• Published 22nd Nov 2019
  • 951 Views, 66 Comments

By The Light of the Moon - Lets Do This

Faced with Nightmare Moon's approaching return, Twilight, Tempest, and their classmates need help from an expert... a pony named Moondancer. But it's the last thing Moondancer wants to talk about...

  • ...

Musical Chairs

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the Moon, the Moon,
They danced by the light of the Moon...
-- The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear


"All right, class!" called Ms. Flask, the gray-coated science teacher. "Settle down now! Open your books to page 54, and read the next chapter. And quietly please! Let's all show what attentive students we are."

Across the room, at one of the student tables, a beige unicorn filly with a red-and-blue striped mane sat, hunched and nervous. She dutifully flipped open her book and tried to focus on the reading assignment, but her mind wasn't on the text in front of her. Instead, she kept glancing across the room, towards a table near the front.

A lavender, blue-maned unicorn sat there, all by herself. She already had her snout buried in her book, its pages steadily turning in the magenta gleam of her magic. Twilight Sparkle... the Princess's own personal protégé. The best student in class. The one filly whom even the teachers deferred to. Twilight pretty much set her own rules on how, or when, or what she studied...

... or with whom.

I'm gonna do it, Moondancer told herself. I'm gonna walk right over there, say hi, and ask if I can sit with her.

She was certain the two of them could be good friends. There was no other filly in class -- in the entire School, even -- who so clearly loved books as much as Moondancer did. No other filly who had so many answers right at her hooftips. No other filly who was so calmly, definitively right about every subject.

No other filly who had her library card laminated, for Celestia's sake, so the thing wouldn't wear out!

Moondancer gritted her teeth. No one ever makes fun of Twilight -- no one would dare. And maybe... just maybe... if we were friends...

... no one would ever make fun of me, either...

She put her forehooves on the table. She tensed, nerving herself to stand up, walk across the room, and ask. And then...

"Right over here, young lady," said Ms. Flask. "And have a seat."

The entire class watched in astonishment as the tall, broken-horned unicorn trotted over to the indicated table. Hesitantly shrugging out of her green carryall, she sat down. Right next to Twilight Sparkle.

Across the room, Moondancer slumped in despair.

She watched as the fierce-looking maroon filly struggled to reach for a book from the pile in front of her. And then saw Twilight herself using her magic to nudge it into reach. The new unicorn grabbed it and settled in, occasionally glaring about watchfully.

She didn't look at all like the type who appreciated company.

Moondancer sank back on her haunches. Well... so much for that idea, she thought somberly.

"Awww... tough break, Moondancer!" whispered Minuette, the cyan filly seated opposite her at the table. She smiled sympathetically. "Still, you've always got the three of us, right?"

"Did you see that?" Lemon Hearts whispered, her eyes wide. "That new pony can't even use her horn! How the hay is she supposed to work magic?"

Twinkleshine scratched her pink mane with a hoof. "Maybe that's why Celestia put her with Twilight? She knows how much Twilight loves a challenge!"

"Yeah!" Minuette laughed. "Seriously? Put Twilight in a round room, she'd find a corner!"

The three of them giggled knowingly at that. And then, as usual, the conversation veered off in an unpredictable direction. The three fillies whispered together about music, about plans for get-togethers, about colts... everything but the chapter in front of them, which they were supposed to be studying...

But Ms. Flask wasn't paying attention to the conversation in class. She was still standing by the door to the hall, speaking with somepony outside. And nervously bobbing, all the while, up and down like a pump handle.

Leaning curiously, Moondancer tried to see.

And nearly fell over in astonishment. It's Princess Celestia herself!

Moondancer watched in awe as the ivory-white alicorn looked in at Twilight and her new tablemate.

And smiled proudly.

Moondancer sighed. If only, she thought, if only the Princess would smile at me like that... just once. Then I'd feel certain that everything was going to be all right...

Morosely, she turned back to her book, back to the lesson. Back to her life, which wasn't suddenly about to change for the better...

Her face landed on the book.

Well, today is officially over. Can I just go back to my room now?


When lunchtime finally arrived, Moondancer didn't feel hungry. Instead, she trotted down the School corridors towards the library. All the way there, she was hunched, her eyes lowered, not meeting anyone's gaze, trying not to attract attention.

She reached the library, shut the door behind her.

And relaxed. Suddenly, it was as if an entirely different pony was sitting there, straight and tall, head held high, and smiling. She gazed up happily at the endless shelves of books that surrounded her comfortingly. Books that never judged her, never kept her out, never made light of the myriad things she read about and thought about and liked so much. Never chattered on endlessly and confusingly about completely inconsequential stuff...

Never laughed at Moondancer, or at the mark on her flank, the Moon and its Shepherd Stars.

The Mark... of the Nightmare.

Moondancer found her favorite spot, a comfortable window seat beneath a tall picture window, through which Celestia's sun shone, warmly and brightly. Shrugging off her carryall, she reached into the left side pocket and pulled out a large blue hardcover volume, with a crescent moon on its cover.

Flipping it open to a blank page, Moondancer sat for a moment, tongue between her teeth, quill hovering beside her in her magic.

Then she started writing.

Dear Nightmare Moon --

I was so close! I almost managed it. I almost got to sit next to Twilight Sparkle. But, like usual, I wimped out and I missed my chance. What do I do now? How do I get Twilight to notice me, to see how much I want us to be friends?

Why... why am I always so useless, so worthless?

Her pen paused, and she stared out through the window.

If only... she thought.

If only I could get an answer back...

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