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Luna and the Dreamscape: Episode 12 - Princess Twilight Sparkle


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Princess Luna sat in her chair in her dream study room. The room was simple, composed of a few comfort-bringing items to help one to relax. But all other useful materials and instruments were left for the decoration in other rooms.

One decoration, Luna might have brought on this evening, was a heavy book. It’s one of many that told the same story; Celestia's old council members' accounts for the events of the past. Very few accurate accounts were supplied in any of Canterlot's libraries that described Luna's haunting past, fewer still that could describe it in full. In this one, she could see the non-fiction work suggesting Princess Luna's torment was a creation of the turbulence in the dreamscape itself, and how dangerous dreams could be.

Luna maturely read it quietly while scoffing at it underneath her flat expression. The nightmare wasn’t the product of the dreamscape alone, but it’s the emotion and deprivation of personality in the waking world that helps corrupt and diminish the quality of sweet dreams. The night princess could even lecture about the risk of falling asleep while overdosed on sugar. But that would not make an interesting timeless non-fiction classic that would survive hundreds of years of catalog, she supposed.

She closed the book and sighed. Having dealt with the regrets of the past, she could never forget the way she felt while the dreamscape served as the arena for Luna's enemy. As she sipped her sleep-aide drink, she meditated on how fortunate she is to have a sister that forgives her, and a nation of ponies that welcomes the night as equals with the day. Maybe tonight, she can share that peace and serenity with a pony who is caught in a dream storm.

 

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Twilight was prepared for anything. Years and years of tutelage under Celestia had transitioned into a growth with her friends that sublimely reinforced almost every message she had ever been sent by her teacher about the importance of friendship and harmony. She became a Princess because of this. The Princess of Friendship. It had seemed a somewhat lesser title at first but it only grew as the complexities of the topic revealed themselves. Only then did she start to realize that she was being groomed for something bigger than she had ever imagined. She was not a mechanic that aided the system, she was the system- the system that ran Equestria in a truer way than any title. She was the embodiment of Harmony and, in a sense, Equestria.

So it made sense why she was given control when Celestia and Luna abruptly left to search the stars some twenty years ago. Just shy of her own two-hundredth, and here she was. Large and in charge. Things were going well at first. She was beloved and had everything under control. But...over time, this slowly grew to be untrue. She had always collected and studied dark magical artifacts and in her arrogance had forgotten to properly seal one. It contained the aetheral abomination Ascheral, the Consumer. It didn't come out immediately, but it boded its time. It was her first mistake. A mistake borne not out of arrogance or incompetence, but ignorance.

The second mistake was not taking the small ripples in the aether seriously. In fact, she was excited. That often meant a powerful unicorn had been born and the family would soon be notified. Oddly enough, she didn't find a powerful foal. But still, the aether was her domain and she knew it well. Well enough to not consider a small ripple a problem. Of course, by then the Consumer had escaped into the Aetheral plane and was slowly growing stronger. A mistake borne not out of arrogance or incompetence, but ignorance.

She didn't have to make a third before it appeared. A few nights later, Ascheral materialized in the castle. It took the form of a seeming black hole in the aether, sucking everything within reach inside of itself. She should know- she was looking at it. She could feel it silence the aether around her. Twilight tried to speak as her bedchambers were being torn and pulled asunder. She tried to speak but heard nothing. She fired a blast at it- nothing, absorbed. She felt the pull, felt the tug, and fought her way out only at the most extreme of her efforts.

That brought her to now. She was hovering over the remains of that wing of the castle, which was little. The Consumer below, content at that moment to digest all which it had devoured. Only then did she realize what had happened- what she had allowed not through stupidity or ignorance, arrogance or incompetence, but thoughtlessness.

But no- she would not be defeated. Not now.
“Evacuate all of Canterlot! I will send word when I have put this down,” Twilight ordered her guards, who reacted hesitantly. Why? Why hesitantly?

“Are you sure you can handle it, Your Highness?”
“Yes! I can do this! Please, get safe!” They knew their histories, didn't they? She had done so much! Of course she could beat this. Their hearts swelled proudly.
“Yes, Your Highness. We will await your word,” they said before flying off.

Twilight turned towards her foe, her mind running down the endless list of possible methods of defeating this creature.
Because of course she could. She had the most knowledge and was the most capable pony of all time. The only thing that could defeat her, was her...

 
The rifts of the dreamscape opened the moment Luna arrived. What typically appears as dream hallway was more active and hyperactive that what is normal. As if the dreamscape itself were trying to bring Luna to the attention of a wake of nightmares, a door rushed to her, and opened.

Upon walking through this door Luna could feel the warm embrace of Twilight's Castle in Ponyville. But it had aged a little. The magical aura was stronger as well, the walls of harmony continuing to sing its song. That is of course, until the wall was knocked down.

Luna peered through the mess of castle damage, a force that seemed to come from within, imploding the concourses of the friendship chapel. The debris from loosened rocks and gems, still glistening, floated around as it succumbed to the random natures and physics of this custom developed dream. Pegasus pony guards were fleeing the castle, taking emergency routes, and not taking any attack stances.

Luna looked around, almost entertained by the creative value of such a wild environment. Speculation began to run through her mind, wondering who might be making such a mess of a landmark. Ponyville was often a peaceful town, and the only nightmares Luna usually encountered involved the peer pressure and stress of not getting one's cutie mark. But so far, she could find no evidence of the dreamer.

 
Her library.
The answer was always in the library. After all, why wouldn't it? It represented the collected wisdom of her years. Everything she had learned and mastered was there. Twilight teleported into the main foyer of the castle, where a wall had recently been knocked down as the creatures started to move. Guards were running- chaos everywhere. Her fault. Her blame. An imperfect Princess making terrible decisions whose imperfect response was not helping matters. She had wanted to teleport into the library itself, but the aether was absolutely wild. She could not control it. She could not manipulate it. She-


“Princess!”
A guard.
“You need to get out!”
Another.
A fierce rebuttal.
“Evacuate the town! Stop panicking- I've got this!” Twilight bellowed as the beast grow. The black hole of a mass extended, her throne being torn apart. Paintings vanished. Ponies started to get pulled in. Twilight grabbed them telekinetically and tried to pull them out, but they stayed there. More effort. The consumer expanded. Expansion, more effort, not moving, Twilight hovers, the Consumer expands, Twilight has to fly to avoid being sucked in herself. But no- she couldn't fly away from it, even with her power. Too close. Twilight must teleport all of them, herself included, to the wing. She summoned it all up but at the last moment, something out of the corner of her eye- Luna?- and she was thrown off.

Twilight popped back into existence at the library, sans those she had been trying to save...
 
The castle of friendship began to look like the remains of the palace of the two sisters. Walls crumbled. Ceiling caved in. Torn tapestries. And to top it all off, a throne split in two. It was all too familiar. But why in a dream? Who could possibly be dreaming of such failure at this castle? Unless...

Luna jumped through the falling rubble, trying to catch the identity of the characters in the dream. It was hard to see, but could this possible be Princess Twilight's manifestation? The dream did seem powerful enough to be composed by a pony of that much magical capability. But it would seem as though it was not of her intention. Luna knew Twilight enough to know randomly falling rocks within the castle was not necessarily in tandem with the friendship model's knack for keeping things in line.

Luna felt the presence of a void, a leech of magic within the dream. It felt real, but it couldn't possibly be real, could it? When Luna jumped around the corner, she could see Princess Twilight and nameless pony guards dealing a troublesome black hole of magic. It tried to capture any pony within its pull. And as she watched Twilight attempt to pull all the ponies out, she could see Twilight see her back. In that instance, Twilight teleported away. Was she afraid of something? The guards fell into the void, not even their painful screams could be heard. But they could be seen.

This was a nightmare. And Twilight was dealing with much of an intimidation from this force. But what was this force? Princess Luna was tempted to call for Twilight and gain some answers, but even though she knew Twilight well, she knew that to best discover what it was that was causing Twilight to lose her dreamscape's peace she would have to remain unseen and observe her emotion in the dream unaltered. She just hoped Twilight didn't wake up to soon.

 
The library. Safe from the monster. Her failure. Refuge of knowledge, of power, of rectifications aplenty for the sins of failure. Alone but not without hope- Twilight Sparkle looked for the answer to her question. Book after book discarded with nary a second thought, a mind so familiar with the contents therein that she didn't need to spend more than a forethought on the the actuality of possibility within each book. Searching searching searching- one after another. The castle around her- shaking to the foundations, but not just physically. The aether was buckling and straining, charging a reaction. But it wouldn't do something. This was a disease upon the aether that welcomed the immune system's response. It would suck it in and become stronger. And it was already becoming stronger with every morsel it devoured, material and immaterial alike.

The library started to shake. The statues of her friends which kept her company here started to tilt, her magic keeping them upright a few moments longer. She found the answer- yes, the answer! The answer was there, though the swirling mass of chaotic energy that swirled around her started to tear the pages. A sealing spell. Lost but found by Twilight. Translated by Twilight. Stored and kept safe by Twilight. Now to be used by Twilight. There was nopony else to thank or blame other than Twilight, and that was the worst threat of all. In a flash, a burst, an angry scream of existence, the walls of the library broke open. The aether around her friends' statues stopped responding and they fell, shattering on the floor before being sucked into the mass-like void. The Consumer. Twilight jetted up into the sky as the consumer overtook the library in one swift motion, feeling the contents being devoured. It was expanding ever quicker. If she didn't stop it now, it would consume Ponyville within an hour and then Equestria within minutes.

As the bonds of reality started to tear asunder, the aether responding with a snap that soon rebounded on itself and caused bright tears that threatened to dear dimensions, Twilight started her spell. She cast it in a momentous purple burst-

-the void. The aether. It all ended at once. The Consumer was sealed but she felt something- the aether. It had snapped and rebounded and turned, and now it was gone. She felt her horn give a mighty sigh and her wings a groan and she fell, slamming into the ground. Across her field of vision, the guards that had been devoured by the void came spitting out, but their horns and wings had the same dull glow. The same was true of the earth ponies. Twilight tried to speak- she tried to speak- no words, just a neigh. And then slowly, her thoughts. The last thing she could put together is that she had mistranslated the spell, and ended magic itself- including that which gave life sapience.

“GAHH!”

Twilight woke, her head snapping up. The book in front of her flipped its pages inside the old, decadent library. Outside, the storm continued without stopping, her castle within the aether forever alone. The pages stopped flipping, followed by the book slamming shut. The title: “Failures of the Damned Princess” written by none other than herself, with a full three hundred pages off apologies. She slotted it into another slot in the book case, covered on all flanks by more volumes of failure. Not that she needed them. All she had to do was look outside or try to use the staircases- they led nowhere anymore. Because there was nothing else other than this small part of her castle, floating aimlessly and timelessly throughout aether. She had made the smallest mistake when combating Aegon, the Destroyer. In trying to transport Equestria away from him, she had instead scattered it on an atomical level across the multiverse and condemned herself to the center of all aether. Forever. No hunger, never tired, just huddled with the reminders of all the mistakes she had made in her three thousand years of rule alongside those she had once been proud to stand beside. But if they could see her now? Simply ashamed. She had failed everything that was or could be. It was a mistake not born of maliciousness or avarice. Only after did she realize what had happened- what she had allowed not through stupidity or ignorance, arrogance or incompetence, but thoughtlessness.

And so she looked out the window, letting time take its course...

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A moon, much like the moon of Equestria, sank into view of Twilight's window. Its crescent only shared a part of its reflection, but it was enough to illuminate the small details of the castle remains. Beyond the castle there was only space. No stars showed to help one gain sense of their surroundings.

Luna had gotten here a short time after Twilight, after it had seemed that the aether she was battling found a way to ruin the life the dreamer after its destruction. Princess Luna walked towards Twilight, her hoofsteps making no sound or echo in the arranged ruins of the castle of harmony.

She stood next to Twilight, looking out the window with her. "I bet it's lonely up there, on the moon." Luna spoke ironically, but with no smile, as usual. "The thoughts a pony would have for a thousand years in such a lonely environment would drive them mad. Remembrance is part of every life. But numerous regrets would become the art of passing time."

Luna rested a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. She was not sure if Twilight was in a state of mind that would allow her to immediately recognize that this is a dream, or if she would continue her own torment, conversing with Luna as if she was a projection of her continued failure. Either way, Luna wanted to help end her suffering as she could see the emotion Twilight was projecting to be self-inflicting.

 
The aether was an endless void. Nothing flickered. Nothing spoke. And now, thanks to her, nothing called upon it. It was as useless as bale of hay was to a seapony. There was simply nothing, and then more of it. The blank space was maddening. But upon this endless void came the most unusual element of all: Something. Anything. The crescent of a moon. Twilight could scarcely remember what that had looked like. She stared at it, fixated by something being where nothing had been. So fixated in fact that she didn't hear the hoofsteps until a voice pierced her consciousness.

She was still for a second before recoiling.
“Gahh! Luna! It's been...one thousand, seven hundred, and two hundred and nine days plus fifteen hours, twenty minutes, and fifty four seconds since I last saw you. Is- is this real? Are you real? Am I dreaming or am I mad? I must be mad. Only madness could drive this image before me, just as it drove me to this!” she said, beckoning out towards the void.

 
"You are certainly not mad." Luna responded with a small smile. But her pensive frown returned to the displeasure of seeing Twilight this uncomfortable. Luna knew Twilight was good at record-keeping, but even Luna could not record the theoretical passing of time in a nightmare. "And it's hasn't been that long. It's been only a couple weeks." Luna recalled the princess summit that had recently occurred. "How long have you been in this world? What has happened?" Luna was afraid of information she may have missed upon entering the dreamscape. Twilight could have been nightmaring for several hours before Luna even entered through its door.

Twilight took a few hurried breaths. A few weeks? No. No. It had been seventeen hundred years since anything but her and this small section of a ruined castle existed. Unless- was this a nightmare? Not the normal kind. She had plenty of nightmares. She had woken from one just then. But maybe all of this was a nightmare- hopefully. Maybe.

“Is...this a dream?”

 
Luna: Luna didn't particularly enjoy riddles, even if it was more fun to give them. But she felt it was sometimes necessary to ask questions and help bring the dreamer's owns senses to help themselves. If Luna told her everything up front, she might not know how to cope with it. "I'll give you a hint. There is only one thing in this dream that is real, and it's not the castle ruins." Luna checked Twilight's grimace, checking for signs of her acknowledgement, like a doctor checks a patient for injury. "You had a frightening experience. Are you hurt? Are you alright?"
 
Twilight had to take it in for a moment. So nothing here was real? Technically that meant little. She had, after all, destroyed reality. But her nonchalance- okay. She was real. Which meant nothing else was, including Twilight. Which meant this was a dream. A nightmare.

“...OH THANK YOU!” Twilight hugged the Princess of the Night. She felt the weight of the worlds lift off of her shoulders, literally. The landscape around the castle started to crack and she hovered away from Luna.
“I feel like this has lasted forever...but I guess maybe only a few hours? I can't tell. But this isn't new. Well, maybe this one is, but the nightmares are all the same.”

 
Luna pried off Twilight away from her. It could have suggested she was not in the mood for hugs, but it was really Luna's sense that something was still wrong here. "You've had multiple? I've seen nightmares happen, they come in all shapes and sizes, but your was truly troubling. And it's reoccurring? I don't understand. Why are you dreaming of something like this? What kind of stress do you suppose is triggering it?" Luna's wings opened as the floor beneath them vanished. "I'm worried about this."
 
Twilight sighed, her hooves at her eyes as she tried to not think of her worries for the first time in a century it seemed, even if it had only been a night. What would Luna think of her? Of all ponies...

“Yes. Reoccuring,” she said, hovering along with Luna as the floor fell into nothing. Soon, it was just them in the void, floating for what seemed like an eternity in a second.
“Never the same, but I haven't had a good night's sleep in months. I've always done a good job of keeping it bottled up, but I suppose my defenses have been pushed down finally. It was bound to happen. It all is. My failures. The more important my role, the bigger the responsibility, the more dire the consequences of failing. But the thing is Luna, I know I can do anything. So my failures are never because I am lazy or because I'm stupid, incompetent or malicious. It isn't a flaw I can correct, it is a mistake. A simple mistake every team. A mistake I feel doomed to make.”

 
"You... always feel like this?" Luna proposed a tone of surprise. But the fact of the matter was, she had been here before, and far more recently than she would openly admit to ponies not on the princess round table. "When did this start?"
 
“Always? No. It has been more recently. If I had to pinpoint it...well, I can't say it was just one thing. But I've realized how close I've came to failing all of Equestria, and that was with me at my absolute best. If I give anything less than that, I'll fail and my failures mean so much more now. I'm not a filly with a passion for learning, I'm a Princess with a passion for learning and so much power and responsibility that...” Twilight sighs, hoof to her face in gashtly exasperation, “uuuuuggghhh! Why am I so worried about this? It seems so simple...I feel like such a fool.”
 
Luna used her alicorn magic and teleported both Twilight and herself into a realm of memory. They were in a large collegiate classroom, standing in the top back. Below them they could see the events unfold when Twilight nearly failed her entrance exam into CSGU. "You have always been afraid to fail Twilight." Luna expresses as she observes the past and present, seemingly simultaneously. "To your credit, all ponies are afraid to fail. But you have had more occurrences of this feeling than most, and it's because of how gifted you were at such a young age. I want to make you feel better, but I also want to figure out with you as to why you are crushing your own self esteem, in your dreams no less, with these thoughts of imminent failure."

Luna kept watching a little Twilight struggle to get a dragon egg open. "Perhaps Starswirl the Bearded was always doomed to fail in many of his experiments and unfinished work. Does this mean he was the label for all magical ponies who fail?"

 
This was a wonderful display of Luna's power. The academic in Twilight wanted to study the way that the aether was being manipulated in such a delicate yet overwhelming manner, allowing for the Night to pierce the veil of memory's sensation of time and space to produce such a vivid memory, and one she herself could feel as real as ever. Her examination. Could she have failed here? She worried about it, of course. But looking back, it seemed like her passing was a foregone conclusion. Her focus was there. It was just a matter of time.

“I've always worried about failure, yes. But that has changed. I used to worry that I wasn't good enough...now I know I am. And as I've realized that, my responsibility has grown tremendously. I know I'm capable of anything. If I fail, it isn't like I worried I would here,” Twilight said as she watched herself start to glow with untapped power, “where if I failed, it was because I wasn't good enough. There are so many things I must keep a hold of now. And if I don't, everypony pays the price and it would be because of...laziness, rather than incompetence. And that is far worse than just not being good enough. How do you manage to keep track of everything and not cause such a catastrophe?”

 
Luna said plainly. "It's simple. I don't."

Luna made her own glow again, teleporting the two through the recordings of space and time, just in time for little Twilight's out of control magic to reach the imaginary observers. They stopped at a location in which was not owned in memory by Twilight, but rather an all-too familiar place for Luna herself. They were in the palace of the two sisters. The walls had no shown ruin yet, and Luna was on a pedestal, transforming into a wicked mare of darkness in front of her disappointed sister Celestia. "I think you forget too easily the path that others have had to take in order to get the place they are today, and you remember far too well, the times in which you have either failed, or almost failed."

 
No matter how terrible Twilight imagined her future failings could be, only here in the realm of nightmares could she possibly hope to eclipse Luna's failings. Hers had cast the nation into its most tumultuous period, one of the few times where pony fought pony en masse. If Twilight was ever being reasonable, she would understand that nothing she could do could possibly eclipse that personal failing. But that tick, that worry, was not reasonable. And here in the dreamscape, Twilight was as honest as the very best of friends.

“You know, I've studied this a lot. From a psychological standpoint. Feelings of betrayal. Jealousy. Toiling away for what is believed to be an ungrateful populace. Hidden from the light by a shadow you cannot control, the greatness of a sister overshadowing what you do. You know, for about a century afterwards the Equestrian Psychological Association classified a unique concurrence of symptoms as Luna's Syndrome, but Celestia eventually forbade it. It stayed around for a few more decades but it fell out of common usage. I'll admit, when I first read the stories, I thought this was as simple as one sister being jealous and the other doing what she had to.

"Now I see it differently. I see a pony who was too proud to seek help when she needed it. Your failing wasn't jealousy or anything similar, but pride- too proud to seek help. You remind me of Applejack in that regard when I look back. Tell me, when you and Celestia wielded the Elements, what Elements did you wield?”

 

 

 

 

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"Celestia and I wielded all of them. Any individual ones we took turns, but most of the time we both used them together. It was much easier for both of us to bear the responsibility to all of them than to attempt to wield them by ourselves. Of course, eventually that did happen," Luna looked sternly at nothing while she meditated on her explanation and then looked back at Twilight. "Why do you ask this?"

 

"Ah, I see," Twilight replied as she looked out over the ruins of her castle. In her nightmares they were filled with statues, or the remains of them in any case, of her friends. The Element Bearers. "I always wondered what you embodied. What Celestia embodied. I embody the most powerful of all Elements, the Element of Magic, the Magic of Friendship. But you did too, it seems. So did Celestia. And you also wielded the rest as well," she said, her voice trailing off into a silence that was filled with her own doubts, 

 

She had always wondered what other elements she would have wielded had she not had the help of her friends and the burden had been hers alone. Was she as honest as Applejack? No. That mare had integrity she wished she could possess. Was it laughter? No. She wasn't really the embodiment of mirth or the gentle cheer of a happy heart. Generosity? Loyalty?

Maybe those. Kindness? She was too prone to her own pettiness.

 

"I feel so capable, yet history reminds me that there have been more capable ponies before me, yet here I am. I will never be alone, but I feel alone. One day, my friends- the ones who represent the elements that I do not- they will..." she trailed off, "and I'll be lesser for it. I know it. And not just...emotionally. But as a ruler. As a leader. They are my lights and they are my strength. I am not strong enough to wield this power alone forever, but I will have to. And the threats I face, I will face alone. The failures...they will be mine alone, too."

 

Luna walked passed Twilight and walked to a window to peer into the frightening amount of nothing. "Generosity and Loyalty were my favorite," Luna said as she seemed to ignore Twilight's angst. "We always controlled them as sisters but we had our favorites. Celestia liked Laughter. Sometimes a little too much, if you ask me. I don't know why I liked Loyalty, I guess it sounded noble, unlike the change Nightmare Moon had inside of me so long ago. Even though I don't understand why, I accepted that it was something I was attached to, so when I could I meditated on that magic more."

 

Luna looked back to Twilight who looked so helpless in her own pool of sorrow. It was obvious to Luna that she had become her own worst enemy, and that she allowed the idea of her failures being the cause of her shortcomings get to her in her dreams. "Twilight, do you wish to know all of the intricate natural values of the Elements of Harmony. Do you wish to understand it all? Do you think me and Celestia understood it all? Forgive the vocabulary I have been using, I only do so to help it make sense. Make no mistake, we helped guide the Elements of Harmony for its purpose, but the Elements were very much in control. Have you ever considered that maybe you weren't meant to control it and embody it forever? Celestia and I did not."

 

Twilight held onto some of Luna's words. They had their favorites. It was actually really fitting that Luna favored Loyalty and Generosity. The rigors of the life of an Element bearer meant that for some reason the values they held dearest were the ones tested most harshly. How many times had Rainbow Dash had torn loyalties or Rarity experienced a conflict between her generous heart and her appetite for material goods? It was a defense mechanism. The tree needed to ensure those who represented these core Equestrian values had the strength of their convictions to back them up.

 

If that was the case...Twilight's mind tried to shut itself. It was hard to listen to what Luna said even as Twilight understand well what she was saying. She had a role to play in the grand scheme of things and she had found herself well-positioned to succeed, had she not? "I...guess I don't need to question the Tree of Harmony, or more precisely, the magic that surrounds and binds us all together. But..." she shook her head, "you and Celestia were made to rule together. I will rule alone, like Celestia did for all those centuries. She did it...and she di it in a time of relative peace. What if my rule is not as peaceful?"

 

She sighed, then smiled.

 

"I'm sorry. I know I am making this harder than it needs to be. My mind...it hates that it can't solve a problem. When I'm awake I can shut down my worst impulses but when I rest, it moves like a coiled snake."

 

Luna cracked the rare smile and the realization that the elements acted counter to pony nature, but wanted to shun the doubt Twilight had for herself. At this point Luna felt it necessary to continue with a bit more of an accusatory tone, even though she knew Twilight wasn't all that prepared to be preached at by an elder princess of Equestria. "Oh you know you will rule alone do you?" He smiled continued, but her eyes spoke menacingly sure of themselves. "I seem to remember a unicorn student who grew wings and acted as if it was a clerical error. If you know so well how your future will be then pray-tell, let's write your story right now."

 

Luna magically crafted from dust a large circular table with two chairs. After setting them down in place, she made a long empty scroll appear and put in on the table near Twilight. Luna sat down impatiently. "So what happens?"

 

Twilight was jolted slightly by the shift in tone, the shift in demeanor from Luna. Just a little. She was no longer the filly that held the Regal Sisters in majestic awe and considered them above her. But that didn't mean the events as they transpired weren't off-putting. It didn't long for her to be at a table with a scroll, an impatient and decidedly more aggressive Princess of the Night across from her.

 

She was asked what her story would be, if she was so sure. Which she wasn't, but she would participate anyway.

"I...never said I knew what would happen, just that I know what is intended. But I'll play your game, Luna," Twilight said with a playful aggression in her eyes. "It will be peaceful. At least at first. Decades of peace. Love and friendship across all corners," she said...then her eyes started to light up, and she got up on the table and started walking towards Luna. The scroll Luna had started to sprout smaller, and then larger, branches of itself that started to fill the table even as Twilight advanced.

 

"Maybe it will remain that way. I'll rule for centuries alone. Millennia. I'll lose track of the individual ponies in my life aside from you, Celestia, Cadance, and Flurry Heart. But it'll be peaceful and safe for my little ponies, forever. I will be the Princess of Friendship, the Princess of Equestria, until magic itself vanishes from the world. And even then..."

 

Her eyes took on a darker tone. One of the branches of paper took on villainous hues.
"Maybe it will be darker, however. I will watch as ponies under me suffer from new villains. Maybe I will rise to meet these challenges...maybe I won't. I likely will though, but who knows how dark the times could get. And..." her eyes took on a glint of dark magic. "maybe I'll get darker with them. Friendship replaced with aggression. Harmony with security. Maybe I rule as a tyrant, with nopony to check her. Nopony to stop her."

 

Her eyes softened, but no lesser in terms of potential threat.

"Maybe, however, it is all predestined. I will rule well and long and when I can't do it alone, there will be a new batch of Element Bearers. Maybe one of them will be a student. Maybe she will rise to replace me. Maybe none of my concerns can be real, because Equestria has a will beyond our knowing."

 

By now she was right up to Luna. Her eyes stopped glowing.
"Maybe...I don't know what my future holds, except that there will always be new threats for me to face, but there will not always be my friends there to guide me. Maybe..."

She turned around and walked back to her table.
"Maybe I'm just scared that without them, after they're gone, I'll be unable to live up to what they deserve in their memory. Maybe I'm just scared because...they will be gone, and I will not."

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Luna was impressed with the amount of detail Twilight was sharing about her persevered future. It was possible she even used a Starswirl spell in order to travel forward in time to witness some of these fears in order to make them more torturous and real to her self. But Luna wanted to take a more direct approach. "Okay, so you're a very smart princess, Twilight. But you admit you don't know what your future holds. Why don't we find out?"

Luna stomped on the ground and transformed the entire realm they were wandering through into a vision of the future. The place they seemed to travel to was Sweet Apple Acres. Some of the family ponies could be seen, with their faces obscure, but the identity of the ponies was obvious if you looked closely. Big Macintosh and Sugar Belle were organizing baskets of produce to set out to the market. It was very peaceful. But suddenly, a scampering purple foal started running around his parents and then upon noticing the presence of a dreamscape traveling Twilight Sparkle, started running towards the Friendship Queen. The foal said something to Twilight that was incoherent, but it was obvious the colt was filled with joy. Luna looked around and pleaded for short forgiveness. "Not quite this time though."

Luna stomped again. The farm and all its blessings and rustic smells faded away and in it's place materialized an image of a unicorn pony discussing an issue with a yak, and kirin, and several other creatures around Ponyville. It wasn't clear what was going on around her, but the characters in this vision seemed stressed. Luna turned to Twilight. "Does this look familiar? What does this look like to you?"

Twilight looked around Ponyville. It hadn't changed too much just yet, though she was sure the passage of time would see it ground underneath the wheels of modernity. It would be a better place, yet something would be lost. She never would have understood that when she was younger but she was proud to know this place at its greatest, regardless of when that would be exactly.

She shook her head, focusing on the situation at hoof. A unicorn pony was discussing an issue of some kind with other creatures. Good to see Ponyville was growing the types of creatures who called it home. Less good to hear their tone and see their faces. It was a stressful time, it appeared. "It looks like trouble. Like something is happening?"

"But why is there trouble? Is it because you're not there?" Luna glided into the empty space above the vision and traveled towards Twilight's Castle, which looked very much intact, but appears to have experienced some normal aging. "Come look inside here, maybe we'll get a better clue." Luna herself wasn't even sure what she would see, but she was confident that what she would find would help answer some questions and give Twilight a little more perspective on her own life. Luna entered through a window to the throne room. One glance and she could see an interesting development. "Twilight, look. What conclusions would you like to entertain now?" Luna's face looked worried and pensive. They were dealing with a fairly dark perspective on a possible future the area they visited would endure. The throne that was adorned with Twilight's emblems and likeness were scuffed off, and a large crack severed down the middle of the stone chair, splitting it into two. The crown the throne-owner would wear was resting on one of the halves, bent and cracked itself, dirt griming up the shine of Twilight Sparkle's mark on the rusted hunk of metal.

Twilight looked around, her nerves on end. Her throne, the throne that she had ruled from, the throne that she knew was hers, was in...disrepair, to put it kindly. Her cutie mark and emblem were scuffed odd in its entirely and her chair was in...half. Something terrible had happened. And her crown? It was bent and cracked and ruined as well. And it looked old. What had happened?

"What is this..." she asked, her concern rising as she looked around. The banners were either torn, ripped, or in a themselves. The stain glass windows were cracked or blown out, and a chilled wind blew in. "Am I missing? Gone? Or...did I leave them?"

A yak, a pegasus, and a changeling walked into the throne room. They were arguing. It was hard to make out what they were saying, after all, it was a dream. But the context seemed to be that one of them felt they should be the new leader, while the other two disagree and suggested that they form a new kind of government. "This is most peculiar." Luna stated. A few long seconds of the three challenging each others' ideas passed and then an earth pony entered the throne room behind them. The ponies eyes drew the attention of the other three, and her eyes began to glow. Then behind her, two more, a griffon and a dragon stood next to the mare, also with eyes glowing. Magic filled the room and in a flash, all six were huddled together with relief and joy for one another. Luna nodded and smirked. "Ah yes, the elements win again, I see."

A pink alicorn suddenly appeared by the broken throne and challenged the other three. In what could only be explained as a magical display of rainbows and power, the six creatures struck down the alicorn and disarmed her. When the magical aura and smoke cleared, another alicorn stood above them all. Luna turned to Twilight. "What do you think?" Luna gasped though, as Twilight was not there. The dream had teleported her to the place of the second alicorn. In front of Twilight, the six bowed and revered her. Luna glided down towards her, but when she got close, everything and everyone vanished, and any magical aura surrounding them disappeared. Luna thought silently.

Twilight's memories were being bombarded with the similarities. It was right around the time that the Elements of Harmony- well, the creatures that symbolized them more than the actual artifacts since they no longer existed- defeated some version of Flurry Heart that it all struck her. Like a repeating pattern, Equestria had been saved by her common people and not her majestic leader. She turned to Luna to say so, but felt herself being tugged from one realm to another.

She was knocked for a loop and had to regain herself. Her head pounded but her eyes were the first to come back, and they saw a collection of creatures bowing to her. There was some hint of familiarity to them..."You...you have done it. You truly do represent the Elements of Harmony, and everything that they represent," she said with growing confidence. She wasn't sure what was going on, but those words felt right.

Luna stared as she continued to meditate on what she was seeing. Dreamscapism became second nature to the Lunar Princess, but from such a complex vessel brings a very complex set of ideas in dream form. Twilight was quite the pony, her dream's ability to organize themselves to the extent of its imaginative limits was unaccounted for. The dream around Twilight and Luna had shifted. Luna could only control so much of it. Both of them were now in an archive of some sort. The walls shining their crystallization gave hint that they still might be in Ponyville. The room was filled with artifacts from the past. In a glass case, the hoof cuffs of Celestia were on display. Luna looked around slightly haunted. "Twilight, can you hear me?" She had lost sight of the young princess. But maybe she could hear her.

Twilight found herself transported to the archives, where the artifacts of Equestrian history were preserved. Celestia's hoofcuffs, Luna's telescope, Cadance's crystal crown to name just a few. A very few- a tree from Sweet Apple Acres that had been gifted by Applejack reminded her of that. Twilight found herself wondering the archives, confused at what she was seeing and yet equally at peace with it. Something about organizing everything set her mind right. Then she heard a voice. Luna's voice. "I...I think I can hear you, Princess Luna. Where are we?" She asked, the peace leaving as she recognized this place as more foreign than not.

"I'm in the archives, and if this is your dream you're probably here, too. Let me try to use magic to escape this area." Though the archives felt peaceful to Twilight, it seemed to trouble Luna greatly. With a bright shine of her horn, she attempt to filter out the dreamscape's illusions. A quick swipe of the environment left Twilight standing alone in a white void, and with a shaky horn, Luna was able to rid her eyes of the distractions she had seen. She gasped for breathe. "Twilight Sparkle." She panted. "Your dreams are of a potency I have never seen before. Your troubles could possibly be greater than even I could imagine." Luna looked at the nothingness around her, somewhat fearful that another fake reality will hit her. "How are you feeling now?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Confused. A little scared. But still relieved, knowing this is all a dream," Twilight began before she approached Luna. The elder Alicorn looked...not scared or concerned, but maybe a little surprised? Twilight tried to calm herself. Maybe that would help. "Thank you for doing this. I'm sorry that I'm making this so hard on you."

 

Luna grimaced at the strain of her magic. She rarely enjoyed using this much of her own power to manipulate the illusions around her. "It's alright. I typically will not embrace using such force against a dreamer's psyche. I know that interrupting it may close the door for finding a solution the problem. But this time it seemed overbearing and you haven't woken up yet." Princess Luna began casting a spell with her horn. As she wound up the magic, she seemed to be searching for something, almost as if her horn was a metal detector of sorts. "Give me a moment while I try to bring us back to a familiar, yet peaceful realm." Luna cast her magic into random directions in the void, attempting to hit something that would give her the feedback she needed. She looked back at Twilight Sparkle. "Are you hurt?" Anypony older than a filly would know dreams can't hurt you, but in this moment Luna felt it necessary to establish the all-too-important mood of the dream caster.

 

"I'm fine. I know this is a dream, and dreams cannot hurt me. Physically, at least. And emotionally- well, you've been a lifesaver tonight, even if I don't feel like I'm shaken of my worries," Twilight said as she came and sat down next to Luna. The mare was using a great deal of her power. Twilight knew she couldn't help....well, actually. That wasn't true. This was a dream. "Mind if I help?" Twilight asked innocently as her horn lit, and her magical aura started to wisp itself into Luna's horn. She was bleeding-apart of her aetheric energy into Luna, shoring up her compatriot's magical reserves and hopefully allowing her to feel less strain.

 

Luna was not immediately welcoming of Twilight's assistance. But just like most things Luna didn't initially approve of, she got over her pride and smiled back at the alicorn for her willingness to share the burden. "I just need to get us to a familiar part of your memory. Have you ever experienced lucidity in your dreams? Have you ever found that you can consciously change the way the dream unfolds, or do you always lack control of it?" Princess Luna's lack of proper communicable inflection could have been mistaken as poor attitude. But with all things dreamscape, Luna took it very seriously and wondered if dream manipulation was ever the topic of a book Twilight Sparkle ever came upon during her many years of non-essential magical study.

 

"I've often had lucid dreams. In fact, of the dreams I can remember, I'd say that I used to have them more commonly than any other type," she smiled, not taking offense at Luna's tone. How could she? The mare had done so much for the troubled Princess' psyche tonight and was clearly uncomfortable. It would be silly to take it out on her. "I read about in a book right after I joined Celestia's school. I used to love the lucidity, how everything and anything felt possible. Only in the past few years has it seemingly slipped away from me. Once in a while sure, but not as often. And recently? Recently...never. Especially once they became nightmares."

 

Luna perked at Twilight's positivity in her ability to have lucid dreams. However, the lack of recent experience made Luna feel like tonight would be extra challenging. "Is there anyway you can try to do it now? All you need to do is try and think of a memory or place you were during a time of low stress. Think of a party, or a loving moment." Princess Luna ceased her magic, and returned her magical aura to her horn, and offered Twilight's her's as well. Luna pointed in a specific region of the void in which Twilight should concentrate her energy. It wasn't obvious to even Luna herself that it made much of a difference which direction they aimed.

 

Twilight nodded. She'd try if nothing else. Her mind raced, trying to relive a recent happy memory and directing her magical power to where she was told to. She didn't know if it would really matter if she shot her magic straight up, but why risk it? After a few moments, her eyes lit up. Something recent. Something loving. Something low stress. And a party, all to boot! The magic shot from her horn and started to form the region into something quaint. A mid-sized living room in a house of upper-middle Canterlot make and design. The room was dark, though several figures were hiding...

-------
Crescent Sparkle opened the door to his home, yawning and stretching his back as he did so. This moment of blindness meant he did not see a cake, hidden poorly in the darkness, in the middle of his living room. Nor the poorly hidden figures of his wife and children, before the Prince of the Crystal Empire broke the surprise a moment too soon and yelled,
"Surprise!" This caused the elder Sparkle to stumble in a panic ad nearly fall, being caught in his daughter's magical aura as his wife turned the lights on to his surprise party.


A fissure in the void opened and Luna stepped in, motioning for Twilight to follow. "A family party?" Luna asked with a straight face, appearing unamused. "It'll work. But be vigilant. The nightmare we experienced could still be around." Luna became entertained with Crescent's stumble. A royal family celebration of some sort gave Luna a flashback of her own far distance memories that would share this setting. "When and where was this?"

 

"A few months ago. A surprise party to celebrate my father's birthday," she smiled. It had been a great day. "We hadn't seen each other in a while, and certainly not as a whole family. I felt kind of bad about that. His birthday and Shining and I both took a chunk out of it," she said as she walked around, observing the small details. And slicing two pieces of cake, one of which she sent over to Luna. "Not that he minded, I think."

 

Luna used her magic to hold the imaginary cake and attempted to cut into it with a fork. But when she did so, the cake melted into dry sand and fell off the plate. Luna gave a smirking shrug. "There is something familiar about this place even to me." Luna looked at Twilight as if she had some kind of prior knowledge to the method of bringing them here. Luna stomped her hoof and time began warping backwards, first slowly but accelerated over time. As time in the vision moved backwards in the room, the Sparkles could all be seen getting younger. Glimpses of Twilight and Shining as foals.

 

But eventually, the Sparkles were gone. Or rather they had yet appeared to be there. Several unknown ponies began scattering in the environment showing themselves through time as the two alicorns reversed. Luna looked at Twilight. "It seems this is not just a projection of your memory. But maybe mine as well." Eventually, the warp came to a sudden halt, freezing to a moment in time in which a pony was looking out of a window looking at the moonlit sky. The moon had no mare in it.

 

Twilight had a grasp of time magic and an understanding that this was a dream, both of which were honed to sharper and finer points than most other ponies could dream of. But she had a moment of panic at first as she saw everything start to reverse, wondering if this was once again some manner of mirage that was about to cruelly reveal itself. After all, this had started off as a nightmare and what was lurking in the shadows of powerful minds were powerful fears indeed.

 

But she calmed herself quickly and allowed herself to get closer to Luna as time continued to reverse in increasing speed. It felt like just scant moments before everything stopped itself. The moon was high and with no Nightmare Moon scarring, and the stillness of the scene was almost poetic. Yet what got her attention the most was the pony who was taking in the moonlit sky, the pony for whom this small stretch of reality had focused on.

 

"I know this pony. I remember this moment." Luna started to remember the fullness of the memory. It was her memory. "This pony would pray to me every night, pray that I would protect her in her dreams. But this was the last time I ever noticed her."

 

The pony looked at the wall in her home. A clock was hung at it read that it would be dawn. But no sun rose. The pony became worried. Luna looked at Twilight. "It's finding us. We cannot stay here." She stomped the ground to return to the dreamer's intended memory, but the stomps did nothing.

 

Outside in the distance, a horrifying gackle could be heard.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Knowledge, like nature, abhorred a vacuum. And it was hard to have knowledge on a subject such as the dreamscape and how a pony's mind could entwine with another in such a way. Twilight knew it was possible. After all, all of Ponyville had once shared a lucid dream, powered by Luna's own magic. But knowing something was possible was different from knowing what the mechanics behind it were. It was the ground-floor cause of her frustration with Pinkie Sense. 

 

And she certainly had a blank spot when it came to answers. Why were these memories jumping around? Was Luna asleep herself, or was her own psyche being afflicted? It was hard to tell or understand, even as her brain tried. They focused now on this praying pony. And the lack of a sunrise- like grains of sand against a boulder, even the slowest of ponies could be moved by this awakening knowledge.

Luna's power did nothing. A cackle in the distance.
"Nightmare Moon. This is the night. Not of my nightmares, but yours."

 

Luna stomped. She stomped again. Looking at the materialized floor, her orderly magic of dream skipping had not worked. "My normal means of travel have been hindered," she said frankly. Her horn lit up and she attempted to close the windows around her, but everything remained static, as if she was trying to ruin a sponge by pouring water on it. The concentration of magic to the window made the window more real. The focus on the doors to the outside of this area turned into tangible sturdy wood. She walked towards the pony who was still waiting for the sun to rise by the window and hovered over her projection. The night princess began chuckling.

 

Twilight looked around, horn aglow with magic. She had to be ready. If Princess Luna was not in control of what was happening then that meant nopony was in control of what was happening. And for a pony with a knack for losing it when elements beyond her control managed to run rampant, she had to selfishly admire her own reaction. Ready to go, thinking of what she could and could not do, all the while her eyes running over the seams in reality that grew between the tangible and intangible. Then she heard the chuckling. "Luna?"

 

Luna continued to stare out the window with the projection of the ancient pony. Her mild chuckled finished and she exhaled a sigh. "You don't understand do you? Princesses struggle all the time with their own emotions and shortcomings, always having regrets and dealing with rejection from those who do not appreciate you. It's why I am the way I am. Cold. Numb. But strong." She turned to look at Twilight Sparkle. Luna's pupils had become slit, but the rest of her appearance maintained regular princess pony shape. "You must admit, it would feel nice to get rid of all the worry you feel. All the failure you fear."

 

Twilight stepped back, her horn now aglow with fiercer magic borne of...not fear, not terror. She had been through to much to feel that just yet. But it was certainly powered by something more than anxiousness, anxiousness which rose in her moment by moment as Luna spoke. What had happened? Her mind ran over the possibilities, including the one hidden deep inside that this whole night was a fever dream in the mind of the last living creature adrift in reality. She steeled herself regardless. 
After a few steps back, she stood her ground. "Being cold, being numb- that doesn't make you strong. That makes you weak. Confronting your fear, no matter what, that makes you strong. As does getting rid of responsibility because of fear of failure. I know I will struggle at times, but I know the cost of me abandoning it is so much higher," she said with growing confidence, and then her horn shone a white-purple, as if on fire. "And whatever you are, whoever you are, let Princess Luna go!"


                                                 2230046.gif

 

"Whatever I am?" She chuckled louder. "I'm the same thing that had you feared and miserably awaiting the eons in that floating castle, waiting for an end to your life that will never come, in order to cover the regrets and shortcomings your life had brought you. And now you think you can just zap me away? Well, I'm sorry it doesn't work like that."

 

She stomped her hoof, and the small pony home they were in, slid out of existence. The two traveled via magical aura into space, until they both arrived on a grey plain of existence, that featured many rocky mountains, but not trees, no animals, no ponies, no colors. In the blackness of space above them, a circle of blue and grey could be seen in the distance. To the naked pony eye, it could have been several worlds away, but it looked as if one could pluck it out of the sky with their hooves. "The only way I think you know how to really learn this lesson--you like learning lessons right?--is to spend the length of time it took for me to do the same." Luna's appearance took the shape of Nightmare Moon the more she talked. And with her evil magic of her horn, spawned several chains around Twilight's ankles that began to pull her into the lunar soil.

 

Twilight's charge found itself foiled by the changing environment, sending the alicorn sprawling into the soil of the Equestrian moon, tumbling head over flank once. The creature that was once Luna and was now her enemy...it once again rang the bell of her fear. Was- no. She was sure of it. Couldn't be The Thing That Should Not Be, Would Not Be, Was Not.  Was it really Nightmare Moon? Was it a nightmare?

She didn't know. But the threats it made felt all too real. When it finished speaking, the chains around her legs- they pulled her slowly, irrevocably, into the soil. With it came a certain tingle up and down her spine, whispering voices behind her mind. But- no. This was...was it a dream?

 

Her confusion showed clearly, as did a growing fear. But her horn, her magic, was still powerful. "You are a lie made real. You can't win," a bright flash of light and she teleported into the sky-
                                                                            large.png?width=356&height=300
-and the chains brought her right back down, crashing into the moon with a hard crack. She would ask for the number on the trolley, but she was sure it didn't have any. She pulled her head up, defiant all the same. "What do you hope to gain from this, Nightmare?" She asked as she struggled against the chains, her mind running a million miles a minute as she ran through her catalog of spells. She just needed time, time to engage the creature as a cover.

 

The evil princess slightly dodged the few pieces of moondust that floated a trajectory towards her from the impact the purple princess made into the regolith. "What do I hope to gain? Nothing. But what do you care to gain? I'm helping you see the light. Or, night, as it were." She gave a full gackle, now appearing in the Nightmare Queen's full armor and emblems. She even had a few slaved batponies approaching her flank. "What do you hope to gain by resisting? Why do you look forward to facing your misery with so much enthusiasm? How can you earn the support of your friends, when they are already dead!" Nightmare Moon flashed a bulb of magic black light from her horn, and it pierced a physical darkness around Twilight and her chains.

 

Twilight was dumbfounded by how laser focused this apparition was. She didn't allow for Twilight to buy time. She immediately turned her question back on Twilight, mocking her efforts in her own way. And then she told Twilight her friends were dead, and a lump appeared in her throat. Such a life, so well-led, yet could it really be shared alone? These thoughts drowned her as easily as the darkness did.

But it was not all that she was thinking of. Her brain had found an answer. Not the answer, but an answer. 
Just as the darkness consumed her and the chains, her horn lit up. There was no beam, no missile to dodge. Instead, Nightmare Moon would find herself grasped in powerful aetheric talons and pulled into the darkness with Twilight.

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