by lycurgus

Chapter 1

a fan fiction
by Lycurgus

A thousand years is a long time. It's a longer time to spend in one place. And it's a REALLY long time to spend in that one place, alone. You don't want to think about how long it is when that place is the moon.

After such a long time, Luna expected more to have changed about Equestria when she returned. Sure, the castle in the forest had crumbled and was being reclaimed, and there were new buildings all around Canterlot, but that was all surface stuff. The feeling of the place hadn't changed a great deal, which was at once comforting and strange. Comforting for the familiarity it brought, but strange because she felt certain that the passage of a thousand years should have left some mark. This strangeness left her ill-at-ease - as if she was forgetting something. Maybe she was? After all, a thousand years is a long time to try and hold onto your thoughts. Something (or even several somethings) could easily have slipped her mind in that time... but what?

She returned with Celestia to the palace by carriage - the same carriage they had travelled in on official business so long ago. They walked through the same palace corridors, passed the same intricate tapestries, even the same potted plants were still in recesses in the walls. At last, Luna stood outside the bedchamber she hadn't seen for a millennium. The same stern-yet-gentle plaque on the door in Standard Equestrian: "Private Chambers of Princess Luna". The engraved floral border somehow managed to look regal, despite having been chosen when she was but a filly. Again that feeling nagged - everything was the same, but something was different. Something important... but it could wait. There was much to catch up on, and if this forgotten thing was really that important, she'd remember it in good time.

Opening the door, memories rushed back - the room was just as she'd left it, maintained immaculately by the palace's cleaning staff. It could almost have been yesterday that she opened that letter from "a secret admirer" at her desk - the letter itself still pinned in its spot on the corkboard. It could have been just days ago that Celestia was reading Luna one of the old tales before bed. Just last week that a passing swallow had alighted on her windowsill to sing a playful song to her. Only last month that-

Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of a throat being cleared. "Uh, Princess Luna, Your Highness?"

She turned to find an earth stallion guard standing somewhat sheepishly outside the doorway, a letter held delicately in his mouth. Taking it from him with her magic, Luna dismissed him with a quick "thank you" and began, not a little excitedly, to open the first piece of mail she'd received in a thousand years.

It bore an official seal, which was interesting - she was only newly returned from her isolation on the moon, and had not yet been assigned any royal duties. Perhaps the letter had been waiting to be delivered when she left? Now intrigued to read it, she fetched a letter-opener from her desk and began to open the envelope. No sooner had she extracted the slip of paper from within than she was interrupted once more by the clearing of a throat at the doorway. The guard from earlier had returned - this time with a medium-sized box which looked to be filled with more envelopes. Luna eyed the guard and his cargo quizzically.

"Uh, apologies, Your Highness," the guard began. "I went to mark that first as 'delivered', and, well - these were on top of one of the shelves. Apparently they just kept piling up, so they got put in a box for you. Folks'd almost forgot, they've been there so long." He nosed the box into the room cautiously. "My apologies again for the interruption, Your Highness," he said, before bowing slightly and turning to leave once more.

Now intrigued, Luna refocused her attention on the first letter - dated just under one thousand years ago.

"Dear Patron," it began.

Patron? she thought. Who addresses a Princess as...

"According to our records, you still have on loan..."

Oh, no.

" copy of An Exhaustive History of Equestria (Unabridged)..."

Oh, NO...

"...for the absence of which we hereby regretfully issue a fine of..."

Luna almost couldn't bring herself to look at the next line.

"...three gold Bits..."

Wait, what?

"...payable by the 18th of this month.
Sincerely yours,
Blueberry Prance
Head Librarian
Royal Metropolitan Library of Canterlot"

Luna laughed - for a moment she had worried that the book had never been returned, and that the fine would be much greater. Three Bits could be paid without trouble.

Turning now to the box of envelopes, her heart skipped a beat. She hadn't noticed at first, but all the envelopes bore the same official seal as the one she’d just opened. Her pulse quickened as she realised that the envelopes followed a visible trend of ageing from one end of the box to the other. It couldn't be... she thought with a groan. Looking about the room, she tried to remember back a thousand years. She'd returned the book, right? All she could remember accurately was that it was deadly boring (which, honestly, she should have been able to tell from the title) and that she'd never finished it. But surely she'd remembered to return it? She must have, otherwise it'd still be-

There. On the desk. Under a small pile of papers, the corner sticking out and proudly showing part of a circular stamp: "-TROPOLITAN LIBRARY OF CANT-", it read, encircling a partially-obscured official seal.

Heavens be damned, she thought. Of all the things to come back to...

After a brief pause to consider the humour of the situation - if century after century on the moon had taught her anything, it was to look at life positively whenever possible - Luna resolved to examine the rest of the letters. The bill wasn't going to go away just because she refused to read it.

She began with the oldest of the boxed letters. This was slightly longer than the first; it opened with a mild admonition for not having settled the initial bill in a timely manner, then moved on to a description of how the amount payable would increase with ongoing non-payment: every three months, the amount would increase by one quarter (rounded up), with an administration fee of one Bit added at the end of every fourth three-month period. The letter closed with the new amount payable: three and three-quarter bits. Maybe it won't be that much in the end, thought Luna. There shouldn't be a problem settling it, even if it has been a thousand years.

The next letter was shorter, opening like its predecessor with an admonition that the bill was not yet paid, then simply stating the new amount payable: five Bits.

The fourth letter was the same. The new total: six and one-quarter Bits. The fifth brought the amount payable to a ("truly daunting!", snickered Luna) sum of nine Bits.

Bored now of going through letter-by letter, she decided to skip to the end of the box - where the newest-looking letters had been stuffed in as space ran short. "Let's see how high it got," she chuckled to herself. Interestingly, this letter was longer than the last few she'd opened. What else had there been to tell other than the new total? Opening the envelope, she read:

"Dear Patron,

Please be advised that as your fee for the late return of An Exhaustive History of Equestria (Unabridged) remains unpaid, the amount payable has increased. Due to limitations in our records (as described previously)..." Glancing at the box, Luna noticed that one, about halfway through, was a good deal thicker than the rest - it must've contained at least ten sheets of paper - "...we are unable to furnish you with an exact figure, but an estimate places it in the vicinity of one decillion decillion decillion decillion decillion decillion decillion decillion decillion decillion decillion Bits, or at least 10^363 Bits.”

She balked. Ten to the... But the letter continued:

“As this is over 50 Bits, you qualify for an Equestrian Government Debt Assistance Loan to help in the payment of your fee. Please find attached an Assistance Loan application form if you wish to take advantage of this opportunity.

Once again the Library asks for your cooperation in settling this issue as soon as is practicable for you.

Sincerely Yours,
Sunshine Spice
Head Librarian
Royal Metropolitan Library of Canterlot"

Luna's eyes went wide as she took in the enormity of the number - no loan could help with a sum like that - and then rolled as she fainted cold.


A few rooms away, Celestia heard a soft thud as her sister passed out, followed by a metallic tinkle as Luna's crown rolled across the floor. She grinned devilishly at the deception - she had come across the book a few weeks after being forced to imprison the younger princess, and had duly returned it. As time went by, though, an idea had formed, and the opportunity had been too great to resist. She'd forged thousands of letters from the Library over the duration of Luna's imprisonment, and then borrowed the book once the time had come for the banishment spell to end. There was only one thing left to do now - wake poor Luna and reassure her that she didn't have an astronomical debt to pay back.

But maybe she could wait a few days to pass on that piece of information.

First, she had a letter to write - to a certain occasional student of hers:

“To my faithful student, Pinkie Pie...”