Poetry and Prose, Chapter 5: A Tale of Two Moons
In a time before the sun's descent; after its rise. In a time after the star's fall; before its ascent.
There was a playful moon.
Younger than the stars, younger than the sun; she lived loud; laughed openly; loved by all.
Having love and joy and wit, she also had a secret.
In her element, she sat; always with night at her back. Unseen by starlight; unseen by sunlight; a shadow, hidden by her own light.
Behind her smile, it cowered. Behind her love, it cried. Behind her solitude, it waited.
Then, struck by magic darker than night, shadow was severed from light.
From that pain a curse did rise; a nightmare wearing shadow's guise.
The light was bound, locked in dreams; while shadow aimed to cage its screams.
So it found itself a new light, banishing the curse from its sight.
In a time after the star's fall, before the sun's descent. So shadow and light did fight.
In a time before the star's accent, after the sun's rise. Did shadow and light, reunite.
Chrysalis circled the abandoned castle, her horn glowing like a beacon as she did. She had a gut feeling that Page and Sunset's dragon were in there, somewhere. However, she ignored the itch to investigate on her own, choosing to wait in the open for her children from Canterlot to arrive.
Good thing the forest is asleep. She thought as she landed atop one of the broken towers. If something had happened to them...
She knew if that were the case, Tell Tale and Sunset wouldn't hold it against her. Ponies were nice like that. But, she wouldn't be able to forgive herself for letting harm come to her friends' children. Realizing her mind was wandering towards sentimental thoughts, she shook her head, glaring at nothing in particular.
Still, how are those two still awake, when everyone else is asleep? Did they find some means of waking up, or did someone help them? Her brow then furrowed as she looked into the castle beneath her, seeing no sources of light.
In the eerie silence around her, she found herself noticing how warm the air was, finding it tolerable, instead of uncomfortably cool. She then let out a regretful sigh as her eyes took in the Everfree Forest, illuminated by the moon. This forest is scarred. By Luna's battle against her own sister, and our battle against my mother. And despite that, it sleeps. It's scarred, but it's still pony land. She thought as she rubbed her chin, The Equestrian desert is frigid at night; maybe it would be better to move the hive into the forest until we can return home...
As she considered her limited options, a glint of light caught her eye, pulling her from her thoughts as she saw a small glow coming towards her from above the forest. Briefly glancing to the south, Chrysalis left her perch to reunite with her kin.
Flying to the slightly buzzing cloud of changelings, a mother's pride swelled in her chest when she saw them flying in formation. Numbered just shy of two hundred, they all halted when she joined them, briefly bowing in unison, before her royal guards, and General Mantis lined up before her.
“We're here at you call, Your Highness.” Mantis began, “As you hoped, we've found something of note in Canterlot.” He stated, making Chrysalis nod her head.
“We found a small flock of griffins. They were asleep, and wouldn't respond to our attempts to wake them. They appeared to be a scouting party.”
“Tch, I should have guessed as much.” Chrysalis let out in annoyance.
“I didn't think we'd be the first race to look into this eternal night; Nightmare must have spread to the other races somehow.” Which explains why we haven't seen much of them...
“If the other races are asleep as well, doesn't that bode well for us?” Mantis asked, making Chrysalis raise an eyebrow before shaking her head.
“No, it doesn't. We rely on the Feeder's Well now, and if something were to happen to it-”
“But if the ponies, and the other fodder are asleep-”
“Mantis, while I value your opinion, I won't tolerate any belittling of the other races. Understand?”
“Yes; my apologies, Your Highness.” Mantis replied.
“As to them being asleep, yes, I suppose they are ripe for the taking.” Chrysalis then kneeled closer to her general, “But then we'd be making the same folly as Queen Amber did.”
“Just because the ponies, and the world it seems, is asleep, doesn't stop the clock from turning.”
“...I can see what you mean. My apologies.” Mantis finished, and Chrysalis resisted letting out a sigh as she contemplated this new information for a moment.
“Stand tall Mantis, there is work to be done.” Chrysalis stated, prompting the changeling to do just that.
“We're ready to carry out your orders, Your Highness!” He said confidently, the changelings behind him saluting in agreement.
“Glad to hear it. Now, I want the troops divided into seven squads. One shall immediately head out to Ponyville, looking after Luna's students. Signal immediately if the blue one wakes up. I also want four squads to return to the hive and aid in getting the hatchlings and workers here. Don't rush, and be mindful of the terrain. I also want one of those squads to join the others looking after the well.” She divvied out, getting a nod from her general.
“And the last two?”
“Here with me. I want one to search the castle, keep an eye out for a young dragon and filly, and inform me when they're found. Search discreetly.” Chrysalis added, before looking down to the castle behind her. “Mantis, I want your squad with me, there's something here I wish to look into, personally. Organize the squads, then meet me in the ravine.” She stated as she indicated the landmark.
“Yes, Your Highness!” Mantis replied, before turning to the changelings behind him. As he started giving out her orders, Chrysalis and her guards descended to the ravine, heading towards a cave that resided under the castle.
“My queen?” Bulwark, the largest of the guards, inquired. Chrysalis gave him a casual glance before nodding to where she was leading them.
“There's a tree under this castle, sacred to the ponies.” She began, before hesitating a moment, “When my mother claimed the Everfree, Luna rallied all of Equestria in order to protect it.” She then paused, looking to her company. “It's also important to us, as a number of its leaves were used to help make the Feeder's Well.” She explained, getting surprised looks from her usually passive guards.
"My queen," Bulwark began, "Is this where..." he began, feeling uncomfortable with finishing the question.
"Where my mother fell? No, not here. But, it is nearby." She replied coolly, her face a mask that didn't give away her feelings on the matter. Despite that, her guard felt it would be in poor tact to pursue the topic. So with that, silence fell over them as they went deeper into the cave, and as they got close to the cavern's end, their low-light vision started to fail them. Certain they were close, Chrysalis's horn glowed, lighting the end of the cavern in a caustic green light.
The tree stood tall before them; bark of silver and blue, nearly reaching the cavern's ceiling. Wrapped around the tree's base, spiraling up and twisting around its branches were many large black vines. The spiked plants were slack, asleep under the same spell as the forest. Taking this in, Chrysalis's brow furrowed, her horn glowing brighter as she took a hostile step forward.
“We're clearing these vines. I don't know how they got here, but they're not staying.” Chrysalis declared as Mantis and his squad arrived.
“Highness?” Mantis asked as he saw his queen start tearing the vines apart.
“Clear the vines. This tree is important.” She then looked to her children with a confident smile, “Equestria will be in our debt, all we need to do is a little gardening.” She explained. These vines, they're trouble! She thought as she tore more of the black weeds apart, They're made from magic, but not black magic; something older, and … strange. If Equestria wasn't asleep, what would this plant have done? She then clumped together the debris she'd cut off, directing the pile to her soldiers. “Gather the rubbish outside the cavern, once we're done, we're burning it.”
“Yes, Your Highness!” Her soldiers replied as they aided in the vine's removal. With her magic making quick work on the sleeping vines, it wasn't long before the tree was free. As Chrysalis started uprooting the vines, she took care not to harm the tree, and she paused momentarily when it started to give off a light blue glow.
Looking to the tree, she was surprised to see Luna's cutiemark, and that of her sister, Celestia, on the tree's base. Though this was her second time before the tree, she hadn't taken note of its markings the first time she'd discovered it, many years ago. Taking in its features anew, her eyes climbed the trunk, pausing when they fell upon the trunk's apex, where it split into five thick branches. The bark was scarred, as if a blast of fire had been burned upon that spot in ages past. She was under the impression that something used to be where the scar lay, but the damage was too great for her to learn more from it. Despite the scar, the tree seemed to radiate as the last of the vines were uprooted, making the changelings suddenly feel uncomfortable in its presence; as if they were trespassers on some sacred site.
“Highness, is it just me, or does the tree seem to be, awake?” Mantis asked, a hint of concern in his eyes as he looked to the tree.
“I believe you're right. The ponies will owe us greatly, especially when we free them from the Nightmare.” She stated as they started to leave the cave, “Let's get set up out here, there's a fire to be had.”
“So..." Trixie began several moments after their laughter died down, "Trixie couldn't help but notice that Shining Armor looks a little more chiseled than he does outside.” She said as she gave Sunset a coy smile, “Somepony must have been really lonely~, being in here all by herself.” She added, making her friend blush as she got on her hooves.
“I-I see what you're trying to do, and I'm not falling for it!” Sunset replied, “I wasn't that lonely” She added, getting a little chuckle from Trixie as the rain began to give way.
Trixie then paused for a moment, finding her hat crushed under a large piece of the castle, it was slathered in mud. She would have found that funny as well, if not for the fact that her magic couldn't free her hat, despite being in a dream. I still feel drained, and I think I can guess why... She thought as she glanced to Sunset, who was now distracting herself from Trixie, a slightly regretful look on her face as she eyed the damage she caused.
“So, feeling better? Ready to hear Trixie out?” She asked as she approached her friend, who gave a small nod.
“When that ... thing possessed me, it was different from Shadow Flare. It felt like a whole lot of voices were added to my head; I believed that they were all my voice.” She said as she lightly kicked the ground. She then let out a sigh before turning to Trixie, “Your story of me being trapped in the future is a lie, isn't it?”
“Of course that was a lie! Do you actually think Twilight would send Trixie to tell you something like that? She'd go herself for authenticity's sake!” She pointed out, earning a sour look from Sunset.
“Look, after being here alone for a week, I was eager to believe you.” She then looked to their battle-scarred surroundings, “Then, this is all a dream, isn't it?”
“Bingo!” Trixie exclaimed, then her eyes widened, “But Trixie is real!” She affirmed, getting a nod from Sunset.
“So this is it, 'By Shadow's Flare, dreams swallowed in Nightmare,' this is the crisis that re-empowers the Element of Laughter; your element.”
“While Trixie does love it when everything is about her, it's not just about her this time.” She stated as she contained a sheepish smile. Having all of this riding on one mare would be a bad choice! N-Not that Trixie isn't up for it. The blue mare thought to herself.
“What're the details? Do you have your element already? How is everypony? Where's Luna? Twilight? Cadance? How did you save me from-”
“S-Slow down Sunset-” Trixie replied as she put her hooves up defensively. “Trixie can't answer questions if you're too busy throwing them out!” She added, letting out an internal sigh. Right down to business then. She thought as she took a deep breath. “First, Trixie wants to point out that since this is a dream, our magic has no limits.” She stated firmly, making Sunset blink in confusion.
“Well, that does make sense.” Sunset replied, making Trixie's smile grow as she called on her magic, feeling as if an unseen weight was lifted from her shoulders as her limitations vanish.
Hah! Knew it! she thought as she effortlessly pulled her hat free of the rubble. She then reformed her cape from the tattered remnants of the cloth that had covered her statue, resulting in having a white cape again. Her magic picked up a particular note she'd written, and she brought it over, tucking it back under her hat. She then appraised her cape as she made the dirt and mud on it vanish. There, looks like it did before, but can it still protect me from Nightmare...? She wondered, before giving her attention to the damaged stone artifacts around her.
Debris started to float in her grasp as fragments blown off were pieced back together. Scorch marks were washed away as all the damage was undone before their eyes. All were repaired but one headache inducing statue, which Trixie had been unable to view with her own eyes. As her horn died down, her smile widened when she noticed that Sunset's jaw had dropped.
“They're just like new!” She let out, before turning to the blue mare, “Okay, I'll admit, that was impressive. Though, it makes me wonder. Were you holding back during our fight? Did you want to be crushed?” She asked, sounding confused and a little upset.
“That's the thing. When Trixie was in Cadance's dream, she could fly until she was close enough for Cadance to see her. The rest of Trixie's spells weren't affected.”
“You flew in Cadance's dream-” Sunset was about to ask.
“And here, Trixie's magic drained away when she convinced you that she needed help holding the 'portal' open.” She added, prompting Sunset to consider this information for a moment.
“So, your limitations are based on what the dreamer knows of you?”
“That's what Trixie thinks. So, Trixie is stronger in other ponies' dreams, but not in her friends' dreams.”
“Well, that's interesting...” Sunset said as she looked over the statues, seeing rubble from the blown apart castle still littering the area. She then closed her eyes, and her dream bent to her will; mud was replaced with grass, the hot air became cool and breezy and all the lingering traces of moisture disappeared. “Much better,” she said with a smile before turning back to her friend, “Now, how about telling me what's going on in Equestria.”
“Right right.” Trixie replied as she waved a dismissive hoof in the air. “Everypony in Equestria's been asleep for a little over a week, thanks to Nightmare. Trixie's here to wake you up so you can raise the sun to help weaken it. That thing that possessed you was Nightmare, or part of it. It's been night since it all began since everypony is asleep.” She quickly explained, then spoke up when she guessed Sunset's next question. “Celestia is probably trapped in a bad dream too, but Luna was, uh, absorbed by Nightmare. Shadow Flare said that she'll need to be ripped out of it.”
“Luna's been absorbed!?” Sunset replied as her brow darkened. “We go and free the Crystal Empire, then all this happens!" She let out in annoyance, before she blinked, "Wait, Flare's helping?" She asked, getting a nod from Trixie, "Well, at least we have that going for us.” She said as her mood brightened a small amount.
“She did show Trixie where your dream was. Though, Trixie isn't entirely sure if she can be trusted.”
“It's okay to trust her. I understand now what Celestia sees in her.” Sunset replied, getting a confused look from Trixie. “It's about what happened up north, which can wait for later." She said as she copied the dismissive gesture Trixie made earlier, making the blue mare raise an eyebrow at Sunset. "You mentioned Cadance's nightmare, did you also help Tell Tale's with his?” She asked, getting a surprised look from Trixie.
“How'd you guess?”
“I heard their voices, before I was freed from Nightmare.”
“Really?” Trixie asked, adopting a small smile as she nodded, “When Chrys sent Trixie into the Realm of Dreams, Tell Tale's dream was the closest.”
“Chrysalis is helping too?” Sunset asked, sounding surprised.
“Yep! Trixie's magic doesn't work while she's awake,” she admitted with a brief frown, “so Chrys is gonna dispel what's left of Nightmare's magic on you to wake you up. When she gets to you, that is.”
“And when will that be?”
“Not sure. Trixie needs to tell her first, and she's going to free Twilight from her nightmare before doing that. Chrys will have to follow the tracks north until she finds the train you're sleeping in, so it could take a few hours.” She said, making Sunset adopt a contemplative look.
“So, you're going to save Twilight first?”
“In that case, I'm going with you.” Sunset replied without a hint of hesitation, catching Trixie off guard.
“You're not gonna tell Trixie to help Twilight after telling Chrys to wake you up?” She asked, prompting Sunset to shake her head.
“I don't want her to be caught in a bad dream any more than you do. If you go alone, you'll be hard pressed to defeat Nightmare. Twilight was always better at handling your tricks than I.” Sunset stated as she glanced to the side, “You could use the help. You said that Equestria's been asleep for a week, I think it can manage just fine for another thirty minutes.” She finished, not sounding as convinced as she wanted to be.
“Chrys will be mad that we went for Twilight first.” Trixie pointed out in a slightly teasing tone.
“She doesn't need to know." Sunset curtly replied. "Though ... I'm not sure what Luna would think about me putting Twilight first, but-”
“Trixie isn't gonna have any of that.” She interjected, throwing a glob of mud at Sunset's face, who caught the mess before it collided.
“W-What was that for?”
“Trixie was going to go to Twilight's first anyway. If anypony is gonna be mad, it'll be Trixie they'll be mad at, not Sunset.” Trixie firmly stated, giving her friend a determined look.
“Trixie-” Sunset began as her brow furrowed.
“I said none of that!” Trixie emphasized as she took a resolute step forward, surprising her friend. “Sunset, I want you to come with me. But not if it's gonna make you all blame-taking later on.” She stated, before offering her hoof to Sunset. “Come on; let's go save our best friend, 'kay?” She asked, and Sunset looked from Trixie's hoof to her face, before letting out a sigh, shaking her head.
“You will be hearing more about this later. But, only you.” Sunset said as she grabbed Trixie's hoof.
“Trixie's fine with that.” She replied with a smile, before gathering her magic. She then pictured Cadance's dream home as their destination, and in a flash, took Sunset outside of her dream.
Or not. Both mares wore confused expressions when they saw that had reappeared exactly where they started. A look of realization then dawned on Sunset's face as she looked to Trixie.
“...You can go outside, right?” She asked in an uncertain tone.
“Yes, Trixie's been outside before. Though, this is her first time trying to take somepony with her.” She admitted as she looked to the distance, trying to picture the dream's foggy border in her mind's eye. “Sunset, close your eyes, maybe it'll help.” She asked, getting a nod from her friend as she closed her eyes.
Grabbing her hoof again, Trixie tried to teleport them out of the dream, leaving the statues behind as they reached the dream's border. When Trixie took in their destination, the border was no longer readily apparent, as if it had fled from their presence. Now they were in some forest south of Canterlot, no closer to leaving than before.
“We're still inside, aren't we?” Sunset asked, sounding a little disappointed as she kept her eyes closed.
“Yes, but don't worry. Trixie knows there's a way, she just needs to find it.” She assured, seeing doubt show on Sunset's face, before the orange mare took a small breath.
“Well, if anypony can weave a spell to get us outside my dream, it'd be you. I'm sure you can do it.” She declared with a small smile, surprising Trixie.
“R-Right!” Trixie replied, a fire lighting in her chest as she closed her eyes too. Something is keeping me from taking Sunset out. Let's try something slower and see what's going on here... She thought as her horn glowed again, performing a slower teleport, in the process making her and Sunset disappear, but not quite reappear anywhere for several seconds.
We're in the Realm of Dreams. There's inside Sunset's dream, and outside the dream. Trying to take Sunset with me, feels just like trying to leave a completely enclosed space; a room with no exit. She thought as the spell ended, returning the two of them to the castle's ruins. If that's the case, then I need to make a door first! She affirmed to herself as Sunset stood quietly to her side, patiently waiting.
Find the border, then make a door. She thought as her horn flared, her pink aura glowing brightly as she mentally pictured the dreamspace outside. A large derailed train on a broken plain, dotted with cyclones, under a dark sky, and a moon on fire. She then grabbed on to how all of that felt. The emotions, the smell, the unsettling nature of it all, and lined the sensation up with how she felt in Sunset's dream; calm, determined, welcome and warm. She used those two separate images as a means to find the dream's border with her magic, a border where both sensations connected. Her brow furrowed in concentration, and she started to feel a light headache attempt to distract her focus. After several moments of searching, her magic found itself being pulled towards where she felt both feelings permeated, and she latched onto it.
There! She mentally shouted as her eyes opened up, her horn glowing brighter as she melded those two feelings into one, fabricating a doorway within the hidden border that bridged the gap. Through that doorway, Trixie could see the other side, and had a destination for her teleport. Sunset's dream wavered for a moment; Trixie's small headache flared sharply, almost making her lose focus as the doorway fluctuated. Sensing that she wouldn't be able to keep her concentration much longer, her horn flared once more as she shoved herself and Sunset through that passageway, and in a brilliant flash of pink light, they were both gone.
Shadow Flare's eyes widened as she felt something happen that was suppose to be impossible. She tore her eyes off of Nightmare, glancing to the northwest.
Trixie pulled Sunset outside of her dream!? How? Not even Luna or myself can do that! She wondered, her complete surprise reminding her of how she felt when Sunset broke free of her shadow snare. First Sunset's Element of Loyalty awakening, then the miracle Cadance wielded against Sombra, and now this! It's true that the Elements of Harmony can perform the impossible, but only with the Element of Magic to empower them-
Her eyes widened further, her mouth falling open as all the pertinent information she possessed lined together. Celestia's knowledge of the elements, the book written by Clover the Clever, and the miracles born from the bearers themselves all played through her mind in a sharp moment of clarity.
There is no bearer of magic; there will only be five Bearers of Harmony. One for the earth, one for the sky, and three for the heavens. The last bearer will be an earth pony with strong ties to their roots, and the Element of Magic will never be reformed, because- She was sharply interrupted when she felt her shadow tendrils quiver; something was entering the clouds she was hiding in, making her heart fall as she looked back to Nightmare.
The mass of red was flying towards her at an incredible speed; faster than she assumed it could move. She started to jump back; started to rally her shadows to form a shield; started to call on her magic. In an agonizing second, she saw that cloud come upon her, and before any of her actions could bear fruit, she was swallowed up by that wall of red, without so much as making a sound.
Both mares let out an indignant yelp as they appeared outside the dream, a meter in the air. Both of them shook their heads as they got on their hooves, both suffering from a light headache as they turned in unison to the bubble of fog behind them. With its owner no longer inside, the dream bubble fluctuated for a moment, before popping in a blinding flash of light.
As their vision returned, they saw in the bubble's place was Sunset's dream home; a house made of living trees, with pictures hanging from branches or woven into the bark. The trees had grown into their surroundings, the interior of the large train, and the plants were unmarred from the dreary dreamscape they were surrounded by. The ground became grassy, and there were a variety of flowers circling around the home. It was also fairly large, being the biggest dream home Trixie's seen yet, to her surprise. In the center of the floor, where the grass didn't grow, was Sunset's cutiemark, crystalline and shining red like the Element of Loyalty around her neck.
Jeeze, I mean, I know Sunset likes plants, but this is a bit much- Trixie thought, being interrupted when Sunset patted her on the shoulder, hard.
“Hah! Isn't Luna going to be surprised when we tell her!” Sunset exclaimed as she gave Trixie a beaming grin.
“Huh?” Trixie replied as she rubbed her head, feeling the headache fade away in the process, leaving a sense of light-headedness in its wake.
“One of Luna's lessons was about the Realm of Dreams, but it looks like you forgot that one too. Twilight asked if it was possible to do what you just did, and Luna said it wasn't.”
“Then, when you said you had faith in Trixie-”
“I was being honest.” Sunset quickly replied, “I knew that if anypony could do it, it would be you.” She assured, making Trixie adopt a fierce grin.
“Well, was there ever any doubt?” Trixie said with a confident stance, “Though, Trixie can see why Luna would say that, it wasn't all that easy to do.” She admitted, her eyes widening as she adopted a contemplative look. “Could Trixie do that again, and pull Twilight out of her dream, without having to deal with Nightmare?” She asked as she looked to her friend.
“Possibly ... but I think it would be better if we took care of Nightmare. We should be taking it down where we can, instead of running from it.” Sunset stated, making Trixie's shoulders slump slightly.
“Trixie has to reluctantly agree.” She replied as she looked over Sunset's portraits. “That aside, isn't this a bit much?” She asked as she indicated the dream home.
“What? I think it's perfect.” Sunset stated resolutely.
“She thinks 'it's perfect'. Maybe you should trade out your horn; you'd make a fine earth pony.” Trixie teased as she gave the portraits more of her attention. Okay, there's Tell Tale, and Page, still no Spike? Does this realm work differently for dragons? She wondered, seeing her portrait covered by a white cloth again. She then noticed that Twilight's portrait was now repaired, and that the broken frame of Luna's was looking a little better, but still a long ways to being fixed.
“Hah hah, very funny.” Sunset replied in monotone before moving towards Twilight's portrait. “Let's get going, we shouldn't keep everypony waiting.”
“Right!” Trixie replied as she moved to Sunset's side. She isn't gonna ask why my portrait's covered up? She wondered, before something caught her eye, making her grab Sunset before she entered Twilight's picture.
“What's up?” Sunset asked, following Trixie's surprised gaze towards a small portrait resting on a bookshelf.
Seeing it, Trixie could now place the feeling that she overlooked something when she left that pink pony's home; it was this portrait. In it was the mayor of Ponyville, giving a reassuring smile; her cutiemark being a single weakly glowing orange apple, made of crystal.
In the clouds above a broken palace, Nightmare stirred. The clouds it touched became darker than coal, letting no light escape as they became part of Nightmare's form. From there, the clouds started to spread out, a black blanket that closed off the moon's light from the land below.
The mass of red started to change shape, becoming a fine point attached to atop the mass of clouds. A mouth then formed underneath the red spine, letting out a laugh that shook the realm, making the land crack beneath as a chorus of voices cried out from Nightmare.
Without a shred of decency, the monstrous cloud spat out the mare it consumed. Stripped of her shadows, paralyzed by what she saw within, Shadow Flare fell limply to the earth. And all the while, the shadow in the sky laughed.