The tale of the Imprisoned Sister has been told and retold for centuries, but no Little Pony knows of it as it unfolded in realms far and above. What is the moon to do when her mother and guide loses her way?
The tale of the Imprisoned Sister has been told and retold for centuries, but no Little Pony knows of it as it unfolded in realms far and above. What is the moon to do when her mother and guide loses her way?
Looking down at Equestria from the Celestial Garden far above, I saw a young unicorn colt lost amongst the dimly lit depths of Liberty Woods. He walked carefully through the undergrowth, but often found himself stumbling against wayward roots and weeds. His horn could barely light the ground around his hooves. I sensed his fear, so deep and so fierce. What kind of a being would I have been to leave the poor colt in the dark? I smiled and willed my light to shine upon his path. It would show him the way home.
The little one was quick to notice, and even quicker to look up at me. “Thanks, Moon!” his smile sang. Reassured by my glow, he took off at a trot which soon became a bouncy frolic. After hastening through the brightened forest for a few minutes, he was soon safe and sound in his mother’s caring embrace. I dimmed the sliver of my glow destined to brighten his bedroom, leaving just enough to banish the colt’s fears and lull him to sleep.
Secure in the knowledge that my light was now properly cast all over Equestria, I elected to see how my little siblings were doing. I closed my eyes to the world of the Little Ponies, turning my sights back to the Celestial Garden. Unlike the Little Ponies’ Equestria, the Garden had very little in the way of green. Rather, leaves and grass alike painted a landscape of deep blues, while white flowers sparkled life into the horizon. Smooth, rolling hills stretched into the distance, sprinkled with trees and flower patches. The gentle breeze blew ripples in the grass, and rang each tree like a quiet, rustling chime.
A stream of clear water burbled peacefully as it flowed through the heart of our land. It was the center of the world for us ponies of the Garden, a perfect place to drink, groom oneself, or play. All night long, stars would congregate near it as they played or applied themselves to their duties.
Above the Garden, there was magic. Where the Little Ponies had us, Moon, Sun, and the stars, we had the waves of endless essence that bathed the Garden with majestic light. Every now and then, a sparkle would fly down from it and vanish, called forth by a unicorn casting a particularly potent spell. The wild, untamed magic flowed slowly and unpredictably, decorating the infinite horizons above with auroras drawing from every point of the spectrum.
Tearing my eyes away from the scenery, I began my inspection. To my great pride, the stars were diligent in their tasks as they were every night. Mother would be happy to find out when she returned at the end of the night.
I was startled when, on my way to the hill of the Artisans, a sparkling new wish burst into existence at my hooves. The tiny sphere of light drifted, tracing a groove through the lush grass as it wandered about. Intrigued, I lowered my ear to the wisp and listened to the soft whispers emanating from its heart.
I wish daddy would come home soon... I miss him.
It was the colt I had guided home just a moment ago, the poor darling. To miss one’s parent must have been a terrible burden to bear. I dreaded the very idea of it as I recalled Mother’s kind smiles and soothing voice. I would make sure his wish was treated with the same minutious care every last one of its brethren received.
However, as with any other wish, there was little even we could do to make the colt’s desire come to fruition. Instead, the stars would offer him the garden’s greatest gift: hope.
Pollux, one of my youngest siblings, came trotting by, no doubt in search of one such wisp of desire. I smiled and nudged the wish in his direction with the tip of my muzzle. His black eyes, glittering with the innate magic of the stars, lit up at the sight. He pounced upon the wisp immediately. Stomping his hoof next to the orb of white light, Pollux caused it to leap up into the air and follow his guidance.
As one of the Sentinels, Pollux did not have the gift of flight of the Messengers nor the magical horns of the Artisans. In compensation, he and his brethren possessed talents of their own: strong legs to run about the Garden all night long and sharp eyes to find even the best-hidden wishes.
“Thank you, Sister!” Pollux gave me a wide grin. I brought my head down to his height and nudged a wayward strand of his white mane out of his eyes before planting an affectionate little peck upon his equally white forehead. To my amusement, he pulled away, wiping my kiss off of his face. I couldn’t help but chuckle.
Stepping aside, I set Pollux on his way with a playful swat to his side. “Now then, you’d best get going. We wouldn’t want to keep this Little Pony waiting, would we?”
“Right on it, Sister!” He took off at a gallop, throwing the garden’s deep blue grass and white flowers about with every stride. The wish followed him obediently, flittering through the air. He soon stopped in the shade of a nearby tree, where a pair of Messengers had been waiting. The two, Vega and Altair, were cheerfully chattering about wishes they had carried earlier that night.
I watched as Pollux caught the fluttering wisp between his hooves with great care and presented it to the duo. They both stood up and spread out their wings. They stared at the increasingly hesitant Pollux, each taking a tentative step towards him in turn, all but ordering him to give them the wish. Seeing Pollux slowly edge away, I judged it best to take the issue into my own hooves.
In a burst of magic, I teleported to the small group of stars. “Now, now, there’s no need for a standoff,” I admonished. “Altair, I believe you were flying a wish around just an instant ago, is that right? Don’t you think it would be fair for Vega to get a turn?”
Altair hesitated for a moment, then nodded in disappointed approval.
“Oh, Altair, don’t worry your little hooves off,” I teased, ruffling his mane. “There will be plenty more wishes for you to guide tonight.”
As Altair hesitantly cracked a smile, Vega took the wish from Pollux and took off into the Garden’s sky with a flutter of her wings. The wish trailed behind her as she sped across the sky and led it to the Artisans. Her white coat and mane, much like every other star’s, glittered under the sky’s light as she sped towards a distant hill.
I turned my attention back to Pollux and Altair, offering them a smile. “You two be good now. Remember, I’m never too far if there’s a problem. I’m going to go check on the Artisans, if that’s okay with you.”
“Okay! See you later, Moon,” the two answered as one, waving as I unfurled my own wings and set off for the Artisans’ hill. I could pick up a few snippets of their conversation as I departed: Altair was listening quite attentively as Pollux spoke of the young colt awaiting his father’s return.
I followed Vega’s trajectory as she swooped by Rigel and Procyon, who were distracted with trying to coax a particularly timid wish out of a bush’s deep leaves. Giggling, she swatted the two Sentinels on their shining star cutie marks. Under the sting of the impact, a trace of pink appeared on their periwinkle-spotted flanks. They glared, first at each other, then up at Vega. Comprehension slowly drew itself on their faces, and they chuckled as she flew away. Hearing the two plotting their own mischievous revenge on Vega’s flank, I mentally ruled that neither party needed to be called to order. Such mischievous games made everyone involved happier in the end; it was the more venomous disputes I had to keep an eye on.
Vega alighted by one of her older siblings, Polaris. The Artisan was absentmindedly watching another wish flitter around himself. Polaris’s wish was far brighter than the one Vega had been guiding, a sign that the Artisan’s work was complete. Neither of them noticed my presence nearby. I did not wish to distract them from their work.
Polaris greeted Vega with a smile, and the Messenger gently caught the Little Pony’s wish between her hooves, careful not to damage it as she presented it to her older sister. In turn, the latter nudged her fuller wisp over to her, and the two wishes traded places.
Polaris touched her horn to the new wisp, closing her eyes and focusing. Soon, both her horn and the wisp pulsed with a gentle light. Thus was the task of the Artisans, the oldest of my younger siblings: to give the wishes of the Little Ponies the form and power they needed to bloom into full-fledged dreams filled with hope. This closer bond with the Little Ponies had also earned the Artisans their peculiar cutie marks. While the Sentinels bore depictions of bright, sparkling stars, and the Messengers’ marks depicted shooting stars, the Artisans’ flanks bore something far more unusual: constellations.
These constellations have always been a point of curiosity for us ponies of the Celestial Garden. Mother Luna once told me they are patterns invented by the Little Ponies which connect my younger siblings’ sparkling into meaningful images. Such a capacity for creativity leaves me forever astonished.
While Polaris worked on filling the new wish with the essence of hope and dreams, Vega took off with the completed wish and brought it up into the sky. There, she cupped her hooves beneath it, and threw it as high as she could with a powerful flick of her forelegs. The wish rocketed into the sky with a bright, sparkling light, showering the garden with the marvelous glitter of another successfully created dream. Curious, I followed the wish’s essence to its destination as it traveled down to the world of the Little Ponies. There, time had only moved by a fraction of an instant.
In a cozy cobblestone house not too far from the Palace of the Alicorn Sisters, I sensed a young filly smiling in her sleep. It was her way of thanking us for answering her wish with the sweetest of reveries.
I smiled at the sight of the Little Pony slumbering under my light. “Sleep well, little one. May your dreams be peaceful and full of joy.”
We followed our routine through the night. As the morning came, my brother’s light began to blossom over the Garden. I suppressed a yawn as the soothing darkness of the land’s scenery gave way to a cheerful luminescence. It wasn’t a bothersome feeling, but I favored the night’s calm dimness.
“Good morning, brother,” I greeted Sun’s slumbering form. His eyes slowly crept open. To my great amusement, they focused on the tip of his horn for an instant. He closed them again and shook his head, forcing away the haze of sleep.
My golden oaf of an older brother rose to his hooves with a deep, cavernous yawn and stretched away the last few hints of sleep lingering in his body. “The same to you, Sister,” he replied, moving a wayward strand of his incandescent mane out of his eyes with a flick of his neck. “How was your night?”
I sat by Sun, drawing him into an affectionate hug. “It has been wonderful, just like every night.”
I found myself enveloped by one of his large wings and basking in his comfortable warmth. The strain of the long hours of watch weighed heavily on my shoulders. I nestled into Sun’s side and struggled to resist sleep.
“Have our mothers come yet?” Sun questioned, glancing around and absentmindedly scratching the back of his neck.
I shook my head. “They have not, and though I am as eager as the stars to see my mother this morning, there is something I wish to discuss with you before she arrives.”
My brother’s ears perked up. “Oh? Please do tell,” he said. “You know I am always happy to hear you out.”
“Mother Luna seems so troubled lately. I believe she is doing her best not to show it, but the way she looks at you and Aunt Celestia sometimes...” I looked up at my brother, silently asking for his thoughts.
Sun looked to the sky as he pondered the issue. “I cannot say I’ve noticed anything of the sort, Sister, but I could easily have missed it.”
I laid my head against his chest for a moment, until I was struck with a shocking thought. I covered my mouth with a forehoof, frightened by the possibility. “You don’t think Mother could be... jealous, do you?”
Sun shook his head. “I cannot fathom why Aunt Luna would be jealous of my mother. She has you and all the stars, and the Little Ponies love your nights just as they love my days.”
“I hope you are right, brother. I hope it is so. Still, I cannot help but wonder: What if she had been? What would it mean for the night to be jealous of the day? Would the Little Ponies be affected? What of us? What of the stars?” I clung even tighter to Sun, frightened by these uncomfortable thoughts.
Sun gave a soft smile and rested his chin atop my head before wrapping a foreleg around my withers. “And what if you were overreacting, Sister?”
I took a deep breath and nodded, slipping away from my brother’s grasp. “Perhaps you are right, Brother.”
“I am glad I could reassure you,” Sun answered while releasing me from his embrace. “Oh!” His eyes widened. “It’s just about time for me to go up, our mothers will be here very soon, and I haven’t made myself presentable. Shall we meet again in the evening?”
“With pleasure. I should freshen up as well,” I replied, embracing my brother before cantering off towards the stream. “Have a nice day, brother!” I called out.
“Sleep well, Moon,” he replied with the most perfect of smiles.
Sun’s right, I told myself as I splashed some water against my face. Mother wouldn’t be jealous of Aunt Celestia. They’re sisters and they rule together. What would she have to be jealous of? The Little Ponies adore our night sky.
I gazed at my reflection, ensuring that I looked my best for Mother. My mane flowed gently, soft and smooth, offering that spectacle of silvery dust I like so much. I caught sight of a speck of dirt near the tip of my horn and wiped it off. My pearly coat looked impeccable.
My eyes stopped on my reflection’s cutie mark. Spying the image of a bright crescent embracing three stars within its concavity, I smiled as I recalled my precious little siblings. She loves them so much. It is inconceivable that Mother could be jealous.
Still, as I set off to meet Mother, I couldn’t help but feel a nagging doubt.
I quickly made my way to the usual meeting point, only to find that Mother was nowhere to be found. I questioned for a moment whether or not it might have been earlier than I suspected, but I knew that was not a possibility. Perhaps she was feeling off and had requested that her sister help us tonight? It would not have been the first time either of them would do such a thing. On second thought, however, had she been asked to help with the stars, Aunt Celestia would already have let me know. I assumed Mother was simply late, so I returned to the stream and began rounding up the stars so that we would be ready for her arrival.
I took to the sky as was usual. The Garden was slowly reinventing itself with the brighter colors of the morning light. Its deep blues gradually brightened to cyans and celestes. Down in the valley, I saw the stars winding down from a long night and enjoying some last moments of happy frolicking before settling down to sleep the day away. Some of my younger siblings already snoozed, huddled together in the shadows of a leafy thicket.
A few stray Messengers were still chasing one another and giggling. I led them back to the thicket from high up, simultaneously whistling for the last few ground-bound stars to follow us back. I had to chase down a duo of particularly rambunctious Sentinels, hoisting one on my back and dragging the other one back in my magical hold. Thankfully, the Artisans, who exerted themselves the most during the night, had decided against pushing their limits.
I sat amongst the sleepy foals, and the many of them huddled against us and one another. Mother had still not arrived, but I didn’t want them to worry just before they went to sleep. “It seems Mother will be a little late, so I want you to be especially well-behaved tonight. Can you do that for me?” I smiled.
Most of the stars nodded, some of them yawning. A few of the more energetic stars bounced up, grinning. “Yes, Sister!” they said in unison.
“Now then, would anyone like to tell me about the interesting wishes we received today?”
A wave of excitement coursed through the stars as all but a few rose up, eager to tell of what they had heard, relayed, or answered today. To care for the Little Ponies and their wishes was their favorite pastime.
I had the stars take turns telling me what they had heard. Fillies and colts were, as always, in want of pretty dolls and toys, and the adults desired naught but for their lands to be fertile, their skies to be clear, and their crafts to be prosperous. However, two particular wishes had stood out tonight: A stallion known as Lord Serenade and his lover, Lady Tryst, had each wished for their families to at last allow their romance. They would find each other through the haze of sleep and perhaps, in their dreams, the solution would come to them.
I bent down to the foals’ height. “I am very proud of you, my little ones,” I praised, ruffling a young Sentinel’s mane. The stars beamed at the compliment. “I think you’ve deserved a nice long rest, would you not agree? I’m sure Mother will be here very soon.”
They wordlessly agreed, snuggling with their closest friends for warmth and comfort.
“Moon?” one Sentinel filly asked. “Would you sing us mommy’s lullaby?”
I rose up from my haunches, careful not to disturb the foals. It was a heartwarming sight seeing them ready to sleep, snuggled up against one another. I knew the stars would be tired if they didn’t go to sleep soon, but Mother was still missing. I bit my bottom lip for a moment, unsure.
“Please?” a Messenger colt added. There was no way I could resist the little ones. Despite Mother’s absence, we simply couldn’t have the stars stay up, lest they be too tired to shine as tomorrow evening came.
“Very well, young ones, settle down.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It simply wouldn’t be the same without Mother, but I knew the lullaby was something the stars could not go without. I began the song in the most soothing voice I could muster.
O star, shining star
'Tis one more night of labor fair
O star, shining star
So many dreams to share
As I sang, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss. Without Mother’s confident yet calming tones, the song felt incomplete. I could see worry trace itself on the stars’ visages.
Sister will be here for you
Standing, watchful, at your side
Mother will be watching too
Her heart full of pride
At least, the Garden still joined in the music, rustling and splashing in rhythm. I paced softly amongst the stars as I sang. Following the lullaby song, the trees of the thicket spread and lowered their foliage so as to shield the young ones from the day’s light. One by one, I gave each foal a hug or a nuzzle, and each answered with an innocent smile.
O star, shining star
Thy work is done, thy ponies blessed
O star, shining star
'Tis time for you to rest
The Garden fell quiet around us as I reached the end of the song. The stars stopped stirring, leaving only the sound of their peaceful breathing and the gentle rustling of leaves to be heard. I gave the Garden a final once over, hoping that perhaps Mother had since arrived. Sadly, it was not so.
“I regret saying it, little ones, but I think we will have to sleep without Mother tonight. It is very late, and you need your rest.”
“Now, now,” a familiar voice rang out before the stars had a chance to react. “Daughter, I must insist, let us not be so hasty.” Mother’s voice. I heard it, and yet I heard another. It felt wrong. It felt vile. It felt like a cruel caricature. A dark silhouette rose atop a hill, far too large for the being it claimed to be. “I have seen all of my children working hard today, and it made me very proud.”
Many of the stars slowly edged away in fright, while others cowered in fear and hid behind me. Unnerved, I may have taken a few steps back myself.
“Please, children, do not be frightened. Good colts and fillies like you deserve a very special treat... How would my precious little ones like to stay up later tonight?”
I shot the impostor a confused look, baffled by her proposition. How could she suggest that the stars remain awake through the day? “I cannot possibly allow that!” I protested. “The stars need their rest, and it is my brother’s turn to rise. The night must fall and the day must come so that the cycle may continue.” I punctuated my ultimatum with a frown and a stomp of my hoof. “Furthermore, how dare you lay claim to the stars and myself? We are the children of Luna, and of no one else.”
The stars, evidently, did not agree with me. I tried to call them back, but they flocked around the stranger, their fear banished and replaced with broad smiles and excited laughter. The dark mare slowly walked over to me and placed her hoof on my shoulder. I would have moved away, but, to my horror, my body wouldn’t listen. The stranger’s intense stare had caught my wary eyes, and my limbs were betraying me. I could sense her disappointment so strongly in my mind. Why was I feeling so guilty? I had once felt something similar after Sun and I had taken an eclipse too far and Mother had scolded me, but that was nothing compared to the burning shame her stare was now heaping on me.
Who was this stranger, and what had she done to me?
“Do you not recognize me, daughter?”
I forced my eyes away and refused the interloper’s glare, but was shocked to find myself drawn into an unexpected hug.
“My dear Moon, please, listen to my words. Do you not think your brother has all the attention he could desire? He shines so brightly, and the ponies love him so. You and the stars deserve far more reverence from these ungrateful Little Ponies.” The impostor brought my attention to the stars. “Just this once, my daughter, give yourself a chance to be happier. Look at how overjoyed your siblings are!”
I tore myself away from her, only to meet the hopeful smiles of the stars. “Sister,” one of them asked, “can’t we play just a little longer tonight?”
I shook my head sternly. “I am sorry, young ones, but the cycle must go on.” Forcing myself to disregard the stars’ pouting, I stared down Mother’s usurper. “Leave the Garden at once, stranger. You are not my mother, and your words are like a blight upon this land.”
The mare chuckled in amusement, ignoring me and turning to the stars. “Go forth and enjoy yourselves, my sons and daughters. Mother will take care of this and make your sister see the light of things.” Before I could object, she placed a hoof gently against my mouth to silence me. The stars cheered and scattered, returning to their games against my silent objections. “Oh, Moon, always so wary and so watchful of your siblings. Just this once, you should let them have their fun.”
I took a step back, horrified. “No! This is utter and complete madness! The world below needs the morning to come now and awaken the land! How can you say otherwise? If you were truly Mother, you would know such things as well as I do, for she taught me them when I was first granted thought.”
“It is true,” the stranger conceded. “I taught you such things, but I was mistaken. I thought the Little Ponies loved my children as much as they did my sister’s son, but I was wrong. All they love is my sister and the day. The Little Ponies do not see you and the stars for who you are, only for the dreams you grant them.”
As the interloper’s words sunk in, I began noticing new things about her. Her confidence and deep turquoise eyes were unmistakable. She smiled with the charm only Mother could muster, and her mane held the glory of the night. It had to be her.
Mother looked so strong, so confident. I had not seen her this content in centuries. Despite her charisma, however, I forced myself to focus on her dark features, her sinister traits, and the frightening feelings she should have inspired. Everything about her looked so wrong, but I could still recognize the mother I knew and love. She looked so fearsome and yet so caring. She was everything like Mother, and yet nothing like her.
My deepest feelings told me that I should agree with her, that the night should linger on, and that, for once, I should be selfish. Yet, I knew such things should have been unfathomable. The cycle of day and night was not something the stars and I should have been able to question, let alone disobey. I couldn’t think straight, as though I was no longer in command of my mind. I was fighting just to keep the beliefs I had always held.
“Surely, Mother, there must be another way, perhaps a compromise of sorts,” I suggested. “I could try to glow brighter. Perhaps then the Little Ponies would like me more, and perhaps then, the stars could enjoy more playtime. Could you not let your court know about your worries? A new holiday could be created for the ponies to go out and enjoy our night. Would this not satisfy everyone?”
Mother dismissed my suggestions entirely. “Don’t be ridiculous, daughter. My sister and the court would never agree to such a thing, as self-important as they are. You are already so bright in the night sky; it would be wrong of anyone to expect more from you. When you stop and think about it, it isn’t very fair, is it?” the would-be night princess pondered aloud. “You and the stars work yourselves ragged all night answering wishes and whims, but in the morning, it is Sun who gets all the adulation the ponies have to offer, just by standing high and mighty and appearing grandiose. With all the hard work you have given for Equestria, you are still the one scrambling to make deals for the Little Ponies’ appreciation.”
I tried to think of a counter-argument, but in the end, could only concede such a point. In the end, it was all unfair to the stars, if not to me. They deserved better. I wanted to give them something better. I wanted us to be happy.
“Think about it, Moon,” Mother continued. “Sun does his labor, and for it he is rewarded with attention. The ponies frolick before him. They dance and play and sing as your brother shines. When the night comes, how do the ponies thank you for their hopes and dreams? They always ask for more. They reward your efforts with nothing but more work. It is a vicious circle. They appreciate what you give them, but they do not appreciate you. If the ponies truly loved you and the stars, would they not, sometimes, sleep the day away, frolick in moonlit fields, and feast under the shining night sky?” Mother placed a hoof on my withers. “Could you not, just this once, think of yourself and your siblings? You have done so much for a land that does not appreciate you. Tonight, Moon, you should get to be happy.”
I sunk my face into my hooves, groaning in frustration. I couldn’t think straight. Mother’s words were both unbreakable truths and hideous contradictions. I wanted to scream.
A hoof gently lifted up my chin, and I met Mother’s knowing smile. Her confident eyes met mine, and my confusion began to dissipate. “Moon, please let Mother tell you what is right and wrong. You and the stars deserve better. I will do what must be done, and we will finally have what we deserve. Will you follow me, Moon?”
I remained silent for a long time, reflecting on Mother’s words. What she had been suggesting felt preposterous, unthinkable even. Yet, it felt so good to imagine. Did the stars need a regular schedule, or did they need the whimsy of more playtime? It was not the place of the night to push the day away. However, was the day not usurping the night’s glory? Was this not merely fair payback?
It was all so vague, so confusing. Only one thing felt certain: The stars trusted Mother right now, and she had never led us astray before. I took a deep breath and spoke my inner feelings. “Mother, what should I do? I’m so lost.” I threw myself at Mother and was warmly accepted in her welcoming embrace.
“You should go forth and enjoy the company of your younger siblings,” she answered, stroking my mane comfortingly. “After so much hard work, all of you deserve a reward. Forget this ridiculous cycle. It has never brought us anything but misery. You should do as you please. Seize what is rightfully yours, Moon. If the ponies will not appreciate you for what you do, then we will make them appreciate you.”
She was right. The Little Ponies did not appreciate us. If I wanted to be truly content, I would have to take my place. All these concerns about the day and Sun were ridiculous. The cycle be damned, it was time to stop letting my brother have all the fun.
This was our night, our Garden, and most of all, our time. No one would take it from us. The night had been repressed for far too long.
“You are right, Mother. We deserve more.”
Mother let me go, motioning towards the small crowd of stars that had gathered around us. “In that case, daughter, go forth and see that the little ones have all the playtime they desire. I shall relax here and see to it that things go smoothly.”
“Moon! Come play! Bet you can’t catch us!” some stars called out to me.
Letting impish glee take me over, I nodded to Mother, before taking off towards the awaiting stars, causing them to scatter and flee while laughing. “You had better hide well, little ones! Big Sister is coming... to get you!” I taunted as I galloped. The stars scattered in a fit of giggles. Truly, we were happy.
Our playtime would have gone on for many satisfying hours, had it not been for a troublesome obstacle: My brother’s light was beginning to smother the garden in its bothersome heat. It did not take long before the stars sought out my attention.
“Sister,” Canopus, a lanky Artisan, asked me, speaking for himself and several of his younger cohorts, “the bright lights of the morning hurt our eyes and exhaust our bodies. Is there not something you could do about it?”
Standing behind Canopus, several younger Messengers and Sentinels nodded in agreement. They had broken away from their enthusiastic chases and games after my brother’s thoughtless glow had proven too much of a hindrance.
I stepped out of the tree’s shade I had been relaxing in. Just as the stars had claimed, the light was intense. It irritated my eyes, and no doubt hurt theirs. Something had to be done about this nuisance. I could not allow such issues to hinder the stars’ playtime.
“I will ask Mother,” I answered. “She will certainly know what to do.” I nuzzled the youngest of the worried group reassuringly. “Wait in the shade, I will only be a moment.”
The stars nodded and sat down to relax beneath the broad crown of the tree, watching attentively as I sought out Mother Luna.
I found her lounging by the stream, shading Pollux and Vega beneath her extended wings as she discussed with them how much happier they were to have so much playtime. I sat by Mother, and saluted her with a nod of my head.
“Ah, my wonderful Moon. Is there something I can help you with?” Mother asked.
“As a matter of fact, Mother, I believe there is. The stars have come to me with a request. The light hurts their eyes and tires them out. Perhaps we could shield—”
“Say no more, daughter,” Mother interrupted. “I know exactly what to do. Help me gather the stars, and let them know that Mother has a very special surprise for them.”
“Gather around, children,” Mother announced as the stars approached. By the time I had managed to gather my siblings, they were all very excited for Mother’s surprise.
Sun’s light was now dazzlingly bright, and it had been quite a relief to reach the cool cover of a large tree’s shade. The Garden blazed with a horrid, searing shade of bright blue as my brother’s excessive emanations irradiated it. I had never noticed how much the garden burned under his light. Had his days always been this terrible? I felt a pang of spite flare up within myself. Sun had been deceitful during all of these past eclipses. That scoundrel!
I began to relay Mother’s plans to the little ones as she prepared. Standing amidst the innumerable assembly, I could only imagine the sheer grandeur of what we were about to accomplish. It was astounding to realise just how many of us there truly were. I felt honored that Mother trusted me to care for them. The stars were my pride and joy. Despite their numbers, I could always find time for each and every one of them, so that they could feel special and appreciated.
“Now, littles ones,” I explained, “Mother is going to work some very powerful magic, and she is going to need all the help she can get from us. You will each have a role to play, so listen well.” I smiled to my siblings, who smiled back, and turned my attention to the youngest ones. “Sentinels, I would like you to focus on your hooves. Plant them firmly against the ground, and feel the energy of the Garden that floats beneath you. You will gather it in your legs, just like when you run in search of wishes. Understood?”
The Sentinels nodded in common accord, and each of them followed my example as I demonstrated, stomping the ground twice, once with their forehooves and once with their rear hooves, cheering all the while. The Garden’s soil trembled beneath their combined strength, and, as they began to focus, I could feel their magic pooling with my own beneath my hooves.
“Very good. Now, Messengers, I want you to flare your wings as far and wide as you can, and to catch the magic of the Garden’s winds between your feathers. You will funnel it within your wings, as though you were flying across the land to deliver a wish with great speed,” I instructed. “Are you ready?”
In perfect synchronicity, the Messengers cheered and flared out their wings as wide as they could. A strong gust brushed over the Garden’s plants and, for the space of an instant, flattened the grass, shook the trees and crumpled the flowers. Much like I had felt the Sentinels' magic, the power of the Messengers now flowed amongst my own, pooling in my every feather.
“Wonderful work, young ones,” I commended. “Artisans, imagine that you are feeding a wish. Stand proud and tall, and pool all of the magic you can gather at the tip of your horn. Is that clear?”
The oldest of my younger siblings did not need to be told twice. With smiles full of admirations, they closed their eyes and focused. The sky’s magical maelstrom intensified and began swirling faster and faster, crackling with the magic we were now drawing. I could feel it all flowing through my horn.
I couldn’t believe the amount of power we were channeling. With such power, there was no limit to what Mother could accomplish.
“It is ready, Mother,” I declared with great concentration.
“Very well. Let us not wait a moment longer,” Mother nodded. Her horn sparkled for a moment with the night’s deepest blacks; it was a welcome respite from my brother’s blinding light. The stars cheered for her as she took place atop a small hill before us, flaring her broad wings dramatically. Against all logic, their shade grew to cover both the stars and I, shielding us from my brother’s fierce glow.
“Are you ready, daughter?” Mother asked. “I trust that you know what to do.” I nodded and prepared to channel the stars’ power towards Mother.
“It is time, children,” she called out to the stars, motioning for me to stand by her side. “We will drive away the day and bathe the Garden in eternal night! If the Little Ponies refuse to appreciate us, we will make them!”
Eternal night? I did not need to think about it twice. It would be glorious.
Mother took a deep breath, and let her voice echo over the Celestial Garden: “Let there be night!”
At once, all was silent. The stream no longer burbled. The breeze no longer blew. The trees no longer rustled. The stars fell silent in awe.
I watched wordlessly. For an instant, I was no longer an individual, no longer an astral body. I neither spoke nor felt, waxed nor waned. I was part of something bigger. I was a part of the night. It was bliss.
Our magic slithered through Mother’s horn, then through the air, firmly taking root within the infinite expanse of the wild magic surging through the sky. Our tendrils spread through the ripples and waves, replacing, improving those hideous colors with the purity of Our night’s darkness.
We would change it to suit Our needs, and it would then be perfect for Us. The others, Sun, Celestia, Brother, Sister, Nephew, Aunt, they no longer mattered.
As quickly as I had departed, I was back in the Garden. Sun’s light no longer burned. In fact, I could not recall the Garden ever being so soothing. The foliage and land had taken on the darkest, richest blacks I had ever witnessed. There was not a shred of light to torture our eyes. The sky itself was pure, filled with naught but a wonderful black void.
Even the stars and I had taken on new forms. We were better, stronger and fiercer, just like Mother. The stars themselves had taken on darker colors: They sparkled through the blissful shadows. I glanced at my hoof. Even I had taken on a soothing tone of darker grey. My body ached from exertion, but I felt ecstatic, complete and satisfied. Judging by their relaxed poses and goofy smiles, the stars agreed.
Mother stepped into my field of vision, her mane ablaze with energy. I watched it slowly fade back to normal alongside the shadowy auras of her horn. She sat contently amidst the tired stars. “Children, I give you the Garden as it should be. It is the Night’s Garden, and no one shall ever take it from us. It is by our powers united that the night has come so fiercely,” Mother explained. “It is by our powers united that it shall remain in place for eternity.”
Soon after Mother returned to Equestria to set the next part of her plan in motion, the power that she had granted the stars and I began manifesting more concretely. I felt more and more energized by Mother’s power, and filled with cheer. Basking in the crisp breeze, I strolled by the stream, examining my reflection.
I saw Mother’s sharp eyes looking back at me, only to realise that they were in fact my own. I had inherited her piercing stare. Much like the Sentinels, I could now see far and clear into the darkness, making out infinitesimal detail amongst the Garden’s foliage.
I stopped and stretched, extending my wings to their fullest extent in order to work out a few kinks. I grinned as I acknowledged their new form. Just like the Messengers, I had traded my feathers for leathery membrane, and all of the speed and agility that came with it.
I plucked a flower from the ground with the faintest spark of my magic. It was a sweet-smelling bloom with petals of the purest white. “Hm... this will not do,” I thought aloud. I couldn’t look anything less than perfect for the glorious night. My aura engulfed the plant, reaching to the very depths of its essence. In the blink of an eye, the flower’s petals were now as black as Mother’s new sky above our heads. Perfect, I thought, cradling the flower in my magical grasp and tucking it behind my right ear. Mother had seen fit to endow the Artisans and I with a vast quantity of dark magic, and there was no telling what great deeds we would be capable of. One last glance at my reflection confirmed that this new Moon was looking fantastic.
It was time to pay the Little Ponies another visit. I closed my eyes and focused, looking beyond the Garden and to Equestria. Surely, the Little Ponies would be adulating our wonderful new night.
To my great frustration, they were not. Everywhere in Liberty Woods, whether in the peripheral villages or in Canterlot Castle itself, the Little Ponies remained hidden within their homes, occasionally casting worried glances outside.
A single colt was sitting outside in a field near a barn. It was the same Little Pony I had guided, some days ago. I recognized his eyes, but his smile was gone. He stared at our dark sky with utmost dread. Perhaps the poor dear had not yet gotten used to the darkness. I shone reassuringly for him.
His eyes went wide with fear. He ran and hid inside the small country house. After everything we’d done for him, he was snubbing us? Ungrateful little whelp.
So be it. The Little Ponies could push us away all they wanted. They would come around once they realised what joy and peace the eternal night could bring them.
They could stay locked up in their homes, for all I cared. I was not going to let such trivialities distract me from enjoying the company of my precious little siblings.
As I returned to the Garden, Sun’s voice echoed through my consciousness. “Sister!”
Speaking of trivialities. As I watched my brother’s hideous light burst out from behind a tall hill, I could not help but roll my eyes. Of course, he would have to come and shatter such a peaceful moment.
He was a mess. A panting, stumbling, exhausted mess. His eyes were sunken and lifeless, his feathers were in disarray, and his once passionate flame had been reduced to a mere flicker. The titan had fallen, and this burnt-out husk had taken his place.
I could have lorded all of my newfound power over him, humiliated him like he had done to me all these years by forcing me into his shadow, but I was above such things. I was better than him.
Sun stopped in front of me, exhausted from what might have been a long gallop. He eyed me over in silence. Perhaps my new form was intimidating him. For the first time, my stare was level with his.
“Leave us, Brother,” I ordered, dismissively tapping a hoof against his chest in order to shove him back. “The Garden now belongs to the stars and I.”
He stumbled back, almost falling on his rear. “W-what are you saying, Sister?” he stammered, baffled. Of course, I couldn’t expect him to understand things on the first try. The only thing he was good for was lighting the Little Ponies’ world, and going by the latest events, that much would soon be unneeded. “It has been three cycles since you have last slept,” he said. “Are you not weary?”
“On the contrary, Sun,” I said, turning my back on him. “I have never felt so alive.”
“But what of the stars?” he tried to reason, that fool. “They need their rest!”
“Do they now?” I retorted, waving a hoof in disinterest. “You may want to turn around and ask them yourself?”
“What?” Sun blurted out, turning around to find that he was now surrounded by the entire horde of the stars, all of them regarding their older brother with a disdainful look. Intimidated, Sun slowly backed away, only to bump against me. Shocked, he whipped around. To my great disgust, his far-too-bright tail brushed against my chest.
“Sister! What is going on with you all? This isn’t right! The Garden is dying where we stand!”
I burst into laughter. “Oh, Brother, you are so ridiculous. Dying? Please. The Garden has never been so alive. It is no longer parched beneath your light, and is all the better for it.”
Sun was unamused. Obviously, I could not count on him to see reason. “Have you gone blind, sister? Do you not feel it? The grass beneath your hooves. The trees around you. Look at them.”
I humored him, if only to get him out of my way. The grass was black and still, a wide and flat expanse of the utmost tranquility. The trees drooped somewhat lower than usual. They were merely offering us shelter. Sun was jealous and making excuses, that much was obvious. “You have sufficiently wasted my time, Brother. Begone!”
“Leave Moon alone!” one Artisan shouted. “Yeah!” a Sentinel added. “Leave us alone!” Shortly, the entire mob of stars was shouting, heckling my brother with all the vitriol they could muster. “We just want to play and you refuse to let us! You take all the attention for yourself! It’s not fair that the ponies love you more than Moon! Go away!”
“Very well,” Sun muttered, defeated. “I hoped it would not come to this, but I know when there is nothing more for me to do. I cannot begin to comprehend what has taken over you, Moon, but you are not yourself right now. Once you return, I trust you will know where to find me.” Sun sighed and began to turn away, but stopped and looked at me one last time before leaving. “Please do not forget my words, Moon. You are my sister, and I love you.”
“Brother...” I whispered beneath my breath, stunned by those last words.
No! another part of me snarled. I refuse to let Sun’s delusions draw me away from Mother’s magnificent work! I was the figurehead of our glorious new night, and I would make her proud. If Sun still thought he could get me to back out now, he was a fool.
Still out of breath from shouting at my brother, I ambled over and took a sip of the stream’s fresh water. I closed my eyes and focused on nothing but the refreshing feelings that flowed through me.
When I reopened my eyes, the stars had already scattered and returned to their games. I elected to go for a calming walk and let my emotions wind down.
No more than a few dozen steps later, I noticed a bright little fluffy tail poking out of a bush. Chuckling, I glanced around for any watchful stars, then bent down and whispered to the plant. “They will have a much harder time finding you if you tuck your tail in, Capella.”
“Shhhhh!” the Sentinel whispered back with a giggle as she reeled the offending appendage in. “Bellatrix said she could find me anywhere, and I want to prove her wrong.”
“Oh!” I whispered back in mock surprise. “Here, allow me to help you.” Abandoning my walk, I laid down in the soft grass and pretended to take a nap. Perhaps my sleeping presence would make Bellatrix wary of waking me up, or perhaps she would guess the ruse and find Capella faster. Either way, I knew either result would lead to much amusement on both of their parts.
The Garden’s soft rustling, the stream’s burbling and, soon, Capella’s peaceful breathing as she dozed off slowly lulled my mind to rest. My deception became reality.
Unlike the slumber the stars and I would partake in during the day thanks to Mother’s song, simple naps were a much lesser thing, merely a question of comfort and refreshment. While we may have granted dreams to the Little Ponies, we did not have them ourselves. We would merely wake up, sometime later, rejuvenated.
Most of the time, at least.
“Sister! Sister!” An Artisan’s panicked voice shook me awake. This time, it seemed, rejuvenation would not be present. Grogginess, however, definitely was.
“What is it, Acrux?” I asked as I slowly opened my eyes.
I raised one of my wings to shield myself from an unknown source of bright light. “What is going on, Little Brother? Is this glare the reason you have come to see me?”
“It is, Sister,” the Artisan responded, a tint of worry in his coltish voice. “We wanted to let you sleep and handle it ourselves, but we know not what to do. A wish has appeared, and while it looks normal to us Artisans and Messengers, the Sentinels are dazzled by it, it hurts their eyes too much to approach.”
“It is not merely the Sentinels,” I commented. “I cannot bear to look at it either.”
“Arcturus and Vega went to take a better look,” Acrux reported, “but we could not find a solution. What should we do?”
I felt out for the wish with my magic, and indeed, it was no different than any we had ever treated. “I do not know what is causing such light, Acrux, but to treat the wishes is our most important task. We will handle it as best as we can, and then try to figure out the cause of this strange phenomenon.”
Still shielding myself, I had Acrux fetch a Messenger while I called a Sentinel to attention. Once we had gathered Spica and Pollux, I explained the situation to them.
Pollux told me that the light was too bright, too painful to his eyes. I motioned for him to climb on my back and shielded him with my wing as we fought towards the source. Spica and Acrux followed closely, unaffected but quite concerned.
Unusual phenomena aside, we had to do our work, and it did not matter whether or not the Little Ponies appreciated it. By continuing to give them hope, we would eventually win them over.
Once Pollux touched the wish, still averting his eyes, he merely needed to touch hooves with Spica. In turn, she exchanged the same with Acrux.
Though I could not see well, I felt Acrux’s magic seep into the wish and give it power. However, something felt wrong. The magic was not what it should have been. I could not quite understand it, but I could feel an unsettling shiver running along my neck.
“It is ready, Spica,” Acrux said, passing the wish, now a full-fledged dream, back.
Spica took the wish. By her flinching and wincing at its contact, I could tell that she, too, had felt its strange emanations. Acrux, oddly, seemed not to notice. She looked up to me in confusion.
“Go ahead, little sister. We will sort things out once this is done.” I nodded and forced myself to smile reassuringly despite my apprehensions.
Spica unfolded her new wings and, with a powerful stroke, launched into the sky. She had no problem taking off, at first, but the climb seemed like another issue entirely. I knew all Messengers could easily reach the high skies of the Garden, Spica included.
“Is everything okay, Spica?” I asked, concerned.
Struggling to flutter upwards, she was slowly climbing in a spiral, with far harsher wing beats than should have been necessary. “My wings hurt!” she cried. “I do not think I can— Ah!” Spica squealed in pain and lost control of her wings, plummeting to the ground.
I was able to catch her at the last moment, and set her down on my back. “Worry not. We will see this wish off, even if I have to take you up there myself,” I promised.
Spica sniffled, folded her wings back, and clung to me, wrapping her forelegs around my neck. “Thank you, Sister...” she said.
“Hold on tight!” I took off with no issues. Flying was a natural instinct to the Messengers and I, no different than walking or running. However, when I began the high climb, I began struggling much as Spica had. I beat my leathery wings as hard as I could. Hissing through clenched teeth in exhaustion and soreness, I fought my way up to the sky, where Spica carefully sent the wish away.
As its brightness finally faded, I let myself glide down to the ground, panting. I could not understand what was happening. Why had this climb been so hard? I had been using my new wings all night without incident; why were they failing me now?
An unsettling feeling startled me out of my reflections.
I trembled and felt shivers wash over me. The stars around me seemed oblivious. I excused myself and stepped away. I did not wish to frighten the little ones.
In the land below, I had sensed a young filly shooting awake in her bed and bursting into tears.
A nightmare. We, the bringers of hope, had given a Little Pony a nightmare.
Clenching my teeth, I sped up to a canter, then a trot, and finally a gallop.
Shame on us.
Things slowly became clear. The light. The unsettling feeling. The difficult climb. The filly’s cries.
Mother had wanted the Sentinels to see better in the night, to have the best of vision even in the purest of darknesses.
She had not accounted for the wishes’ bright light.
Mother had wanted to give the Messengers fast wings to cut through the breeze and move quickly.
She had not accounted for the high climbs that only dream sending required.
Mother had wanted to pass on her dark magic to the Artisans, to make them more powerful.
She had not accounted for the joy and gentle touch that dreams called for.
In wanting to make us better, she had crippled us, made our prime task an impossible ordeal.
“Mother...” I whispered beneath my breath, taking off at a gallop with nary an explanation to the stars. “How could you not see this...”
With a flap of my wings, I took off into the distance. I had to find him. I had to find my brother.
Oh, Garden, what have we done to you... I hear you cry and suffer so...
I had collapsed halfway to Sun. After what had felt like an eternity of running, my legs had given out from under me. I was lying on my side while my capacity for thought and perception drifted to and fro.
Mother... How could we?
One by one, my illusions had crumbled. The Garden’s plight was simple to see, now that I could recognize Mother’s mistakes and my own.
The trees... The flowers... Oh, Brother, how could you ever forgive me?
I willed for my legs to move, for my wings to flap, and even for my snout to twitch. None obeyed. My eyes would not see reason. My ears would not listen to me. I could not move; I could hardly even breathe.
No! I must not stop here! I must reach Sun!
I remained immobile for a long time. The wilted grass made my cheek itch, but I was powerless to do anything about it. A single flower loomed within my grounded line of sight. Hunched over on the end of a broken stem, it glared at me. Why, Moon, why? The flower begged to know. Why have you done this to us, who served you for so long?
Forgive us! I wanted to shout. We just wanted love! We did not mean to hurt you.
“Moon?” a voice questioned through the haze.
We will be better to you! I promise! I begged the Garden.
“Moon?” the voice asked again, this time more frantically.
I beg of you! Stay strong, Garden! Do not make us the perpetrators of your demise!
I could barely feel my body being shaken. I could hardly see nor hear; existence itself was a mere blur.
Please... Garden... Forgive me...
Why, Moon? The frail, sickly tree I had collapsed under cried. Why did you deprive us of the light we need?
“Moon... Please, Moon... Stay with me... Don’t... Moon... Stay... ...you...”
“Sun... Is it...” I was torn from consciousness before I could finish speaking.
“...oon.” A voice rang through the void, unfamiliar yet so soft and gentle.
A sweet scent permeated the air around me. The gentle caress of feathery wings brushed against my back. A soft, reassuring pressure sat atop my head, which I soon discerned as the caring muzzle of a motherly figure. The weight of forelegs on my withers drew me into a cozy embrace. I felt warm and comfortable, as though I would never long for heat again.
I forced my eyes open; my sight was blurry. I saw pink, a soft and gentle shade of it, wrapped around me.
“She is coming to, Princess,” the stranger whispered. I could barely hear her. “Moon is fine, just terribly exhausted,” she continued.
“Thank you, Kindness. I will go and speak with the others; please join us when Moon is ready,” the soothing voice of Aunt Celestia replied.
Lady Kindness. It was her who had been cradling me, I understood. Mother had often spoken about her and the other Elements of Harmony, and how they had led to the world’s release from the vile grasp of chaos and, later on, to the birth of Sun, the Stars and myself as conscious beings.
I didn’t dare move yet, and Kindness showed no issue with it. She kept me protected, shielding my body with her wings. Her embrace felt as though it could reforge my entire being. My fatigue was draining slowly but certainly, like a beast retreating from a valiant hero.
After building up some courage, I slowly lifted my head and felt Lady Kindness release me. She looked so majestic as she stood before me. As she looked at me from a head higher, she bore the most compassionate of smiles. Her deep pink eyes, the same color as her coat and mane, were ever so lightly sprinkled with tears. She looked to be a fragile thing, so frail and spindly, yet her confident and motherly demeanor belied these appearances.
My thoughts snapped into place. “Is Sun okay?” I asked. “What of the Garden? Is it too late to save our land?”
“I’m okay, Moon.”
I threw myself at my brother, who was quick to catch me in a hug of his own. “Oh! Brother!” I cried, as the remorse of my actions washed over me. “I was so scared I would not find you again! The Garden is dying, all because of me! I should have known better!” I felt Sun’s coat dampen as I pressed my head into his chest.
“Shh, shh, there, there, Moon.” Sun stroked my mane as I wailed uncontrollably. “I forgive you. We all forgive you.”
We remained that way for a long time, with me crying into my brother’s chest, and he and Lady Kindness doing their best to soothe my emotions. Somewhere during it all, I noticed that the night was still going strong, and that Sun’s glow was in fact dimmer than he had ever been. Guilt washed over me. How had I been so blind?
Finally, after I had cried all that I could, I pulled away from Sun and sat down. “Lady Kindness,” I asked, “It’s not too late to fix everything, is it?”
“No, Moon, it’s not too late,” Lady Kindness replied. “With your help and Sun’s, Princess Celestia will be able to guide the other Elements and I and fix what has been set wrong. The cycle will be restored.”
“Once we let her know of her mistake, Mother will help us too, will she not?”
Lady Kindness’s smile collapsed into a look of unease.
“She will help us too, no?” I insisted, hesitantly.
The Element remained wordless. I turned to Sun for an answer. He kept his eyes to the ground, sullen.
“Moon, please come with me,” Kindness said. I followed her towards Sun’s hill. There, the other Elements were assembled alongside Princess Celestia. They stood in a circle, engaged in a fierce debate.
“I’m sorry, Princess,” a lean red alicorn spoke. “There is no other way.”
“No, Lord Loyalty, I cannot allow it. I could never forgive myself for it,” Aunt Celestia replied with great conviction. “She is merely misled, confused. My sister is not—”
“Ah, Young Moon!” Lord Laughter’s plump cyan visage grinned widely as I approached, perhaps not so inadvertently interrupting Aunt Celestia in the middle of her retort. “I am pleased to see you have recovered.”
I joined the circle alongside Sun and Lady Kindness. Judging by the sad smiles Aunt Celestia and the Elements were giving me, they were quite worried about Mother and I. “Mother... the stars... How are they?”
Surely, by now, my mother had awakened to the same realisations I had and would hopefully be able to console the stars through the same. With all of us working together, it would be simple to breathe life anew into the Garden. What we had done, we could undo. These thoughts brought a smile to my face.
I was the only one smiling.
Lord Laughter was devoid of his eternal mirth. Lady Kindness looked down to the ground, sullen. Lord Loyalty and Lady Generosity exchanged uncertain looks. Lord Honesty remained stone faced, albeit betrayed by his quivering front hooves. Lady Magic turned to Aunt Celestia, wordlessly requesting her help.
My aunt took a deep breath and then slowly advanced towards me, breaking the circle. “Moon, please sit with me, I must speak to you.”
Sun and the Elements watched on as I sat by Aunt Celestia. “Moon... Your mother is... unwell.”
“Unwell?” I repeated. What did Aunt Celestia mean? Was Mother sick? Would we lose her?
An eternity went by in an instant as my aunt mulled over her next words.
“She has been struggling with her emotions for a long time, and I have remained blind to it, to my great distress. Without intending to do so, the Little Ponies have gravely hurt her, and now she has gotten it in her mind that she should seek justice.”
I recalled Mother speaking of the Little Ponies not respecting us as much as they respected Sun. Was this the injury that she felt they had inflicted on her? “But, Aunt Celestia, if Mother has felt hurt by the Little Ponies’ actions, is it not fair of her to seek amends?”
“It is not so simple, I am afraid,” Aunt Celestia continued. “You have seen the scars on the Garden, Moon. My sister’s idea of amends would be this land’s ruin. In turn, the Garden could no longer feed the hopes and dreams of the Little Ponies below. If it were to fall, then so would Equestria.”
“Mother would never allow that to happen!” I shouted. “She loves the Garden as much as us all! Why would she bring forth its demise?”
“I know it is hard to believe, Sister,” Sun intervened, “but my mother speaks the truth. She has tried to negotiate, to make amends and undo the Garden’s injuries, but your mother refuses to listen.”
I should have believed it. It should have been true to my ears. The Garden was agonizing, and Mother had brought it forth, never showing any doubt or remorse. There was no room for doubt.
But I wouldn’t have it.
“I refuse to listen to such fabrications! If you will not give Mother a chance, then I will! I will speak to her. I will help her see her mistake!” Before anyone could get another word in, I had galloped off. Mother would listen to her eldest daughter. She always had, and she always would.
I found Mother and a group of stars playing near the stream, by a dying tree. They seemed completely oblivious to its plight, and yet the tree’s wilted leaves and discolored trunk made it so clear. Had I been this blind as well?
I approached them at a brisk trot. “Mother! Sisters! Brothers! We have made a terrible mistake, and we must fix things at once!”
The stars had their glittering eyes on me, each more confused than the last. An uncertain murmur rose amongst the crowd.
Mother glared at me. Her voice sounded above the stars’, silencing them at once. “What are you saying? Don’t be ridiculous.”
When the sound of hooves and wings thundered in the distance, Mother hesitated for an instant. “Tell me you did not...” Then, her ears perked up and her glare contorted into a stare of utter fury. “Moon! You fool! Why would you lead them here? They will ruin everything!” She had felt Aunt Celestia, Sun, and the Elements approaching. I could tell as much.
“No, Mother. They will not ruin everything. There is nothing left to ruin after what we have caused. We must undo our hex. It is by our magic that the Garden lies dying, and it is by our magic that should allow it the light it needs to recuperate.”
“Do not defy your mother, Moon. I hoped you would know better. The Garden is yours and the stars to keep, and it will adapt to our darkness, as I have commanded it to.”
“Mother, I am sorry, but I cannot allow this to go on. When you gave me the gift of life, you tasked me with keeping the Garden in balance. Today, you give me no choice but to stand against you for that very reason.”
The stars looked at Mother and me alternately, confused. They could not pick sides between their mother and their sisters. The Sentinels, the Messengers, and the Artisans had all gathered around us. Mother noticed just as quickly as I had.
“Children, your sister and I need to talk. Please leave us for a moment, I will come and see you once this is resolved.”
I nodded to the stars, agreeing with Mother at least on that point. “Go wait for us by the Sleeping Tree,” I instructed. “Artisans, please lead the younger ones. I promise everything will be fine.”
It took a moment of concerted effort by Mother and me, but the stars eventually left. Mother and I needed to talk, and despite our newfound conflicts, neither of us wished to see the stars caught in the crossfire.
Specks of color caught my eye in the distance. The Elements were watching on, as were Aunt Celestia and Sun. They seemed poised to act if things took a turn for the worse. Mother glanced over to them, but seemed to ignore them completely.
“Now then, Moon, I will give you another chance to understand,” Mother spoke down to me. “We have the Garden. It is ours. There is no reason for us to restore power to your brother.”
“You are wrong, Mother. If we do not restore the balance, the Garden itself may very well fade away entirely. From there, who knows what catastrophes could befall the world below we have been tasked with protecting? Look at the Little Ponies, Mother. Look at your subjects. They stare at our sky, not with the disdain you attributed to them, but with fear and terror. This is not what we are, Mother. This is not what we should be.”
“Let them cower in fear!” Mother exclaimed. “They are but a bunch of ingrates! If my glorious night is to be their end, then so be it!”
“Mother!” I shouted. “How can you say such things!” I stepped closer, glaring into hers eyes. In the throes of fury, my wings flared out and my hooves trembled. “Mother, mark my words. I will stop this. I had hoped that you would help, that it would not come to this, but if I must stand against you, I will.”
“You will do no such thing. You are my daughter, and you will listen to me. I gave you life, Moon. You will do as I say.”
“No. I was given life to bring harmony upon the Garden and Equestria. I could not believe it until now, but it is clear. You have turned your back on harmony. Mother, if you are to become a force of chaos, I have no choice but to stand against you.” I prayed I would never have to act on these words. “Please, will you not reconsider?”
“Be quiet! I will not stand for this impudence!”
“No! I will not be quiet! I will make you see reason even if I must—”
Mother’s voice echoed through the Garden’s infinite expanse. Along with it, a resounding crack could be heard. I found myself laid on my side, a full step away from where I had stood a moment ago. Searing agony coursed through my right eye and across my cheek, down to the base of my neck.
Shocked, I fought through the pain and looked up at Mother. She was staring at her extended left forehoof, every bit as shocked as me. Her jaw hung loose, and her eyes were wide with incomprehension.
“You... you...” I stammered, shielding my painful cheek with my hooves.
“I... I did not mean to...” she stuttered.
The sound of Mother’s hoof against my cheek echoed in the distance.
My cheek and neck hurt. My trust, even more so. Our observers were still silent and immobile, perhaps as shocked as Mother and I were. I sensed a shift in the land below.
The Little Ponies had gone out on their porches and into their gardens in droves, and each was gawking at me with the same stunned expression. Had I changed somehow, from Mother’s strike?
Silenced at once by the cruel blow, I tried to muster the courage to speak but was preempted by the stern voice of Aunt Celestia. “Sister. You have gone too far.”
Mother retracted her hoof and looked at her sister, remorseful. “I— I suppose I did,” she said. “It does not change my position, however. Moon, I apologize. You made me angry and I lost control of myself. Please forgive me.”
My eye twitched, sending a jolt of pain down my neck. I tried to muster the strength to speak, but was nudged out of that idea by Lord Honesty’s hoof placed on my shoulder. The Elements had gathered behind me while I was dazed.
“Keep your strength, young Moon,” Lady Magic insisted. “Princess Celestia will speak for now. There are things we must explain to you, and I would assume you would like to ensure the stars are safe.”
I nodded silently, pressing a hoof against my left cheek in a vain effort to soothe the stinging pain that still coursed through it.
“This is not a matter that can be resolved by a simple apology, Luna,” Celestia admonished. “If you cannot be trusted with keeping from striking your own children, how can I possibly trust you around the Little Ponies?”
At once, all of Mother’s remorse melted away into a venomous frown. “Do not speak to me with that tone,” Mother hissed back, standing fierce before her sister. “Who are you to talk of trust? After casting your shadow over me for more centuries than I can be bothered to count, you claim the moral high ground? What a farce! You have no right to judge me, Celestia, and I am certain my daughter will be more understanding than you could ever be.” Mother turned to me, with a glance that seemed almost equal parts plea and threat.
I did my best to stand up but stumbled back down. Thankfully, Sun was by my side, ready to catch me. “No, Mother. I cannot forgive you.” I felt as though I were suffering from a horrid burn. It was excruciating just to force my words and my feelings out. Once more, the elements wordlessly motioned for me to keep my strength, but I ignored them.
A group of frightened stars cower in Mother’s imposing shadow as she looks down on them, displaying a vicious and bloodthirsty grin. The broken body of one of the youngest lies at her hooves.
The image was an unwelcome presence in my conscience. “If—” I winced in pain, interrupted by a particularly sharp pang. “If you would go so far as to strike me in a fit of frustration, how can I trust you to be good to my brothers and sisters?”
Mother frowned at my words. “Be quiet, Moon. That is more than enough out of you.”
Young foals in a little pony home huddle together three to a bed, kept awake and frightened by horrible nightmares. Their parents, just outside, stare at a black, featureless sky, mourning the end of a world of peaceful dreams.
“How can I trust you to preserve hope as we have for so long?” I forced myself to stand up and face Mother, thankful that I could brace myself against Sun’s warm side. I fought through the pain to stare at her. “Is it not our sworn duty to watch over the Ponies as they rest through the night, just as Aunt Celestia and Sun cast their protection over the day’s labors?”
Mother held a scathing, disdainful look. “I will not say it again, child. Be silent at once.”
The Garden is barren, rolling hills of dust with nary a sign of life. The stream’s bed has dried out; the once-bountiful flow is no more.
I refused to let her interrupt me. “No, Mother. You will not silence me. Not after what you have done. You remain so adamant that we have only done good for the Garden, Mother; if you cannot see the error of such notions, how can I trust you any longer?”
“I have no use for your trust, impudent foal! I gave you life and, whether you like it or not, you will do as told!” Mother snapped.
I winced as she stepped towards me, shielding myself from a strike that never came.
“You will do no such thing, Sister.”
I cracked an eye open. Standing in front of me, between Mother and myself, was Aunt Celestia, in all her shining glory, scowling at Mother with fierce disapproval.
“What were you thinking, Luna?” Celestia paused and took a deep breath, forcing herself to remain calm. “Is this little crusade of yours worth putting all of Equestria on the brink of destruction? Is it worth risking the Garden over? Are you truly no better than Discord was? No better than Sombra?”
Mother would not have any of it. She growled and began defiantly approaching Aunt Celestia, strutting around her in a circle. “How dare you compare me to those monsters! They were merely seekers of power; selfish and greedy. What I seek is justice and retribution. All I want is what I am owed.”
As Mother spoke, Sun approached. He looked startled when I turned to face him, but he quickly regained his composure. I did not think my gesture had been that unexpected, but perhaps I had been wrong. He leaned in and whispered to me. “I think it would be best if we let our mothers discuss their issues for a time. I am as worried as you are, but Lady Magic informed me that there are other issues that very much require your attention. We should go and give you some time to recover. I am certain that the Elements and my mother can keep things under control.”
I nodded silently, remembering that the stars were most likely still waiting for me, that my right cheek still felt as though it was on fire, and that the Little Ponies still had not stopped staring.
Sun let the Elements know that we were going, and we began making our way to where the stars waited. Focused on Aunt Celestia, Mother did not see me leaving. As I left, I could still hear her rants in the distance, growing ever more vitriolic.
“It is always the same story with you! ‘Do not eat all that pudding, Luna, you will get sick.’ ‘Do not play so roughly with the tides, Luna, you are flooding the farmers’ fields.’ ‘Speak with me before taking decisions in our royal court, Luna.’ ‘Do not prevent Sun from rising, Luna...’”
By the time we were out of earshot, I felt sick. To hear Mother so full of hate and anger was torture. What had happened to the loving Mother I had known, and when had she been replaced by this nightmare?
I stumbled for a moment, destabilized by pain and exhaustion, only to be rescued by Sun once more. I stopped and rested my head against his neck. “I am so worried about Mother... She has changed so much... This new appearance of hers, her anger, her vile ambitions... This is not the Mother I know. I fear losing the Mother I love.”
Sun draped his neck over mine, and I felt his warmth slowly flow into me. His simple presence was reassuring; his words, even more so. “Sister, if anyone can bring her back, it’s you. I am certain that you can get through to her. It may be difficult, but I promise to be by your side through it all.”
My brother’s affection was a wonderful relief after such extended anguish. I could feel his warmth coursing through my body, as though his heat sought to reforge sundered parts of my heart and soul. “Thank you, Brother,” I finally answered, smiling for what felt like the first time in an eternity. I nuzzled Sun affectionately, passing that same smile onto him. “We had better keep going,” I added. “I worry about what Mother might have done to the stars.”
Despite the stinging pain still pulling at my focus, it was with renewed energy that I led Sun to the stars, hoping that they would be okay. Mother had to be stopped before it was too late, but I knew I could trust Aunt Celestia to give Sun, the Elements, and I all the time we needed to prepare.
I would bring Mother back to her senses, no matter what it took.
Sun and I soon reached the banks of the stream. The stars wouldn’t be much farther. I could feel their presence in the grove where they normally slept.
I motioned towards the stream; I was feeling absolutely parched. Sun quickly shifted over and placed a hoof on my shoulder.
“Sister, wait.” Sun slowly led me towards the stream. “Before you look into the water, I just need you to promise me to try to remain calm.”
I froze. “W-why? Is there something wrong with me?”
Sun took a deep breath and led me forward again, careful not to let go of his encouraging embrace, nudging me until we stood at the water’s edge. “I think you should see for yourself, sister. Just know this, before you look: You are still a beautiful mare, and do not let anything convince you otherwise.”
I looked into the water, and a scar looked back at me.
“Look at the sky!” I could hear the Little Ponies murmuring. “The moon! The moon is scarred!”
Its neck traced up my left cheek and its eye overlapping my own, the silhouette of my Mother’s changed form was staring back at me from my own reflection, a pitch-black stain amidst my bright coat.
I held my breath and dunked my head into the water, shaking it about, hoping that the mark would come off in the cleansing waters, but alas, it was in vain. It was a scar, true and through, one that simple water could not hope to wash away.
I slouched on the river’s edge, wallowing in the azure grass. Sun approached silently, stroking my right wing comfortingly as tears trickled down my cheeks.
Just like the marks she left on the Garden, I reasoned, though I soon corrected myself.
Just like the marks “we” left.
I should have seen the signs. I should have stopped Mother. I had been foolish, and now I had been scarred as a punishment. Marked. Disfigured.
You are still a beautiful mare. Sun’s words rang. I knew Sun would never lie to me.
No. Not disfigured. I was different. It was a mark of experience, a reminder not to make the same errors. A warning against Mother’s new state, and a sign that I had to help stop her.
I sniffled and swallowed back my sadness, forcing myself to stand up and smile. “Sun, come with me. The stars need me, and I do not wish to delay any longer.”
“Are you sure you will be fine, Sister?” Sun asked, hesitating to follow.
“Yes. Thanks to you, I will be.” I crossed my neck with Sun’s, laying my head onto his shoulder for a moment.
He smiled in turn, and somehow, if just for a brief instant, I knew things would turn out fine in the end. Sun was with me and, soon, the stars would be as well.
Plus, I had my own eyes, wings, and magic back, so how bad could it possibly get?
The stars’ grove was a mess. Their hill was chaos given form. The stars themselves were out of control. I could hear their ruckus from immeasurable distances away; I could feel their turmoil from even farther.
Shouting. Whining. Screeching. Bickering.
Whimpering. Sobbing. Weeping. Bawling.
I broke into a gallop, leaving Sun in the dust with nary a warning. In an instant, I faced the mass.
“Canopus! Capella! You let Castor go this instant! Spica! Give Suhail her flower back right now!” My horn lit up with a bright glow, and at once I levitated Sargas down from the tree he was standing in, pulled Regulus and Acrux apart, and gently floated Aludra and Caph to my side, away from their tormentors.
My flurry of activity lasted for what felt like an entire night, as I admonished, consoled, and called to order countless stars as needed. For the first time, I had to raise my voice and shout for the stars to listen. I hated having to do it, but it was for their own good. When Sun caught up, he immediately set out to help me. He had much less experience with the stars, but they respected him as an older brother, and his help was invaluable. Each star stared for a short moment at my scar, only stopping because they knew it was not polite to stare.
I observed their darker coats and their so-called “gifts” from Mother, and hoped that, in time, I could help them recover their true forms, just as Lady Kindness had done for me.
Without my guidance, and given free reign by Mother, the eldest stars had lost their role of protectors and nurturers to their younger brethren. They had become bullies and tormentors. I made sure that each of them apologized. This was not how Mother and I had raised them to behave.
The middle children had mostly taken off by themselves, away from the eldest, many of them taking up some rather risky games, acting rowdy, and fighting amongst themselves. I had to cajole more than a few after they had suffered minor injuries, and forcefully pull a few more out of ridiculous stunts. Miraculously, none of them had gotten truly hurt.
The youngest had been the ones to take the full brunt of the eldest’s tormenting. Furthermore, many of them were scared of all these new changes, now that Mother was no longer around to string them along and keep them occupied. I hugged each and everyone one of them, promising that we would bring the Garden back to normal, that the wishes would return and that all would be peaceful once more.
Finally, we had the stars under control and sitting in a large group in uneasy peace. Refusing to give in to my fatigue, I stood in front of the stars, putting forth my most reassuring smile.
“Now, little ones...”
I carefully mulled my words over for a moment. I did not want the stars to be hurt by the news of Mother’s cruel new turn, but they deserved to know what was going on.
“I guess many of you have questions about what is going on with Mother and the Garden, and about what we have helped her do.”
Many of the stars nodded, some of them raising a hoof or blurting out their questions. A vague murmur washed over the crowd.
“Mother is not being herself, right now. Events that are no one’s fault have made her very upset, and she is letting it drive her away from who she is. Mother needs our help, but it will not be easy.”
The stars nodded in comprehension. The worried frowns and pouts were unbearable.
“I need you all to make me a promise. I know I am asking for a lot, but until things change, I need you to promise me you will not seek Mother out by yourself. She is not the Mother we know and love. I promise we will help Mother come back to herself, but until then, it is important that you stay safe. Can you promise me that?”
A loud mass of whispers coursed through the crowd. Many of the stars raised questions. “But, Sister, does it mean we can’t see Mommy at all?” “What if she comes to see us?” “Did she give you that scar?”
It was only then that I realized I had not thought that far. I looked to Sun for guidance, but found him biting his lower lip, just as hesitant as I was.
“Moon?” another star asked. “How long will it take to get Mother back?” “Is it our fault that Mommy is like that?” “Why are you bright again?” “Will we get to go back to how we were before too?”
The stars looked at me expectantly, and, pushed by my sisterly instincts, I began trying to explain. “Well... You see, little ones...”
A wise voice rang out over my hesitant stutterings. “Moon, if I could have a word with you and the stars?”
The stars fell silent and their eyes grew wide at the sight of our visitor. When I turned back to see who had spoken, so did my own.
Lady Magic, in all her regal poise, flapped her wings a few times as she slowly alighted by Sun and me. “I may be able to enlighten you and the little ones on the situation.”
With a final flutter of her violet-feathered wings, Lady Magic alighted amidst our group. She stood before Sun and me, and the stars quickly rose to attention, intrigued. Her simple presence was comforting, reassuring, and she radiated an aura of confidence and stability. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. After the tense confrontation with Mother, the unexpected strike I had received, and failing to explain what was going on to the Stars, it was a relief to hear her voice.
“There is much for me to tell you, so please, sit.” She motioned for Sun and I to join the stars.
For a long time, she spoke to us of the disharmony that had taken over Mother. Mother had felt slighted by her perception that Aunt Celestia had been favored by the Little Ponies, and had grown jealous over time.
Mother had not wanted the stars and me to be concerned by these issues, and thus, had kept them to herself. Tragically, this meant that they had propagated like rot, festering within, until, as we had found out just some nights ago, they had taken her over completely.
“Your mother will recover,” Lady Magic had explained, solemnly, “but she will need your help. Moon, you must lead the stars and help Princess Luna see reason. She will not listen to her sister, whom, I am loath to say, she now perceives as a foe. She will not listen to us Elements. However, I believe that, given time and patience, she will listen to her children.”
I nodded, becoming aware of the worried stars huddling around me and with one another. “I wish to help, Lady Magic, I do, but I already tried speaking to Mother, and she would not listen!”
“I know you have, Moon.” Lady Magic nodded. “It will take more than a single discussion to help your mother recover. The Elements and I hope that she can be rescued from her emotions in time, but we know it will take much effort.”
“What about me, Lady Magic?” Sun asked. “Is there not something I can do to help?”
“You will have an important role to play as well, Sun.” Lady Magic turned to Sun, offering him an encouraging smile. “Your sister will need your help. Be there for her, young lord. Help her shoulder her miseries and stay strong even when she feels weak. The stars will depend on her for guidance; see if you can guide her when she finds herself being the one in need.” Lady Magic explained.
“I will do my best,” my brother agreed, offering me a smile. I smiled back and rested my head against his neck in gratitude.
“Furthermore, your mother will need your support as well. It was no easy task to convince her that her sister was beyond reasoning, and I can only begin to imagine how she might react to Luna’s fall. She will need you more than ever.”
Sun nodded gravely. “I will see to it that she not be alone. It is only fair, after she has done so much for me.”
“That is very noble of you, Sun,” Lady Magic acknowledged his response. “It is tragic that such things would happen, but we must see things through, for the good of the Little Ponies and the Garden alike. The Elements and I will be behind you every step of the way, but without your help, we can only do so much.”
“But what are we to do?” I asked. “How can I get Mother to listen?”
Lady Magic closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. I watched and waited, expecting the worst.
The worst was indeed what Lady Magic spoke. “I fear that the first step will be the hardest...”
I could clearly make out the soft beating of Lady Magic’s broad violet wings against the breeze, the determined flapping of Sun’s, just to my right. Closer, I heard my own, pushing the air back with purpose as I hurried forward. Behind me, the hooves of the Sentinels and Artisans rumbled, accompanying the rustling of the Messengers’ wings.
I glanced back, ensuring that the stars were keeping up well. I hated to involve them in such a confrontation, but their presence would be crucial.
The Garden held silent. Perhaps it was waiting to see what would unfold.
As I followed Lady Magic back to Mother and Aunt Celestia, I thought back to the question she had asked me before our departure.
”Are you prepared to do what you must, Moon? Are you prepared to make your mother listen, even if she does not want to?”
Willing myself to remain courageous, I thought back to my answer, forcing myself to repeat it in my head again and again.
I will do what must be done. I will help Mother, no matter what it takes. I will do what must be done. I will do what must be done. I will do what must be done.
Though hardly an hour had passed in the Little Ponies’ world, it felt as though my confrontation with Mother was now several days behind us. Our flight felt as though it would never end.
Though the suspense and anticipation very much had me unnerved, I welcomed the chance to reflect on the conversation my brother and I had had with Lady Magic, and on our plans for the confrontation to come.
”But, Lady Magic, how can I possibly hope to confront Mother? Will she not strike me down as last time? Mother wields power the likes of which I could not hope to match!”
I recalled the smile Lady Magic had offered then.
”Does she, now? What makes you say such a thing?”
”Look upon the Garden, Lady Magic. It is barren, a shadow of itself. How could I hope to stop the perpetrator of such a—”
Not an instant after saying these words, the answer had come to me.
”I trust you understand now, Moon?” Lady Magic had asked, noting my sudden air of comprehension.
I had. At that very moment I had understood what I would need to do.
That did not make the idea any less unpleasant.
“Lady Magic! Are you certain there is no other way?” I asked over the rushing wind that blew in my ears.
“Tragically so.” Lady Magic answered, without turning around. “Be strong, Moon; we are almost there.”
Turning around for a moment, I gazed at the crowd of my precious stars. “Be strong, little ones. It is time to save our mother.”
”You lie!” I heard Mother’s voice echo in the distance. ”I do not believe you!”
”It is the truth, Luna.” Aunt Celestia’s voice soon followed. “The ponies love your night just as much as the day. They love you as the guardian of their dreams and the protector of their nights!”
“Fabrication! Pure and simple falsehoods! You may say so, Sister, but it is your day that they frolick in. It is your day that sees them live and love. My night is but a break before the next day. I am merely a placeholder as you sleep, and I will no longer tolerate this injustice!”
As my mother and aunt came into view, it was easy to tell that their arguments had not been strictly verbal. The Garden’s soil was scuffled around them, their manes were in disarray and Aunt Celestia’s crown was discarded nearby, stomped into scrap.
Aunt Celestia stood unfazed, high and mighty. If she was injured, she hid it very well.
Mother, on the other hand, was a wreck. Hunched over, out of breath, her shoes cast aside and her features contorted by untold fury. She reminded me of the wolves I sometimes saw roaming the outskirts of Liberty Woods. It was heartwrenching to see her like this.
I reluctantly swallowed my fear and alighted next to Aunt Celestia.
“Mother. I beg you, stop this madness! Do you not recall how often ponies wish to us, to the stars and me? To the children whom you gave life and thought to? They love you, Mother,” I pleaded, “They love you just as they love Aunt Celestia. Just as your children love you!”
Mother’s scowl only intensified. “You dare show your face again! You little traitor! I gave you everything, and yet you stand against me? Insolent child!” she snarled. “I ought to show you some discipline!”
Mother charged and, immediately, I cowered, bracing myself for the blow.
It did not come.
I opened a confused eye, to find Mother’s hoof stopped, some distance away, by Lord Loyalty’s broad crimson leg.
“That is enough, Princess Luna,” Lady Magic commanded as her fellow Elements formed a circle around Mother. “We did not want to do this, but you are a danger to the Garden, to Equestria, and, most of all, to yourself.”
The glare mother shot me at that moment could have leveled entire cities, and it was only determination to help her that kept me standing. “I’m sorry, Mother. It is for your own good.”
“So be it.” Mother chuckled in uncanny serenity. “Do your worst.”
Aunt Celestia, Sun, the stars and I watched from a short distance away as the Elements’ horns lit, and a ring of colorful light formed a circle around Mother.
In the corner of my eye, I could see some of the stars behind us turning away, and some of the eldest shielding the youngest with their wings or legs. They were doing their best to remain courageous in the face of the situation. Pride swelled in me for a moment.
The Elements’ circle of light intensified and began rising off the ground, forming into a glistening dome of force, shimmering with their bright colors. The sheer power of their magic was making me tingle all over.
Aunt Celestia opened her mouth, as if to speak, but was cut off when Sun placed his hoof on her shoulder. She looked at him for a moment and nodded somberly, returning to her silent watch. I couldn’t begin to imagine how hard it was on her to let this happen, and yet she stood bravely and impassible.
Then, Mother smirked and gave another chuckle. She tried to keep her composure but soon burst into laughter, incapable of containing herself. “Fools! You truly think your power has any hold on me? It is by the day and the night’s power that you were granted thought, Elements. I have but to will it, and the night’s magic will free me at once!”
As she spoke, Mother’s mane grew dark, and shadows cloaked her horn, soon plunging the circle in pure darkness. The Elements’ circle wobbled and the dome rippled and began to weaken. It flickered and stopped its constriction, incapable of forcing itself any tighter. Mother stood at the middle of it all, lording her power above the elements, and still laughing in cruel mirth.
It was time. I lit my horn, and the stars followed suit. Lady Magic had helped me remember what I had forgotten.
“Mother, we, the night, refuse you our power. You have led us down a dangerous road, and we do not accept the destination you have chosen for us.”
Mother’s darkness grew thinner, and her figure reappeared out of the shadows, eyes wide in shock, her haughty grin having collapsed.
“You… you what?!” She snapped in baffled anger. “No! No! I am your Mother, and you will obey me!”
I moved forward and stood by the circle, coating my horn in moonlight. Following my example, the stars surrounded the bubble, and soon our collective glow drove the shadows away. The Garden shone white as far as the eye could see, and Mother, cowering in the middle of the prismatic dome, was the sole shadow within sight.
All of the night’s magic was flowing away from her, and back to the stars and I. It felt wrong to take Mother’s power away, to deprive her of her magic. I knew it had to be done, but that did not make it any easier.
I recalled my own creation, and the first words Mother had ever spoken to me.
“Mother, as you gave me life and thoughts, you said I was to wield the night’s magic for harmony and peace, so that Equestria may prosper.” I stared her in the eye.
“Ungrateful child!” Mother snapped. “I am your mother, and you will obey me! Return my magic to me at once!”
I stood straight and refused to falter. “I may be your daughter, Mother, but I am not your servant. This has gone too far, and it falls upon me to stop you. In light of your actions, I am invoking the night’s powers against you, who has chosen to use them for disharmony rather than good. With the stars’ help, I am retaking the gift of magic that allowed you to bathe the Garden in shadows. Just as you commanded the night’s full power for the service of a greater cause in defeating the forces of chaos, and again for what you led us to believe was the greater good for the Garden, we now retake it so that you may be restrained until your heart beats pure again.”
“You pest!” Mother leapt for me, forehooves raised high, but crashed against the Elements’ barrier. She violently thrashed against it, determined to bust through, but to no avail.
“I will not allow this…” Mother wheezed.
“I will not…” Her horn grew dark once more, as she invoked what little power remained within her.
I held tight. The magic I was channeling away from Mother was astronomical; perhaps more powerful than anything I had ever felt. The stars struggled as well; they had to reclaim all of their forces, and a part of Mother’s own on top of that.
“No!” Mother lost her grip on what last powers of darkness she held, and her horn came uncloaked, void of magic. She collapsed to the ground. “Please! Sister! Stop them! It hurts!” Mother implored. “I beg of you! Forgive me! Please forgive me! I will repent!”
Aunt Celestia stepped past my brother. For a moment, Sun hesitated and let her through, but suddenly appeared to realize what was going on. He tried to stop her once more, but she ignored him. “Elements,” she pleaded, “Wait! We cannot simply—”
The Elements hesitated for a moment; that was all Mother needed.
Before any of us knew what had happened, Mother had burst forth and drove herself straight for Lady Magic. We could only gaze in abject horror at the scene that soon stood before us.
The sickening crackle of disturbed essence thundered, obliterating the Garden’s tranquility.
Mother had not breached the barrier.
Her horn, however, had.
“Celestia, you fool! What kind of coward do you take me for? Naive sister. With the last of my power, I have taken my revenge,” Mother gloated, as the assembly stood speechless. “I may fall, but I will not fall alone.”
Lady Magic’s eyes widened, and she let out a sickening gurgle, stiff as a statue.
Mother’s wicked horn had gone right through her chest.
“When I rise again,” my traitorous mother declared, “the Elements will no longer stand to prevent it.”