• Published 12th Nov 2012
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Rising Night - StLeibowitz



A meeting with a dark pegasus in the Archives thrusts Twilight into a world she never knew existed.

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Chapter 7

The moon was a desolate place, Luna had to admit. It was part of her soul, woven into her very being, but this was one of those cases where distance added charm, she supposed. A few centuries of exile on a lifeless planetary body were more than enough to give her a healthy dislike of the place.

And what does that say about you, hm? She heard the voice of the Nightmare whisper. That you can’t stand being bound to yourself for the rest of time?

“This is not us.” The alicorn of the Night answered tiredly. “We are a pony, an Alicorn, a Princess! Not a lifeless rock orbiting our true home.” She gazed longingly up from her position towards the world above. Equestria was pretty from this distance, but none of its vibrancy was transmitted through the millions of miles separating her from her children.

Up, slipped a couple months there. The Nightmare cackled. Careful, Lulu. Wouldn’t want to miss your big moment, would you?

“Thou art not helping us concentrate, Nightmare.” She responded. She could afford no slipups now; any diversion of her attention from Equestria, and time would race past once more, sending her slipping further and further into the future. With the conjunction mere years away, she could not lose anything.

You must admire Celestia’s ingenuity in her punishment. You created the Night ponies and were banished for your narrowness of vision; now, for an eternity you must watch over your children and their persecutors, as they dance beneath the rays of the golden sun.

“Not for as long as our sister would have us.” Luna answered. “Four years, Nightmare, and then we shall be rid of you.”

Surely, ten centuries of close contact has earned me the right to be spoken to while using the familiar I, instead of the royal we.

“You are beneath me.”

And will you address your children as such? Surely, they are as much beneath me as I am beneath you.

“We shall speak with them however we see fit.” Luna answered coldly. “It is no business of thine. Thou wilt be trapped up here while we return.”

And how do you plan on doing that? The visage of Nightmare Moon formed in the corner of her vision, offended. I am you. You are me. Have you forgotten, Lulu? We are one and the same. Where you go, I go. And you will be weakened by shattering your jail; it is then that I shall overpower you and step boldly forth into this world.

Luna felt a horrible sensation in her gut. She was right, of course; the Princess could no more leave Nightmare here than she could leave her desire for justice, her love for her children, or even her left foreleg, incorporeal as she was. “We will find a way to stop you. Somehow, we will prevent you from taking power.”

The only way to do that would be to accept your fate and let the clocks strike Doomsday, Lulu. The Nightmare grinned. And you have no intention of doing that, do you?

“We’ve had enough of this.” The alicorn of the Night declared. “It is time to converse with the seers. Perhaps they know of a way to hold thee at bay.”

I doubt that very much. The Nightmare laughed. With a sense of falling, Luna left the Moon and poured her consciousness into one of the few vessels that she could reach on the world below.

Deep in the city of Lower Canterlot, a mirror in a certain earth pony’s room misted over.



“Moonwatcher!”

The midnight blue pony with a telescope on her flank leapt out of her bed, ready to heed the words of the goddess. She grabbed her pen and notepad from her bedside table and sat attentively at the desk in front of the mirror.

“Yes, O wise reflection of the Moon’s Will?”

“Thou art never going to let me forget that, art thou?”

“Never, Luna.” Moonwatcher laughed. “How’re things in the sky? Dull as usual?”

“Despite Nightmare’s typical mind games, yes.” The alicorn’s reflection was somber. “I have encountered a problem in our plans, seer. Nightmare Moon truly is a part of me, and in returning I fear I may be weakened enough for her to take control of my body and powers.”

“Is there any way to stop this?” The Night pony asked.

“I was hoping you would be able to find a way.” Luna admitted. “Certainly, you have more access to information than I.”

“True, we do have quite an impressive library here.” Moonwatcher nodded. “I shall put my best ponies on the task at once, then. We shall find a solution to this as soon as possible.”

“Excellent.”

“On a lighter note, we got a new convert last night!” The seer’s face broke out into a wide grin. “You’re not going to believe who Midnight passed her line onto.”

“Who?” the alicorn asked, curious. She always enjoyed speaking with the former Day ponies who joined the ranks of her followers. “Has she adjusted well?”

“Her name is Twilight Sparkle. She was your sister’s personal protégé.” Moonwatcher’s grin somehow widened even more at the look of stunned surprise on the goddess’s face. “From what I’ve heard, she wouldn’t leave Lower Canterlot for the world.”

“Bring her here. I must speak with her immediately.” Luna ordered. “This could be the inside source we’ve been waiting for, Moonie. I believe our plans just came one giant step closer to completion.”

“I was overjoyed when I learned about this, myself.” The seer picked up her notepad and hurled it against the door of her room. When the ebony-armored guard pushed it open, she ordered him to find Twilight Sparkle and bring her immediately, before turning back to the mirror. “I doubt she is Seer material, though she is quite gifted with magic. Were I to recommend a trade for her, I’d suggest herbalist or the Guard, working from my lack of knowledge of her interests. I hope she reacts well to meeting you; she seems to enjoy being a Night pony, but it could just be that she has friends here. I am unsure how she will react to seeing you.”

“She will take it in stride, I am sure.” The reflection assured Moonwatcher. “If she has spent time with my sister, then I am certain that speaking with the reflection of her mentor’s sibling will not be overpowering.”

“Let us hope not.” Moonie answered, settling into her chair to wait. “So…tea?”



The Infirmary’s front room was much the same as Twilight remembered it; out of the four doors in it, she expected to be directed into the one where she had slept the previous day. Starshine, however, had other ideas. She led the lavender unicorn through the fourth door of the room, where she had assumed the kitchen was located.

It was not a kitchen.

Past the door was a short hallway with another three doors on it; two of them were open. Through the furthest one Twilight could see a few tables covered in laboratory equipment – burets and beakers, flasks and mortars and pestles, with odd plants both dried and fresh suspended from the ceiling. The second door led to a small bedroom with Spartan accommodations.

“Over there’s the lab and kitchen, and that’s my room!” Starshine pointed at each door in turn. “That third one can be your room; it’s the apprentice quarters, where I used to sleep before old Nightshade retired. I think there might even still be some sweets hidden underneath a tile in the far corner – they should still be good, everpony knows candy never goes bad. It just gets sticky!”

“Thanks, Starshine.” Twilight trotted over to the door and pushed it open, choosing to ignore the herbalist’s last comment. “See you in the morning – er, evening, I guess.”

“Yep!” The earth pony headed towards the lab. “I’ll be up a little longer making some dilutions of the lotus leaves. Whole petals put you out the longest, but sometimes you only need a little numbing! Also, they make a really fun tea recipe; I’m going to have to try mixing some of that stuff again, because it’s really good for relaxing. Basically, if you smell something funny but not burning, just close the door. If something starts burning, come see what’s wrong because sometimes I fall asleep with one of the Bunsen burners on, and that can be dangerous!”

“Okay.” She ducked into the apprentice bedroom quickly before Starshine could continue. She was surprised at how different it looked from the herbalist’s own quarters; where those had been empty save for a multicolored rug, a chair and a bed, the apprentice quarters had a whole shelf of books along the wall to the door’s left. As Twilight set her saddlebags down in one corner of the room – had she really been wearing them since she left the palace? – she trotted over to the miniature library. As expected, it contained a good assortment of tracts on herblore – catalogues of various medicinal plants, descriptions of their effects, guides on how to prepare them – but to her surprise, there were also a few books on astronomy, and one very large tome entitled Wonders of the Night. Emblazoned on the cover was what appeared to be a spitting image of Starshine’s cutie mark. Curious, she pulled it off the shelf and floated it over to the bed, shocked at how hard it was to lift. Had her magic gotten weaker, or was the book just that heavy?

She began paging through the book, soon resorting to turning pages with her teeth after getting frustrated with the amount of magic it took to even lift one of them. Maybe she was just tired; it had been a long night, hadn’t it?

Reluctantly, she closed the tome and pushed it aside. She drifted off quickly.



“You touched my book.”

Twilight’s eyes shot open at the sound of Starshine’s voice and the irritation evident in it. How had she managed to get in so quietly?

“You shouldn’t touch other ponies’ things without permission.” The grey Night pony looked down on the unicorn disapprovingly. “That’s my book, and the only copy too.”

“I know how to handle books.” Twilight answered defensively. “And I was just curious. The front looked like your cutie mark, and the title intrigued me. I was just paging through it before bed. Did you write it?”

“Yes.” Starshine answered proudly, her initial annoyance fading. “It took me three years of research! It’s the best and only complete listing of all the plants Luna and her mages created before the civil war. I did my cutie mark first, of course. The Starflower is the only plant in there that’s out of alphabetical order by last letter of the name.”

“By last letter?”

“Yep!”

“Why?”

“Why not?” Starshine asked. “I also might not have been thinking clearly at the time of writing. Some argument with a stuck-up librarian apprentice from Cloudsdale, I think.”

“I’ll put it back on the shelf then.” Twilight sleepily reached out for the book with her magic, but nothing came; she didn’t feel any surge of energy in her horn, no drain on her internal reserves, nothing at all to suggest she’d even attempted to use magic at all. Puzzled, she concentrated harder, trying to force enough magic to lift the tome out into the world.

Finally, after a monumental effort, she succeeded in squeezing a single spark of magic to her horn. It leapt ineffectually out into the air, a tiny mote drifting slowly to the ground as it faded. Starshine watched it fall with interest.

“Wow.” She seemed impressed. “How did you do that? It’s midmorning!”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Twilight demanded, embarrassed. “That was pathetic!”

“Most Night unicorns can’t do anything with magic after the moon sets for the day.” Starshine explained. “That little spark would have a lot of the Guardsponies green with envy.”

“Good to know.” Twilight answered. “Can I sleep now?”

“Oh! Wait wait wait, the book wasn’t why I came here!” Starshine exclaimed, remembering suddenly. “There’s a Guard outside from Moonie who wants you. She’s moved up your appointment.”

“To right now?” The lavender unicorn groaned. “Why?”

“She’s a seer.” The herbalist answered, as if that explained everything. Perhaps it did; Twilight recalled how those types were always portrayed in the adventure novels she read, particularly in the Daring Do books. If Moonwatcher’s room was filled with swirling mists and braziers smoldering with burnt offerings, she wouldn’t be surprised in the least.

The Guard was dressed quite differently from the typical Canterlot Palace Guard pony; he was a unicorn, armored with a flexible barding of black scales inscribed with shimmering violet runes. His head was bare, allowing a full range of vision; this was not a foot soldier. This was a battlemage.

“You are Twilight Sparkle?” He asked as she passed into the Infirmary’s main room.

“Yes. Let’s get this over with.” She answered.

“Gladly. Moonwatcher might be the seer, but she needs her sleep as much as the next pony; I imagine the same might apply to you as well.” The guard stepped out of the doorway to let Twilight pass. “After you, ma’am.”

They walked in silence for the first part of the trip, passing under an unfamiliar blue-painted archway after they crossed the Marketplace. Eventually, the guard – so different from the normally voiceless Palace ponies – began to speak with her again.

“Have you considered a Trade yet?” He asked. “The Guard’s always looking for new unicorns.”

“No, I haven’t.” Twilight admitted. “There hasn’t been much time.”

“Most converts have a few months or so before Trade Day to consider their options and acclimate.” The Guard sympathized. “It can be a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, my superiors have ordered me to ask you to consider signing up.” Both ponies laughed a little.

“I’d probably go for something more in line with my interests, something to do with books or magic. Maybe a seer.” She continued.

“A seer?” The stallion laughed. “You’d have to show some sort of gift for it, then. Seers get chosen because Luna can speak through them, not due to skills or talents.”

“Does Luna actually speak with them?”

“Of course! I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” The guard seemed surprised at the question. “Her reflection appears in the mirror when she talks with Moonie. It’s not so much a religious position as it is a news gathering one, though; Luna doesn’t grant “revelations” or “glimpses of the future” like some of the more informed Day scholars believe. She’s not a goddess or anything; just a pony with an overlong life and some impressive magic.”

“Well, I guess being a Seer is out, then.” Twilight sighed; that had been the most magically-oriented profession she’d heard of down here. “Are there any research mage positions? Anything that combines magic and research?”

The guard was quiet for a few steps as he considered. “Herbalist, I’d say.”

“Herbalist?”

“I’ve never seen Starshine without a manual of some sort when she’s at work, and a lot of the Night plants and herbs are magical in their effects. Plus, she does a good deal of alchemy and medical-type activities, which magic is immensely useful in.”

“But she’s not even a unicorn!”

“So?”

Twilight didn’t have a good answer to that. Starshine might not have a horn, but magic didn’t always have to come from a pony. She’d read a bit about the Zebrican alchemists and their mixing of potions to achieve effects impossible with unicorn magic; perhaps Starshine did have some magic of her own, after a fashion.

“We’re here.” The two ponies stopped in front of a nondescript gray door, identical to the others in the row. Were it not for the small crescent painted in the upper left, she wouldn’t have suspected anything beyond it was different at all. The Guard knocked twice, and the plate slid aside effortlessly, to reveal a midnight blue earth pony on the other side.

“Oh! Mercutio, Twilight! Please, come in. We were just about to have tea.” She smiled happily. “Luna’s been wanting to speak to you a while, miss. Very, very few get to have a Princess wait on them, and from what I’ve heard about your past, you are the first in a millennium to have both wait on her in the same lifetime!”

“Luna’s here?”

“Yep! In the mirror over there – oh! You might not be able to see her because of the steam from the tea. I’ll clear that up in a second, don’t worry!” She scurried off to find a towel of some sort.

Sure enough, there was a large mirror hanging at the head of a long ash table that dominated the center of the room. It seemed to have been installed recently, judging from the number of objects that had been shoved to the sides of the small space. A cup of steaming hot tea was situated beneath the mirror, fogging up the glass and obscuring anything that might have been visible otherwise. The seer raced back in less than a moment and scrubbed the reflective panel’s face free of mist, and revealed the reflection of a beautiful alicorn, her coat the same color as Moonwatcher’s, her mane made of starfield. She wore a necklace and small crown wrought in ebony and silver.

She looked identical to the portrait in the hidden room in the palace.

“Greetings to thee, Twilight Sparkle.” Luna, Princess of the Night, exiled from Equestria for eternity, welcomed the lavender unicorn. “We have heard much about you. Please, take a seat.”

“Of course, Princess.” Twilight curtseyed and took up the seat across from the mirror.

“Please, before we begin, drop the formality.” The reflection ordered. “We hate that. Thou art my equal in this place, just as it was in the old Night Court. Understood?”

“Understood.” Twilight confirmed. She could already tell there would be some large differences between her and Celestia.

“So, Twilight. We understand that you were our sister’s student for these past years?”

“Yep! She was teaching me magic. I lived up in the palace – I think it may have been your old quarters; I found a portrait of you in a hidden room across the hall.”

“Really?” Luna was intrigued. “How fares our garden? We designed it to be self-sustaining, but perhaps ten centuries is too much to ask of a closed system.”

“Oh, it seemed fine. I’m not all that familiar with Starflowers yet, but they didn’t seem to be dead.”

“Yet?” Moonwatcher broke in. “You have chosen herbalism as your Trade, then?”

“It’s under consideration.”

“Better hurry up and choose. Only two weeks to go.” The seer advised. “Starshine hasn’t taken an apprentice yet, but I think she might this year.”

“Ahem.” Luna refocused them on the original topic. “Questions of Night societal position aside, we have more that we would like to ask thee, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Of course! Ask away.”

“During thy tenure at the Palace, didst thou hear of any artifacts known as the Elements of Harmony?”

“Oh! Elements of Harmony, yes.” She closed her eyes and began to recite an old encyclopedia entry she’d committed to memory. “The Elements of Harmony were six magical artifacts capable of linking together and amplifying the energies of their bearers, ponies who shared a special bond such as friendship. Most famously used at the end of the Civil War to banish…” She frowned; her memory of that portion was a bit fuzzy. “…somepony. That’s odd; I was certain I had memorized that part as well.”

“Our name was likely cursed to fade from the recollection of those Day ponies who knew of it; Celestia’s punishment of us was far-reaching.” Luna nodded as she took in this information. “Thou hast convinced us that thou dost indeed know of these items, but dost thou know where they are now?”

“No.” She answered, with slightly shaken confidence. Had she known and forgotten, or had she never actually known at all?

“Very well; continuing on. Dost thou know the disposition of the Palace defenses?”

“No.”

“The strength of Equestria’s army?”

“No.”

“Dost thou know anything of military value at all?”

“I doubt it. Why do you ask?”

Luna sighed. “Because, Twilight Sparkle, in four years we will be returning to Equestria with the aid of the stellar conjunction; we will not be coming back alone, though. A creature known as Nightmare Moon will be able to escape with us, and we would have liked to have the Elements on hand to deal with her before we march on Canterlot and force Celestia to accept the old order once more. Any militarily pertinent information thou might possess would aid our task immensely.”

There was a pause as the ponies sipped from their tea, all except for Luna, who just stared at hers intently, drinking in its beauty with her eyes.

“We could try to find the Elements of Harmony, Luna.” Twilight suggested.

“Thou knowest not what thou suggest.” Luna smiled. “Only Celestia herself knows, perhaps, and a few of her closest confidants. Besides, we would have to find the Bearers of the Elements as well; not just any pony may wield them.”

“Well, my brother’s a captain in the Palace Guard – or will be, soon.” Twilight offered. “He might know somepony who knows.”

“And I could post a request for information in the main Night cities by way of the caravans that are here now.” Moonwatcher added thoughtfully. “With the Nightwings helping us, we could probably unearth a few and use magic to locate the rest.”

“Don’t the elements call to their bearers, anyways?” The guard, Mercutio, asked from the doorway. “Find the artifacts, and their wielders should follow quickly thereafter.”

“Very well.” Luna yielded. “We suppose it could not hurt – and it could very well be the key to our success. We have one last question for young Twilight, before we must leave, though.”

“Yes?”

“Why art thou helping us?”

Twilight opened her mouth to respond, but shut it slowly. Why was she helping them? Surely, Celestia could have overlooked her new form – she hadn’t chosen it, after all. Even the Day pony guard’s probable death wasn’t unforgiveable, under the circumstances. She pondered this for a moment, before finding the answer.

“I don’t want my friends to die.”

“Fair enough.” Luna accepted this with a quick nod and an enigmatic smile. “Friendship can be a powerful force. Use it wisely.” She looked at Moonwatcher. “We must depart now. It was good speaking with thee again, Moonie.”

“Same to you, Lulu.” Moonwatcher grinned. “Maybe next time, we’ll have some good news for you.”

“We sincerely hope so.” The reflection wavered and faded away, leaving the mirror normal once again. The three other Night ponies sat in silence for a bit.

“So.” Moonwatcher spoke. “Trade day.”