Tough Love: Luna vs. Celestia
Part 1: Mud and Water
Celestia stuck her horn into the waiting bucket of ice for the third time. It hissed audibly, and she did too. “Ah… ah… Ssss…” she gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. Very un-princess-like she whimpered before pulling her horn free again. Queen Chrysalis had so cleanly, so easily dominated her in a battle of magic she’d been literally burned by it. The upper third of her horn had been charred to an ashy grey. Though Twilight Sparkle and her friends had once again saved the day and everything else had gone off without a hitch, Celestia had retired at the end of the day completely ashamed. She’d been trounced in front of all her subjects. She dipped her horn again, the loud hissing returning. Gritting her teeth she held it in the ice bucket for as long as she could, then pulled it out again.
There was a tapping at her door. Celestia shoved the ice bucket under her bed with a flick of magic, raising her head as the door opened. Only one pony dared enter her private chambers without being invited in first. “Sister, we came to check on you.” It was Luna. The midnight alicorn glanced over her shoulder at the gathering of four guards outside the room, and quickly shut the door behind her. She lowered her voice, “How are you?” she nodded at Celestia’s horn.
“It burns a little.” Celestia said truthfully, deflating from her usual regal posture. Her sister crossed the room to get a better look. “I only wish you had been there, Luna, perhaps together we could have—”
“We would not surmise to have the magic to defeat the power of love, harnessed and weaponized.” Luna interrupted, shaking her head. “If we had been there, we might’ve been smote as easily as thou.” She smiled just a little, her mischievous brow rising on one side. “Though we must admit, seeing thou get knocked on thy backside would’ve been worth it.”
“Luna!” Celestia squawked, her wings rising in an offended way. Luna chuckled a little. “It is nothing to joke about! What if my subjects lose faith in me for being bested like that?” It was not unusual for Celestia to drop all of her regal shields to talk frankly with her sister. She was the only one able to relate to all things alicorn-related.
“Oh, do not presume me to stroke thy wounded ego sister, you shan’t get my sympathy.” Luna turned her nose up and closed her eyes. Celestia’s eyes went a little soft and her ears turned back. “Thou hast not participated in a battle in more than a thousand years. Of course thou was bested. Your opponent was young, potent, and feeding off of an incredible power source unlike any other.”
“Are you saying I’ve gotten soft?” Celestia said, her mouth a little agape.
“In terms of getting off thy royal flank to do battle with evil? Yes.” Luna said without hesitating. The words wounded Celestia, and her wings wilted down to the bedding she lay on. “You have lived in a millennia of peace and prosperity, it is what happens when thou has no worthy opponents or means to keep thy edge.” The princess of the night flicked her wings open, leaning to nuzzle her sister briefly.
“My edge?” Celestia said, suddenly uncertain. It was true, the white alicorn hadn’t attacked anypony with magic since the war on the Lunar Republic. In the final battle she’d rained lightning from the sky, torn open canyons, boiled oceans and split the very fabric of reality while doing battle with Nightmare Moon. With the Yoke of Harmony around her neck, she could’ve unmade and remade the world, easily. “What about you, Luna?” she wondered, looking up at her sister.
“What do you think we did all day and night on the moon?” Luna said, cocking her head and looking away. “Counted stars? Walked laps around the place? No. We trained and meditated and exercised while we awaited the chains to come undone for our return.” Celestia had the wild vision of a sweaty Luna doing push-ups on the moon while Eye of the Manticore played in the background. “Meanwhile, thou sat in a cushy seat and played princess for centuries, unchallenged.” Luna said a little cruelly. Was this her holding a grudge? How mean!
Celestia looked up at her sister, feeling much smaller than her all of a sudden. She got a closer look at her sister’s chest and legs. They were toned, brushed and lithe. The hooves, though shoe’d, were tight-looking and expertly shorn. Her fetlocks were perfect. Her eyes trailed along the midnight alicorn’s torso, beyond her regalia and to her ribs. They were neatly incased in slender muscle, very little fat to speak of. It suddenly struck the sun princess that her sister was a little more than just taller than other ponies, and sporting a horn with wings like she did. Luna was slim, trim, and racy. Very much in shape. “I’ve gone soft.” Celestia realized aloud, aghast at herself. She hung her head.
“Sister…” Luna said soothingly, reaching and looking a little apologetic for her earlier words. “Thy priorities were to run a nation, that is not a very physical job.” She pushed her starry mane to one side, out of the way. “If thy ego is bruised from being struck down, the only thing you can do is to build yourself up again.” She tossed her mane a little, smirking down at her sister.
“What? How?” Celestia cocked her head. “I can’t exactly wander into a dojo and ask for lessons. The media and royal circles would have a field day!” she scrubbed at her chin a little. “Perhaps if I hired a personal trainer, or went to spar with the palace guard, or…” she trailed off, for none of those sounded like good ideas.
“Dost thou honestly think any of them would train you properly? That they would look beyond thy crown and horn and wings?” Luna, ever the pessimist, reminded her softly. Celestia scowled at her sister, but knew she was right. Her subjects often fell all over themselves to please her, and treated her like she was made of glass. “Clearly, we art thy only option.” Luna’s lip curled upward, mischief sparkling in her eyes.
“You?” Celestia asked, cocking her head. “What can you do?”
“Many things thou cannot, sister. We are opposites, after all. One as night, and one as day.” Luna reached and pushed a strand of Celestia’s mane behind her ear. Glancing over her shoulder, she knelt and kissed her sister’s cheek affectionately. “But I shall teach you.” Celestia felt a small smile crawl its way across her muzzle. “And we shan’t hold back. For your sake.” Luna bowed her head briefly, and was away. “Rest. We shall come for you in a few days when your horn is better.”
A few days later, in the evening time, Celestia stared at herself in the full-length mirror of her private chambers. She frowned quietly, her mouth in a neutral line from its usual bemused smile. She slowly folded her wings. Though her horn had returned to its normal pearly shine, her servants had been particularly tender with her lately. One of her butlers even ended up falling into her bath one evening, trying to help her step over the lip of the tub. She wasn’t made of glass, for goodness sake. The white alicorn sighed. Luna was right. She’d gone soft, and she needed to step back up to get into shape again. She needed to do it for herself, and for her beloved subjects.
Reaching slowly, she made a slight gesture with her horn. Her chest regalia was surrounded with a pearly aura, unhinged itself, and floated to rest on the vanity. She did the same with her crown and golden hoof gauntlets. Standing naked in front of the mirror she looked at herself for a long time in silence. Just Celestia now, without all the trappings and frills and gold hanging on her body. She spread her wings up and out, turning to survey herself for a bit. She wasn’t a vain pony, always worried about her looks, but the recent turn of events did make her study her hips and chest a bit more. Mumbling worriedly, she reached up to caress her mane. It was perfectly groomed, flowing with a breeze that wasn’t there. Blue, green, purple, and pink streaks melted back and forth over each other like an aurora. It made her mane look ethereal and ghostly.
The princess jumped a little when a hoof knocked two, three, four times on the door. It was a firm and heavy hoof, and the stallion behind it seemed just as firm and heavy when Celestia opened the door. “Her Majesty Princess Luna has sent me to fetch you, Princess Celestia.” It was a lunar stallion in full armored regalia, dark purple and ashen grey. His golden eyes flicked briefly at her lack of royal trappings, but he said nothing of it. “By your leave, your majesty.” His voice was deep and syrupy, she found she liked it. Smiling gently, Celestia gave a regal lift of her wings and followed him out into the hall. The twin solar guards posted on either side of her chamber doors made to follow, but she lifted a hoof to stay them. They frowned like scolded foals, but let her go.
The lunar stallion led Celestia to the other side of the palace, and soon she could tell they were taking the long way around. They didn’t use any of the main halls, corridors or entryways. They were taking servant paths, quieter passages, and passing fewer windows than she expected. Celestia half-expected to see spider webs and bats hanging from the ceilings. The further they went, the darker it became. It was no small secret that one end of the palace was devoted to the Princess of the Night, and that was where he was discreetly taking her. Now that it was night, this half of the palace was coming to life with activity.
Celestia and the lunar stallion emerged into the midnight court, where Princess Luna sat regally upon her throne… pillow… thing. She didn’t have a proper throne, she still preferred the massive sitting pillow that she and her sister had used in the olden days. There were a few ponies scattered throughout the room, most of them busily writing over desks or rushing bits of important paperwork to various destinations. Dreary and shadow-filled as it was, it still helped run the nation. Luna looked up from her latest scroll of who-knew-what, and flicked it aside when she saw her sister standing there at the base of the dais.
“Well done, Stalwart Hide.” she spoke to the lunar stallion, who bowed and took up his position at the right side of the base of the dais. “Sister, welcome to the midnight court.” She clip-clopped down the stairs to embrace the white alicorn with both wings. Celestia returned the hug a little stiffly, not sure what to expect. “We… I’m glad you decided to come.” Luna cocked her head a little, remembering to speak using a more modern term. Closing her wings, she stepped back, and then around to walk side-by-side with her. The two alicorns went out a side door into a courtyard. “I’ve no court appointments this evening, we are free to do as we please.” She made note of the twin lunar stallions following behind them, as they were wont to do with their princess. “Aegis Shield, Stalwart Hide.” She called to both by name. “Attend to us. We’re going to the Midnight Wheel.”
“At once, your Majesty.” Both stallions passed them up, spread their wings and flew out of sight.
“The Midnight Wheel?” Celestia asked as they walked.
Princess Luna smiled a rather chilling smile. “It is a training ground for young recruits of the lunar stallions, my private guard.” She explained. They turned a corner, weaving their way past the palace gardens and beyond the barracks area on the edge of the city. They set hoof on a regular dirty road and started climbing skyward, up the mountain that Canterlot sat on.
“Can we not fly there, and save the night?” Celestia asked curiously, looking at the long path ahead of them. It seemed to stretch, weave, and climb for miles. How would they even make it before dawn? Luna gave her a look. “Well… I guess I am overdue for the exercise.” The white alicorn admitted. The sisters continued on for over an hour, silently trekking up the mountain road. The hooves of hundreds of ponies had stamped it firm, and the mild breeze stirred dust around them. The solar princess winced at the dirt lodging itself in her pearlescent fur. She would need to bathe before the noonday court. She couldn’t imagine the looks on her subjects faces if they saw her like this. As a Princess it was her job to look clean and otherworldly so that her beloved ponies would do their jobs with all the more gusto and—!
“Where is your mind, sister?” Princess Luna asked. “Your eyes see something elsewhere. Focus on the now. We’re nearly there.” She gestured with her long horn, and Celestia looked up. They emerged from the dirt road onto a perfectly flat slab of stone. Stairs sent them down for a bit, which emptied into an amazing sight. There on the side of the mountain, exactly opposite of Canterlot, was a massive courtyard balcony of hewn stone. It was covered with short walls, designs, and even a few craters. The sun princess didn’t want to imagine what had made said craters. The twin lunar stallions were waiting for them, and bowed when they arrived. “Is everyone gone, Aegis Shield?” Princess Luna asked one of them. The ashen grey stallion nodded, saluting. “Bore off my regalia and store it.” She commanded. Celestia side-stepped a little, for both ponies came forward and stripped Luna naked. They removed her chest regalia, the chains about her neck, and she had to daintily lift her hooves so they could make off with her silvery horse shoes. They took the treasures away and out of sight.
Celestia’s mane suddenly flapped wildly in a breeze that rushed away from Luna like a ring. It pushed away dust, pebbles, and dry grass that had come up between the stones. “Luna!” The white alicorn shielded herself with a wing, gritting her teeth and trying not to let the forceful wind push her over. Soon the vorpal rush of air ended and Luna shook like a wet dog, wings opening like she was stretching.
“I suppose we forgot to tell you, sister.” Luna smiled none too gently, looking over at her. “My regalia’s horse shoes act as magical inhibitors.” She gestured to her dinner plate-sized hooves. “If I were to let up my magical aura for even a moment, my hooves would spring together like powerful magnets.”
“But isn’t that like torturing yourself?!” Celestia gasped, looking at her sister’s hooves. “If you were to give a magical output out all the time, you’d exhaust yourself and die!”
“You’d be surprised what you can live through.” Luna said a little acidly, walking forward and flicking her eyes at the moon. Celestia stared after her in mild guilt, then cantered after her. “Come, look.” The midnight princess gestured as they approached the edge. There were no guard-rails around the massive courtyard balcony, only a drop that was thousands of feet into a chasm of darkness. “I’ve lost a few lunar stallions over this edge. Those that fall, fail.”
“Fail what? You just let them die?” Celestia was aghast at the brutal training tactics.
“The lunar stallions are few compared to their solar counterparts, sister. They come to this place, the Midnight Circle, to train and hone themselves.” Luna went on, not answering her question. The white alicorn started to raise her voice, but her sister cut her off. “Here is where I shall train you.” She gestured over the dirty, broken hewn stone around them. “This place has seen more violence and training and battle than some killing fields I could name from the old wars. It is perfect.” She led her mildly shaken sibling to a grand design on the floor.
“What is this?” Celestia asked softly, noticing that she stood in the center of a massive circular design. It went perhaps forty feet in all directions. She turned a slow circle, admiring the carving and craftsmanship it must’ve taken to make something so intricate last for so long.
“This is a training star.” Luna gestured, bidding her to stand where she was. “While you are in it, this will be your territory. Your world.” She gave Celestia time to stare around herself. “It works like a collapsing star. First it starts big, then it shrinks down to something much smaller, then it explodes outward.” She showed Celestia how there were several circles within circles, and then gestured to the entire courtyard. The white alicorn nodded slowly. “You’ll start with a large circle, then the medium one, then the small one, then you’ll be ready for something bigger than yourself.” The midnight princess said philosophically.
“I… understand.” said Celestia softly, then nodded. “I’m ready.” Luna turned with a flare of black magic, BLASTING Celestia in the side and right off of her hooves! The white alicorn yelped doggishly, tumbling across the ground like a skipping stone. She lost hoof-fulls of white feathers in the process, and landed hard on her back. Whinnying in pain, she bicycled her hooves in the air for a moment before she righted herself. “Sister!” she cried out, tears of pain in her eyes.
“You don’t look ready to me.” Luna rolled her eyes, the magic fading from her long horn. “We will practice with other things. When you can withstand me from within the smallest circle, you’ll be ready to leave the training star. Are you ready now?” she asked with a smirk. Celestia had the very bad feeling that her sister had some frustrations she was just dying to work out on her. But, she’d brought it on herself, coming all the way out here and begging for training to become strong again. She saw her sister’s horn alight and lifted a hoof, shaking her head no. “Good.” Luna said, letting the darkness fade. “Lesson one, admitting thy weakness.” She told her, lifting a hoof. She watched Celestia shudder and pull herself with a groan to her hooves. “You cannot ever get stronger if you do not admit to yourself that you have a problem and that you need to face it. Thy weakness will be the catalyst that drives you forth, as well as the humiliation that you suffered.” Luna wasn’t nice, wasn’t gentle, and wasn’t holding back. Bad things needed to be said. Wounds needed to be ripped open to drain the infection out. Her sister would need some tough love if this was going to work.
Celestia rested on her belly, trying to ignore the bruise on her side as she did so. “Queen Chrysalis struck me down in front of everypony.” She whispered, hanging her head in shame. There was a long silence while Luna stared at her from where she stood. “I was… weak.” It was like pulling teeth, but her royal majesty of the day finally got it out. She wanted to be sick. It had been thousands of years since she’d ever done such a thing, admitting weakness. “I must become strong again!”
“And you shall, sister.” Luna said, eyes lighting up and turning white throughout. “You shall.” Her horn ignited with black magicks, and Celestia scrambled to her hooves to defend herself. Standing outside the training star, Luna smiled mischievously. Clods of dirt and mud lifted themselves from the earth between the hewn stone bricks around them. The two lunar stallions returned in time to see the royal sisters have what appeared to be a dirt clod war! The brown missiles rushed back and forth, Celestia limited by the circle she was bidden to stay in. She yipped now and then when a clod got past her magical shielding and pelted her in the chest or side. Before long, she looked like a spotted alicorn rather than a white one. Luna bore only one or two marks on her, which she brushed off with ease.
“What is the point of throwing dirt at m-OWCH!” Celestia yipped when a clod of mud connected with her royal muzzle. She held herself, checking for blood and whimpering a little. “Lulu that hurt!” she said, rubbing her nose back and forth on her raised foreleg.
“So did getting knocked on your ass in front of all your loyal subjects.” said Luna nastily. “Yet here you stand, still alive.” Both sisters danced back and forth, the lunar stallions watching them in awe. This was like some sort of freakish filly mud pie war, but it was the princesses! They just didn’t know what to make of it. “Trust me sister, if you can dodge a clod of mud, you can dodge a bolt of magic.” This continued on for over an hour, and sweat began to bead down Celestia’s flank and face. She panted and began to slow. She really was out of shape! It sounded like a simple thing, don’t get hit, but after so long she was wearing down and Luna was hitting more and more. Soon she was more brown than white, and her mane was a disaster.
“I give up! Stop! I give up!” Celestia called at last, flopping onto her side in a mess of dirty feathers and panting. “I—give up. H’oh. Huh. Huh…” She said, laying there and trying to breathe. Luna stepped into the training star, looming over her sister and frowning. Celestia smiled nervously, nostrils flaring as she tried to get more air into her lungs.
The midnight alicorn painfully jabbed her in the side a few times, “Get up. That was just the warm-ups.” Luna snapped. She booted her sister back up onto her hooves, where she sagged and limped along to the other side of the circle. Trying to retreat. “Do you think your true enemies would let you call a time out?!” Luna followed her mercilessly. The shouting had to be done, the wounds had to be ripped wide open. The infection was deep. “Do you think they would waste one instant before simply striking you down for GOOD?!” Luna turned and rather wildly bucked her sister’s chest. Celestia cried out, collapsing onto the ground in pain and exhaustion. A few more feathers caught the breeze. She moaned, curling up on her side like a beaten foal. Her breathing was shuddering and her wings lay in odd, uncomfortable angles. “You’ve forgotten what it means to have an enemy, to truly fight…” Luna whispered, coming to her belly to croon over her sister. He anger was gone from her voice, and pity had come to her eyes. Leaning down, she kissed the weeping alicorn’s forehead.
“Lulu…” Celestia whimpered, looking up at her with soft eyes.
“It’s not going to be easy, Tia. It will only get harder.” Luna whispered. With more strength than was probably necessary, she gripped her sister’s weakened mind and put her to sleep. Celestia’s purple eyes rolled into her head and slid closed. Lunar magic was certainly crafty when it needed to be. “Aegis Shield. Stalwart Hide.” She said calmly. Both stallions stood at attention. “Bear my sister back to the palace. Let none see you.” She commanded. They bowed and, with a nearby supply cart, loaded up the fallen alicorn. “Be very gentle with her.” She added as they moved her body. “The first few sessions are always the worst with thy new recruits. Our sister will be no different in this.” Both stallions nodded and, spreading their wings, pulled the cart up into the sky. Using the low-hanging clouds, they would be able to sneak her majesty back into her chambers via her balcony.
Sighing, the midnight alicorn went to collect her crown and regalia. Pulling them gingerly on, she ignited her magical aura on a low light spectrum. Her horse-shoes pulled at her, trying hard to draw her hooves together and tip her over. But, she wouldn’t let them. Her magic prevented it. She was strong. Very strong. If Celestia had the mental fortitude, she would be too.
Celestia awoke with one of her maids shrieking over her. “Your majesty!” she cried out. The guards in the hall rushed in, armor clanking and hooves stomping. They screeched to a halt, gaping at her in horror. “What happened to you?!” the maid put her hooves over her mouth in terror.
The white alicorn unfolded herself gingerly from her bed. Her everything hurt, especially her sides. She was dirty from hoof to horn, and her mane looked like she’d wandered into a hurricane. She looked over at the mirror, then moaned a little, flopping over weakly. “I was uh…” she scrambled for an explanation. “Gardening, in the royal gardens.” She smiled up at her maid.
“In the middle of the night?” One guard asked the other.
“It’s… quieter, then.” Celestia said, wincing as she drew herself to her full height. “I’m less likely to be bothered.” Her back gave a few audible, painful crackles. One of her wings took a bit of effort to close all the way and hug her side. “D’hh… Daisy Stalk, would you draw my bath?” she asked the maid. The frightened mare rushed away, whimpering as she did so. Celestia’s heart ached. She didn’t like to scare her subjects like that. Her guards continued to stare at her, a little slack-jawed. When she grew tired of their presence, she spoke again. “I’m not dressed, sirs.” It was playful, but they rushed out of the room none the less. The alicorn snickered. It wasn’t often she was seen without her regalia and royal trappings on. “Oh’hhh!” she called, gritting her teeth as she clip-clopped slowly across the room.
Within the hour, an alicorn-sized bath was drawn and Celestia was led to it. She saw the warm and inviting waters bubbling at her as she approached. “Your majesty! You look terrible!” one of the servants said without thinking. She fixed the mare with a bemused stare, and she promptly wilted into a blushing shiver. “S-sorry! I just… just…” she gestured.
“The point of a bath is to get clean, I would think.” Celestia’s voice tinkled with soft laughter. “Little point if you never get a little dirty.” She limped a little as she made her way to the bubbling bath. A stallion came forth, the only one in the royal bath house, to help her into it. Sore as she was, she obliged him with a hoof. She felt his muscles coil as she leaned her weight on him. She sank into the hot, steaming waters and he nodded. Bubble Bath was a handsome stallion, but being the only male in a mostly female department (Celestia and Luna’s baths and relaxations), he hardly ever made a peep. She thanked him with a lid-eyed smile. Then, quite un-princess-like, the white alicorn flopped her head onto the lip of the bath. It was like a jacuzzi, sunken into the ground like a pool. It didn’t keep her from falling asleep, though. The hot jets had massaged her into a murring blob of useless alicorn.
“Is she… is she asleep?” A voice said on the edges of Celestia’s hearing.
“Somepony told me she was up all night gardening or something.”
“Gardening? In the middle of the night?”
“How odd, look-it her wings, they haven’t even been preened.”
“Look at her mane, it’s so limp!”
They gossiped over their dozing princess, but after awhile it became apparent she was making no move to actually clean herself. Bubble Bath cocked his head and waved a hoof in front of the Princess’ face. When she didn’t move, he looked pleadingly at the gathering of mares. They hopped to it, and shut the bath-house door for privacy. Brushes and scrubbers came out of the cabinets, along with shampoos and oils. The one stallion leaned, tenderly extending her majesty’s wing with his teeth. Working with a very soft brush he began realigning her feathers.
It was like being in a surgeon’s orchestra pit. There were perhaps seven or eight ponies crowded around the sleeping alicorn, scrubbing and brushing and cleaning while she rested. Celestia could feel it all, but didn’t want to move. She was too sore. Perhaps if she lay very still they would let her sleep in the bubbling bath for a little while.
End of Part 1