• Published 2nd Aug 2018
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Acolyte of the Lunar Court - Lets Do This



"The Night is not as forgiving as the Day." -- Twilight finds out the hard way what Luna's night is like.

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Dreamwalking

The next evening, after she presented her report on attack spells along with demonstrations of each of them on targets Luna materialized for her, Luna simply nodded.

"Quite thorough, Acolyte! We already knew of thy diligence in study, yet it is agreeable that thou dost not neglect the practical aspects of thy work. I think we can move on for now, though we will expect thee to practice offensive spells on thy own, and be prepared to demonstrate improvement!"

"So what's next?" Twilight asked eagerly. She hoped it was defensive magic. She really wanted to try out her magic-deflecting wards against live spells, even knowing Luna's magic would cut through them like damp fog.

Luna gave her an amused look.

"Dream-walking," she said simply. "Come."

Twilight blinked, astonished, and followed her out of the Vault. "You think I'm ready for that?"

"Of course not!" Luna snapped. Then she relented a bit, and gave Twilight an mildly amused look. "Neither were we, the first time it happened, and that was over a thousand years ago. We learn by doing."

They returned to Luna's quarters, which were even grander than Twilight's. Luna immediately settled herself comfortably on her bed with its crescent-moon sideboards. At Luna's imperious gesture, Twilight hesitatingly climbed up and then sat down beside her.

"This will not be like sleeping," Luna warned her. "We shall be wide awake at all times. But it is necessary for our physical selves to be somewhere safe and quiet, so we are not unduly disturbed."

"Is it dangerous if we are?"

"No. But whanging headaches are never pleasant!" Luna glanced at Twilight. "We trust thou hast informed thy friends that we may be visiting them?"

"Yes, your Highness! I made a point of asking as soon as you mentioned it. They've all given their permission!"

"Very well. Relax thyself. We shall lead thee in the spell, and thou wilt join in, binding thee to us. And do not wander off! We do not wish to come looking for thee, because we may not find thee!"

"I understand, your Highness!"

Twilight settled herself as comfortably as she could, shut her eyes, and tried to relax. She heard the soft singing hum of Luna's horn charging with magic, felt the spell settling about her. She charged her own horn, feeding power into the spell...

And without intervening movement she was suddenly standing upright. She and Luna were standing together in the midst of a star-dusted, sky-blue void, facing an endless series of doors of all shapes, sizes, and materials, no two of them alike.

"Wow!" she whispered. "Are these all someone's dream?"

"This?" Luna snorted. "This is a facade we have put up so thou dost not go stumbling about like a foal! But yes, behind each door is a dream."

She stamped her forehoof smartly. Around them, the doors suddenly whipped past, appearing from infinity in one direction, and disappearing into it in the other. Then they slowed and came to a halt.

Facing them was an arch of stone blocks enclosing a set of massive, ancient oak doors. They were huge, and looked like they had been assembled out of entire tree trunks.

"We shall begin with thy assistant."

"Spike? He was supposed to be going to the Archives to look up a few additional books for me."

Luna raised an eyebrow.

"He's fallen asleep, hasn't he?" Twilight groaned. "I'm sorry! It's just that he tires easily to begin with, and he's still not used to the night hours, and..."

Luna held up a silencing hoof, then gestured toward the door.

Twilight stepped closer to it and listened. Beyond, she could hear a massive, angry voice roaring at the top of its lungs. And the more she listened to it, the more familiar it sounded.

"... Oh yeah? You guys think you're tough! You're not so tough! I'll show you tough! BLAUGGGGHHHHH!..."

Gingerly, Twilight reached up a forehoof and tapped on the door. Even though she was sure no one inside could have heard her, the roaring suddenly ceased. There was a huge, reverberating stillness, as of something very large trying to make no noise whatsoever.

Then heavy footsteps, and the door gently creaked open. A massive purple dragon peered out timidly, its green eyes widening in surprise as it looked down and saw her.

"Twilight?" the dragon boomed.

"Spike?" Twilight replied, smiling.

"Um, yeah!" Spike reached up a claw the size of a mechanical thresher to scratch bashfully at the green spikes on his head.

"Hey! Lookin' good there, partner!"

Spike blinked, and relaxed a bit, beaming. "You really think, so, Twi?"

"I know so! I hope I get to see you like this for real some day!"

"Thanks! Uh, so... I guess this means this is all just a dream, huh?"

"'Fraid so, Spike!"

"Aw, man! Ohhh, and I was supposed to be going to the Archives, too! I'll get right on it, I promise!"

She reached up a forehoof and touched his claw. "Don't worry about it, Spike! It's not important. Finish this dream! It sounds like you're having a blast in there, and I'd never want to take that away from you!"

It was like trying to comfort a mountain range, yet Spike looked down at her hoof, then nodded and smiled, his eyes glistening. "You're the best, Twi!"

"And you're my Number One Assistant!"

"Right, uh... you're sure you don't need me to come along, and help out?"

"Nope, I'm good! Go on, get back in there, before it slips away on you!"

"Okay! Thanks, Twi!" Noticing Luna, he nodded deferentially to her. "My Lady!"

Then he swung his head round, a dangerous look in his eyes. "Okay, guys! You think I'm done with you! Think again! RAUUGGGHHHHH!"

As the door swung closed behind him, Twilight caught a softer voice calling from within:

"Oh! Yes! Get them, Spikey-Wikey! They have cast dirt and other offensive substances upon our good name!"

"Fear not, my beautiful Princess of Dragons! BLAUUUUGGGHHH!"

The door shut. Twilight smirked, then couldn't help bursting into laughter. "Oh, boy! You just know I'm not gonna let him live that one down!"

She turned to Luna, smiling.

The smile left her face.

She'd never seen Luna looking so sternly furious.

Twilight immediately knelt deeply to the Princess. "Please forgive me, your Highness. I forgot myself. It was wrong of me to even think that."

"Acolyte!" Luna said coldly, "one of the highest responsibilities of dreamwalking is to remember that dreams are private! Thou canst never let those visited feel thou would ever violate that trust! NEVER! NOT ONCE!"

Twilight remained kneeling, her head lowered. "I understand, your Highness. I made a mistake. It will not be repeated. I promise!"

She felt Luna's forehoof touch her shoulder.

"We are being hard on thee, Twilight," she said, "because the next few visits will be even harder!"

Her forehoof lifted, then stamped down hard on the ground again.

Again the doors swept past them, and finally came to a halt.

The door before them was much more modern, of fine wood with inlaid gold trim. And beyond it, Twilight thought she heard... giggling? And sighing? And...

She blushed. Uh oh.

She looked up at Luna, half-hoping the Princess would decide to move on. But Luna simply looked back at her with a carefully neutral expression.

O... kay. Taking a deep breath, she rapped gently on the door.

A gasp, then silence from within. After a long moment, the door unlatched and swung open. Rarity, wearing a silken negligee and with her face flushed and her hair decidedly askew, peered around it.

"Oh! Twilight! It's only you... its... um... not what it sounds like, uh... its just..."

Twilight put up a hoof.

"Rarity, not another a word. Not from you, and definitely not from me. I promise!"

Rarity managed to smile weakly. "Thank you, Twi!" Then her face fell. "Ohhh! So this is only a dream?" She glanced back into the room, looking like she was ready to burst into tears.

Twilight reached out to touch her shoulder. "Make it a good dream, Rarity! You're always so kind and generous to all of us. You deserve a little something for yourself!"

"I... suppose I do..." She suddenly looked up, her face brightening. "And if it's a dream, then I know just what I want! Thank you, dahling! 'Nite!"

She quickly shut the door. Through it, Twilight heard what sounded like a war cry:

"C'mere, Romeo! RRRRRAARRRRIITY IS HERE!"

This time, Twilight was careful to control her reaction. She studiously maintained a coolly neutral expression. Then she cautiously looked at Luna.

It was like staring into a mirror.

"Thanks for starting me out easy, so I was ready for that," Twilight said.

"Thou hast no idea!" was all Luna would say.

Their visit to Fluttershy's dream was even quicker, and left Twilight with a feeling of having been scarred for life, and a strong inclination to never look at a bunny costume ever again.

Rainbow Dash was in one way easier, and another way harder. She barely even noticed when Twilight trotted out onto the field above which she was flying as Captain of the Wonderbolts, battling ninja pegasi from a dark, mystic criminal organization known as P.O.N.I., to judge from the colorful logos on the armor of the enemies scattered over the turf.

Then Soarin took a direct hit while defending Dash, and plummeted to the ground, his lifeless body landing with a sickening thud. Even though Twilight could see he'd been dead long before he hit, she ran over to the body anyway.

Suddenly, she found herself grabbed, hauled around, and shaken violently.

"Why didn't you save him?" Rainbow shouted through her tears. "Why didn't you use that fancy-shmancy magic of yours to catch him, huh?" Sobbing, Rainbow knelt by Soarin's body and hugged him closely. And then she began delivering a long, heartfelt eulogy of Soarin's life and accomplishments. And the remaining ninja pegasi and Wonderbolts hovered respectfully overhead, waiting for her to finish.

"Rainbow," Twilight said cautiously. "This is only a dream!"

"Oh! Get outta here, Twi! Get out!"

"But..."

"GET OUT!"

Twilight backed away from her anger, then turned and ran, almost cannoning into Luna. For once the Princess didn't seem inclined to linger either, and they left quickly.

Another stamp of Luna's hoof. Another door. And Twilight had a feeling she knew exactly which one it was. She'd seen it often enough -- from the outside.

Cautiously, she turned the handle and pulled it open. And looked out onto the front porch of the farmhouse at Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack was seated on the front stoop, her hat laying on the ground a few yards away as if it had been hurled there. Applejack's face was buried in her forehooves, her shoulders shook, and her sobs had the dry, gasping quality of the tail end of a very long cry.

Not knowing what to say, Twilight trotted over and sat down beside her, then put a forehoof around her. For a long time, she just held her close.

"She's gone, Twi!" Applejack finally said, in a small voice. "Granny Smith's gone! An' Big Mac took it real hard an' he's run off somewhere. An' the Rich's are comin' for the deed tomorrow, an' the Child Services folks are gonna take Apple Bloom away from me, an..."

She looked up, frightened. "I really thought I could make a go of it, Twi! Just live here all my life! I didn't want no more! And now it's all comin' apart at the seams!"

"I know, Applejack!" Twilight met her gaze. "I see how much it hurts. And I'm right here and I'm not going anywhere until we figure this out! We'll get Rainbow and Fluttershy and Dash and Pinkie and Rarity, and we'll go find Big Mac, and help you keep this place going! And if I have to go to the Princess myself to get the bank and Child Services off your back, I will! Celestia would never let this happen to you, never! Not to the Apples! She knows how much this family means to Ponyville!"

Applejack smiled weakly. "What would I do without y'all, Twi? You cain't hardly know. You just cain't!"

Twilight ruffled her hair. "Go get your hat! What's A.J. without her hat, huh?"

Applejack snuffled, wiped her face with a forehoof, and then hauled herself up and went to scoop up her hat. With a bit of her old flair, she flipped it up and caught it on her head.

"Know what I'm goin'ta do?"

"I don't know. What?"

"I'm goin' out there and buck every single tree from here to Canterlot, if that's what it takes to keep this place a'goin'!"

"We're all with you, A.J.! Make it happen!"

"Yee-haw!" Applejack reared, and then turned and raced for the orchards.

Twilight waited until she was out of sight. Then she got up and went back to the door. As she stepped back off the porch Luna actually smiled. "You didn't mention this was a dream."

"Eh," Twilight shrugged. "It never came up."

The next door that came up in their journey was brilliant pink. Luna produced two pairs of sunglasses, and passed one to Twilight.

"Thou mayest want these," she said dryly, putting hers on.

Twilight put the glasses on as well. Then she carefully cracked the door open a hair. A blast of techo-pop music and flickering technicolor light and the smothering aroma of baked goods and peppermint candy assailed her senses. She quickly shut the door, and exchanged a glance with Luna.

"The Pinkie pony's dreams should be classified as... a hazmat zone, we believe it is called?" Luna asked carefully.

Since they had visited all her friends Twilight assumed that was the end of the tour. Yet Luna had a couple more stops in store for her.

The first was a tall, thin door with a child's drawing of a muffin tacked up on it. Luna took the lead this time, gently turning the handle and glancing inside, and then opening the door wider so Twilight could enter ahead of her.

Twilight saw a featureless room with flat white walls. And close at hand, she saw Derpy Doo, the gray pegasus mailmare, lying asleep on a bed and cuddling her daughter Dinky. A book lay on the floor where it had fallen. And as they approached, Dinky looked up at them and smiled.

"Hi, Princess Luna!"

"Hallo to thee, young lady!" Luna replied, in an unusually gentle tone. "Hast thy mother fallen asleep reading with thee again?"

"Yep!" Dinky beamed at Twilight. "Hi, Twi! Can you walk in ponies' dreams too?"

Twilight glanced at Luna. "For tonight I can. It's been... an adventure!"

"Cool! You wanna read with me until Mommy wakes up?"

"Shhh," Luna said. "Do not wake her, dear one. And thou should be resting as well, that's what sleep is for! Rest now, and keep thy mother safe and happy for us. Willst thou do that?"

"Okay, Princess!" Dinky leaned against her mother's blond mane and shut her eyes happily.

Twilight had a puzzled look. "Princess, if this is Derpy's dream, how can she be asleep in it?"

"Because this is what she desires most for herself and her daughter, for them to be safe and comfortable together."

"But if she's asleep in her dream... how does that work? Shouldn't we be in that dream? Shouldn't we see her awake?"

"Look behind thee."

Twilight turned and just about fell over in shock. It was like being between two mirrors: an endless corridor of nested rooms within rooms, seemingly without end.

"This mare has unexpected depths," Luna observed. "Yet it does not bother her. She is able to simply accept what she sees, without question or concern."

"Is that what it looks like? An infinite recursion of dreams?"

Luna nodded. "The first time we visited her dreams, she asked us what this was and we told her exactly that."

"And?"

"And she said 'I thought so'. And has not asked again."

They left Derpy and Dinky slumbering peacefully, on the shores of infinite recursion.

Their final stop was not a door, but a doorway. It was a broken-linteled arch leading out onto a broad field under a night-dark sky.

The field was covered in tombstones.

Luna trotted forward, seemingly unconcerned, whilst Twilight stared about her in horror. There were names on the stones, names she recognized. Everyone in Ponyville, it seemed, and some names she recognized from Canterlot. And from further beyond.

In the distance she saw a tall, white form standing over a grave, head lowered. When they got closer, Twilight suddenly found her way blocked by Luna's forehoof. "Sister," Luna called gently. "Is now a good time?"

Celestia simply nodded her head. Her regalia was missing. Her mane was bedraggled, her coat streaked with ash and smeared with mud.

They came forward, and Twilight saw the name on the stone. It was her own.

"Princess!" she called gently. "I'm here! I'm alive!"

Celestia nodded again. "And we are glad of that, Twilight!" The Princess stood with her head lowered for a moment more, and then turned to face them. "We thought it would be useful for you to see one of my dreams. I chose this one."

"But why? Isn't this a nightmare?"

"Not quite. It is a memory -- or a portent if you like. You know how old I am, Twilight, and how many friends I have outlived. How many graves I've stood over, and then had to turn away and get on with keeping things going. I come here to spend some time with old friends, for whom I am not always able to do so in real life!"

"But why is my grave here, too? And all my friends!"

"As a reminder, I think," Celestia replied. "To cherish what I have." She stretched out a forehoof and drew Twilight into a warm neck-hug. And when Twilight stepped back Celestia was restored to pristine glory, her regalia in place, her mane shimmering about her.

"I wake every morn with a glad heart, thanks to you and your friends, Twilight!"

"I'm glad we can help!" Twilight said, smiling.

"We should move on, Acolyte," Luna whispered to her, "and allow our Sister her rest."

"See you in the morning, Twilight!" Celestia said. "Tell you what, we'll split a jam-roll! That is... if you're still crazy about them!"

"I haven't had one in years. And it sounds great! See you then!"

Luna paused, looking at Celestia. "Sister, wilt thou be alright?"

"I am already!"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

With an abruptness that was shocking Twilight found herself sitting on Luna's bed again. She also had a terrible cramp in a back leg, which took some time to work out before she could stand properly.

Luna also took a moment to stretch her limbs. "Thou didst quite well, for a first time," she said. "Later I will take thee along to the dreams of ponies thou dost not know so well. Those are far more challenging!"

"I'd very much like that, your Highness!" Twilight bowed.

"Acolyte," Luna replied, with a nod of her head.