Princess Luna sat in her bedchambers, pondering over her latest scheme. In front of her sat a large, dragon hide-bound book, one of the oldest magic tomes in the Canterlot Royal Library: the Arcanus E Draconus. Inside it were the foulest spells known to Equestria, forbidden magic long since outlawed by Celestia herself. It had taken all of Luna’s cunning just to retrieve the thing and even more to translate its long-forgotten tongue into a language she understood. And now, it was going to pay off.
The princess could not help but smirk at the magnificence of it all. For too long, she had suffered under Celestia’s hooves. Only a year ago, when she had finally been released from Nightmare Moon’s control, she had hoped power would be shared more evenly between the sisters. Every time she tried to invite herself to one of Celestia’s countless meetings and audiences, however, her sister turned her down. And on the few occasions she had to be there, it was Celestia who fielded all the questions, Celestia who talked over her sister, Celestia who got all the praise, Celestia Celestia Celestia!
Instead, she was given her own little court of assistants and servants during the night, working behind the scenes to fix her sister’s little mistakes and keep Equestria running smoothly. It was a full time job, between her sister’s apparent inability to do long algebra and most of the nobility’s reluctance to even acknowledge her. Even worse, Celestia was just as terrible as ever. Luna had been forced to endure one indignity after another. That was about to change. With but one spell, she would finally be free of Celestia’s madness once and for all.
She had arranged her room to sequential perfection. A pentagram was drawn on her floor and hidden underneath a throw rug. A large mirror was tucked into one corner, its surfaced polished to a glistening sheen. Next to her bed sat an ancient oak chest, inside of which the penultimate step in Celestia’s doom sat. And most importantly of all, she had requested that her sisters’ prized pupil, Twilight Sparkle, come to her chambers for an “informal meeting”. She had even set up the usual bureaucracy so that she’d arrive just in time to watch her beloved teacher’s final humiliation.
At long last, she would have her revenge.
Princess Celestia wanted to be doing something, anything, besides holding court today.
Normally, this was the highlight of her day. Here, for a few short hours a day, she could interact with the common ponies. The usual protocol still had to be upheld, of course, and the pegasus guards tended to make things a tad more intimidating, but at the very least it was someone outside of the usual power circle. The nobles were an insufferable bunch, to put it lightly, and most of the official business had worn out its welcome over the millennia. Even if her subjects feared her, and she knew they did, she could at least pretend they were being completely honest and open with her.
Not today. This was just another very long day in a very long month. First, there was the fire in Stalliongrad. A week later, half the grain in Trottingham spoiled. And last week, the cost estimates for rebuilding the palace ballroom and gardens came in, strapping most of the already-dwindling treasury. And tax season was coming up, meaning any minute now everypony in Equestria would be lining up with a reason why they can’t pay.
There were no more marriages to bless, or businesses to help finance, or schoolfoals to entertain with Equestria history. Those were but relics of happier days. Today’s court was just like every other in recent memory: one long series of disasters.
The forepony of the Cloudsdale Weather Service was the next-to-last pony on the list today. She followed the ritual every step of the way: walk forward with your head low, stop ten feet from the first step, bow, raise head, and start pleading for your life. The last step wasn’t technically in the rules, but was usually how every meeting of this kind went.
Celestia nodded her head, acknowledging the pony’s ability to rote memorize. “Please, introduce yourself to the court.”
“R…Rainy Days, your Majesty.”
“There’s no need for formalities, Miss Days.” Her horn glowed, levitating up a rather large scroll of all of today’s agenda. “Let’s see…you are responding to the errors in the national weather schedule. Is that correct?”
Rainy Days’ eyes were starting to water, her front legs shaking in fear of her approaching doom while her wings stiffened as a “fight or flight” response. Once again, Celestia had seen it millions of times, and quite frankly she was getting very frustrated by it.
“I’m sorry, your Majesty! We had assumed the planned drought in Appleloosa was going to last another two weeks! We’ve already dispatched our weather teams, and there should be enough water for the town within a few weeks.”
“By which point the town’s water supply will have almost completely dried up. Crop estimates are already down twenty percent, not including the tribute to the Buffalo in the region.” She shifted the scroll up slightly, mostly to keep from seeing Rainy Days’ ever-increasing agitation. “And what’s this about flooding in Fillydelphia?”
“Well…that’s why we had the problems in Appleloosa. They were supposed to get the rainclouds and Fillydelphia…”
“…Was supposed to be bone dry until we’ve finished moving out every last parasprite in the region. There have been three recursions in the last year, we can barely keep everypony fed, and now they’re neck-deep in water?”
“We’re in the process of drying the city! I swear, this will never happen again!”
“I’m sure it won’t. Still, at least you are remedying the situation. I want a full report when the job’s done. Okay?” Rainy Days nodded in response, gave a rehearsed “thank you for not banishing me” farewell, and trotted out of the throne room, the door closing behind her. The suffocating air of tension gradually lifted as Celestia facehoofed. “Okay, one more today. I just have to last a little…”
There was a sudden crash in the next room, followed by the most terrifying voice in all of ponykind. “Augh! A common workhorse dares to speak to Princess Celestia before me?! Guards! I demand she be removed from the castle immediately!”
Celestia leaned towards her nearest guard. Her normally serene face was now a mishmash of unfiltered frustration and complete astonishment. “I thought I told you never to let him in here again.”
“Princess Luna rescinded the order, your Highness. She wants the court open to all ponies.”
“That’s because she doesn’t have to deal with him!”
The doors slammed open, and Blueblood strode into the room, acting like he was the single most important pony in the world. Celestia shot back into position, putting on that queenly mask only a saint would wear in the company of someone like her nephew. The stallion noble performed the same ritual as Rainy Days; this time, however, there was a sense of arrogance about him instead of fear. The tension from before was now so thick it could be cut with a knife.
“Hello, Blueblood. How lovely of you to come to my palace and order my guards to throw out one of my guests. It makes me wonder why we don’t meet up more often.”
“I am just looking out for your best interests, your Majesty.”
Celestia’s face was as serene as ever, refusing to betray the intense loathing she had for this creature, the very embodiment of everything she hated about ruling. “Let’s see what you want, as if I had to even look.” The scroll unrolled to its very bottom. “Hmm, so you still want us to raze Ponyville?”
“Why, of course, your Majesty. We’ve tracked those impudent commoners that dared to disrupt the most respectable of social gatherings, the Grand Galloping Gala. The entire town is guilty of harboring fugitives. Certainly you can see the need to restore order.”
“And you think slaughtering an entire town is going to restore an order that, as far as I can tell, is not in need of any restoring at this moment?”
Blueblood was stunned; Celestia’s nonchalant response was the same as the last fifteen hundred times he’d made the same request. “But, your Majesty! That unicorn, the dressmaker, she dared to sully my royal lips with carnival fare, and when I gave her the honor of saving my luxurious self from another one of these devils, she dared to act offended! These monsters stripped me of my honor, destroyed your entire ballroom, and even now run free!”
Of course they did. I was ready to knight all six of them on the spot. “Blueblood, your request is denied. Please, if only for your sake, let this go.”
There was more she could have said, like how his ancestress was adopted, and how she once almost swapped him and Nightmare Moon’s places. Those were not the thoughts of a princess, however. She had often told Luna, “A princess may be stern, but can never show anger,” and for her sister’s sake, she had to keep it up. Even if it meant dealing with a pony she would rather swallow paint than talk to.
Blueblood huffed and puffed, but didn’t blow any more hot air that day. He simply stood, bowed in a rather insulting fashion, and stormed off. Until tomorrow, that is. He’ll just keep coming back. Better step up those land acquisitions. The sooner we can buy his entire estate out from under him, the better.
With the last of her business for the day concluded, Celestia stood and stretched her legs. Her walk down the steps was slow and uneven, her muscles sore and exhausted from sleep deprivation. A dark part of her mind wanted to just blow off her last obligation for the day and just get some sleep, but she was able to suppress that errant thought.
Her sister was the most important pony in the world to her, and she would not leave her waiting.
It was an endeavor just to climb the steps to Luna’s room. Her sister had been insisting she drop by at “exactly three-o-clock” so she could show her some new book she found. And considering the Arcanus E Draconus, the most forbidden and dangerous book of spells in existence, had vanished from the library only a few weeks prior, the princess found herself harboring uncomfortable suspicions about her sister.
There was little denying the difficulty both sisters were having re-adjusting to a co-rulership. Luna was all too eager to resume her duties over the night, but getting her back into the government was another can of worms. She certainly had the brains for it, and made more progress readjusting to the modern world than Celestia would have, but there was another side to leadership she lacked.
Over the last thousand years, Celestia had built quite the rapport with her subjects, as well as the charisma needed to keep a court of self-serving nobles in line. Luna had the handicap of, more or less, ceasing to exist for a thousand years. Celestia had aged and matured in that time, but Luna was still more or less a socially awkward teenager. (Well, not technically, but the sisters counted the years quite differently from just about everything else, save perhaps dragons.) In many ways, she was still the pony she used to be before her transformation.
By the time she reached Luna’s door, she was ready to collapse right at her doorstep. Her hoof knocked, ever so gently, on the wooden door. Luna’s small voice shouted back. “Come in!”
It was right then that she noticed the first real sign something was wrong: Luna’s personal guards weren’t at the door. In fact, no guards could be found anywhere. Still, her affection and duty to her returned sister overrode whatever alarm bells were ringing in her head.
As Celestia stepped inside, a niggling, nagging feeling forced its way to the forefront of her mind. It was the same savvy that had saved her many a time from the countless dangers being a princess usually brought. She was half-expecting a net to fall, or spikes to pop from the ground, or Luna to suddenly shift back to the Mare in the Moon. But no, the room was completely normal.
Well, save for the rather ugly, out of place throw rug, but neither sister really had a knack for Feng Shui.
What was I thinking? Nightmare Moon was defeated. Luna may be difficult sometimes, but she would never do something so horrible.
Luna herself was seated on the edge of her bed, directly across from the door. Her eyes showed no signs of anger, resentment, or hatred, just the kind of sisterly affection Celestia always hoped for. All it did now was make her stupid assumptions seem even more horrible. “Good afternoon, sister! I hope you’re ready for a big surprise!”
Celestia stifled a yawn, her brain still in a self-defensive shutdown from Blueblood’s audience. “Hello, Luna. What’s so important that you called me up here?”
Luna hung her head over the bedside, seemingly hurt by her sister’s tone. Celestia immediately realized her horrible, impulsive mistake. “Important? Why does everything have to be business to you? Isn’t it enough to just visit your little sister?”
Celestia took a few steps into the room, closing the door behind her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“I missed you those thousand years, even when Nightmare Moon took over. I knew you would find a way to save me, and that you’d accept me when I was normal again. And what do you do?” Luna began to sniffle and whimper, a tear streaming down her left cheek. The sight would be heart wrenching enough to affect even an Ursa Major. “You…stick me with a bunch of busywork while you get to act like you’re a queen! I…I thought you loved me.”
Once again, that little, reasonable, genre-savvy part of Celestia’s brain began to chime in. Don’t fall for it. It’s an act. She’s barely even trying. But alas, her big sister instincts took over. “I do love you, Luna. I always will. I just don’t want you to face the same…”
All this time, she had been slowly making her way closer to the bed, walking onto Luna’s strategically-placed throw rug. When her whole body was within its center, a burst of magic erupted from the ground itself, burning the rug away in a pillar of red light. Celestia reared back in surprise, only to slam into the back side of the pillar. The light had solidified into a tube of transparent steel, reaching all the way to the ceiling before coming together in a makeshift top.
Luna mood pulled a complete 180. The tears stopped flowing, instead replaced with a maniacal laugh. Celestia beat vainly against the steel, but her hooves couldn’t even make the thing shudder. She tried to shatter the tube with a burst of magic, but her horn refused to light. The panicked princess finally cast her eyes on her treacherous sister, who even now approached with a large, dragon hide-bound book. The Arcanus E Draconus! “Luna! What are you doing with that?!”
“Doing what I should have done a long time ago.” The sister’s evil glee was almost insatiable. The tome flipped open to another page, one clearly earmarked from earlier.
Celestia pressed herself against the steel, staring her sister right in the eyes. It wasn’t too far from the pleading stares she often got from her subjects. “Luna…please don’t do this. Whatever I’ve done, whatever you want, we can work it out together. Don’t do this. I-I’m sorry…”
Luna’s lips pressed into a cold, blood-curling sneer. “I remember saying those exact words a thousand years ago, before you banished me from my subjects, my sister, and my birthright! Where was your forgiveness then? No, you have had this coming for far too long!”
A few small tears crept from Celestia’s eyes. “Luna…I’m sorry…”
“It’s too late for apologizes,” shouted Luna. “For all you’ve done, there can be no forgiveness!” The book floated over the younger sibling’s eyes. If anything, it was a very dramatic spell. “Don’t worry, EX-Princess of Equestria. This won’t hurt a bit…”
Luna’s horn glowed brighter than ever as she read the finishing blow. The floor underneath Celestia lit up yet again, this time in a light green light. The princess futilely pounded at it, but all this did was tire her further. A green, mist-like snake coiled from the pentagram, wrapping itself tightly around the princess as she let out a muffled, hushed scream.
Celestia’s slowly forced her eyes open, the alicorn groaning from a massive migraine. Her vision was still blurry, but she could still make out the familiar sights of Luna’s bedroom. The spell that had imprisoned her mere moments ago was gone, leaving only a small trace of magical energy in its wake. Luna was sitting in front of her, a grin of triumph on her face. “Aw, you’re up already? You look so cute when you’re asleep.”
The princess was back on her hooves in moments, her body still shaky but seemingly unharmed. “Luna? What did…you…?" Celestia froze, her mind registering the change in her voice. Whatever Luna had cast knocked her pitch up a few bars. Her vision had cleared up enough to see her crown and other ornaments lying next to her, each quite a bit bigger than before. Then she got a better look at her sister.
She now towered over her.
A thousand thoughts ran through Celestia’s brain. Oh my gosh, what is this? What spell was that anyway? Did she shrink me? Make her grow? Maybe it’s an illusion. She’s just messed with my depth perception. Yeah, that has to be…no, that can’t be it. She…She wouldn’t go through all this for something that small.
Luna trotted past her dumbstruck sister, stopping in front of her perfectly prepared mirror. “Oh Celly, you really need to take a good look at yourself. You’d be amazed what a little magic can do.”
Celestia dug her hooves into the carpet in response, while her eyes darted left and right in search of an escape. No luck; the room’s one window was barred, and Luna was between her and the door at the moment. In any case, she wasn’t willing to look herself in the mirror right now. Whatever Luna had planned, it was obviously a revenge scheme, and if she was getting back for her banishment…
Luna could see her sister’s fear-induced paralysis. Her voice practically oozed patronization. “Oh dear, is Celestia too scared to move? I never thought anything could make her shut down. Well, leave it to big ol’ Luna to keep this show moving along!”
Her horn lit up yet again. A small cloud formed underneath Celestia’s hooves, and she soon found herself being telekinetically hoisted through the air. She didn’t struggle or squirm; she just lowered her head and closed her eyes.
Even Luna was taken aback at just how subdued she was. Maybe the spell worked too well. This won’t have the right effect if she just sits and takes it.
The princess was gently set in front of the mirror, next to her overly eager sister. Luna wrapped her foreleg around her sister’s neck, grinning from ear to ear. “There, all better. Now, let’s take a good, long look at the new you.”
Celestia’s eyes were fidgeting to stay closed; one side of her wanted to see the truth, the other to just hope this was a bad dream and would end soon. Luna scowled at her continued indifference. “Aw, come on. Do you know how hard it was to come up with this scheme? I promise, it’ll make you feel like a whole new (giggle) mare!”
The sun princess continued her struggle, even as her eyes began to water in pain. At long last, however, there was no more fighting back. Insatiable curiosity had worked its way through Celestia’s brain, forcing her head upwards and her eyes open. She gazed into the mirror’s surface.
A very cute, white alicorn filly stared back at her. It was significantly shorter than Luna, maybe about half as tall, and looked the equivalent of a young foal, complete with a few obvious pudges of lingering baby fat. Its tail and mane looked like a rainbow, flowing independently of any wind. The colors didn’t stay still, but shifted and blended into each other in an erratic, and yet strangely beautiful, pattern. A sun-shaped cutie mark adorned both of the pony’s flanks, a surprising trait for one so young. It was a dead ringer for Celestia as a filly.
In fact, it was Celestia as a filly.
Celestia stared at her new reflection, her jaw half dislocated from such a sudden drop. Her eyes had receded almost all the way back through her skull, while every muscle twisted and tightened in horror. There was no more denying it; her sister had somehow made her regress thousands of years, all the way to her earliest memories. They weren’t exactly happy memories, either. In fact, the first time she saw this face was when she was shouting at some frogs to start evolving already.
Her head turned towards Luna, her voice creaking and cracking from a mortifying horror. “L-Luna, what did you do?”
Luna gave her sister a quick, rather forceful hoof to the head. “Oh, you know, I just age regressed my little sister using one of the most forbidden spells in pony history. It’s not too different from what we usually do.”
Luna jumped away from Celestia, her eyes narrowing as her face scrunched into her sister’s. Celestia reared onto her haunches, just trying not to make an embarrassing scene even worse. “Because I’m sick of being the little sister! I’m sick of everypony looking over my work and giving you all the credit! You, the pony so coldhearted she sent her only sister to the moon for a thousand years!”
The sheer terror in the filly’s face was quickly noticed by Luna herself. The rage in the princess’ face gradually dimmed to a smirk. “You know, at first I didn’t think it would work this well. I mean, I was a baby when you were this young, so I never really got a good look at you. But now that it’s all said and done, I have to say…” She grabbed the unwilling Celestia in one foreleg and started rubbing the top of her head vigorously with her free hoof. “I never expected you to be this adorable!”
As the humiliation conga continued, Celestia felt something she hadn’t experienced in many, many centuries. For the first time since she could remember, her body seethed with raw, unfiltered anger, and all of it was targeted at her current tormentor. The very sister she regretted banishing, the same one she had risked her favorite student and closest thing to a real friend for, had not only turned her into a small filly, but was now giving her a noogie.
She threw up her hooves, fighting back against her sister’s seemingly-increased might all she could. She managed to push away the offending foreleg, or more accurately Luna got tired and decided to stop. Unfortunately, that still left her in a bear hug. All four hooves pushed against Luna’s body, but the force of Celestia’s body wasn’t enough to dislodge the leg.
“Let me go this instant!”
Luna responded by tightening her death grip on the filly. Celestia’s face was starting to turn a mishmash of red and blue. “Look at you, still acting like you have some kind of authority. That is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.”
Celestia continued her futile struggle, pushing against Luna’s grip with all her (substantially reduced) might. Her commands were gradually turning into pleas. "Luna, please stop this! I’m your sister! Sisters don’t hurt each other!”
Luna chuckled at Celestia’s words. “Ah yes, you are my sister. My very little sister, far too young to be worrying about all those big pony worries. Don’t worry; you’ll be out of that nasty old throne room soon enough.”
Celestia immediately ceased her assault. She looked up at Luna in puzzlement. “What…?”
“My little spell has made a complete joke out of you, sister. Once I show you to Equestria at large, they will laugh you right out of office! And with you out of the way, I can take Equestria for MYSELF! And there will be changes, I guarantee you. First thing I’ll do is finally get rid of that blasted sun once and for all. All will hail the new Empress of the Night!”
The last words were punctuated with a laugh that may have lacked Nightmare Moon’s overwhelming ham, but nonetheless echoed the cries of a tyrant in the making. Celestia grit her teeth together, her body shaking with righteous fury at being tricked for so long.
Celestia dunked her head down and back up again in one swift motion, effectively head butting Luna right in the nose. The blue alicorn yelped and let go of the squirming filly, clutching her stinging muzzle while muttering some very inappropriate curses for a princess.
“You…you stupid little filly! I should have known you’d be a brat as a kid! When I get my hooves on you, I’ll…”
Celestia spun about in midair, landing on her hooves. Her horn was aimed squarely at Luna’s face in a manner of moments. The filly’s body shook with a terrible fury as the horn’s tip began to glow. The moon princess’ eyes grew two sizes in an instant, her horn throwing up every magical defense she could think of. She wasn’t lying about not knowing Celestia at that age. If she even had a small percentage of her former power, it would definitely be enough to at least blast her across the room, if not through the wall.
Celestia’s horn began to spark…and then died out. The sun princess grimaced and tried again, throwing ever bit of energy she had into one giant burst…only to have a tiny light fizzle out before dumping the exhausted filly on the floor.
Luna strode back forward, tapping Celestia’s miniscule horn with her hoof. “Awww, what’s wrong, Celly-Welly? Is your horn too whittle to do big pony magic?”
Slowly but surely, Celestia pulled herself back up. Her eyes were burning with a passion neither had seen nor felt for a thousand years. “I don’t care if my powers are gone. I don’t care if I’m half your size. I am still a Princess of Equestria, and it is my duty to protect my subjects from all threats. Even if it means harming my own flesh and blood, I will live up to my obligations! Now, surrender!”
Luna wanted to burst out laughing at the ridiculous sight. Celestia’s miniature height, pudgy body, and squeaky voice certainly didn’t add much to her supposed threat. She slowly walked over to her sister, staring her right in the eyes like a disapproving mother.
Luna let out a small sigh. “I’m sorry, sister. I had hoped to raise you as my little sister, maybe let you be a co-ruler again someday. But I can now see you’ll be a problem. You could raise an army and have me overthrown, or go complaining to the Elements of Harmony and re-banish me for another thousand years. No, you’re just another problem I need to solve.”
As Luna continued her advance, Celestia could feel her resolve slipping. She lowered herself as close to the floor as possible. “No, Luna, please! I promise, I won’t do anything to upset you. Just let me go!”
By now, Luna was directly in front of Celestia, glaring over her like a vengeful demon. She raised her right hoof, angling its edge right over Celestia’s head. “There’s no other way. We knew it would come to this the day we met. And with your death, Equestria will finally be mine!”
The princess’ strength broke completely; she curled herself in a small ball, ready for whatever fate her now-evil sister had in store. “No,” she whimpered. “It can’t end like this. Not like this…”
Luna’s hoof plunged downward…and honked Celestia on the nose.