39w, 3dCelestia & Luna
31w, 5dThe Mighty Lunar Republic
45w, 1dThe Writer's Group
31w, 5dLuna Is The Best Pony
- Show All Groups
39w, 3dDoubled Fun
44w, 4dShining Armor
45w, 1dTwilight is Best Pony
45w, 1dTwilight Sparkle
43w, 7hCadance: Devoted and Loving
4w, 3dProtect Celestia
"Thanks so much for joining me, Shining."
"Heh. No problem, little sis. Almost forgot how much of a fan of this stuff you were."
Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor rode high amongst the clouds overlooking Canterlot Castle in the former's balloon. The dim lights of an ever-slowing wedding reception could still be seen below.
The main festivities were long past. However, some ponies were clearly determined to make the party last until it was time for Princess Celestia to raise the sun once more. Strains of slow music and the faint scent of baked desserts wafted up to their perch. The latter prompted Twilight to magically transport two slices of cake and two glasses of punch from terra firma. A bright pink dot darted all over the courtyard in response.
She shook her head at the sight and smiled, pushing the events of minutes prior to the back of her mind. "Well, I have to admit, I arranged this for the nostalgia factor. It's been a while since I took my balloon into Canterlot skies. And even longer since you've been up here with me." She looked at her brother, who was clearly doing his best to maintain composure, and giggled. "I'd forgotten just how well you do with heights, though."
Shining Armor closed his eyes and took a bite of cake. "Yeah, about that. Oh well. Just like the old days, I think I'll be okay so long as I don't look down. Ever."
Twilight giggled again. "Well... are you okay with looking up?"
Twilight materialized her telescope, and mounted it to the edge of the basket with a practiced air. It locked into place with a satisfying click. "Use this to look up into space. That way the vertigo shouldn't kick in. I hope."
"You got it." Shining Armor placed his face to the eyepiece. The second Twilight heard him gasp, she knew he'd caught on. "Wow, Twilie--either you've upgraded this baby like crazy, or this balloon goes a lot higher than I remember!"
Twilight blushed. "Well, I do keep up on the latest models. State of the art lenses, magical-powered zoom... gosh, is the difference that huge?" She pored over the telescope. "I use these things all the time, so it's harder for me to notice."
"Oh, absolutely! The constellations are bigger and brighter than ever... wait a minute." Shining Armor moved back from the telescope. An inquisitive look crossed his face. "If I get these kinds of results looking at constellations..." He scanned the skies with his naked eyes, looking for something in particular.
"Already ahead of you." With a flourish, Twilight swiveled the telescope, then pointed it at a precise angle. "Look now."
Shining Armor did so. He was greeted with the image of a single tinted light, shining brighter than the ones closely surrounding it. "Ahhhh, there it is. The 'Nighttime Sun'... the North Star." His voice took on a reverent tone. "Even after all these years..."
Twilight nodded. "You used to always tell me to look for your cutie mark in the sky if I ever got lost, and it'd bring me home, safe and sound." She placed a hoof on her brother's shoulder. "Then it became our cutie mark."
"Heh. Yeah. Yours even more so than mine. That was when you started needing me less, I think."
Twilight's expression turned pensive. "Shining, do you really think that? Because that's absolutely not-"
"I'm kidding, Twilie, honest." Shining Armor waved a hoof. "But facts are facts."
Twilight felt her brother's hooves gently nudging her to face him. The second she complied, his gaze met hers directly...
"You have grown up. And I should have been around more to see it."
...and her heart melted.
She'd waited so long to hear those words cross his muzzle. It pained her to argue the point. "You had duties to get used to, and then carry out. You had to be on call for even the smallest of royal issues! There's no way I could possibly expect you to-"
"Don't hold back, Twilight. I've never been to Ponyville since you moved there. Every time you came back here to visit, I was always away on duty. Busy or not, that wasn't right. You had every reason to to confront me about it. And just when we finally get to meet again..." Shining Armor trailed off with a deep breath.
And just like that, not only was he winning the argument, but Twilight knew he was about to drive it all home. Her face grew hot. "I-I know what you're going to bring up. Y-you don't have to. Really."
"Avoiding it would only make it worse, Twilie. The wedding rehearsal... a lot of things were said. A lot of things I regret." He took a long sip of punch, and exhaled noisily. "This whole week was crazy, to the point where the wedding was the only good thing I had going for me. I didn't want to think the worst of that, too. I needed to let my guard down somewhere. But that line of thinking almost cost me everything." His hoof met Twilight's chin, nudging their faces into alignment again. "My greatest treasure included."
"All of that's over, though." Twilight hastily pushed back the memory of all of her friends and loved ones abandoning her at once. It was preferable to holding back tears, though no easier. "And I don't blame you. Really, how could I? That changeling queen deceived everypony!"
The two unicorns moved to the center and edge of the balloon's basket, looking out over the horizon again. A cool breeze flew through both of their manes as they angled their heads skyward.
"That means a lot coming from you, Twilight. Though I think we'll both need time to get that whole mess out of our heads. At least Discord and Nightmare Moon were up-front about how crazy they were."
Twilight nearly jumped where she was. "Discord and Nightmare Moon? You were around for those?"
"Royal guard, remember? Of course I was there. Not that we made much difference."
"No, it's really true. Discord..." Shining scoffed. "...where do I even start? Let's just say chariots and force fields aren't much use against a guy who can replace all of our horns with flashlights." He shuddered. "I wish I meant that in a figurative sense. Nightmare Moon, though? That was different."
"Really? How so?"
"Huh? Celestia never told you?"
Twilight shook her head. "Mm-mmm."
"Well, I guess that makes sense given what happened. While you were looking for the Elements of Harmony... actually, you know what? It's probably better if you see for yourself." He stepped towards Twilight, bringing their horns close. "Let's see if this still works like it's supposed to."
His horn shone, and after a few seconds, Twilight realized what he was attempting to do. From experience, she also knew it would require total trust and relaxation.
She allowed everything to simply happen, from the moment his magic touched her.
When her world faded away, she knew they'd succeeded.
A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfiction
Part 2: "Shining in the Darkness"
by Bookish Delight, 2011-2012
All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro.
When Twilight regained her vision, the balloon was nowhere to be found. She attempted to look around herself. Nothing happened. Her vision stayed rigid.
She would have panicked were she not distracted by her sudden forward sprint. In seconds, she reached full gallop.
Hey, wait a minute! I wasn't trying to move! What's going-
On a fast turn, she was able to catch a quick glimpse of her new white coat, and a cutie mark she knew all too well.
Everything fell into place.
Of course... I'm sharing my brother's memories. I'm seeing through his eyes. And by the looks of things, he's working overtime!
If Ponyville had been in a state of fear upon Nightmare Moon's return, Canterlot was in an state of utter panic. Indiscriminate and spontaneous bolts of lightning crashed over the capital city. The Royal Guard herded unicorn citizens into shelters as fast as they were able. All the while, Nightmare Moon's triumphant laugh echoed over the chaos as she made a beeline for the castle.
"Everypony! Protect the citizenry at all costs!" Shining Armor shouted, before levitating a large piece of rubble out of the way to allow a family to escape to safety. The second he was sure of his task's completion, he caught sight of the town's sky-borne invader, and followed.
The scent of smoldering debris laced the air. Rubble crumbled beneath every step he took towards the castle.
He ignored them both.
"Celestia!" Nightmare Moon stopped in front of the castle gates and flew to eye-level with one of its towers. "I know you know what today is! Do you cower at the sight of she who would bring your undeserved reign to its end?"
For a few seconds, there was silence.
Then she appeared.
"Your thousand-year imprisonment has made you forgetful, Nightmare Moon! Since when have you known me to cower before the likes of you?" Princess Celestia flew out from the castle's front gate, up to the mare she once knew as her sister.
"Since you ran and hid behind the Elements of Harmony! You couldn't deal with me without them back then. What makes you think you can now?"
"Well, I don't have the Elements with me this time. So as for dealing with you without them?" She beckoned with one hoof. "Please, by all means, make your move. I've had a millennium to prepare for it!"
"As have I, 'dear sister!' I hope your subjects are prepared for eternal darkness henceforth!" A barrage of electricity shot from Nightmare Moon's horn.
"You're no sister of mine!" Celestia dodged the lightning bolts, barreling through the sky and flying circles around her dark counterpart. "My sister knew that Equestria flourishes only when the day and night are allowed to coexist!"
"Your sister let me into her heart because she knew you were overrated. And she's been all the better for it! She's so much happier now that she doesn't have to hide her true feelings. No longer must she conceal her resentment of you!"
"No!" Thunder crashed across the sky. "I will never believe that!"
"Believe what you want. But the truth lies before you. Princess Luna is no more. Accept it!"
Celestia's teeth gritted. A light appeared atop her horn, growing in intensity over time. When it reached its brightest, she reared back. Before she could let loose, however, a pitch-black smokescreen engulfed her and the surrounding area. "Wh-what the..."
"Hah! Some Sun Princess. What's wrong? Can't handle a little brisk night air? I can still see just fine!"
True to her word, Nightmare Moon located Celestia through the darkness, and sent an extra-powerful electrical charge her way. The energy entered the smoke clouds. When it reached their center, an explosion cleared the skies.
Nightmare Moon sneered. "Direct hit. And that, they say, is... what?"
The smoke fully cleared to show Celestia unharmed, with a pink aura surrounding her, and a smug grin on her face. A thin pink light could be seen trailing downwards from her. Nightmare Moon followed it to find a white unicorn at ground level, also glowing.
Celestia shook her head. "All this time, and you still haven't realized. Lofty ambitions such as yours are never achieved through solitary means! But do you know what I've learned?"
Celestia's horn glowed, its light mixing with Shining Armor's. Nightmare Moon was quickly enveloped in a pink shield bubble. She looked around. Confusion crossed her face. "Wh-what...?"
"Glad you asked. It's that sometimes even I can use a little help!"
"Why... why you..." Nightmare Moon kicked the bubble repeatedly with no effect. As her frustration grew, so did the electricity which arced around her in bursts. It stressed against her prison, weakening it with each surge.
With a roar, she broke the shield. Before Celestia or Shining Armor could react, she followed through with a powerful wave which knocked them both backwards. Canterlot's two protectors hit the ground hard, but were back on their hooves in time for a staredown to commence.
Nightmare Moon was the first to blink--and in that split second, Celestia appeared to see... something. Her eyes widened, and her face took on an almost hopeful expression, causing Nightmare Moon to scowl in response.
"Well, big sister... it appears we are at a stalemate. The same stalemate as a thousand years ago, in fact!" She flew a little closer. "We both know what broke that tie, don't we?"
Amidst peals of laughter, Nightmare Moon transformed into a cloud of black glittering smoke, and disappeared into the distance.
The second she was gone, Celestia slumped over. Shining Armor rushed to brace her. "She left? Why would she-"
"Because she wants to definitively end this," said Celestia. "She's gone to gather the Elements of Harmony. The same artifacts of power which I used to seal her in the past."
"The same Elements of Harmony you nudged Twilight in the direction of?" When Celestia nodded, he helped her stand, and backed away. "Then, Princess, by your leave-"
"-I shall..." He stopped. "I'm sorry, run that by me again?"
"I will soon be surveying the kingdom. I need you by my side in case she tries anything else."
Shining Armor shook his head, exhaling deeply. "Princess Celestia... Your Highness... forgive me, but I'm afraid I find that to be too great a request."
Celestia's eyes narrowed. "Do you, now?"
"It took our combined might to repel Nightmare Moon's advance! You still have no control over your sun because of her!" His next words quivered as he spoke them. "All of that malevolent power now shares the same objective as Twilight Sparkle. They will cross paths, unless somepony gets in their way..."
"...and I intend for that somepony to be me. Mark me as a traitor if you must, but my little sister is in danger-"
"As is mine!"
That snapped Shining Armor out of it for precious moments. Never before had he seen Celestia so... so exasperated. "Princess?"
"Did you not hear what I said when Nightmare Moon arrived?" said the white pegasus unicorn through deep breaths. "I've had a thousand years to prepare for this. A thousand years to mourn my sister's corruption. A thousand years to figure out how to reverse the process!"
It was also the first time he had ever heard desperation in her voice.
"Every method I have come across which holds even the slightest chance of success has relied on the Elements of Harmony... and a power to wield them beyond even my capabilities. However, I eventually realized who could tap their full potential. Your sister... and mine."
The solar princess took slow steps towards her captain of the guard. "I believe in them, Shining. Twilight, who I have long known the potential of... and Luna, who even now still fights to escape Nightmare Moon's malevolence."
Shining's eyebrows raised. "You know this for certain?"
"Any sister can tell. The instant Nightmare Moon and I locked eyes, I knew there was still hope. Our sisters are the keys to ending Equestria's greatest curse. I must trust in them, because if they cannot prevail..."
She wrapped her forelegs around him, her next words subdued, almost grieving.
"...then we are already doomed."
Shining Armor softened as he felt her body shake against his, and hugged her in return. "Princess, I... I didn't know. I'm sorry."
"Do not be. I understand your plight, because we share it." She pulled away from him, and met his gaze with the weakest of smiles. "I beseech you to trust in them as well." She looked towards the stars. "Besides, I trained Twilight myself. She just might surprise you."
The world of the past faded, leaving Twilight back in the balloon.
"And now you know the story too," she heard her brother say with increasing clarity. "Hope that wasn't too bumpy a ride. I don't get to do that often."
The cool night air returned, forcing Twilight to shiver. "Princess Celestia..." she whispered.
"She was right to believe in you, Twilight. You came through. Princess Luna was returned to us. And then... you decided to stay in Ponyville. I was a little sad about it at first, but then, your letters started pouring in. The ones where you learned all sorts of lessons about friendship."
Twilight gasped. "You read those?"
"Are you kidding? Gosh, the stuff in those letters... you never talked about those kinds of things back home! You didn't really reach out much to anyone who wasn't family or close to it."
Twilight looked down. "Didn't have much reason to."
"I know, Twilie. I know. I figured having some space away from Canterlot would the best thing for you. So I decided to, well, not get in the way. Celestia would let me read each new letter the day after it arrived. It was like Hearth's Warming every week for me... and Cadance."
Twilight perked up again. "Cadance? She-"
Shining Armor nodded. "Mm-hmm. Celestia granted her the same courtesy. In time, the two of us started meeting together to discuss your letters and progress. Which in turn led us to discussing... well, other things, and before either of us knew it..." An impish grin crossed his muzzle.
"Ahhh, I see." Twilight nodded, then flushed almost to the point of dizziness upon putting two and two together. "Wait a minute! You mean I was the reason you two-"
Shining Armor ruffled his sister's mane. "Well, part of it, I suppose. But come on, there's still something to be said for your big bro's charms, right?"
Twilight laughed and waved Shining Armor away. "Yes, yes, I'm sure. Well, what you've told me makes perfect sense. I can't stay mad about not hearing from you."
She placed both of her hooves on his shoulders, meeting his eyes with empathy.
"But never do that again, okay? You're my big brother! My best friend forever! I would have dropped everything for you! I would have told everypony how great you were! We would have found tons of wonderful ways to spend the time!" She let go, and sighed. "But when I received that wedding invitation, my friends hardly had any clue who you were. It was only then I realized that I'd never really told them about you! Because I..." It was now Twilight's turn to stare into space as she gripped the edge of the balloon's basket. "...I almost forgot about you. And then, when I finally saw you again... and the wedding rehearsal happened, I..."
Shining Armor hugged Twilight from behind. "I guess we both make mistakes. Sometimes big ones."
Twilight sniffled. "Y-yeah, I guess we do. I can't believe it took me so long just to tell them how proud I am of you. You protect our home, and so many of the ponies I care about. You're marrying the mare I would give a thousand blessings for you to marry..."
"Same to you. The 'rents and I were always a little worried about the whole introvert thing. Guess you just needed time. You've completely turned things around for yourself, and now you never stop talking about the great friends you've made. You're all smiles... and on top of it all, you save the world on a yearly basis. As family I'm proud, but as an officer, I won't lie--I'm totally jealous!"
"Hey, you and Cadance beat me to it this time."
"Sure, after you uncovered the whole scheme and found my real wife! All we did was redeem ourselves after she and I both ended up powering-" Shining Armor stopped short. "I do owe you a whole lot, don't I?"
"As much as I owe you."
Shining Armor turned Twilight around and into a full-on embrace, leaving any and all of the night air's chills utterly forgotten. "I'll always love you, Twilight Sparkle. Even if you forget me, never forget that."
"Never again," Twilight replied, as she hugged back and cradled her head on his shoulders. "I love you too. So much."
The moment passed, and they separated. Shining Armor spoke first. "You know, I almost didn't come up here, late as it was. Glad you nagged me into it."
"Hee hee! Sorry. Look, just... at least write me a little more often, okay? I was serious about what I said--just because I've finally made friends doesn't mean I've forgotten about the ones who got me this far."
"It's a deal, Twilie."
"Glad to hear it," said a female voice from off to the side.
"Cadance! Hi!" Twilight said, following the voice to a pink mare in mid-flight. "Oh... you took off your wedding gown?"
Cadance gave an overlong mock-dramatic sigh. "I know, I know, I really didn't want to--but do you know how hard it is to fly with that long tail it's got? Whoever designed that garment certainly wasn't a pegasus! Anyway..." Cadance gestured towards Shining Armor. "...is it all right if I get your brother back? It's only been a couple of hours and I already miss him. We've got a honeymoon to prepare for, after all..."
"I guess that's fair," Twilight said with a sheepish grin. "I'll let the balloon down."
"No offense, but..." Cadance fluttered one of her wings, smiling straight at him. "...I can't wait that long."
"Ahhh. Well, duty calls once more, I guess." He gave Twilight a kiss on the forehead. "Let's not be strangers anymore."
Twilight nodded. "Definitely."
With that, Shining Armor poofed out of the balloon, and reappeared atop Cadance, who gave a startled gasp at the sudden weight. "-whoa!... Mmmm. Hello there, husband of mine..."
"Heh. Morning, honey. Ready when you are."
"Oh, I'm ready." Cadance looked at Twilight and winked. "He still love heights?"
Twilight nodded boisterously. "Yep."
"Perfect. Good night, Twilight Sparkle. And once again, thank you for everything!"
The next half-minute was filled with yelps from Shining Armor as Cadance gave him a roller-coaster ride back towards terra firma.
"Bye, you guys!" Twilight waved between laughs. "Enjoy your honeymoon!"
She froze where she was.
"The honeymoon between my brother... and my foalsitter..."
The images hit her mind, full force and all at once.
The outburst echoed across the castle grounds, noticed by no one. Soon Twilight was alone with her thoughts, and the gentle whistle of the wind.
She looked back up to her cutie mark in the sky. A familiar sadness squeezed her heart.
Princess Celestia... you believed in me so much back then. But have you had any reason to lately?
When they were finally alone with each other in their castle suite, Cadence looked back out, in the direction of Twilight's slowly moving balloon.
She did her absolute best to to stifle a shiver. She failed.
Shining Armor noticed.
"Oh, no. Again? No wonder you rushed us away from there."
Cadance shook her head. "I'm sorry, dear. I know that's your sister. It's just... seeing her in the moonlight brought a little too much back."
Shining Armor kneaded his hooves against his wife's back in a gentle massage. "The whole changeling affair had everypony on edge. I think you should go see her. Really get to know her again. Then tell her."
"You don't think it'll drive her as crazy as it does me?"
"No. She'll understand, I know she will. She's dealt with this sort of thing before. And we both know she's one of the kindest souls either of us have ever encountered. Maybe if she reminds you, then you can finally put this whole thing to rest."
Cadance finally managed a weak smile. "You know, I'm a little surprised you're not still suspicious of me."
"That's because I know you're one of the kindest souls I've ever encountered." He smiled as well, and made sure Cadance could see it. "Not to mention, that changeling queen's flank just got kicked clear across Equestria. I should know. We were there."
Cadance giggled. "Thank you, my love. You always know how to set my mind at ease." The two sank to the mattress, side by side. "Now, I believe this is the part where you kiss me."
Shining Armor chuckled. "Your wish is my command."
And as the two locked lips, Princess Cadance successfully willed herself to forget her troubles for a single night.