Twilight Sparkle sat at her desk in the quiet upper floor of her library. A dim, overcast sky greeted her out the window over the desk, providing a mediocre light to see with. Her quill rested idly, point first on the page with a faint purple light dancing around it. It, nor she had moved for minutes, maybe hours. A slowly expanding dot of dark ink resided under the point of the quill as if the blood of the paper slowly spilling forth. Blood.
Twilight shifted, a barely perceived movement of her head as she lowered it towards the page again. Her right forehoof drifted noiselessly up to her temple to give a soft massage. She stared expressionlessly at the only writing on the page, eyes softening and breathing growing a little stiffer. "Dear Princess Celestia," was written in her typical elegant fashion. Her handwriting was kept small to conserve space like she always had but that lead in was always a little bigger. As if she was afraid the Princess would be insulted by a slightly less grand salutation.
An impatient movement. Her attention shifted to the ink well again and she dipped her quill once more. A look of determination graced her face to masking a pained swallowing motion and she started writing once more.
"Recently I learned a very important lesson about friendship. I've learned it before in a different light, but an all new subtlety has been presented now. Nopony is two dimensional in this world. Everyday interaction shows only the surface of most, but I now realize that no matter what that individual looks like or how first impressions turn out, that there is an ocean of personality under that."
Twilight stared at her writing with a critical eye, a minor flash of disdain gracing her face before she gave a tired sigh. Dipping the quill again, she continued, "But that doesn't begin to do them justice. You have no idea what a pony can bring to your life just by looking. Worse yet, you have no idea what you're missing until you feel its absence. To assume or jump to conclusions is to rob yourself of so much potential happiness, that it threatens to overwhelm the senses if considered."
A darkening drop appeared and expanded near the bottom of the page, giving a barely audible impact. The lavender unicorn momentarily looked surprised before the expression melted into that of annoyance. She slid the entire paper over towards the waste basket, going for a new sheet at the same time with her magic.
Seconds passed as she froze in that position. Finally she seemed to come to a decision and slid the paper back in front of her with her right forehoof. She gave a quiet sigh and her quill lowered again. "The worst realization was more subtle, however. Sometimes lessons are learned too late. Sometimes there are no second chances. Sometimes... you're left with a hole that you can't mend. There are some things in this world in which there are no replacements. To give second chances when possible and a second impression when needed is one of the most important things you can give. To see past an awkward introduction or a shocking discovery and see the pony underneath might just surprise you. They might give back far more than you thought possible. I will never overlook this lesson ever again. This hole in my heart shall remind me for as long as I draw breath."
Twilight wiped at her eyes once again, letting the moisture soak into her coat before looking back down at the paper. Giving a soft smile, she carefully added, "Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle".
The paper carefully rolled itself up, a ribbon tying it off as Twilight sealed it and set her head down on the now damp desk. She stayed in that position until a light scratching came slowly up the stairs a few minutes later.
"Twilight? We should probably get going. Are you done with the letter?" the tiny purple and green dragon asked quietly, as if afraid to break the silence of the room.
Twilight exhaled gently before giving a nod, opening her eyes again. "Yeah. You don't need to send it though. I'll give it to her in-person, there," she replied quietly.
Spike gave a concerned look but nodded and slowly made his way back down the stairs. A few moments passed before Twilight managed to get herself out of the chair.
She slipped the rolled scroll into a light saddlebag, and tugged it on with her magic before carefully heading down the stairs. She drew to a stop at the bottom however, looking at the scrape marks on the last couple steps. Another lump formed in her throat and she swallowed painfully to try to banish it.
"Twilight," the young dragon spoke with a heavy concern in his voice. He waited patiently at the door for his oldest friend.
She nodded weakly before tearing her vision from the damaged wood. "I know. I'm coming," she assured. A measure of hesitation in her step, Twilight nodded to nopony in particular and headed out the door.
It was a chilly day, with winter coming on the horizon. A small gathering of ponies met in a tucked away corner of the woods, in a beautiful clearing with a flowing stream nearby. Most would pass it by without second glance if they even came to the clearing at all however, as it contained seemingly nothing out of the ordinary. A fresh pile of rocks was there today, though. It was a simple thing with writing carved into the base boulder they were all piled onto. It stood as a beacon, disrupting the natural feel of the clearing with something very natural looking yet obviously artificially constructed.
There were only eleven ponies there. Not many had known the pony whose name, briefly given, was on the rock. The apple siblings came; Applejack, Big Mac, and Apple Bloom. Fluttershy rested against Rarity for support, light tears still coming down her face. Sweetie Belle also sat at her sister's feet. Pinkie Pie stood next to Rainbow Dash, both looking uncharacteristically solemn. An upset looking Scootaloo stood next to Rainbow on the other side. Perhaps most outstanding of all were the two alicorn Princesses standing near the back. The royal guards were posted outside of the grove in this case. Twilight arrived with Spike on her back a few minutes later, appearing tired but managing a light smile towards the group.
She passed by them all before standing in front of the rock pile. Her saddlebag magically opened and she pulled her short, yet carefully prepared speech out. The cards it was written on drifted in front of her and she looked back up at the small stack of stones. She had spent all night writing it up, but oddly hesitated.
Half a minute passed and the other ponies started to give concerned glances to the lavender unicorn. Finally, she steeled herself and cleared her throat.
"We are gathered here today to remember. To remember and give thanks to a stallion who is no longer with us," she started slowly, seeming to lock her eyes urgently to the paper and away from anything else that might ironically remind her of the very topic.
A pause and slow exhale, followed up with, "Not many came to know him during his brief stay with us, but those who did were touched upon deeply. First impressions were rocky, but a hidden depth of soul resided within him just waiting to be discovered."
"Unfortunately, his stay was cut short by the nature of his existence. A great danger to Equestria presented itself, residing in the very nature of his being. Few knew of it, being the ones gathered today, but that made it no less grave," she drove on.
Stopping there, she looked back up at the stone, a shiver going through her. "But he didn't shy from it. He stepped up and confronted it head on, as brave as any of us. Sadly, the resulting fight cost him dearly. He..." Twilight continued, before trailing off and staring at the rock.
A long ten seconds passed. "Twi..." Applejack muttered quietly.
The lavender unicorn winced as if burned. She shivered again and her carefully prepared speech fell out of the air, landing uselessly on the forest floor. "He... No, I. I failed him. It was up to me to bring him back. Instead I not only p-put him and Rainbow Dash in danger by not thinking but..." she started to mutter rapidly, tears now sliding down her cheeks.
"Twilight, you," Applejack muttered, walking carefully up to her side.
Twilight shifted from her, staring at her speech in the dirt. "No! No. I didn't alert the Princess when I should have. I didn't think about the monsters being alerted by a stupid glowing streak of light coming out of the portal! And worst of all I was too slow. If I had pulled him back even a second later he... He'd still be..." she yelled angrily, directed at herself.
"Twi. Stop it. Ya did the best anypony 'ere could'ah done. Please, jus' rest fer a bit, okay? Let it out, instead'ah blamin' yerself," Applejack coaxed, sitting down quietly in front of Twilight.
Twilight shivered again and something seemed to visibly snap in her as the tears flowed openly. She slumped, and then buried her face in Applejack's shoulder. The country mare simply stayed silent and softly placed her forelegs around the tearful unicorn.
The beautiful white alicorn seemed to approach out of nowhere, placing a comforting hoof onto Twilight's back as she cried into her friend. "Even if not public, this sacrifice for the good of all Equestria will never be forgotten. It's most painful for those left behind, so stay with each other and know that the memories you already have will be yours forever," Celestia spoke, words strong and commanding yet infinitely gentle.
Twilight looked up at her with tears streaming down her face and nodded.
The gathering broke into gentle talking with memories being shared. It was a quiet, reserved event, the mood low but discussion pleasant. Eventually the yellow pegasus broke off from her friends and approached the stone by herself.
"I miss you already. I know I um, said some stupid things but please. P-Please forgive me. What uh, what I really wanted was to be with you, even if I lacked the c-courage to ever say that. I-I guess it's too late now but if y-you can hear me, I... I lo..." she quietly whispered before wincing and trailing off. Frustration building on her face, she leaned forwards and gently kissed the name on the stone before scampering back to her friends, now crying once more.
The white unicorn politely excused herself a short time later from a wonderful exchange with the Princess of the Sun. She bowed politely in parting and walked over to the stone where her little sister already sat. "I never did manage to make you anything, did I?" Rarity asked, mostly to herself it seemed.
"He wouldn't be mad," the young white filly replied quietly, not looking away from the stone.
"Are you alright Sweetie Belle?" Rarity asked, concerned.
The filly nodded quietly and touched the surface of the stone with a hoof. "He was a really nice stallion and I wanted to be his friend," she explained, sliding her hoof along the cool surface.
"I couldn't agree more," Rarity returned, sitting down with her sister for a while.
Applejack wandered over after she saw Rarity and Sweetie Belle leave, making sure to give them their privacy. Uncertain, she sat down in front of the stone pile and just stared for a few moments. She seemed to think to herself before nodding to nothing in particular.
"Ah never made up fer judgin' ya right harshly an' ah guess it's ah bit late fer it now. Ah respect ya fer it no matter what Rainbow says. Ya were ah right honest stallion. Ah just wish ya had been treated better fer it," she spoke, all at once as if saying her piece.
Apple Bloom and Big Mac joined her a minute or so later, the young filly smiling sadly and the large stallion holding a stoic expression of respect. A moment later, the youngest nodded and lightly touched the bottom rock. “You’re ah member of tha Crusaders, no matter what. Ah’ll try fer two marks, one o’ them fer you,” she offered, soft expression dwindling lightly.
Applejack smiled however and rested her right forehoof on the little filly’s head. “Ah think he already got his, lil’ Sis.”
The large stallion nodded in agreement with a soft spoken, “Eeyup.”
The bright pink mare eventually broke off from her friends, uncharacteristically walking in a normal fashion over to the stones in no particular hurry. She sat down in front of them, smiling softly but without her usual bravado.
"You could have said that you weren't coming back. I had one wild party planned, too. Ah well. I'll save up a lifetime of them for you and give em to you when we next meet, okay?" She offered quietly, watching the stone carefully.
A half minute passed and her tail and left foreleg twitched lightly. She smiled and nodded. "Good! And don't worry about them. I'll have 'em smiling again soon enough," she promised, before quietly standing and walking away.
The gathering was slowly starting to disperse. The cyan and rainbow pegasus lingered behind however. Approaching the rock, she stared expressionlessly at it for almost a minute. Her eyes lowered under her prismatic mane and she gave a weak sigh.
"I can't forgive you for what you did. I'm sorry. For a lot of things, really. You made me break a promise to my friends. I can't help but think I might have gotten you out faster had I been there. We could have saved you," she spoke, a hinting of anger in her voice.
Several seconds passed and she exhaled again, adding, "Still, I have to admit you had a ton of guts. You were a lot cooler than I gave you credit for. I'm glad we got to be battle partners."
She hesitated then let a puff of air out of her lips, blowing her bangs out of her eyes before wiping them with a forehoof. "Aw, phooey. I'm not any good at this stuff. I'll see ya later, Mender," she finally muttered before trotting after Pinkie Pie as she left.
Scootaloo smiled gently at the stone after watching Rainbow leave. She gently batted her hoof to her chest then jutted it out to the stone, a silent symbol of acceptance and respect formed too late.
Everypony was gone now. Everypony except the lavender unicorn mare who sat on her haunches in front of the stones. She had told them she needed a little alone time. The way she considered the stone indicated she didn't feel alone, however. Her conversation, while totally one sided, carried on with enthusiasm regardless.
"...but her shoulder was only nicked. Whatever hit her did a pretty good job of cauterizing the wound so I didn't have much trouble healing it. She shouldn't even have a scar! It's an advanced layering technique with the weaved magic. I should show you..." she continue.
The better part of an hour passed. Eventually, her conversation died down and she rested her head against the rocks, horn extending along the pile as it glowed softly with an inner light. "I, well I know they said it wasn't my fault but we both know the truth, don't we? I tried so hard to heal your body. It's just... not fair," she muttered, starting to get the rock wet as tears slid forth again.
A smaller rock slipped and fell off the top of the pile, lightly bouncing off her head. She winced, then smirked. "I guess that's a sign you disagree," she muttered, rubbing her head and floating the rock back into place with her magic.
"Still, even if she likes you, I can safely say I do too. I've been thinking a lot about it and decided that I wouldn't mind giving it a try. I know it's too late now but I guess I just wanted to say it," she added after a minute's hesitation.
There was no answer of course but she smiled anyway before curling up at the base of the stones. She could stay for a little longer yet.
The rock saw many things over the seasons. Not many ponies knew of its existence, let alone location. The only thing truly different was that once a year, six friends would slip away from Ponyville for a day. Of course, they each individually visited more often.
The beautiful yellow pegasus mare came to clean the stone quite frequently, always removing layers of dust and dirt during the summer months and snow during the winter ones. She'd spend a little time talking to it with each visit.
The little white filly came surprisingly often and frequently slept in the shade of the stone, feeling safe and protected there. The glade itself never seemed to wither, or tolerate harsh winds. Maybe a bit of his magic was still alive in the place and she could feel it?
Also frequent, the cyan mare that danced along the clouds would visit. She would always come with new stories of awesome stunts and victorious races. Much later, even with an announcement of making the Wonderbolts. She was often accompanied by the pretty orange mare who lacked wings. It wasn't a downside however, because her girlfriend was her wings instead.
The white mare with the beautiful mane visited often enough, frequently fussing over various decorations and flower arrangements for hours at a time, humming to herself in the silence. She refused to leave until the stone was decorated to perfection.
Even the pink party mare visited pretty frequently. She'd often dress the stone up with decorations and leave snacks for it. Once, she left a rainbow frosted cupcake for it before running away giggling.
Lastly, the lavender unicorn came as often as her studies allowed for. She rarely smiled, looking haunted by lost time instead when she visited. Maybe she missed things she could never have, or maybe she never forgave herself of her self-inflicted fault. She didn't speak of it to anypony other than the rock and it certainly didn't pass on her secrets.
Things went uneventfully for the rock, as such things often do. Not much changed until the orange mare visited by herself in the spring. She carried a wisp of a sapling with her in a saddlebag. A runt, like the pale blue stallion used to be.
As usual, she sat for a while in front of the rock, smiling gently. Eventually she spoke up softly. "Ah know this is probably silly o' meh but it feels right. We're not gonna be able ta keep ya company forever, as ah'm sure ya know. So ah'm gonna plant this here tree right behind ya," she explained gently, before pulling out a small shovel.
She only spent fifteen or twenty minutes on the job. The small tree stood proudly out from behind the stone and she nodded once, admiring her work. "There. When we're long gone, this here tree will always remind ya of us. An' hopefully, by tha time its turn comes, yah'll have yerself a right good forest here ta keep ya company. It's tha best ah can do," she muttered, sitting down in front of the rocks. All things ended, as she knew all too well now. Shortly thereafter, the cyan pegasus showed up to give her a lift.
Now the tree is massive, easily towering above its fellows in the much thicker forest around it, somehow almost eternally old. It stands as a sentinel in the long forgotten glade, a pile of old rocks grown into its trunk like they were meant to be there. Through the layers of moss and vines, a single name can still be seen carved into the largest one. Moon Mender. A long lost, forgotten soul just wanting to make a difference. Maybe he finally had.
I normally don't do this, but technically as this is the last part of the full story, I figured I'd leave a little note at the bottom. This is the end of the story. However, there is one additional 'epilogue' after this that will get tacked on. It's optional. If you feel like stopping at this point, the story is wrapped up nicely and you obviously may. The second epilogue is actually a prologue for the sequel. You'll only need to read it if you plan on continuing Mender's story. If you wish to stop here, that's totally acceptable as well.
Regardless of what each reader decides to do, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I never expected this to get quite as popular as it was, and I'm glad for all of the kindness you guys and gals have shown. You really are a tribute to the show's values, and for that you should be proud. It was one heck of a ride and you all are awesome. So again, thank you.
For those of you reading on, I eagerly await your input for the sequel and our next adventure. I'll see you all there!