• Published 14th Feb 2020
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Imperial Revision - The Sound of Loneliness

What would you do if you already had everything? Or everything you wanted. Her Majesty Nightmare Moon has recently discovered there is more to life than war, intrigues and edicts. Luna is trying to be helpful. She has no choice.

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The Princess of Memory

Nightmare Moon leaned in her voluptuous armchair and closed her eyes, relaxing ever so slightly. She’d signed all orders and read all reports for now. She had a single moment for herself.
Nightmare Moon tried to remember what she was supposed to take care off, but her mind was too dizzy to focus. Was it... 3rd Armored Division's requested -for the 5th time- reassignment from the bombed-out changeling hive? Maybe she should send Rainbow Dash in there too, it should make decent revenge to all of them being annoying.
Captain Rolling Thunder flooded her desk with formal complaints on the Leauitenant's discipline and requested permission to publicly whip her. As tempting as it was, the Empress had to refuse. It went against the bargain she struck with the former rebel leader, other Elements would not approve either.
Although, unofficially, the permission to "discipline" her in less formal ways was already in effect. Which the lower ranking Guards were immensely enjoying since Nightmare Moon's departure for Crystal City. As long as they did not hurt her, they could do whatever they wanted with the troublesome pegasus in retaliation for her... "pranking".
From the other perspective, she could understand Dash's attitude. The palace would be a boring place for someone like her, especially since she had nothing to do here but wait until her Empress finds her and her company of peasants someplace they could be stationed at without causing trouble to her superiors. Here's an idea: the experimental flyers-only light infantry platoon, that would give the unorthodox Lieutenant something "awesome" enough to do. While she was away, Lieutenant Stormbreaker might even get a chance to whip their company into something resembling a troop. But this was for later, all of this was inconsequential, there had to be something more important...

With a dry, sad chuckle, she caught herself at almost asking Luna. The obsidian mare wanted to forget Luna wasn’t there and speak to her anyway. Well, add that to the schedule. Nightmare Moon dimly smirked at her own pitiful joke.
Sadly, the Empress had no time for things like this. She audibly sighed, reminding herself of the pressing matters. She needed to think over her next move. There was a threat to her rule: Daybreaker.

The obvious option was to use the Elements to bring Celestia back, as they did for Luna those years ago; but this was hardly the most optimal solution. Her sister would, obviously, expect that. This would be the very first thing she has been preparing for. This Nightmare knew better than to underestimate her own kin. Not to mention with the Princess, seemingly losing all will to resist, it would do nothing to stop Daybreaker from taking control over their body again.
It went without saying that any hostile action would provoke her sister to act. There was no telling what traps she could have prepared. Antagonising her now, without learning more about her intentions, would be unwise. Nightmare Moon did not sit on her throne for being rash. Her approach had to be more elegant.

As of now, Rarity should’ve read the letter she, without a doubt, took out of the fire. To sprung her curiosity was the whole point of burning it after all. Rarity could not live without soaking up new rumours, the more scandalous the better.

Nightmare Moon was only glad to indulge her. A correct rumor spread at the right time could prove more powerful than any weapon. Spreading Nightmare’s rumors was one of Rarity’s most useful quirks; a lot more so than her craftsmareship, even though the Empress highly valued her artistic talent. Tapestries and carpets in her palace were almost exclusively of Rarity's design, so were the uniforms of the staff. She even got the honor of designing the Empress' ball dresses. After all, there were few things in the palace nearly as delightful, as watching Rarity forget about everything, including her fear, while explaining her latest design choices. Ugh...back to reality.
Once Rarity has read the suggested letter, she would proceed to deliver it over to Twilight. From that point, the dark mare only needed to let her Princess work. Driven by fear and love for her former mentor, Twilight will form a plan she would then present to her... or maybe even execute it herself, sparing her the work.

Nightmare Moon made a note to thank Cadance for being such a wonderful avail, even if the only one she intended to help was Twilight. The Princess of Love spared the black mare of the need to tell Twilight herself, raising fewer suspicions from ever-watchful Daybreaker.
Yes, Cadance deserved more than a bit of her gratitude. Even without this letter, she deserved a hearty “thank you” simply for not causing trouble. She was the only one who never did, in fact. In recent years, the Empress had more than enough headaches as it is.
Nightmare Moon smiled at the thought of how much help to her they all, really, were without even knowing it. One day she will give her thanks to all of them.

She would thank Rarity, for always being ready to do whatever her Empress required her to and for quickly spreading the rumors she needed ponies to hear. And, of course, for always staying by her side despite ever quivering in Her Majesty's presence. Nightmare Moon could not ask for a better companion.

She would thank Twilight for being a reliable scholar and a symbol of their Empress' goodwill to every creature in the Empire. Twilight’s mere presence at the palace toned down the horror the people of Equestria felt for their ruler.
If Princess Twilight, the most devoted associate of the Sun Princess was alive and safe inside the home of the Mare of Darkness, it must mean that she wasn’t as bloodthirsty and vengeful as the legend described. Not anymore, at least.

She would thank her dear Shadow for being her most valued agent. The Empress could trust her with any mission and any secret, the changeling will never fail her.
But even if she wasn't a skilled infiltrator, Nightmare Moon would still have a lot to thank her for. The little changeling gave her a spark of hope for the future.
Shadow was the first creature to give her a taste of something she never was equipped to understand before. It even overpowered her devotion to her own Queen and race.
Shadow was trained by Chrysalis to kill the hated pony on the Equestrian throne, but Shadow refused to follow this order. She left everything behind just to serve the mare she admired! And it stayed that way. Shadow learned of her Mistress’ true nature quickly, but it did absolutely nothing to sway her loyalty. To Shadow, it made no difference what kind of creature Nightmare Moon was; to Shadow, it was enough that she was her beloved Mistress.

A changeling that loved! Loved her of all ponies! Before Shadow came to her, carrying a poison lined dagger, Nightmare Moon was merely playing a role for her ponies. It was easier to control her subjects, if they were not in constant fear for their lives.
But Shadow never displayed any fear for her, even after realising that the vulnerabilities in the palace defences were there solely to lure her in and the mare she was supposed to kill was waiting for her all along.
To Nightmare's shock, the changeling turned out to have no intentions to harm her, Shadow wasn't trying to begin with. Shadow came to her so that she could hear her Empress decree. She even accepted the name, Nightmare Moon gave her, without hesitation.
It puzzled the onyx mare for many months to come, but after observing night's most unusual servant for some time she, finally, saw what moved her loyal Shadow. Shadow had family, race, and home, but she left it all behind and chose her instead! Shadow followed her because of what she saw in her and what she saw in the ponies living in her lands, she wanted to be a part of what she had grown to love! The realisation was the most magical moment of Nightmare's life!
There could be no amount of gratitude enough to repay her Shadow for teaching her how much she craved to be loved, not feared.

Shadow deserved so much more than simply serving as a spy and assassin until her last day. Perhaps Twilight will teach her to see this too. Even if not, while away she will be safe from Daybreaker who would seek to use her if she learned of Shadow’s existence.

Celestia would need her thanks too, yes. Luna’s dear sister… Nightmare Moon felt the need to talk to her again, once at least, to thank her for her kindness and to beg for her forgiveness. She failed to safeguard Luna for her, the one person that kept her alive. If there was someone who could forgive this mare for something she would never forgive herself for, it was The Princess of the Sun. Her inspiration, her teacher, her... hope. She had so-so much to thank Celestia for.
After the thousand years of bad blood, the Princess had enough compassion to accept her enemy in her hooves, in her family even. Celestia was the one giving out mercy, not the other way around.
She didn’t step away for a moment, keenly sensing that her former rival needed her help and was willing to provide it at her own expanse. She did everything she could only to be repaid with the corpse of her own sister before her!

Nightmare Moon felt something wet on her cheek, she didn’t bother to wipe it off.
How could she be so blind? So foolish? So selfish? She had everything! She was a happy mare! She only lacked the wisdom to see it.
To Tartarus with the public opinion and foreign hostilities! What she could have... To throw it all away like that!

Nightmare Moon, with a loud knock, forcefully drove her head into the table. It hurt but she didn’t care.
Why was it Luna who had to die for her stupidity? Anyone! Anyone but Luna! It was her who was supposed to lie dead in that crypt, not Luna! Luna did nothing to deserve this! Why did it have to be Luna? Why Luna? Why Luna?!

Obeying a sudden impulse, Nightmare Moon jumped up from her seat and rushed to the far corner. There, inside an unsuspicious cupboard, lied an ancient and battered book. It was Luna's, her only remaining artefact.
Luna tried every argument she could to leave it back under the ruined Castle, but… the sentimental Nightmare did not listen. She couldn’t let this relic to rot in some crumbling dungeon.

Nightmare Moon took out the book, seating herself to lean against one of the cornering walls, she figured she might need some extra support soon. This book had many entries, all of them equally precious. These were memories, memories of the times long gone, of the simpler times, of the times when no one knew what disgusting creature she was. Memories of Luna.

'Dear diary
Tonight I heard a voice speaking in my head, (yes, again) but this time it was not a mere sign of creeping madness, at least I believe so. She is real. She proved to me so. I checked every word she told me, there could be no mistake. I couldn't know those things, I never been to these places even. I never heard of such a creature and I doubt the sister had, but I will keep this a secret for now, whatever she is, she is no threat without a body of her own.'

Yes, the darkened mare remembered. Luna, crusty as ever, if only she knew back then how wrong she was. It would've turned out different for both of them.

'Dear diary
I can’t believe what I am writing, but I think this thing in my head is… my friend. She keeps me company during the duty, she teaches me the intricacies of the world I never noticed before and she comforts me when a commoner doesn’t recognise me beside my sister. I think I no longer even need wine make life anything more than endless night watches. I have something better now.'

Only to be later stabbed in the back. Poor, naive Luna, she deserved much better friends.

'Dear diary
Tonight I finally learned her name! She always waved me off when I asked her before, but she wasn't secretive, she simply didn’t have a name. (How can you even live without a name? How do you think about yourself?) She didn’t seem to care much, but I made her choose a name anyway! She is Nightmare Moon now! A little dark, but I think it has charm. Nightmare it is!
Hello, Nightmare! I know you are reading my diary! Don't worry, you can read it whenever you want. It's not like you'll learn any secrets you don't know already.'

The entry was ended with a tiny picture of Luna, winking at her.

A large drop fell on the page.
Horrified, Nightmare Moon hastily searched for anything she could use. This precious thing could not be stained like this!
Having found a piece of fabric, she swiftly used it to sop the tear from the page. It was too late. The letters became blurry. Nightmare Moon pushed the diary shut, unwilling to risk any more damage. Unwilling to let it go, she pushed it to her chest instead. She did not need her eyes anymore, so she closed them shut too, as they were starting to hurt.

“Luna...” she muttered apologetically, starting to slowly rock back and forth. It hurt less if she moved a little, it gave her something else to focus on besides her sorrow.

This pitiful, naive, foalish diary felt like the most precious thing in the world. Letting it go was impossible, it meant to let go of Luna. She would never cease to search for a way to correct the horrible injustice she knew she was guilty of. But a part of her, the most rational one, knew that she would fail. She knew the world doesn’t work like this. Thinking about it hurt.

Nightmare Moon felt a light touch. Shivers ran through her whole body. She didn't want to know who found her, with her luck it may even be her sister. She didn't want to know.
But the touch repeated, it was more assertive this time. It felt soft, warming, Nightmare Moon knew who it was now, she opened her tear-stained eyes.

The mare ceased sobbing, even breathing. She saw… salvation. The two wells of deep cyan, slit in the middle, completely hypnotized the dark mare, like they always did. This look instilled the warm sense of tranquillity in her, making her forget about everything. To this mare, Nightmare Moon owed a lot more than simple words, but her own life, and Luna's too.

Fluttershy slowly lifted her hoof and put it on Nightmare’s paining heart, this pegasus needed no words to understand. Obeying the unspoken request, Nightmare drew the air in. Fluttershy rapidly blinked, reducing the hypnotizing effect of her slitted orbs.
Nightmare Moon noticed Fluttershy didn’t come alone. Rarity and Twilight patiently waited at the door, neither of them knew what to do or say and Rarity was openly panicking at the sight of her mighty Empress being a sobbing mess. Exactly why she couldn't let ponies see her like this. If their protector couldn't help even herself, what protection could they hope for?
Rainbow Dash also came, though she dared not to enter the sanctum. Meeting her gaze, the blue pegasus looked down apologetically and simply left, without making a sound. For once, she knew when she wasn’t welcome.
There also was someone else. Radiant and warming. Philomena, Celestia’s bird. The phoenix must have followed Fluttershy. The bird was looking down at her from the top of the wardrobe, Philomena’s look was a silent accusation, the wise bird already knew everything.

Twilight cautiously came closer to stand just behind Fluttershy,
“May I?” she asked, pointing at the diary with her eyes. Nightmare Moon looked down at her dearest treasure. Fluttershy gave her a reassuring nod.

Nightmare Moon took a deep breath and, with much effort, pried the book away from herself, allowing Twilight to take it away. Under the unsettled look of her sovereign, the young Princess looked inside, with Rarity peeking over her shoulder. Her curiosity overpowered fear, just like it always did.
Fluttershy nestled herself to Nightmare’s chest, offering her a replacement for the book. Nightmare Moon gratefully took the pegasus in her hooves, the diary no longer being her focus. Her body shuddering and tears continuing to flow.

To the hurt monarch holding another in her hooves felt like heavenly bliss. Ponies were social creatures, they were not supposed to suffer alone. Her own kind even less so, she had never even been alone before. The ancient mare allowed her eyelids to weigh themselves down. Fluttershy understood perfectly what the black mare needed from her at this moment and gave all of it. For this blessed moment, she wasn’t alone.
The yellow angel made her pain go away, even if just for the moment. Nightmare Moon didn’t even remember it could be like this. She did not remember what feeling content was like. She did not remember what living without pain felt like.

“Thank you,” she quietly whispered to her saviour, if only she could do more.

“Your Majesty, is Luna....?” Twilight didn’t dare to say the word. Nightmare Moon morbidly nodded. Rarity covered her mouth, “I...I am sorry, Your Majesty, is there something-”

“Twilight,” Rarity bumped her. “Don't talk, just... keep it quiet.” Nightmare Moon gratefully nodded, putting the unicorn's fears away completely for now. Rarity relaxed enough to sit down beside Fluttershy, if not to help at least to keep company. The Princess didn't dare to disturb the magical silence further, instead quietly looking through the pages. Then, she suddenly stopped, her eyes glittered with tears.

“I won't read this...” Twilight quietly said, giving the diary back to Nightmare. “This is yours.” The dark mare stared quietly at the treasure suspended in the pink aura, before giving Twilight a suddenly collected look.

“Twilight… I… want to share it with you. Luna would want me to.” Twilight shook her head.

“Your Majesty, I can’t have it.” Twilight insistently held out the book further, “You are the only pony who is supposed to see this.”

“Luna wouldn’t want me to hoard, Twilight. Take it… just promise you will show it only to those you trust.”

“Your Majesty…” Twilight no longer could find words to argue but did not withdraw the held out diary. The Princess of Books could not make herself take such a valuable thing away from someone who needed it.

“Ehm… Your Majesty,” Fluttershy quietly called. “Perhaps you can read it for us?” Nightmare Moon perked at the suggestion, “That way you can keep it and Twilight won't need to...” This… this was a brilliant idea! Luna would adore it!

Seeing a smile creeping on her Empress’ face, Fluttershy pulled away and prepared to listen. Rarity beamed at the pegasus.

Nightmare Moon hastily took the diary and flipped it to the beginning. Philomena produced an approving creek, but the bird’s eyes wandered elsewhere. There was another, unwelcome, listener, looking through the gap between the door and the wall. Unlike the mares inside the private study, Daybreaker wore no smile.

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