“…Friendship isn’t always easy. But it’s definitely worth fighting for!” Twilight finished.
Beating Discord as per the first time was relatively unusual – but, well, it was nice to go along with things. Besides, she wanted to analyze how the corruption effect worked.
The rainbow of light crashed down on Discord… and bounced off.
“Yes!” Discord shouted, materializing a guitar and playing a chord. “I knew it!”
“Knew what?” Twilight asked, feeling a bit lost all of a sudden. The rest of the world was being fixed by the Elements, so they were still working…
“Why, that the Elements of Harmony don’t work on someone who’s actually, genuinely good and redeemed!” Discord said, winking. “I’ll admit that they got me the first time, Twilight Sparkle, but not when I’m just pranking the lot of you.”
“...oh. Well, welcome to the Loops, Discord.” Twilight said.
“Glad to be here.” Discord snapped his claws, and drinks materialized. “You’ve won an exclusive interview with the Spirit of Chaos! Someone get the Foal Free press. Or has that not formed yet?”
Celestia flashed into existence at the edge of Ponyville. “Well done, Twilight, and all of you, for defeating… Dis…cord?”
“Anyway,” Discord said, as he passed the last of the cupcakes out. “That’s enough Generosity to be going on with. What’s next… oh, yes. Honesty! Oh, come and join us, Celly. Do let me know if I get anything wrong.”
Celestia sank back on her haunches numbly. What the hay…
“Anyway. One of the moments that always sticks in my mind, with your dear ruler there, is when she was a little filly and tried to make her bedroom lamp brighter.”
Celestia shook her head frantically. “Discord!”
“What?” Discord looked over at her, pouring her a cup of tea. Sideways. “I’m hurt, I really am. Look at me being all honest. That’s an Element of Harmony, isn’t it? Anyway, she basically pulled a tiny bit of the sun into the bedroom lamp, it exploded, and her face was this hilarious sooty black colour for weeks! It took her months for her eyelashes to grow back!”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!” Twilight said, pacing in front of Pinkie. “You can’t just… have physical reactions which predict the future! It causes an information paradox, which means… and… the whole… where does the party cannon… gaaaaah!”
And then Twilight’s head exploded.
There was surprisingly little blood, but a great deal of flame and smoke. Twilight’s body stood there with smoke pouring out of it, as Pinkie stared in shock.
Then the library door opened, and Twilight came out. “Hi, Pinkie – oh, no. Not again.” Lifting up ‘her’ headless body, she began to carry it back inside. “Sorry. One of the experimental Twibots got out. I suppose I should have installed an extra safety valve…”
Pinkie’s head swung between the unconcerned purple unicorn, and the blast scarring on the road. “…what?”
“Experimental Twibots. I was trying to make them so that, in case one of us ever gets hurt, we can still activate the Elements.” Twilight indicated the body she was carrying. “Only thing is, I haven’t got them nearly good enough yet to even let them start learning about how their element works. Did you show off your Pinkie sense?”
“…yeah,” Pinkie said, still a bit stunned.
“That’ll be it.” Twilight nodded, pleased. “I’ll make sure to lower the gain on their cognitive engines. There’s some things it takes a lot more experience to understand.”
Over where the robot Twilight had been standing, several large and heavy objects landed from a pegasus removal van.
“…girls,” Scootaloo began, “What is Diamond Tiara’s special talent?”
“Huh.” Sweetie frowned, thinking. “Bullying?”
“But that’s not very relevant to a diamond tiara, is it?” Scootaloo said, still thinking. “I mean, you know all those talks we got from Twilight and Rarity and Appejack and Dash an’ stuff… how every cutie mark is worth somethin’?”
Applebloom nodded. “Right, an’ bullyin’ ain’t much of a talent, either.”
“Wait.” Sweetie looked up. “I think I might have it. You know how she never admits she actually got something wrong?”
The other two nodded.
“Well, diamond is the hardest gemstone. Rarity told me that once.”
“Just once?” Scootaloo snarked.
“All right, probably more than once. But I remembered it that time.” Sweetie shrugged. “Anyway, I think she just won’t change her mind, or break, or anything.”
“Too bad she’s stuck on jerk…” Applebloom muttered.
“Actually, I wonder what she thinks her talent is,” Scootaloo said, “Maybe we should ask?”
“Oh, how tragic,” Diamond Tiara said as the Crusaders approached. “It’s the opposite of a jackpot. Triple blanks.”
The Crusaders stopped, looking from one to another.
“That was actually a pretty good one,” Sweetie said. “Seven?”
“Eight.” Scootaloo countered.
“Yeah.” Sweetie nodded. “Anyway. Diamond, we were wondering… what does your cutie mark represent?”
Diamond Tiara blinked. “Er… it means… I’m daddy’s special princess!”
“That’s more like her speed.” Scootaloo pointed up, where Princess Twilight – having ascended while handling Nightmare Moon for a change, this Loop – was flying to the shops. “You know. Alicorn.”
“…oh.” Diamond frowned. “I… don’t actually know.”
“Kin ah have a look?” Applebloom asked.
“What?” Diamond Tiara tried to turn her flank away from them, which only revealed the other one. “Why?”
“Well, we’re tryin’ to work out how cutie marks work,” Applebloom continued, as Sweetie Belle snapped a picture with a camera she’d borrowed. “So we’re tryin’ to work out what they all mean. How’d you get yours?”
“Well, that story didn’t make much sense,” Scootaloo muttered, “Why would Princess Celestia specifically send a letter to her dad saying his daughter was a nice filly? Especially if they’d never met.”
“Yeah. I kinda think she was makin’ it up.” Applebloom agreed. “Pity. It’d be nice to know how she really got her cutie mark.”
The others turned to Sweetie. “What is it?”
“Well, it looks like most of the diamonds in her tiara are brilliant-cut. That means they’re the best kind of cut for a generic diamond. I can’t see any princess-cut gems, but this is the important one.” Sweetie pointed to the stone right at the middle of the cutie mark tiara. “That’s a well polished but uncut stone.”
The others stared at her as though she’d grown a second head.
“What? I helped Rarity for a couple of Loops.” Sweetie blushed. “Anyway. That means she might actually be – literally – a diamond in the rough. She’s just never had the chance – never faced the stress – that would let her shine.”
Scootaloo rasied a hoof. “By stress, we’re talkin’, like, an alien invasion, right?”
“Probably,” Sweetie giggled. “But it does mean something. She’s been too spoiled to develop her full potential.”
“Huh.” Applebloom kicked the floor. “An’ now ah feel bad for her. Why did we have t’ do this, again?”
"Why are we here, again?" Rainbow Dash asked Twilight.
"Well, I don’t feel like dealing with Discord, so we are going to nip that in the bud right away," Twilight answered as they turned around another bush. "Besides, this shouldn’t take... long..." Twilight fell silent as they arrived at the place where Discords statue was supposed to be.
Emphasis on supposed to.
"Okay, looks like we have a looper," Applejack said. "Well, this should be interesting." The group went inside to find Celestia and whatever trick Discord had set up, only to find a very confused Celestia reading a report.
"Um, princess? We think..." Twilight began before being cut-off by Celestia.
"That Discord has returned? Yes. Yes he has. Also, he is re-organizing our tax system to more efficient form and has cleared several our laws to be more streamlined and, oh yeah… he is not acting like Discord!" The Sun Princess shouted. "He is... not chaotic! He even organized the guard rotation to be clearer."
Luna walked out of a room next door and handed a cup of wine to Celestia, before taking a long snip from hers.
"He just looked over the workers union proposal and reformed it into the most efficient organization We have ever seen," Luna said, shaking her head. "He is currently looking over our diplomatic relations."
"Should we stop him?" Twilight asked tentatively.
"That’s just it. We are not sure! On the one hoof… IT'S DISCORD! On the other hoof, the entire system would be improved drastically by these changes! I can't decide!" Celestia cried. Discord entered the room carrying another report.
"See, 'Tia, if you had replaced the old inherited nobility with 'Nobility through achievement', you could have reduced the deficit by 32% and increased the general happiness by 22%!"
Celestia stared at Discord as he explained in great detail, before simply taking the paper and leaving. Luna soon followed.
"You're having too much fun," Twilight said to Discord, who had a crocodilian grin on his face. "But isn't this against your nature?"
"What? Randomly re-organizing the entire nation? Nah, I am merely being myself. I bet you never saw this one coming!"
“TREMBLE IN FEAR, MORTAL!” Nightmare Moon shouted. “WHEREVER YOU ARE, WHEN I FIND YOU THEN I SHALL WREAK MY VENGEANCE!”
“Wait,” Twilight said, frowning. “Mortal, singular?”
“Indeed.” Nightmare Moon’s voice was a bit less loud this time. “I, Nightmare Moon, noticed that for the last few years my Nightmare Night tribute from Ponyville has been significantly lower than normal.”
Twilight realized that clearly Luna was Awake – either that or something was very wrong with the world – and decided to go along with it anyway. “Do you know why?”
“I suspect.” Nightmare Moon walked down from the dais, casually batting away two guards with her wings. “I suspect that it is a pony who arrived here between three and five years ago, and one who has far too much of a taste for candy.” Her nostrils flared, as she sniffed. “There is one here who smells of sugar…”
Pinkie Pie dove out the window.
“AHA!” Nightmare Moon bellowed, launching herself into the air with powerful wing beats and following. “YOU SHALL GIVE ME RECOMPENSE, GLUTTON!”
“Nevar!” Pinkie’s voice came from outside. “Whoops!”
There was a crash.
“DECOYING ME INTO A HOUSE IS NOT RECOMPENSE!” Nightmare Moon shouted, amid the crunch of falling masonry.
Twilight trotted outside to watch. It was all very impressive, actually – while Pinkie wasn’t Awake, she was treating this as just as much of a game as Luna was, and kept tricking the alicorn into overshooting or hitting trees.
After about twenty minutes, Celestia appeared in a flash of light. “Twilight! I heard that… what is going on?”
Twilight shrugged. “As I understand it, Nightmare Moon is annoyed that she wasn’t getting enough candy from Ponyville, and wants to get payback.”
Celestia’s jaw dropped. “…you mean it actually worked? I thought it was an old mare’s tale!”
“What, Nightmare Moon?” Twilight asked.
“No, Nightmare Night.” Celestia watched as Pinkie pulled off what could be best described as a Double Team, tricking Nightmare Moon into embedding herself into the floor. “I had hoped that a holiday where ponies spent their time outside, at night, enjoying themselves and enjoying scaring themselves, might help to convince her that her night was not truly neglected. I did not expect that the mythology that has grown up around it would be… accurate. In every particular.”
Pinkie dodged again, and then gasped as Nightmare Moon collided with Sugarcube corner. “Oh, no!”
“AHA!” Nightmare Moon boomed. “SO THIS IS WHERE YOU’VE BEEN KEEPING IT!” The black alicorn emerged from the attic with a comically large bag labelled ‘candy’, and flew off towards the moon.
“…what the buck?” Rainbow Dash managed.
"Twilight, return to the castle. Carriages are waiting for you and others. Yes, I am Awake. So are they. Celestia."
A short and precise letter, so unlike Celestia, Twilight noted. Had something happened? She had come to Ponyville in advance to set up things, but had noted that the others were Awake and thus she didn't really have anything to do. However, it was the day when Nightmare Moon would return and Twilight was slightly anxious to see whenever Luna was Awake or not. Lately, she had been Awake more often than previously and had made each appearance varied. The time she had appeared singing Hello my baby had been particularly funny. Twilight had never expected her to juggle all those instruments alone with magic.
She was not surprised to see the carriage waiting for her, with the others already there. When Celestia really wanted something done, it was done. She remembered that one loop with that whole three way Pony-Zebra-Griffin war. It took less than a week for Celestia and Luna to smash two other nations. As it turned out, the problem was not having enough power to deal with problems, but in knowing how to solve problems without using a metaphorical hammer on them all.
The group arrived at the Canterlot just as the night was falling. They noted that the place was rather full of nobles from pretty much everywhere – Celestia must be planning for something big. They were guided into the throne room, where Celestia was waiting for them.
"Oh good, you girls are here. Now, we just need to wait for one more pony and we are ready to proceed," Celestia said with a smile.
"Oh? Who?" Twilight asked.
Right on cue, Nightmare Moon appeared right next to Celestia, rousing a shocked gasp from the gathered nobles. Just as quickly as she appeared, Luna also shed her Nightmare Moon appearance and assumed her normal one.
"Ew, icky stuff. I never get used to that." Luna said. "Right, let's get this show on the road."
Right on cue, both used their magic to induce Alicorn transformations in all six Element bearers, confusing pretty much every pony in the room.
"Right, so here is the deal. Me and my sister here, we are kinda tired of this, so we are holding a vacation. Every single petty argument or whatever you suckers have, these six will deal with it. We are going to go and relax. Ciao!" Celestia said with a smile, before teleporting away alongside Luna. She reappeared five seconds later, causing everyone to sigh. Of course their beloved Princess would not do anything like this.
"Oh yeah, I am not joking. Also, you six, don't call us unless it's multiverse threatening stuff, okay? We really need this," Celestia said, and disappeared again.
A stunned silence descended.
"Um, surprise?" Twilight said, with an embarrassed smile on her face.
“ATTENTION, PONIES!” Luna shouted, appearing above the Ponyville town hall an hour into the Nightmare Night celebrations. “I AM ON A DIET! PLEASE PAY TRIBUTE IN VEGETABLES!”
Applejack and Carrot Top exchanged glances, then both started trotting to their respective homes to get their market stalls.
“Hello, Princess!” Twilight said, stepping aside from the door. “It’s good to see you. I was wondering whether you’d come, since there was that meeting with dignitaries from Saddle Arabia.”
Celestia paused. “What do you mean? I set it up so that they would be coming here. It is a diplomatic visit by them, not to them.”
Twilight shrugged. “I don’t know. I got a letter saying that you wouldn’t be able to make the magic show because of a need to visit another country.” Which was a surprise, actually… “I invited Luna and Cadence instead, and they both seemed very pleased by the idea.”
A sky-blue unicorn went past, reading from one of Twilight’s notebooks. “Trixie sees… so that is the basis behind advanced manifoldic formation of friendship harmonics… oh!” The notebook closed with a snap, and Trixie swept her hat off her head in a bow. “Princess. I had not realized that you would be present as well as your sister and niece. You do me honour.”
“Ah, you must be Trixie.” Celestia returned the bow. “Twilight told me that you had reconciled after a minor disagreement last year, though she did not tell me you were going to be a part of this display.”
“Well, she was in the area,” Twilight said, nodding to a cart that was parked out near the back window of the library. “I didn’t realize until after I was told you were going to Saddle Arabia.”
“Yes, about that.” Celestia frowned. “I don’t know why you think that – it certainly wasn’t in the letter I wrote… may I see the one you received?”
Twilight passed it over readily. Truth be told, she wasn’t sure why Celestia had changed her plans this Loop, but had assumed it was something to do with the newly Looping Trixie’s different behaviour. It was hard to tell what effect a change would have… but if she hadn’t in fact changed them, then it made no sense.
“You are indeed correct. How strange.” Celestia shook her head. “While I confess I do not understand the reason for the altered correspondence, it was never my intent to miss your display – which I now understand will be a joint one. Since the Saddle Arabian diplomats should be arriving at some point, perhaps we shall just go ahead as scheduled.”
“Works for me.” Twilight opened another of her notebooks, and held it out for Trixie. “What about one of these to start with?”
“A meteor swarm?” Trixie examined the magical formulae. “Very daring. I see it is something of a trust exercise – since the pony running the spell cannot also run the shield.”
“Basically.” Twilight grinned. “Be an impressive opener, won’t it?”
“Indeed.” Trixie nodded her respect to Twilight. “You are clearly learning what Trixie has to teach you about showmareship, Twilight.”
“You are Princess Celestia?” one of the Saddle Arabian emirs asked, blinking at the figure in front of them. “You do not look very much like a pony...”
“Well,” Discord replied, adjusting his fake wig and dress and keeping his voice to a falsetto, “We pride Ourself on an egalitarian nation, where any may be whatever she or he desires.”
“Most impressive, both of you.” Luna said to the two panting unicorns after nearly six solid hours of magical pyrotechnics. “I had not known half of those spells were possible.”
“Neither did Trixie…” Trixie muttered. “She has learned much… er, I mean, I have learned much from Twilight.”
“Indeed.” Luna turned to Celestia. “Why so worried, sister?”
“I don’t know why those diplomats didn’t turn up. It’s such a shame, they would have found that very impressive…” Celestia fretted. “I can’t help thinking something went very wrong…”
A scroll materialized next to her. Twilight automatically caught it, then relinquished it to Celestia who opened it.
“Let’s see… oh dear… ‘Dear Celly. Sorry for messing with your letters, I wanted a holiday. Don’t worry, I’m not evil any more… much… but it’s just so boring staring at hedges the whole time. Anyway, the Saddle Arabians loved me. Apparently I’m very good at belly dancing, who knew? I should have known I had a hidden talent. So, long story short, you’ve got all the agreements you wanted and then some, but they think I’m you. I look lovely in a dress. Paradoxically yours, Discord.’” Celestia put the letter down, and breathed deeply. In, out. In…
“HE DID WHAT?!”
“Well,” Twilight muttered to Trixie, “That’s one way to cause chaos.”
“Indeed.” Trixie blinked. “Him too?”
“Occasionally. It’s just so hard to tell, with him…”
10.9 (Madfish): Fluttershy and Rush (offshoot of 40K Loop)
(this first few paragraphs is a repeat from earlier, just to remind people where we are.)
Fluttershy walked among the drifts of the freezing valleys she found herself on at the start of the loop. She had had to restore her alicorn status just to survive the frozen wasteland and though the weather was harsher than any other. She could have allowed her self to die and end the loop for herself but if the other's were here somewhere they would need her help given the few times she had tried a spell beyond telekinesis she had felt sick as if monsters had tried to climb through her horn into her skull. Besides she owed it to her current companions mother to make sure they grew up big and strong first.
"I hope Twilight's going to be ok," she said to the wolves beside her, "Without her magic she gets- twitchy...."
She trailed of as one of the wolves, a cub but larger than her pegasus self, drew her attention to a light flickering in the distance. Light's meant people, hopefully friendly people.
As they approached she found herself disappointed as all that was there was some sort of pod covered with ice. Scraping the ice of the hatch she gasped as she saw the child within.
The wolves panted, breath frosting in the air as they looked in at what had surprised there surrogate mother.
"No! You can't eat him. We're going to take this pod to shelter and we're going to help the poor dear. If no one comes for him you can think of him as you're new little brother."
The Emperor stood over the unconscious form of his son. Victorious in battle, as he had not been in feasting, he turned, letting those around stare at his mighty form and their fallen King. It was good to see that these people were strong. They mastered their world and its beasts, as the mighty wolves with the guards and strange winged equine creature his son kept as a pet attested.
The time for asserting his victory done, he turned back to reach down and pick his son up – only to be stymied. He found himself staring into the yellow creatures’ eyes and felt its will slam into his own. Now the Emperor knew himself to be the most powerful psyker in the galaxy – but, while it takes great will to wield such power, that power is not in itself will. So, taken by surprise, he found himself frozen under its stare as the Creature had the gall to start to lecture him!
"How dare you! How dare you!" The Creature raged, "My Son freely invites you into his hall and even when you lost your challenge he gave you your request of victory for the second, you spit on his generosity and hospitality then strike him down by bringing an artifact of power to a duel of honour! What do you...?”
The would be Unifier of Humanity tuned out the Xeno's speech as he began to reassert his will as his own master. Only surprise had stayed his hand that long, and though he felt the force of the Xeno's attack strengthen enough to slow his limb it would not be enough to save it from being crushed under the force of his glove's powerfield.
Sometimes a fraction of a second is enough, though, and a sliver of time before he connected his chin was met by the rising Russ' fist throwing him back to the Great Hall's doors.
"You eat my food, drink my drink, then insult my household and try to kill my Mother. Let’s see how you do in a fair fight!" With that Russ gestured and the two greatest wolves in the hall were at his side, one presenting him with his axe and the other with a shield.
Even from the door and with his brains rattled the Leader of Mankind could feel the touch of the warp on them. Apparently bringing his son home would be more difficult than he'd expected.
Fluttershy had learned many hard lessons in this loop; She had learned that despite her talent and the abilities she had gained through the loops some creatures could not be reasoned with, she had learned to be a good mother making sure her charges were safe and able to grow in a harsh environment, she had learned of a deep abiding pride when her sons had brought the wolves and humans of this planet together uniting them for survival and protection as a greater whole.
"I thought I was stronger now," she thought as she shivered. The fear she had conquered centuries ago rekindled by near death, the implacable, disturbing eyes she had looked into and the sheer power she witnessed there. The sound of battle and the barking of wolves carried into the hall as the people within looked out to what she couldn't see. A few of them began brushing her mane to try and offer comfort.
"Why can't I help? I'm not strong like Twilight." The sound of what could only be a building collapsing made her flinch. Her son needed her and she was so weak that she was just lying down, shivering, like she always did.
"But I wasn't strong when I went into the Everfree that first time.... or when I faced the Dragon... but they needed me... no… I was strong, because they needed me!"
She took flight with a speed that was distinctly atypical of her, kicking open the hall shutters to avoid the battle outside. Glancing down as she made for the clouds she saw her little Leman charge out of a pile of rubble and hook the man's artifact gauntlet out to the side with his axe. Geri took the opening and leapt, teeth scoring his armoured shoulder to little apparent effect, before he was grabbed and swung bodily at Leman to break their mutual weapon lock.
Reaching the clouds, she wove an illusion to hide her actions and began to work them vigorously. "I might not be Rainbow Dash, but if Applejack can do this then I can too!"
"It seems, my Son, you've been abandoned! Like humanity ever is by the xeno when comes their time of need."
"She would never abandon me! It was she that taught me of Loyalty and Kindness on this harsh world. She took me in and made sure neither myself nor my brothers starved. With her teachings all of my Pack have prospered!"
"And yet she is gone." Punching Leman's shield squarely in the centre, sending the Primarch flying, he turned his back on him. The Emperor dealt Freki a viscous kick to the head, rendering the wolf insensate, while a gesture at Geri resulted in him flying over the surrounding buildings and out of sight.
With a berserker roar Russ returned to the fight hewing and chopping at air as the man before him skilfully evaded each strike, watching the rage in Leman's eyes build.
"I find myself disappointed. I have searched the galaxy for my stolen son, and I find that he sacrifices his skill for rage so easily." So saying he grabbed the haft of the axe swung at him and wrenched hard to break his berserking son's grip, familiar from a hundred battles against Chaos with the madness he saw before him. So he was understandably surprised to have misread the King of the Russ when Leman abruptly released both axe and rage and rammed the edge of his shield around his guard, aiming for his throat with all the skill that he'd apparently abandoned.
The Emperor jumped back, sparing himself, but the power feeds to his glove were severed as he brought it up to shield himself.
"Perhaps you are a worthy son after all!" He crowed with a smile, before he frowned seriously, "But we have much to discuss – as fun as these games have been."
Like Feni before him Russ was lifted into the air but instead of being launched away he was kept pinned to nothing as the Emperor began to talk.
Hidden above Fluttershy’s illusion of stratocumulus, the clouds churned, transformed by her magic into a roiling charged mass. She carefully opened a gap in the illusion and saw Leman held aloft far below. Her reservations were put aside as she flew higher and higher straining to keep her telekinesis caressing the massive cloud bank below. Inverting herself she took a deep breath of the rarefied air and allowed herself to plummet.
She aimed for her gap.
She sped up.
Her telekinesis firmed and began closing the gap and pushing the cloud bank down, creating a funnel.
She neared the wall.
She was through the closing gap.
Telekinesis pulled the clouds into contact with her tail.
She flooded the clouds with her pegasus magic and pulled them faster.
Her acceleration soared as her body plummeted. Her sons' attacker beginning to look up at the funnel of storm clouds trailing her and the clearing skies as her illusion shattered.
Straining to bring her tail past her hooves as she tucked her legs.
Through the wall she watched as Russ fell and was dragged away by Geri, as the man raised some form of shield spell.
Releasing the clouds she twisted to the side and bucked the the cloud funnel still moving down as hard as she could.
Lightning crawled across the funnel like the biggest plasma globe in the universe, then lanced down at the God Emperor of Mankind with the precision of a sniper and the force of a lance barrage.
Then the world was silent. And down from above came a yellow alicorn, her unconscious form spinning like a falling sycamore seed, a few tattered wisps of cloud catching round her like a torn parachute.
"...did you see that?" Bjorn the Fell-handed asked. "I never thought someone would beat the little mother, or Russ!"
"Well," Grimbold the Aethling chuckled, "I don't think our guest thought they were that strong either. Look, he's out too!"
"A draw, by Fenrir!" Bjorn called. "Only a draw gives both sides full honour!"
"Oh, give over," one of the clanners said, gesturing at a wolf that was looking at Fluttershy. "They'll be fine in the morning."
"To lord Russ and the little mother!" Grimbold raised his horn.
Freyja Hearth-Mistress' snort could be heard over raucous cheering of the menfolk. "Honour implies our 'guest'," a word she spat like cursed Winter, "has some to regain. You saw him try and strike down our Little Mother when she justly chastised the lout. He's already shown his colours. He can stay in the stables, for I won't have him under our roof till our King is well."
From beside her a huge wolf bitch growled.
Freyja nodded, "You're right. I wouldn't trust him near the kennels with the pups either. Bring them into the Hall for now and we'll all keep watch over them."
"So girls, who gets to choose how to deal with Nightmare Moon this time?"
"Ah think it's Fluttershy's, ain't it Pinkie?" Applejack offered.
"Yep," Pinkie Pie confirmed.
The yellow pegasus blinked. "In that case... Twilight, do you have that thing I asked you to keep that human loop? The one we wrote the thank-you letter?"
Twilight Sparkle grinned. "I like what you're thinking."
Fluttershy smiled. "Yes, I want to try some other magic than the Elements of Harmony to see if we can break Princess Luna out of Nightmare Moon."
"Sounds like a plan. Hang on, girls," and concentrating her magic Twilight teleported them all to Canterlot Royal Library.
"Oh, dear, when did you learn to use magic without flaring your horn?" Rarity asked, surprised.
"Oh, that?" Twilight answered, sightly flustered. "One loop I worked at Ponyville Hospital. And my horn is still flaring, it's just the light isn't visible. I had the conversion spell up because-"
"How comes the light isn't visible?!" Rainbow Dash countered. "Light is light, if there's light you can see it, if there isn't it's dark."
Rainbow quickly looked around with a panicked look on her face.
Twilight whispered in response "Keep it down Rainbow! We are in a library."
Twilight continued explaining "Anyway, it’s like the X-Rays they use to check broken bones. You can't see light but-"
"All right, egghead stuff." Rainbow Dash waved with one hoof, dismissing Twilight's words.
Twilight just glared at Rainbow for a moment before returning to Rarity. "Sorry for forgetting to tell you, but we are going to do this at nighttime and we don't want the Princesses getting distracted with a horn flaring in the dark if we want to put Fluttershy in the spotlight."
Rarity nodded "Makes sense to light only the most important part of the scenery to draw all the attention; which reminds me, are you going to be all right Fluttershy?"
"I... want to try this, so don't worry Rarity, I'll be fine." The yellow pegasus tried to reassure her friend.
"However," Fluttershy added, "I'm going to need your help with Princess Luna."
Celestia was alone in Canterlot Castle's Royal Hall. She had dismissed the Royal Guard just after sunset with the justification that she needed to get ready for the Summer Sun Celebration ceremony in Ponyville. In reality, she was setting herself as a first line of defense against Nightmare Moon and as bait, should she fail, so her faithful student Twilight Sparkle could reclaim the Elements of Harmony.
At some point her patience bore fruit, as she felt an intimately familiar magical presence attacking her. Dodging to one side, she found the figure she was waiting for in the royal throne.
"Celestia," Nightmare Moon spat, as if it were the worst imaginable insult, "we meet again."
Suddenly Celestia felt a strange wave of magic pass through her. The sky had somehow lost part of its color, leaving it gray. Celestia tried her connection to the Sun, finding it farther from her control than ever. Was she beaten so easily? Had she failed in rescuing her sister? Why did Nightmare Moon look so surprised right now?
Celestia didn't really have time to ponder such questions as she started hearing music, a soft and slow tune. Then suddenly a spot in the dark hall became illuminated, showing a yellow pegasus who seemed to look at both her and Nightmare Moon. After a while, and following the music, she started to sing.
Fate has been cruel and order unkind
How can I have sent you away?
The pegasus had a soft voice, a nice match for the sad song she was singing.
The blame was my own; the punishment, yours
The harmony's silent today.
Celestia felt... something, as if the song captured her own self 'That song, could that be about...?'
But into the stillness I'll bring you a song
And I will your company keep
Till your tired eyes and my lullabies
Have carried you softly to sleep
Suddenly a white unicorn appeared by the side of the yellow pegasus, who continued singing where the pegasus, who looked in the verge of tears, left.
Once did a pony who gleamed like the moon
Look out on her kingdom and sigh
Dejected she cried, "Surely there is no pony
Who loves me, or finds any love in my night."
Nightmare Moon's face betrayed her bewilderment, as if the song affected both alicorns equally.
So great was her pain, she rose in rebellion
Against those who cared for her most.
She let the Nightmare fall on those she ruled
And threatened to grip them in permanent cold.
It was only then when the pegasus resumed singing, now in a duet. Somehow Celestia knew the words of this unknown song even before they were sung by the ponies.
Lullay dear princess, goodnight sister mine
And rest now in moonlight's embrace
Bear up my lullaby, winds of the earth
Through cloud, and through sky, and through space
Carry the peace and the coolness of night
And carry my sorrow in kind
Sister, you're loved so much more than you know
Forgive me for being so blind
The sky suddenly returned to its usual color, and Celestia realized there weren't just only other two ponies: they were six, including Twilight Sparkle! The ponies also started to move in a slow yet captivating choreography while their singing continued, the lyrics telling the simplest, yet truest, version Celestia had known of the long ago tragedy. The turning of her sister Luna into Nightmare Moon, and her banishment to the moon by Celestia's own hoof a millennia ago.
After the second verse and a section of music without lyrics finished Celestia couldn't hold it anymore: with tears she only now noticed flowing, she started singing in conjunction with Twilight Sparkle and the other ponies and -- to her surprise -- Nightmare Moon.
The years now before us fearful and unknown
I never imagined I'd face them on my own
May these sunless seasons swiftly pass, I pray
I love you; I miss you all these miles away
At this point everypony except the alicorns had stopped singing, but Celestia hardly realized it. She had only eyes and voice for Nightmare Moon, who was still singing and crying to a song which touched both of their souls, none daring to move for fear breaking what seemed an illusion.
May all your dreams be sweet tonight
Safe upon that bed above the lights
And know not of heartache, fear, nor, gloom
And when I dream, I'll fly away to meet you soon
Sleep, sleep, sleep...
When the song ended Celestia felt expectant. Now what? After what appeared to be another thousand years Nightmare Moon closed her eyes and Celestia saw magic enveloping the darker alicorn. A moment later the magic vanished and it was Princess Luna who opened hers.
"Celestia," Luna said in a cracking voice, "we meet again."
Only then both alicorns dared to move, this time to reach each other's embrace.
Twilight Sparkle tried to contain her tears, and her excitement. At least the reunion of the Princesses helped with the latter – but not with the former. During the musical number not only was she "lightlessly" casting a Dimensional Barrier to distract the Princesses and the music spell for the song Fluttershy found, but also she was taking care on observing how the song affected the Princesses.
Fluttershy's plan was a complete success: using what she dubbed "heart-songs", the way ponies seemed to spontaneously inspire and create musicals, combined with a song specially tailored for the Princesses to dispel the corruption in Nightmare Moon. This time they didn't even need to use the Elements of Harmony or to become alicorns, and the best part of all: she had material for yet another Thesis!
Drying her tears she rounded up her friends and started to leave. "Princess Celestia, Princess Luna. Now we have to go to finish the preparations of the Summer Sun celebration in Ponyville. We'll wait for you there." Celestia could only answer with a nod.