An alicorn’s dreams were the most powerful of all ponykind. They could be prophetic, they often sensed danger and Princess Luna’s especially were often sensitive to the ebb and flow of worlds beyond the physical, reaching from the depths Tartarus to other worlds in other dimensions.
She never thought they could even reach beyond that to realms unencumbered by time itself.
Maybe it had been made possible by the shared grief of two unicorns - one an alicorn, no less, who also shared the same blood with one they loved and had loved. It would not be the first time blood magic had combined with the desire of the heart to create a miracle, but it would be the first time that reaching out had actually produced an answer from a place where none was possible...
In the icy heart of the Frozen North, in realms that were side-by-side with dreams, a new door had appeared, bridging the distance between the two realms. She who often walked through these doors as she stepped through pony’s dreams was unaware of it as she herself slept, but the door was meant for her and like an eddy in a tide that takes one off their normal course, it gentled her towards and through the door that bore snow at its foot, icicles hanging from its top and uncertainty beyond its entrance.
The Princess of the Moon stepped lightly through a vaguely familiar series of long corridors she couldn’t immediately place, but knew for certain she had seen before. Soon she realized they were the corridors of a castle. It was the pale pink, blue and green shimmering crystals that gave it away as being the castle of the Crystal Empire.
“This cannot be!” Luna murmured, pawing at the floor, testing its solidity. “I know this is a dream, but dreams of the Empire died when it vanished.”
It was true. No pony had dreamed any dream of the Crystal Empire since its disappearance - not even herself nor her sister. Time had not only stolen the Empire, its King and crystal ponies, but the very remembrance of it from life itself.
Luna continued through the crystal castle, watching with consternation as the pure, pale colors turned black, sprouting sharp and jagged, deadly points. Seeing no evidence of any other life, she turned the corridor and was suddenly just outside the crystal field surrounding the city.
Statues of stallions garbed for warfare stood all around her. Both sides were represented - Canterlot and Crystal Empire. Pegasus flyers were caught in mid flight, the flapping of their mighty wings halted, as were spears heading towards the hearts of King Sombra’s mind-controlled army drones - grotesque shadow beings clothed in steel armor, sightless neon red eyes their only visible facial features. The Dream Princess walked amongst the living corpses of Canterlot guards mortally wounded, the blood of their wounds also suspended in the air as they bled out their last moments of life. Ears down, she endured the awful scene as best she could, hurrying through it towards the gates of the city.
One last glance back at the carnage, she turned to her forward path only to find she was now at the entrance of a room all too familiar.
The throne room inside the crystal castle.
The scene of the last battle between Celestia, King Sombra and herself. Taking a steadying breath, Luna stepped through the large double doors, uncertain what she would find there...
“Sister!” Luna cried, seeing the radiant white-bodied alicorn felled to the ground, rainbow mane splayed messily around her, golden shod hooves motionless. The younger mare ran up to her. “‘Tia? Oh no, ‘Tia, please!” She stopped short of an inspection for any wounds upon seeing the sickly glow of red and green in the Sun Princess’s eyes, trails of violet mist frozen at their edges as they bled nightmare-induced energies from her mind.
There was no use trying to rouse her, she knew, especially in this dream imagery. Time was frozen here, making the paralyzing nightmare of Sombra’s shadow magic doubly powerful. She frowned, in fact, sensing no life at all about the alicorn that was her sister. This body - unlike the others outside, was lifeless and was meant as a representation of something no longer there.
A weak scratching sound came to Luna’s ears. She turned around.
Upon the ground, next to the throne at the far end of the room amidst the rubble of their titanic fight, lay her former love, King Sombra. Armor shattered, his steel crown broken, he was breathing heavily, black shadows leaching from multiple cuts, grabbing the edges of the wounds, attempting without success to stitch them back together as the shadows disappeared back into his body. How had he been so deeply brutalized, she wondered in shock. She remembered every cut she had inflicted, placed exactly where she had wrought them, feeling each slice as deeply through her soul as they had been into his body. These were deeper, more brutal wounds done out of a pure viciousness she NEVER would have tortured him with. If anything, she would have went straight for a killing blow to make his end as quick as possible.
These savage wounds were the work of a nightmare.
Stepping through the rubble, she went to him, knowing he was finished, yet still pulled by feelings that refused to die with him. She stopped just short of touching him with her hoof as she knelt behind his broken and battered body, as frozen in a single, devastating realization as the shadows of once-living ponies outside the crystal walls of the castle and city.
Why was he not frozen? Why was he still alive and moving?
The weak cry tore at her heart. With his last, conscious breath he was painfully wheezing her name. Impulsively, she came around so he could see her and knelt by the broken shell of the stallion she had once - and still - deeply, painfully loved.
“Sombra,” she choked, hastily removing a shoe to gently caress his face with a bare hoof.
Sad red crystal eyes focused through the pain onto her lovely face. “My dark angel.” Every word was an effort that left him exhausted. “I concede and follow our love to my grave. The battle - is yours.”
“I didn’t want this, damn you!” she whispered quietly, choking. “I love you!”
“As do I,” he groaned, the evil within the stallion a weaker echo in his voice than she remembered it being during the battle. All the signs of his accursed power - the flare of dark magic in his eyes, his double-edged voice and aura of evil were fading, succumbing to the strong stasis field holding him and the Empire prisoner. In the end it had taken this extreme act to rid him of the taint of his dark descent...
But that wasn’t - right. It had not in reality. Had not the Elements of Harmony stripped him of his body and sealed him away under the ice floes of the Frozen North, his dark magic with him? Why was the dream realm playing out so differently from reality?
“Stay with me,” he whispered, pulling her confused mind back to him.
She nodded. It was the least she could do. Settling down more on her haunches, she lay flat and stretched her neck out, her breath mingling with his, their muzzles almost touching. Her ears lay back flat against the sides of her head, more tears coming to her eyes, staining the ground between them.
Luna bolted up, shocked and startled at the sound of a filly’s voice in this land of frozen shadows and death. Another aberration to reality stood before them both, someone else who had not been there the first time. A pony who was still alive and moving, not a frozen shadow held prisoner by a curse.
Their daughter, Dawn.