Bedtime Stories

by TacticalRainboom

First published

"Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake." Twilight learns that sometimes, the truths found in bedtime stories are more important than the facts.

Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake
Clap your hooves and do a little shake
Find a friend to help you fly
Love will let you touch the sky


Move by moonlight, fire in our wake
Take my hooves and let me feel you shake
I’ll fly home with ashen wings
Join me when the big bell rings

Twilight seeks out the historical facts behind the bedtime story that was her favorite when she was a foal. She learns that the truths found in stories are sometimes more important than the facts.

The Story of Crystal Clear and Little Light

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“That story again?” Cadance rolled her eyes in mock exasperation, but she couldn’t hide her smile. “You’ve already heard that one plenty of times. Don’t you want to hear a different story?”

Little Twily crossed her forehooves forcefully and stuck out her lower lip. “I want to hear the story about Crystal Clear and Little Light!”

“Oh, fine,” Cadance said with a theatrical sigh, rearing up to rest her forelegs on the bed. “The story of Little Light and Crystal Clear, one more time.”

Twilight beamed like she’d been given a new toy as she wriggled deeper into bed, pulling the sheets up to her chin.

Princess Cadance leaned closer to Twilight, lifting one hoof and gesturing toward an imaginary fairy-tale landscape as she began to recite.

“Thousands of years ago, before the Fire of Friendship was lit, Equestria was divided into kingdoms that hated and distrusted each other. All except for a kind unicorn named Crystal Clear, and a clever pegasus named Little Light...”

Crystal Clear was born in a beautiful castle, in a beautiful city, on top of a beautiful mountain called Mount Platinum. The little filly had still not earned a cutie mark, but she had a mane the color of a bright sunny day and a coat the color of a newly spun silk sheet. Her parents, two unicorns from a great and proud family of sun-movers, loved her dearly and gave her everything that she wanted. However, they never allowed her to leave the city and see the world outside its walls.

“Mount Platinum is the perfect place,” Crystal Clear’s mother and father said whenever their daughter asked what the world outside was like. “The world below is ugly and dangerous. What do you need from outside the city? We can give you everything you want, and you never have to leave.”

Starting on Crystal Clear’s seventh birthday, her mother and father gave her a beautiful platinum pin every year. And Crystal Clear would smile as she saw how each new pin shimmered in the light. Then, she would use her magic to nest each pin in her mane and wear it with pride all year long.

“There is nothing like this pin anywhere else in the world,” Crystal Clear’s parents told her every year as she tucked another pin into her mane. “Only we, on this mountain, have such beautiful things.”

But Crystal Clear wasn’t so sure. Sometimes, when the mood took her, she would sit at her window to watch the sunset and wonder about all the things that she might find in the world outside of her perfect city.

“Aren’t there other ponies outside of the city?” Crystal Clear asked her parents from where she sat at her window. “Don’t you want to meet them?”

Her parents scolded her. “The ponies from outside the city are lazy, stupid beggars,” they said angrily. “Stay inside the city and talk to the ponies here!”

Crystal Clear nodded, and agreed never to talk to any ponies from outside the city, but still she wasn’t sure. So, on the day of her tenth birthday, she decided that she would find out for herself.

When Crystal Clear’s parents came to give their daughter a pin for her tenth birthday, Crystal Clear was nowhere to be found. Instead, she was on the slopes of of Mount Platinum, making her way down the twisting path.

After a long morning of hiking, Crystal Clear reached a place where the path led through a thick tangle of bushes, so she stopped to take a rest. The sun was just reaching the peak of midday.

Suddenly, she jumped to her hooves and hid behind a rock when she saw something hiding in a nearby bush. And the thing in the bush jumped too! And as the thing looked at Crystal Clear with wide eyes, Crystal Clear saw that it was a little pegasus in the bush, no older than herself.

“Who are you?” Crystal Clear asked.

“My name is Little Light,” the pegasus said. “Who are you?”

Crystal Clear was excited, but she was also scared. "I can't tell you my name, because my parents told me that ponies from outside the city are ugly and lazy and are always begging for things!”

“Well, my parents told me that ponies from inside the city are vain and greedy and want to steal things from everypony else!”

Crystal Clear was shocked, and more than a little bit offended. “That’s not true! My parents are very humble, and very generous, and they love me very much!”

“Well," replied Little Light, “My parents are very proud, and they work very hard, and they love me very much.”

Crystal Clear thought about that for a little while, and then she came out from behind her rock. When Little Light saw this, he came out from beneath his bush, and the two little ponies looked at each other for the first time.

“My name is Crystal Clear," said Crystal Clear, "and you're not ugly at all."

And it was true: Little Light was in fact very beautiful. His coat and mane were the color of a stormy sea at midnight, but his eyes glittered like lightning arcing across a moonless sky.

Crystal Clear hung her head. “I’ve never met a pony from outside the city before. I’m sorry for saying those things about you.”

“And I’m sorry for saying those things about you,” Little Light replied. “And I’ve always wanted to meet a pony from the city on the mountain.”

“Really?” Crystal Clear cautiously edged closer to Little Light. “What’s it like where you come from? Tell me everything.”

“I’ll tell you everything.” Little Light smiled. “Just as long as you tell me everything about what it’s like inside the city.”

They spent all day telling each other about their separate worlds. Crystal Clear told Little Light about Mount Platinum’s enchanted walls and mighty towers, and Little Light told Crystal Clear about what it was like to harness the wind and swim through the clouds. Soon it was night, and the two little ponies knew that it was time for them to return to their own homes.

“Wait,” said Little Light, before Crystal Clear could leave. “I have something for you. To help you remember.” In Little Light’s hooves was a crystal, and trapped inside the crystal was a single dancing wisp of light.

Crystal Clear’s eyes widened as she admired the tiny shard of sky. She had never seen anything like it in her life. "What is it? It's beautiful.”

“It’s a frozen drop of rainbow,” Little Light said. “The ponies where I live are the best in the world at making them.”

In return, Crystal Clear gave Little Light the only thing she could think of: one of the platinum pins from her mane. It was polished so brightly that it glinted white even by starlight.

“It’s made of purest platinum,” Crystal Clear said. “My parents told me that only Mount Platinum has metal like this.”

“Will you ever come back to see me again?” Little Light asked sadly as he held the little pin to his chest.

“Of course I will! I will, as soon as I can, I promise!”

And they agreed to greet each other with a little rhyme the next time they met, to show that they remembered their promise:

Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake

Clap your hooves and do a little shake!

With that, the little unicorn and the little pegasus parted ways and headed home. When Crystal Clear’s mother and father saw their daughter entering the city, they immediately whisked her away, back to the castle.

“Where have you been?” they demanded.

Crystal Clear told her parents all about Little Light, and about how beautiful and generous he was. Then Crystal Clear started to tell her parents the wonderful things that Little Light had said about harnessing the wind and swimming through the clouds.

But hearing about Little Light only made Crystal Clear’s parents angry. “The ponies from outside the city are cold and uncaring!” they said. “Stay inside the city and make friends here!”

Crystal Clear nodded, and agreed never to befriend any ponies from outside the city. But Crystal Clear’s mother and father were still angry, so they forbade their daughter from leaving the castle for an entire year.

But sometimes, when nopony else was around, Crystal Clear sat at her window and held her little shard of sky up to the sun or the moon. She would see the way the little wisp of sunlight danced inside its crystal prison, and she would think about about Little Light.

A year passed. On Crystal Clear’s eleventh birthday, Crystal Clear’s parents came to her room to give her a pin, only to find that Crystal Clear was gone.

Near the base of the mountain, Crystal Clear found the place where she first met Little Light, but Little Light was nowhere to be found.

“Maybe it’s true,” Crystal Clear said sadly. “Maybe Little Light really doesn’t care about me.”

Crystal Clear stayed a little longer, hoping that her pegasus friend would find her. As the sun crawled across the sky, Crystal Clear worried more and more that Little Light had forgotten about her. The thought made her sad, and she began to wish that she had never left her city.

Finally, as the sun was nearing the horizon, Crystal Clear walked out to the middle of the path and said:

Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake...

Before Crystal Clear could finish the rhyme, she heard a little voice reply:

Clap your hooves and do a little shake!

And sure enough, out came a little pegasus from the bush. Little Light’s eyes were wet with tears, just like Crystal Clear’s eyes were.

“Why are you crying?” Crystal Clear asked.

“Because I kept coming here every day for an entire year,” Little Light said, “and I never saw you. I thought you had forgotten me. My parents told me not to trust you, because ponies from inside the city are liars who never keep promises.”

“My parents kept me from coming to see you,” Crystal Clear said. “They told me not to be friends with you, because ponies from outside the city never care about anypony else.”

“I care about you,” said Little Light.

“I know,” replied Crystal Clear.

“And you kept your promise,” said Little Light.

“I did,” replied Crystal Clear.

And the two friends were happy, and they told each other more stories about the places where they lived, but soon the sun began to set, and it was time for them to return to their own homes.

Before the two parted ways, Little Light reached into his bags. “Here. I brought you another gift.” He was holding another tiny shard of sky.

In return, Crystal Clear gave Little Light a second pin, leaving her with only one pin still in her mane.

Little Light started to head back into the bushes, but Crystal Clear stopped him. “Wait. I have something else to give you.”

Little Light turned around, and Crystal Clear kissed him.

“To help you remember,” she said. And then the two little ponies parted ways.

This time, before Crystal Clear even reached the city walls, her mother and father came galloping down the path to catch her and whisk her away back to the castle.

“Why did you leave the city?” they demanded.

Crystal Clear told her parents about Little Light, and about how honest he was. She told them about how he had come looking for her every day for an entire year, and she even told them about how she had given him a kiss in exchange for his loyalty.

This time, hearing about Little Light made Crystal Clear’s parents furious. “Stop being foolish! The ponies from outside the city are our enemies, and being near them is dangerous! Now stay inside the city, and do not try to leave again!”

Crystal Clear nodded, and agreed to stay far away from anypony from outside the city. This time, Crystal Clear’s mother and father were so angry that they told the city’s guards to stop their daughter if she ever tried to leave the city again.

That very night, Crystal Clear ran away, and soon, a guard came running to the castle to tell Crystal Clear’s parents that their daughter had slipped through the gates and started her way down the mountain.

As soon as Crystal Clear found the meeting place, she ran to the bush and shouted:

Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake

Clap your hooves and do a little shake!

When Little Light came out of the bushes this time, he ran forward and embraced Crystal Clear as tightly as he could. Crystal Clear saw that her friend was already crying.

“My parents said such terrible things! They told me that city ponies are evil tricksters who kidnap innocent foals!”

Crystal Clear hung her head sadly. “My parents said terrible things too. They told me that the ponies from outside are our enemies, and that they would all be out to get me.”

Little Light reached into his bag and found the shard of sky that he had brought with him. “Here. Take this.” Poor Little Light’s hooves shook and he started to cry as he held his gift out for Crystal Clear to take. “To help you remember, in case it’s a long time before we see each other again.”

Crystal Clear shook her head. “What if we show our parents that they’re wrong? Don’t you think we should try to show them what good friends we are?”

And so Crystal Clear and Little Light came up with a plan to show their parents the truth.

Soon, two unicorns from the city found Crystal Clear and Little Light’s meeting-place, the place where the dense bush crossed the path. But instead of their daughter, all they found was one of the platinum pins from her mane.

After picking up the pin, they searched until they found another one, some distance away. When they found the third pin, they suddenly heard a little colt’s voice calling from somewhere very nearby.

“Is anypony out there?” the voice cried. “Help me, I’m lost!”

Crystal Clear’s mother and father hurried over to where the voice had come from.

“Where are you, little colt? Let us take you back to the path so that you can find your way home!”

But the colt ran away and tried to hide instead of coming with them. “Stay away from me! I bet you’re mean ponies who like to kidnap little foals!”

“Why do you think that?” the two unicorns said. “We’re not mean, and we don’t want to hurt you.”

The little pegasus still refused to come any closer. “You wouldn’t really help me, because you only care about yourselves!”

“That’s ridiculous,” the two unicorns said. “We came to find you, didn’t we?”

“Well, I bet you only want to get my parents to give you something in return!”

“Stop being silly!” The two unicorns lit their horns like torches and started to search for the little colt. “Just come with us, and we will help you find your way home.”

Crystal Clear’s mother and father found where the little colt was hiding, and to their surprise, they found a little pegasus with a coat the color of a stormy sea at midnight and eyes that glittered like lightning arcing across a moonless sky.

“Where is our daughter? Why do you have her pins?” Crystal Clear’s parents asked suspiciously.

“I know where to find her,” Little Light said. “If you take me back to the path, I can show you where she and I agreed to meet each other if we ever got lost.”

Crystal Clear’s parents were still suspicious, but they agreed to follow the little pegasus.

Little Light walked with Crystal Clear’s mother and father as they went back the way they came, until they found the path again. And who did they find but Crystal Clear, standing between two pegasi from outside the city!

“Get away from our daughter!” the two unicorns growled.

“Get away from our son!” the two pegasi growled back.

Just when it looked like the four ponies were about to start fighting, a filly’s voice cried out:


All four adult ponies looked down at Crystal Clear as she ran out into the middle of the road and scolded her parents:

“Why are you angry? These two ponies found me when I was lost, and they helped me to find the path again, and you should thank them for being so kind to me!”

Crystal Clear’s parents looked at their daughter, and then at the two pegasi standing next to her. Then they looked down at Little Light, who looked back up at them.

“And,” Crystal Clear continued, “they are very trustworthy, very caring ponies who were there to help me when I needed it!”

What happened next took Crystal Clear completely by surprise. When she finished her speech, Little Light ran out from between the two unicorns to join her. Then he took a deep breath, and then, right in front of everypony, Little Light kissed Crystal Clear.

And then something very strange indeed happened.

When they saw the little pegasus colt kissing their daughter, Crystal Clear’s mother and father broke into smiles and started laughing! They looked at Little Light’s mother and father, and saw that the two pegasi were laughing too.

The six ponies, old and young, unicorn and pegasus, stayed and talked to each other all night long. They told stories, they told jokes, and they laughed together like good friends, until the sun was nearly ready to rise.

“We should take Little Light back home,” the two pegasi said.

“And we should take Crystal Clear back home,” the two unicorns said.

It was time to leave, but all six ponies were smiling. That was when Crystal Clear felt something strange happening to her.

“Look!” said Little Light. “Your cutie mark!”

Crystal Clear gasped. “Yours too!”

Crystal Clear’s cutie mark was a pair of pegasus wings the color of a stormy sea at midnight, and Little Light’s cutie mark was a unicorn horn the color of a newly spun silk sheet.

“It was our destiny!” Little Light exclaimed. “Our destiny was to be friends, and to show everypony else that they can be friends too!”

Before Crystal Clear and Little Light returned to their homes, they took each other by the hooves and sang:

Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake

Clap your hooves and do a little shake!

And they--the little unicorn filly, the little pegasus colt, their parents, and their entire kingdoms--all of them lived happily ever after, forever and ever, until this very day.

“...The end.” And Princess Cadance giggled. “Again.”

“Has it really been that long?” mused Twilight. She straightened her cushion, then rolled onto her side and stretched out her legs.

Cadance snorted in response. “Believe me, it feels like it was just yesterday. Every single night. You refused to let me tell you any other story.” She slid her empty glass of crystalcider--now just a glass of crystalice cubes--to one side.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Well, now that I’ve heard my bedtime story, I guess I’d better be off to bed.”

Then her smile turned wistful, and she broke eye contact to look out her window for the twenty-seventh time that night. Twilight’s temporary home in the Crystal Empire had a breathtaking view of the city, but to Twilight, only one of the glinting buildings below mattered.

“When you get to the hospital, will you tell Shining Armor that I said hello?”

At that, Cadance laughed. “You’ll be able to tell him for yourself,” she said brightly. “The effects of King Sombra’s magic wore off after only two days. They practically had to strap your brother to the bed to keep him from coming to see you this whole time.”

Twilight put both hooves to her mouth. “Oh my gosh! I’ll be sure to come and see him first thing in the morning!”

“Then you’d better get some sleep.” With a yawn, Cadance stood. “Good night, Twilight. It was wonderful to see you, as always.”

Twilight stood, and reared up to throw her hooves around the back of Cadance’s neck. “You too, Cadance.”

Cadance hugged back warmly. When the two separated, the door’s handle glowed violet, but it didn’t turn just yet.

“I just have a question. Maybe it’s a silly one, but...”

Cadance cocked her head.

“...Where did you hear that story, exactly? Nopony else ever recognizes that old rhyme.”

A pause. “Do you know,” Cadance said, her gaze becoming distant, “I can’t remember.”

Another breath of silence.

“Well, that’s all right. Thanks for coming over.” Twilight opened the door and gave her former foalsitter one last nuzzle before walking her to the door and seeing her out.

Not long after, Twilight went to bed, but every time she tried to fall asleep, she imagined she could see Crystal Clear with her silken white coat, and Little Light with his glittering eyes. For the first time, the story kept her awake instead of lulling her to sleep, and she knew why: Because of the tiny voice in the back of her mind telling her that there had to be more to the the tale of Crystal Clear and Little Light. A historical origin, a hidden meaning, a part that wasn't appropriate for foals, something. And if Cadance didn't know or didn't remember, well, that meant that Twily was going to have to be the one to find the truth of the story.

The Story of Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight

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After seven hours, three mugs of crystalcoffee, and two entire shelves’ worth of crystalbooks, Twilight Sparkle was finally ready to begin researching in earnest.

And what a researching it was looking to be! The largest and most important of this night’s selection of books sat on the old wooden stand. Its lettering glinted gold in the library’s magic-enhanced lighting: Once Upon a Time: Equestria’s history in myths, legends, and folktales.

It was everything that a book ought to be: Thick, sturdy, ageworn, and full of secrets. Perhaps it was just the sleep deprivation getting to her, but Twilight found herself running the tip of her hoof down Once Upon a Time’s spine. Gently, reverently... almost sensuously.

Twilight had a policy of never using magic to open a book for the first time. To do so would be to deprive herself of the experience. There was just nothing like prying open a tome that had spent years being compressed into a tight brick of paper, feeling that slight resistance as the cover tried to cling to the title page, hearing the tiny creak of a stiff binding being flexed... and then there was the smell. Sometimes it was the smell of a lightless, secluded room, other times the tang of dust and age.

Twilight took a deep breath, hooked the bottom edge of the cover with her left hoof--and lifted.

The tale of Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight dates back to well before the year of the Banishment, possibly even as far back as the mysterious dawn of the Diarchic era. Like most folk tales, the story has been modified throughout the ages, such that the story itself can be said to have “generations.” In some versions of the story, for example, the lovers live happily ever after. In others, the two are not separated by race or kingdom, but merely by suspicious parents who seek to protect their foals from a dangerous world.

Many historians have attempted to use the changes over time as a way to trace the story’s path through history, but every historian inevitably fails to identify a single, original version. To date, no concrete evidence has been found with regards to who originally told the story, or when, or why, or to whom.


Sir Gemstone, son of Duchess Obsidian, commander of great legions of his dame and sire’s armies, fell in love with a night-flyer named Lady Blacklight at first sight, and she with him. They stood on opposite sides of two great distances: the distance between earth and sky, and the distance between enemy and enemy. Not five miles away, the Duke and Duchess’s army waged bloody conquest against Lady Blacklight’s tribes in the Darkleaf Wood, yet in one moment, the beating of war drums was drowned out by the beating of the two lovers’ hearts.

The distance between Gemstone and Blacklight was great even as her face hovered a single breath away from his, so close that he could feel the warmth from her beating heart. Love, hate, and fear pulsed in the air between them as their eyes locked for the first time and their destinies touched for the first time.

“Now you are mine.” Six inches of steel separated her hoof from Gemstone’s breast. Her coat and leather-webbed wings seemed to absorb the moonlight--she was a shadow looming over Gemstone’s bed, wrapped in cloth the color of night and braced with weapons that glittered like stars.

Her name was Lady Blacklight, killer of many ponies and commander of many more. She flicked the mask away from her muzzle and faced Gemstone. Her golden eyes and silver fangs flashed like stars in the night. “Now this battle ends.”

“Yes,” Sir Gemstone replied. He lay covered only by a thin sheet, his emerald coat as vulnerable as a foal’s. “Yes, it does.”

Lady Blacklight clenched her jaw, parted her lips into a snarl, and raised the hoof to which her blade was braced. Then she tossed the weapon aside and bore down on her enemy with empty hooves, smoldering breath, and naked spirit.

When Sir Gemstone awoke the next morning, Lady Blacklight was gone, leaving neither tracks nor scent to prove that the night had been any more than a feverish dream. Sir Gemstone rose, donned his cape and mantle, and prepared to travel to his war room to issue the day’s orders, but before he reached his front door, something caught his eye: a silvery-white flash of steel protruding from the stone wall.

Gemstone pulled the sliver from the wall, and marveled at the way its razor edge caught the morning light. Though he had never seen one with his own eyes, he knew what it was: a sky-cutter, sharp enough to pierce his kingdom's finest steel. It had an edge so fine that it was nearly invisible when held just so, and it had a flat so polished that the blade glinted like a shooting star in the night.

Then Sir Gemstone's head snapped towards his door at the sound of three sharp knocks. There was no time to hide the sky-cutter, so he tucked it into his mane as he ran to answer.

The door opened, and standing in the hallway was none other than Duchess Obsidian herself. Sir Gemstone’s eyes widened, and then he quickly bowed his head.


“Your personal guard stands idle,” Duchess Obsidian said, fixing her son with a stare that betrayed nothing. “They have waited for your orders for some time, and your eyes tell of a sleepless night. Are you well?” Then she tilted his head. “Have you exerted yourself?”

“I am well,” Gemstone replied. “I did not sleep well, that is all.”

The halls were quiet for a moment before Gemstone’s mother spoke again. “You should attend to your troops, then.”

“Yes.” Gemstone swept into the hallway, re-fastening his cape as he went.

“There is a reason I came to you this morning.”

Gemstone stopped in his tracks just as he reached the corner at the end of the hall.

“I wanted to ensure your well-being, my dear son. A spy was captured only hours ago, on these very grounds. She was unarmed, but I feared the worst.”


“A mare, yes. She will be executed, and the matter will be resolved. Now hurry and address your troops. I only wanted to ensure your safety.”

Gemstone bowed his head again. “Thank you, mother.”

Several more guards saluted Gemstone as he strode through the halls of the castle. Gemstone acknowledged each one with a curt nod. None of them asked questions, and Gemstone offered no answers, even when his path began to lead him away from the ramparts from which he was meant to address the troops. Instead, Gemstone decended into the depths of the castle, toward the dungeon. The guards made way for Gemstone as he passed, and they still asked no questions.

“Give me the keys to the assassin’s cell,” Gemstone said to the jailer. “Then leave while I speak with her.”

Lady Blacklight seemed not to notice when Gemstone approached her cell. She stayed huddled against the far wall, nearly invisible in the lamp-lit shadows. Her head was bowed and her face was hidden in darkness.

“I came to kill you.”

Gemstone’s eyes did not waver, nor did his voice. “You showed me mercy.”

She raised her head, and they saw each other. It was only the second time that their eyes had met. Iron bars separated them, but in that moment, they both knew that nothing else would ever separate them again.

She was silent for a moment. “I did.”

“There is a secret passageway in this hall. I can set you free.”

She shook her head again. “I will die as a warrior. Set me free, and it is you who will die--as a traitor.”

“Then,” Gemstone said, “I will set us both free.”

Gemstone lifted the jailer’s keys and unlocked Blacklight’s cell. Then he pulled the sky-cutter from his mane with his magic and placed the point against his own shoulder. He squeezed his eyes shut when blade met skin, because even the lightest touch placed a dot of ruby on his emerald coat.

“They can use magic to know that the blood is mine,” he said. "They will not search for me while they are mourning me instead."

“Stop.” Blacklight trotted closer when she saw Gemstone holding her weapon to his own body. “Let me.”

Blacklight plucked the cutter from Gemstone’s magic with her teeth and lifted it away from his shoulder. Then she placed it against his chest.

“Prepare yourself,” warned Lady Blacklight. “Do not cry out.”

Gemstone closed his eyes. He felt a throb of fear, then a flash of pain that made him gasp. He felt the wetness of his own blood running down his chest. There was a clatter of metal against stone, and the rush of warm breath against his skin. He opened his eyes.

The sky-cutter lay at Gemstone’s hooves, its perfect surface now stained with dull red.

“They will mourn us both.” She nuzzled comfortingly against Gemstone’s chest where she had drawn his blood. “Now set us free.”

Sir Gemstone lifted a lamp from its mount and hurled it against the far wall of Lady Blacklight’s cell, where it shattered and fell to the ground as a pool of flame. Then he shattered another lamp, and another, until the entire dungeon was ablaze. As the flames licked higher, Sir Gemstone summoned his most powerful magic to crack a stone in the ceiling of Lady Blacklight’s cell. Finally, as the stone walls and ceiling began to collapse, he hurled the sky-cutter toward the entrance of the dungeon.

By the time the guards were able to extinguish the blaze, there was nothing left of Gemstone and Blacklight except for a bloodstained sky-cutter and a collapsed, fire-blackened cell.

Using the castle’s rooms and passageways, Gemstone easily led Blacklight to safety, and soon they found the road leading away from the Duke and Duchess’s domain.

“Now we both live,” Gemstone said, sparing one last backward look at his home.

“As traitors,” Lady Blacklight said.

“As lovers." With that, Gemstone turned his head away from the fortress and toward the open road.

They moved quickly that night, leaving the scorched dungeon behind. The trail was empty and the air was cold, but the fire that had set them free followed them and kept them warm as they traveled.

Eventually, they spoke to each other. It began when Lady Blacklight asked a simple question, as innocently as if she were talking to an ordinary traveling companion.

“Do you often travel these roads alone?” she asked.

And Sir Gemstone replied “No, in fact I hardly travel at all.” And then: “You must have traveled far in order to find my mother’s castle.”

Soon they were not merely talking, but also smiling, and laughing, and occasionally they even nuzzled their heads together as they walked. Over the course of their long hike, they told each other everything that they could about their two separate worlds, but they found that the only things that truly mattered were the things that they already knew--the things that they had known from the moment that their eyes and their hearts had first met.

Because what mattered was that no matter how different their worlds were, their hearts were the same, and they were deeply and truly in love. But little did they know that Gemstone had left the door to the secret passageway ajar in his hurry to escape the fire, and that Duchess Obsidian had discovered the deception and was already preparing to lead the search for her son’s kidnapper.

The sun was ready to rise when Gemstone and Blacklight came upon a town on the far borders of the Duchess’s territory.

“This town is loyal to my mother,” said Gemstone. “Stay hidden and watch the windows closely for the light of my horn, then fly in to join me.”

Blacklight melted into the shadows of the dim pre-morning while Gemstone entered the inn. His coat, mane, and cape were darkened by smoke, so the innkeeper did not recognize him as the Duchess’s son without seeing his cutie marks.

“I need a room,” Gemstone said as he entered the inn’s lamplit front room. “I have been traveleing for a long time, and need only to rest for the day before leaving to travel by night.”

“How long have you been traveling?” the old innkeeper replied, tilting his head as he examined his soot-dusted customer. “You bear no packs, and all the grass for miles around is thin and unfit for eating.”

Sir Gemstone tried to think quickly. “Our progress was slow. We had little money for supplies, so we spent much time foraging for food.”

The innkeeper narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean, ‘we’ spent time foraging? You entered my inn alone, and I see no companions traveling with you.”

The room’s lamplight started to give way to sunlight from the windows. Gemstone realized that Blacklight would soon be unable to hide from ponies going about their morning routines.

He snorted impatiently at the innkeeper. “I may not have much, but I have enough coin for a room. If you wish to turn me away, you may tell me so!”

“I only want to ensure my other guests’ safety.” The innkeeper bowed his head. “I meant no offense.”

Gemstone paid the fee and hurried up the stairs. When he found the room that he had rented, he went straight to the window, threw it open, and lit his horn as brightly as he could. To his dismay, the sunlight made it all too easy to see Blacklight’s dark silhouette as she darted across the road, then leapt high through the air to dive in through the window.

As soon as Blacklight was through the window, Gemstone pulled closed it tight and pulled the curtains shut.

“Were you seen?”

“I don’t think so,” Blacklight said. “Now we can lay down and rest.”

Muted sunlight streamed in through the window, coloring the room in dull orange, and Blacklight was a hard black silhouette haunting the room. When she stretched her wings, she filled the room with her shadow, and for a moment she was a spirit of darkness, beautiful and unknowable. When she folded her wings again, she was close enough to Gemstone to envelop him in the warmth of her body and the flicker of her flame-yellow eyes.

Unfortunately, Lady Blacklight was mistaken. Somepony had seen her, though she had not seen him. A small foal had been looking out of his window at the exact moment that Blacklight made her move, and when he saw a stranger flying in through a window at the inn, the little one ran in through the front door of the inn and jumped up and down in front of the innkeeper to say what he had seen.

“I saw a stranger jump through the air and fly through one of your windows!” the little one cried. “She had scary webbed wings, fanged teeth, and eyes like a cat’s!”

The old innkeeper frowned. The foal bouncing up and down in front of him was very upset, and it was true that the traveler who had rented a room only minutes prior had been very suspicious. It seemed to the innkeeper that there was only one thing to do.

“Thank you, little pony,” the innkeeper said. “Now run along home. I’m sure everything will be just fine.”

Then he gathered his keys and crept upstairs, walking very quietly until he came to the room that he had sold to his strange visitor. The door, to his relief, made almost no sound as he unlocked it and opened it by just a crack so that he could peek inside.

What the innkeeper saw through the crack in the door almost made him gasp out loud in shock. He saw Sir Gemstone, now quite naked and easy to recognize, locked in a loving embrace with an enemy of the kingdom. Dozens of thoughts spun through the innkeeper’s head, but one most of all: Those two ponies are in love. It seemed impossible, and yet the innkeeper knew beyond a doubt that it was true.

When he came back downstairs, he found one of the Duchess’s elite guard waiting for him, clad in enchanted armor and helm.

“Good day,” said the guard, his armor shining in the sunlight from the open window.

“Good day,” replied the innkeeper.

“A foal ran to meet us when we arrived in town. He seemed worried that a suspicious person was staying at your inn. Do you know who he meant?”

The innkeeper bit his tongue before answering, because as the guard spoke, a tiny crystal set in his helm flickered with magic. The innkeeper had seen such devices before, so he knew what it was: A truth-gem that would flash red if it heard a lie.

“Travelers often stay at my inn,” he said, “and foals are easily frightened by their appearances.”

The guard’s truth-gem glowed a soft green.

“The foal was very specific,” the guard insisted. “He said that a pony with a dark coat and bat wings flew in through one of the upper windows.”

“I did not see this pony with my own eyes,” the innkeeper said. “Foals have large imaginations.”

The truth-gem glowed green again.

Its owner narrowed his eyes and stared at the innkeeper for a few moments.

The innkeeper stared back.

Finally, the guard reached into his pack with his magic and lifted a scroll into the air, unfurling it so that the innkeeper could see. On it was a portrait of Lady Blacklight.

“My troops have come all the way from Duchess Obsidian’s castle, searching for this mare,” the guard said. “She murdered the Duchess’s son, or she kidnapped him, and we are ready to offer a great reward to anypony who helps us to find her and bring her to justice.”

The innkeeper studied the portrait for a long time, hoping to find some flaw with it so that he could tell the guard that no, the picture did not look like anypony in his inn. But the more he searched, the more he realized that he could not possibly say such a thing; the portrait was accurate to the finest detail. The mare in the picture was, unmistakably, upstairs at that very moment.

“Well? Have you seen this mare?” The guard asked impatiently. “We offer a very large reward from the Duchess’s coffers.”

The innkeeper spoke very slowly and very carefully. “I remember all of today’s guests very clearly; I always do. And none of my guests are the kidnapper or murderer whom you have described to me.”

And the truth-gem set in the guard’s helmet pulsed green.

The guard bowed his head. “Then I will be on my way. I apologize for the intrusion.”

The innkeeper bowed back.

Then the guard left, and as soon as he was sure nopony would see, the innkeeper galloped up the stairs and knocked on the door to Gemstone and Blacklight’s room.

The sound of the knock sent a shock of frozen fear through Gemstone and Blacklight, and they separated themselves immediately. For a moment, neither of them knew what to do.

“Who is it?” Gemstone shouted.

“The innkeeper,” said the innkeeper. “Please let me in--the matter is urgent.”

Gemstone and Blacklight looked at each other. Then Blacklight crept toward the door and flew to the ceiling above the doorframe. She hovered there soundlessly, out of sight, ready to strike.

Gemstone opened the door and took a step backward. “That’s far enough,” he said, as soon as the innkeeper was a few steps into the room. The door swung closed, shutting the two unicorns and the one lurking night-flyer in.

“Please listen to me.” The innkeeper's eyes darted across the room from corner to corner, but he neglected to look toward the ceiling. “A soldier from Duchess Obsidian’s castle came to my inn, mere minutes ago...”

Blacklight descended, grabbing the innkeeper by the neck and slamming him against the ground. When he tried to find his feet, he found that Blacklight had wrapped a thin bedsheet around his neck and was holding one of its ends to the floor with a hoof while she clenched the other end in her teeth.

“Let him speak,” said Gemstone sternly, when he saw the way Blacklight was strangling the innkeeper.

Blacklight relented with her makeshift garrote, but she still held the innkeper against the ground.

The innkeeper gasped, then spoke: “He was looking for a mare who had murdered or kidnapped the Duchess’ son. I told him that nopony staying at my inn was a murderer or kidnapper.”

“How did you know?” Blacklight demanded. “And why are you protecting us?”

“The answer to both questions is the same.” The innkeeper did not struggle; did not so much as shift his legs. “A foal came to me and told me that he had seen a pegasus flying in through this window. Then I spied on you through the door, and I saw...”

Blacklight pressed the innkeper’s head into the floor. “What did you see?” she hissed.

The innkeeper still did not resist. In fact, he closed his eyes, and began to weep. “I saw two ponies in love, when they ought to have been at war. I saw that you, dear lady, could not possibly mean to do the Duke’s son any harm. I saw the truest peace and trust that I ever have in my many long years.”

Silence filled the small room. Then Blacklight cautiously lifted her weight from the innkeeper’s neck and head, allowing him to stand.

“I can give you supplies for the road ahead, a small cart, and cloaks to hide you from rain and from prying eyes,” the innkeeper said. “I will not ask as to your destination. Move quickly, for this town is no longer safe for you. Good luck, farewell, and thank you for showing me the truth. May you find a place where you can be free.”

Soon, Gemstone and Blacklight were on their way. They moved quickly and always hid from fellow travelers, but eventually it became clear that the innkeeper’s help had indeed helped them to slip away from the soldiers pursuing them. They traveled, but they did not know to where they were traveling, because it seemed that nowhere in the land would ever be a safe place to rest.

When the dirt trail gave way to thick woods, Lady Blacklight held up a hoof, signalling for them to stop.

“My people may see us if we continue this way. Walk close by the cart, and do not remove your cloak.”

Lady Blacklight pulled the cart alone while Gemstone walked alongside. Her eyes searched the trees and the skies constantly, but as it happened, her most dangerous enemy would be the elements themselves. Before the sun could set, the sky became dark with rainclouds, and by the time night fell, the air was thick with torrents of rain, blown sideways by the wind.

Lady Blacklight stopped the cart when they reached a clearing in which several travelers’ tents had already been pitched around campfires that were beginning to dwindle in the pouring rain. The ponies sitting on logs and warming themselves around their fires were all cloaked, but from their golden eyes it was clear that they were night-flyers like Blacklight.

“These camps are common in these woods,” Blacklight explained as she fashioned a tent from the cart’s covering. “No-one will think anything of our presence.”

Unfortunately, Blacklight was again mistaken, because at that moment a powerful gust of wind swept through the camp, blowing Gemstone’s hood from his head and exposing him for who he was.

Gemstone pulled his hood back over his head as quickly as he could, but the damage was done. Every pair of golden night-flyer eyes in the camp was already turned toward the pair, and more than a dozen sets of hooves found the ground, approaching slowly until they formed a wide circle, staring and murmuring among themselves, unsure of what to do or what to think, but nevertheless ready to converge like a pack of hungry wolves.

Blacklight did the only thing that she could think of: she grabbed the collar of her cloak, tore it from her body, and stood in front of Gemstone, fanged teeth bared and skin-webbed wings raised. The murmuring from the gathered crowd fell into dumbstruck silence, leaving only the rain.

Finally, a pony stepped forward. He was wearing the cold blue armor of one of Blacklight’s personal guard.

“Lady?” he said incredulously, stepping forward from the circle and approaching to get a better look at his Lady in the near darkness. “We thought you were dead!”

“Maybe it would be better if you still thought so,” Blacklight replied. “Now leave this stallion be."

Blacklight’s words filled the air with silence again. Silence, except for the way the rain roared through the treetops above.

“What are you doing?” The guard asked, quietly, incredulously. He started to circle. Blacklight’s eyes followed his every step, and so did the eyes of the crowd.

“You were sent to bring back a trophy from a dead stallion,” he said, “and what you brought back was a prisoner, infinitely more valuable. Give him to us, and you can return return home as a hero!”

But Blacklight just widened her snarl and lowered her stance, preparing to spring. Rain trickled from the tips of her wings and the ends of her now soaked mane.

“I made my choice many nights and many miles ago,” she growled. “ Leave, or prepare to defend yourself.”

The guard’s tone turned hushed--awed, even. “I hear your words, but I cannot believe them. This stallion persuaded you, a mighty warrior and proud commander of legions, to turn traitor? Would you kill for him, Blacklight? Would you die for him?”

“I already have.” Her snarl turned into a grimace. “Now, if you want him, come and take him.”

A murmur of amazement rippled through the crowd. And then the guard charged at Blacklight with a sound that was between a hiss and a roar. White steel flashed in the starlight as the guard flicked his sky-cutter from the hidden sheath in his front booth and prepared to strike--but before he could, the sky-cutter suddenly glowed emerald-green with the grip of unicorn magic, turning the strike aside and stopping the guard's hoof in the air.

Gemstone burst from behind Blacklight. His horn blazed with the effort of holding back the night-flyer's weapon while lashing out with what magical strength he had. But he was neither a warrior nor a mage, and the power that he wielded reflected meaninglessly off of the guard's cobalt armor. Then the sky-cutter broke free of the magic holding it, and the guard plunged it toward Gemstone’s breast.

Blood splashed onto the grass twice, first from Gemstone’s neck, then from the guard’s temple, as Blacklight pivoted on her forehooves and bucked with enough force to jar his helmet from his head. The helmet fell to the muddy earth, where it landed with a dull clack.

As the guard staggered, Gemstone crumpled onto the rain-soaked grass, and Blacklight pounced, flapping her wings once to propel her into a flying advance. She struck in an arc, crushing the guard’s muzzle with her left forehoof.

The guard howled through his broken face and struck back with speed and fury worthy of a veteran of the battlefield, but he was no match for the assassin who once slipped past the defenses of the Duchess herself to hold a sky-cutter over her son’s heart. The guard's braced weapon slashed through empty air, and so did his other forehoof when he aimed a kick at his former commander. He howled again as a swift slam from an un-helmeted head struck the joint of his extended arm.

The guard fell to three limbs, holding the third off of the ground at an awkward and unnatural angle. He glared at Blacklight with eyes full of hate.

Blacklight glared back. And then she smiled, a sick smile of contempt.

“You disgrace me more than this unicorn ever could,” she spat. “Disgrace, because I am ashamed of how poorly I trained you.”

The guard’s mouth opened in disbelief, and he trembled with unspeakable humiliation and anger. With a final burst of strength, he held his sky-cutter before him in his broken foreleg and launched himself with wings and hooves like an arrow.

Lady Blacklight rolled aside, letting the weapon fly so close to her head that it severed a lock of her mane. Then she closed her teeth on the guard's mane and twisted, yanking him out of the air and driving his neck and back onto the bloodied grass.

He made a weak attempt to raise his weapon, then wailed in pain as Blacklight’s hoof fell like a hammer onto his wrist. Before he could attempt to roll or fly off of his back, another hoof landed with crushing force on the shank of his wing, grinding it into the mud.

“Go on.” The guard spat pitch-black hate along with his words. “Show your true colors, my Lady. Kill one of your loyal guards for a few nights with an enemy of your people.”

Another scream shot through the air as Blacklight stomped on the guard’s hoof so hard that the sky-cutter broke free of its brace.

“I never meant to kill you, even though you meant to kill my love.” Blacklight kicked the sky-cutter so that it spiraled into the brush and was gone. “Tell your patrol where I am, and tell them how you nearly felt my teeth at your throat after you attacked me while I was nude and unarmed.”

She turned her back on the guard with one last scornful look. The guard stagger-floated away through the driving rain on one shattered leg and one bruised wing.

Blacklight fell to her knees beside where Gemstone lay. His wound still poured with ugly red, so she tore his cloak and bound him as tightly as she could, but she could not stop the bleeding; could not save him from the wound left by the guard's sky-cutter.

Her determination gave way to horror as Gemstone's blood flowed freely over her hooves and onto the grass where it mingled with the mud and rain. “No!” she cried, heedless of the silent ring of onlookers. “No, not yet!”

And she laid her head against Gemstone's chest, nuzzling against the wound that she had freed him with, even while trying to no avail to bind the wound that would end his life. She began to sob, adding her tears to the rain soaking her mane and face. “Not before we learn what it’s like to be free... Please, my love, not yet...”

The ring of night-flyers slowly closed in on the weeping mare and the dying stallion. Blacklight lowered her head to Gemstone’s, nuzzling against him as his breathing became shallow.

A charcoal-furred muzzle nudged against Blacklight’s head. She did not look up.

The same head nudged Blacklight again. “Come,” said a stallion’s soft voice. “Bring him to my tent. My companions and I have little, but we have bandages and salve. We can save him.”

“My party can offer fresh water,” a night-flyer mare called out. “Our canteens are full and our destination is near. I will hurry and fetch what I can spare.”

“And my lanterns are still burning strong,” called another. “I can use the fuel to brighten the fire and warm him once his wounds are bound.”

Some hours later, when the sky was beginning to glow with pre-daylight, six of Lady Blacklight’s personal guard arrived at the camp, but Blacklight and her unicorn lover were long gone. And no matter whom the guards asked, the night-flyers all claimed that they did not know where the “traitor” and the “enemy of their people” had gone.

When the sun rose, Gemstone and Blacklight were far away, in a new part of the woods, moving quickly, stopping as little as possible in order to distance themselves from the watchful eyes of the night-flyer patrols.

Little did they know that despite their best efforts, they had been seen yet again, this time not by a suspicious watcher or by an enemy loyal to their own kingdom, but by a fellow traveler with nothing but the purest of intentions. The lone hiker meant only to send help for a fellow traveler in need when he reported seeing a grievously wounded stallion being pulled in a small cart by a hooded mare.

Because even so many days of hiking away from the castle where the lovers’ journey had begun, one pony and her few guards were still searching for the traitor and the escapee. Their leader was the one pony who refused to give up the search, no matter how cold the trail or how great the distance.

Blacklight stopped the cart when the woods gave way to a meadow where the grass was lush and good to eat.

“Wait,” Gemstone said. He raised his head and looked around, though he was too weak to lift himself from the cart. It was at the very moment of dusk, and the blazing gold of sunset was beginning to give way to the cool heather of evening. “We’re out in the open. We will be spotted too easily.”

“My people do not patrol here.” Blacklight looked up at the empty sky as it began to fill with stars. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this place before.”

They stared up at the stars in silence together, Gemstone wrapped in a blanket and perched on the back of the cart and Blacklight standing beside him on the ground. Behind them was the woods. Ahead of them was a vast expanse of verdant grass that darkened as did the sky.

“We found it, didn’t we?” Gemstone said.

“The place where we can be free,” Blacklight said.

With that, Blacklight began to walk away from her people's home in the woods, and toward the open field that belonged to both her and the unicorn who had set her free.

Instead of pitching their tent, they laid down in the grass, both of them wrapped in the blanket, holding each other close to stave off the chill of night. For that one night, they feared nothing. Without the fear that had kept them moving from place to place, they now felt nothing but the love that had kept them strong throughout the trials of their journey. That night, by the light of the full moon, they saw each other, they held each other, and they loved each other.

When they awoke in the morning, there was a unicorn standing over them with eyes that glowed with contempt.

Something sank in Gemstone’s chest. “... Mother.”

Hearing Gemstone’s voice, Blacklight awoke. When she saw the Duchess standing over them, she tried to leap into the air, but was pinned to the ground by all four hooves as two guards pounced on her. Before she could move, her legs were chained and her wings belted to her sides.

Seeing his love attacked and bound, Gemstone lit his horn and lashed out with desperate power, but his mother enclosed his horn in a bubble of emptiness that robbed him of his strength, until he too was bound and loaded into the cart.

And so the two were captured as traitors and carried away all the way back to Duchess Obsidian’s castle.

Days passed in an empty blur. Once, Blacklight’s eyes flicked toward the trees when she thought she saw a night-flyer from the camp, and once, Gemstone lowered his eyes as they passed by the inn where the old innkeeper had sent them on their way. Doors closed and streets fell silent as the caravan holding the two traitors passed, but eyes watched from windows and whispers passed through shadows.

Neither of them spoke for the entire journey, because they were criminals and prisoners--and even without being told, they knew that as criminals they were not allowed to speak. So they sat in the cart, sitting nearly as still as statues, speaking to each other only with locked gazes and silent tears.

They reached the castle, and Lady Blacklight was thrown into a cell that was still blackened by the flames that had set her free only days ago, while Gemstone was placed under watch and forbidden from leaving the main halls and chambers. Only once Blacklight was in her cell and Gemstone was in his chambers did the guards remove Gemstone’s cuffs. He was free to roam the castle, so long as he did not attempt to leave its carpeted and ornamented halls, but instead he sat at his window and looked out across the world that no longer looked the same to his eyes.

The day stretched on into the evening, and Gemstone sat at his window to watch the sunset. He thought about Blacklight and of how they had set each other free. He thought about the innkeeper who had seen their kindness, and then he thought about the traveling night-flyers who had seen them fight for each other, and then he thought about his mother, who had seen none of those things.

When the sun fell past the horizon, black smoke began to billow from an open window in the wing of the castle that contained the dungeon. Sir Gemstone saw the smoke very well from his window.

When the moon came out, a guard came to Sir Gemstone’s room to ensure that he had not escaped, but Sir Gemstone was nowhere to be found. He had found his way to the belltower, the highest tower of the castle, and was standing in the belfry with the rope fastened around his neck.

The bell rang once.

Thus ends the story of Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight.

They were mourned as warriors while they lived as traitors; when they were executed as traitors, they became revered martyrs in the hearts of those who saw them on their all too brief journey of love. The war waged by Duchess Obsidian did not end the day after her son's death, nor the day after that, nor the day after that. But end it did, and when peace finally settled over the land, the story had already spread to every ear and every heart: the story of a noble unicorn and a fierce night-flyer who loved each other, who fought and bled for each other, who were loyal to each other until they died as heroes--heroes who fought and died in the name of peace.


Tragic though the ending may be, this story is actually quite optimistic compared to other fairy tales. The main characters die in the end, yes, but the tale is neither condemning nor cautionary; Gemstone and Blacklight are martyred for their rebellion, not punished for their mistakes. In fact, it might not be accurate to call this story a fairy tale at all: fairy tales tend to warn foals against misbehavior; this story does the opposite. According to this story, some things are indeed worth dying for. Just as the two “end the war” with their first night of passion, so too do they literally end the war--more or less--with their deaths.

The nursery rhyme associated with this story gives mixed signals. The meaning is often lost on us when we learn it as foals, but to those with knowledge of the old stories, the dark imagery is clear.

Move by moonlight, fire in our wake

Take my hooves and let me feel you shake

I’ll fly home with ashen wings

Join me when the big bell rings

“Very impressive, Twilight. I’m always glad to see you growing and learning.” Princess Celestia’s smile had the same radiance to it that it always did, and that smile alone was enough to warm the lamplit Ponyville library.

Twilight couldn’t help but smile back as she re-stacked the mess of paper on the table into a neat stack. It was quite a stack, actually--nearly a hoof’s width tall, the result of many sleepless, fascinated nights in many different libraries. Twilight opened her mouth to speak, then closed it as the Princess cut her off.

“I suggest you speak to Doctor Leaflet at the university. I think he’ll be very interested in your research about the history of such a well-loved fairy tale. Now, if you’ll excuse me...” She stood and bowed shallowly.

Twilight bit her lower lip. “Wait. Princess Celestia?”

Princess Celestia raised her head and cocked it to one side.

“I wondered if you knew anything about... well, about this. These old books all say that it’s hard to find facts about the original. But do you know anything about it? The original story, or maybe some historical event that inspired the story?”

Princess Celestia’s gaze grew distant, though her smile did not waver. “You already know more than you think about that old story. Some stories don’t have beginnings or endings.” She turned towards Twilight with a smile that was somehow both comforting and chilly. “And now, I really must be on my way. Thank you again, Twilight.”

Another bow of her head. And Twilight bowed back again.

“Good luck with the rest of your research.” With that, Princess Celestia was out the door, gone.

Then, a darker, harsher voice sounded from behind Twilight: “Stories are a fascinating subject, are they not?”

Twilight’s head whipped to the side. “Princess Luna? How long have you been here listening?”

The shadows seemed to part and make way for their Princess as she crossed the room and stood side by side with Twilight. “Only long enough to hear that you were discussing Sir Gemstone and Lady Blacklight. May I ask what sparked your interest?”

Twilight sighed, turning toward her formidable stack of notes with a grimace. “Princess Cadance told me a version of this story when I was small, and... as far as I can tell, her version is completely wrong. One of these books contained the foals’ version, and even that was nothing like the one she used to tell. It started off with just wanting to know the original story, but... there's more to it than that... isn't there?”

Princess Luna raised her head, as if she could stare through the ceiling to see the night sky above. There was a strange look in her eye, the same one that Twilight had already seen on Cadance and Celestia's faces, and this time, Twilight knew better than to try to speak up and fill the silence.

“Princess Cadance knows the story well, Twilight. It was my sister and I who told it to her when she was a foal herself.”

At that, Twilight gave in to temptation. “Wait. Wait! Does that mean...”

Luna held up a hoof, silencing Twilight. “I once heard Princess Cadance telling you that story, Twilight, and the story that she used to lull you to sleep as a filly was correct in ways that no pony historian will ever know.”

"What?" Twilight's curious deference gave way to a huff. “You mean you know the real story? The historical origin of the story? I worked so hard to find this information, and now both you and Princess Celestia are refusing to give me the last piece! What’s so secret about the story that it matters more than me learning the truth?”

“Patience, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna said gravely. "Princess Cadance already taught you the truth. Little Light was a pegasus whose destiny was bound to Crystal Clear’s horn, just as Crystal Clear was a unicorn bound by destiny to Little Light's wings. Theirs is a bond formed by friendship and destiny that can never be defeated, not by hatred, nor violence, nor death itself. What you call the ‘last piece’ is a secret that you are not yet ready for.”

“Not yet ready?” Twilight’s pout intensified. “So will I understand eventually? Are you going to teach me? When?”

"Teach you? Yes, you could say that. When the time is right, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight pouted. Luna smiled, and continued:

"In the meantime, you should continue your observations on the magic of Friendship. It would not do for you to be unprepared in the case that my sister issues you some kind of challenge."

As she said that, Luna's eyes glittered, like lightning arcing across a moonlit sky.