Princess Luna was surrounded by chaos.
All around her lay information about the night sky. Star charts, constellation diagrams, books and scrolls and tablets of astronomic data, some of it centuries old and thus extremely valuable—all of it was arrayed haphazardly around the observatory. A quill held in the grip of midnight-blue magic scratched out notes on a fresh-scraped roll of parchment, supplementing the aged texts with observations from the world's foremost authority on the night sky.
She had made the thing, after all.
“Your Highness?” The head of one of Luna's Night Guard poked into the room, his lavender barding turned deep violet in the darkness of the observatory. “Her Grace your sister requests your presence. Twilight Sparkle has arrived for your luncheon.”
Luna turned to respond to the guard, but paused as hunger and eye-strain hit her suddenly, no longer delayed by her intense concentration. Her stomach rumbled at the thought of food. The guard, to his credit, didn't react to the utterances of the royal digestive tract. “Thank you, guardspony, I will be there in a moment.”
As the armored pegasus retreated, the princess looked back at the scattered texts with dismay. During Luna's thousand-year exile, Celestia had done an excellent job of handling the stars. However, even the Sun Princess could not understand them quite so thoroughly as Luna, and many uncommon celestial events had failed to occur when they needed to. If left unchecked, the static night sky would slowly disrupt the natural patterns of Equestria for centuries to come. And so Luna had worked for the last several months, cataloging all the changes she needed to make over the course of the next few decades.
Not that anypony would appreciate her work.
With a heavy sigh, the blue alicorn stepped out of the dog's-leg-bent corridor leading to the observatory, shielding her eyes out of habit as they adjusted to the candlelit rooms beyond. The hour was growing late, but the castle staff continued to bustle; the Night Guard were in the middle of a shift rotation, and cleaning ponies were dusting and mopping in preparation for hosting the next day's endless array of very important visitors. The staff had adjusted to Princess Luna's presence in the year and a half since her return from the moon, and they gave her polite bows as she passed before returning to their duties. Luna paid them no mind, her thoughts far away, occupied by nebulae and red giants and comets.
She arrived at the small dining hall she and her sister used for their private meals just as the castle steward finished the formal, tedious, and rather pointless introduction between Celestia and Twilight Sparkle. The little purple unicorn was pressed against her mentor's side, smiling broadly.
Celestia's voice greeted Luna when he entered while the solar sister spoke. “...so glad that you were able to stop by; it's been far too long. I hope your mother is enjoying her birthday celebrations?”
“She is, Princess. Shining Armor and Cadence sent her a beautiful rug from their honeymoon in Camelblanca, and I found the perfect book for her at a traveling merch—" Twilight halted when she noticed the new entrant in the room, and bowed. “Oh, good evening, Luna. How have you been?”
“Hungry, tired, and in no mood to chat,” came Luna's curt reply, before she set herself to tearing into the salad sitting at her place. For her, it was the proper time for an early lunch; for Celestia and Twilight, it was more like a late-night snack, but 'luncheon' was a useful enough title for the event.
Twilight stared at Luna, hurt clear on her face until Celestia gently nuzzled the student. “Forgive my sister. She has been working hard for the past few weeks, and has been under some stress. She has a big night coming up.”
“Really?” It was almost unfair, how quickly Twilight could bounce back from someone being rude to her. “What's happening next week?”
“Next week is my birthday,” Luna answered grudgingly, “and I have seen fit to reclaim my birthright as my gift. I will be retaking control of the moon and the night sky on the longest night of the year.” She huffed out another tired sigh. “I will need as much time as I can claim, if I am to adjust the cosmos properly to create a thousand years' worth of change.”
“Wait, the stars really are supposed to change?” Twilight began nibbling her own salad, curiosity plain across her features. “I've read stories about that, but they were all so old that I thought they were just legends.”
“The stars go through their own cycles, just as the Earth and the sun do. Only I, with my connection to the night sky, have the skills to properly guide these cycles to fruition.” Luna scowled down at the remains of her salad, before turning to tear into one of the dishearteningly tiny sandwiches that the Canterlot elite seemed to find so endearing. “Not that anypony noticed this during my absence, of course, nor will they care about the changes that I will bring about—if they can even see them through the city lights. No, the night sky means nothing to these ponies, no more than it did a thousand years ago.”
“Luna...” The Moon Princess looked up at Celestia's stern tone, and the expression of deep worry immediately made Luna regret her harsh words.
“My apologies, sister. Do not worry, these are not the same feelings that led to Nightmare Moon. I have found my harmony with my place in the world, and have no desire to surpass it. I am merely... frustrated.” Eyes downcast, she turned to Twilight, who wore her own expression of concern disconcertingly similar to Celestia's. “My apologies, Twilight Sparkle. Thou dost not deserve the anger with which I greeted thee, after all the boons thou hast bestowed on me.” Luna took a glance at her plate, before rising. “Please excuse me, I have lost my appetite. I will be in the observatory if I am needed.”
Twilight watched Luna go, before turning to her mentor. “Will she be all right, Princess?”
“I think so, Twilight,” Celestia nodded, though worry still made itself apparent on her brow as she poured out two cups of tea. “She was right that this was not the jealous anger that led to Nightmare Moon's attack. I'm not sure that I like this mood much better, though. It's as though she's given up all hope that anyone might care for her magnificent work. It breaks my heart to see her like this.”
Twilight looked into her tea thoughtfully, before she hesitantly spoke. “Princess, with your permission and your help, I think I have an idea for how we can help your sister...”
Princess Luna silently fumed as she was led away from her observatory by a guard once again. The next day was the winter solstice, and she had many last-minute notes to take before sunset; she couldn't afford to be distracted by inconsequential matters! It didn't help that this guard hadn't even told her princess what was happening; she had just said that the matter was of the utmost urgency, and no one but Luna could handle it. As if a palace full of guards, bureaucrats, functionaries, magicians, and another full princess who never slept weren't enough to handle any crisis that might strike Canterlot at this hour...
Well, unless it was another changeling invasion. Only the power of two currently-honeymooning ponies had ended that.
“Guardspony, is the urgent matter a changeling invasion?”
“No, your Highness.”
Well, so much for that idea. Luna returned to brooding.
Finally, the pair came upon the great doors leading into the grand throne room, the one only used during such populous and prestigious events as the Grand Galloping Gala. “Wait, why are we...?”
The guard didn't answer, instead raising a steel-clad hoof to push open one of of the thick wooden doors. The burst of sound from the other side was enough to make Luna stagger, and her jaw dropped as she took in the sight.
The throne room was filled to capacity with thousands upon thousands of ponies—including several pegasi who made room for themselves by hovering in the air. There were plenty of non-ponies as well—smatterings of zebras, camels, llamas, cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, minotaurs, and griffins could be seen through the crowd, and rising above the thousands of quadrapeds was the carefully-placed bulk of an aged green dragon. At the front of the crowd stood Celestia, Twilight Sparkle, and the other five bearers of the Elements of Harmony. Even Spike was present, riding on Twilight's back, though the baby dragon seemed to be having trouble keeping himself awake.
“SISTER!” Luna had to resort to the Royal Canterlot Voice just to be heard over the crowd. “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?”
“IT WAS TWILIGHT SPARKLE'S IDEA,” Celestia replied in kind, before making a face and touching a hoof to her throat. “Oh my, I'm out of practice with that.”
Slowly, the crowd had begun taking notice of Luna's arrival, and the dull roar of thousands of whispered conversations died down as they turned to kneel before her. At Celestia's quiet prodding, Luna unsteadily walked up the stone dais at the head of the room and took her place on the grand black Throne of the Moon. Her sister, notably, did not take her normal place on the white marble Throne of the Sun.
Luna surveyed the vast and diverse crowd, doing her best to look regal. “TWILIGHT SPARKLE! WHY—” Everypony and non-pony in the crowd cringed as the Royal Equestian Voice echoed off the walls in a deafening cacophony; only the adult dragon in the back seem unbothered. Luna cleared her throat and continued more softly, relying only on mundane projection. “My apologies. Twilight Sparkle, why hast thou brought this grand array of our subjects and honored guests of the realm to the royal audience chamber?”
The purple unicorn stepped forward to speak. “Well, your Highness, I couldn't stop thinking about our conversation last week, when you said that nopony appreciated the stars. Forgive me if I seem presumptuous, but I knew that was wrong, and I felt that I needed to prove it to you as decisively as I could.” She turned to gesture to the crowd. “I contacted the Equestrian Stargazer's Association, and asked them to come to this audience with you—and to bring all their friends that love the stars as much as they do, and their friend's friends, and their friends' friends' friends. Before long, I had to start asking ponies to stay at home, because I knew that the throne room was going to become too crowded—especially when Razorfang, the dragon of the Everfree Forest, volunteered to attend. With your permission, several of those gathered here wish to speak to you directly.”
Luna stared at the small magician-in-training, feeling as though she had been struck with thunder. Everyone is here to... tell me how they appreciate my work? “I... Thou hath my permission.”
As Luna should have expected, given Twilight's legendary organizational skills, the speakers had already been given an order to speak in. Applejack was the first to step forward, hat in hoof (literally—she had to shuffle a bit awkwardly on three legs, while the fourth held her hat off the ground). “Your Highness, Ah'll admit that Ah don't really know that much about the stars like Twilight here does. But that don't mean Ah don't appreciate the night sky after a hard day's work. Sometimes, mah sister and Ah sit on the roof an' jest stargaze, seein' what constellations we can find an' makin' up our own. Ah wouldn't trade those moments for nothin', Princess.”
Fluttershy followed, trembling at all the attention being paid to her; she took a bit of prodding before she spoke. “Um, well, you know that I take care of a lot of animals. And a lot of those animals are nocturnal. They use the stars to find their way around—all the owls, and mice, and cats, and bats, and the little baby turtles, and... Um. Well. I just wanted to thank you, on their behalf. I'm sure they'd all want to thank you, if they could talk.”
Luna only distantly recognized the next pony that stepped forward, a gray pegasus with a yellow main and striking (if disconcertingly skewed) golden eyes. “I'm a mailmare in Ponyville, and I have a little filly at home. I get lost a lot, and my job sometimes keeps me working all day. So when I'm trying to find my way home in the dark, it can be real hard sometimes. But then I can just look at the sky, and see that your moon is lighting the way, and that the North Star is helping me point the way home. So thanks for that, Princess. You've helped me get home to my daughter more times that I can count.”
Following the mailmare was the zebra who had been telling stories on Nightmare Night. “Many years has it been since my home of Zanzebra I have seen. Equestria to me was mighty strange, and homesickness it seemed would soon derange. But when I looked into the night sky, the beauty I saw made me fit to cry. For the stars here are the same as at home, and remain the same no matter how far I roam. So I thank you, my beloved Princess, for the stars that you have bestowed in your largesse.”
The next pony was the first from beyond the environs of Ponyville; he was a blue earth stallion getting on it years, with streaks of gray running through his dark blue mane and a pine tree on his flank. He seemed hesitant to step forward, but the light orange mare with him smiled good-naturedly before giving him a good shove. "Well, this is right embarrassing, but I agreed to speak, so there we are. When I was a colt, barely with my mark, I used to go out stargazing every night. I was always fascinated by the Mare in the Moon. She always seemed so lonely up there, but I thought she was watching over me, all the same.” His hoof scuffed awkwardly at the tiled floor. “I fell in love with her—with you, I guess, and now you know why this is so awkward for me. They were just the yearnings of a child who barely know what a mare was, o' course, and I grew out of it in time, and fell in love with that lovely lady who just shoved me out here. But I always remembered that lonely mare, and it about broke my heart when she disappeared.” He looked up, meeting Princess Luna's eye for the first time. “Until I heard that you'd returned to Equestria, that is. Then I knew that she—that you—were with the people you loved again, and that made me the happiest pony in the world.”
The couple stepped away, and they were followed by an old, old lavender pegasus stallion who was aided along by a young magenta unicorn mare. His cutie mark, Luna distantly noted, was the stars of the constellation Libra, and the mare bore a Telescope. He bowed creakily to the princess. “Your Highness, my name is Clear Night, founder and president of the Equestrian Stargazer's Association. I'm an astronomer by trade, and the nighttime has been my friend for many long, long decades; I started the Association so that I might introduce those friends to all the ponies of the world. To know that it was created by you, that I might greet you myself and thank you personally... It is the greatest honor, your Majesty. My life has been spent studying your creation, and teaching its wonders to new generations, like my helpful granddaughter here. It is a wondrous thing that you made, Princess Luna, and I wouldn't trade my time spent studying the sky for anything.”
The frank feelings of the ponies had made Luna's vision cloud with tears, and her voice was ragged as she asked, “All of you speak with great candor. You say that you love me. Yet for a thousand years, I was the embodiment of terror, of evil, of betrayal, of nighttime neverending. Are you not afraid? Do you not know what I have done?”
The astronomer glanced back at the crowd before turning resolutely to the princess. “We know of your Nightmare, Princess, but we also know who you are: An artist. The finest artist who has ever lived, a radiant soul who works on a great black canvas. You are the night, yes, but if I may speak frankly...” He smiled softly. “We here have all loved the stars too fondly to ever fear the night.”
The dam broke, and Luna cried.
The line of ponies continued, each telling their own story of why they loved Luna's stars, though she was having more and more trouble distinguishing them from one another. A few familiar faces popped up here and there—Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash all backed up their friends, and Spike managed to stay awake long enough to give his piece (his first real memory involved looking at the stars with Twilight Sparkle, it seemed), and even the little dappled Trottingham pony from Ponyville was present—but they were far and away outnumbered by unfamiliar individuals.
“I've always been fascinated by the stars.”
“They make me feel like I'm part of something enormous.”
“It's like the whole universe is looking out for me!”
“I like to pretend the Mare in the Moon was my best friend when other foals would pick on me.”
“I wonder if there's anypony up there, looking back at us when we look at the sky?”
“My husband and I married under the full moon so that we could get your blessing.”
“The whole herd just loves 'em, don'tchaknow.”
At some point, the dragon spoke, distinctive against the mob of ungulates. “Of all gathered here, only three of us remember the time before your exile, Luna. The world is back into balance, as it was in the days of my youth. It is an honor to once again live under your wings, Princess.”
“The stars are so haunting...”
“...Like a million glittering gems...”
“...So many wonders...”
And all through it all, the same phrase, over and over: “Thank you.”
“Thank you for the stars!”
“Thank you for your moon.”
“Thank you so much for everything, Princes Luna!”
Luna knew that she was a mess by the time the line of speakers neared its end; tears stained her cheeks, and shone from where they had fallen on her black throne. She had been blubbering for at least an hour, and her throat was parched. She sniffled and nodded thankfully when one of her every-faithful Night Guard presented a goblet of water for her. Finally, the last speaker stepped up to the dais. Her identity nearly made Luna choke on her water.
The Sun Princess dipped her head and smiled softly. “Little sister, you know how I have always admired your creation. The work you have done on it is spectacular; it is a true masterpiece of art, magic, and love. But it was not until I took charge of it during your absence that I truly understood how amazing your night sky is... and how complex.” Her head rose, her swirling mane of dawn billowing around her, and tears shone in her eyes. “My dear Luna, I fear that you are far cleverer than I had ever known—certainly much cleverer than me. The darkened sky is a thing of sublime elegance and wonder, and I could only grasp the simplest, most superficial features. I know how hard you have worked these past months to compensate for my inability to properly bear your duties. The balance of the world will be better for your return, and words cannot say how pleased I am at the return of my brilliant, beautiful sister.”
Celestia rose to her hooves and stepped up the dais, seating herself on her white throne and looking out over the crowd. “This is why—if my co-ruler will grant her blessing—I wish to enact a new holiday. Tomorrow night, my sister reclaims her proper duties as Princess of the Moon. In celebration of this event, and to honor the magnificent work of art that we have been blessed to see above us every night, the winter solstice will now mark the date of the Starry Night Festival, the night when all ponies—and honored guests of the realm, of course—may look to the sky and understand their own special place in the cosmos.”
The crowd cheered in response, the roar echoing off the chamber walls louder than any Royal Equestrian Voice could manage. Luna tried to say something—anything—but the cheering continued, and she simply sat still, awash in her subjects' love for the first time in her long, long life.
Somehow, through the noise and her own overwhelming emotions, Luna heard Twilight's voice whispering in her ear: “We have one more surprise for you, Luna. You'll see it tomorrow.”
The next day, Princess Luna stood on a high balcony overlooking the city of Canterlot, lurking behind her sister. Princess Celestia was a small silhouette against the eye-searing brightness of the setting sun. The Sun Princess' voice rang out to her little sister. “Are you certain you are ready?”
Luna simply nodded in response. She had performed the final checks for what the night sky required that day; the work had seemed to fly by, as she was still filled with the warmth and acceptance from the previous night. Everything was ready for her to take control of the evening sky again. There only remained one thing for her to worry about: exactly what surprise it was that Twilight Sparkle had promised her. We shall simply have to wait and see.
Slowly, the sun sank under the horizon, and Canterlot was bathed in darkness. Luna waited for the inevitable flickering of lanterns and candles as the ponies prepared to continue their business at night.
The city grew darker and darker. The hospitals lit their lanterns and candles, but everything else remained dim. In the darkness, ponies left their homes and places of work, and started drifting to the parks and open plazas; still more gathered on the rooftops of the tallest buildings. Far off on the distant plains, even the small cluster of lights of Ponyville failed to appear. Luna frowned in confusion and turned to her sister, whose mane provided its own soft light.
Celestia wore a small, smug smile. “This is your second surprise, Luna. The Stargazer's Association managed to convince as much of Equestria as they could to stay dark, so that they might better appreciate your first night back on the job. Happy birthday, Luna, and I hope you have a good Starry Night Festival. Your subjects await you.”
Luna's jaw dropped, and she turned to look at the city again with wide eyes. The ponies of Canterlot were looking up into the sky, waiting expectantly. Her mind reeled as she considered this event. “I... thank you, sister. I hope I don't disappoint.”
The scroll containing Luna's checklist lifted itself before her as she prepared to raise the moon. She paused, though, and looked at it thoughtfully. It was full of changes that she had planned to make over the course of the next several decades. And yet... Some changes must happen slowly, such as the tilting of the night sky for the world's new axis, lest ponies and animals be utterly confused. But many of these...
A great grin split Luna's face. The ponies of Equestria had turned out for her first night controlling the skies? Well, she'd give them a show that they would remember forever.
Drawing upon a well of magic that had sat virtually untapped for a thousand years, Luna reached out with her connection to the night. The full moon rose from the eastern horizon, glowing bright and white on the waiting ponies. And here was the first thing she wanted to change—with the Mare in the Moon gone from its surface, the moon was entirely too blank.
Apple Bloom hopped gleefully to her feet as the moon rose. “It's starting! It's starting!”
Most of Ponyville had turned out for the first Starry Night Festival, heading to the tall hill just outside of town where Twilight had once held her stargazing picnic. The bearers of the Elements of Harmony set up on their own blanket, accompanied by family and their closest friends (which, of course, included the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who had decided that it was the perfect night to try for their stargazing cutie marks). The gathered villagers cheered as the moon rose into the sky. Twilight joined along with them... until she noticed something strange. “Hey, what's that?”
Several specks of light had appeared in the empty sky just past the edge of the moon, rapidly swelling into great white bolts of light. The ponies (plus one zebra, one dragon, and smattering of animals) stared in awe as they crossed the night sky, stray lines of fire occasionally shooting off from the huge meteoroids, before they disappeared on the horizon where the sun had just set
Twilight smiled excitedly. “Wow, I guess Princess Luna really wanted to make sure this night went really well! That was really—”
“Hey,” Rainbow Dash interrupted her, “there they are again!”
The great lines of light had indeed reappeared—on the opposite horizon from where they had disappeared, moving rather a lot faster. Twilight's jaw fell open as the meteoroids seemed to rocket straight up, bright tails burning...
...and crashed straight into the moon.
Luna grinned as the meteors slammed into the moon's surface, blasting huge chunks off into space and exposing the molten core that the Moon Princess had prepared beforehand. The rocks had been sent around the Earth, accelerated by the gravity slingshot effect until they could perform the task she needed. The debris sparkled as it drifted out, dazzling the dumb-struck ponies of the city. With a small exertion of effort, Luna split the chunks of moon into small pieces that would incinerate harmlessly in the atmosphere.
“Luna?” Celestia hesitantly called from the back of the balcony. “Did you mean for that to happen?”
“Yes, dear sister. And that is but the opening act of tonight's performance. The sky has so much more in store for us.” Adrenaline pumped through Luna's veins as she readied herself for her next trick.
“Has the Princess gone absolutely mad?!”
Rarity seemed personally affronted by the assault on the moon. “Look at that! There's lava all over the moon! It looks like blood from here! What could possibly possess her to do something so morbid?”
“I'm sure she had a perfectly good reason for it,” Twilight answered, her voice giving away her uncertainty.
“Maybe she's just really mad about being stuck up there for so long, so she just had to clobber it one,” Scootaloo offered from her place next to Rainbow Dash.
“Ah don't know,” Applejack replied with a frown, “she din't seem that upset 'bout it when we saw her yesterday...”
“Heyheyhey!” Pinkie Pie called out, pointing excitedly. “Something else is happening!”
An array of gasps and cries echoed over the hill as light burst out over them. Half a dozen bright stars seemed to come from nowhere, managing to compete with the moon for the ability to light up the hill. Then a seventh light appeared, brighter than all the rest, dazzling the awestruck observers. As Pinkie succinctly put it: “Ooooo, pretty!”
A distant memory echoed its way out of Twilight's mind. “Oh my... I think those are novas. And that big one must be a supernova! Those haven't been sighted for over a thousand years!”
Even Spike was distracted from his growing drowsiness by the sight. “This must be what Princess Luna meant when she told you she needed to adjust the sky's cycles, Twilight. I guess she's just doing it all at once.”
“It looks like it,” the purple scholar agreed. “I can't imagine what else she has planned.”
And so the night continued. The gasps of astonishment from Canterlot could be heard all the way up in the castle tower. Luna laughed giddily as she drew her magic across the night sky. With a flick of her hoof, a stream of lesser-known comets that Celestia had forgotten to send on their way began journeying across the night sky. Her flowing stellar tail flicked, and suddenly all of the visible planets in the sky swerved out of their normal motion, looping back around on their own paths for some long-overdue apparent retrograde motion. She scuffed some dust into the air, and nebulae of a hundred colors glowed softly with magic and began churning out dim young stars. Her head lowered, and meteors began streaming out of the sky in the greatest shower in living memory, hundreds of fiery lines tracing across the sky—most of it debris from the earlier devastation on the moon.
At one point, a flickering aurora came into view, dancing ethereally. When Luna glanced back curiously at Celestia, the older alicorn smiled softly at her and winked. “I didn't want to miss out on all the fun. Think of it as a gift, from my sun to your night.”
In what seemed like no time at all, the night started to come to an end; the moon neared the western horizon, the comets finished their accelerated transition, the planets were about out of sight, the nebulae returned to their usual obscurity, and one by one, the novae winked out of sight, fading to the brightness of dim stars.
Luna breathed heavily, though she retained a mad grin. She was quite tired, having expended quite a bit of magic that night, but it was a good exhaustion—the exhaustion of a job well done. The remaining changes in the sky would be routine, slight adjustments here or there over many nights.
There was just one last thing left to take care of.
Taking a deep breath, Luna slowly let it out in the direction of the moon. Guided by the intense magic binding her to the rocky orb, her breath spread out and cooled the surface, the great seas of lava created in the meteor bombardment hardening into large plains of black rock. New shapes had formed on the surface, shapes that were intimately familiar to her, shapes that reminded her of freedom and redemption and happiness and friendship:
A gentle butterfly. A shining diamond. A ripe apple. A festive balloon. A bolt of lightning striking out from a cloud.
And in the center, binding them together, a six-pointed star.
“Yes, Rainbow Dash?”
“Did Princess Luna just carve our cutie marks into the moon?”
“Yes she did.”
“By crashing, like, a ton of meteors into it?”
“...Best. Starry. Night. Festival. EVER.”
The sun slowly rose over the horizon. An entire country's worth of ponies (and honored guests of the realm) groaned and grumbled as they realized that they would have to go about their usual business after a sleepless night. None of them could come to regret staying up that late, though. The previous night had been unlike any in history, the sort of thing that ponies would tell their grandchildren about.
Celestia came up beside Luna, helping to support the younger alicorn. “You did well, Luna. I particularly like what you did with the moon; I wasn't expecting that. Any of it, really.”
Luna smiled tiredly. “I hope nopony expects me to repeat that next year. There aren't enough changes to be made, nor do I have enough magic for it.”
“They will appreciate your gift all the same. Come, dear. Let's get you someplace where you can rest.”
“That sounds wonderful. ...Do you think they liked it, Celestia?”
Both royal sisters turned as the castle steward approached. The earth pony quickly dipped before getting right to business. “My apologies for interrupting you just as your busy night is ending, Princess Luna, but I wish to inform you that you have begun receiving letters.”
“Letters?” Luna frowned down at the bureaucrat. “How many letters?”
“Six thousand, seven hundred, and ninety-three at last count,” the steward replied, demonstrating how apt the abacus on his flank was. “Though more were arriving as I left. I have tasked a few of our interns with sorting through them, though they will also be available for you to read at your leisure.”
“Thank you, Steward,” Luna replied tiredly; at that moment, reading through an enormous pile of letters seemed decidedly unpleasant. “Can you give me the gist of them before I rest?”
“Of course.” The steward took a moment to marshal his thoughts. “They were mostly regarding last night's events. A small number were from ponies frightened or distraught at the changes, but the vast majority were pleased by your work. By far the largest pile I saw when I was leaving had one sentiment in common—one that I share, might I add.”
The stallion suddenly kneeled, far deeper than when he had first come upon the monarchs. “Thank you, Princess.
"And welcome back.”