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As her sister's sun ended its daily trip across the Equestrian sky, Luna was already frantically getting the observatory set up. Not surprisingly, she had saved the best for last, but 'best' was rather subjective - in her humble opinion, astronomy was indeed the best activity, and she had purposely set it up to be the last activity she and her guests would complete. She already had almost everything set up, but the young Princess still needed more time.
Luckily, Celestia had offered to keep the campers busy by allowing them to watch her lower the sun, and Luna put the additional time to good use. The alicorn's horn glowed a faint blue as several cabinets throughout the observatory flew open, and all manner of astronomical tools began to float out and set themselves up around the room. Telescopes, sextants, and more all calibrated themselves at Luna's whim, and yet something was still missing. The Princess of the Night nearly brought a hoof to her forehead as she remembered, and her horn glowed once more as she directed the magic towards another cabinet.
"Ugh, star charts. Of course."
She had the rare privilege of being in possession of the most up-to-date star charts, a feat that had been accomplished thanks to the efforts of herself and Twilight Sparkle. After all, if it weren't for the two of them, most of Equestria would still be using woefully out-dated charts. The young Princess hurriedly brought them out and unfurled, laying them down in various spots throughout the observatory. Everything looked to be in order, but there were still two other things she needed to take care of.
On certain nights, Luna used a spell of her sister's creation, one that amplified light refraction. It was a rather simple trick, but when used properly, it was capable of greatly reducing light pollution from the rest of Canterlot. She couldn't exactly leave the castle to check on its effectiveness, however, and she had been forced to rely upon her guards to relay her information - as if on cue, one of the dusky pegasus stallions trotted up to her and gave a quick salute. "Update for you, Luna. One of the others flew off to Cloudsdale to see how things look from there, another went to Ponyville."
"And?" Luna peered at the guard, a faint smile upon her face as she waited for the answer.
"Both reported that Canterlot looks almost completely dark. Seems the spell is working as designed."
"Perfect! That's all I needed done. Have the others recalled."
The pegasus gave another salute and departed just as quickly as he arrived, leaving Luna in solitude once more. The Princess trotted from place to place within the observatory, making last minute adjustments to the telescopes and sextants, and ensuring that everything was within the proper place. With everything seemingly in its proper place, the only thing that remained was to raise the moon. Such a thing had gotten considerably easier compared to the first time she practiced with Celestia, and though it took her a bit longer to really get back into the swing of things, she had quickly adjusted to her role once more.
At this point, raising and lowering the moon didn't take much effort, and thankfully, such a thing would leave her with more than enough energy to follow through with another one of her ideas. Luna gave her wings a good stretch and took to the air, her horn glowing as she began the nightly task of raising the moon. As she continued to slowly rise, a smile spread across her face as she watched the pale moonlight fill the observatory, and the Princess considered herself awfully lucky to have chosen this night for their astronomy activities - though it had been purely by chance, this particular night had been blessed with a full moon, and it pleased Luna to know that everything had gone so well thus far.
With her duties fulfilled, the alicorn began her slow and steady descent and softly touched down upon the tile floor, the magic around her dissipating as she landed. Luna glanced over her shoulder and smiled as she surveyed her work once more. "Not bad, Luna. Not bad at all."
"I'll say. A full moon and everything - you're really pulling out all the stops tonight, little sister."
The Princess of the Night quickly snapped her attention back towards the entrance to the observatory, the smile never leaving her face as she watched her sister and her guests enter. The elder sibling had apparently taken to informality quite well, as she had once again left her royal adornments behind, and the rest of the campers seemingly stood in awe at just how big the observatory truly was - except for Twilight Sparkle, of course. Aside from the Royal Library, the observatory had essentially been the lavender mare's second home during her studies at Canterlot, and she was pleased to return after all those years away.
Luna had already approached the group, and gave a slight bow to them all before speaking. "The final activity, as you've no doubt already guessed, is astronomy. Your last day here in Canterlot, which is tomorrow, shall be another free day. You may do as you wish during that time. I have three stations already set up throughout the observatory. At each one, you'll find a telescope, sextant, and a star chart. You'll need all three for what I have planned. Now then, before we..."
Twilight Sparkle already had a hoof raised in the air, and the unicorn quickly lowered it after receiving a nod from the young Princess. "Um... Luna, there's seven of us, but only three stations. That doesn't exactly split evenly."
"I was getting to that." Luna smiled faintly, and her sister's protégée grinned sheepishly in return. The alicorn took advantage of the ensuing silence and continued once more. "Given Twilight's rather... extensive background with astronomy, it didn't exactly seem fair for her to be grouped with any of you. As a result, she'll be grouped with none of you - instead, she'll be helping me... well, help all of you."
The group of ponies let out a collective groan of frustration, and quietly began to divide themselves up into groups. Applejack and Pip formed the first group, with Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash creating the second. The third group consisted of Rarity and Fluttershy, and all six ponies made their way towards their own stations. It didn't take long at all for them to begin to poke and prod at the various instruments, and Twilight Sparkle let out a nervous laugh as she walked over to stand by Luna's side. "This is... gonna be interesting."
"Yes... yes it will be." Over at one of the stations, Rainbow Dash bumped into one of the telescopes, knocking it over and causing Luna to wince as it crashed to the floor. "...Oh dear."
This was going to be a long night.
Luna's horn glowed as she picked up the tool with her magic, and she allowed it to float in front of both Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie as she explained its usage. "Now then, this is a sextant." Both mares snickered, causing the Princess of the Night to briefly raise an eyebrow before continuing once more. "Using it is rather simple. To start, aim at the horizon, release the clamp, and gradually move the arm until you bring the object of focus into view - for this example, we'll be using the moon. Now, after you have the object properly found within the sextant's telescope..."
Rainbow Dash let out a quiet snort, slowly shaking her head as she muttered to Pinkie Pie. "Heh... sextant."
"Yes, har har. It's funny because of the word it contains." Luna narrowed her eyes at the two of them, and the cyan pegasus let out a quiet yelp as she turned her head to look up at the alicorn.
"You uh... you heard that, huh?"
"As a matter of fact, I did. Now please take this seriously." The Princess of the Night kept her eyes trained upon them for a while longer, and a faint smile crept across her face as she watched Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie visibly straighten up in front of her. "Now then, after you have the object within the telescope, simply tip the sextant back and forth to verify the position, and then read the angle. Simple. Think you two can handle it from here?"
Pinkie Pie watched with a raised eyebrow as Luna gently set the sextant back down upon the table, and the pink earth pony was slow to respond. "Uh... okey dokey lokey."
"Good." Grinning, Luna trotted away from the two ponies and made her way towards another station. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Twilight Sparkle attending to Rarity and Fluttershy, and so the alicorn turned towards Applejack and Pip. Over the past few days, the orange earth pony had become a surrogate sister of sorts for the young colt, and even now, Pip was perched upon Applejack's back. To make things even better, Applejack had removed her hat, and the pinto colt currently had the sextant actually sitting upon her head - though it was entirely likely that Pip simply had trouble holding the instrument at his age, it didn't make the situation look any less comical.
As the young Princess approached the duo, the orange mare looked over at Luna as best she could without moving her head. "I uh... I'd turn ta actually say 'hi', but Pip's kinda... busy."
"Just hold still, Applejack! I've almost got it!" Pip gave Applejack's head a gentle tap with one of his hooves, and she sighed in return.
Luna raised an eyebrow and cocked her head as she peered at the colt. "Got what?"
"He's lookin' fer th' Big Dipper right now." Applejack glanced up at the Princess, and she shifted slightly to relieve her hooves somewhat. "Pip already found Orion an' a few others. Little guy's awfully good at this."
Before Applejack could say anything else, Pip hopped off her back and onto the table, and he quickly scrambled over to the telescope. Using his mouth, the colt swung the telescope around and made the needed adjustments before peering through the ocular, smiling to himself as he looked through. "Found it!"
The Princess of the Night simply blinked at Pip, and she soon made her way over towards the telescope and took a look for herself. Sure enough, the pinto colt had managed to find the Big Dipper, and surprisingly quickly too. The alicorn pulled herself away from the instrument and looked down at Pip, a faint smile upon her face. "Pip, I'm awfully curious... Try finding Andromeda now."
"Andromeda?" The colt put on the most determined face he could muster and he scampered over to the star chart, peering down at it and placing a hoof upon it as he followed the various stars that made up the constellation. After nodding to himself, Pip hopped onto Applejack's back once more, causing the orange mare to wince slightly. It wasn't as if he noticed, though - he had already picked up the sextant and made the necessary adjustments, and it didn't take much longer for him to tip the sextant back and forth as he verified the results. The colt hopped off of Applejack again and ran back across the table to the telescope. It took a few seconds more for him to make the necessary movements and adjustments, but Pip proudly puffed out his chest upon finishing the task. "Done!"
"Already? Lemme see..." Luna leaned down and took another look through the ocular, letting out a low whistle as she found herself looking at Andromeda. "You really did find it. You weren't kidding when you said he was good at this, Applejack."
"Told ya. Any others ya wanna look for, Pip?" The pinto colt quickly hopped onto her back once more, and the orange earth pony let out another sigh. "That's a yes..."
Giggling, Luna trotted away from the two earth ponies and proceeded towards Twilight Sparkle. The lavender mare had apparently managed to teach both Fluttershy and Rarity a great deal, considering that the two of them had already found and charted several of the constellations on the star chart, and the young Princess was pleased with their progress. "I'm guessing my sister's prized pupil has been an adequate instructor?"
Fluttershy let out a quiet 'eep' and quickly turned around to face the alicorn, smiling nervously as she looked up at Luna. "Oh, certainly. Twilight's always been an awful good teacher, though..."
"And she certainly knows how to use these silly little things." Rarity rolled her eyes and continued to toy with the sextant, never once turning around to face the Princess - it was likely for the best, considering the disapproving scowl that Luna currently wore upon her face.
The Princess of the Night sighed and gave her head a quick shake, wiping the scowl off her face as she turned to look at Twilight Sparkle. "Yes, well... I suppose I should be thankful that some ponies love my nights as much as they do." Luna threw a glance towards her sibling, who had been sitting off to the side throughout the activity. Celestia knew how important the nights were to her younger sister, and she had chosen to fulfill the role of silent spectator rather than vocal participant for that evening.
The white alicorn caught her sister's glance and returned it in kind, a faint smile upon her face. "Looks like you're ready, little sister."
"Awfully hard for your guards to keep a secret. I've heard the stories, but I've been wanting to see it for myself." Celestia grinned at her younger sister, and Luna was quick to flash a smile back.
"And now you shall, dear sister." The Princess of the Night pounded a hoof upon the tile floor, calling the attention of her guests to herself. "Gather 'round, friends. There's something I wish to show you."
The seven campers all left their respective stations and slowly made their way towards the center of the room, with most of them unwittingly crowding around Celestia herself. One by one, they gradually took their seats beside the white alicorn, and all of them looked up at Luna with a keen interest. With a faint smile upon her face, Celestia nodded at her sister. "You're all about to bear witness to something very special. Begin when you're ready, Luna."
Luna smiled and nodded in kind, and she briefly flared her wings - it served no real purpose with what would soon follow, but it made for a good show. As the Princess of the Night closed her eyes, her horn began to glow, and it let out a bright flash of light as the air within the observatory began to stir. It was slow at first, a gentle and steady breeze that seemed to have no real effect upon the tools, charts, or books within the observatory, and yet its results were quite obvious upon the spectators. Manes began to shift and billow as the wind continued to increase, and it steadily ramped up into a gust. Luna remained locked within her spell, her horn continuing to glow, and Twilight Sparkle threw a worried look up at her mentor. "Princess Celestia...?"
"What you're witnessing and feeling, my faithful student, is magic. Pure, unadulterated, and unbridled magic. It's been... thousands of years since I've seen my sister perform this spell." Celestia glanced down at her pupil and smiled. "This is magic in its most raw and primal form, but also its most powerful. Beautiful, isn't it?"
Twilight blinked in return, and she winced as the gust picked up even further, progressing into a howling roar. It was almost deafening, and she had to yell as loudly as she could just to speak above it. "I GUESS? ISN'T THIS DANGEROUS, THOUGH?"
"Luna has done this nightly with her guards around. I promise you, you'll be safe. And just wait until you see the result..."
Slightly soothed by her teacher's words and surprised that she was even able to hear the alicorn, the lavender mare turned back towards Luna and continued to simply watch. What Celestia said had some merit to it - to see magic in such a raw and powerful form was a very rare sight, and the magical capabilities of the Royal Sisters were second-to-none. Considering how highly she valued her own magic, Twilight couldn't help but feel a bit jealous of what she was seeing, nor could she deny how incredible such a spell was. It was so simple, and at the same time, so very intricate.
The arcane storm continued on, and the Princess of the Night was beginning to visibly strain herself as she carried out the spell, yet she pressed onwards. She couldn't fail now. She needed to do this. Not just for herself, or her guests, but for her sister - for them. Aside from Philomena and Celestia herself, the very art of creating stars was the last tie Luna had to her 'old' life, and just like the lullaby, it was theirs. Nopony would ever be able to take that from them. As the last of the dust and gas was squeezed into its new form, there was another brilliant flash of light as the magic ceased, and Luna fell to the tile floor, panting and exhausted. "...d-done."
Celestia was the first to rise, and she slowly walked over to her sister's side, helping the young Princess back up to her hooves. "You did wonderfully, little sister. I see you haven't lost your touch at all."
"I... I even did something special this time. Just... just for you." Luna smiled and laughed weakly before abruptly taking a seat upon the floor, and she gave her sister a brief nuzzle as the elder sibling wrapped a wing around her. The rest of the guests had since hurried over to the two alicorns, and all of them seemed rather concerned about Luna's state. Even while weakened, the young Princess was determined to make herself appear as strong as possible, and she was quick to wave a hoof dismissively. "I'm not hurt or anything, I'm simply... tired."
Twilight Sparkle stepped forward, an eyebrow raised as she peered at Luna. "So... did you just...?"
"I told you in the library that I would show you what it looked like when I made stars. Now you know." The alicorn grinned at her sister's pupil, and she quickly beckoned Fluttershy towards herself. "Fluttershy, could you please fetch some water for me?"
"Are you sure you're alright, Luna? You look absolutely awful... oh, maybe you should take a nap." The yellow pegasus was already hurriedly placing her hooves all over the Princess' face as she tried to feel for a temperature, and Celestia couldn't help but laugh at such a sight.
"My sister will be fine, Fluttershy. As strong as we may be, we both still have our limits, and creating a single star completely exhausts Luna. Just give her a few hours, and she'll be quite alright." The white alicorn smiled back at Fluttershy, but as the pegasus continued to stay put, Celestia glanced around before letting out a soft cough. "...um, Fluttershy. The water, please."
"Oh dear, I'm so very sorry! I'll be right back, I promise!" The yellow pegasus quickly took to the air and flew out of the observatory, leaving the others to awkwardly stand around the Royal Sisters.
Luna had her face buried in her elder sibling's coat, but she briefly turned away to eye her guests. "...I'll be fine, honest. Go back to your telescopes, sextants, and star charts, and try to find the star I made."
The seven guests did as told, though Pip certainly seemed most excited, and the pinto colt hopped up onto the table and patiently waited for Applejack to return. While she slowly walked back over, Pip had already propped the sextant up on the table with the aid of several books, and he was quickly comparing the star chart to anything he found within the night sky. With a gentle kick from one of his hind legs, he swung the telescope back around and was already quickly scanning the heavens, even as Applejack finally made her way to the station. The colt let out a small gasp and began to grin ear to ear, quickly giving a few of the dials and knobs a few turns with his mouth before peering through the ocular once more. "I think... I think I found it!"
Celestia glanced over towards the tiny colt and smiled at him. "Describe it for me, Pip."
"It's... orange, and really bright. A lot brighter than all the other stars around it!"
"Mm... orange. Father's favorite color." The white alicorn tossed a quick glance down at her own flank and grinned. "...and the color of my cutie mark."
The others had since found the star as well, letting out several 'ooh's and 'aah's as they all surveyed Luna's creation. Twilight Sparkle eventually pulled herself away from the telescope and made her way towards the two alicorns, a slight expression of confusion upon her face. "Doesn't Luna want to see the sta-"
"Shh." Celestia looked up at her protégée with a faint smile upon her face, then soon turned her gaze back to her sibling at her side.
"Mhm." Luna's only response to the two of them was a quiet snore, and the Princess of the Night shifted slightly, burying her face into her sister's side. The elder sibling pulled her wing a bit tighter around her younger sister, and Twilight could hardly contain her own smile as her mentor leaned down to give the sleeping Princess a gentle kiss upon her forehead. "Sweet dreams, little sister. And... thank you.