Starry Skies Part 1
By Neon Noble / NeonBrony
The night sky will be more beautiful tonight than it has ever been before.
Luna was back in her position, bringing a cool, starry night to glisten over the heads of sleeping ponies and stargazing lovers. She was perched on a balcony high above the streets of Canterlot, atop the highest pearly tower of the great castle. Streetlights flickered in the darkness, their flames unable to match the beauty of the vast field of stars above, but anypony who didn’t wish to look to the sky could comfortably find that streetlights, from this vantage point, were almost like miniature representations of the celestial bodies above.
However, they could not last forever. One by one, the lamps were extinguished by the night-shift, and eventually only one in several lights would be left on for each street. Stars, on the other hand, would always be there and, with the brightly shining moon, would always guide nighttime travelers in the right path.
The princess wanted to be among the other ponies for some time now. Celestia had warned against public appearances with her safety in mind after she had returned from her imprisonment in the moon; however, her sister had also added the statement that she wouldn’t stop her if it was what she wanted to do.
Luna had given much thought to it. She had elected to stay in the castle and catch up on the past thousand years of historical events. She even avoided the Grand Galloping Gala of her own choice, though Celestia urged her to try to attend.
Tonight, however, the gears in Luna’s mind were ticking again, and in a different way than before. She wanted to get out, to be free, and to make friends. Luna longed for adventures and laughter and new tastes and sights, and now here she was, ready to go. Tonight would be the night, Luna knew, and pinned beneath her hooves were the quill and paper she had prepared just for such an occasion.
Princess Celestia would be up to raise the Sun in a few hours. Luna quickly jotted out a note to her sister before she fastened it to the balcony’s railing. The note gave off a slight aura of light, glimmering in the darkness with the shining purple ink left by Luna’s beautiful, golden quill. The princess let the quill rest on the balcony floor before spreading her large wings and stepping up onto the railing.
Tonight would be the night.
In an instant, the purple, winged unicorn found herself plummeting through the night. She flared her wings and the falling stopped, becoming now a graceful glide. The cool air tossed her mane and tail about lightly, but the feeling was incredible. Freedom, at last, was Luna’s, and it was wonderful. Beneath her, the streets and buildings of Canterlot faded into gentle, grassy hills and grand trees. Moonlight penetrated the darkness of night, and Luna watched her light shadow slip quietly over it all. She giggled to herself in delight, rolling over in the air. Above her, she gazed at the colorful night sky. Beyond the city, it was even more marvelous than she could imagine.
It would’ve brought tears to her eyes had she not crashed right into a cloud. The soft, fluffy cloud burst as Luna’s flight came to a halt and left her resting atop the white fluff. A wide smile stretched across her face as she laughed. The moon glistened as if it was laughing with her.
As she lay there, Luna found a peaceful sensation sweep across her body. She blinked, blinked again, and soon, the bright moon disappeared into darkness.
Warmth graced Luna’s cheek when she awoke. She squinted as she looked around, the bright sun low in its arc through the sky. It took a moment for her to realize that she was still on a cloud, and when she looked down, she found that the landscape was entirely different than what she saw the night before. She quickly came to the conclusion that the cloud had carried her off through Equestria, and was now looking for some sort of landmark to figure out her location.
The first thing she noticed was a town, much like Ponyville. She briefly remembered her ‘visit’ to the town before and the events and celebration that transpired, but those memories quickly left her thoughts as she noticed there was no nearby wild forest. The Everfree Forest was quite easy to spot on a map, too.
So where was she, then? Just as Luna was preparing to activate a location spell, a voice behind her caused her to leap with fright.
“Why, hello th—oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you!”
Luna pulled her head out of the cloud and shook the fluffy bits out of her mane before turning around, her face tinged with an embarrassed red.
Before her hovered a dark blue pegasus with a black, somewhat spiky mane and long tail. His light blue eyes appeared to be sorrowful, at least for scaring Luna. He raised an eyebrow at her.
“I’ve never seen you before.” He stated blandly. He began to look over Luna and her somewhat startled and embarrassed expression. “Say, you have a horn and wings!”
The pegasus left the statement at that and immediately fell to the cloud to bow in front of Luna. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize it was you, Princess!”
Luna was baffled at how he’d recognized her. “Uh, i-it’s quite alright…” She replied with her soft, confused voice.
“What brings you to these parts, Princess Celestia?” The pegasus asked, rising from the bow.
It clicked in Luna’s mind suddenly that not everypony had seen her sister in-person before. Descriptions were descriptions, though, so how did this poor pony get the wrong one?
“Well, uh, I just… fell asleep on this cloud. That’s all there is to it, really.” Luna replied, looking around nervously.
“Really?” His eyes lit up. “I tend to do that a lot when I’m out watching the stars at night!”
Luna became conscious of a smile growing on her face. “That’s what I was doing last night!”
She started to happily spring up and down on the cloud, and the pony before her gave her a slightly skeptical look as she did so. Luna became aware of this, however, and immediately stopped. There was a bit of an awkward silence before the pegasus spoke again.
“I didn’t know you liked to look at the stars, Your Highness! I always heard you were more for the sun and daytime, to be honest…”
“Um, please, you don’t need to call me that…” Luna replied. Something in the back of her mind was nagging at her to clear up the name problem, too, and she added, “…You can call me Luna if you want to.”
“Luna? But I thought your name was Celestia?”
Luna looked shyly at the cloud beneath them and brushed her hoof along it. “Well, Celestia is my older sister, actually…”
The pegasus’s confused look persisted. “But she doesn’t have a sister?”
“Well, she does.” Luna replied quickly, “It’s not really something I want to talk about, though…”
The pony suddenly realized he’d done something wrong and bowed again. “I’m terribly sorry, Princess L-Luna! I won’t ask any more, I promise!”
“It…. It’s okay. You didn’t really know or anything. It’s not your fault!” Luna replied, stepping toward the colt. “What’s your name?”
He snapped to attention, standing tall. “My name is Starry Skies, Your Highness!”
Perhaps it was with this name that Luna suddenly realized it, or that the light from the sun reflecting from the cloud had obscured it, but the pegasus before her had various dots of white all across his coat, much like…
Luna gasped, and Starry jumped to the conclusion that something was wrong. “I-I’m sorry! Whatever I did, just tell me, and I won’t do it again, I promise!”
“No! You did nothing wrong…” Luna replied blandly, her attention fixed on Starry’s coat. She felt like she could get lost in it, as it looked so much like the night sky… only during the day. Starry stood, confused, watching as Luna circled around him, examining his body.
His Cutie Mark was of a galaxy of sorts over a green nebula, with a shooting star crossing down through it. Luna’s heart raced—this pony seemed to embody nearly everything she loved more than anything in the whole world!
“Oh, y-you’re lookin’ at my coat, aren’t you?” Starry asked, turning and trying to keep up with the circling Luna. “It takes most ponies a little while to get used to it, but most of ‘em love it! …At least, that’s what they tell me. Not that I think they’re lying, though…”
He caught a glimpse of Luna’s Cutie Mark in the circling process, and when his mind had connected the symbol around her neck and the mark, he asked, “What’s your Cutie Mark for?”
Luna paused and silently blinked for a moment, before glancing back at her flank and then once more toward Starry Skies. “Well, I raise and set the moon.”
It was Starry’s turn to be excited. “Really? You bring out the moon?!?” He smiled widely, the stars at the corners of his mouth gaining distance between each other. “No way! You’re kidding!”
Luna hadn’t expected anypony to not believe her, so she just said, “Nope.”
“Oh my gosh! But the moon! It’s so beautiful! And you—Woah, this is just--”
Luna had to interrupt before Starry could pass out. “Yes, yes, the moon, that’s all me!” She looked at him with a troubled sort of look: Luna hadn’t anticipated having a fan of her night pop up right away. “But could you, um, calm down just a little?”
Starry blinked and immediately shut up. He was breathing a little heavily, though.
“Just… relax. Please? Please relax.” Luna said, casting a worried glance at him. Starry had caught the look and took a deep breath, and then exhaled. He shifted his legs slightly in place, repeating the calming routine again.
“There we go…” Luna said. When it seemed that Starry had calmed down enough, she asked, “All better?”
“Yeah, I think so…” Starry replied. Suddenly, a grin crossed his starry face. “I guess you could say that I was a little, heh, star-struck.”
Luna blinked. Starry’s grin faded away, sensing that perhaps Luna didn’t get the joke, or didn’t like puns, or both. A light sweat broke out on his forehead.
And then a giggle escaped Luna’s lips. She had to hide her face behind one of her hooves as the giggling exploded into laughing. She almost didn’t notice that Starry hadn’t laughed.
Starry, instead, found that his jaw was gaping open.
Her giggling—and her laughter!—was absolutely adorable! It was perhaps the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard in his life!
And soon it stopped. Luna was casting a confused look at Starry, who quickly realized that he hadn’t corrected his jaw’s hanging. He hastily shut his mouth to fix this. Starry grinned sheepishly at Luna.
“You’re a silly pony!” Luna said, and she jumped up to the star-covered pony and gave him a hug.
“Uh... uh…” Starry stammered. Luna soon broke the hug.
“But how ever did you manage to confuse me for my sister? We look nothing alike.”
Starry turned away from Luna and kicked at the cloud. “Well, I’ve never been all that great at paying attention to anything that’s not among the stars. My friends and family and teachers used to say that…”
“Go on…” Luna urged.
He smiled lightly back at Luna, replying, “Well, they used to say I always had my head-”
“IN THE CLOUDS!” Luna burst out laughing again, concluding definitively that anypony who could play around with traditional idioms was a genius.
“Well, I’m glad somepony likes my puns for once!” Starry chuckled. “Still, I never really cared to know all that much about Princess Celestia, since I was so busy studying the stars and planets.”
How peculiar it felt to be out and with another pony for once! Luna was shocked at her own ability to continue being near the stranger; were this any other day, she thought, she probably wouldn’t have stayed. Then again, she didn’t remember a time, not even 1000 years ago, when she’d met anypony that loved the night as much as she did… Starry Skies was shaping up to be a very fine choice for a new friend.
Just then, Luna’s stomach growled. She exchanged a surprised look with Starry before she remembered that it was morning and she’d yet to eat anything.
“I guess I should fly home and get some breakfast.”
“I guess so…”
Luna saw that Starry appeared a little anxious about something, but she couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. As she turned to fly away, she felt something tugging at her mind, something strange and foreign. What it was, she couldn’t quite tell.
“Well, good bye! I hope to end up here again some time!”
Just as Luna was about to take off, Starry shouted, “Wait!”
Turning around to face the pegasus loosened the tugging feeling in the back of Luna’s head. “Yes?”
“Why don’t you eat dinner here? I mean, you can’t possibly fly all the way back to Canterlot on an empty stomach, can you?” Starry asked. He nearly tripped over his own words as he said it, but at the end he flashed a nervous smile in hopes that it would seal the deal.
Luna’s stomach growled again. “I guess you’re right… sure, why not?”
“Excellent! A royal guest in Barnstow! It won’t be that grand or anything, but at least we can get you something to eat before you go home!” He leaped into the air as he said this and flew in a loop out of joy.
“Y-Yes, that’s fine with me.” Luna said nervously, joining Starry in the air. She was slightly apprehensive about being in town with the other ponies, but when her stomach growled again, she realized he had no other choice as it was, and was soon following the star-spangled pegasus down from the clouds and toward a town nearby.
“Say, what were you doing up there, anyway? You don’t look like a weather pony.” Luna asked.
“I’m not.” Starry replied. “I don’t really know why I was up there, either. I guess something just told me I should goof off in the clouds this morning.”
Starry Skies, Part 2
By Neon Noble / NeonBrony
The descent toward Barnstow passed by slowly. Each and every time Starry Skies attempted to speed up their travel, Luna urged him to slow down. It was mostly due to her shyness: even if she’d had the luck to meet somepony that loved the night, she didn’t feel very happy about the idea of going into a town right away. The only thing that was stopping her from leaving was her empty stomach—that, and the strange feeling she felt whenever she considered going away.
Eventually, though, they came upon the town. It was much like Ponyville, Luna observed. The soft whites and tans of the houses and buildings were much more welcoming than the pictures of Manehattan she had seen her books, but mostly because cities always had a lot of ponies. Starry glided down toward the center of the town, where Luna could see that ponies were still waking up; most stores were just opening up their doors as they landed. The center didn’t appear to have carts wheeled in yet like in Ponyville, either, but considering the farmland Luna had observed on the way down, it wouldn’t be long until that was changed.
The only real reason Luna was making so many comparisons to Ponyville was because it was the only town she’d truly been in most recently. That was enough for her, though, because the similar feel of the town helped easer her mind. She wasn’t about to wander into a big city yet.
Starry noticed Luna’s observations of the town around her. “Would you like a tour?”
“Uh… No, thanks. I’m fine.” Luna replied, her stomach gurgling audibly again.
“As you wish, Princess.” Starry said, bowing. When he stood back up, he asked, “Now, then, what are you hungry for?”
Luna paused for a moment to think. She hadn’t considered what she wanted to eat on the way down, since she’d been too busy worrying about being near a bunch of ponies at once.
While she was thinking, however, she heard the voice of another pony somewhere in the town square, and her shy self pushed through her thoughts. All she knew was that she was hungry and that she wanted to hide. So, to hurry the process of decisions, she frantically looked around at the buildings.
“Are you okay?”
Luna quickly gestured toward a bagel shop. She started to stumble over her own words, but eventually she calmed down enough to say, “I… I just want a bagel. Can I go get a bagel?”
Starry wasn’t a fool. He took notice of the purple princess’s quick glances around at the buildings, and was about to open his mouth to ask when he thought better of it and instead shrugged it off.
“Sure thing, Your Highn--”
“Please, please, just call me Luna…” Luna replied. The longer they waited, the more ponies there would be nearby, and the thought of the words “Your Highness” attracting more attention to Luna was enough to make her heart rate increase. “Bagels, now?”
Starry blinked before a smile crossed his lips. “No problem, Luna. Follow me!”
Luna couldn’t be any more pleased at Starry leading her to the bagel shop, because that meant she could leave the town square before it was too late. Unfortunately, as a result of her hastiness, Luna hadn’t realized that it was, in fact, a bagel shop, a rather popular place for getting breakfast. And it was nearing the start of the morning rush.
Starry led Luna right up to the door of “Bagels and Oats” and held it open, just for her. The gentlecoltly action, however, seemed to go by unnoticed, as Luna rushed into the shop.
The shop was, for the most part, empty. Chairs were neatly arranged around clean, circular tables, both sporting an earthy green and tan paint. The shop’s logo, a circular half of a bagel surrounded by oats, was found on each of the shop’s walls and in the center of each table, as well as on the counter directly across from the door, where the entire variety of bagels and other foods was on display.
“Go on up and order a bagel. I’ll pay!” Starry said, a happy smile across his face as he gestured toward the counter.
Luna glanced at the counter, then at the menu above it, and then back at the counter, where an earth pony stood, apron tied around her neck.
“Hello and welcome to Bagels and Oats! What would you like today, ma’am?” the cashier asked enthusiastically. She seemed to have too much energy for it being the morning. Luna noticed a light twitch in the gray pony’s eye, but she was too busy being shy to mention anything.
Instead, Luna simply stood there, nearly rooted in place. The cashier waited patiently, however. It must have been normal for her to get the tired, not-so-awake customers around this time. Luckily, the pony didn’t realize that Luna was in the middle of mentally fighting back her shyness over a simple bagel.
The triviality of it all was very present in her mind, but Luna still could not budge from her spot. She was actually starting to get angry with herself. How could she possibly be so frozen up over ordering a bagel?
Luna felt a light tap against her back. “Luna, are you okay?”
She blinked. She didn’t know whether it was the physical tap or the fact that somepony was concerned with her very awkward shyness, but it was enough to get Luna to approach the counter.
The cashier waited patiently, her eyes calm and green.
Luna glanced once more at the display before she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and said, “I’d like an oatmeal raisin bagel, please.”
“All-righty! One oatmeal raisin bagel!” the pony chirped. Luna sighed in relief, her eyes opening back up.
“That’ll be one bit, please!”
Luna blinked. She hadn’t remembered to bring money with her, but she wasn’t about to exert any royal authority over a bagel. That’s practically like stealing, any anyway, it’s bring too much attention to her. Suddenly, she became very conscious of the crown on her head. And the wings and horn, too…
“Don’t worry, Cheers, I’ll pay for her!” Starry said, stepping up to the counter, a nervous grin on his face.
“Starry?” Cheers asked, gasping. A look of shock crossed her face. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, um, I’m t-treating my friend to breakfast!” Starry replied. Luna sensed a shift in his tone away from cheeriness, and she watched his nervous look to see if she could find out why.
“B-but!” Cheers said, bringing a hoof to her mouth as she leaned over the counter. “Isn’t today y-your… your birthday?”
Luna raised an eyebrow. What could possibly be going on that required shock during somepony birthday?
“Well, yeah, it is.” Starry replied, his voice dropping to a softer, more solemn tone. “But you wouldn’t mind if I bought some bagels, would you?”
“N-no, I couldn’t let you p-pay for them, Starry…” Cheers said. Luna thought she saw something glisten in her eye.
“There there, Cheers. There’s nothing that can be done, you know that!” Starry replied, smiling weakly at the pony. His eyes brightened up a bit and so did his tone as he gestured toward the display. “Now, how about that oatmeal raisin bagel? And perhaps just a plain old bagel for me, too, huh?”
“But you paid off your tab yesterday…”
Luna was both confused and slightly frightened by the conversation. Something in their conversation made it sound as if Starry’s birthday was a bad thing. Sure, after several hundred years, birthdays did become meaningless, but the purple pony couldn’t seem to find anything in her mind that a normal pony would find bad about a birthday.
“Well, I’ll just have to pay today, won’t I?”
Cheers was silent for a while. Then, she turned and headed toward the display, lifting a spatula-like device with her mouth to use for lifting the two selected donuts into a bag, which she slowly picked up and brought toward the counter. She didn’t even touch the cash register, simply placing the bag on the surface in front of Starry and Luna, her head hung low.
The two customers became aware of a faint sniffling. Luna cocked her head to one side as she watched Starry lean down enough so that his chin rested on the counter, looking up at the gray pony, whispering, “Come on, Cheers, it’ll be okay. We’ve known for a while, and we’ve all been ready.”
“Y-yeah, but…” the pony sniffed, “It’s just… it must be so hard…”
“Cheers, listen to me.” Starry said, his voice once again assuming a softer tone. “You’ll be fine, okay? All I want from you is for you to dry your eyes, lift your head, and tell me ‘Happy Birthday’. Okay?”
“Uh… uh-huh…” Cheers shook her head once or twice and then brought a hoof up to her face to wipe at her eyes.
She looked up at Starry Skies with a forced smile, her eyes still a little red. “H-happy b-birthday, Starry…”
“Thank you, Cheers.” The dark blue pegasus replied, lifting his head and smiling warmly at the pony. Then, he leaned forward, quickly kissed Cheers on the forehead, and then picked up the bag in his teeth.
Luna looked confusedly between the two ponies, thoughts of all shapes and sizes whirling through her mind. Starry turned and headed for the door, nodding his head for Luna to follow. Just as he was about to lead Luna through the exit, however, he turned back toward the counter, gently placed the bag on the floor, and smiled.
“Take care, Cheers.”
Before he could hear a response, he picked up the bag again and headed through the door, which he held open for Luna to walk through. As the door swung closed behind them, Luna was certain she’d heard the cashier whisper, “Goodbye…”
Luna was too busy trying to decipher what had just happened to realize there were a few more ponies in the town square now. Instead, she followed Starry through the streets, trying to work up the courage to ask him what was going on—and why they weren’t eating their bagels yet.
She followed him until he stopped in a park somewhere in the Eastern part of the town. Birds were chirping talkatively in the morning warmth, making the calm, empty field the perfect place to eat breakfast without gathering attention. Starry stopped their journey at an innocent-looking bench, when he sat and placed the bag of bagels. Luna looked around for any passing ponies, and, finding none, joined him on the bench. From here, she could see most of the park, from the colorful flower beds to the tall and proud trees.
Starry rustled about in the bag before he finally plucked out his bagel. Luna turned to look at him, her mouth open and ready to ask him a question when she made eye contact. Starry broke contact quickly, but not fast enough for Luna to notice the very empty, distant look on his face. She closed her mouth and looked away, her horn glowing and her bagel levitating in front of her face.
Luna could only bring herself to nibble on the bagel as she stared off into field. It seemed like several hours had passed before either of them said a word.
“Listen, Luna, about earlier…”
The princess turned to look at Starry, who was hunched over on the bench and resting his head in his hooves.
“I want you to ignore it, okay?”
Luna was slightly taken aback by his words. “What? Why?”
Starry didn’t turn to face Luna. “I don’t want it to ruin the rest of my day, that’s all.”
Luna was about to speak when the star-covered pegasus continued to speak. “I’ve been looking forward to tonight for a very, very long time, and I don’t want to think about any bad feelings that could spoil it, that’s all.”
Finally, he turned to show Luna a weak smile. “I’ll tell you about it later if you promise not to ask much more, okay?”
The thought that anypony had actually expected Luna to stay around longer was a little new to her, but she simply nodded and replied, “O-okay, then. So… what’s tonight?”
There was a pause, and Luna watched Starry Skies turn away slightly to look at the sky.
“Well, you see, Luna… Tonight the night sky will be more beautiful than it has ever been before.”
Strange… Luna had thought those very same words just the night before.
“Why do you say that, Starry?”
Starry smiled at Luna. Then his head lowered and the stars at the corners of his mouth fell into a frown. Sighing, he said, “Because tonight will be the last time I’ll be able to see them.”
End Part 2.