• Published 7th Sep 2013
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Glory Be - BlackRoseRaven



Luna and Scrivener struggle to set right all the wrongs from their past and save their family and friends. Tenth and final story in the Blooming Moon Chronicles/99 Worlds Saga.

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Introspection

Chapter Seven: Introspection
~BlackRoseRaven

Scrivener Blooms breathed slowly in and out as he looked up, then rolled his head on his shoulders as he studied the alien sky silently. The cold blue light of stars and strange constellations shone down from above, and the moon sat in the center of it all like a goddess upon her throne. They had been here so often he was beginning to understand this strange night sky: the night sky of the universe inside him, and Luna, and Twilight Sparkle. The universe created by their linked minds, and inhabited not just by them, but by a cruel queen of nightmares, passion, and malicious pleasure.

“Thank you for the compliment, Scrivener Blooms. I'm glad that I still have the power to impress.” said a soft voice, and Scrivener lowered his head, looking back and forth. But there was no one here: just enormous, blackened trees, growing out of a dark swamp crawling with vines and alien life. Terrible life. Beautiful life.

Scrivy shook his head quickly, then held up a claw... not just unfolded, but in this subconscious world, the claw of a Tyrant Wyrm, his entire limb covered in scales, along with most of his body. A reptilian tail snapped back and forth behind him as he flexed slowly, conical pistons of bone pumping and sparking over his back. He looked up, then shook his head quickly: half of his features were that of the Wyrm, the other half still more pony in nature... although he wasn't really a pony, was he?

The stallion shook his head hurriedly, trying not to think about this as he looked back and forth before calling clearly: “We're not really in the mood for games today, Nightmare Moon!”

A soft, seductive laugh echoed out of the forest, before the mare's voice called tenderly: “I'll light the path in a moment, my most beloved rulers. I just need a moment longer to prepare a little something special to enjoy while we chat. It's been a long time since we've shared a decent conversation, after all...”

Scrivener shifted awkwardly, then he glanced to the side at a flare of sapphire flames before Luna appeared, the winged unicorn shaking herself roughly out as her starry locks sizzled, and then she muttered: “Aye, and for good reason, foul creature of darkness. Thou hast not been needed...”

But Nightmare Moon only laughed quietly... and as Luna stepped up beside her husband, the creature of passion whispered to them silkily: “But soon you'll be giving me more than simple token gestures... you'll be begging and pleading for your slave to come back in her full glory... as you revel in your own decadent descent into our darkness...”

Luna snarled... but how could she make any denials when her hooves had become cloven and blade-like, and her coat had become rubbery, almost scaly. Small horns protruded through a mane that had deepened and darkened, and her soulstone horn had almost turned black, a pulse of unnatural, toxic light burning at its core.

She looked fierce, and almost monstrous, and Scrivener admittedly hated a little how attractive he found her like this. He shook his head awkwardly as Luna gave him a dry look, but she seemed to relax a little as she murmured: “Thou art sick, Scrivener Blooms. Thou art nothing but a monster thyself. And a beetle.”

“You're a beetle.” Scrivener said mildly, and Luna huffed at him again, and then there was silence for a few moments before the charcoal stallion shook his head slowly and said softly: “Let's just go and get this over with.”

Luna began to nod... and then both ponies looked to the side as there was another flare of sapphire flames, which quickly faded out and left Twilight Sparkle in its wake. The violet mare smiled a little as she strode up to Scrivener's other side, thick black stitching that seemed a little more distinct in this world, more prominent and almost like it had a life of its own. And there was something else, pulsing in her chest, that Scrivener could feel the distinct tremble of: the Kundalini, the same core that powered the Tyrant Wyrm.

She looked at them, and they looked back, all of them wondering... who had corrupted the others. Twilight Sparkle still wondered silently how much becoming a Lich had intensified her darker side, and how much of it had simply been woken up by her transformation; Scrivener Blooms feared his lust for power, feared what he was... and yet he hungered constantly for more; and Luna Brynhild was a Valkyrie who had formerly always stood apart from her sisters, the Night Maiden, to be respected and honored but never befriended, with a greater taste for bloodshed and battle and the physical than even her siblings had possessed.

The three of them traded looks, and then Twilight shook her head and finally said quietly: “I'm an equal. That means you don't have to protect me anymore, go alone anymore. Our souls our linked; my soul is yours. I am yours, and I love you both.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Scrivener and Luna traded looks before the stallion said quietly: “We love you too. You know it's just that... well...”

“Why wouldn't I be excited to have our beloved Twilight as a guest?” Nightmare Moon's voice murmured through the trees, and then all three ponies looked up as floating globes of blue flame sparked into being one after the other, forming a trail through the dark forest towards an ill light in the distance. “This way. And you know that you have nothing to fear... I am your willing, adoring slave...”

“And as we have learned, Nightmare Moon, 'tis not the mistress that is the most dangerous, but the servant whom acts so eager to please...” Luna muttered under her breath, then she shook her head briskly and stepped quickly ahead, grimacing as she led the way after the phantom lights.

Scrivener and Twilight followed, the two naturally falling in step with each other and trading looks and small smiles before the mare slipped a little closer and silently dropped her head against the side of his neck. The stallion softened, feeling her trail of thoughts and worries, knowing what was bothering her most right now, and he took only a moment before saying gently: “You're not a bad mother, Twilight. You're just a... motherly mother.”

Twilight smiled despite herself, nodding a little against him, and Luna was tempted to look over her shoulder. She resisted, though: as much as she wanted to, her attention was instead drawn towards the large table that had been set out... and the smiling, monstrous entity standing beside it, as it said lovingly: “Mistress Luna, Lady Twilight, and my King of the Night... welcome.”

“Nightmare Moon.” Scrivener murmured in greeting, and the creature bowed its blue hellfire mane low, large, draconic horns curling through this gleaming like polished obelisks and a spired, tall black third horn standing out of her forehead: the only thing that really defined her as being a winged unicorn anymore.

She stood on cloven hooves, and her hide was armory. Enormous, leathery wings stood out of her back, bat-like and furled comfortably on either side of her, and her tail was long, whip-like, and ridged with blades of bone. Curved, deadly predator's teeth showed in her smile, and her slitted pupils and poison-green eyes had more in common with a reptile's than a pony's, glowing through crisscrossing scars that formed a checkerboard over her face... but none of that was the worst about her.

The worst part was how she decorated herself: around her neck was a collar of steel roses and metal thorns, all polished red with blood. And standing out of her back were needles, spikes, knives, torture implements, all buried through her flesh but worn with pride and pleasure...

Nightmare Moon was violence, and hatred, and evil, and sadomasochism, all rolled up into one dark shape. She was the pleasure in pain, and the slavery in freedom, and the hatred in love. She was secretive and sly and dangerous, eternally trying to twist the entire world to her machinations, to try and gain more power, more worship, more... love, in a word.

She called herself slave to them, promised them she would do anything they wanted her to, dedicated herself to them... and it was all true. Luna knew that none of them could deny Nightmare Moon's loyalty... even if her loyalty included keeping secrets and sometimes twisting the truth or reality itself to better suit her visions and ideas.

Nightmare Moon gestured politely towards the table, and Luna grimaced a bit as she followed the calm indication of the creature. “Here, please. Take your seats. I will cater to your desires.”

Scrivener grunted, shifting uncomfortably: almost everything was meat. Steaks, cuts, bacon, dumplings, meatballs, pork chops... heavy meats, at that. Fleshy meat, red and tender, bloody and varying from well-done to looking like it could still whimper for life.

The stallion shivered a little: part of him was revolted, and the rest of him only felt all the hungrier at the sight of the food. He licked his lips, then grimaced at himself and shook his head quickly, muttering: “Let's just... get this over with.”

“If you desire, my master, I can have live prey next time... we'll make a game of it.” Nightmare Moon said tenderly, drawing her eyes to the stallion and licking her lips slowly. And Scrivener shuddered as Luna growled and Twilight did her best to get to the table without being noticed. But at the moment, Nightmare Moon only had eyes for Scrivener Blooms, studying him as he sat down before she quickly slipped up beside him and leaned down over him... and even though he was larger and bulkier in this world of dreams and nightmares made reality, she still towered over him, far larger as she asked far too eagerly: “May I help you?”

“Uh. No.” Scrivener said awkwardly, and then he shook his head quickly as he looked down at the plate in front of him... then grimaced when Nightmare Moon's horn glowed and several food items floated quickly over to him and dropped down on his plate.

The stallion looked down at this awkwardly: a steak, dumplings, several other delicious-looking morsels. He shifted uncomfortably, then winced and stared when Luna called loudly: “Serving wench, fetch me my bib if thou can cease thy drooling over the pretty mare!”

“You speak so ill of Scrivener, but don't forget that we know how you scream for him, what a mighty stallion you think he is.” Nightmare Moon replied pleasantly, and Luna narrowed her eyes dangerously before Twilight Sparkle cleared her throat and awkwardly tapped her glass.

“We should... probably save that topic for later.” Twilight said finally, and then she smiled lamely as Nightmare Moon gazed at her tenderly. “No uh... sex or politics at the dinner table, right? I think we uh, all agreed on that.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Nightmare Moon laughed quietly before bowing her head, murmuring softly: “Of course, beloved and beautiful mare. And Mistress Luna... we are very happy to assist you.”

Nightmare Moon strode calmly around the table, flicking her horn to create a large, blue bib in a spark of energy in front of her before the dark creature of passion slipped up behind her alter ego, dropping it around her neck and tying the straps tight enough to choke the smaller mare for a moment as Nightmare Moon dropped her head beside Luna's and murmured in a dangerously-tender voice: “But a word of advice, Mistress... ever since your... 'willful decision' not to steal Valthrudnir's powers... we have been growing less fond of you, and more fond of our beloved King and Twilight Sparkle, whom no mere title can convey the worth of...”

“But apparently one can with Scrivy. Well, 'tis funny how much thou coddles and cuddles him and all-but-ignores Twilight Sparkle then.” Luna grumbled, as she yanked the bib down from around her throat and glared over at Nightmare Moon. “Perhaps thou should turn thy attentions to her.”

Twilight winced at this, and Scrivener shrugged lamely, smiling awkwardly over at the Lich, but Nightmare Moon only laughed quietly and murmured: “Do not pretend we have to choose between them, Luna Brynhild... we do not, any more than you do. And they both love us back and also... hold you accountable for your failings.”

Luna gritted her teeth, resisting as much as possible before she finally was unable to stop herself from replying tersely: “As we have discussed over too many years now, Nightmare Moon. Our aim was never to steal Valthrudnir's powers. 'Twas simply to kill him, foul leech.”

Nightmare Moon refused to be put off by this, however, only smiling kindly before she leaned down and murmured softly: “We are you, Luna Brynhild, do not ever forget that... even if we do so adore being thought of as a being in our own right... still, we are chiefly your thoughts, your passions, given their own life. We have not allowed this topic to rest because to this day, you still wonder...”

“What it would be like to have that power? Nay, I do not, trickster. For if Scrivener and I had such powers we would undoubtedly only create incredible feats of idiocy, not of creation nor destruction.” Luna said crankily, shaking her head quickly. “'Tis one thing to have power, creature. 'Tis another thing entirely to be able to use it.”

Nightmare Moon only laughed quietly at this, and the tenderness in her eyes only made her seem all the more patronizing as she chastised: “And would you continue to play the role of the fool if such power was truly required? Maybe we would not be as concerned about the approaching dangers if you had just taken those powers for yourself.”

Scrivener shifted uncomfortably as Luna glared up at the entity of passion, and Twilight awkwardly picked up a dumpling and rubbed it between her hooves slowly before the Lich asked uneasily: “Do you... do you know anything about what's coming, Nightmare Moon? Or about what tried to attack us?”

“All I know comes from what you three see, what you three feel. The only difference between us is that I have access to your subconscious, and the immense storehouses of memory, and all that untapped knowledge and power hidden away in the minds of all three of you...” Nightmare Moon slowly turned her smile back towards Scrivener, saying gently: “Which means that I have recognized long before you have why you feel so strange about your daughter, Scrivener Blooms.”

The stallion frowned and tilted his head as Twilight sat up a little, looking more anxious. Luna, meanwhile, only picked up a steak with telekinesis and floated it in front of her, taking a large bite out of it before she muttered around the barely-scorched meat: “Now shush, Nightmare Moon. A fetish only becomes a problem when it leaves the realm of fantasy.”

Nightmare Moon only smiled calmly, replying pleasantly: “Oh, believe me, little Luna, you don't have to be afraid of losing your position as the King of the Night's favorite meat... rather, I'm talking about the problem of territory. You are the master of the Clay of Prometheus... it can only have one master.”

Scrivener frowned at this, tilting his head curiously as Luna and Twilight both leaned forwards as well. The sapphire mare became more serious, while the Lich shifted anxiously, asking: “Does that mean that... as long as Scrivener's alive...”

“You have such faith in our King of the Night, and as always it delights us, most beloved Twilight Sparkle...” Nightmare Moon said lovingly, leaning forwards with a pleased expression. “No. It means that Innocence must learn to create and use her own mire. But just as Scrivener's corruption will feed strength to and protect our most beloved daughter... it will also not obey her. It will coddle her, and comfort her, and love her, but it will not obey her, and it will do its best to keep her... under hoof. You like her under hoof, all of you, do you not?”

Scrivener grimaced a bit at this, then he shook his head as he tried not to let her words get under his skin. All the same, he knew how defensive and ruffled he was feeling slipped into his voice as he replied dryly: “I don't want her under my anything. I just want her safe.”

“I would never complain. You deserve everything. I am not weak, like the foolish creature in that foolish story. I am honest when I say I would do anything for you that you asked, I would and will give you all that you desire.” Nightmare Moon replied quietly, slowly striding down the table towards the stallion, and the charcoal, half-Wyrm and half-pony swallowed thickly before the passion entity leaned down and invited gently: “Eat, my beloved. Enjoy.”

“Yeah. Enjoy.” Scrivener muttered to himself, and then he shook his head before awkwardly picking up a dumpling and biting into it... and even knowing that it wasn't real, that this was just all in their minds, it tasted real, and it felt real, and... he enjoyed it much more than he knew he should.

The stallion chewed slowly, then he looked up awkwardly as Nightmare Moon leaned forwards and murmured softly: “It's good, isn't it? Yes, eat well... would you like me to feed you? Or a massage, or some other pleasure?”

Nightmare Moon licked her lips slowly, and Scrivener winced away a little before Luna asked moodily: “And again, thou art stalking Scrivy all creepily. Cease that.”

“I apologize, but... it is the easiest way to get the attention I so crave. And Scrivener is closer to the darkness than Twilight Sparkle is...” Nightmare Moon laughed quietly, then slid her eyes towards Twilight Sparkle, murmuring: “But darling Twilight does take reassurance in seeing what you and Scrivener Blooms do... and often seeks to follow in your hoofsteps as well.”

The Lich looked down awkwardly, shifting and blushing a bit as Scrivener and Luna both grimaced over at Nightmare Moon... but the worst part, by far, was the temptation. The allure. The sensation of wanting to see how deep Twilight's darkness went, what kinds of things she dreamed of doing in her darkest heart, that fascination...

No, those thoughts weren't good thoughts to have, especially right now. Scrivener shivered a little, hating that part of himself that was so... terribly... curious. He closed his eyes, taking a breath for a moment, trying to calm himself down... and then he looked up in surprise when Twilight said quietly: “I have just as terrible thoughts as Luna and Scrivy do from time-to-time, Nightmare Moon. The only difference is that... I'm a lot better at hiding it.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Nightmare Moon bowed her head towards the violet mare with a sultry smile, her eyes glimmering with dark delight. “Then we shall do our best to help... draw these urges out of you at the appropriate time. You deserve to practice the same wonderful arts that Lord Scrivener and Luna Brynhild both do, after all.”

Twilight couldn't help but shake herself out at this, but before the conversation could twist any further into uncomfortable territory, Luna said pointedly: “I believe thou would be rewarded better, Nightmare Moon, if we could focus upon business instead of pleasure...”

“Very well, Luna Brynhild. We understand.” Nightmare Moon straightened, finally drawing her fawning eyes away from Scrivener and Twilight to become more serious as she looked towards the sapphire mare. “Chaos draws the eyes of the Draconequus. They take pleasure in watching our plays, our transformations, and great events where sense is lost and we are forced to give up our rules, our laws, our manufactured order.

“But they do not desire to see us die, remember. They loathe death: to them, it's like a toy being broken, or taken away. It serves no advantage to them.” Nightmare Moon stopped, then looked meditatively up at the stars above. “We must try and find out why they watch us. You have failed to consider the fact that there is more than one option here: they may watch us because something powerful, and chaotic, and very much alive is coming, instead of something that will promise destruction.”

Luna shifted at this as Scrivener and Twilight traded looks, and there was silence for a few moments before the violet mare asked hesitantly: “But isn't it more likely that... something bad is happening? I mean, there's records that show even a chaos generator doesn't attract the attention of more than one or two Draconequus...”

“We must consider every option, that is all.” Nightmare Moon said gently, looking over at Twilight Sparkle and studying her for a few moments, and then the tall, dark-coated creature returned a smile towards Luna. “Although interlopers are more likely. And unfortunately, sweet Luna... if the Draconequus are already watching, that means your failure to stop them is all but guaranteed. Otherwise, fewer would be so interested... unless in order to stop the enemy, we must cause a great calamity... or perhaps...”

Nightmare Moon looked thoughtful, and Scrivener, Luna, and Twilight all shifted uncomfortably before the passion entity looked up and said softly: “Perhaps we are meant to join whatever force of destruction is about to arrive. That will ensure our survival, perhaps finally lead to us attaining the strength we so desire, that we all deserve to achieve...”

Luna gritted her teeth at this, straightening and narrowing her eyes as she said disgustedly: “I would never sell myself to the enemy, whether it meant survival or not!”

“Noble. Brave. Ultimately stupid, and very likely a lie, Luna Brynhild...” Nightmare Moon turned her eyes slowly towards Scrivener Blooms, then she leaned down and whispered in his ear: “Because I taste your emotions, my beloved King. If you were promised power and safety... you would gladly become a monster, wouldn't you? You would happily turn on the world that's been so cruel to you, treated you so unfairly...”

Scrivener clenched his eyes shut, then he shook his head and shoved Nightmare Moon's face away, saying sharply: “Look, that's in the past. The world we live in now... it's been good to me and my family. Why wouldn't I fight to defend it, to-”

“Maintain your status as top monster?” Nightmare Moon asked almost teasingly, and Scrivener glared up at her before the dark entity drew her eyes towards Twilight Sparkle, adding softly: “And you would defend the world more because it is what's expected of you than what you truly desire anymore, Twilight Sparkle. I know you wish that you could pass on new strength to your friends, after all... that you didn't have to be worried about them as they go to Valhalla and you... do not.”

Twilight shifted and shivered a little, then she shook her head and closed her eyes tightly. “No matter what I want, what I have to focus on is what's best for my friends and what's... right, in the long run. Even if I wish they could be around forever...”

Nightmare Moon laughed quietly at this, shaking her head slowly and murmuring: “You have such quaint notions of morality, Twilight Sparkle. We love you all the more for your sense of right and wrong, but at times, it is... tedious. And you still have yet to understand that sometimes you must throw away doing what is right if it will only hurt yourself and those close to you in the long run.”

“That's not what I want to believe. That's not what I've been trying to raise Innocence to believe.” Twilight looked up resolutely, shaking her head quickly. “Even when it hurts us, or those around us, we still have a duty to do what's right-”

Nightmare Moon laughed quietly, cutting off the Lich's argument before the dark entity slipped around the table, striding towards Twilight with a smile as she began: “But if it hurts us or those close to us, how can you say it's right? How could-”

As the enormous winged unicorn began to pass, Luna shoved her chair backwards and firmly whacked into Nightmare Moon's side, making her stumble with a wince, and then her beautiful features twist into a furious glare as she bared her fangs at Luna, who growled in response. There was tense silence for a few moments, and then Nightmare Moon's scarred features smoothed out and she bowed her head, saying softly: “Excuse us, Luna Brynhild. It has just been so long since we've had the chance to speak to you all... we are eager for conversation. We enjoy the debate.”

“What thou enjoys is causing trouble.” Luna replied moodily, and then she shook her head slowly before she sighed and dropped her head back, saying finally: “I believe that we are simply... without an answer, is that what thou art avoiding?”

Nightmare Moon only shook her head, replying after a moment: “No. It simply does not interest me, Luna Brynhild, that is all. I am a creature of passion, of the moment. I desire to live in the now, and not to worry about the future. Oh, I like to plan, to scheme, to do as I can for what is to come... but this does not concern me. I do not care any longer if this universe lives or dies: that is neither my problem nor my concern. My only goal is to make the three of you understand that we must do what is best for ourselves.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Scrivener looked up and said disbelievingly: “So your real answer is just... that we should run away?”

“If it is necessary.” Nightmare Moon shrugged, looking around at them with an expression of... entertainment, amusement, and patronization, it seemed like. “This world has begun to bore us, perhaps that is all. And I believe it would be easy to drag those with us we care about if necessary... or perhaps...”

Nightmare Moon's eyes gleamed as she murmured: “Do you not remember our conversation with Hecate? It is possible... perhaps even easy... to cut the tethers of a world free from this universe and disconnect it from any easy access. Maybe we should do that... make our own home, our own world. Yes, we desire... we long for more. And we are tired of cleaning up all these other childish, foolish messes.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Luna said disgustedly: “Here I thought thou wert my battlelust. Now I see that thou art my cowardice.”

But Nightmare Moon only smiled and leaned down, locking her gaze with Luna's own and pushing almost nose-to-nose with her as she replied quietly: “No. I am your darkness, tempered by how you have changed, what you have seen. Oh, believe me, I am very happy to fight and kill... but saving this world, fighting for others... it all bores us now. And now, we both see that it would make the perfect cover to escape forever... to leave, and find our own world to begin our own dark empire, as our King of the Night still dreams of and you have such fantasies about yourself, little Luna Lightblade.”

“Brynhild.” the sapphire mare corrected with a glower, and then she closed her eyes and muttered: “And fantasy is not meant to be acted upon, Nightmare Moon. Nor would I truly ever desire to rule.”

“No, you don't want to rule as Celestia has. You have your own idea of rulership... one that would be much more interesting. Would be much more... hooves-on.” Nightmare Moon replied softly, leaning forwards knowingly.

There's another awkward silence, and Scrivener looked awkwardly at the food in front of him before he shook his head and muttered: “I think I'm... done. I think we should probably just go.”

Nightmare Moon only laughed quietly, then she simply tilted her horn to the side, and the three ponies wince and lean backwards in their chairs as the table, plates, and foods dissolve into ashes and shadows. “Very well, if that is what you so desire. But do not forget that you came to me for my advice, and that was all I gave.”

There was silence for a few moments between them, and then the dark equine shook her head slowly before she said softly: “I will be here as always, waiting for you. Eager to provide the help that I can, and to give you my honest advice. My honest opinion. I am passion, but in a way I am just as logical as Celestia, at times: it is the strength of my nature. My desire to take care of all of you.”

Luna grumbled, and Twilight shifted uncomfortably as Scrivener looked away. There was silence for a few moments, and then Nightmare Moon smiled around at them before saying softly: “Come back to me when you're ready to accept to accept my advice. When you... tire of this silly game we've been playing for so many years. It's time for you three to accept who you are, and the darkness you are composed of, and it is time for us to leave behind the things that make us weak.”

Scrivener grimaced as Twilight looked down and Luna glared challengingly up at the creature. There was silence for a few moments, and then Nightmare Moon laughed quietly before she bowed her head forwards and faded away as the darkness around the three ponies became more heavy, more oppressive, more blinding...

The stallion closed his eyes... and when he opened them, he was back in the comfortable darkness of his bedroom, breathing quietly in the darkness, and with his forelegs wrapped around Luna on one side and Twilight Sparkle the other. The Lich was curled up tightly against his chest, her eyes still closed as she clung to him, while he was resting with his head against Luna's breast, her holding him just as tight and close as he held her as he felt her lips silently kiss his temple.

Her horn was like a beacon in the darkness, as they rested on their low, wide round bedding, blankets strewn around their bodies, the painted-on stars and constellations that decorated the ceiling above seeming to twinkle like the real thing. The curtains were drawn, but they weren't shielding them from any light: it was two, three in the morning, and the night was as dark and silent outside as it was in the confines of their room.

The three shifted a little, and Luna sighed softly before she murmured into the darkness: “I do not like this, Scrivy. Nightmare Moon... I fear she seeks to replace me.”

“She doesn't want to replace you, Luna.” Twilight murmured quietly, and the Lich shifted a little so she could look up at Luna without having to pull away from Scrivener, and the stallion smiled a little as he rubbed a hoof silently down her naked back. “She wants... well... to be part of us.”

“She is part of us. Like a tumor. A tumor I cannot simply cut out, much as I may desire to.” Luna said grumpily, shaking her head quickly before she sighed tiredly and mumbled: “This is all Scrivener's fault.”

“Yeah. Probably.” Scrivy agreed after a moment, and Luna nodded firmly before she leaned down to chew thoughtfully on one of his ears, and Scrivener winced but didn't otherwise react, turning his eyes down to the Lich as he asked quietly: “But what are you thinking?”

Twilight shrugged a little, and then the Lich buried her face back against Scrivener as she blushed a little and whispered: “Just how much I love you two and how... tempting Nightmare Moon can be sometimes. She sees into us... into those deepest, darkest, most hidden parts of us...”

“Aye, but she is blind to the obvious, to what stands in the light.” Luna murmured around Scrivener's ear, and then she grumbled a bit before spitting this out and instead lowering her head to bump insistently against the stallion's muzzle. “Nightmare Moon sees only what she desires to see, so... so 'tis best not to listen to her advice when it has naught to do with the subject of our interest.”

Twilight shrugged a little at this, and Scrivener Blooms dropped his head as Luna gazed down over the both of them, then she smiled a little and firmly shook the charcoal stallion a few times. “Now cease. Trust in my words, all will be fine, I promise: no matter what adversity we face, we shall overcome it together. Together.”

She emphasized the last word, and the two ponies nodded before Twilight mumbled and buried her face into Scrivener's chest, the stallion hugging her tightly against him as the Lich murmured: “Together. Just make sure you two aren't just saying that to me, that we really will do everything together... you both still sometimes try too hard to protect me.”

“You deserve protecting. Me and Luna don't. We're kind of... you know. Jerks.” Scrivener said after a moment and Luna grunted and nuzzled down between Scrivener's ears before she slid past him to kiss Twilight's forehead reassuringly, making the Lich smile a bit.

“You don't always seem like jerks.” she said softly, and then she leaned up and me Luna's lips, sharing a soft kiss with the sapphire mare before their mouths parted, and she buried her face back against Scrivener's neck with a bit of a blush and a quiet laugh, mumbling: “It feels so weird to... be so old, but feel so young still.”

Scrivener only shrugged a little, and Luna laughed softly as she dropped back, saying wryly: “Thou art both quite young yet, Twilight Sparkle. But I suppose that is rather unfair, for to both of thee I must seem ancient and powerful as the universe itself.”

“Like a black hole.” Scrivener said mildly, and Luna glowered at him before she brought up a front hoof and shoved it firmly into his face, making him wince a bit as Twilight laughed and shook her head slowly. The stallion only grumbled, shifting awkwardly before the sapphire mare finally pulled her hoof away, and the earth pony sighed as he looked up at the roof and mumbled: “It does scare me sometimes, though. I don't want to live to the end of the world.”

Luna looked quietly entertained at this, then Twilight laughed quietly and nudged the stallion gently, saying softly: “You two already lived through the end of the world once, though. And you made it out okay and... fixed things.”

“Yeah, but... maybe that's part of why I don't want to do it all over again.” Scrivener smiled a little over at Twilight, hugging her a bit closer with one foreleg before he closed his eyes as he felt Luna shift, slide herself closer, curl around him – no, both him and Twilight, really – protectively.

There was quiet for a little while as they laid together, and then Luna finally hammered lightly on the back of Scrivener's head, yawning once before she gestured absently at the door, and the stallion grunted as he carefully wiggled free of the mares before absently stepping back on Luna's head for a moment, making her huff and flail at him as Twilight giggled a little.

Then the stallion made his way out of the room, absently ducking under the pillow Luna flung at him. It bounced off the door, and Scrivener simply brushed it aside and yanked the door open before he winced and stumbled back a bit in surprise, wincing at the light.

Luna groaned at this and rolled into Twilight, burying her face against the violet mare to block out the light, and Scrivener mumbled as he strode into the hallway. He felt more tired after lazing in bed for half an hour than he had when he'd first woken up. He hated it when that happened.

He shook his head out quickly as he stumbled his way down the hall, yawning again and glancing moodily up at the electric lights in the ceiling. Someone had forgotten to turn them off, or Sin had turned them on to see while she was going to get a glass of water or something, and... nice as they were, Horses of Heaven did he hate how bright they were.

He made his way into the kitchen and approached the coffeemaker. Some things never changed, he reflected: Luna insisted on her coffee every single day, ever since he'd introduced her to it. Or reintroduced, rather: apparently it had been around even in Luna's day, it had just been a little harder to make, and a lot harder to procure.

Scrivener smiled a bit as he finished readying the coffeemaker, then turned his attention to starting a small snack for them. Sure, they were an immortal, a Clockwork Pony, and a Lich, and none of them needed to eat... but that didn't change the fact that they got hungry now and then. Not hungry-hungry, but when you dreamed of a good meal and then woke up with nothing in your stomach...

Scrivener fidgeted a bit after a moment, looking awkwardly down before he shook his head quickly. There was no need to be ashamed of that. But some things were hard to outgrow and move past, and he thought that some things – especially the things that carried a reminder he wasn't really a pony – would never stop really bothering him. Then again, maybe he tried too hard to be bothered by dumb things, too, as if he was worried that if he let them not bother him, it would make him less of a pony.

“Nay, I think thou just likes to whine. But never fear, Scrivy, I shan't make thee give up thy whining and whimpering.” Luna said mildly as she turned the corner into the kitchen, and the stallion smiled despite himself over his shoulder before the two traded a quick kiss, and then Luna dropped her head against his neck and closed her eyes. “Twilight is being lazy. Lazy lazy lazy.”

“Lucky Twilight.” Scrivener replied mildly, and Luna grunted before the charcoal stallion headbutted the sapphire mare gently. “Go flop. I'll finish putting jam on these and you can pretend you're queen of everything while I feed them to you.”

“Twilight must also feed me. I am queen of everything and I demand this.” Luna mumbled, nuzzling into Scrivener's neck above his collar before she yawned and turned around, striding back into the living room to fling herself down with a mumble before she smiled slightly over her shoulder. “And I shall make thee head servant if thou...”

Luna paused, then giggled to herself before repeating: “Head servant. Nay, I know of an even better way thou can-”

“Shut up, Luna.” Scrivener said wryly, and he hated how affectionate his voice was as the sapphire mare smiled and turned around, burying herself down against the cushions. After a few moments, she was joined by Twilight Sparkle, who flopped down against her side. Luna turned towards her, burying her face into Twilight's neck, and the Lich smiled as she arched her back and her wings fluttered a little before she relaxed with a sigh.

The two mares were shortly joined by Scrivener, who carried in a tray with one claw that held their usual mugs of coffee and jam-covered muffin halves. Luna grabbed eagerly at this, but Scrivy stayed just out of her reach as he strode around the bedding to put the tray down in front of the fireplace, and Luna growled in frustration as she wiggled forwards and grumbled: “Thou art annoying, Scrivener B-”

The earth pony jammed a muffin-half into Luna's open mouth, and she coughed around it, sending crumbs flying everywhere before she glared balefully up at the stallion. He only winked back, and there was silence as the sapphire mare chewed slowly, then swallowed loudly and finally said crankily: “Thou must be a little gentler than that.”

Scrivener opened his mouth, then huffed when Twilight looked at him pointedly before he sighed and instead picked up the coffee mugs in his claws, passing two to the violet mare. She caught them both in a telekinetic grip, and Luna rolled over and reached up to snag one out of the air between her front hooves, bringing it down to rest atop her scarred breast. Then he opened her mouth insistently, and Scrivener sighed tiredly, picking up another muffin half and tearing it in half before dropping it daintily into her jaws so the mare could loudly chew it up. “You make me feel like I'm part of a petting zoo. The nasty part, with all the animals that try and bite you and run into your butt.”

“I never knew thou liked animals in that way, Scrivy. Should Abaddon ever become pregnant, I shall turn my eyes to thee first.” Luna said pointedly, and the stallion rolled his eyes before the sapphire mare carefully tilted her mug of coffee back, opening her mouth wide and messily managing to spill some of the black liquid into her jaws as both Twilight and Scrivener glared at her.

Then Luna tilted the mug back, smacked her lips a few times, and said thoughtfully: “Today we must begin our daughter's training, but perhaps in the morning we should visit our eldest, Scarlet Sage, and her terrible twins.”

“Only one of them is evil. The other's always very nice to me.” Scrivener said after a moment, and then he picked up a muffin half and dropped it into Luna's waiting jaws. As she chewed it up loudly, Twilight sipped moodily at her coffee, and the stallion couldn't help but smile in amusement at the two. “I think you both just don't like being old grandmothers.”

“And thou art the old grandfather. Why does it not bother thee? I do not like that the world around me is growing so old.” Luna grumbled, shaking her head quickly before she added: “We should make another visit to another layer to see the young faces of friend and family again. Where they have not aged so fast and grown so old.”

“They might look like our friends and family, Luna, but... they're not. I think that might just make things worse.” Twilight said quietly, and the sapphire mare softened as she looked over at the Lich. There was silence for a few moments, and then the starry-maned mare reached a hoof up, and Twilight took this and squeezed it gently as she murmured: “Sorry. I think it's just... every time something's happened in the past, I've been worried about my friends. But now, they're going to want to help but... they aren't going to be able to.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Scrivener Blooms shook his head and said softly: “Old has to make way for the new. At least, that's how it's supposed to work, but I guess... things like we are tend to screw that up a little.”

Luna smiled wryly, then she nodded slowly before saying quietly: “Aye, we do, but... we too should step aside one day, Scrivy. If I have learned anything in all these years, 'tis that. As much as I desire to protect my friends and family forever... eventually, I may become a Celestia if I do so, where my protection eventually becomes a cage.”

Scrivener only smiled down at the sapphire mare, and then Twilight glanced up at the empty fireplace before she easily swept her horn to the side, and blue flames burst into life over the charred logs. The three ponies looked into the flames for a few moments, and then the violet mare sighed before turning her eyes towards the two and murmuring: “I really don't know if I want to ever step aside, though. I understand why we should, especially with ponies like our children to take our place, but... I wish that I could make my friends young again, that we could all... live forever.”

“Well...” Luna shrugged a little, then she sipped upside-down at her coffee again before saying finally: “Aye. I understand that all too well, Twilight Sparkle. Perhaps... I would even take steps towards achieving that end, 'twere I alone. But I am not alone... I have the two of thee to think and worry about.”

Scrivener and Twilight traded looks, and then Luna wiggled a bit on the bedding and nodded thoughtfully to herself, before she smile back and forth between the two. “'Tis not the best thing, but... as long as we have each other, my mares, then I shall always be able to find happiness.”

“We're codependent. I think that's a bad thing.” Twilight said mildly, and Luna huffed as Scrivener only shrugged agreeably. Then the violet Lich sighed and shook her head before murmuring: “I don't think I'd ever change it, though. I've gotten too used to this feeling of sanctuary... but... at the same time, I wonder if I could survive if something happened to Innocence. I know we have to get her ready for her own life, that good things and bad things will happen that might distance her from us a little more and more... that one day we might have to leave, and she'll be on her own... but...”

“It is very hard to accept, aye. But if thou can accept letting go, then sometimes 'tis what leads to... gaining more.” Luna said softly, and then she smiled reassuringly to Twilight. “Why, just look at myself and Antares, Twilight! He has become strong and happy, and our relationship is a strong and happy one, and neither of us can deny 'tis well in part because... I let go.”

There was quiet for a few moments, and then Twilight smiled a little as she said softly: “You didn't really let go, Luna. Instead, you... you just stopped standing over him. You let him walk on his own, but Scrivy and I both know that you've always been there for him, ready to catch him if he ever fell. And that's the kind of mother I want to be, but I don't do it nearly as well as you.”

“Well, 'tis also not time to let Sin go quite yet. First she must pass these training exercises.” Luna said comfortably, and then she shook her head quickly and added softly, glancing up at Scrivener Blooms: “Thou must teach her to use the mire, on that note. That seems like the only useful bit of knowledge we gained from Nightmare Moon.”

“I don't know if I can teach her that, though, Luna. I mean... it's not like I ever really tried to learn these things myself... creating the mire was just there.” Scrivener said awkwardly, and Luna huffed at him loudly as Twilight smiled amusedly and sipped her coffee, taking a strange pleasure as always in watching the two as they went about their oddly-supportive and loving bickering.

“Well, thou certainly did not learn to harness it just on instinct! It took thee much practice and fiddling to refine all thy skills... at first all thou could do with it was splash it on people and make it spike, and the splashing was usually more effective than the spiking, great wimp that thou art.” Luna complained, and Scrivener rolled his eyes before picking up a muffin half and shoving it into the mare's mouth.

She gave a muffled grumble around the food, then chewed it up slowly as Scrivener mumbled: “Well, still, I don't know if I'm cut out for teaching. And don't bring up the classes I taught up at the university, that's not really teaching. I read out of old books and rambled a lot about how I think writing should work. Which probably wasn't all that helpful.”

“Hey, at least one of your students has been successful, and she credits you a lot.” Twilight said pointedly, and Scrivener looked at the violet mare dryly before he picked up a muffin half and attempted to jam it into the Lich's muzzle, but she only laughed and waved it away before saying softly: “Look, Innocence really looks up to you, Scrivy, whether you like it or not. She'll listen to you, and she's already trying really hard to use the corruption as it is, no matter what we tell her.”

“She is very strong-willed, aye.” Luna agreed, smiling a little over at the violet mare before she shifted her eyes to Scrivener. “And she does adore thee. 'Tis funny, she and I get along so well, but I think often she loves me less like a parent and more as a friend.”

“Well...” Twilight shook her head, hurriedly cutting herself off. The last thing she wanted to do was start down that line of complaining, so instead she rose her head and smiled a little, asking: “Do you think once Innocence learns to control the mire more, it'll help with her... outbursts?”

Luna and Scrivener traded thoughtful looks, and then the charcoal stallion shrugged and the sapphire mare murmured: “I would like to say yes, my beloved, but... 'tis difficult to say. The discipline will be good for her, but... she is a very determined and stubborn sixteen year old. There is little that can fix that, as nothing is really broken.”

Twilight nodded, and there was silence between the three as they drank their coffee and shared the snacks. Eventually, Scrivener took the empty tray and empty mugs back to the kitchen to wash them quickly off in the sink, and Luna rolled around on the futon childishly as Twilight sat to one side, thinking to herself about things and trying to plan for a future that she wasn't entirely sure of.

When Scrivener came back, his claws folded back into hooves that were still a little soapy from the washing, Twilight looked up at the stallion and asked curiously: “Do you think that you could talk a little about how you use the mire to transform yourself with Innocence? Not that I think she can or should turn into a big Tyrant Wyrm like you do, Scrivy-”

“Scrivy is not a big Tyrant Wyrm, Twilight Sparkle, he is tiny. He is the smallest of all the Wyrms.” Luna declared from where she was sprawled on her back, and Scrivener glowered at the sapphire mare as she peered at him between her legs, then grinned widely. “I am not used to seeing thee so far away when I am like this.”

“Yeah, it's nice to be at a safe distance.” Scrivener said dryly, and Luna huffed at him loudly before the stallion turned his eyes towards Twilight. “But uh... well, yeah, but she already polymorphs herself well enough, if that's what you're thinking of.”

Twilight nodded, smiling after a moment. “She does, but... maybe the mire could help her to polymorph herself better. Right now, it's very vulnerable to any kind of purification... sometimes just her own emotions or focused light are enough to burn away her transformation. I just... I just want her safe.”

The Lich blushed: it was a strange choice of words, maybe, but Scrivener and Luna both traded soft looks, then nodded to the mare, and the stallion said quietly: “Alright. I'll see what I can do. But... well, you remember when Luna and I brought up armor before...”

Twilight frowned uncertainly at this, shifting and sitting up a little, and Luna finally rolled onto her stomach and gave the violet mare a soothing look. “Gorgeous mare, fear not. I know thou art... uncomfortable with the thought of girding our daughter in battle armor, because thou knows what it will mean: we made a promise to Innocence, that we would give her armor when she was ready for it, and from that day forth she would aid in protecting Ponyville. And we shan't renege on that word, but... thou knows as well as I do, her training is not just for her to learn discipline, and to be able to defend herself. It is the point where... she will be asked to begin defending others.”

The Lich sighed quietly, shifting again before she nodded slowly and looked down, biting the inside of her cheek. Scrivener joined her and sat beside her, and Luna slipped forwards to lean up and kiss the underside of the mare's muzzle gently, before Twilight murmured: “I know. It's just... it's hard, that's all. It's really hard to let your kids grow up.”

Scrivener and Luna traded smiles at this, and then the stallion hugged the violet mare gently as Luna slipped forwards and pushed up against the Lich's chest, embracing her fiercely around the neck. And Twilight sighed softly again as she dropped her head next to Luna's, but after a moment she still found a smile bridging her features all the same: here, safe and comforted in the grip of her lovers, she knew that even if the world continued to change and ponies continued to grow up and grow older, things would still always be okay... as long as she had her soulmates by her side.

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