• 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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21: The Apprentice's Nightmare

It wasn’t Hearth’s Warming, nor was it Hearts and Hooves day. It certainly wasn’t Twilight’s birthday.

Twilight knew all this for fact, of course. The logical side of her brain was trying so very hard to scold the excited filly within her as it bounced around, squealing with glee at the knowledge laid bare before her. After all, she was in the Royal Archives, the very heart of all Equestrian history and home to first edition books penned by the greatest minds the world had ever seen!

The excited filly within her was happy to tell her overly disciplined, fuddy-duddy of an academic side to go get bucked in the face.

Maestro Werner’s rise to prominence in ancient times heralded a new appreciation for arts of cultures far and wide—griffons, yaks, the dragons’ tales of the times before ponies, Equestria opened her doors and established itself as something of a hub of all. And, on a more specific point, signified that the Griffon-Equine Alliance had become more than just words on paper signed by respective rulers; a union that stood to present times.

Not to mention, it began his professional rivalry, and longstanding friendship, with Tempo Rubato.

Though if Luna’s stories were anything to go by, their relationship involved both a great deal of respect and a constant bickering over music theory.

Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll find something here that touches on their relationship. Twilight did her best not to bounce in place as she turned the page, though she couldn’t contain a tiny giggle at the next passage. “Who would’ve ever believed it,” she muttered. “To think you were so nervous to meet Luna, of all ponies.”

That gave her pause. To say Luna of all ponies now was very different from Luna then was clear; her role, her image, even Luna herself had changed. From Matron of the Arts to Nightmare Moon to the lonely princess begging forgiveness from those around her, the perception wasn’t even remotely the same.

She read on, her eyes quickly scanned through the words, taking in everything with eager and hungry mind. Page after page, she followed along as Werner readied himself for his visit to the Night Court. Despite Bolero’s insisting that he relax and maintain his composure, Werner’s tale told of sleepless nights and meals left uneaten as his stomach churned. The pressure was getting to him in the worst way, and it continued to build until he finally collapsed in his bed a mere two days before his appointment.

Twilight looked to the next page and gasped at the chapter title:

“The Princess of the Night and Guardian of Dreams”.

A hoof leapt to her mouth, her ears perked up straight as if listening to one of Princess Celestia’s lectures.

Dreams are a funny thing, I must admit. While we sleep, they feel real, but when we wake, they vanish like smoke on the wind. We remember so few details, only that we were elated or frightened.

And yet, I remember this one with such clarity, I often wonder if it truly was a dream. It was too vivid, too real to be anything but reality.

My memory begins with Maestro Bolero and I standing in the middle of the Night Court, surrounded by our peers in the art community. The ponies all smile at one another and exchange greetings, clasping hooves and embracing each other and asking how their muses have treated them as if they were old friends. Or, perhaps more in line with what Maestro Bolero would say, like they were all family.

When I tried, however, the welcoming smiles vanished, the familiar laughter and jesting ceased as though I had just walked in and declared my intent to devour their young. Untrusting stares, a few scowls, several drew back and wrinkled their snouts as though they could smell rancid meat on my breath. Even Maestro Bolero’s smile became strained as he began to side-step away from me, his eyes locked on something else.

I followed his gaze and found that he was not looking at a something, but a somepony.

She was there, seated on an obsidian throne with a silver crescent moon emblazoned proudly above her head. Her horseshoes and gorget matching the deep blackness of a cold winter night, matched by the very crown that sat atop her head. The starry mane he’d seen in paintings—none of which did the sheer brilliance and majesty of how it swayed, sending constellations rolling through the air about her with each motion, even the slightest bit of justice.

Stunning is the word. Her magnificence was more than I could even comprehend, more than I could ever even dream of putting into my music.

Then I took note of her eyes—those beautiful, moonlit teal eyes, narrowed and boring into my own as if piercing into my soul, with disdain shining like the stars in the sky. Or perhaps, more fitting, like those of a mother watching over her foals at play, jealously guarding over them from any predators or unwanted visitors.

In her eyes, I was the unwanted chick who wandered into her rolling green pastures.

I hastened to bow before her and recited the greeting Maestro Bolero had taught me. “Your Majesty,” I began, “I am h-humbled to be in your presence. Truly, it is a great honor to be received by your Night Court this evening, and—”

“Silence!” she snapped, rising to her hooves. Her eyes hardened, her hawkish gaze turned to Maestro Bolero, fixing him in place as he tried to edge away. “We are not amused by thy attempt at jesting, Bolero! To think one of Our most favored children would even think to sully Our Night Court with the presence of this griffon!” She spat the word as though it were the bitter of drinks.

Maestro Bolero squeaked. “I-I only meant to bring him here to help him further his career, Your Highness. I meant no offense!”

Her wings flared wide, those brilliant teal eyes flashed with indignation. “Offense? You dare allow a griffon to set claw into my Night Court, frighten my ponies, and you claim to mean no offense?”

With a single flap of her mighty wings, she took to the air and flew over to me. In abject terror of the fury brimming in those eyes, I scrambled backward, falling head over hooves in my haste to escape. When I looked up again, she was standing over me, her lips curved into a snarl revealing pristine white teeth.

And four gleaming, pointed fangs.

The Royal Princess had fangs.

It was at that instant several things flashed through my mind: for listening to Maestro Bolero, I was a very foolish griff; by comparison to Her Highness, the Royal Princess of the Night, I was very small; and for stepping in the midst of her ponies, I was a very dead griff.

In the interest of being true to the narrative, I will confess that the mere thought of the image still brings the tiniest of whimpers from the back of my throat. Imagine, if you will, that you have made one of the Eternal Sisters of Day and Night angry with you—angry enough to stand from her Throne. A most sobering thought for most, I should think.

Now, imagine that one of the Sisters perceives you as a threat to her ponies. Like any mother guarding over her flock—or herd, rather—there are only two logical conclusion for her to follow: flee home or remove the threat.

There is little shame in admitting that one is afraid of death when it stares you in the eye and bares its gleaming fangs at you. I will admit, with utmost honesty, that the sight of Princess Luna’s rage made me long to flee for the safety of my mother’s embrace.

As she reared back, readying to lunge at me, I felt, to my surprise, the soft touch of downy feathers upon my back, tickling against my fur. I turned to my left, and found myself muzzle-to-beak with a second Princess Luna.

“Truly?” she asked, a hint of amusement in her tone. “Is what thou believe will occur when you visit Us, young griff? Only the most abject terror could create such a nightmare.”

Twilight drew back and raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Two Lunas? And one aware that she was in a dream?

What in Equestria was going on in this story?

“Truly?” she asked, a hint of amusement in her tone. “Is what thou believe will occur when you visit Us, young griff? Only the most abject terror could create such a nightmare.”

The other Princess Luna hissed and lunged for my neck, the one at my side, however, merely smiled and waved her hoof. “Begone, apparition!” she commanded, her horn flashing a brilliant teal. Her magic engulfed the other Princess, who shrieked and writhed in pain as she began to evaporate and dissolve into nothing.

From my spot on the floor, I could only gape at the empty space before me. “What? How?” I babbled, my eyes looked from one pony to the next, and found that their terror at my appearance had vanished. Instead, there was something else.

Curiosity.

“We find this a more apt representation of Our Night Court,” Princess Luna said in a low tone, like a mother soothing a newborn. A hoof touched my shoulder and rubbed a small circle in my fur, I felt the tension leave me with each motion. “We must admit, thine fears of Us are quite alarming, young Werner.”

I started, turning my head to meet her gaze, she smiled back at me, awaiting my reply.

“Y-You know of me?” The words came out in a stammer, despite her amicable nature.

She nodded once. “We have. Our friend, Bolero, has spoken quite highly of your work. T’is amusing, really.” Princess Luna brought up her free hoof to stifle a giggle. “He was near ecstatic when We were able to grant his request! Though, how could We not? His praise for thy work and dedication have piqued Our interest, young Werner.”

I had? “I have?”

“Yes, indeed. But, that a matter We will discuss when We meet you in the physical world. For now, rest. Fear not,” she said, holding up a hoof to cut off my protests. “Thy nightmare will no longer plague thee.” She drew in close, I could feel her breath washing over my face. “We will grant thee a sweet dream to make up for the terror suffered in Our night.”

Her lips pressed against my forehead, and my eyes began to droop. With a tired moan, I slumped against her shoulder and drifted off as she rubbed my back.

When I awoke from my sleep, I remembered my terrible nightmare and the dream of myself flying high in the clear blue sky that followed, but nothing was more prevalent than the mare who appeared to banish my fears.

The very same princess I was destined to meet in just a few short days.

I leapt from my bed and scrambled over to my workbench, flinging my compositions out of the way as I snatched a fresh page to write on. Maestro Bolero had strictly forbade me from revising my piece, that much was true. But that still left me plenty of room to compose something else.

It left me plenty of room to compose the score that would change my life forever.

Twilight gaped at the page, her mouth seemed dry. That sort of magic, the ability to manifest one’s presence in another’s dream was unheard of. Certainly, there were spells that could enable a pony to watch and experience them, but those were spells of the highest level, the likes of which Star Swirl the Bearded spent years developing. Off the top of her head, she could only think of a hoof-full of ponies who could, in theory, cast it.

Needless to say, the three princesses would certainly be capable. That went without question.

But this was impossible. To reach out and touch a pony while they were in the dream realm was something even the highest scholarly minds could only theorize about. What would it be like, they always began, to interact with a pony as they galloped through endless fields of green with all of their friends? Or to reach out and offer a hoof to a pegasus in the midst of a nightmare in which they’d lost their wings in mid flight?

No matter what they tried, every single one had failed to even scratch the surface of what such a spell would require.

Could Luna have succeeded where countless others had failed? Then kept the secret to herself?

“Princess Celestia is fond of keeping secrets,” Twilight muttered, memories of certain lessons ending with a tight-lipped smile or a pat on the head and a simple “Perhaps when you’re ready, my dear” flashed through her mind in a blur.

It certainly was possible. Further study would be required. If Werner was so willing to put his tale in a book, there was sure to be more.

Still, there was something else. Something nagging at the back of her mind.

“Enjoy your dream.”

Her eyes went wide. Luna hadn’t wished her sweet dreams, she said it in a manner that a waitress might after presenting her with a meal.

“And she said she meant exactly that.” Twilight frowned. “How very curious. Given that and Werner’s story, I’d almost—no. No, she couldn’t have …”

Could she?

If Luna possessed that sort of magic, what was to say she couldn’t create dreams as well as walk through them? Nothing, as far as Twilight knew.

“But why would she do that?” she thought aloud. “Why would she help Werner, first of all? He wasn’t important at the time, and she’d only heard of him through Bolero.”

And why would she create a dream just for me?

She shook her head and turned the page, filing it away for later. Her frown faded away as she read the title of the next chapter.

“The Night Court.”

As she readied to begin, two heavy knocks against the door sounded out. She flicked her ear, looking up from her book. “Come in,” she called.

There was a sound link tinkling bells as a pink glow enveloped the doorhandle. The door opened with a cracking of its hinges, revealing her brother’s familiar smiling face, albeit a bit strained as he glanced at the hinges. “Okay, that was unpleasant. When the hay was the last time these were oiled?”

“Shiny!” Twilight all but leapt out of her seat and raced, leaping at the last step to catch him with a flying hug just like she had as a filly.

Shining grinned and reared up to catch her, staggering back a step. “Oof! Geez, you’ve gotten big!” he said, drawing back to look her up and down. He frowned and narrowed his eyes at her, raising a brow. “I thought we agreed that you weren’t allowed to get bigger or older.”

Twilight gave a huff and roll of her eyes. “Oh, please! We both know you just want me to be your baby sister forever and ever so you don’t have to worry about somepony stealing me away! I never agreed to any of that, anyway!”

“True enough. Wait a minute, have you lost weight? Have you lost weight and managed to survive Princess Celestia—”

“She’ll want you to call her ‘Aunty” soon, if what I hear is true,” Twilight teased.

“Funny. And it is. But don’t change the subject—have you lost weight and managed to survive Princess Celestia and Al Dente?” He grinned. “You sure you don’t wanna enlist? Or, hay, go for a commission, since you graduated already. We could probably use a pony with your skill set.”

With a little chuckle, Twilight shook her head. “No thanks! You can keep your regiments and armor and marching about! I’ll stick with my books and magic!”

“Fair enough. Can’t blame a guy for asking.” He cast a glance toward the stack of books on the table, smirking. “No book fort? I’m disappointed.”

Twilight gasped, swatting him in the shoulder. “You and Spike both, I swear!” she cried, her cheeks burned as he nickered in amusement. “I didn’t do it that often!”

“Mom has plenty of pictures that say otherwise, as does Princess Celestia, I believe. Oh, that’s right,” he said, his ears stood up straight as though he’d just remembered something. “Speaking of Princess Celestia, she sent me to collect you for dinner with her, Princess Luna, and Cady.”

“Cadence is joining?” Twilight beamed.

Shining nodded, a smile played upon his lips. “I dare anypony try keeping her away when her favorite little filly is in town, Discord himself would be nothing but a smear on the wall.”

Shuddering, Twilight shook her head. “Don’t joke about him. I don’t think any of us even want to think about something like him ever breaking free again.”

“Sorry. Just trying a little bit of humor.” Shining gave a sheepish grin. “Well, that aside, she’s excited to see you again, so get ready for plenty of hugs and such.”

“Well, then, what are we waiting for?” she replied. Her tail swishing merrily, Twilight reared up and pushed against his shoulder to get him going, though it barely moved his more muscular frame. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

Laughing, he stepped to the side and let her hooves thump against the tiled floor. “Alright, alright, we’re going!” He flicked his tail against her flank, eliciting a little squeak as she jumped forward. “You wanna leave all those books out like that?”

Twilight glanced back, frowning in thought. “I’m still reading them, but I don’t know if I can take them out just yet.” Her ears perked up, she bounded over the the table and lit her horn, taking a piece of paper and quill in her magic. “Oh, I’ll just write her a quick note not to put any back so I don’t lose my place!”

“There ya go. I’ll wait for you outside the archives, Twily. We can walk up together,” he said, turning and walking out toward the main room.

“Be there in just a minute!” she called back, penning a quick note for Page Turner.

Miss Turner

I apologize for the mess, but I was called to have dinner with Princesses Celestia, Luna, and Cadence, and my brother. I’m not finished with the books yet, so please do not put them back on the shelves. I’ll return tomorrow to finish my studies. If possible, I’d like to know if I could take a few back to Ponyville with me to read over the weekend. I’ll have them back by next week.

Sincerely,

Twilight Sparkle

Nodding in satisfaction, Twilight placed her note at the center of the desk, then made her way out of the archives. As promised, Shining Armor was waiting for her just outside the door, exchanging pleasantries with a Night Guard patrol.

“Erebos really said that, eh?”

The Night Guard didn’t bother hiding a smirk. “I’m not at liberty to say that he did, but I’m also not saying he didn’t, Captain Armor.”

Shining returned his smirk. “Well, I’ll be sure to be creative in letting him know of my reply. Perhaps he’d like to be neon pink for a few days. Er, don’t warn him.”

“I seem to be suffering from temporary deafness,” the Night Guard replied, a playful gleam shone in his eyes. “I can only hope that whatever you’re trying to tell me turns out to be amusing.”

“Excellent. Thanks, Starburst. I appreciate that.”

Starburst saluted with his spear. “No trouble at all, Captain. Have a pleasant evening.” He turned to Twilight, the gleam in his eyes vanished in favor of something else, and bowed his head. “And you as well, Miss Sparkle.”

Curious. Saluting Shining was required since he was an officer and both the Day and Night Guards were in the same outfit of the EUP combat alliance, albeit a part of two separate branches, but bowing was supposed to be reserved for an audience with one of the princesses.

Twilight was decidedly not one of the princesses.

Another thing to consider later. For now, Twilight smiled and returned the gesture, and bade him a goodnight as well before falling into step with Shining. “So,” she began, “you’re still playing those silly games with Erebos?”

Shining fixed her with a wry glance. “You think I’d ever let that fluffy-eared punk get one over on me and not get one in return? It’s like you don’t know me, Twily.” He shook his head, chuckling as he swished his tail. “We like to have a little bit of fun to go along with the more serious aspects. Sure, it keeps the old ‘Day versus Night Guard rivalry’ thing alive, but I’d rather our ponies use that as more of an intramural pranking or sporting thing than open antagonism. Gotta work together, even if our armor isn’t the same color.”

“Huh. Interesting.” Twilight cocked her head, letting one ear lay flat while the other stayed straight. “I don’t know if I’d engage in that while on a shift, but I can’t argue the results—given Pinkie and Rainbow’s relationship blossoming with their love of pranks.”

“Yeah, same sort of dynamic. Though, we did have to draw the line at itching powder in the armor. Especially for the bat ponies and pegasi.” Shining’s eyes looked off into the distance, a visible shudder ran through his body. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many feathers floating about outside of molting time.” With a shake of his head, he cast aside those memories and grinned at her. “That aside, Cady and I hosted Princess Luna last night.”

“Oh?” Twilight asked. “How did that go?”

“Quite well, actually. Between that and hearing about your visit, I’m surprised we haven’t heard reports of a pink alicorn bouncing around Canterlot.” He sidled over and bumped his flank against hers, nearly sending her sprawling. “You didn’t mention getting friendly with her in your letters.”

Twilight stuck her tongue out in reply. “You haven’t told me when you plan to propose to Cadence in any of yours. So we’re even!”

“True, but I’ve made you aware of my intent. You, on the other hoof, haven’t even written to your big brother best friend forever about this at all—I had to find out from Erebos while we were out drinking!” Though his tone was scolding, the teasing smile on his muzzle ruined the effect. “So, I think it’s only fair that I get a little briefing on how this all started.”

Laughing, Twilight ducked her head. “Still keeping watch over me like when I was a filly?”

He shook his head. “No, not quite like that.” A sigh escaped his lips, Shining smiled and looked down the hall. “I’m just a nosy big brother who wants to hear all he can about his little sister and her friends, since we don’t see each other as much nowadays.”

Turning to face her again, he took a couple steps closer. His smile lost its playful edge, replaced by the warm one she’d known all her life. “So, we’ve got a decent trot ahead of us. Care to share?”

Twilight returned his smile. “I’d be happy to,” she replied, pressing up against his side as she had in her younger days, sparing a moment to nose against his cheek. “It all started on Nightmare Night…”

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