• Published 22nd Nov 2019
  • 899 Views, 65 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...

  • ...

The Pony Who Danced With the Moon

The pony sat at the desk, in her dorm room. It was early in the morning, just before dawn. There was a book on the desk before her, a blue journal with a crescent moon on its cover. She flipped it open to a random page, read a few of the entries, thoughtful and silent.

"Nightmare Moon..." Trixie whispered.

And she felt, like the touch of a ghost, an armored hoof settling gently onto her shoulder.

"Thou summoned me?" the Nightmare asked, a hint of cold humor in her tone.

Trixie sighed, angrily.

"I had friends... well, followers! Ponies who listened to me, believed in me, did what I told them. To them, I was Great and Powerful! Well, sort of. And you made me give all that up. After I worked so hard for it!"

"Merely a stepping stone," the nightmare chuckled dismissively. "One small step on the path to true greatness." She leaned closer. Hot, sulfurous breath whispered at Trixie's ear. "What matters is, you have settled any doubt concerning you, amongst the others -- Twilight and her friends. They will trust you now, believe you now. You are in the right place, my little pony, ready to act. All is in readiness! You should be proud of what you have accomplished!"

Trixie was silent for a while.

Then she tapped the pages in front of her. "Moondancer had a journal, just like Sunset. And she wrote to you, again and again, even though she never got answers back. She just kept writing."

"What need have you, Trixie, for such things?" The nightmare snorted. "You can talk to me directly now. You need not wait for night, for dreams..."

"And then you make me forget again!" Trixie grumbled. "So I never know whether what I do is my own idea... or yours."

"But the two should be one and the same, correct? You serve me, I protect and guide you. Unless you're saying that's not what you want any longer?" There was a sharp edge in her voice.

"No..." Trixie said sadly. "I do want to be Great and Powerful, just like you promised. I just... I don't know..."

Trixie sighed, and stared at the journal again. She idly flipped through its pages, reading the words, the many messages. The quiet, lonely voice, struggling against its own self-doubt...

"She cares about you so much," Trixie said. "You matter to her."

Nightmare Moon sniffed. "In name only. To her I am merely an imaginary friend, a substitute for a mother she felt unable to talk to directly, an outlet for her private thoughts..."

Trixie stared out through the window, at the first rays of sunlight verging over the distant mountains. "And she believes that you care about her. That you watch over her. That you'd protect her, if she was ever frightened or in danger."

There was silence behind her. Then, suddenly, a different voice spoke.

"Is that what this is all about, my diligent student? You worry we do not care about thee? You worry that, having attained our dominion, we should forget about thee? Thou should know better than that by now!"

Trixie turned to look. "Princess Luna?"

The dark-blue alicorn smiled. "Who else would it be?"

"But... you shouldn't be here! What if Nightmare Moon finds out..."

"Silly little pony!" Luna replied. "I am Nightmare Moon. We are, and have always been, one and the same. During my Night, when she is awake, I slumber in her thoughts. During the Day, she sleeps... and dreams of me."

The hoof on Trixie's shoulder squeezed gently, caringly.

"Have no fear, Trixie Luna Moon. When we are set free, we shall never forget the one who aided us. The one that we shall set above all others, as archmage of our dominion -- our Great and Powerful student." She leaned closer, nuzzling Trixie's mane. "Just remember, Trixie: never any fear...

... and never any doubt!"

Trixie knew enough not to reach out, as dearly as she wanted to. It would shatter the illusion, as it always did.

She just smiled up at the Princess...

... with tears streaming down her cheeks.

The End

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, its characters and indicia are the property of Hasbro.
No infringement is intended. This story is a work of fan fiction, written by fans for fans of the series.

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Comments ( 40 )

One of these days you WILL have to stop beating around the bush with this. Just all the waiting is what killed the series for me as it is.

Oh and the Trixie bit I honestly don't see why it has to be a thing. Except for drama and a need to make somehow important at all.

REALLY good job on the exchange between Trixie and Luna/Nightmare Moon. Yeah, they BOTH actually make some good points and I DID enjoy Luna's more compassionate side coming out, however briefly, to reassure Trixie. And, yeah, I continue to hope Trixie will make the realization that it would be in LUNA's (and, by extension, Nightmare Moon's) best interest to patch things up with Celestia, allowing her to honor her deal WITHOUT betraying her friends.

Anyway, the cliffhanger/future story set-up IS quite well done.

Actually, what put Sunset on the floor was Moondancer's memories, as described in the second chapter. I originally considered putting that chapter at that point, as Sunset's "empathy flashback", but the current structure works better, since it gives you a sense of where Moondancer is coming from when Twilight and the others go looking for her.

Ooh, new story in the Not Exactly Friends series.

Thanks much, CK -- as always, I really appreciate the in-depth feedback. It helps!
It's also great to hear that the little details I worked in, like the Pear family, and what became of Starlight's fellow villagers when she didn't form her own cult, were a plus. Some of those are spur of the moment, some are planned, but either way, glad you liked it!

And there's the end of it... I shall enjoy the next part, when it comes out, although the wait leading up to it... Is a necessary evil. Don't want to end up like Pokémon SwSh, gutting the next entry in the series just to get it out quick.

So with Twilight’s group now officially having six members, I guess it won’t be much longer until they need to take on Nightmare Moon. How will everyone react when they learn Trixie’s secret?

It just seemed appropriate to acknowledge that nothing is ever truly lost, including those who feel directionless and in need of a purpose and a leader of some sort. If not Starlight, they'd eventually have found somepony else...


Guy, if you don't like it, then why are you still reading it at all?

I have been wondering whether Starlight still checks up on Sunburst every now and then offscreen. Last thing we need is him switching places with her as cult leader. Her getting enrolled is pretty much a chance to stay in touch with him.

Oh, with the phrasing and situation it reads like she got smacked right in the face. It's also incredibly contrived how suddenly Sunset just knows everything for no reason at all which a chapter, flashback, vision, anything would help with as long as there's a reason or implied reason. Not just that she needs to know for the story to continue.

EDIT: Or bringing this up before would've been nice.

Sunset shrugged. Now was as good a time as any to bring it up. "When I crossed over through the mirror, I picked up this weird empathy talent. I touch someone, and bam, I see things about them: memories, feelings, sometimes stuff they're not even aware of themselves!"

Once again, you totally nail the characterizations. You seemed nervous about writing Moondancer's entry to the group in previous installments, but it's really easy to see how this Moondancer could have ended up as Canon Moondancer if not for the divergent track Tempest ending up at CSGU spurred into motion. I also can't help but wonder if you didn't take some of the advice I gave previously in your decision to split this entry into smaller vignette chapter segments while still achieving the longer story length needed to get all of the details in. Either way, it worked, and you were able to maintain the pacing of each segment as its own self-contained yet still connected narrative.

We also get to see more of the excellent characterization you've already done for the existing cast, and Celestia's own assessment of them, and they sparked me to reconsider some of my own headcanons for the Ponies in question.

  • Tempest remains unchanged for the most part, but her character got a bit more fleshed out, and she got an opportunity to flex her intimidation skills a bit, which was cool.
  • Starlight got placed firmly into the role of rear-echelon support. The power behind the throne so to speak. Before I'd always through of her as a good front-tier administrator, considering she managed to keep "Her" Town going despite the issues it no doubt would have faced without anyone allowed any specialty skills, and later taking over the School of Friendship, but you've gotten me to consider that she may be better in the role of a sort of, power behind the throne, so to say. Yes, she's highly competent as an administrator, but she'd probably be even Better as an advisor, working alongside the team-lead, but following the tangential and alternative tracks while looking at the problems they face from different angles.
  • Trixie also got to show a bit more of her fangs, though you've also introduced a bit more doubt into her character to go along with the reassurance to her position within Twilight's group of friends. It will be interesting to see how her character develops. It's clear she is being influenced by Luna/Nightmare Moon, but it might also be interesting to see if that influence can go both ways, and as others have suggested, ultimately how she interprets how she will be able to "Best" serve her mentor and Princess. I think Luna actually gave her a key to that conundrum here, by saying that she is dominant during the day while the Nightmare sleeps, and it was obvious from her earlier introduction that Trixie much prefers Luna to her Nightmare alter-ego, and if the day never comes, will the Nightmare ever sleep again? Questions for another time.
  • Sunset was also interesting, taking a secondary role to Twilight. Some of that in the beginning might be that she's still somewhat hung up on her earlier failures, but I think she managed to get her hooves under her a bit more thanks to being able to help Moondancer, and coming to the realization that while it's good that she can lead others, she's much better at letting others take the lead while taking up the role of motivating them to break past the barriers they sometimes don't even realized they've placed in front of themselves.

The only sticking point, and this is a minor one, was the beginning of the second chapter. It took me about half of the first segment to realize that it was a flashback, but after that it had a strange (but good) quality to it where it almost seemed as though we were reading through Moondancer looking back through her own memories in time with the end of the first chapter, barring of course the first one where she would have been too young to remember. Putting it at the beginning of the story, it would have probably run into similar issues to Sunset -- Part I, but I'm not really sure what a good way to go about making the transition to flashback more explicit without beating the readers over the head with it would look like.

Ah, but as Celestia said this is an entirely new generation, and evolving into an entirely new power. Just as Sorcery became Magic, Bravery became Loyalty, Hope became Laughter, Beauty became Generosity, Healing became Kindness, and Strength became Honesty, so too might Magic, Laughter, Generosity, Honesty, Loyalty and Kindness turn out to be something entirely new and different.

I'm thinking possibly something along the lines of Science (Twilight), Wonder (Trixie), Inspiration (Starlight), Confidence (Moondancer), Honor (Tempest), and Empathy (Sunset).

Of course, this is just me Mass Wild A:yay: guessing. I could be (and probably am) entirely wrong.

I can see how the text as written could be misread that way, so I've tweaked the last line before the scene break to make it clear it's flashback, not roundhouse.

I do reference Sunset's "empathy flashback" ability in both Sunset -- Part II and Saving Sunset Shimmer. It's part of her canon character, much like Twilight's bookishness. But fair enough, if you were starting with this episode (and/or haven't seen the EQG movies) that might not have been a given.

Thanks much for the detailed feedback! Yes, this was a bit of a challenge, creating an essentially semi-OC backstory for Moondancer that still fits with her canon role as "the forgotten bookish friend". My assumption is that, in the canon universe, Moondancer's "talent" (her in-depth knowledge of Nightmare Moon) simply never had a chance to shine following Luna's return, which is part of what turns her into such a bitter recluse. In this universe, in keeping with the pattern from other episodes, she avoids that fate, and winds up Twilight's friend early on.

I also wanted to show how each of Twilight's new friends are pulling her in different directions: Tempest and Trixie are both encouraging her to stay sheltered and safe, though for different reasons. Starlight is on the fence, wanting to help but not feeling it's her place to say anything, so it's up to Sunset to haul Twilight out of the box and help her reconnect with her friends.

Thanks much for your thoughts on the characters. I've been writing them in a way that "fits" this universe, though I occasionally worry that they're not quite in keeping with their canon show versions -- though some of that could be because this is more of a "serious" tale, whereas canon episodes with, for example, Starlight and Trixie, tend to be played for laughs and so work on different aspects of the characters' personalities. It's reassuring to hear that I'm doing a good job with them, particularly the members of the group who don't happen to be the focus in each "episode", so to speak.

Regarding the second chapter, the "once upon a time..." lead-in was intended as a metaphorical hint that this was a backstory chapter. As noted in another comment, I considered making this an actual Sunset flashback, but instead decided to put it first in the story, to make Moondancer's character and motivations clear in the chapters that follow. I also considered making it a standalone "origin" story on its own, but decided I didn't want to leave a character on a sad, cliff-hanger ending this time round, so I rolled it into this story as a flashback/backstory chapter.

Again, thanks for reading, and for your in-depth comments. It's feedback like this that helps keep this series going!

Well, he didn't take the whole roof off, merely part of it. Hence, "nearly took the roof off", as simply "took the roof off" would imply that the whole roof came detached, which it did not, most of the roof actually stayed in place whilst a relatively small area of it was smashed open. Not sure whether that's a sign of excellent or horrible craftsmanship...

There's probably a building code for such things: "withstand a magnitude 6 earthquake, a scale 4 hurricane, force 3 tornado, and in addition provide sufficient headroom for one (1) magically summoned adult dragon..."

Hold on a second!

The Nightmare cult had a leader, didn’t it? Where’d she get to?


"Misdirection, my humble assistant!" Trixie intoned proudly. "Keep the audience distracted, keep them looking the wrong way, so they never see what you're really up to." She grinned happily. "And timing, too... that's so important!"

"I had friends... well, followers! Ponies who listened to me, believed in me, did what I told them. To them, I was Great and Powerful! Well, sort of. And you made me give all that up. After I worked so hard for it!"


If I understand this last chapter correctly, Trixie was the cult leader.


Regarding the second chapter, the "once upon a time..." lead-in was intended as a metaphorical hint that this was a backstory chapter.

I get that, and that's one of the elements that clicked in my brain letting me know it was a flashback a couple paragraphs down. I don't know. Maybe I was just tired when I was reading this last night. :derpytongue2:

I’m very conflicted as to how I should feel about the whole “duplicitous Trixie” angle, but I think that speaks to your skill in writing her. In any case, I will definitely be looking forward to the next installment.

"Conservation of destiny" maybe? In other words, everyone gets the banana peel they deserve...

Thanks, Eroraf86! Repeat customers are the sincerest form of flattery!

A trick?! You tricked me?!

Why, I oughta....

Yeah, I don't remember if I did and I don't like EQG so not there either.

Just burned through this whole series. It was wonderfully wholeseome!

Cool! Thanks much for the read, and glad you liked it!

So Twilight and.her friends have not actually made new magic, instead they have found another way to use the same magic as the elements... So Who figures out that the machine's reverse function of splitting magic can split Nightmare from Luna during the inevitable confrontation? Or we going with using the machine to restore the elements for use?

Wanderer D

All caught up, well done!

Brilliant stuff, as always. I’m always conflicted with AU’s that prevent the original Mane 6 from becoming friends, but this one’s been holding my interest for a while now.

Just... oof. Can’t wait to see how the Summer Sun Celebration goes this time around.

They are friends - in another dimension, and not with Twilight, but these are quibbles.


Dammit, Trixie! I was afraid of this!

To The Sequel! And to the Ponyville to See Maine 5! I am hoping

Wonder what the sequel is.


did I miss this? Seriously, how did this escape my notice?

Adding to Read Later.

...By all that is sweet and wonderful in this world. Please tell me there's more coming down the pipe. I just finished reading this entire series you've got. Imagination sparks and dear lord I. Need. More.

Wow! Thanks so much for reading, and for your kind feedback!
And worry not, there's definitely more coming here... :twilightsmile:

What can I say? I blitz stories. If they're good I'm hooked and can't sleep until I'm done with them. And now I've got ideas percolating thanks to this story and I'm not sure what to do with em. XD

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