Cloud Clocks made no noise. They were made out of cloud. And clouds didn't make a sound.
So why on Equestria could she hear every second ticking away?
Rainbow Dash groaned to herself and smooshed a cloud-pillow over her face. According to the lightning-bolt numbers, it was five-thirty in the morning. And she had yet to keep her eyes closed for more than a minute.
She'd counted Wonderbolts, soaked in her rainbow bath, slowed her breathing, and when none of those had worked, she'd gone out and flown rings around her place until her wings cramped up, but she still hadn't fallen asleep.
What was sleep like again? It had been at least... Rainbow tapped a hoof... two nights since she'd seen the insides of her eyelids. She had memorized every whorl and seam in her cloud-home ceiling instead in the meantime.
This was something she wasn't used to at all. She usually had three naps a day before her big night's sleep. But since... sometime this week, she'd lost that ability to flop down on a cloud or in the crook of an apple tree and just nod off.
And it hurt. The back of her neck ached, her joints were sore, and to be honest, the last time she'd dared look in her mirror, her whites of her eyes were so bloodshot that they looked like a road map of Fillydelphia. Seeing herself like that made her mane hurt, so she'd stopped.
She knew her friends had noticed. Of course, to Applejack, the thought of her not being able to fall asleep was some sort of comedy. Fluttershy had clucked in sympathy, but that had been about it. Pinkie had sent up a 'better pillow' by means of half a dozen balloons, but it hadn't helped, in spite of the fact that it had been the most comfortable thing Rainbow had ever lain on. She'd stashed it in her cloud-closet for when she could appreciate it more.
Twilight had noticed, but only because Rainbow had burst into the library the previous afternoon and demanded the most boring and pointless book on the premises. An hour spent with the Equestrian Guide to Taxation Law hadn't solved her insomnia, but at least she knew now that she should set aside some space in her house for a home office to get a better deduction.
Why couldn't she get some sleep? Yeah, there was a lot going on in her mind. But wasn't that always the case? She was an action-pony and she had an active life. But her brain almost always could shut out the noise of living and let her conk out, so why were things so difficult now?
Rainbow Dash cracked another despondent yawn and tried to ignore the trembling in her rear hoof. She'd just lie here until someone came and got her, in case she could snatch a few minutes' rest.
“I tell you, she's looking worse than bad,” Applejack grumbled. “I saw her last night. She could barely scramble back up onto her cloud, she was so achin' weary. This ain't like her at all.”
Rarity shook her head sadly, her violet mane bouncing. “And those bags under her eyes. She was visibly trembling when I tried to speak to her yesterday. Twilight, isn't there anything we can do?”
“Insomnia's a tricky thing, girls.” Twilight flipped pages in a book before flinging it magically back onto the shelves and selecting half a dozen others instead. “I had it once back at the Canterlot library for a night or so. I spent the whole time just reading book after book and by the end of it, I thought I was one of the Ancient and Noble Ponies of the Round Stable.”
“I'll vouch for that,” Spike said. “You spent an hour chasing me around the reading room, insisting that I'd hidden the Celestial Grail somewhere in the Royal Kitchens.”
Twilight chuckled uneasily. “Not one of my finer moments, I'll admit. But regardless of what I went through, we shouldn't automatically look for magical means to solve Rainbow Dash's problem. What if it ends up that magic is the only solution she'll ever have to get to sleep again?”
Both Rarity and Fluttershy squeaked in dismay at that thought.
Applejack frowned. “I got some apple cider up in the barn. Seems to help Caramel get to sleep often enough. I suppose we could always give that a whirl. Can't say I like the thought of that sorta solution for Rainbow, though.”
“Ummm...” Fluttershy ducked her head as every pony glanced at her. “Rainbow can't have fermented apples. She had a bad experience with them at flight school and gets sick if she eats them. Or drinks them.”
“There goes that idea, then. What else we got besides magic, Twilight? Just don't use a spell that'll have her go all Rip Van Pony on us.”
Twilight sighed and slammed another book shut. “All right, all right. I'll keep looking and call you if I find a solution. For now, everypony resume their business and just keep one eye out in case Rainbow comes crashing out of the sky again because her wings are too tired.”
As every other pony clopped out of the library, Twilight rummaged around in the stack of books she'd kept hovering beside her. She nosed one likely-looking candidate out and turned around, only to come muzzle to muzzle with Fluttershy. “Oh!”
The yellow Pegasus eeped softly. “Sorry. I want to stay and help. You might need me just in case you come across something that requires, um, wings? Oh, on second thought...”
Twilight gave her a quick nuzzle of appreciation to stop her from leaving. “Stay, please. You've known Rainbow Dash the longest. Can you think of any reason why she's suddenly unable to get some sleep?”
Fluttershy sat down and gave her question some silent thought, watching her skim through the book. “Well... I know that when I can't sleep, it's usually because I've got a problem I haven't solved. But you know Rainbow. If she's upset over something, she's usually talking about it.” She brought her hoof up to her muzzle. “Oh dear. Do you think there's something that's so terribly wrong that she can't talk about it?”
“I don't know.” Twilight sighed again, shutting the book and selecting another one. “Although if that is the case, we'll have to ask her quickly, before she gets bad enough from sleep deprivation that she won't make any sense. But I don't want to go and see her without at least one solution. If there's even a tiny chance that we can get her to rest first, then talk afterwards...”
Fluttershy nodded in understanding, then shyly leaned her head forward and tugged a book free with her mouth, setting it at her feet and nudging it open.
Several hours later, both Twilight and Fluttershy found themselves standing beneath Rainbow Dash's cloud-home. They hadn't really found much help in the library books, but Mayor Mare had come in and made a formal request to Twilight to check up on her friend. As the town's weather-pony, if Rainbow Dash was ill or unable to fulfil her duties, she had to be confirmed as such before one of the other Pegasi from Cloudsdale could come in to replace her.
Fluttershy hovered just beside Twilight's balloon. “Are you sure that spell will be safe?”
“That's just the problem. It doesn't say how it will induce unconsciousness. But it's the spell with the least amount of side-effects that I can find. And it's not like we can just go into the Everfree Forest and ask Zecora for help. She's gone off again.” Twilight braced her hooves on the basket and heaved herself inside. “Okay. You go up first and peek in the window to see if she's still awake. If she's managed to fall asleep, I don't want to have to wake her up again and ruin everything.”
Nodding, Fluttershy launched herself upwards and vanished over the lip of the cloud. Less than a minute later, she appeared at the edge and shook her head. “She's still up. And not very happy.”
Twilight sighed. “I know the feeling. Okay, could you please tell her I'm coming up?” She used her magic to reel out some of the line to take herself just high enough. She had already performed the cloud-walking spell on herself that she'd learned during their visit to Cloudsdale. Three days now without sleep. Poor Rainbow.
It was a very bedraggled, bleary-eyed, and slightly frantic Pegasus that greeted her at the door. “Twilight, ya gotta help me! Please tell Fluttershy to get these rats out of my kitchen, would you? They're not even supposed to be up this high!”
She shot a startled glance at Fluttershy, who shrugged and shook her head. Oh, lovely. Their friend had started hallucinating already. She really hated having to do this, but things had to be made official before she could be a friend. “Rainbow? Okay. I'll tell her. Can you sit down out here for a second, though, while she goes inside to find them?”
“Sure, sure.” Rainbow Dash yawned heavily and sat with a soft flumph of cloud. “Oh, man. I think I need some caffeine or something. I'm just so tired. But I'm still ready to get to work, raring to go!”
“I know, Rainbow.” Twilight winced. If there was one thing Rainbow hated, it was being made to feel weak, even when she really needed it. She and Applejack were really a lot alike. “Here's the thing, though. You probably won't have to do much today. The Mayor said that if you need the time, she can have the other weather-ponies take over until you've gotten your rest. How does that sound?”
“Eh. Not like I've got nothing else to do.” Rainbow's shrug barely lifted her shoulders, assuming that had been a shrug at all. “I've just been up all night, you know. Bob the Magical Talking Coffee Table really doesn't know when to just quit visiting and go home. Chatty furniture that he is.”
Twilight nodded absently in agreement. “Tell me about it. I've got an ottoman that just won't keep its opinions to itself.”
She was shocked when Rainbow Dash's hoof wrapped around her neck and yanked her closer. “Twilight! You're patronizing me, aren't you?” the Pegasus growled. “Agh! I can't believe you'd actually play along with that stupid 'talking coffee table' business. You're my friend, you're supposed to be helping me here! Please, Twilight...” Her face was pale now, standing out against the rainbow colours of her mane. “Tell me you've got something that's going to help me here. I don't want my bed to float away over the rainbow waterfalls again.”
Gasping at the surge of adrenaline and at the pressure Rainbow was applying to the base of her skull, Twilight Sparkle nodded. “Might have ... just ... let me go?”
Rainbow Dash's grip immediately lessened and the Pegasus winced. “Oh, sorry!” she breathed.
“It's okay. You're not yourself.” She coughed a little. “Look. The Mayor's willing to let you have today off, so I can see if this spell I found works. But if it doesn't, I need you to tell me before you get worse: Is there anything else wrong that could be causing this?” She looked into Dash's red eyes, which were even redder with the whites riddled with broken blood vessels. “We're your friends, like you said. If we're going to help you, you need to trust us. Remember what Applejack went through?”
“That was different,” the Pegasus said, almost defensively. “She was working too hard and didn't think she needed help. There's ... there's things you all can't help with. They're just done with, already.” She looked somewhere over Twilight's shoulder. “Or haven't happened yet.” With a low groan, she rubbed her head with a hoof. “Look. Give me a shot of whatever you've got handy. I can't think clearly enough to remember everything.”
Twilight nodded, more certain this time. “Okay. Close your eyes, though. You're sensitive to light right now.” Her horn began glowing and Rainbow threw a foreleg over her eyes in response. She channelled more power into the spell she'd memorized ...
And seconds later, Rainbow Dash's face was indented in the cloudscape as a rather large, wooden mallet materialized out of thin air and delivered a blow on the top of her head.
Dear Princess Celestia,
While attempting to help my friend Rainbow Dash, who hasn't slept in days, I inadvertently seem to have given her what Nurse Redheart has described as 'her fifth concussion'. Right before her accident, however, she said that she had been wrestling with problems, both in her past and in her future. As a friend, I really do want to help her deal with whatever she's facing, but her current condition isn't the best for such a talk.
My other friends have urged me to contact you for advice in this matter. In spite of my insistence that to do so is a burden to you, my friend Rarity has pointed out that it is this very train of thought that has put Rainbow Dash in her current predicament. So I am having Spike send this letter and I am asking... no, I am pleading for your assistance.
Your faithful (and worried) student,
“Well,” Twilight muttered as Spike opened a window and sent the scroll off to Canterlot, “at least the Mayor is able to get another weather Pegasus now. Nurse Redheart vouched for the concussion.” She glanced down the row of beds to where Rainbow was lying. “And she's resting, even if she's not sleeping.”
Rarity draped a foreleg gently across her withers. “You did what you thought was right, Twilight. At least she's getting some help now. And if Princess Celestia can advise you, so much the better.”
Twilight heaved a sigh and let her head rest against the windowsill. “I know. I just hate being helpless. I need to feel like I can be there to help my friends.” She let Rarity nuzzle her neck. “So, now what do we do? Should one of us stay here with Rainbow and try to talk to her?” Then she sensed the magic flowing past her even before Spike started gagging. Both unicorns instinctively ducked the explosion of smoke. “Wow. There's a fast response.”
Spike unfurled the scroll and coughed out a couple puffs of green fire to clear his throat. “'Dear Twilight Sparkle. I appreciate your concern for your friend and can think of several pieces of advice to give you for this situation. However, given the severity of Miss Dash's insomnia, I am instead dispatching a chariot to have her picked up and brought back to Canterlot for treatment. See you very shortly. Princess Celestia'.” Spike looked up, wide-eyed. “Wow. Do you think-” Then he clapped his hand over his mouth again. “Mmmph!”
After the belch of smoke had passed, Spike held up another scroll with a note attached. “'This is a transfer order for your local nurse, as well as an order for your Mayor. Please ensure that both are delivered'.”
Twilight sighed in relief. Finally, action she could understand. “All right. Rarity, can you go and see the Mayor? I'll handle Nurse Redheart.”
“Isn't this a bit unusual?” Spike asked her. “I mean, the Princess getting this actively involved in a Pegasus who can't fall asleep?”
“I did ask for her advice, Spike. I can't turn down the help she's offering. But I agree that it is strange.”
As the Royal chariot touched down in the courtyard, Twilight glanced down at a shivering Rainbow Dash, who was curled up beneath a blanket. She'd been allowed to accompany her to Canterlot, although she'd thought they would go directly to the hospital there, rather than the main palace. What did the Princess have in mind?
Her head jerked back up and she bounded out of the chariot. “Princess!” Desperately needing contact, she leaned her head up against her mentor's white shoulder. “It's good to see you.” She tilted her head to look up out of the side of her eye. “Should we get Rainbow Dash to the doctors?”
“Patience, my student.” Celestia nuzzled the nape of her neck and Twilight pushed in closer in delight. “Normally, I would agree with you. However, there is another option; one I would stake my very long life on. May I see Miss Dash?”
Twilight stepped aside and let the Princess walk over to the chariot and nose at the exhausted Pegasus. Her white horn was glowing softly and Twilight watched as Rainbow Dash lifted her head and then simply slumped over.
Celestia dipped down and stood up with the unconscious cyan Pegasus draped across her back. “I have just the place for her, Twilight. Follow me.”
Twilight trotted along beside her as they moved into the shade of an archway. “Where are you taking her?”
Celestia smiled at her. “Why, to the dungeons, of course. They were just finished a couple of weeks ago.”
Stopping dead in her tracks, Twilight blinked. “Princess...”
“Your dear Fluttershy gave me the idea during my last visit. And I must say, it's given the castle masons something to strive for.” Noticing that Twilight had stopped following, she paused. “She'll be fine there. And we can talk while she rests. Come along.”
Twilight resumed following. “What spell did you use back there? None of the ones I could find seemed safe enough.”
“Oh, it's one that's rather special. It's designed to ensure the subject is put into a magical healing sleep, then lifts within the next few hours so the body can resume its own rhythm. We can thank my sister Luna for its invention. She'll be the one looking after Rainbow Dash while she's in the dreamscape.”
Celestia picked her way down a stone staircase. “From what you said in your letter, Miss Dash has been suffering for longer than any of you could have imagined. Her body can recover, but her soul might take some work.” The two mares came to the bottom and continued down a hallway with barred doors on either side. “Once the sleep spell lifts, she'll be able to dream and my sister will be here for her. Perhaps she can help in the realm that she calls her own.”
“I hope so,” Twilight commented, as Celestia nudged a door all the way open and stepped inside.
Rainbow Dash slowly opened one eye, surprised by the lack of sensation. She wasn't feeling pain. That was okay. She shifted around a little, but couldn't feel anything else. That wasn't as okay.
She opened her other eye and was surprised at how everything around seemed dimmer and greyer. Oh, great. That last concussion must have wrecked her eyesight. Then she looked down at her own hooves and saw she was as brilliantly blue as ever. Okay, not her eyesight, then.
There came a soft chiming of metal from somewhere and she lifted her head, surprised by her surroundings of a bed of straw, brick walls, and metal bars instead of a hospital room. But her attention was quickly drawn to the other pony in the room.
She was taller than when Rainbow Dash had last seen her, but her coat was still a deep violet, the colour of the early night sky. Her mane and tail were a shade or two lighter but well-brushed and flowing. Crystal shoes covered her hooves up to her fetlocks. It had been one of those on a rear hoof that she had been tapping against the bars to produce that gentle ringing. Both her cutie mark and her chest-piece had the insignia of a crescent moon on a black night sky. And it was a warm, friendly muzzle that reached down to rub Rainbow Dash softly behind her ears.
“Welcome, Miss Dash,” Princess Luna murmured. “I'm so very happy to see you here. I've missed you in the dreamscape this week.”
“Where am I?” she asked, propping herself up on her front legs.
“Physically? My sister's brand-new dungeons.” Luna chuckled at her. “Oh, if you could see the expression on your face. It certainly matched the one on your friend Twilight Sparkle's earlier. You're safe. You're healing. And, most importantly, you're dreaming again.”
Rainbow Dash glanced down at herself. “This is a dream?”
“One of the more coherent ones you'll ever have, I'd imagine.” Luna nudged her gently on the shoulder. “Come on. Let your body rest for a while longer and walk with me. I've been wanting to talk to you for some time.” A mischievous glint came into her eyes. “Or would you prefer to fly? Something tells me you're built with a need for speed.”
Hopping to her hooves in an energetic leap, Rainbow glanced down in surprise as she could still see her legs extending down into her sleeping form. “Whoa. Cool dream.” She watched as Luna stepped right through the tall bars into the corridor. “So, wait. If I'm dreaming, why am I dreaming this?”
Luna switched her tail gently and waited for her to join her. “Because as the Princess of the Night, I have authority over the dreamscape. And because my sister Celestia told me that your friends were desperately worried about you and that Miss Twilight Sparkle had said that you were... dealing with some things. I happen to know a great deal about things that one can't talk about. If you feel up to discussing them with me, we'll be able to heal your soul while your body recovers on its own.”
Dash carefully nudged at the bars with her nose, finding that she simply passed though them, just as Luna had. "Just like that, and I'll be all better?” Cautiously, she slid through the door and into the hallway.
“Mmm.” Luna slid a black-feathered wing over her back. “That all depends on you. You're not the first pony to have her problems bring her here. Come and see.”
Rainbow Dash let the princess guide her. “Did Celestia really have to build a real dungeon?”
Luna's hearty laugh made her wing move, caressing Rainbow's back. “My sister has an odd sense of humour. And while I find the whole ‘bars and straw-beds’ motif to be a bit much, it is serving a great purpose. It keeps the Canterlot hospital free for those who are ill in more than spirit.” She stopped at another closed door.
Peering through the bars, Rainbow Dash recognized the thin unicorn curled up on the straw. Not even the dim sepia tones of the dreamscape could disguise that blue coat or the silken mane. “Trixie?” There was no response from her. “Isn't she...”
“She's still not dreaming,” Luna said softly. “She's been in and out of a magical sleep for the last few days. When I found her on the road to Canterlot, it looked as if she'd been lost for a long while.”
Dash looked at the slumbering unicorn and saw a hint of ribs showing through the blue coat. “Maybe she's afraid of the dreams she's having. I've had a few of those in my time.”
Luna nodded. “Still, there's little I can do for her until she's had enough of my magic and the spell can lift to allow her to dream again.” She nuzzled Rainbow Dash along the crest of her mane again. “You yourself spent a good few hours soaking in my sister's magic before you were well enough to let it go and come to me. You're here now and willing to be taken care of. What can I do to make you feel better?”
“Waaaaaaahhhhhhhhoooooooooooo!” Luna blew through the cloud-gate a second ahead of Rainbow Dash, being chased by a continuous scream of happiness. The next gate was straight up and she flapped her wings furiously to gain some altitude. Rainbow was faster on the rise because of her smaller size. And she had yet to meet another Pegasus that could move as fast and as daringly as Dash.
The tips of her wings burst through the sides of the gate as she twisted and arched around in midair so she could backtrack towards the final straightaway, the rainbow-blur still on her tail. But before she could right herself out of the upside-down spin, Rainbow caught her at the apex. Hooves bounced off her hips as the Pegasus spring-boarded off her back and launched herself forward.
“Too slow, Princess! See ya past the finish line!”
“Oh, that's what you think, little one!” Luna ricocheted off a cloud and sped off in pursuit, pulling even with Dash in seconds. “I've been holding back on you all this time!”
“Yeah, I gathered that!” Rainbow yelled. “I was hoping you'd keep it up, too! I'm not picky on how I win, you know!” She sped through the gates, heading for the finish line.
Luna growled and rushed through the same gates, her larger size smashing the clouds to wisps as she drove to stay even with the little speedster.
Both ponies rocketed out and across the final gate, Rainbow Dash punching through the right-hoof post as Luna bounced off her and disintegrated the left-hoof post, resulting in a miniature cloudburst as they crashed into the bank.
“Woo!” yelped Rainbow, “I thought the dreamscape wasn't solid!”
“Parts of it are solid,” Luna said, breathing hard as she furled her wings again and sat down on the cloud. “You can walk through metal bars because I will it, but if it's cloud-racing you want to do, then they can be just as real as you want.”
“Handy.” She flopped down beside Luna to pant. “I haven't had a race like that in... in ages.”
Luna dipped her muzzle into the cloud to suck some of the moisture up, then lifted her head again. “Ah. I take it this is one of the things that's been weighing on your mind?”
“Yeah, just a bit.” Rainbow took a bite out of her patch of cloud, swallowing the water inside. “Hey, shouldn't you have other things to do than listen to the worries of a small-town Pegasus? Like, I don't know, holding court or something?”
The alicorn leaned down and gave her another long nuzzle along the side of her neck. “What makes you think I'm not holding court right now?” she asked softly. “I've always been a more solitary pony than my sister, who's able to be comfortable in large crowds.” Her smile was warm, instead of bitter, and Dash had the urge to sidle nearer, to come closer to her. “This is my night, Rainbow Dash, and my dreamscape. Many ponies are as troubled by night as they are by day, but who do they turn to in the night? They look to the moon more often than not, and I hear them. If their dreams trouble them, what else can I do but visit them and see their troubles first-hand?” She arched her neck and before Rainbow Dash knew it, she was swept gently beneath Luna's thick, soft wing, tucked up against the Princess's side. “So, tell me... what is it that's causing you such worry?”
Rainbow sighed and leaned her head against that slender neck, just taking in Luna's warmth for a little while. She hadn't been held like this in a long time. “It's lonely being a racing Pegasus in a small town. There are other Pegasi, but they're quieter. Like Fluttershy. She barely leaves the ground somedays.” She looked up and a slim, violet ear flickered attentively. “You were right that I haven't raced in ages. There's no one to test my speed against. Not since I kicked that griffin jerk Gilda out of my life.” She was silent for a bit. “That hurt, having to do that. Like, a lot.”
“Feeling guilty over it?”
“Oh yeah.” Rainbow sighed. “I didn't have a lot of choice, though. I'd never seen that jerkass side of her before and she was really doing a number on my friends. Like, really terrible behaviour. Princess Celestia would have put her over her throne and spanked her, I swear.” She caught the hint of a grin from Luna and couldn't help but smile, even if it was sadly. “But she was also the only one who would ever challenge me. Sure, my friends believe in me and help me and even push me a little bit now and then, but it's not the same. And it's making me doubt I'll ever be as good as I need to be to get into the Wonderbolts. Gilda gave me that dream and I'd kinda hoped to have her there to see me make it one day.”
Luna nodded slowly. “Do you think she won't find you, if she really wanted to?”
“She ... kinda made it clear that I'd be doing the finding. I'm not sure if I want to, some days, but I really do miss her despite her attitude.” She looked up at Luna again. “Could you ever find her in the dreamscape?”
She lifted her wing off Rainbow and gave a stretch. “Griffins ... no. If I was able to sense the dreams of every living creature in Equestria, I would be a very overwhelmed alicorn. It's all I can do some nights to pay attention to the ponies I love.” Her wing brushed gently down Rainbow Dash's mane and along her back, stroking her slowly. “You've got quite the tempest inside you, dear. Why can't you talk about all this with your friends? Do you think they wouldn't care?”
“They care, all right.” Rainbow settled down with a soft groan, letting Luna brush her. “They just... they know I can get silly about the Wonderbolts and my training and my really irrational panicking that I'll never be good enough. So it's just 'oh, Rainbow. Not the Wonderbolts again!'.” She sighed. “I don't know what they'd say if I brought up Gilda again. She made a really horrible impression on them all.”
“If they're your true friends, they'll listen to you,” Luna suggested. “And I would also say that the same should go for Miss Gilda, if you ever go searching for her. Just be prepared for the fact that she might hurt you again, even unintentionally.”
Rainbow Dash considered that. “I dropped Gilda, like, months ago. Why would it all be bothering me now?”
“Wounded hearts, my dear Miss Dash. They take time to heal properly. Take it from someone whose own heart didn't begin healing for over a thousand years.” Luna smiled at her. “And now look at me. I try to help others heal their own hearts. Sometimes I even succeed.”
She bumped her head softly against a violet shoulder, her ears brushing Luna's chest-piece. “Yeah, I think so, too.” Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and sighed, comfortable on a cloud in a sepia-toned dream world, the Princess of the Night nestled against her side. “Just give me a minute. Then we can go back.”
“Hay and water again? Isn't Princess Celestia taking this whole 'dungeon' thing too literally?”
Twilight looked slightly embarrassed. “She said that anything else would be too much for your system, after all you've been through.” She glanced around the small cell. “Then again, it wouldn't be the first time she gets overenthusiastic about projects. Remind me to tell you where my hot-air balloon originally came from.”
Rainbow Dash took another drink of water rather than give an answer to that. Truth be told, she was grateful to even be back on her feet and have something in her stomach. It had been three days since she’d been bundled aboard that chariot and brought out to Canterlot. According to Twilight, she had slept for more than fifteen hours on the first day. She had no idea how long she and Princess Luna had been in the dreamscape together, but she had awoken feeling much better physically.
The other two days had passed quickly, helped by the fact that Celestia's note to the Mayor had proclaimed that she, Rainbow Dash, had been officially banished from Ponyville to Canterlot for the week, to be then placed in a dungeon in the place she had been banished to. And with Princess Luna at her side in the night, she'd flown far across the Equestria of the dreamscape, stretching the wings of her soul. And she’d felt better in her heart.
“You should try it yourself, sometime, Twilight. I'm sure Princess Luna would be happy to meet you there.”
“I don't think I'm quite ready for that, Rainbow.” Twilight raised a foreleg, looking slightly nervous. “Maybe another day. Another time. Another... well, another pony, perhaps.”
Dash gave her a light shove. “Aw, what's the matter? It's a really cool, awesome place!”
“My sister's faithful student is more than cool or awesome, Rainbow Dash. She is simply faithful. And that keeps her from the dreamscape.” Princess Luna appeared in the corridor outside. “As Princess Celestia's prized pupil, Miss Twilight has access to the realm of daydreams, just as my sister does. But that's as far as her reach could ever extend, even during my lunar exile.” She smiled at the expression on Twilight's face. “However, as Princess of the Night, I welcome all to my domain. Twilight Sparkle, should you ever change your mind, I'll be waiting for you.”
With a wink at Rainbow Dash, Luna brushed her violet cheek against Twilight's horn, making the younger unicorn back up, looking rather uneasy. “Now, I believe it's time for you both to return to your normal lives in Ponyville?”
Rainbow nodded and tilted her head up to lightly touch muzzles with the Princess. “So, you know, thanks for all your help.” She looked meaningfully to the side where she knew Trixie still slept on, bound by the magic of both Princesses. She'd told Luna all about the incident with the Ursa Minor and Trixie's boastful ways. With all that had gone on in recent days, she'd come to the realization that there might be one very scared little unicorn beneath all that bluster. “Be gentle with her when she’s ready to dream.”
Luna chuckled. “I'll tell her you said hello. Now, come on. Just because you beat me in your dreams doesn't mean you can do that in reality. First one to the Mare of the Lake memorial gets her name in stars tonight.” She wheeled around on her hind legs and cantered down the corridor.
“Oh. It. Is. ON!” A blur of rainbows light left Twilight staggering in her wake.