Lighting struck outside the window of the Canterlot throne room. Celestia was no longer slouching in the throne as much as she was all out lounging in the chair. Sprawled out across its cushion in the most depressed position possible, she had sent her guards and attendants out off the room to avoid looking any more ill-mannered. She had let her tiara fall off her head as it dropped to the side. It had bounced down the hallway with several clangs and pings. Eventually it stopped its rolling on the red carpet that lead up to the throne. It lay upside down several feet from her. She was looking at it sideways, her cheek resting on the side of the throne. A flash of lightning illuminated the room. She had summoned a thunderstorm over the castle. She was not completely sure why she had done so, or why she had done so herself instead of commissioning a team of weather ponies to make one. She guessed it just fit her mood at the moment.
She had canceled court that day. She had canceled public appearances as well, and pushed her paperwork off to tomorrow. She had even refused meals. The guards and castle staff were immensely worried that the princess had taken ill. A few of her royal advisors had sequestered themselves in the Canterlot Archives, desperately searching for any excerpt in a history book that had stated this had happened before. Sadly the most they found was a chronicle describing the princess’s depression after Nightmare Moon was imprisoned. Even then, the most they had learned was that after a quarter of a millennium, the princess dropped her depression and suddenly became cheery again. Certainly nothing that would help them today.
The truth was, Celestia was reliving every ounce of the conversation she had had with Discord in the previous night. She mentally went over his words. She went over his intonation. She went over his diction, his grammar, and his facial expressions. She went over the moments in which he blinked, the moments in which he paused for breath. But no matter how much she studied the events of the night before she could not find any hidden meaning to the speech that would reveal his plan. Only that it would involve Lulu and Twilight Sparkle knew about it. Was it her student’s dreams? Did they offer some insight into the situation? Celestia shook her head and groaned. If he was somehow, even though it was impossible, if he was somehow sending Twilight messages in her dreams she would be incapable of remembering them. Just like any dream, once it was over, for most ponies holding the memory of the event was like trying to cup water with your hooves. It was just impossible to remember any more than perhaps the overall theme of the dream or maybe who was in it.
Twilight would be none the wiser to the messages she was being shown. Perhaps Discord was just having fun while he was sealed. A way to pass the time perhaps? Tormenting the lavender Unicorn in her dreams would sure be his idea of fun. Celestia clenched her jaw and kicked her hoof into the side of the throne. She was unceremoniously laying fully on her slide now. An idea had just hit her. Twilight’s conscious mind may not remember what would occur in the dreams, but, if he was indeed messing with her mind, he might be planting the seeds of subconscious actions. He could be subtly manipulating her to do something. The question was: what could Twilight Sparkle possibly do that could be of any kind of benefit to the draconequus? He could possibly be simply trying to break her mind down so that she would be incapable of using the Elements of Harmony. Celestia shook her head again. No, that would be hard with how powerful Twilight’s bonds were; besides it would do absolutely nothing for him if he was still sealed.
However the bigger question was obvious. How did Lulu fit into all of this? Then there was Shining Armor who had just burst into the throne room and left without so much of an explanation. She was beginning to lose her patience with being kept out of the loop. Then there was Storm Dancer. He had been gone almost a day too long. Where was he and why had he not returned with that etching? She lifted her head to the ceiling and let out an angry shout that echoed throughout the castle and shook its stonework. Outside the castle walls, another crack of thunder shook the palace.
Twilight sat staring at Horseshoe Pond. Luna had rushed off in a hurry, out of embarrassment no doubt. Twilight was pretty sure the whole wing incident was pretty much exactly how she had interpreted it. Did this mean that Luna really did like Twilight as more than a friend, or was it all just an accident? Twilight kicked a rock into the pond, an attempt to skip it. The rock sank into the murky water. A sinister chortle rang out in the area. Twilight looked over the edge of the pond and found not her reflection, but Discord’s mismatched eyes. “Oh, poor Twilight Sparkle. Don’t look so sad. Here….” Discord snapped his fingers and a daisy appeared in Twilight’s mane, tucked behind her ear. “Aw, you look so cute now.”
“Go away, Discord.”
“Now why do you always shoo me away before I have a chance to help?”
“Nothing you can do can possibly help me.”
“Oh Twilight, now that’s just not true. Now if you’re a loss for what to do, allow me to share some advice with you.” Discord reached up and out of the water to grab the daisy from Twilight’s mane. He pulled the flower back into the water’s reflection and began to pluck the petals, one by one. “I know you’re probably thinking, does she love me?” He plucked another petal, “Does she hate me?” He then proceeded to eat the daisy. “You know what I think? This is a time for the power of friendship. Isn’t that what those friend-things are for?”
“That… makes sense… What are you trying to pull?!” Twilight shouted at the lake.
“Me?!” He said in an accusatory tone, “Why I would… Phftt. I would never! Pull something? Never. Push, maybe if it was a Tuesday, but never pull.” Discord reached down in the lake and pulled up the stone Twilight had thrown earlier. He tossed it up into the air, out of the water. When it crashed back down with a splash, Discord was gone. Twilight stared at the ripples in the pond. In a way, Discord’s words made sense. Who better to help than her friends? And who better to ask about relationships than the expert on gossip herself.
Twilight galloped off to the Carousal Boutique. The Unicorn reached the dress shop far faster than she should have coming from such a distance. She opened the door and barged inside. Rarity was sitting at the sewing machine, frantically working on some beige and green fabric. Rainbow Dash was sitting nearby reading one of her favorite Daring Do books. Sweetie Bell was absent mindedly drawing on a piece of paper nearby. Twilight exhaled, but waited a moment before inhaling, not sure what she should say. Rarity looked up from her work for just a moment. “Twilight, you need something, dear?”
“Uh, yeah… what’s Rainbow doing here?”
Rainbow Dash looked up from her book, “Rarity’s working on the Daring Do costumes, I need to be here to make sure she doesn't screw them up and make them inaccurate.”
“Listen I need to talk to you, Rarity.”
“Can it wait for a bit? I’m in the middle of some sewing.”
“No not really. It’s about… well… see, there’s this pony…” Twilight looked down at the floor in embarrassment.
The cloth Rarity was working with was shredded by the machine as Rarity spun around with a starry look in her eyes, “Oh my Celestia! You met a stallion! Oh I never thought this day would come! Details, details! I need to know everything! EVERYTHING!” Rarity gasped louder than Pinkie Pie.
“She’s not exactly a colt…”
Rainbow looked up from the book again, “Aw horseapples, I owe Pinkie forty bits now.”
“Rainbow! Language! Not in front of Sweetie Bell!” Rarity turned back to Twilight, “So where did you meet?!”
“Actually, um… I’m not sure what’s even going on. We were having a lot of fun together and then she put her wing around….”
Rainbow laughed, “Wing? Told you, Rarity, everypony is hot for Pegasi. Every pony.”
Rarity glanced back and gave a false smile to Rainbow, “Not Applejack though, apparently.”
Rainbow Dash snapped her book shut and left the room, “Now that I’m insulted, I’m going to go raid your pantry.” Rainbow hovered off to the back of the room.
Sweetie Belle wisped to the cyan pony, “Sneak me some ice cream while you’re in there.”
Rarity called over her shoulder, “And don’t get her any ice cream! She’s had too much already today.” Rarity looked back to Twilight, “Now tell me about this mare!”
“She’s wonderful and all, but I don’t know… She flew off when we were watching the sunset. She had just put her wing around me, but then flew off. I’m… I’m not even sure I’m asking for help the right way on this? What do I say?”
“Well first off, you need to ask yourself what you want out of the relationship. Do you just want to be friends or do you want something more?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait, stall out and fly backwards for a moment! She put her wing around you?” Rainbow Dash walked back in the room and casually placed a bowl of ice cream next to Sweetie Belle.
Twilight nervously tapped her hooves on the ground, “Yeah, that’s like a romantic gesture, right?”
Rarity raised an eyebrow, “Does that mean something for a Pegasus?”
“It means she wants to buck you.”
Rarity stomped her hoof on the table, “By Celestia, Rainbow! Watch your language. We have a young filly in here!”
“What? That’s what it means.”
Sweetie Belle placed her hoof to her chin, “Does she mean like… what Applejack does?”
Rainbow frowned, “Actually what Applejack won’t....”
“That’s it!” Rarity pushed Rainbow out of the shop, “Get out of my house you ill-mannered winged-rat!” Twilight stood bewildered. Rarity turned back to Twilight, her tone whiplashing back to gentle, “So, dear what do you want to do? Do you like her?”
Twilight looked down on the ground, “There’s a lot I don’t actually know about her.”
“Well, then think of it as a journey. All relationships have to start somewhere. If you two get married and live happily ever after that’s alright. If it doesn’t work out that’s alright too. You’re a wonderfully beautiful and intelligent pony, Twilight, you’ll find love eventually. Maybe sooner than you think.” Rarity gave Twilight a hug, “The important thing is that you need to be truthful with yourself.”
“You’re right… I… I think I know what I’m going to do!” Twilight smiled and trotted out of the store. “Thanks Rarity!”
“Go get her, girl!” Rarity wiped an over-dramatic tear from her eye. Sweetie Belle groaned as she pushed an empty bowl away from her. “Sweetie Belle?”
“My stomach hurts.”
Outside, Twilight was galloping back to the library. She was not sure exactly how the events were going to play out, or if Luna would even come back to the library, but as Rarity had said, it was worth a shot. Upon the top of her head, Discord twiddled a piece of candy in his claws, “So be truthful with yourself about your feelings, eh? That was her great relationship advice? I've been saying that for the past two days! But no pony ever listens to the draconequus.” Twilight shook her head and Discord fell off and shattered on the street. A couple feet away his face appeared in a puddle, “I was in the middle of talking to…. PFHT! Ouch that hurt! Ugh… What did you step in? I’m going to taste that for weeks….” Discord pulled his tongue out of his mouth and tossed it aside.
Storm Dancer was getting tired of the Everfree Forest, but other than having to trek into the dangerous jungle, he was in high spirits. He could not believe his eyes from what he had just saw. Nightmare Moon was back, apparently the Elements of Harmony did not vanquish her like Celestia had said. Storm Dancer had seen it with his own eyes; Princess Luna was holding a conversation with the beast! This confirmed his theories that Princess Luna was Nightmare Moon at least in some way or another, joined in evil. Then the princess was corrupting Celestia’s student, Twilight Sparkle. She was aiming to break apart the Elements of Harmony, the one thing besides himself that stood in her way! His mission was clear. He had to stop Nightmare Moon from resurrecting eternal night. Though it had taken him sometime, he was beginning to formulate a plan. A plan so devious, a plan so masterful that its name would grace the cover of history books for generations to come.
It would require cunning to tackle this initiative. It would require grace. It would require guts, precision, strength, cleverness, bravado, wits, guts… I already stated that one, actually. He pensively placed a hoof on his chin. It would require twice the guts of a lesser plan! It would demand vigilance and loyalty to Celestia! Most of all, it would require patience to wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. The night before, when he had first noticed Luna, no… Nightmare Moon, in Ponyville, Storm Dancer had flown back to Canterlot as fast as his wings could carry him. He retrieved his old armor from his time in the army. Its polished, golden gleam would be the last thing Nightmare Moon would partake of in this world. In the same night he had rushed back to Ponyville and taken up his watchful vigil on a cloud in the sky. It was true that he had forgone sleep and pushed himself to the point of exhaustion, his eye was twitching from time to time, but muscles spasms were not uncommon. It would all be worth it when Nightmare Moon’s helmet is presented to Celestia. “It will be a glorious day.” He said aloud, even though there was no pony around. “Yes, no pony around… even behind this…. TREE!” He tackled the creature behind the tree only to find a frightened fox. He let the fox go. Foxes were not known to be servants of Nightmare Moon. But then again, he was pretty sure some were nocturnal. “Hold it right there evil vermin!” The fox raced off too quickly for Storm Dancer to catch, but it was alright. His plan did not hinge on a surprise attack. He should still be fine. Better even. Now that Nightmare Moon would know that he was on to her, she would waste resources in preparing for his assault. But his assault would be unknowable. Then she would be defenseless. And Rising Star would just have to cry herself to sleep at night, knowing that not only did she not get her promotion, but that the dawn would come again because Storm Dancer the Vigilant had stopped eternal night, single-hoofedly! “Ha ha!”
Storm Dancer now found himself trouncing through the Everfree Forest on a quest, a dangerous quest to visit a dark conspirator. Normally he would not bother to consort with ponies like this, but he was backed into the corner. Out in the field, low on supplies and resources, just as he had been in Griffica back when he was in the army. Back when he was stranded wings-deep in hostile Griffin feathers, fighting off beak and talons. He may have not been able to do his nation a heroic service that day, but now it was different. He was ready. Almost, at least. Stealing himself for what horrors might await inside the witch’s home, he knocked on the door three times. A voce called out from within the dwelling. When the door swung wide, he stood face to face with the witch. “Ah, good evening to you my Pegasus, not many visitors today are on my list! Well come on now hurry on inside, my hospitality I would be happy to provide.”
“You are Zecora the Zebra? The one they call the witch of the wild Everfree?”
“I am most certainly the one of whom you speak. But the title of witch I say is makes me sound as a freak. I tell you now, set your worries aside. The ones who told you this most have certainly lied!”
Stepping inside the hut Storm Dancer soon realized he was not prepared for the sight of so many oddities. There were masks and cauldrons scattered throughout the hut in addition to flowers and various herbs hung from strings. “I hear you make potions and all sorts of concoctions, is this true?”
“Yes indeed, I most certainly do. In what way can I be of service to you?”
Storm Dancer picked up a set of weird looking fruits, “I was wondering what sort of potions, or poisons, you have that can put a pony into deep sleep. Maybe some that can nullify a… Unicorn’s magic?”
“Reluctant I am to give you such a dangerous thing, only trouble can these potions bring. What you ask of can be used with such malice. But by your amour I guess you are a guard at the palace?”
“Attendant to the princesses actually. I was in the army for a bit though.”
“If the princesses need these for a great threat, then to deny you I would surly regret.” Zecora quickly started throwing several bits of flora into her cauldron. “For the sleeping potion a bit of alasharada and neigh-n-gale will work like a charm. However, a potion used unwisely can cause harm. If the one who drinks it should not be roused soon, it could spell their untimely doom.” Zecora dipped a small flask into the caldron.
Storm Dancer took the bottle of bright blue liquid and placed it in his saddlebag, “Good to know. I’ll be careful.”
“Now neutralizing the magic Unicorn is a tough feat. But fret not for I have yet to be beat. A bit of talon, Griffin born, and a small sliver of a filed Unicorn horn. Given freely, for both in times most needy. Now some petals from a poison joke, but careful now as it is dangerous to most folk.” Storm Dancer winced, what pony would donate a sliver of their horn to this crazy creature? “A dash of rosemary just to be sure and for your problem solved all we need is to stir.” Zecora lifted a rainbow glowing bottle out of the cauldron.
“Excellent!” Storm Dancer reached out to take the bottle but Zecora pulled it away.
“Now understand to take away a Unicorn’s magic is to take away their gift! Like the Earth ponies’ strength or their wings of a Pegasus. To take the wisdom of a Zebra or the cleverness of a Griffin, the power of a dragon, all these gifts were given. To this potion, nature is most unkind. It robs the order of the world in ways I must remind.”
“Yes, yes I got it. Terrible consequences.” Storm Dancer swiped the bottle from the Zebra. Storm Dancer hastily thanked the Zebra and ran out of the hut.
Princess Luna landed on the balcony of the Ponyville library with a bit of awkward grace. She stood looking at the door for a moment. She allowed her wings to fold back in on her sides. With a heavy sigh she raised a hoof to knock on the door. Her hoof hovered in the air for a few moments. For a split-second, her eyes flashed into green slits as Nightmare Moon whispered into her mind. “We should leave. We desire not to be around her right now.” Luna sighed. That was certainly true. She was not sure how she was supposed to face Twilight after humiliating herself like she did. If Twilight knew what it gesture meant she was doomed for sure. Twilight would assume Luna had feelings for her and Luna would have to face rejection. If Twilight did not know what the gesture meant then she would be mad at Luna for flying off without an explanation. Whichever way Luna looked at the situation, she did not see herself withholding tears. In a moment of strength, or stupidity, Luna knocked on the door.
From behind the door loud noises were heard. Somepony was galloping around frantically. Luna could hear the pony rushing up the stairs. A sound that was unmistakably a pony tripping was only slightly muffled through the wooden door. The voice of a young mare cursed in a politely innocent way. The door flung open and Twilight was breathing rapidly. Whichever cause of her hyperventilation was, either from running up the stairs or from her excitement, even Twilight was unaware. The lavender Unicorn stared deeply into Luna’s eyes. The princess of the night avoided her stare. While the Unicorn held nothing but delight in her eyes, Luna did not notice. The Alicorn scuffed her hoof on the balcony’s floor. “Twilight, I…”
Twilight did not let the Alicorn finish her sentence; she gently lifted her hoof and turned Luna’s head. With a bit of awkward balance, Twilight stood on her hind legs to gain enough height to match the Alicorn’s stature. Twilight leaned in and kissed Luna. Luna’s eyes opened wide. The sheer surprise of the act was nearly enough for her heart to stop. Luna’s thoughts swirled around in her head. However, for the first time in ages, Nightmare Moon was quiet in her thoughts, simply content to let the moment take place. In the sky, the moon shone brighter than it had even dared try before. The land was covered in a pale glow; one might even have been able to read a book comfortably in the moonlight alone that night. When the kiss broke, Twilight’s face was flustered. She let out an awkwardly cute laugh. Luna did not move from her spot, her mind suddenly blank as if Twilight had stolen her thoughts through her lips.
“Um, so…” Twilight was the first to talk.
“We wish thou to knowest how lov….” Luna cleared her throat. “That was… lovely. I did not know you… reflected my feelings….” Luna turned her head away from Twilight and allowed her mane to billow over her face.
“I do… I just needed time to… be truthful…” Twilight chuckled uneasily. “I’m just glad I didn’t misinterpret the whole wing thing… That would have been… awkward.”
“I didn’t intend to be so forward….” Luna walked past Twilight and into the library. With all the emotions she was feeling she desperately needed to sit down. Twilight followed and sat down on the cushion next to Luna. The princess stared at the ground for a moment as she extended her wing and wrapped it around Twilight. Twilight scooted up against Luna’s side and the both of them sat there silently for the next few moments.
Finally, Twilight cleared the static in the air, “So are we now…?”
“If you wish to be so….”
“Just a heads up, I’ve never had a fillyfriend before.”
“Neither have I.”
“Really? But you’re like really, really, really….” Luna looked over at Twilight and frowned. Twilight smiled sheepishly, “Prettier than me…” Twilight let out a relieved sigh; she had just barely dodged a bullet that time.
Luna focused her sight on one of the bookshelves, “Four-thousand.”
“No, we lost count. Neither I nor my sister knows how old we are. But it’s something greater than four thousand years.”
“Wow!” Twilight winced when she realized what she was saying, “No! I mean, scholars have wondered for years… I mean… not too many years… But uh….”
“I know I’m old Twilight. Scholars have wondered because we don’t tell anypony how old we both are. That’s just a secret we keep to ourselves… and our fillyfriends.” Luna leaned down and kissed the top of Twilight’s head. “Fillyfriend sounds weird to say.” Luna laughed.
“This is isn’t going to be easy you know. You’re a princess after all. Wow, how are we going to tell Celestia?”
“We aren’t.” Luna said sternly. Twilight started to protest but Luna simply rested her head on top of Twilight’s and continued, “I need time to figure out how to tell her. A lot of time, Twilight.”
“How much time?”
“We Alicorns interpret time differently, so it might seem like an unnaturally long time.” Luna sighed, “Twilight, regardless of how we tell her, she will not approve of this.”
“This is something we’ll need to discuss, but not tonight. Tonight, we should just enjoy us…”
Just then the door on the lower level burst open. Luna and Twilight were startled out of their embrace. Spike, who had been watching the two ponies from his bed while pretending to be asleep, jumped three feet in the air. A shout rang out from the lower level of the library and with a flash of purple light, a Unicorn stallion materialized with a teleportation spell. He gritted his teeth and stared at the pair of mares. Twilight was absolutely, positively, terribly mortified. The stallion bellowed in a volume that rivaled the Royal Canterlot Voice, “GET OFF MY SISTER!”