• Published 6th Jun 2020
  • 1,545 Views, 117 Comments

Song of Myself - Ice Star

Luna is many things: a goddess, princess, and wife. What happens when she has a secret that threatens to unravel every one of those things?

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Chapter 2: Don't Wake Me Up

Having all of dream magic under my hoof, and my hoof alone has gifted me with a second life. My dreams have always been completely lucid and utterly wondrous, for who else but the god in charge of dreams would have the best ones? In them, I am able to preview the various worlds lushly crafted by my own mind. Those I return to have a multitude of stories to share, and the new worlds within that I find myself entering always have endless possibilities in the new stories I could make.

Tonight, I found myself free from investigating the dreams of others. All around me was a familiar scene made fantastical, for my mind could stand none of the notions of ordinary life. Not when there was magic to be found in everything. Thus, the pillars of Canterlot Castle’s ballroom were trimmed with vines and floral garlands of vibrant hues too ethereal to be any plants found in the waking world. Punch was served from a crystalline fountain, with troughs of sparkling cider that truly lived up to its name as it flowed like a river, winding under small, picturesque bridges.

Even the clothes were transformed by the will of my mind. The faux wing trend I remembered being in style at the time of this particular Grand Galloping Gala was done away with. Instead, the sweeping gowns of mares were replaced with finely tailored suits, all in gay hues and with true, iridescent wings at their sides. The sound of all the flittering wove in wonderfully with the orchestra – which was playing something much more lively and intriguing than the plain ensembles Tia would hire.

I took in the gorgeous fantasy my mind had crafted for me. In every corner of my dream was a sight to get lost in, unlike actual Grand Galloping Galas, where I truly wanted to be lost and unnoticed. I remember the Gala of this day being a horrible cacophony of chatter and the prison of a new gown that Tia had ordered for me.

Knowing that the best part of my dream was yet to come, I wandered through the crowd of ponies. Here, their chatter was kept to bearable background noise, blending in with the babble of the cider-brook. A giddy, freeing feeling was building in my chest. Not once have I ever had a joyous experience at the Grand Galloping Gala, and I know that Tia was always disappointed to never have me around at these beloved parties of her.

Could anypony blame me? They truly were the same old song and dance. At least back before my banishment, the carriages of the brave noble-ponies would have to travel with armed escort along the only road through the treacherous Everfree Forest. In that age, I was able to don my armor and travel alongside our subjects, aiding in their defense. Now, I have been so used to hiding the truth that I can no longer imagine actually putting my hoof down to Tia and her gifts of a million-billion gowns and other frilly garments. I know it would break her heart, and she has never stopped reminding me that my refusal of her tokens of sisterhood would crush her.

It is not that I do not wish to be her sibling, for she is gracious and good to be. I just wish she were not a mare with such busybody tendencies and that I was not her… sister.

I took a deep breath, momentarily letting the lightheartedness of my dream’s atmosphere relax me again.

I suppose I know now why that feeling has weighed upon me.

The thought is not as unwelcome as I felt it would be. After a few heartbeats, I know it has passed, and I push out a calming exhale.

Here, I was not burdened by any unseemingly female garb. Instead, I could hold my head high in the sleek military tailcoat, its silver buttons twinkling like stars. Atop my head was a somewhat bolder crown, made all the more masculine by the angular shape.

I trotted up to a nearby ice sculpture, a calm smile on my face as ponies parted when I neared them. The pleasantly wide berth they gave me allowed me to be the only one to approach the dragon. My dream decided to ensure the sculpture was made all the more fun by animating the dragon; flakes of snow fell from its mouth with each foggy breath.

The sound that came from the icy creak of its joints was oddly inviting, and I approached it with delight. Peering into the polished scales, I caught sight of myself. In dreams, my features were always smoke and mirrors. Not once did I have to be bothered by the soft curve of my jaw or my eyelashes cursed to be so naturally long. I had been told how desireable my features were endlessly and had numerous reasons to detest such treatment. Now, I find myself content to see the blur of blues and know that it is me.

Any sight more detailed and I would feel that creeping wrongness snaring me again. Instead, I take pride in knowing that I blow the silliest raspberries the enchanting frosty hue of the ice. Unlike the actual Grand Galloping Gala this dream is distilled from, I do not have any cursed lace cape draped over my withers – another gift from Tia – and its absence of it was so freeing.

When I was done, I whirled around, only to see that all the ponies that had been dancing and celebrating before had vanished without a trace. I grinned, relishing in being able to do so in comfort at last! Could this dream get any better?

I flared my wings without a care in the world and let my mane take up as much space as I wished for it to flow. Tonight, I had no need to be made small and forgotten. Just as I saw myself in the ice dragon, the rest of my form was… hazy and uncertain. I would look down at myself and just see what I knew to be me. My body didn’t have to hurt me tonight, not when all was so splendid now that I was the only one in sight and the light of my stars fell throughout the ballroom. Without ponies, it was as free as I was.

I took to the air, following to where my heart and my memory of the waking dance beckoned me. When I spotted a topiary cut to look like Princess Cadance, I landed. There was such fun in letting my tailcoat flare out and fly with me. I wonder, if Tia would ever not insist on us matching in public, would they be just as fun in the waking realm? Sombra has a few, and he looks absolutely splendid in them – would he ever let me try one on if I asked? Or would he insist on knowing why I wished to borrow one?

Would that be worse than having to return it?

I averted my eyes as soon as I caught sight of the topiary’s face. Just like the one that had been on display that night, Cady’s jaw was too square in shape. I know now that if she had been visiting Canterlot with Sombra for that Grand Galloping Gala, she would have been mortified at the sight. As accidental as it may have been by the gardener Tia had hired, I was glad that Tia could not have seen that quiet envy bubbling up. She is poor at picking up on emotions – especially mine – but Cadance would have known right away the emotion I was suppressing if I had known about her what I know now. And over the physique carelessly displayed in ornamental shrubbery! The very physique that Cady did not need to be reminded she once had…

...but I, guiltily, would wonder if she had ever been handsome…

...and how I might have looked, had I been cut from the cloth she had been before she had looked into magic, hormones, and surgery before I had met her.

After my visit with Sound Mind, I knew I had to disclose my hunches about this modern discovery of gender dysphoria to somepony. Cadance keeps secrets that would fall too easily from the lips of other mares, and I thought she might have advice for me. What I had not expected was for her to confess the level of understanding she did on top of having the advice to share.

I hadn’t expected to be given such generous amounts of encouragement from somepony who understood me, though her experience was parallel to mine. Only Sombra had shown such an intimate understanding of what I relayed to him before. For Cadance to do so was shockingly anti-familial…

At least with my experiences of ‘familial’.

‘Tis good to know that there is another princess who will understand me. Sombra’s words on this night make so much more sense now.

’The pink one knows what being an outsider is like.’

I tippy-hoof eagerly to where the werelight shines on the illuminated side of a white-and-lavender pillar of marble. The warmth of the light is enticing, and in my clumsy original experience of this dance, I had stumbled here because it was the best place for a wallflower to sprout. Let the sunflower command all the attention for the evening, and may everypony never look away from her if it means that for once they may never see me.

I had no pink carnation friend waiting in a corner for me – and on the first Gala since my return, this was the corner where Cadance had uprooted me. Even she had sensed that I found no fun in parties, and I spent the whole night showing her how star-crafting worked from the castle balconies instead.

Now, there was somepony else waiting in my corner, much to my surprise. I halted my movements as soon as I saw him, one hoof still raised in mid-step.

Stars, he looked splendid. His suit was dark and plain, and designed with only timeless elegance in mind. He wore no tie and bore no dreadfully extravagant ruffles that fit the dull caricature of the most vile vampyre – thank all my stars he had some taste. He had long, silky fetlocks that instilled the temptation in me to scoop up his hoof and hold it. The stallion bore a tailcoat so much finer than mine but still stood at an angle that I could see his cutie mark: a hefty, closed grimoire engulfed in magic and shadow.

The stallion looked up from his book, crimson eyes narrowing coldly. “I don’t look this good for free you know.”

Memory flooded my senses, and I went with the swirl of emotions growing in my chest. I let myself flow into my part just as easily as I had then. I remembered how I had focused on how his gray ears were oddly fluffy. Does banishing a stallion once and approving his chance for redemption later give me the permission to at least pat them? They did not look nearly as good upon his initial resurrection when I last saw him. With the anxiousness tickling me from my stomach outward, surely such a harmless gesture would be allowed?

“I-I know you,” I stammered, only slightly less awkward than I had been that night. How exactly did he wish for me to greet him?

“Is that so?” He was barely keeping those crimson eyes from falling back to his book. I could tell. “Then let’s hear it. What do you have to say about me?”

Had somepony been cruel to him during the night? Was that why he was standing to the side of all festivities or was he simply content to do so? I know that Cadance felt that assigning him to attend various social events was a way to boost his reputation. She was his reformer, and I trusted her, yet if somepony were bothering Sombra, how was that to help him adjust?

“Your mane looks lovely,” I said, at last, folding my wings at my side.

Sombra looked at his flowing black mane, which was barely pulled into a low ponytail. He frowned. “This? It takes less than five minutes to do. Is that really the best you have to offer?”

“No, no,” I murmured, impulsively reaching out a forehoof to pat his disheveled black bangs. “I meant this. I rather like it. Do you cut it yourself?”

Sombra recoils from me in the same way a cat does when something that brings displeasure is placed on their head. He frowns harder and lays his ears back, trying to growl and show off fangs he no longer has. All that came out was a pissy rumble and the red in his curved horn shone brighter, as though there was magic on his mind.

I was instantly saddened, withdrawing my hoof immediately. “You have my apologies, Sombra. I meant you no discomfort! You… well, regardless of what you may think of me, you do look rather sharp. All of this…” I gestured to his whole form, “...is much better than your previous garish affair.”

Sombra tucked a ribbon marker between the pages of his book, all without tearing his irritated gaze from me. “Forgive me if I wasn’t exactly in my right mind when coordinating my previous regalia.”

I looked down at my hooves. Though Sombra may be scarred by dark magic permanently, he was far from an ugly stallion. He was terribly lucky his cutie mark was not severed after over a thousand years of its poison. Most would have lost it – and their lives – after a much shorter time. But Sombra? He got away with scars – mental, physical, and magical – and the immortality he craved; the immortality of the gods like me that old stories of fire-stealers and prideful sorcerers seeded in his mind. That was something that nopony else could claim to have accomplished.

I at least knew that much about him when we met at that Gala. Really met.

“Sombra, I do mean what I said. Perhaps I ought to recant my previous statement – for I really do know so little about you.”

Sombra’s eyes narrowed further. His magic’s grip intensified on the book. “And what is that supposed to mean?”

“I… I would like to get to know you. More than I want to know anypony else in this ballroom.”

Sombra’s expression slipped into something stony, save for how he raised one eyebrow. “Don’t you have ponies in this hall that would trample each other just to look at you?”

I looked around; my dream-self knew everypony was gone. Sombra was crafted from heart and memory. On this day, at this moment, the ballroom would still have been teeming with ponies.

“Of course; there are always such sycophants. They gab and prattle about everything I have no wish to do with. You, Sombra, want nothing to do with anypony. Is that not correct?”

Very correct.” He glared at me the way a furnace would regard the most pathetic scraps of ore.

I had no smiles to offer him; all I could do was show him the sincerity and relief in my eyes and hope he understands. “Then you are my perfect company.”

Sombra rolled his eyes, every bit of him poised as the picture of cold pride. “Oh joy.”

“Sombra?” I asked quietly. With great care, I found a place to sit on the floor, on the side of the daemon that was not taken by the pillar he leaned so close to.

“What?” Sombra huffed. His upper hip curled haughtily. Bits of his thick winter coat poking out around his collar bristled with irritation in the most ridiculous fashion that even in my dream, I had to giggle at the sight.

“Could you at least tell me what your book is about?”

A curl of crimson magic tucked a stray strand of his long black mane behind his ear. Sombra regarded the cover boredly, tilting it toward me so that I could get a good look at it. As soon as I caught sight of the glittering foil helmet upon it, my eyes widened with delight.

“Oh! An Arcadian helmet! How splendid!” I peered closer at the title. Large, admirable letters were pressed into the hardcover, just above the lovely image. As I did so, I was very aware of Sombra wordlessly scrutinizing me. “With a title such as The Song of Roan Beauty and Charger I can only imagine that is a hero-tale. You had not struck me as the type to favor such a genre.”

“How presumptive of you,” Sombra droned, and I had to resist smiling when I caught him scoffing and rolling his eyes again.

“I think not – I simply adore surprises. Would you mind telling me what the book is about?”

For a moment, Sombra’s gaze strayed from his book – and certainly far away from me. I followed his movements, hoping to puzzle out why he was looking right at the marble pillar, as though it would vanish the longer he stared.

“Little Miss Sunshine and Pinkbows offered it as a recommendation. I figured that it was likely to be more bearable than having to feign tolerating for anypony here. The two heroes are a lesser Alicorn and his companion who are heading to war.”

When Sombra looked out of the corner of his eyes, I caught a moment of genuine surprise show on his face and the slight widening of his pupil when he saw my pleased, expectant look.

“What else happens? Is war their only struggle?”

“Hardly,” Sombra replied tersely. Giving a sigh, he decided to sit down beside me. I watched as he inched closer to the cold marble of the pillar when he felt he had seated himself too close to me – and yet, when I scooted closer to him, Sombra offered no reaction or resistance to the gesture.

“Go on,” I urged him, offering a small smile. “Wouldn’t you rather spin something as magical as a story instead of immersing yourself in the tempest of chatter just over yonder?”

While my hoof was outstretched, I scooted closer to him.

Sombra stared daggers at me.

I grinned at him.

In return, Sombra crossed his forehooves without breaking the intensity of his glare – if anything, he increased it.

“Please?” I asked, quiet and giving Sombra a generous view of my best pout. “I am as bored as you are. Surely we can have a truce to last the night?”

Sombra exhaled sharply, finally relenting to my pout. “Fine. Roan has to struggle with his nature and whether he’ll fail his Alicorn teacher, who has a prophecy against him. Charger has to protect their relationship.”

“Oh stars!” I gasped, bringing a forehoof up to contain my gasp. My mane flicked with surprise. “Was their friendship attacked by those they thought they could trust?”

I am unable to decipher the flat stare that Sombra gives me.

“Friendship,” he echoes flatly, raising an eyebrow.

“I… yes?” I look away, biting at the inside of my cheek. Had I said something embarrassing? This emotion was dimmed and distant in my dream, but never drained away. “Are they… not friends?”

“Oh no,” Sombra scoffed, voice dripping with sarcasm. “They’re the best of friends.”

I stared at my hooves, too frozen with embarrassment to even toy with my mane. Most of the time, I found that twirling with it and combing it could help me concentrate.

Silence passed between Sombra and I for some moments before he finally set the book off to the side. Feeling him prod at my wither pulled me from my small stupor, though I still recall just how scrawny I felt next to him. I always felt so scrawny next to stallions, though I was taller than any of them.

“Where is the master of magic that banished me? Tartarus, you don’t need to get so upset. Are you truly so naive that you couldn’t understand what I was saying?”

He calls me a master of magic, not by some prim and proper princess epithet? He does not even bother with speaking of me as goddess-this and goddess-that?

I certainly cannot recall the last time somepony spoke of me so.

“Is it going to be too much to ask for clarification?”

Sombra offered an indifferent frown, brushing some of his bangs aside. “In the saga, the two stallions are lovers. One is fairly typical – he’s strictly attracted to other stallions. The other is… less inclined to stick with only one option.”

I blink, both in understanding and to take in how Sombra shifts his focus to me and me alone as he hesitates with the last part. He does not make any move to stop me when I scoop up his book.

“I simply adore the sagas of legendary stallions, whether they find romance with the fair, noble gender or with mares. Or perhaps even none at all.” I shrug, passing it back to him. “Did you know that this modern age has such fun words for the deepest bond of male camaraderie? ‘Tis called the ‘bromance’ and it is such fun to say! Oh, were the world kinder to stallions I am sure such stories would be treasured all the more! Say, why did Cady suggest it?”

“She gives me various book recommendations to keep me from razing the Empire to nothing. As long as she continues to provide me with reading material that is within my range of interest, I will curb using her subjects for blood sacrifices.”

“How marvelous!”

“Junior Queen Candy Dance doesn’t have the worst grasp of literature either. The pink one knows what being an outsider is like. Now that I am more of one than ever, her suggestions have managed to incorporate that.” I spy a bitter streak in his words, one that runs too deep to ascertain the root of.

“Aye. Sister was very clear about how much Cady felt out of place when she first got her magic and moved to Canterlot.”

Hindsight is something that brings me much hope and amusement in my dreams. Such goodness staves off the dread that so often lurks in the waking world. While my dream-self is immersed in the flow of what had been, I wish I could chortle at all I know now. Sombra knew before I did what Cadance’s heart conceals.

Sombra’s neutral frown falters to something more earnest. “I wouldn’t mind starting the book all over again. At least, I wouldn’t mind too much.”

“Whyever would you do that?” I ask, tilting my head so far to the side that Sombra stares at me peculiarly.

“We should read it together,” he suggests.

The dream shifts, though not in a way that brings about tunnel vision. To use such a term is to cheapen the flow and emphasis that happens in such an art like the dreams I know. My dream weaves itself in a most spectacular end, shaping itself as a grand finale of how I would have felt when the memory first solidified. It all begins with the warmth and weight of my tremendous budding joy at his suggestion. I can feel the telltale mirth of the smile spreading across my face in the memory throughout my whole dreamscape.

All of it finishes grandly, making the small, crooked smile that Sombra gave me the center of the world. That night was the first of many such smiles, and our truce has not just persisted – together, we have crafted a world worth more than this dream and many others.

I would hate to be the one to destroy it all.

Stars, if I had approached Sombra in the outfit of my dreams, would he have talked to me at all that night?

...Would he even have thought I was handsome?

Author's Note:

Sombra's mane is meant to look like this but I know fuckall how to describe hair:

[Sauce for this Good Pure Boi]

Roan Beauty and Charger are the names of the horses of Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad. The Song of Achilles is a real novel, which I based the title of Sombra's book on. Arcadia is a reference to this concept of a pastoral-Greek utopia, which felt like a fitting pony equivalent of Greece other than just a Minotaur pun. Crete wasn't even attached to the mainland, you fucks.