Night had fallen across Equestria. Princess Celestia stared out her bedroom window and gazed up at the moon. Her beloved sister, Princess Luna, had just finished raising it to begin another beautiful night.
As Celestia continued to stare at the moon, so many memories flashed in her mind. She blinked her magenta eyes in the soft candle light within her room. “Ah, the silhouette is still gone.” Celestia sighed, placing a gilded hoof over her heart. “After so many centuries of seeing it there…I suppose it will take some time to adjust to it finally being gone.” She giggled self-consciously. “Unless my eyes decide to play tricks on me.”
The princess took a deep breath and turned from the window. Three days had passed since the Elements of Harmony had cleansed Luna of her once dark powers. Celestia was overjoyed. It was never her desire to banish her own sister to the moon, least of all for a millennium, still, the needs of her subjects outweighed her own heart’s desires. But now, with Nightmare Moon defeated and her sister restored to her original self, Celestia could once again enjoy having Luna back.
The princess stopped in front of the fireplace, the sound of the crackling flames filled her ears and the heat it cast off was comforting against her white fur. Even though summer had begun, it was a particularly cool night in Canterlot. It didn’t help that the princess’s room was located fairly high up within the castle walls either. Thus, she decided to light a fire and warm her chambers.
The night had only begun, and there were still a few hours till the princess would retire for the night. Celestia grinned with glee as she heard a familiar knock at her chamber door. Turing from the warmth of the fireplace, she all but trotted to the door. A cheerful and welcoming smile decorated her face and was further accented by a matching shimmer in her eyes as she opened the door.
Behind the door, stood Princess Luna. She greeted her elder sister with a bubbly smile of her own. “I’m here, big sister.”
Celestia’s smile grew as she drew Luna into a hug. “Little sister…it’s so good to see you.”
Luna chuckled as she returned Celestia’s loving gesture. “It’s good to see you too.”
Celestia tightened her hooves around Luna. “I know I’ve probably said this over and over again…but, it’s so good to have you back, Luna.” The elder princess’s voice was all but choked up.
Luna tilted her head up at Celestia, peering past an errant lock of her own light blue hair. She noticed something glisten from the corner of her sister’s eye. “Aww, are you crying again, Tia?”
To hear that name, “Tia”, the one Luna called her so many times back in their salad days. It was more than Celestia could bear. For her, the pain was still too near. “LUNA!!” Sobs came from Celestia and tears began to pour from her eyes. “I – I’m s-s-so sorry I s-sent y-you away!” She pulled Luna closer and continued to weep.
Tightening her embrace around her sister, Luna nuzzled Celestia. “It’s okay, sister. I know you never meant t-to…” Luna too began sobbing, warm tears bubbling up in her teal eyes. “Banish me. I-I’m so sorry I-I-I did what I did to you a-a-a-and everypony e-else.”
The sisters held each other close and continued to cry for a few more minutes, before they both calmed down.
Celestia turned toward her desk and used her golden magic to snare them each a tissue to dry their eyes.
Luna took hold of hers with her magic and blotted the lingering tears, that continued slowly trailing down her purple face. She sniffled as she finished entering Celestia’s room.
Celestia closed the door behind them and took a calming breath, while drying the last of her tears. “I’m sorry, Luna. I thought I was done doing that.” Celestia chucked. “I suppose three days isn’t nearly long enough to get over a thousand years of sorrow.”
“No, it’s not.” Luna offered a smile to her sister. “Just remember, sister. The nightmare is over.”
She nodded. “Yes, Luna. I know it is. And thankfully, the healing can begin. In fact, that’s why I asked you to stop by tonight.”
“Right. You said there was something you wanted to talk about?” Luna looked up at Celestia, curious as to what she wished to discuss.
“Yes, I did. Come, sit with me by the fire.” Celestia led Luna over to the welcoming warmth of the fireplace. The two mares sat down on carefully placed cushions.
“So, what did you want to discuss, Tia?” Luna gave Celestia her full attention.
“Well, we spent your first day back in celebration. Everypony was so delighted to have you back.” Celestia smiled jubilantly. “It was such a happy time and once the festivities finally ended, we spent most of yesterday sleeping.”
Luna chuckled a little. “We did at that. But, are you sure everypony has forgiven me?”
Celestia sighed. “Maybe not everypony, however, in time I am sure they will come around. But, that’s not what I wished to talk about.”
Luna blinked, feeling more than a little confused. “Then what?”
“You’ve told me how the experience was for you during your time sealed within the moon. And I know I spent a good part of last night apologizing to you.” Celestia hung her head.
Luna placed a supportive hoof on her shoulder. “You did, and I told you all is forgiven. I know why you had to do it. And, most of my time trapped in the moon, it just seemed like a very long dream. Memories from the past, and then a series of nightmares, seeing what I’d done and having no way to make amends. Still, I can’t help but wonder.”
Celestia turned her head toward Luna. “Wonder what?”
“I’ll admit it wasn’t easy being in that…suspended state, while in the moon. But, you actually lived through all those centuries I was away. I can’t image what you must have gone through.” Luna again placed her hoof on her sister’s shoulder. “All of Equestria counted on you to rule them, alone.”
“It’s funny you should bring this up. Because, this is what I wanted to tell you about.”
“It is?” Luna softly gasped.
“Yes. I wanted to tell you about some of things that happened while you were away. Things I’ve not shared with any other ponies. That includes my star pupil, Twilight Sparkle. Oh, and I also have something to show you afterward as well.” Celestia took another deep breath. She wasn’t looking forward to this, even though it was part of the healing process, this meant dredging up memories she had been keeping tucked away in the recesses of her mind.
“Are you all right, sister? You don’t need to tell me about this, if you don’t want to.” Luna gave Celestia a supportive look.
Celestia shook her head. “No, you have a right to know, besides, you also asked as well. Just give me a moment.” The elder princess took another cleansing breath. “I’ll start at the beginning.”
Luna sat there on the plush cushion, still full of wonder as to how her sister passed a thousand years, alone.
“It wasn’t easy at first. In fact, I can’t say it was ever easy, Luna. I had to be strong for Equestria with you gone. But, whenever I had a free moment or some time to myself, you were always on my mind.” Celestia paused a moment, allowing Luna to catch the sorrowful look on her sister’s face.
She held a hoof up to Luna’s mouth. “Times when I was alone, often involved many painful tears. Most nights…I can’t remember how many, I’d often cry myself to sleep, in the solitude of my room. Though, I thought my tears would never end, I knew I was needed, and so over time, I became stronger, because I had to. Though, there was one time. It had only been 50 years since we parted. I remember it so well. I used to frequently look up at the moon and think how close it looked, and how close you were, while still being so far.”
Luna spied Celestia’s eyes becoming glassy again. She placed her hooves on her sister’s foreleg. “Please, you don’t have to continue.”
Celestia wiped away a lone tear and sighed softly. “I’m all right.” She smiled at Luna. “That night, I remember the pain of being apart from you. It was so great, I couldn’t bear it anymore.”
Canterlot Castle – 950 years ago
It had been another long day for the princess. Celestia had just finished the last of her duties for the day. All of Equestria was in a state of jubilation. For the Summer Sun Celebration had just taken place and all the land was delighted. However, for Celestia, there was no joy in her heart. All the celebration had become to her was a harrowing reminder of her battle with Nightmare Moon and how she banished her own sister to the moon.
Even after fifty summers, Celestia still asked herself if she had done the right thing. She couldn’t help but wonder if there had been a better way – one in which she wouldn’t have had to seal her sister in the moon.
The longest day had come to an end, and now that she had lowered the sun and once again fulfilled her sister’s task of raising the moon, Luna’s absence haunted Celestia more than ever.
She cast out a heavy sigh as she walked along the quiet courtyard. There was a feeling Celestia couldn’t shake. Even after five decades, it still didn’t feel right, not having her sister around.
Up until the time Luna fell from grace, she had spent many centuries with her big sister. Celestia still cursed herself for missing the signs of Luna’s angst. Had she paid closer attention to her sister, maybe she could have done something, and her weakened emotional state wouldn’t have left Luna easy prey for the dark force that corrupted her.
Celestia’s heart felt heavy as she continued along the courtyard. Turning back, she saw the moon, vast, radiant and full. The silhouette, which had become known as the “Mare in the Moon”, only served as an added reminded of her sins. Celestia gasped softly as she reached a clad hoof toward her sister’s prison. “Luna…” Her breathing deepened and her eyes grew damp with warm tears.
The moon seemed so close, Luna seemed so close, yet as Celestia reached out, it suddenly became clear just how far away her sister was.
If this was what fifty years without her sister felt like, Celestia couldn’t fathom a minute more. The thought of never seeing Luna again, coupled with the weight of leadership – it all became more than the princess could bear. In a moment of clairvoyance, Celestia knew what to do. After taking a deep breath, she took off at a full gallop.
Celestia cried out into the night, tears beading from her eyes. “LUNA!! I’m coming, I’ll set you free!! Do you hear me?!”
There was no response from her sister as Celestia ran on, but the elder princess’s sorrowful cries were heard. As Celestia made her way into the castle, her loyal guards came to see what ailed their princess.
Three of her personal guards waylaid her, causing her to come to an abrupt halt.
The lieutenant stepped forward. “Your majesty, what’s wrong?”
There was a nearly hysteric look in Celestia’s eyes as she addressed them. “Nothing’s wrong. At l-least it won’t be, o-once I get to the ruins of the old castle in the Everfree Forest.”
The guard blinked profusely. “Why in Equestria would you want to go to that vile forest?”
Celestia sniffled and stomped her right forehoof down. “To get the Elements of Harmony. I used their power to banish my sister. Now, I’m g-going to use them to free her, and atone for my mistake.”
All three guards pulled back and gasped in horror. The lieutenant shook his head. “But your majesty!” he cried. “If you use the elements to release your sister, you will be putting all of Equestria at the mercy of Nightmare Moon.”
Celestia huffed and lightly snarled, “Get…out…of…my…way!”
Doing his best to hide his fear, the guard shook his head. “No. I can’t. Princess, we can’t pretend to know what you’re going through. But, if there is any way to help Princess Luna, this plan of yours…forgive me if I speak out of place. But this won’t work. You’ll be dooming us all, for nothing.”
Celestia still felt the grip of her unwavering desire to free her sister. But, as she stared into the guard’s eyes, the conviction she saw reflected in them made her stop. Celestia closed her eyes and lowered her head. “You’re right,” she sighed. “All this would do is display my own selfishness. I…I’m.” She gasped as she collapsed on the floor. “I’m so sorry.” She buried her face under her hooves as she began to weep. “Your princess has failed you.”
The three guards stood there for a moment. They were unsure what to do. The two subordinates looked to their leader. He closed his eyes, fluffed his wings and took a deep breath. Then, the lieutenant walked over to the grieving princess. He gently placed a hoof to her shaking shoulder. “No, your highness. You have not failed us. What happened to your sister.” He paused a moment. “We all are to blame.”
Celestia looked up from her forelegs, her once beautiful eyes were now red and stained with tears.
The guard turned to his charges. “You two, go ahead and make sure no ponies are in the nearby corridors. I will escort the princess to her chambers. She doesn’t need the kingdom making a spectacle out of this.”
“Sir.” The two guards spoke dutifully.
Through their combined efforts, the guards managed to clear the way and discretely take Celestia back to her room.
“Here you are, princess. If you need anything, call for us or one of your servants.” He bowed respectfully as Celestia shakily stepped into her room.
She replied in a low voice. “No, I just wish to be left alone right now.”
“As you wish, your majesty.” Once inside her room the guard shut the door.
Celestia retreated to her bed and dropped herself upon it. Not only did the pain of missing her sister still plague her, but she had almost done the unthinkable and could have put the entire world in jeopardy.
Turning to a nearby end table, Celestia saw the framed picture of Luna she liked to keep close. She clutched it in her hooves and pulled it back onto the bed with her. “Oh Luna, I tried, little sister. But instead, I’ve ended up letting everypony down.” Celestia sniffled, as everything seemed like it was crumbling around her. “I don’t think “sorry” will ever be enough for what I’ve done.” With that said, Celestia began crying the bitterest tears of her life. She held the picture of Luna close and wept for some time, until she finally passed out and fell asleep.
Canterlot Castle – the present
Luna’s mouth hung open as her vision began to blur. “B-but. That was…only after 50 years. H-how did you survive the other 950?”
Celestia placed her foreleg around Luna. “As I said, it wasn’t easy. Thankfully, following that embarrassing night, I happened upon an old book in the Canterlot archives. It was a book on predictions and prophecies. It spoke of four stars that were slowly coming into alignment. There was a legend in the book. It stated that when those stars were closest to the moon, they’d form a bridge of magical starlight that would open a gateway and enable anyone or anything trapped within the confines of the moon to become free. I knew then and there that there was a chance I could get you back.”
Luna remained silent, while she blinked profusely and then, with a pleading look from her eyes, Celestia knew she wanted her to continue.
“Based on the predictions from the book, I learned it would take nine and a half centuries for the stars to finish coming into alignment. It would take place on the longest day of the 1,000th year. But, as excited as I was for your release, I didn’t know if 1,000 years of captivity in the moon would cure you of being Nightmare Moon. And sadly, I discovered my connection to the Elements of Harmony had begun to weaken. While I suspected they might still hold the key to your salvation, I knew I needed to find another that could one day wield them properly. That’s why I started my school for gifted unicorns, and why…”
Luna’s mouth dropped. “Of course. That’s why you sought out a powerful unicorn and why Twilight was the one that led her friends to heal me.”
Celestia nodded. “Yes. Thanks to that book from the archives, I worked on a plan to free you from the beginning and hopefully turn you back to normal.”
Luna whimpered. “Oh, Tia, you never gave up on me.” She threw her hooves around her big sister.
Celestia hugged Luna tightly. “That’s right. I knew after my failed attempt that there must be something I could do. True, I had a kingdom to run, but sometimes, the needs of the few are just as important as the needs of the many.”
Luna sighed as joyful tears trailed down her cheeks. “I love you, big sister.”
“And I love you, little sister.” Celestia both laughed and sobbed.
Luna sniffled and looked up at Celestia. “Oh, didn’t you say you had something you wanted to show me as well?”
Celestia nodded, while wiping a few stray tears. “I did. Come with me. I’ll show you.”
The two princesses left Celestia’s room. Once in the hall, Celestia led Luna through a few corridors, not too far from her chambers. They came to a halt, leaving Luna to look around curiously. “Why are we here? This is a dead end in an empty hall.”
Celestia smiled. “Exactly. Which made it the perfect place for me to come when I wanted to be alone. You see, little sister, I wasn’t always able to grieve your absence in my room. While the hearts of my servants were always in the right place, sometimes I just needed to be alone with my thoughts.” Celestia’s horn lit up with a radiant golden glow. What appeared to be a dead end quickly gave way to a secret door. It clicked and slid open with a scraping sound.
Luna stepped into the room and followed Celestia inside. The younger princess looked around in complete awe. “Sister…what?”
Unlike the rest of the castle, the chamber’s walls were slate gray instead of white. The room was empty, save only for a few torches near the door. Though, they weren’t lit, and as Luna could see, there was little need. More than enough moon and starlight beamed in through a large solitary stained-glass window. “Oh my goodness. Tia, that’s me, with the moon in the sky overhead.”
Celestia stood beside Luna. “Yes. I had a local artisan craft this for me.”
Luna glanced at the floor and saw that as the moonlight passed through the window, it cast the image of her on the glass across the floor. Then, Luna noticed something else. Hash marks, tens of thousands of them, all across the two longest walls and the floor, surrounding the velvety red carpet that strolled out just shy of the window. She turned to Celestia. “These marks. Are they?”
Celestia took another deep breath. They helped her maintain her composure. This very room held a lot of memories, some fond, but mostly it served as a reminder of Celestia’s pain. “Even though I devised a plan that would hopefully free you and return you to normal. I still had several centuries to endure. I made this room and checked its location with the moon in the night sky, so its light would shine through this window each night. I never wanted to forget you. And I decided to start marking each day that passed.” The two princesses panned their eyes around the room and saw the myriad number of marks etched into the stone. “Each of these represents a day that went past while you were away. The cross slashes marked the end of each week. I never missed a chance to come here, and if I did, I just added the right number of marks.”
Celestia drew Luna close in yet another loving hug. She sighed softly. “I can’t quite explain it, but whenever I came here, somehow, you didn’t feel nearly as far away. So, anytime I missed you more than I usually did – I’d come here. You are the first pony I’ve ever showed this room to. No one else knows it exists.”
Luna pulled her hooves tighter around her sister. “Oh, Celestia…Tia. I can’t believe I ever thought…” She sniffed.
Looking down at Luna with glassy eyes, Celestia smiled and ran her hoof across Luna’s back. “Shhh, it’s okay, little sister. We’ve both made mistakes, I’m just so glad to have you back.”
Luna smiled and nuzzled against her sister. “I’m so glad I’m home again.”
“Come on, let’s head back.”
Luna nodded as their hug ended. Then, they exited Celestia’s sanctuary, while the elder princess secured the hidden door.
The two princesses made their way back down the corridor. Luna kept smiling, and would occasionally need to sniff back a tear or two. Celestia shared her sister’s happy expression and also needed to wipe away some stray tears.
Celestia giggled. Just as Luna once did in their younger days, she kept giving her a glance that suggested she wanted to ask something, but was reluctant to.
“Something on your mind? Luna?”
Luna sighed. “Yes. I don’t know why I feel hesitant to ask. But, sister, could I sleep with you tonight?” Luna’s lower lip quivered. “After what you’ve told me. I really don’t want to be apart.”
“Oh, little sister.” Celestia closed her eyes and smiled. “Of course you may sleep with me tonight. After everything that’s happened, I think I’d sleep better knowing you aren’t so far away.”
Luna briefly closed her eyes, as an extremely jubilant expression formed on her face. “Yay! Thank you, Tia.”
Celestia just sighed contently as they arrived at the door to her room. They stepped inside and once Celestia had closed the door, she followed Luna over to her bed.
Eagerly, Luna used her magic to turn down the sheets. “After you.”
Celestia nodded, then removed her regalia and gracefully laid down on the plush mattress. Luna did the same and joined her sister. Celestia’s horn lit up as she covered them with the sheet and blanket, while Luna nestled close to her. It was easy to tell Luna was happy to be back with her big sister.
Using her magic, Celestia snuffed out the candles and placed the darkened guard in front of the fireplace.
“Yes, Luna?” Celestia looked over at her sister.
“Thank you for telling me how you spent those days, while I was away.” Luna hugged Celestia again.
“You are very welcome.” Celestia yawned quietly. “I suspect we’ll both sleep well tonight.”
“Yes.” Luna let out a yawn of her own, then softly began to sing. “I love you, I miss you, all these miles away…”
Celestia gasped. “Luna? Aren’t those lyrics from…”
Luna nodded in the mostly darkened room. “Yes. They are from the lullaby you used to sing to me.”
Celestia pulled Luna close. “I never knew if you actually heard me or not. Sniff. After all, I was down here on Equestria and you were in the moon.”
Luna whimpered. “Of course I did. I may have become Nightmare Moon, but as you suspected, I was still in there. I heard your loving song, and cried every time I heard it. Didn’t you see the tear drop from my silhouette?”
Celestia gasped softly. “I thought I imagined that tear.” She rested her chin on top of Luna’s head.
“Nope, it was real.” Luna sighed calmly, “And now…that the nightmare is finally over.” She squeezed Celestia. “We don’t have to be apart ever again.”
“No, we don’t.” Celestia sighed happily. “Goodnight, sister mine.”
Luna giggled as the two laid their tired heads down on the pillows. They remained close and soon drifted off to sleep. The room was now silent and the only light present was a small pool of moonlight that beamed in from a nearby window. It was as if the moon was watching down over them, while the night continued its peaceful march.