• Published 2nd Feb 2021
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The Long Eventide - SilverNotes



Following Luna's first Nightmare Night, a city-state with a millenium-long grudge against Equestria sends her their warmest regards.

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Thebe

While the Elements of Harmony, as they are best known, were only codified in the Early Celestial Era, after the end of Discordian Dark Age, the concept of qualities bestowing magic upon those who bear them is one with old roots. During the Pre-Equestrian Era, each of the three pony tribes believed in a sort of "spirit of virtue," a form of magic that had a rudimentary, if alien, will of its own, and would empower any pony found displaying the virtue it represented. For unicorns, the best known of these spirits are Sorcery and Beauty, for pegasi, Bravery and Hope, and for earth ponies, Healing and Strength.

Legends from that period frequently involve heroes who've gained the attention of one of these spirits and then made use of their power to protect their people, and sects within Old Unicornia, Old Pegasopolis, and Old Terra Firma who believed in reincarnation would occasionally try to connect these folk heroes together, as the same soul being sought out by this spirit to embody it over and over again. Despite each tribe having multiple spirits as part of their folklore, the concept of more than one bearer of these virtues working together would only see use in writings after Unification, where the idea of a group of six--typically two unicorns, two pegasi, and two earth ponies--with each bearing a spirit gained traction.

By the time the Discordian Dark Age had ended, these spirits had changed into a set of artefacts instead. Frequently depicted as a collection of gemstones in a variety of colours, they have changed from something that seeks out its bearer, to something its bearer seeks themselves in a time of need and, if found worthy, is able to activate. With the change in form, there was also a change in which virtues were focused on. This is speculated to be due to the cultural shift away from heroes who are intrinsically greater than the common pony, toward ones defined by the greatness they inspire in others, becoming a herd that is more than the sum of its parts.

The most agreed-upon elements from surviving writings are Honesty, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, and Loyalty, which take on qualities from the old spirits of Strength, Healing, Hope, Beauty, and Bravery, respectively, to varying degrees. The sixth element is not always named, but when it is, it is most known as Friendship or, marking it as a clear parallel to the old spirit of Sorcery, as Magic. A handful of stories would assign a seventh, identified as either Empathy or Forgiveness, but these never gained the popularity necessary to become the dominant depiction.

What, precisely, the Elements of Harmony are capable of magically would change drastically from story to story, but the most common threads are their ability to imprison monsters, and the ability to purify a place or pony corrupted by strange magic.


Penumbra closed the book. She shut her eyes, her face blank, her ears still, and sat motionless save for the breaths that came out in a series of heavy, frustrated snorts. The book sat there innocently on her desk, the cover emblazoned with, as the page had described, a set of six gemstones, five of them in long hexagonal cuts and the largest in the shape of a six-pointed star. It was one of several of its kind, filling the shelves that lined so much of the walls of this room. Books upon books about artefacts, legends, magical theory, and much more.

Sharing the shelves with the books were a collection of newspaper clippings, going back practically to the point when Equestria started printing newspapers. Articles about the once-only alicorn, then two, then three. From every possible source, including a few publications from outside of Equestria's borders detailing the times that these rare ponies had stepped onto their lands.

A few cases were visible, lined in gleaming metal and shining gems. Filled with curiosities that had made their way into the Society's grasp. A few produced a soft glow that could be seen through the boxes' seams. At least one occasionally gave a faint rattle. All of it was legal, at least once enough bits had been exchanged to acquire the proper permits, most of it things that the average pony would never know existed, let alone have the chance to see.

Useless, all of it.

With a flap of her wings, Penumbra launched herself out of her seat and landed on the floor with a satisfying sound of keratin on stone. Folding her wings again, she started to lift one front hoof and place it back down, then another, rocking slightly side-to-side as she formed a steady rhythm like a living metronome, never speeding up or slowing down.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Tension slowly dissipated, and eventually she opened her eyes, her calming motions ceasing. She'd been needing to do that more and more often, and she knew that it was no mystery why. Surrounded by this, all of this, the accumulation of knowledge and resources of all who came before her, who'd stood vigil over Eventide for a thousand years, and she was still dealing with speculation, guesswork, and the words of those who'd believed it was all just old pony tales.

She turned away from the books, the clippings, the artefacts of all shapes, and left her study behind. Once in the hall, she traded the candlelight of the room for moonlight, and automatically looked toward the window. Ebony Tower had very few windows; they were structurally unsound compared to the reliable, dark stone, and provided a look in from the outside, which creatures notoriously protective of their privacy abhorred. But ponies were also creatures with an appreciation for aesthetics, prone to sentimental whims, and so this was one of a few halls where enchantments to reinforce stained glass and hide it from outside gazes had been indulged.

Despite the stress weighing on her, Penumbra looked at the silver-coated unicorn mare standing among her peers, the subject of awestruck gazes, while she only had eyes for the moon high above her, and felt a small flicker of a smile at the sight.

She continued down the hall, watching the scenes immortalized in the enchanted glass pass her by. Pegasi chasing away stormclouds that dared to block the view of a starry sky. Earth ponies standing among a field of moonflowers, basking in their beauty. A pack of diamond dogs with muzzles turned skyward to sing their praises to the moon, while a gaggle of donkeys, mules, and hinnies surrounded them in a protective ring.

Then, the last.

Penumbra stopped and turned to look into the eyes of a dark alicorn in silver armour, wings outstretched to shield a crowd of creatures from the sun that beat its rays upon her back. The moonlight from the outside tinted the sun, making it look hazy, dampening its harshness, but did the opposite with the bright eyes, which held to her own as if the window were staring her down. Many who had been granted access to this hall would meet the Lunar Princess's eyes at first, then look away, shrinking beneath the judgement of the glass alicorn's stare.

Penumbra had been one of them, having hid behind her wings the first time she'd been shown the window.

Now, she stared back, demanding an answer from the unblinking eyes.

"What happened to you?"

As always, she was met with only silence.

Penumbra approached the window in careful steps, breaking the stare, and leaned her head against the glass. She sighed deeply, and the shiver that ran down her spine had nothing to do with the chill of the window's surface.

A thousand years.

She just hoped that she wasn't making a terrible mistake.


The palace had been a home to Twilight Sparkle for a long time. Throughout her foalhood, her parents' estate, her dorm at Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, and the palace had all shared duty as parts of what she called home. In adulthood, her tower had largely taken up that duty, but the palace had never truly given up its claim. She remembered nights falling asleep in the library, afternoons spent having tea with Princess Celestia or walking through the gardens, mornings showing up for lessons right after the sun had been raised. She knew the palace well, and could walk through it without any conscious thought, just letting her hooves take her where she needed to be.

Which was good, because her hooves were now having to keep up with an pony with longer strides than she had, while keeping up a conversation. Even with Princess Luna leading the way, being able to navigate the halls to the barracks mostly on automatic kept her from bumping into any walls or art pieces as she gave her walking companion what she'd come to start referring to as The Talk.

"There's probably going to be balloons," Twilight warned, glancing at Princess Luna's ears to make sure she was listening to each bit of crucial information. "And streamers. And confetti. I think she left the party cannon at home, but--"

That alone nearly got the taller pony ahead of her to stop in her tracks. Twilight almost wished she had, so she could have a brief break from half-trotting to keep up with her. "You think? You do not know?"

Twilight gave an apologetic smile. "It's hard to know for sure with Pinkie," she offered as an explanation. "I've tried to study her abilities but, well, um..." The smile turned to the grimace of a pony who had learned her friendship lesson that day the hard way. "...That didn't work very well."

"I see." It seemed like that may be all she would say, then she nodded and continued. "There are aspects of magic that are known to resist attempts to investigate them. I have noticed during my attempts to close the gaps in my knowledge that certain fields have had very few new discoveries over the centuries."

"Resist is a good word for it..." The grimace grew deeper, before she shook her head as if trying to knock away her memory of what a falling piano sounded like on impact. "But as I was saying, she's likely to bring balloons, streamers, and confetti, now that she knows it's a celebration. She also might try to start up pin-the-tail-on-the-pony--"

"That sounds painful."

"Oh! No no, it's not pinning on a real pony. You have a picture of a pony, and then a fake tail with a pin on it, and the one with the tail is blindfolded and has to try to put the tail in the right place."

"That also sounds potentially painful."

"Thaaaat... would be why we tend to switch the pin with something that's sticky, but not so pointy. I'll remember to double-check that with Pinkie."

That mental note made, the two lapsed into the silence, save for the impacts of hooves on marble, and a faint sound of Princess Luna rustling her wings. While Twilight felt that she had a better handle on what made the younger royal sister tick than most ponies, a single Nightmare Night didn't make her an open book, and alicorn body language was an amalgamation of different signals that she still wasn't sure she could read properly. It left her unsure if the silence was a comfortable or awkward one.

"Sooooo..." Twilight almost winced at the sound of her own voice breaking the relative quiet. "How many did you say were going to be in this honour guard?"

"Nine." The response was even. A bit too even. "Three earth ponies, three unicorns, three pegasi, all hoof-picked by myself and my sister. 'Tis a tradition that Celestia has maintained in the rare times she has set hoof into the city. A small force, equally balanced between the tribes."

Twilight turned that information over in her mind, and her eyes slid to the thick, dark book under one of Princess Luna's wings. She'd spotted the cover before it'd taken up residence there, and it was strange to her how quickly it had become unsettling to see images of the moon in its old state. Her ears twitched as she hesitated, then ventured, "And we're... only bringing the guards?" Princess Luna looked at her, but she still went on, "No diplomats, or...?"

"This is, officially, an invitation to a celebration, Twilight Sparkle." Her voice was still too even. "While the Crown is treating it as a mission, from the perspective of the Umbral Society, more than those invited and the expected honour guard would be--" There was a pause and sudden searching for words. "--I believe the modern parlance is 'party crashing.' They would be suspicious."

"But--"

"There is precedence for this. I have been made aware that the last time that a Chancellor asked for an individual directly, and they attended with an encourage, they were nearly removed from Eventide's Ebony Tower immediately." Another pause, and she added, "I am, however, also to understand that that entourage included a mare who knew at least seven ways to kill most every sapient species, and so the accusations thrown were not entirely unfounded."

"If--"

Her voice wasn't so even anymore. "And before you inquire, the idea has been brought to my attention to place a trained diplomat within the honour guard, but anypony with experience with Eventide would also be likely to be recognized, even with the current Chancellor being new to her position. And if not that, then an observant eye may note the lack of training in how they move and carry themselves. Being caught attempting deception would place us on even worse hoofing."

"Um."

The movements of her mane turned just the slightest bit more erratic, stars flickering. "Not to mention that the diplomat employed by the palace with the most experience with Eventide in this age is a donkey, which would be suspicious no matter how he were obscured, given the traditional composition of the honour guard. There are others with sparse connections, but at that point the risks far outweigh the potential benefits..."

"Princess Luna?"

"Yes?"

Before Nightmare Night, Twilight may have considered speaking the next words to a princess a kind of blasphemy.

"Are you nervous about the visit?"

Eight hooves stopped. The resulting silence was one that Twilight did not have any trouble identifying as awkward, until the so-ancient-yet-so-young alicorn sighed. "I am terrified." She nodded at the book. "I intend to read this written guide from cover to cover, and I would recommend that you do as well."

"I will." Twilight voice was soft, and the marble echoed the sounds of her cautious approach. Luna stiffened slightly when the smaller pony leaned against her, but didn't pull away. "You aren't doing this alone, Princess. The six of us will do anything we can to help this go smoothly."

Slowly, carefully, Luna's weight shifted, and Twilight felt her lean back. "And I am grateful, for both you and your friends, Twilight Sparkle." The moment was over entirely too soon, and she was striding through the hall again, Twilight scrambling to catch up. "We should not keep the guards waiting any longer. They are notorious worriers when royalty does not show itself when expected."


It was a clear day in the palace courtyard, and Twilight watched Princess Luna give the slightest flinch when they stepped into the sunlight. She'd done much the same when leaving the ruins of the Castle of the Two Sisters, though this time she recovered much more quickly. The smaller Luna had spent part of the walk back to Ponyville squinting, with Princess Celestia guiding her around obstacles with nudges of her wing, before she seemed to adjust to the light.

A group of guards were marching nearby, being put through their paces, while others struck at targets or sparred. The hum of projected magic, pounding of hooves, and impacts of practice weapons filled the air with sound, and Twilight looked away from the princess to sweep her eyes over the various ponies, seeking one set of armour in particular.

"Shining!"

"Twily!" A helmet lifted and tucked itself against Shining Armour's side, glowing with his magic, as he trotted over with a smile, at least until he got a few body lengths closer and he remembered himself, jamming the helmet back on with comical haste. "I mean--" He swiftly saluted. "Princess."

Twilight watched the amused smile come to Princess Luna's muzzle. "At ease, Captain. We are simply here to fetch the Lieutenant and my honour guard." As Shining lowered his foreleg, she nodded to Twilight. "I must complete a last-minute inspection of them, if you would like to catch up with your brother in the meanwhile."

Twilight, still wearing her embarrassed grimace from forgetting that guards couldn't afford the same casualness around royalty as she could, blinked in surprise. "Oh! Well, if you're sure--"

"I am quite sure." Still wearing that mildly amused look, she nodded to Shining. "Dismissed, Captain Armour." And with that, she turned toward a set of nine ponies going through their paces.

Twilight watched her leave, then examined the guards herself as best she could from a distance. She'd first seen the new Lunar Guard armour unveiled on Nightmare Night, and she noticed how similar illusions covered the unicorns and earth ponies as the pegasi. The tufts on the ears, feline-like pupils, and greyed-out pelts were universal, while the unicorns appeared to have slightly curved horns that came to sharp points. The stallion at the front of the formation, tall and bulky even for an earth pony, snapped off a quick salute, with the rest following suit, and said something to Princess Luna that she couldn't quite catch.

"Soooooo..." Shining Armour's voice brought Twilight out of her curiosity, and she looked back to her big brother's smiling face. "How's Ponyville been? I hear you're working in a library now?"

A smile split her own muzzle at the thought of her new home, already missing the familiar scent of the stacks of books, and she nodded. "Living and working. And it's been good. There've been a couple of..." She trailed off, as memories of Ursa Minors, parasprites, and her old Smary Pants doll flitted through her mind. "... Small... mishaps, but I think we're settling in really well. I'm continuing my magic studies, and there's a lot of foals Spike's age around. I think it's been good for both of us." She glanced at Princess Luna again, before adding, "What about you? Any news with the guard?"

Shining Armour's smile turned to a wide grin. "Welllll... not with the guard, but..." He paused, looking thoughtful. "Well, I was planning to write you, but I guess now's as good a time as ever. It's about Cadence--"

For a mare who'd been on edge since the letter and only temporarily distracted from it, those last few words were the worst he could have said.

"What?" Shining blinked rapidly as Twilight was suddenly right in front of his muzzle, eyes wide with panic. "You two were really close when we left. Everything was good!" Wide eyes suddenly narrowed and her voice hardened. "You better not have done something stupid! B.B.B.F.F or not, Cadence is really sweet and my favourite foalsitter and she really loves you. She always promised me that I'd be a bridesmaid at your wedding-- Why are you looking at me like that?"

Shining Armour, whose grin had come back even wider, gave a chuckle. "I didn't say it was bad news. But since you bring it up, maybe instead of a bridesmaid... you'd consider being best mare?"

Eyes went wide again, but not from panic. "What? You--Really? Oh this is fantastic!"

"Hey, hey, I haven't asked her yet. That's why I was waiting to write. But... yeah. I picked out a ring and next time I--oof!"

A clang of metal accompanied Twilight nearly knocking him off-balance, slim forelegs locking around his neck in a tight hug. "I just know she'll say yes! Can my friends come to the wedding?"

Shining chuckled again as he hooked a foreleg around her to hug her back. "I think Cady would like that. She's been wanting to meet them, and so have I." They reluctantly parted, and he took a moment to lightly boop Twilight's nose with a shoe-clad hoof. "But remember, I haven't asked her yet. Don't go telling everyone we're engaged until it's official, okay?"

"Right. Yes. Okay." She laughed nervously. "Sorry, I'm just excited. I've been a bit stressed and it's nice to hear good news."

"I get you." Shining's eyes then moved to the honour guard himself, his smile fading as he took them in thoughtfully. "So... Eventide, huh?"

"Yeah. It's... weird." It felt like the only word to describe it. "I sort of figured that ponies might treat me differently after everything, but down in Ponyville they really... don't." The memories of the scent of books were joined by the memory of hooves walking through the door in search of items to borrow, and her own incredulity that she now enjoyed meeting so many new ponies. "They were right there for Nightmare Moon, and for Discord, but to them, I'm mostly just the new town librarian. So to suddenly get this... Society interested in me and my friends feels surreal."

Shining Armour shrugged with a knowing smile. "The curse of fame. Making captain had a lot of ponies talking to me who didn't even know my name before." He laughed a bit. "Mostly looking for dates for their daughters. Cady thought it was hilarious."

Twilight couldn't help but laugh too. "Oh wow. Good thing I haven't had to deal with any of that..."

The knowing smile intensified. "Yet."

Luckily, the following sense of impending doom from that single word was interrupted by the sounds of hooves. Princess Luna and the earth pony guard she'd been speaking to before were approaching, and as he drew closer, Twilight began to see the hints of his true coat colour under the illusion of dusky grey, fairly certain that he'd be some sort of light blue under normal circumstances, with a green mane and tail.

When they drew close enough, he snapped off another salute, and which Shining Armour returned, and the Princess nodded her approval. "I hope that I am not interrupting." She gestured at the guard next to her with a wing. "Twilight Sparkle, Lieutenant Morning Glory of the Lunar Guard."

Morning Glory gave a brief bow of his head. "An honour, Lady Sparkle."

Accustomed to exchanging pleasantries with guards, Twilight nodded back to him without hesitation. "Likewise. But just Twilight is fine."

"Of course, Lady Sparkle. It will be our privilege to escort Her Highness and yourself on your visit to Eventide."

Twilight glanced at her brother upon Glory's reply, and rolled her eyes at the sight of him visibly holding back laughter, before she placed the agreeable smile back on her face. "Glad to have you aboard. Now we just have to wait for..." A streak of rainbow colours caught her attention, and she looked up to catch a hint of a familiar pegasus speeding their way. "Looks like the girls are back!"

Luna followed her gaze, then smiled slightly. "Indeed. I suppose now we will know if Pinkie Pie has indeed brought her cannon to Canterlot."

Her brother and the lieutenant shared a confused, worried glance, and it was Twilight's turn to hold back laughter.


While considered a part of Equestria, Eventide boasts a diversity of population usually seen in fully independent city-states, instead of those with ties to larger nations. Unlike many Equestrian cities, which will have ponies making up ninety-nine percent of the population on up, Eventide, upon last census, had only eighty percent of their population identify themselves as a pony or a pony hybrid. This remaining twenty percent is primarily taken up by non-pony equine species, with smaller minorities of bovid, porcine, and cervid citizens, and a very small percentage of carnivorous species.

Even these numbers can be misleading regarding the size of pony majority, however, as there are several villages dotting the lands around Eventide, in the dense forests and swampland that surround the city on all sides. While not officially part of Eventide, those living in these villages have a strongly favourable relationship with the city, and are welcomed with a lack of the usual suspicion for outsiders. With this taken into account, the percentages of non-pony equines, cervids, and carnivores go up.

All of this results in a city with a blended culture very different from the rest of Equestria. For example, while all Equestrian holidays are recognized to some degree, the autumn season is more strongly associated with celebratory feasts surrounding the harvest than it is with Nightmare Night, which is typically only celebrated among the upper class with costume parties. The collection and offerings of candy are completely omitted, and most citizens will be baffled if asked about them.


Twilight turned a page in the book resting on her forelegs. It seemed rather obvious, from what Princess Luna had told them, why the citizens of Eventide wouldn't be fond of a traditional Nightmare Night celebration. Gathering an offering of candy for royalty they revered so much on the pretense that she would eat them otherwise was more than a bit insulting. But a moment of thought later opened up a question, because before Princess Luna's return, there'd been no known connection between the holiday boogeymare and the old pony tales of long lost royalty.

Did Eventide have slightly different common knowledge, that preserved the connection? And that left her wondering about there being such a gap in public knowledge in the first place, or why the holiday was allowed to exist at all. Knowledge being lost over time was less understandable when there was a witness to the events, and Princess Celestia had lived through all of it. While she'd encouraged Princess Luna at the time to play along and join in the fun, Twilight had never quite shaken the question of how Nightmare Night had become what it was.

As far as she'd been able to uncover, a holiday on that date predated the banishment, and the mythification of Nightmare Moon had blended together with it, but... why? Why had Princess Celestia allowed Nightmare Moon to become such a figure in the first place?

Twilight tried to shake the question from her mind, and glanced around at the other ponies inside of the train car. She, the girls, and Princess Luna had one entirely to themselves, the honour guard split between the car in front and the car behind. The Princess had a bench to herself, spread out along it and staring out the window, while Fluttershy and Rarity had what looked like a fashion magazine open between them--she could hear a lot of sniffing and tut-tutting, and so clearly Rarity did not approve of what she saw within the pages--while Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie were engaged in a game of cards.

Twilight looked back to the book, about to launch into another paragraph, when everything went black. The sunlight from outside vanished, and she heard a scream from Pinkie not unlike the shrieks she would let out on Nightmare Night. Three horns lit, doors burst open with more light from the unicorn guards, and her friends were rapidly getting to their hooves, with Rainbow taking wing.

Princess Luna, however, remained seated. "So it does remain."

Twilight took a hoofstep toward the bench, aware of the tense-but-awkward energy from the guards as no enemies burst from the shadows to attack their charge. "Princess Luna?"

She finally tore her eyes away from the window, and it was then at Twilight realized that the stars she was seeing weren't just in her mane. "Return to your cars," Princess Luna told the guards calmly. "There is no danger. It is merely Eventide's Shroud." The guards lingered briefly, still eyeing the pools of shadows within the train car, but eventually withdrew. Afterward, slowly, Twilight's friends returned to their seats. Pinkie was the first to sit down, and Rainbow was the last.

Only when the doors shut and Twilight was the last pony standing up, did Luna sigh and stare out the window again. "This is Nightmare Moon's doing. I remember... only pieces of her existence, but I remember that she placed this. An illusion of an eternal night. A safe place to retreat, should she need it."

Twilight's eyes flicked to the book she'd been absorbed in. "I'd read about the Shroud, but..." The guide had mentioned the phenomenon as well, within the first few pages, but it wasn't the first time she'd encountered it. "I didn't know it was a spell. The books always chalked it up to being part of the area's natural magic. The nearby swamps and forests are magic-saturated and plenty of the plant and animal life is adapted to survive in moonlight..."

She froze.

"But... if it's a spell... spells decay. Everything weakens eventually..." She looked to Luna, searching for any sign that her conclusion could be wrong, but the alicorn remained silently watching the window as words from old lessons tumbled out. "Natural magical features are constantly fed by and shaped by the leylines, and artefacts can be built to draw in magic from nearby sources, but spells burn themselves out over time. The thaumaturgical structure breaks down without something physical to hold it. Even alicorns..."

"Even alicorns can not create a perpetual spell," Luna confirmed, her voice more quiet than Twilight had ever heard it, and her ears perked to catch each word. "You are correct. I still feel a hint of my..." A flinch. "Of her... magic, but as powerful as Nightmare Moon was, this would have faded within centuries without maintenance by a caster. Structures must be reinforced, energy fed..."

Luna's eyes tore from the window, and she stared at her hooves. "I believed that none of my subjects loved me, and yet, coming to them even... not myself all those years ago, the ponies of Eventide would welcome, would keep the Shroud, would come as close to defying my sister as they dare." Her eyes closed, and a shaking sigh escaped her, her head sinking as if the dark crown were weighing it down. "I craved such devotion, once, but after all this time... what have I done to deserve it?"

Silence. Twilight recognized the melancholy as something similar to what she'd seen on Nightmare Night, after Luna had cancelled the holiday and stormed off, and yet different, and she searched for something to say.

Instead, it was Fluttershy who slipped off of her bench again, slowly approaching Luna, her soft voice making dark ears twitch. "Well... you're coming here, now, to try to help make up for what happened. That's something, isn't it?" She reared up, planting her front hooves on the bench, and the surprised alicorn broke her hoof-bound stare to shuffle over and lift her wing to make room for the smaller pegasus to pull herself up. She tucked herself against her side, and eyes full of gentility looked up. "These ponies want to celebrate you coming back, so you just need to show them that you're going to do good things that are worth celebrating."

Luna blinked, slowly, and then a smile crossed her muzzle and she tentatively lowered her wing, the dusky feathers nearly fully obscuring yellow and pink, as if her new seating companion were a newborn foal. "I suppose you are right. Thank you, dear Fluttershy."

"I still think they're evil-- Ow! Hey!"

"No ruinin' the moment," Applejack hissed as Rainbow rubbed her freshly-kicked foreleg.

Princess Luna graciously pretended not to hear, focused entirely on Fluttershy. "I also believe that I should... apologise, for how I frightened you when last we met."

With a tiny smile of her own, Fluttershy shook her head. "Oh, that wasn't your fault. I was all wound up and scared over the festival. I was ready to run and hide from anything, not just you."

"Regardless, I feel rather... foalish over the entire affair, and I thank you again for your assistance with my voice."

"Happy to have helped."

Sensing that her intervention wouldn't be needed, Twilight turned back toward her own bench, only to notice, alongside Rainbow rubbing her leg and Applejack glaring at her, Rarity and Pinkie Pie were watching the exchange with rapt attention and wide grins. Rarity was leaning forward slightly, while Pinkie appeared to be vibrating in place. "Uh..."

Before Twilight could make more than that sound, two voices broke out in stage whispers in unison. "They make such cute friends!"

"...Right..." It seemed that Princess Luna was also graciously ignoring that, and so Twilight finished her walk back to her seat and book. She then wobbled on her hooves as the train slowed down to enter Eventide's station, and she quickly looked to the window opposite the princess's perch, catching sight of the platform under the illusionary moonlight. What she saw made her eyes widen, and she couldn't keep the, "Oh no..." from escaping.

"What is it!?" Rainbow was up in the air again in an instant, front hooves up in preparation of slamming them into a snout. "They send a bunch of goons? Monsters? We've gotta fight out way out of here?"

Applejack was already trying to yank Rainbow back down by her tail as Twilight groaned. "Worse. I said I went to the Gifted School with a pony from Eventide right? That's her."

Even under the moon, she could pick out that pastel pink hue, and there was nothing that would hide the unique shape of Masquerade's horn. A deep, resigned sigh escaped Twilight as she picked up the guidebook in her magic to tuck it away in her saddlebags. "If she comes at you with hoof polish, run."