Little Memories

by Skijarama

Old Legends

“Hey, hey! Over here!” Pinkie’s voice rang out from the crowd, drawing Twilight’s eyes towards the pink pony. As she had declared earlier, Pinkie was dressed up as a chicken, and so stood out amidst the crowded sea of faces and costumes both outlandish and mundane. Rarity stood next to her, adorned in a crimson dress with her mane dyed a deep, dark black. Her eyes were red as well, though it didn’t take much more than a moment for Twilight to deduce that she was wearing decorative lenses. Applejack stood not far away, dressed up as a…

“Applejack, why are you a hay bale?” Rainbow asked with a raised eyebrow as the two groups met up. “I mean… come on.”

The farmer chuckled under her breath, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head. “Eheh, well, it weren’t my idea. There were some malfunctions with what Ah wanted to wear, and the whole thing just wrecked itself,” she explained before thumping the big square of hay that encapsulated her barrel with a hoof. “Granny Smith came up with this idea as a replacement, and Big Mac and Apple Bloom didn’t let it go…”

“Peer pressure. It’ll get ya every time,” Spike mused with a knowing grin.

It was at about that moment that Rarity let off an impressively loud shriek. Twilight, alarmed, turned to face the vampire look-alike, only for her to go shooting right by to all but tackle a certain pegasus. “RAINBOW DASH!” she bellowed, grasping her prey by the cheeks and holding her down so that her paper mane was on full display. “WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THINGS REGAL ARE YOU WEARING?!”

“Me,” Twilight deadpanned.

Rainbow squirmed in the fashionista's grip for a moment before finally prying her off and giving her a disapproving glare. “What? I’m dressed up as my favorite alicorn,” she protested indignantly before letting off an irritated huff.

Rarity scoffed, offended. “Psh! If you wanted to look like Twilight without being a walking eyesore, you could have just come to me! I would have made you look almost identical!”

Rainbow sighed heavily and shook her head in exasperation. “Ugh, you’re kinda missing the point, Rares,” she mumbled before turning her attention away from the fuming unicorn to look to one side.

Twilight followed her gaze and caught sight of town hall. The multi-story building was, much like the rest of the town, practically bathed in seasonal decor. A large stage had been set up with dark blue and purple curtains in the back, and mist spilling out from beneath. Somewhere, the sound of a spooky wind howling could be heard, and the distant cackles of something not friendly joined it.

“So, has there been any activity, yet?” Rainbow questioned after a moment, her wings ruffling on her back.

Pinkie shook her head. “Nope, not yet. Mayor Mare’s poked her head out a couple times, but that’s it.”

“I’m sure it won’t be long,” Twilight assured before looking around at the group again. It was only then as she swept her gaze across the assembled ponies that she realized somepony was missing. Her neutral expression morphed into a worried frown. “Hey, where’s Fluttershy?”

“Oh, she doesn’t come outta her cottage fer Nightmare Night,” Applejack piped up, stepping into Twilight’s line of sight. “She’s never liked this holiday, poor thing. She scares easy, so she locks herself in her home and waits fer it all to be over.”

“It kinda sucks,” Rainbow sighed, her brow furrowing in disappointment. “Fluttershy’s great, but I really wish she’d grow more of a backbone sometimes…”

“She’s brave where it counts, dear,” Rarity reminded with a sage nod. “Need I remind you that she was there alongside us when we charged in with the Elements of Harmony to defeat Chrysalis?”

Rainbow nodded and lifted her head up. “Yeah, I know…” she grumbled before shaking her head and looking up at the stage again. “Still. I love this holiday. I’d love to actually spend it with all of my friends, not just most of them.”

Twilight smiled in reassurance and reached out to pat her on the back. “Hey, maybe she’ll warm up to it someday,” she suggested quietly.

Rainbow was quiet for a second, her eyes going distant. Then she smiled and nodded at Twilight. “Maybe. Here’s to hoping, am I right?”

Twilight nodded in agreement. She would have spoken more, but she was interrupted by a sudden uproar of ghostly moans and howls from the stage. Alarmed, she turned to look and saw that the outflowing of mist had grown in intensity several times over, turning a sickly green color. A silhouette could be seen within the smog, slowly approaching the stage.

“Oh, oh, it’s starting!” Pinkie whispered, starting to vibrate and cluck with anticipation.

Twilight eyed her for a moment before focusing on what was happening up ahead. From the smoke, Mayor Mare emerged, dressed in a clown costume, no doubt to not be too upsetting for the small army of little foals huddled up right in front of the stage. As soon as she became visible, the crowd burst into cheers, eager for the proceedings to get underway.

The mayor smiled down at them and the rest of the crowd before making her way for a podium that had been set up off to one side, where a microphone was hooked up and waiting for her. She tapped it once or twice to ensure it was working before speaking into it. “Thank you, thank you,” she began with a happy wave. “Welcome, fillies and gentlecolts, to the Nightmare Night festival!”

More cheers erupted from the crowd. The mayor waited for them to quiet down before continuing on, her eyes briefly locking onto Rainbow. “As many of you may have noticed on your way here, Ponyville is far more decorated this year than it was last time. For this, we have the Princess of The Sky, Rainbow Dash, and her generous donations, to thank.”

Rainbow flinched at the use of her full title but didn’t hesitate to suddenly leap into the air so the crowd could see her. All eyes flew up to her, and more cheers and applause rang out from the assembled crowd, including from her friends. She did a few quick spins and showpony bows before flashing the mayor a wink and diving back down to stand next to Twilight.

Mayor Mare was quiet for a second to let the cheering fade before she pressed on. “Now, then, all of the little ponies who have been out collecting sweets, should follow our good friend Zecora, and hear the legend of…” she leaned forward over the podium, her eyes flying wide, and her voice becoming drawn out and foal-friendly spooky, “Nightmare Moooooon, mwahahahaha!”

Spike’s expression flattened. “Y’know, the spooky voice might work better if she wasn’t dressed like that,” he mumbled in a deadpan, drawing a quiet snort from Twilight.

“Well, he’s not wrong,” she thought before focusing on the stage again. A new figure was emerging from the smoke, wholly unfamiliar. They were dressed in a pitch-black robe that obscured their features, safe for the black-and-white striped hooves that carried them forwards. A hush fell over the crowd, all of them waiting with bated breath for the new arrival to speak.

They suddenly threw back their hood to reveal a mare with sharply angled ocean-blue eyes and a long, silver mane. Fake spiders poked out between the hairs, their crimson eyes silently glowing in the night. Much like her hooves, black and white stripes decorated her fur, and Twilight’s mind wandered briefly back to one of the many books she had read to get herself caught up on the world she lived in.

This was Zecora, and if Twilight was remembering correctly, she was a zebra, a species closely related to ponies who hailed from a very, very distant land.

Zecora looked down upon the assembled fillies and colts with a serene smile on her face, like a mother would look at their innocent child. Somehow, combined with her morbid attire, it was enough to actually send a chill down Twilight’s spine. “Follow me,” she began in a foreign accent. “And very soon, you shall hear the tale of Nightmare Moon.”

The zebra did not leave the foals any time to question her. Instead, she turned with a great billowing of her dark cloak and leaped down from the stage. Her hooves touched lightly down onto the grass, and she began to walk. The foals began to fall into tow, excitement, and curiosity bubbling within them. The parents hang back, only a few sharing anxious looks or shouting out last-minute reminders to their children.

Twilight tilted her head in curiosity before she felt Rainbow’s elbow prodding her ribs. She turned to look and saw the pegasus smirking back at her. “Hey, c’mon. We’re going, too,” she whispered.

Twilight frowned, and for a moment, she pondered questioning Rainbow’s statement. They weren’t foals, after all, and the mayor had clearly specified little ponies who had been out collecting sweets, and none of them were either little or collecting sweets.

And then she saw the basket loaded with candy swinging from Pinkie’s lower jaw as she followed Zecora and the foals, along with a few other adults, and decided that it was probably okay. So she nodded at Rainbow and Spike, and together, they began to trot after the crowds. She could just hear Applejack and Rarity sharing a few parting words behind her before going their own ways, vanishing back into town. They must have had their own tasks to attend to, she mused.

Those musings, along with most others, were pushed aside in favor of curiosity as the large group she had found herself with ventured towards the Everfree Forest.

After maybe five or so minutes of walking, Twilight felt a small wave of relief wash over her as she realized that they weren’t heading into the forest. There was a small clearing right at the edge, surrounded on all but one side by the dense wall of shrubbery and foliage. A few midnight creatures could just be heard skittering away as the group walked through, adding to the already intensely-creepy atmosphere.

Twilight studied it all for a moment, her eyes eventually settling on what rested on the opposite end of the clearing. There, carved out of gray stone and looking to be decades old, was a statue of an imposing alicorn reared up on her hind legs. Her slit pupils glared down at the ground in front of the base, while her maw hung open to reveal curved, razor-sharp teeth. Her mane and tail were carved to drift in an unfelt breeze, and her entire body was adorned in dark, sinister regalia with crescent moon motifs.

“This must be what Nightmare Moon looked like,” Twilight mused to herself, her eyes squinting as she tried to pick out the finer details. “Or at least what local legends depict her as. I wonder how accurate it is…”

Zecora, at last, came to a stop right at the base of the statue, before turning around to face the following group of ponies. “Listen close, my little dears. I’ll tell you where you got your fears,” she began before leaning down over a group of three fillies, her eyes narrowing. “Of Nightmare Night, so dark and scary...”

The foals trembled and backed away, anxious looks on their faces. Twilight felt a stirring in her chest, a compulsion to go to their defense, but she quickly reigned herself in. “It’s all just an act,” she reminded herself.

Zecora stood up tall and reached into her cloak to withdraw a sparkling green powder. She held it up to her face and blew, and the powder swirled away and into the air. It coalesced in front of the statue, assuming the shape of the same mare it depicted. Nightmare Moon, albeit as a green ghost, appeared above the group. Zecora’s smirk grew. “Of Nightmare Moon, who makes you wary.”

The apparition suddenly lurched down for the group, and the foals only had time to utter a collective gasp before it was among them. It struck the ground and exploded into a thick cloud of green that filled the clearing, obscuring everypony’s vision. Twilight waved a hoof in front of her face and looked around in confusion. Rainbow was right next to her, just smiling with a smug look in her eyes.

Zecora’s voice spoke through the smog, echoing ominously around them. “Every year, we put on a disguise to hide ourselves from her searching eyes.”

As soon as she finished, a filly and a colt screamed in fear and emerged from the smog to dive behind Rainbow Dash, seeking shelter from the local princess. Twilight stared at them for a moment, then gave Rainbow a raised eyebrow. The pegasus just shrugged and nodded back into the smoke.

Zecora emerged, looking far more amused than she probably was. “For Nightmare Moon wants just one thing…” she continued slowly, her voice like a predatory cat purring in anticipation. “To gobble up ponies in one quick swing!”

As a few other foals scurried away from her, Zecora withdrew more powder from her cloak and cast it into the air. Nightmare Moon’s apparition appeared yet again, this time surveying the terrain with a hoof held up over her eyes as if to block out the glare of the sun.

“Wait, why is she doing that? It’s the middle of the night…” Twilight pondered before chalking it up to mere theatrics for the foals.

“Hungrily she soars the sky,” Zecora pressed on. “If she sees no pony, she passes by. So if she comes, and all is clear, then Equestria is safe another year!”

The apparition rose into the air and disappeared in a flash of smoke and light, and with it, the rest of the smoke began to dissipate. The foals mostly seemed to be pulling themselves together at this point, quietly chuckling at each other and huddling up with their friends. One, in particular, emerged from behind Rainbow, a tiny earth pony colt with a splotchy white and brown coat who was dressed as a pirate.

He walked up to Zecora and lightly tugged on her coat to get her attention. “Um, miss Zecora? If we wear costumes to hide from Nightmare Moon, so she won’t gobble us up, how come we still need to give her some of our candy?”

Zecora grinned mischievously, and Twilight sensed she was about to scare them all again. She leaned down at him, showing her pearly whites. “A perfect question, my little friend, for Nightmare Moon, you must not offend!” more powder on her hoof was blown out, and the colt began to back away as it took shape, his eyes wide. From the cloud, the shape of Nightmare Moon appeared again, slowly trotting forward.

Zecora went on. “Fill up her belly with a treat or two, so she won’t return to come eat you!

The moment she finished speaking, the apparition opened its mouth unnaturally wide and pounced, eliciting terrified screams from the entire crowd of gathered ponies. The apparition vanished yet again the moment it reached them, disappearing into nothing. All the same, the desired effect was had. All of the foals plus one Pinkie Pie screamed their heads off and rushed for the base of the statue.

“C’mon! Let’s dump some candy and get outta here!” Pinkie barked in a shaking voice, and Twilight briefly wondered how much of this the party planner was believing. Maybe Nightmare Moon was real, but the legend they were hearing right now was just too silly.

Suddenly, a blast of thunder rolled across the sky, making everypony go still. Even Rainbow’s relaxed posture suddenly stiffened, a confused look on her face. A heavy wind began to pick up, roaring through the trees and making the branches sway and shift violently. An ominous howl echoed all around them, sending a chill down Twilight’s spine.

“Uh… what’s going on?” Rainbow whispered, looking around.

Spike gaped at her in disbelief. “Are you kidding?! I thought you had this all planned down to a T!” he demanded, grabbing onto one of her forelegs and giving it a hard shake.

The pegasus grinned sheepishly but elected to say nothing.

Before any further questions could be asked, a low boom sounded from high above as some clouds parted to reveal the full moon. It glowed brightly for a moment before something emerged from the break in the clouds. Twilight squinted through the winds to get a better look, lifting a hoof to shield her face from the occasional stay twig or loose branch that went racing by.

Her eyes widened when she saw a chariot descending from the heavens, being pulled by two thestrals. The chariot was similar in style to the one she had ridden in when coming back to Ponyville, and as it drew near, she recognized one of the ponies pulling it as Stark Jumper. The other one was not familiar to her, though.

Meanwhile, sitting in the back of the chariot was a much taller pony, enveloped in a shadowy cloak. It was hard to make her out until the chariot came to a complete stop directly over the clearing, allowing Twilight to get a better look. To her relief, it was none other than Princess Luna, looking down on the clearing with a thoughtful look on her face under her hood.

“What is she doing?!” Rainbow asked in a whisper through clenched teeth, her ears folding back. This kind of entrance is just gonna make ponies panic!”

As if on cue, Pinkie’s voice rang out through the crowd. “IT’S NIGHTMARE MOON! RUN!” she screamed at the top of her lungs before barreling away from the clearing and back towards Ponyville, appropriately clucking like a panicking chicken the whole way. The assembled foals wasted no time in moving to follow her, shrieking their little heads off the whole way.

Luna’s thoughtful expression melted away, replaced with one of hurt and offense. Her eyes locked onto the fleeing crowd for several seconds, and she timidly lifted one hoof as if to reach out after them. Twilight’s ears drooped, her heart dropping in her chest. “...She looks so sad,” she muttered before glancing over at Rainbow and Spike, the only ones to stay with her in the clearing.

The pegasus clamped her hanging jaw shut and snorted. “Ugh… Hey! Luna, down here!” she called while jumping up and hovering a few feet above the ground. “Ya mind coming down?! Y’know, before anypony else has a panic attack?!”

The lunar princess looked back down at her and blinked a few times. She was silent for a moment before uttering something to the guards pulling her chariot. They nodded back to her and brought it down for the clearing. As they descended, the winds faded away, and the unnatural gap created in the sky sealed itself up.

Finally, the chariot came to a smooth and graceful landing, the metal wheels creaking slightly as they rolled to a stop. Luna pulled her hood back before jumping down from her seat, her hooves lightly touching down on the grassy floor. “Rainbow Dash,” she greeted with a warm, if strained, smile. Her gaze then drifted past Rainbow to settle on Twilight, and the warmth faded entirely. “...Twilight Sparkle.”

A whole new chill crept down Twilight’s spine, and she suddenly found herself unable to meet the other alicorn’s gaze. She didn’t know why, but all of a sudden she felt exceedingly self-conscious. Her ears folded back and one of her hooves idly scraped at the dirt.

Before she could say anything, though, Rainbow broke the tension by flying over to hug her adoptive aunt. Luna returned the embrace with a pleased hum for a moment before lightly nudging Rainbow back.

And then the pegasus smacked her on the shoulder.

“Ow! Rainbow!”

“What the hay, Luna?!” Rainbow chastised while throwing her forelegs up into the air. “I thought you were gonna meet up with me first before scaring ponies silly! I had this whole thing planned out!”

Luna blinked several more times, and her blue cheeks slowly began to turn a distinct shade of pink. “...Oh. I… must have missed that part,” she admitted sheepishly.

Rainbow slammed a hoof into her own face. “UGH! No, no, It was my fault. I just assumed you’d come say hi before making such a big entrance,” she grumbled before touching back down on the ground and shaking her head. “But your timing could not have been worse. A whole crowd of foals just ran back to town screaming and wailing that Nightmare Moon is back, so my whole plan just went out the window.”

Luna lowered her head and heaved a quiet sigh. “I see… I apologize for that…” she mumbled.

A silence fell over the clearing for several seconds. Twilight looked down again, not quite able to keep watching the scene. She felt like she was intruding somewhere she did not belong and as if to illustrate that point, she took a few steps back.

“So…” Spike awkwardly droned out, tapping his claws together over his chest. “How do we fix this?”

“Dunno,” Rainbow grunted with a shake of her head. “Gimme a minute, though. I might think of something.”

Luna nodded quietly before turning back to her guards. “At ease, gentlecolts. Dreamer, I believe you wanted to speak with these ponies, so now would be the time,” she commanded before turning back to Rainbow and speaking to her in a low whisper.

Twilight watched them for a moment before turning to watch as one of the thestrals unhitched himself from his harness. He stepped away from the chariot and directly for her, pulling off his helmet on the way. Doing so revealed his stone-gray coat, his short blue mane, and his icey blue eyes with slit pupils. He smiled warmly at her as he approached. “Twilight Sparkle, right?” he greeted in a friendly voice.

Twilight jumped slightly, then shakily nodded her head. “Er, yeah, that’s me. Who are you?”

The pony paused, his smile faltering. At once, Twilight’s ears splayed back, and her heart fell into the pits of her stomach. He looked down for a moment and grimaced. ”Right… I’m sorry, I forgot about your condition,” he muttered before shaking his head. “My name is Squall Dreamer. I helped you and the Princess take down Chrysalis in the Empire a ways back. Thorax asked me to pass along his regards to you and Princess Rainbow Dash while I was here.”

Twilight blinked a few times, her mind taking a moment to catch up. She got it together fast enough and smiled back at him. “Oh, I see! Thorax was the changeling who helped us, right?”

“Yes, ma’am. He played a pretty big role last I heard.”

“How is he doing?”

“Well, he’s living with me and my sister right now, so he has a home at least,” Squall said before his brow furrowed. “But… well, it’s slow going. A lot of ponies are still sore over that whole incident, and I can’t say I blame them. If I hadn’t seen Thorax’s efforts first hoof, and if he hadn’t taken care of my sister, I probably wouldn’t trust him either.”

Twilight wilted quietly upon hearing that, her face falling. “...He’s being treated poorly?”

“Even with the pardons the princesses gave him, yes,” Squall confirmed. “He’s trying his best to prove them wrong, but almost nopony is even giving him the time of day.”

“That’s not fair,” Twilight whispered before shaking her head. “I may not remember him, but I know his story. So do you mind letting him know I’m rooting for him when you get back?”

Squall’s dour mood brightened at that, and he gave a firm nod. “I’ll do that. Maybe being reminded about the ponies who trust him will give him some confidence back.”

“I think we got it!” Rainbow suddenly declared, pulling all eyes back to her and Luna. She had a big, cocky grin on her face, her wings flaring open. Luna looked skeptical but invested all the same.

Spike tilted his head. “Got what?”

“How to fix my latest blunder,” Luna deadpanned.

“How to turn this mistake into something awesome,” Rainbow immediately corrected before turning to look at the little purple dragon. Her smile grew a touch more predatory. “Spike, I’m gonna need you to do something for me.”

Spike straightened up, his face narrowing with skepticism. “...What?”