Octavia bowed her head low, then looked up to her guest, nodding slightly in answer to her question. “Your Highness, yes, I have a companion tonight--” she began, but she was interrupted by a quiet call from one of the Guards.
“Your Highness; Madam Octavia... a gentlecolt approaches.”
Octavia tensed up somewhat as she opened her mouth to explain. “Princess, please understand. If you would rather my mate not be here tonight--”
The alicorn interrupted her once more with a peal of silvery laughter. “Octavia, please. Settle yourself! If this gentlecolt is your mate, then he is more than welcome - especially in your own home.”
Octavia’s eyes widened. She hadn’t expected Luna to be so accommodating. She could only watch in a rather shocked state as the alicorn turned slightly to address her Guards.
“Sirs, please kindly allow entrance to Madam Octavia’s mate.”
As she finished her sentence, said stallion came skidding to a halt in front of the house, his horseshoes grinding across the cobble. He came to a stop mere inches from the gate, panting slightly around a collection of paper bags held in his jaws.
“Er...” he started.
“Sir, you may enter.” the sturdily built Guard before him replied, allowing him to pass through the front gate. He simply nodded gratefully in reply, trotting past the guards with a slightly sheepish look aimed in Octavia’s direction.
“Ebening, Yur Highneff.” Sketchy slurred, his speech impeded a bit by the bags he was holding.
“Good evening, sir. Were you on errands?”
“Uhm! Yes!” Octavia blurted, her tense feeling starting to dissipate. “My apologies, Princess. I sent him to fetch some refreshments for tonight.” She smiled and stood to the side of the entranceway, gesturing with a hoof towards the main room. “Please, come on in, the both of you. My home is of course your home.”
Sketchy nodded politely to the Princess. “Ladief firft.”
The Princess smiled, an amused giggle colouring her speech as she stepped inside. “Octavia my dear, are you alright? You seem dreadfully tense this evening.”
The smaller mare let out a short gasp as she stepped inside, followed by her stallion companion. “I, ah, I am fine, Princess. I was simply worried, you know, with having someone else present whilst you are visiting - but I see now that it is okay.”
“I see!” the princess nodded, turning her eye upon the larger of the two earth ponies as she made her way on into the main room. “Sketchy dear, I see you have taken a more vested interest in our dear cellist than simply friendship and musical recreation!” she called as he set down the bags he’d been carrying.
Sketchy nodded, grinning as he followed on through to the comfortable surroundings of the main room. “I have indeed... I dunno how much she’s told you, though I’ll happily tell you that it was me that confessed to her first. That was just before the Summer Equinox Celebration. You know the extra piece she included at the end? That was her response.”
“Aha! It makes sense now!” the alicorn stated with a delighted clap of her front hooves. “I do recall, certainly noting your descent into a somewhat catatonic state shortly after its conclusion. I had wondered over that briefly.” Her attention moved back to Octavia as the latter joined them. “Tavia dear, why did you not explain to me at the time the significance of that piece? Certainly I was aware of some level of its meaning, but I did not realise it was so deep as that.”
Octavia let out a small sigh of relief, glad of the fact that the stallion’s presence was no problem. “Well, Princess,” she explained, parking her hindquarters on the chair nearest the front window, “I did not want to bring up personal affairs when the night was for you and your sister, and the changing of seasons and hailing your glory.”
Luna smiled fondly at the little grey mare trying to explain herself. “My dear, I would have loved to have known the whole story behind the piece. Now that I do, its musical significance is far deeper than before.”
“I do apologise. I need to watch my assumptions.” Octavia replied, finally starting to relax. Her settled demeanour was rather rudely disturbed, however, by Sketchy speaking up as he settled himself on an empty patch of floor for the time being.
“So Luna, Tavy’s teaching you violin?”
The cellist’s head whipped round and she stared at Sketchy with wide eyes, almost gasping at his sheer lack of manners towards the princess. Her stare was met with a brief smile from the stallion, one which silently said “trust me!”. She was just about to consider scolding him and apologising to the alicorn he had addressed, when her train of thought was rather badly derailed once more as Luna spoke up.
“Yes, Sketchy. Before my incident, I would play day and night. Mostly night.” She let out a giggle at her own little joke, and then went on. “My sister was very much into her studies and magic practice, so I would play music for her as she practiced in order to keep her mind at ease. I spent many a night doing so.”
“I see... so, now that you’re back, it’s a case of blowing the dust off your old skill, essentially?”
“Haha. Moon dust, perhaps?” Luna replied, nodding her head. “It is indeed the case - and Tavia here is more than a jewel helping me get my hooves back in shape, as ‘t were. You see,” and with that she leaned her head forward and lowered her voice conspiratorially, “I have not told my sister I am playing again, and I intend to surprise her some day soon.”
“Ooh!” Sketchy replied, perking up a bit at the idea. “What a wonderful thought! I bet she’ll be surprised!” he grinned, picturing how Celestia would no doubt react to being given such a lovely surprise.
As for Octavia, she had leaned back in her seat, her mouth hanging open slightly. She couldn’t find words to put in the space. The Princess was quite happily chatting away to Sketchy without a care for the fact he had quite clearly been impolite to her - and not only that, there was not a hint of worry on either side that what was being discussed was too personal.
Luna apparently noticed her tutor’s more persistent than usual silence, and she turned her questioning gaze upon the earth pony. “My dear Tavia, so quiet. Have you not divulged any of this to him?”
“I... only a very little amount. I was unsure I should share such things. I apologise, I realise it is probably silly of me - not least as Sketchy and I are together nowadays.” Octavia replied, blushing a bit as she took into account how much she had worried herself without reason.
“To be fair to her, Luna, I haven’t exactly been prying.” Sketchy pointed out. That elicited a peal of silvery laughter from the Princess, as she thought over how incredibly secretive the cellist must have been.
“My goodness, Tavia! Perhaps you underestimate the amount of trust I have in you.”
Octavia stared blankly back, taken somewhat by surprise. Granted, she knew very well that Luna must already have some trust in her - after all, were that not the case, she would not currently be tutoring the alicorn. But to hear her state it so plainly, with the implication that there was something she had missed...
“Princess, ple--” she began, but she was cut off by Luna’s clicking tongue.
“Tavia, please. Enough of that.”
From the side came a suppressed snort of laughter, as Sketchy rather obviously found the situation hilarious. Luna disregarded that for the time being, as she trotted over to her tutor and delicately set a front hoof on the other’s shoulder.
“My dear, here, in this moment, there is no need for such formalities. You must relax! Remember the times I have been playing, and you are sat listening to me do so - and then when I fumble or slip and make a screech, we share a laugh? Like that, my little pony.”
The strings player slowly lifted her eye to Luna’s, a smile slowly spreading across her face. “I do like those moments... Luna.” she replied, finally finding the will to drop the title from her address. “I like those a lot.”
A quiet clop of hooves meeting sounded from the side, as Sketchy clapped his front hooves together happily. “You see? I told you so, Tavy!”
Luna turned her attention back to him, making her way back to her position on the couch. “Aha, so there was some forethought regarding this, was there?” she smiled, clambering back up on the comfortable sofa and stretching out a bit. “And what kind of conversation led to such a plot, hmm?”
“In a word, friendship.” Sketchy replied, casting his mind back a few days as he answered.
It had been a rather lazy day - considering that Octavia no longer had a hectic schedule of composition and regular rehearsal to attend to, she had far more free time on her hooves. That had meant, much to the delight of both, a lot more time spent together.
They had therefore taken the day off of normal life to simply enjoy some of the summer weather, and had wandered around the city before visiting the Royal Gardens. Even though the Summer Equinox had passed, Octavia’s special permission to enter the Gardens had not been revoked. She had been granted permission prior to the Equinox for the purposes of providing her a more or less guaranteed tranquil location to focus on her compositions if required. After having been shown around for the first time, she had gladly made further use of her privileges on a regular basis - and though she was no longer putting together a composition for either Princess, it seemed that neither one had seen fit to stop her from continual visits if it pleased her.
The day hadn’t been without excitement, though: when she and her stallion companion had stopped for lunch, she had been somewhat startled by a puff of blue smoke erupting from her bag. It was something she was used to by now, but it still took her by surprise at the time. As expected, however, it had been a letter from her star pupil--indeed, her only pupil--detailing when she would next pay a visit. It was at that time that she had explained to the slightly puzzled Sketchy why she was receiving such a letter - and had also asked if he would attend, this time.
That had gotten them onto the subject of the Princess and her behaviour as they had made their way back to the cellist’s cottage, with the sky overhead beginning to turn orange as the sun sank towards the horizon.
“I do love this time of day.” was all Octavia had said as she took in the pleasing sight of her home city cast in the waning light of day.
“You and me both.” Sketchy had agreed. “As I said to you before, I think the two most beautiful times of the day are the ones that have a bit of both Celestia and Luna wrapped up in them.”
“Mmm.” Octavia had nodded as she went on. “I always wished to ask Princess Luna about the night; about how it feels to paint such beautiful imagery in the skies. I feel like I may be overstepping the boundaries of our relationship, were I to do so however.” She had smiled at that, adding “As it stands, though, I am happy just being able to assist her playing.”
“You think so? If you ask me, I have a feeling she’d love to tell you, actually.”
“I suppose you may be right...” she had replied, lowering her ears slightly. An anxious tone crept into her voice as she glanced to her mate. “Do you think I should ask her tomorrow?”
Sketchy had flashed her a wicked grin at that, a teasing tone in his voice as he answered. “If you don’t, I might beat you to it!”
“Ahaha! Oh my, that would be a sight!” Octavia had laughed, a little nervously. “Although with that said, she is very nice. You know, when she and I were waiting on you after the Equinox concert, she told me how she had spoken with you after that one rehearsal. She told me if I did not look out that she happened to have a sixth cousin who is single.”
“Oh, is that so?” the stallion had remarked. His expression had been thoughtful but the mischievous spark in his eyes had given away the fact that he wasn’t giving it any serious degree of consideration. “A good job you snapped me up, then.” he had added after a moment.
It wasn’t long before the two were back in her home. Octavia’s instruments had been returned, and she had been somewhat nonplussed about some scuffing that had occurred on the case of her viola. Still, she had let the matter lie for the time being as she had seen to setting the kettle to boil, before flopping down on the couch.
“Ahh. The day has gone, the night has come, and my backside feels great on this couch. This, my original poetry verse.” she had stated, nodding her head self-approvingly. Her stallion companion had burst out laughing on hearing that.
“My advice honey? Stick with writing music.”
“Oh, I totally agree with you there!” the cellist had agreed, laughing herself. It was then that she had pointed out something that Sketchy had wondered about before, as she indicated a blue-lacquered violin sat on a stand in one corner of the room. “You see that violin, the one without a bow?”
“What of it?”
Upon that question, Octavia had risen from her seat and fetched the violin from its stand. She had set it down carefully on the table with the utmost care. The instrument itself was unquestionably a work of art; its smooth lines and precision cut pieces were bound together in such a way that it looked to be as good as seamless. Every angle and and joint was perfectly engineered, and the deeply lacquered finish showed neither scratch nor spot.
“This violin is well over two-thousand years old.” she had stated in a matter-of-fact tone as though such a thing were commonplace. Sketchy had whistled in an impressed fashion at that.
“It’s aged incredibly well, then. Whose was... or, is it?”
“Whom else could possess an instrument so ancient and yet leave it in the care of a humble cello player?” Octavia had replied, a melodious giggle mixed into her speech. The kettle had whistled then, as though trying to compete with her mate. “You get one guess!” she had told him as she headed through to sort herself some tea.
“Aha, of course!” he had called after her. “Well, I’d say this shows even more how much Luna trusts you - and how highly she thinks of you, too.”
Octavia returned, a cup of tea held carefully on a saucer before her, which she had set down on the table. She took a sip of her tea, and then nodded thoughtfully at Sketchy’s comment.
“Yes... I would say you are right.”
“You could probably talk to her about anything.”
“Mm-hmm, perhaps so. You know, when she is played,” she said, gesturing to the priceless musical relic on her table, “the stars you see in the lacquer become little notes? Ah, when Luna plays, I mean.” She had taken another sip of her tea, and then smiled. “Us normal ponies do not get such wondrous effects.”
“I’ll have to see that some time. But you know... you should ask her what you want. Goodness knows, she’s spent that much time away from Equestria and hence other ponies... she must be horribly starved of companionship, Celestia and the palace staff notwithstanding.”
Octavia had taken a long, thoughtful draw of her tea at that. When she spoke, it was as a soft whisper. “I did not think of it that way... perhaps that is why she comes here, and I have simply been incapable of perceiving it. You must understand, after all, I see her as the Princess. Not simply somepony in need of a friend.”
“That so? When she stops by, does she come here just on her own, or with her guards?”
“Oh, she has her guards, of course... they keep their distance, though. They do not come inside the house. Assuming you are here tomorrow you will see for yourself - or hear, rather. You do not tend to see them, but you can hear them walking about outside now and again. It is difficult to keep one’s movements hidden from someone with hearing attuned to even the subtlest of sounds.”
“Well there you have it.” Sketchy had affirmed. “She’s taking liberties to be as ordinary as she can.”
“You are correct, she is.” Octavia had nodded, a small smile spreading across her face. She took a few moments to look at the priceless antique sat on her table plain as day. An instrument that had sat inside the Royal Palace’s Music Room for generations upon generations, played for and by royalty, listened to by countless members of the highest echelons of society across several centuries... and it was sat here, in her home, upon her table. She was slightly dizzied by the thought, and she had hastily picked up her teacup once more and swallowed a large gulp of its contents.
“Have you ever had one of those epiphany moments? Where something suddenly become clear?”
“Every so often.”
“She... seeks a friend... and she comes to me...”
“...and that was more or less what brought us to here. Though I think Tavy just needed a bit of a push.” Sketchy smiled as he finished recounting the tale of the previous day.
Luna chuckled happily at the story. “Friendship is always a good thing to think of.” She turned her eyes back on Octavia once more. “You realise of course that what you thought was quite correct, and that I do indeed consider you my friend, yes?”
“I... you do!?” the grey pony questioned, her eyes once more growing wide.
“Of course!” the elegant blue pony laughed happily. “Why else would I spend so much time with you? Because you can teach me to play a violin? Because of your talent for composition? Oh dear me, it is quite more than that!”
“Just what I tried to tell her.” Sketchy grinned. “I mean, why else would you go to all the bother of coming out here, when it would be far easier for you to simply summon her to the palace?”
Luna nodded, another chuckle emanating from her. “Sketchy understands it, Tavia.”
Octavia smiled weakly, feeling somewhat foolish for having missed something that had been right in front of her nose for so long. “I am sorry, really. I just... I lose sight of certain things, I assume. It is just, I have never had any real friends before, so... I am learning a new skill myself, in the midst of all this.”
The Princess of the Moon raised an eyebrow at that. “My, my, my. The very cornerstone upon which our land is built, and our most learned virtuoso does not get to experience it? We shall certainly have to change this, post haste.”
“Well, my friends and I have been doing a lot about that, of late.” Sketchy grinned.
Luna’s gaze turned upon the stallion once more, a smile adorning her features as she nodded to him. “You are a good stallion, Sketchy. Take good care of my dear friend; she deserves to have somepony like you for her own - and she certainly deserves to have some good friends.” She then addressed said friend once more. “And you, my dear, my friend, must relax a little more.”
A warm smile spread on Octavia’s face at that as she nodded in reply to the alicorn’s good-natured gentle scolding. “I have been a lot different than I was before. I am sure Sketchy could tell you about my public appearance when we are together.”
“Under the facade she wears for the public, she hides a thoroughly adorable and child-like nature. And with all due respect to you, Your Highness...” Sketchy spoke up, looking over at Luna with a meaningful gaze, “Does that remind you of anyone?”
A mischievous smirk marrowed Luna’s eyes as she looked back at the stallion. “Let me tell you a little secret, Sketchy.” she said, leaning forward in her seat and lowering her voice to a hushed whisper. “Sometimes, just for fun...”
“...I like to put on my socks and slide down the hallways of the palace. The floors are perfect for it.”
There was a moment’s silence as the two earth ponies digested that information, and their minds swiftly painted a mental picture of it. Octavia was the first to burst out laughing, so hard that she almost fell from her perch.
Sketchy was the next to lose control of his mirth, managing an “I knew it!” between guffaws. Luna joined in the laughter, leaning back in her seat with a delighted smile on her face.
“You see, Tavia? Times such as these feel good, yes?”
Any vestige of so-called proper decorum had by now fled from Octavia, as she nodded enthusiastically to her friend, putting a hoof to her muzzle to muffle her laughter a bit.
“Yes indeed... my goodness, I would never have dreamed to ask about such a thing... but the very idea is so adorable!”
Luna’s grin grew wider as she laughed happily with her hosts. “Tell that to anypony though... and I shall banish you!” she declared, a serious expression on her face. She held it only for enough time for the cellist’s eyes to widen in shock, before the both of them cracked up again. At length, she turned her attention to the stallion once more.
“Ah... Sketchy dear, you brought along some snacks, yes? Tell me, would they happen to be of the same kind that I was treated to at the Equinox?”
“They are! I almost forgot, just a sec!” he smiled, getting up from his seat on the floor to retrieve the paper-wrapped sandwiches. “Tavy figured you’d want another taste.” he added as he trotted over to the hallway.
Octavia smiled, sitting back up properly on her seat. “Yes, I wanted to make sure you had lined your stomach after painting the sky.”
“So thoughtful!” Luna smiled, glancing back to the stallion as he came back through with the paper bags. “And you too, running off to pick them up on such short notice. A shame Salad is not here too, or I would offer her my gratitude as well.”
“Nothing we wouldn’t do for any of our friends.” Sketchy replied, fishing his sandwich out of its bag as his companions retrieved theirs.
“This is one amazing night, I must say.” Octavia commented, taking a bite of her snack.
“You’re welcome, dear.” Luna grinned as she swallowed a mouthful of hers. The cellist nearly choked as she laughed, quickly getting the princess’s little joke. The alicorn grinned happily at that, then cleared her throat. “Might I bother you for something to drink, Tavia?”
“But of course!” the grey-coated mare replied, rising to her feet. “Tea, mango water, or wine?”
“Is it that same tea that nearly set my head on fire?” the alicorn questioned, a thoughtful look on her face. Her question elicited an amused laugh from the cellist.
“Zecora’s special blend? Yes, I am afraid so.”
“I know your pain, Luna.” Sketchy piped up. He had, after all, tried the tea himself at one point. He had almost choked on the very strong herbal essences in it, which had rather amused Octavia. It had been a small practical joke on her part; the particular blend of tea that she drank was a carefully mixed blend intended to breeze through any blockages in her auditory canals. It was an intermittent problem that the cellist had, and she had found a solution in the form of said beverage.
“Water, please.” Luna replied, with a nod and a giggle aside to the stallion. “I should like to keep from singeing my coat.”
“I could go for some too, if you’d be so kind, honey.” Sketchy added. The cellist nodded to them both, and then disappeared into the kitchen to clatter around with bottles and glasses. Masked by the background noise, Luna’s voice caught the stallion’s attention.
“Dear, however did you run into our little musician in the first place? I swear that she never goes anywhere except to eat, play in the gardens, and go to concerts. The rest of the time, she is pent up in here playing to the walls.”
“Ah, that?” Sketchy smiled, turning his gaze on the regal pony sat across from him. “As it happens, I met her when she went out to eat - or to be more exact, Sally set us up. Invited her over for dinner, and me to the same event. She, ah, well, knew I was a bit of an admirer of Tavy’s.” he replied, blushing a bit at that last part.
“Aha, I see. You baited her into socialising with food.” Luna giggled, clearly amused by whatever mental picture she had painted for herself. “A cunning plan to be sure.”
“Did you say something?” Octavia’s voice questioned from the kitchen in a distracted tone.
“Do not worry, Tavia dear! We were just musing.” Luna called back, perking her head up in the direction of the musician’s voice.
Octavia returned, a tray of drinks balanced carefully across her back. She carefully set it down on the coffee table, taking her teacup from it and making herself comfortable on her chair once more.
“There we are.” she stated, taking a large sip from her cup. It made the alicorn scrunch her face up in a bit of a wince.
“I honestly have no idea how you can drink that.” she stated. Her tutor smirked, a wry grin crossing her features.
“I drink this so I can hear those fumbles of yours.” she returned, flashing the alicorn a wink.
“I’ve yet to see Tavy in action as a teacher.” Sketchy mused, swishing his tail idly in thought. “Is she a harsh mistress?” he inquired, a playful grin on his face.
Octavia feigned a shocked gasp. “Why, how dare you!” she said with a shake of her head, smiling at her stallion admirer before taking another sip of her tea.
Luna set down her glass, having taken a draught of it, and cleared her throat. “Oh, if only you knew! Why, there are nights I go home and have to soak my poor aching hooves for hours, to say nothing of the riding crop she keeps hidden for use on her more lackadaisical students!”
Octavia nearly spluttered her tea everywhere, and it was all she could do to keep from dropping her cup and making a mess as she almost choked. “WHAT!?”
Sketchy meanwhile started choking on the gulp of water he’d taken, laughing and spluttering everywhere. The princess looked suitably amused with her little joke, and she beamed happily at the two.
“Ahahahaha! I jest, of course! No no, she is a most wonderful teacher - even with all the time I have lived, I have never had a more caring, attentive and pleasing instructor.”
“You...! I almost keeled over!” Octavia exclaimed, shaking her head and letting out a sigh, though there was nevertheless a large smile of amusement on her face.
Sketchy, meanwhile, finally managed to splutter the water out of his lungs enough to talk between silent heaves of laughter. “You’re awful, Luna!”
The Princess of the Night rolled back on the couch, relaxing as she continued to fill the air with laughter along with her hosts. “Ah... just between us ponies, this is quite likely one of the most enjoyable nights I have had in a very long time. I hope we can enjoy more of these.”
“I would second that, Luna.” Octavia agreed. “I would very much like to have more moments like these.”
“Same here!” Sketchy agreed.
“I am glad to hear it! Besides, I have visited both of you at least once on your own, I was starting to wonder when I would have the opportunity to call upon you both at once.”
“You... have?” Octavia blinked, looking over at her mate with an air of surprise. “You never mentioned this to me, sir.”
“I guess I’m guilty of the same concerns as you, Tavy. I was actually going to tell you though - when you told me you were tutoring Luna, I realised that perhaps I should let you in on my little secret as well. But I guess it’s out of the bag now.”
“So it would seem, Sketchy! Speaking of which, how is that picture coming along?” Luna intoned, chuckling a bit at having caught him out.
“Your delightful likeness is very close to completion, my Princess!” the artist replied in a deliberately overblown fashion.
“Superb! I look forward to laying eyes upon it!” Luna replied, in turn hamming it up as she clapped her front hooves together with a laugh.
Is this the same Princess whom I have known all this time? Octavia thought to herself. How is it that I did not see this sooner? All these nights we have spent together as student and teacher, yet truly what she wanted was nothing more than friendship.
A thought from the previous day then returned to her, and she cleared her throat.
“Luna... may I ask you something?”
“Yes, my dear?”
Octavia’s eyes drifted briefly from the princess to her mate, then back again. She faltered slightly as she spoke, feeling somewhat apprehensive of the question she was about to ask - though far less so than she had done before.
“What is it like... to raise the moon and the stars? To... to paint such beautiful things in the sky? Both you and your sister create such amazing works every day and night...”
The slender alicorn sat up on her seat, her face creasing into a thoughtful look. “Well now, this is a little difficult to explain, but allow me to try.”
Off to the side, Octavia noted Sketchy smiling to himself - but her attention was stolen back by the room beginning to darken, lit only by a shimmering glow from Luna’s horn. A quiet “Ooh!” came from the stallion’s vicinity as he sat up to watch what the princess had in store.
The shimmering light from Luna’s horn intensified, and the backdrop of Octavia’s living room seemed to melt away into nothingness. In its place, the surrounding space became as blue and bright as the sky, lit brightly with the glow of the sun as Luna began to speak.
“When the sun becomes tired and seeks rest, my sister reaches out and guides it home, like a mother leading her lost foals home. The sun is thankful for her guidance, and it shows us its gratitude by blessing us with the dark of night; a blank canvas upon which both my sister and I are gifted to paint upon, with the colours of both sun and moon as our palette.” As she spoke, the sky-like backdrop was darkened and shaded in hues of orange, pink and dark blue.
“The sun gives us paints with which to create, and our love for the sun and moon in turn brings us our inspiration.”
The backdrop of a sunset sky darkened further, becoming the colour of night as Luna spoke on. “As I wake the moon and bring it from rest, it brings forth yet another canvas - one which is painted with the stars, the far off planets, and the comets that streak through the vast beyond.” Her words were accompanied by a similar spectacle playing out in the illusory backdrop she had created.
“This delights the moon, and it chases after the sun as though they were naught but children at play - akin to my sister and I. Inside, the moon is one with me. I feel it as it drifts through the sky, and I see all that it looks upon. I see our fair city, and I see its precious inhabitants. I see you, Tavia, and you as well, Sketchy.”
The moon in Luna’s illusion began to set, her horn starting to shimmer more brightly. “And as with my sister and the sun, when the moon grows tired of its playful pursuit I guide it home to rest. And just like the sun, the moon shows us its gratitude by bringing forth another blank canvas for us to paint upon.”
As her explanation finished, the illusion slowly faded away. The familiar surroundings of Octavia’s living room returned once more. “So you see, my friends, it is naught but the will of those two children of the cosmos that we, my sister and I, are able to give all of Equestria such wonderful paintings every day and night.”
It was of little surprise to note that, after all that, both Sketchy and Octavia wore somewhat awed expressions.
“Luna... that was.. is beautiful.” the cellist breathed. Her statement was soon echoed by Sketchy.
“What Tavy said... I can see both you and Celestia put a lot of thought into it - and it’s plain to see the both of you take joy in your work.”
The alicorn smiled, a simple expression of happiness on her face as she took a small sip from her drink. “Celestia and I have a deep affection for our kingdom, and all who reside in it. They may not appreciate every single dawn and dusk, nor even think twice about what is put into it - but we are thankful when even one takes notice.“
A short silence ensued, broken by Sketchy’s voice as a thought occurred to him.
“Something I just thought of, Luna... you said earlier you see everything the moon sees. So... does that mean you’ve seen it when I’ve been sat outside, playing late at night? It’s something I do sometimes...”
Luna suppressed a giggle at that, putting a hoof to her mouth in a most ladylike manner. “Sketchy dear, I see and I hear your playing almost every single time. Perhaps you have not noticed it, but every so often the stars shimmer in time with your music.” A rather mischievous grin wrote itself on her features as she added “Just don’t fumble with her around.” She winked to her tutor with that remark, causing the cellist to stick her tongue out.
“I can’t say I had, actually.” Sketchy replied, snickering at the alicorn’s antics. “If ever I did spot it, I simply wrote it off as coincidence. I’ll have to keep a closer eye out next time I play.”
“He plays quite the variety of instruments, too.” Octavia pointed out. “A wider palette than mine, certainly.”
“Though by no means the same level of skill.” the artist was quick to point out.
“Oh! Is that so?” Luna questioned, her eyes sparkling as an idea formed in her head. “Well then! Perhaps one night when Celly is asleep we can all sneak into the music room back home and enjoy ourselves.”
Sketchy’s jaw hung open at her suggestion. He had never set foot in the palace, let alone its fabled music room, rumoured to contain countless instruments of all kinds. “The... the Royal Music Room? Are you serious!?”
“Of course I am serious! And yes, I mean the very same where that violin over there--” and with that, she waved a hoof toward the centuries-old instrument sat in plain sight in one corner of the room “--came from, and where it usually resides. There are instruments within those walls that nopony alive nowadays has even heard of.”
“Oh my gosh... that would be a dream come true! ...for the second time in my life!” the stallion replied excitedly, his mind reeling at the thought. “Are you sure, though?”
“Of course I am sure.” Luna replied, chuckling slightly. “Both of you must understand, it is indeed a wonderful thing to have so many beautiful instruments under the one roof to play. But what good is such a collection of instruments which may bring joy to many, if they are only ever played for an audience of one?”
“I certainly see your point, Luna.” Octavia nodded, then chuckled slightly. “Do you think Celly will get mad if she catches us?” She bit her lip slightly after saying that out loud. I cannot believe I just referred to Princess Celestia like that!
“Oh my, of course not. My big sister is just as relaxed as I am, perhaps even moreso. We need not worry about that.”
“That reminds me.” Sketchy spoke up, looking over at the Moon Princess with a thoughtful expression. “From what I’ve heard, your sister isn’t the only one with a nickname...”
“Ahahaha! You perhaps mean how, around the palace, there are some ponies that call me Lu-Lu?” the princess giggled, looking and sounding less like a ruler so much as she did an ordinary pony reminded of a happy memory. “That is Celly’s fault, do you want to hear how that came about?” she smiled, her silvery voice exuberant and inviting.
“Oh, yes please!” Octavia chimed in, the royal pony’s happiness proving infectious. “This sounds like a fun tale!”
“Very well!” Luna nodded, leaning forward in her seat. There was a fond look in her eyes, as she averted her gaze to think back on the circumstances. Her voice was soft and warm as she recanted her story. “When my sister and I were still little foals, she never could say my whole name. It was always Lu-Lu-Lu-Lu-Lu! But as we got older, she never stopped calling me Lu-Lu when we were playing together.” She paused for a moment to brush away a small tear, as she went on to a more recent memory. “Celly is adorable, and she has such a big heart... when I came home, and I heard her call me Lu-Lu again, it melted my heart. I must have clung to her for a full hour.”
Luna’s story was met with a cry of “Awwww!” from her hosts, in nigh-perfect unison. It brought a tinge of red to her cheeks, just visible through the deep blue of her coat. That was met by giggles from the two earth ponies.
“We made her blush, Tavy!”
“So we did!”
Luna let out a giggle of her own at that, a small happy sigh escaping her lips as she spoke. “Well, at least now you can see for yourself that Celly and I both are just ponies like everypony else. Granted there are some inherent differences, but we are certainly not made of stone.”
“I do indeed, Luna. I am very glad to have had Sketchy push me into loosening up around you.” Octavia smiled.
“I was wondering when you would come around, Tavia dear.”
“I have to say, even if I’ve seen it before, it’s still a wonderful thing to see you outside of the princess mantle, Luna.” Sketchy commented.
“Well, I must say it is a pleasure to see Octavia at ease.” the princess replied with a grin. Octavia rose from her seat at that, and sat next to the larger earth pony responsible for her relaxing. She hugged him tightly, planting a kiss on his cheek before settling next to him, leaned into him slightly.
“It is a relief to be able to be myself around you, Luna - and to see you, as he says, without the mantle you normally wear.” she stated. “He is the first best thing that has happened to me.”
One of Sketchy’s forelegs found its way around Octavia’s shoulders, and he gently nudged her head with his own. “And she is a dream come true.” he added.
“Mmm, so I see. So, when are you going to be married?” the alicorn questioned, though there was a devious grin on her face. She continued on before either of her hosts had time enough to think she was serious. “I am kidding, you should enjoy your blossoming love and the time you have together. There is time enough to think about the future later.”
Sketchy let out a laugh at that, shaking his head. “Something tells me life is a lot more entertaining around the palace ever since you came home, Lu-Lu.”
A fond smile spread across the princess’s face as she recalled another memory. “The first day, when I came home with Celly, the doors opened and I walked into a home that did not change in a thousand years. Even the marks hidden behind the door to the closet in my room, where Celly and I used to mark our height when we were growing up, were still there.
“When I asked her why it still looked the same, Celly said that when I... left... she wanted it to remain just how she remembered it from when I was there, so she could remember me and all the good times we spent together.”
Sketchy nodded as he listened to Luna’s tale. The smile on his face slowly turned into a frown, though, as he thought over what she had said. “That’s... both really sweet and kinda saddening at the same time... I can’t even begin to imagine how she must have felt...” he began, but then caught himself. “Uhm. I’m sorry if this is a touchy subject.”
The smile remained on Luna’s face, though the glimmer in her eyes was gone as she cast her gaze towards the floor. When she spoke up, her voice was quiet and contemplative, lacking its former warmth.
“Sometimes, you lose sight of what is important in life. You feel insignificant, unimportant even - yet in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. It took a very long time for me to come to this realisation, and it took some very brave ponies to wrest my soul from the grip of my own turmoil and return me to reality. But please, do not trouble yourselves with such trifling details. What is important is the forgiveness I was granted for my former indiscretions - that, and my proving to all that never again shall such a thing occur.”
“I, for one, am happy to have you back, my Princess - and do not correct me on that.” Octavia stated, flashing the alicorn a wink.
Luna smiled a little at that, raising her head a bit from where she still had her gaze turned down. She raised her head further, though, when she noticed the larger of the two earth ponies rise to his feet and approach her. She regarded him with a quizzical and slightly apprehensive expression.
The earth pony looked back at her in a serious manner. He drew in a breath, and spoke. “Please pardon the indiscretion, Princess.”
Before Luna could process what he had said and decide whether or not she should be concerned, the stallion had thrown a foreleg around her shoulders and she found herself pulled into a gentle hug. She was surprised, but not upset.
“It... is quite alright...” she replied, a soft sigh sounding in her voice. She then felt the embrace of another pony around her, and she turned her head slightly to note Octavia now also offering her comfort. “Thank you, both of you. This... is what is important.”
How long has it been since I last had friends such as these, outside of my Guard? she thought to herself. I have missed this feeling.
The three released each other after a few long moments. It was Sketchy who spoke first.
“Being able to make friends, you mean? When you said it’s what’s important?” he smiled.
“I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t matter in the end what your station in life is - what matters is being able to look out for others, and in turn having others to look out for you.”
Octavia sat herself down alongside the alicorn ruler of the night. “Both of you are so inspiring, you know that? You have really opened my eyes, in your own ways. I feel so indebted to you both.”
Luna looked round at her tutor with a contented smile. “Tavia, dear, you never have to worry about that. You are my friend, and I am honoured to count you as such.”
“Same here!” Sketchy grinned, adding “Except, uhm, y’know, with a more fitting word in place.”
Their socialising was interrupted, however, by a soft knock from the door and the voice of a Royal Guard. “Princess Luna? Your nightly duties await.”
“One moment, sir! I must bid my friends good night, I shall not keep you waiting long.” Luna called back, turning her attention back to her hosts. “I am sorry, my dears. I must attend to the business of running a kingdom. Perhaps our next lesson should be held in the palace music room?”
Octavia gasped, images of instruments great and small owned by some of the greatest musicians of all time danced through her mind. “Oh, please? That would be absolutely amazing!”
“I’d love that!” Sketchy agreed excitedly.
“Then it’s settled.” Luna smiled, getting to her feet. She cast a glance over towards a corner of the room, where her violin lay untouched. “Do be sure to bring along my violin, I think she feels lonely tonight. Oh and Sketchy? You tell your friend Sally that her sandwiches never falter in being absolutely delicious!”
“You can count on me!” he replied, adding “Though, I think you’d make her day if you can find the time to stop on by and tell her personally. I know that’s asking a lot, though.”
“Well, we shall see.” Luna smiled, a spark of mischief glittering briefly in her eyes. “I must be off now, my poor guards are waiting on me. The officials will be wanting my signature on several pieces of paper, no doubt. Listen, let us not put off our next meeting until next week. I will send word, will the both of you be free in the evenings?”
“Any time I would normally have spent with you should be fine, Luna.” Octavia replied. “But you should know already that neither one of us would turn down the opportunity for such a rare treat!”
“Excellent! Well then, I shall send word at my earliest convenience!” Luna replied, clapping her hooves happily. She then stood up straight, posing briefly in her most regal fashion as she tossed her mane over one shoulder. “How do I look? Official?” she smiled, letting out a giggle as she scampered off out of the house to the tune of her friends’ goodbyes.
Octavia fell back on her sofa, blinking a few times and letting out a deep breath. “Did... that really just happen?” she asked, her eyes falling on the empty glass on the table. “I mean, if this is a dream... please, do not wake me!”
Her mate snickered as he spoke up. “Well, one of two things just happened, I think. Either we treated Luna as an ordinary pony, and she was thoroughly delighted by it and opened up to us, making conversation and enjoying herself... or she hated it and was so insulted that she’s currently punishing us with some kind of cruel illusion.”
“Ahaha! Oh, that is just too much!” Octavia laughed. “My goodness... you know, I am rather sleepy from all this excitement - but I fear if I go to bed, I shall wake from this cruel illusion!”
Sketchy burst out laughing in turn at that, a broad grin adorning his features. “I think it’s safe to assume that really all did just happen. C’mon, let’s go sleep.”
“You are looking rather happy, Your Highness. To what do we owe the pleasure of your smile?”
Luna glanced over at the courtier before her, for whom she was currently reading over some documentation. “Hm? Well... I have just returned from spending some time in the company of friends. That, and I have been reminded of some simple, yet important truths.”
“I see, Your Highness. Plenty of reason to smile, then.”
“Quite! And I expect more smiles soon.”
The officials around the princess recognised that look on her face. It was the one she wore when she was up to something - though by now it was common knowledge that the Princess’s plans were far from malevolent, and in the spirit of fun. None questioned her on her plans, opting to wait and see what she had in store.
As for the day to come, it would carry a surprise of its own for one pony.