crowd shrieked as she skidded along the ground, tumbled, and crashed finally into a snack table. The wood splintered and she yelped, staining her bent golden armor with red punch. She righted herself with a moan, clutching at an injured shoulder. It hissed with… heat? Odd… “P-princess!” she managed. “Where is Princess Luna?!” she cried.
The crowd parted as the dark alicorn rushed through and to the scene. “What is the meaning of this?!” Luna said, then gasped at the state of the solar guard. “Dear Faust!” she reached and touched the armor, “Ssss!” she hissed in pain and recoiled. “The armor is hot! Remove it from her!” she commanded. The crowd separated like oil and water as the Lunar Stallions began to crowd around.
Pen Maker had rushed forward, his horn aglow. Concentrating, he wrenched her helm from her head, spilling her sweaty mane out into the night. Bright blue color exploded over her body, her mane washing into ocean-blue. He dropped it into a punch bowl, where it hissed for a split second. How had she been able to withstand hot metal pressed to her body like that?! Other stallions rushed as well, pulling her armor off so her body could breathe. The poor more was soaked with sweat and fever, and she staggered forward from the sudden lack of weight. “Ahh! Sss!” The mare limped to her hooves at last. “Your majesty! Grave news from Canterlot!” She said, distress in her face.
“Speak!” Princess Luna said, wings snapping open to make room for fresh air.
“It’s Princess Celestia! She’s… she’s…!” She fretted and danced about on her hooves while the entire crowd leaned forward in anticipation. “She’s turned into a monster!”
Luna stared at her for a long time, mouth slightly agape in shock. She blinked a couple of times. Then, she broke into a nervous chuckle. “Oh? Has our sister sent thee to prank us on Nightmare Night? Cute, but not very effective. We expected her to perhaps switch the salt with the sugar at the dinner table this year. Her pranks have not been up to her usual standard since we returned from exile.” Luna turned to gesture to the band to start the music again.
“Please! You must believe me!” The mare shrieked. She stepped forward to grab Luna’s shoulder with a hoof, but suddenly swooned and fell with a yip. Her face was tan and red, they saw, when the light was better.
“She looks like she’s got heat exhaustion! My cousin used to get this all the time!” said one stallion, rushing forward to fan at her with a Nightmare Night poster.
“In the middle of the night?” said another. That struck a chord with Luna.
Luna jerked back around, leaning over the fallen mare. The sweaty look of flushed misery was familiar to her as well. She’d seen a few Lunar Stallions look like that during summer training, when the sun was high and the armor was heavy. She came to her knees to be closer to her, frowning seriously. “What happened?” she asked.
“Celestia. She just... She just...” She was panting, paying for her hard flight all the way from Canterlot. Luna prodded her sharply so she wouldn’t pass out. “She killed them all. There was so much fire. So ho-ooot…” she moaned, her eyes starting to roll into her head. Luna jabbed her again, rather cruelly.
“Fire? Canterlot burns?!” Luna stood tall, peering up at the city perched on the mountain. No. There was no column of smoke rising from it. She knelt back down quickly. “What happened to our sister?!”
“I don’t know-www…” the mare whimpered, curling up and shaking despite the heat in her skin. One of the stallions leaned down, pressing a hoof to her side. She was hot to the touch. Luna called for ice, for water, and for anypony with medical expertise. The Lunar Stallions scattered, clearing the dance floor of the gawking crowd. Aegis Shield remained, looking between the miserable pony and his Princess. “There were so many ponies… all gone...” she whispered, tears streaming down the sides of her face as she stared up at the sky from where she lay. “All ash. So much ash.” She moaned, both hooves leaping to her face so she could sob. The poor thing was beyond traumatized.
Luna stood slowly, looking visibly rattled. Her eyes didn’t see what was around her. Her gaze was tight and nervous. Aegis stood with her. Reaching, he touched her shoulder and she snapped out of it. “Captain Aegis Shield.” She snapped from party-goer to powerful Princess in the blink of an eye. “Muster the Lunar Stallions. We’re leaving.”
“Princess Luna!” Twilight Sparkle had forced her way through the crowd and even past the stallions guarding the dance floor. “What’s happening?!”
“Twilight Sparkle.” Luna turned with a serious frown. “Canterlot is in danger, as is Ponyville now.” She said. She didn’t have the heart to repeat what the solar guard had reported, that Celestia had apparently gone mad somehow. “You and the Elements must get thy fellow villagers to safety.”
“The entire town? But where?” Twilight gasped, her eyebrows leaping into her bangs.
“We do not care!” Luna snapped a little more harshly than she meant. “The farther from Canterlot, the better! Someplace secluded and closed off!”
“Everfree?” Twilight wondered. “No… the canyons!” She gestured westward. “They’re rocky, and there’s plenty of caves down there.” Luna nodded her quick approval. “Please, Princess! Isn’t there anything we can do to help in Canterlot?” Twilight gestured over her shoulder, where the rest of the mane six had gathered.
Luna eyed them, then swallowed for a moment. She just couldn’t tell Twilight. She looked at Canterlot, then at Aegis Shield, then the mane six. Choosing her words carefully, she denied the purple mare, “Thou cannot contest with the powers in motion. Not even with the Elements.” She leaned down and dutifully nuzzled the confused mare. She raised her voice so many could hear. “We hereby charge you, Twilight Sparkle, with the leadership and safety of all the citizens of Ponyville! Do not let us down.” She stared into her eyes, cold and commanding as the Princess of the Night was wont to be.
“C-c’mon girls!” Twilight switched over into her own leader role. The mane six scattered to spread the word. The Princess was evacuating the town for the western caves, effective now.
Stalwart Hide appeared suddenly, the second Captain of the Lunar Stallions. “Princess!” he saluted quickly.
“Stalwart Hide.” Luna said. “See to this mare.” She gestured to the shivering solar guard at her hooves. The stallion bent, pushing his muzzle under her side and hefting her trembling form onto his back. Just then the errand ponies from earlier came with ice and water and salve. They vanished into the crowd with her. “Hammershot!” she roared, bringing the Pegasus down from the sky. He landed hard and bowed. “You have one hour to make sure not a single stallion, mare or foal remains in this town! Fail me and we shall wing-stomp thou into the ground!” The Princess of the Night handed out barbed orders faster than she had Nightmare Night confections only hours before.
Ponyville worked itself into a wild frenzy. What disaster had befallen them, nopony knew, but when the Princess herself said run, they weren’t gonna stop and ask questions! Foals were roused from bed and thrown onto a soft-strawed cart. Foodstuffs were roughly bagged. Extra blankets and other things were carelessly packed, stocked, and shoved into saddlebags. Lunar Stallions ran up and down the streets, shouting for everypony to take only what they needed.
“Aegis Shield.” Luna turned to him again at last. “Fetch us a tub of water.” Looking around quickly, the stallion found the bobbing-for-apples tub he'd seen earlier during the festival. Balancing it carefully on his back, he hauled it over to her with all speed. She sat slowly on her haunches, eyes fixed on Canterlot. She squinted into the far distance, her horn slowly lighting up. While Aegis fished out all the apples and tossed them aside, Luna reached deep into her inner well of magic. She closed her eyes to concentrate. “Let’s see now…” she mumbled. Her starry mane twinkled, and magic gave her sight beyond sight.
The molten creature looked about herself, surveying her surroundings. Hers, all hers. That room there? Hers too. She walked by a pair of double doors and they burst into flame, revealing the room beyond. Her long, slow strides left melted stone in their wake, twisted goop of tar-like substance where her hoofsteps fell. Molten metal dripped from her maw as she swiveled her head back and forth. The very air seemed to wriggle with her presence.
Her head suddenly snapped to one side when she reached an intersection. A stray pony was running away from her, terrified. The heat boiled down the hallway after the fleeing pink unicorn mare. The carpet caught flame. The paintings began to melt before their frames warped into nightmares. The floor tiles cracked under the severity. Leaning forward, the creature opened her maw. Behind her metallic teeth were more teeth, and behind those teeth were even more teeth. A concussive, earth-shattering roar exploded from her maw. To look down her throat when her mouth was open was to look into the sun itself. Heat and light lanced forward and the fleeing pony burst into ash with a yelping shriek.
Bored again, the creature continued slowly down the hall. Things continued to melt and burst into flame where’er she went. She liked that. All forms of matter bent and died to her will. None could withstand her. She emerged into the throne room. She liked that dais. Leaning, she touched her horn to it. The stone instantly warped from grey to black, like obsidian or lava-rock. A nest-like structure took shape at the top, and she walked slowly up it. Blowing out the stained glass windows behind the dais with a thought, she absorbed the extra oxygen to feed the fire. Her mane and tail exploded with length, sucking in the fuel the night air gave. She mounted the stairs of the dais, stepping into the nest and settling on her belly.
A figure suddenly emerged at the entrance of the throne room, and she looked down upon him with a surge of anger and heat. Who DARED--?! He was a large pony, red as the fires she started and mane as orange as the sunset. The large red stallion shielded his face, setting down the bucket that had been in his teeth. Kicking it, he tumped water over himself and stepped cautiously into the chamber. The heat was terrible, and the creature of molten fire looked down at him with mild curiosity. Well then! Wasn’t he handsome and brave? Or was it handsome and stupid? She pondered it for a time.
“Suh-LESS-tia!” his deep bronze voice was even pleasing to the ears! Interesting! She found she liked this strange creature. Turning her head, her glowing pink eyes flashed with wild magic. Horn lighting up, she seized him bodily. He was suddenly engulfed in an angry crimson magic, and jerked into the air. The stallion cried out as he was quickly hauled front and center to the top of the black dais. As he approached his body was dunked in thick magic, protecting him from the heat. He peered around cautiously, fully expecting to burst into flames as soon as he’d landed. When he didn’t, he relaxed just a little. “Suh-less-tia..?” he asked again in his delicious accent. The creature didn’t react to the name, only stared at him. He was a fine specimen, she decided. Horn lighting up again, she conjured matter from pure energy. Feeding the flames of her magic, she dressed him in a shining black saddle, stirrups and silvery bit. He gaped at himself, looking at the silver studs and shiny things on himself. He didn’t know what to do about that, really. She cocked her head at him, looking him up and down. Casting again, once more to make something from nothing, she chained him to the platform. He gasped, pulling on the chain that was attached to the bit in his mouth. He had maybe ten feet of chain, not enough to even leave the dais. He tugged on it with all his might, but even his massive strength wouldn’t let him free. He sagged after a time, lying on his belly to rest and pant. She nodded, satisfied. Hers. Her pet.
She sat there for a time, surveying her domain. Something prickled at the back of her head. Something was… watching…? Some familiar… presence…! She turned quickly, glaring up at the moon with all the fiery anger of the sun. Drawing breath, the creature roared!
“Auh-haugh!” Luna pitched backward like she’d been bucked in the teeth!
“Luna!” Aegis Shield rushed to her aide, then recoiled with a cry when he touched her. She was so hot! Rushing to the tub of water he bucked hard, pitching the whole thing over her. Steam erupted from her shoulders and back. She lay there moaning quietly, wet and miserable but no longer overheated. “Luna! Are you alright?!”
Luna looked up at him, grateful for the sudden bath. He helped her sit upright so she could breathe. “It’s true… It’s true!” She panted in a whisper, looking up into his golden serpentine eyes. He blinked at her. “My sister has become a monster!”
End of Part 2