• 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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23: The One She Holds Most Precious

Luna didn’t even mind that their talk about Werner’s younger days had been interrupted. Why should she be? She had the perfect chance to see Twilight stare, slack-jawed in awe of the brilliance of her Night Court.

Well, not quite slack-jawed, but that was certainly how she would have to tell the tale when she next spoke with Celestia. “Just imagine it, sister,” she would say, the same coy smile that used to make her sister sigh and hastily reach for another cup of tea. “Your own student, standing at my side, her jaw hanging low as she beheld the splendor of the night on proud display in our Throne Room. Why, the mare is already gravitating toward the Night Court’s embrace, and I have scarcely lifted a hoof to guide her!”

Not entirely truthful, but Celestia didn’t need to know that. Not until after she started whining.

Returning to the scene before her, Luna was forced to utilize all those years of practice maintaining a serene smile in the face of great amusement as she watched Twilight try to take in the difference between Day and Night Court all at once.

Torches lined the pillars along carpeted walkway leading to an obsidian throne which bore her crescent moon emblem and a small cushion beside it—for Twilight, she surmised. The gold and purple banners of her beloved sister were gone, changed out in favor of her own midnight blue and sterling silver. In place of the Day Guards, in their gleaming gold and stoney stares with spears at the ready, were her beloved Night Guards, clad in obsidian and purple armor, with nothing but the hidden blades in their grieves and challenging, fanged grins upon their muzzles.

Though it may be empty, it’s good to be in my Court again.

Her Night Guards snapped to attention as she passed. They grinned predatorily, their fangs gleaming in the torchlight, to create a visage that would surely haunt any who came to the castle with ill intent.

I wonder, sometimes, if they might welcome a chance to remind the world just how fearsome they can be.

Thoughts for another night, perhaps. One when she didn’t have such wonderful company.

With an amused snort, Luna laid her wing across Twilight’s back. “Come now, surely ’tis not all that different from my sister’s court,” she teased.

Twilight shook herself, fixing her with a sidelong look. “It’s not nearly as bright. And I’ve never seen the décor change so drastically. Usually, Princess Celestia has the guard change and the staff switches out the banners, and she goes for a couple hours after dinner, then that’s it.”

“I am not surprised, nor am I terribly perturbed by that information.” Smiling, she led Twilight toward the dais. “My sister is impressive, both in wisdom and longevity, however, she is a pony. And all ponies, no matter how ageless or powerful they may seem, require their rest.”

Even if it meant leaving our precious night to wane in influence?

Luna drew in a breath through her nose. I see you have returned to torment me once more. How very irritating. I had hoped to be rid of you once and for all.

No pony can run from the past, Luna. Not even you, it shot back. No matter how much you might wish it so.

Truthfully? I would prefer to speak with my corrupted self. You, I would see dead and buried a thousand times over.

“That does make sense.” Twilight said, jolting her back to reality. She offered a small smile, bringing a hoof to her chin in thought. “Though, I wonder if other factors might’ve played into her less …” she rolled a hoof through the air in search of the word. “Demonstrative, that’s it. Demonstrative change in décor.”

Luna’s ears perked up. “Oh?” she asked as she gestured for Twilight to take her seat. Then, she turned in place to sit gracefully upon her throne. “Pray tell, what factors do you think might have played into my sister’s decision, my friend?”

“Theoretically speaking,” Twilight said, “the way she spoke of your nights suggests that she found her attempts to imitate it inadequate. Thus, one can infer that she didn’t want to try to do so with the Night Court because it was—well, it is a much more tangible thing to the common pony’s eye. Whereas a pony who hasn’t seen you craft the night sky might not appreciate the stars as a pony who has.”

Blinking, Luna leaned back to fix her with a quizzical look. She stared a moment, then hummed in consideration. Already speaking as though we were discussing artwork. She held back a smirk as best she could, adding a point in her favor. I shall have to inform Tia that I am beginning to influence you in that regard, if only to hear her whine again.

“Indeed,” she said, nodding her approval. “That is certainly one way to look at it, though I will counter by stating that my sister’s control over my domain, while not as artful as I would have liked, was far more than any could have asked of her, given that I was interned for some time and our niece is …” Pausing, she brought a hoof to her mouth, frowning as she tried to think of the appropriate phrase. “Ill-suited to the role. No offense intended to Cadence, of course.”

Twilight gave a single nod. “Of course. But, like I said, it’s just a theory. A weak one, at that, since it’s based entirely on Princess Celestia’s commentary on your crafting the sky by comparison to hers. Source bias, one might say.”

Her ears waggled. “You share very much with my sister during her younger days, to an almost astonishing degree!” Chuckling, she shook her head, waving Twilight on. “Well, then, you claimed to have another theory. I am quite eager to hear it.”

“Oh, well, the second is quite simple, really.” Twilight shifted in place to get comfortable, then added, “She missed you and couldn’t cope with the reminder of what she didn’t have nearby. It’s a common issue with loss, and, as you said, she’s still a pony.”

Luna inhaled sharply through her nose, wincing at the pang in her chest. She looked away a moment, her eyes fell upon her Night Guards standing at their posts as she swallowed her guilt.

It hit far too close to home.

She turned to fix Twilight with a piercing stare. “Have you ever been told that the ability to read ponies is an invaluable skill, Twilight?”

“Princess Celestia has mentioned such before. Why?”

“Because you have it in spades.” Closing her eyes, she gave a deep sigh. “Captain Erebos,” she called.

There was a clacking of metal as he snapped to attention. “Yes, Princess?”

“We are ready to begin Night Court. Call in the—oh.” She gave another sigh. “Open the doors to admit any potential petitioners. I do not suspect there will be any need for a waiting line.”

“Yes, Princess.” With a rustle of leathery wings, he turned and trotted out the door, barking orders to his fellow Night Guards as he left them to resume his post in the hallway.

At the sound of soft hoofsteps on the carpet, Luna flicked an ear and looked up. “Ah, Moondancer,” she greeted with a nod. “I was wondering if you had gotten lost.”

Moondancer’s muzzle flushed red. “Of course not, Princess,” she muttered, bowing her head. “I just had to fetch a few documents that I you wanted me to look through to double check for legalese.”

“Yes.” Luna grimaced. “I would appreciate that greatly. My last run in with such wording was most unpleasant. My sister only just managed to undo that ridiculous noise limitation on the dance clubs.” She snorted and flicked her tail. “Disruptive my starry mane! They are more than enough distance from the housing areas and apartments!”

“I’ll make sure we don’t have a repeat performance, then.” With another bow, Moondancer turned to face Twilight. Her smile broadened a tad, barely noticeable save for Luna’s keen eyes. “Good evening, Twilight.”

Twilight beamed back at her and waved. “Good evening, Moondancer. How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been well,” she replied happily. “Other than aiding My Princess in her ongoing battle against legalese, everything’s been running rather smoothly in the castle.”

“Good to hear!” Then, much to Luna’s amusement, Twilight’s smile took on a rather mischievous edge as she gave a meaningful look from Moondancer to the door. “And how are you doing with Captain Erebos?”

Luna watched, raising a brow at Moondancer when she looked from Twilight to her with a panic written plain upon her face, before she tried to school her expression.

“I—um, well! Captain Erebos and I work well together—professionally!—and, oh dear! Look at the time!” Moondancer yelped. “I’d better start, um, reading through these documents! Have a good evening, Twilight!” With one last, hasty bow, she scampered off to her desk, trailing a few stray papers in her wake.

Eying Twilight, Luna allowed herself a playful smile. “Would I be correct in guessing that she has not seen this playful side of you?”

Twilight let her ears droop a little. “No, she never did. My fault, really.” After a moment, she shook herself. “I’m sorry, I got distracted and then we got off topic. We were talking about Werner.”

“No apology is necessary,” Luna replied with a wave of her hoof. “I was quite entertained by your appraisal of my Night Court.” Seeing Twilight duck and rub her shoulder, she gave a nicker. “That aside, let us continue. I believe you mentioned that you’d found his memoir, yes?”

“That’s right. I found it in one of the Royal Archive’s secure rooms.” Her ears perked up, those soulful purple eyes seemed to shine with excitement. “I’ve only read a couple chapters, but it really gives a lot of insight into what he was like during his younger days. The way he tells it, he seemed rather—”

“Anxious,” Luna cut in. “Indeed. He was wrought with worry that he would not be able to impress me.”

Twilight bobbed her head. “Yes! And Maestro Bolero always scolded him for being too much of a perfectionist with his work!”

Ah, Bolero. Chuckling, Luna shook her head. “Bolero was a free spirit at heart, almost the polar opposite of young Werner.” She settled back against her throne and laid her head against the plush cushion. A contented smile made its way across her muzzle. “So, what else have you found about my late friend? Or, rather, what can you infer about our history from the time he lived in and how he felt about it? That might interest you a bit more.”

With a swish of her tail, Twilight clapped her hooves together. “Well, given what I know about our history, I know that the Griffon Kingdom and Equestria had just entered into an official alignment shortly before Bolero took him as an apprentice. That, along with how he fretted over meeting you leads me to believe that he feared a bit of, er …” She fidgeted in place, her eyes flitted to the side.

“Say it,” Luna said. “T’is a part of our history.”

“Discrimination.” Twilight wrinkled her snout and gave a shudder. “I’m sorry. I just think of how things might have been back then, especially since I’ve had Spike for so long, and it gives me the heebie jeebies.”

Luna’s smile fell. She hadn’t quite thought of it in that way. “My apologies, that was rather insensitive of me. I did not mean to heebie your jeebies.”

A purple-coated hoof leapt to Twilight’s lips, a vain attempt to hide a smile. After a moment, she replied, “You’re forgiven. My—” she snorted “—jeebies weren’t that heebied.” Taking a deep breath, she placed her hoof down on the cushion and readied to continue. “Anyway, I came across something rather interesting in his tale. Something I’m not quite sure how to rationalize.”

“Oh? And what might that be?”

There was a moment’s pause. Twilight took another deep breath and stole a sidelong look to Luna before directing her gaze to the floor.

A curious reaction, if Luna did say so herself.

“Werner’s story mentioned a rather strange dream,” she said finally, hesitation tinging her tone. “Bolero led him into your Night Court, and everypony stopped what they were doing to stare. Like Bolero had just brought a pile of garbage into their midst. And then he saw you, and tried to introduce himself.”

Luna inhaled sharply. Ah. That dream. “And then?” she asked, closing her eyes as she waited for what was to come.

“You—or, rather, his vision of you yelled at Bolero for bringing him there and stood to defend the ponies. Then he said you transformed into something terrifying.”

There was a heavy pause. Luna flicked an ear toward Twilight, wrinkling her snout at her friend’s hesitation. Silly mare. “Did it remind you of something?” she asked. “His description of me, that is.” Hearing Twilight gasp, she opened her eyes, turning to face her with a smile. “I know the tale quite well, and I am well aware of the … apparent foreshadowing. You may say the name without fear of offense on my part, dear Twilight.”

A bit of courage flooded her chest. Luna reached out to lay a comforting hoof on Twilight’s shoulder as she added, “I promise, I am ready to hear ponies say it. You most of all.”

Twilight looked up, meeting her gaze with eyes wide in surprise. She blinked, her ears drooped as a wobbly smile made its way across her muzzle.

Luna narrowed her eyes at the slight darkening of her purple coated cheeks. Blushing at the sentiment?

Were it any other, Luna might have been tempted to tease and crow in victory. Twilight, on the other hoof, brought forth an entirely different feeling in her chest.

Warmth the likes of which she hadn’t felt in a very long time.

Shaking herself, she pushed it aside in favor of prodding Twilight once more. “Speak the name,” she ordered softly.

“Nightmare Moon,” Twilight said, barely above a whisper. “He described you as a terrifying creature, with fangs, cold eyes, and ready to tear him apart.”

Luna hid a wince, but gave an approving nod as she removed her hoof from Twilight’s shoulder. The reminder of her old friend’s fears still pained her at times, more so that they resurfaced for Twilight to see. No matter how I try to hide it, the past is always a step behind me, waiting to be found. She closed her eyes and heaved a sigh, her wings drooped at her sides. And by her, no less.

Still, there was a tiny sliver of hope. Werner’s tale had a happy ending, and Twilight was not one to cower and run from past deeds.

Not those she knows of, the voice added. If she knew of the others …

She never will. Those years will stay locked away safely in my desk. I have heard quite enough out of you. Begone! Luna forced herself to meet Twilight’s gaze again. “Is that what you see when you look at me?” she asked. Her heart raced. She had to know the answer, straight from Twilight’s mouth. “You know me as he never could, so I ask you: does the specter of my folly still hang over my head, Twilight Sparkle?”

Twilight didn’t hesitate this time. She shook her head fervently, her mane whipped back and forth. “Not at all, Luna,” she said. “I haven’t seen you like that since I got to know you on Nightmare Night. As for Werner’s dream … It’s nothing.” She took Luna’s hoof in her own, offering a comforting smile. “It’s an odd coincidence. Nothing more. I know you well enough to understand that Nightmare Moon is a small part of who you once were, not the wonderful pony I’ve come to know.”

The warmth in her chest returned in full force, then spread throughout her body. Her feathers fluffed, Luna had to suck in her lips to hide a wobbly smile.

After a moment, she took a deep breath and allowed the smile to spread across her muzzle. “The artist in me would chastise you for ignoring the principles of foreshadowing,” she said, her voice strained as she tried to keep her relief to a minimum. She failed. “But I can only express my sincerest gratitude. It …” Luna stopped short, her throat tightened. “To hear you say such means more than you know.”

“I mean it,” Twilight said. She gave Luna’s hoof a gentle squeeze. “Really, you’re a good mare, Luna. And someday soon, everypony in Equestria is going to see you in the same light.”

Again, warmth flooded her being. Her cheeks flushed red, burning in ways they hadn’t in over a thousand years. “Hopefully sooner than later,” Luna replied in a quivering tone. She gave an awkward cough then schooled her expression. Hesitation gripped her like an ice-cold claw touching her chest.

If Werner had written about the dream, she knew what came next. It was only logical.

Luna took a moment to ready herself, carefully choosing her words. “Was there anything else about Werner’s dream that stood out to you? Or was the manifestation of his fear what drew your attention most?”

Twilight shook her head. “Surprisingly, no. There was a bit that came after that didn’t make much sense to me.” She paused, withdrawing her hoof ever so slightly as her gaze fell. “At least, it didn’t until I thought a bit on something else.”

There it was, just as she predicted. Her breath hitched in her throat. “Oh?” she asked, feigning ignorance. “Enlighten me, what was it that confused you? And what was it that came to mind when you read it?”

“When Werner’s apparition of you confronted him, a pony appeared and banished her before turning to comfort him. A pony well-aware that she was in a dream.” Twilight turned her gaze upon Luna again, her brows knitted together. “You were there. Not just the nightmare vision his fears conjured, but you were there and aware that it was a dream! It didn’t make sense, at first, but then I started thinking about the night before.”

“Which part?”

“The part where you told me to enjoy my dream,” Twilight replied. “I didn’t understand what you meant—I don’t understand any of it! Everything I know about magic says it should be impossible, but Werner’s story suggests that you can appear and influence dreams. Taking that into account with how you acted toward me only gives credence to his tale.” She took a deep breath, bringing her hoof to rest over her heart. “I don’t want to accuse you of anything, but I feel like I have to ask.” There was a beat of silence. “May I?”

Luna offered a smile, then leaned forward to nuzzle into her mane. The scent of dusty pages and the biting iron of ink filled her nose. “You may.”

Twilight let her ears swivel back as she slowly relaxed her posture. She breathed a sigh and smiled. “Thank you. I really don’t mean to prod, but … can you perform dream magic?”

“There is a long, overly detailed answer to your question,” Luna began, “but I feel it would be best to ‘keep it simple’ for now.” She took a deep breath, then nodded. “Yes, Twilight Sparkle. I can.”

Another heavy silence fell over the pair. Luna flicked an ear at the sound of rustling papers, her smile faltered a tad. She’d forgotten about Moondancer.

“Moondancer,” she called. “Would you mind terribly if I asked that you leave us for the evening? Just this once.”

There was a squeak of wood moving against tile floor, then her seneschal replied, “Yes, Princess.” With a flash of magic, she trotted out, leaving Twilight and Luna alone.

Perfect. Hopefully, this will make things a bit easier. Luna arose, waving Twilight off with a flick of her wing when she made to follow, and moved to join the mare on her cushion. She sat beside Twilight, close enough that her starry tail flicked against Twilight’s as she made herself comfortable. “Does the idea of me walking in dreams frighten you?” she asked.

Twilight chewed on her lip before giving a slow nod. “A little,” she admitted. “Not so much that you can do it, but that any pony could conceivably. The implications are—”

“Of a nature most grave, yes.” Luna nodded. “The ability does not come free of burden or limitation, though the latter comes about from something of a promise I made to myself. As for your point on ‘any pony’ having the capability, I am quite certain it is moot.” A ghost of a smile played upon her lips. “You will find that no spell can imitate my relationship with the dreamscape, for it is my domain. No other may lay claim to it.”

Snorting in amusement, Twilight leaned against her side. “A bit possessive, are we?”

Luna fixed her with a stern glare. “How offended might you be if I were to go into your library, remove all the books from their shelves, and throw them about willy-nilly for my own amusement, then claimed it all for myself?” Seeing Twilight wince and pin her ears back, she smirked. “Exactly,” she said, booping her nose. “The library has been under your care for a number of months, the dreamscape has been mine for millennia, my dear. Imagine how perturbed you might feel after caring for something for so long, giving your heart and soul, only to find another has come and thrown it into disarray.”

A pathetic whine sounded from the back of Twilight’s throat. She ducked her head low and gave a visible shudder. “I can’t imagine. I already know how furious I’d be if somepony did that to my library.”

With a laugh, Luna unfurled her wing and let her primaries touch Twilight’s shoulder. “Of this, I have no doubt.” Her amusement abated, she let her wing wrap around Twilight, pulling her tight against her side. “You have another question,” she said. “Ask it.”

“You won’t be offended?”

“I already know it. Your correlative method has made it as plain as the stars and moon lighting the night sky.” Again, she nosed into Twilight’s mane. “Ask it, I say. I will be truthful if you desire to know.”

“O-Okay, then.” Twilight took in a shuddering breath and ran her tongue over her lips. She made to speak, then hesitated, turning her gaze toward the ceiling for an instant before meeting Luna’s eye again. “When you told me to enjoy my dream, you said you meant it exactly as that.”

Luna nodded. “Verily.”

“Okay.” She coughed, rubbing a hoof against her shoulder. “So, did you? Influence my dream, I mean.”

“Yes,” Luna said simply. “I ensured that you would enjoy a restful sleep. What better way than giving you a scene that would bring no stress, no cause for worry?”

Twilight opened her mouth, but closed it just as quick. She looked away, her ears laid flat against her scalp.

Several minutes passed, barely a blink of an eye for one as old as Luna.

Yet, she found herself holding her breath. Her lip quivered as she waited, silently pleading for Twilight to speak.

Anything.

Outrage. Horror. Joy. Confusion.

Anything but silence.

Twilight took in a breath, Luna’s ears twitched.

“Is that something you do for everypony?” Twilight asked, still looking away. “Or just me?”

“Only you,” Luna replied without hesitation. “I try not to make a habit of meddling unless somepony’s nightmares seems to do harm to their psyche. You are a … special case.”

Twilight turned and met her gaze, her brows knitted together in confusion. “Why?”

Luna opened her mouth, but hesitated, slowly closing it as she tried to think of how to put it to words.

The answer was easy enough. To her, at least.

Why not?

Twilight Sparkle was her first friend in over a thousand years, first and foremost. She came to Luna’s aid when others shrieked and fled in terror.

She was so many things: kind, thoughtful, intelligent, eager to learn and make new friends, and so much more.

Adorable when flustered or focused, especially when her cheeks darkened as she blushed beneath her coat.

Luna’s breath hitched in her throat, the scent of dusty pages and iron wafted to her nose, drawing her closer. “Because you are …” She struggled for the word, her wing tightened around Twilight as if it had a mind of its own.

No pony, save for her own sister, had made Luna feel so alive, not in a thousand years.

“To me, you are very …”

She licked her lips. When had they become so dry?

Her heart raced, their snouts touched. All the knowledge she’d gained over the ages failed her. The word just refused to come to mind.

Twilight was more valuable to her than any coin or gem. So different, in that she was a living, breathing mare who offered such wonderful companionship. Yet, so similar. Coins, gemstones, gold, it was all given value because it gleamed and shone, because somepony eons ago declared them—

Yes. That is the word.

“Precious,” she whispered, tilting her head to the side and closing the distance.

Twilight’s lips were very soft and very warm.

And so very sweet.

Luna’s eyes fluttered shut, she wrapped her hooves and free wing around the mare, holding her close as she reveled in their first kiss.

Her first in over a thousand years.

And worth every second of the wait.

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