• Published 8th Jul 2019
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The Rains of Vanhoover - kudzuhaiku

It was raining in Vanhoover. It was always raining in Vanhoover.

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At the intersection of rationality and faith, a curious thing happened

Tears, like raindrops, left puddles on the floor. Eyes almost vacant, Nut stared at them, or stared past them; it was difficult to tell for the observers. The lights could be seen reflecting in the tiny pools of water, and little bits of confetti—like visitors to the beach—were saturating themselves with the liquid left behind. Nut suffered the peculiar notion that he couldn’t move, even if he wanted to do so, almost as if his brain had suffered some terrible disconnect.

But then, everything worked again and he spurred his body into action just as Princess Celestia and Raven passed through the doors with his dear, beloved friend. He hurried after them, taking swift action before the gap in the crowd could close. Ponies were murmuring now, speaking to one another. No doubt the gossip and rumour mills were powering up and some fantastical story would be concocted. The very idea infuriated him.

“Wait!” he shouted.

But it was too late.

The doors shut and two guards moved to stand in front of it.

“I need to get in there,” he told the guards as they approached. “She’s my ward. I gave my word that I would look after her. She needs me.”

Neither of the guards budged.

“Perhaps you don’t know who I am,” Nut said while his body transitioned into a more aggressive posture. “But you’re about to find out. Allow me to pass.”

Like statues, the guards were now motionless.

“Very well then, time to cause a scene.”

At the very same second that Nut slipped into a loose and easy combat stance, he found himself frozen once more. Paralysed. It was difficult for his eyelids to blink. The double doors opened and the first thing Nut saw was a long blue horn poking out. Then, Princess Luna’s head became visible, and he saw her looking at him. He tried to muster as much malice as possible with his paralysed face, but failed to do anything worthy or impressive.

“Ah, there you are. Gestalt said you would be here. Come, my student, I have a lesson to impart upon thee.”

Much to his annoyance, Nut’s legs betrayed him. His body relaxed, the tension fled from his muscles, and the tightness in his barrel eased so that he could breathe a little easier. He was spellbound, and didn’t like it, not at all. With sufficient willpower, it was said that one could resist spells like this one, but with so little magic of his own, he’d never exercised his willpower. Perhaps this needed to change, because he was vulnerable.

Both of the guards stepped aside.

“Youthful rebellion,” Princess Luna said to nopony in particular, but her words were clearly about Nut. “At long last, my steely student finally feels passionate enough about something to act in an irrational, illogical manner. He can be motivated with emotion.”

Princess Luna made a gesture with her eyes, moving them in such a way that she beckoned Nut to come forward. “Come with me.”

He felt his legs move, but he wasn’t the one controlling them. A part of him wanted to be angry, but his rationality was rapidly asserting itself. Princess Luna—his trusted teacher—had just spared him from a rather dreadful bit of consequences. He was still angry, though not at her. At himself, at the situation. He passed through the doors and after he did so, they shut behind him. Off to his left, Princess Luna was clucking her tongue, which was somehow both annoying and soothing. He did deserve it, afterall.

“A bit of noble entitlement,” she said. “Good. Good.”

“Is that what that was?” he asked.

“I do believe it was,” she replied with a visible smirk. “No sense waiting for the self-loathing to set in. Time to strike the iron to make it hot.” With one extended wing, she caressed Nut’s cheek. “Welcome home to Canterlot, Nut. Let us go catch up on old times, as the new parlance dictates.”

In a moment that was a bit too surreal for his liking, Nut found himself seated at a desk that was just a bit too small for him, and Luna, his instructor, stood before a chalkboard. The classroom was empty, and was perhaps a bit too overcrowded with desks, of which there were a few too many in a room rather small. He’d been released from the spell, whatever it was, but doubted that he could escape his current state of detention.

For what else could this be?

“It has been a while,” he said to his teacher.

“Indeed, it has,” was her response.

“You seem… shorter somehow. Also, I dare say younger.”

“Flattery will not get you out of this. I’ve not grown shorter, you’ve grown taller, thus, I am smaller by comparison.”

“No,” he said, always a contrarian. “I’m positive of it. You do seem younger in some strange way. Something about your face. You’re smaller, and slighter of build.”

She was staring at him now, and something about her expression suggested that she was annoyed with him. Though, he could not say how or why. Something about her eyes perhaps, and the way her lower lip protruded ever-so-slightly. Her defiant posture. It was almost as if Princess Luna was a defiant filly rather than a mature mare—or perhaps it was just her sarcastic, almost playful demeanour. Maybe the stress was getting to him.

“I miss your lessons,” he said at last.

“Yes”—she sighed out her agreement—“those were pleasant dreams.”

“Dreams?” He spoke his thoughts aloud.

“Oh…” Her eyes took on a playful gleam. “Did you believe those to be real? All dreams, I assure you.”

“But… I remember going to school. Walking. I remember our days together.”

“Very convincing dreams.” Luna’s head bobbed in some odd weightless way. “You did go to school during the day. But at night, while you slept, you also went to school. I called class into session. You must understand… there were trying circumstances at work during those times. I was very busy. But in dreams, I could give you all of the time you so richly deserved… and make no mistake, you were a worthy student.”

Flabbergasted, Nut tried to rearrange the life he thought he knew, but found he couldn’t.

“It is time for certain truths to be made known to you,” she said as she stood before the blackboard. “Honestly, Nut… I believed that you figured all of this out on your own, but it seems that I was wrong. Gestalt says that you’re too rigid, and I find myself in agreement. You’d rather believe a comfortable falsehood than face an uncomfortable truth.”

“In my defense, I had good reason to believe that our time together was real.”

“Any logical examination of the situation might’ve drawn you to the obvious conclusion.”

He scowled, not at all happy with how he felt right now. “Maybe it seems obvious to you, but I trusted you as my instructor, just as I trusted my senses. If I am to doubt my senses, shall I doubt you as well?”

“Oh, remarkable.” Luna’s lips pressed into a tight, thin line. “My student reveals himself. I am proud. Even if you’ve missed the obvious, there is evidence that you are still my apt pupil.”

“I have only ever wanted to please you,” he said to his teacher.

Some cloud of emotion passed over her face, but he didn’t know what it was. Her eyes softened, her perked ears relaxed just a little, and her wings loosened against her sides. She stood there before the blackboard, shuffling a bit, and the stars in her mane and tail seemed a bit brighter somehow. Was she touched? He couldn’t tell. Clearly, she felt something, but it seemed she had no desire to share whatever it was.

“Please me you have,” she said in a somewhat syrupy voice. “Your success is mine own. At this point in my life, I am in need of some success. Things have been more than a little rough. You… you are my Chosen, and you’ve exceeded well beyond my wildest expectations.”


“Verily. You were selected. Risks were taken. Everypony involved said those risks should not be taken, but I was given a chance to prove myself. Other than that little slip of decorum with the guards a moment ago, you’ve proven that I was right and all who doubted me were wrong. Most satisfying… most satisfying. Good thing I am beyond the need to gloat.” She grinned and there was some spectre of youthful defiance that lurked amongst her bared teeth.

“I suppose the lesson now is for all of this to be explained,” he said to her while he squirmed in search of a comfortable position. His desk was too small, he was too large, and his body felt the need for movement, not stillness. “I am forever your willing pupil.”

Something just behind her face broke. Nut saw it plain as day. Or, in this instance, as plain as a bright harvest moon at night. Her eyes gleamed with some emotion, some unknown feeling, and her nostrils flared as her respiration increased. For the merest second, he thought that she might burst into tears; mares did that sometimes, at least in his experience. While Luna was a princess, and an alicorn, she was also a mare and he knew that ponies frequently forgot that fact.

“I wish that I had been braver,” Luna said, her words hushed and rather raspy.

Nut’s response was nonverbal; he cocked an eyebrow.

“Were I braver and more trusting of myself, I might very well have taken you as my apprentice. My chosen vessel. But I am still recovering and am without much trust in myself.” She sighed, almost a hurricane force gale in the close confines of the classroom, and added, “There is another I wish I could claim. Perhaps I should. You were a success. I proved myself to others, and most importantly, to myself. I find myself wondering if I am worthy.”

The Princess of the Night tossed her head about, her neck rippled with fluid movement, and she began to pace before the chalkboard. Her silver shoes rang like delicate bells with each step. She was a creature of immeasurable beauty and Nut, like so many others, found himself entranced by her every move. Stricken, he folded his forelegs atop the desk’s surface and watched as she paced the width of the room.

“You were chosen,” she began, “because of your restraint. Not many foals have that much restraint. Your upbringing and your own inner nature conspired together to create an ideal vessel. I had ideas… big ideas… a new way to do things. Where I saw opportunity, others saw risks. I was forced to prove that my ideas were worthy. Even my most ardent detractors agreed that you were the ideal test subject.”

Test subject?

Nut, more curious than alarmed, wondered what she meant by that.

“Recently, a multitude of circumstances all aligned. Mostly through coincidence. It wasn’t planned, but it was exploited.” Luna turned about, ceased to pace, and then just stood there, her mane blown about by unseen winds. “You went to the Widowwood. My sister and I, we’ve been somewhat aware of the troubles there for quite some time. The dreams there are especially troubling. There’s a lot I can’t tell you… but what I can tell you is that things are complicated. There are too many dreaming ponies and not enough of me to go around. My sister and I, we can’t fix everything. There are millions of ponies and just two of us.”

He acknowledged this with a nod.

“Circumstances reached a fortuitous intersection. You were in Vanhoover, and curious creatures infested the potato patches of the Widowwood.” Luna began to pace again, her eyes were distant, dark, and her lips were tight against her teeth. “As I mentioned, it wasn’t planned… it just happened. All of the right pieces were in the right place. That’s the real trick to being a princess… exploiting circumstances in such a way that everything appears planned. It takes a quick mind.”

“If you knew about the troubles of the Widowwood,” Nut said to his teacher, who paced before the blackboard, “then why not act sooner?”

“I told you,” she replied, “there’s too many ponies and too few of us royal pony siblings. Look, I get it. I do. Everypony wants to hold us responsible for all of the things that go wrong. While I do confess to meddling in all manner of things, including your development, I can’t meddle in all of the things. Even though I would very much like to do so. Widowwood in particular, it bothers me because of the fanatical zealotry involving my sister. Nothing upsets her more than fanatical zealotry. It causes her terrible nightmares. But what can we do? The world is plunging into war and chaos. Our cities are slipping into anarchy. Priorities, Nut. Priorities. Sadly, the Widowwood is extremely low on the list of priorities.”

Though unsatisfied, Nut held his tongue.

“You were in the right place at the right time. Raven brought it to our attention. An opportunity presented itself. None of us knew the outcome. But there was a chance to rattle the Widowwood. Perhaps shake up the residents a bit. We watched and we waited. I feel that I did a particularly good job of making the moon brighter at just the perfect moment.”

As Luna smiled, Nut recalled that specific moment in vivid detail.

“Not only was it the perfect chance to shake everything up, but it was an excellent opportunity to test you as well. A test you passed that exceeded all expectations, by the way. I finally got the chance to hear that I was right, and it was most gratifying. It has done wonders for my confidence and well-being.”

A good student remained silent in class—but Nut had questions, many of them, and it was hard to hold them all in. Luna was in quite a state; she was in the middle of a moment. He couldn’t recall ever seeing her this emotional, but then again, most of his experiences with her happened in a dreaming state, so he wasn’t sure how well he knew her. His familiarity with her was mostly illusion, but her fondness for him seemed real enough for it to matter.

Each step caused her silver shoes to ring against the tile floor.

“You were an odd foal, Nut. A foal with a talent for violence. But you were not a violent foal. My sister said that you were a walking contradiction and she expressed concern that your conflicting nature might cause you extreme unhappiness. Where my sister saw a tragedy in the making, I saw an opportunity.” Luna paused and brought her bright-eyed gaze to bear upon Nut. “You were just what I needed.”

Intrigued, ears pricked, Nut waited.

“Not long after my return, when I was still very troubled, I was introduced to Gestalt. He became my friend… well, more than that. My confidant. He understood certain concepts that I’d always known, aspects of psychology and such, but that I couldn’t make others understand. I had this idea that learning and memory could be shaped through dreams. The memory part I’d already mastered… I can change a pony’s memories or even erase them completely. My knowledge helped to fill in certain blanks in his theory, and his theory helped me to understand certain things that I did but had no understanding of how I did them. Anyhow… it’s complicated.

“There was this idea that I could go beyond memories and implant learning directly. But it had to be things I knew. My knowledge. This worried everypony, and rightfully so. There were some concerns that certain aspects of my psyche might bleed over during a transfer of knowledge. You had this incredible knack for combat, and I very much wanted to pour my combat experience into you just to see what might happen. I had good reason… if this worked, I’d be able to start training the guardsponies. Give them my combat experience. Make them a capable fighting force.

“Then came the changelings. Gestalt studied them extensively after the invasion. They have shared, distributed learning and what one of them learns, all of them learn through a distributed neural network. But this came later, and I am jumping ahead. Your training had already begun, and I was already pouring my experiences into you at this point. Thousands of years of warfare and combat experience. It was my job to fill you up as a vessel, while others around you worked to reinforce your natural restraint. But learning of the changelings shared learning was proof that we were on the right track, and that my ideas had merit. Proof that the concept worked.”

For some reason, Nut thought of Caliginous Dark. Never take what you cannot possibly give back. His beloved professor held him back and made him exercise caution. It was a defining moment, and it was now, right now, at this very moment that Nut realised just how much hinged upon the choices he made that day. Or when he departed the Widowwood, for that matter. Eyes narrow, he studied Luna, and tried to make sense of what she had said. What he’d been told.

“So all that I am and all that I know… it isn’t me, but you?” he asked.

“Well, no,” she was quick to reply. “And yes. It’s complicated. I learned early on that the transfer doesn’t automatically implant the knowledge, as I thought it would. It is the memory of a memory, with a pinch of instinct, and some muscle memory. It’s… it’s like a seed left in fertile soil. With a bit of water and just the right conditions, it sprouts into something greater. So it is with you, Nut. The mighty oak of my combat experience is but a little acorn in your mind.”

“I don’t follow.”

She smiled, patient and gentle. “When just the right circumstances come along, these memories awaken and you internalise them. At least, as near as I can tell. It’s like a fortune telling machine with predetermined responses.” At this, Luna went silent for a moment, stuck out her tongue, and then shook her head. “No, it is not like that at all. Or maybe it is. You see, all of this is dormant in your head until such a time that you awaken the memory and make it your own. I couldn’t put my instincts into your mind, or my muscle memory. And the memory of a memory is inherently unstable and changes with each recollection. What I am trying to say is, the transfer wasn’t perfect. You are still ultimately responsible for whatever you choose to be.”

It was a mighty big concept to wrap one’s mind around, and Nut found that he wasn’t up for the task. Luna, it seemed, wasn’t up for it either, as she was now pacing to and fro once more with a bewildered, frustrated expression plainly visible upon her face. At the moment, Luna was more pony and less princess as she floundered through this difficult time. All of her princessly poise had departed, and Nut was left to stare at a baffled, flustered nerdy intellectual whose complex, complicated plans had gone awry.

At least he could sympathise, and he did.

“I poured all of my knowledge of battle into your mind,” Luna said, almost muttering now. “Weapons. Fighting styles. Martial mastery. Boxing. Kicking. Hoof-fu. Karate. Thousands of years of experience. It was successful, but not in the way I anticipated or expected. Your mind readily accepted this information. Everypony saw that. Everypony. And now, years later, I am proven right. It all worked out for the best. The evidence is quite compelling.”

“What of Secundus?” Nut asked.

“What about him?” Luna replied.

He gave his teacher a hard stare.

“Was he altered?” Luna turned to face Nut and she had her own hard stare. “Yes, but not to the extent that you were. Early on, he exhibited problems. Issues. He still proved valuable though. Secundus taught us a great deal.” Her face softened, she blinked, and then shook her head. “As more knowledge was poured in, his need for violence increased. His desire for it. Eventually, we terminated the process at the insistence of Gestalt, who feared what further tampering might do. Even though it was a failure, we still learned a great deal.”

“Might I ask what you learned? What purpose will this serve? What is the point to all of this? Is this solely to increase Equestria’s martial prowess, or will some other greater purpose come of this?”

There was a sigh from Luna, then another. She inhaled, her sides expanded greatly, and exhaled slowly through her flared nostrils. Her eyes glittered and the muscles on her face twitched with nervous energy. Even though nothing had been said just yet, Nut was fascinated, intrigued by his instructor’s intensity.

“One day, I am going to completely change how Equestria deals with education,” she said at last. “Right now, everything is still proof of concept. I am starting small and sticking with what I know. Violence is my trade. I am the Mistress of War. The Princess of the Night. I am the Night Lady. The Eternal Shroud. But I aspire to be better. To do better. And so I shall.

“I envision a bright future. Once I have this process refined, and once I find a way to divide myself into the millions of dreaming minds, I will leave behind knowledge. Learning. Literacy. Foals will awaken from sweet, pleasant dreams with refreshed minds and the education they need to succeed. Little earth ponies will have brighter futures. Pegasus ponies will be prosperous. And with my sister’s help, if we can find a way, little unicorns will get the magical instruction they sorely need. This is my goal. And it all started with you, Nut. Everything started with you.”

“That’s—” There was no way for Nut to finish his sentence. His mind was blown. He reeled from the words of his instructor, his teacher, and tried to take in the immensity of her words. His good posture failed him and he slumped over his desk whilst Luna beamed, almost glowing with her sense of triumph. Since he could say nothing coherent, he chose to ask a question instead.

“What am I to do with what I’ve been given?” He thought of his life choices and the decisions he made, all of which now stood out. “I’m not a soldier. I chose to be a sheathed sword.”

“Continue to be a sheathed sword if that makes you happy,” was Luna’s enthusiastic, cheerful reply. “Be content with the knowledge that you are a rousing success, one that will likely change the future. I shaped you. Nurtured you. I carefully constructed your mind and turned it into a repository of knowledge. I knitted your mind into a beautiful, purposeful jumper, an accomplishment that I am proud of. I must confess, you were crafted in mine image. Some parts of myself have imprinted upon you. At least, Gestalt believes this to be true.”

“I find myself in an odd position,” Nut said to Luna. “Here I am, a created being. A being purpose-made to serve some function. I find myself before my creator, my goddess so to speak, and of all the questions I could be asking that could serve some practical purpose, I find myself thinking of faith.” His ears drooped into a submissive posture. “Was I created to serve?”

“Do you wish to serve?” asked Luna, who now paced once more.

“How do I answer?” he replied. “I have no way of knowing what my own wants are. If I say yes, that I wish to serve, is it my will or yours? My whole mindset is one of science. Of rationality. I am an empirical being. Yet, right now, all of my thoughts are metaphysical. I am overrun with intangibles and abstracts.”

“If you were to ask Gestalt, he would tell you that your goddess left behind a willful, stubborn streak. He cites credible evidence; the rest of your family are all known conformists. You are the only one who regularly questions the state of things—which I should mention is the cause of a shared headache among the whole of your family. I suspect that Gestalt resents me on some level.”

“Where do I end and where do you begin?” he asked, and even as he said the words, he was crushed by the sheer enormity of them.

“Does it matter?” Now, Luna approached the desk where Nut sat and she wore a soft, reassuring smile. “You are free. As free as I could make you. I worked very hard to give you the freedom that I myself longed to have. That was always there, always present. Always a factor. Rather than allow it to be squashed, as it typically is during foalhood development, I protected it. Nurtured it. Your contrary nature was my precious, tender little flower, and I kept the weeds away. I cultivated your rebellious streak, I confess.”

“So you, a goddess, made an insolent, willful creation. Why? Why make something that would inevitably rebel against you? Something that would question you? What did you hope to gain?”

“I was purpose-made to obey,” Luna replied, and she now spoke in a cold deadpan. “My existence is unbelievably complicated and complex. But… I am not free. I resent that. Recently, I’ve made peace with that, and I am getting better. But make no mistake, I still bear resentment. I will always bear resentment. To satisfy my stubborn curiousness, I struggled to make a truly free creature. I might have stepped out of the bounds of what was intended, and I might have performed questionable acts, but I had to know.”

“And what is it that you had to know?”

“Can a free, willful creature, one gifted with power and privilege, still choose to do good? To be good. To overcome an innate sense of entitlement. Can a free creature be good? What does it mean to be noble? Not noble with peerage, and land, and privilege, but noble. Alas, Gestalt and the others don’t know the depths of my experimentations.” She leaned down over Nut’s desk until her nose almost bumped into his. “You have exceeded all of my wildest expectations and I will continue to watch you with great interest.”

“I am… having… a crisis of faith.”

“Strange, mine husband also had a crisis of faith. He came away stronger.”

“But I am not a pony of faith. I think it to be hooey.”

“I have faith in you,” Luna said, matter-of-factly. “So much faith in fact, that I stuck my neck out at great risk and poured all of my hopes into you.”

“You do realise that everything that you just said makes everything worse, right?”

Luna pulled away, her lips puckered into something that was almost a pout, and then she stood there, lost in thought. Never in his whole life had Nut felt more conflicted, or more contrary. He wanted to refute all of this, to dismiss it, to embrace his contrary nature—but suspected that if he did so, it would be conforming. Down was up, up was down, left was right, right was left, north was south, and south was north.

“What am I to do with my life?” he asked.

“What is it that you wish to do with your life?” she replied.

“Well”—he considered his words for a time—“see, that’s the problem. I just don’t know. My mark is an umbrella. Beyond that, I have an endless horizon. It’s really rather intimidating, if I can be honest, and I’m afraid to commit to anything, because I don’t know if it is a mistake or not. There are times I envy ponies who embrace destiny and then live life without care of consequence. Since I seem to be a free pony”—he glared at Luna for a moment—“it seems that I am free to mess up my life, which I seem to have done. My contrary nature has proven a detriment. My love life is a shambles. I think my foalhood friend hates me. I freed myself from the bonds of betrothal, and Pod seems more than a little peeved.”

He scowled and shook his head.

“My freedom seems to have come at the cost of severe discontent. As your creation, I must tell you, it sucks.”

Now, Luna scowled.

“At the risk of being an impertinent creation, I have some thoughts for you, my creator.” He fearlessly affixed his steely gaze upon Luna, who did not flinch away. “Being free is not all its cracked up to be. I’ve been free to starve. To struggle. To suffer. I left the proverbial promised land and went west of Canterlot. Had I conformed, I might have been happy here. I might have married Pod and known the sort of bliss that my mother and father share with one another. I might not lay awake in bed at night, questioning everything under the sun. You… you did this to me. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“How many creations are free to tell their creator off?” Luna asked.

“Oh… oh… indeed. I say. So that’s how it is going to be.”

Luna shrugged and said, “You’re my first effort. My sister spent years carefully crafting her students, her projects, until at last she had her Twilight Sparkle. I don’t care what anypony else says, or even what you say, you’re not bad for a first effort. I’m not expecting anypony to pat me on the back and congratulate me, but I am not ashamed of what I’ve done.”

“You do realise that as of right now, you and I have a complex relationship.” Nut, somewhat miffed about being referred to as a ‘first effort’, thought of a few choice words to say to Luna, but then he chickened out. It galled him that he couldn’t sort out if it were reverence or courtesy that motivated him. He was, indeed, free to tear into his creator, and verily, she didn’t seem to mind if he did—which made everything worse, really.

There was nothing quite so infuriating as a lackadaisical goddess.

“Perhaps,” Luna began as a wry smile spread across her muzzle, “if you cling tightly to your rationality, your logical idealism, and your empiricism, you will cause your goddess, your creator, to vanish in a puff of logic.”

“What madness is this?” he demanded.

“Oh, stranger things have happened, I assure you.”

Incensed, he tried to think of something witty to say, something caustic perhaps, and failed.

“My sister and I, we protest to be called goddesses. For the most part. We strive to be ponies. Celestia went through a prolonged phase where she was a fertility goddess, and she allowed little ponies to worship her, wholly and completely. It made them happy. They had nothing else in their lives, and at the time, the world was quite a bleak place. Celestia has mixed feelings about that time of her life, and sometimes, I think she longs for a return to those days.

“With all that said, I must confess, I am enjoying my goddess moment right now. You, my creation, are quite endearing. I’ve done something extraordinary. This is an accomplishment, and gives me hope for my future endeavours. Unintentionally, I’ve given you a gift, and that is faith, it seems. You owe me nothing. There is no obligation, other than a tacit acknowledgement of our bond, whatever that might be. You are free to determine the boundaries of our relationship.”

“Yes, but what is it that I am to do?”

“Well… you and your apprentice share an extraordinary common bond. Mind you, I’m not telling you what to do, I am merely suggesting, but the two of you might wish to explore that. She is having her own crisis of faith right now, just as you are having yours. Certain truths must be faced. Stared down. Internalised. She must stand before the Sun, fearful of fire… and you… well, whatever you do next will be your own choosing.”

The desk creaked as Nut repositioned himself in his seat.

“You are a sheathed sword, but make no mistake, you are my sword. I have forged you in my fires, which are wholly different than those of the Sun. My fire is like my light; cold, piercing, and made all the brighter by the darkness. You… my beloved creation, went into a dark place indeed. The Widowwood. There is a spiritual darkness there. A soul surrounded by darkness was attracted to your light—my light—and she rejected that darkness, though it cost her dearly. She was like a curious moth drawn to your flame. And not only her, but others as well.

“Because of your restraint, your care, your consideration, you avoided a massacre. Far worse ends might’ve happened. You inspired the trust of Potato Blossom, and she had the courage to go with you. To seek the light. If you desire some divine purpose, find others lost to darkness. Bring them back to the light. Protect those who cannot protect themselves. Or… do nothing, if that is what you wish. The choice is yours.”

This was inspiring, but Nut would never admit it.

“You feel better.” Luna’s statement was not a question.

After a moment spent in consideration, he gave her a reluctant nod.

“Try not to worry too much about what your family says,” Luna said to Nut. “They don’t understand. Nor will they. Love them anyway, and humour them. There are others who need you. Focus on them. In time, your family will see the good you do, and praise you.”

“I don’t need their praise.”

“But it will still feel good.”

He found that he didn’t want to acknowledge that Luna was right.

“Go pick a fight,” Luna suggested. “A worthy one. Find worthy foes, and humble them. Do not be afraid to use your gifts on the deserving. Sometimes, violence is the only solution. Peace, however, is preferable. A dark shadow looms over Vanhoover. Troubled times have come. I’m not too worried, because I know you’ll do right.”

Something about Luna’s confidence made him feel splendid, and he hated it.

“As for Potato Blossom… her journey is just beginning. I can think of no better instructor or protector.” Once more, Luna’s nose was mere inches away from Nut’s. “All her roads lead home. At least, that is my sister’s belief. She feels that outside intervention simply will not do. Somepony from the Widowwood needs to reform the Widowwood, and it might very well be Potato Blossom. If it is to be her, she has a monumental task ahead. I don’t know how this ends, but what I do know is, if anypony can prepare her for such a task, it is you.”

“She’s shunned.”

“So was Gosling and his mother. Now, Gosling is the Confessor for the Pegasus Tribe. He’s an excellent Confessor because he’s been shunned. His faith is tempered. Potato Blossom will be made all the stronger for her loss and suffering. But all of this means nothing without a worthy guardian and teacher.”

Nut suffered an involuntary headbob of agreement.

“This feels good,” Luna remarked. “Feels right.”

“I might start a religion just to spite you.”

Luna pulled her head back, her eyes narrowed, and her ears angled forwards over her face. “You would, too. No matter. I can think of no better act of devotion.”

“Can faith and rationality converge within the same mind?”

“I don’t know.”

Her blunt answer surprised him, and Nut appreciated Luna’s candor.

“I would like to say yes. But it would have to be just the right mind. Faith without zealotry. Rationality that can accept that some things will remain mysterious, no matter what.” Luna’s wing whipped out with a crack, and then folding it, she began to rub her chin. “You know, Twilight Sparkle almost meets the criteria, I think. She is a creature of logic and rationality, but she has unshakable faith in friendship. I now have something to ponder when I shower.”

These words lodged in Nut’s mind. As answer, it seemed obvious. Self-evident. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Probably because he didn’t know Twilight Sparkle. Perhaps faith and rationality could exist. Friendship was the evidence of something unseen. It was both tangible and insubstantial. Yes, after a moment of further reflection, Twilight was a good answer. Much to his surprise, Nut faced his creator with good humour.

“I have a confession,” he said.

“Do you now,” she replied. “Shall I fetch my husband, the Confessor?”

“No, this is between a creation and his goddess.” Nut drew in a deep breath, held it, and then took a moment to transform his thoughts into words. “I spent a lot of time tearing down and ridiculing ponies of faith.” As he spoke, he saw the sadness in Luna’s eyes. “I wanted my rationality to mean more. To be right. I wanted to belittle ponies of faith so my own sense of self-righteousness would grow fat. I revelled in my own smug sense of superiourity. Going to the Widowwood, I must say, it rather brought out the worst in me. It reaffirmed much of my negative views and how I felt about faith. But, it also changed how I felt about it.”

“That is brave of you to say that.” For a moment, Luna’s lips pursed together, and then she said, “Potato Blossom is still a pony of faith. It’s bruised. Wounded. But it is a fundamental part of her being. Once the grevious wounds inflicted have healed, she will go in search of restoration. Likely, she will come to you, because she trusts you. Wholly and completely.”

“Why me?” Nut asked. “What have I done to deserve this trust?”

“I often ask myself the same question.” Luna shrugged, she no longer rubbed her chin, and she folded her wing back against her side. “I’ve been a monster. Who am I that I deserve this trust and affection? Yet, I have it, and I am a better pony for having been blessed with it. Things have changed for me. Tremendously. My sister and I, we are one, as we were meant to be. I am reclaiming myself from the dark shadow that consumed me. I am still figuring everything out, which is hard, and almost every day, my sister reminds me to be the sort of pony others believe me to be.

“Which is hard, because many still do not trust me. To many, I am still the monster. The Nightmare.” She sighed, then smiled. “But there is my sister. My husband. I have friends. There is Twilight Sparkle. Each day, I remind myself of my friends, and then I try to be the pony they believe me to be.” Leaning in a little closer, she asked, “Shall I add you to the list?”

The question caught him off guard, and he blinked as he sat there, rigid.

After a few seconds of awkward silence that felt like hours, he responded, “By all means.”

“Huzzah, I am friends with mine creation!”

Then, without warning, he was hugged. It was an odd moment, and Luna seemed quite enthusiastic about it, because she almost tipped over his desk, which he was too big to be sitting in. After a bit of time not knowing what to do, he leaned into the embrace, and allowed it to happen. By his own estimation, the hug lasted for far too long, and it was a relief when Luna finally pulled away.

Author's Note:

Now. There it is. Suddenly, a lot of things just now made sense. Or became ever-the-more confusing. Good. Good.

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