Luna’s Story 3: Long Live the Night
Part 3: Scorch to Cinder
Big Macintosh was pretty miserable, to tell the truth. He wasn’t the sort of pony to complain about every little thing, or even do much more than grunt when he hurt himself on the farm. But, there was a certain line to draw when it came to his current situation. He was chained to a massive dais, pulling on the chain that bound him to it. The bit in his mouth was blessedly cold compared to his heated surroundings, but that’s not really what was bothering him the most. There was a great, fiery beast lying atop him, weighing him down onto his belly. He just didn’t know what to make of her. The orange of her fur seemed to swirl back and forth with an inner light, and her mane and tail were living flame. She didn’t burn up, either, she just existed that way. Like somepony had reached into a forge and pulled out a blob of living heat, then molded it into a pony. The crimson stallion grunted uncomfortably, pulling on his bit and chain again.
She was enjoying playtime with her pet. She’d quickly learned how fragile and sensitive he was to heat, and had turned down the aura just a bit so she could touch him. When he didn’t seem to want to pay any attention to her, she’d tackled him to the ground instead. Setting up residence on the stallion’s strong muscled back, she’d spent hours and hours just licking him behind the ear. Her hot tongue was long and rough like a feline’s. His frustrated sighs were music to her ears, so occasionally she would switch to chewing playfully on his ear instead.
Big Macintosh sighed, not really able to do much of anything. This was just plumb embarrassing. Keeping his face in its usual somewhat bored expression, he looked for a way out. The chain and bit in his mouth were pretty solid. But perhaps the platform he was hooked to could be broken? He was strong enough to kick a good-sized apple tree over, surely he could split a bit of stone? He turned to look behind himself when his captor let out a low growl. What was she on about now?
She rose from him, turning and perking her ears at the moon. She knew she was being watched again, she could sense it. Igniting her fiery aura, she went to the lip of the throne room balcony and cocked her head. Lifting her jowls to show off the rows and rows of teeth, she snapped at the celestial body angrily. The choker around her neck glittered with a smoky inner light, stark against her glowing orange fur and pink eyes.
Big Macintosh quickly rose, raising up and stamping hard at the obsidian platform. Making sure she was still entranced with the moon, he coiled his great muscles and tried to imagine a stone in his plowing fields. Crashing his hooves down upon the black rock again, he winced at the recoil in his ankles. She flicked her gaze back at him and he froze, looking around innocently. My, wasn’t the ceiling fascinating?
She cocked her head, then went back to growling at the spying moon. Molten metal began to drip from her mouth, hissing on the stone floor like acid. Drawing breath she belted a great cry at the pale sphere. Big Macintosh flung himself to the ground to cover his ears with both hooves!
Luna fell forward, panting heavily and drenched with sweat. Aegis Shield dutifully doused her with another tub of water. “I think that’s enough, Princess.” He said worriedly, scrubbing at her back to work out the heat. “Whatever you’re doing is hurting you.”
“Two looks is enough, yes.” She said, rising a little shakily and whipping herself about like a dog to fling the water off. “I saw what I needed to see.”
“My sister has taken up residence in the throne room of the palace.” Luna said, pushing her mane behind the ear. “She has one hostage, and can most certainly sense when I am spying on her.” She frowned and looked over at Aegis. They stared at each other warily. Suddenly Hammershot arrived, landing hard and flaring his wings when he bowed. Luna almost groaned. She hated the gesture, despite it being a point of pride to the orange Pegasus. “Report.” She barked when he rose.
“Ponyville has been evacuated, your majesty.” Hammershot said quickly. “There are several Lunar Stallions re-checking some of the buildings to make sure nopony is hiding out.” Luna nodded her approval. “What should we do now?” he asked.
“For now it hasn’t occurred to my—” it very suddenly occurred to Luna that almost nopony knew exactly what was going on. “Muster the Lunar Stallions. I want them all right here.” She stamped at the floor a bit.
Within fifteen minutes it was so. Aegis Shield took point, arranging them in a proper grouping of five rows of ten. They weren’t used to such a formation, since not all of them were present, but they made do. To one side was the bandaged solar guard that had crash-landed into the festival. She’d been revived enough to stand, thank goodness, and did so with as much dignity as she could. Her armor had warped from the heat and then rapid cooling, so she couldn’t don it again. The stallions regarded her cautiously, not used to having a female in their formation. Luna cleared her throat a bit to call attention, and as one they snapped to salute.
“Lunar Stallions.” Luna said, addressing the corps. “Something terrible has happened, and we must inform you of the implications before we leave Ponyville.” She paused, trying to choose her words carefully. But, she couldn’t think of any gentle way to say it. The stallions watched their Princess fight an intense mental battle, then sag and give up. “My sister Princess Celestia has become a monster.” She said. They gasped, and a murmur rippled through the group. Aegis Shield turned his head about, glaring them into silence. “She has donned a black necklace that once belonged to m… to Nightmare Moon. I spied on her via the moon moments ago,” she gestured skyward. She winced, still trying to separate herself from her darker half. “It has attached itself to her neck and is feeding her all the hatred and feral violence that was ever poured into the bauble.”
There was a long silence, and Stalwart Hide leaned forward to ask aloud, “W-what can we do, Princess Luna? How did this happen? Can we undo it?” he was voicing the thoughts of every stallion (and the one mare) present.
Luna looked unsure, but did her best to explain. She’d not been the head of a military force for almost a year for nothing. But, she’d not ever thought she would be giving this particular speech, either. “Pen Maker! Step forth!” she called the unicorn forward. He went to her, bowed, and she steered him to face his fellows. Leaning, she struck the eye in the center of his breastplate. His dark fur turned a shade darker as his armor retracted, and his serpentine eyes went from gold back to their normal soothing blue. The lunar medallion appeared around his neck, and Luna pawed at it as an example. “Imagine one of these, meant for an alicorn.” She told the entire group. Their brows rose in shock, but she went on. “Imagine one thousand years ago, when we were Nightmare Moon. The same magic I used to create the Lunar Stallions and the Moon Champion, I used to make another medallion. A master medallion.” She paced back and forth, frowning angrily at the ground. “As I began to stage the coup to overthrow my sister, I knew I would need to assure that all of my Lunar Stallions were with me, and had no doubt that we would win.” She gestured, letting Pen Maker return to the ranks. “The Lunar Stallion armors are purple, and the Moon Champion’s was white. The one I made for myself was as black as night. As black as my jealousy and possessive hatred.” She sighed.
“What happened to it?” Aegis Shield asked, speaking for the group.
“I forged the armor and compressed it into a medallion, much like the armor you all wear now.” Luna gestured, and more than a few stallions looked down at their chests. “If you remember, Nightmare Moon wore armor at all times? It twisted my body into an odd and lithe shape to compensate for its powers. It was… addictive.” She admitted, pacing again. “When my plans were complete to enact the coup a thousand years ago, I planned to don it and lead the Lunar Stallions into battle against my sister. Connected to me thus, they would all follow.” All the ponies present listened with morbid interest. This was certainly not something they’d ever seen in a history book or learned in academy.
“Then what happened?” prompted Stalwart Hide.
“I failed.” Luna said a little snappishly. Stalwart shut his mouth, looking to one side to avoid her glare. “Celestia donned the Yoke of Harmony before the armor could fully embrace me and struck me down. The rest, as they say, is history.”
“So it was like the Moon Champion? It made you crazy?” somepony in one of the rows asked.
“I was already mad with jealousy. You might think of the black necklace as a… magnifying glass, for my powers.” Princess Luna tried to explain it clearly. “You must remember, Celestia was always the older and more powerful sister. She insists that we are twins, but truth be told there is a bit of time between us.” she let a moment pass in silence so that they could soak all this in. She heaved a great sigh, then spoke. “Celestia put on the black medallion, how she found it I do not know, for it was hidden. Now that it is around her neck, she’s become something else entirely. A… monster.” She finally forced the last word out, ears turning back.
“Well let’s go grab her and rip it off!” somepony in another part of the gathering said.
“If you know somepony that can lay his hooves on the very sun without being scorched to cinder, please, let us know.” Luna snapped. The speaker wilted, and Luna sighed. “It will not be that easy. The necklace was going to augment all of my powers so that I could fight Celestia and win. Now Celestia is wearing it, and she’s augmented beyond anything ever meant for an alicorn to have. She’s become… feral. So bloated with power and magic that her mind is gone.” That was the best word she could come up with.
“It’s true.” The mare stepped forward on shaky hooves, hissing at her bandages. “I only got a glimpse before I got away, but…” her lip quivered a little. “She’s like an animal. I saw her kill a whole group of ponies just by shouting at them! They burst into ash like it was nothing.” She shuddered at the memory. The Lunar Stallions murmured warily, looking at each other.
“What can we do, Princess?” Aegis Shield asked firmly, frowning back at the corps to silence them again. “We’ll do everything we can to help, just tell us what to do.”
Luna looked over the group, swallowing a little. She got brief flashes of the great wars of old, and the terrible battles that happened. And here she was with fifty soldiers against Celestia herself? “We must return to Canterlot, and gather thy brothers.” She said after a moment of careful thought. “After that, we will make plans about what to do about Celestia.” She couldn’t believe she’d said that out loud, but it was the truth. “For now she lingers content in the palace, but when she grows bored and decides to leave…” she didn’t need to finish that sentence.
The Lunar Stallions looked at each other, then back at their Princess. It was Stalwart Hide who spoke next. “We’re ready, Princess. We’ll follow you anywhere.” He said firmly. Luna smiled at the confirming nods of all those gathered. Such loyal, handsome stallions, the lot of them.
Luna cocked her head suddenly, her ears turning. It was almost time for dawn. It hadn’t occurred to her that the feral Celestia might not know to raise the sun. Looking troubled, she turned about and reached with powerful magics. Rearing up, thrusting her hooves high and spreading her wings, she lowered the moon slowly. Darkness washed across the land and the only comfort in the inky blackness were the stars. Luna waited in silence, shushing any that tried to speak. They waited a long time, but there was nothing. No touch of pink on the horizon, no blast of peach and light that signaled dawn. The dark alicorn turned, swallowing a little. “She won’t raise the sun.” she said. “Or she doesn’t know how.”
She cocked her head when the pesky moon went away. She’d been up on the lip of the balcony, baying at it like a wild animal. Then, without any explanation, the pale circle went away past the horizon. Perking her ears, she listened and sniffed for any sign of more spying. Nothing. She was alone now, save herself and her pet. Nickering and tossing her mane a few times, she jumped down from the railing with a loud clop. She’d won! She’d scared the moon away! Thrusting out her chest, she closed her eyes and tilted her muzzle up regally. Basking in her own strength for a bit, she returned to the throne room.
Big Macintosh lay on his side, trying to sleep. He’d been awake for almost a day, and the heat of the place wouldn’t let him sleep. So, he’d laid down and closed his eyes, hoping that the exhaustion would help drive him into the darkness of sleep. No such luck, for it got hotter when she approached. He looked up at her, frowning. She paused to nip at him affectionately, then went straight down the stairs of the dais and to the main floor below.
Stopping when she stood in the dead center of the place, she looked around. It was so empty. This simply wouldn’t do. She was still holding many of them from before. It had pulled them all into darkness, but hadn’t killed them yet. They would be more useful alive, when she needed them. Cocking her head, she hunched forward. Pulling forth something large from the abyss of the space between spaces, she started working her throat and abdomen. She began to gag and haulk audibly, drawing Big Macintosh’s gaze. What was she doing now? Was she going to be sick? She stamped her fiery hooves, sending sparks across the floor and leaving huge indentions in the tile. Haulllllk! Hauuuulllk! Gag! Hauuuulllk! Gag! Gag! Gag!
Plop. A slime-covered sack of some kind finally dropped from her jagged maw. It wiggled and turned over like a jumping bean, and she stepped back. Leaning over it and scratching at it with her hoof, her jowls lifted into a terrifying smile. An onyx-black hoof suddenly burst from the fleshy sack, spilling something gooey across the floor. Big Mac’s eyes turned to pinpricks of terror, but he couldn’t rip his eyes away from the horrific nightmare he was witnessing. Out of the twisted cocoon emerged a grown stallion, wet and red with afterbirth.
He’d been there when the fire had broken out. He’d been the one to shout ‘Charrrrrrge!’ when Celestia was being engulfed by darkness. Now here he was at her majesty’s side again. Struggling to his hooves like a newborn foal, his legs quivered and dripped goo all over the floor. She watched him peer about curiously, reborn as something more useful than before. He let out a high-pitched whinny scream, rearing up and exposing triangle-shaped fangs in the process. Spotting his mistress, he pranced over to her and rubbed his face affectionately on her breast. She nickered with approval, but didn’t return the gesture. When he stepped back, she touched him with her horn. His warped, melted armor bubbled into motion, melting down over his face to form a visor and slits for his mouth. He almost looked like a robot pony by the time it was over, for barely any of his fur could be seen anymore. He was like a large, golden beetle with black hooves. He made to rub up against her again, but she stopped him with a savage growl. He recoiled a little, whining at her.
She took him to the entrance of the double-doors that led out of the throne room, thrusting him to stand in a certain spot. He did so, planting his hooves loyally. Turning, she returned to the center of the room to repeat the gruesome process while Big Macintosh watched. The red stallion felt ill, very ill. Visibly shaking, Big Mac took his chain in his teeth, desperately tugging on it harder than ever before. He had to get out of there. Hauuulllk! Hauuuuullk! Gag! Gag! Gag!
Luna was perched on the edge of a cliff, hovering in the air with her front hooves above her head. Eyes shut and teeth clenched, she was flapping hard just to stay in place. Her mane was disheveled and beads of sweat worked down her face and breast while she heaved at something. The Lunar Stallions looked on in awe, gathered in a loose semicircle behind her while their Princess tried her very hardest to raise the sun. It looked like it was seriously draining her, but she hadn’t given up yet.
Lunar magic was not meant to grasp at the sun. It had been easy for Celestia to move the moon, no doubt, because it was a cold rock. The sun, on the other hand, was a molten ball of eternally burning fire. It didn’t have a definite shape, a solid mass to grasp, nor a particularly safe way to move it. The Princess of the Night struggled hard. Perhaps she could form a force field around it and use that to tug the whole thing upward? No, not even she could make a shield that big. A solar wind, perhaps, to shove it over the horizon? No, what if it fell right onto Equestria and killed them all? There was some secret to moving the sun that Celestia had never shared with her sister, and it was driving her mad. Luna roared in frustration, her eyes glowing white and her horn blinding any that looked directly at her. Eventually, though, her spell went out and her concentration broke.
The alicorn tumbled to the ground, landing with an ungraceful bump and losing a few feathers on the way. Aegis Shield rushed to help her to her hooves, and she wiped her brow fretfully. “I can’t do it.” She panted, shaking her head. “It’s too big. Too hot.” The gathering of ponies wilted. “I’m sorry.” She said, resting on her belly for a long few moments. They brought her water and a cloth for her face. She drank deeply before she was revived. “I could raise the moon again, that would at least shed some light on the land.” She stood again with Aegis’ help, looking to the other horizon. “I don’t know what is worse, there being neither a sun nor a moon in the sky, or the moon coming up a second time with no dawn. I can only imagine what sort of ‘endless night’ rumors this is going to start up.” She grumbled a little despite herself. Aegis Shield opened his mouth to get her to rest, but her horn was already aglow again. She raised herself up on her tired wings, thrusting her hooves skyward in a jubilant expression of unfathomable power. The moon jerked from beyond the horizon, and set itself on its normal course across the sky. Luna sighed a little guiltily, watching it as she landed. “Until we’ve gotten all this sorted out, it seems it really will be an endless night.” She drooped from all the magic and effort of trying to move not one but two celestial bodies.
“Princess, you’re exhausted.” Aegis Shield said with concern, coming to help her stand up straight when he saw her tilting to one side. “Moving the sun and moon must be immense!” he said it loud enough that the other ponies gathered around nodded and murmured in agreement. “You need to rest. We can’t go charging into Canterlot if you’re not at your best, right?” When Luna didn’t answer, a little stubborn with her pride, he looked over at his brothers in arms instead. “Right?” he said, giving them a severe look.
“Right!” they chorused.
Luna sagged a little, a bead of sweat blinding her in one eye as it rolled down her face. Finally, she nodded her submission to the idea. All the magic from performing for Nightmare Night, moving the moon and trying to move the sun had exhausted her. She couldn’t try to save Celestia like this. “A recess then.” She finally panted, putting a slow arm around Aegis Shield. “But be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.” The Lunar Stallions brightened, nodding and promising it would be so. “We’re on the eve of battle, my stallions.” She said as Aegis helped lead her away to rest. “Spend this night as you please.” She bade them to relax as best they could. Aegis coaxed her into an empty house at the edge of the square. When the door closed and the light flicked on, the corps melted into wary conversation and quiet murmuring. Princess Celestia herself? They could not imagine a more dangerous foe.
End of Part 3