His Golden Apple

by PhoenixFlame77

Prologue: The Star-Kissed Tower

Luna's POV

The stars whispered to me. Every night. They never went silent...they continued to chatter even when the kingdom of Equestria was fast asleep, never waiting for a break. I admired that. I admired the way that the stars in my midnight sky were full of knowledge that nopony has ever known...secrets that have never been shared. I narrowed my eyes at the crown jewel of the sky, the moon. No matter how loud the stars muttered around it, it was always silent.
The highest tower in the palace is where I stand tonight. My body was tense, as if I was expecting somepony, and I couldn't understand why. The only other time my body tensed like this is when...somepony was watching me. I drew in a breath and became one with the crisp, night air. Don't panic, Luna, I thought, closing my eyes. There is no reason to be afraid of the night.
I turned my head slowly around to face my bedroom. It was as dark as the midnight-blue sky in front of my balcony, except for a faint, candlelit glow coming from the bedstand. I scanned the room quickly, prepared to use my magic, but my fear was a hallucination. There was nopony there. I shook my head and sighed. "Luna, you are certainly losing it," I mumbled, chuckling to myself. I looked back into the stars. They were still whispering.
I was annoyed that I couldn't understand them.
I stuck out my bottom lip and my eyes shifted to the courtyard a few miles below my balcony. The sparkling, bubbling water fountain with a magnificent mare alicorn in the center, was in the middle of the beautiful garden, surrounded by comfortable wooden benches that my sister and I liked to doze off on when we were fillies. I smiled faintly at the memory and closed my eyes, trying to see my sister's smile.
My mind was blank.
I opened them again, confused on why I couldn't recall the memory of her dazzling grin. I stared blankly at the benches until my mind finally registered what I was looking at. A dark shape, hunched over under an oak tree by the bench I was staring at, was sitting there casually. I snorted. "Who is that?" I whispered to myself. I lifted my hoof up and narrowed my eyes at the figure. I'll just wait and see what happens...if they make a move, so will I.
I watched them intently for a while, studying their every move. The moon was shining on the oak tree, and I realized, with an exciting jolt, that if I told the moon to move over to the left slightly, I could catch the figure in the moonlight and force them to reveal themselves. I licked my lips and began to channel my energy into my horn. "Moon, move left," I whispered. I began to chant the same three words over and over again, causing a purplish aura to surround the silver circle. "Yes, yes...." I encouraged the moon. My magic began to waver.
"C'mon...." I urged it on. I bit my lip and tried to hold on for as long as I could. To my relief, the moon moved ever so slightly to the left; causing it to cover some of the whispering stars. I released my magic flow and sighed with relief. I hung my head and caught my breath. While I was viciously trapped on the moon, I hadn't had time to practice my magic. My sister can raise the sun without effort. I, on the other hoof, have some catching up to do.
I hung my head over the balcony, and stared at the spot where the moonlight bathed the oak tree, and more importantly, the dark, suspicious figure. I squinted at the now-revealed silhouette, and I almost fell off the balcony when I realized who it was.
Gray body.
Short, red mane with orange tints.
A golden circle with flickering flames inside for a cutiemark.

Four years ago, a small, quiet colt came to my re-opened school: Luna's Academy for Talented Unicorns, and he asked for a spot. I remember being aghast. Nopony had ever came directly to me to ask for a spot; before my sister banished me to the moon, I never made contact with my students, except through letters. Of course, being new to this, I demanded him to show me his magic...quite rudely, if I may add.

"Excuse me, your majesty, but can I apply to your school?" He had asked, timidly.

I snorted.

"Have you gone through the audition process?" I demanded from him.

He shook his head, closing his eyes.

I guffawed.

"How could you possibly qualify for my school if you haven't had an audition?" I challenged.

He was silent.

"Be gone. You are wasting my time."

He had looked up at me with hard, stone cold eyes.

"Please, your majesty." He begged.

I had been intrigued by his craving for my knowledge, so I had decided to give him a chance.

"Show me what you can do, and maybe I'll reconsider."

Determination shined in his eyes as he looked up at me.

I loved that.

"Show me your magic."

He closed his eyes, and he bit his tongue. He began to channel his energy towards his horn, and a flaming red aura began to surround his amusing, tiny horn. I had smirked. What breathtaking magic could a little colt like this do? Maybe he'll lift a teacup or something, I had thought, entertained by his effort. I prepared to be unimpressed.
A flash.
A snapping noise.
And suddenly, the room was on fire.
Creatures, created by his fire, hopped up and down, across the flickering flames. Lions and tigers, dragons and manticores...they surrounded me, their bodies as radiantly hot as a volcano. I remember gasping for air. "Stop, stop!" I screamed over the roar of the fire, and I closed my eyes. The creatures were about to burn me...I was about to die....
I opened my eyes.
They were gone.
I caught my breath as CandleFlicker hung his head in shame and turned around, walking towards the exit.
"I'm sorry, Princess...I'll just leave."
He whipped his head around. There was certain disbelief in his eyes.
"Welcome, CandleFlicker. I am honored to call you my student."
He has been my star student ever since.

I was puzzled.
What was he doing in the palace grounds at 1:00am in the morning? Studying, perhaps? I loosened my eyes and pondered the reasons why he could be here at this hour. Maybe he was taking a midnight stroll? No, that can't be it. He never did that unless he had a test the next day. And as far as I knew, I hadn't assigned any tests tomorrow. I quirked my eyebrow. This doesn't make any sense. Why is he here?
He seemed to have his head stuffed in a thick text book. I rolled my eyes and smirked. Typical CandleFlicker, I thought, shaking my head. Studying on a Friday night. I laughed quietly to myself. In the courtyard, CandleFlicker turned the page and his head completely disappeared. I bit the inside of my lip and blinked. Maybe I should go inside, I suggested to myself. I looked down again and saw that the grass by the oak tree was rustling. I gasped.
I wanted to yell, "Watch out!"
But something told me to say silent.
I closed my eyes and bit my lip. I lowered my horn and channeled my energy into it, causing a purple aura to surround it and my ears. An earsplitting screech erupted from inside my mind, and I winced, thinking that the noise from my Super-Hearing spell had broken my eardrums. I paused, trying to hear the whispers of the stars. I sighed with relief once I realized that I could hear them...and more importantly, because they were enhanced. The spell had worked. Now I could hear, very clearly, what was happening in the courtyard.
Suddenly, an image appeared in my mind. I was staring at CandleFlicker, watching him read his colossal text book under the oak tree. The tall grass surrounding the outside of the courtyard was silent and unmoving, except for the patch nearest to CandleFlicker. My eyes widened. CandleFlicker didn't notice the leaves moving. Should I call out? No, I couldn't. It was very dangerous to temper with magic...especially magic where you entered somepony else's mind.
A shape emerged from the undergrowth, and the sudden movement finally caught CandleFlicker's attention. I felt reassured. He knew how to handle this. He slammed his book shut and leapt up, his muscles tense. "Who's there?" He called to the stranger. The stranger inched towards him, crouching down, as if ready to pounce. He growled and a red-flaming aura began to glow around his horn, lighting up the base of the oak tree.
The stranger stepped slowly into the moonlight.
It was a mare.
She had sparkling, blue eyes, a puffy, violet mane, and a light yellow body. She had a horn, just like CandleFlicker's, but hers looked weaker, more vulnerable than his. CandleFlicker stopped growling and stared, unamused, at her. His horn stopped glowing, and he snuck a glance over his shoulder to look at his text book. He glanced back at her, and she was smiling. Who was this mysterious mare? Did CandleFlicker know her?
"Very funny, AprilShimmer."
I exhaled a big breath. Good. He knows her.
The mare stuck out a horrendously fake pouty lip, and she stepped forward.
"Are you not happy to see me?" She asked, wiggling her shoulders and batting her ridiculous eyelashes.
He snarled and cocked his eyebrows.
"Not really." He answered simply.
The bodacious mare called AprilShimmer frowned.
"You're no fun, CandleFlicker," she snapped playfully at him, smirking.
CandleFlicker glanced over his shoulder and crossed his front right hoof over his left. He rolled his eyes and sighed, annoyed. "What do you want?" He demanded, scanning her up and down. She lifted her right hoof and bent it. "Well, SunnyMay and I were wondering if you'd like to go to SugarSprinkles's Ice Cream Palace with us," AprilShimmer explained breathlessly. CandleFlicker's expression softened. "Thanks, but no thanks. I have to study," he answered, his eyes drooping slightly. AprilShimmer growled. "You're NO fun, CandleFlicker!" AprilShimmer repeated, shouting. She turned on her hoof and disappeared into the tall grass that she had come through.
CandleFlicker stared at the place where she had been moments before with something different in his eyes.
Something like...longing.
But as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone.

I opened my eyes, and I looked down at the scene I had just observed through a bystander's eyes. CandleFlicker had not moved an inch. He was still staring at the place where AprilShimmer disappeared, but I couldn't see the glint in his eyes that I had observed while I was looking at the scene from inside a spell. I was bewildered.
He turned down an invite to study, even when I had given him no assignments? He passed an opportunity to 'hang out' with other ponies? Why, I had never seen anything like it. My students in the past would gladly take the offer to go to an ice cream parlor and put off their studies until a later date, CandleFlicker was the opposite. Even I, Princess Luna, would've been glad to take a break. I had never known CandleFlicker took his studies this seriously.
I needed someway to make him understand that studies weren't the most important thing in the universe. I needed to make him see that friends and family were the ponies that mattered most. He was blind to this, I now knew. I used to think he was flawless...but now I know. His flaw is that he doesn't understand...the importance of other ponies, and the effects that they can have on your life.
I used to have the same problems.
But my sister guided me to make me the pony I am today.
I need to do the same to Candle.
But how?