• Published 25th Jul 2013
  • 12,530 Views, 219 Comments

A Total Eclipse Of The Fun - Estee



The second anniversary of the Return is approaching, and all Luna wants for the celebration is one thing -- something Equestria hasn't seen in more than a thousand years. This could be a problem.

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Second Contact

Unfortunately, Math then got involved.

Luna regarded Math as her oldest and dearest companion, the friend who would never abandon her, one who had in fact followed her into abeyance to return at her side. Celestia rather more sensibly treated it as an enemy nation which she had waged seemingly endless war against for centuries before reaching what wasn't even remotely a state of truce, where suspect goods would be sent across her borders and every last one had to be relentlessly inspected for taint lest a stealthy strike from the evil which had never surrendered get past her and start the killing again. And worse, Luna knew it -- which meant she would hover (sometimes literally) over her sister during anything which might threaten to erupt into a border skirmish or worse, like a teacher who claimed to be certain that a recalcitrant student had finally come to grips with the subject matter... but it still wouldn't hurt to check the work.

"I work better without you watching me."

She could feel the smirk from overhead. "You have never proven that." The clicks of abacus beads added extra punctuation to the sentence. "Let us review while I still can -- if we push this much further into the day, I will be in lesser shape to begin again just before sunset. We know Sun and Moon can share a sky together without doing harm: Discord proved that himself time and time again, and your own experiments with a daylight Moon showed it was not his influence keeping damage from being done."

Celestia nodded. "The tides are thrown off somewhat, but that seems to be it. And we've never exactly been a seafaring species -- but I did post warnings to the few who venture out after the first time. At least those weren't ignored..."

More beads clicked, and Luna frowned at a scale model of the continent she'd had brought in for the occasion, an ancient battle-map which was occasionally updated for new settlements and failed ones reverted back to wild zones. Her field shifted a single golden bit which she had been using as a substitute for Sun. "Viewing angle is going to be an issue. Totality will only be visible along this path." A glow highlighted a width of ceramic land. "Discord may have felt content with allowing Sun and Moon to careen about the sky like unbalanced hoofballs, but you have kept a single trail consistent since you took your half of the throne. As much as I would wish all of Equestria to enjoy the spectacle, this does not seem to be the time for disrupting that level of constant..."

Celestia glanced at the model and allowed her own field to move the ancient silver piece (a metal memory from the first postwar days of after, when the coin had been struck for each ruler) which she was using for Moon. "Agreed -- and it brings up a problem. Most of our efforts are in raising and lowering: the motion itself maintains on its own once that's done. I ran a few very mild experiments in acceleration and holding back over the centuries... it's possible, but doing it for too long... I think that has a good chance to exhaust us. And we're agreed that we just can't raise them at the same time and let the eclipse travel across Equestria in constant totality -- half the fun is in watching the stages of approach and departure."

Luna nodded. "And having to repeat the eclipse in each place would leave at least one of us almost constantly speeding and braking. You could keep the Sun steady while I did the work with the Moon -- but to do so throughout a full day of waking -- no, I do not feel I would reach sunset on my hooves. We would need to switch off every so often. And even if that did not leave us both half-collapsed among the citizenry while covered in froth, it could render the eclipse into more of a back-and-forth stuttering. That seems to sacrifice some of the majesty..." She sighed. "My grandiose dream is being rather limited by reality. I can envision us doing it in a few places along the band of best sighting, but not all." Her little substitute Sun moved again, spinning from heads to tails as it shifted across the false continent, coming to a stop over the tiny Canterlot, which was well within the band of glow. "With your normal route... yes, the path of visibility certainly comes here: the capital will get to enjoy it. And of course if Canterlot can see, then Ponyville shall as well. The seats of power and the first place I came to after the Return... appropriate. But where else should we --" She yawned, then looked embarrassed for having done so. "-- my apologies. We have been working on this for some time."

"I'll put some more work into it during the Day Court break," Celestia promised. And then she would hide her scratchpaper so Luna wouldn't make any attempt to grade it. "Go ahead and --" she paused as another memory tried to come forward "-- actually, wait... Luna, maybe it's just me, but before, weren't they a lot -- harder to look at?"

Her younger sister frowned again. "Yes, they were... oh, what was that thing we used to use..." Her front hooves clapped together: the little burst of thunder was almost coincidental. "Yes! Quartz! Smoke-ensorcelled quartz! I am certain we can find the method for manufacturing the lenses somewhere in the Canterlot Archives! There would have been no reason to --" and all of her enthusiasm nearly vanished into the gap between words "-- misplace it."

There was a brief silence while they both pushed those memories back into the abyss where they belonged.

"It's in there," Celestia assured her. "We just haven't had need of it -- and that brings up another problem, Luna." She sighed. "Even if you and I spend our spare time working the enchantment ourselves and recruit virtually everypony who can learn it to assist us... well, quartz is common enough, but quartz appropriate for those glasses isn't, and I haven't exactly had a reason to stockpile it. Given the deadline, I know we can't make enough of the things for all of Equestria. One city -- and if that city isn't too large, we might be able to include a town -- best-case." Another sigh. "I'm sorry. I asked you this question too late."

"I could have brought it up earlier," Luna told the older sibling. "No blame, sister, for either of us. Ideas come when they come. All right -- so it will not be a nationwide spectacle, not for this holiday. Only a select group shall see the first eclipse in more than a thousand years -- and given that, I choose that it will be Ponyville and Canterlot."

"Agreed," Celestia said, and was glad it hadn't been Manehattan. "Now go to bed?"

"Not quite... I do want to schedule one more thing."

Celestia glanced up. "Which is?" And was glad to hear no worry riding within the words.

"You and I are the only ponies who remember them at all, Tia -- Cadance is too young. Nopony else knows what they look like. Given that we will be distributing the glasses first, it is not as if we can spring it as a complete surprise on both regions. And the two of us remember them as special: something we could use for heart's relief during the war -- but nor do any other ponies have recollections of the battle or knowledge of how desperately we needed even the smallest of rests."

"True..." Celestia mused, and there was much in the slow exhalation which ended the word. "So?"

"Let us conduct -- I believe the term is 'a sneak preview'. You locate the appropriate notes in the Archives, learn the proper feel, and work on a few of the glasses during your spare time today. Leave the papers for me, and I will do the same overnight. That should give us enough stock to gather some from both our staffs and let them watch an illusionary eclipse in the Lunar Courtyard. But there will be no explanation of what is happening -- just that we have a surprise for them and the glasses are part of it. Once we know how they will react to an eclipse which they were not prepared for in any way other than protection of sight, we may know what we have to do with the rest of the viewing populace."

Celestia tried not to shrug and nearly made it. She didn't see the point of the experiment. Eclipses were beautiful. Anypony would recognize that on first sight, even when that sight truly was the first. But a small portion of bringing it back at all was to allow her sister the indulgence, and giving over a simple first test easily became part of that. "Well, swearing them to secrecy will be easy enough. All right -- shall we say tomorrow after breakfast?"

"Assuming there is enough left of the kitchen to create breakfast, yes," Luna dryly replied. "Until tomorrow, sister --" Stopped. Looked down. Smiled. "-- and thank you."

"Thank you, Luna. For the memory, and all that came with it..."

They nuzzled. Luna left. Celestia began to put the model away.

Trial run... it still felt like unveiling a masterpiece before the official gallery opening. But really, what harm could it do?

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The sisters looked over the wreckage in the Lunar Courtyard.

'Scattered' seemed like too weak a word for what had happened to the benches. Celestia would have liked to go with 'decimated', except that Luna had a virtual allergy to the word and would huffily insist that since far less than nine in ten remained upright, it didn't apply here.

They could still pick up the echoes of the screams and shouts moving back into the castle. Those who had made a break for the outside were now mostly beyond hearing, although hopefully not past being intercepted.

Celestia sighed. "I am so sorry."

"Sister, it is not your fault..."

"I should have seen it coming."

"We both should have. We were so focused on the beauty..."

They simultaneously looked up at the illusionary eclipse. It had not achieved totality. Luna had halted progress at the moment the riot began, which had been a mere six percent in.

A long silence rested on one of the few upright benches and patiently waited for something to happen.

"However," Luna added, "I do feel that the screams of 'She's trying to take over again!' were rather hurtful."

Celestia did everything she could not to grind her teeth and still failed. "They are so fired."

A long sigh. "Sister, ultimately, it was only a few among your staff."

"I don't care. They're still fired. I never should have brought in the chefs."

"A reward for not fighting over the duration of a single meal did seem to make sense at the time."

"But they set some of the others off! I didn't think any of them would react like that! And when they scrambled for the exits to 'Spread the word! She's enthralled the Princess! Summon the Element-Bearers! Get an army!'..."

The sounds of distant shouting within the palace seemed to be growing louder.

"The others did make a valiant attempt to stop them before they escaped to begin the counter-revolution."

Wearily, "That they did."

"A pity that it failed."

"Yes."

"I had no idea mere chefs could break an emergency shield so well."

"I'm going to blame the placement of the garnish station."

Much louder.

"So," Luna said, "do you also think that what we are now hearing is the approach of the very slightly more prone to panic breed of Guard?"

"Oh, yes. Given the hour, more likely mine than yours."

"And they will attempt to arrest me."

"Us, actually. Since I'm enthralled. And an attempt to arrest would be for starters..."

And closer.

Celestia took a deep breath. "Any ideas on how we're going to talk our way out of this?"

"Given that you are supposedly enthralled and would thus support my suit no matter what? Not a one, sister. I am somewhat in favor of rendering them all unconscious and then sorting it out."

"How long do you think we have to come up with another option?"

Luna's ears twisted, oriented on the largest crashes. "About fifty seconds."

Fifteen of them passed.

"Luna?"

"Yes?"

"I still want to do this."

"As do I."

"We just need to make sure ponies are -- educated."

"Agreed."

"Press conference?"

"Absolutely."

"Guard my left flank?"

"Always."