• Published 10th Dec 2015
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Anything But The Gala - Ponibius

Celestia has hosted the Gala for hundreds of years—and has hated every year of it. Now that her sister has returned to her, she hopes to share this painful royal duty. Shame for her that Luna wants nothing to do with the Gala.

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A Difference In Opinions

Anything But The Gala

Chapter 1: A Difference In Opinions

CR 1001

"Luna, would you mind hosting the Gala for me this year?" Celestia asked, an innocent sounding question that would cause me no small trouble in the times to come.

"Hm?" It took me a moment to process the question. The two young officers exchanging blows on the West Hoof practice yard had held my full attention until my sister had spoken.

Celestia smiled knowingly. "Enjoying yourself, are you?"

"Aye, very much so." My sister had taken the effort to arrange for some displays of martial prowess while the two of us were taking a royal review of Equestria's military academy, something I was most thankful for. We were currently seated on the bleachers overseeing the field. A hoofful of students had also gathered to cheer for the dueling ponies, though they were kept at a distance by both our guards and deference to their princesses.

After my return from the moon I had found to my profound disappointment that the tourneys of old, with proud warriors testing their mettle against one another, had fallen out of favor with the common pony—something I suspected my sister had played a hoof in. She had never particularly enjoyed the tourneys, being too violent for her tastes, and a thousand years of consistent royal disfavor can tell the difference. Still, it spoke well of her that she had set up this display purely for my sake. Even if ‘twas a pale imitation of what once was.

“I am quite entertained.” I continued to watch the two combatants trade rhythmic, practiced blows with their padded wingblades. "This is much better than our outing at the golf course."

Celestia smile became something more teasing in demeanor. "You didn't like it because I beat you."

"Only because thou hast far more practice at it than I," I shot back. The memories of how I had kept overshooting the green were not happy ones. It turned out that alicorn strength was poorly suited to the game. Though my sister was, of course, superb at the game after uncounted decades of practice. Just like how she was perfect at most things. I was not jealous; merely annoyed.

At least I had gotten a little bit of humor when I accidently pelted somepony with a ball. The fact that the pony in question who had been sulking in the bushes was Speedy Press, a tabloid journalist whom had written several scathing articles saying that I was ruining Equestria in some manner or another, had made it a very happy accident.

“Then perhaps we should do it again soon?”

“Neigh, I think not,” I said in a disinterested manner. "Not when I would have to wear those hideous, uncomfortable clothes again."

My sister let out a patient sigh. "You just don't like plaid."

"Because plaid is a hideous color scheme." Really, I did not know why she had insisted so that we dress so strictly for the occasion. 'Tis not as though the outfit were needed to participate in the game. Also, the pants had been itchy. "Thou knowest I hate plaid."

"So I do," Celestia said unhappily. "And you're using 'thou' again."

"I know, dear sister," I grumbled. "Can I not even use it in private without thee chastising me?" ‘Twas irritating when Tia treated me as the younger sister. Specifically, the younger sister who still had to be told not to eat too many sweets before dinner or to mind her bedtime. “I miss ‘thou.’ It was useful to be able to distinguish between social inferiors and equals.”

‘Thou’ had been another of one of those things that had gone out of fashion, much to my disappointment. I missed when I could use the Royal Canterlot Voice, and when ponies wore dress swords and armor rather than the ridiculous suits and gowns that were now the custom.

My sister spoke in that slow, patient tone she used whenever she thought I was about to do something foolish like throw a childish tantrum. “I merely want you to fit in, Luna, and you make that harder by using archaic words. And you’re not going to bring ‘thou’ back through sheer stubbornness.”

An impish grin worked its way onto my face. “I could always bring it back through royal decree and demand it be taught in the schools.”

“Don’t you dare.” Despite her stern tone, she was returning my grin.

“I suppose such a proclamation might give several administrators heart attacks,” I said with exaggerated severity. “Not to mention what the parental organizations would say. I might very well be buried under a pile of angry letters.”

“That is something I would try to avoid,” Tia said with equal gravity.

“Indeed.” I returned my attention to the two guardponies battling. The orange stallion had seemed to run out of moves in his repertoire and was now desperately trying to parry the mare’s strikes.

“So then, about the Gala,” Celestia said. “I was hoping—”

I cut her off with a booming, “Huzzah!” The blue mare had forced her opponent’s wingblades up, allowing her to hook his leg with a blade and send him sprawling to the ground. She applied a blade to her fellow officer’s neck and the mediator called the match. I stomped my hooves in applause. “A fine performance!” Turning to Brigadier Standard Order, I levitated a coinpurse to the superintendent of West Hoof. “Brigadier, please see to it that the young mare receives her prize of five hundred bits. Tell her that we are pleased with her fine work with her blades.”

Standard took the coinpurse and saluted. “Of course, Your Highness. Though you hardly need to. The cadets are proud to have the honor of being able to perform for their princesses.”

I waved off his objection. “‘Tis the royal prerogative to reward those that serve us.”

“Very well.” He pocketed the bits. “I will see to it.”

“My thanks,” I said.

“Luna...” Celestia chided in a manner I was all too familiar with.

“What?” I stared obstinately at the field, knowing full well what my sister’s problem was. Not that I was going to make it easy for her.

“I don’t want you going around giving out prizes for something like this.” She smiled and nodded in acknowledgement the two young officers as they saluted us, ever the polite one even when she was uncomfortable.

“‘Tis my money, sister, I can spend it how I please. And that includes rewarding ponies for whatever I wish.” Not to be outdone, I also smiled and nodded at the pair. Their part in the event completed, the two of them headed off the field to make room for the next contest. “Even if that includes a pair of ponies fighting for my amusement.”

Tia took a moment before answering, her face that neutral mask that she always wore. “As long as it does not become excessive. The royal demesne does have a budget, after all.”

“I will be reasonable.” I turned a grin to her that spoke of mischievous intent. “Indeed, I did not demand that I be given what was owed to me after a thousand years.”

That provoked the slightest wince from my sister, something so small as to almost seem like an illusion. I immediately regretted the jest. Sometimes it helped to make light of that terrible rift that had been rent between us. Sometimes.

To her credit, she rallied back with her own humor. “You were on timeout, Luna. It would hardly do for me to give you your allowance while you were being punished.”

“I suppose,” I murmured.

Probably seeing that it would be best to move on, Tia said, “Now then, I wished to talk to you about the Gala before the next contest.”

“What about it?” I asked with a hint of impatience. Considering the next event was the melee of two teams of cadets battling one another, a contest I had been looking forward to, I wished to be done with whatever my sister wanted to talk about quickly.

Tia put on one of her more pleasant smiles as she spoke. “I wanted to know if you would be interested in hosting the Grand Galloping Gala this year?”

That caused me to quirk an eyebrow. “Pray tell, and why dost thou want me to do that? Normally thou art fond of hosting such affairs.” In truth, she had always enjoyed such elaborate parties more than I. She was always the social butterfly, moving from one pony to another and delighting them and making small talk. I had never had her grace at such things and always felt myself the pale imitation of her. Somehow, I now suspected there was some ulterior motive behind her arranging this contest; it would not be the first time.

My sister shifted her smile into one of her benevolent ones. “I thought it would do your reputation some good to run the biggest social event of the year. It would let ponies see you, get to know you, allow you to take a role in Equestria I’ve been doing for centuries. We are co-rulers of Equestria and should act like it in most things.”

I rubbed at my chin as I thought it over. On one hoof, she had a point. Getting to know the upper crust of Equestria would be good for the realm, and the Gala was an opportunity for that. On the other, I did not wish to be a mere copy of my sister. One of the things I had been doing since my return was to establish my own identity for my subjects. Deep down, I always knew I would be unhappy if I was always compared side-by-side with my sister, and thus I needed to make myself stand out and forge my own image. That would take time, and I did not wish to do so in a way that would upset my ponies. So the issue of whether to host the Gala had me of two minds.

“I will consider it, sister,” I finally said. “If you could give me some time to think it over, I would appreciate it.” The Gala was still a number of months away, so there was some time for me to deliberate—maybe even discuss it with some of my closest advisors.

“Of course, Luna.” I detected the barest hint of strain when she said that. I wondered briefly if I had offended her in some way, but that seemed unlikely to me. My request was reasonable and I was sure I had not said it in an offensive way. Mayhaps I had merely imagined it. “Don’t wait forever though, and I really do have your best interests at heart.”

I smiled to assure her that her offer was welcome. “I would think nothing less of thee.” Seeing that the melee was about to begin, I turned my attention back to the field. “Now then, there is a contest to enjoy.”

Celestia hummed neutrally. “At least there will be somepony to enjoy this.”

I looked about the meeting room to measure the reactions of my advisors. "So, any final words before we make a final vote for declaring the breezies an endangered species in need of protection?"

"What a mess.” Carrot Salad, my agricultural advisor, rubbed at the side of his head. Little surprise his frustration was showing when we had been going over the details of the dangerous decline of the breezie population over the last century. "Remind me again what fool thought it was a good idea to help a bunch of breezies settle outside of their home valley?"

It was not hard to figure out the source of Carrot Salad’s frustration. Outside of their idyllic valley, it was nearly impossible for them to live. They could only survive within a narrow range of temperatures without quickly suffering heat stroke or freezing to death, were at the mercy of any winds stronger than a gentle breeze, and they possessed no natural defenses and easily fell victim to any number of predatory birds, cats, a particularly devious species of ferret, and a carnivorous plant whose aroma was irresistible to them.

“A great many well-meaning fools.” My advisor for animal caretaking, Tender Heart, finished off the last of her coffee before continuing. “And ones long dead by now. Unfortunately, due to them being so cute, they can be quite good at convincing ponies to help them. Especially anypony that tends to think with their hearts instead of their heads.” She let out a frustrated sigh. “More than one of our animal caretakers have been suckered into helping them more than they should have.”

Sky Breeze, my weather service advisor, groaned and rubbed at his forehead. “Grand, that will make everything so much easier. If we can’t completely trust the animal caretakers to do what needs to be done...”

Sky Breeze let out a sigh and shuffled some papers together. “It’s not exactly going to be easy to create the ideal weather they’re going to need to collect their pollen, you know.”

“Be that as it may,” I said, trying to regain control of the meeting, “we helped them get into this mess, and considering the breezies have requested our help, we should keep these settlements from being wiped out. I take it there is a consensus to give them aid?” There was a general murmur of agreement from my advisors. "The yea’s have it."

It had been a long and unhappy meeting with my advisors, but such things were necessary for the running of a government. As much as ponies might perceive my sister and me as ruling from our thrones and making grand announcements, the truth of the matter was that most of the decision-making took place in small meetings such as these. Grand Vizier Night Light glanced at a sheet of paper in a bored manner. "That is everything on the official list of business for the night. Is there anything else we need to discuss, or are we good to adjourn? With Her Highness' leave, of course."

"There was something that my sister brought up with me that I wished to discuss with all of you." Naturally, I immediately had everypony’s renewed interest when I mentioned Celestia. All of these ponies had worked under my sister their entire careers, and their loyalties reflected that. Gaining their loyalties was something I was working on, but I could not help but feel that it would take another generation or two before I would have ponies working for me that really felt like they were my ponies.

“Oh?” Night Light asked. “What was it?”

“She brought up the idea of me hosting the Gala for her,” I said. “She suggested it would help me connect with some of the ponies I rule over. What do all of you think about the proposal?”

To my surprise, my advisors were not quick in responding to my inquiry. That was very unusual considering somepony normally had a strong opinion about whatever the issue of the hour was—either because 'twas a topic that interested them or because they wished to gain my favor by giving me good council. But what I had before me was a profound silence. Like one between a group of children who had been caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar and were now being confronted by an adult who demanded answers.

"Well?" I prompted, putting my displeasure at the silence in my voice.

The ponies about me were all experienced politicians and civil servants, so they were quite good at hiding what they were thinking. Still, several sets of eyes glanced Night Light's way. As Grand Vizier, he stood as the primary official for both myself and my sister. While that gave him great and far-ranging powers, it also meant he often had the unenviable task of giving his sovereigns bad news.

Night Light no doubt felt the eyes upon him, and seeing that nopony else was stepping into the firing line, fulfilled his public duty. He cleared his throat and spoke slowly and cautiously. "Yes, it's probably true that hosting the Gala on your sister's behalf would help give you more exposure and raise your esteem among the upper crust of society."

While I was sure he was being honest with me, it still felt like he was holding back on me. "I sense a 'but' in there."

"Yes, well..." Night Light’s eyes darted to his fellows but none of them jumped to his rescue. "If it doesn't sound too presumptuous on my part, I don't think you would enjoy the Gala."

That caused me to raise an eyebrow, for that had not been the answer I had been expecting from my senior advisor. "Is that so? Why do you think that?"

"Because your sister doesn't particularly enjoy the Gala," he said reluctantly.

I was taken aback by this news. "What do you mean? My sister loves parties. She always has." Certainly the opportunity to feed her sweet tooth with more cake was something she always looked forward to.

"Most parties, yes," Night Light hedged. "But not the Gala." He let out a sigh, sounding like a stallion finally taking the plunge into the abyss. "You see, it's not so much the Gala she hates, but what she's doing at the Gala. For the most part, it's just her standing at the top of the stairs by the entrance of the palace. She stands there, shaking hooves with the guests, and trades a few words for hours and hours. And that's all she gets to do all night. No real socializing, no dancing or going to the concessions table. In all honesty, she's bored to death doing it."

“I see.” Now I was beginning to see what I was dealing with. My dear sister loved to talk with ponies at such functions, but there was little joy to be had in merely making greetings with one pony after another. At least that was mine own opinion after all the times when I had been made to do similar tasks. Now she was trying to unload an unpleasant duty of hers on me. Both setting the precedent that I would host the Gala for her, and letting her take a break from that task.

This also explained my advisors’ reluctant behavior. They had suddenly found themselves trapped between the contradictory desires of their two sovereigns. To the seasoned civil servants around me, it must have felt as if they were surrounded by two particularly large and hungry dragons while lathered up with barbecue sauce.

"It has gotten to the point that she tries to sabotage the Gala every year," Night Light said.

"Is that so?" Hearing that made me quite curious. True, my sister could be quite the trickster when she wished to be, something I knew from personal experience, but to resort to outright sabotage was something else entirely. "How is she going about that?"

"It generally differs each year." Night Light spoke more confidently now, like a pony relieved to get something off his chest. "For instance, a few years ago she brought rival delegates from the nations of Freeport and Westmarch when they had been in the middle of a rather fierce disagreement over the sugar tariffs. Long story short, they ended up getting into a food fight with one another. And, um—" He cleared his throat and sounded quite embarrassed as he continued, "—drew a good portion of the other Gala guests into the encounter. I'm sure you know how passionate some ponies can get about sugar prices."

"Indeed I do," I readily agreed. Considering Equestria's mass sweet tooth and the number of businesses that required sugar, the price and availability of sugar was no small issue. It also bore wondering how many of my advisors had been drawn into the mentioned food fight but were too embarrassed to admit their culpability in the incident.

Sky Breeze grinned. "I still remember the squirrel swarm from my first Gala."

Tender Heart rubbed at the sides of her head. “Who knew there were so many squirrels on the Canterlot Royal University campus?” She shivered. “Sooo many squirrels.”

Night Light nodded. “Then there was also the one time Her Highness insisted my wife should dance at the Gala."

I tilted my head. “That does not sound so bad.” Twilight Velvet had seemed like a fine enough mare when I had met her. I did not see how one pony’s dancing could ruin an entire social event.

“I love my wife very dearly, but she is a horrendous dancer. It’s something of a family curse.” The Grand Vizier let out a long sigh. “During the slow dance at our wedding, she broke my leg. Entirely by accident, of course.”

I winced. That could not have made things easy between them for their first bedding with one another. “And the Gala where she danced?”

Night Light’s smile was strained at the edges. “We sort of had to rebuild the west wing of the palace.”

I took a long moment to digest that. “How? How could a pony’s dancing be so bad it could destroy a section of the palace?!”

“We’re ... still not entirely sure about that,” Night Light admitted reluctantly. “None of the royal engineers can really agree on exactly what happened. Some say that my wife must have hit some sort of hidden weakness in the palace architecture, or that her dancing was so bad that it offended the spirit of the palace and it partially destroyed itself as a result. Same results, whatever the explanation.”

More than a little of me was curious to see exactly how bad Twilight Velvet’s dancing was. Though that reminded me about a new saying I had heard about cats, curiosity, and the lethal results when the two crossed paths.

"Don’t forget how your daughter's friends made a mess of the last Gala, Night," said Carrot Salad with a good-hearted laugh. The dam of tension that had finally broke and now everypony was looking much more relaxed as they recounted past incidents at the Gala.

Night Light smiled embarrassedly. "I'm afraid Twilight's friends weren't exactly standard company for the Gala."

"Aw, it's fine, Night," Sky Breeze said reassuringly. "I think we can forgive them a little bit after they saved Equestria."

The casual way the ponies around me could speak of the yearly disasters that had struck the Gala drew me to ask a question. "Why do all of you continue to go to the Gala when my sister seeks to ruin each of them?"

My advisors all gave me a confused look, as though they did not understand the question. They turned their gazes to one another before turning them back to me. After a prolonged silence as I stared at them, Night Light was once again the one to answer my question. "Well, I suppose it's just part of the Gala at this point. Has been since any of us have been alive. At this point, it's pretty much a tradition."

Tender Heart nodded in agreement. “Not to mention the Gala is the biggest social event of the year. Anypony who's anypony goes to the Gala. Doesn’t matter if there is a stampede of animals, a magical disaster, or an attacking cosmic horror every year. Not if you want to seem important.”

"I see." Considering my long life, I knew well how practices and traditions could become ingrained in a society. Once something had been done for a century or more, even if it might seem strange or even counterproductive, it can gain its own momentum and mass and continue going on. Even upsetting ponies when some ponies tried to bring it to an end. Still, that left a question as to the origin of the issue. "And why does my sister continue to host the Gala when she despises it so?"

"I'm afraid I can't be much help on that one." Night Light shrugged. "I asked her during a planning meeting for the Gala, but all she told me was that this was just the way things had to be and gave me one of those mysterious smiles of hers. I'm sure you know the one."

"Indeed I do." Considering my sister was prone to smiling no matter the circumstances, often the only way to gauge what my sister was thinking was to figure out which smile she was using. The smile Night Light was alluding to was the one she used whenever she did not wish to elaborate on a topic. Relying on an aura of mystery and wisdom to silence the concerns of those she is speaking with. It was a very frustrating smile to deal with.

"So, um," Tender Heart put on a smile that was strained at the edges. "What do you plan on doing after everything we told you?" The unstated question was would I tell my sister that several of her very trusted and loyal civil servants had gone behind her back and told me things she probably did not wish for me to know. At least not before I was well and truly committed to hosting the Gala.

I put on a confident smile for my advisors. "Oh, do not worry. I will deal with my sister.”

"So Luna, have you thought about hosting the Gala yet?" my sister asked as Daggoth the Destroyer leapt at her. Tia teleported out of the way, and the demon crashed into a cart filled with cabbages.

"Is now really the time to be discussing this?" I asked, waving casually at Daggoth as it shook off the debris that clung to it. The demon had been terrorizing several local villages for the last week since it had managed to push itself through some crack in the universe to arrive in the material plane. At least according to the pony that had brought us the news, Daggoth was intent on conquering all of Equestria. Considering my sister and I had no intentions of giving up our crowns to some ne'er-do-well, we had decided to show him the error of his ways. Thus, we had confronted the demon and lured him to an evacuated cabbage farm where nopony was going to be harmed during our clash.

As for Daggoth himself, the demon was a formidable looking creature. It was hunched over like a diamond dog, though three times larger than any of the canines, and its forelegs made of thick, corded muscle that lead to long talons on its hands. Thick, brown scales covered its hide and it struck with a serpentine speed.

Tia's horn glowed as she tossed a fireball at Daggoth. It struck the demon square in the chest and sent it sprawling to the ground. "I've been meaning to ask you for a few days now but I either forgot to bring it up or couldn't find the right moment."

While those were plausible explanations for my sister only bringing up the topic now, more likely she was hoping to get me to agree to hosting the Gala during a time when I was distracted. It was like her to wait for just the right moment to ask a question. Being immortal changed one's perception of time. Instead of being a thing one raced against to accomplish everything one wanted to do in life, time merely became a resource or another factor to consider for one's plans.

I stared at the demon, and made myself sound distracted when I spoke. "I have only thought of it a little bit, I admit. My duties have kept me busy the last couple of weeks." In truth, it was to my advantage to delay giving an answer until it would be too late for me to prepare for the Gala. At least for this year. Considering how miserable the event apparently made my sister, I wanted no part of it.

"It's not something you need to think too hard about." Tia put on an easy smile. "It's just a party."

Before I could reply, Daggoth roared, the shout as much a physical force as a sound. "Are you talking about a-a party while fighting Daggoth the Destroyer!?"

My sister smiled, a hint of mischief hidden behind it. "To be fair, the Grand Galloping Gala is the most important social event of the year. Please don't be offended. My sister and I tend to multitask like this." She rubbed her chin in a contemplative gesture. "Though I suppose it's a bit rude not to involve you in the conversation. Tell you what, if you stop your rampage, I'd be more than happy to send you an invitation to the Gala. You can even bring a plus one if you have a spouse, friend, or a family member you would like to bring."

Part of me had to wonder if my sister was inviting the demon so that he could in some manner sabotage the Gala. It certainly fit with what I had heard from my advisors.

Daggoth trembled with rage. "I'm not interested in parties! I'm here to conquer!"

"Are you sure?" Tis asked sweetly. "We could sit down and talk about it over tea and cake. I'm sure we could come to some sort of compromise if we talked this out."

"Daggoth does not compromise," he roared. "I will rip out your heart and feast on your entrails!"

My sister's horn lit with the power of the sun. "Three hundred twenty-seven," she said, she smile unwavering.

Daggoth's face curled up in a confused look. "What are you babbling about!?"

My sister met my eyes and an unspoken message passed between us. Daggoth was but one enemy in a long line of defeated foes, and we had much practice in working in concert to achieve victory. "'Tis a game my sister plays," I explained. "We have heard so many villainous phrases over the centuries that she has taken to keeping track of how many times particular ones are said."

"It's something of a hobby," Tia said sweetly, the two of us slowly circling to opposite sides of the demon. "I have to do something to keep these fights interesting. Once you've fought a hundred or so demons it starts to become a bit ... mundane."

"I am not mundane!" Slamming his fists into the dirt, Daggoth glared balefully. "Equestria will cower before my evil might!"

"Nine hundred twelve," my sister said calmly.

"Fear me!" Daggoth charged my sister with a speed that defied his large bulk. His claw flashed out, intent on rending my sister.

"One thousand six hundred thirty," she said, teleporting the barest second before the demon's blow would have struck. The claw swished through empty air and the demon staggered forward from the lack of connection. Exactly as we had planned, our provocations had enraged the prideful demon and caused him to expose himself.

Seeing the opening, I turned into a star masses blue cloud and darted forward. Before Daggoth could regain his balance, I reformed next to him and lashed out with my rear hooves. One of my hooves hit the side of his jaw. The force of the impact sent the demon flying until he went crashing into a barn. Something within must finally have stopped its flight, for there was a great commotion from inside and more of Daggoth's roars.

Keeping a careful eye for the demon's eventual return to battle, I directed a question towards Tia. "Thou art already well over a thousand? Thou wert only at seven hundred when I went away."

"I've been busy," she said. "If I'm going to be honest, I left a lot of this type of work to you. You always enjoy this type of thing more than I did."

"If memory serves, thou didst call me a brute on a couple occasions," I said in a teasing manner.

"Only when I was far, far younger." The great commotion from inside the cabbage farm barn as Daggoth raged did nothing to disturb my sister's continuance as she spoke with me. "Trust me, spending the last millennium beating one monster after another by myself has taught me how much I missed having you around to help."

Hearing her acknowledge me in such a manner stirred my pride. It felt good to receive compliments from her, especially when it was something that set me apart from her. "Have you finally come to acknowledge my talents for defeating Equestria's foes?"

"Really, Luna, you should know better than to fish for compliments," she teased. "But yes, if you really must know—"

She was interrupted when Daggoth, despite there already being a perfectly sized hole for him, smashed through the side of the barn. "You are infuriating Daggoth! I will make you suffer for that!"

"Nine hundred seventy eight." Tia hummed contemplatively. "No, I don't think that is going to happen. If I'm going to be honest, I don't think you really understand how in over your head you really are."

I looked the demon up and down, sensing the power of the creature as I did so. "Hmm. By my judgement, 'tis but a middling demon, at best. Barely even worth the trouble of us coming out here." Having fought numerous denizens of the lower planes in the defense of my ponies, I had quite the sampling to draw upon. I had hoped for a greater challenge with which to stretch my wings with my sister, but there was nothing to be done about it, and someday greater challenges would present themselves. They always did.

My sister took a moment to study Daggoth herself. "Agreed."

"I am not middling!" Daggoth stomped a foot, his wounded pride clear as he kicked a nearby wheelbarrow, sending it soaring until it smashed through the wall of the nearby farmhouse. "I am Daggoth the Destroyer, and I will be your doom!"

"One thousand three hundred and twenty nine," Tia said.

A snicker escaped from my lips. "‘The Destroyer’? 'Tis not even an original appellation. Was that really the best thou couldst invent for thyself? I swear, I cannot go more than a few decades without someone calling himself ‘The Destroyer.’" Daggoth opened his mouth to no doubt defend his lack of ingenuity, but I raised a good to forestall him. "'I assure you, 'tis woefully common. Let me give you an example. Tia, how many destroyers did you fight last century?"

She tapped her cheek for a moment. Reviewing the memories of an entire century could take a bit of time. 'Twas one of the issues with having an eternal life, there could be a great of accumulated information to sift through. "Two—three technically, if I remember right." She shrugged. "It could be worse," Tia said in a half-hearted defense of the demon. "I remember this one beast called Pythorix the Painmaster. Though it turned out he was just a masochist who wanted me to hurt him." She sighed and shook her head. "Demons. He followed me all around Equestria for years, demanding I punish him."

"How didst thou resolve the matter?" I asked.

"Eventually he realized I was never going to play his game and shifted his attention to one of my less merciful archmagi instead," my sister said. "Sunbeam ... well, suffice to say he stopped showing up after that."

"Another pitiful foe then." Seeing that Daggoth was quickly becoming beside himself with rage, it seemed best to keep stirring the demon's wrath. Enemies who became consumed by their rage rarely fought at their best. Besides, 'twas enjoyable tweaking his nose. "Certainly neither of them compare to some of our greater nemeses. Remember that dragon Sombra had bonded to his will, Ember the Crystalline? Now that was a fight. How many days and nights of continual fighting did it take to force him to limp back to his lair?"

"Oh, a good week at least," Tia said helpfully. "And that was with Argentium the Runescaled helping too."

Befriending the centuries-long nemesis of Ember had certainly been one of my sister's wiser moves. Certainly the aid of one elder dragon against another had been invaluable, especially when our common foe had been infused with King Sombra's foul energies.

"I think I was sore for a month after that." I stretched out my wings at the memory. "Oh! And remember Xnzgth'xjnnz-xrthv? Now there was an eldritch horror worthy of the title." I was certain I was butchering the name, but that was little surprise when the name was intended to be spoken with three gaping maws, each with several tentacle-like tongues.

"Oh yes. Quite a lovely little abomination," my sister said. "I mean really, it's not even a proper demon unless at least a dozen guards start gibbering in terror the instant they see it."

"I-I make ponies uncomfortable too," Daggoth said lamely. "I beat up a dragon once."

"How big of a dragon?" I asked.

"A b-big one!" Daggoth puffed out his chest, but his lack of conviction ruined the attempt at bravado. "Hey! I am a great and terrible evil that will consume all before it like a ... like a ... er... Fear me!" It was quite clear that Daggoth had lost control of the situation by this point, even to himself. No doubt he was used to preying upon the weaker denizens of the Abyss and was quite at a loss when faced with individuals who mocked him, rather than just destroy him like the lords of the Abyss would have at such challenge.

"I'm sure you're trying your best," Tia said with an air of condescension. “Though to be honest, we’re wasting time while wearing you down until we can bind you.”

“W-what!?” Daggoth demanded.

I nodded. “One of the big reasons we even bothered to come out here was to skip a meeting. In truth, I was hoping for an entertaining battle to get the blood pumping. It certainly sounded more appealing than another meeting over the construction of that dam.” We had been attending one meeting after another over building a dam for the Boulder River over the last year, going over issues such as the design of the dam, how it would affect the wildlife, the geography of the project, and a hundred other things that needed to be reviewed and approved. A series of tasks that had quickly grown bothersome. Necessary for governance, but bothersome.

“Exactly,"' Tia agreed. "Or filling out paperwork. Except less bothersome. At least this way I can get a bit of fresh air and stretch my wings for a bit."

Daggoth bared his teeth. "I am not less bothersome than paperwork!"

"Thou hast obviously not been burdened with such menial task if thou canst say such a thing." My wings flicked as I remembered the stack of papers awaiting my review upon returning home. "Trust me on this, paperwork is far more bothersome than thee. Ruling a nation is much more difficult than conquering it. I dare say that thou wouldst not have a clue what to do even if thou didst manage to defeat us and conquer Equestria."

Daggoth finally lost his patience and charged me. Shame for him, he did not get far before a beam of pure light shot from my sister's horn and struck his chest. The force of the blow sent him flying back into the barn. The barn exploded from the power of the spell, sending burning debris flying in every direction. What remained of the structure collapsed in on itself, blowing out smoke and ashes. I made a mental note to make sure that the ponies who owned this farm would be compensated for us turning it into a battlefield. I would not have one of my subjects suffer for such a thing, and if the farmer had been wise and gotten insurance against monster attacks like he should have, then he was likely due for quite the windfall here soon.

Seeing that Daggoth was not immediately going to spring out of the burning remains of the barn, my sister smiled at me. For all her reputation of being the chessmaster, Tia's fighting style tended towards overpowering a foe as often as not. Of course, it helped when one had the power of the sun to aid you. "So, sister, while he's recovering from that, have you made a decision on hosting the Gala?"

I rolled my eyes, my sister must have been truly desperate to push so hard on this. Normally she was much subtler. "I have been busy fighting the demon since last thou didst ask, sister."

"You have a minute to think right now," she pointed out, her smile sweet.

It seemed that my sister was not going to be easily beggared off this time. While I could hear Daggoth trying to dig himself out of the burning remains of the barn, it would likely be some time before he freed himself. Too long to delay giving Tia an answer. I sought some excuse to give for why I could not go to the Gala. Unfortunately, my mind chose now of all times to draw a blank as my sister continued to stare at me with that deceptively sweet smile of hers.

The seconds dragged on as I tried to think. Eventually Tia prodded me again. "Is everything alright?" Her smile took on a sinister edge. "You're not spending all his time trying to think of an excuse not to go to the Gala, are you?"

I silently cursed. Once again, she had proven extremely perceptive to what I was thinking. "Neigh, I was, um, thinking over my schedule around the Gala. Unfortunately, I cannot go because..." No longer having any more time to delay, I seized upon the first idea that came to mind. "I need to calibrate the moon!"

"Calibrate the moon?" My excuse turned my sister's smile into a skeptical frown. "How exactly do you ... calibrate the moon?"

"'Tis a complicated process," I said with as much confidence I could summon. The lie had been said, and I was now too invested to turn back now. It was true that the moon requires a bit of attending to now and again, but it was rarely anything serious. "I merely call it calibrating to give the process a name. Sadly, I must see to it during the time of the Gala and I cannot allow anything to distract me from my task while it is being done."

There was a long pause before Tia said, "I see. And what precisely does this involve?"

"I would not bore you with the specifics." Specifics that my sister would probably be able to use to ferret out my lies. Instead I took a different path to divert her from the truth. "To be honest..." I intentionally paused, letting the silence hang for a moment to add weight to my next words, adding reluctance to my tone. "Well, I do not wish to hurt thy feelings, sister."

"Oh? You think it's beyond me?" It was not hard to hear Tia's pricked pride in her tone. "I did manage the moon perfectly well for a thousand years."

I murmured unhappily, drawing my sister in with my act. "Aye, about that... Neigh, I do not wish to say anything." I turned my gaze from her, as though I did not wish to confront her with a harsh truth. "I am sure thou didst thy best during the last thousand years. I would not insult my sister over a task she did not ask to have thrust upon her. 'Twould not be fair to thee."

My sister's frown deepened as she became fully absorbed in finding out what I did not wish to tell her. "What is it? What don't you want to tell me?"

Taking a couple seconds to help create the impression of reluctance, I finally said, "Well, the moon has gotten ... off in the last several centuries. I imagine it was difficult for thee to tell considering it happened so slowly, and thou art not as attuned to the moon as I. And to be fair, nothing serious has happened." I waited a moment before finally adding, "Yet."

"I kept it following the exact same orbital path you used!" she said in a huffy manner as her continence cracked.

I hummed with a displeased note and made a so-so gesture with my hoof. Though privately I was quite pleased that I had managed to draw her into my deception. While it was not wholly virtuous to act as I was, my sister was not exactly being completely honest with me about the Gala, now was she? "I did not wish to say anything. As I am sure, thou didst thy best."

Tia let out a soft scoff. "If anything, I made the moon follow a smoother orbit. You always liked it a bit too elliptical. And honestly, why is it still tidally locked?"

"I have already explained that." I sighed with frustration. Once again my sister was questioning how I husbanded the moon. "Must we have this talk again? And really, this explains exactly why I need to calibrate the moon. Thou hast been ... fiddling with it."

"Well, perhaps I would like to be able to see the dark side of the moon without having to fly into space," she shot right back.

"'Twould hardly be the dark side if light shone 'pon it!" I returned.

Tia rose her chin in that condescending manner of hers. "Why does the moon even need a dark side?"

"Intrinsic metaphysical reasons relating to the harmony of the universe. Dost thou really wish for me to give thee a lecture about the moon and all of its workings?" I sighed as frustration built within me. "Clearly thou art ignorant on the topic. Thou dost not even wish for me to discuss the state of the Dreamscape 'pon my return." Mayhaps 'twas merely a sign of the times, but far more ponies seemed to grow up to become neurotic messes, as the modern term went.

My sister narrowed her eyes. "I was a rather busy mare, sister."

"Aye, and so am I," I said. "Which is why I cannot spare time for the Gala."

She stared at me for a long moment before she finally spoke. "I see. So be it, then." She let out a long-suffering sigh. "If my efforts as a regent of the moon were so unappreciated..."

I winced as I realized I had taken my deception too far. True, I did not wish to torture myself by hosting a dull and pointless party, but 'twas not my intent to hurt my sister's feelings while doing so. There has been far too much discord between us, much of it of my making.

"That is not what I meant, sister," I said quickly. "Thou wert very busy, and 'twas too much for any one pony to attend to." I scraped a hoof along the ground, accidently uprooting a cabbage in the process. "Ruling Equestria is a duty too great for any single pony to bear. We were meant to rule together and share those burdens."

"Yes, we were." A shadow of a smile found its way back to her mouth. "And now ... we shall again."

I smiled back at her. "That idea I like."

"Me too." She gave me a quick nuzzle. "It is good to have you back, sweet sister."

"'Tis good to be back." I smiled at my sister and she returned with one of her own.

The moment between us was disturbed when Daggoth smashed through the side of the barn with a roar. This despite the fact the barn had a perfectly serviceable door and now two Daggoth sized holes in it. "Are you seriously ignoring Daggoth the Destroyer for this—this—" he let out yet another, frustrated roar.

This latest display from the demon actually managed to bring a frown to Tia's mouth. "Excuse me, but my sister and I are having a moment." Daggoth opened his mouth to speak, but my sister talked over him. "Please don't disturb us." She spread her wing and her eyes glowed and the air grew hotter as she revealed a hint of the true power of the sun. "I have waited a thousand years to have moments like these with my sister. So if you will be so kind as to wait a few minutes for us to finish, I would be most appreciative."

Daggoth stammered at Tia's change in demeanor. My sister was not one to revel in battle, but there was a vast difference between somepony who was unwilling to fight and one who was merely reluctant, and it had probably just gotten through Daggoth’s thick skull that he was indeed playing with fire with his antics.

The demon cleared his throat and did not meet our eyes. “Maybe just for a couple minutes. Just a couple. For, um, Daggoth has much to destroy and conquer this day...”

My sister gave him a beatific smile. “Thank you. We'll fight you in five minutes. Promise.” She turned back to me. “Now then, where were we?”

“I believe we were finishing talking about ruling together.” I tapped my chin as I thought about where we had last left off. “And probably moving to the part where thou speakest of harmony and friendship.”

“Ah, of course.” She smiled, though with a hint of mischief in her eyes, and drew me into a warm hug. “We will rule together, in friendship and harmony.”

While I felt slightly embarrassed by the public display of affection, I hugged my sister back. Like her, I had missed such times as these. “Thou canst be so predictable at times. Dost thou know that?”

“I suppose so. But so can you,” she said, prodding my chest.

“That just comes from knowing me so long,” I countered. “Not that 'tis a bad thing. We are sisters, after all.”

“Not at all,” Tia agreed. “And I love you, Luna.”

“And I love you too.” I glanced over to Daggoth, who seemed preoccupied with glaring balefully at some cabbage cart. “Now was there anything else, or can we bind this demon already? I would prefer to make sure he does not cause any more havoc due to our neglect.”

My sister nodded. “I believe that was it.” She released the hug and turned to face Daggoth. “Then let us attend to business.”

I stretched out my wings and rolled my neck. “So sister, dost thou wish to befriend this lackluster abomination, or can we just defeat or destroy him outright?”

“Let us try and reason with him again.” She called out to the demon. “Daggoth, will you accept the magic of friendship? We sit down and talk about what you want and see if we can find a reasonable compromise. The offer of tea and cake is still on the table, and I find every talk is better with some tea and cake.”

“I don't want cake, I want to drink your heartsblood!” Daggoth roared, smacking the cabbage cart he had been eyeing earlier and send it flying and crashing to the ground.

My sister let out a soft sigh. “I suppose we won’t be able to compromise. A pity.”

I rolled my eyes. My sister had always been too soft on our enemies in my opinion. “Finally. We have done quite enough destroying of this poor farmer's cabbage farm fighting this thing. So can we actually destroy the demon, or dost thou wish to send it to that inefficient prison Tartarus.” I grinned at her. “Or mayhaps thou art hoping to add to thy gaudy garden statue collection?”

“I like my statues,” she said haughtily.

“But thou didst always get so upset when I collected trophies in the past,” I countered in a tone that most certainly was not a whine.

She frowned, no doubt remembering some of the prizes I had brought home from my noble quests to rid Equestria of threats. “Yours were too ... messy. Severed heads are unsanitary.”

"Always concerned about how everything will stain that white coat of thine," I said with a sigh, having had this conversation more times than I could remember. "I still think it is still the best way to send a message."

"We can be a bit kinder." She gave me that sweet look she always gave me when she was trying to bring me over to her side of a discussion. "Could we please do it my way this time? I don't want this to be a point of contention between us."

"Oh fine," I relented, thinking it best to not cause an argument between us. I could always hunt monsters down my own way when I was not with my sister. "We will do it thy way this time. Though thou dost owe me."

That brought a pleased smile to her face. "Thank you, dear sister. Now then, let's take care of Daggoth here before it gets too late. I know you're already up past your bedtime."

I let out an annoyed huff as we slowly approached the demon. "You know well enough that I am no longer a child, Tia."

"You'll always be my little sister, Luna."

Author's Note:

I would like to thank of editors Chengar Qordath, Comma-Kazie, and JakeTheGinger for all their great help in putting this story together, and to my prereaders Trinary, 621Chopsuey, Incidental Pegasus No. 5, Web of Hope, Swiftest, and Infinion for all their work to edit this story.