Chapter Seventeen - The Moon - Part Two

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, owwwww…”

Note to self: never ever buck a door again just because it wouldn’t open. It wouldn’t help, and it would just give me another leg to nurse back to health.

Still, I was only more interested than ever to get past this door. There was no handle, no knob, it didn’t push open, magic wouldn’t budge it, I couldn’t teleport past it, I couldn’t scry past it, I couldn’t easily destroy it, and there was no telling what disenchanting it would do. This was the door. What all other doors aspired to be. I’d experimented with going through the walls, too, but even if that had worked, I didn’t think I could bring myself to damage Luna’s painting just to get past a door.

And even if I was crazy enough to try turning myself into a sentient gas for a little bit – Luna had given me a scolding when I’d said I wanted to try that after reading about it – it looked an awful lot like this door was also airtight. For all that it looked like simple carved wood with decorative crystals, this was probably the most enchanted door I’d ever seen, even more so than bank vaults.

A rather loud and obnoxious part of me was screaming that Luna didn’t want me in there and that I should just leave, but that was Past Luna. I was sure Present Luna wouldn’t mind if she were around to ask – probably. I could just be making excuses, but I only had tonight to get inside and look around, or else I’d have to wait three to six years.

Alright, so assuming this wasn’t some cruel joke and that there was actually something behind the door other than a wall, there was probably some sort of spell key set to open the door. A thousand years ago, the mere idea of cryptography would have barely existed, so this probably wasn’t an impossible task.

If it were just keyed to Luna’s magic, I could probably fool the door; I did have plenty of samples of her magic to work with within hooves reach. Then again, that was probably evidence for that being the wrong answer, since the door would probably accidentally open all the time that way. No, it had to be something else. That would be a backup idea.

If the trigger was tied to a specific spell, I wouldn’t be able to determine which it was without disabling the wards muddling my magical senses beyond the door, and that could prove disastrous. Now that I thought about it, opening the door at all could be a really bad idea. Crescent said that they were only able to maintain the minimum level of enchantments, so there was no telling what state the ones here were in. The smart thing to do would be to go find and ask one of the caretakers, but…well…that would be admitting defeat.

What if I looked at it another way? Assuming I could solve this problem at all – which was a big assumption, admittedly – what could I do that would be hard for anypony else to do? Okay, that was the wrong question; I could do a lot that other ponies would find hard to do. Rather, I should ask what would be difficult for somepony to replicate, even if they knew what they had to do. That was the best kind of lock, disregarding whatever other protection measures a pony took.

There was my flaring, or just my high magical power in general. It was barely within the realm of possibility that Luna had enchanted this door to require an alicorn’s raw magical power to open, but honestly, I’d expect that would just fry the spells and destroy the castle when somepony actually tried to open the door. And if she didn’t want to be able to enter through this door herself, she’d just have put a wall here instead, so that probably wasn’t it.

Alchemy spells were incredibly hard, but they weren’t really an appropriate answer to my question. If you already knew you had to use an alchemy spell, it was a simple as taking a weekend to learn one without understanding it. Well, maybe more than a weekend for ponies that weren’t me, but my point stood. I needed to think of something that might be literally impossible for some…

Was it really that simple?

I took a few steps back from the door and readied a ‘run for my life’ teleport spell, just in case. With a shield up to block any potential physical damage, I called upon my darker feelings and flung some raw, unrestrained dark magic at the door. Much to my delight, it only took a split second before the door responded. The crystals lit up brilliantly, and I had to avert my eyes. When the shining finally died down, I looked back. The door had completely vanished.

Inside was another hallway that led to yet another door, although this one had one of those really, really old ring handles that a pony would stick their hoof through to pull on. The walls were painted almost all the way to the end of the hallway, and for some reason, a few of the images seemed familiar at a glance.

I rushed through the doorway to get a better look. As soon as I passed through, I felt a small magical surge behind me. Spinning around, I found my life threatened by nothing more than the door that had returned.

Sighing in relief, I turned my attention back to the paintings. It took me all of one second to realize exactly why Luna had this hallway sealed up. This was private private stuff, the kind a pony only showed one or two other ponies closest to her, if any at all.

The art style hadn’t fundamentally changed so far as I could tell, but the color schemes certainly had, and all of the lines were rough, at times even jagged. And the expressions on the ponies here…they felt so much darker. This place was filled with anger, hate, and depression.

I hurried along as quietly as I could. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be here anymore, but I had to know what was beyond the next door. I’d known Luna liked Celestia even less than I did, but this place was so…raw. It reminded me of me at my worst.

I tried not to look, but my curiosity drove me to take a glance at the wall every so often. This story was of all the insults, all the neglect, all the pain that led up to Luna’s banishment. I seriously doubted the story actually started in history where this hallway was located, considering how much pain was in the very first images, but maybe the beginning was unimportant. Maybe even Luna didn’t know when it began.

And I swore I’d see some of these images before. One of the earliest ones was especially driving me crazy as I walked. It had Luna and Celestia chasing the moon and sun respectively in a circle, and I just knew I’d seen it somewhere before. Maybe it’d had slightly different colors or something.

I stumbled as I passed another image that I just had to have seen somewhere. It was the first depiction of Luna I’d seen with her current appearance, and it was so familiar. It had her rearing up as if to strike something, or perhaps to strike somepony down. Without realizing it, I must have moved on to when Luna’s anger was flaring out of control.

Taking a deep breath, I turned away and continued down the hall. I was close enough to the end now that I opened the door with my magic. If I were in any mood to be pleasantly surprised that my magic had worked, I would have been.

I glanced at the last image in the hallway as I passed it by, only to freeze. The very first thing that bothered me was the art style; it was as different as night and day. The second much, much worse thing was the subject matter. There was no way in Tartarus that Luna had painted it.

Celestia was sitting on a cloud, looking up at the moon. And now that it was right in front of me, this was the first time I’d seen the mare in the moon on any of the paintings here. This was made after Luna had been banished!

My eyes widened.

I knew why this place was so familiar.

It was that book. The one Celestia had read to me.

Celestia had been here!

She had painted this!

I backed into something hard and screamed. In my panic, I bolted further down the hallway and into the room at the end instead of galloping away.

Looking around, I found only one very dumb place to hide, but I didn’t have any other options. I wanted to live.

I dove to the floor and squirmed under the bed and made myself as silent and as magically inactive as I could be.

Who was I fooling? I was so dead.

Any moment now.

I could only hold my breath so long before I passed out.

Okay, I didn’t want to complain about not being dead, but why wasn’t I? I felt a little bit insulted. Celestia had warded the Tree of Harmony back on Equus, why wouldn’t she have warded here?

Was she not the one who had painted that last image? I didn’t have any hard evidence it had been her, but who else could have? I seriously doubted any of the locals had ever been allowed in here, let alone that they would take it upon themselves to continue a tiny piece of Luna’s work. That just sounded horribly disrespectful, especially considering it was depicting their princess’s defeat.

It had to have been Celestia, but that didn’t make any sense! Ugh! She shouldn’t be this inscrutable! Why would she even leave this place standing? Why wouldn’t she kill everypony that lived here, or drag them back to Equus, or something? Did she even know anypony was living up here? She must have, but then somepony should have found out she’d been here, and then Luna should have found out. But if Luna knew, she would have told me and warned me away from coming here. So that must mean Celestia had never been here.

No, that couldn’t be right. It had to have been her. She could have just made herself extra invisible to the point where nopony here would be able to notice her in any way. She was an alicorn; she could do that.

She could be doing that right now! She could be looking at me right now, laughing at my helplessness. Hiding under the bed wasn’t going to do anything for me. Maybe I’d even seen her already, and she’d erased my memory of it just to enjoy watching me self-destruct.

Well I wasn’t going to let that happen! If I didn’t use any magic until I’d calmed down, I definitely wouldn’t flare. I just needed to calm down.

Maybe Celestia wasn’t here. Maybe I could talk my way out of…well, out of death. Luna would kill her if she killed me. Even Cadance would probably want to kill her. And it wasn’t like Cadance would really believe she’d found me on the moon if I didn’t admit to it.

Deep breaths, Twilight. Deep breaths. I wouldn’t give Celestia the satisfaction.

My heart wouldn’t slow down, but at least I’d gotten myself…barely calm enough to talk without breaking out in tears. I needed to say something, but what could I say? Threats were best saved for a last resort; they rarely worked against goddesses.

Wait, wait, wait. The moon was in the opposite direction of Mona. I was just running away to practice magic safely. I took a few friends with me to start a moon colony. Naturally we explored and stumbled upon this place while mountain climbing. And, um, we sent the colony we started into space because…because…we never landed the ship because I thought it’d be dangerous – no, that was dumb. We never landed because…we wanted to climb a mountain first as a – a symbol of our triumph. So we picked the largest one.

Maybe I’d even been here before, too. Maybe this was where I’d learned about Luna and dark magic. Yes, yes I could make that work. That worked even better, actually. It’d be exactly what Celestia would expect, hopefully. And that was why I didn’t land the ship; we didn’t need to. We already knew about this place. I only brought my friends along for company and because they wanted to come.

Perfect. Now I just desperately needed Celestia not to find anypony else from the Nebulous until I’d had a chance to talk to them. That meant I needed to run a distraction. I wouldn’t even mention the rest of the crew until I had to. I wouldn’t want to get them in trouble, too, after all. It wasn’t like there were any laws against coming to the moon or anything, but it did seem sort of rude for a pony to come here uninvited.

Okay, okay. One last deep breath. I could do this. This would work. I just needed to act like a filly with her hoof caught in…well, not in a cookie jar, but maybe in the treasury. That was easy enough.

“H-hello? P-Princess Celestia? Please d-don’t hurt me.” Getting no response, I continued, “I – I’m coming out. I’m sorry for barging into…”

Where was I? I looked around as I stuck my head out from under the bed. There wasn’t much in here. There were plenty of paint cans and brushes, although they were all probably useless after a thousand years of aging, even if there were spells keeping this room clean and or preserved. I had noticed there wasn’t any dust in here, not even under the bed.

There were a few bookshelves, too. All but one of them were completely filled with books. If I had to guess, then based on the materials and how the books were assembled, I’d say they were from several different centuries and arranged chronologically.

Opposite the bookshelves was a vanity with two doorways that sort of blended into the walls. Perhaps one lead to a closet and the other a bathroom, considering where I thought I was.

“Your sister’s bedroom,” I finished, not that I got a response. “Please – please don’t do this. Say something. Anything! Please!”

I waited with bated breath for anything to happen, but the room was devoid of any sound not of my own making.

“This isn’t funny, and – and I’m sure I could find something illegal about this. Unless you’re going to k-kill me, w-which I assure you would be a very b-bad idea, you should come out right – right now.”

I stood stock-still for what must have been several minutes, but still nothing happened. After a while, I broke into a nervous laughter.

Maybe Celestia really wasn’t here. Maybe I was just being paranoid. But even if I tried something crazy like creating a large explosion here, I wouldn’t be able to know for sure if Celestia were around.

Was that reasonable? Was it just the panic talking? Stars, I didn’t know.

But Luna would. Luna would be able to tell me if there were another pony in the room with me. Surely she would notice and be worried if there were. I could go to sleep now. I’d already said everything I needed to before Celestia did…whatever she wanted. It wasn’t like I could escape or fight back, anyway.

Hopping up onto Luna’s bed, I said, “I – I guess I’m just going to go ahead and nap until you decide to be civil. G-goodnight.”

It’d been a long time since I’d been here, but I’d never forget the sensation of being in a dream, not in a thousand years. Well, I didn’t actually have any experience with thousand-year-old memories yet, but that wasn’t really the point.

“Luna! Luna, where are you?”

I thought I heard a hoofstep, but I got no other response.

“Please don’t do this to me, Luna! I – if I did anything wrong, I’m sorry! You promised you wouldn’t leave me alone! I – I miss you so much! I don’t want to be alone anymore!”

Oh gosh, what was I saying? I couldn’t be guilt tripping Luna any harder if I were trying.

“Twilight,” Luna said, appearing right in front of me, “there’s–”

I knew it was rude, but I didn’t care. I pounced on Luna in a huge hug and knocked the wind out of her with my death grip.

“Luna, I’m so sorry!” I shouted into her coat. “I didn’t mean what I said. I mean, I did, but I didn’t, and – and sorry.”

I felt Luna’s hoof moving through my mane, and my distress vanished almost instantly.

“Twilight, there are a dozen things I want to say to you, but chief among them is how sorry I am for leaving like I did for so long. It – it was wrong of me, and I don’t know what I can do to make it up to you.”

Squeezing Luna extra tight, I said, “You don’t have to do anything. Just…maybe a warning before you’re going to vanish for a while. I was so worried about you.”

After a second of silence, Luna replied, “I’ll try. I – Twilight, I’m not a nice pony when I’m truly upset. And historically I’ve had issues…well, issues directing that anger when I can’t…” Luna sighed and paused her ministrations for a moment. “When I can’t simply smite the source of my wrath.”

Oh, that reminded me of why I was here to begin with. “Luna, I don’t really want to interrupt, but this is important. Was there anypony near me back in the waking world?”

“Hmm? No, not at all. You’re the only pony on the moon capable of barging her way into my bedroom.”

“Oh, um, sorry,” I mumbled, reluctantly releasing Luna and backing off a bit. Apparently, I was safe, but I still didn’t understand why.

Luna giggled. Oh, how I missed that. “It’s fine.” Taking a more somber tone, she continued, “You’ve already seen me headed straight toward my worst; there’s no harm in letting you see some of the things I’ve done in my darker moods. You weren’t…” Luna actually looked bashful for once as she tried to find the right words.

This called for another hug, but not a desperate, clingy hug.

“Other than reminding me of my own issues, your art was beautiful.”

“Thank you, but that’s two red flags now, Twilight. What has you so worried?”

I bit my lip; this could go over very poorly if I did it wrong. I needed more tact then the last time I’d had bad news for Luna.

“There was a picture that…well, you couldn’t have painted it.”

“Somepony modified my masterpiece?” Luna hissed. “Where?” Taking a deep breath first, Luna asked again, “Where?”

Looking up at Luna, I asked, “Do you promise not to run away?”

“Yes, I do. Twilight, I really am sorry for what I did before. It’s no excuse, but I never expected my sister would actually stoop to such levels. It was a shock, to say the least.”

No surprise there. I could barely believe it myself, and I had none of the sisterly expectations Luna had of Celestia.

“Alright,” I began, “so, nopony modified your work, but somepony added to it. Just outside your bedroom, actually.”

Luna’s eyes narrowed. “Do you mean past the door?”

I nodded. The list of ponies that could open the door was probably a lot bigger a thousand years ago, but I imagined that probably didn’t include any moon residents. Luna’s list of suspects probably only had one pony on it.

“The addition showed Celestia looking up at the moon.” As an afterthought, I added, “The moon with the mare in the moon on it.” That detail was very important for establishing the time of painting. And now that I thought about it, none of the ponies on the moon would know what the mare in the moon looked like – not really, anyway. They could have the dark spots mapped for some reason.

Almost snarling, Luna said, “I cannot believe this. Why would she take the time to find Luminance just to rub salt in my wound? It’s not like she could even expect me to find out about it. I simply cannot fathom why…why… What’s the mare in the moon?”

“Huh?” I knew there were more important things to discuss – both business and personal affairs – but maybe this was just as important. “Has nopony ever told you? There’s this sort of unicorn – actually, I’ll just show you.”

I turned to the side and made a simple illusion of the moon in front of me; Luna didn’t so much as breathe.

“This is what the moon looks like from Equus without a telescope. There’s these dark spots that don’t produce much light. We don’t really know why, but from what you painted, I assume they showed up after–”

When I looked to Luna, I found her crying silently without so much as a sniffle. I opened my mouth to ask what was wrong, but Luna spoke first, almost in a monotone.

“Twilight, how much do you know about banishment spells?”

Awkwardly putting a hoof on Luna’s foreleg in a way I really hoped was comforting, I said, “Very little. What’s wrong?” I hated to admit it, but I found myself a little happy about Luna’s distress. I had a chance to help her this time, and I wasn’t going to miss it.

“When something or somepony is banished, a mark is left behind. It’s size and shape depends on the who and what, as well as how much power it took. For Sombra and the Crystal Empire, it was a small crystalline shape the size of a marble. For me…”

Oh my. I turned back to look at my illusion with wide eyes. It would’ve been obvious if I hadn’t grown up with the mare in the moon existing as far back as living mortal memory could recall.

Luna spoke barely above a whisper. “She didn’t even have the decency to turn my moon around.”

Turning the moon around wouldn’t actually be all that helpful. Luna would still be on public display, but a pony would at least need a telescope to see the mare in the moon then. Not that I felt this was an appropriate time to mention that.

“If,” I began. I wasn’t exactly sure if this was the right thing to say. “If it helps, I don’t think anypony knows what it means anymore.” Getting a sigh in response, I continued, “And if you ignore what it means, it actually looks kind of nice. I mean, you look beautiful anyway, and you did in the past, too, but – no, I mean, it’s not just my bias. Twinkleshine–”

Luna put a hoof over my mouth and wore a rather weak, fake smile. “Twilight, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but you’re too young to tell me I look good in chains.”

As soon as my brain had processed what Luna was saying, I turned away in embarrassment, my cheeks burning. I really hadn’t meant to say it that way at all. Not that Luna wouldn’t look good in chains; she looked good in anything. Oh stars, what was I even thinking? Okay, it was time for a new topic.

“I think Celestia plagiarized some of your art, too.” It wasn’t the best choice for a new topic, but at least it wasn’t – nope, not thinking about it.

Following one of the longest sighs I’d ever heard, Luna said, “I don’t think I even want to know. Would you mind if we did something else? Something fun?”

“But what about–” I began, only to shut my mouth before I stuck my hoof in it. “You’ll really be here tomorrow? And the day after, and the day after that, and the–”

“Yes, Twilight. I really will be.”

“Okay.” It couldn’t hurt to wait to talk for another day or two. “So what do you want to do?”

There was a rather pregnant silence before Luna spoke. “I don’t know. Something I’ve never done before. Something new. But not too long. I wouldn’t want you to miss the Winter Moon Festival completely for me.”

I suspected that last part was code for ‘I want to be alone’, but she didn’t just take off like last time, so that was something.

“Alright, um, I guess I recently learned a card game. I think I remember enough of the cards to put together a few decks we could play with, although personally, I find the most fun is in building the decks.”

“Recently?” Luna asked. “If you learned it on the moon, I probably already know it.”

I shook my head. “I actually learned it from Dash. It’s her ‘deepest darkest secret’” – I added air quotes for effect – “and apparently only I and Fluttershy know of ‘her shameful addiction’.” I resisted the very strong temptation to roll my eyes as I continued. “And I guess you, too, now. Fluttershy knows because she was the one who first got Dash hooked, and I know because I stumbled onto them playing it one night. Not that that’s really important, but you asked, and–”

I got the ‘you’re rambling’ look from Luna.

“Right, anyway, Dash brought an entire crate of trading cards with her. I don’t know how, but she managed to slip it into the supplies without me noticing.”

If I had a checklist, that wouldn’t have – no, bad thoughts, Twilight. Worse than imagining Luna in – no!

Trying really, really hard to suppress my blush, I said, “Alright, so this game is pretty complicated in the details, but the basics are simple. First we both need a sixty card deck.”

I woke up feeling refreshed with warm fuzzies inside. I’d needed the nap a little bit, and seeing Luna again was just so wonderful. And I might admit that curb stomping her in a game she barely knew was a bit of a delight. Luna won non-chance-based games we played together at an absurdly high rate, and even when I won, it was almost always a hard-won victory. That may have been a little mean spirited, but whatever; it wasn’t every day a pony could say she thoroughly beat Luna at a game of strategy.

Anyway, after an epic struggle against my urge to snuggle further into Luna’s bed and to enjoy the blissful feeling of being half-awake, I rolled out from underneath the covers of the princess-sized bed.

Rubbing my eyes, I mumbled, “How long was I out for?”

I looked around until I found an old grandfather clock, but it had stopped working. If I wasn’t mistaken, it looked like a mechanical clock instead of an enchanted one, oddly enough. Maybe it held some sort of special significance for Luna.

Shrugging to myself, I tried pulling on one of the chains and was excited to find that it still worked, although I wasn’t exactly a fan of mechanical clocks. The incessant ticking that accompanied all mechanical, non-silenced clocks started right away. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard one of these, but it was just as annoying as before.

Hmm… I was sort of regretting restarting this clock now, but I had no clue how to turn it off, and I didn’t want to mess with it magically, so I just let it be. I did reset it to read four twenty, which is what time it felt like to me for whatever reason. Instead, I turned my attention to the bookshelves. There must have been a couple hundred books for me to go through, which was a little distressing. I should have asked Luna what they were about while I was with her, but oh well.

I pulled what I assumed was the very first book – if Luna had organized these in any sane manner – off the shelf and cracked it open, only to sigh. I really shouldn’t have been surprised; everything in it was hoofwritten in a language even older than Old Equestrian. Cherry Berry could probably read it, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to show her without Luna’s permission.

Replacing the book, I pulled off what I assumed was the last book. This one I could read. Like the first, this book was hoofwritten, although I got the impression from the hoofwriting that the author was not in a good mood.

I have begun to think Tia is not as innocent in all this as she professes, the book began. But then I believe somewhere deep inside of me, I always knew it was only a matter of time before she grew bored with her games amongst the mortals and desired to test her skills against me.

Ah, this was Luna’s work. A diary, maybe? Perhaps I shouldn’t – oh, who was I fooling? There was no way I wasn’t going to read this unless Luna explicitly told me not to, which she hadn’t. I jumped back onto the bed and made myself comfortable.

If she had simply asked for a competition of some sort, mayhaps I would have consented, but I cannot forgive her machinations against me by merely knowing their purpose. I shall simply have to wrest an apology from her in her own game and devise a suitable punishment for when I have won.

I hope nopony but I ever needs must lay hooves on this book, for I would hate to rip out so little as a single page, but I must be honest with myself here, if nowhere else. I fear myself too late; I fear Tia already the victor to some unknown end. Even without her head start potentially decades in the making, I find myself distressed over my prospects. Tia is, and always has been, the politician and schemer of the two of us. We never could have defeated Discord without those talents, and now I find they are turned against me. I confess it has been hard to sleep in the mornings, and I have taken to sleeping in Luminance instead of at Castle Everfree.

As distressing as my situation is, I shall always make time for my artistic dalliances, for I find them incredibly soothing. As the preface suggests, this book shall detail the meanings depicted in my paintings of the struggle between Tia and myself. I have already completed the first in this new branch and have found it to be one of the most relaxing I have made yet, despite the fire in my blood when I created it.

Oh, I got it now. All of these books were basically author’s – or in this case artist’s – notes to accompany the paintings for the artistically incompetent like myself. Well actually, the preface more suggested they were just a way for Luna to record her memories and vent, but they could also function as a series of history books, too.

Maybe I should start with another book. I already knew a little bit about this, and I’d met Celestia. Then again, maybe that was a reason for reading this book instead of against. Everything else would be so impersonal and disconnected for me. And I really only had time to read one – maybe two – of these books, and only if I decided to skip the festival entirely.

Yeah, there was nothing wrong with reading this one.

Speaking of, the tale is quite old already, but I felt it best to begin with at least one of the earlier events in our battle. I did not think too much of it then, but time casts a new light on many things. Two business ponies, one Diamond Charmer and one Emerald Shimmer, had come to petition my evening court to settle a dispute, and I ruled in favor of the less inane of the two.

The affair was all rather, oh what was that new expression, par for the course? Yes, I believe that is correct. I must try this ‘golf’ sometime soon. I believe the Zebrican ambassador expressed an interest in the game; mayhaps for the next meeting I have with her, we shall make an outing of the event. I vaguely remember one of my petitioners recommending the new course in Trottingham.

Anyway, Diamond Charmer was one of those ponies who could not simply accept a royal decree, and he attempted to petition the morning court with the same problem. There are no shortage of ponies who try this, of course, but this case was unusual in that it was accepted and brought forth before Tia.

Naturally, such errors do occur from time to time; the ponies who review all the petitions to our courts before Tia and I see them do make mistakes. Oftentimes, Tia or I will recognize the petition from when we complain to each other of the frivolities of our little ponies and simply dismiss the petition, but not always.

However, it is the rare case that we do not discover a re-petitioning to the opposite court before judgment is passed. In fact, I suspect that it has never happened in a dispute between two ponies, for they know a re-petitioning can only be made to the same court unless they – well, if whoever is reading this actually cares, she can consult those atrocious law books herself. In essence, Tia overturned my decision illegally and allegedly unknowingly, even though Emerald Shimmer would no doubt have spoken up and would have had the petition thrown out.

I did not think much of the case at the time, for I thought it a singular incident. When I discovered the error after the fact, I brought it up with Tia. We were going to revoke her ruling, but after discussing the petition at length, I yielded to her judgment and let her decision stand instead.

That was the biggest mistake of my life, although it took me years to notice the effects it had. We – or at least I – had unknowingly given ponies the idea that such actions were acceptable. I find it difficult to believe Tia would not have foreseen what would come, whether she sought to destroy me then or not.

Of course, that alone would not have been enough to–

Okay, on second thought, I really didn’t want to slog through a bunch of stories of politics; one was quite enough, and I didn’t think Luna would be offended if I quit now. I overturned the book and started flipping through from the back, which was blank. In fact, I found that a good chunk of the book was empty as I flipped through.

Eventually, I reached a page that had actual text, but it was stuck to several other pages. The very end just read, If they desire a nightmare, I shall oblige. Actually, when I examined the nearby pages in detail, I discovered that a lot of them were stuck to each other in pairs, threes, and sometimes fours, and they were all tear stained. At that point, I snapped the book shut and replaced it on the shelf; I wasn’t going to read something that Luna had literally cried her heart out into without explicit permission.

It was surprising that Luna hadn’t taken better care of the book, though. Even if she didn’t do it right away, I would have expected her to have cleaned it up, considering how much effort and passion she had obviously put into everything here.

Oh well. I’d just have to give her another hug later. But the question now was ‘what should I do?’ Twinkleshine was probably worried and looking for me, and there was a big party outside the palace that she’d probably want to go to.

Hmm… Maaaaaybe just one more book first. Just a little bit of one. I didn’t have to read the whole thing.

If I remembered what time the clock was at when I started it correctly, it was about half an hour later when I heard a pair of voices echoing into Luna’s bedroom, both mares.

“Do you really think she’s in there?” the first voice said.

“We searched everywhere else in the castle. She isn’t in town or down at the river, so where else could she be?”

Sighing to myself, I put my book away and jumped off the bed.

“But only the princess is supposed to be able to open this door,” the first voice protested.

“Crescent said the princess is grooming her to be a goddess. If anypony else could open this door, it’s her.”

“I guess. But then couldn’t she be anywhere?”

“Oh, just quit it. The new princess isn’t going to bite your head off or anything. Just knock already.”

“That’s easy for you to–”

Before the first mare could protest further, I opened the door for them. The first mare screamed in surprise while the second merely bowed to me and backed out of the way as I exited into the main hallway.

Both mares were lunar pegasi, and both possessed dark gray coats, but that was where the similarities ended. Where one was panicky, the other was confident. Where one looked like she would trip over her own hooves, the other had well-toned muscles that obviously saw a lot of use.

The one not trying to pull her wits together into a bow herself rose and spoke. “Greetings, Princess Twilight. My name is Chamomile. It is an honor to meet you.”

When I found the strength to pull myself away from those wonderful green eyes, I managed, “L-likewise.” Oh stars. This was almost as bad as that Big Macintosh back in Ponyville. I’d thought I understood why Luna thought lunar pegasi attractive before, but I’d known nothing. The way her nearly-black blue mane bounced about her eyes was almost hypnotic, and that muscle tone managed to blend into her curves in the best of both the masculine and feminine worlds.

“Ah, I’m Bookkeeper, Your Highness,” the other mare said at rapid-fire. “I’ve always known I’ve been blessed to be born into the generation that will be able to welcome the princess back, that is Princess Luna, but I never expected I’d be able to meet another princess, too, let alone Princess Luna’s apprentice, and I–”

Chamomile nudged Bookkeeper who promptly stopped rambling and went back into a bow, asking for my forgiveness.

Sighing, I asked Chamomile, “You two were looking for me?”

“Yes, Your Highness. Dame Twinkleshine–”

“We’re sorry if we messed up her name,” interrupted Bookkeeper.

I felt the urge to facehoof growing stronger by the moment. “If you’re talking about a unicorn mare roughly my age, then yes, her name is Twinkleshine. Has something happened to her?”

“No, not at all,” Chamomile said before Bookkeeper could speak. “She asked for a ride to the festival a couple hours ago. She also expressed a desire for us to locate you, presumably to ask you to join the celebration.”

Nodding, I said, “Thank you for helping her at the expense of your own free time. Please pass along our appreciation to whoever carried Twinkleshine down the mountain as well.”

“It was no problem. We are forever at our princesses’ beck and call, as well as their companions’.” Finally, Chamomile asked, “Will you be desiring an escort to the riverside yourself?”

“No thank you,” I said as I fired off a scrying spell to find somewhere safe to teleport to. “I can make my own way there.”

After selecting a nice, quiet location just on the outskirts of the festival, I fired off a teleportation spell. I wouldn’t normally be adverse to teleporting straight into the middle of the festival wherever Twinkleshine was, but what Cherry Berry had said earlier was stuck in my mind. If I did something as goddess-like to these ponies as appearing out of nowhere, I could see myself derailing the celebration in ten seconds flat, as Dash would say.

With a population of two-hundred or so, it wasn’t hard to pick out Twinkleshine among the crowd, especially since everypony but the few I’d brought with me from Equus felt compelled to bow as I walked past. Although naturally, I was pretty sure I spotted Cherry Berry bowing, too, no doubt to annoy me.

Anyway, Twinkleshine and Pinkie Pie were hanging out with a small band that instantly stopped when they noticed me approaching. Pinkie Pie had a saxophone – one of the many, many instruments she could play, although for the life of me I couldn’t figure out where she’d gotten it from or how she manged to play it without unicorn magic – in one hoof as she poked Twinkleshine with the other. After that Pinkie Pie pointed toward me, and Twinkleshine turned around to face me.

Only to promptly blush and whirl back toward Pinkie Pie. I thought about eavesdropping but decided against it. Twinkleshine was likely still mad at me for earlier, probably just for leaving her alone now that I’d thought about it and was less distracted; I didn’t need to give her any other reasons to be mad at me.

“Twinkleshine,” I began, “I’m–”

“Shut up!” Twinkleshine screeched, whirling back toward me with a huge blush. “I mean – just – just wait there and be quiet!”

I raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. It took at least a minute of talking to Pinkie Pie, but eventually, Twinkleshine turned toward me and whispered something to her.

That was when the music started. It sounded unpracticed, but at the same time, it was still very familiar. If I could just substitute an instrument or two, I could probably name the song. I think it might be missing a piano and maybe…a flute? Ugh, what was it? I could almost put my hoof on it. At its heart, the only thing that was missing was lyrics, and it looked an awful lot like Twinkleshine was going to provide them.

“Fly me to the moon.

“Let me play among the stars.”

Oh my. Of course that was what it was going to be. I could feel my face burning up already.

“Let me see what spring is like

“On a – Jupiter and Mars.”

I could hear Twinkleshine stumble over those two mythological planets, but she kept powering through the song, her voice growing stronger and less shaky as she went.

“In other words, hold my hoof.

“In other words, filly, kiss me.”

I would, but I wouldn’t want to miss the rest of the song.

“Fill my heart with song,

“And let me sing forever more.

“You are all I long for,

“All I worship, and adore.”

Twinkleshine was actually pretty good at this. Not great, but she was definitely good. Did she used to be in a choir or something?

“In other words, please be true.

“In other words, I love you.”

Oh, Twinkleshine. You were pretty cute when you had nothing to do but blush and stare at your hooves. I would say you should have picked a song without an instrumental section, but there really wasn’t a better choice than this.

“Fill my heart with song.

“Let me sing forever more.

“You are all I long for,

“All I worship, and adore.”

I hoped she didn’t mean that line literally. That would be awkward. No, bad Twilight. You were ruining the moment.

“In other words, please be true.

“In other words~”

Twinkleshine walked toward the edge of the impromptu stage.

“In other words~”

Her voice wobbled as she jumped the short distance to the ground.


She stopped just in front of me.


She put a hoof on my cheek and stared into my eyes, her face beet red. I didn’t even have to suppress a cringe as a few instruments substituted poorly for the missing piano.


Prereader – Starlight Nova