The following day, Luna returned to the very spot where the Doctor had jumped out from behind the unassuming hedge. Her careful inspection revealed nothing that alluded to any secret opening in the vegetation growing up from the ground.
Luna almost dismissed the entire event as some sort of elaborate trick, until she remembered the bizarre magic portal. It had swallowed up the pony hunting her, and subsequently the Doctor. She searched the area, hoping to find some shred of evidence that she had not imagined the entire story.
A small patch of earth was devastated around where the portal had appeared. Further examination revealed that a perfectly circular cut had been made into the grass, the short blades singed wherever the magic had been touching them. Luna could not stop herself from asking over and over again in her head a question that she had no possible way to answer.
How had it appeared?
Luna tried to investigate, but even the Canterlot archives had no specific mention of such a spell. She soon gave up out of frustration, focusing instead on the growing responsibilities Celestia had begun to pile on her. Heeding the Doctor's grim advice, she stayed closely by Celestia's side for years.
She didn't hear from the Doctor for a long time after that night at the Gala.
Finally, the night had arrived. The night of her coronation.
Luna was pacing impatiently back and forth across the floor, in a small alcove behind the throne. She was waiting to be presented by her sister to the ponies who had traveled to meet their new ruler. This night had been decades in the making, and Luna wondered how the populace would receive her.
In only a matter of minutes, she would join her sister as fellow ruler of Equestria. The years of standing beside her sister, learning all manner of magics and laws of her people had finally paid off. Everything would culminate in the ceremony declaring her power as Princess Luna.
She could hear the ponies gathered beyond, waiting for her appearance. She could hardly wait. She inspected her appearance in the wall formed by a reflective mirror in anticipation of what would happen next.
Her musings were interrupted as she heard the soft whir of gears snapping together. Her eyes quickly darted the clock on the wall. It was broken.
She whirled around to see another pony in the room, its back turned on her.
"How long have you been standing there," she asked angrily. "Show yourself!"
A familiar monotone voice responded, "As you command, princess."
She gasped as the pony turned towards her. It was the same pony the Doctor had followed into the portal. It stormed towards her as she heard more movement behind her. She saw the grand mirror slide to one side as the Doctor jumped out, holding his unusual device.
"Not so fast," the Doctor warned the pony aggressor. His screwdriver buzzed, and the pony stopped before Luna. Its body leaned forward as if to resist whatever the Doctor was doing, before freezing completely.
"What is your master planning," the Doctor yelled. "Tell me!"
Silence was the only answer that the Doctor received. He wearily turned his head to Luna, but kept his hoof up, keeping the pony motionless.
"Order it to answer me?"
"What?" Luna asked, confused. "Why would it listen to what I say?"
The Doctor slowly worked his jaw, unable to come up with an explanation for her. Luna looked to him, hoping he would finally shed some light on the matter, but he did not. He slowly shook his head as if throwing away a thought, and dismissed her question.
"That's not really important right now. All I know is that it will listen to you."
Luna looked at the pony again. It had stopped its quiet struggles, and was staring uncomfortably at her.
"Answer his question." The pony didn't respond. "Answer all questions put to you!"
The pony finally turned to the Doctor. In its low robotic voice, it finally replied.
"She is waiting."
"For what? Luna to be alone?"
"Why do this at all? She lost! She knows Celestia can beat her. Why try again?"
"Why is she trying to change the- Ohhh."
"She's trying to get back, isn't she?" The Doctor grabbed the pony by the shoulders and yelled into its face, as if he were communicating with some other pony behind the mask. Luna saw the dark aura surrounding the pony shift away from the Doctor's hooves. "Listen you! You can't just change the past like this. It will only makes things worse!"
"She cannot be stopped," the pony replied, unfazed by his actions. Luna pondered the message's true meaning. She had never seen such magic before.
"Doctor? Who is this 'she'?" Luna asked. The Doctor dared not look at her as he answered.
"One of... your sister's enemies. She's trying to eliminate you."
"She requires a body," the pony answered, and Luna swelled with rage. She would not be intimidated by such a weak threat!
"How dare you say such things!" She shouted. "Leave us at once!" Luna ordered.
"No, wait!" The Doctor yelled, as he watched the pony follow her orders. The portal formed around the robotic pony, and quickly consumed it, leaving the Doctor and Luna alone.
After checking the room for any more surprises, the Doctor turned to Luna. "Oh well, maybe next time. Speaking of which, I need some answers from you. Where else have you seen that pony?"
"I... don't know." The Doctor walked towards her, and placed his hoofs on either side of her face before closing his eyes. "What are you doing?" Luna teased, only slightly flustered by his advance. "It is not proper for a commoner to take the initiative."
She saw memories of long ago pass before her eyes. She was playing on Celestia's grand chair in the throne room. Celestia was standing there, smiling at her. She could see a broken clock on the wall, but no sign of another pony.
"I remember this! I was only a foal! I told my sister, but she thought I had smashed it myself!"
"Shh, let me focus," the Doctor quietly admonished her. "I'm checking your memories for that pony."
"If you don't want me to see something, just imagine a door, and close it." She watched the time she had dressed up one of the servants as the Doctor, and pretended she was on an adventure.
"Like that one. Oh. Maybe that too... um." Ah. The pony who had reminded her of the Doctor was visible in her mind. He had been so easily flustered...
"They seem to be waiting for you in specific places of the castle," he said in an effort to steer the memories back on course. Luna recoiled as the visions began changing, her horn glowing brightly as it begun.
"Sorry, you might find old memories reawakening. Side effect."
Suddenly, she saw a memory that was not her own. A small pony was playing by himself in a large workshop. She could see only him, surrounded by thousands of small mechanical devices in a dimly lit room. It was quiet as he tinkered with something called a... screwdriver?
"Oh, such a lonely existence," Luna whispered as more memories surfaced. A war raged all around him, and his friends were all slowly killed, or worse, went mad with the power they wielded in an effort to survive.
"I'm almost done, just a few more..." The Doctor reassured her.
More memories flashed across her eyes in succession. Each time he was alone, or working in some sort of giant machine. Even when he seemed to meet new ponies and travel to beautiful places, the pictures always returned to the giant, empty room.
"Oh, Doctor. So much pain, and sadness."
Every pony he traveled with disappeared, and slowly faded from his memory to ward off their loss. A new one always quickly arrived to fill the empty void in his life.
"What do you mean? You had a happy foalhood-"
He froze. "How long have you been in my memories?"
"Such a lonely long life. Lonely then, and lonelier now." She forced her eyes open. His eyes were locked on her, startled by the turn of events. The glow of Luna's horn faded as he gazed at her.
"How can you do that?" He slowly backed away from her, hooves clacking on the tile floor below. Luna followed, not giving him the opportunity to escape.
"You believe that you alone know how to see a pony's memories? Do not forget who taught me the basics of magic." Luna could see he was troubled, even worried about how much she had glimpsed.
"Oh, Doctor. My lonely Doctor." She pressed forward, grabbing his hoof to pull him closer, hoping he would say something, anything.
He didn't dare utter a single word.
"Dance with me," Luna finally said, breaking the short silence. He awkwardly looked away, his eyes going to the curtain separating them from the ponies waiting for her beyond.
"I can't, Luna." His response only made her laugh. Who would dare refuse her, tonight of all nights?
"As princess, I could command you to," Luna teased, hoping to receive more than his simple responses.
"You are not princess yet," he reminded her. She stared sadly at him, remembering the pain and loss he had experienced over the countless years.
"Doctor," Luna whispered quietly, remembering the question that plagued him even more than it did her.
He finally looked back to her, surprised she had asked the one question he had never found the answer to.
"What did you see?" He asked. Luna smiled.
"That there comes a time, Time Lord, that every pony must learn how to dance."
"Wha-? I can't. I need to-" Luna pressed her hoof against his lips as as pony's voice entered the chamber.
"Princess Luna. Princess Celestia is ready for your coronation." Drat! Time was always against her! She reluctantly answered the summons.
"Of course. I am on my way." She turned to the Doctor, who was stealthily making his way to the mirror he had emerged from.
"Don't you dare leave now, Doctor," Luna whispered. "I will be expecting you after the ceremony."
She walked over to the curtain, and looked back hoping to see he had not left already. The Doctor had disappeared once again. Sighing, she pushed the covering aside to see what must have been all of Canterlot brought together for her coronation.
Her sister was standing beside the throne, waiting. As Luna walked towards Celestia, she scanned the crowd for a familiar face. The Doctor was nowhere to be seen. Once Luna had moved to beside Celestia she stopped, waiting for the ceremony to begin. Celestia smiled at her warmly and turned to the enormous audience watching them.
"Ladies and gentlecolts, I present to you Luna, your new princess!" She yelled, her voice drowning out only briefly the shouts of adoration and cheering. It quickly died down as Celestia turned back to her. The practiced words tumbled out from both their mouths as they relived the many rehearsals for today.
"Do you accept this great responsibility?"
"Will you use your power wisely and without bias?"
"Do you swear to summon the moon as the sun sets, and banish it as the sun rises?"
"I swear it."
"Then may you rule for all eternity beside me, and reign over the moon and stars."
"Let it be known that I, Princess Celestia, name you, Princess Luna, as my sister and fellow ruler of Equestria!" Celestia announced as she lowered her horn over Luna's right shoulder, then raised it. As she lowered her horn over her left shoulder, Luna could make out the Doctor's face among the crowd as they cheered. They shouted and clopped their hooves on the floor into a barely controlled frenzy. She smiled at him, everything else forgotten as he watched the ceremony come to an end.
The Doctor stood there somberly, the slightest shadow of guilt over his features as he pondered what was to come. The sad look disappeared when he saw Luna look his way, and his smile grew in tandem with the ponies cheering around him.