Chapter One - The First Clue
“Hey, mom?” I asked between bites of my breakfast and my parents’ supper.
They’d never managed to adapt to my sleep schedule, unfortunately, although I couldn’t really expect them to. They’d taken me to a doctor once, and she’d said I was legitimately nocturnal, not diurnal. She’d said it was sometimes possible to fix that, but I’d never understood why anypony would want to sleep at night.
And besides, Luna was nocturnal, too, so it worked out perfectly.
Anyway, Mom, Dad, and I were nearly finished eating, and asking for favors worked best just after meals. Or so Luna claimed. I didn’t have enough data yet to draw my own conclusion, but it seemed likely. I knew I was always more amenable on a full stomach.
“Do you think I could go visit the archives tonight?”
My mom looked to Dad for some sort of direction, but he didn’t really seem to care one way or another. That was good news, and even though it was what I’d expected, I had to fight down a squeal of glee. A lot of what Luna had taught me worked far better on one pony than on two.
Mom was always more strict with rules than dad, which is why I’d asked her. If I started with dad, he’d inevitably drag mom into the conversation, and then I’d have had to deal with two ponies.
“I don’t know, Twilight. It’s awfully late already, and Nighty and I are going to go to bed soon.”
“I can go on my own,” I suggested.
I practically knew the way to the archives by heart by this point. Cadance had gotten me permission to use them a season after my first flare, although she’d looked pretty upset when I’d asked. She had said she hadn’t been upset with me, for whatever that was worth.
Anyway, I’d spent so much time in the archives, and I’d had gone there and back so many times, I could probably draw a map completely to scale. But if I took a single wrong turn, even the slightest bit, I had an absurd tendency to get myself hopelessly lost in the castle. I swore that Canterlot Castle had some twisted geometry inside it. Still, there were guards posted everywhere, so it wasn’t like I’d die or anything.
I tilted my head to the side ever so slightly and asked as innocently as I possibly could, “So can I?”
The face my mom made as she struggled against my cute attack was priceless. There were times when I wanted to stay a filly forever. Well, only until I remembered that foals were treated as second-class citizens just because we were a bit younger.
“Maybe…” Mom said hesitantly. “How long were you going to be there?”
“Until you wake up and come get me,” I answered. There was no way I’d ever convince my parents to let me wander dark streets alone, even if we did live in the safest part of Canterlot.
It was silly, really. I knew how to defend myself better than my parents. Luna had taught me a few simple ways to subdue ponies without much magic. There was this place just underneath a pony’s spine where a gentle nudge would induce paralysis until a doctor fixed them who knew how long later. Supposedly it didn’t hurt after the first couple seconds, but I’d never had anypony try to hurt me, so I didn’t really know.
But Mom and Dad didn’t think that mattered at all. Still, I could get them to agree if I stayed in the archives all night. I was sure of it.
“No way, Twilight,” Mom replied. “You’re only eleven. That’s way too young to spend an entire night alone and unsupervised anywhere other than safe at home.”
“Don’t you trust Big Brother?” Okay. Calling Shining ‘Big Brother’ felt really weird, but it was a big plus on the cuteness factor. Mom looked almost as if she’d been struck by my adorableness. Guilt attack successful!
Whenever I was in the castle, I always had somepony looking after me. Whether that be Shining, Cadance, or just a regular guard. The guards were the best because they never bothered me while I was reading, and Cadance and Shining always forgot to tell them not to give me snacks. The kitchens at the castle had everything.
“You can even walk me over, if you want,” I added while Mom was busy mulling it over. “The castle isn’t very far away, and you can leave right after we get there.”
Relenting with a sigh, Mom agreed to take me. Finally, I could spend a whole night in the archives! It was almost pure bliss. That place was magical.
“Thank you so much!” I devoured what little remained of my food, eager to get going, and said, “I’ll go pack what I need!”
Before I could slip out the door, Mom called out, “Don’t forget those books you borrowed last time. The archivists will be wanting them back.”
I nodded and continued my half-mad dash upstairs to my bedroom. The archives technically weren’t a library, but you could take documents out short term if you had permission.
In my excitement, I put a little…well, way too much force into my telekinesis and ripped my closet door right off its hinges. Again.
After checking myself over to make sure I wasn’t going to be in the way of any of the wood shards that had splintered off from the door – I’d once learned the hard way that repair spells take the shortest path to realign the pieces – I cast the spell. The door reassembled back in its proper shape and place, practically brand new.
I tested the door – cautiously this time – swinging it back and forth until I was satisfied that I hadn’t messed up fixing it. Once I was sure everything was functioning properly, I gave a big smile and delved inside my closet. There was nothing quite like fixing something with your own magic, even if what you were fixing was something you’d broken to begin with.
Anyway, I grabbed my saddlebags and took the stairs down two flights to the basement. It was a pretty innocent room with a lot of boxes full of my parents’ random knick-knacks.
I’d once found a box with some outrageous clothing and asked my parents to model them for me. I’d never seen anything so funny, but they’d kept protesting and saying that those clothes had been the cool things to wear when they had been Shining’s age.
I wasn’t that gullible anymore.
Shuffling my way past a few narrow corridors made of boxes, I made it to the back corner of the basement. With a simple spell to sculpt stone – well, it wasn’t actually simple, but it was simple compared to everything else Luna taught me; having magic as my special talent didn’t hurt either – I opened a secret passageway that led straight into the heart of the Canterhorn, the mountain Canterlot was built on.
One of Luna’s first lessons had been the stone sculpting spell so that I could dig my way to the abandoned crystal caverns inside the mountain. It’d taken some time and a lot of guesswork, but I’d eventually broken into one of the tunnels. From then on, I’d done all of my practicing inside the caverns. When things went wrong in there – and they had gone wrong many times – nopony would notice me flaring, and I wouldn’t hurt anypony.
That was why we hadn’t moved to Ponyville quite yet, although, Mom and Dad were looking for a country house. I was still weak enough that Celestia wouldn’t notice me flaring inside the mountain, and the ring still sufficed to suppress my flares. Learning to continuously balance the ring over my horn with telekinesis while practicing magic normally was perhaps the most difficult thing I’d ever been asked to do.
Well, it was the hardest thing besides tracking down the Elements of Harmony. I’d found a few scattered references, but it was suspiciously like somepony had purged the archives of any real information. Honestly, I’d found many more mentions of Luna, but they were all stupid propaganda pieces that made her out to be some terrible, foal-eating monster. Celestia’s work for sure.
I just couldn’t imagine doing something like that to my brother, not even because he keeps distracting Cadance from me somehow. I guess she just likes him more… I’d bet if I were grown up, too, that wouldn’t be the case. Cadance would be all over me.
‘Oh, Twilight. You’re so much more interesting than your brother. I don’t know what I ever saw in him. Let’s go play and maybe even eat a whole cake the size of you for dinner. And then for desert, cookies! We’ve got butterscotch, your favorite.’
Okay, I supposed I felt pretty bad for imaginary Shining. He could have a cookie, too. But just one.
Reaching the bottom of my extremely long inclined plane, I reached the main room – or what I called the main room – of the crystal caves. I’d built rows upon rows of stone bookcases from the walls and floor of the room, most of which were sadly still waiting for actual books. It was almost heartbreaking to see them so wanting.
At least the front fourteen were filled with the books Mom and Dad had bought me. Ever since Luna had become my mentor, Mom and Dad would just buy me any book I asked for my own copy of. In a strange case of reverse tuition, Luna didn’t seem to have any limit on my educational funding. She was, without question, the nicest teacher ever.
I cantered past the filled bookshelves and came to the one that had only a wingful of books on it at any given time. This was the where I put things I borrowed from the archives. Right now there were eight books on it. Half were just books about magic that Luna had said I should read. They were dull and lifeless compared to Luna’s lessons.
Still decent reads, I supposed.
The other half were books I’d hoped to find information about the elements in; they had old legends and myths in them. I’d been hesitant in looking for facts in those kinds of tales, but when I’d asked Luna if I should, she’d rubbed my mane – something I secretly enjoyed more than butterscotch cookies and sometimes even more than magic – and then she’d said I should keep up the good work.
As an added bonus, Cadance would sometimes read those old stories to me, and everything would be just like it’d been before my first flare – everything except that horrid thing I had to wear on my horn in public.
With my saddlebags packed full of the archives’ books, I turned my attention to collecting the magic suppressor Celestia had forced upon me. I never brought it into the house when I could help it. Shining and Cadance always let us know in advance when they were coming over, so I just left it down here to rot when I wasn’t outside or practicing difficult magic.
If I had to choose something in the world that I could never like, it would be magic suppressors, and this one in particular. I looked forward to destroying it in the coming year as a special birthday present from Celestia to me. Some might say I was positively giddy about it.
I grabbed the infernal torus – the most sinister name I’d yet devised for it – and suffered the long march back upstairs. After I exited the barely adult-sized tunnel, I sealed it up behind me and made sure the floor betrayed no sign of the change.
Next was the horrible part. I always wished I could gently place the thing on my horn, but as soon as it went over the tip, the suppressor cut off my telekinesis every time. And my hoof coordination was nowhere near up to the task. That was all dark earth pony sorcery. Luna said I should get used to the idea of being able to use my hooves for things, but it was just so…weird. And apparently earth ponies got tactile feedback, too. Ugh.
Anyway, I could have asked my parents to do this for me, but there was something about somepony else putting my suppressor on me that made the experience infinitely worse, no matter how gently and apologetically it was placed.
I took a few deep breaths to build up my courage. No matter how many times I did this, it always terrified me. The ring passed over the tip of my horn and then clanked down the rest of the way.
And again, as every other time, it felt like a part of me had died. And not just a small part, either, but my very core. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad on somepony like Mom whose special talent had nothing whatsoever to do with magic.
At least I didn’t scream anymore. Maybe I was getting used to it. Just a bit.
Once I was calm again, I made my way upstairs. Mom was already waiting for me at the front door.
“You ready?” she asked.
I nodded, and she opened the door.
I banged my head on the desk I was reading at. I’d been here all night, and I had nothing. This was my biggest research binge ever, and I hadn’t found anything related to the elements. Not even a footnote or a passing reference. I’d even come in with a few leads to follow up on, and I got nothing.
Life just wasn’t fair sometimes. Cadance had been with me early on, but she’d retired to bed and left me in the care of a guard long ago. With the pathetic amount of telekinesis I had access to, I scooted a chocolate chip cookie across the desk and into my mouth.
Some comfort food that turned out to be. I suspected it actually managed to make me more frustrated just from having to work my jaws to chew it.
As much as I hated to admit it, I was tired and worn down, and the sun hadn’t even been raised yet.
But it wasn’t like I had anything else to do. After I swallowed my latest snack – there were well over three dozen more waiting – I hopped onto just my hindhooves and leaned against the table. That put the top of a stack of books I’d had Cadance fetch from the shelves just within my reach.
I knocked the top book off the stack and unsurprisingly let it slip between my hooves. It fell roughly onto the tabletop, breaking the enforced quiet of the archives. I sighed as I got shushed by an archivist from all the way at the entrance while I was near the back.
I cracked open the book I’d dropped to the first page with a hoof. The actual pages I could turn with telekinesis, if only a few at a time, but hardcover books were nightmares to both open and keep open.
I made it to the first page, and what little enthusiasm I had left drained immediately when I saw what it was. How on Equus did I manage to mistake a picture book for a useful reference?
Oh, whatever. There was nothing for it. This was time for cookies. I spent the next twenty minutes in a mindless mush, idly eating cookie after cookie. I was just about to finish off a baker’s dozen when an entirely unexpected voice from behind froze me.
“Hello, my little pony,” Celestia said. “What are you doing here so early in the morning? And with so many cookies, too.”
It sounded like she hadn’t recognized me yet, but I didn’t have a clue how I could possibly escape before she noticed who I was. Luna always told me to work on playing innocent because I was terrible at it, so that wasn’t an option either.
I’d been caught red-hoofed researching the elements. I still hadn’t figured out why Luna thought Celestia wouldn’t want me looking for them, but I was certain I didn’t want to find out what she’d do to me this time if she did.
“J-just reading stories,” I said as calmly as I could, which was not that much under my current circumstances.
“Twilight Sparkle?” Celestia asked. She was not happy I was here. Sure, she didn’t sound like it to a regular pony, but Luna had drilled me too many times in recognizing tiny changes in inflection for me to not notice. I would’ve imagined she’d be better at hiding those changes, but maybe she was letting her guard down around a filly.
“Yes!” I squeaked and turned around in my chair far too quickly. “Hello.”
“Hello,” Celestia echoed back. “What kind of stories are you reading?”
“Oh, um… Just… Fables and myths and stuff.” Oh, Twilight, Luna was right. You really were terrible at this.
Oh, no. Here it came. I was going to be banished. It was probably going to hurt. From what little I knew of the spell, it forcefully broke a pony down into magic and sealed them away somewhere. Not fun!
Maybe she’d send me to the moon to be with Luna. That wouldn’t be so bad.
Finally, the silence broke. “Are you afraid of me?”
What? That was not in the list of things Celestia was allowed to say right now. My brain shut down as it tried to comprehend what it’d just heard, and that certainly wasn’t helping.
Taking my silence as an answer, Celestia said, “I understand. There is no way I can be forgiven for–”
No, no, no. Of all the possible things she could say, this was the last thing I wanted to hear from Celestia. If I were to try my hoof at a metaphor, it’d be like an orphan’s parent coming by to apologize for abandoning her with the orphan’s sibling resting happily at home by the fireplace. And with no intention of taking the orphan home, either.
Interrupting with the only thing my panicking mind could think of, I asked, “Would you read this to me?”
A second passed. All was silent. I opened one eye ever so slightly and saw that Celestia actually looked off balance for once. Celestia. The perfect princess that was always calm and smiling to everypony.
I couldn’t help sighing with relief when Celestia finally answered.
“If that is your wish, I shall happily oblige.” No sooner had Celestia picked up the book I’d opened earlier than her tone had changed entirely. To me, at least. “Twilight Sparkle, would you perhaps care for a different story?”
I would have if you hadn’t said anything. “Why?”
“This one is a picture book. I would assume you prefer more sophisticated books.”
That was just about the best answer I could’ve asked for. It was the most obvious deflection I’d ever heard. Even in my very first lesson from Luna in noticing them, they were never this pathetic. It was insulting, and that was just what I needed. Fear and worry were not emotions I had much control over, but anger, well, anger was another story. Luna knew a lot about anger. How to recognize it. How to control it. How to let it drive you. How to notice when you were losing yourself to it.
As Luna’s apprentice, it was only natural for me to know all that, too.
I puffed out my cheeks and tried to sound as offended as I felt. “So what if I like picture books? Everypony always says a picture is worth a thousand words. So in a way, picture books have more words in them than any other book.”
Her smile genuinely back, Celestia laughed in an overly dignified manner and teased, “You are wise beyond your years, Twilight Sparkle. Maybe we should commission a book of philosophy from you for our archives.”
This time I didn’t have to fake my pout; I wasn’t going to be baited into wasting my time on writing such a book, nor was I so easily distracted. Whatever was in this book was something Celestia didn’t want me to read, and that meant I had to read it. I was about as excited to dig into it now as Shining was around Cadance.
“Can we just start reading?” I asked impatiently.
There was just the slightest hesitation before Celestia agreed. Having no chair around her size, she made one on the spot and sat down next to me. I really didn’t know what she could possibly have been thinking by doing that. If Luna weren’t teaching me, such blatant use of magic probably would’ve hurt me deeply.
Trying my best to pretend like I was pretending not to be hurt – which was really awkward – I turned my chair around to face away from the desk and toward where Celestia had suspended the book between our chairs.
“Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria, there were two regal sisters who ruled together and created harmony for all the land.”
Oh. So that was why she didn’t want me to read it. Talk about unsubtle. Whoever wrote this wasn’t exactly trying to hide the fact that they were talking about Luna and Celestia. Why not just use their names?
“To do this, the eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun at dawn; the younger brought out the moon to begin the night.”
And they also set the sun and moon. That’s a pretty important detail to just skip over. It would be pretty wacky if they just kept raising new suns and moons everyday and left millions of both in the sky. And that part about unicorn powers was just plain false.
“Thus, the two sisters maintained balance for their kingdom and their subjects, all the different types of ponies.”
What about the rest of the world? Does this author think only Equestria mattered or something? Luna had told me she’d managed most foreign relations, which at the time mostly meant, well, war.
“But as time went on, the younger sister became resentful. The ponies relished and played in the day her elder sister brought forth but shunned and slept through her beautiful night.”
That was sort of skipping a few minor details, no?
“One fateful day, the younger unicorn refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn.”
Unicorn? Those pictures are clearly of alicorns. How dumb was this author? Who wrote this book?
“The elder sister tried to reason with her–”
Yeah, right. Celestia didn’t try to reason with ponies. She always had everything her way.
“–but the bitterness in the young one’s heart had transformed her into a wicked mare of darkness: Nightmare Moon.”
It took everything I had not to explode at that. Luna was not wicked! There was nothing wicked about her at all! Fortunately, Celestia was too preoccupied with the story to notice me scowling next to her.
“She vowed that she would shroud the land in eternal night. Reluctantly, the elder sister harnessed the most powerful magic known to ponydom: the Elements of Harmony.”
My jaw practically dropped off in surprise. That one sentence explained a lot, and it’d come from an awful picture book written by somepony with a mean streak out to get Luna. Terrible. Absolutely terrible.
“Using the magic of the Elements of Harmony, she defeated her younger sister and banished her permanently in the moon. The elder–”
Luna, forgive me. I couldn’t sit there and say nothing anymore.
“Permanently?” my chilly voice said. A filly’s pitch wasn’t exactly good for serious indignity, but I thought I did a decent job.
“Yes, Twilight. That is what it says.” Celestia was obviously confused.
“Isn’t that a bit of an overreaction? I mean, forever? Forever is a long time. What kind of pony would sentence somepony else to an eternal punishment over a temper tantrum? If I were the younger unicorn, I’d be upset, too!”
Celestia tried to interrupt me, but I wasn’t going to let her. I was burning with a righteous fury, and it was blazing out of control.
“Would it really have been so bad to just try it for a week? Let the younger unicorn calm down and then try to reason with her? Would it really have been so bad?”
I was crying by this point, but I barely noticed it as the hair on my face became soaked. I may have been letting some of my own feelings for Celestia slip in…
“The world wouldn’t have ended just from showing the tiniest bit of concern! Did she ever stop to consider how long the younger unicorn must’ve been nursing those feelings? That kind of bitterness doesn’t just flip on and off on command! And – and I don’t think that those other ponies were the real problem, either!”
I got another shush from the archivists and noticed that Celestia had disappeared at some point. Good riddance! She’d even left the book behind. I should have hopped right out of my chair and ran off with it. I really should have. Maybe if I disappeared fast enough, Celestia wouldn’t banish me as well for yelling at her, let alone for defending Luna.
If I were lucky, she’d even think I was just talking about the two of us. If I were lucky.
But nothing was working right. The only thing I could get my muscles to do was to curl me up into a ball and to let me cry myself to sleep with what little comfort my chair could offer.
I awoke to a chaotic haze of emotions about me. The world lacked any real definition other than myself and the comforting wing wrapped around me. Luna didn’t say anything to me. She didn’t ask anything of me. She was just there for me. In my dream, she was softer and warmer than anypony had any right to be. I blocked out the part of my brain rejecting that logical problem and just focused on trying to pull myself together as I collapsed into Luna’s side.
I had no idea how long I sat there. Maybe minutes. Maybe hours. Despite Luna’s best efforts, I’d never managed to figure out how to keep track of time in a dream like I could so intuitively in the real world. Even lessons from her didn’t help much to mark the passing of time. Long or short, I always got so absorbed in them that time flew by unnoticed.
When I was finally stable enough to speak, I apologized, “I-I’m so sorry, Luna.”
“Twilight, I know your dreams, and your emotions are spilling out all over the place. This is not the sadness of a mistake. Somepony hurt you. What happened?”
“I – I had a run in with Celestia…”
Luna pulled me a little closer with her wing. It was moments like this that made me want to be with her in the real world more than anything else; I couldn’t fall asleep like this in a dream, no matter how nice it would be, or even get to that hazy, blissful state in-between.
“One more grievance I must take up with sister dearest,” Luna said venomously. “What did she do to you?”
Telling Luna that I’d asked Celestia to read me a book was really uncomfortable, even if it’d made sense in context.
“I was in the archives. She ran into me, and she…said some things. I needed to change the topic, but the only thing I could think of was to ask her to read a book to me.”
“Not terribly appropriate if she knew you – which she does not – but considering your age, a good choice. You don’t need to apologize for that, Twilight.”
I let out a long sigh. I hadn’t realized how nervous I’d been. Reading books with somepony was pretty intimate, and I didn’t want Luna to think I’d forgiven Celestia. For my wounds or for hers.
“That wasn’t it,” I clarified. Then doubling back on myself, I hastily added, “But I didn’t enjoy that at all, either!”
After calming down with a few affection brushes from Luna’s magic helping me, I continued, “It was what was in the book that bothered me. It was the next one I was going to read. It was about you and Celestia and your banishment.”
“Really? I can’t believe my sister would leave such evidence of her duplicity in the archives. But I suppose she has demonstrated an ability to miss things before. Perhaps this is no different. Either way, good work, Twilight. Did you get her to read the entire thing to you?”
I smiled at the praise and nodded, temporarily forgetting my guilt, anger, and sadness. Technically, Celestia hadn’t read the last page, but it probably just said something along the lines of everypony lived happily ever after. A trivially false statement, even if you didn’t like Luna.
Luna couldn’t see my nod, but her wing felt it.
“And did you learn anything interesting?”
“Yeah…” I said. That you were banished by the elements. I couldn’t help but feel that finding that out on my own was some sort of test. “I need to reread a couple books, but I think I finally have a solid lead on finding the elements.”
Luna pulled me out from under her wing with her magic somewhere between gently and forcibly and held me aloft in front of her. She had a huge smile on her face that showed off her strange, sharp teeth. Even I thought Luna should visit a dentist. Ponies weren’t supposed to have teeth like that, and I couldn’t imagine they made it easy to eat.
Luna pet my head just the way I liked it – she’d gotten that down to a science – and said, “Twilight, I cannot express just how proud of you I am. I honestly expected I would need to give you some clues when you were old enough to take trips on your own.”
Yep. It definitely was a test. Or a distraction to keep me from dwelling on being a Flare; I was pretty depressed when we first met, and finding the elements did keep me busy. Either way was fine if I got this kind of praise from Luna.
Just to make sure, I asked, “Do you have any idea where they are?”
Luna’s smile only grew bigger. “The last I saw them was when my sister used them to banish me in the old castle. I have no idea exactly where they went after that.”
I wasn’t sure if I should be disappointed because Luna didn’t know or happy that my homework hadn’t been taken from me.
Bopping me on the nose, Luna said, “I see you’ve learned your lesson about trusting me – or anypony else – implicitly. Ask questions, Twilight. When you don’t know something, or when somepony seems to be holding out on you, be relentless. Don’t ever forget that, or you’ll turn into my sister: a pony so sure she’s right and so sure she can do no wrong that she can’t even notice her own sister suffering. Or brother, in your case.”
“What? I’m not making Shining suffer, am I?”
Luna hummed to herself and said, “I could have worded that better. I have no evidence to suggest that you’re hurting your brother, Twilight. It was only a general warning.”
I nearly let myself relax from the panic I’d built up, but then I remembered that I’d been apologizing while Luna had been cheering me up. I didn’t want all her effort to be wasted, but I had to say my piece.
“I’m sorry, Luna.”
“There’s that apology again. What ever could it possibly be for?”
Being tickled by magic was making it hard to be as solemn and serious as I should be for an apology.
Laughing uncontrollably under Luna’s attack, I managed to say, “I let my anger get the better of me.” The tickling stopped. “I got so mad at what Celestia was reading to me that I started taking it out on her and defended you.” Mumbling, I added, “And maybe myself a little bit, too.”
Luna’s face was perfectly neutral. We sometimes made a game of guessing what the other was thinking just from context. Luna only ever had a blank expression when we played that game. As unbelievable as it was, she couldn’t be upset if she was playing with me. Or so I hoped.
“You’re forgiving me? But you said not to–”
Luna gently put a hoof to my mouth and said, “You have every right to be angry with my sister and are old enough to know better than to yell at a tyrant directly. Trust me when I tell you that she has read into whatever you said in exactly the wrong way. Do you know where you were when I entered your dream?”
I rolled my eyes. Even if I was feeling guilty, that question deserved no other response since asking it at all implied I’d been moved.
Luna laughed and said, “All right, I suppose I deserve that. You were in my niece’s company on your way back home. You are safe, sound, and you have done nothing wrong. Even I have times when my anger overcomes me and I make mistakes. That is how I got banished, after all.”
It was at that point that I made the connection and my eyes went wide.
After Luna had told me she’d been banished by Celestia, I’d always assumed that Celestia would want to do it again. The book had only reinforced that thought. I also sometimes worried that this wasn’t Luna’s first attempt to come home after her latest thousand years of banishment, but I never had the courage to ask.
But that was just Celestia being evil. It was the status quo. Nothing at all compared to what I’d just realized.
“She banished you with the elements…” I said dumbly.
Luna’s smile waned, but her eyes suggested I continue.
“And – and you want me to find them before you get back.” There was only one question simple enough for me to make coherent as my mind went at full gallop into a brick wall. “Why?”
“Why? Because you asked for me to help you get rid of your flares. And because of all the ponies I could ask, I should think the one I felt worthy for me to teach would be able and would want to be the one to do so.”
No, that couldn’t be all of it. Not with what Luna had just said about asking questions.
I couldn’t actually make myself mad at Luna, especially considering how long she’d been unfairly jailed, but I had to try to appear to be. Because…Luna would be disappointed if I didn’t.
“So, you’re using me?”
“Exactly!” That wasn’t at all the response I’d expected, cheery or otherwise. “But only in ways that make you stronger.”
I admit I had no idea what the proper response was to that or if there was one at all. I didn’t even know if I was expected to be mad or not. It was just so…different from how Cadance, or Shining, or Mom, or Dad would’ve responded.
On one hoof, Luna had been teaching me. And fantastically, too! But on the other hoof, Luna wasn’t the kind of pony who’d bother pretending to like somepony when she could just find somepony else she did like or who would make a deal with her.
…Huh. It seemed I didn’t have any objections.
I crossed the short distance between the two of us and nuzzled Luna. Even with her sitting down, it was hard to make the act meaningful with our height difference, but I got a loving nuzzle in return anyway.
“Twilight,” Luna whispered without breaking the moment, “I have a voice in Equestria, and that is usually enough, but I will need somepony to be my wings and my magic before long.”
There was only one answer to that in my heart, and I blurted it out without even thinking about the responsibilities before Luna could even ask.
“I’ll do it! I’ll do anything. I want you back so much. I want to go stargazing with you and see the real stars for once, to be able to see you without going to sleep first. It’s lonely in the real world. Books just aren’t enough company, and – and nopony else is awake at night.”
Luna gave me one of the sweetest smiles I’ve ever seen from her. “Thank you, Twilight. You’re the best thing that’s happened to me in far longer than I care to recall.”
After a long hug, one so long that it was actually kind of uncomfortable at the end, we finally broke apart.
“Now then, I believe we last left off on the rudimentary aspects of building electrical charges and controlling their flow, but I think after tonight, a special topic is in order.”
“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! What is it? Is it the temporary wing spell?”
Luna shook her head and said, “No. I wouldn’t suggest you learn that spell either; it has critical flaws. There are better, similar spells that do full transformations, as well as one that performs general changes. The breezie transformation is pretty easy to learn, but that’s for some other time.”
Argh! Luna was teasing me by dangling interesting spells in front of me! I hated it when she did that! Apparently, I’m ‘cute’ when I’m frustrated and pouting. Maybe if I finally learned to control my expressions around new magic, she’d give it up. Not that I was going to manage that anytime soon.
“Hmm…” Luna hummed. “How about a hint? It’s something I’ve been led to believe you’ve always wanted to be able to do but have not asked me to teach you yet.”
Well that narrowed it down quite a bit. I wasn’t exactly subtle about spells I wanted to learn. But if I was going to guess randomly, I figured I might as well go for broke.
“How to raise the moon?”
If only Luna had been drinking something. I would’ve had the single most hilarious spit take in the history of Equestria.
“Um… That’s…not quite what I had in mind. That’s very flattering, though. Thank you. When I’m released from my banishment, I’d be happy to give you my blessing to do so, but only my sister can control the moon until then.”
Luna rubbed the back of her head as if she of all ponies didn’t know the answer.
“Well, it’s hard to explain in a meaningful sense to somepony who’s not an alicorn. A lot gets lost in translation. Hmm… Okay. What do you think the answer would be if you asked a random unicorn if it were possible for that unicorn to raise the moon?”
“They’d probably just say it’s impossible,” I answered, confused and unsure of where Luna was going with this.
“No doubt. That’s because they’ve grown up with one alicorn doing it the entire time. Ponies are a product of their times, and right now it’s common knowledge that unicorns cannot raise the moon. But you should be able point to a contradiction in the current culture.”
Luna dropped her explanation there, intending for me to find the answer on my own. She always said a good memory was even more important than raw magical talent, and I was inclined to agree. I couldn’t imagine how much time I would waste if I had to look up spells I hadn’t used in a while or if I had to reread books I’d already gone through once.
Still, having wracked my brains thoroughly for any relevant information, I came out the other end frustrated and with nothing.
But maybe I was going about it the wrong way. Luna said it was a problem with the culture, and that left me with very little to search through. Most of my waking hours were spent in the company of the written remnants of ponies long dead, not with modern culture.
Still, I didn’t think of anything particularly…
There was no response to foolishness quite like a facehoof, and this one deserved a double facehoof. I had completely overlooked the Hearth’s Warming Eve story, the only celebration of the night that didn’t involve monsters in one form or another, the celebration of the winter solstice when the night was longest.
I felt like the biggest fool in Equestria for taking so long to figure it out.
“The canonical story of Equestria’s founding,” I began, “is based on the premise that unicorns brought forth the day and night.”
“Exactly, Twilight. It was once common knowledge that unicorns were the ponies who brought about day and night. Then Discord came, and for the longest time, life became…chaotic, to say the least.
“My special talent was, well, not raising the moon exactly, but I was one of the unicorns responsible for attempting to maintain a sane day-night cycle at the end of Discord’s reign. My sister was on the team responsible for the sun.
“One particularly unpleasant…” Luna sighed. “Saying day or night does not mean much during those times, but I believe the moon was out when we first found the elements and ascended. From then on, the moon was mine and other ponies required…permission…in a sense, to move it. My sister and Discord could still interfere, because they – their magic is…”
Luna sighed again. Even though I was hanging onto her every word, and I was sure I was showing it, too, she said, “There are no words in Equestrian or any other language that would do the explanation justice. It’s not exactly something mortal ponies can relate to, but I promise it will make sense after you ascend. The whole process will be much less magical for you if I give you a half-baked explanation now.”
That pun did not even deserve a facehoof. Putting on my best stiff upper lip – my upper class Canterlot accent was, of course, natural – I said, “The future Alicorn of Magic is not amused.”
“Oh, I do say,” Luna hammed with a ridiculous attempt at a modern Canterlot accent. “Begging your pardon, Your Majesty. I meant no offense.”
Darn it! Luna was too good at this. But I supposed that was why I was the student. I cracked first in our stare down and laughed so hard I could feel the effects spilling over onto my real body. Hopefully, nopony was around to see that, but sometimes Mom or Dad would watch me sleep because it was, quote, ‘entertaining and adorable’.
Soon after my defeat, Luna joined me in laughing. When we were finished, she asked, “So what’s your next guess?”
Oh right! Luna was going to teach me something special! Besides moving the moon, there was something else I really wanted to learn.
“Teleportation?” I hazarded. Luna had made it clear early on what she thought of teaching me spells I could easily kill myself with.
“Right in two.”
“Really! Oh my gosh, yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”
Before I could properly launch myself into my excitement, Luna said, “Whoa, Twilight. Cool your wings. We’re starting with safety. The spell comes after.”
“Aw…” It was a long shot, but maybe–
“That doesn’t work on me. I taught it to you.”
“Until you can reflexively answer questions about teleport safety, I will not teach you so much as a fragment of the actual spell.”
“Fine,” I huffed.
I didn’t know why I was so upset when I should have been ecstatic to be learning teleportation at all. Oh well. Pouting was probably ‘cute’, anyway; that would probably help me get to the actual spell faster.