• Published 22nd Nov 2022
  • 179 Views, 15 Comments

Of Moon and Stars - Isuvyw



Nightmare Moon is coming back, and it's up to a griffon to stop her.

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Chapter 1: The Heavens Rebel

The autumn night was cool and crisp. An icy breeze blew from Mount Everhoof in the North, bringing with it rust-colored leaves and flocks of birds escaping to the sunny crags of Aris. The air was chilly, seeing that ponies were wearing scarfs and muffs, and perhaps smoking a pipe or two to keep warm. The sky above was cold, black, and foreboding. There would be no moon tonight, for it was shielded by Earth’s cosmic shadow. The sapphire stars of Aquilian’s Watch would bring light in its stead.

Up on a high tower, a purple griffoness and a greyish-blue earth pony measured the stars.

“That’s why we call it the Blue Moon Festival,” Tarla explained as she sat at her desk. She was hunched exactly 90 degrees, her beak kissing the parchment sheet, as she drew a very fine line from one dot to another, in an agonizingly slow manner.

“I’ve… I’ve never known that,” wondered Aidan, her assistant, as he adjusted the astrolabe for the 147th time. “I’ve always thought it was just a griffon tradition. Uh, star Boerus at right ascension 6 hours, declination… 17 degrees south.”

“Well, it’s not just an old tradition,” countered Tarla, marking the celestial object with a little inky dot. “It’s a festival of thanksgiving, a celebration of the stars giving us light. We’ll always have light, no matter the darkest night” – she dipped her quill in the inkpot.

“Well, you learn something new everyday, eh?” Aidan readjusted the astrolabe.

“Yup. Can’t stop learning, can we?”

Tarla drew another line between the stars, finally completing the constellation Brulia, last of Aquilian’s Watch. Though the map was far from finished, all major constellations and stars had been marked down crystal-clear. Half of the parchment was now a dizzying labyrinth of dots, shapes, angles, and lines contained within circles and circles.

She breathed a sigh long due. “Shall we take a break?”

Aidan turned around and nodded with a tired smile. He set the instrument down and trotted over to Tarla. “How’s the map going?”

The griffoness picked up the sheet and held it before the stallion. His initial curious glance was wiped off with an awed gaze, as he beheld masterful griffon craft, precisely inked and all.

“Woah.”

Tarla grinned. “Pretty, eh?”

“It’s accurate… right?” the pony confirmed nervously.

The griffoness flashed a scowl. “Of course! Hey, I spent a lifetime in the Royal Observatory learning all this stuff, plus 6 years of blood and sweat paying for fees. You can’t doubt my skill!”

Aidan rolled his eyes teasingly, before turning towards the candle and, with a ‘huff!’, snuffing it out, plunging the room into cold, star-lit darkness. He wrapped a hoof around Tarla and embraced her, the griffoness responding likewise. Outside, the air was chilly, but the two felt as if they were close to a lively hearth.

“Of course I’d never doubt your skill, Tarla Sparklefeather.”

She chuckled a little. “I always feel so relaxed after hearing that. Especially when you say my full name.”

He smiled. “Hey, I mean it. But…”

“But?”

“Can’t say the same for the royal court.”

Tarla’s countenance darkened a little, as if the room was not dark enough.

“Yeah…”

“Not just your skill.” He sighed, disappointed, but not in her. “They doubt your everything, griffon and all.”

“Well, it’s not like we were that… kind to them…” Tarla cringed at her own understatement.

“Well–” Aidan’s heart stung a little; the truth was too close to home. He sighed. “Yes.”

“I don’t blame you. We were cruel during the war.”

“I’d never hold that against you, though…”

“But it’s not just me, right?” Tarla leaned back and gazed at Aidan’s eyes, a sparkling yellow against the deep darkness. “You and I. They’d never…”

She looked away, rather ashamed to say it. But Aidan… he was a smart guy. He knew. And he understood.

“Right. I’m just your assistant.”

Now he was disappointed at her. Tarla drew in a sharp breath, feeling accused.

“No, no… you’re not just my assistant,” she whispered. “At least to me. I’d never want that.”

Now Aidan looked away, staring at the astrolabe bathed in starlight.

“Is it even possible?”

Tarla wanted to answer back. No, her heart urged her. Not now. Stay silent. She sighed, suddenly feeling nervous.

“I… I think we should get back to work. Somepony could see us.”

Aidan breathed. “Right. Don’t want any devilish rumors going around.”

Tarla rolled her eyes. “Especially not the court.”

The pony quickly struck flint, and the room was immediately lit up. The griffoness sat at the desk and inked up her quill. Aidan straightaway set the astrolabe spinning, and the two began mapping out the rest of the parchment.

“Star Scilio, right ascension 4 hours, declination 22 degrees north.”

“Marked.”

“Just below, star Maia, right ascension 4 hours, declination 8 degrees north.”

“Marked.”

“Next, star Logium, right ascension 3.5 hours, 7 degrees south, just below Gaila.”

“Logium, Gaila, marked.”

“Wait… hold on, something’s not right.” Aidan shook the instrument and held it up again.

“What?” questioned Tarla.

“Gaila’s… changing positions.”

Tarla raised a disbelieving brow. “That’s… impossible.”

Aidan shrugged, as mystified as her. “I don’t know, it’s just… it’s moving eastward. Declination is increasing.”

“Gimme that.”

Tarla grabbed the instrument and glanced between it and the night sky. Back and forth. Sure enough, the bright, tangerine-colored star was moving up and westward at speeds way too fast for a star. She’d have to keep rotating the stupid disc just to keep track of it.

“Aidan, fire up the telescope. Keep track of it. I’m gonna follow its trajectory.”

Aidan snapped up. “But the map–”

“The map can wait,” Tarla cut off. “Stars don’t just go rocketing up and out. This warrants investigation.”

Aidan rolled his eyes and trotted off. Tarla set the instrument down – no, dropped it, with a loud clang – and pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment. Quill flowing with ink and compass at the ready, the griffon plotted a horizontal line, followed by a vertical line, and then a great big circle. Gears spun and clicked as Aidan cranked up and out a giant, cannon-sized telescope. He set its calibration with utmost speed and jammed his eyes into the lens, observing the runaway star.

“Original location?”

“Right ascension 11 hours, declination 7 degrees north.”

Marked.

“Now?”

“Just crossed star Dandelion at declination 10 degrees.”

Marked. She quickly joined the two with a line.

“It’s slowing.”

“Location?”

“Right ascension 9 hours, declination 11.5 degrees. Currently aligned with Palorix.”

“The East Star? Strange.”

“Yeah, it’s almost superna– wait, wait, another one!”

“By Heaven, what?

“Star, can’t tell what it is. Bright, violet in color. Origin at 16 degrees north, right ascension 7 hours.”

“Sounds like Juno. It’s located in the northern groupings anyway.”

“It’s stopped. Right ascension 8.4 hours, declination at 11 degrees.”

Tarla scrawled it all down with a quick talon and observed the plot. The end points of both trajectories lined up with each other, vertically. It almost looked trivial. Coincidence, perhaps. She tried to make any sense of it, but there seemed to be no meaning behind this… event.

Maybe just some distortion on the leylines. That was stuff she’d rather leave to the Thaumaturgy department.

“Uh, Tarla?”

“What, Aidan?”

“Another.”

What?!

Aidan tore his eyes away and glared at her with an I-don’t-know-what-to-do look. He couldn’t believe it just as much as her. There was simply no reason, absolutely no reason, for stars to run about like a yak on a wheelie.

“We–”

“Keep track of it. This… this is most strange.”

“Aye aye, captain,” drawled the pony, as he readjusted the behemoth instrument.

***

Hoofsteps echoed softly off alabaster walls and polished marble. Princess Celestia exhaled a sharp sigh of relief. She chuckled sourly – that last noble really deserved a good verbal whacking for his irresponsibility; perhaps she should’ve given him an actual one on his fine plot, just like the old days.

She sent a small smile to the guards standing vigilant by the entrance. They instantly bowed in deference and moved to open the doors.

“That’s alright, boys. I’d like to do it myself,” bade the princess. “I tire of such ceremony, especially when it’s just myself alone.”

They nodded. “Goodnight, your highness. Have a good rest,” one offered.

“Thank you, you’re very kind.”

She shut the door with a sigh and locked it. Twice. She really wanted to make sure every complaint, murmur, and noise from today’s proceedings would stay out, out, and out of her chambers.

She ruminated on what to unwind herself with as she stripped off her regalia. She paused for a moment, taking note of a little scratch on the surface of her neck-plate, before hanging the set onto its ornate stand, gleaming gold and bright in the candelabra’s light. She’d have to ask the goldsmith to fix that up tomorrow.

Stargazing sounded good. A perfect activity to relax with, for it allowed her to admire the pure love and artistic craft expended by Luna to beautify the dark heavens. There was no moon tonight, for it was new – a greater chance to see the fainter stars, and, perhaps by fortune, a nebula.

She retrieved a telescope from a far corner of her room. She frowned at the amount of dust it’d accumulated. With a simple spell, she wiped it clear of all grime and dirt, and gave a little polish to the brass plaque that identified its maker. Bringing it closer to the light to illuminate the finely carved letters, she read the name inscribed.

Luna. Princeps Nocti. Soror Amatus.

Soror Amatus. Celestia paused, a little saddened as she thought about that phrase. Luna… really loved her, hadn’t she?

She sighed, suddenly finding the telescope much, much more valuable now. She gently held it and brought it to the balcony, propping it up to view the sky.

She gasped softly as thousands of stars blinked to life. They twinkled and shone, sparkling brightly like jewels sewn on dark silk. Celestia chuckled; she briefly wondered how much Rarity could take inspiration from just staring at them like that.

There was Angelon, the North Star, shining brightly on her left, for she faced east, and directly in front of her gleamed Palorix. She drew out the patterns of Caeria, Osmosial, and Ferrius, three giant constellations whom Luna had personally made and named, and admired the blues and golds of Aquilian’s Watch. Beautiful, all was so beautiful.

Then, she noticed it. Something moved amidst the stars.

At first, Celestia brushed it off as her imagination; maybe some interference of light somewhere. She observed the moving object and watched it slow and stop. She shrugged; maybe it was some particle or comet moving. It stopping, though, was a bit strange…

Then another star moved. She snapped up and focused. Then another. And another. It wasn’t some faint unknown star going cranky; no, these were bright ones. The major stars. The ones that astronomers and navigators always looked to first.

They shifted, they moved. Why, or where – not even how – Celestia didn’t know. She huffed, perhaps out of stupor, or annoyance; perhaps both. She had to investigate this.

Holding her ground, and with gritted teeth, Celestia fired up her horn, aimed it towards the heavens, and strung onto an invisible leyline. She closed her eyes and observed.

She felt alignment, but to what? She sensed something… Fulfilment, or perhaps a kind of culmination. But of what?

It was vibrating, oscillating hard. A bit too hard for her liking. There was something wrong; she could feel it. It twisted in her gut and clawed at her heart. Celestia felt darkness taking over her soul, as if… as if she would drown in the night.

Gasping, she cut the connection, horn sparking angrily. Light-headed, she leaned against the balcony, breathing in ragged gasps.

“What’s… going on?” she thought aloud. Then, eyes widening, she turned towards the stars once again and inhaled.

“Could it be…?”