Prologue: The Road Thus Far
“Once upon a time, before the Nibelung came to our land, Equestria was ruled by two princesses: one who rose the sun and brought the day, and the other who rose the moon, and brought the night. Together, they worked in harmony... until the younger princess fell victim to an evil, and became the wicked Nightmare Moon. But Nightmare Moon was defeated... and sealed away for a thousand years, while the older sister used this as an opportunity to not just rule night as well as day... but to take control of all of Equestria.”
Foals sitting around the circular reading room all gazed raptly up at the violet mare who was sitting in front of a high set of shelves, a soft smile on her features. Dark bangs fell half-over her purple irises, with a proud horn rising from her forehead through these, and her mane and tail were both streaked with a single line of dark mauve and brighter pink. Despite the warmth of the royal library, she wore a thick black turtleneck sweater that covered most of her body, leaving only her wings, haunch and rear legs exposed: here, her cutie mark all but glowed, a six-pointed pink star backed by white sparkles and surrounded by a circle of fire-red runes.
Just visible around her neck, the edge of a leather collar with a clasp shaped like an ivory lunar lily glinted, and onyx studs gleamed in her ears: one of the moon, the other of a black rose blossom. Things that could tell you everything about her, if you knew what they meant, and for a moment, she reached up to adjust the collar beneath the thick cloth of the turtleneck in a strange, nostalgic gesture, before clearing her throat and continuing quietly: “Nightmare Moon left exile when her sentence was completed, and came back to Equestria. There was a mighty battle... but at the end of it, she was cleansed, and the younger sister returned. But the older sister would not give up her power so easily. Not after a thousand years of control, and rule, and power. She devised a cunning plan to fortify her strength even further... but the younger sister, for all her failings... would take no part in it. Fought her older sister... and made her see what she had done wrong. Made her understand that ponies could live their own lives, find their own paths... that she did not have to control or purify the world, that it was the fine way it was. Made her want to redeem herself, for the life she had lived...”
Slowly, the violet mare rose her head, smiling a little across at another mare that had entered the library silently, standing at the back of the reading room and gazing with almost maternal pride to the purple pony. She was a winged unicorn herself, with an ivory coat, but a mane and tail that twisted gently with ephemeral beauty, her amethyst irises filled with wisdom gained over countless years, and the warrior's courage she had possessed since the day she had been born. Over her breast rested a golden peytral engraved with the symbol of Equestria, and a coronet rested over her locks, as golden as the crest of the sun on her flank.
For a few moments, the two mares only studied one another... and then a foal rose his hoof curiously and asked: “Miss Twilight? What happened to the princesses?”
Twilight Sparkle smiled softly at this, even as a faint longing came into her eyes, saying softly: “Well, the older princess once more resumed her rule of Equestria... and the younger princess became a champion of the people, of the nation. She fought for everyone here, along with her husband, a... a warrior poet. She and him and... countless others fought, against many evils, that some of you may have heard the legends about... until...”
She quieted, then shook her head and smiled softly, her eyes half-believing her own words as she leaned forwards and said quietly: “Well, they're still out there. The Princess of the Sun watches over us and protects us instead of ruling us... and the Princess of the Night is... adventuring, with her husband, somewhere far, far away. Now okay, kids, all of you find a book and I'll help you sign it out, okay? Then I think it's just about time for you all to go home. Your teacher is waiting for you back in the main room.”
The foals all smiled and nodded, hopping to their hooves and scattering around the reading room to the shelves filled with children's stories, and the violet mare glanced up as the tall, rainbow-maned winged unicorn approached: she was much larger than Twilight, impressive but not imposing, radiating a gentle warmth as she said said softly: “It's funny, Twilight... in the past, you never would have given up your work to spend time with some foals. I heard you all but wrestled them away from their teacher to tell them a few stories... but I'm glad for it, all the same.”
“Thank you, Celestia. And I'm... well... I'm not the Twilight I once was.” The violet mare reached up and absently touched her chest through the material of her heavy sweater, and then she smiled a bit and shook her head slowly, glancing over at her former mentor softly. “Do you need help with anything?”
“No... no, I just decided it would be a better use of my time to come and see what you were up to, instead of wasting it with another pointless debate at a council meeting. They need to learn to make decisions outside of my presence.” Celestia smiled after a moment, studying Twilight before she softened and added quietly: “It means a lot to me that you've been spending all this time with me. In the past, we... we have had our differences, after all, and I feel responsible for what happened to you...”
“But you're not, Celestia. You're not. No one could have predicted...” Twilight shook her head slowly, hesitating before she glanced up and added quietly: “And we... we are friends, you and I. What's past is past. And I like having you in my life and you're a good role model for Antares... you're his family.”
“So are you.” Celestia smiled after a moment, then shook her head slowly, reaching a hoof up to rest gently on Twilight's shoulder. “I may be his aunt, but you're his mother.”
Twilight Sparkle laughed after a moment, then she shook her head slowly, murmuring softly: “But I'll never replace Luna. I just hope that one day... Antares' prediction will come true, and we'll see them both again. I miss them both, her and Scrivener...”
“I do too, Twilight. We all do... it's been almost a decade and still I can't help but think about them every day, all the things we shared, and all the things we... never got a chance to talk about, or experience together.” Celestia closed her eyes, nodding slowly before she smiled a little, squeezing Twilight's shoulder gently. “But come. Your student, Prestige Luster, has been looking for you. And I'm sure that Antares will be coming to find you soon as well.”
“She's... not really my student, more like... my... job.” Twilight sighed a little, then she nodded and smiled faintly, standing up and hesitating only a moment before saying softly: “I think Antares is getting anxious to leave. To start looking for his parents.”
Celestia's only response was to smile, however, nodding silently, and Twilight Sparkle studied her curiously for a few moments before she simply smiled in return as well at the quiet approval she saw there before turning to head out, side-by-side, both thinking the same thoughts: of their faith in Antares Mīrus, and of Luna Brynhild and Scrivener Blooms... and the hope that somewhere out there, they were still alive.