• Published 13th Feb 2015
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Twilight, Good Night - Carapace

To better herself, Luna has studied Twilight's actions and friendship reports. She never expected to find herself under the microscope in turn.

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9: The Matron

Twilight’s aura shimmered, lifting the gramophone off the table to hover at her side. She stood, smiling as Luna did the same, her saddlebags grasped in her own magic. “Well, this was certainly fun!” She said, beaming brightly. “I’ve got to say, I feel a bit silly not noticing the difference in quality.”

“Heh, do not think too much on it, Twilight, very few ponies in this modern age are aware of the difference. However, a reminder:” she added, “‘tis not that I feel modern musicians lack talent, but rather a full understanding of the emotions that went into the original.” On a whim, Luna quickly reached over and booped Twilight’s nose. “Playing without feeling is the same as memorizing the text of a book without understanding: naught more than simple reputation. Though, again, these are just my opinions on the matter.”

There was a brief pause, Twilight’s eyes crossed to stare at the hoof still touching her muzzle.

Did I just… Luna bit the inside of her cheek. She forced herself to maintain a smile, but she couldn’t stop her wings from shifting forward as if to bury her muzzle in them. Her hoof, the very one she’d just booped Twilight with, trembled as she lowered it back to the floor. By the stars above, Luna, what in the name of mother’s wings possessed you to do something so foalish? We are friends, yes, but you are still a Princess!

Twilight just stood, blinking owlishly for a moment before grinning. “Oh gosh! Have you been reading some of the lessons about Pinkie or something?” She nickered, tail wagging happily behind her. “Or did you pay her a visit in the middle of the night, too?”

“N-No! I apologize if the gesture was offensive, but I had seen Tia do similar things when being playful with her seneschal or the guards, so I just—" she broke off, eying the smirk slowly making its way across Twilight’s muzzle. It clicked. “Oooh! You cheeky little parasprite! How dare you play such a trick on your princess!” Huffing, she turned her nose up and looked down at her friend, struggling to keep from grinning outright. “Humph! Just for that, I may very well make it official that Spike become my personal chef! His cooking will make up for your ill-timed joke!”

“Again, you’re more than welcome to do so! Just remember, you get to deal with the moody baby dragon who likes to take seven hour baths and breathes fire when angered.” Twilight’s smirk widened into a full-blown grin at the visible shudder that went down Luna’s spine. “Oh, yes, the stories I could tell,” she pressed on, staring directly into Luna’s eyes. “But don’t take my word for it, Luna! Just ask Princess Celestia about the time she had to replace her favorite bedspread, it’s a great one!”

Swishing her starry tail, Luna knew she’d been beaten. “I do believe I will retract that statement.” Though, the tale of Tia’s bedspreads does warrant some investigation. She always so loved her comfort. “However,” she began, her lips curved upward to matching Twilight’s grin, “if you truly wish to play this teasing game, you should be well aware of whom you trifle with, my young friend. My tricks were the bane of my dear, sweet sister’s existence in the days of old!”

“True, but I have Rainbow and Pinkie here, and I’m sure it would only take one letter to Princess Celestia for her to join my cause!”

The mares kept up their stares, neither willing to give an inch in their silent contest. Slowly, though, their facades broke. Confident smirks gave way as their cheeks puffed out and lips tugging. As one they burst into laughter and toppled over, kicking their hooves into the air.

How long has it been? Luna wondered as she wiped tears of mirth from her eyes. How long since I last let myself get lost in mirth?

She took a deep breath, releasing it in a breathy chuckle. “Oh, I needed this!” She sighed and rolled over onto her hooves. “Thank you for having me over, Twilight. As you say, it was most enjoyable.”

“I’m glad you could come!” Twilight replied, rolling over to her stomach and resting with her hooves crossed one over another. “Really! We should definitely do this more often. Maybe you could even spend some time with the girls, or come around during the day! I’m sure the foals would love to see their favorite Princess of the Night again.”

Luna raised a brow. “I am the sole Princess of the Night, Twilight Sparkle. Or does my sister’s favored student require remedial lessons?”

“I’m joking.” A deadpan stare and raised eyebrow accompanied the younger mare’s reply. Twilight shook herself and resumed her smile. “Really, though, they’d love to have you stop by. In fact, I’m pretty sure Pipsqueak is already planning his costume for next Nightmare Night.”

“Oho?” Pipsqueak? Ah! The pirate! “And what surprise does mine little rapscallion have in store for me this year?”

“I’m not sure, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s looking to scare you this time around.”

“Frighten me? Ha! The little colt is welcome to try, but he shall not best the Mistress of the Night!” Luna raised a hoof to stomp the ground and bring down thunder with her proclamation, but managed to stop herself just before it came into contact with the ground. She grimaced, pinning back her ears. “I have been working on not doing that…”

Twilight stood and trotted over, her hooves clopping in time against the wood floor. “Well,” she began, patting Luna’s hoof, “you stopped this time, so… call it progress?”

“I… wait… yes!” Her eyes lit up and ears stood straight. “Huzzah! Another old habit shaken!” Glancing out of the corner of her eye, Luna caught sight of Twilight quickly stifling a bit of laughter with a hoof. Ah! Another habit shaken and another joke successful! She only barely resisted the urge to do her little jig. As delighted as she was, the thought of humiliating herself in front of Twilight was a more than adequate deterrent.

...Both for the sake of her immediate embarrassment, and because she was quite certain that any such silliness done in front of Twilight would find its way back to Celestia faster than she could say “Oh, sweet maker, no!”.

Giving her sister extra ammunition was never a good idea, especially when it involved any behavior she might’ve exhibited as a filly.

Though, come to think of it, she still had a few pictures of Celestia muzzle deep in a rather large cake. T’would be such a shame if any of them were to wind up in certain hooves in the media! If not for the fact that Twilight was standing before her, Luna would’ve thrown her hooves into the air and cackled as she called down thunder to boom in the background.

The latter was simply for aesthetics; very important if one wanted to craft the image of being a comically over-the-top mad mare. She should know—she had practically invented the art.

Actually… I think I did invent that one. She recalled, shrugging her shoulders. Something about waking her up, if I recall… Luna frowned and swished her tail. Stop segueing! Pull thy foolish head out of the clouds, old mare!

She turned her gaze back to Twilight. “Well, perhaps I shall soon discard the habit entirely, yes?”

“If that’s what you want, then I’d say you’re on your way. However,” a mischievous grin crossed the younger mare’s muzzle, “I think it should still make an appearance once in a while.”

“Truly? Such as when?”

“Oh, it’s just that I don’t think Nightmare Night would be complete without a little thunder during your entrance. Or, at least, enough to make Rainbow Dash jump like a little filly again!”

Luna blinked at her, staying silent a moment. “I believe,” she began slowly, “that I have underestimated your talent for mischief. My sister implied that you did not have a malicious bone in your body.”

“I blame Rainbow and Pinkie. Entirely.”

“Somehow, I would not doubt that claim. Alas, I believe I should leave you now, or we will talk into the early hours of the morn yet again.” A smirk played upon her lips as she shook her head. “Last time was evidence enough of that, and we were not even discussing music!”

Another stifled laugh, another point in her favor. She was getting good at the whole ‘friendly banter’ thing!

Oh, just wait until Tia hears of this!

Twilight managed to bring herself back under control, though the corners of her mouth still tugged upward. “Yes, well, like I said, maybe next time you can come over earlier in the day. More time to talk, and more things to do!”

Humming to herself, Luna shifted from one hoof to the other. Again, she invites me to spend time with those closest to her, though she knows I am more familiar to her than the others. Perhaps… but would it not be too soon? I am, after all, only just affirming my status as—

And just what did we say about thoughts like that? Luna started as another voice, one eerily similar to Celestia’s, rang out through her head. Wasn’t it you who demanded that I move on as well? Practice what you preach, little sister!

Stifling a groan, she rubbed a hoof against her temple. Even within the sanctity of my own mind, I am not safe from your meddling! Still, the voice had a point: she was supposed to actually get out and make some sort of an effort to better herself. Sitting in her tower for months on end had done little to gain Twilight’s friendship. Rather, it only made her more anxious. It was unlikely it would prove any more fruitful in the future.

There was hardly any question of what she had to do.

“I would like that.” She replied, her bright smile mirroring the look of utter glee that graced Twilight’s face. “Maybe, if you could mention it to them, see what they think about the—"

“They’ll be thrilled.” Luna blinked, her smile faltering as she was cut off. Did she just… again? True to form, Twilight either remained oblivious to her stupor or simply ignored it. “I’ll let you know the next time we all get together and you can just join in! If you have time, that is.”

“I… That is to say…” Oh, confound it, you ninny! Spit it out! Her ears pinned back and she slumped, scuffing a hoof against the floor. “If you don’t think it would be too much of a bother to ask, I would be happy to take part in the, er, festivities…” she mumbled, slipping further back into a more formal form of speech as she trailed off.

But, once again, Twilight had the answer. “If it’ll make you feel more comfortable, I’ll send you a letter confirming that they’re okay with it before we set a date. How does that sound?”

Another hum as she flicked her ears back. “It would be most helpful, I think. Just to be certain that none of them are bothered by my appearance again…”

“What are—oh, right.” Twilight’s ears lay flat against her scalp, the very memory Luna was thinking no doubt flitting through her mind. “Well, I’ll make certain. There won’t be a repeat of Nightmare Night, especially now that they know a bit more about you.”

A wry grin made its way across Luna’s face. Persistent, this one. Even in the face of a slip up, she still pushes me to move out of her comfort zone. She gave a mental roll of her eyes. You’ve taught her too well. “I see there is no changing your mind; you are simply far too much like my sister. Very well, I will await your confirmation and join you all when summoned.”

“Great! I’ll get on it as soon as possible!”

“Of that, I have no doubt.” Shaking her head, she started toward the door, with Twilight following close behind. Just as she reached it, Luna paused, bringing a hoof to her chin. This next one will make the third time that I have visited Twilight—albeit, invited twice. Even so, she has graciously welcomed me into her home, and invites me to share in her friendships. What have I offered in turn? Her eyes lit up. Of course!

She turned, bringing herself face to face with the smaller mare. “My sister tells me that you resided at the castle for quite some time.” Small talk. Not necessarily her strong point, but, with a bit of practice and knowledge of the subject matter, it could make for a nice little segue.

Twilight tilted her head before speaking. “Uh, yes. I went back and forth between my parents’ house and the castle until I graduated from Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, then I moved into the high tower on the north side when I chose to continue my studies. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, my sister made mention in passing,” she replied smoothly. “Actually, that pleases me greatly. From what Tia tells me, there are some ponies who become a bit nervous when entering the castle grounds, let alone standing before one of us. Though,” she broke off, giggling into a hoof, “I daresay I do not have to worry about the latter with you!”

“Eheh. Maybe just a bit!” Twilight raised a hoof, her cheeks taking a light pinkish hue. “B-But yes, I’m quite familiar with the castle, and am comfortable being there.”

Luna gave a happy flap of her wings and stomped a hoof into the floor. “Splendid!” She cried. “Then my request will not be too jarring! Truly, that relieves me greatly! I had hoped to extend an invitation to join me at the castle, and worried that it might make you uncomfortable.”

“I don’t think it would be too bad. What did you have in mind? Going through to the library to look for some of the historical or theoretical texts on music?”

“I am certain we could find something to look at. Rather, I was thinking that you might like to see some more of my private collection of music and artwork.” She paused, chewing the inside of her cheek as she gauged Twilight’s expression. Confusion, a bit of shock, not much to hint at whether or not the little mare was in favor or opposed to the notion. Her resolve faltered. “I-I mean, if that is agreeable to you, of course. We can always—"

“I’d love to!” Twilight cried, practically prancing in place without restraint. “I—oh my gosh—I mean, bringing a couple of your favorites was amazing enough, but your entire collection?” She let out a little squeal and started bouncing like a filly. “Yes! So very, very much yes!”

The very sight of Twilight’s exuberance harkened Luna back to her own the first time she’d visited; her little jig in Whitetail Wood’s clearing mere moments after Twilight first proclaimed them friends.

What an interesting coincidence… She had to cover her mouth to stop a bout of giggles as her eyes followed Twilight up and down with each bounce. And how utterly adorable.

Luna quickly banished those thoughts, leaving them for now as a fond memory of successfully pleasing her young friend. “In that case, perhaps we should arrange for your visit after our next outing, that way we do not risk a conflict in scheduling.”

“Oh!” Twilight stopped bouncing and rubbed at the back of her head. “I’m sorry! I got a little swept up in the excitement! I mean, you just showed me original copies of some of the greatest musical works in recorded history! So, just thinking about—oops!” She broke off, covering her mouth with a hoof. “And there I go again!”

“T’is quite all right! I do believe you will find that I can be similarly excitable.” Luna’s horn flashed as her magic engulfed the doorknob, biting back a wry grin at her understatement. Pulling it open, she stepped through and out into the night. “I shall endeavor to meet your expectations, then. Though, I believe I have the advantage with my collection.” She caught Twilight giving a mock scoff out of the corner of her eye, the little mare following her along to her chariot.

At least they were making a connection in their humor.

They trotted side-by-side to the chariot, their hooves trampling over the lush green grass. Just over the edge, Luna spied the top of one of her Night Guard’s helms. Strider and Shooting Star were hitched up, ready to leave at her behest, but sporting noticeable grins.

Something about those grins. Oh no… “Strider, Shooting Star, out with it.” She ordered with a deep sigh. “What is it that has the pair of you so very amused?”

The twins shared a look, snickering shamelessly in front of their princess before turning back to face her, grins widening enough to expose their sharpened fangs. “Well, My Princess—" Strider began.

Shooting Star picked up where he left off “—We overheard that you were readying to leave—"

“—So, Star sent me off to get our dear ol’ Captain and Miss Moondancer—"

“—Because, honestly, Strides is a lot faster than me—"

“—Eh, only by a smidgen of a hair—"

“Where is this going?” she bit her lip, her ears burned. Misbehaving in public, in front of her friend, of all ponies… she would have words with the twins later. Take the hint. Just say it.

“Oops! Sorry! Strider gave a sheepish grin. “You see, Princess, there’s a funny story to all this—"

“—utterly hilarious when you have the context behind it! But, really, you’d know more about that, Strides.”

“Quite right! Well, I took a quick flight around town, looking for our wayward Captain and dear, Miss Moondancer—"

“Actually, it took you quite a while for such a small town…”

“I’ve never been here before, Star! What do you want from me?”

“Gentlestallions!” Luna snapped, her usual tolerance for their antics nowhere to be found. “Get. To. The. Point!”

They flinched in unison, Strider cleared his throat and answered. “Er, well, I found Captain Erebos with Miss Moondancer at a local pub—Berry’s Punch, I believe— and noticed that she seemed to stagger a bit. I asked what was wrong and… well, you’d best see for yourself, Princess.” He finished up, nodding to the chariot. “Really, it’s… it’s a treat!”

With a roll of her eyes, Luna stepped past her snickering guards and came to the back of the chariot. “I swear, those two!” She muttered to Twilight out of the corner of her mouth. “Always causing trouble, never knowing when to stop and take things seriously! I feel more like a mother sometimes than a—" she broke, gaping at the pair sitting in her chariot.

Captain Erebos sat, staring dead ahead with a rather awkward smile and a pinkish hue coloring his muzzle as Moondancer rubbed her cheek against his, cooing happily and whispering to him. His eyes met Luna’s, holding her gaze a moment before whispering. “Help me…”

“Is that…” Twilight gasped. “Is that Moondancer?”

“Yes. She is my seneschal now. Apparently, she is my very affectionately drunk seneschal. Captain Erebos! What in Equestria are you—" Luna stopped, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath before speaking. Do not yell. Do not yell… “What happened?”

“I just took her to get a drink, and they had that apple cider that’s grown locally, the one everypony goes nuts over. So, I figured that if she had a couple mugs, she’d loosen right up and relax for the flight home, but—"

“Mmm, Captain!” Moondancer cut in, turning to nuzzle her nose against his. “When we get back to Canterlot, we should go out! I hear there’s a really nice club on Saddle Avenue!”

Erebos’ eye twitched, his smile strained. “Th-that sounds wonderful, Miss Moondancer, but—"

“Hey!” She pulled back, whining and aiming her best pout at him. “You s-said you’d call me Moonie from now on, Captain!”

“Th-that was just part of the bet—stop laughing, Strider!

Luna fought down the urge to bring a hoof to her face as Twilight giggled at the pair. Turning to the younger mare, she gave a slight bow of her head. “As fun as this has been, I believe it would be best if I took my foals in gilded dress home before they do something that will require a grounding.”

“Oh my!” Twilight feigned a gasp. “Well, don’t be too hard on them, mother Luna! They are just foals, after all!”

“Funny,” Erebos hissed. “Very funny, Miss Sparkle. I’ll remember that if Princess Luna ever wants to hear about the times I had to help Captain Shining Armor find and carry a certain young mare out of the library, already sound asleep using a book for a pillow, on an almost nightly basis back when I was just a Private. We got to know each other quite well, actually,” he paused to grin at her, “I’m sure he’d just love to share some of those tales!”

Twilight’s face took on a deep red and she stammered. “N-No, that’s not necessary, Captain Erebos! Er, have a safe flight back to Canterlot, Luna! I’ll, uh, talk to the girls and see when we can have that… that thing!”

Filing the outburst away for later, Luna nodded. “Yes, please do. I shall await your letter most eagerly. Until then, I bid you good night and pleasant dreams.” She turned to depart, but found herself stopped short by a pair of hooves wrapping around her neck.

Her teal eyes went wide. Previously, it had been she who initiated the brief hug between Twilight and herself, an act spurred on by sheer whim. Nothing more than her casting aside a mask of distance and propriety, briefly returning to the passionate mare of old. The mare her sister so desperately wished to see again.

It took a moment for Luna to respond, slowly, awkwardly returning the embrace. “Thank you for coming by,” her ears went ramrod straight to catch Twilight’s whisper. “Tonight was fun and very informative. Truly.”

Warmth spread through her chest, filling her very being. Is this what I’ve missed for so long? Years of being alone, of doubting that any even found the slightest joy in my nights… Luna licked her dried lips before speaking. “I am glad you feel that way. Thank you for having me over, the favor will be returned soon enough.” They pulled back, sharing a smile as Luna stepped into her chariot, sitting beside Erebos and Moondancer. “Strider, Shooting Star,” she called, “we are ready to depart.”

“Yes, My Princess!” The twins barked. They nodded to Twilight and took off at a full gallop, their hooves thundered down the dirt road out of Ponyville.

Luna closed her eyes and let out a breath as they spread their leathery wings and took flight, shooting off into the night sky.

Twilight pushed the door shut with her magic, hearing the latch click into place. She trotted briskly over to the table and took her seat in front of her notepad. Carefully, she flipped through the pages, blowing lightly on the ink to make sure it dried.

Of course, by now it had, but there was no shame in being too careful. Especially given the wealth of information Luna had given her. So much insight into the art of that age. She squealed, bouncing in place and holding the pad close to her chest. Even more than Princess Celestia!

That alone would’ve sent her into vehement denial in the past; Princess Celestia possessed knowledge greater than any pony, living or dead, could ever hope to lay claim to. However, with Luna back, that throne was challenged for the first time. Certainly, the elder sister was wiser and had greater experience in governing and magic itself, but the arts were where she fell short.

Even Princess Celestia herself admitted as much. “I always found that structure was my forte, Twilight. But, art is not something that’s always subscribed to rigidity. Cadence, for example, has rather… eclectic taste. She loves the classical romantic movement just as much as she does the modernist one. In fact, her interest in the area is what spurred it to such heights…”

Based on that, Twilight had hypothesized that the princesses’ differences in taste helped drive the varying music styles, many years ago. But, testing such a thing would take as much time spent researching and comparing their influences as that of her tests on magic and sciences.

Her passion and love for the latter had forced her to abandon the former as nothing more than a flight of fancy, a passing interest.

But now, with her friend in need of her help, this passing interest was at the forefront of her mind. And though the history of the vaunted Princess of the Night was scarce, Twilight at least had one clue to go off of. After all, Luna had been kind enough to put it right in front of her, as plain as the moon hanging in the sky.

“Matron of the Arts,” she whispered as her eyes fell on the very words Luna had uttered just a few short hours ago, “let’s see just how far back this takes me.”

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