• Published 21st Feb 2022
  • 3,196 Views, 80 Comments

Moonlit Stranding - DarthBall



There are no windows in my room, everything is lit by candlelight, and my gut is screaming at me to not trust a word she says.

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Chapter 2

The brief moment of respite had done little to calm my nerves.

Everything, ranging from changing college degrees like I change socks to not asking out my crush before prom night, had been direct symptoms from my inability to make decisions. It was my most crippling flaw.

And I had been asked to choose once again.

My shoulders slumped as a wave of light-headedness combined with a lance of pain above my right eye to concoct the mother of all migraines.

It wasn’t even supposed to be a difficult choice: right or left. There were plenty of doors in this Alice in Wonderland inspired nightmare of a castle; by the law of averages, I was bound to find some window at ground level I could squeeze out of or a proper exit.

And yet, I couldn’t find the strength within myself to move. A dark haze clouded my rational thoughts, drawing a pained groan from my lips as I fought to free myself from the chains of my own indecision.

“Calm down,” I lied to myself while clutching at my head. “You are going to be just fine!”

I couldn’t refuse to play Luna’s game if I was a piece on the board… and I couldn’t think of a way to bend the rules to force her hand. I was stuck, and she knew it.

No, I needed to focus on the positive. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, right? If I really was playing Luna's game right now, I'd imagine I wouldn't have even made it this far. The fact that I even escaped in the first place was a miracle in and of itself.

I’ll need a few more of those if I want to get out of here alive, I thought bitterly as I squeezed my eyes shut. I held the breath in my congested lungs for a few moments before exhaling with deliberate slowness and then repeating the process until my breathing was slow and even.

“Alright, time to focus,” I muttered quietly. In my mind's eye, an image of a half dollar took shape. By all accounts, it was worth as much as the name suggested… but it was a keepsake; a parting gift from my grandfather during the final years of his life when there was still a spark of clarity behind his brown eyes.

I held my breath as I imagined my finger tracing across the specks of rust that caked John F. Kennedy’s face.

“Right or left,” I whispered with the breath I was slowly exhaling. I placed my thumb underneath the fifty-cent piece-

“Daniel!”

My blood froze in my veins.

Below me, I could hear the unmistakable echo of hooves on stone. It was a sound that I had become accustomed to; I would often hear Luna’s arrival long before she knocked onto the door at my suite. Previously, I used said information to ground my emotions and center myself before seeing the princess.

Now, that information was doing the opposite.

I kept my eyes shut and flicked my thumb upwards.

Luna’s panicked strides grew closer with each passing second.

I held my breath.

The coin fell into the palm of my hand.

I was greeted by the sight of Kennedy’s smile.

I ran left.


I didn’t know where I was by now, and I wasn’t sure what I was running towards, but there was only one clear goal in my mind: I needed to put distance between myself and the distressed alicorn princess.

It was a miracle in and of itself that I hadn’t come across any of the castle staff. My mad scramble for freedom was bound to grab the attention of some ironclad soldier or underpaid servant. But as I tore past what I assumed to be the servant’s quarters and funneled myself down yet another obnoxiously thin hallway, I found no traces of life anywhere.

My wheezing lungs and the distant echoes of Luna’s voice were the only things to break the silence that pervaded the castle.

Letting out another cough, I slowed to a jogger’s pace as I kept my head on a swivel. I was running out of options, but I knew that huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf on death sticks would only draw unwanted attention to me.

But what if that’s what she wants? I clutched a hand against my chest as I leaned against an undecorated solid grey stone wall. What if she is tracking me with a spell? Or if she has some other nasty trick up her sleeve?

It was something that I didn’t consider enough when I escaped. In a straight line, Luna would be the clear winner in a foot chase, and with her access to magic… that should have been a foregone conclusion.

Was my progress up to this point a fluke? Was she toying with me?

I tried to keep my breathing level as a heightened sense of urgency begged for me to push forward, but I couldn’t. My lungs would give out long before my body did, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

That fact became all the more apparent as I ducked through even more hallways and climbed another set of stairs. I was running on pure instinct- my mental fortitude had long since crumbled under the sheer amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins, but this was a stop-gap measure at best.

So, of course, it came as no surprise when I overplayed my mediocre hand.

It was foolish to assume that this castle was an infinite expanse of identical corridors and even more foolish to assume that Luna wouldn’t have the home-field advantage. My desperate sprint had led me away from any possible point of refuge and out into the open.

I pivoted on the balls of my feet and rounded another corner before coming to a halt.

It was foolish to pause for even a moment’s rest, but I was enthralled by the massive twin doors made of solid gold. The darkness did little to obfuscate the runes and murals etched onto them, but I paid little attention to the various depictions of ponies, alicorns, and the duality of the sun and moon.

My mind was too busy focusing on how much of my student debt I could pay off by melting the damn thing down-

-And why I felt a brief spark of nostalgia relax my tensed muscles.

“-iel!” Her voice reverberated down the empty halls behind me. “Cease thy rash flight at once!-

My body moved into autopilot and I closed the gap between myself and what was conceivably the throne room door before slamming shoulder-first into it.

If lady luck had not been on my side that moment, I would have been little more than a writhing lump of flesh on the floor waiting for Luna’s disappointed gaze to meet mine as I succumbed to the pain.

Instead, the door parted like the red sea and I collapsed face-first onto a red carpet.

A heavy, uncomfortable atmosphere hung over the throne room as I struggled to stand to my feet. The closest feeling I could describe was the far too thick blanket of heat that always smothered my hometown during the hottest days of the summer. No amount of ice cream or air conditioning could stop everyone from feeling their knees buckle as they fell to the floor and melted into the thin cracks and potholes in the pavement.

The blanket of heat that smothered me at that moment clashed against the aesthetic and lighting of the room; the muted blues and greys of the walls, archways, and floors painted a much more somber picture.

The only reference to the insatiable heat was the stained-glass window depicting the sun behind the rightmost throne.

King and Queen, I thought to myself as I pushed myself up. It's the only reason to need two chairs. But that begs the question… where the hell are they? Where-

“Daniel!”

I scrambled forward.

My socks provided little grip on the polished marble floors as I sprinted off the carpet and raced towards the sun throne.

The stone floor beneath Luna’s hooves shook and shuddered with each step as I crouched behind the chair and held my knees to my chest. In an instant, the humidity that preceded the room evaporated.

A combination of my nerves and an overwhelming pressure pushing down upon my chest and clamping down on my shitty lungs like a vice made breathing an uphill battle. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed. I didn’t want to feel naked under Luna’s piercing gaze. I didn’t want to spill out all of my secrets before that scheming bitch.

I didn’t want to grovel at her f- hooves for forgiveness.

But such a reality was all but certain; I had no means of escape. No empty room to duck into. No servant’s corridors to weave through. No strength in my battered lungs to supply oxygen to my needy body.

I was fucked.

“We- I know you are here, Daniel!” Luna cried worriedly. “I will forgive you for your transgression, but you must come with me at once!”

I bit back a curse as my natural inclination told me to reveal myself. It was that sort of tone that my sister used whenever she needed to vent her frustrations and confide her secrets with one hundred percent assuredness that nothing she spoke of would leave the confines of my head.

It was almost enough to compel me to surrender.

No, do not dwell on this. The concern in her voice is nothing more than an act. I assured myself as my heart continued to thump away in my ears. Do not listen to a word she says.

“I promise that all will be made clear in due time,” Luna’s voice trailed off into a whisper.

I shivered uncomfortably in the silence that followed. Regardless of the event or the outcome, the wait was always the worst. The final days before my final math exam in high school that I decided to cram for the last minute? The hospital visits to my comatose grandfather that couldn’t even remember my name?

The terrible grade or the somber look plastered on the nurse’s face was far better than any nightmare my conscious mind could cook up when dealing with stress.

The few seconds of freedom I had left scarred me worse than all of the time I spent languishing in Luna’s tender mercies.

I could hear Luna muttering to herself as her hooves clicked against the polished tile once more.

“Dear lord, please… “ I whispered as I hugged myself tighter. “Please don’t let her take me, pl-”

CRASH

I held my breath.

One. Two. Three seconds passed.

A chilling breeze nipped at my bare skin and the air sizzled like strips of bacon on a frying pan.

“CEASE THY FOOLISHNESS AT ONCE!” Luna commanded, and I almost felt obliged to obey; her regal voice brooked no argument.

My fear was replaced with dumb shock, however, when I heard the massive doors to the throne room slam open. It took me several long moments afterward for my brain to register that Luna was gone.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the wait, school work has been kicking my ass these past few days. Up next will possibly be an interlude chapter before chapter 3, but I am still deciding on how I need to deliver it (I do have the entire story planned out, just trying to figure out how to implement things properly to make sure everything flows properly.)

Also, thank you once again UnamusedWaffle for helping with the editing!