67w, 4hWriting Gold
65w, 5dDoubled Fun
67w, 2hAlicorn Twilight
60w, 2dTwilight is Best Pony
65w, 2dTwilight Sparkle
63w, 4dThe Hero... Nightmare Moon?
- Show All Groups
5w, 6dTwilight's Library
47w, 4dThe Usual
37w, 1dAlternate Perspectives
27w, 6dStories I've read
13w, 1dX Becomes An Alicorn
9w, 4dVallett's Private Library
10w, 1dFallen Heroes
Chapter 5: Lunacy
(Alternate Title: My Little Expositionary Chapter)
Huge chunks of stone all around her, battering her, smashing her. The most violent wind she had ever felt, tearing at every inch of her body.
I'm dead... I must be dead... I can't even feel the pain.
Hooves. Cool, strong hooves. Around her waist.
I really am dead.
The stones had fallen away to thunder down the mountainside. The wind wasn't screaming in her ears any more, but something had replaced it. Something with a voice.
"TWILIGHT SPARKLE! NO! NO! PLEASE! NO! NOOOOOO!"
Hot tears were splashing onto her face.
I'm not dead?
She opened her eyes.
Princess Luna was holding Twilight in a tight embrace, sparkling silver tears leaking freely from between the lids of her own tightly-closed eyes. They were floating close to the tallest castle tower, jerking higher and higher with every beat of Luna's enormous midnight-blue wings.
"I'm sorry, don't move, I'm s-sorry, please don't be dead, I hurt you, please don't try to move..."
A gasp. Twilight felt the grip around her slacken.
"You're conscious? You should be dead!"
Wait until you see my next trick...
A flash of blazing red. Luna released Twilight in shock - and Twilight dropped lightly back onto the floor of Celestia's private chamber.
Luna fell out of the air and hit the floor herself. She had been teleported. By somepony else. She was gaping at Twilight as her sister's first and only student galloped across to where Celestia was getting back to her hooves, surrounded by those other ponies... It took Luna a moment to realise that they weren't strangers at all.
In an instant, Luna was by her older sister's side. "Big Sister! You're alright! I was... I thought... Twilight Sparkle! I thought I'd killed her! But she's..."
Celestia was shaking her head slowly. She opened her eyes and looked at Luna.
"Why is there a hole in the wall, Little Sister?"
"I... I don't know why, Big Sister. My magic... It leaped out of control."
Celestia closed her eyes and drew a very slow, deep breath. Twilight, standing with her friends, could never remember the princess ever looking so much as slightly flustered. But for this single instant, she really did look thousands of years old.
"Did you use magic on Twilight Sparkle, Little Sister?"
Luna nodded. "I came into the chamber and saw you on the floor. I simply couldn't believe it. I went to push the other ponies away from you with my horn so I could get to you, but..." Luna looked worried. "Something happened with my spell. It latched onto Twilight Sparkle and... and a surge of power unlike anything I've ever felt before... unbidden. My spell darkened the whole chamber, and then she just... She flew at the wall with enough force to smash right through it! As if I'd thrown her with all of the strength I could muster! And... she doesn't even have a scratch." Luna hung her head. "I thought I'd harmed a pony. I thought... Dear Starshine, I actually thought I had killed a pony."
One lone silver tear dripped from Luna's cheek to the floor as Celestia nuzzled her little sister.
Celestia looked around at the others in the room. Everypony seemed perfectly fine, though the looks of worry and shock on their faces were unsettling. Twilight herself didn't have a feather out of place, but was wearing a look that demanded answers. And Celestia was going to give her those answers... Whatever the price.
"Little Sister, my faithful subjects, my dear Twilight," Celestia began. "I have just undergone the greatest shock that I have received in all of my long life. I know what has happened to Twilight, though I never thought it would happen at all, to anypony. And certainly not to one that I know so well, and care so much for. If you would like to please sit down, we have quite a lot to discuss."
"Us too? Ah, heh, I mean, us too, your Highness?" asked Rarity.
"Of course. You are all her very best friends, and she will need all of your friendship if she is to survive."
"Survive?!" Pinkie Pie shrieked.
Twilight looked around at all of her friends. Their expressions were ashen.
"Please, please. Let us all sit. Guards," Celestia added, opening the door with her magic. The two pegasus guardsmen were cowering in fear against the opposite wall. "Oh! Please, you have nothing to worry about. A small spell mishap. Everypony is fine." They stood up shakily and bowed low. "As you see," Celestia said, gesturing with a gold-shod hoof, "Part of my wall is now at the bottom of the mountain. Please, send a team of strong pegasus movers to clean up and recover the stones. And you may leave your post. We do not need any... guarding for the moment."
"Y-y-y-y-yes, y-y-your H-h-h-h-h..." The guards stammered as they fairly rocketed down the corridor and out of earshot.
Celestia closed the door again and walked to the circle of cushions by her fireplace. The others followed, Luna taking a cushion next to her sister, Twilight sitting in the cushion Celestia indicated, directly facing her. Spike sat down next to Twilight.
"So," Celestia began. "Firstly, I must congratulate you. The first new alicorn that the world has seen for six thousand years."
Luna's head snapped around so fast that the wind of its passage was audible. "WHAT?" she thundered.
"Little Sister, think about what you see before you. You know there is no possible magic to give a pony feathered wings. Of the three kindred, feathered flight belongs only to the pegasi."
"I... I suppose I really should have studied more lore, Big Sister." Luna turned her head forwards again. "Twilight Sparkle. Do you mind?"
"Uh, Princess Luna, I... huh?"
Luna stood up and stepped towards Twilight. "Hold out your wings."
Twilight gingerly opened her wings. Luna took a quick, sharp breath, and then sat back down, hard. "Alicorn feathers." A few non-alicorn feathers had been ejected from her cushion.
"I don't see any difference!"
Everypony looked at Rainbow Dash. "What?! I don't! They look just like pegasus feathers, which look just like bird feathers, which look just like any other kind of feather! Yeah, sure, when she puts 'em up like this" - she arched her own wings high above her back - "they look just like the Princesses' wings. But they're just feathers!"
"They don't look like pegasus feathers to me," Rarity said quietly.
"Very succinct," Celestia said to the suddenly awkward-looking unicorn. "Tell me, what do you see?"
"Well, I, uh, where to begin? They do look like just any other feather when she has them folded up," Rarity explained. "But when she puts those lovely wings into the air, they just... Oh my. They just... shimmer! They glow! And they're... they're moving, like in a breeze that isn't there!"
"No they're not! They're completely ordinary feathers!" Dash protested.
Celestia chuckled. "I wonder who else can see one of the glories of Twilight's beautiful plumage?" Nopony offered, and Twilight re-folded her wings. "Alright then. What makes Miss Rarity different from the rest of you?"
"She's got a really good eye for fashion?" Fluttershy offered, as Rarity blushed furiously at being called "Miss" by the princess. Suddenly, Fluttershy squeaked with the realisation that she'd spoken aloud, and immediately tried to do her very best impression of being completely invisible.
"She's afraid a' gettin' her hooves dirty?" That earned Applejack a truly magnificent scowl.
"Oh! I know! She's the most beauti-" Spike sat back down and started pointedly looking away from everypony. His little scaly face was nearly as red as Rarity's had been.
"Not even close, my little ponies. And my little dragon." Celestia smiled at Spike. "Think about it," she prodded.
Silence. Then, finally, rolling her eyes, Pinkie Pie let out an exasperated sigh. "Oh, come ON, girls! It's OBVIOUS! She can do MAGIC! DUH!"
"Absolutely correct, Miss Pinkie. Magic is as magic does, as they say. You must have known magic in order to see magic's traces. Tell me, Twilight. What do you see?"
Twilight looked back at her new feathered appendages. "They're just feathers."
Twilight stretched her left wing out and forward, holding it out in front of her face. "Oh. Ohhh... They almost look like they're made out of crystal, or... or, I don't know. Frozen smoke? I've never seen anything like them before. They don't look like your feathers, Princess. They look, like, ordinary I guess, until they're stretched out. Then they don't look like normal feathers." She folded her wing back against her side, a frown creasing her forehead.
Rainbow Dash grumbled quietly over that particular use of "ordinary" and "normal".
"Do they look like these?" Luna offered. Her magnificent plumage swept a high, graceful arc, as Celestia's followed suit.
Twilight reeled her jaw back in. "...Oh. Yeah. Um, yeah. Wow. Your wings... never looked like that before," she said.
"You've never been able to see them properly before," Celestia said. "It wasn't your wings that made my heart stop, Twilight Sparkle. It was your feathers. Alicorn feathers. They look unique, to an eye that can see them. The thought that you were an alicorn was the most profound shock I have ever received. Not in many thousands of years have I ever... Well. Passed out."
"There's been a lot of that today," Twilight said. "It nearly gave me a heart attack, seeing you fall. I mean, princess, you're... you're, well, you're you!"
Celestia smiled. "Luna and myself may have ruled Equestria for thousands of years," she began with a glance at her frowning sister, "but that does not make us infallable. Far, far from it. I have made mistakes, as has Luna. I regret my mistakes bitterly. You must learn to cope with such bitterness, Twilight. You will have to hold it within yourself forever, and not let it destroy you from within."
Luna nodded. "Twilight Sparkle, this is the gravest thing that I will ever say. Alicorns must, MUST contain their emotions. You must learn to deal with them. I could not do so, and a thousand years ago, I paid the price for my... my weakness. Do not, ever, allow yourself to be consumed by hate, greed, anger, vengeance, or fear. Or jealousy," she added, looking down at the floor.
"I... I'll try. I'll really try. I mean, we don't want another..." Twilight hesitated. "Another Night Mare Moon."
Luna blinked sadly. "No. Not ever."
Celestia sighed. "And yet, this is what I fear will happen."
A few gasps, and then silence. Twilight found herself on her hooves. "Hey! We're not just going to sit by and watch me be consumed by some evil negative emotion! We're going to do every single thing that could possibly be done to prevent anything like Night Mare Moon from ever happening again! Right?!"
Celestia looked ancient beyond count of years for a heartbeat. She looked at Twilight for a long moment, then said "Well, we'll certainly do everything we can to prevent that. Please. We're getting ahead of ourselves." She shifted on her cushion. "Twilight, apart from your new feathered limbs, what else have you noticed that has changed about yourself?"
Twilight considered. "Lots of things. My magic. My... I don't know, my personality? I seem to be able to keep my head better. I, uh, wasn't very good at that at all, was I?" A sheepish grin.
"Although it was thoroughly embarassing for them at the time, the citizens of Ponyville will be laughing about that incident with the doll for years to come," Celestia said, with more than her usual measure of amusement playing about her lips. "Keeping calm in a crisis. A very central part of being an alicorn. Good. What of your magic?"
"My magic is a lot stronger. I don't know how strong, exactly. I had trouble controlling it, at first. Pinkie almost got badly burned when she touched my horn. But I read the section in 'So How Exactly Do You Control A Floodgate?' about how to throttle everything right down to zero, and I worked up from there. I practiced levitating my furniture... I, ah, um. Oh yeah. Heh heh, I might need an advance on next month's stipend for the repairs..." Celestia giggled. "Anyway. I teleported my friends here with practically no effort at all. And I... I reached out and touched the sun today. I didn't move it, but I think I could."
Celestia tilted her head towards the small pile of rubble surmounted by a gaping hole. "Why don't you try now?"
"Really?" Twilight was flabbergasted.
"Of course. See what you can do."
Twilight stood up. "It'll be surprising. I, uh... I don't look the same when I do it."
Celestia and Luna looked at each other for a moment. Finally, Celestia said, "I think we would very much like to see that."
Twilight trotted towards the hole in the wall, the other ponies following, staring at the slowly lowering sun.
It is SO WEIRD to look straight at the sun and not have to squint. Alright. You asked for it, Princesses.
A finger of magic exploded out of her horn and streaked off to the unimaginably far-away ball of white-hot energy. She grabbed it. Tested its weight.
Man, that is SO creepy. How can something so heavy be so LIGHT?
Rolling her eyes at the unintentional pun, she pushed it below the horizon, extinguishing the day. No more effort than raising an eyebrow.
How strange to see a night sky so completely devoid of stars.
She pulled it back to where it should be at this time of day.
Well, I hope that didn't creep too many ponies out.
And then, the tall, slender, graceful lavender alicorn turned around to face her audience.
Her friends were beaming at her. Spike, who hadn't witnessed her earlier transformation, had his mouth open in a perfect "O", his rapt eyes shining with tears.
"Twilight," he breathed. "That's amazing."
Twilight barely noticed. Her attention was focused almost entirely on the two other immortal beings in the room.
Celestia and Luna were blazing orbs of sunlight and moonlight. Twilight released her grasp on the heavenly body, and their normal forms reappeared. They looked... impressed.
"I've got a question," Twilight said.
I'm being so bold. That sounded like I just snapped at them. Am I more assertive now too?
"Go ahead." Celestia bowed her beautiful head.
"What did I look like to you?"
"You looked as we look," Luna replied. "Once you grow, you will be a truly beautiful alicorn, Twilight Sparkle."
"Oh," Twilight replied. "It's just, you looked like the full moon. And Princess Celestia looked like the noonday sun."
Realisation seemed to dawn on the two princesses. Without a word, both alicorn sisters began to glow faintly. Twilight guessed that they were both using their most powerful magic, reaching for the sun and the moon.
It must change your awareness. Magic is as magic does, I guess...
In unison, Celestia and Luna gasped. They stopped glowing and stared at Twilight.
"Well," Celestia began, "that clears that up."
Luna just looked shocked. "That clears WHAT up, Big Sister?"
"What did you see?" Twilight asked.
"Please, everypony, sit down. Now I know that my fears are not misguided. I will explain as best I can."
"Wait, what did you see, princess?" Twilight sat down next to Spike again, confusion on her face.
"We'll come to that in a moment," Celestia said, with uncharacteristic brusqueness. "I fear for you, Twilight Sparkle. I fear for the future of my land, I fear for my beloved subjects. I fear for my sister. And I fear... I fear for myself."
Luna's stare at her sister could have shattered solid rock. "You know something here that I do not." It was not a question.
Celestia looked out the large hole in her wall at the early evening sun, hanging just above the horizon, right where Twilight had left it. After a moment, she stood up. "Please excuse me. I will be right back." Trotting over to the doors, she opened one, went through, and closed it behind her.
Twilight shifted uncomfortably. Luna was giving her a very odd look. It was half-sympathetic, half-fearful.
Luna is... afraid of me?
"So, Twi'," Applejack began, then coughed. She tried again. "Twi', you alright? Really alright? 'Scuse me, Princess, but I ain't had a chance ta talk to ma friend since she went fer that little tumble."
"I'm fine, Applejack. Perfectly fine. Princess Luna, what did you see?"
"Please, Twilight Sparkle. I cannot answer that. Not yet. As soon as Celestia returns, we may be able to... ah, address that issue."
Nopony spoke. Twilight glared at Luna.
"I want to know."
Luna didn't answer.
"I said -"
"I heard what you said, Twilight Sparkle." Luna's voice was trembling. Twilight's friends had all gasped at her affrontery. "I cannot give you the answer to your question. Please! We must wait for my sister! I do not truly know what the vision means!"
"Oh... Oh, I'm so sorry," Twilight said. She felt terrible. She got up, walked over to Luna's sitting form, and bowed. "I'm sorry for speaking to you like that, your Highness. I, uh..." Twilight stood up again. "I really don't know what has gotten into me!"
Did I just talk to a princess like that?!
Luna smiled. "You do not need to refer to me by title, Twilight Sparkle. And please, do not bow. Such things are beneath you. You, too, are royalty now."
Twilight shook her head. "No thanks, Princess. I'm not royalty. To tell you the truth, that's really why I'm here. My friends and I came to tell Celestia that I want to stay in Ponyville, and just keep on leading my perfectly normal life. I'm a perfectly normal pony and that's how I want it to stay. Perfectly normal."
Amidst nods of agreement and encouragement from her friends, Twilight sat back down on her cushion and nodded proudly at herself.
"I admire your spirit, Twilight Sparkle. If this is what you wish, then I shall see that it is done. My sister will agree, I am sure."
"Really?!" Twilight had bounded back onto all four hooves. "Oh, Princess! That's all I want! Thank you!" She bounded forward and gave an astonished Luna a hug.
"That's what we all want!" put in Pinkie Pie. "We're not gonna lose our friend just because she's all -"
The door opened, and Princess Celestia strode in, a grimy, crusty box floating in her wake. There was dirt on her golden shoes. Twilight released a now-blushing Luna and sat back down quickly.
"Little Sister, this was left to me by Mother." Luna gaped. "I know Father may have left certain items to you also. I will never ask you about them."
Luna had rapidly composed herself. "Of course. The Safeguards are there for a good reason."
Everypony else in the room just looked bewildered, and a little frightened.
Celestia settled herself back onto her regal cushion and lowered the box to the ground. The top opened, and a very small, impossibly-ancient book floated out and rested at Celestia's hooves.
Twilight wondered if there had ever been such a profound silence in the entire history of the world.
"A little family history. Twilight Sparkle, six thousand years ago, with my mortal birth, I became the first alicorn. Three years later, Luna was born, and she, too, had this power."
"You will find this in no history book. Six thousand years is too long to remember, for books at least. Facts become legends, and legends become myths. And myths are scoffed at."
Twilight and her friends were barely breathing.
"Our parents were unicorns. We never knew how, but they could perform the most profound magic. They could see beyond the mortal world, to all the mysteries of the universe. They wrote volumes. They lectured us."
Luna chimed in. "They had guessed that we would be immortal. Indestructable. Ever-lasting. They told us to wait for the founding of Equestria, and to offer our services in raising the sun and moon. We did. We were worshipped as gods." She scoffed. "Perhaps we are gods. I do not know. We shunned such worship and put ourselves into the service of all living things. In time, we became royalty. The descendents of the original founders became royalty alongside us."
"Our mother, Starshine, left me this book," Celestia continued. "This foretells of all the things that the universe had told her would come to be." Celestia magicked the grimy box out of the way and bent low. She touched the tip of her horn to the book.
The book expanded. It was huge, five feet long, two feet wide, and nearly a foot thick.
"The last words my mother spoke to me were" - everypony's mane stood on end as Celestia rumbled something incomprehensible. Spike curled into a ball. "A very ancient tongue. What it means is -"
"In here you will find the horrors to come. Take heed and avert them, or let them pass untended. The choice will be yours."
Every face, except Spike's, was turned toward Twilight. Celestia and Luna looked like they had both just been slapped.
"I understood what you said. And... No, I didn't understand the words. I understood the meaning." Twilight felt her face colouring.
"That is exactly what the words meant. I never opened it. I let things happen that I could have prevented, but felt that if this was the way the future must be, I should not interfere. Until... One day I... shall we just say that I have studied this book cover-to-cover for a little short of a thousand years." Celestia glanced at her sister. Luna was staring at the book with astonishment.
"You could have... you could have known about... you could have prevented... The Night Mare?" Luna's voice was fainter than the most insubstantial whisper.
"The past has passed. The future is before us. I am sorry, Little Sister." A single golden tear tracing down her cheek, Celestia opened the tome with her horn, flicking to a page about halfway through. "Twilight, can you read this?" The book spun around to face the newest alicorn, and Celestia indicated a short passage in impossibly-small incomprehensible script with a hoof.
"Jealousy will allow The Lunacy to claim the younger Eternal Sister. Night will conquer Day, but balance will be restored. A thousand years of sorrow await the bringer of the night, until the friends of the Master of Magic help to redeem her frozen heart to the shepherd of the day." Twilight looked up. "Well, that's kinda explicit. That's about... about my friends and I... bringing Luna back. Back to Celestia." Luna hung her head.
If I'm going to live forever, I'd better learn to deal with my sorrow, too.
"My friends and I are in this book?" Twilight asked, slightly overwhelmed.
"They are always referred to as 'the friends of the Master of Magic'. And yes, Twilight, you are the Master of Magic herself. You are all scattered throughout this enormous collection of future history," Celestia finished.
Twilight sat back and allowed her imagination to run riot.
Get your head back in the game.
"What's 'The Lunacy'," asked a by-now-thoroughly-confused Rarity.
Luna stood up. Her eyes were closed. She gave a small shiver, opened her eyes, and looked at Rarity.
"The modern term is named after me, Miss Rarity. Lunacy. Moonstruck. The stories of the full moon driving wild creatures mad, and later being applied to ponies that lose their grip on sanity. The original, however, simply means something like 'insanity'. The closest modern word is, indeed, 'lunacy'. There is no reference to me in the ancient word 'sharaheng'."
Twilight heard Luna say 'sharaheng', but understood her to be saying 'lunacy'. She stopped breathing as Luna looked straight into her eyes.
"The Lunacy, Sharaheng Zus, is a spirit of chaos. Not like Discord," she said, as everypony gave a start. "Not external chaos. Internal chaos. We don't know what it is, we don't know where it resides when it's not... doing what it does best. But it took me in my jealous rage and it transformed me into The Night Mare. It feeds on the vast stores of emotions that must live within an alicorn forever. Hate, rage, anger... jealousy. It overcomes the will, it..."
Luna sat down. "I cannot speak more of this." She looked at Celestia. "I begin to understand, Big Sister. It's in there, isn't it?" She pointed a silver-shod hoof at the enormous book.
Celestia closed her eyes and nodded slowly. Her horn ignited and the pages began to flip in reverse order, one after another, like a torrent. They stopped at the very first page of the ancient volume. There was only one single line, right in the very centre of the enormous page.
"Twilight Sparkle," Celestia said, very quietly, "would you please read the very first line that my mother wrote into this book?" Her eyes were still closed.
Fear. A hot, violent, burning fear, rising up in Twilight's throat. She tried to force it down. She couldn't.
Just read it. There's nothing that the princesses can't do. Especially now that I'm here as well. Whatever it is, it's not the end of the world. Calm. Calm.
Her fear subsided just as fast as it had arisen.
Really nice thing, being an alicorn. I can calm down just so easily.
She leaned forward and looked at the very first line of the oldest book in the world, a line written in a tiny, completely illegible script that she could still understand perfectly. She cleared her throat and read aloud:
"The third Eternal Sister will embrace The Lunacy and destroy the world."
That was it. There was nothing else. There was no "and this will be prevented via steps A, B and C." Just one simple statement.
Twilight sat back on her haunches and looked around the wide, circular room. Fluttershy looked as if she was about to faint. Pinkie Pie was crying. Rainbow Dash had her eyes closed and her hooves over her ears. Rarity seemed to have passed out. Applejack looked like someone had just kicked her square in the muzzle. Spike was curled into a ball so tight, it was perfectly spherical.
Twilight looked towards the princesses. They were both shaking.
Open fear. The princesses - THE PRINCESSES - are both completely terrified. And they're showing it.
"What did you see? What did you see when you looked at me?"
Neither sister answered.
Twilight got to her hooves and drew in a very deep breath. "WHAT DID YOU SEE?!"
Both royal alicorns hung their heads in unison. Again, for a fleeting instant, Celestia looked every day of her six thousand years. And for the first time, Twilight noticed, so did Luna.
What is this what is this what is this what is this
They both looked up. They looked at each other. They looked at Twilight. Celestia started to speak. No sound came out. Luna spoke for her.
"We saw the world in flames, Twilight Sparkle."