Original Oneshot/Prelude - A Dream Fulfilled
“Here’s your tea, Your Majesty.”
Celestia looked up from her paperwork with a start. She had entirely missed the maid’s entrance.
The maid quickly apologized. “I’m terribly sorry for surprising you.”
“Do not worry. It was entirely my fault. I have been ruminating on…some affairs of state recently.” Taking the proffered tea, Celestia continued, “Thank you for your hard work…Dusty, right?”
Blushing and nodding her head vigorously, Dusty said, “Y-yes, Your Majesty! I can’t believe you know my name.”
Celestia smiled and sighed internally. That reaction was cute at first, but after a dozen centuries, it has begun to get a little trying.
Dismissing the maid, Celestia returned to her paperwork. She barely made it past one sip of tea and the introduction of a new tax law when a knock came at the door.
The door creaked open – I need to talk to maintenance; that is the third squeaky door today alone – to reveal a young, pink-coated alicorn princess.
“Ah, Cadance. Excellent. Do come in, and please close the door behind you.”
Cadance closed the door with her hooves and walked across the room to take a seat opposite Celestia.
Once they had made their greetings, Celestia asked, “No magic?”
Blushing, Cadance replied, “I’m still getting used to having a horn, Princess. I sometimes completely forget.”
“I was just as hopeless with my wings for the first few years. Give it time – and a lot of reminders – and you shall find it completely natural.”
“If you say so,” Cadance sighed. “Anyway, you wanted to see me?”
Nodding, Celestia said, “I was wondering about your opinion of Twilight Sparkle.”
“I figured as much. Well, besides my confusion over why you set me up with a foalsitting job, I’ve been having a lovely time with her. She’s a really sweet filly and a delight to be around. Really shy, but she warmed up to me quickly enough. Although, just between you and me, I’m more interested in her older brother.”
Laughing as Cadance licked her lips, Celestia teased, “We do have that one grand hall we never use this century if you want to hold a wedding.”
“N-n-no, t-that’s okay. One s-step at a – at a time.”
“It was just a thought, Cadance. No need to take it so seriously. Unless, of course–”
Chuckling, Celestia said, “Very well. Now then, as you were saying…”
“Um… Twilight… Yeah… Just – just one sec.” Cadance performed a few rounds of the Traditional Royal Breathing Exercises and continued, “So, she reads a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean more than I have in my entire life. Mostly about magic, but sometimes we read adventure books together.”
A hoof rose to Cadance’s muzzle in thought. “Let’s see… She really likes cookies. Particularly butterscotch and the ones I make; the ones Sunset begged me to make, you know. Still a blank flank. Hmm… Lavender…”
“Okay, Cadance. I think you reached the bottom of the barrel. I was more interested in her magical aptitude.”
“Oh dear. What happened?”
“Well…it’s not that she’s untalented…”
“Twilight!” Cadance called out from the bathroom. “Your bath is ready!”
When no response came, Cadance called out once more. Still getting no response, she set out to investigate. In all likelihood, Twilight would be in her room, just where Cadance had left her.
After walking down the hallway, Cadance entered Twilight’s bedroom and, sure enough, the filly was still lying on the floor with her doll, Miss Smartypants, completely oblivious to the world as she read a book. She grabbed a page with her magic and slowly flipped it over as if it were the greatest and most delicate treasure in the world.
“Twilight, it’s time for your bath.”
Looking up briefly, Twilight said, “No way.”
“Yes way.” Cadance scooped Twilight up with her own magic and said, “Now come along quietly or I will have to take drastic measures.”
Plucking a loose feather from her wing, Cadance suspended it before her and wiggled it threateningly.
“Nu-uh,” Twilight said, shaking her head. Her horn lit up to a blinding level and both broke her out of Cadance’s magic and tore the feather to shreds. She then took the opportunity she had made to slip out the door past Cadance with the book she had been reading.
Ow…my horn… That’s one new experience I could have gone without…
“Twilight? Where are you? Twilight?”
“Twilight, you can’t get out of taking a bath! Wherever you are, I’ll find you! And when I do, it’s two baths for you unless you come back here right now!”
Still no response.
Cadance sighed. Oh, Twilight. Why must you be such a wingful?
Walking downstairs, Cadance began her long search in the kitchen. There were dozens of tiny corners and cabinets a filly could hide in and only one way in or out. Despite that, after an exhaustive search, Twilight was nowhere to be found in the kitchen, so Cadance moved on to the next room.
Fortunately, the house was laid out such that Cadance would be able to close doors behind her and not give Twilight a chance to slip between unchecked rooms and checked ones. Still, even then, there was an awful lot of space to cover.
Twilight was not in the dining room. She was not in the living room. She was not in the study. She was not in the foyer. She was not in the master bedroom nor the adjoining bathroom. For the last two rooms, Cadance had to barricade the staircase to prevent Twilight from potentially running from upstairs to another room.
Now removing the piles of furniture she had placed in front of the stairs, Cadance ascended to the second level and began her search once more. The hallway was clear. Twilight’s bedroom was empty. The closet was empty. That only left one room.
Whistling innocently, Cadance pushed open the door to Shining Armor’s room.
“Ehem… I’m just looking for Twilight who I know is in this room. Yep. Just that. And if I should happen to find something else while I’m at it, well, who could blame me?”
Cadance’s first target was underneath the bed. Sure, no filly would be able to fit under it, even one as small as Twilight, but a mare had to make sure after all. Disappointingly, she did not find anything of interest. Or Twilight. With a sudden spark of genius, she decided to lift the mattress and investigate underneath it.
“Drat. Nothing. I mean, I guess Twilight wasn’t under there. I suppose I’ll just have to try the closet next.”
Half slamming the doors open, Cadance was less than surprised to find the absence of Twilight at this point. Digging through everything else, she did not find a single embarrassing thing.
“Where in Equestria does he keep the stuff he doesn’t want ponies to find?” Cadance mumbled.
Eying the desk across the room suspiciously, Cadance opened all of the drawers at once and stubbornly riffled through them and found nothing. Nothing of interest. Not a single thing.
“Ugh… I give up. And where’s Twilight? I hope she didn’t go outside at night…” Wait, there is one room I haven’t checked yet.
Replacing everything just the way she had found it and closing the door behind her, Cadance left Shining Armor’s room and headed down the hall to the very last room in the building: the bathroom.
And there Twilight was. She was not even bothering to hide as she read her book.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Cadance complained with a facehoof to compliment her words. “Okay, Twilight. You’ve had your fun messing with me. Now it’s time for you to… Really?”
Twilight did not look up or even stop reading, but Cadance could see the smile on her grow.
She froze the bathtub…
“Again, I’m so sorry, Velvet,” Cadance apologized as she bowed.
“Cadance, you’re the princess here,” responded Twilight Velvet. “If anypony should be bowing, it’s me.”
“You spooked Twilight, and she reacted poorly. It’s happened before. Several times. Don’t worry about it.”
“But still, I shouldn’t have–”
“It’s fine, Cadance. Really, it is. If you insist on being scolded, just tell me what you’ve learned from this.”
Cadance looked out at the half-destroyed wall in front of her and the destruction around it. A shattered door lay in pieces everywhere across the living room. Broken glass was buried within the carpet and was likely mingling with ceramic pieces from a vase that was missing, presumed dead. The couch had mostly survived but was upturned with several rips.
“Never surprise Twilight with a scary illusion spell that you’ve just learned. And if you absolutely must, be sure Shining Armor is around to make sure you don’t die.”
Cadance stopped for a moment and then idly mused, “Or get severely wounded. I’m not really sure if I can die anymore.”
Shaking her stray thoughts away, Cadance finished, “Anyway, I’m pretty sure that’s the lesson I should take away from this.”
“It’s a pretty good lesson. Shining learned a similar one for himself a year ago when Twilight’s magic first started growing stronger.”
“I see… How bad was it?”
“About twice as bad as this.”
“Yeah… But we all learn from our mistakes and move on. At least it was only one wall this time.”
“Well…I have a lesson you can take away from this.”
Velvet raised her eyebrows. “And that is?”
“A princess always pay her debts.”
“Cadance, you don’t have to do that.”
“I insist. This is my fault.”
“Just let me do it. I have plenty of bits burning holes in my saddlebags as a princess and nothing to spend them on.”
“No buts,” Cadance said, using her best stern voice she had learned from foalsitting Twilight. “As you said earlier, I’m the princess here. And when a princess decides to toss a bag of gold at you, you say thank you, not throw it right back.”
“Very well,” Velvet eventually conceded. “But I want to make this up to you somehow.”
“You don’t–” Cadance broke off to actually consider the offer. “Well, if you really feel that way” – she leaned in to whisper into Velvet’s ear – “you could always give me Shining Armor.”
Giggling like a filly, Velvet whisper back, “Like, to keep?”
“Oh, no. Of course not. Slavery is illegal.”
“Plausible deniability is the name of the game, Velvet. They’re not our slaves. They’re coltfriends.”
“Let’s just stick with coltfriends for now.”
“…and that’s more or less where she is with magic.” Cadance licked her rather dry lips after concluding her story. “I could give a bunch of other examples besides those two, but I think I’ve made my point. She’s very strong but lacks any true control to speak of.”
“I see…” She might be a Flare, just like Sunset Shimmer was. I should love to have a Flare to bear the Element of Magic, but it’s too late. Nightmare Moon will return before I could teach one to control her magic. I need somepony…lesser, I suppose is the way to put it. The last thing I want is a repeat of last time.
Celestia sighed inwardly. Only time will tell. I shall know for sure when she grows a little more. In the meantime, I need to increase my watch on other potential bearers. Trixie Lulamoon was a good second pick. I hope she develops well in the year between now and her entrance exams. Moondancer was also–
From the expression on her face, Cadance obviously had been trying to get Celestia’s attention for some time now.
“Why are you so interested in Twilight? I mean, I trust you, but…things tend to get complicated when you get involved.”
“Oh, it is nothing so serious. I am merely looking for a new student. It has been several years since Sunset disappeared. That is as good of a resignation as any other, I fear.”
Heaving a sigh of relief, Cadance said, “Alright then. I can say without a doubt that Twilight is the strongest unicorn I’ve ever met, so she gets my recommendation.”
“And of course there would not be a single hint of any other biases in that recommendation.”
“Of course not.” Cadance hesitated under Celestia’s smile. “You know. Probably.”
“Very well. It will be some time yet before I make a decision, but your opinion is noted. Speaking of, I was hoping to get your opinion on a few matters later. Would you care to take supper with me?”
“Sounds great,” Cadance said with a nod and a smile. “But Princess?”
“Please don’t give up on Sunset. I miss her, too.”
Celestia’s smile faltered for a fraction of a second, but she nodded. Maybe someday Sunset would return on her own; for all her immense power, nothing Celestia had tried had managed to find the mare.
“What if I can’t do what they tell me to?” Twilight asked her mother. “What if… What if they ask me to turn somepony into a plant? I don’t know how to do that.”
“Twilight,” Mom reassured, “they will ask you to do the same thing as every other unicorn, or something very similar. Entrance exams would not be fair if they tested prospective students on obscure magic they couldn’t possibly know yet.”
“But what if they do? Or what if there’s some spell that every unicorn should know by my age that I haven’t learned yet?”
“You’ll do just fine, Sweetie,” Dad said. “Shining went through the entrance exams, too, and passed with flying colors. All he had to do was lift something heavy. In fact, I think the exams have something to do with telekinesis every year. Something you excel at.”
“For certain definitions of excel…” Like breaking half the things I use mine on… “What if I break everything and they ship me away to prison to work off my debt to society?”
“Okay, now your fears are becoming completely ungrounded, young filly,” Mom said with a facehoof. “Just do your best. You wouldn’t want the proctors to get impatient waiting for you, would you?”
Twilight gasped before bolting off into the exam room to the cry of, “Dear Celestia, you’re right!”
The room was a large lecture hall with a dozen rows of chairs, and at the very front, halfway between the front row and the chalkboard, was a wooden cart with a large egg upon it. At the very back of the room, Twilight spied five ponies wielding clipboards with sour looks on their faces.
Oh no! I’m already too late! They’re going to fail me for wasting their time! Why, oh why didn’t I just come straight in here?
Twilight snapped to attention upon hearing her name and said, “I’m so sorry I was late. Please don’t fail me. I promise not to do it again.”
Of the five ponies in the back, the middle one raised an eyebrow. Then she said, “Um… You’re not late, but I appreciate your punctual fervor.”
Twilight blushed and looked away.
“Anyway, your exam is very simple. You need only lift the egg in front of you with your telekinesis and suspend it in the air for as long as you can.”
Bitting her lip, Twilight took a quick glance at her parents who had entered the room behind her. They gave her a reassuring look, and Twilight turned back to the proctors.
“But – but what if I break it? I don’t want to – to kill a baby…whatever is inside this egg.”
The proctors gave Twilight what she hoped was an approving look.
“Don’t worry about that, Twilight. That egg is very durable. Even Princess Celestia would have to deliberately try to break it in order to do so. Just do your best.”
With a gulp and a weak nod, Twilight turned to the egg.
Okay, Twilight. You can do this. This is the most important day of your life. Your entire future will be affected by the outcome of this day. Don’t blow this.
Twilight reached out to the egg with her magic with the faintest touch she could possibly manage only to feel her magic sputter out in small sparks.
Wha… Did that egg just reject my magic?
Trying again, Twilight got the same result. The feeling was like the magical equivalent of having a door slammed in one’s face.
Once more, Twilight reached out with her magic, but this time she tried to increase how much strength she put into it without letting her magic go out of control. However, she only met the same result. Again and again she tried, each time increasing the amount of magic she used as much as she dared. She even tried a few poses like she had seen that filly Trixie make in the waiting room earlier. Surely she had had a reason for making them.
Whatever secrets Trixie had, however, they were not helping Twilight, and she had reached her limit. Any more and she knew she risked causing major damage to not just the egg, but the room as a whole.
Twilight collapsed on the ground on the verge of tears.
“I’m so sorry for wasting your time,” she whispered.
Suddenly, a deafening boom echoed through the room. It was followed soon after by a burst of magical energy. When it struck Twilight’s horn, she yelped. And then the worst thing ever happened: she lost control.
Choking back a scream from the pain, Twilight threw as much of her magical output at the egg as she could, hoping to salvage the disaster. Somehow.
To her surprise, the egg hatched under the influence of her magic and revealed a baby dragon. Unable to cut the flow, Twilight gave more and more magic to the dragon, and it absorbed each and every bit, quickly growing large enough to burst through the walls and ceiling.
Startled by the dragon’s growth, Twilight’s magic grew even stronger, and she lost her feeble influence on its direction. Random bursts of magic flew through the room and the area had become so saturated with it that a field of magic was actually visible around her.
But to Twilight, the world was pain.
Through her screaming, Twilight saw her magic turn her parents into plants out of the corner of her eye. She had the vague impression that something had happened to the proctors as well, but they were too far in her peripheral vision to know for sure, and she had other things occupying her attention.
Somehow, Twilight’s magic even managed to conjure an illusion of Princess Celestia in front of her. The princess had some sort of metal ring with her, and for some reason she put it over Twilight’s horn.
Once the ring was affixed, Twilight’s magic abruptly cut off as if it had been severed from her with a knife. She fell roughly to the floor, hit her head, and welcomed her failing senses as she fell unconscious.
Celestia wanted to sigh as she took her seat. There were plenty of times she wanted to sigh. Open court was perhaps where her sighing most threatened to overtake her, but her current situation was a close second.
Twilight Velvet and Night Light sat across from her. On a nearby pile of pillows that Celestia had conjured slept Twilight Sparkle. The magic suppressor she had prepared just in case was still on the filly’s horn.
How do I tell these ponies that I have too little time to help their filly? Sunset took twenty-three years to get her magic under control, and she was one of the most talented unicorns I have had the pleasure to teach. Nightmare Moon returns in half as many years. I just cannot use Twilight Sparkle.
Celestia took a guilty glance at Twilight Sparkle’s haunch and the pink and white stars on it.
She just had to get a cutie mark in every field of magic, just like Sunset. She even loves butterscotch, too…
“Princess Celestia,” Night Light said, “is Twilight going to be okay?”
Fighting back her urge to sigh and frown, Celestia kept a neutral face. “Physically, yes. She is quite well and shall be on her hooves again after a full day’s rest. Magically, however, is an entirely different matter.”
Celestia paused to let herself feel as bad as she deserved as Twilight Sparkle’s parents’ faces went from hopeful to frantic.
“Your filly is something called a Flare. It is a very rare magical…not affliction, per say, but you could think of it as such.”
“Is there a cure?” Twilight Velvet asked, her voice cracking.
Shaking her head, Celestia answered, “There is not. Flares are normal in every way except in their magic. They are born with an extraordinary amount far beyond their ability to control. With strict discipline throughout their entire lives, Flares are capable of learning both how to wield their power as well as how to reign it in if it begins to flare – hence the name – as you witnessed earlier today.
“Unfortunately, that is a long, difficult, and dangerous journey. Because Flares rarely appear more than twice a century, I usually make it my business to oversee their training. If Cadance were significantly older, I could entrust her with the task. However, as the world stands today, I am the only pony capable of mentoring your daughter.”
Celestia let her words hang in the air, hoping that the implication was clear enough. It was not.
“So – so you’ll teach her?” Twilight Velvet asked. “You’ll help her with her magic? I – it’s funny, really. She always kept going on and on about wanting to raise the sun. She even imagined she could feel it at times. We didn’t have the heart to tell her she’d never be able to. But this is a good substitute.”
This time Celestia did frown, and both parents knew exactly what it meant.
“I am sorry,” whispered Celestia. “I truly am. I am in a desperate time crunch right now, and not a political or personal one. I would not be able to give her all the attention she would require.”
Surprisingly to Celestia, it was Night Light who quietly sobbed. Twilight Velvet, on the other hoof, choose to shout.
“How can you do that? She needs you more than anypony else, and you won’t help her! Just look at her! She has a cutie mark in magic now! What do you think will happen to her when we tell her that she’ll never be able to use magic again?”
Celestia took a deep breath without showing it and said, “She shall not be completely without magic. She is too powerful for the suppressor to completely counteract her. A little bit of her strength shall seep out and allow her a few weak spells like telekinesis. She will be one of the weakest unicorns, but she her magic shall remain available to her.”
“So what? Do you know what we ground her for? For studying magic hours after her bedtime! Magic she’ll never be able to cast again because you won’t help her!”
Night Light interrupted his wife’s tirade with a hug. That was all she needed to fall into tears herself. No more angry words were flung, but the tension in the room only worsened.
Celestia turned her attention to Twilight Sparkle and away from the filly’s parents. “She is still young, and she shall grow stronger with age. With a little luck, she may grow strong enough to reach average levels even with the suppressor on. After…a long time…I shall try my hardest and then some to teach her.
“However, I offer an advance warning. Flares not taught from a young age generally are unable to learn control without resorting to extreme measures. I have only heard tale of one Flare to overcome such a barrier.”
“The ‘Father of Magic’, Star Swirl the Bearded. It could be just a legend, though. He lived long before I was born. I do not want to unnecessarily raise your hopes.”
“Not when you could so easily fix everything right now,” snapped Twilight Velvet.
Celestia did not flinch – she never flinched – but it did take her a second to find her voice again.
“If Twilight Sparkle ever finds herself in need of anything, ask Cadance to inform me, and she shall have it. You are welcome to stay in the castle for as long as you wish while she recovers. I know Cadance will gladly show you where everything is, and I expect she should be overjoyed to share a room with you. I shall send her to you shortly.”
Before anything else could be said, Celestia teleported away and reappeared in her bedroom.
Finally free to sigh, Celestia thought, That went about as well as expected.
“Twilight? What’s wrong?”
Snuggled against Princess Celestia, Twilight was reading a book about magic and silently crying. The book only held things she already knew, but it was always good to review.
“It’s nothing, Princess.” Twilight touched her horn with a hoof where there was not a ring of pure evil. “I’m just sad this is only a dream. Again… For the thirty-ninth time… A-And this time I know it’s a dream, and that makes it s-so much worse.”
The princess pulled Twilight forward with her wing and nuzzled her affectionately.
“My dear faithful student, this isn’t a dream.”
“Yes it is!” Twilight sank into the princess’s soft coat and repeated, “Yes it is…”
“Shh… Dear Twilight, you’re not in a dream. This is real. You’re my student. We spend lots of time together, and everyday you learn a new spell. And, of course, you get to stay up late without getting yelled at. I know how much of a night owl you are. I understand how much it exhausts you to sleep through the night.”
“Stop it,” Twilight cried. “Please… Please, I can’t take it anymore.”
Twilight phased through the wing that bound her as if it were an illusion and ran out of the room, trailing tears behind her. She ran endlessly through the bizarre geometry of Canterlot Castle in her dream, never growing tired or even short of breath.
Finally, her mind had decided she had run enough, and her legs gave out in an empty bedroom. With the last of her energy, Twilight commanded a blanket to come to her without magic, and she cocooned herself in it so she could cry in peace.
Minutes, or perhaps hours, passed without Twilight being disturbed. She never left her cocoon once the entire time.
Why? Why can’t I at least enjoy my dreams? They’re – they’re all I have left…
Twilight felt herself be picked up in somepony’s magic. Or at least the blankets were. For all she knew, she might have just been along for the ride.
“Go away! I don’t want to see you!”
Whatever figment of her imagination that was bothering her beyond her covers paid her no heed and continued unwrapping her. Irritated, Twilight tried disposing of that part of her dream to no avail.
“I said go away…” Twilight murmured. “Please just leave me alone.”
Once the blanket was fully unwound, Twilight nearly plopped to the floor, but she was caught with the same magic that had been manipulating the blanket. She was then gently placed on the ground facing somepony she had never seen before.
Somepony with the same stunning, regal beauty that Princess Celestia had.
Somepony with a pure black coat and an æthereal mane and tail that held the stars themselves.
Somepony with wings and a horn.
Somepony of incredible stature that dwarfed Twilight’s meager height and rivaled even the princess.
And her eyes, they were turquoise, and her pupils were familiar. Twilight could never forget any moment, any sense, any agony – both mental and physical – of her exam. This alicorn’s eyes were just like the eyes of the dragon she had hatched: long and narrow slits that seemed to peer into a pony’s very essence, both terrifying and mesmerizing, and yet strangely appealing.
When she spoke, it was with the same song-like quality as Princess Celestia.
Nearly petrified, Twilight stammered, “W-who are y-you?”
The alicorn smiled and said, “I have many names, my dear Twilight, but I believe you would wish to know me as Luna. Or the forgotten diarch of Equestria, if you are interested in history.”
Her curiosity overcoming her more primitive instincts, Twilight asked, “Diarch? As in…a princess? Why would I dream about you? What are you exactly? Where did you come from? Or I guess rather what memories do I have that led me to dream about you? Are you just some sort of coping device for” – Twilight felt herself mentally stumble as she tried to put words to her situation – “my life…”
Luna smiled and sat down, beckoning Twilight to come closer.
“I am no mere denizen of your dreams, Twilight. I am a dreamwalker; I am a real pony who has come to visit you as you sleep. And yes, I am a princess. But with you, I would much prefer to be informal, just like how you are with my adopted niece, Cadenza.”
“Cadance? Niece? But wouldn’t that mean you’re the princess’s sister?”
Nodding, Luna said, “Indeed I am.”
Flying into full panic, Twilight backed off and fell into a deep bow. “I’m so sorry I shouted at you. And for treating the princess in my dreams so poorly earlier. And for being so inf–”
Luna put a hoof to Twilight’s mouth. “It is quite alright, Twilight. My sister and I are…not on particularly good terms. Feel free to vent your frustrations with her as much as you wish. I, at least, shall understand completely.
“And unlike her, I would not see your talent be as a curse to you.”
Twilight’s eyes went wide. “You mean…” she began, not daring to finish her sentence lest she unnecessarily raise her own hopes.
“Twilight Sparkle, unicorn Flare and perhaps the strongest one to appear in millennia, I would ask you to be my student in the art of magic.”
Before even an instant had passed, Twilight shouted, “Yes!” Then bouncing around in a circle around Luna, she continued shouting, “Yes,” over and over.
In the meanwhile, Luna had enjoyed a dignified laugh at Twilight’s antics. After the third lap, she said, “Okay, Twilight, I think I know what your answer is by now.”
Ending her bouncing and blushing, Twilight said, “Oh, um, thank you so much, Pri – er, L-Luna?” Getting a smile and a nod, Twilight managed to smile back.
Amidst Twilight’s nervous fidgeting, Luna asked, “Do you have a question? Or a request? You can say or ask anything you wish.”
“Oh, um… Well… I was just wondering how this is going to work. I mean, I’ve never actually heard of you before, and I don’t think anypony else has, either. Where are you in real life? Will I have to leave Canterlot?”
“I’m afraid that I cannot be with you outside of your dreams, or at least not for many years. I currently reside on the moon, in a sense, and it will be over a decade before the stars align to allow me to return to Equestria.” Twilight’s head drooped, but Luna raised it back up with a hoof. “However, I will spend each and every moment of your unwaking hours with you.”
“Really really. Although, I’ve heard that you are quite the little trouble maker in that regard.”
“Well, now that I have a real reason to get to sleep, I’ll sleep all night!”
Luna shook her head. “Not all night. All day perhaps, but not all night.”
“Huh?” Twilight said as she cocked her head to the side.
“I’d much prefer if we could meet during the day. I have many other ponies vying for my attention at night, and I do not want even a moment of our time together to be interrupted.”
Hesitantly, each word feeling like a death sentence, Twilight said, “I don’t think my parents would let me do that…”
With a mischievous smile, Luna said, “Don’t worry about them. I’ve already spoken with your mother and father, and they were more than happy to oblige my request. They’ll also be homeschooling you from now on so you can practice magic in a more comfortable environment.”
“But I have a magic suppressor on my horn. I can’t even turn a book page anymore.”
“It’s not glued on, though. You can take it off whenever you wish.”
“But Princess Celestia said that I could flare again…”
“Unfortunately, she is correct in that regard. We will do as much practical work in your dreams as we can and as much reading in the real world as possible, but we cannot avoid working with magic outside of dreams as well. That is why we will have to rush.”
Luna nodded. “We will have to rush to teach you fine control over how much magic you use. Your flares are still weak enough that they will not destroy the suppressor you possess, but there’s no telling how many years we have until that is no longer true. You will likely have to move to a more rural area later in your life.”
Interrupting Twilight before she could object, Luna said, “I have also spoken with your parents about that as well. They did not outright reject the idea – after your brother graduates – and even expressed an old interest in moving to Ponyville.”
“Is there…” Twilight began. It was terribly rude to Princess Celestia to even think about asking the question running through her mind.
“Ah. Um… Is – is there any way I can get rid of my flares completely?”
Luna abruptly cut off. She obviously had been about to say no but seemed to reconsider.
There is a way! Princess Celestia lied! Twilight stopped to consider what she had just realized. Princess Celestia lied…
Before Twilight could process that any further, Luna said, “There is one way for you to be truly rid of your flares. But before I say anything, I need you to promise me two things.”
“First, I need you to keep my teaching you and my existence a secret from everypony except your parents.”
“Even Cadance and Shining?”
“Especially those two,” Luna said firmly.
“O-okay. Sure.” Then with more confidence, Twilight added, “I can do that. What’s the other thing?”
“If I tell you how to rid yourself of your flares, you will not speak of it to anypony, including your parents. You will not even idly speculate about it aloud when you think you are alone. And you will absolutely not under any circumstances ever write it down. Understood?”
Twilight nodded eagerly. As far as she was concerned, magical secrets were the best kind of secrets, and this sounded like the biggest of them all.
“Very well. In that case, please tell me about your foalsitter.”
Caught completely off guard, Twilight said, “Cadance?”
“Well, she’s really nice. And she reads with me once in a while. And we sometimes go to the park to play. And she sometimes teaches…taught me magic.” Perking up again quickly, Twilight added, “She even let me ride on her back while she flew once!”
“Oh? How was it?”
“Exhilarating! But terrifying.”
Luna chuckled, “Yes, that about sums up my first time flying as well. So then what is she?”
That sounded so much like a trick question. Hesitantly, Twilight guessed “A princess?”
“No, no. I mean, what species is she?”
“Oh, she’s an alicorn, of course! Right? I mean, she has wings and a horn, and she’s super strong. At least, my brother says she is. It’s not like I get into hoof fights with her or anything.”
Raising an eyebrow, Luna said, “Yes, I have no doubt that he knows exactly how strong she is. Now, has she ever told you about her past?”
“Yeah! She’s told me lots of stories about her filly years and about that evil love stealing pony she beat up. I think her name was Prismia.”
“Beat up? That’s not exactly how I heard the story, but that I suppose the spirit is there. So how did she do it?”
“Well, she didn’t have her magic, so she had to steal the necklace that Prismia was using to steal love with her cunning and guile. First what she did was–”
Luna held up a hoof. “As much as I would love to hear you tell the story, Twilight, we are discussing another topic, and you’ve already stumbled onto the important point. Why didn’t she have her magic?”
“Because she was just a pegasus th–”
Twilight froze both physically and mentally as she connected the dots.
“Yes, she ascended to become an alicorn and surpassed the magical limits of all three pony species.” Luna gave Twilight a suggestive look. “Doing so is deceptively difficult as there are only two steps. First, you must become extraordinarily skilled in your special talent.
“Your cutie mark is in magic, so naturally that is what you must work on. Of course, with me teaching you, you should have no trouble clearing that requirement if you prove truly dedicated. And you will have to be to survive.” Luna’s gaze softened as she added, “I will not sugarcoat your predicament; learning magic without me physically with you will be dangerous.
“Now the second step is less achievable from a hard work perspective. Did my niece tell you what happened to the necklace?”
After finally realizing that Luna was waiting for her to answer, Twilight said, “She said it blew up in their final battle and was destroyed.”
“Technically correct. That is the next step. You need to find a large enough source of magical energy to fuel your ascension. They are precious and far between. Worse, they are always destroyed after use, and if you select one too weak, you die in the attempt.
“That was supposedly how Star Swirl the Bearded met his end in his old age: in a giant magical explosion. Most likely, he was attempting to shed his mortal coil and did so in the wrong way.
“Anyway, there is only one set of artifacts that I can think of that are both safe and are singularly reusable, if only rarely. I give you this task as homework, Twilight Sparkle. In your waking hours, you must track down and recover the Elements of Harmony, wherever they are, before I return to Equestria.”
Twilight wanted to say she could not do it, that there was no way she could find a legendary set of magical artifacts she had never heard of whose location was obviously not known to Luna herself. But the h word had been invoked, and Twilight was not about to admit she could not do her homework.
“The Elements of Harmony,” Twilight repeated to help her memorize the name. “Do I need to keep them secret, too?”
“Hmm… I do not think it necessary, but your interest in them could draw unwanted attention upon yourself. I would urge you to err on the side of caution and avoid discussing them with anypony likely to come into direct contact with my sister.
“Perhaps… Yes, I think so. I believe it would benefit your education if I spent some time teaching you the art of deception over our years together.”
A bit off-put, Twilight asked, “You mean like lying?”
“There is a time and a place for lying, Twilight, but lies are like an open wound. They fester and grow the more important they are, and they often become difficult to manage. While they do have their place, it is far better to rely on ponies making their own ill-formed conclusions from the truth.
“But there are many other means of misdirecting ponies, including a few tricks of the female persuasion I will not teach you until you are much older.”
Hurrying along, Luna said, “But that is neither here nor now. As much as I would love to begin our lessons immediately, I’m afraid that I am quite unprepared. It has been a long time since I have taught anypony, and I will need to get myself organized.”
“Are – are you going to leave? I know you said you have other ponies waiting for you… I know, but…but I really don’t want to go back to my dreams. I don’t want to worry that this isn’t real, even for a second. I – I just–”
Luna scooped Twilight up with her hooves and pulled her in for a hug.
“My dear Twilight, I will stay with you until you awaken anytime you wish. Your dreams – sweet or otherwise – will never be able to torture you again.”
“Thank you,” Twilight whispered. “Thank you so much.”
Luna said nothing, choosing instead to tighten her hug and rub Twilight’s mane.
“It’ll all be okay, Twilight. I’ll never leave you to twist in the winds as my sister would.”
And unbeknownst to Twilight, Luna’s face and grin could be described only as exultant.