• Published 3rd May 2014
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Eclipse - 8686



A recurring nightmare convinces Luna that, since her return, she has never regained her sister's complete trust. And at the forthcoming Festival of the Eclipse, she decides to make amends with a bold gesture: she removes the moon from the sky.

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Chapter I

–––Chapter I –––

The Festival of the Eclipse. They had devised and christened it together. It had been over a thousand years since Equestria had seen a total solar eclipse, and the final one it had seen had heralded the beginning of a battle that had nearly torn the country apart. Now, both had decided that it was past time for another one, but with a fresh new meaning. The moon and the sun in the heavens in the same place, at the same time. A symbol of the two rulers of Equestria, equal but opposite, joined together in common purpose – the happiness of the land. It would be a wonderful celebration in the shadow of one of the most spectacular marvels the heavens could perform. And today was the day.

Luna had once, jokingly, referred to their morning ritual as 'the changing of the guard,' and the moniker had stuck. Whether by coincidence, design or irony, it happened every morning at the same time as the actual Guard changed shifts. Fresh-faced officers replaced their weary colleagues and above the waking city, high on the tall tower of Canterlot Castle, the two sisters met, with Luna the first to offer greeting.

"Good morning, sister. Did you sleep well?"

"Soundly, for the most part, thank you," said Celestia, wearing her perpetual, kind smile.

Celestia was known for never out-and-out lying, but she could be selective in her honesty. Luna regarded her sister carefully, searching her features for any hint of evasiveness but, as ever, her sister was perfectly composed.

Before she allowed her gaze to linger too long, Luna turned her attention to the moon in the heavens. Summoning her magic she reached out to it and...paused deliberately for just a moment.

Beside her, Celestia stood perfectly motionless. Her serene smile never left but Luna, now scrutinising closely from the corner of her eye, sensed very subtle apprehension. Celestia's muscles tensed ever so slightly and her breath caught for a split second. So innocuous were the cues that none but her sister would ever have noticed.

Dutifully, Luna guided the moon towards the inviting horizon. As it started to descend, Celestia relaxed in an equally inconspicuous manner. As soon as the moon was out of sight, her sister summoned her own magic and raised the sun, bringing forth warmth and light upon all of Equestria and beyond.

With the sun safely clear of the horizon, Celestia set it upon its course for the day and then, with her horn extinguished, turned to face her.

"Breakfast?"

Luna forced a smile, and did her best to keep her own expression from falling into disappointment. No matter how she tried though, she always had the sense that Celestia could read her like an open book. She gave a short nod and followed her sister from the high balcony into the castle.

–––

The banana pancakes were delicious but Luna could only really bring herself to poke and prod them. Celestia had no such issues however and, sat across the small table from her in their cosy breakfast room, she tucked into her own plate with gusto.

It wouldn't be long now. Celestia would have noticed that she couldn't make banter or small talk today, and that she had lost her appetite. In a few minutes she would realise that all was not quite well and she would ask what was wrong. Luna tried to work up the courage to take the initiative and begin the conversation before that happened, but found that she didn't quite have the wor–

"Is something the matter?"

That was somewhat quicker than expected. Forced to give up any pretense at subtlety, Luna urged herself to meet her sister's concerned gaze.

"Sister...do you really trust me?"

Perhaps sensing the importance of the question, Celestia immediately returned her fork to the table, stood and walked around it to be next to her. "What's wrong?" she asked kindly.

Luna looked up into her older sister's eyes. "Last night. You had a dream about me. About how I...changed. It worries you still. You fear it could happen again."

Immediately, Celestia's face softened and broke into a warm smile. "I see you've been scrying again," she said. "Luna, last night I had a nightmare. Being a princess of Equestria does not make me immune to bad dreams, I fear. That's all it was."

"It is a dream you have had before, isn't it?" Luna said. It wasn't really a question.

"And I'm sure I will have it again. I may have it another thousand times, but that doesn't mean it will have any effect on the way I feel. You are my sister and I love you deeply. Nothing will ever change that."

"And the festival today? There was an eclipse in your dream. You are not apprehensive about the sun yielding to the moon?"

Celestia smiled again. "This is a celebration of our unity and our equality. And I am very much looking forward to it." She put a reassuring hoof on her sister's shoulder. "Now, if you are not going to finish your pancakes, then may I give them a good home?"

Pouting, Luna cupped a defensive foreleg around her plate and using magic, jabbed her fork a couple of times in Celestia's direction – as though it were a tiny spear fending off a hungry monster. Celestia chuckled in reply and returned to her own disappointingly almost-empty dish. As she sat down, Luna spoke once more.

"Tia? Please forgive me for intruding on your dreams."

"Forgive you?" Celestia looked surprised.

"You are not angered or upset by this revelation?"

Her older sister smiled kindly once more. "I have told you before Luna, I have no secrets from you. You are always welcome to share my dreams. Though I am disappointed you didn't reveal yourself. It has been a long time since we dreamt together."

"Indeed," retorted Luna with an apologetic smile. "It has been nearly five hours now."

–––

With breakfast over Celestia had excused herself to make some last-minute preparations for the Festival. That left Luna alone, her thoughts turning to the prior conversation.

Initially she took a great deal of reassurance from their dialogue. But the more she thought, the more she realised that there was far more that Celestia hadn't said, and insecurity began to creep.

She had asked Celestia if she trusted her; Celestia had avoided answering.

She had suggested that Celestia thought Luna's transformation could happen again; Celestia hadn't denied it.

She had asked if she was apprehensive about the eclipse itself; Celestia had evaded the question.

Added together with her reaction at the changing-of-the-guard that morning, Luna was forced to the conclusion that Celestia didn't completely trust her. She had always been wary of Nightmare Moon making a re-appearence...and always would be.

It saddened her, but Luna didn't blame her sister. To the extent that blame could be placed, she blamed herself. And if their positions were reversed, she thought, her reaction would be similar.

They had been so close, once. They had enjoyed a relationship unlike any other, with absolute trust and confidence given and received freely. There had been no secret that they would not tell. No worry that they would not share. No threat that they would not face united. And in one stupid moment of jealousy and anger, she had thrown all of that away. And the thought of never being able to get it back – of never again being so close to her big sister – it was scary.

She had tried. Since her return she had gladly fulfilled her role and peformed her duties impeccably. Yet, no matter how well she did, Celestia had remained somehow distant. Her sister did the right things and made the right noises. And though she would tell her how she was always there for her, the truth was that at times, it felt more like she was merely there. And if nothing changed, that was how it would always be.

There had to be a way. She refused to accept that that trust, that relationship, was gone forever.

As she continued to dwell on it, the more she became convinced that the key to everything was the moon. Nightmare Moon had wanted the moon to ascend to permanent prominence in the heavens, and it had been the catalyst for the feelings of jealousy and hatred that had led to her manifestation. It had been her prison for a thousand years, and she knew Celestia still fostered guilt about that decision. The moon played a significant part in Celestia's nightmare, engulfing or destroying the sun completely without reply. When Luna had paused for a moment in lowering the moon this morning, it had caused her sister apprehension. And when Luna had broached the question of Celestia's anxiety about the moon superseding the sun during the eclipse, she had dodged it.

The moon then. Her symbol of power in Equestria. If there was a way to prove to her sister once and for all that she had nothing to fear from her ever again; that she could trust her as completely and unreservedly as she once had a thousand years prior, then the moon was the key.

And in a flash of inspiration, she thought she knew how. It was drastic and bold, but nothing was more important to her than winning back her sister's complete trust.

But to make her idea work, research was needed. She would have some last-minute preparations of her own to take care of, and in the final few hours before the Festival was due to begin, Luna retired to her study and focussed her energies on revising some very old, very powerful magic.

No-one was going to forget the day of the eclipse.

–––

The twelve guards, arrayed in a split line of half-a-dozen each, approached their long golden horns and without needing a cue, began trumpeting the Royal Anthem to the assembled mass. Behind them Celestia and Luna both stepped onto a low, wide wooden stage dressed with fuchsia carpet and numerous flower garlands hanging from a half-height wooden railing running along its front. In front of the stage a crowd of thousands gathered to take in the festivities, and all across the country other towns and cities would be organising their own unique celebrations.

The general theme was deliberately slightly ramshackle. This was not intended to be another formal ceremony, gussied up and pretentious. It was a lighthearted celebration and a demonstration that the Princesses, though they wielded great power, were at heart only flesh and blood, and enjoyed letting their manes down as much as the next pony. The agreement was that for the duration of the eclipse there would be no titles, no airs or graces at all, and the same went for everyone. For as long as Equestria basked in the shadow of the moon all would be as equals, with informality encouraged and expected.

To that end neither Celestia nor Luna wore any special clothing for the event. No formal gowns or robes of state. The only concessions to the celebration were a turquoise rose that Celestia wore behind her ear, while Luna sported a small garland of yellow flowers fashioned into a foreleg garter. They had even agreed to forgo their respective crowns for the day. Now they stepped together, side by side on the stage, smiled warmly at the crowd and waited for the blaring anthem to die down.

"I have a surprise planned for the end of the festival," Luna said quietly as the final notes began to fade. "I hope you like it."

Celestia grinned. "Ooh. Is it a present?" she said, with exaggerated excitement.

"Of sorts..." Luna replied, her own grin in evidence.

The final note of the anthem receded into silence, and the crowd hushed. Celestia stepped forward.

"Citizens of Equestria! It has been a thousand years since the last solar eclipse, and it was a dark day indeed. But now, today..."

Luna's mind wandered as Celestia gave her short speech. It was interesting. No matter how informal the occasion was supposed to be, the crowd always expected a speech. She wished she had cut the 'dark day' line, but Celestia did love her puns. It was only a few lines long and, hearing the oration coming to the end, Luna forced herself back into concentration. Gathering her magic she searched for the moon she knew to be hidden somewhere beneath the horizon, found it, and began to pull it ponderously skywards.

Hushed gasps stole from the crowd as they witnessed the moon rise into the clear afternoon sky. Slowly, Luna guided it towards the sun hanging motionless overhead. As it approached, the sun cast it into silhouette, the pure white disc fading to black. Then, when it made contact and the eclipse began there were more whispers of quiet awe. Concentrating hard now, Luna slowly brought the moon across the face of the sun. The light of the day began to dim as the portion of shadow increased. The disc of the moon gradually stole the sun's light from the world, eventually leaving only a few tiny bright beads shining through. Then two. Then one. And finally, as Luna set the moon perfectly across the face of the sun, a bright, stunning golden corona flared from behind it. As totality was achieved, the entire crowd reacted with astonishment at the remarkable light show in the heavens.

It was absolutely beautiful.

"Fillies and gentlecolts. Please, enjoy the Festival of the Eclipse!"

The crowd erupted into glorious cheering and thunderous applause as Celestia and Luna stepped down from the stage, into the throng and made their way into the festival proper where stalls, music, rides, dancing, games and unhealthy food were all at their service. Between the various carnival-style tents, numerous brightly coloured streamers and banners hung and decorations adorned every tree, flagpole and lamp-post as far as the eye could see.

"I believe I will take this opportunity to avail myself of some cake," Celestia said, a twinkle in her eye.

"Aha! Your master plan is revealed!" chided Luna gleefully. "This whole festival is nothing more than an excuse to indulge your sweet tooth."

"Well, if you like I can make sure all the vendors know that you are simply not interested. A shame really. I believe I saw Whip Cream with her black-forest gateauxs over there..."

Luna's ears perked. Her favourite! Grinning widely she bounded into the crowd in search of new, delicious quarry.

The festival continued throughout the afternoon, the sun and the moon now joined and travelling together. While the moon blocked most of the light from the sun, there was sufficient from the corona to cast the world into an eerie golden twilight. On its own it was sufficient to see by, but the additional illumination provided by the brightly coloured lanterns at the festival was certainly welcome, and only added to the joviality.

The two sisters spent the afternoon at their ease, each the most relaxed they had been for ages. Sometimes they were together, sometimes they separated. Luna wanted to go on all the rides, and play – and win at – all the games. Celestia was content to sample the food and to mingle and converse with the guests. Though she did have to remind several ponies of the No Titles rule when some automatically began calling her 'Princess.'

Each enjoyed the celebration immensely. It was so nice to be free of responsibility, of pomp-and-circumstance, if only for a few hours. The Festival of the Eclipse was proving a huge success, and so taken were the ponies with the atmosphere and the spectacle of the eclipse itself that Celestia was already planning to make it an annual event.

But it had to end sometime, and after the sisters shared one final ride on the ferris-wheel together – during which Luna grumbled loudly about her repeated inability to successfully 'splat the rat' – they returned to the low wooden stage from which they had earlier addressed the crowd.

As Celestia had opened the celebration, it was Luna's privilege to close it. She stepped forward and spoke in her loud, booming tone – which she still insisted was called her Royal Canterlot Voice.

"Friends. Citizens. Kin. Thank you all for sharing in this celebration. It has been long since the moon last eclipsed the sun. On that day a thousand years ago, I almost doomed our world to war and destruction. And for that I am truly sorry..."

The hairs on the back of Celestia's neck began to stand on end. Luna was up to something. What was she–?

"Today I have eclipsed the sun again. Not to seize power, but to share it. Not to cause fear, but to allay it..."

Celestia felt Luna gathering her magic. Immense quantities of raw mana building inside her, ready to be unleashed...but with no spell yet to direct it into.

"The Festival of the Eclipse will be remembered as the day when the moon ceased to be a rival to the sun. The day when it ceased to be a symbol of the terror of Nightmare Moon. The day when it ceased to be...at all!"

Quickly turning to Celestia, who was still on catch-up, Luna brought her head close and whispered softly. "My gift for you. For us."

"Luna, what are you–?" In a single moment of horror, Celestia saw Luna's horn ignite; the aura darkening with a spell both ancient and powerful. But she was too late to do anything about it. Luna turned back to the crowd and rose into the air on spread wings. Her horn blazed as she channelled immense reserves of magic through the spell, and...

There was a loud explosion, like the crack of a whip amplified ten thousand times, sending such vibration through the air that lanterns and banners all shook violently. The ground quaked slightly and half a dozen ponies lost their footing. It lasted for only a moment and then, every pair of eyes stared up at the suddenly-bright evening sky.

Every pair of eyes except Celestia's, who gaped in open-mouthed disbelief at her sister just now floating back to the stage.

The moon was gone.

Author's Note:

Ladies and Gentlemen;

The preceding chapter contains scenes of a total eclipse of the sun.

As we know, ponies are made of dark matter, and thus virtually indestructable.

Humans are not.

Never look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse.

Enjoy the show.

-The Author.