• 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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43: Her Sins Laid Bare

“Ask her to show you the book.”

Twilight walked slowly down the west wing of Canterlot Castle, her eyes low and her brow furrowed in deep thought. She didn’t spare the usual nods to the Night Guards posted, nor did she pause to linger on the more Gothic, fantastical style of décor favored in Luna’s side of the castle. There were too many things to consider, too many pieces of new information to the puzzle that had long vexed her.

Too much she never even imagined about Princess Celestia and Luna.

Luna. Her girlfriend, technically. Right?

That was the modern equivalent, but she was almost certain Luna would scoff at the term and brush it off as silly and demeaning of her affections. Or that it diminished the depth of her love for Twilight, a mare deserving of proper courtship.

The thought almost brought a smile to her lips. After all this time, she was starting to think like Luna.

She lifted her gaze to glance out the high arching windows to check the position of the sun. Her stomach growled, almost on cue, and her lips tugged into a frown.

One ‘o clock.

They’d been in the gallery for far longer than she realized.

Hopefully, Luna had slept soundly. A part of her almost hoped that Luna wouldn’t be awake for a few more hours. Celestia knew—quite literally—how she needed her rest after last night.

The visage of Luna’s tear-streaked face, contorted in abject horror as she held Twilight tight and begged her not to look at the mirror flashed before her eyes. She could still hear the fear, the pain in her tone as if it were still happening before her over and over again.

In a way, it had been. Luna’s nightmare and frantic pleading had dominated her every waking thought since. More than anything, Twilight heard the first words she whimpered to her big sister when they all came to help her.

Twilight stopped in the middle of the hallway and heaved a heavy sigh. She turned her gaze toward the ceiling. “And I’m to ask her about the same book.” Slowly, she shook her head. No matter which way she hedged it, there were two ways it could end.

Either path she took would go through the first step exactly as Princess Celestia predicted. Luna would have to revisit the very thing she felt such fear for, and she’d have to let Twilight in, willingly, to see all those things she so carefully hid behind strained smiles and idle brushing-asides before she buried them deep.

It just so happened her nightmares didn’t seem keen on letting her past stay buried.

Twilight took a deep breath in through her nose and let it out slowly as she swished her tail and resumed her brisk trot down the hallway. Luna’s bedroom door was just up ahead, with two guards posted outside as always. Though, this time, there was a face she didn’t quite expect to be posted outside her door. No, there was one guard whom she would have thought would be glued to Luna’s side for the foreseeable future.

“Erebos,” she called as she drew near. “What are you doing posted at the door?”

Erebos gave a slight bow of his head. His amber eyes flitted from her face down the hall, then back again. “Princess Luna has requested that she have some time alone. She wished to think through some … vexing issues.” His jaw tightened. Twilight could almost feel the frustration radiating off him in waves. For all his mischief, he hated that he couldn’t help his princess.

So much like a colt. Only he could antagonize his princess.

Or his mother.

Twilight offered a shaky smile. “Do you think she would be okay if I went in?” she asked. “Or did she change her standing rule?”

The bat pony blinked. His ears twitched as though the proverbial light bulb had clicked on above his head. A hint of a smile tugged at his lips. “No,” he replied, turning to push the door open to admit her. “Her Highness did not.”

As she stepped forward, Erebos made as though to place a hoof upon her shoulder, but stopped short.

Twilight turned to fix him with a confused look. “Is there something else?”

He bit his lip, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Please help her,” Erebos said softly. “You mean so much more to her than you realize. Any comfort you can give her will help.”

A pang shot through Twilight’s chest. Her smile strained. “I’ll do my best. But I can’t promise it won’t be difficult.”

Erebos’s eyes opened, piercing into her soul. “If it weren’t difficult,” he said slowly, with a hint of bitter humor in his tone, “I wouldn’t plead with the one who holds her heart.” With his piece said, he nodded toward the entryway. “Thank you for coming, Miss Sparkle. Seeing you will do her good.”

It took her every effort to maintain her smile while she nodded her thanks and strode into her lover’s suite. Her ear flicked at the sound of the door closing with a muffled thump and click of the latch.

The curtains were drawn, covering the room in darkness save for a tiny sliver of sunlight bleeding through a gap in the curtains, and a few flickering candles. She passed by all the paintings and statues with barely a glance, her mind set on one all-important goal—the beautiful mare sitting with her back facing Twilight. Her midnight coat and feathers were darkened by the shadows cast over the room, and her head hung low as if in mourning.

Luna’s ethereal starry mane swayed in a nonexistent breeze. Her tail flicked as she took a deep breath and let out a sigh. Her hoof raised slowly, drawing near to the side of the desk, where three drawers with metal handles awaited. The bottom one had a keyhole, and just before her obsidian horseshoe brushed the handle of the bottom drawer, she stiffened and flinched away as though shocked.

Only then did Twilight notice that she wasn’t mourning at all.

She was trying to work up the courage to open the drawer. But each time, no matter how close she came, her hoof never touched the metal.

Flicking her tail, Twilight set her jaw. This had gone on long enough. “Luna,” she called, breaking the heavy silence.

She might as well have fired off a cannon for the way Luna stiffened and turned around, eyes wide and wings flared and ready to take flight. Her hooves snapped into a neat, folded position on her seat, like a naughty foal trying to pretend they hadn’t just been caught reaching into the cookie jar.

As if a trinket that caused her unimaginable pain could ever be considered a cookie.

“Twilight!” Luna stammered, forcing a smile as she made to rise. Twilight could see the tension in her every move—her steps were stiff, her wings folded against her sides like a pony trying to force a suitcase closed, and her ears only rose a fraction before dropping again and forcing them to perk back up. Luna was a pony trying, and failing miserably, to put on a happy face. It was all the more apparent when she came to a stop just a step from Twilight. “I hope—I apologize for the fright I caused this morning. Are you well?”

Again, Twilight flicked her tail. “I’m a bit tired,” she answered honestly, blinking a couple times to chase away a hint of an itch in her eye. “I don’t think I slept afterward. I’ve been talking with Princess Celestia all day about quite a few things.”

The Night Princess’s smile faded. “Things?” she repeated, cocking her head to one side. “What manner of things?”

There was no going back. Even if what came next would hurt before it helped. Twilight took a deep breath and glanced down at her hooves. Why did she feel like the bad guy? “I asked her what you were talking about this morning when you had that nightmare. You mentioned a few things, none of which made any sense to me until I started thinking back to a few of our conversations.”

“I … love, do not misunderstand me, I do not mean to—”

“She told me everything, Luna.”

If the silence from before was heavy, what came next was downright oppressive. It was less silence, more a sense that any hint of sound had simply been removed—like the universe itself had blocked everything from the wind to the beat of her heart out to make sure it heard her properly.

Luna took a step back. “I beg your pardon, love,” she said hesitantly. Her eyes widened in growing horror. “What do you mean—”

“Everything,” Twilight repeated. “She told me about how things were when your Night Court was at the peak of its influence. How you stood as the Matron of the Arts, while she held dominion over the law, order, and waging war against Equestria’s enemies. She had me read Werner’s journal and told me why you decided to step away from the Night Court.”

Another step back and Luna gave a stiff shake of her head. “No,” she whispered. “Why would she ever … you need not concern yourself with such things!”

“It’s been my concern for some time. Moreso since you woke up screaming last night.” She took a step toward Luna, gazing up into her teal eyes. “She told me that you did all of it for her.”

Luna clenched her eyes shut, her face contorted as if in great pain. She drew in a deep breath through her nose, then let it out slowly, her nostrils flaring. “Please. No.”

That was it. Twilight stomped her right hoof. A single, sharp clip rang throughout the room. “Luna,” she said slowly, “I read Silent Night’s history of the Night Guard. I know what you did to protect ponies in that age. Some of it, at least. What I don’t understand is why you keep beating yourself up over—”

Teal eyes shot open and bored into Twilight’s very soul. In an instant, Luna wasn’t small or pained anymore. She stood over her, almost towering over her in ways she hadn’t since their fateful meeting the day Twilight had first moved to Ponyville.

Only this time, it wasn’t Nightmare Moon laughing and waiting to finish off Princess Celestia’s prized student.

“You cannot possibly imagine the sins I committed in that age,” Luna replied, barely above a whisper. “What I did, while in the name of our ponies’ safety and out of love for my sister, was terrible. Every action I undertook, I did knowing that I was committing atrocities no less abhorrent than those they were carried out against. And when I returned home, when I came back to my Night Court awaiting a warm reception …” For a moment, she stopped and turned to glare off to the side as if searching for a pestering fly. But her gaze tracked to a certain point on the wall.

Or rather, the door leading toward her bedroom. Where, if Twilight shifted ever-so-slightly forward, she could see the sheet still covering Luna’s full-body mirror.

Luna shook her head. “What I did was horrible. And the cost was far greater than I was willing to pay, at the time. The path it led me down was … indicative of my mental state.” Then, she turned to face Twilight again. Her eyes hardened. “I am sorry that my sister burdened you with the knowledge of such unhappy events. Were it left up to me, I would have seen such events buried so deep, no pony could find them. But, as my sister has seen to it that you have been made acutely aware of certain things, I can only ask that you not worry yourself with the details of my past. And I will speak with her on this.”

Twilight set her jaw. “Are you asking me to just pretend I haven’t noticed how miserable you look each time your past comes up? Or what I just watched this morning?”

The princess winced. “I would not phrase it in such a way.” She coughed into her hoof. “However, I would rather you not explore it further.”

“I refuse.”

Blinking, Luna gaped at her as if she’d been stricken. “Ex—Love, you do not understand.”

“Then let me understand!” Twilight closed the distance between them, glaring up at Luna. She reared up, pressing her hooves against Luna’s soft, blue chest. “You asked to court me. Well, before that, I was looking to try to understand what happened to cause you to lose what you held so dearly. Furthermore, in modern times, dating, being girlfriends—”

“What simpleton decided to call it dating? And what in the name of sanity is a girlfriend?”

Twilight gritted her teeth. Of all the times to be endearingly confused, now was not it. “We are! And I don’t know who called it dating first, but I don’t care! I care because my girlfriend has been sad about things she and her older sister kept locked away and hidden, and it’s hurting her! I care because I had a wonderful night with you and woke up at three in the morning to her shrieking and trying to hide from some nightmare! I care because I love you, confound it!”

Her chest heaved. Twilight squeezed her eyes shut and lowered her head, thumping Luna in the chest. Her shoulders shook, she took a shuddering breath and whispered, “I care because I want to take all the pain away so you’ll smile for everypony the way you do when we’re together.”

A second later, she felt Luna’s chin touch the top of her head, then followed by her nose nuzzling into Twilight’s mane. “I apologize.” She took a deep breath, tickling against Twilight’s ear tips. “Upsetting you was not my intent, but … burdening you with the knowledge of all I did is something I cannot bear.”

Grimacing, Twilight drew back to fix her with a stern look. “And letting you continue wallowing isn’t something I can stand.” She closed her eyes and let out a heavy sigh. “What’s in the book?”

The sharp hiss Luna let out leant credence to Princess Celestia’s advice. “Where did you learn of—my sister. She swore she would never tell!”

“She didn’t have to.” Twilight looked into her eyes once more. “You mentioned it this morning. I asked her, but she wouldn’t tell me anything about what was in it. She said if I wanted to know, I would have to ask you.” Before Luna could try to wave her off, Twilight leaned in close. “I know it’s real. I know it has something that hurts you to think about. But I want to help you get past this, I want to understand what it is that bothers you so.”

A hint of hesitation flashed in Luna’s eyes. She bit her lip, her posture slumped, her defenses lowered at last.

Twilight went for the kill. “Who do you never want to see me, love?”

Again, Luna clenched her eyes shut. Her entire body went rigid. For a moment, Twilight thought she would double down on her refusal, or backpedal away and try to steer the conversation elsewhere.

Instead, Luna lowered her head. A visible shudder ran through her body. “I,” she began, “am not sure how to describe her.”


“She is … has been haunting me, for some time. A memory of past dealings.” She opened her eyes, gazing at Twilight piteously. “The sort my sister and I kept hidden in the book, and meant to bury.”

A memory? Twilight furrowed her brows. That sounded an awful lot like … “Nightmare Moon.”

Luna shook her head. “No. Nightmare Moon was the culmination of years and years of dabbling in darker magics, hardening my heart, bitterness at the loss of my ponies’ love, and … jealousy. Toward my sister.” Her shoulders sagged. “In my anger, I allowed myself to believe her to be the sole cause of my falling out with them. It was easier for me to accept at the time.”

A shiver ran down Twilight’s spine. Of the things Princess Celestia said and Silent Night’s writing implied, she hadn’t wanted to believe just how dark a path Luna had taken.

Yet there it was, from Luna herself. Her way to protect had taken her down a road that ended with her imprisonment within the very moon she raised each night.

Or not. It ended the night we met. Twilight leaned in, planting a soft kiss on Luna’s lips. “If I could look my teacher in the eye and tell her I still loved her after I learned of her past,” she whispered, “I can do the same for my girlfriend. Please, love. No more hiding from me.”

Luna nodded once. Without a word, without turning, she lit her horn. Twilight watched a tendril of shimmering teal snake out toward the desk before plunging into the keyhole. The metal latch clicked.

A magic lock, Twilight realized. Disguised as a keyhole to trick any who might wish to steal from Luna. She could hazard a guess as to whose idea that had been, as well as what manner of nasty surprises awaited the poor fool who dared try.

Princess Celestia’s words on protecting Luna’s possessions were quite fresh in her mind.

Luna tugged the drawer open. A thick black book with pages yellowed with age, bearing the image of a crescent moon set upon a splotch of cloud, arose from within and floated over.

It came to a halt beside Luna’s left shoulder. The mare seemed to fight an urge to recoil from it, averting her gaze entirely.

“I am not proud of what I did,” she said softly, “or what my Night Guard did on my orders. But to say I would not do it again, for my sister, would be a lie.”

Twilight offered a small smile in return. “I understand. I would and say the same for Shining or Spike.”

Luna chuckled despite her mood. “Perhaps so, my love. Perhaps so.” Her smile faded away again. “I would ask your confidence in this matter. I am not certain I am ready for this, let alone—”

Before she could finish, Twilight sealed her lips with a kiss. When they parted, she nuzzled Luna’s nose and whispered, “I promise. No one else, love. Ever.” Thinking on it, she stole another kiss, then added, “I won’t leave the room. I’ll read it right here so nopony else sees.”

Her girlfriend seemed to stand a little taller. She held the book out for Twilight to take.

“Thank you, my love,” Luna breathed. She tilted her head to the right and pecked Twilight’s lips. When she drew back, she rustled her midnight blue feathers. “I will … leave you alone to read at your leisure so I do not fall to temptation and—ah—look over your shoulder, as it were.”

Twilight ducked her head in thanks. “What will you do then?”

Luna’s teal eyes flitted to the doorway. “A walk, I think, will help me relax.” She frowned. “Then, perhaps, I shall speak with my sister.”

Velvety purple ears pinned. “She wouldn’t have said anything if I hadn’t pushed.”

“Of that,” Luna said, “I have no doubt. The walk is to help me decide how I feel on the matter.” With a deep sigh, she nuzzled Twilight’s cheek and began to walk toward the door. “I shall return. I hope this will … help you understand, my love.”

“I do too. Thank you for trusting me with this.”

Her girlfriend’s smile turned brittle. She glanced at Twilight’s face and cocked her head left, then right. “You look tired, my love. If you require sleep, avail yourself of my bed. I will see to it that you shan’t be disturbed until you awaken.” With her piece said, Luna hurried from the room, leaving Twilight to her own devices.

Alone with the book.

Twilight moved to take a seat at Luna’s desk and glanced down at the black book, the key to all the events that tormented her girlfriend for so long. This, and the right to sit in her room, at her desk, unwatched and read it at her leisure must have taken a lot. More than Twilight could ever truly know.

Over a thousand years of baggage, yet she trusted and loved Twilight enough to allow this.

She swallowed a lump, then opened the book with her hoof instead of her magic.

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.

An icy claw gripped her heart. There was something about Luna’s tone, whatever righteous fury she felt when she first wrote those words, that raised the hairs on the back of Twilight’s neck.

This wasn’t Luna. Or, at least, it wasn’t her Luna.

This was Luna at the peak of her Night Court’s influence, furious that her sister was pained and slighted by Equestria’s enemies. This was the same Luna who showed up on Nightmare Night, belting out in the classical Royal Canterlot Voice and speaking in the Royal “We” to her subjects as she might have in those days.

This was a Luna who believed in an older meaning of justice for those who hurt her sister and her subjects.

One that didn’t involve the Elements of Harmony.

Twilight turned the page. The icy claw released her heart so it could drop into her stomach.

Of all the things I will say about my beloved sister, there is one I cannot deny: her power is far greater than I could ever hope to match. There is a reason she has always led our ponies, and myself. Celestia precedes us, we follow.

As the day begins, the night comes after.

I, though near her equal, cannot hope to match her might in terms of raw power. My magic, though impressive, is stronger in more subtle areas. Illusions, parlor tricks, my talent for vanishing and reappearing in a cloud of stardust, all little tricks which I have perfected with years of practice.

But I am not so ignorant of what they can mean in combat. We grew up facing the wild, untamed land, and Discord himself. I have not forgotten, even if the monsters have forgotten to fear the Eternal Sisters of Day and Night.

I shall give them remedial lessons on this. The old books have come out once more, some of the magics Celestia and I spent years fighting shall now be put to use defending our land. I, however, am but one mare. And I do not command the loyalty of the Royal Guard and Equestrian Legions. I will have to employ alternative allies.

Fortunately, I am not alone in my affinity for darkness, trickery, and subterfuge. There is a fourth tribe of ponies who are looked upon with utmost scorn, the result of their own actions and history of thievery, mischief, and reputation as blades for hire. Assassins, in some way. Modestly trained.

With my guidance, they will become something else. They will become nightmares to those who haunt the darkness and prey upon our ponies and dare raise their heads during my sister’s day.

Tonight, I will see which among them will join.

Then, my work—our mission—begins in earnest.

We will start with the lord of gryphon rogues, Hansel the Hurricane. And all his lieutenants.

The room grew colder and colder with each entry, every word Twilight’s eyes traced. With every marking Luna made over a thousand years ago, Twilight felt herself plunging deeper and deeper into the mind of a mare once so bright and cheerful, progressively drowning in the blood of countless enemies spilled by her hooves and those of her Night Guard.

And there was more. So much more than she could have ever imagined.

It was like she was watching Luna, the Matron of the Arts, Protector of Dreams, and Princess of the Night, the happy, loving mare lauded by Werner and Maestro Bolero, die piece by piece. Twilight had a front row seat to the accounts.

Every order.

Every mission report.

Details of the Night Guards she lost due to misinformation or unforeseen complications in the mission.

Luna had written it all down with utmost devotion. At first, her words were filled with passion and emotion. Each battle, mission, and life lost was treated with such … respect. Respect, with a hint of mourning for each life lost.

Much as she had spoken of Princess Celestia in her first entry.

The first kill is always the worst.

I remember mine, though it was many centuries ago. A manticore menacing a married couple and their young foals, the father already stung and rapidly succumbing to its terrible poison. Tia had managed to save his life, mercifully, and I drove a blade of pure magic through the beast’s underbelly. I knew I would never forget the blood which spilled forth and stained my hooves that day, and I never have. Nor did I forget its warmth, or the taste of bile as my stomach emptied itself of its contents.

So it has been for my Night Guard as well. Though the years have passed and each generation has grown more and more skilled, always surpassing their predecessors, the first kill is always the worst for the newest members.

I write this entry with our youngest recruit by my side, the first Night Guard who is not of pure bat pony descent—Silent Night. Lance Corporal Nightshade and Tempest Wing raised a fine young stallion, devoted to his nation and duty. But he is young. Only just out of his days drilling in the caves and forests.

Tonight, he made his first kill.

His victim was a diamond dog warlord named Rex Magnus, a most unsavory dog, the bastard pup of Thrasher the Terrible and Collie Carina the Cruel—a pair of most unsavory dogs even before they decided to unify their bands. Naturally, Rex was just as much a blight on his race and a thorn in my sister’s backside as his parents.

Silent Night’s concealed blade took care of that and his son. But the colt was not ready. I sit with him now, held under my wing, his face ashen and his coat stained red-brown with their dried blood. He still trembles, his eyes are clenched shut as if he hopes to banish their faces from his memory.

I do not blame him in the slightest. Devotion does not change that he is a sweet colt. If the circumstances were different, I might feel him ill-suited for such work. He would do far better stationed in the castle with my sister’s Day Guard, or with my own home unit. Perhaps, if things settle down, I will see him transferred. However …

His skill is unrivaled. None knew of his presence from the time he entered until hours after the bodies had cooled.

I watched from the shadows to confirm it. His technique, his infiltration, his kill, all were flawless.

Silent Night is needed here. Equestria needs his talent for this unsavory work.

Someday, I will see him repaid in full. If not he himself, his family. The Nights have served us well. For generations of service, I will see them honored.

So swears Luna, Princess of the Night.

Twilight tried not to picture the young stallion trembling beneath Luna’s midnight wing, covered in the dried blood of his first kill. But her treacherous mind’s eye conjured a vivid image that made her insides twist and a cold, rotten feeling settle in the pit of her stomach.

Silent Night, the ancestor of Sleepless. Did Sleepless serve the same function? Did his girlfriend, Dreamweaver, know? Did little Rossby or Pirouette or Roux? Or had times changed as Luna wished in that day?

All these things, Twilight didn’t know for certain. But there was one thing she had noticed.

Luna’s love for her ponies was certainly there. But slowly, surely, it was being drained away. Her affection for the Nights aside, there was a distinctive shift in tone. Silent wasn’t ready. He needed to go home.

But to her, he was a tool. A weapon. His value wasn’t protecting some castle, it was killing monsters or bandits or terrible warlords.

It was subtle, but definitely there. And more prevalent with each entry until all emotion just seemed to cease. Or disappear entirely beneath a veil of shadows until there was little left but cold, clinical descriptions.

Mission report: War Master Rudiger Roughtalon, lieutenants, Grigor Galewing and Friedrich the Tornado, and six nobles of little consequence dead. Captain Tiberius, Lieutenant Aconite, Lance Corporal Moonlit Night, and Sergeant Starry Night prosecuted the mission. No wounded Night Guards. No alarm raised.

Result: Success.

Notes: Time in Gryphon Kingdom stronghold, Craggy Peak Bunker, too long. Recommend investigation of Gryphon Kingdom military and security. Interview with Captain Tiberius should provide key intelligence for future missions.

Mission report: Changeling hive located in Lunar Bay. Ponies drained to minimal mobility and enthralled to serve the hive Queen and her ilk. Captain Tiberius’s squad prosecuted, use of bat ponies’ innate ability to sniff out changelings proved most effective in locating disguised hostiles and freeing cocooned ponies.

Result: Success. Hive Queen dead. Two changeling survivors captured and interrogated.

Notes: Bat pony patrols will sweep villages henceforth. Few changelings which awoke reacted with terror to the mere sight of the Night Guard, specifically the bat ponies. Based on interrogation, bat ponies serve as the natural enemies of the changeling race. Utilize in future.

Mission report: Minotaur Herdmaster Thunderhoof assassinated. Captain Eclipse and Lieutenant Stormy Night wounded in battle. Lance Corporal Hail Storm, Sergeants Lightning Strike and Bramble Thorn, and Corporal Stone Hoof fatally wounded. Bodies unrecoverable.

Result: Failure. Loss of four Night Guards and bodies left behind.

Notes: Captain Eclipse is relieved of her command. Leaving behind the bodies of comrades is unacceptable.

On and on it went. Each day, each month, each year she watched as Luna’s writing lost its heart. And who could blame her after what she’d seen? Or all she’d done to protect her home, her ponies, and her sister?

Twilight could do little more than shudder with each word she read and every page she turned. The cold, clinical descriptions weren’t in the same voice as the mare she knew and loved today. They weren’t even the mare who lived before Nightmare Moon. If anything, Nightmare Moon at least had some form of emotion—rage, and jealousy, yes. But anything was better than the cold, heartless manner with which these events played out.

Her chest ached. It was as though a dagger of pure ice plunged into the depths of her heart, and she knew it would only get worse. There was more to come. Greater pain the likes of which she knew, through Princess Celestia and Luna’s implications, would destroy her girlfriend.

It did little to prepare her for when she reached the point where Luna’s fall was clear. If all this was the start, the long, torturous road that led Luna off the proverbial cliff to become Nightmare Moon …

She had just reached the edge.

I returned to hold Night Court for the first time in … over a century. Odd how time flies when one is busy, I suppose. I can scarcely recall the last time I spoke with one of my Children of the Night. I wondered if they remembered me.

Based on this evening, I would say not. The turnout was … nonexistent. I cannot recall the last time Night Court was empty. Not even on my first night hosting it, did I lack the company of my ponies.

’Tis just a temporary thing, I am certain. I did not announce it as Tia now announces her Day Court. Speaking of, she is doing quite well for herself. She smiles, surrounded by adoring ponies, all looking upon her like a warm mother figure, and they are her little foals. I am gratified to see my efforts bearing fruit, despite my sadness at the lack of attendance in Night Court.

The monsters and warlords have largely hidden themselves away or died off. Or they met their end at my Night Guards’ blades. My work has served its purpose, my sister’s smile has returned, more radiant than ever before.

One night of empty Court and a century and a half of blood is a worthy sacrifice. I shan’t be the thunderhead over her sunny day.

My sister is happy and loved.

As she deserves.

A happy entry on the surface. But there was the slightest hint of bitterness in the words. Though their time dating had been short, Twilight could infer a thing or two. Input from both sisters lent great credence to the way events had played out.

Luna wasn’t the dark cloud over Celestia’s day, but not only because she didn’t wish to spoil the happiness she labored so long to ensure.

She was searching for the silver lining in her own thunderhead. One she wouldn’t find.

Not for a thousand years.

Each page, each entry told the tale. That hope, that prayer for any hint of a return to the days of old grew dimmer and dimmer. Twilight felt tears sting the corners of her eyes, she begged, despite knowledge of how this tragedy would end, for somepony to see. For Luna’s Night Court to see one pony, just one, to show her that there were those who loved her. That the Children of the Night would hear their Matron had returned, ready to dote on them as she had before and come scrambling to sit by her side once more.

It never came.


A question Luna repeated over and over again in her entries.

Why would they not come home to their Matron of the Arts? Why did they not love the one who protected their dreams and painted the night sky with unmatched love and talent each time the sun set, even during the bloodiest days of her Night Guard’s work? Why did ponies lock their doors so tight and blow out candles, huddling together in bed as though to ward off the night itself when she had cast the monsters and wicked ones back into the pits from which they dared crawl with their tails tucked between their legs?

Why didn’t they love her?

Why wouldn’t they come back?

Why won’t they love me? What must I do to make them see that I am worthy of the same love they show Celestia?

Why is my beautiful night so empty?

Why am I alone?

It had gotten out somehow. Twilight didn’t know who or what, nor did Luna if her journal was anything to go by, but somepony had learned the truth of why all the monsters had gone into hiding, only preying on those foolish enough to wander off the deepest, darkest paths in the farthest reaches of the land. And even then, never enough to give themselves away for fear of her wrath.

The Princess of the Night fell to despair at the loss of their love. Love she left behind to wage shadow wars with nightmarish foes whose names had long been lost to history.

Slowly but surely, that despair poisoned her from within and turned into bitter anger.

And jealousy.

Unmatched jealousy powerful enough to make the dark magics that festered within the once beautiful mare and blacken her heart until it consumed her very soul. Little by little, Nightmare Moon was coming out in each entry.

Each question was filled with that same bitterness. But the joy, the love for Celestia …

Turned to abject hatred.

Twilight felt the familiar burn of bile in the back of her throat. Some of the things written, the paranoid rantings of a madmare blaming her loving, doting sister for the change in how ponies saw her, she couldn’t imagine saying to even her most hated enemy. Implications of deliberate scheming, a plot to rob Luna of the love of her Children of the Night so Princess Celestia, the Herald of the Day, could have it all for herself. Had it all been an act? All those times Luna recalled seeing her exhausted, weary of battle, how she wept over the gravestones and statues of fallen soldiers or loomed over their subjects’ shoulders like a hovering pegasus mother guarding over a foal barely out of the rookery, had it all been a part of some long, calculated ploy?

Yes. It was her. It was always her, from the shadows. Tugging the strings. She always wanted to trick me as I did her during our younger years.

She stole their love for me! It should have been mine! It was mine!

She closed the book with a loud thud. Her chest heaved as tears threatened to roll down her cheeks. Twilight couldn’t go on.

With shaking knees, she rose, stumbling back from Luna’s desk, her eyes never leaving the cover as if she half expected it to leap off the desk and fly open at her face to force her to read the rest. Her rump hit the wall before she realized that she’d staggered toward Luna’s bedroom.

She quickly brushed the back of her hoof across her face to chase away the tears. She always wanted to know how it happened.

Never had she imagined it would be so painful.

Her head spun. A thousand things fought to reach the forefront of her mind. The book contained memories. Horrible, horrible memories. But there were positives. Yes, she just had to focus on the positives.

She knew, for one. That was a positive in some regard. She knew how Luna fell and how she lost the love and adoration of her ponies.


But how to fix that? There was no such thing as an easy fix in the realm of public opinion. Why, it took her ages to regain the trust of the ponies in Ponyville after her mishap with the Want It, Need It spell!

Luna had a thousand plus years of baggage. A thousand plus years of blood and terrible nightmares attached to her name, on top of that foals’ tale. But maybe, just maybe, that wasn’t the real problem.

The problem was with how Luna looked at herself.

Her head ached. Twilight needed some way to organize her thoughts. Something to make the aching stop and make the tears threatening to well up again go away for good! Crying didn’t solve anything! Especially not Luna’s problems!

Twilight’s eyes flitted to the door and tracked into Luna’s room, past the covers were strewn across the floor and over the full-body mirror, until she took in the magnificent bed. A crescent-shaped canopy overlooked a circular mattress adorned with midnight covers that twinkled like the starry sky and matching pillows. It looked soft, inviting even. And Luna had offered her use if she should find herself tired.

Almost on cue, her eyelids itched and forced themselves closed. She shook her head to clear it. Everything Cadence told her about going to another pony’s bed made it out to be intimate, whether merely to sleep or for the more physical side of love. But without Luna, it was just a bed. Just a nap, nothing more. Not until they reached that step.

And she was tired and in desperate need of rest to help herself think after such a whirlwind of a day.

Her hooves began to move almost of their own accord. A quick rest would do her good. Not even a full nap, just a few minutes to rest her eyes. Then she would have the peace of mind to think through the problem calmly and rationally.

But when she climbed into Luna’s bed and felt the mattress upon her back, softer than any cloud could ever hope to be, Twilight knew she had no chance.

She was out as soon as her head touched the pillow, whisked off to the land of dreams.

When Twilight opened her eyes again, she wasn’t in Luna’s bedroom, wrapped in a warm blanket upon a mattress softer than softness itself.

Instead, she found herself shivering in the cold. Her breath came forth in a silvery mist that spiraled toward the dark, damp ceiling of a deep cave.

Twilight blinked and cast a look around. Her eyes flitted this way and that, taking in the underground lake a short distance to her left, the droplets of water rolling down the edges of long, jagged stalactites and pattering upon the stone floor. Shadows obscured every corner, no matter which way she turned. There was no light, no hint of an exit. She was trapped in this underground cavern with no hope to get out. Not without venturing forth with horn light alone and running the risk of falling into some crevice.

Curious, she shot a small bolt of magic into the darkness to test its depths.

It swallowed her magic before she could even begin to bring forth the right physics calculations. Her ears twitched. Twilight took a step back, toward the center of the dimly lit space she occupied. Away from that all-encompassing darkness. Away from what might lurk in the shadows.

When had she come to this place?

She turned, bringing a hoof to her forehead to try to wrack her brain and try to recall just why she was there, but froze at the sight of something new.

The body of a male gryphon with eyes wide in horror and staring off at nothing, his throat slashed open and lifeblood spilled out onto his front, drying his white plumage an ugly crimson. At his side, a pair of younger gryphon warriors laid facedown on the stone in crimson pools that slowly spread.

Twilight backpedaled. Her hind hooves caught and tripped over something solid. She fell hard, yelping in pain as she rolled over and came face to face with a fallen diamond dog, still tangled in his bedsheets, his neck twisted unnaturally. Scrambling to her hooves she dashed away, over to the safety of the pool, leaping over fallen bodies of gryphons, diamond dogs, wyverns, changelings, minotaurs, yaks, monster-like creatures she had never seen or heard of, even in her darkest dreams.

Her hooves hit the ice cold water so hard it sloshed over her chest, sending chills down her spine to the very tip of her tail. Twilight panted for breath, her eyes screwed shut to try to block out the images. She hung her head low and gave it a quick shake. A slow, ragged gasp escaped her lips. Her shoulders trembled, her tail lowered as if to tuck between her legs. Twilight gave herself another shake, lowering her head to take a drink. She opened her eyes just before her tongue lapped at the cool water.

Just in time to shriek and recoil from the tendril of faint crimson, her eyes followed the trail until they found midnight blue hooves garbed in obsidian armor with purple fletchings, concealed blades glinting in the light. Her gaze drifted up those powerful legs, taking in the full suit of armor adorning the newcomer’s body, the familiar color of her coat and feathers, and black splotch and crescent moon upon her flank.

Then she met a pair of teal eyes set beneath the skull-fitting helmet that stole her breath away.


Her love regarded her with a cool, calculating expression, looking her up and down for a moment as though she were inspecting her worth. A low, appreciative hum built in her chest. Midnight feathers fluffed for an instant, then relaxed. “Powerful indeed,” she mused. “Though easily startled. Easily remedied with proper training. Although, I must confess …” A slow smile spread across her muzzle. Luna took a couple steps toward Twilight, looming over her with a hooded gaze and a smirk that made her blood run cold. “To put you in Night Guard armor would be to rob me of your beauty, though it might be worth the thrill of watching you remove it when our work was concluded.”

Twilight took a step back, her brows furrowed. “You—You’re not Luna,” she stammered.

“Oh, beloved, I am indeed Luna.” Another step forward. Luna’s dripping hoof came down on the stone floor with a sharp clop and a splatter of water. She glanced down with disdain at the gryphon helmet laying beside it, a short distance from a slain legionnaire, and kicked it away, then returned her gaze to Twilight and smiled again. “I have been waiting to meet you for some time. That weak, mewling little thing I became has expended no small effort to ensure that we would not come face to face, but here we are.” She closed the distance between them, pressing her armored chest against Twilight’s and leaning down to nuzzle her nose. “Together at last.”

A lump formed in her throat. Twilight made to take a step back but stopped short when she saw movement over Luna’s shoulders. Eyes glinting in the shadows, many of them, all growing brighter and clearer as they came forth.

The Night Guard strode into view, flanking their mistress. Bat ponies, earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns alike formed ranks, their eyes cold and expressions stony. She could see the changes in armor over the ages, the old high chest plates with cloaks obscuring their cutie marks, the high collared braziers, and the sharp edges to their grieves. Several stepped forth, each of them with high crests atop their helmets. The captains.

Noctis. Nightshade. Silent Night. Eclipse. And Erebos, with Moondancer at his side. Looking just as cold and purposeful as he in her own light armor without a helmet. A warrant officer’s uniform. Night Guard style.

Then came another pony she knew quite well. Garbed in armor matching Luna’s, save for the helmet, with a tight blue necklace around her neck bearing the familiar black splotch and crescent moon mark on a silver pendant. Her eyes were half-lidded, disinterested, and her lips were curved into a small stern frown.

The mare stopped when she reached Luna’s side. Twilight’s jaw dropped as she gazed back into her own eyes. She took several steps back, her heart hammered in her ears. “Th—This isn’t real!” she said in a rush. “This is just a dream! A nightmare! You aren’t real, and you’re not my Luna!”

Luna threw her head back and let out a cold laugh. “Oh, but I was very real, my love. And soon, I shall be again. There is still much work to be done to protect my ponies after all. My beloved sister, regrettably, has let some things fall by the wayside in my absence and is hesitant to fully utilize the tools at her disposal.” She frowned and gave a derisive sniff. “My capture of her upon my return was a testament to that. The Night Guard should have stood ready to put down any usurper, yet they waited with their daytime counterparts until you and yours saved the day.”

“Stop it!” Twilight whispered. “You don’t mean that!”

“I do. Every word.” Slowly, Luna’s smile returned. Her eyes flitted between Twilight and her doppelgänger and back again. A hint of fondness touched her face as she began to approach. “However, I would be remiss if I were to ignore the benefits of such a lapse. Perhaps you and I might correct this together.”

The younger mare shook her head. “No! This isn’t right! You don’t have to do this anymore!”

“I did once. I will do so again, my love. Now, I have longed to finally meet you. I believe I will have a kiss.”

Twilight tried to back away, but her hooves wouldn’t lift off the ground. A quick look down found a shimmering teal glow surrounding them, sticking her in place. Panicked, she tried to channel magic to fight it, searching for a crack in Luna’s spell.

A gentle hoof cupped her chin and forced her to lift her head to meet Luna’s gaze. The Princess of the Night tutted. “None of that, my love,” she scolded, lightly bopping her horn with her free hoof to cancel the spell. “While I do adore games, I am in no mood to wait today.” Smiling, she lifted her helm and set it down on the stone floor, then leaned in, tilting her head and parting her lips.

Twilight’s shoulders shook. She leaned back, fighting against Luna’s grasp as best she could until a hoof wrapped around her neck and pulled her close. Her heart raced. Where was Luna? Her Luna? Why wasn’t she coming to stop this nightmare?

The promise. She made Luna promise not to enter her dreams without permission, of course. But there was something she was forgetting. Something Luna told her before while she was drifting off into a deep sleep.

“As promised, I shan’t meddle. But if your dreams ever trouble you, call out. I will come without fail and banish any nightmares that haunt your slumber.”

Her ears perked up. “L—Luna …” she whispered. “I—I want Luna.”

The dream Luna’s eyes glittered. “I am here, love. Before you at last, as I was meant to be.”

Twilight swallowed a lump and set her jaw. “You,” she said slowly, “aren’t my Luna. You’ll never be my Luna.”

Again, she laughed. “You call for her?” All around them, the Night Guard began to snicker, the cave echoed with their morbid humor. “That weak, pathetic shadow of my power? Oh, beloved, how I adore your little quirks, but this is not the time for play. She cannot protect or love you as I can.”

With an effort of will rivaling the Founders’ themselves, Twilight jerked herself free of Luna’s magic and batted her hoof away, ducking out from under her embrace. She scooted backward, her ears laying flat and knees bent, ready to run. She took a deep breath and cast her eyes toward the roof of the cave, yelling as loud as she could,


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