Okay, maybe this wasn't the best idea...
Luna peered out from a bush on the edge of the Whitetail Wood. Her tail stuck out of the other end of the shrubbery, but she hoped nopony would notice.
Celestia had just set the Sun, and in short order two mares from Ponyville had started a campfire. She recognized them as part of the group who had fought Nightmare Moon, but she couldn't recall the names of the behatted orange earth pony or the white unicorn who held herself with such poise. I'll find out later, Luna decided, determined not to forget once she did.
However it wasn't the two adult ponies that had drawn Luna there, but the three fillies they were chaperoning. Luna watched the trio run back and forth across the clearing, shouting something about cutie marks. They were so busy they didn't even seem to have noticed that it had become nighttime.
Luna felt more and more nervous the longer she watched them play. It was obvious that they were close friends. How do I... just push myself onto them? I don't even know what little fillies like. What if they don't even care about my addition to the local night life?
Then Luna's eyes landed on something she hadn't noticed before. Near the fire, beside the two conversing mares, was a pile of bug nets and several empty glass jars. They came prepared. I guess I can't back out now...
Luna glanced up at the Moon, took a deep breath, and nodded.
She summoned her magic, hoping that the buzz of her horn was too far off for anypony to hear. She spread her awareness out in all directions, then tensed. There! It didn't take much effort for her to guide two of the tiny creatures toward the ponies, and it only took a few moments for one to notice.
"Fireflies!" the little orange pegasus pony shouted, her small wings flaring out as she pointed. Both of her friends perked up.
"Get the nets!" the earth pony filly shouted, and the three of them dashed back to the fire.
"Don't go gettin' off too far now," Luna heard one of the adults say.
"We won't, sis!"
And then the three ran toward the fireflies, holding nets in their mouths. Luna concentrated her magic again and had the fireflies make their way off into the forest, into another small clearing that was out of sight of the older ponies. The three fillies gave chase, and Luna slunk after them.
When she caught up they were all running about the clearing, trying to capture one of the half-dozen fireflies that flitted about. They held the nets out sideways, running past the bugs and swinging their head to sweep the net toward one.
Luna watched them for a while from a new hiding place and stomped down on the urge to leave, or maybe just stay in hiding and see how they reacted to her surprise. I went through all the trouble to learn this disguise spell. I have to at least try, don't I?
"Got one!" the pegasus filly gloated, holding her net to the ground so the firefly inside couldn't escape.
... Go! Luna urged herself, stumbling out of the underbrush.
"Good job!" she shouted, all smiles. The three fillies yelped, whipping around to stare at her. To their eyes she was a unicorn filly at just the same age, her coat color unchanged but her cutie mark hidden.
"Um. Good job?" she repeated as the awkward moment stretched, her smile going distinctly crooked.
"She scared you good, didn't she?" the earth pony asked the pegasus with a grin and a nudge.
The little white unicorn with the two-tone mane waved a hoof. "Hay! Are you new to town? What's your name?"
"Uh..." My name? Oh rolled oats, I never came up with a name! Her mind groped out for one. "Um, Black Snootie! Yup, I'm Black Snootie. Just, um, visiting. With my family. From... New Hoof... ington... ville." Luna chuckled weakly.
"Uh huuuh..." the unicorn said, then shrugged. "Well, I'm Sweetie Belle."
"Apple Bloom!" the earth pony chimed in with a grin, the big red ribbon in her mane bobbing.
All eyes turned to the orange pegasus. "Aww, it got away..." she lamented down at her net, then looked up. "Uh, heh, Scootaloo..." she said, rubbing a hoof behind her head and smiling crookedly.
"Hay, you don't have your cutie mark either, Snootie?" Sweetie asked Luna, leaning to look.
"Um, no, not yet," Luna replied. "I guess I'm still trying to find my place in the world." Though I might be on the right track!
"Us too!" Apple Bloom said.
"We're the Cutie Mark Crusaders!" Scootaloo announced.
Apple Bloom cried out, "And we will never rest until we get our cutie marks!"
Sweetie Belle nodded energetically. "Never rest, never eat, never sleep, never bathe!" she added. Her teammates looked at her pointedly. "What?"
"I'm sure you'll all get your cutie marks very soon," Luna assured them.
"Thanks!" Apple Bloom replied, Sweetie and Scootaloo nodding along. "You too, Snootie. You seem like an all right pony to me."
"Uh huh!" Sweetie agreed.
Luna smiled. "Thank you." Really, thank you...
"Hay, you wanna catch some fireflies?" Scootaloo asked.
Oh, here's my chance. "Actually, I think I saw something over-- Oh, look!" She lit up her horn and pointed a weak cone of light across the field. It was convincingly wobbly, only as strong as a filly could pull off, but it's intention was to cover up the casting of a much more complicated spell.
"Huh?" the Crusaders asked, looking.
Most of the fireflies had spread back out into the woods, so that the only light around was the Moon and stars overhead. At first there was nothing to see, but then a tiny pink light glided into view from between tangled branches. It was definitely smaller than a firefly, but clearer and steady in brightness compared to the flashing patterns of its larger cousins. It bobbed in place, then flicked to a pure white light.
It was soon joined by two more, blue and green, and they swung in a low arc together and all changed to the same shade of bright green. Another few appeared, then more, and more, until they practically formed a low lying cloud bank of multicolored sparks that started to spread out across the field.
"Woah," Scootaloo said.
"What are they?" Apple Bloom asked.
"I call them fairyflies," Luna replied. "Um, I mean, that's what they call them where I'm from."
"Cool," Sweetie Belle mumbled, all three of the fillies staring. The mass of fairyflies started to separate into groups, small masses that flew in rough blobs but all swooped down and then back up at the same time. Every fairyfly in each group shared the same color, which was always different from any neighboring swarms. Several groups then broke off together and started slowly circling each other in twos and threes.
"I bet I can catch the most!" Scootaloo whooped, snatching up her net and racing forward.
"Yer on!" Apple Bloom hurried to catch up, net in mouth.
Sweetie Belle stayed and watched with Luna, the pair sitting side by side. Scootaloo's net passed through a cloud of fairyflies but just before impact they dispersed in all different directions, swirling in twos and threes through the air, before recombining into a loose group once more.
"It's like they're dancing," Sweetie commented, watching three swarms spin together through the night.
"Oh?" Luna asked. She looked over at the unicorn. Does she get it?
"Uh huh. They keep flying around and changing colors at the same rhythm, over and over, like it was to a beat."
Luna nodded quickly. "You're absolutely right!"
"And..." Sweetie looked off into the woods, ears perked. "I think it's the same beat as..." She didn't finish the sentence.
"What? The same beat as what?" Luna insisted. Has she noticed it? But she's so young!
Sweetie Belle looked at Luna, then down at the grass beneath her hooves. "Welllll... Nopony else believes me, but there's a song that plays at night." She looked back up at Luna quickly. "Not all the time, I mean! I'm not crazy! But it's just little bits, now and then, and it all adds up to song. A really, really pretty song. I heard a little of it a second ago, and it was right along to the dancing fairyflies."
Luna stared for a moment, then smiled and nodded repeatedly. "You're right!"
Sweetie's eyes widened. "You heard it too?!"
"Yup!" Luna replied. If this little filly has picked up on the music of the night then maybe a lot more ponies have noticed it than I thought!
"I'm so glad somepony else hears it, too! Isn't it pretty?"
Luna chuckled and nodded once more. "I guess it is kinda nice..."
"Very nice," Sweetie insisted. "I wish I could hear the whole song in a row. I've been kinda figuring it out, though."
"Yeah. Um." Sweetie licked her lips, then started humming a tune. Luna stared; it wasn't perfect, but it was clearly the main theme to her new nocturne. What a great sense of pitch, too!
"You figured that out in just a few nights? That's amazing, Sweetie Belle!"
The white filly blushed and looked down at the grass. "Eh, I just stay up late when I sleep over with my sister Rarity, because she works hard after hours, so I have a lot of time to listen at the window."
Luna filed away Rarity's name, then glanced down at the unicorn's flank and shook her head. "I'm surprised you don't already have a musical note cutie mark, or a treble clef or something."
Sweetie shook her head quickly. "Nuh uh, it's going to be something to do with fashion! My sister is a famous designer, and I want to be one just like her."
"Oh, so you aren't good at an instrument, or singing, or anything of the sort?" Luna asked, legitimately curious.
"Welllll... I'm an okay singer."
"Just okay?" Luna prompted.
"Pretty good, I guess..."
Luna giggled softly. "Best in your class?"
"... Maybe," Sweetie Belle answered, but quickly added, "But I can't sing in front of an audience!"
"Oh?" Luna asked, "Why not?"
"I, I just couldn't!" Sweetie exclaimed.
Luna left it at that for a few minutes, just watching Scootaloo and Apple Bloom as they fought to capture her flighty new improvement to the night. They each had several in their net and every time they caught another they would go over to the other pony and count, gloat or cringe, and get back to it.
When Luna looked back at Sweetie Belle the little unicorn was watching the closest swarm of fairyflies, and up close she could see that it was slowly spinning. It was just as Luna planned, to have each one orbit a central point, so that each grouping was its own separate solar system. Several of those systems circled another floating point as if making up a small galaxy. They would carry on for an hour each night before separating and going off to eat and rest.
"Sweetie, I really, truly understand what you mean when you say you can't," Luna began, catching the unicorn's attention. "What if they don't like it? What if you mess up when everypony has their eyes on you? What if you aren't as good as you think you are? What if... There are a lot of what ifs, aren't there?"
Sweetie nodded a little.
"But I'm starting to realize something. Think about your favorite song, or story, or piece of art. That had to come from somepony who stuck their neck out and took a risk to bring something beautiful into the world. If they never did, we'd never have anything pretty to look at, or listen to, or read... It would be awful."
Luna took a deep breath and was surprised to find little tears in her eyes as she spoke, looking up at her Moon. "Everything everypony does to share their talents is an improvement to Equestria, and the whole world. And whether your talents are singing, or making dresses, or..." Improving the night... "... or anything, we should use those talents to make everypony else happy if we can." She looked over at Sweetie, smiling. "Shouldn't we?"
Sweetie Belle stared at Luna for a solid five seconds, then off into the forest. "I don't know..."
"Who says you can't do both, anyway?" Luna asked, raising a hoof into the air. "Sweetie Belle, Singing Seamstress Extraordinaire!"
"Now you're just being silly," Sweetie insisted.
Luna shook her head, still smiling. "Nuh uh. I'm really not."
The pair watched fairyflies together for several more minutes. Luna's small smile grew when she picked up on Sweetie's quiet humming of a tune close to the song of the night but slightly different, set to the same beat of the dancing lights surrounding them. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had finally tired out and were flopped on their backs, watching the spectacle as well as it circled over them.
Somepony yawned, and it spread across all three Cutie Mark Crusaders like wildfire. Luna stood, stretching. "I should go. My, uh, parents are going to be worried about me if I'm gone too long."
"Bye!" Scootaloo called, waving a hoof from her back.
Apple Bloom sat up and waved as well. "See ya around, Black Snootie!"
"We will see you around, right?" Sweetie asked quickly.
Luna nodded. "I really hope so! And think about what I said, okay?"
Sweetie nodded back, and smiled just a little. "Okay."
Luna asked all three on an impulse, "So do you like fairyflies?"
Apple Bloom nodded and poked her hoof at a nearby swarm. "They're real neat!"
Scootaloo sat up and pounded one hoof into another. "Yeah! They're way harder to catch than fireflies. I like a good challenge."
Sweetie nodded plenty. "They're--"
"Gorgeous!" a voice called from the edge of the clearing, every heard turning toward it. Luna took the chance to unfurl her invisible wings and leap into the forest. She found a dark perch high in the tree cover and watched as the two adult ponies stepped into the clearing. It was the unicorn who had spoke, Luna recognizing her now as Rarity.
"What are these darling little lights?" Rarity asked.
"Fairyflies," Apple Bloom answered. "I bet we're the first ponies to see them around these parts! Aren't they neat, Applejack?"
The orange earth pony looked about herself, eyes wide, then nodded. "I reckon they're awful pretty."
Luna had heard enough. She swooped out of the tree and glided away a decent distance, then zipped up through a break in the branches to sail over the Whitetail Wood. She looked up at the Moon and beamed.
"I'd say that went pretty well. What do you think?" she angled her wings to bank side to side in lazy arcs, keeping her eyes on the Moon all the while. "My target audience was impressed. Their big sisters were impressed. I guess you'd call that a success!"
They really enjoyed it. It made their night! Well, maybe not the mares, but the fillies... Luna imagined that all three of them would remember that night for the rest of their lives. "Oh, and I made a friend!" she told the Moon, then chuckled. "Well, I guess Black Snootie did." I'm going to have to visit Sweetie Belle again someday soon, Luna decided.
Luna spotted her private glade and circled down to it, her horn already glowing in preparation. It would take a lot of effort to spread to spread fairyflies all across Equestria in one night. Without thinking she reached out a tendril of magic to the Moon for support, and she felt her connection with it strengthen until it was nearly a solid beam of force. The voice of the Moon was more akin to the beating of a heart which she could not only hear but also feel throughout her whole being.
She gasped and landed roughly, stumbling and then staring up at the Moon with glimmering eyes. She could feel more now: its steady progress across the sky, the track it followed every night, the caress of starlight across its surface... Her heart sang as a single tear trailed down each cheek.
It's almost time, isn't it? Oh, sister, soon I'll be able to take so much weight off your shoulders! I'll never be a burden again!
Luna worked through the entire night and most of the morning. She was too weary to remember curling up on the grass for "just a little nap," but it was the tug of the Moon rising overhead that woke her. She stood, stretched, yawned, and then looked up at her Moon. She reached her mind and magic out to the Moon again and felt that firm, steady connection from the night before.
I'm going to try it! she decided at that moment. Tomorrow night I'm going to bring you out. Just you wait and see!
Though, I guess I better tell my sister, Luna thought as she lifted off and started the short flight back to Canterlot. After a thousand years it might be a big shock to have the Moon move on its own! She felt the familiar twinge of mixed emotions at the thought of speaking to Celestia, but it had shrunk down so small she could easily ignore it.
As Luna cleared the cliffs below Canterlot her face brightened further. First, I have to tell Aura how well things went!
She landed on her balcony and trotted into the quarters, but the room was dark and the corner was missing its customary knitter. I wonder where I could find her. Maybe she's asleep?
Luna stopped mid-step and looked around herself, realizing that since her return she'd been so busy feeling sorry for herself that she never really looked at the room she'd spent most of her time in! Canterlot was covered in warm colors, reds and oranges and yellows, but she had been placed in a room with blues that ranged from near black to the sky at false-dawn. It was particularly lovely in the dark with her unnaturally good night vision. The walls were adorned with art of the Moon, the stars, and landscapes under nighttime skies; Aura's words days ago came back to Luna and she wondered, Did my sister paint these? She must have picked this room and decorated it just for me.
Her eyes were drawn to a multicolored lump resting on her worktable, and as she approached she recognized the pattern as Aura's knitting. Luna whispered, "Is this...?" Her horn glowed as she lifted it, and the blanket rustled open, lit by her horn.
It was made up of dozens of connected squares. Each square started with a color in one corner and then each outwardly radiating thread was a slightly different color. It left the blanket resembling pearlescent dragon scales, with each "scale" bearing a unique color scheme. As Luna looked closer she noticed that the colors were taken directly from the manes and coats of her and her sister; pink and violet, dark blue and green, near-white and near-black. She almost didn't notice, but a few threads of silver and gold had been expertly snuck in.
A note rested on the table, written in a flowing cursive with excessive splotching at each period. Luna could imagine Aura writing it, punctuating each sentence with just slightly too much vigor. The note read,
I thought this might liven up your room a little.
Not too much, just the right amount.
Let me know what you think.
See you soon.
Luna looked over the blanket one more time, then quickly folded it into quarters to set it back on the table. "Okay, now I have to find Aura tonight and thank her," she told herself.
Luna jumped in place at a quick rapping on the door. "Princess Luna, permission to enter?" a gruff voice asked.
"Um, yes, please come in," Luna answered, pulling the door open with a trickle of magic.
A pegasus guard bowed quickly to her and then rose and said, "Your Royal Highness, pardon the intrusion, but I was ordered to wait here for your return. Princess Celestia sends word for you to meet her in her quarters immediately. She was clear that is it very important."
Luna held her breath without realizing it. Nothing like this had happened since her return. What could possibly be wrong?
"If you wish, Princess, I could escort you--"
"There's no need, thank you!" she replied, running to her balcony and taking flight. It only took an ounce of her newly strengthened will to seek out where her sister was. Luna swung out over Canterlot, angled such that she'd end her flight at Celestia's private balcony. Her heart raced. What could it be? Maybe... I messed up with the fairyflies? Ecosystems are very delicate... She steeled her jaw and nodded. Whatever it is, I'm not running away anymore.
Luna glided onto and over Celestia's balcony and didn't land until she was through the doorway, expecting to be ready for anything. She was taken aback by the sight of her sister resting on a knit blanket on the floor, sadness creasing her face as she stroked a hoof across the material beneath her.
Luna's stomach sunk and she took a small step backward. What could have happened?
The two made eye contact and Celestia took a shaky breath before she spoke. "Aura has..." Celestia swallowed before she could finish. "She's passed away."
Luna froze in place. Celestia kept their eyes locked together.
"She fell asleep knitting, not for the first time, and went in her sleep. She... she had a smile on her face."
Luna finally took a breath, then another, but didn't move. Celestia went quiet, focusing on keeping her sister's gaze.
"No," Luna finally whispered. Celestia didn't reply. "No," Luna repeated, louder, and then focused her magic. Where is she? she thought, her power reaching out in every direction, seeking out the magical signature that could only be Aura.
"Sister, I'm sorry, but there's nothing I could do. It was natural causes."
"No," Luna said, in a calm, assertive voice, as if she were ending the discussion with that one word. "Ah ha, there she is!" she called out, finding just a glimmer of something and focusing on it.
"I'm not certain if seeing her would be best for you right now, Luna," Celestia said in a soft voice.
"Excuse me," Luna said, and nodded to her sister. She saw Celestia's face for just a moment, registering sadness and worry, but also fear. She ignored all of it. Luna leapt away and swooped down out of sight.
The entire flight and walk went by in a blur. Luna pushed her way into the back rooms of the royal hospital, not noticing the protest, and then apology, of the coroner whose night shift she had interrupted.
And then she had found her. The search spell had lead Luna to a low cot with a plain white sheet spread over an equine shape. A curly gold tail hung off one side, the tip touching the tile floor. Luna's magic probe was still active and it told her that the body was unmoving, cold, and silent. And, most certainly, Aura.
"Princess?" the coroner asked, but Luna didn't hear the mare's voice. Luna backed out of the room, shaking her head.
Luna darted out the nearest open window and looked left, then right. She didn't know what to do, but she had to... had to do something! She's... she's...
Celestia's voice came from overhead. "Luna... Please come back with me."
Their eyes met again for just a moment, and then Luna whispered, "No," and fled.
Luna landed in her glade in the Whitetail Wood, shaking, not noting or caring that her rough approach tore up clumps of grass.
She started pacing back and forth with hard hoof-falls, crushing flowers, shaking her head every few steps. "No, just... No. How could..."
Her jaw got tighter and tighter as she continued. "No," she insisted, her eyes starting to dampen. "No. No. NO!"
In one swift motion she took flight and shot to the nearest tree. Her horn ignited in purple fire and power surged through her entire body down to her hooves. She turned, bucked, and kicked. The tree didn't break so much as explode, raw magical force destroying it from the inside out, wood and bark scattering in all directions. The concussion rocked through the forest, sending birds and animals alike into flight.
Luna opened her eyes without realizing she'd closed them, staring at her glade. It was covered in steaming chunks of tree, many sizzling on the verge of fire. One large piece had rolled halfway across it, steamrolling grass and flowers alike. And there on the edge was a single fairyfly, fleeing from the wrath of its mistress.
Luna shook as she remembered finding the glade and her repeated visits while practicing her magic and music. She let out a sob when she remembered Aura sitting in the middle of the clearing in complete approval of the setting, and then in adoration of her music.
And now she was destroying it.
Luna looked up at the Moon, and then winked out of existence.
Luna re-appeared in almost pure darkness, but could feel the land around her as if it were a part of her own body. Above were the stars, brighter than anywhere in Equestria. All around her were the flat expanses and craters of her old prison. It was cold, but Luna hardly felt it.
She was in the bottom of a crater on the dark side of the Moon.
Luna screamed, her horn lighting up the area around her as she tore out a chunk of the rock underneath her hooves and levitated it up so she could kick it as hard as she could. It exploded not unlike the tree, and in the low gravity of the Moon white-hot pieces of rock flew in all directions.
It didn't help.
Luna sobbed as she pulled up another hunk of moon rock and crushed it under her front hooves, then surrounded the top of her head with magical force as she ran headlong into a third even larger target.
It didn't help.
Finally she collapsed, sobbing, as fine moon dust started to float slowly down around her.
Only then did Luna realize she couldn't hear anything. Not her own screams, not her sobbing, not the impact of a head-sized stone that landed nearby. Not even the Moon's beat.
Celestia's words from just weeks ago slithered into Luna's mind. "There was one more thing I wanted to make sure you know, Luna. If I had known that the Elements of Harmony would banish you to the surface of the Moon I never would have used them. I would have found some other way."
A thousand years without anyone, or anything, or... even a song. Not a single note.
Memories started to come back to Luna, painfully fast.
Dusk... A talented musician, a master of many instruments and a player of more. Luna's best friend for years, and consort for decades. Their hearts marched to the same beat.
So much time together, playing and composing, singing and dancing. Loving.
Luna leaning into Dusk's side in the center of a perfect forest glade under the Full Moon, deciding how to make the music of the night even richer. Working on their new nocturne together.
She spent every moment she could close to Dusk, stealing what little time she could get before it was too late.
Then mortality caught up. Dusk had died, alone, while Luna had been busy doing her princessly duties. When Luna got home someone told her there had been a smile on Dusk's face.
Night after night spent curled up on the grass in their private glade in the Whitetail Wood, crying herself to sleep, remembering Dusk's voice.
Depression and loneliness haunted Luna for months. Nothing helped. Whenever something small raised her spirits she would see Dusk's face, or hear a song, or glance at a sunset, and fall into the same hopeless downward spiral.
Luna may have overcome this on her own, but something subtle and wicked made sure that Luna could never recover. Every night it would come into her dreams and whisper into her ear. Its ideas sounded less and less vile as time passed. Its twisted logic began to make sense after nearly a year of helpless emotional pain.
You were always jealous of us! Luna had screamed in Celestia's face. It was always you and me versus the world, and then Dusk came and made me happier than I had ever been! You could never do that! And that's why you let Dusk die!
Celestia had just sat there, composed but heavyhearted. All ponies must pass away, Luna.
You didn't even try! Luna had stomped her hooves hard enough to score the marble beneath them. And why would you? Everypony loves you for the Sun, and the daytime, all your puffy white clouds and bright, shiny colors. They celebrate the morning and then hide away at night. But I had found someone else to love, and you couldn't stand it, could you? It's not all about you, "Tia!" Luna spat out the formerly loving nickname with sarcastic venom.
Luna, please, I don't want to fight. I am so sorry for your loss. Celestia had approached, intending to take her sister into an embrace. Please, let me help you through this pain.
Its voice shook Luna to the core. SHE'S GOING TO "HELP" YOU BY PUTTING YOU OUT OF YOUR MISERY! LET ME IN AND I WILL END THIS! NO MORE PAIN, NO MORE LONELINESS! WE WILL BE TOGETHER FOREVER!
And she had let it in.
Confrontation, darkness, and blood. Second thoughts... and the realization that it wasn't her decision anymore.
Celestia crying openly as the Elements of Harmony swirled around Luna's transformed body.
And then... darkness. Silence.
Sometimes the Nightmare would give Luna back control just long enough for her to fully mourn her losses. Dusk was gone, Celestia had banished her, and all sound was robbed from her. She couldn't bear the sight of Equestria from on high so she stayed on the dark side of the Moon when she had control.
And then the Nightmare would assert itself, drag Luna to watch the Sun rise over Equestria, and laugh at her.
NO MORE LONELINESS, LUNA! WE'RE TOGETHER FOREVER NOW!
Now the Nightmare was gone, but Luna was all alone again.
She curled up and silently cried herself to sleep.
Luna awoke much warmer than when she had fallen asleep. She lifted her head weakly to find she was looking right into Celestia's eyes. The older sister had pressed up close to Luna's side in her sleep and spread a wing over her.
They gazed at each other for a long time. Neither of the alicorns tried to speak.
Finally Luna closed her eyes and disappeared, moon dust from her coat settling to the surface.
I cannot find Luna. She has somehow hidden herself from all magical detection. I have searched everywhere that I could think of, twice, and there is no sign of her. The guards are scouring Whitetail Wood and the edges of the Everfree Forest, but I already know this is in vain.
Magic powerful enough to hide herself from me... I have to assume that she has her memories back.
If this means the return of Nightmare Moon... I cannot bear to think of it.
I sent her away for a thousand years, and now this. Will I ever be able to atone?
More than a week of nothing, and then today the blanket that Aura knit for Luna went missing. I did not feel my sister or her magic in Canterlot.
I fear this means she either sent another to collect it or that it wasn't my sister who came to take it, but... another. A Nightmare that delights in tricks, mind games, and pain.
I cannot be certain, however. Luna's magical obfuscation may just be that good. Shadows and quiet stillness are her domain, after all.
I cannot give up hope.
The New Moon just rose, and not by my hoof.
The only thoughts keeping me from despair are that it was only a few minutes ahead of schedule, and that I cannot imagine Nightmare Moon attacking with the Moon dark. She would be at her weakest.
I'm here for you, dear Luna. Please come back to me.
I'm so very sorry.
Luna appeared far above Canterlot, looking down upon her home. She saw an off-white speck on a balcony and nodded. There she is.
Luna tucked her wings and dove hard, nose pointed straight at her sister. Her hiding spell was still very much intact, and she was above and behind Celestia; she would never know her little sister was coming. Luna lowered her horn, a nimbus of black-purple surrounding it as she summoned her strength.
She spread her wings to slow her descent, magic cushioning the sudden deceleration. She released the spell keeping her from detection just before landing on the balcony. Even so, Celestia gasped and sidestepped, her own horn surrounded in a pearly white aura as she brought it to bear.
The magical light winked out almost immediately. "Luna!" Celestia moved to approach, but Luna lifted a hoof.
"Wait, sister, I have to show you something. Just... listen and watch, okay?"
Celestia paused, but nodded slowly. "All right."
Luna pointed up into the sky and both sisters looked up to see nothing but stars. Luna's horn lit up again, humming its signature note, as she triggered the last step of her complex spell.
The night slowly fell silent. The quiet drone of ponies doing early evening business faded away. The wind slowed, then stilled. Celestia glanced over at her sister once but then looked upward again.
Luna's tail started swaying, and only by force of will did she keep her head still. Here it comes...
The first note of Aura's Nocturne rose seemingly from all directions at once. It wasn't just the forest singing but every noise, from the tone of ponies' voices to the clip-clop of their hooves on cobblestones, the squeak of a wagon's wheel and the bark of a pet dog. No individual noise could be identified for long as Luna's magic blended and smoothed groups of noises together into separate instruments.
As the song continued it reached more and more ears the ponies below stopped and looked around. Heads popped out of windows, and fillies just sitting down to sleep sat up in bed. Hooves and wagons stopped, voices dropped, but the sounds of the song naturally progressed in a new voice that was just as pleasing as the last. Nopony could mistake it for random noise; there was a distinct melody, one that some ponies were starting to recognize.
Celestia's ears perked as she listened, glancing down at her subjects and then back at Luna.
"Keep looking right around there," Luna whispered, pointing upward again.
They both watched as a strand of blue-green light grew across the sky from the horizon. It started as a straight line, but organically bent and wavered as if in an incredibly gentle breeze. As the second melody of Aura's Nocturne joined in a second string grew across the sky, parallel to the first and very close, and then with a briefly increased glow they merged into a thin band of light. The hue began to change, and after several seconds it had changed into silvery gray.
The music continued, the first two melodies playing against each other, somber tones and instrumental friction. "I'm sure you recognize the first melody," Luna murmured. "Dusk and I came up with it together a thousand years ago. The second one is purely my own. It represents me, when I was trying to remember who and what I am." A third thread of light crawled across the sky, and after it merged to make a thicker band of wavering color it shifted slowly into a soft pink.
There were several short moments of quiet, and then a burst of noise, almost discordant, accompanied by the appearance of another thread. The cacophony resolved into a third melody, firm but not unbending. "And that is Aura." Luna's voice went hoarse as she swallowed tears. "You know how she was. I'd still be lost without her. That's her guiding me back to the Moon. And to you."
The streets below filled with ponies who stared up into the sky, ears perked, watching more strands of light grow and merge until a curtain of ever-so-slowly flowing light covered half the sky in soft, changing light. All three melodies of the song intertwined, knitting together with the display in the sky to mesmerize ponies across all of Equestria.
"I wanted to do this on the New Moon, because this is about Aura and Dusk, not me." Luna spoke as the music continued, creeping toward a crescendo. "Every New Moon these lights, the Aurora, will play out across Equestria, in a permanent elegy. And a reminder, of a lot of things."
The music reached its climax, the melodies interweaving harmoniously, triumphant, celebrating Luna's return to her sister's side. "I still miss Dusk, even after a thousand years of mourning," Luna began, pausing to keep herself from crying too hard. "But... but I really, really miss Aura."
"Me too, Luna," Celestia said, emotion thick in her voice.
As the music faded, leaving the Aurora spread across the sky, Luna turned to her sister. She wiped tears from her face before she spoke. "I know that you forgive me," she said. "If anything, you feel like there is nothing to forgive, right?"
Celestia nodded. "Precisely."
"That's how I feel about you! The exact same thing." Luna stepped closer, almost near enough to touch.
"I was out of my mind. I let evil magic as old as the stars guide my hoof. I was going to destroy the entire world, just to feed its sick hunger for pain and loss. You saved... all of this."
Luna waved a hoof out over Canterlot, Whitetail Wood, Ponyville, the Everfree Forest, and everything beyond.
"All of it. You did the right thing. I am beyond grateful for what you did, otherwise I would have had all of eternity to mourn my mistakes."
Celestia stared at her sister, eyes searching her gaze.
"I completely forgive you," Luna finally said. "I know you regret where I was sent, and you wish you could have found another way, but if you hadn't acted when you had..." Luna shook her head.
"I forgive you, Tia." Luna leaned forward and just barely touched the tip of her nose to her sister's. "Please believe me. I forgive you."
Tears welled in Celestia's eyes, and for the first time in a long time the sight didn't make Luna's gut clench. She smiled and nodded. "Really, sis. I forgive you!"
Celestia rushed forward and tucked her head and neck around Luna's, pushing close and crying. "I'm so happy you're back," Celestia whispered, voice raw with emotion.
"Me too, Tia," Luna replied, fresh tears creeping from her closed eyes down to her smile as she nestled into her sister's embrace. "Me too."
"Welcome home, Tia!" Luna gave her sister a brief nuzzle as she landed on the balcony.
"Thank you, Luna," Celestia returned the touch and the pair stepped into Luna's quarters.
"Did the trade agreement go over well in Trottingham?" Luna asked as the sisters settled down onto opposite knit blankets Luna had spread on the floor moments earlier.
"Yes, very well. You always had a knack for numbers. And what have you been up to in my absence?"
"Visitors were light today, so I had a lot of time to dedicate to policy and correspondence."
"Wellll... I may have gotten in a few pages of a new song, as well."
"Oh?" Celestia asked.
"One plump, pompous pony went on and on and on. He thinks I took some very detailed notes on what he was saying. Actually, I was kinda scribbling down a jaunty little tuba tune in his honor."
"I see. Perhaps we should play it for him the next time he visits?" Celestia's eyes twinkled.
"That might be pushing it, Tia..." Luna smirked. "Sounds good to me!"
A gout of green fire swept in through an open window and swirled over Celestia's head, resolving into not one but two scrolls.
"Twilight Sparkle?" Luna asked, and Celestia nodded.
"This one is for you, Luna." Celestia said, passing it over magically.
"Oh?" Luna unrolled the scroll and read it aloud.
Dear Princess Luna,
I couldn't help but notice the incredible additions to the night that have occurred recently! I have seen Princess Celestia raise the Sun, and it is very impressive, but I know nothing about your work. I know your time is valuable, but perhaps you would be willing to entertain some correspondence regarding this matter? I do believe an understanding of your magic may help to further my studies under Princes Celestia.
Thank you for your consideration!
"Ah, an adoring fan!" Celestia cried, grinning.
"Trying to make me blush, now?" Luna asked, glad that her coat was so dark.
"Is it working?"
"Wouldn't you like to know..."
Luna re-read the letter to herself, smiling. "Aura suggested that I make friends with Twilight, actually."
"I'd like to think she had good taste in friends," Celestia commented.
"Me too." Luna paused, then nodded. "Forget correspondence; I'm going to pay Twilight a visit." She started writing a response, then added, "And we don't want to forget Black Snootie's little friend..."
"Black Snootie?" Celestia asked.
"It's a long story..."
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
I would be more than happy to visit Ponyville and discuss my recent changes to the night in more detail. Please reply with the most convenient evening for you to host, and please keep this as just a simple social call! Also, you may want to invite Sweetie Belle. I believe she may enjoy our conversation.