A wise pony once said that there was nothing more comforting than familiarity. It was little wonder then why Twilight Sparkle slept so soundly in her old room within the palace’s Royal Quarters. Though it had been more than a year since she had slept in the large room not too far from the castle gardens, the young lavender unicorn felt as if she had never truly left.
The ever diligent student yawned as she woke at the crack of dawn, as she always did, even without her alarm clock to help her along.
Not that she had actually gotten a full night sleep, per say. Twilight had been up all night in a fitful study binge, trying to find any and all written records she could on the subject of Night Magic. Right now, her tired and addled mind cursed her own powerful internal clock for being so darn punctual.
“Uhhhhh,” she moaned as she sat upwards. “Spike, get me some warm tea, please.” She sat there for a few moments, sitting in her bed just trying to work up the strength to open her eyes. When, after several moments, she remember that Spike wasn’t here, she groaned and went to make the tea herself.
Twilight’s quarters within the halls of Canterlot Castle contained, like most of the guest rooms, a small built in kitchen room off to the side. As the lavender unicorn stepped into said kitchen room, her nose was filled with the sweet, soothing scent of hot tea. “Mmmm. Spike?” She asked, finally opening her eyes all the way.
In her tired, troubled mind, Twilight expected to see a young and always eager dragon assistant. Instead, she saw a much older and more pony (alicorn, specifically) shaped figure. One with white fur and a mane that glowed with every color of the rainbow available.
“Not quite, I’m afraid,” the Celestia chuckled.
“Princess,” Twilight smiled.
“I thought you would be tired after staying up for so long studying,” the alabaster alicorn informed her. “So I made you a nice wake-me-up.”
Twilight gave another loud yawn, despite her attempts to stifle it. “Thank you, Princess. How did you know I was up studying all night?”
“Simple,” the raining Diarch grinned, “I know you. After learning what Luna had to offer, I was sure you would waste no time in jumping into studying it. And maybe practicing too,” she pointed both with her words and her hoof at her faithful student’s horn..
The young spellweaver blinked, then looked up at her horn to see that she still wore the black band from Princess Luna’s training session the night before. “Oh, I slept with it on. That can’t be good for me.”
Celestia just chuckled. “It’s fine, Twilight. My sister would not endanger you with that trinket. I’d imagine it does make things...difficult though.”
“No kidding,” the librarian complained, and aimed her focus at the warm hot cup of mind clearing goodness sitting on the kitchen table that her brain so desperately craved. But try as she might, she could barely even picture its color long enough to get a good magical grip on it. “I still don’t understand anything about the magic your sister is trying to teach me.”
The older Matriarch nodded. “I understand your worry, my student. But be patient. Luna’s methods have...varying results. The nature of her magic sort of demands that.”
“But how am I supposed to even move a cup if I can’t concentrate on it. It’s just so...frustrating,” Twilight sighed, her efforts still in vain. Deciding that practice was not worth the tea getting cold, she knocked the ring from her horn in one hoof swipe and brought the cup to her mouth the old fashioned way: with properly applied telekinetic energies focused around it.
The ancient alicorn of the sun watched her young student’s mind clear up visibly as she sipped the hot leaf liquid. “The best way to view it is that you are attempting to do magic...without casting a spell.”
Twilight let out a hot steamy breath as she let the tea soothe her aching head. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense, Princess.”
Celestia grinned at her young student. “I’m sure she’ll explain it to you better than I can. She invented it, after all.”
“Really?” Twilight said in amazement before sipping another mouthful. “Is that why you haven’t taught this form of magic yourself?”
The warm face of the Princess suddenly turned sour, a weathered expression draped across her beautiful eyes. “No, well, perhaps, but it was not the only reason. There is far more to it.”
“More to it?” the young unicorn’s ever curious mind demanded to know.
“I’m sorry, Twilight Sparkle,” her teacher said before turning toward the door. “I don’t know if I can explain it to you just yet. Besides, the royal duties call to me, and I’d hate to keep my dignitaries waiting,” she lied. “We will continue this conversation at a later time. My sister asked me to tell you that, tonight, you will meet her at her personal quarters just before sunset. Her room is across from mine, if you did not know.”
“I didn’t,” Twilight Sparkle confessed. “Thank you, Princess.”
“You’re welcome, my always faithful student. And remember, my sister likes you a great deal. She would never do anything to harm you.” With that, the Solar Sylph was gone, closing the door behind her.
The young enchantress could not help but notice the rather cryptic words, but her still dragging mind decided she would figure it out later.
Twilight stood, still sipping at the remains of her morning tea. She looked at the clock on the wall, judging that it was nearly nine. “Time flies,” she chuckled to herself, before placing the cup down and looking, indignantly, at the floor. There, as if mocking her, was the black ring of shadows. “I will master you,” she dared the thing, before levitating it above her, and dropping it over her horn.
The day passed fairly quickly for Celestia’s personal student. She did not see either princess the entire day, though she was aware of Luna’s nocturnal nature and that Celestia would be busy for most of the morning and afternoon. Twilight was used to that. She had witnessed first hand how hard a Princess’ life could really be.
Still, the young sorceress was far from without things to do for the whole day. She spent some time catching up with the royal guards around the palace, most of which she knew by name. Few knew about the enchantment that was placed on the armor of every royal guard, except for the high rank officials, to keep their identity anonymous. Twilight, however, could recognize most of them by their mannerisms, and those she could not, she recognized instead by their voice. She was surprised to find a lot of new faces in the guard, and that some of them had retired.
When she inquired about the whereabouts of her brother, Shining Armor, she found out that he was away with his current charge on a diplomatic mission. Nor would they tell her who that charge was.Twilight, for obvious reasons, was suspicious, but decided not to pursue it.
After her exploration of the palace, Twilight made her way to the Royal Library, specifically heading for the Starswirl the Bearded section. Few ponies were so honored for their work with a whole wing in the library dedicated to them, and none were as big as his. Surely the unicorn who invented time travel would have some information on emotion driven magic.
Remembering this time that, as Celestia’s personal student, she was allowed into any part of the library at any time for any reason, Twilight asked the guard politely and walked right in.
See? She thought to herself, Wasn’t that so much easier than sneaking in with a catsuit like a dumb little filly?
Twilight sighed. It had been a month and her subconscious mind still would not let that one go.
The actual search of Starswirl’s reports and journals did not bear the fruit she had hoped for. Night Magic was nowhere to be found anywhere amongst the mountains of documentations, both experimental and not, of Starswirl’s many achievements. Twilight groaned in frustration many hours later as she lay on the last few stacks of books and scrolls. The Princess’ dodging of her question earlier did not help matters.
“What is with all this secrecy?” she asked nopony. “Was an entire form of magic just...struck from the books? And why is Celestia of all ponies so unwilling to have it come back?” Frustrated beyond her normal bounds, both from unanswered questions and from her current, self-induced inability to use her magic, Twilight did what any sane pony in her situation would do. She threw the book she currently had in her hooves at the wall, and picked up the next one, daring with her eyes to not contain the info she needed.
“Starswirl the Bearded’s Study of Young Foal’s Magic. Huh?” she read aloud. It was not what she had been searching for, but it was certainly interesting.
Baby unicorns often received various fluxes of powerful magic when they were younger than a year. She had always attributed this to an instinctive know how of magical properties, but some stories she had heard were of foals using forms of magic that were either immensely advanced, such as levitation and phasing, to some that were outright impossible even for the most skilled magician, such as complete invisibility and even transmutation.
“Maybe,” she thought for a moment, putting this already known two and the more recently revealed two together. “Maybe there’s more to this.”
With that, Twilight delved right in.
It was hours later, the sun gently drifting toward’ its resting place beyond the horizon, that Twilight Sparkle made her way up the long staircase toward the royal quarters of the Sister Sovereigns. At the top of the stairs were the two doorways that separated the private rooms of the two immortal empresses. There, standing between the two doors, was the tall white Alicorn Twilight had studied under for so many years.
“Hello, Twilight,” she smiled as brightly as ever.
“Princess,” she cheered. “Were you waiting for me?”
“I was. I wanted to speak to you a moment before Luna arrives and begins your lessons.” The tall demigod stretched her neck as Twilight finally stood before her at the top of the stairs. “Have you been wearing that Shadow Band on your head all day, Twilight?”
The young unicorn blushed. “Yes. I decided to keep at it, even though living without full control of my magic has been rather eye-opening. I don’t understand how Earth Ponies do it, sometimes.”
The ancient matriarch chuckled. “It is good to change one’s normal perspective every now and then. It gives a healthy outlook on things that are important to us.” She walked forward and embraced Twilight in a friendly nuzzle. “I’m very proud of you, though. Luna made the right decision in choosing you. Your diligence to her way of teaching will serve you well the coming night. Did you make any progress, by the way?”
“I did!” the small spell weaver beamed. “Though it wasn’t easy.”
Earlier that day, a few hours before the sun began its descent, Twilight was still in the Royal Archives of Starswirl the Bearded. She had read Starswirl the Bearded’s Study of Young Foal’s Magic around three times now, and was prepared to test her hypothesis.
In the middle of the room lay the book in question. Twilight Sparkle, standing about ten feet away with her horn band still in place, focused her attention on the tome.
“I want it,” she demanded to no one in particular. The tome did not seem to hear her demand, and sat there as lazily as an inanimate object could.
“I want it,” she said more forcefully, glaring hard at the object of her bane. The tomb remained indifferent to her wants.
“I want it, I want it, I want it,” she called out, her voice growing louder and louder, even beginning to stamp her hoof. Still, the book did not move.
Twilight Sparkle, the unicorn who had mastered teleportation, repaired a dam even as it was crumbling to pieces, and lifted an Ursa Minor and a water tower full of milk at the same time, could do nothing against a single book that sat only ten feet from her. This would not do.
“GET OVER HERE YOU STUPID BOOK!”
The next thing Twilight knew was a small, slightly familiar spark from her horn, and then a sudden, blunt pain in her face.
The door that sat behind the lavender librarian suddenly opened, and out came two members of the Royal Day Guard, each with worried expressions.
“Miss Sparkle,” the first one called.
The second spoke next. “We heard shouting, is everything alright here?” Both guards looked around the room. Besides being rather messy from the unicorn’s searching, the room appeared otherwise safe.
Twilight groaned and shook her head as she recovered from the blow. She looked down to see the book that she had worked so hard to move sitting gently at her hooves. She let out a low chuckle and wobbled a bit. “Fine, just fine, thank you, but you six can leave.”
The two guards shared a worried look before the young unicorn fell over.
“Oh my,” Celestia gasped as her young student told her the story.
“It’s ok, I was just stunned, I already checked with a nurse.” She tapped her hoof against her head. “I’ve been told I’m pretty sturdy, for a unicorn.”
The Sylph of the Sun gave a rather sly grin. “I would hope so, from some of the things you have done in the past. That aside, good work, Twilight. You have shown once again how talented you are.”
“Thank you, Princess,” Twilight’s grin was ear to ear.
“Come,” Celestia turned. “Let’s talk more about it inside.”
Twilight had expected her mentor to turn left, into the room marked with a sun. Instead, Celestia waved her hoof, and the door to the right, the one marked with a full moon, waved open for them.
“Um, Princess,” the younger unicorn said, as she followed her mentor inside. “I know you and your sister are close, but are you sure she won’t...mind?” Twilight’s thoughts stalled on her as she looked around the room of the Midnight Maiden.
To say that Princess Luna’s artistic talents extended to more than just the night sky would be an understatement. The wallpaper was a dazzling combination of large dark blue with tiny white specks that seem to stretch forever. The bed that sat against the back wall, next to the window, was a huge bed easily fit for ten ponies, though considering the size of most alicorns, maybe only five, and was covered in symbols of spiders and bats. Even the floor was a soft, light blue, the soft rug under her hooves depicting an image of the Earth itself below her.
For a brief moment, Twilight was sure she had stepped into space.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” the Princess finally asked as she walked into the middle of the room. “She made this all on her own.”
Twilight slowly recovered her ability to speak. “It’s amazing. You told me that Luna was an artist, but I never knew how talented she was.”
“An artist?” the sun monarch echoed, a look of shock stretched across her face. “She really said...Um, yes, she is quite the artist isn’t she?”
Twilight furrowed her brow as she turned to the alicorn. “Princess, is something wrong?”
Celestia’s face scrunched, and she let a blush flow over her cheeks. “Oh, darn. I was hoping to keep up my guise a little longer.”
“Huh?” Twilight blinked.
Princess Celestia walked to the center of the room, and then began to glow. At first, the glow was the warm light of the sun that Twilight knew so well, but suddenly that glow was replaced by a cool and soothing light, and the form of Celestia melted away, swirling around and shrinking slightly, transforming into the more angular form of Princess Luna.
“Gotcha,” the Starlight Guardian grinned.
“But...how...you...” Twilight stammered, trying to find words for what she had witnessed.
“Oh come now, my dear student,” Luna giggled. “You saw me pull off this trick on Nightmare Night, remember?”
“Yes, but...you were turning into Nightmare Moon, who was sort of you anyway...” Twilight cringed at the realization of what she said. ”No offense.”
“None taken,” Luna dismissed with a hoof.
“But I didn’t know you could transform yourself into someone else so...completely. You even matched her voice.”
“Such is the way of my magic. This was a demonstration, Twilight.” The Moon Princess grinned wide. “One day, even you could learn to transform yourself so perfectly.”
“But how can your magic do that, when normal magic cannot?” the studious librarian inquired.
“Because,” Luna said, looking out the window at her work tonight. She briefly wondered if she had done a good enough job with Orion. He was always a stubborn constellation. “There are certain aspects of life that one simply cannot fathom in the conscious mind. Things like actions and ideas are limited to what we know of them. It is difficult to explain in words, which is partially why my sister’s magic will never be able to replicate it.”
“I’m still confused,” Twilight scratched her head with her hoof.
“Let me put it this way,” the younger matriarch turned back to her new student. “I could copy Celestia so well because I know Celestia. I know how she acts, how she moves, and how she feels, all instinctively, so I don’t have to constantly think about every little detail of my disguise. With her magic, just thinking of the words you want to say could prevent her hair from waving, or revert you to your original size. A sudden startle could shatter the disguise entirely.”
“Oh,” the lavender sorceress finally felt the pieces click.
Luna gave a node. “You see now? My magic allows me to simply feel like I am Celestia, and then I am. Though, as you know, it is not that simple.” The Lady of the Stars sat down on her own bed, gently moving herself into a comfortable sitting position. “Tell me, Twilight. Have you ever, even once, done something...unusual with your magic? Maybe in a fit of anger or frustration?”
Twilight’s eyes lit up as a memory did come back to her. “Well yes. There was this one time, I was trying to study Pinkie Pie.”
“The party pony?” Luna asked with a concerned eye.
“Yes, she has a strange ability to sense the future with body movements.”
“...An odd ability.” Luna scratched her chin. “I have never heard of such a power. Especially from an earth pony.”
“Yes, but, that’s besides the point,” Twilight steered the conversation. “When I got...rather fed up with her lack of explanation, I sort of...became fire for a few seconds.”
“Became...fire?” the far older mare slowly repeated.
“Well, it was mostly my mane,” the young spell weaver expounded. “Pinkie and Fluttershy said that my coat turned white, my eyes turned red, and my mane and tail were, literally, fire. Not just on fire-”
“But as fire itself,” Luna finished. “Yes. That is remarkable, Twilight Sparkle. That kind of raw transformation, so extensive, is a very powerful incantation. I would have been happy to hear of your fur changing color, but to become an element, even for a few short seconds, is astounding.”
Twilight Sparkle felt her cheeks burn warmly. “Why thank you, Princess.”
“It also gives me all I need to know about your Catalyst.”
Luna looked deep into her new student’s eyes. “The Catalyst is the emotion that every unicorn is tied to the most. It will guide you more than any other in your quest for power with the Magic of the Moon. Yours is anger, or frustration maybe, which are fairly common.”
Twilight’s face twisted a bit. “I...have to be angry to use your magic?”
“No,” Luna dismissed. “But using it that way will be far easier to you than anything else.”
The lavender librarian let her frown speak for itself. “Why did it have to be anger?”
Princess Luna frowned with her, and gave a sigh. This was often hard. “Twilight, your Catalyst doesn’t mean you’re an angry person, or anything like that. You are still you. In fact, anger usually shows itself in ponies just like you, quiet and reserved. A Catalyst is often the opposite of a unicorn’s most expressed emotion.”
Twilight did not appear convinced. She stared down at the Earthly pattern in the rug under her hooves, trying to find Equestria. She briefly wondered if Luna had made this rug from visual memory.
Luna sighed and smiled. She then patted at the side of the bed she lay on, both to draw her young student’s attention, and also to invite her. “Come on, sit on the bed with me.”
“Huh,” Twilight gasped slightly. “But, that’s your bed, Luna.”
“So?” the ancient alicorn snorted. “As my bed, I reserve the right to say who can and cannot sleep on it. Now hop up, little filly,” she teased.
Twilight felt her cheeks flush again, but she complied, moving toward the huge monster of a bed that Luna was laying on. Immediately as her hooves touched the mattress, Twilight knew that it was the most wonderful of beds. Soft and yet supportive, not pressured springs or sloshing water. No, this was a cloud mattress.
Upon just sitting on it, Twilight was convinced that she loved cloud mattresses. She felt like she was floating in the air, except it was warm and supportive. The knowing smile on the alicorn across from her only made the young student’s cheeks betray her more.
“Good...and tonight, after we’re done with that, maybe the two of us could just, you know, hang out? Talk? As friends?” Luna put the invitation out with all the grace of Applejack trying to lie. “That is to say, if you're willing to stay up that late...I took the night off with Night Court so...”
Twilight finally spoke up, smiling. “So like a sleep over?”
Luna’s eyes lit up. “Yes! Yes, exactly like a sleep over.”
Feeling like a filly again, the young librarian smiled ear to ear. “I’d love to, Princess.”
“Good,” the Midnight Mare smiled back. “Then let’s get started.”