• Published 13th Oct 2019
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The Life and Times of Everypony - Leafdoggy

A collection of short stories set in the same ever-evolving world.

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New Moon (Applejack, Luna/Nightmare Moon)

“Thank you for coming so promptly, Starlight.”

The heavy wooden doors creaked with an ominous finality as Celestia led Starlight Glimmer into the throne room. She nodded confidently to the guards stationed inside, and in turn they left. The thud of the shutting doors, leaving the two utterly secluded, seemed to suck the air out of the room.

“Of course, Princess,” Starlight said. The two walked slowly towards the far end of the room. The evening light, filtered through the grand stained glass windows, bathed them in a tide of eerie colors. “If I may be so bold as to ask, what exactly did you call me here for? It sounded quite urgent.”

“Yes, quite,” Celestia agreed. She stopped in front of the door leading into Princess Luna’s bedroom, and looked down at Starlight. “Did you tell anypony that you were coming here?”

“Just Trixie,” Starlight said, “and I told her you didn’t want Twilight and the others to know. Not that I understand why.”

“Twilight can be… Brash, at times,” Celestia explained. “We feared that, should she find out, she would be unable to keep herself from interfering.”

“Okay…” Starlight pursed her lips. “Princess, this all seems very strange. It’s not like you to be so cloak and dagger.”

Celestia sighed. “I know. Please, just hear us out.” She knocked sharply on the door. “Sister,” she called out, “she’s here.”

The door slid slowly open. Luna’s bedroom was nothing like Starlight would have imagined. Naturally, one’s first assumptions when pondering the tastes of the Princess of the Night are of doom and gloom, but Luna eschewed that. It was dark, of course, filled with the dark blues and purples of the night, but it didn’t give an air of darkness. Speckled throughout the room were bits of light, stars in the night. Perhaps a white lamp under a dark shade, or light, cream colored patterns accenting wooden furniture. Sharp contrast could be found everywhere, and it gave the room an air not like an unceasing void, but rather like an open field under a full moon.

They were greeted by a strange scene. Beside the door stood Applejack, wearing a solemn frown. Her head was bare, her hat draped haphazardly on a bed post. Luna was on the bed, her mane a mess, her crown discarded, massaging her temples with her face shoved into a pillow. A soft glow emanated from her horn.

“Oh, my,” Starlight said. She put a hoof over her mouth in shock. “Princess Luna, are you alright?”

Applejack shut the door after they were inside. “She’s been better,” Applejack said, “but she’s toughin it out.”

“What’s going on?” Starlight asked.

“This morning, at dawn, something… Went wrong,” Celestia said. “Luna lowered the moon, I raised the sun, all as we always do, but then Luna started raising the moon back up.”

“That’s a bad sign,” Starlight said.

Celestia nodded. “I’m sure you can imagine my fears, but I arrived to find her panicking. It seemed her magic was acting on its own.”

“So what she’s doing now…”

“She’s holdin it down,” Applejack said, “and plum tuckered from it. I guess fightin your own magic really takes a lot outta a pony.”

“So I’m here to, what, hold it while she sleeps?” Starlight asked.

Celestia shook her head. “No, we’re hoping for a more permanent solution. It is my belief that this is happening because of Nightmare Moon.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Starlight said. “Nightmare Moon isn’t, like, trapped inside Luna, she just is Luna. She can’t do anything, she shouldn’t even have any sort of consciousness.”

“I’m, uh, afraid that’s where I come in,” Applejack said. She scratched the back of her neck awkwardly. “See, Luna visits my dreams at night. Not, like, dream Luna, but the actual Luna. But it’s still a dream! We both thought she wouldn’t be able to do any sorta real damage, so sometimes Luna would kinda, sorta, uh…”

Starlight raised an eyebrow and stared at Applejack. “Seriously?”

“There shouldn’t of been no harm in it!” Applejack insisted. “It was just some harmless fun is all.”

“‘Harmless fun’ with a supervillain,” Starlight said.

“Hey, I don’t judge you for your past,” Applejack said.

“Yeah, cuz it’s my past,” Starlight replied. “My girlfriend doesn’t ask me to magically turn myself back into a cult leader for dates.”

“C’mon, it ain’t as bad as all that,” Applejack argued.

“Uh-huh, sure.” Starlight rolled her eyes. “So you let out a supervillain, and she did a bad thing, and now we’re here. How am I actually supposed to help?”

“We need to banish her again,” Celestia said.

Starlight gasped. “What? That’s crazy! If anything, that’ll just make things worse.”

“We have a plan,” Celestia said. “Last time I banished her, though, I needed the Elements, and those aren’t an option.”

“Because you don’t want Twilight to find out about this?” Starlight asked.

“Well,” Celestia said, “that, and…”

“And I’m goin too,” Applejack said.

“Wh-” Starlight looked back and forth between Applejack and Celestia. “Am I the only sane pony left in Equestria?”

“Nightmare Moon likes me,” Applejack explained. “Like you said, she’s just Luna, and Luna and I love each other. So I’m gonna take Nightmare Moon up where she can’t hurt nopony, and just… Talk some sense into her.”

“You’re just going to talk to Nightmare Moon,” Starlight repeated. “Because she likes you.”

“That’s the plan,” Applejack said.

“I believe that, together, the two of us would be able to banish them,” Celestia said. “Please, will you help us?”

Starlight sighed. She paced back and forth for a moment, staring at the ground as she thought. Then, finally, she groaned and threw up a leg in frustration. “Fine,” she said. “Sure! I mean, everypony’s going looney anyway, Equestria’s probably only got a couple years left in it. Might as well throw Nightmare Moon into the mix!” She sighed again and went to stand next to Celestia. “Ready whenever.”

“Thank you, Starlight,” Celestia said. Then she tapped Luna gently on the shoulder. “Sister? It’s time.”

Luna raised her head with a groan. She had bags under her eyes, and looked like she could hardly focus. With some effort, she pushed herself up off the bed and went to stand next to Applejack, who held her steady.

“Okay, Starlight, get ready,” Celestia said. “She needs to become Nightmare Moon before we banish her, otherwise she may get cut off from that part of herself by the magic. So we have to be fast, and not let up until we know they’re gone.”

“Yeah, sure,” Starlight said. “Got it.”

Celestia nodded to Luna, who hesitated for a moment before nodding back. She relaxed her tense shoulders, sighed out a deep breath, and released the magic she had been keeping up. As soon as she did, freezing blue flames wrapped themselves around her. An instant later, they wisped away, and where Luna had just been stood the imposing form of Nightmare Moon.

“Ha!” she cackled. “Fools, you—”

She was cut off as a massive beam of magic shot forth from Starlight’s horn. It was inches away from striking its targets when a wall of flames shot out from the ground, blocking it completely. A second later, Celestia joined in Starlight’s assault, and they poured all their might into breaking through Nightmare Moon’s defenses.

Nightmare Moon looked proudly at the flames, then turned her gaze to Applejack. When their eyes met, a grin slid onto her face. “Oh, my princess,” she purred. She leaned down to whisper in Applejack’s ear. “Call them off,” she told her. “You and I both know how powerful we would be together. No force in or outside of Equestria could stop us. We could have it all.”

Applejack chuckled. “You know darn good and well that ain’t gonna work.”

Nightmare Moon sighed. “Yes, sadly. Still, you can’t blame a girl for trying.” She reached out to stroke Applejack’s chin tauntingly. Applejack let out a tiny, happy sigh before she could stop herself. “Really, dear, must we go to that dingy old place?”

A beam of light broke through the flames and flew over Nightmare Moon’s head.

“Sure do.”

“You know I could leave, right?” Nightmare Moon said. “If that wall breaks, I could vanish in half the time it takes that spell to strike me.”

“Sure,” Applejack said, “but I can’t. You got enough juice left after today to get two ponies outta the way?”

“I could leave you,” Nightmare Moon threatened.

“I would greatly prefer if you didn’t,” Applejack said. “I want this to work. You know that.”

“That’s your big plan? To just ask me? Appeal to my fondness for you?” Nightmare Moon scoffed.

“Yeah, you pretty much got the idea of it,” Applejack said. “Please, Nightmare Moon. I know you. Nopony else has seen it, but I know there’s more to you than just being an evil Luna. Please, just talk to me.”

“Ugh,” Nightmare Moon grumbled. “No need to debase yourself. You knew I was going.” With a swipe of her hoof she cut the wall of flames in two, and an instant later the two ponies were enveloped in a blinding light.

Starlight only lasted a few more seconds before her magic petered out and she fell, panting, to her knees. Celestia ceased her own spell soon after, and walked over to lay a hoof comfortingly on Starlight’s back.

“Thank you for that, Starlight,” Celestia said. “Now we need only to trust in Applejack.”

“Uh-huh,” Starlight gasped in between breaths. “No… No problem.”

Far, far away from them, Applejack rubbed her eyes, trying to clear the light that still seemed to burn inside them.

“Ah, yes, I forgot to warn you about the light.” Nightmare Moon’s voice echoed endlessly around Applejack, making it feel like she was everywhere at once. “Oops,” she teased.

“Yeah, I bet you’re real sorry,” Applejack grumbled. She shook her head violently, and the shiver carried all the way down her spine. She sat back on the cold, jagged stone underneath them as her vision slowly started to return to her.

“Oh, come now, there’s no need to be snippy.” Applejack still couldn’t quite tell where Nightmare Moon’s voice was coming from, but she could tell she was being circled. “We may be stuck here for a thousand years, we may as well spend it in good company.”

“I don’t plan to be here more than a couple hours,” Applejack told her. “And quit stalkin around like a hungry wolf!”

“Oh, but it’s so fun,” Nightmare Moon whined. She walked up behind Applejack and leaned down. Her breath was icy cold as she whispered into Applejack’s ear. “Is this better?”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Just sit down and talk to me like a normal pony! We ain’t here for canoodlin.”

Applejack took one more deep breath, and finally the blurriness cleared from her eyes. It took her a minute to realize, though, because the world around her wasn’t quite what she expected. The stone under her hooves looked like moonrock, sure, and felt like it, but it stretched out forever in every direction. Here and there the stone would wave up and down, the gentle shapes of hills and craters, but aside from that it was entirely flat. It was like she was stranded in a sea of stone, but even compared to an ocean, this felt far less contained.

She looked to the sky, searching for some way to orient herself, but grew dizzy from the sight. There was nothing. No stars, no sun, no Equestria. Just an inky blackness. The only light seemed to come from the moon itself, and even that could hardly penetrate the darkness enough to light the ponies’ face.

Or at least, Applejack’s face. As she looked back down, she realized that she seemed to be alone.

“Nightmare Moon?” Applejack called out. “Luna? You still around? Where’d you get off to?”

A pillar of smoke and flame erupted before Applejack, and within it stood Nightmare Moon. She reared up and cackled, sharp and brilliant against the empty sky. When she landed her hooves back on the ground, they landed with a thunderous boom, and she grinned wickedly at Applejack.

“Oh, Applejack,” Nightmare Moon said, “this is my realm. I am always here.”

“Yeah. Sure.”

Nightmare Moon huffed. “Can’t you at least play along?”

“We’re here for a reason, Nightmare Moon,” Applejack said.

“And what reason would that be?”

“Really?” Applejack groaned. “The reason is that you betrayed my trust!”

“Trust?” Nightmare Moon scoffed. “You’re a fool if you trusted me.”

“And yet I did.”

Nightmare Moon started to pace back and forth in front of Applejack. “What are you expecting to happen here? Do you want me to apologize? To promise that I’ll be a good little girl?”

“It’d help.”

“I did what I had to do. What, should I have been happy to be trapped in your dreams while those little cretins in Equestria refused to give me an ounce of respect?” Nightmare Moon stomped a hoof on the ground, and her mane and tail flared up as she did.

“I respected you,” Applejack said.

“You pitied me.”

“No. I respected you.” Applejack shook her head remorsefully. “I respect Luna. That much is obvious. Everypony respects Luna, even if you can’t see that. But I respected you, too. Past all the bad decisions and self destruction, I respected the things I saw in you.”

“Then why won’t you help me?”

“I’m tryin,” Applejack said. She sighed and laid down, propping her head up with a hoof. “I’m really tryin.”

Nightmare Moon looked down at Applejack, staring blankly into the dust at her hooves, and pursed her lips. She stood there, silent and motionless, as she thought.

Then she walked forward and laid down, face to face with Applejack.

“I truly do not understand your goals here, Applejack,” she said. It was probably the first time she had heard Nightmare Moon lower her voice, although she was still far from quiet. “I’ve had thousands of years to solidify my beliefs, and yet you intend to just talk me out of them?”

“I just wanna talk,” Applejack said. “The plan didn’t go no further than that.”

“Well, we’ve a thousand years to do so.”

“I guess we’ll just start at the top, then,” Applejack said. “What exactly were you tryin to do here?”

“Obviously I intended to gain control,” Nightmare Moon said. “To place Luna in a situation dire enough that she would have no choice but to face the truth of the world around her.”

“What truth?”

“That she- that I am nothing to them!” Nightmare Moon swiped a hoof through the air, sparks flying off it as she did. “You heard my sister yourself. The flow of the moon falters for even a moment, and her first instinct is to assume the worst of me.”

“But it was you,” Applejack said.

Nightmare Moon huffed in frustration. “That isn’t the point! Unicorns controlled the celestial bodies for eons before my sister and I, she knows how easily another pony could influence them, and yet she presumes her own sister a villain.”

“She dropped it as soon as she saw you, though.”

“I don’t care. It’s clear as day she’s as afraid of me as the rest of Equestria.” Nightmare Moon growled and dug her hoof into the ground. “If that is how it’s destined to be, why should I not give them something to be afraid of?”

“Things have been getting better,” Applejack told her. “Goin back to all this is just throwin all that progress down the drain.”

“So I should just grin and bear it? Spend decades grovelling at the hooves of ponies, devoting my life to Equestria, in the hope that someday it might be better?”

“I mean, yeah, kinda.” Applejack sighed. “I don’t want you to go through all that, and I don’t think it’s gonna be decades, but you can’t just make things worse cuz you’re scared they won’t get better.”

“You don’t see it, Applejack. The way they look at me. The way they dream of me. Luna isn’t equipped for it. She won’t last as long as it would take to fix things. One day, I will return, and it’ll all start over.”

“I agree.”

“You just don’t— What?”

“Luna can’t deal with those things. She’s taken every bit of forcefulness she had, anything even remotely negative inside her, and locked it up in you. I think she needs you. Or, at least… I think you could help her.”

“I am trying to help her!”

Applejack shook her head. “That’s real hard to believe after all this. You could just be usin her as a convenient excuse to get power. You sure didn’t have any qualms usin me.”

“Of course I used you! You’re the only reason I could do anything at all, I couldn’t just let the opportunity slip by.”

Applejack frowned and looked away from her. “And here I thought you actually liked me.”

“Oh, come on, don’t be absurd. Using you doesn’t mean I don’t like you. I came to the moon for you, did I not?”

“Well, convincing me you’re safe would sure be a handy way to avoid bein sent here for good.”

“Not everything I do is a ploy.”

Applejack sighed, still not looking at her.

“Applejack, I came here for you.” Nightmare Moon stuck a hoof out in a pleading gesture. “How can you not see that?”

“Trusting what I see is what got us in this situation in the first place,” Applejack said.

“Then what do you want from me? What am I supposed to do if you won’t believe a word I say?”

“I dunno, Nightmare Moon.” Applejack crossed her legs in front of her and rested her chin on them. “Maybe this was a fool’s play after all.”

“What would you have me do?” Nightmare Moon asked. “You believe I could help Luna, yet you reject the very nature of what I am.”

“You can stand up for yourself without hurting other ponies. You haven’t even tried just talking.”

“I have tried to make my voice heard my entire life!”

“Not Luna,” Applejack said. She turned back to look at her again. “You. Nightmare Moon.”

Nightmare Moon scoffed. “You can’t really be so naive as to think any of them would listen to me.”

“I think they might. Celestia tried to make things better after Luna came back. Sure, she sent you here, but she heard what you said.”

“This is preposterous,” Nightmare Moon said.

“You haven’t tried,” Applejack replied.

“They would never even allow me to exist in the waking world.”

“Do they have a choice? Celestia can’t banish you on her own. Just calm down before backup can get there.” Applejack shrugged. “She’ll get it eventually.”

“Or she’ll decide Luna poses too much of a threat and banish her anyway.”

“Well, that’d just prove you right,” Applejack said. “At least this way, you’ll have tried somethin new.”

“What makes you think I even have the means to do this?”

“You’re kinda doin it right now,” Applejack told her.

“Yes, and clearly I’ve already hurt you,” Nightmare Moon said. “I won’t be tolerated long.”

“We’ll work on it,” Applejack told her. “Please, Nightmare Moon, just try. I really think this could work.”

Nightmare Moon sighed. “You truly believe I could improve things for myself this way?”

“I really, truly do.”

“I suppose, then, that I can give it an attempt,” Nightmare Moon said. “For my princess.”

“Thank you,” Applejack said, and she let out a long held breath.

“So,” Nightmare Moon said, “now what? We have a thousand years to fill.”

“Nah, I figure they’ll fetch us before dawn,” Applejack replied. “Let Luna lower the moon and all.”

“We’ll see.”

“As for what to do,” Applejack continued. She stood up and walked over to Nightmare Moon, then laid down beside her and leaned on her heavily. “That all took a lot outta me. I figure we just unwind.”

“I suppose that works.” Nightmare Moon wrapped a wing around Applejack. “You know, you look strange without a hat.”

“Without a—” Applejack reached up and patted her bare head, then cursed under her breath. “I can’t believe I forgot it. Now I really hope we ain’t up here for a thousand years.”

“We could always make a new one out of moon rock.”

Applejack chuckled. “Yeah, sure. If I get desperate.” She sighed and rested her head against Nightmare Moon. “What’s up with this place, anyway? It sure ain’t how you made it look in my dreams.”

“Well, the reality of it is quite depressing,” Nightmare Moon said. “It’s just this, forever. Trust me, I looked.”

“So we’re not actually on the moon?”

“Of course not. If that were the case, I could have just flown back.” Nightmare Moon shook her head. “No, we’re in it, in a sense. It’s probably more apt to say we’ve become a part of it.”

“That’s… Unsettling.”

“Indeed. Try not to think about where our actual bodies may be,” Nightmare Moon told her. “That’s not a path you want to go down.”

Applejack shivered at the thought, and Nightmare Moon used it as an excuse to hold her tighter. They spent the entire night like this, pressed up against each other, whittling the hours away with conversation. It was, at least for the locale, a lovely night spent together.

Eventually, though, dawn approached. Back in Canterlot, Celestia stood in the throne room next to a very tired Starlight. Celestia counted down, was interrupted by a yawn, counted down again, and then together they fired those same beams of light at the floor before them.

A moment later the light cleared, and there stood Applejack and Nightmare Moon. Applejack had tried to shield her eyes this time, but she still had to shake her head to knock away the stunning light in her vision. Nightmare Moon, for her part, wasted no time in glaring at Celestia, but aside from that she made no moves.

“Welcome back,” Celestia said coldly. She met Nightmare Moon’s glare with her own.

“Hello, sister,” Nightmare Moon hissed.

“Alright, simmer down,” Applejack said. She moved to stand between the two of them. “Ain’t no reason to start a fight.”

“So things went smoothly?” Starlight asked.

“Smooth as they could,” Applejack answered.

“Oh, hello Starlight!” Nightmare Moon grinned down at the unicorn. “So nice to finally meet you. I must say, I do rather admire you.”

“Uh-huh,” Starlight said slowly. “I’ll, uh, take that as a compliment, I guess.”

“Oh, you should,” Nightmare Moon told her. “Let me know if you’d even like lessons beyond those Twilight could ever teach.”

“Enough of this,” Celestia demanded. “Return my sister to me, or return to the moon.”

Nightmare Moon’s gaze snapped back to Celestia. “I am your sister,” she said.

She didn’t wait for a response, though. With that said, a wreath blue flames grew around Nightmare Moon, whisking her away and leaving Luna in her place.

Luna stumbled, and Applejack ran to catch her. “Woah, there,” Applejack said, and Luna smiled down at her.

Celestia rushed over to her. “Sister, are you alright?”

Luna nodded slowly. “Yes, I’ll be okay,” she said. “I’m just tired.”

“And the spell?” Starlight asked.

“Undone,” Luna said. “It won’t be a problem again.”

“What a relief,” Celestia sighed. “Thank you for this, Applejack.”

“Least I could do,” Applejack said. “Now.” She gave Luna a kiss on the cheek, then passed her off to Celestia. “I really gotta be gettin home. Luna’s gonna be right as rain after some sleep, and farm work waits for nopony.”

“I’ll take you back,” Starlight said. “I’m much faster than the train.”

“I appreciate it,” Applejack said. “More importantly, though…” She turned and started walking towards Luna’s bedroom. “I gotta get my hat.”

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