• Published 20th May 2017
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Brightly Lit - Penalt

The village of Brightly, British Columbia is a small, isolated place where everyone knows everyone, with a strong sense of community. A community that starts to include colourful little ponies.

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Chapter 24: These Dreams

A bright moon peeked out shyly from behind one of a large number of clouds that dotted the night sky. Its silver light shone down through the cool, clean night air onto the darkened town far below. Here and there a light shone, but otherwise the sky and the land below could have formed a scene from hundreds of years ago with ease. Across this skyscape of light and shadows flew a creature out of legend, a pegasus.

She had always felt trapped at home. Hemmed in by the mountains, anchored by the trees, always having to crouch down and hide from people that were too big, or too loud, or just too mean. Now, she was no longer that little girl who had to hide from life and who could only dream of flying away from it all. As Skylark, the dream of flight had become a reality.

A smile crossed the face of the young girl as a sense of great peace and happiness filled her. Silver light glinted from her argent wingtips as they kissed the edges of pearl coloured clouds. She tipped her wings a bit, twisted, and made an instinctive Immelman turn so that now her hooves skimmed along the upper surface of the cloud. A bubbling laugh of pure joy escaped the lips of the young pegasus.

“Flying at night has always been a great joy of mine as well, young one,” Princess Luna said, to the black furred pegasus as she side-slipped in alongside.

“Oh, hi there,” Skylark said, to the dark blue creature that flew beside her. “I didn’t see you, sorry.”

“That’s quite alright,” Luna said, to the filly flying at her side. “You’re quite the young flyer.”

“Thanks!” Skylark chirped happily, “I haven’t been doing it long, but I love it.”

“I can tell,” Luna said, smiling as the two skimmed along the edges of another bank of clouds. “You can always tell the ones who love what they do. May I ask your name, young one?”

“I’m Ky… um, Skylark,” Skylark said, remembering at the last moment to use her Power Pony name.

“Hello, Skylark,” Luna said, beginning to feel the strain of her spell. “My name is Luna. Would it be all right with you if we sat for a bit?”

“I guess so, where did you want to land?” Skylark asked, trying to spot a good place far below.

“That cloud should do nicely,” Luna said, wondering if the young filly alongside her realized how impressive her flying actually was, for one of her obviously few years.

“We can’t land on clouds!” Skylark said, laughing. “We’ll fall right though.”

“Let me take care of that,” Luna said, touching a cloud with her power. “There, I’ve made that cloud solid enough for us to sit on.” The effort of power, slight as it was, doubled the strain Luna was feeling. She had minutes only left to her, but she let none of the effort touch her face as she settled down on the cloud and furled her wings.

“Wow, you can do magic, just like Ro… er, like Shield Maiden and her mom,” Skylark said, stepping onto the cloud with exaggerated care. When she didn’t fall through as expected her wide grin became almost impossibly large.

“I’m guessing that you are trying to protect the identities of you and your friends,” Luna said, to which Skylark gave an emphatic nod. “That’s fine. You can tell me as little or as much as you like about your friends.”

“Yah, Shield Maiden says that when we’re ponies, we need to use our pony names,” Skylark said, settling down beside the alicorn. “How come you can do magic and fly?”

“I’m an alicorn, which means I possess traits of all three kinds of ponies,” Luna said, before steering the conversation back to the pony. “Are there many ponies where you are?”

“Originally, it was just us Power Ponies, but now my Mom and Shield Maiden’s mom have been ponies too. Oh, and Mr. Kye as well. He’s a big pony right now,” Skylark said, chattering happily. “And Father Addison, he… hey, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Skylark,” Luna said, wiping a brow that was soaked in sweat. “You were saying about other ponies?”

“Oh, yah,” Skylark said, accepting the answer for now. “Well, everyone is either a regular pony, or a pegasus, or a unicorn. Except for Father Addison and his wife, they became bat ponies.”

“Did you say, ‘Bat Ponies’?” Luna asked, her head whipping around, her gaze intent and she felt her spell begin to fray and unravel. “Please, do you mean ponies, but with wings like a bat?”

“Yup, they looked really neat too!” Skylark said, practically bouncing in place. “And they were super fluffy!”

Tia’s spell was only meant to transform others into the three main tribes. Bat ponies must be due to the influence of my Tantabus! Luna thought, and her excitement made her spell begin to crack wide. “Please tell me, have you seen a pony that looked to be made of the night sky?”

“Yes!” Skylark exclaimed. “The night we helped save the dam. The Night Horse came down from the sky and saved Iron Hoof. He kicked a tree so hard… are you sure you’re okay?”

“I will be fine,” Luna said, gritting her teeth and trying to pull the spell she had been maintaining back together, but she could tell it was a failed effort. “Tell your friends I—”

A moment later, Skylark was alone on the cloud. She took a minute or two to look around, hoping to see the other pony, but there was no sign of her. Shrugging her shoulders, Skylark dove off the cloud and danced through the night sky, until her brother shook her awake.

“Hey, you wanna go for a night flight?” Darter asked her, a smile on his face. “Mom and Dad are asleep and with the street lights still out no one can see us.”

“Sounds good,” Skylark said, pushing aside her covers. “I had a really neat dream and I wanna try something from it…”

“Princess Luna!” Twilight Sparkle shouted, seeing the lunar alicorn collapsed over a table. “Are you alright?” When the dark mare failed to respond, Twilight checked her fellow princess’s vital signs. Luna was unconscious and covered in sweat. Twilight pried Luna’s forelegs apart to check her heart, and when she did she saw the glint of the portal mirror clutched in a death grip in Luna’s hooves.

“Twilight, what’s wrong?” Spike yelled, coming through the far door of the room. “I heard you call. What’s wrong with Princess Luna?”

“I’m not sure Spike,” Twilight said, hearing the strong beat of Luna's heart and switching her attentions to Luna’s brow and horn. “But if I had to make a guess I’d say she pushed herself too hard with a spell. What kind of spell it would take to exhaust the Princess in the half-hour we were gone, I’ve got no idea.” Twilight peeled back an eyelid to check the fallen princess, and Luna gave an involuntary flinch followed by a groan.

“Princess Luna, are you alright?” Twilight asked again, shaking the alicorn lying on her table.

“I will be as soon as you stop doing that,” Luna half-said, half-groaned out. “Please, just give me a moment, Twilight.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re alright,” Twilight said, taking a step back to give Luna some air. “What happened? I went to get a couple more of Starswirl’s journals and found you like this.”

“I tried something that I should not have,” Luna said, slowly pushing herself into a sitting position. “I pushed past a border that is there for a reason, and the universe reminded me that I am not yet its mistress.”

“Is there anything I can get you, Princess?” Spike asked, from Luna’s other side. His face worried and determined in his concern for Luna.

“Thank you, Spike,” Luna said, smiling wearily down at the drake. “A pot of coffee please. Black as night, and sweet as Cadance.”

“One ‘Exam Cram Special’ coming up!” Spike said, and he turned and jogged from the room, excited that he could be of help.

“Truly, he is a number one assistant,” Luna said, sending a fond look at the way Spike had gone. “Thou art greatly fortunate to have one such as he in your life.”

“I know what you mean,” Twilight said, pulling up a chair beside Luna and passing over a cloth. “Sometimes I think Spike should have been the Element of Loyalty and not Rainbow Dash.”

“He would have made a fine Element Bearer,” Luna said, wiping some of the sweat off of her with the provided cloth and beginning to feel a little better. “But I think in many ways it is better that he is not, particularly in that he has been of great comfort and support to all of you.”

“That, and Rainbow Dash would never have lived it down,” Twilight said with a laugh. Sobering, she asked, “Princess Luna, what happened?”

“Twilight, after all that we have been through, I would say that you have more than earned the right to call me by name,” Luna said, putting the cloth to one side. “After all, are you not a fellow princess as well?”

“Well, I… um, that is,” Twilight stammered, before taking a breath to steady herself. “Fine. Luna, what happened?” Luna opened her mouth to speak, just as Spike returned with a pot of coffee and a tray of biscuits.

“Here we go,” Spike said, placing the pot on the table, along with a pair of coffee cups and a tray with a small pile of biscuits. “I brought some shortbread to go with the coffee, in case you wanted a snack as well, Princess Luna.”

“Thank you very much, Spike,” Luna said, giving the dragon a quick hug. “Now, I have to ask that you give Twilight and I the room. You came in as I was about to impart some knowledge to her and I’m afraid only her love for you is keeping her from exploding.” Spike looked over to where Twilight was biting her upper lip to keep herself in check.

“Heh, I’ve seen that look before,” Spike said to Luna in a stage whisper. “I’m going back to my bed, but you can wake me if you need something.”

“See you in the morning, Spike,” Twilight said, waiting until Spike closed the door behind him. “Luna, before we get interrupted again. What happened?”

“I attempted to use the hoof mirror and my dream magic in conjunction,” Luna said, sipping at the strong and sweet brew. “I wanted to reach out to one of the creatures on the other side of the portal, or even one of the changed.”

“Luna, with all due respect, are you crazy?,” Twilight asked, gesturing wildly. “You’re telling me that you used a magic artifact to project your dream self into another dimension? Your spirit could have been separated from your body forever. You didn’t even let anyone where you were going!”

“It worked,” Luna said, simply.

“And another thing — Wait, what?” Twilight said, breaking off her tirade.

“It worked,” Luna said, taking another sip of coffee. “I was able to connect with the dream of one of those who were transformed by the spell. Their dreams of flying were particularly coherent and strong. I was only able to stay in the dream with them for a short period, but it was long enough for me to learn a few things.”

“What? What are they like?” Twilight said, her natural curiosity overcoming her earlier frustration with ease.

“I only met one of them,” Luna said, smiling as she remembered her meeting with Skylark. “She was a young pegasus filly, but such a love of flight and the sky I have rarely seen in all my life.”

“She was dreaming, and she was a pegasus in her dream?” Twilight asked, materializing a scroll and quill so she could take notes. “I wonder if that means she was a pegasus just then, or whatever her normal form is.”

“I know not, Twilight. However, the strength of her dream is what allowed me to make contact,” Luna said. “I spoke with her for some minutes, and from what she said, it seems my Tantabus saved a life and then went on to facilitate the transformation of somepony there into a thestral.”

“Bat ponies?” Twilight asked, frowning. “How? Bat ponies don’t exist naturally.”

“They do, Twilight,” Luna said, with a wry smile. “They are ponies who dedicated their lives to myself and to the night. As such, they were given a special blessing of my power and changed from their original tribe, into that of thestrals. Before my… fall, I had a great number of ponies who looked to me personally. As a herd they were known as the ‘Soldiers of the Night’ and were greatly loved by me.”

“Why aren’t they around now?” Twilight asked. “Wait, I have seen them. Once.”

“Quite correct, Twilight. You saw a pair pulling my chariot when I came to the Nightmare Night celebration in Ponyville,” Luna said, nodding and pouring herself another cup of coffee. “There are very few left, but they are loyal still. I wonder how they will react at hearing they have brethren on the other side of the portal.”

“What else did you find out?” Twilight asked, scribbling notes as fast as she could.

“That those who have used my sister’s spell are using it in the manner she intended. They are using the forms given them to help their fellows,” Luna said, draining off her second cup with an air of determination. “Now if you will excuse me, I have a task to begin.”

“Whoa, hold on Luna,” Twilight said, holding out a hoof to try to stop the dark alicorn. “You’re just recovering from spell exhaustion. You’re in no shape to do anything except rest. What did you want to try to do anyway?”

“We know that the portal comes out in an old mine that Lee Ung once worked in,” Luna said, explaining things with what patience she could muster. “That mine may be collapsed, but I can create a pocket on the other side so that I have a place to work.”

“What are you going to do on the other side once you get there?” Twilight asked, frowning and wondering if she was going to have to try to stop Luna from hurting herself with overwork.

“Is it not obvious?” Luna asked. “Magic works on the other side of the portal. I am going to travel there and bore a hole to the surface so that I may meet the thestrals and other ponies myself, and not just in dreams.”

Author's Note:

Okay, a short chapter for the start of the month, but there will be more chapters to come. I've just finished the first draft of Chapter 25, and after a round or two of editing it will be ready to go. My goal for August is to put out a total of four chapters of Brightly Lit. There will be difficulties, but my course is set and the stars are in my favour.

Oh, and the phrase "Soldiers of the Night" is a reference to one of my favorite pieces of Brony music.

Make merry for my editors: Sandstorm94 and Coyotethetrickster. They soothe the troubled author's brow.

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