A chasm darted across the black sky, opening a hole then closing it an instant later. For the briefest of moments the stars would flash out of existence, leaving the night as void, before flashing back into existence, their light bleeding through the cosmos.
Far above the ground, Luna raced as fast as her wings would take her, desperately trying to outrun an unseen spectre. Her heart spasmed in palpitations, her breath laboured as she tried to suppress a panic attack. The rhythm of her wing beats was irregular, as if she was still learning to fly. Her eyes furiously scanned her surroundings.
Spotting a stray cloud below her, Luna spread her wings wide and hurtled down towards it; her descent was rapid. As Luna barreled into the cloud, it strained under her weight, bringing her to a halt. Luna rolled over onto her back, before succumbing to the darkness lingering in her vision, and passing out.
Luna’s eyes dilated as the realization hit her, fear consuming her mind. Celestia’s voice was clear and authoritative. She moved towards Luna with her wings outstretched and her head held high.
“It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this,” Celestia knelt down before Luna. She winced, waiting for her end to come.
It never did.
Instead, Celestia continued, “Time to put our differences behind us. We were meant to rule together, little sister. Will you accept my friendship?”
Luna’s mind went blank; her thought process reeling as it desperately tried to piece together what was happening. Emotion hit her like a tidal wave, years of regret and sorrow wiping away her fear. In her mind she pulled herself up and ran into Celestia’s embrace, but her body would not do so. She wrestled against her subconscious as the last of the nightmare faded from her mind. With a surge of will, she overcame, and ran into her sister’s embrace.
“I’m so sorry. I missed you so much, big sister.”
Tears began to wet the coats of both alicorns, staining their fur.
“I missed you too.”
Luna’s eyes parted slowly, revealing the stars above. The cloud she was on slowly rocked under the force of a small breeze. The scent of snow drifted upon the wind. Looking towards the direction the breeze was coming from, she found herself staring at the Northern Mountains. They stood towering and archaic, casting deep shadows into the valleys below.
With a sigh, Luna turned onto her stomach and looked down. Below lay the Everfree Forest; the sprawling heart of Equestria. Luna regarded it for a while, remembering it when it was still safe to travel through at night, yet now, it had been corrupted. The lushous forest she had once known was now a shady place, choking under in its own darkness. Slowly, it was driving itself towards destruction, the only way it could stop itself was by consuming more.
Looking up, Luna caught sight of ‘The Mountain of the Sun’, home of Canterlot. The city gave off a faint white light in the night, standing victoriously over the shadows below it. A light adrift on a sea of nothingness; unsinkable.
Luna rolled back over and looked at her night sky once more. She let her eyes drift shut and started thinking of Celestia, the light in her life, and she thought about herself and how lost she felt; how alone she was.
The chariot moved gracefully through the sky. It burned a bright orange, the midday sun catching the gold. Upon the chariot sat Celestia and Luna. Both were quiet, unmoving, yet Luna’s mind had become a maelstrom. The elevation of Celestia’s forgiveness had finally worn off and now all that was left was a dead chill in Luna’s spine.
“Yes, big sister.”
“We’re going to be arriving at Ponyville soon. When we get there, there shall be a celebration for your return.”
Luna tried to keep a straight face, hiding her fear behind a fake smile. Silently, she whispered a prayer, asking for protection. Turning her face away from Celestia’s gaze, she looked forwards and began watching the pegasii hauling the chariot through the sky with powerful beats of their wings. Their gold barding caught the sun, causing them to glimmer like jewels. Luna tried to focus on their faces, but she was glad when she realized that the Royal Guard dared not turn around to observe their majesties.
The Everfree Ruins were ancient and desolate; a remnant of a bygone age. Luna walked slowly, her steps light and careful. Her eyes slowly shifted, her vision flowing from one thing to the next. Broken down walls lined the edges of what had once been a mighty castle, their stone cold and lifeless. Mounds of rock weathered by age no longer held any semblance to the mighty pillars they had once been. Dust, dirt and moss had taken over what had once been great banqueting halls.
Luna sat down and focused on her surroundings, trying to remember what it had been like over a thousand years ago. Memories of grandeur haunted her, mocked by the ruins. But slowly, as she pictured it, a world began to grow around her...
It was three years before Luna’s downfall and court was in session. Sounds of chatter and laughing and tales of life flew through the air. Ponies of all kinds were gathered, mingling and enjoying each other’s company. In the corner a small ensemble played a musical piece; a lively ditty to suit the atmosphere. In the centre of the room ran a line of ponies. Some were farmers, others noble-ponies and others academics. All waiting for the chance to speak to the centrepiece of attention.
Against the northern wall lay a marble dais. One half was coloured in the purest white, while the other the deepest black. A stained glass window above the dais let through the bright light of the midday sun. One half of the window was transparent which cast the white marble in a lustrous gleam. The other half was a midnight blue, casting the dark marble into deep blue shadows. On the dais stood two thrones, both made of mahogany and trimmed with gold. On the light side sat Celestia and on the dark side Luna.
The Princesses were holding conversation with two farmers who stood on the steps ascending to the thrones. They were arguing in loud tones, ignored by the rest of the room.
“It’s my land. I claimed it first!”
“You claimed it five years ago and haven’t touched it since!”
The two earth ponies stood nose to nose, smoke coming from their ears. One was a light brown mare, the other an orange stallion.
“My loyal subjects,” Luna began, “surely thou can come to an agreement.”
The earth ponies looked towards Luna, puzzlement spread across their features.
Luna continued, “Sprout and Orange, thou should both consider that neither is in the right. One hast wasted land, a precious resource, and the other hast performed what can debatably be called thievery. I suggest that thou split the land such that it does not cause any more trouble and that thou should be on thy way.” Luna’s tone was firm, her face like stone.
The ponies looked uncomfortable. They quickly made amends and were gone, the next in line coming forward to have a small moment of the Princesses’ attention.
Luna briefly glanced over towards Celestia to find her looking right back. With a smile which hinted at admiration, Celestia winked at Luna before turning back to the noble-pony in front of them.
A smile crept onto her lips as the castle melted away. Gradually, the colour seeped out of the walls and the sunshine turned to moonlight. The walls faded to grey and the sky became visible through the wholes where the ceilings had once been.
Luna found herself staring at the floor’s cracked flagstones. Her eyes shifted upwards and there before her were a series of silver fragments, the remnants of Nightmare Moon’s royal decorations.
“I’ve fallen so far. Too far.”
The assembly was large; the entirety of Ponyville had come out to see the return of the fallen princess. Celestia strode triumphantly with Luna trailing at her heels. Luna tried to hide herself behind Celestia’s majestic form, hoping that she would not draw attention to herself. Her face was downcast, a mixture of shame and trepidation plaguing her features.
As they moved closer to the throng, Luna began to lag behind. Celestia turned her head towards Luna and gave her a reassuring smile; her face was warm and tender. Luna felt her mouth twitch and realized she was smiling back. As Celestia looked forward again, Luna kept hold of the smile, trying to capture it. Slowly though, it left her, leaving behind her nervous frown once more.
Celestia halted a few feet away from the crowd and took in the sight of her little ponies, all joyous and ready to celebrate the start of a new age of peace. They bowed at the sight of their princesses.
Luna looked out upon the mob in front of her, but cemented her eyes to the ground before she could see the looks of seething hate from everypony. Shame furrowed her brow, tears bit at the corners of her eyes.
Celestia’s lips curled into a smile as two young pegasus fillies took to the air, clutching a wreath in their hooves. The wreath was adorned with red roses and, as centrepiece, a beautiful white rose that glowed under the bright afternoon sun.
Luna sensed movement in the air, though her eyes didn’t move. Her breaths were short and shallow, as if trying not to disturb the silence of night. Thoughts drifted through her mind, ones of a quiet submission, ready for whatever was to be her fate. She flinched as something fell around her neck. Glancing downwards she feared that she was to see a noose, but instead there was a wreath. It felt strange to Luna’s skin; soft yet irritating where she had felt only to feel a rough hoof.
Slowly, the penny dropped and things began to sink in for Luna. The thoughts of the dialogue with her sister came rushing back, the memory of the mares that had saved her, and now this. She had been forgiven. More than that, ponies seemed to be celebrating her return and accepting her with open arms.
Moving her head up, she caught a glimpse of the two fillies that had put the wreath on her. They whizzed away, frolicking in a carefree way.
Luna looked up towards Celestia and, for the first time in a thousand years, a real smile crept up onto her lips. It wasn’t forced, it was just natural.
The wind whipped her mane and ruffled her feathers. Her eyes were closed and the world had fallen away. All that existed was the sky, the endless expanse of deep blue. There was no up and there was no down, there was only gliding and space, so much space.
Luna dropped into a corkscrew, her body spinning round and round, over and over. Gravity pulled her down to earth, accelerating her. To Luna though, there was only drifting and spinning; a point where disorientation freed you from the burden of knowing up. There was nothing to be thought of, there was only freedom.
The ground hurtled upwards, closing the gap, as Luna plummeted downwards. At the last moment, Luna opened her wings wide. A massive force ripped at her body, sending convulsions through her struggling wings. The air was like a brick wall which plowed into her. Pain sprang up throughout Luna’s body. She shouted loudly, expressing all that she felt. Before she came to a halt, she brought her wings into her sides and began to coast.
She sailed smoothly through the air, the sky calm around her. Banking, she headed northwards, spying out the mountains and making for them. Her flight became slow, gentle pulses of her wings sending her through the air. Slowly, her exhilaration began to wear off, giving way to a reflective attitude.
Luna began to brood, trying to make sense of the day’s events. The mountains rose up to meet her; looming behemoths drowning out the stars. Over the other side of Northern Mountains lay the Griffin kingdoms and somewhere to the east lay the kingdom of Aloa and the great sea beyond. The world was vast yet Luna’s mind was much closer to home. Luna leaned to her right and set off for the North-East.
Canterlot stood little less than sixty miles from Luna. Gripped by a resolute determination, Luna began to pump her wings with powerful bursts of energy. Her eyes narrowed and her legs lifted up towards her sides. With a faint laugh she jumped forwards into motion.
“Time to see how fast these wings can still take me.”
The city was silent. It was the early hours of the morning and the night life had settled down hours before. Runelamps bathed the streets in a cold ethereal glow, turning whites into light greys and sapping all the colour from their surroundings. The city’s high spires dissolved into the darkness up above debating whether or not the uncertainty principle bound them to existence.
Luna walked through the streets of Canterlot, taking in the sights of a city transformed by time. Her hoofsteps echoed down empty alleyways, causing shadows of mice to scamper away. Admiring the architecture, the changes were apparent.
Luna came to a junction and halted. Carefully she inspected each route, before choosing one and turning to her left. The street was grand and dressed in extravagance. Regal white homes bordered each side. All the houses had large gates; shutting themselves off from the world. Valuable metals, which would gleam in the day, simply hung as dull plates in the night. Luna felt a pang of distaste, caring not for ostentatious displays of wealth.
At last, Luna came to her destination. Canterlot Square was large and round, housing a small park and a number of trees and benches. Running through it was a network of white marble paths all snaking towards the centrepiece. Bordering the square lay one corner of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. It stood dark and shadowy in the night, caricatured by the dim light of the stars.
Luna began to walk down one of the paths that wound through the square, passing by trees and lawns as she went. The silence intensified, the slow murmur of a sleeping city dying away. Luna could hear her own breathing.
A few minutes passed of absent minded walking before Luna halted. She looked up in front of her. There stood a statue of Celestia circling over the sun, carved out of white marble. The Celestia depicted was one of a much younger age; she still had a pink mane, depicted in the statue by a fine dust enchanted with moonlight. The statue was old and worn down, but it still held the marks of damage. Half of the statue was missing.
Luna looked down at herself. Her coat was a deep blue, lightly contrasted by her mane which brushed in front of her face. Luna imagined her eyes, a light aqua. Her silver royal decorations glinted and her cutie mark glowed softly under the power of her domain. Looking back up to the statue, she sighed, before falling onto her haunches.
“I’m sorry, Luna.”
“For what?” Luna turned her head towards Celestia, her eyes bearing a hint of resentment.
Celestia walked over and sat at the other side of the square facing Luna, so that the statue was between them. Her hair continued to blow in the unseen currents that carried it. Celestia cast her eyes downwards and let her straight face break, morose regret framing her features.
“It’s funny, isn’t it, how you were the one to get punished for the anger and pettiness?”
“Not really.” Luna looked away from Celestia.
“I came here after you were banished and the first thing I did was tear down this statue. I had second thoughts about it later, but it was too late by then, it was broken.”
Luna said nothing.
“I’m sorry, Luna, for everything.”
“I should be the one apologizing. You’re just being too hard on yourself.”
“No,” Celestia’s tone was firm and dry, as if stating a fact. Luna glanced at Celestia, her expression asking the questions. Celestia continued, “You’ve already said sorry, and I’ve accepted that, but you’re not the only one who’s done wrong. Luna, will you forgive me?”
“Why should I be forgiving you? You’ve done nothing wrong,” Luna said accusingly.
“But I ha...”
“And on that note, why are you even forgiving me?”
Luna stood up; her legs spread wide, her face indignant.
“What do you mean?”
“Why are you forgiving me?” Luna’s voice began to get louder, her tone almost hysterical.
“Luna, what do you mean?”
“Why are you even forgiving me?!”
“I don’t deserve your forgiveness.”
The square became quiet again. Luna cast her face down again and Celestia flapped her jaw, looking for the words to say. Unable to find them, she shut her mouth and her face took on a look of resignation. Her eyes dropped and she simply listened.
“I don’t deserve your forgiveness, okay? I don’t deserve anypony’s forgiveness. I did bad things, and so I was banished, but I wasn’t sorry. I spent a thousand years on the moon and I wasn’t sorry. I came back and tried to take over again, only to be defeated.“ Luna’s voice began to pick up, a tone of frustration slipping in. She continued, “I don’t deserve your forgiveness, Celestia. I don’t deserve anything, especially not parties and celebrations. Can’t you see that I’m trash? Can’t you seem that I’m not worthy of having a second chance? Celestia, are you listening to anything I’m saying?”
“Yes Luna, I am.” Celestia looked up, her eyes were placid and far off.
Luna took a step back, shock framed upon her features. Her voice began shakily, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“What is there to say?”
Luna slumped to her haunches, at a loss for words. Her eyes desperately scanned the ground, unsure of themselves. Silence opened up, growing between them.
“What should I do, Celly? What should I do?” Luna’s voice was a whisper, as if directed to herself.
“Earn your forgiveness then, Luna.”
Celestia stood up. Her form was etched into the night; her lean, angular outline carving into the shadows. Without hesitation, she turned and walked away; the crisp white of her coat fading into the darkness.
Luna called after her, “But Celestia, how?”
“That’s not for me to decide, Luna,” her voice died away in echoes, leaving Luna to the night once more.
A pale light washed over the Eastern Horizon, tucking the stars behind a blue quilt. Upon the peak of The Mountain of the Sun, overlooking Canterlot, sat Princess Luna, watching the deep shadows of night slowly dissolve. A light breeze played through her mane, causing strands of silver hair to dance. Her breath was soft and rhythmic, her brow was firm, and her lips were parted, mouthing silent words.
Her moving lips broke into whisper, “...what needs to be done...”
Lifting her eyes, she caught sight of her moon, its light waning in the dawn. For a moment, her brow furrowed and her eyes focused, her mouth parted again and a whisper again came forth.
“Earn your forgiveness,” Luna hesitated before starting again, her voice taking on a note of determination, “Well then, Luna. We have a lot to catch up on.”
A bright light erupted around Luna’s horn, casting dancing rays over the rocky ground beneath her. With a mighty grunt, the bright light focused into a concentrated halo surrounding her horn’s tip. Beads of perspiration began to run down Luna’s forehead and her breathing became laboured. Inch by inch the moon began to set, back to its rightful place, signalling the fresh start of a new dawn.
Special thanks to Cornflak, someone who looks beyond the words.