• 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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39: A Midnight Haunting

The book was out of the drawer.

Her heart hammered in her chest as if it sought to escape. Luna pressed herself against the far wall, her left hind leg shaking. She searched the room again, eyes wide with terror as she peered into the darkness.

Nopony. Nothing. Just herself and an empty room.

And the book.

Who could have known? Who other than Celestia and herself knew of its existence? All of the others were dead and gone, their bodies long since turned to dust by the slow decay of time. All of them. From Noctis to Silent Night, all of them who had watched her sit alone after the work of the Night Guard had finished.

None but Celestia and Luna were all who remained from those days. Not even Cadence knew. Celestia swore it so on the sun and midday sky. But then if not them, who else could know?

Who would dare?

The front cover twitched suddenly, as if it were alive, awakening from its slumber. It opened slowly, with all the grace and ceremony of a prima ballerina’s first dance step on the stage of the Royal Theatre. Luna let out a strangled whimper as two pages followed suit, one after the other. Almost as if somepony were idly flicking through in search of one specific passage.

But there was no glow or shimmer or tinkling of magic, nor could any being save Discord go unseen by her eyes when the land was darkened and Equestria fell under her dominion—and he was imprisoned in stone. Which only left one alternative …

Luna breathed a sigh of relief, chuckling to herself as she slowly folded her wings against her sides. “A dream, it’s only a dream,” she said, shaking her head. She leaned forward and put all four hooves on the floor. Rustling her wings, she brought a hoof to her chest to steady her racing heart.

A dream. Like some little filly crying for her mother, she was frightened of a dream. Of all things! Luna, the Princess of the Night, afraid of her own domain. Ridiculous.

Celestia will laugh herself silly when she learns of this. Yes, that would be just lovely. She could share it with her sister at dawn. Over tea. They could both have a good laugh together, like they would during their younger years. Silly little Luna had a bad dream and forgot herself.

But first, she had to get out of the dream.

Luna lit her horn and cast her special dream walking spell, and waited for the shimmering portal to fade into view. It was reflex after so long, as natural as flight or casting a simple levitation spell. Her execution was flawless, and her dominance over her domain intact.

A low, mocking chuckle reached her ears. It began as a mere rumble within the mare’s chest and built up like the rise of tympani in a concert hall, a crescendo that filled her bedchambers and echoed off the walls, and set Luna’s hair standing on end. Her spell sputtered and sparked, her breath hitched in the back of her throat.

Luna knew that laugh.

“You can’t run this time,” the voice mocked. “There will be no escape, poor, cowardly little Luna.”

She searched the room again. Still there was nothing. Not even a glimpse. “Coward? Me?” she called as she stepped away from the wall, her shoulders squared and wings flared and ready for battle. “It is not I who hides in the shadows and taunts from afar.”

“Certainly not in this age.”

“What do you mean to imply?”

“Does the memory fade with age, or is this the denial of a mare afraid of her past?” The voice chuckled. “Do you not recall that this was once your favored tactic?” A cold shiver ran down her spine. The voice did not relent. “Have you forgotten why the monsters began to fear the night so? How they would check beneath their beds, fearful that the Night Guard would come to wreak vengeance upon them?”

Luna whirled around to face the wall she’d been pressed against. Her nostrils flared. “The dream realm is my domain, specter! Begone from this place or face me!”

That laugh sounded again. Luna’s ears burned. It sounded near. She stood at the center of her room, swiveling her ears this way and that in search of the source. Near, but where? “Well?” Luna demanded. “What say you? Begone from this place or face the Princess of the Night! Choose!”

“What say you?” the voice purred. “How bold for a mare who buries her past and presses herself against the wall when confronted with its relics. Mere trinkets. Face them, little Luna. What say you?

“Thrice I ask and done!” Luna snarled. “Begone or face me! Choose!”

For a moment there was silence. Then, Luna felt a presence behind her whisper in her ear. “We have both made our choices. Let us reflect upon them.”

Unseen force snatched her around the neck and ripped her backwards, dragging her hooves along the floor and turning her around to face the table.

And the book.

Luna dug in her hooves as hard as she could as her horn flared to life, sending tendrils of magic arcing across the dream realm. Every effort failed. She could find neither hide nor hair of her attacker, nor should she escape its grasp. She didn’t stop until she stood before the table, a heavy weight falling upon the back of her neck and forcing her to look down at the first page.

She clenched her eyes shut. “No! No! I refuse! No, I say!” she shrieked, fighting with every ounce of strength. Something gripped her eyelids and slowly, cruelly pried them apart. Cold laughter echoed throughout the room. “Stop! Please stop!”

The words staring back at her were as black as the deepest night, and clear as the day she etched them into the page.

I have seen that which will destroy my sister’s very soul. I can no longer feign innocence, nor can I pretend I was ever truly unaware of the damage done by my retreat into the arts after our long battles with Discord, the ancient dragons, and the Gryphon Empire.

My sister, my beloved elder sister, has taken on a burden no pony, mortal or not, should be asked to bear. For too long have I allowed this to persist, this habit of hers to shoulder the weight of protecting our ponies from those who may do them harm. For too long have I buried my head in the sand and let our enemies haunt the night to gather their strength, then amass themselves to dare stand before her in the light of her sunny day.

The audacity. As I write these very words, it burns me to my very soul. That they would dare blemish the beautiful, sunny day she so lovingly heralds with such attempts against our ponies. The unmitigated gall.

My failure. For did I not swear to defend the night as she did the day? The arts are mine, the law is hers. Night and darkness mine, day and light hers. That is the way things are, and that is what we were meant to protect.

How could I let this happen? How could I let it go on for so long?

No more.

Luna threw herself back, forcing the pressure off her shoulders. She landed hard on her back, but didn’t hesitate to scoot away from the table, eyes wide and chest heaving. That damnable laughter grew louder, colder. Like a monster lurking in the shadows, taunting its foe before swooping in for the kill. Familiar tactics.

Her own.

“As I said,” the voice boasted. “You are a coward.”

Luna’s left ear flicked. She turned slowly, a cold claw gripped her heart as she found herself met by her full body mirror.

It was covered by a sheet. Why?

She stood, furrowing her brows. Her hooves moved almost of their own accord, bringing her close enough to reach out and take the sheet in hoof. Her muscles tensed. With a swift tug, she whipped the sheet off the mirror …

A mare in obsidian armor with dark purple accents stood before her. The helmet was almost formed to her skull, her breastplate curved faded and covered in the marks of battle and blood, the grieves upon her legs the same. Steel glinted within them, the hidden blades worn by all of the Night Guard—the perfect weapon for an assassination.

But none of it held her attention. Luna’s eyes were elsewhere. She knew this mare. She knew that armor.

She knew the eyes staring back at her—full of ancient knowledge, magic, and secrets most ponies could not possibly imagine. Familiar.

Familiar teal eyes. And that smirk.

“Hello, little Luna,” the mare purred. “Did you enjoy our little trip down memory lane? Perhaps dear Twilight can join us soon.”

A scream tore from the back of her throat. The dream realm dissolved in a flash of teal.

It rang through her dream as loud and as chilling as if she were standing next to the pony. A scream of pain and horror, the likes of which she’d never heard before. And yet, the voice sounded familiar.

She knew that voice.

Twilight jolted awake with a start, clutching her head. She sat up straight and tried to rub the sleep from her eyes. She felt muggy, like all her thoughts had to wade through a fog as thick as pea soup before they untangled themselves and lined up to form something sensible.

What time was it? She opened her bleary eyes, blinking a few times until her vision cleared, and searched for the clock mounted on the wall. Then she remembered that it was the middle of night, and she needed a light to see. With a self-depreciative snort, she lit her horn. The room filled with a soft magenta glow, enough that she could see the hands on the old clock.

Three-thirty in the morning. She groaned and buried her face in her hooves. Typical. What in the name of Celestia was that dream? And why was somepony—

A crash and a wail sounded from afar. Her ears twitched, Twilight felt her heart leap into her throat. That voice, that wail, it was the same as the one in her dream. The pony was in the castle!

Her eyes went wide as she put it all together. Luna.

In a burst of magic, Twilight ripped the covers off and dashed out of bed, throwing the door open hard enough that it slammed against the wall. She took off at full gallop toward the west corridor, through the high archways and gothic décor. The guards had all abandoned their posts, they abandoned their posts and hurried to file in to aid their princess. She could hear Erebos barking orders and the sound of heavier hooves echoing from the corridor behind her.

It was only by chance that she looked over in time to avoid being bowled over by a freight train. A freight train with ethereal prismatic mane, unblemished white coat, sun cutie mark, and naked of her regalia. “Stand aside!” Princess Celestia shouted. “Out of my way, now!”

Two Night Guards yelped and dove to the side, dragging their fellows from her path a mere millisecond before she swept into the room.

Twilight entered only a second behind her, the sound of frightened whimpers and sobs made her chest tighten. She pressed on, through Luna’s sitting room, and into her bedchambers. “Luna, what’s—” Her eyes went wide as she took in the room. Something was very wrong indeed.

Luna’s bed lay in shambles, her pillows and blankets had been thrown across the room, as if to ward off an attacker. A large, heavy midnight blue comforter hung over something, obscuring all but a hint of polished wood and a glint of glass from view. An old fashion, full-body mirror. On the other side of the bed, Erebos, Moondancer, and Princess Celestia stood, all three of them staring down with concern showing naked in their faces.

A sniffle made jerked her focus away. Twilight circled the large bed faster than a Wonderbolt at full sprint, and found her girlfriend sitting in a corner, her back pressed against the wall. Midnight blue wings encircled her head, blocking her face, but Twilight knew just by posture that Luna had buried it in her hooves.

And she was crying. Openly weeping.

Princess Celestia swooped down upon her sister and pulled her into a warm embrace, wrapping hooves and wings around the Princess of the Night in one smooth motion. “Luna,” she whispered, “I’m here. I’m here.”

Slowly, Luna’s shaking hooves wrapped around the elder alicorn’s neck, hugging her tight. But she didn’t raise her head. She spoke in a jumbled whisper, a sound mixed with choked sobs and strangled whimpers that set Twilight’s ears on edge. Through it all, she caught one bit:

“Unlocked! The book was … it was …” Luna couldn’t finish. She let out another choked sob and buried her face in Princess Celestia’s chest.

Princess Celestia’s grip tightened. “It’s locked away,” she replied firmly. “Lulu, I promise you it’s locked away safely, and only we have the keys.”

“It was not! I saw it! I—she—I—” She hiccuped. Her shoulders shook as she struggled to control her breathing. Her voice came in that panicked, hushed whisper again.

Twilight bit her lip. Luna needed something, something comfortable to help her keep warm. Familiar enough to give her a sense of security. She turned to Moondancer and Erebos, then said, “We’ll stay with her. Go make her some tea.”

Erebos frowned. His jaw tightened and tail flicked. “I can’t leave her like this. Whatever ails her, Princess Luna’s wellbeing is my responsibility.”

“Princess Celestia and I will stay with her,” she replied. “Erebos, please. Take Moondancer and go, and tell the guards to give us some space.”

A low, uncertain groan sounded from the back of his throat. His amber eyes flitted between the sisters and Twilight. He took a deep breath, then nodded once. “Please help her,” he said softly, like a foal worried for his mother. “I’ve never seen her so distraught.”

Twilight nodded once. “I will.”

With a sigh, he turned and nudged Moondancer along, whispering their new goal in her ear and draping a leathery wing across her shoulders as he led her away. Twilight noticed her old classmate’s posture—ears raised and alert, shoulders tense, and legs shaking with each step. She was just as worried as the Night Guard who stormed the room.

What happened here? What could frighten Luna in the middle of the night?

She shook her head. The details could wait until Luna was ready, her girlfriend needed help. Luna needed her. She glanced over her shoulder toward the far side of the room, right at Luna’s discarded blanket.

“Twilight?” Luna whimpered, almost on cue.

Twilight flicked her ear, then turned her attention to Luna again. She winced at the tear tracks that marred her beautiful coat, forcing herself to smile when she met those watery teal eyes. “I’m right here, Luna.” Her horn lit up, she gripped the blanket in her magic. “Let me just fetch your blanket, and—”

Those ancient teal eyes went wide with terror. “NO!” Luna’s horn flashed, one tendril of magic wrapped around Twilight’s horn and deftly canceled her spell, another snatched her and ripped her bodily off the ground, and dragged her forward so fast her stomach lurched.

Luna’s right hoof snatched her out of midair and pulled her into an iron embrace, her midnight wings unfurled and wrapped around both mares as she buried her face in Twilight’s shoulder.

“No, no, nonononono!” she whimpered. “Do not! Never look! Never, never look! Never let her see!”

“Luna,” Princess Celestia whispered. “What can’t Twilight see?”

Luna shook her head. Her grip tightened, Twilight could feel hot tears staining her coat. For a moment, Luna said nothing. She simply sobbed into her shoulder.

Then, she whispered four words that made Twilight’s blood run cold. “Please don’t leave me.”

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