• 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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7: Youth Is Its Own Reward

Twilight surveyed the main room, humming a tune as her eyes flitted from the freshly swept floor to the dusted bookshelves. Shelves straightened. Check. Papers put away or thrown out. Check. Twilight paused to glance at the table, lingering on the lone book resting in the center. And one book on classical Equestrian music ready to be skimmed. Check.

It wasn’t much, considering that she was about to play hostess for royalty, but Luna had been adamant that she act as though she were speaking to her friends during the last visit.

Still, I could never tell Rarity that Spike and I didn’t go all out for a visit from Princess Luna, Twilight snickered, an image of her fellow unicorn puffing up and launching into a lecture on high social life springing to the forefront of her mind. She’d be appalled that we only set up to have tea, not to mention that I didn’t consult her on proper décor.

But, frankly, such a thing was trivial. It was just a nice, relaxing discussion of music, after all, not the Gala.

Beaming, Twilight trotted to the kitchen, where Spike was waiting for the timer to oven timer to go off in his pink frilly apron.

Funny, she brought a hoof to her mouth, hiding a grin. He goes on and on about being a big, strong dragon, but still wears the cook’s apron mom bought for his fifth birthday. “Thanks for helping out, Spike.” She called. “I never thought I’d see the floor without so much dirt again!”

“Heh, you can thank Rainbow and Applejack for most of that! Those two never wipe their hooves!” He paused, tilting his head as a thought occurred. “Come to think of it, neither do Scoots and Applebloom.”

Twilight shuddered and tried to beat back the memory of her nice, clean floor spattered with mud and tree sap the last time the Cutie Mark Crusaders had come stumbling into the library. “Thanks for the reminder, I’d just gotten that one out of my head!”


“Oh, you little parasprite!” Catching him in her aura, Twilight pulled him into a tight hug and ruffled his headfins. Trapped in her grasp, Spike could only flail, batting at her hooves until Twilight saw fit to put him down. She giggled as he scrambled back over to the oven, covering his fin and mumbling. “Stop that mumbling, you can’t play angry with me, mister!”

Before Spike could reply, the timer rang out. Quickly glancing between the oven door and Twilight, Spike settled for sticking his forked tongue out and blowing a raspberry.

He pulled the oven door down and steam rushed out, bathing the pair in a wave of heat. Spike waved his hot pad to clear the air before reaching in and taking hold of the edge of a cooking tray. Deftly sliding it out, he beamed, surveying the neat rows of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. “Ah!” He sighed happily, wafting their smell into his nose. “Nothing better than cookies right out of the oven, not even mom’s pancakes!”

Twilight gasped theatrically. “Blasphemy!” She cried, pointing a hoof at him. “You take that back! There’s nothing better than mom’s cooking!”

Quickly sliding the tray onto the countertop, Spike waved his hot pad like a banner. “Never!” Though he tried his best to play the part, Twilight caught sight of his cheeks puffing out with barely restrained laughter. “I will not be silenced! Your tyrannical reign and worship of inferior pancakes will go on no more! The age of the cookie is at hand!”

The pair broke down into a fit of giggles, struggling to breathe through their amusement. “Tyrannical reign and worship of inferior pancakes?” Twilight parroted. “Somepony’s been reading through some of those dramatic speeches in fantasy worlds!”

“I blame you,” Spike replied, grinning as he pushed himself up to his knees. “You’re the one who used to push those things on me non-stop for years. ‘I want you to read something that’ll foster your imagination,’ you said. ‘You’ll love it,’ you told me. Well, I did and now I’m using it! So, nyeh!” He stuck his tongue out, yet again, to punctuate his remark.

“‘Nyeh’? Come now, I know you can do better than that, my widdle Spikey-wikey!”

Spike’s eyes narrowed dangerously at her tone, how she imitated his not-so-secret crush like that. “Oh, don’t even go there!” As Twilight returned his gesture by sticking out her tongue, he puffed smoke out his nose. “If Princess Luna wasn’t coming over, you would be so toast.”

“Well, lucky me, then!” Came the reply. Twilight stood and wrapped him in a one hooved hug, nuzzling the top of his head. “You’re sure you don’t want to stay? Luna seemed happy to talk with both of us last time.”

“Yeah, but, no offense, I think she was a bit more excited that you called her a friend. I mean, she hugged you, not me.”

Twilight’s ears pinned back. “Oh, don’t be like that, Spike!” She pulled him in closer as she spoke. “Luna didn’t—“

“I know she didn’t mean anything by it, but she seems closer to you. It’s fine. Really.” Spike ducked out from under her hoof so he could turn to face her fully. “It’s kinda like how I’m closer to Rarity than I am to Rainbow Dash, or you than Shining Armor. It’s not that I don’t like them, I’m just closer to other ponies. Same with Luna. It happens, right?”

“Well, yes, but…” Twilight trailed off, struggling to think of anything to counter his point. Very few of her lessons on friendship had much to do with one friend preferring another; they had all come together on the same night and only grown closer as the days went by. Of course, there were times they sought out advice from single members of their little circle.

And Spike has been a part of that. He’s been there for all of my friendship reports. But how to explain this… Wait. I know!

She placed a hoof on his shoulder, not pulling him into a hug, and looked him in the eye. Always treat him like a big pony when telling him something important, just like mom and dad. “I still think she’d be happy if you stayed, but I won’t make you. This time, at least.” Her lower jaw set, Twilight ducked her head low so she level with him. “But I don’t want you to feel like you have to leave every time she comes over to visit; this is your home too, and I hope you’ll see her as a friend.”

“I already—“ Spike waved his claws about, trying to grasp at something to say. He sighed after a moment and gave up. “Okay. I won’t leave all the time. It’s just a bit… you know.”

“Yeah.” Twilight pulled him in close once again, letting Spike bury his head in her chest. Memories of Shining and Cadence bringing friends by, of her suddenly having nothing to say in front of the older ponies and looking down at her hooves rather than meet their gaze.

“This is your sister? She’s so cute!”

“So you’re the famous Twily, huh? Nice to meet ya! I’m Poindexter! I hear you’re pretty smart!”

“Aww, Cady, where’ve you been hiding her? I could just pinch her little cheeks!”

I know exactly how that feels, she thought, giving Spike an extra little squeeze. My number one assistant. Pulling back a bit, Twilight booped their noses together. “We can cross that bridge when we come to it.” And we will come to it. “You’ll be at Rarity’s tonight, right?”

Spike beamed at the mere mention of his crush, bouncing in place. “Yeah! The Crusaders are coming over, too! They’re gonna let me come along on a couple of their games, said I could be a big help!”

Barely suppressing a wince at the mere prospect of Spike involved in the girls’ usual antics, Twilight managed to paste a grin on her face. At least he can have some friends around his age. “Well, try not to get into too much trouble,” she paused a moment as a thought occurred to her, “actually, if they mention anything to do with fashion designing or modeling, stay out of that. Rarity, ah, doesn’t particularly like it when they mess with her materials.”

“You aren’t kidding! Last time they tried it, I had to help her clean up. That was… well, she can be kinda scary.”

“That’s an understatement.” Twilight nodded, a rueful smile crossing her muzzle at memories of some of Rarity’s bouts of temper when her work was the subject. Almost as quickly as it came, her smile vanished. She gazed at Spike with a slight frown. “Are you going to stay around long enough to say hi, at least?”

Spike bit his bottom lip and fidgeted in place. “Well, I dunno,” he hemmed, shuffling from one foot to another, “you sure that won’t upset Princess Luna? Me leaving just as she walks in?”

“We can say that you made plans for tonight before mine with her, if you like. I doubt she’d mind too much.”

Sighing heavily, he nodded once before breaking the embrace. “Fair enough, I guess.” He stepped over to the counter and took hold of the tray of cookies, sliding them off onto a waiting plate. “Hopefully she likes my cooking…”

“She was happy with your tea last time, I’m sure she’ll love your cookies. Who knows,” Twilight let a smirk play upon her lips, “Luna just might try to steal you away from me if she enjoys them too much.”

Her comment earned a raised eyebrow. “You’re awful playful today.” Spike took the plate in his claws and carried it toward the door. He stopped short, looking up at the ceiling as if thinking. “Somepony’s excited! Just like a little filly on Hearth’s Warming Eve!” He sang before quickly darting out of the kitchen, with Twilight hot on his heels, laughing and calling threats of retribution for his teasing.

With a pair of midnight blue saddlebags slung across her back, Luna trotted alongside her sister to the courtyard, where her ornate, onyx chariot awaited. As per usual, two of her trusted Night Guards stood, harnessed in to pull it through the sky. Perhaps, Luna thought with a wry grin, it is a good thing that I decided to forgo my cloak this time. Though it may have to make an appearance next Nightmare Night.

But as she approached, Luna noticed something unusual. Two ponies she hadn’t expected stood by her chariot, smiling happily in her direction.

Captain Erebos and Moondancer bowed low in greeting. “Your Highness,” the bat pony spoke as he raised his head, regarding her through his catlike eyes, “we are ready to depart whenever you give the word.”

“Erebos, Moondancer,” she nodded to each in kind, “I am afraid I don’t quite understand; you speak as though you are coming to Ponyville as well.”

“Er, yes, Your Highness!” Moondancer stammered. She shuffled in place, flicking her tail as she tried to keep eye contact. “We, ah, well, that is to say, Captain Erebos and I, thought that you might, er…”

Erebos hid a snicker behind his hoof. “We thought you might like a bit of support, My Princess.” He grinned at Moondancer, drawing a startled squeak as she caught sight of his gleaming fangs. “Miss Moondancer was quite concerned when she heard how frazzled you were on your last visit.”

Captain! My Princess, he’s exaggerating! Well, a bit, but I just—“

Luna held up a hoof, forestalling any further protests from her seneschal. She turned her gaze from the bickering pair, leveling Celestia with a deadpan stare.

As expected, her elder sister smiled back at her, the perfect picture of innocence. Too perfect for Luna’s taste. “Sister?”

“Yes, Lulu?” Celestia hummed, beaming back at her without a care in the world.

Luna sighed. I guess we are playing this age-old game. Again. “Why do my seneschal and the Captain of my Night Guard seem to think that I need them along for moral support?”

Celestia frowned, bringing a hoof to her chin as if pausing to think. “Well, I don’t–oh, silly me!” She giggled. “I had lunch with Moondancer earlier this week, just a bit of time to catch up, student-to-teacher. She went to my school, you see.”

“Of course. You have mentioned this several times.” Usually, whenever you manage to somehow know exactly what troubles me.

“Well, we had lunch the other day, so it may have come up.” Celestia put her hoof down, smiling brightly. “Sorry, just a little slip up. It won’t happen again!”

I am quite certain that it will. “We will have words on this later,” Luna huffed before turning back to find Erebos smirking wickedly at Moondancer, whose muzzle had turned a rather impressive shade of red. She blinked, looking back and forth between the pair. When they didn’t immediately resume professionalism, she coughed. “If there is nothing else,” Luna glared at her sister out of the corner of her eye to forestall any additional commentary, “I believe I am ready, Captain.”

To his credit, Erebos snapped to attention as soon as he heard her voice, all traces of amusement sliding right off his muzzle. “Yes, My Princess! We’ll depart at once! Come along, Miss Moondancer, Our Princess awaits us.”

“O-Oh! Yes! Coming!” Moondancer sputtered, bowing low to Luna before scampering over to the chariot and taking her place.

Erebos shook his head, a broad grin on his muzzle again. “She’s too easy sometimes.” Luna glanced out of the corner of her eye, sharing a small smirk with her Captain. He bowed low and made a sweeping gesture with his hoof, directing her to the chariot. “After you, My Princess.”

Playful, yet professional. Luna nodded in kind as she stepped onto the carriage, with Moondancer on her left and Erebos taking his post on her right. Even with my sister’s help, this is a bit bold for Moondancer. And Erebos… well, he loves to make mischief, of course, but usually manages to realize when to stop playing. So, the questions is, which of them lead the charge? And what motivated them?

Celestia approached her chariot, looking up with a bright smile. “Teasing aside, I do hope you have a good time tonight, Lulu.” She leaned up to nuzzle Luna’s cheek. “I will expect to hear all about it when you get back, though,” a cheeky grin crossed her muzzle, “don’t make me drag it out of you, little sister of mine!”

“Oh, away with your teasing, ancient one!” Luna hid a grin at the way her sister sucked in her cheeks at her retort, and at the poorly disguised bout of snickers from Erebos, before continuing on. “You will be kept informed when I say so, and not a moment sooner. And don’t even think about pestering these two!”

Her sister’s grin broadened, Luna groaned inwardly as she realized what she’d just done. “I wasn’t going to, but thank you for the reminder! Moondancer, didn’t we have lunch scheduled for tomorrow?”

Curse my mouth. With a sigh and irritated swish of her tail, Luna looked skyward. “You have more than made your point, I yield to your superior teasing, oh sly sister of mine. We will discuss the evening upon my return.”

“I look forward to it!” Celestia beamed, completely disregarding her exasperation. She turned to the stallions harnessed to the chariot and nodded. “I wish you all a safe flight, and a pleasant meeting with my student to you, Luna.”

Nodding in kind as her sister stepped back to clear them for takeoff, Luna gave a soft smile. “Thank you, Tia, and a wonderful evening to you.” Turning to her guards, she spoke up. “If you are ready, let us depart.”

“Yes, My Princess!” Both called back in stereo. The pair took their first steps forward, grunting slightly when their harnesses pulled back with the first tug. They broke into a steady trot, then a full gallop as they closed in on the end of the stone runway. Just before stone gave way to the soft grass of the castle courtyard, the guards beat their leathery wings and took flight, pulling the chariot off the ground and into an arc across the night sky.

While Erebos let his eyes roam the sky for any sign of danger and Moondancer quivered by her side, desperately trying to look anywhere but over the edge of the chariot, Luna closed her eyes and sighed happily, letting the cool night breeze brush against her face. With the night beginning and Equestria becoming her domain once again, her power began to peak.

The whispers of her ponies’ dreams were already beginning to grow in volume as little foals were tucked into bed by their loving parents. But, looking down to the city below, she could see a number milling about, enjoying the parties, music, and shows that thrived in her night.

A thousand years later, and I have confirmation that ponies do love my night. She chuckled to herself. If only I could have seen how it came to be. Luna shook her head. No, I am not falling back into that line of thought again. Equestria has moved along and so will I!

She inhaled deeply, holding it in before slowly releasing. Luna repeated the process a couple of times, chasing the negativity from her mind. Nosy though she may be, Celestia’s niece was correct: that is rather soothing. A grimace marred her muzzle. If only I could find a more permanent way to banish those thoughts.

Erebos cleared his throat to draw her attention. “Is something the matter, My Princess?” Their eyes met, his filled with concern and the slightest hint of apprehension. “You seemed quite excited when we left, giddy even, if the byplay with Princess Celestia was any indication.”

“No, don’t mind me, Captain,” Luna replied, shaking her head, “just thinking over a few things. Nothing important.”

“Are you sure? Miss Moondancer and I haven’t put you off with our presence, have we?”

“I’ll admit that I was a bit taken aback, but it is nothing too concerning.” Just curious that you would do so without asking me first. Turning to face him fully, she pasted a smile on her muzzle. “Just an old mare having a bit too much time with her memories, my dear Captain.”

He snorted in reply, raising an eyebrow. “You? Old? I think ‘ageless’ would be a more appropriate word, My Princess. You hardly look a day over thirty,” Erebos paused to waggle his eyebrows at her. “I know some mares who would kill for your secret. So tell me, Princess to Captain… Is it your moisturizer?”

Luna threw back her head and laughed; the informality he so loved to slip in every now and again. “I assure you, no manner of manufactured creams or ointments has granted my sister and I longevity, Captain. As for my appearance,” she paused to playfully toss her mane, “it is, as you young ponies would say, ‘all natural’.”

“Hmmm, no. Forgive me, Princess, but I think you’re lying. I can see a splotch of cream right by your chin! Right there! Miss Moondancer, you see this, right?”

“N-N-No, I don’t see m-much of anything, C-Captain!” Both turned in unison, raising eyebrows at the stammering mare. Moondancer was seated on her haunches, with her ears pinned down and chin tucked into her chest, eyes cast toward the floor of the chariot.

What in Equestria is—oh. Oh, dear me. Luna tutted and shook her head. “You didn’t think about your fear of heights before coming, did you?” She sighed as Moondancer shook her head. Luna unfurled her wing and draped it across the smaller mare’s withers, pulling her into a comforting hug. “You should have stayed at the castle, you silly little mare.”

Frightened though she was, Moondancer shook her head. “I’m y-your seneschal, I’m supposed to escort you to meetings and other th-things! I c-can’t stay home for something s-silly like that!”

Before Luna could rebuke her, Erebos snorted. “You should’ve spoken up if it’s this bad for you, Miss Moondancer. Did you think, for instance, what might happen if we hit a bit of turbulence? I daresay you’d be in shock!”

“But I was just doing—“

“Your duty as seneschal, yes. That doesn’t change that you’ve got a responsibility to your own well-being!” His comments earned a whimper from Moondancer. Erebos’s eyes softened at the sight of her ducking lower and pressing into Luna’s side, gazing back at him through watery eyes. Coughing awkwardly, he tried to look elsewhere, only to be met with a stern glare from his princess. “But,” he gave an uneasy grin, “you’ve shown the same dedication I’d expect from one of my guards.”

Luna quirked an eyebrow, but nodded all the same. Perhaps a bit blunt, but true. Still, that was a bit too abrasive, especially for a mare as easily flustered as Moondancer.

Turning her head so that Moondancer wouldn’t be able to see, Luna mouthed to Erebos. “We will discuss this later.”

It would’ve been a boldfaced lie to say the visible shudder that ran down his spine didn’t bring a small hint of satisfaction. It seems that sometimes, even a fully trained stallion needs a reminder of how to talk to other ponies.

“Leaving Canterlot air space, Your Highness!” One of the guards called over his shoulder. “We’re about to bank south toward Ponyville! On your command!”

Luna settled herself in, making sure to tighten her wing around Moondancer for reassurance. “Ready when you are, gentlestallions!”

With matching nods, the guards angled their wings and leaned to the left, bringing the chariot around to fly toward their destination.

As they shot through the night sky, Luna hummed an idle tune. I wonder what we should listen to first. Perhaps, start with one of Tempo’s old works. A smile played upon her lips at the memory of Twilight’s look of utter amazement. Allowing herself a light giggle, she nodded. Yes, that will do just nicely. I shall start with a shared interest, then move onto a few of my favorites.

That sounded about right; from what Twilight’s letters had shown, common ground was a great place to start when introducing something new. Now, how to introduce it properly… “Captain?”

Erebos snapped to attention at Luna’s call. “Yes, My Princess?”

“You said that you wanted to help me tonight, yes?” At his nod, she continued. “If it is not to much to ask, might I try practicing something?”

“Er, of course, My Princess. But, what exactly would you need my help with?” He tilted his head to the side, ears perking up to full height. “Is this for your meeting with Twilight Sparkle?”

“Yes. I just wanted to see if I could… if I could practice making a friendly recommendation on classical composers.”

Erebos scratched at the back of his helmet, smiling wryly. “Well, I’ll admit that I’m not too up to snuff on the classics, just ‘cause I’ve always been into the rock scene, My Princess. But I can appreciate a good rendition of Tempo Rubato every now and again.”

Luna beamed and threw a hoof around his shoulders. “Splendid!” She cried. “I planned to share a couple of his records from my personal collection! Truly, this is a happy coincidence!” She glanced at the awkwardly grinning stallion she’d trapped against her side. Oops. “Er, if it is agreeable to you, Captain.”

“Of course it is! I’m just a bit surprised, is all! Pardon me saying, Princess, but I assumed that you’d be annoyed at us for coming!” Quickly adjusting himself, Erebos gave a sincere grin. “If it’s that important to you, though, I said we were here to help, so I’d be happy to do so!”

“Thank you, Captain. And you, Moondancer.” Luna paused to offer a light squeeze to her timid seneschal. “I… You truly have no idea how much I appreciate this.”

The chariot’s wheels touched the ground, bumping and rolling along the grass as the guards slowed down to a light trot.

Luna’s smile had been irrepressible since she saw the dense, leafy top of Golden Oaks Library, tinged orange by the candle light from inside, come into view as they were making their final approach. Her chest filled with warmth: she was back.

In the company of my friend yet again. Her left hoof tapped excitedly as the guards brought her carriage to a halt. She all but hopped out of the carriage like a young foal, landing nimbly on her hooves. “Thank you, gentlestallions,” Luna turned and bowed to the pair. “A very fine job by both of you, I found our flight quite enjoyable.”

The twins puffed out their chests, proud to have pleased their princess. “Thank you, Your Highness!” They replied in stereo. “We are pleased to serve in any way we can!”

Nodding to them, Luna back over her shoulder, her smile faltering slightly at the sight of her seneschal being lead shakily out of the chariot by a rather concerned Erebos.

“Easy does it, Miss Moondancer, that’s it.” He muttered softly, draping a leathery wing over her withers to steady her as she finally got all four hooves on the ground. “There we are! Solid ground! See? You’re fine.”

Moondancer whimpered in reply and kept close to him, almost pressing herself up against the Night Guard Captain. “Th-Thank you, Captain.”

“No trouble at all, just take your time.” Erebos looked over to Luna and snapped a salute. “My Princess, might we escort you to the library?”

Luna shook her head. “No, Captain, I think I can manage myself from here. Thank you, though.” she stepped closer and caught the pair in a hug. Offering them a quick nuzzle, she pulled back and smiled at each in turn. “Your company tonight was unexpected, and a bit invasive,” both winced at her summation, but Luna continued on, keeping her tone light and pleasant, “but helpful. Even if one of you was a bit preoccupied with her own worries.”

“I’m sorry!” Moondancer squeaked. “I only wanted to help, so I didn’t—“

“’Tis fine, Moondancer.” Luna cut her off with a wave of her hoof. “Standing by my side so that I would not falter was more than enough.” Despite her reassurances, her seneschal still stood with shoulders slumped and ears laying flat. Disappointed in yourself? Or still recovering from the flight? “Captain.”

“Yes, Your Highness?”

“Take Moondancer into town, see if a walk and something in her stomach might bring a little color back to her.”

Erebos blinked, glancing from Luna to Moondancer and back again. “Er, yes, of course. But shouldn’t we stand by and await the end of your evening?”

“No, Strider and Shooting Star will be here,” upon mention, the twin guards snapped to attention and saluted their captain. “They should be enough to stand watch outside of a public library, especially in such a small town. I will have one of them inform you when we are ready to depart. Just take care of her for now.”

“If that’s what you want, I’ll see to it, Your Highness.” Erebos bowed low before turning to lead Moondancer toward Ponyville proper. As they walked away, Luna noticed her captain lean in closer to speak. “Come along, Moondancer,” she managed to catch. “Take it slow and breathe, dear.”

Seeing the smaller mare nod and fall into step with the armored stallion, Luna’s smile returned in full. She seems to have taken well with my Night Guard. Her ears perked up, tail twitching behind her. A young mare, raised to fear Nightmare Moon and adore the daytime, accepted by my own and willing to face her own fears to help me battle my own problems.

Her thoughts turned to the meeting with Twilight, Luna glanced toward the front door to Golden Oaks Library—a sight which froze the blood in her veins and sent her fleeing to the safety of her tower just a few short weeks ago.

“Afraid to speak with a pony I admired,” she mused idly as she took the first step, “but not of spending an evening in the company of one I call friend.”

With her mind free of any inklings of that treacherous little voice, and her resolve stronger than ever before, Luna walked up to the red painted door and raised her hoof.

Thinking twice, Luna quickly conjured a mirror to check her appearance, humming idly to herself as she noted that her crown was polished to perfection and her starry mane flowed without a strand out of place. Perfect, she crowed, bringing her hoof up once again. Now, I am ready.

Without any hesitation, she knocked three times against the wood.

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