When Night and Day Collide

by Spangle

First published

A second, unknown prophecy of Nightmare Moon's return comes to pass.

The prophecy of Nightmare Moon's return has been told from generation to generation. Many ponies came to regard it as nothing more than a mere legend. There was, however, a second prophecy. One that was not known amongst the common ponies of Equestria, for its meaning remained a mystery, even to Celestia.

"When night and day collide, peace will be restored, and the Spirits of Harmony will return true balance to Equestria."

Celestia's Tale

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The Sun was setting on Equestria after another uneventful day, casting its gentle, orange glow through the stained glass windows of the throne room. The glass filtered the light into vivid rainbows of color that covered all but the shadows cast by the towering walls and pillars of the hall-like space as Celestia sat upon the ornate throne. She hummed a tune softly to herself and smiled while she looked over her list of her tasks, a magically suspended quill making note of which she had completed and which would have to wait until tomorrow.

As she did so, a young unicorn stallion entered through the large, arching doorway and began to close the distance between himself and the Princess of the Sun, his steps falling softly on the lush crimson carpet pathway. He was still in his adolescence, barely short of his teenage years, made quite apparent by how his build wasn't as large or muscular as a one would expect of a full-grown stallion. His royal blue coat was in stark contrast to the white of his mane and tail, both bearing streaks of gold, while upon his flank sat the emblem of an oval mirror. Not until he was much closer did she look up to acknowledge his arrival.

“Thank you for joining me, Truth Seeker,” said the Princess. “I've just finished reviewing the day’s events. Are you prepared to continue your training?”

The unicorn closed his eyes and knelt in a formal bow. “I am, your Majesty." When he rose and lifted his head, he met the gaze of her serene violet eyes with his, a remarkable blazing orange possessing the same warmth of color as the sunset outside.

“Excellent," she said with a thoughtful smile gracing her lips at his display of formality. She had told him several times before such courtesies were not required between them, but he simply respond to such remarks by repeating his father's teachings about 'showing due respect through commitment to formality' or something to that effect. Unlike others who bowed and used formal titles only because the were obligated to or win favor, Truth did such things out of a genuine desire to demonstrate his true respect and gratefulness towards her. The pause lingered for only a moment. "I have already spoken to Luna and have informed her of the day’s accomplishments.” She rose from her seat as she continued speaking. “Shall we make our way to the rooftop observatory, or would you prefer a different location this evening?”

“The observatory’s fine, Princess. I enjoy being under the stars." He rubbed the the back of neck with a foreleg, giving a slight chuckle as he shot a quick glance downward. "Heh... I guess I’m a little like my dad that way.”

“I understand," she said giving a near-musical laugh in return. "My sister’s night certainly is a beautiful sight to behold,” she said with a sentimental smile. “How has your father been as of late? I rarely get the chance to speak with him. Not since he accepted Luna’s offer to take command of the Lunar Guard's combat pegasi forces.”

The smile had almost left Truth’s face entirely, his gaze now lowered to the floor. “He’s... doing well, I suppose. Honestly? It’s always been hard to tell with him. For as long as I can remember, he’s kept his feelings at a distance, though he hasn't been the same since mom... well, since she passed a few years back. I can tell he’s still hurting..." As though suddenly remembering something, his mood shifted as his ears perked up and he lifted his head. "But it has helped us to become closer!”

“Hmm.” Celestia nodded slightly with her eyes shut. “Perhaps you are more like your father than you realize, but that is a discussion for another time. Let us make our way to the tower.”

Celestia took the lead as the two began to make their way down the hallway of the throne room. They walked in silence with only the trotting of their hooves on the white marble tiles breaking the quiet after they had stepped off the carpet pathway. The calm didn't sit well with Truth's talkative nature. To him, it felt like wasted time. In this particular case, it was time he could use to learn more about his mentor.

“It must be really nice to have your sister back... You seem so happy when you talk about her,” he observed.

Celestia gave another small nod with closed eyes. “Indeed. I am joyful beyond measure that Luna has returned to my side. If not for Twilight and her friends, I fear I would have never known such happiness.”

The silence resumed for a brief moment as they continued walking, the Princess apparently having said her peace with nothing more to add on the matter. Truth, on the other hand, was again unsettled by the dead air between them.

“Did you always know it was going to work out? I mean, with the return of Nightmare Moon and the Elements of Harmony and all?”

Celestia paused a moment, looking upward in apparent thought and then to the unicorn at her side. “In truth? No. For a great while, I had not the slightest notion of how the events of Nightmare Moon’s return would unfold.”

“So... when exactly did you know?” inquired Truth, looking to her with a raised eyebrow as they continued on their way.

The regal alicorn took a deep breath and let out a sigh, causing Truth to avert his eyes. “I’m sorry,” quickly apologized the young stallion, a deep frown now on his face and his eyes quivering. “It wasn't my place to ask. I didn't mean to bring up painful memories, your Majesty.”

Celestia smiled, moved by his caring nature. “Do not worry yourself. You did not know, nor was it your responsibility to know,” she said in an attempt to assuage his concerns. It wasn't working.

“Yeah, but I should have known. I might not have any brothers or sisters, but I still know what it’s like to lose someone close to you, and I can imagine how much more it hurts when you're the one who—I mean...” Truth faltered in his speech, seeing a brief flinch of ancient regret course through Celestia's features at his remarks. "I'll stop talking now."

“I suppose your words carry some truth, my aptly named student,” replied the Princess with a small laugh at her play on words, “but please lay your concerns to rest." Celestia met his troubled gaze, the fullness of her age and wisdom weighing heavily in her eyes. "Your intent was pure. The pain I feel is a burden of my own making, and I alone must bear the responsibility. No one else can assume blame for what is solely mine." She closed her eyes briefly in contemplation and allowing her regal smile to return. "What’s done is done. If you still wish to hear the tale, I am willing to share it with you.”

“Really!?” Truth’s voice cracked slightly, an excited grin plastered on his face. He gave a quick cough, taking a moment to compose himself as the red faded from his cheeks, surprisingly visible under his blue coat. “But... why? I’m just some unicorn. I’m not royalty or family or anything special like that...”

“Do not be so quick to belittle yourself, Truth Seeker," she encouraged. "You will one day take the place of my Chief Advisor and, as such, I wish for there to be a close bond of trust between us. Secrets do not aid in achieving this goal. For this, we must both have a deeper understanding of each other.”

She spoke with the same wisdom and clarity as before that could have only be forged by countless years of rulership. Truth’s eyes went wide as her words sunk in, the muscles of his face relaxing as his earlier concerns drifted from his mind.

“I suppose you have a point... and I graciously accept your offer, Princess.”

“I'm glad to hear so. Well then, I suppose it first began to come into focus one night nearly twenty years ago...”

***

Celestia sat in her study looking over the newest list of applicants to Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Located on the grounds of the Royal Palace, it was the most prominent institute of magical study in all of Equestria. The school had the best funding, the latest textbooks, the top of the line supplies and equipment, and the most renowned professors from all parts of the world. Most importantly, it was a full scholarship for those either talented or dedicated enough to pass the entrance exams.

The future of Equestria, she thought. At least, that's what she had told herself when she created it so long ago.

I worry that we may not have much of a future left.

It was late in the evening. The fireplace crackled as shadows danced against the walls of the room, Celestia's only company among the towering shelves of books. The calm allowed her mind wandered back to centuries-old memories triggered by the thought. Old wounds that could never heal began to throb within her heart, wounds inflicted on that fateful day nearly one thousand years ago. The day when she lost the pony most dear to her, the one pony who was supposed to be by her side forever. As the memories flooded to the surface of her mind, she felt something wet trickle down her muzzle: tears, calm and silent. They were tears of loss, guilt, and regret. Despite the countless times the emotions had surfaced before, she was still amazed that time had done so little to alleviate the aches within her heart or dry the tears from her eyes. As the drops of sorrow fell from her face and broke against the stone floor of her chamber, a single sentence echoed in her mind:

“On the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in Her escape, and She will bring about nighttime eternal.”

A prophecy; one that had haunted Celestia every night for centuries. Turning to look out the window, she stared at the Moon.

Centuries alone...

The time was drawing near. She knew Luna's—No, she stopped being Luna a long time ago—She knew that Nightmare Moon's return was now only a few years more than a decade away, a span of time that seemed like mere minutes after so many centuries.

And it’s all my fault.

Blinded by her desperation to see her sister again and overwhelmed with regret over her banishment, Celestia had called upon the mercy of the stars themselves only a century later to free the Mare in the Moon. They responded to the sorrow in her heart, but as powerful as the stars may be, they required time to store up enough magical energy to undo an imprisonment as strong as the one Celestia had cast using the Elements of Harmony.

The stars did not operate on the same timeline as a pony. Having existed for nearly inconceivable aeons, to them centuries are no more than the snap of a pony's tail. Though Celestia didn't want to wait, she had no other option. Only the stars were powerful enough to break the spell. Once they began, they could not be stopped.

How foolish I was.

It was a mistake. The Luna she knew was gone, but she hadn't cared. She only wanted her sister back, even if it was only a shadow of the pony she used to know. It was only a short time later that Celestia's Council of Magic came to her, telling her of the prophecy they had been given by ancient magics of Equestria. The news hadn't surprised her. It was impossible for an event of such significance to go unnoticed. The meaning of the prophecy was clear to everypony, the history recent and well known to all, and even though she had tried to keep it secret, word quickly made its way to the general public.

This did not worry the ruler of Equestria. Ponies had a way of dismissing dangers that were far from their day-to-day lives. As time passed, the prophecy turned into nothing more than an old pony's tale. Nightmare Moon became a myth to scare foals and the mascot of a holiday celebration. Her little ponies grew blissful in their ignorance of just how real and dangerous the Mare in the Moon really was.

Celestia, on the other hoof, feared for the future of Equestria. She feared for what would happen to her subjects if she failed. She did not, however, fear for her life. All joy of any meaning had left her life long ago.

Joy is something I do not deserve after having wronged my little sister so. How can I allow myself to be happy? It is the HIGHEST duty of the older sibling to protect the younger, yet I was the one who harmed her most. I still wonder if I even deserve to live after committing such a vile crime.

Perhaps in death she could atone for the mistakes she had made, but she continued to forge ahead, knowing such an action would just selfishly destroy their world. Her only motivation was the survival her ponies, leading them behind a mask of false happiness and serenity. She was trapped between a desire for death and an obligation to life. When Nightmare Moon returned, Celestia knew the choice before her was really no choice at all. She would fight.

I must be strong when the time comes. I must protect my subjects. I must protect Equestria!

That very same thought had given her the strength she needed nearly one thousand years ago. It was the only thing that had allowed her to banish the wicked mare of darkness, and though the ponies of Equestria hailed her as a hero, she had felt like anything but. Those feelings remained harbored deep within her soul on this night of her reflection, but Nightmare Moon was a threat that couldn't be ignored.

Though, I'm not so certain I'll be able to do what's required of me when the time comes.

Even though she had always been the more powerful of the two ancient alicorns, the pure jealousy and bitterness that fueled the creature known as Nightmare Moon gave the monster strength. Without using the Elements of Harmony, Celestia wasn't so sure that she would be able to defeat her sister again, not without doing the unthinkable: not without killing Nightmare Moon.

No. I could never...

But something had to be done if she wanted to protect her subjects. Of course she wanted to protect them, but the fact of the matter was that Celestia couldn't kill Nightmare Moon, and she knew it. Even ignoring the larger implications of such an act, the resolve of her heart was broken. In her mind, there was no way she could bring herself to harm what remained of her little sister a second time. She still loved her precious little ‘Woona’, even after she had become that monster. The events of that fateful day rushed forward into her mind, the memory still vivid as though it had happened not the day before.

***

“I do not wish to hurt you, Luna!” Celestia shouted across the open field of grass.

The brilliantly white and stunningly blue alicorn stood facing each other in a remote valley, separated only by a distance that could be closed in mere seconds. The mountains towered into the clouds, and the wind howled and whipped through the tall green blades while their ethereal manes seemed only slightly affected. Thunder from the dark sky echoed through the valley as the very land itself seemed to feed off of the tension from the troubling events that were now transpiring.

The seemingly shadow-cast form of her sister gave a dark laugh, malice dripping from her voice. “Hurt me? Dearest sister, 'tis amusing that you believe you can stop us.”

What had started as Luna voicing her discontent had quickly deteriorated into shouting. When she started becoming violent and making threats towards the older sister, Celestia had brought them here using a teleportation spell in case the worst should happen.

"Lulu, please... we were meant to rule together!" Celestia pleaded, hoping to

"Do not call us that! You have always deprived us of the glory and respect we deserve! There was never a 'together,' only your precious light," she shouted in near trembling anger.

Celestia blinked hard and shook her head, taken aback at her beloved sister's enraged response to her affection. Steeling herself, she again tried desperately to reason with her sister. “If you would simply listen, I'm certain we can talk through thi—”

No!” Luna interrupted, a magical aura beginning to form at her silver-shod hooves and swirl upward around her dark blue form. “The time for talk has long passed. Today, we take our rightful place among our subjects! We have been nothing but your shadow for far too long, dear sister!” Luna raved, giving voice to all her repressed frustrations.

Tears began to fill Celestia’s eyes as she called out, “Luna, please stop! This isn't how—”

“On this day, we shall extinguish your blinding sunlight! Your life shall be forfeit by our hoof!” Luna ignored her sister's plea as the dark magic continued to engulf her.

Again, Celestia struggled to reach her sister. “Luna, I'm begging you to please—”

“And with you out of the way, dear, sweet sister, the night! Will last! Forever!” Her sister's cries went unheeded. “All the ponies of Equestria will revel in the beautiful splendor of our Moon and stars!” The dark veil of shadows had now consumed Luna completely, obscuring her from sight.

“Please, Luna!” Celestia cried, shutting her eyes tight as her voice echoed around them, trying to prevent the horrifying transformation taking place before her.

Luna is dead!” The shroud of magic scattered in an instant. “And I, Nightmare Moon, will take my rightful place as the only ruler of Equestria!”

The creature that was now standing before Celestia was no longer her sweet Moon Princess, but a mare of darkness that only vaguely resembled the sister she was talking to a moment earlier. It was only a moment later that the black, armor-clad form had leapt at her, the intent to kill clear in the monster's teal, reptile-like eyes.

***

A loud crack from the study’s fireplace shocked Celestia out of the painful memory. Her heart was violently pounding as though it was trying to escape from her chest. A cold sweat lined her brow as she gave labored breaths, gasping for air. Several moments passed as she calmed herself the best she could, gazing once more at the Moon as it hung in the star-filled sky outside her window. That had been the last time she had tried to reach out to Luna, and the first time she realized that her sister had been lost to her.

Truly, I cannot take my sister's life, and neither is there an acceptable alternative... is there really nothing I can do?

To be sure, she had spent hundreds of years looking into ways to reverse Luna's descent into darkness, centuries devoted searching for a way to get back the sister she had lost to madness. In all her research, there had only been answer: The Elements of Harmony. She had known this when she used them to banish Nightmare Moon. She had tried to use them to save Luna before anything else!

I couldn’t save her...

The Elements had failed... or rather, the failure was hers. The strife in her heart from fighting her beloved, little sister and the guilt caused by her failure to notice her sister's despair were so great that her spirit was filled with chaos. Her internal disharmony clashed with the Elements, preventing her from using their full power, preventing her from doing what she wanted to do most. Instead, she used what power the Elements could afford her to seal her sister away within the Moon where she couldn't bring harm to anyone.

And now her return was approaching. It could not be stopped, and Celestia wasn't any closer to saving her sister than the day she had sealed her within the Moon. Once again, she searched for answers somewhere—anywhere—within her mind. Suddenly, her eyes went wide as she began to recall something... something that could hold the answer... something that had been almost lost within the deepest recesses of her mind: a second prophecy.

***

“Princess, if I may ask a question,” interrupted the young stallion. They were now outside, cantering through the Royal Gardens on the path towards the observatory, green hedges flanking them on both sides. Luna’s moon was now above their heads. She nodded for him to continue.

He spoke with one eyebrow raised and a frown tugging at his lips. “How did you forget a prophecy that might save Equestria? It seems a little... unlikely you’d allow something like that to happen.”

“Patience, my young Truth,” responded Celestia as she closed her eyes. Nothing but the same warm smile crossed her face. “I was about to get to that. I will say, however, that when you've lived as long as I have, it’s not always easy to recall everything you've ever learned.” There was a playful tone in her voice as she gave him a sideways glance. Truth blushed at receiving what now seemed like the obvious answer.

“Now where was I... Ah, I remember. Despite great efforts, the prophecy had never been deciphered...”

***

...Unable to solve the mystery so many years ago, she had thought it a dead end and given up. Nearly forgotten as an unsolvable riddle, it had been revealed by the ancient magics of Equestria less than a century after the first. Few ever knew of it, if only because its message was never understood. Its meaning had remained a mystery as the ages passed, but nothing else had given her another answer over the many years and even the smallest lead was better than none as time drew short. Celestia still remembered it word-for-word:

"When night and day collide, peace will be restored, and the Spirits of Harmony will return true balance to Equestria."

Could this prophecy truly hold the secret to saving Equestria?

It confounded even the Goddess of the Sun, especially considering the Elements of Harmony weren't an option; not anymore. Ever since she used them against her sister, they had been cold to her, completely unresponsive to her magic. Banishing her sister, for what she had at first believed would be forever, caused a deep fracture in her spirit, a fracture that had severed her ties to the Elements permanently. They were triggered by the power of friendship, by the harmony that's created with such a bond, and she had been the reason her closest friend had fallen to darkness. She would never know harmony again, at least not while her sister remained the monster she had made her.

How am I to save Luna AND Equestria without the Elements? And why does it refer them as “Spirits of Harmony?” It simply does not make sense...

True, the ancient magics of Equestria were not always clear in their messages, but this prophecy was more cryptic than most. Celestia felt as if a vital piece of information was being kept from her; information that would make the prophecy's meaning clear and give her the answer she so desperately sought.

There was another aspect of the prophecy that troubled her. Of the few who knew of it, most had thought the prophecy foretold of another conflict between the Royal Pony Sisters, one that would bring a permanent end to the struggle for power; a battle that would somehow bring lasting peace to Equestria.

But how can such a battle bring about peace and balance? How can such a thing be required of me?

Even if the Elements were still at her disposal, it would make no difference. Celestia would never be able to bring herself to use their powers to banish her sister a second time... or worse. No, Celestia had previously dismissed the notion of the prophecy talking about an actual collision between the two. There was no possible way such an event could bring peace to Equestria, only death and destruction.

It MUST refer to a symbolic collision of some sort. It's the only explanation.

She had reached the same conclusion when pondering the prophecy's meaning long ago, and time apparently had not changed her thoughts on the matter. It seemed not much had changed over the years. She had spent the entire evening thinking on ways of stopping Nightmare Moon like she had for countless nights before it, and just like those other nights, she had come up empty. Being no closer to ensuring Equestria's continued existence, she turned her attention back to the piece of paper responsible for bringing about the evening’s deep, and somewhat upsetting, thoughts and read the next name on the list.

Twilight Sparkle. She continued reading, stopping at one curious piece of information. She must have quite a lot of talent to be applying at such a young age. The future of Equestria indeed...

***

“Was that the first time you heard about Twilight?” he asked, looking up at her.

“It was.” She gave him a momentary sideways glance with that same, warm smile.

Truth turned his gaze forward. “Huh, that’s pretty funny... er, I mean in an ironic sort of way. I wasn't trying to—”

Celestia began to laugh through her closed lips, managing to look every part the graceful princess she was. Truth soon found himself joining in, giving a short laugh aloud in spite of himself. As the last bouts of laughter worked their way through his system, he gave another try.

“What I meant was it’s quite the coincidence that the list with Twilight’s name would be the same list that lead to you remembering the prophecy,” he mused.

Celestia took a moment before responding. “Maybe so. It would seem that way to many. In reality, it’s only natural that certain events unfold as they do. Despite all appearances, the universe does have a sort of method to its madness. Stick around long enough and you’ll start to see it.” She leaned towards him, giving him a smile and wink.

Truth gave a slight scoff and a roll of his eyes. “Easy for you to say. You've been around longer than anypony!”

The two found themselves sharing in another short laugh. When it had faded, they had reached the tower that housed the observatory. As the door opened, Truth continued the conversation. “So when did you make actually make the connection between Twilight and the second prophecy?”

“As fate would have it, I did not have to wait long at all before I met Twilight Sparkle...”

***

Celestia raised the Sun that following morning like she had every day before it, though she had not slept the previous night. She did not sleep often, mostly because she was plagued by recurring nightmares of her sister's fall when she did. For a normal pony, this would be a problem, but alicorns did not need sleep as a normal pony does. Sleeping certainly had its benefits for the powerful beings: it allowed them to recover more quickly from injuries—in the rare event they should actually suffer physical harm—and to replenish their vast stores of magic at a greater rate; however, in the age of peace that she had brought to Equestria, Celestia found sleep unnecessary.

Instead, she used the extra time to continue running her country. She actually found it quite useful being able to use all the hours of a day. As one would expect, it allowed a considerable amount of work to be accomplished, which was partially why the Sun Princess had been able to run Equestria as smoothly as she had for so long. Sure, Celestia had advisors and councils to help her run the government and make decisions, but she preferred to be involved whenever the opportunity presented itself. It helped to keep her focused on what was most important: the ponies of Equestria. Her royal duties were her distraction—her escape—from the troubles that too often afflicted her heart. They were her reminder of why she had to continue moving forward. Even so, she did occasionally excuse herself from her oversight to take a moment of free time. Constantly running a nation could be exhausting, even for one of her great experience and wisdom.

The day began as it normally did. Celestia took her seat in the castle's throne room as usual, ready for the onslaught of briefings, meetings, and decisions that awaited. Her morning duties had remained remarkably unchanged over the years with few exceptions. She did, however, find herself rather emotionally drained this particular morning. In spite of this, she kept true to her schedule, completing one duty after another until all the events of the morning had been diligently tended to.

Then she decided to do something she had not done in a long time: she decided to take a walk around the grounds of the Royal Palace. Checking her list for the day, she noted there were no official duties she would have to attend to for a while, and after the emotional night she had suffered, such a change of pace was welcome. The fresh air and sunshine always seemed to have a renewing effect on her spirit. It would be good for her to get out to see those touring the palace grounds, as her subjects so often loved to do. Perhaps she would go by her School for Gifted Unicorns. They were having their entrance exams today, after all, and she was somewhat expected to make an appearance at such events.

Yes, a respite would be quite welcome.

“Noble Judgment,” she called to her Chief Advisor, an older unicorn stallion whose crimson coat and cerulean mane were accented with grey from age and experience, a balance scale adorning his flank. “I'm going for a short walk through the gardens and will be making a stop by the school. Come find me should I be needed; otherwise I will return when the afternoon's duties require me.”

“Understood, Princess. I'll see to that everything remains under control until your return. Do you require an escort?” He spoke in an official tone, despite knowing the Princess for years. He did so simply as a formality to maintain decorum for any listeners nearby, and he had known how the Princess would answer before he even asked the question.

“No, I do not believe that will be necessary. The guards present on the palace grounds are more than enough, thank you,” she responded.

“As you wish, your Highness," he said with a amused smile.

With that, she got up from her seat and walked down the church-like hallway of the throne room. The stained glass that depicted the important historical events of Equestria cast beautiful colored lights across the floor as she traversed the distance. She then entered the entrance hall, the large doors being the last barrier between her and the outdoors. It was a simple task to will them open with her magic. When she stepped outside, she took a cleansing breath, feeling the fresh air bring new life into her lungs.

“Such a delightful day,” she said to no pony in particular.

The Sun hung high in the late morning sky, its rays reflecting off the white and gold architecture of Canterlot as a few clouds lazily floated about. There was a gentle breeze, and not a single storm cloud was on the horizon. This was, of course, to be expected. The pegasus ponies had become masters of weather control long before she and her sister had become their leaders. As she walked through the gardens towards the school, she took notice of the ponies who were sightseeing around the palace, some taking notice of her as well. Most, however, were too busy enjoying themselves to perceive her presence. They were so happy, so carefree. It was for them she had continued pushing forward all these years, and it was for them she had to find a solution to the impending crisis.

Perhaps it would be best if I simply found a way to seal us both away. Such spells exist and have great power as a result of the caster's sacrifice. Most importantly, it would preserve the magical bonds our existence creates with the Sun and Moon.

Such a plan had been considered before, back when Equestria was hundreds of years younger and very much in danger of falling back into the chaos and disharmony it had once known. She had worked hard to change that and make the land safe for her ponies. She had also worked hard to protect them from each other, instilling in them the values of a righteous society. Tremendous progress had been made. She could see it in the very garden where she was now trotting under the warm morning sun, but were the ponies of Equestria ready to lead themselves?

They may have to be. Perhaps this is what the prophecy meant. Perhaps Equestria is ready to move beyond the age of alicorns, beyond the Royal Pony Sisters.

She pondered on this. The ponies had ruled themselves before, despite bringing themselves to the precipice of extinction at the hooves of the Windigos, but old prejudices had died long ago. Her subjects, for the most part, viewed each other simply as ponies, and no race was viewed as better than another, simply different. Earth ponies with their natural strength and affinity to cultivate the ground, unicorns with their ability to focus the world's magical energies, and pegasi with their ability to fly and regulate the weather all recognized how much they needed each other to survive, working side-by-side for all of ponykind. With the harmony that had been built between the pony races, such a notion was plausible. She became lost in her introspection as she continued walking towards the school.

If such a plan is to work, I must prepare them. The unicorns will require some time to relearn how to control the Sun and Moon, and such a task has always required several working in unison to generate enough magical power. Equestria must also have a new form of government. Still, I fear that without a prevailing and clear authority, the ponies of Equestria are in danger of returning to the ways of old. What was that old expression? If you love something, let it go? Yes, I suppose that I have little choice in the matter given—

BOOM!

Her thoughts were abruptly cut off. In the distance she could see an explosion spreading outward in a ring of vibrant rainbow colors. It was a Sonic Rainboom, something she had not witnessed in untold ages. She spoke aloud in her amazement.

“Surely my eyes deceive me. Such a feat has not been accomplished in nearly—”

CRASH!

Not even a moment had passed before she was interrupted yet again. This time, the disruption came from the direction of the school. When she turned her gaze in its direction, she found herself looking upon one of the school's gold-domed towers. It was the very same tower where the entrance exams were taking place. Nonplussed, Celestia stared at the odd sight. There was now a fully-grown, purple dragon protruding from the golden dome of the structure, and violet, magical lightning pulsed and darted out in all directions.

Such raw magical power. What could have caused it? No matter. I must move quickly before the situation grows worse.

In a brilliant flash of light, she instantly vanished by casting a teleportation spell that brought her to the source of the magical surge. The classroom was overflowing with magical energy, and at its epicenter was a small, lavender filly with an indigo mane streaked with pink and purple. Her eyes were glowing white with power. Celestia recognized her from one of the applicant photos of the previous night.

Twilight Sparkle. What remarkable power for such a young—of course!

She was suddenly struck with a revelation, and everything made sense in a single moment of clarity. The level of magical power, the unicorn filly’s name, it all fit together too well to be a coincidence.

When night and day collide...

She wasted no more time. Shielding herself from the wild magic, she approached the little pony and placed a hoof on her shoulder. The small unicorn turned to see who had reached out to her. Through her glowing eyes, she saw the figure of Princess Celestia. The very radiance of the Sun Alicorn seemed to snap the filly out of her trance-like state, and the magic began to dispel. Within moments, everything had returned to its natural form. The dragon once again became a hatchling, the filly's parents were no longer potted plants, and the professors were no longer floating helplessly in magical stasis. When all was calm, Celestia spoke, a smile present on her face.

“Twilight Sparkle.”

Immediately the filly began to beg for forgiveness. “Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean—”

“You have a very special gift,” Celestia interrupted her, not wanting to send the wrong message. “I don't think I've ever come across a unicorn with your raw abilities.” She had never spoken truer words.

“Huh?” said the filly, her brow furrowed and mouth hung open as words failed her.

“But you need to learn to tame these abilities through focused study.” Her voice was kind, with not even a hint of reproach or disappointment present.

“Huh?!” Twilight’s was face scrunching even more as she tried to grasp what was happening. Surely she had to be in trouble for... whatever it was that just happened.

“Twilight Sparkle, I'd like to make you my own personal protégé here at the school,” said Celestia as she brought a hoof to the jewel that adorned her chest, then making a grand, sweeping motion through the room. She was smiling the entire time and her voice was filled with enthusiasm.

Huh?!” blurted out Twilight, slack-jawed and her violet eyes open wide as dinner plates. The filly's mind was clearly unable to comprehend the unimaginable opportunity placed before her. Not even a minute ago she was about to fail the entrance exam. Now Princess Celestia, the Goddess of the Sun and Ruler of Equestria herself, was offering to become her personal mentor.

“Well?” Celestia asked, snapping the filly back to reality.

Yes!” She leapt high in the air with legs outstretched, grinning as big as she possibly could. Celestia raised her hoof towards the filly.

“One other thing, Twilight.”

“More?” Twilight's eyes grew wide again as she fell to the ground with a thud. Though a little dazed by the fall, she quickly took notice of where Celestia was pointing. Now on her flank was a six-point star with five smaller stars placed around it. “My cutie mark!” Unable to contain her herself any longer, she began bounding in circles around Celestia.

“Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes...”

As the excitable filly continued to jump with joy, Celestia couldn't help but be reminded of a young Luna. For the first time in nearly a thousand years, there was true happiness behind Celestia's smile. Within Twilight was the key to saving Luna and, with her, all of Equestria.

Twilight Sparkle... you truly have within you the magic to defeat Nightmare Moon.

Celestia had only known one other power as potent as the one she had just witnessed: The Elements. As unlikely as it seemed, this filly was the incarnation of their magical power in the form of a pony. It would be only a matter of time until the other “Spirits of Harmony” would gather around her. Such magical bonds had already been formed by the hoof of fate. The prophecy was now in motion.

I must teach her the harmony of friendship. Only then will she be able to truly unleash the magic within her, but first I must teach her how to control the magic she’s already able to use.

Though she had never reasonably expected anyone to have enough magical power to hatch the dragon's egg, she had always hoped. The test was created many years back in a desperate effort to find one who might be able to aid Celestia with Nightmare Moon's return, but she knew the chance of it working was far beyond unlikely. Yet, it had worked by some cosmic and strange miracle. It was a large burden to place on anyone, but Twilight would be ready when the time came. Celestia would make sure of it. Though she worried, the Sun Goddess had a great deal of firsthand experience in matters concerning ancient prophecies. They were surprisingly reliable, but never certain. Just as a prophecy’s fulfillment could be ensured, it could also be thwarted.

Still, now there is hope where once there was none.

***

“So... you really believed that much in Twilight?” Truth Seeker's gaze was lowered to the ground in contemplation. They had ascended the ivory tower’s stairs by the time Celestia had finished telling her tale and were now on the rooftop of the observatory with only the Moon and stars above their heads.

“Indeed I did,” replied Celestia with a knowing smile. “It was quite clear to me that she was the only hope for Equestria to truly return to peace and harmony, and I accordingly placed all my faith and focus in her."

“I suppose you make a good point.” He looked away for a moment, then looked back into her eyes. “Did she know what she would face? Did you ever tell her about the prophecy?”

“No. I did not think it wise to trouble her mind with the knowledge of such a burden. I knew that I could train her for the task, even if she was unaware of what exactly the task was. It’s amazing what a pony can do if someone simply believes in them,” she mused as she gave a short, melodious laugh behind closed lips.

“Do you... do you believe in me, too?” he asked with a frown as he looked up into her eyes. In them, she saw a spark of hope... and a spark of longing.

“Of course, my young Truth Seeker. I would not have selected you to become my future Chief Advisor if I did not have faith in your abilities.” Her eyes were soft and motherly as she smiled at him. They were eyes that Truth had not seen in a long time. The young unicorn quickly looked away, pawing a hoof at the ground when he spoke.

“Wow... no pressure or anything, huh?” His eyes suddenly hardened, and his eyebrows furrowed as he turned back to her. A fierce grin crossed his lips. “Don’t worry, I won’t let you down, Princess!”

“I have every confidence in you. Now let us continue your training. The first is your choice.”

Truth nodded. He turned slightly and lowered his head as a soft, orange aura began to envelope his horn. Abruptly, it vanished as Truth’s head shot back up, his eyes wide and blinking rapidly. His focus was somewhere off in the distance.

“One last thing, Princess,” he said, turning his head to look at her with eyes still wide.

“Yes?” Her eyes were a little wide as well as she was taken aback by the sudden shift in his demeanor.

“Is there some ancient prophecy you’re not telling me about?” He raised one of his eyebrows at her.

“Why, whatever do you mean, my young Truth Seeker?” she inquired, raising a hoof to her chest and leaning back on her haunches. She began batting her eyes and slightly pouting her lips. “Where would you ever get such an idea?” There was slight laughter in her voice as she spoke, and a smile gradually broke free through her previously tightened lips.

Truth just rolled his eyes, a smile now present on his face as well. “Very funny, Princess.”

***

Epilogue

Within the shattered ruins of the old castle, there stood six ponies. Five of them wore golden necklaces, each one encrusted with a jewel that resembled its respective pony's cutie mark. Atop Twilight's head, however, sat a golden tiara with an amethyst six-point star as its centerpiece jewel. They had been triumphant over the evil known as Nightmare Moon, and the realization of what had just transpired was now coming into focus.

“Gee, Twilight! I thought you were just spoutin' a lot of hooey, but I reckon we really do represent the elements of friendship,” said the orange farm pony.

“Indeed you do,” echoed Celestia's voice from discernibly nowhere. Suddenly, through a nearby window the sun was seen rising over the horizon. From it came a sphere of white light that passed through the shattered pane of glass. The light faded to reveal Celestia standing among them with outstretched wings. The five ponies bowed at the entrance of their Princess. Twilight let out gasp as a smile appeared on her face.

“Princess Celestia!” Instantly, she went to her beloved teacher, moving in close and reaching upward in a daughterly display of affection. Celestia returned the affection in kind, lowering her head to give her a motherly nuzzle as she spoke.

“Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student. I knew you could do it.”

As they parted, Twilight looked up to her mentor with searching eyes and a furrowed brow as a frown crossed her lips. “But... you told me it was all an old pony tale.”

“I told you that you needed to make some friends, nothing more,” Celestia explained. “I saw the signs of Nightmare Moon's return and I knew it was you who had the magic inside to defeat her, but you could not unleash it until you let true friendship into your heart.”

Twilight's eyes went wide with realization at her teacher's words. She smiled and turned to look at her newfound friends, all of whom looked back to her with a smile of their own.

“Now if only another will as well,” said Celestia as she turned her attention to where a stunned petite Luna was lying on the cold, stone floor. The remnants of Nightmare Moon's broken armor lay scattered around her with the dark magic still dissipating from their fragments.

“Princess Luna.”

The Moon Princess's teal eyes shot open at the recognition of her sister's voice, gasping for air at the shock of hearing a sound she had not heard in so long. She looked to Celestia with trembling eyes as the Sun Princess walked toward her.

“It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this.” Celestia fell to her knees, lowering herself to the same level as her sister. Luna shut her eyes tight as thoughts of impending punishment gripped her, opening them a moment later only to only look away as Celestia continued. “Time to put our differences behind us. We were meant to rule together, little sister.”

“Sister?” exclaimed the other ponies, eyes wide and mouths open. Luna had turned her eyes to look at Celestia, and a smile began to form on her face at the older sister's words. The sight filled Celestia's heart with joy she thought unimaginable. It had been so long since she had seen Luna smile.

“Will you accept my friendship?” asked Celestia as she rose to her hooves, her eyes soft with kindness and a loving smile on her face. Luna's eyes turned away in hesitation. The action seized Celestia's heart, filled with worry that her sister would be unable to allow herself such forgiveness.

The other six ponies leaned forward in eager expectation, lips bitten in anticipation. The pink party pony, though, leaned a little too far, and let out a clumsy “Whoa!” as she fell on her face. Luna looked down at the floor, her eyes shut tight as doubt gave her pause, unsure if she deserved such mercy. In her heart, she wanted nothing more than to be with Celestia again. Unable to restrain herself any longer, she leapt toward her sister, moving in close to feel the loving embrace she had not known in far too many ages.

“I'm so sorry!” cried Luna. Not more than a second later were the two locked in a sisterly nuzzle, tears flowing down the younger alicorn's face. “I missed you so much, big sister!”

“I've missed you, too,” said Celestia in a soft voice, a flood of emotions washing over her. As Celestia felt the embrace of her little sister, tears began to stream down her face as well. Unlike those countless shed over the past thousand years, these were not tears of loneliness or tears of loss, nor were they tears of guilt or tears of regret. No, she was crying tears of joy.

-------

When Night and Day were united by Twilight, peace was restored, and the Spirits of Harmony returned true balance to Equestria.