Nightmare Moon looked a little smaller in the sunlight, not that it was able to touch her directly. Her star-studded mist of a mane and tail glowed within the pool of shadow surrounding her crumpled form, as she lay at the base of the crater, not moving except to breathe.
The others – aside from Big Mac, who’d headed off to reassure Applebloom, and check up on Granny Smith – whispered to each other from the crater’s edge. Before long, though, the conversation died down, and they ran off to frolic in the sunlight. For a second it looked like Rainbow Dash was going to invite Nightmare Moon to come along, but Fluttershy said something to her and they both flew off without a word. Still, it was enough to make the nightmare smile.
She closed her eyes for a while, opening them only when the sun’s warmth washed across her wings, to see Celestia standing next to her. “I take it I’m forgiven,” the radiant alicorn said.
“For what?” Nightmare Moon asked. “You were right all along.”
“Your friends said that it was the little yellow pegasus who talked you down,” Celestia said.
“Fluttershy? Yes, she was the spark.” Nightmare Moon admitted.
Celestia frowned. “Then the elements were involved?”
“Metaphorically, but that is always how they’ve been at their most powerful.” The black alicorn sighed, and folded her wings in against her body. “When I declared myself ruler of Equestria, the ponies here treated me with more kindness and generosity than I realized, or deserved. I was confused by their offerings, and infuriated that petitioners brought nothing but the same request – that the sun be raised – over and over and over. I thought they were defying me, when in reality it was simply the only request important enough for them to risk offending me.
“And then, when I fled to the Everfree Forest, thinking to be alone, some ponies – these six – were not content to let me be. They laughed in the face of my threats, and told me the truth even though it was not what I wanted to hear. They pushed themselves to the brink of exhaustion and despair in my service – in the service of my dream.
“And I misinterpreted it all as treason. I was about to destroy them, when Fluttershy’s stare forced me to realize the truth – that they’d been loyal all along. That they were only trying to be my friends.”
“A valuable lesson,” Princess Celestia said.
“It had better be,” Nightmare Moon replied. “Equestria suffered enough for it.”
“Friendship is sometimes hard, Luna, but always worth the price,” Celestia said gently.
Nightmare Moon squeezed her eyes shut at the mention of that name. “Don’t call me that. I don’t deserve it.”
Celestia was taken aback. “You really want everypony to keep calling you ‘Nightmare Moon’?”
The nightmare nodded. “It will serve as a reminder, perhaps as a form of penance. And besides,” she added, with a smile, “for some reason it makes everypony bring me candy.”