I Watch the Moon

by zeus_tfc

First published

Luna has been redeemed by the elements of harmony, but is finding that salvation is harder to come by. Perhaps the Moon, her prison for so very long, is truly where Luna belongs after all.

Luna has been redeemed by the elements of harmony, but is finding that salvation is harder to come by. Ponies avoid her, the memories of Nightmare Moon still fresh in their minds. Additionally, after a thousand years of solitude and silence, she’s having trouble adjusting to life in noisy, crowded, living Equestria.

Change never happens easily, and Luna struggles despite the help of her sister and new friends, failing as much as she succeeds.

Perhaps the Moon, her prison for so very long, is truly where Luna belongs after all.

Chapter 1: Emptiness

View Online


Luna stared at the Moon.

She sat on the top of the tallest tower, the wind buffeting her from all sides, trying desperately to slice her with its unrelenting cold. Unmoving, neglecting all else, Luna stared at the Moon.

The constancy was shattered by a subtle sound. The sound of feathers, the barest rustle of wings, almost lost in the howling wind, did not go unnoticed by the Princess of the Moon, attuned to the night.

“Sister,” she greeted. “Shouldst thou not be abed? The hour grows late, and the day has faded to memory.”

“Why are you up here, sister,” Celestia asked in reply. “Why are you not holding court, or down with our subjects? Why are you here alone night after night?”

“The Court of Night has had no claimants.”

“That’s not true. The court was full when you opened it upon your return.”

“Full, yes.” Bitterness colored her words. “Claimants? No. They were there to see the Nightmare. To ogle the demon princess. I was a spectacle! Come see the cowed Nightmare Moon! The scourge now tamed and muzzled. Tea and biscuits served at eleven.”

Celestia’s heart hurt, but nothing would change without action.

“Then take time and simply be among the citizens. Show them the real you. They will come around and love you like I do.”

“I… can’t.” Something new colored her words. “It’s too… noisy. Too crowded. Too many voices clamoring for meaningless drivel.”

Fear. That was the undercurrent. She was afraid.


“A thousand years, sister. A thousand years of solitude. A thousand years of silence. I was a foal to think it could be undone overnight.”

Luna’s gaze finally broke free from the Moon, and she turned her focus on her sister.

“Dost thou know what thou losest in a thousand years, sister?” Her eyes, haunted, spoke of horror and despair. “The Moon is silent. It is unnerving at first. Thou makest noise just to break the endless quiet. Eventually thou findest thyself babbling like some madpony just to hear a voice, even if it is only thine own. Eventually even the sound of thine own voice becomes meaningless. Eventually there is only quiet and madness.”

Celestia stared at her sister in horror.

She tried again. She had to try. She couldn’t leave Luna like this.

“Nightmare Moon came from your need for acceptance. You won’t find that up here. Be among the ponies. Let them in.”

“Acceptance shan’t be found there, either. No where but thy heart, dear sister. I’ll be content with that.”

“Things can change, Luna. It might take time…”

“A thousand years?” Luna asked. “I’ve come to understand much in my solitude, and one thing in particular’s become clear. The Moon’s light is only ever the reflected rays of the Sun. Without the Sun’s radiance, the Moon has no glory. I’ll only ever be thy reflection, Celestia. I’ll be thy queen, protecting the king on the chessboard. If necessary, I’ll even be thy sacrificial piece, but I’ll never rule. In truth, I no longer desire to.”

“Luna, please don’t speak that way.” Celestia pleaded.

“The hour grows ever later, sister. Go. Rest. I’ll watch the night in thy absence, and keep thy subjects safe.”

Luna returned her gaze to the Moon.

“I…” Celestia tried with all her heart. It wasn’t enough. “Goodnight, sister.”

“Goodnight, sister. Know that I love thee.”

“Love you too, Luna.”

Celestia dropped from the tower, spreading her wings to glide back to a suitable landing spot. She turned back for a moment, heart troubled, filled with worry, and for one instant saw not a pony seated on the tower’s height but a statue of obsidian.

Celestia laid herself down. Between the heaviness in her heart, and the listlessness creeping over her, she longed for sleep to take her, but her mind worked ceaselessly, driving all peace away.

She’d dreamed of this day, when Nightmare Moon would be defeated, and her dearest sister Luna returned to her.


But that thing wasn't her Luna.

That statue, that self-contained entity, that distant, almost cold, pony was not her Luna.

Celestia rubbed away tears forming despite her not-insignificant will for them to cease.

She should have known. She should have at least suspected. But she had longed for her sister to be returned so badly, it had nearly consumed her.

The stars had aligned. The elements had made themselves known. Her dearest, most faithful, most beloved student had played her role well, and found a missing piece of herself in the process. This was the part where the story was supposed to read ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’

So why was she crying? Why was it all wrong?

Tears she thought long spent after a thousand years of grief flowed freely, but silently.

Princess Celestia cried. Silent sobs wracked her shoulders. Tomorrow she would plan. She would scheme. Tomorrow she would devote all her considerable resources developed over millennia of politicking and maneuvering. Tonight she allowed herself to cry.

Luna stared at the Moon.

She sat on the top of the highest tower, feeling, though not feeling, the wind buffeting her, cutting cruelly at her.

Luna stared at the Moon, but tonight there was something new.

There was a sound. There was a scraping, walking sound of hooves on stone. There was a gasping sound, of a pony out of breath from tackling many steps.

“P… Princess Luna?” a timid voice called out.

Luna tore her gaze away from the Moon to regard the new arrival.

“Twilight Sparkle, Element of Magic, and my… redeemer. What brings you to this place?”

“I… wanted to see how you were.”

“I am well,” Luna answered, directing her gaze back to the Moon.

“Just ‘well’? Not happy or sad? Just well?”

Twilight waited, but the dark pony merely stared into the sky, unmoving.

“Princess Luna-”

“Luna,” the princess interrupted.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Simply ‘Luna’ will do.”

“Oh… okay. Well then, Luna, I was hoping we could get to know each other. I’ve been Princess Celestia’s student ever since I was little. I’d love to get to know you too. I’d be really interested in hearing about what you two were like before… you know. And you must know so much about Princess Celestia. I’d love to hear your insights, and-”


“I… I’m sorry?”

“Be silent, Twilight Sparkle. Your words are like shards of glass. Do you do nothing but prattle on?”

“Oh… sorry,” Twilight dropped her head. She sat in silence, the wind piercing her.

The minutes passed.

Twilight shivered in the wind.

Her teeth began chattering.

Luna looked down at new noise.

“S-s-s-sorry,” she chattered. “‘s c-c-c-cold.”

“Give yourself a century. You won’t even feel it anymore.”

Luna stared back at the Moon. She inhaled deeply, closed her eyes, and exhaled a deep sigh.

“Go home, Twilight Sparkle,” she said, opening her eyes back up to the Moon. “Go home to the warmth of your hearth, and the hearts of your friends. Leave this place.”

“C-c-c-can’t. P-p-p-promised.”

“Promised to whom?”

“P-p-p-p-p… Celest-t-t-ia”

“Promised what?” Luna demanded, glaring down at the unicorn.

Twilight Sparkle huddled in on herself, shaking violently, and barely able to keep her head up.

Luna shook her head. She extended her magic, and encased Twilight in a protective bubble. Hoisting her aloft, she launched herself into the air, and glided down to the lower levels of the palace in a loose spiral. Half way down, she realized she didn’t know where Twilight usually stayed in the castle. The thought of trying to hunt down and gather such trivial information repulsed her as a waste of energy. There was one easy solution. One solution which was expedient and efficient.

With this knowledge, she altered her course.

She landed delicately on a balcony. The window responded to her almost without effort.

Luna stepped into her room. With a twist of her magic, a fire roared into existence in the fireplace. She pulled back the covers on her bed, and gently lowered the still-shivering Twilight Sparkle into its depths.

“L-Luna?” Twilight asked through chattering teeth.

“Silence. Rest. And don’t do that again,” Luna warned, pulling the covers up on the shivering Twilight. “Don’t blackmail me with your safety. Next time I may let the cold take you. Now sleep.”

With that, Luna turned and left. She pushed the door to her room open with more force than she’d intended. It slammed against the wall, causing a passing Chamber-filly to yelp in surprise.

“Twilight Sparkle is in my room. She has exhausted herself in the cold. See to it someone brings her a hot water bottle, and some hot tea or soup. Don’t let her leave until morning.”

“Y-yes Princess Luna,” she stammered.

Luna shut the door to her room softly, and walked away down the hall. Twilight’s actions troubled her somewhat, but she paid it little mind.

In her heart, she still held the Moon.

Twilight Sparkle was there again the next day. Luna kept her gaze on the Moon, and said nothing. When she thought Twilight wasn’t watching, she did spare a glance in the unicorn’s direction. She was relieved to note that Twilight had dressed for the cold. More relief flooded her when Twilight left once she began shivering, and didn’t stubbornly try to push past her limits.

Luna watched the Moon.

Twilight was there again the next night.

And the night after.

And the night after that.

And again. She said nothing, but simply sat, looking out into the night, keeping company with Luna.

And again the following night.

“Why are you here, Twilight Sparkle?” Luna finally asked, glaring at the unicorn.

“I’m here to see you, Luna.”

It was either the wrong answer to the right question, or the right answer to the wrong question.

“I’m entertainment for you? Sitting there watching me?”

“No, that’s not what I meant. I… I mean, I…”

“Why are you here, Twilight Sparkle? Why have you come night after night to sit there as I watch my Moon?”

“I might ask you the same question!” Twilight retorted. “Why do you sit here night after night? You’re free. Free of the Moon, free of the nightmare. Why do you sit here and stare at your prison? Do you want to go back?”

“Perhaps… perhaps it would be better for everypony,” Luna said.

“I… what?”

“Perhaps I should go back. Lose myself in the endless oceans of dust. Quietly fade away, eventually forgotten by the land that has no use for me.”

“You… you can’t

“Nor shall I. It would break my dear sister’s heart. She means more to me than life itself. Even so, I wonder if it would simply be the right thing to do.”


“Go home, Twilight Sparkle. Go home to your family and your friends. Pay no more mind to the Princess of the Moon.”

With that, Luna launched herself into the air. Flapping her wings, she pushed higher and higher, leaving the ground behind, and losing herself in the clouds.

Twilight Sparkle was there the next evening.

And the evening after that.

Luna finish lowering the Moon, and watched respectfully as her sister finished raising the Sun.

Celestia took one last look, casting a professional eye on her craftsmanship, before nodding to herself in satisfaction and turning to go inside. Luna fell into step beside her.

“Thy student is most… persistent,” Luna observed.

“Is she bothering you?”

“What bothers me is her reasoning. She claimed she promised thee something.”

“I coerced no promise from her, I only made a simple request.”

“What request?”

“Perhaps you should ask her.”

“I’m asking thee, Celestia!” Luna stomped a hoof.

Celestia stopped and turned to face her sister.

“Luna, I only asked her to talk to you. You looked like you needed a friend, and she knows what that’s like. Everything she’s done, she’s done on her own.”

Celestia leaned forward and nuzzled her sister affectionately.

“I’d hoped you two could be friends. She’s almost as precious to me as you are, and there’s no guile to her. Anything she says you can take at face value.”

Luna nuzzled back ashamedly.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at thee, I just….”

“I understand, and I’m sorry too. Perhaps I have gotten a bit too high-hooved. It won’t happen again, I promise. Rest well, sister.

“Good day to thee, sister.”

Luna stared at the Moon.

Twilight Sparkle was there.

“Here again, Twilight Sparkle?” Luna asked, eyes never leaving the Moon.


“How long will you maintain this farce?”

“For as long as it takes.”

“It takes for what?” Luna rounded on Twilight. “For me to be your friend? For me to give up my Moon and pretend to be a good little pony like my sister? For what?”

Twilight sat there, a sadness marring an otherwise pretty face. Luna remembered what her sister had said, that this was a pony without guile, without agenda. Honest. Open. Trustworthy.

“Why do you sit there and stare at the Moon?”

“You’ve asked me before.”

“You never answered me. You said you thought it might be better if you went back, but you won’t. So, why stare at the Moon?”

Luna turned back and stared at her Moon.

“I spent a thousand years on that Moon, Twilight Sparkle. A thousand years. I know every inch of that barren, lifeless rock. A thousand years of quiet impotent rage. The rage is gone now. I have you to thank for that, and my thanks are yours, but…”

Luna turned to face Twilight.

“The rage, the hate, the jealousy are gone. Now I’m… empty.”


“There’s nothing there, just dust and cold, like the Moon.”

Twilight cocked her head to the side.

“It sounds lonely.”

“It’s all I’ve known for a thousand years. I don’t know what that means anymore.”

“I think you need to make a friend.”

“Twilight Sparkle,” Luna’s shoulders sagged. “I’ve been alone for a thousand years. Even if I thought that was the case, I’m not sure I know how anymore.”

Twilight smiled sweetly.

“Then you’re in luck! I’ve done extensive research on the matter.”

Chapter 2: Frustration

View Online


Luna raised her Moon. She gazed at it with a peculiar longing in her heart before turning away, falling into step with her sister.

“Going back to your perch?” Celestia asked.

“No. Thy most persistent student has persuaded me to spend time with her.”

The smug satisfaction in Celestia’s smile was impossible to miss.

“Thy smile betrays thee, sister. ‘Tis not becoming.”

Celestia ducked her head, blushing, a contrite look gracing her features.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been in control so long I’m not sure how to turn it off anymore.”

Celestia’s eyes glistened.

“I missed you, sister. Now you’re back, but you’re… different. Colder. Unhappy. I want you to be happy. How can I celebrate your return if you find only misery here? How long before you decide to go back and leave me again?” Celestia retained control, but her voice betrayed the extent of her emotions, at least to Luna.

Luna reached in and wrapped her forelegs around Celestia, pulling them together.

“Oh, my sister, my anchor, how couldst thou think I’d leave thee again?”

“You’re miserable,” Celestia said softly into Luna’s shoulder. “You spend all your time alone, staring at the Moon!”

“Peace, sister. Peace. I’ll not leave again, this I swear. Should it please thee, for thy sake I’ll try to befriend thy student. For thy sake I’ll… limit my… meditations.”

Celestia drew back.

“Good,” she said. “I think you two would be good for each other.”

The implications were clear.


“I mean it. You need to reconnect with ponies, and Twilight is as open and compassionate as you could ask for. Even if you just remain friends, I think it will be good for both of you.”

Luna released Celestia, and shook her head slowly.

Celestia smiled, her eyes twinkled.

“Go on. Don’t keep my most faithful and persistent student waiting. Good evening, Luna.”

“Good night, Celestia. Thy dreams be sweet and unmarred by the day.”

“Love you, Luna.”

“Love thee, sister.”

The pair separated, and Luna made her way to where Twilight would be found.

It was a simple common room, set back from the public areas of the castle, and accessible from both the pony sisters’ bedrooms. It might have surprised many who did not know Celestia that it was a plain room, furnished more for comfort than the need to impress. Of all the pony sisters’ flaws, and flaws they had, the desire for opulence had never been one. The room, instead, might kindly be referred to as ‘shabby’. The furniture was worn and old. Here was an endtable whose corners were worn smooth, though it was obviously cared for, oil having been carefully rubbed into every detail. There was a chair that was obviously, at least to Luna, Celestia’s favorite. Though the upholstery was frayed and the arms loose, Celestia’s essence clung to it like no other piece in the room.

And there, seated on a cushion positioned at a table, was Twilight Sparkle, a gentle smile on her face.

“So, Twilight Sparkle, what plans do you have for us?”

“Please, Luna, call me Twilight.”

“As you wish, Twilight. The question remains.”

“Well… I thought we could do something you wanted to do.”

Luna sat, her head drooping, and her shoulders slumped.

“Is… isn’t there anything you’d like to do?” Twilight asked.

Luna caught herself casting a glance out the window, searching for the Moon.

“N-no. I… I don’t know what to do,” she admitted.

It was the truth. After a thousand years, she couldn’t even remember what she liked to do.

Twilight’s eyes unfocused in thought.

“Well, then,” she said, her eyes returning to Luna, “We’ll just have to do something I like to do.”

The Canterlot Palace Library was home for Twilight like few other places.

“The library?” Luna asked.

“I love the library. I love libraries,” she said as they walked through the aisles. “The smell of the books, the knowledge locked away, waiting to be discovered, the peaceful stillness. I love libraries.”

Luna felt herself warming to the idea. It was a peaceful place where ponies were unlikely to impose upon her. Still….

“So, we are here to do what, research?”

“Oh, no. Don’t get me wrong, I love to do research, but tonight…” Twilight led them into an inobvious nook. “Tonight we read purely for pleasure.”

She sat, looking at the books fondly.

“The palace library is renowned for its vast stores of knowledge, but very few ponies know there’s actually a small fiction section,” Twilight told Luna. “I used to know the librarian quite well, from all the hours I spent here. He let me in on this little secret.”

Twilight levitated a book off the shelf.

“This one is one of my favorites. ‘Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone’. I’ve read it a dozen times, I think.”

Twilight offered the book to Luna.

“And what shall you read, Twilight?”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll find something. The fiction section is small, but I’m pretty easy when it comes to books.”

Luna opened the book and leafed briefly through the pages.

She closed the book and set it down in front of her.

Twilight glanced over from where she was perusing the shelves.

“It doesn’t interest you?” she asked.

Luna closed her eyes and spoke just above a whisper. Twilight had to strain to hear her.

“Twilight Sparkle, there is little to read on the Moon.”

Twilight froze.

“Oh… you mean… you…”

“Not exactly,” Luna said. “I still remember, mostly, but I am out of practice, and the writing has… has changed. A thousand years is a long time.”

“Oh. Oh, Luna, I’m so sorry.”

Luna tensed, and opened her eyes.

“Do not pity me, Twilight Sparkle!”

Twilight stared back at her, wide eyed, and an open, earnest expression on her face.

“NO! No, I didn’t mean… I just… I was sharing something I love. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. I didn’t think…”

Luna stared at that earnest, worried face. Regret at her waspish response began to seep in.

She levitated the book over to Twilight.

“I have an idea. Read, Twilight. Read aloud. Let me hear the story.”

“Read… to you…?”

“You wanted to do something together. I’m sure I can find something in this library I can read easily, but then we would each be in our own minds. Share what you love, Twilight.”

“Well…” Twilight hesitated. “Okay, but maybe we should go back to the common room so we can be more comfortable. That means we should probably tell the librarian we’re borrowing the book.”

“Leave that to me,” Luna replied.

They wandered out to the main area of the library, only stopping by an administrative desk to leave a note.

“Um… Twilight…” Luna called, paper and quill held in her magic. “Would you mind…”

Luna offered the paper to Twilight, her cheeks colored.

“Huh? Oh, sure.” Twilight took the sheet, not quite sure what was being asked.

She looked at the note.

She couldn’t make heads nor tails of the carefully written script. Not only did she not recognize most of the words, there were letters she’d never actually seen in use, only read about.

“Oh. I’ll just write the note, then.”

Twilight scribbled a quick note under the unusual text.

“There. All set!” She set the note on the desk.

“One moment,” requested Luna. Her horn pulsed with magic. The paper rustled and jerked, as though being shaken or tortured. When it ceased, there was a glowing mark emblazoned on the bottom.

“Wow,” Twilight gasped, looking at the mark.

It was the shape of the Moon, appropriately enough, but there was a stylized hoof print in the center, and the whole mark glowed with an iridescent quality.

“That is my royal seal. It marks your words as my own, though not by my hoof.”

“It’s beautiful. How do you do that?”

Luna looked at Twilight.

“You would counterfeit a royal seal?”

“What?!? NO! I just… it’s beautiful, and such an interesting bit of magic. It would be wonderful to know.”

Luna looked into Twilight’s eyes, but saw only honesty.

She turned to leave the library and motioned for Twilight to follow.

“Even if you knew the spell, and could mimic the shape exactly, it would still show as false. It radiates with my essence. Perhaps I could show you how in the future. You could create a seal of your own. For now, we had plans for your book.”

“Daring Do, and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone. Chapter One. As Daring Do trekked through the tropical jungle…”

Luna adjusted herself on the cushion, listening to Twilight’s voice. She closed her eyes and stopped paying attention to the words, just listening to the rise and fall of her voice. This wasn’t so bad. It was almost like being alone. Twilight was so focused on her reading that Luna could probably slip away unnoticed.

The story was your standard adventurer’s fare. Luna thought the hero was a bit too clever, too strong for her liking. She never really seemed to be out of her depth. Regardless, the writing was strong, and the imagery evocative.

As she listened to Twilight’s voice, she considered the value of having a copy for herself to follow along and familiarize herself with contemporary writing.

There would be time enough for that later.

Luna continued to listed to Twilight’s voice. The room seemed to be so warm, and getting stuffier. The voice continued on, never ceasing. The tones became harsh to Luna’s ears.

Twilight stopped for a yawn. Luna pounced on the opportunity.

“It must be late for you, Twilight. It was most kind of you to stay up for me, but you should get your rest.”

“I… I suppose so. I guess I hadn’t realized how late it was.”

Twilight placed a nearby bookmark before closing the book and placing it on the end table by Celestia’s chair.

“I had fun, though. I’ve never really read to anyone else. Would you like to continue again tomorrow night?”

Luna considered. She wanted to decline, but she had promised…

“Yes. Tomorrow night, then.”

“Goodnight, Luna.”

“Goodnight, Twilight Sparkle.”

Luna watched Twilight depart, and listened to the hoofsteps diminish down the hallway before rising. She took the door to her bedroom, went to the balcony, and launched herself into the air.

She alit on her usual perch, and stared at the Moon. The night air drained the heat from her too-warm skin, and the silence soothed her punished ears.

Luna stared at the Moon.

Luna raised the Moon. It was a simple act, and held a familiarity she’d almost forgotten in her absence. She gazed at it for a moment, judging her work, its light and weight.

Adequate, she decided. Not brilliant, not amateurish, but adequate.

Luna turned to leave, Celestia falling into step beside her.

“How is my most persistent student?” Celestia asked.

“Thou hast not spoken to her?”

“I’ve gotten a few notes, but I haven’t been able to spend real time with her. Not like you have.”

“She is… a most virtuous and forthright pony.”

“That’s all?”

“For now. Speaking of which, I’d like to peruse thy bookshelf.”

“My… bookshelf? Whatever for?”

“Now, sister, don’t be coy. I was once well versed with thy tastes. Thy student has been sharing her love of fiction, and I’m sure the story she’s been reading me has captured thine attention as well.”

Celestia chuckled.

“Of course, sister. I should know better than to expect judgment from you.”

Luna stopped, and nuzzled her sister.

“I fear my writing is overly antiquated. I’m hoping to use the books to learn what’s passed me by.”

Celestia returned the nuzzle.

“Anything for you, Luna.”

Luna walked into the common room, book in tow, to find Twilight waiting there.

“What do you have there, Luna?”

“It is Celestia’s copy of your book. I’d like to follow along to help learn modern writing.”

“Oh. That’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of that.” Twilight cocked her head in thought. “You speak very well, though,” she observed.

“When the walls of my prison weakened, I could stretch out my senses and hear the speech of ponies. I could not reach them, and I was wary of making myself known, but I could hear. In time, I understood.”

Luna felt unsure under Twilight’s gaze.

“Perhaps we should continue with the story.”

Twilight smiled and opened her book to the marked page. She started reading, her voice unsteady at first, but gaining strength as she absorbed herself in the story.

Luna listened as she made herself comfortable. Twilight’s voice was clear and sweet, a pleasure to listen to. It made the situation bearable. Luna closed her eyes and listened for a moment before opening her own copy. She flipped through the pages, looking for the appropriate spot in the story. Knowing the sounds of the words helped significantly. Though some letters had changed, and the words themselves. had morphed, the pronunciation of the familiar letters were still similar enough for Luna to sound them out. It was the missing letters, and the unfamiliar combinations that changed pronunciation on a whim that frustrated her.

Luna sighed. It would come in time, but for now it was like being a yearling again.

She did her best as Twilight continued.

Luna raised the Moon. She gazed at it a moment, unsure of what she felt about her work. She shook her head and turned.

Celestia sat watching her.

“More reading tonight?”

Luna shook her head.

“We finished the book last night. It’s just as well. I’m frustrated with my lack of progress and in need of a break. Twilight, too, needed some time apart to visit her friends in Ponyville.”

Celestia rose, and the pair walked into the palace.

“So what will you do now?”

“I am unsure.”

Luna followed Celestia down a hallway towards some of the more public areas of the palace. Hallways went from mostly deserted to populated to crowded. Luna frowned internally as she saw ponies skirting the walls to get by her, and watching her cautiously from the shadows. She felt empty.

She paused. It only took Celestia a few steps to notice.

Luna looked at her. She glanced at the ponies hiding in the shadows.

“They’ll come around, Luna. You just need to let them.”

Chapter 3: Corruption

View Online

Luna watched the Moon. During the week since Twilight had gone back to Ponyville, she’d been spending progressively more time on her perch. Oh, she’d tried to stay away at first. She’d even tried to be relatively social. Her attempts had all ended they same way, with awkward conversations, and mistrustful stares.

So she returned to her perch, and gave herself to the one thing that never betrayed her. That never judged her.

So there she sat, with the constant in her life above her.

The Moon.

And a rustle of wings.

And a sound.



“I’ve received a letter from my student. She asked if you might visit Ponyville. Discretely, of course. She thought you might like to meet some of her friends.”

Luna said nothing.

“Please, sister.”

“Of course, Celestia. Anything for thee. I will be there tomorrow evening. Would that appease thee?”

“This isn’t about me, Luna. It’s about you being happy.”

“Of course, sister.”

The sense of her sister’s essence receded, leaving Luna alone with her Moon.

Luna dropped from the sky like a comet, opening her wings at the last possible moment to slow her descent. It was a longer flight than she’d tried in some time, but worth it for the lack of attendants or guards. She angled her descent to aim for the center of Ponyville. There, near the center, was a large tree, which Luna understood to contain the town’s library, and Twilight Sparkle.

With one powerful wingsnap, Luna checked her descent, and alit on the top of the Library.

She steadied herself, and looked to her Moon. She inhaled deeply, trying to calm her nerves. Exhaling, she dropped herself off the side of the tree.

It was a pleasant looking library. It looked more like somepony’s house than a public building. There was a warm glow peeking through the cheerful curtains in the front windows.

Luna took one last deep breath before raising a hoof.

*Knock knock knock*

The door opened.

“Princess Luna, you came!”

“Of course, Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight stepped back to allow Luna to enter. The interior of the library gave the same impression as the exterior. It looked more like somepony’s private library than a public space. It lacked the sterile inoffensive quality that most public works contained. Instead, it felt homey. Personal. Warm.

“I gave a lot of thought to which of my friends you might want to meet first. Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie are all wonderful friends, but they’re a bit… boisterous. Rarity would be understanding, but she also has a tendency to be… well… pushy. And she loves her smalltalk. That just leaves Fluttershy. She’s very quiet.”

“I see.”

Twilight’s verbal onslaught chafed against her. Luna knew it was unintentional, and tried to ignore the irritation, but it remained. Luna began to regret coming.

Any further thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Oh, that must be her now.”

Twilight opened the door, as Luna walked back into the main area of the Library, observing the rows of books, the obviously well-used center worktable, and breathing in the library smell that Twilight loved so much.

“Fluttershy! Thanks for coming over so late. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Luna turned to face the door as Twilight stepped aside to reveal a timid looking pegasus of pale yellow. She was quite lovely, and her mane and tale luxurious, but she carried herself like a frightened animal. Eyes darting back and forth, and head down, as though waiting for an attack.

“Fluttershy, you remember Princess Luna.”

Their eyes met. Fluttershy’s eyes widened, and she shrank back even more, something Luna would have thought impossible.

“Are we back to ‘Princess Luna’ now, Twilight Sparkle?” Luna asked.

“Sorry. Luna. Luna’s been having trouble readjusting now that she’s back, and I thought it might be good for her to make some friends.”


Luna swore she saw Fluttershy’s mouth move, but no sound reached her ears.

“A pleasure to meet you, Fluttershy,” she said with a bow.


Luna began to get warm. Her skin prickled.

“I’m sorry? I didn’t quite catch that.”


Again, there appeared to be speech, but Luna could hear nothing.

Fluttershy was trembling. Her eyes looked wild. They darted back and forth, looking for an exit.

The prickling of Luna’s skin slowly morphed to itching. She began plotting her own exit.

She exhaled a deep sigh.

“Twilight, perhaps this was a mistake.”

“Nonsense. Fluttershy is kindest, most patient pony I know. The two of you will be best of friends.”

Twilight shot a frustrated look at Fluttershy.

“Though it must might take some ‘encouragement’ on my part.”

“Twilight,” sighed Luna, “that’s really not nec-”

Luna was interrupted by a rainbow streaked ball of blue barreling through the front door.

“Hey, Twilight, what’s going on? I saw your light on and…”

The rainbow maned blue pegasus saw Luna. Quickly her head whipped around, gauging the situation. Her eyes landed on Fluttershy.

“Nightmare Moon! What are you doing to Fluttershy, ya big bully? Pick on somepony your own size!”

“Hold on, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said, placing herself between them. “It’s not like that. I was trying to introduce-”

Fluttershy took advantage of the distraction to flee out the door.

“Fluttershy,” groaned Twilight.

“Grrrr… If you put one hoof on her…”

“Hey, Twi,” a new arrival drawled. She was an orange earth pony wearing a stetson. “Just saw Fluttershy bolt outta here like a cat with… Uh…”

The words died in her mouth when she saw Luna.

“Applejack, thank goodness. A little help?”


“That’s right, I’m talkin’ to you, Nightmare Moon. You want a piece of me?”

“Rainbow Dash, she really didn’t mean-”

“Like Twilight said. Calm down, sugarcube.”

“Hey, Everypony!” A new figure entered the fray. She was a pink ball of energy looking for an outlet. “Is this a party? Why wasn’t I invited?”

Luna’s skin felt hot. The bodies seemed to press in on her.

“But Fluttershy-”

“Luna was just-”

“Calm down and let her-”

“You don’t have nearly enough decora-”

Luna felt irritation rising up within her.

“-hit you so hard you’ll-”

“-don’t want no trouble-”

“-just really needs a friend, that’s-”

“-balloons! Why is everypony-”

“SILENCE!” Luna roared. “Your constant nattering is maddening, and you squabble like yearlings! Will you not be QUIET?!?”

The voices ceased.

Luna looked over the ponies before her. Wide, surprised eyes stared back at her. Twilight’s in particular shone with hurt.

Shame welled up in Luna, but for the moment, at least, the frustration was stronger.

“I’m sorry, Twilight Sparkle, but this was a mistake. Excuse me.”

With that, Luna pushed past the bewildered ponies, and exited the library.

Spreading her wings, she leapt into the air, and took flight. It was a long flight back to Canterlot, back to the palace, but it gave her time to lose some of the frustration, and cool her nerves.

Luna sat on her perch, watching the Moon glide toward the horizon. It was time.

She leapt into the air, and glided to where her sister was waiting. Wordlessly, she turned to face the Moon once again, this time reaching out with her magic.

She felt Celestia do the same.

Silently, the Sun rose, and the Moon set.

The task complete, Luna turned to face her sister.

“I received a message from Twilight,” Celestia said. “She was concerned. And hurt.”

The accusation was apparent in her voice

“I’m sorry, sister. I tried. I really did. I’ll make it up to Twilight.”

“But in the meantime you’re going to hide and stare at your damned Moon. Why? Why is that Moon more important than us?”

“Sometimes I wonder if that’s where I belong.” She regretted the words the moment they left her lips.

Celestia burst into tears.

“How can you say that? Now, after so long, I’ve finally gotten you back. How can you stand there and tell me that?”

Luna wished she hadn’t started crying. Anger would have been easier. She knew how to deal with anger. Rage was cake when compared to crying.

“Sister, please. I won’t lie to thee, but I can’t change how I feel.”

Tears, though. Tears she didn’t know how to handle. Tears just frustrated her.

“I don’t know you. I don’t know who you are. What happened to the sister that used to laugh and play with me in the fields? Who painted the night sky? Who pulled pranks on the most distinguished guests?”

Frustration always seemed to find a way out as anger.

“What would you have me do, sister? Change myself to please thee? If it were in my power I would do so.”

After all, had she not tried? Had she not spent those hours with her pupil?

“I don’t know. I was just so glad to have you back. I wanted us to be happy. But nothing pleases you. You avoid everypony like the plague. You won’t share in the land I tried to hard to keep safe for you. Why won’t you let them in?”

Had she not tried to be part of the court before the mistrustful looks and stares as though she were a performing animal?

Frustration always vented as anger.

“To hell with your ponies and your land. To hell with their constant prattling, and their incessant cheer, as though everything will always end well. As though anything matters. And if you can’t accept me, Celestia, then to hell with you, too.”

The words came unbidden. They weren’t truth, not as fact, but they were truth of the heart. Truth of the moment. Truth of emotion.

Yet as they were spoken, Luna knew they were too much. She’d gone too far. She saw it in her sister’s eyes.

The words couldn’t be unspoken. There was only one thing she could do. With a twist of her magic and a warping of space, she vanished.

There was only one place she could really teleport to without thought or preparation. Only one place that drew her. It was not the Moon. The Moon had been a prison, not a place of she’d flitted to repeatedly. No, there was only one place where the paths through reality were well worn enough that she didn’t even need to consciously decided to go there.

Luna collapsed onto the hard stone floor, heedless of wing and leg.

She sobbed.

She felt so empty. So broken. Nothing seemed to matter. Nothing could halt the tears.

There, on the floor in front of the dais where sat the two thrones in the castle of the pony sisters, in the Everfree forest, Luna cried, sprawled on the stone floor, until she was too exhausted to cry any more. Then she slept.

Luna walked into Ponyville. The Sun was low in the sky, but there was still time before she had to raise the Moon.

The gloom of the forest had suited her mood, but the waning light of day carried its own version of melancholy. It wasn’t quite the same, but it was sufficient.

The library lay ahead. Luna wasn’t even sure Twilight would be home, but she needed to make the effort.

She neared the door.

*Knock knock knock*

The door opened, revealing Twilight Sparkle.

“Princess Luna.” The voice was flat and unwelcoming. Luna flinched inside, but knew she deserved the slight.

“Twilight. I wish to apologize. My words were born of frustration and my flaws, not malice or spite. I’m sorry your friends and I…” Luna lost her words.

“I… I’m very sorry, Twilight Sparkle.”

She didn’t wait for a response. She wasn’t even sure it mattered, only that she’d accomplished her goal.

She leapt into the air, and beat her wings as hard as she could. The Moon was calling. It was nearing time.

Luna stood next to her sister, magic stretched in all directions, raising her Moon. This time, however, something was different. Something was wrong.

The Moon came up, just as it should, but it was wrong.

The Moon was green. Not a living vibrant green, either. No, it was a sickly green of decay. Of putridity.

“Luna, what’s wrong?” her sister asked.

“Nnnnothing,” she groaned through clenched teeth. She grit her teeth in frustration and effort, trying with all her might to purge the Moon of that hideous blight.

She sagged with a sigh, defeated. The color remained.

“Luna? Luna what’s wrong? Why does the Moon look diseased?”

“I don’t know!” she panted, trying to regain her strength. “There’s nothing wrong with it. Apparently I’ve just decided it should be green.”


“It’s fine! Everything’s fine.”

Luna stomped away.

Everything was not fine.

Luna secured herself on her perch, and glared at the Moon, but now it gave no comfort. That sickeningly corrupt green leered back at her.

The next evening was the same.

As was the next.

The next evening, the Moon looked even worse.

As did the evening after that.

Luna glared at the Moon. She imagined it was laughing at her. It probably was. Luna deserved it. Her glare had long lost any real anger. Now it was just her sitting alone, staring at her latest failure. She felt foalish and useless, staring at that ugly wart on her sky. How many nights had it been now? It was hard to tell. They all ran together after while. Not that it mattered. Not that any of it mattered.

Her last refuge of peace was now lost to her.

She wondered how much she mattered.

Luna pondered if anypony would notice if she just disappeared...

She considered whether she dared.

She contemplated-


Luna jerked in surprise, losing her footing, and almost falling off the side of the tower.

She turned to glare at the interruption.

There was the pink ball of energy she’d last seen at Twilight’s library. The pink pony bounced up and down, pronking excitedly.

“I’m Pinkie Pie! You might not remember me. I was there at the castle when you were still Nightmare Moon. You might not remember, ‘cause you were kinda distracted at the time. You were all about to smite Twilight, but then we were all like Zzzzzeroooowmmmm and Twilight went all kaZAP and you went kerBLAM! I was at Twilight’s library with you last month, too. You might not remember that either. When I got there everypony was already there arguing, and you were all ‘SILENCE FOALS’ and we were all *gasp*! But now I’m here, and I can introduce myself so you know who I am, and Oh! Here comes Twilight!

Luna stared at the pony with increasing horror. Pinkie Pie appeared to not require oxygen like a normal pony. Luna had an absurd urge to search her back for secret air intakes, somehow justifying the ability to speak without inhaling.

Twilight then appeared, gasping for breath, and tired legs fumbling over each other.

“*pant* Sorry, *pant* Luna. *pant* Didn’t mean *pant* to leave *pant* you alone *pant* with Pinkie. *pant* She got *pant* away *pant* from me.”

“Yay! Twilight! Now it’s a party. Oh! Party! That means we need balloons, and confetti, and - Oh, darn! I forgot my party cannon! Hey, Twilight, do you think they’d let me use the kitchen for baking some cupcakes? What about balloons? Do you think they’ve got balloons anywhere? Oh! Do you think you could ask the Princess - I mean the other Princess- about balloons and confetti? Couldya? Huh? Huh? Please? Pretty please?”

Pinkie bounced, looking at Twilight expectantly.

Luna gaped at them. In the back of her mind, she was planning her escape. She didn’t think the pink pony could fly. Probably. She hoped.

“Uuuuuhhh…” Twilight looked at Pinkie in confusion.

“PSST!” Pinkie whispered. “Twilight, I need to talk to Luna alone. Please?”

“Uh… sure?” Twilight hazarded. She gave Luna one last worried look before making her way back inside the tower.

“Yay! Party for Luna!” Pinkie cheered.

Luna turned back to the Moon. Her ugly, defective Moon.

“Oh! I wonder if I could make Moon balloon animals. Would you still call them balloon animals if they’re not animals? Maybe balloon Moons? Oh! BallMoons!”

Luna braced herself. She was ready to leap at a moment’s notice. She felt the need to leave now, regardless of Pinkie’s attention, but part of her still wanted to leave politely. She simply didn’t see a way.

“The problem with BallMoons is that we can only use white balloons. Well, I guess we could use green now, too. Do you think you could make the Moon any other colors, ‘cause that would really open... up... our options. She’s gone.”

The change in tone drew Luna’s gaze. She stared into the pink party pony’s blue eyes. There was still a smile on her face, but her eyes held something else. Sadness?

“Luna, I just wanted you to know. I understand.”


“I understand.”

“What? What do you understand?” Luna demanded.

“I understand how empty it feels.”

Luna froze.

“I understand how much it aches. How that ache just swallows everything. How you look for anything that will fill that emptiness and stop the aching. Books. Games. Parties. Anything that can trick you into feeling anything but that emptiness, at least for a little while.”

Luna began to tremble. Despite the movement, Luna felt oddly taut, like an over-coiled spring.

“But then the stories end, or the party’s over, and the ache comes back twice as bad, because you know it was a lie. You can fool yourself into believing the characters in the story, or the people at the party are your friends, but when it’s over, and you’re all alone, you realize how stupid it is. But then you get desperate to get rid of that ache, and you start all over again.

Luna’s trembling increased. She started having trouble maintaining her balance.

“I know that it feels like everything you touch falls apart. I know that you feel like you’re defective. Broken. I also know that you really want to run away right now. In fact, the only thing you want more is to chase me off, so you can wallow.”

Luna willed that pink, blue-eyed pony to move. To give her some excuse to leave. To do anything but talk and stare at her with those sad eyes.

“If you manage to chase me away, it’ll confirm everything you already suspect, that you aren’t worth my time. That you aren’t worth love. That you’re broken. But it’s not true, Luna. You are worth it.”

“I know that Princess Celestia will never understand, but she will love you no matter what. I know that Twilight will never understand either, but she loves you too, even if she doesn’t realize it yet. I do understand. I understand all too well, and even though I don’t know you that well, I love you too.”

Luna’s knees gave out, and she slumped over. Her sight left her, and it was only after blinking a few times she realized it was because her eyes were full of tears.

She felt her head being cradled.

“I know that right now, more than anything else, you need a friend. I’ll be your friend, Luna, and I’ll never leave you as long as you need.”

Luna sobbed into those legs cradling her head.

“That’s right, Luna. Let it all out. Auntie Pinkie Pie is here, and it’s going to be okay. I know it doesn’t seem like it, and I know it won’t be easy, either. It takes the right people to talk to, the right medicines, and it takes time, but it will be okay, I promise.”

Luna cried. She cried with all the pain that emptiness was causing her. She cried from the ache that consumed everything. The sobs tapered off gradually, until the were just hitches in her breathing.

“I think I hear Twilight coming back.”

Luna nodded blindly in the legs cradling her head. She pulled herself upright, slowly, unsteadily. She shook her head trying to clear the fog residing there.

“Luna, I’m here for you, but this isn’t a solution. Be strong. Ask the palace doctors what medicines they have. Talk to somepony if you can. Talk to me if you can’t.”

With that, Pinkie blinked, and everything changed. The smile brightened to almost manic intensity.

“And then I said ‘Oatmeal, are you crazy?’ which I guess really isn’t as funny when you try to give it context. I wonder why that is? Oh, do you like oatmeal? Did you know there’s different kinds of oats you can make oatmeal from? My favorite kind of oats are pinhead oats, mostly because I like the name. Pinhead! I wonder if the oats get insulted from being called pinhead all the time. Hey Twilight! How do you like your oatmeal?”

“Uh… with brown sugar?”

“That sounds yummy!”

“Uh… yeah. Anyway, I don’t think the palace cooks were very receptive to you making cupcakes. I’m afraid your party may be cupcakeless,” Twilight said.

“That’s okay,” Pinkie assured her. I think we’re going to hold off on the party until Luna’s ready for it. Ooh! I still need to scout party supplies, though. Be right back! Luna, you’ll let me know, right?”

Luna stared into those blue eyes. The sadness was still there, just less pronounced. Had it always been there, and she’d just been too oblivious to know?

“Yes. I’ll let you know.”

“Okie Dokie, Loki!”

With that, the pink terror flew into the tower faster than Luna had ever seen an earth pony move. She stared at the vanishing pony, speechless.

“Sorry about that,” Twilight said. “I hope Pinkie wasn’t too… well… Pinkie for you. She can be a bit much to take sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great friend, and always there when you need cheering up, but sometimes she doesn’t know when to quit. Rainbow Dash always tells her ‘Pinkie, you are so random.’”

“Yes,” Luna agreed, not really sure what she was agreeing to. “Random.”

The next night the Moon was still green.

The night after was the same.

As was the night after that.

And the night after that, as well.

The next night, however, it looked a little paler. A little clearer.

The night after that, even a little better.

Until little…

By little…

The Moon healed.

Chapter 4: Lunacy

View Online

Luna stared at her Moon. Her bright, clear, clean Moon. She sat on her perch and basked for a moment in that gentle light before dropping from her place and gliding to the balcony of her room. She entered, securing the door behind her, and walked to the door leading out into the hallway. She paused, and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

Steeling herself, she pushed out into the hallway.

Luna felt… well… not good. No. Not good. Better, though. There was a faint glimmer of hope within her. It was a small fragile thing. It was the kind of hope that, had anyone seen it, would have been whisked away to the hospital and put on life support.

Regardless, it was there. And that was an improvement.

Luna wandered the hallways, narrowing in on her destination, but never simply trotting directly there. Instead, she wove her way back and forth, almost circling her way in like a buzzard.

Soon she was left no alternative. There lay the two rooms of the pony sisters, and the common room between them.

Carefully, softly, she knocked on a brightly colored door.

“Sister? Doth thou yet sleep?”

The only response was the sensation of magic, and the door opening just ajar.

Luna pushed her way into the dimly lit bedroom.

“Luna,” a soft voice called. “Are you well?”

“Fine, sister,” Luna assured her. “I just wanted to see thee before spending time with thy student.”

Luna tiptoed to Celestia’s bed. The Sun pony gazed at her worriedly.

“You’ve been very secretive and… jumpy about this. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Luna nodded.

“I… I’m going to show her something… personal.”

“Aaaah,” Celestia said with understanding. “You’re afraid she won’t like what she sees.”

“I’m certain she won’t,” clarified Luna. “I simply hope for… understanding.”

“I’m sure it will be fine. Twilight is most kindhearted. She’d wouldn’t reject you after you place so much trust in her.”

Celestia paused, looking uncertain.

“Luna,” she said hesitantly, “would you ever consider showing me?”

“I think it unwise, sister. Not that I don’t trust thee,” she added hurriedly, “but I fear it would hurt thee. Perhaps when thy guilt is assuaged, but for now, let it be.”

“I understand.” The sadness in her eyes betrayed her.

Luna nuzzled her sister, trying to ease the pain.

“Sleep well, sister.”

“Goodnight, Luna.”

Luna crept away more quietly that one might expect from one with hooves. She tiptoed to a separate door, and slipped through into the common room.

“Oh. Luna,” Twilight called as Luna shut the door behind her. “You surprised me.”

“I was just saying goodnight to Celestia.”

Twilight smiled.

“She was very curious about what we were doing,” Twilight said.

“As, I’m sure, you are.”

Luna took a deep breath, trying to quell the fluttering she was feeling inside. She willed her knees not to shake with moderate success.

“Twilight, I’d like to show you something, if you are willing.”

“Of course!” Twilight said without hesitation.

“Twilight, do you trust me?”

“Of course I trust you, why-”

Twilight's words halted as magic surrounded her. It completely encased her.

“There,” Luna said after a moment. “That should protect and sustain you for an hour. Probably two. That should be more than enough time.”

“But why?” Twilight asked, her voice distorted by the barrier. “Where are we going?”

“My Moon,” Luna answered.

She hurt when she saw Twilight stiffen.

“Peace, Twilight. Peace. There’s nothing there that can hurt you, and I won’t leave you.”

Twilight looked at her, eyes searching for who knew what. Whatever she sought, she must have found it, because she graced Luna with a smile, and nodded.

Luna nodded in return.

“Good. Then let us be off.”

Luna gathered her magic, twisting time and space just so. The world around them shimmered, followed by the brief sensation of falling.

Their vision cleared. They were on the Moon.

Luna glanced around before turning her attention to Twilight. They’d arrived exactly where she’d wished to, in the center of where she’d first landed when imprisoned here. The dust and soil was churned and disturbed in all directions. Hoofprints and ruts marred every surface.

Luna turned to Twilight.

“This is where I first arrived. What you see before you is my… temper tantrum. I exhausted my rage against the rocks and soil. I ranted and screamed my hate to the rocks and the sky, for all the good it did me.”

“How long?” Twilight asked.

“I’m not sure. Decades? Certainly no more than a century. Time is difficult here. There are cycles and phases, but it is not easy to translate to days or years in Equestria. I tried to count the days for a while. In a fit of frustration, I destroyed my calendar. I gave up after that.”

Luna looked around, gathering her bearings.

“This way.”

Luna hesitated.

“Walking on the Moon is… different. The best way to travel quickly is something like a hop mixed with a slow gallop. If you’re unsure, I can carry you, but I don’t recommend your teleport. It might interfere with my barrier. That would be… unpleasant.”

Twilight looked at her uncertainly.

“Why don’t you allow me. This is a tour of my Moon, after all.”

Luna levitated Twilight onto her back.

“Grasp my mane. Now, hold on.”

With that, she hopped into the air. It took Twilight some time to understand the rhythm of the oddly loping gait. Luna was correct, in that it was somewhere between a hop and a gallop, but that didn’t come close to describing it. Added to that, was the fact that the Moon was just plain strange. There was no sensation of wind her her face. The only gauge of speed were the rocks flying by them. Even there, the Moon was deceptive. A small rock, which appeared to be only a few meters in front of them, refused to come closer no matter how quickly they travel toward it. Instead, it grew. It grew and grew. Eventually the illusion was broken, and when they finally passed it, it had grown into a boulder whose shadow easily swallowed them.

The churned landscape gradually smoothed. Now the surface was dotted by rocks and dunes, but no pony-made marks. Twilight realized they were traveling in a shallow groove through the landscape.

No, not a groove. A path. A road. A road Luna had worn from repeated trips to wherever they were headed.

Twilight looked ahead. She saw what she assumed was the destination, but struggled to make sense of it. It was… a pit. As they neared, the scope of the pit continued to amaze her. It was an enormous square pit, dug down into the lunar surface. Inset from the sides of the pit were odd ridges, no more than a meter high, forming a shallow box.

Luna left the path, choosing not to continue down into the pit, but instead traveled to the lip, allowing them to see down within.

“This is my castle,” Luna said.

“What?” gasped Twilight. “Y-your castle? What happened?”

“You misunderstand, Twilight,” Luna stated. “Nothing destroyed my castle. This is simply where I gave up building it.”

“You… you gave up?”

“Look about you, Twilight. Do you see building materials available? Wood for tools? Iron for carving stone? Coal for smelting? Water for mortar? Alone, with my magic all but absent, I did the only thing I could. I dug. I scraped the soil from the surface until I hit solid rock. Then I did my best to chisel it away to form the walls.”

Luna shook her head mournfully.

“A foal’s errand, but it passed the time.”

“Why foalish?”

“What subjects would visit my castle, Twilight? What servants would populate its halls? No, this was born of desperation, and perhaps madness. I have other places where the desperation to create drove me, but none hold nearly the folly, none show as clearly the madness as this… lunacy.”

The last word tasted like ashes as it left her mouth.

Luna shook her head, trying to free herself from the weight of the past pressing on her.

“There is one last place I would show you, Twilight. Hold tight.”

She turned and left, refusing to look back.

Luna crested the ridge, and began her descent. The soil and rocks here were darker. Bleaker. Down they traveled into the basin.

Twilight noted they were on another path as they hopped across the oddly shaped depression.

She felt Luna slow as they reached what she could only assume was the center.

Twilight decided she could risk speaking.

“What is this place?” she asked.

“This is Mare Tranquillitatis. The Sea of Tranquility.”

Luna stopped.

Twilight looked over Luna’s shoulder to see the path ended abruptly. At the end of the path was a slight depression. It wasn’t much more than a shallow divot, more or less round, marking the end of the path. It wasn’t even much bigger than the path itself. It was barely…

It was pony sized, Twilight realized.

“This is where I slept,” Luna said.

She picked Twilight up off her back, and set her on the path behind her.

“I don’t know if I realized what I was doing when I chose this place. I don’t know if I understood where I was, or if the name meant anything to me at that point, but this is where I did it. Where I gave in. Where I slept. Where I came back to every night.”

Luna stepped forward, and settled into the divot, curling herself up into a ball and closing her eyes. It was perfectly shaped and sized for her.

Of course it was, Twilight rebuked herself. It was formed by her repeated visits, shaped little by little as she settled down to sleep each night.

She watched Luna lie there for just a moment.


Luna opened her eyes.

“Just… just give me a moment. Please.”

Luna, for her part, alternately relished and abhorred the familiar sensations of the Moon. As she lay there, the cold soil leached away her warmth. The abrasive surface scratched at her skin and coat.

It felt so familiar, so cursedly alluring, it would be easy to just lose herself here. To go back to the routine that defined her for centuries.

But she couldn’t.

She promised.

Slowly, Luna stood.

She shook off the dust clinging to her, and turned to face Twilight’s worried expression.

“There you have it. The two-bit tour of my Moon. Let us leave the mare before we return.”

Twilight followed wordlessly in Luna’s wake, trying to process all she’d seen.

Luna only spoke again once they’d returned to the common room.

Once they’d landed, Twilight shook off the feeling of the barrier after its removal. It hadn’t been restrictive, exactly, but it did confer the sensation of weight, and the sense that it was there, confining her.

“Twilight,” Luna addressed her, “it is late, and I’m sure you are tired. I’ll come see you in the morning before you depart to Ponyville.”

Twilight faced the Moon mare, a grave expression on her face.

“Luna, I know I can’t understand what you went through, but…”

Emotion choked the words from Twilight’s throat. She fought to free them.

“I know that seeing those things again must have hurt. What I’m trying to say is, thank you for showing me.”

“Twilight Sparkle, you once spoke of friendship. You have now seen the worst of me. You have seen the Nightmare. You have seen my waspish temper. You have seen my Moon, and the madness it contains. Would you still seek friendship with me despite all you have witnessed?”

Twilight looked at her with that sweet, honest, innocent face, and didn’t even hesitate.

“Of course!” she smiled at Luna. “Of course I’m your friend.”

Luna walked up and pulled Twilight into an embrace.

“Then I am thine, Twilight Sparkle. I am thy friend until thou rightfully tires of me.”

“That will never happen, Luna,” Twilight swore as Luna released her.

“Never is a word no pony should use,” Luna warned. “Regardless, I thank thee. Now, off to bed with thee. I’ll see thee in the morning.”

Luna watched Twilight leave, feeling lighter than she had in ages. It left her with one problem. What was she to do with her evening? She could go back to her perch, but for the first time since her return, she had no desire to. Technically she should be standing guard over Equestria, and holding court. The fact that Equestria required little in the way of guarding, and that no pony really attended her court with any seriousness made both options less than appetizing.

Luna decided to do something she hadn’t done in over a thousand years.

Cause mischief.

Luna’s first stop, she decided, should be the kitchens. The white and yellow daisies they’d been feasting on for breakfast were delicious, but lacking a certain something. Pizzaz. It was time to change that.

It was time to let them know who they were dealing with.

Luna smiled. It was an unfamiliar feeling, that gleeful, manic smile, but it felt good. Oh. Oh yes. It felt good.

“Excuse me,” Luna said, dropping from her perch on the chandelier so that she was hanging upside down from it.

“AAAYYYIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEE!!!” the maid screamed.

“Aside from my bedroom, which I will grant you,” Luna continued nonchalantly, “what do you think is the scariest place in the palace?”

“P-p-princess?” the maid stuttered.

“The scariest place in the palace. Palace grounds included.”

“Uh… the kitchen it pretty scary,” she said uncertainly. “The head cook can be really-”

“No, no. That won’t work at all. You can’t get a good haunting in a busy kitchen. What else?”

“The-the palace laundry? It’s usually hot, and always damp, and…”

“Oh, yes,” Luna rolled her eyes and swung gently on the chandelier. “A haunted laundry. All the other palaces will be so jealous. Think, mare! There must be some place here that is suitable. A long abandoned tower? A deep whispered-about dungeon? A well where some love-scorned mare fell in and drowned? Anything?”

“W-well… there’s a mausoleum in the older section of the palace cemetery,” she offered.

“Hmmm. A mausoleum eh? That just might work.” Luna mused, letting the chandelier continue its pendulum-like movement.

“P-princess Luna? Work for what?”

Had the blood not been continuously rushing to Luna’s head, she might have thought better of her next actions. Then again, considering her manic mood, she might not.

“Princess? PRINCESS?!? SOON the Equestria will know me not as PRINCESS… but as LUNA!!!!!”

She straightened, raising her fore hooves over her head as if raging against the sky. Unfortunately, in her inverted position, they were actually under her head.

It didn’t take long for her to realize her error.

Her hind hooves, now lacking the support of her fore, lost whatever purchase they had on the chandelier, and Luna dropped, unceremoniously, on her head.

“Ouch,” she murmured, righting herself.


“I’m okay!” she assured her. “Sorry to have detained you. Must be off. Things to do, you understand.”

The maid bowed hastily and scuttled away as fast as she could without being extremely obvious.

Luna watched her panicked retreat for a moment, feeling some of that cold emptiness begin to sap her manic energy.

She shook herself, trying to forestall the gloom threatening her. She didn’t have time for it. Not today.

Today she had things to do.

Morning saw a weary, but mildly cheerful Luna waiting for Celestia on their ritual balcony

“Good morning, Luna,” Celestia smiled at her sister.

“Good morning, Celestia,” Luna replied.

Celestia sniffed the air, taking in the smell of morning before taking her usual place on the balcony.

“Is… is there something different this morning?” she asked.

Luna fought to keep from reacting.

“Whatever dost thou mean, sister?”

“I don’t know. Something just seems… off.”

Luna cursed internally. She should have expected Celestia to sense something, but the illusion was so perfect. So subtle.

“There is nothing amiss, sister. Nothing could escape me under the light of my Moon.”

Celestia looked skeptical, but nodded her agreement. She took her place, and made ready for their ritual.

Luna sighed quietly in relief. The Sun’s rays were about to destroy her carefully placed illusion. Her plan wouldn’t work if Celestia banished it early.

Setting the illusion had been the hard part. It was a perfect copy of the palace over the real one, down to the last mossy rock. It had been difficult in two regards. One, in scope. She’d covered the entire eastern side of the palace, top to bottom. Second, in detail. It helped that she could see the palace as she created the duplicate layer over the top, but even the slightest missed detail could be catastrophic.

No, it simply wouldn’t do to ruin her work early.

Besides, the trick wasn’t in the illusion. It was in how it would be undone.

Luna gathered her magic as she felt Celestia do the same. The Moon dipped to the horizon. The horizon brightened with the approaching Sun.

Slowly, the Sun broke the horizon, and the first rays of morning lit the sky.

Finally, the rays of the Sun hit the top of the castle, working their way down as the Sun rose.

Where the Sun hit, the illusion ended, but, as in all things, the magic was in the execution.

The illusion didn’t just end. It dissolved. As the rays worked their way down the castle, it was like an outer layer was dissolving away in an effervescent rainbow, leaving the real castle solidly underneath.

The effect was perfect.

Soon the whole castle was awash in swirls of color bubbling away and disappearing into the aether.

The ritual ended, and the pony sisters turned to face each other.

Luna braced herself for Celestia’s reaction.

At first it was nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

“So,” Celestial began. “I see somepony’s been busy.”

The reaction was rather underwhelming.

“Well,” Luna began, scraping the stone floor with her hoof, “I-”

That was as far as she got before Celestia tackled her, wrapping forelegs and wings around her in an embrace.

“Oh, Luna. That was beautiful!”

Luna felt her face heat.

“Twas a minor illusion. Nothing more.”

“No, Luna. That was wonderful,” Celestia assured her. “Ponies will be talking about that for months!”

Luna giggled. It was an unfamiliar, but not entirely unpleasant experience.

“One hopes. That should give me ample time to think of my next trick.”

Celestia nuzzled her fondly.

“Let’s go eat.”

Celestia released her, and they made their way to the dining room. As they walked, Luna observed her sister’s transition from ‘Celestia’ to ‘Princess Celestia’. As always, it started gradually. The warm smile on her face morphed into a pleasant, albeit aloof, expression. The twinkle of humor in her eyes receded until Luna was sure she was the only one who’d detect it. Her gait stiffened into a formal walk.

It was a trick Luna sometimes envied, being able to so easily hide your true thoughts and emotions. The bloodless warfare of politics all but demanded it. Luna herself had never mastered it. She was too vocal. Too easily riled. Too temperamental. Too Luna.

Well, today she’d see how secure her public face really was.

There seemed to be some sort of disagreement going on when Luna and Celestia entered the dining room. The palace cook and the butler were whispering excitedly, gesturing furiously with hoof and head.

Luna suppressed a smile. The smile broke free when she saw Twilight seated in at a table.

It was shaping up to be a lovely morning.

“Good morning, Twilight,” Luna greeted her. “I trust thou rested well?”

Luna ignored Celestia’s raised eyebrow.

“Yes, thank you, Luna,” Twilight answered.

Princess Luna,” Celestia interrupted from behind her.

Luna frowned.

“Luna,” she stressed to Twilight.


With a sharp snap, Luna raised her wing to block Celestia’s view of their conversation.

“Twilight Sparkle, I have trusted thee with my very worst. Shall we let titles now drive a gulf between us? If I am thy friend, call me Luna, and let me worry about my sister.”

Twilight’s eyes looked troubled. They sought something in Luna’s own.

Twilight smiled. It was an uncertain smile, but a smile nonetheless.

“Of course, Luna.”

Satisfied, Luna retracted her wing, and went to go sit with her sister at the head table to await breakfast.

She caught the slightly furrowed brow as she settled herself next to Celestia.

“We’ll discuss this later, in private,” Celestia warned.

“At length,” Luna retorted.

The argument between the chef and the butler seemed to be over, if not entirely resolved, as the butler made his way to the head table.

“Y-your Majesties,” he began, “there-there appears there wa-was a m-mix-up with this m-morning’s breakfast.”

“Mix-up?” Celestia asked with an arched eyebrow. “We won’t be having daisies this morning?”

“Daisies. Yes,” the butler said, wringing his hooves. “Daisies we shall have, but somehow… somehow they have been b-b-b-b…. S-somehow they have been b-b-b-b…. They have been b-baked into c-cakes.”

“Cakes” Celestia said, her face losing all expression. “We’re having cake for breakfast.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Celestia beamed a real, honest smile.

“Very well, kind sir. Please carry on.”

Luna tried to keep her expression benignly pleasant as she’d Celestia do so often, though she was sure she fooled nopony. The amused glance Celestia shot her confirmed it.

Still, they had cake for breakfast. That had to be worth something, hadn’t it?

Twilight was having an odd morning. Truth be told, it started last night when she’d visited Luna’s Moon. Staring at that wasteland, that horrible descent from madness into despair that lasted a thousand years, Twilight had realized how deep the hurts ran in Luna. She realized her cleansing, her redemption at the hands of the elements, was only the beginning of the healing process.

She also realized how much it cost Luna to share that with her. How much she trusted Twilight to show that. Twilight couldn’t imagine what she’d done to deserve that trust, but she swore to herself she’d do her best to be worthy of it.

Which led to this morning. This decidedly strange morning.

First there had been the excited whisperings around the palace. At dawn there had apparently been some strange magic cast which delighted the few early morning witnesses to no end. Twilight was sad to have missed it. The only thing she could get out of people was some vague description of a swirl of rainbows.

Then there had been Luna.

Princess Celestia had always remained aloof with everypony, Twilight included. Through all her mentoring and discussions, she’d never let her guard drop. Twilight always attributed that to her being a princess, and needs to be removed from her subjects. When she’d met Luna for the second time, she’d thought her assumptions confirmed. Luna was more than aloof. She was distant. Cold. Unmoving. Unyielding. Uncaring.

Now, all of that was gone.

When Luna spoke, there was a warmth in her voice. She spoke as a friend spoke, despite her odd speech. She’d even hugged her last night, and not a public ‘hug but not too close’ hug, but a real, intimate, personal embrace.

And this morning, she’d contradicted her sister. In public. On allowing Twilight to simply call her ‘Luna’.

Twilight wasn’t sure what to think.

Part of her wondered if she should have expected more with her relationship with Princess Celestia. She was her mentor. Her teacher. Her friend, she thought. Why wasn’t she so warm when she spoke?

Part of her wondered if she really wanted that. Yearlings looked to their parents with absolute trust and unconditional love. Their parents weren’t ponies, but omnipotent, infallible, and unquestionably trustworthy protectors. It was only when they grew up they understood that their parents were fallible ponies like everyone else.

Princess Celestia ruled Equestria with a kind benevolence. Did Twilight want to shatter her trust that she could protect them from anything, just so they could have a little closer relationship?

It was a dilemma.

And now they were having cake for breakfast.

She’d expected a simple mixture of white and yellow daisies, perhaps with some sweet rolls, as had been Princess Celestia’s routine for as long as Twilight could remember.

When the cakes were carried out, Twilight’s eyes went wide. They were tall, many-layered spectacles.

And as for daisies…

Daisies were everywhere. They were sandwiched between the layers. They were set in the frosting decorating the outsides. There were petals folded into the batter. They were not, however, the usual white and yellow. They were a riot of blues, purples and reds.

It was delightful.

It was extravagant.

It was delicious.

As Twilight stared at her empty plate, suppressing the urge to lick it clean of crumbs and frosting, she caught sight of the butler creeping up to the Princesses.

Twilight couldn’t make out the hushed conversation that ensued, but she couldn’t fail to note Princess Celestia’s raised eyebrow, her suspicious glances at Luna, or Luna’s feeble attempts at keeping a straight face.

“Very well. Let us see to this disturbance,” Princess Celestia said finally. “Coming Luna?”

“Goest on ahead. I shall finish my cake and meet thee.”

Princess Celestia stared at Luna, simply waiting. Luna shrank under the gaze, but said nothing.

Wordlessly, Princess Celestia turned to follow the butler out of the hall.

Twilight’s and Luna’s eyes met. Luna flicked her gaze to Princess Celestia. Then she did it again. The third time, Twilight got the message.

“I’ll go with you, Princess Celestia,” she chirped, hopping from her seat.

Princess Celestia nodded with a smile.

Twilight realized quickly she had no idea what she was getting into. The group trotted out to a door Twilight had never used. It opened out to the palace grounds where the butler handed them off to the groundskeeper. The groundskeeper took them past the gardens, and through an iron gate.

The gate was impressive. Black wrought iron stretched up three ponies high, gathering in a peaked arch. At the top the bars gave way to leaves and flowers meticulously shaped by hammer and die. The gate was set in a heavy stone wall. Though moss and decaying mortar marred the stacked stone wall in places, it was obvious that the wall was well-maintained. Spots where the mortar had been re-pointed, clearly showing clean white where it was otherwise a dirty gray, marked repairs as far as the eye could see.

Twilight stiffened as they passed into the walled area. It hadn’t occurred to her at first, but now it was obvious. What need was there of a walled area outdoors? What could possibly be there? A private garden? No, not on the palace grounds. It could only be one thing.

It was a graveyard.

Twilight felt a chill wash across her skin. It was silly, she knew, but it was there all the same.

Twilight followed the groundskeeper and Princess Celestia deeper into the cemetery. Bright, new, clean grave markers made way for older, weather worn markers. further back, the foliage became more overgrown, and the names on the markers illegible. Trees and overgrowth dimmed the light and blocked the Sun.

Twilight shivered, and hastened her steps, not wanting to be left behind, and needing to be closer to the Princess. Her eyes darted back and forth, wary of anything that might waylay them on the path. In Canterlot. On the palace grounds.

Twilight shook her head, feeling foalish.

So busy berating herself was she, that she almost ran into Princess Celestia’s rump as she stopped quickly.

Sheepishly, she peered around the Princess to see what had halted them.

Before them was a mausoleum of some long-forgotten noble family. The mausoleum itself was impressive, but hardly worth the trip. No, what brought them on their trek was perched on top.

“OOOOOoooooOOOOOOOOOooooooOOOoooOOOoooOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” the ghost cried.

What a ghost it was.

It wore a white sheet with eye-holes cut into the fabric, and it held a length of chain which it rattled as it moaned.

It was the most ridiculous thing Twilight had ever seen.

“Good grief,” Princess Celestia muttered.

“OOoooooooooooOOoOooOOOOOOOOOOOOoooo!” the ghost cried, rattling its chain.

“Really, Luna,” Princess Celestia addressed the figure. “I’m actually a bit disappointed. The Palace was lovely. The cake was delicious, and a nice touch, but this? Come down from there.”

Twilight looked at the ghost. Now that the princess mentioned it, it was rather Luna-sized. The voice could be Luna’s also.

“OOOooOoOOOOOoooooOOOooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOO???” the ghost exclaimed.

“Really, Luna, now you’re just embarrassing yourself,” Princess Celestia said. “Take off that sheet and come down from there.”

“Sister?” Luna’s voice came from behind them.

Princess Celestia whipped around.

“Luna? Then who’s…”

“OOOOooooOOOooOOooooOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo!!” the ghost said.

“Do you like her? I hired her to give the cemetery a bit more color,” Luna told them.

“Hired who?” Twilight asked. “Somepony from town?”

“Oh, no,” assured Luna. “She’s a ghost.”

“B-b-but… but…” Twilight stuttered.

“I wrote up a contract and everything,” Luna told them, levitating up a scroll. “One new white sheet and three feet of new chain every six months, and all the souls she can eat.”

“Luna, you know as well as I do that ghosts don’t-” Princess Celestia started.

“SHHHHHHHH!” hissed Luna, stepping forward and gesturing abruptly with her hoof. “She doesn’t know that yet. How do you think I got her so cheap?”

Princess Celestia stared at Luna, aghast. Twilight looked back and forth between the two. Luna sat there, looking innocently pleased with herself. Princess Celestia’s left eye started twitching.

Twilight could feel something building. Whatever it was, it was going to be big when it broke.

The tension grew.

Then Princess Celestia began to chuckle.

The chuckle grew. Then it grew some more. Eventually it was a full laugh. Princess Celestia’s eyes began to tear, and she doubled over as the laughter wracked her whole body.

Twilight looked on, unsure what to make of this. She looked back at the ghost. She was ridiculous, sitting there in the white sheet. A real ghost? Under a white sheet, holding three feet of chain? Which she negotiated for in a contract?

Twilight felt like the absurdity was going to break her brain. It was as bad as being around Pinkie Pie when she was being particularly Pinkie-like.

Twilight shook her head and felt the laughter catching on with her.

Luna smiled and stepped forward to her sister.

“Do you like her?

Princess Celestia couldn’t catch her breath enough to speak, and only nodded as the laughter continued.

“Do… do you have any more surprises in store?” the princess asked as her laughing fit began to taper off.

“Not today, sister. The illusion on the castle took time, as did the contract negotiations.”

The admission looked like it was about to send Princess Celestia over the edge again, but somehow she managed to reign in her mirth.

I believe we should get going,” Luna said. “If we tarry too long, Twilight is liable to miss her train.”

Princess Celestia nodded, rubbing tears from her eyes, and panting slightly. She glanced at the white figure on top of the mausoleum, and a snort escaped before she managed to get her hooves to her mouth. Quickly she turned and headed down the path, desperate to put space between her and the ghost before she lost composure again.

The group made their way back to the palace. Upon entering, Luna turned to Twilight and Princess Celestia.

“I am late to my bed. Twilight, I shall see thee again.”

“Luna,” Princess Celestia called as Luna turned away.

“Sister,” Twilight heard Luna whisper, “thou hast been neglecting thy protege. Value the time while it lasts.”

Princess Celestia frowned, but nodded.

“Well, Twilight,” Princess Celestia said, “why don’t I see you to your train?”

Yes, Twilight thought, it was definitely an odd morning. Good, she decided. Very good, but odd.

Chapter 5: Changes

View Online

Luna stared at her Moon.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she wondered how she’d gotten to this point. The manic energy which fueled her night of benign mischief left as quickly as it came, but for one glorious night she’d felt like she was truly home. She could still feel the thrill of the devious creativity surging through her, and the silent joy of seeing Celestia break her mask and laugh a real, heartfelt, unselfconscious laugh in front of Twilight. The memory made Luna’s heart swell.

The next day hadn’t been a total disaster, either, though the thought of it made Luna’s insides quiver.

It had started out innocently enough. Luna had woken early, trying to relish the little daylight she got to see, and trying to engage the bustle and business of the palace when most ponies were actually still awake. She slunk through the halls, partly because she felt no real urgency, but also because she felt slightly intimidated by the constant activity, and felt like her very presence disrupted the flow in some way that would negatively impact those around her.

So she crept unhurriedly through the halls, trying her best to be unobtrusive. The only thing really drawing her was the sense of Celestia somewhere nearby.

As she drew near a meeting room Celestia opened the door.

“Luna, thank goodness. Just the pony I need.”

“Sister?” Luna asked, feeling slightly alarmed.

“I’m mediating some foalish dispute over who owns what land,” Celestia said in a hushed voice. “It’s going nowhere, and I need a fresh perspective.”

Luna glanced over Celestia’s shoulder at the arrogant and disgruntled figures glaring at each other within.

“Why are you mediating this? Why is it worth your attention?”

“It isn’t, really,” Celestia answered, “but the ponies in question are very high status. They’ve rejected, bullied, and disregarded everypony who’s dared attempted mediation before now. I need to get this resolved, and begin smoothing the ruffled feathers soon, or there will be some serious political ramifications. I don’t expect you to come up with a solution, necessarily, but could you come in and listen for a while? Just to give me a fresh take on the matter? Please?”

Luna glanced dubiously at the conference room, but knew she was trapped the minute Celestia said please. She never could say no to her sister.

The ponies within were even more arrogant than they’d appeared. Each side thought themselves above all. Each spoke at length about what they deserved, what was rightfully theirs, and how little the claims of anypony else mattered. They ranted, they sneered, they tossed thinly veiled insults at Celestia, and overt insults at each other.

Luna watched this with pompous display with horror. How could anypony be so mean-spirited and self-centered? The heat of the room became stifling. When Luna and Celestia had to excuse themselves to lower the Sun and raise the Moon, the cool evening air was blessed relief, but all too brief.

Back in the meeting room, the ponies continued to yell and argue, and the heat, real or imaginary, threatened to cook Luna in her skin.

Enough was enough, and this was…

“ENOUGH!” Luna roared. “You sniveling little toads, I have had enough of your petty complaints and posturing. You will form a working plan for dividing the land between you. You have one hour. If you do not have the beginnings of an agreement, I will personally rend each tree, split each rock, divide each house, and halve every usable resource in the disputed area, giving half to each.”

“Now see here,” one of the ponies protested, “you can’t just-”

“I CAN. Do you doubt my conviction? My power? You have one hour. If you do not take my words seriously, I may decide that your personal homes be included in my division of goods.”

“B-but… but…”


Luna stomped from the room, feeling like a tantruming yearling, but caring only slightly.

As soon as she was out of sight, of the conference, she fled, and returned to her perch with all haste. The cool air quickly sapped the heat from her boiling skin. If Luna closed her eyes, she could imagine it steaming in the darkness.

“Luna,” a soft voice snapped her out of her ‘meditation’.


“Thank you. They suddenly found a well of motivation I’d not seen from them previously. Perhaps I should bring you in more often.”

“I don’t want to be thy blunt instrument, Celestia,” Luna told her, feeling tired.

“Nor should you,” Celestia agreed. “I just wanted to… to thank you for saying the things I didn’t have the courage to say. I was coddling them, and making the problem worse by feeding their egos.”

Luna nodded to her sister.

“As you say, Celestia.”

Celestia frowned slightly at her sister.

“Well… I must go see to the petty ponies, then I’m off to bed. I’ll save you from having to go back in by ending the mediation for tonight.”

“Sleep well, sister.”
Luna hopped from her perch to nuzzle Celestia affectionately.

“Good night, Luna.”

The evening wasn’t a total disaster, despite the rocky start, but when Luna went to her rest in the morning, she had the Dream.

Luna stood on the Moon. Her Moon. On the spot she’d landed once banished. The spot she’d always thought of as ‘ground zero’.

It was cold. The unfeeling, implacable cold leached the warmth from her like a vampire, but didn’t stop there. Life and emotion seeped from her as well, leaving her feeling numb and empty.

Luna began to shiver. She never shivered, not on her moon. Something was wrong. This was all wrong.

“THOU THOUGHTEST THOU COULDST BE RID OF ME THAT EASILY?!?” a booming voice shook Luna from her immediate concerns.

She knew that voice. She’d heard it all too often. But she couldn’t be here. She couldn’t be.

Luna turned to face Nightmare Moon.

“How are you here?” she asked. “You shouldn’t be here.”


Luna tensed. Her body felt like an over-wound clock spring, ready to break at any moment.

Realization dawned on her.

“A dream. This is a dream.”

Luna let magic flow from her, warping the Moonscape around her, trying to end the nightmare in lieu of something more pleasant.

Reality shimmered, distorting until it was unrecognizable. As it re-solidified, Luna found herself alone on her perch at the top of the palace, the Moon overhead.

She breathed a sigh of relief. Even in the face of The Nightmare herself, Luna’s hold over the dream realm was still secure.

Or so she thought until the Moon started laughing at her.

She stared up in horror as The Nightmare’s face appeared in the Moon.


The booming voice hammered on Luna. The temperature around her plummeted. Luna began to shiver, her knees shaking violently. She realized that frost was forming on her coat.

As she stared back at the Moon, she understood the truth of what The Nightmare had told her, and fear stabbed through her. She would never be free. The Nightmare was back, and more powerful than ever, and she would never be free. She would see Equestria burn and know she was the cause. She would never be free. She would never-


Luna bolted upright in bed, still shivering. She breathed out a shaky, teeth-chattering breath, which showed as vapor in the air, despite the warmth of the room around her.

Her thoughts whirled in her mind, flitting from fear to fear unceasingly. Her thoughts were jumbled. Incoherent. So much so, that it took a minute to register the pounding on her door.

“Luna? Luna! Luna, are you alright?!?”

“Come!” she croaked in response.

The door flew open, and Celestia, wide eyed and worried, all but galloped in.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“D-dream. N-nightmare. THE Nightm-m-m-are”

“Oh, Luna. Look at yourself! What happened?”

Luna looked down at her coat, cursing her inability to stop shivering. When she saw, her trembling redoubled itself. Her coat was covered in frost. It was beginning to melt in the heat of the room, but some still clung to her. Dampness marked the passing of the rest.

“You’re soaked. The sheets are soaked. Come out here, and let me get a towel or a dry blanket or something.”

Luna nodded mutely, and let herself be pulled from her damp bed. She watched as Celestia pulled a towel from the bathroom and wrapped it around her.

“Um… Luna,” Celestia’s brow furrowed, and she frowned. “I don’t mean to be…. What I mean is…. Luna, when’s the last time you’ve bathed?”

Celestia pulled the towel back to reveal dirty smudges from rubbing against Luna’s coat.

“Bathed?” Luna asked.

“Yes. Bathed. You know, soap and water? Good grief, I’m surprised you don’t…. Luna, how the hay don’t you smell?”

Luna shook her head slowly.

“I found some clay to roll in just the other day,” she offered.

“...Clay? How did.... What.... No. I don’t want to know.”

Luna saw Celestia’s skin twitch in revulsion. That and the abhorred look on her face cut Luna deeply. She felt the familiar empty ache begin to grow within her, and she welcomed it. Soon it would eat all the pain, and just leave that dull ache.

“Hmmm,” Celestia mused. “Twilight sent a note for you while you were sleeping, wondering if you’d like to try again with her friends. I think I know what to tell her.”

“You would speak to her in my place?”

“Yes I would.” Celestia poked Luna in the chest with a hoof. “You need to make some friends. Get out and meet ponies. Trust me. I’m your big sister.”

“Of course, sister,” Luna said contritely.

Once Luna’s coat was dry enough, and she showed no further indication of shivering, the pair went to their evening ritual.

Then Luna went to her perch to stare at the Moon.

And so the rest of her week went.

Luna raised the Moon.

Luna sat on her perch and stared at the Moon.

Luna lowered the Moon.

Luna slept fitfully.

Which brought her back to the present, staring at the Moon after such a promising start to the week. She felt that dull emptiness, and let it swallow all her anxiety about meeting Twilight’s friends again, after the last attempt went so poorly. She let it swallow all her fears of The Nightmare returning. She let it swallow everything. It was easier than feeling.

Luna shook herself, and rose to return to her room. In the morning she would be in Ponyville. She needed to sleep now to be awake enough to face whatever ensued.

Luna looked at the establishment with more than a little skepticism. Everything, from the curtains in the windows, to the script in which the establishment’s name was written all sounded klaxons in Luna’s head. Even the simple one-word description made Luna quake: Spa.

She should run away, Luna decided. She should run away right now, and go live at the top of a mountain somewhere like a hermit or guru. She should go right now, before-

“They’re not going to hurt you, you know,” Twilight said from behind her.

“That remains to be seen,” Luna retorted dubiously.

“We should go in. They’re expecting us.”

Luna looked at Twilight, hoping the fear didn’t show in her eyes.

“Art thou sure about this, Twilight?”

Twilight smiled in response.

“Rarity and Fluttershy say it’s quite relaxing. They have a standing appointment every week. In fact, they should be here later. We’re here early to get a… er… head start.”

Luna narrowed her eyes at Twilight.

“Thou hast spoken with my sister.”

“Well… yes,” she admitted, “but that’s not the only reason. Fluttershy can be a bit… timid, but she probably won’t give you a second look if you’re just somepony in the spa. That way we can get a conversation started before she knows who you are.”

Twilight grimaced.

“Now that I say it out loud, it sounds a little cruel, but I just know you two will love each other. I just need Fluttershy to give you a chance before bolting.”

Luna digested this answer for a moment.

“Thou art sure?”

Twilight beamed.

“Trust me.”

Luna sighed, dropping her head and feeling very much the condemned pony.

“Lead on.”

Twilight pushed through the door with Luna in tow. The interior was awash with various herbal and fruity scents. Immediately upon entering they were descended upon by the two proprietresses.

“Princess Luna! Twilight Sparkle! How lovely to have you in our little establishment. Please, Twilight, make yourself comfortable. Princess Luna, right this way.”

Luna shot Twilight one last pleading look before being led off to her doom, whereupon she was scrubbed within an inch of her life.

Luna was soaped, lathered, scrubbed, rinsed, and repeated. It was bad enough that the water had to be changed once even before the pair began to work on her mane. The pair worked with unflinching single mindedness, until….

“Oh,” one of the mares gasped. “Oh. Oh, my!”

“What is it?” Luna asked. She felt a stab of fear at the mare’s expression.

The mare said nothing, but gestured to a mirror. The other mare pulled it closer, giving Luna a better look at herself.


Luna’s coat, which had been a dirty blue-grey, had deepened to a midnight blue, but that wasn’t all. Her mane... her mane, had deepened as well, and it had stars in it.

“Once we started washing that stuff out of your mane…”

“Regolith,” Luna said absently. “Means ‘blanket of rock’.” Her voice sounded to her own ears as though coming from far away.

“Yes, well, once we began to wash it out, your mane began to deepen, and well….”

Luna stared at the unrecognizable pony staring back at her from the mirror. She looked mostly like a drowned rat, but the vibrant color to her coat, and the way her main looked like a void full of stars…

It was amazing.

“Th-that’s me?” she asked, feeling foalish.

“Oh, yes, darling! You are beautiful!”

Luna shook her head at the pony in the mirror. It shook her head back at her.

“Oh my oh my,” one of the spa ponies gasped. “I’m so glad we got to see this. You know, we don’t usually give this much… er… intensive attention to anypony, but we were told you needed something a little extra. I’m so glad we did. This is so wonderful!”

The pair helped Luna out of the bath.

“Here you go, luv,” one of the ponies said, offering a robe. “Twilight is already in the sauna. It’s just through those doors, second room on the left.”

“I shouldn’t dry first?” Luna asked.

“Oh, no, dear, I shouldn’t bother. Take a towel for your hair, but don’t worry about anything else. You’ll be drenched in no time once you get in there. Now, please excuse us. We mustn't neglect our other patrons.”

She understood what they meant once she entered the sauna. Heat and humidity like a blistering summer’s day washed over her as she opened the door to see Twilight seated in a similar robe, sweat pouring off of her.

“LUNA!” Twilight’s eyes widened in surprise as she looked at the freshly-bathed mare, “Your coat! Your… your mane!”

Luna dropped her head and pawed the floor, unable to tell if it was the head from the sauna or her cheeks coloring which made her face feel so hot. Attention still did not sit well with her.

“Once they washed out the regolith, it… it looked like this.”

“Luna…” Twilight breathed. “Luna, it’s beautiful.”

Luna walked to sit next to Twilight, feeling so self-conscious she nearly forgot how to walk.

“Thou thinkest so?” she asked.

Twilight nodded.

“May I?” she asked.

Luna hesitated, unsure what Twilight was asking, before feeling silly. Twilight had her trust, after all.

“Of course.”

Twilight reached out and stroked Luna’s mane, feeling the strands of hair and experimenting with the starry effect.

Luna surprised herself by leaning into the contact a bit. Her eyelids drooped, and she hummed quietly to herself. She’d forgotten how pleasant such simple physical contact could be. She simply sat and enjoyed the sensation as Twilight played with her hair.

“It’s so wonderful. It looks like you could just stick your hoof in and touch the stars, but all I feel is hair.”

“Mmm hmm,” hummed Luna.

“So…. why hadn’t you bathed in so long?”

“No soap on the Moon,” Luna said, trying to remain focused on the sensation of the hoof in her mane. “No water either.”

“I see. Well, I’m glad you have now. Your mane is so lovely.”

Twilight retracted her hoof.

“I think Rarity and Fluttershy should be here soon. You might want to wrap up your mane to attract less attention. I’d like to get Fluttershy comfortable talking to you before she even realizes who you are.”

Luna felt a pang of regret for the loss of contact. It was such a casually intimate thing, the kind Luna hadn’t realized she was missing until now.

She tapped her magic to wrap the towel around her mane.

As luck would have it, it was just then that the door opened and Rarity and Fluttershy entered.

“Ah, there you are, Twilight,” Rarity exclaimed. “And here I thought we were early.”

“Oh, no,” Twilight assured them, “We came very early. Lulu here needed some… well… extra care.”

“Lulu is it?” Rarity asked. “Pleasure to meet you, darling. Any friend of Twilight’s.”

Lulu? Luna shot Twilight a look. It was returned with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

Lulu it was then.

“The pleasure is mine,” she assured her. “I’ve heard so much about you and your wonderful dresses.”

“Oh. Well, modesty forbids me from bragging, but I do like to think I have a certain flair. What do you do, darling?”

“Ah,” Luna hesitated. “I’m… in the middle of rediscovering myself. At the moment I don’t do much of anything.”

“Oh, no!” gasped Fluttershy. “What happened? I-I mean ever since I got my cutie mark, I’ve never questioned what I’m supposed to do.”

“Oh, it’s not like that,” Luna assure her. “I know what I’m good at, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it anymore. It’s just going to take time to figure things out.”

Fluttershy smiled at her.

“I hope things work out for you,” she said. “Do you have family to help you?”

“My sister, Tia, has been very supportive. She’s how I met Twilight.”

“Oh?” Rarity chimed in. “Have we met her?”

“I’m sure you’d recognize her if you saw her,” Luna assured.

“Where are you from, dear,” Rarity asked. “I’m sure I haven’t seen you around Ponyville.”

“I suppose I’m technically from Canterlot, though I don’t really feel like I’m from anywhere. I was… sick. Hospitalized, I guess you’d say, for a long time.”

Luna found herself enjoying the subterfuge as she settled into the conversation. Both Rarity and Fluttershy were polite and kind. Rarity possessed a very lady-like gift for casual conversation. Fluttershy, for her part, did much less talking, but as she became more comfortable with Luna’s presence, her face became more open, more cheerful, more willing to smile. She added her own thoughts to the conversation in a subtle manner.

“...and that was the absolute last time I let Tia cook for me,” Luna finished.

The laughter which ensued was like the musical chiming of bells. It was wonderful. Luna felt like part of the group, a feeling she hadn’t experienced in she didn’t know how long. She never wanted it to end.

“Oh, I know just what you mean,” Rarity told her. “My sister Sweetie Belle is a doll, but don’t let her near a kitchen. In fact-”

She was interrupted by the door to the sauna opening.

“Pardon,” one of the spa ponies said, “but it is time for the massages. Right this way, ladies. Your Majesty.”

Two heads whipped ‘round to stare at Luna.

Regretfully she rose to her feet.

“I suppose the secret’s out,” she said, shaking the towel from her mane.

“P-p-p-p-p-princess Luna!” Rarity sputtered.

Fluttershy gave every indication of trying to become a turtle, pulling her head back into her robe.

“Please don’t,” Luna asked. “We were having such a good time. I was really enjoying myself for the first time in forever. Please don’t start to treat me differently now.”

“Oh…” Rarity wavered. “Well…”

“If it helps,” Luna offered, “you can continue to call me Lulu. Even if Twilight to forgot warn me.” She graced the unicorn with a pointed look. Twilight had the grace to look embarrassed.

“Oops.” Twilight blushed, and looked away.

Luna chuckled, and began to follow the patiently waiting spa ponies.

“So… um,” a quiet voice made her pause.

“So Princess Celestia really can’t bake?” Fluttershy asked.

“She loves cake, cookies, and all manner of pastries,” Luna told her, “but if you value your stomach, don’t ask her to make any.”

Fluttershy giggled. It was a tentative truce, but one Luna was willing to accept.

“No,” Luna told them. “Nightmare Moon was me. She was all my worst qualities combined.. My fear, my hate, my loneliness, my jealousy…. Does it surprise you that a princess can be jealous? My sister was always the stronger between us. She was always prettier, more beloved, more regal. Our roles are complimentary, but she always comes out on top.”

“You must be good at something she isn’t,” Fluttershy insisted.


“Luna, darling, isn’t that a bit harsh?” Rarity said, aghast.

“You misunderstand,” Luna clarified, “I’m good at lies. At Illusion. At night, when the shadows grow so long they merge, and the walls of reality weaken, there am I at my most powerful. When you can’t tell if you’re dreaming or awake, when the shadows have lives of their own, when your mind makes things real, that’s where I am.”

Luna stared through the ceiling, focused on nothing in particular, her mind wandering.

“It sounds scary,” Fluttershy said.

“It doesn’t have to be,” Luna told her. “It can be wonderful. All your greatest dreams coming true. All your fantasies made real before your eyes. It can be intoxicating. But it also sets me in direct opposition to my sister. The light of the Sun banishes illusion and reveals the truth.”

She looked back down to earth to see the other ponies staring at her, eyes full of wonder, apart from Rarity’s, whose eyes were still covered by cucumber slices.

“It’s just as well,” Luna told them. “I would be a very poor ruler. I don’t have the patient and orderly nature my sister does. I was always the passionate, fiery one. Did you know I used to be quite the prankster?”

“Oh, no,” cried Rarity. “I can only imagine what would happen if you, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie got together! Equestria would never be the same!”

Luna tensed at the sound of Pinkie’s name, but joined in the laughter of the others. She was having fun. Today, in the company of these special ponies, she could just be Luna, and feel like that was enough for once.

Luna stretched her back and rolled her shoulders, testing how relaxed her muscles were.

“This was lovely. Thank you,” she said to the spa ponies.

“Of course, your majesty. Don’t forget to condition your coat and mane to keep them shiny and healthy.”

“I won’t forget,” she said. She looked around the waiting area. “I assume my sister already sent you payment?” she asked.

The ponies nodded in response.

“I see. Well, I would like to give you something to show you my appreciation. Would you have a piece of parchment or paper?”

“Oh!” Twilight chirped, her eyes brightening. She trotted over to Luna.

Rarity and Fluttershy, curiosity evident in their eyes, followed suit.

“Here you are, Your Majesty,” one of the spa ponies said, offering a piece of blank paper.

Luna gripped the paper with her magic. Her horn glowed, and a gentle breeze began to waft around the room, and the air began to smell of ozone. All at once, the tension released, and the paper drifted down before them.

Now emblazoned on the sheet was the image from the Equestrian flag. Celestia’s portion looked like it was merely drawn in ink, but Luna’s… the portion depicting Luna breathed. It shimmered with magic, giving every indication that the princess and her Moon was chasing the Sun.

“Whoa,” Twilight gasped. That’s different than your royal mark.”

“This is a mark of Royal favor by the pony sisters. Should my sister be persuaded to come here, I’m sure she would complete it. As it is, it shows my personal favor to this establishment. Take it. Keep it safe, display it, or do whatever you will with it. This is my gift to you."

“Oh, thank you, Princess Luna!” the ponies exclaimed. “Please, come whenever you wish. We will always have a place for you.”

Luna bowed to them, before turning and leaving.

“That was much more enjoyable than I expected,” Luna told the three friends. “Thank you for spending that time with me.”

“Oh, you are most welcome, dear,” Rarity assured her. “I enjoyed myself as well.”

“I did too,” Fluttershy added. “Although it’s time I got back to my animals. It was nice seeing you, Luna. Goodbye.”

Luna watched Fluttershy trot off down the path. Luna frowned. She did have fun, but something about the timid pegasus was bothering her. It gnawed at her. It was tender like a splinter she couldn’t pull out.

Fluttershy ran the first time they met. She waited for no explanation, no hint of violence, no nothing. She merely ran from Luna. She ran from somepony who needed some kindness.

It galled Luna.

“Luna, if I might, would you-” Rarity began.

“Um, one moment, please,” Luna interrupted. “There is something I would like to take care of. I will be back in just a moment.”

Twilight looked at her, eyes full of questions.

“It will just take a moment, I promise.”

Luna leapt into the air, summoning shadow and color to blur her passage. She couldn’t believe she was doing this. This was cruel, almost evil, but she had to. She had to know.

Luna wished, as she always seemed to, that she was as wise as her sister. Celestia would find another way. Celestia would never put anypony through this. But Luna wasn’t as smart or wise as her sister. Luna was only Luna, and Luna was the Nightmare.

She landed on the path, watching Fluttershy trot towards her, unaware.

Slowly she wove the illusion. The canopy of trees sheltered her from the Sun, giving her enough darkness to give her an edge. Luna was powerful enough to make a sturdy illusion in full daylight, but she’d meant what she said before. The darkness was her ally. In the darkness your mind helped make things real. The line between dream and reality blurred.

Layer after layer of illusion was plied over her. It would unfold at her will.

All was ready as Fluttershy finally noticed her.

“L-Luna?” she asked uncertainly.

“Afraid of me again already, Fluttershy,” Luna asked.

“O-oh, w-well, I d-didn’t ex-expect-”

The shaded area darkened, and Luna grew almost imperceptibly. The effect on Fluttershy was apparent. She shrank back with a squeak.

“I am curious about something, Fluttershy. I’m curious how a timid pony like you can claim the Element of Kindness.”

Luna’s coat darkened. She grew slightly more, and her eyes changed, becoming crueler, mirroring Nightmare Moon’s.

“You are very good with creatures of the forest, and monsters that others find scary, but you avoid other ponies, don’t you? Don’t you?”

“Yes!” Fluttershy squeaked.

“You fear me, as well, don’t you? You are right to. I am Nightmare Moon, and I threatened to blot out the Sun, and reign over a world of darkness!”

Luna’s wings caught fire with darkness.

“And yet you aspire to be the embodiment of Kindness. Where is your kindness now? Does it only exist for those you love? Is not the true mark of kindness that it is offered to those who don’t deserve it? Is not true kindness an act of courage? What hope have you and your kindness against me, pony?”

Luna leaned down, bringing her face close to Fluttershy’s. Her mouth now smoked, and her teeth were cruel curved daggers.

Fluttershy shook violently, her eyes wide with terror.

“Show me your kindness now,” Luna snarled. “Prove to me your worth. I dare you.”

“Y-y-you’re right,” Fluttershy said. “I’m a weak p-p-p-pony, and I’m af-fraid most of the time. I was afraid of you in Twilight’s library, and I ran, and that wasn’t fair of me.

Fluttershy raised her head higher. Her voice still shook, as did the rest of her, but her eyes held determination.

“Everypony deserves kindness, not just the ones I like. I can’t promise I’ll always be kind like I should, but I promise I’ll try. Everypony deserves kindness, even you, Nightm…. Even you, Princess Luna.”

Those determined eyes stared back at her, defiant and sure.

Luna dropped her illusions. She returned to her normal size, and the area around her brightened, showing the warm day.

“So,” Luna said, “You passed the test I, myself, failed.”

Luna slumped, though whether from sorrow, guilt, or regret, she wasn’t sure.

“You are, indeed, the Element of Kindness. I’m sorry for putting you through this, Fluttershy. It was cruel of me. I find that I am not the kind pony I’d hoped.”

The color was returning to Fluttershy’s face, and her shivering all but stopped.

“I think Twilight was right about you,” she said. “You do need friends more than anything else right now. I’ll be your friend, Princess Luna.”

Luna shook her head.

“Waste not your kindness, nor your friendship on me, pony. I proved myself undeserving by this little display.” She turned and began the walk back to town.

The barest hint of rustled feathers betrayed Fluttershy’s movement before she appeared in Luna’s path.

“Didn’t you just tell me that everypony deserved kindness?” asked Fluttershy. “You are worth kindness, Luna, and you’re worth being friends with. You said in the spa that you were looking for yourself. I think you’re right. You’re a kind pony who’s gotten lost. You need friends to help you find yourself again. I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you look.”

Luna looked down at Fluttershy, who merely smiled back up at her. It was a kind, sweet smile.

Luna’s heart crumbled.

“If thou consenteth to be my friend, despite all my faults,” she rasped, choking back tears and emotion, “then I shall be thine. Come what may, I shall be thy friend until the Moon no longer rises.”

Luna leaned down and touched her nose to Fluttershy’s. Tears escaped her eyes despite her best efforts.

“Thou art truly kind for thy forgiveness of my inexcusable actions. I will make it up to thee. But for now, Rarity asked a favor, and I’d best not keep her waiting.”

“I understand. Goodbye Princess Luna.”

“Just ‘Luna’, Fluttershy. Until we meet again.”

Luna trotted down the road, only pausing once to look back and wave a wing to the retreating Fluttershy.

"Hey," Twilight called as Luna came back into view. "Is everything okay?"

"Yes," Luna replied. "I arranged a little test. Fluttershy passed. I failed."


"Worry not." Luna gave what she hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'll tell thee all about it after I give my sister a chance to be disappointed in me."

Twilight's eyes widened.

"It's okay," Luna assured, "she forgave me. Now, let's not keep Rarity waiting."

"Luna, dear, would you allow me to make you a gown?" Rarity asked. "I'm not looking for free publicity," she added hurriedly, "but I love plying my craft, and it would give me such a thrill to know you were wearing one of my dresses. Assuming you like it, of course."

Luna chuckled.

"You're offering me a gift and sounding apologetic about it? Truly you are the Element of Generosity!"

Rarity graced them with a blush.

"I just didn't want you to think I had an ulterior motive," she said.

"I would be honored to accept the fruits of your labor."

“Wonderful!” cheered Rarity. She stalked toward Luna, a tape measure levitating in front of her, and a speculative look in her eye. “Let’s take some measurements, then. Shall we?”

Luna looked at determined unicorn with trepidation. One thought echoed in her mind.

What did I get myself into now?

Luna landed on the balcony, ready for the ritual she shared with her sister. It had been an eventful and trying day.

“Luna,” she heard her sister approach behind her. “Good, you’re here. I hope you had a good-”

Celestia’s words cut off.

“LUNA! Your coat! Your mane!”

Luna turned to face her sister, a shy smile on her face.

“Dost thou like it? It showed once all the regolith washed out.”

“Like it? Luna, it’s gorgeous! I take it your day at the spa was satisfactory, then.”

“It was an enlightening day.”

Luna’s tone did not escape Celestia.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Sun and Moon first,”

The pair directed their attention to their ritual.

Luna scrutinized her Moon critically. It was not her best work. The weariness of the day, the trepidation of her impending conversation with her sister, and the knowledge of what she put Fluttershy through all weighed on her.

She frowned.

It would do for tonight, but tomorrow she would do better.

“So, what’s bothering you?”

“After our time at the spa I had a… run-in with Fluttershy.”


“I don’t know. I don’t know what possessed me.”

“What did you do?” Celestia’s voice became cold and flat.

“After she ran from me at Twilight’s library, I questioned how she could be the Element of Kindness. Thou knowest that Element always rejected me. I just didn’t understand how she could be so timid and still have the courage to show kindness.”

“Luna,” Celestia warned.

“I told Twilight that I’d given a test, and that Fluttershy had passed, and I’d failed. It was a glib statement, but the more I think about it, the more it rings true.”

“What. Did. You. Do.” Celestia’s voice was harsh and angry.

“I scared her. I cornered her, and scared her to the best of my ability. I demanded she prove herself worthy of the Element of Kindness.”


“She forgave me. She showed true courage, and proved I wasn’t worthy of the Element. I think we are now friends.”

“Luna, how could you?”

“I had to know. I had to understand. I understand now that I am not a kind pony. I never was.”

Celestia shook her head, her eyes sad.

“I must say, Luna, I am very disappointed.”

“And justly so, sister. I failed the test.”

“Luna, what am I going to do with you?”

Luna could only shake her head.

“I wish I knew.”

Luna stood in the forest, silent and still, and she watched.


“Of course, Luna,” Fluttershy assured her.


Fluttershy crept toward her, toward the Nightmare.

NO, Luna tried to shout. No, please! Don’t trust her! Don’t trust me!

No words would come out.

Fluttershy approached the Nightmare, unaware of the danger. The Nightmare glanced at Luna, a cruel glint in her eye, and a sneer on her face.


The Nightmare sat and opened her forelegs, offering an embrace, one Fluttershy willingly accepted.

The Nightmare wrapped her legs around Fluttershy, and panic seized Fluttershy’s features. She began to struggle in the embrace.

Luna understood at once. The Nightmare was crushing her.

No, she pled. Please don’t do this. Please don’t do this to Fluttershy.


Fluttershy’s struggles weakened. Her eyes became vacant. Luna called upon her power over dreams, trying with all her might to save her new friend.

Nothing changed.

“WE ARE THEE,” the Nightmare reminded. She began to laugh. Fluttershy’s body ceased moving. The laughter grew.

Then the Nightmare and Fluttershy vanished.

Luna looked down, knowing full well what to expect.

Fluttershy’s broken corpse was clutched in her own hooves.


Luna bolted upright in her bed. She wasn’t cold like last time. In fact, her mane was matted with sweat. Despite that, she was shivering, and her teeth chattered. Her body refused to obey her.

“Luna!” Celestia cried as she barreled through the door.

“S-s-s-s-s… d-d-d-d-d-d… nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh….” Luna’s tongue moved like it was swimming through molasses. Between that and her chattering teeth, all attempts at intelligent communication failed.

Celestia descended on her, wrapping her with forelegs and wings.

“Again?” she whispered. “Another dream?”

“Nuh-nuh-nightmare Muh-muh-muh-Moon,” Luna stammered. “She w-w-was….”

Celestia said nothing, but pulled Luna closer, sitting on her bed and rocking her gently.
Luna felt like a yearling being soothed by her mother. Despite the meager difference in their respective ages, it did comfort Luna. Celestia was the closest thing to a mother she could remember. Little by little, the shivering receded.

“It was Nightmare Moon both times,” she said her voice quivering. “Last time she merely confronted me. This time she crushed Fluttershy in front of me. She told me I was the one doing it, and I knew it was true. Both times I was powerless over the dream.”

Celestia continued to rock her.

“Whatever is happening, we’ll get through it. Even if she comes back, it will be okay.”

“H-how c-canst thou say that?” Luna demanded.

“Nightmare Moon was defeated by me wielding the elements. She was defeated again by Twilight and her friends with those same elements. Both times we were missing something powerful and important. Something we have now. Something that tips the scales even more in our favor.”


“You, of course, my dearest sister. We have you, my love.”

Luna buried her face in Celestia’s chest, tears beginning to stream silently down her cheeks.

“I hope thou art right,” she whispered through the tears. “I’m afraid of her. Of her returning. Of her taking control. Of the madness she represents.”

“I love you, Luna, and I’ll never give up on you. I think you’ll find your new friends feel the same way.”

Luna could form no response. She could only weep against Celestia’s chest, grateful for once that Celestia was the strong one. The kind one. The beautiful, noble, regal one. It let Luna place all her trust in her unconditionally, sure that whatever came, she could trust in her sister to make things better.

Chapter 6: Baby Steps

View Online

“So we have Rainbow Dash and Applejack,” Twilight said. “Rainbow Dash can be rather… protective of Fluttershy, so we might want to leave her for later, depending on if she knows what went on between you and her.”

Twilight gave Luna a pointed look.

“I’ll tell thee about it after I meet thy friends. It is going to be hard enough without thy anger at me during our outing.”

“Frankly, I’m kinda getting mad at you now.”

Luna sighed.

“I frightened her. Badly. On purpose. The reasons we can discuss, but the result is she forgave me, and we might be friends.”


“I’m not sure I can explain it. I’m not even sure I really know why. It was a cruel, spiteful thing to do. However, it won’t happen again, and I will protect Fluttershy with my life if need be.”

Twilight gave Luna a very hard stare.

“Thou art displeased with me justly. I can’t easily rectify my mistake, but I will do so somehow.”

“I can’t believe you did that, Luna,” Twilight said crossly.

“Obviously I am an evil, uncaring pony,” Luna snapped back. “Thy attempts to ingratiate me with thy friends has only highlighted this.”

“Luna, I didn’t mean-”

“No,” Luna interrupted, “but I did. I am tired, Twilight. Perhaps now is not the time to be meeting thy friends.”

“Please,” Twilight said, “at least let’s see Applejack. She’s pretty grounded and practical. I’m sure she’ll give you a fair shot. I need to talk to Pinkie for a moment, so if we could stop by Sugarcube Corner real quick…”

“Uh, thou goest on ahead. I shall wait outside.”

Twilight shot Luna a concerned look before shrugging and entering the bakery.

Luna sighed in relief, and turned.

A rainbow-maned blue pegasus blocked her path.

Luna jumped in surprise.

“Ah. You would be Rainbow Dash, I assume.”

The pegasus glared at Luna.

“I take that to mean you have spoken with Fluttershy.”

The glare hardened. Her eyes blazed with rage.

“Yes. I see. As I said to both Twilight and my sister, it was a cruel thing to do. It was wrong of me, and there is little I can do to make recompense. I can only assure you it won’t happen again.”

The glare continued unwavering. Luna shrank back from the laser-like gaze.

“Fluttershy forgave me freely. I did not ask or coerce. I won’t expect the same from you. I am undeserving of your forgiveness.”

Luna signed, breaking eye contact as her head drooped. She shuffled her forelegs nervously.

“I only ask that you speak with Twilight to forestall her attempts to make peace between us, for Twilight’s sake if nothing else.”

The pegasus held her gaze for a moment or two more.

“I see it.” Rainbow Dash said. “I don’t like it, but I see it. Twilight was right.”

“A phrase I have heard more than once,” Luna replied. “What was she right about now?”

“Do you know what Twilight told me she saw when she looked at you?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Luna shook her head.

“She saw herself when she came to Ponyville. Somepony lonely. Somepony who needed friends, but not even knowing it, or what to do. Fluttershy said pretty much the same thing. I see it. I don’t like what you did to Fluttershy, but she said it’s okay, so I guess it is. I’m giving you a chance. Don’t buck it up.”

With that, Rainbow Dash launched herself into the air and flew away.

Luna sagged, and trembled with relief. Luna had faced Discord, and she had faced her sister in battle, but she had never seen anything like the white-hot fury emanating from that pegasus.

“All set,” Twilight chirped, exiting the bakery. “Ready to meet Applejack?”

“Mine is not to reason why,” Luna said. “Mine is not to make reply.”

Twilight looked at her, eyes clouded with confusion.

Luna sighed.

“Let’s go.”

“Applejack, you remember Luna.”

“Princess Luna, nice to see ya again.”

“Just ‘Luna,’ please,” Luna insisted.

“Aintcha a Princess?”

“What makes me a Princess?” Luna asked.

“Welp, yer an Alicorn, and there’s that whole ‘raisin’ the Moon’ thing,” Applejack replied.

“An accident of my birth, nothing more. What have I done to deserve to be called Princess?”

“Ya mean aside from raisin’ the Moon?”

“Which my sister did in my absence. An absence caused by my going to war with her and all of Equestria, and attempting to plunge the world into eternal darkness. Oh, yes. Equestria is certainly lucky to have a princess like me,” Luna said bitterly. “Until I am worthy of the title, nopony should be required to call me ‘Princess.’ Those I would call ‘friend’ need never call me ‘Princess.’ It is a wall between us that they don’t deserve. So, Honesty, I ask that you call me Luna.”

Applejack’s face relaxed, her eyes far away as she listened to Luna speak. She sat that way for a few moments after Luna had finished.

Then she came back to the present, apparently satisfied by what she’d heard.

“Fair enough, Luna. How’s about a tour of the farm?”

“Did you mean what you said about being called Luna?” Twilight asked as they trotted through the fields.

“Of course. The Element of Kindness may have rejected me, but Honesty welcomed me readily.”


“When Celestia and I wielded the Elements against Disco- a… a foe of great power, we each wielded three. The Elements chose us as much as we chose them. Kindness did not take to me. It’s obvious why in hindsight, of course. Honesty, though, suited me well.”

“I thought in the spa you said your talent was in illusions and lies.”

“An unflattering version of the truth, but not wholly inaccurate. Though my powers lend themselves to illusion, I personally have always valued honesty. I’ve often tried to use illusion as a means to reveal the truth.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Twilight admitted. “How would illusions reveal the truth?”

“When a pony is confused or feels threatened, they often return to the thing that means most to them. By trapping them in illusion, you can cause them to reveal what they consider most important, even if they don’t realize or admit it. Forcing that kind of truth from somepony isn’t particularly kind or tactful, though. As a princess of Equestria, it has worked against me more often than not. Also, politics and honesty rarely go hoof-in-hoof.”

“What about Princess Celestia?” Applejack asked.

Luna hesitated briefly.

“My sister has the uncanny and rather... disturbing ability to mislead by speaking only truth. Everything she says is a true statement, but may lead you to an incorrect assumption. It is frightening to watch.”

Twilight’s brow furrowed.

“Really? I don’t remember ever seeing anything like that.”

“Think, Twilight,” Luna said. “Think about what she told thee regarding my release from the Moon. She told thee to step away from thy books and make friends. Thou tookest this to mean she was not concerned about the return of Nightmare Moon, yet she had already given thee the tools thou neededest, and set the wheels in motion.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide while a mortified look crawled its way across her face.

“She manipulated me!”

“Thou shouldst not judge her too harshly,” Luna hastened to add. “She really does value thee. I can see it in her eyes when she speaks of thee. But she has been the crown for too long. She’s become the mask. It is part protection, and part politics. Both have been ingrained more deeply than thou canst possibly understand.”

“I-is that why she insists on being called Princess?” Twilight asked.

“It is. It also creates distance between the two of you. In this way she is protecting her heart from breaking after seeing so many friends pass. But make no mistake, she cares for thee. She cares for thee so much, she would give thee what she values most in all Equestria.”

“W-what’s that?”

Luna hoped her dark coat was concealing her blush as she felt her face heat.

“I have said too much already. I would prefer we speak of this another time.”

“But,” Twilight protested.

“Please, Twilight. It is a personal matter between my sister and I. I overstepped myself by speaking about it. Let it be for now.”

Twilight frowned, but nodded.

“That’s enough farm for one day,” Applejack interrupted their thoughts. “Why don’t we go back to the house and cook us up some grub?”

The growl from Luna’s stomach was all the agreement they needed.

Luna clutched the knife tightly in her hoof, apple held loosely in the other. Wordlessly she cut into the apple, rotating it in her hoof. The strip of peel grew longer and longer.

Peeling the apple in one strip had originally been a challenge. Then it turned into an amusing pastime. Now it was simply part of the rhythm.

Cooking and baking with apples mean a lot of peeling, coring and slicing apples. The smell of apples permeated every corner of the kitchen. Luna just kept peeling. She originally considered magic, either to grip the knife, or to simply strip the peel from the apple without wasting the flesh, but the rhythm she found herself in was soothing.

The peel dropped from another apple. Luna placed it on the table and picked up another. The knife cut into the flesh with a quietly crisp sound.

“Ah think we’ll only need one or two more, Luna,” Applejack told her. “Y’know, yer pretty good at that.”

Luna looked up at Applejack.

“It all comes down to time, pressure, and patience. I have a… a unique perspective on such things.”

Applejack let out a chuckle.

“You are the darnedest princess Ah ever did meet. I don’t know what Ah expected when Twilight said she was introducin’ you around, but you ain't it. Ah think it’s fair to say I’m impressed. Y’all got sense, and it’s obvious you care for Twilight. If’n we ain't friends right now, Ah’d say it’s just a matter of time.”

Luna offered a smile in return.

“From the Element of Honesty that is high praise indeed. I eagerly await the day I can truly call you friend.”

A chime from the oven drew their attention.

“First batch is done. Give ‘em a couple minutes to cool, and we’ll dig in.”

Luna closed her eyes, and breathed in the essence of the kitchen. The smell of the raw apples, the baked goods fresh from the oven, the pot bubbling on the stove, apples, apples, and more apples, all vied for attention. They wove together, creating an apple tapestry which tickled and tantalized Luna’s nose. Luna’s mouth watered.

Yes, she decided, she liked apples quite a lot.

Luna stared at the Moon. It was peaceful after a long day, and with her sleep schedule out of whack, it was nearly as good as sleep.


Luna sighed into the darkness.

It had been a fun and lively day, visiting Twilight’s friends, but that seemed only to accentuate the quiet of her nights. The ponies were all in their homes, and here Luna sat alone in the quiet. Even her sister was now asleep, dreaming blissfully. At the end of the day, both literally and figuratively, Luna always ended up alone.

It was originally startling to realize she minded. After so many centuries on the Moon, Luna thought she’d never get used to the noise and bustle of other ponies again. Even now, there were times when the noise, the boundless energy, the constant motion, all pressed on her, and she needed to escape to solitude. She didn’t think she’d ever get acclimated to crowds again, but despite it all, she found she quite enjoyed spending time with a few ponies in a quiet setting. Once she got comfortable with the ponies in question, she found she could relax and talk without feeling judged. She could share stories, share laughter, and share thoughts without fear.

And then the ponies left. Or she did. Either way, Luna was alone at the end.

It was a quiet, gentle sort of melancholy which settled over Luna, as she stared at the Moon hanging in the night sky.

Luna took a deep breath, and watched the vapor dissipate as she exhaled. She shivered in the cool night air. Her skin was so much more sensitive since her day at the spa. She felt the cold so much more acutely. Still, she resisted the urge to vacate her spot. At times like this, it felt so much more hers than anything else in Equestria.

Nopony came up here without reason, and the reason was usually that they were looking for Luna. No, this spot was Luna’s, and Luna’s alone.

Luna’s alone.

Luna stared at the Moon.

Luna flew through the night sky. It had been far too long since Luna simply flew. The feeling of freedom and elation welled in her, despite the fact that even now she wasn’t simply flying for pleasure. No, something else drew her through the air. An undercurrent of magic pulsed and throbbed, forming eddies and undertows in the aether. It stretched out in all directions, disturbing the normal flow of magic, and disrupting the serenity of the night. It didn’t feel dangerous, just unkempt, as though somepony just threw a rock into a tranquil pond.

And so Luna flew through the air, enjoying the feel of the wind in her wings as she homed in on the source of the disturbance.

It was with mild surprise, and some trepidation that she landed on the top of the Ponyville Golden Oaks Library, home to one Twilight Sparkle.


Luna jumped at the sound of something erupting in a fireball. Before she could react further, the window below her opened and smoke billowed out.

*Cough* *Cough* *Cough*

“Well… that didn’t go as expected,” a familiar voice rasped.

“I should hope not,” Luna said. “Asphyxiating thyself is hardly a noble endeavor.”

“Ack!” Twilight shouted, startled. “L-luna? What are you doing here?”

“Looking for thee, it seems. I was searching for the source of this disturbance. Thou art being very noisy.”

“Noisy? Explosion notwithstanding, I’ve barely made a sound.”

“Magically noisy, Twilight. I felt the disturbance in the aether, and followed it here. I take it thy experiment did not go well?”

“It… could have been better,” Twilight admitted. “Would you like to come in for some tea? I think I’m done for the night, and I could use something to settle my nerves while the library airs out.”

“I would love some tea, and to sit with thee awhile. We’ve had precious little time for just the two of us lately.”

“Tea it is!”

Twilight hurried to fill the kettle, but was oddly quiet as she watched the water slowly heat.

Luna watched silently, a small frown on her lips. Her mind worked as she tried to fathom what might be preying on Twilight's mind.

Before long, the tea was ready.

Twilight and Luna lounged with their mugs of tea steaming before them. Luna breathed in the herbal scent, relishing the simple comfort it offered. Twilight, however, stared at her mug, brow furrowed, and eyes far away.

“Twilight,” called Luna, “what ails thee? Surely thy experiment does not trouble thee that much?”

Twilight did not raise her eyes from her tea.

“Luna, d-did you mean what you told me about Celestia?” Twilight asked. “Does she really care about me?”

“She does,” Luna assured. “What causes thy distress?”

“Well, since getting to know you, you always speak to me with such warmth in your voice. When you speak to me, I know it comes from the heart. I’ve been Cel- Princess Celestia’s ‘faithful student’ for years, but speaking with you, I realize that she sounds, I don’t know... distant.”

Luna took a sip of her tea, breathing in the steam for comfort before setting it down and rising. She walked to stand before Twilight, and placed a hoof on her shoulder.

“Twilight, what thou seest is the different experiences we’ve had over the last millennium. I had no need to guard my feelings on the Moon. There was nopony there to hide them from. As such I wear my heart openly. When I am angry, I rage. When I am happy I smile. When I am annoyed, I lash out. It is as a foal does, before it learns to control its emotions, and it is not right. My sister does not have the luxury of being foalish. She’s been among her subjects all that time, playing politics and making decisions. She’s made decisions which could get ponies hurt. She’s watched as friends and loved ones pass from this life to whatever lies beyond. She’s learned to guard her emotions from scrutiny, and her heart from hurt, because we do hurt, Twilight. My sister and I are ponies. We love, we get angry, we make mistakes, and we hurt.”

Twilight looked up into Luna’s eyes, looking, it seemed, for the truth in Luna’s words to be reflected there.

“I know she cares for thee, Twilight. She might act aloof with thee, but she can’t pretend with me. I’ve heard the warmth in her voice as she speaks of thee, and, as I told you before, she’s trusted thee with what is most precious to her.”

“You said that before,” Twilight said, “but I don’t know what you mean. What did she trust me with?”

Luna leaned down and nuzzled Twilight’s forehead.

“Me, Twilight. She has trusted thee with my welfare, as she has shared thy affections with me, and mine with thee.”

Luna stepped back. Twilight looked up at her, eyes glassy with tears and emotions barely held beneath the surface.

“That wasn’t exactly hard, Luna,” Twilight said.

“Was it not a hardship for thee? When I callously watched thee shiver in the cold? When I would flee at a moment’s notice back to my perch, rejecting thy companionship? Thou art patient beyond measure to have withstood my foul temperament.”

“Oh, you weren’t that bad, Luna,” Twilight assured her with a smile. “Besides, I could tell there was diamond under that regolith, even if it took a bit of time to dig it out.”

“And that is why my sister loves thee. And for that matter, so do I.”

Luna kissed Twilight on the forehead.

Twilight stared up at Luna,, her eyes wide.

“Did I overstep myself, Twilight?”

“Huh? NO! No… it was just… unexpected.”

“Apologies. Decorum still eludes me.”

“Pfft,” Twilight puffed. “You’re the most elegant and graceful pony I know.”

“Thou art forgetting my sister. Compared to her, I am a foal taking my first steps on wobbly legs. Courtiers, wishing for entertainment, wait patiently for me to appear in court so they might watch my antics. Thy friend Rarity belongs in the court more than I do.”

“Oh, it can’t be that bad,” Twilight assured her. A look from Luna squelched any further protests.
“Well… ignore those shallow ponies. They don’t matter if they treat you that way.”

“True,” Luna sighed, “but it is disruptive for my sister, and damaging to my own authority as well as hers. I’ve learned to stay away from the day court.”

Twilight looked down at her tea, eyes troubled. When she looked back at Luna, they were wide and worried. Her mouth turned down in a small frown.

“You can’t just let it go,” she said. “You’re a princess of Equestria, and more that that, you’re a good pony, and you have a lot to offer.”

Luna looked away.

“Thou art kind to say so. I wish I could be as certain,” she whispered. “But enough of this,” she said coming back to full voice. “I came not to talk of maudlin things, but because of magic. What was thine experiment, and what went awry?”

“Well,” Twilight began, “I was curious about oscillation and resonance between magical sources, and their effect on the physical plane, so I borrowed a couple of gems from Rarity, and-”

“Oh, Twilight. Thou didst not think to set up dampeners, did thee? No wonder it was so noisy. I’ll bet thou didst not use anything as a moderating medium either.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize I needed them. Nothing in my books mentioned anything like that.”

“I’ll pull some texts for thee. Thy books either assumed thy knowledge, or discussed theory without practical concerns.”

“Huh. I guess that makes sense. Well, what I did was…”

Luna happily chatted with Twilight on theory and experimentation. It was nice to have an intellectual conversation on magic after so long. Luna and Celestia lived and breathed magic, but Celestia never felt the need to discuss it. Magic was a part of her nature. It was woven into her very essence. It didn’t need to be discussed, it simply was. Luna, on the other hoof, didn’t want to feel the magic, she wanted to know it. She wanted to tear it apart and put it back together again, hopefully without any parts left over at the end.

Much had been learned during the time she’d spent on the Moon, but much had been forgotten too. Luna was surprised how many gaps a learned pony like Twilight had in her education. Certain things Luna had considered critical were apparently now thought trivial to the understanding of magic, not that Luna considered herself particularly scholarly. Studying magic was difficult for Luna, and especially hard for Celestia. So much of what they did was instinctual. Studying it was like a fish studying swimming. Regardless, Luna vowed to tour this school of magic Twilight spoke of, and get her own feel for the state of magical education in Equestria.

For now, though, it was enough to simply sit and talk, and Luna did just that.

Chapter 7: Remembrances

View Online

The evening became a regular meeting time for Luna and Twilight. A quirk of scheduling made it the perfect time for them to get together. Twilight tended to be a night owl, a habit formed from many late nights studying. Luna was fresh from sleep, and once raising the Moon had no other pressing concerns. With most other ponies seeking their sleep, it made sense for the two friends to seek each other’s company.

Luna sipped her tea, reveling in the warmth and aroma. Tea was such a complexly simple thing. On one hoof it was only leaves and hot water. On the other hoof, it was a myriad of discrete steps and processes in which tiny variations could greatly affect the end product. Where were the leaves from? What time of year were they picked? How big were they? Were they cured once picked? For how long? How were they blended? How long had the tea been sitting? How hot was the water? How long did it steep? Milk? Sugar? Honey? Hot? Cold? Gin?

Luna breathed in the steam rising from her cup. Yes, Luna liked tea. Even the process of steeping it was a calming meditative act, which only added to the appeal.

Twilight strolled by, teacup and books dancing in her magic.

“Something new on thy mind today, Twilight?” Luna asked.

“Mmm? No, just re-shelving some books,” she replied. “The library doesn’t get much use, unfortunately, but there are some ponies do come in for a book or two. Then I get to act like an actual librarian.”

Books flew through the air, magic propelling them to their designated homes.

“I like re-shelving books, too. It’s relaxing. Everything goes in its place, and Equestria doesn’t hang in the balance if I mistakenly put ‘Magic: Practical Applications’ after ‘Magic: Practice and Procedure’.”

Luna chuckled.

“I can see the appeal.”

“I just wish more ponies shared my love of books,” Twilight groused. “If it isn’t Rainbow Dash calling me an ‘egghead’, it’s-”

Twilight’s words were lost as the door of the Library burst open, and Rarity and Applejack galloped into the Library at speed.

“Twilight!” Rarity gasped. “Sweetie Belle is missi- Ah! Oh, Luna, dear, you startled me. Sweetie Belle is missing!”

“Apple Bloom, too,” added Applejack. “Ah’d guess Scootaloo is with ‘em too. Fillies were supposed t’ be having a sleepover. Ain't seen hide nor hair o’them since b’fore dinner.”

“Twilight, Luna, is there anything you can do?”

Twilight looked at Luna expectantly.

“No, Twilight, I can’t simply cast a spell and locate them.”

Twilight gave a crestfallen look.

“Though… I might be able to do something,” Luna offered. “It holds no guarantee. Might they let themselves sleep?”

“I… I don’t know,” replied a curious Rarity.

Applejack merely frowned and shrugged.

Luna thought furiously. It seemed like such a long shot. She sighed.

“It’s worth a chance.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Twilight.

“If they sleep, I may be able to find them in their dreams. I promise nothing,” Luna warned, trying to forestall undue hope. “I think they would benefit more from thy talents, Twilight.”


Luna leaned close and whispered in Twilight’s ear.

“Organize a search.”


“I will need someplace to sit undisturbed, and descriptions of the fillies. I shall find thee should I succeed.”

“Apple bloom’s a few shades lighter than me,” Applejack said. “She usually has a red bow in her hair. Other than that, there’s not much to say. Y’ usually know an Apple when ya see one.”

“I could say the same about Sweetie Belle,” Rarity said. “She looks much like a younger version of me. We are sisters, after all. The other is Scootaloo. She’s a pegasus filly with a rusty-orange colored coat. She’s a sweetheart, but a bit of a diamond in the rough, and she idolizes Rainbow Dash,” she said as if that explained everything. Perhaps it did.

Luna nodded, satisfied.

“Okay! Let’s go, girls!” cried Twilight.

The trio galloped out of the Library. Luna shut the door behind them, and retreated to the most out-of-the-way corner she could find. Uncertainty filled her. She’d not tried this in…. Well, it had been a long time.

Her heart raced. She took a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves. Then she stepped otherways.

Otherways. That was the only way she could describe it. It was like stepping sideways, but perpendicular to reality. Luna stepped otherways, into The Dreaming.

There was little she could compare it to. It was like opening a door and stepping into your own dream, for she always started in her own space, her own dream, apart from the dreams of others.

Quickly, she stepped across the boundary and into the closest dream. Close didn’t mean the closest physical pony, however. Distance and time meant little in The Dreaming.

Luna scanned the dream for the dreamer. She found the stallion surrounded by mares in a love nest that could only exist in the delirium of the mind.

Luna shrugged to herself and moved on. Dreams were not to be judged. Too much influenced them, be it the trials of the day, the mind searching for catharsis, or hopes and desires unfulfilled. The Dreaming was the only safe place for it to exist in most cases. Luna was not about to take that away from anypony.

The next dream contained a young mare going about her daily routine. Luna moved on.

Another adult dreaming of intimacy.

A green unicorn filly dreaming of cakes.

A brown earth pony colt dreaming of flying.

A unicorn stallion….

Luna paused.

The stallion was having a nig…. He was having a bad dream. He was being chased by something he couldn’t see, only sense. Fear clung to him like a stink as he ran. Panic shaped the land around him.

I should leave, Luna thought to herself. I have a duty to perform.

Regardless, his fear drew her.

She set herself down before him. He skidded to a halt, his eyes wild.

“Peace,” she said.


“Peace!” she repeated. “Be at peace. You are dreaming. Nothing can hurt you here unless you let it.”

“Dreaming? But… But…”

He looked back at a cloud of smoke approaching like a thundering herd.

“Do not be afraid.”

Luna flapped her wings, sending a gust of air into the smoke. The wind hit it with a terrible thunderclap which shook the dreamscape. The cloud of smoke roared in defeat as it began to dissipate into nothingness.

“You are safe. Dream, pony. Dream, and be at peace.”

The world around them brightened. The Sun appeared in the sky, and slowly the dream changed, becoming serene.

“Thank you!” cried the stallion. “I don’t know what I would have done if you… I…”

He trailed off, focusing on something only he could see in the distance.


Without another word the stallion sprinted off to meet whatever he saw.

Luna watched him go for a moment, a smile on her face, before stepping to the next dream.

As she walked from dream to dream searching for the lost fillies, more and more she became aware of the night- the bad dreams. More and more they called to her. They drew her in.

An earth pony mare was falling from a great height. Terror drove everything from her mind.

Luna aligned herself to the mare in the fall.


“PLEASE! HELP ME!” cried the mare.

“Peace! You are dreaming. Nothing will hurt you here.”

“B-but I’m falling! Please won’t you save me!”

“Hush, child. You aren’t falling, you are flying.”

Luna faced the ground and stretched her wings.

“But I can’t fly!”

“Then give yourself wings!”

“Give myself…”

Wings sprouted from the mare’s back. She gasped in delight, and terror was consumed by elation. immediately the world changed. No longer was she plummeting toward the ground, but rather soaring through the sky. The same buffeting of wind that foretold imminent impact, now was a sign of victory and speed.

The mare gave a whoop as she rolled and dove, reveling in the sense of freedom.

Luna smiled, and stepped to the next dream.

Soon Luna was only stepping from Nigh- from bad dream to bad dream. In each dream she soothed the fears of the ponies in them. In each dream her message was the same. Be at peace. Do not fear. No harm will come to you.

A pegasus mare was trapped in a coffin.

A unicorn mare was chased by a giant beast.

An earth pony stallion was lost in a maze or catacomb.






The themes became familiar even if the specifics changes.

And still Luna walked on.

Luna’s legs shook. She felt drained. Spent. She’d underestimated the amount of magic she was using both from traveling from dream to dream, and within them soothing fears and dispelling the darkness.

“Peace.” she said.

The pegasus filly whimpered. She shook in her fetal positioned state as the tornado bore down on them.

“Do not be afraid. You are dreaming. The storm cannot hurt you.”

“B-but… but…”

“Rise,” Luna said. “Show your defiance. Flap your wings at it. Show it you aren’t afraid. Dispel it with the force of your wings.”

The filly looked at Luna as though she were a madpony. If only she knew.

Luna turned to face the approaching tornado.

“You do not frighten me, storm,” she said. “I defy you!”

Luna gave a sharp snap of her wings.

“Come. You do the same.”

Slowly the filly stood on wobbly legs. Her wings quivered, but remained locked at her sides.

“Show the storm you aren’t afraid,” Luna said. “What form would the storm have that would not frighten you? Shall it be made of cotton candy? Maple syrup? Alicorn farts?”

The filly chuckled at last, though her shivering did not cease.

“Come, flap at the storm. Show it you aren’t afraid. Imagine it’s made of Alicorn farts. Or cotton candy. Or Alicorn fart flavored cotton candy.”

The filly giggled at that. She stared at the storm and gave a half-hearted flap.

“Again! Show the storm you aren’t afraid of its odorous spun sugar!”

The filly flapped again, this time with more feeling.

“Again! Take that, foul smelling confectionery cloud!”

The filly flapped again.

“Yeah, take that, stinky candy cloud,” she yelled.

At once the tornado looming over them changed. Now it was a whirling mass of cotton-ball looking spun sugar, which promptly collapsed under its own weight. The filly laughed at the pile of smelly candy. As she laughed, the world around her brightened, taking on more color. The sky cleared, and the Sun appeared.

“Go,” Luna told her. “Run. Play, and do not be afraid.”

The filly ran off into the distance, laughing and leaping, and cheering at things only she could see.

Luna smiled, and sagged with exhaustion.

She stepped into the next dream.

Luna walked forward toward the huddled mass on limbs shaky with fatigue. The young pony was alone in an inky blackness.

“Peace,” she said. “Do not fear.”

A head rose to face her. She was a pale earth pony filly with a red bow, and wide, frightened eyes.

Wait, a pale yellow-orange coat and a bow? Could this be…

“Who’re you?” the filly asked.

The voice dispelled all doubt. This was certainly an Apple.

“Apple Bloom?” Luna asked.

“Y-yeah…. Are you gonna help me get home?”

“At the moment you are dreaming. Simply will away the darkness, and it will crumble.”

“I’m… I’m dreaming? This is a dream,” she said, realization dawning. “This is a dream!”

With that, the darkness lifted.

“Very good. Now we must deal with where you and your friends are.”

“My friends. Oh, no! We went into the Everfree, and we got chased by a… a something, and then we fell down a ravine, and we got totally lost!”

“Where are you, Apple Bloom? Where in the Everfree are you?”

“I don’t know!” wailed Apple Bloom.

“This is your dream,” Luna told her, “your mind. Open it to me. Show me what you saw when you lost your way.”

Images began to flicker around her. Silently the Everfree forest came to life around them. Three dream fillies trekked through the woods. Luna watched the unfolding scene, trying to keep an eye out for landmarks and gaps in the foliage which let her catch glimpses of the stars.

“Where did you enter the forest?”

The scene changed to the trio creeping their way into the forest behind a small cottage.

“Whose home is that?” Luna asked.

“That’s Fluttershy’s,” Apple Bloom replied.

Luna felt her stomach give a lurch at the sound of the timid pony’s name.

“Keep going, please. Let me see the whole journey.”

She watched the scene play out.


The play repeated.

“Once more, please.”

Luna nodded, satisfied.

“Very good. I think I can relay this to Twilight and your sister. In the meantime, wake and tell your friends to stay where you are. Help is coming.”

The dream began to fade. Luna stepped otherways out of The Dreaming.

She opened her eyes in the library, memories of The Dreaming still fresh in her mind.

She rose and pushed forward, eager to convey her knowledge. As she moved, her legs collapsed underneath her, and she tumbled into a heap.

Shakily, she rose again, willing her wobbly legs to support her. Fatigue consumed her, devouring every shred of energy and making her legs like jelly, and every breath a struggle.

Desperately she half lurched, half threw herself out the door of the library.

"Twilight!" she called. "Twilight? Anypony? Anypony, please help!"

Luna's legs gave out again, dropping her to the ground.

"Anypony? Please?"

"Hey, Luna!" a bright voice called. "What are you doing on the ground like that? Are you camping? Shouldn't you have a tent, or be in the woods? Oh! Are you making dirt pegasi? Were you-"

"Pinkie Pie! Thank Moon and stars! I need to get to Twilight, but I've over-exerted myself."

"Okie Dokie, Loki! Just hop on, and I'll get you there in two shakes of a Pinkie's tail!"

With help, Luna secured herself on Pinkie's back. Her height meant her hooves grazed the ground, but Luna was too tired, and too grateful to care.

Then Pinkie began to move. She moved like the wind.

It was an odd gait she had, consisting of a trot that occasionally became a gallop, with interspersed leaps into the air. Somewhere in the back of Luna's mind, the idea came to her that wherever they were going the were only a hop, skip, and a jump away.

"Did you talk to a doctor?" Pinkie asked as she ran.

"No, not yet."

"Silly filly, you really shouldn't put that off. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you feel better! Talk to one soon, okay?"

"When I am able," Luna replied.

"Luna!" Pinkie whined.

"Twilight!" Luna called as the lavender mare came into view, grateful for the distraction. She was addressing a crowd of ponies from in front of the schoolhouse.

"Luna!" Twilight replied.

"Twilight!" Pinkie chimed in.

"Pinkie?" said a confused Twilight.

Pinkie looked expectantly at Luna.

"Twilight, I think I can find them," Luna gasped.

Pinkie frowned at Luna.

Twilight raised an eyebrow as she saw Luna's condition.

"Luna, what happened?"

"Simple magical over exertion," she replied, slumping off Pinkie's back. "Too much magic too quickly. Nothing to worry about, but we should hurry. The fillies are in the Everfree, northwest of Fluttershy's abode. I think I can guide thee there."

Pinkie glared at Luna.

Twilight addressed the crowd.

"You heard her! Cloudkicker, can you take my search area? Don't worry about yours for now. It doesn't sound like they went that way anyway. Okay? Good. Applejack, Rarity and I will follow Luna's directions. Pinkie? Are you coming?"

"Of course!"

Pinkie scowled at Luna.

"Okay," Twilight affirmed. "Everyone to their areas. Let's go, girls!"

Luna looked at Pinkie scowling at her and sighed.

"Pinkie!" she called.

The pink pony beamed.

The forest wasn't so much 'dark' as it was a 'light devouring agent of the abyss'. The magical light Twilight created seemed to only deepen the shadows and give the ponies the feeling of being exposed.

"There," Luna spoke from Applejack's back. "Go left at that boulder, and watch for a ravine. It is obscured and dangerous."

"H-how do you kn-know where to go?" asked Fluttershy.

"I spoke to Apple Bloom in her dream," she said.

Twilight gasped.

"You can do that?"

Luna nodded.

"I can walk through dreams and affect them. That's how I exhausted myself. I tried to ease the ni... the bad dreams of the ponies I saw, and there were many. Time, however, is strange in The Dreaming. I used magic at what seemed a reasonable rate, but upon leaving, minutes had passed, not hours. I unknowingly exhausted my magic at an incredible rate. Applejack has been most kind in allowing me to recover."

In truth, Luna had recovered enough to walk some minutes ago. Now she was trying to recoup magic as quickly as she could. Something had chased the fillies in these woods. Whatever it was, nopony had gotten a good look. With luck, it was just a squirrel rustling in the leaves that had frightened them so. If it was something more, something dangerous...

Luna wanted to be at full power. She would protect these ponies from harm, no matter what.

"Aw, shucks," Applejack drawled. "Ain't nothin'. Yer th' one who wiped herself out gettin' us directions. Ain't no bother lettin' ya rest after that."

The group stopped.

"I think we found the ravine," Twilight whispered.

Before them was brush and foliage, but nothing was visible beyond it, only inky blackness.

The ponies crept forward, mindful of the potential drop.

"Be cautious, Twilight," warned Luna. "The fillies were spooked into haste. In their panic they ran off the obscured edge. Calmest thy nerve, that thou wilt not share their fate."

"W-what scared them?" Fluttershy asked.

"I know not, only that they bolted forward in blind panic."

Twilight tiptoed forward, testing the ground.

"I think I found the edge. It's pretty well hidden by these shrubs."

"The fillies should be at the bottom and to the right."

Twilight tossed the orb down the ravine. Darkness enveloped the ponies as the orb disappeared from view. Instinctively they clustered together in the dark, fearful despite themselves.

"Kids? Apple Bloom? Sweetie Belle? Scootaloo?"

"We're down here!" came the reply.

Luna slid off Applejack's back, allowing the worried mare to surge forward.

"Apple Bloom! Y'all okay?"

"Sweetie Belle, darling! Are you alright?" Rarity added next to her.

"Sweetie Belle hurt her leg when we fell, but we're fine! Ah think it's just sprained."

A worried Rarity pranced in place anxiously.

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... Don't worry girls, we've got you!"

"I can levitate them up," Twilight said. "Fluttershy, can you go down there and keep an eye in case anything goes wrong?"

Fluttershy nodded, and spread her wings.

Luna nodded to herself as well. They had things well in hoof, and didn't need outside interference. Silently she leapt up into a nearby tree, hiding herself in the foliage and shadows. She'd keep guard and make sure nothing went wrong, but the last thing they needed was a princess swooping in to solve all their problems for them, even if that princess was as broken as Luna.

She watched as the fillies were levitated up without issue into waiting forelegs.

"Oh, dear, I was so worried," Rarity gasped as she squeezed Sweetie Belle.

"Y'all had us worried as a long tailed cat in a room fulla rockin' chairs. Big Mac's out with one a th' other search groups."

Scootaloo gave a yelp as she was hugged from behind.

"Rainbow Dash would have been here if she'd known," Fluttershy assured her, "but she'd already flown back home. There wasn't time to go get her."

Scootaloo blushed and mumbled something incoherent.

"Oh," gasped Twilight. "Speaking of the others, I'd better let everypony know we found them."

Her brow furrowed in concentration for a moment until a magical flare launched skyward from her horn.

"There. Everypony should be heading in. Let's go home."

Luna sighed quietly as the tension lifted and the ponies headed back to their homes, talking quietly amongst themselves.

"Hey," Twilight exclaimed, "where's L-"

Her words were cut short as she sound of rustling and breaking branches came from some nearby bushes.

The ponies tensed, and the fillies clutched fearfully to their respective mares.

The sound grew louder, and the bushes began to shake.

Luna dropped from the trees to place herself between the ponies and the unseen adversary. The shadows moved with her, draping her like a shroud. She spread her wings to block the ponies behind her from view, and summoned her magic, which crackled about her with dark energy.

She heard the ponies behind her gasp.

The noise was on top of them now. Whatever was there was close.

It was emerging.

It was a small white rabbit.

Luna withdrew her wings, and the small creature shot past her into Fluttershy's waiting forelegs.

"Angel bunny! What are you doing here? I told you to stay home!"

Luna turned to face the ponies.

The fillies sobered under her gaze.

"Nightmare Moon," Sweetie Belle whimpered fearfully.

The words struck Luna in the heart.

Hurt and anger roiled within her. After all, had she not exhausted herself in locating them? Was she not watching over them even now? Did she not deserve even a little respect?

She snorted and glared at the fillies, pawing the ground in frustration.

Then realization dawned on her. Right now she was behaving and thinking like the Nightmare. Immediately shame replaced everything else as she looked at the huddled fillies.

Luna turned and fled into the shadows, into the darkness.

There were three logical places to go from the depths of the Everfree: the old castle, back to the palace, and to Twilight's library.

The old castle was the closest, but it was depressing, drafty, and decidedly uncomfortable. The palace was the furthest, though the most obvious choice. She could sit on her perch and stew-meditate on the evening's events. The problem was Luna didn't was to be alone. The very idea disturbed and frightened Luna to no end, but it was true. Luna was hurting, and she didn't want to be alone.

That left Twilight's. Twilight would assuredly go back to the library after seeing her friends home. Luna would go wait for her there.

Luna ran through the forest without fear or hesitation. She ran silently, like she was merely a shadow casting over the ground as she passed. The darkness still enrobed her, not so much masking her passage as making her a wraith on the prowl.

Part of being so attuned to the night was sharing the essence of the creatures who lived in it. Luna's night vision was second to none. She seemed to lack the ability to trot. Instead she prowled. She stalked. She didn't thunder down the road at a gallop, but instead seemed to strike without warning from the shadows.

It was something her sister never really understood, being so attuned to the day. It also made ponies uncomfortable, keying into some primal fears of the dark and the things that dwelt there.

It was one more reason for ponies to avoid her, one more obstacle to overcome.

It was one more reason for ponies to see Nightmare Moon when they looked at her.

Any joy at the freedom of her run soured as her thoughts turned dark.

Luna reached the edge of the forest, but didn’t slow. She continued her run on the path into Ponyville.

‘Nightmare Moon’ the filly had said upon seeing Luna. Considering the display Luna had put on in an attempt to frighten off any potential danger, it was an obvious comparison. No. Not comparison. It was truth. Luna had been channeling Nightmare Moon in that instant, drawing on her self-assuredness and strength as armor in the face of danger. Luna hadn’t realized it at the time, but it was obvious in hindsight. In fact, it didn’t really bother Luna. It was just a display. An illusion. It was meant to frighten her foe and protect her friends.

No, what bothered Luna was how she reacted when the filly called her that. She’d gotten angry. Enraged. Indignant, as though she was owed something. It was laughable. It was petty and selfish. It was Nightmare Moon. That’s what bothered Luna. She’d reacted like the Nightmare.

That was why Luna ran. She was running from herself, trying to escape the fear that the Nightmare was so close to the surface, or that she might so easily fall back into those behaviors.

Luna ran.

She entered Ponyville, sprinting from shadow to shadow like a thief. She needn’t have bothered. Most ponies that were still awake and about were involved in the search for the fillies. The town was quiet and dark.

Luna approached the library. The door still stood open from when Luna tumbled out in exhaustion. She slipped through the door and shut it behind her. She stood a minute, breathing heavily and feeling soreness in her legs she hadn’t expected. It had been far too long since she’d run like that. She took a couple steps forward. The shakiness in her legs agreed with her; it had been far too long.

She walked to the darkest corner of the library and waited, occasionally stretching out her sore limbs.

Luna waited.

Time passed.

Luna waited. She was nothing if not patient. The Moon had stripped any anxiety of the passing of time away from her. Impatience was now for ponies who hadn’t given up, who hadn’t been so broken they’d spent a decade… or was it a century… lying perfectly still in one spot.

Luna waited with the patience of a stone.

At last Luna heard voices. Not a voice, voices. Luna considered her options. She didn’t really feel like talking to anypony but Twilight, but she didn’t really want to leave, either.

One of the disadvantages of having the patience of a stone is the occasional difficulty of making decisions quickly.

The door opened, and the pair entered. Twilight walked right beside Luna, unaware the alicorn dwelt in the darkness.

“Ah hear what yer sayin’, Twilight, Ah just don’t think-“

Twilight lit a lamp.

Twilight's scream rattled the windows.

“Luna!” she gasped, clutching her chest. “You startled me!”

“Is my visage so terrifying?”

“What? No, no, I just didn’t expect anypony to be here with the lights off. You just about gave me a heart attack.”

Twilight panted a moment, trying to regain her equilibrium.

“Are you okay, Luna?” she asked.

“I am well enough. Did the fillies make it home safely?”

“Sure did,” Applejack replied. “Mah sister is safe at home with Granny and Big Mac, Scootaloo is back with her folks, and we just saw Rarity and Sweetie Belle home. Ah’m headed home mahself, less’n you can spare a cup o’ tea.”

“I think we can manage that,” Twilight said, heading for the kitchen.

“Ah really appreciate you helpin’ find mah sister,” Applejack told Luna. “We’da been out all night if’n you hadn’t’a done whatcha done.”

“Twas nothing,” Luna assured her. “I am merely glad I could help.”

Applejack snorted in derision.

“Nothin’?” Applejack demanded. “Y’all found her before we could even get the search put together, and you wiped yerself out in the process so bad that Pinkie had to carry you over. Ah’d hardly call that nothin’. And Ah’m a hard pony to impress when it comes to workin’.”

Luna shook her head, saying nothing.

Applejack stared at her, a slight frown on her face and her brow furrowed slightly.

She walked over to Luna.

“Look, Apples don’t forget. It’s a blessing and a curse. We forgive, but we never really forget. In this case I’ll call it a blessing. What Ah’m tryin’ to say is that yer a good pony, Princess Luna.”

“Please, just L-“

“Ah’m talkin’. Don’t interrupt.” Applejack poked Luna roughly in the chest.

“Y’all offered to help without askin’ why y’should be bothered. You promised to try your best, and delivered more than you thought you could. You didn’t hesitate, and you didn’t quit even when you maybe shoulda. Apples don’t forget, and from here on out you’ve got the respect of the Apples. From here to Appleloosa, to Manehatten, Apples will know that Princess Luna is a friend.”

Applejack paused and looked Luna over.

“It seems to me that ponies need to know that Princess Luna deserves our respect, and when they hear it from an Apple they believe it, ‘cause Apples are honest as the day is long.”

Luna bowed her head, feeling suddenly humbled.

She started when she felt a pair of forelegs surround her.

“Yer a good pony, Luna,” Applejack said. “Yer a good pony. Don’t let anypony tell ya different. What’s more, we’re friends.”

Luna returned the embrace.

“If my friendship is of value to thee, then it is thine,” Luna told her. “Though why thou shouldst seek it from a pony such as me…”

Applejack pulled back and tapped Luna’s nose with a hoof.

“Good. Pony,” she said. “What else do Ah need to say?”

A sniff caught Luna’s and Applejack’s attention. They turned. Twilight was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, a small smile on her face, and her eyes glassy with barely contained tears.

“That was so sweet,” she said, giving another sniff.

Applejack jumped back and pulled her hat down over her eyes.

“Yeah, well…” she mumbled. “Just give me mah tea."

Luna watched the Moon, a small frown marring her face and wrapped in her own thoughts.

"Here again, Luna?"

Luna jumped.

"Oh! Celestia! I did not sense thee approach."

Celestia's mouth was set in a frown.

"You're backsliding," she admonished.

"Nay, sister," Luna assured her. "I merely needed some time to myself. There is much on my mind."

Celestia sighed.

"That's always your excuse."

"I mean it, Celestia. Thine accusations are false! It is..."

Luna slumped and turned away.

"What does it matter?"

Celestia's frown deepened to a scowl.

"Just what preys on your mind, then? Why are you here?"

"The Nightmare."

Celestia raised an eyebrow, a gesture completely unseen by Luna. Celestia glared at Luna's back. She hated being ignored, and having her well-practiced cues not being acknowledged.
"Go on," she said, giving up.

"She is trying to return. I can feel her beneath the surface, worming her way out. I reacted to injury as she would yesterday, not hurt, but angry from the lack of what I perceived due me. I nearly raged at them in the full Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice."

Celestia chuckled.

"I'm sure that would have made an impression," she joked.

"This is no laughing matter, sister! Her behaviors are well-worn grooves. I must struggle not to fall into them, making her return all the more sure!"

"Luna, we've talked about this," Celestia assured her. "We'll deal with whatever happens. Your friends and I won't let the Nightmare take you so easily."

Luna shook her head.

"I am the Nightmare," she said. "The Nightmare is me. All that I know, she knows. She won't be so easily defeated this time. Would she be subtle this time? She knows the Elements and my new friends are the greatest danger, but also a weakness. If they could be eliminated one-by-one, before she made herself known, they would be helpless against her. No more corruption. No more tests. Only subterfuge and murder. That is what I fear most, that they will die at my hooves, the Nightmare's laughter in my mouth and in my mind. How wouldst thou protect them? How couldst thou? Wouldst thou lock me away as a criminal before the crime? Doth thou risk their safety as bait in a trap? Doth thou forbid them from my presence, though friends they be?"

Luna turned to Celestia, who nearly shied away from the haunted eyes.

"So thou seest my dilemma. I no longer trust myself. It seems my naysayers were correct; my presence is a danger to all around me."

"Nonsense," Celestia assured her. "Listen to yourself. If you're worried about the safety of your friends, then how could they be in danger? You admitted that she is you. If you don't want them hurt, how could she?"

"You haven't heard her laughter in my mind," Luna told her. "You haven't heard the madness. She is all my worst aspects. Selfishness. Anger. Hate. What room is there for friendship and love in the face of that?"

"Love?" Celestia asked, raising an eyebrow. It was the perfect segue for taking Luna’s mind off things.

This time Luna saw the eyebrow. She colored and looked away.

"Philia, sister. Nothing more."

Perfect, Celestia thought with glee.

"Oh?" pressed Celestia, "Then why are you blushing? Have you been mixing your philia and your eros again? Have you been thinking dirty thoughts about my most esteemed protege?"

Luna's blush deepened.


Celestia pushed forward, leaning close to Luna.

"Oh, you naughty pony! You have, haven't you? You've been thinking nasty, dirty thoughts about innocent little Twilight!"

Celestia cackled gleefully as Luna sputtered.

"Thou seemest so fixated on her," Luna countered, "perhaps thou art the smitten on her."

"Oh no," Celestia said. "I think of her like a daughter. Storge only, I assure you."

"And thou wouldst pair thy daughter and thy sister?" Luna demanded. "Thy thoughts are twisted and sick."

Celestia giggled. It was a free, silly, girlish laugh that would have shocked most anypony.

"Oh, I fully approve of you two. Twilight needs some loosening up, and a good roll in the hay would go a long way towards that. I know nopony would be as careful with her as you would be, and she's already proven she's a good influence on you."

Celestia poked a hoof into Luna's ribs.

"I'll forgive you if you don't go into the sordid details once the deed's done, though."

“Thou art a dirty old nag,” Luna spat.

“That’s not a denial,” Celestia countered.

Luna's face felt like it would spontaneously combust. She wished it was night, so the air would cool her as well as hide her face in the darkness.

"It is too early in the day," Luna said, retreat on her mind. "I need to seek my rest."

She scrambled off the edge of the roof to take wing.

"Sweet dreams," Celestia called after her. "Of my student, of course. Sweet, hot, messy dreams!"

She chuckled to herself as Luna spat some very un-princess-like choice words in her direction. Yes, that would do nicely as a distraction.

Luna woke abruptly.

She had been dreaming, she was sure, but the subject matter eluded her. All she could remember was the taste of apples which were sour and the laughter of madness.

She rose and poured herself a drink of water.

The cup quivered unsteadily in her magic.

Carefully she set the cup down and stared ruefully at her bed.

Sleep, she was sure, would be a long time coming.

She was not wrong.

Chapter 8: Dreams

View Online

Luna crept carefully through the Dreaming. The Dreaming was and could be many things, but tame was not one of them. It was born of the dreaming minds of ponies, and was the one place they could be completely free in their safe, structured lives. The Dreaming was wild. It contained all the catharsis, all the repressed emotions, and all the unrealized or unrealistic fantasies in Equestria. The Dreaming was where sanity went to die, or at least fake its death so it could go on an extended vacation.

Luna passed through another dream, moving as a ghost so as not to disturb the surreal-scape or the dreaming ponies.

The irony, at least for Luna, was that she felt safer awake and walking through the Dreaming than she did in her own dreams. Being asleep meant the potential for a visit from the Nightmare. It meant being vulnerable.

Here, like this, she felt powerful.

Not that she would abuse her ability for the sole purpose of feeling powerful....

Well, not much anyway.

"Help! Please, somepony, help!"

Luna followed the cry through the dreaming. As she traveled, the Dreaming became a dense jungle. Tall, moss covered trees blocked out the Sun. Growls of carnivores echoed from the deep shadows.

Luna paid them no mind. She homed in on the pony in need, pulled by some surprisingly strong instinct.

"Help! Help!"

Luna reached a small open space. It wasn't quite a clearing. The trees still pressed in, and the Sun was nowhere to be seen. In the center was a damp patch of earth, and a pony slowly sinking in.

Quicksand, Luna realized.

"Peace," she said. "Do not be afraid. This is a drea-"

"Help! I'm stuck! Help me out, will you?"

"I'm trying to help you," Luna told him. "This is a dream. You aren't in any dang-"

"What are you waiting for?" the pony demanded. "Help me out of here!"

"There's no danger," she told him. "This is only a drea-"

"Why won't you help me? Why are you doing this to m-"

"I'M TRYING TO HELP YOU, YOU STUPID PONY!" She yelled in the Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice. "THIS IS A DREAM."

The pony sank ever deeper into the sandy soil.

"Please! Please!" the pony cried desperately.

Luna sighed. She had the patience of a stone, except where it came to stupid ponies.

Luna's horn glowed. She levitated the pony out of the quicksand.

"Why did you wait so long?" the pony demanded. "I could have died in there!"

"You weren't going to die," Luna told him. "This is a dream. You were never in danger. I was trying to get you to help yourself."

"This is a dream?" he asked, confused. "I'm having a dream... a nightma.... You're Nightmare Moon!"

The pony thrashed, still gripped in Luna's magic.

"Is this torture?" he demanded. "Do your worst, Nightmare Moon! I won't break that easily!"

Luna rolled her eyes, and dropped the pony onto a safe section of ground.

"Alas, you have defeated me with your strong words," she said, raising a foreleg to her head. "I am undone! Curse your indomitable will and your harsh speech!"

Luna stepped from the dream, eager to be anywhere else. Small-minded ponies notwithstanding, it had been a rather peaceful evening. The nightma- the bad dreams had been few and far between.

Luna sent out her magic, sweeping over The Dreaming, searching for ripples or disturbances. Nothing. All was serene. A sense of recognition tickled her senses in the one place she dared never go, yet now she had an explicit invitation.

Luna stepped through the Dreaming, and into Celestia's dream.

"Thou called, sister?"

Celestia sat in the center of a green field dotted with wild flowers. The Sun shone brightly overhead, and off in the distance Luna could hear the sound of water flowing in a stream. A cool breeze washed over them, removing any bite the warm Sun might have had. In short, it was a pony paradise. The wild flowers looked delicious.

"Of course! I'd been hoping for a visit, but it seemed like you were avoiding me."

"Avoiding?" Luna asked in surprise. "No, giving privacy. This is thy dream, and thine alone."

"You don't hesitate to go into anypony else's dream," Celestia observed.

"They have the protection of anonymity," Luna explained. "I don't know them. I don't know their names or their families or friends. I am there and then gone, and most won't even remember. Thou, however, art my sister. Thy life is intertwined with mine. This is the only place which is thine alone, which thou needest not share."

"Oh, Luna," Celestia said shaking her head. "I have to keep so much of myself private from everypony else all the time. You are the one pony I can really share with. It's really more a relief than anything, I swear. You can visit any time. I trust your judgment not to intrude if I'm... busy."

Celestia giggled as Luna blushed.

"Oh, Luna, when did you become such a prude? You are so much fun to tease now."

Luna looked down, mumbling incoherently, not even really sure what she was trying to say. She stopped abruptly when she she felt a pair of forelegs wrap around her.

"Oh, Luna. I do love you. Come on. Let's go sit and talk like we used to. I promise not to tease. Much."

Luna nodded. If nothing else, it was nice to have somepony to be yourself around.

"And not only did her parents turn into trees, trees, but that dusty old egg actually hatched! Then the dragon that came out started growing like crazy! I couldn't believe my eyes. Well, I knew right then that any filly like that deserved my attention. Not only had she proven her potential, but I also hadn't been entertained like that in a century. I haven't regretted it once."

Celestia rested her head on her hooves in reflection.

"I've taken a greater interest in her than I have anypony else in quite a while. Sometimes I wonder if I've done too much. As much as I think of her that way, I'm not her mother. She has parents. Have I done them a disservice by trying to raise their daughter for them? I've taken away their son as well. He's captain of the guard. They've produced the brightest and the best I've seen in decades, centuries, even, and what have I done to reward them but take their children away."

"Nonsense," Luna assured her. "Thou hast done no such thing."

Celestia looked at Luna, her eyes misty.

"But I have. I've taken their children away."

Luna snorted.

"Thou hast given their children opportunity to grow, and grow they have. They have begun to realize their potential, and grown in respect, knowledge, and power. What more would parents want for their children? What more would you want for yours?"

"I would want a loving, supportive family for them," she replied.

"Hast thou denied them contact? Hast thou forbid them to see their children? I know thee too well to expect that. Thy student and her brother have the benefit of their parents and each other and thee as well."

"I suppose you're right... I just worry. You know I can get a bit overbearing when I think I'm doing something in somepony's best interest. It grew worse when I didn't have you to deflate my ego for me." Celestia smiled at Luna. "You always knew how to take me down a notch."

Luna shook her head.

"Thou speakest so highly of thy student."

"She's such a sweetheart. She's awkward, neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, and hopelessly naive, but she's also the most open-hearted, sensitive, caring, clever pony I've known in some time, not to mention her magical potential. I'm looking forward to see how much she grows."

"Let her see behind the mask," Luna said.

Celestia jerked upright.

"What? I..." Celestia shook her head. "No. For now I'm still the all-knowing, all-powerful Princess. How could I shatter that image? What would she have faith in after that?"

"Ponies' relationships with their parents change. It's part of growing up. Thou wilt always be a maternal figure for her, but that doesn't mean thou canst not be her friend as well."

"I..." Celestia hesitated. "N-no. No, I can't. I..."

"Thou frettest that thou wilt become too attached, and hurt when she passes. It is too late for that. She will pass, and thou wilt regret the 'might have been's and 'should have been's."

"You're one to talk," Celestia accused.

"Yes," Luna agreed. "I am. I have regrets. I have made mistakes. Wouldst thou share them?"

"Oh. Luna, I... I'm sorry... that was wrong of me."

"It was truth, Celestia, nothing more, nothing less. After so much time, after so many mistakes, why should I fear it?"

A ripple disturbed the dreaming. Luna's head snapped up, her senses open, searching for the source.

"I must beg thy leave. Something demands my attention."

"I... I understand."

"Nay, sister. This is not a retreat from thy words. I beg thy forgiveness, but something is amiss in The Dreaming."

"Ah. As you say. Love you, Luna."

"I love thee, Celestia."

Luna rose, and stepped out of Celestia's dream.

The disturbance echoed across the dreaming, but it definitely came from within. Somepony was having a nigh- a bad dream. It was an impressive dream to make such a ruckus in The Dreaming, but a bad dream was all it was.

There were creatures who attack ponies in their dreams, but they were mercifully few and far between. Once they'd been no match for the princess of the Moon. Now? After a millennium of time away from her duties, Luna wasn't sure she'd be up to a confrontation like that. Fortunately, today she wouldn't have to find out.

Luna wove her way through the dreaming, working her way to the eye of the storm. At last she reached it. She paused, hesitant. There was no telling what she'd find there.

Luna stepped into the epicenter, and came face to face with herself.

No, it wasn't her, it was the Nightmare.

She stared at the imposing figure, the avatar of her own darkness. Something was wrong. This wasn’t her dream. She shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t be able to haunt other’s dreams.

“Nightmare Moon! No, please!”

It was a pitiful, wretchedly desperate cry which drew Luna’s attention away from the Nightmare.


“Please,” Fluttershy begged, falling prone on the ground. “I’ll do anything, please just let her go!”

Luna stared agape at Fluttershy. Understanding flooded her. This was her dream, obviously. She was dreaming of the Nightmare. Luna turned to take a second look at the Nightmare. At her hooves, no, under her hoof, was a rainbow maned body, broken and unmoving.

The horror of the scene weighed upon her. She saw the truth in the dream even as she understood that the Nightmare wasn’t the real fear. Helplessness was.

“Fluttershy, listen.”

“Please, Nightmare Moon, I’ll do anything.”

“Fluttershy, it’s me. Luna. Thou art dreaming. This is thy dream. The Nightmare isn’t real. Rouse thyself and face her. Only then will thy n-nightmare cease.”


Fluttershy gave a soft whimpering cry. Tears streamed from her eyes as she squeezed them shut, not wanting to see the end of her friend.

“Fluttershy, please listen. This isn’t real. This is thy dream. Didst thou not prove to me that kindness was strength? Show thy strength now. Thou needst not battle her, only face her.”

Luna stared at the prone pegasus, torn between pity and frustration.

She turned to the Nightmare.

“You!” she yelled. “Nightmare Moon! You are a selfish, arrogant, petulant little filly! You should be spanked at sent to bed without supper for your foalish temper tantrums.”

The Nightmare turned and glared at Luna, bringing her full fury to bear.

Luna fought the urge to cower. It was terrifying, facing her like this, but she was a dream, a manifestation of Fluttershy’s fears. She was only a shadow of the real Nightmare Moon, and she had no power over Luna.

“Your use of the Traditional Royal Canterlot voice is a petty display to intimidate ponies because you fail to command respect by your actions or laughable wisdom.”


“And there, your use of the informal ‘thou’ to set yourself above everypony else is a pathetic display. You are a very bad pony! You should be ashamed of yourself. I ought to go tell your parents what you’ve done.”

“Luna,” a quiet voice interrupted, “It’s okay now. I don’t think she really wants to be bad.”

Luna turned to Fluttershy. Her face was damp, and her eyes red and puffy, but she smiled as sweetly as Luna had ever seen.

“But she is, Fluttershy. She… I… am ashamed of what I’ve done. She… I treated ponies like possessions. I hurt them because I thought they were less than me, and because I thought it was my right to do so.”

She turned back to the Nightmare.

”I was a selfish little filly.”

Fluttershy brushed up against Luna, drawing her attention back.

“Everypony has their selfish moments,” she said. “It doesn’t make you a bad pony. Sometimes all it takes is a chance to learn to be better.”

“Perhaps not, but mine actions were unforgivable. That alone should damn me.”

“Your sister forgave you. So did Twilight, and me, for that matter. What’s important now is what you do next.”

Fluttershy turned, her gaze hardened into a glare that sent a fearful shiver down Luna’s spine.

“Nightmare Moon!” she said in a quiet but firm voice. “You have been very bad. I have been as patient as I could, but enough is enough. You’ve been a big meanie, and you’ve hurt ponies. You go home and think about what you’ve done.”

The Nightmare gaped at Fluttershy, astounded at the sheer audacity of it all. “WHAT…”

“What did I say?” Fluttershy interrupted, her glare hardening even even more. It was a sight to behold. Preferably from a safe distance.

Even the Nightmare was not immune. She dropped her head and cowered back from the assault.

“ys ms fltrshy,” Nightmare Moon mumbled.

“What was that?” Fluttershy asked.

“YES MISS FLUTTERSHY,” Nightmare Moon repeated.

“Okay. Now be a good little filly and run on home.”


“Go on, then.”

The Nightmare turned and fled into the darkness, head held low.

Luna turned to Fluttershy, impressed.

“Thou art formidable,” Luna told her. “However, I don’t recommend that tactic against the true Nightmare.”

Fluttershy was in no position to hear. As soon as the Nightmare departed, she ran full tilt to the rainbow maned figure crumpled on the ground.

“Rainbow Dash! Oh no, oh no oh no oh no…”

She lifted the broken form, cradling it in her forelegs.

“This is a dream,” Luna reminded her. “She isn’t really hurt, just as she isn’t really here. If it pleases thee, heal her.”

Fluttershy looked up with teary eyes.

“I… I can’t. Nopony can fix this.”

“This is thy mind. Believe it and it can be done. Thou hast attended the birds and the beasts of the forest. What wouldst thou do for them?”

“I… I could, b-but I’d need…”

“Whatever thou needest, thou shalt have.”

With a wave of Luna’s wing, supplies appeared before them. Fluttershy stared at them a moment, a determined look in her eye, and went to work.

Had they not been in the Dreaming, what happened would have been nothing short of a miracle. In the twisted logic of the unconscious mind, it simply was. Every bandage, every splint that Fluttershy applied seemed to add strength to the battered pegasus. Bones appeared to knit, and wounds close right before their eyes.

“F-fluttershy?” Rainbow Dash stammered, her eyes fluttering open. “Y-you saved me. I… I always knew ya had it in ya.”

Rainbow Dash smiled.

“Oh, thank goodness,” Fluttershy exclaimed, throwing her forelegs around the prismatic pegasus. “I was so worried!”

“Heh,” Rainbow Dash rasped, leaning into the hug. “You know me, Flutters. I’d never leave ya hangin’.”

“I-I know. I’m glad.”

Fluttershy released her and turned back to Luna. The pegasus faded from existence.

“We did it.” Fluttershy smiled.

“Thou didst. I was merely a catalyst.” Luna cocked her head and looked at Fluttershy speculatively.
“The Nightmare saidst she was thy love. Is this true?”

Fluttershy colored and ducked her head.

“Fluttershy, thou canst affirm thy desire, or claim it is nothing but a construct of thy dream. Either way I will believe thee. Thou canst also say nothing, as it is a private matter to thee. One thing I must insist, however, is that thou beest never ashamed of what thou dreamest. This is thy private place, where ponies are truly free. I am an interloper here.”

Fluttershy glanced up, keeping her head low.

“Y-you…. Th-the nightmare…. I-I….”

“Ah. Of course. I am the Nightmare. I will take my leave.”

Luna drew herself up to step back into The Dreaming.


Luna paused.

“I-I meant, y-you helped get rid of the nightmare. Y-you are welcome here, e-even i-if I….”

Luna looked at her with sympathy.

“Fluttershy, my friend, I only wish to help thee. If thou wishest to talk, I will listen. Thy thoughts and feelings will not be judged here in The Dreaming. I have experienced much, and forgotten much. I cannot promise more than a willing ear, but that much is always thine.”

Fluttershy glanced up shyly and shuffled her hooves.

“Rainbow Dash is one of my first and best friends,” she said. “She protected me when nopony else would. We lost touch for a while, but met again here in Ponyville. W-we… we met, but we never really got back together as friends, not until the Elements. Even then, we still aren’t friends like we used to be. I… I care for her, and it hurts a bit, but I…. She’s going to be a Wonderbolt, and I would just hold her back. I can’t do that to her. She’s… she’s….”

“Destined for greater things?” Luna supplied.

Fluttershy nodded.

“Thou art a pitiable foal to think such things,” Luna chastised. “How could there be something greater than thee? If Rainbow Dash wishes to spend time with thee, that is her choice, and she makes it knowing full well the repercussions of her actions. Whether this is the right choice for her… that decision you should make together.”

“I… I can’t!

“Fluttershy, look at me,” Luna demanded. “I am an old pony, far older than I look. I’ve lived long enough to collect scars and regrets like curios on a shelf. They are revisited often, and kept dusted and arranged. Dost thou know what I regret most? What I return to again and again?”

Fluttershy shook her head.

“I regret the time I lost which was not spent with those I loved. I regret the time on the Moon which kept me from my sister. I regret the days not spent with friends and loves before they passed from this life. Thy time is limited, Fluttershy. It is precious and fleeting. Do not waste those moments. Do not follow my path of regrets. Thou may findest that Rainbow Dash does not share thy feelings. That is the risk thou takest. Talkest to her regardless. Takest the chance.”

Luna watched as Fluttershy’s eyes lost focus in thought.

She looked back to Luna, a small smile on her face. Her eyes looked troubled, and the smile held sadness, but it was a smile nonetheless.

“You know, you’re kinder than you realize,” she said.

“Thou art kind to say so, though I think thou art overly optimistic.”

“No, you’re trying, I can tell. You’re trying to care about ponies, even if you don’t think you are. What I’m trying to say is…”

Fluttershy’s face lost some of the burden, some of the sadness it held, and a smile broke out on her face.

“Thank you, Luna. Thank you for coming here and talking with me.”

Luna sat, reclined in the library, her fore legs crossed in front of her, and her chin resting atop them.

“Thy friends are… are deeper than they appear.”

Our friends,” Twilight reminded as she shuffled books on and off of the shelves. “What do you mean?”

Luna shifted so she could gesture with a hoof.

“Consider Fluttershy,” she said. “She presents such a timid appearance. She avoids conflict with other ponies to the extent that she allows herself to be walked upon. She seems to relate to animals more than ponies. Yet underneath her soft exterior lies steel. It is buried deep, but it is there, just like the depth of emotion she carries. She acts as though her kindness is a simple, superficial thing, all the while hiding how much she truly cares, and how much she is willing to sacrifice for others.”

Luna lifted her head and waved a hoof.

“And Applejack. I’ve known ponies who told the truth simply because they lacked the creativity to lie, yet she shows depths of understanding I wouldn’t expect from somepony who claims to be a simple, hardworking farm-pony. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting that farmers lack intelligence, it’s just that…”

Luna sighed at Twilight’s cross expression.

“Twilight, understand that the life of a farmer is difficult. The work is hard, and farms are nearly always on the brink of collapsing. One failed crop or one year of poor sales and many farms risk going belly up. That tends to make the farm all-consuming to those who work on it. Farmers aren’t foalish, they simply lack the time for such pursuits. Taking too much time away from the farm can be disastrous.”

Twilight’s expression softened.

“You didn’t really expect them to be so one-dimensional, did you?” she asked.

“No,” Luna responded. “Of course not. I’ve seen too much to expect ponies to be as simple as that. It’s just that I’ve been on the receiving end of some very insightful comments from the two of them… and….”

Luna rose and went to a window. She peered out into the town, feeling curiously empty.

“Wisdom often comes from surprising sources, just as epiphanies come when you least expect it. This is as it ever was… but…”

Luna turned to Twilight, her mouth open to speak. No words emerged.

She sighed and looked back out the window, not really sure what she was looking for, not sure where the words were, or how to verbalize what she was feeling.

Perhaps she wasn’t really sure what she was feeling.

Confused? Ashamed that such wisdom seemed beyond her even after so many centuries. Grateful for the guidance their friends have given? Suspicious at the convenient timing?



She stared out at Ponyville through the library window, watching the mellow activity of ponies going about their business. Ponyville was such an easygoing town, so unlike Canterlot. Ponies strolled by, engrossed in their errands, oblivious to their surroundings and seemingly in no hurry. There were times Luna envied them.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m just… tired.”

Luna felt a brush at her side.

“Are you okay, Luna?” Twilight asked as she leaned against Luna. “Talk to me. I’m here for you.”

“I’m fine,” Luna lied, looking to Twilight. “I’m just…”

Just what? Luna wasn’t even sure. The jumble of words and emotions refused to sort themselves out. Instead the merged into a weighty gray malaise.

‘I’m just… tired.”

“I think,” Twilight said, “that you are a silly filly who is still adjusting after being alone for so long, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nopony can blame you for needing time.”

Luna looked back out the window. She extended a wing and draped it over Twilight, pulling her into a feathery hug and savoring the warmth of the smaller body next to hers.

“I’m glad you’re here, Twilight. I’m glad you’re my friend.”

Chapter 9: Fractures

View Online

“Thou…. You. You. Know. Nothing. You’ve spent your short life buried in books, but you have experienced little. Don’t presume to tell me my failings.”

Twilight’s eyes shone with hurt, but she volleyed back nonetheless.

“Okay, so I’m young and inexperienced. What’s your excuse? You don’t do anything but hide on that tower. You’ve given up on everything and everypony. What good is all your experience if you don’t share it?”

The longer they argued, the colder Luna felt. It was as though the Moon, with all its barren wastes, was channeling through her. In the icily calm anger which gripped Luna was the surety that Twilight was probably right, but that only served to annoy her more.

“You presume too much,” she said in a low, even voice. Her voice carried no hint of rage or fury, only irritation.

“Guh!” Twilight gasped in exasperation. Her voice hoarsened, as her emotions spun out of control.

“FINE! Run off to your little hideout and sulk like a yearling. See if I care. Equestria is going to leave you behind, and you’re going to do nothing but sit up there and let it happen!”

Luna shook her head before leaping into the air and taking flight. Twilight was wrong. Equestria had already left her behind. It had no place for her, no need for her. The only ponies that refused to see it were Twilight and Celestia.

Luna landed on her perch and sat, but peace eluded her. The iciness she'd embodied earlier faded, leaving only an empty blackness in its void, as well as an odd, tired restlessness.

She stood and paced on the roof briefly.

The hollow blackness inside her hungered, threatening to swallow everything if it was not filled.

Luna leapt from her perch and landed on the balcony to her room. She pushed her way in, and paced for a while longer.

It was a peculiar, weary sort of restlessness which gripped her. She felt so empty, so… so tired.

Luna gave up. She laid down and tried to do something completely unnatural feeling. She tried to sleep at night.

Luna dreamed.

She dreamed, but something was wrong.

Whatever it was tried to stay just outside her awareness.

Regardless of its efforts, Luna could sense something amiss. It worried at her like a splinter in her mind, or an itch she couldn’t reach.

Luna dreamed, balanced on the knife edge of lucidity.

Luna stamped her hoof in frustration. The closer she came to lucid dreaming, the more that emptiness returned, preventing sleep from being the escape she sought. Despite her desire to plunge herself deeper into unconsciousness, something kept dragging her back. There was something amiss in The Dreaming.

No. Not in The Dreaming. In her dream.

There was something in Luna's dream.

It stayed just out of the realm of perception. Luna, her senses dulled since her return, but not gone, kept catching hints of it just on the periphery, as though catching glimpses out of the corner of her eye.


The entity didn’t so much come into view as seep into her awareness. She still couldn’t see it. It always seemed to be where her eye wasn’t. She only caught an impression of scales and ichor, and a hissing sound like steel on stone.

“So you reveal yourself,” Luna said to the void. “I am surprised. Begone. Your presence here is unwelcome.”

This is your dream Mare of Night. You are not the Power here.

The words echoed in Luna’s mind.

“So shall I wake and hunt you? I have been more than your equal in the past. Why do you test me now?”

Should you search while awake, you’ll not find us. We feast while you slumber.

Luna clenched her teeth in frustration.

“What do you want? Why do you plague me now? What have I done to deserve this humiliation?”

The hissing sound remained unchanged, but it resonated laughter.

Who’s pain do you think drew us? You are weak. Weaker than before your absence. We shall feast upon your pain and grow strong. Then none shall bar our path. We shall feast. Feast we shall. Feast. All. Hunger. Succulent Pain. Yes. FEAST.

Luna woke.

The Celestial Mare, Custodian of the Sun, Guider of Equestria, the inimitable Princess Celestia woke to find her pillow damp with drool. She yawned, stretched, and scratched her rump.

She rolled herself over and flung her legs out of bed. The floor was cold, and the darkness of the room made leaving the bed an unenviable task. She hauled herself up and started toward her wash stand until her blanket caught her leg and she almost pitched forward on her face. She kicked her foreleg, freeing it from the blankety serpent before lurching toward the basin.

She lifted the ewer with her magic and poured water into the basin, running some over her face. She scrubbed roughly with a washcloth and some plain soap, and splashed water on her face to rinse. Satisfied that her face was clean, she peered into her mirror, checking for wrinkles or other signs of age. She squinted, scrutinizing carefully, and scowled at the mirror, as though daring it to show something different.

She snorted, appeased for the moment, and trotted out of her room to perform her morning ritual.

She found the balcony occupied, which was unsurprising. Her sister had the advantage of already being awake. What did surprise her was the condition of the occupant.

Luna paced anxiously on the balcony, oblivious to everything save whatever preyed upon her peace of mind.

“Are you okay, Luna?” Celestia asked.

“Ah,” Luna cried softly, jumping at the sound of Celestia’s voice. “Sister. I did not sense thee approach. My apologies.”

“Are… are you well, Luna?” Celestia asked. “You seem a bit…”

“I’m fine, Celestia.”

Celestia shrugged nonchalantly, trying not to show her worry.

“If you say so. Shall we?”

Luna was not fine. It was apparent in her magic as she lowered the Moon. It was unfocused, fluctuating wildly.

Celestia risked a glance at Luna. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and her teeth clenched as she struggled to maintain control.

Slowly the Moon set and the Sun rose.

“Luna,” Celestia began, turning to face Luna.

“WHAT?” Luna snapped her reply.

Celestia stepped back in surprise before catching herself.

The action did not go unnoticed. Luna immediately deflated.

“Apologies, sister. I am…” Luna paused, seemingly at a loss for words.
“Distracted,” she decided upon finally.

“Are you okay?” Celestia asked.

Fine. I’m fine.”

“Luna, really. Talk to m-”

“I’M FINE,” she insisted.

Celestia stiffened, but managed to quell the impulse to take another step back.

“If you insist, Luna,” Celestia ceded, “but if you wish to talk, you know where to find me.”

“Indeed,” was Luna’s only response.

Luna stomped away from the balcony feeling unsettled and a bit petulant. It wasn’t enough that her experience in The Dreaming completely unnerved her, and was a sign of imminent danger, but now it was affecting her magic on top of it.

Luna paused in the hallway leading from the balcony, unsure of where to turn. She dared not try to go back to sleep. If the dream creatures were indeed feeding off her, she didn’t dare allow herself to be vulnerable. She could enter the Dreaming full strength while awake, but they would likely hide or flee and not fight. It was a foal’s errand to chase after them in this way.

What, then, was she to do? Luna didn’t know, and she didn’t dare sleep until she did.

One thing was for sure; it was going to be a long day.

Celestia was worried. The ponies in the Day court were oblivious to this fact, of course. Celestia worked hard to keep them so. Nevertheless, she worried. Luna had been skulking around the palace all day. The fact that she wasn’t asleep was worrying in and of itself, but worse was the way she hovered around the periphery of palace life, always out of sight, and barely registering in the consciousness of the ponies going about their daily business. The fact that they weren’t aware of what was going on, and never actually saw Luna was starting to prey upon them. The palace ponies were becoming nervous and short tempered.

Celestia worried.

Twilight entered the palace unsure of how she really felt. Being called to the palace was becoming routine, a fact which did little to resolve Twilight’s jumble of mixed emotions:
Anxiety as to what the crisis was. Lingering anger at her argument with Luna. Guilt that she hadn’t spoken to Luna since the argument. Frustration at being called to foalsit Luna yet again. Annoyance that Princess Celestia couldn’t solve her own problems. Sadness that Luna seemed so damaged that she required such attention.

All these things and more roiled within Twilight, though guilt seemed to have an edge.

She turned a corner and nearly jumped out of her skin as she came face-to-face with Princess Celestia.

“GAH! P-p-princess Celes-”

“Twilight! There you are,” she interrupted. “I’m sorry to be imposing upon you again, and I never dreamed you would have to nursemaid Luna this way, but my patience has just about run out, and I can’t get her to talk to me, and I don’t know what else I can do but ask you for help, and I’m really sorry about this-”

“What’s going on?” Twilight interjected.

“I don’t know!” the princess cried. She sat, dropping her rump in the hallway with a bone-jarring thud that she appeared not to notice.

“Something’s wrong. She’s not sleeping. She’s anxious about something, but she won’t talk to me.”

Twilight stepped back and really looked at Princess Celestia. What she saw disturbed her.

She looked tired. She looked more tired than Twilight had ever seen. Her eyes were a bit red, and her mane a bit rough looking. It wasn’t much. To the casual observer she might look her usual immaculate self. To Twilight, however, her pupil and most honored student, it was startling.

“I…” Twilight began.

Princess Celestia sagged for a moment before straightening, a determined look in her eye.

“Twilight,” she said, “this isn’t fair to you. I’ve asked so much of you already. When you used the Elements against Nightmare Moon, that was for all of Equestria, but what you’ve been doing for Luna, that’s been personal for me. It means a lot to me. I never imagined it would require so much….”

She took a deep breath before continuing.

“I’m sorry. I’m tired and probably not making sense. What I mean to say is, ‘Thank you.’ You’ve taken on a larger task than either of us expected, and, had I known, I never would have burdened you this way. If you ever feel the task is too great, I hope you tell me. For now, however, I beg of you; to talk to Luna. Find out what’s wrong.”

Twilight shivered slightly under the Princess Celestia’s intense gaze.

“P-princess… I won’t lie. W-when I first agreed to this it was mostly because I c… I cared what you thought of me.”

She looked at the ground as she felt her face heat.

“B-but… I kept going because Luna’s my friend. I won’t let her down… or you… but….”

Twilight avoided the Princess’s eyes.

“W-when Luna and I last spoke… we… we had a really bad argument. We… we haven’t spoken for a week. I don’t think that I’m really the right pony to talk to her right now.”

Princess Celestia stared at the contrite unicorn.

“Twilight, are you Luna’s friend, or is she yours?”

Twilight looked up in confusion.

“Um, both?”

“Then I have the utmost confidence in you. Friends argue. You know that. Don’t let it ruin your friendship if it’s that important to you.”

Twilight smiled.

“You’re right, of course. Luna means too much to me to let this drive us apart.”

“Excellent. Now, please excuse me. I’m rather exhausted, and I think I’m going to take a quick nap.”

“I won’t let you down, Princess Celestia.”

The larger pony paused, considering, before placing a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder.

“I know you won’t. Twilight, fate has ensured that I may never have a child, but had such a thing been possible, I can’t imagine a daughter more perfect than somepony like you.”

Twilight’s voice disappeared. Her mouth worked and throat struggled, but no sound came out.

“....I… I….”

“I’m sorry, Twilight. I’m tired and I talk too much. Go find Luna, and I will go find my rest.”

Twilight watched the Celestial Mare depart in bemusement, a roiling in her gut and her face aflame. She shook her head, trying to clear it. She had a job to do, and she didn’t intend to let either princess down.

Finding a place to hide during the day had been a challenge. There didn’t seem to be anyplace in the Palace that wasn’t occupied during the daylight hours. Every corner seemed to be bustling with activity, and no matter where Luna tried to hide, it seemed like she was underhoof for somepony. The only truly logical place was her bedroom, and that held no real comfort for her. Hiding in her room had felt claustrophobic, as well as holding a constant reminder of the sleep she was failing to get.

In the end, the only place she found she could pace in relative solitude was the cemetery. It was ironic, really. She’d spent a fair bit of energy finding a ghost to haunt the mausoleum, and now here was haunting the same area. In retrospect she could have saved herself the trouble.

“OOOooooOOooOoOOooooOOOooooh…” the ghost wailed.

Luna paid her no mind. She had enough trouble placing one hoof in front of the other. More and more they refused to bend to her will. She was clumsier for some reason. She tripped and fell more often. Fortunately she was most often alone, so such things were not observed and didn’t become the object of palace gossip.

Luna paced ever onward.

What would happen if she continued, she wondered, if she just kept going, putting one hoof in front of the other. Would her physical form eventually wear out? Would she become a ghost herself, endlessly circling the graveyard? Would she even notice the difference if and when it happened?

Round and round she would go.

She was a moon herself now, she realized. She was a moon orbiting the center of the cemetery. That notion gave her activity a certain increase in appeal. She was Mare of the Moon, and a moon herself. She matched herself.

Luna’s right hoof snagged on the ground, and she pitched forward, smacking her face into the earth. Oddly, it didn’t seem to hurt much.

She pushed herself up and continued on.

“Luna!” a voice rang out. “There you are. Thank goodness. I’ve been looking everywhere!”

Luna spared a glance from her hooves to see Twilight trotting cheerfully toward her.

Luna pushed onward.

“Um, Luna,” Twilight spoke to the unresponsive alicorn, “what are you doing?”

“I’m a Moon!” Luna said. “I’m orbiting!”

“I… see. Who… who’s been raising and lowering the… other Moon, then?”

“The Moon keeps going. I’ve been raising myself! The Moon never stops orbiting.”

“O-oh.” Twilight’s face shone with worry. She hurried to keep pace with the orbiting mare.
“Why don’t you come inside and have some tea with me? It’s been a while since we’ve talked.”

“NO! Nonono… mustn't stop. The Moon never stops. BAD things would happen if the Moon ever stopped. It could fly away! Or crash! No. Must keep moving.”

“Luna, I’m sure you wouldn’t let anything like that happen-”

“YES! Won’t let happen. Must keep moving.”

“No,” Twilight tried again, “I meant that it wouldn’t hurt to come have tea with me. You wouldn’t let anything happen while we were having tea, right? You look exhausted. You need to come rest.”

“I…. No. Must keep moving.”

“Luna, I’m sure nothing will happen if you come have tea and talk with me.”


“You’d never let anything like that happen.”

“I…. What if I can’t stop it?” Luna wailed.

“I trust you, Luna. Besides, I may not be an alicorn, or entrusted with raising the Moon, but I know a thing or two about magic. I’d never let you fall.”

Luna paused in her walk. Without the constant motion, her legs wobbled. Her body threatened to betray her and pitch her forward again.

Her forelegs gave out, and she yelped and closed her eyes as she fell.

Instead of smacking her face into the cold ground, she felt her chest make contact with a warm body.

She risked opening one eye.

“I won’t let you fall,” Twilight said as she braced Luna up with a smile. “Come on. Let’s go get some tea.”


Luna’s room was warm, and the tea was hot. Luna breathed in the aromatic steam with a mix of pleasure and resignation.

“I really should apologize to you,” Twilight said, smiling over her own mug of tea. “I… was still mad at you over our argument. I really should have talked to you before now.”

Luna surprised them both by bursting into tears.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. I… I shouldn’t have said those things.”

As quickly as the tears came, they vanished.

“You were a disrespectful little foal!” she snapped.

The tears abruptly returned.

“Sorry,” she sobbed. “I’m sorry!”

Twilight gaped at her, her eyes wide with shock.

“Luna,” she said carefully, “how long has it been since you slept?”

“Sleep? No sleep. Can’t sleep… they’re watching.”

“Who’s watching?” Twilight asked with all the care of somepony disarming a bomb.

“Predators. No. Not predators… parasites. They feed on ponies in their dreams.”

“Luna, even if that’s true, I know you wouldn’t let anything like that happen.”

“No! I’m not strong enough anymore. Don’t you see? It was always me! A thousand years I was gone, and I saw no sign of them feeding, but now I’m back, and so are they. It’s me. I brought the danger. I am the danger, and now I’m not strong enough to protect everypony from me.”

“Why haven’t you told Celestia?”

“She’s never sensed them. She’d probably think I was making it up, or tell me I was being foalish.”

“She’d never do that!” Twilight protested.

“No. I suppose not. I suppose I’m… I’m ashamed.” The tears flowed freely now. “I’m ashamed of how weak I am now. How broken. I can’t even protect myself. How can I protect anypony else? I’m a danger to everypony! I…. It… it would be better for everypony if I didn’t exist.”

“DON’T SAY THAT!” cried Twilight. “Don’t ever say that!”

Luna shrank back, eyes blind with tears. She shivered and sobbed like a foal, all pretense of control now gone.

A pair of forelegs wrapped themselves around her.

“I’m sorry, Luna. I’m sorry I said those things to you, and I’m sorry I left you alone, but you have to get some sleep.”


“Yes, you can.”

A hoof began stroking Luna’s mane.

“Luna, you forgot how strong you are, but I can still see it. I know you’re strong enough to face whatever comes, and I’ll be right there beside you to help. Now, go to sleep.”

“But… but they’re…”

“I’ll stay right here with you. I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

Even to her own ears Luna’s voice sound small and pitiful. Weak.

“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Luna walked through the meadow. The sky was dark, but the stars shone brightly, framing a gloriously full Moon.

All in all, it was a beautiful night.

Luna walked, enjoying the cool crisp air and clear sky. She trotted happily forward hearing the thud of her hooves as they impacted the ground and feeling the impact up through her legs.

A whispering sound came from behind her.

She stopped.

Luna looked around, searching for what could have made such a sound.

There was nothing.

Her imagination perhaps?

The night was quiet.

Luna shrugged.

She breathed in. The air was sweet and fragrant. She began walking again, relishing in the cool green grass. Flowers dotted the meadow. Luna began to forget her worries as she walked.

The whispering sound returned.

Luna froze.

She looked around.

The night was quiet.

Luna’s back prickled, and she began to itch between her shoulder-blades. Something was wrong.

She reached out with her senses.

The night was calm. There was a stillness in the air that transcended mere weather.

Luna frowned and concentrated harder.

It wasn’t just still, it was dead. It was wrong. The green grass, the flowers, everything was dead. Empty.


A dream.

She was dreaming.

The realization should have come with new found control and peace.

Instead, it came with fear.

The stars went out, and the Moon turned red. The grass turned black, and the dark night’s sky changed from a clear crisp night to a miasma of despair.

Luna clenched her teeth.

“Come out!” she hissed. “I know you’re there!”

The entity made itself known, fading into existence.

We have been waiting.

“No. I won’t let you.

You have no say. You are weak. We will feed, and you will sustain us. We will grow strong.

“NO!” Luna cried.

For one brief moment, Luna wished she was the Nightmare. The Nightmare was many things, petty, short-sighted, cruel, but she was never weak.

As soon as that thought escaped her, Luna felt her magic drain from her.

Luna’s blood went cold.

“OURS” the Nightmare said, appearing beside Luna.

What? This is not possible. What are you-


Luna felt the Nightmare’s magic swell. Dark magic crackled about her.

The entity recoiled and faded from view.

The Nightmare turned to Luna.


“N-no,” Luna stammered, “I-I won’t.”

The magic around the Nightmare intensified. Dark lightning lashed out and struck Luna.

Luna screamed, her body jerking in agony.

“Shhh… It’s okay, Luna. I’m here.”

The words were just barely understandable in the Dreaming. Twilight must have been just on the precipice of sleep. Like a drowning pony, Luna clutched the sense of Twilight as though she were a lifeline, and pulled.

She pulled Twilight into her dream.

“WHAT?” cried the Nightmare.

“What?!?” cried Twilight in an unknowing echo.

Twilight looked around. The dreamscape was still in its nightmarish aspect, but the Nightmare was nowhere to be found.

Words rang in Luna’s head.


“Luna? What’s going on?”

All the tension left, and with it went the last of Luna’s composure. She quaked uncontrollably. Her legs gave out and she toppled to the ground.

“Luna! Luna, are you okay?”

Twilight leapt to Luna’s side. Her face shone with undisguised worry.

“Where are we?”

Luna gasped for breath, feeling her throat close and chest tighten.

“Calm, Luna, calm. Everything’s okay,” Twilight assured her. She leaned against Luna, trying to soothe the larger mare.

Luna grabbed Twilight, squeezing her in her forelegs as she shivered.

“Urk!” gasped Twilight. “Shhh… It’s okay. You’re okay.”

Slowly Luna’s shivering ceased and her breathing returned to normal.

“S-sorry, T-t-twilight,” she managed through still chattering teeth. “I d-didn’t m-mean to drag thee into this.”

“Where are we?” Twilight asked again.

“We are in my dream. I…. Thou must have been almost asleep. Somehow I pulled thee into my dream.”

“I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Nor did I. It is not something I’ve done before. I’m sorry. I was having a ni- I was having a bad dream, and I pulled thee in without thinking.”

Twilight looked around the nightmarish dreamscape.

“I guess so!”

Luna took a deep, steadying breath.

“Now that I am aware I am dreaming I should be able to exert some control.”

She inhaled another deep breath and closed her eyes in concentration. She exhaled slowly and opened her eyes. The landscape had transformed. The grass was green again, and the flowers had returned. The miasma was gone, replace with a clear-skied evening. The sky was reds and purples where the Sun had assumedly just set, and stars were appearing on the opposite horizon.

“Wow,” breathed Twilight. “You certainly know how to make a beautiful evening.”

Luna smiled.

“Um, Luna,” Twilight said, “You can let go of me now.”

“Oh!” Luna hastily released the unicorn. She looked away quickly, trying to hide her blush.

She closed her eyes and breathed in the night air in an attempt to calm her nerves further. The air was sweet again, and though cool, hinted at the fullness of summer.

“I’m asleep, right?” asked Twilight.

Luna nodded.

“Well then, it would be a shame to waste this beautiful night.”

Luna looked around. The wrongness was gone. Now there was only lush, vibrant, life-filled world around them.

“Thou speakest truth.” She smiled at Twilight. “I must apologize to thee for my previous behavior.”

Twilight surprised her with a giggle.

“Oh, Luna, I’m the last pony you need to apologize to for acting crazy due to lack of sleep. I mean, the stories Spike could tell you… well… I’d prefer if you didn’t ask him.”

Luna nodded as the pair began to walk. The grass rustled, and birds sang in the air. A cool breeze blew by, bringing with it the scent of flowers and greenery.

Luna felt herself really begin to relax. This was as close to paradise as she could conceive. The night was calm and clear, the grass was green, the air was sweet, and she was with somepony she cared for.

Twilight gasped.

“A fairy circle!” she exclaimed, darting forward. “I know they’re just caused by a fungus, but I’ve always wanted to see fairy-po-”

“Twilight, STOP!” Luna commanded.

Twilight froze, her face showing surprise and confusion.

“Luna, why-”

“Twilight, in the real world they are caused by fungus, but this is my dream,” she cautioned, stepping forward. “The circle is likely made of more magic than mold.”

“Not all fungi are mo-” she dropped her head and flattened her ears in response to the look Luna shot her.


Luna shook her head.

“Today thou mightest get thy wish.”

She stood before the circle and bowed.

“We most respectfully request entry.”

“And well that you do, Mare of Dream,” spoke a new voice with a chuckle, “for woe unto those that try to force their way into the land of faerie.”

A tiny pony with gossamer wings flitted in front of Luna’s nose. The voice was surprisingly deep, coming from such a diminutive figure.

“Hail, noble Oberon,” greeted Luna.

“Hail, gentle Luna, evening mare, mare of dreams and mare of lunacy.”

Twilight noticed Luna stiffen.

“Who are you?” Twilight asked.

The pony chuckled again, his voice rumbled like rolling thunder.

“I am Oberon, king of faerie. You are welcome into my land, but may only remain under one condition: you two must touch at all times.”

Luna scowled at the small figure.

“What?” exclaimed Twilight. “B-but why?

The pony alit on Twilight’s snout with a laugh and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Because I am king, and that is my condition.”

Luna stared at the fairy pony with suspicion. This was ostensibly her dream, which made Oberon a manifestation of her subconscious, but… not necessarily. In The Dreaming, in the gestalt of pony consciousness, in the magic of the midnight hours and the weave of the dream, all things were possible, and things lived.

Oberon could be Luna’s dream.

Or he could be… external. There was no way to tell for sure.

“No, there isn’t,” Oberon said. “Isn’t it wonderful? That there are mysteries that will never be solved? Wonders that can’t be categorized or rationalized? Come, come. You’ve heard my condition. Do you agree? We are in the midst of a fete. Come join the festivities.”

Luna unclenched her jaw, and tried to relax her taut muscles.

“What doth thou say, Twilight? Shall we join the feast?”

“Can we?” Twilight asked enthusiastically.

“Remember the condition,” Oberon stated.

Luna draped a wing over Twilight like a feathery cloak.

“I believe we are ready,” she said.

Oberon laughed a merry laugh.

“Come then! Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

And with that, the world went black.

They landed. It felt like they landed, though Luna would have sworn her hooves never left the ground.

“Welcome, gentles all, to my fair kingdom.”

Luna looked to Oberon. No longer was he the tiny figure flitting from place to place. No, now he was a stallion, tall and proud and masculine. Very masculine. He exuded an air of authority, and stood with the posture of one used to being heeded, and barring that, enforcing his will.

“The feast is underway,” he said. “Enter and be merry.”

Twilight and Luna looked past him into the crowd of ponies. There were ponies of all shapes and sizes. Most did not have the gossamer wings of Oberon. Some had wings like a bat, others had none. Some had horns, others antennae, some few had feathery crests. A few had paws like dogs in place of hooves, still others had talons like eagles. The only commonality seemed to be that they were all different, and they were all enjoying themselves immensely.

They were largely lounging on the grass and talking as platters of food were carried about.

“Oh, new faces!” cried a pony with a bird’s beak. “Welcome! There’s a free spot right over there.”

Luna looked where the pony gestured. There was a grassy spot which appeared to be waiting for them.

“Shall we?” Luna asked Twilight.

Twilight nodded, her face a mixture of anxiety and excitement.

“Don’t forget my condition,” warned Oberon as they passed.

Luna gripped Twilight more tightly with her wing, instinctively pulling her closer.

They had nothing to fear, she was sure. This was her dream, and she would sense any danger before they were in any real peril, but Oberon seemed intent on rubbing her the wrong way.

The pair reclined carefully, accepting food as it passed by them. It mainly consisted of fruit and pastries, hoof food that didn’t require plate or utensil. The drinks were fruity, but had a strong bite. Luna wondered at the ramifications of being drunk in her dream. Could such a thing be? Luna shrugged to herself and threw back her drink, blinking at the burning sensation in her throat as she swallowed.

“Art thou enjoying thyself?” she asked Twilight.

Twilight nodded.

“It’s fantastic here. Literally. All the different pony creatures are amazing. Is this what fairies would really be like?”

“Thy guess is as good as mine,” Luna told her, following her gaze out to the crowd.

She accepted another cup, and took a large swallow. If it were possible to get drunk in a dream, she was off to a good start. She was starting to feel light-headed, and her hooves were feeling tingly.

“A-are you going to tell me what happened? Why you stopped sleeping?” Twilight asked.

“For the moment the crisis has passed. Is that not what matters most?”

“B-but you never talk to me, not really. Every time you’re about to talk about how you really feel, you change the subject. Don’t you trust me? I mean, I’m your friend… aren’t… I?”

The uncertainty in Twilight’s voice was heartbreaking.

“I….” Luna searched for words where there were none.

“Twilight, if I told thee what my thoughts were, wouldst thou still be my friend?"

"Well, of course I would still-" began Twilight.

"Please," interrupted Luna.

Twilight shivered, but went silent.

"We have already argued this week. It only took one ill conceived statement, one thoughtless word, to drive a wedge between us. How many more hurts would I inflict by voicing my thoughts? I’ve never been as politically adept as my sister, and time on the Moon has stripped away what little sensitivity I had. My words now emerge like daggers, slicing flesh and feelings alike. How long before the wounds to thee become too great? How long before I drive thee away?”

“Prove it,” Twilight demanded. “Tell me how you feel right now.”

Luna’s mouth worked. She wanted to. She very much wanted to, but she was afraid of what it might change. She reverted to her usual lines.

“I’m tired.”


“Living.” The words emerged before she could stop them. Luna squeezed her eyes shut as tears threatened to fall. “I’m tired of living. I’m tired of feeling like an outsider all the time. I’m tired of waking up and fearing that every day is going to be much like the last, and fearing that if it’s not, it will be worse. I’m tired of losing more loved ones than I gain, and being afraid that in the end I will be alone. Just me and my sister, orbiting each other forever.”

She felt Twilight shiver again under her wing. Luna pulled her wing tighter around her.

“I’m tired of being Luna.”

“What can I do, Luna?”

The world around them had grown strangely quiet. Luna looked out at the crowd. The ponies there were still chatting amongst themselves, but the sounds reaching Luna and Twilight were oddly muted.

“Do?” Luna asked. “I’ve not asked thee to do anything. Thou hast done so much for me already. It would be unfair to ask more. Wouldst thou make more sacrifices? Shall I make thee my Knight Protector?”

Twilight chuckled.

“I don’t think you or your sister need knights to defend your honor or protect you. What would attack that you couldn’t handle on your own?”

Luna returned a weak chuckle.

“Oh, my sister and I did indeed have Knight Protectors in the past, but they didn’t protect the body. N-not like that anyway. They guarded our hearts. They were advisers and confidants. They kept us grounded. Sane. In a sea of ponies trying to use us for their own ends, they were a trustworthy rock to cling to. A trusted voice in the din of the court.”

“What happened?” Twilight asked, her shaking increasing.

Luna stared at the ponies of the fete without really seeing them.

“What dost thou do, Twilight, when a friend or l… or a lover betrays thee? How much sharper is the pain? In the end it was too heavy a burden, too much trust to place on one pony’s shoulders. In the end no heart is incorruptible.”

Twilight was quaking now. It felt of fear, not cold.

“What about me?” Twilight asked, her voice almost a whisper. “Aren’t I trustworthy? Do you think I’d betray you? Don’t you know I lo-”

Luna whipped her head around.

Twilight sat shaking under her wing, eyes wide and her mouth resolutely shut. Next to them both, was Oberon.

“Well,” he said in his normal voice, “it appears the game has ended.”

Luna saw red.

Her blood boiled and she felt as though she could breathe fire.

She leapt to her feet with rage fueled strength.

“If you are Id be still,” she said. “If you are External… BE. WARNED.”

Oberon laughed.

“That knowledge shall ever elude thee, O Glorious Night. Here, in the realm of dreams, in the land of faerie, there is naught but delirium and lunacy.”

Luna stepped forward, unsure of what she had planned, but intent on wiping the smug smile from Oberon’s face. This was the land of faerie, but she was still Luna, the Mare of the Moon, the Guardian of Dreams.

The Nightmare.

Just as the last feathers of her wingtip slipped off of Twilight, the fete and all its attendees vanished, leaving Luna and Twilight alone in the meadow without sign that there had ever been more.

“Thou brokest my rule,” Oberon’s voice whispered on the wind.

Laughter echoed into nothingness. Then they were alone.

Luna ground her teeth in frustration.

The air was still, and the night quiet.

Luna set her shoulders and turned.

“Twilight,” she said, “perhaps it is time for thee to seekest thine own dream.”

“Luna!” cried Twilight. “What was that?”

“A dream,” assured Luna. “Nothing more. What magic would there be in dreams if they obeyed the rules of reason?”

“B-but… but….”

“It was wrong of me to drag thee into my dream. I shall wake us, and we can find our own ways back into the Dreaming.”

“Don’t push me away!” cried Twilight, grabbing Luna in a tight hug. “Not now. Not after that.”

“Peace, Twilight. Peace.”

“I won’t leave you, and I won’t betray you. I- l- I care for you too much. Please. Don’t push me away.”

Luna sat on her haunches and returned the hug, resting her cheek on Twilight’s temple.

“Teach me half the gladness/
That thy brain must know.
Such harmonious madness/
From my mouth would flow.
The world should listen then-as/
I am listening now.”

Twilight gave a weak chuckle.

“Somepony’s been brushing up on their Prancy Shetley.”

“As it is with Celestia and baking, so it is with me and poetry. It is my vice, my weakness, and my failure, something I love and crave but have no talent at. Be thankful thou wert not with me during my early years. Such atrocious drivel I inflicted upon ponies! It is well that no verses survived to the present.”

“I’d listen to your awful poetry, Luna.”

“Speak not of such things, Twilight,” said Luna with a shiver. “Nopony deserves such torture.”

“Luna?” prompted Twilight. “Shush.”

Luna stepped into The Dreaming, a cold, calculating fury driving her. She looked searched around for with her Senses, looking for the predators in the darkness.

None were apparent.

Luna snorted. They hid in The Dreaming, covered by shadow and darkness.

But the darkness was her ally too.

Acting on nearly forgotten instincts, Luna reached out with her magic, gripped the very fabric of The Dreaming, and pulled.

It yielded to her, stretching like a sheet of rubber. She infused the portion of the Dreaming with magic until it crackled and sparked with dark energy. With one final tug she released it. It snapped back with tremendous force.

A shock wave erupted, expanding in all directions and ripping through the Dreaming with foul Magicks.

Ponies everywhere in Equestria shivered and whimpered in their sleep as Luna’s dark magic rippled through them.

Her prey made itself known as the shock wave rolled over it. Immediately Luna launched an attack at it with a snarl, firing magical bolts of such horrible darkness that they appeared to pull the dreaming in towards them like black holes. It hissed and spat and chittered at her in anger as it was struck again and again.

She couldn’t kill it, she knew. It was probably older than she was, and would undoubtedly outlast her. Nevertheless, she could make it hurt.

LEAVE, she said. Her words seemed to emerge from the Dreaming itself.

We obey, oh Demonmare. We hear. We obey.

It fled, giving the impression of slithering or scampering away, though it simply faded from existence.

Luna sighed, sagging slightly. She’d done it. She’d cowed the creature, commanding its respect and forcing it to leave. She was terrible. She was fearsome.

She was despicable.

She was the monster that even horrors feared.

Was this all she was good for? To be the stick to Celestia’s carrot? The Boogey-Pony that parents threatened their yearlings with?

She could do it, she knew. She could feel the Nightmare under her skin. She could channel her and become a frightening specter, a horrific wraith, worthy of fearing.

Until the Nightmare escaped and tried to destroy them all.

She sighed again.

Luna raised her head, straightening her neck and setting her shoulders. Taking a deep breath, she stepped through The Dreaming. Ponies everywhere were sleeping restlessly, thanks to her. Their injuries needed to be healed.

She had work to do, and she would do her duty.

She would do what had to be done.

No matter the cost.

Chapter 10: Gifts

View Online

Luna looked at the entrance to the Carousel Boutique with trepidation. She’d been asked to come in for something called a ‘final fitting’. It was Luna’s opinion that the word ‘final’ had an ominous ring to it.

She scowled at the door, as if she could cow it into sticking to save her from this trial.

The door gave no sign it understood or cared about Luna’s wishes.

There was little else she could do.

She opened the door.

“Ah! Luna, darling. Right on time. I’ll be with you in just a moment, dear,” Rarity said.

Luna sat patiently as she watched Rarity sweep around the shop, humming to herself.

“This way, dear,” Rarity said, ushering Luna into a back room. “Please, slip this on and stand up here.”

Luna looked the dress over before trying it on. It was simple, almost plain, lacking lace and frills. She slipped it over her head and stood dutifully on the platform.

“Hmmm…” Rarity mused, placing a pair of glasses on her face. “No, no no. That simply won’t do.”

She immediately went to work tugging and pinning fabric around Luna.

“So, tell me Luna dear, how are you doing. Twilight tells me you’re still having some trouble adjusting.”

Luna winced internally. The subject was not a comfortable one.

“More accurate to say I feel… displaced. Out of my time. Obsolete.”

“Why Luna, don’t talk like that! Trust me, some things never go out of style. Things become classics for a reason. Whether through nuance, elegant simplicity, or sheer artistry, certain styles last. We don’t always even realize why at first. It sometimes takes time to fully appreciate how deep, how sophisticated something is.”

Rarity frown at the gown, her forehead wrinkling as she peered at it speculatively.

“Mmmm… no. N- Oh! Yes! I have it!”

She danced around Luna, pins going this way and that.

“You know,” she said distractedly, “so much of the fashion industry is about the new. Forget about last year, and focus on the new thing. We spend so much time chasing after the latest trends and anticipating what will be the new style.”

“That doesn’t seem like it leaves room for the classics,” Luna observed.

“Mmm? Oh. You’d be surprised, dear. Fashions seem to come around in cycles. Mmm. No, but what I mean is I spent a good part of my early career trying to copy the hottest designers and chase the trends. Awful, atrocious work it was.”

Rarity stepped back a moment.

“Hmph. No, it should hang this way.”

Luna felt a tug at the material.

“What it took me far too long to realize,” Rarity continued, “was that I was trying to be somepony other than me, but I was the one constant in my work. It was my tears, my sweat… not that I’d admit that a lady sweats. It would be unseemly. No, what I realized is that I could really only be the best designer I could be if I stopped trying to be somepony else. I had to be the best me I could be. Once I realized that, everything else became secondary. I could try emulating a popular style, but I made it my own. It was my vision, through the lens of my own experience. It didn’t matter if it was a classic style, a modern style, the latest trend, or something completely new. It was me. I can’t help but put myself into my work. Anything less would be dishonest.”

She stepped back and looked Luna over.

“There. I think that does it. What do you think?”

Luna turned and looked at herself in the mirror.

Luna forgot how to speak.

The simplicity of the dress was deceptive. It hung on Luna just so, accentuating her features. The colors complimented her coat and mane perfectly, providing contrast and depth to her natural coloration.

Luna turned and looked from other angles.

“It’s… it’s amazing.”

Rarity blushed demurely.

“Oh. Well. We do what we can.”

“I mean it. This dress is beautiful.”

“Well,” Rarity deflected. “It’s easy to create beauty around such a remarkable subject.”

Luna snorted.

“Now, now, dear,” said Rarity. “You’re flattering me shamelessly. The least you could do is let me return the favor.”

“Return the favor. Yes,” muttered Luna. “Such an elegant gift demands like.”

“Luna, I did not make this dress just to guilt something out of you. I insist that no reward be given.”

Luna attempted a smile, but only made it as far as a smirk.

“Such is always the way with gifts from the heart. Do you give a hearth’s warming gift with the expectation of return? No, you give it out of love, but one is returned nonetheless.

“I… I…” Rarity stammered.

The bell at the front door jingled.

“Oh, who could that be? Please excuse me for a moment, Luna. You just stand there, please, and don’t try to take the dress off. I need to make sure none of the pins snag.”

Rarity turned and hurried out of the room.

“Coming!” she sang.

Luna watched Rarity trot out of the room, shutting the door behind her before returning to the mirror.

“Oh,” Luna could hear Rarity’s muffled voice through the door. “I didn’t expect such illustrious company!”

The response was lost in the walls.

Luna gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She was lovely. The dress made her so. For the first time in recent memory she actually felt princessly.

She turned, trying to find a bad angle. There didn’t seem to be one.

It was almost enough to make Luna vain.


Of course, once she took the dress off, she would simply be Luna again, and all would return to normal, but for now, wearing this dress, Luna felt beautiful.

Luna heard some polite laughter from the other room. Curiosity got the better of her.

Curiosity was always her worst trait.

She stepped carefully from the raised platform and crept to the door.

“Oh, my,” Luna heard Rarity pouring on the charm. “Such a noble, statuesque build you have. You need something that accentuates that. Something which shows Equestria what an important role you serve in Canterlot.”

Luna’s ears perked. A customer from Canterlot?

“My duties these days consist primarily of tip-toeing around that psychotic princess Luna,” a bored voice whined. “One never knows when she might suddenly lash out and injure somepony.”

Luna stiffened.

“Oh, it can’t be that bad,” Rarity admonished. “After all, Princess Celestia trusts her implicitly.”

“History has already shown her to be a treasonous murder-mare. The Princess is simply overcome with the thought of having her sister back. It’s blinding her to the danger.”

“I must ask that you not say such things in my presence. I’ve met both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, and I assure you such things are not true. Luna is a delightful lady.”

“Pah!” the second voice spat. “Don’t dictate terms to me! It’s bad enough I have to come to this provincial little no-place. If it weren’t for the splash I’d make with whatever kitschy thing you make, I’d never demean myself so.”

The voice harrumphed.

“The very idea that you could know the princesses. Preposterous.”

“This is Ponyville, Madam.” Rarity’s voice was cold. “Twilight Sparkle lives here, and she happens to be my very good friend. Now I must ask you to leave. You have insulted my friends and my art. I have no wish to deal with you any longer.”

Rarity’s words were met with a snort of derision.

“You’ll make my dress, and you’ll like it, or I’ll make sure your gaudy little shop is shunned from Canterlot to Manehatten. You will be blacklisted.”

“Nevertheless,” Rarity’s voice shook, “I insist you leave at once.”

Luna was angry. No, she was furious. It was a decidedly unfamiliar feeling, and she wasn’t sure she liked it; however, it demanded action.

Luna inhaled a deep breath and drew herself up. She felt herself shaking, though whether from nervousness or rage she couldn’t tell.

Being still or calm wasn’t an option. Pity.

Luna opened the door.


The strange mare jumped at the new arrival and booming voice.

“What?!? I... I mean…”


The pony’s face went ashen, giving her a deathly pallor. She scrambled backwards on her hooves.

“I did try to warn you, dear,” Rarity said with a barely contained smirk.

The mare’s mouth worked, but no sound came out. Eventually a low keen came from her throat, and she bolted out the door.

Luna watched her go, feeling guiltily pleased. It would do little for her reputation in Canterlot, and Rarity’s might suffer as well, but….

“I’m very sorry, Luna. I had hoped to spare you that.”

“Rarity, I believe I know what thy gift should be.”

Rarity gave Luna a mild frown.

“Oh, Luna. I told you I didn’t need a gift. Besides, fashion is a fickle mistress. Anything you might do to try to sway opinion is as likely to bite you as not.”

“Indeed, but friends give gifts as signs of affection, and such boundless generosity as thine should not go unrewarded. Thou undervaluest thine own work. This dress is as lovely as I’ve ever seen, and I know others will think the same. I need not endorse thy work. Thy work will speak for itself.”

Rarity gave a soft chuckle.

“It can hardly speak as eloquently as you, Luna dear. Or as loudly”

“Thou art a consummate flatterer, but I thank thee.”

The Nightmare smiled her toothy, predatory smile, her eyes wild and mad.


Rarity looked at the Nightmare uncertainly.

“There is nothing I wouldn’t give for my friends,” she said.


The smile on the Nightmare’s face was gleefully vicious. Predatory.


Luna rapped a shaky hoof on the library door.

She tried not to pace as she anxiously waited for a response. Her shaking had not quite subsided after her sleep-induced vision.

She couldn’t bring herself to view them as dreams anymore. They were too real, too specific. They were like messages. Warnings.


Luna’s shivers returned in force.

The library door opened.

“Luna!” Twilight exclaimed. “I didn’t expect you this evening.”

“I apologize for imposing on thee, Twilight,” Luna said, hoping her voice was steadier than her legs. “I… I was hoping thou m-might stand some c-company.”

“I always have time for you, Luna. Come in. Spike!” She called. “Company. Make some tea. Please?”

“Sure thing, Twilight,” the diminutive dragon replied as he appeared from the kitchen. “Who’s here- Oh. P-princess L-Luna.”

“Simply ‘Luna’, please.”

“Uh… sure!”

Spike shrugged and disappeared into the bowels of the kitchen, presumably with the intent to prepare tea.

Luna crept into the library to find a minefield of books. There were open books everywhere, covering every surface.

“Doing some research, Twilight?”

“Yep!” Twilight chirped happily. “I was reading up on Brightstar’s theory of morphic memory, and it brought to mind Trato’s Forms, so I started reading some of his philosophical essays to refresh my memory. Then I thought it might be a good idea to cross reference that with Landais’ Transformations, and things just snowballed.”

Twilight hummed contentedly, if somewhat tunelessly as she moved books off the couch to allow Luna to recline.

“Oh!” she said, stopping short. “I should have referenced Lundy’s treatise ‘The Stability of Shape-Changes as a Function of Magnitude from Baseline’.

She dropped several books on the already filled table as she trotted to the library shelves in search of her prey.

“She’ll be like that all night,” a voice said from beside Luna.

She turned to see Spike holding a pot and mug.

“Are you okay, Pr... Luna? You looked a bit shaky when you came in.”

Luna took an offered mug in her magic.

“I’m feeling better, thank you.”

It was true. The normalcy of the library, the tea, Twilight and her books, it all served to calm Luna.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply of the steam rising from her mug of tea.

“It occurs to me that, despite my recent association with Twilight, we have barely spoken.”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed, looking down at his feet. “When we’re in Canterlot I’m usually visiting friends, and… well… I’m not very good at staying up late.”

“Ah,” replied Luna. “That would make my eccentric schedule problematic. Well. I thank you for the tea.”

“Oh, it’s no problem. I usually make a pot about this time anyway when Twilight gets like this. It usually calms her down enough to let me clean up a bit and get her to bed before she falls asleep face down in a book.”

“SPIIIIIKE!” Twilight cried. “Have you seen my scroll of notes from this afternoo-”

Her words were cut short as she slipped and disappeared behind the large library table.

“NEVERMIND!” her voice came from behind the table. “I got it.”

Luna could only stare in bemusement and awe.

Spike chuckled.

“Believe me, it’s worth making the tea just to keep ink stains off the floor and table. Although the one time she fell asleep on her notes and had words printed across her face was pretty funny.”

Luna observed Twilight prancing around the library, books in tow. Her hair was a mess, and her eyes mildly bloodshot, but she moved with a contented air about her and a smile on her face.

Luna smiled. She felt almost pony-like again.

“She is something, isn’t she?” Luna asked.


The tone drew Luna’s attention.

Spike was watching Twilight rather misty-eyed.

Luna cleared her throat.

“You are always welcome to accompany her when she visits me,” she said. It was not my intent to exclude you, o-or to take her away from you.”

“Huh?” Spike asked, turning back to Luna. “Oh. Nah, don’t worry about it. Canterlot is home turf for me. There’s lots to keep me busy. Besides,” his gaze landed back on Twilight, “she enjoys spending time with just the two of you. I wouldn’t want to take that away from her.”

They watched Twilight scribble notes on a scroll. She paused for a moment, looking at the ceiling in thought. She tapped her quill against her nose, and ink dripped from the tip onto the scroll.

“If you wish to protect the furniture, you might wish to give her the tea soon.”

Spike chuckled.

“Yeah. She’s already going to gripe about having to recopy her notes.”

Spike poured another mug from the pot.

“Twilight,” he said. “You’re ignoring P- Luna. Sit and have some tea with her while I clean up a bit.”

“Uh?” Twilight looked up from her scroll. “Oh, Sorry! Sorry! I didn’t mean to ignore you, Luna. I just got caught up in my research, and…”

Luna silenced her with a wave of her hoof.

“There is no need to apologize, Twilight,” she said. “I understand what it’s like to get absorbed into something. Sit. Drink. Tell me of thy day.”

Twilight accepted the mug of tea as she trotted over. Spike slipped away with practiced ease.

“Oh, there’s really not much to tell. I started doing some reading, and well… I guess I sorta lost track of time,” she said sheepishly.

Luna managed a smile.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Luna told her. “There are those who would envy thy ability. Never be ashamed of it.”

“Oh, I’m not really…. Okay, maybe a little,” Twilight admitted. “I’ve always been better with books than ponies. At least now I have you and Spike and all my other friends.”

Twilight took a sip from her mug and sat by Luna.

“What about you? Are you okay?” Twilight frowned slightly as she looked at Luna.
“You look a bit….”

“I am well, I assure thee. I… I simply did not sleep well, and awoke feeling unsettled.”

“And you came to see me?”

“My sister was unavailable.”

It was partly true. Celestia was involved in some minor dispute, but nothing she couldn’t step away from. In truth, Luna was afraid she’d start asking questions. Their last discussion on Luna’s unusual dreams hadn’t gone well, and Luna was not eager to repeat it.

“Besides, I enjoy thy company, and wanted to spend time with thee.”


Twilight smiled and sipped from her mug.

“I met with Rarity earlier today to do a final fitting on the dress she is making. She impressed me. Her focus on appearances belies profound insight.”

“Oh,?” Twilight asked. “What happened?”

“I… There… was a… confrontation. A pony of noble blood and arrogant demeanor arrived and demanded attention. She insulted me before she was aware of my presence. It… it resolved itself, but not without cost to Rarity.”

Luna took a sip of her tea to ease her throat and calm her nerves.

“That was probably the cause of my restless night,” she lied.

Luna shivered as chill washed over her. It was as though the lingering ghosts of her dreams passed through her.

She rose, dragging her mug with her to the window. She peered out into the streets of Ponyville and watched the ponies going about their business. They strolled up and down the street, blissfully unaware of the aged alicorn observing them from the confines of the library. She watched and felt alien.

“You know,” Twilight said, walking up to stand beside Luna, “I wasn’t joking about being better with books than ponies.”

She took a sip of her tea and nestled up to Luna, sharing her view out the window.

“It wasn’t too long ago that I avoided other ponies like the plague. I didn’t know how to talk or act around them, and, of course, I had plenty of studying to keep me busy. I… I was looking something up and… and I found a name for what I was doing. Avoidant Personality Disorder.”

Luna looked down at Twilight. Twilight stared out the window, a melancholy look on her face.

“I never really felt like I belonged,” Twilight said. “I never really understood anypony else, and I never understood why.”

She looked up at Luna and smiled.

“Then came the Summer Sun Celebration, and I found all these new friends! Now I know I belong, and I know I’m not alone. Especially now.”

Twilight turned back to the window.

“Not that it was easy. Therapy helped.”

Luna looked back out the window silently for a moment.

“Thou didst have my sister,” she said, “even before those singular events.”

“So do you,” Twilight replied before returning to her seat.

Luna stared out the window a while longer, unsure of what she felt.

It didn’t matter how she felt, she decided. It mattered what she did.

“Twilight, what is thy schedule for the coming days? Wouldst thou consider a trip to Canterlot?”

Twilight entered the now-familiar Sisters’ common room with a smile.

What was she going to find, she wondered. What did Luna have planned? Increasing her curiosity was the fact that the Sun was high in the sky, an unfamiliar position for it to be in while she visited Luna.

“Oh, hello Twilight,” Luna greeted from her seat. “Thy trip was pleasant, I assume?”

Twilight nodded as she headed for her usual spot.

“So… what did you have planned?”

Luna smiled mysteriously.

“All in good time, Twilight. All in good time. Some tea, perhaps?”

Twilight quirked an eyebrow at Luna, unsure what to make of her friend’s deflection. She had air of Rainbow Dash in full prank mode. Twilight sat gingerly in her chair, as if afraid there might be a whoopee cushion hidden under a magical cloak.

The common room door burst open, and Princess Celestia barged in at full gallop.

“LUNA!” she yelled. “What’s the meaning of- Twilight?!?“

Celestia actually skidded to a halt when she saw Twilight. She stiffened and Twilight saw her take a breath and regain her composure before her eyes. The transformation from sister to Princess was remarkable. Twilight had never witnessed it before.

Luna hid a smirk behind a raised hoof.

“Luna,” Princess Celestia said in measured tones, “why has my court been canceled?”

“I thought thou wert in need of a rest, dear sister,” Luna said with an innocent smile. “In that spirit, I canceled it for thee.”

Princess Celestia’s left eye twitched.

“You… canceled… court.”

“Indeed! And look who had the good fortune to arrive this very morning! It is thy student, Twilight Sparkle!”

“YOU CANCELED COURT?!?! This is a disaster! What about all the decisions that were waiting for me? The diplomats! The Nobles! What have you done?”

“Hast thou no Chancellor?” demanded Luna, “No Seneschal? No Chamberlain? Delegate thy tasks.”

“But… but…”

“Wilt thou cook our food next?” Luna asked pointedly. “Clean our chambers?”

Luna rose and closed in on her sister.

“Thy time with her is precious and fleeting. Utilize it while it is afforded thee.”

Celestia looked back and forth between Luna and Twilight uncertainly.

Her shoulders sagged in defeat.

“But what if they won’t talk to anypony but me?” she tried one last time.

“On my honor, they won’t make that demand more than once,” Luna said with an evil smile.
Twilight would have sworn Luna’s teeth were pointed and sharp for just a moment.

“Oh, Luna,” moaned Celestia.

“Enough,” said Luna gently. “Twilight? Thy beloved mentor. Celestia? Thy favored student. Now I must beg thy leave. I must maintain order in mine own unique manner. Shouldst thou have need of me… watch the shadows.”

And with that, Luna left.

Twilight looked at Princess Celestia nervously.


Celestia sagged into her favorite chair with a sigh.

“Twilight,” she said with a wry smile, “just for today, why don’t you just call me Celestia.”

Twilight felt her heart swell so much that it threatened to burst from her chest.

“Of course, Pr… Of course, Celestia.”

Luna closed the door quietly, smiling at the scene she was leaving. Generosity was right. Sometimes all you needed was to give a gift to the ones you love.

Chapter 11: Laughter

View Online

Luna walked through the Dreaming on her now nightly patrol. The more frequently she patrolled the less work it became, both because her strength was increasing back to her old levels, and also because fewer bad dreams arose. Luna supposed it was like gardening. She'd spent enough time cutting back the brush and trimming the overgrowth, and now that it was done she only had to pull the occasional weed.

This was not to say that she ended every nigh- bad dream, she didn't. Bad dreams could teach, and sometimes they held important lessons. Take, for instance, the rather pudgy pony who was gorging himself only to find that everything he ate was full of insects. It gave the definite sense of the dangers of gluttony, even if the specifics were a bit strange. Contrast that to the pegasus who was trapped in a coffin, hysterically beating her hooves against the lid, mind nearly broken with claustrophobia. She wasn't being taught anything. That was more like torture. There was no lesson, only terror. Terror was bad. Terror rippled through The Dreaming. Terror could attract things.

Terror was the weed, and Luna took her role as gardener seriously. It was the one thing she knew she could do that Celestia couldn't.

Of course, on the other hoof, she'd been gone a thousand years without anything preying on the ponies in her absence, so perhaps her guardianship was less important that she supposed.

Luna shook her head. Even if it wasn't important she couldn't stop. Something instinctual drove her with primal urgency.

Luna felt a ripple. Something was beginning. It was small yet, but growing. The ripples would become waves if Luna did nothing. She turned into the ripple and pushed toward the center.

Luna stepped into the dream, and what she saw shocked her.

"Pinkie Pie?"

The pink party pony sat alone in a pool of light, her coat lacking its usual vibrancy. It was pale, as though it had faded in the Sun, and her mane and tail drooped straight and limp.

"They're all gone," she whimpered. "They aren't my friends anymore."


Luna's words were interrupted by laughter and a flash of rainbow colors which Luna caught from the corner of her eye. Pinkie turned, but the colors vanished out of the light as quickly as it had arrived.

"Pinkie, you're so random!" a voice echoed in the darkness.

Pinkie ran in the direction the color had come from. The light remained fixed on her, giving the impression she was running in place.

"Okay, so I'm random. You say that because you're my friend, right?"

An all too unkind laugh sounded from behind Pinkie.

"Sure, Pinkie. Sure."

The barest hint of white flickered beside Pinkie before disappearing into the gloom.

"Pinkie, darling, your parties are so... gauche."

Pinkie turned and sprinted in that direction. Luna realized she really wasn't moving, at least not with respect to Luna.

"But you have fun, right? You always tell me how much fun you have!"

"Of course," the sarcastic reply came. "Fun. Overly loud music, sickeningly sweet pastries, and garish decorations. How could I not have fun?"

A flash of pink and yellow came and went. Pinkie skid to a halt, trying to follow the new cue.

"No," a whisper said. "Too loud. Too much. No more, please."

"But I'd never do that to you!" wailed Pinkie. "You're my friend! Come back, please!"

Enough was enough.

"Pinkie Pie! This is a dream. It's not real."

"L-Luna?" a frighteningly timid Pinkie asked. "A-are you going to leave me too?

Luna opened her mouth to reply, but no words would come forth.

She cleared her throat and tried again.

"This isn't real, Pinkie Pie. This is a dream. You can face your fears here and bring them back if you want. You just need to believe."

"This isn't real?" Pinkie asked. "Are you real?"

"Yes, Pinkie Pie. I am real."

"Then is she real too?" Pinkie asked, pointing behind Luna.

Luna turned, confused. There, in the shadows, was the Nightmare.

Luna felt her blood turn to ice water. Her hooves all went numb.

"N-no," Luna stammered. "Y-you can't be here."


It was Pinkie's dream. It was Pinkie's Nightmare. The realization eased some of Luna's terror, but the feeling that the Nightmare was chasing her through The Dreaming did not cease. First she appeared in her own dreams, then Fluttershy's, now this. It was too much.

"You're scared of her," Pinkie said from beside Luna. It was not a question. Pinkie's coat was a bit more vibrant, and her hair a little springier, though still mostly straight.

"More than anything in the world."

"Well, Grandma Pie always taught me to laugh at what I'm scared of."

"How do I laugh in the face of that?" demanded Luna. "Besides, she is madness, and she laughs. If I allow myself to.... What I mean is, can she...."

"Just because she laughs doesn't mean laughter is bad," Pinkie said, "or that it means you're going mad, or that she can use it to control you. Everypony needs to laugh. You gotta let go sometime. I think we just need to give you something to laugh about."

Luna stared at the Nightmare, who glared back at her malevolently.

"What could I possibly laugh about?"

"Well," Pinkie mused, "what if we gave Nightmare Moon a red clown nose?"

"A red clown... nose...?"

Immediately, a bulbous red nose appeared at the end of the Nightmare's snout.

The Nightmare reared back.


"OH! OH!" cried Pinkie, "I betcha it squeaks!"

Pinkie zipped over to the Nightmare and hopped into the air, hovering in place before the Nightmare's face just long enough to extend a hoof and boop the red nose.


Pinkie zoomed back to beside Luna.

Luna gaped at the Nightmare. It was inane. It was ridiculous. It was insane.


The Nightmare reached up to probe the red nose.


"OOH!" Luna looked down to see the now curly coiffed pink pony pronking happily in place. "We should totally give her floppy clown shoes!"

Luna looked back to see the Nightmare's hooves were now encased in floppy shoes.

The Nightmare looked in horror at the hoof she had been touching her nose with only moments before. The shoe sagged and flopped back and forth on the end of her foreleg.


The Nightmare stomped forward two paces before realizing the obvious; that floppy clown shoes were detrimental to the forward locomotion of hooved creatures. She stumbled over the shoes as they flopped this way and that, and tripped forward, face-planting into the ground.


"THIS INDIGNITY SHALL NOT STAND!" raged the Nightmare.

"Nor shall you, apparently."

Luna wasn't even aware she was speaking.

"Oh, that was a good one," Pinkie giggled.


Pinkie began laughing.

Luna stared at the Nightmare flailing on the ground. She felt a corner of her mouth curl.

The Nightmare managed to scramble to her hooves, only to pitch forward again as one of the shoes folded itself under her hoof. She landed chin first on the ground.


Luna felt a chuckle begin to bubble up inside her.

The Nightmare rolled onto her back and struggled with the shoes, trying to remove them. They flapped back and forth as she waved her legs in the air in her attempt to rid herself of them.

The chuckle Luna was holding back burst forth. Almost immediately it became a laugh. The laugh grew. The laugh grew some more. Soon Luna was on her haunches, gripping her sides as the laughter spilled forth without apparent end. Luna couldn't help it. It was too absurd.

Luna fell to the ground, tears filling her eyes. She gasped for breath between guffaws, desperate for air. Her sides hurt. She couldn't breathe. It was joyous.

Luna rolled back and forth on her back, kicking her rear legs and cackling like a madpony.

"I knew it was in there somewhere," Pinkie said happily.

Eventually Luna wore herself out from the laughter and simply lied there, gasping for breath. It occurred to Luna that that was the first time she'd really laughed since her return.

She blinked a few times to clear her eyes and looked around. The Nightmare was nowhere to be seen.

"Gee, Luna, you must have really needed that."

"I suppose I did," Luna replied. She rolled to her hooves and stood. Her sides ached. "I was supposed to be helping you," she said.

"Silly filly," Pinkie said, "you did! I was sad and you came and told me this was a dream and let me know I wasn't alone! Then I noticed I could help you, too. That's what friends do; they help each other."

"Yes," Luna said, "they do, don't they? And I am thy friend."


"Thank you for reminding me how to laugh, Pinkie Pie."

"That was super duper fun! I'm totally going to invite you to the next party!"

"I look forward to it. For now, however, I should take my leave."

"Aw, don't leave yet," Pinkie pleaded. "Now that I know this is a dream we can do all sorts of super awesome stuff! Besides, we haven't talked about you talking to a doctor yet."

"I have not yet. We shall speak of it another time. For now I must leave thee."

"Okie Dokie, Loki!"

Luna stepped out of Pinkie's dream before she could follow up on her question. Perhaps Luna had patrolled enough of the Dreaming for one night.


"Sometimes laughing helps you face what you're afraid of, that's all."


"Of course! I love making ponies laugh and making sure everypony is having a good time! That's why I'm Ponyville's number one party planner."


"Silly Luna, I already know how to laugh. I reminded you, remember?"


Pinkie Pie began to chuckle.


The chuckle became a laugh.


Pinkie laughed as though possessed. Her eyes were wide with horror, but the laughter continued to pour out. She pawed her face with her hooves, as though questioning it still belonged to her.


Pinkie Pie fell to the ground. She twitched on the ground, her eyes full of despair. Luna imagined a living marionette realizing her strings were cut, and understanding she would never be whole again.

Pinkie's eyes went vacant, but still the mad laughter poured out of her.

Luna stared in horror at the sight before her. She opened her mouth to scream, but all that came out was laughter.

Luna flew up to her perch, but to her surprise it was already occupied by a young lavender unicorn.

Luna landed gently on the balcony, aware of the role reversal.

Twilight watched the Moon.

"I love astronomy," she said. "I even have a telescope in my bedroom at the library. The movement of the Moon and stars fascinates me. But I don't think I appreciate enough just how beautiful it all is."

Luna turned to look at the night sky from her current spot on the balcony.

"Indeed. The Moon and stars are quite lovely from here. It is easy to forget the Moon is a barren, lifeless rock. I've often found it true that the idea of something is usually better than the actual thing itself. Too much knowledge of something can be detrimental to its enjoyment."

She turned back to face Twilight.

Twilight looked down at Luna.

"Is the idea of me better than the real me?" Twilight asked.

"Not in the slightest. But what about thee, Twilight? Hast thou found thy idea of a princess better than the princess in fact?"

"I admit you're much different than I expected you to be when we first met, and you're different from Princess Celestia." Twilight paused and cocked her head slightly. "I like the real you better."

"Better than my sister?"

"Better than the 'you' I expected. You are a real pony. Somepony with thoughts and feelings. Somepony I can share things with. I wouldn't trade the real you for anything."

Luna turned back to the Moon, hoping her blush didn't show as she felt her face heat.

She turned back to Twilight.

"How didst thou get up there, Twilight?"

"I just used my teleport," she replied. "I'd have done it before, but well... I didn't think about it. I know slate can be slippery, so I took precautions. I was thinking about how to get a better grip on the roof tiles, and at first I thought 'bubblegum', but I realized I'd be leaving gum everywhere, and it would be a pain to get it off my hooves. So then I tried to think about other things that would give me good grip... and... well... I was talking to Pinkie Pie, and she was getting ready for a party... and..."

Luna realized Twilight's hooves were each different colored.

"Twilight, don't tell me those are-"

"Balloons. I put balloons on my hooves. I had to cut the narrow ends off, of course, but the rubber from the balloons gives me a better coefficient of friction to the slate roof tiles. I was skeptical at first, but-"

Luna couldn't contain her laughter any longer. She reared back and let out a full, hearty laugh.

Luna spread her wings and leapt into the air, swooping around and scooping Twilight into an embrace from behind before dropping herself onto the roof.

"Twilight, my sister once called thee a treasure, and a treasure thou art."

Twilight ducked her head.

"You think the balloons are silly, don't you?"

"They are a bit silly," Luna agreed, "but they are also ingenious. One does not invalidate the other. Perhaps if thou hadst used four of the same color?"

"Oh. I hadn't thought of that."

"And that is one of the many ways in which thou art an absolute treasure."

Twilight snuggled back into Luna's embrace, savoring the contact and the shared body heat in the exposed perch she found herself on. Luna, for her part, wrapped her wings around them, protecting Twilight from the worst of the wind.

Twilight looked to the sky, searching the stars.

"There's Sleipnir the Warrior," she said, gesturing with her head.

"Indeed. A fine constellation. And there is Rolan the Wise to the east."

Twilight looked for the signature line of stars which formed Rolan's spine.

"Ah. There he is."

Luna craned her neck.

"That means.... Ah. There, between them. Binky."

"Wait, there's a constellation called 'Binky'?"

"Binky the Dark. Hast thou not heard of him?"

Twilight twisted her neck to give Luna a skeptical eye.

"You're pulling my hind leg."

"I do not. Binky the Dark was an honored figure long ago. He is a psychopomp."

"Now I know you're making this up. Okay, I’ll bite, what's a psychopomp?"

"A psychopomp is a guide for the departed. Binky escorts their souls to whatever lies beyond."

Twilight shivered despite the warmth of Luna's wings.

"That's a bit morbid."

"Not at all," assured Luna. "I've always seen hope in Binky. It was always said he was kind and caring, so that in our loneliest hour we might not be truly alone. That there might be somepony there to keep us company even in the end. It is all lies, of course, but more pleasant to believe than the alternative."

"You don't really believe that, do you?"

"What proof do we have of what comes after? None. There is no proof. There is no fact. There is only faith. Once I thought that faith was enough. After a millennium of exile, however, I find it hard to have faith in anything."

"You have faith in me, don't you?" Twilight asked softly.

Luna nuzzled Twilight's head.

"I trust thee, but it was trust earned slowly and painfully. It was tested and proven sound over and over again. Faith isn't blind, but it isn't knowing either. It is belief in the absence of the provable."

"You talk like faith is bad."

"Then I speak wrongly. Faith is not bad. It's a life raft in the sea of the unknowable. It's simply... difficult for me now."

Luna raised her head back to the night sky.

"I hope Binky exists. I hope for the sake of the friends and loves I've lost. I hope he is as kind as they say, and that in their final moments they were not alone."

Luna rested her nose on Twilight's head, and squeezed the smaller mare even tighter for a moment before returning her eyes to the sky.

She blinked away tears that kept threatening to collect in her eyes.

"There. There's Bill the Stout."

"Oh, now you are messing with me. There's no way there's a constellation called 'Bill the Stout'.

"I do no such thing. There," Luna pointed a hoof. "See how those six stars up from Sleipnir form a bowl? That is his belly."

Twilight stared into the sky.

"Oh, I do see that! Wow, he must really be... um... stout."

"Indeed, but hold that not against him. His tale is one of cleverness and loyalty."

"More clever than Rolan?"

"Rolan is wise. Bill is clever. Wisdom is of the heart, where cleverness is of the mind. The clever seek to solve where the wise seek to understand."

"Hmmm.... Oh, there's Arion the Swift rising."

"Very good, Twilight. I'd not have expected the story of Arion to have endured to this age."

"I don't really know the story, I just recognize the stars."

"The constellations used to be a way to keep the stories alive. Strange that the constellations would survive after the stories have been forgotten."

"W-would you tell me the story?" Twilight asked softly.

"I.... It's been so long since I've recounted the tale. I'm not sure I...."


"Very well."

Luna closed her eyes and took a deep breath, feeling the cool night air fill her lungs. She exhaled slowly, trying to slow her suddenly racing heart and clear her mind.

"Arion was the foal of Poseidon of the Sea and either Demeter of the Harvest, or Gaia of the Earth, depending on the tale. Arion was an earth pony, but blessed with a swiftness none could match, not even the fastest pegasus. His story truly began, however, the day he met King Adrastus of Argos."

Luna paused, taking another breath and trying to reframe her mind. It was one thing to speak of ponies and places long forgotten, but it was another to weave a story. Once, Luna had been known for her ability to tell stories. They used to be events that ponies would flock to. As the Princess of Night and Dreams and Illusion, her flair for creating a tapestry of pictures in the minds of those who listened was known far and wide.

Now, however, a millennium later, with an audience of one, Luna had never been more nervous before starting a story.

Luna closed her eyes, trying to see the story in her mind.

"It was fall when Arion met Adrastus. The air was cool and crisp, and the leaves had nearly finished falling from the trees..."

Luna wove the tale of Arion the Swift until late into the night, and when she'd finished, she realized Twilight was asleep in her forelegs. Luna smiled down at the sleeping unicorn, and simply sat for a while before carrying Twilight to her room.

There was no answer at the door.

Luna immediately began to regret not sending Twilight a letter to see if she would be around. The fact that she hadn't up to this point now seemed like unnecessary risks which had now caught up with her.

The library was dark. Either she was asleep, which was unlikely considering it was still relatively early, or she was out.

Luna knocked on the door once more just to be certain.

Silence was her response.

Luna turned and looked out into the streets of Ponyville feeling rather foalish. It was a pleasant enough evening. Here on the ground it was refreshingly cool without being cold yet, and the sky was clear, showing the tapestry of stars above them.

Unfortunately it seemed most ponies did not share her pleasure in the sea of stars. There were still a few ponies out finishing up their errands, but for the most part the streets were deserted. While Luna had heard certain clubs did brisk business after dark, it did little to appease her. It seemed that they were still hiding from the beautiful night, enclosed in their windowless hives.

Some things, it seemed, never changed.

In a brief fit of frustration, Luna kicked with her hind leg, shaking the library on its foundation.

"Wha? WHOA!"

Luna looked up just in time to see several colored orbs just before they impacted her face.


The orbs burst, dowsing Luna in tepid water.

Luna ducked her head, blinking her eyes to clear the water from them. Something light impacted her head, impaling itself on her horn.

Luna looked up again. Something else was falling. This last item she managed to catch in her magic. It turned out to be a blue pegasus with a rainbow mane.

"Oh. Princess Luna. Heheh... hee hee hahahahahahaha!"

The pegasus rocked in laughter, seeing the drenched Luna.

Luna let go with her magic.

"OOF!" complained the pegasus.

"So, Rainbow Dash, I have you to thank for my current state?"

Rainbow Dash picked herself up from the ground, rubbing her rear end.

"Ya didn't hafta drop-*snrk*"

Rainbow brought her hooves to her muzzle, trying to stifle another bout of laughter.

Luna sat with a sigh, and probed her horn. She pulled away the object stuck there. It was a wicker basket, which had assumedly once held the water balloons which struck Luna.

Luna sighed again. Tonight was not starting well.

"What's the matter, Princess Luna? Can't take a jo-"

"Luna," she interrupted.


"Simply 'Luna' will do. I have no need to be constantly reminded of my failure as a princess."


Luna shook what water she could from her head and mane.

"I suppose there's an explanation for my being accosted."

"Huh? Oh. Today was me and Pinkie's prank day. After dinner I realized I had some water balloons left, and I was camping out in the tree waiting for a chance to surprise somepony, and I kinda... fell asleep. Sorta."

"I see."

"Hey, you're the one who shook the tree. Don't blame this on me!"

"Would you happen to know where Twilight is?" Luna asked.

"She went to listen to some egghead talk in Manehatten. She didn't tell you?"

She might have, Luna admitted to herself. Luna could have easily forgot. It seemed so easy to forget things these days.

"You and Pinkie have a prank day?"

"Yeah. Once a week. We try to mix up the day. Ya gotta keep 'em guessing, y'know?"

"True. A good prank breaks the mundanity. It must never become routine or expected."

Rainbow Dash gave Luna a skeptical look.

"Don't tell me you've pranked ponies," she said.

"Indeed. I was quite the consummate prankster once upon a time. My antics were the stuff of legend."

"No way. Nuh-uh. I don't believe you could possibly be a prankster."

"As you wish."

Luna smothered an urge to smirk as she saw the frustration and speculation war in Rainbow Dash's eyes.

"No way. You don't get to leave it like that. If you were such a prankster, prove it!"

"It was a long time ago, Rainbow Dash. That was before your great, great, great, great grandparents were foals."

"I knew it! You're just full of hot air."

"You won't goad me either, Rainbow Dash. Any pride you might have injured was left on the Moon."

"Yeah, yeah. I should have known you're all talk. Just like that thing with Flutters, you talk a good game, but if somepony challenges you, you fold like a deck of cards."

Luna surprised herself by getting irked at this.

"I have nothing to prove to you, Rainbow Dash!" she said more forcefully than she'd intended.

"I think you do."

Luna and Rainbow Dash glared at each other. The moment drew out, neither one willing to give an inch.

"Very well," Luna submitted.

"Alright!" Rainbow Dash crowed.

"Rainbow Dash, I am about to teach you a very important lesson."


"Never get into a prank war against somepony with magic. You will lose. Now, let us go find our first victim."

"You sure this will work?" Rainbow asked skeptically. "I mean it's just a scarecrow with a jack-o'-lantern for a head."

"Quite sure. In the gloom, under the shadows, the mind will make it live. Panic will make it horrific."

Luna carefully lowered a curtain over the figure, making sure it covered its gruesome visage, but would not snag when pulled away.

"Yeah, okay, so we knock on the door, he comes out, we pull the sheet, he yells and runs back inside. That doesn't seem all that awesome."

Luna stepped back to survey her handiwork.

"You may change your mind once we use this," she said, holding up a small piece of quartz they'd gotten from Rarity.

"Okay, I give. What's that for?"

"I put a spell on it. The quartz is low quality, so it might fire two or three times, but it should be enough."

"Fire what?"

Luna smiled.

"Just pull the curtain after I get this on the ground behind him. Ready?"

Rainbow Dash grabbed a rope tied to a corner of the curtain and flew into the air.

Luna knocked on the door and stepped back into the shadows.

The door opened.

Luna hastily levitated the crystal behind the pony and dropped it to the ground.

"Hello?" he asked.

Rainbow Dash pulled the rope, revealing the straw-filled monster.


The pony jumped back before turning to run back into his house.

There was a flash.

The pony emerged back out of the house at a run.

"AAAAH!" he screamed, seeing the monster again in front of him. He turned, ears back and head down, and ran back through his door.

There was another flash.

Again the pony emerged from his house. This time he almost collided with the scarecrow.


Sliding on his hooves, he turned and ran once more into his house, this time slamming the door behind him.

Lights began to appear in the surrounding houses as ponies emerged to investigate the commotion.

"Quickly! Drop the curtain!" hissed Luna.

Rainbow Dash dropped the rope, and the scarecrow was once again obscured.

Luna grabbed it with her magic and pulled it into the shadows with her.

A blue figure dropped to the ground beside her.

"OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH!" she whispered excitedly. "That was so awesome! How did you do that?"

"The quartz held a modified teleport spell. It turned him around every time he walked over it."

Rainbow snickered in the darkness.

Luna watched carefully as the curious began to lose interest and went back into their homes.

"I think we are safe," Luna said.

Carefully she crept to the door of the last victim and slipped a token into his mail slot.

Satisfied, she snuck away, Scarecrow and Rainbow Dash in tow.

"You've been doing that all night. What are those?" Rainbow asked.

"They are tax exemptions. My sister and I often used them as rewards for service in the past. I expect the practice has fallen out of use?"

Rainbow Dash shrugged.

"Pity. I will make sure they are honored. Some of my pranks can be... harrowing. This is my way of balancing accounts."

“What about that paper thingy you gave the spa sisters?”

Luna raised an eyebrow at Rainbow Dash.

“I hear things.”

“Mmm,” Luna grunted. “That was a Royal Favor. It was a mark of service to the Sisters. The chit is more… vulgar. It is money, plain and simple. It is also a single use item. Before I left, the marks of favor my sister and I gave were often passed down from parent to child or remained with a business until its closing.”

The pair turned onto the road out of Ponyville and out to Sweet Apple Acres.

Rainbow paused to look at the pilfered scarecrow.

"I don't suppose Applejack would really miss you, would she?"

Rainbow pulled the pumpkin from the scarecrow's neck and stared into its face.

"I mean, one less scarecrow won't make that much of a difference, right? 'Cause you and me, kid, we could go places."

"If it means that much to you, I could always get you one for hearth's warming," Luna told the pegasus.

"Heh. That'd be awesome."

Rainbow sighed and tossed the pumpkin off to the side of the road.

"Eh, we'd better take you back with your real head."

"STOP RIGHT THERE!" somepony shouted, running down the road.

Luna hastily stepped back into the shadows, pulling them around her and obscuring her features.

"I've got you now, you delinquent!" the newcomer said as she approached. "You're not going to get away with those stunts you pulled tonight. I have half a mind to call the Royal Guard!"

"Hey," Rainbow cried, "cool it. We were just having a little fun. Nopony got hurt."

"We'll see what the Guard has to say about your 'fun'," the pony snarled, grabbing Rainbow Dash.

"Please unhoof my companion," Luna said.

"Two of you, eh?" the pony said, rounding to face Luna and wrenching Rainbow to the ground by a foreleg. "The Guard can take both of you."

Luna let go of the shadows and stepped into the relative brightness of the Moonlight.

"If you think that's necessary," she said. "But as my companion said, nopony got hurt, and those who received the pranks were compensated."


"Luna," Luna supplied helpfully. "Indeed, I am. If you wish to call the Royal Guard, that is your right, however I believe we can resolve this without their intervention."

"N-n-no... No, that's okay. I... I didn't..." The pony paled and backed away slowly.

"If any of the victims of this evening's frivolities feel then have not been sufficiently recompensed, I will make amends in whatever way they feel appropriate."

"N-no, please! I... I didn't mean it!"

"Didn't mean what?" Luna asked, confused. "Didn't mean to care about what happened to your neighbors? I find no fault in that."

"Please don't hurt me!" she whined.

"Peace, pony. I've made no threat against you."

The pony backed up further, her legs shaking so badly Luna was surprised she managed to remain upright.

Luna sighed, feeling the blackness welling up inside her.

"Perhaps the scarecrow wasn't necessary."

The nobles and staff were nervous around her. That, at least, she was used to. Terror? Terror was still treacherous terrain she struggled to navigate.

Luna shrank back into herself, wishing she'd not come to Ponyville.

"HEY," Rainbow Dash interrupted, putting herself between the pony and Luna. "You leave Luna alone. I'm the one who convinced her to go pranking. She's a good pony. She helped Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie with nightmares they'd been having, and I heard other ponies had the same thing happen even if they didn't know it was her. So, you leave her alone. She's looking out for ponies, not going around scaring them. Uh, you know, other than tonight... so… so lay off!"

Luna watched as fear and anger warred on the pony's face. Luna remained quiet. The mere act of speaking seemed like it would only make matters worse.

"Fine!" the pony exclaimed finally. "I... I.... Just... FINE!"
She turned and stomped off on wobbly legs.

Luna watched her leave, making a mental note to watch her dreams. Perhaps she could yet make amends.

She turned back to Rainbow Dash.

"Thank you for your words of support."

"Yeah, yeah. Let's just get this back to Applejack. It's getting late, and I've got weather duty in the morning."

Luna lifted the headless scarecrow with her magic, and the pair trotted off down the road.

Silence stretched out between them for a time.

"So," Luna said, the silence becoming too much, "you knew of Fluttershy's and Pinkie Pie's dreams."

"Well duh," Rainbow responded. "We're friends. We tell each other things."

"And you heard about my other... excursions."

"Yeah, I hear things. Ponies talk to The Dash, and... and they don't always look up when they're gossiping."

The pair walked a bit further.

Rainbow stopped and rounded on Luna.

"Look, I don't know what went on between you and Flutters, but I know you scared her, and I don't like it."

Rainbow Dash sat. Her shoulders and face relaxed, and her eyes went distant.

"I also know she forgave you, and since then she's been trying harder to get out more, which is good. I was getting worried about her for a while there. So, whatever happened seems like it was good for her."

Rainbow's eyes focused sharply on Luna.

"Don't for a minute think that gets you off the hook."

Her eyes softened.

"Look, I don't get you... but I don't really get Twilight or Rarity either, and nopony gets Pinkie... so... I meant what I said. If you're not a good pony, you're trying to be. What I'm trying to say is... friends?"

Rainbow Dash extended a hoof and looked at Luna expectantly.

Luna raised an eyebrow.

"Hoof bump. You're supposed to bump my hoof with yours."

Luna stepped forward and tapped Rainbow's hoof with her own.

"That's what I'm talkin' about. Now, let's get this stuff back."

"I can manage on my own if thou likest," Luna offered. "Thou needest thy rest for thy morning duty."

"Nah," Rainbow said. "It won't be the first time I've gone to work without sleep. Besides, I'd never leave a friend hangin'."

"Thou hast my oath. Neither shall I."

Chapter 12: Misplaced

View Online

Twilight reached the balcony which had become so familiar through her time with Luna. Today, however, it held something new, something disturbing.

"No, I'm not saying you're overreacting, but you need to calm down so we can talk about this!"

Princess Celestia sat on the roof of the tower, a rock in the midst of a raging storm.

Luna was the storm.

"This will not be fixed with words, sister, and perhaps if thou were less calm, I might believe thou were taking this seriously!"

Luna was on her hooves, pacing furiously. She was in constant motion, stomping, twitching, and flapping her wings to emphasize her words.

Twilight had seen Rainbow Dash acting agitated when she felt confined or grounded too long and needed to feel the wind in her mane, but it was nothing compared to this.

Luna was such a font of furious energy that Twilight was surprised the air around her wasn't crackling with electricity.

"Am... am I interrupting?" she asked timidly.

"Twilight," Celestia gasped in relief, "thank goodness you're here. Perhaps you can talk sense into my sister. She refuses to listen to me."

Luna stomped her hoof, shattering the slate roof tile beneath her.

"Thou art not listening to me!" she cried.

"Wha-what's going on?" Twilight asked.

"Luna's been having dreams about Nightmare Moon," Celestia said.

"They were not mere dreams!" Luna interrupted.

"Yes, you're right, but until something a little more concrete happens I don't think we should be panicking."

"When should we panic, Celestia? When it is too late to prevent disaster? When ponies have died?"

"We shouldn't panic at all! Luna, you need to calm down!"

"You've been having bad dreams, Luna?" Twilight interjected.

This, finally, made Luna pause, if only for a moment.

"Yes, Twilight, I've had dreams of the Nightmare. I thought not to worry thee about things outside thy control."

"You should have told us," Twilight accused. "We could have done something. We stopped Nightmare Moon once..."

"Dost thou think she would be so easily overcome a second time? That she would learn nothing? I am trying to protect thee, Twilight. Protect our friends! Dost thou not understand that you would be her first victims? The elements have been used against her twice now. She is not so foalish as to allow a third."

"Luna, really." Celestia rebuked. "You act like you're just going to suddenly transform into a monster and go on a rampage. The sheer fact that you're worried about this makes it less likely that it will happen!"

"I think Celestia's right, Luna," Twilight added. "I know you love us. You're worried about our safety. How could you suddenly forget that and become a murderous demon? I know you're worried, but-"


Luna stopped. She dropped backwards onto her rump, and place a hoof to her mouth. Her eyes were wide and afraid, and her face paled as she began shaking.

"Luna?" Twilight asked as she recovered from the verbal onslaught. "Are… are you okay?"

Luna merely sat, staring at nothing as her shivers continued.

“Twilight,” Celestia said gently, “why don’t you take Luna back to her room. It’s getting late, and I think Luna should return to bed.”

Twilight nodded.

“Come on, Luna,” Twilight said. “Let’s get you back to bed.”

Luna remained still, as if she had not heard.

“Luna?” Twilight asked. “Please?”

“Go on, sister,” Celestia prodded. “Nothing shall harm you while I keep watch. Go. Get some sleep. We’ll talk about this again this evening.”

Luna gave the barest hint of a nod. Had Twilight not been watching carefully, she might have missed it.

Slowly, like cold molasses pouring from an overturned jar, Luna began to move. Eyes unfocused, moving as though in a daze, Luna stumbled her way off the roof and onto the balcony. Immediately, Twilight was at her side, guiding her inside and down the stairs.

Twilight clenched her teeth in frustration. It was like guiding a foal. Luna moved slowly and unsteadily, barely paying attention to her surroundings. She stumbled often, clipping walls and, at least once, nearly tumbling down the tower stairs. Twilight resisted the urge to yell, however. Luna had experienced something which disturbed her greatly. She need empathy, not chastising.

After no small amount of time, and a great deal of patience on Twilight’s part, they made it to Luna’s room.

Twilight coaxed the larger mare into bed.

“There,” she said softly. “Safe in bed at last. Will you be alright on your own?”

Luna nodded in that barely perceptible way.

Twilight nuzzled Luna’s forehead.

“Everything will be okay,” she assured Luna. “We won’t let anything happen to you.”

With that, she left. She hated leaving Luna in such a state, but there was little more that she could do for Luna aside from just being available. She’d make as much time for her friend as she could, she vowed to herself, but for now it seemed best to just let her sleep.

Twilight gently knocked on the door to Luna’s bedroom.

“Luna, are you awake?”

She received no answer. This posed a problem, Twilight decided as she stood waiting, Luna’s breakfast levitating beside her. She wanted to make sure Luna was okay, and also to make sure she ate, but entering her room without permission meant taking liberties that Twilight wasn’t entirely uncomfortable with.

She knocked again.


She looked back and forth between the food and the door. Was it worth the breach of privacy to make sure Luna was okay? Would Luna be upset with her? Twilight shuffled her hooves, feeling anxious.

The most important thing, Twilight decided, was that she made sure Luna was well, and ate.

Decision made, she turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open.

The room greedily swallowed all light, allowing nothing to cut the gloom within. Cautiously, Twilight stepped inside.

Luna’s bed was conspicuously empty, and, oddly, her blanket was missing as well. Worry knotted in Twilight’s chest. She carefully placed the plate of food on Luna’s nightstand and used her magic to create an orb of soft light. As soon as she did so, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye.

There, sitting in the corner, blanket draped over her shoulders like a cloak, was Luna, blinking and recoiling from even the pitiful light from Twilight's orb.

“Luna!” Twilight cried softly. “Why didn’t you…”

Twilight hesitated, looking Luna over. She huddled on the floor, looking very small. It was an odd sort of posture; neither cold nor fearful, yet withdrawn, as though she were wrapped around herself. Walled off.

“Luna,” Twilight started again, “I brought you some breakfast. Come eat.”

Luna gave a slow, subtle shake of the head.

“Come on, Luna,” Twilight encouraged. “You know you have to eat something.”

“Leave me.” Luna’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“I’m sorry?”

“Leave me,” Luna repeated. “Leave this place. Go back to your friends and your family. I’m a danger to all you hold dear.”

“I feel like we’ve done this before,” Twilight chided.

“Indeed, and despite your protestations, my concerns have not been disproven. What would you do, Twilight, if the Nightmare surfaced now? In this place? What would you do? Your friends, the other Element bearers, are far from here. Would you go to my sister? Would you stand and fight?”

Twilight shook her head.

“I’m not going to sit here and play ‘what if’ with you,” she said. “I’m not worried about Nightmare Moon. Do you know why? Because I saw what happened after the Elements were used against her. I saw an impossibly young looking princess throw herself into the forelegs of her sister, like a yearling looking for her mother. I saw her cry in her sister’s forelegs, looking very lost, and wanting nothing more than to be accepted. To be loved. That’s why Nightmare Moon doesn’t frighten me. I know who she really is.”

Luna shook her head.

“You are mistaken,” she said. “The Nightmare is not that foal. I’m fractured inside. Broken. Like there’s an infection growing under the surface unseen.”

“You can’t chase me away that easily, Luna.”

“I’ve depended on you so much. Too much. If I had not been a princess, if I had not been your favored mentor’s sister, would you have still been my friend? Would you even have given me a second look?”

“I…” Twilight hesitated. “I don’t know. I can’t know. I like to think so. I said I’m not going to play ‘what if’ with you and I meant it. I don’t care how much you worry, how much you push, or how much you try to run away. I’m not going to give up on you.”

“I don’t deserve your attention, Twilight.”

“Pffft,” Twilight replied. “Of course you do. I have faith in you, even if you don’t.”

“Then woe be unto you the day you find your faith is misplaced.”

It was one of those rare occasions where Twilight gave thanks for her flexible schedule. Twilight loved Ponyville, and the ponies therein, but despite all their many admirable qualities they were not avid readers. Usually this irked Twilight to no end. She savored the moments she could share her love of books because they were few and far between. Today, however, she appreciated their... less than studious natures, because it allowed her to spend the entire week in Canterlot spending time with Luna without worrying that the Library was unattended.

Twilight knocked on the aforementioned princess's door before pushing it open.

“Ah,” Luna said, turning to greet her visitor, “Twilight. Please, make thyself at home. I'm just doing some cleaning up.”

Luna smiled serenely. It looked out of place on her normally angry or expressionless face. It was the calmest Twilight had ever seen her.

“Doesn't the palace staff usually handle that?” Twilight asked, settling herself in a chair. It was good to see Luna up and about. This was the most active, the most normal Twilight had seen her all week.

“They keep the room clean, yes, but they leave personal items untouched. That leaves it to me to attend to the rest, and rightly so. Some things are too important to leave in the hooves of others.”

Luna gestured to several small piles on her bed.

“Borrowed things that need returning,” she said. “Precious things that need careful storing, so as not to be damaged, and...”

She paused, her voice thickening.

“Things too precious to store. Things that need care. Things that should be placed in the care of others should I not be able to care for them myself.”

Twilight frowned. Something was wrong, both with Luna's voice, and her actions. She wasn't cold exactly, but... distant. Removed.

“But why are you getting rid of them if they're so important?”

“I'm not getting rid of them, Twilight,” Luna assured her. “I'm simply getting them out of my room. After so much time on the Moon, a spartan lifestyle suits me. Having so many things cluttering my room has been making me anxious.”

“Besides,” she said, turning back to Twilight, “many of these things are too important to keep to myself. Take this for example.”

Luna plucked a book from the third pile. It was ancient, but in remarkably good condition.

“I believe this should be placed in thy care.”

“Wha... what is it?” Twilight asked, awed by the weighty tome.

“That, Twilight, is the entirety of my poetic work. That is my personal journal of every scrap of drivel, and every horrific verse that I have ever written. Celestia kept it squirreled away, and only returned it to me recently. I think it was an attempt to embarrass me.”

Luna touched the cover gently with her hoof before levitating it to Twilight.

“Personally, I think it should be burned as an affront to language, but I can't bring myself to destroy it. It's too much of a reminder of a more innocent time.”

Twilight grasped the book tenderly, as though afraid it would disintegrate in her hooves.

“Luna, I... I can't accept this. This is too....”

“And yet thou must,” Luna replied. “It belongs with somepony who will truly appreciate it. As a lover of books, I can think of no better hooves than thine.”

“Just...” Luna added hastily, “just don't read it to anypony. At least, not if you care for them.”

Twilight strolled down the hallway, tome in tow, mulling over Luna's odd behavior. Luna was very good at being still, Twilight had noticed. She supposed it had to do with being on the Moon with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Even when she was still, however, she was never what Twilight considered calm. She was usually annoyed, often angry, and occasionally bored, but never calm. Never peaceful.

Perhaps, Twilight thought, she was finally accepting her existence in modern Equestria.

“Oh, hello, Twilight,” a pleasant voice shook Twilight from her musings. “What do you have there?”

“Hi P-”
Twilight shot a look up and down the hallway, ensuring they were alone.
“Hi Celestia! Luna gave me a book of her poetry!”

“Oh?” A tightness formed around Celestia's eyes. “How remarkable! I expected her to hide it away. You know, she used to corner passing nobles and press them for their opinions. The looks on their faces as they tried not to cringe! It didn't matter who it was; they always had this fake smile plastered on their faces as they looked for a way to escape. It was the funniest thing!”

Celestia raised a hoof to her mouth with a giggle. The giggle faded, and her mouth was a frown when she removed her hoof.

“Still, the poetry made her happy. I gave her the book, hoping she'd remember how happy it made her.”

Celestia tilted her head to the side, pondering Twilight and the book.

“I'm... I'm glad she gave you the book,” she said finally. “I think it shows that there's a real connection between you, and not just because an old busy-body kept pushing the two of you together.”

“I don't think you're old, Celestia,” Twilight assured her, “and I don't think you're a busy-body either.”

“Oh, Twilight,” Celestia said with a chuckle, “I'm the most consummate busy-body in Equestria.”

Twilight stood on the balcony, watching the ritual of the Pony Sisters. The Moon set, and the Sun rose. The week was at its end, and Twilight would soon be on the train back to Ponyville.

One day, Twilight thought, this will make the friendship report to end all friendship reports. For now, however, it was simply enough to spend time with Luna. Reports and the like could wait.

Luna walked up to Twilight, her morning ritual complete.

“I hope the show was not too boring,” Luna said. “Celestia and I tend not to embellish when it is just the two of us.”

“Not at all,” Twilight assured her. “I love the sunrise. I actually don't get to see it much. I'm usually still asleep after all the late-night studying I do.”

“Then I am content,” Luna said in that smooth, serene, irksome voice she'd perfected during the week. “I hope it does not offend thee if I do not see thee to thy train,” Luna said. “I have one more thing to do this morning, and I find myself more tired than I expected.”

“Are you okay?”

“Do not concern thyself,” Luna assured her. “All will be concluded as is just.”

“Um... okay.”

“Well I'll see you to your train, Twilight,” Celestia said chidingly, “even if my little sister is far too busy to.”

“An excellent idea,” Luna encouraged. “Fare thee well. May the wind under thy wings bear thee where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

“Uh... right. Well, goodbye, Luna. See you later!”

Luna merely smiled in reply. It was a serene, yet oddly sad smile. Twilight felt a pang of uncertainty when she saw it, but dismissed it as nothing. She turned and walked beside Celestia, headed for the palace entrance facing the train station.

“Excited to see your friends, Twilight?” Celestia asked. “I’m afraid I’ve been taking up too much of your time lately. You should be free to spend time with your friends like a normal pony without running to my aid at a moment’s notice. I’m very sorry for that.”

“Oh, it’s no bother,” Twilight assured her. “Luna’s not a responsibility, she’s my friend. Besides, the girls understand. Luna’s their friend too.”

Celestia smiled sadly.

“I’m glad she has such good friends. I just wish she would make one on her own. I honestly don’t understand her, and it worries me sometimes. We used to…. Well, I shouldn’t dwell on once was. There’s much that is in the past, but more which will be in the future. Tell me, have you heard from your friends since you’ve been here?”

“Oh, sure. We’ve been sending letters back and forth. I got one just yesterday. You won’t believe what happened….”

It was surreal, but wonderful talking to Celestia like a normal pony, Twilight decided. She’d never have imagined being in this position back when she was a socially awkward student. She had the ear and friendship of the two most important ponies in Equestria. It was heady to think about, and sometimes a bit frightening. Celestia was her idol. She was beautiful, kind, smart, confident, and ponies listened to her. She maintained order through sheer force of personality, without having to resort to threats or punishments. She was everything Twilight wished she could be. She was privileged to even know her, yet here she was, talking with her like it was the most natural thing in the world.

And that was just her relationship with Celestia. It didn’t even begin to describe how she felt about Luna.

“And Rainbow Dash landed in the hay stack head first! So, she tumbles out, and her legs are all shaky, and she’s got hay in her mane, in her tail, everywhere, sticking out every which way. We all run over to make sure she’s okay, and then Pinkie says, ‘If I’d’ve known you were that hungry, we could have stopped for lunch!”

Celestia laughed as they neared the palace gates.

That was when they felt it. For Twilight it was like a wrenching sensation, as though a magical vacuum had been pulled, and all magic in the area was rushing to fill its place. She put her hooves to her ears and yawned, trying to equalize the pressure, even though she knew it to be magical and not physical in nature.

Celestia's eyes grew wide as saucers.

"NO!" Celestia cried. “Don't you dare!”

She turned tail and ran at a full gallop, something Twilight had never seen. Twilight sprinted after her. Celestia crossed the courtyard in record time, her long legs and unreal stamina giving her advantages Twilight could only dream of.

Twilight watched helplessly as Celestia pulled away from her. She pumped her legs harder, trying to keep the Alicorn in sight. There were few things Twilight could think that would spur Celestia to action this way, and the most likely right now had to be…

Luna. It could only be Luna.

Twilight teleported as far forward as she dared, and pushed herself even faster. She was not going to be left behind. She was not going to fall short.

Not when it was Luna.

Twilight stumbled out onto the balcony, her legs screaming in agony and her skull throbbing in protest. She’d almost sobbed when she reached the tower’s spiral staircase, and made perhaps more, riskier teleports than were advisable, but she was here, as was Celestia.

Luna, however, was nowhere to be found.

"Luna,” Celestia cried, “you stupid, selfish, foalish pony, how could you?!?"

Celestia crumpled to the rooftop, her shoulders shaking in silent sobs.

"Ce-Celestia?” Twilight gasped, “Wha... what happened?"

Celestia froze. Slowly she raised herself up to sit demurely in front of Twilight.

Though her eyes were glassy with tears, she looked at Twilight with the serene, benevolent, aloof expression Twilight had come to hate.

"She's gone to the Moon, my little pony," Princess Celestia said in the forced, cheerful voice Twilight had heard for years without truly understanding.

Twilight cringed inside, now seeing the mask for what it was.

"She's locked herself away to prevent Nightmare Moon from harming us. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to make arrangements for her absence."

Twilight gaped in surprise as she watched Celestia step off the roof and glide down to a lower balcony, leaving Twilight alone.

Twilight stood frozen in shock and pain. Her world, which had progressively become a warmer, brighter place lately from her relationships with Luna and Celestia, and suddenly crumbled down around her. Twilight felt numb.

Slowly Twilight's mind began to work.

Twilight was many things, including occasionally naive, neurotic, and easily flustered to the point of being panicky, but one thing she was not, was stupid. When faced with a problem, all her energy went into solving it to the exclusion of all else. If a list or two could be made in the process, so much the better.

Twilight was going to solve this problem. Twilight was good at solving problems. Sometimes she solved them in the most obtuse, counter-productive way possible, which caused more problems, but she always solved the one she set out to.

Twilight's hooves began to move of their own accord, as her mind continued to map the scope of the task at hoof. She didn't need to tell them where to go, they knew already.

There was a problem to solve, and the first place to go was obvious.

Twilight went to the library.

Princess Celestia struck the wooden block with her hoof.

"Let it be so. Please bring in the next petitioner."

She waited patiently for the ponies to leave now that their complaint had been heard and arbitrated, and for the next group to be shown in. She held the benevolent smile on her face that her subjects had come to expect. It was the same as it ever was. It was easy to fall into the routine again. Now, with no obvious looming threats or ominous portents, life could go on as it was wont to do. Ponies came, ponies went. Ponies lived, ponies died. Princess Celestia remained, like a rock watching a flowing river.

The door to the main hall swung open with a bang, and a purple unicorn scrambled in at high speed.

"Celestia! Celestia!" Twilight called.

"Princess Celes-"

"NO TIME!" Twilight interrupted. "I have it! I know what to do, but I need your help."

Princess Celestia raised an eyebrow at the interruption, and gave Twilight a hard look. She didn't like what she saw. The unicorn's eyes were bloodshot and had dark circles under them, and her mane was unkempt. Her legs shook.

"Twilight, when's the last time you slept?" she asked.

"Not sure. What day is it? You know I'd never tried coffee before? Wow, I didn't know what I was missing! I really should have tried it sooner. Think of all the studying I could have gotten done! What time is it? I might be ready for more. I was due for another pot at noon. Heh, noon rhymes with Moon. Moooooon. Moon? Moon! Celestia, I have it, but I need your help! You have to send me to the Moon!"

Princess Celestia gestured her guards to stand down. Most of them knew Twilight, and held a certain amount of affection for the neurotic unicorn, but her agitated state and her proximity to the Princess was making them anxious.

"Twilight, why would I send you to the Moon?" she asked.

"To bring back Luna, of course! I've been studying for- what day is it? But I think I have the barrier spell Luna used when she took me to the Moon. I'm pretty sure it will work. I think. I haven't tested it yet. I just need you to send me there so I can find Luna and bring her back! I know I can. I just need you to send me to the Moon. Heh. Moon rhymes with noon. Noon? Is it noon yet? That means it's time for more coffee. Have you tried coffee? I did, and I think I like it!"

"Please summon Captain Armor," Princess Celestia murmured to a nearby guard. The guard nodded and slipped away silently.

"Twilight, we can talk about this later. Right now I think you need to get some sleep."

"NO! No time. Bring back Luna now. Sleep later."

"You called for me, your Majesty?" Captain Shining Armor said with a bow. "What can I do for-Ooooooooh..."

"Hey Shiny! I'm going to go to the Moon to bring Luna back. Isn't that great? Hey! Have you tried coffee? I wasn't sure about the taste at first, but then I got started getting so much studying done, and now I don't even notice it anymore!"

"Oh. My."

"Captain Armor, would you please take Miss Sparkle to her room and make sure she gets some sleep?" Princess Celestia asked.

"O-of course, your Majesty. Come on, Twily. Let's get you to bed."

Celestia watched the pair leave with some trepidation. Twilight was delirious, that much was certain, but could she do what she claimed?

Celestia wanted very much to believe it.

Princess Celestia didn't dare.

Celestia leaned to a nearby guard.

"Have somepony send a hot toddy to Twilight's room."

She glanced at Shining Armor shepherding Twilight out of the room. She hoped he'd know which pony to use it on.

"On second thought, send two."

"Come on, Twily. Let's get you to bed," Shining Armor said gently.

"No! No time. Must go get Luna. She's been up there too long already. Need to get Luna back."

"Twily, what you really need is sleep. You're worrying everypony."

"Don't need sleep. Just need more coffee. More coffee."

"I think you've had enough coffee."

"No! Need more. Need to stay awake. Study longer. Find a way to get Luna back from the Moon. Moon! I need to talk to Celestia to get to the Moon!"

Twilight darted to the side in an attempt to get around Shining. She stumbled over her hooves. Shining managed to catch her before she hit the ground.

"The Princess will meet you in your room," he told her. "We need to go there."

"Why didn't you say so! She needs to know."

Gently, Shining guided Twilight to her room. A steward was waiting for them outside her door.

"Her Majesty thought Miss Sparkle could use a hot toddy," he said.

"What's that, Shiny?" Twilight asked, staggering over to see the steaming mugs.

"It's medicine for you."

"I don't need medicine. Not sick. Just need more coffee."

"This is better for you than coffee."

Twilight eyed a mug suspiciously.

"Smells funny."

"Twilight, you take your medicine, or I swear I will dose you like a foal."

"Nuh, uh."

"Ok, you asked for it."

Shining grabbed Twilight by the nose and tilted her head back, pinching her nose. As she opened her mouth, he levitated a mug over and dumped it down her throat.

"Gah!" Twilight coughed and sputtered, but swallowed most of the drink.

"Guh, it's hot. It burns."

"Well, if you'd take your medicine like a good filly, I wouldn't have had to do that. Now sit and sip your other mug. The more you drink the better it tastes, I promise."


"We have to wait for the princess anyway, so sit and sip your medicine. Tell me about Princess Luna. I don't really get to see her."

Twilight plopped herself down sulkily.

"Tell me about Princess Luna," Shining repeated.

"She's really nice most of the time. She's been alone so long she sometimes forgets how to be nice, but she really wants to be. She's really pretty, and smart, and when I talk to her she really listens, and doesn't give me that smile like most ponies do that says 'oh, you're just being Twilight.'"

Twilight yawned.

"Sip your medicine," Shining told her. "You've been spending a lot of time with her."

Twilight grimaced, but sipped her toddy.

"You're right. It doesn't taste so bad. Celestia asked me to try to be her friend, so I went and talked to her and realized she really didn't know how. She was a lot like me. She... she really needed a friend. She was lonely. She was lonely, but didn't know how lonely she was. I... I couldn't just let it go after that."

"Sip. So what happened?"

Twilight sipped her toddy.

"My... my hooves feel tingly."

"That's the medicine working. What happened with Princess Luna?"

"She... she's afraid of Nightmare Moon coming back. It scares her a lot. She talks like Nightmare Moon is somepony else, but repeats that it's her. It's really weird. She doesn't want to hurt anypony, but says that Nightmare Moon wants nothing more than to watch Equestria burn. How can she want both?"

Twilight was crashing fast, though whether because of the alcohol or the lack of caffeine, Shining couldn't tell. Her head drooped.

"She... she just left, Shiny. She just left me. I'm her friend and she... how... how could she leave? I.... I... I know she... she was scared.... But.... She...."

"It's okay, Twily. Whatever happened, you still have me and all your Ponyville friends supporting you."

Twilight's head rested on the table.

"But... she said... she said she... she loved me."

"I know she did... wait, what? She said what?!?"


Shining stared at the sleeping unicorn, mouth agape. He shook himself, trying to focus on the moment. Carefully he levitated Twilight out of her seat and into bed.

Kissing her on her forehead, he turned and crept out of the room as quietly as he could, sparing one last glance to his sister.

She was resting peacefully. Everything else could wait until tomorrow.

Though if Princess Luna hurt his sister, they were going to have words, princess or no.

Twilight Sparkle opened her eyes. This turned out to be a mistake.

"Ugh," she moaned, shutting her eyes quickly and throwing her forelegs over her face.

Her eyes felt like they'd been glued shut, the Sun stabbed at them mercilessly, and her head throbbed as though encased in a kettle drum.

"Ooooooh..." she moaned again.

"Sounds like somepony's awake."

That voice sounded familiar.

"Shiny?" she croaked.

"How are you feeling, Twily?"

Twilight ran through her checklist.

"My head hurts like hay, and I'm really stiff."

"I'm not surprised," Shining said with a chuckle. "You've been asleep almost 24 hours."

"I... what?"

"How much do you remember from yesterday?"

"Yesterday? Not much. It's mostly just a blur...." Twilight bolted upright and gasped. "Did I really just barge in in the middle of court?"

"Sure did. You ran in babbling like a madpony, and you addressed the princess without her title in front of everypony. The gossip-mongers are going to be chewing on that one for weeks."

"Ooooh noooooo!"

Twilight flopped back onto the bed and pulled a pillow over her head.

"I'll never be able to show my face in the palace again!"

"Well, never may come sooner than you think," Shining said, levitating over a tray of food. "The princess wants to see you as soon as you're ready."

"Princess Celestia," Twilight said with a bow as she entered the familiar common room, "I apologize for my behavior yesterday."

"Please, Twilight, I told you that you could call me 'Celestia' in private. In the middle of court, however..."

Twilight ducked her head, feeling her face heat.

"What did you mean about bringing Luna back?" Princess Celestia demanded.

"P-princess?" Twilight asked hesitantly. Princess Celestia's demeanor had changed in an instant. Twilight cringed under her gaze, which bore down on her like the desert Sun.

"Did you mean what you said?"

"I... I-"

Twilight jumped as Celestia lunged at her, wrapping her forelegs around her.

"Oh, Twilight. I'm sorry. I... I just want her back so much. Please. You were very adamant yesterday. Please talk to me. Tell me what you were thinking. If there's a chance to bring her back..."

Twilight nuzzled Celestia within the confines of her embrace.

"Of course, P... Celestia."

"Twilight, that sounds like an awful risk," Celestia said, her head resting on her forelegs.

Twilight shook her head from her spot at Celestia's side, sheltered by her left wing. It was a casually intimate position she found herself in. It was hard to equate this in her mind with the aloof, almost cold monarch she'd seen a few days ago when Luna left.

Everypony responded to pain and loss in different ways, Twilight realized. Some attacked. Some retreated.

"As long as I can cast the barrier-"

"Which you haven't tested," interjected Celestia.

"Yes, but when I get there, I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to find her. And I'm pretty sure I know where she'll be."

Celestia shook her head.

"I still can't believe she took you to the Moon."

"She didn't tell you?"

"No. She only said she was showing you something personal... but the Moon!"

"It was.... It wasn't what I expected. I guess it's kind of silly to expect her to have a grand kingdom on the Moon. It's not like you could build a kingdom on the Sun."

"A kingdom on the Sun?" Celestia repeated. "What a ridiculous idea. Nopony can walk on the Sun."

Celestia shook head, trying not to lose track of the conversation.

"But Twilight, if you don't land where you expect, if you don't get the barrier to work, or if you don't find her in time... there are lots of ways this could go very badly."

"I'm pretty sure that where we landed before is some sort of natural focal point. Luna said that's where she landed when you... y'know. And I know right where she'll be. I know I can find her. I know it."

"Where will she be?"

"The Sea of Tranquility. She has a... a..." Twilight searched for a word to describe it. There wasn't one. It wasn't a bed or a nest. It was a place of surrender. Of resignation. It was a...

"...a spot," she finished lamely. "A place where she sleeps. That's where she'll be."

"But if you don't find her I can't bring you back!"

"I'll find her! You send me to the Moon, I cast the barrier, go to the Sea of Tranquility, and bring her back. It's just that easy. Nothing will go wrong."

She was an idiot, Twilight decided.

How long had it taken Luna to know the Moon well enough to know which direction, which looked like every other direction, to go? A century? Two? Three?

It even started out poorly. Twilight remembered Luna saying that the barrier going down would be 'uncomfortable'. Twilight assumed 'uncomfortable' meant it was 'dangerous', but she hadn't anticipated it meaning 'life altering and probably fatal'. There were a few panicky moments after she'd landed on the Moon, when she couldn't breathe and all the warmth was being drained from her skin, and Twilight wondered if she'd made perhaps the last mistake she'd ever make.

It took all her courage and focus to clear her mind long enough to cast the barrier.

The barrier which now pressed on her.

The barrier she had to focus to maintain.

That was another snag. Luna hadn't given any sign of maintaining the barrier. In fact, once she'd cast it, she appeared to pay it no mind. Was this a flaw in Twilight's research? Had she overlooked something? She'd expected to have an hour or more free to rest and recover before the barrier ran out and she might have to recast it. Now she was worried it would last until she ran out of energy, and that would be it for her. That made finding Luna all the more critical.

It also made being lost all the more maddening.

There was a fleeting moment of hope when Twilight happened upon one of the paths worn into the lunar surface, a hope that quickly faded as Twilight traveled for... how long? Twilight couldn't tell, nor could she tell if she was even going the right way down the path.

Twilight hurried down the path as quickly as she could. Even the simple act of trying to gallop was a chore on the Moon. Luna had described it as a cross between a leap and a slow gallop, but that description failed to do it justice. As Twilight stumbled and flipped on her first couple of tries, she thought of it as a cross between the easy, loping gait of a wolf, and the smooth, deceptively quick hop of a gazelle. None of that helped. In the end, Twilight had to find a rhythm and stick to it. She would have counted out the steps in her mind had she not been trying to focus on the spell while navigating the Moon.

There was something up ahead. It was a ridge of some sort. Twilight pressed on hopefully. She approached the ridge, slowing. She peered over the ridge as much as she could as she neared. Twilight swore as she recognized it. It wasn't the Sea of Tranquility, it was Luna's castle.

Her castle?

Her castle!

She knew where the Sea was in relation to the castle!

Twilight reversed course, loping as fast as she dared. At this rate one mistimed hoof placement could send her tumbling head over hooves, an event that would certainly ruin her concentration on the barrier spell.

The barrier spell.

Holding onto the barrier was like having a vice around her skull. It was a headache she knew she could end, if only she dared face the consequences.

Faster, she urged herself. Faster.

Time passed.

The vice tightened.

Twilight saw another ridge before her.

It came nearer.


Twilight shot over the edge of the ridge, not realizing how fast she was going. Her legs churned empty space, futilely searching for purchase. Twilight pulled in her legs, tucked her head, and tried to focus on maintaining the barrier.

The impact was mercifully gentle. She rolled in the dirt, rock and coarse regolith abrading her, but she remained relatively undamaged.

She scrambled to her hooves and pressed on.

There, at the end of the path, a figure sat.


"Luna!" Twilight called, unsure of whether she could even be heard. "Luna!"

As she neared, she realized the figure was wrong. It was too tall, too angular, too cold to be Luna.

Nightmare Moon.

"No!" she cried at the sneering figure. "Where's Luna?!?"


The voice came from behind her.

Twilight jumped.


Her words were cut short as the barrier dissolved. She flailed wildly, rational thought drowning in a sea of panic.

"Peace, Twilight, thou art safe."

Twilight gasped as a new barrier surrounded her. She gulped air gratefully as she turned to face the voice.

"Luna? But how? Nightmar-"

Twilight turned back to see the Nightmare gone.

"She wasn't real, Twilight. Merely an illusion. A reminder of what keeps me here, as well as... as some... somepony to talk to," she admitted.

Twilight launched herself at Luna, tackling her in an embrace, and knocking Luna onto her back.

"YOU LEFT," she sobbed into Luna's chest. "YOU LEFT ME!"

"Peace, Twilight. Thou knowest the reason why. I was trying to keep thee safe."

Luna wrapped her forelegs and wings around Twilight, holding her close and rocking her gently as she cried.

Slowly the tears eased to sniffles.

"What art thou doing here?" Luna asked. "How didst thou come here?"

"Celestia sent me here. I came to bring you back."

"I.... Thou.... She what?!?"

"I came to bring you home."

Luna lifted them both upright, and pushed Twilight away so she could look her in the eye.

"That was a dangerously foalish thing to do, Twilight. Thou couldst have easily died without me ever knowing."

Twilight glared back, her face set.

"You're going home with me, and that's that." Twilight's glare faltered. "I... can't get home otherwise."

"Oh," Luna gasped. "Oh my. Oh, my dearest, most foalish Twilight, what hast thou done?"

"What?" asked Twilight. "You brought us home easily last time."

"Twilight," Luna groaned, "this was to be my prison. It would be a poor prison indeed, if I could come and go at will."


"I have locked the bulk of my magic to the Moon, Twilight. I can't simply leave. How else could I contain the Nightmare should she return?"

"But... how can you create a lock you can't open?"

Luna shook her head ruefully.

"That is the question, is it not? How do I contain the Nightmare who has all of my knowledge and power?"

Luna closed her eyes and raised her face to the black starry sky.

"Come," she said, looking back to Twilight. "Let us see if I am half as clever as I hope I am."

With that she turned and walked down the path.

"This is where your magic is locked?" Twilight asked as they returned to the churned soil of the landing zone.

"No, my lock is the Moon itself. This is simply where I prefer to leave from, assuming this works."

"But if the Moon is the lock, couldn't you get your magic back while we were in the Sea? How are you going to unlock it? What did-"

"Patience, Twilight," Luna interrupted. "The Moon is the lock, but the artistry is in the key. What key could I use that would be accessible to me, but foreign to the Nightmare? It took me some time, but I think I found the answer. As for coming back here, grant me my eccentricities. We will have ample time to regret it should I fail.”

"I... Oh. Sorry."

Luna sat and shut her eyes. Twilight watched curiously as she squeezed them shut tighter.

Luna opened her eyes and snorted in disgust.

"Um... no good?"

Luna looked at Twilight sharply.

"Twilight," she barked, "tell me what thou wantest."


"Speak. Tell me what thou wantest."

"I want to go home! With you! I want to see our friends, and I want everypony to be happy. Celestia misses you. She... she hurt when you left. I didn't see it before, but I can now. I-"

"What about the danger I represent?" Luna demanded.

"I don't understand."

"If what I say about the Nightmare is true, I am a danger to thee and thy friends."

"I... I don't believe it! You... You say you care about us, but then you say Nightmare Moon wants to hurt us. Then you say she's you! How can that all be true? I don't believe you could hurt us if you really care, if you really lo-"

Twilight shut her mouth with a snap.

"What, Twilight? Speak."

Twilight shook her head.

Luna neared Twilight and lowered her head even with hers.

"Please, Twilight," she said softly. "Speak to me. I need to hear it."

"You... you said you loved me. More than once. But the you went and left. I know you said it's because you were trying to keep me safe, but it hurt. You just left, and you didn't..."

"What dost thou want, Twilight"

"I want you! I want to believe you love me, because I... I love you, too."

Luna wrapped her forelegs around Twilight, squeezing her head tightly against her chest. Twilight closed her eyes, feeling Luna's warmth in contrast to the cold Moon's surface.

Then Twilight felt it. It was the sense of air rushing to fill a vacuum. It vibrated through Twilight like an earth shaking roar, even though there was no sound.

Luna released Twilight.

"Let's go home," she said.

Luna and Twilight appeared in common room. It was warm and bright, a substantial contrast from the Moon.

Twilight sighed in relief.

"Luna, what they hay was that all about?" she demanded.

"You mean the key?" Luna asked. "It was about lo-"

Luna paused as the sound of hooves arose, swelling to a thunderous volume.

Celestia burst through the door, and Twilight saw Luna get tackled for the second time in as many hours.

"You stupid, foalish pony," Celestia sobbed. "Don't you ever do that again! Never, ever, ever, never, never, ever, ever..."

"Yes, sister," Luna replied to Celestia's chant. "Of course, sister. Never again. I promise. Pinkie Pie promise. Yes, yes… stick a cupcake in my eye."

Chapter 13: Confrontation

View Online

Twilight was worried. It wasn’t exactly an unfamiliar state for her, if she were honest with herself. She had the tendency to get overexcited about things like tests, lists, or her regularly scheduled reports to Princess Celestia. Today, however, she didn’t think she was overreacting. Several messages to Luna had gone unanswered, which wasn’t like her at all. Twilight was sure that she was really the only pony who sent messages to Luna, so it wasn’t as if they got lost in the shuffle, as it were.

It brought to mind something Pinkie Pie had told her, which, being Pinkie, made no sense at the time. Now, however, it made a certain amount of frighteningly clear sense.

But… no. It couldn’t be that. After all, it came from Pinkie. The pink party pony was many things, but this… this….

It was for that reason that Twilight found herself on a train to Canterlot, Spike in tow.

Twilight liked riding on the train. Once the jolting, violent departure was over and the motion smoothed out, the sound of the train on the tracks took on a soothingly rhythmic quality. The clack-clack-clack became a lullaby, accentuated by the gentle rocking of the train cars.

Twilight seldom did her best studying in a train car, but she often did her best sleeping. More than once, in an attempt to utilize her time efficiently and spend some quality reading time on the train, she found herself face down in her book. She still cursed the time she found she’d drooled in her sleep as well, and inadvertently glued several pages of her book together. From that time onward, she’d tried to find reading positions that wouldn’t result in her book becoming an impromptu pillow.

This evening the book before her was ignored. Twilight had read the same page six times. She kept losing her place as her mind wandered to Luna, and what Pinkie’s words might mean.

The train’s momentum changed. The heads of all the ponies in Twilight’s car rocked forward in unison. The hypnotic rhythm was shattered. Now there would be only the chaotic rocking and jostling of slowing and stopping at the station.

Twilight put her book away. It would have to wait before she would read that page a seventh time.

Twilight nodded to the guards stationed at the door. Stoic though they were, they nodded respectfully in return before opening the door for her. Being known at the palace as Princess Celestia’s pupil had advantages. She made her way down the hallway. She knew where Luna was, where she had to be. She only hoped she was wrong.

“Twily!” a voice called from behind her.

“Oh, hey, big brother,” she replied, turning to face Shining Armor.

“Am I glad to see you,” he said. “Have you talked to the Princess yet? You really should.”

‘The Princess’ could only be Princess Celestia. The palace guard hadn’t quite figured out their way around Luna yet.

“I was going to go up to see Luna.”

“You might want to check in with the Princess first, so you know what you’re in for.”

“Okay. Catch up later?”

“Of course,” Shining Armor said.

Twilight nodded and turned, changing direction to the main hall. It was turning out to be a two-princess evening. Twilight hoped that wasn’t as bad a sign as it seemed.

Twilight hastened her steps, hoping to find Princess Celestia sooner than later.

As it turned out, the princess found her first.


Twilight jumped in surprise as the princess burst through a door to her left.

“Oh, Princess, you start-”

“Have you seen Princess Luna yet?” the princess interrupted.

“N-no. Shining Armor said I should see you fir-”

“Good. Then it’s not too late to warn you.”


“She’s on her perch. She stays there all the time now. She’s been barely sleeping at all. She barely speaks, even to me. I can only get one word answers out of her, if that. Please, Twilight, if you could speak with her… I…”

Twilight stared up at Princess Celestia, taking her first real look at her.

The princess looked tired. Her eyes shimmered, full of worry and sleeplessness. She looked vulnerable. Almost fragile.

It scared Twilight.

“I’ll do what I can, Princess,” Twilight promised.

Princess Celestia gave a forced smile. It was one of the most horribly unnatural things Twilight had ever seen.

“I know you will, Twilight,” the princess said. “I feel better just knowing you’re here.”

Twilight could find no response to that. Instead, she bowed low and took her leave. It was time to face Luna.

It was raining.

It wasn’t a particularly hard rain, and Twilight was most grateful there was no lightning. Twilight was afraid her horn might act as a lightning rod being this high up. Nevertheless, Twilight was soaked in moments.

Luna sat on her perch watching the Moon. This was as Twilight expected. What Twilight had not expected, was that Luna did not turn to acknowledge Twilight’s presence when she stepped out onto the balcony. She gave no indication that she knew Twilight was there.

This was worrying.

Luna’s mane was plastered to her head and back. She looked for all the world like a half-drowned rat rather than a near-immortal princess with the power to raise the Moon.

“Luna?” Twilight called over the rain.

Luna made no response.

“I came to see you.”

Twilight waited. The seconds stretched out into a minute or more.

“I wrote you some letters. I didn’t get any responses.”

Twilight waited again.


Twilight had given up on a response. The answer, short though it was, gave Twilight hope.

“I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

“...’m fine.”

Twilight waited, unsure of what to say.

“Are… are you mad at me?”


“Then why aren’t you talking to me?” Twilight asked.

“What would you have me say?”

Something, Twilight wanted to scream, anything. Just do anything but sit there.

Something else entirely came out of her mouth.

“So that’s what she meant.”

“What?” Luna actually turned to face Twilight.

“Pinkie. I think I understand what she said.”

Twilight noticed Luna tense at the sound of Pinkie’s name.

“What?” demanded Luna. “What did she say?”

“Heya, Twilight,” Pinkie called, pronking in her particularly excited way. “I need to ask you a favor!”

“Of course, Pinkie,” Twilight answered. “What do you need?”

“It’s about Luna. She’s going to be a very sad pony. Actually, she’s a sad pony all the time, but she usually hides it. But every once in a while she’s going to be a very sad pony, but it won’t look like sad. It will look like something else, but you won’t know what. It might looked like bored, or it might be angry or grumpy or anything! Though it probably won’t look like yellow with purple polka-dots. I’m pretty sure it won’t look like that. I don’t think it’ll look happy either. Understand?”

Twilight nodded. She didn’t understand anything, but it seemed the safest option.

“That’s okay,” Pinkie assured her. “It’s okay to not understand, as long as you do. I’m really bad at understanding sometimes, but I’m really good at doing. Like that time when I was trying to throw that one party for Fluttershy, and you and Rarity were all like, ‘No, Pinkie, you can’t throw her a party right now,’ and I was like, ‘but, but, party!’ and Rarity was like, ‘No, Pinkie. No party,’ and you were like, ‘Promise us no party,’ and I didn’t understand why somepony wouldn’t want a party, but I promised anyway? It’s like that. You don’t have to think about it, you just have to do it.”

Twilight stared at Pinkie, the words buffeting her like a driving rain.

“Uh… what do I have to-”

“You just have to be her friend! You’re gonna say, ‘But I’m Twilight Sparkle, which might as well mean “Luna’s friend,”’ but sometimes it can be hard to be somepony’s friend. I know it’s not always easy to be my friend. You’re saying, ‘That’s not true, Pinkie,’ but you know it’s true. You weren’t sure you were going to be my friend when you first came to town, and then you were trying to test my Pinkie sense, and when I threw that party and nopony came, and when somepony says, ‘Oh, Pinkie, you’re so random,’ I know what they really mean. But that’s okay. I know you and the rest of the girls love me, and are my friends no matter what. That’s what you have to do for Luna. You have to be her friend no matter what, even if it looks like she doesn’t want you to. You have to remind her that you’re her friend, and you’re going to stay her friend, and keep on reminding her that. Okay?”

“Uh… Okay.”

“Okie Dokie, Loki!”

“She said you’d be sad, but wouldn’t look sad, and that I had to remind you I’m your friend no matter what.”

Luna glared at Twilight. Twilight looked back, trying not to squirm under the gaze. Luna’s stare was flat. It was nearly expressionless. Dead. It took all Twilight’s strength not to retreat from that merciless gaze.

Luna turned back to the Moon. Twilight had to quash a sigh of relief.

“Luna, I understand.”

“What?” Luna rounded on her. “What do you understand? What could you possibly understand? You understand nothing!”

Luna’s face was contorted in a cruel sneer, and her eyes brimmed with emotion that Twilight couldn’t place.

Scorn, she realized. Her eyes were filled with scorn. A strange sense of deja vu filled Twilight as she withered under that gaze. It was like facing Nightmare Moon all over again, yet this was worse. Tension filled this emotion, the tension of bonds stretched to the breaking point. Twilight feared she’d put her hoof in her mouth and irreparably damaged their friendship.

“Y-you’re right,” Twilight stammered. “I-I don’t understand. I just want to help.”

That icily cruel stare pinned Twilight in place for a moment more. Then it vanished in an instant, replaced with that soulless, dead stare. Twilight couldn’t decided what was worse. At least the scorn was something. There was emotion there. Fire. It was a cold fire, but at least it was something.

Not like staring at a corpse.

Luna turned back to the Moon.

Twilight took a breath, willing her pounding heart to calm unsuccessfully.

“Don’t waste your time, Twilight,” Luna spoke, her voice low. “Leave me. Go home to your friends. Don’t waste your time on the princess of the Moon, for the Moon is nothing but a barren waste filled with rocks and dust.”

“I can’t do that,” Twilight told her. “You’re my friend.”

“Then you’re a foal,” Luna snapped, glancing back at Twilight with that icy scorn in her eyes. Twilight shrank back, but had the strange sense that the scorn was not directed at her.

Luna stared back at her cold, dead Moon.

Twilight made a decision. It felt wrong. It felt cold and manipulative, and Twilight didn’t like it, but she was going to do it anyway. She climbed the railing on the balcony, and turned to face the roof where Luna sat. She shifted her weight back and forth to get her hooves securely under her.

Words could not describe how bad an idea this was.

Twilight leapt.

Then she teleported.

The first thing Twilight realized was that the roof tiles were much slipperier in the rain than they were dry. Luna made sitting on the roof look easy. She sat there, perched, day after day, never giving any indication that the tiles might resist her attempts to stay.

Twilight was not so lucky. She slid toward the edge of the roof, hooves flailing, frantic for purchase against the slick tiles.

Faster and faster they searched, desperation increasing as the edge of the roof. Twilight’s eyes squeezed shut, not wanting to witness the end which would follow her drop, assuming she missed the balcony.

Her limbs went cold with panic as the flailed about even faster. Something brushed against one foreleg, and both wrapped around it with a death grip as her hind legs slipped over the edge.

Twilight simply hung for a moment, unsure she wanted to move and risk changing her situation for the worse.

She risked opening an eye. The lifeline she’d been thrown turned out to be a dark blue foreleg. Twilight looked up at Luna.

“What in the name of Sun and Moon are you doing, Twilight?” she demanded.

Twilight shook her head wordlessly. Tightening her death grip on Luna’s leg, she worked her hindquarters up over the edge of the roof, and pulled herself upright.

She panted for a moment, though whether from panic or exertion she wasn’t sure.


“Did… didst thou lie when thou saidest thou lovested me?” Twilight asked, tongue tripping over the archaic informals.


“Didst thou lie?” she repeated.

Twilight worked a foreleg from around Luna’s foreleg, and snaked it around her neck, pulling her close.

“Because I love thee, Luna, Princess of Equestria, and I don’t want it to be a lie.”

Twilight hung onto Luna’s neck for dear life, trembling with fear and her own audacity. Moments passed, and Twilight’s heart began to sink at the lack of response.

Luna inhaled deeply, and let out a great sigh. It was not a sigh of sadness or pleasure or satisfaction. It sounded with the heartbreaking note of resignation. Defeat.

A foreleg and two wings surrounded Twilight in an embrace.

“No. I didn’t lie. I do love thee.” The words were there, but the voice was flat.

“Then why art thou pushing me away?” Twilight asked.

Another silence stretched between them.

“Thy days are short, Twilight,” Luna said. “They are precious and numbered. Spend them on somepony more deserving. Not on somepony brok-. Not on me. Wasteth not thy time on me.”

“No time spent on thee is ever wasted,” Twilight assured her. “Thy sister is worrying. Can we please go in?”

Twilight yelped as she felt the roof under her move. She clung to Luna as they dropped over the edge of the roof, and landed neatly on the balcony. Once standing firm in the balcony, Twilight relinquished her hold on Luna's neck.

“Thy grammar needs work,” Luna told her. “Lovested?”

Twilight chuckled.

“I wasn’t prepared. I promise to do better next time.”

She risked a glance at Luna. Luna’s face was expressionless, and her voice hadn’t lost that flat quality, but she was moving and talking. Twilight considered that a victory.

Twilight spent the rest of the night in Luna’s room, never leaving her side. They talked some, but mostly sat in silence. Twilight read on and off, but primarily monitored Luna, making sure she ate, making sure she didn’t completely withdraw, and making sure she knew she had a friend no matter what. Eventually she fell asleep in Luna’s bed, watched over by the Princess of the Moon.

WE HAD HOPED TO SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST, the Nightmare said. It was not so much spoken as sent through the Dreaming.


The Nightmare sneered at Luna, an evil gleam in her eye.


Luna and the Nightmare peered into the dream from within The Dreaming, but outside the dream. It should have been impossible. The Dreaming didn’t work that way. It was a gestalt of all the dreams in Equestria. There was no Dreaming outside the dreams. Yet here they were, looking into a dream like so many others that Luna had walked through. This one held one particular difference.

This was Celestia’s dream.

Luna looked at Celestia peacefully enjoying her dream. She dreaded what was to come.


The Nightmare cocked her head as in thought as she watched Celestia through the barrier of her dream.


Please, no, Luna thought desperately. Please not her. She’s all I’ve ever had. She’s the only one who’s never left me. Please not this. She doesn’t deserve this.

SHE DESERVES ALL THIS AND MORE! The Nightmare sent, rounding on Luna. She towered over Luna, her teeth bared and eyes blazing.


What are we due, thought Luna bitterly, and what have we done to deserve it?


That doesn’t give much consideration to respect, Luna thought back.

She thought furiously for a weapon, any weapon, to use against the Nightmare.

Some absurd part of her mind tried to picture her with a red clown nose.

Pain ended all thought as the Nightmare reared and brought her hooves down, cracking Luna’s skull. Her vision swam, and she felt a trickle of blood begin to run down her head.


That’s not- Luna began.


Luna howled as black energy erupted from her body. She felt her flesh and bone stretch at change. She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth, trying to swallow any further cry in the face of the agony she now felt.

When she opened her eyes again, she faced her twin.


Luna looked down at her hooves. They were dark as midnight. The Nightmare’s hooves.

She and the Nightmare had traded places.


With that, the Nightmare in Luna’s form shoved her through the walls of Celestia’s dream.

Celestia’s eyes went wide when she saw Luna.

“Nightmare Moon! How…”


Luna screamed as black energy once again erupted from her body. It crackled and leapt in all directions as though it had life all its own. It whipped at Celestia, scorching the ground wherever it struck.

“I-” Luna tried again. The black energy raged again, cutting off any words or thoughts with sheer pain.

“RAAAAAAARGH!” Luna roared in agony.

“Nightmare Moon!” Celestia cried. She stretched to her full height, looking every inch the monarch she was.
“Give her back,” she demanded. “Give back Luna! I don’t know how you-”

Celestia’s words were cut short as a horn emerged through her chest. It withdrew leaving a bloody hole in its wake.

Celestia looked back to see the form of Luna standing there, a deranged smile on her face, and a bloody, extended, and wickedly sharp horn on her head.

“Surprised sister?” the not-Luna asked. “We warned thee of the Nightmare. Perhaps we should have warned thee of us.”

Celestia collapsed, blood gushing from her chest.

“NO!” screamed Luna.

She gathered all her strength, trying to dispel the dark energy.

“NO,” she repeated. “Whether this be my dream, or Celestia’s, it is still a dream, and I will WAKE UP!”

She erupted with power again, this time her own. It ripped through the Dreaming, sending a shockwave in all directions. The ground shook. The walls of the dream-reality rippled….

Twilight awoke in a dark room. She blinked into the gloom, yawned and stretched her neck and forelegs out, hearing her jaw and joints crack and pop.

She lifted her head, and glanced around the room. Luna’s room, she realized.

A whimper caught her attention.

Luna lay sleeping next to her.

She was dreaming. She whimpered again, and her legs twitched.

“No… please….” she muttered.

“Luna,” Twilight called gently, prodding her with a hoof. “Luna, it’s okay. It’s only a dream. Please…”


The words reverberated through the room, though they did not come from anywhere. It was as if reality itself made them known.

Luna leapt from the bed.

“Wha? Where…”

“Luna, are you okay?”

Luna looked at Twilight.

“Twilight? I… I was d-dreaming… and…”

Luna stopped as something behind Twilight caught her eye. She began shaking uncontrollably.

Twilight turned to see what was so disturbing.

There was Nightmare Moon.

“THE TIME HAS COME.” the Nightmare said.

Twilight went cold. Her mind locked up in fear.

“N-Nightmare Moon? B-but h-how? How…”


Slowly Twilight’s brain began to work. The Elements. They defeated Nightmare Moon twice. She needed the Elements to save Luna.

Twilight bolted from the room. She needed her friends to use the Elements. Her friends were in Ponyville. She had to get to her friends and bring them here. The train? No. The train was too slow. Her balloon? Faster, but still too slow.

The Royal Chariot. That was the fastest route.

Twilight ran as fast as she could make her legs go. She had to use the Royal Chariot to get to her friends.

Fortunately, she was friends with more than one Equestrian Princess.

Luna watched as Twilight bolted from the room.


The Nightmare stood before Luna. Luna stared at her, trying her best to keep her knees from shaking with only moderate success.


Luna summoned her courage.

“No. I refuse. I won’t let you hurt my friends. I’ll spend another thousand years on the Moon before I let you hurt. My. Friends.”

Luna wrapped herself in her magic. There was one place where their battle wouldn’t hurt anypony.

She reached out and twisted space and time.

Luna stood on the Moon, the Nightmare still before her.

“At least here you can’t hurt anypony but me.”

The Nightmare laughed.


Luna shivered, though whether from fear or cold, she couldn’t say.

“No. I am Luna, the Princess of the Night. I am the Moon. I am dream and illusion. Here is where my power is strongest. I defy you, Nightmare! I will not submit! I will fight to my last breath!”

Luna summoned her magic again, awaking power long forgotten. The very Moon she stood on supported her, feeding her even more. She called upon anger. She called upon rage. She summoned her desperation to protect her friends. All these things coursed through her, mixing and catalyzing ancient power that had always existed in her, power which had gone unused for so long, power which raised the Moon, power which matched and balanced her sister's.

“I AM LUNA,” she shouted. Energy crackled around her. The soil at her hooves smoldered and melted.

The rush of power was heady and intoxicating, but it was all for a purpose. Not power for power’s sake, but the protection of those she loved.

Luna struck.

To the ponies in Equestria, for one brief moment the Moon shone, not with the reflected light of the Sun, but of its own unique shine. For a single moment night turned to day. Ponies everywhere looked to the sky, blinking away their sudden loss of night vision, and wondering what could have been the cause. As their eyes began to acclimate to the dark, they saw something new in the night sky. There was a comet. A star falling to earth. It glowed brightly, and traveled with ever increasing speed. Whatever it was, it was going to hit hard.

Luna’s vision and awareness slowly returned. Her skin and eyes burned, and her head rang. Dimly, she was aware of a rushing noise about her. As her vision cleared, she realized it was wind. She was falling. She was falling to earth. She was falling, and she was going to die.

The ground was approaching fast. Too fast for her wings to safely stop her. They would probably just snap at this velocity, folding up like an umbrella in a gale.

Luna tried to reach for her magic. It burned in her veins, but would not obey her. She screamed as she tried again. It was like trying to hold the Sun.

There was nothing else.

Her wings would have to do.

She stretched out her wings.

Tendon and sinew screamed in protest, and muscles cried in agony. Her descent slowed, but not quickly enough.

She stretched further, trying to grip the air with all her might and will.

Fire shot through her wings as bones broke and tendons snapped. Her wings collapsed in the wind.

No, she thought. Oh, no. I’m going to die.

Luna hit the ground.

When Luna awoke for the second time since facing the Nightmare, the only thing that kept her from screaming was the fact she couldn’t take a full breath. After battling Discord and her sister, she’d thought she knew the meaning of pain. Now she knew that to be nonsense. Compared to what she was feeling now, everything before was sunshine and puppy kisses.

She was the middle, and obvious source of a newly minted crater. There wasn’t one part of her that didn’t hurt. She tried to shift, and agony lanced through her. Her legs splayed out before her at odd angles, obviously shattered. She knew her wings were the same from trying to check her fall. Her chest burned with every breath, indicating broken ribs as well. A gurgle in her breathing betrayed more damage internally. She couldn’t lift her head from the ground. How much more injury was there?

Despite it all, she was still alive.

But for how long?


“No,” she whispered. “I won’t.”


Luna wished she could weep, but the pain was too great even for that.

“No,” she gurgled. “If you are me, I can stop you yet.”

Luna moaned as she summoned her magic for the final time. There was one last spell she could cast. It was a spell that every unicorn knew instinctively. It had no name. It didn’t need one. If there was ever a need, the spell was only referred to as somepony having done ‘IT’. IT was not something Luna ever expected to cast, even less so without an actual target.

She rolled her eye to look at the Moon in lieu of being able to raise her head. Yes, that would make an acceptable target. She could hardly destroy the Moon, but it would leave a scar to mark her passing. It would be something for ponies to look to and remember. Something to prove she’d existed as more than just the Nightmare.

IT, her last spell, had but one purpose: destroy your enemy at the cost of yourself. It rent your very soul to unleash a massive amount of magic, more than one could hope to summon on one’s own. It was devastating when coming from any unicorn. Rending the soul of a nearly immortal princess of Equestria? It was too much to consider.

“THOU CANST!” the Nightmare gasped in realization. “THOU WOULDST DESTROY THYSELF TO DENY ME VICTORY?”

“I…” Luna gasped through the pain and gurgling in her chest, “give… myself… for… my friends.”

It was time.

She was ready.


She rolled her eye to see.

Her friends lined the edge of the crater.

“Luna, don’t give up!” she heard Twilight shout.

No, she tried to shout. Run away. Let this end. Save yourselves.

“We believe in you, Luna!”

Her eye rolled across the edge, seeing the worried faces staring down at her.

Then she blinked.

In that instant everything changed. She saw not only her friends, who were, indeed, still standing there, but also the Elements. Though the actual gems were not present, their essences shown the ponies above her.

Honesty smiled, despite her fearful eyes.

Loyalty frowned, shaking with a need to intervene on her behalf.

Generosity stood ready to give even her very life for her friend, if it became necessary.

Laughter gazed down, her smile a balm to soothe Luna’s fears.

Kindness stared down, glowing with the care that bid her forgive even when Luna was at her most cruel.

Magic and Friendship gazed down, her care and love evident. The same care that drove her to give Luna a chance for a real friend. The care that would not be driven away by a temperamental, foalish old nag. The care that forgave Luna of her faults, and loved her in spite of them.

Luna saw threads connecting them all. They were bonds that tied them together. They were thicker between some of the ponies that between others, but they were there all the same. There, in the middle, was Twilight. She was the Nexus. The Hub. She was the Catalyst which drove the magic onward.

Those same threads connected not only the Elements, but Luna as well.

Luna stared at the Elements, shining with love, glowing down at her, almost as though they were trying to send a message. As though speaking of love and acceptance. Her friends.

Then Luna understood.

She dismissed her spell without unleashing it, and directed her attention back to the Nightmare.

The Nightmare sneered at her.


Luna reached for her magic. She needed to stand. She needed to face the Nightmare.

It burned. It seared her flesh, and scalded her insides. Agony coursed through her veins. Luna cried out, but refused to stop.

She wrapped a barrier around herself. It wasn’t enough to stop an attack, but it was just enough to keep her together enough to stand.

Shakily, she drew her legs under her.

Slowly. Ever so excruciatingly slowly, she stood and faced the Nightmare.

The Nightmare sneered again.


“No,” Luna said. “I accept you.”



Luna stretched her broken wings, and stepped forward.

“No. I accept that you are me.”

Luna stepped again. She imagined she could feel the broken bones grinding against each other, and sending splinters deep into her flesh. Still she pressed onward.

“You are all my worst qualities. My hate. My jealousy. My fear. My selfishness. My… lunacy. I accept you.”

“WHA… WHAT ART THOU DOING?” The Nightmare’s eyes were wild and confused.

“You are me. I can’t promise more than to try, but I do promise.”


“I’ll try to love you. I promise to try to love thee, Princess Luna of Equestria, despite all thy faults. Despite thy pettiness and jealousy. Despite all thy failings, I will never stop trying.”


“No. It is past time we grew up. It is time to come home.”

Luna marveled as the Nightmare shook, looking more uncertain than Luna had ever seen. The Nightmare took a step back. Then another.

Luna neared the Nightmare, her body screaming in protest. The Nightmare reared back, tripping over her own hooves and landing on her rump.

Luna seized what little advantage she had. She surged forward, embracing the Nightmare with her broken wings.

“I accept thee.”

The Nightmare dissolved.

Fire filled Luna's veins that had nothing to do with her injuries. She felt dark magic erupt from inside of her: her magic. Emotions long forgotten surged within her; rage, hate, contempt, despair, envy.

“NO!” Screamed the Nightmare in her voice... or she screamed in the Nightmare's. Luna couldn't tell anymore, nor was she sure there was difference anymore.


Luna could taste bile in her throat as she was consumed by the most bitter hatred she'd every felt. Before, she'd been fighting the Nightmare. Now? She was living it.

She tried to remember what she felt for her sister, for her friends, for Twilight. She tried to hold on to those warm feelings amid the onslaught of negativity.

She loved her sister...


Her sister, who had salvaged the book of Luna's awful poetry, who had refused to give up on her even when Luna had given up on herself.


Yes, Luna thought, we will. We also will never work as hard as she, or suffer for Equestria like she does. She loves me. She never wanted anything but to have me back. She sent me Twilight.


Perhaps, but Celestia was right. There was no guile to Twilight, no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive. If she said she loved Luna she was telling the truth. Luna loved her her in return. She would sacrifice anything for Twilight.


No, please, Luna begged in her mind. I promised to try. I promised.


I... I can't. Please, I can't, but I promised to try. I will try. Sun, Moon, and stars, she prayed, please let that be enough.

She felt the Nightmare change. Gone was her forceful voice, gone was her confidence.

“Please,” the Nightmare begged with a yearling's voice. “Please, don't make me. It hurts. It hurts all the time. Please don't make me.”

We have our sister, we have Twilight, and we have our friends, Luna thought. What's more, we have obligations. I know it hurts, but we have to try. We have to keep on trying.

Then it was over. The magic dissipated, and with it left the last of Luna's strength. She could still feel all the emotion, all the hatred and envy that had built up inside her, and rightly so. It was hers after all. What was important now was how she dealt with it.

Luna sank to the ground.

“It’s over.”

She gasped in pain, an event which only caused more. Idly, she wondered how much longer she was actually going to live.

Probably not much, she decided.

“Luna! Luna, we’re coming!” she heard her friends call. The scrabble of hooves over treacherous terrain gave truth to their words.

“Oh, no… Luna.” she heard Fluttershy’s gentle voice cry softly.

Luna tried to smile.

“‘S okay,” she said. The pain in her chest was increasing. Her voice came out little more than a whisper on a ragged breath.

“‘S okay. We did it. We are safe.”

“But Luna… you’re… you’re….”

“I am free.”

Luna closed her eyes. Despite the pain, she really did feel at peace.

She felt a thrum of power resonate through the earth. A startled gasp told her it was strong enough that Twilight and Rarity felt it as well. That could only mean…”

“Princess Celestia!” cried Twilight.

“Twilight,” she acknowledged. “Ponies. Princess Luna.”

Oh. She was using her Royal Voice. That meant either Luna was really at the end, or… or her sister didn’t know which pony she was addressing.

Luna opened her eyes to look up at her sister.

For one brief and horrible instant Luna considered playing the Nightmare, and goading Celestia into an attack. It wouldn’t take much of one to end the pain now.

No. That wouldn’t do. She couldn’t make Celestia live with the guilt, thinking she’d ended her own sister.

“Sister,” she rasped, trying to be heard. “It’s over. We won.”

“Nightmare Moon is gone?”

“She’s me. Never gone. Negated. Not coming back. Free. Can’t….”

Luna coughed. Blood sprayed from her lips.

“Oh, Luna,” she heard her sister gasp.

Warmth settled over Luna, filling her and soothing some of her pain. She looked up to see her sister touching her horn to Luna’s. A magical aura surrounded her.

“This should sustain thee until we get help, my brave and reckless sister,” Celestia whispered, “at least until we get thee aid.”

Luna would have sobbed at the sound of Celestia using the old informals, if she could.

“Come, my ponies. Let’s get Luna to a surgeon.”

Light surrounded them. It was a warm, soothing light. It was the light of Celestia’s love for her. For them. Yes, it was bad. It must be bad if Celestia was openly using this much power. Luna pushed such thoughts aside. She merely basked in that light, secure in her sister’s magical embrace, as the teleported to who knows where.

Luna eyed the vials before her suspiciously from her bed. Her legs were still splinted, and her wings bandaged, making her feel confined, but also leaving her no choice but to face the doctor before her.

“You’re sure this will work?” she asked.

“Well, no,” the doctor admitted.

Luna glared at her.

“That’s not very reassuring.”

“I’m sorry Princess,” the doctor said, “but that’s the way it works. We take our best guess, start with a low dosage, and go from there. If it doesn’t work, we try increasing the dose, or switch to a different medicine. It varies from pony to pony. The same treatment doesn’t work for everypony.”

Luna sighed.

“Very well, when do we start.”

“Immediately,” the doctor replied. She levitated over a package. “Mix a dose of this, and drink it every night before bed. Um, every morning before bed, I suppose. Talk to me again in a week, and we’ll see how you feel and make adjustments. You might notice you’re sleeping more, or that your dreams are more vivid…”

“No,” Luna stated flatly. “I won’t.”

“Um… yes.” said the doctor. “I mean… normally…. Nevermind.”


The doctor fled Luna’s room as fast as decorum allowed, almost colliding with an entering Twilight in the process.

“I’m proud of you, Luna,” Twilight said.

“Thank thee,” Luna responded. “I wish that I could feel the same, but I don’t. It feels like failure.”

“Then why are you doing this?”

“I made a promise.”

“To Pinkie Pie?” Twilight asked.

“No. I never promised Pinkie. She tried… but….” Luna shook her head and turned to face her friend.

“No. I promised the Nightmare.”

Luna and Twilight's eyes locked, Luna’s open, Twilight's searching.

“I’m not sure I understand, Luna, but I trust you. You know what you’re doing.”

“I wish that were the case, Twilight. I truly wish it were so.”

Twilight closed the gap between them to nuzzle Luna.

“I...” Twilight began, “I wanted to talk to you. So much has happened, and I almost lost you more than once...”

Twilight took a breath.

“I mean... I know I don't have a lot of experience. I mean, I've never.... I mean, I don't....”

“Calm, Twilight. Calm. Speak thy mind.”

“I want there to be an 'us'. I know I'm nothing special...”

“Twilight, you are the most special pony I know, and my care for thee is beyond measure. You claim inexperience? Any experience I had was a millennium ago. I... I want... I...”

“Oh, just say it already!” a voice interrupted.

“Celestia!” gasped Luna.

“I mean it! If you two keep dancing around each other like that, I'll be old and gray before you get to the first kiss!”

Luna blushed, ducking her head.

“For what it's worth,” Celestia said, “I'm proud of you too.”

Luna snorted.

“I've done nothing to be proud of. I've done nothing but pile failure on failure.”

“Now, sister, I’ve seen how hard you’ve been trying. It makes my heart hurt and hope, and makes me proud all at once. You’re stronger and wiser than you give yourself credit for. Hay, you could replace me if you had to.”

“Perish the thought, sister!” Luna cried. “Doth not dare leave me to the… the… bureaucrats! The administrators! The… the politicians!

Celestia laughed. It was the sound of bells ringing in the new day.

“Oh, Luna. I’d never do that to you.”


“Stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Celestia strode forward and hugged Luna, being careful not to jostle her splinted legs and wings.

Luna leaned into the hug, savoring the warmth and intimacy of her sister. She opened an eye and caught sight of Twilight standing awkwardly off to the side. She waggled a splinted leg, beckoning her over. Celestia moved to the side to make room as Twilight hesitantly entered the embrace.

There was a sense of completeness in the three-way embrace. They were the Sun, the Moon, and the pivot about which they orbited. They were the Day, the Night, and the special time where they mingled together into something new.

Whole, Luna thought. I feel whole.

She wasn't, of course, not yet, at least. In real life things are never that easy. Wounds heal, but it takes work, and treatment...

and time.

Luna would heal.

It would just take time.