• Published 12th Aug 2013
  • 9,292 Views, 663 Comments

Moonlight - JasonTheHuman

"Everypony has fears, Scootaloo. Everypony must face them in their own way."

  • ...


Ponyville looked like a tiny model underneath the clouds. Shadows stretched out away from the rising sun. Ponies were just waking up to get ready for the day ahead, but in the skies a streak of color was already zigzagging across the sky.

Rainbow Dash sliced through the clouds, reducing them to vapor, then slowed down to survey what was left. A few low clouds still hung over about half of the town. She reared up to fly over to them when something else sped past her. Something small and orange.

She grinned. “Hey, squirt, don’t leave me hanging!” Rainbow called.

Scootaloo glanced back to see Rainbow Dash flying up behind her. Her wings began to buzz even faster. She wasn’t about to let Rainbow beat her.

She did a loop in midair, then swooped down to knock out a stray cloud. Rainbow Dash flew up beside her.

“You’re pretty fast for a kid,” Rainbow said.

“What do you mean, ‘for a kid?’” Scootaloo said with a smirk. “I totally passed you back there.”

“Well, yeah, I was going easy on you.”

“Oh, really?” Scootaloo took off again, flying in a spiral around the top of Town Hall. She swung around the flagpole on top, then slowed down to watch Rainbow Dash catch up to her.

The two of them paused at the top of the roof. Rainbow Dash scratched her head. “Okay. You’re just fast in general.”

“How about a race?” Scootaloo said. She pointed a hoof towards the only part of town with clouds still hanging over it. “Let’s see who can knock out the most of those clouds. And you better not go easy on me!”

“You’re on!”

They took off in two different directions, cutting twisted paths through the sky. Scootaloo lined herself up in front of four more clouds and took them all out in one sweep.

The wind in her mane and the warmth of the morning sun felt great. Scootaloo watched a few ponies walking on the street below her, stuck down there on the ground while she was having the time of her life up here.

She glanced over her shoulder to see how Rainbow Dash was doing. Her jaw dropped when she saw that half the clouds were already gone, but it wasn’t over yet. Scootaloo’s wings buzzed as she put forth another burst of speed, and headed towards another cloud.

Scootaloo centered herself in front of the cloud, then sped up to punch through it. She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the puff of cold vapor to pass over her. Instead, she felt something heavy coming over her. She flapped her wings harder, trying to fight through it. It finally gave in, but she felt herself falling.

“Whoa, kid! You alright?” Rainbow Dash said, diving to meet her.

Scootaloo swooped back up, and gave a weak smile. “You kidding? That was nothing.”

She tried to shake off the feeling and headed for the next cloud. It really was nothing, right?

As she got closer, she noticed that this cloud wasn’t just a fluffy white cumulus like the others. It was thick, grey. A storm cloud, even though the weather was scheduled to be clear today. All the more reason to get rid of it.

She gritted her teeth, and flew straight into it. Darkness seemed to surround her. Everything went completely black for a moment, and once again she felt a heavy resistance pushing her back. With a final push of effort, she flapped her wings as hard as she could, and emerged on the other side.

The blue skies had suddenly turned dark. It was nightfall, but the moon and stars were nowhere to be seen. Worst of all, her wings weren’t carrying her anymore. She was falling.

“Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo’s head whipped around wildly, but she couldn’t see anything. Just the tangle of branches in the forest that was rapidly approaching from below.

She let out a yelp of pain as she hit the branches, hearing the twigs snap as she tumbled through. She tumbled into another limb, and another, and finally hit the forest floor. Hard.

Legs shaking, Scootaloo picked herself up, and looked around. “Rainbow Dash…?”

She had no idea where she was. The Everfree Forest, maybe? Where had Rainbow Dash gone? They had just been flying a few minutes ago.

Scootaloo scratched her head, expecting to feel a lump where she’d smacked into a tree branch. It was so hard to see anything in the darkness, and she had no idea which way to go. Everything seemed to have gone red.

That was when she remembered. She hadn’t been here since last summer, but there was no mistaking it. These were the woods near Winsome Falls. The very woods said to be haunted by the Headless Horse.

The thought made her stop dead in her tracks. Then, slowly, she tried to get her bearings. That fall had really knocked her around, but she had a feeling that Ponyville was just down the path. She started walking.

Scootaloo was alone, and even though it was kind of creepy, alone was good. Alone meant that nopony was following her, and she really didn’t want to run into anypony out in these woods.

That was when she heard the snap of a twig behind her. She stopped to listen, and could hear the rhythmic sound of hoofsteps somewhere in the woods. They sounded like they were behind her. No, in front. Or were they sneaking in from the sides, off the path? The more she listened, the less she could tell.

She did the only thing that seemed logical. She started running.

No matter how far she went, she couldn’t get away from those hoofsteps. And these trees never seemed to end. Everything looked identical, and there was no escape.


There was one way to escape. She sped up into a gallop, and spread her wings. She was a great flier. Just a moment ago she’d been up there punching through the clouds with Rainbow Dash. She took a leap forward, spreading her tiny wings wide to catch the wind. This was nothing, she was—

Up in the air for only a moment until she came crashing to the ground again.

Scootaloo gritted her teeth and picked herself up. The hoofsteps behind her—they were definitely behind her now—were getting louder and louder.

Scootaloo couldn’t find her tongue. Her eyes darted around, searching for a way out. “R-Rainbow Dash? Anypony?”

There was no escape. The gnarled trees seemed to twist and form a thicket all around her, and the sound of hoofsteps moved in slowly, getting closer and closer. Scootaloo shrunk down and squeezed her eyes closed, waiting for the inevitable.

It didn’t come.

She opened her eyes just a crack, then blinked. The Headless Horse was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Rainbow Dash stood there, staring disinterestedly into the shadowy woods.

“Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo said. She wiped a tear away and ran over to her. “I knew you would—“

Rainbow Dash pushed her away with one hoof. “Seriously, kid?”

Scootaloo stared up at her. “Huh? What’s wrong?”

“You mean you’re still scared of some corny old ghost story, even after all this time?” Rainbow said. “Give me a break.”

“I wasn’t… Well, maybe I was a little scared, but then you showed up, and—“

“So I’m supposed to foalsit you all the time, is that it?” Rainbow said. She rolled her eyes. “You’re too old for this. It’s pathetic. I’ve got better things to do.”

“But… but you promised!” Scootaloo’s voice trembled. “You said you’d be my big sister!”

“By the time I was your age, I was the fastest in my flight camp. I was the only pony to ever pull off a sonic rainboom. What’ve you done? Start my fan club? I think you know you’re not even in the same league as me.”

Scootaloo could hardly choke the words out. “You were going to… teach me…”

“What’s the point? You can’t even get yourself off the ground.”

“No...” Scootaloo shook her head. “No, we were just flying together a minute ago. You said I was really good!”

Rainbow snorted. “As if that’d ever happen. That’s a bit too far-fetched even for a dream.”

“A… dream?” Scootaloo said.

Now she remembered. This was just like those nightmares she’d had months ago. Somehow she just hadn’t noticed it before. She hadn’t had any dreams like this since the camping trip, though, because of...

“Hello again, Scootaloo.”

Scootaloo jumped when she heard the voice, though the tone was soft and soothing. She turned around slowly to see a tall figure standing before her, with a mane that sparkled like the night sky.

“Princess Luna?” she said.

The princess smiled at her. “It’s been some time since we last met.”

Scootaloo looked over her shoulder at Rainbow Dash, who stood with her back turned, motionless except for an idle flick of her tail. “This… is just a nightmare, isn’t it? Rainbow Dash wouldn’t really say that…”

“Do you remember what happened after our last meeting?” Luna asked.

“Well…” Scootaloo thought for a moment. “I felt a little better after you talked to me, but I was still scared. I ended up running away, but Rainbow Dash found me… She said she would be my big sister.”

“And since then?”

“We hang out all the time. It’s been great! I’m still working on my flying, but she’s taken me to Cloudsdale, and watched my new tricks on my scooter…” A smile began to spread across her face, but then vanished. “She… doesn’t actually think that I’m… well, pathetic, does she?”

“Sometimes we doubt even our closest friends,” Luna said. “But I believe Rainbow Dash’s actions reveal her true feelings.”

The harsh red light throughout the forest faded to a soft violet, then a deep, tranquil blue. The two of them stood alone among the trees.

Scootaloo hung her head with a sigh. “I thought I was done with these nightmares. I’m sorry you had to come back here just for this.”

Luna shook her head. “As I told you before, everypony has their own fears. We can learn to resist them, but nopony is truly free from fear,” she said. “However, there is another reason I have come to visit you tonight.”

“What do you mean?” Scootaloo said.

“I fear this was no ordinary nightmare. And you are not the only pony to experience such a dream recently.”

“Huh?” Scootaloo tilted her head.

“I have begun to notice something strange on my nightly journeys. Something is invading the dreams of ponies, and preying on their innermost thoughts and fears,” Luna said. “It seems that you were its target tonight.”

“So this… thing… was causing my nightmares to come back?” Scootaloo shuddered. “Thanks for getting rid of it. Whatever it was.”

“It will not be so simple,” Luna said. “Even if your own dreams are safe, it will only move on to somepony new. And it will only become more difficult to find the source.” She paused. “This is why I am requesting your assistance in the nights to come.”

Scootaloo froze. “You want my help with something?”

“You have shown that you are capable of facing your fears. That kind of courage does not come easily,” Luna said. “And I believe you may have the potential to help others overcome what they fear the most.”

“I-I… Uh…” Scootaloo wasn’t sure what to say.

She felt Luna’s wing touch her lightly over the shoulder. “I realize this is no simple request, but I would not be asking this of you if I believed it was beyond your capabilities,” Luna said. “But it will be a dangerous task, so the final decision will be up to you.”

Scootaloo could feel a lump in her throat. Willingly throwing herself into nightmares every night seemed like a terrible idea. She’d lost enough sleep on that camping trip just from her own dreams.

But, on the other hoof, this was a special request from a princess of Equestria. A special mission that she had been chosen for. That didn’t happen to just anypony.

“I-It’ll be no big deal,” Scootaloo said. “I won’t let you down.”

Luna gave a small smile. “I will give you what help I can, but there is much to be done. I will be unable to accompany you.”

Scootaloo took a step back. She was already having second thoughts about the whole thing, and she was about to say something when Luna suddenly raised her head, looking towards the sky beyond the branches.

“Time is short. The morning comes, but we will meet again soon.”

The forest was pierced by beams of light, and Scootaloo blinked as the sunbeams filtered through her bedroom window across her face.

There had only been time for a few quick bites of breakfast before Scootaloo was out the front door, helmet askew, and revving up her wings to get her scooter rolling. It was like any other morning, but the details of last night’s dream were still unusually vivid.

It wasn’t the first time she’d dreamt that she was flying, and it was still just as disappointing as ever to wake up, but that time it had felt especially real. She had felt the wind under her wings, the rush of speed. But then there was the sensation of falling. And those things that Rainbow Dash had said to her after that.

But the weirdest part was when Luna had shown up. That hadn’t happened since the summer, and this time she’d been saying something about sending Scootaloo on a special mission. It had made sense when she was asleep, but now that the warm breeze in her face was waking her up, it had to be part of the dream. Why would Luna choose her, of all ponies, for something like that?

With all that on her mind, Scootaloo’s morning ride to school was unusually devoid of stunts, tricks, and shortcuts. She stared straight ahead as she rolled down the middle of the street on her scooter at about half her usual speed.

“Hey there, squirt!” Rainbow Dash swooped down to glide along next to her. “Where’re you off to?”

“What?” Scootaloo glanced over, just briefly, then went back to looking ahead. “Oh. I-I have to get to school.”

“Today’s a school day?” Rainbow Dash paused for a moment, thinking. “Oh, right, I guess it would be. Never mind that, you can skip! My day’s open and we could totally hang out if you want.”

“Hang out?” Scootaloo turned to stare at her. She almost missed a turn, but swerved around to make it just in time.

Rainbow Dash swung back around to fly alongside her again. “You know. We could work on your flying or something. You’re the one who’s always asking me about it.”

“Oh yeah. Right,” Scootaloo said. “Uh… Miss Cheerilee would probably chew me out if I cut class.”

Rainbow nodded. “Gotcha. Well, how about this afternoon?”

“I-I guess that’d be okay.”

“Right. See you then!” Rainbow shot up into the sky and out of sight.

Scootaloo let out a deep breath, and leaned forward over her handlebars. She wasn’t sure why her heart was racing like that. She should be excited to get to work on her flying lessons again. Rainbow Dash had just shown up out of nowhere while she was distracted, and she hadn’t been prepared for it. That must be it. She was just a little startled.

As she came up to the schoolhouse, she hopped off her scooter and leaned it up against the fence. She had a feeling it would be a long day.

Scootaloo slumped over her desk, staring out the window. Miss Cheerilee was giving a lesson up front. It might have been geography. All Scootaloo could think of was meeting up with Rainbow Dash after school. Just a few more minutes.

Rainbow Dash had actually asked her to hang out today. Usually Scootaloo would have to beg her to spend some time together, and Rainbow would just blow her off and say she was too busy or something. Hopefully today she wouldn't mess up and embarrass herself. Scootaloo had to wonder what Rainbow even saw in her in the first place.

For that matter, what did Princess Luna see in her? Asking her to help guard ponies’ dreams against nightmares? That was a big request for some blank flank filly like her.

No, that was just a dream, she reminded herself. Princess Luna hadn’t actually visited her again. It didn’t mean anything.

“Can anyone tell me what city is located on this island?” Cheerilee was at the front of the classroom, pointing at a spot on a map.

A few hooves shot up. Scootaloo squinted, trying to focus on the lesson and push other thoughts out of her mind.

“How about…” Cheerilee squinted, surveying the class, then raised a hoof to point. “Sweetie Belle?”

“Huh?” Sweetie Belle sat up, suddenly alert. It looked like she had been even more spaced out than Scootaloo had been. “Uh… What was the question?”

“You seem to be a little lost. That’s exactly why you should be paying attention to a geography lesson,” Cheerilee said.

Sweetie let out a groan.

“This island is the location of one of Equestria’s major cities. Do you remember the name?”

Sweetie Belle thought for a moment, tapping her chin with one hoof. Finally she shook her head. “Uh… no.”

Cheerilee sighed. “Let’s see. Anypony else?” Her eyes settled on Apple Bloom, who had been waving her hoof frantically the whole time. “Apple Bloom, do you know the answer?”

“That’s Manehattan!” Apple Bloom said.

“Correct!” Cheerilee said. “Although Canterlot is the capital of Equestria, Manehattan is actually the largest city, in terms of both population and—“

Cheerilee was interrupted by the shrill ring of the school bell. Scootaloo instantly jumped out of her seat and headed for the door.

“That’s all for today, but remember to sign up for the talent show at the end of this week if you haven’t already! There’s still time!” Cheerilee tried to speak over the excited chatter of her students, but most of them were already out the door.

Apple Bloom caught up with Scootaloo outside the school. “That reminds me! I got a letter from Babs the other day, and she was talkin’ about how her and her Crusaders tried the talent show at their school. They put together a stand-up comedy routine.”

“Any luck?” Scootaloo said. She fastened her helmet under her chin.

“Nope. But I was thinkin' maybe we could put together something in time for the show again! I know it’s a late start, but all we’ve gotta do is put together an act, practice it, and perform it perfectly in… five days. That ain’t too hard.” Apple Bloom looked around. “Where’s Sweetie Belle?”

“I’m here!” Sweetie Belle trotted over to where they were standing. “What are you talking about?”

“Apple Bloom was just saying we should try the talent show again,” Scootaloo said. “What do you think?”

Sweetie shook her head. “I don’t think so. It didn’t work so well last time. I don’t think any of us are getting our cutie marks on stage.”

“Huh. I thought it went well,” Apple Bloom said. “We got awards and everythin’. Well, you got any other ideas for today, Scootaloo?”

“Sorry, gals, but I can’t stick around. Me and Rainbow Dash are hanging out today,” Scootaloo said. She hopped on her scooter and revved her wings a few times to warm up.

“I bet that’ll be fun!” Apple Bloom said. “The whole bein’ sisters thing is working out for you?”

“Totally! Rainbow Dash is the coolest big sister ever!” Scootaloo said. She hoped she sounded optimistic about it, but her heart had been pounding ever since she got out of class. What was she so nervous about?

Rainbow Dash had chosen a field on the outskirts of Ponyville for their flight practice today. It was a wide open space, with no other ponies around. She paced back and forth as she gave instructions.

“Now, this is the first technique they teach you at Junior Speedsters. It's your basic running takeoff. It’s pretty much just for beginners, like you. Once you get to be as good as me” — Rainbow Dash shot straight up into the air, and swooped back down — “you won’t even need this stuff. But first things first.”

Scootaloo stood at attention, leaning forward just slightly. The weather was just perfect for this. There was only a slight breeze, and hardly a cloud in the sky.

“You’re going to want to start galloping, full speed. Acceleration is important,” Rainbow said. “But don’t forget to build up your wingpower as you go. You’ll be able to feel when you’re ready for liftoff.”

“That’s all there is to it?” Scootaloo said.

Rainbow Dash bumped her on the shoulder, grinning. “Trust me, it’s a piece of cake.” Then, with her drill-sergeant face back on, she let out a shrill blow on her whistle. “Now, get out there and show me what you’ve got!”

Scootaloo dug her heels into the dirt. She stared ahead at the open field before her, and the blue sky overhead—that was the target. Then, like a cannonball, she raced ahead, wings buzzing as hard as they ever had. This was it. Rainbow Dash had told her she would feel this, the sensation of lift beneath her wings, and she closed her eyes and let it carry her.

She opened one eye, just to look down, and saw the ground shrinking away. “I-I’m doing it! I—whoa!

Her momentum was suddenly gone, and she plummeted down into the dirt. She spit some grass out of her mouth. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rainbow Dash put a hoof to her face.

“Uh… not quite,” Rainbow said.

“Sorry!” Scootaloo said, jumping back up and wiping the dirt off her chin. “I really was trying that time. I’ll get it next time!”

“Nah, you had a good few seconds of air,” Rainbow said. She shrugged. “That’s something, I guess.”

“But I must’ve messed up on something. It didn’t work.”

“You might’ve lost some of your wingpower once you were in the air. It’s a pretty common problem for amateurs.” Rainbow Dash kicked at the dirt, and scratched the back of her head. “Um… Look, Applejack’s been getting on my back about how sisters are supposed to ‘talk about their feelings’ and stuff like that, so I’m just going to ask. Is anything wrong? You’ve been acting kind of weird today.”

“Weird? What do you mean, ‘weird?’” Scootaloo said. She let out a nervous laugh. “Everything’s fine! I feel great.”

“Good to hear. Glad that’s over.” Rainbow let out a sigh of relief. “Now where were we?”

“Actually, there is… one thing,” Scootaloo said.

“What is it?”

“Well, we’ve been doing all this flying practice lately. I even did some practice on my own before we started being sisters. But I can still only stay in the air for a few seconds at a time.”

Rainbow frowned. “It’s not that big a deal. I’ve seen lots of pegasi who take a long time learning to fly.”

“Really?” Scootaloo said.

“You’re still growing.” Rainbow Dash scratched the back of her head. “I mean, Fluttershy was still getting the hang of flying at your age, and now look at her.”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened in shock. “You mean I’m going to end up like Fluttershy?

“No! I mean, uh, that… probably wasn’t the best example.” Rainbow hesitated, then said, “The important thing is that you keep practicing, and then your wings should get strong enough for you to fly.”

“That’s all there is to it?”

Rainbow Dash reached over and messed up Scootaloo’s mane. “Yeah. Now get out there and show me what you’ve got!”

Rainbow Dash drilled her on some wing-strength exercises for the rest of the afternoon. By the time the sun set, Scootaloo was completely exhausted as she climbed up on her scooter and headed home.

She hardly even remembered walking in the front door, dragging herself upstairs, and collapsing in bed.

The light of a full moon filtered down through the trees. The skeletal branches were unnaturally still, and a soft blue glow filled the clearing where Scootaloo now stood. Everything felt familiar, but she wasn’t sure how she’d gotten here.

“Welcome back, Scootaloo.”

She turned around to see Princess Luna striding towards her. The sight of her made things start to come together in Scootaloo’s mind.

“This is another dream, isn’t it?” she said.

Luna nodded. “It would appear the time has come for the task I requested of you.”

Scootaloo glanced around at the forest. It looked just like her last dream, but this place was peaceful. Aside from herself and the Princess, absolutely nothing moved, not so much as a single leafless branch.

“You mean…” Scootaloo took a step back. “I go into somepony’s nightmares, with no idea what to expect, and try to stop whatever is causing them. Somehow.” She bit her lip. “Uh…”

“I understand if you have doubts,” Luna said. “The world of dreams can be strange and unpredictable, and often frightening. But know that I have the utmost confidence that you will succeed.”

Scootaloo suddenly thought of Rainbow Dash, that night during the camping trip.

The first time I heard those stories... I was scared too.

It had been strange, but that was the first time that she really felt like Rainbow Dash had anything in common with her. She always seemed so cool and unstoppable, but at one time she hadn’t been that different from how Scootaloo was now. And now Rainbow Dash got sent on dangerous missions from Princess Celestia all the time.

I think you know you’re not even in the same league as me.

No. She’d prove it. She wasn’t scared.

Scootaloo looked up and met Luna’s eyes. “Yeah. I’m ready.”

A faint smile crossed Luna’s lips. “Very well.” Her horn began to shimmer.

The snow crunched under Scootaloo's hooves.