• Published 1st Aug 2012
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The Garden Beyond - Autumn Wind

The tale of the Imprisoned Sister has been told and retold for centuries, but no Little Pony knows of it as it unfolded in realms far and above. What is the moon to do when her mother and guide loses her way?

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The Unleashed Garden

I shot the impostor a confused look, baffled by her proposition. How could she suggest that the stars remain awake through the day? “I cannot possibly allow that!” I protested. “The stars need their rest, and it is my brother’s turn to rise. The night must fall and the day must come so that the cycle may continue.” I punctuated my ultimatum with a frown and a stomp of my hoof. “Furthermore, how dare you lay claim to the stars and myself? We are the children of Luna, and of no one else.”

The stars, evidently, did not agree with me. I tried to call them back, but they flocked around the stranger, their fear banished and replaced with broad smiles and excited laughter. The dark mare slowly walked over to me and placed her hoof on my shoulder. I would have moved away, but, to my horror, my body wouldn’t listen. The stranger’s intense stare had caught my wary eyes, and my limbs were betraying me. I could sense her disappointment so strongly in my mind. Why was I feeling so guilty? I had once felt something similar after Sun and I had taken an eclipse too far and Mother had scolded me, but that was nothing compared to the burning shame her stare was now heaping on me.

Who was this stranger, and what had she done to me?

“Do you not recognize me, daughter?”

I forced my eyes away and refused the interloper’s glare, but was shocked to find myself drawn into an unexpected hug.

“My dear Moon, please, listen to my words. Do you not think your brother has all the attention he could desire? He shines so brightly, and the ponies love him so. You and the stars deserve far more reverence from these ungrateful Little Ponies.” The impostor brought my attention to the stars. “Just this once, my daughter, give yourself a chance to be happier. Look at how overjoyed your siblings are!”

I tore myself away from her, only to meet the hopeful smiles of the stars. “Sister,” one of them asked, “can’t we play just a little longer tonight?”

I shook my head sternly. “I am sorry, young ones, but the cycle must go on.” Forcing myself to disregard the stars’ pouting, I stared down Mother’s usurper. “Leave the Garden at once, stranger. You are not my mother, and your words are like a blight upon this land.”

The mare chuckled in amusement, ignoring me and turning to the stars. “Go forth and enjoy yourselves, my sons and daughters. Mother will take care of this and make your sister see the light of things.” Before I could object, she placed a hoof gently against my mouth to silence me. The stars cheered and scattered, returning to their games against my silent objections. “Oh, Moon, always so wary and so watchful of your siblings. Just this once, you should let them have their fun.”

I took a step back, horrified. “No! This is utter and complete madness! The world below needs the morning to come now and awaken the land! How can you say otherwise? If you were truly Mother, you would know such things as well as I do, for she taught me them when I was first granted thought.”

“It is true,” the stranger conceded. “I taught you such things, but I was mistaken. I thought the Little Ponies loved my children as much as they did my sister’s son, but I was wrong. All they love is my sister and the day. The Little Ponies do not see you and the stars for who you are, only for the dreams you grant them.”

As the interloper’s words sunk in, I began noticing new things about her. Her confidence and deep turquoise eyes were unmistakable. She smiled with the charm only Mother could muster, and her mane held the glory of the night. It had to be her.

Mother looked so strong, so confident. I had not seen her this content in centuries. Despite her charisma, however, I forced myself to focus on her dark features, her sinister traits, and the frightening feelings she should have inspired. Everything about her looked so wrong, but I could still recognize the mother I knew and love. She looked so fearsome and yet so caring. She was everything like Mother, and yet nothing like her.

My deepest feelings told me that I should agree with her, that the night should linger on, and that, for once, I should be selfish. Yet, I knew such things should have been unfathomable. The cycle of day and night was not something the stars and I should have been able to question, let alone disobey. I couldn’t think straight, as though I was no longer in command of my mind. I was fighting just to keep the beliefs I had always held.

“Surely, Mother, there must be another way, perhaps a compromise of sorts,” I suggested. “I could try to glow brighter. Perhaps then the Little Ponies would like me more, and perhaps then, the stars could enjoy more playtime. Could you not let your court know about your worries? A new holiday could be created for the ponies to go out and enjoy our night. Would this not satisfy everyone?”

Mother dismissed my suggestions entirely. “Don’t be ridiculous, daughter. My sister and the court would never agree to such a thing, as self-important as they are. You are already so bright in the night sky; it would be wrong of anyone to expect more from you. When you stop and think about it, it isn’t very fair, is it?” the would-be night princess pondered aloud. “You and the stars work yourselves ragged all night answering wishes and whims, but in the morning, it is Sun who gets all the adulation the ponies have to offer, just by standing high and mighty and appearing grandiose. With all the hard work you have given for Equestria, you are still the one scrambling to make deals for the Little Ponies’ appreciation.”

I tried to think of a counter-argument, but in the end, could only concede such a point. In the end, it was all unfair to the stars, if not to me. They deserved better. I wanted to give them something better. I wanted us to be happy.

“Think about it, Moon,” Mother continued. “Sun does his labor, and for it he is rewarded with attention. The ponies frolick before him. They dance and play and sing as your brother shines. When the night comes, how do the ponies thank you for their hopes and dreams? They always ask for more. They reward your efforts with nothing but more work. It is a vicious circle. They appreciate what you give them, but they do not appreciate you. If the ponies truly loved you and the stars, would they not, sometimes, sleep the day away, frolick in moonlit fields, and feast under the shining night sky?” Mother placed a hoof on my withers. “Could you not, just this once, think of yourself and your siblings? You have done so much for a land that does not appreciate you. Tonight, Moon, you should get to be happy.”

I sunk my face into my hooves, groaning in frustration. I couldn’t think straight. Mother’s words were both unbreakable truths and hideous contradictions. I wanted to scream.

A hoof gently lifted up my chin, and I met Mother’s knowing smile. Her confident eyes met mine, and my confusion began to dissipate. “Moon, please let Mother tell you what is right and wrong. You and the stars deserve better. I will do what must be done, and we will finally have what we deserve. Will you follow me, Moon?”

I remained silent for a long time, reflecting on Mother’s words. What she had been suggesting felt preposterous, unthinkable even. Yet, it felt so good to imagine. Did the stars need a regular schedule, or did they need the whimsy of more playtime? It was not the place of the night to push the day away. However, was the day not usurping the night’s glory? Was this not merely fair payback?

It was all so vague, so confusing. Only one thing felt certain: The stars trusted Mother right now, and she had never led us astray before. I took a deep breath and spoke my inner feelings. “Mother, what should I do? I’m so lost.” I threw myself at Mother and was warmly accepted in her welcoming embrace.

“You should go forth and enjoy the company of your younger siblings,” she answered, stroking my mane comfortingly. “After so much hard work, all of you deserve a reward. Forget this ridiculous cycle. It has never brought us anything but misery. You should do as you please. Seize what is rightfully yours, Moon. If the ponies will not appreciate you for what you do, then we will make them appreciate you.”

She was right. The Little Ponies did not appreciate us. If I wanted to be truly content, I would have to take my place. All these concerns about the day and Sun were ridiculous. The cycle be damned, it was time to stop letting my brother have all the fun.

This was our night, our Garden, and most of all, our time. No one would take it from us. The night had been repressed for far too long.

“You are right, Mother. We deserve more.”

Mother let me go, motioning towards the small crowd of stars that had gathered around us. “In that case, daughter, go forth and see that the little ones have all the playtime they desire. I shall relax here and see to it that things go smoothly.”

“Moon! Come play! Bet you can’t catch us!” some stars called out to me.

Letting impish glee take me over, I nodded to Mother, before taking off towards the awaiting stars, causing them to scatter and flee while laughing. “You had better hide well, little ones! Big Sister is coming... to get you!” I taunted as I galloped. The stars scattered in a fit of giggles. Truly, we were happy.

Our playtime would have gone on for many satisfying hours, had it not been for a troublesome obstacle: My brother’s light was beginning to smother the garden in its bothersome heat. It did not take long before the stars sought out my attention.

“Sister,” Canopus, a lanky Artisan, asked me, speaking for himself and several of his younger cohorts, “the bright lights of the morning hurt our eyes and exhaust our bodies. Is there not something you could do about it?”

Standing behind Canopus, several younger Messengers and Sentinels nodded in agreement. They had broken away from their enthusiastic chases and games after my brother’s thoughtless glow had proven too much of a hindrance.

I stepped out of the tree’s shade I had been relaxing in. Just as the stars had claimed, the light was intense. It irritated my eyes, and no doubt hurt theirs. Something had to be done about this nuisance. I could not allow such issues to hinder the stars’ playtime.

“I will ask Mother,” I answered. “She will certainly know what to do.” I nuzzled the youngest of the worried group reassuringly. “Wait in the shade, I will only be a moment.”

The stars nodded and sat down to relax beneath the broad crown of the tree, watching attentively as I sought out Mother Luna.

I found her lounging by the stream, shading Pollux and Vega beneath her extended wings as she discussed with them how much happier they were to have so much playtime. I sat by Mother, and saluted her with a nod of my head.

“Ah, my wonderful Moon. Is there something I can help you with?” Mother asked.

“As a matter of fact, Mother, I believe there is. The stars have come to me with a request. The light hurts their eyes and tires them out. Perhaps we could shield—”

“Say no more, daughter,” Mother interrupted. “I know exactly what to do. Help me gather the stars, and let them know that Mother has a very special surprise for them.”

“Gather around, children,” Mother announced as the stars approached. By the time I had managed to gather my siblings, they were all very excited for Mother’s surprise.

Sun’s light was now dazzlingly bright, and it had been quite a relief to reach the cool cover of a large tree’s shade. The Garden blazed with a horrid, searing shade of bright blue as my brother’s excessive emanations irradiated it. I had never noticed how much the garden burned under his light. Had his days always been this terrible? I felt a pang of spite flare up within myself. Sun had been deceitful during all of these past eclipses. That scoundrel!

I began to relay Mother’s plans to the little ones as she prepared. Standing amidst the innumerable assembly, I could only imagine the sheer grandeur of what we were about to accomplish. It was astounding to realise just how many of us there truly were. I felt honored that Mother trusted me to care for them. The stars were my pride and joy. Despite their numbers, I could always find time for each and every one of them, so that they could feel special and appreciated.

“Now, littles ones,” I explained, “Mother is going to work some very powerful magic, and she is going to need all the help she can get from us. You will each have a role to play, so listen well.” I smiled to my siblings, who smiled back, and turned my attention to the youngest ones. “Sentinels, I would like you to focus on your hooves. Plant them firmly against the ground, and feel the energy of the Garden that floats beneath you. You will gather it in your legs, just like when you run in search of wishes. Understood?”

The Sentinels nodded in common accord, and each of them followed my example as I demonstrated, stomping the ground twice, once with their forehooves and once with their rear hooves, cheering all the while. The Garden’s soil trembled beneath their combined strength, and, as they began to focus, I could feel their magic pooling with my own beneath my hooves.

“Very good. Now, Messengers, I want you to flare your wings as far and wide as you can, and to catch the magic of the Garden’s winds between your feathers. You will funnel it within your wings, as though you were flying across the land to deliver a wish with great speed,” I instructed. “Are you ready?”

In perfect synchronicity, the Messengers cheered and flared out their wings as wide as they could. A strong gust brushed over the Garden’s plants and, for the space of an instant, flattened the grass, shook the trees and crumpled the flowers. Much like I had felt the Sentinels' magic, the power of the Messengers now flowed amongst my own, pooling in my every feather.

“Wonderful work, young ones,” I commended. “Artisans, imagine that you are feeding a wish. Stand proud and tall, and pool all of the magic you can gather at the tip of your horn. Is that clear?”

The oldest of my younger siblings did not need to be told twice. With smiles full of admirations, they closed their eyes and focused. The sky’s magical maelstrom intensified and began swirling faster and faster, crackling with the magic we were now drawing. I could feel it all flowing through my horn.

I couldn’t believe the amount of power we were channeling. With such power, there was no limit to what Mother could accomplish.

“It is ready, Mother,” I declared with great concentration.

“Very well. Let us not wait a moment longer,” Mother nodded. Her horn sparkled for a moment with the night’s deepest blacks; it was a welcome respite from my brother’s blinding light. The stars cheered for her as she took place atop a small hill before us, flaring her broad wings dramatically. Against all logic, their shade grew to cover both the stars and I, shielding us from my brother’s fierce glow.

“Are you ready, daughter?” Mother asked. “I trust that you know what to do.” I nodded and prepared to channel the stars’ power towards Mother.

“It is time, children,” she called out to the stars, motioning for me to stand by her side. “We will drive away the day and bathe the Garden in eternal night! If the Little Ponies refuse to appreciate us, we will make them!”

Eternal night? I did not need to think about it twice. It would be glorious.

Mother took a deep breath, and let her voice echo over the Celestial Garden: “Let there be night!”

At once, all was silent. The stream no longer burbled. The breeze no longer blew. The trees no longer rustled. The stars fell silent in awe.

I watched wordlessly. For an instant, I was no longer an individual, no longer an astral body. I neither spoke nor felt, waxed nor waned. I was part of something bigger. I was a part of the night. It was bliss.

Our magic slithered through Mother’s horn, then through the air, firmly taking root within the infinite expanse of the wild magic surging through the sky. Our tendrils spread through the ripples and waves, replacing, improving those hideous colors with the purity of Our night’s darkness.

We would change it to suit Our needs, and it would then be perfect for Us. The others, Sun, Celestia, Brother, Sister, Nephew, Aunt, they no longer mattered.

As quickly as I had departed, I was back in the Garden. Sun’s light no longer burned. In fact, I could not recall the Garden ever being so soothing. The foliage and land had taken on the darkest, richest blacks I had ever witnessed. There was not a shred of light to torture our eyes. The sky itself was pure, filled with naught but a wonderful black void.

Even the stars and I had taken on new forms. We were better, stronger and fiercer, just like Mother. The stars themselves had taken on darker colors: They sparkled through the blissful shadows. I glanced at my hoof. Even I had taken on a soothing tone of darker grey. My body ached from exertion, but I felt ecstatic, complete and satisfied. Judging by their relaxed poses and goofy smiles, the stars agreed.

Mother stepped into my field of vision, her mane ablaze with energy. I watched it slowly fade back to normal alongside the shadowy auras of her horn. She sat contently amidst the tired stars. “Children, I give you the Garden as it should be. It is the Night’s Garden, and no one shall ever take it from us. It is by our powers united that the night has come so fiercely,” Mother explained. “It is by our powers united that it shall remain in place for eternity.”

The stars cheered. I smiled. Mother laughed.