Within A World of Dreams – (Good Intentions)
The night was as peaceful as Luna could ever remember it being, beautiful and serene, with minimal cloud cover. A bright crescent moon was moving from its apex and beginning its slow descent back to morning, while a light breeze played upon the heights of the world and caught her mane into a billowing cloud that matched the sky above it. She rested atop a lone cloud that dotted the night sky. It would be hard to find her, even should any pony have reason to be awake at this early hour and actively searching the skies. This place held a solitude that she cherished more so than any treasure she owned.
She let out a quiet breath and studied the stars with her eyes, as well as sensing what lay beyond them. Luna pushed her consciousness outward and let her mind reach out to her sleeping subjects.
Touching other ponies' dreams was a subtle act she partook in. Thankless perhaps, but she enjoyed it nonetheless. There was something soothing about the repetitive action of reaching out and comforting a troubled, sleeping soul. She cherished those ponies' dreams and saw them as beautiful treasures, akin to her own stars in the night sky. It also evoked a prideful feeling, knowing that she was making a difference to those ponies' lives, even if the ponies in question never knew or met her in the flesh. That single feeling had changed her nights from a dreaded space of loneliness into a routine endeavor that she now looked forward to.
A small smile played upon her lips as she studied one particular dream. A small yellow filly who was distressed over not having her cutie mark yet. A fear played through the girl's dream, a fear that her friends would get their cutie marks before her and abandon her.
Luna felt the filly's plight, and it pulled at her heartstrings, so with nary a moment of thought, she sent a feeling of a comforting embrace out to the filly and worked away at the dream. She slowly bent the dreamscape to her will, and before too long, the little filly was laughing and playing around with her other two friends, as they chased impossible, yet beautiful, aspirations.
The Princess of the Night left the dream, allowing the filly's subconsciousness to guide it once again. It was small deeds like this that made the night so beautiful to her. She looked around at the stars seeing only contented dreams within their lights and a triumphant smile played upon her lips.
“Another masterpiece,” she whispered to herself, a voice that held equal measures of pride and wonderment. But her smile faded as suddenly as it had appeared, for she couldn't help but notice a change occurring upon her night sky.
Polaris, she thought to herself, that would be Twilight Sparkle's star, the star that guides those who are lost with its bright shine. She watched as the star in question slowly began to change before her eyes, its light transitioned slowly from white into orange, and then finally settled upon a solid crimson hue. She gazed at the star, interpreting the changes. A sign of deep conflict in her dreams? And on the eve of her coronation, this is poor timing.
The single star marred the beautiful tapestry of night, but even more importantly, Luna could tell Twilight Sparkle was in trouble. She was the unicorn – well, alicorn now, but she had been the unicorn at the time – who had guided Luna herself out of the darkness of the nightmare that had befallen her. So, without hesitation, the princess made up her mind. Allow me to guide you to safety Twilight Sparkle, for you were the first of my friends in centuries, and I shall do all that is in my power to see you safe.
With a mere moment of concentration, she sent forth her consciousness to delve into the dream of one of the brightest stars in the night sky. However, the action was met with resistance.
“It would appear that merely touching a dream of one as prominent as her is impossible,” she mused to herself slowly, taking pride of her use of the newer vocabulary; her lessons had been paying off. She rose from her comfortable lounging position upon the cloud. “I suppose I have no other choice than to enter the dream in earnest.”
Luna wasted no time as she drew upon her magic and shot her own essence up to the red star. The princess' body then slumped softly upon the cloud, her eyes closed and her breath slowed to an even pace.
Ambient gray light filtered in from above. When Luna looked up, she couldn't tell if it was supposed to be cloud or not. Even as she considered it, the solid gray mass began to shift slightly to form the texture of clouds, such was her power over the realm of sleep that a mere stray thought could change the nature of the dreamscape.
Shaking her head, the princess turned her gaze from the sky – it wasn't important – and took in her immediate surroundings. She was in a hedge maze, similar to the one inside of Canterlot. She could see the resemblance: a few statues looked the same, though they were positioned quite differently. She didn't let such sights daunt her, for she was used to the twisted reality of dreams.
Stepping forward, she took a direction at random, knowing that the twisting nature of dreams would eventually lead her to the source of this nightmare. Like a leaf caught in a whirlpool, she could feel herself being drawn in and she knew better than to struggle against the coercive nature of the nightmare. She took the feeling of imprisonment and donned it like a cloak, letting her body take her down the paths of the maze on its own accord.
The path had twisted and turned as the princess expected. She had seen many nightmares of being lost in her time, as a result, she had come to expect the feeling of disorientation. However, instead of the creeping sensation that she could normally sequester in the back of her mind, her vision itself began to feel warped with every step her body took. It made her feel uneasy, and she decided that flying under such a sensation would probably result in disaster. She was here in full force after all, she could feel pain in here as readily as if it were reality.
This isn't good. This is a powerful nightmare, for even one as powerful as I cannot resist the effects of it. Luna gritted her teeth and continued on defiantly. All the more reason for me to help assuage these fears from Twilight's mind. But first I must find her.
Sure enough, as if the mere thought of Twilight were enough, the maze led her to what appeared to be the center, and at this point, the twisting in her vision abated. It felt like her hooves were now touching solid ground, whereas before she had been walking on the surface of pudding. It was a welcome sensation. The center was a spacious area, with six enormous statues of Celestia, equally distributed along the circular perimeter. All of them gazed down in differing, yet similarly regal, scowls of disappointment.
In the middle of this area, amidst the finely cut grass, Luna spotted Twilight, pacing back and forth. A metal cube stood beside the mare. There was a single slat of metal missing from the front face, toward the top of the cube.
The lunar princess made her way up to her friend. Twilight was muttering to herself and Luna was only a few feet away when she could finally make out what was being said by the other mare.
“She said she wanted to test me and she did. But just so I could become a princess? Well, I suppose it's about time too.” Twilight then proceeded to turn and Luna noticed that the mare only had a single wing on her left side, her right one was gone as if it never were there. “All that practicing, learning, following orders, and doing her bidding. It all finally paid off. Now I have wings. I'm an alicorn, and perhaps even as powerful as Celestia herself! I wonder if I could move the sun if I gave it a shot now-”
“Twilight Sparkle,” Luna called out to the mare in a clear voice, interrupting the mare's train of thought.
“Oh, Princess Luna? What are you doing here in my dream?”
Such lucidity in a dream. She has a powerful mind indeed. I can hardly believe that she is able to hold the dream's fabric together, even while knowing that it is a dream. That takes a fair amount of willpower. Truly, she has earned her place amongst us, even as young as she is.
“Twilight Sparkle,” she began, looking for signs of the nightmare, “I have come to your dreams because I feared you were having a nightmare.”
“A nightmare?” the one-winged unicorn asked. “I'm just using this place to work out my thoughts as I sleep. I haven't had nightmares in years. See, that's the neat thing about dreams. Once you know you are inside them, you can alter them to your will.” To emphasize the point, Twilight pointed to the sky and it darkened while the clouds parted, and a full moon peaked out from behind. “See? In my dream I can control the sun and the moon. There's no nightmare here. Not while I have the power of this entire dream under my control.”
Luna frowned slightly at the mare before her. She wasn't sure, but something felt different about her. Was it the fact that the lavender pony seemed to not be aware of her missing wing, or was it her attitude? Luna couldn't be certain. Admittedly, she didn't know her friend as well as she would have liked.
“Do not underestimate the realm of dreams, Twilight Sparkle,” she warned. “There is much to be wary of when experimenting with dreams. We are here like a cloud on the wind, or a leaf caught within the currents of a river. You must not attempt to change the flow of dreams too much, or you could slip and drown.”
“Oh, I know the risks,” the lavender mare insisted with a light shake of her head. “You're just as worried as her.”
“Whom do you speak of, if I may ask, when you say 'her'?”
“Oh, take a look inside the box. It's easier than explaining,” Twilight remarked as she turned away from the princess and used her magic. With a light popping sound, a book appeared before the unicorn.
Luna gasped, and a look of horror befell her visage as she recognized the slight shadowy aura that the item held. “Twilight Sparkle, you know not the powers you are tampering with. You must not bring items from the material world to your dreams. It is forbidden!”
The one-winged unicorn turned to face her. One of her eyes' whites had turned a venomous green colour, and its accompanying pupil a solid crimson. The same colour light that Polaris had been shining. “Nothing is forbidden!” Twilight's voice held a slight echo to it, almost as if two voices were speaking at once. One voice was that curt tone of the friend that she knew, and the other was a voice she hadn't heard in centuries. Its tone was deep, like a boulder crushing gravel. Yet it was a voice she would recognize anywhere.
“Sombra!” Luna shouted and shot forth a blast of magic, a magic that was strong enough to move the moon. It should have been enough to suppress even the most powerful of unicorns. The princess didn't want to hurt her friend, and aimed instead with the intent to bind this mockery of Twilight before her.
But her magic flared and dissipated just before it reached its mark, crumbling and blowing away like the seeds of a dandelion caught within a hidden breeze.
“Sombra?” the lavender mare asked mockingly, that deeper tone cloaking her voice. “Sombra's gone, but I learned his magic. I learned his secrets. His magic holds a vast potential within it. It's quite useful to have in my repertoire. After all, magic is my special talent.” She then blinked and looked at Luna once again, her eye flashed menacingly one last time before returning to normal. With that simple change, her voice returned to its normal tone as well. “I know my magic, Princess, more so than any other pony, and I also know of this realm of dreams. I find it surprising that somepony as respectable as yourself should forget the rules of the realm of dreams. Which would be that the dreamer has control over her dreams. As such, my will shall be done while I reside in here.”
“We see that We are facing no foal here, Twilight Sparkle. We had hoped that our display of magic would catch you off-guard,” Luna admitted in defeat, her royal speech slipping out despite her last year of tiring speech lessons. She knew she could not best the mare, and it irked her, for dreams were her realm. So long as Twilight remained focused as she was, she had no hope to intervene with the mare's dream. The princess could feel the other mare's will upon the realm around her, anchoring the normally warped fabrics of the dream firmly in place. “Pray tell then, what art thou attempting to do, Twilight Sparkle? What thou hast done is dangerous, even for the most experienced of ponies.”
“Oh, don't worry Princess, I have a plan,” she replied reassuringly, “and you are the back-up plan, in case it messes up. But that shouldn't happen. So be nice, and watch for a while.”
Luna frowned at the casual tone with which the mare was using. One would not simply give orders to the Princess of the Night. This was not the Twilight Sparkle that she knew. “I must decline, Twilight Sparkle.”
The other mare let out a simple sigh. “I figured as much. But unfortunately, I wasn't asking.” She then waved her hoof toward Luna.
The princess immediately felt Twilight's will focus upon her, and with a grunt she pushed back with her own will. She was no mere mirage as was the rest of the dream. No, she was the Princess of the Night and she was the master of dreams. She would not be so easily subdued.
The two mares locked eyes as they pushed against each other with their minds. As Luna gazed, she grinned smugly when she noticed the background of the dream began to shimmer and waver slightly, as if it were fabric caught upon the slightest of winds. The dream was beginning to return to its natural flowing state.
Twilight scowled back and lowered her horn in response and quickly let loose a single beam of magic right at Luna. Out of reflex, the princess turned her will upon the magic shot willing it to dissipate. The magenta blast thinned out into nothingness before her.
It was in that moment that she felt Twilight's full focus fall upon her. No! Luna managed to think in a second of comprehension, just as the world seemed to fold in around her.
For a time there was nothingness. Then suddenly, her senses came back to her, as if unfolding from within. They took a moment to solidify. The world faded into existence around her.
Blinking, she explored her new surroundings. She was now in a dark place, with only a single beam of moonlight filtering in from above. Without hesitating, she flew up and peered out of the opening. She could see where she had just been, and came to the conclusion that she was within that large metal cube that she had seen just before speaking to Twilight.
Gathering her will, she focused against the metal sides and pushed as hard as she could. The metal merely bulged ever so slightly. She sweated under the strain of such an act, only to see it pop back into place once she could push no longer.
“Oh, Princess Luna, is that you?”
Luna was surprised to hear Twilight's voice once again, although this time it carried a quiet, meek, and almost scared tone. Looking down, she saw the unicorn beneath her.
This Twilight carried a single wing, resting on her right side. She was sitting down, leaning against the metal wall.
“Twilight? There are two of you here. What is the meaning behind this? The other one out there, is she an imposter?”
“No, Princess,” Twilight responded, rising slowly to her hooves and proceeding to bow. “Neither of us is an imposter.”
“I do not understand. A dream exists around an individual and flows upon their subconsciousness. It should not be possible that there are two dreamers in a single dream. Which of thou art the real Twilight Sparkle?!” the princess demanded, her voice nearly a bellow.
“Neither of us,” the sullen unicorn repeated, emphasizing her words with a shake her head. “The real Twilight sleeps in her bed in Canterlot.”
Luna took in a light breath and calmed herself. “Yes, I know, but you are formed from her sense of being. You are her experience in this dream, her consciousness as it were. Tell me, why are you inside this...” she tapped the wall firmly in emphasis, “metal box? Were you imprisoned here by the other Twilight as well?”
“No.” The lavender mare shook her head and shrunk down to the metallic floor and gazed up at the princess with a hint of fear in her eyes. “I made this metal box, so I could stay away from the other me.”
“You are afraid of the other Twilight?”
“No. I'm afraid of this.” With a slight motion, she spread her single wing. “I'm afraid of being a princess. I just didn't want to wake up, so I split myself into two. I figured if I did that, I wouldn't be able to wake up until I became whole again.”
“You are afraid of being a princess? Why? There is truly no greater honour in all of Equestria.”
“But I don't want that honour. I just want to stay in Ponyville with my friends.”
“But your other self seems to want to become a princess,” Luna mused aloud. Then a feeling of dread befell her as she considered what it was the other Twilight must be attempting. Shaking her head and standing regally over the other mare, Luna gazed down at her. “Twilight Sparkle, we are in a most perilous situation. Your other self seeks to reach the real world from the realm of dreams. If that were to happen... I dare not consider the consequences of such an action.”
Twilight trembled beneath her majestic visage. “I-if she – the other me... if she opens a gate to the real world, then that would mean... I'd sleep forever, wouldn't I?”
Luna simply nodded. “That is a likely possibility, however-”
“That's perfect,” Twilight interrupted while smiling slightly. “Then I won't ever have to wake up and leave my friends!”
“Twilight Sparkle!” the indigo princess rebuked. “Thou shalt not even consider allowing such an action to take place. Thou wouldst let a part of thyself, incomplete and flawed, walk amongst the waking world, the world where your friends reside? How thine friends would mourn at the sight, and how We would as well. Twilight Sparkle, the debt We owe thou is vast, and We hold thine friendship dear to Our own heart. So listen when We speak the truth: allowing the other part of thyself to breach the world would only end in heartache for all thine friends, close or far.”
“P-Princess...” the submissive mare stuttered and shook her mane vigorously, as if clearing out the entirety of her mind. “You're right! I can't let that happen, not to my friends. Just because I'm scared of what might come doesn't mean I shouldn't face it. No, that's exactly why I should face it! I need to make my future myself. I can't run from it and push the burden onto all of my friends. It's my responsibility, and I have to be the one to shoulder it.”
Luna watched as the mare before her grew in confidence. She always found it exquisite how quickly change could happen within the realm of dreams.
“I'll head toward the future with my friends,” Twilight continued. “I realize now. Even if we won't see each other as often after I become a princess, we'll still be friends. That will never change.”
By the end of her speech, the one-winged unicorn now stood tall and proud. “I shall get rid of this metal block.” In the next moment, all around them, the metal cube fractured with the groan of stressed metal as pieces of it began to disperse into the fabrics of the dream itself.
The two ponies saw, within the pale ambiance of the moonlight, the source of their worry. She stood mere feet away, looking right at them.
“Oh?” the lavender unicorn asked at their appearance. One of her eyes began to glow with the red and green, along with the purple wisps of Sombra's magic. “What are you doing? I thought you wanted to stay in the cube for as long as you could.”
“I changed my mind,” the now-proud Twilight responded evenly. “We need go back. Now!”
“That's what I'm just about to do, but not in the way that you think. I believe it's time to find out if this spell will work like I planned for it to.” With a single motion, the unicorn cast forth a web of dark purple energy, which landed right before Luna. It had a disturbing current that ran through it like flashes of lightning. The web of energy hit the open air and stuck in place. A sizzling sound started filtering through the air, and Luna could feel the threads of the dream around her burning away.
“Stop this foalishness!” Luna ordered. She sent out her will in full force, targeting the dangerous magic, aiming to dispel it before further damage could be done to the dream. The opposing Twilight was waiting for her though. She felt her own will collide with the other mare's, like two dammed rivers breaking upon each other at the same moment. The dream around them began to ripple furiously under the pressure.
Both mares grunted under the stress, but neither dared let the other gain any leverage. The remaining Twilight only looked between the two for a moment, then she made her move. With as quick a run as she could muster, she jumped toward her twin.
With a yelp of surprise, the concentrating Twilight noticed too late and was tackled to the shifting ground.
Letting loose a triumphant cry, Luna willed the dark magic to simply not exist and it quickly faded to nothingness. Though, in its place, she couldn't help but notice a mark was left upon the open air. It appeared to be a crack, barely large enough to peak an eye through. With a quick inspection, she noticed the faint light of distant stars and heard the gentle sound of the calm summer's breeze passing through a surrounding sea of grass. These were sounds of the waking world.
The princess pried her eyes away from the anomaly and turned her attention to where the two unicorns had been. In their place, she caught sight of a glowing red light that slowly changed to orange, then to white. The light extended until everything within the twisted dream became entirely encompassed by the glow. Bright it was, but in a gentle way, and Luna looked around her, searching through the soothing light.
After a moment, she spotted the mare. Twilight lay there in the soft, white embrace, sleeping and whole once more, her wings were tucked in gently at her side.
Luna walked up to her sleeping form, across the solid floor that she imagined was beneath her. Such an act was easy now that the dream had collapsed, and she stopped mere inches away. “Sleep now, Twilight Sparkle, my friend,” she whispered, “and as all dreams must end, let the memories fade to mist so that you may face tomorrow with your convictions in tow.”
As she spoke the words, the light faded to darkness and countless pinpricks slowly formed in her sight.
Blinking, Luna stirred from her slumber and gazed at the stars from her lofty position upon her cloud. After a moment, she spotted Polaris, shedding its bright, white light. The northern star: one that never would cease to give direction to those who are lost. To her right, in the distance, she could see the sky beginning to colour from her sister's sun, while her moon touched down on the horizon to the left.
She let out a soft sigh in the twilight and smiled to herself. “Another masterpiece,” she whispered, and took flight, content to return home. She left her cloud floating there, as a memory of her solitude.
Beneath the cloud, there was a field below. Hanging in the open air, an anomaly of gentle light could be seen. It's light slowly washed away by the sun as it peaked over the horizon. It remained there, hidden from all the world, until, by nightfall, the treasured dreams of a beloved princess awaited; a sight only visible to those who were lucky enough to venture into the soft embrace of the night and follow its faint, guiding light.