“Sometimes,” a voice begins, the silvery sound only solid thing in the crumbling dreamscapes around me. “Sometimes we will never know what we mean to each other.”
The dust-filled room settles into focus around me. Though the gentle chorus of night has replaced the stallion’s haunting composition, I can almost feel the song lingering in the air around us.
“Your sister said as much,” I say into the air. I turn around, and the Princess of the Night comes into view, her shadow-wrought tiara perched harmlessly above her brow. It doesn’t look so formidable, even in the gloom of the unlit room. “She said Twilight would come around one day. Or at least, that’s what I think she was trying to say.”
“Celestia has always been the wiser,” Princess Luna sighs. “Though I still think she enjoys being right far more than she should.”
“I’m glad she was,” I murmur softly, thinking about the new photo hanging upon the wall downstairs.
As though she can read my thoughts, Princess Luna hums in approval. “She was indeed. And here we both are.”
The Princess clears her throat. “Well, enough pleasantries I suppose. When might the Royal Historical Journal of Canterlot expect your paper on Meadowbrook’s unknown artifact? He called it Historian, I believe? You’ve had ample time for revisions.”
I look down, abashed. “I haven’t… actually touched the paper since you returned. I didn’t really see the point. I mean, I completely missed the window of opportunity, didn’t I? My biggest finding was that you—” I gesture at her helplessly. “Were Princess Celestia’s long-lost sister, and that’s old news. What would be the point? I couldn’t bring myself to even look at it again. Not when—”
“Not when my sister gave you such a lovely distraction?” The princess tuts disapprovingly. “‘What would be the point of it,’ hmm? That doesn’t sound like the ravenous scholar we both know you are, Miss Moondancer.”
I fidget with a thread in my sweater. “Well, the motive’s changed, too. Part of the reason I was so eager to explore Meadowbrook’s stuff was because I wanted to impress Twilight.”
“Oh?” Princess Luna prods gently.
A harsh laugh bubbles from my throat. “Well, who wouldn’t? You can’t look at Twilight Sparkle without seeing her, seeing how clever and bright and remarkable she is. Even when she was just Princess Celestia’s personal student, she was brilliant. I thought that if I untangled the magic of Historian, then maybe… Maybe she’d see the same thing when she looked at me.”
There. Let it not be said that I don’t divulge information when my immortal rulers request it.
“For what it’s worth, I think your research will still impress her, even now,” Princess Luna says, her voice unbearably gentle. Seeing the protest forming on my face, she hastily adds, “I know, I know, it isn’t the same. You expected that upending a millennium's worth of historical accounts would be the only way to earn Twilight’s respect, and now you find that you have neither the need nor materials to do so. But that does not make it any less worth doing.”
“Well, when you say it like that.” I sigh, straightening my glasses and casting an appraising glance at the ancient violin sitting upon the desk. For some reason, it amuses me. “It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it? Mage Meadowbrook expected his artifact to bring comfort to Princess Celestia, and she expected it to save you, but in the end… All it really did was mess up my expected graduation date.”
Princess Luna laughs. It really is a remarkable sound: deep and warm where Celestia’s is high and clear. “My sister is better about knowing to pursue dreams rather than expectations, I think, but yes—I sincerely doubt Meadowbrook foresaw his spell meeting its end in academic havok.”
She chuckles again, then grows solemn. For a moment, I see the Darkangel in her eyes, but it is quickly snuffed out by a more pensive expression. “But then, we all expect things, don’t we. We expect the paths to our goals to be straight and true. We expect to be able to see where we are headed. We expect ponies to love us in the same ways we love them.” She shakes her head. “Once, I expected that my sister would throw away both crown and title at my request, because I would do the same for her.”
A thousand year-old image of two battle-stained alicorns flashes across my mind. In the quiet of this time-forgotten room, I feel like an intruder in my own memory.
As if she can sense the cause of my uneasiness, Princess Luna flashes me a sheepish smile, and the feeling fades. She turns to leave the room, calling over her shoulder. “As we both know, such a thing was not in Celestia’s nature. My sister would give me her throne in an instant if I asked, but would not—could not--leave it abandoned.”
“You’ve forgiven her for not running away with you,” I observe, following her down to my less dusty (if more cluttered) sitting room.
“I should never have asked her to,” she states. “And you are free to quote me on that in your upcoming treatise.”
I watch as she steps across the space, levitating a familiar journal onto my desk. “I still think Twilight is better suited for the task.”
“Then co-author with her,” the Princess replies easily. “Twilight is certainly a formidable scholar, but better suited for researching Historian? I don’t think so. You do yourself a disservice by entertaining the notion.”
Her dust-glittered aura flips the journal open to the unknown artifact’s page.
“This is a task that will require somepony fascinated with the mysteries of the past, somepony dedicated enough to put her life on standby and abandon the present in pursuit of them. Do you know such a mare?”
On the page before us, Meadowbrook’s previously-illegible writing seems to shine, as sensible and intuitive as the spells one learns in magic kindergarten. Though her voice remains measured, Princess Luna’s words thunder around me.
“Do you know somepony with the intelligence to untangle the brilliant, brilliant madness left behind by the geniuses of yesteryear? With the desire to understand it?”
I step closer. I’ve seen the unknown artifact in its entirety, witnessed the arcane memory matrix at work. Maybe it doesn’t matter that Equestria knows the truth of the Royal Pony Sisters. Maybe their story is still worth telling.
“Your greatest wish in magic kindergarten was to become an acclaimed magical scholar, no? Or does that dream deserve to die, simply because the road leading to it has changed beneath your hooves?”
I turn to her then, sinking into a proper bow. “No, Highness. It doesn’t.”
When I rise, I find the Princess staring at me, her regal composure untarnished by the spiral notebook that flies past her head and lands upon my desk with a firm smack. She presents me with an dusk-blue quill.
"Now?" I blurt incredulously. "You want me to start right now?"
Princess Luna raises a brow.
“It's generally accepted that one must fall asleep to reach their dreams, is it not, Miss Moondancer?"
I half-nod in acknowledgement, accepting the quill from her grasp. It slips into my magical grasp as smoothly as if it were made to be there. The Darkangel places her hoof on my shoulder and turns me about to face the desk, leaning close to my ear and whispering,
"So how, pray tell, do you expect to reach that goal if you refuse to chase it?”
I begin to write.