"Yes, yes, yes. I get it already. 'The stars will aid in her escape', you've told me this night after night, week after week. I still don't know what any of that is supposed to mean, but at the very least, I know who you are!"
Luna pointed a hoof at the figure. In return, it simply stared blankly at her. "Do you, young princess?"
"Well... no. I saw you the other day, so I at least know you're real - I just don't know your name."
"Time will give you the answer you seek."
Time? So she was supposed to just... wait? All of this time and effort, and the first real answer she gets out of her dream is to be patient? She could scarcely believe it. "That's... that's it? I just wait, and it'll drop into my lap?"
"Wait and see, young Luna."
It was the first time any pony - or rather, any thing - within the dream had called her by name. It certainly wouldn't be the last. Like all the other nights before, she bolted awake and groaned, rubbing her eyes before rolling out of bed. She was getting better at controlling the shaking that usually accompanied her dreams, and she made it to the bathroom with relatively few problems. Before she could give her face a splash of cold water, however, something in the mirror caught her eye. Luna could hardly believe it, at first - for a very long time, she stared at her reflection, not sure what to make of it.
"...has my coat always been this dark?"
She gingerly touched her face, attempting to make sense of what was happening. It had been very gradual, so gradual that she hadn't even noticed until now. Her coat, typically a dark blue, had slowly managed to become even darker, and had begun to resemble something akin to a grayish purple. It wasn't just isolated either - further examination showed that this was occurring all over her body, and a small part of her wanted to panic.
"Okay, maybe... maybe this is something I'm just growing into. I mean, the doctors said my growth had lagged behind a bit and I would catch up. Maybe I'm just growing into it! Or maybe..."
Her thoughts turned to a darker subject - Night Mare Moon. Night Mare Moon's coat had been jet-black, and Luna's was gradually getting darker. Her mind made a leap of logic, and she found herself absolutely terrified at the result. If Night Mare Moon had a dark coat, and hers was getting darker too... what if some small part of Night Mare Moon was still inside her? Luna shyed away from the mirror and slowly crawled back to bed, surrounding herself with Philomena and Selene, and as many of her toys as she could. She wanted desperately to stop thinking about her, but she couldn't. She would find no rest from it, not even in her sleep.
"I didn't expect you to be up this early, little sister. Did you sleep well last night?"
Luna groaned and put her head down on the table. "No."
"No? Did you have a bad dream, Luna?"
"...something like that."
She heard her sister set her fork down and walk up beside her, though she did everything she could to avoid looking right at her. "Would you like to talk about it?"
Luna sighed and picked up her head, turning to face Celestia. As she thought about it, she realized she didn't really have anything to lose in talking about it. Might as well say what was on her mind, right? "Well, I got up last night and went into my bathroom."
"And I saw that my coat had been getting darker - I mean, a lot darker. You see it too, right? I'm not going crazy or anything?"
"No no, I see it too."
"And I thought that... you know, my coat was getting darker. And Night Mare Moon had a really dark coat too. And I thought that maybe..."
"You got scared that you were going to slowly turn into Night Mare Moon, didn't you?"
It was hard to admit, especially in front of her own sister, but... yes. She had been absolutely terrified of such a thing. Luna slowly nodded, and received a comforting nuzzle from Celestia in return.
"I understand why you might be scared, Luna, but you're just growing up is all. The doctors did say your growth was lagging a bit - you're probably just now getting caught up on it. Besides, Night Mare Moon is banished forever. She's gone."
"Yeah... I kinda thought that might be it. I just got scared is all. Thanks, 'Tia."
Luna wordlessly left the dining room, leaving her sister to eat in peace. She did feel much better after being reassured by Celestia, but something else was bothering her now - she had the strangest urge to go out and play in the sun.
It wasn't often that she came out to the training field. The only times she and Celestia both came out here was typically just to inspect the royal guards and make sure they were up to snuff - still, nothing said that she couldn't come out and get a bit of exercise herself. The few guards that weren't on duty found themselves running drills, though most were thankful to be doing so in the autumn air rather than the summer heat. Luna had mostly wanted to just walk about in peace, but unfortunately for her, one of the drill instructors saw her and assumed she was here to conduct inspections.
"Alright maggots, front and center! Stand at attention, and not a single movement or I'll have you scrubbing toilets the rest of the day! Princess Luna, the guards are ready and awaiting your inspection!"
She froze upon hearing her name - she absolutely dreaded doing inspections and typically let her elder sister do most of the talking. It was all a big misunderstanding, however, she maybe she could still wiggle her way out of it. Quietly, she approached the rows of guards and coughed to clear her throat. "Um... at ease, gentlemen. I'm not here to do inspections. I was just passing through is all."
The drill instructor, a grizzled old stallion, blinked at her. "Just passing through?! But whenever you and Princess Celestia arrive, it's always for inspections!"
"Yes, well... you're wrong on this occasion, sir. As you may or may not be aware, I was given medical instructions to stay within Canterlot for the next year and to regain my strength. I assume that is not an issue?"
"Of course not, your Majesty. You just... disrupted the training is all."
"I disrupted the training? I seem to recall a certain drill instructor putting a stop to all training because he assumed I was here to do inspections. By right, I'm free to travel where I wish within Canterlot. My arrival does not mean you may assume things and jump to conclusions."
The drill instructor had visibly shrunk once Luna had begun to lay the pressure upon him. She wasn't finished with him yet, not by a long-shot.
"I seem to recall an old rhyme regarding assumptions, drill instructor. Would you kindly recall it in front of your men?"
"To... to assume makes a mule out of you and me."
She smiled and gave him a pat on the back. "Very good. The next time you see either myself or my sister, you are to continue all drills and training unless we personally tell you that we're here for inspections. Do I make myself clear?"
"Y-yes, your Majesty."
"Thank you. Dismissed."
With that, Luna gave her wings a good stretch and took to the skies. It had been ages since she had flown, and it felt surprisingly good to feel the wind beneath her wings much more. She found herself hopping from cloud to cloud, making a game of it, as she raced the sun itself. At one point, she tripped and landed face-first on a cloud, but it wasn't like it hurt at all. In fact, she had forgotten that they were this fluffy and soft - it was almost like a bed. She hadn't gotten much sleep anyways, so nopony was really going to mind if she gave her eyes a rest, right?
She wasn't quite sure what was going on. Luna recognized where she was, of course - it was their old castle in the Everfree Forest, from when their parents were still alive. But she didn't really understand why she was in this particular place. All of her other dreams had her in a black space, and never any specific spot - why was this one different?
Nervously, she glanced around and began to trot through the ruins. A thousand years had taken its toll on the place. Windows were shattered and broken, and stone bricks lay scattered upon the ground. Moss and flora grew out of every little crack, and much of the roof was gone - the only other thing above her was the night sky. It felt positively foreign, but at one point, this had been home. A shriek pierced the air, and Luna felt her skin crawl. Her eyes darted about as she became increasingly paranoid, searching every bit of shadow to see what might be there... and then she saw it.
A blue horseshoe and a jet-black leg extending from it.
Her blood ran cold as her eyes slowly wandered up. She wanted desperately for it to be some other pony, but deep down, she knew what she would find in the darkness, and she wanted nothing more to wake up.
"Luna, my dear! Oh, it's been so very long since we last talked. I thought you had forgotten about me!"
Princess Luna was shaking like a leaf on a tree, and try as she might, she found herself frozen in fear. The translucent form of Night Mare Moon strode up to her, grinning like a cat who had cornered a mouse.
"What's the matter, dear Luna? Did you miss me?"
Night Mare Moon's tail brushed up against Luna in a deadly embrace, though the Princess was quick to snap it away.
"But just look at your coat! It's coming along beautifully... and soon, you'll be ripe for the taking."
"My s-sister said you were gone. Banished. And I'm just growing up is all."
"Bah! Celestia! Why are you even listening to her? She's a cancer! As long as you stay in her shadow, you'll never reach your full potential! All you have to do, dear Luna, is let me back in... and then we can show the world who the real Princess of the Night is."
Luna's body trembled - not out of fear, but of anger. Though she knew Night Mare Moon was no longer a threat, she needed to face her fears. Furious, she stomped her hoof, cracking the stone floor and sending Night Mare Moon recoiling. "How... how dare you! You honestly have the nerve, the gall, to show yourself in this sacred place? You insult my sister and think yourself fit to replace me?"
The tables had turned, and all too quickly, Night Mare Moon found herself on the receiving end of one-thousand years of pent-up wrath. Deep from within her, a spark came to life, and Luna brought it to the surface with a roaring intensity she didn't think she was capable of.
"I AM THE PRINCESS OF THE NIGHT! YOU - YOU ARE BUT AN INSECT TO ME!"
Engulfed in a swirling maelstrom of fury, Night Mare Moon's form was torn to shreds, her agonizing screams echoing out until nothing remained of her. Exhausted, Luna collapsed to the floor...
...and found herself waking up on the same cloud she had fallen asleep on earlier. Hours had passed, and already, the sun was beginning to set. She knew it was just a dream in the beginning, but... it all felt so real at the end. There was one thing she was curious about, however. After getting to her hooves, Luna took a deep breath and searched for that same spark she had felt in the dream.
She smiled, pleased with herself. She had found it.
Luna giggled as she heard her own voice echo for mile after mile. She knew this was going to be terribly easy to abuse. Pushing off from the cloud, she silently soared back to the training yard, the guards all having left long ago. It was a bit eerie to be the only pony around in such a large space, but she was far too happy to care. She had conquered her fears, after all - all that was left was to gallop back to her room, grab Philomena, and crack open a good book.
My coat has completely changed at this point. A lot of the servants and guards used to stare at me for it, but they've gotten used to it. I've even had some compliment me on it - I don't get many compliments either. I've caught some of the younger guards staring a bit too much, however. I'll have to talk to the drill instructor once more and ask that they be given more training.
I've been practicing using my voice a bit as well. Celestia walked in on me using it once before, and jokingly called it 'The Royal Canterlot Voice'. I just may have to use that. It's fitting.
The dreams seem a bit more hit-or-miss though. I no longer have them every single night, but it's still often enough that it slightly concerns me.
It had taken a bit of adjusting herself, but Luna was beginning to like the darker coat - it suited her, given her official title of 'Princess of the Night'. In addition, within the past few days, she had given up on attempting to understand her dreams. All she really knew was that the mare in the dream was real, but that still left her without names or anything else. Besides, that same mare had told her to simply wait. She may as well do so without stressing over it.
The Princess slowly made her way to the Royal Library and pushed the doors aside. She had gotten word that the Library had just received a new shipment of books, and she was eager for some new reading material. Luna flagged down one of the librarians and asked the burning question within her mind. "So... just how many new books did we get?"
"Well lemme look here, Princess Luna. There's seven... eighteen... twenty-nine. Twenty-nine new books, straight from the publishers."
"Excellent! I'd like a copy of each, when possible."
The librarian sighed and regrettably put in the order. "You're killin' me, Princess. I'll put the order in, though. If anyone can give us a good review on what's good and what's bad, I'm sure the resident Royal Bookworm will take care of that."
"Oh, I'm the Royal Bookworm now, am I?"
"Just a joke, your Majesty. We've known ya long enough to know your limits."
Luna smiled and nodded, turning and making her way out the Library. "I wouldn't have it any other way."