• Published 27th Mar 2018
  • 3,296 Views, 141 Comments

Lunangrad - Cynewulf

Luna, newly returned from her exile, takes Twilight along on a pilgrimage into her own past.

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VII. Snowblind

Consciousness is a curious thing. The more you try to touch it, prod it, cling to it, the faster it slips off into the night. Dreams ape it well, and do so convincingly. They can fool us even when we have woken from them. Caught in the liminal area between waking and sleeping, Twilight’s hold on everything was loose at best.

Vision came in spurts, and so did knowledge of her surroundings. Twilight felt cold, but had no context for cold. She saw Luna in a blurry tableau of nonsense.

She was Luna, and then was not. She walked around as her smiling goodstallion captain, giving orders as a train of black-clad soldiers evacuated a smoking train, carting off the goods they would need to brave the jagged mountains.

Twilight stood shivering in the snow, in an endless white blankness, and saw the mountains rise above her like living things, like shadowed mourners at a wake prepared for the two of them. She stood upon the bluff as the legion marched beneath, up into the crags, their steps belabored. The wind and the snow pushed at her face relentlessly and her ears were filled with roaring.

Luna was shouting curses up into the storm. “By the Well, I am half tempted to wrest the sun from you, Sister, just for a moment of warmth!”

Twilight yelled over the wind. “Aye, sister-mine, and I am more than half-tempted to do it myself!”

“Truly.” Luna turned to her. Her ethereal mane was shorter than it would be, by design or by nature none but herself perhaps knew. “Is this embassy to the northerners worth all of this misery? What need we of one frozen city?”

Twilight made her way over to Luna’s side and bumped her gently. “Plenty. Think of this as practice for campaigning.”

“If I’m caught attempting a march such as this in the heart of winter, then I think perhaps Equestria shall not have too many campaigns in her.” Luna cracked a smile. She turned back to the heights and shook her hoof at them. “Yon bastards! Yon stone cowards! I’ll see your back yet, whoresons! I’ll climb you myself! Flatten your peaks to make my dancing floor, miserable watchers in the cold!”

She laughed then, loudly and without care, and Twilight was glad to see it. How often of late had Luna seemed ill at ease upon her silver throne. To see her once again the wild Luna of the western Veldt was a warmth no ice could steal.

And then Twilight was clawing her way up the mountains. And then she was nowhere, insensate, only dimly aware she was Twilight at all.

And then, at last, she was lying in a soft bed. Reality did not shift beneath her. This, at least, was real. No more dreams, no more illusions.

Still, she did not move. Her mind still swam. It wasn’t unlike the first night she’d tried her hoof at drinking somewhere between secondary school and undergraduate, when she’d had far too much in too short of a time. She’d woken up with a feeling similar to this one, dizzy and aching and feeling like a dozen years had passed in a night.

Carefully, Twilight rose and surveyed her surroundings. She was in a large room, built of sturdy wood and rustically adorned. Not a train then, certainly. Certainly not what she had expected of the dreaded mystery that was Lunangrad.

Soon, however, it became clear she was in some sort of cabin, not in a larger structure, and she left through the door.

The stone giants that greeted her were not a surprise. The verdant, if fairly snowed over, valley before her was certainly one, however.

It was beautiful. It was the sort of place she could imagine ponies coming for miles to stay in for a few days. The sun perched between the mountaintops gently, the pines nobly standing, the air clean, the little cottages dotting the mountainside…

“It’s called Provideniye in the old native tongue,” said somepony behind her.

Twilight whirled and found--who else?--Moonflower posted against the door of the cabin. He stretched and stepped forward.

“And in ours?” Twilight asked, surprised at how shaky her voice sounded.

“Morning Dew. It’s a lovely little village.”

Twilight took a deep, steadying breath. “How long was I out, Captain?”

He stood up straight. “You woke briefly yesterday, but Luna sent you back into sleep. You, ah…” he coughed, and looked away. “Ma’am, you might want to look in a mirror rather than I tell you.”

Twilight blinked. There was a beat, and then fear blossomed full force in her and she felt sick. She pushed past him and threw the door open. It took only a moment to find a bathroom in the cabin, and then Twilight Sparkle was staring with naked horror at herself.

She heard voices behind her, indistinct and at the edge of her hearing. They grew louder.

“You were to send for me the moment she woke.”

“I am deeply sorry, my Lady, but she only now is sensate.”

Luna was behind her now, working her jaw as if the words were refusing to come.

“What happened?” Twilight croaked.

“It isn’t broken,” came the words tumbling out of Luna. “I assure thee, dear Twilight, it is not broken.”

“But what happened?”

Twilight reached a cautious hoof up to her own horn. It was hard to even look at the bandages and the hard cast around her horn.

Luna growled. “That fool of an engineer happened, though I know it is not him.” When Twilight just stared at her reflection, Luna continued. “The train came to an unfortunately sudden stop. You were thrown into a wall at an unfortunate angle. I had not expected all of this, but am not surprised. It is perhaps time for you and I to have a conversation regarding your dreams.”

Twilight nodded dumbly and let herself be led back outside and onto a dirt road that led down the mountain. It was only her and Luna now.

“How much do you know about alicorns, Twilight?” Luna asked, her tone light.

“I know what everypony knows,” Twilight said. “As well as some things that most ponies don’t. I know that you aren’t immortal. Ageless, that’s the word. Sorry, had to think of it. Poison probably can’t kill you, but weapons could. Magic could in theory. You regenerate at a frankly alarming rate. Having access to the innate magics of all three tribes compromises each and produces strange effects unique to alicorns. You were born somewhere else to the west, and you didn’t show up out of nowhere when Discord was King. You had been with us before, and had been with the individual tribes before that.”

Luna nodded. “So you know some things. Tell me, do you have fond memories of Celestia?”

Twilight blinked.

“Yes,” she replied, slowly.

“Describe one for me. One that to you would be emblematic of the time you were closest to her.”

Twilight made a little grimace that she hoped Luna didn’t see and looked down at her hooves. At least those weren’t in casts. She kicked a rock in her path and watched it tumble down and down towards the pines.

“Twilight?” Luna asked, her neutral tone gone.

Twilight jolted as if she’d been pushed out of bed. “Yes! Yes? Sorry.”

“Something troubles you. Or perhaps many things do. I suppose ‘tis natural. You rise in alien environs with a grievous injury and fragmented memory of how you came to be where you are. Even one as thoughtful and rational as you must be alarmed.”

Twilight decided that looking at the forest was a very good idea.

“Sorry. The way you worded that threw me off, I think. It seemed to imply that we’re not close, and that just hit me right in the gut. I’m being foolish.”

Luna clicked her tongue. “Ah. I understand. Cry your pardon. I meant only in physical proximity. Does it soothe you to know that my sister talks of you almost every day? She seems full of stories of you as a foal getting into things you shouldn’t.”

Twilight flushed and groaned. “Ugh, she probably exaggerates too. I swear that I was a good filly! I was just so curious!”

“So I gathered.” Luna laughed, honestly and openly, and it more than made up for her earlier drop. “Now, to my question. A time emblematic of when you were close to her in proximity, nearby for long periods of time.”

Twilight went through her memories, not sure exactly where this was heading. “Well… I was her personal student past a certain point, and in undergrad a lot of my tutorials were still taught by Celestia herself. I used to stay at the castle during the week. I did school work in her office most days, just laying on the floor. I was just a filly,” she said, smiling reflexively. “Doing homework on the nice, soft carpet. It was warm and happy. I always felt like she was watching out for me.”

“I’ve no doubt she was. That does sound like Celestia.”


Luna was silent, but when she spoke she did so very deliberately. “My sister and I, my sisters and I, must be very careful. We walk in a world that is… not quite made of parchment, but feels much that way. We have called this part of us many things over the years. An aura, a Presence. Glory. If we are not careful, it spills over.”

Twilight was immediately reminded of what the Captain had said. “What happens if it spills over? Is that dangerous?”

Luna chuckled. It was not a nice sound. “It depends,” she said. “You said you felt warm, safe, happy. I tell you that you were basking in the glow of my sister’s glory. When we are distressed, or even when we are filled with joy, it is hard to keep our natures under wraps. Our Presence warps reality around us, and it warps the perceptions of those nearby.”

Twilight furrowed her brow. “Are you telling me it wasn’t real?”

Luna shook her head. “No! No, not at all. I am not saying that.”

“Then what are you saying?”

“When you are exhausted or hungry, do you experience things as you do when you are well-fed and well-rested? If you were to drink, it would make you see the world differently. Are those experiences real?”

“Sure, I guess.” Twilight hummed. She could see where Luna was going. “So, the fact that her, ah, Presence was effecting things doesn’t make those memories fake. Just… Influenced, I guess.”

“More or less. Perhaps less. I tend to think that our influence reveals something basic, something lost with the passage of time. Ponies have forgotten how small they are, Twilight. They were already forgetting before I left, and now they have entirely forgotten. Well, except for a few such as yourself. The time you spent in my sister’s study is perhaps even more real for her Glory, for it took from you the dull mundanity your blessed kind has grown like an immunity. You felt her affection for you directly, not as a thing you imagined and knew in your head but as a reality present there in the room, a living breathing love.” She sighed. “None of that is important, and it draws my mind to the past. Before I continue, how is your horn?”

Twilight winced. “It’s… fine. I don’t feel it.”

“Good. Healing was never my strongest suit. You will be fine in a week or so if you do not use magic. Healing will be longer and more complicated if you do.” She looked over and raised an eyebrow. “Therefore, I suggest that you do not. How are you with your hooves?”

Twilight was about to scoff, but something made her change direction. “About as good as any other unicorn who has studied magic her whole life and relies on it extensively. I can manage, but slowly.”

“I have something that may help. Have you heard of a reservoir? The magic variety.”

Twilight nodded. She stole a glance out over the valley and saw a collection of houses below that she had missed, centered on a manor. “I’m familiar with them. I’m supposing you have one.”

“Aye! That I do. I’ll have you one shortly.”

Twilight nodded and kept looking down at the town’s apparent center. The road curled about but ultimately led there. “So… does this have anything to do with the train?”

“I believe so. My control has slipped. I am out of practice, and as is perhaps obvious, I am not calm much these days. I have been caught up in old memories. Old unpleasant memories. As I effect the world in ways I do not intend to, there are consequences. The train was one of those. My laxitude has injured you, Twilight, and I am deeply sorry.”

Twilight wanted to snap at her. She wanted to tell her about how her dreams had gotten worse and worse, how it was starting to drive her mad. She wanted to demand to be taken home, or demand an apology. Something.

But now, as they walked side by side, she saw that Luna looked absolutely wretched.The fire in her chest died.

“We’re still set on the city?” she asked instead.

“Yes. I was not stopped before, and I shall not be stopped now. But you already know that, don’t you?”

Twilight blinked. She stopped walking.

“My dreams. So something is happening. I’m not crazy. I’m not just having nightmares.”

“Something indeed. And I’ll have ample time to explain it on the ride to Lunangrad.”

Luna had walked ahead of her and now faced her. Twilight was reminded of just how massive the sisters were compared to herself. Luna seemed to have grown since the castle ruins in the Everfree, and now she seemed even taller than she had been.

Was the sky darker? No, but for a moment…

“We’re riding? Riding what?” Twilight asked.

“Chariots! I have sent word to the Knyaz of Lunangrad, and soon you and I shall ride as I would have wished to so long ago. The journey is almost done. It has been more trying for you than I would have wished, but it is almost over.”

She smiled when she said it, but Twilight could not find it in herself to smile back. Something was off still. Something about those words was so absolutely final, and she shivered. Perhaps it was just the cold. She had grown used to the warmer temperatures in Ponyville. That was it.

Nothing more.

Author's Note:

Sorry it’s late/shit/mostly talking.