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Twilight Sparkle opened her eyes to the familiar sight of her library. At least she thought it was her library. A quick glance around told her something was off. She could not quite put her hoof on it but something was definitely wrong. Perhaps if she looked around a bit she could figure out what was off about the library. She inspected her bed. It was made and the sheets were neatly tucked in. Maybe the kitchen was off, but it seemed to be fine as well. It had to be the books then. She looked at the bookshelves. Those seemed alright, the titles were properly sorted, the books were upside down of course but that seemed to make since because she was walking on the ceiling. Then it hit her, she was walking on the ceiling. Then there was this large wooden throne sitting in the center of the room. The throne was occupied by the most peculiar of creatures, a draconequus. “Discord!”
“You shout my name like clockwork, Twilight Sparkle.” Discord giggled.
“What are you doing here? Put my house back the way it’s supposed to be!”
Discord sighed, “Do we really have to go through this again? Come on now Twilight. We’ve been at this a whole month now. You know how this works. You wake up in a strange place, shout my name, then we have a bit of dialog. You then are exceptionally rude to me. I, like the kind soul that I am, turn the other cheek and then we play a game. You have a hollow victory, I say something chilling. Then I snap my fingers and you wake up none the worse for wear, but perhaps a little bit wiser.”
“What?” Twilight found her memory to be a bit hazy at the moment.
“Ah dreams, such a difficult medium for chaos. Look, dear friend….”
“You’re not my friend.”
“See? There’s the rudeness! Ahem, as I was saying. I’m tired of the same routine every night. Why don’t we just talk for a bit? I know! I can give you a dream, any dream you want. So what will it be? You’ll probably want Luna in there.” Discord snapped his fingers. Princess Luna faded into view. She was comfortably sleeping on Twilight bed on the ceiling, which was the floor, but the ceiling comparatively from where she was standing. Gravity was confusing at the moment. “So what do you say? I can give you any dream you want about Luna. What will it be?” Discord pulled at his beard for a moment, “Oh, you know I just realized something. You hardly know little Lulu do you?”
“I know her very well.”
Discord snaked around Twilight’s body, pressing his cheek to Twilight’s cheek, “Really? How much do you know about her time on the moon? Her birth? Her hoof in founding Equestria? What about Nightmare Moon? That’s a big part of little Woona’s past.”
“Nightmare Moon is gone. Defeated by the Elements of Harmony.”
“Just as I was defeated? Twilight you like books. You know that history always repeats itself.”
“Then you know already that you’re going to lose!”
Discord snorted, “You cheeky miniature horse. I’m really trying to do a nice thing here for you and just continue not to trust me. Why? Is it the beard? It’s the beard, isn’t it?” Discord summoned a cup of tea and sat down in a large bath tub that had just appeared. “Listen. If you want a relationship with Luna you'll need to understand this part of her. Let me explain...”
“She’ll tell me when she’s ready.”
“You don’t know her like I do Twilight; she’s not just going to tell you about her biggest mistake. Admit failure? Not like Luna at all.” Discord scratched the underside of Twilight’s chin, “They are two sides of the same coin, if you want to be cliché. Without knowing the mare in the moon you only know half the story! And I do know you love stories. You’ll need to know all about Luna’s dark side.”
Twilight indulged the draconequus, “I do love stories. Speaking of a dark side, why don’t you tell me about yourself and the Elements of Harmony?”
Discord coiled off of Twilight and stood with his back facing her. Luna slept oblivious on the bed above. With a slow turning motion, Discord careened his neck to face Twilight. Discord had always been intimating, but the look on his face at that moment was horrifying. Twilight was not sure she would ever forget the sheer anger in his eyes. Discord raised his hand up and prepared his fingers to snap, “Dark side! I have no dark side! I’ve always been about chaos, freedom, and mischief. I’ve never been darker than that. I’ve been heroic once. And ponies never let me forget it. With all the thanks I get I’ve had good reason to be, but never was I what you could call dark! Let’s turn you to stone so you can see how painful a process it is!” His claw shook slightly as he stared at it. “No. I don’t turn ponies to stone.” He released his fingers and looked up at Twilight. “Well congratulations, Twilight Sparkle, you’ve officially made me lose my train of thought. Have a medal. Have two.” A few ribbons and trophies appeared next to Twilight. “Now, where was I?” Discord placed a thin pair of reading glasses on his face and pulled small book off a nearby shelf. He rapidly flipped through pages mumbling to himself, “Let’s see… dreams of discord… Celebration of Harmony… lullabies… morning in Canterlot… a bunch of traveling… ah here we are… Nightmare Moon. That’s what I was going to talk about.”
“I don’t want to talk about Nightmare Moon, that’s for Luna to talk about and only if she wants to.”
Discord placed his paw over top of his face, “Listen, Twilight, I’ll be honest here. I’ve only got a very little amount of time left before you wake up. And it’s critical that you learn this lesson today. If you don’t want to have a discussion like a grown mare then fine, we’ll have to do it my way. I just thought you might want to change it up a bit. Mix and mingle with different methods. You don’t, that’s fine. I thought I could spare you of this. I just want to warn you this is going to hurt. Alot. Very well then: game time. This one’s called Friend and Foe.” Discord snapped his fingers and a swarm of books pelted Twilight until the world faded into darkness.
When light reappeared, Twilight found herself in a blindingly bright room. To her left, Princess Luna was standing majestically staring off to the side with determination. Twilight heaved a sigh of relief. Then she followed Luna’s gaze. To Twilight’s right side stood Nightmare Moon. The two Alicorns stared each other down. Luna wore a determined glare in contrast to Nightmare Moon’s confident smirk. Discord flashed in between the two mares and smiled devilishly at Twilight. “Divided now in the princess’s duality, your choice shall mark her mortality. Two halves make a whole complete. One stands, the other falls in defeat. But beware for life is far from simple, to your morals I throw this wrinkle: Without the other one cannot breathe, it’s up to you on how you grieve.” Discord laughed and touched the Alicorns on the head with the tips of his claws. The color drained from each creature and they lunged at each other. Twilight was pushed back by Nightmare Moon’s prehensile mane. Luna reared her front legs and kicked Nightmare Moon in the face. Starry mist surrounded Luna and affixed itself around her neck. Twilight listened as Luna gasped for air. “You better stop one of them before the other one dies.” Discord chuckled from his position floating in the sky.
Twilight charged forward and tackled Nightmare Moon. Without her friends to harness the power of the Elements of Harmony, she had few options. Luna was freed from Nightmare Moon’s grasp. Magic focused in the Alicorn’s horn. In a blast of darkness, Nightmare Moon was sent flying across the room. Twilight turned to Luna and gave her a tired smile, “That’s it, Luna! We can beat her if we work together!” Luna ignored Twilight and charged forward, taking flight briefly to tackle Nightmare Moon. Moon retaliated with a swarm of magical bats that bit into Luna’s wings, shredding them to pieces. Nightmare Moon trotted around to give herself charging distance. Twilight panicked. Luna had fallen to her knees in pain from the damage to her wings and Nightmare Moon was going to trample her. The lavender Unicorn had no choice but to charge in and face Nightmare Moon head on. She galloped faster than she had ever galloped before, her mane streaked back by the wind. Twilight stood in front of Luna and steeled herself to tackle Nightmare Moon. The charging Alicorn picked up speed and lowered her horn, ready to skewer Twilight. Twilight tried to create a force field, but she could not seem to concentrate with Luna’s pained breathing behind her. Nightmare Moon galloped closer and closer, but Twilight stood her ground. Nightmare Moon was only inches from Twilight’s throat when a voice cried out.
“Stop! Cease!” Everything around Twilight froze, as if time had halted. Discord descended from the sky and placed his face next to Twilight ignoring the now statue-like Alicorns. “I know I told you this was a dream but you could really get hurt here! Were you really willing to risk your life for Luna?”
Twilight nodded, “She’s my friend! She said I was her best friend!”
“Commendable… but stupid! Risking life for friendship.” Discord snapped his fingers and Nightmare Moon was now facing the opposite direction. With another snap, time resumed. Nightmare Moon charged off in the distance before turning around. Luna had risen to her feet and pushed past Twilight to resume fighting. Twilight quickly teleported in between the two Alicorns and cast a force spell. The combatants were forced apart by the Unicorn’s magic, but were not deterred from fighting. At this rate, Luna was going to get herself killed! Twilight teleported to the air above Nightmare Moon and tackled her. She placed her hooves over the mare’s eyes. With a swift strike of her mane, Nightmare Moon crushed Twilight on the ground. “Again? Luna must be some friend, Twilight Sparkle. Or is it that she’s more than a friend to you?”
“Shut up Discord!”
“If only you would be truthful. Perhaps you should spend some time with Applejack.” The Alicorns charged each other with Twilight in their path. She was going to be crushed between the two until Discord snapped his fingers once more. The ground gave way all around Twilight. Chunks of land fell into a pool of fire. Luna and Nightmare Moon scrabbled to dig their hooves on the edge of the newly formed cliff. Both dangled close to Twilight with pleading looks on their faces. The Unicorn reached out to grab Luna, but as she did, Nightmare Moon slipped. Twilight hated Nightmare Moon but she could not just let her die. She reached over to help the mare of darkness up to stable ground but Luna began to slip as well. High in the air, Discord was suffocating himself laughing. “As you can tell, Friend and Foe barrows quite a few elements from Choice, all that’s missing are the cries of help!”
Twilight could only save one. That was the grim reality. Discord was wrong however, it was not even a choice, she compulsively reached for Luna. She clasped her teeth on Luna’s mane and pulled her to the safety of the platform. Nightmare Moon let out a bone-chilling shriek as she fell into the pool of fire. Luna looked down at the mare as she melted in the lava, twitching and tussling as she burned. Discord floated down from the sky. “So it seems if Luna ever became that monster again, you wouldn’t hesitate to kill her.”
“No...” Twilight went to protest but Luna was screaming. Her body had spontaneously caught on fire and she was turning to ash. Twilight cried out and went to reach for her but the heat was too great. It was over in a matter of seconds. Twilight screamed and burst into tears. She clutched at the ashes with her hooves. “I don’t understand! You killed her! You burned to for no reason!”
“Not I. You let her fall into the lava. Not me. This is the consequence of your actions.”
“No, Nightmare Moon fell… I saved Luna! I saved Luna! I saved her!” Twilight’s eyes were covered in a waterfall of tears.
“They are two halves of the same coin.” Discord placed a paw on Twilight’s back as if to comfort her. As if he was sharing her pain. “Oh, poor Twilight. One cannot be without the other.”
“No, that’s not it at all! I was trying to save her… from Nightmare Moon.”
“Luna is Nightmare Moon, you can’t change who she is.”
“Gone? Yes quite so. Funny, you know I always thought I would be the first to lose my morals and resort to killing. But here it was you all along!”
“I…. didn’t kill her! I did not kill… her!”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, my little pony. You thought you were slaying the monster. But the monster was your friend all along.” Discord gave Twilight a hug. “There, there. It’s okay. It will all be okay soon.”
Twilight was sobbing uncontrollably, “She’s gone. How could I? How could I do that to Luna? I just wanted to save her….”
“Luna only? What about Celestia? If she was the monster would you kill her too?”
“I… that would never happen….”
Discord chuckled, “We’ll see about that.” Twilight heard a snapping sound.
Deep in the extravagance that was her bedroom, Princess Celestia’s eyes flickered open. The princess of the sun sat up in bed. Something was not right. She could feel it. Celestia pulled herself to the side of the bed and climbed down. She walked over to the window. There was only one window in the royal bedroom, but it climbed three stories high and held a view of all of Equestria. Celestia stared out at the night sky. The sound of thunder bellowed ominously accompanied by a sky full of dark clouds. It was a scheduled storm, but its effect aligned with her heart so greatly she wondered if it was a sign. Celestia had thought back to what she had told Twilight not but this morning, “Dark times upon us, indeed, my student.” A crippling feeling gripped at her heart and she recognized. She recognized it so very well. It was a feeling she had not felt for at least a year. With a heavy sigh, Celestia opened the door to her chamber. She had not even bothered to don her crown or armor. She walked quickly down the hallways. A few night guards noticed her but she dismissed them rather curtly. Celestia walked down the stairs of the eastern tower, she trotted down the stairs behind the main hall and she galloped down the stairs of the gate room.
Shining Armor sat sleeping on his desk in the room of judicial affairs. Celestia approached him with a stomp of her hoof, Shining Armor jolted half awake. “Let me guess! Somepony stole your cupcake?” He shook his head vigorously. He knew he should not have given the approval for his first officer to take a vacation day. He knew he was going to have to cover his shift. “Oh! Forgive me Princess Celestia. Late nights… You… are missing your royal vestments.”
“Come with me Shining Armor.” Celestia demanded. It was not a tone he was used to hearing out of her, but it made him comply to her orders no less. He quickly dusted himself off and wiped a bit of drool from his mouth. Celestia walked at a brisk pace towards the direction of the dungeon staircase. Surely she was not planning on visiting the prisoners in the middle of the night? Celestia stood at the door to the stairwell, “Open the door, Captain.” Shining Armor nodded and unlocked the door magically. The two ponies began their decent into the depths of the dungeon, stopping only for Shining Armor to light a torch. They must have climbed down eight flights of stairs before the hallway evened out. The halls of the dungeon echoed with the singing of the Changeling Queen. As they neared, the creature called out to them.
The Queen mimicked Celestia’s form and voice, “Oh, look the princess herself is here for a visit.”
“I have no time for the likes of you.” Celestia said quickly as she passed without a glance. Shining Armor gave the Queen a chilling glare as he past. It had quickly become clear to the Captain of the Guard where their destination was, but he could not fathom why the princess would choose to go there in the middle of the night. Soon they had reached it, the small metal platform at the edge of the bottomless pit. Celestia sighed, “If you would, pull the lever.” Shining Armor rubbed the back of his neck with his hoof. “Is something wrong, Captain?”
“I don’t want to go down there. Not with that thing. Hey, everypony is entitled to that one thing that scares them, right?”
Celestia nodded, “I understand; I shall not be long. Wait here.” She understood his fear. Never had there been a creature she had hated more. As the elevator creaked down the track, Celestia felt the cool breeze of the cave rush across her coat. The torch light faintly outlined the shape of the large statue that sat in the center of the pit. As the princess stepped off of the platform a bright spotlight lit the statue’s form. There he was the spirit of chaos. Encased in a static world of unchanging stone, just the same as she had left him. She took a bold step forward. Most ponies feared the draconequus, but Celestia only held rage in her heart for the beast. “DISCORD!”
The word echoed throughout the dungeon. The room rumbled and a few pebbles broke off from the ceiling. But the statue did not answer her call. She waited patiently, if Discord was indeed awake, or even in the process of awakening, he would not pass up the opportunity for a dramatic entrance. Celestia sat motionless for a solid ten minutes, petty time to an Alicorn. Finally she spoke again, “What are you planning?” Again silence, “Answer me! You fool no pony. I can sense your essence. It is begging to be released. But you are completely sealed and yet I cannot shake this feeling.” Celestia was again met with silence. She had not wanted to do this, but the feeling of dread in her heart was compelling enough. She walked up to the statue and began to cast a spell. After a few seconds, she fell to the floor, in a deep slumber. No matter how coy he was trying to play, he would not resist a chance like this.
There was a cackle, “No, you’re right. You know me too well Celestia.” Celestia looked up A miniature version of Discord was resting on top for the statue. “Well, well, well. What have we here? You’ve come to pay me a proper visit. You even put yourself to sleep so we could chat? You haven’t done that in over three thousand years. Well since you’re here I have a few complains to file with the landlord. First of all when you moved me into this new place you said the view was breathtaking. Oh, it’s breathtaking all right, so breathtaking I became a statue just to stop breathing. I want my spot in the garden back. It’s abysmal down here and that pony down the hall won’t stop singing!” Celestia got to her feet. “Are you even listening? Don’t you have a survey I can fill out or something? A complaint sheet, perhaps?”
“No more small chat, Discord.” Celestia said in a stern tone. Discord put on a mock serious face and nodded profusely. “You are going to tell me your plot now, or I will smash this statue once and for all!”
“Really? You’d kill me? I’m touched. I had no idea I was so menacing that I could turn the incorruptible Princess into a common killer. I dare you to do it. Who knows? Maybe smashing the statue will release the seal. We’ve never tested that before.”
“I feel it. Something is coming. I just know it’s you! What is going on?!” Celestia stamped her hoof like a young filly throwing a tantrum. Which with respect to the two gods’ ages it might have actually been appropriate.
“Oh, well how can I know what's going on? I've been in this dungeon of yours, alone, helpless, bored to tears. Just how do you know I’m going to be involved? If I were you, I’d watch that sister of yours.” Discord crossed his arms, “You should ask your dear student. She might know.”
“Leave her out of this!”
Discord grew in size and the lighting dimmed in the cave, “I didn’t bring her into this! That was all you, Miss Order!” Discord shrunk in size, “Now then, while I appreciate company. I’m very busy brooding. I think it’s time for you to leave.” Suddenly the statue of Discord came to life and lunged at Celestia’s face. “BOO!” Celestia was started awake.
Twilight Sparkle awoke in a sweat, her face streamed with tears. She attempted to wipe her tear and when her vision cleared, found Princess Luna standing above her. The blue Alicorn had a concerned look on her face. She sat down next to Twilight and opened her mouth to say something but then decided against it. Twilight got her crying under control rather quickly. She had just had the most terrible dream. A dream where Luna had perished in flame, and while the memory of the dream was rapidly fading, she was pretty sure it had been her fault Luna expired. However, Luna was clearly fine and it truly had been just a nightmare. Luna was beside herself, when Twilight had awoken screaming her name she had not the slightest idea what her role as a comforter was supposed to be. She knew that she was supposed to calm her friend down, but she had not the faintest idea how. She finally decided to say something; after all it could not hurt, right? “You… were not lying when you said you had been gripped by nightmares as of late.” Twilight gave Luna a warm smile and shook her head.
“What time is it?”
“It is three in the morning. You are up rather early. At least I think you are. Are you going to be alright?”
“I’ll be fine. It’s just a dream. They can’t really hurt you.” Twilight got out of bed and trotted down the stairs.
“Where are you going?”
“Since I’m up, would you like some tea?” Luna nodded and followed Twilight down the stairs. Twilight levitated a kettle on the fire and dropped a few tea leaves in with her mouth. Luna watched intently. To be honest, it had been several thousand years since she had made any food herself and even brewing tea seemed foreign to her. It was as though she had forgotten that food actually had to be prepared by somepony before it looked and tasted like it was supposed to.
“Are those dreams getting better or worse?”
Twilight stopped to consider for a moment. On one hoof they had started containing Luna, so that was a good thing, but on the other hoof they were getting more and more traumatic, “Worse I think.” Twilight glanced over at Luna. She wanted to ask her something, but was unsure how. “Luna…. What was the moon like?”
Luna looked away, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Sorry, you don’t have to. I was just hoping to get to know you better. I feel like we’re close, but I know so little about you.”
Luna sighed; she really did want Twilight to know more about her, “Perhaps your right. It was… expansive.” Luna narrowed her eyes in thought, “It was cold. I remember it being cold. It was so very cold. There was nothing around my body. No air, no wind. We were so very cold.” Luna’s pupils vanished from her eyes, “We have never felt so alone. Our hooves push the colorless sand away with each step. The dust rises and settles slowly, like we are under the ocean. It is not like water, we remember water presses against us like Sister’s embrace. The moon has no embrace. It takes away all contact. We feel like our insides will leave our body, no longer constrained by the embrace of air. But they do not, for they fear the sky. The sky was so vast, an endless array of stars that never leaves the horizon. It made us feel small. It threatened to engulf us. It would swallow us in its black maw, its twinkling teeth rending our mind. It has no color, we want to paint it. The moon is only gray. We cannot paint it. Sister took our paints when we were bad. The world taunts us eternally; it never takes its sight away from us. It is a blue eye, watching us, laughing at us. It pretends to beckon but will not invite. It has color! It has our paints. We want them to paint the sky. We try to run from its gaze. Only in the dark are we safe from it. But the dark is worse, it is not our dark. It is foreign and wrong. We try to call out but the moon will not carry our words. It will not let us speak. Our screams ring in our ear but cannot leave our mouth. Once they pass our lips the moon takes them. It never gives them back. We yearn for an echo but one does not come. We scream louder. The moon deafens us. We screech until we have no voice for centuries, but the moon will not speak back to us. Time passes. Time passes but we know not how long. But we know because Sister’s sun moves. We know this means time. We remember the concept of time. The moon has no time. Sister’s sun means time. Sundial in the garden. We remember a sundial where she practiced for the first time. Sister. We have no sister on the moon. Just us. And the sky. The sky will swallow us.” Her voice was still eerily calm, but Luna was shaking and cowering. The room had grown dark.
“The moon. We won’t go back. We can’t. There is no color there. How can we paint? We want to paint the sky, but it will eat us if we touch it.” Luna’s voice became panicked, “We won’t go back. We remember the sundial, we have learned. We won’t go back! We like our voice, we don’t want the moon to have it again. It is our voice. Thou cannot makest us return!” Twilight leaped forward and embraced Luna, trying to comfort her as she babbled like a mad mare. “No! We want to stay here! We will not go back!”
“Luna! Luna! It’s alright, you’re not going anywhere. I’m right here.” Luna struggled in Twilight’s arms. “Luna, I’m here for you. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” For the next hour Luna repeated the protests, each time getting quieter and softer. “I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.” Luna’s eyes returned to normal and she cried in Twilight’s warm embrace. Luna stared up at Twilight with tears in her eyes.
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“I have much to be sorry for….” Luna sniffled. She did not want to, but she pushed out of Twilight’s embrace. “I need some time alone.”