“Oh my gosh, this is so super duper exciting! Princess Luna’s first Nightmare Night ever! EEEE! Oh, I can’t wait! Do you think she’s gonna like the candy?! Or the spooks?! What about the scares? Or the spooky, scary candy!?”
Twilight Sparkle watched with wide, unfocused eyes as Pinkie Pie systematically dismantled her very understanding of the laws of physics by literally bouncing off the walls of the library’s living room. But Pinkie did not satisfy herself with merely maintaining perpetual motion. Oh, no, she disappeared under a chair, somehow squishing herself down to fit, and then reappeared by shooting out from behind a bookcase on the other end of the room.
Rainbow stood to her left while Spike stood to her right, both of them appearing far less phased by the anomaly’s behavior. Twilight briefly passed them each a skeptical glance before looking back into the room and-
“GYAH!” She shrieked and flailed back onto the floor when she discovered Pinkie Pie’s face mere inches from her own.
“Twilight, aren’t you excited?!” Pinkie gushed, seemingly not at all concerned by Twilight’s fall. “Princess Luna is coming to Ponyville tonight! She hasn’t been here since the Summer Sun Celebration over a year ago!”
“Uuuuuuhhhh…” was Twilight’s very well thought out and insightful reply.
Rainbow started laughing off to the side before lightly nudging Pinkie back. “Hey, give Twi some personal space, would ya?” she chided, clearly unable to be anything other than amused.
“Personal space?” Pinkie parroted as if she had never heard the phrase before. “What’s that?”
Twilight grunted and sat up onto her haunches, her eyes going just a little crazed while her hooves flailed uselessly in Pinkie’s general direction. “HOW DO YOU?!” she demanded in a loud and exasperated shriek.
Pinkie tilted her head to one side, confused by the alicorn’s outburst. “How do I what, Twilight?”
Twilight was drawn from her less-than-dignified fit when she felt Spike’s claw on her shoulder. Huffing, she turned to see him offering her a soothing smile and shaking his head. “Let it go, Twilight. Let it go,” he said quietly.
She pointed at Pinkie again. “B-but, physics!” she stammered helplessly “And, and, momentum, space, matter! She just…”
“Shh, shh, it’s okay, Twi,” Spike continued in a soothing voice while patting her on the back. “It’s just Pinkie Pie. She can’t hurt you.”
“Unless her tail starts twitching,” Rainbow commented, shooting them a sideways look. “In which case, take cover.”
“Silly, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna hurt anypony,” Pinkie denied with a severely exaggerated roll of her eyes. “That’s what my mane going flat means.”
Twilight stared at her for several long seconds, her brain doing some very impressive gymnastics as she tried to figure out the creature before her. Alas, her efforts were for naught, and she announced this by falling back onto the floor to murmur incoherently to herself.
Rainbow stared at the pitiful scene for a solid minute before rolling her eyes and turning to Pinkie with an inquisitive look on her face. “So, Twi’s having a complete psychological breakdown. What do ya need, Pinkie?” she asked casually.
Pinkie straightened up, her grin returning in full force. “Oh, right! I just wanted to come by and see if Twilight was excited for Nightmare Night, this being the first one she’s had since becoming an alicorn!”
That finally pulled Twilight out of her trance. With a sigh, she sat upright and looked at Pinkie. “Well, I am excited, yes. Rainbow and Spike have been hyping it up to no end, and I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about,” she explained before glancing sideways at the pegasus in question.
Pinkie grinned. “Nifty! Are you three coming to the town square for the mayor’s presentation? I bet she’s got something exciting planned to scare the socks off of everypony this year!”
Rainbow puffed up her chest, a knowing grin spreading across her face. “Oh-ho, yeah she does,” she claimed, giving her mane a stylish flick.
Pinkie gasped at her. “How do you know?! Are you in on it?!” she asked, stepping forward to get a better look.
Rainbow smirked and nudged her back. “You’ll just have to hook up with everypony else to find that out, won’t cha?” she teased with a wink. “Why don’t you get a move on? The sun’s going down in a little while, and you want to have your costume on, right?”
Pinkie’s eyes flew wide as dinner plates, and she gasped as if the most shocking revelation had been made before her eyes. “OH MY GOSH! YOU’RE RIGHT! I LEFT MY CHICKEN SUIT BACK IN MY BEDROOM!” she screeched before turning for the door, her tail starting to spin like propellers. “I gotta zoom! I’ll see you all at town square! BWOCK!”
And with that, Pinkie Pie raced off, plowing through the front door of the library at speeds that would probably make Rainbow Dash blush. Twilight waved a hoof in front of her face to clear away some of the dust kicked up by the sudden departure before heaving a heavy sigh. “That mare is going to be the end of me,” she grumbled before willing the front door shut with her magic.
“Meh, it’s Pinkie,” Rainbow dismissed with a shrug of her shoulders. She gave Twilight a warm smile and poked her in the ribs. “But we should probably go grab our own costumes, too.”
“Yeah, we should,” Twilight conceded, eagerly snatching up the chance to distract her mind from the madmare that had just fled their home. She turned to her two roommates and nodded for the stairs to the loft. “Shall we?”
They didn’t answer with words. They merely turned and went up, with Twilight following close at their heels.
The sun was starting to disappear beyond the horizon, and the Ponyville Weather Teams, per Rainbow’s orders, were starting to bring in the darkest clouds they could manage to smother the sky and add to the eerie atmosphere. A subtle breeze wove its way through the town, making an ominous whistling noise as it passed.
Twilight couldn’t help but shudder at the sound, vaguely reminded of the nightmare she had suffered on her first night in the library. How the wind howled outside the windows as she frantically reached for the shelves, only for the books to fly away or crumble into dust in her hooves. Even now, the mental image made her feel uneasy.
Thankfully, she didn’t get to linger on such grim thoughts, as her attention was drawn to all of the fanciful decorations that were plastered throughout the town. Jack-o-lanterns sat outside doors with a wide range of faces carved into them, candlelight flickering within each. Fake spiderwebs clung to windows and walls and magical contraptions spewed out thick fog and mist to obscure hidden, macabre ornamentations that made the foals scream and laugh as they fled.
She gave a low whistle of appreciation before turning to Rainbow Dash to her right. She went to speak but found herself unable to do so when she was met with the visual of her first friend’s choice of costume. She stifled a groan and looked away to bury her face in a wing.
Rainbow chuckled from her side. “Heh. What? Don’t like it?” she asked before poking Twilight in the side.
“You dressed up as me,” the alicorn sighed before finally bringing herself to look at the embarrassing image.
Sure enough, Rainbow was adorned in a costume that made her vaguely resemble Twilight. “Vaguely” being the operative word. Her wings were covered in cardboard that conformed to the limbs and had been painted to be the same shade of lavender as Twilight’s fur. On her head was a narrow party hat painted to look like Twilight’s horn, and a bunch of strips of paper had been arranged over her mane, looking like the worst case of bed-head Twilight ever had if it were made of paper.
Rainbow glanced down at herself, then laughed in amusement. “What? I thought you’d find it funny,” she dismissed before looking ahead. “It’s not as bad as yours. I mean, a college graduate? Really?”
“I don’t see the problem,” Twilight bit back with an unamused frown. “Colleges are places of study and learning, and graduates are ponies who dedicated themselves and learned all about-”
Twilight came to a stop, her frown replaced with a bewildered look. “Wh… what?”
Rainbow reached out with a coy smirk, closing Twilight’s hanging jaw before looking into her eyes. “That’s you. You’re an egghead. And a killjoy.”
“I am not!”
Spike, who had been to Twilight’s left, finally chose this moment to chip in. “Actually, you totally are. Literally and figuratively,” he said with a teasing edge to his voice.
Groaning in exasperation, Twilight turned to glare daggers at the innocently smiling drake. His costume was significantly better than Rainbow’s. Thank Celestia. He was dressed in a form-fitting recreation of a wonderbolt’s flight suit, hoof-stitched by Rarity as a reward for helping her at her shop over the weeks leading up to the holiday.
Spike pulled the goggles off of his eyes to grin up at her. “Oh, relax, Twilight. We’re just having some fun with you,” he assured.
Twilight huffed and looked up the street, feeling quite offended. “...And as me, apparently.”
“What can I say?” Rainbow asked with a shrug of her shoulders. “You’re cute when you’re exasperated.”
Twilight’s heart skipped a beat at that, and her blood ran just a little colder. Her ears drooped just slightly, but she was quick to shove down the reminder of her forgotten feelings. “Don’t dwell on what was,” she thought to herself. “Focus on the now…”
The trio fell into a comfortable silence, allowing the ambiance of the town to wash over them. Twilight took a moment to look around at the decor again, noticing that even more was being arranged along the houses even as the night consumed the world.
“Yeesh, did Nightmare Night throw up on Ponyville this year or something?” Spike suddenly asked, glancing back and forth at the amassed decorations with a raised eyebrow. “I mean, look at all this! There wasn’t anywhere near this much decoration last time!”
“I may have pulled a few strings with the mayor and donated to the holiday budget,” Rainbow admitted in a whisper, craning her neck down so the drake could hear her better. “Aunt Luna’s coming here tonight, remember? I wanted her first Nightmare Night to be special.”
Twilight’s ears swiveled towards Rainbow, followed by the rest of her head. “Her first Nightmare Night? What do you mean?”
Rainbow straightened up and stared at Twilight pensively, as if unsure how to voice her thoughts. She rolled her jaw a few times before finally settling on her words. “Well… you know how Luna was banished to the moon a long time ago, and only came back, like, a year ago, right?”
“Well, she was in this weird sleep-like state for most of that, slowly regrowing into her adult body. She was only as big as me when we first zapped her with the Elements. That means she missed Nightmare Night the first time around.”
“Ooh,” Twilight made a little ‘o’ with her mouth before looking around at the decorations again, seeing them in a new light. “I think I understand. She’s coming here to visit you for the holiday, and you thought you’d surprise her with a big display of decorations in her honor?”
“Kinda, yeah,” Rainbow acknowledged, slowing down a little to look around herself. Her eyes latched onto a squad of giggling and shrieking foals as they went barreling by, a distant look in her eyes. “...Aunt Luna turned into Nightmare Moon in the first place because she was jealous of my mom. She felt like she wasn’t getting the recognition she deserved, and she really wasn’t. So yeah, I want her to feel special tonight. I want her to feel appreciated, and like this holiday if for her, not just about her.”
Spike whistled, his eyes going wide as he spun in place. “Wow. Uh, I gotta hand it to you, you really didn’t hold back. How much of these decorations did you plan yourself?”
“Absolutely none of them,” Rainbow replied without missing a beat, her eyes lighting up with just the faintest bit of amusement. “I can fly circles around most ponies, and only a few are stronger than I am. Gimme a mountain to fly over or a monster to beat up, and I’ll get it done. Decorating a town, though? Uuuuhhh…” she shook her head. “Yeah… better let somepony who knows what they’re doing handle that.”
Twilight hummed quietly, her eyes turning to look at the distant city of Canterlot up in the mountains. It was only barely visible in the sky as a silhouette, a few tiny orange sparks flickering within to signify the capital’s own decorations. The moon was slowly rising into view behind it, not quite obscured by the clouds the weather teams were rolling in yet.
“You must really care about her a lot to go through all this trouble,” she mused, smiling.
Rainbow nodded, coming up to Twilight’s side and looking up at Canterlot as well. “Yeah, I do. I owe her a lot. We… we went through some stuff together,” she explained in a hushed voice. “I really respect and look up to her.”
“I can see that,” Twilight nodded. “I’m sure she’ll love it.”
Luna stared down at Ponyville with an apprehensive frown on her face from her bedroom balcony. A chilly mountain breeze swept by, making her ethereal mane and tail shift to go along with the current. She took a deep breath, letting the coolness of the night fill her lungs and rejuvenate her system. She closed her eyes for a moment to savor the sensation before letting it back out and looking down again.
“Is something bothering you, sister?” Celestia’s voice spoke from the open window, prompting Luna to turn and look at her older counterpart. The elder alicorn stepped up beside her, a pleasant smile on her face. “I would have thought you’d be over the moon.”
Luna rolled her eyes and playfully smacked Celestia behind the ear. “Kindly refrain from making such terrible jokes in the future please, Tia,” she chastised with an annoyed huff.
Celestia tittered in amusement but relented in the end. “Oh, fine. You’re too serious for your own good sometimes, did you know that?”
A silence fell over them, and Celestia’s mirthful expression became more serious. She shifted on her hooves to face her sister more directly and cleared her throat. “Luna… I meant it when I asked if something was bothering you. Are you alright?”
Luna looked down at the guardrail for a moment before nodding her head. “Yes, I am fine. I’m just a little apprehensive about the night to come, that’s all.”
Celestia tilted her head to one side. “How come?”
Luna looked over her shoulder and towards the moon that was her charge, deep in thought. “This holiday… it is based around the legends left behind by my times as Nightmare Moon, was it not?”
Celestia winced, her wings briefly ruffling on her back in discomfort. “W-well… yes, it was inspired by those legends. I must admit, I never cared much for it myself in the past… my little ponies were quick to forget the wonderful mare that you are, replacing you in their minds with everything you’re not.”
“Then you can see why I am not eager to descend into the middle of it,” Luna stated with a quiet huff. “I understand the need to remember what I did wrong, and rest assured that I shall never forget my mistakes. But to be surrounded by so many reminders of what I allowed myself to turn into…”
“Luna,” Celestia cut her off in a firm but gentle voice. She rested a hoof on her younger sister’s shoulder and peered deep into her eyes. “Nightmare Night was inspired by the legends. But as with all things, it has changed with time. It is no longer a time of frightening foals into being terrified of the Mare in the Moon. It’s now a time of celebrating a darker side of the world we often ignore, the side you dwell within at all times. It is now a time where foals practically swim in candy and treats, and scream and laugh at silly bobbles and cheap scares.”
“But it is still a reminder of what I became,” Luna persisted, frowning down at Ponyville again. “...And a reminder of just how much the world has changed in my absence.”
Celestia’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Sister? You’ve been back for over a year, now.”
“Yes, and I was asleep for most of it, remember? I had little contact with the world around me until after Discord made his brief encore on the stage of Equestria. After that, my contact was limited, and then Chrysalis’ swarm invaded. It was only after all of that was said and done that I finally got to look at the world again, free of distractions…”
Celestia fell silent, solemn. She looked down at Ponyville as well, unsure of what to say.
Luna continued. “Every time I awaken, I see something new in the world, something I know nothing about. Everything has changed, Celestia, for better or worse, and I am still scrambling to catch up…”
Celestia sighed and draped one of her large wings over Luna’s shoulders. “I understand… but I encourage you to not be afraid of visiting your own niece,” she suggested in a whisper, nuzzling Luna affectionately. “I do believe Rainbow Dash will make the journey more than worth it.”
Luna hummed in response, returning Celestia’s nuzzle gratefully. After a few seconds, she withdrew from the side-hug and looked at Ponyville once again. “...Very well. I suppose there is nothing else for it,” she relented before turning and trotting back into her room. “I should set off. Everypony is waiting on me.”
Celesta followed Luna into the room, smiling. “Have fun, Lulu. And give Rainbow Dash my regards, will you?”
Luna paused and smiled back over her shoulder. “You need not concern yourself, Tia. Consider it done,” she stated before stepping through the doors of her bedroom and into the castle halls.