• Published 12th Jan 2021
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In Night's Garden - Sledge115

A gardener’s duty is to nurture and let their flowers bloom. Princess Luna learned that a long time ago, for Equestria is the largest garden of all.

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II ~ Orion (IS-3 Entry)




Children, as far as Princess Luna was concerned, were quite a hassle. Small wonder that Celestia had so often turned down many a suitor, especially those who desired heirs. This had been Luna’s conclusion already quite a few centuries ago, and here she’d forgotten just how often Celestia had answered an aspiring stallion or mare’s proposal.

Yet now as she watched Celestia dictate a guest course on mythology, here in the School for Gifted Unicorns, she could hardly begrudge her sister. How Princess Celestia could captivate the little ones so easily, with flourish to her gestures and grace in her voice; Luna could only look on with wonder and envy, even after so long.

So, for the time being, Luna stood to the side of the classroom, wings held tight against her body, keeping her distance, right by the doorway. It hadn’t been much comfort to her, upon Celestia’s initial arrival, how bright the granite stone-walled room was, lit by scented candles that adorned the windows parallel to the rows of small wooden desks.

She tapped the rocky floor impatiently, sighing in tune with the echo. No use complaining now. Celestia would get her speech after all, as she always did.

Brushing aside the lump in her throat, the same lump that arose whenever she had to hear the cheers at the Summer Sun Celebration, Luna stared off to the side, intermittently glancing as Celestia finished today’s storytelling via the complement of a dramatic swish of her wing.

“... And that, my little ponies,” Celestia concluded, setting down the little Minotaur and Changeling puppets she’d crafted for the occasion – puppets, Luna had never liked puppets – beaming all the while, “is the story of Asterion of the Tauren Isles.”

Just as expected, the semi-circle of children seated around her squealed in joy. Children. Always the same impressionable and, well, loveable enough bunch they were, though Luna might have only fancied four of them in her home if she could choose, not a whole eighteen. Again, Luna could hardly fault their easy pleasure. The story of Asterion, that great Minotaur Proxenos, who’d built a house so massive it was said to encompass the world, was a favourite of hers too.

Hmm, though I suppose Gusty the Great just edges it out,’ Luna reflected in passing.

“Can we see the house?” asked a filly, to the edge of the semi-circle.

Such silly little questions. Luna doubted the filly had ever seen a Minotaur before, though Asterion might have tolerated children’s presence in his domain.

Celestia’s reply came swiftly.

“Oh, not yet, little ones,” said Celestia, with a teasing lilt to her voice. “For there are other places that await your visit. Isn’t that right, Luna?”

Luna raised an eyebrow. “Beg pardon?”

“Oh, you didn’t know?” asked Celestia, beaming once more. “The school wishes to hold a field trip this Summer vacation. A week from now, actually. They’ll be heading to Rainbow Falls.”

“We’re gonna get the Badalisc!” cried the lead rascal, a little pink unicorn, rearing back to slam her hooves against one of the empty desks, like some bloodthirsty general.

Yay!” chorused her cohorts.

Not so inconspicuously, Luna rubbed at her sore ear, recovering sufficiently to hear her sister let out a soft laugh as the children’s excited discussion filled the air.

“The Badalisc,” Luna deadpanned. “Tia, I am not entirely certain you ought to be encouraging–”

She was shushed by a pleading look from her sister dearest. “Come now Luna,” said Celestia, “must they grow up so soon?”

Luna rolled her eyes. She’d heard of the Badalisc, of course. A creature so foul, so cruel that it invited nightmares amongst even the hardy ponies, Yaks, and Reindeer of the North.

In the eyes and imagination of children, naturally.

As far as she, or her Night Guards, or Equestria’s allies up in the Crystal Realm were concerned, no such creature could ever conceivably roam the harsh lands of the Frozen North. The less kindly inclined amongst the guardsponies had even come to the conclusion that the townsponies of Rainbow Falls had gone cuckoo, from the way they whispered tales about it. Rainbow drinking, they said, amongst hushed laughter. Luna, for her part, thought it sounded nothing short of ridiculous.

How could it not? The only drawings Luna had ever seen of the creature looked for all the world like a rather shoddy tube-shaped puppet with pitiful, stubby little legs. Nothing that either her or her guards, all veterans and carriers of a proud tradition, would have felt intimidated by.

She kept quiet, though, listening to the chatter. One of the children, this time a rather chubby little red colt, raised a hoof.

“Mmm, Princess Celestia?” he asked, all frightful and timid, “Could you tell us how to slay a–a–a Badalisc?”

“Tell? She could show us!” cried the lead filly. “You’ll come with us, right Princess?”

Celestia laughed merrily. “I am sorry, children,” she said, her smile gentle, compassionate, “but unfortunately, I won’t be available to guide you on this trip.”

The resounding, ear-piercing cacophony firmly reduced the amount of children Luna imagined that she wanted to bear someday by less than half..


“Come on!”

“But you promised!”

“Pleeease, Princess?”

They whined and cried and everything that was all so very shrill and unpleasant. The naughtier, more spoiled brats were banging their hooves on the table. And Luna, accustomed to her sister, could sense that Celestia’s porcelain mask had begun to crack, judging from the increasingly nervous smile to the little twitch at the side of her eye.

Yes, not the perfect mare, are you now, Sister.

Of course, Luna didn’t say as much aloud. After all, Celestia too was concealing her burdens.

The recent diplomatic overtures with Griffonstone hadn’t been too pleasant, considering the griffons’ hefty demands for further control in the Griffish Isles. The verbal spat going on between Cloudsdale and Vanhoover was an ongoing headache. Not to mention defenestration perpetrated by the pegasi – thank goodness for haystacks.

Pushing the morbid thought of civil war aside, Luna drew a sharp breath. There would be time to address such concerns, but not here, not now. Goodness knows she had too much time for it. Day after day, night after night.

She puffed up her chest and cleared her throat.

Alright, alright!” Luna exclaimed, the Royal Canterlot Voice rumbling throughout the whole room and even the building. That got everyone else to go quiet. “Settle down, for tis’ I who shall accompany you all to– please, for goodness’ sake, couldn’t you all just be silent for a mom–”

The terrific, enthusiastic, outright shrill cheer that followed threatened to burst her immortal eardrums, and reduced the number of children she wanted in her life to none at all.

* * * * *

Nevertheless, a good few hours later, Luna stood in her personal chambers deep within the Castle of the Two Sisters, brushing away at her pristine coat. She surveyed herself keenly in the ornate mirror upon her little vanity. Rough the terrain may be in far-off Rainbow Falls, surely there was no harm done in a Princess looking her finest.

“All things considered, love,” said the only other pony in the room, from his armchair, “maybe you ought have waited for me, before tackling this task straight out of Tartarus, right?”

“Oh, hush, Orion,” answered a huffy Luna.

Her mock-irritation aside, the Prince of the Crystal Realm was indeed welcome company, as he had been throughout the Winters they’d shared already. Childcare was his craft more than hers, the two of them knew that well. Many a noble’s child could proudly call him their tutor, and plenty more wanted him as their parent.

Although, Luna privately reflected, one look at him and you might never never guessed this. Orion’s light pink coat, so much lighter than his relatives in the Crystal Realm, yet almost as white as those of the Bluebloods, had a history of drawing equal parts gawking and mockery. But the Prince cared little for that.

Now, he looked for all the world a gaudy ensemble of many different colours, from his large, woven flower-hat to his braided blonde mane, set against his graceful yet solid build.

“How do I look?” asked her Prince, with that goofy, charming grin of his, the very sight so many mares and stallions would envy, one way or another.

Luna couldn’t decide if that flower hat complemented or ruined his look. Orion then gave a quick turn-around, his tail swishing, and his mark of three stars passed by her field of view.

Complemented, she decided.

“Marvelous,” Luna said, smirking, despite her blush. “But dear, we aren’t going to a ball. And children, they require better protection.”

“For them, or us?”

“Us, of course! Have you seen them? Rambunctious things…”

With a flick of her horn, she threw a Guard’s helmet at Orion, who caught it with his aura. Having perfunctorily swapped it with his hat, he took a quick glance at himself in her mirror, and gave a loud groan.

“Bah, everyone’s a critic,” Orion remarked, shaking his head. But s smile betrayed his inner cheer. “Honestly, love, I don’t see why you’re complaining,” he said, running a hoof through her mane, “Seeing as you did volunteer and all.”

“And I am thankful for your companionship, you silly prince, you,” said Luna, “but you know I only seek the edelweiss, nothing else.”

The edelweiss. Pride of the Blueblood family, cultivated through generations. Another piece for her garden, had dreamt the Princess of the Night. But dealing with Orion’s pompous relatives would have been such an additional hassle. Conversely, Rainbow Falls, it was said, had fields of these flowers to pick for free.

Orion merely blushed. “I do appreciate the effort, but–”

Ap-ap-ap. But nothing. Our anniversary is upon us. And children or no children, Orion Blueblood, we shall have this moment.”

“Well, suit yourself…”

Luna met him with a nuzzle, feeling his fluffy coat, which shimmered like the Crystal Realm he hailed from, brush against hers. When they broke from the embrance, however, Luna saw concern in his eyes.

“Are you alright?” asked Orion.

Luna sighed. “Nothing,” she lied. But, receiving another look at his innocent lavender eyes, she relented to tell him. “I’m merely concerned. It has been so long since such a peaceful occasion. And the Royal Guard… well, you know how they are.”

Orion contemplated her words for just a moment. “Who needs them, really? It’s only for the weekend, and… well, you’ve had an awfully busy year.”

“Try a busy decade.”

“Those are for history books,” Orion said glibly. “Really. What’s wrong with a weekend outing?”

Luna tapped her chin. “Perhaps too little time for the edelweiss search? Overly active rascals? This silly little prince?”

Her beloved let out a short snicker. “I’m right here, you know.”

Luna got to her hooves, flicking her mane aside. “Then I have nothing to worry about. Come, love, the children awaits us.”

* * * * *

The town of Rainbow Falls lay further North than any other town in Equestria, and held a fair claim to the title of oldest as well, with only Stratusburg and Cloudsdale rivalling it in age, if not in grandeur. For where the old pegasi towns came from humble beginnings, like a small earthpony mining town for Stratusburg and a frontier outpost for Cloudsdale, Rainbow Falls remained as humble as it had many centuries ago.

These days, the rainbow waterfalls that gave the town its name also gave plenty of reasons for many wealthy families to visit, apart from the rare mountain flowers that grew there and the peaceful atmosphere wrought by the low-hanging clouds.

This, then, was the sight that awaited Luna and Orion upon arrival by sky-chariot. The sight of rainbows parting the clouds, revealing thatched cottages atop rolling hills and winding roads, parted by the single great paved road that led it to the outside world.

Naturally, such a peaceful atmosphere had to be broken by something. On this specific occasion it was the children, rowdier than they’d been days earlier, even as Luna and Orion stepped off their chariot and met with the head teacher – a rather harangued-looking, middle-aged mare.

At least, Luna assumed she was the head teacher. The other two teachers present seemed to have their hooves full, given the way one was trying his best to organise the children into rows, while the others were scouring the corners of the camping grounds for any strays, surely hiding in bushes. If, and Luna felt herself smirk, they hadn’t simply fled to the nearby town.

“Oh, thank goodness, Your Highness,” said the head teacher, panting. A very pleasant shade of purple, Luna observed. “My apologies. We… didn’t expect them to be so, so wild.

Musingly, Luna wondered what it was exactly that Tia taught these ‘gifted’ little unicorns. Before her thoughts could coalesce, she felt a nudge from Orion, who cleared his throat.

“Not to worry, Miss…”


“Starshine!” Orion exclaimed. “Right. Well, Miss Starshine, what can we do to help?”

The mare let out a weary sigh. “This… Badalisc. They’re rather insistent on finding one but… but I don’t even know what it is! They say it can be found around here but, oh, dear...”

Upon hearing this, Luna scoffed. “Goodness, still aspiring monster-slayers, are they now?” She rapped a hoof upon the grassy terrain impatiently. “Celestia really ought to have set their heads straight by now.”

“Well… um, they did mention you coming in to help, Your Highness,” said Starshine, bashfully adjusting her matronly bun. She glanced behind Luna, and though she said nothing, Luna could tell that perhaps she was expecting an armoury in the sky-chariot.

Luna rolled her eyes. “Very well. I suppose I could give them pointers about sword-fighting.”

She felt Orion’s hoof on her shoulder, and beheld his comforting smile.

“We’ve had a long trip,” the Prince said, though whether it was for her or Starshine, Luna could hardly tell, “and the Princess rests at different hours. Please, if you’d allow me to help entertain the children, instead?”

Starshine, true to her name, shone bright with a smile of her own. “Oh, thank you, thank you, Your Highness!” she said, curtseying as she did so. “But we need to find them first.”

“Ma’am,” said Orion slyly, “tracking is my specialty. Lead the way.”

And before Starshine could ask for her presence, and with a wink given from Orion to Luna, the pair went on their way into the undergrowth without another word.

But even as Luna kept her eyes on them, there was movement from the corner of her eye. There, just by the stream’s edge, Luna saw a little filly. She was the colour of yellow sand by the seaside, her mane aquamarine, just as her timid eyes were.

Their eyes met, and a thousand thoughts must have passed through the filly’s head, for her mouth hung open slightly and her legs quivered. Luna hadn’t seen her in class, and part of her wondered if she’d been there at all.

A call from Orion drew her attention, though, for he seemed to have tripped into a bush, pursuing another child.

When Luna glanced back, there was no sign of the little filly anymore, and her thoughts drifted back to untangling her beloved, to lonely edelweiss flowers scattered throughout the mountainside.

* * * * *

“I thought I might find you here, love.”

The sound of Orion’s voice drew Luna’s head away from the nearby patch of flowers. He stood there against the slowly setting Sun, his flower-hat elegant as ever, if slightly ajar.

“You know what I’m truly here for, Orion,” said Luna, rising up from the dirt. Curses, she was certain she’d got far enough away from the various happenings at the camp. She blew a strand of her mane. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about your family flower already?”

Her husband chuckled, taking off his hat. “No, no, I haven’t, of course. I know how much you’ve wanted to seek it out in the wilds.”

Luna smirked at him. “Naturally. I only wish for the finest flower to commemorate us both.”

“Indeed,” replied Orion. But his face fell, ever so slightly. “Luna, are you alright?”

“Of course,” answered Luna, breezily waving her soil scoop, keeping up her smile. “I may have not yet found the edelweiss, but these dandelions would do just as fine in the meantime. Why? What seems to be the matter?”

Orion’s look was placid, yet in his warm, lavender-tinted gaze, when he looked right at her, there was a subtle worry hidden within his expression. He took a delicate step closer.

“Nothing, nothing,” he said, “It’s simply that… we haven’t seen you for hours.”

Luna raised the hoof that held her gardening instrument. “Yes, well… You know I’m merely doing what I’ve sought to do, from the start…”

She trailed off, finding it difficult to avert her gaze from his, choosing to find her scoop a far more interesting sight. But then he was right before her, and part of Luna wanted him to leave–

“Luna,” Orion said, gentler and softer now. “I’m here. Is there anything I can do for you?”

She looked up at him, chuckled in resignation. “I do not know for certain,” she said, sighing. “Merely that… I’ve an awful lot to think about. Politics, mainly…”

This time, Luna found the willpower in her to tear her gaze from him, to behold the distant Sun. The colours of her sister’s solo star painted the afternoon skies, moving gradually on its clockwork-like path to sink below the horizon. Soon, she knew, would be the time of her duty to raise her Moon in turn.

“Perhaps I should have stayed in Canterlot,” said Luna. “Did you know King Gerhard wishes to exert a stronger control over the Griffish Isles, Orion? It’s to ward off Thracian incursions, he says. Tia and I know better, of course, and the threat of war with Griffonstone is nothing we cannot contend with at the moment, and yet…”


“It’s been so long since the last war upon our shores,” Luna remarked. “But these aren’t– should never be your concerns, love,” she added, before Orion could reply. “No one else’s, but mine. You’ve had yours as well. Things that dwell in the North where the shadows lie.”

No reply came from Orion there. Perhaps she’d crossed a line. The shadows to the North of the Crystal Realm had plagued the hardy ponies that resided there since time immemorial, reaching out from the cold wastes.

“Celestia wonders if the children should grow up so soon,” Luna continued. “And I confess that oft I’ve wondered, Orion, if we should have any at all. Not until there’s… there’s a safe Equestria.”

She felt Orion’s hoof upon her shoulder, though still she avoided his gaze.

“Perfect’s the enemy of good, love,” said Orion, “and you’ve done so much on that matter already. But you know I will be there, every step of the way.”

This time, Luna found herself unable to reply.

The topic of children had come up between the two of them, in all of these years since they had got married. But the thought had never been so pressing, so dominating, indeed. He promised he’d be with her every step of the way, and she knew he’d told it true – yet he knew as she did, probably moreso, that as the years went by, he was changing in ways she did not. Ways that went by so fast in her flowers and still too fast for her liking in ponies.

Only she and her sister lasted. Only she… Part of Luna wondered if between she and Orion, either of them truly wanted children at all.

“The townsfolk told me about the Badalisc,” Orion spoke up, breaking through her thoughts. “Funny little thing, you know.”

Luna turned to him now, raising an eyebrow. “I wasn’t thinking of that silly, imaginary thing, husband dearest,” she said, barely suppressing a groan. Barely. “Tell me, how have they enlightened you to this fable?”

Orion laughed heartily then. “Well, you’re right in that it’s a rather silly-looking fellow,” he said, with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “They say one night a year, it comes down to the town, and spreads the town’s secrets. How long this has been going on for, no-one knows. But part of me wonders if it’s merely a tradition of theirs…”

He looked back, towards the camp. The evening wind carried the children’s chatter, and it was, Luna noticed to her surprise, calmer than it had been that afternoon.

“I’ve offered to do Trivia Night,” said Orion. “I’m sure there’s some dusty reference book in our luggage I must’ve dug up from the Crystal Library. Better that than monster-hunting, eh?”

“Yes, I suppose,” Luna remarked. “Best of luck there, then.”

“Actually, I was wondering if you could join me,” said Orion, his smile as infectious as ever. “We’re doing Equestrian History. You know you want to.”

Sweet Orion. Always one with the right calls. “Then I shall. But I’ve a duty to carry out.”

With a mighty beat of her wings, she took to the air, horn alight, and carried the Moon with her.

* * * * *

Not for the first time, as she set aside all of her gardening tools, Luna wondered exactly how long it had been since she’d begun her search. Indeed, in the hours that went by, it became increasingly apparent that Orion had very much kept the children occupied.

When she descended from above and walked amongst the trees down the pathways, there were many drawings and other trinkets hanging from the branches. All of them crudely made, ranging from a drawing of Celestia – which Luna could charitably say at least resembled her royal sister in basic outline – to a poem that would make the ancient poets weep for its butchery of the Ponish language, and finally what looked like attempts at building home-made kites.

Still. There had been effort, from the children and Orion, and Luna could fault neither of them.

And there she saw them. A new semi-circle. Orion, Starshine, and the two other teachers sat upon felled logs, separated from the children by a slowly glowing campfire.

“Luna, dear, come over!” Orion called out. “It’s your turn.”

Taking a deep breath, Luna strode over. The circle parted to welcome her, the teachers making room for their Princess upon one of the logs. As she laid down there, Luna took in the sight of the children, blinking and whispering amongst themselves. She found she had little to say.

Anew, Orion spoke up.

“This is Princess Luna–”

“Hi, Princess!” chorused the children.

“–and she’s here to carry on Trivia Night,” Orion finished.

He was waving question cards as he said this. In his forehoof, interestingly, rather than his aura. Another chorus of ‘yay!’ followed, and Luna had to chide herself for forgetting to plug her ears.

Luna cleared her throat. “Ahem… yes. I am.”

Whispers and murmurs rose amongst the crowd, which dimmed the moment Luna set her sights on them. Still hesitation remained.

She caught herself before speaking up. It was a quick glance at Orion, that disarmingly mischievous smile of his lighting up her night, that emboldened her.

“Dear children,” Luna began carefully, reading off the cards Orion had given her, “what can you tell me of… of… the old city of Pegasopolis?”

She regretted it almost as soon as she had given the question. Such an easy mistake to make. Children could not be expected to answer a question drenched in geopolitical complexity. But to her surprise, one of the children – green as his experiences surely were – raised his hoof.

Luna pointed to him, across the campfire. “Yes?”

“Umm… umm…” the colt stuttered, flickering embers reflected in eyes gone wide with anxiety. “I… think it used to be the pegasi home. A-and then… then they moved to… ummm, Cloudsdale, in Equestria? Because they were part of Equestria now and didn’t need to live alone anymore.”

Luna blinked. The colt looked at her expectantly.

“... Correct,” Luna said. The colt cheered. And so did the other children.

Perhaps she was feeling charitable, for she have could easily lecture him and the group on the various arguments, agreements and arrangements that had comprised the founding of Cloudsdale and the abandonment of the Old City. But the colt’s answer was technically correct, mustered in the words he could think of.

“And… hmm,” Luna continued, as the colt sat back down with a giggle. She thought very carefully. She set the next card aside, allowed herself a little smile at what the question was. “What is the traditional food and drink of thestrals?”

Her Night Guard would be so proud. It was the lead rascal who’d started the chant to slay the Badalisc that answered, waving her forehoof in the air and hopping onto her feet when Luna pointed at her next.

“Blueberries!” she declared. “With a spot of tea!”

Such a lovely cheer that followed. And Orion’s grin, genuine as always, emboldened her further.

The questions went on, and so did the answers. Stratusburg. Starswirl. Neighpon. Yaks. The relations of Kirin and deer. Reindeer gifts and the Snow Maiden’s duties. Minotaur mercenaries of the Tauren Isles, rainbow bridges and Centaur tales. Griffon kings and Changeling queens...

Yet, throughout, Luna stole glances towards the little sandy filly. Not once did her hoof shoot up, nor did she mutter a word. But Luna did not mind this much. She should not be pushed, and so Luna went on.

“Now, children,” said Luna, smiling serenely, as the Moon rose ever higher “a very simple one.” She paused, watching them look at her with curiosity and anticipation. “I ask… who vanquished Discord, two hundred years ago?”

Hooves shot up all at once. Some pushed another aside. Luna, with her keen night-sight, had readily spotted the first to raise their hoof, so she gave an approving nod to the red colt.

“Celestia!” cried the colt, with all the confidence a child could muster, and a very proud smile. “Princess Celestia beat Discord!”

Luna’s heart skipped a beat.

Off in the corner of her eye, she saw Orion looking at her, as did the little sandy filly. Yet Luna thought of neither, as she felt the long crack beneath her and she glimpsed the harsh twinkle of the stars within her ethereal mane.

She stood up to her full height upon the grass, by the campfire.

“What?” she said, with shaky, shallow breaths. “What did you say?”

“Princess Celestia!” the child recited with little hesitation. “She beat up Discord and won!”

The children chorused in agreement. The colt looked at her, proud as ever. “Did I win?”

Before he, or anyone else could say anything, Luna was gone in a flash, leaving behind an extinguished campfire.

* * * * *

Princess Luna took flight, fled, ran. Far, far as she could. Through trees and bushes and the undergrowth, past forest groves and rolling hills… She knew not how far she had gone. Perhaps it was worlds away. Perhaps only a hundred yards from the campsite. All she knew was how much it hurt.

It shouldn’t have done, she knew. He was only a child. He did not know any better. But it hurt, all the same.

When at last she reached the cliff’s edge of Rainbow Falls, eyes beholding the land below, all she could do was stomp upon the ground, cracking it, as she felt her teeth clench and horn crackle. She should not be this upset, this enraged by a child’s mere words. And yet she was, her whole being trembling and shaking.

Staring at the Moon she had carried and guided for so long, Luna let out a shrill cry, letting it echo through the valley and beyond.


Such a gentle stallion, her Orion. She welcomed his tender voice as much as she shied away from it here and now, and so she remained impassive, unmoving, even as she heard the sound of hooves upon grass.

“Orion,” said Luna, remaining where she stood, trying her best not to look into those stupidly endearing eyes of his. “I thought you’d be busy.”

“I’ve got time,” Orion replied, his voice growing closer still. “Someone else needs my presence.”

Luna released a humourless laugh. “I’m doing just fine,” she said, though she didn’t quite believe even herself. “If you would excuse me, there still is a flower I must find to give you.”

“Forget about the flower,” Orion said, firmer still. “I care not for it. Not when you have so much weighing upon your mind… Upon your heart.”

“It’s such a trite thing. A weakness. It should be none of your concern.”

“No, it isn’t,” Orion countered. “It is none of those. Please. I’m here.”

He was so close now. Luna turned around, and there he stood, eyes wide and pleading and so very warm...

“You must think me silly,” Luna said lamely, “to be so… hurt over a child and their words.”

“I don’t. Luna, please,” he said softly. “I won’t judge you–”

Luna shook her head. “Does it even matter? Does anyone– did anyone ever care?” she lamented, tracing circles upon the dirt. “I should have never come, never volunteered. Who’d follow the mare few would remember, the one who treads in her sister’s shadow?”

Silence hung in the air, carried by the wind. Luna gazed into Orion’s eyes, seeing countless stars reflected upon them. But then that familiar smile formed yet again, and Luna knew there was only one star in his mind.

“... I would,” He lifted a forehoof, moving towards her own. “Always.”

There was so much Luna wanted to say. A rebuke. A call for help. A thank-you. All of which mixed with the flutter in her heart.

All of it faded, however, when she heard the scream. A shrill, terrified squeal. A child’s crying. All of them from where the camp was.

At once, she reached out to Orion, and they disappeared in a new flash.

* * * * *

Beneath the moonlight, the school trip’s camp was in disarray. Benches were overturned. Tents were scattered. The campfire was still out, still no more. And the schoolchildren, Luna saw then, were all afraid, huddling together and whispering amongst themselves, with many in tears. Yet they were safe, and at that, Luna breathed a sigh of relief. No bodies, no bloodstains. This brought her a measure of that welcome relief.

But answers were in short supply.

“Starshine!” Luna barked in her Royal Canterlot Voice. “Miss Starshine!”

“Over here!” cried Starshine, waving her over. The head teacher was right there, surrounded by most of the children, eyes haggard.

Most of the children, that is. There was no sign of the sandy filly.

“... The child,” Luna whispered, and realised how inane she must have sounded at once. There were plenty of children here already. “The sandy little filly. Where is she?”

Starshine spoke up. “Willow? Oh, it must have taken her, oh dear–”

Luna strode over to her, eyes wide, hooves digging into the earth. “What took her? What is it?”

It was the lead pink filly who answered. “I-it was the Badalisc,” she said, still quivering. “I-it came over…”

“The townsfolk have been alerted,” said Starshine. “I didn’t want to believe it but… but–”

“Luna!” Orion cried out. “Here! I’ve found something!”

Setting aside her growing doubts and disbelief, Luna flew over to where he stood. It was the edge of the campsite, a trail leading into the nearest grove, where the moonlight only summarily broke through. And, there, again aided by her enhanced eyesight in the darkness. Luna saw it.

Tracks. Tracks of something enormous and clawed. She could not discern how many legs it possessed, only that it dragged itself across the crushed soil.

She looked at Orion, warding off intrusive thoughts of little Willow’s potential fate. “Keep the children safe. I shall pursue the creature myself.”

“Let me come–”

“No,” Luna said, placing a clad hoof upon Orion’s shoulder. “This is a foe I shall face alone. I won’t risk another’s life, not when I left them undefended.”

She softened her gaze. “Please.”

Orion, after a moment’s hesitation, reached up to caress her cheek.

“Stay safe.”

* * * * *

To Luna’s great relief, the creature had not gone too far. The trail she followed led her to a cave opening, hidden amongst the trees and further up the mountainside. She looked back, pausing only to take stock before she headed into the lair of the beast.

From up here, Rainbow Falls was hers to behold, as were the campgrounds, and what from this high-up distance seemed a hesitant flicker of a spark returning to life, no doubt to bring the children comfort more than warmth. Further on, she saw a long procession of torches, surely from the town, and the now very faint chatter of the children.

She glanced up, seeing her Moon continue to rise as she guided it. The hour grew late, and the children’s bedtime drew nearer. Perhaps it was past it. But she doubted any wished to rest, not when the child, Willow, was still missing.

If she wasn’t too late...

Shaking the thought aside, and clenching her teeth, Luna continued her trek into the cave. A large, damp cave, warm like a hearth in winter. Whereupon it did not take her long to see she was not alone, for something ahead lay curled up in the recesses within. Something huge.

Something reclining before a warm, crackling fire. Luna stopped in her tracks.

And it looked at her, illuminated by the flickering flames.

… But how, even in the firelight, could her mind possibly do justice to describing the creature?

Her first thought was that of a worm. A huge, furry worm, its coat brown and striped, lying on four stubby legs. Luna could not tell where its head began and ended, as the beast stared at her with two beady red eyes, its head crowned by two tiny horns and – of all things, a single edelweiss flower tucked neatly into its fur.

As it opened its cavernous, muppet-like maw, lined with four square teeth, Luna could only muster a single word;


The creature, still fixing an unblinking stare at her, let out a joyous, manic cackle.

“Yes, ‘tis I! The mighty Badalisc!” Its voice was distant and near all at once, and it did not follow its mouth’s movements at all, with its long, serpentine tongue flickering about erratically. “Keeper of Secrets and Spiller of Tea! Mwahahahaha!

Luna looked at it with growing discomfort. What manner of sorcery was this, indeed?

She looked behind, and above, wondering if there was not some trick at play, some prank invented by the schoolchildren hoping to get a rise out of their irate guardian, or perhaps even her husband Orion, thinking the thrill of a little night-time scare would suit what many considered the esoteric tastes of the Princess of the Night.

But, no, he knew she disliked puppets, her personal nightmare. He assuredly would not pull such a joke on her, this low form of practical humour she considered most unbecoming as the one who, along with one of two celestial spheres, also bore Laughter’s Element.

Daring to peer at the unreal monstrosity, Luna saw no string nor ponies scampering about to maintain the illusion. It looked for all the world a creature such as only the Discord the Lord of Chaos could have conjured or summoned.

“You’re the Badalisc,” she finally said.

“Yes!” did it exclaim, head flopping around amidst a cheerful fit. “I, who crossed the worlds! I, who have come to share and take all your secrets, nyehehehehe!

Luna continued to stare at it, mouth hanging open. Then, without another word uttered, she motioned to conjure a sword.

“No-no-no,” said the Badalisc, wiggling its head like one would wiggle a hoof in disapproval, “there won’t be any such sword-fighting on my watch!”

“And what game are you playing here, then?” Luna demanded, holding her half-conjured sword. “It is only by my will that you still stand here, rambling on and on.”

But the Badalisc uncoiled itself, and there Luna saw the child, shivering from either cold or fear. She stepped closer towards her, except the creature’s tail lay between her and the child.

“Ah-ah-ah, Princess!” the creature exclaimed. “You must agree to my terms first! The child is unharmed, yes– but I’ve a game to play!”

Luna looked back and forth, between the Badalisc, then Willow, then the Badalisc once more. She let out a resigned sigh.

“Tell me, then.”

“Hark! I sense within this child great fear and doubt!” said the Badalisc. “The child is not the only one who must tell her secret, but you shall do it as well!” It clapped. “Oh, what fun! She tells you, and you tell her!”

With a gentle push of its tail, Luna found herself nudged, as too did little Willow.

“Go forth! Go forth, Princess and Child!” cackled the Badalisc. It retreated further into the cave, ’till only the red glow of its eyes were piercing through the dark.

Watching the creature retreat, Luna let out a sigh for the umpteenth time, before taking in the sight of the filly before her. Such a small, feeble thing. She’d been amongst the smallest of all the children, but now it was all too plain for Luna’s eyes.

Luna knelt down, tilting her head. “What is your name, child?” Luna asked. She knew her name, that was true, but no harm done in asking.

“... Willow,” said the filly. “Whisper Willow.”

Appropriate name, Luna thought. Her voice was barely above a whisper itself. But she kept it to herself, as she cleared her throat.

“Willow,” Luna repeated. Gently, now. Orion’s words to her echoed in her mind. “I… ahem… is there anything I can do for you?

Stupid, stupid. That wasn’t what she ought to say. The order was all wrong. Willow, for her part, took no issue with it, for she was far more interested in looking down upon the dirt.

“It’s, it’s nothing,” she said. “Just…”

“... You have an awful lot to think about?” Luna finished for her. Willow nodded shyly, and Luna felt beckoned to reach out with a wing. “It’s alright. Uneasy lie all our heads,” she said, nodding to where even now on this excursion, she still wore her tiara upon her brow, “but I am the Princess of Dreams.”

“It’s… I’m sorry. It’s nothing. Really.”

“You are a child of Equestria,” Luna countered. “And it is my duty to guard the realm and all of its people. You are no exception, dear child. Please.”

She looked up at her, innocent eyes wide with anxiety and worry.

“... I failed a test.”

Luna blinked. “A test?”

Willow nodded bashfully. “Yes. And… and I don’t want to be taken out of school. Papa said I’d do good at school, but… but I don’t want them to know I haven’t done good. A-and if I don’t do good I’m...” She shook her head. “It’s silly. I’m sorry for wasting your time, Princess. I won’t speak about it anymore.”

Luna contemplated it for a moment. Such simple, innocent little worries. Yet it certainly felt important enough.

“No, do not fret, Willow,” said Luna gently. “I, for one do not think it’s silly at all.”

Willow’s eyes widened. “You don’t?”

“Nay,” Luna affirmed. “I do not. Not when… when I’ve my own worries, too.”

The little filly looked bewildered. She furrowed her brows.

“Princess?” asked Willow. “Are… are you afraid? I’m sorry,” she stammered out, when Luna’s gaze fell back upon her, “but… I’ve seen you in the camp. You looked… sad.”

Ever so slightly, Luna nodded in turn. “Of course. I’ve… plenty of my own reasons, Willow. And… I won’t burden you with all of my worries. But yes, I am afraid. Afraid that I will not, and am not, good enough after all.”

“Oh. Was it… was it what Chipper said?” said the filly, and Luna realised at once it must be that red colt. “He… he felt awful bad when you left, Princess. Miss Starshine told everyone you were there too, for Discord.” She tapped her chin. “You um… you held three of the elements a-and together with your sister and the other three, you vanquished Discord.”

Blinking, she twirled her braided mane, all flustered.

“Sorry. That was a lot.”

Luna shook her head, smiling softly now. “Oh, do not worry. If any, it tells me what a clever filly you are, to remember so much in so little time.”

“Thank you, Princess,” said Willow, sounding a little unsure. “It’s… um, okay. I think you’re good enough. The others were um, really excited to have you around to help slay the Badalisc.”

“That they were,” Luna agreed, glancing back into the darkness – where the Badalisc stared back, eyes still glowing brightly. “I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint them. But thank you, Willow.” She paused to consider. “If I may, I’d like to accompany you when you inform your parents, Willow. Best to get it over with.”

“What if they… what if they get sad, too?”

“Do not worry, little one,” she said, gentle as she could be. “I shan’t pressure you, if you do not wish to. But know that I will be there if you do.”

And, amidst the Badalisc’s enthusiastic, if physiologically implausible clapping, little Willow closed that final gap between them and pulled her into the tightest embrace.

* * * * *

“Still more letters, I see?”

Luna looked up from her newest pot of flower, smiling. Orion stood there, dressed in a dapper navy-blue coat, looking as lovely as ever.

“Of course, husband dearest,” she answered. “They did seem rather enthusiastic.”

It had only been a good few days since the end of the trip, a good few days since she descended from the mountaintop with Willow, and the Badalisc itself.

Much to the dismay of the children, there was no monster-slaying to be had. A short-lived disappointment, of course, for they were overjoyed to find how cuddly the creature had been. Many a short negotiation later, and there were no hard feelings left. Only the mildly ominous promise from the Badalisc that, every year, it would descend into Rainbow Falls and spread the town’s secrets – if they did not share their worries amongst their beloved in good cheer, and in good faith.

Such a strange creature.

But it was a distant worry now. Here, back in the Castle of the Two Sisters, her Orion was there. Back to his tutoring, as she was back to her flower-tending. All, naturally, in-between the humdrum routine of politics and taking petition for each of them.

And, in exchange for her little sharing session, Luna had asked only one thing in return.

Gently setting aside the pretty little pot of edelweiss, Luna took off her gardening hat. There was plenty she wanted to tell Orion, of the Court’s goings-on and looming conflicts outside, of her promise to accompany little Willow when the time came to speak with the child’s parents.

All in good time. For now, there remained only one thought that crossed her mind.

“Come, love,” she said. “Come lie down with me. It’s been a terribly exhausting week.”

“Alright,” said Orion, with that familiar goofy smile, turned eager. “It has been, hasn’t it?”

So they lay there for some time, basking beneath the Moon amidst all the flowers Luna had grown through the years, as she imagined the sounds of children’s laughter filling the garden air.

Author's Note:

I got yer permit right here!

Comments ( 5 )

ayo it finally updated

Fascinating. I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s rare to see a tale of Luna still somewhat integrated into Equestria before her banishment. Given what transpires here, I have to wonder if she ever does go Nightmarish in this timeline… though maybe the Badalisc should’ve held out until she shared yer secret with her sister.

Also, what the actual crap is the Badalisc? :rainbowhuh:

In any case, lovely showcase of Luna at her best and, well, less than her best. Thank you for it and best of luck in the judging.


Just another day in the life was the intent, heh. Regarding the Badalisc... well, I like to think it came from whatever hell Discord tried to send Treehugger to;

Glad you liked it, and thank you for the opportunity :twilightsmile:



It's so... goofy


Finally getting to my tracked stories.

The existence of the Summer Sun Celebration threw me off the timeline for a moment there. Good to know that the holiday predates banishment in this universe.

Luna never really said much to the child. To think that the Badalisc accepted the simple admission of her fear as "telling her secret to the child" shows how deeply Luna hid it away.

Another great story, as always.

Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin' down
--David Mallett, "Garden Song"

As of this writing, In Night's Garden is two stories ("Mistmane" and "Orion") that make for two quite compelling and intriguing portraits of Luna's formative years, long before the Nightmare took hold. While not the chronologically earliest stories in the Spectrum universe, they are the first in the timeline to center on canonical characters, with "Mistmane" providing a very interesting look at the relationship between the Two Sisters and the Pillars of Equestria. In both stories, the author's love for the character is on full display, with clear care and thought put into her characterization in both stories and a noticeable evolution accompanying the time gap between them.

Yet while these may be set far in Equestria's past, they, like Celestia Regina, are haunted by the specter of events unseen, but known to the readers. The canonical disappearance of the Pillars looms like a shadow over the course of "Mistmane", though it doesn't lessen the feeling of tragedy when it occurs. With "Orion", meanwhile, we see a Luna who is still a force for good, love, and care, yet within whom the seeds of the Nightmare are being planted. The two stories are separate, were written independently, and in-universe are distanced by quite a long time, yet there's an impressive thematic continuity across them, along with a shared sense of heaviness.

I'm writing well after reading, so I won't get into minutiae here, but I quite enjoyed these. I hope we see more of Luna and her garden down the line, but as is, these are two poignant and worthwhile entries in Spectrum canon.

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