Luna had always disliked spring - not that there was anything wrong with spring itself, of course. She knew it was vital to have warmer weather, so that the ponies of Equestria could grow their crops once more. She merely disliked it because it meant the loss of the snow she enjoyed so much. To make matters worse, Canterlot had always been cleaned up thanks to the use of magic. What would normally take days or possibly weeks, simply took hours instead. The Princess had instead decided to occupy herself with her drawing - at the very least, the loss of winter and the beginning of spring had brought about some new subject material. There was only so much one could draw of winter before it all began to look the same.
She took a seat upon the grass of the training yard, sketching the landscape before her. Though it would likely look the same structurally, given that she had drawn this same exact landscape before, it would certainly be much more lively and colorful. The whites would be replaced with greens, and the gray skies replaced by blue ones. A few ponies, still in the midst of finishing off the winter clean-up, would sometimes stop and watch her work - Luna was certainly aware of them, but simply paid no attention to them.
"Princess Luna, are you taking notes on my men?"
She recognized the voice - it was the drill instructor. The Princess set the pencil down and looked him straight in the eye. "We've been over this already, sir. Unless I specifically tell you I'm running inspections, you are to assume that I'm not."
"With all due respect, your Majesty..." The grizzled old stallion eyed her in return. "I was asking if you were taking notes on my men, not if you were running inspections."
Luna was growing increasingly annoyed at this point. She had come out here because it gave her the perfect environment for her artistic work, not so she could 'take notes' on stallions. The Princess stood up and, despite being smaller than her elder sister, proved that she was certainly taller than the drill instructor. She scowled at him, and already he began to visibly shrink in her presence - she was so very tempted to bust out the Royal Canterlot Voice on him, but knew better than to do such a thing. "Did you take me to be some young mare, harboring secret crushes and taking notes about them in their very midst?"
"Well, n-no your Majesty, but-"
"Am I not allowed to go where I please within Canterlot? I seem to recall that myself and my sister both ruled it, but perhaps I'm wrong, drill instructor. Care to correct me?"
"I didn't mean to offend, y-your Majesty-" He was certainly beginning to regret raising the issue, but Luna wasn't done yet. She wanted to make sure he understood.
"Contrary to what you may believe, drill instructor, my activities within the training yard are not entirely dependent upon you and your men - that applies to other ponies as well, not just myself. You may think of this as 'your' training yard, but this is the closest Canterlot has to a park, and it belongs to every citizen of Equestria. If I so much as hear a peep that you've been harassing other ponies about interfering with 'your' training yard, I'll have you out of a job and out of Canterlot faster than you can blink. Do I make myself clear?"
The drill instructor nodded feebly and quietly left to run some more drills. A few of the guardsmen simply stood in awe at what had just happened - Celestia and Luna were both fairly laid-back, but to incur their wrath was often a tremendous mistake, and one rarely repeated afterwards. The young Princess, however, was quite pleased with herself, and returned to her drawing. After what had just happened, it was likely none of the other guardsmen would be willing to disturb her for the rest of the day.
Not surprisingly, they didn't.
She was beginning to get very tired of this dream nonsense. Luna had the feeling she had managed to doze off in the middle of the training field, and she certainly couldn't force herself awake - the dream usually did that for her. She sighed and took a seat on... whatever it was the ground was made of in dreams. "Alright, let's get this over with."
As if on command, the six dream mares appeared before her. "Greetings, young Luna."
The Princess was surprised, at first - not from being called by name, they had done that before. She was surprised that the first thing they had said to her had nothing to do with the prophecy at all, nor did it involve any other part of the riddle. After all this time, now they decided to act like this? "What, no mention of the prophecy? No cryptic messages or riddles?"
The answer was simple enough: "No".
"Well... why? Why now?" Luna had an awful lot of questions to ask, but it was best to keep it simple.
"Because you have accepted things as they are, and you have shown you are willing to act, no matter how reluctant you may be."
"And... what is it I've even done? You say I've been 'willing to act', but I haven't done anything. I've just waited."
Luna simply blinked, not sure what to make of it. The dream version of Twilight Sparkle, for the first time, stared at Luna rather than through her. "Your willingness to be patient has been the deciding factor. Tell us, Princess Luna - the being you know as Night Mare Moon, what was she like?"
She shuddered as she thought of that wretched creature. "Night Mare Moon was me, but at the same time... she wasn't."
"Explain?" Luna hesitated - it was a topic she was uncomfortable thinking about, let alone talking about, yet it felt necessary that she discuss it. "Well... over a thousand years ago, I grew jealous of my sister. I let my envy and anger get the better of me, and I did things I shouldn't have - forbidden magic is usually forbidden for a reason."
All six dream mares were staring at her at this point. It wasn't nearly as unnerving as when they had stared through her, but she still didn't feel too comfortable around them. "Continue."
The Princess sighed and reluctantly finished her tale. "After I used the magic, Night Mare Moon sorta... took over. The real me got buried underneath it all."
"Good." One of the figures, a yellow mare, approached her and began to speak, though she sounded exactly like the dream version of Twilight. "Now you know the full meaning of the prophecy."
"I... no, you don't understand. The prophecy is about Night Mare Moon's return."
"Is it, young Princess? Ponder it well, for this shall be the last you see of us."
Luna woke up with a gasp, though she wasn't sweating or shaking at all. She had fallen asleep on the training field after all, and it was already the middle of the night. The Princess looked over at her drawing and sighed - the paper had become a soggy mess from all the dew. Slowly, she gathered up her pencils and crayons and disposed of the drawing.
"I'll try again another time."
The drawing had been postponed for several days at this point. With her this close to finally solving everything having to do with her dreams, Luna wasn't about to let her hobbies get in the way. She already had a quill and parchment on her desk, and was in the midst of compiling a list of what they had figured out already.
1. The mares within the dream are the Elements of Harmony.
2. The constellation from the other dream is Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark.
3. The prophecy has significant importance, and apparently has a deeper meaning than originally thought.
The Princess idly tapped the quill against her chin as she thought over it all. "I've still gotta look inwards for the answer, but that could mean any number of things." Luna gazed out the window of her room briefly before closing her eyes and concentrating upon her thoughts. She thought back to her latest dream, and slowly but surely, the wheels in her head began to turn. Time and time again, the same line became more and more prominent: "Night Mare Moon was me, but at the same time... she wasn't". It was just like with the dreams - she knew it was important for some reason, but she didn't know why.
"C'mon, Luna. Think. Think!"
She wrote it down, hoping it would help her out. Night Mare Moon was me, but at the same time, she wasn't. Something about it seemed... wrong, however, and she wrote it again. Night Mare Moon was me. Luna stared at it a bit longer, and finally, it 'clicked'. This was it - this was the key to it all. Her discovery had set something off within her. Frantically, with her eyes wide and her hooves shaking, she grabbed another piece of paper and began to quickly write on it.
Night Mare Moon was me.
Night Mare Moon was me.
Night Mare Moon was me.
She laughed, unable to believe that the answer had been in front of her all along. Quickly, she tossed it aside and grabbed another sheet, easing the shaking as best she could while she wrote. She was still reeling from her revelation - she simply had to share it now.
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
I did it. I figured it out. The answer was in front of us the whole time! 'The stars will aid in her escape' - it's not about Night Mare Moon. It's about me. I know it's hard to believe, and even I'm having trouble believing it, but all of it just feels so right. It has to be right!
Think of it like this. The line about 'the stars' doesn't refer to actual stars. It's about you and your friends. Your own cutie mark was the clue, as well as the presence of the Elements of Harmony within the dream. The line about 'her escape' isn't about Night Mare Moon escaping from the moon. It's about me escaping from Night Mare Moon.
'The stars will aid in her escape' - there's two meanings, one literal and the other buried much deeper below that. While the stars, quite literally, aided in Night Mare Moon's escape, you and your friends aided in mine. One meaning foretold of Night Mare Moon's return, the other foretold of my redemption.
I need to stop writing now. I'm shaking too badly from all this, that's how excited I am over it. I'm just glad we finally solved it.
Reply when you can.
Luna carefully set the quill aside and folded the letter up as best she could - the shaking was even managing to interfere with her magic. She succeeded however, and stumbled off towards the bathroom, desperate for a splash of cold water to calm herself down. Even after turning on the water and splashing her face numerous times, she simply couldn't help but laugh - all these months, and the answer had been in front of her the entire time! The shaking had already subsided, yet Luna simply sat there, still giggling over the turn of events. She was positively giddy, and found herself talking to her toys again, explaining her discovery to Philomena and Selene in great detail.
Slowly, Luna felt herself come back down, and she sighed and rubbed her face as she contemplated the turn of events. She certainly hadn't expected the prophecy to be about herself, that's for certain. If anything, the Princess suddenly felt a need for normalcy. She slowly made her way back to her desk and shoved the folded letter into an envelope, sealing it shut - it was to be a secret between her and Twilight Sparkle, and no other pony would ever hear of it. Luna pulled out a blank sheet of paper and spread her pencil and crayons out in front of herself. She looked at her window, gazing upon the green grass of the training field, and yet this wouldn't be her subject. Working carefully, she sketched out the bodies of six ponies, leaving them relatively nondescript - for the time being, anyways. For now, though?
Now she was going to color.