• Published 11th Feb 2012
  • 5,154 Views, 124 Comments

Phases of the Moon - Laurence Brown

Sequel to Moonbeam

  • ...

Half -- Chapter 3

Luna watched as the chariots returning from Ponyville made their descent towards the landing area she stood next to. As usual, Haystack was flying alongside them, and she was able to make out Feather Down standing next to Dewdrop in one of the chariots. This surprised her a little, since Feather Down usually napped on the flight over, but the usually sleepy pony seemed to be wide awake for a change. This slight shock was quickly surpassed when she saw that Pine Needle was sharing the other chariot with somepony else. She couldn’t make out much from where she stood, but it looked like a mare, yellow in color with a dark green mane.

After the chariots had landed, one of the guards came over to her as her friends stayed in the chariots. “Princess Luna,” the guard said as he bowed to her, “Your friends apologize, but it seems that Pine Needle’s sister showed up in Ponyville unexpectedly yesterday, and they didn’t have a chance to send a letter ahead asking if it was okay for her to come along. If it isn’t, they will gladly find something else to do for the day, instead of interrupting your plans.”

“Of course it will be fine! Come, come!” she said as she waved her friends over from the chariots. “And thank you, Iron Pinion,” she said to the guard. “It must have been a difficult decision to make on such a short notice.”

“I’m just glad I made the right call, your highness,” he said with a relieved smile. He quickly snapped off a salute, and then returned to help his fellow gaurdponies.

After sharing hugs with Dewdrop and Haystack, Luna turned her attention towards the three earth ponies. The one she didn’t recognize, who she deduced must be Pine Needle’s sister, quickly stepped forward and prostrated herself before her. “Vank heu vor thees ahnor!” she cried out, her words hard to understand from being spoken straight into the ground, and also from what Luna could only guess to be a very thick Stalliongrad accent.

Fighting down a giggle at not only the newcomer’s excitement, but also at the sight of Pine Needle raising a hoof on his forehead at his sister’s actions, Luna placed a comforting hoof on the yellow mare’s shoulder. “The honor is also mine, to be able to meet the sister of one of my best friends. Tell me, what is your name?”

The young mare could only stare at Luna’s hoof on her shoulder. It was all Luna could do to keep from laughing out loud at the awe her forehoof was being given. Pine Needle trotted up, clearly embarrassed, and said, “Pine Bough! Did I not tell you on the way over that there was no need for such theatrics?” Turning to face Luna, he added on, “I am sorry about this, I had hoped that I had gotten across to her that she only needed to act naturally, but...”

Now Luna did giggle. “Actually, after the ‘greetings’ that I tended to get after I first returned to Canterlot after the Summer Sun Celebration, this is a rather nice change of pace.” She turned her attention back to the overcome mare at her hooves. “Please, Pine Bough was it?” Seeing a silent nod of confirmation from her, Luna continued with a warm smile, “While I am glad that you consider meeting me to be such a great honor, I would be even happier if you would simply treat me as a friend.”

With a gulp, and with her cheeks starting to turn red in embarrassment, Pine Bough stood up. “I will do my best, your majesty,” she said, “although I am still amazed to have the chance to meet you, when all I did was come in search for my long absent brother.” Luna noticed that as Pine Bough started to relax, her accent also seemed to slowly lessen.

“I’m excited to have the chance to meet you too. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet any family members of my friends yet, so it will be good to hear about them from someone else. I am a little bit surprised that Pine Needle wasn’t able to send word to me ahead of time about your arrival though,” Luna said, directing the last bit to Pine Bough’s brother.

“And if I had known myself, I would have made sure to have sent word ahead,” Pine Needle said, looking sheepish. “However, her arrival was unexpected for... complicated reasons.”

“Oh?” Luna said, raising an eyebrow. “This sounds interesting. Why don’t we head into the gardens and you can tell me about it?”

“Actually, I think that can wait because there is a more pressing problem to deal with,” he said as he nodded at Feather Down.

“My goodness, what’s wrong?” Luna asked, her voice filled with concern as she noticed Feather Down was looking worn out and a little bit ragged.

“I... I had a really bad dream,” Feather Down said in a muted voice.

“That hardly does it justice!” Dewdrop exclaimed. Turning to face Luna, she added, “She was thrashing about so badly, and she just wouldn’t wake up, no matter what I tried. I had to go get help, and thankfully I found Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash still out and about. Thanks to Twilight Sparkle’s quick thinking, we were able to get her awake.”

Luna blinked in confusion. “Is it always so hard to get you to wake up from a bad dream, Feather Down?”

“I honestly couldn’t tell you,” Feather Down said, her head drooped halfway to the ground. “This was the first time I’ve ever had a nightmare.”

“Her special talent is sleeping,” Dewdrop quickly explained, noticing Luna’s surprised look. “As you’ve seen yourself, she can fall asleep wherever she wants, and always has a good, sound rest. I honestly didn’t think it was even possible for her to have a nightmare until last night. Twilight thinks it might have been the way the moon was shining in her eyes that caused it.”

Luna frowned. “Well, while I can’t undo what happened last night, I can help you get some sleep now, guaranteed safe from bad dreams. I’ll even let you sleep on my bed,” she offered, hoping to get a smile from the dejected looking Feather Down.

“You’ll let me sleep on Ricardo?” Luna smiled as she saw Feather Down perk up at the opportunity to sleep on the princess’s bed. “Just promise me that you’ll wake me for lunch, okay? I don’t want to spend the whole day sleeping, when I only get to see you once a week.”

“Of course we will,” Luna promised. “Come on, everypony. Follow me, and after we do that, I can give Pine Bough a tour of the palace.”

After a few minutes of walking through the halls of Canterlot Palace, the group entered Luna’s bedroom. Pine Bough had been looking everywhere in wide-eyed amazement, but now her mouth was agape as she realized exactly where she was. Luna was had been keeping an eye on Feather Down the whole trip, and she couldn’t remember seeing the usually happy pony look so despondent before. The biggest shock of all though was when Feather Down didn’t make a beeline for her bed.

“Wow, I though I’d never see the day when you wouldn’t be ready and willing to take a nap in my bed,” Luna remarked.

“Part of it is the fact that I can’t remember what my dream was like at all,” Feather Down said morosely, standing just inside the room by the door. “I just know that it was something horrible. Twilight Sparkle said that the brain can sometimes keep stuff from us if we aren’t ready to remember it. Is that true?” she asked, finally raising her head to look at Luna.

Luna nodded. “And I bet you’re worried you’re going to have a repeat of your bad dream too, aren’t you?”

“Exactly!” Feather Down said. “I know it sounds silly, being worried about not being able to remember it and also not wanting to remember it, but...”

“I think I understand,” Luna said as she walked over towards her bed. “You want to be able to remember it under your terms, when you’re ready for it, not have it sprung on you without any warning.”

“Yes! That’s it!” She gave Luna a relieved smile as she walked across the room to stand by her. “So, you can make sure I don’t go through what I did last night again?”

With a solemn nod, Luna motioned for Feather Down to lie down. “It just so happens that I know a ward against nightmares. The spell will put you into a deep and restful sleep, and will keep you from having any kind of dreams, good or bad. When it comes time for lunch, we’ll come back and I’ll break the spell, which should hopefully wake you up gently in the process too.”

“Well, I don’t think I could ask for anything more. Thank you very much, Luna,” Feather Down said as she crawled into the bed.

Luna smiled, and then her eyes widened and she laughed. “I just remembered! Think back to the very first day I spent in Ponyville as Moonbeam. I was exhausted and hurt from the spell I had just cast to disguise myself, and then Dewdrop found me and brought me to your place. And you let me sleep in your bed to recover. It feels good that I get this chance to return the favor. Now, close your eyes and relax. You won’t feel a thing, I promise.”

Her horn glowing, Luna darkened the room the best as she could by closing the windows and extinguishing the lights. Despite her efforts, the room was still faintly illuminated as sunlight managed to find a way to sneak through the cracks of the shutters. Then, she leaned down and touched her horn to Feather Down’s forehead. The room was briefly lit by an eerie purple glow as the spell was cast, and then returned to its dimly lit state. Before Luna could even raise her head back up, Feather Down was lightly snoring.

The group quietly walked towards the door. “Thank you so much,” Dewdrop said softly. “I have to say, we sure are lucky that you had the perfect spell for the situation we were in.”

Luna chuckled as she opened the door into the hallway. “Well, after what happened at the end of our time in Ponyville, I thought it might be a good idea to make sure that Nightmare Moon didn’t have any way to influence me through my dreams again. I figured she was only able to do so before because we shared a link, so to speak, but better safe than...” she paused to look at Dewdrop, who had frozen in place with a look of fear on her face. “What?” Luna asked, suddenly feeling a knot form in her stomach.

“Twilight Sparkle was able to wake Feather Down by closing the shutters on the bed room window, and blocking the light of the moon from falling on her.” Dewdrop said, her voice nothing more than a frightened whisper. “You don’t think...?”

Everypony else had come to a halt now, staring at Luna and Dewdrop in shock. With a frown, Luna turned around and walked back into her bedroom. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “But there’s one sure way to find out.” She laid down on the floor at the foot of her bed.

“What is going on?” Pine Bough asked, her worried eyes darting back and forth in worry between everypony else.

“I’m going to enter the dream realm, and see if I can reach the moon from here in Equestria. It shouldn’t be possible, that why Celestia banished me there long ago. My theory on why Nightmare Moon was able to trespass in my dreams before was because we shared a link, so to speak.” She looked at her friends solemnly. “I don’t think anything will happen, but if I start acting weird, or in anyway like Feather Down did last night, I want you all to run as fast as you can to the throne room and get Celestia. You know the fastest way there, right?”

“Take a right at the end of the hall, and head all the way down to the big double doors,” Haystack said. “Won’t the guards try to stop us from entering the throne room like that, though?”

“Very likely,” Luna conceded. “If they do, just yell that I need help. Use my name, that will be sure to get her attention. Although, if I know my sister, she might sense that something is amiss if you do end up having to go get her, so you might even meet her on the way. But it shouldn’t come to that. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to reach the moon with my magic. But since the duty to raise and lower it every night was returned to me, the enchantments that aid me in doing so help me reach out farther than I normally can. So, I’m going to see if I can extend myself that far without invoking them. If I can, then there’s a good chance that Nightmare Moon can reach Equestria too.”

Seeing the frightened looks on her friend’s faces, Luna gave them what she hoped was an encouraging smile. “I’m pretty sure that I won’t be able to. Like I said, there’s a reason that we were banished there in the first place.”

“You were able to send her there yourself though, back at that ruined palace where you and Nightmare Moon separated,” Dewdrop said. “And that was before you were given the duty of the moon again, right?”

Luna paused to consider her words before responding. “You make a valid point, but I think my abilities were strengthened by the situation. I think having the full moon directly overhead helped me some, but not as much as the knowledge that if I didn’t do something, my sister and friends were all going to suffer at Nightmare Moon’s hooves. That gave me the strength to do something I normally wouldn’t have been able to do. Maybe I’m being conceited when I say this, but I don’t think Nightmare Moon is able to gain a boost similar to the one that your friendship inspired in me.”

Seeing her friends convinced by her words, she laid her head down on her forelegs. “Okay, here I go.” Taking a moment to calm her nerves, Luna closed her eyes, and willed herself to enter the dream realm.

Luna’s friends stood still for a moment, and the only sound was the constant, steady light snoring coming from Feather Down. Pine Bough slowly edged her way closer to her brother, until they were standing side by side, pressed up against each other. Dewdrop slowly paced back and forth between the two sleeping ponies, and Haystack quietly made his way to stand next to the door. Seeing Dewdrop shoot him a questioning look, he softly explained, “Just in case something does go wrong, every second I can cut off getting to Princess Celestia is a second less Luna suffers.”

The moments seemed to stretch on forever. They were all startled when Feather Down turned over in her sleep, but other than that nothing happened, and soon their anxiety dulled to a nervous boredom. Finally, after several minutes of waiting, Luna opened her eyes and slowly stood up.

With a smile, she said, “Good news, I was unable to reach far enough to be able to send my dream self to the moon. If I had to make a guess, I’d estimate I could barely reach halfway. I feel very confident in saying that Nightmare Moon is similarly restricted.” Seeing the looks of relief on her friends faces, she walked back to the door out of the bedroom. “Now, let's head to the gardens, and you two,” she said to the Pine siblings, “can share some stories with us.”

A few minutes later, the group was seated in a circle by the seedling that Pine Needle had given Luna as a gift. After everyone was comfortable, Pine Needle told Luna his story on why he had left Stalliongrad, and Pine Bough shared why she had only just found out where Pine Needle had gone off to.

“Please, your highness!” Pine Bough said pleadingly. “There must be something that you can do to make our parents stop this craziness! Pine Needle doesn’t deserve to be pressured like this. Maybe you could make some sort of official decree? I bet our parents would listen to that!”

“Pine Bough!” Pine Needle cried out angrily. “You have no right to ask her to do so!”

“But brother! Feather Down was going to come up with a plan to help you, but she can’t because of her sleeping problems. Unless you have a better idea yourself, why not have Princess Luna do something about this?”

“Because she is my friend, that’s why! It would be extremely rude of me to ask or even hope for her to use her rank to help me out of this family problem!”

“Pine Needle is correct,” Luna said, hoping to bring a halt to the argument before it got too heated. “However, I can understand your concern for your brother, Pine Bough. I too would do anything I could to help my sister out if there was a need. Pine Needle is lucky to have a sister who cares so much about him.”

Seeing both of them mollified by her words, she continued. “I will gladly do what I can as a friend to help Pine Needle out. However, he is correct in that it would be wrong for me to use my position as a Princess of Equestria to force a solution. I will not abuse my power in such a manner, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t do everything that I can to help come up with a solution.” Seeing Pine Bough nod in understanding, Luna asked, “So, what is this plan of Feather Down that you mentioned before?”

Pine Needle’s cheeks reddened considerably. “Feather Down was going to try to come up with a way that I could actually talk to -- you know -- her, without freezing up.”

“She Who Must Not Be Named,” Luna said with a laugh. “I remember when Dewdrop told me about that, right after I first met you. I was worried you were trying to hit on me, with how over the top you were acting, but Dewdrop set me straight about how you had eyes for one pony, and one pony only.”

Dewdrop chuckled, both at the memory and Pine Needle’s reaction to it. “I remember that now! Oh, that seems like it was years ago now, doesn’t it? And yet, it’s been only a few months. Wow.” She shook her head slowly in disbelief. “But I don’t think we have the time available to us to come up with a foolproof way to solve that problem. We also thought that setting Pine Needle up with another mare for when his parents finally arrived in Ponyville would work, but...”

“I just don’t like it,” Pine Needle sad. “Too many things could go wrong, and to be honest it sounds like something from a book, or a stage production. It just begs for something to go wrong at the worst possible moment.”

Luna nodded. “I’ve read a few stories in the past couple of months where that’s happened. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to go that route, but all I can think of is to either try that, or just stand up to your parents and tell them ‘no’ when you see them. You’ve been away from them a couple of years now, so it isn’t like they can force you to come home now.” Seeing Pine Needle’s discomfort at the idea, Luna added, “It’s your call, Pine Needle. Whatever you want to do, I’ll do what I can to help you prepare for it, but I think you’ll be better off standing up to them. You don’t want them looming over you like this for all your life, do you?”

“No! Of course not! It’s just...” Pine Needle trailed away and looked at the ground at his feet. “They’re my parents. Even after all that they have put me through, I still love them. I don’t want to hurt them if I can help it.”

A silence fell over the group, as they contemplated what they could do. “The way I see it,” Haystack said, breaking the quiet of the moment, “is that we don’t know how much time we have available to us. Depending on how much faster Pine Bough traveled than her parents, and how long they stay here in Canterlot before heading to Ponyville to find Pine Needle, we might have as little as a day, or we might have a week or more. If we knew we had enough time to set up some sort of diversionary plan, such as Pine Needle having a love interest, real or not, then I think that might be a possibility. But without knowing for sure how long we have...” Haystack shrugged.

Luna nodded slowly in agreement. “Those are my thoughts too. That’s why I suggested that we do our best to help Pine Needle stand up to his parents. After all, even if you have a mare that you look to be in love with, that might not be enough to convince them to back down. If your stories about them are accurate?” Seeing Pine Bough nod in confirmation, Luna continued, “They might try to break you up, or simply come back later if they hear that you’re no longer together. If you stand up to them now though, I honestly believe that you’ll be able to put an end to this once and for all.”

Seeing Pine Needle still looking uncomfortable, Luna added, “It might also get them to lighten up some more on how they treat Pine Bough too. If it helps you any, think of doing this not just for yourself, but for your sister also.”

Pine Needle turned and looked at his sister. Seeing her smile hopefully, he sighed and then straightened up. “Very well. I will do mine best. After all, it isn’t like running away is going to help like it did last time. Not when I have such good friends, and a job that I love.”

“Excellent,” Luna said, as the others smiled and showed their enthusiasm for their friend’s decision. She opened her mouth to say something else, but was cut off by the bells ringing, announcing that lunch was about to be served.

“Boy, time sure flew by quickly this morning. Let’s go wake up Feather Down, and get ourselves something to eat. After that, I can finally give Pine Bough that tour of the palace that I keep on mentioning.”

After waking up Feather Down, the group enjoyed a delicious meal of wildflower salads with a side of fruit slices. Luna was glad to see her friend look and act more like her normal self after her nap. “I’m still a little nervous about how tonight is going to go,” Feather Down admitted, “but now that I’ve had some time to think about it calmly, and that I’ve also managed to get some sleep without anything happening to me, I feel much better about being able to get to sleep tonight.”

As they made their way out of the dining area, Dewdrop discreetly made her way next to Luna. “Thank you so very much, Luna. I’m sorry about dumping this on you, and about me panicking about its cause. The more I think about it, the sillier it seems that Nightmare Moon could have been the cause of it,” she said, embarrassment plain on her face.

Luna shook her head. “I think it was a valid concern. So many small clues were pointing in its direction, I was willing to believe it too. I’m just glad I was able to prove that it couldn’t have been her. I don’t know how we could deal with her if she could strike at our dreams from so far away. I think it may be best though if we keep this from Feather Down, for a night or two at least though. Even though we know it wasn’t Nightmare Moon, I don’t see any reason to even put the idea into her head right now, not when she’s feeling confident about being able to go to sleep tonight.”

“I agree. I’ll make sure to pass it along to everypony else. All it would take is one slip of the tongue, after all.”

Seeing the other ponies looking back at them, Luna motioned to Dewdrop to follow her with a nod. “Come on, let’s go show Pine Bough the sights, shall we?”

Over the next hour, Luna led them through many famous locations in the palace. First they went through the main ball room (“This is where they hold the Grand Galloping Gala!”), then past the training grounds for the guards. Pine Bough stared in awe at all of the armored ponies, going through their drills. Then Luna swung through a couple of smaller gardens, and even pointed out the entrance to the Hedge Maze. “We don’t have time to give it a go today, it covers several acres. We’d have to set aside an entire day to do it justice and see all the things that are hidden there.”

Back into the palace they went, and Luna made her way towards the throne room, stopping to show off the library and some of the stained glass windows on the way. As they approached the large, decorative double doors that led to where Celestia took care of most of the official business of running Equestria, Luna was surprised to see them shut and guarded. “That’s strange,” she said to the others. “She’s usually done with everything by lunch on Sunday. I wonder what’s going on?” Motioning for the others to stay back a short way, she smiled at the guards and quietly cracked the door open so that she could poke her head inside.

Inside the throne room, she saw Celestia was standing at the base of the steps leading up to her throne, and was leisurely talking with a pair of earth ponies. Spying her sister sticking her head through the door, Celestia smiled and called out, ”Luna! I’m so glad to see you! I’ve been chatting with the daughter of the mayor of Stalliongrad and her husband, you should come and greet them.” Celestia paused, seeing a panicked look on Luna’s face. “Oh! That’s right, you’re with your friends, aren’t you?” Turning to the two ponies in front of her, she asked, “Pine Wreath, Douglas Fir, would you mind if Princess Luna and her friends had a chance to meet you? I’m sure they would love the chance,” she said, with a mischievous grin directed at Luna.

“It would be an honor to not only have the chance to meet Princess Luna, but also anypony who she considers to be her friends!” Douglas Fir, a navy blue pony with a short white mane and a cutie mark of a fir tree, exclaimed. He turned to his wife, a yellow mare with a long, orange mane and a cutie mark of a wreath. “Do you not agree, mine love?”

“Most certainly! Please, we would love to meet them!” Pine Wreath said. “Come, come, there is no need to be shy because of us, we are simply two older ponies out on a trip, on our way to visit family that lives nearby.”

Smiling weakly, Luna gave a half hearted chuckle as she felt her insides turn to goo. “Well then, how can I refuse?” she replied. “Let me go get them, we’ll be right in!” Turning around and closing the door behind her, Luna wondered just how much of this had been set up by her sister, and how much of it was just sheer coincidence. Either way, she thought, the next few minutes were going to be very interesting.