Limping through the ancient riverbed, Luna hugged the wall of the deep earthen rut, as the shrill cries of frantic ponies echoed about. They fled in desperation throughout the town, frantically trying to escape them. At a disheartening pace, the princess trudged down the barren river where water once flowed freely. Now, it was nothing more than a memory, a hollow ditch that snaked about the town.
The distressed sounds of ponies created a tight knot deep in her stomach, sickening Luna. Her mouth twisted and grimaced at their pain. Frankly, she did not understand what was happening. Which is precisely the reason why I am here, she thought, stating her doubts. These ponies need my help.
Continuing her trek through the narrow trench, she squinted, narrowing her turquoise eyes against the sun’s rays. The harsh sunlight filtered past the wispy clouds in the sky above and struck her face, aggravating her headache. However, the rays soon faded into hues of violet and crimson, indicating dusk was on its way. She sighed in relief for the small comfort.
“How did this even start?” Luna asked herself quietly. “More importantly, what were those monsters?” She thought back to when she wandered the woods, enjoying the stillness of the enchanting forest. She reveled in the smell of maple leaves and evergreens, their earthy aroma relaxing, but her stroll amidst the trees was cut short. Four beasts jumped from the shadows, charging out from under the trees, their ferocious claws and teeth bared. They roared ferociously, lunging after the Princess like she was prey.
Startled, she had only thought of escaping, daring not to challenge such large creatures alone. Luna ran as fast as she could, weaving in and out of trees, flying through the underbrush. She tried to catch a glimpse of her pursuers, looking back into the thicket behind, but in that moment she injured her leg. Her hoof caught uneven ground sending her stumbling forward. The princess recovered from her slip, rising once more to evade her pursuers.
After what had seemed like an eternity of mindless running, Luna found the edge of the forest, coming across a grassy plain, her mind unnerved. Using the small reprieve to rest, she breathed in slowly and exhaled with a cough. Scanning the landscape, she spotted smoke rising from a village in the distance. The princess took flight, assuming the worst had befallen the town.
A resonant, deep howling pulled Luna back to the present. She rounded a bend in the riverbed, happening upon a section of partially collapsed bank that she thought was climbable. Peering over the edge, she scanned for potential dangers. Instead, three buildings, seemingly unharmed from the destruction, lay before her. “Perfect,” she thought aloud as she glanced about, double checking that no monster was eyeing her.
With a mighty flap of her wings, she lifted herself out of the riverbed and into the open, rushing to the nearest of the houses. Luna quickly opened the back door, which was surprisingly unlocked, and crossed carefully over the threshold into the lifeless room. Inside, she spotted sacks of flour slumped lazily on the floor and dinnerware laid out on the table, silent and untouched.
She scanned the kitchen for any clues that would indicate where the residents had run off to. “There is no sign of a struggle.” she whispered aloud, warily strolling across the wooden floors. “Perhaps they were able to escape and ran out the back ...”
Finding the stairs, she slowly made her way up. At the crook, she noticed the framed pictures that hung along the wall. They were photographs of three earth ponies, a tall chestnut colored stallion with a colt and a younger filly, each smiling enthusiastically back at Luna. Continuing up to the second floor, she found herself in a bright hallway.
Lit by the dazzling light of the fires, a skylight window poured a spectrum of eventide colors into the corridor. Luna turned the brass knob of the first door, but it was locked. “Hello?” she asked in a hushed tone, but there was no answer. She tried an identical door across the hall which opened with a small unexpected click.
She found herself in a bedroom fit for a filly. The lovely mellow pastel colors inviting her to enter the cozy little room. Lined with shelves of neatly placed stuffed animals of various sizes, it reminded her of her sister’s room when she was little. For a moment, Luna felt calm, even relaxed, as the pain of her headache finally subsided.
Exhaling deeply, she quietly strode over the carpeted floor and around the bed to the window. She parted the cotton curtains, and peered out. In silence, Luna watched as the chaos unfold below like a dramatic play.
One by one beasts chased ponies down like a predator would prey, forcefully herding them into the town square. Expressions of fright strew across every face as they gripped each other tightly, refusing to let go. Some pegasi dashed for the sky, but before they could even realize it, the monsters tackled them from the rooftops. “What in the name of Star Swirl’s beard is going on?” she gasped in a muffled voice, backing away from the window slowly.
Luna proceeded to sit on the bed to process what she just saw, and it responded with a squeak. She jumped quickly from the bed in surprise. Cautiously, the princess lifted up the frilly sheets revealing two ponies cowering in terror. The little sister wore a face of absolute terror, screaming loudly upon seeing the dark mare. Her older brother cried just as loud, sticking his hoof out as if to defend himself.
The mare quickly made a sign with her hooves to hush the children, but the sister continued to sob uncomfortably loud. Shaking her head vigorously, she put her hoof over the child’s mouth, muffling her screams, but the colt pulled his sister away into his grip.
“Go away!” the colt screamed, his voice raw and dry. He gripped his sister tighter and tried to shuffle away from the tall dark mare. Luna reached her hoof out toward the colt. “Shush! They will hear us!” Luna hissed, making the sister cry convulsively. Alarmed, she lowered her voice and urged them to come out of hiding. “Please, you have nothing to fear little one. I only wish to help you.”
“No!” He burst out “You’re evil! You’re the Mare in the Moon!” The words were laced with terror and accusation. Luna felt insulted, and there was no doubt they were attracting unwanted attention.
“You little foal!” She whispered angrily. “They will find us! Do you not understand? Your screams will only-” The sound of shattering glass erupted down stairs, their heads jerking towards the sound. The little filly let out a wild shriek, loud enough to make the blood run cold in Luna veins.
They’re inside! She thought as she reached for the door handle, fumbling in her haste to lock it. Luna backed away and dug her hooves into the thick carpeting, pointing her horn at the door. Her pulse rising, she braced herself.
There came a mad rush of roars from below, the same unholy hollering she experienced in the woods. Reaching the top of the stairs, they tumbled into the hall and barged through the door, splintering it into a thousand pieces. Crimson eyes stared hungrily at Luna who was ready to launch a barrage of magic.
But nothing came out. Before she even had the chance to register what just happened, one of them tackled her, knocking her to the floor with a loud thud. They are too strong! She thought, struggling against the sheer weight of the beast. Luna thrashed her hooves about trying to hit the creature, but its massive physique easily overpowered her. She could not break free much less move. The beast grinned slyly into her face, its drool dripping down onto her muzzle.
Disgusted, feeling the spittle run down her mouth, she shook her head about vigorously, ramming the beast in the eye with her horn. It howled in rage, giving her the chance to buck it off her. The filly screamed once more in response. In her brief moment of freedom, Luna was seized once more as a pair of the creatures grabbed her legs out from beneath her.
Violently yanked out out the door, Luna tried to grab something, anything to keep from being pulled, but her efforts were in vain. She barely had a moment, much to her horror, to see the wailing filly taken from her brother. The colt managed to strike out at the beast in retaliation, but he too was scooped up the monster. “Curse you! Leave them be!” Luna shrieked in desperation just before they dragged her madly through the hall and down the stairs. With a sickening crack, her head bashed against the steps, effectively blackening her out.
Luna's eyes slowly fluttered open. Nose in the dirt, she lied on her stomach in the middle of the village, herded along with its residents. She had only enough energy to lazily roll over on her back, her heavy laden legs flipping with her. She tried to stretch them out and move them, but only succeeded with meager results. Glancing to her side to investigate her grievous surroundings, she listened to the lamentation of others. It was heartbreaking and moreover to her disappointment, the siblings were nowhere in sight.
Her head pounded and throbbed in a nauseating rage. She ran a hoof along her forehead finding a large bump, wincing with pain as she gingerly poked at it. Much to her dismay, she also saw that her wings were in no condition to fly. They were a disheveled mess, and judging from the pain she experienced in her right wing, it was undoubtedly broken.
But what can I do? She closed her eyes, hoping that would help her in some way, but then she heard hoofsteps approaching her. Looking about, the princess located a tall and dark figure, stalking ever so closer.
Luna made no mistake in identifying this wretched creature. Dark battle armor, a coat as black as the shadow of twilight, and a sinister smile that made her skin crawl… It was Nightmare Moon. “B-But I don't understand. I’m Nightmare Moon! Or rather, I was.” The princess of the night stammered, her mouth barely getting the words out.
“There can only be one princess in Equestria!” the wicked mare howled. A resounding roar of stamping and beastly howls erupted from the creatures. “And that princess shall be me!”
Nightmare Moon brought her gaze down and glared maliciously into her other half’s eyes. “And you!” The wretched Mare snarled. “Did you really think I would sit idly by and watch you grow into the weak foal you have become?” she asked as a devilish grin widened across her face. “This time, the night will last forever and neither you nor Celestia cannot do anything about it!” With a roar of laughter, the Dark Mare’s hooves rose and fell, pounding away at Luna’s breast, knocking the air from her lungs. She screamed out in agony as blow after blow bruised her body and knocked her about like trash.
The wicked Mare of darkness laughed maniacally at the physically harassed princess. Luna lay gasping, sweat dripping down her face. The cowering villagers scuffled away, leaving her without help. She attempted to cast a spell to teleport away, but the magic in her remained dormant. Nothing happened, not even a fizzle. But why? Now of all times! she thought angrily, her hope quickly fading.
“Luna!” A familiar voice cried out in the distance, compelling Nightmare Moon to pause her cackling. Turning her head quickly, she spotted Celestia galloping hard towards her. Golden bursts of magic cleared a path for the Princess of the sun, blasting through creatures of darkness foolish enough to get in her way..
“Celes-tia?” Luna wheezed, the words barely leaving her mouth as she panted. She drew in sharp breaths as blood ran down her face, her beaten and bruised body too sore to respond with much else.. “No ...”
“Lunaaa!” Celestia cried again, desperation in her voice, tears of rage and sorrow flickering in her eyes. A beast jumped from the thatched roof of one of the houses, its body posed to pounce on the white mare. Without a second glance the Princess of the sun rounded on the beast, blasting it with a bolt of magic. Its limp body flying yards away in the opposite direction.
Even as every beast stupid enough to charge directly at the white mare fell, Nightmare Moon could only laugh. Brimming with dark magic, she charged her horn. The dark clouds that covered the starry night overhead broke, and the wicked mare smiled gleefully, much to Luna’s horror.
Nightmare Moon brought down the heavens and the sky fell about her. Bright balls of light came crashing down, shaking the earth with near-deafening explosions, rattling the ground below. The closest one, a burning ball of immense energy, hurtled straight for Celestia.
The Princess of the night clenched her jaws. Luna felt the tears welling up in her eyes. “No!” she gasped, her ability to speak returning. “Save yourself Tia!” Unyielding, Celestia continued her foolhardy charged, unafraid of the death from above. Please…
Luna was close enough to see the tears roll down her sister’s face as she mouthed just two words. “I’m sorry.” And in an instant, the white mare disappeared with a great flash. The princess of the night could not believe it.
“No!” Luna screamed, her eyes bursting wide open, bloodshot and sore. Tears streamed down her face as she searched frantically around the room, only to find a royal guard, his mouth agape. He held his spear in an aura of white light as if posed to attack.
Looking about the room to find no intruder, he holstered his weapon and walked over to the princess’s bed side. “Are you alright your highness?” the guard asked, genuine worry in his voice. “I heard screaming, so I assumed the worse and entered the room…”
Luna blinked as she sat up, her rapid breathing subsiding. “Yes… Yes, tis fine.” mumbled Luna, her voice low. Clutching her head, she glanced away from the light shining through the room. “No need to explain yourself captain.” She responded, still trying to calm herself down. “It was nothing. It was, just... a dream.”
Shimmering Might stood in the awkward silence between them, fighting the urge to fidget in his suit of armor. Iron wheels thumped heavily against the steel tracks, shaking the carriage as he waited earnestly for the princess to speak again. Luna just sat where she was, her body covered in a cold sweat, seemingly paralyzed and numb. By her bedside, a candlestick still laid smoking next to a vial of bitter liquid.
“Princess,” he started, clearing the lump out of his throat as he recalled his orders. “I was instructed to inform you that we will soon be arriving at the Seneighca settlement. The royal adviser, Kibitz, also ordered me to wake you from your nap."
“Thank you,” Luna said nodding slightly, still sitting motionless and still. “Tell Kibitz I won’t be long. You may return to your post now.” The pony saluted stiffly as he made his way back to the door, glad that he was finally excused.
“Oh and captain …” Luna called, looking down at her covers. The captain turned around, saluting stiffly. “Yes your highness?” he replied. Beneath the comforter, her hooves trembled. She desperately wished for them to stop, but they continued to shake uncontrollably. She shut her eyes tightly. “Tell not a soul what happened.” Luna muttered.
“Yes Ma’am.” Executing a perfect about face, he exited the room swiftly and Luna found herself alone once again. Lying back down on her soft feather pillow, she wanted nothing more than to huddle underneath her sheets. Frankly, she felt exhausted. “It feels like I haven't slept for days,” Luna thought aloud as she slowly rubbed the sand out of her eyes. “And that dream ...No, that nightmare seemed extraordinarily vivid.” Thinking about the ordeal made Luna cringe.
Rolling over on her stomach, she buried her face into the soft feather pillow and wrapped her arms around her shaking body. But it was just a dream ...right? The thought crossed Luna’s mind as she faded back into a calm slumber, letting reality slip away.
Lazily resting her head on her hoof, Luna stared listlessly out the window, as shaggy trees rushed by in a blur of tangerine oranges and vermillion. The sun shone high above the scenery, bathing her in a warm glow. Vast woodlands momentarily broke into a wide open field of wild grasses and various flowers whose earthy scents filled the cabin.
Their smell was intoxicatingly sweet to the senses, bringing a small grin to the princess's face. The train then reentered the endless mass of trees, refilling the room with the pleasant smell of sweet maples and white pines. Sighing, Luna shut her eyes, but a shudder from the train quickly shocked her back into the moment.
Striding over to the large burgundy chair in the center of the room, the Princess of the Night calmly took her seat. “Let us review who I will be meeting and why we are here Kibitz,” she instructed. The old bespectacled unicorn stood in the middle of the room donning his usual posh red jacket and gray undershirt.
“Very well your highness.” Clearing his throat, he began. “We are currently enroute the small settlement of ‘Seneighca’ near the north eastern border of our nation. The ponies there have invited you to their celebration of the harvest moon. This particular herd has long been isolated from the rest of Equestria, discovered only recently by an avid explorer. Since first contact they have been quite open with our nation, allowing us to introduce our technology, send a variety of advisers, and even allowing us to establish a school to teach Equestrian. From what I understand, a fair number, including the chief, have already skillfully mastered our language.” Calmly, he pressed his glasses back onto his muzzle.
“Quite impressive,” Luna added as she stroked her chin thoughtfully. “He is certainly dedicated, but what of their economy?” she asked, leaning back into the chair.
Moving down his ridiculously long piece of vellum, he found the appropriate section.“Their village specializes largely in lumber, subsistence farming, and miscellaneous small crafts. With the recent expansion of a railway to their village, they hope to receive tourists to grow their small economy. It seems that they are very open to the idea of modernizing, as it were, but Chief Askuwheteau has made it clear to our previous ambassadors that he is intent on preserving their traditional way of life.”
“Quite understandable.” Luna remarked, her eyes staring sternly at the elderly pony. “I want to make it clear to our delegates that we will not force any foreign ideas these ponies do not want. This shall be our policy. Is that clear Kibitz?” His head bobbed affirmatively, shaking his bifocals loose from his face. “Good.” she intoned, her voice firm and adamant. “And what of his family?”
“His only surviving family member is his daughter.” he continued, shifting his eyeglasses back into place. “I am happy to note that she will be marrying one of the young stallions on this auspicious celebration of the moon. And if I may Princess, I feel it is essential to inform you that many of these ponies, the chief included, think very highly of you and feel deeply honored to know that you are the one who raises the moon.” Kibitz mused, his eyebrows gleefully rising. “According to my sources, they think of you as some sort of … higher power.”
Her eyes lit up. “Oh?” Luna chimed, a look of amusement grew on her face. “I do appreciate the sentiment,” Luna nodded. “But I am a mere pony tasked with looking over our nation. My magic is a simple gift that aids me in my royal duties.”
“I agree your highness,” Kibitz agreed, happily grinning. He then casually took out his pocket watch, wrinkles of surprise appearing on his forehead. “Princess!” he blurted, hastily jabbing the watch into her face. “We have to cut this briefing short!”
With a long whistling hiss and bursts of steam, the train pulled into the small station. Luna, Kibitz, and two royal guards stepped out onto the platform, finding themselves face to face with a middle-aged, sinewy pony adorning a colorful headband.
“Princess Luna!” the Chief boomed, the feathers and beads of his headdress shifting with his words. “Your presence honors us!” Greeted the chief with a deep bow. “We humbly extend a warm welcome to you and your companions! Please accept this small offering.” Ponies bearing small gifts and wild flowers approached the princess as they laid their respective presents at her hooves.
Luna accepted all of them with a polite smile, thanking them for their generosity. In a whisper, she politely asked Captain Shimmering Might and Sergeant Silver Aegis to carry the numerous items to her room. “Thank you very much for the gifts, but they were certainly not necessary.”
“Not at all your highness.” explained the giant pony, shaking his head. “I am Chief Askuwheteau and it is a pleasure to finally meet you your highness. I apologize for not having a bigger welcoming ceremony for a princess of Equestria.” The chief let out a sigh, his tone dropping with a hint of uncertainty in his voice. “But our villagers are very busy with the preparations for the evening and we could fall behind schedule.”
“Tis perfectly fine,” she responded curtly. “I do not wish to detract ponies from their business, but I am also looking forward to the festivities and feast later this evening.” A glint of excitement appeared in her eyes as she thought of all the exotic sweets she heard about. “It is a rare chance for me to take a break from my duties and indulge in such activities, but I thought it necessary that I finally meet with you in person.”
“I am very glad to finally meet you as well Princess Luna. I hope that both our parties may benefit mutually from your visit. You are welcome of course to stay for my daughter’s wedding as well. I know this will put a strain on your valuable time, but attending such a special occasion would be most appreciated,” encouraged the Chief. He motioned toward the young stallion waiting patiently at his side.
“Come! I want you to meet Matunaagd! He will be showing you around the village because, I am sorry to say, I am needed elsewhere. Please excuse me Princess Luna.” Nodding, she watched as the chief bowed once more before departing, his entourage following closely after him.
“Welcome to our village your highness,” the pony began with a curt bow. “I have observed that our native language is very foreign to your mouths, so I will be your translator for the day.” A slight expression of surprise appeared on Luna’s face. How convenient, she thought as she studied the chestnut colored pony. “You may just call me Mat Princess Luna.”
“I appreciate such thoughtfulness, and you can just call me Luna young Mat.” She told him, pointing to her chest. “I may be a princess, but I am a pony just like yourself.” He wore a puzzled expression and his brows furrowed trying to understand it. “Really Mat, it is quite alright.” She reassured him, and with an unconvinced nod, he quietly conceded.
The Equestrian diplomats followed Mat around the village, touring several of the sites found around Seneighca. From the buildings to the ponies, the stallion explained each of their respective functions and roles with great detail and pride. Much to the amusement of Luna, Kibitz fervently took note of all the information on sheets of parchments, reminding her of a young Twilight.
Walking around the village, Luna could not help but admire the beautifully constructed wooden houses and workshops decorated with intricate pictograms and symbols. But less than the buildings, she admired the ponies. “How many ponies live in this village Mat?” Luna asked casually as she stared at the many ponies busy in their open-air kitchens and shops. He hummed, thinking carefully. “There are exactly 286 ponies living in Seneighca Prin… L-Luna.” Mat stuttered, stumbling over his words. “Most of them are preparing or setting out food on that long table over there.”
A distance aways, several ponies were laying out all the prepared dishes… and desserts! “How wonderful!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. Mat jumped, startled by the sudden outburst, but Kibitz just shook his head and sighed. He knew full well what she was thinking about. “I mean ...how wonderful it is to have such a bountiful feast!” She said sheepishly.
Quickly forgetting her moment of embarrassment, Luna let Mat continue with the tour. Taking in the sights, she observed a detail about their clothing culture, or rather, their lack there of. Naturally this is quite normal for ponies, but Mat explained that headbands they wore are a symbol of community rank. Craftsponies and other work leaders sported a headband of only a couple feathers, but ponies like himself and Chief Askuwheteau adorned many, making for a beautiful display of fashion and authority.
Trotting along, the royal advisor asked a question. “Mister Mat, I noticed something.” Kibitz began, an expression of surprise on his face. “Your village has quite a lot of earth ponies. How do you cope?” Mat tried to form the words in his mouth. “K-Kope?” he asked. The elderly pony looked up from his notes. “I am asking, is this a problem?”
Mat’s response was immediate. “Oh no! Of course not. We cope fine. Our tasks do not need unicorn or pegasus magic because we have no use for it. Most of the time we just produce food and build things out of trees.” he answered happily. “Our life here is quite simple.”
Luna had made the same observation as well. Their life was indeed simple and peaceful. The ponies had a cheerful air about them and those that did pause from their work greeted her with kindness. The children were also quite playful. Mat was explaining how they are excused from work when suddenly a group of them approached Luna much to her delight.
“Wow ...” a little filly gawked, staring at the large pony. “She has wings and a horn! That’s so cool!” Luna was taken aback by the child’s fluency. Two other colts accompanied the filly who also stared at the foreigner. “She’s black like a chìgàwesì!” one shouted. “And she has a moon on her butt!” the other exclaimed. The children all broke out laughing, pointing at her backside. The princess flushed red in embarrassment.
Mat gasped. “Luna! I am so sorry!” he apologized immediately. The stallion glared at the filly and two colts. “You children! That is no way to speak to a princess! Where are your mothers? I will-” Luna cut in. “No Mat. It is quite alright. Let me handle this.”
Lowering her head to the ground, she grinned at the foals who were still recovering from their laughter. “He is right you know. It is not right to laugh at other’s Cutie Marks. Do you know why?” They shook their heads in reply. “It’s because …” Luna flashed a wicked smile bearing sharp teeth. “They might be the Mare in the Moon!” She jumped up and laughed maniacally, making the children shriek in amusement and horror. Soon, Luna was laughing and giggling with them, leaving Mat befuddled. After Luna seemingly laughed herself out, he sternly suggested that they play somewhere else. Just before running off, the children waved goodbye to the Equestrian princess.
Minutes later, Mat’s tour group passed by a group of basket weavers who sat on the grass, casually chatting in their language as they worked. “We had no knowledge of the stone you call ceramic before Equestrian contact” he explained. “The fibers in that special kind of reed they are using are really firm. It is strong enough for us to carry items or to use it as a bowl.” Kibitz quickly dipped his quill in an ink bottle, scribbling away, copying down the information in his notes.
Some of the younger mares in the circle stole shy glances at Luna’s guard as they walked by, and their childish giggles brought the attention of the young Sergeant Aegis. He winked their way making them blush, but Captain Shimmering Might rewarded him with a slap to the head. Much to his embarrassment, the mares laughed. “Sorry Cap’n.” he mumbled, massaging his head.
According to Mat, their tour was soon coming to an end and that he saved the best part for last. “It has certainly been interesting so far Mat,” Luna commented and he simply smiled in reply. She truly enjoyed the feel of the grass beneath her feet and fresh air in her lungs as she followed him. Maybe I had that nightmare because I was stuck inside that cramped train too long.
For the final part of the tour, the group drew near what seemed to be a small makeshift arena. Inside, a few stallions fashioning dangerous and exotic looking weapons of wood and iron. “What are they doing?” Luna gasped, her eyes widening.
“Please do not worry princess, this is merely a dance,” explained Mat, calmly walking over to the stallions. “These ponies have taken a break to perform for you.” Luna could not find the words to describe her mild surprise, but Kibitz quickly spoke up. “Could you please explain further Mister Mat?”
Mat took a breath and began. “Like Ponykind, we are not violent by nature. According to my elders, in the past, we had to fight off many wild beasts of the forest with weapons in order to keep our families safe. We never had any skilled unicorns born into our tribe so we had to make use of what was available to us.” Luna’s eyebrows rose. “Oh, that’s quite interesting” she mentioned. “So you actually fought to defend yourselves?”
“Yes, we had fought strictly in defense, but now that the beasts have since disappeared. We now keep our fighting tradition alive through dance! We are very careful not to hurt others, and it is a great honor for any stallion to participate.” He stated, pointing to the performers who simply nodded their head. “As its current overseer, I take great pride in teaching and participating in the dances.”
“Interesting …” Kibitz replied as he quickly scribbled a note down. “May we see a demonstration?” Mat signaled them to start. “Of course.”
Luna stared at the red-painted stallions brandishing their intimidating weapons, exaggerating every movement they made fighting each other. Accompanied by the beat of drums, they danced to its rhythm, moving rapidly as the song progressed. She felt herself slowly lean forward, letting the music entrance her.
The drums started to beat faster and faster, and the stallions moved in surprising synchronicity with the relentless thundering. Every swing of their weapon and kick of their hooves expertly matched the fierce beat of the percussion, culminating into an almost constant roar. The ponies moved in a blur of motion, but with a final bang of the war drums, the performers suddenly froze in their poses, panting heavily. The tour group was speechless, their mouths on the floor.
The young colts who sat in the stands clapped their hooves enthusiastically and so did Luna. Even Kibitz and the two guard ponies stomped their hooves with zeal. “That was incredible!” the princess proclaimed, bringing a hoof up to whistle. “Yes! It was most pleasing!”
The stallions all bowed as Mat congratulated them on a good performance. “I am quite impressed to see that your community managed to keep such traditional performances alive.” Luna mused, still clapping her hooves. “I dare say that much of our old culture in Equestria has been lost through time.”
Mat only smiled at the princess. “Come, let us take a break.” he said, leading the group away from the arena. “I am sure you all are a bit winded from the walking and excitement.”
The small group of ponies spent the next half hour chatting and enjoying a smooth, comforting local tea only found only around Seneighca. Kibitz was the most talkative of the bunch, asking Mat to clarify the many observations he made. “How does one become a chief? Do you vote? Oh! And what are your views on sexuality?” he questioned. Mat, however, sat their dumbstruck, and Luna just frowned. “Kibitz!” She scolded, sticking a hoof out to stop him. “Please! Such questions can be asked later! Have you no respect?”
Kibitz sulked, “Fine,” he responded, rolling up the long stretch of parchment he had written on. “If that is what you really wish you highness, but I am simply doing my royal duty.” The princess rolled her eyes. “Please ignore him Mat.” She insisted. “Kibitz is quite reliable, but he has a habit of going … overboard sometimes.” The stallion just nodded. “It is fine Luna. I understand.” he replied.
“Now tell me,” she began, scooting closer to Mat. “Who is this mare you are marrying?” The chestnut colored stallion turned slightly red, his face heating up. “Oh, well you see…” he explained, lightly itching his cheek as he spoke. “Her name is Aloomse and we have been together for many moons ...” The princess of the night urged him to go on, a wide grin on her face. “Well, I’ve known her for a long time, ever since we were just foals actually. She’s really beautiful and I love her so much. She is just really dear to me.”
Luna sighed, tilting her said to the side. How romantic ...I wonder if a stallion would ever feel the same way toward me one day. She giggled. Perhaps I am just too old.
“So, where is she now,” she asked the pony who was still red as a beet. “You have yet to introduce her to us, and why are you two not preparing for the wedding? ” Catching himself before he fell into a daydream, Mat explained. “She’s with the food gathering team and the reason why we are not getting ready is because there is nothing to prepare apart from the food. It is just a simple ceremony Luna, and I have not introduced you to her yet because it is considered bad luck if I see her the day of the wedding.”
“I see,” Luna nodded understandingly. “I look forward to the moment I finally meet her. I am sure she is just the type of mare you described. To be honest, I am a bit envious of you.” She twiddled her hooves together, blushing pink. “Do no worry Luna!” Mat spoke up, putting his hoof on her shoulder. “You are a princess. How can no one like you?”
Luna’s small grin turned into a frown. “Oh, it is just I have done some things I regret Mat.” He looked upon her with concern as she let out a deep sigh. “It is like some ponies cannot look past what had happened, and I am sorry to say that I cannot blame them. The old me was truly horrible …” She looked down, thinking about her grievous nightmare, and even Kibitz sour attitude was swayed into sympathy. Sometimes he forgot who he worked with.
“Luna, look at me.” Mat pleaded. She looked up at him with sullen eyes. “Do not let such things sadden you. In time, ponies will understand and learn who you really are, just as we are slowly learning what Equestria is to us. I do not believe you are a bad pony Luna. I just know it.” She grinned a little. “Thanks Mat.” she breathed. The chestnut stallion rose. “Now please Luna, let us go to the stage. It is just about time for the celebration to begin!”
Villagers from around the town flocked hastily to the small makeshift stage, brimming with excitement. Accordingly, Luna and her group made their way to the stairs off to the side of the wooden platform, where they stood waiting for the chief begin. After judging that the village had finally amassed in full, he began.
“Gather round, gather round everypony!” boomed the chief in his native tongue, spreading his forelegs wide. Interpreting his words as best he could, Mat translated. “We are gathered here today, to celebrate the harvest moon that our herd has so long regarded as the most important of the full moons!” The ponies stamped and howled with excitement. Some even banged on drums and other instruments with elation. Raising just his hoof, he hushed the crowd.
“Today, we have an important guest whom I am sure many of you have seen wandering around the village with young Matunaagd. She has come all the way from Canterlot! A large and rich city far to the southeast. Please welcome, Princess Luna!” Beckoning her to come on stage and with the audience cheering her on, the princess of the night stepped onto the platform bowing and smiling.
Miles away in Canterlot Castle, Princess Celestia drove the sun underneath the horizon, hiding the sun away so that the stars may shine bright. Walking up to the front of the stage, Luna gracefully rose in the air as the audience oohed and aahed as she spread her wings. Alright! You can do this!
She felt the funny spark of magic light up inside her body. Luna felt it grow into an incredible sensation, manifesting itself through her horn in a dark purple aura. Carefully she guided the moon high into the starry sky. Its warm light shone as bright as a ruby flame across the land, bringing light to the cold darkness and showering the audience with a rosy glow.
The villagers erupted in cheer and glee as they bathed in the light tint of cerise pink, bringing a warm smile to Luna’s face. She glanced at the chief who mouthed a “wow” at her and she simply grinned his way. Softly landing back down on the stage, she bowed deeply, and another round of enthusiastic hoof stomping erupted to applaud her magical performance. “Thank you very much!” the Equestrian princess yelled, waving back at the sea of ponies. “Thank you Chief Askuwheteau and thank you Seneighca!” The hurrahs slowly died down as she walked off the stage and as the Chief tried to calm his tribe.
“Thank you Princess Luna!” the chief bellowed, himself still stamping his hooves. “Thank you very much for raising the moon this night and for every other night! I also would like to thank every family for their hard work these past few months! Very soon we will enjoy the fruit that all your efforts have bore. You all should be proud!” Another clanging of instruments and cheer burst from the audience, and just as they quieted down, the chief brought his voice low into a deep reverberating bass.
“As many of you know, the harvest has special meaning to us. It marks the time when we must stockpile our food to get us through the cold winters that our pegasi bring to our village. Yet, it is also a time where we must think of our family and loved ones. On this glorious night, we will also be celebrat-”
“CHIEF! Chief Askuwheteau!” screamed a mare running frantically onto the stage almost tripping up the steps. “Your daughter…” Mat stopped translating. His eyes grew wide with worry, and Luna felt a knot forming her stomach.
“What about my daughter? Where is Alsoomse?” the chief demanded.
“I don’t know! These ...these monsters took her! Both of us were making our final trip to the river for water when she …” the mare sobbed, choking on her words. “She’s gone! I don’t know where! I just don’t-” A sharp scream pierced the air, echoing in the wind.