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It had been the longest night anypony could remember. The warm glow of Luna’s moon had dimmed to a chilling whisper of its former comfort and now bathed the world in a stark, ethereal light. Mares held their foals close as stallions braced themselves for the end of what they all knew to be a terrible battle. No matter the cost, the balance of the world hung taut on the threads of fate, and even if by force rather than a mercy, Celestia had set forth to lower the pallid sphere. For a few moments after her departure, it seemed like all the world held its breath. Then, a delicate cascade of light crested the horizon and dawn broke over a newly forged empire. The goddess of the moon had fallen, beloved and feared by her subjects, to make way for the sun. Things would never quite be the same, not for a thousand years.

But sit for a spell and let me tell you of a story that happened not long after the terrible conflict. A simple tale of a colt’s love that spanned a thousand years of light.

Over the heather crested hills that rolled into eternity, Apollo watched the moon rise. The young colt’s eyes strained to focus in the failing light, but the silhouette stood out perfectly against the alabaster sphere. The Mare in the Moon, some called her. A corrupt ruler of night, others proclaimed. However, he knew her by a better name and whispered it softly into the night. “Luna…it’s me,” as how it had always started. Secrets forged between an impossible distance, and friends who had never met. Tonight, there were no secrets, but the young colt still spoke softly as his horn emanated a bright pinprick of night gathered at the tip. “I miss you, Princess. I’m sorry we’d not met before…well…before that night. I never wanted you to be lonely…” his gaze lowered as he spoke and then shut his eyes and focused the light to blaze brighter still. Of course, no one light would ever attract the gaze of a beautiful princess, and it slowly passed away as a voice beckoned him to come in from the night. Appollo cast a forlorn look at her once more before answering his mother’s call to come away.

As all things must, the colt grew older. As the dawn of his life gave way to evening, he continued to visit the one who had taken his heart away far beyond his reach, casting the tiny light. Faithfully, the light shone into the endless abyss as though, like his own mother had, he was calling Luna in from the night. Yet, for her, that night would never end. The stoic moon only shone down as evening gave way to night for Apollo.

But who other than he to call her? After he was gone, there would be no light to call away an errant princess from her palace keep. Dimmed eyes cast themselves over the endless hills, crested with sorrow as his horn glowed once more. This time there was no light to shine, but instead the magic beckoned something tangible. Slowly a metal pole was raised and set into the earth to mark the spot, and upon a tapered platform a new light shone. A lone candle set atop it, surrounded by glass and guarded from all that would dim its glow. Once the light had been securely set into the foundations of the earth, the weary body of a mortal stallion lay down. A smile flickered across his face, and for the final time, he whispered into the night, “Luna…it’s me…I’ve come to say goodnight, and farewell. May dawn find you someday, my Princess of the Moon.”

Apollo then lay his head upon his hooves, the serene expression taking his features as the delicate cascade of light crested the horizon and his night ended for the final time.

The others found him that morning. The old stallion looked merely asleep beneath the sparkling beacon he had erected. With heavy hearts and hooves they lay him to rest there, but not the story.

That night, another young colt took up the vigil and brought light to the beacon, the light of his horn dancing brightly as a newly born star as he stood by it through the night. That morning the light was dimmed but not extinguished as others of the small town began to erect their own beacons and whisper loving words of comfort into the night to set at ease the aching heart of a lonely goddess and all the children she kept in her nocturnal glow.

Several years passed, and the beacons spread. The story, worn and tired faded away on weary tongues and lights became things of practicality rather than reverence. Only one, with the inscription of “Apollo‘s Rest” stood bright amongst a vast sea of thousands like it, through a thousand years of night.

That night was the longest anypony could remember. The moon hovered like an ominous semblance of rebellion against the breaking of sunlight. Yet, there was no Celestia to banish the icy tendrils of moonlight, for she was gone within a whisper of defiance. All that remained was a small group of six that set off beyond the depths of the Everfree forest to dispel the curse born deep within the aching Nightmare’s heart. Mares held their foals tight that night, and stallions braced themselves for word of what fate would befall them. Then, as it had a thousand years prior, the rays of dawn broke brightly over the horizon to soothe the weary and to beckon to a lonely filly, “I’ve missed you…dear sister, come in from the night.”

The dawn brought with it celebration for the subjects of the reunited royal pair. By the end of the evening, everypony had gone away to make way for the night. The sisters were left alone as the ruddy amber light hushed the world into a mere murmur of life.

Celestia focused intently upon the affair, lowering the sun gently beyond the horizon. Only once it had been laid to rest did she turn to focus upon her younger sister who had demurely taken place by her side. The young filly still looked as she had all those hundreds of years before, and the sentiment welled within her heart as she spoke softly to end the silence between them. They had had enough of that to last a lifetime. “Luna,” she began and noticed how her sister started at the sound, unaccustomed still to any voice at all. The sight brought a smile to her features as she continued, “It’s just me…Come, my dear sister, the time has come to raise the moon. Why don’t you start here?”

The young filly’s eyes widened as the words registered and she finally nodded and began to focus. Yet, before even the slightest traces of magic gathered within her, there was suddenly light. It caused her to start again, confused as she cast her gaze around to locate the source of the gentle glow. Surely her sister would not have brought the sun up again to ward her away, right? Then she found it. Her eyes strained to focus in the failing light, but the silhouette became clear as it shone against the pallor of night. All it was and had ever been, was a single light. The words, “Apollo rests here” were all that could be made out against the dismal metal, obviously having been recarved over time, all else was worn away by ages passed long before. Perhaps they had been a glance into the life of the stallion, but now had disappeared with any trace of his being.

Suddenly, an immense sadness welled within her chest. Hot tears brimmed as she stared at the candle’s flame and she inwardly hated herself for being unable to understand the sentiment. Had this been something she too had forgotten with time? “Luna? Are you-” “I’m fine!” she lied, putting on her best smile as she hastily scrubbed away the small rivulets. “I’m fine…I’m going to take the moon up from the air…so just wait here.” Then, before her sister could protest, the goddess of the moon launched herself into the air.

The climb was steady, graceful circles as she gained altitude, casting her gaze down at the solitary light. It grew smaller and smaller as she ascended but no matter the height its brightness only seemed to become more defined as the rest of the world went dark. As she finally reached a plateau and could go no higher without causing concern, her shining beacon was joined by another. Her eyes slowly widened as that to was joined by another, and another, tens, then hundreds, and then thousands of lights flickering into existence before her eyes. Even among the countless lights she could still see Apollo’s, and she allowed the feeling of sadness to capture her as she stared.

The lights of the earth shone up at the night sky. As her tears fell and stars began to glisten, the night sky stared back at a young colt a thousand years before. Luna knew no loneliness like she did that night a thousand years passed and gone, but neither had she ever known such love as the night the stars shone on the earth below her. The moon rose higher with each beat of her heart, and among millions of lights, one star shone brightest among the heavens. “Apollo…” a young princess whispered into the night, “It’s me…”

As it would always begin, for every night the moon watched the stars on the longest night she could remember.