• Published 1st Aug 2012
  • 2,079 Views, 53 Comments

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 Scarred Garden

My cheek and neck hurt. My trust, even more so. Our observers were still silent and immobile, perhaps as shocked as Mother and I were. I sensed a shift in the land below.

The Little Ponies had gone out on their porches and into their gardens in droves, and each was gawking at me with the same stunned expression. Had I changed somehow, from Mother’s strike?

Silenced at once by the cruel blow, I tried to muster the courage to speak but was preempted by the stern voice of Aunt Celestia. “Sister. You have gone too far.”

Mother retracted her hoof and looked at her sister, remorseful. “I— I suppose I did,” she said. “It does not change my position, however. Moon, I apologize. You made me angry and I lost control of myself. Please forgive me.”

My eye twitched, sending a jolt of pain down my neck. I tried to muster the strength to speak, but was nudged out of that idea by Lord Honesty’s hoof placed on my shoulder. The Elements had gathered behind me while I was dazed.

“Keep your strength, young Moon,” Lady Magic insisted. “Princess Celestia will speak for now. There are things we must explain to you, and I would assume you would like to ensure the stars are safe.”

I nodded silently, pressing a hoof against my left cheek in a vain effort to soothe the stinging pain that still coursed through it.

“This is not a matter that can be resolved by a simple apology, Luna,” Celestia admonished. “If you cannot be trusted with keeping from striking your own children, how can I possibly trust you around the Little Ponies?”

At once, all of Mother’s remorse melted away into a venomous frown. “Do not speak to me with that tone,” Mother hissed back, standing fierce before her sister. “Who are you to talk of trust? After casting your shadow over me for more centuries than I can be bothered to count, you claim the moral high ground? What a farce! You have no right to judge me, Celestia, and I am certain my daughter will be more understanding than you could ever be.” Mother turned to me, with a glance that seemed almost equal parts plea and threat.

I did my best to stand up but stumbled back down. Thankfully, Sun was by my side, ready to catch me. “No, Mother. I cannot forgive you.” I felt as though I were suffering from a horrid burn. It was excruciating just to force my words and my feelings out. Once more, the elements wordlessly motioned for me to keep my strength, but I ignored them.

A group of frightened stars cower in Mother’s imposing shadow as she looks down on them, displaying a vicious and bloodthirsty grin. The broken body of one of the youngest lies at her hooves.

The image was an unwelcome presence in my conscience. “If—” I winced in pain, interrupted by a particularly sharp pang. “If you would go so far as to strike me in a fit of frustration, how can I trust you to be good to my brothers and sisters?”

Mother frowned at my words. “Be quiet, Moon. That is more than enough out of you.”

Young foals in a little pony home huddle together three to a bed, kept awake and frightened by horrible nightmares. Their parents, just outside, stare at a black, featureless sky, mourning the end of a world of peaceful dreams.

“How can I trust you to preserve hope as we have for so long?” I forced myself to stand up and face Mother, thankful that I could brace myself against Sun’s warm side. I fought through the pain to stare at her. “Is it not our sworn duty to watch over the Ponies as they rest through the night, just as Aunt Celestia and Sun cast their protection over the day’s labors?”

Mother held a scathing, disdainful look. “I will not say it again, child. Be silent at once.”

The Garden is barren, rolling hills of dust with nary a sign of life. The stream’s bed has dried out; the once-bountiful flow is no more.

I refused to let her interrupt me. “No, Mother. You will not silence me. Not after what you have done. You remain so adamant that we have only done good for the Garden, Mother; if you cannot see the error of such notions, how can I trust you any longer?”

“I have no use for your trust, impudent foal! I gave you life and, whether you like it or not, you will do as told!” Mother snapped.

I winced as she stepped towards me, shielding myself from a strike that never came.

“You will do no such thing, Sister.”

I cracked an eye open. Standing in front of me, between Mother and myself, was Aunt Celestia, in all her shining glory, scowling at Mother with fierce disapproval.

“What were you thinking, Luna?” Celestia paused and took a deep breath, forcing herself to remain calm. “Is this little crusade of yours worth putting all of Equestria on the brink of destruction? Is it worth risking the Garden over? Are you truly no better than Discord was? No better than Sombra?”

Mother would not have any of it. She growled and began defiantly approaching Aunt Celestia, strutting around her in a circle. “How dare you compare me to those monsters! They were merely seekers of power; selfish and greedy. What I seek is justice and retribution. All I want is what I am owed.”

As Mother spoke, Sun approached. He looked startled when I turned to face him, but he quickly regained his composure. I did not think my gesture had been that unexpected, but perhaps I had been wrong. He leaned in and whispered to me. “I think it would be best if we let our mothers discuss their issues for a time. I am as worried as you are, but Lady Magic informed me that there are other issues that very much require your attention. We should go and give you some time to recover. I am certain that the Elements and my mother can keep things under control.”

I nodded silently, remembering that the stars were most likely still waiting for me, that my right cheek still felt as though it was on fire, and that the Little Ponies still had not stopped staring.

Sun let the Elements know that we were going, and we began making our way to where the stars waited. Focused on Aunt Celestia, Mother did not see me leaving. As I left, I could still hear her rants in the distance, growing ever more vitriolic.

“It is always the same story with you! ‘Do not eat all that pudding, Luna, you will get sick.’ ‘Do not play so roughly with the tides, Luna, you are flooding the farmers’ fields.’ ‘Speak with me before taking decisions in our royal court, Luna.’ ‘Do not prevent Sun from rising, Luna...’”

By the time we were out of earshot, I felt sick. To hear Mother so full of hate and anger was torture. What had happened to the loving Mother I had known, and when had she been replaced by this nightmare?

I stumbled for a moment, destabilized by pain and exhaustion, only to be rescued by Sun once more. I stopped and rested my head against his neck. “I am so worried about Mother... She has changed so much... This new appearance of hers, her anger, her vile ambitions... This is not the Mother I know. I fear losing the Mother I love.”

Sun draped his neck over mine, and I felt his warmth slowly flow into me. His simple presence was reassuring; his words, even more so. “Sister, if anyone can bring her back, it’s you. I am certain that you can get through to her. It may be difficult, but I promise to be by your side through it all.”

My brother’s affection was a wonderful relief after such extended anguish. I could feel his warmth coursing through my body, as though his heat sought to reforge sundered parts of my heart and soul. “Thank you, Brother,” I finally answered, smiling for what felt like the first time in an eternity. I nuzzled Sun affectionately, passing that same smile onto him. “We had better keep going,” I added. “I worry about what Mother might have done to the stars.”

Despite the stinging pain still pulling at my focus, it was with renewed energy that I led Sun to the stars, hoping that they would be okay. Mother had to be stopped before it was too late, but I knew I could trust Aunt Celestia to give Sun, the Elements, and I all the time we needed to prepare.

I would bring Mother back to her senses, no matter what it took.

Sun and I soon reached the banks of the stream. The stars wouldn’t be much farther. I could feel their presence in the grove where they normally slept.

I motioned towards the stream; I was feeling absolutely parched. Sun quickly shifted over and placed a hoof on my shoulder.

“Sister, wait.” Sun slowly led me towards the stream. “Before you look into the water, I just need you to promise me to try to remain calm.”

I froze. “W-why? Is there something wrong with me?”

Sun took a deep breath and led me forward again, careful not to let go of his encouraging embrace, nudging me until we stood at the water’s edge. “I think you should see for yourself, sister. Just know this, before you look: You are still a beautiful mare, and do not let anything convince you otherwise.”

I looked into the water, and a scar looked back at me.

“Look at the sky!” I could hear the Little Ponies murmuring. “The moon! The moon is scarred!”

Its neck traced up my left cheek and its eye overlapping my own, the silhouette of my Mother’s changed form was staring back at me from my own reflection, a pitch-black stain amidst my bright coat.

I held my breath and dunked my head into the water, shaking it about, hoping that the mark would come off in the cleansing waters, but alas, it was in vain. It was a scar, true and through, one that simple water could not hope to wash away.

I slouched on the river’s edge, wallowing in the azure grass. Sun approached silently, stroking my right wing comfortingly as tears trickled down my cheeks.

Just like the marks she left on the Garden, I reasoned, though I soon corrected myself.

Just like the marks “we” left.

I should have seen the signs. I should have stopped Mother. I had been foolish, and now I had been scarred as a punishment. Marked. Disfigured.

You are still a beautiful mare. Sun’s words rang. I knew Sun would never lie to me.

No. Not disfigured. I was different. It was a mark of experience, a reminder not to make the same errors. A warning against Mother’s new state, and a sign that I had to help stop her.

I sniffled and swallowed back my sadness, forcing myself to stand up and smile. “Sun, come with me. The stars need me, and I do not wish to delay any longer.”

“Are you sure you will be fine, Sister?” Sun asked, hesitating to follow.

“Yes. Thanks to you, I will be.” I crossed my neck with Sun’s, laying my head onto his shoulder for a moment.

He smiled in turn, and somehow, if just for a brief instant, I knew things would turn out fine in the end. Sun was with me and, soon, the stars would be as well.

Plus, I had my own eyes, wings, and magic back, so how bad could it possibly get?

The stars’ grove was a mess. Their hill was chaos given form. The stars themselves were out of control. I could hear their ruckus from immeasurable distances away; I could feel their turmoil from even farther.

Shouting. Whining. Screeching. Bickering.

Whimpering. Sobbing. Weeping. Bawling.

I broke into a gallop, leaving Sun in the dust with nary a warning. In an instant, I faced the mass.

“Canopus! Capella! You let Castor go this instant! Spica! Give Suhail her flower back right now!” My horn lit up with a bright glow, and at once I levitated Sargas down from the tree he was standing in, pulled Regulus and Acrux apart, and gently floated Aludra and Caph to my side, away from their tormentors.

My flurry of activity lasted for what felt like an entire night, as I admonished, consoled, and called to order countless stars as needed. For the first time, I had to raise my voice and shout for the stars to listen. I hated having to do it, but it was for their own good. When Sun caught up, he immediately set out to help me. He had much less experience with the stars, but they respected him as an older brother, and his help was invaluable. Each star stared for a short moment at my scar, only stopping because they knew it was not polite to stare.

I observed their darker coats and their so-called “gifts” from Mother, and hoped that, in time, I could help them recover their true forms, just as Lady Kindness had done for me.

Without my guidance, and given free reign by Mother, the eldest stars had lost their role of protectors and nurturers to their younger brethren. They had become bullies and tormentors. I made sure that each of them apologized. This was not how Mother and I had raised them to behave.

The middle children had mostly taken off by themselves, away from the eldest, many of them taking up some rather risky games, acting rowdy, and fighting amongst themselves. I had to cajole more than a few after they had suffered minor injuries, and forcefully pull a few more out of ridiculous stunts. Miraculously, none of them had gotten truly hurt.

The youngest had been the ones to take the full brunt of the eldest’s tormenting. Furthermore, many of them were scared of all these new changes, now that Mother was no longer around to string them along and keep them occupied. I hugged each and everyone one of them, promising that we would bring the Garden back to normal, that the wishes would return and that all would be peaceful once more.

Finally, we had the stars under control and sitting in a large group in uneasy peace. Refusing to give in to my fatigue, I stood in front of the stars, putting forth my most reassuring smile.

“Now, little ones...”

I carefully mulled my words over for a moment. I did not want the stars to be hurt by the news of Mother’s cruel new turn, but they deserved to know what was going on.

“I guess many of you have questions about what is going on with Mother and the Garden, and about what we have helped her do.”

Many of the stars nodded, some of them raising a hoof or blurting out their questions. A vague murmur washed over the crowd.

“Mother is not being herself, right now. Events that are no one’s fault have made her very upset, and she is letting it drive her away from who she is. Mother needs our help, but it will not be easy.”

The stars nodded in comprehension. The worried frowns and pouts were unbearable.

“I need you all to make me a promise. I know I am asking for a lot, but until things change, I need you to promise me you will not seek Mother out by yourself. She is not the Mother we know and love. I promise we will help Mother come back to herself, but until then, it is important that you stay safe. Can you promise me that?”

A loud mass of whispers coursed through the crowd. Many of the stars raised questions. “But, Sister, does it mean we can’t see Mommy at all?” “What if she comes to see us?” “Did she give you that scar?”

It was only then that I realized I had not thought that far. I looked to Sun for guidance, but found him biting his lower lip, just as hesitant as I was.

“Moon?” another star asked. “How long will it take to get Mother back?” “Is it our fault that Mommy is like that?” “Why are you bright again?” “Will we get to go back to how we were before too?”

The stars looked at me expectantly, and, pushed by my sisterly instincts, I began trying to explain. “Well... You see, little ones...”

A wise voice rang out over my hesitant stutterings. “Moon, if I could have a word with you and the stars?”

The stars fell silent and their eyes grew wide at the sight of our visitor. When I turned back to see who had spoken, so did my own.

Lady Magic, in all her regal poise, flapped her wings a few times as she slowly alighted by Sun and me. “I may be able to enlighten you and the little ones on the situation.”