Luna raised her Moon. She gazed at it with a peculiar longing in her heart before turning away, falling into step with her sister.
“Going back to your perch?” Celestia asked.
“No. Thy most persistent student has persuaded me to spend time with her.”
The smug satisfaction in Celestia’s smile was impossible to miss.
“Thy smile betrays thee, sister. ‘Tis not becoming.”
Celestia ducked her head, blushing, a contrite look gracing her features.
“I’m sorry. I’ve been in control so long I’m not sure how to turn it off anymore.”
Celestia’s eyes glistened.
“I missed you, sister. Now you’re back, but you’re… different. Colder. Unhappy. I want you to be happy. How can I celebrate your return if you find only misery here? How long before you decide to go back and leave me again?” Celestia retained control, but her voice betrayed the extent of her emotions, at least to Luna.
Luna reached in and wrapped her forelegs around Celestia, pulling them together.
“Oh, my sister, my anchor, how couldst thou think I’d leave thee again?”
“You’re miserable,” Celestia said softly into Luna’s shoulder. “You spend all your time alone, staring at the Moon!”
“Peace, sister. Peace. I’ll not leave again, this I swear. Should it please thee, for thy sake I’ll try to befriend thy student. For thy sake I’ll… limit my… meditations.”
Celestia drew back.
“Good,” she said. “I think you two would be good for each other.”
The implications were clear.
“I mean it. You need to reconnect with ponies, and Twilight is as open and compassionate as you could ask for. Even if you just remain friends, I think it will be good for both of you.”
Luna released Celestia, and shook her head slowly.
Celestia smiled, her eyes twinkled.
“Go on. Don’t keep my most faithful and persistent student waiting. Good evening, Luna.”
“Good night, Celestia. Thy dreams be sweet and unmarred by the day.”
“Love you, Luna.”
“Love thee, sister.”
The pair separated, and Luna made her way to where Twilight would be found.
It was a simple common room, set back from the public areas of the castle, and accessible from both the pony sisters’ bedrooms. It might have surprised many who did not know Celestia that it was a plain room, furnished more for comfort than the need to impress. Of all the pony sisters’ flaws, and flaws they had, the desire for opulence had never been one. The room, instead, might kindly be referred to as ‘shabby’. The furniture was worn and old. Here was an endtable whose corners were worn smooth, though it was obviously cared for, oil having been carefully rubbed into every detail. There was a chair that was obviously, at least to Luna, Celestia’s favorite. Though the upholstery was frayed and the arms loose, Celestia’s essence clung to it like no other piece in the room.
And there, seated on a cushion positioned at a table, was Twilight Sparkle, a gentle smile on her face.
“So, Twilight Sparkle, what plans do you have for us?”
“Please, Luna, call me Twilight.”
“As you wish, Twilight. The question remains.”
“Well… I thought we could do something you wanted to do.”
Luna sat, her head drooping, and her shoulders slumped.
“Is… isn’t there anything you’d like to do?” Twilight asked.
Luna caught herself casting a glance out the window, searching for the Moon.
“N-no. I… I don’t know what to do,” she admitted.
It was the truth. After a thousand years, she couldn’t even remember what she liked to do.
Twilight’s eyes unfocused in thought.
“Well, then,” she said, her eyes returning to Luna, “We’ll just have to do something I like to do.”
The Canterlot Palace Library was home for Twilight like few other places.
“The library?” Luna asked.
“I love the library. I love libraries,” she said as they walked through the aisles. “The smell of the books, the knowledge locked away, waiting to be discovered, the peaceful stillness. I love libraries.”
Luna felt herself warming to the idea. It was a peaceful place where ponies were unlikely to impose upon her. Still….
“So, we are here to do what, research?”
“Oh, no. Don’t get me wrong, I love to do research, but tonight…” Twilight led them into an inobvious nook. “Tonight we read purely for pleasure.”
She sat, looking at the books fondly.
“The palace library is renowned for its vast stores of knowledge, but very few ponies know there’s actually a small fiction section,” Twilight told Luna. “I used to know the librarian quite well, from all the hours I spent here. He let me in on this little secret.”
Twilight levitated a book off the shelf.
“This one is one of my favorites. ‘Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone’. I’ve read it a dozen times, I think.”
Twilight offered the book to Luna.
“And what shall you read, Twilight?”
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll find something. The fiction section is small, but I’m pretty easy when it comes to books.”
Luna opened the book and leafed briefly through the pages.
She closed the book and set it down in front of her.
Twilight glanced over from where she was perusing the shelves.
“It doesn’t interest you?” she asked.
Luna closed her eyes and spoke just above a whisper. Twilight had to strain to hear her.
“Twilight Sparkle, there is little to read on the Moon.”
“Oh… you mean… you…”
“Not exactly,” Luna said. “I still remember, mostly, but I am out of practice, and the writing has… has changed. A thousand years is a long time.”
“Oh. Oh, Luna, I’m so sorry.”
Luna tensed, and opened her eyes.
“Do not pity me, Twilight Sparkle!”
Twilight stared back at her, wide eyed, and an open, earnest expression on her face.
“NO! No, I didn’t mean… I just… I was sharing something I love. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. I didn’t think…”
Luna stared at that earnest, worried face. Regret at her waspish response began to seep in.
She levitated the book over to Twilight.
“I have an idea. Read, Twilight. Read aloud. Let me hear the story.”
“Read… to you…?”
“You wanted to do something together. I’m sure I can find something in this library I can read easily, but then we would each be in our own minds. Share what you love, Twilight.”
“Well…” Twilight hesitated. “Okay, but maybe we should go back to the common room so we can be more comfortable. That means we should probably tell the librarian we’re borrowing the book.”
“Leave that to me,” Luna replied.
They wandered out to the main area of the library, only stopping by an administrative desk to leave a note.
“Um… Twilight…” Luna called, paper and quill held in her magic. “Would you mind…”
Luna offered the paper to Twilight, her cheeks colored.
“Huh? Oh, sure.” Twilight took the sheet, not quite sure what was being asked.
She looked at the note.
She couldn’t make heads nor tails of the carefully written script. Not only did she not recognize most of the words, there were letters she’d never actually seen in use, only read about.
“Oh. I’ll just write the note, then.”
Twilight scribbled a quick note under the unusual text.
“There. All set!” She set the note on the desk.
“One moment,” requested Luna. Her horn pulsed with magic. The paper rustled and jerked, as though being shaken or tortured. When it ceased, there was a glowing mark emblazoned on the bottom.
“Wow,” Twilight gasped, looking at the mark.
It was the shape of the Moon, appropriately enough, but there was a stylized hoof print in the center, and the whole mark glowed with an iridescent quality.
“That is my royal seal. It marks your words as my own, though not by my hoof.”
“It’s beautiful. How do you do that?”
Luna looked at Twilight.
“You would counterfeit a royal seal?”
“What?!? NO! I just… it’s beautiful, and such an interesting bit of magic. It would be wonderful to know.”
Luna looked into Twilight’s eyes, but saw only honesty.
She turned to leave the library and motioned for Twilight to follow.
“Even if you knew the spell, and could mimic the shape exactly, it would still show as false. It radiates with my essence. Perhaps I could show you how in the future. You could create a seal of your own. For now, we had plans for your book.”
“Daring Do, and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone. Chapter One. As Daring Do trekked through the tropical jungle…”
Luna adjusted herself on the cushion, listening to Twilight’s voice. She closed her eyes and stopped paying attention to the words, just listening to the rise and fall of her voice. This wasn’t so bad. It was almost like being alone. Twilight was so focused on her reading that Luna could probably slip away unnoticed.
The story was your standard adventurer’s fare. Luna thought the hero was a bit too clever, too strong for her liking. She never really seemed to be out of her depth. Regardless, the writing was strong, and the imagery evocative.
As she listened to Twilight’s voice, she considered the value of having a copy for herself to follow along and familiarize herself with contemporary writing.
There would be time enough for that later.
Luna continued to listed to Twilight’s voice. The room seemed to be so warm, and getting stuffier. The voice continued on, never ceasing. The tones became harsh to Luna’s ears.
Twilight stopped for a yawn. Luna pounced on the opportunity.
“It must be late for you, Twilight. It was most kind of you to stay up for me, but you should get your rest.”
“I… I suppose so. I guess I hadn’t realized how late it was.”
Twilight placed a nearby bookmark before closing the book and placing it on the end table by Celestia’s chair.
“I had fun, though. I’ve never really read to anyone else. Would you like to continue again tomorrow night?”
Luna considered. She wanted to decline, but she had promised…
“Yes. Tomorrow night, then.”
“Goodnight, Twilight Sparkle.”
Luna watched Twilight depart, and listened to the hoofsteps diminish down the hallway before rising. She took the door to her bedroom, went to the balcony, and launched herself into the air.
She alit on her usual perch, and stared at the Moon. The night air drained the heat from her too-warm skin, and the silence soothed her punished ears.
Luna stared at the Moon.
Luna raised the Moon. It was a simple act, and held a familiarity she’d almost forgotten in her absence. She gazed at it for a moment, judging her work, its light and weight.
Adequate, she decided. Not brilliant, not amateurish, but adequate.
Luna turned to leave, Celestia falling into step beside her.
“How is my most persistent student?” Celestia asked.
“Thou hast not spoken to her?”
“I’ve gotten a few notes, but I haven’t been able to spend real time with her. Not like you have.”
“She is… a most virtuous and forthright pony.”
“For now. Speaking of which, I’d like to peruse thy bookshelf.”
“My… bookshelf? Whatever for?”
“Now, sister, don’t be coy. I was once well versed with thy tastes. Thy student has been sharing her love of fiction, and I’m sure the story she’s been reading me has captured thine attention as well.”
“Of course, sister. I should know better than to expect judgment from you.”
Luna stopped, and nuzzled her sister.
“I fear my writing is overly antiquated. I’m hoping to use the books to learn what’s passed me by.”
Celestia returned the nuzzle.
“Anything for you, Luna.”
Luna walked into the common room, book in tow, to find Twilight waiting there.
“What do you have there, Luna?”
“It is Celestia’s copy of your book. I’d like to follow along to help learn modern writing.”
“Oh. That’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of that.” Twilight cocked her head in thought. “You speak very well, though,” she observed.
“When the walls of my prison weakened, I could stretch out my senses and hear the speech of ponies. I could not reach them, and I was wary of making myself known, but I could hear. In time, I understood.”
Luna felt unsure under Twilight’s gaze.
“Perhaps we should continue with the story.”
Twilight smiled and opened her book to the marked page. She started reading, her voice unsteady at first, but gaining strength as she absorbed herself in the story.
Luna listened as she made herself comfortable. Twilight’s voice was clear and sweet, a pleasure to listen to. It made the situation bearable. Luna closed her eyes and listened for a moment before opening her own copy. She flipped through the pages, looking for the appropriate spot in the story. Knowing the sounds of the words helped significantly. Though some letters had changed, and the words themselves. had morphed, the pronunciation of the familiar letters were still similar enough for Luna to sound them out. It was the missing letters, and the unfamiliar combinations that changed pronunciation on a whim that frustrated her.
Luna sighed. It would come in time, but for now it was like being a yearling again.
She did her best as Twilight continued.
Luna raised the Moon. She gazed at it a moment, unsure of what she felt about her work. She shook her head and turned.
Celestia sat watching her.
“More reading tonight?”
Luna shook her head.
“We finished the book last night. It’s just as well. I’m frustrated with my lack of progress and in need of a break. Twilight, too, needed some time apart to visit her friends in Ponyville.”
Celestia rose, and the pair walked into the palace.
“So what will you do now?”
“I am unsure.”
Luna followed Celestia down a hallway towards some of the more public areas of the palace. Hallways went from mostly deserted to populated to crowded. Luna frowned internally as she saw ponies skirting the walls to get by her, and watching her cautiously from the shadows. She felt empty.
She paused. It only took Celestia a few steps to notice.
Luna looked at her. She glanced at the ponies hiding in the shadows.
“They’ll come around, Luna. You just need to let them.”