• Published 21st Oct 2014
  • 6,117 Views, 248 Comments

I Watch the Moon - zeus_tfc



Luna has been redeemed by the elements of harmony, but is finding that salvation is harder to come by. Perhaps the Moon, her prison for so very long, is truly where Luna belongs after all.

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Chapter 9: Fractures

“Thou…. You. You. Know. Nothing. You’ve spent your short life buried in books, but you have experienced little. Don’t presume to tell me my failings.”

Twilight’s eyes shone with hurt, but she volleyed back nonetheless.

“Okay, so I’m young and inexperienced. What’s your excuse? You don’t do anything but hide on that tower. You’ve given up on everything and everypony. What good is all your experience if you don’t share it?”

The longer they argued, the colder Luna felt. It was as though the Moon, with all its barren wastes, was channeling through her. In the icily calm anger which gripped Luna was the surety that Twilight was probably right, but that only served to annoy her more.

“You presume too much,” she said in a low, even voice. Her voice carried no hint of rage or fury, only irritation.

“Guh!” Twilight gasped in exasperation. Her voice hoarsened, as her emotions spun out of control.

“FINE! Run off to your little hideout and sulk like a yearling. See if I care. Equestria is going to leave you behind, and you’re going to do nothing but sit up there and let it happen!”

Luna shook her head before leaping into the air and taking flight. Twilight was wrong. Equestria had already left her behind. It had no place for her, no need for her. The only ponies that refused to see it were Twilight and Celestia.

Luna landed on her perch and sat, but peace eluded her. The iciness she'd embodied earlier faded, leaving only an empty blackness in its void, as well as an odd, tired restlessness.

She stood and paced on the roof briefly.

The hollow blackness inside her hungered, threatening to swallow everything if it was not filled.

Luna leapt from her perch and landed on the balcony to her room. She pushed her way in, and paced for a while longer.

It was a peculiar, weary sort of restlessness which gripped her. She felt so empty, so… so tired.

Luna gave up. She laid down and tried to do something completely unnatural feeling. She tried to sleep at night.


Luna dreamed.

She dreamed, but something was wrong.

Whatever it was tried to stay just outside her awareness.

Regardless of its efforts, Luna could sense something amiss. It worried at her like a splinter in her mind, or an itch she couldn’t reach.

Luna dreamed, balanced on the knife edge of lucidity.


Luna stamped her hoof in frustration. The closer she came to lucid dreaming, the more that emptiness returned, preventing sleep from being the escape she sought. Despite her desire to plunge herself deeper into unconsciousness, something kept dragging her back. There was something amiss in The Dreaming.

No. Not in The Dreaming. In her dream.

There was something in Luna's dream.

It stayed just out of the realm of perception. Luna, her senses dulled since her return, but not gone, kept catching hints of it just on the periphery, as though catching glimpses out of the corner of her eye.

“ENOUGH,” she said. “SHOW YOURSELF. I KNOW YOU ARE THERE.”

The entity didn’t so much come into view as seep into her awareness. She still couldn’t see it. It always seemed to be where her eye wasn’t. She only caught an impression of scales and ichor, and a hissing sound like steel on stone.

“So you reveal yourself,” Luna said to the void. “I am surprised. Begone. Your presence here is unwelcome.”

This is your dream Mare of Night. You are not the Power here.

The words echoed in Luna’s mind.

“So shall I wake and hunt you? I have been more than your equal in the past. Why do you test me now?”

Should you search while awake, you’ll not find us. We feast while you slumber.

Luna clenched her teeth in frustration.

“What do you want? Why do you plague me now? What have I done to deserve this humiliation?”

The hissing sound remained unchanged, but it resonated laughter.

Who’s pain do you think drew us? You are weak. Weaker than before your absence. We shall feast upon your pain and grow strong. Then none shall bar our path. We shall feast. Feast we shall. Feast. All. Hunger. Succulent Pain. Yes. FEAST.

Luna woke.


The Celestial Mare, Custodian of the Sun, Guider of Equestria, the inimitable Princess Celestia woke to find her pillow damp with drool. She yawned, stretched, and scratched her rump.

She rolled herself over and flung her legs out of bed. The floor was cold, and the darkness of the room made leaving the bed an unenviable task. She hauled herself up and started toward her wash stand until her blanket caught her leg and she almost pitched forward on her face. She kicked her foreleg, freeing it from the blankety serpent before lurching toward the basin.

She lifted the ewer with her magic and poured water into the basin, running some over her face. She scrubbed roughly with a washcloth and some plain soap, and splashed water on her face to rinse. Satisfied that her face was clean, she peered into her mirror, checking for wrinkles or other signs of age. She squinted, scrutinizing carefully, and scowled at the mirror, as though daring it to show something different.

She snorted, appeased for the moment, and trotted out of her room to perform her morning ritual.

She found the balcony occupied, which was unsurprising. Her sister had the advantage of already being awake. What did surprise her was the condition of the occupant.

Luna paced anxiously on the balcony, oblivious to everything save whatever preyed upon her peace of mind.

“Are you okay, Luna?” Celestia asked.

“Ah,” Luna cried softly, jumping at the sound of Celestia’s voice. “Sister. I did not sense thee approach. My apologies.”

“Are… are you well, Luna?” Celestia asked. “You seem a bit…”

“I’m fine, Celestia.”

Celestia shrugged nonchalantly, trying not to show her worry.

“If you say so. Shall we?”

Luna was not fine. It was apparent in her magic as she lowered the Moon. It was unfocused, fluctuating wildly.

Celestia risked a glance at Luna. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and her teeth clenched as she struggled to maintain control.

Slowly the Moon set and the Sun rose.

“Luna,” Celestia began, turning to face Luna.

“WHAT?” Luna snapped her reply.

Celestia stepped back in surprise before catching herself.

The action did not go unnoticed. Luna immediately deflated.

“Apologies, sister. I am…” Luna paused, seemingly at a loss for words.
“Distracted,” she decided upon finally.

“Are you okay?” Celestia asked.

Fine. I’m fine.”

“Luna, really. Talk to m-”

“I’M FINE,” she insisted.

Celestia stiffened, but managed to quell the impulse to take another step back.

“If you insist, Luna,” Celestia ceded, “but if you wish to talk, you know where to find me.”

“Indeed,” was Luna’s only response.


Luna stomped away from the balcony feeling unsettled and a bit petulant. It wasn’t enough that her experience in The Dreaming completely unnerved her, and was a sign of imminent danger, but now it was affecting her magic on top of it.

Luna paused in the hallway leading from the balcony, unsure of where to turn. She dared not try to go back to sleep. If the dream creatures were indeed feeding off her, she didn’t dare allow herself to be vulnerable. She could enter the Dreaming full strength while awake, but they would likely hide or flee and not fight. It was a foal’s errand to chase after them in this way.

What, then, was she to do? Luna didn’t know, and she didn’t dare sleep until she did.

One thing was for sure; it was going to be a long day.


Celestia was worried. The ponies in the Day court were oblivious to this fact, of course. Celestia worked hard to keep them so. Nevertheless, she worried. Luna had been skulking around the palace all day. The fact that she wasn’t asleep was worrying in and of itself, but worse was the way she hovered around the periphery of palace life, always out of sight, and barely registering in the consciousness of the ponies going about their daily business. The fact that they weren’t aware of what was going on, and never actually saw Luna was starting to prey upon them. The palace ponies were becoming nervous and short tempered.

Celestia worried.


Twilight entered the palace unsure of how she really felt. Being called to the palace was becoming routine, a fact which did little to resolve Twilight’s jumble of mixed emotions:
Anxiety as to what the crisis was. Lingering anger at her argument with Luna. Guilt that she hadn’t spoken to Luna since the argument. Frustration at being called to foalsit Luna yet again. Annoyance that Princess Celestia couldn’t solve her own problems. Sadness that Luna seemed so damaged that she required such attention.

All these things and more roiled within Twilight, though guilt seemed to have an edge.

She turned a corner and nearly jumped out of her skin as she came face-to-face with Princess Celestia.

“GAH! P-p-princess Celes-”

“Twilight! There you are,” she interrupted. “I’m sorry to be imposing upon you again, and I never dreamed you would have to nursemaid Luna this way, but my patience has just about run out, and I can’t get her to talk to me, and I don’t know what else I can do but ask you for help, and I’m really sorry about this-”

“What’s going on?” Twilight interjected.

“I don’t know!” the princess cried. She sat, dropping her rump in the hallway with a bone-jarring thud that she appeared not to notice.

“Something’s wrong. She’s not sleeping. She’s anxious about something, but she won’t talk to me.”

Twilight stepped back and really looked at Princess Celestia. What she saw disturbed her.

She looked tired. She looked more tired than Twilight had ever seen. Her eyes were a bit red, and her mane a bit rough looking. It wasn’t much. To the casual observer she might look her usual immaculate self. To Twilight, however, her pupil and most honored student, it was startling.

“I…” Twilight began.

Princess Celestia sagged for a moment before straightening, a determined look in her eye.

“Twilight,” she said, “this isn’t fair to you. I’ve asked so much of you already. When you used the Elements against Nightmare Moon, that was for all of Equestria, but what you’ve been doing for Luna, that’s been personal for me. It means a lot to me. I never imagined it would require so much….”

She took a deep breath before continuing.

“I’m sorry. I’m tired and probably not making sense. What I mean to say is, ‘Thank you.’ You’ve taken on a larger task than either of us expected, and, had I known, I never would have burdened you this way. If you ever feel the task is too great, I hope you tell me. For now, however, I beg of you; to talk to Luna. Find out what’s wrong.”

Twilight shivered slightly under the Princess Celestia’s intense gaze.

“P-princess… I won’t lie. W-when I first agreed to this it was mostly because I c… I cared what you thought of me.”

She looked at the ground as she felt her face heat.

“B-but… I kept going because Luna’s my friend. I won’t let her down… or you… but….”

Twilight avoided the Princess’s eyes.

“W-when Luna and I last spoke… we… we had a really bad argument. We… we haven’t spoken for a week. I don’t think that I’m really the right pony to talk to her right now.”

Princess Celestia stared at the contrite unicorn.

“Twilight, are you Luna’s friend, or is she yours?”

Twilight looked up in confusion.

“Um, both?”

“Then I have the utmost confidence in you. Friends argue. You know that. Don’t let it ruin your friendship if it’s that important to you.”

Twilight smiled.

“You’re right, of course. Luna means too much to me to let this drive us apart.”

“Excellent. Now, please excuse me. I’m rather exhausted, and I think I’m going to take a quick nap.”

“I won’t let you down, Princess Celestia.”

The larger pony paused, considering, before placing a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder.

“I know you won’t. Twilight, fate has ensured that I may never have a child, but had such a thing been possible, I can’t imagine a daughter more perfect than somepony like you.”

Twilight’s voice disappeared. Her mouth worked and throat struggled, but no sound came out.

“....I… I….”

“I’m sorry, Twilight. I’m tired and I talk too much. Go find Luna, and I will go find my rest.”

Twilight watched the Celestial Mare depart in bemusement, a roiling in her gut and her face aflame. She shook her head, trying to clear it. She had a job to do, and she didn’t intend to let either princess down.


Finding a place to hide during the day had been a challenge. There didn’t seem to be anyplace in the Palace that wasn’t occupied during the daylight hours. Every corner seemed to be bustling with activity, and no matter where Luna tried to hide, it seemed like she was underhoof for somepony. The only truly logical place was her bedroom, and that held no real comfort for her. Hiding in her room had felt claustrophobic, as well as holding a constant reminder of the sleep she was failing to get.

In the end, the only place she found she could pace in relative solitude was the cemetery. It was ironic, really. She’d spent a fair bit of energy finding a ghost to haunt the mausoleum, and now here was haunting the same area. In retrospect she could have saved herself the trouble.

“OOOooooOOooOoOOooooOOOooooh…” the ghost wailed.

Luna paid her no mind. She had enough trouble placing one hoof in front of the other. More and more they refused to bend to her will. She was clumsier for some reason. She tripped and fell more often. Fortunately she was most often alone, so such things were not observed and didn’t become the object of palace gossip.

Luna paced ever onward.

What would happen if she continued, she wondered, if she just kept going, putting one hoof in front of the other. Would her physical form eventually wear out? Would she become a ghost herself, endlessly circling the graveyard? Would she even notice the difference if and when it happened?

Round and round she would go.

She was a moon herself now, she realized. She was a moon orbiting the center of the cemetery. That notion gave her activity a certain increase in appeal. She was Mare of the Moon, and a moon herself. She matched herself.

Luna’s right hoof snagged on the ground, and she pitched forward, smacking her face into the earth. Oddly, it didn’t seem to hurt much.

She pushed herself up and continued on.

“Luna!” a voice rang out. “There you are. Thank goodness. I’ve been looking everywhere!”

Luna spared a glance from her hooves to see Twilight trotting cheerfully toward her.

Luna pushed onward.

“Um, Luna,” Twilight spoke to the unresponsive alicorn, “what are you doing?”

“I’m a Moon!” Luna said. “I’m orbiting!”

“I… see. Who… who’s been raising and lowering the… other Moon, then?”

“The Moon keeps going. I’ve been raising myself! The Moon never stops orbiting.”

“O-oh.” Twilight’s face shone with worry. She hurried to keep pace with the orbiting mare.
“Why don’t you come inside and have some tea with me? It’s been a while since we’ve talked.”

“NO! Nonono… mustn't stop. The Moon never stops. BAD things would happen if the Moon ever stopped. It could fly away! Or crash! No. Must keep moving.”

“Luna, I’m sure you wouldn’t let anything like that happen-”

“YES! Won’t let happen. Must keep moving.”

“No,” Twilight tried again, “I meant that it wouldn’t hurt to come have tea with me. You wouldn’t let anything happen while we were having tea, right? You look exhausted. You need to come rest.”

“I…. No. Must keep moving.”

“Luna, I’m sure nothing will happen if you come have tea and talk with me.”

“CRASH!”

“You’d never let anything like that happen.”

“I…. What if I can’t stop it?” Luna wailed.

“I trust you, Luna. Besides, I may not be an alicorn, or entrusted with raising the Moon, but I know a thing or two about magic. I’d never let you fall.”

Luna paused in her walk. Without the constant motion, her legs wobbled. Her body threatened to betray her and pitch her forward again.

Her forelegs gave out, and she yelped and closed her eyes as she fell.

Instead of smacking her face into the cold ground, she felt her chest make contact with a warm body.

She risked opening one eye.

“I won’t let you fall,” Twilight said as she braced Luna up with a smile. “Come on. Let’s go get some tea.”

“O-okay.”


Luna’s room was warm, and the tea was hot. Luna breathed in the aromatic steam with a mix of pleasure and resignation.

“I really should apologize to you,” Twilight said, smiling over her own mug of tea. “I… was still mad at you over our argument. I really should have talked to you before now.”

Luna surprised them both by bursting into tears.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. I… I shouldn’t have said those things.”

As quickly as the tears came, they vanished.

“You were a disrespectful little foal!” she snapped.

The tears abruptly returned.

“Sorry,” she sobbed. “I’m sorry!”

Twilight gaped at her, her eyes wide with shock.

“Luna,” she said carefully, “how long has it been since you slept?”

“Sleep? No sleep. Can’t sleep… they’re watching.”

“Who’s watching?” Twilight asked with all the care of somepony disarming a bomb.

“Predators. No. Not predators… parasites. They feed on ponies in their dreams.”

“Luna, even if that’s true, I know you wouldn’t let anything like that happen.”

“No! I’m not strong enough anymore. Don’t you see? It was always me! A thousand years I was gone, and I saw no sign of them feeding, but now I’m back, and so are they. It’s me. I brought the danger. I am the danger, and now I’m not strong enough to protect everypony from me.”

“Why haven’t you told Celestia?”

“She’s never sensed them. She’d probably think I was making it up, or tell me I was being foalish.”

“She’d never do that!” Twilight protested.

“No. I suppose not. I suppose I’m… I’m ashamed.” The tears flowed freely now. “I’m ashamed of how weak I am now. How broken. I can’t even protect myself. How can I protect anypony else? I’m a danger to everypony! I…. It… it would be better for everypony if I didn’t exist.”

“DON’T SAY THAT!” cried Twilight. “Don’t ever say that!”

Luna shrank back, eyes blind with tears. She shivered and sobbed like a foal, all pretense of control now gone.

A pair of forelegs wrapped themselves around her.

“I’m sorry, Luna. I’m sorry I said those things to you, and I’m sorry I left you alone, but you have to get some sleep.”

“C-can’t…”

“Yes, you can.”

A hoof began stroking Luna’s mane.

“Luna, you forgot how strong you are, but I can still see it. I know you’re strong enough to face whatever comes, and I’ll be right there beside you to help. Now, go to sleep.”

“But… but they’re…”

“I’ll stay right here with you. I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

“Promise?”
Even to her own ears Luna’s voice sound small and pitiful. Weak.

“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”


Luna walked through the meadow. The sky was dark, but the stars shone brightly, framing a gloriously full Moon.

All in all, it was a beautiful night.

Luna walked, enjoying the cool crisp air and clear sky. She trotted happily forward hearing the thud of her hooves as they impacted the ground and feeling the impact up through her legs.

A whispering sound came from behind her.

She stopped.

Luna looked around, searching for what could have made such a sound.

There was nothing.

Her imagination perhaps?

The night was quiet.

Luna shrugged.

She breathed in. The air was sweet and fragrant. She began walking again, relishing in the cool green grass. Flowers dotted the meadow. Luna began to forget her worries as she walked.

The whispering sound returned.

Luna froze.

She looked around.

The night was quiet.

Luna’s back prickled, and she began to itch between her shoulder-blades. Something was wrong.

She reached out with her senses.

The night was calm. There was a stillness in the air that transcended mere weather.

Luna frowned and concentrated harder.

It wasn’t just still, it was dead. It was wrong. The green grass, the flowers, everything was dead. Empty.

Wrong.

A dream.

She was dreaming.

The realization should have come with new found control and peace.

Instead, it came with fear.

The stars went out, and the Moon turned red. The grass turned black, and the dark night’s sky changed from a clear crisp night to a miasma of despair.

Luna clenched her teeth.

“Come out!” she hissed. “I know you’re there!”

The entity made itself known, fading into existence.

We have been waiting.

“No. I won’t let you.

You have no say. You are weak. We will feed, and you will sustain us. We will grow strong.

“NO!” Luna cried.

For one brief moment, Luna wished she was the Nightmare. The Nightmare was many things, petty, short-sighted, cruel, but she was never weak.

As soon as that thought escaped her, Luna felt her magic drain from her.

Luna’s blood went cold.

“OURS” the Nightmare said, appearing beside Luna.

What? This is not possible. What are you-

“WE ARE NIGHTMARE MOON,” the Nightmare snarled, “AND THOU ART NOTHING. SHE IS OURS TO DEAL WITH.”

Luna felt the Nightmare’s magic swell. Dark magic crackled about her.

The entity recoiled and faded from view.

The Nightmare turned to Luna.

“THOU ACCEPTEST THY WEAKNESS, NOW SUBMIT.”

“N-no,” Luna stammered, “I-I won’t.”

The magic around the Nightmare intensified. Dark lightning lashed out and struck Luna.

Luna screamed, her body jerking in agony.

“Shhh… It’s okay, Luna. I’m here.”

The words were just barely understandable in the Dreaming. Twilight must have been just on the precipice of sleep. Like a drowning pony, Luna clutched the sense of Twilight as though she were a lifeline, and pulled.

She pulled Twilight into her dream.

“WHAT?” cried the Nightmare.

“What?!?” cried Twilight in an unknowing echo.

Twilight looked around. The dreamscape was still in its nightmarish aspect, but the Nightmare was nowhere to be found.

Words rang in Luna’s head.

“NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR OUR DEBUT, BUT BE WARNED: THIS IS NOT OVER.”

“Luna? What’s going on?”

All the tension left, and with it went the last of Luna’s composure. She quaked uncontrollably. Her legs gave out and she toppled to the ground.

“Luna! Luna, are you okay?”

Twilight leapt to Luna’s side. Her face shone with undisguised worry.

“Where are we?”

Luna gasped for breath, feeling her throat close and chest tighten.

“Calm, Luna, calm. Everything’s okay,” Twilight assured her. She leaned against Luna, trying to soothe the larger mare.

Luna grabbed Twilight, squeezing her in her forelegs as she shivered.

“Urk!” gasped Twilight. “Shhh… It’s okay. You’re okay.”

Slowly Luna’s shivering ceased and her breathing returned to normal.

“S-sorry, T-t-twilight,” she managed through still chattering teeth. “I d-didn’t m-mean to drag thee into this.”

“Where are we?” Twilight asked again.

“We are in my dream. I…. Thou must have been almost asleep. Somehow I pulled thee into my dream.”

“I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Nor did I. It is not something I’ve done before. I’m sorry. I was having a ni- I was having a bad dream, and I pulled thee in without thinking.”

Twilight looked around the nightmarish dreamscape.

“I guess so!”

Luna took a deep, steadying breath.

“Now that I am aware I am dreaming I should be able to exert some control.”

She inhaled another deep breath and closed her eyes in concentration. She exhaled slowly and opened her eyes. The landscape had transformed. The grass was green again, and the flowers had returned. The miasma was gone, replace with a clear-skied evening. The sky was reds and purples where the Sun had assumedly just set, and stars were appearing on the opposite horizon.

“Wow,” breathed Twilight. “You certainly know how to make a beautiful evening.”

Luna smiled.

“Um, Luna,” Twilight said, “You can let go of me now.”

“Oh!” Luna hastily released the unicorn. She looked away quickly, trying to hide her blush.

She closed her eyes and breathed in the night air in an attempt to calm her nerves further. The air was sweet again, and though cool, hinted at the fullness of summer.

“I’m asleep, right?” asked Twilight.

Luna nodded.

“Well then, it would be a shame to waste this beautiful night.”

Luna looked around. The wrongness was gone. Now there was only lush, vibrant, life-filled world around them.

“Thou speakest truth.” She smiled at Twilight. “I must apologize to thee for my previous behavior.”

Twilight surprised her with a giggle.

“Oh, Luna, I’m the last pony you need to apologize to for acting crazy due to lack of sleep. I mean, the stories Spike could tell you… well… I’d prefer if you didn’t ask him.”

Luna nodded as the pair began to walk. The grass rustled, and birds sang in the air. A cool breeze blew by, bringing with it the scent of flowers and greenery.

Luna felt herself really begin to relax. This was as close to paradise as she could conceive. The night was calm and clear, the grass was green, the air was sweet, and she was with somepony she cared for.

Twilight gasped.

“A fairy circle!” she exclaimed, darting forward. “I know they’re just caused by a fungus, but I’ve always wanted to see fairy-po-”

“Twilight, STOP!” Luna commanded.

Twilight froze, her face showing surprise and confusion.

“Luna, why-”

“Twilight, in the real world they are caused by fungus, but this is my dream,” she cautioned, stepping forward. “The circle is likely made of more magic than mold.”

“Not all fungi are mo-” she dropped her head and flattened her ears in response to the look Luna shot her.

“Sorry.”

Luna shook her head.

“Today thou mightest get thy wish.”

She stood before the circle and bowed.

“We most respectfully request entry.”

“And well that you do, Mare of Dream,” spoke a new voice with a chuckle, “for woe unto those that try to force their way into the land of faerie.”

A tiny pony with gossamer wings flitted in front of Luna’s nose. The voice was surprisingly deep, coming from such a diminutive figure.

“Hail, noble Oberon,” greeted Luna.

“Hail, gentle Luna, evening mare, mare of dreams and mare of lunacy.”

Twilight noticed Luna stiffen.

“Who are you?” Twilight asked.

The pony chuckled again, his voice rumbled like rolling thunder.

“I am Oberon, king of faerie. You are welcome into my land, but may only remain under one condition: you two must touch at all times.”

Luna scowled at the small figure.

“What?” exclaimed Twilight. “B-but why?

The pony alit on Twilight’s snout with a laugh and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Because I am king, and that is my condition.”

Luna stared at the fairy pony with suspicion. This was ostensibly her dream, which made Oberon a manifestation of her subconscious, but… not necessarily. In The Dreaming, in the gestalt of pony consciousness, in the magic of the midnight hours and the weave of the dream, all things were possible, and things lived.

Oberon could be Luna’s dream.

Or he could be… external. There was no way to tell for sure.

“No, there isn’t,” Oberon said. “Isn’t it wonderful? That there are mysteries that will never be solved? Wonders that can’t be categorized or rationalized? Come, come. You’ve heard my condition. Do you agree? We are in the midst of a fete. Come join the festivities.”

Luna unclenched her jaw, and tried to relax her taut muscles.

“What doth thou say, Twilight? Shall we join the feast?”

“Can we?” Twilight asked enthusiastically.

“Remember the condition,” Oberon stated.

Luna draped a wing over Twilight like a feathery cloak.

“I believe we are ready,” she said.

Oberon laughed a merry laugh.

“Come then! Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

And with that, the world went black.


They landed. It felt like they landed, though Luna would have sworn her hooves never left the ground.

“Welcome, gentles all, to my fair kingdom.”

Luna looked to Oberon. No longer was he the tiny figure flitting from place to place. No, now he was a stallion, tall and proud and masculine. Very masculine. He exuded an air of authority, and stood with the posture of one used to being heeded, and barring that, enforcing his will.

“The feast is underway,” he said. “Enter and be merry.”

Twilight and Luna looked past him into the crowd of ponies. There were ponies of all shapes and sizes. Most did not have the gossamer wings of Oberon. Some had wings like a bat, others had none. Some had horns, others antennae, some few had feathery crests. A few had paws like dogs in place of hooves, still others had talons like eagles. The only commonality seemed to be that they were all different, and they were all enjoying themselves immensely.

They were largely lounging on the grass and talking as platters of food were carried about.

“Oh, new faces!” cried a pony with a bird’s beak. “Welcome! There’s a free spot right over there.”

Luna looked where the pony gestured. There was a grassy spot which appeared to be waiting for them.

“Shall we?” Luna asked Twilight.

Twilight nodded, her face a mixture of anxiety and excitement.

“Don’t forget my condition,” warned Oberon as they passed.

Luna gripped Twilight more tightly with her wing, instinctively pulling her closer.

They had nothing to fear, she was sure. This was her dream, and she would sense any danger before they were in any real peril, but Oberon seemed intent on rubbing her the wrong way.

The pair reclined carefully, accepting food as it passed by them. It mainly consisted of fruit and pastries, hoof food that didn’t require plate or utensil. The drinks were fruity, but had a strong bite. Luna wondered at the ramifications of being drunk in her dream. Could such a thing be? Luna shrugged to herself and threw back her drink, blinking at the burning sensation in her throat as she swallowed.

“Art thou enjoying thyself?” she asked Twilight.

Twilight nodded.

“It’s fantastic here. Literally. All the different pony creatures are amazing. Is this what fairies would really be like?”

“Thy guess is as good as mine,” Luna told her, following her gaze out to the crowd.

She accepted another cup, and took a large swallow. If it were possible to get drunk in a dream, she was off to a good start. She was starting to feel light-headed, and her hooves were feeling tingly.

“A-are you going to tell me what happened? Why you stopped sleeping?” Twilight asked.

“For the moment the crisis has passed. Is that not what matters most?”

“B-but you never talk to me, not really. Every time you’re about to talk about how you really feel, you change the subject. Don’t you trust me? I mean, I’m your friend… aren’t… I?”

The uncertainty in Twilight’s voice was heartbreaking.

“I….” Luna searched for words where there were none.

“Twilight, if I told thee what my thoughts were, wouldst thou still be my friend?"

"Well, of course I would still-" began Twilight.

"Please," interrupted Luna.

Twilight shivered, but went silent.

"We have already argued this week. It only took one ill conceived statement, one thoughtless word, to drive a wedge between us. How many more hurts would I inflict by voicing my thoughts? I’ve never been as politically adept as my sister, and time on the Moon has stripped away what little sensitivity I had. My words now emerge like daggers, slicing flesh and feelings alike. How long before the wounds to thee become too great? How long before I drive thee away?”

“Prove it,” Twilight demanded. “Tell me how you feel right now.”

Luna’s mouth worked. She wanted to. She very much wanted to, but she was afraid of what it might change. She reverted to her usual lines.

“I’m tired.”

“Of?”

“Living.” The words emerged before she could stop them. Luna squeezed her eyes shut as tears threatened to fall. “I’m tired of living. I’m tired of feeling like an outsider all the time. I’m tired of waking up and fearing that every day is going to be much like the last, and fearing that if it’s not, it will be worse. I’m tired of losing more loved ones than I gain, and being afraid that in the end I will be alone. Just me and my sister, orbiting each other forever.”

She felt Twilight shiver again under her wing. Luna pulled her wing tighter around her.

“I’m tired of being Luna.”

“What can I do, Luna?”

The world around them had grown strangely quiet. Luna looked out at the crowd. The ponies there were still chatting amongst themselves, but the sounds reaching Luna and Twilight were oddly muted.

“Do?” Luna asked. “I’ve not asked thee to do anything. Thou hast done so much for me already. It would be unfair to ask more. Wouldst thou make more sacrifices? Shall I make thee my Knight Protector?”

Twilight chuckled.

“I don’t think you or your sister need knights to defend your honor or protect you. What would attack that you couldn’t handle on your own?”

Luna returned a weak chuckle.

“Oh, my sister and I did indeed have Knight Protectors in the past, but they didn’t protect the body. N-not like that anyway. They guarded our hearts. They were advisers and confidants. They kept us grounded. Sane. In a sea of ponies trying to use us for their own ends, they were a trustworthy rock to cling to. A trusted voice in the din of the court.”

“What happened?” Twilight asked, her shaking increasing.

Luna stared at the ponies of the fete without really seeing them.

“What dost thou do, Twilight, when a friend or l… or a lover betrays thee? How much sharper is the pain? In the end it was too heavy a burden, too much trust to place on one pony’s shoulders. In the end no heart is incorruptible.”

Twilight was quaking now. It felt of fear, not cold.

“What about me?” Twilight asked, her voice almost a whisper. “Aren’t I trustworthy? Do you think I’d betray you? Don’t you know I lo-”

Luna whipped her head around.

Twilight sat shaking under her wing, eyes wide and her mouth resolutely shut. Next to them both, was Oberon.

“Well,” he said in his normal voice, “it appears the game has ended.”

Luna saw red.

Her blood boiled and she felt as though she could breathe fire.

She leapt to her feet with rage fueled strength.

“If you are Id be still,” she said. “If you are External… BE. WARNED.”

Oberon laughed.

“That knowledge shall ever elude thee, O Glorious Night. Here, in the realm of dreams, in the land of faerie, there is naught but delirium and lunacy.”

Luna stepped forward, unsure of what she had planned, but intent on wiping the smug smile from Oberon’s face. This was the land of faerie, but she was still Luna, the Mare of the Moon, the Guardian of Dreams.

The Nightmare.

Just as the last feathers of her wingtip slipped off of Twilight, the fete and all its attendees vanished, leaving Luna and Twilight alone in the meadow without sign that there had ever been more.

“Thou brokest my rule,” Oberon’s voice whispered on the wind.

Laughter echoed into nothingness. Then they were alone.

Luna ground her teeth in frustration.

The air was still, and the night quiet.

Luna set her shoulders and turned.

“Twilight,” she said, “perhaps it is time for thee to seekest thine own dream.”

“Luna!” cried Twilight. “What was that?”

“A dream,” assured Luna. “Nothing more. What magic would there be in dreams if they obeyed the rules of reason?”

“B-but… but….”

“It was wrong of me to drag thee into my dream. I shall wake us, and we can find our own ways back into the Dreaming.”

“Don’t push me away!” cried Twilight, grabbing Luna in a tight hug. “Not now. Not after that.”

“Peace, Twilight. Peace.”

“I won’t leave you, and I won’t betray you. I- l- I care for you too much. Please. Don’t push me away.”

Luna sat on her haunches and returned the hug, resting her cheek on Twilight’s temple.

“Teach me half the gladness/
That thy brain must know.
Such harmonious madness/
From my mouth would flow.
The world should listen then-as/
I am listening now.”

Twilight gave a weak chuckle.

“Somepony’s been brushing up on their Prancy Shetley.”

“As it is with Celestia and baking, so it is with me and poetry. It is my vice, my weakness, and my failure, something I love and crave but have no talent at. Be thankful thou wert not with me during my early years. Such atrocious drivel I inflicted upon ponies! It is well that no verses survived to the present.”

“I’d listen to your awful poetry, Luna.”

“Speak not of such things, Twilight,” said Luna with a shiver. “Nopony deserves such torture.”

“Luna?” prompted Twilight. “Shush.”


Luna stepped into The Dreaming, a cold, calculating fury driving her. She looked searched around for with her Senses, looking for the predators in the darkness.

None were apparent.

Luna snorted. They hid in The Dreaming, covered by shadow and darkness.

But the darkness was her ally too.

Acting on nearly forgotten instincts, Luna reached out with her magic, gripped the very fabric of The Dreaming, and pulled.

It yielded to her, stretching like a sheet of rubber. She infused the portion of the Dreaming with magic until it crackled and sparked with dark energy. With one final tug she released it. It snapped back with tremendous force.

A shock wave erupted, expanding in all directions and ripping through the Dreaming with foul Magicks.

Ponies everywhere in Equestria shivered and whimpered in their sleep as Luna’s dark magic rippled through them.

Her prey made itself known as the shock wave rolled over it. Immediately Luna launched an attack at it with a snarl, firing magical bolts of such horrible darkness that they appeared to pull the dreaming in towards them like black holes. It hissed and spat and chittered at her in anger as it was struck again and again.

She couldn’t kill it, she knew. It was probably older than she was, and would undoubtedly outlast her. Nevertheless, she could make it hurt.

LEAVE, she said. Her words seemed to emerge from the Dreaming itself.
LEAVE AND DO NOT RETURN. THE NIGHTMARE COMMANDS.

We obey, oh Demonmare. We hear. We obey.

It fled, giving the impression of slithering or scampering away, though it simply faded from existence.

Luna sighed, sagging slightly. She’d done it. She’d cowed the creature, commanding its respect and forcing it to leave. She was terrible. She was fearsome.

She was despicable.

She was the monster that even horrors feared.

Was this all she was good for? To be the stick to Celestia’s carrot? The Boogey-Pony that parents threatened their yearlings with?

She could do it, she knew. She could feel the Nightmare under her skin. She could channel her and become a frightening specter, a horrific wraith, worthy of fearing.

Until the Nightmare escaped and tried to destroy them all.

She sighed again.

Luna raised her head, straightening her neck and setting her shoulders. Taking a deep breath, she stepped through The Dreaming. Ponies everywhere were sleeping restlessly, thanks to her. Their injuries needed to be healed.

She had work to do, and she would do her duty.

She would do what had to be done.

No matter the cost.