Stay awhile, and listen.
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It was night. High above the moon showed full and the stars glittered with their native radiance, casting their spell upon all who would look up.
But at the Canterlot King-Dome Amphitheater, the ponies only had eyes for the stage, where a band dressed in camouflage fatigues and fake body armor belted out one final song. Thousands sang along to the lyrics, their voices echoing off the walls and sending the music they cherished so much resounding across the normally quiet night.
Deep within this crowd, one pony in particular enjoyed herself, raising her right foreleg high into the air to show her appreciation for the energetic, upbeat music. Outwardly she looked like any normal pegasus, her coat a deep, midnight blue that contrasted well with the indigo mane she was even now whipped back and forth with violent tosses of her head, joining with the crowd in jubilant celebration.
It had been so long since she had felt this way, surrounded by ponies who were unafraid of the night, who celebrated it as much as the day, though not for the usual reasons. These ponies appreciated its beauty, yes, but more so they loved the freedom the darkness gave them, the opportunity to shed the toil and concerns of the working day and revel in the energy of life itself, represented by powerful drums, strident guitars, and energetic singing. Taken individually they could be considered little more than noise, but put together they resonated with a harmony that spoke of the very nature of the world, of how disparate elements can come together to create something so wonderful.
Verily, they understand, the pegasus thought, enraptured by the passions that washed over her from the stage, from the fans, and from herself. All aspects of life are to be celebrated and remembered, even those we mourn, for only when joined doth the instruments become an orchestra that produces the most glorious music. The pegasus smiled to herself briefly at that. Though I wouldst not recall any orchestra sounding quite like this!
The band entered the solo, instrumental segment of the song, and the blue pegasus let her mind go blank as the skillfully played notes blasted themselves into her brain. Her back and wings tingled as the last riff in the first solo seemed to physically energize her entire body, leaving her ears to eagerly soak up the heavenly strains that followed. Then the last chorus was upon them, and the little pony raised her head and added her voice to the throngs around her, singing with a volume that other ponies near her were surprised to hear coming from such a small pegasus. Yet none complained and most enjoyed it, for loud was the only way Metal could be done properly.
Lyrics long since memorized poured forth from the pony's heart, unhindered by concern or worry. They were themselves culled from various songs of past bands, forged together to create an homage and celebration of those who had come before, who had made the music that had given inspiration to the band now playing. The love and joy was almost palpable, even as the lead singer threw in lines between the lyrics of the last chorus that bordered on the obscene. Yet even that itself was an homage, not to any one band or style, but to the simple act of defiance that remaining loyal to the genre represented. It was also a curse against those who turned their noses up at Metal and its loyal fans, and against all the fair-weather fans and bands who abandoned it when it suited them.
The song ended abruptly, the music and singing cutting off like a switch as recorded vocals of wordless harmonization pitched upward while the volume lowered, leaving the crowd still feeling energized, yet accepting that the end of the concert had come. Almost as one, the ponies in the audience dropped their raised hooves to the ground and began slamming it hard with pony applause, stamping rapidly and cheering madly.
“Thank you, Canterlot!” The accented voice of the band's lead singer rang out; a startling contrast to his clear singing. “Stay true and kick tail! Goodnight!” With that, the band members all trotted forward and bowed together, causing another round of earthquake-scale shaking from the audience's applause.
The blue pegasus joined in with the last round of applause, and she felt a sense of contentment that had been hard to come by of late. With that contentment came a feeling of fatigue, and the pony chuckled to herself as she waited for the crowd to thin out around her before she jumped up and took wing. I had better retire to my chambers forthwith, lest my fatigue prematurely wears out my spell.
Ordinarily, she would have flown straight home. Tonight, however, had not been ordinary, and so the apparent pegasus flew towards the mountain whose side Canterlot perched upon. Her eyes saw through the darkness as if it were the brightest day, and thanks to this she quickly found a secluded cliff that supported just enough trees to block the line of sight back down to the city. The pony made a beeline for it and landed expertly before taking a long look around her to make sure she was alone. Assured that this was the case, she closed her eyes and concentrated, and soon a glow spread over her body, which grew outwards and upwards, acquiring a horn in the process.
Princess Luna opened her eyes and took another look around to make sure no one had seen her shedding the disguise, for she planned on using it again. My sister has her little glamour, and I have mine, Luna thought with a grin as she again took the the air, flying north a bit before she turned and headed straight for the royal palace.
The first pegasus guards joined her a mile out, the gray of their armor marking them as her own personal guard. She had been reluctant at first, but her sister had insisted that it was necessary, if only for appearances. Still, the night princess had restricted her guard to only a single company, which coincidentally made it easier for her to identify the two stallions who took position alongside her. “Swift Wind, Starchaser, how fares thy night?”
“Thankfully quiet, your majesty,” the second named pegasus replied. “Princess Celestia is waiting for you in your chambers.”
Luna had to fight an urge to sigh at the guard. So many months and still they resist informality. She did not care for it, and Luna knew her sister didn't either, but their little ponies insisted on using titles and putting distance between themselves and their charges. Many things have changed over the millennium, and this is one I wish had done so as well.
Resigning herself to the affectations of her guard, Luna banked as she approached the palace, angling for the tower that held her chambers. The wide balcony outside was an easy enough target, and she alighted upon the granite flooring with barely a tap from her hooves. In contrast, the somewhat heavier landings of her escort sounded almost like someone was quarrying in the night, though Luna didn't notice it as her hearing was still somewhat put off by the concert. What she did notice, however, was the soft golden glow coming from inside her bedroom, and the night princess grinned a bit as she trotted forward.
The room would have been described as lavish by most ponies, and Luna would admit it was far more than she needed, yet it was another requirement to appease the populace, who expected their rulers to have the best so as to not be distracted by “commoner problems.” The thought would normally have drawn a snort from the night princess, but the sight of her sister reading a scroll on some cushions next to the bed broke Luna out of such musings. Instead she grinned and trotted over even as Celestia looked up and gave her younger sister a smile. “Did you enjoy the concert, 'Midnight'?” The day princess asked with mirth in her voice.
Luna glanced back involuntarily, but she saw that per her standing orders, the guards had remained outside on the balcony. “I beseech thee, 'Tia, do not throw that name around casually.”
“The spell you have to dampen the sound of your music works well enough on regular voices,” Celestia replied easily, her pleasant smile remaining on her muzzle. “Besides, a guard as small as yours will not long remain 'in the dark' about your excursions.”
Luna winced as she walked over to her vanity. “Thy puns remain a blight upon the land as always, 'Tia,” she said in a huff. “And thou is one to speak to me of 'excursions.'”
“Touché,” Celestia replied with a chuckle. “But seriously, Luna, did you enjoy yourself?”
Luna had raised a brush with levitation and was about to start combing her starry mane when the question came. She paused with the brush in mid-air, and a strange look came across her face. “Most assuredly so, sister mine,” Luna said as she began to brush her hair. “I- I am glad you talked me into it. You have my profoundest thanks.”
“And you are most welcome, my sister,” Celestia replied, her smile growing wide. “I may not care for that particular brand of music, but I've heard from others of how it is much better to hear in person than to replay it, even on those new plastic discs.”
“Oh, it most certainly is!” Luna spouted, closing her eyes in happiness as she paused in her grooming. “It was amazing, 'Tia. Even without my powers I could feel the pulse of the crowd, the roaring of their collective souls as they cried out in mutual jubilation. Even when the songs turned to dark matters of war and death, there was still an undercurrent of vitality coursing through everypony there.” Luna opened her eyes and turned to meet her sister's. “It was if I could hear the voice of life itself shouting defiance at the abyss, refusing to be beaten or broken by trials and tribulations.”
Celestia chuckled again, more subtly this time. “I suspect you are not far from the truth, Luna,” she said evenly. “Music has always been ponykind's outlet for its hopes, dreams, and even frustrations and sorrows. It has changed throughout the ages, growing with the civilization that made it. It is almost a living being itself, one that exists in the hearts and minds of millions of ponies who cherish its presence.”
“If it is a living being, then tonight I am convinced it hath reached maturity,” Luna observed, and then sighed as she finished working on her mane and then shifted to her tail. “It was sublime, sister. I know that sounds an impossibility with this kind of music, yet there are layers and nuances that often pass by the ears of the unwary. Every instrument, every note was like a caress of my mind, heart, and soul.” Luna paused to shake her head. “And ponies say we are divine.”
“Not every pony is so misinformed,” Celestia said, and then stood. “In any case, I am glad to see you have enjoyed your time out. I hope you've seen how much our ponies appreciate the night now?”
“Verily,” Luna replied, with a smile at her sister. “I hath always considered it a respite from the day, but never hath I conceived of it playing host to such festivities, to such a celebration of life that the day would not allow.” Luna blinked at that, and then blushed and shot her sister a worried glance. “Though I would never criticize thy day, 'Tia.”
Celestia laughed merrily at her sister's gaze. “Relax, Luna, I know what you meant,” she said as she walked up and gave the younger alicorn a gentle nuzzle. “Each part of the day has its uses, just as each instrument in a band creates a unique sound. Separate they are beautiful enough, but together they become greater than the sum of their parts and produce something truly wondrous.”
Luna relaxed at Celestia's words and touch, her head turning down a bit to look at the vanity. “A lesson I wish I had learned sooner,” she said with regret.
“But a lesson learned nonetheless,” Celestia replied.
“And never to be forgotten,” Luna added, her words firm. She looked up at her sister and smiled. “Thank ye, 'Tia. For giving me a chance.”
“I could not and would not do any less for my sister,” Celestia stated with a smile. “Though perhaps you should thank Twilight Sparkle and her friends, as well?”
Luna blushed and looked down again. “Perhaps. After I have allowed the citizens of Ponyville some time to recover from my last visit.”
“A wise precaution,” Celestia said, and then turned to walk towards the room's main door. “And now I must get to sleep if I am to be presentable tomorrow. Goodnight Luna, and I will see you at the dawn.”
“Goodnight, Celestia, until the dawn,” Luna replied, smiling at her sister as the white alicorn disappeared through the doorway.
The younger of the princesses then turned to face her vanity again so as to finish her grooming when a voice cleared itself. Mildly surprised, Luna turned and saw her sister sticking her head into the room again. “Though be a dear, and make sure your sound dampening spell is at full power before you turn your music on again?”
Luna laughed. “Of course sister mine. Goodnight.”
And so another night passed in the magical land of Equestria, blessed and loved by its denizens as much as the day. Most ponies went to sleep, thankful for the rest the darkness allowed, though a few stayed up as required by jobs, duties, insomnia, or just plain oddness. One such pony, an amateur astronomer, turned his telescope to the moon to look over its fine craters, whereupon he saw something that surprised him greatly. A series of small craters, almost invisible even in the telescope, arranged just perfectly so that they spelled out two words that baffled the earth pony who saw them: METAL LIVES.