• Published 6th Sep 2013
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Bedtime Stories - TacticalRainboom



"Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake." Twilight learns that sometimes, the truths found in bedtime stories are more important than the facts.

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The Story of Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight

After seven hours, three mugs of crystalcoffee, and two entire shelves’ worth of crystalbooks, Twilight Sparkle was finally ready to begin researching in earnest.

And what a researching it was looking to be! The largest and most important of this night’s selection of books sat on the old wooden stand. Its lettering glinted gold in the library’s magic-enhanced lighting: Once Upon a Time: Equestria’s history in myths, legends, and folktales.

It was everything that a book ought to be: Thick, sturdy, ageworn, and full of secrets. Perhaps it was just the sleep deprivation getting to her, but Twilight found herself running the tip of her hoof down Once Upon a Time’s spine. Gently, reverently... almost sensuously.

Twilight had a policy of never using magic to open a book for the first time. To do so would be to deprive herself of the experience. There was just nothing like prying open a tome that had spent years being compressed into a tight brick of paper, feeling that slight resistance as the cover tried to cling to the title page, hearing the tiny creak of a stiff binding being flexed... and then there was the smell. Sometimes it was the smell of a lightless, secluded room, other times the tang of dust and age.

Twilight took a deep breath, hooked the bottom edge of the cover with her left hoof--and lifted.


The tale of Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight dates back to well before the year of the Banishment, possibly even as far back as the mysterious dawn of the Diarchic era. Like most folk tales, the story has been modified throughout the ages, such that the story itself can be said to have “generations.” In some versions of the story, for example, the lovers live happily ever after. In others, the two are not separated by race or kingdom, but merely by suspicious parents who seek to protect their foals from a dangerous world.

Many historians have attempted to use the changes over time as a way to trace the story’s path through history, but every historian inevitably fails to identify a single, original version. To date, no concrete evidence has been found with regards to who originally told the story, or when, or why, or to whom.

~~~*~~~

Sir Gemstone, son of Duchess Obsidian, commander of great legions of his dame and sire’s armies, fell in love with a night-flyer named Lady Blacklight at first sight, and she with him. They stood on opposite sides of two great distances: the distance between earth and sky, and the distance between enemy and enemy. Not five miles away, the Duke and Duchess’s army waged bloody conquest against Lady Blacklight’s tribes in the Darkleaf Wood, yet in one moment, the beating of war drums was drowned out by the beating of the two lovers’ hearts.

The distance between Gemstone and Blacklight was great even as her face hovered a single breath away from his, so close that he could feel the warmth from her beating heart. Love, hate, and fear pulsed in the air between them as their eyes locked for the first time and their destinies touched for the first time.

“Now you are mine.” Six inches of steel separated her hoof from Gemstone’s breast. Her coat and leather-webbed wings seemed to absorb the moonlight--she was a shadow looming over Gemstone’s bed, wrapped in cloth the color of night and braced with weapons that glittered like stars.

Her name was Lady Blacklight, killer of many ponies and commander of many more. She flicked the mask away from her muzzle and faced Gemstone. Her golden eyes and silver fangs flashed like stars in the night. “Now this battle ends.”

“Yes,” Sir Gemstone replied. He lay covered only by a thin sheet, his emerald coat as vulnerable as a foal’s. “Yes, it does.”

Lady Blacklight clenched her jaw, parted her lips into a snarl, and raised the hoof to which her blade was braced. Then she tossed the weapon aside and bore down on her enemy with empty hooves, smoldering breath, and naked spirit.

When Sir Gemstone awoke the next morning, Lady Blacklight was gone, leaving neither tracks nor scent to prove that the night had been any more than a feverish dream. Sir Gemstone rose, donned his cape and mantle, and prepared to travel to his war room to issue the day’s orders, but before he reached his front door, something caught his eye: a silvery-white flash of steel protruding from the stone wall.

Gemstone pulled the sliver from the wall, and marveled at the way its razor edge caught the morning light. Though he had never seen one with his own eyes, he knew what it was: a sky-cutter, sharp enough to pierce his kingdom's finest steel. It had an edge so fine that it was nearly invisible when held just so, and it had a flat so polished that the blade glinted like a shooting star in the night.

Then Sir Gemstone's head snapped towards his door at the sound of three sharp knocks. There was no time to hide the sky-cutter, so he tucked it into his mane as he ran to answer.

The door opened, and standing in the hallway was none other than Duchess Obsidian herself. Sir Gemstone’s eyes widened, and then he quickly bowed his head.

“Mother.”

“Your personal guard stands idle,” Duchess Obsidian said, fixing her son with a stare that betrayed nothing. “They have waited for your orders for some time, and your eyes tell of a sleepless night. Are you well?” Then she tilted his head. “Have you exerted yourself?”

“I am well,” Gemstone replied. “I did not sleep well, that is all.”

The halls were quiet for a moment before Gemstone’s mother spoke again. “You should attend to your troops, then.”

“Yes.” Gemstone swept into the hallway, re-fastening his cape as he went.

“There is a reason I came to you this morning.”

Gemstone stopped in his tracks just as he reached the corner at the end of the hall.

“I wanted to ensure your well-being, my dear son. A spy was captured only hours ago, on these very grounds. She was unarmed, but I feared the worst.”

“She?”

“A mare, yes. She will be executed, and the matter will be resolved. Now hurry and address your troops. I only wanted to ensure your safety.”

Gemstone bowed his head again. “Thank you, mother.”

Several more guards saluted Gemstone as he strode through the halls of the castle. Gemstone acknowledged each one with a curt nod. None of them asked questions, and Gemstone offered no answers, even when his path began to lead him away from the ramparts from which he was meant to address the troops. Instead, Gemstone decended into the depths of the castle, toward the dungeon. The guards made way for Gemstone as he passed, and they still asked no questions.

“Give me the keys to the assassin’s cell,” Gemstone said to the jailer. “Then leave while I speak with her.”

Lady Blacklight seemed not to notice when Gemstone approached her cell. She stayed huddled against the far wall, nearly invisible in the lamp-lit shadows. Her head was bowed and her face was hidden in darkness.

“I came to kill you.”

Gemstone’s eyes did not waver, nor did his voice. “You showed me mercy.”

She raised her head, and they saw each other. It was only the second time that their eyes had met. Iron bars separated them, but in that moment, they both knew that nothing else would ever separate them again.

She was silent for a moment. “I did.”

“There is a secret passageway in this hall. I can set you free.”

She shook her head again. “I will die as a warrior. Set me free, and it is you who will die--as a traitor.”

“Then,” Gemstone said, “I will set us both free.”

Gemstone lifted the jailer’s keys and unlocked Blacklight’s cell. Then he pulled the sky-cutter from his mane with his magic and placed the point against his own shoulder. He squeezed his eyes shut when blade met skin, because even the lightest touch placed a dot of ruby on his emerald coat.

“They can use magic to know that the blood is mine,” he said. "They will not search for me while they are mourning me instead."

“Stop.” Blacklight trotted closer when she saw Gemstone holding her weapon to his own body. “Let me.”

Blacklight plucked the cutter from Gemstone’s magic with her teeth and lifted it away from his shoulder. Then she placed it against his chest.

“Prepare yourself,” warned Lady Blacklight. “Do not cry out.”

Gemstone closed his eyes. He felt a throb of fear, then a flash of pain that made him gasp. He felt the wetness of his own blood running down his chest. There was a clatter of metal against stone, and the rush of warm breath against his skin. He opened his eyes.

The sky-cutter lay at Gemstone’s hooves, its perfect surface now stained with dull red.

“They will mourn us both.” She nuzzled comfortingly against Gemstone’s chest where she had drawn his blood. “Now set us free.”

Sir Gemstone lifted a lamp from its mount and hurled it against the far wall of Lady Blacklight’s cell, where it shattered and fell to the ground as a pool of flame. Then he shattered another lamp, and another, until the entire dungeon was ablaze. As the flames licked higher, Sir Gemstone summoned his most powerful magic to crack a stone in the ceiling of Lady Blacklight’s cell. Finally, as the stone walls and ceiling began to collapse, he hurled the sky-cutter toward the entrance of the dungeon.

By the time the guards were able to extinguish the blaze, there was nothing left of Gemstone and Blacklight except for a bloodstained sky-cutter and a collapsed, fire-blackened cell.

Using the castle’s rooms and passageways, Gemstone easily led Blacklight to safety, and soon they found the road leading away from the Duke and Duchess’s domain.

“Now we both live,” Gemstone said, sparing one last backward look at his home.

“As traitors,” Lady Blacklight said.

“As lovers." With that, Gemstone turned his head away from the fortress and toward the open road.

They moved quickly that night, leaving the scorched dungeon behind. The trail was empty and the air was cold, but the fire that had set them free followed them and kept them warm as they traveled.

Eventually, they spoke to each other. It began when Lady Blacklight asked a simple question, as innocently as if she were talking to an ordinary traveling companion.

“Do you often travel these roads alone?” she asked.

And Sir Gemstone replied “No, in fact I hardly travel at all.” And then: “You must have traveled far in order to find my mother’s castle.”

Soon they were not merely talking, but also smiling, and laughing, and occasionally they even nuzzled their heads together as they walked. Over the course of their long hike, they told each other everything that they could about their two separate worlds, but they found that the only things that truly mattered were the things that they already knew--the things that they had known from the moment that their eyes and their hearts had first met.

Because what mattered was that no matter how different their worlds were, their hearts were the same, and they were deeply and truly in love. But little did they know that Gemstone had left the door to the secret passageway ajar in his hurry to escape the fire, and that Duchess Obsidian had discovered the deception and was already preparing to lead the search for her son’s kidnapper.

The sun was ready to rise when Gemstone and Blacklight came upon a town on the far borders of the Duchess’s territory.

“This town is loyal to my mother,” said Gemstone. “Stay hidden and watch the windows closely for the light of my horn, then fly in to join me.”

Blacklight melted into the shadows of the dim pre-morning while Gemstone entered the inn. His coat, mane, and cape were darkened by smoke, so the innkeeper did not recognize him as the Duchess’s son without seeing his cutie marks.

“I need a room,” Gemstone said as he entered the inn’s lamplit front room. “I have been traveleing for a long time, and need only to rest for the day before leaving to travel by night.”

“How long have you been traveling?” the old innkeeper replied, tilting his head as he examined his soot-dusted customer. “You bear no packs, and all the grass for miles around is thin and unfit for eating.”

Sir Gemstone tried to think quickly. “Our progress was slow. We had little money for supplies, so we spent much time foraging for food.”

The innkeeper narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean, ‘we’ spent time foraging? You entered my inn alone, and I see no companions traveling with you.”

The room’s lamplight started to give way to sunlight from the windows. Gemstone realized that Blacklight would soon be unable to hide from ponies going about their morning routines.

He snorted impatiently at the innkeeper. “I may not have much, but I have enough coin for a room. If you wish to turn me away, you may tell me so!”

“I only want to ensure my other guests’ safety.” The innkeeper bowed his head. “I meant no offense.”

Gemstone paid the fee and hurried up the stairs. When he found the room that he had rented, he went straight to the window, threw it open, and lit his horn as brightly as he could. To his dismay, the sunlight made it all too easy to see Blacklight’s dark silhouette as she darted across the road, then leapt high through the air to dive in through the window.

As soon as Blacklight was through the window, Gemstone pulled closed it tight and pulled the curtains shut.

“Were you seen?”

“I don’t think so,” Blacklight said. “Now we can lay down and rest.”

Muted sunlight streamed in through the window, coloring the room in dull orange, and Blacklight was a hard black silhouette haunting the room. When she stretched her wings, she filled the room with her shadow, and for a moment she was a spirit of darkness, beautiful and unknowable. When she folded her wings again, she was close enough to Gemstone to envelop him in the warmth of her body and the flicker of her flame-yellow eyes.

Unfortunately, Lady Blacklight was mistaken. Somepony had seen her, though she had not seen him. A small foal had been looking out of his window at the exact moment that Blacklight made her move, and when he saw a stranger flying in through a window at the inn, the little one ran in through the front door of the inn and jumped up and down in front of the innkeeper to say what he had seen.

“I saw a stranger jump through the air and fly through one of your windows!” the little one cried. “She had scary webbed wings, fanged teeth, and eyes like a cat’s!”

The old innkeeper frowned. The foal bouncing up and down in front of him was very upset, and it was true that the traveler who had rented a room only minutes prior had been very suspicious. It seemed to the innkeeper that there was only one thing to do.

“Thank you, little pony,” the innkeeper said. “Now run along home. I’m sure everything will be just fine.”

Then he gathered his keys and crept upstairs, walking very quietly until he came to the room that he had sold to his strange visitor. The door, to his relief, made almost no sound as he unlocked it and opened it by just a crack so that he could peek inside.

What the innkeeper saw through the crack in the door almost made him gasp out loud in shock. He saw Sir Gemstone, now quite naked and easy to recognize, locked in a loving embrace with an enemy of the kingdom. Dozens of thoughts spun through the innkeeper’s head, but one most of all: Those two ponies are in love. It seemed impossible, and yet the innkeeper knew beyond a doubt that it was true.

When he came back downstairs, he found one of the Duchess’s elite guard waiting for him, clad in enchanted armor and helm.

“Good day,” said the guard, his armor shining in the sunlight from the open window.

“Good day,” replied the innkeeper.

“A foal ran to meet us when we arrived in town. He seemed worried that a suspicious person was staying at your inn. Do you know who he meant?”

The innkeeper bit his tongue before answering, because as the guard spoke, a tiny crystal set in his helm flickered with magic. The innkeeper had seen such devices before, so he knew what it was: A truth-gem that would flash red if it heard a lie.

“Travelers often stay at my inn,” he said, “and foals are easily frightened by their appearances.”

The guard’s truth-gem glowed a soft green.

“The foal was very specific,” the guard insisted. “He said that a pony with a dark coat and bat wings flew in through one of the upper windows.”

“I did not see this pony with my own eyes,” the innkeeper said. “Foals have large imaginations.”

The truth-gem glowed green again.

Its owner narrowed his eyes and stared at the innkeeper for a few moments.

The innkeeper stared back.

Finally, the guard reached into his pack with his magic and lifted a scroll into the air, unfurling it so that the innkeeper could see. On it was a portrait of Lady Blacklight.

“My troops have come all the way from Duchess Obsidian’s castle, searching for this mare,” the guard said. “She murdered the Duchess’s son, or she kidnapped him, and we are ready to offer a great reward to anypony who helps us to find her and bring her to justice.”

The innkeeper studied the portrait for a long time, hoping to find some flaw with it so that he could tell the guard that no, the picture did not look like anypony in his inn. But the more he searched, the more he realized that he could not possibly say such a thing; the portrait was accurate to the finest detail. The mare in the picture was, unmistakably, upstairs at that very moment.

“Well? Have you seen this mare?” The guard asked impatiently. “We offer a very large reward from the Duchess’s coffers.”

The innkeeper spoke very slowly and very carefully. “I remember all of today’s guests very clearly; I always do. And none of my guests are the kidnapper or murderer whom you have described to me.”

And the truth-gem set in the guard’s helmet pulsed green.

The guard bowed his head. “Then I will be on my way. I apologize for the intrusion.”

The innkeeper bowed back.

Then the guard left, and as soon as he was sure nopony would see, the innkeeper galloped up the stairs and knocked on the door to Gemstone and Blacklight’s room.

The sound of the knock sent a shock of frozen fear through Gemstone and Blacklight, and they separated themselves immediately. For a moment, neither of them knew what to do.

“Who is it?” Gemstone shouted.

“The innkeeper,” said the innkeeper. “Please let me in--the matter is urgent.”

Gemstone and Blacklight looked at each other. Then Blacklight crept toward the door and flew to the ceiling above the doorframe. She hovered there soundlessly, out of sight, ready to strike.

Gemstone opened the door and took a step backward. “That’s far enough,” he said, as soon as the innkeeper was a few steps into the room. The door swung closed, shutting the two unicorns and the one lurking night-flyer in.

“Please listen to me.” The innkeeper's eyes darted across the room from corner to corner, but he neglected to look toward the ceiling. “A soldier from Duchess Obsidian’s castle came to my inn, mere minutes ago...”

Blacklight descended, grabbing the innkeeper by the neck and slamming him against the ground. When he tried to find his feet, he found that Blacklight had wrapped a thin bedsheet around his neck and was holding one of its ends to the floor with a hoof while she clenched the other end in her teeth.

“Let him speak,” said Gemstone sternly, when he saw the way Blacklight was strangling the innkeeper.

Blacklight relented with her makeshift garrote, but she still held the innkeper against the ground.

The innkeeper gasped, then spoke: “He was looking for a mare who had murdered or kidnapped the Duchess’ son. I told him that nopony staying at my inn was a murderer or kidnapper.”

“How did you know?” Blacklight demanded. “And why are you protecting us?”

“The answer to both questions is the same.” The innkeeper did not struggle; did not so much as shift his legs. “A foal came to me and told me that he had seen a pegasus flying in through this window. Then I spied on you through the door, and I saw...”

Blacklight pressed the innkeper’s head into the floor. “What did you see?” she hissed.

The innkeeper still did not resist. In fact, he closed his eyes, and began to weep. “I saw two ponies in love, when they ought to have been at war. I saw that you, dear lady, could not possibly mean to do the Duke’s son any harm. I saw the truest peace and trust that I ever have in my many long years.”

Silence filled the small room. Then Blacklight cautiously lifted her weight from the innkeeper’s neck and head, allowing him to stand.

“I can give you supplies for the road ahead, a small cart, and cloaks to hide you from rain and from prying eyes,” the innkeeper said. “I will not ask as to your destination. Move quickly, for this town is no longer safe for you. Good luck, farewell, and thank you for showing me the truth. May you find a place where you can be free.”

Soon, Gemstone and Blacklight were on their way. They moved quickly and always hid from fellow travelers, but eventually it became clear that the innkeeper’s help had indeed helped them to slip away from the soldiers pursuing them. They traveled, but they did not know to where they were traveling, because it seemed that nowhere in the land would ever be a safe place to rest.

When the dirt trail gave way to thick woods, Lady Blacklight held up a hoof, signalling for them to stop.

“My people may see us if we continue this way. Walk close by the cart, and do not remove your cloak.”

Lady Blacklight pulled the cart alone while Gemstone walked alongside. Her eyes searched the trees and the skies constantly, but as it happened, her most dangerous enemy would be the elements themselves. Before the sun could set, the sky became dark with rainclouds, and by the time night fell, the air was thick with torrents of rain, blown sideways by the wind.

Lady Blacklight stopped the cart when they reached a clearing in which several travelers’ tents had already been pitched around campfires that were beginning to dwindle in the pouring rain. The ponies sitting on logs and warming themselves around their fires were all cloaked, but from their golden eyes it was clear that they were night-flyers like Blacklight.

“These camps are common in these woods,” Blacklight explained as she fashioned a tent from the cart’s covering. “No-one will think anything of our presence.”

Unfortunately, Blacklight was again mistaken, because at that moment a powerful gust of wind swept through the camp, blowing Gemstone’s hood from his head and exposing him for who he was.

Gemstone pulled his hood back over his head as quickly as he could, but the damage was done. Every pair of golden night-flyer eyes in the camp was already turned toward the pair, and more than a dozen sets of hooves found the ground, approaching slowly until they formed a wide circle, staring and murmuring among themselves, unsure of what to do or what to think, but nevertheless ready to converge like a pack of hungry wolves.

Blacklight did the only thing that she could think of: she grabbed the collar of her cloak, tore it from her body, and stood in front of Gemstone, fanged teeth bared and skin-webbed wings raised. The murmuring from the gathered crowd fell into dumbstruck silence, leaving only the rain.

Finally, a pony stepped forward. He was wearing the cold blue armor of one of Blacklight’s personal guard.

“Lady?” he said incredulously, stepping forward from the circle and approaching to get a better look at his Lady in the near darkness. “We thought you were dead!”

“Maybe it would be better if you still thought so,” Blacklight replied. “Now leave this stallion be."

Blacklight’s words filled the air with silence again. Silence, except for the way the rain roared through the treetops above.

“What are you doing?” The guard asked, quietly, incredulously. He started to circle. Blacklight’s eyes followed his every step, and so did the eyes of the crowd.

“You were sent to bring back a trophy from a dead stallion,” he said, “and what you brought back was a prisoner, infinitely more valuable. Give him to us, and you can return return home as a hero!”

But Blacklight just widened her snarl and lowered her stance, preparing to spring. Rain trickled from the tips of her wings and the ends of her now soaked mane.

“I made my choice many nights and many miles ago,” she growled. “ Leave, or prepare to defend yourself.”

The guard’s tone turned hushed--awed, even. “I hear your words, but I cannot believe them. This stallion persuaded you, a mighty warrior and proud commander of legions, to turn traitor? Would you kill for him, Blacklight? Would you die for him?”

“I already have.” Her snarl turned into a grimace. “Now, if you want him, come and take him.”

A murmur of amazement rippled through the crowd. And then the guard charged at Blacklight with a sound that was between a hiss and a roar. White steel flashed in the starlight as the guard flicked his sky-cutter from the hidden sheath in his front booth and prepared to strike--but before he could, the sky-cutter suddenly glowed emerald-green with the grip of unicorn magic, turning the strike aside and stopping the guard's hoof in the air.

Gemstone burst from behind Blacklight. His horn blazed with the effort of holding back the night-flyer's weapon while lashing out with what magical strength he had. But he was neither a warrior nor a mage, and the power that he wielded reflected meaninglessly off of the guard's cobalt armor. Then the sky-cutter broke free of the magic holding it, and the guard plunged it toward Gemstone’s breast.

Blood splashed onto the grass twice, first from Gemstone’s neck, then from the guard’s temple, as Blacklight pivoted on her forehooves and bucked with enough force to jar his helmet from his head. The helmet fell to the muddy earth, where it landed with a dull clack.

As the guard staggered, Gemstone crumpled onto the rain-soaked grass, and Blacklight pounced, flapping her wings once to propel her into a flying advance. She struck in an arc, crushing the guard’s muzzle with her left forehoof.

The guard howled through his broken face and struck back with speed and fury worthy of a veteran of the battlefield, but he was no match for the assassin who once slipped past the defenses of the Duchess herself to hold a sky-cutter over her son’s heart. The guard's braced weapon slashed through empty air, and so did his other forehoof when he aimed a kick at his former commander. He howled again as a swift slam from an un-helmeted head struck the joint of his extended arm.

The guard fell to three limbs, holding the third off of the ground at an awkward and unnatural angle. He glared at Blacklight with eyes full of hate.

Blacklight glared back. And then she smiled, a sick smile of contempt.

“You disgrace me more than this unicorn ever could,” she spat. “Disgrace, because I am ashamed of how poorly I trained you.”

The guard’s mouth opened in disbelief, and he trembled with unspeakable humiliation and anger. With a final burst of strength, he held his sky-cutter before him in his broken foreleg and launched himself with wings and hooves like an arrow.

Lady Blacklight rolled aside, letting the weapon fly so close to her head that it severed a lock of her mane. Then she closed her teeth on the guard's mane and twisted, yanking him out of the air and driving his neck and back onto the bloodied grass.

He made a weak attempt to raise his weapon, then wailed in pain as Blacklight’s hoof fell like a hammer onto his wrist. Before he could attempt to roll or fly off of his back, another hoof landed with crushing force on the shank of his wing, grinding it into the mud.

“Go on.” The guard spat pitch-black hate along with his words. “Show your true colors, my Lady. Kill one of your loyal guards for a few nights with an enemy of your people.”

Another scream shot through the air as Blacklight stomped on the guard’s hoof so hard that the sky-cutter broke free of its brace.

“I never meant to kill you, even though you meant to kill my love.” Blacklight kicked the sky-cutter so that it spiraled into the brush and was gone. “Tell your patrol where I am, and tell them how you nearly felt my teeth at your throat after you attacked me while I was nude and unarmed.”

She turned her back on the guard with one last scornful look. The guard stagger-floated away through the driving rain on one shattered leg and one bruised wing.

Blacklight fell to her knees beside where Gemstone lay. His wound still poured with ugly red, so she tore his cloak and bound him as tightly as she could, but she could not stop the bleeding; could not save him from the wound left by the guard's sky-cutter.

Her determination gave way to horror as Gemstone's blood flowed freely over her hooves and onto the grass where it mingled with the mud and rain. “No!” she cried, heedless of the silent ring of onlookers. “No, not yet!”

And she laid her head against Gemstone's chest, nuzzling against the wound that she had freed him with, even while trying to no avail to bind the wound that would end his life. She began to sob, adding her tears to the rain soaking her mane and face. “Not before we learn what it’s like to be free... Please, my love, not yet...”

The ring of night-flyers slowly closed in on the weeping mare and the dying stallion. Blacklight lowered her head to Gemstone’s, nuzzling against him as his breathing became shallow.

A charcoal-furred muzzle nudged against Blacklight’s head. She did not look up.

The same head nudged Blacklight again. “Come,” said a stallion’s soft voice. “Bring him to my tent. My companions and I have little, but we have bandages and salve. We can save him.”

“My party can offer fresh water,” a night-flyer mare called out. “Our canteens are full and our destination is near. I will hurry and fetch what I can spare.”

“And my lanterns are still burning strong,” called another. “I can use the fuel to brighten the fire and warm him once his wounds are bound.”

Some hours later, when the sky was beginning to glow with pre-daylight, six of Lady Blacklight’s personal guard arrived at the camp, but Blacklight and her unicorn lover were long gone. And no matter whom the guards asked, the night-flyers all claimed that they did not know where the “traitor” and the “enemy of their people” had gone.

When the sun rose, Gemstone and Blacklight were far away, in a new part of the woods, moving quickly, stopping as little as possible in order to distance themselves from the watchful eyes of the night-flyer patrols.

Little did they know that despite their best efforts, they had been seen yet again, this time not by a suspicious watcher or by an enemy loyal to their own kingdom, but by a fellow traveler with nothing but the purest of intentions. The lone hiker meant only to send help for a fellow traveler in need when he reported seeing a grievously wounded stallion being pulled in a small cart by a hooded mare.

Because even so many days of hiking away from the castle where the lovers’ journey had begun, one pony and her few guards were still searching for the traitor and the escapee. Their leader was the one pony who refused to give up the search, no matter how cold the trail or how great the distance.

Blacklight stopped the cart when the woods gave way to a meadow where the grass was lush and good to eat.

“Wait,” Gemstone said. He raised his head and looked around, though he was too weak to lift himself from the cart. It was at the very moment of dusk, and the blazing gold of sunset was beginning to give way to the cool heather of evening. “We’re out in the open. We will be spotted too easily.”

“My people do not patrol here.” Blacklight looked up at the empty sky as it began to fill with stars. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this place before.”

They stared up at the stars in silence together, Gemstone wrapped in a blanket and perched on the back of the cart and Blacklight standing beside him on the ground. Behind them was the woods. Ahead of them was a vast expanse of verdant grass that darkened as did the sky.

“We found it, didn’t we?” Gemstone said.

“The place where we can be free,” Blacklight said.

With that, Blacklight began to walk away from her people's home in the woods, and toward the open field that belonged to both her and the unicorn who had set her free.

Instead of pitching their tent, they laid down in the grass, both of them wrapped in the blanket, holding each other close to stave off the chill of night. For that one night, they feared nothing. Without the fear that had kept them moving from place to place, they now felt nothing but the love that had kept them strong throughout the trials of their journey. That night, by the light of the full moon, they saw each other, they held each other, and they loved each other.

When they awoke in the morning, there was a unicorn standing over them with eyes that glowed with contempt.

Something sank in Gemstone’s chest. “... Mother.”

Hearing Gemstone’s voice, Blacklight awoke. When she saw the Duchess standing over them, she tried to leap into the air, but was pinned to the ground by all four hooves as two guards pounced on her. Before she could move, her legs were chained and her wings belted to her sides.

Seeing his love attacked and bound, Gemstone lit his horn and lashed out with desperate power, but his mother enclosed his horn in a bubble of emptiness that robbed him of his strength, until he too was bound and loaded into the cart.

And so the two were captured as traitors and carried away all the way back to Duchess Obsidian’s castle.

Days passed in an empty blur. Once, Blacklight’s eyes flicked toward the trees when she thought she saw a night-flyer from the camp, and once, Gemstone lowered his eyes as they passed by the inn where the old innkeeper had sent them on their way. Doors closed and streets fell silent as the caravan holding the two traitors passed, but eyes watched from windows and whispers passed through shadows.

Neither of them spoke for the entire journey, because they were criminals and prisoners--and even without being told, they knew that as criminals they were not allowed to speak. So they sat in the cart, sitting nearly as still as statues, speaking to each other only with locked gazes and silent tears.

They reached the castle, and Lady Blacklight was thrown into a cell that was still blackened by the flames that had set her free only days ago, while Gemstone was placed under watch and forbidden from leaving the main halls and chambers. Only once Blacklight was in her cell and Gemstone was in his chambers did the guards remove Gemstone’s cuffs. He was free to roam the castle, so long as he did not attempt to leave its carpeted and ornamented halls, but instead he sat at his window and looked out across the world that no longer looked the same to his eyes.

The day stretched on into the evening, and Gemstone sat at his window to watch the sunset. He thought about Blacklight and of how they had set each other free. He thought about the innkeeper who had seen their kindness, and then he thought about the traveling night-flyers who had seen them fight for each other, and then he thought about his mother, who had seen none of those things.

When the sun fell past the horizon, black smoke began to billow from an open window in the wing of the castle that contained the dungeon. Sir Gemstone saw the smoke very well from his window.

When the moon came out, a guard came to Sir Gemstone’s room to ensure that he had not escaped, but Sir Gemstone was nowhere to be found. He had found his way to the belltower, the highest tower of the castle, and was standing in the belfry with the rope fastened around his neck.

The bell rang once.

Thus ends the story of Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight.

They were mourned as warriors while they lived as traitors; when they were executed as traitors, they became revered martyrs in the hearts of those who saw them on their all too brief journey of love. The war waged by Duchess Obsidian did not end the day after her son's death, nor the day after that, nor the day after that. But end it did, and when peace finally settled over the land, the story had already spread to every ear and every heart: the story of a noble unicorn and a fierce night-flyer who loved each other, who fought and bled for each other, who were loyal to each other until they died as heroes--heroes who fought and died in the name of peace.

~~~*~~~

Tragic though the ending may be, this story is actually quite optimistic compared to other fairy tales. The main characters die in the end, yes, but the tale is neither condemning nor cautionary; Gemstone and Blacklight are martyred for their rebellion, not punished for their mistakes. In fact, it might not be accurate to call this story a fairy tale at all: fairy tales tend to warn foals against misbehavior; this story does the opposite. According to this story, some things are indeed worth dying for. Just as the two “end the war” with their first night of passion, so too do they literally end the war--more or less--with their deaths.

The nursery rhyme associated with this story gives mixed signals. The meaning is often lost on us when we learn it as foals, but to those with knowledge of the old stories, the dark imagery is clear.

Move by moonlight, fire in our wake

Take my hooves and let me feel you shake

I’ll fly home with ashen wings

Join me when the big bell rings


“Very impressive, Twilight. I’m always glad to see you growing and learning.” Princess Celestia’s smile had the same radiance to it that it always did, and that smile alone was enough to warm the lamplit Ponyville library.

Twilight couldn’t help but smile back as she re-stacked the mess of paper on the table into a neat stack. It was quite a stack, actually--nearly a hoof’s width tall, the result of many sleepless, fascinated nights in many different libraries. Twilight opened her mouth to speak, then closed it as the Princess cut her off.

“I suggest you speak to Doctor Leaflet at the university. I think he’ll be very interested in your research about the history of such a well-loved fairy tale. Now, if you’ll excuse me...” She stood and bowed shallowly.

Twilight bit her lower lip. “Wait. Princess Celestia?”

Princess Celestia raised her head and cocked it to one side.

“I wondered if you knew anything about... well, about this. These old books all say that it’s hard to find facts about the original. But do you know anything about it? The original story, or maybe some historical event that inspired the story?”

Princess Celestia’s gaze grew distant, though her smile did not waver. “You already know more than you think about that old story. Some stories don’t have beginnings or endings.” She turned towards Twilight with a smile that was somehow both comforting and chilly. “And now, I really must be on my way. Thank you again, Twilight.”

Another bow of her head. And Twilight bowed back again.

“Good luck with the rest of your research.” With that, Princess Celestia was out the door, gone.

Then, a darker, harsher voice sounded from behind Twilight: “Stories are a fascinating subject, are they not?”

Twilight’s head whipped to the side. “Princess Luna? How long have you been here listening?”

The shadows seemed to part and make way for their Princess as she crossed the room and stood side by side with Twilight. “Only long enough to hear that you were discussing Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight. May I ask what sparked your interest?”

Twilight sighed, turning toward her formidable stack of notes with a grimace. “Princess Cadance told me a version of this story when I was small, and... as far as I can tell, her version is completely wrong. One of these books contained the foals’ version, and even that was nothing like the one she used to tell. It started off with just wanting to know the original story, but... there's more to it than that... isn't there?”

Princess Luna raised her head, as if she could stare through the ceiling to see the night sky above. There was a strange look in her eye, the same one that Twilight had already seen on Cadance and Celestia's faces, and this time, Twilight knew better than to try to speak up and fill the silence.

“Princess Cadance knows the story well, Twilight. It was my sister and I who told it to her when she was a foal herself.”

At that, Twilight gave in to temptation. “Wait. Wait! Does that mean...”

Luna held up a hoof, silencing Twilight. “I once heard Princess Cadance telling you that story, Twilight, and the story that she used to lull you to sleep as a filly was correct in ways that no pony historian will ever know.”

"What?" Twilight's curious deference gave way to a huff. “You mean you know the real story? The historical origin of the story? I worked so hard to find this information, and now both you and Princess Celestia are refusing to give me the last piece! What’s so secret about the story that it matters more than me learning the truth?”

“Patience, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna said gravely. "Princess Cadance already taught you the truth. Little Light was a pegasus whose destiny was bound to Crystal Clear’s horn, just as Crystal Clear was a unicorn bound by destiny to Little Light's wings. Theirs is a bond formed by friendship and destiny that can never be defeated, not by hatred, nor violence, nor death itself. What you call the ‘last piece’ is a secret that you are not yet ready for.”

“Not yet ready?” Twilight’s pout intensified. “So will I understand eventually? Are you going to teach me? When?”

"Teach you? Yes, you could say that. When the time is right, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight pouted. Luna smiled, and continued:

"In the meantime, you should continue your observations on the magic of Friendship. It would not do for you to be unprepared in the case that my sister issues you some kind of challenge."

As she said that, Luna's eyes glittered, like lightning arcing across a moonlit sky.

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Comments ( 13 )

She learns that the truths found in stories are sometimes more important than the facts.

Whoa, hold on, better mark this [Alternate Universe] or something, because that's clearly not the real Twilight. :trixieshiftright:

This story was very interesting to read and I love how you connected it all in the end. Well Done

Oh, cool. It's out!

~Skeeter The Lurker

Intense, sweet, and still holding a fabulous old-world flavor .

This story hit a lot of sweet spots for me; bat ponies, adorkable Twilight, Equestrian History, etc.

You left me empathizing with Twilight at the end wondering what Celestia, Luna, and Cadence know :trixieshiftright:

3314583

Fuck.

The idea was for you to UNDERSTAND what they know, and be all "whoaaa."

The very very last line of the story makes it pretty clear... so I thought...

3314799
Well that prompted me to have another look. Some mixture of late night reading and my own density made me completely glaze over that last line at the time. So... it's about Luna and Sombra then? :twilightblush:

3315204

...Sombra? Where do you see HIM?

Clearly I have still not done a good job of making it so people "get" the secret that Twilight doesn't. Hmm... let me think.

Okay, this was well-written, but consarn it all if I can't figure out what the final puzzle is. Luna's "Little Light", Cadence is "Crystal Clear", and their friendship made them, uh, alicorns?

This story was amazing. I can't believe it has only 29 upvotes despite being up for over three months...

Anyway, I'll have to do some rereading to figure out the ending. Luna seems to be hinting to Twilight's upcoming alicornhood, but that's all I get. I'm wildly guessing that the "real" couple the stories were inspired by were somehow Luna and Celestia's, or maybe even Cadance's, parents?And maybe the 3+3 gemstones from the first chapter became the Elements? Hope I'll figure it out...

EDIT: just noticed what the final sentence about Luna hints to. Also, Crystal Clear's "mane the color of a bright sunny day". I'm starting to get an idea, but it's not, ahem, crystal clear for me yet.

By the way, when the innkeeper says “I did not see this pony with my own eyes,” I would say he is clearly lying. He'd need to phrase this differently

3314799 Well it doesn't. So please explain it, I HATE being confused.

Have you ever considered submitting this story to Equestria Daily? You can find out how to do so here.

I actually happen to really enjoy this story. I came across it while looking for a story to read to my sister. I read the first chapter to her, of course. The second, I read on my own. Just like what I did when I was younger, I would create of make up fanciful tales, while hiding the more.... 'realistic' implications/attributes of them. It's an amazing thing. In any case, just to make sure:
Little Light was Luna, and Clear Skies was Celestia. (aka "Sunny Skies".) right?

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